News Digest — 7/17/20

New Lockdown Measures Announced As Israel Enters New Phase In Pandemic

In the wake of the second wave of coronavirus infections in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his ministers on Thursday (16th) to approve a series of strict measures that would effectively put Israel on a second lockdown as early as Friday evening (17th).

The plan envisions weekend-only lockdowns that would limit access to various venues such as public beaches, although not restrict the freedom of movement of Israelis.

On top of the weekend restrictions, which would run from Friday to Sunday every week, schools have to be shut down immediately and indefinitely.  This includes universities and day care facilities, as well as educational institutions that run special programming for children on summer break.  These measures are to be in effect until at least August 31st or until the end of daily new cases of carriers drops to 400.

The drastic measures, which are the culmination of a whole host of deliberations aimed at reducing the community spread of COVID-19, also prohibit gatherings of more than 20 people in open spaces and more than 10 people indoors on all days.  In addition, restaurants will have to revert to take-out-only menus, synagogues will have to avoid any large public service, and gyms are to be shut down.

The Health Ministry reported Thursday (16th) that over 1,900 new coronavirus infections were recorded over the past 24 hours, pushing the country dangerously close to the 2,000 daily-case benchmark that Health Minister Yuli Eselstein has set as a trigger for a nationwide lockdown.



India-China Tensions Spell Boom For Israel’s Defense Industry

Military tensions between India and China are leading to new deals for the Israel defense sector, with the Indian military seeking to fill gaps in its precise weapons stockpile and its intelligence capabilities.

According to reports in the Indian press, the military has decided to make an emergency purchase of Spice 2000-guided bombs manufactured by Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., a deal that is expected to include hundreds of bombs worth tens of millions of dollars.

A year ago, amid heightened tensions with Pakistan, the Indian government purchased about 100 Spice bombs worth $30 million.

The reports also reveal that India is interested in expanding its fleet of Heron UAVs, an IAI-made drone that is already in use by the Indian air force, navy and ground units, in order to increase its ability to continuously monitor the contested territory in the Himalayan Mountains.

The Indian press is also reporting that the government is running a project of arming the drones with missiles as part of the so-called “Project Cheetah.”

The two deals are expected to garner the Israeli defense industry sales of more than $100 million.

Despite the urgency, some of the systems will be assembled in India, in accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy of promoting local production as a condition for the acquisition of foreign weapon systems.

India is currently the largest client of the Israel defense industry.  According to figures provided by the Ministry of Defense, defense exports totaled $7.2 billion in 2019.  While the ministry does not break down exports by country, exports to the Asia-Pacific region made up 41 percent of the total amount.

Other major purchases currently in the pipeline include an Indian order of Heron-TP UAVs and interest in Elbit-made Hermes UAVs, though neither deal has yet to be completed.



Jordan Shuts Down Muslim Brotherhood Movement

Jordan’s top court dissolved the country’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement saying the radical Islamic group failed to “rectify its legal status,” Asharq Al-Awsat reported Thursday (16th).

The Court of Cassation Wednesday (15th) issued a final verdict ruling that the Muslim Brotherhood group is dissolved and has lost its legal status, for failing to rectify it under Jordanian law,” a judiciary officer said.

In the late 1980s the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood formed a political party, the Islamic Action Front, and won just over a quarter of the seats in the 1989 elections to Jordan’s parliament.  At the time it called for more Islamic radicalization including more support for the Hamas terror group in Gaza, which had been founded by Muslim Brotherhood followers.

After pushing for reforms that would give them more power and detract authority from King Abdullah, Jordan took steps to downgrade the Brotherhood.  In 2014 Jordanian authorities ruled that the Muslim Brotherhood was illegal, saying that under a law on political parties, the movement’s license could not be renewed, the London-based Asharq Al Awsat newspaper reported.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood continued to operate in the Hashemite Kingdom even when the Jordanian government in 2015 authorized an offshoot group, the Muslim Brotherhood Association, comprised of disaffected members who wanted a more moderate stance.

Egypt, Bahrain, Russia, Syria, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have all outlawed the movement and consider it to be a terrorist organization, although Qatar and Turkey both continue to support it.  

Last year, the Trump Administration took steps toward designating the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization.



Setting A Stage For A Peace Process That Can Work

Comments by Dore Gold On July 2, 2020:

→ “The current initiatives that are being tried by the Trump administration are important because they are trying to liberate us from all the failed plans of the past.”

→ “Most of the architects of peace in the past envisioned a mass removal of Israelis from Judea and Samaria – from the West Bank – and that is simply not going to happen.  We pulled out 8,000-9,000 Israelis from the Gaza Strip and we created a scar in the memory of many Israelis from having done that, because we were willing to try to set the foundations of some kind of peace.  And what we got was a dramatic escalation of rockets fired at Israel.”

→ “So having tried that in the past, it would have made no sense to develop a peace plan predicated upon the mass removal of Israelis.  A peace plan – to be just and to be fair –  has to be based on these populations staying in their homes, which is what Trump’s peace plan tries to do.”

→ “We have had a horrible experience with how architects of peacemaking have worked.  Therefore, in this case, what you have is an effort to create a territorial compromise where Israel remains in areas that are of strategic importance to its future defense.”

→ “Our position is one that has a firm basis legally, a firm basis morally, and a firm basis for setting the stage for a peace process that can work.  We have to give this larger peace plan a chance, as we have in the past, and right now there’s nothing else on the table that has any chance of working.”

Jerusalem Center President Dore Gold participated in a Webinar sponsored by the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre – BICOM on July 2, 2020.



Solar-Powered Transmitters To Warn Israeli Drivers Of Camels On The Road

Ayman El-Sayed and Yoav Ludmer have found a technological solution for the deadly danger of camels roaming the roads of Israel’s Negev Desert region,  There have been several accidents involving camels and cars over recent years, with several people losing their lives and dozens being injured.

Every camel currently carries an ID tag that identifies its owner in case the camel is lost or involved in an accident.  El-Sayed and Ludmer, who teamed up at Startup Negev, a new tech accelerator catering to Israel’s Bedouin minority, created a system based on radio signals.

Every camel will receive a solar-powered collar that will transmit its location.  As soon as the camel comes within 330 feet of a road or rail track, GPS users will receive an automatic notification, for example via the Waze application allowing the driver to slow down and be ready for any hazard.

The project is about to enter the pilot stage during which an antenna will be set up at the entrance to Bedouin city Rahat, capable of detecting transmissions from over five miles away.

“The goal of this initiative is to monitor wandering camels, and farm animals, and prevent car accidents,” said El-Sayed.  “We are here to protect the lives of the camels and of the drivers and raise the awareness of the different dangers that exist on the Negev Desert roads.”



Two Synagogues In Sarasota, Florida Vandalized Same Day

Two Reform synagogues in Sarasota, Florida were vandalized with swastikas and other unspecified hateful images.

The incidents at Temple Sinai and Temple Emanu-El reportedly took place early on Wednesday morning (15th), the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

The Temple Sinai campus was extensively vandalized, including many walls made of porous Jerusalem stone, making the removal of the messages difficult.  This is the second time that Temple Emanu-El has been attacked in the past four months.  In April, swastikas were spray painted on the doors of the synagogue.

The Sarasota Sheriff’s office told the newspaper that a man was seen on surveillance video on the grounds of Temple Emanu-El at around 2 a.m., Wednesday morning (15th).  Video shows the same man on the grounds of Temple Sinai later on the same morning.

The two temples issued a joint letter on Wednesday (15th) to their memberships to inform them of the vandalism.

“We will be ever vigilant in looking after the safety and security of our members and our children.  But we will not allow hate to distract us from the holy work that defines our temple missions,” the letter said.