News Digest — 9/23/20

Israel’s Corona Fight: No Sign Of Easing, Seriously Sick Approaching Red Line

Israel’s corona numbers continue to rise.  There were 3,858 reported cases on Monday (21st), up from 2,565 on Sunday (20th).  Of those tested, 11.2 percent are coming back positive.  That number needs to get down to seven percent, says the deputy director general of the Health Ministry, Prof. Itamar Grotto.

“There are countries with only up to three percent – that’s our aspiration after we reduce the incidence of the disease,” Grotto said at a Tuesday (22nd) meeting.

Cities with a leading incidence of the disease are no longer just Haredi and Arab populations.  Tel Aviv, Petah Tikvah, Natanya, Beer Sheba, Holon, Haifa, and Ashdod now are on top, according to a list published Tuesday (22nd).

Serious, hospitalized cases stood at 653 on Tuesday (22nd).  The number 800 has been cited as a red line, as it will mean that all the hospitals are operating at full capacity.

Israel’s ability to handle more cases has been further hampered by a shortage of staff despite the government’s commitment to pay for more doctors and nurses.  Also, 3,944 health care workers are now in isolation, having either contracted the disease or been exposed to it.

Health Ministry Director Hezi Levy ordered every hospital to open an additional corona ward to deal with the incoming cases.

“We have added beds so that we can hospitalize the patients and there are more wards that are to be opened,” Levy said.

The corona cabinet met Tuesday (22nd) to discuss tightening the existing lockdown even further.  Critics of the lockdown, including from within the Health Ministry, say the current curfew doesn’t go far enough.

Among the possibilities suggested were closing the private sector further, by half, and putting the public sector on extreme emergency footing. 



Did A Hezbollah Depot Explode In Southern Lebanon?

An arms depot of the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah exploded in southern Lebanon on Tuesday (22nd) a security source said, injuring several people and sending a new shockwave across a nation grappling with a deep crisis.

The security source said the blast in the arms depot was caused by a “technical error.”

The explosion sent a huge column of black smoke into the sky and rocked the village of Ain Qana, in the south of the country, a political stronghold of the heavily-armed and politically powerful group which has fought tough wars with neighboring Israel.

Another security source said Hezbollah had set up a security cordon around the site of the blast, about 30 miles south of Beirut.

The blast stirs new worries in Lebanon, a nation struggling with its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war and still reeling from a recent devastating explosion at Beirut port that ripped through the capital, killing at least 190 people.

There was no immediate statement from Hezbollah.

Security sources said there were injuries without giving figures.  A witness near the village said, “We all felt the ground shake.”

Footage from the area broadcast by Al-Jadeed showed men walking over scorched ground littered with debris.  Damage was shown in a destroyed building where the floor was covered in glass and blood.  The footage showed fires still burning at the location.



Angered By Arab-Israel Ties, PA Quits Chairing Arab League Sessions

The Palestinian Authority has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the PA foreign minister said on Tuesday (22nd), condemning as dishonorable any Arab agreement to establish relations with Israel.

Palestinians see the accords that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in “Israeli-occupied territory.”

Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn member-nations breaking ranks and normalizing ties with Israel.

The PA was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.

“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council (of foreign ministers) at its current session.  There is no honor in seeing Arabs rush towards normalization during its presidency,” Maliki said.

After initial remarks, Maliki read from a letter he said he sent to Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit informing him of the Palestinian move and criticizing the UAE and Bahrain, both Gulf Arab nations that share Israeli concerns about Iran.

The UAE’s deal with Israel “created a deep crisis in the Arab League” and the accord was followed “by a similar collapse by the Kingdom of Bahrain,” Maliki said, quoting from the letter.

Meanwhile, in a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction and the Islamist Hamas movement held “reconciliation talks” in Turkey on Tuesday (22nd).

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting.  Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of several unity deals agreed upon since then.



Erdan Leaves The UN General Assembly To Protest Erdogan’s Speech

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan walked out of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday (22nd), accusing him of anti-Semitism.

“Erdogan continues his lies and anti-Semitic statements against Israel, and it is important that the world know the double standards by which he has been living for many years,” Erdan stated.

Erdogan slammed Israel’s policies in Jerusalem and toward the Palestinians.

“The occupation and oppression of Palestine is a bleeding wound of humanity,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president said, “the filthy hand” of Israelis is “constantly increasing its audacity” in Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Erdogan commended the Palestinians, who he said “stood up to Israeli policies of violence and intimidation for more than a half a century.”

The Turkish president accused Trump of being a “collaborator” with Israel and called his peace plan “a document of surrender.”

“Turkey will not support any plan the Palestinian people do not give consent to,” Erdogan said.  “[The plan] does not mean anything beyond serving Israel’s efforts to erode basic international parameters.”

As for the countries that opened or plan to open embassies to Israel in Jerusalem, Erdogan said their “violation of international law only serves to make the conflict more complicated.”

The US and Guatemala are currently the only countries with embassies to Israel in Jerusalem, though several others, including Honduras, Serbia and Kosovo have declared their intention to move their missions as well.

“The Palestinian conflict can only be resolved with an independent, sovereign and contiguous State of Palestine based on ‘67 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.  Seeking solutions other than this are in vain, one sided and unjust,” Erdogan added.



Florida To Issue ‘Florida Stands With Israel’ License Plates

Florida will now be issuing specialty “Florida Stands With Israel” license plates to those who wish to support the Jewish State.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation (HB1135) on Friday (18th), before Rosh Hashanah, which authorized the creation of the special license plate.

The Israeli American Council (IAC) lauded the “heartwarming expression of solidarity,” saying that it “affirms the strong bond between the State of Florida’s citizens and the Jewish State of Israel.”

“This kind of warmth is why Florida has always been a leading destination for Israeli-Americans,” said IAC Board Chairman Shawn Evenhaim.  “This gesture celebrates a long and close relationship.  Florida and Israel share many ties, including bilateral trade, common values and leadership in cutting-edge fields that have a quality of life impact for all citizens,” he said.

“Florida has been a leader over the years in the fight against anti-Jewish hatred and discrimination – for example, its groundbreaking anti-BDS law and codification this year of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism,” Evenhaim said.  “We applaud and sincerely appreciate this meaningful expression of solidarity and are pleased that the Israeli-American community can play a part in support of these efforts.  Thank you Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature”

The design of the license plate is still up for debate, however, and Florida will host a 30-day design contest which will receive submissions by the general public.  The contest itself is sponsored by the IAC and coordinated by Artists for Israel.

The judging panel will include lead sponsors of the legislation: senators Aaron Bean and Lauren Book, representatives JW Grant, Kionne McGhee and Scott Plakon, and Bal Harbour Mayor Gabe Groisman.

Following the selection of the design, the IAC will lead a marketing campaign to pre-sell 3,000 plates necessary in order to continue into production.  A portion of the sales will go to Hatzalah of Miami Dade County.