Archive for month: March, 2020
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Deaths from the coronovirus in Israel have risen to 16. There are currently over 4,300 people known to be infected with the virus, 69 of whom are on ventilators. Health Ministry officials warn of a shortage in ventilators, estimating that over 5,000 people will need them. There has been a 46% increase in severe cases needing ventilators in the past 24 hours.
An advisor to the PM has tested positive for the coronavirus. Rivka Paluch, who advises the PM on issues concerning ultra-Orthodox affairs, denies that she had any close contact with Netanyahu during their meeting at the Knesset and doubts she transmitted the disease to anyone.
The Prime Minister’s Office says they will follow Health Ministry guidelines in responding to this development. If Netanyahu spent more than 15 minutes with Paluch in the same room, he may be forced into a 14-day quarantine. Benny Gantz might also be forced to quarantine, since he met with Netanyahu over the weekend.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused IDF soldiers of deliberately spreading the coronavirus among the West Bank’s Palestinian population.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu and Gantz are working on finalizing their agreement to form a unity government by negotiating the appointments of cabinet ministers. The number of cabinet ministers could reach as a high as a whopping 36. That’s because as more parties join the coalition, from both the right and left, the more ministerial prizes need to be doled out as rewards.
Gantz will most likely become defense minister, and it is assumed that Gabi Ashkenazi, one of Gantz’s partners, will be foreign minister. Labor party leader Amir Peretz will become the economy minister. Likud will get the finance ministry and the speaker of the Knesset. The other cabinet portfolios will be divided between right, left and ultra-Orthodox ministers.
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Benny Gantz became the new speaker of the Knesset on Thursday with the support of the right-wing bloc. The vote in the Knesset was 74 to 18 with the rest abstaining. Yair Lapid, Gantz’s partner in Blue and White, instructed members of his Yesh Atid party to abstain in the vote.
Yesh Atid will remain in a political partnership with Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party. The two parties will work as one faction – and have already submitted the request dissolve Blue & White.
Gantz, who is close to reaching an agreement to join his Israel Resilience party (15 seats) in a unity government under PM Netanyahu, cited the coronavirus epidemic as the reason for his decision.
During the election campaign Gantz had ruled out serving with Netanyahu, but he lacked the support to form a center-left government. Under the proposed agreement between Gantz and the PM, Netanyahu would step down as prime minister within an agreed period, with Gantz then taking over.
The proposed unity government could possibly leave Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party out of the government.
In a speech after being elected Knesset speaker, Gantz said:
“These are not normal days. In these times of emergency, hundreds of thousands of citizens, who have lost their livelihood in recent days, are looking up to us. This emergency is also the climax of the worst and most complicated governmental and parliamentary crisis since the conception of the state. The only reason I decided to nominate myself for Knesset speaker today is to exhaust all available options to form a national emergency government.
I established Blue & White and I am very proud of that. I meant and would still be happy to do everything in my ability so we can keep walking down the same road. I call on all my possible political partners to act in the same way. Let’s not be mistaken, I will not settle for the principles that over a million citizens voted for. Netanyahu knows it well and we’ve proven in the last days. We will not compromise on democracy.”
The number of coronavirus fatalities in Israel has risen to 10. All of the fatalities were between the ages of 67 and 93 and had pre-existing health conditions. The total number of virus cases rose to 3,035.
The cabinet is deliberating whether to impose a total closure. The IDF will deploy 500 armed soldiers to accompany police to enforce Health Ministry regulations.
El Al has decided to halt all flights from Israel until April 4th.
The PM is set to review an NIS 80 billion ($22 billion) aid package for the Israeli economy drawn up by the Finance Ministry to confront the corona crisis.
The package will include billions in unemployment payments to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have registered with the National Employment Service in recent weeks, billions more in funds for the health system, an aid fund for small businesses affected by the pandemic, grants for freelancers, grants for workers over the age of 67, and more.
The Bank of Israel and retail banks have said they will take a series of policy measures to mitigate damage to the economy, including buying government bonds, offering repo transactions, delaying mortgage payments, offering loans to small and mid-sized businesses, expanding digital services for remote transactions, and providing courier services to customers in quarantine.
The number of deaths in Israel related to the coronavirus has risen to 5, with the total cases rising to 2030. The health ministry has conducted 32,346 coronavirus tests. Stricter government guidelines to enforce social distancing will come into effect today. The restrictions include shutting down public transportation and prohibiting people from walking more than 100 meters from their homes.
Over 800,000 workers, 90% of whom are employees placed on unpaid leave, have filed for unemployment benefits. According to Bank of Israel estimates, current measures to contain the coronavirus are likely to result in an unemployment rate of approximately 7% – an overall increase of 150,000 people – by the end of 2020. Unemployment stood at about 4% prior to the outbreak.
A group of 14 sefardic orthodox rabbis have issued a ruling permitting people to use video streaming software Zoom to share their Passover seders with elderly relatives who cannot join them in person. The software must be opened before the holiday begins. Many rabbis, including Israel’s ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and Tzohar head Rabbi Stav, have called the ruling wrong and irresponsible.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) resigned from his post today after being ordered by the High Court of Justice to convene the parliament to hold a vote on his replacement. Before resigning, Edelstein adjourned the Knesset until Monday. He plans on appealing the court’s decision.
The resignation effectively ends any hope of a unity government being formed as Blue & White prepares to replace the speaker with a member of their own party, a condition that Likud finds unacceptable.
There isn’t much “new” to tell you about today. Coronovirus cases are at 1,238 and continue to rise. More businesses are cutting back or shutting down, including McDonald’s and Amazon delivery.
Meanwhile, the Knesset will come into session today, with only 6 MK’s being allowed to vote at a time, to maintain social distancing. Knesset Speaker Yuri Edelstein has shut down the Knesset last week to prevent the opposition from voting him out of his job and replacing him. Will he close down the Knesset again to keep himself and PM Netanyahu in power indefinitely? To read more about the present political situation, click here.
IDF troops opened fire on 2 terrorists who threw rocks at vehicles on the 446 highway in the Binyamin region. Both terrorists were wounded. One died and the other managed to flee.
Israel’s government has placed the country under lockdown for at least 7 days. The lockdown will be enforced by police. Israelis must stay at home, except for the following reasons:
1. Getting to and from a workplace, subject to the fact that the workplace can operate in accordance with the regulations separately laid down for that purpose.
2. Equipping and purchasing of foods, medicines, products and other basic or essential services.
3. Getting medical service.
4. Blood donation.
6. Legal process.
7. Individual sports activity, except for members of the same family unit.
8. Exiting a place of residence for a short time and going to a place nearby by a single person or persons of the same family unit staying together in one place.
9. Leaving for a religious ceremony, including a wedding or funeral, as well as a prayer service for up to 10 people keeping a distance of two meters from each other.
10. Leaving in order to provide assistance to another person who has a medical problem or other difficulty requiring support.
11. Leaving for another essential purpose.
Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov warned that the battle against the coronavirus has only started and there is a long way ahead.
There are currently 705 Israelis known to be infected with the coronavirus. Of that number, 662 have light symptoms, 18 are in moderate condition, 10 are in serious condition and 15 have recovered. There are 271 people in hospital, 149 are being treated at home, 58 are being treated in a specially designated hotel and 212 are awaiting a decision on how they will be treated. Health officials expect a significant rise in cases as the rate of testing for the virus increases.
President Rivlin today tasked Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with the mandate to form the next government, after Gantz received the recommendations of 61 Knesset members, including all of the Arab MKs. PM Netanyahu only received 58 recommendations. Gantz now has 28 days to form a government.
Gantz said, “In times like these, leaders are called upon to put aside any personal consideration. I give you my word that I will give my all to form a patriotic, broad government within a few days, a government in which I will serve the voters of all parties, on the left and the right, and the citizens of Israel as a whole. A government in which I will protect the interests of settlers in Judea and Samaria, Arab citizens, those living in outlying areas, and those living in the center. I will form a government that will cure us of the coronavirus and cure us of division and hatred.”
Gantz has pledged to form as wide of a government as possible, but he currently only has the support of Yisrael Beytenu and Labor-Meretz, while the Arab MKs have promised to support him without joining the government.
Yamina, led by Naftali Bennett and the ultra-Orthodox UTJ and Shas parties have refused to meet with Gantz. Blue and White and Likud will meet to try and negotiate a unity deal.
The PM announced the shutdown of all restaurants, cafes, hotels and shopping venues, with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations, for 5 weeks. There are currently 344 Israelis with coronavirus. But only 8,000 people have been tested so far. PM Netanyahu and President Rivlin have both tested negative.
PM Netanyahu’s criminal trial has been postponed to May 24 as a result of the corona restrictions.
The IDF has indicated that Iran is reducing its terror activities due to the coronavirus.
There isn’t much new to tell you about that you don’t already know. The coronavirus is spreading in Israel, just like it is in the US and Europe. Schools and (many) synagogues are shutting down. So is public entertainment, sporting events and all public gatherings. 126 Israelis are infected. Thousands are under quarantine.
The Tel Aviv stock exchange is down almost 20%. The economy is taking a hit, particularly tourism, airlines, restaurants etc. And PM Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz are discussing forming an emergency unity government.
Let’s hope this virus passes quickly so we can all get back to normal life.
Wishing you all a safe and peaceful Shabbat.
And don’t forget to keep washing those hands!
To listen to an audio version click here. (for supporters)
PM Netanyahu announced that the government will provide NIS 10 billion of “first aid” primarily in the form of loans to businesses and a cash injection into the healthcare system. The PM said financial support for the aviation industry, including El Al, will be in addition to the aid package.
As of today, 76 Israelis have been infected with the coronavirus and tens of thousands are in self-quarantine.
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