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Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-2-2020

News Update

To listen to an audio version click here. (for supporters)

The Health Ministry reported 1,227 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. There are currently 10,513 active cases of which 266 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 94 on ventilators. There have been 2,865 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic. The head of Hamas in Gaza reportedly has Covid [thought you’d want to know that].

A senior Health Ministry official said that Israel is currently seeing the beginning of a third coronavirus wave due to a continued rise in infection.

A recent study by Tel Aviv University shows that around a third of all Israelis are experiencing severe levels of anxiety, up from 10% pre-pandemic.

Blue & White Chairman and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his party will vote today in favor of a bill to disperse the Knesset and hold another election. He said that he will not support the no-confidence vote if PM Netanyahu agrees to pass the two-year budget, which he has so far refused to do.

If the long-term budget is passed, Netanyahu would be forced to commit to the PM rotation agreement next year and yield power to Gantz. But if the government collapses, Netanyahu would remain as prime minister throughout the three-month election campaign and until a new coalition is formed.

Netanyahu would also benefit by further delaying the budget talks, which would give him more time for the coronavirus vaccine to arrive and the economy to begin recovering next year — and a boost in a new election.

A 40 member delegation from Bahrain arrived in Israel yesterday for two days of talks on boosting economic cooperation and tourism.

Israel has transferred over $1 billion in funds to the Palestinian Authority. The transfer of tax and customs funds had been halted after the PA halted all cooperation with Israel in May, in response to Israeli plans to apply sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria. Those plans were put on hold after Israel signed peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-30-2020

News Update

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The Health Ministry reported 985 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. There are currently 9,897 active cases of which 263 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 114 on ventilators. There have been 2,864 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The head of the Israel Institute for Biological Research said that an Israeli made vaccine could be available in the summer. He criticized what he perceived as a lack of support for the institute’s efforts and the decision to acquire vaccines from foreign companies. He also blamed the abundance of government regulations for delaying the vaccine.

Bethlehem’s mayor and town leaders said that Christmas celebrations will take place this year, although with some restrictions due to the pandemic.

A source with the Lebanese military said today that an upcoming round of maritime border talks with Israel due to take place on Wednesday has been postponed. This comes after Israel accused Lebanon of changing its stance in the negotiations.

Tesla plans to begin selling its electric cars in Israel in the second half of 2021. All cars sold in Israel are imported by independent companies, but Tesla will sell directly, without any middleman. To read more about this click here.

The Israeli Defense Ministry is in negotiations to sell 29 retired F-16 fighter jets to a Canadian company. The deal is valued at $100 million and will be the largest of its kind ever. The planes will be used to simulated enemy attacks in air force training exercises in Canada, the US and Australia.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-25-2020

News Update

The Health Ministry reported 832 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. There are currently 9,064 active cases of which 268 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 120 on ventilators. There have been 2,822 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic. The coronavirus cabinet voted to reopen schools in areas with low infection rates. Some indoor malls will also be allowed to open, on a one week trial basis.

Syrian sources are reporting that Israeli planes struck a military base south of Damascus last night, killing 8 pro-Iranian militants. The base houses Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Israeli planes also reportedly attacked a village near the Israeli border.

PM Netanyahu said yesterday that he spoke with the crown prince of Bahrain and would visit the Gulf state soon. Bahrain’s foreign minister visited Israel last week.

The U.S. Justice Department announced last Friday that Jonathan Pollard, the man imprisoned for 35 years for spying for Israel, had completed his parole. He is now free to leave the country. PM Netanyahu spoke to Pollard by phone yesterday and told him, “Your nightmare is over and you can come home to Israel” and We’re waiting for you.”

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-23-2020

News Update

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The Health Ministry reported 745 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. There are currently 8,456 active cases of which 298 people are hospitalized in serious condition. There have been 2,806 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Israel has signed an agreement with Uk vaccine maker AstraZeneca for 10 million doses of the company’s new vaccine, which is reportedly over 90% effective.

The Health Ministry on Sunday warned the public to refrain from entering the sea at every beach across the country, because of pollution from overflowing drainage systems due to recent heavy rains across the country.

PM Netanyahu and Mossad Director Yossi Cohen made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia yesterday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also at the meeting. Neither Defense Minister Gantz nor Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were informed of the trip in advance.

One Israeli man was seriously injured this morning when his car was stoned by terrorists near the settlement of Yitzhar in Samaria. The stoning also caused the car to collide with another car, injuring another 3 Israelis. Security forces are searching for the terrorists.

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz announced yesterday that he has decided to set up a government committee of inquiry to investigate the procurement by the Israel Navy of submarines and surface vessels. The committee’s main work will be on the procurement of three new submarines from Germany, and the prime minister’s demand for the preparation for the purchase of a fourth submarine. Netanyahu’s critics claim that this was in order to promote the business interests of his cousin Nathan Milikowsky, who had business ties with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, which is building the submarines. It is also claimed that Netanyahu hid some of the information relating to the procurement from the ministers of defense during the period concerned. The implication of Gantz’s move is that his Blue & White party is sure that Israel is headed for an election.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-20-2020

News Update

The Health Ministry reported 758 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. There are currently 8,427 active cases of which 315 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 127 on ventilators. There have been 2,742 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Almost half of all new virus cases have come from the Arab sector. Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, has been classified a red zone. The coronavirus cabinet is discussing whether to impose a lockdown on the city. Other Arab towns were locked down this week.

During his visit to the Psagot winery and settlement in the West Bank, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that all imports from Israeli settlements in the West Bank will now be labeled “Made in Israel” or “Product of Israel”. He also said the US would immediately withdraw support from any organization engaged in anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). He said, “We will regard the global anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic,” and, “We will immediately take steps to identify the organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw U.S. government support from such groups.”

The Palestinians are sending ambassadors back to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain after recalling them in protest of the peace agreements signed with Israel.

A report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) states, “The Israeli economy entered the COVID-19 pandemic from a position of strength, and the authorities mounted a large and rapid response to the crisis. Timely and decisive measures introduced by the Bank of Israel at the outset of the pandemic have helped preserve market and financial stability and access to credit. Fiscal support to the health system, households, and businesses has also helped soften the economic impact of the pandemic.” The IMF report found that the output of the Israeli economy was harmed less than that of other developed economies in 2020, and that it should recover rapidly in 2021.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-18-2020

News Update

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The Health Ministry reported 815 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. There are currently 8,310 active cases of which 309 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 132 on ventilators. There have been 2,735 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Israel has signed an agreement with US vaccine maker Moderna for a million and a half doses and is negotiating for more.

Israeli warplanes struck military targets in southern Syria today, in response to explosive devices that were found planted on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights border. Targets included storage facilities and military compounds belonging to the Syrian army and to Iranian militias, as well as Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries. Ten people were killed, including Syrian soldiers and Iranian militiamen.

The IDF spokesman said, “This was a powerful strike. We attacked targets near the border and all the way to the Damascus area including a central command center of the Iranian forces deployed near the capital’s airport and a secret compound which houses high level Iranian visitors, just south of the city.” Additional Iron Dome batteries have been added in northern Israel.

Bahrain’s first official government delegation to Israel, led by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport today on the first Gulf Air commercial flight to Tel Aviv. Al Zayani will meet with PM Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also in Israel on a visit.

President Reuven Rivlin and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan exchanged invitations yesterday to visit their respective countries.

President Rivlin and PM Netanyahu spoke on the phone with President-Elect Joe Biden yesterday. The conversation was reportedly “warm” with Biden reiterating his “deep commitment to Israel and its security.” The PM said that that the, “special bond between Israel and the U.S. is the basis for Israel’s security and its policies.” The two agreed to meet soon in order to discuss the many issues on the agenda and stressed the need to “continue strengthening the strong alliance between the United States and Israel.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu refused to comment when asked in an interview on Israel Radio who he believed won the U.S. election. He said, “Why do I have to express an opinion. They have an internal process – the Electoral College. I think everybody more or less understands what… is apparently going to happen officially.”

The Palestinian Authority has resumed security and civil coordination with Israel. Hamas denounced the resumption of cooperation.

7-Eleven, the US convenience store chain, will soon be coming to Israel. Plans are to eventually open over 100 stores. The first stores will probably open in late 2021.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-16-2020

News Update

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The Health Ministry reported 613 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. The contagion rate has risen to 2.7%. There are currently 7,767 active cases of which 294 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 130 on ventilators. There have been 2,732 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The Israel Land Authority announced on its website Sunday that it had opened up tenders for more than 1,200 new homes in the strategic settlement of Givat Hamatos in east Jerusalem. Construction could then begin within months. Critics say construction in the settlement would seal off Bethlehem and the southern West Bank from east Jerusalem. It could also anger the incoming US administration, since President-Elect Biden has promised to resume relations with the Palestinian Authority and work towards a two-state solution, which would most likely include freezing all new settlement construction.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the Psagot Winery, located about four miles southeast of the settlement of Psagot, which is just east of the city of Ramallah. This is the first time a US Secretary of State will travel to an Israeli settlement, exactly one year after he announced that Washington no longer considered settlements illegal. He will also be the first secretary of state to travel to the Golan Heights, which the US recognized as part of Israel in 2019. Pompeo’s 10-day tour of the region also includes stops in Turkey, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin announced yesterday that Israel would send its second astronaut into space at the end of 2021, when former IAF fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe will join a scientific mission to the International Space Station.

Minister of Justice Avi Nissenkorn has announced that he will promote the legalization of recreational cannabis use in Israel. From age 21, people will be allowed to use cannabis at home and at special stores.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, the second largest airline in the UAE after Emirates, has announced that it will begin operating daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv on March 28, 2021.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-13-2020

News Update

The Health Ministry reported 817 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The contagion rate has risen to 2.1%. There are currently 8,059 active cases of which 303 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 133 on ventilators. There have been 2,706 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

PM Netanyahu announced that Israel has signed a deal with Pfizer for 8 million doses of the company’s new vaccine. Israel will begin receiving the vaccine in January. Israel is also in talks with other vaccine development companies.

Israel’s supreme court has ordered the state to justify, within 21 days, the legal agreement at the core of the current unity government that regulates its power-sharing deal and the institution of the alternate prime minister. To read more about this click here.

The body of IDF Corporal Sagi Ben David, who had been missing since Tuesday, was found near the Hizma checkpoint near East Jerusalem. Ben David was serving at the Anatot base near Jerusalem, where he was last seen. He apparently turned off his phone when he left the base. The IDF and police are investigating the circumstances of his death, but sources said it appears his death was not terror related.

During the World Health Organization’s Thursday meeting on the global response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, 30 delegations took the opportunity to blame Israel for “allegedly violating the health rights of Palestinians and Syrians in the Golan Heights.” Included in those delegations were Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Malaysia and Lebanon. The WHO session concluded with a vote of 78 to 14, with 32 abstentions, to adopt a resolution, co-sponsored by Syria, Cuba, Turkey, Qatar and the Palestinian delegation, requiring the WHO to hold the same debate at next year’s assembly, and to prepare another report on the “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

England’s Prince Charles has made a private donation to the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, making it the first time a member of the British royal family has made an official personal donation to an Israeli cause. British Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan said, “The contribution to the Peres Center reflects the impact of the prince’s visits to Israel, and the importance of the relations between Britain and Israel.”

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-11-2020

News Update

To listen to an audio version click here. (for supporters)

The Health Ministry reported 663 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. The contagion rate has dropped to 1.6%. There are currently 8,105 active cases of which 304 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 126 on ventilators. There have been 2,683 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The IDF reported yesterday that it shot down a Hezbollah drone that entered Israeli airspace.

The IDF is in a heightened state of alert ahead of the one-year anniversary on Thursday of the assassination of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al-Ata. Additional Iron Dome batteries have been deployed in the south.

Saeb Erekat, 65, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, died from Covid in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem after being treated there for 3 weeks. He will be buried today in Jericho.

The Trump administration formally notified Congress on Tuesday that it plans to sell 50 stealth F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates as part of a broader arms deal worth around 23 billion dollars. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had authorized the sale in keeping with the administration’s Middle East peace efforts.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 11-9-2020

News Update

The Health Ministry reported 522 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. The contagion rate has risen to 2.4%. There are currently 8,958 active cases of which 322 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 138 on ventilators. There have been 2,674 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Health officials are warning the government that it is opening up the economy too quickly, after most retail shops were allowed to open yesterday. Israelis flocked to stores, in many cases standing in long lines to enter.

The IDF shot and wounded a terrorist who tried to stab soldiers near the town of Fawwar, southwest of Hebron. No soldiers were hurt. The terrorist was a 41-year-old resident of the city of Dura, who said he had hoped to die in the attack. He was taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva for treatment.

PM Netanyahu yesterday tweeted his congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their victory in the US Presidential election. He added, “Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.”

The PM also tweeted, “Thank you @realDonaldTrump for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally, for recognizing Jerusalem and the Golan, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights.

President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi all congratulated Biden on his election and praised him as being a strong, long-time, friend of Israel.

The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee met today to discuss the sale of fifty F-35 jets and other advanced weapons systems by the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The meeting revolved around the question of PM Netanyahu’s knowledge of, and tacit agreement to, the sale. Mideast expert Amos Gilboa said Democrats could block the weapons sale to avoid unnerving Iranian officials, with whom President-elect Joe Biden already said he wants to negotiate in an effort to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. He said, “The assumption is that [Biden] won’t follow [Trump’s] path of that regional alliance because of his desire to negotiate a deal with Iran. Supplying arms to Gulf states and adding more countries to the regional alliance with Israel will infuriate Iran, so he might put that on hold.”

The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) has begun steadily rising after last week’s heavy rainfall. The level of the lake is currently 209.99 meters below sea level, 1.19 meters from its maximum level of 208.80 meters below sea level. The Kinneret has risen 2.5 centimeters over the past few days and is beginning the winter at its highest level for 17 years, after well above average rainfall last winter.