March 27, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Unity Government Forming in Israel in Response to Coronavirus Crisis - Raoul Wootliff (Times of Israel)
    Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz is set to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a unity government, taking over from Netanyahu as prime minister in September 2021.

Coronavirus Is Making Peace in the Middle East - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Reports from the Idlib region in Syria say that regular combat between Turkish forces and forces loyal to Assad has almost completely stopped, except for sporadic ambush strikes on the main highway by radical militias against Assad's forces.
    The main concern now in Idlib is of an outbreak of the coronavirus.
    It is practically impossible to enforce quarantine orders in the area because a large portion of the people there are refugees who live in temporary shelter and densely packed neighborhoods, many of which have no running water for washing.
    Moreover, there are no clinics or other medical facilities where infected people could receive proper treatment.
    In addition, the Turkish military is worried that the virus could hit Turkish troops and the militias operating under its patronage in Idlib province as well as in western parts of the Kurdish provinces in northern Syria.

In Iran, False Belief that Drinking Methanol Fights Coronavirus Kills Hundreds (AP-New York Times)
    Iranian media reports nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened so far after ingesting methanol - industrial alcohol - in the mistaken belief that it protects against the coronavirus.

Follow the Jerusalem Center on:

Mossad Brings another 400,000 Coronavirus Test Kits to Israel - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Mossad intelligence service on Thursday helped bring another 400,000 coronavirus test kits to Israel in addition to the 100,000 it brought in last week, the Prime Minister's Office said.

Israel Contradicts Guardian Claim on Gaza Medicine "Restrictions" - Adam Levick (UK Media Watch-CAMERA)
    Harriet Sherwood wrote in the Guardian on March 22, "An Israeli blockade [of Gaza], in place since 2007 although eased in recent years, has limited the import of medicines and other essential items."
    The IDF's COGAT unit responded, "As opposed to the arguments in the article, there hasn't been any restriction on importing medical equipment and medicine to the Gaza Strip, except for items considered as dual-use equipment."
    "The State of Israel promotes, beyond the letter of the law, the import of medicine and medical equipment for dozens of medical institutions in the Gaza Strip."

IDF Slams NGO for Claiming It Destroyed a Palestinian Coronavirus Treatment Center (Jerusalem Post)
    The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) slammed the human rights NGO B'Tselem for alleging Thursday that the IDF demolished a coronavirus treatment center built by Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.
    "We are sorry to see a human rights NGO choosing to exploit a global crisis to spread fake news."

Technion Researchers Working on Emergency Projects to Fight Coronavirus - Aaron Reich (Jerusalem Post)
    Researchers from over 20 labs at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are working to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
    These emergency projects focus on detection and diagnostics, vaccine development, therapeutic treatments, and methods for remote care and monitoring of patients, including robotic solutions.

Search the Recent History of Israel and the Middle East

Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
    If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert and want to share it with friends, please click Forward in your email program and enter their address.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Sanctions Iran's Terror Network in Iraq
    The U.S. State Department announced sanctions on Thursday against "20 individuals and entities that violate Iraqi sovereignty and exploit Iraq's economy to funnel money to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF)." They "help provide the financial support that enables the IRGC-QF to transfer lethal aid to Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Kata'ib Hizballah (KH) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH)."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Jews Account for 5 Percent of UK Coronavirus Deaths - Mathilde Frot
    22 UK Jews had died after contracting the coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to figures released by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The number of fatalities is close to 5% of the confirmed national death toll, while Jews make up only 0.5% of the UK's population. (Jewish News-UK)
  • Israel's Air Defense Experiments with Lasers and Algorithms to Stay a Step Ahead of Its Enemies - Raf Sanchez
    No other country in the developed world is shot at as often as Israel - making it a forge of innovation for air defense systems. 1,300 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel last year, according to the military, while a handful of missiles came from Syria and southern Lebanon. Later this year, Israel's military will become the first in the world to demonstrate a laser weapon for bringing down rockets.
        "The big question, the one that worries us, is whether we can stay ahead of our enemies," Col. Gil Dolov, deputy commander of Israel's Air Defense Array, told the Sunday Telegraph. "Right now, we are in a good position and we are at least one step ahead." Since it came online in 2011, Israel's Iron Dome has successfully intercepted more than 2,000 incoming rockets. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 3,035, Death Toll Is 10 - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    As of Friday morning, Israel had 3,035 people diagnosed with the coronavirus - 49 in serious condition. Two Israelis died overnight, aged 93 and 76, bringing the total to 10. The three people who died on Thursday were aged 91, 89, and 83. Israel is testing more than 5,000 people a day. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hundreds of Israelis Return Home on Special Flights - Raphael Ahren
    With the assistance of several foreign governments, Israeli diplomats on Thursday continued to bring home hundreds of Israeli backpackers who were stranded abroad. "More than 600 Israelis came back from India, 200 [Arab Israeli] students from Jordan, 150 Israelis from Central Europe and another 150 from Costa Rica," said Foreign Minister Israel Katz. "We managed to get tourists out from all parts of Bolivia, and even those that were unable to board [last week's] El Al flight from Peru will return to Israel soon, after they went on rescue flights organized by the German Foreign Ministry."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Opens First Designated Coronavirus Hospital
    Israel's first designated hospital for treating coronavirus patients received its first patients Thursday. The Sharon Hospital in Petah Tikva was converted into a 200-bed facility in less than two weeks after all its patients were transferred to other hospitals and the 1,400-strong staff received training in treating coronavirus patients and self-protection against infection. Most of the treatment will be administered remotely, through five command and control centers with closed-circuit cameras. 37 coronavirus patients are already hospitalized in the facility, five of them in serious condition. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • IDF Prepares for World War C - Anna Ahronheim
    The whole country is on lockdown. The only people on the street are police officers and IDF troops. It's World War C - the coronavirus crisis. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett warned: "We are in accelerated growth in patients in serious condition; the number of positive tests is increasing. Severe morbidity levels are approaching. Within 10 days there will be a significant rate of serious patients, but this is not a matter of fate. We can work to change the situation."
        IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi ordered the military to move to a higher state of readiness, one normally reserved for preparation for an enemy attack. The IDF Home Front Command was ordered to establish quarantine facilities in hotels across the country and provide essential services such as food and medicine to Israel's elderly, in an effort dubbed "Operation Save Grandma."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus Outbreak Changes Palestinians' Views on Cooperation with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    For the first time in years, the Palestinians are no longer condemning cooperation with Israel as a "treacherous" form of normalization. Israeli and Palestinian health and security officials suddenly found themselves holding several meetings a day as they set up a joint "operations room" to combat the virus.
        "When it comes to health issues, there's no room for controversy," said Mohammed Arafeh, an official with the Palestinian Ministry of Health. "It would be foolish and irresponsible for anyone to oppose medical cooperation between the Palestinians and Israel in fighting against the pandemic, which does not recognize borders and does not distinguish between a Palestinian and an Israeli. This is the time to lay aside any differences and conflicts and join forces."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • If the PA Lacks Funds to Combat the Coronavirus, It Should Stop Paying Salaries to Terrorists - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    According to official Palestinian reports, the actual expenditure by the Palestinian Authority on salaries to incarcerated terrorists during 2019 was 517.4 million shekels ($148 million). This is in comparison to 502 million shekels in 2018. The Palestinians keep paying salaries to all terrorists arrested in Israel and to the families of dead terrorists in spite of the growing international attention to the "Pay for Slay" phenomenon.
        In 2018, Israel adopted a law requiring the deduction of the amount the PA paid as salaries to terrorists and their families from the taxes it collects for the PA. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the PA asked Israel to deliver the withheld funds. Clearly, if the PA lacks the financial resources to combat the epidemic, they can stop paying salaries to terrorists.
        The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division and director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Pakistan Became a Coronavirus Spreader to the Muslim World - Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
    250,000 people gathered in Lahore, Pakistan, two weeks ago to participate in an Islamic outreach event organized by the local Outreach Congress, an offshoot of the South Asian Deobandi Islamic movement. Two Palestinian men who returned from the event in Pakistan became Gaza's first two cases of coronavirus.
        Moreover, at a time when numerous Muslim countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan have closed mosques, Pakistan allowed nationwide Friday prayers on March 20.
        Prominent Deobandi cleric Muhammad Taqi Usmani revealed on national TV that Prophet Muhammad had come in the dream of a movement member and "shared the cure for coronavirus." The cure was the recital of certain Quranic verses. (Ha'aretz)
  • Syria's Shrinking Rebel Pocket in Idlib - Fabrice Balanche
    The rebel pocket in Syria's Idlib province has shrunk to half the size it was in April 2019, as Bashar al-Assad is determined to do away with what he and his allies see as "Jihadistan." The rebels now control only 3,000 square km. of Idlib, down from 7,000 last April. There are now 9,000 Turkish soldiers in Idlib, but it is not clear how much longer they will stay.
        Russia wants to do away with what it sees as a terrorist nest in Idlib. The jihadist groups have their backs to the wall and are ready to fight to the bitter end, at great cost to opposing forces. Assad wants to reclaim as much Syrian territory as possible, but emptied of people who oppose him. Turkey does not want more refugees. Likewise, the EU trembles at the prospect of several million new refugees heading for its borders.
        The writer, an associate professor at the University of Lyon 2, is an adjunct fellow with The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • Hunting Down the Gear Israel Needs to Fight the Coronavirus - Ronny Linder
    Sarel - Logistic Solutions and Products for Advanced Medicine buys medical equipment for most of Israel's government hospitals and the emergency stores of the Health Ministry, the Israel Police and other state security services. For the past two months, Sarel CEO Avi Buskila has been working overtime to buy medical equipment at a time when global supply chains are collapsing and countries are competing for a limited supply of masks and test kits. Buskila says what he and his team are doing is tantamount to an arms race with other countries to get their hands on critical gear.
        "It's true that we have emergency warehouses and military stores with hundreds of respirators and masks, but I don't think that anyone anywhere was prepared for an onslaught of these dimensions....For almost 60 days we've been working day and night....No one alive today has ever witnessed anything like it. An epidemic on this scale last happened 100 years ago."
        "Every day, purchasing is becoming more difficult. We encounter counterfeit items, such as fake N95 masks or overalls that are not water impermeable, so we don't buy anything without checking it out first....For every deal, you have to check that you're not being swindled, since many people say they have something, want a deposit and security, and in the end, you find out that they weren't really leveling with you....You're no longer working with your regular supplier who you can trust at their word."  (Ha'aretz)
  • A Jewish Community in Gaza - Nadav Shragai
    Journalist Haggai Hoberman has just published A Jewish Community in Gaza, which tells the unknown story of the Jews who lived there for generations until the early 20th century. He reveals that once, Gaza was home to Islamic religious leaders who welcomed the Jews. In 1910, the newsletter HaPoel HaTzair reported that "relations between Arabs and Jews are very good, and no Jew has ever suffered in Gaza for being a Jew." The Jews fled Gaza in the Arab riots of 1929, with the help of city dignitary Hajj Said a-Shawa, whose son Rashad would become the mayor of Gaza in the 1970s. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Jewish Race-Car Driver Who Beat Hitler's Best - Nick Donofrio
    Neal Bascomb's new book, Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler's Best, is the story of French Jewish driver Rene Dreyfus, who raced the Grand Prix circuit in the 1930s. After Germany annexed Austria, Dreyfus achieved a shocking upset over Hitler's best, German Rudi Caracciola driving a Mercedes, in the opening race of the 1938 season. (New York Times)

Coping with Corona in the Middle East - Itai Brun and Sarah J. Feuer (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Middle East is poised to experience a severe outbreak of the coronavirus, given the population density in certain cities and the millions of refugees scattered throughout the region.
  • The virus is likely to severely disrupt even states that enjoyed relative stability prior to corona.
  • States that were engulfed in armed conflict are the most handicapped, and the least transparent, in responding to the virus. The same can be said for states with large concentrations of refugees, such as Lebanon and Jordan.
  • In countries that have experienced mass protest movements since last year, congregating in large groups suddenly posed a health risk and, by now, most protests have dissipated, offering governments a temporary reprieve.
  • The remaining states may be marginally better equipped to handle the outbreak. Still, even in sturdier countries like Turkey and Morocco, the very integration with the global economy facilitating that stability will make them all the more vulnerable to economic shocks reverberating from containment measures.

    Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Itai Brun is Deputy Director for Research and Analysis at INSS, where Sarah J. Feuer is a Research Fellow.
Support Daily Alert
Daily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy. No wonder it is read by heads of government, leading journalists, and thousands of people who want to stay on top of the news. To continue to provide this service, Daily Alert requires your support. Please take a moment to click here and make your contribution through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.