April 2, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic Waqf Uses Covid-19 as Cover to Dig on Temple Mount in Jerusalem (JNS)
    The Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem on Tuesday uploaded pictures to its official Facebook page showing Waqf employees carrying out unauthorized digs on the Temple Mount.
    Due to the highly sensitive nature of the Temple Mount, all digs must be approved by both the Waqf and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
    Despite this, the Waqf has a long history of conducting illegal digs.

Israel Targets Iranian Commanders at Syrian Base (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Israeli planes used Lebanon's airspace to target Iranian military transport aircraft and a meeting of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hizbullah commanders, as well as the chief of the al-Quds Force, Brig.-Gen. Esmail Ghaani, Syrian opposition sources told the German DPA news agency.

New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Falsely Claim that Netanyahu Shut Courts - Tamar Sternthal (CAMERA)
    The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have identified Israel as a country where an "autocratic," "authoritarian" leader allegedly engaged in an undemocratic "coup" during the coronavirus crisis and has shut down the courts.
    But Netanyahu did not shut down the courts. On March 21, Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut clarified that the courts continue to function throughout the country.

Coronavirus and PA Financial Priorities - Maurice Hirsch (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The Palestinian Authority devotes six times more of its budget to terrorist prisoners and the families of dead terrorists than it does to its needy.
    The amount the PA is paying terrorists this month could buy 387,143 coronavirus test kits or 465 ventilators.

Israeli Startups Raised over $650 Million in March (Globes)
    Despite the global coronavirus pandemic economic crisis, Israeli startups raised over $650 million in March.
    Israeli tech companies have raised over $2.15 billion in the first three months of 2020, compared with $1.45 billion in the same period in 2019.

Near Empty Roads Allow Accelerated Work on Infrastructure (Times of Israel)
    Construction to extend the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed train along with work on light rails in both major cities will be fast-tracked thanks to the coronavirus that has emptied streets, the Transportation Ministry announced on Monday.
    See also With No Trains Running, Tel Aviv Railway Electrification Work Speeds Up - Amiram Barkat (Globes)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Warns Iran of Heightened Retaliation for Any Attacks on American Troops - Julian E. Barnes
    President Trump warned Iran on Wednesday against using its proxy forces to attack American troops and hinted that the American military was considering a more direct strike on Iranian forces. He said his administration had "very good information" that Iran-backed militias were planning more assaults.
        "If it happens again, that would go up the food chain. This response will be bigger if they do something....I'm saying if you do anything to hurt our troops, they're going to pay a price."  (New York Times)
  • Pakistani Court Overturns Murder Conviction in Killing of Journalist Daniel Pearl - Saeed Shah
    A Pakistani court overturned the murder conviction of British national Omar Saeed Sheikh for killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, and reduced his death sentence to seven years' time served in prison for his kidnapping conviction. Three other men who were convicted of helping in the kidnapping and killing were acquitted by the appeals court in Karachi. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 6,211, Death Toll Is 31
    Israel's coronavirus death toll rose to 31 on Thursday morning. All of the victims were over 72 and most had underlying conditions. People infected with the coronavirus numbered 6,211, with 107 in serious condition, including 83 on ventilators, and 127 in moderate condition. 289 people have recovered. (Times of Israel)
        See also Corona Victims in Israel Had Pre-Existing Conditions - Maytal Yasur Beit-Or
    Israel Hayom identified the "pre-existing conditions" from which all of the first Israeli coronavirus victims suffered and discovered that 8 were diabetics, 8 had high blood pressure, and 7 suffered from heart and vascular disease. 5 were in varying states of dementia or had suffered strokes or a loss of cognitive functioning. Another 4 had respiratory illnesses. 1 had liver disease, an autoimmune condition, and cancer. (Israel Hayom)
  • Mossad Officer Describes Israel's Efforts to Obtain Medical Equipment to Fight Corona - Michael Bachner
    The head of the technology department in Israel's Mossad intelligence service discussed efforts to obtain medical equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic on Channel 12 on Tuesday. Senior officials said that by the coming weekend, Israel would acquire another 1.5 million N95 protective masks for medical staff, 700,000 surgical masks, 2 million protective overalls and protective glasses, 50,000 coronavirus medicines and 180 ventilators.
        Israel has recently obtained essential information needed for local manufacturing of ventilators. He said Israel's goal was not to be dependent on anyone else, and "the first dozens of ventilators will be manufactured this week." He said that unlike three or four days ago, he was now confident that Israel would weather the crisis much better than Italy, Spain and the U.S., and that there will be no shortage of equipment. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Is Iran Using Pandemic to Race toward Nuclear Weapons? - Yoav Limor
    Israeli intelligence officials believe the numbers of dead and infected in Iran are four or five times higher than the official reports, but it isn't clear if the gap stems from intentional efforts on the part of the regime to conceal the true picture, or from the general disarray in the country and the fact that quite a few regime officials are among the dead and sick.
        Israeli officials are concerned that Iran will exploit the fact that the world's attention is entirely focused on the coronavirus to secretly push forward its nuclear program. Iran has already said it no longer considers itself obligated to the nuclear deal and has reverted to enriching uranium.
        Israeli intelligence officials said in January that if Iran continues at its current pace, within a few months Tehran could amass enough enriched uranium for its first nuclear bomb, and that it will be able to finish the bomb-making process in late 2021. The fear now is that Iran will accelerate these processes. Due to the coronavirus crisis, international monitors from the IAEA have stopped oversight activities in Iran's nuclear facilities almost completely. (Israel Hayom)
  • Will the Iranian Regime's Lies and Neglect Lead to Unrest? - Israel Kasnett
    The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) conducted an online conversation to discuss Iran as the epicenter of the coronavirus in the Middle East and its efforts to continue its nuclear activities. Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, said he believes that the coronavirus could create the foundations for popular unrest and regime change in Iran. Segall explained that with the backdrop of sanctions and lack of income from oil, together with internal feuds within the regime, the crisis in Iran is deepening.
        However, former Iranian Housing Minister Djavad Khadem said regime change in Iran is not possible "because the regime has the support of its base, and this base will take whatever measures necessary to prevent that from happening." At the same time, "People have given up on the regime and mistrust it." Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "doesn't care how many people die because this is the best way to divert attention from the other problems in Iran," said Khadem. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel to Treat Coronavirus Victims with Antibodies from Recovered Patients - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    Patients who recovered from coronavirus will be asked to donate blood plasma to treat Israelis who are severely ill with Covid-19, said Magen David Adom deputy director-general of blood services Prof. Eilat Shinar. This assumes that those who have recovered from the disease have developed special antibodies which could help sick patients. This is called passive immunization, as opposed to an active vaccine. Plasma with antibodies was used to treat patients with SARS during the outbreak in 2002.
        Last week, the FDA approved a similar protocol in the U.S. Earlier this week, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported about plasma being used to treat five Covid-19 patients in China, which "very much helped in their recovery," Shinar said. Before being able to donate plasma, a patient must wait 14 days after being confirmed negative for coronavirus via two separate swab tests. Thus, the first plasma was donated only on April 1. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Recovered Coronavirus Patients in New Rochelle Donate Blood to Help Others - David Propper (USA Today)

Israel: Sanctions on Iran Must Not Be Lifted for Coronavirus - Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon (Jerusalem Post)
  • Some have called for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Iran to help the regime fight the coronavirus. However, the belief that lifting sanctions would do anything but empower the regime at the expense of the Iranian people is foolish and dangerous.
  • Like other authoritarian responses to the coronavirus outbreak, Iran withheld information and imprisoned whistleblowers. The government allowed daily commercial flights to and from China, and propagated the lie that the U.S. engineered the virus.
  • Last year, European nations sent Iran an aid package of a billion euros to purchase medical supplies to help the people. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed that the regime stole most of that money, using it to acquire protective equipment for regime leaders against the virus and line their pockets.
  • The desire to help those suffering, particularly under an authoritative regime, is admirable. However, in Iran's case, instead of sanctions relief, the focus should be on providing humanitarian aid in the form of medical equipment to help the Iranian people.
  • Israel wants to see Iranian hospitals and doctors empowered with the necessary resources to help everyone inflicted with the virus. And Israel does not want the Iranian people paying for the sins of the authoritarian regime. However, the help cannot come at the cost of lifting sanctions intended to end Iran's nuclear program and terrorism campaigns.
  • Moreover, in less than seven months, the UN arms embargo, the first of the nuclear agreement's sunset provisions, will expire. Beginning on October 18, the Iranian regime will be able to openly import advanced weapons, which it will use to arm its regional proxies and advance its missile program.