April 13, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Syria Helping Hizbullah Move into Golan Heights - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Forces on Friday accused the Syrian army of helping Hizbullah to establish a permanent military presence in the Golan Heights.
    The IDF released video footage showing the new commander of the Syrian army's 1st Division, Lua'a Ali Ahmad Asa'ad, walking along the border with the head of Hizbullah's southern command, Hajj Hashem.
    Israel has long maintained that it would not accept the establishment of a permanent military presence in Syria by Hizbullah or Iran.

Israeli Researchers at Hebrew U Develop Faster, Cheaper Covid-19 Test - Idan Zonshine (Jerusalem Post)
    Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Sunday they have developed a new method of testing for Covid-19 which is 4-10 times faster than the tests most commonly used today and is also significantly cheaper, while supplying the same level of accuracy.
    Moreover, most of the materials required for the new test are already available in Israel, easing significantly Israel's shortage of testing materials and its economic dependence on foreign commercial markets.
    The new "method has already undergone a series of tests at Hadassah Hospital, using hundreds of samples from patients - and is now becoming operational," said Dr. Naomi Haviv of Hebrew University's Neuroscience Research Center.
    Of the hundreds of samples tested by the new method, "all the tests came out identical to the results obtained using the current test," said Prof. Nir Friedman of the Institute of Life Sciences.

Video: 24 Israeli Female Musicians Join in Song - Keren Peles (Facebook-Hebrew)
    24 Israeli female musicians from throughout the world perform together after each one recorded herself at home.
    Their message: just because we can't meet doesn't mean we're not together.

Sea of Galilee Full for First Time in Three Decades - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    After an unusually wet winter, Israel's Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) is full for the first time in decades, Israeli news website N12 reported Sunday.
    In just two years, the Kinneret has risen by more than 5.5 meters. The water level is only 21 cm. from the line that marks its full capacity.
    In order to prevent flooding, authorities will likely use the Degania Dam to release excess water into the Jordan River.
    Built in 1931, the dam has only been opened twice in Israel's history - in 1969 and 1992.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Voices from Iran's Epic Coronavirus Outbreak - Kareem Fahim and Dalton Bennett
    Iran has been struck by one of the most severe coronavirus outbreaks in the world, but the voices of Iranians affected by the pandemic have remained largely unheard outside the country's borders. Covid-19 survivors and the families of victims contacted in Iran recounted tales of valiant medical workers, overtaxed hospitals, and a government that had been far too slow to raise the alarm. (Washington Post)
        See also Covid-12 in Iran - Alireza Nader and Saeed Ghasseminejad
    Iran's coronavirus epidemic is the worst in the Middle East. The regime has reported 66,220 confirmed cases and 4,110 fatalities. But there is no reason to trust these figures given the regime's history of deception and its inability to acquire accurate data in some of Iran's border regions. Accurate numbers might never surface. Much like their Chinese counterparts, senior Iranian officials knew about the epidemic in January but did not acknowledge it. The regime also refused to adopt basic recommended public health protocols.
        To stimulate its economy, Iran could draw on its $300 billion worth of currency reserves, the $100 billion the regime has stashed away in its sovereign wealth fund, or Khamenei's $200 billion business empire. But the regime has yet to do so. Alireza Nader is a senior fellow at FDD, where Saeed Ghasseminejad is a senior Iran and financial economics advisor. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • Palestinian Civilians Set Up Virus Checkpoints in West Bank - Hossam Ezzedine
    Dozens of Palestinian civilians wearing face masks and vests and brandishing thermometers have deployed along rural roads in the West Bank to enforce coronavirus controls. Ein Yabroud has no confirmed cases but the village of Dayr Jarir, a mile to the east, has several coronavirus patients. Drivers who approached the Ein Yabroud checkpoint on Monday were all stopped. Anyone with an elevated temperature was told to hold their breath for 10 to 15 seconds, in an attempt to see if they cough or feel discomfort. Travelers' IDs were checked to determine their place of origin. People from towns with many confirmed cases were turned away. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 110, with 11,235 Confirmed Cases - Adir Yanko
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 110, with 11,235 confirmed cases, the Israeli Health Ministry said Monday. 181 patients are in serious condition, including 133 in need of ventilator support. Hospitals are treating 750 patients, while 7,257 people are fighting the virus at home. Another 1,058 people are currently in specially designated hotels. (Ynet News)
        See also Former Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron Passes Away from Coronavirus - Kobi Nachshoni
    Former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, 79, passed away on Sunday in Jerusalem due to the coronavirus as well as underlying health issues. (Ynet News)
  • Israelis Required to Wear Facial Masks - Adir Yanko
    As of Sunday morning, all Israelis are required to wear a protective mask that covers the mouth and nose when leaving their home in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Training Gaza Medical Personnel amid Coronavirus Pandemic
    Dozens of doctors, nurses and medical personnel in Gaza have been trained by Israeli teams in techniques to treat patients infected with the coronavirus, Israel's Channel 11 reported Saturday. A training session was conducted for medical staff from Gaza at the Erez Border Crossing by a team from the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. In addition, a group from Gaza went for training at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and medical staff from both sides have held conference calls. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Mossad: Israel's Not-So-Secret Weapon in the Coronavirus Fight - Ronen Bergman
    The Mossad, the storied Israeli spy service, has been deeply involved in Israel's fight against the virus, and has been one of the country's most valuable assets in acquiring medical equipment and manufacturing technology abroad, according to Israeli medical and security officials.
        Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, the director general of Sheba Medical Center, said, "It is only in Israel that Sheba hospital could have enlisted the help of the Mossad. Can you imagine Mount Sinai Hospital going to the CIA for help?," referring to the New York medical center.
        According to Israeli officials, the Mossad used international contacts to avert shortages that might have overwhelmed Israel's health system, enabling Israel to acquire ventilators and testing material that the health ministry had been unable to secure. In some instances, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen personally contacted his counterparts to expedite the purchase of goods. In other cases, Cohen spoke directly to the rulers of particular countries. (New York Times)
  • Why the U.S. Must Quit Negotiating with Iran - Michael Makovsky
    It is time to abandon the quixotic quest for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian threat, and instead pressure the regime further. For an already paranoid regime, the threat posed by Covid-19, in the assessment of Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, "probably makes them - in terms of decision-making - more dangerous, rather than less dangerous."
        Talks always sound appealing, especially when one's adversary is weakened. But they must have a clear purpose, and the prospective benefits must outweigh likely costs. Simply reinstating the JCPOA would allow Iran to legitimately expand its nuclear program and procure advanced weapons. In fact, only complete dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program, as Libya conducted 15 years ago, would truly suffice.
        The Iranian regime sees diplomacy with the U.S. as a sign of weakness it cannot afford. Actually, as the regime weakens, diplomacy will only bolster it. Talks would also signal that the U.S. is willing to work with an Iranian regime that jails, tortures and kills its own people, demoralizing the many anti-regime Iranians. The writer, a former Pentagon official, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). (The Hill)

The Impact of Covid-19 on the Middle East and North Africa - Hussein Solomon (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • With the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, how are the region's governments responding to the threat posed?
  • Some, like the UAE, have been ahead of the curve, taking a slew of pre-emptive measures to minimize infections.
  • In others, like Iran and Turkey, inadequate, delayed and fragmented responses have resulted in their becoming epicentres of the spread of the virus.
  • War-ravaged Libya and Yemen, meanwhile, have no capacity to control the virus. Neither does Tripoli and Aden control the entire country in order to take the necessary steps to curb infections.
  • What is needed are leaders with the necessary foresight to mitigate the impact of the virus while preparing for a regional and international order.

    The writer is senior professor in the Department of Political Studies and Governance at the University of the Free State, South Africa; a visiting professor at Osaka University, Japan; and a senior research associate at the Jerusalem-based Research on Islam and Muslims in Africa (RIMA).