April 21, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

New Unity Government Formed in Israel - Tal Schneider and Dan Zaken (Globes)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White party leader Benny Gantz signed an agreement Monday on the formation of a unity government.
    Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months and Gantz for 18 months after him.

Report: Israel Targets Iranians in Syria - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israeli planes flying over Lebanon targeted Iranian and Iran-backed fighters in the desert near Palmyra in Syria on Monday night.

Poll: Only 7 Percent of Israeli Arabs Define Themselves as "Palestinian" - Idan Zonshine (Jerusalem Post)
    The proportion of non-Jewish people in Israel who define themselves primarily as "Palestinian" now stands at 7%, down from 18% a year ago, according to a survey conducted by Prof. Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University for the Jewish People Policy Institute.
    51% self-identify as "Israeli-Arab," while 23% define themselves primarily as "Israeli," a sizable increase from 5% last year.
    Asked how much they "feel like a real Israeli," 65% of Arabs said they agree completely and 33% somewhat agree.

Millions of Documents on Nazi Victims, Survivors Now Online - Jacob Judah (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    The Arolsen Archives, formerly known as the International Tracing Service, have added 13 million documents to their online database of documents and information on the victims of Nazi persecution. This follows the upload of 13 million documents with the launch of the online database in May 2019.
    The documents contain information on 21 million people displaced, persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime. The International Tracing Service was established by the Western Allies in 1944.

Coming Soon across Israel: Temperature Testers - Nathan Jeffay (Times of Israel)
    Just as metal detector arches have become a feature of Israeli life because of terror threats, temperature screening machines are expected to become commonplace because of coronavirus.
    Store workers today greet arrivals with hand-held thermometers to fulfill the government's new rules, and store owners are eager to automate the process.
    In Israel, thermal camera technology is being developed to perform the screening, based on existing building blocks in the defense sector. Iron-Drone's ThermoGate device has entered production.
    Engineers at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have developed their own thermal camera-based temperature checker, which is already in place at hospitals in Haifa and Afula.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Coronavirus Crisis Stoking Anti-Semitism Worldwide
    The coronavirus crisis is stirring anti-Semitism around the world, fueled by centuries-old lies that Jews are spreading infection, researchers said on Monday. "Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. (Reuters)
  • Jewish Cemetery Races to Keep Up as New York Virus Deaths Mount - David Goldman and Matt Sedensky
    Mount Richmond Cemetery on Staten Island is run by the Hebrew Free Burial Association, which buries Jews who die with little or nothing. The association stocked up on caskets before the coronavirus unleashed its worst, just as they did with protective gear for workers and garments for the dead. They were used to burying one person on an average day. A "crazy day" would be five, said Amy Koplow, who runs Hebrew Free Burial. The other day, they put 11 people in the ground.
        Between travel restrictions and potentially exposed family members kept in isolation, many funerals now have no mourners on site. When they do, they are prohibited from gathering at the graveside, instead listening to rushed services by phone from cars parked 50 feet away. (AP-U.S. News)
  • Istanbul Death Toll Hints Turkey Is Hiding a Wider Coronavirus Calamity - Carlotta Gall
    For weeks President Erdogan has presented Turkey's performance in handling the coronavirus as one of the world's most successful. But data compiled by the New York Times from records of deaths in Istanbul indicate that Turkey is grappling with a far bigger calamity than official figures would suggest.
        The city recorded 2,100 more deaths than expected from March 9 to April 12, based on weekly averages from the last two years, far more than officials reported. The numbers indicate a striking jump in fatalities that has coincided with the onset of the outbreak. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 181, with 13,883 Confirmed Cases
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 181, with 13,883 confirmed cases, the Israeli Health Ministry said Tuesday morning. 142 patients are in serious condition, including 113 patients on ventilator support. 521 coronavirus patients are receiving treatment in hospitals, 2,215 are in specially designated hotels, and 4,353 have recovered. (Ynet News)
  • Sirens Sound as Israel Remembers Victims of the Holocaust
    Israelis stood in silence while a two-minute siren was heard across the country at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, in remembrance of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. All pedestrians, traffic and public transport stood in place to pay homage to the victims of the Nazi genocide, in which a third of world Jewry was annihilated. (Ynet News)
        See also Video: Israeli Officers Salute a Holocaust Survivor during the Siren on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Facebook)
        See also Israel Is Home to 189,500 Holocaust Survivors - Dav Lavie
    Israel is home to 189,500 Holocaust survivors, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Sunday. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israelis Volunteer to Help in Coronavirus Fight - Sam Sokol
    When Israel shut down its schools in March due to the coronavirus, high school biology teacher Mazal Byalsky decided she had to do something to help. Byalsky had earned a PhD in hematology and immunology and she contacted the coronavirus testing lab at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, offering her services for free. "It's very important to feel that I'm doing what I know how to do because not everyone can do that," Byalsky said. "I see it like [army] reserve duty. I'm happy that I can help."
        Around half of the technicians in her lab are now volunteers, and while they face many of the same risks as other frontline medical personnel, they all see it as "holy work," she explained. "The Israeli population is mobilizing to help."
        Growing numbers of people have turned to charity work, volunteering for local organizations to help those hardest hit by the pandemic, from delivering food packages to making pharmacy runs and operating programs for the children of essential workers. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy Confronts the U.S. Navy in the Arabian Sea - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    On April 15, 2020, 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast-attack craft repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of American naval ships in the northern Arabian Gulf near Bahrain at extremely close range and high speeds in an action aimed at testing the readiness and response of the American naval forces. This incident occurred after a relatively long period in which the Iranians abstained from provoking the American naval forces operating in the area, and appears to be a sign that Iran is prepared to escalate its hostile actions against the U.S. and its allies.
        The IRGC Navy, with more than 20,000 servicemen, has trained for years in asymmetrical warfare against American forces, concentrating its efforts on fielding hundreds of fast-attack craft against the Americans, as well as commando attacks and ground-to-sea rocket attacks. It has also trained to lay mines against U.S. ships and its naval bases in the Gulf States. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center, is an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • In Israel's Arab Towns, Support for Harsh Ramadan Coronavirus Restrictions - Jack Khoury
    Muslim clergy, mayors of Arab communities and Arab social activists in Israel are afraid of accelerating the spread of Covid-19 during the holy month of Ramadan starting at the end of this week, with many supporting stricter restrictions on the public during this period. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan met with Arab mayors and proposed they do as was done for the Passover holiday, with actions to prevent gatherings.
        The chairman of the council of Arab communities, Mudar Yunis, told Ha'aretz that most mayors expressed support for more severe restrictions on the Arab public. The Muslim clergy have made it clear that the mosques will remain closed and all the prayer services, including the mass prayers that are held every evening after the meal to break the fast, will be held at home with only a limited number of family members.
        The decision to close the mosques in Arab communities followed the decision to close the mosques in Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, as well as the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)

Covid-19 and the Need for Enhanced U.S.-Israel Technology Cooperation - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel and John Hannah (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • Israel has emerged as a superpower in terms of its capabilities to develop cutting-edge technologies in the fields of biotechnology and the life sciences. More than 1,400 companies operate in the medical innovation sector, developing transformative technologies to detect and treat an array of serious illnesses.
  • Thousands of the world's most accomplished scientists and engineers from the life sciences and many other disciplines have set aside their usual work and research to focus full-time on the war against the pandemic.
  • These private sector actors are part of an extraordinarily rich biotech ecosystem that is supported by the government and also encompasses world-class academic institutions and medical centers with a proven track record of rapidly bringing life-saving breakthroughs to market.
  • In recognition of Israel's role as a global hub of biotech excellence, billions of dollars in foreign investment have flowed to Israeli firms and research institutions over the past decade.
  • Israel has defined several main vectors for battling Covid-19 in the short term, including: rapid identification of virus carriers; short-circuiting the virus' transmission to larger populations; building accurate models that analyze all relevant data to understand the virus' behavior and inform "exit strategies" for reopening society once infection rates flatten; and developing better tools for treating hospitalized patients while protecting medical personnel.
  • Over the longer term, the goal is to develop effective anti-viral therapies and, ultimately, an efficient vaccine that will dramatically reduce the threat posed by the virus.

    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, previously served as acting national security advisor and head of Israel's National Security Council.
        John Hannah, senior counselor at FDD, is a former national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.