May 6, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

How the Coronavirus Is Hitting Jewish Communities Worldwide - Uriel Heilman (JTA)
    While the impact of the coronavirus has significantly eased in Israel, in many large Jewish communities worldwide the virus is still wreaking a terrible toll, and the death rate among Jews is far higher than the local non-Jewish population.
    In Britain, at least 366 Jews have died, representing about 1.7% of all deaths in a country where Jews comprise just 0.3% of the population.
    In the New York area, with an estimated 2 million Jews, haredi media reported in mid-April that there were more than 700 dead in New York City alone.
    In France, the Jewish section of the Thiais cemetery near Paris that had been built to last for years has filled up over the past few weeks and is nearing capacity.

Israel Antibody Testing Hopes to Assess Exposure to Covid-19 - David M. Halbfinger (New York Times)
    Israel is readying a nationwide serological test of 100,000 citizens to see how widely the virus has spread across its population and how vulnerable it may be to a new wave of contagion.
    Germany has also announced antibody testing using a representative nationwide sample.
    The results could aid in deciding how quickly businesses and schools should be allowed to return to normal operations and spur preparations for any strong resurgence of the virus.

Polling Shows Anti-Israel Positions of U.S. Youth Fade with Age - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    The 18-35 demographic surveyed in U.S. polls is traditionally the least supportive of Israel. Moreover, they are being educated on college campuses where they are exposed to a steady drumbeat of anti-Israel propaganda.
    The annual Gallup Poll on American attitudes toward Israel released last week found that support for Israel is weakest among that age group, while support for Palestinians is strongest.
    These findings are consistent with the findings of Gallup Polls going back to 1997, where the youngest age group surveyed proved the least supportive of Israel and the most supportive of Palestinians.
    However, those 18-year-olds in 1997 - when only 36% said they supported Israel - are now 41. Gallup reports that 61% of 35-54 year-olds say their sympathies are more with Israel, while only 19% say they favored the Palestinians.

Greece to Lease Israeli Drones for Maritime Surveillance - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Defense Ministry has signed an agreement to lease two IAI Heron UAVs to Greece for border defense.
    According to Greek media, the drones will bolster the country's intelligence gathering abilities and act as a deterrent to Turkey, which has deployed drones to the Evros region and Aegean Sea which borders the two countries.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Airline Linked to Revolutionary Guards Defied Coronavirus Ban on China Flights - Roland Oliphant and Ahmed Vahdat
    Mahan Air, with links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, flew between Iran and China 157 times between early February and March, an analysis of flight tracking data by BBC Arabic found. Mahan said it was suspending flights to and from China on Feb. 2, in accordance with instruction from the World Health Organization.
        Mahan also continued to fly to Iraq after the government of that country banned flights from Iran on April 20, and to the UAE after it introduced a ban on Feb. 25. Iraq and Lebanon reported their first cases of coronavirus in travelers from Iran in February. The BBC claimed both cases arrived on Mahan Air flights. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Video - Coronavirus by Air: The Spread of Covid-19 in the Middle East (BBC News)
  • Israel: Sovereignty Won't Include Areas with Large Palestinian Populations
    Any extension of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank would not extend to areas with large Palestinian populations, Israel's Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev told the Board of Deputies of British Jews on Sunday. "I think the goal of the [Israeli] government, and of the American plan, is not to incorporate into Israel any area where there is a large Palestinian population," he said, adding that the Jordan Valley was largely unpopulated. (Jewish News-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S.: Israel Should Re-think China's Participation in Desalination Plant - Herb Keinon
    The U.S. government sent a warning to Israel regarding a Chinese company bidding to construct the world's largest desalination plant at Kibbutz Palmachim, Channel 13 reported. "The Americans have been delivering messages gently and politely, but obviously they want us to re-examine the participation of the Chinese company in the tender," an Israeli official said.
        U.S. officials contacted the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office to ask questions regarding the participation of the Israeli Hutchinson Company, an affiliate of the Chinese Hutchinson Company based in Hong Kong. In October 2019, after intensive pressure from Washington concerning the scope of Chinese investments in Israel, Jerusalem announced it will establish an advisory committee to vet foreign investments. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 238
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 238 (up from 237 on Tuesday), the Israeli Health Ministry said Wednesday morning. 90 are in serious condition, with 70 requiring respiratory assistance. At least 247 people are hospitalized. Active coronavirus cases dropped to 5,549 (down from 5,808 on Tuesday). (Ynet News)
  • Israel Responds to Gaza Rocket Fire
    A rocket was fired from Gaza at Israeli communities near the border on Tuesday for the first time in over 40 days. IDF tanks targeted three Hamas sites in northern Gaza in response. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel: Applying Israeli Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria Is Israel's Decision - Ariel Kahana
    The U.S. is ready to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria in the coming weeks, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Israel Hayom Tuesday in an interview on the 2nd anniversary of the relocation of the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
        Friedman said that when the process of mapping the area is completed, when the government agrees to halt construction in the part of Area C that will be excluded from the plan, and when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan - something Netanyahu has already agreed to - the U.S. will recognize Israel's sovereignty in areas that the plan outlined, after the Israeli government declares sovereignty.
        Friedman said the only condition with regard to the issue of a Palestinian state is that the prime minister - regardless of who that may be - agrees to negotiate with the Palestinians in good faith for four years. He said Prime Minister Netanyahu has given his consent to this condition but it is the Palestinians who have rejected the idea. (Israel Hayom)
  • How Did Israel Keep Its Death Toll So Low? - Simona Weinglass
    Prof. Yehuda Carmeli, head of the Department of Epidemiology at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and one of the medical professionals leading the Israeli Health Ministry's response to the coronavirus pandemic, was asked how Israel kept its death toll so relatively low.
        After more than a month in lockdown, the government has begun dramatically easing coronavirus restrictions, buoyed by a stream of encouraging statistics. Daily new cases were in the low dozens. And there were almost 240 fatalities, figures much less severe than countries of comparable size, including countries that imposed stay-at-home orders relatively early in their outbreaks.
        "This virus will probably stay with us for a very long time. Even if we are able to control it fantastically within Israel, at some point we will once again have more ties to the rest of the world. We will have to adapt to a different way of life," Carmeli said.
        "The reason for the low mortality rate is that although there was a lot of criticism about how many tests were done, Israel is among the leading countries in the world in testing people. We do a lot of tests so we detect a lot. Also, it's because most of our affected population are young people, and they have a very low mortality rate. If you look at the distribution of sick people in Israel, fewer than 5% are over the age of 80. That's the age where you start to see very high mortality rates. And in Israel, the population over 70 and 80 was quite well protected."  (Times of Israel)

  • Iran has continued its entrenchment efforts in Syria, hoping to turn it into a base of operations against Israel. Its activity in April included the transfer of precise ballistic missiles, construction of logistical bases on the Syrian border with Iraq to serve pro-Iranian militias based in the Golan Heights region, support for Hizbullah's operations on the Syrian-Israeli border, and improving Syrian air defenses.
  • After the assassination by the U.S. of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, Israeli military leaders believed it was time to increase attacks against Iranian operations in Syria in the hopes of convincing Tehran to re-think its Syrian policy. Israeli leaders hoped the Iranians would find it too costly to continue their efforts of entrenchment in the region.
  • As part of this strategy, there was an attack Monday on a Syrian military base and research complex near Aleppo, the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC). The facility is producing precise long-range missiles for Hizbullah. Scud D missiles with a 700-km. range that are produced in the facility can target Beersheba in southern Israel with a warhead weighing half a ton.
    See also Pressure on Iran to Reconsider Military Entrenchment in Syria - Ben Caspit (Al-Monitor)
  • After a growing number of airstrikes by unidentified planes against Iranian Shiite forces in Syria in recent months, a senior Israeli security source reported "a significant decline in the military presence of Iranian forces and allied Shiite militias" in Syria.
  • Israeli leaders are in constant touch with Washington, where President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo are assuring them that the U.S. does not intend to make life easier for Iran. This is the backdrop for the significant uptick of attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.
  • Syrian President Assad has realized that almost every time his anti-aircraft batteries target planes, he ends up losing them. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long considered the Iranians a burden, rather than an asset, according to intelligence sources.

Daily Alert was prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations from May 3, 2002, to April 30, 2020.
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