Pompeo plans unprecedented visit to West Bank: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that he will set out on a ten-day, seven-country trip, including Israel and several other Middle Eastern countries, beginning today. While in Israel he’s expected to discuss both the Abraham Accords and the fight against Iran with Prime Minister Netanyahu, before continuing to the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. As part of his visit to Israel, Pompeo will make unprecedented visits to the West Bank and the Golan Heights, being the first U.S. secretary of state to do so. While in the West Bank, Pompeo will visit the Psagot winery, in the Psagot settlement, near Ramallah, exactly one year after he announced that the United States does not consider Israeli settlements to be illegal, effectively reversing a 52-year old U.S. policy. The Psagot winery has named a bottle after Pompeo to thank him for the announcement, and issued a statement saying he had recognized “the Jewish right to self-determination in our historical homeland.” For Pompeo, the visit to Israel will act as a sort of “legacy visit,” celebrating the Trump administration’s aggressively pro-Israel stance the past four years.
Proud Boys leader seeks rebrand as explicitly white supremacist: Kyle Chapman, the founder of a “tactical defense arm” of the far-right group Proud Boys, has claimed that he is staging a “coup” against the group’s current leader, a black man named Enrique Tarrio. Chapman wants to rebrand the organization as explicitly white supremacist and antisemitic. After using other bigoted language, Chapman wrote: “we will confront the Zionist criminals who wish to destroy our civilization. We recognize that the West was built by the White Race alone and we owe nothing to any other race.” Chapman wishes to rename the group the “Proud Goys” referring to the Jewish term for non-Jews that neo-Nazis have tried to appropriate and use to symbolize their antisemitism. Chapman’s calls for change in the Proud Boys organization seem to not have been widely accepted by other members, and one administrator of the group said “No, we are not the Proud Goys. No, Kyle didn’t stage a coup.” At the first presidential debate in September, when asked if he denounced white supremacy, President Donald Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” which the group has adopted as a slogan.
Pompeo calls for release of Yemeni Jew: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement Tuesday publicly calling for the release of Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, a Yemeni Jew being illegally detained by the militant Houthi movement. Pompeo said he and the United States “stand with the Yemeni Jewish community” and called on the Houthis to “stop oppressing Yemen’s Jewish population”. Marhabi, who has been imprisoned for approximately four years, was first detained for helping to bring a very rare Torah from Yemen to Israel. The official slogan of the Houthi militia, which has been fighting a civil war in Yemen since 2015, reads, “Allah is Greater, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.”
Israel to sign deal for Pfizer vaccine on Friday; could arrive beginning January
Israel to purchase a vaccine from Pfizer for 4 million citizens: On Thursday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that subject to the vaccination’s approval by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Israeli Health Ministry, Israel will sign a deal Friday with Pfizer for the purchase of millions of vaccinations. The deal will include the purchase of enough doses to vaccinate 4 million people out of Israel’s population of 9 million. The vaccine is expected to be delivered beginning in January 2021 and continue to be delivered throughout the year. Edelstein said that the vaccine is “huge news for the citizens of Israel.” Former Health Ministry director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov has expressed concern with Israel’s current plan to exit its second national lockdown, claiming that the government’s plan will likely lead to a third virus surge. Bar Siman-Tov feels that the lockdown exit is being rushed, similarly to the last time Israel exited its national lockdown, saying “Morbidity is on the rise, and we are making the same mistakes as last time.” Despite hesitation by top health professionals, implementing a nighttime curfew continues to top the list of likely next steps.
Israel to legalize recreational cannabis within 9 months: On Thursday, an inter-ministerial team announced that Israel plans to legalize cannabis for recreational use within nine months while balancing “liberalism and responsibility.” A bill will be published by the end of November and legalization will go into effect nine months after it is approved, to allow government ministries time to prepare. Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn said: “It’s time to make progress and legalize cannabis in Israel. This is a significant, holistic and responsible reform, which shows the State of Israel isn’t ignoring reality and is going in the footsteps of developed countries.” Under the new legislation, Israelis and tourists will be able to buy cannabis at designated dispensaries, if they are aged 21 or above and present identification. However, the law will include a blanket ban on smoking cannabis in public places.
Decision on Netanyahu’s powers pending trial: The High Court of Justice is deciding the legality of decisions that limit Netanyahu’s legislative powers and power to make appointments pending his corruption trial in January. Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit recently announced that due to conflicts of interest, Netanyahu may not make any appointments or legislative decisions that could impact his trial. Mandelblit asked the High Court to intervene if these rules were not followed by Netanyahu and Netanyahu’s office responded that Mandelblit’s decision was illegal. A third evidentiary hearing is set to take place on Sunday in connection with Netanyahu’s corruption trial. The hearing will decide the admissibility of a variety of major witnesses, who will likely shape the trial, and examine the mid-September defense claim that the police had probed Netanyahu before they were given legal authorization to do so by Mandelblit, which could disqualify the evidence that they uncovered. Netanyahu’s legal team also submitted a request to alter the indictment against him, claiming the charge sheet was riddled with errors, which could further delay the resumption of the trial.
High Court questions legality of unity government: On Thursday, a panel of three judges at the Israeli High Court of Justice appeared responsive to arguments made against the legality coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, which included changes to Israel’s Basic Laws, a quasi-constitution. The court has given the state 21 days to explain the importance of the significant changes that were made to a Basic Law, which narrowed the Knesset’s powers. Any decision could end up nullifying the power sharing arrangement. Nitzan Horowitz, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party says that the High Court’s decision “means that the court understands we are witnessing an alteration of Israel’s constitutional structure to legitimize a crooked political deal.”
Bahrain’s prime minister dies one day after Knesset formally approves Israel—Bahrain peace agreement
Source: White House, September 15, 2020
Bahrain’s PM dies; peace deal finalized: Prime Minister of Bahrain Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa died on Wednesday at age 84. Khalifa was one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers, having been in power since the nation declared independence from Britain in 1971. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu shared his condolences and expressed his appreciation for “the prime minister’s important contribution to achieving peace between our two countries.” On Tuesday, the Knesset overwhelmingly passed the normalization agreement with Bahrain, formally recognizing new peace between the countries. All fourteen votes against the measure came from the majority-Arab Joint List party. Also at Tuesday’s Knesset meeting, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi announced that Bahraini diplomat Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani will soon visit Israel, marking the first official visit by a Bahraini official to Israel.
Israel to bring its first delegation to Sudan next week: After last month’s announcement of a normalization deal between Sudan and Israel, Israel is expected to send its first official delegation to Sudan next week. Sudan agreed to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for the United States removing it from its list of states that sponsor terrorism. The two countries are likely to discuss a package of cooperation deals to “achieve the mutual interests of the two peoples,” according to the Sudanese Foreign Ministry. Israel and Sudan will also discuss the fate of some 6,000 Sudanese asylum seekers currently in Israel, as reports have shown that Israel has drawn a proposal to send back the refugees who are willing to return.
Pompeo notifies Congress of intent to sell $23B+ of arms to UAE: The Trump Administration on Wednesday formally notified Congress of its intent to sell more than $23 billion worth of F-35 fighter jets, drones, and other arms to the United Arab Emirates. The State Department cited the UAE’s need to defend itself from potential attacks from Iran as well as a recognition of its new peace with Israel. Israel expressed early concern over the deal, citing subversion of the Qualitative Military Edge that America has guaranteed Israel, but it has not publicly opposed the sale in recent weeks. Congress called on the State Department to certify that the deal “does not diminish Israel’s qualitative military edge; and poses no vulnerabilities to U.S. military systems and technology vis-a-vis the Russian Federation and [the People’s Republic of China].” Axios reported that the UAE expected a Biden victory for several months and got a blessing from Biden and other senior Democrats prior to signing the normalization deal with Israel.
Israel & Lebanon conclude third meeting on maritime border: On Wednesday, Israeli and Lebanese delegations concluded their third round of meetings regarding their long-disputed maritime border. While the meetings’ contents are largely secret, Lebanese experts have called this stage of negotiations “the war of the maps,” referring to Lebanon’s newly-expressed desire for a larger area of the border than previously discussed. Israel, meanwhile, wants to expand its own border into Lebanese-claimed territory. Both delegations agreed to resume talks next month. Meanwhile, Lebanese billionaire and brother of the Prime Minister, Bahaa Hariri expressed his desire for peace with Israel on Tuesday. He conceded that there are still key issues to resolve, but stated that “everybody at a certain point will move forward to have peace. We are tired.” Hariri joins President Michel Aoun and his daughter Claudine in considering eventual peace with Israel.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Watchdog says Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile over 12 times limit
Iran storing 12 times more enriched uranium than allowable: On Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN watchdog organization, reported that Iran is storing at least 12 times more enriched uranium than is allowed pursuant to the 2015 nuclear deal. The nuclear deal, signed by the United States (who later backed out), Germany, France, Britain, China, and Russia, promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Wednesday’s report also confirmed that centrifuges had been installed at an underground part of the Natanz nuclear facility after another part of the site was damaged in an explosion in July which Iran blamed on “sabotage.” Iran provided limited information about the undeclared nuclear site and IAEA ordered “a full and prompt explanation from Iran.” On Thursday, King Salman of Saudi Arabia called on world powers to take an “aggressive stance” against Iran, as expectations mount that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will seek to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran: “The kingdom calls on the international community to take a firm stance towards the Iranian regime to prevent it from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, developing ballistic missiles and threatening peace and security.”
Iranian chess team banned over refusal to compete against Israelis: The International Chess Federation (FIDE) has announced that the Iranian Chess Federation will face an international ban for its refusal to allow Iranian chess players to play against Israeli players, including incidents when Iran has boycotted competitions where Israeli players are expected to play. Iran’s refusal to allow its players to play against Israelis is common across many sports, including Judo, where Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei was forced to lose his final two appearances at the 2020 World Judo Championships in Tokyo, so as not to compete against an Israeli. The FIDE has stated that Iran must provide sufficient reasoning to appeal the suspension and should they not then “they will definitely be suspended.”
Sinai helicopter crash results in the death of 8 peacekeepers: On Thursday, a helicopter transporting a multinational observer force crashed, killing eight peacekeepers, including six Americans, a French national and a Czech citizen. The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) group shared that “During a routine mission in the vicinity of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, nine members of the MFO were involved in a helicopter crash.” The sole survivor of the crash, an American, was evacuated by an IDF helicopter carrying elite search and rescue soldiers to an Israeli hospital to receive medical treatment. The loss was mourned by world leaders such as Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, President Reuven Rivlin, and U.S. President-Elect Joseph Biden. The MFO was originally installed in the Sinai peninsula to monitor the demilitarization of the peninsula under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace accord.
Austrian neo-Nazi swoop results in 40 arrests: On Tuesday, Austria’s Interior Ministry announced that it had arrested 40 suspected Neo-Nazis across the country who are accused of illegal online activity. All of the suspects are accused of breaking the Austrian law that prohibits the furthering of Nazi ideology, while seven are also accused of inciting hatred. One-hundred fifty officers carried out the raids that were at 11 homes in seven out of nine Austrian regions. In a statement, the ministry said that “mobile phones, data storage devices and other objects were seized in connection with the alleged crimes, including Nazi paraphernalia.” Austria’s law banning spreading Nazi ideology was passed in 1947 and is one of the strictest of its type in Europe. This search came a day after a police operation targeted 60 homes that prosecutors allege were tied to radical Islamist groups, as the result of an investigation stretching back more than a year that they claim is unconnected to the deadly attack by a jihadist gunman in Vienna on November 2 which left four people dead.
Front page comparison of Pfizer’s Jewish CEO with Nazi doctor Mengele: On Tuesday, the Greek newspaper Makeleio published a front-page article that warned its readers that Pfizer’s Jewish CEO will “stick the needle” into them while calling the company’s COVID-19 vaccine that is close to production “poison.” The article included graphics with a picture of CEO Albert Bourla and the Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. The article warned against the vaccine from Bourla, a Greek Jew and veterinarian, reading: “A Jewish veterinarian will stick the needle! Terror countdown for the mandatory vaccine.” The newspaper’s publisher, Stefanos Chios, was fined $2,200 fine last month for an op-ed in which he called a former leader of the Athens Jewish community a “crude Jew who runs a loan-shark firm.” The Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs condemned the paper in a statement, calling it “most vile anti-Semitism reminiscent of the Middle Ages.”
Dutch senate calls to affirm Jewish ties to the Temple Mount: On Tuesday, the Dutch Senate passed a motion calling for the Netherlands to vote against resolutions in the UN that refer to the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name, thereby denying Jewish ties to the holy site. Last week, the country voted in favor of 6 out of 7 annual UN resolutions that call out Israel, including one which refers to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, solely as al-Haram al-Sharif, its Arabic name. In 2017, a motion was passed in the Dutch senate that called on the government to argue against the disproportionate focus on Israel at UN institutions, yet the government has yet to act on this motion. The Hague-based Israel advocacy group CIDI welcomed this week’s motion, saying that “the motion adopted now by the Senate should be a wake-up call for the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs that it has to truly start working on implementing the parliamentary adopted motion [from 2017].”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Photo: Louis D. Brandeis
Today we celebrate Israeli researchers making strides on technology that allows for the digitization of odors! A team at the Weizmann Institute has created a “smell map” that allows for the determination of how any odor will smell to humans based just on an examination of its molecular structure. This technology could lead to further odor-based technology, including smellovision TVs, scented digital photos that have a whiff of vacation, and technology that can “print” any odor. The researchers believe that their research could be integrated in computers and cellphones, as it only requires a range of around 200 molecules to recreate almost any smell on earth. Noam Sobel, the neurobiology professor behind the research, said that “I believe we’re just a few years away from tel-e-smell — telephones that accurately record and recreate smells.” In order to create the technology, Sobel had almost 200 volunteers smell and describe odors in terms that were needed to build the “map” of smells. Sobel says “We have identified the physical, chemical features of smells that are meaningful for human perception. Having done this, we can reproduce and transmit it, like we transmit vision and sound on a range of devices today. It will be a bit like the way red, green and blue are mixed to create any color — we have 200 different molecules that we can mix to generate practically any perceptible odor.”
Today in 1856, Louis Dembitz Brandeis was born! Brandeis was a Jewish American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. Brandeis was confirmed as the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice on June 1, 1916. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents from then-Bohemia (now Czech Republic). He attended Harvard Law School, graduating at the age of 20 with what is widely rumored to be the highest-grade average in the law school’s history. He fought against powerful corporations, monopolies, public corruption, and mass consumerism, all of which he felt were detrimental to American values and culture. He also became active in the Zionist movement, seeing it as a solution to antisemitism in Europe and Russia, while at the same time being a way to “revive the Jewish spirit.” Among his notable early cases were actions fighting railroad monopolies, defending workplace and labor laws, helping create the Federal Reserve System, and presenting ideas for the new Federal Trade Commission. He achieved recognition by submitting a case brief, later called the “Brandeis Brief”, which relied on expert testimony from people in other professions to support his case, thereby setting a new precedent in evidence presentation. Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible …”