Israel’s re-opening plan is full steam ahead and has now extended to malls, markets and gyms. In an effort to ascertain how widespread the disease has been among the Israeli population and how large future outbreaks could be, Israeli health organizations are aiming to test the blood of an astonishing 100,000 people. A Knesset committee approved a three-week extension of the Shin Bet tracking system to monitor instances of the virus.
In New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio, anticipates the city will reopen to some degree of normalcy by September.
Mysterious Covid-related illness in children: Children across Europe, Israel, and the U.S. are coming down with a rare disease involving the inflammation of arteries and other blood vessels. For some unknown reason, experts believe the illness is linked to the Coronavirus. So far at least four children in Israel and 15 in New York have contracted or experienced the disease doctors say resemble Kawasaki Syndrome.
In America: The targeting and scapegoating of Jews, including with inappropriate Holocaust comparisons and blatant antisemitism continues to spread online, in person at anti-lockdown rallies, in the media and by governmental figures on both sides of the aisle.
Mayor De Blasio of New York City stirred up much controversy by continuing to defend his tweet specifically targeting Jews for the transmission of coronavirus. The Lawfare Project, an organization that provides pro-bono legal services to protect the civil and human rights of Jews worldwide, filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Tuesday to investigate why Jews were singled out by de Blasio.
A Pennsylvania state lawmaker compared the PA Governor’s refusal to release coronavirus data to Nazi Germany.
GoDaddy.com, a web hosting company, took down the domain of a site running a “Miss Hitler 2020” pageant, which encouraged women to post Nazi-themed photos and explain why they support Hitler’s Third Reich.
The results of a study conducted by the Anti-Defamation League were released this week, showing 63% of American Jews believe they are less safe from antisemitism than they were a decade ago. The study was conducted before the outbreak of coronavirus.
Two left leaning progressive Jewish groups, Bend the Arc and Jews Against White Nationalism, have launched a site to track antisemitism in the Republican Party.
Unity Government: After three elections over the course of the past year+, Israel’s High Court has given the green light for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Speaker of the Knesset Benny Gantz to move ahead with the formation of the unity government. The Court ruled that there is no legal cause to intervene in the coalition agreement. While the petitions against the unity government were unanimously dismissed, the 11-person Supreme Court indicated they could re-examine the coalition agreement once the legislation is passed.
Another question in front of the Court was whether an indicted person can form a coalition and become Prime Minister under indictment, specifically aimed at Netanyahu. The court ruled that Netanyahu can form the next government, despite his indictments. The Chief Justice, Esther Hayut, wrote that Netanyahu still enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. Netanyahu’s trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust is set to begin May 24.
The Court’s decisions followed an official mandate by Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, granting Netanyahu the right to form his fifth straight government, which would keep him in power until November 13, 2021. Prior to the ruling, over 1,000 Israelis (properly social distancing) protested the coalition agreement and called for the Court to undo it.
A joint statement between Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Gantz’s Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) Party acknowledged agreement on the formation of a government and its swearing in on May 13, 2020, after parliament passes necessary legislation.
Settlement Expansions: Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett approved a West Bank construction project in Efrat of 7,000 homes. Peace Now, a left wing group, plans to petition the High Court against the construction. Efrat already has a population of approximately 9,200 residents. The new unity government’s coalition agreement allows for the government to announce annexation plans on or after July 1st, in accordance with the Trump peace plan and in full cooperation with the U.S. The Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank, which includes the city of Efrat, is part of the consensus areas that would probably remain in Israel under a peace deal with the Palestinians, though mapping of the annexation area is still not completed.
Annexation has been heavily contested by many countries and according to a survey this week in Israel, a majority of Israeli Jews oppose annexation as well. The respondents of the survey prefer solutions based on separation from the Palestinians.
Joe Biden weighs in: In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Joe Biden maintained that it is vital Israel not take any unilateral steps towards annexation. Biden also said he would resume financial aid and security assistance to Palestinians, he would seek to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington and reaffirmed his intention to open a U.S. Consulate office in East Jerusalem if he is elected. These steps are an effort to roll back measures Donald Trump’s administration has taken. Biden did, however, state that as president he would keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
Christian proselytizing on TV in Israel: Many people in the Jewish community were shocked to learn that a Christian missionary television station, GOD TV, was given the go-ahead to broadcast in Israel, in Hebrew and aimed at Jews. Religious programming is allowed but missionary activities are banned from broadcasting in Israel. The Chairman of the regulatory body that awarded the license to GOD TV claimed he was not aware of the planned broadcast of missionary activities and that he has ordered an investigation of the matter.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
The I.D.F. struck three Hamas militant posts in Gaza on Wednesday in response to the first instance of rocket fire from Gaza in more than a month. No injuries were reported on either side and Hamas did not take responsibility for the rocket fire.
Prisoner exchange: In other Gaza news, a senior Hamas official confirmed to Israeli media that indirect talks are taking place through Egyptian intermediaries over a prisoner exchange, which includes Israel securing the bodies of two fallen I.D.F. soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, and information about two Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who voluntarily crossed the border and who are thought to be held captive by Hamas.
Amnesty International, a London based human rights group, called out both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip over their human rights abuses in detaining critics and opponents, including a peace activist who held a video conference call with Israelis and a writer who criticized Gaza leaders.
The monthly budget prepared by the Palestinian Authority for 2020 is attempting to hide the salaries paid to terrorists in its “pay to slay” scheme. “Pay to slay” provides imprisoned terrorists and families of killed terrorists monthly stipends from tax and donor dollars. The PA is obliged to produce transparent financial records for the benefit of donors.
The changing nature of the situation in Iran & Syria
Iran Powers resolution in the U.S.: In the U.S., President Donald Trump vetoed the Iran Powers resolution, a bipartisan resolution aimed at reining in the President’s authority to use military force against Iran without congressional approval. Congress doesn’t expect to have enough votes to override Trump’s veto of the resolution. The resolution was introduced after the President’s decision to order a strike which killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in January.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Reason to celebrate: U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was discharged from the hospital yesterday after treatment for a gallbladder condition. She even participated in oral arguments by phone and from her hospital bed.