Today we’re diving into the declining pandemic situation in both Israel and the U.S.; More on annexation, including the White Houses’ say-so; An announced partnership between U.A.E. and Israel; More antisemitic posting by Mohamed Hadid and antisemitic attacks in Nevada and Paris.
Israel’s “second wave” of coronavirus is spiraling out of control. With the largest daily increase in infections in months, the toll is expected to be over 1,000 new daily cases by next week, a massive rise from just the previous week. One official said, “we’re on the verge of losing control.”
Increased enforcement & fines: In order to try to stop the rise, Israel is further heightening its enforcement of mask wearing. Those in public without a mask will be subject to about a $145 fine. Since April, over 75,000 fines have already been given to maskless individuals. Yet the fine is now 150% higher than it had been.
Shutting down neighborhoods: Additionally, the country is setting up more ‘virus hotels’ to accommodate people sickened with coronavirus. And two locations, the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Elad and parts of Tiberias, were shut down to limit people’s interaction. The government is also creating a National Enforcement Agency to better coordinate efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.
Gal Gadot reportedly violates quarantine: Famous Israeli actress Gal Gadot apparently violated quarantine after arriving in Israel on June 12. Rather than quarantine upon arrival, Gadot and her family rented a private villa and hosted guests. Gadot did not comment on the reports, but she has repeatedly advocated for others to comply with quarantine orders.
Tracking virus patients: A bill in the Knesset that allows the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, to track civilians’ phones without warrants to monitor coronavirus has cleared a latest hurdle. The bill passed its first plenary reading by a vote of 44 to 32. The bill was also unanimously fast-tracked by the cabinet over the objections of the Shin Bet which has said that it prefers such operations to be handled by a civilian entity accountable to the people.
In the U.S.
The devastating toll of the pandemic in the United States is only getting worse. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead scientist tackling the response, remarked on the “disturbing surge” of new cases in a hearing before Congress. With about 2.5 million cases, the U.S. far surpasses all other countries with its number of positive cases. The Centers for Disease Control also released a grim report stating that the American death toll could reach 150,000 dead by next month. States across the country, but especially in the South and the West, are dealing with exploding case numbers. Texas and California, the most populous states, are experiencing drastic rises, with a 69% increase in California in two days. Ventura County’s health officer said that the state may be starting to “lose this battle.”
Ban on U.S. travelers: Other parts of the country, like New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, as well as other parts of the world are implementing restrictions on travelers from inside the U.S. The E.U. is expected to ban American travelers — a monumental embarrassment for American leadership — because the United States has failed to control the scourge. Whereas the U.S. had been the one to first bar Europeans back in March, this E.U. action shows just how far Europe has come in terms of reopening and controlling the virus and how little the U.S. has achieved toward the same goal.
The White House has yet to make a final decision with respect to supporting Israel’s plan to annex a portion of the West Bank. This week’s White House discussions included national security advisor Robert O’Brien, senior advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and U.S. Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz. It is unclear if President Trump has been actively involved in the meetings thus far.
Backup a little… The Trump peace plan (officially titled Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People) allows for Israel to annex about 30% of the West Bank, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria, with the remaining 70% of the West Bank to remain as a future Palestinian state. Under the Trump plan, Israel can only move forward on annexation with the backing and approval of the White House.
Under the coalition government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, the Israeli government can pursue annexation backed by the U.S. starting on July 1st. However, because the U.S. is reportedly concerned about collateral damage and strong opposition from American allies in the Middle East, such as Jordan, support for annexation may now only apply to a much smaller area, if at all.
Possible split in WH support: Ambassador Friedman reportedly strongly backs Netanyahu’s intention to move ahead with annexation, while Kushner is said to be more ambivalent and is only pushing for a more symbolic move. A Trump administration official told Reuters, “Ultimately, as the team approaches this thought of annexation, the main thing going through our heads is, ‘Does this in fact help advance the cause of peace?’ And therefore that is what will help drive a lot of the discussion.” The official also noted that the White House hasn’t ruled out the larger annexation plan.
Conway says big announcement coming: Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway told reporters on the White House lawn on Wednesday that, “…The President will have an announcement. He’s talked about this in the past and I’ll leave it to him to give you a big announcement, and we’re very happy these talks continue.”
Israel Policy Forum on annexation: The Israel Policy Forum hosted a webinar to discuss the possible Israeli move to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank. The webinar included many political heavyweights and defense experts.
Israeli defense experts warn against it: Two Israeli IDF veterans and experts, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Gadi Shamni, who was the former head of the IDF Central Command, and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Danny Yotam, who was a former director of the Mossad, spoke to the security concerns involved with potential annexation. Both men believe that annexation would have devastating effects for Israel.
Unprecedented pressure on Palestinians: Shamni spoke of the unprecedented pressure that Palestinians will face to act violently against Israel no matter how large or small of an area Israel annexes- whether it’s a small portion or the full 30% allowable under the Trump peace deal. He believes that this will cause a vacuum in Palestinian governance and will force Israel to take over security control of the West Bank region, which will cause an even greater amount of violence and death on both sides. Additionally, Shamni mentioned that the region is already so explosive with rising unemployment due to the coronavirus, that this added tension will be especially incendiary.
Shifting Israel’s focus away from its real concerns: Yotam spoke of his concern that Israel will need to put all of its security efforts into dealing with the violence that will come with annexation- in the center of Israel, as opposed to in the South where Gaza is. Because all of Israel’s efforts will be focused on combating the chaos and violence from the Palestinians, Israel will not be able to focus or use its resources to fight Iran’s malign influence in the region. This could cause much greater devastation and risk for Israel and its population.
Susan Rice weighs in: Former National Security Advisor to President Obama and American Ambassador to the UN Susan Riceadded her voice to those in D.C. saying that annexation would greatly harm bipartisan advocacy for Israel in the United States, in addition to the two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rice said, “It would alienate Israel from its neighbors, in particular from Jordan, where the pressures will be very, very great against the annexation to the Arab and Gulf States who have in recent years opened the door to a new kind of relationship with Israel that could be mutually beneficial.”
Michele Flournoy, thought to be Joe Biden’s pick for Defense Secretary, shared similar sentiments as Susan Rice and warned that annexation could make aid to Israel a partisan issue and the politicization of such support would be disastrous to both U.S. and Israeli interests. Flournoy also shared her belief that the move will isolate Israel at a time when Israel has done so well in building strategic relations in the region.
More opposition from political leaders worldwide: It was another week of early backlash to potential Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
In Europe, over 1,000 elected officials from 25 countries signed a public statement of opposition to annexation and Trump’s plan to address the issue specifically. It calls for swift European action to any potential Israeli moves. Israel has reportedly enlisted the help of Cyprus in warding off any E.U. repercussions for annexation.
UN urges Israel not to move forward: The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, who is the organization’s leader, also urged Israel not to move forward with annexation. Guterres called the proposed annexation “devastating” and “calamitous” for peace and a “most serious violation of international law.” Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said that “any decision on sovereignty will be made only by the Israeli government.”
Israel’s FM reportedly trying to prevent it: Israel’s Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, is apparently covertly trying to prevent annexation from happening. It is no surprise that Ashkenazi does not see eye to eye with the government, given that he comes from the Blue and White Party which ran a campaign against Netanyahu. However, it is extremely unusual for such a senior official in the government to be going behind the back of the Prime Minister to subvert his or her primary policy achievement. Ashkenazi has also ruled out annexation of the Jordan Valley entirely. Without Ashkenazi’s say-so, the U.S. is not likely to back annexation moves, so his comments effectively kill any such potential.
More protesting in Tel Aviv: As officials from across the world aim to avoid annexation, Israelis too are coming out to protest any such decision. Over 2,500 socially distanced protesters met in Tel Aviv to voice opposition to annexation. One organizer called annexation “anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish, anti-democratic and anti-security.” Celebrities spoke at the rally as well, including famous Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi.
Mossad chief met with Jordanian King: Mossad chief Yossi Cohen recently visited Jordan and met with King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in order to discuss Israeli annexation. Jordanian officials have spoken out in opposition of any unilateral Israeli moves, but have stopped short of threatening to cancel the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.
Qatar threatens to withhold aid to Gaza: The Arab nation of Qatar, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Gaza Strip, is threatening to cease the aid in protest of future Israeli annexation of the West Bank. The Qatari aid has kept the Strip relatively calm in recent months, so its elimination might provoke unrest in the territory. Although Qatar and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, Qatar has apparently conveyed the message through multiple backchannel means.
Abbas considering dissolving PA: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considering disbanding the institution as a consequence of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. In doing so, Abbas would turn over all responsibility of governing in the West Bank to Israel. The PA has governed in parts of the West Bank since 1994 and the dissolution of that entity might further destabilize the territory.
Israel getting closer to decriminalizing cannabis: Two bills aiming to legalize the use of cannabis in Israel have cleared legislative hurdles over the objections of ultra-Orthodox lawmakers. Although the laws do not allow the growing of marijuana at private residences, one bill seeks to decriminalize possession of up to 50 grams, while fully legalizing the possession and consumption of up to 15 grams for individuals over 21. The second bill seeks to regulate the personal-use cannabis market and fully legalize the personal consumption of cannabis by individuals over 21. The bill states as fact that 27% of Israeli adults consume cannabis. Instead of voting against the measure, ultra-Orthodox members of parliament chose to boycott the proceedings altogether.
Unlikely Partnership between Israel & U.A.E.: Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a new partnership between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, two countries that do not have formal diplomatic relations, to combat the current pandemic. Although Netanyahu issued a grandiose announcement, the Emiratis later tempered expectations, saying that private Emirati companies would be working together with private Israeli companies, rather than the governments together.
More possible Israeli airstrikes in Syria: Israel is once again being held responsible for multiple airstrikes in Syria. The strikes were conducted against Iranian targets in the country, something long-feared by Israel. There were at least three such strikes in Syria this past week, on all of which the Israeli army has declined to comment. The strikes are possibly in response to recent reports of Iranian expansion inside Syrian territory, despite earlier indications this year that Iran might withdraw from that country.
Pro-Israel U.S. congressman set to lose seat: Eliot Engel, the Democratic congressman in NY-16 who has served since the 1990s, has likely been defeated by a progressive challenger, Jamaal Bowman, in his reelection bid. Engel is the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in Congress, a powerful committee that directs all aid funding of the U.S. government oversees, including to Israel. Engel has been a staunch pro-Israel advocate on Capitol Hill, whereas Bowman is seen as much less supportive of the Jewish state. Pro-Israel lobbying groups, like the Democratic Majority for Israel, spent millions of dollars in the race aiming to protect Engel.
Nevada Jewish man stabbed: An unnamed Jewish man was assaulted and stabbed by an attacker in Nevada in an antisemitic episode on Friday. The terrorist reportedly gave a Nazi salute and shouted antisemitic slurs before stabbing the Jewish man who was leaving a bar. The attacker had first asked the victim for money before assaulting him. The victim was rushed to the hospital where he was reported as being “conscious and alert.” The police charged the attacker with attempted robbery, battery with a deadly weapon, battering a police officer, and obstruction, but he could potentially be charged with other crimes as well.
Mohamed Hadid shared false Einstein quote: Palestinian American real estate mogul Mohamed Hadid shared a false anti-Israel sentiment attributed to Albert Einstein, a staunch Zionist. The quote reads: “It would be my greatest sadness to see Zionists (Jews) do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews.” The antisemitic quote was never said by Einstein. Hadid was just under fire for sharing an antisemitic conspiracy theory in May—an Instagram post accusing Israeli soldiers of engaging in and teaching the knee-to-neck technique used on George Floyd to U.S. police. Hadid later apologized over the post, which was later deleted.
Labour Party member fired: The British Labour Party’s new head, Keir Starmer, fired the Party’s second-in-command after she tweeted an article containing an antisemitic conspiracy theory—the same one which Mohamed Hadid shared in May. Rebecca Long-Bailey, a Jeremy Corbyn ally, shared an Independent article which alleged that Israel taught U.S. police to use the tactics that led to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Whereas Corbyn was repeatedly criticized for failing to address antisemitism in the Party, Starmer has made it a priority.
Antisemitic attack in Paris: Another elderly Parisian was harassed and targeted in her home for being Jewish. An unnamed 84-year-old Jewish woman had a slab of concrete thrown into her home while she was watching television at home in Gagny, a suburb of Paris. The incident left her deeply shaken and traumatized. The assailants probably paid heed to the visible mezuzah on her front door. The attack was handled by the National Office for Vigilance Against Antisemitism, a nongovernmental Jewish organization fighting French antisemitism.
New York Times troubling hire: The New York Times has brought on board an anti-Israel critic to be an editor at the paper. The editor, Charlotte Greensit, previously worked at The Intercept, a left-leaning publication. Greensit has personally tweeted in defense of antisemitic statements by Ilhan Omar and in 2017 she tweeted that “Israeli security forces are training American cops despite history of rights abuses,” while promoting a conspiracy theory libel of Israel published by The Intercept. Greensit has deleted most of her past tweets, but reporters posted them before they disappeared.
Greensit was hired after a staff revolt led to the resignation of James Bennet, the editor of the opinion section of the NYT. Bennet’s resignation came after he greenlit an op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, which argued that the military should be sent in to assist local law enforcement with the protests that broke out after the police murder of George Floyd. Staff editor Bari Weiss tweeted a response to Bennet’s resignation, which suggested that there is an internal war at the NYT between older free speech advocates and younger social justice warriors.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate Israeli tech achievements! Nine Israeli-founded “unicorns” are now based in New York State. A ‘unicorn’ is a privately held startup valued at over $1 billion. According to a press release from the New York – Israel Business Alliance (NYIBA), the number of Israeli- founded unicorns has nearly doubled in the past year and an astonishing 506 Israeli-founded companies across New York have generated $33.8 billion in total revenue.
Today in 1961 a covert operation titled “Operation Mural” began which was headed by the Mossad. Operation Mural facilitated the emigration of Jewish Moroccan children to Israel. After gaining independence from France in 1956, the Moroccan government restricted Jewish emigration out of the country and in response the Israeli government tasked Mossad with facilitating the emigration of Jews to Israel. The Jewish children left Morocco in five convoys from June 26, 1961 through July 24, 1961 under the guise of a supposed holiday in Switzerland.