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`Secretive' Israeli Unit Scores Breakthrough with Fast-Tracked Corona Treatment

By United with Israel & the Jerusalem Post

A new Israeli treatment that works on patients who already have the coronavirus is being fast-tracked for patenting and production. The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) scored a huge breakthrough in the search for an effective treatment for the coronavirus, according to a statement by the Defense Ministry. The institute is a "secretive unit that is run by the Defense Ministry and works under the Prime Minister's Office," explained an i24 report. "Based on comprehensive scientific publications from around the globe, it appears that the IIBR is the first institution to achieve a scientific breakthrough that meets all three of the aforementioned parameters simultaneously," said a statement from the institute. What is the secretive institute that found an antibody to the coronavirus? The history of the Institute for Biological Research goes back before the founding of the State of Israel. Most of the work carried out by the secretive institute is a heavily guarded secret reinforced by military censorship. Over the years, the IIBR has been involved in a series of groundbreaking scientific research, including a project to develop a vaccine against polio, developing kits for detecting explosive materials, a drug to treat Sjogren's syndrome and more. Still located in Ness Ziona, the IIBR is surrounded by a large wall with a gate that blocks its entrance. But it is no longer housed in a small building, but rather in a spacious building that once belonged to an Arab effendi and a large modern research complex that contains dozens of laboratories. It continues to be viewed by the defense establishment as one of the country's most secretive defense installations. The public rarely knows what goes on behind the highly guarded walls of the institute.

Israel's High Court Approves Netanyahu-Gantz Deal

By AFP
Israel's Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the coalition agreement between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his rival-turned-ally Benny Gantz, paving the way for a unity government to be sworn in next week. The country's top court considered eight separate petitions from opponents of the pact at a hearing this week. But it ruled "there was no legal reason to prevent the formation of a government" led by Netanyahu. As the decision was delivered, Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and the centrist Blue and White alliance led by Gantz said in a joint statement that the new government would be sworn in on May 13. Israel has been without a stable government since Netanyahu's last coalition was dissolved in December 2018. The country has since held three inconclusive elections in less than a year, with Netanyahu and Gantz, a former military chief, both unable to form a viable coalition. They agreed to unite last month under a deal that will see Netanyahu serve as premier for 18 months, with Gantz as his alternate. They will swap roles at the midway point of the pact. The deal's opponents had argued that criminal indictments against Netanyahu should bar him from leading a government. The veteran premier has been charged with accepting improper gifts and illegally trading favors in exchange for positive media coverage. He denies wrongdoing and his trial is set to start on May 24. The Supreme Court said that by approving the coalition it "was not seeking to diminish the severity of the charges" against Netanyahu, but concluded those could be handled in his trial without blocking the new government.

As Israel Considers Annexation, Biden Calls to Keep the Two-State Solution Alive

By JTA

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president, said the U.S. should press Israel not to take any actions that jeopardize a two-state solution, a reference to reports that Israel may try to annex part of the West Bank. Biden, in a statement Tuesday to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, also said that as president he would resume U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, reopen the U.S. consulate in eastern Jerusalem that administers primarily to the Palestinians and would seek to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington. "A priority now for the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace should be resuming our dialogue with the Palestinians and pressing Israel not to take actions that make a two-state solution impossible," Biden said. "I will reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem, find a way to re-open the PLO's diplomatic mission in Washington, and resume the decades-long economic and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians that the Trump Administration stopped." The new Israeli government is grappling with whether to annex parts of the West Bank, and as Biden has secured the Democratic nomination for the presidency, he has come under pressure from the Democratic Party's left to speak out against any such move, which would be seen as highly controversial in the international community. The peace plan unveiled earlier this year by President Donald Trump embraces Israel's annexation of parts of the West Bank as long as Israel accepts the plan's predicate that a Palestinian state would emerge in other parts of the territory. Netanyahu has set July 1 as a deadline to come up with an annexation plan. A letter this week from 30 former top national security officials in Democratic administrations expressed alarm at the prospect of annexation, and urged Biden to include in this year's Democratic Party opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and to settlement expansion. That would be a notable change — Democratic platforms have until now not criticized the occupation. "Past party platforms have rightly stated a commitment to Israel's security and included condemnations of threats and actions against our ally, in addition to embracing a two-state outcome," said the letter, organized by J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group. "Those platforms have, however, also been nearly silent on the rights of Palestinians, on Israeli actions that undermine those rights and the prospects for a two-state solution, and on the need for security for both peoples." Biden has also enthusiastically accepted J Street's endorsement for the presidency. Tensions between those in the party who, like Biden, are close to the mainstream pro-Israel lobby, and those influenced by J Street are likely to continue. The lobby is urging Democratic senators to sign a letter initiated by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., that would warn Israel's government not to move ahead with annexation. All three are J Street endorses. Biden's statement was part of a series of replies to JTA on the presidential candidate's Middle East policy. Biden has said in the past it is also incumbent on the Palestinians to preserve two-state options. A campaign spokesman noted to JTA Biden's past calls on both sides to refrain from unilateralism. "Palestinian leaders should end the incitement and glorification of violence, and they must begin to level with their people about the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people," Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations last August. "Israeli leaders should stop the expansion of West Bank settlements and talk of annexation that would make two states impossible to achieve." The statement also takes a cudgel to the Trump administration's peace plan, which sanctions annexation under certain conditions. It is Biden's most robust criticism of the recent policies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who campaigned in the most recent elections on a pledge to move toward annexation. Biden has separately said he would not reverse President Donald Trump's decision in 2018 to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Thousands of New Homes to be Built in Efrat as Israel Readies Sovereignty Move

By Reuters and Israel Hayom

Thousands of new housing units will be built in Judea and Samaria, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday. Fresh construction for the settlement of Efrat was approved on land that could accommodate around 7,000 housing units. "The building momentum in the country must not be stopped, even for a second," Bennett tweeted. The United States has offered to recognize Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria as part of a proposal President Donald Trump unveiled in February, which also envisages talks on founding a Palestinian state in up to 70% of the territory. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to visit Israel next week, a source said, a sign that he is weighing in on a territorial issue that has been a centerpiece of Netanyahu's coalition-building efforts. Netanyahu wants to ally with political rival Benny Gantz and start cabinet discussions on July 1 about declaring Israeli sovereignty over settlements and the strategically key Jordan Valley in the West Bank. The unity government deal has been contested in the High Court of Justice. Pompeo planned to visit Israel for one day next week and meet Netanyahu, a person briefed on the trip said, without elaborating on the agenda. The US State Department had no immediate comment. In an interview with Israel Hayom, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that sovereignty in the West Bank Jewish communities and the Jordan Valley was "an Israeli issue" and added: "We are ready."

Report: Iranian Airline Spread Corona Throughout the Middle East

By Israel Hayom

Iran's Mahan Air, which is funded and operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, has for years served the regime in a number of doubtful activities: money laundering, transporting terrorists and weapons, and flying home the bodies of IRGC fighters killed in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. But according to a BBC report, in addition to these tasks for the ayatollahs, the airline has also played a major role in spreading coronavirus throughout the Middle East, even though Middle East leaders were aware of the growing pandemic. The BBC report said that Mahan Air planes continued to fly to various airports in cities including Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Abu Dhabi, Najaf, Karbala, and Sanaa even after governments announced they would be closing their airport facilities to prevent the spread of the virus. The report said that Iran exerted its influence in these countries to pressure them to allow IRGC people to enter their borders. In addition, the report said, the airline's aircraft continued to fly back and forth to China, even after the Tehran regime announced a stop to air travel to China. Hundreds of Mahan Air flights carrying tens of thousands of passengers departed from Iran, the Middle East nation with the highest number of corona cases, particularly Qom, whose Shiite holy sites were some of the main epicenters of the epidemic in the Islamic Republic. All this reportedly took place after the Iranian regime announced that the virus was spreading quickly within its borders. The BBC also reported that Mahan Air officials admitted that many of its employees had continued to work even after contracting coronavirus. When a few crew members attempted to voice concerns about their colleagues' health, they were reportedly silenced by management. According to official figures, nearly 100,000 people in Iran have contracted coronavirus, with a death toll of 6,340. However, international experts, including World Health Organization officials, believe that the actual number of confirmed cases and COVID-19 deaths in Iran is four or five times as many as the regime claims.

High Court Upholds Near One Million Shekel Fine for Failure to Divorce

By the Jerusalem Post

The High Court of Justice has upheld a fine of NIS 5,000 a day issued by the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court against the father of a recalcitrant husband who has refused to give his wife a divorce for over seven years. The father has been found by the rabbinical court to be the direct cause behind the son's refusal to grant his wife a divorce leading to the unprecedented fine against someone who is not a litigant in the divorce suit by the court. The father, a wealthy US businessman from the Erlau hassidic community, initially appealed the fine to the Supreme Rabbinical Court and then appealed the legitimacy of the ruling to the High Court of Justice, but that appeal was rejected on Tuesday. The case involves an American couple who were on a trip to Israel some 13 years ago. During the visit, the wife suffered a medical brain trauma leaving her permanently disabled, following which her husband eventually abandoned her and their children in Israel, returned to the US and refused to grant her a divorce ever since. The Tel Aviv rabbinical court ruled nearly seven years ago that the man was obligated to grant a divorce, but he has ignored the ruling to this day. When the rabbinical court investigated his motivation in refusing to grant the divorce for so long, it discovered that his father, a well-known and very wealthy businessman from the US ultra-Orthodox community who has donated significantly to the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community and the Erlau community in particular, was behind his son's divorce recalcitrance. It is thought by the woman's legal team that the husband was somehow insulted and angered by her request for a divorce after he behaved inappropriately while visiting her before the marriage broke down and he abandoned her. According to Attorney Osnat Sharon of the Yad La'isha legal aid center and hotline for agunot representing the woman, the father has backed up his son's recalcitrance, provides him with accommodation, funds his expensive legal team from New York, and provides him with income. It is for this reason that Sharon and her legal team petitioned the rabbinical court to sanction the father. The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court accepted the petition, and when the father and his wife came to Israel for a visit in 2016, the court issued an order banning them from leaving the country and summoned them to give testimony to the court. The court at one stage even sentenced the father to 30 days imprisonment, although subsequently changed this penalty to the NIS 5,000 fine a day fine in August 2018. Both the Supreme Rabbinical Court and the High Court have given backing on several occasions to the original ruling of the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court The High Court wrote in its ruling on Tuesday that the total fines against the father now amount to NIS 920,000. Sharon said however that that total was out of date and that the total fine should be significantly higher given that more than 18 months have passed since the original fine was issued by the Tel Aviv rabbinical court.


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