Newsletter : 20fx0914.txt
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Netanyahu Announces 3-Week Lockdown, Warns it May Last Longer
By Israel Hayom
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced that a new nationwide lockdown will
be imposed amid a surge in coronavirus cases, with schools and parts of the economy
expected to shut down in a bid to bring down infection rates.
Beginning Friday at 6 a.m., the start of the Jewish High Holiday season, schools,
restaurants, malls and hotels will shut down, among other businesses, and Israelis will
face restrictions on movements and on gatherings. "Our goal is to stop the increase [in
cases] and lower morbidity," Netanyahu said in a televised statement. "I know that these
steps come at a difficult price for all of us. This is not the holiday we are used to."
The tightening of measures marks the second time Israel is being plunged into a lockdown,
after a lengthy shutdown in the spring. That lockdown is credited with having brought down
what were much lower infection numbers, but it wreaked havoc on the country's economy,
sending unemployment skyrocketing.
The lockdown will remain in place for at least three weeks, at which point officials may
relax measures if numbers are seen declining. Israelis typically hold large family
gatherings and pack synagogues during the important fast of Yom Kippur later this month,
settings that officials feared could trigger new outbreaks.
A sticking point in government deliberations over the lockdown was what prayers would look
like during the holidays. While the details on prayer during the lockdown were not nailed
down in the government decision, there were expected to be strict limits on the faithful.
That prompted Housing Minister Yakov Litzman, who heads the United Torah Judaism party, to
resign from the government earlier Sunday.
Israel has had more than 150,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,100
deaths. Given its population of 9 million, the country now has one of the world's worst
outbreaks. It is now seeing more than 4,000 daily cases of the virus.
Israel earned praise for its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, moving quickly
to seal the country's borders and appearing to bring infections under control. It has
since been criticized for opening businesses and schools too quickly and allowing the
virus to spread unchecked.
Much of that criticism has been aimed at Netanyahu, who has faced a public outcry over his
handling of the crisis and has seen thousands of protesters descend on his Jerusalem
residence every week. While lauded for his decisive response following the spring
outbreak, Netanyahu appeared distracted by politics and personal matters, including his
trial for corruption allegations, as infections rose over the summer.
At the press conference Sunday announcing the lockdown, Netanyahu defended his response,
saying Israel's economy had emerged from the first lockdown in a better state than many
other developed nations and that while cases were high, the country's coronavirus
mortality numbers were lower than other countries with similar outbreaks.
"For the past six months, the coronavirus pandemic has been striking at the world. Nearly
30 million people have been infected and close to a million have died," a somber Netanyahu
said. "We were the first in the world to understand the magnitude of the threat. Thanks to
our decisions, the number of people infected in Israel is low.
"Since we were the first to shutter the economy, we could be among the first to reopen it.
We have given grants to you, members of the public, and our economy is in a better
position than other world economies because we opened it early. We are working tirelessly
for you. When we resumed [economic activity] I said this would be like an accordion
the economy will be open when morbidity is low and under lockdown when it's high. Every
country that resumed [economic activity] has seen a spike in morbidity and reintroduced
restrictions," he explained.
Last Thursday, he continued, "Health officials sounded the alarm, saying that morbidity
rates required taking serious steps. This is not about the number of beds or ventilators,
but a question of burnout on the part of our wonderful medical teams. They also warn of a
sudden spike in the number of patients in serious condition, which will result in a high
The second lockdown seeks to curb the virus racing across the country and break the
infection chain, the prime minister stressed. "This is why today, the cabinet made the
decision to impose a lockdown for three weeks. There is a possibility it would be
extended, but right now it will be throughout the holidays.
"I promise you we will get through this together. I urge everyone to adhere to the
Health Ministry's directives on wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, avoiding
mass gatherings, etc. These are the basic steps and if we fail to observe them another
outbreak will happen. If we
Coronavirus commissioner Ronni Gamzu said that the government was forced to announce the
sweeping lockdown due to the soaring virus rates, adding that the ministers had no choice
but to act after some hospital officials warned corona wards were nearing full capacity.
The government alone "won't defeat the coronavirus," he stated. "Only you, the public, can
defeat the coronavirus. If we do this wisely, we can be done [with lockdowns] in two or
three weeks," he said.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the public will be allowed to gather for prayer
services during the High Holidays in a "very limited" fashion, but did not elaborate on
the guidelines set for public prayer.
"For three months, I tried to avoid a lockdown. I did everything I could so that we could
live alongside the coronavirus, with some rules here and there. But under the
circumstances that have been created, we had no choice but to vote for a second lockdown,"
he said, hinting at the public's failure to follow his ministry's guidelines, which is
believed to be a major contributor to the spike in infection rates. The health minister
said that if Israelis do not keep the rules, "all of this will have been for nothing. We
need the public's cooperation."
The country's power-sharing government, made up of two rival parties who joined forces in
a stated aim to combat the virus, has also been chided for the new outbreak. The
government has been accused of mismanagement, failing to properly address both the health
and economic crises wrought by the virus and leading the country to its second lockdown.
Some government ministers meanwhile have pointed fingers at what they've called an
undisciplined public, who they have accused of violating restrictions against public
gatherings and mask-wearing.
Netanyahu Enroute to Washington for Historic Peace Deal with UAE, Bahrain
By World Israel News
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's jet is on its way for the U.S. to sign a historic deal
with the United Arab Emirates at the White House on Tuesday. Adding to the excitement of
Netanyahu's trip was the surprise announcement on Friday by another Gulf state, Bahrain,
that it would normalize ties with Israel.
The ceremony will thus be a double-billing, both the UAE and Bahrain. "We now have two
historic peace agreements with two Arab countries within one month," Netanyahu said at the
cabinet meeting on Sunday. "I am sure that we all praise this new age
I want to
promise you that each and every one of you through your ministries will be a part of it,
because this is going to be a different peace. It will be a warm peace, economic peace in
additional to diplomatic peace, peace between nations."
Netanyahu emphasized when news of the UAE deal broke that it was different from Israel's
two other agreements with Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, in that it didn't involve any
territorial concessions. The desire for full relations appears to be genuine on both
sides. Netanyahu has invited the president of the UAE to visit Israel. According to
reports, he has expressed interest in coming to Jerusalem.
The details of the UAE deal have not yet been released and there is pressure from both the
Right and Left to do so. "If the agreements with the Emirates and Bahrain are so
wonderful, there is no reason to hide them from the government, the Knesset and especially
from the public," the editor of Makor Rishon, a conservative weekly, tweeted Sunday.
The UAE deal appears to have broken the ice in a way that those with Egypt and Jordan did
not. Following the news about Bahrain, other countries are reportedly going to follow,
including Oman and Sudan. Oman sent a positive signal on its state TV channel, saying it
welcomed the Bahrain initiative. In addition, Kosovo announced it will move its embassy to
Jerusalem, becoming the first Muslim-majority country to do so. Morocco, while not ready
for open ties, may agree to allow direct flights to and from Israel, it was reported on
How the UAE-Israel Deal Seeks to Impose a 'Fait Accompli' in Jerusalem
By Middle East Eye (Commentary)
While the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is seen by
many as a historic peace deal between the two countries, analysts in Jerusalem say it will
bring "everything but peace to the region."
A report by Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli organization that tracks developments in
Jerusalem that could impact political processes or spark violence, says that the phrasing
of an initial joint statement between Israel and the UAE raised fears of restrictions to
Muslims' rights to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Israelis as the Temple
Mount, while legitimizing Jewish prayers there, in violation of a longstanding agreement.
The report looked at a joint statement by the President Donald Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on 13 August,
which said that "all Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,
and Jerusalem's other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshippers of all
The ambiguous phrasing led Terrestrial Jerusalem to say that while the statement was most
likely trying to convey a major breakthrough whereby Muslims would be allowed to pray at
Al-Aqsa, while the status quo at Haram al-Sharif - another Arabic term for the compound -
is being maintained, "the truth is precisely the opposite.".
"The joint statement makes the agreement serve as a cover of legitimacy and an approval
from an Arab Muslim country to limit the [definition] of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the
al-Qibli prayer hall, and to consider the remaining 93% of the mosque's space a different
area," Ziyad Ibhais, a researcher on Jerusalem affairs, told Middle East Eye. "This would
allow Jewish rituals inside the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque." Ibhaisi added that the US
administration considers the issue of the Al-Aqsa Mosque a "central element of the
Jewish tradition has it that the Haram al-Sharif was built where the First and Second
Jewish Temples once stood, with some far-right Israeli figures openly advocating for the
destruction of Al-Aqsa so a Third Temple can be built in its place. As such, the religious
site has long been the focus of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
However, neighboring Jordan remains the custodian of Christian and Muslim holy sites in
occupied East Jerusalem. The status quo agreement recognized by Israel and the Palestinian
Authority states that while non-Muslims are allowed to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound,
they cannot worship or pray in Haram al-Sharif.
According to Ibhaisi, the use of the term "Al-Aqsa Mosque" by the US administration is an
"adoption of an Israeli trick of terminology" to define Al-Aqsa solely as the al-Qibli
prayer hall, instead of encompassing the 35.5 acres of the Haram al-Sharif. "This is
something the [Israeli] occupation has been enforcing by calling the Al-Aqsa compound the
Temple Mount, and considering its squares as public municipal squares not recognized as an
integral part of the mosque," he said.
"If we put the two texts of the normalization announcement and the deal of the century
together, it's not hard to understand what they mean by saying that Muslims will be
praying [only] in the al-Qibli chapel with the lead dome," Ibhaisi continued. "Meanwhile,
Jews and Zionist Christians will be able to pray in all the Al-Aqsa compound, and the
agreement with the UAE will serve as an Arab and Islamic cover for this arrangement."
Ibhaisi argued that the UAE-Israel agreement cannot put an end to Israel's violations of
Palestinian rights, but will instead mark a "new phase of Judaizing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and
turning it into a synagogue".
Incursions of Jewish-Israeli settlers in the Al-Aqsa compound first started in the 1980s.
While they were initially limited to only a few days a year, they escalated following an
Israeli judicial ruling in 2003 arguing that such incursions were merely an "entry of
Israeli citizens to a part of their land".
The ruling was a turning point in the work of Israeli police. Once tasked with preventing
Jews from entering the Al-Aqsa compound except for a few days during the year, Israeli
forces were now protecting and securing groups storming the compound.
According to Ibhaisi, the Israeli government first attempted to impose a complete temporal
division of the Al-Aqsa Mosque during religious holidays in September 2015, when Muslims
were prevented from entering the Al-Aqsa compound during the Jewish New Year and Sukkot,
the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
As some extremist Jewish groups currently call for the ritual blowing of the shofar in the
Al-Aqsa compound on 19 and 20 September during the celebrations of the Hebrew New Year,
and offering sacrifices in October, the UAE-Israel deal seems to be an opportunity for
Israeli authorities to impose Jewish rituals in the Al-Aqsa.
Former PA minister of Jerusalem affairs Khaled Abu Arafa told MEE that Israel's agreement
with the UAE could reinforce the division of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and seek to "tempt the
UAE" into becoming the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem instead of Jordan.
"Israel has its own agenda regarding its agreement with the UAE," he said. "It will not be
satisfied with just a public relations agreement, but will make sure not to spare any
effort and to use every line in the agreement to impose a fait accompli at the expense of
Palestinians in general, and Jerusalemites in particular."
Arafa said that similar agreements with Arab leaders - including the Camp David agreement
with Egypt in 1977, the Oslo Accords with Palestinian leadership in 1993, and the Wadi
Araba agreement with Jordan in 1994 - all ended up being detrimental to rights and
livelihoods of Palestinians. "Israel is reaping the fruits of its relentless efforts since
2010 to change the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, taking advantage of the improvement in
relations and security coordination with Jordan," the former Palestinian minister
Khaled Zabarqa, a Palestinian lawyer specialized in the affairs of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa,
concurred. "Israel used the UAE as a tool to impose its policies in Jerusalem and the
Al-Aqsa Mosque for years, not just since the latest agreement," he said. "Two years ago,
the Emirati regime tried to buy a property adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but the sale
process was exposed and cancelled."
According to Zabarqa, organizations linked to the Emirati authorities in Jerusalem used
to take advantage of the fact that Jerusalemites felt comfortable dealing with them in
order to buy many properties in the city - only to then transfer said properties to
Jewish-Israeli settlers with the knowledge of Israeli intelligence.
"Israel is using the UAE to mislead Arab and Palestinian public opinion, convince them in
favor of normalization and persuade them of the legitimacy of Israeli occupation policies
in Jerusalem," he said. "What we fear now is that the UAE will claim to promote religious
tolerance to mislead Arabs, taking advantage of the fact that Arab and Muslim sympathy
with the Palestinian cause of Jerusalem is primarily religious," Zabarqa added.
With the signing ceremony for the UAE-Israel agreement scheduled to take place in the US
on 15 September, Ibhais says that the agreement has been a useful cover for Washington,
Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.
"Trump needs to record achievements in order to enhance his chances of re-election,
Netanyahu wants to strengthen his electoral coalition, and the UAE now needs a US-Israeli
cover after it has been involved in serious confrontation with all Arab parties aspiring
for change," he said. "The agreement is an opportunity for the [Israeli] occupation to
enhance its chances of achieving its goals."
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