Monday, August 31, 2020

Consequences of PA Suspending Security Cooperation for Palestinians

This Al Jazeera video repeats the the usual mantras against Israel

but it seems the decision by the PA is causing serious problems

for the man in the street.

Is Israel Approaching Herd Immunity?

  By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A new study conducted by Ben Gurion University predicts Israel will reach a state of herd immunity against the coronavirus in the coming weeks, Hamodia reported Sunday.

Herd immunity occurs when a high enough percentage of the population has already contracted a disease and recovered from it, giving them enough antibodies in their systems so that the rate of new infections drops as more people gain immunity.

Prof. Mark Last of Ben Gurion University is not a doctor of medicine, but instead is an expert in the field of “medical informatics,” using the power of computer and information science to optimize medical care.

Last says his analysis shows that Israel’s coronavirus infection rate is about to decline. According to his figures, another national lockdown is not necessary if the government maintains current restrictions and no new major outbreaks occur from changes like the opening of the school year this week.

 “If there is no unusual outbreak because of the return to school or the [upcoming Jewish holidays], then the infection rate will start dropping,” Last said. “According to my calculations, we need 1.16 million people with antibodies in order to achieve herd immunity and we are very close to that number,” he said.

In June, the first serological survey showed that the national infection rate then was 2.5 percent indicating some 200,000 Israelis had been infected at the time, but most had few or no symptoms. Since then another 86,000 Israelis have tested positive, most likely exposing several hundred thousand more Israelis to the disease.

Last says his model analyzed the available data and he predicts that the infection rate that peaked before the weekend at just over 2,000 confirmed cases a day will start to go down sometime in the second half of September.

“We cannot know the actual number of cases of infection unless we test the entire population every day,” Last said. “Initial serological tests indicate the ratio of confirmed cases to actual cases is about 1 to 10. Using those numbers, we now have slightly above one million people with antibodies in Israel and we need at least 1.2 million.”

Last is in agreement with government officials who say that another lockdown is not needed because social distancing and the gathering herd immunity will soon produce a reduction in the infection rate.

“We are heading in the right direction, but it is important not to relax our restrictions or get overconfident,” Last warned, estimating by the end of September an additional 500 Israelis will likely die from the virus and bring the death toll up to 1,400.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Emirati-Israeli Agreement: Breaking the Barriers of Illusion

 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, August 14

Put simply and succinctly, the United Arab Emirates achieved a major political, psychological and security breakthrough in the Middle East with the announcement of its historic agreement to normalize ties with Israel. This agreement not only protected the Palestinians’ right to establish their own independent and sovereign state, but also preserved the sanctity of all Muslim sites in Israel.

Above all, it strengthened the moderate Arab world and united it against the Muslim Brotherhood, the mullahs and the Arab nationalists who have been rearing their heads in the Middle East. The UAE reaped a tangible gain for the Palestinian cause, not by words but by deeds: It brought to an immediate and unequivocal end the Israeli encroachment of West Bank territory, an achievement explicitly outlined in the tripartite statement released by the UAE, the US and Israel. We all know what to expect next.

The well-oiled propaganda machines in Turkey, Iran and Qatar, alongside radical groups like al-Qaida, Islamic State and the Houthis, will all rush to attack the emirates. They will describe the UAE as a “traitor” and as “weak.” But the truth is far from that. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was vehemently attacked after signing a peace treaty with Israel. But the fact of the matter remains that in historic perspective, he liberated Egyptian lands and prevented a bleak future for his country. He was a true hero of war and peace, and Egypt is still reaping the fruits of the peace he created.

The great king of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, was also attacked after reaching an agreement with the Israelis but he refused to submit to these accusations. This led his country to the great Wadi Araba Treaty, which ensured Jordan’s territorial integrity and water rights with Israel. Therefore – and because he is a realistic and responsible Arab leader – Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi took the initiative to commend this development.

Most ironically, those very countries that responded with criticism – Turkey and Qatar – are also those maintaining the most extensive covert trade and tourism ties with Israel. Whether one supports it or not, the Emirati-Israeli agreement will not come at the expense of the Palestinians, but rather in their favor. Like it or not, Israel is one of the countries of the region.

Like it or not, most of the harm to Arabs has been carried out by the hands of Iran and Turkey. According to a joint Emirati, American and Israeli statement, this historic diplomatic achievement will enhance peace in the Middle East and preserve the two-state solution on the ground, not in imagination. This is a historic agreement that brings back memories of great leaders who dared take risks to bring about peace. – Mishary Al-Dayidi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

Friday, August 21, 2020

Iran and the Israel-UAE Deal

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,704, August 21, 2020

Full article at

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates presents the Iranian regime with dilemmas on both the foreign and the domestic front. The regime fears the emergence of a new international alliance that will have greater power to contain its hegemonic regional aspirations, and there is a new urgency to the need to prove to the Iranian people that the government’s imperialist foreign policy works to their benefit.

 The condemnations in the Iranian media of the nascent Israel-UAE peace agreement are hardly surprising. The regime’s leadership is covering its embarrassment and apprehension with a stream of defamation and threats. Parliament Speaker Muhammad Bakr Qalibaf called the agreement “despicable and a betrayal of human and Islamic values,” while President Rouhani warned the UAE leaders “not to open their gates” to Israel. (An interesting exception to this pattern was the statement of former MP Ali Motahari, who tweeted, “Apart from the betrayal of UAE rulers, the blame was also on us for scaring the Arabs and pushing them into Israeli arms”.)

 Israel’s rapprochement with the Gulf state is raising concerns in Tehran for a number of reasons. First, the regime fears that an alliance comprising Israel, the Gulf States, and other countries, supported by Washington and Riyadh, would be a serious roadblock in the path of Iran’s goal of regional hegemony. A multinational system of that kind would strengthen its constituent members not only on the security level but also on the economic, commercial, and cultural levels—a worrisome prospect for Tehran.

The prospect of such an alliance is particularly troubling to the regime at a time when its regional status is declining. The deep crisis now engulfing Lebanon and the Hague’s conviction of a Hezbollah member for the assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri do not contribute to Iran’s prestige.

Another element of the Israel-UAE deal that is causing discomfort for the Islamist regime is the problem of how to control discourse on the subject among the Iranian general public. The leadership is finding it difficult to explain the emerging ties between Israel and Muslim countries to its citizens. It is defaulting to the traditional pattern of labeling those states traitors to Islamic values and the Palestinian cause.

This message is not getting the traction it once did among ordinary Iranians. The educated social stratum in Iran does not buy the argument that normalization with Israel is a betrayal by definition. Compounding this problem, more and more Iranians are expressing the view that the regime’s investment of resources in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Gaza comes at their expense.

From the mullahs’ point of view, the Israel-UAE agreement is a painful blow because it sends a message that Muslim countries not only do not view Israel as an enemy that must be destroyed but view it as a potential partner for mutual prosperity and security. The Iranian people, unlike their leadership, do not believe Egypt, Jordan, and now the UAE are traitors to Islam.

The foreign policy of the Iranian leadership is designed to strengthen extremists at the expense of the welfare and prosperity of the country’s own citizens. The regime has no intention of altering this policy, and will continue to threaten other countries in the Persian Gulf that might be considering a similar rapprochement with Jerusalem. It is possible that Iran will now concentrate its efforts on harassing oil tankers anchored in UAE ports.

According to media reports, Bahrain is likely to be one of the next Gulf States to advance its ties with Israel. There too, Iran’s subversion of Bahrain served as a catalyst for the Khalifa family to establish ties with Israel.

Bahrain’s demographic structure is 70% Shiite, which rendered it, in the eyes of the Iranian regime, fertile ground for the advancement of its revolutionary worldview. As early as December 1981 the “Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain” tried and failed to overthrow the ruling monarchy and establish an Iran-backed theocratic regime, and in 1996 the Bahrain authorities uncovered another attempt by Tehran to overthrow the regime and replace it with a theocracy according to the Velayat-e Faqih model. Iran accompanied these subversive activities with “soft power” measures and support for opposition organizations, and it trained militants in the emirate.

The Iranian revolutionary model has been a threatening and destabilizing factor in the Middle East for decades. The greater Iran’s hostility toward the countries in the region, the greater the likelihood that they will eventually come together in some way to oppose it.

The formation of alliances among countries experiencing a common threat is not a new phenomenon in the Middle East. This was true six decades ago, when the Iranian monarchy felt threatened by the spread of Arab nationalism led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it is true today. The expression “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is as valid today as it ever was, despite attempts to throw that realpolitik model into the so-called dustbin of history.

 The Israel-UAE deal makes it much harder for the Iranian regime to justify an imperialist foreign policy that comes at the expense of the Iranian people.


Friday, August 7, 2020

What Really Happened at the Port of Beirut?

(By Dr Mordechai Kedar)

The official report of the Lebanese authorities on the massive August 4 explosion at the Port of Beirut is that a warehouse near the water containing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded. They claim that this material had been in the warehouse for over six years, with the approval of the court, and confirmed this claim with documentation.

With all due respect to the Lebanese authorities, I do not buy this story. I believe that explosives, ammunition, and missile fuel (which are highly volatile and flammable substances) were stored by Hezbollah in this warehouse after being shipped from Iran. There are several reasons why I believe this.

  1. a)There was a series of at least three explosions, each of which had a different result. The first created a gray column of smoke that remained for several minutes. The second, a column of red smoke, also remained for several minutes, while the third created a white mushroom cloud that dissipated within seconds. This suggests that at least three different materials were stored in that warehouse (see video).
  2. b) Anyone familiar with how a port operates knows that the front row of warehouses, which are closest to the water, are used for short-term storage. Cargo that is meant to be stored long-term is moved to warehouses further away from the water.
  3. c) Anyone who ships sensitive cargo and does not want it to be seen, photographed, or targeted by others from air, space, or ground tries to hide it as close as possible to the water. The warehouse that exploded was on the water’s edge.
  4. d) After Israel (according to foreign sources) attacked the warehouses at Damascus Airport several times, Beirut Seaport replaced Damascus Airport as the destination for Hezbollah’s ammunition and explosives imports from Iran. What used to arrive at Damascus Airport by air is now brought to Beirut by ship. For Hezbollah’s purposes, the warehouses at the port of Beirut have replaced the warehouses of Damascus Airport.
  5. e) What probably happened on August 4 was an explosion of volatile and flammable materials that were incorrectly stored by Hezbollah for at least a day in a metal, non-airconditioned warehouse. As it is midsummer, temperatures are very high. I believe missile-fuel fumes evaporated from a container and touched the hot wall or ceiling, where they ignited and caused a chain reaction of explosions.
  6. f) Less than an hour after the explosions, Hezbollah announced that the exploded material was ammonium nitrate. Hezbollah was the first to report it. The reason: Hezbollah was looking for a way to cover up its own negligence and establish an official version that deflected attention away from itself, because no one in the government would dare contradict them.
I suspect that very few people in Lebanon buy Hezbollah’s version of the story. I think Hassan Nasrallah is viewed by the Iranians and, indeed, by his own friends in Hezbollah as personally responsible for this disaster. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

World’s largest cargo plane lands in Israel

For full article see 

The world’s largest cargo plane, an Antonov AN-225 carrying US military Oshkosh trucks landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport Monday afternoon.

The cargo plane took off on Monday around 9 p.m. without the trucks, which will remain in Israel to be fitted with Iron Dome systems purchased by the US Army before leaving Israel.

The Unit for International Transport of the Directorate of Production and Procurement in IMoD was also involved in bringing the Antonov plane to Israel, the Defense Ministry said.

The Antonov An-225 is the largest aircraft ever produced with over 30 wheels, six engines and a wingspan of 290ft. The aircraft has a range of 15,400km. when unloaded and 4,500km. when fully loaded.

The Defense Ministry and the US Department of Defense signed an agreement to purchase two Iron Dome batteries for short-term needs for an Indirect Fire Protection Capability of the United States Army in August 2019. They will be used to defend US troops against a range of ballistic and aerial threats.

It was reported in February 2018 that the US Army had asked Congress for $373 million to buy two batteries off-the-shelf from Rafael which included 12 launchers, two sensors, two battlement management centers, and 240 interceptors. Washington wanted to have them delivered by 2020.

While the United States has its THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase, the American military does not have any short-range air defense solutions.

On Monday, Rafael announced that it signed a joint venture with Raytheon Missile & Defense to establish an Iron Dome Weapon System production facility in the US.

Called Raytheon RAFAEL Area Protection Systems, a site location will be finalized before the end of the year and produce both the Iron Dome (consisting of the Tamir interceptor and launcher) as well as the SkyHunter missile. Both missiles can intercept incoming cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, and short-range targets such as rockets, artillery, mortars, and other aerial threats.

“This will be the first Iron Dome all-up-round facility outside of Israel, and it will help the US Department of Defense and allies across the globe obtain the system for defense of their service members and critical infrastructure,” said Raytheon Missiles & Defense Systems’ Sam Deneke, vice president of Land Warfare & Air Defense business execution.


Cause for Optimism? COVID-19 Could Curb Spread of Seasonal Flu

Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman  August 3,

Social distancing, mask wearing and increased personal hygiene, along with higher rates of flu vaccination, could reduce the number of cases of the respiratory virus in Israel and worldwide this year, according to public health professionals.

“There are some hints from the Southern Hemisphere that the public health measures to prevent COVID-19 also reduce influenza,” chairman of the Israeli Public Health Physicians Association Prof. Hagai Levine told The Jerusalem Post. “There will now be a very unique situation that may teach us how to better prepare for the flu season even after COVID-19 is over.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both COVID-19 and the flu are spread in a similar manner, via person-to-person contact or between people who are within about two meters of each other. Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illnesses cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into their lungs.

Furthermore, both can be spread via touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, as well as from infected people with very mild symptoms, before they begin showing symptoms, or who are asymptomatic.

Because flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms – fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, body aches and headaches – people experiencing these symptoms will likely be more inclined to visit their doctor or even seek care in the emergency department, whereas in the past they may have stayed home and rested.

THERE IS precedent for believing that the measures in place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus will positively impact the country’s experience with seasonal flu. Already in May, these measures were found to have shortened the flu season in the Northern Hemisphere by about six weeks, according to the World Health Organization. 

Since an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 people typically die worldwide from seasonal flu, that means the shorter season could have spared tens of thousands of lives.

FLU SEASON is at its peak this month in the Southern Hemisphere, Leshem added. He said there does not seem to be anything unique about the flu strain there – it does not seem to have a propensity for higher or lower incidents than last season. 

An important aspect this winter will be whether the local population is vaccinated against the flu. On Sunday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that Israel has three million doses of the vaccine and is working to obtain more, though he said they were not yet readily accessible. 

Prof. Levine, who is also a Hebrew University-Hadassah epidemiologist, said that in Israel every year, flu season crushes the health system and sick Israelis are hospitalized in the corridors.   

“If we can, by proportional measures, prevent the outbreak of flu, maybe we should do it every winter – wear masks, take better care that sick people do not go to school and work,” he said. “These simple measures could actually prevent many deaths.”