The Coronavirus cabinet agreed yesterday to tighten the restrictions of the current lockdown, which will come into effect today at 2pm local time.
- The restrictions are not yet fully approved as the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is still debating the amendment to the coronavirus law that passed its first reading last night. However, it is expected that the new measures will include a limit of movement of 1km from peoples’ homes (except for emergencies, going to work or shopping for food/medicine), closure of beaches, shutdown of the economy (except for essential businesses), a gathering limit of 20 people outside and 10 for inside, and limited public transport.
- The amendment will also authorise the cabinet to impose restriction on gathering at a demonstration or a religious ceremony, providing it’s crucial to prevent the spread of the virus.
- In an effort to protect the economy, the cabinet also approved the continued activity of tens of thousands “essential enterprises”, including social services, public services, banks and capital market institutions, agricultural workers, as well as energy, high-tech and infrastructure projects.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the government’s decision to significantly tighten the lockdown, despite reports earlier in the week that he preferred minimal restrictions, as recommended by the Health Ministry official. He said last night: “The lockdown steps aren’t easy but saving life comes before everything. We’re at the height of an ongoing war.”
- Netanyahu also addressed the claim that he sought to impose a full lockdown in order to curtail the protests against him, saying that people “can demonstrate on Balfour Street if they want to, they can demonstrate in capsules,” adding that the protests were only hurting the public’s trust.
- Israeli Defence Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said: “We are in the midst of a national emergency, this is not a struggle between demonstrators and worshipers. This virus doesn’t attack only Haredim or Arabs, this has nothing to do with the right or the left. When a protester shows understanding for a worshiper and vice versa, both of them will help to beat the virus.”
- The Health Ministry said this morning that a record high 7,527 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed yesterday. Of the 60,786 active cases, 669 are in serious condition, 167 of them on ventilators. Another 246 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.
- om Kippur prayers that begin Sunday evening will take place almost entirely outdoors, with groups of up to 10 worshipers only expected to be permitted to pray inside synagogues.
- The shutdown will also cover the entirety of the Sukkot holiday.
- The objective of the lockdown will be to reduce the number of new cases from about 7,000 per day to 1,000-1,500 per day within three weeks. A total of 1,500 new cases per day is the maximum amount that the system now being operated by the IDF can cope with in order to break the chain of infection.
Gantz visits US to discuss Israel’s QME and military procurement
Defence Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz was in Washington Tuesday and met with senior US officials amid growing speculation of the US sale of F-35 striker jets to the UAE.
- Gantz met senior advisor to the president, Jared Kushner, in the White House and expressed his gratitude for the ”exceptional efforts and achievements on the part of Kushner and the US government at large in advancing peace and stability in the Middle East, which culminated in the Abraham Accords.” They also discussed potential additional agreements with other countries in the region.
- He also met with US Secretary of Defence Mark Asper and other senior Pentagon officials to discuss maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), defence cooperation and procurement. They also discussed their shared concerns over Iran and a strategy for stopping its expansion and entrenchment.
- Secretary Asper stressed that Israel is America’s most important strategic partner in the Middle East. Asper said the bonds of friendship among the peoples of Israel and the US are “unbreakable”. He added: “I do want to say upfront for everyone, that a cornerstone of our defence relationship is preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. The United States is committed to that, and the Department of Defence is committed to that imperative.”
- Gantz also met US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. Gantz told him, “We will persist in our uncompromising efforts to halt Iranian aggression and will enlist other countries in the efforts as well.” Gantz reiterated Israel’s support for US policy of applying pressure on Iran in the international arena. He briefed O’Brien on ongoing Iranian aggression and told him that Israel will continue to respond to Iranian entrenchment in Syria and elsewhere.
The historic deal between Israel, UAE and Bahrain
Last week, US President Donald Trump hosted the signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn where Israel signed a peace treaty with the UAE and a declaration of peace with Bahrain. President Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani all hailed the occasion as an historic breakthrough toward peace in the Middle East.
You can read the full text of the Abraham Accords signed by the three countries here