Lapid, Bennett said hoping to tell Rivlin Tuesday they can form government

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett are optimistic about their prospects for forming a power-sharing government that will replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as premier, according to a television report Monday, though several potential roadblocks appeared to emerge on their route to securing a ruling majority.

The two hope to inform President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday that they are able to form a government, with the aim of having it sworn next week on June 9, Channel 12 reported.

Lapid, who is currently tasked with forming a government, has until Wednesday night to tell Rivlin he can do so.

The parties were earlier reported to have made “significant progress” following overnight coalition talks, after Bennett’s announcement Sunday that he will seek to form a government with Netanyahu’s political opponents.

Lapid predicted during a faction meeting that Netanyahu is on the verge of being ousted, but acknowledged that “obstacles” remain.

One such possible hurdle was Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked’s demand that she be appointed to the Judicial Appointments Committee, getting the spot slated for Labor chief Merav Michaeli.

Shaked, a former justice minister, was quoted by the Kan public broadcaster as telling Yamina activists that if the demand is not met, “there won’t be a government.”

The move was coordinated with Bennett, according to Channel 13 news.

There was no immediate response from Michaeli, but reports indicated the matter was solvable. She earlier said during a Labor faction meeting that the center-left party “remains completely committed to making every effort so this will happen,” referring to the establishment of a government.

The centrist Blue and White party is also eyeing Michaeli’s seat on the committee, Channel 12 reported.

In an interview with the network, Yamina MK Matan Kahana refused to comment directly on Shaked’s demand, but said that the panel was very important to the party.

He said he was “certain” that Shaked, who has not spoken publicly since Bennett’s declaration, supports the Yamina leader. Kahana stressed the party would join the government with Lapid, saying Yamina tried to honor its campaign promises, but came to the realization that there was no chance of forming a right-wing government.

Along with Shaked’s demand, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar was calling for the coalition agreement to include a clause on the attorney general’s job being split into two positions, according to Channel 13.

He was also reportedly seeking to anchor continued West Bank settlement construction in law. Both positions are likely to be opposed by the more dovish factions in the prospective coalition.

Meanwhile, Channel 12 said Bennett has told the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties — which are part of Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc — that the new government will look out for their interests. It also reported the Haredi factions were concerned that Labor MK Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi, would be appointed Diaspora minister.

If Yamina and the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu parties resolve their points of contention, they will need the support of the Islamist Ra’am and/or part of the Joint List of three majority Arab parties.

Shaked met Monday with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, who the Haaretz daily said demanded that one of his party’s lawmakers be appointed deputy interior minister.

Shaked, who reports have indicated will be interior minister if the government if formed, was said to express fierce opposition to the demand.

The meeting with Abbas came as Shaked and Bennett come under heavy pressure from Netanyahu and his right-wing religious bloc to scrap plans for a government with the prime minister’s political opponents,.

Under the emerging rotation deal between Yamina and Yesh Atid, Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years before handing the reins to Lapid. Joining the coalition will be a mix of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties that refuse to join a government led by Netanyahu, who is on trial in three criminal cases.

Source: TOI

Header: Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in the Knesset, March 12, 2014. (Flash90/File)

Shaked’s condition for joining the government

MK Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) is demanding to serve on the committee for the appointment of judges in place of MK Merav Michaeli (Labor), Channel 12 journalist Amit Segal reported.

Shaked’s demand is accompanied by an ultimatum, according to which, if her demand is not met, she will not agree to enter the emerging Bennett-Lapid government.

Meanwhile, Arutz Sheva has learned that Shas chairman Aryeh Deri has been exerting enormous pressure on senior Yamina member MK Ayelet Shaked to jump ship in light of Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett’s efforts to form a government with Yair Lapid.

Deri spoke on the phone with Shaked several times. During the last conversation, which took place this afternoon, Deri asked her to continue efforts to form a rotation government with Netanyahu, Sa’ar and Bennett all serving as prime minister over the next four years.

Deri told Shaked that her continued partnership with Bennett would not contribute to her political future, and said that if Shaked were to prevent a center-left government from emerging, she would be remembered as a hero in the national camp.

Source: Autz Sheva

Israel’s Astounding (and Imprecise) World Record

Over a 36-hour period in the last week of May 1991, more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews flew to Israel, with some 1,100 of them arriving on a single airplane!

That flight, in fact, still holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of passengers ever carried by a commercial airliner, though the exact number remains disputed three decades after the daring mission known as “Operation Solomon”.

As the immigrants boarded the plane they were counted. Official paperwork went to the relevant authorities and served as the basis for the official record of 1,088 passengers.

At a conference hosted by the Ben Zvi Institute commemorating 30 years since Operation Solomon, the plane’s pilot, Captain Arieh Oz, recalled the historic day (Hebrew).

After landing in Israel, Rafi Har-Lev, the CEO of El Al, asked Captain Oz, “How many passengers did you bring?” Upon hearing the tally, Har-Lev exclaimed, “That’s a world record,” and asked for a re-count just to make sure.

The new tally? 1,122.

Captain Oz soon realized the reason for the rather significant discrepancy.

A number of mothers had hidden their children under their dresses as they boarded the plane, not fully certain where they were going, nor who exactly was taking them.

Many of the passengers, refugees from the war-torn Gondar region, had never seen an airplane before, let alone many of the other reflections of modern society to which they were suddenly exposed.

Their concern was more than justified given the circumstances.

Captain Oz could certainly relate. Decades earlier, a Dutch family had hidden him for three years in their attic, saving him and his sister from being murdered during the Holocaust.

As he prepared to go to the Land of Israel after the war, the child was asked what he would do there:

“Will you be a shepherd? A camel herder?”

Arieh (born Harry Klausner) responded, “I will be a pilot!”

For decades Arieh Oz did just that, serving Israel and the Jewish people in ways his childhood self could not have even imagined, including taking part in the famous mission to free the hostages at Entebbe.

Long retired from active service in the Israeli Air Force, Oz was already senior staff at El Al when he was called to take part in Operation Solomon, flying the first Jumbo 747 ever to land at Addis Ababa airport.

According to Oz, who had also spent time in Ethiopia training pilots in the 1960s, three Jumbos were set to land in Ethiopia’s capital as part of the operation.

After two came in, local authorities complained that the weight of the massive aircraft had damaged the runway and the third Jumbo was forbidden from touching down.

This setback, as well as a technical issue with another plane, meant that the plan had to be changed. More passengers needed to join Captain Oz’s flight.

Captain Oz of course welcomed them aboard, later honoring the passengers’ request to inform them when the plane flew over Jerusalem.

At some point during the flight, after realizing that the Israeli team was kind and caring, the mothers who had concealed their children on the way onto the plane let them out of hiding.

When the flight finally landed in Israel – after flying over Jerusalem – there were some three dozen “new passengers”, Captain Oz recalled.

Though the higher number of 1,122 is noted by Guinness World Records, the lower number remains the official figure, as it is what appeared on the flight documents.

Kept secret for months, Operation Solomon would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the global Jewish community and supporters worldwide; the countless Israelis who took part in all aspects of the mission, from planning through implementation; and, of course, the immigrants themselves, who longed for Zion and left all they knew to realize their dreams.

Regardless of whether the true number of passengers on that 747 was 1,088 or 1,122 (or something in between), Operation Solomon remains a rousing example of what can be accomplished when solidarity meets determination and sacrifice.

  • This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.

Source: Zack Rothbart – The Librarians

Header: Uncounted passengers? Mothers with their babies shortly after disembarking in Israel, 25 May 1991 (Photo: Gadi Cavallo). From the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel

In one of the most well orgnized and coordinated operation ever mounted from Israel, 14,400 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel from Addis Ababa in just one 30-hour period. The transport division of the Israel Air Force, together with planes from El-Al, made 40 round trips to the Ethiopian capital to bring out almost all the remaining Jews In Ethiopia. One El-Al cargo Jumbo entered an aviation record as it lifted off from Addis airport with 1,088 passengers. Most of the aircraft had all their seats removed and the floor of the cabin was spread with mattresses covered with nylon so that the maximum number of passenger could be accommodated. Photo shows: a mother with her child shortly after leaving the plane on their arrival at Eilat airport.

France says allegations of US espionage on European leaders are ‘extremely serious’ & may have ‘consequences’

“It is extremely serious, we must verify if our EU partners, Danes, have committed errors or mistakes in their cooperation with the American services… And then on the American side, see if indeed there was listening, spying on politicians,” Clement Beaune said in an interview with the France Info radio network.

The statement comes a day after European media reported that the US National Intelligence Agency allegedly spied on European politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (who previously served as minister of foreign affairs), with the help of Denmark, from 2012 to 2014.

According to Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio, the US National Security Agency (NSA) tapped into Danish telecommunications cables to spy on officials in Germany, Sweden, Norway, and France. The Danish military intelligence services are said to have helped the US.

The French secretary of state for European affairs said the situation could have “consequences in terms of cooperation” with the United States.

“We are not in a world of Care Bears, so this kind of behavior, unfortunately, can happen, and we will verify it. Between allies, there must be trust, a minimum cooperation, so these potential facts are serious.”

Beaune added he did not know the identity of the French officials who were allegedly spied on.

Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen declined to comment on what she called “speculation” about intelligence matters in the media, according to Reuters. The Danish Defense Intelligence Service, as well as the US’ Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the NSA, declined to comment on the media report to the news agency.

Source: RT

US caught spying on EU ‘allies’ AGAIN…not like the Europeans will do anything about it

According to a report in Danish media, the country’s intelligence services had been working at the behest of the notorious US National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on leaders throughout Europe, including Germany’s Angela Merkel.

This is not the first time such allegations have been made, with the US having been accused of spying on Berlin in 2014 too.

It’s also not the first time America used the Danish intelligence services as a medium – last year, a story surfaced claiming that Washington coordinated with them to spy on their own government in order to ensure Denmark would buy F-35’s as opposed to Eurofighters to replace its F-16s.

In light of all these revelations, one has to question whether Denmark is truly even sovereign if its intelligence is de facto loyal to the US.

The surprising part about it is that none of these revelations are really new or unprecedented at all. It’s a well-established fact that the United States, despite calling them “allies” and embracing the rhetoric of “transatlanticism” openly commits espionage on Europe and treats its leaders with a fulcrum of political suspicion, as if they are paranoid that the European Union may make decisions against their interests. This is deeply ironic for an America which has strongarmed Europe arguing that Huawei, China and, of course, Russia, are all real “espionage” threats.

But with Washington now caught, the real question is, what is Europe going to do about it? What will change?

Whilst the European Union talks of matters such as “strategic autonomy” and idealizes itself as a unified, independent force for good in the world, the reality could not be further from the truth.

Espionage revelations are just the tip of the iceberg of a variety of ways in which the United States has, through its integration with Europe’s military and security dynamic, utilized a myriad of political tactics to strongarm the bloc into following its political will and agenda, even when it is apathetic or openly objects to it. The EU is ultimately just one institution amongst many on the continent competing for input on foreign policy agendas across 27 respective countries, which the US ultimately monopolizes through treaties, think-tanks, and discourse in the global media.

A very clear example of this is how the United States quickly drove a wedge between the EU and China when they sought to make their own separate treaty, the ‘EU-China comprehensive investment agreement’ (CAI), which Washington openly opposed.

Whilst American opposition to it otherwise may have seemed irrelevant or barking on the sidelines, the Biden administration were able to utilize the Xinjiang issue to obligate the EU to “pick a side” on a matter of human rights and subsequently join in coordinated sanctions on the matter, which quickly soured relations as Beijing retaliated. Mission accomplished; Europe fell into the trap. One may ultimately describe America’s approach to European countries not as being driven by good faith or solidarity, but by ‘keeping it on a leash’. The dog may pull increasingly in another direction, but stays on the same path as its owner.

The espionage dynamic ultimately ties into the same mindset: The United States sees the European Union more as an economic competitor than as a friend and does not in any respect want it to get ahead of them or gain “advantage” in any specific area.

The F-16 story above reveals how US intelligence in fact serves the interests of the military industrial complex, seeking out the secrets of Europe’s own defence industry and ensuring America always has the competitive edge, even to the point of making national intelligence agencies betray their own countries.

As Edward Snowden stated in an interview in 2014, the US engages in constant industrial espionage against big German companies such as Siemens, stating: “If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to US national interests – even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security – then they’ll take that information nevertheless.”

In line with this, Angela Merkel, as a very Eurocentric leader who has a maverick approach to foreign policy and Germany’s place in the world, is unsurprisingly a frequent target of American intelligence activities. Washington is constantly wondering what she is thinking, intending and doing, not least regarding China and Russia where they do not see eye to eye. She is perhaps a “frenemy” to the US, a de facto ally and enemy simultaneously. But this all boils down to the big question as stated above, what is Europe going to do about it? Or can they do anything about it? The EU’s response to such unending controversies seems to be to make a small protest in the heat of the moment, but otherwise forget it and do nothing, passively tolerating American infiltration designed to undermine European interests and competitiveness across the board.

If Europe is serious about upholding its own “strategic clout” it has to be prepared to take bigger risks and stop being pressed into line under the obligation of “transatlaticism” and get tougher on the “American problem.”

The bloc should take a leaf out of its rhetoric toward China and demand “reciprocity” in its relations with the United States, that it ceases espionage against them, seeks to curtail excessive “American influence” operations undermining their foreign policy and strategic independence and that it treats the continent as an equal and fair partner. Surely one would think ‘enough is enough’ but of course there is little reason to think anything will change.

In a world where US surveillance is intrusive and rampant, America still surprisingly gets away with accusing everyone else of “spying.”

Source: Tom Fowdy – RT

Header: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron (L) arrive for a joint press conference at the end of the European summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on July 21, 2020 . John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

British WHO scientist dismisses Wuhan lab COVID leak claims as ‘conspiracy theories’

A British scientist who took part in a World Health Organisation mission to investigate whether COVID leaked from a Wuhan laboratory has suggested that China had been “misunderstood” over its refusal to address growing suspicions about the origins of the disease.

Dr. Peter Daszak said he sympathised with the Chinese government for refusing to give “oxygen” to “conspiracy theories”, and cast doubt on US intelligence suggesting that three workers at the Wuhan lab fell ill shortly before the first recorded case of COVID-19.

It comes after Joe Biden, the US president, ordered his officials to redouble their efforts to investigate the origins of the pandemic, including any possibility that the search might lead to a Chinese laboratory.

British agents are understood to be assisting the investigation, and now believe it is “feasible” that the Wuhan lab may have been the source of the virus, according to reports.

Dr. Daszak, a leading zoologist, was a key member of the WHO team that decided it was “extremely unlikely” that COVID-19 had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after a three-week visit in January.

Critics suggested that the visit had been heavily stage-managed by Beijing after the scientists visited a propaganda museum detailing Wuhan’s fight against COVID-19 on their second day.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, later conceded that the team’s report was not “extensive enough” after 14 countries, including the US and UK, made a joint statement to express concerns over its conclusions.

Dr. Daszak has also been accused of an apparent conflict of interest after it emerged that his non-profit organisation EcoHealth Alliance had been funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology for years, and that he had collaborated with the institute’s Shi Zhengli to investigate and catalog bat coronaviruses across China.

Dr. Daszak told a podcast this week that he believed the Chinese had fallen victim to “conspiracy theories”, and he dismissed new intelligence reports as “political, not scientific”.

He added that he sympathised with the Chinese government, who have been repeatedly accused of refusing to cooperate with international investigators.

Speaking about his visit to Wuhan, Dr Daszak said:

“One thing that I learned from the lab director I thought was very interesting. We were asking him all these questions about – they call them rumours over there, we call them conspiracy theories. And he said, basically, we’ve not responded to those rumours, because if you do that, you give them oxygen.”

“So I think people misunderstand the Chinese, the Chinese government. Here’s a Chinese government worker, senior level, running a lab, not speaking up when they’re accused. The reason is, he stated quite clearly, they don’t want to give oxygen to these conspiracies. They’re all unfounded.”

Dr. Daszak also cast doubt on US intelligence suggesting that three workers at the Wuhan Institute had fallen ill shortly before the first patient with COVID-like symptoms was recorded in the city on December 8. 2019.

“There’s no evidence of hospitalisation, and it’s unclear what they were sick with,” he said. “It’s not something that you could really reasonably launch a major audit of.”

Dr. Daszak gained his worldwide reputation after turning Gerald Durrell’s conservation charity, previously known as The Wildlife Trust, into an organisation hunting down new viruses around the world.

Earlier this year it emerged that Dr Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance had funnelled money into research into coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology until funding was blocked by US authorities on safety grounds.

The National Institutes of Health said its $3.7 million (£2.8 million) grant to EcoHealth Alliance would be restored only if outside experts could establish whether staff had the COVID-19 virus “in their possession” prior to December 2019.

“Peter Daszak has conflicts of interest that unequivocally disqualify him from being part of an investigation of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,’ Richard Ebright, a bio-security expert and professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said at the time.

Dr. Daszak has previously rejected the suggestion that his connections to the lab would compromise his impartiality.

“My relationship with China, my work here, my connections to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Shi Zhengli are very well known. And they’re really well known because I’ve spent 20 years or 15 years publishing the data. I think that’s a pretty worthwhile thing that we’ve been doing,” he said in March.

On Sunday a government minister said the World Health Organisation must be allowed to fully investigate the origins of the COVID pandemic after the Sunday Times reported that British agents now believe it is “feasible” that the crisis began with a coronavirus leak from the Wuhan research laboratory.

The newspaper reported that the development, which Beijing has angrily denied, has prompted US diplomatic sources to share their concerns that “we are one wet market or bio lab away from the next spillover”.

Nadim Zahawi, the UK’s vaccine minister, said: “I think the WHO at every step of the way has tried to share as much data with the world as it is able to verify.”

“This is a very difficult situation, as we’ve seen around the world, not just in the WHO but in our own country, with our own evidence gathering, and of course advice, and in other countries, every country, whether it’s Singapore or Australia or New Zealand or elsewhere.

“We have all had to collect evidence and then act upon it and I think it is only right that the WHO is allowed to conduct its investigation unencumbered to be able for all of us to understand and be able to deal with future pandemics.”

Source: Bill Gardner – THE TELEGRAPH

Chief justice slams Knesset speaker’s attacks on High Court, warns of ‘anarchy’

Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut delivered a sharp rebuke Monday to what she termed the “dangerous and irresponsible” criticism of the court delivered last week by various right-wing politicians, including Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, after the court ruled against legislation passed by the parliament last year.

Speaking at the annual Israeli Bar Association conference in Eilat, Hayut railed against what she described as “blatant attacks and accusations that sometimes border on actual incitement.”

Decrying Levin’s suggestion that the court was instigating a “coup,” she said such statements undermine the rule of law and could lead to “anarchy and chaos.”

Several prominent politicians, led by Likud’s Levin, excoriated the court last week after it issued a ruling that seemed to claim for itself the authority to overturn quasi-constitutional Basic Laws passed by the Knesset. The 6-3 ruling said last year’s legislation that allowed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue funding state agencies without passing a state budget was a “misuse of the Knesset’s authority.”

Levin had said in response to the ruling: “The High Court decision to issue a ‘notice of invalidation’ to a Basic Law is a decision without any authority. It’s shocking. We’re witnessing an insane event in which six people are wrapping themselves in judicial robes in order to carry out a coup.”

He vowed to “stand with all my strength against this attempt to cancel our democracy,” and to “defend the stature and authority of the Knesset.”

Hayut on Monday said trust in the court was central to the functioning of Israeli democracy.

“The judiciary is an island of stability in this time of great upheaval, although unfortunately there are those who have set themselves the goal of harming it and weakening it,” she said. “This trend is reflected, among other things, in blatant attacks and accusations that sometimes border on actual incitement.”

Hayut said the attacks “are not just in the domain of private individuals and tweeters in various social networks,” but are also, “to my great sadness, voiced by elected officials.”

“When a public servant allows himself to describe a court ruling as a ‘crazy event’ or a ‘coup,’ it teaches us more about what they say than about the court,” she said.

“There are elected officials who allow themselves to call for disrespect and disobedience to rulings that are not to their liking. In these irresponsible calls lies a great danger, which it is important to warn against and say most clearly: Undermining the legitimacy of the courts and its rulings undermines the principle of the rule of law and from there, it’s not a long path to anarchy and chaos.”

During the same conference, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit echoed her sentiments, saying of the criticism leveled against the court: “These are irresponsible statements which undermine the basis for our coexistence here as a democratic society.”

Doubling down, Levin said in a statement that Hayut and Mandelblit’s comments were “an attempt to prepare for the new judicial revolution, whose purpose is the final transfer of legislative powers from the Knesset to the Supreme Court.”

He declared that “the attempt to delegitimize and intimidate those who stand firmly in order to protect the Knesset and democracy is doomed to fail.”

The court ruling on the budget extension marked the latest round in a long-running fight between liberals and conservatives over the powers of the High Court and the status of the Basic Laws.

Israel has no formal, explicit constitution, and the standing of its Basic Laws has been a point of contention for decades between liberals and conservatives.

Under Israel’s Basic Laws, a government must pass a state budget for a fiscal year by the end of March; failing to do so, the law stipulates, results in an automatic dissolution of the Knesset and snap elections.

But Netanyahu refused to allow a budget law to advance throughout 2020, in order to avoid reaching the November 2021 deadline for handing Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz the premiership as part of a rotation deal they signed.

In the face of Netanyahu’s refusal, the Knesset twice — in March and again in August last year — voted to amend the Basic Laws to allow a one-off delay of that budget deadline, which was ultimately pushed off to late December 2020.

When the final date arrived without a budget agreement, the Knesset refused to legislate another extension, automatically dissolving itself and sending the country to its fourth election in two years. That election was held in March of this year, with results as indecisive as the previous three rounds.

Source: TOI

EU Commission advises states to ease border restrictions as COVID vaccination numbers rise

“As the epidemiological situation is improving and vaccination campaigns are speeding up all over the EU, the Commission is proposing that Member States gradually ease travel measures, including most importantly for the holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate,” declared the Commission on Monday.

It also proposed an “emergency brake” system to border travel should new variants of COVID-19 start to rise, which would quickly reintroduce restrictions “if the epidemiological situation deteriorates rapidly.”

The commission advised that those with a “vaccination certificate” – more commonly known as a “vaccine passport” – should be exempt from “travel-related testing or quarantine 14 days after having received the last dose.”

European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders noted that the past several weeks “have brought a continuous downward trend in infection numbers, showing the success of the vaccination campaigns across the EU,” and expressed his hope that the member states would work together using the vaccine certificate system to make freedom of movement possible again.

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides also praised freedom of movement between states as one of the EU’s “most cherished rights,” adding, “We need coordinated and predictable approaches for our citizens that would offer clarity and avoid inconsistent requirements across Member States.”

Freedom of movement in the European Union allows residents in one member state to easily travel, work, and live in another state.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, over 234,000,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the European Union and European Economic Area, with Germany, France, Italy, and Spain receiving the most doses from manufacturers.

32,364,274 “cases” of COVID-19 have been recorded in the European Union and Economic Area since the start of the pandemic, with 720,358 deaths.

Source: RT

Study: People infected with COVID are likely immune for life

Patients who recovered from COVID-19 infections likely develop long-term immunity against the virus that could last for their entire lives, a new study shows – even if the infection was only mild.

According to the study entitled “SARS-CoV-2 infection induces long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in humans”, which was published in the British journal Nature last week, immunity to the SARS-COVID-2 virus remains robust in individuals who experienced natural infection, even when there was a dramatic decline in measured serum antibody levels.

The researchers, led by Washington University immunologist Ali Ellebedy, tracked antibody production in 77 recovered COVID-19 patients, including many who had experienced only mild cases of the disease.

Natural infection prompted a strong antibody response initially, the researchers found, though antibody levels declined rapidly starting roughly four-months after infection was reported.

This finding mirrored the results of other studies, which demonstrated a dramatic drop in serum antibody levels three to five months after natural infection.

However, the new study found that after the rapid decline in serum antibody levels which began at around four months from the time of infection, detectable antibody levels began to stabilize by the 11th month, with antibodies to the COVID-2 spike protein still at measurable levels eleven months after infection.

To understand the continued presence of antibodies in the blood stream, researchers tested other components of the subjects’ immune system, taking bone marrow samples and memory B cells.

Eighty-three percent of the 18 subjects who gave bone marrow samples seven to eight months after infection had detectable levels of bone marrow plasma cells which produced antibodies for SARS-COVID-2.

A follow up five of the subjects who gave bone marrow samples found that all five had stable levels of bone marrow plasma cells for COVID-2 months after the first sample was taken.

“This is a very important observation,” said Rafi Ahmed, an immunologist at Emory University who was part of the team which discovered BMPCs.

In contrast to natural infection, the long-term effects of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine on immunity remain unclear.

“My presumption is, we will need a booster,” said Ellebedy.

A study from Emory Vaccine Center in 2020 suggested while some vaccines against childhood illnesses promote long-lasting immunity, the immunity provided by influenza vaccines lasts only a matter of months.

“We could see that these new antibodies expanded in the bone marrow one month after vaccination and then contracted after one year. On the other hand, antibodies against influenza that were in the bone marrow before the vaccine was given stayed at a constant level over one year,” said Dr. Carl Davis, the lead author of the 2020 study.

“What this shows is that just getting to the bone marrow is not enough,” Ahmed says.

“A plasma cell has to find a niche within the bone marrow and establish itself there, and undergo gene expression and metabolism changes that promote longevity.”

Previous studies on immunity to the COVID-SARS-2 virus developed by natural infection found extremely low rates of reinfection among recovered individuals even after the drop in antibody levels starting four months after infection.

A study in Qatar in 2020 found that of the 43,044 subjects who were tracked for up to 35 weeks, just 0.02% were reinfected. The study also found that those subjects who were reinfected usually experienced less severe cases of the disease.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Ehud Barak: ‘Bennett has courageously jumped into the pool’

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak congratulated Yamina Chairman MK Naftali Bennett for his decision to form a government together with the center-left parties.

“These are critical days,” Barak said. “But there is a future, and in our hearts, a new hope. Bennett has courageously jumped into the pool. [New Hope Chairman MK Gideon] Sa’ar is strong and cool. [Yesh Atid Chairman MK Yair] Lapid is navigating wisely and nobly.”

In Hebrew, “Yesh Atid” literally means, “There is a future.”

Barak added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “pathetic and desperate, but is still dangerous. The protest, without which nothing would have happened, is kicking and responding quickly and precisely.”

“Netanyahu and those who suck up to him – get out! Men of change – perfecting the world starts inside the home.”

“Good luck,” he added.

MK Nitzan Horowitz praised the new government, saying that “most of the public is not confused by Netanyahu’s babble. It’s incitement and a pile of lies. He’s full of panic. A serious person listening to this understands that he’s in trouble.”

Source: Arutz Sheva

Israel’s political predicaments

The proposed government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid reminds one of a schmorgasbord table that is filled with food – kosher and non-kosher, meat and milk, and not quite separate and distinct. You don’t know where to start eating or whether or not to start eating. It looks tempting but the probability of eating treif is as likely as that of eating kosher. Without a mashgiach it is impossible and even with a mashgiach it is inadvisable. It is thus best to walk away.

The motivation for such a government is certainly understandable. A society cannot forever endure political instability. Four elections in a parliamentary system in a divided country have produced gridlock and the likelihood of further elections ending this morass in a decisive way is quite remote.

As long as PM Netanyahu leads Likud, the result will be electoral paralysis.

He will always win the largest number of mandates but so far, it seems that never quite enough to form a government.

Let’s face it. Netanyahu has many achievements to his credit.

He has served longer in office than did Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the United States.

Millions of people cannot imagine another individual as prime minister.

He kept the country relatively safe and presided over unprecedented peace and prosperity.

His relations with world leaders is unparalleled, as is his ability to exploit opportunities in the Arab world, Russia, China and with friendly Western countries such as the United States, as well as knowing how to survive hostile administrations.

All this should be acknowledged, but is not, by those people whose hatred for him blinds and cripples them.

Nevertheless, it must be conceded that he is a flawed individual.

At the top of his list of defects is that Netanyahu is a bad breaker-upper. Too many people who have worked for him and closely with him despise him and that has created the current gridlock.

If there is a villain in this muddle, it is Gideon Saar whose refusal to join a Netanyahu government precludes the establishment of a right-wing government that reflects the overwhelming majority of the population. But Saar is just one of many politicians and personalities whose relationship with Netanyahu has collapsed.

If Likud polls in the 30’s as the largest party, it is never going to matter if tens of other Knesset members refuse to work with him.

He, of course, is further hampered by the ongoing criminal trials against him that may not end for years.

The wheels of (in)justice do grind slowly.

Truth be told, the PM’s record is not unblemished.

He has always been coy towards the right wing, fully embracing their ideology only during elections.

He was for the Expulsion in Gaza before he was against it.

He endorsed the two-state delusion before he (sort of) walked away from it.

His record on settlement building is decidedly mixed, always talking bombastically but without the deeds to match the rhetoric.

No one campaigns from the right better than he does but campaigning is not governing.

He has allowed Jewish outposts to be brutally destroyed but has turned a blind eye to illegal building in the Arab sector.

He did a lot for Israel – but he could have expanded Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria even more, could have reined in the Supreme Court with limiting legislation, could have cracked down on the illegal weapons and crime among Israeli Arabs, could have expanded the Israeli housing market so there is availability other than luxury homes, etc. The latter could have been accomplished by building more homes in Judea and Samaria, and that is a missed opportunity and remains an unsolved problem.

Netanyahu also has the habit of attacking his opponents with his own flaws.

He has accused Bennett and Saar of enabling a left-wing government – but didn’t he do that in the past with less radical leftists Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and Benny Gantz?

He accused Bennett of wanting to form a government with Yair Lapid – but didn’t he do that in 2013?

He accuses the new team of seeking to rely on Arab votes for its viability – but didn’t he just to do the same thing? He accused Bennett of being obsessed with becoming prime minister at all costs – but isn’t he obsessed with being prime minister at all costs?

All politicians should occasionally look in the mirror so they know whom they are really addressing when they become the most passionate.

What Netanyahu must hate most about Bennett is that Bennett reminds him, too much, of himself.

That being said, the dangers and opportunities of this hybrid government are enormous.

There are lines a Netanyahu led government would never cross, which they can easily do. Their only common denominator is hatred of Netanyahu, which might help form a government but certainly not guide or sustain it.

If a Minister of Transport Michaeli decides to destroy Shabbat by having public transportation and commerce or if a Minister of Finance Liberman squeezes Torah education by freezing money to Yeshivot, then Bennett will rightly suffer lifelong ignominy. If a left wing government legalizes same sex marriage or imports some other madness from the Western world, then he will be to blame.

Recall that the very first item on Yamina’s original platform, is to strengthen Jewish identity and the Jewish religious heritage in the land of Israel.

If a Bennett led government weakens Torah and Jewish identity – indeed, heads a government that lacks sefardic and religious Jews – that too would be shameful, and the price paid to him in future elections pales before the contempt Jewish history will have for him.

Yet, there are advantages to such a government as well, assuming religious life is not devastated by it, and they bear some reflection.

A cult of personality is damaging in any environment, religious or political. No politician should ever think he is indispensable. Democracy is reinvigorated, even safeguarded, by the presence of new blood.

A Netanyahu forced out of office is unlikely to return and a new era in Israeli politics begins.

Due credit, on balance, will be accorded him for his long and mostly successful tenure. A Bennett-Lapid government will have the benefit of dealing with a Biden administration that does not know them, that has been gearing up to pressure Netanyahu and will not quite know how to handle a right-winger and centrist, both on record as opposing the two-state delusion. Such an inherently unstable government may not be able to make any concessions at all, and will be bolstered by its right-wing opposition. But, if allowed by its leftist members, such a government may be able to deal forcefully with Arab terror and threats to the security of Jews both foreign and domestic.

There is a way forward out of this discordant daze in which we live.

Obviously, if Netanyahu stepped down as head of Likud, and a new leader – say, for argument’s sake, Nir Barkat – was appointed, a right-wing government would be formed in 30 minutes.

But as that won’t happen in the short term, here is what might (should?) happen.

Assume that the Bennett- Lapid government is sworn in with the support of four Arab mandates.

Imagine this scenario: Ten members of Likud can then break away, form their own faction, join the government, and there is already a sizable Jewish majority.

Then, one or two of the religious parties can join the government as well, which obviates the need for Labor and/or Meretz to control any portfolios (but means they will leave).

The end result is a right-wing government, respectful of Torah and tradition, strong and resolute, but including Lapid and Liberman who, like it or not, do represent a sizable part of the Israel electorate.

In two years we can worry about what will happen in two years, which is an eternity in Israeli politics (or, recently, the equivalent of four election cycles).

That being said, it will be shocking if Bennett, after his public promises, and Lapid are able to form a new government this week, and if they do, doubly shocking if it lasts even six months.

But they will have achieved their real primary goal, for better or for worse, of ousting Netanyahu from power.

Original: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky via Arutz Sheva

PM Netanyahu’s tempting offer to Ayelet Shaked

MK Ayelet Shaked, number two on Yamina’s list, recently received an offer from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be his number two and to receive the Foreign Ministry, Arutz Sheva has discovered.

A spokesperson for Shaked responded: “MK Shaked worked more than anyone else to form a right-wing government. She has no intention of paying attention to all sorts of offers, which were immediately dismissed.”

“Yamina is working and will continue to work as one united party to prevent fifth elections, which are the most destructive and damaging thing for the citizens of the State of Israel.”

Meanwhile, Yamina and New Hope disagree on whose fault it is that a right-wing government has not been formed. According to sources in New Hope, Yamina chief MK Naftali Bennett is at fault for preventing such a government, Kan News reported.

Sources in Yamina have claimed that New Hope MKs Gideon Sa’ar, Ze’ev Elkin, and Yoaz Hendel acted out of fear when they refused to accept Netanyahu’s offer. The New Hope party, meanwhile, responded that “these statements do not reflect the party’s stance.”

Source: Arutz Sheva

Haredi lawmakers planning alternative gov’t without the Left?

Haredi lawmakers are working to prevent the formation of a unity government including the Yamina and New Hope factions with the Left and Avidgor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, Arutz Sheva has learned.

Haredi faction officials have told Arutz Sheva that following Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett’s declaration Sunday night that he plans to form a unity government with Yesh Atid, haredi lawmakers proposed an alternative plan to New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar.

Under the proposed plan, a new coalition government of 61 MKs would be formed without either the Likud or the left-wing Meretz and Labor parties.

Yisrael Beytenu and the United Arab List would also be excluded from the arrangement.

Center-left factions including Blue and White and Yesh Atid, however, would be included, along with the two haredi factions – United Torah Judaism and Shas – the New Hope, Yamina, and the Religious Zionist Party.

Furthermore, MK Ofir Sofer, a member of the National Union party who was given a slot on the Likud list in the previous election, would be integrated into the government as part of the Religious Zionist Party.

The proposed government would have a barebones majority of 61 MKs, and while it would address the opposition factions’ refusal to sit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it would likely also raise serious issues of religion and state, which divide Yesh Atid and the religious parties.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Bennett’s decision is ‘a disaster,’ Prof. Yisrael Aumann says

Professor Yisrael Aumann, Nobel Prize laureate, has expressed disappointment in the Yamina party, criticizing its chairman, MK Naftali Bennett, and his number two, MK Ayelet Shaked, for their decision to form a government with Yesh Atid and the center-left.

Speaking to Channel 20, Aumann said: “The processes [led] by Bennett and Shaked are a disaster. I am disappointed.”

He added that such a government is “warping democracy, since most of the nation voted for the Right. It’s very bad that they will form a leftist government, and that they need to rely on [United Arab List Chairman MK Mansour] Abbas and Meretz.”

“What Bennett did isn’t good. Bennett promised that he would not sit in a government headed by [Yesh Atid Chairman MK Yair] Lapid, and to a certain degree he led the nation on.”

MK Gideon Sa’ar, who chairs New Hope, “promised that he would not join a government led by [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, and it seems he is keeping his word, unlike all the other politicians, so I say ‘good for him.’ Not for what he said, but for that he is keeping his word.”

“I have already written twice in the Makor Rishon newspaper, that it is time Netanyahu step off the stage and allow a right-wing government, and say, ‘I have done enough.’ At the end of the day, he was an amazing prime minister.”

Source: Arutz Sheva

Google, Amazon, and Israel in the New America

America is changing before our eyes. But the Israeli Finance Ministry apparently hasn’t paid it any mind.

Last week, the head of procurement at the Finance Ministry’s Accountant General’s Office formally announced that Amazon and Google had won the government tender to provide cloud services to the government as Israel moves forward with the first phase of the Nimbus Project.

Tender bids submitted by Microsoft and Oracle were rejected.

The Nimbus Project is a massive, multiyear project that will replace the data management infrastructure of government ministries and the IDF.

To date, government ministries have used decentralized servers and dozens of independently operating websites to house and manage their data.

The Nimbus Project will move all government computing data and applications to commercial clouds provided by technology giants.

When the government computer systems migrate to Google and Amazon’s data clouds, these firms will manage all of official Israel’s non-classified data and computerized applications.

This will include everything from government and military payrolls to welfare payments, to government pensions. It will include the medical files of all Israelis. It will include their personal and corporate tax returns.

It’s possible that from the technical and financial perspectives, the General Accountant’s tender committee’s decision to award the cloud contracts to Google and Amazon was reasonable. The two corporations are the industry leaders in cloud technologies. But even on the technical and financial levels, there are differing opinions about the committee’s decision.

Oracle’s bid was allegedly lower than those submitted by Google and Amazon.

Moreover, the tender requires that the clouds be physically located inside of Israel.

Oracle and Microsoft have both built cloud centers in Israel. Oracle’s is set to open in August and Microsoft’s is scheduled to open in January 2022.

Google and Amazon, for their part, have yet to begin building their data centers, so for the next two years, and more likely the next three-four years, contrary to the stipulations of the tender, Israel’s government and IDF data will be housed in Europe.

Then there is the issue of redundancy. The trend today among governments and large corporations is to spread their data out among several cloud providers. Israel could have chosen to award the contract to all four companies and kept costs lower by forcing them to compete over pricing every year. Redundancy in cloud servers also lowers the risks of sabotage and technical failures that can lead to loss of data or failure of computing systems.

At any rate, assuming the tender committee followed the best practices from both financial and technical perspectives in granting the cloud contract to Google and Amazon exclusively, the decision is disconcerting all the same.

The problem is not financial or technological.

The problem with Google and Amazon is cultural.

The organizational culture of both corporations raises significant questions about the wisdom of granting them exclusive control over Israel’s government data for the next seven years.

During this month’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” some 250 Google employees who identified as anti-Zionist Jews wrote a letter to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai.

They began by asking that Google reject the determination that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and that the company fund Palestinian organizations.

The “Jewish Diaspora in Tech” called for “Google leadership to make a company-wide statement recognizing violence in Palestine and Israel, which must include direct recognition of the harm done to Palestinian Arabs by Israeli military and gang violence.”

Then they turned to the Nimbus contract.

“We request a review of all … business contracts and corporate donations and the termination of contracts with institutions that support Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, such as the Israeli Defense Forces.”

Shortly after the Google employees published their letter, some five hundred Amazon employees entered the anti-Israel fray.

They signed a letter that was almost identical to the Google employees’ letter. They called for Amazon to reject the definition of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. They insisted that Israel is a racist colonial project and that the land of Israel belongs to the Palestinian Arabs. They called for Amazon to financially support Palestinian organizations. And they asked that the firm “commit to review and sever business contracts and corporate donations with companies, organizations, and/or governments that are active or complicit in human rights violations, such as the Israeli Defense Forces.”

Another employee group, called “Amazon Employees for Climate Justice,” tweeted a long chain of posts denouncing the company’s participation in the Nimbus Project. Among other things, they wrote, “We stand in solidarity with Palestinians who went on a historic general strike to protest Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza. Amazon and Google recently signed a $1B deal supporting Israel’s military. Amazon is complicit in state killings and human rights abuses.

“Amazon’s workers didn’t sign up to work on projects that support militaries and policing forces. We didn’t sign up to be complicit in state killings and human rights abuses in the US, Israel, and around the world,” they concluded.

The workers’ protests in both companies are deadly serious.

In 2018, Google employees discovered that the company was working with the Pentagon to develop an artificial intelligence system to improve the accuracy of U.S. military drones. Some 4,000 Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, signed a petition to Pichai demanding that Google end its involvement in the project. As they put it, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.”

Google management caved to the pressure and canceled the contract with the Defense Department.

In January, Amazon canceled its cloud service contract with the social media platform Parler, which was identified with Republicans.

Amazon justified the move by claiming that Parler contained “violent content.” The fact that violent content is also contained on other social media platforms—including Amazon itself—was neither here nor there.

Notable as well is the fact that Amazon’s CEO and founder Jeff Bezos is a close friend of musician Brian Eno. Like Roger Waters, Eno is a prominent proponent of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign that seeks to boycott Israel and demonize and silence its Jewish supporters worldwide.

The senior officials at the Finance Ministry, the National Cyber Authority and the Defense Ministry who granted Google and Amazon the government and IDF cloud contracts may simply not understand the dire implications for Israel’s national security posed by the antagonistic positions of some Google and Amazon employees.

In a press conference this week, the heads of the Finance Ministry actually presented these statements as testaments to the credibility of the contracts. The fact that the leaders of Google and Amazon signed the deal with Israel despite the hatred their employees express towards the Jewish state is proof of the companies’ commitment to the project, they insisted.

The Finance Ministry added that there is no cause for concern because the contracts require that Google and Amazon set up subsidiary firms in Israel to actually manage the clouds. As Israeli registered companies, the subsidiaries will be bound to the requirements of Israeli law. And as such, they will have no option of sabotaging the work or otherwise breaching the contract, no matter how anti-Israel the Google and Amazon employees outside of Israel may be.

The problem with this argument is that the subsidiaries in Israel will be wholly owned by their mother corporations.

All of their equipment will be owned by Google and Amazon in the United States.

If the mother corporations decide to pull the plug on the Nimbus contract, the local subsidiaries will be powerless to maintain them.

The same Google management that blew off the artificial intelligence project with the Pentagon three years ago to satisfy their workers should be expected to repeat their actions in the future.

If their employees unite to demand that Google abrogate the Nimbus contract, management can be expected to absorb a few hundred million dollars in losses to keep their workers happy.

The polarization of opinion on Israel that we are witnessing in American politics between Republicans who support Israel and Democrats who oppose Israel is an expression of a much larger division within American society. The heartbreaking but undeniable fact is that today you can’t talk about “America” as a single political entity.

Today there are two Americas, and they cannot abide one another.

One America—Traditional America—loves Israel and America. The other America—New America—hates Israel and doesn’t think much of America, either.

Traditional America believes that the United States brought the promise of liberty to the world and that even though it is far from perfect, the United States is the greatest country in human history. In the eyes of the citizens of Traditional America, Israel is a kindred nation and the United States’ best friend and most valued ally in the Middle East.

New America, by contrast, believes that America was born in the sin of slavery. New Americans insist America will remain evil and an object of scorn at home and abroad so long it refuses to exchange its values of liberty, capitalism, equal opportunity and patriotism with the values of racialism and equity, socialism, equality of outcome, and globalization. For New Americans, just as the United States was born in the sin of white supremacy, so Israel was born in the sin of Zionism. In New America, Israel will have no right to exist so long as it clings to its Jewish national identity, refusing to become a “state of all its citizens.”

New America’s power isn’t limited to its control over the White House and Congress.

It also controls much of corporate America.

Under the slogan, “Stakeholder Capitalism,” corporate conglomerates whose leaders are New Americans use their economic power to advance the political and cultural agendas of New America. We saw stakeholder capitalism at work in March following the Georgia statehouse’s passage of a law requiring voters to present identification at polling places. Major League Baseball, Coca Cola, Delta and American Airlines among others announced that they would boycott the state, denying jobs to thousands of Georgians in retaliation.

Silicon Valley is the Ground Zero of Stakeholder Capitalism. Its denizens are the loudest and most powerful proponents of using technological and economic power to advance the political and cultural agendas of New America.

Microsoft and Oracle are appealing the Nimbus tender award.

They are basing their appeals on what they describe as technical and other flaws in the tender process.

Israel should view their appeals as an opportunity to reverse course.

In light of New America’s hostility towards Israel generally, and given the proven power of Google and Amazon employees and their expressed antagonism towards Israel, the Finance Ministry should reconsider the tender award.

Technical considerations aside, the decision to grant Google and Amazon exclusive control over the State of Israel’s computer data did not give sufficient weight to all the relevant variables.

Source: Caroline Glick via Arutz Sheva

Major Asian countries consider NSR an alternative to the Suez Canal

The largest Asian countries consider the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as an alternative to the Suez Canal, the head of the Russian Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, Alexei Chekunkov, said at the ministry’s board on Friday.

The route along the Northern Sea Route is 40% shorter.

“The largest Asian countries consider the NSR as an alternative to the congested Suez Canal transport corridor between Asia and Europe. The route along the NSR is 40% shorter and takes 7 days faster by open water,” the minister said.

He noted that the NSR is a “cross-cutting issue” for the development of the Russian Arctic and stressed that the strategy for the development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation provides for the creation of a new infrastructure and fleet to turn the Northern Sea Route into an international transport corridor.

Chekunkov also recalled that Russian shipyards are building five nuclear icebreakers capable of providing year-round passage of ships along the NSR.

Together with the development of port infrastructure and the introduction of a new navigation system, this will allow fulfilling the instructions of the Russian President and increasing the cargo turnover along the Northern Sea Route to 80 mln tonnes per year by 2024.

Source: TASS