Belated Justice for the Mother Teresa Tank Brigade in Jenin

Nissim Meghnagi, who filed a defamation suit against Mohammed Bakri, director of the film “Jenin, Jenin,” told Yedioth Ahronoth, “When I checked before the trial who from among our brigade had seen the film, I discovered that no one had seen it. Everyone I know wanted to disconnect, to forget about it.”

That’s interesting, given that Maj. (res.) Yisrael Caspi, who had been there, said, “We fought like Mother Teresa, a compassionate nurse.”

If that was the case, one would expect that all the soldiers in the battalion would be running to visit those whom they treated like a compassionate nurse.

But deep inside everyone knows that something terrible happened there, about which it’s best to keep mum.

The Jenin refugee camp was opened in 1953, and most of its residents are refugees from the Carmel region in Haifa. When the Israeli army occupied the camp in 2003, some 15,000 refugees lived there in difficult conditions on 473 dunams (184 acres), dreaming of when they’d no longer be refugees. I’m asking not as a Palestinian or a Jew, but simply as a human being: What should a soldier do when he is facing a besieged camp with the world’s most advanced weapons, and his aim is to subdue unfortunate people who have decided not to surrender and add another tier to the tragedy that has been unfolding since 1948?

A few months ago there was an answer. Hallel Rabin, a young Jewish girl, decided not to sink into the morass of the occupation. Why should she be there when her comrades were poised to commit acts that would lead to death and destruction? Any rational person, not just a moral one, would tell himself: Get away from there, don’t be a hero on the bodies of the weak, don’t even be Mother Teresa if you’re coming in a tank. After all, the real Mother Teresa comes while wiping away a tear, and in a moment would offer assistance.

The occupation culture has created soldiers who seek to cause a tornado of destruction and emerge from it without a speck of dust on their uniforms. This ambition has been present since the beginning, since the glorified 1948 generation, which today turns out to have been a generation of thieves.

Purging one’s conscience is pitiful. The soldiers who wanted to cleanse themselves of what Teddy Katz attributed to them in his academic work forgot to explain how the expulsion of all the residents of Tantura village took place under the sights of their pure arms. What’s important, even if there was no massacre, was that they sent these distressed people to the sites of eventual slaughter. Egyptian writer Radwa Ashour tells of residents of Tantura who ended up being killed in Sabra and Chatila.

In Jenin “only” 52 of the 15,000 refugees were killed.

A similar proportion in Gaza, which has 2 million people, would be 7,000 dead. An entire neighborhood was bulldozed. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers were also killed on foreign soil; young people for whom a different future beckoned, far from death.

I would have expected that these commanders would do some soul searching and ask themselves why they were there, on land that wasn’t theirs. In their place I wouldn’t be analyzing four minutes of a film in which an old man, shocked by the death and destruction, tells of what he saw and heard – which, naturally, given the trauma, would tend toward exaggeration. If only four minutes are the problem, the other 50 minutes are the whole truth.

But there’s no chance that these commanders will ever make a personal accounting. He who calls Bakri “a piece of dreck hiding behind Israeli citizenship” or complains that he’s getting “national insurance” has national supremacy implanted deep in his heart and will remain obtuse, not understanding what he did, even without those four minutes.

Even after winning their case, these commanders cannot take pride about being there while the camp was bleeding.

By contrast, Bakri can tell his grandchildren that during the moment of truth, he served as a voice for traumatized people who had no voice.

Source: Odeh Bisharat – HAARETZ

How Israel built a Nuclear Program right under the Americans’ noses

In a recent op-ed piece in this newspaper, we revealed that Henry Kissinger, then a professor of government at Harvard University, at the conclusion of a private visit in Israel in January 1965, shared with U.S. diplomats in Tel Aviv his conviction “that Israel is already embarked on a nuclear weapons construction program.”

While the record of the discussion does not tell us what impact that observation had on Kissinger’s audience, much less how he had reached that conclusion, as contemporary historians, we know that the statement was in sharp contrast with the U.S. government’s uncertain state of knowledge of the Israeli nuclear program. While suspicions abounded, during this period the U.S. government never had definitive evidence, let alone conclusive proof, that Israel was seeking a nuclear military capability.

Other declassified U.S. documents from the period reveal that senior U.S. officials were puzzled about the state and future direction of the Israeli nuclear complex at Dimona.

Suspicions notwithstanding, the most recent prior U.S. inspection at Dimona, on January 30, 1965 – only two days prior to Kissinger’s briefing at the embassy – reported that it found no “weapons-related activities” at the site, and also suggested that the Dimona complex was in a state of institutional slowdown and budget cuts, with morale among staff low.

To assess what the state of U.S. knowledge about Dimona was at the time, one must revisit the barely known U.S. visits to Dimona during the early- to mid-1960s. That requires drawing on a range of formerly classified documents, some of them made available only recently. Thus, it becomes possible to identify, in retrospect, the sources of the American errors in their assessment of the Dimona project. And err the Americans did.

When John F. Kennedy became president, in 1961, he made it a priority to have U.S. scientists visit the Dimona complex regularly to check suspicions that the Israelis aimed to develop nuclear weapons capabilities.

As we detailed in Haaretz last year, such visits began in May 1961, but tensions over them began to grow in the spring and summer of 1963, when Kennedy engaged, first, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and then his successor, Levi Eshkol, in a battle of letters intended to force them to accept visits of U.S. scientists to Dimona on a twice-yearly basis. By late summer 1963, Eshkol, who had become premier on June 26, agreed that U.S. scientists would have “periodic visits” to the Dimona plant.

When the U.S. team visited Dimona in January 1964, construction of most of the complex was either complete or near completion. Indeed, the reactor had reached criticality, with its nuclear fuel sustaining controlled chain reactions. That made the visit important for constituting a baseline for future evaluations.

The one-day visit lasted about 11 hours. Subsequently, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission reported to the U.S. Intelligence Board that the “team believes that all significant facilities at this site were inspected.”

The team’s overall assessment was consistent with the way their Israeli hosts characterized the site. Like its predecessors in 1961 and 1962, the 1964 team believed that the Dimona complex was designed to be an advanced national research and training center, civilian in nature, whose purpose – at least then – was to acquire expertise in all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. The rationale: Israel was preparing itself for the age of civilian-use nuclear power.

The U.S. team’s readiness to accept the Israeli story was already manifest in the first American visit to Dimona in May 1961.

It was then that Israel provided both the rationale and the narrative for Dimona as a peaceful project. Manes Pratt, the center’s founder and director, presented it as an “interim stage” on Israel’s path toward nuclear power. The presentation of Dimona’s master plan as intended for peaceful use only was consistent with Ben-Gurion’s pledges, including one he personally conveyed to Kennedy two weeks later, during their meeting in New York. Ever since, the U.S. teams had continued to view Dimona as essentially a civilian-scientific enterprise, believing that, as the first team reported, following the 1961 tour, “nothing had been concealed from them.”

In 1964, then, the team’s bottom line was, just as it had been in 1961, that the site lacked the necessary facilities – for plutonium recovery and reprocessing – required for a weapons program.

As the team put it, “Israel, without outside assistance, would not be able to produce its first nuclear device until two or three years after a decision to do so, that is, the time required to construct plutonium separation facilities and fabricate a device.”

While the 1964 team determined that Dimona’s mission was currently a peaceful one, it left with the impression “that the Dimona site and the equipment located there represented an ambitious project for a country with Israel’s capabilities.”

The reference to “ambitious” reflected the Israelis’ open desire to gain self-sufficiency in virtually all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Nine months later, in late September 1964, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Tel Aviv was instructed to meet Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, for the purpose of setting a date for the next U.S. visit to Dimona, which the State Department hoped would occur sometime in October. Perhaps trying to avoid an inspection altogether, Eshkol did not respond to the American requests and then bypassed the embassy altogether by dispatching a personal message to President Johnson – via a U.S. go-between, presidential adviser Myer (Mike) Feldman – requesting to postpone the next Dimona visit until after Israel’s upcoming planned election, in November 1965.

Eshkol cited concerns that a leak of the visit would undermine his political standing. Somewhat jokingly, Eshkol told Feldman (or wrote to Johnson via Feldman) that “there is no possibility that the Dimona reactor could be converted to military purposes in so short a period of time.”

Eshkol’s request stirred suspicions in Washington. On October 23, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy directed the State Department, the CIA and the AEC to explore both the political and technical implications of the request.

In a joint memorandum, those agencies did not accept Eshkol’s reasoning. Indeed, State Department officials saw it as a “pretext.”

A key question was whether the Israelis could use the two-year time lag – from January 1964 to January 1966 – to build the “missing link” that would be needed for production of weapons, i.e., a chemical separation plant for producing plutonium at the Dimona site.

(Also called a reprocessing plant, such a facility is intended to take irradiated, or spent, uranium rods from a reactor and extract plutonium from them via a series of highly toxic chemical operations.) The technical analysts believed so, noting that the Israelis already had enough uranium on hand that if, during those two years, they operated the reactor at a “power level designed to maximize plutonium production, it could produce 6 to 12 KGs of plutonium.” That would have been enough to produce material for up to “two test devices.”

Shaping the U.S. technical assessment was the explicit – but erroneous – assumption that Israel lacked a chemical separation plant on-site. Creation of such a facility, so the assumption went, would require a new top-level political decision. Once such a decision had been taken, roughly another two years would be needed to build the plant. Thus, hypothetically, if Israel had started with such steps soon after the previous inspection, in January 1964, a plant could have been operational by about January 1966.

The only way to determine whether the Israelis had taken any steps toward reprocessing plutonium would be through onsite inspection.

In 1961, President Kennedy learned directly from Ben-Gurion that Israel had plans to build “a pilot reprocessing plant” in three or four years to produce plutonium as a reactor fuel, but the Israeli leader had stressed that the Dimona complex was solely peaceful.

At the time of the January 1964 visit, however, the Israelis told the U.S. team that they had delayed indefinitely the plans to construct the pilot plant, although they showed them the space at Dimona where it would have been built.

Given the concern that the Israelis could build a reprocessing plant in the absence of a U.S. inspection, the AEC-CIA-State memo led Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Averell Harriman to conclude that an inspection should not be postponed. In a memo to Bundy, Harriman dismissed the credibility of Eshkol’s political argument, noting that Ben-Gurion had accepted a U.S. visit in 1961 and that deputy defense minister Shimon Peres was on board with Eshkol’s 1963 decision to allow visits. It is “our inability to fathom the argument for delay” that “heightens our security fears,” wrote Harriman. In contrast to Eshkol, who denied that Israel could “convert Dimona to military purposes in such a short time,” U.S. experts worried about exactly such a possibility. They considered a two-year period without inspections as “highly dangerous.”

Rather than reject Eshkol’s proposal outright, however, Harriman supported Ambassador Barbour’s proposed three-point compromise: 1) to have a U.S. visit in the next month or two, 2) “a waiver on the Israeli commitment [that the U.S. had assumed] of subsequent six-monthly visits until after the 1965 elections,” and 3) “an offer not to communicate the results of the visit to Nasser until after the November 1965 elections.”

On November 25, 1964, a presidential “oral message” based on Barbour’s compromise proposal was transmitted to the Tel Aviv Embassy.

While politely acknowledging Eshkol’s domestic problem, LBJ reiterated the importance of “semi-annual visits,” alleging (incorrectly) that they had been agreed to by Eshkol. He suggested having the upcoming visit very soon – “in late November or early December” – but agreed to waive the date of the visit to follow that until after the November 1965 Israeli election.

On or around December 6, Eshkol informed Barbour that he had set the weekend of January 30, 1965, for the date of the next visit. By way of explanation, Eshkol invoked his domestic political difficulties – his growing rift with Ben-Gurion – as a reason for the delay, adding, as if to reassure Washington that “We cannot build a nuclear weapon in two months.”

The State Department instructed Barbour to press for a well-defined protocol for the January visit. Besides a minimum of two days onsite, the U.S. team should have “full access” to the reactor and other facilities as well as their operating records. In addition, the team had to be able to “make independent measurements as may be necessary to verify production of reactor since previous visit.” Finally, the team should be able to “verify location and use [of] any plutonium or other fissionable material produced in reactor.” Such ground rules would have put the U.S. team in a far better position to learn what exactly was going on at Dimona.

But when Barbour presented the terms to Eshkol, the latter rejected them outright, arguing that they would put the visit on a new basis, making it look like an “inspection” and raise issues “of prejudice to Israeli sovereignty.”

Refusing to agree to a full two days onsite, the Ambassador reported that Eshkol emphasized that the “visit must be fundamentally on same basis as previous ones, that is, team must be invited guests of Israel and not ‘inspectors.’” While this tied the hands of the U.S. inspectors, Washington did not push back.

The U.S. 1965 inspecting team comprised three senior government nuclear experts from the AEC and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency: Ulysses M. Staebler, Floyd L. Culler and Charles McClelland. They received a briefing at the State Department on January 15, where they were told that their mission had both intelligence and diplomatic ramifications. With the apprehension about a prospective Arab-Israeli arms race, evidence that Dimona was for peaceful purposes could be used to reassure Egyptian president Nasser.

The inspection could also put in perspective the varied reports about suspicious developments concerning the Israeli nuclear program, including that the complex had been “secretly expanded” since the 1964 inspection, Israel’s purchase of uranium oxide (yellowcake) from Argentina, and the departure of French technicians from the site, all of which U.S. intelligence took as facts.

The visit to Dimona took place on Saturday, January 30, 1965, a little more than a year after the preceding one.

The scientific host of the team was the nuclear physicist Igal Talmi, who escorted the team during its entire three-day stay in Israel. According to the U.S. documents, the team also visited the Weizmann Institute, the small reactor at Soreq and the Negev Institute for Arid Zone Research. During the 10 hours that the team spent at the Dimona complex, they were joined by the director, Manes Pratt, as well.

The visit was conducted under significant restrictions, even more severe than those of a year earlier.

Not only was the time at Dimona cut to just one day, but unlike in the previous year, the inspectors could not continue the visit into Saturday evening. The Israelis cut short the visit in the late afternoon, preventing the inspectors from seeing the inside of all the buildings on-site.

Within five days, on February 5, 1965, the State Department sent National Security Adviser Bundy a preliminary draft of the team’s report, along with the Department’s take on the findings. According to the report, the team agreed by consensus that, despite the restrictions, “the visit provided a satisfactory basis for determining the state of activity at the Dimona Site.”

The fundamental findings were twofold and unanimous. First, the Dimona Nuclear Center was in a state of slowdown and uncertainty, if not in a real institutional crisis, as the Israeli government had recently suspended its earlier nuclear energy masterplan, pending certain decisions.

The context of the institutional slowdown, as explained to the American team, seemed to make sense.

During Eshkol’s state visit in June 1964, President Johnson had invoked the idea that Israel join a “Water for Peace” project, a new joint venture through which the U.S. would provide Israel with a new type of low-enriched uranium reactor that could produce electrical power to be used for desalinization.

It appeared that this could get Israel both a nuclear power reactor and a desalinization plant at half price.

Putting that new plan into effect would require the suspension of the original Israeli nuclear power masterplan, which was based on natural uranium fueled reactors. Recall, Dimona was presented to the American teams as an interim step toward that nuclear vision. Thus, when in early 1965, the “Water for Peace” project was being studied, Israel had ostensibly slowed down or in some cases even suspended some of the anticipated research activity at Dimona.

The U.S. team was told (and shown) that several key components (“institutes”) of the Dimona complex were either still under construction, or had been, or would soon be, placed in a standby mode. The report cited Dimona director Pratt telling the team that “there is no approval of a research and development program or of a budget for the fiscal year starting in April 1965.” In effect, the very original rationale for the creation of Dimona as presented to the U.S. may have become obsolete due to the new interest in the “Water for Peace” desalination project. If Israel took that new path, Dimona would have to reinvent its raison d’être.

While the slowdown was real enough, its purpose was meant to enhance the basic Israeli cover narrative, namely, that Dimona was a civilian research center intended to support a broader and new nuclear power program. At the end, the “Water for Peace” project did not go anywhere, to a large degree because Israel could not reconcile Dimona with a large nuclear energy project and because Israel’s commitment to Dimona as a security project was much stronger than its interest in nuclear energy.

The second element of the U.S. team’s conclusions from the visit was that “nothing [at the Dimona site] suggests an early development of weapons program.”

Like all its predecessors, the 1965 team determined that the Dimona complex lacked key technical components that would be required for a weapons program, most notably a reprocessing plant.

Hence, the team’s judgment was that there was “no near-term possibility of a weapons development program at the Dimona Site.”

Among the technical findings was that Israel did not have the facilities to process more than three tons annually of uranium and had “no capability …. to produce and recover [plutonium].”

Despite this, the AEC team urged continued vigilance. Notwithstanding the slowdown, the team remained impressed by the site’s potential, believing that it had “excellent development and production capability and potential that warrants continued surveillance at intervals not to exceed one year.”

The draft summary (the full report remains to be declassified) did not even hint at the possibility that the Israelis may have been concealing anything during the visit. Notably, the available documents show that this possibility – deception and concealment – had been raised in the interagency technical meeting in Washington that preceded that visit. Nonetheless, in retrospect, it appears that that is exactly what was going on during this inspection and the others.

According to American journalist Seymour Hersh, in his 1991 book “The Samson Option,” prior to the Dimona visits, Israel implemented a large-scale deception operation that amounted to concealing the reprocessing plant under construction and continual misrepresentation of the reactor’s purposes.

In any event, the apparently encouraging findings of the inspection helped the State Department decide that the U.S. could accede to Eshkol’s request to postpone “the next agreed six-monthly inspection until after the parliamentary election in November this year.”

While this phrasing was inaccurate, as Israel had never formally agreed to biannual U.S. inspections, it clearly reflected a certain sense of relief about Dimona.

Nevertheless, the next paragraph indicates that a sense of uncertainty about Israeli intention lingered. It stated that “we [Department of State] remain concerned that Israel may have succeeded in concealing a decision to develop nuclear weapons.”

While the AEC inspectors appeared reasonably confident in their findings, they took it for granted that continued inspections were necessary. President Johnson, like President Kennedy before him, insisted on the AEC inspections as an essential tool for verifying Israeli leaders’ pledges that the Dimona complex was meant for peaceful purposes only.

Shaping the drive for inspections were lingering doubts about Israel’s ultimate intentions. As noted earlier, key officials pointed to warning signs, such as the yellowcake purchases, that the Israelis were up to something.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs Rodger Davies, and science attaché physicist Dr. Robert Webber at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, among others, suspected that Dimona was intended for military security, not scientific research, and that Israel may have secretly decided to develop a weapons capability.

They had abundant circumstantial evidence to support those suspicions, but none of them seemed to have a clue about the missing link to weapons, the hidden chemical separation plant, although Webber raised the possibility that the Israelis had undertaken some such activity, somewhere.

And he insisted that the AEC inspectors were greatly mistaken to discount Dimona’s potential as a military project. Whether either Webber or Davies was aware of Kissinger’s embassy briefing remains unknown, but knowledge of it would have doubtless increased their doubts.

Suspicions about how Israel would use the yellowcake persisted, not least because during the inspection Israeli officials treated questions about “procurement of uranium from abroad ‘outside the scope of the visit.’”

Another source of concern was the discovery by U.S. intelligence that Israel had secretly contracted with a French aviation company, Marcel Dassault, for development and production of a two-stage, nuclear-capable, short-range ballistic missile.

The uncertain knowledge of the mid-1960s sharply contrasts with the more certain situation of the 1970s, by which time U.S. intelligence had concluded that Israel had nuclear weapons.

That suggested that the AEC assessments of Dimona in the 1960s were incorrect, indeed altogether misleading. That became manifestly true in 1986 when the real secrets became publicly known through the revelations of whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, which were confirmed by French sources and published in the London’s Sunday Times.

A key revelation in 1986 came from Francis Perrin, the French high commissioner for atomic energy from 1951 to 1970, who acknowledged to the Sunday Times that the Dimona nuclear complex had been conceived from the start as a complete and dedicated nuclear weapons infrastructure.

It included a plutonium-producing reactor and a large underground chemical reprocessing plant for extracting weapons-grade plutonium from the reactor’s irradiated rods.

According to French journalist Pierre Pean, in his book “Les Deux Bombes” (Paris, 1982), the construction of the chemical reprocessing plant was completed, with some delays, as the final stage of the Dimona complex, around 1965.

According to Pean, Israel started plutonium production in late 1965 or 1966. The reprocessing plant was the crown jewel of the entire Dimona project.

We also know, from a document published last year by the authors of this article as part of an academic paper, that Prime Minister Eshkol shared with his senior cabinet colleagues in September 1963 how fearful he was that the reprocessing plant, then under construction, might be discovered by visiting American scientists. That did not happen.

None of the nine AEC teams that visited the Dimona site between 1961 and 1969 was ever aware of the super-secret six-story underground facility.

From today’s perspective, more than half a century later, the question of why the United States failed to discover the secret plant right under its nose remains intriguing.

We suggest that the prime reasons for that American failure were varied. First and foremost, U.S. intelligence failed to discover what exactly France – both its government and its industry – had agreed to supply to Israel.

To be fair, it is not that the U.S. did not try, but the French would share only partial and misleading information with the Americans. French authorities supplied the Dimona package that they had made available to Israel, supported by ample technical assistance.

Few in the French government, and no Americans, knew that the government-to-government deal, as published by Pean, tacitly allowed a reprocessing plant, supplied directly by the French firm Saint-Gobain, which specialized in chemical and nuclear-related products.

While the CIA was familiar with Saint-Gobain’s work for the French nuclear program, whether it learned of its secret assistance to Israel prior to 1986 remains unknown.

In the absence of accurate and complete intelligence on the French role, the United States had to rely on the information that it could collect in Israel, whether openly or covertly. Here lies the second source of the U.S. failure: the political inability or unwillingness to ensure that the inspections were comprehensive enough to detect suspicious activities.

The policy and intelligence failures were intertwined. Washington viewed physical access to Dimona as essential both for verifying Israeli pledges about the plant’s civilian mission and for ensuring others that Israel did not change its declared course and go nuclear. In retrospect, however, this approach was too trusting, perhaps even naive. Unless the inspection visits were grounded in a firm protocol, Washington could not deter or prevent a determined state like Israel from going nuclear.

A related problem was that U.S. inspectors accepted too uncritically the Israeli claim that Dimona was a step in a plan to introduce nuclear power to Israel.

After all, did an “interim stage” civilian nuclear project like Dimona really make sense, technologically and/or financially, for a small and resource-limited country like Israel? Was it sensible for a country that had recently inaugurated its first nuclear reactor (in Soreq) to initiate a larger nuclear project, described as an interim step, when it had not yet approved a comprehensive plan for nuclear power? The AEC scientists should have given that story a far more skeptical analysis.

Based on the declassified material available to date, one can summarize the American conventional wisdom in the mid-1960s as follows: If Israel decided to change course and to embark on nuclear-weapons production, it would need to build a chemical plant for the extraction of plutonium, and that would require a political decision. The U.S. was reasonably confident that it could detect such a decision, even if it was made in secrecy. This overconfident and somewhat naive working assumption was fundamental to U.S. thinking at the time.

Missing from the American intelligence analysis of the period were not only basic facts about the French role, but also a lack of understanding – and appreciation – of how far the Israelis would go in concealing their progress.

It is worth recalling that Hersh, in “The Samson Option,” cited anonymous Israeli sources who told him that the visitors to the Dimona reactor were shown a fake control room that reflected misleadingly the reactor’s operations at the time. Even if the inspectors were not as trusting as they appeared to be, the available evidence does not suggest that they had any understanding that Israel was willing to undertake a sophisticated large-scale effort to conceal what it was doing.

The U.S. might have had a fighting chance to see through the concealment activities and ascertain Israel’s true intentions if it had been willing to wage a forceful political battle for a thorough inspection. A more accurate state of knowledge on the U.S. side might have been possible if the Israelis had been forced to accept the ground rules that President Kennedy had envisioned in his spring-summer 1963 series of letters to Ben-Gurion and Eshkol, and which were subsequently reiterated and expanded by the State Department in late 1964. The measures they called for included two days of full access to the Dimona facility, the opportunity to gather samples, and the ability to verify the use and location of any plutonium produced by the reactor. Such an extensive survey would have been similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reactor inspection system that, beginning in the 1970s, became part of the Agency’s standard inspection protocol for enforcing the NPT and could have helped identify any suspect activities.

The Israelis rejected outright the possibility of thorough and rigid inspections. As noted earlier, Eshkol objected to the proposed ground rules as an intrusion on Israeli sovereignty. Indeed, Israel refused to consent to any fixed protocol – insisting that the arrangement was about “scientific visits” by friends, not “inspections” – and thus was willing to rely only on non-written past practice. Taking no for an answer, and effectively allowing its hands to be tied behind its back, the Johnson administration was unwilling to use its political leverage, which could have been considerable, and refrained from a battle royal with Eshkol and the Government of Israel. Whether President Johnson ever considered such a decision remains unknown. As important as nonproliferation was to Johnson and his advisers, in practice they often found it necessary, as they did in this instance, to balance it against other, no-less-important political, diplomatic, and security considerations.

Upon reflection, the U.S. failure to discover Dimona’s underlying secrets – that it was, as the authors of this artice have argued in the past, a military project and that there was a secret plutonium plant – was practically unavoidable.

U.S. intelligence had not detected the scope of the French-Israeli deal.

Policymakers avoided going to the mat for the sake of a comprehensive inspection.

Moreover, Washington failed to understand Israel’s national security culture. That is, the U.S. government did not comprehend that Israel was so committed to the nuclear project that it was willing to wage a complex operation to see it through.

What Henry Kissinger told U.S. diplomats in 1965 – that Israel had a “nuclear weapons production program” – amounted to a prediction.

In 1967, during the Six-Day War, with the U.S. still in the dark, Israel secretly assembled two nuclear explosive devices, just in case, an event reported five decades later by The New York Times.

It was in the following years that Washington began concluding that Israel had the bomb. President Nixon’s meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir in September 1969 made the United States complicit in Israel’s policy of nuclear opacity.

Thus, when Henry Kissinger became Nixon’s national security adviser, in January 1969, he was already aware of Israel’s alleged weapons program, which has remained as much an official secret in Washington as in Tel Aviv, although it remains the “worst kept secret.”

Source: Avner Cohen and William Burr – HAARETZ

This is not a vaccine

The nation of Israel is at this moment engaged in a historic and decisive juncture that will determine the trajectory of this people now and for the foreseeable future. It is an undertaking that cannot be overstated.

As is now widely publicized, revealed initially by former PM Ehud Barak [1] and then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself [2], a deal has been made.

In Israel, Pfizer has found a home for its experimental pilot program of expansive human trials.

According to Barak, Pfizer has chosen our country for its decades of meticulously recorded medical and vaccination records, which allow it to explain adverse reactions to its product by pointing to previously existing conditions within the patient.

In effect, Bibi has signed up his people, all seven million citizens aged 12 years and over [3], without our informed consent, to become the first country in its entirety to do human testing on a technology which has been, for many decades, attempted and failed in the laboratory.

Thus far, the pilot study is moving at truly astonishing speed; some two million people have already been injected under a program that runs daily from early morning until late night, even on Shabbat. [4]

However, the Israeli people have not been given the information required to make a sufficient risk benefit analysis in this extraordinary endeavor. In fact, they have been given little information at all and that includes complete opacity of data on the unfolding outcomes of adverse reactions currently taking place.

Our citizens must first and foremost define the discussion in order to accurately weigh their choices.

What they are being asked to inject is not a vaccine as defined by the CDC as “A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease.” [5]

Rather, it is an experimental and novel technology. By definition of the FDA [6] as a component used as treatment to affect a body’s function, it is in fact a medical device, a physical device that comes in a molecular sized package.

Erroneously referring to this intervention as a vaccine exploits the public’s ingrained trust of the vaccination program to solicit knee jerk response and action. It keeps us entrenched in needless debate in place of taking the necessary measures to investigate the impact on our health.

DNA is, in short, the basis for our genetic structure. Inside each cell are codes which transfer its information to make proteins through messenger RNA. Messenger RNA is an intermediary between gene and protein and the protein elicits the immune response, not the RNA.

The contents of this shot being given on an experimental basis is a synthetic messenger RNA that is inserted into the human system to activate the cell to manufacture, in this case, a spike protein. [7]

An mRNA vaccine is not a vaccine, because it does not elicit an immune response. What it is, is genetic engineering.

There are a number of prominent concerns of serious adverse reactions of which include, in brief summary, some of the following:

In previous clinical trials since the 1960’s [8] attempts to vaccinate against RSV, [9] Dengue, [10] SARS and MERS, the studies each failed during the animal phase.

Cats, ferrets, monkeys, and rabbits each and every time experienced Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE), also known as pathogenic priming or a cytokine storm. This occurs when the immune system creates an uncontrolled and overwhelming inflammatory response upon being confronted with the pathogen in the real world, and the outcome, tragically, is death. The same immune system overreaction took place in a number of infants in clinical trials who received an attempted RSV shot, as well as some six hundred Filipino children who died following early vaccination against Dengue [11] and it remains a viable concern today. [12]

Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system can’t tell the difference between its own cells and foreign cells, and causes the body to attack its normal cells. [13]

It has been suggested that “molecular mimicry” may contribute to this problem, with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 cross-reacting with structurally similar host protein sequences and raising an acute autoimmune response against them. [14]

Scientists have determined that the same spike protein found in SARS viruses are also responsible for the development of the placenta in mammals, including humans, and is therefore an essential prerequisite for a successful pregnancy. If a woman’s body is primed to attack these protein spikes, the immune system may prevent a placenta from being formed, which would render that woman infertile. [15]

Drs Yeadon and Wodarg further explain; “To my knowledge, Pfizer/BioNTech has yet to release any samples of written materials provided to patients, so it is unclear what, if any, information regarding (potential) fertility-specific risks caused by antibodies is included. According to section 10.4.2 of the Pfizer/BioNTech trial protocol, a woman of childbearing potential is eligible to participate if she is not pregnant or breastfeeding, and is using an acceptable contraceptive method as described in the trial protocol during the intervention period (for a minimum of 28 days after the last dose of study intervention). This means that it could take a relatively long time before a noticeable number of cases of post vaccination infertility could be observed.” [16]

We have additionally heard the reports of multiple cases of Bell’s Palsy in both trials [17] and administration, numerous cases of anaphylaxis shock even when no previous allergies were detected, as well as several announced incidents of “false positive” HIV tests. [18]

The remaining elephant in the room is that of the greatest unknown, of tampering with the human genome.

There is much we have yet to comprehend of the complexity of the human body and immune system.

Science has gotten it wrong many times before, having made assumptions about its ability to exert its dominance over nature. It is still and always nature which has the final say.

In the human genome project they tried genetic engineering by changing a singular gene which they believed was the defect in the genetic process. Unexpectedly, instead of correcting, it caused a domino effect of uncontrolled regulation onto multiple other genes.

Of the media press release of 95% efficacy taken as gospel and repeated as fact, Peter Doshi of the British Medical Journal posits whether the study trials were designed too poorly not to fail. With 3,410 total cases of suspected, but unconfirmed COVID 19 in the overall study population accounted for makes a relative risk reduction of 19%, far below the 50% required for emergency use authorization. [19]

Pfiizer, Moderna, Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, have made it abundantly clear that the novel mRNA strand entering the cell is not intended to stop transmission but rather as a treatment.

However, were we at long last permitted to hold public discourse on the profoundly viable and formerly ubiquitous treatments such as Ivermectin, [20] for one example, and were these treatments not denied us both in access and scientific data but disseminated to the global community, we might not have had need for an emergency use technology at all.

If this experiment does prove to cause any or combination of these problems in a year’s time or a few more and has already been administered to billions worldwide it will be too late.

It cannot be removed and it cannot be turned off, it has been irretrievably unleashed into the cellular system. And there is not a government in the world nor the manufacturer himself who will be held accountable if you find yourself come to grave harm. [21]

In a multitude of monumental changes that have taken place over the course of the last year the one thing that has remained consistent is that the mortal risk a COVID-19 infection poses is, with exception, to those above 65 years or with comorbidity.

There is not in existence a reasonable scientific or medical indication to inject an experimental technology forever into the veins of anyone outside that narrow group.

I argue that to do so it is a reckless and cynical display of disregard for human life and well being in the perverted name of saving a particular few.

We claim an unbridled love of science and yet we are missing the crater sized gaps in reason. A tremendous risk of known and “known unknown” issues is considered against the singular benefit to avert symptoms in questionable potential at best. Tested on an uninformed populace, this is not a flag for public health.

The use of the word “vaccine” and the magic bullet it has come to represent confounds the discussion as does its expeditious administration alongside an exponentially changing world.

The brevity with which this technology was so recently produced is long forgotten and I, with many others, face the sobering fact that with a now live totalitarian Green Passport initiative, must choose which of my freedoms to concede, the loss of my self determination or my autonomy of body itself.

I stand for your right to understand the risks and choose to take this intervention. I ask you to stand, equally and emphatically, with my right to understand them and choose not to. However forcefully you may disagree with my perspectives, the risks of my being wrong don’t touch the risks of removing the freedoms to choose them.

Free choice is what breathes living into life. It is what gives us the opportunity to learn. It is what gives us hope for the future. These are the greatest challenges we will ever meet. Whatever you are called to do to make change, do it soon, do it now. Your choice matters.

Ilana Rachel Daniel is a Health and Wellness Counselor in Jerusalem and dedicates her time to research health and advocacy.

[1] Sones M (2021) Is Israel a Pfizer test subject?, Arutz Sheva, Accessed on the 12th January from /News/News.aspx/294410

[2] Holmes O (2021) Netanyahu touts Pfizer deal as 20% of Israelis get Covid jab, The Guardian, accessed on the 12th January from

[3] Central Bureau of Statistics, Population – Statistical Abstract of Israel 2020 – No.71, 2.3 Population, by Population Group, Religion, Sex and Age, accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[4] Batito E (2020) Controversy erupts around Health Ministry plan to vaccinate on Shabbat, Jerusalem Post, Accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[5] CDC Website, Vaccines & Immunizations, Immunization: The Basics accessed on the 12th January from

[6] US Food and Drug Administration Website, Medical Device Overview, accessed on the 12th January from

[7] CDC Website (2020) Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines, accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[8] Su, S., Du, L. & Jiang, S. Learning from the past: development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Nat Rev Microbiol (2020).

[9] World Health Organisation Website, Standardization of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccines, accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[10] Trial Site News (2020) Philippine Dengue Vaccine Criminal Indictments Includes President of Sanofi Pasteur & their FDA, accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[11] Trial Site News (2020)

Philippine Dengue Vaccine Criminal Indictments Includes President of Sanofi Pasteur & their FDA, accessed on the 12th January from

[12] Trial Site News (2020) Philippine Dengue Vaccine Criminal Indictments Includes President of Sanofi Pasteur & their FDA, accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[13] John Hopkins Medicine Website, What Are Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease?, Accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[14] White S (2020) Rapid Response: Could COVID-19 mRNA vaccines cause autoimmune diseases?, Letter to the British Medical Journal, accessed on the 13th January 2020 from White S (2020) Rapid Response: Could COVID-19 mRNA vaccines cause autoimmune diseases?, Letter to the British Medical Journal, accessed on the 13th January 2020 from

[15] Petition from Dr Wolfgang Wodarg and Co Petition from Dr. Michael Yeadon to the European Medical Association, Administrative/Regulatory Stay Of Action on the December 1st 2020, page 5, accessed on the 12th January from

[16] Petition from Dr Wolfgang Wodarg and Co Petition from Dr. Michael Yeadon to the European Medical Association, Administrative/Regulatory Stay Of Action on the December 1st 2020, Page 5, accessed on the 12th January from

[17] FDA Briefing Document, (2020) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting December 10, 2020, Page 38 and 43, accessed on the 12th January 2021 from

[18] Rettner R (2020) Why an Australian COVID-19 vaccine caused false-positive HIV test, Live Science, accessed on the 12th January from

[19] Doshi P (2021) Peter Doshi: Pfizer and Moderna’s “95% effective” vaccines—we need more details and the raw data, British Medical Journal, accessed on the 13th January 2021 from

[20] Kory, P., MD, Meduri, G. U., MD, Iglesias, J., Varon, J., Berkowitz, K., MD, Kornfeld, H., MD, Marik, P. E. (2020, November 13). Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19.

[21] Sigalos M (2020) You can’t sue Pfizer or Moderna if you have severe Covid vaccine side effects. The government likely won’t compensate you for damages either, CNBC, accessed on the 12th January from

Source: Ilana Rachel Daniel – Arutz Sheva

How Adelson shaped Israel’s media – and Netanyahu’s legal entanglements

Years before Israeli politics and media were split into two camps, yes-Bibi and no-Bibi, a Jewish-American gambling tycoon named Sheldon Adelson landed here and ruled: Only Bibi.

Unlike other Bibi fans, Adelson put his money where his mouth was. He poured hundreds of millions of shekels into the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, for the sole purpose of making Benjamin Netanyahu Israel’s prime minister.

From a journalistic perspective, Israel Hayom was never very important. But as a goal-oriented political project, it was Israel’s most important newspaper, contributing to Netanyahu 11-and-counting consecutive years in office. Its contribution to Netanyahu’s entanglement in two criminal cases related to his obsession with the media was no less significant.

The contribution to Netanyahu’s long political life is hard to prove. It is Netanyahu’s exceptional political skill that has kept him in office for so many years. Yet part of his popularity is the direct result of the constant burnishing of his image, in which Israel Hayom played a significant role.

The paper’s role in Netanyahu’s legal woes is easy to prove. On July 30, 2007, Netanyahu was the head of the opposition and of Likud, with just 12 Knesset seats, hurting from the loss to Kadima that put Ehud Olmert in the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu had been finance minister from 2003-05, to the benefit of Israel’s economy and the detriment of Likud and his career. It was the date of Israel Hayom’s first issue.

Adelson, convinced that Arnon Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth was a problem for Netanyahu and for Israel, decided to publish a free, mass-distribution daily that would be open about its support for Netanyahu and would offset Israel’s strongest, scariest publisher.

In March 2009, less than two years after Israel Hayom’s launch, Netanyahu was sworn in as prime minister. He soon fell in love with the idea of a newspaper that would do everything to keep him on the job and satisfied.

That drove him, and later his family, to see it as their personal property and to start making requests, big and small – most of them personal, a few related to national matters.

This led to various bills aimed at curbing Israel Hayom, with Mozes’ encouragement. One of the first was submitted by Miri Regev, then a first-time MK without ties to Netanyahu who sought to find her way via positive coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth.

That “love” led Netanyahu into what became cases 2000 and 4000.

Seeking to duplicate the adoration he received from Israel Hayom in other media outlets led to his allegedly illegal conversations with Mozes. It led to his alleged quid pro quo relationship with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq and the Walla news website. With Mozes it was a cold business calculation: Mozes wanted to quell the competition posed by Israel Hayom, which was destroying his monopoly in Israel’s newspaper market. Netanyahu wanted adoration and support.

Their conversations, which were recorded by state’s witness Ari Harow, provide a rare glimpse into the unusual importance Netanyahu ascribed to mass media. You can’t help but conclude that he considered controlling them key to staying in power. Mozes told him: You need to make sure you are prime minister. In exchange, he asked that Israel Hayom’s circulation be reduced. He made that request of Netanyahu, not Adelson.

Case 4000 is also indirectly tied to the devoted care Israel Hayom gave Netanyahu. Netanyahu got used to being able to influence, change and determine what the lead headline would be, how events his wife attended would be covered, how fierce the criticism of his political opponents would be. And if that worked at Israel Hayom, why wouldn’t it work at Walla?

It did work there, but by this point Netanyahu was already allegedly on the criminal playing field. For some reason, he displayed atypical blindness and rashness, when he conducted alleged criminal negotiations with Elovitch. Netanyahu, communications minister at the time, didn’t report his social ties with Elovitch, gave Bezeq and Walla generous financial favors, and he and his family made countless requests regarding Walla’s coverage. To emphasize successes, to minimize other news items, to badmouth rivals, to glorify Netanyahu and his wife. Everything he did at Israel Hayom that was not criminal – Adelson didn’t want financial favors from Netanyahu – was allegedly carried out at Walla, with deep criminal implications.

Adelson’s deep, expensive support elevated Netanyahu, but it also got him into his criminal entanglements. Without Adelson, Israeli politics would be different.

Adelson is undoubtedly the person with the greatest influence on Israel’s media industry in the past 15 years.

Source: Sami Peretz – HAARETZ

No, No, a Capitol Siege Won’t Happen Here

A vigorous debate has been taking place in all of the media outlets. There isn’t a single newspaper, television channel, website, radio program or social media platform that hasn’t engaged in it. And it all revolves around one single question: Could it happen here? That is, will we, too, have the privilege of looking on blindly as a savage mob storms the legislature to punish it and impose its will on it.

The debate is fascinating. Invigorating. Thorough. Expansive. It’s just too bad that it’s completely unnecessary. Because in Israel it won’t happen.

In Israel, it can’t happen. Nor is there any need for it to happen.

Because here, it already has happened – long ago. Our revolution is behind us. The “base” took control of the government a decade or more ago. Our legislature has long since become the “base legislature.”

Our revolution needed no violence. After all, why use force when it’s possible to do it peacefully, through deceit?

Our parliament, for instance, castrated itself voluntarily, without damaging the furniture. And our thugs took power without breaking any windows, dirtying the carpets or stealing computers. Nor did they need ridiculous costumes or fur hats with horns (okay, there are fur hats here as well, but without the horns).

And recently, when it seemed as if the revolution’s accomplishments were in some danger, our revolutionaries quickly gave it a stimulating blood transfusion. Not by force, heaven forbid. Not by violence. Solely by bluff. By deception. By an extensive campaign of vote theft and deceit. A sting operation virtually without parallel in human history. And the revolution indeed immediately regained its full power.

That is how we reached this point – a government that’s entirely dependent on a gang of egotistic evangelicals who educate their children to believe that slavery is freedom and ignorance is strength; on a gang of delusional, avaricious thugs who have convinced themselves and others that war is peace and that the eyes of Big Brother in the heavens are always watching; and on a herd of corrupt people who see the state treasury as their private purse from which money is available for the taking.

And that’s how we merited a government that is headed by a person who has been charged with crimes and various misdemeanors. A government, one of whose members – not long ago, while serving as the speaker of the Knesset – peed, figuratively speaking, on an order issued by the High Court of Justice, with neither hesitation nor shame. A government, at least two members of which are living under the shadow of indictments that could land on top of them at any moment.

A government, nearly all of whose members are busy with carrying out the will of the base that rules them, with diligence and dedication. In order to teach us that everything the American base sought to obtain through violence, our base has achieved peacefully.

Yet another wonder: The will of the base here and the base there are as alike as two drops of snot. All the foreigners should be kicked out, all the elites should burn, all the Arabs should die and everyone should come back to God. And that’s it. You don’t need to do it by force.

The resemblance between these two bases is already so great that we even have our own Hilltop Bullies (a fitting Israeli answer to American hillbillies), who think they have the right to beat up soldiers and police officers to their heart’s desire. Not, heaven forbid, to seize power, since that is already in their hands, simply for purposes of entertainment.

In fact, all of the above could be summed up in one short sentence: In a country where Amir Ohana is the minister of public security, there’s no longer anything to overturn. Because everything in it has already been turned upside down long ago.

Header: Anti-government protesters, clad in masks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, gather with Israeli flags and signs during a demonstration in Charles Clore Park in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 18, 2020, against the Israeli government for broken promises made during the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Source: B. Michael – HAARETZ

Israel and the shameful, dangerous final days of Donald Trump

Few if any national leaders were more closely allied with the disgraced US President Donald Trump, inciter of last week’s assault on the Capitol in Washington, on American democracy, than Benjamin Netanyahu.

Few if any nations would consider themselves to have been greater beneficiaries of Trump-backed policies than Israel, even though Israelis were deeply conflicted over the man now nearing the end of his White House term in such ignominy.

The implications of these two facts are already being felt, and will continue to resonate in the coming days, weeks, months and years. And not for the good.

Netanyahu nurtured his relationship with Trump — so heavily financially backed by their mutual supporters, the Adelsons — from the get-go, celebrating the anticipated volte-face from the administration of the loathed president Barack Obama.

The prime minister had openly battled Obama, all the way to lobbying against the president in the US Congress in a failed effort to prevent the US-led appeasement of Iran in the 2015 JCPOA, and resisted Obama’s efforts to strong-arm Israel into relinquishing overall security control of the West Bank.

In stunning contrast, the joint efforts of Netanyahu, his key aides and like-minded empathetic figures in the Trump administration helped ensure that the 45th US president — whose direct role and interest in any of this is open to debate — withdrew from the Iran deal and presented a vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace as comfortable as anything Israel could ever expect.

Trump supplied a seemingly endless stream of further diplomatic gifts — recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy here from Tel Aviv; recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights; ending the automatic designation of settlements as illegal and the labeling of settlement goods; and latterly brokering an astonishing series of normalization accords and processes with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

The Trump administration’s positions on Jerusalem, the Palestinians and the Golan are overwhelmingly supported by Israelis. Its stance on Iran is widely backed. Its positions on the settlement enterprise likely enjoy majority backing here. The normalization process with Arab states is a cause for veritable national delight.

The administration’s policies on Israel have thus combined to help keep Netanyahu in power — with several significant steps timed to coincide with some of Israel’s endless elections — and created a complex reality in which Israelis were united or near-united in support of a range of policies determined by an individual some of them mistrusted and were personally appalled by.

As of last Wednesday, when Trump inflamed the assault on the US Capitol, and continued to indulge it even as the deadly consequences became clear, that complex reality became immensely more problematic. Israel’s White House ally is a figure of shame, and all who have celebrated associating with him are at risk of being stained.

Netanyahu was wary enough to avoid the trap Trump set for him during October’s surreal “happening now” Oval Office broadcast of the phone call in which the US president, our prime minister and the leaders of Sudan announced normalization.

(“Do you think Sleepy Joe would have made this deal? Somehow, I don’t think so,” the president asked the prime minister. Netanyahu, nonplussed and seeking to avoid a partisan response, replied carefully, “Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you. We appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America, and we appreciate what you’ve done enormously.”)

But in an America where the very notion of bipartisanship has faded rapidly these past four years, the US president and the Israeli prime minister made it all too easy for Israel to be redesignated as a partisan cause — a nation repeatedly embraced by a Republican president where it had been obsessively critiqued by his Democratic predecessor, in a shift delightedly highlighted by Netanyahu, the only Israeli leader with any resonance in the US.

Given his longevity in office, few know better than Netanyahu that the US political pendulum swings, and yet the prime minister appeared to give little thought to the consequences of his gushing alliance — the consequences for relations with subsequent Democratic administrations, the consequences of that diminished bipartisan support, the consequences for Israel’s ties with the US Jewish community, well over two-thirds of which remains staunchly Democratic.

Until last Wednesday, Netanyahu may have reckoned the situation was salvageable.

He may have been betting on a second Trump term, but he would also have calculated that he could forge a workable relationship with Joe Biden, a far more conciliatory figure than Obama. The incoming president is less likely to suffer from Obama’s insistent blindness to the dangers of seeking to mollify and buy off the ayatollahs, and has a wider understanding of the complexities of peacemaking with the Palestinians.

But the Trump-fueled “insurrection” at Capitol Hill has left Netanyahu near-frozen — for all we know he may yet have been awaiting US military action against Iran, or further normalization breakthroughs — and with his attention focused elsewhere.

He is preoccupied with overseeing Israel’s world-leading vaccination drive, a project that our HMOs and healthcare workers are implementing with extraordinary efficiency, and one that the prime minister believes can help finally lift him to a definitive election victory in March after three near-defeats. And he patently remains unwilling to so much as hint at distancing himself or Israel from his now-notorious partner.

The prime minister who waited long hours before congratulating Biden when his presidential victory was called two months ago, and then did so without specifying what exactly he was congratulating Biden for, again waited long hours last week before condemning the “disgraceful… rampage” in DC, and did so without referring to the circumstances in which it had occurred. Not only did he make no reference to Trump’s role in the affair, but he took pains, in remarks issued by his office in a second press release shortly afterward, to jarringly praise Trump “for all you have done and are doing for peace” in our region.

Netanyahu’s rivals are cautioning that he risks leading Israel down the very same road down which Trump has led America.

That the likes of Yair Lapid, on the center-left, warn that the prime minister is destroying Israeli democracy is nothing new. That his own former close colleagues are abandoning his Likud party to challenge him over this issue most certainly is.

His most potent rival, Gideon Sa’ar, warned on Saturday night that when leaders dispute election results and batter the institutions of the state — seeking to discredit “everything from the president to the police to the Central Elections Committee,” as Sa’ar charged Netanyahu has done relentlessly — people draw dangerous conclusions and democracy is imperiled. (Netanyahu might yet manage to fend off the growing array of rivals on March 23, or he might be defeated.

Our electoral choice, it would appear, will be between a serial batterer of Israeli democracy, and hawks like Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett who are vowing to protect our democracy but would undermine it by other means, including annexing large portions of the West Bank and “reforming” our judiciary.)

Netanyahu has long styled himself as the leader not only of the Jewish state but of the Jewish people, the head of a near-miraculously revived sovereign nation that has developed the protective power millions of Jews fatally lacked 80 years ago.

Time and again, he has invoked the Holocaust when issuing warnings to a sleeping world leadership against the rapacious ambitions of the ayatollahs in Tehran, and vowed to utilize all means necessary to thwart them.

But after scenes replete with overtly anti-Semitic participants and signals, after events celebrated by the enemies of freedom worldwide, and not least by the enemies of Israel who scent opportunity amid superpower weakness, the usually articulate Netanyahu has managed only vague and perfunctory censure and concern.

It was Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born son of a volunteer member of the Nazi party, who issued the most chilling warning in the wake of last week’s DC horrors. The former Republican governor of California described Wednesday as the “Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States,” and recalled that the rise of the Nazis “all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance.”

Schwarzenegger was pleading for America to right itself, pleading for tolerance, hearing the echoes of history. Netanyahu — who eulogized his own father by recalling that Benzion Netanyahu saw the Holocaust approaching but was powerless to prevent it, and vowing to learn his father’s lesson to “face reality head-on” — has had nothing of significance to say. Israel’s prime minister, the would-be leader of the Jewish people, has busied himself with other matters, constrained by his alliance with a president he has never dared to challenge, much less upbraid.

And we as a nation, partnered for four years in a complex relationship with a president we passionately loved or loathed, and from whose policies we overwhelmingly believe we benefited, are all a little silenced too. A little damaged. A little weakened.

Source: David Horowitz – TOI

When the Mice in Israel Abandon Trump’s Ship

After four years of explicit support from the right, accompanied by enabling silence from the mainstream, suddenly the Israeli mice are remembering to flee for their lives from U.S. President Donald Trump’s sinking ship. When Capitol Hill is literally burning, that’s the sign for the absolutely last passengers to flee to the quay in panic, to the right side of history.

These passengers want to pay the lowest possible price for their ethical choices: Not to anger the centers of power when they’re on top, and not to pay a price for abandoning them when they’re down.

And that’s exactly how Channel 12 News anchor Yonit Levi’s interview with Boaz Bizmuth, editor-in-chief of the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, sounded on Thursday, after the invasion of Congress by Trump supporters. Beneath the exchange of words appeared the subtitle “A harsh final chord to four years of Trump’s tenure.” As though the entire melody until then was Mozart.

Levi, her eyebrows contracted even more than usual – the silent barometer needle of her dissatisfaction (along with her famous sighs at the ends of news stories), wanted to know,

“Is this the moment when even you, who strongly supported him, have to say: The president crossed a red line?”

And when the anticipated mea culpa on a live broadcast failed to materialize, Levi raised her tone of voice: “He called on his supporters, Let’s go to the Capitol, we’ll never admit we lost – do none of those statements bother you?”

Among all his rhetorical juggling, Bismuth, who is still fiercely defending the former candidate of his patron, U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, gave her the most accurate reply: “Yonit, all the reports this evening could have been heard two days ago.” In other words, Yonit, we’ve heard the claims about Trump’s contribution to the end of democracy before. What has actually changed, and where were you then?

Bismuth is right. He represents those who for four years vocally supported Trump, for ideological and utilitarian reasons. Levi represents those who for four years only maintained an “objective” facade, while providing approval for the support. Now they’re remembering to be shocked.

In an interview with Army Radio, Dani Dayan, former Israeli consul general in New York, provided a fascinating glimpse at another aspect of the phenomenon. When asked, “Do you feel that Trump has lost it?” he replied:

“Ah, there’s no doubt, and not only yesterday, I’ll say it in a broader perspective: For Israel it was a diplomatic miracle. The dividends we received from the Trump administration are inconceivable. On the other hand, for American democracy it was a serious traffic accident.”

And what does Israel do when it witnesses a serious accident? It gives the drunk driver another gulp of wine from the territories.

“Isn’t it embarrassing now to be on the side of Trump supporters?” asked Udi Segal. “Yes, in a certain sense, yes,” Dayan admitted. But he hastened to explain: Those same “dividends” (Trump’s unilateral recognition of the Israeli occupation) were worth the price.

In other words: For four years most of the Israeli public, whether publicly or by maintaining silence, supported all the things that the majority is now hastening to condemn.

And when the mainstream is afraid to express an opinion in the face of anti-democratic forces that are strong and in power – and only because they are – that’s the real danger to democracy.

An enlightening example of this aired at the end of the interview with Bismuth. When he claimed, “I didn’t hear a thing about the violence from the other side,” Levi quickly corrected him by pointing out that sitting next to her was “the correspondent who reported a great deal about those things.” Because the most important thing is to create a balance. That’s why Bismuth was there in the first place. Until that ship sinks, too.

Source: Noa Landau – HAARETZ

Watching DC strife, armed Knesset Guards say they’ve long readied for unrest

Officials in Israel’s Knesset watched in horror Wednesday night, as scenes of chaos, bloodshed and insurrection unfolded at the US Capitol, as a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump ransacked the seat of power of the strongest nation in the world.

Armed with bats, batons, hockey sticks, tear gas and other low-level means of violence, the swarm overwhelmed the Capitol’s police force and rampaged through the building, wrecking congressional offices and running riot through the halls of power, as America’s duly elected lawmakers huddled for cover. Some of the rioters carried zip-ties, sparking suspicions that they may have planned to take hostages.

The event, in which five people died, has indelibly scarred America, but it has also sparked questions in Israel, of not only whether such a thing could happen here, but how ready are we if it did?

Israel is a fairly young democracy and widely considered to be much less stable than the US, with political friction and social rifts able to upend governments. The inside of the Knesset can be much more raucous than Congress, with shouting matches and even the rare physical altercation in place of decorous US lawmaking.

Outside as well, angry political demonstrations are not unheard of, and terror is a constant concern, though one would need to go back nearly 70 years to find a scene that came close to what was witnessed in Washington last week.

The Knesset is guarded by a special force known as the Knesset Guard, which has jurisdiction over the actual legislature and the grounds surrounding the building, as well as personal security for members of the Knesset.

The Guard does not answer to the police or the military, but is considered its own branch of the security forces, under the direct authority of the Knesset speaker, currently, Likud politician Yariv Levin.

The force is made up of hundreds of armed guards, formally called ushers, headed by Sergeant-at-Arms Shmuel Zubari.

(The ushers who work inside the Knesset and occasionally remove disruptive or recalcitrant MKs are part of a separate unit.)

According to a Knesset source, the Guards cooperate closely with the police and Shin Bet security agency. Guards receive weapons training and some come from special forces units.

Even before the riots in Washington, the Guard was training for how to deal with riots and the possible kidnapping of lawmakers either from inside the building or somewhere in the grounds, the source said.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing the possibility of the conversation around guarding the Knesset becoming politicized.

In July, the Guard came under fire when protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marched on the area. While protesters did not try to break in, some did climb on a sculpture of a menorah and a Star of David in a traffic circle just outside the Knesset that is within the Guards’ grounds, including a young female social worker who took off her shirt while atop it.

Some accused the woman of desecrating a national symbol and the incident underscored the thin line the Guards must walk between granting free speech and protecting state symbols.

The gardens surrounding the Knesset serve as a regular spot for large demonstrations. On a regular week, the sidewalks between the Finance Ministry and Wohl Rose Park, which is adjacent to the Knesset, hold hundreds and sometimes thousands of people carrying signs, flags and placards. Protests range from calls for reforms or public attention for issues like workers’ rights, stipends for the disabled, or unequal budget allocations to Arab and Druze towns.

A (short) history of violence

The Knesset building, a squat square structure built in the international style, sits on a hill overlooking Jerusalem surrounded by acres of parkland, making it one of the few government buildings in Israel not on the street or built into the fabric of the neighborhood, such as the Prime Minister’s and President’s Residences.

But before 1966, the Israeli parliament sat at Frumin House, in a nondescript building on a busy corner of downtown Jerusalem, and it was there that it saw two of the most violent episodes of its history.

On January 7, 1952, thousands of people gathered outside the building to protest the government’s decision to enter a reparations agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany, seven years after the end of the Holocaust.

As lawmakers debated the agreement, a rally by opponents, led by future prime minister Menachem Begin, grew increasingly agitated. Police set up roadblocks and wire fencing, but protesters began throwing stones at the building, including one which shattered a window and hit MK Hannan Rubin in his head.

It took five hours before the police were able to disperse the angry crowd and hundreds were arrested.

In 1958, Frumin House was again the scene of an attack on lawmakers, when Moshe Duek, a mentally disturbed man, threw a grenade into the building.

Justice Minister Moshe Shapira was severely wounded in the attack. Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and Foreign Minister Golda Meir also suffered minor injuries.

Following the event, lawmakers voted to create the Knesset Guard, first as a division of the police and later as an independent command with its own designated mandate enshrined by law.

Most protests recently have been centered around Jerusalem’s Paris Square, outside Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street in central Jerusalem, and surrounding streets. While protests have seen some clashes between police and demonstrators, they have remained largely peaceful.

However, since the Capitol riot, some Netanyahu allies have been accused of trying to compare the protesters to pro-Trump backers in Washington who stormed the capital, even though there has never been a concerted effort to breach the police barricade in front of the residence. (Protesters have managed to breach barricades in other directions to hold unauthorized marches through the city.)

On January 2, some protesters who arrived earlier than expected for a regular Saturday protest managed to bypass one police barricade and hold a rally near the rear of the residence, leading the Netanyahus’ security detail to relocate them to a safer position inside the house.

The incident was kept under wraps, but after the Washington riots, it was leaked to all three of Israel’s main news channels on Friday night, in what some saw as a coordinated effort to draw a parallel between the two sets of protesters.

The Shin Bet unit charged with protecting the Prime Minister maintained that there was “no drama,” as claimed in the reports.

However, the police, led by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a Netanyahu loyalist, released a statement saying the officers on the ground were concerned the event could have “spiraled out of control.”

Source: TOI

Ohana is Cruel and Dangerous

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s response to the attorney general’s announcement that Ohana has no authority to refuse to vaccinate prisoners against the coronavirus is no less outrageous than his initial malicious decision not to vaccinate them.

Avichai Mandelblit’s deputy for criminal affairs, Amit Merari, sent a letter to Ohana reminding him that the right of prisoners and detainees to receive medical treatment is enshrined in law and in court rulings. The Prison Service, she added, must work to vaccinate the prisoners without delay. The Health Ministry’s deputy director general, Itamar Grotto, also complained that the Prison Service hadn’t yet started vaccinating prisoners, adding that the ministry’s order to vaccinate all people aged 60 and older includes prisoners.

But Ohana doesn’t care about either Merari or Grotto.

His desire to be cruel to the weak overrides the prisoners’ legal right to receive necessary medical treatment.

In general, Ohana views the law as a mere recommendation and the attorney general as a mere adviser.

In Ohana’s theory of political science, a minister has the right to decide whatever he pleases, even if he thereby endangers human life. And that’s all the more true during an election campaign, when he has to flex his muscles against the weak, on one hand, and against the “dictatorship of the bureaucrats,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it, on the other.

Indeed, Ohana replied to Merari and Grotto like any garden-variety political thug in any authoritarian populist country: “You, and anyone else who’s interested, have until February 4, 2021 to submit your names on one of the candidate slates for the 24th Knesset, and if you are elected to the Knesset and the cabinet, you can certainly do so. Until then, given that responsibility for all agencies subordinate to the Public Security Ministry rests on my shoulders, and that I, not you, will have to give an accounting to the public, my decision will stand.”

Ohana’s decision not to vaccinate prisoners violates the law. But beyond that, it’s hard to imagine a more blatant display of cruelty for its own sake, which demonstrates not only his hardheartedness, but also his complete lack of understanding of his powers.

Ohana is using the prisoners as a political tool.

In Merari’s letter, she explained to him that he “has no authority to ‘punish’ a prisoner by depriving him of additional rights beyond those required by his sentence.” Moreover, she wrote, “preventing the administration of vaccines to prisoners and detainees who are in a risk group – and who should be vaccinated in the Health Ministry’s professional opinion – is not within the public security minister’s power.”

But what do the law and governmental procedure have to do with Ohana’s campaign of hatred? “So he said that; who is he?” Ohana said of Mandelblit – the attorney general – in an interview with the public broadcasting station Kan 11.

Ohana’s decision is illegal, and a minister who doesn’t obey the law ought to be fired by the prime minister.

But meanwhile, the Prison Service and the Health Ministry must work to vaccinate the prisoners immediately.


The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

A Capitol Hill Coup in Israel? Don’t Rule it Out

The daily deluge of coronavirus news was shunted aside Wednesday night by the unbelievable scenes in Washington.

What had initially looked like another cluster of nutjob conspirators outside the White House became, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s speech, a Bastille-type assault on the Capitol.

Insufficient, failed preparedness on the part of the security forces, despite the sensitive timing of the ratification of the results of the presidential election, enabled hundreds of rioters to burst into the building, stop the proper functioning of American government and threaten the safety of the elected officials.

The bizarre images (a demonstrator dressed as a buffalo, a neo-Nazi wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt) should not blur the gravity of the event. Four people were killed, among then a woman hit by gunfire inside the building.

Even worse, perhaps, this was a clear attempt, with direct encouragement from the outgoing president, to carry out a coup that would thwart the orderly transfer of power to the party of the candidate who won the election.

Trump sent the mob to Capitol Hill the moment it became clear to him that his vice president, Mike Pence, had finally cut loose from his grasp and did not intend to cooperate with the last maneuver to change the results.

The scene of the mob bursting into the building, with unbearable ease, is to a large extent an inevitable outcome of the era of Trump, a president whose conduct worsened over the course of his four years in office, and has reached an unprecedented low since he lost the election.

This is the significance of keeping a pyromaniac in the White House, an extremist and childish narcissist whose ego will never allow him to acknowledge his election defeat.

Trump has flirted with fascistic ideas and racist movements that believe in white supremacy all along his political trajectory. The Republican establishment, including most of the senators and members of the House of Representatives, abetted him in this, either because they did not dare to stand up to him or because they enjoyed the political benefits the president produced for them. The party leaders have for the most part been exposed as lacking conscience and perspective. The social networks, up until the belated sobering up at Twitter on the eve of the election, collaborated.

All this happened at a time when thousands of Americans are continuing to fall ill and die of the coronavirus, without their president having evinced the slightest interest in them. On Wednesday, at the time of the invasion of he Capitol, a new record was broken with the report of the previous day’s deaths: more than 4,000, in a single day. Trump, wallowing in his hurt feelings ever since the loss of the election, has not lifted a finger to accelerate the vaccination campaign or impose social distancing measures.

The violent scenes on Capitol Hill enabled leaders of other countries to cluck their tongues.

For some, the demonstration of American insanity provides belated justification for injustices they have committed against their own citizens and for the impurity of the elections in their own countries.

Others, and most certainly among them the leaders of China and Russia, are very pleased with the internal rift in the United States and are assuming it will accelerate the waning of the country’s status in the competition among the major powers.

During the night, statements of condemnation and shock started coming in from world capitals. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ideological ally of Trump’s in many respects, was quick to condemn the mob assault.

Netanyahu, another partner, tarried until the morning hours on Thursday, in the same way as he was late to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory in the election.

This is a direct continuation of Netanyahu’s cynical attitude towards Trump, the man he crowned at every opportunity as the American president most friendly and beneficent towards Israel, ever.

The belated exclamations of shock now being heard in parts of the Israeli right (while a handful of benighted devotees are still clinging to support for Trump), should not impress anyone more than the self-flagellation of Republican leaders. Netanyahu and his ministers knew exactly who they were dealing with.

Some ministers, in private conversations, have admitted he is a sociopath but they were glad to squeeze from that lemon everything they could. In return, they heaped upon the president tons of flattery. Ramat Trump in the Golan Heights is a fictive township whose sign will undoubtedly soon be removed (in any case, some of the letters have already fallen off), but the fact is that no other country ever made a comparable gesture to the president.

It remains to be seen if Biden and the new administration will want to exact from Netanyahu a price for the dangerous alliance he made with the most dangerous, irresponsible American president ever.

“It Can’t Happen Here” is the title of a well-known novel published by American author Sinclair Lewis in 1935. The dystopian plot is about an American dictator’s rise to power in the period that European countries were beginning to adopt fascism. Trump and his followers were apparently blocked overnight on Wednesday, and it is very possible that the events at the Capitol were the last dangerous but pathetic move of his time in office. However, Israelis who watched the events during the night, glued to CNN (the Israeli networks hardly bothered at all), apparently could not help but ask themselves whether similar scenes also await us here in the future.

After the events of this past year, it is hard say with any certainty that indeed it won’t happen here.

There was the police violence towards the demonstrators, first and foremost those near the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem; the impervious assault by police on ordinary citizens whose only sin was failure to wear a mask outdoors; previous Knesset Speaker (and current Health Minister) Yuli Edelstein’s refusal to accept the High Court of Justice’s ruling at the time of the political crisis in March, and of course the defendant’s horror show at the opening of his trial, surrounded by submissive, masked and affirmatively nodding ministers. Here too the genie is already out of the bottle. The more palpable the danger of his imprisonment becomes, the more Netanyahu is fanning the flames here in a way that is quite similar to the way his American friend did it.

About a year ago my colleague at Haaretz Josh Breiner published an article, a kind of satirical, futuristic scenario in which the Netanyahu family is required to leave the Balfour Street residence after a lost election but refuses to do so.

When I read that article I thought Breiner had gotten a bit carried away. Upon a rereading, it seems possible that his description was too restrained in view of what may await us.

Source: Amos Harel – HAARETZ

Israel’s Lockdown 3.5: It’s not just because of the British Mutation

The thick fog that blanketed the country for several of these past mornings blended well with the apocalyptic tone of the broadcast news headlines. These focused with increasing alarm on the British variant of the coronavirus and the government’s decision to impose a lockdown starting Friday morning.

This time – they said – it is going to be serious.

Israel is the only country where the leadership admits openly that the third lockdown it imposed for two weeks was a pseudo-lockdown.

The reports on the contagious British variant, along with the accumulation of a critical mass of researchers and doctors who think the variant changes the picture of the spread of the disease radically for the worse, tilted the balance in favor of declaring the tight lockdown. During the past two weeks there was a partial lockdown, in which the school system remained open for the most part and in many jurisdictions the local authorities and business owners have been ignoring the closure restrictions.

Lockdown 3.5 is supposed to be more stringent, end classes in the schools themselves (except for special education) and very much reduce work, business activity and public transportation.

Supposedly this will last two weeks, but presumably it is liable to stretch to a whole month and exacerbate the psychological and economic costs exacted from Israel’s citizens.

The arrival of the British variant in Israel is being described as a turning point, in light of the scientists’ assessment that it is 50 to 70 percent more contagious. The Health Ministry, which as usual has taken a very strict stance in the coronavirus cabinet, estimates that the mutation had already spread to many locales in Israel prior to the genomic sequencing of samples to enable its identification. Cabinet ministers were told that only imposing a strict lockdown will make it possible to stop the increase in the rate of infection and enable the vaccination campaign to succeed.

By the end of this week, inoculation with the first dose of the vaccine will have been carried out on nearly 1.8 million Israelis within a period of three weeks.

This is not only a world record, it will provide effective initial protection for about 70 percent of the population aged 60 or more, as well as for many others who have pre-existing conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

During the next three weeks the second dose of the vaccine will be provided to those who have already received the first one.

The rate at which the next vaccines arrive here, a small number of them during January and most of them apparently in February and March, will determine whether the state succeeds in vaccinating approximately 5 million citizens with both the doses – an achievement that is expected to have a dual effect: on the fight against the pandemic and apparently also on the outcome of the March 23 Knesset election.

The appearance of the British variant is being depicted as a decisive justification for taking a very hard line on the lockdown. Some are going so far as to attribute to it the huge increase in infection among the ultra-Orthodox. This, however, as it clearly emerges from the reports from the Haredi locales and neighborhoods themselves, is closely correlated with human behavior as well. The Haredi school system has remained open all through the recent months, contrary to the state’s instructions and at a time when severe restrictions were imposed on the other educational streams. Mass gatherings and weddings have continued with the encouragement of rabbis and respected spiritual leaders.

Above it all hovers the false but prevalent feeling of protection from the pandemic, on the basis of a mistaken understanding of the concept of herd immunity.

Despite the fact that the infection rate among Haredim is about three times greater than their percentage in the population, some rabbis tried this week to ensure that the talmudei Torah – schools for boys, generally grades 3 through 7 – would remain open even during the strict lockdown.

The whole coronavirus event is emerging as a test of the relations between the ultra-Orthodox and the state and the rest of its citizens.

It is already clear that vivid anti-Haredi feelings will remain, even to the extent of open hatred, for many years to come.

At the same time, the behavior of the Haredi population (and to a lesser extent the Arab population) reflects the government’s total abdication to them. The government did not succeed – in fact, hardly even tried – to apply differential policies to “red” locales in the month after the end of the second lockdown, during which the infection rate in the general population was fairly low.

The main reason for this is wearisomely well-known, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s denials.

He, the first to compliment himself on the success in bringing in the vaccinations, is ignoring what is obvious to anyone with eyes to see: He doesn’t dare enforce the law on the ultra-Orthodox because without them, he has no political existence.

Moreover, Netanyahu’s chances of stopping the legal proceedings against him and thwarting the possibility of being found guilty and sentenced to prison depend entirely on the support of the Haredi parties.

This is the altar upon which the health of tens of thousands of citizens has been sacrificed, and around which the livelihoods of millions more have been harmed. The pandemic is bad enough in and of itself, as seen in the extent of the damage in other countries. However, Israel’s current situation could have been better, were it not for Netanyahu’s ulterior motives. The justified praise he is getting for accelerating the vaccination campaign cannot conceal this. Contrary to the claims voiced by the protest activists against him, Netanyahu has not declared the tight lockdown to stop the trial he is facing. However, from the moment the decision was taken, he has done everything he possibly could to use the lockdown as an excuse for an additional slowdown of the proceedings, which are dragging out in any case.

Efficiency and obsequiousness

So far, the vaccination campaign has fulfilled expectations. The HMOs have been highly efficient and the public response has been considerable, despite the warnings from the vaccine’s opponents about ill effects.

Most of the difficulty can be seen in the Arab communities, where the extent of vaccination among the over-60s is about 50 percent lower than among the corresponding Jewish population. There are many bureaucratic difficulties accompanying the operation but this is only natural when it comes to such an extensive new project.

A small shipment of the first vaccinations produced by the Moderna company, which arrived in Israel on Thursday, is intended to serve mainly for inoculating people who are confined to their homes (the conditions for storing the Moderna vaccine are less demanding than Pfizer’s and therefore enable more flexibility).

Another several hundred thousand Moderna vaccines are expected to be received here this month, but the biggest unknown has to do with the arrival times of the supply of Pfizer vaccines. Netanyahu is investing great effort to get them here sooner. Their arrival in January, if that happens, will enable the start of a new round of vaccinations, most of them for Israelis under 60. If that happens, the HMOs will be able to vaccinate more than 150,000 of their members daily, by means of setting up more sites and vaccination points and recruiting more nurses and medics for the job.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the week there was a slight dip in the number of positive coronavirus tests. It’s still too early to say if this marks a reversal in the trend. It is happening while an astronomical increase is being recorded in the overall number of tests being administered – 120,000 a day and more.

The system is already having difficulty with the pace of analysis and contact tracing, and the expansion of the testing is also increasing incidents of quarantine in the economy, some of them needless. If the vaccines do indeed live up to expectations, perhaps by next week it will be possible to see the start of a decrease in the number of new seriously ill patients, as a result of the inoculation of older adults.

All this is happening against a backdrop of accumulating reports of pressure at the hospitals, which is endangering the quality of the treatment of coronavirus patients with other serious illnesses.

Without in anyway deprecating the distress of the medical teams, it must be kept in mind that so far this winter hardly any other seasonal infections have been registered, because the flu has simply not come to the northern hemisphere.

Perhaps the government has no alternative but to impose a third strict lockdown, but still there is no justification for the demonstrations of obsequiousness in which the CEO of one of the HMOs professes her profound gratitude to the prime minister for his imposition of the lockdown, while a spokesman for the police relates says in a broadcast from a television studio that the nation’s soul is yearning for a strict lockdown.

Despite the high rate of infection, the success of the first phase of the vaccination campaign is putting Israel in a good starting position for halting the spread of the pandemic here, and perhaps for the reopening of the economy in another few months. When we look at the bleak reports this week from Britain and the United States, where they are now warning again of a collapse of the hospitals in a number of cities, it is clear that our situation is better. All this, on condition that the mutations of the coronavirus, the British variant and its new South African sibling, are indeed daunted by the vaccine that has already been injected into the bodies of more than half a million Israelis.

Source: Amos Harel – HAARETZ

What is behind Israel’s attention-grabbing COVID-19 vaccination spree

Israel is making headlines for its response to COVID-19 — again.

Early on in the pandemic, Israel was lauded for its tough lockdown measures and low coronavirus rates, only to become a cautionary tale over the summer, when case numbers skyrocketed.

Now Israel is getting praised again, this time for its vaccination campaign. On January 5, Israel announced that it had vaccinated more than 1.5 million citizens — some 16% of its population of nearly 9.2 million, and far and away the highest vaccination rate worldwide. The country is vaccinating 150,000 people every day and hopes to vaccinate half of its population by March.

But the country is also experiencing a renewed spike in COVID-19 cases, and the pandemic’s steepest toll could yet be ahead. So far, the disease has killed nearly 3,500 Israelis.

Here’s what you need to know about Israel’s vaccine drive, from what’s making it work to how it relates to the looming elections to why the country isn’t anywhere close to ending its outbreak.

1. Israel’s universal health care system is vaccinating people every day of the week

Like most developed countries, Israel provides health care to all of its citizens free of charge, and the coronavirus vaccine is no exception. The country is prioritizing elderly citizens and those with immunosuppression or other health risks, but everyone is eligible for the vaccine, or will be in the future.

To receive medical care, Israelis choose between four national networks of health clinics. All of the networks provide the same basic set of government services and medications, but they’re concentrated in different parts of the country and each offer their own premium health care plans, with access to a wider range of services.

The four networks give the government a relatively efficient way to distribute vaccines across the small country, and the networks are competing to provide the fastest and most convenient shots. Vaccination sites are running 7 days a week, some even on Shabbat, a day when most Israeli services shut down. Israelis are also able to book appointments on an app.

One of the networks, Maccabi, is advertising a drive-in vaccination site near the port city of Haifa, with a video showing people rolling up their sleeves without taking off their seatbelts. Clalit, the largest health care network, has a running counter of how many people it has vaccinated.

2. The country has been relatively liberal about who can get the vaccine

Like most countries, Israel is prioritizing frontline healthcare workers and the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, in its first batch of vaccines. But it has been handing out vaccines relatively freely. For starters, Israel included everyone over 60 in the first tier. Other countries have higher age limits or, in the case of the US, are treating the elderly in congregate living settings differently from those who live in their own homes.

What’s more, where other countries are imposing procedures to ensure that no others get the vaccine until it’s their turn, Israel has seemed to be prioritizing getting shots into arms over hewing to a rigid hierarchy. Israelis say that if you’re near a vaccination center at the end of the day, when any prepared vaccines must be used or discarded, you are likely to be able to get a shot, even if you’re young, healthy and don’t work in health care.

Some vaccine providers are taking this approach in the United States, too; a law student in Washington, DC, shared this week that he got a shot because he was at the grocery store pharmacy just before closing time. But more often, states are telling Americans that they must plan to wait — and in some cases, as in New York, imposing steep penalties for administering vaccines out of order.

Some signs of tension appear to be emerging as Israel runs through its first big batch of doses, though. On Monday, the country’s health minister stopped supplying vaccines to a Tel Aviv hospital that administered doses to teachers who did not meet eligibility criteria. (The national teachers union has vowed to strike if teachers are not vaccinated imminently.) At basically the same time, the Prime Minister’s Office has come under fire for giving the vaccine to all of its employees, regardless of their age and health.

3. A lot is riding on this for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Political machinations are hardly the only motivation for getting the country vaccinated. But Netanyahu knew that his support was tenuous when he committed early to vaccine contracts, at high cost, and now that it’s election season in Israel (again), perhaps nothing could do more to shore up his sagging support than a successful vaccination drive earning the world’s esteem and allowing the country to safely get back to normal. The prime minister was the first Israeli to be vaccinated, and he has posed with a wide array of constituents in vaccine photos — including with an Arab Israeli he said was the 1 millionth person vaccinated in the country.

Exactly how many Israelis will be vaccinated before March 23, the date of the upcoming election, remains to be seen. But the current pace of vaccinations suggests that most Israelis will have gotten the concrete benefit of vaccination by then, even as other aspects of Netanyahu’s leadership remain ripe for criticism. (Remember that massive protests against him have taken place whenever there is not a lockdown, and sometimes when there is.)

4. Israel is facing criticism for not vaccinating Palestinians — even as Palestinian leaders say they don’t want the help

As soon as the charts showing Israel leading with its vaccination campaign, criticism emerged over access to vaccines in the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Hamas terror group, and the West Bank, territory that Israel controls but whose Palestinian population it does not manage. Headlines from NPR, the Associated Press and other news organizations have implied that Israel is not delivering vaccines to Palestinians, and that narrative has gained traction, particularly among longstanding critics of Israel. In Canada, Jewish leaders are raising the alarm about members of Parliament who have cited the vaccine situation in criticism of Israel as an apartheid state.

In fact, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for delivering medical care in its territories, according to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993. And the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, has said it does not want Israel’s help and is working to purchase vaccines of its own. It expects to receive its first shipment of a Russian-developed vaccine next month.

Many people, including allies of Israel, say Israel should help vaccinate Palestinians anyway, for both moral and practical reasons. Hundreds of rabbis from multiple denominations, organized by Rabbis for Human Rights, have signed a letter arguing that Israel has a moral imperative to deliver vaccines to Palestinians, especially in Gaza, the strip of land controlled by Hamas where medical care and the general standard of living is poor.

Israel is not alone in prioritizing its own citizens getting vaccinated. Equity of access to vaccines is a pressing global issue, with wealthy countries buying up the vast majority of the first vaccines and leaving huge swaths of the world, including much of Africa, without a clear path to ending their pandemics. Israeli leaders say they intend to donate doses left over after Israelis are vaccinated to needy countries, potentially including Palestinian territories. But right now they — like other national leaders around the world — are focused on their own citizens, including the nearly 2 million Arab Israeli citizens who are part of the current vaccination campaign.

5. Whether the pace of vaccinations can be sustained is unclear — and cases are mounting

Only another 1 million doses are scheduled to arrive later this month, although the country is trying — along with everyone else on Earth — to obtain more. (A new deal with Moderna won’t deliver vaccines before February, officials announced Tuesday, although the timeline remains unclear and the doses may end up arriving earlier.) If no additional doses are received, only about a quarter of the country’s population will have gained immunity through vaccination by the end of January, leaving millions of people vulnerable to COVID-19 at a time of high community spread and with at least one highly infectious new variant circulating.

In just one 24-hour span this week, one in every 1,000 Israelis was diagnosed with COVID-19, and a third lockdown, imposed late last month, is being tightened. The number of “serious cases” — people who are hospitalized and in poor condition — is nearing its fall peak, and infections are widespread across all sectors of society.

According to the government, more than half of older Israelis have received one dose already. But even with the high vaccination rate, Israel is far from ending its onslaught of cases and deaths. That’s true for every country, but it could come as a harsher realization for one with international acclaim for its vaccine rollout.

Source: Philissa Cramer and Ben Sales – TOI

Facebook accused Haaretz of ‘Fake News’

Jordana Cutler, Facebook Israel’s head of policy and Jewish Diaspora, complained in an article on Sunday that Haaretz was spreading fake news. More precisely, she argued that there was no factual basis to last week’s editorial, which argued that the integrity of the looming Israeli election was at risk and protecting it was of no real interest to Facebook.

Facebook’s consistent disregard for protecting orderly democratic processes has been repeatedly demonstrated over the years, again and again. Facebook for its part has responded with a host of lies and distortions. Even Cutler’s disclaimer shows the same old lack of sincerity by Facebook. She describes herself as “Facebook Israel’s head of policy,” which enables her to repeatedly evade tough questions about the social media company’s wider policies, which she claims can be better addressed by Facebook Ireland. However, in 2017 she told the Knesset that she herself was Facebook’s representative in Ireland.

Let’s take a look at some of Cutler’s other claims against the editorial and then compare them to what we call reality:

Cutler: Throughout the past three national election campaigns, Facebook has worked tirelessly to protect election integrity in Israel, uphold local laws through strong cooperation with the Central Elections Committee and the Ministry of Justice.

The reality: Politicians violated the Knesset Elections Law several times using Facebook, with Facebook usually preferring not to get involved. In Netanyahu’s case, the head of the Central Elections Committee had to actually instruct Facebook to suspend his page’s chatbot on election day, after it was discovered it was breaking Israeli campaign laws by posting of public opinion polls after the time it is legally permitted to do so.

The radical decision to block the chatbot was made despite a previous understanding between the committee and Facebook. According to the committee’s head, a retired supreme court justice, the company “agreed” to remove content that violated Israeli election laws, thus negating the need for the legal intervention on their part. And yet, even when the Likud chatbot spread inciting and racist messages against Israel’s Arab population, the company wasn’t so quick to take action. In fact, it acted only after the elections committee received a petition on the matter, moving to preempt a decision on the matter only then.

Cutler: Contrary to what the editorial claimed, revenue from political advertising in Israel is not a “money maker.”

The reality: If Cutler is representing Facebook global headquarters, then yes, that’s true. With all due respect to the last two election-replete years, Israel and its political system is just one item out of many in the billions of dollars the corporation turns over.

One should note, however, that Zuckerberg made similar claims himself while trying to push back against similar accusations made against Facebook in the U.S.

Nonetheless, there may be something to Facebook’s argument: Indeed, money isn’t everything. More precisely, it is everything, but making money also requires power, specifically direct links to the corridors of power in each of the countries the platform operates in.

One tried and tested way is to recruit people known to be close to key power brokers, such as someone who used to be the deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior adviser on Diaspora affairs, a person known to be close to him. Her name, in case you were wondering, is Jordana Cutler.

Incidentally, Cutler is not the first (and definitely not the last) person to be recruited after a career in some administration or other. Nick Clegg, the Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, arrived from an even more senior position, that of deputy to former British Prime Minister David Cameron. Even Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, considered to be Mark Zuckerberg’s right hand woman, came to Facebook after several years at Google, before which she served as the head of U.S Treasury Larry Summer’s bureau.

Cutler: We even publicly encouraged regulation to help update Israel’s antiquated election laws, to incorporate the challenges brought by digital media and advertising.

The reality: Cutler is repeating an old trick used by Facebook several times in recent years – ostensibly calling on governments to do something already and legislate some kind of new regulation, since tasks like these are far too complex and delicate a task to be left in the hands of digital platforms.

Facebook is right on this matter, but throughout its history, Facebook seemed quite skilled at learning and sidestepping existing regulations – as well as influencing policy makers behind the scenes.

Referencing a draft bill put forward recently that would have advertisers be liable for political ads, Cutler later hints at the kind of regulation Facebook likes: Full responsibility placed on advertisers, and zero responsibility on Facebook.

Cutler: Ads can be a very important part of giving power to voice – especially for candidates and groups that the mainstream media might not otherwise cover.

The reality: Researchers as well as professionals from the digital media industry responded with derision when asked to relate to this claim by the Facebook representative.

They all say that far from giving a voice to the disenfranchised, the weak only grow weaker on Facebook, specifically when it comes to advertising spending, especially at times of elections. Elections bring with them increased investments on ads by political parties, which entails increased competition over exposure, which in turn leads to a spike in costs.

Parties awash in funds, like Likud, can inundate Facebook’s feed with advertising and paid-for posts, while the “candidates that aren’t covered by the media” that Cutler holds so dear can only hope for minimal exposure.

But advertising is only a small part of the issue. The ads are but one cog in an enormous web of content people are exposed to on and off Facebook.

The exposure to paid ads isn’t even the most important side of that machine.

The true value lies in parties’ ability to constantly augment the data they have on voters in ways that improve targeting. This segmentation allows them to hone the specific messages that each different segment gets.

On Facebook, the bigger the page, the bigger their engagement. This positive feedback loop stands at the heart of its targeting and segmentation, and it actually helps strong parties: Through Facebook groups and pages that are not defined as election advertising, through private messages on Facebook Messenger, on mobile phones, TV, or even videos and “organic” posts (posts that are distributed with no financial investment in promoting anything). In the case of the prime minister, all this gives him much greater exposure than the smaller or “weaker” candidates get. The more exposure these “organic” posts get, the more disseminated they get online, garnering media coverage independently. Thus, the message of stronger parties reverberates, drowning out the messages of weaker candidates, the ones Cutler claims are helped by Facebook.

Cutler: It is hard to define where to draw the line as to what would even be considered a political ad. The editorial says “political information” – what does that mean? Is it only advertising from candidates and parties? What about ads on important social issues such as civil marriage or drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the military?

The reality: That’s 100% true, but Facebook likes to only discuss funded political “advertising” in this context. However, Facebook and our feed has a mix of all kinds of content, from political pages to groups of different kinds, legacy media publishers’ posts alongside those of smaller outlets and even influencers.

Facebook’s true power lies not in the ads but in its blurring of boundaries between news and entertainment, politics and mundane cate memes, fact lovers and flat earthers.

The platform actually thrives on the dissemination of viral information – regardless of its veracity – and paid political ads are not necessarily the main way it spreads, say in comparison to the groups and communities which have arisen in Facebook over the years.

The issues of so-called fake news pages or groups pushing out disinformation is rarely one Facebook will address in this context.

When it comes to elections, Facebook has zigzagged, as is its wont, revealing issues only where the light has already been forced to shine: paid political ads. If anyone shines a light onto some darker corner, Facebook does all it can to extinguish that light that democracy needs to flourish.

Cutler: We believe in providing transparency to the public regarding how campaigns are using these political ads in campaigns.

The reality: “Facebook believes in transparency” is perhaps one of the most unfounded sentences ever to appear on Israeli media. Apple’s attempt, for example, to inform iPhone users of what data apps were collecting on them was met by an actual fake news campaign by Facebook, which saw it buy full page ads insinuating that informing people of what was happening with their personal information was an assault on the internet itself.

Even the “transparency” offered by Facebook to advertisers is limited, just another example of its concealing more than it reveals. The information it shares with journalists and the public is close to nothing, a true beacon of transparency.

On the one hand, before the election in 2019, Facebook launched a tool that obligated Israeli advertisers to receive approval for purchasing political ads.

It opened a “library” of political ads that ostensibly enabled one to determine who stands behind various political ads. On the other hand, Facebook blocked external tools developed by watchdogs and were used by external researchers trying to follow the money and understand the current political media landscape.

In fact, the transparency tool Facebook calls its “library of political ads” is not proving to be a stellar success.

In a study by Prof. Anat Ben-David and her colleagues at the Open University, they collected screen photos of political ads that were funded by different agencies over the last three election campaigns. These were used to create an alternative archive to Facebook’s official one and an “initial analysis of ads served ahead of the September election shows that over 35% of the collected ads were not marked by the platform as political,” wrote Prof. Ben-David.

“These unmarked ads were targeted primarily by politicians, anonymous pages and NGOs. Ads ran by pages whose administrators are anonymous are of special importance for studying manipulation or disinformation within campaigns” she added. “However, since they are not marked as political, they will not appear in Facebook’s official Ad Library, therefore, doubting the very utility of making truth claims on the completeness of Facebook’s official collection,” the paper by Prof. Ben-David, which was published in the May edition of the European Journal of Communication, concluded.

Source: Refaella Goichman – HAARETZ

Nine reasons why Israel leads the world in vaccine distribution

Israel has vaccinated a larger share of its population against the novel coronavirus than any other country in the world.

While there are many politicians who would like to take the credit for Israel’s rock-star performance – not least Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – there is more at play here than petty politics.

“I am asked all over the world how Israel does it,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Sunday. “The reasons are that we were prepared on time, signed on time with the leading companies, and convinced them that if they gave us the vaccine, the health funds would know how to administer it in a very short time. That is exactly what is happening.”

Here are nine more reasons why Israel is currently the world’s No. 1 vaccinator:

1. Universal healthcare

Universal healthcare has existed in Israel since before the founding of the state and has continued to be a valuable factor ever since. According to Dr. Dorit Nitzan, director of emergencies for the World Health Organization, the coronavirus pandemic has proven that this type of care was key to managing the health crisis.

Now, according to Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer for Clalit Health Services and chairman of the National Expert Advisory Panel to the Government on COVID-19, it is proving essential in vaccinating against the virus.

As part of a universal care offering, the most critical types of care are provided to citizens free of charge, including general practitioner, urgent hospitalization, lab work and vaccination.

“The system revolves around the intimate connection from cradle to grave between citizens and their healthcare provider,” Balicer said, adding that general practitioners have a list of people for whom they feel responsible in health and sickness, which has proven critical for reaching the country’s elderly and chronically ill and getting them into their funds to vaccinate.

According to Tamar Fishman-Magen, a registered nurse and a member of Meuhedet Health Maintenance Organization’s Nursing Division, “This is the proof that we have been waiting for so long – the importance of community medical services.”

2. People trust their health funds

In an era when some 62% of the population lacks trust in its prime minister, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, it is striking to know that according to a 2020 survey conducted by Myers-JDC-Brookdale, 90% of Israelis are satisfied with their health funds.

Only around 1% of Israelis annually choose to switch to an alternate health fund, although it is easy to do so, Balicer said.

“This tells you something about the level of trust and infrastructure built over the years,” he said.

3. A focus on preventative care

Health funds are focused on ensuring their clients take care of themselves and not only healing them after they are sick. Some health experts suggested that one of the reasons that the coronavirus mortality rate in Israel was lower than in other countries was because there is less untreated and undiagnosed chronic illness in the country.

In Israel, health funds are paid by an age-adjusted per capita amount of funding for every member, rather than by services provided. As such, there is a lot of emphasis on preventive, proactive care and outreach, and clients are used to hearing from their health funds.

Clalit, for example, has turned to using predictive models, advanced big-data analytics and artificial intelligence to identify patients before they become sick and provide preventive care to them so they will not experience actual diagnoses or symptoms of a disease. This year, even before the coronavirus vaccination, Clalit used these mechanisms to provide influenza vaccines to patients at highest risk for complications, Balicer said.

4. Israel knows emergencies

“We are like sprinters,” said Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. “Israel knows how to mobilize.”

He recalled how in 2010 when a massive earthquake struck Haiti, Israel was on the ground within 48 hours and was already operating a sophisticated field hospital even before the Americans arrived.
“We have become used to working in a state of emergency,” Balicer said. “Our four health funds have been used to moving quickly, instantaneously gearing up for emergencies and providing complex reassignments of a lot of personnel.”

In short, Israel knows how to get things done.

5. A lot of people work for the health funds

Clalit is the largest employer in Israel with more than 45,000 workers. According to Leumit Health Care Services’ website, the fund employs 2,000 specialists among its tens of thousands of staff members.

Having this immense manpower – a clinic in every neighborhood in the country from north to south – gives the health funds a lot of power, Balicer said.

6. This is not the first time the funds vaccinated a lot of people

“We run vaccination campaigns all the time,” Fishman-Magen said. “We do it every winter when we vaccinate against flu, and we have been called upon to vaccinate against other things, too. Measles or polio. This is something to which we are accustomed.”

As such, according to Ido Hadari, Maccabi Healthcare Services’ director of communications and government, the funds had the infrastructure in place to make the coronavirus vaccination campaign happen in a big way.

“Making appointments for vaccination, to inform you or remind you that you have an appointment tomorrow, to understand why you did not come, to set up the second appointment for the second dose during the first interaction – we make it look very simple,” he said.

For this particular vaccination campaign, it was important for the funds to separate the healthy patients coming for inoculation from those who were sick, which meant erecting separate vaccination compounds.

Maccabi put up 85 compounds across the country, but according to Hadari, they had a rehearsal only a few months previously.

“In regular years, we give the flu vaccination in the clinic,” he said. “But this winter, with coronavirus, we started giving flu vaccinations outside most of them in the same compounds we are now using for COVID.”

The health funds have the process down to a science. Maccabi knows that it takes seven minutes to inoculate someone, so it makes appointments every seven minutes, with an extra slot left free to accommodate for the unexpected so they don’t end up backlogged, Hadari said.

“My husband and I had [the vaccine] via Maccabi at Shlomo Arena in Tel Aviv,” Shelley Goldman wrote last week in a Facebook response to an inquiry about her vaccination by The Jerusalem Post. “Everything was very well organized.”

“Was at Haturim [in Jerusalem],” wrote another respondent, Deborah Lustig. “No wait at all. No crowding. Super impressed.”

There is also the challenge of avoiding vaccine loss; each vaccine dose costs Israel around NIS 100, or NIS 200 per person. According to Balicer, Israel has had to destroy less than 0.1% of its doses.

Although the funds are super-organized with its appointments, as Hadari explained, each Pfizer vial contains five to six doses, and if, at the end of the day, a bottle is going to be opened to inoculate two patients, the funds are flexible enough to reach out to people who don’t have appointments and invite them in.

7. Data and technology

The health funds all work with computerized records that feed data securely and without revealing private details to the Health Ministry to track the vaccine campaign’s progress and any side effects or other information reported by those who get them.

“Israel has a technical edge,” Afek told the Post.

Though there is no contract with Pfizer to share data, he said, he assumes the company “saw the possibility of Israel not just to vaccinate but to monitor whether people have side effects and realized that Israel can become an international experimental arena to see fast and effective vaccination of the public… For any company this is so valuable.”

But this data also works for the patients, too, said Fishman-Magen.

The funds’ personalized medical records date back 50, 60 and 70 years, and doctors and other relevant medical professionals can quickly ensure that patients who will be vaccinated have no contraindications or problems that might be caused by giving the vaccines.

8. Communication

he country did not just launch its campaign, but together with the health funds and hospitals, it ran a widespread TV, radio and newspaper campaign encouraging people to take the vaccine, noted Fishman-Magen.

At some health funds, each person who gets the jab is encouraged to photograph his or herself and share it on social media to encourage others who might be hesitant.

Balicer also noted efforts to gain public trust in the vaccines’ safety and efficacy before inoculation began.

“We took the time to explain the scientific evidence,” he said. “I personally went to key sessions with the haredi [ultra-Orthodox] community and held long discussions with their leadership until we had a rabbinical ruling that vaccines are safe and should be sought.”

The country’s understanding of the need to have a lot of cultural competency and targeted messages has proven effective, he said.

According to Fishman-Magen, “Before the campaign began, we had only around 40% of the population saying they would vaccinate, and other percentages said maybe or they were not interested. Now, we see that everyone is interested, and we have to prioritize.”

9. The spirit of the People of Israel

But in the end, it comes down to the people, said Afek.

The health professionals, first, who volunteered to work extra hours to ensure people were vaccinated, he said.

But also the general public.

“You can have all the staff ready and trained and the supply available, but if the public does not cooperate, it cannot be done,” Hadari said.

“We really, really feel the public was waiting for this vacation like a hope that is coming true,” he added.

Hadari recalled how as a child during the First Lebanon War, when he lived in a village in the North, when a helicopter would land near the village, the people would come running out with cakes and juice to thank the soldiers.

“Now, the people are bringing our staff pizza and hamburgers and trays of fruit,” he said.

“We feel like the soldiers now, and the public is really giving us that warm hug. The public is really grateful.”

Source: Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman – JPost

Whitewashing by the Israeli Army isn’t only Callous, it’s Criminal

An armed robbery that deteriorated into a murder attempt took place Friday in the remote South Hebron Hills village of Al-Rakiz.

The armed robbers, in uniform, tried to steal a generator in broad daylight and in full view.

The robbers tried to load the generator onto their vehicle as its rightful owners, three unarmed shepherds, tried to save their property with their bare hands.

The generator is a lifeline for these shepherds, whose village is not allowed to connect to the water or electricity supply. That’s why they fought for it with all their meager strength.

The scene continued for a few minutes: the robbers trying to put the generator into their getaway vehicle, the shepherds trying to retrieve it. A few times they wrested it from the robbers, who yanked it back. Each side followed the choreography of an armed robbery, with curses and desperate cries as background music.

Then came the twist in the plot: As the generator passed from hand to hand and the curses continued, one of the robbers lost patience. Shabbat was coming; he wanted to leave with his plunder. What does an impatient robber do? He shoots, to end the saga.

Two shots were fired; one hit the mark. Harun Abu Aram, 24, who struggled with those trying to steal his property, fell backward. The robber had fired from six feet away, hitting him in the throat. Abu Aram was taken in critical condition to a hospital in Yatta. The robbers left with their loot.

They were, of course, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.

Their heroic campaign was robbing shepherds of their generator, which the IDF called “a routine operation of confiscation and evacuation of an illegal structure.”

When they go on leave, these soldiers will surely recount their feats with pride: armed robbery and attempted murder.

But the IDF never calls a spade a spade. For this it has a spokesperson to cover up, whitewash and lie when necessary. The cover-up this time talked about “a violent disturbance involving 150 Palestinians.”

A video of the incident shows three shepherds, with nothing in their hands, facing five armed soldiers and trying to retrieve their generator.

This was called a “disturbance of the peace,” but the true disturbance was the robbery. Followed by: “a violent incident in which a number of Palestinians used force.” What happened to the violence used by the soldiers? The theft of the generator?

And then came the punch line: “The claim that a Palestinian was wounded by live fire during the incident is known.” The claim is recognized. The soldiers standing next to their victim didn’t see that he’d been shot, didn’t see him fall to the ground – the IDF is only “aware of the claim” to that effect.

It’s already been determined that there is no culprit, no responsibility, no apology and not even any sadness.

In May, soldiers shot a 17-year-old boy in the face, killing him, as he stood with his sisters, far away, on the roof of their home in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp, watching events in the street below. Zaid Qaisia had dreamed of becoming a singer. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported his criminal killing thus: “After the operation there was a report of a dead Palestinian.“ This time there was no “claim,” only a “report,” but the IDF report was no less cruel, chilling and cold-hearted.

On January 30 of last year, too, the army shot a boy in the head in Kafr Qaddum. Mohammed Shatawi, 14, became a vegetable. What did the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit have to say about the organization whose PR he handles? “A claim about a Palestinian who was wounded by a rubber bullet is known.” Even when the victim is a child. Perhaps he wasn’t shot, perhaps he shot himself. After all, there is only some “claim.”

A shocking crime took place two days ago in al-Rakiz – watch the video, available online.

When the IDF Spokesperson covers up for the army this way, it is an accessory to a crime.

When the IDF Spokesperson whitewashes this way, soldiers know that nothing terrible happened. They can rely on the collaborators – most of the military reporters – not to make a fuss. After all, nothing happened. Nothing.

Source: Gideon Levy – HAARETZ

Often spurned by cabinet that hired him, ex-virus czar lashes COVID leadership

Former coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, who became the public face of the government’s efforts to beat back the pandemic over the summer and fall, has lambasted the conduct of the country’s political leadership during the crisis, characterizing Israel’s political leadership as “cowards” who were far more concerned with optics than substance.

An episode of Channel 12 investigative program “Uvda” that aired Thursday followed Gamzu during his time in the post and interviewed him after he stepped down.

It painted a picture of a man who went into the job with earnest zeal, but who quickly became disillusioned, and deeply frustrated, by the political machinations and narrow interests that appeared to dictate every government decision.

Gamzu was appointed by Netanyahu in July, amid intense public criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis, and in particular its indecision, seemingly capricious directives and a sense that too many cooks were trying to run the show. To a degree, Gamzu replaced the man who had previously served as the face of the national response during the first tumultuous few months of the pandemic — former Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, who himself often clashed with government members over the appropriate steps to be taken.

Gamzu was championed as the professional overseer who would bring order to the chaos and navigate the waters of Israel’s pandemic response with a steady hand.

Alas, it was not to be.

The program documented the many obstacles Gamzu — a veteran doctor, former Health Ministry director-general and current manager of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital — faced while spearheading the national response to COVID-19, as well as his conflicts with various politicians who repeatedly pushed back against professional positions and plans.

Gamzu took the post at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request, with the promise that he would have full authority over much of the nation’s response to the crisis. However, he quickly found out that few of his recommendations were being accepted.

Almost immediately after he entered the position, anonymous ministers began assailing him and his plans in the media. A harried Gamzu was at one point seen telling an aide to relay to the prime minister: “Tell them to stop briefing [reporters] against me.”

One official Gamzu particularly sparred with was Education Minister Yoav Gallant, who continuously pushed to completely open the education system amid rising infections.

When Gallant publicly announced that the cabinet had agreed schools would open on September 1, despite there being no such agreement, Gamzu was caught on Uvda’s camera angrily telling someone on the phone: “It’s bullying… It will crap on all of my efforts.

“Gallant’s lying… There’s no such decision! He put that out to make himself a hero,” he said. “Such foolishness. What [is he] playing at? It’s ego before brains.”

A particular point of conflict was Gamzu’s so-called traffic light program, which would have isolated high-infection localities while allowing others to carry on. The plan was rejected by the government in September, reportedly due to pressure from ultra-Orthodox lawmakers whose constituents would have been chiefly affected by such closures. Many of the areas on the draft roster of “red” cities were majority ultra-Orthodox, and local leaders and others had threatened to disregard the new guidelines and pull their political support from Netanyahu if the traffic light plan was widely implemented.

“They branded me the big enemy. There was pressure from every direction,” Gamzu said of the battle over the matter. Throughout his tenure, Gamzu repeatedly clashed with the ultra-Orthodox, who called for his ouster due to his policies.

Israel eventually was forced to enter a nationwide lockdown in mid-September, as rising infections stopped being focused largely in Haredi and Arab towns and spread throughout the population.

Gamzu said he at one point began drafting a resignation letter, before changing his mind. “It would have been running away, and I can’t stand running away,” he told Uvda.

Gamzu also said he felt unease when Netanyahu sought ahead of the September lockdown to impose restrictions on protesters against himself and his government.

A report by Channel 13 News at the time claimed Gamzu had privately decried the decision and expressed disgust at Netanyahu’s conduct.

“I felt uncomfortable with it,” Gamzu admitted to Uvda. “That it was being managed by the person whom the protests were against.”

He added that he thought Netanyhau made a “bad statement,” that he wished the premier had not made, when he referred to the protesters as “virus-spreaders.”

Gamzu eventually decided to leave the post at the height of the second lockdown, amid reported ongoing clashes with Netanyahu, and eventually departed in early November.

He told Uvda that between two and five people were asked to replace him at the end of his tenure, and that he ended up finding out he would be succeeded by Nachman Ash via the media, without anyone notifying him ahead of the announcement.

Source: TOI