Newsletter February 24, 2021
External Current Events
Israel and Iran
In the past couple of days, talks of a new deal with Iran over their pursuit of a nuclear program have amped up, leading to Israel voicing its concerns once more (Caspit, 2021). Israeli officials are nervous about Biden doing a new deal so soon, in part because Biden’s Democratic predecessor had created a deal with Iran in 2015 that did not sit well with Israeli top brass (Caspit, 2021) (Ravid, 2021a). Although Israel is wary about the US entering into new negotiations with Iran, they have kept lines of communications open with Washington to try and dissuade them from giving Iran too much of an upper hand, in their view (Williams, 2021) (Caspit, 2021). Biden’s openness to more EU negotiations could also put a strain on the relationship, as he would be on the side of European nations who also wish to negotiate the deal anew (Ravid, 2021a). All eyes are on Iran.
Israel and Syria
A recent prisoner swap between Syria and Israel, which was both overseen by Russia and under a strict gag order in Israel, has raised a few eyebrows (Ravid, 2021b). The prisoner swap began with an Israeli woman crossing the border into Syria, being captured, and subsequent bargaining ensued – but a Syrian prisoner, who wished to do their term in Israel, held up the swap (Ravid, 2021b). Although there was eventually an exchange between two Syrian herders and the Israeli woman, another issue made the swap unique, and that was COVID-19 (Ravid, 2021b). Details are murky due to the gag order and secretive nature of the deal, but it appears that Israel had secured vaccines for the Syrian government as another factor for the release of the Israeli woman (Holmes and Graham-Harrison, 2021). This deal was kept quiet by all sides, Syrian, Russian and Israeli alike, for unknown reason – though speculation abound that it was to keep Netanyahu from criticism from the right wing of his base about buying vaccines for non-Israelis (Holmes and Graham-Harrison, 2021). This is especially relevant, as Israel will be electing its prime minister in March (Holmes and Graham-Harrison, 2021).
Israel and Morocco
Morocco’s normalization with Israel, which took place back in December, has not gone as smoothly inside and outside of the kingdom as Israel hoped (“Morocco”, 2020). The National Federation of Education, a union in Morocco, has denounced normalization of ties in the education sector between Israel and Morocco, warning about, “the inclusion of the Jewish heritage in the Moroccan curriculum” (Majdoub, 2021). The situation is not much better outside of the kingdom, either, as another north African nation – Algeria – has began diplomatic and cultural attacks against the Kingdom, some of which centers around its newfound ties to Israel (Islah, 2021) (“Algeria”, 2021). This includes lumping together the two nations on supposed cyber-attacks against Algeria, and public mockery of the Moroccan king on an Algerian news channel – who is a figure that is held in very high regard within Morocco (Islah, 2021) (“Algeria”, 2021).
Algeria claims Israel, Morocco waging 'cyber war' against it. (2021, Feb 18). i24 News. https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/1613657913-algeria-claims-israel-morocco-waging-cyber-war-against-it
Caspit, B. (2021, Feb 12). Israel campaigns against the US rushing to negotiate with Iran. Al-Monitor. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/02/israel-us-lebanon-syria-iran-hezbollah-anthony-blinken-biden.html
Holmes, O., & Graham-Harrison, E. (2021, Feb 20). Israel said to have used Covid vaccines as bargaining tool in Syria prisoner swap. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/20/israel-said-to-have-used-covid-vaccines-as-bargaining-tool-in-syria-prisoner-swap
Islah, F. (2021, Feb 19). Morocco/Algeria: Tensions on the rise after Algerian show mocks the King. The Africa Report. https://www.theafricareport.com/66775/morocco-algeria-tensions-on-the-rise-after-algerian-show-mocks-the-king/
Majdoub, K. (2021, Feb 22). Moroccan union rejects educational ties with Israel. Anadolu Agency. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/moroccan-union-rejects-educational-ties-with-israel/2152935
Morocco builds ties with Israel in return for recognition of its authority over Western Sahara. (2020, Dec 10). Middle East Monitor. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20201210-morocco-builds-ties-with-israel-in-return-for-recognition-of-its-authority-over-western-sahara/
Ravid, B. (2021, Feb 19). Israel sounds alarm after U.S. backs nuclear talks with Iran. Axios. https://www.axios.com/israel-opposes-iran-nuclear-deal-talks-biden-630b757f-62e6-46ca-97e1-867c39da78a3.html
Ravid, B. (2021, Feb 18). Russia brokers unusual prisoner exchange between Israel and Syria. Axios. https://www.axios.com/israel-syria-prisoner-swap-russia-golan-heights-b9741b2c-35bf-4ff1-b407-1e59d5144850.html
Williams, D. (2021, Feb 23). Israel aims to resolve Iran disputes with Biden at adviser level. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-israel-usa-idUSKBN2AN14Z
Internal Current Events
On February 23rd, the cabinet voted to implement a nationwide curfew over Purim as a way to prevent large public gatherings that could lead to Covid-19 breakouts. The curfew will be from 8:30pm till 5am on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. At a tour of a vaccination center on Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “This is to prevent what happened last Purim – we don’t want a repeat” in regard to the curfew over the holiday. Last Purim caused a rise in Covid-19 outbreaks due to the fact that many people did not follow the rules of not having large gatherings. This curfew also comes as Israel is seeing a change in the direction of infection nationwide where there is now a slight rise in infection. This is why the Coronavirus czar also went out on Tuesday to say that officials are worried that violations of the curfew could lead to an increase in infections which would cause Israel to go back into a larger lockdown.
Ministers approve nighttime curfew over Purim, beginning at 8:30 p.m. (2021, February 23). Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-backs-nighttime-curfew-over-purim-beginning-at-830-p-m/
On February 23rd, the Health Ministry of Israel decided to revoke the medical license of Dr. Aryeh Avni, who was an anti-vaccination-coercion doctor. Avni also is a current political candidate as head of the Rapeh Party. Judge Strashnov said that the decision was made due to the articles that Avni published on social media that was against public immunization of the coronavirus which would but public health in danger. Avni responded to losing his medical license by saying that Judge Strashnov was the Judge that imprisoned Rabbi Uzi Meshulam after he exposed that the state was taking Yemenite Jewish children in the 1950s. Avni also said that his medical license was revoked as a way to silence justifiable voices against the vaccine in the medical field. Avni also says that he is not ani-vaccination but rather, he opposes methods that marginalize those that do not wish to get vaccines.
Levine, C. (2021, February 23). Heath Min. revokes license of anti vax-coercion doctor, Rapeh Party head. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/health-min-revokes-license-of-anti-vaccination-doctor-rapeh-party-head-659919
On February 21st, experts came out to say that the damage to the environment as a result of the tar spill has already extremely impacted 160km of Israel’s coastline. Although the source of the tar spill is not known, authorities believe that it was caused by an oil spill from a boat that passed the shores of Israel. Environmental microbiologist Dr. Edo Bar-Zeev said that the public should not be worried about their drinking water being impacted by the spill. Professor Colin Price and Dr. Bar-Zeev both have touched on the fact that marine life will be largely impacted by this tar spill. Bar-Zeev said that the tar will be found on the beach for a while, and it will continue to release carbon into the ocean. Another thing that caused this tar spill to have a terrible impact was the storm that happened at the same time. Price said that this storm caused for the tar to be pushed onto the beaches instead of it staying out at sea.
Tercatin, R. (2021, February 21). Damage to Israeli marine environment from tar spill extreme, experts say. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/damage-to-israeli-marine-environment-from-tar-spill-extreme-experts-say-659716
A different kind of triple threat.
Amedi was born in an Israeli settlement in east Jeruslaem (Pisgat Ze’ev) in 1988 (Burack, 2020). He has a Kurdish-Jewish background and is very proud of it, usually ending his concerts with a song in Kurdish (Bar-Am, 2020)
Most people probably recognize Idan Amedi from his prominent role of ‘Sagi Tzur’ in the hit TV show Fauda, which currently has three seasons up for watch on Netflix (Burack, 2020). In addition to his successful career in acting, he is also a singer-songwriter and has proficient skills in martial arts in which he won runner up in Israel’s Taekwondo championship (Burack, 2020). His music career started when he auditioned for the Israeli TV music competition כוכב נולד in 2011 (Star is Born), where he wrote an original song “Warrior’s Pain” and came in second place (Burack, 2020).
He currently has four albums out Idan Amedi (2011), Bazman Hahachron (Recently) (2013), Ratzinu Lihiyot (we wanted to be) (2015), Chelek Mehazman (Part of the time) (2017) and has yet to release the fifth but has already released a few singles in the last year (Wiki, 2020).
Idan Amedi. (2020, November 24). Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idan_Amedi#The_fifth_album_-_2020
Burack, E. (2020, April 28). 18 things to know ABOUT IDAN Amedi, Aka SAGI In 'fauda'. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.heyalma.com/18-things-to-know-about-idan-amedi-aka-sagi-in-fauda/
Bar-Am, A., Horovitz, D., Staff, T., Winer, T., Winer, S., Surkes, S., . . . AFP, T. (2020, July 11). How Kurdish Jews made their way to Jerusalem, shocked HERZL, began to thrive. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.timesofisrael.com/how-kurdish-jews-made-their-way-to-jerusalem-shocked-herzl-began-to-thrive/