Iran’s Silence ‘Astonishing’
LACK OF CONTACT FROM IRAN’S GOVERNMENT ‘ASTONISHING’: The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said Friday, November 12, it was “astonishing” that he has had no contact with the new Iranian government over several important outstanding issues since it took office.
Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had been hoping to visit Iran before the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors starts on November 22 but made clear on Friday that he was disappointed that no invitation had yet been forthcoming. Grossi’s latest comments come as diplomats prepare for international talks in Vienna to restart later this month on the restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In parallel with those efforts, the IAEA has been trying to resolve several other issues with Iran, including restrictions on some of its inspections activities imposed earlier this year. Grossi visited Tehran in September where he clinched a deal over access to surveillance equipment at Iran’s nuclear facilities but had hoped to return soon afterward to have further discussions with the government of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August. “I have not had any contact with this government… that has been there for more than five months,” Grossi told reporters, adding that the only exceptions had been “technical conversations” with Iran’s new atomic energy chief Mohamed Eslami. “This is astonishing and I am saying it openly because I’m saying it to them,” Grossi said. “There’s a long list of things we need to discuss,” he said. (TOI / VFI News)
ISRAEL, UAE, BAHRAIN, AND USA HOLD JOINT DRILL IN RED SEA: On Wednesday, November 10, the militaries of Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and the United States kicked off a multilateral maritime security operations exercise, the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) said Thursday.
The five-day exercise in the Red Sea is the first public naval exercise Israel has held with the UAE and Bahrain since the Abraham Accords were signed last year. The exercise includes training on the USS Portland, which will “enhance interoperability between participating forces’ maritime interdiction teams,” NAVCENT said in its statement. Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said, “Maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability.” On Sunday, November 7, Iran kicked off a large-scale military exercise, conducted throughout the area from north of the Indian Ocean to parts of the Red Sea. The Iranian exercise includes among other things, the use of drones, manned aircraft, special forces, and both defensive and offensive missile systems. (INN / VFI News)
BENNETT TO CHRISTIANS: RADICAL ISLAM WANTS TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD: Iran wants to dominate the world through Islamist extremism, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned during the Government Press Organization’s seventh annual Christian Media Summit on Thursday, November 11.
“Here in Israel, we are fighting a very visible enemy, radical militant Islam,” Bennett warned in a pre-recorded message, delivered to the virtual conference. “The terror that begins in Tehran seeks to destroy Israel, dominate the world, and drive it into a dark abyss.” Bennett said that people should not kill or spread war and hatred in the name of the God of life, peace, and love. The only place in the Middle East that fully protects Christians is Israel, where the Christian community is “growing, thriving and prospering,” he said. “More than ever, Israel stands united with Christians. We’re brothers and sisters. We are united. We won’t let anyone extinguish our light.” Bennett thanked Christians for standing up for Israel and the truth. The theme of this year’s Christian Media Summit was the Abraham Accords, which Bennett called “a new dawn for Israel’s standing in the region.” “Just like the doors of Abraham’s tent were open, the doors of Israel are open to a better and brighter future,” the prime minister stated. Bennett emphasized the importance of Jerusalem to Christians and Jews. “Jerusalem is the beating heart of Israel, and our hearts beat with love for Jerusalem and the State of Israel.” (JPost / VFI News)
IAI UNVEILS NEW DEFENSIVE ELECTRONIC WARFARE SYSTEMS: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) unveiled a family of new electronic warfare (EW) systems on Thursday which can combat a range of threats, including UAVs, ships, missiles, and radar systems.
The Scorpius family of systems scans the entire surrounding area for targets and deploys narrowly focused beams to interfere with multiple threats across the electromagnetic spectrum. The system effectively disrupts the operation of electromagnetic systems, including radar, electronic sensors, navigation, and data communications. Scorpius has unprecedented receiver sensitivity and transmission power, allowing it to detect and address multiple threats of different kinds simultaneously from much farther distances than it was able to do in the past. The Scorpius family includes five systems: the Scorpius G (ground), N (naval), SP (air – self-protection), SJ (air – standoff jammer), and the Scorpius T (training). The Scorpius G is a mobile, ground-based EW system used to detect and disrupt ground and airborne threats. The system can be quickly deployed by vehicle and is a “soft-kill” air defense system that creates an electronic dome of protection above a wide area. The Scorpius N defends ships against advanced threats, including cruise missiles, UAVs, and airborne imaging radars. The system’s extremely high range provides early detection and targeting of threats. The Scorpius SP is a self-protection pod for combat aircraft, while the SJ is a standoff jammer that disrupts a range of enemy aerial and ground-based electromagnetic operations. The system can be installed on fighter and mission aircraft for escort and stand-off jamming missions or on military transport aircraft. It operates automatically and can provide protection against all types of Air-to-Air and Surface-to-Air threats. The Scorpius T provides electronic warfare (EW) training for pilots. The system emulates a variety of modern air-defense systems simultaneously from a single platform and can support training for fifth-generation aircraft. It was used during the international Blue Flag aerial exercise. “The modern battlefield depends on the electromagnetic domain for sensing, communications, and navigation,” said Adi Dulberg, general manager of IAI’s Intelligence Division. “Protecting the use of the electromagnetic domain for our forces, while denying its use by the enemy, has become mission-critical for success in combat and for ensuring the superiority of our forces in the field. “The new technology, developed by IAI’s talented engineers, tips the scale of electronic warfare, providing world-first breakthrough capabilities for electronic defense and disrupting enemy systems.” (JPost/VFI News)
ISRAEL TO HOLD NATIONAL DRILL TO PREPARE FOR FUTURE COVID VARIANTS: Israel held a nationwide drill on Thursday, November 11, to prepare for the possibility of future coronavirus variants, the Prime Minister’s Office announced, saying the exercise would be the first of its kind in the world.
“The State of Israel is in an excellent situation, we defeated the fourth wave and we are on the verge of exiting the Delta variant,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. “But, at the same time, we are always looking to the future and preparing for the continuation of the campaign.” Bennett said that the government and health officials “are not packing up our equipment and not shutting down our management bodies and our virus-fighting forces. Rather the opposite — we’re continuing to be prepared and to challenge ourselves.” The drill, which was run from a situation room in Jerusalem, was a simulation that deals with coordinating various high-level officials and bodies to prepare for a new COVID strain, nicknamed the “Omega” strain for the exercise. The gathered officials are to deal with a wide range of scenarios and work to coordinate and make decisions related to the restriction of movement, quarantine, education, air travel, and more. The drill came as Israel is exiting its fourth wave of coronavirus infection. The number of active COVID-19 cases in the country dropped to 6,450 after being above 10,000 for over three months and after passing 90,000 in early September, according to figures released on Wednesday, November 10, by the Health Ministry. The data also showed 475 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, November 9, down from between 5,000 and 6,000 daily almost two months ago. There were 147 people hospitalized in serious condition and the death toll stood at 8,133. (TOI / VFI News)
TERM LIMITS FOR PRIME MINISTER PASS UNANIMOUSLY ON SUNDAY: The ministerial committee on legislation voted unanimously on Sunday, November 14, in favor of setting term limits for Israel’s prime minister, said sources close to Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who chairs the committee.
Sa’ar received approval from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to go ahead with the bill, because it will not be retroactive and therefore would not apply to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who could serve eight more years as prime minister until the bill applied to him. “By their third term in office, prime ministers deal with survival instead of helping citizens,” Sa’ar told Channel 13. “The bill has no connection to Netanyahu.” Another Sa’ar-sponsored bill, which would prevent anyone under a serious indictment – including Netanyahu – from forming a government, has not obtained the support of Bennett. It is also opposed by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Deputy Minister Abir Kara (Yamina) and Blue and White MK Michael Biton. “The second bill requires dialogue, especially with the prime minister,” Sa’ar said. “There is no deadline yet. I will do my best to reach agreements. When we do, we can advance the bill.” Joint List head Ayman Odeh urged Sa’ar to present the second bill as soon as possible. He told Sa’ar that if he hesitates with the bill, the Joint List would present it first. Due to a logjam in legislation, the term-limit bill is not expected to be brought to a vote in the Knesset in the coming week. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAEL’S ECONOMY GROWING 7.1% IN 2021: Israel’s economy will show growth of 7.1% for 2021, reflecting the country’s rapid recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the Finance Ministry said Monday, November 15.
GDP will continue to grow another 4.7% in 2022 as private consumption and tax revenues continue to rise. The ministry had previously forecast 5.1% growth this year. The model takes into account dealing with the fourth wave of the coronavirus without severe restrictions on economic activity, the Finance Ministry said. In 2020, under the shadow of the global crisis, Israel’s economy contracted a smaller-than-expected 2.4%, after growing 3.8% in 2019. That loss may already be made up by 2022, the Treasury said. During the second quarter of 2021, after Israel reopened from its third lockdown, GDP grew a whopping 16.6% at an annual rate, as private consumption returned to near pre-crisis levels and exports of hi-tech services jumped. Third-quarter growth was more moderate, while inflation rose and capital markets reached record levels, the Finance Ministry noted. Private consumption, which fell a sharp 9.2% in 2020, is recovering this year at a rapid 13.1% pace and is expected to continue to grow 7.5% in 2022. Continued growth in exports, mainly hi-tech, as well as some recovery in tourism are expected in 2022. Tax revenues have grown by 25% this year, and are expected to beat expectations for 2021 and 2022. The rising tide in the housing and capital markets, as well as a bevy of hi-tech exists, contributed significantly to tax revenues, the ministry said. The Consumer Price Index has risen by 2.5% over the past 12 months. Inflation is expected to come in at 2.8% in 2021 and 2.1% in 2022, a bit higher than previous forecasts but within the government’s targets. The strong shekel, currently trading at NIS 3.10 to the dollar, is helping to mitigate some inflationary pressures. Separately, employment figures continue to improve, with the overall unemployment rate reaching 7% in October, compared to 7.9% in September. The number of unemployed Israelis, excluding those on unpaid leave due to coronavirus-related reasons, improved slightly to 5.2%. Employment figures improved quickly between April and July, when the economy started reopening but had stagnated somewhat in August and September, raising concerns about the recovery. However, it seems more likely now to attribute that hiccup to factors related to the holiday season and Delta variant fears. There were 143,274 open job positions available in Israel in October, compared to 138,113 in September, CBS said. (JPost / VFI News)
JERUSALEM FIRM LAUNCHES WORLD’S FIRST SALIVA PREGNANCY TEST: An Israeli company is launching the world’s first pregnancy test that delivers results from saliva samples, using technology it developed for COVID-19 tests.
Salignostics, a Jerusalem-based medical startup, was working on a saliva pregnancy test before the pandemic. It then developed saliva coronavirus tests and suddenly had most of the missing technology it needed, allowing it to quickly move forward on the pregnancy test. The company announced Thursday, November 11, that it will start to commercialize its SaliStick test early next year, which has 95 percent sensitivity when used after a missed period. The company has successfully completed clinical trials in Israel on more than 300 volunteers — both pregnant and non-pregnant — and has begun the approval process with America’s Food and Drug Administration and for the European Union’s CE Mark. “While we’ve been looking for a few years into the application of saliva pregnancy tests, once COVID came along and we had an opportunity to use saliva to detect the virus, there was, of course, a more urgent need to invest in this technology,” Dr. Guy Krief, co-founder and deputy CEO at Salignostics, told The Times of Israel. “It is deeply encouraging that technology that was honed and developed to help us deal with one of the worst pandemics is able to be developed further to help contribute to help and wellness for women and families all over the world.” The Salignostics coronavirus test is European Union-approved and has sold widely in Europe and Africa. “Saliva is the key to rapid diagnostics for a variety of medical uses,” said Kries. “With SaliStick, we are leveraging the powerful diagnostics abilities we have been able to create from analyzing saliva.” (TOI / VFI News
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Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff