As of Friday morning, more than 3,000 Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including 49 patients in critical condition, and 12 who have died. Although the virus continues to spread, Israeli health officials believe the situation could have been much worse if not for the actions taken by the office of the prime minister. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to review an NIS 80 billion ($22 billion) aid package for the Israeli economy drawn up by the Finance Ministry to confront the crisis. The package will include: billions in unemployment payments to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have registered with the National Employment Service in recent weeks after being ordered to remain home; billions more for the health system; an aid fund for small businesses; grants for freelancers; grants for workers over the age of 67; and more. As of Thursday evening, 21.2 percent of Israeli workers are unemployed. As virus mitigation solutions continue to surface, we'd like to invite you to a webinar this coming Monday that will highlight the efforts of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv in making liberal use of digital health and telemedicine to get patients the care they need without putting clinical staff in harm's way.
Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz was elected Knesset speaker Thursday evening, thereby breaking up his centrist alliance, to potentially pursue a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Receiving the full support of the right-wing bloc, Gantz was elected to the speaker’s post with the backing of 74 MKs. Eighteen voted "against," while the rest did not participate. According to the reported deal, Gantz will partner with Netanyahu in a unity government, serving initially as foreign or defense minister, before taking over from Netanyahu, as prime minister, in September 2021. Once a unity government is formed, Gantz is expected to resign the speakership and be replaced by a Likud MK. Despite his disagreements with Likud, Gantz claimed he wanted “to unify the people and not divide. [...] These are not ordinary days and require extraordinary decisions,” he added, alluding to the coronavirus crisis. “Therefore, as I said," he concluded, "I intend to examine and promote—in every possible way—a national emergency government." Gantz’s decision to join forces with Netanyahu led to the swift collapse of Blue and White. Yair Lapid, the party’s No. 2, rejected the move, and is likely headed for the opposition from his Yesh Atid faction of Blue and White.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein opened the Knesset session on Wednesday by announcing his resignation. Edelstein had come under heavy criticism from the Supreme Court for refusing to put the election of a new Knesset speaker on the agenda—concluding that Edelstein's excuses, about the need to form a national unity government, were political in nature. In their ruling, the Supreme Court justices said that Edelstein's conduct was undermining the foundations of democracy and that there was no way to stop the majority of MKs from expressing the desire of the voters. In the wake of the ruling, Edelstein attempted to portray the Supreme Court as trying to create a putsch (a coup d'état). He received the backing of several government ministers and even the prime minister, who thought he should ignore the court's instructions.
As COVID-19 spreads through Israeli and Palestinian communities, Israelis and Palestinians now have a common enemy to battle. Israeli and Palestinian officials say they are coordinating their efforts against the coronavirus. Israel has ensured the passage of ambulances to Palestinian areas of the West Bank, offered medical workshops to Palestinian hospital staff on best quarantine practices, and provided virus testing kits to Palestinian medical staff in both the West Bank and Gaza. With the increasing number of cases, Israeli hospitals have started to rely on Palestinian doctors—along with Palestinian hospital staff from the West Bank—to work in Israeli hospitals to curb the spread. Although skepticism remains, virus lock downs make it "easier to convince people to participate in these talks as the virus has eradicated excuses to avoid face-to-face meetups."
The safety, health, and well-being of all community members is a priority for the Jewish Federation. Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This page has been developed to help our community stay informed and provide the resources needed to stay connected and informed. As more resources are curated, this page will be continuously updated.
Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC
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