Israel offers aid to Lebanon; Budget put on hold: Israel Update

August 7, 2020

Several Israeli hospitals have offered their aid and support for the Lebanese people, following Tuesday’s devastating port explosion in Beirut. However, Lebanon has refused Israel’s assistance. A host of Israeli doctors have expressed concern this decision will lead to unnecessary suffering and death. Israeli officials continue to plea with their Lebanese counterparts to put politics aside, but the gesture of solidarity comes at a time of heightened tensions. In late July, Lebanon’s prime minister accused Israel of provoking a “dangerous escalation” along the border, the day after Israel claimed to have thwarted an attack by Hezbollah militants. This attack set off one of the heaviest exchanges of fire along the Israel-Lebanon border since the two nations were at war, back in 2006. Some Israeli medical officials are seeking a potential workaround to help Beirut by setting up an “ad-hoc hospital” in a neighboring third country, while other officials continue to push Lebanon to accept Israeli aid offers.


The Health Ministry reported 1,055 new coronavirus cases, Thursday evening, indicating that infection rates are continuing to drop. The Health Ministry noted that, to date, medical teams have conducted 18,853 COVID-19 tests, which puts the contagion rate at 5.8 percent—the lowest it has been in weeks. The ministry also said 358 patients are now in a serious condition, with 100 of those needing ventilators. The total death toll from coronavirus-related complications has increased to 576, and the number of active patients now stands at 25,285. Since the start of the outbreak, the number of confirmed diagnoses is 79,275. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government was taking steps to avoid a nationwide lockdown, though he added, "We are prepared to impose closures either locally or nationally.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz has announced that an Israeli national laboratory will begin testing its coronavirus vaccine on human subjects in mid-October. Indications are that the test could be a promising step toward developing a viable coronavirus vaccine. 


Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas site in the northern Gaza Strip, late Thursday night, after terrorists in the enclave allegedly launched a number of balloons carrying explosives and incendiary devices into Israel, according to the military. The fire department reported that the action ignited at least three brush fires in southern Israel. The Israel Defense Forces said the retaliatory strike targeted underground infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip. This is the second time this week that there has been an escalation between Israel and Gaza. Overnight Sunday, the IDF attacked Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after the terrorist organization fired rockets into Israeli territory.


The drafting of Israel’s 2020 budget is on hold as disputes over the spending plan threaten to bring the government down, and possibly force another round of elections. Although the coalition deal between Likud and Blue and White mandates a two-year budget, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been pushing for a budget that will cover only the rest of 2020, citing the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has insisted that a two-year budget be passed, as stipulated in the agreement. Amid rumors that Netanyahu intends to dissolve the governing coalition, on Sunday he called for the swift passage of a state budget. In light of the public health and security challenges facing Israel, “there is no reason to go to elections,” Netanyahu declared during his Likud party’s weekly faction meeting. “Israel does not need elections, it needs a budget, as fast as possible." The government will automatically dissolve if no state budget is passed by August 25.


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 maintain a sense of connection. As more resources are curated, this page will be continually updated. 


Shabbat Shalom,


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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