Israel's lockdown extended; Israel's new ambassador to US: Israel Update
January 22, 2021
Israel’s new ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, began his tenure in Washington, DC, on Thursday with his appointment coinciding with the inauguration of President Biden. “I am entering my position as Israel's Ambassador to the world’s most important country and Israel’s most important ally,” Erdan said in a statement. “Under my leadership, Israel will continue to work closely with the United States and cooperate with the new administration in its agenda to defeat the coronavirus and tackle climate change, a subject that is extremely close to my heart," he added. Erdan is the second ranking member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud political party, and his position in Washington is viewed as a direct extension of Netanyahu.
Israel's coronavirus cabinet voted on Tuesday to approve an extension of the current lockdown until the end of the month. Additionally, the ministers approved requiring all passengers entering Israel from abroad to present a negative coronavirus test—performed no earlier than 72 hours before their flight. The Health Ministry on Friday reported a further decline in daily coronavirus infections the day before. According to the ministry, 7,099 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, after peaking at over 10,100 earlier in the week. A record 223,560 vaccine doses were also administered Thursday, as Israel moves forward with its national vaccination drive. Ministry figures showed 2,441,379 people have received the first vaccine dose and, of those, 850,811 had received the second dose. Israel is leading the world in per capita vaccination levels, according to the Oxford-based Our World in Data.
Israel’s education minister says he is banning groups that call Israel an “apartheid state” from lecturing at schools and universities. The move clearly targets one of the country’s leading human rights groups after it began describing Israel, and its controlling influence over the Palestinian territories, as an apartheid regime. Education Minister Yoav Galant tweeted late on Sunday that he had instructed the ministry’s director general to “prevent the entry of organizations calling Israel ‘an apartheid state’ (or demeaning Israeli soldiers) from lecturing at schools.” Israel has long presented itself as a thriving democracy. Its own Arab citizens, who make up about 20% of its population of 9.3 million, have citizenship rights, but they often suffer from discrimination in housing and other spheres. Arab citizens of Israel have representatives in parliament, serve in government bureaucracy and work in various fields alongside Jewish Israelis.