Media Summary

Israel to send South Korea 700,000 vaccines in swap agreement

The Telegraph reports that data from Israel’s health ministry shows that the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in preventing COVID-19 infections has declined, mostly due to the spread of the Delta variant. Latest figures show a 64 per cent efficacy rate in preventing infections over the last four weeks, compared to a 98 per cent efficacy rate in the month of May. The country’s health authorities are considering whether to recommend a third shot in light of the new data and rise of infections.

The Associated Press reports that Israel will ship 700,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to South Korea in exchange for the same number of doses to Israel in September. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called it a “win-win deal” that will “reduce the holes” in the vaccine’s availability.

Limor Simhony Philpott writes for The Spectator about what “Britain must learn from Israel’s mistakes as it prepares to leave Afghanistan”. She says: “There are differences between Israel’s involvement in Lebanon and the involvement in Afghanistan; there are also differences between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But the two conflicts also have much in common and important lessons can be learnt from the Israeli experience.”

BBC News reports that Egypt has denounced Ethiopia’s decision to begin filling the reservoir behind its dam on the Nile. Egypt’s irrigation minister called the move “a violation of international laws and norms that regulate projects built on the shared basins of international rivers, including the Nile River”. Egypt, which sits downstream from Ethiopia, fears the dam will reduce the country’s access to water. The UN Security Council is due to meet this week to discuss the matter.

Borzou Daragahi writes for The Independent about growing tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the countries clash over oil and strategy. Daragahi notes, “The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has taken a turn for the worse, with relations fraying over differing stances on Yemen, oil production and broader geopolitical calculations triggered by the new administration in Washington.”

The Economist examines whether the US and Iran can revive the JCPOA nuclear deal, as an agreement is said to be close. The paper writes that: “For all the positive talk emanating from Vienna, there is also anxiety about how high the stakes are becoming. Mr Ulyanov, the Russian envoy, says that renewing the Iran-IAEA understanding ‘would … avoid uncertainties which can have unjustifiable long-lasting negative effects.’ Mark Fitzpatrick, a retired American diplomat who helped lead non-proliferation policy for the State Department, puts it more bluntly: ‘Iran is playing with fire.’”

In the Israeli media, all the papers note the rising number of COVID-19 Delta cases and the hopsitalisation rate. In Yediot Ahronot, Sarit Rosenblum and Nadav Eyal weigh in on how the government ought to react. Rosenblum urges for swift action, writing: “Bennett, who used the coronavirus as a means to criticise the previous government, knows very well that infection will not stop on its own. There currently are three million unvaccinated people in Israel, and the virus will continue to spread among them like wildfire … we must begin to act quickly, today. Every day that passes without resolute steps to block the spread of infection only increases it, and consequently, will also require harsher steps in response.”

Eyal is less alarmed by the rising number of cases and by the Health Ministry’s statements, which he blasts as being “inarticulate … full of holes and devoid of raw data”. He dismisses most of the numerous recommended courses of action as being either premature or excessive, writing: “The range of the government’s proposals fail to include the most self-evident course of action possible: in a situation in which we have 300 people testing positive for the coronavirus daily, the safest and most worthwhile thing to do is to try to stifle the outbreak. Not by means of a lockdown, but by focusing forcefully on quarantines and testing, including among people in the second circle. The hope is that we will be able to look back at this small outbreak, laugh a bit at the headlines and say that the outbreak was a test moment for the vaccine, which proved its efficacy. But hope is no substitute for policy.”

Kan Radio reports that the coronavirus cabinet will convene today to discuss the possibility of imposing new restrictions. The Health Ministry will ask to reinstate the restrictions on gatherings, the green certificate criteria, and the purple certificate criteria. Hospitals were told last night to prepare to reopen their coronavirus wards because of the rising infection rate. According to Health Ministry data, more than 440 people had tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. The number of active cases is in excess of 2,800. There are 35 people hospitalised in serious condition, 16 of them on ventilators. The Health Ministry said the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine against infection from the Delta variant is 64 per cent, but still prevents hospitalisation and severe illness with an efficacy rate of 93 per cent.

All the papers write that South Korea has agreed to take Israel’s surplus COVID-19 vaccines, in exchange for newer vaccines from a future order for September-October. Israel has about 700,000 Pfizer vaccines that it no longer needs and which will expire by the end of July. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described it as a good deal for both sides. Israel had originally agreed to give the vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, but they subsequently refused them. Walla News quotes Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz who said: “The South Koreans will immediately receive hundreds of thousands of vaccines from us, and we will receive a future shipment from Pfizer and thereby ensure a stock of vaccines for our citizens. Thank you to the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council for its help, and of course, the prime minister, who tirelessly pushed for this. This was excellent cooperation.”

Maariv writes that Prime Minister Bennett spoke yesterday for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders discussed security and political issues, including the efforts that are being made to have the MIAs and captive civilians returned by Hamas. The two also discussed the role played by Russian immigrants in Israeli society and the tremendous importance that the prime minister ascribes to them, as a bridge between the two countries. Bennett and Putin agreed to meet soon although no formal invitation has yet been extended by Putin to Bennett or vice versa.

Israel Hayom reports that a global cyberattack launched last week from over 1,300 locations was exposed by Israeli security researchers Liad Mordekovitz and Ophir Harpaz from the Guardicore cybersecurity company. The main target of the cyberattack were servers of companies and organisations in the health, tourism, media, and education sectors, including hospitals, hotels, schools, and government agencies, mostly in the US, Vietnam, and India.