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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Topol and Osterholm: The CDC got it wrong. It should have urged all adults to get covid-19 booster shots.

 The Washington Post


 

By Eric J. Topol  and  Michael T. Osterholm

Eric J. Topol is a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. Michael T. Osterholm is Regents Professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.


Even though the United States is experiencing a new surge of covid-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended last week that all adults be made eligible for booster shots but only urged shots for people older than 50.

 That was a big mistake. It should have urged all adults to get them.

 Public health officials have always expected that mRNA coronavirus vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech) to be a three-shot regimen. The only question was when the third shot would be necessary. Originally, the hope was that it would be after one or two years. It turns out, it is necessary at about six months.

 More than 10 large reports have shown that the reduced protection from infections, including symptomatic infections, across all age groups, wanes from 90 to 95 percent at two months down to about 60 percent for Pfizer and 70 percent for Moderna after five to six months. There is further substantial waning after six months.

 

The good news is that a booster dose can restore that initial efficacy, as data makes abundantly clear. One randomized trial of Pfizer’s vaccine involving more than 10,000 participants — half receiving a third shot and the other half receiving a placebo booster — showed a remarkably high 95-percent efficacy. In that trial, people aged 18 to 55 benefited just as much as those older than 55. There were no safety issues raised, such as myocarditis.

 

It is important to underscore that for all coronavirus vaccine trials, symptomatic infection has been the primary endpoint, and has tracked well with hospitalizations and deaths. Large, randomized trials are rightly considered the gold standard form of evidence. There are no other randomized trials of booster shots underway.

 

Israel offers more evidence of the booster’s benefits. Its largest health system tracked more than 700,000 people who had received a booster shot and found that the third shot had a striking 91 percent effectiveness against symptomatic infection. It also had a 93 percent effectiveness against hospitalization and 81 percent effectiveness against covid-related deaths.

 

But the CDC’s advisory committee didn’t review this important observational study and many other relevant data sources. If it had, perhaps it would have more forcefully advocated boosters for all adults. Our recommendation is fully consistent with messaging from the White House and President Biden that all vaccinated adults should get boosters.

 

Its failure to do so has substantial implications. Only 59 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, meaning the United States ranks below the top 50 most-vaccinated countries. Countries throughout Europe, such as Denmark and Belgium, have vaccination rates of around 75 percent, and even they are experiencing record-setting surges in cases.

 

Like Britain and Israel, the United States was a first mover with early vaccination campaigns, so it has a much higher proportion of people with waning immunity. Forty percent of Americans (more than 120 million people) were fully vaccinated by June 1 and have diminished protection. Each day in the United States, the number of people with waning immunity greatly exceeds those who are getting newly vaccinated. Accordingly, rather than building our wall of population immunity, the United States is suffering attrition.

 

It has been estimated that more than 90 percent of Americans need to be fully vaccinated to contain the hyper-contagious delta variant. Not only are we far from that goal, but also we are moving in the wrong direction. While we continue to press ahead to reach unvaccinated Americans, we must concurrently maintain protection for those who have received the shot.

 

This is especially concerning amid the new surge, which has been labeled a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” This is misleading; it is critical to recognize the category of “vaccinated but waned.” Multiple studies have shown that fully vaccinated people can spread the delta variant. This is more likely when the vaccine-induced immune response has faded. Since booster shots strongly reduce symptomatic infections, they could help stem the increased spread that we are experiencing.

 

Israel used booster shots for all adults as its principal — and highly effective — strategy to manage its worst surge of the pandemic. There, the status of “fully vaccinated” is defined as having received three shots. Indeed, the United States has consistently ignored critical lessons from Israel and Europe throughout the pandemic.

 

By not strongly urging all fully vaccinated adults to get a third shot, the CDC has failed its responsibility to protect the public, fundamentally missing a strategy that would limit the surge in cases — not to mention the toll it will have in terms of long covid-19 and hospitalizations. It has also engendered confusion by not keeping its recommendation simple, suggesting an illusion that there is a sharp age gradient for the benefit of boosters, which is clearly not the case.

 

Now, as we confront yet another surge, it is not the time to withhold a vital and validated means of boosting our efforts to contain the virus.


 

 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Michael Oren: Why Israel may soon attack Iran

The Times of Israel

  

The world's largest state-sponsor of terror, sworn to destroy Israel, is approaching the nuclear threshold. It's not an existential threat for the US. It is for Israel.


Later this month, representatives of the world powers and Iran will meet in Vienna to discuss reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Cooperation – the Iran nuclear deal. In the runup to the talks, the United States and Israel have reiterated their determination to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. Both have stated their preference for a diplomatic means of achieving that goal. But there the symmetry ends. While the United States can live with an Iran that has the ability to make a bomb but doesn’t do so, Israel simply cannot.

The disparity was clear at a recent press conference with Secretary State Anthony Blinken and Israeli and Emirati counterparts. Blinken reiterated his administration’s longstanding insistence that “Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.” By contrast, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned that “Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold country,” and that Israelis “have no intention of letting this happen.”

What is the difference between an Iran that could quickly make a bomb and an Iran that already has one? Why would America implicitly accept a threshold-capable Iran while Israel regards it as a strategic – and potentially existential – threat?

“Threshold” describes a nuclear program that has all the components necessary for swiftly making a bomb. Enriching uranium to the 90% level necessary for weaponization takes as much as two years. But by enriching uranium to 60%, as it does now, Iran has completed the longest stretch of the process and is now installing centrifuges capable of spinning four or even six times faster than the current rate. Once it decides to break out and create a nuclear arsenal, Iran can do so in a matter of weeks or even days – well before the international community could react.

And Iran will inevitably break out. Several countries have what is sometimes called “Japan-like capabilities,” a reference to Japan’s own threshold nuclear program. But Japan is not Iran, a country ruled by the world’s largest state-sponsors of terror, which works to overthrow pro-Western governments, and vows to wipe Israel off the map. Having the ability to make a bomb, no matter how quickly, will not suffice for Iranian rulers. They saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, both of whom forfeited their nuclear ambitions and died, and what didn’t happen to Kim Jung-un, who kept his and become almost untouchable. Yet, beyond regime survival, the bomb is vital for Iranian prestige. A weapon possessed by Sunni Pakistan, Hindu India, and, presumably, by the Jewish State cannot be denied to the Shiite Islamic Republic.

Yet Iran does not have to possess the bomb to damage Israel irreparably. Threshold capacity provides Iranian-backed terrorists with a nuclear umbrella that can open and shield them from retaliation. Responding to rocket attacks from Hezbollah or Hamas, Israel will be hobbled by the fear of an Iranian breakout. Defending the country will be dangerously more difficult.

Such fears are much less pronounced in the United States, a country situated far from Iran and not threatened with national destruction – a United States which, moreover, has no desire to become embroiled in another overseas conflict. For that reason, the Biden Administration pledges to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but not to prevent Iran from attaining the ability to make them. For that reason, President Biden vows to consider “other options” should Iran not return to the negotiating table but does not echo President Obama’s warnings of “all options are on the table,” including a military strike.

Israelis view this policy with profound skepticism. A threshold Iran will drive other Middle Eastern states to attempt to achieve the same capability, creating a highly unstable region teetering on a nuclear threshold. Together with its continuing efforts to produce a deliverable warhead – amply documented by the nuclear archive Israel’s Mossad secreted out of Teheran – Iran has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles that can already hit central Europe and will eventually reach the North American coast. Global security will be undermined.

For Israel, though, the timetable for action is much shorter, and while our military capabilities cannot equal America’s, we do have the means to defend ourselves. And though Israel has no expectations of US military intervention, we trust that the United States will provide us with the logistical, diplomatic and legal assistance we need and stand by all its Middle Eastern allies. Doing so will not only deal a decisive blow to Iran’s nuclear ambitions but will also restore America’s regional prestige.

As the nuclear talks resume, Israel will be watching to see if Iran exploits them to camouflage its march toward threshold capability. If so, irrespective of the international backlash, Israel will be forced to act. Recalling that both he and the Secretary of State are the sons of Holocaust survivors, Lapid stressed the need for nations to protect themselves against evil, and especially against an Iran sworn to destroy the Jewish state. “Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment, in any way,” he said. America, and the world, should listen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Oren was formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States, a Member of Knesset, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. His latest book is, To All Who Call in Truth (Wicked Son, 2021).

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Michael Oren is the only Israeli politician apart from Bibi who quoted Bernard Lewis's warning on Iran and MAD: 

Michael Oren: Why Obama is wrong about Iran being 'rational' on nukes


As famed Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis once observed, “Mutually assured destruction” for the Iranian regime “is not a deterrent — it's an inducement.”

***

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It was already clear in 2008 that this would happen. My article from then:

Facing Iran, Alone




Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Not Mata Hari

Mata Hari

Richard Sorge

Eli Cohen




Jerusalem Post Letters to the Editor, November 17, 2021

Not Mata Hari

Regarding “Turkey allows visit by consul to jailed Israeli couple” (November 16), this whole incident is just too much. For heaven’s sake, if Israel can assassinate Mohsen Fakhrizadeh using a computerized machine gun, bring from Iran half a ton of nuclear files, disrupt the centrifuges through Stuxnet, then surely it does not need to photograph Erdogan’s palace from a TV tower.

We do not live in the times of Mata Hari and invisible ink, not even in the times of Richard Sorge or Eli Cohen, so what the Israeli media should have done is demonstrate how absurd the Turkish claims are.

It is also high time that Israelis become more conscious of the character of the countries they go on vacation to. Why pick one ruled by an Islamic fundamentalist with a very antagonistic attitude toward Israel when they can choose from a number of Mediterranean democracies? Appeasing dictators is never a good policy and that applies not only to governments but to their citizens too.

MLADEN ANDRIJASEVIC

Beersheba



And here are the Mediterranean democracies Israelis could pick to go on vacation to instead of Turkey. Note that it applies only to The Republic of Cyprus and no the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus










Saturday, October 30, 2021

Debating COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters

 


Eric Topol: 


There was denial. There was criticism of the Israeli Ministry of Health and the researchers there. There were statistical controversies like Simpson’s paradox, and basically it was rebuked.  




Well, two weeks later a more thorough report with more data came out and it was even more concerning. Because now the breakdown was that symptomatic infections, the protection, vaccine effectiveness had dropped down to 41 percent. 













Sunday, October 17, 2021

Yossi Cohen: "Iran not close to getting a nuclear bomb". But the mid-October date talked about by Gantz and Bennett is NOW!

 


Israel is coming up with contradictory messages on the date when Iran will be getting close to producing a bomb, acquiring enough enriched uranium on the one hand and the time to actually make the bomb once there is enough enriched uranium on the other.  Gantz and Bennett have said that the deadline for getting enough uranium is mid- October, which is today. Amb Dore Gold says it is now since work was not done sequentially but in parallel.   Yossi Cohen says they are not even close.

Whom to believe?

Perhaps this may be intentional to create confusion.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Pompeo Doctrine - The Lie of Occupation.

 Israel exists within its present territory with full legal title and sovereign legitimacy as a matter of international law.

From 3:26 to 4:47  ( my transcript until the official one becomes available )  

As we all know, a concerted campaign is being waged against the world's one and only Jewish country, attacking virtually every aspect of its historic, legal, political, cultural life with the singular aim of undermining the sovereignty, security and legitimacy of Israel’s existence.

The future of our nations demands a more forceful assertion of the truth. The truth at the level that we have not seen spoken about or witnessed, in Israel’s case it specifically involves confronting a false narrative that is the very beating heart of modern antisemitism. That beating heart is the lie, the lie that the State of Israel is an illegal occupier in the Land of Israel

The lie of occupation. The lie of occupation provides Israel’s enemies a means to explain away all types of aggression and violence as merely resistance to the occupation. Just listen to what they have to say at the public rhetoric, given the negative connotation of the term “occupier”, antisemitic groups around the world use the word as often as possible in their messaging, as they carry out acts of cultural, political and economic warfare upon Israel and its supporters.

Occupier! Occupier! This then leads to the term’s casual repetition by the media and its eventual use by policymakers as well. This presents real risk. It is clear. It is clear then that promoting the common misrepresentation of the Jewish State of Israel as an occupier in the Land of Israel has become the primary antisemitic canard of the present generation.

The bottom line. The bottom line is that occupation is a legal term, whose definition does not apply to the State of Israel under the law.

Nevertheless, the term is intentionally misused, and it’s important that we know this. It is intentionally misused in order to shape negative misperceptions of Israel’s history and its legitimacy while perpetuating a sense of Arab victimhood.  In this very same context, occupier is nothing more than a polite way of calling Israel a thief. It goes hand in hand, hand in hand with the denial and erasure of Jewish history to international institutions such as the United Nations.

To Christians, of course, this means as if the two Jewish Temples never stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, then Christ and his works are then equally invalidated.

One of the things I worked hardest as my time as America’s Secretary of State was to set that record straight. To clarify all the chaos that had been sown. You should know that the situation I inherited in the State Department was a policy mess that had been festering since the time of the Carter administration, based on ignoring inconvenient legal history.

You know, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, not from my party, put it: “a person is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts”. So I told my team at the State Department to conduct a strict factual and legal review, and policy analysis which then formed the basis for our policy stance. In practical terms this ultimately meant confronting the lie of occupation with the truth. The truth that Israel exists within its present territory with full legal title and sovereign legitimacy as a matter of international law.     


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sally Rooney, Sartre and Camus

 


Letters to the Editor, Jerusalem Post, October 13, 2021

Loony Rooney boycott move

Regarding “Israel Boycott: Sally Rooney won’t let novel be published in Hebrew,” (October 12), let’s face it, some people are just dense when it comes to politics. Jean-Paul Sartre supported president of the People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong when during the years he was in power some 65 million people were killed.

But there were novelists who were not blind, like Albert Camus.

As for Sally Rooney, one must really be illiterate not to see from the very name of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad what this is all about. Not surprising, coming from Ireland, whose prime minister de Valera had visited the German Legation in order to sign the book of condolences on the death of Adolf Hitler.

MLADEN ANDRIJASEVIC

Beersheba


In the letter I sent it just said Mao. The editor changed it to “president of the People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong”. Except that Mao was not the "president of the People’s Republic of China". He was the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party.  I know that people living in Israel today probably would not even notice the difference, but anyone who has some idea how communist systems function would notice the inaccuracy. In communist countries the Party reigns supreme. 



Sunday, October 10, 2021

Amb. Dore Gold: The Iranian Nuclear Threat Is Not Years Away – It Is Now

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left) and President Ebrahim Raisi (right)


     By Amb. Dore Gold

     A version of this article appeared on the N12 website in Hebrew.

On August 4, both Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid briefed ambassadors from the member states that sit on the UN Security Council. While the occasion for their joint appearance was the escalation of terror attacks using UAVs against international shipping, most of the international attention was drawn to the statement by Defense Minister Gantz that Iran had violated all the guidelines established by the JCPOA (the Iran deal) and, as a result, it was only “around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon.” This was not speculation by yet another columnist, but rather a statement in the clearest terms by the defense minister of Israel.

In response to the interviews, Lapid added several weeks later that he wanted to save the public from a sense of panic from the news that Iran had become a nuclear threshold state. He based his argument by drawing a distinction between a state that had become a threshold state and a state that had become a threshold state only with respect to the amount of enriched uranium it had in its possession. While not defining how much time Iran needed to actually produce a nuclear bomb, he did say it was not just a matter of months. When asked how close Iran was to a nuclear weapon, he answered: “It was a lot more.”

Israel’s situation with Iran poses a real dilemma for diplomacy. On the one hand, diplomacy must always be accurate. The Iranians specialize in deception. Israel does not and should not play that game. On the other hand, Israel must build an international coalition against Iran’s determination to deploy nuclear forces and threaten the security of Israel, the Middle East, and the entire world. It must motivate potential members of that coalition to understand the urgency of the situation and why the time to act together has arrived. 

It is important to lay out what specialists mean by Iran having an operational nuclear weapons program. There are three elements involved. First, Iran needs delivery systems to carry its nuclear weapon to a target. In 1998, Iran first tested its Shahab-3 missile which was based on North Korean technology. In 2003, the Shahab-3 missile became operational in the Iranian armed forces. It had a range of 1,300 kilometers – the distance required to strike Israel from bases located on Iranian territory. 

Between 1998 and 2017, Iran conducted 21 flight tests using the Shahab-3. In 2015, the Iranians released video tapes for the first time showing that Iran had created a system of underground missile bases, from where it could launch its missiles from silos. In other words, the need for a delivery system to launch nuclear weapons should not hold up Iran’s quest for a fleet of nuclear weapons. Iran was already there. 

Second, commentators like to point out that the weaponization of uranium into an actual explosive device (in Hebrew “kvutzat haneshek”) takes time to develop. However, the quarterly reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency during 2011 already contained worrying information back then. The May 2011 report presented Iranian military research that had taken place including “the removal of the high conventional explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.” 

Iranian documents that were in the hands of the IAEA acknowledged that detonation of its warhead was to take place at an altitude of 600 meters. That happened to be the height of the first atomic explosion in 1945 over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 

Third, while uranium is normally found in two forms or isotopes – U-238 and U-235 – only U-235 can undergo nuclear fission and release the energy of an atomic bomb. Natural uranium is only 0.7% U-235. Enrichment seeks to increase that level to 3.5% for a civilian reactor and to 90% for an atomic weapon. While the Iran deal limited the level of permitted enrichment to 3.5%, by 2019, Tehran was enriching to 4.5%, and later to 20%, declaring that it was ready to go up to 60%.

 Because uranium enrichment is the most difficult step for states with nuclear ambitions to take, Tehran’s massive investment in enrichment is the most important indicator of Iranian determination to go the whole way to become a nuclear weapons state. Finally, when the enrichment process begins, the uranium that is injected into centrifuges is in a gaseous form. To build a nuclear warhead, the uranium has to be in the form of metal. In August 2021, the IAEA verified that Iran was producing uranium metal. It now seemed that Iran was preparing to make the final push to an atomic weapon, but that would not take years or months but rather, far less.

It would be a mistake to conclude that Israel has a great deal of time because the Iranians work sequentially, completing one component of their program before moving on to the next. The authoritative Institute for Science and International Security has made clear that the Iranians worked under the assumption that their work on the components would not be sequential and not be separated but rather had to be conducted “in unison.”

In Israel there has been a tendency for political leaders to blame each other for the situation that has emerged. There is only one party that is to blame and that is the Iranian leadership. Right after the first nuclear agreements were reached between Iran and the European Union’s EU-3 in 2005, Tehran was burying the evidence of its nuclear work at various facilities that were supposed to be inspected. This has been the pattern ever since. Unfortunately, the Western powers have been torn between their own naivete and their desire to protect their commerce with Iran. The inaction that resulted is what allowed the Iranian nuclear program to continue to expand. 

 

Amb. Dore Gold

Ambassador Dore Gold has served as President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs since 2000. From June 2015 until October 2016 he served as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously he served as Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN (1997-1999), and as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

 

 


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Dr. Michael Osterholm on boosters

 


I think Michael Osterholm is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand he cannot disagree too much with the FDA and CDC on boosters, but his experience  and the data on boosters  from Israel tells him otherwise.  (Note: The official transcript comes out on Mondays. This is my on the fly version) 

 

21:27 - But I believe that time will show that this is a three-dose prime vaccine. I know that there are some of you out there who are my friends who will disagree strongly with me on this, but I think it is. And I think that there were two elements about what happened with these vaccines over the course of recent months. One was Delta, of course, the second one is the fact of just the time period from when someone was vaccinated and the potential waning of immunity. As I have said before on this podcast, there are two different kinds of buckets. One for safety and one on how best to use this vaccine. We’ve answered the safety bucket, that is not the question. The issue is how best to use these vaccines in terms of dose and dose pacing and what does it do in terms of the human immune response, and I think one day it will be shown that this is going to be a three- dose prime vaccine, and you know, maybe there will be an annual booster, I hope not, but maybe the data will show that too.

And so, I think the challenge we have was we don’t really have compelling data showing from many, many people that in fact over time this waning immunity would resolve in not just mild illness but potentially an increase of severe illness, and some would say let’s wait and get that date first. And I am saying well, you know, that means other people are gonna get sick and some people will die, and if we basically are in a position of doing something now, why would we let that happen? And the appropriate response is, well you don’t know it is going to happen. I don’t. I don’t.  Nor does anybody. We have data from Israel which supports basically that might be the case. So, I think the right answer is right now, that number one, we want to prevent severe illness, but you know I categorically reject this sense that we’ve always said that the vaccine just prevents severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths. I don’t know where anybody wrote that down and said that a year ago. We want to prevent all infections and when we got that first data on mRNA vaccines that’s  what people believed this vaccine would do! That was the accepted position. And so, I think it is still a very important measure to vaccinate people even against mild or breakthrough illnesses, if for example it is resulting in major shortage of health care workers, because they are now out with this infection, people who are essential workers. I think it is fair to keep them out.

Now the flip side of that is, of course, that we do not have the vaccine for the rest of the world. Well, I understand that, and I do believe this is a critical issue and I have been a strongest supporter of global vaccine access. Our country continues to lead the way, we have donated more vaccines to other countries all the other countries than every other country in the world combined. We are a bit hard on ourselves that way and I believe that one day this vaccine will be a three prime dose vaccine for the entire world.     

 


Monday, September 27, 2021

Full text of Bennett’s UN speech: Iran’s nuclear program at a ‘watershed moment’

 





The official text of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s speech to the UN General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2021. (Note delivered text differed slightly):

Thank you Mr. President.

Distinguished delegates,

Israel is a lighthouse in a stormy sea.

A beacon of democracy, diverse by design, innovative by nature and eager to contribute to the world — despite being in the toughest neighborhood on earth.

We are an ancient nation, returned to our ancient homeland, revived our ancient language, restored our ancient sovereignty.

Israel is a miracle of Jewish revival. Am Yisrael Chai — the nation of Israel is alive, and the State of Israel is its beating heart.

For way too long, Israel was defined by wars with our neighbors. But this is not what Israel is about. This is not what the people of Israel are about.

Israelis don’t wake up in the morning thinking about the conflict. Israelis want to lead a good life, take care of our families, and build a better world for our children.

Which means that from time to time, we might need to leave our jobs, say goodbye to our families, and rush to the battlefield to defend our country — just like my friends and I have had to do ourselves. They should not be judged for it.

Israelis remember the dark horrors of our past, but remain determined to look ahead, to build a brighter future.

Distinguished delegates,

There are two plagues that are challenging the very fabric of society at this moment: One is the coronavirus, which has killed over 5 million people around the globe; the other has also shaken the world as we know it — it’s the disease of political polarization.

Both coronavirus and polarization can erode public trust in our institutions, both can paralyze nations. If left unchecked, their effects on society can be devastating.

In Israel, we faced both, and rather than accept them as a force of nature, we stood up, took action, and we can already see the horizon.

In a polarized world, where algorithms fuel our anger, people on the right and on the left operate in two separate realities, each in their own social media bubble, they hear only the voices that confirm what they already believe in.

People end up hating each other. Societies get torn apart. Countries broken from within, go nowhere.

In Israel, after four elections in two years, with a fifth looming, the people yearned for an antidote: Calm. Stability. An honest attempt for political normalcy.

Inertia is always the easiest choice. But there are moments in time where leaders have to take the wheel a moment before the cliff, face the heat, and drive the country to safety.

About a hundred days ago, my partners and I formed a new government in Israel, the most diverse government in our history. What started as a political accident, can now turn into a purpose. And that purpose is unity.

Today we sit together, around one table.

We speak to each other with respect, we act with decency, and we carry a message: Things can be different.

It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay — in fact vital — that different people think differently, it’s even okay to argue.

For healthy debate is a basic tenet of the Jewish tradition and one of the secrets to the success of the start-up nation. What we have proven, is that even in the age of social media, we can debate, without hate.

The second great disease we’re all facing is the coronavirus, sweeping the world. To overcome, we going to need to make new discoveries, gain new insights, and achieve new breakthroughs.

It all begins with the pursuit of knowledge.

The State of Israel is on the front lines of the search for this vital knowledge. We developed a model, which fuses the wisdom of science with the power of policymaking.

The Israeli model has three guiding principles:

One, the country must stay open.

We all paid a huge price, an economic price, a physical price and an emotional price, for bringing life to a standstill in 2020.

To bring economies back to growth, children back to school, and parents back to work, lockdowns, restrictions, quarantines — cannot work in the long run.

Our model, rather than locking people down in passive sleep-mode, recruits them to the effort. For example, we asked Israeli families to carry out home-testing of their children so we can keep schools open — and indeed schools stayed open.

The second rule: vaccinate early.

Right from the start, Israelis were quick to get vaccinated. We are in a race against a deadly virus and we must try to be ahead of it.

In July, we were the first to learn that the vaccines were waning — which is what brought a surge in Delta cases. It was then when my government decided to administer a third dose of vaccine — the booster — to the Israeli public.

It was a tough decision, given that at the time the FDA hadn’t yet approved it. We faced a choice to either drag Israel into yet another set of lockdowns, further harm our economy and society, or to double-down on vaccines.

We chose the latter. We pioneered the booster shot.

Two months in, I can report that it works: With a third dose, you’re 7 times more protected than with two doses, and 40 times more protected than without any vaccine.

As a result, Israel is on course to escape the fourth wave without a lockdown, without further harm to our economy. Israel’s economy is growing, and unemployment is down.

I’m glad that our actions have inspired other countries to follow with the booster.

The third rule: Adapt and move quickly.

We formed a national task force that meets everyday, to bypass slow governmental bureaucracy, make quick decisions and act on them right away.

Trial and error is key. Every day is a new day, with new data and new decisions. When something works, we keep it. When it doesn’t, we ditch it.

Running a country during a pandemic is not only about health. It’s about carefully balancing all aspects of life that are affected by corona, especially jobs and education.

The only person that has a good vantage point of all of this is the national leader of any given country. Above all, we’re doing everything in our power to provide people with the tools needed to protect their lives.

The ancient Jewish text, the Talmud, says that “whoever saves one life, is as if he saved an entire world,” and that’s what we aspire to do.

Distinguished delegates,

While Israel strives to do good, we cannot lose sight for one moment of what’s happening in our neighborhood.

Israel is, quite literally, surrounded by Hezbollah, Shia militias, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. On our borders.

These terror groups seek to dominate the Middle East and spread radical Islam across the world.

What do they all have in common?

They all want to destroy my country. And they’re all backed by Iran. They get their funding from Iran, they get their training from Iran, and they get their weapons from Iran.

Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region — and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella.

For the past three decades Iran has spread its carnage and destruction around the Middle East, country after country: Lebanon. Iraq. Syria. Yemen. And Gaza.

What do all these places have in common?

They are all falling apart. Their citizens — hungry and suffering. Their economies — collapsing.

Like the Midas touch, Iran’s regime has the “Mullah-touch.” Every place Iran touches, fails.

If you think Iranian terror is confined to the Israel — you’re wrong. Just this year, Iran made operational a new deadly terror unit — swarms of killer UAVs armed with lethal weapons that can attack any place any time.

They plan to blanket the skies of the Middle East with this lethal force.

Iran has already used these deadly UAVs — called Shahed 136 — to attack Saudi Arabia, US targets in Iraq and civilian ships at sea, killing a Brit and a Romanian.

Iran plans to arm its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with hundreds, and then thousands of these deadly drones.

Experience tells us that what starts in the Middle East, doesn’t stop there.

**

Distinguished delegates,

In 1988, Iran set up a “death commission” that ordered the mass murder of 5,000 political activists.

They were hanged from cranes.

This “death commission” was made up of four people. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s new president, was one of them.

Raisi’s also oversaw the murder of Iranian children. His nickname is “the butcher of Tehran,” because that’s exactly what he did — butchered his own people.

One of the witnesses of this massacre stated in her testimony, that when Raisi would finish a round of murder, he’d throw a party, pocketing the money of those he just executed, and then would sit down to eat cream cakes.

He celebrated the murder of his own people, by devouring cream cakes. And now Raisi is Iran’s new president.

This is who we’re dealing with.

Over the past few years, Iran has made a major leap forward, in its nuclear R&D, in its production-capacity, and in its enrichment.

Iran’s nuclear weapon program is at a critical point. All red lines have been crossed.

Inspections — ignored. All wishful-thinking — proven false.

Iran is violating the IAEAs safeguard agreements — and it’s getting away with it. They harass inspectors and sabotage their investigations — and they’re getting away with it.

They enrich Uranium to the level of 60 percent, which is one step short of weapons-grade material — and they’re getting away with it.

Evidence which clearly proves Iran’s intentions for nuclear weapons in secret sites in Turquzabad, Teheran & Marivan — is ignored.

Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment. And so has our tolerance.

Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.

There are those in the world who seem to view Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as an inevitable reality, or they’ve just become tired of hearing about it.

Israel doesn’t have that privilege. We will not tire. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

I want to tell you something: Iran is much weaker, much more vulnerable than it seems.

Its economy is sinking, its regime is rotten and divorced from the younger generation, its corrupt government fails to even bring water to large parts of the country.

The weaker they are, the more extreme they go.

If we put our heads to it, if we’re serious about stopping it, if we use all our resourcefulness, we can prevail.

And that’s what we’re going to do.

**

But not everything is dark in the Middle East. Alongside worrying trends, there are also rays of light.

First and foremost, the growing ties Israel is forging with Arab and Muslim countries.

Ties that began 42 years ago with Israel’s historic peace agreement with Egypt, continued 27 years ago with Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan, and even more recently with the “Abraham Accords” — that normalized our relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

More is to come.

At a ripe young age of 73, more and more nations are understanding Israel’s value and unique place in the world.

Some friends have stood with us since our founding. The United States of America is a long time, trusted friend of Israel, as we saw, yet again — just a few days ago in congress.

Alongside our old friends, we are gaining new friends — in the Middle East and beyond. Last week, this manifested itself with the defeat of the racist, anti-Semitic Durban conference.

This conference was originally meant to be against racism, but over the years turned into a conference of racism — against Israel and the Jewish people.

And the world’s had enough of this.

I thank the 38 countries (38!) who chose truth over lies, and skipped the conference.

And to those countries who chose to participate in this farce, I say: Attacking Israel doesn’t make you morally superior. Fighting the only democracy in the Middle East doesn’t make you “woke.” Adopting clichés about Israel without bothering to learn the basic facts, well, that’s just plain lazy.

Every member state in this building has a choice. It’s not a political choice, but a moral one. It’s a choice between darkness and light.

Darkness that persecutes political prisoners, murders the innocent, abuses women and minorities, and seeks to end the modern world as we know it.

Or light — that pursues freedom, prosperity and opportunity.

Over the past 73 years, the State of Israel — the people of Israel — have achieved so much in the face of so much.

And yet, I can say with full confidence: Our best days are ahead of us.

Israel is a nation of great hope, a nation that has brought the heritage of the Torah to life in modern-day Israel, a nation of an unbreakable spirit.

A bit of light dispels much darkness.

The lighthouse among the stormy seas — stands tall, stands strong. And her light shines brighter than ever.

Thank you.