March/April 2018

Teva Unveils Plan to Lay Off Israeli Workers

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries—the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs and one of Israel’s largest employers has announced its decision to lay off 1,750 of its Israeli employees and shut down two of its plants in Jerusalem due to financial trouble.

The announcement elicited a firestorm of protests across Israel. Teva workers skipped work, picketed outside the company’s medical plant, and barricaded themselves inside the factory, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“These people work around the clock [for Teva], giving their souls and lives. It’s very sad and very frustrating; this place is like family for us; we never dreamed we would be in a situation like this,” chairman of the Petah Tikvah workers union told The Times of Israel.

Teva accumulated its massive debt in 2016 after paying $40.5 billion for Allergan’s generic drug unit and faces increasing generic-drug competition. Israelis resent the fact that employees must now bear the consequences for the company’s bad financial management, reported.

Teva’s CEO Kare Schultz called the closing of the Jerusalem plants “painful, but absolutely vital.” “In order for Teva to remain an Israeli company and continue to prosper in Israel, and to continue with our significant contribution to the Israeli economy, we must first and foremost save our company,” Schultz said.

In addition to firing one-fourth of its Israeli workforce, Teva plans to lay off 14,000 international employees. The layoffs and plant closings are part of Teva’s overall plan to decrease costs by $3 billion within two years. After the layoffs, Teva will be left with around 5,000 Israeli employees, the Post reported.

From news reports

Israel Emerges as Global Leader in Digital Currency

Israel has emerged as a global leader in the current financial technology revolution of digital currency, such as Bitcoin. The Jewish nation’s cyber capabilities, security proficiency, and wealth of entrepreneurial expertise provide the ideal foundation for blockchain technology projects, according to financial experts.

Blockchain is a distributed database where transactions made in digital currencies like Bitcoin are recorded chronologically and publicly, without the need of banks. “It is overwhelming to watch the ‘start-up nation’ transform into the ‘crypto nation,’” said Nimrod May, chief marking officer of the Swiss-Israeli technology firm Sirin Labs. “Blockchain technologies and the promise behind decentralized services is a profound game-changing technology. It represents the combination of deep thinking, value creating and ‘seeing the light’ regarding the future direction of technology. These are all central to the Israeli technology ecosystem, which is why we are only at the beginning of the tidal rise of companies in Israel which are harnessing the potential of the blockchain,” said May.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed May’s sentiments in a recent interview, where he highlighted the role banks currently play as mediators and how the decentralized technology at the core of digital currencies eliminates the need for such formal institutions. “Will the banks disappear in the future?” a reporter asked him.

“The answer is yes,” Netanyahu responded confidently. “Will it happen tomorrow? Will it happen because of bitcoin? That is the question, but bitcoin is certainly pushing in that direction.” Several digital currency start-ups in Israel, such as Bancor and Stox, already have valuations in the tens and hundreds of millions, and hundreds more are expected to emerge in the coming years.


Trump Freezes Grant to Palestinians

U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to halt a $125 million grant to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) until the Palestinians agree to participate in peace negotiations with Israel.

The U.S. annually gives more than $600 million to the Palestinians, with about $375 million going directly to the UNRWA, reported. The president “doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said.

Trump tweeted, “We pay the Palestinians hundred[s] of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect….With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

The UNRWA, which is supposed to provide humanitarian assistance to Arab refugees, uses its resources to incite terror against Israel in its schools and to house Hamas rockets in its facilities.

From news reports

Other Countries Consider Moving Their Embassies

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has announced that Guatemala will follow the United States in moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Central American leader and evangelical Christian said Guatemala also “supported the creation of the State of Israel.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said more than 10 nations have contacted it, expressing interest in relocating their embassies. Although the Foreign Ministry did not release any names, three of the countries are thought to be the Czech Republic, Philippines, and Romania. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said many have a strong Christian base. Between 35 percent and 40 percent of Guatemala’s 16.6 million citizens reportedly are evangelical.

From news reports

Israeli Security Forces Uncover Hamas Terror Cell

Israeli security forces recently uncovered a Hamas terror cell intended for kidnapping local Jewish residents from bus stops in Samaria. The cell’s leader, 26-year-old Muad Ashtiyah from the village of Tel near Nablus, had acquired weapons and recruited terrorists Mahmoud Ramadan and Ahman Ramadan, both 19, to assist with the kidnappings. The terrorists had collected intelligence on the main routes in the area and planned to disguise themselves as Jews to lure potential victims into entering their vehicle. Israel’s Shin Bet security agency seized several weapons from the cell, including a pistol, stun gun, and pepper spray.