Apr 15, 2020 - World

Scoop: Netanyahu rejected U.K. plea for ventilators

Netanyahu (R) visits Johnson in Downing Street last September. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a request from U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to allow ventilators to be exported from Israel to the U.K., Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The U.K. is one of Israel's closest allies, and it's facing one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks. Raab made the request last week while deputizing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with severe coronavirus symptoms but has since been released.

The backstory: Several British companies have attempted to purchase ventilators from Israeli suppliers but have been unable to because Netanyahu had issued an emergency decree banning the export of such technology, Israeli officials say. That led the U.K. to raise the issue on a political level.

  • Raab asked for an exemption from the export ban because of the U.K.'s urgent need.
  • Netanyahu expressed understanding, but said Israel needed the ventilators for domestic use.
  • Israel also faces a severe coronavirus outbreak, and the decision to ban the export of ventilators came amid fears of a domestic shortage as hospitalizations increased.

Spain also sought ventilators from Israel, with the foreign minister calling her Israeli counterpart earlier this week seeking 30 ventilators for Spanish hospitals.

  • The Spanish foreign minister said the ventilators had been ordered prior to the export ban and partially paid for. She demanded that Israel release them as soon as possible, Israeli officials say.
  • Israel’s foreign minister said the ventilators could not be exported at this time.

The Prime Minister’s office and Israeli Foreign Ministry did not deny this account but declined to comment on conversations held in diplomatic channels.

Go deeper: Israeli intelligence bought 100,000 of the wrong coronavirus test kits

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Mark Zuckerberg: Social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday that social media platforms should not police political speech, and that "people should be able to see what politicians say.”

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was responding to Twitter's decision this week to fact-check a pair of President Trump's tweets that claimed that mail-in ballots are "substantially fraudulent." Twitter's label, which directs users to "get the facts" about mail-in voting, does not censor Trump's tweets.

House Democrats pull FISA reauthorization bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats pulled legislation Thursday that would have renewed expired domestic surveillance laws and strengthened transparency and privacy protections amid broad opposition from President Trump, House GOP leadership and progressive Democrats.

Why it matters: The failure to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) comes as Trump continues to attack the intelligence community, which he claims abused the law to surveil his 2016 campaign and Trump administration officials.

U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy shrunk by an annualized 5% in the first quarter — worse than the initially estimated 4.8% contraction — according to revised figures released by the government on Thursday.

Why it matters: It's the worst quarterly decline since 2008 and shows a huge hit as the economy was just beginning to shut down because of the coronavirus. Economists are bracing for the second quarter's figures to be the worst ever — with some projecting an annualized decline of around 40%.

2 hours ago - Economy & Business