The UAE makes a deal with Israel

Israel and the Arab states have been at odds for decades. This is because they don’t see eye to eye on Israel’s occupation of former Palestinian land in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The UN had proposed a two state solution and the Arab states are calling for a division of the land in a fair manner. Israel has over time annexed and built settlements in these areas.

Here is a proper background of what led to this standoff.

Got it! Why are we talking about this now? Well last week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, and one of the most important leaders of the UAE, struck a deal with Israel, in a meeting organised by US President Donald Trump to broker a deal between Israel and Palestine. Even though there was no deal struck between Israel and Palestine, the UAE and Israel started discussions and worked something out between them. The deal involved Israel maybe agreeing not to annex more land in the area, and the UAE opening up trade with Israel.

OK that’s confusing! Does this mean peace between Israel and Palestine? No it doesn’t, although Israel has kind of agreed not to annex more Palestinian land for now.

What does Israel get out of this? They get an ally in the region (they had stuck deals with Jordan and Egypt before, but are at odds with the rest of their neighbours). The current President Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not really won a lot of support in the last elections, gets some goodwill out of this. This also means trade with the UAE, and a further legitimisation of Israel. .

What does the UAE get out of this? A trade partner, and access to Israeli technology. Israel is a leader in technology and healthcare.

What does Palestine get out of this? Some kind of a halt on annexation for some time. Importantly though, it signals to the Palestinians that they need to get more creative with their deal making. They can’t afford to lose more allies.

The US unsettles most with its new policy on Israel

On 18th November 2019, the U.S. Secretary of State made an explosive announcement regarding its policy on Israel. His precise words were: “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, the United States has concluded that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”

That seems like quite a change from what the US has been saying for decades, doesn’t it?

Yes. The US has in the past, maintained that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are ‘illegitimate’. They have been cautious not to say ‘illegal’ as that would make them subject to international sanctions (economic penalties). In another move that veered towards indicating that they disapproved of the settlements, President Obama did not veto a UN resolution aiming to end settlements. 

Hmm. Remind me again about the issue of the settlement?

In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel took control of the West Bank from the Palestinians. Today, more than 600,000 Israelis live in the territory along with close to 3 million Palestinians. In fact, the Israelis have been encouraged by Mr Trump’s support and have built even more settlements. 

Trump supported Israel on the Jerusalem issue too right? 

Yes. Two years ago, he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This issue of the city was supposed to be resolved between the Israelis and the Palestinians [Read more on this here].The President has also slashed monetary aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that supports Palestinian refugees. 

What does this policy mean for everyone?

Well, it makes America’s ties stronger with Israel. But it is hugely damaging to a peaceful two-state solution between Israel and Palestine that world leaders and the United Nations have been working towards for aeons! 

The Palestinians are of course, furious. They have unilaterally condemned the move. 

Here are some of the reactions from others:: 

Jordan: Foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, stated this will have “dangerous consequences” on the prospects of reviving the Middle East peace process. He tweeted that Israeli settlements in the territory were illegal and killed chances of a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state would exist side-by-side with Israel.

US Campaign for Palestinian rights, Director, Yousef Munayyer, said this is ‘another gift to Netanyahu (Israeli leader) and a green light to Israeli leaders to put settlement building further into overdrive and advance formal annexation”. 

UN’s Human Rights Office (OHCHR) – A spokesperson stated that it “shares the UN’s long-standing position on the issue that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law.”

The European Union –  EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement, “The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power,”

Human Rights Watch – Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, tweeted: “Pompeo’s fictional statement changes nothing. Trump can’t wipe away with this announcement decades of established international law that Israel’s settlements are a war crime.”

What next? 

At the moment, the US is sticking to its position. For the millions of civilians involved, only time will tell what the fallout of this decision will be.

Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant. She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.

5 stories to Stay Current this week!

Here’s your guide to things people are talking about this week:

People are worried about India’s economy and the world economy that seems to be slowing down. Read here to see what that means.

Israel held its second election this year to identify its Prime Minister. The outcome? Yet again, there was no clear winner. The two leading parties are one seat apart from each other. These have former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (party Likud, 32 seats) and his opponent, former military chief Benny Gantz (Blue and White Party, 33 seats) as leaders.

The President of Israel has asked Benjamin Netanyahu to try and form an alliance with the other parties and to gather a majority of seats in that manner, so that they can form a government. Stay tuned as this story unfolds. 

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK has faltered while trying to negotiate Brexit. What did he do? He figured out a way to quiet his critics for some time by forcing the UK Parliament to take a break at this crucial time. The UK Supreme Court has just said that what he did is illegal. Read here to find out what happened.

‘How dare you!’, Greta Thunberg yelled at political world leaders, imploring them to make greater changes towards saving the Earth from climate change. What happened during the UN Climate Action Summit? Read here to find out.

FIFA gave out its Player of the Year awards in Milan this week. The winners? Lionel Messi and Meghan Rapinoe. They also honoured coaches and other players. Check it out!


India’s space agency has visually located the Vikram Lander but hasn’t been able to re-establish communication with it yet. Read on for an update.

The News: ISRO, India’s space agency has clarified that they lost contact with Chandrayaan-2’s lander, Vikram, far closer to the lunar surface than what was reported. Initially, it was reported that the Lander was 2.1 km above the lunar surface when it went quiet. However, the Lander was likely as close as 400 m to the lunar surface when ISRO lost contact.

Last Sunday, ISRO also announced that it had spotted the Vikram Lander on the lunar surface with the help of the onboard cameras on the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which continues to orbit around the Moon.

What next: ISRO continues to try and re-establish contact with the fallen Lander but time is running out. Vikram’s mission along with the six-wheeled Pragyaan Rover was set-up  for a period of 14 days. ISRO has until September 20-21 to reconnect with the Lander.

America’s space agency’s, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, is currently orbiting the moon and will be passing over the Vikram Lander’s suspected crash site on September 17. NASA’s orbiter will capture images of the site and share it with ISRO. We hope this will provide additional data to ISRO.

Stay Tuned for more space news!

In the early hours of Saturday morning (7 September 2019), millions of people tuned in to watch India attempt to land a robotic lander near the Moon’s South Pole. As planned at 1.40 am (Indian Standard Time), the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft deployed its Vikram Lander towards the lunar surface. The lander started its descent smoothly but disaster struck when ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) contact with it less than two km above the lunar surface. 

ISRO Chandrayaan-2

This was a nail-biting moment for India and all the scientists that have worked tirelessly behind this complex mission. Scientists are now examining the last communication they have received from the Vikram Lander before they lost all contact. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders and celebrities have posted messages on Twitter to encourage the scientists at ISRO.

This was an important mission for India as it was attempting to become the fourth country to successfully soft-land on the Moon and the first country to land a spacecraft on the Moon’s unexplored South Pole. The mission was also carried out at a cost of INR 978 crore (approximately US$141 million) which is much lower than what other countries have spent on lunar missions in the past. This is also the first ISRO mission to have been led by two women – project director Muthaya Vanitha and mission director Ritu Karidhal.

On a positive note, all is not lost. Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter is intact and is expected to circle the moon for another year to learn more about the lunar surface. The mission is still on!

To learn more about the Chandrayaan-2 mission read on.

Chandrayaan-2 journey

What is the Chandrayaan-2 mission?

On July 22 2019, ISRO, the Indian space agency, launched its most expensive and complex mission to the moon, the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission is ISRO’s second mission to the moon. This time the mission planned to be the first spacecraft to ever soft-land on the Moon’s south pole. 

The spacecraft itself consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments and new technology to study the moon.

The Orbiter, which has a mission life of a year, will orbit the moon and take images of the lunar surface and help create 3D maps of it. The Lander was carrying a Rover in its belly and was meant to parachute onto the lunar surface. After a successful soft landing on the lunar surface, it was to send out a robotic rover to conduct experiments. The rover would have traveled up to a half a kilometer from the lander in search of water and minerals and measure moonquakes among other things. It would have sent data and images back to Earth for analysis.

Why has the moon’s south pole suddenly become a hot spot for exploration?

India isn’t the only one trying to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole. The American space agency, NASA and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin company are all planning missions to this new hot spot.

Data from the previous missions have indicated that the permanently shadowed places on the south pole could contain ice and other minerals, which would be vital for setting up a base on the moon. This ice could be a potential source of drinking water for astronauts visiting the moon, but also could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen could be used to provide breathable air and oxygen and hydrogen could be used as rocket fuel. The mountain peaks near the pole are illuminated for large periods of time and could be used to provide solar energy to a moon base.

Thus, the moon could serve as a base for scientists can test technologies and spacecraft to refill their tanks before heading out into the solar system for future deep space exploration missions

What was the Chandrayaan-1 mission?
Yes, Chandrayaan-2 is a follow up the Chandrayaan-1 mission which was the first Indian lunar probe. It launched in October 2008 and conducted a detailed search for water on the Moon using radars. It helped confirm water molecules on the earth’s surface and operated until August 2009.

Has the Moon just got its first inhabitants?


Earlier this year, the Beresheet Lunar Lander, a privately funded spacecraft from Israel, crash-landed on the moon due to a system failure. Luckily, there were no humans on board the small spacecraft but it was carrying some special cargo –  dehydrated tardigrades.

Tardigrade 1 Photo Credit:  N. Carrera/Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas

What are Tardigrades? They are tiny microscopic animals that live in water. Popularly known as water bears or moss piglets, they are short and plum with 4 pairs of legs and sharp claws. When fully grown, they are about 0.02 inches long! They are found on every continent – from mountain tops to the deep oceans, usually near a body of freshwater.

What is so special about them?

Tardigrades are extremely hardy as they can survive catastrophic situations like extreme temperature changes, starvation, and even no air.

When tardigrades are de-hydrated, they withdraw their heads and eight legs and shrink into a tiny ball.  They discard almost all of the water in their body and enter a deep state of rest that nearly resembles death. When they are reintroduced to water after decades, they are able to revive themselves.

Lunar Library Image Photo Credit: Bruce HA/ Wired

Why were they sent to the moon? They were part of a ‘Lunar Library’ project by the Arch Mission Foundation in Los Angles. The project aims to create a ‘backup of planet Earth’  and preserve the records of human civilization well into the future. In the event that planet Earth gets affected due to some major calamity, the time capsule will aid as a backup of information or even a memory of what life on Earth was.

This library was stored on a metal disc about the size of a DVD.  It contains 30 million pages of data (200GB), human DNA samples, and dehydrated tardigrades that are encased in a paste of artificial Amber. The data includes the entire English-language version of Wikipedia, thousands of fiction and nonfiction books, a collection of textbooks, and a guide to 5,000 languages amongst other things.

This is not the first time that tardigrades have traveled to space. In 2007, researchers sent a few into orbit above Earth to see if they could survive in space and a few of them did! It is uncertain if any of the tardigrades survived the crash, but the question is will they will be able to regenerate themselves on the moon?

Written by: Preetika Soni. Preetika is a full – time toddler mommy. In the time that is left, she enjoys writing, photography and crochet. She has worked with NDTV, Mumbai and has taught at SCMSophia. 




Big political moments in 2017

It’s almost 2018! Let’s look back at some of the most important moments around the world as we say goodbye to 2017…

President Trump officially recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Editorial Photo Credit:

On Wednesday, December 6, 2017 President Trump announced that the United States of America officially recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also called for the United States State Department to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. People all over the world have had very strong reactions to this announcement.

Where is Jerusalem?

It lies by the Arab State of Palestine and the Jewish State of Israel. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities and is perhaps the most sensitive land on our planet.  It has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt time and again. Over its long history, different groups of people have controlled this land. 

Why is Jerusalem special?

Jerusalem is considered to be a holy city by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. This city is the historical hub of all three religions and their sacred sites stand in the Old City of Jerusalem.

What is controversial about Jerusalem?

Palestinian people once owned land there. Israel claims this land as well. Both Jews and Muslims consider the city of Jerusalem sacred. This is one of the core issues in the ages old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What is the history behind this?

UN Resolution of 1947 Photo Credit: BBC

World War II was a horrific time for the Jewish people. After the War ended, the United Nations in 1947 agreed that the Jewish people should have a land of their own, and came up with a plan to divide Palestinian territory into Jewish and Palestinian Arab states. This area was decided upon as Jerusalem is important to the Jewish faith. This decision was opposed by the Palestinians and Arabs who felt that it was a deep injustice to ignore the rights of the majority of the population of Palestine and thus began decades of conflict.

In 1947, the United Nations also declared Jerusalem an international city belonging to no one. What does that mean? This city was supposed to belong to no country. Israel’s government has been in West Jerusalem since the state’s founding in 1948.

In the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, Israel drove Jordan back from East Jerusalem and occupied the whole city.

What was the Arab-Israeli war?

There were two big wars between the Israelis and the the Arab states such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. These were fought in 1948 and 1967. The coalition of Arab states attacked Israel because they didn’t accept the partition of Palestinian territory. They were all defeated, and in fact lost more territory to Israel during this process. 

Back to Jerusalem:

Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their national capital. All other countries and the United Nations say that West Jerusalem is part of Israel and that East Jerusalem is Palestinian. Because it is not considered to belong to any country at the moment, the city has no embassies. Most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv (Israeli part) and Ramallah (Palestinian part).

Why is President Trump’s decision so important? 

President Trump Announces U.S. Will Recognize Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

So far, the United States, like most of the world, had withheld formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital pending a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that would fairly resolve all major disputes.

President Trump’s decision is important because Israel believes it gives credibility to their claim over most of what was Palestine.

What is the reaction worldwide?

Many Muslim leaders have criticized the decision and urge the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. At the United Nations in Brussels, most leaders of the European Union have rejected the idea of following Mr. Trump’s lead till a peaceful settlement is reached between the 2 countries.