The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash has approved a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine to people over age 18 who suffer from compromised immune systems, and who are thus at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
A fourth shot will also be made available to people who are at greater risk of infection due to their line of work.
To be eligible for a fourth dose, four months must have elapsed since the previous shot.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Dr. Eyal Hulata conduct a virtual meeting of the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group (SCG). They are joined by various foreign affairs and security officials.
The sides “discussed significant regional developments since the last SCG meeting in December, including advances in Iran’s nuclear program,” according to a White House statement.
“Mr. Sullivan emphasized that while the United States remains committed to diplomacy as the best means for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the United States is preparing alternative options, in coordination with its partners, should diplomacy fail.”
NATO allies have made proposals for a diplomatic solution to tensions triggered by Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine but remain “prepared for the worst,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says.
“We are now reaching out to Russia once again to try to pursue a path of dialogue and find a political solution,” he says, after the alliance sent Moscow a written response to its security demands.
“But of course while we are hoping for and working for a good solution, de-escalation, we are also prepared for the worst,” he adds.
Police have closed off Route 1 (leading between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) in both directions due to the snowfall, citing dangerous road conditions.
The highway has been shuttered between Jerusalem’s city entrance and the Sha’ar HaGai Interchange.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US has made no concessions to the main Russian demands over Ukraine and NATO in a written response delivered to Moscow today.
Russia has demanded guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as members and that the alliance will roll back troop deployments in other former Soviet bloc nations. These are nonstarters for the US and its allies.
The US answer to Russia makes very clear that the US is standing by its principles, Blinken says. “There is no change, there will be no change.”
Liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, giving President Joe Biden an opening he has pledged to fill by naming the first Black woman to the high court, two sources tell The Associated Press.
Breyer, 83, has been a pragmatic force on a court that has grown increasingly conservative in recent years, trying to forge majorities with more moderate justices right and left of center.
Breyer has been a justice since 1994, appointed by President Bill Clinton. Along with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Breyer opted not to step down the last time the Democrats controlled the White House and the Senate during Barack Obama’s presidency. Ginsburg died in September 2020, and then-president Donald Trump filled the vacancy with a conservative justice, Amy Coney Barrett.
Breyer’s departure, expected over the summer, won’t change the 6-3 conservative advantage on the court because his replacement will be nominated by Biden and almost certainly confirmed by a Senate where Democrats have the slimmest majority. It also will make conservative Justice Clarence Thomas the oldest member of the court. Thomas turns 74 in June.
A group of Israeli settlers earlier threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles that were going through a military checkpoint near the flashpoint Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces says.
“IDF soldiers who were on the scene pushed back the rioters and detained one of them until the Israel Police arrived,” the military says in a statement.
Recent days have seen a number of violent attacks by Israeli extremists against Palestinians and left-wing Israeli activists.
In many of these cases, Israeli soldiers have been on the scene of the attacks but didn’t intervene to prevent them.
תיעוד פלסטיני: פעילי ימין תוקפים כלי רכב פלסטיניים בגז פלפל ובאבנים במחסום סמוך לחומש בצפון השומרון. חיילי צה"ל הדפו אותם ואחד מהם עוכב והועבר לידי המשטרה@roysharon11 @nurityohanan pic.twitter.com/ttD1Mym97V
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 26, 2022
After the government announces an end to quarantines for students exposed to COVID-19, the Teachers Union, one of Israel’s two teacher associations, tells elementary and preschool teachers not to come to work tomorrow.
Union chief Yafa Ben David says she has not been given details on the government’s plan. It is not immediately clear whether such a directive is legal.
According to Channel 12, the Education Ministry plans to issue injunctions to prevent the measure from going forward.
The network and Ynet report that the Health Ministry’s head of public health services, Sharon Alroy-Preis, had pressed Ben David to oppose the government plan, as health officials are opposed to it in light of soaring infections. The reports are unsourced.
Alroy-Preis tells Channel 12 she spoke to Ben David about the plan and gave her position, as she did in deliberations with government officials. However, she denies pressing the union chief to take any action.
Republicans’ faith in science is falling as Democrats rely on it even more, with a trust gap in science and medicine widening substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic, new survey data shows.
It’s the largest gap in nearly five decades of polling by the General Social Survey, a widely respected trend survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago that has been measuring confidence in institutions since 1972.
Overall, 48% of Americans say they have “a great deal” of confidence in the scientific community, the 2021 General Social Survey data shows. Sixty-four percent of Democrats say that, compared with roughly half as many Republicans, 34%. The gap was much smaller in 2018, when 51% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans had high confidence.
Science used to be something all Americans would get behind, Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley says.
“But we now see it falling prey to the great partisan divide,” he says. “The world of science should be a meeting house where right and left can agree on data. Instead, it’s becoming a sharp razor’s edge of conflict.”
The poll also finds a gap emerging on confidence in medicine, driven primarily by increasing confidence among Democrats. Forty-five percent of Democrats say they have a great deal of confidence in medicine, compared with 34% of Republicans.
Snowflakes are falling in Jerusalem, with residents hoping for significant snowfall that will see the snow pile up throughout the night.
Some forecasts have said Jerusalem may see as much as 20 centimeters (8 inches) of snow. Schools in Jerusalem closed early today and COVID-19 testing sites are to stay closed until Thursday afternoon, as the capital braces for winter storm Elpis.
The snow is expected to stop in the early morning.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan says he expects UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to announce that the international body will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism during a speech tomorrow at an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“After many conversations I had with him and… his point man on the fight against antisemitism, I expect that tomorrow in his speech [Guterres] will declare that the UN is adopting the [IHRA] definition and is applying it to all UN bodies, Erdan tells Kan public radio.
The IHRA working definition describes various forms of antisemitism, including hatred and discrimination against Jews and Holocaust denial.
It also — more controversially — lists examples of anti-Israel criticism that it says in certain contexts can be defined as antisemitic, including comparing the country’s policies to those of Nazi Germany, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
Germany, which has refused to provide weapons to Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion, offers to send 5,000 helmets instead, a move slammed as an “absolute joke” by the mayor of Kyiv.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht says the planned delivery will send a “very clear signal” that Germany stands by Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia.
But Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko says the helmet offer left him “speechless.”
He accuses Germany of failing to understand “that we are dealing with a highly equipped Russian army that could start further invading Ukraine at any moment.”
“Five thousand helmets are an absolute joke,” he tells the Bild daily. “What will Germany send next? Pillows?”
A meme circulating on social media lampoons the move using an image from a 2019 campaign encouraging young people to wear cycling helmets, with the slogan: “Looks like shit. But saves my life.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz have decided to end mandatory isolation for schoolkids who come into contact with confirmed virus patients, as originally planned, despite health officials reportedly recommending postponing the move.
The plan will come into effect tomorrow.
According to the Ynet news site and other outlets, the heads of the ministry had sought to delay the move by a week due to soaring infections.
Under the plan, all students — both vaccinated and unvaccinated — will need to take two antigen tests a week, on Sundays and Wednesdays, and present negative results when entering educational institutions.
Children who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate until they test negative and have no symptoms.
Tomorrow, in a one-time directive, all students are also asked to test before coming to school.
The move is aimed at keeping children in school despite the Omicron variant wave, which has infected record numbers of Israelis.
A Virginia man who wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt at the US Capitol during last year’s riot pleads guilty to joining the mob of people who stormed the building.
Photographs of Robert Keith Packer wearing the sweatshirt with the antisemitic message went viral after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
The words “Camp Auschwitz” were above an image of a human skull. Packer’s sweatshirt also bore the phrase “Work Brings Freedom,” a rough translation of the German words above the entrance gate to Auschwitz, the death camp in Poland where Nazis killed more than 1 million men, women and children.
Packer, 57, of Newport News, Virginia, pleads guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment. US District Judge Carl Nichols is scheduled to sentence him on April 7.
FBI agents arrested Packer a week after the riot. He remains free pending his sentencing hearing.
Israel has become the 14th country to sign on to NASA’s Artemis program, which will take astronauts back to the lunar surface.
The country will cooperate with the US space agency on various projects related to the initiative. It thus joins Britain, Australia, Japan, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and others.
Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen says Israel is joining the international effort to make the moon “more than a stop, but a place on which to remain for a significant amount of time, in order to allow developments and research that cannot be done anywhere else. Israel can and should play a central role in this dream.”
The space agency is seeking to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon. The first planned unmanned test flight is scheduled for March, using NASA’s new SLS rocket. A first manned mission, which will send astronauts into lunar orbit, is planned for 2024. A moon landing is expected in 2025.
The United States believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin remains poised to use force against Ukraine by mid-February despite a pressure campaign to stop him, a top diplomat says.
“I have no idea whether he’s made the ultimate decision, but we certainly see every indication that he is going to use military force sometime perhaps [between] now and the middle of February,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman tells a forum.
Sherman, who met with her Russian counterpart earlier this month in Vienna in an attempt to warn Moscow against invading its neighbor, says that Putin’s planning may be affected by the Winter Games in Beijing, which the United States and several allies are boycotting due to human rights concerns.
“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begin on February 4, the opening ceremony, and President Putin expects to be there,” Sherman tells the Yalta European Strategy forum.
“I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine, so that may affect his timing and his thinking.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz says the Israel Defense Forces will continue to operate along the frontier “as much as necessary.”
Gantz makes his remarks during a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the so-called helicopters disaster, when two helicopters that were transporting soldiers to Israeli bases in Lebanon collided, killing the 73 troops on board.
“Seventy-three commanders and soldiers fell on their way across the northern border, a place that still draws our gaze today, where we are operating and where we will continue to operate as much as necessary in order to preserve the security of Israel,” he says, without referring to any specific threats from the north.
Discussing the 1997 crash, which he describes as “one of the worst disasters to occur in the IDF,” Gantz notes two recent deadly accidents in the military, one involving a helicopter that crashed for as yet unclear reasons, killing the two pilots on board, and a fatal case of friendly fire in the elite Egoz Unit, in which two officers were killed by a fellow soldier due to mistaken identity.
“In recent weeks we have also known mistakes and accidents that cost lives in the air force and the Egoz Unit. We are now fulfilling our threefold responsibility — investigating and learning lessons, without blinking and without doing anyone any favors, as is our ethical and organizational duty; to return the teams and the units to their operations and their operational routines; and to accompany the families of the bereaved, who are dear to our hearts, and those who are injured in body and spirit,” Gantz says.
Palestinian doctors have determined that 78-year-old Omar As’ad, who died after being detained by Israeli soldiers in mid-January, perished from a stress-induced heart attack likely caused by the circumstances of his detention.
According to an official Palestinian Authority autopsy obtained by The Times of Israel, As’ad’s death was caused by “stress-induced cardiac arrest due to external injuries.” The autopsy lists several such injuries, including “bruises and abrasions” caused by the elderly As’ad’s hands being bound.
As’ad, a Palestinian-American retiree living in Jiljilya near Ramallah, was detained by Israeli soldiers as he drove through his hometown at 3 a.m. According to the Israeli army, As’ad “resisted a security check.”
Soldiers bound As’ad’s hands and blindfolded him. An hour later, As’ad was found dead of a heart attack in a half-constructed building and Israeli troops had left the scene. Palestinians say that the soldiers saw that As’ad was unresponsive but left anyway; the Israeli military says he was released before he died.
The United Arab Emirates’ top prosecutor summons several people who shared on social media footage of a Yemeni rebel attack on Abu Dhabi, the state news agency says.
The Houthi rebels fired ballistic missiles on the Emirates’ capital Monday amid escalated fighting with the Saudi-led coalition that has been battling them and of which the UAE is a part. The missiles were intercepted by Emirati forces.
“The Public Prosecution has met with several individuals who circulated a social media video that showed defence forces intercepting Houthi terrorist attacks against critical facilities in the UAE,” says state news agency WAM.
The prosecutor’s office warns social media users that “such videos threaten vital and military facilities in the country and national security and stability.”
🇦🇪 NEW – Video of UAE air defences launching to intercept a missile attack in the vicinity of Al Shahama area of Abu Dhabi, UAE. pic.twitter.com/uKxp6ExVCz
— Alex Tiffin (@RespectIsVital) January 24, 2022
Israeli cybertechnology firm NSO Group, beleaguered by lawsuits and bad press over sales of its phone-hacking spyware, is reportedly in talks to sell off some of its assets to a US-based venture capital fund.
Bloomberg News says the maker of the controversial Pegasus hacking software is holding discussions on the matter with Integrity Partners.
“The company generates great interest with a few US-based funds, and the company is in talks with them all,” an NSO spokesperson tells Reuters.
Items from the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s library are being sold at online auction this week and include a range of books — including a collection of more than 30 books about Jewish subjects.
The auction, which is being conducted by Bonham’s and ends tomorow, includes everything from her law school textbooks to copies of celebrity memoirs and books by her fellow Supreme Court justices. One lot in the auction includes a list of 15 titles related to Jewish history and the Jewish experience from Ginsburg’s library.
Among them are “Rabin: Our Life, His Legacy,” a book written and inscribed by Leah Rabin about her husband, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who was assassinated in 1995. Others in the lot include “It Takes a Dream: The Story of Hadassah,” by Marlin Levin, and “Jewish Legal Writings by Women,” by Micah D. Halpern and Chana Safrai. Bidding for the lot is at $1,100 as of this morning.
Slovakia’s Transport Authority has issued a certificate of airworthiness for flying car model AirCar, a first step towards commercial production of the invention.
“AirCar certification opens the door for mass production of very efficient flying cars,” according to Stefan Klein, founder and chief executive of KleinVision, a company that designed and manufactured the prototype of the dual-mode car-aircraft vehicle.
“It is an official and final confirmation of our ability to change mid-distance travel forever.”
AirCar completed its first intercity flight in June 2021.
The vehicle is powered by a 1.6-liter BMW engine and needs a runway only 300 meters long to take off. It has a flight speed of up to 170 kilometers per hour and a flying distance of 1,000 kilometers.
The process of transforming from car to plane takes less than three minutes.
Everything is automated, so a single-button command is all it takes to change it.
Before certification, the Slovak flying car had to complete 70 hours of flight testing, with more than 200 takeoffs and landings, KleinVision said.
Hundreds of Islamic State group fighters have surrendered in a Syria prison where they had been holed up for days, as US-backed Kurdish forces tighten the noose around remaining jihadists.
More than 100 jihadists of the Islamic State group last week attacked Ghwayran prison in the Kurdish-controlled northeastern city of Hasakeh.
The brazen assault on the Kurdish-run facility involved a double suicide bombing and saw the jihadists free fellow IS members, seize weapons and take over several cell blocks, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It is considered the most sophisticated attack carried out by the group since it was territorially defeated in Syria nearly three years ago.
Iranian police announce the arrest of 17 people who posted prank videos online in recent weeks.
These included men smashing cream pies into the faces of hapless bystanders on metro escalators, actors posing as private taxi drivers opening fire on passengers with red paint guns, and young people tossing eggs at unwitting pedestrians.
Officials say the incidents incited public panic. The clips racked up thousands of views, attracting fans and imitators.
Prank in Islamic Republic of Iran 🇮🇷 pic.twitter.com/l6yU2XRmXo
— Jam (@Jam49216902) January 19, 2022
“Police strongly confronted such illegal acts,” the country’s state-run IRAN newspaper quotes Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying. “Publishing such clips plays with people’s nerves, security and peace.”
In the videos, the real victims of the pranks appear terrified and angry. One shaken man socked with a pie on the metro escalator grows incensed, chasing the laughing pranksters and lobbing a backpack and shoe at them before trying to beat one of the men up, cream still smeared over his face.
More than 100 foreign diplomats serving in Israel join Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll in a virtual ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, during which the envoys from Germany, Russia, the EU, Honduras, Thailand, and Cameroon light memorial candles engraved with the names of Jewish victims of the Shoah.
The event is held in cooperation with the “Our 6 Million” organization, which aims to commemorate Holocaust victims by lighting memorial candles engraved with their names and details. Over five million memorial candles have been lit in Israel and around the world through the organization, according to the Foreign Ministry.
“It is our duty to remember all those who lost their lives; but no less, to honor and cherish the survivors,” says Roll. “We must remember their faces, their names, and their personal stories in order to ensure that their legacy is passed on to our children and all future generations. All nations of the world must join hands and stand together in the fight against racism, antisemitism, and extremism, and defend the values of democracy and humanity for future generations.”
Germany’s ambassador Susanne Wasum-Rainer says that she is lighting the candle as the representative of the nation responsible for the Shoah.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day takes place tomorrow. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is in Vienna to mark the day, and Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy is in Berlin to address the Bundestag.
One million doses of coronavirus vaccine arrive in Gaza from the United Arab Emirates, the latest donation facilitated by an exiled rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mohammed Dahlan, a Gaza native now based in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, was once a top Palestinian Authority official who served as Abbas’s security chief in the territory before its takeover by Hamas in 2007.
Gaza health ministry spokesman Mahmud Hammad tells journalists that the consignment of one million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine marked the largest single shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to the territory.
The vaccines were delivered through Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt. The same route was used for previous shipments organized by Dahlan, who has increasingly sought to position himself as a benefactor for the Palestinian people.
The Auschwitz Pledge Foundation launches a grant program called “The Indifference Challenge” that will reward projects tackling racism, antisemitism and discrimination.
The launch comes on the eve of the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland — a date that has become International Holocaust Memorial Day.
“What culminated in the Holocaust began with seemingly inconspicuous forms of discrimination,” Piotr Cywiński, head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and chairman of the Auschwitz Pledge Foundation, says in a statement.
“The hard truth is — bystanders facilitate discrimination and that is exactly what hatred needs to grow,” he says. He adds that the problem “is present here and now, and it will only get worse if we don’t act.”
“The education system, media environment, and popular culture fail to teach about the dangers of indifference to casual discrimination. We want to change this,” he added.
The German government is considering a ban on encrypted messaging app Telegram after it was repeatedly used as a channel for spreading anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and even death threats.
The app has also played a key role in mobilizing turnout at some of the most violent protests in opposition to the German government’s COVID-19 policies since the start of the pandemic.
With parliament due to begin debating compulsory vaccination on Wednesday, authorities fear that the controversial issue could risk firing up another wave of rage.
With this in mind, politicians have set their sights on tighter controls on Telegram.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser will unveil plans by Easter to require the app to delete messages that contain death threats or hate speech and identify their authors.
If Telegram fails to comply, the government could even ban the service completely.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is braced for the conclusions of an investigation into allegations of lockdown-breaching parties, a document that could help him end weeks of scandal and discontent, or bring his time in office to an abrupt close.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray could turn in her report to the government as soon as today. Johnson has previously promised to publish it in full and to address Parliament about its findings.
“When I receive it, of course I will do exactly what I said,” Johnson said during a testy Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons. He batted away questions about the scandal and his future, saying he had “absolutely no intention” of resigning.
Lebanon is ready to resume talks over a maritime border dispute with Israel, President Michel Aoun says.
Longtime foes Lebanon and Israel started indirect negotiations through a US mediator in 2020 at a UN peacekeeping base in Lebanon’s Naqoura, but have stalled several times. The last round of talks on the matter was held last May.
Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their exclusive economic zones.
Lebanon has sunk deep into an economic and financial crisis that started in late 2019 — a culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class. The small Mediterranean country is eager to resolve the border dispute with Israel, paving the way for potential lucrative oil and gas deals.
Israel’s Energy Ministry says in response that it is ready to resume talks. Israeli officials quoted by Kan news say that “for us, the negotiations have never been stopped. But Lebanon must stop raising new demands.”
Do you rely on The Times of Israel for accurate and insightful news on Israel and the Jewish world? If so, please join The Times of Israel Community. For as little as $6/month, you will:
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.
So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.
For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel