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TV: Lapid offered Bennett to be prime minister first in power-sharing deal

According to Channel 13, Bennett must now decide if he wants to be PM, or back Netanyahu and head for likely 5th election; Smotrich urges Bennett not to allow ‘left-wing gov’t’

Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina party seen with Yamina supporters at the party headquarters in Petah Tikva, on election night, on March 23, 2021. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina party seen with Yamina supporters at the party headquarters in Petah Tikva, on election night, on March 23, 2021. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

2 killed, 9 injured in Jerusalem pileup involving multiple vehicles

Two people have been killed in a Jerusalem pileup of seven vehicles. Nine other people were injured.

The crash occurred on Hebron Road in the city’s south.

One victim, a young woman, was a pedestrian who became trapped beneath one of the vehicles, police say. Another was a man who was in one of the cars.

The circumstances are being investigated.

Pope urges end to ‘clash of arms’ in Syria, Yemen, Libya

Pope Francis calls for an end of violence in Syria, Yemen and Libya in his Easter Sunday address and condemns as “scandalous” the continued armed conflicts around the world.

“May Christ our peace finally bring an end to the clash of arms in beloved and war-torn Syria, where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions; in Yemen, whose situation has met with a deafening and scandalous silence; and in Libya, where at last there is hope,” the pope says at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, February 28, 2021. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Israeli study: Humans were hyper-carnivorous apex predators for 2 million years

Israeli researchers studying the nutrition of Stone Age humans say the species spent some 2 million years as hyper-carnivorous “apex predators” that ate mostly the meat of large animals.

The study at Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with Portugal’s University of Minho, “may provide a broad basis for fundamental insights on the biological and cultural evolution of humans, according to a statement by TAU.

Contrary to most studies on the diet of ancient humans, which were mostly based on hunter-gatherer societies in recent centuries, the latest paper is largely derived from “the memory preserved in our own bodies, our metabolism, genetics and physical build,” according to Miki Ben-Dor of TAU’s Department of Archaeology.

“Human behavior changes rapidly, but evolution is slow. The body remembers.”

For instance, the team examined the acidity of our stomachs, which is high even for predators.

Tel Aviv University’s Miki Ben-Dor (Courtesy)

“Producing and maintaining strong acidity require large amounts of energy, and its existence is evidence for consuming animal products,” Ben-Dor says. “Strong acidity provides protection from harmful bacteria found in meat, and prehistoric humans, hunting large animals whose meat sufficed for days or even weeks, often consumed old meat containing large quantities of bacteria, and thus needed to maintain a high level of acidity.”

They also looked at fat’s structure in human cells: Similarly to predators, human fat is stored in large numbers of small fat cells, whereas in omnivores it tends to be the other way around.

They also cite the human genome as evidence.

“For example, geneticists have concluded that ‘areas of the human genome were closed off to enable a fat-rich diet, while in chimpanzees, areas of the genome were opened to enable a sugar-rich diet,'” Ben-Dor says.

Further archaeological evidence supports their hypothesis, they argue, including the study of stable isotopes in the bones of prehistoric humans that point to consumption of meat with a high fat content, likely from large animals.

“Most probably, like in current-day predators, hunting itself was a focal human activity throughout most of human evolution,” Ben-Dor says. “Other archaeological evidence — like the fact that specialized tools for obtaining and processing vegetable foods only appeared in the later stages of human evolution — also supports the centrality of large animals in the human diet, throughout most of human history.”

The researchers believe humans only began moving toward a diet that is much more plant-based some 85,000 years ago, possibly as a result of a decline in larger animals as a food source.

Environment ministry to give poorer towns NIS 50m to improve cleanliness

The Ministry of Environmental Protection announces that it will allocate NIS 50 million ($15 million) to help the country’s poorer local authorities to improve cleanliness in public spaces.

An initial NIS 5 million ($1.5 million) will be disbursed to map needs and prepare action plans.

Iran TV spy show ignites controversy for second season

A controversial Iranian TV spy thriller is once again generating buzz in the Islamic Republic, drawing the ire of government officials and complaints from viewers over alleged censorship in the second season finale.

The fictional series, titled “Gando,” chronicles the exploits of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard agents — in the style of James Bond or Jason Bourne.

The first season grabbed headlines for depicting Iranian intelligence operatives combating an American super spy who bears a striking resemblance to Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian. Before being freed in a prisoner swap in 2016, Rezaian spent 18 months in an Iranian prison on charges of espionage that he and American officials denied.

US journalist Jason Rezaian waves as he poses for media people in front of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, after being released from prison in Iran, January 20, 2016. (Michael Probst/AP)

The show, which valorizes Iran’s hardliners and portrays Iran’s Foreign Ministry as inept, long has caused consternation among relative moderates in the government. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif railed against the second season on the popular audio chat app Clubhouse last week, calling it a “lie from beginning to end.” When the first season aired in the summer of 2019, Zarif sent a formal letter of protest to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Certain scenes in the last two episodes appeared to be crudely edited and the finale came to a strangely abrupt end, fueling criticism over possible government interference in the series.

An adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, Hesameddin Ashena, promised that the government had not disrupted the show or pressed for its cancellation.

Two rockets hit near Iraq airbase hosting US soldiers

Two rockets have hit near an Iraqi airbase hosting US soldiers north of Baghdad, three days ahead of a new “strategic dialogue” with Washington, a security source says.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike, which caused no casualties or property damage, but the US routinely blames Iran-linked Iraqi factions for such attacks on its troops and diplomats.

Illustrative: US Soldiers stand at a site of Iranian bombing at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (AP/Qassim Abdul-Zahra)

Today’s attack is the 14th attack against American interests — including troops, the Baghdad embassy or Iraqi supply convoys to foreign forces — since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

Two Americans and an Iraqi civilian have been killed in the attacks. An Iraqi civilian working for a firm maintaining US fighter jets for the Iraqi airforce was also wounded in one attack.

One person, not two, killed in Jerusalem crash

Correction: The number of fatalities in the Jerusalem crash is one, not two. The victim is a 25-year-old female pedestrian.

Nine others were injured, with their conditions listed variously as light to moderate.


Ariel Sharon’s son: Unthinkable for Likud to work with ‘Hamas backers’ in Ra’am

Gilad Sharon, the son of late prime minister Ariel Sharon, calls the Islamist Ra’am party “Hamas supporters” and says it is “unthinkable” that Likud is considering forming a government based on its backing.

“The Islamic Movement in Israel is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he tells 103FM Radio.

“It is unacceptable. I don’t believe there’s a Likudnik who can accept such a thing. It’s inconceivable that a few days ago the prime minister said there would not be a government leaning on the Islamic Movement and all the ministers agreed, and today it’s the opposite and the ministers again agree.”

Gilad Sharon, son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, at a cultural event in Holon, January 28, 2017 (Flash90)

High Court: Protest limits during 2nd lockdown were unlawful, all fines annulled

The High Court of Justice rules that regulations that limited anti-government protesters to within a kilometer of their homes during the country’s second lockdown in the fall were unlawful.

Any fines given to demonstrators for breaking those rules will be canceled, the court rules.

The decision also bars the government from imposing such a regulation in the future.

The rule only lasted two weeks between September 30 and October 13, at the height of Israel’s second infection wave.

The limitation was intensely controversial and petitions were immediately filed with the High Court by several anti-government groups. The government then told the court it would not extend the special emergency measure beyond the initial two-week period.

The limitation led the protests to morph from rallies mostly centered around Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and a few other major cities to widespread events held throughout the country, as people protested in central intersections and bridges near their homes. This style of protest lasted well beyond the end of the limitation and is still taking place now during the weekend demonstrations.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, October 8, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Jordan says king’s half brother worked with foreign elements to destabilize kingdom

At a press conference, Jordanian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi says former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein was in contact with “foreign elements” and planned to take steps that would destabilize Jordan.

Safadi, speaking a day after the half brother of King Abdullah was placed under house arrest, says that his country has foiled a “malicious plot” to “undermine the security” of Jordan.

Multiple reports have characterized the prince’s actions as a coup attempt.

Safadi says intelligence agents had been observing the plotters for some time and raised their concerns with the king. He says Hamzah, 41, was asked to “stop all these activities and movements that threaten Jordan and its stability,” but he refused.

Jordan’s Prince Hamzah Bin Al-Hussein in a 2015 photo (KHALIL MAZRAAWI / AFP)

He says that eventually Jordanian intelligence intercepted certain communications at what he calls the “zero hour.”

“Then it was clear they moved from design and planning into action,” Safadi says. He says some 14-16 people are under arrest.

Safadi says military leaders were not involved, and in fact helped stop the alleged plot.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi at a press conference in Berlin on March 10, 2021. (Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP)

He adds that efforts are being made to keep the matter contained within the royal family, to the extent that the law allows.

Safadi does not identify the foreign countries allegedly involved in the plot. But he says a longtime senior official who has business ties in several Gulf Arab states, Bassem Awadallah, was involved and had been planning on leaving the country. He also says Awadallah had been trying to secure a place for Hamzah’s wife to flee, with a foreign intelligence service contacting her and planning to smuggle her out of the country.

Hamzah yesterday released a video message via the BBC in which he accused Jordan’s rulers of nepotism and corruption and charged that he had been placed under house arrest.

Jordan’s former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein (screenshot via BBC)

Hamzah in his message, which he said he was sending via satellite phone, lashed out at Jordan’s “ruling system” and said several of his friends had been arrested, his security detail removed and his internet and phone lines cut.

He denied being part of “any conspiracy or nefarious organization,” but said the country had “become stymied in corruption, in nepotism and in misrule” and that nobody was allowed to criticize the authorities.

Military debuts the ‘Oron,’ a new intel-gathering aircraft years in the works

The Israeli military debuts a new spy aircraft today that it says will assist it in gathering intelligence and identify potential targets for attack in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and other far-flung areas in the Middle East.

The airplane, a Gulfstream G550 Aerospace dubbed the Oron, has been outfitted with an array of sensors and data collection equipment that allows it to rapidly locate targets in all weather conditions, according to one of its creators.

The plane was developed over the course of nine years in a collective effort by the military, Defense Ministry and weapons contractors, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

An air traffic controller directs an ‘Oron’ spy aircraft down a runway at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel on April 4, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The IDF and the air force already have a variety of intelligence collection capabilities, but the Oron strengthens our superiority and our ability to operate in the second and third tiers and to move between fronts rapidly and over a long period of time,” says Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin.

The second tier refers to countries that do not border Israel, but represent a direct threat to the country — such as Iraq and Yemen, where Iran maintains proxies with missile and drone capabilities that could be used against Israel — while the third tier refers to enemy countries located further than that, principally Iran.

The reception ceremony for the new aircraft, which will be operated by the Israeli Air Force’s 122nd Squadron, was held earlier in the day at the Nevatim airbase in the northern Negev desert.

The number of Oron aircraft that the military is due to receive is classified.

Report: Rabbi Kanievsky’s grandson tries to convince Sa’ar to join Netanyahu

New Hope party chief Gideon Sa’ar held a lengthy conversation today with a grandson of top ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who attempted to convince him to join a right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 12 news reports.

It says Netanyahu was aware of the phone call. Haredi parties have been resolutely in Netanyahu’s camp throughout the four elections held over the past two years.

The report does not provide further details on the call or Sa’ar’s response. However, the former Likud minister has said repeatedly in recent days he will keep his promise to voters not to join a government under Netanyahu.

New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 23, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Palestinians approve 36 groups to run in May election

Palestinian election officials announce that 36 candidate lists have been approved to run in legislative elections set for next month, the first Palestinian polls in 15 years.

The vote, which precedes a presidential election called for July 31, is part of an effort by the dominant Palestinian movements — Fatah and Hamas — to boost international support for Palestinian governance.

Groups had until Wednesday to submit their lists of candidates to run in the May 22 legislative polls.

Individual names on each list are due to be published Tuesday, but the Palestinian electoral commission announces on its website that it has approved all 36 applications.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement is facing challenges from dissident factions including the Freedom list, led by a nephew of the late Palestinian icon Yasser Arafat, Nasser al-Kidwa. Freedom has been endorsed by Marwan Barghouti, a popular leader who is held in Israeli prison for terrorism, and his wife is second place on the slate.

Former Fatah official Nasser al-Kidwa, center left, and Marwan Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, center right, leave the Palestinian Central Election Commission office after registering their joint list for the upcoming parliamentary election in May, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Combat troops, soldiers in training no longer need to wear face masks outside

Combat troops and soldiers in training will no longer have to wear face masks when they are in open areas as part of a new Health Ministry-approved pilot program, the Israel Defense Forces says.

This trial will last three months and comes as the military boasts of a more than 80 percent vaccination rate in its ranks. The IDF says after three months, this policy will be reviewed and may then be extended.

An Israeli soldier, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, stands guard next to an outpost and army humvees during the ‘Deadly Arrow’ military drill in the northern part of Israel on October 27, 2020 (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

In a statement, the Health Ministry says the pilot program will only be offered to units that have at least a 90 percent rate of soldiers who have either had the disease and recovered or who’ve received their second dose of the vaccine more than one week ago. The ministry adds that the IDF is required to track all those taking part in the program and send in weekly reports on any illnesses or outbreaks in the units.

This mask exemption will only be in place when soldiers are taking part in training exercises or are outside. When the soldiers are inside they will again have to don face masks and maintain social distancing, the military says.

11-year-old girl killed when dune buggy overturns near Jerusalem

An 11-year-old girl has been killed near Kfar Adumim, east of Jerusalem, after a dune buggy in which she was riding overturned.

A 40-year-old man was moderately injured and a 6-year-old boy was lightly hurt. They were taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center.

Paramedics declared the girl dead at the scene.

Smotrich to give media statement at 7:30 p.m.; Sa’ar at 8:30 p.m.

Various politicians are planning to give various no doubt dramatic statements to the media this evening.

On the menu, Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich at 7:30 p.m., then New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar at 8:30 pm.

Stay tuned.

Pope shares solidarity with Myanmar youth as protesters decorate Easter eggs

Anti-coup demonstrators in Myanmar decorate boiled eggs as the latest emblem of resistance for Easter, as Pope Francis in his Easter message expresses solidarity with the country’s youth.

Myanmar has been gripped by turmoil since a February 1 coup ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and derailed the country’s tentative transition to democracy.

Security forces have sought to quell a mass uprising with lethal force and the death toll has passed 550.

On Easter, Myanmar protesters are painting political messages on eggs and leaving them on neighbors’ doorsteps.

Pictures posted on social media show eggs adorned with images of Suu Kyi and three-finger salutes — a protest gesture — while others say “save our people” and “democracy.”

Smotrich to Bennett: Failure to endorse Netanyahu will bring left-wing gov’t

At a press conference, Religious Zionism party chief Bezalel Smotrich urges Yamina chief Naftali Bennett to recommend that Benjamin Netanyahu form the next government when he meets with the president tomorrow.

He warns that “any recommendation you make tomorrow that is not for Netanyahu will take us closer with huge steps toward a left-wing government.”

He repeats he will do all he can to bring about a right-wing government led by Netanyahu.

Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich at a press conference, April 4, 2021. (video screenshot)

Bennett is rumored to be planning to recommend himself for the next prime minister.

Calling Bennett “my very real friend,” Smotrich says he’s “fearful that the bearhug by the left is blinding you.

“If you recommend yourself you will yourself bring about the downfall of a right-wing government and the formation of a left-wing government.”

He repeats that he will not support a government that is formed in cooperation with Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas.

TV: Lapid offered Bennett to be prime minister first in power-sharing deal

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid agreed to allow Yamina’s Naftali Bennett to serve as prime minister first in a potential power-sharing agreement between them during talks yesterday, Channel 13 reports.

No sources are given for the report.

Such a government would be a slim one, with 18 ministers maximum: nine for Bennett, Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar on one side, and nine for Lapid and others on the center-left on the other.

According to the network, Bennett must now decide whether he wants to be prime minister in such a government, or back Benjamin Netanyahu and likely go to a fifth election, as Netanyahu does not appear to have any path to forming one.

According to a separate report on Channel 12, citing allies of the Yamina chief, Bennett would prefer a full right-wing government led by Netanyahu but this does not currently seem possible; his second choice would be a right-wing government led by Netanyahu with the outside support of the Islamist Arab Ra’am party, but this has been ruled out by Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich; and his third choice would be a partnership with Lapid and the center-left in which Bennett serves as prime minister.

But the report says Bennett still prefers this third-best option to a fifth election.

Yamina party leader MK Naftali Bennett attends a Channel 12 news conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Channel 13 report says a decision by Bennett to agree to a deal with Lapid could lead most of the center-left parties to recommend Bennett as prime minister when they meet with President Reuven Rivlin tomorrow.

The network’s commentator Ravi Drucker claims that there is currently a sense of despair in Netanyahu’s Likud, with people telling him the party is “close to losing power.”

Jordanian report: Former Mossad official was involved in alleged plot

A report in Jordanian media says a former Mossad official was involved in the alleged plot to destabilize the country.

The Ammon news agency, citing an “informed source,” says a former Israeli spy was the one who contacted the wife of former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein, and offered to fly her out of the country.

The report does not name the State of Israel as tied to the ostensible coup attempt in any way.

Sa’ar repeats he won’t join Netanyahu: ‘We want government of honesty, integrity’

In a live statement to the media, New Hope party chief Gideon Sa’ar states: “I said clearly during the election that whoever wants Netanyahu to stay should not vote for me… I said it very clearly, every day, all day… I repeat it again: We will not join or support a government led by Netanyahu.”

Sa’ar says he wants to “form a government of change that will reconnect our people. We want a government that brings back values of truth-telling, of honesty and integrity… Not a government that is enslaved to the tapestry of interests of Netanyahu’s trial.”

He adds: “It doesn’t matter what the pressures are and who is putting the pressure. Every single MK [of New Hope] has felt it well. It won’t change a thing. It won’t happen.”

He said allies of Netanyahu urge him to join to “prevent a fifth election.”

“We will do our best. But who has brought Israel to four elections, none of which he has achieved a majority in? I tell them: ‘Do the right thing: End Bibism before it ends Likud.”

Gideon Sa’ar, head of the New Hope political party, seen during an election campaign tour in Raanana, February 8, 2021. (Flash90)

Israeli who offered to help Jordanian prince denies ever serving in Mossad

Roy Shaposhnik, the man Jordanian media reports is an ex-Mossad official who tried to get Prince Hamzah’s wife out of the country, tells Walla News’ Barak Ravid that he was never a member of Mossad.

However, he does confirm that he is a close personal friend of the prince.

“During the weekend, Prince Hamza told me about what happened in Jordan and I proposed that he send his wife and kids to stay in my house,” he says.

“I don’t have any knowledge of the events that took place in Jordan or of the people involved. The proposal I gave Prince Hamzah was done on the basis of our personal friendship and out of a wish to help the princess and their kids at this difficult moment.”

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