The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial continues in Jerusalem, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua testifies that he was forced to take down a story from the news outlet about Netanyahu’s wife Sara because it could have harmed his employers’ chances at receiving a regulatory favor from the premier.
Yeshua is a key witness in Case 4000, in which the prime minister is accused of establishing an illegal quid pro quo with the owners of Walla in which they gave him favorable news coverage and he granted them regulatory favors.
The prosecution shows text messages sent to Yeshua from the former owner of Walla news, Shaul Elovitch, who controlled the website through his telecommunications firm Bezeq, in which he was told, “Take [the article] down now. It’ll prevent me from getting permission for Yes. I’ll kill you.”
Yeshua explains that Elovitch was referring to a regulatory decision that he was waiting for from Netanyahu that would allow his company to purchase shares in the Yes television service provider. “At least that’s what I understood,” he adds.
The article in question was about a scandal at the time involving Sara Netanyahu and her treatment of the caretaker of the Prime Minister’s Residence.
The prosecution shows additional messages between Yeshua and his superiors, showing that the article had been taken off the homepage and removed from the website’s Facebook page, but that he was reprimanded for not removing the story from the outlet’s list of recent push notifications.
“I was reprimanded because I didn’t clean it up all the way,” Yeshua says.
Iran shatters its daily record for new coronavirus infections for the second consecutive day, with recorded cases soaring to 20,954.
The country is in the midst of one of the most severe surges of the coronavirus to date, following a two-week public holiday for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which drove millions to travel to popular vacation spots across the country, crowd markets and congregate in homes for parties in defiance of government health guidelines.
There appears to be no respite in sight, as the country’s vaccine rollout lags, with only just over 200,000 vaccine doses having been administered in the country of 84 million, according to the World Health Organization.
Taiwan’s foreign minister says the island will defend itself “to the very last day” if attacked by China.
Joseph Wu says China’s attempts at conciliation while engaging in military intimidation are sending “mixed signals” to the island’s residents.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be won over peacefully or by force.
Wu notes China flew 10 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Monday and deployed an aircraft carrier group for exercises near Taiwan.
“We are willing to defend ourselves, that’s without any question,” Wu tells reporters. “We will fight a war if we need to fight a war, and if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day, then we will defend ourselves to the very last day.“
With Israel continuing its tenuous emergence from the pandemic, the Central Bureau of Statistics publishes new data showing unemployment dropped to 12.7 percent in the first half of March, or some 493,000 people.
The figure includes people on furlough due to the pandemic, as well as those who have stopped seeking jobs through the National Employment Service. The figure without the latter — meaning only those actively seeking employment — stands at 9.8%.
Currently, boosted unemployment benefits are to face cuts in May, but Finance Minister Israel Katz has said he will extend them into June.
The head of public health in the Health Ministry, Sharon Alroy-Preis, says Israel is still “in the midst of a battle” against the pandemic, and warns of the need to remain vigilant.
Speaking to Ynet, Alroy-Preis says there remain “many outside threats that could develop here” — an apparent reference to virus variants that could potentially bypass the protection afforded by vaccines.
And she adds that “over a third of the country are still not vaccinated… It’s not behind us, it’s not over.”
At the PM’s trial, Ilan Yeshua tells the court that his litmus test for whether or not a topic related to Prime Minister Netanyahu could be published on his website was whether or not it appeared in the Israel Hayom tabloid, which is seen as overwhelmingly supportive of the premier.
“If it was published in Israel Hayom, it became ’kosher,’” Yeshua says. “It can’t be so bad for it to be published by us. I need to be holier than the pope?”
Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich says Arabs who don’t accept that Israel belongs to the Jews “won’t stay here.”
Smotrich is responding to Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, who called a rabbi who said true Muslims must know that Israel belongs to the Jews “racist trash.”
“Ahmad, the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, and in the long term Arabs like you that don’t acknowledge it won’t stay here,” Smotrich tweets. “Rabbi Shmuel [Eliyahu] and his thousands of students, us included, will ensure it.”
Tibi retorts: “The fact that you won’t be a minister if not for Arab support gives me great pleasure… Buzz off.”
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin has refused a request by four MKs from the Joint List to retake their oaths of office today, after he rejected their controversial alterations to the standard words yesterday.
Levin says he will allow them to retake the oath — and thus gain access to their full rights as MKs — on Monday at the earliest.
Blue and White says it will demand a broader opening of the education system in light of low morbidity rates.
The party says grades 7-10, in particular, must be allowed greater access to proper classrooms, as they have been the most severely affected by restrictions.
“Agreements must immediately be reached between the Health Ministry and Education Ministry on a plan” for further reopening, the party says in a statement.
The party says it will not reapprove education regulations, which expire on Saturday, without such a plan.
Channel 12 news speaks to Maher Ibrahim, a nurse at Afula’s HaEmek Medical Center, who has been chosen to light a torch during the official ceremony for Israel’s 73rd Independence Day, to be held next week.
Ibrahim, a Muslim, gained national attention in February when, treating a dying elderly coronavirus patient who could not be with his family, he read the Jewish “Shema Yisrael” prayer with him during his final moments.
Maher will light a torch on behalf of medical staff and was told he and his team “express Israeli solidarity, whether Jewish, Arab, religious, secular, all [working] together to save lives.”
Ibrahim says there is “great happiness at HaEmeK Hospital, great happiness in the family” over the decision. He feels “honored and proud” for himself and “for everyone who has been with us throughout the past year” fighting the pandemic.
Israel and Russia sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on matters of internal security, the Public Security Ministry says.
The countries will cooperate on fighting violent crime and financial crime, combating illegal weapons trade and thwarting terrorism, among other things.
“This is a significant diplomatic achievement that will lead to increased personal security for the citizens of both Israel and Russia, and will strengthen ties between the countries,” Public Security Minister Amir Ohana says.
Jews and Muslims in the Gulf will hold ceremonies to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day today and tomorrow, concurrently with Yom Hashoah being held in Israel.
According to Channel 12 news, it will be the first time Yom Hashoah is officially marked in an Arab country.
The network says a ceremony will be held in Dubai tonight with a delegation of Jewish and Arab Israelis. Several dozen social media influencers in the Gulf will join them and organizers hope they will pass on the stories of survival and remembrance.
Tomorrow evening the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities will host a webinar with young Muslims from the UAE and Bahrain “who will discuss their experiences visiting Yad Vashem,” the group says.
Join us for this historic event- the 1st #YomHaShoah commemoration to take place in the Gulf. Featuring @EmilyLJudd, @ThoufeekZakriya, @SamooyHarib, @Fatemaal7rbi and members of the Jewish community. Register: https://t.co/RI4GUPSzHz pic.twitter.com/Jgx7w03zVY
— Houda Nonoo (@hnonoo75) April 6, 2021
And “for the first time ever, the Jewish communities of Bahrain and Dubai will be participating in the Yellow Candle Project, the global communal effort to remember victims of the Holocaust, whereby members from each community will light a yellow candle in memory of the name of Jews who perished during the Holocaust.”
Israel and the United Arab Emirates are cooperating on cyber threats, the UAE’s top cybersecurity official tells Haaretz.
Mohamed Hamad Al-Kuwaiti says Israel just recently shared information on a Hezbollah cyberattack that targeted numerous countries at the start of the year, including the UAE.
“We have great cooperation,” Al-Kuwaiti says. “We have direct ties… It doesn’t matter who attacks us. We all need to cooperate on defense mechanisms and particularly on attackers’ tactics, techniques and methods.”
Al-Kuwaiti was speaking at Israel’s Global CyberTech event, hosted this year in Dubai.
The European Union’s drug agency says it has found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and a rare clotting disorder but recommends that vaccinations continue in adults, saying the benefits of the shot still outweigh risks.
The European Medicines Agency describes the clots as “very rare” side effects. It says most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it has not been able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the United Kingdom, where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” says Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director.
But “the risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects,” Cooke says.
King Abdullah is to break his silence today for the first time since news broke of an alleged plot involving his half-brother Prince Hamzah, state television says.
One day after an official news blackout on the affair, the king is expected to issue a statement to the nation to address the country’s worst political crisis in decades.
“His Majesty King Abdullah will deliver a message to Jordanians on Wednesday… after Prince Hamzah signed a letter affirming his loyalty to the king and the crown prince,” the state channel says.
The harmful impact of the Holocaust on the health of those who survived it continues for decades afterward, causing increased mortality and raising the chances of heart disease or cancer, a Hebrew University study finds.
Researchers analyzed the death records of around 22,000 people who were followed from 1964 to 2016, then compared mortality rates from cancer and heart disease among survivors to those who did not live under Nazi occupation.
Among female survivors, there was a 15 percent higher overall mortality rate and a 17% higher chance of death from cancer, the university says.
Though the overall mortality for men who survived Nazi persecution was no different from those who did not suffer it, there was a 14% high chance of dying from cancer, and for heart disease mortality the figure jumped to 39%.
“Our research showed that people who experienced life under Nazi rule early in life, even if they were able to successfully migrate to Israel and build families, continued to face higher mortality rates throughout their lives,” says Iaroslav Youssim, one of the authors of the study.
The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
A Turkish court sentences dozens of people, including former soldiers attached to the presidential guard regiment, to life imprisonment over their involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, the state-run Anadolu Agency reports
A total of 497 defendants had been on trial since 2017 for attempting to seize the military headquarters in Ankara, occupying the headquarters of the state broadcaster TRT, and of forcing a television broadcaster to read out a statement on behalf of the coup-plotters.
The massive trial is one of hundreds of trials against suspected members of a network led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed attempt. Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, denies the accusation.
Among those sentenced to the aggravated life term is a former lieutenant colonel who forced the anchorwoman to read the statement, a former colonel accused of giving the order for the takeover of the TRT building and a former major who led a team that attempted to take over the military headquarters, the agency says.
Jordan’s King Abdullah breaks his silence to tell his nation that the worst political crisis in decades sparked by an alleged plot involving his half-brother Prince Hamzah is over.
“I assure you, that the sedition has been nipped in the bud,” Abdullah says in an address read out in his name on state television.
“The challenge of these last days was not the most dangerous for the stability of the country — but it was the most painful for me,” he says. “Nothing can come close to the shock and the pain and anger I felt, as a brother, and head of the Hashemite family and as a leader to this dear people.”
He adds that Prince Hamzah “is now with his family in his palace under my protection… He has committed before the [Hashemite] family to follow the path of his parents and grandparents, to be faithful to their message, and to place the interest of Jordan, its constitution and its laws above all other considerations.”
Prosecutors have closed the case against three Shin Bet agents suspected of ordering female soldiers to do a cavity search on a Palestinian woman for no good reason, Haaretz reports.
That the search took place is not under dispute, but who exactly ordered it could not be established, with all involved denying responsibility.
Prosecutors say they could not gather enough evidence to indict any specific person in the case.
The incident took place in 2015 when IDF troops and two Shin Bet officials detained the woman at her home over suspicions she was a member of a Hamas terror cell. The cavity search was supposedly ordered to find a sim card the woman was allegedly using to contact Hamas officials.
The woman eventually served two years in prison for aidng a terror organization.
Israel is to begin commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day, with a national ceremony at Yad Vashem at 8 p.m. The ceremony will be attended by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Six survivors will light torches.
As the day of commemoration arrives, some 174,500 survivors live in Israel, government data shows.
Of those, 83% are over 80, 18% are over 90 and some 0.5%, over 900 people, are over the age of 100.
In the past year, 14,264 survivors died, 900 of them from COVID-19.
Channel 12 reports on the supposed reason that Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party decided not to recommend Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid for prime minister when party representatives met with the president on Monday.
The decision led to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu getting the mandate to try to form a government first.
Now the network reports that Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party warned New Hope that a recommendation of Lapid could lead to Yamina switching its own recommendation (of Bennett) to Netanyahu.
The report says Yamina itself is divided on what government to support, and that its solution is to give Netanyahu a chance to form a government before potentially allying with Lapid if he fails.
The official state ceremony at Yad Vashem is now beginning as Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Watch the ceremony live here:
With the coronavirus pandemic in decline in Israel, the ceremony this year is once again held before an audience, though it is still smaller than during normal times.
Many empty chairs are seen in the crowd to create distance between those in attendance.
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen will travel to Washington in the next few days for meetings with top officials in the White House and the American intelligence community, Channel 13 news reports.
It will be the first high-level visit by an Israeli official since President Joe Biden took office in January.
The report says Israel is trying to arrange a meeting between Cohen and Biden.
Cohen will present evidence that Iran is lying and hiding details about its nuclear program from the world, the report says, in a bid to prevent the US from reentering the 2015 nuclear deal in its original form.
Iran says it has enriched 55 kg of uranium up to 20% as part of its efforts in violation of the nuclear accord.
“In less than four months we have produced 55 kg of 20% enriched uranium … in around eight months we can reach 120 kg,” Kamalvandi tells state TV, according to a translation by Reuters.
Uranium enriched to 20% is a short technical step away from the 90% required for a nuclear bomb.
An Iranian delegation met yesterday with representatives of the remaining parties to the agreement to discuss how to bring Washington back into it and end crippling US sanctions and Iranian countermeasures.
US President Joe Biden has said he is ready to reverse the decision of his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose unilateral sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said today that talks in Vienna on rescuing the deal had opened a “new chapter.”
In his speech at Yad Vashem for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says “a deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us.”
Netanyahu has often used his speeches at Holocaust-related events to invoke Iran as the new existential threat to the Jewish people’s existence.
“Unlike in the past, today there is no one in the world that will deprive us of the right and the might to defend ourselves from an existential threat,” he says. “The nuclear deal with Iran is once again on the table. Such deals with extreme regimes are worthless.
“I say to our closest friends too: ‘A deal with Iran that paves Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, a weapon that threatens us with annihilation, will not obligate us.’ Only one thing will obligate us: to prevent those who wish to destroy us from carrying out their plans.”
He also rails against the International Criminal Court’s “outrageous” decision to investigate Israel for potential war crimes against Palestinians. The Jewish people were defenseless in the face of the Nazis but are no longer so, and have every right to defend themselves from their enemies.
He says the ICC was formed in the image of the courts of the Nuremberg trials that brought Nazis to justice. But “from Nurenberg to The Hague things were turned upside down. A body formed to defend human rights has become a body that in actuality defends those who trample on human rights.”
The prime minister also goes on to mention Israel’s purchase of millions of vaccines to fight the coronavirus pandemic from the Pfizer corporation, and particularly its Jewish CEO Albert Bourla, whose parents were survivors from Thessaloniki.
“And here after 80 years fate brings together on a rescue mission the prime minister of Israel, that rose from the ashes, and the head of the Pfizer firm, that has created a medicine for the coronavirus pandemic that has threatened all of humanity.
“The Holocaust and the revival were in the backgorund of my conversations with Albert.”
The United States says it is restoring assistance to the Palestinians severed under former president Donald Trump with an announcement of $235 million.
President Joe Biden’s administration says the United States will again support the UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, with a contribution of $150 million.
The United States will also offer $75 million in economic and development assistance for the West Bank and Gaza and $10 million for peacebuilding efforts.
“US foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important US interests and values. It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken says in a statement.
Israel’s Ambassador to the US and the UN Gilad Erdan responds that Jerusalem “is strongly opposed to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity happening in UNRWA’s facilities” and says the agency incites against Israel and “should not exist in its current format. ”
He says he has “expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out.”
US President Joe Biden expresses his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as his administration restores aid to the Palestinians severed under former president Donald Trump.
“The President also affirmed that the United States supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the White House says in a readout of a phone call with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Biden also used the call “to express strong US support for Jordan and underscore the importance of King Abdullah II’s leadership to the United States and the region.”
The High Court issues a ruling that means the Israel Prize likely won’t be awarded next week to Weizmann Institute computer scientist Professor Oded Goldreich, due to evidence that he supports the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Israel in 2011 passed a law aimed at preventing “doing harm to the country using boycotts.”
After right-wing group Im Tirtzu handed Education Minister Yoav Gallant the documents, the top court rules that it isn’t clear whether the current matter falls under the circumstances outlined in the law.
It gives Gallant 30 days to examine the evidence and make a decision.
This means that most likely, Goldreich won’t receive the prestigious prize in this year’s Independence Day. However, he may end up getting it next year.
One tiny country has led the world in COVID vaccination. If Israel’s achievement makes you proud, there’s something you should know. Huge audiences have flocked to The Times of Israel recently from countries where Israel normally makes the news only because of its conflicts.
They’ve been coming here to read a very different kind of article. We’ve been the go-to site for everyone intrigued by the success story of the “Vaccination Nation.”
As ToI's Health and Science correspondent, I’ve written much of this coverage - and it’s been exhilarating to see its impact. Our journalism has inspired many articles in media outlets worldwide. I know this because international journalists have often contacted me for input.
Your support, through The Times of Israel Community, helps us to continue providing surprising, impressive stories from this small state to readers around the world. Will you join our Community today?
Nathan Jeffay, Health & Science Correspondent
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we come to work every day - 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.