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2 arrested at Tel Aviv protest after PM’s speech; Ayalon Highway briefly blocked

Some 200 protesters rally after Netanyahu blames opposition for terrorism, says IDF reservists’ refusal to serve emboldened terrorists; opposition: ‘Take responsibility’

Hundreds of protesters rally on Kaplan street in Tel Aviv for anti-government protests after PM Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the opposition for a wave of terror attacks in recent days that killed four people, April 10, 2023. (Yair Palti)
Hundreds of protesters rally on Kaplan street in Tel Aviv for anti-government protests after PM Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the opposition for a wave of terror attacks in recent days that killed four people, April 10, 2023. (Yair Palti)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.

3 people missing amid flash flood fears in south; roads from Eilat shut

Police and rescue services are searching for three people with whom contact was lost and who were traveling in a vehicle near Nahal Tsichor in southern Israel, between Mitzpe Ramon and Eilat, amid fears of a flash flood in the area late Monday.

The trio managed to contact authorities and let them know the vehicle was caught up in a flood, Channel 12 reported. Contact has been lost for several hours, according to the report.

Authorities have closed to traffic all northward roads from the southern city of Eilat for fears of flash floods. Police had earlier warned of potential flash floods in the Judean Desert and closed segments of two highways running through southern Israel.

Earlier tonight, three women caught up in their vehicle in a flood near Eilat were rescued and transported to Yoseftal Hospital in the city for frostbite treatment, police said.

The Israeli military says IDF forces have rescued 26 civilians as of midnight tonight in southern Israel, in cooperation with the Israel Police, Magen David Adom, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services and regional rescue units.

The IDF asks “citizens to show responsibility and not go near the flood areas,” it says in a statement.

2 arrests at Tel Aviv protests; Ayalon North briefly blocked

Two people are arrested at the ongoing Tel Aviv protests, Channel 12 reports, with the Azrieli Junction and parts of Kaplan Street closed to traffic by police.

Dozens of protesters attempt to block the Ayalon Highway, with police trying to prevent them from doing so. Traffic is flowing on the Ayalon heading south, but is briefly brought to a standstill on the Ayalon North.

Smaller protests also took place at several other locations across the country, including in Haifa and Karkur.

Temple Mount to be open to Jewish visitors tomorrow

Temple Mount will be open to Jewish visitors tomorrow, from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Walla news site reports.

Netanyahu in his press conference said consultations were being held on a day-to-day basis, with the security authorities, about Jewish visits to the Mount.

Hebrew media reports earlier today indicated that Police Commission Kobi Shabtai favors halting such visits for the last days of Ramadan, while other security chiefs favors them going ahead.

Some 200 protesters gather in Tel Aviv after Netanyahu’s speech

In the wake of Netanyahu’s speech, in which he blamed the previous coalition for the surge in terrorism, hundreds of protesters gather on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street.

The police tell the protesters that theirs is an illegal demonstration, Ynet reports, to which the protesters reply, “There is no such thing as an illegal demonstration.”

PM condemns right-wing denigration of Biden: ‘We can disagree, but he’s a friend’

Commenting in English to i24 News at his press conference, Netanyahu was asked about placards at right-wing rallies declaring “Fuck Biden,” in response to the US leader’s public criticism of the Israeli government’s judicial shakeup.

“I definitely condemn curse words directed against Joe Biden,” he said. “We can disagree, [and] we have. And we sometimes do, but he’s a friend, and anyway, you don’t curse the American president, whoever he is. The US is our indispensable ally.”

“That doesn’t mean that as a sovereign state, Israel, and the prime minister of Israel can’t say a short word on occasion to the United States. It’s called, ‘No.'” Sometimes there’s a three-letter word. It’s called, ‘Yes.’ But you have to have the freedom to say both and I do. I keep that freedom because I think it’s important.”

On reports of leaked US intel saying Israel could provide lethal weapons to Ukraine: “I don’t know what the basis of those reports is. We’ve decided to help them in humanitarian matters, civil defense, red alert [system] — things of that nature. [There has been] no decision about lethal weaponry… I’ll do what I can, if I can to help resolve this conflict.”

Netanyahu: European leaders tell me one thing in private, speak differently in public

Netanyahu also denies that he is weakening Israel’s position on the international stage because of his judicial overhaul push.

He claims that European leaders with whom he has recently met say positive things to him in private, but then speak differently when they are not behind closed doors.

“When I meet the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy — which I did lately — what they tell me behind closed doors, as opposed to meetings when other people are there, reflects a completely different interaction,” says the prime minister.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in London, March 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

“Afterwards, you know, proforma,” he says, those leaders have to stress their “I believe” in a solution of two states for two peoples. Everyone has to say that, and to say something about the judicial “reform.”

Netanyahu: ‘Don’t worry,’ there’ll be a White House invite

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicts that he will get a White House visit, less than two weeks after President Joe Biden ruled out such an invitation when urging Netanyahu to abandon his judicial overhaul legislation.

Netanyahu is asked at his press conference about being “persona non grata” at the White House and elsewhere, and responds by referring to the White House National Security Council spokesman recently speaking about US-Israel ties being as strong as ever, and stressing the 40-year Netanyahu-Biden friendship.

“I assume you’ll have an agreement,” Netanyahu says, apparently referring to the compromise talks on the overhaul.

“And then what will you say? When there’s a visit, what will you say then?”

“Don’t worry. There’ll be a visit,” he repeats.

“Ties with the US are very close,” he adds. “Security and intelligence cooperation are taking place right now, and are stronger and closer than ever.”

Two weeks ago, Biden urged Netanyahu to “walk away” from his current judicial overhaul legislation, saying he was “very concerned” about the health of Israeli democracy, and warning that Israel “cannot continue down this road.”

Biden also gave an emphatic, “No,” when asked whether he would be inviting Netanyahu to the White House, adding: “Not in the near term.”

‘Stop whining, take responsibility’: Opposition, former PM assail Netanyahu speech

Opposition leaders assail Netanyahu for his speech, in which he blamed the previous government for Israel’s current security instability.

“Instead of holding a press conference and blaming others for the troubles caused by his extremist and failed government, the time has come for [Netanyahu] and his ministers to stop whining and finally take responsibility,” says opposition leader Yair Lapid.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett describes Netanyahu’s speech as “unleaderlike and shameful,” and rejects his accusation that the maritime border and natural gas agreement signed by the last government with Lebanon damaged Israel’s deterrence.

“The agreement was with Lebanon, not with Hezbollah, and what Hezbollah is doing now has no connection at all with that agreement,” Bennett insists.

“This is a time for leadership, not for blaming others, he adds.

National Unity party head Benny Gantz tweets: “You don’t build leadership by whining.”

And Yisrael Beytenu leader and former finance and defense minister Avigdor Liberman says Netanyahu’s speech “proves that the man is not fit to do his job,” and alleges that the prime minister’s son Yair is telling his father what to do.

“The only conclusion from all the trolling we saw and heard tonight is that, in the best case scenario, Benjamin Netanyahu has become the contractor of Yair Netanyahu,” Liberman claims, in reference to reports of Yair’s increasing influence over the prime minister. He calls on the Likud party to remove Netanyahu from office.

Netanyahu in his press conference explicitly denied that Yair Netanyahu influences policy, saying his son is “an independent person” who has “zero influence.”

Iranian-born US woman sentenced over plot to kidnap Iranian dissident

An Iranian-born American woman has been sentenced to four years in prison for providing financial support to a plot to kidnap dissident Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad and remove her to Iran, the US Justice Department says.

Niloufar Bahadorifar, 48, of Irvine, California, pleaded guilty in December to multiple charges, including conspiring to violate US sanctions by giving material support to Iran.

The Justice Department says Bahadorifar was sentenced by US District Judge Ronnie Abrams on Friday to four years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

“Bahadorifar provided financial support to a brazen plot intended to kidnap an Iranian human rights activist living in the United States, whom the Iranian government has sought to silence for years,” US attorney Damian Williams says in a statement.

Bahadorifar was convicted of laundering money into the United States from Iran that was used to pay for private investigators to conduct surveillance of Alinejad on behalf of an alleged Iranian intelligence agent, Mahmoud Khazein.

Netanyahu on negative polls: ‘I’m not moved by it, I’ve seen worse’

Asked about a Channel 13 poll last night that showed his parliamentary bloc falling to 46 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset in a potential election, the premier says he does not give credence to such polls. “I’m not moved by it. I’ve seen worse,” he says.

“This government will serve for four years. The determining factor, in the end, will be the way we handle security, the economy, health, education, peace.”

PM blames previous government for terror wave; reinstates Defense Minister Gallant

Facing dire polls and growing public anger and anxiety over the recent terror wave, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference in which he blames the previous government and the protest movement against the government of recent months for the rash of attacks.

“Our country is under a terrorist assault,” he says. But it “did not start now.”

Netanyahu claims the previous government showed weakness, emboldening Israel’s enemies.

“Under the previous government the number of terror attacks doubled,” he says. “The previous government handed over gas territory to the enemy without anything in return.”

He asserts that warnings of army reserves that they might refuse service if his government moves forward with its plans to shackle the judiciary also sent a similar message.

Netanyahu also blames opposition leader Yair Lapid, saying when the latter warns of national collapse due to the overhaul, “our enemies see this, they hear this… They believe they can take us on, with combined terror from Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.”

“But now it’s our watch, it’s our responsibility. It’s my responsibility,” Netanyahu says.

“You know me. I don’t act rashly. I act resolutely and determinedly and above all I act responsibly,” Netanyahu says. “I tell you tonight, people of Israel, we will rebuff these threats and we will defeat our enemies. We’ve done so in the past and we’ll do so again.”

“We’ll reestablish deterrence, we’ll fix the damages we inherited,” he says, and any enemies who think this is an opportunity to attack “are hugely mistaken.”

When a reporter notes that the previous government had seen 33 people killed in a year, while 19 people have died in the 100 days since Netanyahu’s government entered office, the premier says that the previous government was dependent on “the Muslim Brotherhood,” — a reference to the Islamist Ra’am party — and so “couldn’t act against terror.”

He also says Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will remain in his post, following weeks of uncertainty after the premier announced the minister’s dismissal, but did not follow through, due to massive protests.

“We had disagreements, even serious disagreements,” he says of relations with Gallant. “But I have decided to put the arguments behind us.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with the commander of the IDF’s Menashe Brigade, Col. Arik Moyal, April 9, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)

Netanyahu says he cannot give details on “everything we are doing” for Israel’s security “but we are doing a lot.”

He says Israel has “acted against Iranian targets in Syria.”

During Q&A after his speech, commenting on plans to form a National Guard under far-right police minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Netanyahu says the Guard is “necessary,” but “will not be anyone’s militia,” rather “a proper, professional security force answerable to one of the security apparatuses.”

Ben Gvir squeezed an agreement from Netanyahu to quickly move to form the force in exchange for the minister agreeing to delay the judicial overhaul late last month. Critics have asserted Ben Gvir wants to form the force to have more direct power over internal policing.

He says he is trying to reach “broad agreement” on the “reform… to restore the appropriate balance between the branches of government.”

“This won’t be a theocracy,” he says, adding that he intends “to entrench individual rights” in law.

Rabbi who lost wife and two daughters in terror attack: Killer a product of a broken culture

British-Israeli Rabbi Leo Dee, whose wife and two daughters were murdered in Friday’s West Bank shooting attack, recalls hearing of the attack.

“I called Lucy. No answer. I called Maia. No answer. I called Rina. No answer. Then I saw a missed call from Maia at 10:52,” he says in a press conference.

“I hadn’t noticed it ring. I hadn’t picked up the phone. The feeling that she’d called me during the attack, and I wasn’t able to speak to her, will come back and haunt me for a while. But alas, our family of seven is now a family of four.”

The Dee family (Courtesy)

Dee says there can be no moral justification for murder, no matter the cause. He laments that the “innate ability to differentiate between good and evil has gradually been lost from humanity.”

His family’s killer, he says is “the product of a broken culture that doesn’t differentiate between good and evil.”

“Remember Lucy, Maia and Rina,” he asks.

Netanyahu to hold press conference on state of national security

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to hold a press conference in some 30 minutes on recent terror attacks and the state of national security.

Netanyahu’s hardline government has come under criticism by the right for failing to stop ongoing attacks in recent weeks.

Iran plans to toughen penalties for violence against women

Iran’s parliament has adopted proposals to toughen penalties for perpetrators of violence against women which could be voted into law within months, state media has reported.

Initiated more than 10 years ago, discussions in parliament led to the adoption on Sunday of the general principles of a draft bill called “preventing harm to women and improving their safety against misbehavior,” IRNA news agency reports.

The text, which can still be modified, could be formally promulgated into law in the coming months.

Jewish actor Michael Lerner dies at 81

Michael Lerner, the Brooklyn-born character actor who played a myriad of imposing figures in his 60 years in the business, including monologuing movie mogul Jack Lipnick in “Barton Fink,” the crooked club owner Bugsy Calhoun in “Harlem Nights” and an angry publishing executive in “Elf” has died. He was 81.

His nephew, actor Sam Lerner, announced his death in an Instagram post Sunday. Sam Lerner wrote that his uncle died Saturday but did not provide further details.

Lerner was born in 1941 to Romanian-Jewish parents and raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

Four injured in car crash between Jerusalem and Dead Sea

Four people have been injured when their car crashed into a guardrail near the settlement of Mitzpe Yeriho, on the way from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

One of the injured was in moderate condition. The others were lightly hurt. They were taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Police: 5 killed in shooting at downtown Louisville building

Five people were killed and six others hospitalized in a shooting at a bank building Monday morning in downtown Louisville, police say.

Louisville Metro Police Department Deputy Chief Paul Humphrey tells reporters that officers who arrived on the scene “encountered active gunshots still being fired inside the location at that time.”

“The shooter was confirmed to be dead on the scene,” Humphrey says. “We do not know exactly the circumstances of his death at this time.”

Biden says he is ‘planning on running’ again in 2024

US President Joe Biden tells NBC’s “Today” show he is “planning on running” again in 2024, though he adds “we’re not prepared to announce it yet.”

The 80-year-old American leader is widely expected to announce a reelection bid in the near future.

Multiple casualties reported in Kentucky shooting

Police are reporting “multiple casualties” as they respond to a shooting in a bank building in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

The Louisville Metro Police Department says on Twitter there is an ongoing situation and asks people to avoid the area. “There are multiple casualties,” police say in the tweet. Police describe it as an “active aggressor.”

Witnesses who left the building tell WHAS-TV they heard gunfire inside the building.

Numerous police vehicles are seen on television footage. WHAS reporters say they saw people being taken from the scene in ambulances.

In a tweet, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says he is heading to the scene.

“Please pray for all of the families impacted and for the city of Louisville,” Beshear says.

President Isaac Herzog mourns death of Lucy Dee

President Isaac Herzog mourns the death of Lucy Dee, who was murdered in the shooting attack in the Jordan Valley on Friday.

“We hoped, we prayed, but tragically Leah, mother of Rina and Maia of blessed memory, who was fatally wounded in the terror attack in the Jordan Valley, has died of her injuries,” Herzog says in remarks published by his office.

“On behalf of the entire people of Israel, I send my deepest condolences to the Dee family and pray that they will know no more sorrow. May her memory be a blessing,” he adds.

Teen injured by tree collapse in north; none hurt as large tree falls at preschool

An 18-year-old girl has been moderately injured after a tree toppled on her at the Sea of Galilee amid heavy winds. The teen was rushed to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa with a head injury.

In Kibbutz Beit Kama, north of Beersheba, a large tree toppled at a preschool, crushing equipment in the yard. No children were hurt, as teachers took the kids inside when winds strengthened.

Lapid lands in US, will meet with Jewish groups and congress members

Opposition leader Yair Lapid lands in the US, where he is expected to meet with heads of Jewish groups and congress members.

Lapid had intended to fly several days ago, but put off the trip due to the tense security situation in the country.

Israel’s newest spy satellite sends back its first pictures

Israel’s newest spy satellite has begun beaming back its first pictures, nearly two weeks after it was launched into orbit, the Defense Ministry says.

“About two weeks after the satellite’s successful launch into space, engineering teams… activated the Ofek 13 satellite’s synthetic-aperture radar for the first time last night,” the ministry says.

“The first satellite images received at the IAI control station were of excellent quality,” it adds.

The ministry does not release copies of these initial photographs to the public.

The Ofek 13 satellite was launched on March 28 in a joint operation by the Defense Ministry’s Space Department and the Israel Aerospace Industries. According to the ministry, since the launch teams from both organizations have been performing checks on the satellite to ensure it is operating correctly.

Netanyahu offers ‘deepest condolences’ for Lucy Dee’s family

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says: “In the name of all Israelis, I offer deepest condolences to the Dee family over the passing of mother Leah (Lucy).”

The opposition’s Yair Lapid says “the heart is broken by the news” of her passing, “a day after her two daughters were buried.” He says he “and all the people of Israel offer strength to the family and embrace it.”

Lapid: Israeli ‘surrender’ to Poland is ‘a national disgrace’

In a tweet, opposition leader Yair Lapid says Israel’s “surrender” to Poland in the countries’ recent deal “is a national disgrace.”

“The Poles have for years attempted through every means to hide and deny the part of many Poles in the extermination [of Jews in the Holocaust] — alongside those Righteous among the Nations who acted to save Jews… It is unacceptable that youth trips coming to learn of the Holocaust will learn the Polish narrative.”

He said that, as the son of a Holocaust survivor, “I am ashamed of the Israeli government for giving up on its morals and principles.”

Education Minister Yoav Kisch, who was involved in the new agreement, says Lapid under the previous government “was responsible for destroying relations” with Poland and “is now trying to do what he does best — ruin international relations.”

Kisch insists that “there is no change in the [student] trips. Anything else is fake news.”

Protest organizer leaves police station after questioning

Protest organizer Roee Neuman has completed his questioning at a Tel Aviv police station and has been released without limitations.

Several dozen supporters rallied outside the police station as Neuman was being questioned for a problematic tweet.

Some 10,000 said to march to illegal West Bank outpost

Channel 12 reports that some 10,000 people took part in the right-wing march to the illegal outpost Evyatar.

Organizers say the march is meant to strengthen the settlement movement and to pressure the government to allow the outpost to be repopulated.

Some of the government’s most senior cabinet ministers, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, participated in the march, along with four of the most senior rabbis in the religious-Zionist community.

Mother wounded in terror attack dies, 3 days after shooting that claimed 2 daughters

Lucy Dee has died of her wounds, three days after the West Bank terror attack in which her two daughters were also slain.

Dee, 48, was critically injured in the Friday shooting in the Jordan Valley and her condition had been dire since.

“Unfortunately, despite persistent efforts, due to her critical injury, the [medical] team had to declare her death today,” Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem says in a statement.

The terrorists in the shooting have yet to be caught.

The two sisters, Maia and Rina, were laid to rest yesterday. The family lives in Efrat. The three were also British nationals.

Judicial experts representing coalition and opposition meet for overhaul talks

Judicial experts representing the coalition and opposition are convening at the President’s Residence as part of talks over the government’s judicial overhaul plan and an attempt to reach a compromise proposal.

Today’s meeting does not include politicians and focuses on talks between legal professionals.

Protest leader called for police questioning over fiery tweet

A key organizer of anti-government protests in recent months has been summoned for police questioning.

The cause is apparently a tweet by Roee Neuman in which he said a mounted policeman who struck a young female protester “will sit in prison for long years [and] after he comes out we’ll persecute him for many years. Remember what happened today. It will not be forgiven and not forgotten.”

Roee Neuman’s lawyer Gaby Lasky calls the move to investigate Neuman “political” and claims it is “intended to shut down speech and frighten those criticizing the government.”

Over 2,200 Jews have visited Temple Mount on Passover so far

Officials overseeing Jewish visits to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem say over 2,200 have done so this holiday so far.

Of those, some 1,200 have done so today.

Yad Vashem criticizes details of Israel-Poland deal to renew youth trips

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum criticizes details of the new Israeli-Polish deal to restart youth trips to the European country, saying some of the locations agreed upon as potential sites for visits should not be part of educational trips.

Details on the deal published by Haaretz today indicate it includes an Israeli agreement to recommend various sites on Polish history to students that include those commemorating individuals involved in the murder of Jews, as well as sites focusing on Poland’s victimhood under Nazism. The revelation was criticized by a number of Israeli historians.

Yad Vashem says it was not involved in drafting the list. It stresses that part of learning the Holocaust’s history in Poland should be “the Polish people’s part in persecuting, turning in and murdering Jews — as well as in saving them.”

It notes that it appears the new deal does not limit such teachings, but adds that the list of recommended sites — of which students will need to choose one on their trip — “includes problematic locations that should not be visited on an educational trip” as these may distort Holocaust history or promote “a historically incorrect narrative.”

The museum notes that students are not being forced to visit such sites.

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