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Cabinet approves new city closures for end of Passover to prevent virus spread

36-hour lockdown will be observed between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Thursday, during which time Israelis will not be able to leave their towns of residence

Police at a temporary checkpoint at the entrance to Jerusalem on April 8, 2020, to check Israelis are adhering to coronavirus-related restrictions. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police at a temporary checkpoint at the entrance to Jerusalem on April 8, 2020, to check Israelis are adhering to coronavirus-related restrictions. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

COVID-19 death toll rises to 109

Four people die overnight from COVID-19, bringing the coronavirus death toll in Israel to 109.

An 80-year-old resident of a senior living home is the 12th person from that facility, in Yavne’el, in the north, to die from the novel coronavirus.

An 81-year-old woman and a 96-year-old woman die at the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv, while a 78-year-old man with preexisting medical conditions dies of the disease at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Bennett: New coronavirus airport procedure up and running

The new coronavirus airport procedure for arrivals is up and running, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett tweets.

“We have operated the new procedure for arrivals from overseas. Yesterday at 10:50 p.m. a plane landed in Israel from Minsk. The passengers were taken to a hotel. Everything went smoothly,” Bennett says.

Responsibility for arrivals from overseas has been handed over to the Defense Ministry, which now takes all passengers to designated quarantine hotels where they remain for 14 days.

Emergency ordinances requiring all people arriving in Israel from overseas to be housed at state-run quarantine hotels upon entry to the country were approved by the government yesterday.

The director-general of the Health Ministry can make exemptions allowing people to quarantine elsewhere for “health and humanitarian reasons or other special circumstances,” after consulting with the head of the IDF’s Home Front Command.

Ya’alon calls on Gantz to quit coalition talks

It’s not to late for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to pull out of negotiations to form a national unity government after being tricked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his former political partner Moshe Ya’alon tweets.

“Benny, it’s clear that your naive intention to form a national unity government met the cynical swindling of the accused who is fleeing justice,” tweets Yaalon. “If you agree to meet his demands to entrench his regime, and make him a leader above the law, you will be misusing the mission that united us. It isn’t too late to fix your error of navigation,” adds the former IDF chief of staff.

Yaalon’s comments come amid a deadlock between Likud and Blue and White over the formation of a national unity government, and after Gantz split up from factions led by Yaalon and Yair Lapid to enter into talks with Netanyahu.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, right, and Moshe Yaalon, head of the Telem faction, prior to the split in the party, during a visit to the Judean Desert, January 21, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Yamina says Netanyahu commits to no compromise on sovereignty, judicial appointments

The right-wing Yamina party says in a statement this morning that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed in a call yesterday not to hand over control of the Judicial Appointments Committee to Blue and White in negotiations over a national unity government or to make any compromise on the issue of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.

“We strengthen the prime minister’s hands in insisting on the red lines of the right-wing bloc with regard to sovereignty and judicial appointments,” says Yamina.

“Abandoning the Judicial Appointments Committee to the left would be a disaster that would resonate for generations and would bring the judicial coup of Barak and Beinish [activist former chief justices who were anathema to the right] back to life. Gantz must stick to the agreements made on these matters and remember that he heads a minority party of 17 MKs against Netanyahu, who heads a 59-seat bloc,” says the six-seat Yamina.




President Rivlin eulogizes ‘spiritual giant’ Bakshi-Doron

President Reuven Rivlin eulogizes former Sephardi chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who succumbed to COVID-19 last night at the age of 79.

“Rabbi Bakshi-Doron was a sagacious scholar of Jewish law with a deep sense of responsibility for all of Israel, a rabbi, a father, and a spiritual leader for communities in Israel and the Diaspora,” says Rivlin.

“I remember the many discussions we had and his honest concern for every human being… My deep condolences to his family, his students and to all of Israel on the passing of a spiritual giant.”

Former Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron at the wedding of his granddaughter in Jerusalem on March 13, 2016.(Yaacov Cohen/Flash90)

Health Ministry updates virus toll to 110

The Health Ministry updates the number of coronavirus deaths in Israel to 110 from 109 earlier this morning, while the number of confirmed cases of the disease increases from 11,145 to 11,235.

The number of seriously ill patients stands at 181, while 133 patients are on respiratory ventilation.

750 patients are hospitalized, 7,257 are being treated at home, 1,058 are in quarantine hotels, while the number of recovered patients has increased to 1,689.

The number of tests conducted in the past 24 hours is 7,680.

Police fine demonstrators against Blue and White-Likud talks

Police handed out fines of as much as NIS 5,000 as dozens of people demonstrate in front of the home of Blue and White No. 2 Gabi Ashkenazi this morning.

Police say some 60 people were protesting against the former IDF chief of staff, while the so-called “Black Flag” movement puts the numbers at around 200.

Police say the the fines were handed out after demonstrators refused to adhere to orders to demonstrate in groups of no more than 10 people in line with Health Ministry regulations.

Demonstrators call on Ashkenazi to wake up and realize that Netanyahu is taking Ashkenazi and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz “for a ride” in negotiations for a national unity government talks.

60 tons of medical equipment arrives from China

A CAL Cargo plane with 60 tons of medical equipment, including protective masks, lands in Israel this morning in an operation led by the Defense Ministry procurement branch.

The 747 jumbo jet is the first of five planes expected to land in Israel over the next few days, carrying some 12 million protective masks and medical equipment procured from Sion Medical, an Israeli manufacturer, marketer, and supplier of surgical dressings, medical textiles, ointments, and sterile solutions for disposable products for hospitals and medical institutions, from its factories in China.


Ashkenazi calls for fines against demonstrators to be canceled

Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi calls for fines imposed on people who demonstrated in front of his home earlier this morning to be canceled.

“Even in current circumstances freedom of speech and the right to protest must be maintained so long as protesters adhere to Health Ministry regulations,” Ashkenazi tweets in an apparent contradiction, as violating the regulations is exactly what they were fined for.

Police handed out fines of as much as NIS 5,000 as dozens of people demonstrated in violation of Health Ministry regulations allowing protests in group of no more than 10 and called on Ashkenazi to realize that Netanyahu was taking him and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz “for a ride” in negotiations for a national unity government.

“The right to demonstrate is a fundamental democratic right. I call on the public security minister and the acting police commissioner to annul the fines handed out to the demonstrators this morning,” the Blue and White No. 2 says.

Blue and White No.2 Gabi Ashkenazi attends the annual international Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel can still bounce back economically if lockdown eases soon, says tax chief

Tax Authority chief Eran Yaakov warns in an interview with Hebrew language website Ynet that the state could lose tens of billions of shekels in tax revenues if the current lockdown continues.

Stating that the state lost NIS 6 billion in tax revenues in March alone, Yaakov warns that worse is yet to come, but strikes an optimistic note saying that if Israel begins to exit the lockdown after Passover, the economy can still return to the strong footing it was on prior to the crisis.

“The crisis came with Israel in a very good state and this has allowed us to deal well with the situation,” Yaakov tells Ynet. “We were in full, historical, employment, and our debt-to-GDP ratio was a very comfortable 60% and that allows us more freedom in helping businesses and bridging their cash flow dificulties.”

Bakshi-Doron laid to rest in front of handful of mourners

Former Sephardi chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron is laid to rest this morning in front of only some 20 mourners at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem. Bakshi-Doron died last night at the age of 79 after succumbing to COVID-19.

The present Sephardi chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef mourns Bakshi-Doron over the phone: “Woe to the world that has lost a leader and woe to the ship that has lost its captain,” says Yosef.

Also speaking over the phone, Aryeh Deri, chairman of the Shas (Torah observant Sephardim) party, says “the pain is enormous. It is impossible to comprehend that we are here today, during the days of Passover, and we cannot pay our last respects to our rabbi and teacher.” Orthodox Jews typically don’t deliver full eulogies during the month of Passover.

The funeral of Rabbi Bakshi Doron, who died from complications of COVID-19 at the Har HaMenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem, April 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Spain virus deaths continue to fall

The coronavirus death toll in Spain continues to fall, with 517 fatalities registered Monday, down from 619 deaths on Sunday and way down from the peak of 950 deaths recorded on April 2.

The total death toll in the country now stands at 17,489, with 169,496 confirmed cases and 64,727 recovered from COVID-19.

The death toll does not include unconfirmed cases at senior-living facilities and people who have died at home and the real number of fatalities from the disease is believed to be much higher.

A Spanish flag on a window ledge with a black ribbon, a sign of mourning in Madrid, April 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Soldier lightly injured as base infiltrated in South

An IDF soldier is lightly injured after he was attacked by a man who snuck onto an army base in southern Israel, the military says.

According to an army spokesperson, the soldier and his partner were patrolling their base when they spotted the suspect.

They attempted to arrest the man, but he struck out and cut the soldier’s arm, and then ran out of the base. The military and police have launched a manhunt for the suspect and an investigation into the incident, is ongoing the army says.

The injured soldier received medical treatment at the scene, the spokesperson says.

Military sources said the background to the incident was not yet clear.

— Judah Ari Gross

Some stores could open as early as Sunday, says head of National Economic Council

Shops could begin to open as early as this Sunday, while a return to school is not yet on the table, Prof. Avi Simhon, head of the National Economic Council, tells the Hebrew-language Ynet website.

“I assume that this coming Sunday we will begin to open shops that face out onto the street,” Simhon says, adding that the government will follow up on the data and decided on its next steps after a week or two.

“We will want to open malls, but that will take time. I don’t believe it will happen in April, perhaps sometime in May, depending on the numbers we see and how citizens comply with regulations and restrictions,” he says.

With regard to schools, Simhon says any return to school will be gradual and in a different format to what we are familiar with.

He suggest that families could band together to look after each other’s children in small groups.

Avi Simhon, chairman of the National Economic Council, at a conference of the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Iran official death toll tops 4,500

Iran’s health ministry reports another 111 fatalities from the novel coronavirus, taking the official overall death toll in the worst-hit Middle East country to 4,585.

Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour says 1,617 new infections takes the total number of cases in the country’s outbreak to 73,303, of whom 45,983 have recovered.

“The trend of relatively stable and decreasing new cases of contamination, which has been observed in recent days, has also continued over the past 24 hours,” he tells a televised news conference.

Iran announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, when it said two people died of the disease in the holy Shiite city of Qom.

But there has been speculation abroad that the real toll of the disease in the Islamic Republic could be much higher.

The opposition MEK group puts the death toll at over 26,000

— ToI staff and AFP

China trying to paint narrative that virus outbreak originated elsewhere – Report

China has imposed restrictions on the publication of academic research on the origins of the novel coronavirus, CNN reports.

According to the report, all academic papers on COVID-19 will be subject to extra vetting before publication.

A Chinese researcher, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells CNN that the move is a “coordinated effort from (the) Chinese government to control (the) narrative, and paint it as if the outbreak did not originate in China.”

Government could renew curfew for last day of Passover – report

A curfew could reimposed ahead of the last day of Passover and the Minouna celebration the following day, Channel 12 reports.

According to the report, the cabinet will vote later today on a similar restriction to the one imposed at the beginning of the holiday with people prohibited from going more than 100 meters from their homes, except for people working in key industries, and police roadblocks preventing intercity travel.

Channel 12 says Health Ministry officials are concerned that people will try and celebrate the holidays outside of their nuclear families.

41-year-old woman dies at Kaplan Hospital

A 41-year-old woman with existing medical conditions has died at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, bring the number of fatalities in Israel to 111.

The number of seriously ill patients stands at 181, while 133 patients are on respiratory ventilation.

750 patients are hospitalized, 7,257 are being treated at home, 1,058 are in quarantine hotels, and the number of recovered patients has increased to 1,689.

The number of tests conducted in the past 24 hours is 7,680.

Rivlin delivers Easter greetings to Christian leaders

President Reuven Rivlin speaks with Christian leaders in Jerusalem today to give his traditional Easter greeting.

Speaking with the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III; the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Nourhan Manougian; head of the Latin Patriarchate Pierbattista Pizzabella; the Custos of the Holy Land, Francesco Patton; and the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Galilee Youssef Matta, Rivlin said: “I’m sorry that this year circumstances don’t allow us to hold our annual Easter meeting, a tradition we have upheld for the last six years.”

Greek Patriarch Theophilos III wished Rivlin a happy Passover, while the Armenian patriarch said that while times are difficult, he was sure “Israeli brains will find a solution shortly.”

President Reuven Rivlin speaks during a press conference at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, February 16, 2020. (Flash90)

Boris Johnson’s kibbutz ‘father’ recalls time spent with future British PM who always ‘knew what he wanted’

Boris Johnson was clearly someone who knew “what he wanted, and knew how to get what he wanted,” Alec Collins, who “adopted” the British prime minister when he spent a short time on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi in northern Israel, tells Channel 12.

The TV station interviewed Collins amid the global virus crisis, a day after Johnson left hospital praising medical staff who he said saved his life after he contracted COVID-19.

Johnson spent 10 days on the kibbutz working in the laundry, Collins recalls, while his sister Rachel stayed on for three months in 1984. “He hung up the washing; that was his job most of the time,” recalls Collins.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a message to the public on his release from the hospital after treatment for COVID-19, April 12, 2020 (Screenshot)

He said that Johnson had not left because he had any problem with the work in the laundry, but because he wanted to travel and see the country. “On the contrary,” said Collins, who made aliyah from Leeds, England, in 1957, “he was not the kind of person to complain… He was a highly motivated, serious man…. He wanted to see what there is in the land of Israel… not just one place.”

Collins added that while his acquaintance with Johnson was short-lived, he has kept in touch from time to time with Rachel Johnson, including after Johnson became prime minister.

Alec Collins of Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi in northern Israel (Youtube screenshot)

IDF battalions operating in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak on coronavirus duty

Two IDF battalions are operating in Jerusalem, specifically in its ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, along with two others in Bnei Brak, providing tens of thousands of at-risk and quarantined residents with food three times a week, the head of the Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai says.

Yadai says the troops were also helping educate and inform the residents about the coronavirus, evacuating those who contracted the virus and assisting the Magen David Adom ambulance service perform tests.

IDF Home Front Command soldiers hand out food packages in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, April 5, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The general acknowledges that the military was struggling to convince people in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem who contracted the virus to leave their homes for a designated quarantine hotel, despite the military ensuring that all the food would meet the religious standards of every ultra-Orthodox denomination.

Yadai says Jerusalem and Bnei Brak are currently the only two cities in Israel to be designated as “red” on the military’s red-yellow-green scale from most to least affected by the coronavirus.

He said another 10 municipalities are at risk of joining them, but that the Home Front Command and other government institutions are working with local authorities to prevent that from happening.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF Home Front Command chief says Israel needs ‘coping strategy, not exit strategy’

The head of the military’s Home Front Command dismisses the growing talk of an “exit strategy” for the coronavirus pandemic, saying instead the military was preparing a “coping strategy” for continuing to manage outbreaks of the disease for many months to come.

“We need to talk about a coping strategy, not an exit strategy,” says Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, whose Home Front Command has been heavily involved in the national response to the crisis.

Yadai says he expects the country to continue dealing with the coronavirus well into next year “with ups and downs.”

However, the general says he believes the country should begin working to allow people to resume some kind of normal routine during this period.

— Judah Ari Gross

Cabinet to decide on five-day nationwide lockdown — report

The cabinet will meet later Monday to approve a nationwide lockdown for the last day of Passover and beyond, the Ynet news site reports.

According to the report, the draft plan would see Israelis forbidden from leaving their hometown from 5 p.m. on Tuesday until 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Man, 80, dies of virus, bringing death toll to 112

An 80-year-old man has died of the coronavirus at Laniado Hospital in Netanya, according to Hebrew media reports.

The fatality brings the total death toll from the virus to 112.

Worldwide, the number of fatalities has surpassed 115,000 and the number of confirmed cases is nearing 2 million, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Over 1,800 citations handed out to people going out

Police have handed out 1,847 citations to people leaving their homes against regulations so far today, the Kan news site reports.

The number of tickets exceeds the 1,715 handed out for the same infraction Sunday, according to the report.

Officials believe Israelis have become more lax regarding keeping to social distancing restrictions in recent days, and the government is reportedly mulling a fresh nationwide lockdown.

UK’s Johnson now virus free, but taking it easy

Boris Johnson’s spokesman says the British prime minister has now tested negative for the coronavirus but is continuing his recovery from COVID-19 and, on the advice of his doctors, is “not immediately returning to work.”

Johnson was discharged from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday and then went to Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, around 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of the capital.

A cyclist passes graffiti in London on Monday, April 13, 2020. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

James Slack denies that the government had downplayed the seriousness of Johnson’s condition.

Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ on April 5 after his condition worsened and he was transferred the following day to its intensive care unit, where he received oxygen but was not put onto a ventilator. He spent three nights there before moving back to a regular hospital ward. After leaving the hospital, Johnson expressed his gratitude to the staff of the National Health Service for saving his life when it could have “gone either way.”

Slack says Johnson spoke over the weekend to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been deputizing for the prime minister during his illness.

— AP

Tuesday-to-Thursday curfew reportedly on table

Channel 12 news reports that on top of the nationwide lockdown, ministers may also approve a curfew forbidding Israelis from leaving their homes, from Tuesday evening until Thursday morning.

This would exceed the single-night curfew imposed last week.

Woman, 85, dies at Jerusalem hospital

A woman hospitalized with the coronavirus at Shaare Zedek hospital has died, bringing the country’s death toll up to 113, according to Hebrew media reports.

The woman, 85, had underlying conditions, according to the reports.

A total of 10 deaths have been reported since Sunday evening, making it one of Israel’s deadliest days since the start of the outbreak.


Putin tells country to prepare for surge of coronavirus cases

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is facing a surge in the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients and needs to prepare for the worst-case scenarios.

Putin tells officials during a conference call that they should be ready to move medical personnel and equipment between regions to respond to the rapidly changing situation.

He says the preparations must anticipate “any possible scenarios, including the most difficult and extraordinary.”

Putin orders officials to recruit additional personnel from universities and medical schools.

Russia has recorded 18,328 coronavirus cases and 148 deaths as of Monday. Moscow and its surrounding region account for about two-thirds of all cases.

— AP

Likud tried to woo Labor MKs to recommend Netanyahu as PM — report

Likud party officials spent Sunday trying to convince Labor Party members Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli to recommend Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, to no avail, Haaretz reports.

Labor MKs Itzik Shmuli (L) and Amir Peretz at the party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv on February 13, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The two told the president they would be making no such recommendation, according to the broadsheet.

The two broke away from Meretz and were thought to be likely to join a unity coalition headed by Netanyahu before talks broke down last week.

President Reuven Rivlin has indicated he will not pass a mandate to form a government to Netanyahu after Benny Gantz’s 28 days expires tonight. With 61 MKs supporting him, Netanyahu could try to force Rivlin’s hand as the two negotiate a unity government.

Britain records 717 new deaths, bringing total to 11,329

Britain says 717 people have died of the novel coronavirus in the past day, continuing a downward trend as the country’s leaders are set to mull easing some lockdown restrictions.

The new toll brings the country’s total to 11,329. Friday and Saturday both saw death tolls over over 900, while Sunday’s toll dropped to 737.

A decision on easing restrictions is due on Thursday when the three-week-old nationwide lockdown comes up for review.

Ministers must decide whether to continue demanding people stay at home where necessary, and keep non-essential shops closed.

Given the death toll, few expect the restrictions to be lifted this week.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says “that review is not likely to result in these restrictions being lifted in the very near future.”

“There are early optimistic signs that the steps we are taking are working, but until we know more, until we have solid evidence, we must stick with it,” she says in Edinburgh.

— with AFP

Over 2,000 citations handed out in past day — police

Police say officers have handed out a total of 28,806 citations for people breaking social distancing and lockdown regulations, including 2,221 over the past day.

The vast majority of tickets — 22,227 — have been handed out to people leaving their homes and being outside against regulations.

Another 3,403 citations have been issued for people in a forbidden public place, and 904 tickets have been handed out for “prayer against regulations.”

Police and soldiers check cars at a temporary checkpoint in Jerusalem on April 13, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Businesses and stores that were open against regulations have been cited 866 times.

The police do not say how many tickets have been handed out for people not wearing face masks in public, but 294 citations are listed for “other restrictions.”

In addition, 48 criminal investigations have been opened against people for spreading “false information.”

209 British Jews have died of COVID-19

A total of 209 members of the UK’s Jewish community have died of the novel coronavirus, 57 of them in the past week, the British Board of Deputies says, according to the UK’s Jewish News.

The figure is based on data compiled from the country’s main Jewish burial societies.

“The effect of coronavirus on the Jewish community is heartbreaking and devastating. We wish the families who have lost loved ones a long life, and pray that their memory should be for a blessing,” Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl says.

George Stephanopoulos says he has coronavirus

Former Bill Clinton adviser and current ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos says he has tested positive for COVID-19, weeks after his wife contracted the virus.

Stephanopoulos tells “Good Morning America” that he has not experienced any symptoms.

“I’ve never had a fever, never had chills, never had a headache, never had a cough, never had shortness of breath,” he says. “I’m feeling great.”

He says his wife, author Ali Wentworth, who was sick and isolated at home, is doing better.

With time running out, Gantz set to deliver address Monday evening

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is set to deliver an address later Monday, according to Channel 12 news.

The channel’s reporters surmise that the address will be used to issue an ultimatum to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu threatening to resume pushing legislation that would disqualify an indicted lawmaker from serving as prime minister.

However, he may still decide to scrap the speech if talks progress, they say.

Gantz has until midnight before his mandate to form a government expires.

High Court hearing on phone tracking to be first broadcast live

A hearing in the High Court on digital tracking methods employed by the Shin Bet and used by authorities to trace the whereabouts of coronavirus carriers and others will be the first to broadcast live as part of a pilot project, ToI’s sister site Zman Yisrael reports.

The hearing will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, and will be broadcast on the court’s website.

Much like in the US, the Israeli Supreme Court and High Court have never allowed live broadcasts of their hearings.

Spain cautiously begins sending some back to work

Spanish authorities are letting some workers begin to return to their jobs, but Health Minister Salvador Illa says the government will move carefully on allowing others to end their self-isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Illa says officials will proceed with “the utmost caution and prudence … and always based on scientific evidence” in easing restrictions.

“We’re in no position to be setting dates” about when isolation might end, he tells a Madrid news conference. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

The Spanish government, looking to get the economy moving again, has allowed workers to return to some factory and construction jobs. But retail stores and services must remain closed and office workers have to keep working from home.

A woman wearing a face mask shops at a butcher in Ronda, Spain, April 13, 2020. (JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

He says Spain, a country of 47 million people where the death toll officially attributed to the coronavirus is 17,489, is carrying out some 20,000 tests a day and plans to increase that number.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska says a program to distribute 10 million face masks began Monday.

“We’re still at an early stage” in fighting the coronavirus, Grande-Marlaska says. “Once it is defeated, we will have to rebuild our country, socially and economically.”

— AP

Gantz to address nation at 8:30, sparking speculation talks dead

The Blue and White Party confirms that prime minister-designate Benny Gantz will deliver an address on Monday evening at 8:30 p.m.

The announcement is widely viewed as a sign that unity talks with Likud have kicked the bucket, meaning Israelis have fourth elections and continuing deadlock to look forward to.

Unity talks blown to smithereens — media

Several Hebrew-language media outlets are reporting that talks between Likud and Blue and White have “blown up” (they all use that word).

None of the outlets provide any details about the apparent breakdown in talks.


New York virus death toll surpasses 10,000

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces 671 more deaths over the last day, pushing the state’s total to 10,056.

The tally is the lowest seen in the state in a week, according to the New York Times.

Cuomo says hospitalizations of virus patients are down as well, in another sign of hope for the hard-hit city.



Reports of talks’ death have been greatly exaggerated, parties say

Spokespeople for Blue and White and Likud send out a joint statement saying talks for an “emergency national government”  are ongoing.

This comes after several Hebrew-language outlets reported that talks had “blown up,” without providing details.

COVID-19 is 10 times deadlier than swine flu, WHO says

The novel coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than swine flu, also called H1N1, which caused a global pandemic in 2009, the World Health Organization says.

“We know that COVID-19 spreads fast, and we know that it is deadly, 10 times more deadly than the 2009 flu pandemic,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual briefing from Geneva.

He also calls for control measures to be lifted “slowly.”


Less than NIS 1 billion to help small businesses disbursed

Avi Simhon, the prime minister’s economics adviser, says that less than a billion shekels from a fund meant to help small business survive the coronavirus crisis has been handed out so far, during a heated argument with Harel Weisel, the CEO of the Fox Group fashion chain, on Channel 12 news.

“What are you waiting for, for everyone to go hungry and die,” Wiesel yells, offering to set up a fund of his own instead.

Simhon says the NIS 21 billion fund was only created a few weeks ago and much much more of the money will go out in the next two to three weeks, calling it a process.

Wiesel also complains that the government is not being transparent about what criteria are needed for when the economy will open back up.

At one point, after Simhon makes the mistake of noting that Wiesel does not need to worry about money, his sparring partner begins nearing him while yelling, causing Simhon to remark that he hopes Wiesel does not have COVID-19, or they will be both be sick.

Harel Wiesel, left, and Avi Simhon arguing in the Channel 12 studio on April 13, 2020. (screen capture: Channel 12)

Woman, 91 dies of COVID-19, death toll up to 114

A 91-year-old woman being cared for at the Shoham medical center in Pardes Hanna has died of the coronavirus, marking Israel’s 114th death.

The woman, who had underlying conditions, was a resident of Jerusalem’s Maon Horim old age home.

Netanyahu to give televised address

The Prime Minister’s Office says Benjamin Netanyahu will address the nation at 8:20 p.m., 10 minutes before rival Benny Gantz was set to speak.

Gantz speech is pushed off until 9 p.m., his Blue and White party says.

Top Israeli prof claims virus plays itself out after 70 days

Mathematician and former general Prof Isaac Ben Israel, head of the Security Studies program in Tel Aviv University and the chairman of the National Council for Research and Development, appears on Channel 12 (Hebrew) to present a maverick view of the world’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He describes research that he has conducted with a fellow professor, which he says shows that the number of new cases of the virus peaks after about 40 days and declines to near zero after 70 days, no matter where in the world it strikes and no matter whether countries shut down their economies or not.

While he supports social distancing, he says the widespread shuttering of economies worldwide is a demonstrable error. In Israel’s case, he notes, about 140 people normally die every day. To have shuttered much of the economy because of a virus that is killing one or two a day is a radical error that is unnecessarily costing Israel 20% of its GDP, he charges.

Prof Gabi Barbash, the former Health Ministry director general who is Channel 12’s resident medical expert, insists Ben Israel is mistaken, and that the death tolls would have been far higher if Israel and other countries had not taken the steps they did.

Isaac Ben-Israel. (Courtesy)

But Ben Israel says the figures — notably from countries, such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Sweden, which did not take such radical measures to shutter their economies — prove his point.

High death tolls in some countries are a factor of their healthcare systems being overwhelmed, he acknowledges. When Barbash cites New York as one example of an overwhelmed healthcare system, and argues that only radical measures are preventing worse crises worldwide, Ben Israel says the latest indications from New York are that the strain on the healthcare system is starting to recede — in line with his statistics that show daily new cases figures peaking and starting to fall after 40 days.

Barbash, speaking after Ben Israel has left the studio, insists that “we’re going to be living with the coronavirus for the next year.”

He later says: “I strongly urge that we not let mathematicians — who know nothing about biology — determine when we lift the lockdown.”

Italy virus deaths surpass 20,000

Italy’s civil protection service reports 566 new deaths, taking Italy’s fatalities total to 20,465 — officially second in the world behind the United States.

But a drop in patients in intensive care from a peak of 4,068 on April 3 to 3,260 on Monday confirms a general improvement in Italy’s COVID-19 trends.

The rise in new infections dropped to a new low of just two percent.



Netanyahu speech to focus on new restrictions

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to give an address at any minute.

According to media reports, the speech will focus on new restrictions related to stemming the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions are expected to include a lockdown over the last days of Passover and possibly a curfew as well, pending cabinet approval.

But history teaches that Netanyahu will likely also use the pulpit to address fading coalition talks with Blue and White.

Poll shows Netanyahu’s Likud shellacking rivals

Five weeks after March 9’s deadlocked third election in a year, a poll by Channel 12 news finds that if a fourth round of elections were held today, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud would win 40 seats, far, far ahead of any rival, and the Netanyahu-led bloc would have a Knesset majority.

Benny Gantz’s Blue and White is predicted to get 19 seats, the Joint List 15 and Yesh Atid-Telem (the factions no longer in Blue and White) 10.

Shas gets 9, Yamina 8, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beytenu 7, and Meretz 5.

That adds up to a right-wing / ultra-Orthodox bloc of 64 MKs in the 120-seat Knesset.

Way at the bottom, with just 1.1 percent of the vote, not nearly enough to get into the Knesset, is the Labor party.

The poll finds 64% of Israelis satisfied with the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, with 33% not satisfied.

Netanyahu, who has until midnight to decide if he wants to try to seal a coalition deal with Gantz, might look at the poll and think a resort to new elections would work well for him, Channel 12’s pundit Amit Segal says. But it’s just a poll, Segal cautions, and a few months from now, if a million Israelis are still unemployed, an election could be playing out in a very different atmosphere.

Netanyahu says attention being paid to old age homes

Addressing the country, caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that research shows that even those who have recovered from the disease may not be immune, warning that the situation is complicated.

But he also says that Israel is doing much better than most of the rest of the world, adding that some countries took steps too late.

He says that attention is being focused on old age homes, and says the number of those dead in Israel from such facilities is “relatively small, 40 people.”

Nonetheless, he says the issue is being taken care of, as well as the issue of people arriving in the country not being quarantined.

Netanyahu announces nationwide lockdown from Tuesday

Netanyahu says he understands the criticism against him for hosting his son for the Seder, and says he could have been stricter with the rules.

He announces that a lockdown keeping Israelis in their towns — or in Jerusalem their neighborhoods — will be imposed from Tuesday at 5 p.m. until Thursday at 5 a.m.

The lockdown must still be approved by the cabinet.

He says bakeries will not open right after the end of Passover, as is traditional, but only on Thursday, meaning Israelis will have to survive on mouth-watering matzah a bit longer.

Netanyahu says efforts for unity government continuing

Netanyahu says the cabinet will discuss later in the week strategies for rolling back restrictions, including possibly opening schools.

Such moves will be “slow and responsible,” he says. Even if the virus appears to be retreating, “there is no proof that it won’t return.”

“Until there’s a vaccine, we’re in one reality,” he says. Only when there is a vaccine, can the world move on.

He also says “large efforts” for a unity government are ongoing, expressing hopes that they manage to reach a deal with Blue and White as early as the next few hours.

“And if it doesn’t happen by midnight, we’ll continue to make every effort to achieve the unity the country so needs in these days,” he says.

At midnight, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s mandate from the president to form a government expires, and President Reuven Rivlin has said he will then inform the Knesset that no candidate has a potential majority. The Knesset would then have 21 days to choose a candidate who can muster a majority, and if not, Israel would again head to elections.

Man with virus dies in Safed, death toll at 115

A 77-year-old man has died at Seiff Hospital in Safed, bringing Israel’s death toll to 115.

The man, a resident of Araba, suffered from pre-existing conditions, says the hospital. The death is the first at the hospital, according to media reports.

The death means 12 people have died of the virus in the last 24 hours, nearly matching the 13 deaths recorded on April 9.

Things expected to get worse in UK before they get better

The British government’s chief scientific adviser is warning that the UK’s daily death toll from coronavirus will likely rise this week before plateauing for potentially two to three weeks, and then subsequently declining.

Patrick Vallance said at the government’s daily press briefing that the UK is tracking behind Italy, the European country with the highest death toll from COVID-19, and “following the same sort of path.”

He said he thinks “we are going to see a further increase” this week before a plateau, as the effects of social distancing come through.

Earlier, government figures showed that another 717 people who had tested positive for the coronavirus died in the hospital, taking the total in the UK up to 11,329.

Though that was the third straight daily decline in the daily death toll, Vallance’s comments suggest that the numbers may have been artificially depressed over the four-day Easter holiday weekend.

With Italy seemingly having reached the other side of the peak, there are growing expectations that the UK will end up being the European country with the most coronavirus-related deaths.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputizing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while the premier convalesces following his week-long stay in a hospital with coronavirus, says the government does ”not expect to make any changes” to the lockdown measures in place when it assesses the situation this week.

— AP

Public transportation to shut down Monday — report

As part of the coming lockdown, public transportation is set to shut down starting Monday night, until Thursday morning, Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reports on Twitter.

He says a restriction on opening bakeries on Wednesday night — to prevent post-Passover crowds — will not apply to areas where most residents are not Jewish.

Gantz says crisis means he and Netanyahu must form unity partnership

Addressing the nation, Blue and White head Benny Gantz says that the coronavirus crisis obligates him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form an “emergency unity government.”

Speaking in a televised address, he says that the crisis and the results of the election mean Netanyahu must accept a partnership.

“The emergency situation forced me to accept upon myself to give up on my declaration that I would not sit in a government with Netanyahu,” he says.

He says that he is working for the good of the country, and at this time of emergency, no leader can afford to play ego games.

He says he took risks in order to try and forge a unity government, and that he did not want to dismantle the Blue and White alliance, but needed to “think of a different path” given the crisis.

This is the moment of truth, we must get this done, Gantz tells Netanyahu

Gantz says that a transitional government, which Israel has had for over a year, cannot deal with the challenges that the coronavirus crisis presents.

“A transitional government cannot provide the path forward for a million unemployed people. It cannot bring this country together,” he says.

If a war had broken out, forcing thousands of families to hunker at home, he says, “nobody would ask if it was necessary to set up an emergency government,” he says. “We are in a war — a tough war. The death toll is rising.”

He adds: “Let nobody preach to me … for choosing the citizens of the state over personal interests.”

“For 3 weeks, we’ve been negotiating with clean hands,” he says. “We’ve made compromises… We’ve done everything we can to serve the citizens and prevent fourth elections.”

“Netanyahu and Likud know we are fair-minded partners,” he says. “They also know there are some issues we cannot compromise over” — and first of all “the rule of law and the protection of democracy.”

Addressing the prime minister directly, Gantz urges him to accept Blue and White’s coalition demands, which he says were agreed upon by both sides last week.

“A fair agreement was reached a few days ago… a fair division of the burden [that] put the good of the state ahead of all of our personal interests,” he says. “My hands are clean. We reached agreements. I hope we will realize them for the benefit of the people of Israel. There is no other way.”

“Netanyahu, we have come to the moment of truth. The people of Israel expect us to put aside our differences and work together for them,” he says.

“History will not forgive us if we don’t get this done,” Gantz concludes.

Pundits pan Gantz’s pleading palaver

Despite pundits assuming Gantz would use his speech to threaten Netanyahu, the address included no such combativeness, and the consensus is that his performance came across as less than stellar.

“Gantz was much tougher toward his partners two weeks ago, the people who supported him for prime minister for a year and believed in him, than he was toward Netanyahu. One of his ugliest moments,” writes Haaretz and Economist reporter Anshel Pfeffer.

“This guy will be prime minister when I’m the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys,” Yedioth critic Einav Schiff snipes.

Both Channel 13’s Barak Ravid and Channel 12’s Amit Segal write the same mocking tweet about Gantz’s pleading tone: “Take me Bibi, please.”

‘It’s all up to Netanyahu now’: TV pundits note Gantz chose not to issue threats

Channel 12’s political pundits say Gantz’s address indicates that he must believe a deal with Netanyahu on a unity government is close at hand, or he is naive — because he chose not to issue any threats against the prime minister.

Political reporter Daphna Liel notes that Gantz also did not accuse Netanyahu of cynically exploiting the coronavirus crisis or castigate him for walking back the agreement he says they had reached a few days ago.

Analyst Amnon Abramovich says Gantz chose not to specify that what has prevented a deal so far is Netanyahu’s concern that the High Court may intervene and bar him from starting a new term as prime minister, as he has been indicted on corruption charges, and is therefore trying to engineer some kind of legislative guarantee that Gantz would not take over as prime minister in the event of such a court ruling.

And analyst Amit Segal notes that Gantz chose not to unleash a threat to try to pass legislation in the Knesset that would disqualify Netanyahu as prime minister because of the charges. “It was not an aggressive speech; it was a defensive speech,” says Segal. Gantz essentially appealed to Netanyahu to partner with him, he adds. “It’s all up to Netanyahu now.”

If a deal is not sealed by midnight, President Reuven Rivlin has said that he will tell the Knesset that no candidate has a potential majority. The Knesset would then have 21 days to choose a candidate who can muster a majority, and if not, Israel would again head to elections.

Netanyahu may opt to seal a deal with Gantz tonight, or try to woo a couple of defectors to his right-wing / Orthodox bloc in the next three weeks to reach a 61-strong coalition, or opt for elections this summer — a fourth round in barely 16 months.

‘I’m waiting for you at my place, Benny,’ Netanyahu tweets at Gantz

Responding to Benny Gantz’s speech, Benjamin Netanyahu tweets “Benny, I’m waiting for you in the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem — let’s meet tonight on creating a national emergency government that will save lives and work for the citizens of Israel.”

There is no immediate response from Gantz.

Death toll up to 116, matching highest single day total

The Health Ministry says there are now 11,586 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel.

It says 116 people have died from the disease, an increase of 13 over the last 24-hour period, matching the highest single-day death toll.

183 people are in serious condition and 132 people of them on ventilators, numbers which are nearly identical to a day earlier.

Considering that most of the 13 fatalities were likely on ventilators, the net effect is actually an increase of people on breathing machines, though not a large one.

Cabinet to discuss new restrictions at 10:30 p.m.

The government will conduct a meeting, via telephone, at 10:30 p.m. to discuss the coronavirus-related restrictions Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu floated earlier this evening, his office announces.

The restrictions include a general lockdown barring intercity travel starting on Tuesday at 5 p.m. until Thursday at 5 a.m.

No draft of the proposed changes has been published, so there may be some other surprises as well.

Sanders endorses Biden after bruising Democratic battle

Bernie Sanders has endorsed his former rival Joe Biden for president on Monday, in a joint online appearance.

“I am asking all Americans, I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans, to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse,” Sanders says.

The backing is a crucial development for Biden, who must bridge the Democratic Party’s ideological divide to unify voters against President Donald Trump in the fall. Biden and Sanders, a leading progressive, clashed throughout the primary over policy issues such as the “Medicare for All” universal health care plan.

Appearing in a split screen with Biden, Sanders says that it is “no great secret out there that you and I have our differences.”

But he cites ongoing work between the two camps on several policy matters as a reason for the endorsement. And he said the biggest priority was defeating Trump.

“We’ve got to make Trump a one-term president,” Sanders says. “I will do all that I can to make that happen.”

— AP

White House says disease expert Fauci not on chopping block

The White House says that talk of US President Donald Trump wanting to fire the government’s top medical specialist in the coronavirus crisis, Anthony Fauci, is “ridiculous.”

Rumors that Fauci could get the axe — as a vocal group of Trump’s right-wing supporters wants — accelerated on Sunday when the president retweeted a criticism of the doctor with the hashtag #FireFauci.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, in Washington, April 8, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)

“This media chatter is ridiculous – President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley says in a statement.

“Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted adviser to President Trump.”

Fauci is widely considered one of the most trusted faces in the Trump administration’s fight against the pandemic. As a longtime expert in similar health crises, Fauci is winning plaudits for his no-nonsense and apolitical interviews with the media.


Netanyahu and Gantz to meet tonight

The Blue and White Party says its leader, Benny Gantz, will meet tonight with Likud head, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The meeting announcement comes after Netanyahu told Gantz he was waiting for him at his place, after Gantz gave a speech in which he urged his rival to reach a unity deal.

It is unclear when the meeting will take place, with a cabinet meeting on new virus restrictions set to have begun at 10:30.

Report: Coalition deal almost sealed

Channel 12 news reports that a coalition deal is all but sealed, with everything just waiting for Benjamin Netanyahu’s final okay.

The channel’s Daphna Liel reports that Blue and White will likely agree to bend on the issue of who to place on a panel that chooses judges, which had been a key sticking point.

No source is cited. This is not the first time the channel has reported on a coalition being almost a done deal.

IDF to let troops take off in first step toward return to normal

The Israel Defense Forces says it will begin releasing combat troops and other soldiers for leave next week, after keeping them on base for roughly a month, in an apparent sign of a slight return to normal amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 15, the military told troops serving on so-called “closed bases,” mostly combat units and those undergoing training courses, that they should prepare to remain on base for at least a month in an effort to prevent them from contracting the virus and infecting their fellow soldiers.

Earlier today, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi accepted the proposal of his deputy, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who has been tasked with leading the military’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, to allow troops to begin to go home for short furloughs “in a gradual and monitored way,” the military says.

The IDF says this will begin on Sunday, starting with combat troops who were on operational deployment, followed by units performing exercises and finally those in training courses.

“The soldiers will be briefed on strictly maintaining IDF and Health Ministry medical orders. When they return, the troops will be questioned and tested [for the virus],” the military says.

The IDF says soldiers will continue to operate in distinct “capsules,” or shifts, in order to ensure that if troops in one shift become infected with the disease, the others will not and the IDF will be able to continue to operate fully.

— Judah Ari Gross

US panel on opening economy to have Kushners, but no health experts — report

Fox News reports that a task force on re-opening the economy to be announced by US President Donald Trump later will include his daughter, Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, his treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and financial adviser Larry Kudlow.

It will be headed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Other names include Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and HUD head Ben Carson.

Aside from Carson, who used to practice as a brain surgeon, the task force does not appear to include any doctors or public health experts, and will seemingly be singularly focused on restarting the economy, something Trump has shown he is antsy to do.

According to Fox, Trump previewed the task force on Friday, saying it would include doctors and business leaders and “include names that you have a lot of respect for.”

Gantz arrives at Netanyahu’s pad for coalition summit

Ynet reports that Benny Gantz has arrived at the Prime Minister’s Residence to hash out a coalition deal.

According to the report, Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Foreign Minister Israel Katz to chair the Cabinet meeting that is also taking place at this time, so that the premier can chat with Gantz.

Video shows Mea Shearim residents calling cops Nazis

Video published online shows people hooting, whistling and hollering “Nazi” at police patrolling the cloistered ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

A second video shows police apparently chasing people who had gathered there. The neighborhood is considered one of the largest coronavirus hotspots in the country and has been put under quarantine by police, along with other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the capital.

West Bank, East Jerusalem virus cases reported

A new coronavirus carrier has been identified in the West Bank, bringing the number of cases in the Palestinian territories to 274, Palestinian Authority government spokesman Ibrahim Milhelm announces.

The latest case, similar to the vast majority of them in the West Bank, is of a worker who returned from Israel. The 27-year-old Hebron man had returned to the West Bank last Friday, immediately entering home quarantine before he began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Haaretz reports that a man in the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem has also tested positive for the virus, raising fears of rapid spread through the crowded neighborhood.

According to the paper, the man worked at a Jerusalem old-age home, where he apparently contracted the virus, and has been self-quarantining. His family is being tested as well.

— with Jacob Magid

Yamina reportedly fuming over possible coalition deal with Blue and White

Channel 12 news reports that the Yamina Party is trying to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu from the right to make sure he does not give up too many of their pet projects in coalition talks with Blue and White.

The channel’s Daphne Liel quotes a senior party source accusing Netanyahu of “stabbing religious Zionism in the back” and selling “the judicial system and sovereignty to the left,” a reference to West Bank annexation.

Yamina said to bolt nascent coalition

Ynet reports that the Yamina party is splitting off from the right-wing religious bloc that has backed Netanyahu since September, angry over apparent concessions to Blue and White on coalition talks.

“Netanyahu sold out the right to save himself, but he’ll quickly discover that his new partners holding the Justice Ministry will throw him out on the street very quickly. When Blue and White boots him from Balfour, we won’t be there,” a party source is quoted saying.

Even without Yamina’s six seats, Netanyahu could easily build a coalition with Blue and White’s support.

Gantz’s mandate to form government expires… or has it?

With the clock striking midnight, Benny Gantz’s 28-day mandate to form a government has seemingly expired.

However, it is unclear whether there is any statutory relevance to the actual hour, as he and Benjamin Netanyahu may have until morning to appeal to President Rivlin for more time if progress is made in talks or if a coalition deal is reached.

Gantz, Netanyahu, reportedly ask for mandate extension

In a sign that coalition talks are going well, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz have asked President Reuven Rivlin for an extension of the latter’s mandate to form a government, Channel 13 news reports.

Gantz’s mandate expired at midnight.

Rivlin extends Gantz’s mandate till Wednesday night after PM joins request

President Reuven Rivlin agrees to extend Benny Gantz’s  mandate to form a government by two days — until Wednesday at midnight.

Notably Tuesday evening until Wednesday evening is the “Pesach Sheni,” or Second Passover holiday, leaving little remaining time for negotiations assuming the two do not hold negotiations during that time.

Netanyahu, Gantz say ‘significant progress’ in talks, will reconvene in morning

In a joint statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz say there has been “significant progress in talks to form an emergency unity government.”

The sides will meet again tomorrow morning with negotiating teams in tow, they say.

There are currently no details on what compromises may have been reached.

The meeting has now ended.

Cabinet approves new city closures for Second Passover

The cabinet has unanimously approved a new closure on all Israeli cities for the duration of the Second Passover holiday that begins Tuesday evening.

The closure will last 36 hours, between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Thursday. During that time Israelis will not be able to leave their towns of residence

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