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Ohana and Levin up, Edelstein and Hanegbi crash in Likud exit polls

Former top MKs David Bitan and Haim Katz may also be left out of next Knesset; ex-Israel Hayom editor Bismuth sitting pretty; official results expected Thursday morning

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

A cardboard cutout of Amir Ohana awaits voters in the Likud primaries at a polling station in Ashdod on August 10, 2022. (Flash90)
A cardboard cutout of Amir Ohana awaits voters in the Likud primaries at a polling station in Ashdod on August 10, 2022. (Flash90)

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

Ohana and Levin up, Edelstein and Hanegbi crash out in Likud exit polls

Initial exit polls after the Likud party finally closes its primaries show Yariv Levin and Amir Ohana rewarded for their loyalty to party leader Benjamin Netanyahu with the two taking the top spots up for grabs.

Rounding out the top five behind Netanyahu, Levin and Ohana are Yoav Kish and David Amsalem, according to the exit poll from Direct Polls. A separate exit poll shared by Channel 12 reporter Amit Segal shows Yoav Galant ahead of Kish and Amsalem.

Boaz Bismuth, who quit as editor of Israel Hayom to throw his hat in the ring, gets the highest spot for a newcomer, with one poll forecasting him in the 15th slot and another in 10th place, making him a likely shoo-in to get his picture in the paper as a Knesset member.

Longtime Likud stalwarts Yuli Edelstein, Tzachi Hanegbi, David Bitan and Haim Katz are projected to be left out in the cold after placing in spots 20 and up: Likud’s many reserved spots, not yet filled, mean anyone over 20 is highly unlikely to enter the Knesset.

Most others making the top of the roster are familiar faces shuffling a few seats here or there.

Per Gaza ceasefire deal, UN team pays visit to PIJ commander jailed by Israel

The West Bank head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, Bassam al-Saadi, is seen shortly after his arrest by Israeli troops on August 2, 2022. (Courtesy)
The West Bank head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, Bassam al-Saadi, is seen shortly after his arrest by Israeli troops on August 2, 2022. (Courtesy)

The UN’s Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland says that his office dispatched a team to visit Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s West Bank commander Bassem Saadi who has been in Israeli jail for the past two weeks.

Wennesland says the visit was part of the UN’s commitments in the ceasefire negotiated by Egypt that brought an end to a three-day conflict between Israel and PIJ.

“I reiterate that the ceasefire in Gaza is very fragile and I call on all sides to preserve the calm,” Wennesland tweets.

State announces plans to indict former MK for inciting against Arabs

Michael Ben Ari, from the Otzma Yehudit party, seen outside the elections committee, on February 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Michael Ben Ari, from the Otzma Yehudit party, seen outside the elections committee, on February 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

State prosecutors say that they intend to indict former MK Michael Ben Ari on charges of incitement, pending a hearing.

According to the State Attorney’s office in Israel’s Central District, Ben Ari is being considered for prosecution “for systematic, repeated publications of racist incitement against Arabs.”

Prosecutors say the comments in question date back to the end of 2017, and include public speeches, media interviews and posts on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Ben Ari served in the Knesset from 2009-2013 as part of the now-defunct National Union party. He then founded the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, but in 2019 he was barred by the High Court from running for the Knesset due to his extremist views.

Last year he was also banned by Facebook from using its platform due to his support for “terror organizations.”

Otzma Yehudit is currently headed by far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir, who is expected to boost the party’s seats considerably in the upcoming election.

Immigration from Ukraine and Russia to Israel tripled during war, figures show

Ukrainians disembark from a special flight to Israel from Romania upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport, March 8, 2022. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)
Ukrainians disembark from a special flight to Israel from Romania upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport, March 8, 2022. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

Immigration to Israel from both Ukraine and Russia tripled during the period following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the Central Bureau of Statistics reveals.

In figures published today, CBS says that in the first six months of 2022, 35,295 immigrants moved to Israel.

Between February 24 — when Russia invaded Ukraine — and July 31, 12,175 immigrants arrived from Ukraine and 18,891 arrived from Russia. CBS says this figure marks a 318% increase over the same period in 2019, when 2,651 immigrants arrived from Ukraine and 7,123 from Russia.

During this period, CBS says, 63% of the immigrants from Ukraine were women, and just 37% were men — since most Ukrainian men of fighting age were barred from leaving the country.

Six killed in Russian strikes on eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut

A local resident helps firefighters to put out a fire in a yard of a house in the town of Bakhmut following an airstrike on July 19, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Igor TKACHEV / AFP)
A local resident helps firefighters to put out a fire in a yard of a house in the town of Bakhmut following an airstrike on July 19, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Igor TKACHEV / AFP)

Russian strikes on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut killed at least six people and left three others injured, the regional governor says.

“The Russians bombed the city with a multiple rocket launcher, hitting a residential area. According to initial information, 12 residential buildings have been damaged and four are on fire,” Pavlo Kyrylenko writes on Telegram.

New York governor signs package of Holocaust-linked legislation

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a ceremony to sign a package of bills to strengthen gun laws on June 6, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a ceremony to sign a package of bills to strengthen gun laws on June 6, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signs legislation to support Holocaust survivors and Holocaust education in the state.

Hochul signs three pieces of legislation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

The first ensures New York public schools carry out proper Holocaust education. The second requires museums to label art that was stolen from Jews by the Nazis. And the third mandates the Department of Financial Services disclose banks that voluntarily waive fees for Holocaust reparation payments.

Hochul, who has close ties to New York’s Jewish communities, signs the legislation in the presence of survivors and lawmakers who sponsored the bills.

During the ceremony, she discusses the record-high rates of antisemitism.

“As governor of a state with 40,000 Holocaust survivors and the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, I take this hatred personally because I feel wounded as a human being to know that someone else is harmed in our state,” she says.

Likud extends primary vote until 10 p.m. due to low turnout

Candidate advertisements at Likud primaries in Rishon Lezion, August 10, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
Candidate advertisements at Likud primaries in Rishon Lezion, August 10, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

The Likud party announces that it will extend voting in its primary until 10 p.m. amid concerns over low turnout.

As of 6 p.m., turnout was just 38%; at the party’s last primary in 2019, 58% of eligible voters cast their ballots by the close of voting.

Lapid says preparedness for major fires in Israel is a ‘national mission’

Firefighters try to extinguish a forest fire blazing near Kiryat Anavim, outside of Jerusalem, on June 8, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)
Firefighters try to extinguish a forest fire blazing near Kiryat Anavim, outside of Jerusalem, on June 8, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds a meeting to assess Israel’s readiness to deal with major fires.

At the meeting, Lapid says that Israel’s preparedness for this issue “is a national mission.”

He notes that the climate crisis is a major challenge for leaders in the region, where weather conditions can create serious fire risks.

“I call upon the citizens of Israel, especially during the summer and the holidays, to refrain from lighting fires in forests, parks and open spaces,” Lapid says. “Public responsibility is a critical component in our ability to prevent fires and deal with huge blazes.”

Iranian operative charged in plot to murder John Bolton

Former US national security adviser John Bolton gestures while speakings at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, September 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Former US national security adviser John Bolton gestures while speakings at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, September 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

An Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to murder former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton, the Justice Department says.

Shahram Poursafi, identified by US officials as a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to the murder-for-hire plot.

“I wish to thank the Justice Dept for initiating the criminal proceeding unsealed today; the FBI for its diligence in discovering and tracking the Iranian regime’s criminal threat to American citizens; and the Secret Service for providing protection against Tehran’s efforts,” Bolton tweets.

Amid low turnout, Likud considering extending primary voting hours

Candidate advertisements at Likud primaries in Rishon Lezion, August 10, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn / The Times of Israel)
Candidate advertisements at Likud primaries in Rishon Lezion, August 10, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn / The Times of Israel)

Following low reported voter turnout in today’s primary vote, the Likud party is weighing extending its voting hours past 9 p.m., says a Likud spokesman.

As of 5 p.m., only 31% of the party’s 140,000 registered voters have visited the polls. Voter turnout in the party’s previous primary — held in 2019 — reached 58%.

Trump says he ‘declined to answer’ questions under oath in New York civil probe

Former President Donald Trump arrives to deliver the final remarks during Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Former President Donald Trump arrives to deliver the final remarks during Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Former US president Donald Trump says he declined to answer questions while appearing under oath in a New York state attorney general’s civil probe into alleged fraud at his family business.

“I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” Trump says in a statement.

“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” he adds.

Mayor suspected of bribery, fraud revealed as head of Petah Tikva

Petah Tikva mayor Rami Greenberg on December 5 2017. (Rami Greenberg/ Wikipedia CC-BY-4.0)
Petah Tikva mayor Rami Greenberg on December 5 2017. (Rami Greenberg/ Wikipedia CC-BY-4.0)

Petah Tikva Mayor Rami Greenberg is revealed as the mayor arrested earlier today on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Both the mayor and the director general of the municipality were arrested on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering, false registration of documents and tax offenses, according to police.

Greenberg was detained last month on suspicions that he had withheld municipal funding from institutes that were entitled to it unless they fired or ousted his opponents and their family members from key positions.

Justin Bieber criticized for appearing to goose-step on stage; promotors of his Israel show: dance moves, nothing to do with Nazis

The Canadian pop-star appeared to perform a Nazi salute in a concert in Helsinki, Finland, August 9, 2022. (Screenshot)
The Canadian pop-star appeared to perform a Nazi salute in a concert in Helsinki, Finland, August 9, 2022. (Screenshot)

Pop sensation Justin Bieber lands himself in hot water after he appeared to goose-step while making a Nazi salute.

Bieber, 28, was performing yesterday in front of 20,000 fans at a concert in Helsinki, Finland, when he made the gesture, drawing condemnation from European Jewish bodies.

“The famous singer slapped the faces of millions of Jews across the world when he chose to perform the ‘sieg heil’ movement that symbolizes identification with Nazi party values,” says Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Council of European Rabbis.

The singer is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on October 13. Goldschmidt calls on the Israeli government to cancel the performance in response to Bieber’s “disgraceful” act.

“It is unthinkable that a singer with tens of millions of fans and followers around the world allows himself to adopt such conduct on European soil soaked with the blood of millions of Jews and other minorities, who were brutally murdered by the Nazi oppressor,” Goldschmidt says.

Bieber has been filmed at other concerts marching in a similar way. The move, called a “stomp,” is part of an apparent in-joke between the singer and his legion of ultra-loyal fans.

The company promoting Bieber’s show in Israel says the steps had nothing to do with Nazis.

“These are dance moves…Dance moves are meant to entertain. Not everything has to do with the Jewish people, with all the love we have for ourselves,” a representative of Nidar Oz Communications says.

1,400 Israelis vaccinated against monkeypox so far, says ministry

Empty vials of monkeypox vaccines lie on a table after being used to vaccinate people at a medical center in Barcelona, Spain, July 26, 2022. (AP/Francisco Seco)
Empty vials of monkeypox vaccines lie on a table after being used to vaccinate people at a medical center in Barcelona, Spain, July 26, 2022. (AP/Francisco Seco)

The Health Ministry says that so far just 1,400 Israelis have been vaccinated against monkeypox.

More than 5,000 doses of the vaccine arrived last month, and the ministry says it should have the full 10,000 it ordered by early September.

So far, 176 men have tested positive for monkeypox in Israel, the ministry says.

Highest priority for the vaccine is being given to men born after 1980 who are HIV positive or are taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication to reduce their chance of contracting HIV. (Israel vaccinated the general population against smallpox until 1980 — although the military continued for a number of years — and that vaccine can provide protection against monkeypox.)

In addition, those who have tested positive for syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea since January 1 of this year will be considered a high priority to receive the vaccine.

Jewish Agency says it won’t be exiting Russia ‘if we can help it’

A sign outside the entrance of a Jewish Agency for Israel office in Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A sign outside the entrance of a Jewish Agency for Israel office in Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Jewish Agency has begun making practical preparations for the possibility that Moscow will go through with its threats and order the quasi-governmental group to halt its activities in the country, says an official in the organization.

However, the official denies a report in the Jerusalem Post that the Jewish Agency believes it will certainly be forced to close. Next Friday, a Moscow court is scheduled to hear the Russian government’s case against the organization. The Russian Justice Ministry has called for the Jewish Agency’s activities to be halted in the country, accusing the organization of illegally collecting information on Russian citizens.

“We’re examining all the options for a rainy day,” the Jewish Agency official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But the official says the agency does not anticipating being shut down imminently.

“The trial could go both ways: shutdown, or staying under tightened regulation,” he says. “But we’re certainly not going to leave if we can help it.”

After primaries disappointment, Barlev says he will continue to back Labor

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev says he will continue to work on behalf of the Labor party despite his disappointing finish in the party’s primary yesterday.

“I have had, in my adult life, moments of satisfaction alongside moments of disappointment,” he says. “But what has always stood as my priority is the good of the State of Israel. It is more important than me — including now.”

Barlev says he will “not fold up the political-security flag in the Labor Party, but continue to carry it with pride.”

Barlev finished 9th in yesterday’s primary, while the party is polling at around 5 or 6 seats — a significant drop from his second-place ranking after the primary last year.

Italian far-right political leader declares ‘fascism is history’

Fratelli d' Italia (Brothers of Italy) party leader Giorgia Meloni speaks during a center-right opposition rally in Rome's central Piazza del Popolo, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Fratelli d' Italia (Brothers of Italy) party leader Giorgia Meloni speaks during a center-right opposition rally in Rome's central Piazza del Popolo, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni declares in a video message aimed at international critics alarmed by her predicted victory in September 25 elections.

The 45-year-old, whose Brothers of Italy party is topping opinion polls, records a monologue in English, Spanish and French that rails at “the left” and defends her fight for “stability, freedom and prosperity for Italy.”

“I have been reading that the victory of Fratelli d’Italia in the September elections would mean a disaster, leading to an authoritarian turn, Italy’s departure from the euro and other nonsense of this sort. None of this is true,” she says in the video sent to international journalists.

Brothers of Italy, which Meloni founded in 2012, is a political descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

But she insists in her video: “The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws.”

Gantz to meet his Cypriot counterpart in Tel Aviv tomorrow

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, Cyprus Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides, center, and Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, right, ahead of a meeting in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, Nov. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, Cyprus Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides, center, and Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, right, ahead of a meeting in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, Nov. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will host his Cypriot counterpart, Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides, tomorrow at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.

After their meeting they will give statements to the press.

Gantz and Petrides met most recently last month on the sidelines of the Economist Government Roundtable conference held in Greece.

Iran says US claims that its new satellite is for spying are ‘childish’

In this handout photo taken from video released by Roscosmos on Aug. 9, 2022, a Russian Soyuz rocket lifts off to carry Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome near Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (Roscosmos via AP)
In this handout photo taken from video released by Roscosmos on Aug. 9, 2022, a Russian Soyuz rocket lifts off to carry Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome near Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (Roscosmos via AP)

Iran dismisses as “childish” claims by the United States that an Iranian satellite launched by Russia is intended for spying.

The satellite, called Khayyam, was launched into space yesterday on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Russian-controlled Baikonur Cosmodrome in neighboring Kazakhstan. 

Responding to the launch, Washington said Russia’s growing cooperation with Iran should be viewed as a “profound threat.”

“We are aware of reports that Russia launched a satellite with significant spying capabilities on Iran’s behalf,” a US State Department spokesperson said.

The head of Iran’s Space Agency, Hassan Salarieh, tells reporters that the spying allegation is “basically childish.”

“Sometimes, some comments are made to incite tensions; saying that we want to spy with the Khayyam satellite… is basically childish,” he says. “The Khayyam satellite is entirely designed and built to meet the needs of the country in crisis and urban management, natural resources, mines, agriculture and so on.”

Iraq begins rebuilding Mosul airport five years after its destruction

Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces deploy inside Mosul's international airport, Iraq, Feb. 24. 2017. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)
Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces deploy inside Mosul's international airport, Iraq, Feb. 24. 2017. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi inaugurates the reconstruction of Mosul international airport, still in disrepair five years after the battle that expelled the Islamic State group from the city.

Entire sectors of the northern metropolis have remained in ruins since the July 2017 recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led multinational coalition. The airport, which was heavily damaged in the battle, has been disused since the jihadists seized Mosul and adjacent areas in 2014.

Kadhemi, in an official ceremony at the airport on the southern outskirts of Mosul, lays the foundation stone for its renovation. Airport director Haider Ali tells AFP that the reconstruction has been assigned to two Turkish companies and is expected to take 24 months.

G7 warns Russian control of Ukraine nuclear plant ‘endangers the region’

A general view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine is seen in a handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Aug. 7, 2022. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
A general view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine is seen in a handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Aug. 7, 2022. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

The Group of Seven industrialized nations condemns Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and calls on Moscow to immediately hand back full control of the plant to Ukraine.

Ukrainian staff operating the plant “must be able to carry out their duties without threats or pressure. It is Russia’s continued control of the plant that endangers the region,” the G7 foreign ministers say in a statement.

Netanyahu casts vote in Likud primary: ‘We’ll have an incredible slate’

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, cast their votes in the Likud primary in Tel Aviv, August 10, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, cast their votes in the Likud primary in Tel Aviv, August 10, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote in today’s Likud primary.

“We are going to have an incredible slate — and we’re going to lead this country,” he tells reporters. “If we want to prevent another round of elections, we need a big Likud.”

As of 2 p.m., turnout stands at 20% in the primary for the party’s slate.

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