The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Haredi coalition partners are demanding that the entire legislative process of the government’s judicial overhaul be halted indefinitely and only be advanced if there is broad agreement, a report says.
Citing the head of one of the ultra-Orthodox Knesset factions, reporter Ishay Cohen of the Kikar HaShabbat news site says on Channel 12 that the Haredi coalition partners are deeply troubled by Netanyahu’s conduct and feel like he’s trying to deflect criticism from himself to the Haredi community, including by issuing a statement against recent incidents of discrimination against women by ultra-Orthodox bus drivers and passengers.
The report says the Haredi parties believe the overhaul has divided Israelis too much and are even willing to see Justice Minister Yariv Levin quit his post, as he’s threatened to do if the bills aren’t advanced at a quick enough pace.
The report adds that if more overhaul bills are brought for votes without the agreement of the opposition, the Haredi parties will vote against them.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah continues a war of words with Israel, warning that if war erupts between the Jewish state and Lebanon, “there will be no such thing as Israel.”
In a televised speech marking 17 years since the end of the Second Lebanon War, the head of the Iran-backed Shiite terror group claims that Israel’s military has gradually “weakened” since the “defeat” it allegedly suffered in 2006.
“I say to the enemy: According to all evidence, you will be returned to the Stone Age if you go to war,” Nasrallah says, according to the Al-Manar website, echoing a similar threat made recently by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant toward Lebanon.
Nasrallah also claims that a Hezbollah truck — reportedly containing Iranian anti-tank missiles — that overturned last week in the Christian village of Kahale, sparking fierce clashes with the local community, was a “natural accident.”
A standoff between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners has escalated over the question of whether an “override clause” will be legislated to shield military draft exemptions for Haredi men from judicial review.
Several Hebrew media outlets quote unnamed sources in Netanyahu’s Likud party saying no such override — which is likely to face intense opposition and possibly cause international fallout — will be introduced, despite a Likud pledge in coalition deals to legislate it, since the “situation has changed.”
But sources in the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism are quoted as insisting on the promise being kept, with one unnamed Haredi minister explicitly threatening to topple the government and call early elections over the matter.
“The instruction we received from the rabbis was unequivocal: without an enlistment law that includes an override clause on this issue, we will quit the government,” the minister is quoted as saying by the Kikar HaShabbat news site.
“There will be no games, Netanyahu won’t be able to postpone this or ask for compromises. This is the rabbis’ position, even at the price of going to elections.”
An Israeli man has been under arrest in Turkey for over a week, after airport officials in Antalya found an ornamental bell that they claim is an ancient artifact and which he says he bought in a local market for $100, presenting a receipt and saying it is a mass-produced product.
The Acre resident is suspected of attempting to smuggle an ancient artifact out of the country and the Turkish authorities are refusing to accept any intervention from Israeli officials in the case, Hebrew media reports.
His wife and children were allowed on the plane to depart Turkey last week at the end of a family vacation, and his son Shlomi has asked for help, speaking to several outlets.
“We need the help of the most senior officials in the country,” he tells Ynet. “My father is an older person with medical problems and his situation is not good. He wants to return home and is under very high mental pressure.”
Relatives have returned to Turkey to help release him. A local attorney has estimated that these efforts will take many weeks.
An air strike killed at least 26 people in Ethiopia’s Amhara region earlier today, a hospital official and a resident tell AFP, as the region continues to be rocked by deadly clashes.
“Twenty-two bodies were brought to the hospital, while four others who were critically injured died soon after arriving in the hospital” in Finote Selam, says the hospital official, while a resident says he “helped in the burial of bodies of 30 victims.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met senior officials at Fitch Ratings before the firm affirmed Israel’s A+ credit rating and stable outlook, the Kan public broadcaster and Channel 12 news report.
The reports say the meeting played a part in convincing Fitch officials that the government has given up plans to pass an “override clause” as part of its judicial overhaul and that it no longer seeks an automatic coalition majority in the Judicial Selection Committee.
Egypt’s president earlier today welcomed the Palestinian and Jordanian leaders, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s spokesman says, with a source adding that they discussed speculations over Saudi Arabia moving to normalize ties with Israel.
Sissi met with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the northern coastal city of El Alamein, Egyptian presidential spokesman Ahmed Fahmy says.
During a tripartite meeting, the leaders discussed “the development of the Palestinian cause” and expressed their support for a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with East Jerusalem as the future Palestinian capital, Fahmy says in a later statement.
But while there is no mention of the topic of potential Israeli-Saudi normalization in the official statement, a Palestinian source close to the matter tells AFP that it is the key topic on the table.
The summit was held “to discuss US efforts to achieve normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the Palestinian Authority’s requirements in the framework of the signing of such a deal,” the source says.
Energy Minister Israel Katz and Prime Minister’s Office director General Yossi Shelley meet in Abu Dhabi with UAE Industry and Technology Minister Sultan Al Jaber and Jordan’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Saleh al-Kharabsheh, Water Minister Muhammad Al-Anja, and Environmental Protection Minister Mu’awiyah Radaida. They are joined by White House climate aide David Livingston.
According to Israel, the various representatives discusses the final stages of the water for electricity deal between Israel and Jordan, set to be signed at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
They also talk about a 4G agreement that is set to be signed at the November confab between Israel, the US and the UAE.
Hundreds of protesters converge at the entrance to Moshav Ramot, near the Sea of Galilee, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beginning a new vacation — a day later than originally planned, after it was pushed off yesterday for the premier to hold a series of meetings with top security brass.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 14, 2023
The anti-Netanyahu protesters wave Israel flags and don shirts with pro-democracy slogans urging resistance against the government’s judicial overhaul, as the premier’s convoy arrives.
Some protesters did not wait and held a protest flyby over the moshav and over the Sea of Galilee this morning, with signs slamming Netanyahu as a “liar.”
מעל מושב רמות לפני שעה קלה. pic.twitter.com/Dqz2iThytT
— חנה קים (@hkim14050017) August 14, 2023
“The lying, divisive and inciting tyrant is cooperating with messianic enemies from within,” protest organizers say in a statement. “The criminal defendant won’t relax and enjoy life’s pleasures at our expense while he’s destroying our country.”
Last week, Netanyahu’s previous vacation in the Golan community of Neve Ativ was also accompanied by protests. Police initially did not allow the demonstrators into the community, which prompted them to form a tent encampment nearby.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is working with security chiefs to face the country’s “big challenges,” a day after Hebrew media reported that he had shouted at IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and other senior commanders over their perceived failure to stop a wave of refusals to show up for duty, in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul.
In a terse message, Netanyahu tweets that he is “working day and night together with the defense minister, the military chief, senior IDF officers and security forces to jointly guarantee Israel’s security under all circumstances.”
A 7-year-old boy is seriously injured after falling from a third-floor balcony in a residential building in the predominantly Haredi city of Bnei Brak.
According to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the boy has been taken to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson hospital with multisystem trauma.
Over 10,000 chickens have died in the north during the extreme heatwave, prompting a statement by the Agriculture Ministry saying this happened in outdated coops with no built-in climate control and cooling systems.
The ministry adds that due to excess in the egg and chicken markets, there is no shortage despite the mass deaths of egg-laying hens and chickens grown for the meat industry.
“The need to upgrade the coops is becoming more and more crucial from year to year due to climate change,” says Dr. Tamir Goshen, the head of ministry’s veterinary services.
10,000 תרנגולות מתו במושב בגבול הצפון ממכת חום.
10,000 תרנגולות מתו בגבול הצפון, גם בדלתון נפגעו לולים רבים. תושב הצפון שמגדל כבר 45 שנה לא זוכר דבר דומה: "הייתה מכת חום אדירה, עכשיו בורות הקבורה מלאים". pic.twitter.com/CTASz6gWIi
— Asslan Khalil (@KhalilAsslan) August 14, 2023
Aliyah and Absorption Minister Ofir Sofer says there is no extraction mission being planned out of Ethiopia’s Gondar for locals who say they have Jewish roots.
Sofer says this, according to the Ynet news site, in a meeting with activists working to increase immigration quotas from Ethiopia following their protest rally yesterday in Jerusalem, in which hundreds of Israelis of Ethiopian descent demanded that more people be let into Israel from the African country in light of fighting between rival factions in its northern provinces.
“Today proves that we are not brethren,” the Struggle to Bring the Jews of Ethiopia, an unofficial alliance of activists, says in a statement following the meeting. “Those who airlifted 200 Israelis out of Ethiopia while leaving thousands in Gondar, at the center of the inferno of war, are directly responsible for their fates.”
Last week, Israel extracted 204 individuals that the government say are either Israelis or eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return for Jews and their relatives.
Ethiopia has thousands of people who say they have Jewish roots but are not eligible to immigrate under that law. That group, known as the Falash Mura, is descended from Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity under duress in the 19th century.
The Falash Mura stayed behind in Ethiopia as Israel extracted in the 1990s and 1980s what is widely seen as the main and oldest Jewish presence in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israel. In 1992, Beta Israel Ethiopians living in Israel began lobbying for their Falash Mura relatives who had stayed behind to be allowed to immigrate.
In a statement about Sofer’s meeting, his office sidesteps the issue by referring only to immigration under the Law of Return.
“Any further claim of eligibility to make aliyah to Israel under the Law of Return will be thoroughly checked and handled,” his office says. Sofer heard the issues raised by the activists for Falash Muraa immigration “and replied that the subject is being examined seriously and will be treated in an orderly fashion,” Sofer’s statement says.
The Jerusalem District Court rejects a request by lawyers for Yehiel Indore, the central suspect in the fatal shooting of a Palestinian earlier this month, to be sent to house arrest.
Indore is suspected of fatally shooting 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan in a clash on August 4 in the Palestinian village of Burqa. Indore was seriously injured in the clash, allegedly from a rock thrown by a Palestinian that hit his face, and has spent most of his time in custody in a hospital until his transferral yesterday to a Prisons Service medical facility.
Indore was ordered by a lower court on Friday to remain in custody until at least this week after law enforcement requested a 10-day extension, claiming they have significant evidence supporting their case.
In his decision today, Judge Alexander Mor says that while Indore’s claim of self-defense is legitimate, the lower court’s decision was reasonable and doesn’t justify intervention.
During the hearing, a police representative argued that Indore’s version of events is inconsistent with other descriptions and with the topography of the area, which “refutes the self-defense argument.”
The representative said Indore’s answers during questioning have displayed “selective memory,” with the suspect going into detail when describing the Palestinians and their actions while avoiding details when asked about the Jews who were involved.
Indore’s attorney Nati Rom, of the Honenu legal aid group, said Indore has “cognitive problems” and “his emotional and cognitive state is deteriorating now that he’s no longer hospitalized.”
Another hearing on Indore’s potential remand is expected tomorrow.
A soldier has been convicted of reckless homicide for the killing of a comrade on an army base near Jerusalem earlier this year, and will be sentenced to three years in prison as part of a plea deal.
The Israel Defense Forces says the Military Police soldier, named as Pvt. Binyamin Fentaye, entered a room on the Anatot Base on the night of January 2, picked up a gun that wasn’t his, and “carried out various actions” that resulted in him opening fire, killing Cpl. Baruch Kabarta.
The soldier is also charged with obstruction of justice after he allegedly tried to dissuade another soldier from providing details about the shooting.
Following a mediation process between prosecutors and the soldier’s defense team, Fentaye confessed to the charge of reckless homicide, and the sides requested that he be sentenced to three years in prison, the IDF says.
Additionally, the soldier will be handed a suspended sentence and ordered to pay compensation to Kabarta’s family, the latter of which was already carried out amid the mediation process.
The prosecutors told the military court that the agreed punishment was “more severe” compared to similar cases of deaths as a result of accidental misfires and that it “reflects the severity in which it views the case, and is intended to prevent future disasters of this kind.”
The court will officially issue a sentence on August 30.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is set to take off today for a visit to Paraguay and Uruguay, where he will attend the inauguration of incoming Paraguayan President Santiago Peña in Asuncion. He will also meet the presidents and foreign ministers of both countries.
Paraguay moved its embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, and then moved it back to Tel Aviv only months later with the election of a new president. In retaliation, Israel shut down its embassy in Asuncion and has not reopened it.
Peña has said he will move the embassy back to Jerusalem, which could well be announced this week along with the reopening of Israel’s embassy.
Cohen will likely meet officials from other countries at Peña’s inauguration as well. He is expected to visit Latin America again in the coming months, focusing on Central America.
Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, who is widely viewed as wielding influence over his father, shares a Facebook post slamming IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi for not cracking down on reservists who have refused to show up for their duties over the coalition’s judicial overhaul legislation.
The post, written by right-wing journalist Erez Tadmor, alleges that Halevi “will be remembered as the most failed chief of staff in the history of the IDF.”
Yair Netanyahu deletes the post after it is widely reported in the media.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a former IDF chief, issues a statement supporting Halevi, apparently in reaction to the controversy, saying he is “one of the most outstanding officers I met in all my years in the IDF and the security forces — a brave, honest, serious, level-headed and thorough commander.
“The Israeli nation benefits greatly from the fact that in these complex times, Chief of Staff Halevi is leading the IDF.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a terse statement in reaction to a series of incidents of discrimination against secular women by bus drivers or by Haredi passengers in recent days.
“The State of Israel is a free country, in which nobody will set limits on who use public transportation, and in which nobody will dictate where he or she will sit,” he says. “Those who do this are breaking the law and should be punished.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid will meet on Thursday for a routine periodical security briefing, Lapid’s office says.
The previous such meeting took place three months ago.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich issue a joint statement hailing Fitch Ratings’ affirmation of Israel’s A+ credit rating and its stable credit outlook.
The pair argue that the decision “proves what we have repeatedly said from the start — Israel’s economy is strong, stable and resilient thanks to our responsible and conservative policy.”
Slamming the public focus on widespread fears of potential economic fallout resulting from the coalition’s far-reaching judicial overhaul plan, they add: “When checking the true data on the Israeli economy, the resulting picture is the opposite of the one some are trying to create via false panic campaigns in the news networks.”
Energy Minister Israel Katz is in Abu Dhabi to meet UAE Minister of Technology and Industry Sultan Al-Jaber and Jordan’s ministers of environment, water and energy.
They will be discussing a UAE-brokered water-for-electricity project between Israel and Jordan, in which Israel provides desalinated water in exchange for energy produced by Jordanian solar energy fields. The solar facility will be built by an Emirati firm.
According to an updated memorandum of understanding the three countries signed last November, there has to be tangible progress by the COP28 conference held in Dubai this coming November.
Katz, who is slated to become foreign minister within the year, is the first Israeli minister to visit the UAE since the Netanyahu government came to power in December.
נחתתי באבו דאבי לקראת המפגשים לקידום הפרויקטים האזוריים החשובים בנושא מים וחשמל. pic.twitter.com/zm2T0MTweB
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) August 13, 2023
Construction on a controversial wind turbine project in the Golan Heights that sparked large protests by members of the Druze community has not resumed despite the Prime Minister’s Office telling the company behind the project that they could return to work no later than August 1.
In June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a temporary halt to the project following widespread, violent protests and set up an inter-ministerial committee to address the issue.
In a letter sent by Netanyahu’s military secretary Avi Gil to Energix, the company behind the project, the developers were informed that the committee would present its findings by July 19 and were requested to delay continued construction until the start of August.
However, the committee has so far met twice and plans to meet a third time. It has not yet presented any findings, according to Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.
Energix is currently willing to wait a little longer in the hope that the issue can be suitably resolved, Zman Yisrael reports but notes that if the state continues to block the project it could be opening itself up to a demand for compensation, with the company already having invested some NIS 500 million ($133 million.)
The National Transplant Center announces that on Sunday, the corneas of Tel Aviv municipal patrol officer Chen Amir were transplanted successfully at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. The recipients are a 75-year-old man and an 81-year-old woman, both of whom wish to remain anonymous.
Amir, a 42-year-old married father of three daughters, was killed on August 5 by a Palestinian terrorist from Jenin whom Amir and his partner spotted acting suspiciously in the bustling Nahlat Biyamin neighborhood in Tel Aviv. The gunman, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, did not respond to Amir and his partner’s calls. When the two patrol officers dismounted from their motorcycles, the terrorist opened fire with a handgun, fatally shooting Amir in the head. Amir’s colleague pursued the terrorist and shot him dead.
After Amir was formally declared deceased at Ichilov, his wife said that she and her husband were in favor of organ donation and that both carried organ donation cards. As a result, Amir’s corneas and tissues (skin and tendons) were donated for transplantation.
The Israeli soldier who collapsed and died this morning during training near the central city of Elad is named as Pvt. Hillel Nehemiah Ofan, 20, from the West Bank settlement of Carmei Tzur.
Ofan, who served in the elite Yahalom combat engineering unit, is posthumously promoted to the rank of corporal.
The military is investigating the circumstances that led to Ofan collapsing and dying. First responders have indicated he apparently suffered from heatstroke or dehydration.
Fitch Ratings affirms Israel’s A+ credit rating with a stable outlook, as it did in March, while continuing to warn of the prospect of the government advancing more parts of its judicial overhaul.
In its report, Fitch says the high rating “balances a diversified, resilient and high value-added economy and strong external finances against a relatively high government debt/GDP ratio, ongoing security risks and a record of unstable governments that has hindered policymaking.”
Echoing comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in international interviews, Fitch says “the government’s initial judicial overhaul package has been watered down but remains highly controversial and faces strong civil society and political opposition.”
It notes the passage of the reasonableness law and Netanyahu’s stated plan to change the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee — while noting this plan may no longer aim to give the coalition complete control over the selection of judges — and the shelving of the plan to pass an “override clause.”
“Fitch believes the changes may have a negative impact on Israel’s credit metrics if the weakening of institutional checks leads to worse policy outcomes or sustained negative investor sentiment or weakens governance indicators,” the report notes.
But on a more positive note, it adds: “Fitch considers the current measures are unlikely to trigger a material exodus of talent and capital in the high-tech sector.” This is despite growing talk of a brain drain and relocations, trends that have yet to materialize.
Fitch projects “growth of about 3.1% of GDP in 2023 and 3.0% in 2024, below the Bank of Israel’s (BOI) estimate of potential at around 3.8% per year and after 6.4% in 2022, due to base effects, slow global growth and tight monetary policy.”
Regarding Israel’s mounting inflation, Fitch predicts it to “continue to slow until the end of the year as import prices drop and endogenous inflation slows with a moderation of consumption and investment.”
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