The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
Western leaders urge ‘restraint’ around Ukrainian nuclear plant
BERLIN, Germany — The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, and the United States are urging military restraint around the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, as they vow to maintain their backing for Kyiv in the war.
In a phone call, the four leaders also call for a “quick visit” to the nuclear site by independent inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman.
A flare-up in fighting around the Russian-controlled nuclear power station — with both sides blaming each other for attacks — has raised the specter of a disaster worse than in Chernobyl.
On Friday, the French presidency said Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed that IAEA inspectors can travel to the nuclear plant for an inspection.
During their talks today Scholz, US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also “agreed that support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression would be sustained.”
Israel said concerned Hezbollah could carry out ‘provocation’ before possible maritime deal
Israel is concerned that the Hezbollah terror group could carry out another “provocation” before the possible signing of a maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon, Channel 12 reports.
The report does not detail what kind of “provocation” security officials believe Hezbollah will carry out. In July, Israel intercepted four unnamed Hezbollah drones flying toward the Karish offshore gas field.
According to the network, which does not cite a source, Israel will give up “a segment in the heart of the sea” as part of the talks, while Lebanon will forgo an area close to the coast.
The report comes days after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned of an “escalation” if Lebanon’s demands are not met in US-mediated negotiations.
Ben Gvir names scion of prominent rabbinic family to far-right slate
Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir says he has selected the scion of a prominent rabbinic family for the No. 4 slot on his Otzma Yehudit party’s electoral slate.
Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu, who heads a rabbinical group, is the grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, and the son of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed and a leading national-religious figure.
זהו ערב היסטורי עבור שני ציבורים אדירים שמעתה יצעדו יחדיו, הדתי לאומי והמסורתי. הרב עמיחי אליהו, ברוך הבא. pic.twitter.com/vYWBip5kno
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) August 21, 2022
Yesh Atid, National Unity ink surplus vote-sharing deal
Yesh Atid and the National Unity party sign an overflow agreement, by which the two parties will conserve votes within their bloc.
Knesset seats are apportioned by proportional shares of votes, which often fail to conform to round numbers for seats. This kind of agreement allows allied parties to pool their extra votes and assign a potential additional seat to the party that was closer to obtaining it.
Yesh Atid faction leader Boaz Toporovsky, who signed the agreement on behalf of his party, says “it’s the right thing” for the party and the bloc.
While both are members of the outgoing government and part of the same anti-Netanyahu bloc, Yesh Atid and National Unity are each separately competing to be Israel’s ruling party.
כיו״ר סיעת יש עתיד, חתמתי הערב עם חברי הקרוב, ח״כ איתן גינזבורג, על הסכם עודפים בין המפלגות.
כפי שפעלנו בשיתוף פעולה מלא בקואליציה הקודמת, נעשה הכל כדי להקים גם את הממשלה הבאה, שתמשיך לעבוד למענכם.@YeshAtidParty @EitanGinzburg pic.twitter.com/y9sV7Dgp9q
— ????Boaz Toporovsky- בועז טופורובסקי (@BToporovsky) August 21, 2022
Biden discusses Iran nuclear talks with leaders of UK, France and Germany
US President Joe Biden spoke today with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, and Britain about the ongoing Iran nuclear talks, according to the White House, after negotiations appeared to make progress over the weekend.
The matter was raised during a call Biden had with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“They discussed ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the need to strengthen support for partners in the Middle East region, and joint efforts to deter and constrain Iran’s destabilizing regional activities,” the statement from the White House says.
Singapore repeals colonial-era law barring gay sex
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Singapore announces it will decriminalize sex between men by repealing a colonial-era law, while protecting the city-state’s traditional norms and its definition of marriage.
During his speech at the annual National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says he believes it is the “right thing to do now,” as most Singaporeans will now accept it.
“Private sexual behavior between consenting adults does not raise any law and order issue. There is no justification to prosecute people for it, nor to make it a crime,” Lee says. “This will bring the law into line with current social mores and I hope provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.”
Lee vows the repeal will be limited and not shake Singapore’s traditional family and societal norms, including how marriage is defined, what children are taught in schools, what is shown on television, and general public conduct.
He says the government will amend the constitution to ensure that there can be no constitutional challenge to allow same-sex marriage.
“Even as we repeal Section 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage,” Lee says. “We have to amend the Constitution to protect it. And we will do so. This will help us repeal Section 377A in a controlled and careful way.”
Section 377A of the Penal Code was introduced under British colonial rule in the 1930s. British rule over the island ended in 1963 when Singapore became a state of Malaysia. It became independent two years later, but retained the Penal Code, which made sex between men punishable by up to two years in jail.
Latest talks between Treasury, teachers union end without major progress
The latest salary negotiations between the Finance Ministry and Israel Teachers Union have ended without any significant progress, according to Hebrew media reports.
The sides are expected to reconvene tomorrow.
Shin Bet chief visits Egypt amid reports of strained ties
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar is visiting Egypt amid reports of strained ties between Jerusalem and Cairo in the wake of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end recent fighting in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian terrorists.
During the trip, Bar is meeting with Egyptian spymaster Abbas Kamel, Hebrew media says.
The Shin Bet won’t comment on the trip.
Zionist Spirit taps religious kibbutz leader Amitai Porat for 3rd spot on slate
Zionist Spirit announces religious kibbutz leader Amitai Porat will be third on the party’s electoral list, behind leaders Ayelet Shaked and Yoaz Hendel.
“After four rounds of elections, standing before the fifth, I feel that our national resilience has been wounded,” Porat says at a Kfar Maccabiah press conference announcing his entry into politics.
Porat is a member of the national-religious movement, which he says can bridge Israel’s social and political divides.
Zionist Spirit has searched for a figure to attract national religious voters, as part of its struggle to bring back voters who fled Shaked’s previous party, Yamina. About a third of Yamina’s 2021 voters were national-religious or religious Zionist.
“Nationalist and statesmanlike people deserve a home, religious Zionism deserves a home — the hundred-year-old movement, the normal one, the sane one, the one that connects and does not alienate,” says Hendel.
Porat is the son of former MK Hanan Porat and the grandson of founders of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, where he lives.
Zionist Spirit is currently polling below the 3.25% electoral threshold necessary to enter Knesset, but should it succeed, lawmaker Zvi Hauser will likely be the fourth and last person on the party’s slate to get a seat.
Rare August rains fall in northern Israel
Rain falls in the Upper Galilee and Hula Valley regions of northern Israel, in rare precipitation for August.
בשיא הקיץ – גשם ירד באזור אגמון החולה • ענבר שלומית רובין, שעובדת באתר, אצל @IshayShnerb: "יום משוגע. השמש כבר יצאה וייבשה את הכל, אבל האוויר נקי והריח משגע"
(צילום: באדיבות המרואיינת) pic.twitter.com/Wta1MYWfxT
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) August 21, 2022
UAE reappoints ambassador to Iran, 6 years after downgrading ties
The United Arab Emirates announces the reappointment of its ambassador to Iran six years after downgrading diplomatic ties.
A statement from the UAE’s foreign ministry says Ambassador Saif Mohammed Al Zaabi will take up his post “in the coming days to contribute to further advancing bilateral relations in cooperation with officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve the common interests of the two countries and the wider region.”
Man seriously injured in suspected mob shooting near water park
A man in his 30s is seriously injured after being shot near the water park at Kibbutz Shefayim in central Israel.
Hebrew media reports describe the shooting as a suspected mob hit.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it is taking the man to a local hospital.
Pollard seems to rule out run with far-right: My place not in the Knesset, I’ve suffered enough
Jonathan Pollard appears to rule out running for the Knesset with MK Itamar Ben Gvir, after a report said the far-right leader was considering offering the convicted Israeli spy a spot in his Otzma Yehudit party.
“It’s important to me to contribute to the nation of Israel, but my place isn’t in the Knesset. I think I’ve already suffered enough,” Pollard, who served 30 years in US federal prison, is quoted as saying by Channel 12 news.
CEO of embattled Israeli spyware firm NSO Group to resign; 100 workers to be fired
The chief executive of embattled Israeli spyware maker NSO has stepped down as part of a reorganization, the company announces.
NSO has been connected to a number of scandals resulting from alleged misuse by customers of its flagship Pegasus phone surveillance software. Last year, the US blacklisted the company, saying its tools had been used to “conduct transnational repression.”
In a statement, NSO says that CEO Shalev Hulio, one of the company’s founders, would be stepping down. Yaron Shohat, the company’s chief operating officer, will lead the firm on an interim basis and manage the reorganization process.
The statement says the reorganization will examine “all aspects of its business, including streamlining its operations to ensure NSO remains one of the world’s leading high-tech cyber intelligence companies, focusing on NATO-member countries.”
A company official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the reorganization efforts, says that 100 employees, or roughly 13% of NSO’s work force, would be dismissed.
New Jewish Agency chief officially takes up post
Former IDF general Doron Almog took the reins today at the Jewish Agency for Israel, as the organization’s offices face the possibility of being shuttered in Russia.
On his first day in the position, Almog visited new immigrants and Ulpan Etzion, a leading Hebrew-language immersion center in Jerusalem.
“Under my leadership, The Jewish Agency will continue to assist every Jew who wishes to immigrate to Israel and lead aliyah rescue operations across the globe,” the new agency chair told a group of 180 new immigrants at the ulpan.
“Almog will devote his first days in office to become thoroughly acquainted with the breadth of Jewish Agency activities in Jewish communities worldwide and throughout Israel,” the agency says in a statement.
Almog, 71, a past head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command, dedicated his life after leaving the military to running a widely lauded rehabilitation village in the Negev desert for people with physical and mental disabilities. ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran is named for his son Eran, who had severe autism and physical disabilities.
Almog took over from acting head Yaakov Hagoel, who has served in an interim capacity since former chair Isaac Herzog left the organization to become president of Israel in 2021.
He begins his role at a challenging time for the Jewish Agency. The organization is currently battling a petition in Moscow’s Basmany Court filed by the Russian Justice Ministry, which has called for shuttering its offices in the country.
Joint List MK says he backs ditching Israeli flag, national anthem and Law of Return
Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh says he’s in favor of ditching the Israeli flag, national anthem and the Law of Return, which allows Jews from across the world to immigrate to Israel.
“We need a serious change in the racist structure that discriminates in favor of Jews and to build a better democratic model,” Abou Shahadeh, who heads the Arab nationalist Balad faction within the Joint List alliance, tells Kan public radio.
Price of milk, other state-regulated dairy products to go up 4.9%
The Israeli Dairy Board approves raising the price of milk and other state-regulated dairy products by 4.9 percent.
The dairy price hike comes amid a general rise in the cost of goods, with official statistics from last month showing inflation was up 5.2% from July 2021.
PM’s office: Lapid, Liberman discussed finding ‘solutions’ for start of school year
Prime Minister Yair Lapid has held talks today with numerous officials, his office says, amid efforts to avoid a teachers’ strike at the start of the school year.
Lapid met with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, whose ministry is holding salary talks with the Israel Teachers Union. The two discussed how to find “solutions for the start of the coming school year, properly and on time,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The premier also spoke with the union’s leader, Yaffa Ben David, and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton. He is due to talk later with Merom Schiff, head of the National Parents’ Council.
Israel’s Dolgopyat wins gold at European Artistic Gymnastics Championship
Israeli gymnast Artem Dolgopyat wins a gold medal for his floor routine at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championship.
Dolgopyat won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, a feat he followed up by finishing first at the World Cup in Cairo in March.
Construction worker dies after falling into pit, hours after fatal accident
A construction worker dies after falling into a pit at a building site in northern Israel.
The fatal incident in Gadish comes hours after two construction workers were killed in an workplace accident elsewhere in northern Israel.
Charges to be filed against Islamic Jihad’s West Bank leader in coming days
The Israel Defense Forces says Bassem Saadi, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, will be formally charged in the coming days.
According to the IDF, Saadi’s upcoming indictment will include charges of membership in a terror group, conducting operations for said terror group, incitement, and supporting terrorism.
Earlier, a military court extended Saadi’s arrest until August 25.
Saadi was arrested on August 1 by Israeli troops in the Palestinian city of Jenin. His arrest sparked the recent round of fighting against the terror group in the Gaza Strip.
Balad leader denies meeting with PA intelligence chief in Ramallah
The head of Balad, a faction within the Joint List party, denies having attended reported meetings between other senior Arab Israeli lawmakers and the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence chief.
“I heard about it from the media,” MK Sami Abou Shahadeh tells Army Radio.
According to the Channel 12 news report Friday, the meetings in Ramallah with the PA’s Majed Faraj was also attended by Joint List chief Ayman Odeh and MK Ahmad Tibi, who respectively head the party’s Hadash and Ta’al factions.
The unsourced report said Faraj, a close confidant of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, met the Joint List MKs in an effort to convince them to reunite with Ra’am, which ran separately in the last elections and ended up joining the coalition.
Death toll in Somalia hotel attack climbs to 21 — health minister
MOGADISHU, Somalia — The number of civilians killed in a 30-hour siege by al-Shabaab jihadists at a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has climbed to 21, Health Minister Ali Haji Adan says today.
“The ministry of health has so far confirmed the deaths of 21 people and 117 people wounded” in the gun and bomb attack by the Al-Qaeda-linked group that began on Friday evening and lasted over a day, he says.
Senior Ukrainian intelligence official found dead
KYIV, Ukraine — A regional head of Ukraine’s SBU intelligence services has been found dead at his home in central Ukraine, the prosecutor general’s office says today.
Oleksandr Nakonechny was found by his wife with gunshot wounds in a room of their apartment in the city of Kropyvnytsky last night after she heard gunfire, the office writes on Telegram.
Police have opened an investigation into the death, but made no further comments.
A local politician, Andrii Lavrus, writes on Telegram that Nakonechny had shot himself. The information cannot be immediately confirmed.
Nakonechny has headed the SBU in the Kirovograd region since January 2021.
In July, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired the head of the SBU, his childhood friend Ivan Bakanov, saying he did not do enough to rid the agency of spies and Russian collaborators.
Zelensky said there would be a revision of SBU personnel and several senior officials at the agency have been fired over the past several months.
Airports authority says planned flights for Palestinians from Eilat airport delayed
The Israel Airports Authority announces that planned flights for West Bank Palestinians out of Ramon airport near Eilat have been delayed.
“When a date is selected we will update the media and the public,” a statement from the airports authority says, without giving a reason for the delay.
The planned flights by a pair of Turkish companies — which were due to begin later this month — marked a shift in Israeli policy, and would allow Palestinians to travel to Turkey without having to fly from Jordan or obtain a hard-to-come-by entry permit into Israel to fly from Ben Gurion Airport.
Liberman rejects calls for Lapid’s involvement in salary talks with teachers union
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman rejects calls by several ministers for Prime Minister Yair Lapid to get involved in salary talks between the Treasury and Israel Teachers Union aimed at averting at a threatened strike that could delay the start of the school year.
“I clarified in the meeting with the prime minister and education minister that the only person who is managing the negotiations is the commissioner of wages at the Finance Ministry. We don’t need observers or kosher supervisors,” Liberman says in a statement.
There are “real gaps,” according to Liberman, who says the divide between the sides relates to what weight to put on tenure or performance in determining teachers’ salaries.
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