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Government sources report progress in talks with teachers; union head not optimistic

Souces in Prime Minister’s Office quoted saying NIS 800 million gap is bridgeable, but Teachers Union chief sticks to her guns amid threat to strike, disrupt start of school year

Yaffa Ben David, head of the Israel Teachers Union, arrives for negotiations at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, August 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yaffa Ben David, head of the Israel Teachers Union, arrives for negotiations at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, August 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

In Basel, Israeli minister urges paradigm change on Israel-Diaspora relations

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Channeling former US president John F. Kennedy, Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai calls to reverse the thinking about Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora, from how foreign Jews can help Israel — to how Israel can help them.

Shai makes his remarks at an event in Basel, Switzerland, marking the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, where Zionist leader Theodor Herzl laid the groundwork for the formation of the State of Israel 51 years later.

“Here, 125 years ago, Herzl walked the streets of Basel and formulated his vision. He turned to leaders and influential Jews all over the world to harness support for a task that seemed impossible — establishing a state for the Jewish people. Without Diaspora Jewry, the State of Israel would probably not have been established,” Shai says.

“Today, 125 years after that pivotal congress, the paradigm has changed. The State of Israel is thriving and leading in many fields — and it is now time to ask what Israel can do to secure the destiny of the Jewish people and Jewish resilience around the world,” he says.

In the speech, Shai also encourages Israel and Diaspora Jewry to find a new way of balancing their engagement with one another without overstepping their bounds and interfering in internal issues.

“It is our duty, as a state and as a government, to find ways to integrate the voices of world Jewry into the decision-making process within the State of Israel. Many of the decisions we make in Jerusalem affect not only the citizens of Israel, but Jewish communities around the world alike,” Shai says.

Footage shows Israeli driver threatening family with machete

A driver in northern Israel was filmed today getting out of his car and threatening another driver with a machete, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The outlet airs footage taken by the threatened driver, showing the man drawing the sword on Route 85 and yelling at the other driver to open his car door.

The threatened driver, who was with his wife and boy, tells Kan he was fearing for his family’s safety and considered running over the attacker, “but I acted with restraint.”

Police say a complaint has been filed and action is being taken to locate the suspect.

Poll predicts all-time-low Arab turnout in upcoming vote, potentially helping Netanyahu

An “in-depth” opinion poll published by the Kan public broadcaster predicts the upcoming November 1 election could feature the lowest-ever turnout among Arab Israelis, potentially causing Arab representation to dwindle and giving Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu a parliamentary majority.

The survey — conducted by Yousef Makladeh’s Statnet firm, which specializes in Israel’s Arab minority — predicts that Arab turnout will be 39%, the lowest in the country’s history.

The current lowest turnout, 44.6%, was reached in the last election, in 2021. A year before that, when all four major Arab and Arab-majority parties ran on a joint slate, Arab participation was at its peak — 64.8%, giving the Joint List 15 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

But the independent run by the Islamist Ra’am party has caused Arab representation to go down to 10 seats in the current Knesset (6 for the Joint List, 4 for Ra’am), and the poll predicts this will go down to 9 — 5 for the Joint List, 4 for Ra’am — if the makeup of parties doesn’t change. The survey also shows Arab voters handing 1.5 Knesset seats to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

If the Palestinian nationalist Balad party further splits from the Joint List, as it is threatening to do, Arab representation will suffer a further blow, even risking the possibility that all three parties will fail to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold, according to the poll.

In such a scenario, Balad will fail to enter the Knesset, and both the Joint List and Ra’am will be perilously close to oblivion at 4 seats each.

Netanyahu said to promise not to leave extremist Ben Gvir out of potential government

Left photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speach at the Likud party's election rally in Ramat Gan on February 29, 2020; Right photo: Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit party, holds a press conference in Jerusalem on February 26, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Left photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speach at the Likud party's election rally in Ramat Gan on February 29, 2020; Right photo: Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit party, holds a press conference in Jerusalem on February 26, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly promised extremist MK Itamar Ben Gvir he won’t form a government without him or his party if he wins the upcoming Knesset election, as part of Netanyahu’s efforts to broker the merger between Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit and Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism.

According to Channel 12 news, Netanyahu made the promise on Friday at the poolside in his Caesarea residence, after Ben Gvir voiced his fear that the Likud party will join forces with centrist leader Benny Gantz, sidelining the far-right alliance.

The outlet says one of the reasons Ben Gvir and Smotrich have joined forces is to minimize Netanyahu’s ability to form a coalition without them, since they don’t trust the opposition leader, who has been known to make pre-election promises only to break them later.

The report says that contrary to previous reports, Ben Gvir and Smotrich didn’t meet each other at Netanyahu’s residence on Friday, but rather held separate meetings with the Likud leader.

Government sources said optimistic teacher crisis will be resolved; union chief differs

Sources in the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are quoted by Hebrew media as expressing optimism and saying progress has been reached today in talks with the Israel Teachers Union on averting a nationwide strike at the start of the school year on Thursday.

While the talks are still largely stalled, the Walla news site says Treasury officials have described today’s discussions as “more productive” than before.

Various outlets quoted Prime Minister’s Office sources expressing optimism that a solution will be found and that the gap of NIS 800 million ($246 million) was too small to justify drastic measures like court injunctions.

The State Prosecutor’s Office says that if the relevant Finance Ministry officials ask for an injunction to prevent the teachers’ strike, it will be issued.

But unlike the government officials, Teachers Union chief Yaffa Ben-David sticks to her guns and tells Channel 12 news she doesn’t share the optimism, accusing Israel’s major TV networks of airing “spin” by the Treasury.

In first, woman diagnosed with monkeypox in Israel

The Health Ministry says that for the first time, a woman has been diagnosed with monkeypox in Israel over the past week.

The ministry says that so far, 233 people have been diagnosed with the disease in the country, and some 2,700 people have been vaccinated against it.

Pro-Palestinians demonstrate outside major World Zionist Organization event in Basel

A few hundred pro-Palestinian protesters hold a demonstration outside a hotel hosting a World Zionist Organization in Basel, Switzerland, August 28, 2022. (Photo credit: World Zionist Organization)
A few hundred pro-Palestinian protesters hold a demonstration outside a hotel hosting a World Zionist Organization in Basel, Switzerland, August 28, 2022. (Photo credit: World Zionist Organization)

A few hundred pro-Palestinian protesters are holding a demonstration outside the hotel in Basel, Switzerland, where the World Zionist Organization is hosting a large event marking the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, conference organizers say.

The demonstrators are waving Palestinian flags and anti-Israel signs on a bridge across from the Messe hotel.

No violence has been reported. The protesters are being kept a good distance from the hotel itself, which is under Swiss police protection.

Over 1,000 Jewish leaders from around the world are gathering in Basel this week for the event, including President Isaac Herzog and other Israeli officials, to mark the anniversary, which is widely seen as a major milestone in the lead-up to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Excluded from far-right merger, ultra-conservative Noam party to run independently

Noam party chairman Avi Maoz. (Noam Party)
Noam party chairman Avi Maoz. (Noam Party)

MK Avi Maoz, announces that his ultra-conservative, anti-LGBT Noam faction will run as a separate party in the upcoming November 1 election, after it was left out of the merger between Bezalel Smotrich’s far-right Religious Zionism and extremist Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit.

Maoz, whose faction was allied with both factions in the previous vote, says that after a meeting, Noam’s management decided to run independently — despite the high likelihood of it failing to pass the electoral threshold — citing “unequivocal calls from our many supporters.”

“Noam must be in the next Knesset,” Maoz says in a statement. “It’s inconceivable for the Jewish identity to be sent to the margins and to an unrealistic spot. Good luck to us all.”

Lapid says Netanyahu only held ‘press conferences’ against Iran deal, caused damage

In response to Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of the Iran deal, Prime Minister Yair Lapid argues that all Netanyahu did as premier was “press conferences and presentations.”

“The damage he caused during his tenure to the two issues most important to Israel — the struggle against Iran’s nuclear program and the relations with the United States — is severe and deep and we are still fixing it,” Lapid says in a statement.

Lapid says he has summoned Netanyahu for a security briefing tomorrow, “so that he will at least have some idea what he’s talking about.”

Lapid said to ask Avidar to quit Knesset race in face of dire polls, is rebuffed

MK Eli Avidar speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on August 15, 2022. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
MK Eli Avidar speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on August 15, 2022. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid has reportedly asked renegade ex-Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Eli Avidar to withdraw the candidacy of his new party but was rebuffed.

Avidar, who rebelled against Yisrael Beytenu and the coalition on multiple occasions throughout its tenure, left Avigdor Liberman’s party and recently formed his own, under the name Israel Free and Democratic. However, no polls have put him anywhere near the electoral threshold to enter the Knesset.

According to Channel 13 news, Lapid met Avidar today and asked him to nix his party’s candidacy if opinion polls continue to predict he’ll fail to make it into the Knesset, thus wasting votes for the center-left electoral bloc, which also includes the right-wing, secularist Yisrael Beytenu.

Avidar reportedly answered that he’s open to mergers and unions, but will run “under any circumstances.”

Netanyahu hits back at Lapid, says he ‘abandoned’ public fight against Iran deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press regarding the Iranian nuclear program, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on September 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press regarding the Iranian nuclear program, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on September 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu hits back at Prime Minister Yair Lapid, accusing the latter of “completely abandoning” the public fight against talks to resume the Iran deal over the past year.

Earlier today, Lapid told reporters: “We must not get to the situation we were in 2015. To this day, we are paying for the damage caused by Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, following which the US administration ended its dialogue with us and did not allow Israel to make amendments to the agreement.”

Under former premier Netanyahu, Israel fought the original 2015 agreement in the court of public opinion and in a particularly contentious direct address by Netanyahu to the US Congress, coordinated without White House involvement. The US pulled out of the agreement under former president Donald Trump in 2018, and under Biden has been negotiating a return for months.

Lapid and former prime minister Naftali Bennett — who is currently abroad on vacation – moved the debate into private channels, attempting to avoid the relationship fallout that occurred between Israel and the Obama administration.

“In the past year, Lapid and [Defense Minister Benny Gantz] completely abandoned the public struggle against the Iran nuclear deal,” Netanyahu says in a statement. “For 12 years, we fought this deal with determination and even caused the US to withdraw from it. But in their only year in power, Lapid and Gantz let their guard down and enabled the US and Iran to reach a nuclear deal that endangers our future.”

He accuses Lapid of failing to publicly challenge these efforts in Congress, in the UN or in foreign media, and of only “waking up” too late, after major progress was made in the talks.

He claims as an example of the government’s “helplessness” that Bennett, currently in charge of Iran-related matters, “is currently vacationing in Italy, on the eve of the deal’s signing, and in an area without reception.”

Netanyahu has also confirmed he will attend a routine security briefing with Lapid tomorrow at 5 p.m. For most of his tenure as opposition chief, he has refused to personally take part in the periodical briefings.

Elections Committee dismisses Yesh Atid petition against Likud campaign video

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid next to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at a Knesset session in memory of Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid next to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at a Knesset session in memory of Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Central Elections Committee rejects out of hand a petition filed by Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party against a campaign video released by opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

The committee’s chairman, Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Amit, rules that the clip — in which Likud accused Lapid and Joint List politicians of meeting representatives of the Palestinian Authority, handing them influence over the upcoming November 1 Knesset elections — doesn’t violate the law and should not be removed.

Yesh Atid charged that the campaign spot includes lies — since Lapid hasn’t met PA representatives as prime minister — and thus violates a legal clause that prohibits political parties from “disrupting” other parties’ campaigns.

Amit dismisses the argument and says his committee isn’t tasked with determining the accuracy of campaign claims, and doesn’t have the means to do so.

He says the legal clause doesn’t relate to the accuracy of the campaign’s content, but rather to the question of whether campaign material by one party could disrupt the campaign of another party — for instance, by making it seem it is campaign material by a different party.

Amit rejects the petition and orders Yesh Atid to pay NIS 10,000 ($3,075) in legal fees.

Report: Looming Iran deal to include 4 phases, taking full effect after 165 days

The Haaretz daily publishes what it says are details from a draft of the looming Iran nuclear deal said to be in the final stages of negotiation between Tehran and world powers.

According to the unsourced report, the draft deal includes four incremental steps in the halting of Iran’s nuclear activity and in the lifting of Western sanctions on the Islamic Republic, with the fourth and final step taking effect 165 days after the deal is signed.

The purpose of the gradual steps is to consolidate trust between the parties, according to the report.

Before any deal is signed, the sides will reportedly finalize a deal that will see Western prisoners freed by Tehran in exchange for Iranian assets being unfrozen by Western nations and initial sanctions relief.

The first step, taking effect on the day of the signing, will see Iran freeze its uranium enrichment, although it will be allowed to hold on to the enriched uranium it will have stockpiled before that date.

The report says the second step will take 30 days and will see the administration of US President Joe Biden bring the deal to the US Congress for approval. The third step, 60 days after the Congress approval, will see Washington notify the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about its decision to rejoin the pact.

The fourth and final step — after an additional 60 days — will see the US formally return to the deal, with the sides removing more sanctions and halting their violations of the 2015 deal, according to the report.

Months after mass recall, Strauss factory gets OK to gradually resume production

The Health Ministry reissues its production license to a popular chocolate factory that was temporarily closed earlier this year due to salmonella test samples returning positive.

The ministry says that months after the mass recall of Strauss products, the factory can now gradually resume production, with authorities continuing inspections until it can resume full operations.

Ben Gvir suggests that this time, he’ll get a cabinet post if Netanyahu becomes PM

Left photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speach at the Likud party's election rally in Ramat Gan on February 29, 2020; Right photo: Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit party, holds a press conference in Jerusalem on February 26, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Left photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speach at the Likud party's election rally in Ramat Gan on February 29, 2020; Right photo: Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit party, holds a press conference in Jerusalem on February 26, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir suggests that unlike in the previous election, this time Benjamin Netanyahu will make him a cabinet minister if the Likud leader becomes prime minister.

Asked during an interview with Channel 12 news about Netanyahu’s past pledge not to make him a minister, Ben Gvir says: “If you ask Netanyahu today, he won’t say the same thing.”

The extremist lawmaker says that if his Otzma Yehudit party does as well as opinion polls are currently predicting, “I’m intending and hoping and preparing for an influential role, so that I can change things here.”

“Why does the left attack and besmirch me so much?” he asks rhetorically, continuing: “Because they know that when I’m there [in a position of power], the reality will be different.”

In meeting, Lapid asks Liberman to give a chance to talks with teachers union

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and reportedly asks him to give a chance to ongoing negotiations with the Israel Teachers Union rather than seeking an injunction forcing educators back to work as the school year begins later this week.

Liberman says he was “compelled” to request the injunction, after the Education Ministry “chose not to request one due to its own considerations.”

The Teachers Union is threatening a general strike, disrupting the start of the school year on September 1, demanding that salaries be raised significantly and that a seniority-based payment system not be replaced with a performance-oriented one.

Education minister says Liberman’s injunction request ‘proves’ he doesn’t want a deal

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton speaks at a conference of the Federation of Local Authorities ahead of the opening of the school year in Ganei Tikva, August 18, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton speaks at a conference of the Federation of Local Authorities ahead of the opening of the school year in Ganei Tikva, August 18, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton scolds Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, arguing that the latter’s request for an injunction forcing teachers back to work during ongoing negotiations signals he isn’t interested in reaching a compromise.

“Those who ask for an injunction, at a time when teams from all sides are convening for negotiations on agreements that will lead to the orderly opening of the school year, are proving that they aren’t interested in reaching a deal and aren’t invested in the future of the education system and the children’s future,” she says.

“This is a national crisis,” Shasha-Biton adds. “It’s time to convene the government to solve it.”

Boy, 2, dies after Gush Etzion drowning incident in private pool

A 2-year-old boy has died after being seriously hurt in a near-drowning incident in a private pool on Thursday.

The boy, named by Hebrew media as Yosef Hananel Lev, is declared dead at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital after being rescued from the pool in the West Bank settlement of Metzad, in the Gush Etzion region.

His funeral will be held at 4 p.m. in Jerusalem.

The past few months have seen a spate of deadly drownings, many at private pools or unsupervised beaches without a lifeguard while Israelis vacation during the summer break.

Last Thursday, a baby boy was declared dead a day after he was rescued from a near-drowning at a pool in Safed. Ultra-Orthodox media outlets identified the 1-year-old child as Yonatan Deutch, the son of Yehoshua Deutch, a member of the local council of Kiryat Ye’arim (Telz Stone) outside of Jerusalem.

Last month, a 5-year-old boy from Umm al-Fahm was declared dead after a drowning incident at the Nahal Kibbutzim stream near Beit She’an. An 18-year-old girl and her father drowned the same day.

According to figures released last week by the Magen David Adom ambulance service, 31 people in Israel died so far in drowning incidents this summer, out of close to 200 who had been treated for such injuries.

At least 32 killed, 159 wounded in Libya clashes

Clashes between backers of Libya’s rival governments have killed at least 32 people, the health ministry says in a new toll, after a battle that has sparked fears of a major new conflict.

Armed groups exchanged fire that damaged several hospitals and set buildings on fire starting Friday evening, but a cautious calm set in by Saturday evening.

IDF says another attempted gun-smuggling from Jordan foiled

Weapons seized by security forces after an alleged gun-smuggling over the border with Jordan on August 28, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces foiled another attempt to smuggle firearms into Israel from Jordan this morning, the military says.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras identified a suspect close to the border and dispatched troops and police officers to the scene.

The man was arrested, and two handguns he had in his possession were seized, the IDF says.

The incident comes as the IDF and Israel Police have revealed they busted a gun-running operation on the border with Jordan last weekend.

The IDF said last the August 21 incident was the 18th smuggling attempt it had thwarted this year, with more than 300 weapons seized.

Liberman says he’s asked for injunction forcing teachers back to work

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman tells reporters that his ministry has asked the State Prosecutor’s Office for an injunction that would force teachers back to work at the start of the school year on Thursday.

Talks aimed at averting threatened strike action by the Israel Teachers Union at the beginning of the upcoming school year on Thursday have failed to reach a conclusion for months.

“We have been forced to contact the State Prosecutor’s Office and ask for an injunction so that the school year will begin without disruption,” Liberman says, adding that he hopes the Education Ministry will join the Treasury in its demand, and that the negotiations are still ongoing.

With schools set to open later this week, political leaders have taken an active role in the issue, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid holding talks last week with Liberman, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, Israel Teachers Union head Yaffa Ben David and National Parents Association chair Merom Shiff in an effort to find a solution to the months-long crisis.

Negotiations for a new agreement are said to be stuck over a union demand that a system determining salary hikes based on rank and seniority remain in place, rather than a system that would shift some of those raises to newer teachers and those who excel at their work.

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