The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
CHICAGO — The Israeli Consulate in Chicago hosts dozens of local leaders for an event on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in education.
Keynote speaker Professor Yifat Bitton presents successful strategies she has found as president of the Achva Academic College in southern Israel, which serves one of the most diverse student populations in Israel.
Bitton suggests encouraging students from less privileged backgrounds to diversify their college majors so that the workforce is less homogenous and more reflective of Israeli society.
She also highlights the rising drop-out rates among minority populations from higher education institutions and stresses the importance of addressing each minority’s challenges individually in order to mitigate the problem.
Discussing the challenges of running an institution where the majority of students come from underprivileged backgrounds, Bitton says she has turned down offers from donors to supply laptops, explaining that these would likely go unused due to the connectivity issues in Bedouin towns. Instead, she has encouraged donors to put down funds for computer rooms on-site at the campus, so that they can be used by all students and prevent their division based on socioeconomic status.
US President Joe Biden says he is willing to speak to Vladimir Putin for the first time since the Ukraine invasion if the Russian leader truly wants to end the war.
“I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet,” Biden tells a joint news conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who has maintained dialogue with Putin.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides declines to say whether he will meet with incoming national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
“I’m not going to get into who we’ll meet with and who [we won’t]. I don’t even know who the people are going to be,” Nides says during an interview with Channel 12.
“As Joe Biden said on the phone call, ‘Bibi, I’ve known you for 40 years. You’re my friend. I will work with you,” he continues. “I’m not going to get into individuals and who we will or won’t. I’m not going to speculate what Ben Gvir’s going to do — who we’ll meet with who we’re not going to meet with. What I’ll say is that I’ll spend time with this government, and I have a great relationship with this government.”
Nides also appears to deny reports that he tried to dictate who Israel’s next defense minister will be to prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I can’t tell Bibi Netanyahu what to do,” Nides tells Channel 12. “But that job is very important… I’ve made that very clear [to him].”
“We will work with whoever the prime minister puts in that job,” Nides says — a position that is easier for him to stake now that Netanyahu has declared that the defense minister position will be held by a member of his own party.
Smotrich, who supports annexing large parts of the West Bank, without granting equal rights to Palestinians in those areas, initially demanded to be defense minister post, but was ultimately rebuffed by Netanyahu. However, a coalition agreement reached earlier this evening revealed that Likud has agreed to grant authority over the Civil Administration, which governs civilian affairs in 60% of the West Bank, to a member of Smotrich’s party.
Nides adds the administration wants to preserve chances for a two-state solution and keep the current status quo on Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount, saying it will work with Jerusalem on those issues.
Washington does not support “conditioning aid” to Israel on anything, he also says.
In her first apparent reaction to the likely next government’s radical planned judicial reforms, Chief Justice Esther Hayut says the justice system will “continue to stand strong even in light of the ‘lightning and thunder’ being seen and heard at this time.”
“They are directed against us and are likely signaling the arrival of the storm,” Hayut tells court managers at an event. “But when the law, and the law alone, directs us — we will weather that too.”
The incoming coalition has vowed to pass a so-called override clause, enabling the Knesset to strike down High Court rulings with a minimal 61-strong majority, in addition to increasing politicians’ powers in appointing judges and many other controversial plans.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will headline the annual conference of the dovish J Street Middle East lobby on Sunday, the State Department confirms.
“We are deeply honored and excited that Secretary Blinken will be addressing this year’s J Street conference,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami says in a statement. “At a critical time for Israelis and Palestinians and for the future of liberal democracy in the region and around the world, our movement is looking forward to hearing about these challenges from our nation’s top diplomat.”
Also set to appear at the two-day confab are nearly a dozen progressive Democratic lawmakers, former Meretz MK Yair Golan and Israeli and Palestinian civil society leaders.
A spokesman for Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog tells The Times of Israel that the envoy was invited to address the J Street conference as well but he will be unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
Previous Israeli governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu refused to engage with J Street, though the outgoing coalition that replaced him did host several delegations from the left-wing lobby over the past year.
Far-right Otzma Yehudit party leader Itamar Ben Gvir arrives at a United Arab Emirates National Day reception in Tel Aviv.
The extremist politician, expected to become national security minister in the upcoming government, was invited to the event hosted by UAE Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja at Hilton’s grand ballroom.
בן גביר והשגריר האמירותי באירוע של השגרירות בתל אביב pic.twitter.com/i9Oc43pyu4
— Moriah Asraf Wolberg (@MoriahAsraf) December 1, 2022
Kanye West continues his string of antisemitic tirades, this time going as far as praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
“I see good things about Hitler,” the US rapper says, speaking with far-right conspiracist Alex Jones.
“Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.”
Watch for yourself. In the same breath, Kanye West praises Hitler and attacks Jews. pic.twitter.com/HXhdPBNrTd
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) December 1, 2022
Far-right Religious Zionism to control planning, construction at key West Bank civil authority COGAT
A spokesman for Religious Zionism party chief Bezalel Smotrich confirms that the far-right party will have control over planning and construction issues in the Israeli government’s civil authority in the West Bank, known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. The related pieces of this sensitive hybrid military-civil unit will be under a Religious Zionism party minister, housed within the Defense Ministry.
Channel 12 news reports, without citing sources, that Smotrich will himself fill this role, in addition to serving as finance minister in a power-sharing system in the next government. A Religious Zionism spokesperson denies this, saying the internal distribution of the party’s portfolios hasn’t been decided yet.
The general in charge of COGAT reports directly to the defense minister, bypassing the Israel Defense Force’s chief of staff. Inserting a to-be-named Religious Zionism minister into the office will presumably change that sensitive chain of command, in that on issues of planning, construction, and demolition of illegal homes, COGAT would report directly to a far-right politician within the Defense Ministry, rather than to the defense minister.
The unit also houses the Civil Administration, parts of which will fall under Religious Zionism’s control. The Civil Administration is the government’s civil representative in the West Bank.
The Israel Defense Forces’ 99th Division wraps up a first five-day drill simulating a sudden outbreak of fighting on the northern frontier, the military says.
The division, established in 2020, includes several infantry, armored, artillery and special forces brigades.
“During the week, the forces of the division, conscripts and reserve troops practiced dealing with challenges and sudden events in several combat fronts at the same time, while focusing on the northern arena,” the IDF says.
The IDF says it placed an emphasis on defending against an attack on the border while moving logistical equipment to the frontier.
The military adds that the division’s first drill finalizes the process of it becoming operational for a future war with the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, or other Iran-backed groups in Syria.
The Likud and Religious Zionism parties sign a coalition deal, giving Bezalel Smotrich’s far-right party the finance ministry for two years, control over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and an influential position to direct judicial reform in the Knesset, among other responsibilities.
Smotrich will serve as finance minister in an expected power-sharing deal with Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who is said to be slated to start in the interior and health ministries, provided that the legal barriers to Deri serving as a minister due to his recent tax offenses conviction are overcome.
Critically, Religious Zionism will also place a minister within the Defense Ministry to take responsibility for settlement in the West Bank. Likud, which announces the agreement following marathon negotiations this week, says the position will act in coordination with its party leader and presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Religious Zionism had pressed to take control of the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration, Israel’s civil authority in the West Bank responsible for Jewish settlement and Palestinian building in Area C. Handing the Civil Administration to Religious Zionism, which has a pro-annexation agenda, has been criticized by some as “de facto annexation” of areas of the West Bank.
The announcement does not make clear which areas of the Civil Administration will fall under the purview of Religious Zionism’s minister.
Smotrich’s hardline party will also receive the Immigration and Absorption Ministry and the newly named National Missions Ministry, whose responsibilities have yet to be detailed.
Party lawmaker Simcha Rothman, one of the architects of Religious Zionism’s sweeping plan to place more political control over the judiciary, will take the head of the Knesset’s influential Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, a key stop for legislation touching on judicial reform.
Additional areas of agreement include “Jewish identity, education, law, settlement and society,” although the Likud statement does not detail further.
A separate deal, yet to be drafted, will outline policies to be advanced by the parties in the next government.
A senior official at the Tel Aviv Municipality says the city will fund any educational activities and programs that get canceled by the presumed incoming government.
The development comes a day after it was published that ultra-conservative anti-LGBT extremist Avi Maoz will get control of an Education Ministry unit that decides on external education programs.
The head of the Tel Aviv city hall’s Education department, Shirley Rimon Bracha, says in a letter to school principals in the predominantly liberal city that Maoz’s expected appointment “is a management drama that could become a moral drama as well.
“I assume we all fear extremist, one-sided political intervention in the school material,” she writes.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who is expected to be replaced in the coming weeks by far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir, has reportedly warned that his successor could spark a widescale Palestinian intifada, or uprising, if he goes through with plans to change the status quo in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount holy site.
The Ynet news site reports that during a meeting today summarizing the ministry’s conduct during his tenure, Barlev said he advised presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put someone other than Ben Gvir in control of the Israel Police.
“If there is a change in the status quo on the Temple Mount there will be a third intifada,” Barlev reportedly said, referring to two previous uprisings, in the late 1980s and the early 2000s, that included many deadly terror attacks against Israelis.
“This is clear to me and also to Netanyahu, but we have seen that his considerations are frequently personal,” he charged.
Ben Gvir has for many years — and also recently — slammed the status quo on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site and the third-holiest site for Muslims, who refer to it as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or the Noble Sanctuary. Jews are currently allowed to visit the site — during limited hours, from a single entrance point, on a predetermined route and with heavy restrictions — but not to pray or display religious or Israeli national symbols.
A military court convicts a Palestinian terrorist over a deadly shooting attack in the West Bank in 2015.
Maad Hamed was part of a Hamas cell that killed Malachy Rosenfeld, 25, in a drive-by shooting on June 29, 2015.
Hamed is convicted of intentionally causing the death of Rosenfeld. The charge is equivalent to murder in the West Bank military court system.
He is also charged with a separate shooting attack during the same month, the Israel Defense Forces says. No ruling has been issued yet on this charge.
Hamed was arrested by the Palestinian Authority in July 2015, not long after the attack, and remained in its custody until April this year, when he was arrested by Israeli security forces.
Three others were wounded in the attack that killed Rosenfeld. The Hamas terrorists opened fire on their car near the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, north of Ramallah, as they returned home from a basketball game.
Three members of the cell have already been given life sentences for the attack.
The Population and Immigration Authority has agreed to start registering the hundreds of couples who got married online through the US State of Utah this week, after initially refusing to do so despite an explicit order from the High Court of Justice.
Last month, the High Court ordered the Interior Ministry to begin recognizing these marriages, despite an ongoing appeal by the government against the legitimacy of the weddings, which are conducted over video conferencing software, with the couple in Israel and the officiant in Utah. Due to a 2020 rule change in Utah, such online weddings are considered valid, giving Israelis who don’t want to or can’t marry through the Rabbinate an opportunity to legally get married in Israel. Some 600 Israelis have gotten married this way in the past three years.
Israel’s Interior Ministry has fought against these marriages in court twice, claiming that they were in fact conducted in Israel — and not in Utah — and were thus not legitimate, but lost both times. The State Attorney’s Office appealed the rulings to the High Court of Justice on similar grounds last month. In the meantime, the High Court has ruled that the lower courts’ orders stand and that all those married through Utah should be registered as such by the Population Authority, with the understanding that these could be overturned in the future if the court accepts the state’s appeal.
Though the Population Authority quickly approved the marriages of the couples who were part of the initial lawsuit seeking recognition, it refused to do so for other couples married through the State of Utah, despite the High Court explicitly ruling that all of the marriages should be recognized and not only those directly involved in the case. In response, the religious freedom organization Hiddush sent a letter to the Population Authority, accusing it of violating the court’s orders.
“In light of Hiddush’s letter, a number of couples informed us today that the Population Authority had decided to register all of the couples married through ‘Utah weddings,’ including those not involved in the lawsuit. In a clarifying telephone call with the office of the Population Authority, it was confirmed that the ban had been lifted and that their offices had been instructed to start the registration,” the organization says.
Key Netanyahu ally threatens to thwart formation of government if Haredi draft exemption law not agreed on
A key ally of presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to thwart the formation of a government unless a new law regulating the exemption of ultra-Orthodox men from army enlistment is included in the coalition agreements.
Agudat Yisrael, one of the two factions that make up the Haredi United Torah Judaism party, has four lawmakers in the current Knesset, meaning Netanyahu’s 64-strong bloc doesn’t have a parliamentary majority in the 120-member Knesset without them.
At least two of the Hasidic faction’s MKs have said over the past week that in the absence of such a law being agreed upon by all coalition partners, they will vote against the formation of a government, the ultra-Orthodox Behadrei Haredim news site reports. It adds that the other two lawmakers will likely follow suit.
Agudat Yisrael strictly adheres to the guidance of its rabbinical council, which has instructed the faction not to join the government without an agreed-on form of the enlistment law — versions of which have been advanced and passed for years, only to be struck down by the High Court of Justice for violating the principle of equality.
The faction isn’t happy with any of the law’s previous versions, including a version promoted by current Defense Minister Benny Gantz. In contrast, Netanyahu’s Likud party is aiming for a balanced law — exempting some ultra-Orthodox men from military service, but not all — similar to one suggested during Avigdor Liberman’s tenure as defense minister a few years ago.
German authorities believe Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are behind a string of recent attacks on synagogues in Germany, according to a local report.
The Tagesschau news website, citing an investigation led by the attorney general of the North Rhine-Westphalia state, says investigators also believe the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Josef Schuster is in increased danger of being targeted by the Iranian cell accused of committing the other attacks.
The attacks included shots fired at a synagogue in Essen, the firebombing of a synagogue in Bochum and an attempted arson at a synagogue in Dortmund, all in mid-November.
The report names a German-Iranian suspect referred to as Ramin Y., saying he fled to Iran last year.
“We’re talking about state terrorism here,” it quotes an investigator as saying.
Spanish officials say a suspicious package has been discovered at the US Embassy in Madrid and placed under police control.
The finding comes as police have reported a wave of explosive packages being sent in Spain’s capital, including one that ignited at the Ukrainian Embassy.
Police say other explosive devices concealed in postal packages were sent over the past two days to Spain’s Defense Ministry, a European Union satellite center in Spain, and an arms factory that makes grenades sent to Ukraine.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz condemns a statement by the far-right Noam party earlier this week that called Egyptian troops who fought Israel in the 1967 Six Day War “soldiers of the enemy,” arguing that it amounts to calling today’s Egypt an enemy state.
Noam’s statement came after the Kan public broadcaster reported that Israel is weighing erecting a monument commemorating Egyptian commando forces who were killed during the 1967 war, which Egypt and other Arab armies launched against the Jewish state.
The ultra-conservative party — set to head a body in charge of Israel’s Jewish identity in the presumed upcoming government — said it’s a “delusional idea” to erect a monument “in memory of soldiers of the enemy who tried to destroy us.”
Gantz claims this is an “attempt to paint Egypt as an enemy,” highlighting the importance of the peace deal signed in 1979 and of the strategic partnership with Cairo to regional stability and to the fight against terror in Sinai and Gaza.
Gantz says Noam’s statement is “both unfounded and a grave strategic error,” urging presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn it.
The attempt by a political party, which is slated to join the coalition, to paint Egypt as an enemy, is both unfounded and a grave strategic error. I strongly condemn this statement and call on the incoming Prime Minister to make his voice heard.
— בני גנץ – Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) December 1, 2022
A senior Palestinian terror group fighter killed today in predawn clashes with Israeli troops in Jenin was reportedly one of the masterminds behind the recent kidnapping of the body of Israeli teenager Tiran Fero from a hospital in the West Bank city.
Mohammed Ayman Saadi, a field commander for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was present during last week’s abduction of the 17-year-old’s body, the Ynet news site reports.
He was involved in the act’s planning and in the decision where to hide the body, and directed the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to release it, according to the report. Those talks, coupled with Israeli threats, led to the body being released some 30 hours later.
Extremist MK Itamar Ben Gvir says he has filed a libel lawsuit against the left-wing Haaretz daily and its reporter Chaim Levinson, over a story published last week that claimed Ben Gvir and his wife had acted to silence a sexual assault case.
The story said the Ben Gvirs had attempted to convince a sexual assault victim not to involve police and other state authorities, condemning those who did try to involve them.
In a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court lawsuit published by Ben Gvir’s office, the Otzma Yehudit party chief demands some NIS 150,000 ($40,000). He says the Haaretz story is completely false and that Ben Gvir had merely defended the assault victim after her case was published in the media against her will, and hadn’t been involved in the case before that.
Israel will reportedly deport a French-Palestinian lawyer who was arrested on suspicion of planning to murder the late ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Salah Hamouri, a lawyer for Palestinian rights group Addameer, which has now been outlawed by Israel, was arrested in 2005 and sentenced to 7 years in prison.
He was freed in the 2011 Shalit prisoner exchange deal, and was been repeatedly placed under administrative detention, a controversial measure enabling the holding of a person without trial in cases where revealing the evidence against them in court is deemed to have the potential to harm national security.
He has been barred from entering the West Bank, and therefore from visiting his wife and children, who live there.
Hamouri, a resident of East Jerusalem’s Kafr Aqab, was most recently arrested in March 2022 on suspicion of belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.
He will be deported to France, several Hebrew sites report.
The United Nations says it is asking member states for a record $51.5 billion in aid funding for next year, as disasters and the ongoing war in Ukraine drive up humanitarian needs worldwide.
The global body’s humanitarian office says the funds are needed to help 339 million people in 69 countries, an increase of 65 million people compared with the same time last year. The appeal is a 25% increase on that made for 2022, it says.
“Humanitarian needs are shockingly high, as this year’s extreme events are spilling into 2023,” says the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Martin Griffiths.
He cites droughts in the Horn of Africa, floods in Pakistan and the conflict in Ukraine, which have pushed the number of displaced people worldwide above 100 million.
“All of this on top of the devastation left by the pandemic among the world’s poorest,” says Griffiths. “For people on the brink, this appeal is a lifeline. For the international community, it is a strategy to make good on the pledge to leave no one behind.”
The UN’s annual Global Humanitarian Overview combines funding required by the global body and numerous nongovernmental organizations.
Current funding provided by member states is less than half of what’s needed, forcing aid groups and agencies “to decide who to target with the funds available,” the UN humanitarian office says.
Presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to Noam’s Avi Maoz, saying the Jerusalem Pride Parade “will continue to march.”
“My government won’t harm the LGBT community or the rights of any Israeli citizen,” he adds. “We will care for all Israeli citizens with mutual solidarity and work to improve our lives. This is our mission.”
MK Avi Maoz, the ultra-conservative, anti-LGBT incoming head of a new body in charge of Israel’s “Jewish identity,” vows to cancel Jerusalem’s annual Pride Parade, calling it “a march of public whorish abomination.”
“The Jerusalem Pride Parade should be canceled first,” the Noam party leader and its only MK tells Olam Katan, a conservative religious right-wing weekly. “I will make sure to cancel it. It’s an utter disgrace. I am very direct and honest about this.”
Maoz acknowledges that the matter hasn’t been part of his coalition agreements with presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but says he is “not hiding it; of course I would like to cancel it.”
A 16-year-old girl was murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist during the 2015 parade. It run annually since 2002.
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