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Report: Netanyahu agrees to far-reaching Haredi demands boosting clout of Jewish law

Unconfirmed details of Likud-UTJ deal include barring energy production on Shabbat, new state bodies to answer halacha questions; Likud denies report, says it rejects many demands

Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with United Torah Judaism party leader Yitzchak Goldknopf in the Knesset plenum on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with United Torah Judaism party leader Yitzchak Goldknopf in the Knesset plenum on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Likud MK prepares bill that would revoke ex-PM benefits for Bennett, Lapid

Likud MK Nissim Vaturi reportedly prepares a law bill aimed at preventing Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid from receiving benefits enjoyed by former prime ministers.

By law, former premiers get a host of tax benefits and an expanded security detail, the Knesset must hold a meeting to honor them when they die, and they are buried in a special leaders section in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery.

Vaturi’s bill would only give those benefits to those who served as premiers for at least two years, explaining that “we have recently witnessed a new situation in which the role of prime minister has become the subject of political blackmail, even for short-term leadership, to win benefits later on.”

Israel said set to show UN official proof most slain Palestinian minors have terror links

Israel reportedly intends to present a visiting senior UN official with proof that most of the Palestinian minors killed by Israeli troops have been involved with terror groups and were engaged in military or semi-military activity.

UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba is currently on a visit to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, during which she will visit senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, as part of her annual report of harm to children in the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in July that “Israel should be listed” among the countries with the most violation against children in armed conflict, if it does not improve the situation of children in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza by next year, following its annual review of children in armed conflict, which found Israel responsible for 2,934 violations against minors in the areas in 2021.

Unnamed diplomatic sources cited by Channel 13 news and the Kan public broadcaster say that officials will present Gamba with information on the “cynical use of kids by Palestinians, especially by terror groups: From recruiting children and teenagers as combatants to weapons training, summer camps, indoctrination, and using UNRWA schools as shelters for terrorists.”

“Regarding the Palestinian casualties, Israel will present data indicating that most teenagers were operatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, or engaged in military activity or military-linked activity,” the source told Channel 13.

“Additionally, Israel expects Gamba to examine the Palestinians’ use of teenagers as part of terror activities.”

Gamba is reportedly set to meet IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other top military and police brass, as well as Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and a Supreme Court justice. She will also meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

Likud denies agreeing to bar energy generation on Shabbat or expand segregated beaches

Expected incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party denies some of the details reported by Channel 12 on its alleged coalition deal with United Torah Judaism, saying it is a list of demands by the Haredi party and not a list of demands it has agreed to implement.

In a statement sent out by a Likud spokesperson and quoting “Likud sources,” the party says it is not agreeing to bar electricity production on Shabbat, expand gender-segregated beaches, and other clauses.

“Any final agreement will preserve the years-long status quo on religion and state matters,” it adds.

Meanwhile, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid says the reported deal testifies to Netanyahu’s “weakness.”

“The deal between United Torah Judaism and Likud is more proof of the total surrender and weakness of Netanyahu,” Yesh Atid says in a statement.

“His freedom in exchange for our freedom,” it adds, referring to its talking point that Netanyahu is trying to extricate himself from his legal woes.

Report: Likud-UTJ deal may bar energy production on Shabbat, form state halacha body

A report details far-reaching achievements allegedly made by the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party in coalition talks with expected incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, including barring all electricity generation on Shabbat in Israel and forming bodies that will provide answers to the public on questions of Jewish law.

If all measures laid out in the unconfirmed report by Channel 12 news end up being implemented, it would most likely take Israel closer to being a theocracy.

According to the reported details — not confirmed by either party — the non-final coalition deal contains the following clauses:

  • A Chief Rabbinate representative will be part of any panel weighing permits for work on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest;
  • No electricity will be produced in Israel on Shabbat;
  • The government will fund genizah — preserving of documents and papers containing God’s name, which according to Jewish law must not be thrown away;
  • The government will form and fund bodies to provide answers to the public on questions of halacha, or Jewish law;
  • There will be more gender-segregated beaches;
  • Additional discounts will be introduced in public transportation in predominantly ultra-Orthodox cities;
  • Ultra-Orthodox will enjoy affirmative action when applying for jobs in government companies;
  • Hospitals will be able to ban hametz, or leavened wheat products, on Passover;
  • More religious studies will be introduced in the state’s secular school system;
  • The government will mull closing the new Reform department in the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, formed last year;
  • Any government service available online will also be given on the phone or in person, with many ultra-Orthodox shunning internet use.
  • A law will be passed to regulate the exemption of ultra-Orthodox youth from enlisting to the army;
  • Government payouts to yeshiva students will be raised.

Police nab 5 kidnapping suspects, free victim after car chase in south

The Israel Police say they have managed to rescue a kidnapping victim and arrest five suspects in the crime at the end of a car chase in the south.

According to the police, they received a call last night reporting the kidnapping of a 22-year-old man from East Jerusalem. Police focused their search around Eilat, and managed to locate a vehicle believed to be carrying the kidnapped man in the Abu Talul Bedouin town in the Negev Desert.

Police set up roadblocks to stop the vehicle thought to be holding the man as well as another vehicle involved. The operation led to a car chase between police and the two vehicles in a dirt area near unrecognized Bedouin villages in the south, police say.

Police officers succeeded in stopping the two vehicles, one of which overturned, and in freeing the man. The kidnapping victim was beaten and held for hours in order to demand a ransom from his family, according to police.

Lapid expresses sorrow over Palestinian girl’s death during West Bank raid

Prime Minister Yair Lapid expresses sorrow over the death of a Palestinian girl, which the IDF has said likely occurred when an IDF targeted gunmen who were near her.

In a statement, Lapid sends condolences to the family of 16-year-old Jana Zakarna, adding that the probe of the incident is ongoing.

Lapid says Israel will “continue to act to thwart terror and to capture terrorists whenever needed,” while trusting soldiers to “do their utmost to avoid harming uninvolved people” even during complex missions.

EU parliament president warns European democracy is ‘under attack’

The president of the European Parliament warns members that alleged corruption by a foreign power is an attack on democracy after investigators arrested one of her deputies.

“Make no mistake,” Roberta Metsola tells MEPs. “The European Parliament, dear colleagues, is under attack. European democracy is under attack and our free and democratic societies are under attack.”

Woman killed as car collides with bus near Sea of Galilee

A woman in her 60s is killed in a traffic accident near the Sea of Galilee, and a man of similar age in the same car was seriously hurt.

A car collided with a bus near Kursi Junction, according to medical officials.

The man is taken by helicopter to Haifa’s Rambam hospital, where he arrives unconscious.

British PM Sunak says he’ll visit Israel next year for its ‘landmark 75th birthday’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he will visit Israel next year for its “landmark 75th birthday.”

According to the UK Jewish News, Sunak made the announcement at a Conservative Friends of Israel reception.

“Next year I will visit Israel on what will be its 75th birthday and landmark year – after so many years of struggle – and also success,” he says, hailing the Jewish state’s “remarkable achievements” in technology, which he calls “something which Israel’s detractors in the BDS movement would do away with.”

“I will fight very hard for the security of the Jewish state,” he adds.

Netanyahu accuses Lapid of leading ‘journey of intimidation and sedition’

Expected incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses current premier Yair Lapid of embarking on a “journey of intimidation and sedition,” saying the outgoing government is avoiding recognizing the election results.

Netanyahu says his government policies will “not include any harm to the rights of LGBT people, secular people or any other Israeli citizens.”

IDF says sniper likely mistakenly hit Palestinian girl who was close to gunmen

The Israel Defense Forces believes with “high probability” that a Border Police sniper accidentally shot and killed 16-year-old Jana Zakarna during clashes in Jenin last night.

The IDF says she was apparently close to gunmen on a rooftop who were shooting at soldiers during the raid in the northern West Bank city.

“The claim that security forces shot at uninvolved people on purpose is unfounded and baseless,” the IDF adds.

‘We’d love to understand’: Firebrand Likud MK interrupts Arabic-language Knesset speech

Freshman Likud MK Tally Gotliv interrupts Ra’am lawmaker Yasser Hujirat during his maiden speech on the Knesset floor, saying “we’d love to understand” when Hujirat switches to Arabic.

Presiding over the plenum, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy tells Gotliv that “there is no prohibition” against delivering a speech in Arabic — an official language in Israel — in the chamber.

Gotliv has made similar interruptions during Arabic-language floor speeches since the Knesset session started last month.

Schumer warns of violent antisemitism at event with New York, US leaders

US Senator Chuck Schumer condemns rising antisemitism at an event in New York City with Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The event at Manhattan’s Lincoln Square Synagogue, hosted by the Orthodox Union, is meant to highlight support from public officials for the Jewish community amid record levels of antisemitism. Last month saw 45 reported anti-Jewish incidents in New York City, far more than against any other group.

“I feel the same dread, the same alarm that past generations have felt when antisemitism rears its ugly head,” Schumer says, naming deadly antisemitic attacks in recent years in Poway, Pittsburgh, Monsey and Jersey City.

“All American Jews know and remember the names and incidents I have mentioned. They are seared into our memories and unless we can come together as a community and a country to address this crisis I fear we will have to add more names to that list,” says Schumer, the highest-ranking Jew in US political history.

“When the former president of the United States welcomes at his own dinner table several vicious antisemites, and rather than apologize afterward he lectures Jewish leaders, it is incumbent on all of us to speak out,” he says.

Both the far-left and far-right share blame for stoking antisemitism, he says, as well as some anti-Israel sentiment.

“I know too well what can happen when a society turns its back on its Jewish citizens,” he says, relating how 30 members of his family were gunned down by Nazis during the Holocaust.

“The US, Baruch Hashem, praise God, is not Nazi Germany. The roots of democracy and tolerance are much deeper here,” Schumer says.

“The roots of tolerance go deep, I would argue deeper than the roots of bigotry, in America, but again those roots of tolerance cry out for voices to strengthen them, to remember them, to speak out in favor,” he says.

Noam chief says he’ll ensure ‘transparency’ in extracurricular school programming

Having been promised control over the Education Ministry’s external programming unit as part of his coalition deal with Likud, MK Avi Maoz of the Noam party clarifies that he plans to make sure there is “transparency” over the external educational vendors in Israeli public schools.

The unit sits over Gefen, the Education Ministry’s collection of approved, funded vendors, encompassing over 20,000 programs available to public school administrators. Spanning a range of offerings from sex education to bar mitzvah preparation to farming, external programming vendors are integral parts of public education.

Maoz spells out his plan for a program called “Shaveh,” Hebrew for “equivalent” or “worthy,” with the program’s full title meaning “Transparency and Notification of Parents,” reflecting one of Maoz’s core stated goals — to provide information for parents on program content, vendor identity and funding sources behind the programs. Some of the programs are funded by the Education Ministry directly, while others are sponsored by external donors, including foreign entities.

Maoz declines to answer reporter questions, including whether the oversight would lead to the cancelation of any programs.

One of the Knesset’s most conservative members, Maoz says he wants to create the national Jewish identity office under which the educational unit will be housed in order to strengthen Orthodox Jewish values. Maoz’s Noam party ran on an anti-LGBT platform, and Maoz has rallied against progressive values in education and women serving in the military.

The announcement of Maoz’s expected control over the external education unit led to public criticism from dozens of municipalities as well as protests across Israel.

Ben Gvir threatens to hold up formation of government if not given key role with veto power

Far-right Otzma Yehudit party leader Itamar Ben Gvir threatens to hold up the formation of the next government unless he is made deputy head of the government’s powerful Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a position that may give him veto power over the coalition posture towards bills.

“We want a deputy in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation,” says Ben Gvir at the outset of his party’s faction meeting, adding that without this appointment, “we can’t form a government.”

Veto power in the committee, which is expected to be headed by prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, can be altered in each government’s working procedures. A spokesman for Ben Gvir confirms that veto power is his ultimate intention.

Ben Gvir asserts that “some Likud MKs” are preventing Netanyahu from granting his request, although the Otzma Yehudit chief declines reporter requests to specify who these are.

Ben Gvir has previously raised suspicions that Netanyahu will renege on promises and understandings reached between their parties, and now says it “may be that they don’t really want to pass what they promised us.”

Specifically, Ben Gvir has championed yet-to-be-disclosed bills that would loosen security forces’ open-fire rules and provide them a form of immunity.

Likely incoming coalition files formal request to replace Knesset speaker

The parties of the expected incoming coalition submit a formal request to replace the Knesset speaker with Likud MK Yariv Levin.

The letter to current speaker Mickey Levy of the outgoing coalition is signed by all the party chiefs of the allied right-religious parties.

Levin is set to become temporary speaker to enable the passage of several contentious laws before the government is sworn in, after which he will likely become justice minister.

The vote to replace the speaker was planned for today but has been pushed off to tomorrow.

Taliban says assailants have attacked a hotel in Afghan capital Kabul

A hotel catering to foreign visitors in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul has been attacked and three of the assailants have been killed, a Taliban official says.

Two foreign residents were injured when they jumped out of windows to escape, says Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban government’s spokesman. Residents report explosions and gunfire. Photos and video posted on social media show smoke rising from the building.

The Emergency Hospital in Kabul says in a tweet that there was an explosion and gunfire near a hotel approximately a kilometer away. “So far, we have received 21 casualties — 3 were already dead on arrival.”

Khalid Zadran, the Taliban-appointed spokesman for the Kabul police chief, says the attack lasted several hours. He says a “clean-up” operation is ongoing.

No one immediately claims responsibility for the attack but the regional affiliate of the Islamic State group — known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province and a rival of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban — has increased its attacks since the Taliban takeover of the country last year.

After Palestinian girl’s death, Tibi says outgoing government ‘most lethal’ in Israeli history

Ta’al faction leader Ahmad Tibi claims the outgoing government is the “most lethal” toward Palestinians in Israel’s history, commenting on the death of a 16-year-old girl last night during a gunfight between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin.

The outgoing government was composed of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties, including the Islamist Ra’am — the first time an Arab party had become part of an Israeli coalition.

At a Hadash-Ta’al faction meeting, the Arab politician — whose party remained in the opposition — claims that over the past year, “more Palestinians have been killed than during any previous government, including right-wing ones.”

“Everyone knows the lies after the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, and the same is happening here,” Tibi says, referring to the death of an Al Jazeera journalist earlier this year which was first said by Israel to not have been caused by its troops, with Jerusalem later acknowledging the shot was likely fired by an IDF soldier.

Gantz expresses sorrow for Palestinian teen’s death; criticizes Netanyahu, Lapid

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz expresses sorrow over the death of a teenage Palestinian girl who was killed last night during a gun battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin.

“First, I express my sorrow for her death, as for any death of someone who was not involved in terrorism, if that was indeed the case,” Gantz says at a faction meeting of his National Unity party.

He says the raid was aimed at arresting Palestinians suspected of recent shooting attacks and those involved in terror organizations.

Following the raid and fierce clashes, Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, was found dead on the roof of her home with a gunshot wound in the head.

“The matter is under investigation and I can assure you of one thing, unlike those who stand by the roads with weapons, stones, and Molotov cocktails, waiting for an opportunity to murder Israeli girls and boys, women, elderly and children, IDF soldiers do not shoot deliberately at uninvolved people,” Gantz says.

“The IDF will continue to act to thwart terrorism, anywhere and at any time, while adhering to the open-fire rules,” he says. “The commanders and soldiers have full support to continue to fulfill their mission with professionalism and determination.”

Also during the faction meeting, Gantz vows to work to thwart the likely incoming government “in every opportunity that arises,” but criticizes outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid for participating in a protest against the yet-to-be-formed next coalition, as well as for calling that expected government “insane.”

“Everyone can choose the way they defend democracy,” Gantz says. “The right to protest is important. Leaders should lead protests. I don’t think standing on a bridge in some corner is the model, but to each their own.

“Our camp doesn’t think the elected government is insane, crazy or lunatic — it thinks its extremism endangers the State of Israel,” Gantz says.

Likud rejects Liberman’s ‘incitement,’ says Netanyahu will avoid unnecessary military ‘adventures’

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud reacts to scathing criticism by Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman, who said Netanyahu intends to take Israel on security “adventures” — likely a war or operation against the Palestinians — for personal and political reasons

“National inciter Avigdor Liberman continues to incite with lies. All Israeli citizens, including Netanyahu’s critics, know he steers the country responsibly without getting into unnecessary ‘adventures,'” Likud says in a statement, adding that the previous decade had been “the quietest decade in Israeli history.”

“Had Liberman lowered taxes and prices with the same proficiency with which he lies, Israel citizens would have more money in their pockets,” Likud adds.

Dismissing Lapid claim, Likud MK says he isn’t in conflict of interest on Deri bill

Likud MK Haim Katz responds to the demand of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid to disqualify him and three others from voting on a law that would enable people serving suspended sentences to be appointed ministers, saying he isn’t in conflict of interest.

Katz was convicted last year of “conspiring to achieve a legitimate goal through illegitimate means,” in a plea deal that saw him get a suspended sentence.

“Among the rest of its failures, apparently fact-checking isn’t Yesh Atid’s strong suit either,” Katz says in a statement. “After the prosecution said Katz’s actions carried no moral fault and didn’t constitute corruption, the court ruled Haim Katz’s actions carry no moral turpitude and he can therefore serve as a minister.”

Lapid: Incoming coalition can’t pass Deri law as 4 MKs are in conflict of interest

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party assails the legislation pushed by the incoming government that will allow Shas party chief Aryeh Deri to serve as a minister, and says it has asked the Knesset’s legal adviser to prevent four MKs from voting on the bill due to their “clear, inherent and blatant” conflicts of interest.

Yesh Atid argues that Deri himself, expected incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MKs David Bitan and Haim Katz — who have all faced criminal indictments — should be disqualified from voting on a bill that makes it easier for convicted people to become government ministers.

If this argument is accepted, the incoming coalition’s 64 votes would be reduced to 60 in the 120-member Knesset, while a majority of at least 61 is needed to change a quasi-constitutional Basic Law, which Netanyahu’s bloc is attempting.

The amendment would explicitly say that a person given a suspended sentence in the last seven years can serve as a minister. Currently, Deri’s suspended sentence for tax fraud earlier this year complicates plans to give him the interior and health ministries.

Netanyahu “is weak, Deri knew he would give in as he always does. So instead of breaking the law, Aryeh Deri is changing the law. They are so power drunk and arrogant that they forgot one thing: The new coalition includes four people who are prohibited from voting on this law, because they are in conflict of interest,” Lapid says, calling Deri a “serial criminal.”

The letter to legal adviser Sagit Afek is sent out by Yesh Atid faction leader Boaz Toporovsky.

Liberman charges Netanyahu will sever Diaspora ties, cause war and ‘devastation’

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman predicts devastation on multiple fronts if expected incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu manages to implement his planned policies and reforms, alleging that Netanyahu will be remembered historically as someone who “led the Nation of Israel to a Third Temple destruction.”

That is a reference to the two biblical temples that stood in Jerusalem, the second of which was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago; in some views the modern State of Israel represents a third one.

At a faction meeting, Liberman says the incoming coalition’s plans to alter the Law of Return, cancel the Western Wall compromise and outlaw non-Orthodox conversion would be a “severance of ties” with Diaspora Jewry.

Liberman predicts a diplomatic tide against Israel and economic devastation, claiming that “Netanyahu is sacrificing Israel in his attempt to evade his [corruption] trial.”

On the security front, Liberman says Netanyahu will become “adventurous” — likely a reference to starting a war or operation in Gaza or the West Bank — in an attempt to get rid of far-right allies and will hope to get Yisrael Beytenu and Benny Gantz’s National Unity party to join the government instead.

He did not explain his logic.

Liberman adds: “A person who wants to endanger Israel and will drag us to diplomatic adventures cannot be prime minister.”

Haredi party chief meets US envoy Nides, invites him to Hanukkah candle-lighting

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides meets United Torah Judaism party leader Yitzhak Goldknopf in the latter’s office in the Knesset, Goldknopf’s office says.

The statement says Nides updated the likely incoming housing minister about talks on a visa waiver agreement between the countries, while Goldknopf updated the envoy on coalition negotiations.

Goldknopf also invited Nides to take part in a Hanukkah candle-lighting event next week with his Gur Hasidic sect, and Nides accepted, the statement adds.

Three boys die after falling into frozen lake in UK

Three boys have died and another boy remains in critical condition after they fell into an icy lake near Birmingham, central England, police say.

“Three boys have tragically died after falling into the lake at Babbs Mill Park in Solihull yesterday afternoon. The boys, aged 11, 10 and 8, were rushed to hospital after being pulled from the water,” West Midlands Police says in a statement.

Knesset speaker vote postponed after planned outgoing coalition filibuster

Both opposition and coalition sources confirm that a critical vote on the selection of a Knesset speaker will occur tomorrow at 10 a.m., instead of today as planned, due to pressure by the soon-to-be opposition.

Likud MK Yariv Levin was slated to replace current speaker Mickey Levy of the Yesh Atid party, at the request of the incoming coalition’s 64 MKs.

Transferring the Knesset presidium from the control of the incoming opposition to that of the incoming coalition is key to advancing the new government’s legislative agenda.

It is also particularly timely, as Likud’s coalition partners have demanded a suite of legislative changes before swearing in the new government, and prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has until December 21 to declare that he has formed a government.

The outgoing government has started placing obstacles in the incoming coalition’s path, including running their own candidate for Knesset speaker and reportedly planning to pack the legislative agenda with other items to delay the vote by hours.

Outgoing Public Security Committee chair Merav Ben Ari, a Yesh Atid MK, is the coalition’s candidate, announced this morning by the party but with no chance of actually being elected.

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