The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
US President Joe Biden warned President Vladimir Putin in a tense, two hour virtual summit today of a “strong” Western economic response should Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s border go on the attack.
“President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the US and our allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation,” the White House says in a statement after the video conference.
Biden stressed “support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy,” the statement says.
According to the White House, Biden and Putin agreed that their respective teams would “follow up” on the summit, underlining that the next US move would be “in close coordination with allies and partners.”
The United States slaps fresh sanctions on a dozen Iranian officials and entities for “serious” human rights abuses, days after nuclear talks with Tehran halted with no sign of progress.
The sanctions announced by the Treasury and State Department target government officials and organizations involved in the repression of protesters and political activists, and prisons where activists have been held in brutal conditions.
Some 1,500 people are participating in a right-wing demonstration in Habima Square in Tel Aviv against the government.
Some protesters claim Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “stole the election.” Others claim he is beholden to Islamists in the coalition’s Ra’am party, who they assert are supporters of terrorism.
Several MKs, including Likud’s Amir Ohana and Eli Cohen, tell the crowds that Israel is endangered by the current government. Ohana claims various bodies such as the legal system and the media banded together to drive Netanyahu out of power.
כיכר הבימה עכשיו.
באנו לתקן. pic.twitter.com/0DXPQZ9tey
— Amit Halevi עמית הלוי (@HaleviAmit) December 7, 2021
He thanks those in attendance for “rising up against the greatest democratic theft in the history of Israel.”
In private conversations, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit recently told associates that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive attempts to maintain his rule had endangered Israeli democracy and that Israel was saved by “the grace of God” from those efforts, Channel 12 reports.
In transcripts of the conversations, Mandelblit reportedly had with unidentified persons, the attorney general said that as Netanyahu solidified his power as prime minister, “I saw things moving toward [a demand for] personal loyalty, which means a danger to democracy.”
And as Netanyahu’s criminal cases moved forward, there was “a sophisticated attempt” to “change the DNA” of the justice system and the free press.
He said Netanyahu may have even hoped to appoint top judges that would be loyal to him and protect him. “Bring a certain lawyer, and a certain legal adviser, and certain deputy legal advisers, and a police chief who is ‘one of ours’ and so on. All these things could make us crumble from within,” he was quoted as saying.
He said that as attacks on him and other legal officials intensified by Netanyahu and his allies, “We suddenly found ourselves in a fight for the legitimacy of the attorney general’s office, for the DNA of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in modern times.
“That, I think, is the entire story. It took me time to understand it.”
He also said he believed Netanyahu had been capable of trying to replace him with another attorney general who would “say that the case was crumbling and collapsing and that there was no substance to it. I never dreamt we’d reach such a place.”
Mandelblit, who is religious, was quoted as saying: “We got out of it, really, by the grace of God. I truly believe that… I don’t know how it would have ended. I wouldn’t have been silent. The Supreme Court certainly wouldn’t have been silent.”
He added that while Netanyahu was no longer in charge, “We need safeguards for the future. It could repeat itself. There’s no guarantee for democracy, that’s my lesson from all this.”
Channel 12 cited associates of Netanyahu as responding: “These are messianic comments by a public servant who decided to replace the people, no less” — a reference to Netanyahu’s assertion that the cases against him were an attempt to remove him from power legally, since he has popular support in the polls.
“Mandelblit himself admits that he sought to bring down Prime Minister Netanyahu,” they went on. “Mandelblit should be reminded that in a democracy the people choose their leaders, not the attorney general.”
An Israeli security guard who was seriously wounded in a suspected car-ramming attack at a West Bank checkpoint yesterday says he survived only thanks to moving at the last moment.
From his hospital bed, the guard, whose identity has not been cleared for publication, tells Channel 13 news: “My luck is that I moved a step to the right.”
He says he heard another guard saying that a car was coming, and saw the vehicle accelerating toward him at high speed. He doesn’t remember what happened afterward, but says he was told by others that at the last moment he moved a few inches that took him out of the car’s direct path.
“If not I guess I’d have been somewhere else,” he says.
Security forces at the Te’enim Checkpoint near the West Bank city of Tulkarem opened fire and shot the teenage driver, fatally wounding him.
The Shin Bet security service has completed an internal investigation into conduct that allowed a man with multiple criminal convictions to work as a house cleaner for Defense Minister Benny Gantz, with the employee allegedly offering to spy on him for Iran.
The probe identified numerous failures in the way the agency performs background checks, but led to only two official reprimands.
The man, Omri Goren, was arrested last month after allegedly making contact with an Iranian-linked hacking group, Black Shadow, and offering to assist the group in exchange for money. Through his lawyer, he has largely admitted to the alleged actions, but has denied that he knowingly offered to help Iran.
The Shin Bet says it identified “professional failures in the way that Omri Goren’s security check was conducted, due to professional lacunae and work-flow lacunae. In addition, there were lacunae found in the oversight processes that should have discovered the mistake after it happened.”
To address these failures, the Shin Bet says it had tightened its protocols regarding people who work with protected individuals. In light of these failures, two managers — the equivalent of military officers — received official reprimands, the Shin Bet says.
A German man killed his wife and three children before taking his own life, leaving behind a note that said he feared being jailed for faking a COVID-19 health pass, prosecutors say.
All five bodies were found in the family’s home in Koenigs Wusterhausen outside Berlin on Saturday, Brandenburg state prosecutors say.
The 40-year-old father said in the note that he had secured a fake coronavirus vaccine pass for his wife. But her boss spotted the fraud and planned to investigate, Cottbus prosecutors’ spokesman Gernot Bantleon told AFP.
“The father expected that he and his wife would be jailed and their children taken away,” Bantleon says.
Investigators believe the man killed the children aged four, eight and 10 and his 40-year-old wife before killing himself.
The United States leads a group of Western nations and allies in condemnation of the Taliban over the “summary killings” of former members of the Afghan security forces reported by rights groups, demanding quick investigations.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of summary killings and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan security forces as documented by Human Rights Watch and others,” reads a statement by the United States, the European Union, Australia, Britain, Japan and others, which was released by the US State Department.
“We underline that the alleged actions constitute serious human rights abuses and contradict the Taliban’s announced amnesty,” the group of nations says, as it calls on Afghanistan’s new rulers to ensure the amnesty is enforced and “upheld across the country and throughout their ranks.”
Military prosecutors have announced their intention to indict Lt. Col. Dan Sharoni, who led the IDF’s driving academy and who is suspected of secretly filming female soldiers in intimate situations.
He is expected to be charged with various breach-of-privacy violations and indecent acts.
Sharoni will be summoned to a hearing prior to charges being filed.
A suspected member of the team that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, Khalid Alotaibi, was arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris today, judicial and airport sources say.
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi who lived in self-exile in the United States and wrote for The Washington Post, was strangled by a hit squad in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and his body dismembered.
The director of the CIA, William Burns, says there is no current evidence that Iran has decided to weaponize its nuclear program at this point, according to a CBS reporter.
The agency doesn’t “see any evidence that Iran’s Supreme Leader has made a decision to move to weaponize,” he says at a conference organized by The Wall Street Journal.
On the subject of the troubled nuclear negotiations in Vienna, he echoes US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “The Iranians have not been taking the negotiation seriously at this point. We’ll see soon enough about how serious they are.”
Top US scientist Anthony Fauci says that while it will take weeks to judge the severity of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, early indications suggest it is not worse than prior strains, and possibly milder.
“It almost certainly is not more severe than Delta,” Fauci tells AFP in an interview. “There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe.”
“I think that’s going to take another couple of weeks at least in South Africa and then as we get more infections throughout the rest of the world, it might take longer to see what’s the level of severity.”
The United Arab Emirates is slashing its official working week to four and a half days and moving its weekend to Saturday and Sunday in a major shift aimed at improving competitiveness, officials say.
The “national working week” is mandatory for government bodies from January 1 and bucks the regional norm of a full day off on Friday for Muslim prayers.
Scott Livermore, chief economist at Oxford Economics Middle East, an advisory firm, said businesses can choose their working week but are likely to align with the public sector.
While becoming the only Gulf country not to have a Friday-Saturday weekend, the resource-rich and ambitious UAE now comes into line with the non-Arab world.
Under the new timetable, the public-sector weekend starts at noon on Fridays and ends on Sunday. Friday prayers at mosques will be held after 1:15 p.m.
A woman has died after being hit by a bus in south Tel Aviv.
The woman was crushed under the vehicle. Paramedics arriving on the scene could not save her life.
The cause of the accident is not immediately clear.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Israel on Sunday, his first visit in three years.
Lavrov is expected to meet with the prime minister and foreign minister and discuss developments in Syria, nuclear negotiations with Iran, and other matters.
A virtual summit between US President Joe Biden Putin and Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun, Russian news agencies say.
Biden is set to to warn Putin against invading Ukraine, threatening painful sanctions and more US military support for Eastern Europe if the Russian leader triggers a military conflict.
Russia denies any plans to move against Ukraine, but with satellite pictures showing massive troop concentrations on the border, fears are growing over war in Europe.
The United States says it doesn’t know what Russia intends to do in Ukraine, but has raised alarm over movements of what US officials say are some 100,000 battle-ready troops.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz says it is possible Israelis will be asked to take a fourth shot of the COVID vaccine at some point.
Speaking at the Israel Hayom conference, Horowitz says “it could be” that Israel will at some point approve a fourth dose for the general population, but adds: “I don’t know yet. If we see that the vaccine’s efficacy drops after a certain amount of time, even after the booster, we could recommend a fourth dose — it’s possible.”
Horowitz notes that there are vaccines — like the flu shot — that are administered annually. “We will make decisions based on medical need,” he adds.
After the eighth trilateral Israel-Cyprus-Greece summit with PM Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog holds a diplomatic working meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
According to Herzog’s office, the two leaders discuss ways to boost bilateral ties, especially in the areas of tourism, investment, and combating climate change.
Herzog also thanks Mitsotakis for Greece’s position on antisemitism, and the two discuss means of advancing Greek Holocaust commemoration.
Herzog presents Mitsotakis with a framed photograph of his late father, Israel’s sixth president Chaim Herzog, meeting Mitsotakis’s late father, former prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, during his 1992 visit to Israel after the countries established full diplomatic ties.
Russia will be hit with more and tougher EU sanctions if it militarily threatens Ukraine, the bloc’s chief Ursula von der Leyen warns.
“The European Union will respond appropriately to any further aggression including breaches of international law and any other malicious actions taken against us or our neighbors, including Ukraine,” she says in a videolink speech to EU ambassadors.
“This response will take the form of robust scaling-up and expansion of existing sanctions regimes. And on top of that, we are ready to take additional restrictive measures,” she says.
Von der Leyen emphasizes the European Union’s “full and unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of this aggression” represented by what she calls a “massive” Russian military buildup along Ukraine’s border.
Six Arab countries have banned Steven Spielberg’s new film version of “West Side Story” due to the movie including a transgender person.
The countries that will not screen the film are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.
The character Anybodys is played by the non-binary actor Iris Menas.
Films with LGBT characters are often censored to various degrees by Arab nations.
Directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, with an updated screenplay by Tony Kushner, the new film is set to hit theaters in Israel on December 9.
Proposals submitted by Iran at talks in Vienna last week aimed at reviving the 2015 deal on its nuclear program fall short of what is needed, France says.
“The proposals presented by Iran last week do not constitute a reasonable basis that is compatible with the objective of a rapid conclusion while respecting the interests of all,” the French foreign ministry says in a statement, expressing “disappointment” that the talks failed to move forward.
Negotiations between Iran and world powers on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal will resume on Thursday, Iran’s Tasnim news agency says.
The outlet reports that the timing was agreed upon by Iran’s nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and European Union envoy Enrique Mora.
Negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal were suspended Friday as European diplomats expressed “disappointment and concern” at the latest proposals from Iran, which Washington has said were not serious.
“Tehran is walking back almost all of the difficult compromises crafted after many months of hard work,” senior diplomats said, adding that the Iranian delegation had demanded “major changes.” They went on to say it was “unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic timeframe.”
The talks had been halted on Friday afternoon for diplomats to consult with their governments.
In the shadow of a 10-meter high concrete wall, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces that after three and a half years and NIS 3.5 billion ($1.1 billion), the Defense Ministry had completed construction of a massive barrier around the Gaza Strip, above and below ground, which Israel hopes will end the threat of cross-border attack tunnels from the Palestinian enclave.
“This barrier, a creative, technological project of the first order, denies Hamas one of the capabilities that it tried to develop and puts a wall of iron, sensors and concrete between it and the residents of the south,” Gantz says at the ceremony.
Gantz warns that Israel could be currently seeing a “calm before the storm,” following recent threats by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups over what they describe as slow reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.
Since May’s 11-day conflict in Gaza, Israel and Hamas have been negotiating an extended ceasefire, which would see additional aid and international assistance flow into Gaza in exchange for calm. However, Israel has conditioned full reconstruction on the return of two Israeli civilians and the remains of two IDF soldiers from Hamas captivity, whom the terror group insists it will only release in exchange for the release of large numbers of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons. Jerusalem has refused this.
Ahead of the eighth trilateral Israel-Greece-Cyprus summit, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades lays out the areas under discussion in the summit: COVID-19 and its long-term effects, climate change and its regional implications, creating an emergency management forum, energy cooperation in the EastMed Gas Forum (EMGF), the latest developments in the Abraham Accords, and EU-Israel relations.
Anastasiades lays into Turkey in his address, calling it a country that is “actively sabotaging any effort for regional understanding.” He accuses Turkey of “practicing a revisionist policy in which might is right,” and of violating Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean.
Anastasiades says he will brief his counterparts on ongoing tensions with Turkey in Cyprus.
Turkey’s offshore energy exploration efforts have raised tensions with Greece and Cyprus. Warships from Greece and Turkey shadowed each other in the Aegean Sea after Turkish search vessels and drill ships prospected for hydrocarbons in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights. Ankara rejects those claims, saying they infringe on the rights of Turkey and of Turkish Cypriots on the divided island of Cyprus.
While rejecting a two-state solution in Cyprus, Anastasiades calls for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that result in a “just and viable two-state solution which will address the legitimate security concerns of the State of Israel, and will enable Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in security and peaceful co-existence with all their neighbors.”
A key witness for the prosecution in Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial alleges that the former premier tried “to rob the state’s funds for his personal needs.”
Former Netanyahu family spokesman and confidant Nir Hefetz tells the Jerusalem District Court that he had tried to warn the then-premier that he was crossing the boundaries of legality.
Hefetz is speaking of the so-called Case 1000, involving suspicions Netanyahu illicitly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts from two billionaires — Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer.
Hefetz says there were “dozens” of similar cases in which the former premier “was roaming in criminal areas.”
After the Knesset gave preliminary approval to a bill to connect thousands of illegally built homes in Arab Israeli communities to the power grid, Likud says Prime Minister Naftali Bennett have made “another gesture to the Islamic Movement, a step that will legitimize widespread illegal construction by Arabs in our country and allow Bedouins to take over more parts of the Negev.”
The party calls the move “a surrender.”
The bill will now go to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. The panel needs to okay the measure before it can come up for the second and third plenum readings it must pass to become law.
Around 130,000 Arab Israelis live in illegally built homes in cities across the country that cannot be connected to the national grid, under existing legislation. Arab Israelis blame outdated urban plans that classify open land as “agricultural” rather than residential, while the Israeli right criticize what they call lawlessness in Arab communities.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe cautions against making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.
Europe is battling a fierce surge of the pandemic, with the WHO registering 120,000 COVID-related deaths on the continent since November 23 when it warned of up to 500,000 more deaths by March 2022.
Regional director Hans Kluge says compulsory vaccines should be “an absolute last resort and only applicable when all other feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted.”
Noting that mandates have increased vaccine uptake in some cases, Kluge says these were “context specific,” and adds that the effect mandates may have on “public confidence and public trust” must also be considered.
Global stock markets rally on fading fears over dangers arising from the new Omicron COVID variant.
London stocks win 1.2 percent in late morning deals, while Frankfurt and Paris fizz more than two percent higher at midday in the eurozone.
The dollar treads higher, while oil extended gains on dimming energy demand concerns.
Asian equities climb despite renewed worries over potential debt defaults in China’s troubled property sector.
“Markets flushed out at the first sign of Omicron, but now are more confident it won’t be as bad as first feared,” says Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny announces that he is now working in the industrial sewing outfit of his penal colony after being ordered to take up prison labor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s best-known domestic critic was imprisoned in February and is serving two and a half years on old embezzlement charges in a penal colony around 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Moscow.
Penal colonies, which are the most common form of incarceration in Russia, require inmates to choose from a variety of jobs.
“‘Prisoner Navalny, your correction is impossible without involvement in labor activity,'” the politician quotes prison officials as telling him in a Facebook post run by his team.
“‘You have been with us for nine months — it’s time to work.'”
Hours after Syrian media accused Israel of striking the Latakia port, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that the country is fighting “the bad forces” in the Middle East nearly every day.
“We’re pushing back on the bad forces of this region day and night,” he says in English alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. “We won’t stop for one second. This happens almost daily.”
“In the face of destructive forces we will continue to act, we will be persistent, and we will not tire,” Bennett continues.
The three leaders are now in a trilateral meeting over lunch at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem. The meeting is the eighth Israel-Cyprus-Greece summit.
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