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Incoming immigration minister says Law of Return ‘needs to be fixed’

Religious Zionism’s Ofir Sofer declines to elaborate on plans, asks for ‘grace period’ to study the issue in depth before attempting changes to controversial ‘grandparent clause’

Jewish Home and National Union alliance member MK Ofir Sofer, at a faction meeting at the Knesset, on November 11, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jewish Home and National Union alliance member MK Ofir Sofer, at a faction meeting at the Knesset, on November 11, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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

Video footage purportedly shows shooting attack near Ofra earlier today

Palestinian medics carry the body of Mojahed al-Najjar, who was shot dead by Israeli security forces after allegedly carrying out a shooting attack on an army post near Ofra in the West Bank, December 7, 2022. (Flash90)
Palestinian medics carry the body of Mojahed al-Najjar, who was shot dead by Israeli security forces after allegedly carrying out a shooting attack on an army post near Ofra in the West Bank, December 7, 2022. (Flash90)

Palestinian media publishes footage purportedly showing the moment of a shooting attack near the West Bank settlement of Ofra earlier today.

The video shows the gunman, Mojahed al-Najjar, standing next to his vehicle and firing toward a military post in the area.

Al-Najjar fled the scene and was killed by troops following a brief chase.

Peru’s president attempts to dissolve Congress, which turns around and impeaches him

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo gives a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, Oct. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo gives a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, Oct. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo dissolves the nation’s Congress and calls for new legislative elections, but the Congress rejects the decree and votes to replace him with the vice president.

Castillo had tried to beat lawmakers to the punch as they prepared to debate a third attempt to remove him from office. The national ombudsman’s office called it a coup.

Lawmakers then voted 101-6 with 10 abstentions to remove Castillo from office for reasons of “permanent moral incapacity.”

Man dies after heart catheterization equipment stops working mid-operation

Illustrative: Beilinson Hospital at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva in 2007 (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)
Illustrative: Beilinson Hospital at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva in 2007 (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

A man dies while undergoing heart catheterization at a Petah Tikva hospital due to a technical malfunction.

According to Beilinson Hospital, imaging equipment used to help guide the catheter stopped working as the procedure was underway.

The hospital says doctors immediately sought to resuscitate the 78-year-old patient, but he died.

“The medical team is upset and shocked from the difficult and rare incident, and is trying to digest and recover from it,” a statement from Beilinson says.

Before even taking office, Ben Gvir asks AG to halt police official appointments

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene of a suspected terror attack near the entrance to Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene of a suspected terror attack near the entrance to Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Otzma Yehudit chief Itamar Ben Gvir, who is slated to become the next national security minister, is seeking to intervene in the Israel Police before he has even been sworn in to office.

After a reported fight yesterday with Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai, Ben Gvir sends a letter to Attorney General Gali Barhav-Miara asking her to stop Shabtai from advancing senior appointments before Ben Gvir takes over.

In the letter, Ben Gvir complains about “problematic conduct” in the outgoing Public Security Ministry, which he claims is attempting to hand him a “fait accompli” once he takes office.

Netanyahu meets Likud MKs to discuss ministerial posts as coalition talks drag on

Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu seen after coalition talks with Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri and Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich outside a hotel in Jerusalem, December 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu seen after coalition talks with Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri and Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich outside a hotel in Jerusalem, December 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with lawmakers from his Likud party to determine what positions they will receive in the next government.

Netanyahu’s spokesperson denies reports that certain jobs have already been promised to certain lawmakers, saying that at the moment the Likud leader is “only hearing and listening to Likud MKs.”

A reporter for the Makor Rishon newspaper reports that Likud MK Yoav Gallant, who is said to be gunning to become defense minister, left his meeting “with a wide grin,” saying that it was “one of the best meetings I’ve had.”

Likud MKs have been privately and publicly fuming in recent days about the number of senior posts handed out to other parties in the future coalition, as well as promises to divide up some ministries in a way that will leave even less authority for Likud.

Incoming immigration minister says Law of Return ‘needs to be fixed’

Jewish Home and National Union alliance member MK Ofir Sofer, at a faction meeting at the Knesset, on November 11, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jewish Home and National Union alliance member MK Ofir Sofer, at a faction meeting at the Knesset, on November 11, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Religious Zionism MK Ofir Sofer, who has been tapped to serve as the next minister of immigration and absorption, says the Law of Return should be altered.

“It seems that the Law of Return needs to be fixed in some way or another,” Sofer tells Army Radio of the law which determines who can receive Israeli citizenship.

Sofer says he needs to first assume the ministerial role, “and learn all of details — I know the issues, but when I study them in depth I can address them differently.”

Asked about the controversial “grandparent clause,” by which anyone with one Jewish grandparent can be granted Israeli citizenship, Sofer says it is “very complicated” and says he will need a “grace period” by which to study it more in depth.

The religious parties in the incoming government — Shas, United Torah Judaism, Otzma Yehudit, Noam and Religious Zionism — largely support efforts to cancel the “grandchild clause” and thereby restrict immigration only to people born to Jewish parents, not those with a Jewish grandparent.

Such a change is viewed positively by those who want to limit the number of immigrants who are not considered Jewish under the Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law, which only recognizes matrilineal descent.

Leading rabbi dismisses sex abuse allegations against Rabbi Zvi Tau as ‘gossip’

Rabbi Chaim Druckman (L) and Rabbi Zvi Tau (Oliver Fittousi/Flash90)
Rabbi Chaim Druckman (L) and Rabbi Zvi Tau (Oliver Fittousi/Flash90)

A leading national-religious rabbi appears to dismiss rape allegations against another prominent religious leader from the community, but seems to suggest he should be “hanged” if the accusations prove to be true.

Rabbi Zvi Tau, 85, the founder of the far-right anti-LGBT Noam political party, has been accused by several women of sexual abuse and rape dating back decades, with two going public so far.

Rabbi Chaim Druckman, the spiritual adviser to Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, calls the allegations against Tau “gossip.”

“People like to gossip. They search for things from the last century,” Druckman says in an interview with the Kan public radio. “Go to the police. The police will handle it,” he adds.

Pressed on what should happen if the accusations have merit, Druckman says: “He needs to be hanged… you need to act like one does in such a reality.”

Biden officials said to hold talk on how to handle incoming Israeli government

Then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and then-US vice president Joe Biden speak in front of media prior to a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and then-US vice president Joe Biden speak in front of media prior to a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

White House officials reportedly held a meeting last week to discuss how to best deal with the expected far-right incoming Israeli government.

According to the report in Axios, a forum within the National Security Council known as the “deputies committee” met to discuss how to engage with the incoming coalition, which is expected to include multiple extremist ministers.

The group of officials did not make any final decisions on the issue.

An official familiar with the matter tells The Times of Israel that US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides is currently not planning to meet with Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party who prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has tapped to become the next national security minister.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the White House would judge the next government “by the policies and procedures, rather than individual personalities.”

As case numbers climb, Lapid to hold emergency COVID meeting tomorrow

People in Jerusalem wear face masks on January 21, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People in Jerusalem wear face masks on January 21, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid is slated to hold an urgent meeting tomorrow to discuss the rise in new COVID cases.

According to the Health Ministry, 1,615 new COVID cases were confirmed yesterday, with a current weekly average of 1,602 cases per day.

A week ago, the weekly average was 1,515 cases per day, and a month ago that figure stood at 904 daily cases.

Lapid calls on Netanyahu to condemn Likud MK’s purported homophobic remarks

Likud MK Shlomo Karhi at the Arrangements Committee meeting in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on January 13, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Likud MK Shlomo Karhi at the Arrangements Committee meeting in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on January 13, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid calls on prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn Likud MK Shlomo Karhi for purported homophobic comments he made in the Knesset.

During a heated exchange  in the Knesset plenum, Karhi shouts at Yesh Atid MKs Michal Shir and Yorai Lahav-Hertzano that “with you guys there are no men and women — everyone is Mrs., that’s your ideology.”

Shir retorts: “You have something against the LGBT community? Come out and say it.” Karhi shouts back toward Shir and Lahav-Hertzano: “How should I address you, as Mrs. or Mr.?”

Lahav-Hertzano, who is gay, shouts back angrily: “You should call me Mr.”

Karhi then asks the same question of Labor MK Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi, who retorts: “Don’t call me anything.”

Lapid calls on Netanyahu to “immediately condemn the primitive and homophobic comments by Shlomo Karhi toward MK Lahav-Hertzano. This stain is also on your head and on the entire Likud movement.”

In response, Karhi calls Lapid “a liar and a cheat” and claims that he was not asking Lahav-Hertzano, but was only addressing his question to Shir and Kariv.

Greece slams Turkey over ‘repeated threats of war’

Warships take part in a Greek-US military exercise south of the island of Crete, August 24, 2020. (Greek National Defense via AP)
Warships take part in a Greek-US military exercise south of the island of Crete, August 24, 2020. (Greek National Defense via AP)

Greece’s Foreign Ministry slams what it calls Turkish threats of war, after the Turkish foreign minister threatened to “take action” against Greece in the wake of a military exercise in the Aegean Sea.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry says Turkey’s “repeated threats of war” are “completely unacceptable,” and notes that Greece respects international law and the United Nations’ Law of the Sea.

Turkey insists the deployment of soldiers or weapons on eastern Aegean Greek islands near its coast violates the islands’ non-military status according to international law. Greece counters that it needs to defend them against a potential attack from Turkey, noting that Ankara maintains a sizable military force on the western Turkish coast, just across from the islands.

Yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “Greece needs to renounce its violation. Either it steps back on the issue and abides by the agreement or we’ll do whatever is necessary.”

Report: China operating police station in Israel to spy on dissidents

Israeli police officers stand outside the residence of the Chinese ambassador in the central Israeli city of Herzliya, May 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli police officers stand outside the residence of the Chinese ambassador in the central Israeli city of Herzliya, May 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

China has established a secret overseas police station in Israel to monitor political dissidents in the country, according to a new report.

Safeguard Defenders, a Spain-based human rights organization, alleges in a 33-page report that China operates 102 such stations in 53 countries. The report claims that the station exists in order to “harass, threaten, intimidate and force targets to return to China for persecution.”

The new report this week claims Israel is one of the countries that is home to such a Chinese operation, in an unknown location, citing a Chinese news site linked to the Communist Party of China reporting that “Xu Weisong from the Israeli workstation” contributed to a work meeting of the Nantong overseas police.

There was no further evidence provided to back up the claim that China is operating a secret police station in Israel.

Khanemei’s sister backs Iran protests, calls on IRGC to ‘lay down their weapons’

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting with members of the Expediency Council, in Tehran, Iran, October 12, 2022. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting with members of the Expediency Council, in Tehran, Iran, October 12, 2022. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Badri Hosseini Khamenei, sister of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declares her support for the ongoing anti-government protests.

“I think it is appropriate now to declare that I oppose my brother’s actions and I express my sympathy with all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic, from the time of Khomeini to the current era of the despotic caliphate of Ali Khamenei,” she writes in a letter shared on Twitter by her son, Mahmoud Moradkhani, according to Reuters.

Hosseini Khamenei, who lives in Iran, reportedly writes that the “Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries should lay down their weapons as soon as possible and join the people before it is too late.”

Gunman who fired at IDF post near Ofra shot by troops

Illustrative: IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank on June 27, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank on June 27, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Palestinian gunman who allegedly opened fire at a military post near the settlement of Ofra has been shot, a military source says.

The man was chased by troops in a nearby Palestinian town after fleeing the scene. Images circulated online show the man lying on the ground next to a hunting rifle.

The alleged gunman was named by Palestinian media as Mojahed al-Najjar, formerly jailed by Israel.

Earlier, the IDF said troops were searching the area for suspects.

At White House roundtable on antisemitism, Doug Emhoff says there is ‘epidemic of hate’

Doug Emhoff, the husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks during a reception to celebrate the Jewish new year in the East Room of the White House in Washington, September 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Doug Emhoff, the husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks during a reception to celebrate the Jewish new year in the East Room of the White House in Washington, September 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — US Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff laments the “epidemic of hate” facing the country in opening remarks at a White House roundtable discussion with Jewish leaders on the recent rise of antisemitism.

The gathering is held against the backdrop of Kanye West’s pro-Nazi tirade on Infowars last week and his dinner with former president Donald Trump and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes last month.

“Let me be clear: words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them,” Emhoff says. “We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must not stay silent. There is no either or. There are no two sides. Everyone must be against this.”

“For me, this is not the end. This is just the beginning of this conversation. And as long as I have this microphone, I am going to speak out against hate, bigotry and lies,” the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris says. “On days like today, I think back to Ellis Island. I think about my family members and I think of the promise of America. That a young boy from Brooklyn – whose family fled persecution – could be sitting here today as the first second gentleman of the United States in the White House.”

Also participating in the event will be State Department antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt, White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice and senior Biden aide on public engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms along with representatives from roughly a dozen Jewish organizations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 10, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 10, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Time magazine names President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as “the spirit of Ukraine” as its 2022 person of the year, for the resistance the country has shown in the face of Russia’s invasion.

“Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, Volodymyr Zelensky galvanized the world in a way we haven’t seen in decades,” writes Time editor in chief Edward Felsenthal.

IDF seizes NIS 6 million worth of drugs in smuggling attempt from Egypt

Drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, December 6, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, December 6, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs into Israel from Egypt last night, the Israel Defense Forces says.

According to the IDF, soldiers seized some 140 kilograms (308 pounds) of an unspecified substance, estimated to be worth NIS 6 million ($1.7 million) near the border.

No arrests are made, as the suspects who apparently hurled the packages over the border fled back to Egypt. The drugs are taken by police for investigation.

Expected future housing minister: Is there really a housing crisis?

UTJ MK Yitzchak Goldknopf seen during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
UTJ MK Yitzchak Goldknopf seen during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

United Torah Judaism chief MK Yitzchak Goldknopf, the presumed future construction and housing minister in the next government, suggest he does not see any housing crisis in the country.

“People are always talking to me about a housing crisis — I don’t know much about the Housing Ministry until now, so I don’t know if there really is a crisis,” Goldknopf says at a conference organized by the Walla news site, adding: “From what I see, there is construction all around.”

Central Bureau for Statistics figures for October suggested house prices for the last year across Israel have risen by 19.8%, compared to a 5.1% increase in the overall cost of living (the Consumer Price Index), and a 4% increase in salaries.

Shots reportedly fired toward IDF post near Ofra settlement

Illustrative: IDF soldiers near the West Bank city of Nablus, on February 18, 2022. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
Illustrative: IDF soldiers near the West Bank city of Nablus, on February 18, 2022. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Shots are reportedly fired at a military post near the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, no soldiers are hurt in the reported drive-by shooting.

There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces on the incident, which comes amid an uptick in shooting attacks in the West Bank in recent months.

Ex-Iranian president praises ongoing protests as working toward ‘a better future’

Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during a Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on January 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during a Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on January 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami voices support for the protest movement sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death, describing as “beautiful” its main slogan — “Woman, life, freedom.”

Khatami, a reformist who served as Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005 but has been effectively silenced by the establishment for years, comes out in support of the movement.

The 79-year-old describes the slogan “Woman, life, freedom” — the main chant heard at the protests — as “a beautiful message that shows movement towards a better future.”

“Freedom and security must not be placed against each other,” he says in a statement quoted by the ISNA news agency. “Freedom must not be trampled on in order to maintain security” and “security should not be ignored in the name of freedom.”

Taliban carries out first public execution in Afghanistan since takeover

Illustrative: A Taliban fighter stands guard in front of a mosque at the first day of Eid al-Fitr in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Illustrative: A Taliban fighter stands guard in front of a mosque at the first day of Eid al-Fitr in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

An Afghan man convicted of murder is executed in public, the Taliban says, the first confirmation of such a sentence since the hardline Islamists returned to power.

“The Supreme Court was instructed to implement this order of qisas in a public gathering of compatriots,” says a statement from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, referring to the “eye for an eye” justice in Islamic law.

Likud MK labels ongoing coalition talks ‘a failure,’ laments ministry divisions

Likud MK David Bitan attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK David Bitan attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK David Bitan suggests the current coalition negotiations are a failure and that his party is giving up too much.

“The Likud negotiations have failed. We’ll hardly be able to express ourselves,” Bitan tells Army Radio. “We’re losing a lot of portfolios, and even the ones we have kept for ourselves have been emptied of meaning.”

Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu is still working to build his presumed 64-seat coalition with Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit, Noam, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Several of the deals made so far have included trimming off portions of the Defense Ministry and the Education Ministry — portfolios Likud is expected to keep — to keep the other parties happy without handing over full control.

Bitan tells Army Radio that Netanyahu should not request a two-week extension from President Isaac Herzog, as he is widely expected to do, but should hammer out a coalition quickly and deal with divisions and arguments later.

Far-right anti-LGBT MK says new coalition will end the ‘darkness’ of outgoing government

Noam MK Avi Maoz speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Noam MK Avi Maoz speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Noam MK Avi Maoz, the sole Knesset member of the extremist anti-LGBT party, sparks outrage during a speech to the Knesset where he compares the outgoing government to the Hellenists of the Hanukkah story.

In his speech, Maoz says the story of Hanukkah is “fitting for today,” sings portions of the popular holiday song “We Came to Expel the Darkness,” and notes that the Maccabees had to drive out the forces of Hellenistic Jews, who wanted to combine Judaism with Greek culture.

“The spirit that the Greeks and the Hellenists tried to instill in the Jewish people is the real darkness,” says Maoz. “Anyone who tries to harm real Judaism is the darkness. Anyone who tries to create a new so-called liberal religion is the darkness. Anyone who — with intentional concealment and obfuscation — tries to brainwash the children of Israel with their agendas, without the knowledge of the parents — is the darkness.”

Yesh Atid MKs Michal Shir and Labor MK Naama Lazimi shout against Maoz’s comments from the Knesset plenum.

Under his coalition deal with Likud, Maoz will be appointed deputy minister and head a to-be-created authority for Jewish identity, as well as control extracurricular content in schools, a deal that has been viewed with alarm by many.

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