The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
The Israel Defense Forces publishes the results of an investigation into the launch of Iron Dome missiles in southern Israel last night.
Initially, the IDF said it had intercepted a drone over the Gaza Strip, but later walked back on the claim.
The IDF says the investigation found that the interceptors were launched according to protocol, “and with correct operational judgment.”
However, it remains unclear if there had actually been an aerial target that needed intercepting.
After announcing his resignation last week in the wake of allegations of sexual indecency, Israel Bar Association chief Avi Himi files a police complaint against a female lawyer who accused him of exposing himself to her during a Zoom call.
Himi has insisted the incident was consensual, which she has denied. Police are examining the matter.
In the complaint to police, Himi asks that they question him so he can present his version of events. He says he will give them access to his correspondence with the lawyer, which, he asserts, “will completely disprove her false version.”
He also complains about “the widespread sharing of an intimate video of me in a way that causes fatal and lasting harm to my good name, privacy, and family, to the point of the complete destruction and trampling of all aspects of my life and my family’s life.”
An Israeli bus driver is lightly hurt after Palestinians hurl stones at his vehicle between the West Bank settlement of Shavei Shomron and the Homesh outpost, medics say.
According to the Rescuers Without Border emergency service, the man is being treated at the scene by military medics.
Footage from the scene shows a window by the driver’s seat damaged by the stones.
An Israeli bus driver is lightly hurt after Palestinians hurled stones at his vehicle between the settlement of Shavei Shomron and the Homesh outpost, medics say. pic.twitter.com/cIeOcQiY4K
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) February 5, 2023
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with former US treasury secretary Larry Summers in a bid to convince him to back the new government’s proposals to upend the Israeli judicial system, according to Channel 12 news.
The report comes amid warnings by prominent economists, financial institutions, businesspeople and others that the plans being advanced by Netanyahu’s coalition could have a negative impact on Israel’s economy and credit rating.
Ukraine has made several demands of Israel ahead of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s planned visit to Kyiv, among them a public denunciation of the Russian invasion and expression of support for the country’s territorial integrity, the Walla news site reports.
Citing Israeli and Ukrainian officials, the report says Ukraine has also asked Israel to approve a $500 million loan; treat hundreds of wounded soldiers and civilians; and for the new government to commit to continue with plans to develop a civil rocket warning system, among others.
A Ukrainian official quoted in the report says a potential meeting between Cohen and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky depends on Israel’s willingness to take steps in Kyiv’s favor.
“The president won’t meet Cohen for a photo-op,” the official says, though an Israeli official has predicted that they will meet.
President Isaac Herzog urges the opposing sides in the increasingly contentious debate over the government’s radical proposals to shake up the judiciary to take a breather.
“We are in a very volatile moment,” he says, during an event at his official residence. “I say this from a place of historical responsibility. I hear that people and public leaders are called names in public and compared to Nazis. People forget what the Holocaust is when they casually use the term ‘Nazi.'”
Herzog did not point to any specific examples, but the comments come days after former prime minister Ehud Barak shared an image comparing Herzog — who been urging dialogue in an effort to forge a compromise — to former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement of the Nazis.
He also denounces threats to murder Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after a prominent anti-government protester was arrested for appearing to justify the potential killing of the premier, saying this is the most terrible thing.
“The debate is heating up to dangerous places and I call from here on all those involved in the disagreement: Stop a moment, breathe,” Herzog says. “Stop the whole process for a moment, breathe deep, allow for dialogue because there is a huge majority of the nation that wants dialogue.”
Former Bank of Israel governor Karnit Flug says she hopes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government heeds warnings from JP Morgan and other financial firms that its far-reaching plans to overhaul the judiciary could negatively impact Israel’s credit rating.
Speaking with Army Radio, Flug adds that she hopes for “changes with broad agreement.”
She also addresses a television report that Netanyahu has tapped his longtime confidant, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, to reach out to banks and credit rating agencies regarding the judicial proposals. Flug predicts the talks will end up being handled by government finance officials and not a political appointee.
The Israel Defense Forces says no rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, although sirens sounded.
The military says the alarms were activated following heavy machine gun fire from the Strip.
The Iron Done air defense system was not activated.
Russia and Iran are advancing plans to build a factory that could manufacture up to 6,000 Iranian-designed drones to use in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the US daily, which describes the development as a further sign of the tightening ties between Tehran and Moscow, senior Iranian officials — including a brigadier general from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — visited the planned site in Russia last month and held talks there in a bid to finalize the agreement.
The report, which cited “officials from a country aligned with the US,” says Iran and Russia want to develop a faster drone to challenge Ukraine’s air defense systems.
A woman in her 30s is being treated for anxiety following the incoming rocket sirens in Sderot, medics say.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says there are no reports of physical injuries. The woman is being treated by medics at the scene.
Meanwhile, the Sderot municipality says that according to initial information it has, no rockets were fired toward the city from the Gaza Strip.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin strikes a defiant tone amid calls by President Isaac Herzog and others for the government to slow its push to overhaul the judicial system and hold deliberations in an effort to work out a compromise proposal.
“The legislation won’t be frozen for even a minute,” Levin says in an interview with Channel 13 news.
Levin, who is No. 2 in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, insists he’s open to dialogue, “which can bring benefits and improve some of the proposals.”
“But when I take a look at the political picture at the moment, I can’t find a single responsible opposition member of Knesset,” he says.
He also rails at Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara after she submitted a legal opinion last week opposing his plans, which include radically reducing the court’s ability to strike down laws and government decisions as well as giving politicians full control over the selection of judges.
Levin argues Baharav-Miara’s opinion “doesn’t hold water.”
“The attorney general did exactly what we object to — instead of advising, she decides that the reform is unacceptable to her and thwarts the move,” he says.
Incoming rocket sirens are sounding in southern city of Sderot and other nearby towns close to the border with the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the cause.
Local residents report hearing a distant explosion in the area.
Police announce that investigators are currently questioning lawyer David Hodek on suspicion of incitement to violence.
Hodek was summoned by investigators after saying at the bar association’s annual conference that “if someone forces me to live in a dictatorship and I have no choice, I won’t hesitate to use live fire.”
He later apologized for the remark, which came as he spoke against the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system.
Yesterday, police chief Kobi Shabtai said the force would take a “zero tolerance” stance toward social media posts advocating violence against public figures, amid the increasingly contentious debate over the proposed judicial shakeup.
Police say they have finished interrogating anti-government protester Zeev Raz over a Facebook post in which he appeared to justify the potential assassination of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A police statement says Raz, a former air force pilot, has been sent home “under the appropriate guarantees” after he was detained for questioning, which it doesn’t elaborate on.
Coalition whip Ofir Katz of the ruling Likud party has submitted a bill that would grant mayors and municipal leaders immunity from arrest, similar to Knesset members.
According to a copy of the proposal cited by the Walla news site, Katz argues the legislation is needed to prevent “exhaustive [legal] processes” that can hurt municipal services and impact “public opinion.”
“An arrest that is carried out publicly can significantly harm an elected official. There have been cases in which elected officials in municipalities and regional councils, who are cleared of any guilt, paid a heavy electoral price following the mistaken perception built up in the voting public during the proceedings,” an explanatory text attached to the bill says.
Arrests could still be carried out in cases where a municipal chief was in the middle of committing a crime that involves the use of force, disturbs the peace or is treasonous.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov says that the reluctance of Kyiv’s Western allies to send jets to war-torn Ukraine will cost it “more lives.”
“I am sure that we will win this war, I am sure we will liberate all the occupied territories,” Reznikov tells reporters in Kyiv. But without the delivery of Western jets, “it will cost us more lives.”
The government approves the creation of a new body to promote settlement in the West Bank and boost the Jewish population in parts of northern and southern Israel, as part of the newly rebranded Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Ministry.
A statement from Negev and Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf’s office states that the “young settlement” unit “will operate in the Negev, the Galilee, mixed cities, neighborhoods with a high rate of infiltrators, young settlements and threatened communities in Judea and Samaria,” though it is not immediately clear what the office’s specific powers will be and how they may overlap with other state organs.
Responding to the announcement of the government’s decision, which has yet to be implemented, Wasserlauf says that he “will work to increase the number of residents in the Negev and the Galilee by promoting growth engines and national projects, increasing the sense of personal security and strengthening national resilience.”
Wasserlauf and his fellow far-right Otzma Yehudit party members campaigned on promises to strengthen internal security and governance, and are strong supporters of Jewish settlement across both sovereign Israel and the West Bank.
Along with far-right running mate Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit hopes to increase Jewish populations in the Negev and Galilee, which are also home to many of Israel’s Arab citizens.
Wasserlauf’s Negev and Galilee ministry is slated to receive powers and units transferred from the Social Equality Ministry and Agriculture Ministry.
Ukraine’s foreign minister appears to take a swipe at Naftali Bennett for saying Russian leader Vladimir Putin assured Israel’s then-premier that he would not kill his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, shortly after Russia launched its invasion last February.
“In the past, Putin has made promises not to occupy Crimea, not to violate Minsk agreements, not to invade Ukraine, yet he has done all of these things. Do not be fooled: he is an expert liar,” Dmytro Kuleba writes on Twitter. “Every time he has promised not to do something, it has been exactly part of his plan.”
Bennett made the comment during a wide-ranging interview released yesterday, while recalling his efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.
In the past, Putin has made promises not to occupy Crimea, not to violate Minsk agreements, not to invade Ukraine, yet he has done all of these things. Do not be fooled: he is an expert liar. Every time he has promised not to do something, it has been exactly part of his plan. pic.twitter.com/LGkwUeOYBK
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 5, 2023
A man arrested on suspicion of raping a woman in front of her children after breaking into an apartment in the southern town of Gedera is brought before the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing.
The judge orders the suspect, a 22-year-old from a Bedouin community in the south, be held in custody another nine days.
“It’s not me,” the suspect, who hasn’t been named, says as he is brought into the court room.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s supreme leader reportedly orders an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for “tens of thousands” of people detained amid nationwide anti-government protests shaking the country, acknowledging for the first time the scale of the crackdown.
The decree by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, part of a yearly pardoning the supreme leader does before the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, comes as authorities have yet to say how many people they detained in the demonstrations. State media offers a list of caveats over the order as well that means those with ties abroad or facing internationally criticized spying charges wouldn’t be eligible.
State media reports about the decree offer no explanation for the decision by Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran. However, prisons and detention facilities already had faced overcrowding in the country after years of protests over economic issues and other matters.
Authorities also don’t name any of those who had been pardoned or seen shorter sentences. Instead, state television for instance refers to the demonstrations as being a “foreign-backed riot,” rather than homegrown anger over the September death of Masha Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman detained by the country’s morality police. Anger also has been spreading over the collapse of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, as well as Tehran arming Russia with bomb-carrying drones in its war on Ukraine.
More than 19,600 people have been arrested during the protests, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been tracking the crackdown. At least 527 people have been killed as authorities violently suppressed demonstrations, the group says. Iran hasn’t offered a death toll for months. It already has executed at least four people detained amid the protests after internationally criticized trials.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid fires back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for accusing opposition chiefs of fueling incitement against him, after an anti-government demonstrator was detained over a social media post in which he appeared to justify potentially assassinating the premier.
“The new spin of the poison machine. Bibi, Smotrich and Ben Gvir think they can preach morality to us. To the weak, racist and terror-supporting trio — it’s time you understand we don’t work for you, you won’t silence us and we won’t take lessons in democracy from you,” Lapid says, referring to premier and his far-right coalition partners.
“You are leading to Israel’s end as the country we knew. We’ll fight you and we’ll win,” adds Lapid.
Government ministers vote to establish a new community near the Gaza Strip.
The new town, named Hanon, will be located in the Sdot Negev regional council near Kibbutz Sa’ad. A government statement says it will eventually be home to 500 families.
The area around the Hamas-run Strip, known in Hebrew as the “Gaza envelope,” has frequently been subject to rocket attacks by terrorists in the enclave, including in the past few days.
“The establishment of the community is further evidence of the resilience of the Gaza envelope and the power of the State of Israel. We’re proud to build up the Land of Israel and we’re proud to strengthen settlement in all parts of our land,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian authorities have detained a journalist at a reformist publication, local media report today, as her sister, also a journalist, remains in custody after reporting on Mahsa Amini’s death.
Iran has been gripped by nationwide protests since the September 16 death in custody of Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, who had been arrested for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women.
Elnaz Mohammadi, a reporter for reformist newspaper Hammihan, was detained at the Evin prosecutor’s office in Tehran after she had gone there “for an explanation,” reports Shargh, another reformist daily.
It’s not immediately clear why Mohammadi had been summoned there.
— HRANA English (@HRANA_English) February 5, 2023
Her sister, Elahe Mohammadi, was arrested on September 29 after reporting for Hammihan from Amini’s funeral.
The journalist was subsequently charged with “propaganda against the system and conspiracy to act against national security.” offenses punishable by death.
The procession in Amini’s home town of Saqez in Kurdistan province turned into one of the first protest actions, followed by more than four months of unrest.
Protests are held at a number of universities and colleges across the country against the far-reaching proposals by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to shake up the judiciary.
Faculty members join students at some of the rallies, including in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky tells lawmakers that the government’s plans for overhauling Israel’s judicial system will make the country “a weaker democracy.”
Speaking during a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Sompolinsky warns that the proposed changes — which include sharply curbing the High Court’s ability to strike down laws, and cementing full political control over judicial picks — will not ensure a proper balance between Israel’s three branches of government, as its proponents argue.
“The result will not achieve a balanced system of relations, but rather removes checks and balances from the Knesset and government,” she says.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I'm proud of our coverage of this government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
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