The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
US Fed raises interest rates again by quarter point and signals more hikes ahead
The US Federal Reserve extends its fight against high inflation by raising its key interest rate by a quarter point, its eighth hike since March. And the Fed signaled that even though inflation is easing, it remains high enough to require further rate hikes.
The central bank’s latest move put its benchmark short-term rate in a range of 4.5% to 4.75%, its highest level in about 15 years. Though smaller than its previous hike — and even larger rate increases before that — the latest move will likely further raise the costs of many consumer and business loans and the risk of a recession.
In a statement, Fed officials repeat language they have used since March that says, “ongoing increases in the (interest rate) target range will be appropriate.” That is seen as a signal that they intend to raise their benchmark rate again when they next meet in March and perhaps in May as well.
Senior lawyer sparks outcry with warning of armed uprising against government
A top Israeli attorney sparked an outcry at a legal conference in Eilat when he told a panel he would be willing to take up arms against the government if they pursue their judicial overhaul.
“I won’t live a day under a dictatorship,” says David Hodek, who also won a Medal of Courage, one of the Israeli military’s highest awards, for his conduct as a tank officer in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
“If someone dares to force me to live in a dictatorship, and I have no other choice — I will fight against him with live fire,” says Hodek who was participating in a panel on the reforms, which critics say will undermine democracy.
Hodek, a leading commercial lawyer in Israel, says the government underestimates the anger and opposition towards its plans.
“As an adult in Israel I was taught two things, how to be a lawyer and how to fight — I believe this government does not understand what a quagmire it is entering,” he says.
Likud MKs said threatening to torpedo law to get Deri back into government
Likud MKs are threatening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they will not support a law aimed at getting Shas leader Aryeh Deri back into government unless he finds senior positions for two party MKs, Channel 12 reports.
The government is working on a bill aimed at restoring Deri to his ministerial positions by removing from the High Court of Justice the power to disqualify him, as it has already done.
But Netanyahu has been told that there’s mounting anger in Likud that he is making great efforts to ensure Deri’s positions, but is not “lifting a finger” to do anything for senior Likud MKs David Amsalem and Danny Danon, who were passed over for ministerial positions in the new government.
Channel 12 quotes Likud insiders as warning Netanyahu he might not get votes from the party to support the Deri law.
The report also says that the Religious Zionism party is also uncomfortable with the bill, fearing that such an individually tailored law could undermine the greater effort by the coalition to overhaul the entire judicial system.
Lawyer: FBI finds no classified documents at Biden’s beach house
The Federal Bureau of Investigation searched US President Joe Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware without finding any classified documents, the president’s personal attorney says.
Agents did take some handwritten notes and other materials relating to Biden’s time as vice president for review.
The attorney, Bob Bauer, says FBI agents spent three and a half hours searching the home and that “no documents with classified markings were found.”
He adds, “Consistent with the process in Wilmington, the DOJ took for further review some materials and handwritten notes that appear to relate to his time as vice president.”
Today’s search marked the third time in as many months that agents have scoured Biden’s property in search of classified documents that he may have improperly held.
95 new immigrants from Ethiopia land in Israel after a several months hiatus
Ninety-five new immigrants from Ethiopia land in Tel Aviv after a gap of several months in efforts to bring remaining members of the community to Israel.
The flight is part of a family reunification effort, conducted with the support of the Jewish Agency and Keren HaYesod
Over the decades, the government has launched several operations to bring Ethiopian Jews to the country. In 1991, Operation Solomon brought over 14,300 immigrants from Ethiopia on 35 flights in 36 hours, the largest such operation to date. Approximately 95,000 Ethiopians have been assisted by the Jewish Agency to immigrate to Israel.
However, the efforts have been beset by controversy over who is eligible.
The current operation that began in September 2020 aims to bring to Israel 3,000 Ethiopians who have been waiting for years at transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa.
But the effort has been halted several times by the civil war in Ethiopia and political instability in Israel.
“It’s always incredibly moving to welcome Ethiopian olim to Israel, as they fulfill the dream to reach Jerusalem and reunite with their families,” says Doron Almog, Chairman of The Jewish Agency.
“In the past year, Keren HaYesod has helped with the rescue, relocation, and integration of Jews from Ukraine and Ethiopia. We will continue to operate tirelessly to provide aid and support around the world, and we are committed together with the Jewish Agency to continue and realize the Zionist vision,” said Sam Grundwerg, World Chairman Keren HaYesod
Netanyahu, Macron will meet to focus on Iran, expanding Abraham Accords
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announces that he will discuss stopping Iran’s nuclear program during his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron this week in Paris.
They will also discuss ways to expand the Abraham Accords, as France has shown interest in playing a larger role in the Middle East.
The two leaders last met in Jerusalem in January 2020.
Netanyahu, who will be in France from Thursday until Saturday night, will also meet members of France’s finance sector, and leaders of the Jewish community.
Moscow warns Israel against supplying any arms to Ukraine
Russia warns Israel against supplying weapons to Ukraine after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering military aid for Kyiv and was willing to mediate in the conflict.
“We say that all countries that supply weapons (to Ukraine) should understand that we will consider these (weapons) to be legitimate targets for Russia’s armed forces,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova tells reporters.
The Kremlin has warned of an escalation in the conflict as Ukraine’s Western partners vow more weapons for Kyiv.
“Any attempts — implemented or even unrealized but announced for the supply of additional, new or some other weapons — lead and will lead to an escalation of this crisis. And everyone should be aware of this,” Zakharova says.
In an interview with CNN yesterday, Netanyahu tells Jake Tapper that he has been asked before to mediate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and he would “certainly consider” doing so if asked again, but only if the US agreed.
“If I’m asked by both sides, and frankly, if I’m asked by the United States — because I think, you know, you can’t have too many cooks in the kitchen … and you know, we have our own backyard to deal with,” Netanyahu says.
Netanyahu said he was “looking into” providing the country with “other kinds of aid” besides humanitarian help, amid concerns over Israel’s “complex relationship” with Russia and its need to retain “freedom of action” in Syria in its effort to “keep Iran in check.”
The warning from Moscow also comes after reports in recent weeks that Israel has refused requests from the US to hand over ten Hawk anti-aircraft batteries and hundreds of interceptor missiles for delivery to Ukraine.
However, The New York Times reported last month that the US military was quietly shipping hundreds of thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine from a massive stockpile it has in Israel.
The armaments were stored for the US to use in regional conflicts, and Israel has permission to use some of the supplies in emergency situations, the report says.
Netanyahu tells CNN that it’s an American decision and he “has no problem” with that.
Israel has resisted providing weapons to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion. One major reason for Israel’s hesitance appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.
The issue has strained ties between Jerusalem and Kyiv, as the Ukrainians have consistently pressed Israel to provide more defense aid. The Ukrainian ambassador earlier this month urged Israel to supply his country with missile defense systems in the wake of continued deadly Russian strikes.
Israel has provided large amounts of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as other types of assistance, and the new government under Netanyahu has said it intends to keep those supplies flowing.
This week Israel sent Ukraine three armored ambulances.
AFP contributed to this report
Tanker breaks down in Suez Canal, but traffic not disrupted
A tanker transporting liquefied natural gas broke down in the Suez Canal on Wednesday but traffic in the global waterway was unaffected, a canal spokesperson said.
The Bahamas-flagged Grace Emilia suffered a malfunction of its rudder and tugboats pulled it to the side of the canal to allow other vessels to pass, said George Safwat, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority.
In March 2021, the Panama-flagged Ever Given, a colossal container ship, crashed into a bank on a single-lane stretch of the canal, blocking the waterway for six days.
Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo. About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, a pivotal source of foreign currency to Egypt.
Medics: Woman lightly hurt running to bomb shelter as rocket siren sounded
A woman in her 50s is lightly hurt after slipping while running to a bomb shelter in Sderot during the rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, medics say.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it is taking the woman to a hospital for further treatment.
The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
IDF: One rocket launched from Gaza, intercepted by Iron Dome
The Israel Defense Forces says one rocket launched from the Gaza Strip toward the southern city of Sderot and nearby towns has been intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.
The Sderot municipality and Sdot Negev regional council say no damage was caused in the attack.
Footage from the area shows what appears to be an Iron Dome interceptor missile taking out the rocket.
Footage purportedly of an Iron Dome interception over Sderot. pic.twitter.com/vYUpFq0w0O
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) February 1, 2023
Rocket warning sirens sound in communities near Gaza border, explosions heard
Incoming rocket sirens are sounding in the city of Sderot and other towns close to the border with the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces confirms that warning sirens have been activated but does not immediately provide further details.
Residents of the area report hearing several explosions, possibly indicating rockets were intercepted or landed nearby.
Jewish woman refuses to share maternity room with Arab woman in Afula hospital
A Jewish woman causes an outcry after she refuses to share a maternity room with an Arab woman at the Emek hospital in Afula.
The hospital refused, saying it “doesn’t separate new mothers.”
The Arab woman’s husband tells Channel 13 that they were “horrified” to hear the Jewish woman say she was afraid to be in a room with them.
“She is expressing her personal feelings but she does not have a right to ask someone to leave the room in a public hospital and that’s what they explained to her,” he says.
He says his wife was eventually moved to another room “at her own request.”
Levin willing to talk about numbers needed for court override
Justice Minister Yariv Levin says he is open to discussing the number of MKs needed to overturn a High Court decision in his proposed override bill, but not the principles of the bill, the Haaretz newspaper reports.
Levin, speaking on the “My Israel” podcast yesterday, says he is willing to discuss “nuances.”
His judicial overhaul includes proposed legislation that would allow any 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat Knesset to overrule decisions by the country’s top court, a demand critics warn could upend Israel’s democratic system of balance between the parliament, the executive and the judiciary.
Some opponents of the law, like National Unity chief Benny Gantz, have said they would support a clause that lets 80 MKs overturn a ruling.
“One can argue about this or that majority on overriding a law, but the basic principles cannot and will not be compromised because they are necessary and required,” Levin says.
Levin does not specify what numbers he would accept.
Israel’s new ‘Air Force One’ said to have emergency operating room onboard
Israel’s version of “Air Force One,” which is being restored after it was packed into storage by the previous government without ever having been used, will have an emergency operating room, the Ynet news site reports.
The report says that the plane’s meeting room can convert into a medical facility “with the touch of a button” if life-saving emergency surgery needs to be carried out.
The report says the feature mimics that of the original US Air Force One, the plane that carries the American president.
However, the report notes the plane is not fancy at all and that most of its seats are “very old.”
The aircraft is completing a series of test flights before finally being put into service.
The approximately NIS 750 million ($241 million) project, dubbed “Wing of Zion,” took years to outfit and was intended to be used by Israeli heads of state for official business. But neither former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, nor President Isaac Herzog touched the plane, which was commissioned under, and closely associated with, current premier Benjamin Netanyahu during his previous term in office.
‘Dangerous precedent’: Likud MK slams PM over delayed evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar
Likud MK Danny Danon criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to request the High Court allow the government a delay in demolishing the West Bank Bedouin hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar
“The new government’s answer to the High Court, which tries to avoid the eviction of Khan al-Ahmar, is a dangerous precedent and gives support to illegal Palestinian construction,” says Danon.
“We were elected to change the faltering policy of the previous government, not to continue it,” he says.
Dannon, a former ambassador to the UN, has become a vocal critic of Netanyahu since he was passed over for a senior position in the new government.
Despite right-wing ministers, government requests delay in demolition of Khan al-Ahmar
The government requests an extension from the High Court of Justice in carrying out the destruction of the illegal West Bank Bedouin hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar.
The government requests a four-month extension, the ninth since the court approved the demolition of the village.
The move comes despite several of the far-right members of the new government — including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Internal Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir actively petitioning for the evacuation to be carried out and criticizing delays requested by previous governments.
Hebrew media reports say the two were overruled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Critics of the state’s handling of the affair say the demolition has been repeatedly pushed off to avoid an international incident as the village has gained public backing from human rights activists, pro-Palestinian groups, and the European Union.
In 2018, the Supreme Court approved the demolition of the village, which is located not far from Ma’ale Adumim and is believed to be home to around 200 Bedouin residents. Since 2018, governments led by Netanyahu and then his successors Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, requested a series of delays in the demolition.
The state says the structures, mostly makeshift shacks and tents, were built without permits and pose a threat to the village’s residents because of their proximity to a highway.
Amid Ukraine war, Russia unveils new bust of Stalin to commemorate Soviet victory
A new bust of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was unveiled in the southern Russian city of Volgograd Wednesday, formerly known as Stalingrad, on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany there.
Footage released by the RIA Novosti news agency showed teenagers wearing military-style uniforms pulling down white covers from the busts of Stalin and two Soviet military commanders before baskets of red flowers were laid near the statues.
????In the center of Volgograd, on the eve of the anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad, monuments to Stalin, Vasilevsky and Zhukov were inaugurated. pic.twitter.com/29FHIWBR1b
— DAVID ÉIRE – Ireland for the Irish! (@DAVIDOD50) February 1, 2023
The Battle of Stalingrad, which turned the tide of World War II 80 years ago when German forces capitulated to the Red Army, remains a powerful symbol of patriotism in Russia as it presses its war in Ukraine.
Iran protester on death row gets stay of execution
An Iranian sentenced to death for his actions during protests triggered by last year’s death in custody of Mahsa Amini has been given a stay of execution, the judiciary says.
Mohammad Ghobadlou was sentenced to death in November after being convicted of “corruption on earth for attacking police in Tehran with a car, resulting in the death of one officer and injuries to five others.”
In December, the Supreme Court rejected Ghobadlou’s appeal and upheld his death sentence, which had been expected to go ahead any day.
SAY HIS NAME!#MohammadGhobadlou is at grave risk of execution!
IR regime's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Mohammad Ghobadlou against his death sentence on a charge of "corruption on Earth".
—#StopExecutionsInIran @C_AB_ @PeterDeRoover1 @jwaldag @n_roettgen pic.twitter.com/wOeEV5RL11
— joy | فراخوان تا آزادی | (@joyberryfly) January 25, 2023
But today, the judiciary rules that precedence should be given to the right of the slain police officer’s family to demand or forgo retaliation and his execution on the corruption on earth conviction should be suspended in the meantime, its Mizan Online website reports.
“The execution of the sentence of qesas (Iran’s Islamic law of retribution) takes precedence over the execution of the sentence of corruption on earth,” it quotes the office of the Supreme Court as saying.
Ghobadlou’s family has appealed for clemency claiming he suffered from bipolar disorder. The police officer’s family has demanded retribution.
Netanyahu meets Chad president ahead of opening of embassy
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, who is visiting Israel ahead of the opening of the central African nation’s embassy.
“We see these relations as extremely important — with a great country at the heart of Africa. These are relations that we want to upgrade to new levels, to new heights — and your visit here in Israel and the opening of the embassy are an expression of this,” Netanyahu said as the two met in Jerusalem.
In 2019, during Netanyahu’s last term, he and former president Idriss Deby Itno announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. Chad had severed ties with Israel in 1972 due to pressure from Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Deby, who ruled the Muslim-majority nation for more than three decades, was killed in 2021 on the battlefield in a fight against rebels. His son replaced him as president.
Netanyahu has made expanding Israel’s ties in Africa a focus of his foreign policy in the past.
Moscow accuses Washington of ‘destroying’ arms control pacts
The Kremlin accuses Washington of “destroying” weapons control agreements after the US said Russia was not complying with their last remaining arms pact, the New START treaty.
Tensions between the countries were already at breaking point before Russia sent troops to Ukraine last February, but have plummeted further since.
The US State Department faulted Russia for suspending inspections and canceling talks but did not accuse Moscow of expanding nuclear warheads beyond agreed limits.
“We believe that the continuation of this treaty is very important,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters.
“On the other hand, we see that the United States has actually destroyed the legal framework in the field of arms control and security,” he adds.
Former deputy IDF chief Eyal Zamir takes up post as Defense Ministry director
Eyal Zamir, a former deputy chief of the military, takes up his post as the director general of the Defense Ministry.
Zamir, 57, replaces the current director general, Amir Eshel, who quit with the change of government.
Zamir was considered twice to lead the Israel Defense Forces, in 2018 and 2022. Ultimately, however, the front-running candidates were selected instead.
Speaking at a ceremony marking his appointment, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant laid out the challenges Zamir faces.
“The defense establishment works, and will continue to work, to confront threats both near and far, chief among them from Iran,” he said, adding that challenges must be met with “boundary-breaking creativity.”
Gallant also highlighted the military’s role in nation-building, working with youth, the disabled and bereaved families.
Thanking Gallant for the appointment, Zamir vowed that “all those who threaten us will be met with an iron wall — a robust and secure defense establishment.”
Zamir most recently served as IDF deputy chief of staff. In 2018, he was the commander of the Southern Command, overseeing violent clashes along the Gaza border during protests organized by the Hamas terror group.
Between 2012 and 2015, Zamir was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s military secretary.
Government attorneys threaten strike over planned judicial overhaul
A committee representing attorneys who work for the state threaten to go on strike to protest the government’s planned overhaul of the judicial system, the Walla news site reports.
The committee declares a labor dispute today, the first step ahead of a strike, saying that the planned reforms will “significantly impact the work of the attorneys and is expected to cause severe harm to the organization.”
The planned overhaul has drawn intense criticism, even from longtime proponents of judicial reform, and has sparked weekly mass protests and public petitions by various officials, professionals, private companies and other bodies.
The legislative changes advanced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin would severely restrict the High Court’s capacity to strike down laws and government decisions, with an “override clause” enabling the Knesset to re-legislate struck-down laws with a bare majority of 61; give the government complete control over the selection of judges; prevent the court from using a test of “reasonableness” to judge legislation and government decisions; and allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers, instead of getting counsel from advisers operating under the aegis of the Justice Ministry.
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