The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Court override, bill to allow Deri as minister up for preliminary reading in Knesset
Legislation to enable Shas leader Aryeh Deri to be re-appointed as a government minister will be brought for a preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday and is very likely to pass.
Last month, the High Court of Justice ruled that Deri’s appointment as interior and health minister was invalid and ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire him, which the premier reluctantly did.
The bill to enable Deri to return to ministerial office is an amendment to the existing Basic Law: The Government, and inserts a clause into the statute stipulating that no court will be able to exercise judicial review over the appointment of cabinet ministers or be able to remove them from office.
In addition to the Deri law, a private members bill submitted by Religious Zionism MK and Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Simcha Rothman to enact legislation that the High Court of Justice cannot strike down will also come to a preliminary vote.
According to Rothman’s draft bill, which would be passed as Basic Law: Override, the Knesset could legislate any law with a “notwithstanding clause,” which stipulates that the law would be considered valid even if it contravenes a Basic Law.
The legislation would also require that all 15 justices of the High Court rule unanimously to strike down a piece of legislation that was not made immune to judicial review.
Rothman is currently preparing a very similar version of this legislation in his committee but is advancing it as a private members bill as well.
Netanyahu visits family whose 2 children were killed in Friday ramming attack
Prime Minister Netanyahu comes to the home of the Paley family, whose two young children were killed in Friday’s ramming attack in Jerusalem.
The father Avraham Noah Paley remains hospitalized in serious condition at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center.
Netanyahu asks the boys’ mother Hannah Dvora Paley to put a photo of the children in his office. “This awful story will help me explain to the world the difference between us and our enemies,” he says.
Family members asked Netanyahu and his wife to pray for the recovery of father Avraham Noah.
MK Rothman cancels Knesset panel meeting, will meet with Herzog
The head of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee MK Simcha Rothman has canceled a planned committee session for this evening and will meet with President Isaac Herzog to discuss the latter’s call for compromise on the judicial shakeup.
Gantz: ‘This is regime change. It’s not happening next week, it’s happening tomorrow’
Speaking to Channel 12 news, National Unity Party head Benny Gantz says, “The citizenry understands that what’s happening here is regime change. This isn’t judicial reform… It’s not happening next week, it’s happening tomorrow.”
Gantz says, “We cannot allow under any circumstances a politicization of the justice system.”
He claims that the government’s current actions “are only the first stage.” Once the courts are hobbled, he says, “they’ll do whatever they want.”
“This is the preface to a dictatorship… to the tyranny of the majority.”
He says the fight against the overhaul is vital to the retention of Israeli democracy, but must be waged “within the provisions of the law.”
“I urge Netanyahu to take responsibility. Stop this oncoming train. Then it will be possible to make progress” toward consensus.
Report: Bankers warned Smotrich of preliminary signs of economic crisis
During their meeting with Bezalel Smotrich earlier, bankers warned Smotrich there are preliminary signs of an economic crisis, Channel 12 reports, and urged him to agree to the president’s call for compromise.
Israel Discount Bank CEO Uri Levin was said to tell Smotrich: “There are negative indications. We see a ten-fold increase in interest in opening savings accounts in foreign banks. The dollar is growing stronger, Israel’s risk factor is rising and our stock exchange is doing worse than others around the world.
“The market is based on trust and if we don’t stop it now we may find ourselves in deep crisis.”
Levin’s concerns were reportedly backed by other top bankers.
Lapid meets Herzog to discuss call for dialogue
Opposition leader Yair Lapid meets President Isaac Herzog to discuss the latter’s call for dialogue on the reshaping of the justice system.
Herzog repeats his appeal for both sides to hold discussions.
Lapid says he told the president there are basic matters on which the opposition will not compromise to hold talks with the government, “first and foremost halting the legislative process in its entirety.”
Jerusalem municipality said planning to fire wife of car-ramming terrorist
The Jerusalem municipality is planning to fire the wife of the terrorist who carried out Friday’s ramming attack in the city that killed three people, Channel 12 reports.
Hussein Qaraqa’s wife works for the municipality as a pedagogic assistant in special education. She is currently on maternity leave.
There is no current proof that Qaraqa knew of her husband’s plans in any way. But the municipality believes keeping her on would harm public trust following the deadly attack, the report says.
Palestinians prepare Security Council condemnation of Israel for legalizing outposts
The Palestinian Mission to the UN is preparing a Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its recently announced decision to legalize nine outposts and advance plans for some 10,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, two diplomats for countries on the top panel tell The Times of Israel.
Once it has completed drafting the resolution, it will be submitted to the Arab League’s representative on the Security Council, the United Arab Emirates, in order for it to be weighed by other members.
The Palestinian mission is working to rally support for the resolution to be brought to a vote, though it currently is facing opposition from the United States.
According to the Axios news site, the US has told the Palestinians that it would be willing to support a non-binding joint statement from Security Council members condemning the Israeli announcement, as opposed to the binding resolution being drafted, which it would be more inclined to veto.
Israel is lobbying members of the Security Council not to back the resolution, but faces an uphill battle given that its policies in the West Bank face near-unanimous opposition.
Report: Smotrich reprimands bank chiefs for expressing concerns over judicial plans
Having expressed his love for protesters, Bezalel Smotrich turns to express his displeasure to bank managers. Meeting bank leaders today, the minister reprimands them for expressing concerns over the economic effects of the judicial changes.
“Your job is to calm the discourse,” he says, according to Channel 12. “You have a responsibility as bank heads. I don’t remember you expressing concerns during the Oslo Accords or the evacuation of [Gaza’s] Gush Katif.”
Ben Gvir rejects US, EU condemnation of outpost legalization: ‘We want many more’
Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir responds dismissively to the joint statement from foreign ministers of the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy Tuesday saying they are “deeply troubled” by the Israeli decision to legalize nine outposts.
“Stop being troubled,” he says.
“This is our goal, this is our position. Nine [outposts] is nice, but it is not enough. We want many more [legalized],” Ben Gvir says.
75 rabbis and religious leaders urge adoption of president’s proposal for compromise
In a joint statement, 75 rabbis and religious leaders urge an adoption of the president’s proposal for compromise on the judicial overhaul.
Rabbis including Mosheh Lichtenstein, Ohad Teharlev, David Stav and others say it is imperative to reach “as broad an agreement as possible for changes in the justice system and the balance of powers between branches of government. Lack of such an agreement could cause a fracture in the people.”
Health Ministry announces end to COVID isolations after May 15
In a landmark moment after years of pandemic limitations, the Health Ministry announces that starting May 15, people infected with COVID-19 will no longer need to isolate.
Currently, anyone with a positive test must isolate at home for five days.
The ministry also says that as of February 16, masks will no longer be mandatory in health institutions and nursing homes.
Smotrich: I have ‘tremendous respect’ for protesters, want to reach agreement
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, says in a statement claims the judicial shakeup will harm democracy are “a scaremongering campaign.”
Smotrich says he “would not want to live a single day in a country with a weak justice system.”
He says he has “tremendous respect and appreciation for the protesters” and says the proponents and critics of the government’s plan should strike to reach agreements.
“We are brothers,” he says. “I salute people who left everything yesterday and came to demonstrate. I love those people.”
Knesset panel refuses to extend secrecy for state-owned oil conglomerate for 5 years, agrees to 1
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee refuses to approve a cabinet request to extend secrecy regulations for a controversial state-owned oil infrastructure conglomerate for another five years, agreeing to a one-year extension only.
On Monday, Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope) and Yesh Atid’s Meir Cohen and Orna Barbivai spoke against the five-year request for the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company, prompting the committee to set up a subcommittee to meet today to hold further discussions behind closed doors.
That subcommittee approved an extension of the regulations for one year.
The decision represents a victory for environmental and civil society groups and individuals who submitted more than 300 objections to a draft proposal for the five-year extension.
According to a Justice Ministry document presented to the cabinet earlier this month, opponents noted the EAPC’s poor pollution record and charged that the confidentiality was too wide and all-encompassing, and did not allow any oversight of the companies’ activities.
They also quoted officials from the EAPC and the Government Companies Authority who favored lifting the secrecy requirement.
Bill to revoke citizenship of Palestinian terrorists advances to final readings
A widely supported bill to revoke citizenship from convicted terrorists who receive Palestinian Authority funds for their crimes is approved by a special Knesset committee on the matter for its second and third readings on the Knesset floor.
The Palestinian Authority regularly pays stipends to convicted terrorists, and the bill also applies to organizations that pay out on the PA’s behalf. The bill is inapplicable to Jewish terrorists.
The bill applies to both Israeli citizens and permanent residents incarcerated following a conviction for terror or aiding terror, and enables the interior minister to revoke their status after a hearing. The bill also expands the ability to revoke citizenship from persons lacking a second citizenship, provided they have the status of permanent resident outside of Israel. Once citizenship is revoked, the person would be denied entry back into Israel.
But a senior Justice Ministry official raises concerns about the bill’s legality to the special Knesset committee preparing the law. “This proposal is not simple and has legal difficulties,” Avital Sternberg, a senior legal adviser for public law at the Justice Ministry, told the panel before the approval vote.
Likud MK and special committee chairman Ofir Katz, one of the many sponsors of the bill, swats away legal criticism. “The responsibility to prevent the next attack is ultimately on us, the elected officials, and not on any jurist,” he tells the committee.
The bill previously cleared its preliminary and first Knesset readings with sweeping support from both coalition and opposition MKs, a rare feat amid a pitched battle between the two camps regarding the government’s plan to reform the legal system.
Detention extended for 3 Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks in Jerusalem
The detention of three Palestinians from the Shuafat refugee camp, who are accused of carrying out attacks in Jerusalem yesterday, has been extended by a court in the capital.
A 13-year-old Palestinian who allegedly stabbed an Israeli teenager in Jerusalem’s Old City, lightly injuring him, will remain held until February 19, police say, following a remand hearing at the Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court.
A 14-year-old Palestinian who stabbed a police officer at a checkpoint near the camp will also remain held until February 19. The officer, who was also hit by so-called friendly fire, succumbed to his wounds.
A third Palestinian who allegedly attempted to ram officers while they operated in the East Jerusalem camp last night, will also remain held until February 19.
Indian officials search BBC offices after Modi documentary
Officials from India’s Income Tax Department search the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, weeks after it broadcast a controversial documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the British broadcaster says.
The BBC says it was cooperating fully. “We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible,” it says in a statement.
Teams from the tax department are looking at documents related to the BBC’s business operations and its Indian arm, the Press Trust of India news agency reports, citing unidentified sources. Indian tax authorities declined to comment.
Rights groups and opposition politicians denounce the move as an intimidation tactic intended to quash the media.
The search continues “a trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organizations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment,” the Editors Guild of India says in a statement.
The investigation is “undemocratic” and “reeks of desperation and shows that the Modi government is scared of criticism,” tweets K.C. Venugopal, general secretary of the opposition Congress party. “We condemn these intimidation tactics in the harshest terms.”
Yisrael Beytenu pans immigration plan they say ‘closes gates of aliyah to Israel’
Members of the Yisrael Beytenu party fume at what they say is the government’s failure to provide sufficient assistance to new immigrants from the former Soviet Union in a special session of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee.
“This is a government that plans to harm immigration from the former Soviet Union, and is already harming immigration from the former Soviet Union,” says party leader Avigdor Liberman.
The speakers at the special session, which was arranged by committee chairman Oded Forer, call out Immigration and Absorption Minister Ofir Sofer’s plans to invest large amounts of money toward encouraging immigration from the United States and France specifically, which they say discriminates against immigrants from other countries. (Sofer’s office denies any sort of discrimination, maintaining that he treats all immigrants equally.)
Though the session was open to all parliamentarians, only members of Yisrael Beytenu — which largely represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union — attended the meeting.
Forer, who has been a particularly harsh critic of the government’s immigration and absorption efforts, also notes that the government has yet to resolve a long-standing shortage of Hebrew classes for new immigrants and has cut off a stipend that was issued to immigrants from the former Soviet Union who arrived in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The government is also working to restrict the Law of Return, to cut a section that permits anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate.
“The government’s actions are, in practice, reducing and closing the gates of aliyah to Israel,” Forer says, using the Hebrew term for immigration to Israel. “It seems that this government has decided to harm aliyah and immigrants to the State of Israel.”
Government to fortify hundreds of Jerusalem bus stops after deadly ramming
The Prime Minister’s Office and the Jerusalem Municipality agree on several steps to increase security in the capital in the wake of recent terror attacks.
They say the plan will include a boost in police forces and a fortification of 300 bus stops to help protect people from ramming attacks, such as the one on Friday that killed three people including two young children.
Later on, 700 additional stops will be fortified, in areas where the need is deemed less urgent.
Iran frees some prisoners to appease protest movement
Iran, rocked by months of protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, has released several dozen well-known prisoners in an apparent attempt to appease critics of the government.
The limited amnesty comes as the frequency and size of rallies has eased off in the winter months since their peak after the mid-September death in custody of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman.
Hundreds were killed, among them security forces, and thousands arrested, with four convicts hanged.
Many of those detained are believed to still be behind bars, and those out on bail still face the threat of ongoing legal cases against them.
But as the street tensions have calmed somewhat, Iran has released a group of high-profile detainees in recent weeks, a step seen as an attempt to deescalate after months of turmoil.
Kyiv clamors for fighter jets as war nears ‘critical’ phase
Ukraine renews its appeal to Western countries for fighter jets to help frustrate Moscow’s invasion, as senior defense officials from the United States and its NATO allies say the war with Russia is approaching a critical stage.
With the war set to enter its second year at the end of next week, the Ukraine contact group meets at NATO headquarters in Brussels and Ukraine makes its requirements clear.
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, when asked what military aid his country is seeking now, shows reporters an image of a fighter jet.
Moscow’s forces have been pressing in the east of Ukraine while bolstering their defensive lines in the south. The war has been largely static during the winter months, though both sides are expected to launch offensives when the weather improves.
Putin was hoping Western support for Kyiv would fizzle out, allowing him to charge ahead, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tells the meeting.
But Austin says the contact group will “help Ukraine hold an advance during the spring counteroffensive” and will keep planning for Kyiv’s long-term needs.
Top Dem senator: Netanyahu putting own narrow interests ahead of Israel’s democracy
Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tells Haaretz he is concerned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “dangerously putting his own narrow political and legal interests — and those of the troubling extremists in his coalition — ahead of the long-term interests and needs of Israel’s democracy.”
The current government’s action, inwards and outwards, could “not only harm key shared values between the United States and Israel, but also further undermine desperately needed lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people,” he warns.
Senator Tim Kaine adds: “Israel is a strong ally, and I’ve been closely monitoring the recent protests there. As tens of thousands of Israelis rally in support of democracy and judicial independence in their country, the Netanyahu administration should listen and avoid taking actions that threaten Israel’s democratic institutions.”
Struggle to get aid to Turkey and Syria after massive quake
Aid agencies and governments step up a scramble to send help to parts of Turkey and Syria devastated by an earthquake, but a week after the disaster many complain they still are struggling to meet basic needs, like finding shelter from the bitter cold.
The situation is particularly desperate in Syria, where a 12-year civil war has complicated relief efforts and meant days of wrangling over how to even move aid into the country, let alone distribute it. Some people there who lost their homes say they have received nothing. In Turkey, meanwhile, several families crowd into tents meant for just one.
On Monday, the United Nations announced a deal with Damascus to deliver UN aid to through two more border crossings from Turkey to rebel-held areas of northwest Syria — but the needs remain enormous.
Palestinian man dies 2 years after being shot in neck by IDF soldier during skirmish
A Palestinian man has died two years after being shot in the neck by an IDF soldier during a skirmish.
Since he was shot in January 2021, Haroun Abu Aram, 26, had been paralyzed from the neck down and had trouble breathing.
The incident took place in the South Hebron Hills as troops arrived to confiscate an electric generator and other equipment from the unrecognized West Bank village of al-Rakeez, that was allegedly used in illegal construction.
The military said the lives of the soldiers involved had been in danger when the shooting took place. An investigation found that the bullet was not aimed at Abu Aram’s neck, but was fired unintentionally after another Palestinian grabbed the soldier’s gun, the military said after the incident.
The military’s account of the incident is contrary to that of Palestinian eyewitnesses, who claimed the soldier fired deliberately at Abu Aram.
American, European top diplomats condemn legalization of 9 outposts
The foreign ministers of the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy issue a joint statement condemning Israel’s decision to legalize nine outposts and advance plans for some 10,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank.
The top diplomats say they are “deeply troubled” by the cabinet’s decision and “strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.”
Each of the foreign ministers’ countries have already condemned the Israeli announcement individually and today’s statement appears to represent an attempt to amplify their frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government.
The plans to further entrench Israel’s presence in the West Bank have also been lambasted by much of the Arab world, including by countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel.
Finance Ministry legal adviser rejects minister’s plan to limit Kan’s funding
The Finance Ministry’s legal adviser has rejected Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi’s desired steps to limit funding for the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation in the next state budget.
Asi Messing says the proposal was submitted without clear administrative work to back it up. He says Karhi’s desire to block the IPBC from receiving ad revenue could significantly increase its dependence on the government.
Karhi has said there is no reason to support state public broadcasting in Israel and indicated he seeks to shut down the IPBC, which broadcasts under the name Kan.
The plan has seen significant pushback. Channel 12 reported earlier this month that the government has decided to freeze the move, as it looks to focus on pushing through its contentious overhaul of the judiciary and wants to limit the number of public battles it faces.
Legal adviser to Knesset panel: Latest overhaul bill has no precedent in a democracy
Legal adviser to the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee Gur Bligh says he has found no precedent in any other democratic country where judicial review over legislation requires a unanimous decision of every judge on the relevant court, as proposed in a bill being advanced by committee chairman Rothman.
According to Rothman’s proposed legislation, all 15 justices of the High Court of Justice would need to decide unanimously that a law contravenes one of the Basic Laws in order to strike it down.
The legal adviser also notes if such a large majority of High Court justices rule a piece of legislation to be in contravention of a Basic Law, allowing the Knesset to override such a decision would be “unusual.”
Bligh says this requirement, along with other stipulations of the legislation — including the provision of a clause allowing the Knesset to make legislation immune from judicial review altogether — would “substantially reduce” the court’s ability to strike down legislation that contravenes the quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.
China’s Xi hails ‘solidarity’ with Iran during ‘complex’ world situation
Chinese President Xi Jinping hails Beijing’s “solidarity” with Iran as he hosts the Islamic Republic’s President Ebrahim Raisi at the start of a three-day trip.
For the first state visit by an Iranian president to China in more than 20 years, Raisi has brought a large trade and finance delegation to Beijing and was earlier greeted by Xi on a red carpet.
“In the face of the current complex changes in the world, times, and history, China and Iran have supported each other (and) worked together in solidarity and cooperation,” Xi says, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
China “supports Iran in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national dignity… and in resisting unilateralism and hegemonism,” CCTV reports Xi as saying.
Beijing also “opposes external forces interfering in Iran’s internal affairs and undermining Iran’s security and stability”, and will continue to “promote the early and proper resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue,” the Chinese leader says.
“No matter how the international and regional situation changes, China will unswervingly develop friendly cooperation with Iran.”
Nikki Haley announces presidential campaign, challenging Trump
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, announces her candidacy for president, becoming the first major challenger to former US president Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.
The announcement, delivered in a video, marks an about-face for the ex-Trump Cabinet official, who said two years ago that she wouldn’t challenge her former boss for the White House in 2024. But she changed her mind in recent months, citing, among other things, the country’s economic troubles and the need for “generational change,” a nod to the 76-year-old Trump’s age.
Margaret Atwood retweets ‘handmaids’ from Israeli protest
At yesterday’s protest, a group of women dressed up as handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s book “The Handmaid’s Tale” about a fictional future society that oppresses women.
Atwood appears to have noticed, retweeting a post on the demonstrators that said: “Over 20 handmaids reminded 100K Israelis protesting against judicial reform weakening the high court of justice what can happen when a group of fanatical religious men takes over. Thanks for the inspiration. We will not allow this to happen in Israel to any woman.”
@MargaretAtwood Over 20 handmaids reminded 100K Israelis protesting against judicial reform weakening the high court of justice what can happen when a group of fanatical religious men takes over. Thanks for the inspiration.We will not allow this to happen in Israel to any woman. pic.twitter.com/NkATT4Gavi
— Tal Sarig-Avraham (@talsarig) February 13, 2023
Opposition warns Monday’s mass protest ‘just the start’ if bills move forward
At the committee hearing, opposition MKs assail the coalition for moving forward full steam ahead with legislation.
MK Karine Elharrar (Yesh Atid) tells chairman Rothman: “How are you not ashamed? Yesterday you offered emotionally ‘Let’s talk.’ Where is your honesty? Not a day has passed since that statement to the media, and here you are again with your bulldozer to trample democracy.”
Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovich says Rothman should accept the president’s call to immediately halt the process to enable talks, warning that if the coalition does not do so, yesterday’s mass protest in Jerusalem was “just the start.”
Likud MK Ariel Kelner backs Rothman, saying, “It’s clear to all that a deep reform is needed in the justice system. There is a system here that has penetrated issues it has no authority over, as though it is some sort of super branch [of government].”
Knesset moves forward with judicial shakeup plans, advances further bills
The coalition pushes forward today with its efforts to reshape Israel’s judiciary, scorning mass protests and calls to pause from the president and top economists and public figures.
The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is convening to discuss another bill that makes up a part of the plan, a day after passing several pieces of legislation for their first plenary reading.
The bill under discussion today would stipulate that the High Court of Justice can only strike down legislation with a full panel of 15 judges ruling unanimously, and only if the law in question clearly contravenes one of the country’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws. It would also bar the court from striking down changes to Basic Laws.
Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman has rejected claims of rushing forward with the legislation without proper and real deliberation. While he has offered to hold discussions on the bills with the opposition, he has rejected President Isaac Herzog’s call to pause the process while talks to take place.
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