The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Shin Bet chief said to warn Ben Gvir he is inciting violence in East Jerusalem
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar has spoken to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and warned him that he is inciting violence in East Jerusalem, Channel 13 reports.
Ben Gvir, of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, is pushing for police to step up a campaign of house demolitions in East Jerusalem.
Bar tells Ben Gvir: Your actions are inciting and could cause a widespread escalation,” according to the report.
Bar says Ben Gvir’s actions are creating a feeling of “collective punishment.”
The report calls Bar’s decision to call Ben Gvir highly unusual.
Ben Gvir reportedly dismisses Bar’s warnings, responding: “We have tried your methods, they don’t bring security.”
Ben Gvir has vowed to take a more aggressive stance against Palestinian homes that were built without the necessary permits from Israel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He has framed demolition of such structures as part of Israel’s efforts to combat Palestinian terror, even though there have been no links between the owners of the homes razed for a lack of permit in recent weeks and security offenses.
Ben Gvir has also reportedly clashed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Police chief Kobi Shabtai over the issue.
Shin Bet said tracking extremist opponents of government judicial overhaul plan
The Shin Bet security service’s Jewish Division is collecting information on some opponents of the government’s contentious judicial overhaul plans, the Haaretz daily reports.
The division, which normally focuses on right-wing extremists, is now also looking at those it defines as left-wing extremists amid fears they could try and harm government institutions, the report says citing police sources.
The report says that in the last month, the Shin Bet has expanded its focus to also include “anarchists.”
Democratic Senator Murphy condemns Israel’s plan to expand settlements
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy condemns Israel’s plan to legalize nine outposts and advance projects for some 10,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank.
While the White House has been quick to condemn the measures, Murphy is one of the first members of congress to do so and appears to go further in his criticism than the administration did.
“This appears to be just the beginning of a policy of unprecedented expansion of settlements explicitly intended to expand Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state,” says Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism.
“I am worried that the implementation of these extreme policies will make it increasingly difficult to maintain the broad bipartisan consensus that has sustained Israel’s security for over 70 years,” he adds.
Levin said threatening to bring down PM if forced to compromise on judicial reform
Channel 12 reports major tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin over the judicial overhaul and insinuates that Levin is trying to bring down the premier.
The report is strenuously denied by the Likud party.
The report quotes sources close to both saying that Netanyahu wants some sort of compromise over the government’s judicial overhaul, whereas Levin is refusing to budge.
The report says there is a disconnect between the two and that Levin has told Netanyahu directly he will quit and bring down the coalition if forced to give up core elements of the overhaul package.
“Yariv Levin is pushing this to the extreme for political reasons. There’s no doubt that he’ll be the direct beneficiary if the Attorney General orders Netanyahu’s recusal (for breaching his conflict of interest agreement),” the report quotes a Netanyahu aide as saying.
“Netanyahu has lost faith (in Levin) and is trying to lead the judicial reform process himself, but the attorney general is preventing him from doing so,” the aide reportedly says.
However, Channel 12 also notes that Netanyahu has made publicly clear he is in favor of the reform and appointed Levin, knowing his position.
Likud slams the report, calling it “completely fake news and malicious lies that never occurred. To our sorrow, they were broadcast in an amateur way even though they were officially denied.”
Channel 12 says it stands by the report.
Codex Sassoon, oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible, set to fetch $30-50m at auction
The Codex Sassoon, the oldest almost complete Hebrew Bible, is headed to auction where it is expected to fetch between $30-50 million dollars, The New York Times reports.
This would make it the most expensive book or historical document ever sold.
Believed to be from the late 9th or early 10th century, the book was considered lost for over 600 years until it reemerged in 1929.
It has been in private hands since and will be sold by Sotheby’s in May.
Buddy, can you spare $50 million??
I got an exclusive peak at the Codex Sassoon, the oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible, to be auctioned at Sotheby's in May.
Created c 900 AD, lost until 1929, since then in private hands. (Yes, I touched it! Magical) https://t.co/jieAMx6JX0
— Jennifer Schuessler (@jennyschuessler) February 15, 2023
“This represents the first time the text appears in the form where we can really read and understand it,” Sotheby’s Sharon Liberman Mintz says.
The book is currently owned by Swiss financier and collector Jacqui Safra.
Nikki Haley officially launches 2024 US presidential bid
Republican Nikki Haley launches her 2024 presidential campaign, betting that her boundary-breaking career as a woman and person of color who governed in the heart of the South before representing the US on the world stage can overcome entrenched support for her onetime boss, former President Donald Trump.
Haley, a former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, makes her first appearance in public as a White House hopeful in the historic coastal city of Charleston, casting herself as a figure for generational change who can help the party win the White House again.
“If you’re tired of losing, put your trust in a new generation,” Haley says.
She leans heavily on her experience at the UN, her background as the child of Indian immigrants and speaks in hopeful terms about the country, saying, “Take it from me, America is not a racist country.”
IDF to demolish home of Hebron terrorist who killed Ronen Hanania
The Israel Defense Forces says it will demolish the home of Muhammed al-Jabari, a Palestinian terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting attack near Hebron in October.
Ronen Hanania, an Israeli man, was killed in the attack on October 29, 2022, and several others were hurt.
Al-Jabari, a resident of Hebron, was killed by security forces following the attack.
The demolition comes after Israel’s High Court rejected appeals on behalf of al-Jabari’s family.
The IDF says the demolition will be carried out in the coming hours.
Lebanon currency slips to new low, has lost 95% of value since 2019
The Lebanese pound hits a record low against the dollar on the black market, as the country’s grinding political and economic crises show no signs of abating.
The pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value against the greenback since the start of the economic crisis in 2019.
On Wednesday, it was trading over 75,000 to the dollar, compared with 60,000 at the start of the month, according to websites monitoring the exchange rate.
The depreciation has already translated into a surge in fuel prices in a country where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.
Religious Zionism: Disengagement law sets right 18 years of injustice
The Religious Zionism party hails the passing of a bill in a preliminary reading to repeal parts of the 2005 Disengagement Law in the northern West Bank.
“Today we fix this injustice,” the party says. “We continue to fulfill our election promises.”
“After 18 years we bring justice and are disconnecting the great harm that was done to the settlement enterprise and the state of Israel,” they say, vowing to legalize the Homesh outpost and resettle the northern West Bank.
Hadash-Ta’al slams ‘anti-democratic’ law to strip terrorists of citizenship
The majority-Arab Hadash-Ta’al party slams a just-passed law to strip convicted terrorists of their citizenship or residency if they were paid by the Palestinian Authority.
The payment clause is widely understood to have tailored the bill to apply only to Palestinian terrorists, who routinely receive stipends from the PA or related organizations, and to exclude Jewish terrorists from scrutiny.
Hadash-Ta’al says that the law is “anti-democratic” because it leads to a “deepening of the occupation, one law for the Jews, and another law for the Palestinians.”
“There is no democracy with occupation, it is the opposite,” the party says.
Knesset passes preliminary reading of law to cancel ‘disengagement’ in northern West Bank
The Knesset passes the preliminary reading of a bill that will cancel the so-called “disengagement” in the northern West Bank.
The bill passes with 62 MKs in favor and 36 against.
It amends the 2005 Disengagement Law, which had led to the evacuation of four settlements in the northern West Bank along with all the Israeli settlements and military presence in the Gaza Strip.
The bill, which only relates to the parts of the law pertaining to the northern West Bank, is key to the current government’s goal of legalizing the illegal settlement outpost of Homesh and a yeshiva that has been built there, which activists have tried repeatedly to reestablish since 2005.
The legislation was submitted by the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, with the backing of National Missions Minister Orit Strock.
It will need three additional votes to pass into law.
Iranian billionaire said launching takeover bid for UK’s Tottenham soccer club
Iranian-American billionaire Jahm Najafiis is set to launch a $3.75 billion takeover bid for the UK Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur, Reuters reports.
Citing sources familiar with the plans, Reuters says Najafiis’s MSP Sports Capital will put forward 70% of the purchase price, while backers from the Gulf, mainly from Abu Dhabi, will contribute the other 30%.
Tottenham is a north London club that has traditionally drawn a large fan base from Jewish communities, with supporters long describing themselves as the “Yid Army” although the club has more recently sought to distance itself from the term, saying it is now seen as offensive.
Both the club’s current owner Joe Lewis and its chair Daniel Levy are Jewish.
Four Border Police officers suspended for violence against settler, Palestinian
Police say four Border Police officers have been suspended from service following the violent arrest of settler activists in the West Bank and a violent arrest of a Palestinian at a checkpoint near Jerusalem.
In the first incident, Border Police officers are seen attempting to detain a man during protests against the removal of trees planted by a settler without authorization, near Shiloh.
Footage shows the officers pushing one man to the ground, with one officer kicking him and another punching him. Several others are violently detained in the area, the video shows.
Three officers are suspended following this incident, police say.
באיזו מדינה אנחנו חיים??
צולם הבוקר בהחרבת הכרם בגוש שילה
קרדיט לסרטון: חוננו pic.twitter.com/GGu5rHxIbx
— ארגון חוננו (@honenu1) February 15, 2023
In the second incident, footage shared on social media shows a Border Police officer ordering a Palestinian teenager at the Shuafat checkpoint in East Jerusalem to take his shirt off.
The officer then walks up to the suspect and punches him, before detaining him.
A Palestinian woman waiting at the checkpoint in a car, reportedly the teen’s sister, attempts to intervene and is confronted by the officers.
It is unclear what the teen was suspected of.
أجبروه على خلع ملابسه رغم الأجواء الباردة ثم اعتدوا عليه بالضرب واعتقلوه، وعندما حاولت شقيقته توثيق لحظة اعتقاله هاجمتها إحدى المجندات.. الاحتلال ينكل بعائلة مقدسية على حاجز مخيم شعفاط pic.twitter.com/zMsLO4XMoF
— AlQastal القسطل (@AlQastalps) February 15, 2023
Border Police chief Amir Cohen says the incidents will be investigated, and meanwhile, the four officers involved have been suspended.
Cohen says the “unusual incidents of violence are not in accordance with the spirit of the force.”
ADL calls on Israeli parties to negotiate over judicial overhaul, avoid ‘threats’
The Anti-Defamation League calls for Israel’s political parties to work together to negotiate judicial reforms, warning leaders against “intimidation, incitement and threats.”
In a statement, the US-based organization says it supports President Isaac Herzog’s initiative to bring together the heads of the political factions to discuss the issue, which has sharply divided the country, as well as the international Jewish community.
“We implore all parties to exert responsible leadership and avoid incendiary rhetoric,” the ADL says.
“At a time of rising antisemitism worldwide, the Jewish people cannot afford such acrimony and division. We urge all sides in Israel and the Diaspora to remain committed to reasonable compromise and constructive discourse,” it says.
Without overtly weighing in on the specific proposals, the organization implies concerns over the government’s current bills, which leading legal experts have warned would weaken Israeli democracy and put minority rights at risk.
“We further call on leaders to commit to upholding democratic values and the protections of minorities enshrined in Israel’s founding Declaration of Independence,” the group says.
Netanyahu said to promise Smotrich immediate transfer of West Bank powers
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and promises to immediately transfer powers over the West Bank Civil Administration to him, the Walla news site reports.
“The Defense Ministry authority will be transferred to you immediately in accordance with coalition agreements,” Netanyahu is quoted as telling Smotrich, who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry.
The call comes after Smotrich denounced an operation to uproot trees illegally planted by a settler in the West Bank as “an injustice that screams out to Heaven” and demanded that Netanyahu stop dragging his feet on handing over the authority to him.
Smotrich also accused Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of undermining his authority.
Police arrest relative of Jerusalem car-rammer, say he also planned attack
Police detained a relative of a terrorist who carried out a deadly car-ramming attack in Jerusalem on Friday, over his alleged intentions to also commit a terror attack.
According to police, the suspect, a 22-year-old from East Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighborhood, allegedly expressed intentions to carry out an attack similar to his relative, Hussein Qaraqa.
Qaraqa rammed his car into pedestrians at a bus stop in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood on Friday, killing three people including two young brothers.
Police say the suspect was found yesterday afternoon along with his brother, 31, on a bus near the Beitunia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem.
Both were detained, and their remand has been extended by a Jerusalem court until February 19.
Anti-government protesters call another strike and Jerusalem demonstration on Monday
The leaders of a protest movement against the government’s planned judicial overhaul announce another nationwide strike and demonstration outside the Knesset on Monday.
The organizers also call on the opposition in the Knesset not to enter any talks over the contentious reforms until all legislative efforts to pass them are “completely withdrawn.”
“With the sprint towards a dictatorship, we are forced to expand the civil resistance to this regime coup,” they say in a statement.
Tens of thousands of people protested in Jerusalem on Monday.
In symbolic vote Barcelona city council rejects mayor’s decision to un-twin with Tel Aviv
Barcelona’s city council rejects left-wing mayor Ada Colau’s decision last week to suspend twinning with Tel Aviv in a symbolic vote.
However, the councilors are powerless to overturn the mayor’s move.
Pro-Palestinian protesters wave Palestinian flags during the debate in the Catalan capital, chanting “no to apartheid.”
Only the mayor’s party votes to support the move.
Another proposal, to strengthen Barcelona’s ties with Palestinians and human rights groups working against “the occupation,” is also rejected by all factions except Colau’s.
Madrid’s mayor has charged that Colau’s move has “a significant stench of antisemitism.”
Knesset passes law to strip Israeli citizenship from terror convicts paid by PA
The Knesset passes a law to strip convicted terrorists who receive funding from the Palestinian Authority or an associated organization of their citizenship.
Getting rare cross-Knesset support, the law passes 94-10 on its third and final reading.
While its main sponsor was Likud MK Ofir Katz, it also counted members of the opposition’s right-wing and center-left lawmakers among its cosigned supporters.
The law, an amendment to Israel’s 1952 Citizenship Law, applies to both Israeli citizens and permanent residents incarcerated following a conviction for terror, aiding terror, harming Israeli sovereignty, inciting war, or aiding an enemy during wartime, and enables the interior minister to revoke their status after a hearing.
The law also expands the ability to revoke citizenship from persons lacking a second citizenship, provided they have a permanent residence status outside of Israel.
Once citizenship is revoked, the person would be denied entry back into Israel.
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 requirement to receive PA-linked money makes the law inapplicable to Jewish terrorists.
Otzma Yehudit MKs: This isn’t the government we signed up for, it can’t continue
Far-right Otzma Yehudit party leader Itamar Ben Gvir and fellow party member MK Limor Son Har Melech appear to issue a threat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they will bolt his government if West Bank evacuations continue.
In a statement posted on social media, Ben Gvir says that this isn’t the government he signed up for. “We joined the government on the basis of a commitment that it would be a completely right-wing government, and this policy cannot continue.”
Son Har Melech says she feels “very, very disappointed that the policies of the right are not coming to fruition in reality.”
Both accuse the government of enforcing laws for Jewish violators in the West Bank, while ignoring them for Palestinians.
Their comments come after security forces uprooted trees planted without authorization by a settler in the West Bank. Son Har Melech has accused a policeman of sexually assaulting her during the incident.
Ben Gvir, who is also the national security minister, had several demands to demolish Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem rebuffed by Netanyahu.
Patients evacuated as fire breaks out next to Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem
Some 30 patients, including a premature baby, are evacuated from Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem after a fire breaks out in a factory next door, the hospital and police say.
The hospital says the move is done as a precaution and the patients are shifted to nearby Shaare Zedek hospital as firefighters battle the blaze.
Police say the area is covered in heavy smoke.
Fire services say 9 teams are on the scene working to put out the fire in the building and searching for people trapped inside.
There are no immediate reports of injuries.
Lapid calls for 60-day pause in judicial overhaul legislation
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid calls on the government to pause its judicial reform legislation for 60 days in order to enable dialogue with opposition parties.
Lapid’s statement comes a day after he met with President Isaac Herzog to discuss the five-point judicial reform development plan that Herzog presented to the nation on Sunday.
Herzog also met with National Unity party leader Benny Gantz and MK Simcha Rothman, head of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, who is one of the key architects of the coalition’s reform.
Yesh Atid party chief Lapid said that the “starting point” for dialogue would be the coalition announcing a 60-day halt before bringing its first judicial reform bill for its first reading, currently slated for Monday.
This would “allow the president to lead the process,” Lapid added.
“We have been waiting for 74 years,” he said, referring to the years since the founding of the state. “Nothing will happen if it takes a few more weeks, thanks to which we will save the people of Israel from a terrible crisis.” Lapid said the current reform plan and the mass protests and professional criticism it has drawn is widening cracks in Israeli society.
If accepted, the legislative timeout would push the contentious reform into the next legislative session, as the Knesset is on pause for the majority of April.
Leading Tel Aviv restaurants to shut Saturday night in support of protests
A group of leading Tel Aviv restaurants says they will shut for three hours on Saturday night in support of the anti-government protests, Time Out reports.
The restaurants owned by Shahar Segal and celebrity chef Eyal Shani throw their backing behind the weekly demonstrations against the government’s plans to implement a sweeping judicial overhaul in the country.
Among the restaurants to close will be Port Sa’id, North Abraxas, the Salon, Romano, Malka, Deborah and all branches of Hamiznon.
Irish singer Gilbert O’Sullivan cancels Israel visit over ‘political climate’
Irish singer Gilbert O’Sullivan cancels a planned concert in Israel in the summer over the “political climate,” Hebrew media report.
The Ynet news site says O’Sullivan’s representatives informed the local production office that he does not feel comfortable performing in Israel, also citing a British Foreign office warning about protests in Israel.
O’Sullivan, who last performed in Israel in 2009, is best known for his 1972 hit “Alone Again.”
Man killed in as car explodes in Lod
A man was killed when his car exploded in Lod, police say, adding that they are investigating the circumstances.
Police say that the man, who has not been identified, was dead by the time medics arrived.
Large forces are at the scene, police say.
Lod has seen several murders in recent years linked to organized crime.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon leaves post after 8 years
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, the face of her country’s independence movement for eight years, announces her intention to resign, amid criticism of her drive to make it easier for people to legally change genders.
Sturgeon makes the announcement during a news conference at her official residence in Edinburgh, saying that part of serving well is knowing when to make way for someone else.
“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now,” she tells reporters. “That it’s right for me, for my party and my country.”
Sturgeon, 52, has led Scotland since 2014, when Scots narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. While the referendum was billed as a once-in-a-generation decision on independence, Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party have pushed for a new vote, arguing that Britain’s departure from the European Union had changed the ground rules. The UK government has refused to allow a second referendum.
The first female leader of Scotland said that she had wrestled with the decision to leave, and that it was “not a reaction to short-term pressures.”
MK says she was sexually assaulted by policeman during West Bank orchard uprooting
Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har Melech says she was sexually assaulted by a police officer as she took part in a protest earlier in the day.
Son Har Melech was one of two MKs who attempted to physically impede security forces from carrying out an order to uproot trees planted without authorization by a settler in the West Bank.
Son Har Melech says that she was physically stopped by four officers and one of them “one of them did something that is completely forbidden.”
Speaking with Hebrew media, the MK says she was “ashamed to say what happened in that human chain when I tried to get out.”
עקירת המטעים בבנימין: שוטרי מג"ב חסמו בגופם את ח"כ לימור סון הר מלך | כל הפרטים >>> https://t.co/qMAXB4AwOv@carmeldangor pic.twitter.com/UvVLU0UNZZ
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) February 15, 2023
There is no immediate comment from the police.
Dozens of activists flocked to the site this morning, including two MKs, to try and stop the removal of the trees from the plot of non-state land.
Some stood in front of bulldozers and tied themselves to trees. Numerous activists were reportedly arrested during violent confrontations with security personnel.
Do you rely on The Times of Israel for accurate and insightful news on Israel and the Jewish world? If so, please join The Times of Israel Community. For as little as $6/month, you will:
- Support our independent journalism;
- Enjoy an ad-free experience on the ToI site, apps and emails; and
- Gain access to exclusive content shared only with the ToI Community, including weekly letters from founding editor David Horovitz.
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.
So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.
For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel