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

Likud ministers warn Iran, say Biden must not repeat Obama’s ‘mistakes’

Likud ministers refrain from confirming whether Israel is behind a deadly raid in Syria overnight, but warn Iran that the Jewish state won’t tolerate its military presence in the neighboring country or its development of nuclear weapons.

“We don’t acknowledge this or other strikes,” says Likud’s Tzachi Hanegbi in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster. “The Iranians want permission from Assad to act freely in Syria, to transform it into the model of Hezbollah [the Lebanon-based Iran-backed terror group]. This is all to deter us from acting against its nuclear program.”

Hanegbi also warns the incoming Biden administration against “appeasing” Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) is seen with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Tzachi Hanegbi during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on July 27, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The most important thing is to convince the incoming American administration not to repeat the mistakes of the Obama administration — to appease the Iranians. This only increased Iranian aggression and defiance. They saw this as American weakness,” adds Hanegbi.

Likud minister Yuval Steinitz, in an interview with Army Radio, says Israel is engaged in a “tremendous effort against Iran and its attempts to obtain nuclear weapons and establish itself [militarily] in Syria.”

Jewish attorney Fred Levin, who fought tobacco industry, dies of COVID

Florida attorney Fred Levin, who won a major legal battle against the tobacco industry in the 1990s, died Tuesday, several days after contracting the coronavirus. He was 83.

Levin’s death from complications of COVID-19 is confirmed by Levin Papantonio Rafferty attorney Mark Proctor.

In the 1990s, Levin was able to get the Florida Legislature to change Florida’s Medicaid law, allowing it to recoup money for the cost of treating lung cancer. That change helped Levin lead an effort to reach a $13 billion settlement with the tobacco industry.

Levin also became boxing manager to fellow Pensacola native Roy Jones Jr. in 1989, leading up to the prizefighter’s heavyweight championship in 2003.

Levin’s career began in 1961 when he joined the Levin and Askew law firm founded by his brother David and Reubin Askew, the Pensacola News Journal reported.

Levin, who was Jewish, used his success in his law career to pursue philanthropy work, donating more than $35 million. The University of Florida named its law school after Levin in 1999 after he gave $10 million to the school where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1958 and his law degree in 1961.

Levin was investigated by the Florida Bar on four separate occasions for making controversial remarks in public. One investigation in 1990 led to a public reprimand from the bar over his criticism of law enforcement prosecuting gambling crimes.

US House set to impeach Trump over ‘incitement of insurrection’

US President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time, the House planning the unprecedented vote one week after he encouraged a mob of loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results and the US Capitol became the target of a deadly siege.

While the first impeachment of Trump last year brought no Republican votes in the House, a small but significant number of leaders and other lawmakers are breaking with the party to join Democrats on Wednesday, unwilling to put American decency and democracy at further risk, even with days remaining in the president’s term.

The stunning collapse of Trump’s final days in office, against alarming warnings of more violence ahead by his followers, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated January 20.

“If inviting a mob to insurrection against your own government is not an impeachable event, then what is?” says Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat of Maryland, a drafter of the articles of impeachment.

US President Donald Trump waves as he walks toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, on January 12, 2021, in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Trump, who would become the only US president twice impeached, faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, in building its case for high crimes and misdemeanors as demanded in the Constitution.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Unlike a year ago, Trump faces impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.

While more Republicans may vote to impeach — and leaders are allowing them to vote as they wish — it’s far from clear there would then be the two-thirds vote in the evenly divided Senate needed to convict and remove Trump.

Jordan begins vaccine drive, hopes to inoculate 20% of population by year’s end

Jordan has begun administering coronavirus vaccines with the goal of inoculating 10,000 people in the first two days.

Wael Hayajneh, the Health Ministry official in charge of combating the virus, says that the first doses will go to medical personnel, the elderly and those with chronic diseases. The country hopes to vaccinate 20% of its population of 10.5 million by the end of the year.

Jordan received a first batch of China’s Sinopharm vaccine on Saturday and a first batch of Pfizer’s vaccine on Monday. Prime Minister Bishr al-Khasawneh and other officials received shots, in part to encourage others to get vaccinated.

More than 150,000 Jordanians have registered to receive a vaccine, while others are hesitant because of safety concerns. The government has set up 29 vaccination centers across the country and eased a nationwide curfew.

Jordan has reported more than 309,000 confirmed cases and 4,076 virus-related deaths.

The coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on the economy in Jordan, a Western-allied monarchy that is home to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Clashes break out in Nazareth over Netanyahu visit

Police officers are clashing with residents of Nazareth protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the Arab Israeli city later today, according to Hebrew media reports.

Netanyahu is set to hold a joint press conference with Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam, who on Tuesday announced his support for the Likud leader. The prime minister is seeking to woo Arab voters ahead of the March elections.

IDF bulldozer comes under fire from Gaza for 2nd time in hours

An IDF bulldozer comes under fire from the Gaza Strip for the second time today, the army says.

There are no injuries, according to the military.

The IDF responds by targeting two additional Hamas posts in the area.

Top Arab MK condemns Netanyahu’s Nazareth visit

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh is condemning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Nazareth, accusing him of attempting to drive a wedge among Arab Israelis.

“Netanyahu’s great escape from his trial has brought him to Nazareth in another attempt to divide the Arab community into good and bad [Arabs]. It would have been pitiful if he hadn’t brought with him a huge number of police officers who are beating up protesters and journalists. If this is what your reconciliation attempts look like, better to stay home,” tweets Odeh, as clashes break out in the city.

Netanyahu is set to make an address from Nazareth at 4:15 p.m. alongside its mayor.

Yamina’s Shaked rules out alliance with Gideon Sa’ar

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked says her party won’t merge with Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope.

“Gideon Sa’ar and his party were part of a failed government; such a merger is not on the table,” she says at an Israel Democracy Institute event.

Shaked expresses hope Yamina will be “the second-largest party and Bennett will form the next government.”

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on May 14, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

British virus variant now in 50 countries; South African in 20

The coronavirus mutation first found in Britain has now spread to 50 territories, according to the World Health Organization, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20. Both have been found in Israel.

The UN body also notes a third new coronavirus “variant of concern” found in Japan may impact upon immune response and needs further investigation.

“The more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge,” says the WHO.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

A healthcare workers takes swab samples from Israelis at a coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem on January 11, 2021. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Since first being reported to the WHO on December 14, the British-identified variant VOC 202012/01 has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the agency says.

Test results show the age and sex distribution is similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data reveals “higher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Poisoned Kremlin critic Navalny returning to Russia

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he plans to return to the country this weekend from Germany, where he has been recovering from a poisoning attack, despite facing a threat of jail.

The 44-year-old Kremlin critic says he booked a flight that will arrive in Moscow on Sunday.

“It was not my choice to come to Germany… I ended up here because they tried to kill me,” the anti-graft campaigner says in a video posted on his Instagram account.

Navalny says that he is “almost healthy” after the poisoning and can continue recovering at home, in Russia.

Allies say Navalny will arrive on a Pobeda airlines flight landing at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on Sunday at 7:20 pm local time (1620 GMT).

“Come meet me,” Navalny says in the video.

In this handout photo published by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on his Instagram account on Sept. 22, 2020 (Navalny Instagram via AP)

Navalny has been in Germany since late August after he fell violently ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow and was hospitalized in the city of Omsk. He was then flown out to Berlin in an induced coma.

Western experts concluded that Navalny was poisoned using the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok, the same chemical said to be used in the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal in the English town of Salisbury in 2018.

Navalny insists the attack was carried out by Russia’s main security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.

Netanyahu setting up task force to engage with Biden on Iran deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is setting up a special task force to hammer out an Israeli strategy for talks with the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear deal, according to the Walla news site.

The panel will include representatives from the National Security Council, Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, IDF, Mossad intelligence agency and the Atomic Energy Commission, the report says.

Biden is expected to seek to return to the Iran nuclear deal, a move opposed by Israel, which maintains a new deal must be negotiated to also rein in Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional aggression.

Minister: Normalization with 4 states, including Saudis, expected within months

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen says Israel expects to sign additional normalization deals in the coming months.

“We certainly expect to sign more agreements with Saudi Arabia, Oman, Mauritania and Niger in the coming months. Qatar’s rapprochement with Saudi Arabia also increases the chances of normalization with Israel,” he tells the Ynet news site.

Eli Cohen at the Ministry of Economy in Jerusalem, May 18, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Pelosi quotes Israeli song in plea to impeach Trump

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quotes Israeli lyricist Ehud Manor’s “I have no other land” in her plea to lawmakers to impeach Donald Trump for a second time.

Biden taps former UN envoy Samantha Power for aid post

US President-elect Joe Biden announces that he has picked Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, to run the agency overseeing American foreign humanitarian and development aid.

If confirmed by the Senate, Power will head the US Agency for International Development, which has an annual budget of about $20 billion. Biden also announces that he is elevating the position to the National Security Council within the White House, a signal that he will prioritize outreach to other nations.

Biden has said that USAID will coordinate America’s work to lead a global response to combat the coronavirus and help the most vulnerable nations.

He calls Power “a world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity.”

Power served as UN ambassador from 2013 to 2017. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for her book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” about the US foreign policy response to genocide.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power speaks during a discussion at the Atlantic Council on “The Future of US-Russia Relations.” on January 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

Alleged Israeli strikes in eastern Syria said to target missile shipments

The targets of the airstrikes in eastern Syria earlier today were a large shipment of missiles brought into the country for Iran-backed militias in recent weeks, a Syrian news outlet reports.

At least 16 Iran-linked sites were struck in the Deir Ezzor and Boukamal areas of eastern Syria in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning in a series of airstrikes attributed to Israel.

Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who runs DeirEzzor24, a media collective that reports from eastern Syria, says the missiles were brought in by the Fatimiyeoun, a Shiite militia organized by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that is principally made up of fighters from Afghanistan.

According to Abu Layla, who cited no sources, the missiles were brought into Syria from the beginning of 2021 and stored inside the militia’s warehouses in the Deir Ezzor region, which contain a series of underground tunnels and storerooms.

“The warehouses have a control and telecommunications building, and reconnaissance aircraft headquarters.

They include heavy and light weapons, and heat-seeking and medium-range missiles. Most of the arms are Iranian and Russian,” he says.

10 protesters arrested at Nazareth rally

Ten protesters have been arrested at a demonstration in Nazareth against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the Arab Israeli city, according to police.

Channel 12 says three Joint List lawmakers, Mtanes Shehadeh, Sondos Saleh, and Heba Yazbak, were escorted away from the rally in a breach of their parliamentary immunity.

Eyewitnesses say 200-300 people took part in the demonstration.

Israeli police scuffle with Arab Israelis demonstrating on January 13, 2021, in the northern city of Nazareth against a plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit their city (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

US House of Representatives opens Trump impeachment session

The US House of Representatives opens its session to impeach US President Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly Capitol riot last week by his supporters.

After a one-hour procedural debate and vote, US lawmakers will gather for another two-hour debate and vote on the impeachment.

If passed, Trump will become the first president in American history to be impeached twice.

According to CNN, the impeachment vote will be held around 3 p.m.-4 p.m. Washington time (11 p.m.-midnight in Israel).

Some Republicans said worried for their families’ lives if they back impeachment

Some Republican House members reportedly fear for their families’ lives if they support the impeachment of Donald Trump.

CNN reports that some “want to vote for impeachment but they fear for their lives and they fear for their families’ lives.”

In Nazareth, Netanyahu declares ‘new era’ of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

During a visit to Nazereth, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares a “new era” of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and attempts to clarify his 2015 election day warning against the Arab vote.

The Likud leader is seeking to court the Arab vote ahead of the March elections, in an about-face from his party’s previous unsubstantiated warnings of electoral fraud in Arab communities.

“Whoever says that we only remembered the Arab sector because of the elections — either he’s lying or he does not know the facts,” Netanyahu says.

In his speech, he claims his now-famous warning that Arabs were “voting in drove” was taken out of context.

“They twisted my words,” says Netanyahu, adding that he meant they were voting for the Joint List en masse, but was not expressing objections to their voting per se.

Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poses for a photograph with pupils on the first day of school in the Israeli Arab town of Tamra, Thursday, September 1, 2016. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

“In the 2015 elections, my intention was not to warn about the Israeli Arab vote, but rather to warn against voting for the Joint List that later opposed four historic peace deals that I reached,” says Netanyahu. “All citizens of Israel, Jewish and Arabs, must vote — it’s a democratic right.”

Netanyahu declares a “new era” for Jewish and Arab relations in Israel.

“If Jews and Arabs can dance together in the streets of Dubai, they can dance together here in Israel. A new era begins today, of prosperity, integration and security.”

He promises that he will pass a wide-ranging plan to combat violence and organized crime in Arab communities “very soon.”

“Very soon, I will present this plan to the government and the public and I promise — we will execute it,” Netanyahu says.

Netanyahu had already promised to pass the plan in November while speaking to a Knesset parliamentary committee. Netanyahu also announces that municipal heads will be able to take up to 15% of their allocated budgets and use it to enhance personal security and fight crime.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

Nazareth mayor disavows Joint List, asks Netanyahu to make peace

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam, speaking alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expresses disappointment with the predominantly Arab Joint List.

“We voted for them, [and] with all due respect, the Arab community is disappointed by them. They got our votes and did nothing.

“I am declaring from here, to the whole world, from Nazareth… it’s good for us [here] and we will continue to live together in our country and our request is that you don’t forget to make peace with the Palestinians,” he says to Netanyahu.

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam appears at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, January 30, 2014 (Flash90)

UAE-Israel visa exemption agreement to go into force in 30 days

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says the United Arab Emirates has ratified the visa exemption agreement between the two countries, the first between the Jewish state and an Arab country.

The deal will go into effect in 30 days, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Israel’s cabinet approved its side of the deal, waiving visas for Emirati citizens, in late November.

An Israeli passenger from a flydubai flight from Tel Aviv waves her Israeli passport on arrival at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, November 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)


Top Arab MK: Netanyahu thinks Israel’s Arabs have a short memory

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh condemns Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt at reconciliation with Arab Israelis after years of acrimony, as the Likud leader seeks to reel in Arab voters ahead of the March elections.

Netanyahu thinks the Arab community has a “short memory,” says Odeh. “He won’t divide us into good Arabs and bad Arabs.”

“The only way to ensure the interests of the Arab community is a unified voice of Arab citizens and its Jewish partners who are fighting with honor and dignity for its interests — peace, equality, democracy, and social justice,” says Odeh, whose party has captured the vast majority of the Arab vote in recent elections.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh speaks during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 19, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

National Guard members snooze in Capitol as House moves to impeach Trump

As the House opens its impeachment hearing, the District of Columbia National Guard says it has been authorized to arm troops assigned to security duty on the US Capitol grounds.

The Guard says in a statement that the authority was requested by federal authorities and approved by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy as of approximately 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Up to 15,000 Guard members are expected to be on duty in coming days in the district to support law enforcement in connection with the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Authorities are concerned about threats of violence, following the insurrection at the Capitol last week.

Photos emerge of the troops taking a nap inside the US Capitol ahead of the vote.

Members of the National Guard rest in the Capitol Visitors Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 13, 2021, ahead of an expected House vote impeaching US President Donald Trump. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
Members of the National Guard rest in the Capitol Visitors Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 13, 2021, ahead of an expected House vote impeaching US President Donald Trump. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 13: Members of the National Guard sleep in the Visitor Center of the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images/AFP

Democrats warn America in danger so long as Trump in office

Democratic lawmakers have opened the historic impeachment effort in the House by saying that every moment Donald Trump is in the White House the nation is in danger.

Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat of Massachusetts, says the debate is taking place at an “actual crime scene and we wouldn’t be here if it were not for the president of the United States.”

The House is considering impeaching Trump for the second time after last week’s riots at the Capitol as lawmakers met to certify the election results. McGovern says it was Trump and his allies who were stoking the anger of the violent mob.

He says Trump told the crowd to march to the Capitol and “the signal was unmistakable.”

Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma says January 6th will live in his memory as the darkest day of his service in the House. But Cole says the Senate could not even begin to consider impeachment until after US President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

He says he can think of no action the House can take that would further divide the American people than the actions being taken Wednesday. He says “it’s unfortunate that a path to support healing is not the path the majority has chosen today.”

Tibi: Netanyahu trying to turn Arabs into his ‘useful idiots’ in election

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi urges Arab Israelis not to fall for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “lies” on seeking rapprochement with the Arab community.

“Netanyahu is lying without blinking. He incited against all Arab voters for being Arabs. He did this in the 2015 election and again incited against them during the three elections that were held in the past two years,” says Tibi.

Netanyahu is “trying to turn us into his useful idiots,” he continues, underlining that the prime minister has no intention of repealing policies seen as anti-Arab, such as the Jewish state law.

“This is a temporary love seeking the Arab vote, which will dissipate after the election is over,” says Tibi.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi voting in his hometown Taibe on March 2, 2020. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

Airbnb cancels Washington rentals during Biden inauguration

Aibnb says it will ban bookings in Washington around the time of US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after local authorities asked people to stay away following the attack on the US Capitol.

“We are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, DC metro area during the inauguration week. Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, DC area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations,” the company says in a statement.

Members of the National Guard walk through the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 13, 2021, ahead of an expected House vote impeaching US President Donald Trump. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Trump to watch impeachment on TV — and can’t tweet about it

US President Donald Trump has nothing on his schedule today as the US House of Representatives is set to impeach him for the second time in just over a year, according to US media reports. This time, however, the US president won’t be able to vent his frustration on Twitter, after being permanently banned from the social media platform following last week’s US Capitol riot.

CNN reports: “Aides expect Trump to mostly watch the proceedings on television throughout the day. But without Twitter, a campaign rally, a team of lawyers or Republicans willing to defend his actions, Trump is set to weather the historic shaming in subdued fashion.”

Donald Trump speaks to supporters at his primary election night event at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, March 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

US Capitol rioter wearing ‘Camp Auschwitz’ sweatshirt arrested

The man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt during last week’s deadly riot at the US Capitol has been arrested, The New York Times reports.

He’s identified as Robert Keith Packer. He is arrested in Virginia.

Robert Keith Packer’s shirt, right, was one of many hate symbols present at the storming of the Capitol. Other rioters constructed a noose. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP Images and screenshot from Reddit via JTA)

At heated debate, Republicans say impeachment ‘divisive,’ don’t mention Trump

The debate is heated almost from the start as House sets up a vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

Democrats and a few Republicans say Trump must be removed immediately after he egged on a violent mob of supporters a week ago who then stormed the Capitol. The insurrection happened as some of Trump’s GOP allies were challenging his election defeat, echoing the president’s false claims that there was widespread fraud in his loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Most Republicans are saying impeachment is divisive. They’re not mentioning the president.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio is one of Trump’s most vocal defenders. Jordan blames Democrats for objecting to previous election results and he’s repeating baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

But Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts says Democrats haven’t pushed conspiracy theories that a president won in a landslide when he actually lost — which is what happened to Trump.

McGovern is looking back at the deadly Capitol siege and saying “people died because of the big lies that were being told.” And he says that’s enough to merit impeachment.

Nazareth mayor denies he’ll run for Knesset, join Likud

After a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam denies he’s planning to run in the upcoming Knesset elections or join the Likud party.

“I will remain Nazareth’s mayor. I won’t run for Knesset, even if I’m offered a spot on the Likud list,” he tells Army Radio.

IDF sees record-high virus infections; all cases are mild

The Israel Defense Forces records 1,506 active virus cases in the military, the highest figure since the start of the pandemic.

All of the infected troops are displaying mild symptoms.

Another 12,339 are in quarantine, the military says.

Former settler leader and consul-general to New York joins Sa’ar’s party

Dani Dayan, Israel’s former consul-general to New York and former chairman of the Yesha Council settlements umbrella group, is joining Gideon Sa’ar’s new right-wing party, New Hope.

Newly-appointed Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan seen at the opening of a conference discussing issues and ways to fight the boycott Israel movement, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, March 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In a statement, Dayan says he joins the party out of a “sense of commitment to the need for a change of government and the formation of a new government headed by Gideon Sa’ar, the only one who can lead the change that Israel and its citizens need.”

with Tal Schneider

US coronavirus deaths hit another one-day high at over 4,300

Coronavirus deaths in the US hit another one-day high at over 4,300 with the country’s attention focused largely on the fallout from the deadly uprising at the Capitol.

The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, or about 407,000. Confirmed infections have topped 22.8 million.

With the country simultaneously facing a political crisis and on edge over threats of more violence from far-right extremists, the US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins’ count. Arizona and California have been among the hardest-hit states.

The daily figure is subject to revision, but deaths have been rising sharply over the past 2 1/2 months, and the country is now in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is being rolled out. New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average.

More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or less than 3% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.

Jewish homes in London vandalized with red crosses

Crosses drawn with a red liquid appeared on several homes with mezuzahs in a heavily Jewish neighborhood of northern London.

“Officers have spoken to the residents of these properties,” the police write in a statement Tuesday about the incidents in Stamford Hill. “We understand it’s likely that a local man who is well known to residents and suffers with mental ill health may be responsible.”

Shomrim, a Jewish security group, calls the incidents an anti-Semitic “hate crime,” adding on Twitter that the perpetrator “appears to have used blood.”

A cross that was painted with a red liquid next to the mezuzah of the home of a Jewish family in London, Jan. 12, 2021. (Courtesy of Shomrim via JTA)

Lindsey Graham says impeachment would ‘do great damage’

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says the impeachment effort being pushed by House Democrats could “do great damage to the institutions of government” and he’s warning his GOP colleagues not to support it.

Graham is a frequent ally of President Donald Trump. Last week, Graham condemned the violent mob of the president’s supporters who invaded the Capitol. After that siege and after Trump had pushed the unconstitutional argument that Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the election results, Graham said to count him out and that “enough is enough.”

Still, Graham has stayed in touch with the increasingly isolated president.

And Graham’s message to fellow Republicans on impeachment is that those “who legitimize this process, you are doing great damage not only to the country, the future of the presidency, but also to the party.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican-South Carolina, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 10, 2020. (Susan Walsh/AP)

He says the millions of people who have supported Trump and his agenda “should not be demonized because of the despicable actions of a seditious mob.”

At least five GOP House members have said they will support impeachment, and two Republican senators have called on Trump to resign. Another GOP senator has said he will take a look at the articles of impeachment when they are sent to the Senate.

Another 4,795 virus cases diagnosed since midnight

Another 4,795 virus cases have been diagnosed since midnight, according to the Health Ministry, bringing the number of active infections to 77,650.

According to the ministry, 1,094 are in serious condition.

The death toll stands at 3,803.

According to the ministry, 9,226 cases were diagnosed on Tuesday and 7.3% of tests returned positive.

Pelosi: Trump a ‘clear and present danger’ to US, he ‘must go’

Opening the impeachment proceedings, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Trump “must go.”

“We know that the President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” she says.

She adds: “I believe the President must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure the republic will be safe from this man who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things we hold dear and that hold us together.”

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks through the Capitol in Washington on January 12, 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)

Health Ministry confirms 4 more cases of South African variant

The Health Ministry confirms that four more cases of the South African coronavirus variant have been found in Israel, bringing the total number of cases to eight.

The strain is believed to be more infectious, though not more lethal. Some doubts have been raised on the vaccine’s effectiveness to protect recipients from this variant.

Just 100,000 said to receive first vaccine dose this week as drive lags

Israel’s vaccine drive has slowed, with just 100,000 people receiving the first dose this week, according to Channel 13.

Health providers say the Health Ministry is not giving them enough vaccines and cite logistical problems in administering the shots.

Another half a million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are expected to arrive in Israel early next week.

Younger grades, street-front stores to reopen first when lockdown eased

Channel 13 lays out what is says is the Health Ministry’s plan for easing the lockdown.

In the first stage, kindergartens, grades 1-4 and 11-12 will partially reopen, as will street-front stores.

In the second stage, grades 5-10 will resume studies and “green passport” holders — namely those who were vaccinated or recovered from the virus — will be given certain freedoms, such as permission to attend cultural events.

In the third stage, restaurants and cafes will reopen.

But it remains unclear when the lockdown will be lifted.

McConnell won’t convene Senate for impeachment trial before Biden inauguration

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is refusing to convene the Senate before January 19.

That means that Donald Trump’s impeachment trial would be held under the Biden administration.

McConnell’s spokesperson confirms the development on Twitter.

Jerusalem municipality okays site for permanent US Embassy

A Jerusalem Municipality committee approves plans to build the permanent US Embassy in the capital on Derech Hebron street, according to the city’s deputy mayor.

It also green-lights the expansion of the current US mission in the Arnona neighborhood.

According to Kan news, the move has been expedited in light of Trump’s imminent departure from the White House. The outgoing president moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, in a major foreign policy move that went against decades of international consensus.

The quickened process appeared to be an attempt to further create facts on the ground that would make it harder for the upcoming administration of Joe Biden to reverse the move — though he isn’t believed to be planning to do so anyway.

Amid impeachment, Pompeo says Trump should win Nobel for Israel-Gulf peace

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is suggesting that President Donald Trump should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting Arab-Israeli peace.

Pompeo’s suggestion, made on his official Twitter account, comes as the House is set to vote later Wednesday on impeaching Trump, accusing him of rallying a violent mob of supporters to attack the US Capitol last week.

Trump and many of his allies have made no secret of their desire to see him honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, which is one of the world’s most distinguished awards.

US President Donald Trump talks on a phone call with the leaders of Sudan and Israel, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, applaud in the Oval Office of the White House, Oct. 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

Their campaign on his behalf has raised eyebrows because self-promotion for the prize is considered unseemly.

Pompeo tweeted a photo of Trump waving from a White House balcony with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior officials from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and copied the Nobel committee.

The photo was taken in September last year when Israel normalized relations with the UAE and Bahrain under the so-called Abraham Accords, which were negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Since then Morocco and Sudan have also agreed to recognize Israel.

Top House Republican: Trump ‘bears responsibility’ for US Capitol riot

Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy says Donald Trump “bears responsibility” for the US Capitol riot and declares that Joe Biden won the election.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action of President Trump,” says the House minority leader.

But McCarthy opposes Trump’s impeachment.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“I believe impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake. No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held,” he says.

McCarthy also rebuffs spurious claims that the left-wing Antifa was behind the riots, saying there is no evidence supporting that allegation.

He says: “Joe Biden will be president… because he won the election.”

Gantz appoints interim state prosecutor after appointment held up

Acting Justice Minister Benny Gantz appoints Amit Aisman as interim state prosecutor.

Aisman was chosen last month by a selection committee as Israel’s next state prosecutor. He was backed by then-justice minister Avi Nissenkorn, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held up the approval of the nomination in the cabinet.

Gantz says he has decided to tap Aisman as an interim state prosecutor until a permanent candidate is approved. The position has been vacant since Shai Nitzan ended his term in December 2019. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has been serving as acting state prosecutor in the meantime.

Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman. (Justice Ministry)

Gantz also says he was persuaded that past sexually explicit comments by Aisman should not hold up his nomination.

“The fact that there is no state prosecutor is a stain on the government and its leader. Therefore, until we bring the permanent nomination to the cabinet, I have decided to appoint attorney Aisman as the interim [state prosecutor] so he can start working,” says Gantz.

Trump warns supporters against violence, lawbreaking during rallies

US President Donald Trump urges his supporters to refrain from violence or illegal activity in upcoming demonstrations, which are set to be held ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers,” he says in an official statement.

In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Bennett denounces Netanyahu’s embrace of Arab community: ‘Unfathomable cynicism’

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett lashes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his sudden embrace of the Arab community ahead of the March elections.

“How is Benjamin Netanyahu not ashamed to embrace Mansour Abbas, a man who visited terrorists who murdered soldiers on the ‘Night of the Gliders?'” Bennett says in an interview with Channel 13, referring to Abbas’s prison visits to Palestinian prisoners who perpetrated a deadly November 1987 attack.

Bennett terms Abbas’s Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement a “sister movement of Hamas” and calls Netanyahu’s overtures “shameful.” He also says he believes the moves to be “totally political,” and a sign of “unfathomable cynicism.”

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett at a protest against the state’s intention to close the Hilla Project, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on August 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The treatment of Arab citizens must be totally equal,” adds Bennett. “But does Netanyahu have no limits? To embrace people who murdered soldiers? He should apologize to Israel. Shameful.”

Bennett also confirms he won’t run with his far-right former ally Bezalel Smotrich.

“I wish him luck. This competition of who could be more extreme, divisive and provocative — I’m not interested in this,” he says, adding that his party represents all Israelis.

Washington Republican Newhouse will back impeachment ‘with a heavy heart’

Rep. Dan. Newhouse of Washington has added his name to the short list of Republicans supporting the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

He says on the House floor that the article of impeachment is flawed, but he will not use the process as an excuse to vote no.

He says, “There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.”

Newhouse says the president took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Yet he says when there was a “domestic threat at the door of the Capitol,” the president “did nothing to stop it.”

He says he will vote for impeachment “with a heavy heart and clear resolve.”

Over 100 arrested over US Capitol riot — AP count

The number of people arrested on criminal charges related to last week’s riot at the US Capitol has exceeded 100.

The count by The Associated Press resulted from a nationwide review of court records and announcements of arrests issued by law enforcement agencies. The charges range from misdemeanor curfew violations in the District of Columbia to federal felonies related to the assault of law enforcement officers, theft of government property and possessing firearms and explosives.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI said this week they are pursuing dozens more suspects who have been identified through photos and videos from the Jan. 6 melee and tips from the public.

Those newly arrested Wednesday include 56-year-old Robert Keith Packer, of Newport News, Virginia. His mugshot appears to match the bearded man photographed at the Capitol wearing a hoodie emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz” and the phrase “Work Brings Freedom,” a translation of the German phrase from the gates of the Nazi concentration camp where more than 1.1 million Jews and others were murdered during World War II.

A pro-Trump rioter identified as Adam Johnson carries the lectern of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the Roturnda of the US Capitol Building after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building on January 6, 2021. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

California Democrat brands Trump a ‘traitor to our country’

During the impeachment proceedings, California Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo says: “I will vote to impeach this traitor to our country.”

“We must impeach the president, because he incited a mob that attacked the Capitol of the United States. The tabernacle of our democracy,” she says.

IDF issues demolition order for home of suspected killer of Esther Horgen

Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai issues an order for the destruction of the two floors in which the Palestinian man suspected of murdering Esther Horgen last month lives, the Israel Defense Forces says.

Esther Horgen, 52, who was found dead in the northern West Bank in a suspected terror attack on December 20, 2020. (Courtesy)

Yadai’s order comes after the High Court of Justice rejected a request from Muhammad Mruh Kabha’s family to prevent the demolition.

Horgen was murdered on December 20 outside her settlement of Tal Menashe in the northern West Bank. Kabha was arrested a few days later. He has yet to be convicted, though this is not a necessary condition for home demolitions for the IDF.

The demolition is likely to take place in the coming days.

Muhammad Mruh Kabha, 40, from the Palestinian village of Tura al-Gharbiya, is suspected of murdering Esther Horgen of the Tal Menashe settlement on December 20, 2020. (Shin Bet)

6 Republican House members have so far said they will vote to impeach Trump

While Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, at least six House Republicans are breaking with the party to join Democrats this time, saying Trump violated his oath to protect and defend US democracy.

Among them is Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington adds his name to that list.

He says on the House floor that the article of impeachment is flawed, but he will not use process as an excuse to vote no.

He says, “There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.”

Newhouse says the president took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Yet he says when there was a “domestic threat at the door of the Capitol,” the president “did nothing to stop it.”

He says he will vote for impeachment “with a heavy heart and clear resolve.”

Iran says will advance research on uranium metal, used in nuclear weapons

Tehran tells the UN nuclear watchdog that it is advancing research on uranium metal production, in what would be a fresh breach of the limits in Iran’s 2015 deal with world powers.

The latest move, which adds to pressure on US President-elect Joe Biden just days before his inauguration, concerns Iran’s plans to conduct research on uranium metal production at a facility in the city of Isfahan.

Iran says the research is aimed at providing advanced fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.

The topic is sensitive because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons and the 2015 deal contained a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys.”

House begins voting on 2nd Trump impeachment

Voting is underway in the House of Representatives on impeaching President Donald Trump over the violent siege at the US Capitol last week by a mob of his supporters.

Lawmakers are voting Wednesday on impeaching Trump on a single charge, incitement of insurrection. If it passes, Trump would be the first president to be impeached twice.

Our coverage continues on the main page of the site

The House has voted to impeach Trump a second time. Our coverage continues on the main page.

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