The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfold. Saturday’s liveblog, updated throughout the Texas synagogue hostage drama, is here.
Many more Israelis object to a potential plea deal between opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu and prosecutors in his corruption trial, than those who support it, according to two separate polls.
A survey by Channel 12 news finds 51 percent oppose such a plea bargain and only 31% support it, while a Channel 13 poll finds 46% object and 29% support it.
According to Channel 13, the objection is stronger among supporters of the current coalition: 54% oppose a deal while 25% support. Among opposition backers, 36% support and 35% object. Among voters of Netanyahu’s Likud party, 41% oppose a deal and 32% support it.
The same poll found that 49% support handing Netanyahu “moral turpitude” which would keep Netanyahu away from the political arena for 7 years. 40% oppose that.
However, the Channel 13 survey found that only 30% of respondents believe Netanyahu is serious about his intention to reach a plea deal, while 40% think the former prime minister is playing a trick on prosecutors.
Both polls found that if Netanyahu is forced to relinquish power in the Likud party, the overwhelmingly preferred successor (out of the options given) is MK Nir Barkat. Channel 12 says Likud would almost preserve its current support with Barkat at the helm, getting 29 Knesset seats for the party, while Netanyahu would get 33. Likud currently has 30 seats.
White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan lambastes former US president Donald Trump’s administration for pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, as talks to renew the pact hit more and more snags.
Asked by CBS about Iran’s evolving nuclear weapon capabilities, Sullivan says: “The reason we’re in the situation we’re in right now is because the previous administration pulled out of the Iran deal and we are paying the wages of that catastrophic mistake.”
Britain’s foreign minister Liz Truss condemns a hostage-taking at a synagogue in Texas as an “act of terrorism and antisemitism.”
“My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the appalling act in Texas,” Foreign Secretary Truss posts on Twitter. “We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate.”
Opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu is huddling with his lawyers, Boaz Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad, at the latter’s home, together with Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and sons Yair and Avner, to discuss a potential plea bargain with prosecutors in the former premier’s corruption cases, Channel 12 news reports.
Sara, who previously was in favor, now opposes a deal, and so does Yair, according to both Channel 12 and Channel 13 news. In contrast, the former premier’s lawyers are united in support of a bargain, believing it is a “dream deal for Netanyahu,” and they are trying to convince him to accept it.
However, state prosecutors are reportedly unsure that there is enough time to wrap up such a deal in the window of opportunity before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit steps down in 15 days.
A senior prosecution source tells Channel 12: “The chance that there’ll be an agreement with Mandeblit is very small, even weak. The media is going much further than the reality. Practically speaking, there’s almost no time, even if the defense accepts the attorney general’s terms.”
Those terms are said to stipulate that the 72-year-old Netanyahu would be agreeing to de facto give up on his political career, accepting moral turpitude that bars him from serving as prime minister or minister for seven years.
“There needs to be an entire negotiation with prosecutors over every small detail and every nuance of the draft [agreement]. It’s a whole saga,” the source says.
Channel 13 quotes associates of Mandelblit saying the chance of a deal is “negligible,” since a deal couldn’t be finalized even if Netanyahu announces today that he accepts prosecutors’ demands.
Channel 12 says some in the prosecution team want to add another condition to any deal, requiring Netanyahu to formally retract his assault on the police and prosecution and recognize that they were not biased or engaged in a “witch hunt,” as he has frequently argued.
Quarantine for Israelis who are confirmed to have COVID-19 or have come in close contact with such an individual will be shortened from seven days to five days, Channel 12 news reports.
The report says Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz has ordered staff to make the change, which has also been made by several other countries, including in England.
It says the change is expected to enter effect as soon as midnight today.
The Blackburn Muslim Community in Britain has confirmed that Faisal Akram, a member of the community, was the gunman who took hostages at a Texas synagogue and died during a rescue operation.
“Faisal Akram has sadly departed from this temporary world and returned to his Creator,” the community says in a Facebook post, urging the public to “let the authorities complete their investigations, have respect for the family and allow them to mourn peacefully.”
إِنَّا لِلَّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونFaisal Akram has sadly departed from this temporary world and returned to…
A comment on the post features a statement by Akram’s brother, who says the family is “devastated” and that “we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident.”
The brother, Gulbar, says the attacker “was suffering from mental health issues,” adding that “we were confident that he would not harm the hostages.”
He claims Akram willingly freed the hostages, saying: “Don’t believe the bull#### in the media, they were released from the fire exit and not rescued.”
“A few minutes later a firefight has taken place and he was shot and killed,” he says. “There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender.
“We would also like to add that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim etc is wrong and should always be condemned.”
US President Joe Biden calls the hostage stand-off at a Texas synagogue an “act of terror,” appearing to confirm that the attacker, who later died, had sought the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui.
“This was an act of terror” that was related to “someone who was arrested 15 years ago and has been in jail for 10 years,” Biden says in comments to reporters during a visit to a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think there is sufficient information to know about why he targeted that synagogue, why he insisted on the release of someone who’s been in prison for over 10 years, why he was using antisemitic and anti-Israeli comments. We just don’t have enough facts,” he adds.
President Biden briefly spoke about the Texas synagogue hostage situation while volunteering at Philabundance, a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania pic.twitter.com/Jsnhhh1JMJ
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) January 16, 2022
The FBI announces the identity of the gunman who held a rabbi and three congregants hostage at a Texas synagogue yesterday.
“Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno of the FBI Dallas Field Office confirmed today the identity of the Colleyville, Texas hostage-taker as British citizen, Malik Faisal Akram, 44,” the FBI says in a statement.
The statement adds that officials will continue processing evidence at the scene, following investigative leads and “conduct a thorough, factual, and objective investigation.”
It adds that there is no indication that anyone other than Akram was involved.
A 7-month-old baby from the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak has been pronounced dead after being found unconscious in his cot.
His father reportedly says the infant’s head got stuck between two beds.
He was taken in critical to the city’s Mayanei HaYeshua hospital, but efforts to save his life failed.
Special tree plantings for the Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat have been held in the United Arab Emirates, with which Israel normalized ties in late 2020 in a landmark US-brokered deal.
The event is held to celebrate a year since the establishment of Jewish Educational Campus in the UAE, an organization that educates about 100 children from the fledgling Jewish community.
It is held in cooperation with Israel’s KKL-JNF and in the presence of Israel’s consul general in Dubai Ilan Sztulman, KKL-JNF managing director of the Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020 Nave Shachar, and the leader of the Jewish community Rabbi Levi Duchman.
Among the details that trickled out of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, while the rabbi and three congregants were being held hostage yesterday, was the fact that a New York rabbi had been conscripted into negotiations.
That rabbi was Angela Buchdahl, senior rabbi at Central Synagogue and a leading figure in Reform Judaism. Buchdahl has confirmed her involvement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and said she spoke twice to the attacker, whose identity has not yet been made public.
“I can confirm that the gunman reached out to me twice yesterday by phone,” Buchdahl writes in an email. “We are about to share a note with the congregation just confirming that. Other than that for security reasons I cannot share more.”
It is unclear why Buchdahl wound up on the phone during the 11-hour standoff.
Cabinet ministers give first-stage approval to an opposition-sponsored bill that would reinstate a decree barring Palestinians who marry Israelis from receiving permits to live with their spouses in Israel, a week after a near-identical government-sponsored bill was given similar approval, and months after an earlier ban expired following a dramatic coalition fight.
The bill — widely referred to as the “Citizenship Law” — passes a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which allows it to be fast-tracked through the legislative process. From there, the bill goes to the Knesset, where it must still pass three votes before becoming law.
Today’s bill was submitted by opposition MK Simcha Rotman (Religious Zionism), and is nearly identical to the legislation sponsored by the government last week.
However, the government version of the bill is unlikely to progress further in the Knesset, as right-wing opposition lawmakers have been voting against coalition proposals even if they are aligned with their policies.
Seven ministers vote in favor of the bill. Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen vote against it; Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai abstains.
The West and Russia are on “totally different tracks” despite a week of intense diplomacy targeting tensions over Ukraine and Eastern European security, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says in an interview with CNN.
“There are some understandings between us. But in general, in principle, we can now say that we are staying on different tracks, on totally different tracks. And this is not good. This is disturbing,” Peskov tells the US channel.
US Vice President Kamala Harris says the 11-hour hostage crisis yesterday at a Texas synagogue is a “reminder that we must speak up and combat antisemitism and hate wherever it exists.”
“This morning, we are grateful that four people held hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas are safe and going home to their families,” Harris says in a statement. “We thank the brave men and women in federal, state, and local law enforcement, and we stand in solidarity with the Congregation Beth Israel community and the entire Jewish community.
“While we will learn more about the hostage taker’s motivation, we know this: what happened yesterday at Congregation Beth Israel is a reminder that we must speak up and combat antisemitism and hate wherever it exists. Everyone has a right to pray, work, study, and spend time with loved ones not as the other – but as us.”
Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Ran Kochav has tested positive for the coronavirus, the military says.
“The officer feels good and will continue to maintain his normal schedule as much as he can in accordance with the rules of the Health Ministry and the IDF,” the military says.
Kochav is quarantining at home, according to the IDF.
According to Health Ministry data, 27,167 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed yesterday.
Serious cases have continued to surge, reaching 436, including 122 in critical condition and 96 on ventilators.
The death toll has grown to 8,319.
There are 259,204 active cases, almost 3% of Israelis.
Residents evacuated in the vicinity of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, where an 11-hour hostage crisis unfolded yesterday, were allowed to return to their homes at around 2 a.m. last night, Colleyville Police Sgt. Dara Nelson tells The Times of Israel.
“Pleasant Run will remain closed tonight and through much of the day tomorrow between Hardage Lane and Shelton Drive. Please avoid the area,” the department says in a statement overnight, referring to the street where the synagogue is located.
Government ministers approve a NIS 110 million ($35.4 million) plan to upgrade infrastructure at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
The plan aims to encourage more visits to the site by improving public transportation accessibility, developing new educational programs and continuing existing development projects.
The earmarked funds of the plan — brought by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — come from the budgets of the Prime Minister’s Office, the ministries of defense, finance, education, interior, transportation, tourism, public security, culture and sports, immigration, and science and technology.
“The Western Wall is one of the holiest and most important sites for the Jewish people, and millions of visitors from all over the world visit it regularly. The five-year plan we have just approved in the government will continue to upgrade the infrastructure needed for the site, and will help encourage the arrival of many more visitors,” Bennett says in a statement released by his office.
Soccer player Yitzhak Asefa is released from prison, after being granted early release two years into a three-year sentence for the 2018 hit-and-run killing of a teen who was riding on an electric bike with a friend.
Yitzhak Asefa was originally sentenced to 4.5 years behind bars in January 2020, but the Supreme Court later reduced his sentence on appeal to three years.
Asefa, a soccer player for the Israel Premier League’s F.C. Ashdod team, was also ordered at the time to pay NIS 20,000 ($5,796) to the family of Ari Nesher, 17, who died following the accident, and another NIS 5,000 ($1,449) to the family of the other teenager who was riding the bike.
A campaign to cover the legal costs of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu raises NIS 1 million ($321,000) within three hours.
Netanyahu, who is accused of corruption in three cases, including bribery in one of them, has accused law enforcement of instigating a politically motivated “coup” along with the left, the media, police and others. He enjoys widespread support in the right wing.
Pro-Netanyahu pundit Yinon Magal opened the fundraiser as reports have proliferated about talks on a plea deal Netanyahu is negotiating with prosecutors.
The Israel Defense Forces and the US military’s Central Command held a joint aerial exercise over southern Israel last week, simulating airstrikes and mid-air dogfights, the IDF says.
The exercise, dubbed Desert Falcon, is the latest one held by the IDF and the Middle East-based CENTCOM, after Israel officially moved into the latter’s area of responsibility last year. Before then, the IDF had worked predominantly with the US European Command, as Washington feared that Arab countries in the region would oppose cooperating with CENTCOM if Israel did too.
According to the IDF, Israeli pilots from the 119th Squadron operating F-16 fighter jets and intelligence-gathering Gulfstream G550 planes flew alongside American pilots from the 55th Fighter Squadron operating F-16 jets against the IAF’s so-called “Red Squadron,” which uses F-16 fighter jets, helicopters and other equipment to simulate enemy forces for exercises.
“The Israeli air teams flew ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with American teams and simulated joint responses to aerial threats and strikes on targets, through education, cooperation, and mutual growth,” the IDF says.
“The exercise represents an important milestone in the strengthening of international-strategic cooperation between Israel and the American air force, and it contributes to the readiness of our troops,” the Israeli military says.
Lebanon’s Energy Ministry denies a report by Israel’s Channel 12 news yesterday that said Israel has signed an agreement to indirectly pump natural gas to Lebanon to aid the crisis-hit nation, calling it “completely untrue.”
“The Ministry of Energy and Water confirms that the gas supply agreement that is being worked on between the Lebanese government and the sisterly Egyptian government clearly and explicitly stipulates that the gas should come from Egypt, which owns large quantities of it, and consumes within the same country more than a hundred times what it will provide to Lebanon,” the ministry says in a statement cited by local media.
“What is being circulated about the fact that the gas will be Israeli gas is totally and completely untrue,” it adds.
Culture Minister Chili Tropper tests positive for COVID-19, saying he’s feeling well and experiencing no symptoms.
He didn’t take part in today’s cabinet meeting.
Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic flies out of Melbourne airport after losing a court battle to avoid deportation from Australia over his refusal to vaccinate against COVID-19.
An AFP reporter aboard the plane confirms the flight to Dubai has taken off, after capturing images of Djokovic at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport.
Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker says he’s “grateful to be alive” after the dramatic ten-hour hostage crisis at his northern Texas synagogue.
Cytron-Walker, whose “calm and collected” demeanor has been credited by US law enforcement officials with helping bring about a miraculous end to the saga, thanks law enforcement and the “CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community” in a Facebook post.
I am thankful and filled with appreciation forAll of the vigils and prayers and love and support,All of the law…
A spokesperson for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirms that the Texas synagogue attacker is a UK citizen.
The spokesperson says office staff are “aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities.”
The attacker, who has not been publicly named, died in the rescue operation. It is still unclear if he was killed by law enforcement officials or died by suicide.
The man who took four hostages in an attack on a Texas synagogue was British, Sky News reports.
A livestream of the Saturday morning services from the synagogue included a period of time when the attacker could be heard shouting in the building, apparently with a British accent.
The Daily Mail says the FBI is liaising with the Metropolitan Police during the investigation.
The attacker, who has not been publicly named, died in the rescue operation. It was unclear if he was killed by law enforcement officials or died by suicide.
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