ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Deri reportedly says he will refuse to resign even if High Court rules against him

Ahead of ruling expected this week, Shas chief said to tell faction meeting that he will not step down as interior, health minister no matter justices’ decision

New Interior Minister Aryeh Deri attends a handover ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
New Interior Minister Aryeh Deri attends a handover ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.

Expansion of ‘Norwegian Law’ to boost number of politicians in office passes 1st vote

A plenum session on forming the government in the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A plenum session on forming the government in the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A bill to expand the so-called Norwegian Law passes its first Knesset reading 63-54.

The legislation will allow up to 10 downlist candidates to replace ministers in their Knesset seats.

The current Norwegian Law lets a number of cabinet members from each government party resign their Knesset seats while they hold their ministerial posts, and be replaced by the next candidates on their faction’s election rosters. Currently, the law allows factions with between four and six MKs to replace up to three ministers, factions with seven to nine to swap out up to four ministers, and factions with at least 10 lawmakers to switch out up to five ministers.

Likud’s plan will keep the limits for smaller factions, but eliminate the five-seat cap for factions with over 18 MKs. Instead, larger parties would be able replace up to a third of their slate, rounding up, so that the 32-seat Likud would be able to bring in up to 11 new MKs.

The bill needs two more votes before it becomes law.

Man shot, seriously wounded in Nazareth

Illustrative: Police inspect the scene of a murder in the northern city of Nazareth on September 23, 2019. (Israel Police Spokesperson)
Illustrative: Police inspect the scene of a murder in the northern city of Nazareth on September 23, 2019. (Israel Police Spokesperson)

A man was shot and seriously wounded while sitting in his car in Nazareth, according to police and first responders.

A statement from police says a 39-year-old man was shot while in his car. He was brought to the English Hospital in Nazareth.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the man has a gunshot wound and is in serious condition.

Likud MK says certain parts of government’s judicial overhaul ‘can be softened’

Likud MK David Bitan outside Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 27, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Likud MK David Bitan outside Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 27, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Likud MK David Bitan says he believes the government should talk with opposition figures about its plans to radically alter the judicial system, and thinks an agreement could be reached.

“I think we need to enter talks, that’s what is important at the moment, and pass a reform within that conversation,” Bitan tells Channel 12 news in an interview.

Bitan says he believes changes can and will be made to the current proposal: “There are no draft bills that enter the Knesset and don’t change during hearings.”

“I am convinced that we can soften some of the clauses” in Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposal, “but we have to talk — and the other side needs to understand that.”

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz has repeatedly called to hold conversations with the government over its judicial overhaul plans, but he has been largely rebuffed. Labor chief Merav Michaeli earlier today directly rejected any calls to take part in negotiations.

Shots reported fired at West Bank settlement of Shaked

Damage to the window of a home in the West Bank settlement of Shaked is seen, following a shooting attack, January 16, 2023. (Samaria Regional Council)
Damage to the window of a home in the West Bank settlement of Shaked is seen, following a shooting attack, January 16, 2023. (Samaria Regional Council)

Shots are reportedly fired at the northern West Bank settlement of Shaked.

The Rescuers Without Border emergency service says bullets struck a home but caused no physical injuries. One person is being treated for shock, it says.

There is no immediate claim by local armed Palestinian groups for the apparent attack.

Shaked has come under numerous shooting attacks in recent months. The Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the report.

Deri reportedly says he will refuse to resign even if High Court rules against him

New Interior Minister Aryeh Deri attends a handover ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
New Interior Minister Aryeh Deri attends a handover ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri has reportedly said that he will not step down as health and interior minister even if the High Court rules that he is ineligible for office.

According to an unsourced Channel 13 TV report, Deri told a meeting of his Shas faction earlier today that he will not resign even if the court rules against him. A ruling in the case is expected this week.

Several Shas politicians have stated publicly in recent days that they are fully expecting the High Court to rule that Deri cannot hold office, in a possible attempt to try and get ahead of any such ruling.

If Deri refuses to resign, it will likely fall to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire him. A situation where he does not do so would be unprecedented.

New IDF chief sits down for first meeting with defense minister

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi at military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 16, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi at military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 16, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)

After today’s handover ceremony, new military chief Herzi Halevi sits down with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for a first work meeting.

“The two discussed the issues that Chief of Staff Halevi will deal with in the coming period, operational, strategic, and intelligence issues,” the Defense Ministry says in a statement.

The meeting took place at Gallant’s office at the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Bennett says judicial overhaul ‘dangerous,’ calls on government, opposition to talk

Then-alternate prime minister Naftali Bennett at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 18, 2022. (Olivier Fitousi/ Flash90)
Then-alternate prime minister Naftali Bennett at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 18, 2022. (Olivier Fitousi/ Flash90)

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett weighs in on the current government’s controversial plan to radically alter the judicial system, calling on the government and the opposition to work together to find common ground on the issue.

Bennett says he has long been in favor of reforms to Israel’s judiciary, “but you don’t fix a historical distortion with another distortion.” The former prime minister, who bowed out of politics ahead of last year’s election, says there is “no choice” but for “both sides” of the debate to sit down for talks immediately.

Bennett says the opposition must understand that the public elected this government. “It has a mandate to make changes, there will be changes and that’s good.” But the government must understand that they cannot “go to the opposite extreme of ending checks and balances, neutering the judicial system,” and giving the prime minister sole power to appoint judges.”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s current proposal is “dangerous,” says Bennett, and will “harm the foundations of the State of Israel,” as well as cause divisions in society.

National Unity party head Benny Gantz has repeatedly called on the government to work with opposition figures to come to an agreement on some reforms, but has been rebuffed.

UK vows further action against Iran following execution of dual national

Ali Reza Akbari speaks at a meeting to unveil the book 'National Nuclear Movement,' in Tehran, Iran, on October 14, 2008. (Davoud Hosseini, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) via AP)
Ali Reza Akbari speaks at a meeting to unveil the book 'National Nuclear Movement,' in Tehran, Iran, on October 14, 2008. (Davoud Hosseini, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) via AP)

Britain vows more reprisals against what it says is Tehran’s “weakened and isolated regime,” after the Islamic republic executed a UK-Iranian dual national.

Following the killing of Alireza Akbari, the UK summoned Iran’s most senior diplomat and recalled its own ambassador.

But despite slapping sanctions on Iran’s prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, it stopped short of opposition demands to ban the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Faced with more such demands in parliament, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly says he cannot comment on future proscriptions. But he adds: “We do not limit ourselves to the steps that I have already announced.”

And Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman tells reporters: “We are reviewing further action with our international partners.”

FM Cohen heading to Davos for first trip abroad since taking office

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is departing this evening for World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, his first trip overseas since taking office a few weeks ago.

The Foreign Ministry says Cohen will go in place of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and meet with a series of foreign ministers and leaders from around the world on the sidelines of the conference.

Levin: Netanyahu’s indictments contributed to ‘public understanding’ of need for reform

Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on January 16, 2023. (Dani Shem-Tov/Knesset)
Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on January 16, 2023. (Dani Shem-Tov/Knesset)

Justice Minister Yariv Levin suggests that the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convinced members of the public of the need for a major judicial overhaul.

“I’ll tell you the truth, three indictments of this kind really contributed to the very wide public understanding that there are failures in the system that must be fixed,” Levin says at the Knesset.

Netanyahu is on trial in three corruption cases. He faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000. He denies wrongdoing and claims the charges were fabricated in an attempted political coup led by the police, the state prosecution, the media and leftist rivals.

Those opposed to the current government and its plans to radically reshape the judiciary have long accused Netanyahu and the right of seeking such reforms in order to help him escape a conviction.

Avera Mengistu’s mother says ‘it’s him’ in video released by Hamas

Avera Mengistu's mother, Agurnesh, at a protest in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, September 11, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Avera Mengistu's mother, Agurnesh, at a protest in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, September 11, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Agurnesh Mengistu, the mother of captive Avera Mengistu, says she believes video shared by Hamas today is of her son, who she hasn’t seen in eight years.

“His forehead, his face, it’s him,” she says in Amharic, according to a translation by Channel 12 news. “He’s a little fatter, but he still looks like himself.”

Israeli officials have said they could not immediately confirm the veracity of the video released earlier today by Hamas, purporting to be of Mengistu, who has been held by the terror group since he crossed into the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Eurovision contestant Noa Kirel says she hopes public broadcaster won’t be shut down

Singer Noa Kirel poses at a press conference in Tel Aviv on August 10, 2022, announcing her participation in the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)
Singer Noa Kirel poses at a press conference in Tel Aviv on August 10, 2022, announcing her participation in the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

Pop star Noa Kirel, who is slated to represent Israel at this year’s Eurovision, says she is opposed to a government proposal to shut down the Kan public broadcaster.

“I very much hope that the public broadcaster doesn’t close and that it won’t affect the Eurovision,” Kirel tells Ynet. “I believe that it will work out — I see the Eurovision as a national mission and I believe they won’t harm such a thing.”

Kirel says that nobody has mentioned anything to her about the potential of Kan being shut down, and “we’re moving ahead with plans completely as normal” ahead of the May contest in the UK.

Kan’s membership in the European Broadcasting Union is what enables Israel to compete in the Eurovision song contest. Closing Kan or splitting off its news division would call its EBU membership into question.

2 construction workers killed within hours in separate accidents

This handout photo shows a Magen David Adom paramedic trying to extract a pair of construction workers who were crushed by a crane at a building site in Tel Mond, January 16, 2023. (Magen David Adom)
This handout photo shows a Magen David Adom paramedic trying to extract a pair of construction workers who were crushed by a crane at a building site in Tel Mond, January 16, 2023. (Magen David Adom)

A construction worker is killed and a second injured after being crushed by a crane in central Israel, around the same time that a laborer at a building site in Jerusalem is also killed in an apparent accident.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says two workers in Tel Mond were trapped after being crushed between the the six-meter tall crane and a piece of metal, and one was declared dead shortly later by paramedics.

In Jerusalem, MDA says a laborer was struck by a heavy object at a construction site, resulting in multisystem injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

IDF spokesman says military working to verify Hamas video said to be Avera Mengistu

An undated video published by Hamas on January 16, 2023, purportedly of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu. (Screenshot)
An undated video published by Hamas on January 16, 2023, purportedly of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu. (Screenshot)

Speaking to the Kan public radio, IDF spokesman Ran Kochav says the army is evaluating the authenticity of a video released earlier today by Hamas said to be of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu.

“We are looking into this video. I hope the video is authentic and that Mengistu is in full health. It’s hard for me to say what level of credibility the video has,” he tells the network.

PMO says it is ‘investing all resources’ in bringing Gaza captives home

Clockwise from top left: Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu, Hadar Goldin and Hisham al-Sayed (Flash90/Courtesy)
Clockwise from top left: Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu, Hadar Goldin and Hisham al-Sayed (Flash90/Courtesy)

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, following the release of a video by Hamas purporting to be of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu, vows to do everything to bring those held in the Strip home.

In a statement, the PMO says that “the State of Israel is investing all of its efforts and resources in bringing home its captive and missing sons.”

Unnamed Israeli officials slam Hamas for “being busy with arrogant videos instead of helping the citizens of the Gaza Strip.”

In addition to Mengistu, Hamas is thought to be holding Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

Public diplomacy minister establishing forum to explain judicial overhaul due to ‘public panic’

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan arrives to a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan arrives to a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

New Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan says her first act in office will be to create an “emergency forum” to explain the controversial planned judicial overhaul being pushed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin.

Distel Atbaryan says in a tweet that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “gave me a green light” to move ahead with her proposal.

The minister, who was sworn in last week, blames the media and left-wing parties for “deliberate deception” over the plan that has caused “public panic.”

Therefore, she says, she plans to provide the public with details of the proposal which she says is aimed at “making Israel more democratic.”

Akunis questions fellow Likud minister Karhi’s plan to shut public broadcaster

Science Minister Ofir Akunis arrives for a Likud party meeting in Jerusalem on May 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Science Minister Ofir Akunis arrives for a Likud party meeting in Jerusalem on May 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Science Minister Ofir Akunis pushes back against the stated plan of fellow Likud Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi to shut down the state’s public broadcaster, known as Kan.

“In democracies there is public broadcasting… the money for the Kan public broadcaster is taxpayer money,” Akunis tells Army Radio, which has also been on Karhi’s agenda to close down.

“And we, as elected officials, along with Communications Minister Karhi, need to decide where public money should go,” he adds.

Karhi said last week that there is “no place” for public broadcasting in Israel.

Brother of Avera Mengistu says he is ‘not 100%’ sure Hamas video is of captive

The parents of Avraham Avera Mengistu protest outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, September 11, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
The parents of Avraham Avera Mengistu protest outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, September 11, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Yallo Mengistu, the brother of captive Avera Mengistu, says he is not sure if it is his brother in a video released today by Hamas, who has been holding him hostage in Gaza since 2014.

“I’m excited and scared at the same time” watching the video, Yallo tells Channel 12 news. “He looks like Avera, but on the other hand, it’s not 100% Avera.”

“There’s a similarity, but… I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” he says. “I can’t tell you for sure that it’s him.”

The family has not seen any photos or videos of Mengistu since he crossed over into Gaza more than eight years ago. His family says that Avera is mentally ill and has desperately appealed over the years for international actors to secure his freedom.

Labor chief opposes Gantz’s call to work with government to temper judicial overhaul

Labor party head Merav Michaeli leads her faction meeting at the Knesset, January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Labor party head Merav Michaeli leads her faction meeting at the Knesset, January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Merav Michaeli says her four-person Labor party will not negotiate with the government to temper its judicial reform platform, and instead take the fight to the streets.

“You don’t negotiate with any defendant who wants to crush the judicial system that judges it,” Michaeli says at her party’s Knesset faction meeting.

“Any discussion with” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin “going into the details of clauses is already a surrender to their violence. Negotiating the specifics of the clauses is basically agreeing to what they want, and only a question of what price is being asked,” she adds, pledging that Labor will not participate in any such talks.

Earlier today, National Unity party leader Benny Gantz renewed his previously rebuffed call to the government to negotiate with opposition party leaders to create an agreed-upon reform package.

Hamas publishes undated video of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu

An undated video published by Hamas on January 16, 2023, purportedly of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu. (Screenshot)
An undated video published by Hamas on January 16, 2023, purportedly of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu. (Screenshot)

The military wing of Hamas publishes a video purportedly of Avera Mengistu, who was captured by the terror group after he crossed into the Gaza Strip in 2014.

The authenticity or date of the video is unclear.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades says it is releasing the video as a message to outgoing military chief Aviv Kohavi.

The video shows Mengistu asking how long he will remain captive.

Years of efforts and lobbying by his family to have him released have been unsuccessful.

Hamas is also said to be holding Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

Netanyahu says government will ‘not be dissuaded’ from pursuing judicial shake-up

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 9, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 9, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Fervently backing his government’s major judicial reform plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government will not be deterred by protests from within the judicial system and opposition benches.

Speaking at his Likud party’s faction meeting in the Knesset, Netanyahu says his government is determined to pass its judicial reform agenda and is “not deterred by the protests.”

“Just like we haven’t been deterred by attacks from the left and media, we won’t be dissuaded this time,” Netanyahu says, accusing the media of “superficial” and “one-sided” coverage of the issue.

Responding to claims by opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz that the government hid its plans until after the election, Netanyahu says: “No one needs to be surprised… what we said before the election, we are doing and will do after the election.”

Netanyahu reaffirms his stance that the plan will reinstate a “correct balance” between the judiciary and the government. He also claims that increasing political control over the judiciary will put Israel more in line with other Western democracies, such as the United States, where politicians choose Supreme Court justices.

“The one standing on the offsides of democracy is actually Israel,” Netanyahu says, adding that “we are trying to align with all of the democracies in the world” through the reform package.

“We’ll do it for the benefit of all Israeli citizens,” the premier says.

New IDF chief Halevi arrives at military HQ in Tel Aviv

Incoming IDF chief Herzi Halevi (left), meets with the outgoing head Aviv Kohavi at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, January 16, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Incoming IDF chief Herzi Halevi (left), meets with the outgoing head Aviv Kohavi at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, January 16, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

A military honor guard is being held at the Israel Defense Forces’ headquarters in Tel Aviv for the incoming chief of staff Herzi Halevi.

Halevi entered the role this morning after being awarded the rank of lieutenant general, replacing the outgoing top soldier Aviv Kohavi.

Earlier today, Halevi and Kohavi visited the National Memorial Hall for Israel’s Fallen next to the Mount Herzl military cemetery, the Western Wall, and the President’s Residence.

Later an honor guard will be held for Kohavi as he exits the IDF headquarters for the final time after 40 years of military service.

The ceremony is being streamed at the link below.

Lapid: Netanyahu did not warn voters ‘that Israel will cease being a democracy’

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of hiding how extreme his coalition’s plans were for vastly reshaping the judicial system.

“They didn’t present the reform to voters,” asserts Lapid at a Yesh Atid faction meeting. “They didn’t say how extreme it would be. They stammered every time they were asked about it during the election. They didn’t tell voters that Israel will cease being a democracy. They didn’t tell voters that they would irreversibly destroy the Supreme Court.”

During the election campaign, Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich and Simcha Rothman presented a plan to radically remake the judicial system, but it was not as publicly embraced by Likud before the vote.

Rather, Lapid claims, “they are doing what they do best: lies and trying to confuse everyone” in an effort to keep Netanyahu out of prison and allow convicted criminal Shas leader Aryeh Deri to become a minister.

Lapid says that Saturday night’s mass protest in Tel Aviv “is just the beginning — they won’t stop us… with threats of arrest.”

Answering criticism about his decision not to attend, Lapid says that he had spoken to organizers who were concerned that his presence would make the event “too political.”

Gantz accuses Netanyahu of ‘delegitimizing and belittling’ views of protesters

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz renews his call to include opposition leaders like himself in the government’s ambitious judicial reform plan, but warns that he will not rubberstamp a coup d’etat.

“I am again calling for the establishment of work teams that will put before the Knesset a proper and broad reform, including additional layers on top of the existing ones,” Gantz says at the outset of his party’s Knesset faction meeting.

However, Gantz tells the coalition that “our outstretched hand does not come to make Israel’s coup d’etat ‘kosher’ in exchange for cosmetic fixes. If there is no profound change that expresses broad agreement and the preservation of Israel as a substantial democracy with separation of powers and judicial review — there will be no agreements at all.”

Last week, Gantz called for Israelis to take to the streets to lawfully protest the government’s plan to put political control on top of the judiciary, among other sweeping reforms. On Saturday, Gantz and several other opposition figures joined about 100,000 protesters across the country, although opposition leader Yair Lapid was notably absent.

In comments directed towards Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who dismissed the Saturday evening protests, Gantz says that winning the November election did not hand Netanyahu a “blank check” to upend democracy.

“Concerned citizens deserve to be treated with respect from the prime minister, who — even if most of them did not elect him — is their prime minister. Instead, they are delegitimized and belittled,” the National Unity party leader says.

Liberman: ‘There is no Israeli economic crisis, there is a global economic crisis’

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, who served as finance minister in the last coalition, slams the current government for blaming him for the country’s economic woes.

“There isn’t an Israeli economic crisis, there’s a global economic crisis,” says Liberman at a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting. Liberman says the data released yesterday showing 5.3% inflation in Israel for 2022 is “exactly what our ministry predicted… and while we need to lower inflation, there are only two countries in the world with lower inflation rates — Japan and Switzerland,” Liberman claims.

According to Forbes, there are many countries with inflation rates lower than Israel’s, though it does rank on the lower end.

Liberman says the coalition agreements that underpin the current government “are endangering the Israeli economy,” singling out raising payments to Haredi men who study Torah instead of incentivizing them to work.

Levin slams deputy AG for formulating presentation of legal opinion ‘behind my back’

Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on January 16, 2023. (Dani Shem-Tov/Knesset)
Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on January 16, 2023. (Dani Shem-Tov/Knesset)

Justice Minister Yariv Levin slams Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon for presenting his legal opinion in a Knesset committee without sharing it first with Levin.

“I think there is no more instructive example of the need for the reform I am leading than what we just heard,” says Levin at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee.

“The deputy AG appears here, presenting a legal position on a very important issue that concerns a matter that is at the core of my ministry’s actions,” Levin says. “When do you think I heard or could read this opinion? Believe it or not — now. This is the first time I’ve heard of it.”

Instead, Levin says, the deputy attorney general and others in the AG’s office are too busy “giving speeches against the minister, applauding speeches against the minister, formulating opinions behind his back.”

Lebanon police summon relatives of 2020 blast victims for questioning over alleged rioting

Relatives of the Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion and their lawyers enter a Beirut police barracks for an interrogation, in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Relatives of the Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion and their lawyers enter a Beirut police barracks for an interrogation, in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Several relatives of the victims of the massive 2020 explosion at Beirut’s port show up today to answer questions by police after they were accused of rioting and vandalism during protests over the stalled investigation into the blast.

The rioting last week saw the relatives hurl rocks at the Beirut Justice Palace and burn tires outside the building, decrying years of what they say is political interference in the probe.

The Aug. 4, 2020, explosion killed more than 215 people, injured 6,000 and devastated entire neighborhoods of the Lebanese capital after hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in fertilizers, detonated in a port warehouse.

Today, 13 relatives of blast victims show up to answer police summons over the rioting. As they are being questioned inside the police compound, hundreds of other relatives of the blast victims, activists, and some lawmakers protest outside and condemn the country’s ruling elite. They say the elite’s lock on power has kept its members immune from accountability.

Germany summons Iran envoy to protest ‘wave of executions’

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a press conference at Lancaster House, in London, January 5, 2023. (Kin Cheung/AP)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a press conference at Lancaster House, in London, January 5, 2023. (Kin Cheung/AP)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock summons Iran’s ambassador to Berlin for the second time in a week over a rash of executions by Tehran, her spokesman says.

The spokesman, Christofer Burger, confirms the move when asked about reports the envoy had been summoned “over massive human rights violations and a wave of executions.”

Deputy AG: Limiting state legal advisers’ power will be a ‘stain’ on rule of law

Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon, August 2, 2021 (Courtesy Gideon Sharon)
Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon, August 2, 2021 (Courtesy Gideon Sharon)

Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon decries the government’s plan to reduce legal advisers’ counsel to the status of non-binding advice, telling a Knesset committee that the proposal is part of a larger judicial reform package that would stain the rule of law.

“There is a sequence of moves here, the cumulative result of which is a stain on the status of the rule of law in a democratic country,” Limon tells the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee.

“The government will interpret the law for itself and will be assisted by private lawyers who will back it up,” Limon says during the committee’s first day of open debate on its bill to let the government determine its own legal positions and representation, regardless of Justice Ministry advice. “The government will not be above the law, it will be the law,” he adds.

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