The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
The Palestinian Authority is demanding that Israel allow East Jerusalem to take part in the planned Palestinian national elections, to take place later this year.
“We officially demand that Israel abide by the agreements to enable the participation of our people in Jerusalem in the elections, both nominating and electing,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says in a statement.
Israel has long opposed PA activity in East Jerusalem and has cracked down on PA operations in the city’s boundaries. When election talk filled the Palestinian airwaves in late 2019, Abbas refused to issue a decree before Israel guaranteed East Jerusalem Palestinians could cast ballots.
Palestinians have not held elections since 2006. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has promised elections several times since his four-year term was supposed to have expired in 2009. However, repeated attempts to hold votes for president and parliament have failed, largely due to the inability of rivals Fatah and Hamas to agree on terms.
A Moroccan institution has, with official government backing, signed an agreement with the US State Department to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, the second such agreement in the Arab Middle East.
The agreement signed Friday by El Mehdi Boudra, the president of Association Mimouna, and Elan Carr, the State Department’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, signals the far-reaching ambition of the Trump Administration’s Abraham Accords, to normalize among Arabs the acceptance of not just Israel, but of Zionism.
The memorandum of understanding says the sides “intend to work together to share and promote best practices for combating all forms of anti-Semitism, including anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel” and “for combating other kinds of intolerance and hatred, including Islamophobia.”
— Elmehdi Boudra (@ElBoudra) January 17, 2021
The agreement is similar to one signed in October between Carr and a Bahrain institution. In both cases, the signing organizations are not government bodies but have the blessing of the royal family. The Association Mimouna was founded in 2007 by Muslims who sought to preserve the country’s Jewish heritage.
The world is on the “brink of a catastrophic moral failure” if rich countries hog COVID-19 vaccine doses while the poorest suffer, the head of the WHO says.
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus denounces the “me-first” attitude of wealthy nations and also blasts vaccine manufacturers for chasing regulatory approval in rich countries rather than submitting their data to the WHO to green-light vaccine use globally.
He says the promise of worldwide equitable access to vaccines against the coronavirus pandemic is now at serious risk, in a speech in Geneva opening a WHO executive board meeting.
Tedros says 39 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered so far in at least 49 higher income countries.
Meanwhile, “just 25 doses have been given in one lowest income country. Not 25 million; not 25,000; just 25,” he says
President Reuven Rivlin meets with managers of private hospitals in light of their warning that they face collapse because of a lack of government support amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Hospital chiefs have said they have borne much of the patient load during the national crisis without receiving sufficient aid, and have complained of discrimination compared to government-run medical centers.
They have warned they may severely limit non-urgent work due to the funding crisis.
“I call from here to the Israeli government, those who head it and the ministers of finance and health: Intervene in this crisis now. The hospital heads need the budgetary issues resolved, allowing their teams to deal with the patients,” Rivlin says.
He tells the hospital managers: “You are on the battlefield in the war on coronavirus… We need you… We cannot win this battle without you. We are relying on you.”
The openly right-wing Channel 20 has won a tender by the Second Authority for Television and Radio, and will be broadcast on channel 14 by all Israeli TV providers.
The move will likely help the channel gain further exposure to the mainstream as it sits alongside Kan (on channel 11) and channels 12 and 13 on television remotes.
It is not immediately clear whether the channel will change its name.
Channel 20 began broadcasting in August 2014 as a station focusing on Jewish tradition with a conservative bent. Sometimes referred to as Israel’s Fox News for its right-of-center programming and claim to offer a countering view to the “mainstream media,” the channel received permission to broadcast its own news programs in December 2016.
A Palestinian faction meeting intended to take place this week in Cairo to hash out issues relating to Palestinian elections has been delayed, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announces.
While Palestinian Central Elections Commissioner Hana Naser had previously announced that the meeting between Fatah, Hamas, and other Palestinian groups would take place in the coming week, Shtayyeh tells the cabinet that it won’t happen until early next month.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks out against Israeli airstrikes against Iran-linked sites in Syria, saying Jerusalem should instead provide Russia with intelligence about such threats and it would “neutralize” them.
“If Israel is really forced to respond to threats to the Israeli security coming from the Syrian territory, we have told our Israeli colleagues many times: If you see such threats please give us the information,” Lavrov says at a press conference, according to the Kremlin’s Sputnik news site.
The comments come a few days after Israel reportedly launched a large series of airstrikes on Iran-linked targets in eastern Syria.
The Russian foreign minister adds that Moscow did not want Syria to be the battlefield for an Israeli-Iranian war. “So, our dear Israeli colleagues, if you have facts that your state is facing threats from the Syrian territory, report the facts urgently and we will take every measure to neutralize the threat,” Lavrov says.
In the past, Russia has used far harsher language to reproach Israel for its airstrikes against Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria.
Two days before leaving office, US President Donald Trump is expected to issue some 100 pardons and commutations today.
Trump is meeting with aides on the matter in the White House ahead of making the announcement.
According to CNN, as of now Trump is not planning to preemptively pardon himself to defend himself from potential prosecution in the future, as he has been widely reported to be considering.
Israeli chefs Assaf Granit and Uri Navon’s Parisian restaurant Shabour has won its first Michelin star, an internationally recognized sign of excellence.
It is a first for the Israeli duo, known for Jerusalem’s famous MachneYuda restaurant and London’s award-winning The Palomar.
Shabour opened in late 2019 and has been closed for much of the time since then due to the coronavirus pandemic, but during its short time in business it shot to the top of the city’s food scene.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi says the country is producing some 500 grams of uranium enriched to 20% purity a day, after beginning to do so earlier this month in breach of the 2015 nuclear accord.
Salehi tells the Khamenei.ir website, the official site of Iran’s supreme leader, that nuclear scientists “are producing 20 grams every hour, meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day.”
Salehi says if other parties to the deal return to it, “we will return to our undertakings too.”
Uranium enriched to 20% is a short technical step away from weapons-grade 90% enrichment. The foreign ministers of the European signatories to the deal have warned that the Iranian activity “has no credible civil justification” and have called on Tehran to adhere to the accord.
Britain expresses serious concern over Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, saying the construction of 780 new homes could threaten future peace negotiations.
The inclusion of areas “deep within the West Bank” within the construction plans “could threaten future peace negotiations,” a spokesperson for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office says.
“Settlements are illegal under international law and risk undermining the physical viability of the two-state solution. We call for the construction of these in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank to cease immediately.”
A new serological study conducted at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan has shown 98% of hospital workers who received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine have developed a high level of antibodies to fight off the virus.
The study of 102 samples, taken a week after Israel began administering the second dose — when the vaccine is expected to reach peak effectiveness — showed most vaccinees had higher antibody counts than among those who have recovered from COVID-19.
The hospital says that a week after receiving the final dose, antibodies jumped to a level between 6 and 20 times higher than that observed after the first shot.
Hundreds more samples are set to be examined.
Two employees developed only low levels of antibodies, the tests showed — one of them known to have a weakened immune system.
Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit at Sheba, says that the initial results indicate the vaccinees are unlikely to be carriers or infectious — a matter that scientists have hitherto not determined — as antibody levels are high enough to suppress any virus particles.
“This means the vaccine works wonderfully,” Regev-Yochay says. The results “are in agreement with Pfizer’s trials and go even beyond the expected [results]. I expect the tests of the rest of the employees participating to be similar.”
She adds: “There is definitely cause for optimism.”
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny urges Russians to stage mass anti-government protests during a court hearing after his arrest on arrival in Moscow from Germany.
“Do not be silent. Resist. Take to the streets,” the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner says in a video posted on YouTube from the police station where the hearing was convened following his arrest in a Moscow airport yesterday.
The European Union has also joined international calls for Navalny’s release as Baltic states and lawmakers press for fresh sanctions against the Kremlin.
The critic of President Vladimir Putin was arrested at the airport in Moscow as he returned to his homeland from Germany, where he received treatment after a near-fatal poisoning by a nerve agent.
A judge at a hastily organized hearing in the police station where he was being held ordered Navalny be kept in detention until February 15, aides to the anti-corruption campaigner say.
A Jewish Republican donor who has given millions to support GOP candidates has said he was “deceived” by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who led attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the Guardian reports.
“Do you think anyone knew Hawley was going to do that?” Jeffrey Yass, a trader who co-founded the Susquehanna International Group, wrote to a longtime associate in a private message obtained by the newspaper, in reference to Hawley’s actions to invalidate the vote.
“Sometimes politicians deceive their donors.”
Hawley has faced intense criticism following the storming of Congress on January 6 by supporters of US President Donald Trump. His objection to the election results and his support for Trump loyalists who went on to ransack the US Capitol leave him accused by critics of having blood on his hands.
In an official response to the indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his lawyers complain that the premier has been accused by prosecutors of actions over which he was never questioned.
They say that Netanyahu was questioned on only 10% of over 100 instances in which he allegedly sought to influence coverage of him on the Walla news site.
This, they say, “causes fundamental damage to the prime minister’s right to fair process.”
They also continue to claim the investigation and/or elements thereof was carried out without proper authorization from the attorney general as is required by law — an assertion the attorney general has rejected.
The defense team rejects all accusations of impropriety by the prime minister in his actions in cases 1000, 2000 and 4000 which involve allegedly receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, as well as accusations he engaged in quid-pro-quo deals with media moguls to provide them benefits in exchange for positive coverage.
Australia is looking into the United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees, after a report revealed school materials it produced contained incitement to violence and hatred, and glorified terrorism.
The country’s Department of Foreign Trade and Affairs tells The Australian it is “making further inquiries into this matter.”
It says the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) “has a fundamental obligation to remain unbiased and impartial while it delivers its humanitarian mandate.”
Last week the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), an Israeli watchdog that analyzes Palestinian textbooks, found UNRWA-produced material “to be rife with problematic content that contradicts stated UN values.”
The watchdog found that children were asked to do mathematics problems using martyrs from the First Intifada to calculate equations, told students to “defend the motherland with blood,” and pushed the claim that Israel deliberately dumps radioactive and toxic waste in the West Bank.
IMPACT-se also said that Israel is omitted from maps in the UNRWA-produced materials, with the entire territory being labeled as a modern-day Palestine with no demarcation lines. When it is mentioned, Israel is referred to mostly as “The Enemy” or the “Zionist Occupation.”
The US Capitol complex temporarily locks down during a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after a fire in a homeless encampment about a mile away sends a plume of smoke into the air and causes security concerns.
But law enforcement officials say there was no threat to the public and the fire is not believed to be a threat to the inauguration. The evacuation of some participants and the lockdown were ordered by the acting chief of Capitol Police in an abundance of caution, officials say. District of Columbia firefighters responded and put out the fire.
Those who had gathered for a walk-through, including a military band, were directed to head indoors and move in the direction of a secure location inside the Capitol complex.
People involved in the rehearsal say security officials yelled “this is not a drill.”
BREAKING: Smoke rising behind Capitol building. Inauguration rehearsal appears to be evacuating. Emergency announcement playing at Capitol grounds. pic.twitter.com/86J9S8CsMY
— Jackson Proskow (@JProskowGlobal) January 18, 2021
According to a CBS correspondent, Hill staffers received the following message: “All buildings within the Capitol Complex: External security threat, no entry or exit is permitted, stay away from exterior windows, doors. If outside, seek cover.”
Shaul Elovitch, the former owner of Bezeq and Walla News accused of bribery in one of the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is denying the accusations against him.
Elovitch’s attorney tells the court his agreement to change coverage on Walla at Netanyahu’s request was not part of a bribe deal but was ideological.
Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily accused of an illicit quid-pro-quo deal with the premier to weaken a media opponent in exchange for positive coverage of Netanyahu, also denies the allegations.
Mozes asserts that his taped conversations on the matter with Netanyahu were part of legitimate and acceptable discourse.
Visiting a vaccination center in Beit Shemesh, Prime Minister Netanyahu talks up the government response to the pandemic.
“The mutation is running wild around the world,” Netanyahu says. “There are countries in Europe talking of a lockdown till April. That’s not the situation here.”
He adds: “We may need another short, limited period of restrictions. We’ll decide on it tomorrow.”
The cabinet is set to meet tomorrow to discuss extending the current strict lockdown by another week beyond the current January 21 end date.
The trial of diamond dealer Beny Steinmetz for alleged corruption linked to mining deals in Guinea is “impossible,” owing to the absence of key witnesses, his lawyer argues.
French-Israeli magnate Steinmetz is on trial in Geneva, facing charges of bribery.
On today’s final day of evidence, the 64-year-old’s lawyer Marc Bonnant underscores the absence of Mamadie Toure, said by prosecutors to be the fourth wife of former Guinean president Lansana Conte.
Toure has admitted she received payments, and has protected witness status in the United States.
Summoned to Geneva Criminal Court, she did not appear — nor did a dozen other defense witnesses.
“I hold this trial to be impossible,” Bonnant tells the court.
A young woman identified as having taken part in the storming of the US Capitol reportedly stole a laptop belonging to top Democrat Nancy Pelosi and hoped to sell it to a Russian spy agency, according to an FBI criminal complaint.
The complaint, filed late Sunday in the US District Court in Washington, seeks the arrest of Riley June Williams of Pennsylvania on grounds that include “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.”
Her whereabouts are unknown.
FBI INVESTIGATING a tip from an informant THAT RILEY JUNE WILLIAMS of Pennsylvania stole NANCY PELOSI’S lap top with the intent of selling it to RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE.
She has deleted her social media accounts and the FBI is looking for her.
This is her, LETS GO! pic.twitter.com/f5kUzgyEdj
— TheSadTruth???? (@ReportsDaNews) January 18, 2021
Relying on several photos and videos of the chaotic January 6 intrusion, an FBI agent says Williams was seen near the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
A witness, identified in the court document only as W1, but who claimed to be “the former romantic partner of Riley June Williams,” alleged that Williams planned to send the laptop to a friend in Russia to sell it to the SVR foreign intelligence agency.
The Palestinian Authority prime minister calls on the European Union to send observers to elections scheduled for later this year, specifically requesting EU monitors in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
Ahead of a weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh calls on the EU “to prepare a team of international observers to help us, mainly in the election process in Jerusalem.”
Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six Day War, in a move never recognized by most of the international community, which considers the area occupied Palestinian territory.
The Jewish state bans all activities of the Palestinian Authority inside Jerusalem, a city labeled Israel’s “undivided capital” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
There has been no indication that Israel would allow Palestinian election activity within East Jerusalem.
French President Emmanuel Macron praises French Muslim leaders after they agreed on a “charter of principles” aimed at combating sectarianism and radicalized teachings blamed for a surge in jihadist attacks in France in recent years.
The charter offers “a clarification of how the Muslim community is organized,” Macron says after a meeting with representatives of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), his office says. It will also provide a framework for a new National Council of Imams that will be responsible for vetting imams practicing in the country.
“This is a clear, decisive and precise commitment in favor of the republic,” Macron says, hailing “a truly foundational text for relations between the state and Islam in France.”
Macron had urged the council to act against “political Islam” in November, after the killing of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded outside his school after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed as part of a free-speech lesson. The attack prompted a crackdown against extremist mosques and Muslim associations, along with a vigorous defense of French secularism that is seen as increasingly under threat from radicalized Islamic teachings.
The Israel Police has given out more fines to those violating coronavirus restrictions than any other police force it is in contact with around the world, the Ynet news site reports, citing police data.
The report says police are in contact with law enforcement in numerous countries as they share strategies on dealing with the pandemic.
Figures obtained through such contacts have shown Israel to be in the lead with 522,000 fines, compared to Italy (385,000), the UK (30,000), Greece (150,000), Austria (42,000), the Netherlands (40,000), and Bulgaria (26,000).
Notably, each country has different procedures and rules and different policies toward when fines should be given, and some countries have other authorities overseeing some restrictions — so it is not possible to surmise from the data that enforcement is better in Israel than in other nations.
A new pessimistic model set to be presented to ministers tomorrow anticipates that despite mass vaccinations, a new big wave of coronavirus cases could sweep through the country in March-April, Channel 12 reports.
The model is based on the growing prevalence of the more contagious British variant in the population. Health officials currently believe that 40 percent of new cases in Israel are of the variant, and expect it to be far and away the most common cause of illness within little over a month.
The model assumes that with the country exiting from the current strict lockdown by the end of the month, the highly infectious variant will leave daily cases at around 8,000 deep into March.
However, the network notes that one unknown factor is the vaccine’s ability to prevent those vaccinated from carrying and transmitting the virus. This, the report says, could have a major mitigating effect on the model’s projections.
At any rate, unnamed officials tell Channel 12 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent comments to the effect that the pandemic is largely beaten were “premature” and “irresponsible.”
Former prime minister Ehud Barak says he will not run to lead the moribund Labor party.
Recent days had seen rumors that Barak was considering such a move, with certain party members beseeching him to run. However, he now says he has decided against it.
MK Merav Michaeli is running in the party primaries, to be held Sunday, as are several less-known figures.
All recent polls project that Labor, the party that led Israel for decades, will not manage to enter the Knesset in the next election.
Ahead of tomorrow’s coronavirus cabinet meeting to decide on an extension of the strict lockdown rules, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking an additional 10 days beyond the January 21 end date, TV networks are reporting.
Channel 13 says there are currently disagreements about how to emerge from the restrictions, with the Finance Ministry seeking to prioritize businesses reopening, while the Blue and White party wishes to reopen schools first.
The World Health Organization has raised “concerns” about the unequal distribution of coronavirus vaccines in Israel, which has given shots to more than 20 percent of its population, and the Palestinian territories, where Palestinians have yet to receive any, an official says.
Rights groups say Israel has the responsibility, as an occupying power, to provide vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel says it has no such obligation and that its own population — including Arab citizens — is the priority, but that at some point it might consider sharing its supplies.
The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of “racism” for not sharing its vaccines, but it has made no formal request to Israel and says it is procuring its own supplies through a WHO program and agreements with private companies.
The dispute reflects global inequality in access to vaccines, as wealthy countries vacuum up the lion’s share of doses, leaving poorer countries even farther behind in combating the public health and economic effects of the pandemic.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has told the High Court of Justice that Public Security Minister Amir Ohana prevented prisoners from being vaccinated “without authority and against the requirements of the law.”
Vaccination of prisoners has now begun, but had been delayed for some time, due to Ohana’s directive not to vaccinate prisoners before larger sectors of the general population were inoculated. Ohana said the policy was designed to prevent security prisoners from receiving the vaccination before all other Israelis have.
He initially resisted calls from both Mandelblit and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to stop blocking the vaccinations, but eventually backed down.
Though the point is now somewhat moot, Mandelblit filed his position with the High Court anyway, saying it was important to hash it out, “in case the minister decides to withhold other rights from prisoners, for reasons that are his own… in contravention of the instructions of the attorney general.”
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