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Lapid meets senior Palestinian official Hussein Al-Sheikh in Israel — report

Foreign minister said hosting one of Palestinian Authority leaders’ closest confidants and potential heir, with Ramallah hoping diplomatic issues to be raised

Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commissioner Hussein al-Sheikh. (WAFA)
Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commissioner Hussein al-Sheikh. (WAFA)

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

Dutch tourist detained for Nazi salute at Auschwitz

Polish police say they have detained a Dutch tourist for giving the Nazi salute at the site of the former death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“Officers from (the southern city of) Oswiecim detained a 29-year-old woman from the Netherlands today,” regional police tweet. “The tourist had been performing the Hitler salute in front of the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work Sets You Free) gate. The detainee was charged with engaging in Nazi propaganda. She confessed.”

Prosecutors issued her with a fine as punishment, which she has accepted, according to the Polish news agency, PAP.

It adds that she was caught in the act by guards while posing for a photo taken by her husband.

“She explained it away as a bad joke,” regional police press officer Bartosz Izdebski tells PAP.

Nazi Germany built the death camp in Oswiecim after occupying Poland during World War II.

The Holocaust site has become a symbol of Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million European Jews, one million of whom died at the camp between 1940 and 1945 along with more than 100,000 non-Jews.

Lapid meeting senior Palestinian official Hussein Al-Sheikh in Israel — report

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is currently meeting in Israel with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein Al-Sheikh, the Ynet news website reports.

Al-Sheikh, who heads the General Authority of Civil Affairs at the PA, is one of the closest officials to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and is in charge with civil and security coordination with Israel. He is considered one of Abbas’s potential successors.

If confirmed, the meeting would join several meetings that Abbas held with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other center-left ministers in the current government.

The report cites a senior Palestinian source saying Ramallah expects diplomatic issues to be discussed during the meeting.

It also says Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was updated about the meeting ahead of time and that Gantz was also updated a short while before the meeting began.

Lapid’s office refuses to comment.

Police increase security around far-right MK Ben-Gvir over death threats

Police have increased the level of security for far-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, after receiving information about express threats to his life, Channel 13 news reports.

The report says police have determined that the threat level to Ben-Gvir is 5 out of a maximum of 6. He therefore has as many as three security guards with him in public places, and will have security cameras installed at his home.

In precedent, Israeli soccer club faces disciplinary action over anti-gay chants by fans

In a precedent in Israel, a soccer club will face a disciplinary hearing over homophobic chants by its fans during a match, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

In yesterday’s Israel Premier League bout, fans of Maccabi Tel Aviv repeatedly shouted “Danny Amos is gay” at the goalkeeper of the rival Maccabi Netanya.

While he is not a member of the LGBTQ community, Amos has a gay brother and is a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights.

At one point, he complained about the chants to the referee.

Report: Case to be closed against cops over death of settler teen in police chase

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will close the probe against police officers involved in a chase in 2020, during which a settler teen died, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Ahuvia Sandak, 16, was killed in a car crash while fleeing from police, allegedly after throwing rocks at Palestinians. Repeated recent protests over Sandak’s death have escalated into violence and arrests.

The report, says Mandelblit, will likely press charges against some or all of the young settlers who were with Sandak in the vehicle, over dangerous driving during the police chase.

Taliban talks in Oslo a ‘positive icebreaking meeting’ — participant

A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan civil society members served as an “icebreaker” in Oslo, on the eve of talks between the Islamist fundamentalists and Western diplomats, an Afghan participant says.

“It was a positive icebreaking meeting,” feminist activist Jamila Afghani tells AFP, adding: the “Taliban displayed goodwill. They listened patiently and responded to most of our concerns. Let’s see what their actions will be, based on their words.”

Health Ministry: 4th vaccine dose triples protection from serious illness for ages 60+

The Health Ministry says the fourth vaccine dose for those aged 60 and up offers a threefold protection against serious illness and twofold protection against infection in the current wave driven by the Omicron variant.

The ministry says the figures are the result of initial analysis by experts from various leading academic and health institutions, and compare the fourth vaccine with those who have received three doses at least four months ago.

The figures are based on 400,000 Israelis who received the fourth vaccine and 600,000 who received three doses, with the ministry stressing that the methodology is similar to previous papers the experts have published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.

The initial results will be updated over time as more data comes in.

Health Ministry said weighing nixing of Green Pass rules at end of January

Eight days before they expire, the Health Ministry is reportedly considering canceling the Green Pass rules that have for many months been limiting entry to most public spaces only to those who have either been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months, or have taken a negative test in the past 72 hours.

The development comes as more and more leading experts say the mass infections caused by the Omicron variant, including among the recently vaccinated, render the Green Pass rules increasingly obsolete.

The Walla news website says ministry officials are currently debating whether to nix the rules entirely at the end of the month, extend them in a softened version, or replace them with “purple badge” rules that impose caps on gatherings in public spaces.

Officials are said to be hesitant to cancel the restrictions altogether for fear of a potential new virus strain that could make them relevant again.

Coalition MK Nira Shpak gets COVID

Yesh Atid MK Nira Shpak of the coalition has tested positive for COVID-19 and updated the Knesset Guard, Hebrew media reports.

She has reportedly contracted the virus, as has an employee for the parliament’s protocols department.

Armenian president quits, citing office’s inability to affect policy during crisis

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian announces that he is resigning his largely symbolic position, citing the inability of his office to influence policy during times of national crisis.

“I thought for a very long time and have decided to resign after four years of active work as president,” Sarkissian says in a statement, which adds that “the president does not have the necessary tools to influence the important processes of foreign and domestic policy in difficult times for the people and the country.”

End of pandemic in Europe ‘plausible’ after Omicron, says World Health Organization

The COVID-19 pandemic has entered a new phase with the Omicron variant, which could infect 60% of people in Europe by March, and could bring it to an end, the World Health Organization’s Europe director says.

“It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” Hans Kluge told AFP, nonetheless urging caution due to the virus’s ability to mutate.

Olmert asks court to order psychiatric evaluations for Netanyahu, wife and son

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert files a request with the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court asking for opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara and eldest son Yair to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The request is part of a defamation lawsuit the Netanyahus filed against Olmert for calling them “mentally ill” in interviews. Their suit seeks NIS 837,000 (some $257,000) in damages for Olmert’s “obsessive efforts to harm their good name in public, out of jealousy and deep frustration.”

Olmert’s request also seeks access to “any relevant documents” about their mental health. Olmert’s lawyer Amir Titonovich tells the Haaretz newspaper that his legal team believes that the Netanyahu family has records showing that they are not mentally sound.

The request is thought unlikely to get the court’s approval.

MK urges entry permits for relatives of Palestinian activist who died last week

Meretz MK Mossi Raz says he has urgently contacted Defense Minister Benny Gantz, asking for entry permits for relatives of an elderly Palestinian activist who died after being run over by a police tow truck during a January 5 demonstration against Israeli forces in the southern West Bank.

Raz says that Suleiman al-Hathalin’s death from his wounds last week has resulted in the automatic revocation of his family’s entry permits into Israel, and that his widow Maryam therefore underwent surgery today in Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital without her sons and other relatives accompanying her.

“The practice of revoking entry permits from those who lost a relative is sickening,” says Raz, calling on the government to “immediately approve the entry of Hathalin’s children and stop this practice.”

פניתי לשר הבטחון בבקשה דחופה לאפשר את כניסתם של בני משפחתו של סולימאן האדלין לישראלהאדלין בן ה65 מת לפני כשבוע מפצעיו,…

Posted by ‎מוסי רז Mossi Raz موسي راز‎ on Sunday, January 23, 2022

Israel okays $720m plan to plant trees in cities, in effort to battle climate change

The government approves a national plan to plant hundreds of thousands of trees in Israel’s cities over the next 18 years, in an effort to combat climate change and give city-dwellers more shade.

The Agriculture Ministry says some 450,000 trees are set to be planted by 2040 along 3 million meters of Israeli streets, with the cost estimated at NIS 2.25 billion ($720 million).

Arab League seeks terror designation for Yemen Houthi rebels

The Arab League says Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels should be labeled a terror group after they attacked the United Arab Emirates.

On January 17, the Houthis claimed a drone and missile attack that struck an oil facility and the airport in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounding six. It was the first deadly assault acknowledged by the UAE inside its borders and claimed by the Yemeni insurgents during a seven-year Saudi-led coalition campaign against the rebels.

The pan-Arab bloc, based in the Egyptian capital, releases a statement following an extraordinary meeting, calling the strikes “a flagrant violation of international law… and a real threat to vital civilian installations, energy supplies, and global economic stability,” as well as a threat to regional peace and security.

Former US president Donald Trump designated the Houthis a terrorist movement but the administration of President Joe Biden removed the group in response to fears from aid groups responding to what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Biden’s administration has, however, sanctioned individual Houthi figures.

Israel okays formation of R&D fund with UAE on tech projects

The cabinet approves a joint Israel-UAE R&D fund to support tech projects involving Israeli and Emirati companies.

The fund is designed to encourage collaboration on technological innovation and to help Israeli companies access resources that are not available in Israel, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

It will also help Israeli companies find Emirati partners, navigate local regulations and develop marketing strategies.

The fund, which was proposed by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, will allocate NIS 15 million ($4.8 million) per year over the next decade. The UAE will provide matching funds, for a total of NIS 300 million ($95.5 million) for the life of the fund.

The UAE and Israel signed a normalization agreement in 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords.

During his December visit to the UAE, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his host Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan agreed to open the fund.

Lapid says in a statement that Israel and the UAE share a passion for advanced technology that improves citizens’ quality of life, protects the environment, and promotes economic development.

“The bilateral R&D fund is the engine to start the process in the private sector, by encouraging companies, with an emphasis on SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to connect, to develop, to create, and to market innovative technological products in the region and globally.”

He also thanks his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed.

Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel adds $9.2 million to Yad Vashem budget

The government approves expanding the budget of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem for 2022 by NIS 29 million ($9.2 million).

The move comes just ahead of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be marked on Thursday.

Education director in Elad municipality named as suspect in child sex abuse case

Mordechai Beeri, director of the education department in the municipality of the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad, is named as the Haredi official arrested last week over child sex abused allegedly committed against his students some 13 years ago.

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court okays the publication of Beeri’s identity, amid suspicions that he abused boys aged under 14 in an institute in the settlement of Modiin Illit, where he was a teacher.

A young ultra-Orthodox man recently filed a police complaint, saying he was 12 when Beeri molested him.

Beeri’s detention has been extended until Tuesday, and the investigation is ongoing.

Initial data indicates possible decline in PIMS among kids in Omicron wave

Initial data reported by hospitals in Israel, Britain and the United States indicates that the Omicron strain of the coronavirus likely causes fewer cases of pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS) in children, and that the reported cases are less severe.

According to Channel 12 news, Health Ministry data shows that 277 cases of PIMS have been recorded in Israel since the pandemic began, mostly among kids aged 5-11, including two deaths. However, only one reported case has been linked to Omicron since the current outbreak began a month ago.

Pediatrician Prof. Zachi Grossman says that in Britain, as well, there have been very few reported PIMS cases since the Omicron outbreak began, and Prof. Dror Mevorach of Hadassah hospital says a similar drop has been reported in New York.

However, Mevorach cautions that the figures are very initial and says professionals must wait until organized research is published on the matter.

Former health minister Litzman gets COVID for the second time

For the second time, United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman, the former health minister, has been infected with COVID-19, his office says.

Litzman’s office says the lawmaker tested positive in a home antigen test, “is feeling well and is acting in accordance with the regulations.”

75-year-old French adventurer dies while attempting solo Atlantic crossing

A 75-year-old French adventurer has died on a solo attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

The death of Jean-Jacques Savin is announced by his friends on a Facebook page that had been chronicling his voyage.

They say maritime rescue services located his body yesterday inside the cabin of his boat, named “Audacious,” which was found overturned off the Azores Islands, a mid-Atlantic Portuguese archipelago.

The former soldier set off on January 1 from the southern tip of Portugal on the westward voyage he had anticipated would take about three months.

In 2019, Savin previously floated alone across the Atlantic in a large barrel-shaped capsule. Propelled only by winds and currents, that crossing from Spain’s Canary Islands to the Caribbean took 127 days.

Savin had activated two distress beacons on Thursday night.

“Unfortunately, the ocean this time was stronger this time than our friend, he who so loved navigating and the sea,” the Facebook post announcing his death says.

Aid group says death toll from Yemen prison airstrike at 87

Workers in war-wrecked Yemen have recovered five more bodies from the rubble of a prison facility hit by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, bringing the death toll to at least 87, an international aid group says.

Internet access, meanwhile, remains largely down after another Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a telecommunications center Friday at the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, according to advocacy group NetBlocks. The center is key to Yemen’s connection to the internet.

Ahmed Mahat, head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Yemen, says rescuers completed their search efforts late Saturday at the site of the prison in Yemen’s northern province of Saada, a stronghold of Houthi rebels on the border of Saudi Arabia.

He says 266 people were wounded in the airstrike during an intense air and ground escalation in the country’s civil war.

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south, then to exile in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition, backed at the time by the US, entered the war months later to try restoring the government to power.

Anne Frank Fund head slams findings in diarist’s betrayal as ‘full of errors’

The head of the Anne Frank Fund slams as “full of errors” a claim that Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh is the leading suspect in betraying the teen Holocaust diarist to the Nazis during World War II.

Published last week, author Rosemary Sullivan’s “The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation” determines that Arnold van den Bergh — a notary and member of the Nazi-appointed Jewish Council — gave addresses of Jews in hiding to the Germans in exchange for freedom, based on an anonymous letter sent to Frank’s father, Otto. Among those addresses, claim investigators, was Otto Frank’s office building, where the concealed rooms were located.

But adding to historians who have branded the finding “rubbish,” John Goldsmith, president of the Basel-based fund set up by Otto Frank, says the claim isn’t sufficiently backed up and borders on a “conspiracy theory.”

“It contributes not to uncovering the truth but to confusion and in addition it is full of errors,” Goldsmith tells Swiss newspaper Blick am Sonntag, according to Reuters.

“This proof just has not been produced. Simply to disseminate an assertion that then in the public discussion becomes a kind of fact borders on a conspiracy theory,” he charges.

“Now the main statement is: a Jew betrayed Jews. That stays in the memory and it is unsettling.”

Government votes to establish inquiry commission into submarine affair

The cabinet votes to establish a state commission of inquiry into the so-called submarine affair, regarded as the biggest corruption scandal in Israel’s history.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett abstains in the vote, explaining that “a government is tasked with governing, and if the public is dissatisfied — the public will replace it in elections.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a top member of Bennett’s Yamina party, votes against the panel’s formation, arguing that years have passed and the commission amounts to one government effectively prosecuting its predecessor. Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the right-wing New Hope party originally planned to oppose, but said during the meeting that he would vote in favor of the proposal.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz reportedly says in the cabinet meeting that his motives in opening the probe into the Netanyahu-era saga aren’t personal or political, and that he’s acting “as a defense minister out of a critical national need.”

The submarine deal has already led to a number of indictments against several close confidants of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called for the procurement, though not against the ex-premier himself. The corruption suspicions and subsequent indictments were handled by police in what is known officially as Case 3000.

In a swipe at the previous premier, Bennett says the defense procurement procedures in the current government “are free of ulterior motives,” referring to the purchase of German submarines approved last week.

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