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Settler convoy parades through Palestinian town, stoning cars and storefronts

Rights group say Israelis drive through northern West Bank town of Huwara to celebrate release of Jewish suspect in recent attacks on Palestinians in the area; 3 injured in assault

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

A Palestinian examines damage to a shop allegedly from Jewish extremist stone-throwing in Huwara, near Nablus, on Monday, January 24, 2022 (Courtesy)
A Palestinian examines damage to a shop allegedly from Jewish extremist stone-throwing in Huwara, near Nablus, on Monday, January 24, 2022 (Courtesy)

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

Ceiling collapses in Tel Aviv building under renovation, trapping worker

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says a ceiling has collapsed in a building currently under renovation in Tel Aviv, with an employee trapped in the rubble.

MDA says medics are trying to rescue the worker at the scene in the city’s Zrubavel Street.

Likud MK calls for probe into whether police used NSO spyware in Netanyahu investigations

In a conversation with Likud supporters broadcast on Twitter Spaces, MK Amir Ohana calls for a probe into whether police employed NSO’s Pegasus spyware hacking technology in its investigations into Benjamin Netanyahu.

Report: Netanyahu filmed video declaring intention to remain Likud head in advance

Opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu filmed in advance the video released two hours ago, in which he declared that he would continue leading the Likud party and has not agreed to a moral turpitude clause in recent plea deal negotiations, Channel 13 reports.

According to the network, Netanyahu only ordered his staff to release the video after it became clear earlier today that the plea talks had reached a dead end.

Lapid says Netanyahu plea talks proof that state needs ‘moral turpitude law’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tells Channel 13 that the recent developments in the plea negotiations between opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit represent further proof of the necessity for a “moral turpitude law.”

The remarks come shortly after reports that the plea talks have fallen apart. Netanyahu earlier issued a statement saying he would continue leading the Likud party and that he never agreed to a moral turpitude clause in the negotiations, which would have forced him to quit politics for seven years.

“I initiated it as head of the opposition. It states that anyone convicted of moral turpitude can’t be prime minister, minister, MK, or a mayor — precisely to prevent these kinds of phenomena. We must let the judicial process take its course,” Lapid says.

Asked if he opposes a plea bargain for Netanyahu, Lapid says, “I can’t take a position on a judicial process that is currently under way.”

Asked if he is he pleased that Netanyahu is staying in politics: “Netanyahu is damaging the political system and the State of Israel. He causes more rifts and divides than anybody else. The most important thing for us [in the coalition] is to enable some kind of unity among the people of Israel. You can’t do that when someone keeps adding fuel to the fire. He causes damage.”

Gov’t COVID adviser says Omicron wave could well mark end of pandemic

Prof. Eran Segal, a computational biologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science and a leading government COVID adviser, tells Channel 12 that the Omicron variant could mark the end of the pandemic.

He is asked, “Will Omicron kill coronavirus?”

He says: “That’s truly the big question that we all want the answer to. It can be assessed that yes, and the hope is that yes [it will].”

“But we’ve learned over and over, in the past two years, that this virus can mislead and surprise. There may be additional variants. But the more time passes, the better our tools to fight it. We have medicines now. We have the vaccines. There’ll be natural immunity of perhaps over half the populace in Israel and other countries. All those things — one can hope — will help to end the coronavirus, at least as the pandemic we have come to know in the past two years,” Segal says.

Gantz vows ‘heavy hand’ against settler violence, calls assailants ‘terrorists’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz pledges to act against recent acts of settler violence “with a heavy hand.”

“Anyone who throws stones, torches vehicles, or uses weapons… is a terrorist and that is how we will treat them,” he says.

“I recently convened a number of discussions on the subject, and we are in the midst of a process aimed at strengthening the forces on the ground, building up the force together with police and the Shin Bet, and concentrating operational and legal resources [in the effort],” Gantz adds.

Police open probe into settler convoy that entered Palestinian town to stone cars, stores

Police say they have opened a probe into the settler convoy that paraded through the northern West Bank Palestinian of Huwara, with Israeli participants hurling stones at Palestinians, their cars, and their storefronts, as they celebrated the release of a settler violence suspect from prison.

At least three were injured in the attack.

Police have yet to apprehend a suspect in the filmed assault and have yet to arrest a suspect in the similarly filmed assault on Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in Burin last Friday.

Ex-policemen charged in Floyd death ‘chose to do nothing’ — prosecutor

Three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating the civil rights of George Floyd chose to do nothing, as the 46-year-old Black man suffered a “slow and agonizing death,” a prosecutor says.

Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane are on trial for their roles in the May 2020 death of Floyd, whose fatal arrest was filmed by a bystander and sparked months of protests in the United States against racial injustice and policy brutality.

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for nearly 10 minutes until he passed out and died, is serving 22 years in prison after being convicted of murder.

Thao, Kueng, and Lane were the three other officers on the scene involved in the arrest of Floyd for allegedly using a fake $20 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes.

While Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, Kueng was on his back and Lane held his legs. Thao kept back bystanders who were telling Chauvin to get off the visibly distressed Floyd.

In opening arguments, prosecutor Samantha Trepel says the defendants ignored their own training and pleas from bystanders who were concerned about Floyd’s welfare.

“They watched as Mr. Floyd suffered a slow and agonizing death,” Trepel says, urging the jury to hold the three men accountable “for choosing to do nothing and watch a man die.”

“They chose to ignore what they saw and heard,” she says.

The indictment charges Thao, Kueng and Lane with showing “deliberate indifference to (Floyd’s) serious medical needs.”

Thao and Kueng are accused of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s “use of unreasonable force” against Floyd.

Lane does not face the second charge. Video of the arrest shows that on two occasions, Lane suggested Floyd be rolled over on his side.

Wheels fall off of plea bargain negotiations between Netanyahu, AG

Providing more context to the video that opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu released an hour ago, in which he declared that he would continue leading the Likud party, Hebrew media reports that negotiations between the ex-premier and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to reach a plea bargain that would bring an end to the former prime minister’s corruption trial have fallen apart.

Channel 12 notes though that in Netanyahu’s statement, in which he denies having agreed to a moral turpitude clause that would require his exit from politics for seven years, the opposition leader does not deny the existence of the negotiations, despite his longtime insistence on the illegitimacy of the cases against him.

Furthermore, he does not deny that he might be willing to reach a plea deal in the future.

Mandelblit said to tell Netanyahu plea deal talks will have to continue with next AG

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s office has notified opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys that plea deal negotiations in the ex-premier’s criminal trial will have to continue under the next AG, the Haaretz daily reports.

Mandelblit is slated to finish his seven-year term in the coming days, and the message marks an admission by the attorney general that he will not personally be able to see out the primary case of his tenure.

Recent weeks saw reports that Netanyahu is in talks to sign a plea agreement that would bring an end to the criminal trial against him and mark his departure from politics in order to avoid prison time.

While the reports initially said that the sides were on the verge of an agreement, the talks are believed to have hit a wall, more recently.

An hour ago, Netanyahu published a video in which he vowed to remain leader of his Likud party, and claimed he did not agree during plea talks to a “moral turpitude” clause that would bar the opposition leader from political life for seven years.

Netanyahu denies agreeing to moral turpitude in plea bargain, says he’ll keep leading Likud

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has published a video in which he vows to remain leader of his Likud party, despite reports in recent weeks that he is in talks to sign a plea agreement that would bring an end to the criminal trial against him and mark his departure from politics in order to avoid prison time.

In his first direct reference to a possible plea bargain, he says he has not agreed to a “moral turpitude” clause that would bar him from political life for seven years.

Netanyahu reiterates his accusations that he is being mistreated by law enforcers and the justice system, and declares that “the entire public can see what is happening in the court house and how the investigation against me was handled.”

He insists that the proper course of action is to simply close the cases against him, “but that still hasn’t happened.”

“In recent days, there were mistaken claims made in the media on things that I allegedly agreed to, such as the claim that I agreed to ‘moral turpitude’. That is simply not correct.”

He also thanks those he claims are his “millions” of supporters, saying that they have given him and his family encouragement, and vows: “I will continue to lead the Likud and the nationalist camp in order to lead the state of Israel, on your behalf.”

While initial reports said that the sides were on the verge of a plea bargain agreement, talks are believed to have hit a wall more recently.

WATCH: Settler convoy parades through Palestinian town, celebrating attacker’s release by stoning cars and stores

Israeli settlers hurl stones at cars and stores in the Palestinian town of Huwara in the northern West Bank, Palestinian and Hebrew-language media reports say.

A security official tells Israeli news outlets that the group drove a convoy through the town to celebrate the release of a settler, who had been jailed over attacking Palestinians.

Reports claim the settlers were attacked by locals, and in response, they threw stones back.

Three Palestinians are reportedly hurt in the incident and at least 20 cars and two stores are damaged.

Soldier jailed for shooting in air toward Gaza, uploading video to TikTok

An IDF soldier stationed along the Gaza border has been sentenced to 10 days in military prison after he filmed himself shooting in the air toward the enclave and uploaded the video to TikTok.

Biden to hold video call with European leaders on Ukraine — White House

US President Joe Biden will hold a video call with European allies later today to discuss a common response to Russian military pressure around Ukraine, the White House says.

The call will be with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Polish President Andrzej Duda, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Burkina president survived assassination attempt, party says

Burkina Faso’s president has survived an assassination attempt, his party says but the leader’s whereabouts were uncertain following an army mutiny.

Roch Marc Kabore was the victim of an “aborted assassination attempt,” the People’s Movement for Progress says in a statement, adding that a minister also survived an attempt on his life and the president’s home was sacked as the country “heads with each passing hour towards a military coup by force.”

Anti-Semitic flyers distributed to hundreds of homes in 2 Florida cities with large Jewish populations

Anti-Semitic flyers were distributed over the weekend to hundreds of homes in two South Florida cities with large Jewish populations, authorities say.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber tweeted that flyers in plastic sandwich bags with small pebbles were distributed to hundreds of homes. In neighboring Surfside, the same type of flyers were distributed to homes, officials said in a “community alert” email to residents.

In a photo Gelber posted, half of the flyer is legible. It lists of some of the health officials in Washington leading the response to COVID-19 and says they are Jewish.

As a precaution, Gelber and Surfside officials said patrols were being stepped up in neighborhoods and at religious institutions. Local and federal law enforcement agencies were investigating the flyers’ origins, officials said.

“There is no place for this in our community & we will do all we can to make that point clear,” Gelber tweeted.

US envoy meets with senior Haredi MK to hear key issues for ‘community he represents’

“Pleasure to meet with [United Torah Judaism chairman] MK Moshe Gafni this afternoon to hear about the issues that matter most to the community he represents at the Knesset,” tweets US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.

Nides has met with MKs from just about every party since his arrival in Israel in late November.

US suits accuse Google of tracking data without users’ permission

A group of top US justice officials have accused Google in lawsuits of tracking and profiting from users’ location data, despite leading consumers to think they could protect their privacy on the tech giant’s services.

Google builds detailed profiles and sells highly targeted advertising with data collected from its billions of users — with location being a key piece of information, argued the suits that seek to block the alleged practices.

“Google falsely led consumers to believe that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy,” says Karl Racine, the attorney general in the nation’s capital Washington.

These suits are the latest legal threats against Google and other US Big Tech giants, which have long faced probes and court cases but a lack of new national laws that would regulate their businesses.

Attorneys general — states’ top law enforcers and legal advisers — from Indiana, Washington and Texas were to file suits making the same allegations against the tech colossus.

Google says the officials’ claims were inaccurate and based on outdated assertions about its settings.

“We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data,” Google says in a statement. “We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight.”

Gantz phones German counterpart Lambrecht to congratulate her new post

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he just got off the phone with German counterpart Christina Lambrecht whom he congratulated on her entry into the post.

“During the conversation, I emphasized the importance of cooperation between the defense systems, armies and industries as well as the special relationship between our two countries,” Gantz says in a statement.

“We also discussed regional challenges, particularly the Iranian threat and its effects on the Middle East and the world. We agreed to continue to maintain ongoing contacts and to deepen the connection between the Israeli Defense Ministry and the German Defense Ministry.”

Iran says will consider direct talks with US if needed for ‘good’ nuclear deal

Iran will consider direct talks with Washington during ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna if that is required for a “good agreement,” the country’s foreign minister says

“If during the negotiation process we reach a point that reaching a good agreement with solid guarantees requires a level of talks with the US, we will not ignore that in our work schedule,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says in televised remarks.

Talks aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers have so far not involved direct contact between Tehran and Washington.

American, Emirati militaries fired interceptor missiles during Houthi attack on UAE

A US official tells AP that both the American and Emirati militaries fired interceptor missiles during a Houthi attack targeting Abu Dhabi last night.

NATO bolsters eastern flank as fears mount over Ukraine crisis

NATO says it is sending jets and ships to bolster its Eastern European flank, as the US and EU looked to coordinate a tough response to Russia if it invades Ukraine.

Tensions have soared over Russia’s deployment of some 100,000 troops and heavy armor at its neighbor’s borders, despite the Kremlin’s insistence it is not planning a new incursion almost eight years after it seized Crimea.

The United States, Britain and Australia ordered diplomats’ families to leave Kyiv, while France told its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Ukraine.

Both Kyiv and the European Union’s foreign policy chief said any withdrawal of diplomatic personnel appeared premature, amid doubts over how imminent any attack could be.

But the tensions helped send global markets sharply downwards — with Russia’s stock market plunging and its central bank suspending foreign currency purchasing after the ruble slumped.

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken dialed in to a meeting of his EU counterparts in Brussels to brief them on his meeting Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, where the two sides failed to make a breakthrough but agreed to keep talking.

IDF notifies family of alleged Palestinian attacker of impending home demolition

The Israel Defense Forces informs the family of an alleged Palestinian terrorist that his home in the northern West Bank village of Silat al-Harithiya is slated for demolition.

Muhammad Jaradat’s family appealed an initial demolition order, but were rejected by Israel’s High Court.

Jaradat is one of several suspects accused of carrying out a deadly shooting attack in December in which an Israeli man, Yehuda Dimentman, was killed and two others were lightly wounded near the Homesh outpost.

Two other suspects’ families were given demolition orders earlier this month.

One killed during crackdown on Sudan protest

Sudanese security forces have killed a protester in the capital Khartoum during a demonstration calling for civilian rule, almost three months after a military coup, medics say.

The protester, who has not yet been identified, was “directly hit by a live bullet to the chest,” the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors says.

The latest death brings to 74 the number of protesters killed in a crackdown on anti-coup demonstrations, the medics say.

African Union condemns ‘coup attempt’ in Burkina Faso

African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat condemns an “attempted coup” in Burkina Faso after the country’s president was reportedly detained following a mutiny by soldiers.

“He strongly condemns the attempted coup d’etat against the democratically elected president,” the AU says in a statement.

Knesset speaker to address Bundestag on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy has arrived in Berlin for a state visit that will include an address to the Bundestag in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Levy’s visit is also slated to include meetings with new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. He is also scheduled to visit the historic House of Wannsee, the Berlin villa where the Nazis planned the Final Solution, as well as meet with two of his European counterparts, Bundestag President Bärbel Bas and Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka.

His slated address to the Bundestag on Thursday will mark the first time a Knesset speaker has addressed the German parliament.

“For the first time in history, the Speaker of the Knesset – the democratically elected parliament of the only Jewish state – will stand where more than 80 years ago Nazi oppressors called for the annihilation of our people before executing the most horrific crime in mankind’s history — the Holocaust,” says Levy in comments following his arrival in Berlin. “I will stand proud being Jewish, with six million silent souls by my side and deliver the speech in Hebrew, the eternal language of the Jewish people.”

COVID tests to end for arrivals into England, PM announces

The UK government is set to drop compulsory coronavirus tests for those arriving in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says, as he continues to lift curbs amid declining infections.

The government currently requires British and other citizens arriving into England from most countries to take a lateral flow test for COVID-19 within two days.

Johnson, who last week announced the easing of almost all domestic restrictions after several weeks of falling case rates, notes the change would only apply to fully vaccinated individuals.

“To show that this country is open for business, open for travellers, you will see changes so that people arriving no longer have to take tests if they’ve been vaccinated,” he tells reporters on a hospital visit.

Johnson did not specify a date for the change. He notes that this will apply only to arrivals who have been “double vaccinated.”

The UK government only sets health policy for England, while devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland administer their own rules.

Johnson earlier this month scrapped the need for arrivals in England to have pre-departure tests and quarantine until they have tested negative.

Lebanon’s ex-PM Hariri says he won’t run in upcoming election, will retire from politics

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri announces he will not run in upcoming parliamentary elections and is withdrawing from political life.

The 51-year-old, who was propelled into politics by his father Rafik’s assassination in 2005, announces his decision during a press conference in Beirut.

Ministers take 52 work trips abroad, costing taxpayer $3 million-$5 million in first 7 months

Since being sworn in seven months ago, ministers of the new government have made at least 52 trips abroad, costing somewhere between NIS 10 million ($3.15 million) and NIS 16 million ($5 million), according to a Walla news report.

Walla cited numbers provided to Likud MK Yariv Levin, who put in a request for the numbers and received only partial responses, as some ministers refused to report their spending. The same ministers had been heavily critical of the previous government when its members flew abroad on the public’s dime during the pandemic.

The minister who flew abroad the most was Foreign Minister Yair Lapid — to be expected, given his position. Lapid took nine trips lasting a total of 20 days and costing NIS 3 million ($943,577), according to the report.

Israeli, Chinese leaders exchange congratulation letters to mark 30 years of ties

President Isaac Herzog and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping exchange letters congratulating one another on the anniversary of the 30th year of official ties between Jerusalem and Beijing.

A similar exchange takes place between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

“Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Israel, the friendship between the two peoples has been deepened day by day and bilateral relations have made significant progress,” Xi writes to Herzog according to the Chinese readout.

“The exchanges between the two countries have become increasingly close and bilateral relations have been constantly deepened,” Herzog replies, per the Chinese readout.

Li tells Bennett, “China and Israel have carried out fruitful innovation cooperation and achieved win-win outcomes.”

“I’m convinced that Israel-China cooperation will continue to deepen in the future to create more benefits for the two peoples,” Bennett replies.

Foreign Ministry says no expectation of mass immigration of Ukraine Jews amid fears of Russian invasion

The Foreign Ministry denies a report that it’s preparing for the possibility that thousands of Ukrainian Jews will seek to emigrate to Israel in the event of a Russian invasion of the country.

An official in the ministry tells The Times of Israel that a Sunday Haaretz report on the matter was false.

According to the official, Israel is now looking into how the possible invasion might impact the roughly 10,000 Israelis residing in Ukraine, though Jerusalem has not yet issued any travel warnings, even as the Biden administration is preparing to evacuate its diplomats.

Any matter of Jewish immigration from Ukraine will be handed by the Jewish Agency, the official says.

Ukraine leader urges unity against Russia during call with European Council head

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the European Union to stay united in the face of a possible Russian invasion, his office says.

In a readout of Zelensky’s phone call with European Council President Charles Michel, his office reports that the Ukrainian leader said that “it is important to preserve the unity of all EU member states in protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state.”

Sunday sees 83,088 COVID cases in Israel, a new daily record

The Health Ministry has updated its coronavirus figures, revealing that nearly 83,088 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, a new daily record, with the positivity rate climbing to 23.23% — also a record.

The number of patients in serious condition climbs to 814, up from 459 one week ago. The ministry says 222 people are in critical condition, with 166 of them on ventilators.

Total active cases rose to 531,430, with the death count climbing to 8,458.

Barlev directs Public Security Ministry to reevaluate wiretap and search laws

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev has instructed his ministry to reevaluate the legal and oversight infrastructure surrounding investigative wiretap and search.

The directive comes days after explosive reports broke that police used the NSO Group’s powerful Pegasus software to obtain unfettered access to the phones of Israel civilians. A wide swath of parliamentary and civil society voices called for examination of the claims and oversight over police usage of phone-monitoring technology.

“I instructed the legal entities in the Public Security Ministry and my bureau staff to conduct an examination of the existing arrangements, including the Wiretapping Law and the search law,” Barlev says in a statement. “This is to examine the need to make adjustments, in order to be exacting and clarify the limits of what is allowed and prohibited in the use of advanced technological means for enforcement purposes. If necessary, my ministry will formulate a government bill, in coordination with the Justice Ministry.”

Barlev explains his directive by calling the existing laws outdated and not fit to address today’s technological capabilities.

“The existing legal arrangements regarding wiretapping and search operations as part of police enforcement operations are old,” says Barlev. “There is justification for examining whether to update the arrangements in light of the technological developments we have witnessed in recent years and the adaptation of legislation to the 21st century.”

The police have held a consistent line in official responses, claiming that they have only used surveillance technology within the bounds of proper oversight and court orders.

45,000 displaced since IS attack on Syria prison, UN says

Up to 45,000 people fled their homes in a Syrian city where battles between Kurdish forces and jihadists have raged for days following a prison attack, the UN says.

“Up to 45,000 people have been displaced from their homes” in Hasakeh city since the Islamic State group launched an attack on the Ghwayran prison last Thursday, says the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

Poll predicts Rep. Rashida Tlaib to easily win re-election

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib should not have much difficulty winning re-election next year in her district, Michigan’s 12th, according to a new poll.

Respondents to the poll, first reported by Jewish Insider, gave Tlaib 62% of their support, well above all other candidates in the upcoming Democratic primary. Westland Mayor William won 13% support, Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett won 6%, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey won 4%, former state Rep. Phil Cavanagh won 3%, Livonia, Michigan Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan won 2% and former state legislator Shanelle Jackson won zero percent. Ten percent of respondents said they were undecided or preferred someone else.

The survey polled 600 registered voters from January 18 to the 20 and had a margin of error of 4%.

Justice minister blasts Smotrich’s ‘inhuman’ criticism of late justice on day of her death

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar pans Religious Zionism chair Bezalel Smotrich for issuing a statement criticizing the late former Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor hours after her death.

Smotrich said he would remember Naor “as the one who insisted on demolishing houses,” referring to her rulings against illegal Israeli construction of homes on private Palestinian land.

“I was amazed by MK Smotrich’s attack on the former [Supreme Court] president just a few hours after her death and even before she was buried. It is not Jewish and it is inhuman. I do not know a judge with whom I have agreed on all rulings. But that’s exactly the point. The state foundations in Israel must be preserved,” Sa’ar says during a faction meeting of his New Hope party.

Joint List MK again accused of misogyny after telling female lawmaker, ‘You have nothing between your ears’

Joint List MK Ofer Cassif is again accused of misogyny after telling Religious Zionism MK Orit Strock during a Knesset committee meeting that she has “nothing between [her] ears.”

Strock had shouted during the session that there is no Palestinian people.

“There is no Palestinian people just like there is nothing between your ears,” he responded.

“Enough insulting, humiliating and belittling women because they are women,” Labor MK Ibtisam Mara’ana tweets.

“You’ve forced me to defend Struck,” she laments, in reference to her political rival. “You will learn to control your mouth because we will not agree to [these outbursts]. Period.”

Last week, Cassif told Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben Ari during a heated plenum debate to “stop your hen-like screeching. Other than shouting you can’t do anything else.”

Liberman: Economy to return to full activity in mid-February; all impacted will get assistance

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says that the Israeli economy will resume being fully operational in mid-February.

“We are optimistic about the models being presented to us and say very cautiously that starting in mid-February, the economy will return to full activity,” he says during a faction meeting at the Knesset.

“In the end, the Israeli economy is in good shape. We will not abandon anyone. Anyone who has been impacted will receive assistance. It will happen responsibly and fairly,” he says.

Month-old baby struck by bullet in latest shooting incident to plague Arab community

A 1-month-old baby and a 28-year-old woman have been taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital after both being struck by gunfire in southern Israel, according to Hebrew media reports.

A suspect in possession of an M16 has been arrested.

The shooting takes place during a brawl between two rival gangs in the Bedouin village of Mulada in the Negev.

The conditions of the victims are not immediately clear.

UK to probe lawmaker’s claim she was fired over Muslim faith

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson orders an investigation into a Conservative lawmaker’s claim that she was fired from a government job in part because of her Muslim faith — the latest allegation of wrongdoing that is shaking the Conservative government and Johnson’s grip on power.

Former Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani says that when she was demoted in 2020, a government whip said her “Muslimness” was “making colleagues uncomfortable.” She told the Sunday Times that she was told “there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.’”

Chief Whip Mark Spencer has identified himself as the person who spoke to Ghani in 2020, but called her allegation “completely false.”

Johnson’s office says that the prime minister had asked government officials “to establish the facts about what happened.” It said Johnson “takes these claims very seriously.”

Ghani was elected to Parliament in 2015 — the Conservatives’ first female Muslim lawmaker — and was made a junior minister in 2018. At the time her boss, then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, said it was proof the Conservatives “were a party of opportunity.” But some have accused the party of failing to stamp out anti-Muslim prejudice under Johnson, who in 2018 compared women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes.”

Two senior Cabinet ministers, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, spoke in support of Ghani and said her claims must be investigated.

Ghani’s claim has deepened the rifts roiling Johnson’s governing party, which is being wracked by allegations about lockdown-breaching parties in the prime minister’s office while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions.

The “partygate” allegations have infuriated many in Britain, who were barred from meeting up with friends and family for months in 2020 and 2021 to curb the spread of COVID-19. They are being investigated by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, whose report, expected this week, will be a pivotal moment for the prime minister.

2021 ‘most antisemitic year in last decade,’ with incidents spiking across globe, report finds

The World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency publish their Antisemitism Report of 2021 ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday.

The average number of antisemitic incidents reported in 2021 was more than ten per day, the report finds. “However, the actual number of incidents was significantly higher, since many are not reported by the victims out of fear, and due to the lack of surveillance and prosecution of local authorities and law enforcement agencies,” according to a joint statement from the WZO and Jewish Agency on the report.

2021 was “the most antisemitic year in the last decade,” the statement declared, though the year did not see a Jewish person murdered on antisemitic grounds.

2020 already featured a rise in antisemitic incidents, which mainly took place in the digital arena, as countries imposed COVID lockdowns. But as countries resumed in-person gatherings, such incidents took place there as well. Many demonstrations against COVID vaccines and restrictions included Holocaust motifs, such as the yellow star, as well as antisemitic conspiracy theories claiming Jews are spreading the pandemic to control the world, the report finds.

Europe was the leading continent in the number of antisemitic incidents during 2021, with close to 50% of all incidents globally taking place there.

The UK recorded a 49% increase in the first six months of 2021, with 1,308 incidents compared to 875 in the same period in 2020. Austria also recorded a doubling of the number of incidents, while in Germany the rate stayed roughly the same, with 1,850 antisemitic incidents recorded in the first 10 months of 2021 compared to 1909 cases reported in all of 2020, according to the report.

The next continent with the most antisemitic incidents was North America, with 30% of antisemitic incidents in the continent taking place in the US, the report finds.

Within the US, New York recorded a 100% increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in 2021, with 503, compared to 252 in 2020. In Los Angeles, there was a 59.2% increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in the first six months of 2021, compared to the same period in the previous year, LAPD data cited in the report showed.

The incidents mostly included vandalism and property destruction, graffiti, and desecration of monuments.

Physical and verbal violence accounted for less than a third of all antisemitic incidents.

Over 100 LGBT Catholic church officials stage mass coming-out in Germany

More than 100 Catholic church officials in Germany come out as LGBT, queer or non-binary, adding to calls for reform within the crisis-hit church.

Demands for a more liberal attitude to homosexuality within the German church have coincided with uproar over reports of widespread child sex abuse by Catholic clergymen in the country, including allegations of cases in which former pope Benedict XVI failed to act.

The 125-strong group, which includes priests and workers in education and administration, publish a statement demanding an end to the “discrimination and exclusion” they had experienced.

“I don’t want to hide my sexual identity any more,” Uwe Grau, a priest in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, is quoted on the group’s website as saying.

“We are part of the church,” added Raphaela Soden, who works in pastoral care for young adults and identifies as queer and non-binary. “We always have been. It’s time to finally make it clear that we exist and how wonderfully queer the body of Christ is.”

The statement calls for “free access to all pastoral vocations” and an end to what the signatories called a “system of concealment, double standards, and dishonesty” surrounding LGBT issues.

“Entering into a non-heterosexual relationship or marriage must never be considered a breach of loyalty and, consequently, an obstacle to employment or a reason for dismissal,” they said.

The issue of homosexuality has caused a major rift in the Catholic Church between modernizers and conservatives.

Pope Francis is himself ambivalent over the sensitive subject.

Russia said to be conducting joint patrol of Syrian border airspace

Syria and Russia hold joint military jet patrols of the airspace along Syria’s borders, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement reported by Interfax and picked up by Reuters.

According to the report, Russia’s Defense Ministry says such joint patrols are expected to be a regular occurrence moving forward.

The news comes amid tensions along the Russia-Ukraine border as Western powers scramble to counter an implied threat by Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade the neighboring country.

Putin is considered one of few allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russia is seen as using its presence in the war-torn country to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

Israel’s close relations with Russia and Putin are often seen as linked to its close military coordination in Syria, in particular when the IDF carries out purported strikes on sites within Syria.

Russia joined Syria’s 10-year conflict in September 2015, when the Syrian military appeared close to collapse, and has since helped in tipping the balance of power in favor of Assad, whose forces now control much of the country. Hundreds of Russian troops are deployed across Syria and they also have a military air base along Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

Israel, China convene joint committee on innovation for first time since 2018

The China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation meets virtually, led by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and China’s Vice President Wang Qishan.

During the meeting, the countries sign a three-year plan to regulate cooperation and government-to-government dialogue through 2024.

The Joint Committee was established in 2014 as a comprehensive bilateral dialogue framework for senior government officials. The meeting is the fifth time the committee has convened, and the first since 2018.

The meeting is part of a series of events marking 30 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and China.

“The Chinese, like Israelis, aren’t afraid of new ideas,” said Lapid at the meeting’s outset. “There’s a built-in curiosity in the character of our two peoples. Give us a new and exciting idea, and we’ll gather around it, discuss it enthusiastically , and immediately examine its origin and how it can be improved.”

Representatives of a number of Israeli government ministries and offices participated in the meeting, including Science, Technology and Space Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and senior officials from the Health, Environmental Protection, Culture, Agriculture, and Economy ministries, as well as the Innovation Authority and Patent Office.

US President Joe Biden, left, meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping, on screen, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

“Israel and China are marking three decades of diplomatic relations characterized by a continuing political dialogue, close economic and trade relations, and diverse collaborations which link the two peoples,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry spokesman’s office on Monday. “The volume of trade with China has increased significantly over the 30 years of diplomatic relations and today, stands at approximately $18 billion USD. China is one of Israel’s most important trading partners, and the free trade agreement is expected to contribute to increasing trade volume.”

Israel’s initiatives to strengthen ties with Beijing come as the United States, Israel’s closest ally, increasingly sees China as its primary military and economic rival. This reality has forced Jerusalem to seek a balance between its deep commitment toward its alliance with the US, and China’s growing importance as a global economic and military power.

Amid a US-China trade war that has ebbed and flowed in recent years under both the Trump and Biden administrations, China has shown interest in Israeli innovations, especially in medical tech, robotics, food tech, and artificial intelligence.

Washington’s main concerns lie in potential dual-usage technologies, where various technologies would have both civilian and military applications. At the same time, Israel has regulations in place to prevent the sale of sensitive military-related technology to China (and other countries), following a 1990s deal in which Israel had to scrap the sale of advanced airborne radar systems to China amid fierce US opposition.

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