The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Making good on a commitment to ultra-Orthodox political allies, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich publishes a new order canceling a tax on sweetened drinks passed by the last government, according to Hebrew media.
The tax, which went into effect in January 2022, had been widely pilloried by the Haredi community, with many complaining that it impacted their ability to feed large families on a small budget. Consumers were forced to pay up to an extra NIS 1.07 ($0.32) per liter for drinks with high sugar content. Beverages with lower sugar content are taxed at a lower rate.
Smotrich had promised to cancel the levy as well as one on single-use plastic disposable plates and cutlery, which is also heavily used by the ultra-Orthodox.
Government critics and supporters are facing off against each other outside the north Tel Aviv home of Supreme Court President Esther Hayut.
— וואלה! (@WallaNews) January 24, 2023
Riot police are on hand in a bid to separate the two groups of protesters, who are holding dueling rallies for and against plans to remake the relationship between Israel’s governing regime and the judicial system.
Moshe Meron, a prominent right-wing activist, is briefly placed in a police cruiser after an intense verbal altercation with a pro-court demonstrator, though he is not arrested or questioned.
עימות נרשם בין משה מירון וחלק מה מפגינים אשר בסיומו עוכב מירון לחקירה ע"י שוטרי מרחב הירקון. כרגע מירון מעוכב בניידת. pic.twitter.com/ii6SFUyn5o
— אור רביד | Or Ravid (@OrRavid) January 24, 2023
As part of an ongoing drill between the Israeli Air Force and United States Central Command, American B-52 strategic bombers will drop live ammunition at targets in southern Israel tomorrow.
Channel 12 news, without citing a source, says the targets in the Negev desert will simulate Iranian nuclear sites. The network says the bombers will drop 100 tons of explosives, also without citing any source.
However, a US official speaking to American media says there will be no mockups of Iranian targets during the drills, and that the exercises are not oriented around any particular adversary, but rather meant to send a message to Iran and China.
The Israeli military has not briefed reporters about the drill at all, aside from a short statement announcing the start of the war games with some extra details, shortly after CENTCOM did.
A hype video published by CENTCOM shows a wide array of military activities as part of the exercise, dubbed Juniper Oak.
The US-led drills, which involve over 140 aircraft, 12 naval vessels, and artillery systems from both nations, will end later this week, both the IDF and CENTCOM said.
The US Justice Department and several states have filed sued against Google, alleging that its dominance in digital advertising harms competition.
The government alleges that Google’s plan to assert dominance has been to “neutralize or eliminate” rivals through acquisitions and to force advertisers to use its products by making it difficult to use competitors’ products.
The antitrust suit is filed in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Attorney General Merrick Garland is expected to discuss it at a news conference later Tuesday.
The DOJ’s suit accuses Google of unlawfully monopolizing the way ads are served online by excluding competitors. This includes its 2008 acquisition of DoubleClick, a dominant ad server, and subsequent rollout of technology that locks in the split-second bidding process for ads that get served on Web pages.
Representatives for Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, do not immediately respond to a message for comment.
Coalition lawmakers are reportedly putting together a proposal that would change the criteria for banning parties from the Knesset, making it easier to push out Arab-led parties representing some 20 percent of Israel’s population.
According to Channel 12 news, the bill being advanced by Likud MK Ofir Katz will make it possible to bar MKs for isolated comments deemed supportive of terror, including support for an attacker, rather than only a terror group. Among the acts that would be construed as support for terror would be visiting the family of an attack suspect.
The channel reports that coalition heads agreed to pursue legislation aimed at kicking Arab-led parties out of the Knesset, but are afraid any such measure would be quashed by the High Court, and so are waiting for legislation that will shackle the court’s ability to strike down laws.
Members of Congress are calling for the removal of a UN Palestinian rights official over antisemitic comments exposed by The Times of Israel.
UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who is tasked with investigating Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories, has a history of antisemitism, but has not issued a clear apology or faced any repercussions from the UN.
A member of a UN Commission of Inquiry into Israel, Miloon Kothari, has also made antisemitic statements and remained in his position.
In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner Volker Turk, 11 US lawmakers from both parties say, “Enough is enough.”
No one should get a free pass for engaging in #antisemitism – including at the U.N.
Today, I led my colleagues in calling on the U.N. to remove Special Rapporteur Albanese from her post following her refusal to take accountability for her antisemitic comments. pic.twitter.com/2jyzJJHRU4
— Congressman Brad Sherman (@BradSherman) January 24, 2023
“You have stated that ‘there is no room for antisemitism in the UN,’ but it seems you have room for Special Rapporteur Albanese and others who have repeatedly made statements that are antisemitic,” the letter says.
“Failure to take meaningful action on repeated instances of antisemitism by UN officials undermines the UN’s credibility. “We urge you to demonstrate that the UN is capable of genuinely addressing antisemitism by removing Ms. Albanese from her post,” the Congress members say.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir says he wants to significantly beef up Israel’s police force and create a new national volunteer unit, warning that another war and social upheaval is in the cards.
Ben Gvir tells a press conference that in every meeting he has had with officials from various security agencies, the threat of a second Guardians of the Walls comes up. Guardians of the Walls was the name Israel gave its May 2021 Gaza operation, though the name has also come to encompass the race riots that took place between Jews and Arabs in many cities at that same time.
“We need to come to ‘Guardians of the Wall 2’ prepared,” he says.
The minister, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, says he wants to add 4,000 new officers in the next two years, raising pay by between 20 and 40 percent.
Standing alongside police chief Kobi Shabtai, Ben Gvir also calls for the creation of a national civilian force to guard the country, while promising to turn the Border Police into a “national” fighting force.
During a short break in the press conference, Yesh Atid MK Micky Levy yells at Ben Gvir that he is a “provocateur,” while waving a copy of a state comptroller report on inter-ethnic fighting in May 2021, which police have reportedly blamed partially on actions by Ben Gvir to stir up anger.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is consulting with Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron, given warnings that government plans to upend Israel’s judiciary could scare away investors and have impact on the country’s credit rating, the Kan broadcaster reports.
The Bank of Israel recently sent the Finance Ministry a list of concerns raised by international ratings agencies, Channel 12 news reported Monday.
The meeting comes hours after hundreds of tech workers held an hour-long warning strike to protest the planned changes.
On Sunday, former Bank of Israel governors Karnit Flug and Jacob Frenkel warned in a joint op-ed that the government’s plans for a sweeping overhaul of the country’s judiciary could negatively affect Israel’s credit rating, and “deal a severe blow to the economy and its citizens.”
“The weakening of the judiciary system (…) is expected to lead to a decrease in the willingness of foreign investors to invest in Israel, and an increase in the cost of raising funds for the Israeli government as a result of a possible downgrading in the country’s credit rating,” Flug and Frenkel explained.
The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) said earlier this month that the judicial makeover plans, as well as the new government’s hardline policies in the West Bank, could negatively affect the country’s rating.
S&P’s Director of Global Ratings Maxim Rybnikov told Reuters: “If the announced judicial system changes set a trend for weakening Israel’s institutional arrangements and existing checks and balances this could in the future present downside risks to the ratings.”
The talks with Yaron follow a meeting between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich aimed at setting the new government’s fiduciary policies.
According to a joint statement, the two agreed to maintain a responsible fiduciary course and to coordinate the government’s positions with the Bank of Israel’s monetary policy.
Smotrich says a budget for the coming year will be unveiled “very soon.”
The US Treasury Department has added Lebanese money-changer Hassan Moukalled to its terror-financing blacklist, accusing him and his financial firm CTEX of helping the Hezbollah terror group profit off of Lebanon’s spiraling economic crash.
“Despite Moukalled’s attempts to maintain a façade as a financial expert and economist, he is in fact an opportunistic businessman exploiting Lebanon’s suffering population to financially support the Hezbollah terrorist organization, and even help it secure weapons,” State Department spokesman Ned Price says in a statement.
According to the Treasury Department, Moukalled represented Hezbollah in financial negotiations, helping it integrate into Lebanon’s fiscal system and seal business deals with partners, including arms sales.
It says CTEX was started, with Hezbollah’s cooperation, as a front company for the terror group, with millions of US dollars flowing through the exchange and into Hezbollah’s hands.
“As Lebanon and its economy faced a dire and ongoing financial crisis in mid-2022, Hassan Moukalled was working with Hezbollah officials to capitalize on investors’ and expatriates’ efforts to make money in the Lebanese financial sector and transfer cash out of Lebanon,” the department says.
The sanctions also target two of Moukalled’s sons who worked with him, and two publishing companies, which are controlled or closely associated with Moukalled, that put financial news online.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has received a classified briefing by senior officials from the military, Shin Bet security agency and Mossad spy agency, a spokesman says.
A Knesset spokesman says the briefing to the members of the powerful committee, chaired by Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, focused on the Iranian and Palestinian arenas.
“The members of the committee heard the latest intelligence assessments regarding the various arenas, on the operational activity — offensive and defensive — in the various arenas, and the expected main trends in each arena in 2023,” the spokesman says.
Edelstein says the hours-long briefing is “an important foundation of knowledge ahead of putting together work plans for the continuation of the committee’s activities.”
A modeling agent accused of sexual assault will be released to house arrest as he awaits trial, a judge rules.
Shai Avital, who is facing a slew of sexual harassment and assault complaints from women who worked with him going back years, was extradited to Israel earlier this month after being captured in Amsterdam in August after over a year on the run abroad. He was charged last week over complaints from two of his alleged victims.
The prosecution had sought to keep him behind bars and is seeking a stay on the order to free Avital, who will wear an ankle monitor during his house arrest.
Attorney Ben Maoz, representing some of those who have complained about the agent, previously told Ynet that “Avital is a person who should not be trusted, and he should remain detained until the end of the proceedings against him.”
Avital’s lawyers tell Channel 12 news that they are happy with the decision to free him.
The “Doomsday Clock” symbolizing the perils to humanity has moved the closest to midnight it’s ever been amid the Ukraine war, nuclear tensions and the climate crisis.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which describes the clock as a “metaphor for how close humanity is to self-annihilation,” edged its hands from 100 seconds to midnight to 90 seconds to midnight, citing “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of nuclear escalation,” as well as other factors, including climate change and coronavirus-induced societal changes.
A decision to reset the hands of the symbolic timepiece is made each year by the Bulletin’s science and security board and its board of sponsors, which includes 10 Nobel laureates.
“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality,” says Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The hands of the clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight in January 2020 — the closest to midnight it had been in its history — and remained there for the next two years.
It was originally set at seven minutes to midnight in 1947.
The furthest from midnight it has ever been is 17 minutes, following the end of the Cold War in 1991.
“The Fabelmans,” Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama about his Jewish upbringing, has earned an expected strong haul of Oscar nominations, picking up seven nods, the Academy announces.
A remake of a movie once targeted by the Nazis, a blockbuster embroiled in a lawsuit with an Israeli family and a documentary by the program director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival are also recognized in a list jam-packed with Jewish characters, stories and artists.
Spielberg’s movie overcomes an anemic box office showing to score nominations in the major categories of best picture, director and screenplay, for Spielberg and celebrated Jewish playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner. The directing nomination brings Spielberg’s total nominations in the category to nine, tying him with Martin Scorsese for the second-most directing nominations in Oscar history.
The film also scored acting nods for Judd Hirsch, who is Jewish, and Michelle Williams, who recently said she is planning to raise her two children in the Jewish tradition.
“All Quiet On The Western Front,” Netflix’s new German-language adaptation of the classic 1929 novel about the horrors experienced by German soldiers during World War I, is also nominated for nine Oscars, including best picture, international feature and adapted screenplay. The film’s source material was once banned and burned by the ascending Nazi Party, which believed its anti-war stance made the German military look weak and constituted a threat to its plans for world domination.
“Top Gun: Maverick,” the action blockbuster sequel, picks up four nominations, including for best picture. The film’s distributor, Paramount, is currently embroiled in a copyright lawsuit with the family of Israeli journalist Ehud Yonay, whose magazine article about a Navy fighter pilot school was the basis for the original “Top Gun” in 1986. In November, a judge dismissed Paramount’s attempts to throw out the suit and ruled the Yonay family could proceed with the claims.
The writer, director and actress Sarah Polley gets a nod for best adapted screenplay for her drama “Women Talking,” about a group of abused women in an isolated Mennonite community, which was also nominated for best picture. Polley has a Jewish biological father, whose secret parentage she explored in her 2013 documentary “Stories We Tell.”
The Jewish film producer Gail Berman scores her first Oscar nomination for producing best picture nominee “Elvis,” while Jewish producing partners Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel score their own best picture nomination for “The Whale.” The movie, which Aronofsky directed, stars Brendan Fraser (also nominated) as a morbidly obese English professor.
“All The Beauty And The Bloodshed,” a portrait of the outsider artist Nan Goldin and her years-long activism campaign against opioid manufacturers the Sackler family, is nominated in the best documentary feature category and is favored to win. The film documents how Goldin was born to Jewish parents but had an emotionally abusive family life and left home in her teens. The Sacklers are also Jewish.
The documentary short category saw the second nomination in a row for Jewish filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt, whose documentary “How Do You Measure A Year” chronicles many years of his daughter Ella’s birthdays. Rosenblatt is the program director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
A diplomatic source tells Channel 12 news that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Jordan’s King Abdullah that the status quo on the Temple Mount will be preserved, during an unannounced meeting between the two earlier in the day.
Despite coming on the heels of a diplomatic spat over police questioning Jordan’s ambassador at the flashpoint holy site, and a chilly history between Netanyahu and Abdullah, the talks went well, according to the source.
“It was a good meeting that underlined the years of familiarity the leaders have with each other,” the source is quoted saying.
Under an arrangement that has prevailed for decades under Jordan’s custodianship, Jews and other non-Muslims are permitted to visit to the Temple Mount during certain hours but may not pray there. But Jewish religious nationalists, including members of the new governing coalition, have increasingly visited the site and demanded equal prayer rights for Jews there, infuriating the Palestinians and Muslims around the world.
AP contributed to this post.
President Isaac Herzog will depart tomorrow for Belgium, where he will deliver a keynote address to the European Parliament to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, his office announces.
Herzog is set to meet hold a number of high-level meetings during the short trip, including with Belgian King Philippe, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
In a statement, the president says his planned address to Holocaust survivors and lawmakers at a special session of the European Parliament on Thursday “fills me with a sense of sacred trepidation.”
“We must never forget that the Holocaust, the darkest abyss in human history, grew out of the fertile soil of the antisemitism that had spread through Europe for generations and tragically is rearing its head in many forms in the present day,” he says.
During the commemoration, Herzog and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola will unveil the 1939 painting “The Refugee” by German artist Felix Nussbaum, which will be displayed in the plenary, the EU says.
Painted on the eve of World War II, the work “is a reflection of Nussbaum’s fear and desperation on the eve of the Second World War. As Germany’s threatening shadow sweeps across Europe, the artist is left with no escape route,” according to Yad Vashem. Nussbaum died at Auschwitz in 1944.
Following the event, Herzog is slated to brief Stoltenberg and representatives of NATO member-states on Israel’s strategic situation.
“Israel’s relationship with the nations of Europe and the institutions of the European Union have an impact on almost every area of our lives as a people and as a state — from the economy to security, academia, science, culture, and so much more,” says Herzog. “My visit and meetings bring together the lessons of the past and a vision of a promising future of partnership between Israel and the nations of Europe.”
He will also visit the Athénée Ganenou Jewish school and Brussel’s Great Synagogue of Europe to meet members of the Brussels and Antwerp Jewish communities during the two-day trip.
A Tanzanian cargo ship has capsized and sunk in the southern Iranian port of Assaluyeh, state media reports.
The official IRNA news agency says the vessel named Anil overturned because containers on it were configured incorrectly at the port’s dock No. 9. The port has more than two dozen piers.
IRNA says rescue teams transferred the ship’s crew to safety. It does not elaborate.
This morning on the 24th jan , the ANIL container ship under the flag of Tanzania sank in Berth 9 of Pars Asaluye service port. In iran. 🚢🇮🇷🙏🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/Txk19mnh0r
— S.S.T captain jahani (@seafarer0help) January 24, 2023
Iran and Tanzania do less than $100 million in trade per year. The port is the main hub for shipment of gas and petrochemicals produced in Iran and is located about 940 kilometers (580 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Iran’s imports and exports have slowed due to banking and oil sanctions imposed by the US after president Donald Trump in 2018 pulled America from a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
A planned Knesset committee meeting aimed at advancing legislation that would make the police commissioner subject to the command of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has been called off, after Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara raised technical objections.
The discussion had been slated to deal with parts of a proposal that were shorn off of a larger bill dealing with Ben Gvir’s powers ahead of the government’s swearing in.
However, Baharav-Miara says the leftover parts of the proposal should be treated as a new proposal and should go to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which will decide whether the measure has the coalition’s backing and which path it will need to take through the Knesset.
The committee typically meets on Sundays.
Ben Gvir responds angrily to the last-minute cancellation, which comes hours ahead of a planned press conference with him and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.
“The attorney general knew about the discussion for several days and we even held a meeting about it last night, but she waited until the last second, half an hour before the discussion, to delay it by another week,” he says through his office. “This is outrageous behavior by someone who keeps thinking that she’s running the government, not advising it.”
Opposition MKs are telling their counterparts in the ruling coalition to get to work on things that matter to people rather than campaigning for legislation to overhaul the country’s judiciary or other pet issues.
“The reform won’t be implemented since half the country — way more than half, surveys show up to 30 percent of Likud members — don’t want these reforms and so it won’t happen,” Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak tells Army Radio. “They need to rein it in and start to manage their ministries and stop only dealing with creating a situation in which Israel is a dictatorship and their rule lasts forever.”
With the government announcing that a price cap on eggs is set to rise some 16 percent next month, Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky tells the station that UTJ lawmaker and Finance Committee head Moshe Gafni should “deal with egg prices instead of with searching people’s bags when they come to hospitals,” a reference to a UTJ proposal to ban unleavened food from hospitals over Passover.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Jordan earlier in the day to meet King Abdullah II, the Israeli premier’s office announces.
According to Israel, the two leaders discussed “strategic, security, and economic cooperation” during the meeting, the first between the leaders in over four years. They also spoke about the importance of the alliance between the countries.
A Jordanian statement says Abdullah “stressed the need to respect the historical and legal status quo” at the Temple Mount, and not to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque. He also stresses Amman’s support for a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as its capital.
During Netanyahu’s last stint as premier between 2009 and 2021, ties between Jerusalem and Amman deteriorated markedly, with Abdullah saying in 2019 that relations were “at an all-time low” after a series of incidents that prompted Jordan to recall its ambassador to Israel.
Abdullah last hosted Netanyahu in 2018, in another trip that was kept secret until after the fact. Netanyahu’s predecessor Yair Lapid met Abdullah in Jordan and at the United Nations. Former prime minister Naftali Bennett also met with the Jordanian king in Amman.
While other destinations have seen tourism rebound with the fading of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s hotel industry has yet to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics show.
Israeli hotels hosted 23 million guest-nights over 2022, down 11 percent from 25.8 million in 2019, a banner year for Israeli tourism.
Of those stays, only 31% percent were foreign tourists, as opposed to 2019, when 47% were coming from abroad. Despite a record number of stays in hotels by Israelis, occupancy rates were still at 61% for 2022, down from 70% in 2019 — though hotels added some 2,100 rooms in the interim.
Lebanon’s chief prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat says the judge leading the investigation into Beirut’s massive 2020 port blast cannot proceed with the probe until the country’s judicial authorities rule on the matter.
The statement by Oweidat comes a day after Judge Tarek Bitar resumed the investigation, following a 13-month halt over legal challenges raised by politicians accused in the probe — including the chief prosecutor. Bitar ordered the release of five of 17 detainees in the case, and charged eight officials, among them top intelligence officials Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, as well as Oweidat.
Lebanon’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has not ruled on those challenges.
Hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate detonated at Beirut Port on August 4, 2020, killing 218 people, injuring over 6,000 and damaging large parts of the Lebanese capital. Afterward, port, customs and legal documents revealed that the chemicals had been stored improperly for years at a port warehouse — and that senior politicians and officials knew about it.
A probe into the affair has threatened to rattle Lebanon’s ruling elite, rife with corruption and mismanagement, that has helped push the country into an unprecedented economic meltdown over the past few years. Some politicians have challenged the judge in court, accusing him of violating the constitution or of showing bias. There were also reports of threats leveled against the judge and the government vowed in late 2021 to increase his security.
Oweidat tells The Associated Press that reports he is planning on pressing charges against Bitar are “as of now, incorrect.”
A hand-drawn map with a red letter X purportedly showing the location of a buried stash of precious jewelry looted by Nazis from a blown-up bank vault has sparked a modern-day treasure hunt in a tiny Dutch village more than three-quarters of a century later.
Wielding metal detectors, shovels and copies of the map on cellphones, prospectors have descended on Ommeren — population 715 — about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of Amsterdam to try to dig up a potential World War II trove based on the drawing first published on January 3.
“All kinds of people have been spontaneously digging in places where they think that treasure is buried — with a metal detector,” says local resident Marco Roodveldt.
It is not yet clear if authorities could claim the loot if it was found, or if a prospector could keep it.
So far, nobody has reported finding anything. The treasure hunt began this year when the Dutch National Archive published — as it does every January — thousands of documents for historians to pore over, including the map, which includes a sketch of a cross section of a country road and another with a red X at the base of one of three trees.
Photos on social media show people digging holes more than a meter (three feet) deep, sometimes on private property, in the hope of unearthing a fortune.
Dutch authorities using the map and the testimony of a German soldier went hunting for the loot in 1947. The first time, the ground was frozen solid and they made no headway. When they went back after the thaw, they found nothing, says National Archive researcher Annet Waalkens.
After the unsuccessful attempts, the German soldier said “he believed that someone else has already excavated the treasure,” she adds.
Just over half of American adults are familiar with the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust, and even fewer know that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler came to power democratically, a new survey on the state of Holocaust education shows.
According to the poll of 1,004 adults published by the American Jewish Committee days ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, only one in four American adults could correctly answer four basic questions about the Shoah.
While 85% identified Auschwitz as a death camp and 76% were able to place the Holocaust between 1930 and 1950, just 53% knew that 6 million Jews were killed. Another 20% said they did not know how many, while 13% said fewer than 3 million and 11% said over 12 million.
Thirty-nine percent of respondents knew how Hitler came to power, but almost as many (34%) thought he took over Germany via a violent coup.
According to the AJC, the results show a strong link between general education level and knowledge about the Holocaust.
“Lacking knowledge can open pathways to trivialization and denial of the Holocaust that also contribute to rising antisemitism,” says AJC CEO Ted Deutch in a statement.
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