The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
The Iranian government must comply with the terms of the 2015 accord limiting its nuclear program in order to see the United States return to the deal, a French presidency official says.
“If they are serious about negotiations and want to obtain a new commitment from all participants in the JCPOA, first they must refrain from further provocations and second they must respect what they are no longer respecting” in terms of commitments, the official says on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile Russia gives an opposite assessment, saying the US must lift sanctions against Tehran and comply with the Iran nuclear deal as a condition for the Islamic Republic to rejoin the accord.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says after talks with his Iranian counterpart that he hopes “the United States returns to full compliance with the corresponding Security Council resolution, creating conditions for Iran to meet its obligations under the nuclear deal.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigns after a key coalition ally pulls his party’s support over Conte’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, setting the stage for consultations this week to determine if he can form a third government.
Conte tenders his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who holds off on any immediate decision other than to ask Conte to keep the government running in the near-term, Mattarella’s office says. The president will begin consulting with leaders of political parties starting tomorrow.
Conte is hoping to get Mattarella’s support to try to form a new coalition government that can steer the country as it battles the pandemic and an economic recession and creates a spending plan for the 209 billion euros ($254 billion) Italy is getting in European Union recovery funds.
Conte’s coalition government was thrown into turmoil earlier this month when a junior party headed by ex-Premier Matteo Renzi yanked its support. Conte won confidence votes in parliament last week, but fell short of an absolute majority in the Senate, forcing him to take the gamble of resignation.
An Iranian-American has been sentenced to prison on spying charges, Iran’s judiciary reports, the latest dual national held in the country amid tensions with the West.
Iran’s judiciary does not name the man sentenced, but says he had been free on bail and re-arrested while trying to flee the country. Many prisoners in Iran have been out on bail amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the country.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili says the man had been convicted on espionage charges and of providing military information to foreign countries. Esmaili does not elaborate.
It isn’t immediately clear where the man faced trial. However, previous cases involving those with Western ties accused of espionage have been heard in Iran’s Revolutionary Courts, often sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison.
Families of those detained in Iran have criticized Tehran over such trials, saying their loved ones are being held as negotiating chips with the West. They’ve described them as being tried in courts without being able to present evidence.
The World Health Organization is saying pregnant women should for now avoid taking Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. The WHO earlier this month gave similar assessments on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, citing insufficient data.
Israel’s Health Ministry has in recent days advised pregnant women to get the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine after a number of women expecting a baby fell seriously ill with COVID-19, sparking concerns.
“There is no evidence of harm resulting from vaccination during the entire pregnancy,” the Health Ministry said.
A man with a knife attacks and wounds several people in the city of Frankfurt on Tuesday morning before he was detained by authorities.
Frankfurt police say that none of the victims have life-threatening injuries. A police spokeswoman says the investigation is still ongoing and they cannot release any details about the attacker. She also does not know how many people were injured.
Local broadcaster Hessenschau reports that the incident took place near the city’s main train station and that the victims were taken to nearby hospitals.
US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s combination of two synthetic antibodies against COVID-19 reduces hospitalizations and deaths by 70 percent in high-risk patients with recent positive tests, the company says.
“Bamlanivimab and etesevimab together have the potential to be an important treatment that significantly reduces hospitalizations and death in high-risk COVID-19 patients,” Lilly’s chief scientific officer Daniel Skovronsky says.
The results mean that the phase 3 trial involving 1,035 people achieved its main goal, and the study also met its secondary goals of reducing patients’ viral load and their time to recover from the disease.
Patients were assigned either a placebo or the combination of bamlanivimab and etesevimab, the two antibodies, at 2.8 grams each.
There were 11 deaths or hospitalizations in the patients who received the therapy, or 2.1 percent of that group. In the placebo arm, there were 36 deaths or hospitalizations, or 7.0 percent of the group.
Iran has approved Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says, in a win for Moscow as it aims to bolster its geopolitical clout.
Iran, which is fighting the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak, has said it will only rely on vaccines made by Russia, India or China, while also working to produce a homemade shot.
After talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Zarif confirms Sputnik V had been approved, adding: “In the near future we hope we will be able to purchase it, as well as start joint production.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this month banned the use of vaccines made by the United States and Britain, calling the shots “completely untrustworthy.”
Russia registered the shot — named after the Soviet-era satellite — in August last year, before the start of large-scale clinical trials, leaving some experts wary.
Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day tomorrow, a new Hebrew University study examines how the pandemic has changed the ways we commemorate.
Researchers from the Communication and Journalism Department say educators have successfully leveraged new forms of Holocaust remembrance using social media tools, including memory-related hashtags, “live” stories from memorial sites and video talks with Holocaust survivors.
“While we have already been experiencing a transition where forms of social media and digital content have been increasingly recognized as legitimate expressions of commemoration, the severe restrictions of coronavirus both accelerated this process but also created a far more accepting culture for the role these media must play,” says the university’s Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann.
Archaeologists conducting excavations at the Sobibor death camp in Poland have unearthed the identity tags of four young children who died there during the Holocaust.
The tags bear the names, dates of birth and hometown of the four, aged 5-11: Lea Judith De La Penha, Deddie Zak, Annie Kapper and David Juda Van der Velde.
Yoram Haimi from the Israel Antiquities Authority, who was conducting the dig alongside Polish and Dutch colleagues, says: “As far as we know, identity tags with children’s names have only been found at Sobibor, and nowhere else.”
“Since the tags are very different from each other, it is evident that this was probably not some organized effort. The children’s identity tags were prepared by their parents, who were probably desperate to ensure that the children’s relatives could be located in the chaos of the Second World War.”
He adds: “Lea, Annie and Deddie’s tags have enabled us to link faces and stories to the names, which until now had only been anonymous entries in Nazi lists.”
Israel’s border crossings to Jordan have remained open despite the closure of Ben Gurion Airport to most flights, Kan News reports.
Government officials tell the broadcaster the current coronavirus legislation only refers to the airport, and say they will work to close off land crossings as well to help curb COVID-19 infections.
The open border with Jordan means Israelis abroad who wish to fly in can land in to Jordan and then travel to Israel, bypassing the closure that began overnight and which is scheduled to last till the end of January at least.
A man has been accused by police of making threats against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while hospitalized involuntarily at a psychiatric ward, Haaretz reports.
The newspaper says the man, in his forties, allegedly spoke of “plans” and “weapons” he planned to use if Netanyahu is reelected. But a volunteer at the institution testified he said so while mumbling to himself and to nearby cats.
A court judge heavily criticized the decision to accuse the man, saying it was not at all clear he was making any specific threats against the premier.
“It seems that, as he spoke to cats in the yard, these things too were said into the air. It is difficult to see this as an offense,” the judge said.
Israel’s chargé d’affaires to Morocco arrives in the capital city of Rabat, twenty years after Israel closed its liaison office in the north African country.
David Govrin, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt in 2016-2020, will set to work building up Israel’s diplomatic mission in the country, and expanding bilateral political, tourism, economic, and cultural ties.
Morocco became the third Arab state in 2020 to normalize ties with Israel under US-brokered deals, joining the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In return, former US president Donald Trump fulfilled a decades-old goal of Morocco by backing its contested sovereignty in Western Sahara, what Rabat refers to as its “southern provinces.”
The European Union warns pharmaceutical giants that have developed coronavirus vaccines with EU aid that it must get its shots on schedule, a day after the bloc threatened to impose export controls on vaccines produced within its borders.
The EU is making it very clear that it is bent on getting all doses as quickly as their contracts provide for at a time when infections are surging, many hospitals are overwhelmed, and many of the 27 member states are struggling to get their vaccine rollout going at top speed.
The hardening of its position comes days after it accused AstraZeneca of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. It also expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech. The Pfizer vaccine is already being rolled out in the EU, and the AstraZeneca one is expected to be approved this week.
“Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tells the World Economic Forum’s virtual event in Switzerland. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations.”
The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health care workers and most vulnerable people. That’s despite having over 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi is delivering a rare address at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank’s annual conference.
Kohavi is expected to give a general overview of the threats facing the State of Israel, chiefly Iran and its proxies in the region.
The chief of staff’s remarks are being translated in real-time by the think tank.
In a speech to the United Nations Security Council, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki accuses Israel of shirking its responsibility to “provide coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinians as an occupying power.”
The Palestinians have yet to formally ask Israel to inoculate wide swaths of their population, although a request by Ramallah for 10,000 vaccines for frontline healthcare workers was reportedly rejected by Israel. The PA has also said it plans to inoculate its population on its own.
Al-Maliki further contends that Israel still intends to annex parts of the West Bank. Israel’s annexation push was suspended in August as part of a deal to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates.
“Does anyone really believe that Israel has actually canceled its annexation plans?” al-Maliki says, pointing to the approval of thousands of new housing units over the Green Line in recent weeks.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is talking regional security at the annual convention of the Institute for National Security Studies, which is being held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also set to appear are the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
You can watch the talk here:
Our 14th Annual International Conference begins!Join us for the live broadcast from day one, and watch the speech by the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochaviand the panel of the Foreign Ministers of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain talking about normalization >>#INSS2021
Posted by INSS – The Institute for National Security Studies on Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan tells the UN Security Council Iran “does not try to hide its intention of destroying the world’s only Jewish state.”
Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Erdan says Iranian leadership is “another genocidal regime epitomizing the very words and actions of the Nazis.”
“How is it possible that the Iranian Parliament proposing to annihilate a member state is not at the top of this council’s agenda?” he asks.
Erdan says Tehran did not use the removal of sancations as part of the 2015 nuclear deal “to improve the lives of its citizens, but doubled down instead on its malign activities. Rather than using the dividends of the nuclear agreement to build schools and hospitals, it built an arsenal of missiles. Rather than using its resources to fight COVID-19, it wasted them on funding terrorist proxies and undermining peace and security. Iran deceived the world when it signed the agreement and it continues to deceive the world today.”
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi appears to indicate that Israel was responsible for two airstrikes in Syria last month, saying the first targeted a weapons manufacturing facility and the second a shipment of munitions.
In a speech to the Institute for National Security Studies, Kohavi notes the wide range of fronts and types of threats the military is facing. To demonstrate this complexity, he notes a week in which the IDF conducted operations in two foreign countries, as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Though he refrains from naming Syria — instead referring to it as “Country A” — the timeline described by the chief of staff clearly indicates that one of the countries in question is Syria.
“On the first day, we struck widely in… let’s call it Country A. There we struck both a production facility and weapons themselves. The next day, the Iron Dome intercepted two rockets that were en route to Ashkelon,” Kohavi said, apparently referring to an airstrike in Syria on the night between December 24 and 25 and a rocket attack from Gaza the following evening.
“We then conducted a commando raid on front ‘B,’ which is not necessarily in the first ring,” Kohavi said, using the military’s term for the countries and areas immediately adjacent to Israel. It is not definitively clear which country this refers to, though Iraq, which borders Syria and is not considered in the IDF’s “first ring,” is a likely candidate.
“Two days later, we again struck Country A, blocking the transfer of weaponry from A to B. This was weaponry that was supposed to be directed and used against the State of Israel,” he said. This appears to be a reference to an airstrike against Iran-linked sites in Syria on December 31.
“And in the meantime, in the Central Command, night after night, seven to ten arrests were made. Some of those [arrested] could have carried out a terror attack on the Route 443 highway or in the Halamish settlement,” he said.
The IDF chief noted that in addition, the military attempted to prevent the constant cyber attacks directed against Israel.
The deputy US envoy to the United Nations, Richard Mills, tells the Security Council that the Biden administration will renew ties with the Palestinians that were frozen under the Trump administration.
He says Washington will urge the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to avoid unilateral steps such as Israeli settlement activity, home demolitions and annexation, Palestinian payments to terrorists and their families and incitement against Israel.
He says Israel’s recent normalization deals with Arab nations is not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
IDF Chief of Staff Kohavi says Israel is in a better place in terms of its national security than in the past, though the threats against the Jewish state are getting more complicated and difficult.
“As much as we can say, the State of Israel’s strategic situation is on a trend of improvement,” Kohavi says.
“I would say that our deterrence toward the countries we are operating against has gotten stronger. Deterrence is not a binary situation. Deterrence can be cracked by different events, but in general, none of them want to initiate anything against us. All of their actions — almost without exception — are retaliatory to our actions, not actions that they’ve initiated,” he says.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi says he has directed the military to prepare operational plans for the possibility that it will need to strike Iran to block its nuclear program.
“Iran can decide that it wants to advance to a bomb, either covertly or in a provocative way. In light of this basic analysis, I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones. We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year,” Kohavi says.
He adds: “The government will of course be the one to decide if they should be used. But these plans need to be on the table, in existence and trained for.”
In a rare public comment on American foreign policy, the army chief warns that US President Joe Biden should not rejoin the 2015 nuclear agreement, as he has indicated he plans to do provided Tehran halts its violations of the deal.
“With the changing of the administration in the United States, the Iranians have said they want to return to the previous agreement. I want to state my position, the position that I give to all my colleagues when I meet them around the world: Returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement or even to an agreement that is similar but with a few improvements is a bad thing and it is not the right thing to do,” Kohavi says.
Former Labor leader Amir Peretz says he is quitting the party following the ascension of MK Merav Michaeli to party leader in Sunday’s primaries. But he says he will stay on as economy minister for the time being, to keep the balance of power in the coalition until a new government is formed after the March election.
Peretz accuses Michaeli of “a campaign of hate” against him.
Followqing her election, Michaeli had asked Peretz and the party’s MK Itzik Shmuli to resign from the coalition immediately. She was a fierce opponent of Peretz’s decision to enter the current coalition, after repeatedly promising not to join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and even shaving off his famous mustache so voters could read his lips.
Peretz restates that he will not run as part of any political party in the coming election.
More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus, a year into Europe’s deadliest outbreak, figures from the government show.
The health department says 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday.
Britain is the fifth country in the world to record 100,000 virus-related deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest. The US has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s.
The UK toll is more than twice as many people as were killed by German bombs in Britain in the 1940-41 Blitz, and 30,000 more than the total number of British civilians killed during the six years of World War II.
The first private space station crew was introduced today: Three men who are each paying $55 million to fly on a SpaceX rocket.
They’ll be led by a former NASA astronaut now working for Axiom Space, the Houston company that arranged the trip for next January.
“This is the first private flight to the International Space Station. It’s never been done before,” says Axiom’s chief executive and president Mike Suffredini, a former space station program manager for NASA.
While mission commander Michael Lopez-Alegria is well known in space circles, “the other three guys are just people who want to be able to go to space, and we’re providing that opportunity,” Suffredini says.
Axiom’s first customers include Larry Connor, a real estate and tech entrepreneur from Dayton; Ohio, Canadian financier Mark Pathy; and Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe, a close friend of Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003.
The US Senate easily confirms Antony Blinken as secretary of state, with key members of the Republican Party backing him.
Blinken, a longtime adviser to President Joe Biden who has vowed to repair US alliances, is approved by a vote of 78-22.
His easy confirmation is in contrast with former president Donald Trump’s two secretaries of state, Mike Pompeo and Rex Tillerson, who both scraped by with most Democrats opposed.
Republican senators who supported Blinken include two close Trump allies on foreign policy — Marco Rubio, a fervent critic of the leftist governments in Cuba and Venezuela, and Lindsey Graham, known for his hawkish views on Syria and Iran.
Senator James Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged colleagues to back Blinken even while acknowledging some disagreements.
“We need a secretary of state. This is the person for the job,” Risch said on the Senate floor.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov backs a Palestinian proposal for a Middle East peace conference, saying at the UN that it could be held at the ministerial level in spring or summer.
Recalling that Moscow had backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s idea for international talks when he first proposed it in September, Lavrov offers ideas about who could be invited.
“We propose holding an international, ministerial-level meeting in spring-summer 2021,” Lavrov tells a videoconference UN Security Council meeting about the Middle East.
Participants would include Israel, the Palestinians, the four members of the so-called Middle East diplomatic quartet (Russia, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union), along with four Arab states — Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, Lavrov says.
“It would also be important to invite Saudi Arabia, which is behind the Arab peace initiative,” he adds, without offering a specific date or site for the eventual conference.
A top health official has condemned Israeli policy on flights to and from the United Arab Emirates in recent months, following the normalization agreement between the countries, Channel 13 reports.
Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s public health department, is said to have told hospital chiefs that “In two weeks of peace [with the UAE] more people died than in 70 years of war.”
Israel and the UAE were never at war, and Channel 13 notes her comment may have been made half-jokingly, but has legs to stand on: The network says that from the beginning of December, 906 Israelis who returned from the UAE were diagnosed with coronavirus, leading to a total of 4,050 cases, including many cases of the more infectious UK variant.
Israel passes 4,500 deaths from COVID-19, with the national death toll standing at 4,501 as of this evening. Yesterday saw 74 more people die of the disease.
According to a Channel 12 News report, health officials are surprised by the dire state of morbidity after more than two weeks of tightened lockdown — with over 8,600 new cases diagnosed yesterday — having hoped for better news thanks to the restrictions.
Officials do not see a possibility of reopening schools or businesses under the current conditions.
Internet users across the northeast US report widespread outages.
In an emailed statement 90 minutes after the outage was first reported, Verizon says it is working on the problem hurting Fios service “throughout the Northeast corridor” and that some service had already been restored.
The telecom giant reported a cut fiber in Brooklyn via Twitter, although it’s not clear if that issue was responsible for the entire outage. Verizon didn’t give any estimate in its email about when the problem would be fixed.
Comcast, another major internet service provider, says its network is performing normally on the East Coast.
A new Channel 12 poll shows 61 percent of Israeli voters want a coalition without the ultra-Orthodox parties, while only 22% favor such a government.
Fifty-two percent of right-wing voters prefer a non-Haredi coalition, while 78% of center-left voters feel the same.
The poll shows Likud at 29 seats, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid at 16, Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope at 15, Yamina with 14, the Joint List with 10, Shas at 8, United Torah Judaism at 8, Yisrael Beytenu at 7, Meretz with 5, Blue and White with 4 and Labor with 4.
After launching his party as a new proposed centrist platform, Huldai started at around 8 seats in polls but has been steadily declining since.
The poll shows that Labor and Huldai together would score 12 seats, however.
Channel 12 notes that the poll has around 12 seats’ worth of lost votes due to many parties falling below the threshold, making the survey somewhat unreliable.
The Health Ministry is backing the vaccination of people under the age of 16 who are at high risk of serious COVID-19 illness, Walla news reports.
Previously the ministry did not approve inoculating those under 16. This week authorities approved vaccinating 16-18-year-olds to allow students to take their “Bagrut” matriculation exams on time.
Those aged 18-40 are still not able to vaccinate, officially, though some have done so in areas with low turnout or where health providers were seeking to use up vaccine doses before they spoil.
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