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

Omicron wave seen slowing down, but serious cases expected to continue rising

Health officials believe the Omicron wave in Israel is on the downswing, but that the number of patients in serious condition will still continue to rise, Kan news reports.

According to the station, experts think some 3 million Israelis have contracted the Omicron variant alone, a number that would far outstrip the 2.6 million cases Israel has confirmed since February 2020.

Eran Segal, an expert who has closely tracked the pandemic in Israel, notes that Wednesday was the first to see a drop in daily cases in a week.

One day in, government amends rules for quarantine-free schools

The Health Ministry has updated its guidance on exempting quarantine for schoolkids.

Under the updated rules, unvaccinated children with a family member who is a confirmed carrier will need to stay home for five days, pending a negative antigen test result.

Under the old system, which went into effect this morning, only unvaccinated children who were exposed and refused regular testing needed to stay home.

The ministry also says that those who recover will be exempt from needing to take twice-weekly tests for 60 days, as well as children in special education.

Half of students stayed home for first day of quarantine-free school — report

Only about 50 percent of students showed up to school Thursday, the Ynet news site reports.

Thursday marked the first day in which children who were exposed to a coronavirus carrier did not need to quarantine and could continue coming in, under a controversial government plan.

According to sources cited by Ynet, the absences were chalked up to parents worried about their kids’ health, closed kindergartens due to manpower shortages, and kids being sick and in isolation.


German soccer fans memorialize Jews deported from area near club’s home

Fans of German soccer club Schalke have unveiled a memorial to commemorate the deportation of more than 500 Jews from the local area to a ghetto in Riga, Latvia, 80 years ago to the day.

The group of around 20 fans — who’ve been working with the club, the city of Gelsenkirchen, local historians and the local Jewish community — want to bring attention to the atrocity, remember its victims and highlight the terror Germans wrought under National Socialism.

“It’s important for us to create an awareness of what happened in this place back then, with the task of ensuring that it never happens again,” Schalke fan Ines Kempken tells The Associated Press in a phone call.

Early on January 27, 1942, Nazis packed more than 500 of their Jewish compatriots onto a five-carriage eastbound train at Gelsenkirchen station and brought them on a five-day journey in freezing conditions more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the ghetto in Riga, Latvia, which was occupied by Germany at the time.

“The murders began immediately upon arrival,” Schalke says on its website. The club says around 450 of those deported that day from Gelsenkirchen were killed before the end of World War II.

Rolf Abrahamson was one of the last survivors, and he spoke with those involved in the project, sharing his experience of the mass deportation. Abrahamson died in December.

Schalke says the fans involved in the project felt compelled “to make the immeasurable suffering of Gelsenkirchen’s Jews more visible” after they had taken part in a club-organized visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

There had been a larger commemorative event planned for Thursday, but it was postponed to a later unscheduled date due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp on January 27, 1945.

Iran blanks Iraq to clinch third straight trip to World Cup

Iran’s national soccer team is headed back to the World Cup, winning a third straight berth with a 1-0 victory over Iraq.

The win at Tehran Azadi stadium was Iran’s earliest jump into the qualifiers. It marked the sixth time Iran has earned a spot in the World Cup in the nation’s history.

Despite the fast spread of the aggressive Omicron variant of the coronavirus in Iran, the government Wednesday approved the presence of some 10,000 spectators in the 100,000-seat stadium.

More than 2,000 were women. It was the second major soccer event that Iranian women have watched in the stadium. In 2019, for the first time in decades, hundreds of Iranian women were allowed to watch Persepolis play the Kashima Antlers of Japan in the Asian Champions League final.

FIFA had long demanded that Iran provide assurances that women will be allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Biden vows to nominate Black woman to replace Breyer on bench

US President Joe Biden says he will nominate the first Black woman in US history to the Supreme Court bench as he addresses the nation on the retirement of the liberal justice Stephen Breyer.

“I’ve made no decision except [the] person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity,” Biden says in an address from the White House.

“And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.”

Breyer, 83, will retire at the end of the summer, he confirms in a letter.

Early discussions about a successor are focusing on US Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, US District Judge J. Michelle Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss White House deliberations. Jackson and Kruger have long been seen as possible nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says Biden’s nominee “will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed.”


PM: Netanyahu threatened to sic army on me; I knew about Omicron before S. Africa

In a series of interviews to media outlets, coordinated and published at the same time, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett touts his handling of the coronavirus crisis, bashes opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and credits himself with saving the nation from “falling into the abyss.”

Bennett recalls to Haaretz that Netanyahu began issuing wild threats against him once it became clear that Bennett would be joining his rivals in forming a government, pushing the longtime premier from power.

“You should know that I’ll send my whole machinery against you, the army,” Bennett recalls Netanyahu telling him, noting that he made a dive bomber motion with his arm. “I’ll send the UAVs after you, and we’ll see.”

Speaking to Walla, he accuses Netanyahu of “spreading chaos, hysteria and a lack of faith” in the government.

“Netanyahu built one of the most effective propaganda machines ever,” he says. “It invents stories at an insane pace. You know yesterday I found out my mom is Catholic.”

But he also tells Haaretz he prefers Netanyahu plead out and avoid jail time, and expresses misgivings with his government’s probe of bribery suspicions around a massive submarine deal backed by Netanyahu.

On the coronavirus, he tells Walla that Israel is doing better than everywhere else in the world, apparently ignoring record-setting case numbers, rising hospitalization rates and a death toll jumping by dozens each day.

According to Our World in Data, Israel currently leads the world in intensive care admissions, relative to population.

Speaking to Ynet, Bennett notes that he was the first leader to shut down air travel and also spins a tale in which he was the first leader in the world to recognize the Omicron variant, even before South Africa.

“We recognized the extraordinary phenomenon even before the country where it was happening. I was the first leader in the world to inform the public about the Omicron phenomenon. At that time, the disease wasn’t even here yet,” he claims.

He claims Israel has built a “radar” to identify new variants early, but no details are included in the published portion of the interview.

The full interviews are set to be published Friday.

UN chief skirts around adoption of IHRA antisemitism definition in speech

Despite expectations from Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres would use his speech at a UN event today marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day to announce the global forum’s adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, Guterres refrains from doing so.

Yesterday, Erdan told Kan public radio that “after many conversations I had with him and… his point man on the fight against antisemitism, I expect that tomorrow in his speech [Guterres] will declare that the UN is adopting the [IHRA] definition and is applying it to all UN bodies.”

What Guterres does do is acknowledge the “countries that have agreed on the common definition of antisemitism.”

The secretary general recites the definition, without mentioning that it was IHRA’s. More notably, he leaves out any mention of the more controversial examples of the definition, including anti-Israel criticism that it says can be defined as antisemitic.

“It is important to be clear about what antisemitism is. A shared understanding can serve not only the work of the United Nations, but all global efforts to uphold human rights and human dignity,” Guterres adds, making no mention of a decision to officially adopt the definition.

In pre-recorded remarks presented after those of Guterres and seemingly written under different assumptions, Erdan says he was “pleased to hear him today adopting and applying the IHRA definition of antisemitism in the UN bodies.”

No chill: Jerusalem cops clash with rioters throwing snowballs, stones

Not everyone is having fun in Jerusalem’s wintery bacchanal, with several reports of Palestinians attacking civilians and police with snowballs and worse.

Police say they used crowd dispersal methods against snow- and stone-throwers near Mount Scopus, on Sultan Sulaiman Street near the Old City and at the Armon Hanatziv promenade. Forty-five people are arrested, Ynet reports.

Police also say two youths were detained for throwing snowballs at cars from a bridge near Beit Safafa, though there was no reported damage to any vehicles.

Videos show a police car near Mount Scopus being attacked.

The Kan network shares footage of what it says is someone building a snow rocket on the Temple Mount, adorned with a Hamas flag.

US warns against travel to UAE ahead of Herzog trip

The US is advising citizens not to travel to the United Arab Emirates over the threat of missile or drone attacks from Yemen-based Houthi rebels.

“The possibility of attacks affecting US citizens and interests in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula remains an ongoing, serious concern,” the State Department says. “Rebel groups operating in Yemen have stated an intent to attack neighboring countries, including the UAE, using missiles and drones. Recent missile and drone attacks targeted populated areas and civilian infrastructure.”

President Isaac Herzog is set to travel to the UAE on Sunday, the first official visit by an Israeli president. He is slated to meet Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, who invited him, and other top Emirati officials during the two-day swing.

Following a drone attack on the UAE this week that killed three workers, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any assistance” that could help to protect against future attacks.

US in ‘ballpark’ of possible deal with Iran over nukes, senior official says

A senior White House official says the US and Iran are “in the ballpark of a possible [nuclear] deal” in Vienna.

“We’re in the ballpark of a possible deal. But again, I’m not going to put odds on this. There’s [also] a very real chance that these talks could collapse very soon,” White House National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk says during an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Bennett sounds off on Iran in Holocaust remembrance address

Taking a cue from his predecessor, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett uses Holocaust Remembrance Day to speak out against Iran.

“When we hear the Iranian regime’s daily calls to annihilate the State of Israel, as we speak they continue talking about murdering and destroying the State of Israel, the Jewish state, and when we see their rapid progression towards nuclear weapons, indifference is silent acceptance,” he says in a video address to diplomats. “A country who talks about annihilating the Jewish state should not be a legitimate partner for anything.”

PM Naftali Bennett addressing the diplomatic corps, on January 27, 2022. (Roi Avraham/GPO)

“Those who continue to try to attack Jews, to murder Jews, must know the Jew is no longer a punching bag. We swing back and we swing back hard,” he says.

Coronavirus infection numbers continue to slide, but serious cases and deaths jump

Over 67,000 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed Wednesday, the Health Ministry says, continuing a downward trend after hitting a high of over 85,000 on Sunday.

Another 25,203 cases have been diagnosed since the start of Thursday.

The ministry dashboard reports that the number of patients hospitalized in serious condition is up to 931. However, Health Ministry director Nachman Ash says there are now over 950 coronavirus patients in serious condition.

The death toll jumps to 8,541, an increase of 39 since Wednesday morning.

Health Ministry head slams attacks on professionals, says Green Pass may be no more

Speaking to the press, Health Ministry director Nachman Ash lashes out at what he says is “slime” being hurled at health professionals, seemingly referring to claims that senior Health Ministry official Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis pressured a teachers union head to call a strike in protest over the government’s decision to nix quarantine for schoolchildren.

“In the last few days, and not just, Health Ministry professionals have come under personal attack which crosses all lines,” he fumes.

He also indicates that the Green Pass system may be headed for the dustbin.

“The rules expire next week. We’re looking into various possibilities, whether to extend it for a certain period or to extend it at all,” he says.

US veep Harris and husband meet with Holocaust survivor

In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, US Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff met with Holocaust survivor, Ruth Cohen to hear her story and “bear witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust,” a White House official says in a statement.

Cohen was born in Mukachevo, Czechoslovakia, in 1930 and was later imprisoned in several Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Her mother, brother, cousins and other loved ones were murdered during the Holocaust.

“During the meeting, the vice president discussed the president’s and her commitment to combating antisemitism and hatred wherever it exists. The vice president also discussed the importance of staying vigilant and teaching our children the truth about the horrors of the Holocaust,” the White House official says.

Emhoff is the first-ever Jewish spouse of a vice president.

Video shows cars swerving wildly during deadly West Bank police chase

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s office has released a video purporting to show Ahuvia Sandak’s car driving wildly down a windy West Bank highway, to back his decision to close the case against officers accused of causing his death in a crash.

In the video, apparently taken right before the deadly crash, Sandak’s Subaru is seen racing on the wrong side of the curvy mountain road, tailed by an unmarked police car and met by another coming in the opposite direction.

The video also appears to show one of the police cars flying down the wrong side of the road and nearly running into a truck coming the other way.

MKs from right, left pan decision to close case in settler teen’s death

Among those speaking out against the decision to close the case against police over the death of settler teen Ahuvia Sandak is Meretz MK Mossi Raz, who sits across the political aisle from most of Sandak’s right-wing supporters.

Raz, who is known as a critic of the police, tweets that “this is what whitewashing looks like,” calling the decision “ridiculous.”

“A kid was killed after being struck by a police car and nobody will face justice,” he writes.

More predictable criticism also comes from the right flank of the political sphere, such as Itamar Ben Gvir, who calls it a “black day for democracy.”

“For a whole year we’ve been fighting for justice for Ahuvia and an end to the baseless hatred that’s killing us,” Sandak’s father says in reaction, according to Now 14.

Attorney general closes case against cops in car chase death of settler teen

Authorities have decided to close an investigation into police conduct during a car chase that led to the death of a teen fleeing cops in the West Bank.

Ahuvia Sandak, 16, was killed in crash when his car collided with a cruiser while fleeing from police in December 2020, allegedly after throwing rocks at Palestinians. Repeated protests over Sandak’s death escalated into violence and arrests.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says in a statement that he is closing the investigation due to a lack of evidence that police were attempting to intentionally hit Sandak’s car.

“It’s impossible to say which of the cars swerved and caused the crash while trying to go around,” he says.

A lawyer for a senior police official says Sandak’s death was a tragedy but the case being closed is proof that criminal actions were not part of it.

People protest over the death of Ahuvia Sandak in a car crash during a police chase, near the Police Internal Investigations Department in Jerusalem on January 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

However, some on the right, who have pushed for police to be prosecuted over Sandak’s death, protest the decision. Shas MK Moshe Arbel claims the case was closed because cops obstructed justice.

“The closing of the case is an admission of the weakness of the police internal investigations division and its head. Obstruction of justice occurred,” he charges.

In January 2021, an officer was arrested on suspicion of giving an anonymous interview to the Maariv newspaper, giving the police side of events. The officer denied the accusation, according to Haaretz.

According to Haaretz, a second officer was also questioned at the time on suspicion of coordinating with fellow officers their version of the events that led to Sandak’s death.

Government earmarks 45 beds to hospital ICUs to ease Omicron crush

Amid worries over a lack of space and manpower to deal with a spike in serious illnesses related to the Omicron wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the government announces that it will allocate 45 more intensive care beds nationwide.

As of Wednesday evening, the last time the Health Ministry updated its coronavirus dashboard, there were 915 coronavirus patients in serious condition, with numbers continuing to climb. Another 1,396 patients were hospitalized in moderate or good condition.

In a prepared statement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz all say the government is working to ensure public health while not allowing the virus to disrupt daily life.

“We are aware of the pressure on the system and are working to help and strengthen it,” says Bennett.

“We are providing all of the tools for safeguarding public health and for life alongside the coronavirus. In addition to the vaccines, drugs and tests, strengthening the health system is a main component of our strategy,” adds Horowitz.

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on January 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Three of Israel’s 26 hospitals are currently above capacity, and three more are at 90 percent. Administrators had raised alarms that the health system could be overwhelmed, with the country seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases and already stretched by the seasonal flu.

Bennett claims that Israel is at the peak of the wave of infections, and it will soon ebb. “We are at the height of the wave and soon we will see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.

Litzman defends plea deal, says he did not know accused sexual abuser

Responding to an outcry over what appears to be a sweetheart plea deal offered to MK Yaakov Litzman, his lawyers respond in a statement that the attorney general and other judicial officials had “accepted” most of his claims in his defense.

“MK Litzman agreed to take responsibility for one incident standing outside his normal course of action,” they say.

As part of the deal, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit agreed to drop a raft of charges related to Litzman allegedly using his political influence to help an accused pedophile avoid justice, as well as keeping a diner owned by a friend open despite health concerns.

The lawyers claim that Litzman’s actions, allegedly pressuring employees in the Health Ministry to alter the conclusions of psychiatric evaluations that had deemed accused sex offender Malka Leifer fit for extradition, were done “in response to a public request he received, without acquaintance with the applicant, and without any personal affiliation or motives.

“For all his years of public service, MK Litzman has acted for the good of the public and communities, and given special attention to requests from the public, with no discrimination and according to the law,” the lawyers say.

Lapid pays respects to grandfather killed at Mauthausen camp; Austrians apologize

Speaking in a ceremony at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tells the story of his paternal grandfather Bela Lampel, who was murdered at the camp in April 1945.

Bela was taken from his home by an SS soldier in March, 1944, in front of his wife, and Lapid’s father Tommy, then 12 years old.

“Grandpa Bela, a quiet man whose family nickname was Bela the Wise, sent me here today to say on his behalf that the Jews have not surrendered,” says Lapid.

“They’ve established a strong, free, and proud Jewish state, and they sent his grandson to represent them here today. The Nazis thought they were the future, and that Jews would be something you only find in a museum. Instead, the Jewish state is the future, and Mauthausen is a museum.”

“Rest in peace, grandfather, you won.”

Yair Lapid at the Mauthausen concentration camp memorial in Austria on January 27, 2022. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Interior Minister Gerhard Karner and Austria Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch join Lapid at the ceremony.

In his speech, Nehammer apologizes to Lapid in the name of Austria for the crimes committed at Mauthausen, and for the murder of Lapid’s grandfather there.

Lapid is set to participate in the “We Remember” ceremony at Vienna’s new Holocaust memorial. He will be joined by Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen, Nehammar and Austrian politicians.

2 Jewish men assaulted on London street, 18-year-old arrested

An attack on two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in north London, January 26, 2022 (Screenshot via Twitter)
An attack on two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in north London, January 26, 2022 (Screenshot via Twitter)

An 18-year-old has been arrested in north London after video showed a passerby assaulting two men in ultra-Orthodox garb on a sidewalk.

In the video, the attacker can be seen continuously punching the two until they are knocked down. The pair required medical treatment but were released from a hospital the same evening.

The Shomrim organization, which released the video, helped police track down the alleged assailant, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Police call the crime, which occurred on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, an “awful reminder that hate crime still exists.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel also speaks out.

Dissidents hack Iran state TV, broadcast call for Khamenei’s death

A broadcast on Iran state TV shows dissidents' call for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's death, after an apparent hack, January 27, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
A broadcast on Iran state TV shows dissidents' call for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's death, after an apparent hack, January 27, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Channels of Iran’s state television broadcast images Thursday showing the leaders of an exiled dissident group and a graphic demanding the country’s supreme leader be killed, an incident that state TV later described as a hack.

For several seconds, graphics flashed on screen showing the leaders of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and the name of a social media account, which claimed to be a group of hackers who broadcast the message honoring the dissidents.

The MEK, now largely based in Albania, did not immediately answer telephone calls seeking comment.

The hack represented a major breach of Iranian state television, long believed to controlled and operated by members of the Islamic Republic’s intelligence branches, particularly its hardline Revolutionary Guard. Such an incident hasn’t happened for years.

Iran’s state TV acknowledged the breach as a “hack,” saying the case was “under investigation.”

A clip of the incident showed the faces of MEK leaders Massoud Rajavi and his wife, Maryam Rajavi, suddenly superimposed on the channel’s regular 3 p.m. news programming. A man’s voice chants, “Salute to Rajavi, death to (supreme leader) Khamenei.”

Then, a speech from Rajavi briefly plays over the images. He can be heard saying, “Today, we still honor the time that we declared death to the reactionary. We stood by it…”

Massoud Rajavi hasn’t been seen publicly in nearly two decades and is presumed to have died. Maryam Rajavi now runs the MEK.

Biden deplores ‘resurgence of antisemitism’ in Holocaust commemoration

US President Joe Biden marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day by connecting it to antisemitism and hatred still alive in the US today, including at a synagogue hostage standoff earlier this month.

“From the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, to a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, we are continually and painfully reminded that hate doesn’t go away; it only hides. And it falls to each of us to speak out against the resurgence of antisemitism and ensure that bigotry and hate receive no safe harbor, at home and around the world,” he says in a statement from the White House.

US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with private sector CEOs in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via AFP)

“We must teach accurately about the Holocaust and push back against attempts to ignore, deny, distort, and revise history—as we did this month, when the United States co-sponsored a UN resolution that charged the international community with combating Holocaust denial through education.

“We must continue to pursue justice for survivors and their families. And we must ensure that aging survivors have access to the services they need to live out their lives in dignity.”

Labor MK calls for Litzman to get turpitude with plea deal

Labor MK Gilad Kariv is calling for judicial officials to add a finding of moral turpitude to fellow MK Yaakov Litzman’s expected conviction, after he cut a plea deal that will allow him to avoid all but a symbolic fine for allegedly helping an accused pedophile evade justice.

“Someone who uses his position to prevent the extradition of a suspected sexual abuser of minors breached the trust not only of the state, but of every child that needs protection… If a breach of trust like this doesn’t include turpitude, there’s a major doubt that the important concept has any legal or moral validity anymore,” he says.

A conviction with turpitude carries a mandatory seven-year suspension from politics.

Litzman plea deal pilloried by victims’ rights group, good governance group

Activists are speaking out against a plea deal offered to former minister Yaakov Litzman, allowing the MK to get off with only a fine of less than $1,000 for allegedly using his political power to help an accused sexual assailant avoid justice.

The Magen organization, which has helped survivors of Malka Leifer’s alleged abuse, says they are angry over the deal. It notes they should have been consulted on it, but expresses hope that Litzman copping to breach of trust will still have an effect.

“Next time, politicians will understand they are not above the law,” it says.

There is no immediate public reaction from Leifer’s accusers Dassi Erlich, Elly Saper and Nicole Meyer.

The Movement for Quality Government accuses outgoing Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit of making sweetheart deals to clear his docket before he retires at the end of the month.

UTJ MK Yaakov Litzman at the Knesset, November 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“The attorney general’s end-of-season deals continue until the last minute. For shame!” the organization says in a statement.

“Once again, a shameful plea agreement was signed with an elected official,” the watchdog says. “We will all pay a price for this conduct.”

It says it has lodged a High Court petition against the deal.

Joint List head summoned by cops over October ruction with far right MK

Police have summoned MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List party, to be questioned regarding his dustup with fellow MK Itamar Ben Gvir in a hospital hallway last year.

Odeh tussled with Ben Gvir, of the far right Otzma Yehudit faction in the Religious Zionism party, as the latter attempted to reach a Palestinian hunger-striking prisoner at Kaplan Medical Center in October.

Odeh had attempted to block Ben Gvir from passing as he visited Miqdad Qawasmeh, a Hamas terror group member being held without charge who was on a hunger strike at the time. Odeh was said to be visiting Qawasmeh to offer his support, while Ben Gvir was said to have come to complain that Qawasmeh was being treated in an Israeli hospital.

Odeh was seen blocking Ben Gvir from passing, pushing him and telling him “You’re a little terrorist, you won’t get in, go away.”

Ben Gvir, who said he would file a police complaint at the time, says the police action against Odeh is “too little, too late.”

He accuses the police and prosecution of treating Odeh with “kid gloves.”

Russia says ‘little optimism’ after US rejects concession in Ukraine standoff

MOSCOW (AP) — The US rejection of Russia’s main demands to resolve the crisis over Ukraine leaves “little ground for optimism,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says.

At the same time, he adds that “there always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it’s in the interests of both us and the Americans.”

Russia denies having any designs on invading Ukraine and has laid out a series of demands it says will improve security in Europe, but the US and the Western alliance firmly rejected any concessions on Moscow’s main points Wednesday, refusing to permanently ban Ukraine from joining NATO and saying allied deployments of troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe are nonnegotiable. The US did outline areas in which some of Russia’s concerns might be addressed, possibly offering a path to de-escalation.

“There is no change, there will be no change,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, repeating the warning that any Russian incursion into Ukraine would be met with massive consequences and severe economic costs.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov notes that the US response contains some elements that could lead to “the start of a serious talk on secondary issues” but emphasizes that “the document contains no positive response on the main issue,” the Russian demands for the non-expansion of NATO and the non-deployment of weapons that may threaten Russia.

Lavrov tells reporters that top officials will now submit their proposals to Putin, who has the American response, and Peskov said the Russian reaction would come soon.

The evasive official comments reflect the fact that it’s Putin who single-handedly determines Russia’s next moves. The Russian leader has warned that he would order unspecified “military-technical measures” if the West refuses to heed the Russian security demands.

Former minister Litzman cops plea deal in Leifer case, gets symbolic fine

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman has signed a plea deal, allowing him to avoid jail time for allegedly using his political power to help an accused pedophile and sexual assailant avoid facing justice and allowing a restaurant serving bad food to stay open despite being a public health danger.

Under the deal, Litzman, a former health minister, will pay a fine of some NIS 3,000 ($938) and receive a suspended sentence after admitting to breach of trust in the case of Malka Leifer, whom he was accused of helping in her attempt to avoid extradition to Australia, where she is now facing trial for sexually abusing girls at a Jewish school.

A charge of obstruction of justice is dropped as part of the agreement.

Litzman had also been accused of leaning on health inspectors to keep them from closing Jerusalem restaurant Goldie’s, which is owned by friends of his. Charges related to that case are dropped.


Knesset speaker delivers emotional speech to German parliament

A tearful Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy makes history, giving a speech to the German Bundestag in Hebrew to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Levy breaks into sobs as he reads the Kaddish, the Jewish mourners’ prayer, at the end of his address, stepping off the podium and receiving a hug from survivor Inge Auerbacher.

He reads the prayer from a book borrowed from Yad Vashem that had belonged to a Jewish German boy who used it for his bar mitzvah just before Kristallnacht in 1938.

During the speech, which is punctuated by several rounds of applause from German lawmakers, Levy notes that he is speaking from the place where Democracy was subverted for evil under Adolf Hitler.

Inge Auerbacher, Holocaust survivor, is embraced by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, next to Baerbel Bas, right, speaker of the Bundestag, during a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day held in the German Bundestag in Berlin, Jan.27, 2022. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)

“This is where humanity stretched the boundaries of evil, the place where the loss of values turned a democratic framework into racism and tyranny,” he says.

But he also praises the modern German state for “proving, time after time, its ethical and historic commitment to the existence and security of the Israeli state.”

“But as much as we’ve done, we have an obligation to do more. Alongside memory, we must also build a vision out of it,” he adds. “We must hope and plan together for a future resting on shared values and dreams.”

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