The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.
A month after the establishment of the new Naftali Bennett-led government, Israelis are still split on whether they support the coalition, and a plurality continue to prefer Benjamin Netanyahu as premier, according to a survey by Channel 12.
If elections were held today, Likud would win 30 seats, again becoming the largest party, followed by Yesh Atid with 19, the survey says. That would be followed by Shas 9; Blue and White 8; Yamina 8; Labor 8; United Torah Judaism 7; Yisrael Beytenu 7; Joint List 6; Religious Zionism 5; New Hope 5; Ra’am 4; Meretz 4.
The current coalition would have 63 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, instead of the 61 it has now.
Participants in the survey were also asked about their preferred prime minister, with 40 percent saying Netanyahu; 24% Yair Lapid; and 14% Bennett. The respondents were split 45%-45% on whether they are pleased with the new government. Nearly half (49%) praised its handling of the pandemic, and 38% opposed it.
Citing very preliminary data, Channel 13 reports that those who recovered from COVID-19 may be better protected from reinfection than those who received the vaccine.
Since May 1, 72 people who previously had COVID were infected again, accounting for 1 percent of confirmed new cases, while 3,000 who were vaccinated have been infected — 40% of confirmed new cases.
Some experts conclude that those who had COVID are relatively safe from reinfection. But other health officials counter that the data does not take into account that new outbreaks did not spread in areas that previously saw massive outbreaks during the pandemic, such as in the ultra-Orthodox community, reports Channel 13.
The Israeli Air Force launches a first-of-its-kind international drone exercise on Monday, hosting pilots from five other countries, the military says.
The drill, called Blue Guardian, is scheduled to last two weeks, during which time the foreign teams will fly Hermes-450 unmanned aerial vehicles.
“The teams will simulate various scenarios, including ground troop support, reconnaissance and intelligence collections missions, and cooperation with various forces in the air,” the Israel Defense Forces says.
Teams from the United States, France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom are taking part in the drill.
The IDF says the exercise, the largest drone-focused drill ever, has “strategic importance” because of the air force’s cooperation with foreign countries.
“The State of Israel is a pioneer in the field of UAVs. This exercise presents a platform for mutual study and growth. The exercise has national importance and influence in establishing the air force on the international level,” Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin says.
Yamina MK Shirly Pinto, Israel’s first deaf lawmaker, gives her maiden speech in the Knesset in sign language.
When she is finished, Knesset members respond by signing applause and giving her a standing ovation.
Pinto is immediately surrounded by lawmakers who congratulate her, with Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu the first to bump elbows with the new MK.
The High Court of Justice rejects petitions opposing the segregation of the sexes in university programs for the ultra-Orthodox.
But the court also rules that higher education programs catering to Haredi men cannot discriminate against female lecturers.
Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash says Israel will not impose additional restrictions to drive down COVID rates, for the time being.
In a briefing to reporters, Ash says health officials are considering whether to offer booster vaccine shots to Israelis who are not immunocompromised. He also says the ministry is considering whether to reduce the length of quarantine, but has yet to reach a decision.
His comments come a day before the so-called coronavirus cabinet will convene again to discuss ways to stem the latest outbreak.
Ash also acknowledges that the Health Ministry mistakenly counted the negative test results from samples taken at the airport twice, skewing the numbers of cases over the past several weeks.
Iran unveils an Islamic dating application aimed at facilitating “lasting and informed marriage” for its youth, state television reports.
Called Hamdam — Farsi for “companion” — the service allows users to “search for and choose their spouse,” the broadcaster says.
It is the only state-sanctioned platform of its kind in the Islamic Republic, according to Iran’s cyberspace police chief, Colonel Ali Mohammad Rajabi.
While dating apps are popular in Iran, Rajabi says that all other platforms apart from Hamdam are illegal.
Developed by the Tebyan Cultural Institute, part of Iran’s Islamic Propaganda Organization, Hamdam’s website claims it uses “artificial intelligence” to find matches “only for bachelors seeking permanent marriage and a single spouse.”
Tebyan head Komeil Khojasteh, speaking at the unveiling, says family values were threatened by outside forces.
“Family is the devil’s target, and (Iran’s enemies) seek to impose their own ideas” on it, he says, adding that the app helps create “healthy” families.
According to Hamdam’s website, users have to verify their identity and go through a “psychology test” before browsing.
When a match is made, the app “introduces the families together with the presence of service consultants,” who will “accompany” the couple for four years after marriage.
Registration is free, as Hamdam has “an independent revenue model,” the website said without explaining further.
Iran’s authorities, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have warned several times against the country’s rising age of marriage and declining birth rates.
Bennett and Netanyahu continue to sling insults at each other in the Knesset plenum.
“Never in the history of the State of Israel has there been someone who has spoken so much and done so little on Iran,” says Bennett about Netanyahu.
Shas leader Aryeh Deri calls Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s speech against the opposition “embarrassing and childish.”
“It’s frightening that the security of the state rests in his hands,” adds Deri.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hits back at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, blaming him for the sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the country.
“One question for Bennett and Lapid’s fraudulent government — how did you manage in such a short time to spoil our success in the fight against the coronavirus?” asks Netanyahu in the Knesset.
When Bennett was in the opposition, he sharply criticized Netanyahu’s pandemic policy.
Bennett counters that unlike Netanyahu, he does not engage in praising his own accomplishments.
“If I were Bibi Netanyahu, I would do this. At 8 p.m., I would break into the nightly broadcasts, with a serious face. ‘Citizens of Israel, I am the greatest leader since Herzl, and all my ministers are dwarfed [by me] and I take credit [for their accomplishments]'” mocks Bennett.
“We sealed the gaps [in the vaccine supply] that you left behind, but we don’t need to call a press conference for every phone call with [Pfizer CEO] Bourla,” says Bennett.
Bennett on Sunday announced that Pfizer would move up its next shipment of vaccines to Israel to August 1.
The Defense Ministry-run Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has inked a memorandum of understanding with NRx Pharmaceuticals to complete the clinical trials of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, according to a statement.
NRx Pharmaceuticals will push the vaccine, known as Brilife, to third-stage clinical trials, which will be conducted on tens of thousands of volunteers in Georgia, Ukraine and Israel, the statement says. The pharmaceutical company will then oversee its commercialization.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz hails the agreement, calling it “excellent news.”
“I anticipate that with this agreement, we will be able to complete the development of the vaccine and enable Israel to produce vaccines independently, because as we have seen recently – the coronavirus is not going anywhere,” says Gantz.
“At the same time, the IIBR and the entire defense establishment will continue to take part in the national effort to counter the effects of this pandemic. I would like to thank the scientists of the institute, who never stop working to protect us – whether it be in the area of defense or health.”
The Israeli vaccine is still deep in the trial phase. In December, the Institute for Biological Research successfully completed the first stage of testing and started the second phase, which is ongoing.
Bennett continues to rail against the opposition, in a fiery speech in the plenum.
He accuses Likud of approaching the Islamist Ra’am “like thieves in the night” when Benjamin Netanyahu was holding coalition negotiations. Ra’am eventually joined the Bennett-led government.
“They went like thieves in the night to meet Mansour,” he says, referring to Ra’am’s leader Mansour Abbas, “or in colloquial terms: You didn’t do it like a man.”
His comments come after Netanyahu criticizes him for acceding to Ra’am’s demands in exchange for parliamentary cooperation.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett laces into the opposition, accusing them of being “sourpusses,” literally pickles, in a spinoff on Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2017 criticism of the left.
“You’ve become the new sourpusses. What you’ve neglected, we are fixing, and you are the new sourpusses. You just grumble, complain and whine,” says Bennett in the plenum.
In what was quickly branded online as the then-prime minister’s “pickle speech,” Netanyahu in 2017 had attacked the opposition and media as “pickles” over their purported sour outlook.
The families of 10 teenagers who were swept to their deaths by a flash flood in 2018 during a hike arranged by a pre-military academy will receive NIS 24 million ($7.3 million) in compensation, according to Hebrew media reports.
According to the terms of the settlement over the Tzafit stream disaster, insurance companies will pay out NIS 18 million ($5.4 million) and the state will pay NIS 5.8 million ($1.7 million).
Bnei Zion academy’s ex-director Yuval Kahan and ex-counselor Aviv Bardichev have been charged with 10 counts each of negligent homicide, which carries a penalty of up to 12 years in prison per count. Prosecutors also charged the former administrators with causing grievous bodily harm for their role in organizing the ill-advised hike to the Tzafit stream in April 2018.
An 85-year-old woman from northern Israel has died of COVID-19, four days after her husband.
Both of them were fully vaccinated, according to Hebrew media reports.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addresses 26 European foreign ministers in his speech to the EU Foreign Affairs Council, becoming the first Israeli to do so since Tzipi Livni in 2008.
In his remarks, Lapid expresses support for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, but says the conditions are currently not ripe for a peace deal.
“It is no secret that I support a two-state solution. Unfortunately there is no current plan for this. However, there is one thing we all need to remember. If there is eventually a Palestinian state, it must be a peace-loving democracy. We cannot be asked to take part in the building of another threat to our lives,” says Lapid.
“What we need to do now is make sure that no steps are taken that will prevent the possibility of peace in the future, and we need to improve the lives of Palestinians. Whatever is humanitarian, I will be for it. Everything that builds the Palestinian economy, I am for it.”
The new foreign minister also says he’s seeking to open a new chapter in Israel-EU relations, emphasizing the liberal values shared by Israel and European states.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to confirm that all remaining lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted in a week’s time while urging people to remain cautious amid a huge resurgence of the coronavirus.
Johnson is expected to say at a news conference that face masks and all social distancing measures will be lifted in England on July 19. But he is also set to downplay talk of “Freedom Day” given the sharp rise in new cases.
The UK as a whole has seen infections soar in recent weeks as a result of the delta variant. Daily infection levels are running at over 30,000, their highest rates since January.
Though the government has warned that daily case numbers will rise further, potentially hitting 100,000 at some point this summer, it is pressing on with the unlocking because of the rapid rollout of vaccines. As of Sunday, 87% of UK adults have received at least one vaccine dose while 66% have had two.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu scolds Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for agreeing to supply Jordan with more water, claiming the move will indirectly benefit Iran’s nuclear program.
“It seems Bennett doesn’t understand that when he gives Jordan water, it gives oil to Iran — a huge economic boost to develop its nuclear program,” says Netanyahu, according to Army Radio.
“It’s no wonder that Oman is running to Iran and canceling all of its agreements with Israel,” adds Netanyahu, apparently referring to Muscat’s recent comments that it won’t soon normalize ties with Israel.
During the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, Netanyahu also condemns Bennett for heeding the Islamist Ra’am party’s demands to transfer the office overseeing Bedouin development to the Welfare Ministry.
“Bennett is a weak prime minister who can be extorted. He represents the first Palestinian-Israeli government in the history of Israel,” says Netanyahu, referring to the inclusion of Ra’am in the government.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high commissioner for foreign affairs, welcomes Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Brussels. In a statement, he says Lapid’s visit presents an opportunity for a “fresh start” for Israel-EU ties, which he says had soured considerably during Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure.
“It is important that the new Israeli government come here, to Brussels. It is an opportunity for a fresh start, for restarting the relationship with Israel from the point of view of our bilateral relations, but also about the situation in the Middle East. I think that it is a good opportunity for us to restart our relations, which, in the past, were quite deteriorated,” says Borrell.
Borrell and Lapid met Sunday night.
The High Court of Justice rejects petitions against the changes to Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws that enable the creation of the office of the alternate prime minister.
The petitions were filed against Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz’s previous government and their premiership rotation agreement, but a ruling would have affected the current government and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
The petitioners had argued that the revisions constituted electoral reform that should not be enacted by a transitional government.
The justices, however, uphold the amendments that created the office of alternate prime minister.
The Knesset’s Arrangements Committee approves the makeup of the parliament’s 11 committees, nearly a month after the new government was formed.
The Knesset House Committee will be headed by Yamina’s Nir Orbach; the Finance Committee by Yisrael Beytenu’s Alex Kushnir; the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee by Yesh Atid’s Ram Ben Barak; the Economic Affairs Committe by Blue and White’s Michael Biton; and the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee by Ra’am’s Saeed al-Harumi.
The opposition will control three committees: the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality; the State Control Committee; and the Science and Technology Committee.
The formation of the panels is approved in a 17-13 vote.
Facebook’s WhatsApp faces a complaint from European Union consumer groups who say the chat service has been unfairly pressuring users to accept a new privacy update in what it calls a breach of the bloc’s regulations.
Many WhatsApp users switched to other chat apps like Signal and Telegram because of privacy concerns when the update was rolled out earlier this year because of concerns the changes would give Facebook access to more information on users.
BEUC and consumer rights groups from eight member countries file the complaint to the EU’s executive Commission and the bloc’s network of consumer authorities.
WhatsApp says the complaint is based on a misunderstanding of the update’s purpose and effect and would welcome the opportunity to explain it to the BEUC.
“Our recent update explains the options people have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” WhatsApp says in a prepared statement. “The update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook, and does not impact the privacy of your messages with friends or family, wherever they are in the world.”
A vaccinated Miami-Dade county commissioner who helped other local officials in Surfside following the collapse of a condominium building announces that he and his chief of staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The news release from Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz says he and his chief of staff Isidoro Lopez, who also received a vaccine against COVID-19, came down with flu-like symptoms earlier in the day and later tested positive for the virus.
“Staff and others who have been in close contact with them will be getting tested between today and tomorrow,” the news release says. The statement also says Diaz and Lopez would be isolating and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diaz had participated in news conferences and meetings with other officials in Surfside, the Miami Herald reports. Miami Dade spokesperson Rachel Johnson tells the newspaper that COVID-19 tests would be administered at the Surfside command center on Monday.
The search for bodies continues at the wreckage of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, where Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed the death toll had reached 90 in last month’s collapse. Some 31 people remain listed as missing.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided to suspend the criminal investigations into the Meron disaster in April, until the state commission of inquiry completes its probe.
The decision comes after a meeting with the judges leading the state inquiry.
As a result, the probe by the Israel Police and Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department into the crush that killed 45 people will be halted indefinitely.
The new body was tasked by the government with conducting a detailed probe of the disaster and recommending specific changes to the holy site, which hosts a yearly celebration in honor of the second-century sage Shimon Bar Yochai that draws hundreds of thousands and is believed to be the largest single annual Jewish event in the world.
But the commission is also tasked with issuing recommendations for proper policies and regulations for mass events, especially religious ones, beyond Meron.
The state commission of inquiry can subpoena witnesses, though the report and testimony can’t be used as evidence in criminal proceedings, according to the Israel Democracy Institute think tank.
An Israeli Bedouin businessman has been charged with serious security offenses, including contact with a foreign agent and providing information to Iranian intelligence thorough a Lebanese-Iraqi agent, according to the Shin Bet security service.
The suspect is Yaqoub Abu Al-Qia’an, of Hura and Meitar.
He has been detained for weeks by Israel, as has been previously reported.
Prosecutors in Beersheba file charges over the alleged national security crimes, as a court scales back the gag order on the case.
In addition to conveying information on Israel, Al-Qia’an planned to meet with the Iranian agents, though the meeting did not ultimately take place, the Shin Bet says.
According to Hebrew media reports, Al-Qia’an is a millionaire who has ties to the Islamist Ra’am party and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon’s now-defunct Telem party.
Yaakub Abu Alqian is the Israeli man who was arrested for allegedly committing serious security offenses. He was charged with contact with a foreign agent and conveying information to the enemy.https://t.co/goqiPyMh5X pic.twitter.com/sBdfN2f8Dq
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) July 12, 2021
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr is in Israel today to meet with Israeli and Palestinian businessmen and members of civil society.
He is beginning his visit with meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and is then heading to Bethlehem and Tel Aviv.
He will also meet with government officials from both sides, as well as UN representatives, following up on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit in late May.
Actor Moshe Ivgy has been sentenced to 11 months in jail on charges of sexual assault and harassment.
In February 2016, six women accused Ivgy of harassing them while they were working together on various films, TV shows, and plays. The women told the Walla news site of private rehearsals in which Ivgy would force himself on them, insisted on unnecessary rehearsing of intimate scenes, and kissed them against their will. Ivgy, who denied any wrongdoing, announced that he was taking a break from acting for the duration of the probe.
The charges against Ivgy were filed in 2018, with prosecutors saying they found sufficient evidence that he had exploited his status to commit indecent acts and sexually harass four women in 2012 and 2013, some of them at his workplace.
He had faced three counts of indecent acts and one of sexual harassment.
A ceiling collapses in a single family home in the coastal city of Herzliya, killing a man, according to Hebrew media reports.
Rescue services are searching the building for other people who may be trapped inside.
The reason for the collapse is not immediately clear.
British police open investigations into the racist abuse of three Black players who missed penalties in England’s shootout loss to Italy in the European Championship final.
The Metropolitan Police condemn the “unacceptable” abuse of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Sako, and say they will be investigating the “offensive and racist” social media posts published soon after Italy won Sunday’s shootout 3-2 after the match ended 1-1.
The English Football Association says it is “appalled” by the “disgusting behavior,” adding that social media companies should take action to make their platforms free from this “abhorrent” abuse.
“We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible,” the FA says. “We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences.”
All three players targeted are part of a young England squad that has been widely praised for its diversity and social conscience. Rashford, for one, has been at the forefront of a campaign against child poverty, which convinced the British government to restore free lunches for thousands of poor children amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves,” he has faced criticism for emboldening those booing the England team for taking a knee before their matches to protest against racial injustice.
The Health Ministry has informed Israel’s health providers they may begin to administer a COVID booster shot to immunocompromised adults, making Israel the first country in the world to offer a third dose.
The policy goes into effect today.
The decision comes on the heels of Pfizer’s announcement that it will ask US and European regulators to authorize a booster dose of its COVID vaccine, and as the Delta variant spreads in Israel, causing an increase in infections.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz had announced the planned move on Sunday. He did not explain how such a decision had been reached before major world regulators had approved boosters.
Horowitz added that the Health Ministry is evaluating whether to offer boosters to the whole population.
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