ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Defense minister: Israel has foiled more than 50 Iranian attacks around world

In Azerbaijan, Gallant says attacks prevented ‘thanks to our defense establishment, and close cooperation with many countries’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos, in Athens, May 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos, in Athens, May 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

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

Israeli security forces block ambulance from reaching Palestinian hamlet attacked by settlers — rights group

Illustrative: A screenshot from video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Illustrative: A screenshot from video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Yesh Din rights group says a group of settlers attacked a Palestinian hamlet located in Wadi Qana in the northern West Bank. The suspects torched several tents and injured four elderly Palestinians in their 70s who live there. Two other young adults were injured as well in the attack.

“In addition to the military and police’s inability to stop the settlers, they prevented a Palestinian ambulance and fire truck from reaching the area. The incident is still going on, while the injured aren’t able to receive medical aid,” says Yesh Din.

Democratic Rep. Bowman ‘probably boycotting’ Herzog’s Congress speech along with Omar

United States Congressman Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks at 'We Are White Plains' exhibit in New York, spring 2023. (Wendy Moger Bross)
United States Congressman Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks at 'We Are White Plains' exhibit in New York, spring 2023. (Wendy Moger Bross)

Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman says he is likely to join fellow progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar in skipping President Herzog’s address to a joint session of Congress next week.

Bowman tells the Axios news site on the Hill that he is “probably going to be boycotting” the speech, adding that he’s “been very outspoken regarding the treatment of Palestinians.”

At Vatican, foreign minister condemns attacks on Christians in Israel

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen meets counterpart Paul Gallagher in Vatican, July 17, 2023 (Israel Embassy to The Vatican)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen meets counterpart Paul Gallagher in Vatican, July 17, 2023 (Israel Embassy to The Vatican)

At the Vatican, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen joins the growing list of Israeli officials to publicly condemn recent attacks on Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City and across the country.

“We are committed to protecting their safety and honor, and we will continue to display zero tolerance for acts of violence on the basis of hatred,” he says in his meeting with the Holy See’s Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher.

President Isaac Herzog this week condemned vandalism at Christian sites and spitting incidents against clergy. The Foreign Ministry has also condemned the growing phenomenon, but Cohen has not until now.

The willingness of top officials to discuss the attacks is an indication of a growing recognition that the authorities have to invest additional resources and attention into stopping them.

Cohen did not meet Pope Francis, who keeps a light schedule in the summer months. The Pontiff is also recovering from surgery.

Cohen’s visit is the first by Israel’s foreign minister to the Vatican since 2011.

IDF ends joint week-long drill with US Air Force including long-range strikes

A US tanker refuels an IAF fighter jet over Israel amid a joint drill, in early July 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
A US tanker refuels an IAF fighter jet over Israel amid a joint drill, in early July 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces wraps up a joint air drill with the United States Central Command, the third in a series of exercises this year.

In a statement, the IDF says the week-long drill, dubbed Juniper Oak, is “part of the cooperation and close relations with the United States, even at this time,” likely referring to political tensions between the Israeli and US government.

The drill included Israeli and American fighter jets carrying out “long-range strategic strike missions in areas with simulated multiple threats, electronic warfare and area defense against hostile aircraft infiltration,” according to the IDF.

Also during the drill, Israeli Air Force fighter jets refueled from American Boeing KC-10 and KC-46 tankers, the latter of which Israel has ordered four and is expected to receive the first in 2025.

For Israel, the KC-46 aircraft are seen as necessary to conduct potential major strikes against targets in Iran, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Israel and far outside the normal flight range of Israeli jets.

The IDF says the third installment of Juniper Oak serves as preparation for a major upcoming drill, dubbed Blue Flag.

Defense minister: Israel has foiled more than 50 Iranian attacks around world

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends an event at the Knesset, June 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends an event at the Knesset, June 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Israel has foiled more than 50 attacks that Iran has attempted to carry out against Israelis and Jews across the world in recent years.

“In recent years, Iran has been leading a worldwide terror campaign, with unprecedented scope, targeting Israelis and Jews around the world,” Gallant tells reporters during an official trip to Azerbaijan.

“There have been more than 50 attempted attacks in recent years, most of them were ready to go, and were foiled at the last moment,” he says.

“Thanks to our defense establishment, thanks to close cooperation with many countries, and thanks to the understanding that Iran is a global threat, we foiled these attempts and saved lives,” Gallant adds.

Hundreds rally against overhaul outside US Embassy

Protesters against the government's judicial overhaul rally outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, July 13, 2023. (Rony Levinson)
Protesters against the government's judicial overhaul rally outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, July 13, 2023. (Rony Levinson)

Protests are taking place in several locations this evening against the judicial overhaul plan.

Hundreds are rallying near the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Other protests are taking place outside the prime minister’s homes in Jerusalem and Caesarea.

Ex-Yamina MK joins homophobic Avi Maoz’s new Jewish National Identity Office

Yamina MK Nir Orbach leads a House Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Yamina MK Nir Orbach leads a House Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

A former Yamina MK who played a central role in bringing down the last government will stand at the head of a new Jewish National Identity Office under far-right anti-LGBTQ lawmaker Avi Maoz.

Maoz says in a statement that the new “authority with act to strengthen the values of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, while maintaining our Jewish and national roots and deepening Jewish culture and tradition, both religious and historic.”

Orbach’s decision to bolt the previous coalition was a key domino in the collapse of that government, dropping the ruling bloc to minority status in the Knesset.

Military court convicts accomplice of Palestinian terrorist in 2018 shooting

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who was murdered in a terror attack in the West Bank on January 9, 2018. (courtesy)
Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who was murdered in a terror attack in the West Bank on January 9, 2018. (courtesy)

An Israeli military court has convicted an accomplice of a Palestinian terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting attack in the West Bank in January 2018.

Ahmed Kunba, a resident of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, opened fire and killed Raziel Shevach near the settlement of Havat Gilad, along with the main suspect, Ahmad Nassar Jarrar.

Kunba is convicted of intentionally causing the death of Shevach. The charge is equivalent to murder in the West Bank military court.

He is additionally convicted of a number of other security-related offenses, as well as plotting and carrying out a number of attacks along with Jarrar, who was killed by Israeli troops a month after the attack.

Kunba’s sentencing trial will begin on August 1.

Biden formally extends invitation for Herzog to visit White House next week

President Isaac Herzog (left) and US President Joe Biden at the White House on October 26, 2022. (GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and US President Joe Biden at the White House on October 26, 2022. (GPO)

US President Joe Biden formally extends an invitation for President Isaac Herzog to visit the White House next Tuesday.

Herzog will be in Washington to give an address to a joint session of the US Congress in honor of Israel’s 75th anniversary.

“The visit will highlight our enduring partnership and friendship. President Biden will reaffirm the ironclad commitment of the United States to Israel’s security. The two leaders will discuss opportunities to deepen Israel’s regional integration and to create a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East,” the White House says in a statement.

“President Biden will stress the importance of our shared democratic values, and discuss ways to advance equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and security for Palestinians and Israelis,” the statement continues, referencing the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul and its policies toward the Palestinians — two issues of which the Biden administration has been particularly critical.

“The leaders will also discuss Russia’s deepening military relationship with Iran, and Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region,” the White House says.

The US has consistently leaned on Israel to increase its aid to Ukraine, while Jerusalem has resisted calls to offer weapons amid fears of upending its own ties with Moscow.

Herzog will meet with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday in addition to a range of interagency officials during his two days in Washington, the White House adds.

Right-wingers block entrances to kibbutzim in response to anti-overhaul protesters

Pro-overhaul demonstrators blocked the entrances to two kibbutz communities in central Israel today, saying it was a response to anti-overhaul protesters blocking roads across the country.

The demonstrators used vehicles to prevent cars from coming in or out at Yakum and Shefayim.

Likud activist Yigal Malka said, “We’re blocking the entrance to kibbutzim because kibbutzim are responsible for the most blockages.”

Since the attorney general said “there is no effective protest without disrupting public order, we’re simply fulfilling the instructions of the attorney general,” he added.

Coalition heads ‘shocked’ by High Court decision to hear petition on PM’s removal

View of the Supreme Court as seen from a rooftop in Jerusalem on September 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the Supreme Court as seen from a rooftop in Jerusalem on September 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a joint statement, the heads of coalition parties attack the High Court’s decision to hear a petition demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be removed from office for allegedly flouting the conflict of interest agreement he signed amid his ongoing corruption trial.

The agreement, which Netanyahu signed with former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, requires him to avoid involvement in judicial legislation that could affect the outcome of his cases.

Judge Ruth Ronnen ruled today that the petition will be examined by a panel of justices in the near future.

“An extremist political group led by [former IDF chief] Dan Halutz is trying to remove a sitting prime minister, elected by a huge majority in democratic elections, with a baseless petition,” the coalition chiefs say, in reference to the group that filed the appeal.

“We are shocked by the decision to hear the petition, particularly after the Knesset passed legislation that prevents the removal of an elected prime minister with such false claims. This is a slippery slope [that could cause] grievous harm to democracy and the will of the people.”

Police suspect 79-year-old Israeli faked his own abduction in Ethiopia

Screen capture from video of Ethiopian-Israeli Francis Adbabayi who was kidnapped for ransom in Ethiopia, July 2023. (Kan. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Ethiopian-Israeli Francis Adbabayi who was kidnapped for ransom in Ethiopia, July 2023. (Kan. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Police are investigating whether a 79-year-old Israeli reported abducted in Ethiopia faked his own abduction.

Francis Adbabayi’s relatives previously said they’d received a recorded message in which he pleaded for them to secure his release. The alleged kidnappers also sent a short video clip and photos of Adbabayi in which he could be seen bound hand and foot and guarded by an armed man.

Adbabayi, 79, from Rishon Lezion, traveled to his home country of Ethiopia a few weeks ago. He planned to stay a month and was due to leave Monday.

Police have not said why they now suspect the kidnapping was staged.

AG’s representative says new ‘reasonableness’ bill more extreme

A representative for Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara says the new version of the “reasonableness” bill presented to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is a more extreme version of the previous one.

“Any unreasonable decision by the cabinet and ministers will be immune to judicial oversight,” attorney Abital Sternberg tells the committee. “We are talking about the most important and sensitive decisions relating to people’s lives.”

The original bill draft, approved by the Knesset in its first reading on Tuesday, barred courts from invalidating or even discussing government and ministers’ decisions based on their “reasonableness,” an established judicial test. The new text explicitly states that the court cannot touch decisions dealing with appointments or the decision to refrain from exercising authority, such as not convening committees.

Shaare Zedek sees 7 sets of twins born in 24 hours

Maayan Luzon Peretz with her newborns at Shaare Zedek, on a day that saw the hospital deliver 7 sets of twins. (Courtesy)
Maayan Luzon Peretz with her newborns at Shaare Zedek, on a day that saw the hospital deliver 7 sets of twins. (Courtesy)

Shaare Zedek Medical Center announces the birth in its maternity department of seven sets of twins in the last 24 hours.

Even in a hospital that handles 22,000 births per year — more than any other medical center in Israel — the rare event was exciting for all involved.

The mothers who delivered the 14 babies hail from Jerusalem and beyond. One mother said that she waited 12 years to be able to give birth to her first child. Now, three years later she has twins, born in a hospital with a reputation for experience with multiple births.

Maayan Luzon Peretz, who welcomed a girl and boy, came prepared with pink nail polish on one hand and blue on the other.

“I went through an empowering and natural childbirth. I chose Shaare Zedek based on our positive previous experience with the department and the staff. We came from far away. We are so happy that our two sweet ones have arrived in the world,” she said.

France fast-tracks Jewish claims on WWII stolen art

France has passed a law making it easier to return works of art seized by Nazi Germany that ended up in French museums to their Jewish owners.

The law, adopted unanimously by both houses of parliament, is to allow “concrete legal action” for the restitution of art taken during the World War II German occupation of France, the culture minister says.

Nazi Germany had a policy of seizing art as part of its persecution of Jews in occupied areas, and is estimated to have taken 100,000 works of art from France alone, according to the culture ministry.

Some 60,000 pieces were located in Germany after the war and brought back to France, where most were returned to their owners or their heirs. But 2,200 works went to French state-owned museums.

Sudan’s neighbors meet in Cairo as Egypt unveils new initiative to end conflict

In this photo provided by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, attends the Arab summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, May 19, 2023. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
In this photo provided by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, attends the Arab summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, May 19, 2023. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

Leaders from Sudan’s seven neighboring countries meet in Cairo for the most high-profile peace talks since conflict erupted across the northeastern African country in mid-April.

The meeting, hosted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, is attended by the leaders of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, the Central African Republic and Libya.

Sudan has been rocked by violence since April 15, when tensions between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces burst into open fighting. The conflict has killed more than 3,000 people, according to data from June, though the actual death toll is likely much higher, doctors and activists say.

Egyptian President el-Sissi in his opening speech proposes a lasting cease-fire agreement, establishing safe humanitarian corridors and a dialogue framework that would include all Sudanese political parties and figures.

Reservists reject PM’s shouted accusations they are harming national security

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 25, 2023.(Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 25, 2023.(Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

After recordings were aired on television networks of Prime Minister Netanyahu screaming about the danger posed by reservists’ threat to refuse to show up for duty, a group of former special forces soldiers rejects the premier’s outburst.

Netanyahu was heard raging at the prospect of soldiers refusing to serve due to his government’s efforts to overhaul the judiciary.

“I can’t imagine anything more serious, organizing a mass effort to break the law… It’s inconceivable… This harms the body of the state, national security.”

The special forces alumni respond: “He understands that he, and only he, is dismantling the country and the defense establishment. Don’t talk to us about ‘state security’ when you are rushing toward a Russian- or Iranian-style dictatorship.”

A separate group of alumni of the Intelligence Branch say Netanyahu’s recordings “show he understands the damage to security as a result of government actions. Responsibility for state security is in his hands.”

The large Brothers in Arms protest group of reservists says Netanyahu “is personally destroying national security and relations with the US… He should immediately stop legislation that is tearing the nation apart and face the fact that an army of the people can exist only in a democracy.”

Protests planned tonight at US embassy, Netanyahu’s homes

Protesters are also planning some large rallies tonight at key locations.

Demonstrations will be held at 8 p.m. outside Netanyahu’s residences in both Jerusalem and Caesarea as well as at the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

The latter event is meant to send a message to Washington to “continue to stand with the Israeli protesters who are tirelessly fighting for Israeli democracy” while the protests at the premier’s homes are “to make it clear to him, that the deteriorating Israel-US relationship is his fault. He is leading Israel down a very dangerous path.”

They say further protests will be held around the world at the same time, without specifying where.

Protest leaders announce new day of rallies and disruptions for Monday

Anti-judicial overhaul demonstrators block Route 1 and clash with police during a protest near Ein Hemed, July 11, 2023. (Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Anti-judicial overhaul demonstrators block Route 1 and clash with police during a protest near Ein Hemed, July 11, 2023. (Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Leaders of the national protest movement against the government’s judicial shakeup say they will hold another “Day of Resistance” on Monday, July 17.

The day will once again see protest actions and road blockings across the country, with organizers saying further disruptive actions will take place throughout the week.

“Netanyahu and the government of destruction are leading Israel toward the abyss,” organizers say. “This is the moment to intensify resistance.”

Fighter jets scrambled over erratic private jet; plane lands safely

Fighter jets were scrambled earlier after a private jet en route to Ben Gurion Airport failed to follow flight path instructions on entering Israeli airspace.

The pilots identified themselves shortly thereafter and complied with instructions, and the plane landed safely.

Former head of crypto lender Celsius accused of fraud

The former head of crypto lender Celsius, Alex Mashinsky, has been arrested as part of an investigation into the firm’s downfall.

The US-based company, which had dozens of employees in Israel, went bankrupt last year after suspending all withdrawals.

Celsius and Mashinsky are accused by federal authorities of securities fraud.

Supreme Court overturns decision to nix 2 charges against Shaul Elovitch in his trial

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for a remand hearing in Case 4000, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)
Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for a remand hearing in Case 4000, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

The Supreme Court has accepted an appeal by state prosecutors and nixed a lower court’s decision to dismiss two charges against Shaul Elovitch, the former controlling shareholder of Bezeq Telecommunications, in a trial dealing with alleged corruption in his dealings with companies he owned.

The investigation against Elovitch’s dealings in Bezeq led to eventual charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Case 4000, in which the premier is suspected of securing financial benefits for Elovitch in return for the right to hold sway over editorial decisions on the Walla news outlet, which the mogul also owned.

Elovitch’s trial is separate from Netanyahu’s. Last year a district court ruled that there was no basis for two of the charges against Elovitch, saying the claims presented by the prosecution, even if shown to be true, would not be enough to prove guilt of fraud and breach of trust.

The High Court has now ruled that such a determination is premature and the charges should be examined by the court.

Israel’s U20 basketball team defeats Germany to reach European semifinals

Israel’s national Under-20 basketball team has reached the 2023 FIBA U20 European Championship semifinals after defeating Germany in the quarters.

Israel finishes the game 75-64.

It previously scored a surprise win over Spain in the round of 16 with a score of 59-52.

Overhaul supporters plan large Tel Aviv rally on July 23

Supporters of the government’s judicial overhaul are planning a large rally backing its legislation efforts in Tel Aviv on July 23.

The demonstration is planned for a Sunday evening at the same site where anti-overhaul protests are held on Saturdays.

The rally is timed to coincide with the final days of the government’s legislative push, as it seeks to pass its limitations on the “reasonableness” clause by the end of the month.

Report: PM’s son pressured him not to soften overhaul’s ‘reasonableness’ bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair is pressuring his father not to stop or soften legislation to annul the reasonableness doctrine in court review of government decisions, Walla news reports.

According to the outlet, the younger Netanyahu, who has been abroad in recent months, spoke to his father at the start of the week and told him, “You mustn’t back down, you mustn’t fold” on the matter, as public pressure grows on the government not to pass the bill in its current form.

Google now offers AI chatbot Bard in Hebrew, with new features

Google is broadening the scope of its AI chatbot Bard, now offering the service is dozens of new languages, including Hebrew.

The company also says it’s adding more features to Bard as it scrambles to keep up with rival Microsoft — which uses OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT service in its Bing search engine — in the race to capitalize on generative artificial intelligence technology that has captured worldwide attention.

Google launched Bard in February, but its planned rollout last month in the European Union was delayed as regulators checked whether the service complied with the 27-nation bloc’s strict privacy rules. The company said it has “proactively engaged with experts, policymakers and privacy regulators.”

The Irish Data Protection Commission, Google’s main EU privacy watchdog, said it sent the internet search giant a detailed list of questions seeking more information.

As a result, Google hit pause and “made a number of changes” ahead of today’s European launch, ”in particular increased transparency and changes to controls for users,” the watchdog said.

Google details the improvements in a blog post, which says Bard can now be used in more than 40 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, German, Hindi and Spanish.

Users also can tailor the tone and style of Bard’s replies and ask it to read out responses, which Google says is “helpful if you want to hear the correct pronunciation of a word or listen to a poem or script.”

English-language users can now start uploading images along with prompts for Bard to analyze for answers, Google says.

Rothman asserts new changes to reasonableness bill only a clarification

MK Simcha Rothman leads a Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee discussion, June 25, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Simcha Rothman leads a Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee discussion, June 25, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shortly after amending the text of a controversial bill to outlaw judicial oversight over the reasonableness of government and minister decisions, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chair MK Simcha Rothman tells the panel that the new “wording does not open up additional fronts.”

The updated bill text specifies that the High Court of Justice cannot intervene to force a minister to exercise their authority, or in appointments made by the cabinet or its ministers.

Rothman says the change was “to make it clear that the issue is not up for debate and also that a decision to refrain from exercising authority — where there is a decision to abstain” is also not open to judicial scrutiny.

“The issue of appointments is at the heart of governmental authority. The power to appoint or not to appoint or dismiss officers and directors general are the ABCs of the civil service,” he says at the third panel discussion since the bill cleared its first Knesset floor reading early Tuesday.

The new bill also axes language that previously said that it could also shield unspecified other elected officials from court review. Opposition lawmakers and experts were concerned that this could cover city halls, but Rothman has said that they would have needed to have been delineated in a separate piece of legislation.

Removing the clause, he said, was done “in light of the concerns that arose, that I could not understand where they came from.”

Graduates of prestigious military program warn they won’t show up for reserve duty

Hundreds of graduates of the military’s prestigious Talpiot program have signed a letter saying they will not show up for voluntary reserve duty unless the government halts its plans to overhaul the judiciary.

“We demand that the government immediately stop and shelve all the legislative moves that harm the judicial system and the democratic regime in Israel,” the reservists say in a letter carried by Hebrew-language media outlets.

“For lack of any other option, and with a very heavy heart, we can no longer volunteer to serve a government that acts this way,” they add.

Talpiot is an elite IDF training program for soldiers who have demonstrated academic excellence in the sciences. The soldiers pursue academic degrees in physics, math or computer science while serving in the IDF.

Finance minister to remove customs tax on imported milk for 3 months

Illustrative photo of milk and chocolate milk cartons. May 3, 2015. (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of milk and chocolate milk cartons. May 3, 2015. (Flash90)

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says he will sign an order to remove 40% customs tax on imported milk for three months.

The minister cites an ongoing shortage of milk.

Importers have warned that a mere three-month period is unfeasible, due to the time it would take to set up supply chains and ensure kosher certification, and it may not be worthwhile to import products for a short period.

High Court to hear petition calling for Netanyahu’s removal over conflict of interest

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen at the Jerusalem District Court during the testimony of businessman Arnon Milchan in Netanyahu's corruption trial, July 2, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen at the Jerusalem District Court during the testimony of businessman Arnon Milchan in Netanyahu's corruption trial, July 2, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

The High Court of Justice says it will agree to hear a petition demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be removed from office due to his flouting the conflict of interest agreement he signed amid his ongoing trial.

The petition was filed by a group of activists calling themselves “The Democratic Bastion,” among them former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz. Judge Ruth Ronnen ruled that the petition will be examined by a panel of justices in the near future.

According to the state’s response to the petition, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara views the case as unnecessary since the court already struck down a petition claiming Netanyahu was in contempt of court in May.

The conflict of interest agreement, which Netanyahu signed with the previous attorney general, requires him to avoid involvement in judicial legislation as it could affect his case.

Critics say that as prime minister overseeing the coalition’s radical judicial overhaul plan, it is impossible for Netanyahu to not involve himself in the matter. He has also increasingly been reported to be directly involved in the legislation efforts.

In March, Baharav-Miara informed Netanyahu that he had violated the conflict of interest agreement after he announced that he would ignore it moving forward and deeply involve himself in the overhaul legislation. Netanyahu’s announcement that night came after the Knesset passed a law designed to shield him from being removed from office for breaking the agreement’s boundaries.

She called his statements and any further involvement in the legislation “illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest.”

The overhaul was frozen by Netanyahu days later for a period of several months, putting the matter on the backburner.

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