The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
The Israeli Air Force is carrying out airstrikes near the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to local media.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency says air defenses are engaging “hostile targets” over Damascus, a euphemism for Israeli incursions.
SANA and other outlets report several blasts heard in the area.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage in the attack.
Syrian air defenses activated in the vicinity of Damascus as Israeli airstrikes are underway. pic.twitter.com/PSuKejrcTW
— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) July 18, 2023
Israel has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in Syria over the past decade, but does not comment on individual strikes.
Before his meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their advisers, President Isaac Herzog thanks him for “pursuing such important goals” as stopping Iran’s nuclear program and building regional alliances that include Israel.
Herzog says the two will discuss Israeli MIAs and prisoners held by Hamas in Gaza, and “the situation in Lebanon.”
As he did when he was in Israel, Blinken stresses that democratic values undergird the US-Israel relationship. He also says that Herzog’s effort to help find common ground amid the judicial reform fight in Israel “could not be more important.”
Blinken stresses that the US will make sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.
He also mentions the American commitment to “finding a way forward to two states.”
The Ayalon Highway has been opened after some two hours of blockages by protesters.
Traffic is now moving normally in both directions.
A senior figure in the Israel Medical Association tells Channel 12 the union is considering far more serious action if the government pushes forward with its overhaul legislation and could announce “an open-ended strike if we have no choice.”
The IMA has announced a two-hour strike on non-urgent treatments tomorrow morning.
The unidentified official says: “Tomorrow is a moment of truth. Most of us think we are taking a very measured step. A very gentle one.”
But he adds the IMA could take harsher action next week if the coalition plows ahead with its plans despite the mass public opposition.
“I suggest not to dismiss [us],” he adds.
US President Joe Biden told Isaac Herzog during their Tuesday meeting that reaching a compromise on the country’s judicial shakeup is vital, The Times of Israel has learned.
He also said that the noise around the issue makes it harder to make progress in regional peace. Herzog responded that he is working to find common ground and that he believes in negotiations.
Turning to Iran, Biden stressed that coordination is crucial against Iran, and that he is following developments in Iran and Lebanon closely. On terrorism, Biden underscored that Israel has a right to defend itself, but expressed concern over vigilante attacks by Israelis.
They also discussed Saudi Arabia, saying that normalization was a key priority.
Biden also said his phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warm and constructive.
The private Biden-Herzog meeting lasted 40 minutes, followed by a half-hour meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Biden showed off the presidential medal he received from Herzog in Jerusalem last July, and Herzog told the attendees he felt like he was with family. Biden emphasized his love for the Israeli people, and reiterated that Israel was the guarantee of security for the Jewish people.
The sides also discussed Israel’s desire to be accepted into the US Visa Waiver Program, noting that there was progress and that they expect to reach a conclusion soon.
Three hours after the protesters began to gather at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, the main road remains blocked by demonstrators against the judicial overhaul.
Mounted police repeatedly ride through the crowd at the protest, which has now been declared illegal, but demonstrators refuse to disperse despite multiple rounds of water cannon fire.
After a lull of around twenty minutes, mounted police again ride into the crowd of protesters at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street and the water cannon roars back into action.
Demonstrators run as the officers move through the crowd close to the entrance to the Ayalon Highway.
The crowd chants “We are not afraid” as a group of police officers runs through the crowd ahead of the truck carrying the water cannon.
A man plays “Hatikva” on the trumpet and the demonstrators surrounding him sing the Israeli national anthem as the water cannon fires.
Protesters succeed in shutting down the highway for nearly two hours, setting bonfires and spraying graffiti on the road.
Police also use the water cannon in areas surrounding the highway.
The extreme heat scorching Phoenix sets a new record today, the 19th consecutive day temperatures hit at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) in a summer of suffering echoing around much of the globe.
As human-caused climate change and a newly formed El Nino are combining to shatter heat records worldwide, the Phoenix region stands apart among major metropolitan areas in the US.
No other major city – defined as the 25 most populous in the United States – has had any streak of 110-degree days or 90-degree nights longer than Phoenix, says weather historian Christopher Burt of the Weather Company.
With Tuesday’s low of 94, the city has had nine straight days of temperatures that didn’t go below 90 at night, breaking another record there, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Salerno, who called it “pretty miserable when you don’t have any recovery overnight.”
On Monday, the city set a record for the hottest overnight low temperature: 95 (35 degrees Celsius).
Police say they deployed water cannons in the streets of Tel Aviv due to “illegal” protests by anti-government demonstrators.
A water cannon and mounted police disperse demonstrators who appear headed toward the Ayalon Highway.
Several people are injured and ambulances can be seen evacuating them to local hospitals.
After approximately half an hour after it was deployed, the water cannon begins to reverse back down Kaplan Street, away from the protesters. Sensing a perhaps temporary victory, the crowd cheers and a flare is lit.
Police bring in water cannons and spray protesters on Kaplan Street who were trying to block the Ayalon highway.
Several protesters appear hurt, one hit in the eye by the jet of water.
Mounted police are also rushing protesters.
The crowd chants “Who are you guarding?” and “shame” as mounted police officers move into a crowd of protesters at the entrance to the Ayalon highway at the HaShalom interchange.
The crowd is increasingly angered as the water cannon is deployed again and again, sometimes with foam and other times with water. Mounted police are riding through the crowd. A number of protesters are dragged off by police as they try to stop the progress of the water cannon.
Protesters surround the water canon, cheering “democracy.” Mounted officers rush the crowd and force people back.
The spray is so forceful it destroys a traffic light.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 18, 2023
Police are apparently trying to prevent the crowd from reaching the demonstrators who entered the thoroughfare further north at the Rokah junction, shutting down the highway.
The chief of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, issues a message to his subordinates in response to an open letter by more than 160 senior reservists saying they will no longer show up for duty in protest of the judicial overhaul.
“A complex period and many [media] publications this evening… we will look into the details of the letter and its meanings,” Bar says in the message.
“However, the responsibility assigned to us has not changed. We must continue to speak with the reservists and conscripts. Call on the reservists to continue reporting for duty,” the IAF chief says.
“I rely on you. Forward this message to the commanders of the squadrons and operational units,” Bar adds.
It was a “wonderful meeting “ with US President Joe Biden, says President Isaac Herzog at the White House after the two leaders sit for about an hour.
Herzog says that US interest in the judicial reform “comes from deep worry” and care for Israel’s welfare.
“Israel is very important to the world, to the region, and to the US,” he continues.
Herzog says that the White House and international interest in Israel’s success is “another reason to reach agreement and compromise.”
Herzog says that Biden reiterated his commitment and love for Israel in the meeting. “It’s family ties.”
Herzog says they also discussed Hezbollah, the Iranian nuclear threat, building regional cooperation, and “also what’s happening in Israel.”
The full opening statements as President Isaac Herzog meets with US President Joe Biden at the White House.
Biden: Mr. President. Welcome back, welcome back to Washington, and welcome back to the White House.
You know we were together in Israel, and we are together again here, and we have a lot to talk about.
You know my love for Israel is deep-rooted and long-lasting, and as I have often said, if there wasn’t an Israel, we would have to invent one.
It’s 75 years, 75 years, it is hard to believe, it’s hard to believe I remember about two-thirds of those. This is a friendship that I believe is simply unbreakable, unbreakable, and together we are working to bring more integration and stability in the Middle East.
There’s a lot of hard work, we’ve got a lot more to do, but there is progress. Last year, we convened the largest gathering of Arabs and Israelis in a decade and we resolved the maritime boundary dispute between Israel and Lebanon which people thought could never happen.
We opened up airspace for Israel over Saudi Arabia, and Oman after our visit there, and we brought Israelis and Palestinians together on a political level at Sharm [el-sheikh].
As I affirmed to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, America’s commitment to Israel is firm and it is ironclad. And we are committed as well to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. So we have a lot to talk about but again welcome.
Herzog: Thank you, Mr. President, it is wonderful to see you again. I bring a message of gratitude on behalf of all the people of Israel, the entire nation of Israel, from all sides of the political spectrum, all expressing great friendship, and gratitude to you.
As you said, it is almost a jubilee since you entered politics, and you have always stood by the state of Israel, the people of Israel, on so many issues.
I was pleased to hear about your conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, which focused on our ironclad military and security cooperation. Because there are some enemies of ours that sometimes mistake the fact that we may have some differences as impacting our unbreakable bond, and I truly believe that if they would know how much our cooperation has grown in recent years and achieved new heights, they would not think that way.
I also want to thank you, Mr. President, for pursuing more and more on cooperation and integration in the region, for finding and looking for further partners for peace with Israel, and cooperating on so many regional issues together.
And finally, Mr. President, I know you have mentioned, and we will discuss this as well, the internal Israeli situation. As you know, I am here, and I am happy to be here, because tomorrow I will be speaking in front of a joint session of Congress, especially devoted to celebrating Israel’s 75th year.
However, of course, my heart and soul is also in Israel, in the heated debate, which we are going through as a society. It is a heated debate, but it is also a virtue and a tribute to the greatness of Israeli democracy.
Let me reiterate and be crystal clear, Israeli democracy is sound, strong, and resilient.
We are going through pains we are going through heated debates, we are going through challenging moments, but I truly believe, and I say this to you, Mr. President, as I have said as head of state to the people of Israel: we shall always seek to find amicable, consensus, and I agree with you on that as well. I am pursuing that even in these very moments through my people as much as we can, in order to find solutions and exit out of this crisis properly.
Thank you, Mr. President, for your friendship and God bless you.
Tens of thousands of anti-judicial overhaul protesters have converged upon Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, as capstone to their Day of Resistance.
Despite the tightly packed crowd, energy is a bit lower on Kaplan Street itself than in past demonstrations, with protesters citing the extreme heat and daylong activities as contributing factors to the relative lethargy.
Some demonstrators hand out free water bottles to attendees, alongside courtesy protest swag.
A band plays out of a converted truck, making statements about social unity before each song in their set.
But not all protesters are focusing their energy on the coalition’s imminent plan to reduce judicial checks on the cabinet, but rather came to express their frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government itself.
Uri, 70, says that “Netanyahu is a criminal” and that his ultra-Orthodox political partners do not share the burden in supporting the state’s finances and security.
“We, the secular people, pay a ton of money and they don’t even go to the army,” he says about Israel’s Haredi communities. “It’s not just the reform, it’s the Haredim, the corruption,” he adds. “We don’t want these people.”
Thousands of anti-government protesters evade police roadblocks and manage to shut down the Ayalon Highway, the main route through Tel Aviv.
The protesters close the road in the southbound direction near the Rokah interchange, apparently surprising police who were stationed near the main protest on Kaplan Street where tens of thousands had gathered.
Several of the protesters set fires on the highway, but police put them out.
Yesh Atid Yair Lapid says the opposition is working to foil the passing of the so-called “reasonableness bill” in the Knesset next week.
Speaking to Channel 12, Lapid says he is holding “interesting” conversations with Likud MKs about a government that is only interested in pushing through a judicial overhaul and not dealing with the rising cost of living.
Challenged with the fact that the coalition has so far voted together in favor of the overhaul bills, Lapid responds: “We will see.”
Anti-overhaul protesters block the central Rupin-Ben Zvi intersection in Jerusalem, not far from the Knesset, before starting to march down Ben Zvi Road toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence on Gaza Street.
More than 1,000 people are attending the rally and march, with many beating drums, donning Israel flags and shouting pro-democracy slogans, as mounted police forces stand nearby.
In his public statement with President Isaac Herzog, US President Joe Biden pledges that Iran will never achieve a nuclear weapon, and that the US commitment to Israel’s security is “ironclad.”
Biden does not reference the fight over judicial reform, but Herzog does, calling it “heated debate.”
“Israeli democracy, sound, strong and resilient,” says Herzog. “We should always try to find an amicable consensus.”
Herzog says his “heart is in Israel” today as widespread protests against the government rock the country.
“You know my love for Israel is deep,” says Biden, saying America’s friendship with is “unbreakable.”
“There’s hard work, we got a lot more to do,” he says. “America’s commitment to Israel is firm, is ironclad,” he affirms.
President Isaac Herzog arrives at the White House for his meeting with US President Joe Biden.
Herzog will now sign the guestbook in the Roosevelt Room, then will be greeted by President Biden.
Herzog will try to bridge tensions between Israel and the US over the hardline policies of the Netanyahu government and comes amid nationwide protests in Israel.
More than 160 reservists in key roles in the Israeli Air Force have issued a letter saying they are suspending their voluntary reserve duty as the government advances its plans to overhaul the judiciary.
In the letter, the senior officers in reserves say they are stopping showing up for volunteer duty, effective immediately, in response to the government passing the first reading of a key bill from the overhaul package — legislation aimed at preventing courts from reviewing government and ministers’ decisions based on their “reasonableness.”
“The final approval of these bills is a formal and short process, but one that will dramatically change the essence and face of the country, and will transform it from a democracy to a dictatorship,” the 161 reservists say.
“We hereby say that we are not ready to fulfill the tasks assigned to us, under a regime, in which the foundations of democracy are crudely removed one by one, and the opening through which [the government] continues to march the country towards a full-scale dictatorship, widens,” the letter says.
“Therefore, with a heavy heart, we hereby announce the immediate termination of our volunteering for reserve service,” the reserve officers add.
The list includes two brigadier generals and numerous colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors, and captains, who serve as staff in the IAF headquarters, drone pilots, intelligence officers, and other key roles.
A man in his 30s is shot dead in the northern village of Reineh near Nazareth in the 125th killing in the Arab community this year, police and medics say.
The man is identified as Maharan Oweisi. Media reports say he is the son of the deputy mayor of Nazareth.
Police say a suspect was arrested after trying to flee the scene in a stolen vehicle.
No immediate motive was given for the killing that comes amid an unprecedented crime wave in the community.
قُتل شقيقه وابن عمه بسلاح الجريمة.. الشاب مهران محمد عوايسي (30 عامًا) من مدينة الناصرة، ضحية جريمة القتل على مدخل بلدة الرينة. pic.twitter.com/INuXJsKfhg
— الجرمق الإخباري (@aljarmaqnet) July 18, 2023
As tensions are high between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, the chief of the Israel Defense Forces tours the northern border and holds an assessment with senior officers.
In a statement, the IDF says Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi held an assessment with the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, and the commander of the 91st Regional Brigade, Brig. Gen. Shai Kalper.
The senior officers showed Halevi “the activity of IDF forces along the border, including the reinforcement of the forces,” the military says.
“The chief of staff noted the readiness and vigilance of the forces, and the importance of maintaining the daily lives of the residents of the north,” the IDF adds.
In recent months, Hezbollah has instigated several “provocations” along the northern border that have raised tensions.
Hundreds of train riders trying to get to Tel Aviv are being forced to exit idling rail cars at the Hagana train station in the city’s south, an eyewitness says, as the rail service announces a nationwide shutdown amid massive anti-government protests.
The traveler, who was attempting to reach his home in central Tel Aviv after arriving on a flight from the US hours earlier, says his train was sitting for at least 10 minutes at Hagana station when a person announced over the PA that all trains were being shut nationwide due to a technical malfunction.
“Everybody is angry and everybody walked out of the train,” he says.
A message sent by Israel Rails to customers says service is being cut off due to a computer malfunction.
At Hashalom Station, next on north-bound lines following Hagana, protesters are seen surrounding a train. The station sits at the central Tel Aviv intersection that has become a locus for protests.
Israel Rails later says the problem has been fixed and services will gradually resume.
Hundreds of protesters are gathered outside of the United States’ Tel Aviv Embassy Branch Office, as part of daylong coordinated demonstrations against the Israeli government’s plan to curtail judicial checks on its own power.
Several protesters say they came in order to send a message to the United States to take a more active hand in persuading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pause his coalition’s judicial overhaul.
“I really hope that the US government will exact pressure on Netanyahu,” says Tzili, 72, who came to the protests with an American and an Israeli flag, one for each hand. “Maybe they’ll be our hope.”
Parallel to the main protest, dozens of activist activists against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank are gathered on the Embassy Branch Office’s street side, chanting “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” and holding signs that say “Palestinian lives matter.”
Clad in a shirt representing a military reservists’ protest organization, Harel walks by the anti-occupation demonstration without stopping on the way to the beach.
“The occupation is more of a long-term issue. Today, we need to take care of the judicial coup,” he says.
“That protest weakens the protests. If they succeed in the reform, no one is going to stop the occupation,” he adds.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told US President Joe Biden during their talk last night that he was committed to passing judicial overhaul legislation, the Walla news site reports.
The report, citing two US and Israeli officials familiar with the conversation, says that Biden pressed Netanyahu to reach a consensus over the controversial reform plan.
However, Netanyahu told Biden that opposition leaders were refusing to compromise, calling them extremists and saying they were afraid of the protest leaders.
Netanyahu told Biden that the current “reasonableness” bill being passed was “not a big deal” and said there would be no further legislation until October.
The report says Biden was apparently not convinced by Netanyahu’s explanation.
Biden also reportedly pressed Netanyahu to halt West Bank settlement construction.
Netanyahu told Biden there would be no more construction authorized until next year, the report says.
An American official tells Walla that Netanyahu was very clear with Biden about his lack of space to maneuver with his hardline coalition partners.
In an apparent dig at the mass anti-government protests across the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that there are some in Israel today who believe some of the nation are worth more than others.
Speaking at a memorial service for Zeev Jabotinsky, the revisionist Zionist leader who is often cited as the father of Netanyahu’s Likud party, the prime minister says Jabotinsky “believed in the unity of the nation — not having some worth more than others.”
“Today there are those who believe that part of the nation are worth more than others and they should read Jabotinsky,” Netanyahu says.
Netanyahu and his coalition partners have repeatedly tried to portray the mass protests over the judicial overhaul as led by elites, unwilling to accept the will of the voters.
Police update that 37 protesters have been arrested so far during today’s mass protests.
Police say they are committed to allowing demonstrations, but reiterate that those who break the law will be arrested.
Police call on demonstrators not to try and get on to train station platforms saying it endangers lives.
Police have closed off many stations and ordered trains not to stop at Tel Aviv stations.
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee begins voting on the more than 27,000 reservations submitted by opposition MKs against the coalition’s bill to severely limit the courts’ use of the reasonableness standard of judicial review, following a marathon 19-hour committee session explaining those reservations.
Due to the unprecedented number of reservations – which are essentially proposed amendments to a bill – votes will be conducted on batches of 20 reservations to expedite the process, in line with the approval of the Knesset legal adviser.
It is expected that voting will take until Wednesday to complete and it is unlikely that any of the opposition’s reservations will be accepted.
The committee will then vote on the bill itself in order to pass it to the Knesset plenum for its second and third readings which would pass the legislation into law.
Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovitz of the opposition says at the opening of the voting that the committee process was flawed since not all relevant ministerial professionals had been able to address the committee, and said that those who were heard were ignored.
“The bill is disproportionate, extreme, and does damage to all aspects of the country but in particular causes legal danger to IDF soldiers and the defense system because of the damage done to [the status of the country’s] gatekeepers,” says Segalovitz
Protest leader Shikma Bressler announces that demonstrators will march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to protest the advancement of the judicial overhaul.
Bressler says the march will leave from Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street at 8:30 p.m. along the main Route 1 highway.
Bressler says the march is a “tiebreaking move.”
“It will take a few days, but we need you,” she says in a video message, calling on others to join her.
UK National Security Adviser Tim Barrow and his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi lead the first cross-agency strategic dialogue between the two countries.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins for a portion of the meeting in Jerusalem.
The sides discuss Iran, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the West Bank and Gaza, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Barrow and Hanegbi agree to convene the bilateral strategic dialogue regularly.
Police say two demonstrators have been arrested during protests outside the Herzliya train station.
The two are held on suspicion of public disturbance.
Video shows hundreds of protesters blocking the road leading to the station.
חוסמים את כביש הגישה לתחנת רכבת הרצליה
קרדיט: עדו למפרט pic.twitter.com/KsjLVdcDdw
— דמוקרטTV (@Democrat_TV) July 18, 2023
This brings to 21 the number of protesters arrested so far today.
Former US president Donald Trump says that he has received a letter informing him that he is a target of the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, an indication that he could soon be indicted by federal prosecutors.
Trump makes the claim in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying he received the target letter while with his family on Sunday night. Such a letter can precede an indictment and is used to advise individuals that prosecutors have evidence linking them to a crime; Trump received one ahead of being charged last month in a separate investigation into the mishandling of classified documents.
A spokesman for special counsel Jack Smith, whose office is leading the investigation, declines to comment.
Prosecutors have cast a broad net in their investigation into attempts by Trump and his allies to block the transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump, who is currently the dominant early frontrunner for the Republican nomination, is scheduled to travel to Iowa Tuesday, where he is taping a town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Prosecutors in Georgia are conducting a separate investigation into efforts by Trump to reverse election law in that state.
In his post, Trump writes that “they have now effectively indicted me three times…. with a probably fourth coming from Atlanta” and added in capital letters, “This witch hunt is all about election interference and a complete and total (political) weaponization of law enforcement!”
Trump was indicted last month on 37 felony counts accusing him of illegally retaining hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. He has pleaded not guilty. A pretrial conference in that case was set for Tuesday in Fort Pierce, Florida.
A senior Israeli official tells Hebrew media that during yesterday’s conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden, the American leader twice said they would meet in the Oval Office.
An initial statement from Netanyahu’s office had said that the two would meet in the US. No invitation was mentioned in the White House readout of their call, although US officials later confirmed the agreement to meet.
The vague wording of the announcement fueled speculation that the two could sit down on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting in September when both leaders are expected to be in New York.
Biden had been refusing to invite Netanyahu due to displeasure with the policies of his hardline government.
Several protesters kept outside Tel Aviv’s Hashalom station complain of feeling unwell, given the extreme heat and crowd density.
Police refuse them admittance into the station.
Nava, in her fifties, was turned away from entering the air-conditioned station and told to work her way through the dense crowd of hundreds.
“I don’t feel well,” she pleads.
תחנת רכבת השלום סגורה pic.twitter.com/iL3J9HBzMx
— שקמה ברסלר Shikma Bressler (@ShikmaBressler) July 18, 2023
Police say they have issued orders to block demonstrators from train stations because it would endanger lives.
“This is a clear threat to lives and our job is to protect the safety and security of the citizens,” police say.
“We call on the protesters to act responsibly and obey the orders of the police officers in the field,” the statement says, warning that police will use all means at their disposal if the demonstrators break the law.
Several hundred protesters appeared to have entered Tel Aviv’s Hashalom station before the order and have not been removed.
Hundreds of protesters gather outside of Tel Aviv’s HaShalom train station, one of five busy terminals marked for a 4:30 p.m. protest by demonstrators against the coalition’s plan to upend judicial powers.
But police block demonstrators and journalists from entering.
Outside its gates, protesters brave the heat and humidity to form a drum circle, chanting “democracy or revolt,” waving Israeli flags, and blaring horns.
“Only Bibi,” cheers a passerby, against the demonstrators.
Police officer Meir Suissa, who previously made headlines for throwing stun grenades against protesters in Tel Aviv, emerges to tell protesters to leave the station.
“There’s no train, the station is closed,” Suissa says on a loudspeaker, as officers begin to push protesters and prospective passengers backwards.
Police officers shove several protesters back from the station entrance, causing several to trip up others in the tightly packed crowd.
The train station lowers its grates, blocking any entrance.
Police are blocking protesters from reaching railway platforms for planned anti-overhaul protests.
Journalists are also blocked from entering.
At Tel Aviv’s Shalom station demonstrators are stopped from going down to the platforms. In the town of Lod, police are keeping people out of the station entirely.
In Haifa’s Carmel station, a large police presence is keeping demonstrators off the platforms.
However, in Binyamina, police allow protests, but warn demonstrators not to try to block the trains.
Former MK and right-wing radio host Yinon Magal testifies at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, saying there was regular interference regarding coverage of the Netanyahus during his time as editor-in-chief of the Walla news site.
Also known as the Bezeq-Walla affair, Case 4000 focuses on allegations that Netanyahu, during his previous tenure as prime minister, authorized regulatory decisions that financially benefited Bezeq telecommunications giant shareholder Shaul Elovitch by hundreds of millions of shekels. In return, Netanyahu allegedly received editorial influence over the Walla news site, also owned by Elovitch.
“The interventions with regards to Netanyahu were part of a culture of political and economic interventions,” Magal tells the court.
“As editor-in-chief, I opposed these interventions and I made efforts to influence the system in a way that I believed in,” he says.
“In retrospect, did I succeed? I think the answer is no,” he says.
Rare antiquities that Israel sent to the US to be used in a White House ceremony have ended up in former US president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and efforts to have them returned have failed, the Haaretz daily reports.
According to the report, the clay candelabra were sent to be used in a 2019 Hanukkah ceremony, but were ultimately not used due to White House concerns that they were from the West Bank.
The Israel Antiquities Authority then planned to send a special courier to bring them back to Israel, but the plan was disrupted due to the outbreak of the COVID epidemic.
Officials asked Saul Fox, a major Jewish-American donor to the IAA, to temporarily safeguard the items.
However, Israeli officials recently learned that the items were now at Trump’s estate. The report says it is not clear how they came to be there or if Trump himself was aware of their presence.
Officials tell Haaretz that the items are now “stuck” at Mar-a-Lago and efforts to bring them home have failed.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says the defense establishment needs reservists in order to deal with threats facing Israel, as many members of the reserve military have threatened to end their volunteer duty in protest of the judicial overhaul.
Speaking at an event commemorating 75 years since the sailing of the immigrant ship Exodus, Gallant says he wants “to appeal to the reservists.”
“We are allowed to disagree, we are allowed to debate and discuss, we are allowed to protest, but we are not allowed to harm, in the name of one political opinion or another, the IDF,” he says.
“As someone who spent most of his adult years in command of troops from all segments of Israeli society, and as someone who knows the current [security] situation, I can say clearly that in the effort to protect the security of the state and in the face of the threats facing us, we need all the soldiers and all the commanders,” Gallant says.
“Just as the company commander and the battalion commander need all the soldiers in the company and battalion, so do I, as the defense minister of Israel, need the entire IDF, the entire Shin Bet, the entire Mossad, all the people they have, from all parts of the public, in order to succeed in the complex mission of protecting the State of Israel and the lives of its citizens,” he continues.
Gallant says the military must be kept “united” and not allow “extreme statements from any side” to harm the IDF.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appears to hint at the Biden administration’s plans to nominate a new ambassador to Israel before the 2024 presidential election.
During a press conference yesterday, Blinken called out Senate Republicans for blocking the confirmation of Biden’s nominees and said that “by the end of the summer, we expect Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon will all be without confirmed US ambassadors.”
Highlighting the vacancy in Israel in this context would be difficult to explain if the administration is not planning on filling the spot.
Blinken is asked whether Biden planned to do just that but he says he has nothing to announce at the moment.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides formally steps down from his position later this week.
Deputy ambassador Stephanie Hallet will take over as interim charge d’affaires.
Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir is calling on the government to cancel a plan to fund Arab community development with hundreds of millions of dollars that was approved by the previous government, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
Ben Gvir sends a letter to the cabinet secretary demanding that the plan be revoked.
“It is unthinkable that the right-wing government will act to continue the implementation of the coalition agreements that the previous government granted to the Muslim Brotherhood and their representatives, instead of changing and correcting the same decision, which grants unprecedented funding and powers through anti-Zionist elements,” Ben Gvir writes.
The plan was approved by the previous government that included the Islamist Ra’am party alongside left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties that united in opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The plan aims to improve infrastructure, planning, and construction in the Arab community, combat poverty and violence, and boost education.
Top business leaders have announced they will set up a protest tent in Jerusalem on Thursday with the aim of stopping the coalition’s advancement of a law to curtail judicial oversight.
“Unilateral legislation will cause the destruction of the economy and the country. Changes are made through negotiations,” the so-called Business Forum says in a statement.
“We call for the reaching of agreements and preventing irreversible destruction to Israel’s economy,” the organization says.
The group includes owners of banks, hotels, shopping malls and fashion retail chains.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly evaluating the possibility of moderating his coalition’s controversial bill to severely limit the courts’ use of the reasonableness standard to review government and ministerial decisions, even as the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee works to prepare the current text of the bill for passage to the Knesset plenum.
Netanyahu is consulting with close associates, legal scholars and officials from the President’s Residence over the possibility of allowing the courts to use the reasonableness standard to review decisions made by individual government ministers, while preserving the bill’s ban on using reasonableness to review decisions made by the full cabinet, according to a report by Kan News.
A clause could also be added explicitly requiring ministers to act with reasonableness, Kan reported.
Opposition MKs are not currently involved in discussions with Netanyahu over such a compromise.
Earlier, Knesset Constitution Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman said the coalition would be “very pleased” to amend the bill in coordination with the opposition, but alleged that the opposition “behaved with a lack of good faith and a total refusal to come to agreements.”
Opposition MKs have in turn accused Rothman of merely creating the impression of a substantive debate in the committee while being unwilling to compromise at all on the bill, pointing out that he has failed to implement the recommendations even of conservative jurists who addressed the committee.
President Isaac Herzog releases a statement Tuesday afternoon saying he welcomed “every effort to reach broad agreements,” and emphasizes a call for dialogue.
“If only one side wins, the country loses,” says the president.
Israel Medical Association leadership announces a “warning strike” set for tomorrow protesting the proposed legislation to curtail judicial review of government decisions.
The strike will take place 8:30-10:30 am.
The IMA says it will do everything possible to avoid negatively impacting patients’ care.
Urgent care will not be curtailed.
The action will also include informational sessions in hospitals and other healthcare settings led by representatives of IMA member organizations on the effects of the removal of judicial reasonableness on the healthcare system, medicine, physicians, and patients.
Prof. Hagai Levine, a leader of the White Coats-Healthcare Professionals for Democracy organization and head of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, states that “the cancellation of judicial reasonableness will result in lethal injury to human life, the healthcare system, the patients, the doctors, and all other healthcare staff. Therefore, the IMA must take steps. This is preventive medicine.”
“It appears that tomorrow there will be a warning strike in the healthcare system, and if the government does not stop [the legislation], we will take more serious action,” he said.
Following a Sunday meeting of the leadership of the association representing medical residents, MIRSHAM, it was announced that they are putting aside differences with the IMA to join the fight against the proposed legislation.
It was decided that the legislation would hurt the rights of the residents individually, collectively and as a professional organization, and that they would not stand by as the rights of physicians and patients are negatively impacted.
A United States national entered North Korea during a tour of the heavily fortified border and is believed to have been detained, the United Nations Command says.
“A US national on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorisation, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” the UN Command says.
Yisrael Beytenu party leader MK Avigdor Liberman says that IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi should resign if he is unable to keep up the military’s competence amid protests by reservists against the judicial overhaul.
“The chief of staff’s role always was to provide security and maintain the IDF’s competence. In today’s circumstances, this is impossible. Therefore the chief of staff must resign, he has no other choice,” Liberman says at a conference hosted by the Calcalist financial daily.
Earlier, Halevi said calls by reservists to refuse to serve in protest of the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system cause harm to the IDF and national security.
A spokesman for Beilinson Hospital says the protester seriously injured when she was hit by a car near the central city of Ra’anana is stable, but not out of danger.
The woman in her 40s was demonstrating on Route 531 when she was hit by a passing car.
Police say the incident was a traffic accident rather than an intentional ramming.
The driver has been detained for questioning.
Police say 19 protesters against the judicial overhaul have been arrested as of 12 p.m.
Fourteen suspects were arrested in the central region of the country, three in the Tel Aviv area and two in the coastal region.
All were held for public order offenses.
Police have closed off most of Azza Street in the capital amid the “day of disruption,” despite no protests in the area.
Most of the road is shut to vehicular traffic, while the portion in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence is closed to pedestrians as well.
Police have made a habit in recent months of shutting down the road when there are protests or even the possibility of protests nationwide, regardless of any local demonstrations.
The road is a major Jerusalem artery and is on the route of half a dozen bus lines which have had to be diverted.
Hundreds of protesters continue to gather at rabbinical courts nationwide to protest harm to women’s rights
Protesters are gathering at rabbinical courts across the country to protest damage to the rights of women under legislation advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline coalition.
Crowds of demonstrators gather outside the Jewish religious courts in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Rehovot, Channel 12 news reports.
The protests are led by the women’s rights group Building an Alternative.
Police are working to prevent the protesters from entering the buildings.
A spokesman for the rabbinical courts decries “the mixing of the courts with the political protest.”
This week, Religious Services Minister Michael Malkieli submitted a bill that aims to give rabbinical courts discretion over child support, overriding a 2019 Supreme Court ruling.
Opponents say it is an attempt to compromise women’s rights, which they said would be jeopardized in the rabbinical court because halacha, Jewish law, favors men.
The Netanyahu government has been repeatedly criticized for its policies toward women, including for the very low number of women in leadership positions in the coalition.
מאות מפגינים ממש על הכניסה למשרדי הרבנות והמועצה הדתית בתל אביב: "הרבנות עבריינית", "ישראל היא לא איראן".
כוחות שהגיעו מרחיקים אותם עכשיו. pic.twitter.com/oAhsrcWPB3
— Josh Breiner (@JoshBreiner) July 18, 2023
A protest convoy on Tel Aviv’s highway causes a buildup of heavy traffic in the area.
Police have worked in recent weeks to prevent protesters from blocking the Ayalon Highway, sealing off entrances and exits and deploying water cannons to remove them from the thoroughfare.
However, demonstrators have now apparently decided on a new method to effectively block the route.
AG: Government attorneys pressured to take specific steps in criminal cases, and to adopt certain legal positions
In a bombshell speech, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara alleges that pressure has been exerted on her office to take specific action in criminal cases being managed by the State Attorney’s Office and in criminal investigations.
Speaking to officials in the State Attorney’s Office, Baharav-Miara further alleges that pressure has also been brought to bear on her office to adopt specific positions with regards to the formal legal positions taken by government legal advisers under her aegis on government legislation and decisions.
She doesn’t offer details on either allegation.
“Pressure has been exerted against us to make certain decisions in concrete cases that you are managing or in investigative cases that you are examining,” she says to the officials.
“Also in legal advice, pressure has been exerted against us to slant our professional judgment and violate our duty as gatekeepers,” the attorney general continues.
“I will not be deterred. I know that the State Attorney is not deterred either, and that neither are you all. We will continue to operate as always. According to the facts, according to the law, consistently and equitably.”
Baharav-Miara was castigated earlier this month by members of the cabinet for what they alleged was the failure of her office and other law enforcement agencies to deal severely enough with anti-government protesters over the last six months.
The attorney general said then and in a subsequent position paper that there could be no quotas for how many people should be arrested in protests or indicted as a result.
Hundreds of protesters rally outside the rabbinical courts in Tel Aviv and Rehovot, protesting a number of moves by the hardline coalition and its supporters that they say damage women’s rights.
A number of protesters from the Building an Alternative women’s protest group try to enter the building.
This week, Religious Services Minister Michael Malkieli submitted a bill that aims to give rabbinical courts discretion over child support, overriding a 2019 Supreme Court ruling.
Opponents say it is an attempt to compromise women’s rights, which they said would be jeopardized in the rabbinical court because halacha, Jewish law, favors men.
The Netanyahu government has been repeatedly criticized for its policies toward women, including for the low number of women in leadership positions in the coalition.
Last week the coalition advanced a bill to reorganize the official national authority for advancing gender equality. Critics say the move will deprive the authority of its professional independence and instead subject it to the whims of politicians.
In addition, a new civil service directive has scrapped the practice of using masculine-feminine suffixes when publishing job tenders and ordered that they use only the masculine form.
Hebrew nouns are gendered, with the word changing form to indicate whether it is masculine or feminine. When addressing mixed-gender groups, usage traditionally defaults to the masculine form. To boost gender equality, many have taken to including both the masculine and feminine form of the word, using a slash mark to include both.
The coalition deal between Religious Zionism and Likud included an agreement that Israel will not sign onto the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty intended to battle violence against women.
A number of pieces of legislation were shelved amid public outcry, including a bill that would have made it a criminal offense to dress or pray “immodestly” at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
Minister for the Advancement of Women May Golan has been criticized for prioritizing coalition loyalty over supporting legislation that protects women and advances their rights.
In March, she voted against a bill that would have mandated an electronic monitoring system to track domestic abusers. Experts and proponents of the legislation say the tracking would save lives.
The progress of the bill was dramatically slowed when far-right Internal Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said the legislation needed to be more balanced to protect the rights of the accused.
The ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition do not permit women to stand as lawmakers.
Speaking at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi says calls by reservists to refuse to serve in protest of the judicial overhaul cause harm to the Israel Defense Forces.
“Anyone who calls for not showing up [for duty] harms the IDF and harms the security of the state,” Chief of Staff Halevi says.
“Our goal these days is to combine competence and cohesion” in the military, Halevi adds.
After his opening remarks, Halevi gives a classified briefing to the members of the committee.
Police say 17 protesters against the judicial overhaul have been arrested as of 10 a.m.
Fourteen suspects were arrested in the central region of the country, one was detained in the Tel Aviv area and two were arrested in the coastal region.
All were held for public order offenses.
A protester is seriously injured when she is hit by a car near the central city of Ra’anana.
According to Hebrew-language media reports, the woman was demonstrating on Route 531.
Police say the incident was a traffic accident rather than an intentional ramming.
The driver has been detained for questioning.
Police say they have arrested a motorcycle driver in Tel Aviv on suspicion of assaulting a protester in Tel Aviv.
The alleged attack occurred at the Pil intersection in north Tel Aviv.
There are no details given on the victim’s condition.
A lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party calls for the Judicial Selection Committee to be convened.
“The committee to appoint judges must be convened,” Moshe Saada tells the Kan public broadcaster. “An arbitrary decision by a minister not to convene the committee to select judges will not be accepted and may be disqualified by the court.”
Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the architect of the judicial overhaul, has indicated he will hold off on convening the committee until he can legislate a change to its composition that will give the coalition greater control over the process of choosing judges.
The planned move is a central part of the government’s highly controversial judicial overhaul, which has sparked widespread opposition.
According to data from the judicial authority obtained by the Walla outlet, there are 21 judge positions that need to be filled, and by the end of the year, 22 judges and senior court registrars are expected to retire. There are a further 11 new judicial positions that have been approved, making a total of 54 court positions that need to be filled.
Scuffles break out between protesters and police on Route 531 near the central town of Hod Hasharon.
A number of demonstrators blocking the road are detained but it is unclear if they have been formally arrested.
531 בידינו pic.twitter.com/hlNcOtRgpE
— לירי בורק שביט (@lirishavit) July 18, 2023
Demonstrators from across Tel Aviv are beginning to converge on the headquarters of the Histadrut labor federation to call for a general strike.
Many protesters have been angered that the federation has not called a strike despite the expected passage next week of a bill to radically curb judicial oversight over government decisions.
Histadrut chief Arnon Bar-David has denied reports he was been warned by far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to stay out of the protests, amid public sector pay negotiations with the ministry.
In late March the union joined a daylong general strike triggered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s since-reversed decision to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for calling to pause the judicial legislation amid growing unrest over the overhaul. The strike was called off the same day after Netanyahu agreed to pause the legislation to allow for negotiations with the opposition, which have since collapsed.
Following an emergency meeting last night, the Israeli Medical Association announces that any doctors choosing to participate in today’s protests may do so in coordination with their direct supervisors.
Also, any IMA member association or society may lead informational sessions in hospitals and other healthcare settings (in coordination with their administrations) on the effects of the removal of judicial reasonableness on the healthcare system, medicine, physicians and patients.
Staff at public hospitals and clinics plan to go on strike this week in protest of the judicial overhaul
The head of the Israeli Medical Association, Prof. Zion Hagay, said yesterday that the public health union, which represents about 95 percent of physicians in Israel, is prepared to work in “emergency mode” for a few hours this week.
The exact date of the strike has not yet been determined and will depend on the schedule of the legislative process in the Knesset.
Protesters against the overhaul have lowered the national flag to half staff outside the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Reservists have warned they will stop volunteering for duty if the coalition unilaterally passes laws to curtail the judiciary.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reportedly held an emergency meeting this week with IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and other top officers to discuss the possible fallout if military reservists — particularly pilots — stop showing up.
דגל המדינה, מתבייש ביואב גלנט, ירד לחצי התורן pic.twitter.com/rYxcL0R71q
— Yishay Szekely ישי סקלי (@Booms_Hakofets) July 18, 2023
Roads are now blocked at dozens of locations nationwide by protesters against the Netanyahu government’s plan to dramatically weaken the judiciary.
Hundreds of thousands are expected to protest nationwide over the course of the day as the coalition advances legislation to curtail judicial oversight on its decisions.
Netanyahu says the bill will be passed by the Knesset next week.
Police say two protesters against the judicial overhaul have been arrested on suspicion of public order offenses near Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael.
The two were part of a group blocking Route 2.
Police say the coastal road is now open again for traffic in both directions.
Protesters against the judicial overhaul block an entrance to the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The group from the Brothers and Sisters in Arms reservist group use plastic tubing on their arms to make it harder for law enforcement to remove them.
Many reservists — who are a key part of the army’s routine activities, including in top units — have been warning in recent months they will not be able to serve in what they charge will be an undemocratic Israel if the government’s overhaul plans are realized.
The calls to refuse to show up for reserve duty started roiling the military earlier this year as the judicial overhaul was first announced and as it advanced, growing in number even as they were condemned by senior politicians in both the opposition and the coalition.
Demonstrators against the judicial overhaul hold morning prayers outside the home of Likud MK Danny Danon.
The group gathers outside the Ra’anana residence for the daily Shaharit prayers.
Danon also serves as chair of World Likud.
Protesters block an entrance to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange before entering the building and protesting inside.
Opponents of the judicial overhaul charge the government’s contentious plan will cause massive economic damage to the country.
Leading economic thinkers have spoken out against the overhaul, while senior figures in the tech industry, a flagship of Israel’s economy, have played key roles in the protest movement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline coalition, including far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have dismissed the concerns.
כאלף מפגינים הגיעו מהצעדה לבורסה לניירות ערך בתל אביב וחוסמים את הכניסה. מבפנים: קבוצה של ״אחים לנשק״ נכנסו מבעוד מועד וככה זה נראה.. (צילום גיל לוין) pic.twitter.com/fCrQ8iVH02
— Anna Pines || אנה פינס (@AnnaPines_) July 18, 2023
Protesters against the judicial overhaul block Route 2, the key coastal highway, near Ma’agan Michael Kibbutz, north of Caesarea.
According to reports, demonstrators set off smoke flares.
Heavy traffic disruptions are expected throughout the country as protesters take to the streets to rally against the coalition’s plans to pass a bill to curtail judicial review of government decisions next week.
Protesters are also planning to mass at train stations in Tel Aviv and around the country Tuesday afternoon, disrupting commutes to pile pressure on the government and slow down legislation that will bar courts from using a reasonableness test to judge government decisions.
כביש החוף מעגן מיכאל כעת חסום pic.twitter.com/1fWWOrhkKZ
— לירי בורק שביט (@lirishavit) July 18, 2023
Protesters begin to gather in Lod, Haifa and Tel Aviv as part of a “day of resistance” against the judicial overhaul.
Demonstrators are set to meet at dozens of rallying points across the city, before marching to a number of key locations including the headquarters of the Histadrut labor federation and the Kaplan Street interchange, freshly renamed “Democracy Square.”
The rallies will likely challenge police, who have struggled to navigate between policies calling for proportional force to keep largely non-violent protesters in line and demands by hardline National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who oversees the force, that cops take a more aggressive approach to protesters blocking roads or other access points.
During rallies a week ago, police managed to mostly keep protesters from entering and blocking the Ayalon freeway, but were also criticized for what appeared to be heavy handed tactics against activists.
The Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest group made up of reservists kicks off a nationwide “day of resistance” against the judicial overhaul by hangings massive banners overnight at a number of key sites across the country.
A sign is hung on a statue of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, at the entrance to the coastal city of Herzliya reading, “This is not what I intended” and a banner hangs at the Hemed interchange reading, “[Defense Minister Yoav] Gallant is destroying the people’s army,” referring by the warnings from reservists that they will not volunteer for service if overhaul legislation is unilaterally pushed through the Knesset.
Protests are ramping up this week as the coalition is planning to convene the Knesset plenum on Sunday — a day it does not traditionally meet — to pass the so-called “reasonableness” bill into law before parliament recesses at the end of the month.
Critics say the legislation to curtail judicial oversight is part of the government’s attempt to shield itself and its decisions from review, enabling it to appoint unqualified or corrupt officials and oust technocrats it has deemed disloyal. Supporters of the move say it is necessary to correct the overreaching of unelected judges interfering with the decisions of a democratically elected government.
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