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As virus spikes, Shas leader intervenes to allow more people in synagogues

Aryeh Deri says if clubs can host 50 people than synagogues should be able to as well, reportedly urges shutting down beaches to counter limits on indoor wedding attendance

Ultra Orthodox Jewish men eschew masks while praying at a synagogue in Jerusalem on May 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra Orthodox Jewish men eschew masks while praying at a synagogue in Jerusalem on May 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Coronavirus cabinet to discuss further local lockdowns as daily cases rise

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz agree to convene the so-called coronavirus cabinet to discuss possible further lockdowns on cities with high infection rates and tighter restrictions on public gatherings.

According to the Ynet new site, ministers could vote to limit attendance at event halls, bars and restaurants to 50 people.

Addressing a phone conference of the cabinet Wednesday night, Netanyahu told ministers, “Numbers are rising and there is nothing on the horizon to stop them if we don’t act immediately with significant steps.”

Wednesday saw Israel’s highest single-day tally since the pandemic began, with 868 cases diagnosed in 24-hours.

Judge lifts ban on ‘tell-all’ book by Trump’s niece

An appeals court judge in New York lifts a temporary ban on the publication of a potentially explosive “tell-all” book by US President Donald Trump’s niece.

The ruling allows publisher Simon & Schuster to print and distribute the 240-page book by Mary Trump, who dubs the US president “the world’s most dangerous man.”

The cover of ‘Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,’ by Mary Trump. (Simon and Schuster)

The president’s brother, Robert Trump, had asked for the restraining order, arguing that Mary was violating a non-disclosure agreement signed in 2001 after the settlement over the estate of Fred Trump — the father of Donald and Robert and of Mary’s father Fred Trump Jr.

Judge Alan Scheinkman postponed addressing whether the author had violated the non-disclosure agreement preventing her from revealing family secrets by writing the book, titled “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

Nevertheless Simon & Schuster “is not a party to the agreement,” so the block of their publication of the book “is vacated,” he ruled.


US virus cases smash daily record as global infections soar

New daily coronavirus cases in the United States soar past 50,000 for the first time, as the World Health Organization delivers a grave warning that the global pandemic is accelerating.

With more than 52,000 new COVID-19 cases in the US alone in the past 24 hours, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, several US states imposed 14-day quarantines on visitors in the buildup to the long weekend’s July 4 celebrations.

Global infections have hit their highest level in the past week, WHO data shows, with chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying new cases topped “160,000 on every single day.”

— with AFP

Bennett: I’m not surprised annexation didn’t happen

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, a prominent annexation advocate, says he is not surprised that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to advance his plans to annex parts of the West Bank by yesterday’s self-imposed start date of July 1.

“I was not surprised that nothing happened in terms of annexation. The more talk there is, the less action,” Bennett tells Army Radio in an interview.

Netanyahu says he will continue talks on annexation with both US and Israeli officials in the coming days.

India virus count tops 600,000 amid recent surge

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in India tops 600,000, with health authorities reporting 19,148 new cases in the past 24 hours.

India’s virus tally currently stands at 604,641 infections, with 100,000 of those infections reported in the past four days.

India’s Health Ministry said the death toll from the virus is now 17,834 people.

The worst hit three states, including those home to the cities of Mumbai and New Delhi, account for more than 60% of the country’s cases.

— AP

Liberman says Home Front must lead virus response, tells Gantz to ‘take the reins’

Yisrael Beytenu leader slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that it “stems solely from political and electoral considerations,” and calling for control of the outbreak response to be transferred entirely to the IDF Home Front Command.

“In parallel with the leap in the number of coronavirus cases, we are seeing a leap in the number of bodies dealing with and discussing the issue… all announcements and briefings look more like an endless battle for credit and than a real fight against the virus,” Liberman writes on Facebook.

“All dealing with the spread of the disease and [publishing] information about it must pass to the Home Front Command. It is the only body that needs to coordinate the national struggle against the virus,” he says, citing examples of ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israeli communities which saw infection rates drop after the Home Front took control of them.

Liberman claims that “the prime minister’s insistence on retaining control and being the chief spokesman and briefer, with control in the hands of the National Security Council, stems solely from political and electoral considerations.”

The Yisrael Beytenu chief says that Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is responsible for the Home Front, must “take the reins in his hands, prove leadership and insist that all powers in dealing with  the coronavirus be transferred to the Home Front.”

Final vote result shows big majority for Putin reforms

Russians have overwhelmingly backed constitutional reforms that will allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his rule, the county’s Central Elections Commission saays, confirming the final result.

With all votes counted, the CEC says 77.92 percent of voters had backed the reforms, with turnout of about 65 percent.

Russians began voting last week on the package of constitutional changes proposed by Putin, including a reset of presidential term limits allowing him to run twice again after his current six-year term ends in 2024.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows his passport to a member of an election commission as he arrives to take part in voting at a polling station in Moscow, Russia, July 1, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Other amendments will strengthen presidential and parliamentary powers, enshrine traditional values including an effective ban on gay marriage and guarantee better minimum wages and pensions.

Leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny described early results showing Russians’ strong backing for the reforms as a “huge lie” that didn’t reflect reality.


Iran: ‘Incident’ damages building under construction near nuclear site

Iran’s nuclear spokesman says that an ‘incident’ has damaged an under-construction building near one of the county’s nuclear sites.

The spokesperson says that the centrifuge facility was undamaged.

Iranian ‘incident’ near Natanz nuclear site

Iranian nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi says the “incident” that has damaged an under-construction building took place near Iran’s Natanz nuclear site.

Iran reports no casualties in accident at ‘inactive’ nuclear site

Iran’s nuclear body says the “accident” that took place at a construction site in a nuclear complex caused no casualties and took place at an inactive site, state news agency IRNA reports.

“An accident occurred on Thursday morning and damaged a warehouse under construction in open space at the Natanz site” in central Iran, says Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation.

Kamalvandi is further quoted as saying that the complex is currently inactive and there is no risk of radioactive pollution.

The accident did not result in casualties, he added, noting that the cause was under investigation.

He did not give any details on the nature of the reported accident.

— with AFP

Israeli researchers develop more efficient, accurate antibody test — report

Israeli researchers have developed a highly accurate and efficient test for coronavirus antibodies that could greatly contribute to ongoing efforts to assess the extent of the virus spread among the population, Channel 13 news reports.

Antibody tests are seen as a key component in finding out who already had the disease in order to better understand its spread and shape policy ahead of a possible second outbreak.

Professors Ariel Munitz and Mordechay Gerlic of Tel Aviv University say the serological test they have produced can, from one blood sample, identify all three of the key antibodies that counter the virus.

It is apparently the first time that anyone has produced a single serological test that can spot all three of the antibodies, the report says. The test is very sensitive and accurate to around 98%-99%, the researchers claim, better than the current method being used in the country which is rated at between 95% and 98%.

Health Ministry: 966 new virus cases in last 24 hours

The Health Ministry records an increase of 966 new cases since yesterday morning, almost matching the record of the number of new daily cases in 24 hours.

Last night, 980 new cases had been recorded since the previous night.

There are now 8,647 active cases in Israel.

The ministry says the number of patients in serious condition is up to 59, one more than last night, and the number of people on ventilators has gone down by one to 24.

The death toll has gone up by three to 324.

Tokyo cases spike to highest number since May

The Japanese capital confirms 107 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest since early May, raising concern about a possible resurgence of the disease just as businesses return to normal.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, at a meeting with a panel of experts, says the infections are on the rise and extra caution is needed. Koike says many of the cases are linked to nightlife establishments, and urged workers to proactively take virus tests and further safety measures.

“We are now at a stage where we need to use caution against the spread of the infections,” she says.

Tokyo has asked hospitals to start securing up to 3,000 beds in case infections spread further. Up to 1,000 beds are currently set aside for coronavirus patients, officials say.

— AP

Bennett, taking harder line than government, tells public to stay away from grandma

Taking a harder line that the government limitations on gatherings, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett says that Israelis should refrain from visiting their grandparents in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to the elderly population.

“I am instructing you here: Do not meet grandparents in a closed apartment,” Bennett, who served as defense minister for the start of the coronavirus outbreak, says during an interview with Galei Yisrael radio.

“But that’s contrary to the Health Ministry guidelines,” says the interviewer.

“I’m now just giving my own instruction to listeners. Do what you want with it,” Bennett responds.

Bennett, who since joining the opposition has increasingly become a critic of the government’s response to the outbreak, yesterday set up what he called the “civilian coronavirus cabinet”  to “present ways of dealing with the economic and medical crisis, and assist with communicating information to the public, and recommendations for reducing the harm to the economy.”

Anti-corruption group petitions High Court to block tax break for PM

The Movement for Quality Government petitions the High Court to block the government’s recent controversial decision to hand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retroactive tax breaks for his and his family’s personal expenses.

“The decision is extremely unreasonable, as a retroactive and personal decision that violates the principle of equality, without any factual infrastructure and proper discussion, and in the absence of any justification,” the anti-corruption group writes in its petition.

The Knesset Finance Committee last week voted to approve retroactive tax benefits covering the cost of income tax Netanyahu owes due to upgrades to his vehicle, renovations at his private home in Caesarea, and other expenses dating back to 2009. They are worth an estimated NIS 1 million (some $270,000).

Social workers demonstrate across the country, threaten strike next week

Hundreds of social workers are demonstrating at dozens of junctions around the country in protest to what they say is an unreasonable workload, poor wages, and the constant danger of violence.

During the latest in a series of protest rallies, the social workers are reiterating their threat from earlier in the week to call a total strike of their services next Monday

Demonstrations are being held in various cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

In Tel Aviv dozens of social workers blocked the key Azrieli Junction in the city for about an hour. Israel Police said in a statement it was working to keep traffic flowing. There are no reports of arrests at any of the demonstrations.

Palestinian rivals Fatah, Hamas vow to ‘unite’ against Israeli annexations

Fatah Secretary General Jibril Rajoub and Hamas deputy chief Salah al-Arouri vow to “unite efforts” in fighting annexation, the two leaders say at a joint press conference today in Ramallah.

“We will support each other, because we’re in the same boat in confronting annexation,” Hamas deputy chief Salah al-Arouri says by videoconference from Beirut.

Rajoub says that the Fatah wants “to turn over a new leaf” with regard to national unity, and that the factions would talk about coordinating future actions against annexation in the West Bank.

“We are discussing unifying our common struggle on the ground,” Rajoub says.

Joint statements — let alone joint mass action — by the two main Palestinian factions have been rare since 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and expelled Fatah.

Many attempts have been made to mend the rift in Palestinian politics since then, including several rounds of talks in Cairo with Egyptian mediation, but none have been successful.

— Aaron Boxerman

Joint List leader at Fatah, Hamas conference: Reconciliation needed to fight annexation

Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh takes part in Ramallah in a virtual conference between leaders of the rival Fatah and Hamas factions calling to work together to oppose Israeli occupation plans.

“I’m taking part in the conference in Ramallah to support Palestinian reconciliation moves. Reconciliation between the factions is a necessary step in combating annexation, ending the occupation and achieving a just peace,” Odeh says in a statement.

“Continued rifts serve only those who wish to continue the occupation and the establishment of apartheid. Anyone who supports the two-state solution should also support reconciliation,” he says.

Likud slams Joint List leader for taking part in Fatah, Hamas conference

The Likud calls Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh’s participation in a joint Fatah, Hamas video conference a “new low.”

“This is the man Yair Lapid and [Moshe] Ya’alon wanted to form a government with. There is no limit to the shame,” the ruling party says in a statement.

Turkey seeks French apology over ‘false’ Mediterranean warships claim

Turkey’s foreign minister says that France should apologize for making “false claims” about a naval incident in the Mediterranean that has added to growing tensions between the NATO allies.

“When France makes false claims and works against Turkey, that should not be accepted,” Mevlut Cavusoglu tells reporters in Berlin.

“We expect France to apologize unconditionally,” he says, after Paris last month denounced an “extremely aggressive” intervention by Turkish ships against a French navy vessel participating in a NATO Mediterranean maritime security operation.


Protest signs removed from near Prime Minister’s Residence after complaints

The Jerusalem municipality and Israel Police are clearing away protest banners near to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem.

The action comes after a Boaz Golan, a staunchly pro-Netanyahu pundit who founded the fringe news site 0404, complained to the municipality that the banners were illegally posted on walls and security barriers in the area.

Israelis protest against government corruption and for democracy, outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Municipal officials handed out fines totaling NIS 475 to some protesters, the 0404 news site reports.

Reports on the site earlier in the week highlighted that anti-Netanyahu protesters had hung banners on barriers placed along the sidewalk by police and security staff at the residence.

Rejecting request, comptroller committee says it won’t weigh PM’s bid for legal funds

The Permits Committee at the State Comptroller’s Office says that it will not consider Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to receive funds from a foreign benefactor to pay for his legal defense in the corruption trial he faces.

Netanyahu had asked the oversight committee to allow an NIS 10 million ($2.9 million) donation from Spencer Partrich, a Michigan-based real estate magnate. Because Partrich also happens to be a witness in one of the cases, the committee had asked the attorney general for his opinion on the matter.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told the committee he opposed Netanyahu’s request, saying the donation was tantamount to an illicit gift.

In a letter sent to Netanyahu’s attorneys, committee secretary Eden Bizman says that “given the that the attorney general has ruled that the prime minister should not receive funding for his legal defense from Mr. Spencer Patridge, as a witness in the indictment, the amount requested, and considering the nature of the relationship between the prime minister and Mr. Partridge, the request does not meet the rules for receiving a gift in accordance with the Gift Law.”

The committee also says it will not renew discussions on a retroactive request for Netanyahu to receive some $300,000 in funds for legal fees from his cousin Nathan Milikowski.

Since the request was previously rejected by the committee, Netanyahu will have to pay back the funds to Milikowski.





Netanyahu takes part in international video conference on preventing virus 2nd wave

On the backdrop of an alarming increase in coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a videoconference of “first mover countries” to discuss a possible second wave, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says.

Together with the heads of government of the Czech Republic, Australia, Costa Rica, Norway and Greece, they discussed “how to deal with a possible second wave, containment-measures, tourism and cooperation in the field of vaccine development as well as economic support measures,” Kurz says.

— Raphael Ahren

Gantz approves call-up of 500 reservists to help battle resurgent coronavirus

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approves the call-up of 500 IDF reservists to help combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which many in Israel believe has entered a second wave.

The decision was made in light of fresh assessments about the pandemic and most of the troops will be used as staff at 10 coronavirus hotels the Defense Ministry plans on reopening to house people with light symptoms or who require quarantine, Gantz’s office says in a statement.

Defense Minister Gantz meets with senior defense officials on July 2, 2020 to discuss mobilization of reservists in wake of surge of CIVID-19 cases. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Woman found dead in apartment, husband said arrested

A woman in her 40s has been found dead in her apartment in the central city of Taybeh.

Police suspect foul play and have detained the woman’s husband for questioning, the Ynet news website reports.

A series of killings and violent assaults of women by their spouses or significant others in recent months has sparked calls for action by lawmakers and law enforcement authorities.

The killing would be the 12th so far this year in which a female victim’s partner is suspected.

Putin thanks Russian for passing reforms that let him extend rule

Russian President Vladimir Putin has thanked Russians after a nationwide vote approved controversial constitutional reforms that allow him to extend his rule until 2036.

“Thank you very much for your support and trust,” Putin says in televised remarks after an announcement from Russia’s election commission that nearly 78 percent of voters had supported the amendments to the basic law.

Putin reiterates that the amendments were necessary as they “improve the political system and fortify social guarantees” as well as “strengthen sovereignty.”

He makes no mention of the fact that the changes also reset his constitutional term limit, allowing him to stay in the Kremlin for 12 more years after his current term expires in 2024.


Official figures show job market crash in April

Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that the job market contracted by 27 percent from March to April, confirming the devastating effects of the nationwide lockdown.

The CBS says there were 2.6 million jobs in April, 1 million fewer than in March, when the government began to place restrictions on movement. It says the food and hospitality industry was the worst hit, contracting by over 75%.

In this March 28, 2020, photo, a cat walks in a closed food market during lockdown following government measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The numbers track with data from the National Insurance Institute, which reported over 1 million new unemployed during the lockdown.

The CBS says it expects May numbers to show an 80% rebound in employment figures.

The CBS also reports that the average wage rose sharply in April to NIS 12,498. It surmises that the leap was artificially caused by many low-paying jobs having left the marketplace over the month, driving the average up, but not actual wages.

Joint List’s Odeh backs Hamas-Fatah harmony after outcry

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh gives full throated-backing to Palestinian reconciliation efforts, following an outcry from Likud lawmakers over his participation in a Ramallah meeting of Fatah and Hamas officials.

At the meeting, senior figures from the rival Palestinian factions agreed to work together against annexation plans.

“Reconciliation between the factions is a necessary step in the battle against annexation, ending the occupation and delivering a just peace,” he says in a statement sent out by a spokesperson. “Continuing divisions serve only those who want the continuation of the occupation and the establishment of apartheid. Anyone supporting a two-state solution needs to support reconciliation.”

While Israeli lawmakers regularly visit Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority officials, contacts with the Hamas terror group are considered beyond the pale by many Israelis.

Netanyahu says ‘minimal necessary’ restrictions on the way

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will do the minimum needed to halt the spread of the virus, out of fear for damage to the economy.

“The cost of a mistake to health and the economy  can both be very bad. We’ll place the minimum restrictions necessary to stop the spread of the virus and preserve the economy,” he says.

He adds that anyone hurt by the moves will be compensated.

Likud MK says Joint List head should have to quarantine over Ramallah visit

A Likud lawmaker is asking the Knesset’s Sergeant at Arms to ban Joint List leader Ayman Odeh from the parliament building due to his to trip to Ramallah to attend a Palestinian interfactional meeting.

Keti Shitrit says Odeh should have to 14-day quarantine because he was in the Palestinian Authority, claiming that the Health Ministry’s own guidelines require that of anyone who visits the PA, though no such rule is spelled out or enforced.

She notes that Israel had told German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that he would need to quarantine for 14 days if he went to Ramallah and tried to re-enter Israel.

Palestinian workers and others regularly enter Israel without being required to quarantine for two weeks.


Epstein associate Maxwell arrested, FBI says

Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who was accused by many women of helping procure underage sex partners for Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday in New Hampshire, the FBI says.

In this photo from May 6, 2014 ,Ghislaine Maxwell attends the 2014 ETM (Education Through Music) Children’s Benefit Gala at Capital in New York City. (Rob Kim/Getty Images North America/AFP)

Maxwell, who lived for years with Epstein and was his frequent travel companion on trips around the world, was taken into custody around 8:30 a.m., says FBI spokesman Marty Feely.

An indictment made public Thursday says Maxwell “assisted, facilitated and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse ” girls under age 18.

Epstein killed himself in a federal detention center in New York last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell was accused by many women of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.

She has previously repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her “absolute rubbish.”

— AP

Butt out: Jordan extends smoking ban over COVID concerns

Jordan has extended a ban on cigarettes in closed public spaces to all forms of smoking, citing the fight against COVID-19 in a country with one of the world’s highest smoking rates.

“In order to protect the health and safety of citizens, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, smoking of all forms (cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and shisha) is banned in closed public places,” the health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization has long ranked Jordan’s 10 million inhabitants among the world’s biggest smokers.

The Guardian last month published figures showing that the kingdom had surpassed Indonesia to have the highest smoking rates in the world, with more than eight out of 10 men regularly smoking or otherwise consuming nicotine.

Citing the WHO, the health ministry said that “smokers and passive smokers are more vulnerable to being infected by COVID-19, with stronger symptoms”.

Jordan has registered 1,133 cases of the COVID-19 illness, including nine deaths.


Unknown group claims responsibility for Natanz fire

An unknown group calling itself The Cheetahs of the Homeland have claimed responsibility for a fire at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, according to the BBC’s Persian Service.

The news outlet says it received an email from the group claiming responsibility. The group says it chose Natanz because it has above-ground facilities, making it harder for Iranian authorities to hide the damage.

The Cheetahs, which claimed to be dissident members of Iran’s security forces, had never been heard of before by Iran experts and their claim cannot be immediately authenticated.

— with AP


Ministers summoned to ‘urgent’ meeting to approve virus restrictions

Ministers are being summoned for an cabinet meeting set to begin at 7 p.m., according to Hebrew media reports. The reports describe the meeting as “urgent.”

The meeting, which comes after a summit by the so-called coronavirus cabinet, is ostensibly to approve new restrictions on gatherings in the wake of mounting coronavirus cases.

Reports have indicated that ministers may approve capping gatherings at 50 attendees and synagogue attendance at 20 worshipers.

The cabinet meeting itself may near that 50-person limit, given the 34-minister cabinet and various support staff that may be there as well.

Gantz campaigns for Defense Ministry to take over anti-pandemic operations

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is pushing for the military to be given the lion’s share of responsibility for any operational aspects of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Home Front Command is a system that was created to act in situations just like what we are in,” he told other ministers in the coronavirus cabinet, according to a statement from his office. “We demand moving to a model in which decisions are made by the cabinet, the Health Ministry sets regulations and the Defense Ministry is the operational actor.”

His predecessor Naftali Bennett had also lobbied for the Defense Ministry to be given more responsibility, to little avail. On Thursday, Bennett, now in the opposition, set up an alternative “civilian coronavirus cabinet,” made up of non-government officials.

Gantz also pushes for a special certification system to be created for event halls, which currently operate under the same regulations as other businesses. Large events have been fingered as a possible major cause of the rise in new infections.

Report: Ministers agree to limit most gatherings to 20 people

Ministers in the coronavirus cabinet have agreed on limiting gatherings, including prayer meetings, to 20 people maximum, according to the Ynet news site.

Special events would be allowed to have up to 50 people.

Ministers remain split over new limits on the number of people in bars and restaurants, according to the report.

Insuretech firm Lemonade swiftly doubles in price after IPO

Israel-founded insurance unicorn Lemonade has begun trading on the New York Stock exchange and is finding itself a darling among investors, swiftly jumping to $66 a share from its initial offering of $29.

The firm, founded in 2015, says it seeks to revolutionize the way homes are insured by moving all of its activities online and using artificial intelligence to match customers with policies.

The market valuation of the IPO was less than the $2.1 billion the firm was valued at last year, after it raised $300 million in a private funding round led by Japan’s SoftBank, which owns a 27.3% stake in Lemonade.

The stock is currently at $64.31.

Netanyahu threatens Gantz with elections during stormy virus summit — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again threatened his coalition partners with dissolving the government and calling new elections, after Benny Gantz demanded that the Defense Ministry be given a bigger role in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

“I understand exactly what’s happening here. It’s politics. If this continues like this, it will only lead to one place,” he says, according to Kan.

According to the report, a fuming Netanyahu then ended the meeting and summoned all ministers to a meeting to approve restrictions.

Netanyahu and his nameless “associates” have threatened Gantz with elections on several occasions, knowing that polls show Likud sweeping to victory and Blue and White sinking.

Netanyahu, Edelstein to address nation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will give a televised statement at 8:30 p.m., likely to announce new coronavirus restrictions.

The press conferences were once a near-daily occurrence during the height of the crisis, but have since faded away.

Edelstein says Gantz ‘playing politics,’ not helping

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is reportedly also fuming at Defense Minister Benny Gantz for having the gall to send out a statement from his ministry laying out his demand that they be given more responsibility to deal with the crisis.

“When I see statements about the need to transfer powers from the Health Ministry, in my book that’s not called lending a hand. That’s called politics at the expense of Israeli citizens,” he says, according to unsourced reports carried in the Hebrew language media.

Iran threatens Israel and the US after enigmatic fire at nuclear site

Iran is threatening Israel after a fire at the Natanz nuclear facility, the latest unexplained accident to strike the regime in recent weeks.

An editorial in state news agency IRNA warns that “if there are signs of hostile countries crossing Iran’s red lines in any way, especially the Zionist regime and the United States, Iran’s strategy to confront the new situation must be fundamentally reconsidered.”

A building Iran claims was damaged by a fire at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, on July 2, 2020. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies and former Iran analyst for the prime minister’s office, says he does not know if there is an active sabotage campaign targeting Tehran. However, he says the series of explosions in Iran feel like “more than a coincidence.”

“Theoretically speaking, Israel, the US and others have an interest to stop this Iran nuclear clock or at least show Iran there’s a price in going that way,” he says. “If Iran won’t stop, we might see more accidents in Iran.”

— Agencies

Infection tally update delayed

The Health Ministry has yet to send out updated infection numbers for Thursday evening. The ministry generally sends out figures three times a day, at 11 a.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

It is not clear if the delay is tied to an upcoming televised address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, set to begin any minute.

US virus tally continues to shatter records

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US has climbed to an all-time high of more than 50,000 per day, with the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states, in a reversal that has largely spared only the Northeast.

In yet another alarming indicator, 36 states are seeing a rise in the percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the virus.

The surge has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or following other social distancing rules as states lifted their lockdowns over the past few weeks.

The US recorded 50,700 new cases, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. That represents a doubling of the daily total over the past month and is higher even than what the country witnessed during the deadliest phase of the crisis in April and May.

— AP

Netanyahu announces financial package, says searching for balance

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a televised address, saying that “the virus is still here, in a big way.”

He says he is concerned with keeping the economy going, but says it needs to be done with respect for the virus, comparing his policy to an accordion, soemtimes being opened and closed.

“We are always looking for the balance between the virus and the economy,” he says.

He announces a six-month financial rescue package to help businesses hurt by the virus closures and keep them from having to worry about a safety net, and promises he’ll make sure the money comes quickly.

PM predicts tens of thousands of infections if changes not made

Netanyahu says the challenge is not simple and “the battle will take time.”

“At the current pace, what seems reasonable now will turn into tens of thousands of infections. We cannot get to there,” he says.

Answering a reporter’s question, he says Israel is working on getting test results back to people within 24 hours.



Edelstein: Contact tracing efforts ‘not ideal’

Prime Minister Netanyahu says that he’s working on legislation that will cut the bureaucracy needed to enact more restrictions.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also speaks, saying that the numbers are “very worrying.”

He says there have been 10 new serious cases today, though his ministry has yet to release new infection tallies.

‘The situation is not ideal,” he says of contact tracing efforts, adding that students are being enlisted to help out, but there will never be enough people.

Netanyahu announces limits on closed places, says serious cases rising

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that there has been a 50 percent rise in serious COVID-19 cases since the start of the week, pushing back against those who say there are not many serious cases.

‘We need to return to restrictive policies in order to flatten the curve,” he says, adding that it’s easier to do nothing, but they cannot be idle.

He says event halls, bars and clubs will be limited to 50 people inside, other gatherings will be limited to 20 people.

“The biggest infection vector comes from gatherings in closed places,” he says.

Health minister: Wear masks, it allows us to keep economy open

Yuli Edelstein says people cannot slacken on masks, on social distancing and on hygiene, because they allow the government to keep the economy relatively open.

He says his ministry won’t tell grandparents not to see their families, but people need to take responsibility themselves.

Minister: I voted for restrictions because I was afraid to speak — report

An unnamed minister says they voted in favor of new virus restrictions out of exhaustion and fear of speaking up, Kan reporter Michael Shemesh reports.

According to Shemesh, PM Netanyahu was annoyed during a meeting today. and wanted ministers to vote on all new restrictions in one go; but at the last minute, Finance Minister Israel Katz objected to restaurants being included, and managed to have them removed from the new rules.

Channel 12 news reports that during the meeting Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that if wedding halls will be restricted to 50 people each, then all beaches in the country must be shut down. “How can you explain to people that you can’t get married, but other people can go to the beach?” he asked, according to the report.


Event hall owners steamed up over new restrictions

Event hall owners are saying that new restrictions will deal a death blow to their industry and are demanding compensation, Channel 12 news reports.

“This means the closure of our sector,” a spokesperson for the association of event hall owners says, according to the channel. “After months of barely holding on, this is a death blow to the events industry. We are demanding of the government — You closed us? Compensate. No more long-term plans. No more promises and committees. We demand money in our pockets that will save the industry’s 150,000 workers from disaster.”

Shas leader says he made sure synagogues can keep packing them in

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) says he intervened to make sure that synagogues can still host up to 50 people, just like event halls, bars and clubs.

According to a statement from his office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Aryeh Deri had sought to limit attendance to 20 people only, but Deri canceled the evil decree.

Ultra Orthodox Jewish men eschew masks while praying at a synagogue in Jerusalem on May 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“It can’t be that restaurants, bars and clubs, where the danger is larger several times over, can host 50 people and synagogues can only have 20. In clubs they don’t keep distances and nobody wears masks,” says Deri, who apparently frequents dance clubs. “In synagogues there’s no eating, no dancing and worshipers are careful about wearing masks, social distancing and keeping all the rules. And that’s who they wanted to limit to 20 people.”

Government lays out new restrictions

The Health Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office send out a statement laying out the new coronavirus restrictions, set to go into effect on Friday at 8 a.m.

The rules limit attendance at halls, bars, clubs and synagogues to 50 people.

Other gatherings in closed spaces are limited to 20 people.

They also announce increased enforcement of the rules on gatherings, and say ministers voted to support economic help for affected populations.

The rules must still be voted on by the Knesset’s coronavirus committee.

Natanz fire caused by explosive placed inside building — intel official

The New York Times quotes an intelligence official from somewhere in the Middle East who says a fire at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was caused by a bomb placed inside the building.

According to the official, who is not named, the explosion destroyed parts of the site above ground where new centrifuges had been balanced before being put into service.

Bolton to Israeli TV: Trump may embrace Iran if re-elected

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 13, former US National Security Adviser says Israelis should be worried about US President Donald Trump winning a second term in office.

Bolton expresses concerns that Trump could shift policies and end up trying to grow close to Iran’s ayatollah regime, much as he did with North Korea, and just end up getting played.

Bolton, an outspoken proponent of regime change and military action against Iran, says Israel should not count on Trump — or Biden — backing it if it attacks Iran to stop its nuclear program.

John Bolton in Washington on September 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

He surmises Trump may pull support for West Bank annexation depending on how he is doing in the polls.

“If the government of Israel decided to go ahead on annexation without a statement by the US one way or the other, that is in my view the way they should go,” he says.

And he expresses doubt in the administration’s ability to foster any sort of meaningful peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s not going to happen. It’s certainly not going to happen in the next four months,” he says. “If Trump is reelected what will he do then. Maybe he’ll just turn away from it because he wants the trade deal with China, and you can only do so many greatest deals in the history of the world in one administration.”

New Orleans study finds three in four virus carriers show no symptoms

A study of New Orleans area residents infected with the coronavirus indicates 75 percent had no symptoms.

The study by researchers at New Orleans-based Ochsner Health was done in May. It looked at testing of residents in New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish. The study indicated a death rate among those infected of 1.63%, much more deadly than the flu.

Researchers selected 2,640 people, representing varied demographic groups from Orleans and Jefferson, from among 25,000 volunteers. They received nasal swab tests for the virus and blood tests for antibodies.

Another finding in the study: Infection rates were higher among Black residents (10.3%) than white residents (5.9%). The death rates of 1.72% and 1.58%, respectively, were not considered statistically significant.

Ochsner’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Hart, says the study demonstrated the need for masking and social distancing as the virus shows signs of resurgence in Louisiana and around the country.

“We need to assume that we could all potentially be carriers,” Hart says.

— AP

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