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Outrage at Likud MK Kisch for issuing a direct threat to oust AG

MK said that if Baharav-Miara okays IDF chief’s appointment during election season, future Netanyahu government will fire her; Knesset speaker: ‘We can’t allow this in a democracy’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Likud MK Yoav Kisch chairs a Knesset Interior Affairs Committee meeting on July 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Yoav Kisch chairs a Knesset Interior Affairs Committee meeting on July 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

AG said leaning toward allowing caretaker government to appoint next IDF chief

Several reports indicate that Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara is leaning toward accepting Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s request, green-lighting the appointment of the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff during a caretaker government.

Likud MK Yoav Kisch has caused an uproar by threatening to oust Baharav-Miara if she okays the appointment during an election campaign, and if his party rises again to power.

Channels 12 and 13 both report that Baharav-Miara is nevertheless expected to approve Gantz’s request in the coming days, with Channel 13 quoting anonymous judicial sources saying the attorney general “won’t be deterred by threats.”

Shark confirmed to have killed 2nd tourist in Egypt’s Red Sea

A second tourist, a Romanian citizen, has been killed in a shark attack in recent days off the coast of Egypt, Egypt’s environment ministry and Romania’s foreign ministry say. This is in addition to an Austrian tourist whose death was reported on Friday.

“Two women were attacked by a shark while swimming” in the Sahl Hasheesh area south of Hurghada on the Red Sea, the Egyptian ministry says on Facebook, reporting that both died.

Citing information received from Egyptian authorities, Romania’s foreign ministry confirms to AFP “the death of a Romanian citizen,” which “appeared” to have been caused by a “shark attack” off Hurghada.

Bennett said to have sought ex-PM conditions despite not being eligible

Naftali Bennett reportedly sought to receive financial conditions reserved for former prime ministers even though they are not available to those who served in the position for less than 18 months, but his successor as premier Yair Lapid refused.

The benefits include a driver, a two-person team, budget for an office, security, income tax exemption and burial at the Great Leaders of the Nation section of Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery.

Bennett had already drafted a request to change the law so that the benefits will be available to prime ministers who served 12 months, Channel 12 reports, adding that Lapid refused because it would be a law aimed at benefiting a specific individual. Bennett subsequently nixed his plan to file the request.

Bennett’s office says he canceled his request because he already has an office as alternate prime minister.

Lapid’s office merely comments that the ties between him and Bennett are good and that they are continuing to work together.

Ukrainian army announces retreat from Lysychansk

The Ukrainian army says its soldiers have retreated from the strategic eastern city of Lysychansk after weeks of fierce fighting with Russian troops.

“In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw,” the army says in a statement, pointing to Russia’s superiority in numbers and equipment.

Shots fired in Copenhagen mall, several victims — police

Gunfire in a Copenhagen mall has left several victims, Danish police say.

Police reinforcements have been deployed around the large Field’s mall between the city center and the airport, a Copenhagen police account writes on Twitter.

“We’re on the scene, shots were fired, and several people have been hit,” they say.

Final IDF probe finds rotor malfunction caused fatal chopper crash in January

The Israel Defense Forces publishes its final findings into a deadly helicopter crash in January.

On January 3, an AS565 Panther helicopter — known in the IAF as an “Atalef,” or bat — crashed just off the coast of the northern city of Haifa. The two pilots, Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani and Maj. Chen Fogel, were killed and a third officer on board, Cpt. Ron Birman, managed to jump out and was rescued with relatively minor injuries.

The final report is nearly identical to interim findings published by the army just one month after the crash.

According to the investigation, the malfunction was a result of corrosion that maintenance failed to identify, as the part in question is located well within the motor and is not part of the routine checks recommended by the manufacturer, France-based Airbus Helicopters.

This malfunction sparked a fire and led to the aircraft striking the water forcefully.

Sachyani and Fogel were calm and in control during the malfunction and handled themselves relatively well, the investigation finds, though it says they did not fully follow protocol in attempting to extinguish the fire.

The final findings of the probe have been presented to Sachyani’s and Fogel’s families, the military says.

“An in-depth, professional, and thorough investigation was conducted here,” IDF chief Aviv Kohavi says. “We lost two of our best pilots in this accident. Our task now is to study the conclusions and lessons learned, and prevent the next accident.”

‘We can’t allow it’: Knesset speaker slams Likud MK Kisch over threat to AG

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy castigates Likud MK Yoav Kisch over the latter’s remark that if his party wins the upcoming election, the government would fire Attorney General Gali Bahrav-Miara — or would do so if she approved the appointment of a new IDF chief of staff. Defense Minister Benny Gantz today requested permission to make the appointment, a move not normally made by a caretaker government, citing classified information that necessitates it.

“It is very severe that a lawmaker is threatening the attorney general in such a direct manner,” says Levy, of the coalition’s Yesh Atid party. “This is an unbearable situation that we can’t allow in a democracy. One can argue and disagree with positions of legal advisers, but there is a way to conduct the debate and this isn’t one of them.”

Levy urges Kisch to “take back his remark.”

Zelensky denies Lysychansk region is under Russian control

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denies Moscow’s claim that Russian troops have captured Ukraine’s strategic eastern city of Lysychansk.

“We cannot say today that Lysychansk is under [Russian] control. There is fighting on the outskirts,” Zelensky says at a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Zelensky warns, however, of “risks” that the Luhansk region, where Lysychansk has been the last major city in Ukrainian hands, “will be completely occupied” by Moscow.

Shaked slams High Court ruling on Ukraine refugees: ‘We can’t allow unlimited entry’

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked criticizes the High Court decision that struck down the cap she had imposed on the entry of non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees, calling a Knesset Internal Affairs Committee meeting on the matter.

In a statement, Shaked argues that her policy has been “proven to be a success,” enabling relatives of Israelis to arrive and work, while “preventing an unprecedented flooding [of refugees].”

“In recent weeks, thanks to this system, more Ukrainians are leaving the country than arriving,” she adds.

“Unfortunately, the High Court has ruled, practicing extraordinary judicial activism, that this system will be halted if it isn’t discussed in the Knesset.

“It is clear that we can’t allow the unlimited entry of foreign citizens, while we don’t know whether and when they are going to exit,” she says, adding that she has called a committee meeting to discuss the regulations on the matter.

In first, National Security Council report blasts lack of women in decision-making roles

The National Security Council has for the first time put together a report criticizing the lack of women in decision-making roles, particularly positions related to emergencies, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, Zman Yisrael, reports.

The 60-page document, handed in recent days to National Security adviser Eyal Hulata, recommends passing legislation guaranteeing a female representation of at least 33 percent in the high-level security cabinet and the ministerial committee on the coronavirus pandemic.

It also recommends turning the ministerial committee on gender equality into a permanent committee.

“A lack of attentiveness and awareness of gender issues is leading to severe and disproportionate harm to women in Israel,” the report says.

Its drafting was prompted by the lack of women in Israel’s initial decision-making panel on the coronavirus pandemic shortly after it reached Israel. The first such team put together by the National Security Council in April 2020 included 29 men and only two women, sparking an outcry that led to the inclusion of more women later.

Israel to loosen some restrictions on Palestinian entry during next week’s Eid

The Israeli military body that regulates Palestinians’ movement into Israeli territory announces that some restrictions on Palestinian travel will be loosened during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, widely known by its acronym COGAT, says its office has approved the measures. Eid al-Adha, held this year on July 9-13, is one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar and is traditionally accompanied by large family gatherings.

“We emphasize that the issuance of all the permits, both for residents of the Judea and Samaria area and residents of the Gaza Strip, will be subject to security evaluations,” COGAT says, using the biblical name for the West Bank that is commonly used in Israel.

West Bank Palestinians will be allowed special permission to visit family members in Israel. Some 500 Palestinians will be allowed to fly out of Ben Gurion Airport, while another 200 will be allowed to visit the southern city of Eilat.

Tighter restrictions will remain on the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Hamas terror group. The coastal enclave has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt since Hamas took over in a coup some 15 years ago.

Nonetheless, 400 Palestinians from Gaza will receive the prized permits to visit Jerusalem during the sacred festival. Only men over the age of 55 and women over the age of 50 are eligible, COGAT says.

Israel will permit another 500 Palestinians from Gaza to visit family inside Israel and the West Bank, according to COGAT.

Glacier collapses in Italian Alps, killing at least 5 hikers

An avalanche sparked by the collapse of a glacier in the northern Italian Alps has killed at least five people and injured eight others, an emergency services spokeswoman says.

“Unfortunately, five people were found lifeless,” Michela Canova tells AFP, saying that the eight injured “remain a provisional count.”

The glacier collapsed on the mountain of Marmolada, the highest in the Italian Dolomites.

Likud MK threatens AG with ouster if she okays tapping new IDF chief during election

Likud MK Yoav Kisch issues a direct threat to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, saying that if she approves Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s request to appoint the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff during election season, she will be “immediately replaced” if his opposition party ends up forming the next government.

“The direct ramification [of such a move] would be to her and her status,” Kisch says in a statement.

Gantz has presented Baharav-Miara with a legal opinion saying making the appointment during a caretaker government — an unusual move — is justified, backing it up with what he says is classified information.

Man arrested for repeatedly raping stepdaughter with her mother’s approval

A man in his 40s from the central town of Ramle has been arrested for allegedly repeatedly raping his young stepdaughter with her mother’s approval, police say.

The mother, also in her 40s, has also been detained over the alleged sexual abuse, which occurred over a period of several years.

According to police, the couple tracked the 13-year-old’s menstrual cycle in order to get her pregnant.

Police say they launched an investigation after receiving a report from welfare authorities. The Walla news site says the case reached welfare officials through the school counselor after the girl told her school friends about being raped, and they persuaded her to tell the counselor.

Walla reports that the girl’s mental condition is “grave” and that she is now hospitalized at a mental health institution.

Ben-Gurion airport director Shmuel Zakai quitting after 12 years

Shmuel Zakai, the director of Ben-Gurion Internal Airport, asks to leave the position, which he has held for the past 12 years.

The request comes as the aviation industry in Israel and around the world struggles to cope with the large number of passengers following two years of COVID-related restrictions. The increase in travelers has far outpaced employee recruitment, which is particularly low after most workers were laid off during the pandemic.

Gantz argues appointing IDF chief during election season is justified but reason is classified

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is pushing ahead with his attempt to appoint the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff despite the fact that it’s now an election season.

Permanent appointments of senior officials — such as chief of police or the military — are not traditionally made during the terms of caretaker governments, and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara has said Gantz would need to present an “essential need” to justify the appointment.

Gantz’s office says a legal opinion formulated by the defense establishment’s attorney general has been sent to Baharav-Miara, in which Itai Ofir argues that it is possible to continue the process of appointing the next IDF chief of staff even during the election season.

Gantz’s office says the legal opinion is accompanied by a classified IDF operational summary and a classified political summary “regarding the security and political challenges Israel is currently facing.”

Israeli political parties owe Knesset over $47 million for unreturned election loans

Israeli political parties owe the Knesset a total of more than NIS 167 million ($47 million) for unreturned election campaign loans, and that figure will soon rise further, according to an investigation by The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, Zman Yisrael.

The investigation finds that as of June 21, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud has the biggest debt, at some NIS 50 million ($14 million). Benny Gantz’s Blue and White has the biggest debt relative to its size: NIS 18.5 million (over $5 million).

Both those parties, along with Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, exceed the legal limit on debts for this kind of loan.

In the case of many parties, the debts originate in loans taken before election campaigns held as far back as 2015.

As new elections are underway, the debts are expected to grow further as several parties have already filed requests for new loans.

Kahana tells Shaked he’s not splitting from Yamina, but demands right to do so in future

Senior Yamina politician MK Matan Kahana is willing to remain in the party for the time being on condition that he be allowed to split away from the party and receive his election funding allocation sometime in the future, should he so decide.

Kahana, the deputy religious services minister, met today with Yamina’s new leader, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, and stated that he does not intend to break away from the party in the coming days, according to a statement from his office.

Kahana asks Shaked, however, that she guarantee today that he will be able to split away from Yamina by himself and receive the election funds up to the deadline day for submitting party candidate lists to run in the election, which is September 15, according to a political source.

The Yamina party states in response that discussions are ongoing on the issue.

Today at midnight is the deadline for new factions to break away from existing parties and be eligible for election campaign funding, amounting to NIS 1.6 million ($450,000) per sitting MK.

In tactical maneuver, MK Ben-Gvir asks to split from Smotrich’s Religious Zionism

In a tactical move, Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir submits a request with the Central Election Committee to split his extremist Otzma Yehudit faction from the far-right party.

Ben-Gvir heads the Otzma Yehudit faction, one of several that form Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism.

Formally splitting doesn’t mean Ben-Gvir is breaking that alliance. Rather, it is aimed at increasing the party’s representation in the Central Election Committee and securing more campaign funding.

Palestinians say teenager shot yesterday by IDF has died of his wounds

A teenage Palestinian shot yesterday by Israeli soldiers during clashes in Jenin has died of his wounds, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry reports.

Palestinian health officials identify the deceased Palestinian as 17-year-old Kamel Abdullah Alawneh, adding that he was shot in the stomach and hand.

The Israeli army says it is looking into the reports.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Shai welcomes court ruling on Ukraine refugees

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai welcomes the High Court decision to nix the cap on Ukrainian refugees entering Israel, highlighting the ideological gaps within the diverse government that fell apart last month.

“The decision of the High Court of Justice to allow the unlimited entry of Ukrainian refugees embodies our moral duty as a Jewish nation and state,” says Shai, from the left-wing Labor party, expressing a starkly different view from that of right-wing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who had led the policy now struck down by the court.

“From the very beginning, I have fought to allow the entry of Ukrainian refugees without… bureaucratic barriers. I welcome this decision made in favor of humanity and in line with our ethos as a people,” Shai adds.

Maverick far-right Feiglin announces political comeback, will run in Likud primaries

Former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, known for his extremist views, announces that he will seek a spot on the party’s electoral slate in the upcoming elections, returning to the party after attempting — and failing — to enter the parliament with a party of his own.

In a statement, Feiglin says he is running in the Likud primaries — expected in mid-August — to ensure Israel remains “a Jewish majority state.”

“A year ago, when the biggest election fraud in our history robbed the Jewish state of the Jewish majority and established a government of all its citizens, Israel actually became an all-Arab state and entered a deep crisis in all areas of our lives,” he says, referring to Naftali Bennett’s decision to form an ideologically diverse coalition that included the Islamist Ra’am party, which fell apart last month.

“When the extent of the disaster became clear, I decided that the time had come to unite forces, and, precisely in this difficult time, return to Likud, strengthen the Jewish majority and return our Jewish state to us,” Feiglin says.

Feiglin represented Likud in the Knesset between 2013 and 2015, until he was pushed out for his maverick attitude and extreme positions, eventually forming the right-wing libertarian Zehut party. Zehut was poised to be the surprise of the elections in April 2019 but ended up failing in that vote and withdrawing from the September one. The party did not run in the 2020 or 2021 elections, saying it would continue operating and promoting its agenda outside the political arena.

Zehut and Feiglin advocated far-right nationalism combined with small-government libertarianism, and drew support from an eclectic mix of voters ranging from far-right settlement yeshiva students to pot legalization advocates in left-leaning Tel Aviv. It advocated annexing the West Bank and retaking Gaza, alongside the virtual dismantling of the state rabbinate and other Orthodox-controlled state religious services, and the total legalization of pot, including for recreational use.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Feiglin repeatedly expressed anti-vaccination views during Knesset Health Committee meetings he is still allowed to attend as a former MK. He has also participated in anti-vax protests and is considered a popular figure among activists in Israel.

Zelensky welcomes Israeli court order to remove quota on Ukrainian refugees’ entry

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hails the High Court decision to remove Israel’s quota on the entry of Ukrainian refugees.

The court has struck down a government decision to restrict the number of non-Jewish refugees fleeing the Russian war to just 5,000.

“The rule of law and respect for human rights is exactly what distinguishes a true, developed democracy!” Zelensky tweets.

Lapid invites Netanyahu for security briefing as the 2 haggle over procedure

Prime Minister Yair Lapid formally invited opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu to a routine security briefing, in the continuation of haggling about the matter.

Lapid invites his rival in the upcoming Knesset elections to a meeting along with his military secretary, Avi Gil.

During a phone call Friday between Lapid and Netanyahu, the two split over how the opposition leader would receive the updates on Israel’s security situations. Lapid’s spokesperson said the prime minister invited Netanyahu to “come, as is accepted, for a security briefing in [Lapid’s] office with the military secretary.” But according to Netanyahu’s spokesperson, the opposition head responded that he wanted to get the legally mandated security updates from Lapid’s military secretary, but without Lapid being present, “in order to prevent the security briefing from turning into a political tool ahead of elections.”

Netanyahu’s apparent concern is not to be seen, and possibly photographed, being briefed by the prime minister he is seeking to defeat.

While the opposition leader is required by law to receive security updates from the prime minister, Netanyahu refused to comply over the past year, as he regularly argued against Naftali Bennett’s legitimacy as premier. Instead, he received the updates from Bennett’s military secretary Avi Gil, managing to avoid being photographed while receiving a briefing from his political rival.

Lapid appoints Lior Haiat as head of Israel’s Public Diplomacy Directorate

Prime Minister Yair Lapid announces the appointment of Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat as the next head of the Prime Minister’s Office’s Public Diplomacy Directorate.

Haiat will replace Elad Tene, who served in the role for the past year.

Former Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon will resume his position and replace Haiat.

Schedule set for upcoming Knesset elections

The Central Elections Committee releases its schedule, 121 days ahead of the November 1 election date for the 25th Knesset.

Among the notable dates, parties must submit their finalized candidate lists by September 15, 47 days before Israelis head to the polls.

Fourteen days before the election, on October 18, parties will be officially allocated television and radio airtime for media blitzes.

As Israel’s paper ballots are hand-counted, final results will be expected within 8 days, by November 9.

Russia claims full control of Ukraine’s Lysychansk, entire Luhansk region

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, says Moscow’s forces have taken the strategic Ukrainian city of Lysychansk and now control the entire region of Luhansk, which has been the target of fierce battles in recent weeks.

“Sergei Shoigu has informed the commander in chief of the Russian armed forces, Vladimir Putin, of the liberation of the People’s Republic of Luhansk,” the defense ministry says in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

Russian forces and their separatist allies have taken “full control of Lysychansk and other nearby towns, notably Belogorovka, Novodruzhesk, Maloryazantseve and Bila Hora,” the statement says.

AFP has been unable to verify the information from independent sources.

A few minutes prior to the announcement, a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said that fighting was ongoing in Lysychansk and that Ukrainian forces were “completely” surrounded.

The regional governor of Luhansk, Sergiy Gaiday, said on Telegram earlier today that “the Russians are reinforcing their positions in the Lysychansk region. The city is on fire.”

In blow to Shaked, High Court nixes limit on Ukrainian refugees to be let in

In a blow to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the High Court of Justice cancels the cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees Israel will accept following the Russian invasion.

Shaked has limited the number of Ukrainians Israel will accept to just 5,000 — not including those with close family relations to Israelis and those eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return, which grants citizenship to Jews or those with a Jewish parent or grandparent.

Tomer Warsha, a private lawyer, filed the High Court petition with the support of Kyiv’s Embassy in Israel. The state argued that the cap had been set under Israel’s emergency laws, that it feared many Ukrainians would remain in the country for many years, and that Warsha had no legal standing to file the petition since the policy didn’t affect him personally.

Chief Justice Esther Hayut and justices Uzi Vogelman and Yitzhak Amit accept the petition, rejecting all of the state’s arguments.

They rule that since the population affected by the policy isn’t in Israel, accepting that the plaintiff has no legal standing would give the policy de facto immunity from judicial oversight.

They refute the state’s fear of refugees staying for long periods of time by citing a statistic that since the invasion, 4,409 Ukrainians who were granted access have already left Israel.

And they say that the regulations used by the government don’t differentiate between normal times and times of emergency.

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