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Amid EU energy talks, Israeli minister heads to Cairo for regional gas forum

Karine Elharrar departs for EMGF meeting hours after holding talks with visiting EU president on potential of piping Israel’s natural gas to Europe via Egypt

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar during a meeting of the Arrangements Committee at the Knesset on June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Energy Minister Karine Elharrar during a meeting of the Arrangements Committee at the Knesset on June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Florida synagogue sues state over its abortion restrictions on religious grounds

Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights outside the Orlando City Hall in Florida, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights outside the Orlando City Hall in Florida, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

A new Florida law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks with some exceptions violates the religious freedom rights of Jews in addition to the state constitution’s privacy protections, a synagogue claims in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed by the Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor of Boynton Beach contends that the law that takes effect July 1 violates Jewish teachings, which state abortion “is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman” and for other reasons.

“As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” says the lawsuit, filed last week in Leon County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit adds that people who “do not share the religious views reflected in the act will suffer” and that it “threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions upon Jews.”

Ukraine says it has only received 10% of weapons pledged by West

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a village near the frontline in the Donetsk oblast region, eastern Ukraine, June 2, 2022. (Bernat Armangue/AP)
A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a village near the frontline in the Donetsk oblast region, eastern Ukraine, June 2, 2022. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Ukraine has received just 10 percent of the weapons pledged by the West to help Kyiv to fight off the Russian offensive, the deputy defense minister says.

“From what we said we need, we got about 10%,” Anna Malyar says in televised remarks, saying the West should speed up its delivery schedule. “No matter how hard Ukraine tries, no matter how professional our army is, without the help of Western partners we will not be able to win this war.”

There should be “a clear timeframe” for such deliveries as every delay costs Ukraine dearly and risks more territory falling into Russian hands, she says.

“We need to know clear deadlines because every day there’s a delay, we’re talking about the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians,” she adds. “We can’t wait very long, because the situation is very complicated,” she says, referring to the creeping Russian advance in Donbas, where Moscow’s forces are poised to take over the entire Lugansk region.

After Turkey travel warning, PM says Israel will protect citizens ‘around the world’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem in memory of the Israeli soldiers who were killed in the First Lebanon War, June 14, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem in memory of the Israeli soldiers who were killed in the First Lebanon War, June 14, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Israeli security forces will operate anywhere in the world to protect its citizens.

“At this very moment, we are witnessing attempts to harm Israelis at different places around the world,” says Bennett at a ceremony commemorating IDF soldiers who died during the First Lebanon War.

The prime minister is referencing ongoing warnings that Iran is attempting to harm Israeli targets in Turkey in a revenge attack for the recent assassination of a senior IRGC official — widely attributed to Israel.

“The security apparatus of Israel is doing everything it can to foil such attacks and to neutralize in advance those who are sending the terrorists,” Bennett adds. “We will not hesitate to use the power of the State of Israel anywhere in the world in order to protect our citizens.”

Amid EU gas talks, Israel’s energy minister heads to Cairo

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar during a meeting of the Arrangements Committee at the Knesset on June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Energy Minister Karine Elharrar during a meeting of the Arrangements Committee at the Knesset on June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar is heading for Cairo to take part in a meeting of members of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF).

Israel and the EU have been negotiating for a month to export gas via Egypt to Europe. Earlier today, Elharrar met with visiting European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen amid intensive talks for Israel to provide the EU with natural gas as it pivots away from Russian fuel.

Von der Leyen said today in Jerusalem that the EU is “exploring ways to step up our energy cooperation with Israel,” with work on an underwater power cable and a gas pipeline in the eastern Mediterranean.

With no pipeline linking Israel’s offshore fields to Europe, one option, for now, is piping natural gas to Egypt, where it could be liquified for export by ship to Europe. Elharrar has said that Israel can help meet EU demand if it can deliver gas from its offshore reserves estimated at nearly 1,000 billion cubic meters.

IDF soldiers in Turkey called to return immediately amid Iranian threat

Bystanders watch a Costa Venezia cruise ship in Galataport Istanbul, on June 6, 2022. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)
Bystanders watch a Costa Venezia cruise ship in Galataport Istanbul, on June 6, 2022. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Amid ongoing concerns and warnings that Iran is planning to attack Israeli targets in Turkey, the IDF calls on any soldiers in the country to return immediately.

According to Hebrew media reports, the IDF has issued a call to anyone serving in the military to return to Israel from the country immediately, and is also canceling any future permits allowing soldiers to visit or even take a connecting flight via one of Turkey’s airports.

WHO to decide if monkeypox constitutes international health emergency

Health workers screen passengers arriving from abroad for monkeypox symptoms at Anna International Airport terminal in Chennai, India, June 3, 2022. (Arun Sankar/AFP)
Health workers screen passengers arriving from abroad for monkeypox symptoms at Anna International Airport terminal in Chennai, India, June 3, 2022. (Arun Sankar/AFP)

The WHO says it will hold an emergency meeting next week to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

“The outbreak of monkeypox is unusual and concerning,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells journalists. “For that reason I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the international health regulations next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”

Tedros says that 1,600 confirmed monkeypox cases and 1,500 suspected cases have been reported to the WHO this year from 39 countries, 32 of which have been recently hit by the virus.

Bennett welcomes news of Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel

US President Joe Biden meets Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House, August 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden meets Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House, August 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomes long-awaited news that US President Joe Biden is slated to visit Israel next month.

A statement from the prime minister’s office says that Biden’s visit, slated for July 13-14, “will deepen the special relationship and the strategic partnership between the two countries.”

The trip, slated to include a virtual meeting with the leaders of the UAE and India, will “also reveal the steps that are being taken by the US to integrate Israel into the Middle East and increase the prosperity of the entire region,” the PMO says.

Wounded IDF vets to compete at Invictus Games for first time

Britain's Prince Harry congratulates a member of the United States wheelchair basketball team after winning the gold medal in the finals during day eight of the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia, October 27, 2018. (Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prince Harry congratulates a member of the United States wheelchair basketball team after winning the gold medal in the finals during day eight of the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia, October 27, 2018. (Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP)

Israel will send a delegation to the Invictus Games next year in Dusseldorf for the first time.

The games, which were first held in 2014 and founded by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, are an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick members or veterans of the military.

“Israel has a long-standing respect for the power of sport in recovery, and I’m pleased they are joining our wider community this year,” says Dominic Reid, CEO of the Invictus Games Foundation.

Limor Luria, head of the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation department, says Israel is “very happy to be invited to participate in the Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023. Being a part of the Invictus Community will provide more opportunities for recovery among veterans who were wounded or became ill whilst serving. In Israel, we have learnt a great deal about the importance of physical activity as a positive catalyst for recovery and rehabilitation.”

Israel cancels student trips to Poland amid security dispute

High school students participate in the March of the Living at Auschwitz in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
High school students participate in the March of the Living at Auschwitz in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The Education Ministry announces that the slated travel of thousands of Israeli high school students to Poland this summer is being canceled amid a dispute with Warsaw over security for the delegations.

Before COVID, thousands of Israeli students would travel to Poland each year to visit concentration camps and sites of Jewish heritage.

Iran says it still believes a nuclear deal with world powers can be reached

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (C) arrives for a joint press statement with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L) at the foreign ministry headquarters in Iran's capital Tehran on June 14, 2022. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (C) arrives for a joint press statement with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L) at the foreign ministry headquarters in Iran's capital Tehran on June 14, 2022. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran says it still believes that negotiations can succeed to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, despite a recent rebuke from the UN nuclear watchdog.

“We believe negotiations and diplomacy are the best ways to reach the final point of the agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says during a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Tehran.

Amir-Abdollahian says that prior to the IAEA move to formally censure Iran last week, Tehran had put forward a new initiative that the US had accepted, adding that Washington nonetheless moved to submit the resolution censuring Iran.

But the Islamic Republic will not abandon negotiations, he says, adding that “contacts in the diplomatic fields will continue” through the European Union.

Iran “will not distance itself from… diplomacy and negotiations to reach a good, strong and lasting agreement,” Amir-Abdollahian notes.

IDF seizes NIS 2.5 million worth of drugs along Egyptian border

Troops stand next to drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, on May 25, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops stand next to drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, on May 25, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF fighters thwarted an attempt to smuggle NIS 2.5 million ($720,000) worth of drugs over the Egyptian border, the military says.

According to the IDF, soldiers in observation posts identified several suspects attempting to smuggle the drugs and acted to thwart them. The shipment was seized and passed on to the Israel Police.

Israeli sovereign fund won’t invest in fossil fuels, says chairman

View of the Israeli Leviathan natural gas field gas processing rig as seen from Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve, on January 1, 2020. (Flash90)
View of the Israeli Leviathan natural gas field gas processing rig as seen from Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve, on January 1, 2020. (Flash90)

Money from the exploitation of natural resources invested in a sovereign wealth fund will not be invested in fossil fuel companies, the fund’s chairman tells the Knesset committee that oversees the fund.

Yoram Ariav says a decision was made yesterday to “avoid direct investment” in oil and gas companies.

Asked by committee chairman Meretz MK Mossi Raz if the decision was motivated by ethics or economics, Ariav says he believes that both were taken into consideration.

The Israeli Citizens’ Fund was created to invest expected windfall profits from the discovery of natural gas and other natural resources. It began to operate on June 1 after passing the required income threshold of one billion shekels.

The committee is told that exactly NIS 1,140,000 had entered the fund and had already been converted into $341,927.

Meretz MK calls Netanyahu a ‘malignant disease’

Meretz MK Yair Golan pictured during a Knesset plenum session, January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz MK Yair Golan pictured during a Knesset plenum session, January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MK Yair Golan receives backlash for comments referring to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “malignant disease.”

In a radio interview, Golan says that “we must redeem Israel from the malignant disease called Benjamin Netanyahu.”

In response, Likud slams Golan for “wild incitement” and calls on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to condemn Golan’s statement.

 

Bennett: Lebanon should focus on improving citizens’ lives, not disputes

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett make a press statement at the prime minster's office in Jerusalem, June 14, 2022. (Abir Sultan/Pool via AP)
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett make a press statement at the prime minster's office in Jerusalem, June 14, 2022. (Abir Sultan/Pool via AP)

The same day that US envoy Amos Hochstein is meeting with the Lebanese president in an attempt to resolve an ongoing maritime dispute between Jerusalem and Beirut, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett lashed out at Israel’s northern neighbor.

“It is a pity that the leadership in Lebanon, instead of producing the gas for the benefit of its citizens, is engaged in fighting internal and external disputes,” Bennett says during a meeting with visiting Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

“I suggest the Lebanese government take the opportunity to improve the Lebanese economy and build a better future for the Lebanese people,” Bennett adds.

Lebanon leader asks US envoy to present maritime border dispute ideas to Israel

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with US Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein, center left, at the presidential palace, in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, June 14, 2022. (Dalati Nohra via AP)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with US Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein, center left, at the presidential palace, in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, June 14, 2022. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

Lebanon’s president presented suggestions related to the disputed maritime border with Israel to the US envoy mediating between the two countries, the president’s office says.

Aoun’s office says he gave US envoy Amos Hochstein a response to his February proposal over the ongoing maritime border dispute and asked him to forward it “to the Israeli side.” Aoun tells the US diplomat that he hopes Hochstein will return soon to Lebanon with Israel’s answers.

A Lebanese official who attended the meetings tells The Associated Press that they focused on the disputed area of the Mediterranean and that the additional area Lebanon was pushing for — known in Lebanon as Line 29 — was shelved.

“The Israelis are totally refusing to talk about Line 29,” the official says, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations with the media.

Despite rising cases, COVID czar says airport tests unlikely to return soon

Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

COVID czar Salman Zarka says that while coronavirus cases appear to be rising, COVID tests at the airport are unlikely to return anytime soon.

“We don’t see a reason to check people at border crossings,” Zarka says during a briefing to journalists. “We will test people at Ben Gurion Airport if there are concerns about new variants in the world.”

Zarka says there are no current plans by health officials to bring back any COVID restrictions. The requirement to be tested upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport was lifted as of May 21.

More than 7,000 people tested positive for COVID yesterday, the most new daily cases in more than two months.

Russia promises to open humanitarian corridor from Azot chemical plant

The gutted remains of cars sit along a road during heavy fighting at the front line in Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, June 8, 2022. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/AP)
The gutted remains of cars sit along a road during heavy fighting at the front line in Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, June 8, 2022. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/AP)

The Russian army says it will establish a humanitarian corridor tomorrow to evacuate hundreds of civilians from the Azot chemical plant in the city of Severodonetsk.

“Guided by the principles of humanity, the Russian armed forces and the formations of the Luhansk People’s Republic are ready to organize a humanitarian operation to evacuate civilians,” the Russian defense ministry says.

The humanitarian corridor will be in place between 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and 8 p.m. Moscow time tomorrow, the defense ministry says, adding the evacuees will be transported to the city of Svatovo in the separatist-held region of Luhansk.

Moscow also urges “militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries” at the plant to “stop senseless resistance” and lay down their arms.

Visiting Ramallah, EU president announces that some aid to PA will resume

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh receives the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in the city of Ramallah on June 14, 2022. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh receives the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in the city of Ramallah on June 14, 2022. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tells Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah that some EU aid to the PA will resume after months of delays, as EU officials debated whether to condition the funding on the removal of anti-Israel incitement from Palestinian textbooks.

“As Team Europe, we are the largest donor in Palestine, with around 600 million euros per year. And I am glad that the EU funds for 2021 can now be disbursed rapidly,” says Von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen’s remarks confirm the results of a European Commission vote to greenlight the funds, as reported by The Times of Israel last night.

The EU’s 2021 funding plans involves some $235 million in direct support for the PA budget. The aid supports the wages of the PA’s many civil servants: teachers, doctors, nurses, and firefighters. It also helps fund Palestinians seeking treatment in Israeli hospitals.

The precise details of the EU decision to renew the funding have yet to be made public. Palestinian officials say that the aid will resume unconditionally, but the EU has yet to publicly confirm whether that is the case.

Yamina MK Pinto doesn’t rule out joining Netanyahu-led coalition

MK Shirly Pinto during a meeting of the Knesset House Committee in Jerusalem, on April 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Shirly Pinto during a meeting of the Knesset House Committee in Jerusalem, on April 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yamina MK Shirly Pinto says she hopes that her fellow party lawmaker Nir Orbach will return to support the coalition, but it is possible she could join a government led by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

“He hasn’t finished his work,” Pinto says of Orbach, who announced yesterday that he would no longer vote with the coalition under further notice.

Pinto, a freshman lawmaker with the right-wing party, says that there are no plans to replace the current government with a new coalition without going to an election, but declines to rule out serving with Netanyahu in the future.

Berlin’s TIER e-scooters rolling out in Tel Aviv

Israelis ride scooters and bikes around Tel Aviv on June 9, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis ride scooters and bikes around Tel Aviv on June 9, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Berlin-based TIER company launches its app-operated e-scooters in Tel Aviv and will introduce them in the coming weeks in additional cities, among them Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Holon and Bat Yam.

The company, which has a presence throughout Europe as well as in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, might also introduce its e-bikes and e-mopeds in future, according to a spokesperson.

German court rules to allow antisemitic church carving to remain in place

The 'Judensau' sculpture on the facade of the Town Church in Wittenberg, Germany, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
The 'Judensau' sculpture on the facade of the Town Church in Wittenberg, Germany, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Germany’s highest court rejects a case calling for a local church associated with Protestant firebrand Martin Luther to remove an ancient antisemitic carving from its wall.

Widely known as the “Judensau” (Jews’ sow), the 13th-century bas relief on the church in eastern German town Wittenberg depicts a rabbi peering into a pig’s anus, while other figures suckle milk from its teats.

Although the court agreed that the content of the carving was offensive, it found that the church had taken sufficient steps to counter this by installing a memorial and information board.

As COVID cases rebound, Health Ministry poised to recommend boosters for 5- to 11-year-olds

Children receive COVID-19 vaccines in Jerusalem, December 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Children receive COVID-19 vaccines in Jerusalem, December 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is updating healthcare providers to ready for the rollout of a COVID booster shot campaign for children ages 5-11, according to several media reports.

Only about 18% of children in that age group have received two doses of the COVID vaccine, compared to 55% of those ages 12-15 — among whom only around 15% of them have opted for a third dose.

The news comes a day after the ministry recommended but did not mandate the return of indoor masks, as cases appear to be on the rise.

The ministry says that yesterday 7,330 new COVID cases were confirmed — close to 25% of all those tested — marking the highest one-day caseload since early April. The R reproduction rate stands at 1.51, its highest point since January.

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