ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Candidate to be next police commissioner: ‘With me they won’t shut down roads’

Yoram Sofer suggests he’d take hardline against anti-overhaul protests, questions why he needs to say ‘no’ when asked if he’s capable of doing so with far-right minister

Coastal Region Police Commander Yoram Sofer at a ceremony in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Coastal Region Police Commander Yoram Sofer at a ceremony in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Far-right judicial overhaul architect met with protests at Tel Aviv book fair

Far-right Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rotman arrives to autograph his book at an event for Hebrew Book Week in Tel Aviv, on June 18, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Far-right Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rotman arrives to autograph his book at an event for Hebrew Book Week in Tel Aviv, on June 18, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Far-right Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman is met with protests as he visits a book fair in Tel Aviv.

In video from the event, held to mark Hebrew Book Week, demonstrators can be heard blowing airhorns and chanting “shame” as Rothman is escorted by a large security detail.

Rothman heads the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and is a leading proponent of the government’s judicial overhaul plans.

Rothman attends the event to sign copies of his book, “The Ruling Party of Bagatz: How Israel Became a Legalocracy.”

Renegade Likud MK: Netanyahu wanted me to back opposition candiate to judicial panel

Likud MK Tally Gotliv seen outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, June 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Tally Gotliv seen outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, June 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Renegade Likud MK Tally Gotliv lashes out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after the Kan public broadcaster reports the premier claimed he would’ve started advanced legislation to change the makeup of the Judicial Selections Committee last week if not for her refusal to bow out of the race for a spot on the panel.

In a tweet, Gotliv also charges that Netanyahu tried to get her to back opposition candidate Karine Elharrar, who ended up winning a place on the committee with some coalition support while Gotliv failed to secure a spot.

“Please assume we’re not all idiots. Your office told me that it doesn’t matter who was chosen anyways because immediately the committee’s structure will be changed when you tried to convince me to vote for [Karine] Elharrar,” Gotliv says.

In response, Likud denies Netanyahu asked Gotliv to vote for Elharrar.

“All that was asked of her was to maintain coalition discipline and remove her candidacy,” the party says.

Additionally, Kan reports that Netanyahu first intends to advance a bill curbing the High Court’s ability to use the doctrine of “reasonableness” to review government decisions. He is then expected to move on to legislation regarding the Judicial Selections Committee, which the broadcaster says won’t be the same as a bill that nearly passed in late March before it was paused for negotiations.

Candidate to be next police chief: ‘With me they won’t shut down roads’

Coastal Region Police Commander Yoram Sofer Yoram Sofer at a ceremony in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Coastal Region Police Commander Yoram Sofer Yoram Sofer at a ceremony in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A leading candidate to be the next Israel Police commissioner indicates he won’t hesitate to adopt a tough stance against anti-overhaul protests, which far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has urged.

“With me they won’t shut down roads. They did, but I dealt with it forcefully,” Coastal Region Police Commander Yoram Sofer says in an interview with Channel 12 news, which is slated to be aired in full tomorrow night.

Asked why he felt a need to react forcefully, Sofer responds, “because thuggery is thuggery.”

“Whoever attacks officers is attacking the State of Israel, not me personally. Whoever spits on officers is spitting on the State of Israel and therefore if we need to arrest them, we’ll arrest them. If we need to disperse them, we’ll disperse them,” he says.

“Why do you need to allow 8 months of the same harm to the public,” Sofer adds, referring to the demonstrations.

He is also asked whether he’ll be able to say “no” to Ben Gvir if gets the post.

“What do you mean? Why do you need to say ‘no?’ You need to understand the minister’s view more or less. Up until now, I’ve never seen a minister tell me once ‘do something,'” he says.

Touring IAI headquarters, Netanyahu says Israel ‘determined’ to stop Iran from getting nuke

In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours Israel Aerospace Industries headquarters, June 18, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours Israel Aerospace Industries headquarters, June 18, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Touring the headquarters of Israel Aerospace Industries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterates his opposition to any interim nuclear deal between the United States and Iran.

“We are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu says while standing before an array of missiles and weapons systems.

Ben Gvir slams High Court, calls to pass judicial overhaul ‘in its entirety’

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 3, 2023. (Photo by EriK Marmor/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 3, 2023. (Photo by EriK Marmor/Flash90)

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir rails at the High Court for issuing an interim injunction on a law expanding his powers over police, while calling for the government to plow ahead with the judicial overhaul.

“Unfortunately the Supreme Court justices again proves they believe they are super-legislators, above the Knesset. I appeal to the prime minister and say, the time has come to pass the reform in its entirety, without surrendering or blinking,” he says in a video statement.

High Court issues interim injunction on law expanding Ben Gvir’s powers over police

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The High Court of Justice issues an interim injunction against a controversial law that has given National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir increased powers over the police and raised concerns about the politicization of the police.

The High Court’s injunction demands the state respond to the petition within 90 days, and indicates the court is seriously considering striking down the law.

The legislation passed at Ben Gvir’s behest states the national security minister is entitled to “direct police policy and the general principles for its operations,” including determining police priorities and operational programs, as well as general orders and instructions.

Ben Gvir argues these authorities are necessary to restore order to lawless areas of the country and clamp down on rising crime, while opponents argue it would enable the minister to actively intervene in operational police activities and allow for selective policing based on the minister’s personal politics and ideology.

“The High Court has issued an interim injunction against the blatant effort to turn the Israel Police into a dictatorial political arm,” says the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the petitioners against the law, following the decision.

“Ben Gvir’s police powers law is on its way to the trash heap of history. This is what will happen to the rest of the laws for regime change which the government is planning.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid also welcomes the decision, saying his Yesh Atid party will “continue to fight against the trolling of this evil government.”

Air force to hold drill across Israel over coming days

Israel Air Force planes at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, December 28, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Israel Air Force planes at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, December 28, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces says the Air Force is carrying out a drill over Israel’s skies over the next few days.

The drill, which began earlier today, will last until Wednesday, the IDF says.

Earlier, residents of northern Israel spotted IAF jets flying over the area.

Netanyahu to discuss overhaul legislation this evening with Levin, Amsalem and Dermer

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold initial talks with several officials this evening ahead before coalition chiefs assemble tomorrow for talks on judicial overhaul legislation.

Hebrew media reports say tonight’s meeting will be attended by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Minister in the Justice Ministry David Amsalem and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, who is a top confidante of Netanyahu and a representative to the judicial reform talks being held at the President’s Residence.

Ex-top judge says open to curbing reasonableness doctrine ‘if it satisfies Levin’

File: Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak says he is open to curbing the top court’s authority to review government decisions on grounds of reasonableness “if it satisfies [Yariv] Levin,” the justice minister who is a leading proponent of the judicial overhaul.

Speaking during an event at Reichman University, Barak stresses that he’s open to judicial reform but opposes the far-reaching proposals backed by Levin and other coalition figures.

“The reform proposals harm democracy,” he adds.

Coalition chiefs to meet tomorrow for talks on judicial overhaul legislation

Coalition party heads will convene tomorrow for talks on advancing the judicial overhaul, according to Hebrew media, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that the government will move forward with some legislation.

The coalition chiefs also held a meeting on the matter today, but apparently did not reach any decisions. It remains unclear what measures are under consideration.

2 arrested over video of masked gunmen firing into air at Bedouin wedding procession

A screenshot from video of masked suspects firing into the air during a wedding procession in the southern Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, June 16, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A screenshot from video of masked suspects firing into the air during a wedding procession in the southern Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, June 16, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Police arrest two people in the southern Bedouin town of Tel Sheva after masked suspects were filmed firing rifles from an SUV during a wedding procession over the weekend.

A statement from police says officers seized three vehicles suspected of being linked to the incident were seized.

The two suspects are to appear in a court tomorrow for a remand hearing.

Shas, Otzma Yehudit trade barbs over postponement of elections for Chief Rabbinate

Shas leader Aryeh Deri (L) embraces Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir during a Knesset session at which a new speaker was elected, December 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas leader Aryeh Deri (L) embraces Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir during a Knesset session at which a new speaker was elected, December 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After a squabble during the cabinet meeting, a spat between the coalition’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party and far-right Otzma Yehudit over the postponement of elections for the Chief Rabbinate until later this year spills over to a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

According to Hebrew media leaks, Shas Minister Haim Biton tells Otzma Yehudit members not to intervene in the matter or “we will intervene in your decisions.”

In response, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — who heads Otzma Yehudit — reportedly fires back that all Israelis have stake in the rabbinate and charges that Biton is “against a Zionist state.”

Biton in turn warns that Shas will torpedo Ben Gvir’s bill to monitor domestic abusers if Otzma Yehudit prevents the delay, to which the latter says “you’re changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

“It’s not your affair. The chief rabbis are ours, we’ll do what you want and we won’t interfere,” Biton is quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Otzma Yehudit Minister Yitzhak Wasslerauf tweets: “A rabbi should be chosen for his skills and not his connections.”

Netanyahu says Israel opposed to nuclear ‘mini-agreements’ between US and Iran

This photo released November 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in Natanz uranium enrichment facility near Natanz, Iran (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)
This photo released November 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in Natanz uranium enrichment facility near Natanz, Iran (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he opposes any interim agreement reportedly being negotiated between the US and Iran over its nuclear program.

Netanyahu says Israel has informed the US that “the most limited understandings, what are termed ‘mini-agreements,’ do not – in our view – serve the goal and we are opposed to them as well.”

“The State of Israel will do everything in its own power to defend itself from Iran’s aggression, both on the nuclear issue and of course by operating its terrorist emissaries,” the premier adds.

72-hour ceasefire between warring Sudanese generals takes effect

KHARTOUM, Sudan — A 72-hour ceasefire between Sudan’s warring generals has taken effect to allow for the delivery of desperately needed aid to the country, on the eve of a humanitarian conference.

The army led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has since April 15 been battling paramilitary forces commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, after the two fell out in a bitter power struggle.

Multiple truces have been agreed and broken in the war that has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people and driven over two million from their homes, including at least 528,000 who fled abroad.

The latest ceasefire came into force this morning, with the mediators saying the two sides had agreed to refrain from attacks and allow freedom of movement and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United States of America announce the agreement of representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on a ceasefire throughout Sudan for a period of 72 hours,” the Saudi foreign ministry says.

Witnesses in Khartoum say the situation is “calm.”

The United Nations will host an international donors’ conference for Sudan in the Swiss city of Geneva tomorrow.

Gantz says ‘there will be no talks’ if Netanyahu advances overhaul legislation

National Unity head Benny Gantz speaks during a press conference in the Knesset, Jerusalem, on June 14, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Unity head Benny Gantz speaks during a press conference in the Knesset, Jerusalem, on June 14, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition figure Benny Gantz says his National Unity party will not return to judicial reform negotiations if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu independently advances changes to the judicial system.

“If there is unilateral legislation, there will be no talks,” says Gantz, in comments made while touring southern Israel.

“If Netanyahu goes for unilateral legislation and again takes the same aggressive and steamrolling actions, he will harm democracy, Israeli society, the economy, and security. And after all this, he will also fail. He will not have a majority of the people, he will not have a majority in the Knesset,” Gantz continues.

Earlier today, Netanyahu promised to immediately take steps to advance legislation, which National Unity and fellow opposition party Yesh Atid have marked as a red line in the discussions. However, last Wednesday, Gantz and Lapid withdrew from negotiations, accusing Netanyahu of breaking his promise to fully staff and convene the panel that selects judges.

Gantz urges Netanyahu to “keep your promise at the President’s Residence and complete the process [of staffing] the Judicial Selection Committee, to fulfill the promise made to the citizens of Israel and reach agreements [on reform].”

Jordan slams Israel over shortened approval process for settlement construction

The Jordanian foreign ministry slams Israel’s government for okaying a decision shortening the approval process for West Bank settlement construction.

A ministry spokesman denounces settlements as illegal under international law and as an impediment to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

‘Stand behind every word’: Distel Atbaryan says after heated exchange with Gamliel

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan arrives to a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan arrives to a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan defends her comments against Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel at the cabinet meeting, after it was widely reported she told her “bit me, you retard.”

“Gila Gamliel was late for the cabinet meeting — as usual. Then she started to scream and shout at us because we’re all slouches and only she has solutions — as usual. And she tried to undermine and sow tension between the coalition leaders — as usual,” Distel Atbaryan claims in a tweet.

She then alleges Gamliel “blew up the meeting exactly like she blew up [the Likud] faction meeting last week by screaming and slamming the door dramatically.”

“When I told her (without yelling but definitely in a loud voice) that she’s a thorn in the coalition’s side and her conduct is pathetic, she suddenly started screeching that I was cursing her and even briefing reporters…” Distel Atbaryan adds.

“So yeah, I stand behind every word I said: Gila Gamliel is a thorn in the coalition’s side and her behavior is embarrassing (and troubling) to say the least.”

Distel Atbaryan doesn’t address calling her fellow Likud member a “retard.”

Gamliel has yet to publicly comment on the exchange.

Gallant speaks with German defense chief about Arrow 3 purchase

Israel and the United States carry out a successful test of their advanced Arrow 3 missile defense system on January 22, 2019. (Missile Defense Organization/Defense Ministry)
Israel and the United States carry out a successful test of their advanced Arrow 3 missile defense system on January 22, 2019. (Missile Defense Organization/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with his German counterpart, Boris Pistorius, after the Bundestag approved an advance payment for the purchase of Israel’s Arrow 3 missile defense system last week.

According to a Defense Ministry readout, Gallant congratulated Pistorius over the green light given by the budget committee in the lower house of the German parliament for an initial payment of 560 million euros.

“During the conversation, the defense minister and his German counterpart discussed strengthening the security relations between the two countries and agreed to meet soon to discuss deepening cooperation,” Gallant’s office says.

Germany will pay some four billion euros ($4.3 billion) for the Arrow 3, Israel’s most advanced long-range missile defense system, meant to intercept ballistic missiles while they are still outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.

As the system was co-developed with the United States, the export process to Germany is contingent on Washington’s approval . The Defense Ministry says it is currently in talks with the American government to get the okay.

Public diplomacy minister tells fellow Likud member to ‘bite me, retard’ at cabinet meeting

This composite image shows Likud ministers Galit Distel Atbaryan (L) and Gila Gamliel in 2023. (Tomer Neuberg and Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
This composite image shows Likud ministers Galit Distel Atbaryan (L) and Gila Gamliel in 2023. (Tomer Neuberg and Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan reportedly called Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel “a retard” during a heated exchange at today’s cabinet meeting.

Hebrew media says the shouting match began when Distel Atbaryan told Gamliel to “sit quietly” after the latter spoke up in support of Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter. Dichter was complaining that the coalition deals between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the far-right Otzma Yehudit faction were harming his ministerial work.

Dichter, Gamliel and Distel Atbaryan are all members of Likud.

“Excuse me, don’t get involved at all,” Gamliel retorted.

In response, Distel Atbaryan is widely quoted saying, “Bite me, you retard. No one in Likud likes you.”

Gamliel then said she wanted that in writing, whereupon Distel Atbaryran reportedly continued to berate her.

Palestinians to boycott meeting tomorrow over Israeli settlement decision

Secretary general of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein al-Sheikh gives an interview to The Associated Press at his office Ramallah, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Secretary general of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein al-Sheikh gives an interview to The Associated Press at his office Ramallah, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh says the Palestinians will boycott a planned economic meeting with Israel tomorrow over the government’s approval of a measure shortening the approval process for West Bank settlement construction.

Al-Sheikh, a top aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, adds in a tweet that Palestinian leaders “will study a number of other measures and decisions for implementation related to the relationship with Israel.”

The meeting of the Joint Economic Committee, which hadn’t been previously announced, would’ve been the first time it has convened since 2009.

PM: Israel to develop Gaza offshore gas field in coordination with Egypt, PA

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on June 18, 2023. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on June 18, 2023. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that Israel will work to develop a natural gas field off the coast of the Gaza Strip, a proposal that has been repeatedly floated for more than two decades.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office declares that as part of a “framework of existing efforts” between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, the government is moving forward with developing the “Gaza Marine gas field off the coast of Gaza.”

The move is seen as a olive branch to the Palestinians and, if carried out, is expected to bring in billions of shekels to the PA. The Prime Minister’s Office says it’s pursuing the plan with an emphasis “on Palestinian economic development and maintaining security stability in the region.”

The statement says that the project is “subject to coordination between the security services and direct dialogue with Egypt, in coordination with the PA.”

Suspected IS sympathizers arrested for plotting attack on Vienna’s Pride parade

Illustrative: Police in front of a school in Vienna, Austria, February 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Roland Zak)
Illustrative: Police in front of a school in Vienna, Austria, February 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Roland Zak)

BERLIN — Austrian authorities say they’ve foiled a possible attack on Vienna’s Pride parade by three young men who allegedly sympathize with the extremist Islamic State group.

The head of Austria’s domestic intelligence service tells reporters that the suspects, aged 14, 17 and 20, were arrested before the start of the yesterday’s Pride parade, which was attended by around 300,000 people, public broadcaster ORF reported.

Omar Haijawi-Pirchner from the State Protection and Intelligence Directorate says there’s “no danger for the participants of the parade at any time.”

The intelligence service had received advance knowledge of the suspects’ alleged plans, kept them “under constant control,” and arrested them on the orders of the St. Poelten public prosecutor’s office following house searches that uncovered various evidence, including weapons, ORF reports.

The three suspects, Austrian citizens of Bosnian and Chechen origin, whose identities aren’t further revealed, had radicalized online and sympathized with the Islamic State group, Haijawi-Pirchner says.

One of the suspects was known to police, he adds.

The trio was arrested before the start of the parade by Austria’s Cobra special forces.

The organizer of the Pride parade was only informed today about the events. The organizers did not want to create panic among the participants, especially since the police raid had already taken place, according to ORF.

Ministers back bill to monitor domestic abusers after sinking similar opposition measure

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The government approves an updated version of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s bill to electronically monitor domestic abusers, three months after tanking a similar proposal put forward by the opposition.

The bill would enable the court to order electronic tracking of domestic violence suspects and perpetrators after risk assessments are conducted, but only if there is a previous conviction or open indictment. However, the bill provides an exception for an urgent risk of danger in the absence of monitoring, to be determined by a judge.

Ben Gvir slammed the March opposition bill as failing to adequately protect men, and says on Sunday that his draft “will balance the vital need to fight domestic violence and prevent violence with our duty to protect against false complaints and accusations and preserve the freedom of the innocent.”

“Unlike the previous government that did not implement the law, our government will do so – but we’ll bring a more precise and better law,” he adds.

Cabinet okays measure shortening approval process to build in West Bank settlements

New apartments buildings under construction in the Beit El settlement in the West Bank with the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the background, October 13, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
New apartments buildings under construction in the Beit El settlement in the West Bank with the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the background, October 13, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The government approves a resolution aimed at shortening the approval process for construction in West Bank settlements, slashing the number of a times a project must be authorized to be shovel-ready.

The measure also will hand Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who heads the far-right Religious Zionism party and is also a minister in the Defense Ministry, control over one of the two stages that will now make up the approval process.

The vote comes ahead of a planned vote next week to approve several thousand new settlement homes.

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