The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
A lawmaker from Ra’am clarifies the Islamist party will vote against extending the “family unifications law” if it comes up for a Knesset vote, denouncing the legislation — which prevents Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from automatically getting citizenship — as “racist and anti-democratic.”
“It cannot in any way or form pass with the votes of Ra’am’s Knesset members,” MK Waleed Taha writes on Twitter. “I will continue to oppose this law… and Ra’am will vote against the law in the plenum.”
Without the backing of Ra’am and several MKs from Meretz and Labor, the coalition currently lacks a majority to get the law extended, even though most lawmakers in the opposition as well back the legislation, which is set to expire, in principle.
A spokesman for Iran’s government hits out at the US after a State Department spokesman said last week’s presidential vote was “pretty manufactured” and neither free nor fair, accusing America of interfering in the Islamic Republic’s internal affairs.
“We have been hearing such comments for years. These remarks are an example of interference in the internal affairs of Iran. We condemn them,” Ali Rabiee is quoted saying by the Tasnim news agency.
He adds: “Despite the flashy show of democracy in the US, everybody is aware today how defective and corrupt their claimed democracy is.”
Demolition teams being razing the building in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood that for years housed the Israel Broadcast Authority, which long held a monopoly on television and radio broadcasting in the country.
הדחפורים הורסים עכשיו את בניין רשות השידור המיתולוגי בשכונת רוממה בירושלים. על חורבותיו יבנו בנייני דירות חדשים ובינתיים צופים כאן בהריסה עובדי רשות השידור לדורותיהם, חלקם עבדו כאן מיום השידורים הראשון ב1968 pic.twitter.com/vDI4JySGin
— shira mann | שירה מן (@shiramann8) June 22, 2021
‘Terrorist,’ ‘racist fascist’: Far-right, Arab MKs hurl insults at Knesset event on ‘Occupation to Apartheid’
A shouting match between far-right and Arab and left-wing lawmakers erupts in the Knesset, disrupting an event titled “After 54 years: From Occupation to Apartheid.”
The event is hosted by MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the opposition Joint List party and MK Mossi Raz of Meretz, a party that is a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government.
Raz’s involvement was sure to raise hackles within the coalition, which was formed under the understanding that its rightist and leftist parties would avoid contentious issues in order not to rock the boat. One of the right-wing MKs attending the event is the coalition’s Abir Kara of Bennett’s Yamina party.
During the event, representatives of various left-wing human rights groups present reports about the situation in the West Bank since 1967. The organizations include B’Tselem, Adalah, Peace Now, Yesh Din, Gisha, Breaking the Silence and Human Rights Watch.
Religious Zionism’s extremist MK Itamar Ben Gvir attends the event and hurls insults at several Arab lawmakers, calling organizers Touma-Sliman and Raz “terrorists” and “terror supporters” and shouting the same accusation at Joint List MKs Ofer Cassif and Ahmad Tibi.
Cassif retorts by saying: “Shut your mouth, you piece of shit, racist fascist.”
“Aida, you don’t condemn [it] when a soldier is murdered,” Ben Gvir shouts at Touma-Sliman. “You’re a terrorist, I’m willing to remove my [parliamentary] immunity, sue me. We’ll teach you what democracy is.”
The United Kingdom says it will not attend an event to mark the anniversary of the UN’s 2001 Durban conference against racism, which Israel and the US walked out of in protest of countries’ advancement of a motion equating Zionism and racism.
“Following historic concerns regarding antisemitism, the UK has decided not to attend the UN’s Durban Conference anniversary event, later this year,” Britain’s Foreign Office says in a statement.
Former premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud publicly calls out three of the right-wing party’s lawmakers for not attending a Knesset plenum session than lasted to the wee hours of the morning, during which the opposition tried unsuccessfully to bring down the new government.
“MKs from Likud who were absent without receiving permission: Ofir Akunis, Fateen Mula and Miri Regev,” the party writes on its Twitter account. “We will continue to update about the presence of Knesset members here and a periodic summary report will be sent directly to all Likud members.”
Quickly responding, Regev says she received permission to leave the Knesset.
“As has been said, to bring down the government iron discipline is needed, but no less so, the unity of Likud,” she tweets.
The Jewish Agency announces the appointment of former MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh as one of its emissaries in the United States, saying she will be the first Druze to be one of the organization’s senior envoys.
As part of her posting in Washington, Kamal-Mreeh will “support Israel engagement efforts on North American college campuses,” according to a statement from the Jewish Agency.
“I’m proud and excited to be a partner in bringing about this precedent-setting step which will enable another Israeli voice to be heard, conveying the multifaceted reality of Israel to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences throughout North America,” Kamal-Mreeh is quoted as saying in the statement.
Kamal-Mreeh served as a lawmaker in the centrist Blue and White and Yesh Atid parties between April 2019 and April 2021.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Extremists sought to use the global pandemic to “spread hate propaganda and exacerbate mistrust in public institutions” in 2020, the European Union’s police agency says in its annual report on terrorism in the 27-nation bloc.
COVID-19 and the economic crisis and social unrest it spawned “have contributed to polarization in society, causing attitudes to harden and increasing acceptance of intimidation, including calls to commit violent acts,” the report says.
It cites the arrest in the Netherlands of a man who allegedly called for “citizen’s arrests” of lawmakers and public health workers. It says violence by opponents of the Dutch government’s lockdown measures included hurling stones and fireworks at one city hall and vandalizing COVID-19 test locations.
Such violence has increased this year, with a mob torching a test location in a Dutch fishing village and a blast that damaged the glass façade of a testing center north of Amsterdam in March.
“The latest report from Europol on the EU terrorism situation illustrates that in the year of the COVID pandemic, the risk of online radicalization has increased. This is particularly true for right-wing terrorism,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson says.
She discusses the issue today at a meeting in Lisbon with US Secretary for Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
The Agriculture Ministry says it has begun placing mobile bomb shelters in agricultural areas near the Gaza Strip, following last month’s fighting between Israel and the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers.
The ministry says it has purchased over 100 mobile shelters as part of the rollout and says they will be placed in agricultural areas where there is a higher concentration of workers such as barns, greenhouses and packing centers.
In a statement, Agriculture Minister Oded Forer says the shelters “will make it possible to safeguard settlement in the Gaza periphery communities that maintain the state’s borders and allow them to continue their daily work.”
During the 11 days of fighting in May, two Thai workers were killed when a projectile struck the packing house where they were working in a community near Gaza.
Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash describes the recent coronavirus outbreaks at several schools as localized upticks and not a sign that Israel could be facing a fresh wave of infections.
“This is a local and not a general outbreak whose source is primarily from abroad,” Ash tells Channel 13 news.
He also asserts that testing capabilities at Ben Gurion Airport have improved but the growing number of travelers was making testing more difficult.
“However, the issue of quarantine isn’t being done properly — people aren’t strict about it and therefore we see contagion,” he says.
Chezy Levy, the director-general of the Health Ministry, urged Israelis to don masks when riding public transportation, despite the end of the indoor mask mandate.
“In crowded places, particularly public transportation, it will would be wise to wear a mask,” Levy told the Ynet news site.
Marking 40 years since the Israeli Air Force’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, the military archives publish a host of documents related to the operation, including sketches of the reactor, the written order from the army chief to carry out the strike, and a clip from 2001 in which fighter pilot Ilan Ramon spoke about the inspiration he had taken from his Holocaust survivor mother before heading out in an F-16A jet.
The rare documents were published as part of a digitization project carried out by the IDF Archive to make thousands of hours of video available to the next generations, the Defense Ministry says in a statement.
“My mother is a Holocaust survivor, she was at Auschwitz and barely survived it. Before I set out [for the Iraq operation], it was clear to me that there’s a good chance I will stay there,” Ramon is heard saying in the clip filmed in 2001.
Ramon also shared the content of a letter he received from a Holocaust survivor who suggested that he take with him to space a doll that his 7-year-old daughter had made out of a dirty towel before she headed to Auschwitz, and that had been sprinkled with her own ashes.
“Mr. Ilan, since you will be close to the heavens, open the heavens and let the heavens apologize why they didn’t respond to our cries, and I’m still asking, why? Why?” the letter said, according to Ramon, in words that later took on a new meaning since Ramon died along with the other astronauts aboard the Columbia.
"אם לא תוקפים במועד הזה – שיפסיקו לטרטר אותנו": המסמכים והתרשימים מ"מבצע אופרה" להשמדת הכור העיראקי נחשפים https://t.co/iWTCWaVhtE@ItayBlumental
(צילום: ארכיון צה"ל במשרד הביטחון) pic.twitter.com/MNpm50tupF
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 22, 2021
The Health Ministry has formalized a proposal to reimpose the indoor mask mandate at a number of locations in Israel, Channel 12 news reports.
The network says the proposal calls for requiring masks in the arrivals hall in Ben Gurion Airport, medical clinics, hospitals, welfare centers, senior living centers and schools dealing with a coronavirus outbreak.
The report further says that the proposal seeks fines for those who don’t wear masks at those locations.
The Defense Ministry announces it will assist in swiftly setting up another coronavirus testing facility at Ben Gurion Airport, amid concerns that infected arrivals from abroad are fueling a rise in COVID-19 cases.
In a joint statement, the defense and health ministries say the former will help set up a tent where hundreds of people can be tested at once, with the specifications for the facility to be drawn up in the next day.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says “reinvigorating Israel’s relationship with Democrats is one of his central objectives” in his new position, according to a readout from a call he held with the Democratic Majority for Israel.
Lapid “emphasized his enthusiasm for working closely with the Biden administration and conveyed his deep appreciation for the warm reception the new Israeli government received from the administration, as well as for its unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” the DMFI readout reads.
The new foreign minister also “indicated that Israel will continue to find ways to benefit all the people of the region and narrow the conflict with the Palestinians.”
DMFI is an organization that seeks to strengthen support for Israel in the Democratic Party. It is led by Mark Mellman, who has served as Lapid’s senior strategist since the Yesh Atid chairman entered politics.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The capital of the United Arab Emirates has apparently started offering free coronavirus vaccines to tourists flying into the emirate, a move that could entice travelers and help revive the country’s struggling tourism industry.
While Abu Dhabi has made no official announcement on the matter, the health authority’s phone application shows updated criteria for vaccine access today, saying visitors to the capital could now get the COVID-19 shot by presenting their passports.
Passport holders must be eligible for entry visas on arrival, the guidelines say, without offering further information. Previously, vaccine recipients in the emirate had to show proof of Emirati residency. The UAE’s government-run media office doesn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Abu Dhabi will lift mandatory quarantine measures on travelers from an approved list of countries starting July 1.
The federation of seven sheikhdoms boasts among the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world, with 14.6 million doses administered to its population of over 9 million. The country has relied heavily on China’s state-backed Sinopharm shot and even started manufacturing Sinopharm earlier this year. Abu Dhabi and the nearby emirate of Dubai also offer the Pfizer-BioNtech shot. Since March, everyone over age 16 in the country has been eligible to get the vaccine.
With its small population and ample vaccine supply, the UAE has sent free vaccine shipments to places that need them, such as Egypt, the Gaza Strip and the Indian Ocean island nation of the Seychelles.
The Education Ministry releases updated data on coronavirus cases at Israeli schools, saying 183 students and 20 staff members are confirmed to be infected.
The ministry says there are over 5,000 students self-isolating, close to 2,000 of whom entered quarantine in the past day.
The Palestinian Authority arrested a prominent activist and held him overnight after he criticized its policies in a series of online posts and accused it of arresting another individual for political reasons.
The PA, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-controlled West Bank, has come under intense criticism by Palestinians in recent weeks after canceling its first elections in 15 years and being largely sidelined during last month’s 11-day Gaza war.
Issa Amro, an outspoken critic of both Israel and the PA who has been arrested by both in the past, says he was summoned for questioning by the PA’s cybercrime unit last night.
He says he was asked about a Facebook post in which he protested the arrest of a man linked to a political rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In the post, he said the PA should instead arrest “corrupt” people within its own ranks.
Amro tells The Associated Press he was arrested shortly thereafter and confined overnight in a “very, very dirty place which is not suitable for humans.” He appeared before prosecutors today before being released and told to return tomorrow, when he could be charged.
Palestinian officials decline to comment on the case.
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman announces that unemployment benefits for people younger than 45-years-old will cease at the end of June, citing the discontinuation of most coronavirus restrictions on economic activity.
AMMAN, Jordan — Two officials accused of plotting to overthrow Jordan’s king and replace him with his half-brother Prince Hamza want the prince to testify in their trial, a lawyer for one of them says today.
“The two defendants, Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, insist that Prince Hamza testify in this case,” Mohammad Afif, who represents Awadallah, tell AFP.
“The final decision is up to the court, but if it refuses to summon him, it must justify it,” he says on the second day of the closed-door trial in the State Security Court in Amman.
Former royal court chief Awadallah and Bin Zaid, once a special envoy to Riyadh, are accused of trying to help Prince Hamza overthrow King Abdullah II. They have pleaded not guilty.
Prince Hamza, 41, is not facing trial, although the indictment says he “was determined to fulfil his personal ambition to rule, in violation of the Hashemite constitution and customs.”
The court heard two prosecution witnesses yesterday, while three others gave written statements.
Today, it heard the last witness presented by the prosecution, the lawyer says.
“At the next hearing on Sunday, the two defendants will present their defense in writing and then at the next session we will ask the court to hear five to 10 defense witnesses,” he says.
As part of the prosecution’s case is based on wiretaps conducted by the security services, Afif says “the defense plans to call on Jordanian and foreign experts to verify the authenticity of the recordings.”
A coalition of Palestinian factions, including the Hamas terror group, call for international mediators to pressure Israel, warning that they will not stand idly by should Israel keep “stalling.”
“The resistance will not stand with its hands tied in the face of delaying and stalling. We call on international mediators to pressure [Israel] and hasten to lift the siege and end the reconstruction matter,” the factions say.
Israel and Hamas have put forward seemingly incompatible demands for strengthening the fragile ceasefire that ended 11 days of fighting in late May. Hamas has demanded the immediate easing of restrictions and progress on rebuilding parts of Gaza destroyed in the fighting.
Israel has said progress will be tied to advancing a prisoner exchange, in which Israel would release some Palestinian security detainees in exchange for the two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas.
Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar told reporters yesterday that a meeting with United Nations special envoy Tor Wennesland had been “bad.”
“It seems that the occupation did not understand our message,” Sinwar said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers televised remarks after touring Ben Gurion Airport, saying there are signs that the so-called Delta variant is beginning to spread in Israel.
He says some of those infected by the strain, first identified in India, were vaccinated, but stresses inoculations provide “significant” protection against COVID-19.
“In light of the data, we are treating the situation as a renewed outbreak,” Bennett says.
He announces that the new government will form a coronavirus cabinet, anyone at Ben Gurion Airport will have to be masked, and all arrivals will have to undergo a PCR test.
“Whoever doesn’t need to go abroad, don’t go abroad,” he says.
Bennett hints there could be “significant changes” to the current policies on entering and exiting the country.
The premier also recommends that Israelis don face coverings in enclosed spaces — weeks after the requirement to do so was lifted — and urges Israelis between 12 and 15-years-old to get vaccinated.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz asserts the selection of Ebraihim Raisi as Iran’s new president shows the Islamic Republic is seeking to radicalize further and continue its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“His appointment to the position proves that Iran is moving toward radicalization, proliferation, and the continued development of weapons of mass destruction that are liable to threaten the world, the stability of the region and also the State of Israel,” Gantz says, at an awards ceremony for Israelis who served during the 18-year military occupation of southern Lebanon.
He adds: “Israel will stand firm, and won’t go silently as an existential threat hovers above it. We are preparing and will continue to prepare plans to prevent it.”
He also comments on Israel-US ties, a day after former premier Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Foreign Minister Yair Lapid over Lapid’s assurance to the Biden administration that Jerusalem will update Washington in advance of any military action taken against Iran.
“We will also share knowledge and information, and coordinate with our friends, first and foremost the United States,” Gantz says. “With this we will always maintain our right, our ability and our duty to independently defend ourselves. This is how it was and how it will be.”
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announces that he is appointing acting state attorney Amit Aisman to the role of Israel’s top prosecutor on a permanent basis.
Aisman was approved as acting state attorney in January, after then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up his nomination. A selection committee had tapped Aisman for the post, which has been vacant since Shai Nitzan ended his term in December 2019.
An unnamed senior Health Ministry official tells Channel 13 news to expect the number of coronavirus infections to begin decreasing again in a few days, despite a rise in new cases.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced Tuesday that he will appoint former tourism minister Asaf Zamir to serve as Israel’s consul general in New York.
Zamir resigned from the previous government last October, saying he could no longer serve under then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accusing him of placing his own political survival above the coronavirus crisis and the good of the nation.
He will fill a post in New York that has been vacant for nearly a year since Dani Dayan finished his five-year term there. Israel Nitzan has served as acting consul general in the interim.
“After too long a period, without a consul in New York, I am happy to appoint Asaf Zamir as consul, Asaf has professional and human capabilities that will represent the State of Israel with honor and pride,” Lapid says in a statement.
Zamir says: “I thank Foreign Minister Lapid for the trust. Excited and proud to represent the State of Israel and its citizens.”
An unnamed police official is quoted by the Walla news site as saying that cops won’t open criminal cases against Israelis who breach quarantine, as they attempt to ramp up enforcement of coronavirus isolation rules.
The official says police will instead fine quarantine violators, including minors.
Continuing his tour of the United States, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits the Florida headquarters of US Central Command, which is in charge of American military operations in the Middle East.
Kohavi is hosted by General Frank McKenzie, the Central Command chief, and touts the “operational cooperation” between the two countries’ militaries as “unprecedented.”
An IDF statement says the two also discussed the Iran nuclear deal and lessons from the fighting in Gaza last month between Israel and Palestinian terrorists, among other topics.
“A joint operating target of the two militaries is Iran, which is working to entrench itself and establish terrorist forces in many states throughout the Middle East and is continuing to present a regional threat in terms of nuclear, advanced weapons systems, ballistic missiles and funding terror armies,” Kohavi says.
WASHINGTON — US law enforcement has seized control of the websites of two Iranian state-controlled news groups, Press TV and Al-Alam, and of the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen’s Huthis, statements posted on the websites show today.
Each site displays a single page with a statement that it “has been seized by the United States Government” and making reference to US sanctions laws, accompanied by the seal of the FBI and the US Department of Commerce.
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the parent of Al-Alam, reports that other sites, including a Palestinian-directed broadcast and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel were also seized.
IRIB accuses the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region.”
WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden’s administration concedes it won’t meet its goal of administering one or more doses of the COVID vaccine to 70% of US adults by July 4.
“We think it’ll take a few extra weeks to get to 70 percent of all adults with at least one shot,” says Jeffrey Zients, head of the White House COVID response team.
As of today, 65.4% of those aged 18 years and older had received one or more doses of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots.
But the vaccination rate has been declining since April, when it hit a peak average of 3.4 million daily shots. The latest average is around 850,000 daily shots.
Adult vaccination rates vary greatly by state. The Northeast has some of the highest uptake, with Vermont leading the charge at 84% partially vaccinated and 75% fully vaccinated.
The bottom of the table is dominated by states in the South, with Mississippi having vaccinated just 45% of adults with one shot and 37% with two.
According to surveys carried out by the Kaiser Family Foundation, unvaccinated adults are significantly younger, less educated, more likely to be Republicans, people of color and uninsured.
Despite missing the Independence Day goal, Zients says the administration had “succeeded beyond our highest expectations” in returning the nation to a pre-pandemic normal.
“Instead of just small backyard gatherings, America is getting ready for a truly historic Fourth of July, with large celebrations planned in communities across the country,” he says.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid held a phone call with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the first since he took over as Israel’s top diplomat earlier this month, his office says.
“The two had a warm and positive conversation and discussed the importance of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States,” according to the Foreign Ministry.
Lapid thanked Pelosi for her longstanding support of Israel the two agreed to remain in touch, the statement says.
Lapid has set improving Israel’s ties with the Democratic Party as one of his top goals as foreign minister after the relationship was battered during former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s time in office.
Very pleased to talk with Israeli Foreign Minister @YairLapid to congratulate him on his new position and the new government. We discussed the strong relationship and shared values between our two countries. pic.twitter.com/qWvatDxCgc
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 22, 2021
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