The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
Several large blazes break out near communities in the hills around Jerusalem, with four firefighting planes dispatched to help battle the fires.
Police evacuate some residents of Kibbutz Ma’ale Hahamisha from their homes due to the approaching fire and a number of nearby roads are closed, according to Hebrew media reports,
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 9, 2021
PRAGUE — Antisemitic incidents in the Czech Republic continued their rise last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the bulk of the anti-Jewish hatred being expressed online, the country’s Jewish community says.
In its annual report, the Federation of the Jewish Communities says it registered 874 antisemitic incidents in 2020, 180 more than during the previous year.
The report, however, concludes the Czech Republic remains a safe country for Jews and that antisemitism is at a relatively low level compared with other European countries. It says there was one physical attack registered in 2020, another attack on Jewish property and six other incidents that involved antisemitic threats, harassment and verbal insults.
As the online space became even more prominent amid the coronavirus pandemic, a vast majority of the incidents — 98% — took place on the internet. Those included conspiracy theories spread by disinformation websites, individuals and antisemitic groups blaming Jews for the pandemic and claiming that vaccination serves their financial interests.
The community’s report warns that antisemitism on the internet cannot be underestimated.
“The analysis of violent antisemitic attacks and the profiles of their perpetrators confirms that a violent act is almost always preceded by the radicalization and expressions of hatred vented on the internet, especially on social media,” it says.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron will continue to greet crowds during his travels despite a security scare that saw him slapped by a man in the south of France, a government spokesman says.
Macron shrugged off his assault yesterday in the village of Tain l’Hermitage, calling it an “isolated event” and “stupidity,” and he went to chat with and fistbump onlookers later in the day in the nearby town of Valence.
“Obviously his trips are going to continue: the president will remain in contact with the French public,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal says today.
“It would be completely incomprehensible for people to be deprived of contact with the president because of an isolated individual who wanted to challenge” him, Attal adds.
Macron’s assailant, a 28-year-old man identified as Damien T., remains in police custody and is expected to be charged with assaulting a public figure, which carries a maximum three-year prison term.
He has been described as a fan of medieval martial arts and board games, while the French media raked through his social media activity looking for clues to his political sympathies.
He is a subscriber to several far-right YouTube channels.
Popular evening talk show Le Quotidien aired footage of one of its journalists meeting Damien T. and friends earlier yesterday.
One of the friends, who says he identifies with the anarchist movement, explains that they have come to speak to Macron about the “decline of France.”
Police sources say that Damien T. has no criminal record and friends and acquaintances who spoke to AFP expressed surprise at his actions, describing him as a shy and placid character.
Police close a portion of Route 1, the main highway leading to Jerusalem, in both directions due to several large fires that broke out in the area.
Israel Railways says it is halting train service between Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem’s Yitzhak Navon station at the request of firefighters.
A spokesman with the Fire and Rescue services tells Army Radio that firefighters have to gain control over the blazes and that some residents of the community of Yad Hashmona were evacuated.
New Hope MK Yifat Shasha-Biton has filed a libel lawsuit against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest son over a December radio interview in which he lashed out her, according to Channel 12 news.
The suit, which seeks NIS 500,000 ($154,000) in damages, was filed after Shasha-Biton — who is set to become the education minister in the incoming government — sent Yair Netanyahu a letter in April telling him to retract his remarks and warning she could sue him if he didn’t do so.
ِAmong the various comments he made about Shasha-Biton in the interview with Galey Israel, the younger Netanyahu claimed that “people died because of her populist decisions” when she headed the Knesset’s coronavirus committee, a period in which she faced sharp criticism from the premier and his allies after the panel reversed several government moves.
Yair Netanyahu, who is known for his combative presence on social media, has faced several other libel suits.
President Reuven Rivlin continues his state visit to Romania, where he addresses a joint session of the European country’s parliament.
“Like all democracies, the State of Israel is open to criticism. But we will not accept attempts to weaken us or undermine our right to exist through misuse of violence or international law,” Rivlin is quoted saying in a statement from his office.
He adds: “The Jewish people and the Israeli people in all its diversity have no conflict with Islam or the Arab peoples of the Middle East. We are fighting dark forces that aim to terrorize and destroy the State of Israel and its people. Iran’s regime of terror and those who collaborate with it in Lebanon and Gaza seek to undermine our right to exist. Israel has the right and the duty to protect its citizens – from the threat of nuclear weapons, from missiles and from terrorism.”
Rivlin, whose 7-year term as president ends next month, also calls for “steps on the ground to increase confidence between the two people, confidence that the other side wishes to live in peace, partnership and good relations, side by side.”
Knesset members from the “change government” set to be sworn in next week defeat a bill that would limit who has standing to petition the High Court of Justice.
The bill, backed by Likud MK Miki Zohar, was opposed by lawmakers from Yamina and New Hope, right-wing parties in the emerging coalition that have supported curbing the High Court’s authority.
Zohar lashes out at Yamina and New Hope MKs in a tweet after the vote, accusing them of having “spat in the face of the settlers of Judea and Samaria,” using the Biblical names for the West Bank.
Members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party continue to lash out at members of the right-wing Yamina party for agreeing to form a government with the premier’s political rivals.
“What desecration of God’s name are you committing,” Likud Minister David Amsalem says in fiery remarks to the Knesset plenum.
He also says of Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, an Orthodox Jew: “I never believed he was religious.”
During a meeting earlier today of the Knesset Arrangements Committee, Likud MK Galit Distal Atbaryan called Bennett and New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar “parasites who embezzled the public’s trust.”
MK Michael Malkieli of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party also unloads on Bennett.
“There is a conman here who lied to his voters and the people of Israel, and we’ll need to tell our children that this swindler will be prime minister because he deceived everyone,” he says at the committee meeting.
Police question two prominent right-wing Jewish extremists on suspicion of incitement over social media posts they made.
The two, named by Hebrew media as Bentzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel, are released after questioning.
A police statement says the investigation by the Lahav 433 cybercrime unit was approved by the State Attorney’s Office and that the two were questioned over social media content “that allegedly call for racism.”
Gopstein is the head of the extremist anti-miscegenation group Lehava. Both he and Marzel have been previously banned from running for the Knesset as part of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.
Police have reopened parts of Route 1 that were shut due to a large fire that broke out in forested areas near Jerusalem.
Israeli officials snubbed the European Union’s Middle East peace envoy during his recent visit to the region, turning down all of his requests to meet with them, the Walla news site reports.
Quoting unnamed Israeli officials, the report says the decision to blackball Sven Koopmans was over what Israel saw as EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell’s lack of support during the recent fighting against the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.
Two weeks ago, Koopmans updated Israel’s ambassador to the EU, Ronnie Lashno-Yaar, that he wanted to visit Israel and meet with Israeli officials, according to the news site. While Lashno-Yaar backed the idea, a Foreign Ministry official had reservations about the timing, and she reportedly told Koopmans to plan his trip for a later date.
Koopmans, however, did not do so, and the Foreign Ministry decided no Israeli officials would meet with him after learning of his trip, with all his requests for meetings rejected, the report says.
EU officials quoted by the news site rejected the Israeli criticism of Borrell.
“Koopmans received a mandate from the 27 foreign ministers of all [EU] member states to serve as their joint envoy and to visit the area, and he hopes to hold conversations with Israeli government representatives,” the EU officials say.
Likud coalition chief: I can’t see any remaining way to prevent ‘change government,’ Netanyahu’s ouster
Likud MK Miki Zohar, the outgoing coalition chief, says he doesn’t believe Prime Minister Netanyahu has any final tricks up his sleeve to thwart his rivals from forming a “change government” that will see him replaced as premier.
In a Channel 12 interview, Zohar is asked if Netanyahu and Likud have any last-minute magic or surprises that can yet prevent the Bennett-Lapid coalition, which is due to be sworn in on Sunday: “No. I don’t think so,” Zohar replies, adding that Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar, the respective heads of the right-wing Yamina and New Hope parties, have gone too far to turn back now.
“Bennett understands that he’s lost all his supporters [were he to face the electorate again]. Gideon Sa’ar has completely given up on his right-wing ideology, in order to achieve his personal, childish revenge against Netanyahu,” says Zohar, the Likud faction leader. “And therefore I can’t see any situation where they’ll change course or mess up in the last minute. They’ve made their decision [to push out Netanyahu], including the huge price they’ll pay for it.”
Zohar says Likud’s decision yesterday to reserve three spots on its electoral list for any eleventh-hour defectors “was a kind of late-minute effort, pretty late, and pretty unlikely to succeed, in all honesty.”
“I of course voted in favor of the move in order to keep that chance alive, but it was plainly too late,” he continues. “Things over there [in the change bloc] have been worked out and sealed, and will lead to a [change bloc] government.”
He also voices support for Netanyahu staying on as Likud chief to lead the party from the opposition benches “until we can bring down this lousy government that has been formed.”
“The moment this government falls and we head to elections, we can have leadership primaries [in Likud]… and Netanyahu will be chosen again,” Zohar says.
TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian presidential candidate says he’d be willing to meet with US President Joe Biden if he wins his country’s election next week, though “America needs to send better and stronger signals” to the Islamic Republic.
Speaking to The Associated Press, former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati stresses that an American return to Iran’s tattered nuclear deal was key to any possible relationship amid the wider tensions in the Mideast.
“I think we haven’t seen anything serious from Mr. Biden’s side yet,” Hemmati says. “They first need to go back to the (nuclear deal) that they withdrew from. If we see the process and more confidence is built, then we can talk about that.”
Hemmati, 64, is one of the seven candidates approved by Iranian authorities to run for the presidency in the Islamic Republic’s June 18 election. Polling and analysts suggest he lags in the race behind hardline judiciary chief and front-runner Ebrahim Raisi, believed to be a favorite of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Talking to AP journalists at his Tehran office, Hemmati repeatedly says that the signal Iranians hoped to see from the US was Washington’s return to the nuclear deal.
“The Americans have sent positive signals but those signals have not been strong enough,” he says. “If there are stronger signals, it will affect how optimistic or pessimistic we are.”
Firefighters say blazes near Jerusalem no longer pose a threat to the communities of Kibbutz Ma’ale Hahamisha and Yad Hashmona, but that they have yet to bring the fires under control.
Police are probing if the fires were caused by arson, according to Army Radio.
Israel Railways says service on the high speed Jerusalem-Tel Aviv train has fully resumed, after portions of the line were closed due to a series of fires that broke out around the capital.
The judges in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s corruption trial order state prosecutors to give his defense team more investigatory materials from the phone of former Walla news CEO Ilan Yeshua, a key witnesses in one of the cases against the premier.
“There are grounds for the defense’s claim that the investigatory materials sent to it were partial,” the Jerusalem District Court judges write in their decision. “There is no dispute that this state of affairs must be fixed as soon as possible.”
As part of their ruling, the judges authorize another search of Yeshua’s phone for any conservations with politicians, businessmen and others concerning his involvement in news coverage at Walla.
Yeshua has been testifying in Case 4000, which involves suspicions that Netanyahu approved regulatory decisions benefiting the controlling shareholder of Bezeq telecoms, which owns Walla, in exchange for flattering news coverage.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has decided to bar far-right Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir and Likud’s May Golan from marching tomorrow through Jerusalem’s Old City, the Knesset Guard informs them.
“The activities of the Knesset members may, with a high degree of certainty, lead to severe harm to public order to the point of harming the state’s security,” a Knesset statement says, citing an intelligence assessment.
The Knesset Guard also says Shabtai has barred Ben Gvir from going up to the Temple Mount tomorrow or Friday.
“MK Ben Gvir’s ascent to the Temple Mount at the present time may, with a high degree of certainty, can lead to an increase of tensions on the Temple Mount and provoke disturbances” that could spread further, the statement says.
Ben Gvir hits out at Shabtai over the decision.
“The end of democracy. In order to not annoy the rioters that threatened to riot, the police are harming the immunity of Knesset members who are requesting to march with an Israeli flag in the capital Jerusalem,” Ben Gvir tweets in response.
He accuses Shabtai of revoking “the freedom of movement of a Knesset member” and calls on Prime Minister Netanyahu to reverse the “unprecedented decision.”
Ben Gvir and Golan said they would march through the Damascus Gate with Israeli flags after police withheld permission for a planned march there tomorrow by right-wing nationalists. Yesterday, the high-level security cabinet approved the march for next week if police sign off on the route.
KARBALA, Iraq — The Iraqi justice system frees a commander of the state-affiliated Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition, two weeks after he was arrested over the murder of a pro-democracy activist.
Qassem Muslah was arrested by police intelligence on suspicion of ordering the May 9 killing of Ihab al-Wazni, who was shot dead by men on motorbikes using a silencer.
The paramilitary leader was welcomed by pro-Iran Hashed-al-Shaabi colleagues in the Shiite holy city of Karbala following his release today, AFP journalists say.
“The judges have served justice, they have ended their investigation, terminating it with my release,” Muslah says.
But an official government source decries the decision to release Muslah.
“The government presented all available evidence, but the judges have decided to release him because of pressure exerted on them,” says the source, who wishes to remain anonymous.
In the wake of Muslah’s arrest, security forces had barred entry to Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone — home to the US embassy, parliament and the premier’s office — after the Hashed quickly deployed armed men and armored vehicles in a show of force.
Muslah is also suspected of ordering the assassination of another activist, Fahim al-Taie, in December 2019.
Police and the Shin Bet security service say they have solved a firebombing attack that left a 12-year-old Arab boy in Jaffa seriously injured, during ethnic violence in mixed Jewish-Arab cities and elsewhere across Israel last month.
In a joint statement, the Shin Bet and police call the May 14 incident a terror attack. Muhammad Gintazi was seriously wounded in the firebombing, which also lightly injured his 10-year-old sister.
“In the incident a number of Molotov cocktails were thrown toward several Jewish homes and one was thrown toward the home of an Arab family, the Gintazi family,” the statement says.
Three Jaffa residents have been arrested over the firebombing, with the statement accusing them of planning on attacking Jewish homes in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood “out of a nationalist motive of revenge in light of the disturbances in Lod and the violent incidents on the Temple Mount.”
The statement also says the three fled after “understanding their mistake” and charges that they planned to attack additional Jewish homes.
“Severe indictments” against the suspects are expected to be filed in the coming days, according to the statement.
WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden has revoked executive orders from his predecessor Donald Trump seeking to ban Chinese-owned mobile apps TikTok and WeChat over national security concerns, the White House says.
A White House statement says that instead of banning the popular apps, the Biden administration will carry out a “criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to address the risks” from internet applications controlled by foreign entities.
Trump had claimed the Chinese-owned apps posed national security risks and had sought to force the sale of TikTok to US investors.
Biden’s order seeks to identify any “connected software applications that may pose an unacceptable risk to US national security and the American people” including “applications that are owned, controlled, or managed by persons that support foreign adversary military or intelligence activities, or are involved in malicious cyber activities, or involve applications that collect sensitive personal data.”
The new executive order calls for the Commerce Department and other federal agencies to develop guidelines “to protect sensitive personal data… including personally identifiable information and genetic information” from misuse.
TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, is believed to have some one billion users worldwide including more than 100 million in the United States, and is especially popular with young smartphone users.
WeChat, part of the Chinese tech giant Tencent, is a massively popular “super app” which includes social networking, messaging, e-commerce and more.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister says he doesn’t see any remaining “insurmountable obstacles” in the talks to restore the 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program.
“The negotiations have gained momentum. The odds are the work on what can be described as a final document will resume within days. I do not see any insurmountable obstacles on this way, in particular, any special difficulties stemming from the internal situation in Iran ahead of the elections,” Sergei Ryabkov is quoted saying by the TASS news agency.
He adds: “Unresolved issues do exist, but I should not say that there are too many of them. All are very clear. The optimal balance of interests and final formula the participating parties will be able to agree on are to be found.”
BERLIN — German prosecutors say they have opened a probe against 20 police officers, including elite commandos, accused of taking part in far-right online chats and swapping Nazi symbols.
In the latest political scandal to rock Germany’s security services, the Hesse state crime office and the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office say they’ve carried out dawn raids at the homes and workplaces of six of the suspects.
“Seventeen of the accused are believed to have distributed content constituting incitement of racial hatred or images linked to a former National Socialist organization,” the authorities say in a statement on the investigation, which was launched in April.
Three officers stand accused of obstruction of justice “because they were participants of the relevant chat groups and as superiors failed to stop or sanction the communication.”
Most of the offending content was exchanged in 2016-17, with the most recent from 2019.
The accused are all male and range in age from 29 to 54. Nineteen are active police officers and one retired. Prosecutors said all had been temporarily relieved of their duties, with one suspect formally suspended.
The probe began with allegations against a 38-year-old officer with the SEK special deployment commando in Frankfurt who was accused of sharing illicit content including child pornography.
A search of his mobile phone uncovered some of the racist chats in question.
The case is only the latest example of alleged extremism in the ranks of the German police.
The Health Ministry is considering maintaining the indoor mask mandate at hospitals and senior living facilities, Channel 13 news reports.
The mandate, one of the last remaining COVID-19 restrictions in Israel, is set to expire on June 15.
Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel and animal right group PETA declare Israel has become the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur.
“Today we made history! Furs are no longer in fashion,” Gamliel tweets.
IT'S OFFICIAL: Israel has become the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur!
— PETA (@peta) June 9, 2021
The move, however, is largely symbolic. Israel’s ban on the fur trade provides an exemption for religious reasons, allowing for the continued import of the cake-shaped sable hats known as shtreimels that are worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews on Shabbat and holidays.
Finance Minister-designate Avigdor Liberman will seek to halt unemployment benefits for Israelis under 45-years-old, Channel 12 news reports.
The network says Liberman’s other economic plans include passing a two-year state budget, preventing tax hikes or significant government spending cuts, investing tens of billions of shekels in infrastructure, and a multi-year defense spending plan.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi formally reprimands Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter over a conversation the officer had with Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, which was held without permission through proper channels.
Under military protocol, officers are forbidden from meeting directly with elected officials without approval.
According to a report in the Israel Hayom newspaper, Winter and Bennett met privately in recent days. After the story was published yesterday, the Israel Defense Forces said it would investigate the matter.
Today, the head of the IDF Central Command — Winter’s commanding officer — presented his findings to Kohavi, confirming that the meeting took place.
“The chief of staff called the officer for a clarification conversation and decided to give him a formal reprimand in light of the restriction on direct contacts between service members and elected officials,” the IDF says in a statement.
LONDON — The UK has recorded its highest daily coronavirus cases since late February, suggesting the Delta variant is spreading widely across the country.
Government figures today show that the UK recorded 7,540 new infections, the biggest daily increase since February 26. Cases have been rising over the past few weeks as a result of the Delta variant first identified in India. The concern is the increase will pressure the health system once again.
Another 123 people enter the hospital with symptoms related to coronavirus, taking the total to 1,024. The number of people dying after testing positive for COVID-19 rises by six to 127,860 confirmed deaths.
Health experts hope the rapid rollout of vaccines will break the link between new cases and deaths. So far, a large proportion of the people infected are within the less vulnerable younger age groups, many of whom have yet to receive a first dose.
Parties in the “change government” are planning to quickly pass a series of laws to shore up their coalition after its planned swearing-in on Sunday, the Haaretz daily reports.
The eight factions in the proposed government have yet to sign a coalition deal, but the newspaper publishes what it says is the most recent version of an appendix to the emerging agreement. Among the proposed laws in the appendix are bills that would make it easier for Likud MKs to break off from the party and that would prevent any lawmakers from serving in any other government formed during the 24th Knesset’s lifetime.
According to the report, a proposal to limit the amount of time a Knesset member can serve as prime minister for won’t be included in the legislative changes due to disagreements over the matter among the coalition leaders.
Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and former New York mayor, is vowing to catch whoever leaked his personal tax information to a team of investigative reporters.
The tax records, along with those of thousands of other wealthy Americans, were obtained by the nonprofit news outlet ProPublica and used in an expose on the US tax system published Tuesday.
ProPublica produced a detailed account of how many of the richest people in the country pay little, and sometimes nothing, in income taxes because of how the tax law works. (No wrongdoing is alleged in the report.)
Bloomberg, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and the 13th-richest American, according to Forbes, features prominently in the article.
He reportedly paid $70.7 million on income of $1.9 billion in 2018, which amounts to a 3.7 percent tax rate. The median American household typically pays about 14% in federal income tax. Bloomberg benefited from Trump-era tax cuts, write-offs on charitable donations and credits for having paid foreign taxes, according to ProPublica.
In a statement, a spokesperson says Bloomberg would act to discover who was responsible for the unauthorized release of his private financial records.
“We intend to use all legal means at our disposal to determine which individual or government entity leaked these and ensure that they are held responsible,” the statement says.
Bloomberg’s statement also says that the leak is a violation of his privacy.
“The release of a private citizen’s tax returns should raise real privacy concerns regardless of political affiliation or views on tax policy,” the statement says. “In the United States no private citizen should fear the illegal release of their taxes.”
The lifeless body of a man has been found in a burning car in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood.
The current assessment is that the incident wasn’t criminal, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
President Reuven Rivlin is wrapping up his visit to Romania and will return to Israel this evening following one of his final overseas trips while in office.
Before leaving the country, Rivlin participates in an official memorial ceremony for the seven people who died in a helicopter crash during an IDF training session in Romania in 2010. He is accompanied by an IDF delegation as well as representatives from the bereaved families.
“Eleven years have gone by since this horrible tragedy,” he says at the ceremony. “Eleven years of pain and longing… there is no comfort. The best way to remember and to honor the heroes that fell is to walk in their path. To connect to their love of homeland and to be there for your family members.”
Rivlin also thanks the Romanian government for its ongoing security cooperation with the Jewish state. “The bilateral cooperation between Romania and Israel is incredibly important, it is important to the regional security of Israel,” Rivlin said. “I thank the government of Romania and the Romanian Air Force for this incredibly important activity.”
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