The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Health Ministry chief says he hopes to start vaccinating kids over 12 in ‘May-June’
Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy tells reporters he estimates Israel will begin vaccinating children 12 and up against the coronavirus “around May-June.”
He says the decision will depend on clinical trials being conducted by vaccine-makers, which he hopes “will be over around the end of spring, beginning of summer.”
He adds that there is no plan to cancel the mask requirement in public, as “even vaccinated individuals can be a source of coronavirus that will pass to those around him if they are maskless or unvaccinated, and certainly our children up to 16 who are not vaccinated.”
Gantz extends term of acting state attorney Aisman by 4 months
Acting Justice Minister Benny Gantz extends the term of acting State Attorney Amit Aisman by another four months.
Controversial Haifa District Prosecutor Aisman was chosen in December by a selection committee as the next state prosecutor and was backed by then-justice minister Avi Nissenkorn, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up the approval of the nomination in the cabinet.
Gantz then appointed Aisman in an interim capacity. He says today the cabinet should swiftly approve Aisman’s appointment full-time.
Actor Moshe Ivgy convicted of further sexual offenses on appeal
Actor Moshe Ivgy has been convicted of further sexual offenses on appeal of his original trial.
The Haifa District Court has accepted the appeal of state prosecutors, convicting Ivgy of three counts of indecent acts and one count of sexual assault. Ivgy was originally convicted by the Haifa Magistrate’s Court last year of one indecent act and one count of sexual assault.
Six women have accused Ivgy of harassing and assaulting them while they were working together on various films, TV shows and plays.
He was sentenced at the time to six months of community service and six months on probation.
Both Ivgy and state prosecutors had appealed the ruling.
Prince William: Royal family are ‘very much not a racist family’
Prince William defends the UK royal family against accusations of racism made by his brother Harry and sister-in-law Meghan, saying the royals are “very much not a racist family.”
In comments during a visit to an east London school, William becomes the first royal to directly address the explosive interview his brother and Meghan gave to Oprah Winfrey.
Buckingham Palace sought to respond to Harry and Meghan’s allegations of racism and mistreatment in a 61-word statement, but it has failed to quell the controversy.
Jerusalem’s Cinematheque to screen ‘The Great Dictator’ on election day
Jerusalem’s Cinematheque has returned to business, with showings for Green Pass holders.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not be too happy though: The venue has made an interesting screening choice for election day, March 23, and will be showing Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.”
Hamas says Gaza fishermen were killed by exploding Israeli drone caught in net
The Hamas Interior Ministry says that an explosion that killed three fishermen off the coast of Gaza on Sunday was caused when they brought a toppled Israeli drone into their net.
“The three fishermen from the Al-Lahham family were killed due to the detonation of an explosive device installed on a Quadcopter helicopter belonging to the Israeli occupation, which got stuck in their nets and exploded while they were extracting it,” the Interior Ministry says.
The Interior Ministry denies an experimental Hamas rocket or mortar struck the boat, as witnesses had previously testified to local human rights groups.
“The fishermen were outside the range of the resistance’s rockets,” the Interior Ministry says.
The Gaza fishing zone extends approximately 17 miles off the coast of the enclave. Hamas rockets have been seen to reach as far as Tel Aviv, which lies about 40 miles north of the Gaza Strip.
GPO says Jordan approved PM’s planned flight to UAE too late
The Government Press Office puts out an official statement on the cancelation of the prime minister’s planned trip to the United Arab Emirates today.
It says Netanyahu’s visit “was postponed due to difficulties in coordinating his flight in Jordanian airspace. These difficulties apparently stemmed from the cancellation of the Jordanian crown prince’s visit to the Temple Mount due to a disagreement over security procedures at the site.
“Jordan [eventually] announced that it would allow the prime minister’s flight to use Jordanian airspace but since the announcement was received late, the prime minister and [UAE] Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed agreed to coordinate on another date for the prime minister’s visit.”
FM Ashkenazi, Czech PM inaugurate new diplomatic office in Jerusalem
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis cut the ribbon at the opening of the Czech Republic’s diplomatic office in Jerusalem.
The Czech Republic is the second European Union member state, after Hungary, to open a diplomatic mission in the city. So far, no European countries have embassies there.
Ashkenazi thanks Babis for standing by Israel and for adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
France eases travel rules for seven countries, including Israel
France eases travel restrictions for seven countries outside the European Union, including Israel, saying trips to and from them will no longer need to be justified by essential reasons.
The French government had from January 31 banned all travel outside the EU without a valid excuse to limit the spread of COVID-19 variants in the pandemic.
But due to the changing situation, “it will no longer be necessary to prove a compelling reason for travel to or from Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.
The measure had been adopted in large part to limit the spread of the more infectious variant of COVID-19 that first emerged in England. But the variant is now accounting for well over half of the number of new infections in France.
Citing Israeli data, Pfizer says shot is 97% effective against symptomatic COVID
Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine offers more protection than earlier thought with effectiveness in preventing symptomatic disease reaching 97 percent, according to real-world evidence published today by the two pharmaceutical companies.
Using data from January 17 to March 6 from Israel’s national vaccination campaign, Pfizer-BioNTech found that prevention against asymptomatic disease also reached 94 percent.
An earlier real-world study using data from between December 20, 2020 and February 1, 2021 had shown effectiveness at preventing symptomatic disease at 94 percent and asymptomatic illness at 92 percent.
“This comprehensive real-world evidence… can be of importance to countries around the world as they advance their own vaccination campaigns one year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic,” the two pharmaceutical companies say in a statement.
Israel’s inoculation campaign is the fastest in the world, with some 44 percent of the population already fully vaccinated against the virus. More than five million have received one shot.
Denmark, Norway, Iceland suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine over clot fears
Denmark, Norway and Iceland all temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine over concerns about patients developing post-shot blood clots, as the manufacturer and Europe’s medicine watchdog insist the vaccine is safe.
Denmark is first to announce its suspension, “following reports of serious cases of blood clots” among people who had received the vaccine, the country’s Health Authority says in a statement.
It stresses the move is precautionary, and that “it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”
As of March 9, 22 cases of blood clots have been reported among more than three million people vaccinated in the European Economic Area, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) says.
Austria announced on Monday that it had suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a 49-year-old nurse died of “severe blood coagulation problems” days after receiving a shot.
Jordanian FM blames Israel for prince canceling visit; Gantz appears to blame PM
At a press conference, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi says Israel “did not live up to agreements” regarding the planned visit of Crown Prince Hussein at the Temple Mount yesterday, and “attempted to impose last-minute arrangements that would have limited Muslims on a night holy to Islam.”
The prince had been set to visit on Lailat al-Miʿraj, a holiday marking a journey undertaken by the Prophet Muhammad.
According to a Kan news report, Israel’s account is different, with officials saying the prince’s security delegation that arrived at the border was both larger and more heavily armed than had been agreed. The report said that when Israeli authorities insisted that the Jordanians keep to the terms of the agreement, Hussein canceled the visit.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz appears to accuse the prime minister of somehow being responsible for the incident, saying in a statement that Israel is “committed to agreements with the Jordanians and has great respect for the Jordanian government and King Abdullah.”
He accuses Netanyahu of “heavily damaging” the relations in recent years through his conduct, but gives no further details.
Diplomats believe informal US-Iran talks possible in coming weeks — NY Times
Diplomats in the US and Europe tell the New York Times they believe Washington and Tehran could find their way to holding informal talks on the moribund nuclear deal within weeks.
They say the sides may agree on taking simultaneous steps to return to the deal that both have abandoned.
US President Joe Biden supports a return to diplomacy with Iran but insists that Tehran first return to full compliance with the 2015 deal by reversing nuclear steps it took to protest sanctions imposed by former president Donald Trump.
The Biden administration said on February 18 that it was willing to meet Iran under the auspices of the European Union but Tehran said the timing was not right, calling first for the removal of sanctions.
Hadassah nurse breastfeeds infant whose mother was seriously hurt in car crash
A nurse at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center won the gratitude of a family from East Jerusalem after breastfeeding the infant daughter of a woman who was seriously injured in a car accident Saturday.
The four-month-old baby did not accept a bottle and was wailing loudly for hours. When nurse Yael Cohen arrived, she offered to feed her herself.
“It wasn’t odd for me at all to offer it, even though I’ve never breastfed another person’s baby,” said Cohen, a mother of two from the settlement of Nokdim.
“I asked the aunt taking care of her if it was okay for me to breastfeed, I wanted to hear that it’s fine by her. She was immediately enthusiastic and thanked me happily,” Cohen recounted.
“As a mother it broke me to see [the baby] suffering. Hungry, her mother isn’t by her side and the only thing that can calm her is unavailable,” she says.
“I sat down, took her to me, calmed her and fed her. And suddenly it got quiet, she calmed down and ate hungrily.”
Erdan on South Park’s Israel shoutout: This is how you do pandemic humor
Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan is mightily pleased with South Park’s depiction of Israel in its latest episode on the pandemic.
In the episode people praise Israel’s ability to quickly vaccinate its population. An Israeli plane later lands in town and Israelis throw out boxes of vaccines to residents.
Erdan does not waste the opportunity to explain to “Saturday Night Live” that “this is how you do pandemic humor.”
Hey @nbcsnl: this is how you do pandemic humor when it comes to Israel. Watch and learn from @SouthPark pic.twitter.com/miMAS0dwry
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) March 11, 2021
Israeli officials strongly condemned SNL for a joke on the Jewish state’s vaccination campaign, when Weekend Update co-host Michael Che said “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half.”
Some Israelis and Jewish groups suggested it was anti-Semitic.
Iran slams US for sticking to Trump’s ‘failed policy’
Iran hits out at the United States for sticking to what it calls former president Donald Trump’s “failed policy,” saying such an approach will fail to salvage the nuclear deal.
“US claims it favors diplomacy; not Trump’s failed policy of ‘maximum pressure,'” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif writes on Twitter.
“Yet [US Secretary of State Antony Blinken] boasts abt blocking Korea from transferring our OWN money to the Swiss Channel — only used for food & meds,” he adds.
“Repeating the same policy won’t yield new results.”
US claims it favors diplomacy; not Trump's failed policy of "maximum pressure”.
Yet @SecBlinken boasts abt blocking Korea from transferring our OWN money to the Swiss Channel—only used for food & meds.
Repeating the same policy won't yield new results.
Only way: #CommitActMeet pic.twitter.com/kxwSMWhYhV
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 11, 2021
Zarif’s comments come hours after Blinken signaled US opposition to the release of billions of dollars in Iranian funds from South Korea unless the Islamic Republic returns to full compliance with the nuclear accord.
South Korea had said last month it agreed on a way forward to release billions of dollars frozen from Iran’s oil sales but was awaiting Washington’s approval.
France: Lebanon is running out of time before total collapse
France’s foreign minister warns that Lebanon is running out of time before it could see a total collapse, urging the country’s fractious politicians to form a new government to save it from economic and financial disaster.
Jean-Yves Le Drian says such a collapse would spell disaster not only for the Lebanese people, but also for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Palestinian refugees it hosts, as well as the entire region.
He speaks to reporters in Paris, months after French President Emanuel Macron proposed a road map to break Lebanon’s political stalemate over the formation of a new government. Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government resigned days after the massive explosion at Beirut port in August.
Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of non-partisan specialists that can work on urgent reforms to extract Lebanon from a financial crisis worsened by the Aug. 4 explosion. Macron has traveled twice to Beirut since then and has made it a personal mission to try to repair the damaged country.
Those efforts have led to nowhere as Lebanon’s famously corrupt politicians continue to bicker about the shape and size of a new Cabinet while the country is mired in the worst economic crisis in its modern history — a situation has been exacerbated by pandemic restrictions.
PM meets Hungarian, Czech leaders, says nations will cooperate on vaccines
After meeting with his Hungarian and Czech counterparts Viktor Orban and Andrej Babis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu says the countries will cooperate on research and development of coronavirus vaccines as well as on so-called “green passports” to allow mutual travel between countries for vaccinated individuals.
He thanks the two leaders for their friendship toward Israel and for opening diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.
“We are better together,” he says.
Orban says Israel is “the world champion in fighting against [the] pandemic… We try to understand during the visit how to follow you.”
Babis condemns the International Criminal Court’s decision to launch an investigation into possible crimes by Israel in the Palestinian territories, citing a lack of jurisdiction.
He thanks Israel for sharing of its knowledge and lessons from COVID-19.
Netanyahu: UAE visit will happen very soon, nation to invest $10b in Israel
Netanyahu says Israel has straightened things out with Jordan after the country prevented him from flying over its territory, leading him to cancel a planned flash visit to the United Arab Emirates today.
He says he spoke on the phone with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and that the visit will happen “very soon.”
He also says bin Zayed said the UAE will invest $10 billion in Israel through various projects.
Dozens of Democrats demand Cuomo’s resignation
A group of 59 New York state Democratic lawmakers demand Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation in the wake of an allegation that he groped an aide at the Executive Mansion last year.
The letter released by the group comes as Cuomo’s grip on power in the state seems increasingly tenuous. The top Democrat in the state Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie, said he will meet with members in conference today on “potential paths forward” in light of mounting allegations.
In New York, the Assembly is the legislative house that could move to impeach Cuomo, who has faced multiple allegations that he made the workplace an uncomfortable place for young women with sexually suggestive behavior, including unwanted touching and a kiss.
The Times Union of Albany reported yesterday that an unidentified aide had claimed Cuomo reached under her shirt and fondled her after summoning her to his official residence.
Nineteen senators and 40 Assembly members say in a letter today that it is time for Cuomo to go.
European, Arab diplomats try to revive Mideast peace efforts
Leading European and Arab world diplomats announce potential “small steps” toward reviving Mideast peace efforts after upcoming Israeli and Palestinian elections.
The officials — from the UN, EU, Egypt, Jordan, Germany and France — do not release any specific details, however. And the meeting comes amid new tensions between Israel and Arab countries around Jerusalem.
There have not been any serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in over a decade and it is unclear what the diplomats can do concretely to create conditions to bring the two sides closer together.
“We are going to initiate meetings with both parties within a timeframe built around the electoral calendar to identify, with them, the steps they are in a position to take to kickstart mutual trust,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says. He mentions possible health and economic measures, without elaborating.
Israel extradites US citizen accused of defrauding millions
Israel yesterday extradited to the US an American citizen accused of defrauding financial institutions of over $30 million in California and elsewhere between 2004 and 2008.
Aryeh Greenes was arrested in Israel in February 2019. The FBI has said he and a second suspect, Aviv Mizrahi, fled to Israel to escape arrest.
According to a 2014 indictment filed in a Los Angeles court, Greenes and Mizrahi allegedly used fake financial records to obtain millions in credit from multiple banks, using several wholesale electronics companies as well as a retail store held by Mizrahi.
Mizrahi moved to Israel in 2009 as the investigation was in progress, while Greenes relocated in 2012.
Israeli envoy to US Erdan casts ballot in Israeli elections
Diplomats around the world are casting their ballots today ahead of the March 23 election.
In Washington, Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan votes as well.
“I am excited to be voting for the first time in my life outside Israel’s borders… it is particularly moving to be voting in the capital of Israel’s most important ally,” he says.
Israel and US hold first strategic group meeting on Iran, regional issues
The US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group has completed its first meeting, held via videoconference and led by the nations’ national security advisers.
According to a spokesperson for the American NSC, “the two sides shared perspectives on regional security issues of mutual interest and concern, including Iran, and expressed their common determination to confront the challenges and threats facing the region.”
And US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat “agreed on the importance of strategic interagency consultations and pledged to continue these engagements.”
US envoy on Iran Robert Malley told the Axios news site ahead of the meeting that neither Washington nor Jerusalem wishes to see a return to the very public discord that existed between the countries’ leaderships during the run-up to the signing of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.
“We don’t always agree, but the talks are extremely open and positive. While we may have different interpretations and views as to what happened in 2015–2016, neither of us wishes to repeat it,” Malley said.
NBA fines Meyers Leonard $50,000 for anti-Semitic slur
The NBA has fined Meyers Leonard $50,000 and suspended him from all Miami Heat facilities and activities for one week, in response to his use of an anti-Semitic term.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announces the sanctions two days after the video began circulating on social media.
“Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society,” Silver says.
Leonard apologized for using the term, insisting he did not know what it meant when he used it Monday. The Heat learned of the matter Tuesday, and Leonard’s future with the team is now in serious doubt. He will not play again this season because of a shoulder injury.
Silver says Leonard spoke Wednesday “to representatives of the Anti-Defamation League to better understand the impact of his words and we accept that he is genuinely remorseful.”
Pfizer CEO: Elementary school kids likely to get okay for shot by year’s end
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells Reuters he expects teens under 16 will be able to get vaccinated with the company’s shot in the fall, and that elementary school kids will become eligible by year’s end.
The company is currently holding clinical trials for the 12-16 age group.
Islamic Jihad vows revenge on Israel after fishermen die in Gaza blast
Islamic Jihad vows revenge against Israel following an announcement by Hamas authorities that three Gazan fishermen were killed by a downed Israeli drone on Sunday when it got caught in one of their nets.
“The occupation stands behind this hideous crime and has committed this odiousness. A sure response will arrive from the Palestinian resistance,” Islamic Jihad says in a statement.
Hamas often fires experimental rockets towards the sea to test its weapons capabilities. Before the explosion on Sunday, local media had reported that Hamas was firing such rockets. Hamas dismissed the possibility that it had caused the deaths of the fishermen on Thursday.
Health officials tell TV situation ‘most hopeful since beginning of pandemic’
As coronavirus numbers continue to drop around the country, health officials tell Channel 13 the situation is “the most hopeful it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.”
The officials tell the network if the positive trajectory continues, Israelis will be able to celebrate Passover without limitations at the end of March.
Agreeing with the prime minister’s comments to Fox News earlier this week, former coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu tells Channel 13 that “the coronavirus as a pandemic is behind us.”
However, he warns that as a sporadic disease with outbreaks, the virus is here to stay, but will be under control.
Gamzu says he supports reopening the airport, which remains largely closed, and schools should also be fully reopened.
Gamzu says he expects vaccines to last over a year. He also says he does not see any potential return to lockdown.
Pfizer chief: Netanyahu convinced me Israel right place to prove vaccine
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells Channel 12 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convinced him Israel was the right place for a case study of the company’s vaccines, leading to the quick delivery of millions of doses to the Jewish state.
He says Netanyahu “called me 30 times” on the vaccines. Nevertheless, Bourla says the company will “supply vaccines whoever is the prime minister.”
He says: “We knew that it is very appropriate for humanity to be able to select one country that we can demonstrate what the vaccination of the people can do to the health index, to the health of the people, and to the economic index, because they would be able to reopen the economy. And of course, I was talking with several heads of state. I spoke to your prime minister. He convinced me that Israel is the place with the right conditions. But also I was impressed frankly with the obsession of your prime minister. He called me 30 times.”
Meretz head says he doesn’t support ICC probe of Israel
Meretz party chief Nitzan Horowitz has told Channel 12 he does not support the International Criminal Court’s decision to investigate Israel.
Horowitz sparked outrage earlier this week when he said “there were grounds for the decision” by the ICC.
He now tells the TV network that he merely meant that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians were the cause of the decision, but that he does not back it.
After outcry, Holocaust survivors get access to Oslo Jewish nursing home
Following an outcry, a city in Norway has reversed its decision not to let two Holocaust survivors move to the country’s only Jewish nursing home in Oslo.
Yesterday, the Skien municipality held a City Council vote on the matter after earlier this year declining the request of Leif Arild, 86, and an older applicant because it “can provide a good and adequate offer” locally, as a municipal spokesperson told the Varden newspaper this week.
Varden ran an op-ed calling on Skien to reverse its decision, and the Jewish Community in Oslo also urged the municipality to allow the survivors to move.
Elderly Norwegians are eligible for state-funded housing solutions. If their needs cannot be met in their area of residence, they are referred to appropriate facilities elsewhere. The person’s municipality of residence shoulders the extra costs connected to the out-of-town referral. The municipality also evaluates the person’s application for referral.
Rocket sirens sound in city of Ashkelon and nearly Kibbutz Zikim
Rocket sirens are triggered in the city of Ashkelon and nearby community of Kibbutz Zikim, the military says.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
Earlier Islamic Jihad promised revenge for the deaths of three Gaza fisherman Sunday, who Hamas claimed were killed by a boobytrapped Israeli drone they caught in their net.
Israel says over 50,000 Palestinian workers vaccinated against COVID in first week of drive
Israel says over 50,000 Palestinian workers employed inside Israel and in settlements have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first week of the inoculation campaign it is leading.
According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, there is high demand by Palestinian laborers
Eight vaccination centers have opened at West Bank crossings and another four in industrial zones.
Zaka founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav accused of multiple cases of rape, sexual abuse
Haaretz is reporting claims by six people that Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a co-founder and chairman of the Zaka volunteer emergency response group, sexually assaulted, raped and abused them. The paper claims there are likely many more.
The allegations are made by both men and women. One says Meshi-Zahav forcibly undressed her and raped her after offering financial aid. Another says Meshi-Zahav repeatedly abused him when he was a teen.
The report says several other women have testified that he masturbated in front of them and touched them sexually.
Meshi-Zahav denies the allegations, telling the paper the claims “are baseless” and will cause “irrevocable damage” to his good name.
Earlier this month, Meshi-Zahav was declared a winner of the Israel Prize’s lifetime achievement award for his contributions to Israeli society.
IDF says rocket sirens in south were a false alarm, Iron Dome triggered
The Israeli military says the rocket sirens triggered in southern Israel earlier this evening were a false alarm caused by a detection system that identified rocket launches when there were none.
Due to this false detection, two Iron Dome interceptor missiles were launched. Once it was determined that there were no rockets to shoot down, operators on the ground caused the missiles to self-destruct in mid-air in accordance with military protocol, the Israel Defense Forces says.
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