ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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As Knesset debates latest overhaul bills, president warns situation ‘very serious’

Plenum set for first readings of a bill to shield Netanyahu from removal from office, and another to allow parliament to override High Court rulings

The Knesset plenum in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The Knesset plenum in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they occurred.

Herzog: Devoting all my time to finding solution to judicial overhaul crisis

President Isaac Herzog gives a primetime speech pleading for compromise on the judicial overhaul plan, on March 9, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog gives a primetime speech pleading for compromise on the judicial overhaul plan, on March 9, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog says he is devoting all his time to finding a solution to the judicial overhaul crisis, saying the situation is “a very serious” crisis.

“It is no secret that I devote all my time and energy to finding agreements, that will rescue us from the constitutional and social crisis we are in,” the president says at a ceremony in Tel Aviv.

“We are in a serious, very serious situation, which may have political, economic, social and security consequences” Herzog adds.

“This is not a political compromise, this is a Sisyphean effort to find a correct formula of balance and hope. Because the situation is very difficult and worrying,” he says.

Education minister says National Library deal reached amid threat to independence

Incoming Education Minister Yoav Kisch (left) at a handover ceremony with outgoing minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussil/FLASH90)
Incoming Education Minister Yoav Kisch (left) at a handover ceremony with outgoing minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussil/FLASH90)

Education Minister Yoav Kisch says he has reached a deal with the National Library over greater government control over its board of directors amid an outcry over his planned legislation that critics say would undermine the institution’s independence.

Kisch says the deal will allow him to appoint an additional representative to the Library’s board, who will have access to all the institution’s dealings.

In exchange, he is pulling legislation that would allow the government to determine the entire makeup of the library’s board.

His plans had come under intense criticism from the Library, universities and authors who say the legislation undermines lass guaranteeing the library independence from political control.

Hebrew media reports on the bill have noted that right-wing politicians have been targeting the library for the past year since the appointment of former state attorney Shai Nitzan as library rector.

Nitzan was heavily involved in preparing the corruption charges against Netanyahu. He came under fire by Netanyahu and his allies throughout the investigation of the prime minister in three corruption probes, and particularly since the filing of charges — bribery, breach of trust and fraud — against him.

Nitzan has been portrayed by the prime minister’s associates, without proof, as a left-wing activist bent on removing the premier from office through illegitimate means.

Ex-top Jordan official, jailed in plot against king, hospitalized amid hunger strike

King Abdullah II of Jordan listens to French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) during a working lunch at the Al-Husseiniya Palace in the Jordanian capital Amman on December 21, 2022. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP)
King Abdullah II of Jordan listens to French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) during a working lunch at the Al-Husseiniya Palace in the Jordanian capital Amman on December 21, 2022. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP)

A former top Jordanian official imprisoned in an alleged plot against the Western-allied monarchy was rushed to the hospital over the weekend after a three-week hunger strike, the man’s American lawyer said Monday.

Bassem Awadallah, who is a dual Jordanian-American citizen, was suffering from low blood pressure and sugar levels when he was hospitalized Saturday, his representatives said.

They said he was given glucose intravenously but refused further intervention once his condition stabilized. He has since returned to prison and remains on his hunger strike.

“My client’s life remains in danger as his health declines daily,” said Michael J. Sullivan, Awadallah’s attorney.

He said Awadallah’s family has urged the U.S. government to “take immediate action” to secure his release and holds Jordan’s King Abdullah II responsible for the harm to Awadallah.

A Jordanian security official called the claims of a hunger strike “inaccurate,” saying Awadallah has been drinking liquids regularly.

“He was hospitalized at the recommendation of the medical team and later discharged after receiving the necessary treatment,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under security guidelines. “He is now in good condition.”

The official said there was no obligation for Jordanian officials to notify the American Embassy because Awadallah is a Jordanian “first and foremost.” But he said that Awadallah is entitled to meet with a US consular representative, who visited him on Monday.

The US Embassy in Jordan had no immediate comment.

Hundreds protest AIPAC delegation to Israel, call to speak against judicial overhaul

Israelis protest outside a Jerusalem hotel where an AIPAC delegation is meeting Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu on MArch 113, 2023 (Courtesy)
Israelis protest outside a Jerusalem hotel where an AIPAC delegation is meeting Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu on MArch 113, 2023 (Courtesy)

Hundreds of Israelis are protesting outside a hotel in Jerusalem where an AIPAC delegation is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling on the US pro-Israel lobby group to speak out against the government’s judicial overhaul.

Waving Israeli flags, blowing horns and chanting “democracy,” the activists want members of the powerful group to speak out — as many other American Jewish organizations have — against the reform.

Critics say it will deeply undermine Israeli democracy and harm the economy and security.

Recordings show divisions inside Likud over pace of judicial overhaul

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party meeting at the Knesset on March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party meeting at the Knesset on March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Recordings from within a closed-door Likud faction meeting published by the Walla news site indicate divisions within the ruling party over the controversial judicial overhaul it is leading.

Veteran MK Yuli Edelstein, who has been largely sidelined by Prime Minister Netanyahu, calls to halt the legislation, saying it provides “the best excuse for the opposition,” not to enter talks.

Opposition parties are refusing to negotiate until the government pauses its legislative blitz.

Culture Minister Miki Zohar also criticizes the efforts of the government, saying the opposition is winning the war for public opinion, “because they fight together.”

Netanyahu responds to him, saying there is no chance this government will collapse, comparing it to “an iron wall.”

Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, seen as a Netanyahu loyalist, says the government “can’t blink” in its legislative efforts.

French government officials won’t meet Smotrich during visit next week

Jewish Americans and Israeli ex-pats protest against Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington on March 12, 2023. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Jewish Americans and Israeli ex-pats protest against Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington on March 12, 2023. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

French government officials will not meet with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during his visit to France next week, embassy officials tell Channel 12 news.

The report comes days after Smotrich makes a visit to the US, where he also only holds talks with Jewish groups and not the Biden administration.

In Washington, the far-right leader again apologizes for calling to “wipe out” the Palestinian town of Huwara and committed to “protect every innocent life, Jew or Arab.”

Sources close to Smotrich tell the channel that, in any case, he was only supposed to meet with Jewish groups.

However, the report notes the public confirmation from the French government is significant.

Gaza fisherman celebrate catch of hundreds of endangered manta rays

Palestinian fishermen carry manta rays on a horse cart on the beach of Gaza City, Sunday, March 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Palestinian fishermen carry manta rays on a horse cart on the beach of Gaza City, Sunday, March 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Dozens of manta rays are laid out on a beach in the blockaded Gaza Strip today as local Palestinian fishermen celebrate a mass catch of the endangered fish.

The rare fish flock to the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Gaza every year in March and April.

Fishing is a major commercial activity in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007 when the Islamist Hamas terror group took over the territory.

Fisherman Bashir Shoueikh caught more than 10 of the rays, each weighing between 200 and 300 kg (440-660 pounds).

They sell for around 12 shekels ($3.30) per kilo.

“Each boat carries between 20 and 30 of these fish,” Shoueikh tells AFP. “People like them a lot.”

The two species of manta ray — manta alfredi and manta birostris — are both on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species due to their declining numbers.

Knesset debating first reading of bill to shield Netanyahu from recusal

Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem , March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem , March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

The Knesset is debating a  government-backed bill to prevent the High Court of Justice from having the power to suspend the prime minister from office.

Sponsored by Likud’s faction director, MK Ofir Katz, the bill is widely seen as a reaction to a decision by the High Court last month to hear a petition demanding that the court compel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a leave of absence from office, owing to his ostensible conflict of interests in presiding over far-reaching legal and judicial reforms while he is himself on trial for alleged corruption.

Netanyahu has signed a conflict of interest agreement barring him from dealing with matters that could affect the outcome of his trial.

The bill is widely expected to pass its first reading.

 

Cohen to testify before grand jury in Trump hush money probe

Michael Cohen arrives at the district attorney's office to testify before a grand jury in New York, Monday, March 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
Michael Cohen arrives at the district attorney's office to testify before a grand jury in New York, Monday, March 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is expected to testify today before a Manhattan grand jury investigating hush money payments he arranged and made on the former US president’s behalf.

Cohen arrives at the courthouse accompanied by his lawyer shortly in advance of his closed-door testimony, which comes at a critical time as the Manhattan district attorney’s office approaches a decision whether to seek charges against Trump.

A Trump loyalist turned adversary, Cohen is likely to provide critical details about whatever involvement the Republican presidential candidate may have had in the payments made during the 2016 campaign to two women who alleged affairs or sexual encounters with him.

“My goal is to tell the truth,” Cohen tolls reporters outside the courthouse, dismissing a suggestion that he might be motivated by a desire to see Trump behind bars.

“This is not revenge,” he says. “This is all about accountability. He needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.”

Trump denies being involved with either of the women, the porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal.

Coalition defeats 3 no-confidence motions

The coalition defeats three no-confidence measures against it on the Knesset floor, sponsored by the opposition’s Yesh Atid, National Unity and Yisrael Beytenu parties, respectively.

Lapid meets rabbis from national religious community, urges them to join protests

Opposition leader Yair Lapid (C) meets with representatives of the national religious community at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023 (Courtesy Yesh Atid)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid (C) meets with representatives of the national religious community at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023 (Courtesy Yesh Atid)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid meets at the Knesset with a group of rabbis and representatives associated with the national religious community and urges them to join protests against the government’s judicial overhaul plans.

“During the meeting, the head of the opposition thanked the group of rabbis for holding the meeting and called on them to raise a strong and prominent voice, and take an active part in the protest against the coalition’s legislative efforts,” a statement from Lapid’s office says.

The national religious community is closely associated with the right-religious government.

Reality star Moshe Passal sworn in as Likud MK

Moshe Passal (Courtesy)
Moshe Passal (Courtesy)

Reality star and Likud activist Moshe Passal is sworn in as an MK, replacing Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan, who quit Knesset under the so-called Norwegian Law.

The Norwegian Law lets a number of cabinet members and deputy ministers from each government party resign their Knesset seats while they hold their ministerial posts. If a minister later resigns from the cabinet, they automatically return to the Knesset, requiring the lawmaker who replaced them in parliament to give up their seat.

Passal is the 16th MK to enter parliament under the measure in the 25th Knesset.

Passal came to national attention as a participant in the 2018 Israeli version of Big Brother.

 

Likud minister proposes ‘French Law’ to stop corruption probes against sitting PMs

MK David Amsalem at a discussion on the government's judicial overhaul plans in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK David Amsalem at a discussion on the government's judicial overhaul plans in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud Minister David Amsalem submits his version of the so-called “French Law” that would bar police from investigating a sitting prime minister for corruption allegations.

The move is widely seen as an effort to protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently being tried in three corruption cases. However, it was not immediately clear if the law could be applied retroactively.

The bill submitted by Amsalem is similar to one he proposed several years ago and would bar an Attorney General from authorizing an investigation into a prime minister unless the charges were related to sexual assault, violent assault, security offenses or drugs.

Explaining the law in the preamble, Amsalem says: “The prime minister of Israel is one of the most complex positions. He has to take fateful decisions that affect the entire population, including diplomatic, security, economic and social decisions. As such he should be freed to focus entirely on this.”

Netanyahu is on trial in three corruption cases. He faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and in Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000. He denies wrongdoing and says the charges were fabricated in a political coup led by the police and state prosecution.

 

Morocco royal court decries Islamist party for criticizing ties with Israel

Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Morocco’s royal court on Monday criticized comments by a leading Islamist opposition party that accused the authorities of bias towards Israel.

The North African country and Israel normalized relations in December 2020, part of a series of US-backed deals known as the Abraham Accords that saw Israel also establish ties with the UAE and Bahrain.

Those agreements broke with decades of Arab consensus that ties should only be established with Israel in the event of a peace agreement that gives the Palestinians their own state.

“The general secretariat of the PJD (Justice and Development Party) recently published a declaration containing irresponsible excesses and dangerous approximations regarding relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the State of Israel,” the royal court says in a statement.

The PJD, a moderate Islamist party led by former prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane, had made a statement last week in which it “deplored” the “recent positions taken by the foreign minister in which he appeared to defend the Zionist entity (Israel) in African and European meetings.”

It charged that this came at a time when Israeli forces were committing “criminal aggression against our Palestinian brothers,” amid a surge of violence in the West Bank.

“Morocco’s position towards the Palestinian question is irreversible,” the royal court says, noting that “the kingdom’s external policy is the prerogative of His Majesty the King (Mohammed VI) under the constitution.”

As such, it “cannot be subjected to political bidding and narrow electoral campaigns,” the statement adds.

Shabtai said to order police commanders not to speak directly to Ben Gvir

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in the Traffic Police's National Control Center with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Thursday, March 9, amid nationwide protests against the government's judicial overhaul program. (Courtesy: Office of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in the Traffic Police's National Control Center with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Thursday, March 9, amid nationwide protests against the government's judicial overhaul program. (Courtesy: Office of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir)

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has ordered police commanders not to speak directly to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Channel 12 reports.

During a weekly meeting of commanders, Shabtai tells them that any communication from the far-right Otzma Yehudit leader should be referred to the commissioner’s office, the report says.

The order comes in the wake of a botched effort by Ben Gvir to have the Tel Aviv police commander removed from his post last week over his refusal to use force to clear protesters from roads.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara froze his decision to remove Tel Aviv District Police Commander Amichai Eshed from his position, saying the move was not legal.

Shabtai later apologized for his role in the incident, saying that he’d “made a mistake” in approving the step.

UN says world was slow to send aid to Syria after earthquake

People sit by a building destroyed in recent earthquake in Aleppo, Syria, February 27, 2023. (Omar Sanadiki/AP)
People sit by a building destroyed in recent earthquake in Aleppo, Syria, February 27, 2023. (Omar Sanadiki/AP)

The international community and the Syrian government did not act quickly last month to help people in need in the rebel-held northwest after a deadly earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, a UN commission says.

The February 6 magnitude-7.8 earthquake and strong aftershocks that ravaged southern Turkey and northwestern Syria killed more than 50,000 people, including over 6,000 in Syria.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria says there should be an investigation into why it took a week to open border crossings for aid to flow.

It adds that war-torn Syria “now needs a comprehensive cease-fire that is fully respected” for civilians, including aid workers, to be safe.

Netanyahu blames ‘biased’ media for stirring up anger over judicial overhaul

Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem , March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem , March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames “leftist” and “biased” media for drumming up anger against his government’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary and further entrench political power.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented attack by biased media channels against the government, fully mobilized to serve opponents of the reform,” the premier says at the start of his Likud party’s Knesset faction meeting.

Netanyahu accuses the media of turning reserve soldiers who refuse to serve in the military in protest against the judicial reforms into “heroes” and road-blocking demonstrators into “freedom fighters,” but in contrast treated the previous government, stacked with his political rivals, with “kid gloves.”

Echoing remarks he made before his Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu says that a proper democracy is one in which the “elected government is responsible for the army, the police, law and order,” presumably in contrast to being constrained by the judiciary.

Despite his coalition continuing to charge forward with the reform, with one of its central provisions set to come for its first Knesset reading today, Netanyahu calls for dialogue on the controversial reforms.

“The right thing to do is to talk, to try to reach agreements. It’s still not too late and I’m still not giving it up,” he adds.

Teenage girl singer barred from singing show over ultra-Orthodox man in audience

Undated photo of Eliana Hayut. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Undated photo of Eliana Hayut. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A teenage girl was told she can’t sing in a municipal show yesterday because it would offend an ultra-Orthodox man who was in the audience.

The head of education at the Merom HaGalil Regional Council later apologizes for his decision to nix Eliyana Hayut, 13, from performing in a musical interlude during an education conference organized by the council, and says it was the wrong decision made under pressure.

The council says the incident was due to a “misunderstanding” and also apologized.

Under Israeli law, gender discrimination is prohibited in the public arena or at municipal events. However, women are often cut from performing at events as Orthodox Jewish law prohibits men from hearing women sing in certain contexts, considering the female voice immodest.

“It really upset me that I was canceled from the conference,” Hayut tells Channel 12. “I feel that it’s wrong to discriminate, it’s wrong that I couldn’t go to sing.”

Father seriously wounded in Ramot terror attack makes first visit to sons’ graves

The father of two boys killed in a Palestinian terror attack in Jerusalem last month made a first visit to his sons’ graves after he was also seriously wounded in the attack.

Avraham Paley only found out about the deaths of his two boys after waking from a coma two weeks after the attack.

The two children, Yaakov Yisrael Paley, 5, and his brother, Asher Menahem Paley, 7, were killed by a terrorist who drove a car into the bus stop where they were waiting, in the Ramot neighborhood. Another man, Alter Shlomo Lederman, a 20-year-old yeshiva student who was recently married, was also killed.

Paley was taken to the cemetery in a wheelchair immediately after being released from the hospital and could be seen weeping as he sat by their fresh graves.

 

Biden insists US banks are sound after two major collapses

A sign of a branch of the Silicon Valley Bank is pictured at an office building where the bank is located in Frankfurt, Germany, March 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
A sign of a branch of the Silicon Valley Bank is pictured at an office building where the bank is located in Frankfurt, Germany, March 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

US President Joe Biden tells US residents the nation’s financial systems are sound, following the swift and stunning collapse of two banks that prompted fears of a broader upheaval.

“Americans can have confidence that the banking system is safe,” he says from the Roosevelt Room before a trip to the West Coast. “Your deposits will be there when you need them.”

US regulators closed the Silicon Valley Bank on Friday after it experienced a traditional bank run, where depositors rushed to withdraw their funds all at once. It is the second largest bank failure in US history, behind only the 2008 failure of Washington Mutual.

In a sign of how fast the financial bleeding was occurring, regulators announced that New York-based Signature Bank had also failed.

The president, speaking from the Roosevelt Room shortly before US markets opened, says he’d seek to hold those responsible and pressed for better oversight and regulation of larger banks. And he promised no losses would be borne by taxpayers.

Governments in the US and Britain were both taking extraordinary steps to prevent a potential banking crisis.

US regulators worked through the weekend to find a buyer for Silicon Valley Bank, which had more than $200 billion in assets and catered to tech startups, venture capital firms, and well-paid technology workers.

While those efforts appeared to have failed, officials assured all of the bank’s customers that they would be able to access their money on Monday.

The Bank of England and UK Treasury say that they had facilitated the sale of the Silicon Valley bank’s London-based subsidiary to HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, ensuring the security of 6.7 billion pounds ($8.1 billion) of deposits.

The assurances came as part of an expansive emergency lending program intended to prevent a wave of bank runs that would threaten the stability of the banking system and the economy as a whole.

Ben Gvir petitions High Court against AG Baharav-Miara, says he does not trust her

Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit political party, visits Beit Orot, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, October 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit political party, visits Beit Orot, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, October 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir appeals to the High Court of Justice to allow him independent counsel in petitions against him and his ministry, heightening tensions with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara who the ultranationalist minister says he could no longer trust.

Ben Gvir and his ministry are facing several legal motions against his actions as minister and legislation that expanded his power over the police.

In a statement to the High Court, the minister argues that the attorney general’s decision to freeze his move to remove the Tel Aviv District Police commander from his post without consulting with him destroyed his faith in her ability to faithfully represent him in legal proceedings.

This behavior is “unconstitutional, unreasonable, disproportionate, and unfair. It is inappropriate that the respondent [the attorney general] should make such an extraordinary and severe decision without discussing it with me,” writes Ben Gvir.

On Sunday, Baharav-Miara informed Ben Gvir that she could not accept his request for an independent counsel in the legal motions against him until he properly explained which petitions he was referring to and the reasoning for his request.

Over 400 former envoys of Zionist groups urge coalition to freeze judicial overhaul

Illustrative: Young emissaries of the Jewish Agency for Israel dance their way up Fifth Avenue during the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan. (David Karp)
Illustrative: Young emissaries of the Jewish Agency for Israel dance their way up Fifth Avenue during the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan. (David Karp)

More than 400 former envoys of Israeli Zionist organizations promoting immigration to Israel by Jews and their relatives sign an open letter calling on the government to freeze its controversial judicial overhaul.

The 436 undersigned, who had represented abroad the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Jewish National Fund and Keren HaYesod, say they “look on with dread at the effects of the legislation not only on Israeli society but Jewish Diaspora communities.”

They are calling therefore on the coalition to “put the legislative process on hold and enter into a dialogue” as part of a reconciliation plan led by President Issac Herzog.

The country’s relations with Diaspora communities could suffer a “mortal blow” unless the overhaul is carried out with broad consent, they add

Lapid says Netanyahu weak, losing control of government, harming ties with US

Head of the Yesh Atid party MK Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Head of the Yesh Atid party MK Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 13, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid charges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with having “lost control” of his government and country, amid widespread protests and fears for Israel’s ties with the US.

“The country is falling apart around him and he is unable to do anything,” Lapid says, in a statement opening his Yesh Atid party’s Knesset faction meeting.

Regarding foreign relations, Lapid says a rift is forming with Israel’s most important ally, as “the Americans simply refuse to help this government.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is being snubbed by US officials and civil society, during his ongoing trip to the States, while Netanyahu has not yet been invited to the White House, despite returning to power in late December.

Lapid says that Netanyahu has become “weak” and unable to control his coalition, members of which continue to push for judicial reform and “will dismantle his government if he tries to stop them.”

“A real prime minister – you know what, the prime minister Netanyahu used to be – would knock on the table, stop the regime coup, call for agreements among partners, and tell them, ‘it’s over,'” Lapid adds.

“But Netanyahu cannot. He is too weak. His speeches are still here, his suits are still here, but he’s incapacitated.”

Shin Bet investigating car blast in north, highway still shut 8 hours later

The Route 65 highway from the Megiddo Junction to the Musmus Intersection remains closed more than eight hours after a blast occurred near a vehicle, seriously wounding a man.

Earlier this morning, 21-year-old Shareef ad-Din from the northern Arab village of Salem was seriously hurt by shrapnel from the explosion.

Police and the Shin Bet security agency are investigating the circumstances.

Officers shut the road following the blast, and it has yet to reopen.

The Shin Bet’s involvement in the investigation indicates that authorities suspect the blast may have been terror-related.

Sa’ar: Judicial overhaul just first step for coalition to govern forever

MK Gideon Sa'ar speaks during a Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee hearing, January 29, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
MK Gideon Sa'ar speaks during a Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee hearing, January 29, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

National Unity MK Gideon Sa’ar explains the opposition’s refusal to negotiate with the government over the judicial overhaul as long as they press ahead with legislation, calling offers for talks a fig leaf.

“Nobody should have any illusions. Once the current [overhaul legislation becomes law], that won’t be the end of it. There will be further moves, [including] to change the election rules so that they rule forever.

“They’ll move to boot the attorney-general; they’re already saying so… They are seeking a reality in which they can do whatever they want, without any constraints,” says Sa’ar, a former justice minister.

Asked why the opposition is not negotiating with the coalition, he says: “They’re not halting the legislation. They want to castrate the protests and tear apart the opposition. [With their disingenuous call for dialogue, even as the legislation advances, they want]… to gain legitimacy for legislation that is illegitimate,” he says.

“We won’t allow that. If there is a desire to reach a broad agreement, that’s something else. [As things stand], we can only oppose the legislation — it endangers Israel,” says Sa’ar.

Far-right Maoz threatens to quit coalition if he doesn’t get promised powers

Noam party leader Deputy Minister Avi Maoz speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, on January 30, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Noam party leader Deputy Minister Avi Maoz speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, on January 30, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Noam’s sole MK Avi Maoz says he will leave the coalition if the government does not create an office for national Jewish identity that was agreed he would head under the coalition agreement.

The MK says that if the coalition does not meet his demand before passing the state budget by the end of May, he will quit the coalition and “work from the Knesset for the benefit of the public.”

Maoz recently quit his post as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, complaining that the coalition did not intend to create various offices and transfer powers promised to him in sweeping coalition agreements.

If Maoz quits, the government would still have a majority with 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

The far-right MK, known for his homophobic, misogynist, and anti-Jewish pluralist positions, says his eyes are still on an external educational programming unit, which he controversially wants to pull out from the Education Ministry.

Opposition leaders say they will boycott final votes on judicial overhaul

Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Merav Michaeli and Avigdor Liberman meet in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023 to coordinate opposition strategy to judicial overhaul. (Yesh Atid)
Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Merav Michaeli and Avigdor Liberman meet in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023 to coordinate opposition strategy to judicial overhaul. (Yesh Atid)

A joint statement from most of the opposition parties say that they will boycott final votes in the Knesset on the government’s judicial overhaul.

The Arab parties did not attend the meeting of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Benny Gantz’s National Unity, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beyteinu and Merav Michaeli’s Labor party.

A joint statement said that at a meeting to coordinate strategy on opposing the government’s legislative blitz, it was decided that there could be no dialogue until the process was halted.

“The unity of the people begins with real dialogue and as long as there is no halt to legislation, talks are just a deception,” the statement says.

“When the president’s outline is presented, we will be happy to address his proposal and we appreciate his efforts to reach negotiations,” the statement said.

“We will do everything to prevent the passing of the laws, but if God forbid we get to a third reading — we will be a part of this and boycott the vote in the plenary,” they say.

They urge the government to abandon “this crazy collection of laws” and instead work with them to craft a “comprehensive and balanced constitutional arrangement.”

13 Palestinians arrested in overnight West Bank raids, arms seized

A handgun and weapon parts seized in the West Bank city of Hebron, March 13, 2023. (Israel Police)
A handgun and weapon parts seized in the West Bank city of Hebron, March 13, 2023. (Israel Police)

Israeli troops nab 13 wanted Palestinians and seize firearms during overnight raids across the West Bank, the military says.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, during one of the raids in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at troops.

In the village of Bayt Rima, Palestinians allegedly hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at troops, the IDF says, adding that troops responded with riot dispersal means.

In a joint operation with police officers, forces seized a handgun and numerous assault rifle parts at a home in Hebron. One Palestinian man was detained. The IDF says no soldiers were hurt in the overnight raids.

Three soldiers hurt by grenade explosion during training

Three Israeli soldiers are lightly hurt by shrapnel from a grenade explosion during a training exercise, the Israel Defense Forces says.

The incident occurred overnight at a training base in southern Israel.

The three soldiers were taken to a hospital, before being released home to recover.

The IDF says it is investigating the circumstances of the incident.

Some 175,000 Israeli children have not received polio vaccine

File: A research assistant prepares a PCR reaction for polio at a lab at Queens College on August 25, 2022, in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
File: A research assistant prepares a PCR reaction for polio at a lab at Queens College on August 25, 2022, in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

At least 175,000 Israeli children have not been vaccinated against polio, Channel 12 quotes the Health Ministry as saying.

Parents of children who have not been vaccinated are urged to take them to a local health center.

The report comes after the State of New York’s health department called for residents to get vaccinated against polio before traveling to Israel, where several children have recently tested positive for the virus.

In a statement Friday, the New York Department of Health noted the four cases diagnosed in the northern city of Safed earlier this month, a year after a small outbreak of the disease in the country.

It called on New Yorkers “to get fully immunized” before flying to Israel or other countries with polio.

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