The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
US President Joe Biden says he agrees with the assessment that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”
In an interview with ABC News, Biden says Putin will “pay a price” for allegedly trying to undermine Biden’s candidacy in the US 2020 election.
Asked if he thinks Putin is “a killer,” Biden says, “I do.”
He adds: “The most important thing in dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I’ve dealt with an awful lot of them over my career, is just: know the other guy.
The president also suggests that some Americans who are unwilling to get vaccinated for the coronavirus are behaving in an unpatriotic manner.
Biden says he’s been surprised by some who are refusing to get shots.
“I just don’t understand this sort of macho thing about I’m not going to get the vaccine, ‘I have a right as an American, my freedom to not do it.’”
The president adds: “Why don’t you be a patriot, protect other people?”
The Kremlin dismisses as “absolutely groundless” a US report saying that Russia targeted election infrastructure during the 2020 polls.
“We consider this report to be wrong, it is absolutely groundless and unsubstantiated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells journalists.
He adds that the Kremlin “regrets” the decision to publish such materials and calls it an “excuse” to consider new sanctions on Moscow.
His words are echoed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who also calls the conclusions of the US report “groundless.” He tells state news agency RIA Novosti that “hostile steps towards Russia” have become “the norm of life” in Washington.
A man has filed a sexual assault complaint against ZAKA cofounder and chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a week after a bombshell media report detailing allegations by six people who claim the prominent ultra-Orthodox figure sexually assaulted them, including accusations of rape.
Police opened an investigation against Meshi-Zahav following the Haaretz daily report detailing allegations against him, but initially struggled to find anyone who would actually file a complaint.
The alleged victim, reportedly a man in his 40s, arrived at the Lahav 433 serious crime unit and told investigators that Meshi-Zahav molested him when he was 14, legally a minor, including trying to rape him. According to Hebrew media reports, the man said that the assaults continued for a period of time.
Though the man’s complaint apparently cannot be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations, it could serve to bolster future complaints that are able to go to trial.
Several people suffering from long-term effects of COVID-19 have said their symptoms were alleviated after being vaccinated against the virus, The Washington Post reports.
So-called “Long Covid,” a phenomenon in which those who have ostensibly recovered from the virus continue to experience sometimes-debilitating symptoms for months after contagion, is still relatively mysterious, with no scientific consensus on the condition among clinicians and researchers.
Symptoms have included headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, brain fog, muscle pain, insomnia and more.
Several people interviewed by the post say they saw remarkable improvement shortly after getting the shot.
Steven Deeks, an infectious disease physician at the University of California at San Francisco, tells the Post it’s possible the vaccine takes care of some viral holdouts in the body.
It has also been hypothesized that an unbalanced immune response to the virus is causing the long-term symptoms, and the vaccine is somehow helping “reset” the system.
The paper notes that only some people have reported an improvement in a small study done so far, and that there is no solid information on the issue at this time.
The far-right leader of the Otzma Yehudit party says a right-wing coalition that bases itself on support from Arab party Ra’am “will be the end of the right.”
Itamar Ben Gvir tells Ynet Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas “is a supporter of Hamas and terrorism.”
Abbas has said he could back a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the election. Some polls have shown Netanyahu will not be able to form a coalition after the election without him.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi meets his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, with the officials praising their bilateral relations 30 years after they were formed.
A statement by the Foreign Ministry quotes Ashkenazi telling Lavrov that Jerusalem “appreciates the stance of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation, which support Israel, and for their repeated commitment to Israel’s security.”
Hailing Russia as an “important and central player in the Middle East that is important to regional stability,” Ashkenazi says he views as important the “continued and fruitful dialogue” between the countries “which is based on common interests and cooperation on matters of national security.”
Police arrest a 12-year-old boy suspected of sexually assaulting several women in Tel Aviv.
The boy has been questioned and a court has remanded his arrest by a day.
Police say they tracked the boy down following multiple complaints by women who said they were assaulted on the street.
The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament denounces US President Joe Biden for agreeing with an assessment that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”
“Biden insulted the citizens of our country with his statement,” State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin writes on his Telegram channel, adding that attacks on Putin are “attacks on our country.”
The United Arab Emirates will not get involved in Israeli electioneering, an Emirati official says, in pointed comments amid new reports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit ahead of elections next week.
Israel and the UAE established ties last year in a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu brokered by his staunch ally, former US president Donald Trump. The deal, known as the Abraham Accords, made the UAE only the third Arab state to establish relations with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
“From the UAE’s perspective, the purpose of the Abrahamic Accords is to provide a robust strategic foundation to foster peace and prosperity with the State of Israel and in the wider region,” tweets Anwar Gargash, advisor to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. “The UAE will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever,”
Iran condemns as “utter hypocrisy” Britain’s announcement that it intends to expand its nuclear arsenal even as it accuses other nations, notably the Islamic Republic, of violating non-proliferation efforts.
Britain published a review of foreign and defense policy yesterday that unveiled plans to bolster its arsenal from 180 warheads to 260 by the end of the decade, reversing a previous commitment to reduce its stockpile.
The announcement came after Britain had repeatedly criticized Iran for resuming parts of its civil nuclear program which it had given up under the 2015 nuclear deal.
“In utter hypocrisy, (British Prime Minister) @BorisJohnson is ‘concerned about Iran developing a viable nuclear weapon,'” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif complained in a tweet. “On the very same day he announces his country will increase its stockpile of nukes.”
In utter hypocrisy, @BorisJohnson is “concerned about Iran developing a viable nuclear weapon”. On the very same day he announces his country will increase its stockpile of nukes.
Unlike the UK and allies, Iran believes nukes and all WMDs are barbaric & must be eradicated.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 16, 2021
“Unlike the UK and allies, Iran believes nukes and all WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) are barbaric & must be eradicated.”
A foreign worker, aged around 30, has been found shot dead in south Tel Aviv. Medics who arrived at Neve Shaanan Street were forced to declare the man dead at the scene.
Police are investigating the suspected homicide.
The World Health Organization says its experts are still reviewing safety data on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine following concerns around blood clots but recommended that injection programs continue.
While millions of doses of the vaccine have been administered, small numbers of people have developed blood clots, prompting countries including the EU’s three largest nations — Germany, France and Italy — to suspend injections.
“The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is carefully assessing the latest available safety data,” the UN health agency says in a statement. “At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.”
IDF soldiers begin voting today ahead of the March 23 election.
Some 330 ballot boxes have been distributed among military bases around the country for early soldier voting, to take place today only.
Further voting will take place in bases on election day itself. Today’s early vote is meant to help speed up vote counting on the day, as soldiers use the “double envelope” system for absentee votes that ensures their anonymity, but is more time-consuming to count.
Authorities expect a much higher rate of absentee votes this year because of the many Israelis in quarantine or hospitalized due to coronavirus.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told a radio station earlier that he will not be traveling to the UAE before the election, and that claims otherwise were “spin.”
According to Axios’s Barak Ravid, the Emiratis are furious at Prime Minister Netanyahu for what they feel is an attempt to use them for his reelection campaign.
“It is hard to overstate the anger towards Netanyahu in the UAE right now,” he tweets. Ravid also claims Netanyahu’s assertion that the travel plan was spin is “a lie.”
Sources in Abu Dhabi tell Channel 13 that Israel had pressed to hold a meeting between Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed before the election. They say no such meeting will take place.
Airlines appear to be moving to increase flights to and from Israel following the High Court decision to remove the limits on the number of Israelis allowed to arrive in the country every day.
According to Hebrew media reports, United Airlines is moving to return to 13 flights a week from Newark and San Francisco to Tel Aviv. Israeli airlines Israir, Arkia and El Al are also expected to announce the return of multiple routes.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch attacks the High Court decision, saying the court is risking “bringing [virus] mutations into Israel. Good luck to us.”
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert says he will be voting Labor for the first time in his life in the coming election.
“I believe [Labor leader] Merav Michaeli will be this election’s surprise,” he tells Ynet.
“I don’t come from Labor roots,” says Olmert, who spent much of his time in politics in Likud. “I fought it for many years.”
He says Michaeli rehabilitated the party after the devastation caused to it by former leaders. “I trust her that what she says today — she’ll do tomorrow.”
A video aired by Channel 12 shows Palestinians having a barbecue at an archeological site in the West Bank that many believe to contain the biblical Joshua’s altar.
The site is sacred to Jews. It recently made headlines after Palestinian roadworks in early February caused damage to its outer wall. The mayor of nearby Asira al-Shamilya said the damage was inadvertent.
Told by the people filming that they are trespassing on a holy site, one of the men barbecuing says: “I don’t know anything about this being sacred. We want to eat. We’ll eat and clean afterward.”
מספר פלסטינים עשו היום על האש על המזבח העתיק בהר עיבל. הפעם לא גדר היקפית ולא טרסה – אלא ממש על המזבח. לטענתם לא ידעו שזה אתר מורשת, וגם כשהוסבר להם סרבו לכבות את האש והמשיכו בשלהם.
כל הפרטים מיד ב @N12News pic.twitter.com/M632VjjwMZ
— ליה ספילקין | Lia Spilkin (@LiaSpilkin) March 17, 2021
Right-wing organization Regavim is outraged. “This is one of the altars most important to the Jewish people and they’re partying on it… there is an ongoing case here of contempt and disrespect for a site that symbolizes the ties of the people of Israel and the State of Israel to [local] history and heritage, and Israel is doing nothing about it.”
The government is looking to formulate a new plan to constrain entry at Ben Gurion Airport, after the High Court ruled earlier that limitations on the entry of Israeli citizens must end on Saturday, Channel 12 reports.
A joint team comprised of representatives of the Health Ministry, National Security Council, Transportation Ministry and Justice Ministry is reviewing possible alternatives for new regulations that will pass the court test.
Government coronavirus czar Nachman Ash says the ruling is “worrying because it will allow the entry of a lot of illness and dangerous variants [of the virus].”
The decision “could bring Israel closer to a [new] high wave of sickness,” he says.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin also attacks the decision while walking to Army Radio, decrying the fact that “judges come and say ‘We’ll endanger all your lives for a constitutional principle from a non-existent principle.”
Police have received new information on an alleged victim of ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav — a woman who claims he raped her four years ago, Channel 13 news reports.
The woman is said to allege that Meshi-Zahav sexually assaulted her in a Jerusalem hotel.
No official complaint has so far been filed.
Police have been searching for recent cases of alleged abuse by Meshi-Zahav in their inquiry into his affairs, as most of the multiple complaints that have come to light against him in recent days are too old to be taken to trial.
A white man accused of killing eight people, most of whom were of Asian descent, at massage parlors in the Atlanta area has told police the attack was not racially motivated and that he potentially had a “sex addiction,” officials say.
Still, authorities say they are investigating whether the deaths were hate crimes amid concerns over a wave of attacks on Asian Americans. Six of the victims were identified as Asian and seven were women.
It is not clear if Robert Aaron Long, 21, ever went to the parlors where the shootings occurred; one official said he had while another indicated he may have only visited businesses like them. Authorities also said he was planning to go to Florida in a plot to attack “some type of porn industry.”
“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker told reporters.
An Israeli was killed Monday in a light plane crash in Florida on Monday, it has been revealed.
The plane belonged to Yaacov Nahom, a 63-year-old businessman. He and his technician crashed shortly after takeoff, hitting a car with a woman and her four-year-old child.
Only the woman survived.
The Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft had apparently experienced technical issues prior to the flight, which were thought to have been fixed. Both men in the plane were registered pilots, and it’s not yet clear who was flying.
Tel Aviv prosecutors have closed their investigation into the deaths of a young man and woman in a basement elevator during flooding last year amid stormy weather in the city.
Officials informed the families of couple Dean Yaakov Shoshani and Stav Harari that they could not point to “a person, body or authority that could be accused of a sufficient level of negligence in a criminal trial.”
In the fatal flooding in January of last year, officials said the elevator became stuck, possibly due to a power outage. Residents told Hebrew media they heard banging from the elevator and called police but rescue services took 30 to 60 minutes to arrive. The couple had drowned by then.
Investigators say after reviewing the building plans, elevator company performance and conduct of emergency services operating under stress amid what the mayor called a “once-in-50-years” downpour, they could not find criminal fault in the actions of any of them.
Arab Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad tells the UN Human Rights Council that accusations that Israel’s vaccination program is “racist” and discriminatory are baseless.
Israel has been criticized in some quarters for not doing more to provide vaccines to the Palestinians while Jerusalem asserts it has no such responsibility.
Haddad, invited by the UN Watch to address the council, says: “Accusations have been made that Israel’s coronavirus vaccine program is ‘racist.’ This is false. Like me, my family, friends and hundreds of thousands of other Israeli Arabs have been vaccinated.
“The State of Israel is running campaigns in Arabic to encourage us Arab Israelis to get vaccinated, and Israel’s National EMS Magen David Adom, composed of Jews and Arabs, is working directly in Arab communities to vaccinate,” he says.
“Any attempt to claim that Israel’s vaccine policy is racist is a blatant attempt to smear Israel and distract from the corruption of nations on this very council.”
Haddad is CEO of the organization Together Vouch for Each Other that works to connect the Arab sector to Israeli society. He sometimes blogs for The Times of Israel.
The Biden administration will reportedly push for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps, returning US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to more traditionally held positions from which former president Donald Trump departed.
A memo titled “The US Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward,” obtained by Abu Dhabi-based The National reveals that the Biden administration is planning on announcing a $15 million aid package to Palestinians in coronavirus-related humanitarian assistance in late March or early April.
The memo purportedly drafted by US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr also details plans to roll back various Trump policies that Washington believes made reaching a two-state solution more difficult such as US legitimization of the settlement enterprise.
The letter discusses “rolling back certain steps by the prior administration that bring into question our commitment or pose real barriers to a two-state solution, such as country of origin labeling.”
It is referring to a last-minute policy change announced by Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo before leaving office, which required all US exports from the settlements to be labeled as having been “made in Israel.”
American conductor James Levine, who ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then fired for sexual improprieties, has died. He was 77.
The Jewish Levine died March 9 in Palm Springs, California, of natural causes, his physician of 17 years, Dr. Len Horovitz, says.
Levine made his Met debut in 1971 and became one of the signature artists in the company’s century-plus history, conducting 2,552 performances and ruling over its repertoire, orchestra and singers as music or artistic director from 1976 until being forced out by general manager Peter Gelb in 2016 due to Parkinson’s disease.
Levine became music director emeritus and remained head of its young artists program but was suspended on Dec. 3, 2017, the day after conducting a Verdi “Requiem” in what turned out to be his final performance, after accounts in the New York Post and The New York Times of sexual misconduct dating to the 1960s.
Russia says it has summoned its Washington envoy back to the country for consultations on its ties with the United States but stresses it wants to prevent an “irreversible deterioration” in relations.
“The Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, has been invited to come to Moscow for consultations conducted with the aim of analyzing what should be done and where to go in the context of ties with the United States,” the Russian foreign ministry says in a statement.
The announcement comes after President Joe Biden said Russia will “pay a price” for meddling in US elections and agreed with the assessment that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was a “killer.”
Health officials are raging over the High Court’s decision to reopen Ben Gurion Airport, with unnamed sources telling Channel 13 that the judges had “gone off the rails,” while some quoted by Ynet say they “stabbed us in the back.”
“Everyone’s an epidemiologist now,” the latter says.
They warn that the unchecked arrival of new variants could create a new wave of infections.
The judges said in their ruling that the ban on citizens entering their home country, unparallelled around the world, is unconstitutional. They said the focus should be on enforcing quarantine — an area where authorities have failed — rather than on preventing entry.
In a rare television interview, exiled Palestinian politician Mohammad Dahlan says his movement will contest the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections. And he brands his rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a failed leader.
Dahlan, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, tells Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya channel that “Abbas has normalized despair among Palestinians.”
As for the Palestinian presidential elections, which are set to be held on July 31, Dahlan says “Abbas will not be the only presidential candidate in the elections,” refusing to elaborate.
Dahlan is rumored to be a close associate of Emirati Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed. Officials in Ramallah blamed the UAE’s decision to normalize ties with Israel last year on Dahlan’s influence.
In his Wednesday interview, Dahlan denies the accusation. He also declines to criticize the UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel, which he says did so for “its own sovereign reasons.”
“I am proud of being in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has a long history of aiding the Palestinian people,” Dahlan says.
During a meeting today with top police officials in charge of tackling violent crime in the Arab community, Prime Minister Netanyahu told police commanders they may need to “kill some of them” when referring to crime leaders.
“There is a point in a battle where you break the will of the enemy to fight, when you break their spirit,” he said in a video from the event.
“You’ll catch, incarcerate, maybe kill some of them, and the rest will disperse when they realize the battle is lost,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu has vowed to clamp down on Arab violent crime, which has already claimed dozens of lives in the community since the beginning of the year. Arab leaders have accused police of years of neglect and a failure to properly enforce the law in their communities.
A final report on the fatal crash of a military training plane in November finds the aircraft stalled during a low altitude maneuver, causing the pilots to lose control. The stall was not the result of a technical failure but rather a set of circumstances that the pilots had not trained for.
Investigators say the circumstances in the moments before the crash, specifically at such a low altitude, had not been experienced before, without providing details. The plane’s manufacturer and other operators around the world were also unfamiliar with the danger of a stall existing in such circumstances.
The November 24 crash killed Cpl. Lihu Ben-Bassa, 19, and his trainer, Maj. (res.) Itay Zayden, 42, when the small “Snunit” plane hit the ground near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev in southern Israel.
At the first meeting of the “US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group” last week, the countries’ national security advisers shared intel on Iran’s nuclear program to create a joint baseline for talks, several Israeli officials tell Axios.
The officials said Israel had come out of the meeting satisfied.
“We are on the same page on the intelligence. There are small nuances but overall, they see data the same way. It was very positive, but it is only the beginning of a process. It will be a rollercoaster,” an unnamed official said.
The officials told Axios that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had stressed the American commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons long term.
They also said Sullivan had shared the administration’s considerations and dilemmas on talks with Iran and vowed to be transparent with Jerusalem on the matter while saying he expected the same from Israel.
A second meeting will take place in the next few weeks. The sides will also form a team to regularly share intelligence.
Jewish groups are rallying in support of Asian Americans following a string of murders yesterday at massage parlors in Atlanta left eight people dead, including six Asians.
Police in Georgia say the 21-year-old suspect may have been motivated by hatred of women and not anti-Asian bigotry. But in the wake of reports of rising levels of anti-Asian harassment and violence amid the coronavirus pandemic, the attack is likely to exacerbate the community’s fear regardless of the alleged gunman’s motives.
“It’s clearly going to have an effect on the psyche of the Asian-American community,” Dov Wilker, the regional director for the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta, says. “Anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise nationally, and this will put the community on edge.”
In Austria today, President Reuven Rivlin met with President Alexander Van der Bellen. The two took part in a ceremony at a monument to Holocaust victims in Vienna.
Rivlin said that “Austria did not wake up one morning to the swastikas of the Third Reich. Anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia had been incubating for years. That is how the horrors were born – out of apathy and disregard.”
Meanwhile, Van der Bellen said it was “our duty to oppose any resurgence of inhumanity, racism and anti-Semitism decisively and without compromise. Our aim today is to allow Jewish life without interference in any place – Israel, Europe, Vienna, or any other place.”
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