ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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As Rothman unveils new judicial selection plan, coalition heads meet to discuss moves

Reports indicate government is likely to halt most legislation until after Passover, focusing until then on passing bill that shakes up commitee which selects justices and judges

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with the architects of the proposed judicial overhaul, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and MK Simcha Rothman (standing) in the Knesset on February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with the architects of the proposed judicial overhaul, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and MK Simcha Rothman (standing) in the Knesset on February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Report: Foreign Ministry weighing firing Noa Tishby as antisemitism envoy due to overhaul criticism

The Foreign Ministry is reportedly weighing cutting ties with its antisemitism envoy, Noa Tishby, after she spoke out repeatedly against the government’s planned judicial overhaul.

According to Ynet, the ministry is considering firing Tishby from the position, which was created for her by Yair Lapid when he was foreign minister last year.

The unpaid position was the first of its kind and did not require cabinet approval.

Israeli consul to New York summoned to Jerusalem after comments against overhaul

Israel’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, has been summoned to Jerusalem to clarify comments he made last week expressing his displeasure at the proposed judicial overhaul in Israel, a senior Foreign Ministry official tells The Times of Israel.

“I am deeply concerned about the direction the country is going in right now,” Zamir said at a fundraising dinner in front of hundreds of attendees. “If you want to have a national home, and you want to be everyone’s home, you really must be democratic,” he concluded to applause, in remarks first reported by the Hebrew-language Walla! News site.

Zamir was appointed to the position by current opposition leader and political ally Yair Lapid.

Ben Gvir says High Court ruling against him is ‘a coup in the full sense of the word’

National Security Minister Ben Gvir slams the High Court after it ruled earlier today that he does not have the authority to give operational orders to police officers.

“The decision that the minister can only set a general policy without any operative ability to implement it is not only unprecedented, it is a coup in the full sense of the word,” the minister says in a press statement hours after the ruling.

“The prime minister and government ministers are no more than ornaments” to the members of the court, he charges. “The minister can say what they think should be done, but can’t carry out any of it and ensure their policy is being implemented. According to him, ministers are merely academic researchers who can submit position papers, but not beyond that.”

Coalition heads meet to discuss making changes to overhaul legislation

A number of senior figures in the current coalition are meeting currently to discuss making changes to the highly contentious legislation to overhaul the judiciary.

Those at the meeting are reportedly discussing a framework put forward today by Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman to alter the current bill that radically changes how judges are selected.

According to reports, the coalition is expected to agree to place its focus in the coming weeks solely on the bill to change the judicial selection committee, and push off the other legislation until after Passover in mid-April.

US envoy says victim of Huwara shooting is US citizen

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweets that the victim of a terrorist shooting in Huwara is a US citizen.

“I can confirm that a US citizen was injured in the shooting attack near Huwara today,” he tweets. “Prayers for a speedy recovery and for calm to prevail.”

He is named as David Stern from the settlement of Itamar, a former US Marine who works as a weapons instructor.

Stern is currently in stable condition at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah.

MK Rothman unveils changes watering down bill to overhaul judicial selections

Key coalition lawmaker MK Simcha Rothman — who has been leading the government’s judicial overhaul legislative drive — issues a softened proposal over the bill to change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee.

The proposal would give a governing coalition control over the first two appointments to the Supreme Court which open up during its tenure, but require the support of at least one opposition MK and one judge on the panel in order to make further appointments to that court.

Earlier legislation, which has been approved in its first reading in the Knesset plenum, would by contrast give the coalition total control over all judicial appointments without the need for support from either the opposition or the judiciary.

Rothman says his new proposal is designed to have “as many people as possible in Israel feel that the Supreme Court is theirs,” and to enable “the people to chose the judges” but at the same time “to prevent a political force from taking control of the [Supreme] Court.”

According to the proposal, the Judicial Selection Committee would be expanded from nine to 11 members. It would include three government ministers from three different parties; three coalition MKs from three different parties; two opposition MKs from two different parties; and three Supreme Court justices, including the court president.

Appointments would be made through a simple majority of six out of 11 members for the first two appointments to the Supreme Court in a Knesset’s term — which could be accomplished with only the support of all six coalition members.

After those appointments, the majority needed will remain six out of 11, but among those six at least one member of the opposition and one judge would need to support the nomination.

In effect, this would mean that two coalition-backed justices could be appointed with ease, and any remaining appointments would likely be consensus candidates.

If promised future legislation is pushed through requiring a full majority of the court in order to overturn Knesset laws, Rothman’s new proposal would still essentially sideline the court from being able to take action.

Sharm el-Sheikh summit highlights PA’s ‘legal right’ to security responsibility in Area A

A joint communiqué signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority after a regional summit in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt highlights the “legal right” the PA has to carry out security responsibilities over Area A of the West Bank.

The IDF regularly enters Area A, however, and such incursions have increased significantly over the past year as Israel seeks to combat an ongoing terror wave stemming largely from the northern West Bank where the PA has lost significant control.

In the previous regional summit last month in Aqaba, Jordan, Israel urged the PA to do more to regain control over the northern West Bank, telling participants that the more Ramallah acts against armed groups in the region, the less the IDF will have to enter Area A for raids that have become particularly lethal in recent months, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel at the time.

Despite Israel’s assertion at the Aqaba summit that the PA security forces play a more active role in the West Bank, the issue was not included in the communiqué that was issued after that meeting. The decision to include it in the release after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit indicates progress on this issue.

Israeli delegation at Sharm el-Sheikh stressed need to ‘act decisively against terror’

A senior Israeli official says that the Israeli delegation at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in Egypt today stressed to participants the need for Israel to act strongly against terror.

According to a statement from the Israeli side, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar — who were present at the meeting — stressed the need “to act decisively against terrorism without compromise” in order to prevent a further spike in violence over Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Thursday.

The meeting of Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian officials — held a few weeks after the same group convened in Aqaba — was aimed at calming a spike in violence ahead of the confluence of Ramadan, Passover and Easter in the coming weeks.

The Israeli statement does not address a renewed promise in the joint communiqué to halt discussions of new settlement homes or legalized outposts for four to six months — something which was denied last time by Jerusalem. It instead only vaguely mentions “possible agreements on the cessation of reciprocal unilateral measures.”

Israeli man lightly wounded after car attacked while driving in West Bank

Medics say they are treating a 64-year-old Israeli man who is lightly hurt after his car came under gunfire and stone-throwing in the West Bank.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the man was hurt at the Doar Junction near the West Bank village of Ras Karkar.

He continued driving until he met up with medics at the nearby Hashmonaim Checkpoint.

MDA says they will take him to a hospital.

At Sharm el-Sheikh summit, Israel, PA reiterate promise to curb violence, halt unilateral moves

Following a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian delegations in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, the sides agree to work toward de-escalation and the “prevention of further violence.”

In a joint communiqué from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and the US, the parties state their “commitment to advancing security, stability and peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

The Israelis and Palestinians both “reaffirmed their joint readiness and commitment to immediately work to end unilateral measures for a period of 3-6 months,” including Israel’s “commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for 4 months and to stop authorization of any outposts for 6 months.”

The same commitment appeared in the joint communiqué following the last summit in Aqaba, Jordan, last month, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to vehemently deny agreeing to a settlement freeze.

The sides also agree to “establish a mechanism to curb and counter violence, incitement and inflammatory statements” and hold yet another meeting in April, following the two held so far.

The meeting — in the presence of the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers and US officials — was aimed at calming tensions amid the upcoming overlap of Ramadan, Passover and Easter.

But as the sides met, violence reared its head yet again in the West Bank as a Palestinian gunman shot and wounded an Israeli man in Huwara.

The last time the two sides met in Aqaba last month, a Palestinian terrorist shot and killed two Israeli brothers in Huwara, prompting a settler rampage in the Palestinian West Bank town in response.

Palestinians attacked German tourists thinking they were IDF soldiers, says PA

Palestinians who attacked German tourists in Nablus yesterday had feared they were Israeli forces, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security services says.

The two tourists drove yesterday through central Nablus when they came under attack.

“A group of young men… hurled stones at a civilian car with Israeli license plates,” a local Palestinian security official says on condition of anonymity.

Talal Dweikat, spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, tells AFP that “we clearly have zero hostility towards a country whose citizens visit our cities.”

According to Dweikat, those involved were “wary” of a “foreign” car, fearing it may have been used by undercover Israeli forces.

Victim of Huwara shooting attack in moderate condition, says hospital

The victim of the Huwara shooting attack is in moderate to serious but stable condition, the hospital treating him says.

According to the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah, the man is sedated and on a ventilator with gunshot wounds to his head and shoulder, but his condition is not considered life-threatening.

His wife, who was in the car with him during the shooting, was not hit by gunfire.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is praying for the “wounded hero” who succeeded in shooting the terrorist attacker, adding: “Whoever tries to harm Israeli citizens — will bear the responsibility.”

Likud MK says at least 5 members of his party support freezing overhaul legislation

Likud MK David Bitan says that there are five or six Knesset members of Likud who, like him, supporting halting legislation on the contentious judicial overhaul until a compromise can be reached.

“There are at least another five” Likud MKs who favor such a freeze, Bitan says in an interview with Channel 12, adding that on top of them, “softening it — everyone agrees on, pushing off parts of the reform — everyone agrees on.”

Bitan says that the legislation can be temporarily halted “for a simple reason — we waited long enough; nothing will happen if we wait another two months.”

Bitan says he believes Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “unfortunately don’t understand” that “if these ‘prophecies of rage’ prove to be true, Likud will end its career.”

Preventing such a move “is within our control,” he adds.

Suspected Huwara terrorist arrested after being shot by victim, say medics

The suspected terrorist who opened fire at an Israeli couple driving through the West Bank town of Huwara earlier has been arrested, according to medics and media reports.

The Rescuers Without Borders emergency service says the victim of the attack, who is hospitalized in serious condition, managed to return fire at the gunman on Route 60.

According to the service and media reports, the suspected terrorist was found wounded a short while later in Huwara, and was detained by troops. The Israel Defense Forces does not immediately confirm the details.

A spokesman for the Hamas terror group hails the shooting. Hazem Qassem says the attack is “a natural reaction to the occupation’s crimes against our people in the West Bank and Jerusalem.” The terror group, however, does not claim responsibility for the attack.

Medics and local officials meanwhile deny media reports that said the couple’s young children were in the car at the time of the attack, saying that the couple was alone in the car.

Greece marks 80th anniversary of first deportation of Greek Jews to Auschwitz

Greece commemorates the 80th anniversary of the first deportations of Greek Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau from Thessaloniki, the northern metropolis that lost almost its entire flourishing Jewish community.

Holding white balloons reading “Never Again,” around a thousand people of all ages march to the old railway station of Thessaloniki, where the deportations began on March 15, 1943. Many people leave flowers on the train tracks.

The deportations were carried out in cattle wagons, each holding around 80 people forcefully crammed in, ceremony officials told AFP.

Some 46,000 Thessaloniki Jews were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau between March and August 1943, said the president of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, David Saltiel — and just 1,950 returned.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas and Israeli Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis were among the officials at the ceremony.

Iran’s Raisi ‘welcomes’ invitation to visit by Saudi king, says official

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has “welcomed” an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to visit the kingdom following the reconciliation deal between the two countries, an Iranian official says.

“In a letter to President Raisi… the King of Saudi Arabia welcomed the deal between the two brotherly countries (and) invited him to Riyadh,” tweets Mohammad Jamshidi, the Iranian president’s deputy chief of staff for political affairs, adding that “Raisi welcomed the invitation.”

The two regional heavyweights announced on March 11 a Chinese-brokered deal to restore ties nearly seven years after they were severed.

Medics say man seriously wounded in Huwara shooting while wife in car

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says a man in his 30s is seriously wounded in the shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara.

A woman in the car, identified as his wife, is also being taken to a hospital for treatment of traumatic shock.

Media reports say the couple’s young children were in the backseat of the car that came under gunfire.

The gunman apparently dropped the gun used in the attack and fled the scene on foot, according to local officials.

The Israel Defense Forces has launched a manhunt for the suspected terrorist.

2 Israelis shot in suspected West Bank terror attack in flashpoint Huwara

Two Israelis have been shot and wounded while driving through the West Bank town of Huwara, medics say.

According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, one of the victims has a head injury, while the other is lightly wounded.

The Israel Defense Forces says it is investigating the suspected terror attack.

Ministers again postpone bill on electronic tracking of domestic violence offenders

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation again pushes off a bill to introduce electronic tracking of domestic violence offenders.

Last week the committee pushed off discussing the legislation for six months, but agreed to reconsider it today after yet another woman in Israel was murdered by her partner — who had previously been investigated for such threats.

Last week National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said that he intended to bring his own version of the bill that would include an increased emphasis on defending men from false accusations.

The current version was put forward in the previous government by then-justice minister Gideon Sa’ar.

Sa’ar slams today’s decision as “irresponsible,” blaming Ben Gvir for showing “an indifference to human life.”

Nearly 100,000 cars in Israel recalled over airbag issue

An Israeli importer of motor vehicles announces a massive recall due to a possible problem with the airbags in over 97,000 cars.

According to the Bnei Brak-based Champion Motors, the recall applies to several models produced by Czech manufacturer Skoda and Spanish carmaker SEAT.

The potential issue is with the airbags for the driver’s seats in the cars.

Champion Motors calls for owners of the models in question to bring their cars in to be checked.

High Court rules that Ben Gvir cannot issue operational orders to police forces

The High Court rules that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir may not issue operational orders to the police regarding how to manage protests and the use of force during demonstrations.

The ruling on Sunday comes in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG), which claimed that Ben Gvir’s intervention as protests are taking place was politicizing police action and was unlawful.

The minister has visited police command and control centers during the course of several recent anti-government protests, and has given specific orders as to how police should conduct their response, such as which highways the police should ensure remain free from demonstrators.

MQG’s petition contended that other democratic countries bar police ministers from intervening in police tactics at the operational level in order to avoid politicizing policing.

“The minister is not permitted to give operational orders as to how to implement his policy, the manner in which the use of force is exercised, the forms of force to be used, crowd-dispersal methods, conditions relating to the time, place and manner the incident is conducted, and similar [such orders],” writes Supreme Court Justice Isaac Amit.

“The minister must therefore refrain from giving operational orders to the police, directly or indirectly, and all the more so regarding protests and demonstrations against the government,” adds the justice.

Police say they are boosting presence, preparedness ahead of Ramadan

Police say they are gearing up for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in Jerusalem, anticipating thousands of visitors to the city.

“The purpose of the preparation and police activity in Jerusalem during Ramadan is to enable freedom of worship… while maintaining security, law and public order,” a police statement says.

Officials at the police’s Jerusalem district have held meetings in recent days with various local officials and community leaders to coordinate the holiday activities.

On Fridays, there will be an increased presence of police officers throughout Jerusalem, especially in the Old City and near the Temple Mount, as numerous worshipers are expected to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Police say they are also preparing for Passover and Easter, which will take place during Ramadan this year. “Police will act to secure all the worshipers who will arrive at the holy places on these days, Muslims, Jews and Christians, with the aim of allowing everyone freedom of worship,” the statement says.

Additionally, police officials warn of “those who try to take advantage of the holidays to spread inciteful material on social media, false rumors and disinformation, in particular in relation to the holy places.”

Police say terror groups and other terror elements have in the past used Ramadan to incite and cause rioting in Jerusalem. The statement says police will act “without compromise against rioters and those breaking the law, who harm or attempt to harm those who pray and celebrate, or who use the holidays to harm civilians or security forces.”

Ramadan is expected to begin on Thursday.

Parents association calls strike of 7th to 12th-graders to protest moves by ministry, teachers

The National Parents Association calls for a student strike of the country’s middle and high schools later this week to protest the Education Ministry’s introduction of a new matriculation framework, and actions by teachers in their wage dispute with the ministry.

In a statement, the NPA says it was calling on parents to keep students in grades 7-12 at home on Wednesday, but notes that activities to prepare for graduation, special education, and any off-campus events that can’t be rescheduled will not be included in the strike.

In response, the Education Ministry says that as far as it is concerned, classes will be held as usual and accused parents of “misleading” students.

Kremlin says Putin visit to Mariupol was ‘spontaneous’

The Kremlin says that President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Mariupol in Ukraine was “spontaneous” after the surprise visit to the embattled port city over the weekend.

“It was all very spontaneous,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters, referring to Putin’s first trip to the city since the conflict began last year. “Movements around the city were not planned either,” nor was his meeting with local residents, he adds.

Amid thaw in ties, Syria’s Assad lands in UAE for official visit

Syrian President Bashar Assad arrives in the United Arab Emirates, his first visit to the wealthy Gulf country since the devastating earthquake that struck his country and Turkey last month.

Assad, who arrives with his wife, Asma, and a delegation of Syrian officials, is received by UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to a statement from Assad’s office.

Sheikh Mohammed says in a statement on Twitter that the two “held constructive talks aimed at developing relations between our two countries.”

The visit marks a continuation in the ongoing thaw of relations between Syria and other Arab countries, more than a decade after the 22-member Arab League suspended Damascus’s membership over Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters and later on civilians during the war.

Israeli, Palestinian delegations sit down in Sharm el-Sheikh in bid to ease tensions

Israeli and Palestinian officials meet in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in a bid to ease tensions between the sides and rein in a spiral of violence ahead of the upcoming holiday overlap of Ramadan and Passover.

The meeting comes a few weeks after the delegations met in Aqaba, Jordan, shepherded by regional allies Egypt and Jordan as well as the US, aiming to end a spike in violence in recent months.

Whatever progress emerged out of the previous meeting in Jordan late last month, which ended with pledges to deescalate tensions, was quickly derailed when a new burst of violence erupted on the same day. A Palestinian gunman shot and killed two Israeli brothers in Huwara, whereupon Jewish settlers rampaged in the Palestinian town, setting homes and cars on fire.

Ahmed Abu Zaid, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, says the meeting is being attended by “high-level political and security officials” from each side, as well as from Egypt, Jordan and the US. He says regional and international participation in the meeting aims at establishing “mechanisms” to follow and activate what the parties agree on, but provided no additional details.

Israel’s delegation is led by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no mention of the summit in his weekly cabinet meeting. The meeting in Aqaba was derided by many members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition in its immediate aftermath.

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