The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
A top national religious rabbi joins the chorus of right-wing, religious voices against the High Court of Justice’s ruling legitimizing non-Orthodox conversions carried out in Israel.
“No High Court decision can turn a goy into a Jew,” says Rabbi Druckman, saying that would be akin to a person seeking the court’s help after the doctoral degree he received from the bus drivers’ union was rejected. “There are matters that the High Court cannot settle.”
While he lambasted the decision, Druckman acknowledged that the Knesset had avoided legislating on the matter for a decade and a half, even after a special committee was formed to come up with a compromise plan.
“What did the state think and what did the government with Haredi representatives think? That the High Court would not eventually decide? Could this decision not have been foreseen? If the state does not decide, the High Court will decide,” Druckman laments.
He calls for the passing of controversial legislation that would allow the Knesset to override the High Court ruling, which critics say would lead to an imbalance of power between the government’s branches.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel has petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that it compel the government’s Exceptions Committee to publicize its decision-making process for how it’s been deciding which Israelis to allow into the country as Ben Gurion Airport remains virtually shut.
The move comes days after a Channel 12 report claiming that the vast majority of those entering the country have been ultra-Orthodox, thanks to lobbying from Haredi lawmakers.
“We fear that decisions were made while giving preference to those linked to the corridors of power,” the group writes in its petition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to meet with the UAE’s new Ambassador to Israel Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah at the Prime Minister’s Office within the hour.
Al Khajah arrived in Israel yesterday and presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin.
The Lebanese pound has hit an all-time low against the dollar amid a deepening economic crisis that has thrown more than half of the population into poverty.
The Lebanese pound had been pegged to the dollar at 1,500 since 1997 but the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has seen its value plummet.
Today, it is trading at nearly 10,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market, money exchangers told AFP.
Before the latest hit, the pound had briefly stabilized at 8,000-8,500 to the greenback in recent weeks.
In July, it had reached 9,800 to the dollar.
The dizzying depreciation came as Lebanon’s central bank started reviewing the country’s banks under international pressure for banking sector reform.
Lebanese banks had been given until Sunday to increase their capital by 20 percent, among a series of demands from the central bank.
Six Dr. Seuss books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy says.
“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises tells The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.
“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it says.
The other books affected are “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”
The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company tells AP.
“Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles,” it says.
Books by Dr. Seuss — who was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904 —- have been translated into dozens of languages as well as in braille and are sold in more than 100 countries. He died in 1991.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi earlier today at the Allenby Crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, the latter’s office says.
The two discussed the importance of reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Safadi’s office. While Ashkenazi is believed to support the idea, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out largely against it in recent years and no longer uses the phrase.
This was the third such meeting between the ministers at Allenby Crossing.
Safadi used the opportunity to express Amman’s concern over ongoing settlement building and demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel, his office says. The foreign minister also said that the resumption of security and economic ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority must be followed up by a return to direct negotiations aimed at reaching a solution to the conflict based on the pre-1967 borders.
Ashkenazi issues his own statement on the meeting, which is far more vague, saying the two leaders discussed a range of issues.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration “enthusiastically embraces” a definition of anti-Semitism that has become a point of tension between mainstream and progressive Jewish organizations in America.
In a letter to the American Zionist Movement retrieved by Jewish Insider, Blinken says the US backs the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, “including its examples,” such as “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards” to Israel.
Blinken says the US is “eager to work with allies and partners to counter Holocaust distortion and combat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance abroad while we strengthen our efforts at home.”
The IHRA working definition is a 500-word document with a brief explanation of anti-Semitism followed by 11 examples of how it can manifest — most of which involve speech about Israel.
The definition has been adopted by dozens of countries and a growing list of organizations and universities to help monitor, teach about and combat anti-Semitism. But its Israel provisions have also become a flashpoint for debate. And adoption of the definition can signify different things to different groups.
Defenders of the definition say its Israel examples — which include comparing Israel to the Nazis, calling Israel racist and applying a standard to Israel that isn’t applied to other countries — are helpful in identifying where anti-Israel activity turns into anti-Semitism. Its detractors, however, say that the examples can have the effect of branding all criticism of Israeli policy anti-Semitic.
Critics have said it serves to make Israel immune to criticism for its treatment of them and for what they view as its violation of international law.
Americans for Peace Now, a frequent critic of Israeli policy, told Haaretz in December that it would not adopt the definition because it is “already being abused to quash legitimate criticism and activism directed at Israeli government policies.”
The Reform Movement has taken a slightly more moderate position, calling the IHRA definition helpful but stating that it should not be given the force of law.
Defense Ministry inspectors accompanied by security forces demolished a series of illegal structures in the south Hebron hills area of the West Bank that left 11 people homeless, the B’Tselem rights group says.
Troops arrived early this morning to Khirbet Khalat a-Daba and flattened two homes where 11 Palestinians, including seven minors, lived. A third home that was still being built was also demolished.
From there, the forces continued to nearby Khirbet a-Rakiz, demolishing an agricultural structure and an outhouse before moving on to the village of Zif where they destroyed a sheep pen, B’Tselem says.
Yesterday, forces demolished two sheep pens and an outhouse and confiscated a water tank in the northern Jordan Valley village of Fasa’il a-Tahta. The equipment belonged to families who had their homes demolished less than six months ago.
Israel maintains it has a right to demolish illegally build structures, while Palestinians point out that Jerusalem almost never approves building permits for them in Area C of the West Bank, which Israel controls.
One of the co-founders of the ZAKA emergency response organization has been declared a winner of the Israel Prize life achievement award for his contributions to Israeli society.
Education Ministry Yoav Gallant announces that the prize will go to Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who for more than 30 years has headed the group he helped found in the 1990s.
In addition to Meshi-Zahav, the prize was also awarded to former Foreign Ministry director-general Joseph Chechnover, for his work in and out of the civil service.
Meshi-Zahav recently made headlines when his parents both died of COVID-19 within days of each other, less than a month after his younger brother died of another cause.
The prize committee says in a statement that Meshi-Zahav has made an “outstanding” contribution to advancing assistance at disaster events and creating unity in Israeli society while having “a sense of mission and a true belief in the need to build bridges and have a dialogue.”
After public pressure and calls for greater transparency, the Palestinian Authority acknowledges that some of its vaccines went to government officials rather than healthcare workers.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry had previously said that the doses were going exclusively to health care workers and the elderly. But in a statement on Tuesday, the PA admitted that some of the doses had gone to others.
The list of those vaccinated includes government ministers, executive members of the Palestine Liberation Organization older than 65, and the Palestinian national soccer team.
United Torah Judaism Yitzhak Pindrus apologizes for using the word “shiksas” (a pejorative term for non-Jewish women) for women who convert to Judaism through the Israel Defense Forces’ conversion program, calling the term “inappropriate.”
“I apologize to those who were converted according to Halacha and were offended by what I said,” he tells Channel 12.
However, he stands by his critique of the IDF’s conversion program, telling Channel 12 that its supporters aren’t aware of the “disaster” it causes for the Jewish people since, he claims, its graduates are not halachically Jewish.
Pindrus, speaking Monday on a panel at a conference organized by the ITIM organization and Kipa website, discussed the case of the daughter of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother who converts under the military’s auspices.
She is a “shiksa, a non-Jew,” he said in a video clip aired by Army Radio on Tuesday.
“If she underwent an army conversion, she is not a Jew under halachic [Jewish legal] definitions.”
The army’s Nativ program, founded in 2001, is the only state-recognized conversion system in the country not controlled by the Chief Rabbinate. Hundreds of soldiers, most of them non-Jewish immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, enter the army’s conversion system each year.
Thousands have successfully finished the program and converted to Judaism through the IDF’s rabbinic court, which is Orthodox.
The former minister who was tasked with producing a compromise reform to Israel’s conversion laws says yesterday’s High Court decision legitimizing non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism was inevitable.
Moshe Nissim headed a special government committee that proposed an overhaul of the conversion system in Israel, which would remove it from under the control of the Haredi-dominated rabbinate and establishing a new state-run Orthodox authority instead.
But the 2018 proposal was never adopted by the government due to Haredi and national religious opposition.
Non-Orthodox groups petitioned against the status quo, leading the High Court to urge the government to pass legislation on the matter, but that was never done, leading to yesterday’s ruling.
Nissim tell the Kan public broadcaster that opponents of the ruling have no one to blame but themselves as they rejected an opportunity to reform the process and keep the matter in the hands of the Orthodox.
“They caused the High Court ruling,” Nissim says.
Those who have been vaccinated abroad will be allowed to take a serological test at Ben Gurion Airport to prove inoculation, thereby allowing them to avoid quarantine upon entry into Israel, a senior health official tells Channel 12.
The cabinet will convene tonight to discuss a proposal that would only require traveling Israelis to apply for approval from the Exceptions Committee if they are leaving the country, but not if they are returning, Channel 12 reports.
The plan will increase the number of Israelis allowed into the country daily from 200 to 3,000.
Those entering who are not vaccinated will be able to choose between quarantining in state-run hotels or at home with an electronic bracelet.
However, questions remain whether there are enough hotels and bracelets for the number of entrees expected.
Initially, only a handful of cities will be open for flights to and from Israel, including New York, Frankfurt, Paris, London and Kyiv.
The cabinet approves allowing political parties to hold election events of up to 300 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.
However, the space cannot be more than 75% full, social distancing must be maintained and all attendees must be either vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus
The Health Ministry has identified three cases of the so-called New York variant of the coronavirus, Channel 12 reports.
According to the network, the variant is strong enough to reinfect those who have recovered from the pandemic and may weaken the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says that it quietly sent 200 coronavirus vaccine doses to Jordan.
“200 doses were sent to the Jordanian royal court after they requested it and with the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,” the Health Ministry says in a statement.
Jordan has begun its own vaccine rollout, focusing on the elderly and health care workers, with doses from the Chinese Sinopharm company and from Pfizer. The Health Ministry did not say who its doses were used to vaccinate.
The controversial panel deciding which Israelis are permitted to return to the country has told a family they can fly back from Ukraine, with the exception of their 6-year-old son because the committee falsely said he was still in Israel, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
According to the report, the government’s Exceptions Committee told the two parents and one of their children that they can return, but the second child was not granted permission because the panel maintained he was already in the country.
The parents say that the child is with them in Ukraine and that they simply could not get the panel or any ministries in Israel to take responsibility for the error and correct it.
“We submitted a request for the whole family but we received an answer for only three. For the first request we did not receive a reason but with the second request, we were told the child is in Israel — they said ‘the child does not meet the criteria,’” father Michael Ivanov tells the outlet.
Austria and Denmark have further dented the European Union’s already fragile coronavirus vaccine solidarity by announcing plans to team up with Israel to produce second-generation vaccines against COVID-19 variants.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz plans to visit Israel with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen later this week and confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on vaccine research and production cooperation. Kurz said Tuesday that his country and Denmark intend to stop relying solely on the European Union for coronavirus vaccines.
As part of its strategy, the EU has six contracts for more than 2 billion doses of vaccines, with Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac. It is in negotiations with two other manufacturers, but only three vaccines have been approved for use so far in the bloc.
The United States imposes sanctions on seven senior Russian officials as it said its intelligence concluded that Moscow orchestrated the near-fatal poisoning of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
In action coordinated with the European Union, US President Joe Biden’s administration renews demands that Russia free Navalny, who has been sent to a notorious penal colony after spurring massive rallies through his allegations of corruption by President Vladimir Putin.
“The intelligence community assesses with high confidence that officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service FSB used a nerve agent known as Novichok to poison Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on August 20, 2020,” a senior US official tells reporters.
Officials say that the United States would impose sanctions on “seven senior members of the Russian government” with the details expected to be released later Tuesday.
The announcement comes one day after EU member states approved sanctions on a partly overlapping list of four senior Russian justice and law enforcement officials involved in his detention.
The targeted Russians will be restricted from traveling either to the European Union or the United States, with any assets in the Western nations frozen.
The Biden administration said it will also restrict certain exports to Russia as it vowed a harder line than defeated president Donald Trump, who voiced admiration for Putin.
“We will take the appropriate actions as we see fit to make very clear that this kind of conduct is unacceptable for us, and we’ll do it with our allies and partners,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds his first meeting with the UAE’s new ambassador to Israel Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah.
“We are changing the Middle East, we are changing the world” Netanyahu tells Al Khajah, according to a statement from the PMO.
The two discussed the potential for developing bilateral and regional projects on a wide range of areas, the PMO says.
Also attending the meeting were National Security Council chairman Meir Ben-Shabbat and other senior officials.
A prosecutor has declined to file charges against a suburban Detroit man who displayed a Ku Klux Klan flag in his window next to the home of a Black family, saying the “horrible conduct” doesn’t violate Michigan law.
An ethnic intimidation charge would require physical contact, property damage or threats of such activity, said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
“I strongly encourage the Michigan Legislature to look, revise and create laws to protect citizens from this kind of horrible conduct,” says Worthy, who is Black.
JeDonna Dinges, 57, of Grosse Pointe Park, says the klan flag was hanging next door in a window directly across from her dining room. The incident occurred two weeks ago.
The flag was removed after police with large cloths visited the home and made a switch, City Manager Nick Sizeland told the Detroit Free Press last week.
The man’s girlfriend claimed they couldn’t afford a curtain, Sizeland says.
“There is absolutely no question that what happened to Ms. Dinges was despicable, traumatizing and completely unacceptable,” Worthy says. “But, very unfortunately in my view, not a crime. The KKK flag, while intending to be visible to Ms. Dinges, was hanging inside of her neighbor’s house.”
The klan was a secretive society organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, often using violence.
Dozens of people turned out for a Feb. 21 march and rally to support Dinges.
Before the flag incident, Dinges says she was concerned about her safety after finding a full gas can inside her outdoor recycling bin.
Health official warns cabinet of ‘catastrophe’ if border policies too lenient, variants let in country
Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s public health service division urges the cabinet to exercise extreme caution in reopening Israel’s borders as there are multiple variants of the coronavirus that could lead to a “catastrophe” if they enter en masse.
“We are seeing a lot of variants out there, not just from the one from New York,” she says referencing the US variant that was identified in three Israeli arrivals this week.
“There is also a variant that’s coming in from the Netherlands, which we are testing,” she says.
“We must make sure that the people who enter the country are not only under police enforcement (to prevent quarantine violations), but we also must make sure that we don’t find ourselves in catastrophe a month from now in which the public will ask how we allowed all these variants to come into the country.
“In such a scenario, the vaccines may go to waste,” she adds.
In an apparent first of this election campaign, a Meretz lawmaker takes a swipe at the Labor party, but does so from the right, despite Meretz traditionally being more left-wing than Labor.
In an interview with Channel 13, Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz calls out Labor for including Ibtisam Mara’ana on it’s slate, despite remarks she has made that many criticized as beyond the pale.
The Central Elections Committee voted to bar the No. 7 Labor candidate from running, but that decision was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this week. Much of the controversy surrounding Mara’ana has been centered around a series of online posts, including one from 2012, in which she wrote that she had continued to drive her car as the annual memorial day siren sounded. The majority of drivers in Israel stop during the siren and stand by their vehicle for a moment of silence.
“An Arab citizen should stand during the siren and also sing the anthem. With us [in Meretz] you will not find such characters on our list like you have in the Labor Party,” Horowitz says.
Meretz and Labor are both straddling the electoral threshold in most polls, with many analysts pointing out that there is minimal ideological difference between them.
The coronavirus cabinet has approved a plan that will largely shutter the government’s Exceptions Committee, which has been responsible for approving requests by Israelis who want to enter or exit the country. The proposal must still be approved by the full cabinet, which is slated to meet later tonight.
The plan will allow for the partial reopening of Ben Gurion Airport, which is currently only seeing 200 arrivals per day. As of Sunday, that number will climb to 3,000, according to the proposal.
The only Israelis who will require the approval of the Exceptions Committee in order to travel will be those who are not vaccinated and seeking to leave the country.
According to the plan, all arrivals will be required to present a negative coronavirus test taken no more than 72 hours before their departure to Israel.
Upon landing, only those who have not been vaccinated will be required to quarantine at home or in state-run hotels.
Initially, only a handful of cities will be open for flights to and from Israel, including New York, Frankfurt, Paris, London and Kyiv.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tells Reuters that Jerusalem estimates that hundreds of its soldiers might become subject to war crimes probes at the International Criminal Court thanks to last month’s decision by The Hague’s pre-trial chamber deeming that it has jurisdiction to probe Israel and the Palestinians for alleged crimes that take place in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Gantz, admitting that he himself could fall into the ICC’s crossshairs, says his office has already begun working to protect such higher-ranking soldiers.
“I was never afraid to go across enemy lines, I will continue to stand wherever I have to,” he tells Reuters.
Gantz calls the ICC ruling a “negative development” adding, “We have our own teams working in different (places) to try (and) influence (the ICC).”
Gantz was IDF chief of staff during the 2014 Gaza war, which could be probed by the ICC as a result of last month’s ruling.
Channel 13 reports that the three Israelis who were identified as carriers of the New York variant of the coronavirus are not cooperating with the Health Ministry’s epidemiological team and that therefore it is not yet clear where they contracted it.
What is known is that they’re from the same family.
The Health Ministry has updated its coronavirus figures, showing that just 705 Israelis are seriously ill — the lowest number since December 30.
The minisstry says 90,820 tests were carried out yesterday, with 5.4% coming back positive. The number of active cases stands at 40,467 and the death toll stands at 5,786. The ministry says 4,797,396 Israelis have received a first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and of them 3,484,442 Israelis have also received a second.
A Channel 13 poll shows that 48% of the public is unsatisfied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance during the ongoing crisis, while just 28% of the public is satisfied.
Sixty-two percent don’t have faith in the government’s public health guidelines, while 28% do.
A Channel 12 poll has Meretz failing to cross the electoral threshold of 3.25% of the vote, while Channel 13’s survey has the left-wing party squeaking into the Knesset with the minimum four seats. Channel 12 has New Hope receiving 14 seats while Channel 13 has the party receiving 11 seats.
Both polls indicate that neither the pro or anti-Netanyahu blocs have enough popularity to form a coalition on their own.
The results were as follows.
Yesh Atid: 19
New Hope: 14
Joint List: 9
Yisrael Beytenu: 7
United Torah Judaism: 6
Religious Zionism: 5
Blue and White: 5
Yesh Atid: 19
New Hope: 11
Joint List: 8
Yisrael Beytenu: 7
United Torah Judaism: 7
Religious Zionism: 5
Blue and White: 4
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and expresses “deep concern” over Iran’s recent curbs on the UN’s nuclear inspectors. Macron calls on Tehran to demonstrate “clear gestures” on the matter
— with AFP
The family of the man run over by a minibus fleeing an anti-Arab, Haredi mob in Jerusalem on Sunday tells Channel 13 that they do not blame the driver.
“These people call themselves yeshiva students?” says Itamar Ben Abu’s father, adding that the mob was motivated by ignorance.
He adds that his son would not have wanted him to remain angry over what happened, so he is doing his best not to in Itamar’s honor.
Ibrahim Hamed is currently in police custody and is facing manslaughter charges, despite ostensibly being a victim of racially motivated violence himself.
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