The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Knesset panel okays bill shielding Netanyahu from recusal for final plenum votes
A special Knesset committee preliminarily approves a bill to shield prime ministers from forced recusal, barring health issues, for its final Knesset readings.
The committee, set up to discuss the bill, rejects some 300 reservations by the opposition, with the panel’s chair Ofir Katz (Likud) saying it will “preserve democracy and voters’ will” by barring the High Court and the attorney general from recusing Benjamin Netanyahu due to conflict of interest, as has been rumored could happen.
The bill is approved in a 9-6 vote and will now move to the second and third plenum readings, after which it will pass into law.
Opposition chiefs lambaste Smotrich call for dialogue while ‘destroying democracy’
Opposition leaders dismiss Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s call for dialogue, saying this can only happen if the coalition halts the judicial overhaul legislative process and stops trying to cause “destruction.”
“To those who didn’t understand the truth between all of Smotrich and [MK Simcha] Rothman’s lies: They are continuing with the legislation,” says Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.
“Continuing to destroy the economy, dismantle the IDF, threaten to not obey court orders, destroying democracy, tearing apart the people, but refusing to take responsibility for their actions and only blaming others. They aren’t just dangerous, they’re also cowards.”
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz accuses Smotrich and Rothman of “hypocrisy” by calling for dialogue “while they’re carrying out the destruction of the justice system.”
He adds: “The destruction is on your head, on [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s head. Stop everything and we’ll talk tonight.”
Labor party chief Merav Michaeli says Smotrich “thinks the public is stupid; he’s leading Israel to a messianic, dangerous dictatorship and he wants us to applaud him.
“It won’t work for you this time. The protest will get stronger and stronger until your dangerous and anti-democratic legislative blitz is thrown into the trash can.”
US State Department blasts Smotrich remarks on Palestinians as ‘dangerous’
The United States State Department denounces far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for denying the existence of the Palestinian nation, calling his remarks “dangerous.”
“We found those comments to not only be inaccurate but also deeply concerning and dangerous,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters, also calling Bezalel Smotrich’s remarks Sunday in Paris “offensive.”
6 Palestinian terror inmates announce hunger strike over ‘repressive measures’
Six Palestinian terror inmates have announced they are beginning a hunger strike, the Israel Prison Service says.
The prisoners at the Nafha, Ketziot, Ramon and Gilboa prisons “will be dealt with disciplinarily in accordance with the IPS orders,” a statement says.
“IPS will show zero tolerance toward violations of order and discipline, and will act as always with professionalism and determination in the face of any threat,” the IPS adds.
According to the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA, the hunger strike is being launched by the prisoners over the IPS’s refusal to cancel “repressive measures recently imposed against them.”
The six are representatives of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society group, according to WAFA. Their hunger strike will begin on the first day of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast anyway during daylight hours.
US ‘extremely troubled’ by Knesset vote legitimizing West Bank settlements
The United States says it is “extremely troubled” by the Knesset’s vote to repeal parts of the 2005 Disengagement Law and legitimize some West Bank settlements, calling the move “provocative” and in violation of promises to ally Washington.
“The United States is extremely troubled that the Israeli Knesset has passed legislation rescinding important parts of the 2005 Disengagement Law,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel tells reporters.
Smotrich urges dialogue, says overhaul to be advanced while listening to critics
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urges calm and dialogue regarding the government’s divisive plan to overhaul the justice system, saying he has “learned lessons” in the past few months about the need for broader agreement on the key constitutional changes.
In a press conference alongside MK Simcha Rothman from his Religious Zionism party, who has spearheaded the judicial overhaul plan as the head of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Smotrich says he is listening to the scores of legal experts, economists and other senior officials who have decried the plan.
However, he says the government will pass a bill to cement the coalition’s complete control over most judicial appointments by the end of next week as planned.
He suggests the government is holding off and slowing progress on a range of other bills, even though critics have slammed the judge selection bill as too radical and even though Justice Minister Yariv Levin has vowed to advance the rest of the bills after the Knesset recess ends in late April.
Smotrich calls for dialogue with the opposition during the monthlong recess, even though opposition figures have demanded a halt to all progress as a precondition for talks.
“We will hold full dialogue with whoever wants, we are listening to all parts of the nation,” Smotrich says, adding that the government’s plan “isn’t the end of democracy, and those who claim otherwise are doing so for ulterior motives.”
Report: Barkat coordinated with PM when saying he’ll respect court ruling nixing overhaul bills
A source in the ruling Likud party is quoted by Ynet as saying that Economy Minister Nir Barkat was fully coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he said today that he will respect the High Court of Justice’s decision if it overturns a key piece of legislation that is part of the government’s drastic overhaul of the judiciary.
That had been an apparent response to Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who vowed the coalition will not accept such a development.
The source reportedly says the timing of Barkat’s remark “wasn’t a coincidence.”
Knesset panel set to reconvene, discuss 5,400 reservations on judge appointment bill
Opposition parties have submitted around 5,400 reservations on the coalition’s bill to give itself control over key judicial appointments.
The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will reconvene at 8:30 p.m. to discuss the reservations and prepare to vote on whether the bill is ready to advance toward its final Knesset readings.
300 anti-overhaul protesters rally near Likud MK Edelstein’s home
Some 300 anti-overhaul protesters are holding a rally near Likud MK Yuli Edelstein’s home in Herzliya, upping the pressure on Edelstein to take a stronger stand against the government plan to radically reshape the balance between the parliament and the judiciary.
Edelstein has previously urged the coalition to pause the legislative process to facilitate negotiations with the opposition, and even skipped several votes on bills, earning himself sanctions from the coalition.
“It is time to topple the dictator” is written on one of the signs, according to Ynet, with another saying: “Democracy or rebellion.”
3 Palestinians arrested, indicted over January shooting toward West Bank settlement
Three Palestinian gunmen have been arrested for shooting at the West Bank settlement of Karmei Tzur in January, the military and Shin Bet security agency say.
In a joint statement with the Shin Bet, the Israel Defense Forces says the trio from the town of Beit Ummar opened fire at Karmei Tzur on the night of January 23.
There were no injuries in the attack.
The Shin Bet names the suspects as Muhammad Salibi, Khabib Salibi and Rashed az-Zaqiq, all in their 20s.
Palestinian media reported the arrests of the Salibi relatives in late January, several days after the shooting. It is unclear when az-Zaqiq was detained.
Indictments were filed against the trio earlier today, according to the IDF.
IDF and Shin Bet say three Palestinians from Beit Ummar – Muhammad Salibi, Rashed al-Zaqiq and Khabib Salibi – have been detained for shooting at the settlement of Karmei Tzur on Jan 23. pic.twitter.com/0qmYESUC58
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) March 21, 2023
Greece said to offer Israeli businesspeople benefits if they move to country due to overhaul
Amid widespread fears over the economic fallout of the government’s judicial overhaul, Greece has initiated contacts with Israeli tech entrepreneurs and offered a package of benefits if they move to the country, Channel 12 news reports.
The Greek leadership officials initiated the contacts and have held meetings to understand what is needed to persuade the businesspeople to move to Greece, the report says.
Among the reported options are tax and other benefits, and even forming entire neighborhoods or towns for the Israelis.
The report says Greek officials asked for comment didn’t deny the details.
Holy Muslim month of Ramadan to begin on Thursday
Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest shrines in Islam in Mecca and Medina, has announced that the fasting month of Ramadan will start on Thursday.
The kingdom’s supreme court rules that the Islamic calendar month of Shaban, which precedes Ramadan, will end tomorrow, meaning Ramadan will begin the following day, the official Saudi Press Agency reports.
Authorities earlier today called on residents to try to spot the crescent moon that marks the start of Ramadan, but it was not visible, state media says.
The official Crescent Sighting Committee in neighboring Qatar also announces that Thursday “is the first day of the blessed month of Ramadan,” the official Qatar News Agency says on Twitter.
The Palestinian grand mufti makes a similar announcement.
مفتي القدس: غدًا الـمتمم لشهر شعبان والخميس أول أيام رمضان المبارك
تفاصيل من هنا ????https://t.co/RTIuXfeMpg
????????وكالة خبر???????? pic.twitter.com/bEk9gR8oAs
— وكالة خبر الفلسطينية (@khbrpressps) March 21, 2023
The daytime fasting month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk, and traditionally gather with family and friends to break their fast in the evening.
The starting date of Ramadan, the holiest Muslim month, is set by both lunar calculations and physical sightings to determine the beginning of a new month.
Netanyahu gave too much power to coalition partners, acknowledges Likud MK
Likud MK Danny Danon acknowledges that the ruling party has made many mistakes with the unveiling and advancement of the judicial overhaul plan.
Danon, an increasingly independent voice within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, is asked in an interview with Channel 12 news whether the premier is regretting the overhaul push but is unable to back off due to promises made to other parties.
“The coalition deal is problematic, we gave too much power to our partners,” Danon responds.
Avi Mayer, prominent pro-Israel activist, named editor of Jerusalem Post
Avi Mayer, a pro-Israel activist and communications professional with a large following on social media, has been named the next editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.
Mayer, 38, will take over from Yaakov Katz, the current editor of the 90-year-old English-language newspaper, in mid-April, after Passover.
“I look forward to working with the Post’s outstanding staff to continue upholding the highest standards of journalistic excellence, to offer our readers content of relevance and quality, to fortify the paper’s position as a leading media outlet in Israel and the Jewish world, and to lead it into the future,” Mayer says in a statement, according to the Post.
Mayer, who was born in New York and lives in Jerusalem, comes to the role with a background in communications and online activism rather than journalism. He most recently served as the managing director of global communications and public affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and previously served as the spokesperson for the Jewish Agency for Israel. He also served in the spokesperson’s unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Before enlisting, Mayer briefly worked for Eretz Acheret, an Israeli magazine that has ceased publication.
But Mayer is perhaps best known for his presence on Twitter, where he has more than 140,000 followers; posts a mix of news updates, advocacy for Israel and pictures of freshly-baked challah; and has clashed with anti-Israel accounts.
In apparent dig at Smotrich, US diplomat visits museum for Palestinian national poet
In a not-so-subtle jab at Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who claimed Sunday that Palestinian people and culture don’t exist, the head of the US Embassy in Jerusalem’s Office of Palestinian Affairs George Noll pays a visit to the Mahmoud Darwish Museum in Ramallah, which memorializes the late author regarded as the Palestinian national poet.
“Mahmoud Darwish showed us the power of words. As he wrote, poetry and beauty are always making peace. His poetry is a Palestinian national treasure,” Noll’s office tweets.
FM Cohen discusses Iran with UK counterpart, signs major bilateral agreement
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen meets with his British counterpart James Cleverly in London, where they sign the 2030 Roadmap for UK-Israeli Bilateral Relations.
According to the Israeli readout, they speak at length about the Iranian threat and agree that if Iran continues to enrich uranium to forbidden levels, the international community must ensure that there are severe consequences. Tehran is allowed to enrich only to 3.67%, but uranium enriched to almost 84% was recently discovered.
“Israel and the UK agree that Iran cannot be allowed to attain a nuclear weapon,” Cohen says.
Cohen also expresses his hope that British financial institutions will find increased opportunities in Israel as a result of increased economic ties.
Reservist protest heads: Tens of thousands will refuse to serve, army is ‘disintegrating’
Leaders of the IDF reservists’ protest against the government’s judicial overhaul plan announce they are escalating their protest, starting a petition that people can sign and say they won’t show up for their volunteer duty if the legislation is passed into law, and predicting that tens of thousands will sign it.
The organizers say the plan would hand the government unlimited power and thus turn Israel into a “dictatorship,” demanding that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant halt the legislative protest: “The army is disintegrating before your eyes, and you have maintained silence for 11 weeks.”
They dismiss the new version announced this week, according to which most overhaul bills will be paused for 1.5 months and a bill to hand the government complete control of most judicial appointments will be passed soon: “This isn’t a softening, it’s fiction.”
The reservist protesters intend to demonstrate tomorrow near Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf will be attending a housing conference.
After meeting chancellor in Berlin, Netanyahu meets visiting German opposition chief
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets German opposition chief Friedrich Merz at the premier’s Jerusalem office.
The Prime Minister’s Office says Netanyahu talked with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party leader about bilateral relations and efforts to expand them, particularly in the defense field; international developments, mainly in Ukraine; and the Iranian threat.
Netanyahu urges Germany to act to stop Iran’s nuclear armament during the meeting, which is attended by Netanyahu’s chief of staff Tzachi Braverman, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, PMO Director-General Yossi Sheli, the premier’s military secretary Avi Gil and German Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert.
Netanyahu visited Germany last week and met Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Dozens of US generals urge Biden to arm Israel against Iran, as lesson from Ukraine
Dozens of American generals and admirals sign a letter calling on US President Joe Biden’s administration to expedite shipments of advanced arms to Israel to help create a credible military threat against Iran’s nuclear program.
“The United States should apply lessons of the year-old Ukraine conflict: It’s vital to arm capable and willing partners facing regional threats, and best to do so before conflict erupts,” write the 44 flag officers in a letter organized by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. “To confront this pressing high-priority threat, the United States should immediately provide Israel with the advanced weapons it needs to deter and prevent a nuclear Iran.”
The officers asked the White House to sell, lease and preposition KC-46A aerial refueling tankers, F-15I fighter aircraft, F-35 multirole combat aircraft, and precision-guided munitions, including joint direct attack munition (JDAMs) precision guidance systems.
“By acting now to augment Israel’s military capabilities, the United States can help Israel defend itself by itself, prevent a nuclear Iran, and address one of the most pressing strategic challenges America faces today,” they write.
Jerusalem Catholic schoolkids to march Friday in protest of Jesus statue vandalism
In protest of the February vandalism of a statue of Jesus in the Jerusalem Old City, Catholic schoolchildren will march down the Way of the Cross on Friday morning wearing scarves with images of the statue’s desecrated face.
Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa will join the procession at the 7th station of the Via Dolorosa.
On February 3, a Jewish American man tore down a statue of Jesus in the Church of the Flagellation, the first station of the Via Dolorosa. The culprit was arrested by police.
UK counter-terror police involved in probe into attack on man while leaving a mosque
Counter-terrorism officers are involved in an investigation into the attempted murder of a man who was set alight yesterday after leaving a mosque, UK police say.
One man has been arrested after last night’s attack in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, central England.
West Midlands Police chief superintendent Richard North says counter-terrorism police are supporting the investigation.
They have “access to specialist capabilities to help establish the full circumstances,” he adds.
It comes after an 82-year-old man was set on fire outside a mosque in the Ealing area of west London on the evening of February 27.
The Birmingham force says it is aware of the previous attack.
“We are working with the Metropolitan Police Service to see whether they are linked,” a spokesman says.
In the latest attack, it is thought the victim, who was walking home from a nearby mosque, was sprayed with an unknown substance and then had his jacket set on fire.
He suffered burns to his face and was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
Xi tells Putin he wants to ‘strengthen coordination’ with Russia
Chinese President Xi Jinping says he wants to “strengthen coordination and cooperation with Russia,” speaking during a summit with Vladimir Putin.
“I propose strengthening our coordination and cooperation,” Xi says during the meeting in the Kremlin on a second day of talks with the Russian leader.
Anti-overhaul activists berate Minister Barkat at restaurant: ‘Son of a bitch, filth’
Activists against the judicial overhaul film themselves verbally berating Economy Minister Nir Barkat, causing him to quickly leave a restaurant.
“Aren’t you ashamed? We won’t be able to go to the army. Shame!” one activist says, referring to the many IDF reservists who have or are threatening to stop volunteering for reserve service due to the government plan.
Another person shouts: “Thieves! Criminals! You son of a bitch, filth. We won’t give you a minute of rest.”
They continue following Barkat all the way to his car, calling him a “coward” and referencing a series of bills being advanced aimed at personally benefiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri.
מפגינים מתפרצים למסעדה ומפריעים לניר ברקת לאכול הוא עוזב את המקום מיד pic.twitter.com/esR4MUPifT
— לירי בורק שביט (@lirishavit) March 21, 2023
Ethics panel penalizes Likud’s Gotliv, who says she’ll boycott votes in protest
The Knesset’s Ethics Committee decides to punish Likud MK Tally Gotliv for her incendiary assertion last month that Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut was to blame for a deadly Palestinian terror attack.
The panel, noting that Gotliv doubled down on her accusation and hasn’t walked it back in any way, says the remark is not protected by freedom of speech and is a “severe ethics violation.” It unanimously bars her from speaking in the Knesset plenum for two days and in parliamentary committees for three days.
Gotliv responds that she’s “embarrassed” at the attempt to “terrorize” her and that in protest, she will not attend votes in the parliament until her punishment is over.
“I’m not a toy,” she says, accusing the committee members from her Likud party of “seeking to calm the atmosphere at my expense.”
The Ethics Committee also bars Hadash-Ta’al party leader Ayman Odeh from speaking at the Knesset plenum for one day over his call last year for Arab members of Israel’s security forces to “lay down their weapons,” and for a physical altercation in 2021 with far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir — now the national security minister — at a hospital.
France slams Smotrich’s ‘infuriating’ claim that Palestinian nation doesn’t exist
France calls Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s assertion in Paris on Sunday that the Palestinian people do not exist “infuriating and irresponsible.”
“We call on those who were called to senior positions in the Israeli government to show the appropriate respect, to treat others with respect, and to avoid any action or statement that contributes to an escalation in tensions,” says French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre in response to a question.
Standing behind a map of “Greater Israel” that includes modern-day Jordan at a memorial event for a Zionist activist, Smotrich said that the Palestinian people were “an invention” from the last century, and that there was “no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as the Palestinian people.”
Israel, UK set to sign major roadmap for bilateral ties on economy, security, tech
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will sign a major agreement this afternoon setting the agenda for bilateral economic, security and technology ties.
According to the Foreign Office, the 2030 Roadmap for UK-Israeli Bilateral Relations “contains detailed commitments for deepening cooperation across the breadth of the Israel-UK relationship, including on trade, cyber, science and tech, research and development, security, health, climate and gender.”
A particular focus will be placed on technological innovation, with around 20 million pounds of joint funding committed in the agreement.
London, which will chair the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2024, also commits in the agreement to work closely with Israel.
The process of laying out the nature of the bilateral relationship began in November 2021, almost two years after the UK left the European Union. Then-foreign minister Yair Lapid signed a memorandum of understanding with his British counterpart Liz Truss, saying that it would lead to a free trade agreement, increased security cooperation and joint development of high-tech projects.
The Foreign Office press release says that the two diplomats will discuss “countering the current threat from Iran and tackling Iran’s destabilizing and malign activity in the Middle East,” as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Abraham Accords.
Cleverly will bring up the UK’s concerns about rising violence in the West Bank, and “the need for all parties to take steps to deescalate and end the cycle of violence.”
The UK statement does not mention the ongoing domestic fight over the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul.
Communications minister unveils plan to close TV regulator, nix license requirement
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi presents his reform plans for the coming year, announcing he will cancel the need for a license to broadcast news, as well as closing the Second Authority for Television and Radio regulator due to its “hyperactive intervention.”
In a press conference, Karhi — who has spoken repeatedly about his desire to shut down the Kan public broadcaster — says it is an “outrage” that Kan holds about half of the FM radio broadcasting frequencies. He says he plans to move some of them to local radio stations.
He says his ministry won’t be “hasty” with plans regarding the public broadcaster, hailing its popular and critically acclaimed TV series in recent years and saying: “We will continue strengthening Israeli works.”
He also says he plans to advance nationwide 5G network access.
Karhi intends to allocate a budget to “encourage competition” on news broadcasting, as well as reducing regulatory interventions in content and timetables aimed at opening new channels and lowering prices.
He also says he will “defend freedom of speech on social media,” introducing an obligation to “explain blocks and deletion of content” and allowing courts to discuss “violations of rights of social media users.”
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar condemn Smotrich’s ‘racist’ denial of Palestinian nation
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar condemn remarks by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who said this week in Paris that the Palestinian nation doesn’t exist, while standing on a podium that featured a map of “Greater Israel” that includes the territories of Jordan and the West Bank.
The Saudi statement blasts the remarks, saying they are “racist, false and promote a discourse of hate and violence and harm efforts to achieve peace.”
The Emirati foreign ministry condemns both the map and the remarks, emphasizing the need “to confront discourse of hate and violence.”
Qatar’s foreign ministry similarly condemns both the “denial of the existence of the Palestinian people” and Smotrich’s “use of a map of Israel that includes the borders of Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Israeli-American injured in Huwara attack recounts ordeal, calls escape ‘miraculous’
David Stern, an Israeli-American former US Marine who was shot and injured on Sunday in a Palestinian terror attack in the West Bank town of Huwara, recounts his ordeal in a Hebrew-language address from his hospital bed.
Stern a resident of the Itamar settlement, says he was driving with his wife on Route 60 through the Palestinian town on their way to Jerusalem, when he stopped to let a man — the terrorist — cross the road.
“I noticed he was blocking one hand in a very suspicious way,” he says. “I immediately reached for my handgun, the terrorist turned toward us, and we started shooting almost at the same time.”
Stern says that after he fired about 10 shots at his attacker, the latter fled. Stern drove a few dozen meters, stopped, and started bandaging himself before an ambulance arrived.
He thanks God, as well as the Israeli nation “for the prayers and the support.”
He urges the government to reintroduce military checkpoints in the area: “We cannot go on like this. We miraculously escaped the attack, but what about the next family?”
Jerusalem man indicted for saying he was ‘sent to assassinate’ US envoy Nides
A 33-year-old man is indicted for threats against US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, the Walla news site reports.
According to the indictment, the man arrived last night at Chakra, a restaurant in Jerusalem where Nides was dining, and asked the envoy’s security guards if Nides was there.
After a guard said he couldn’t answer the question due to security reasons, the man answered: “That’s a shame, I’ve been sent to assassinate the US ambassador.”
He was promptly arrested, with an indictment filed less than 24 hours later.
Report: Ben Gvir chief of staff is being employed illegally, doesn’t have a contract
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s chief of staff is reportedly being employed illegally, without an employment contract as a member of the civil service.
Haaretz reports that almost three months after entering the role, Chanamel Dorfman still doesn’t have a contract, and it isn’t clear who his employer is.
Other reports say the Civil Service Commission has confirmed these details.
Dorfman, a former far-right settler activist of the loosely organized “hilltop youth,” has sent official letters to senior police commanders on behalf of Ben Gvir, including a letter asking the police chief to cut 25% of police spokesperson’s office staff. Despite being a private citizen, he signed himself Ben Gvir’s chief of staff.
Haaretz quotes an unnamed senior police source saying that in the current situation, Dorfman’s behavior amounts to “impersonation.”
Hezbollah-linked media reports mine explosion near border, wounding Israeli soldiers
A Hezbollah-affiliated journalist reports that a mine has exploded on the border with Lebanon, injuring three Israeli soldiers.
Ali Shoeib, who works for the Al-Manar mouthpiece, publishes footage from the apparent incident on the border.
The Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the incident, without confirming any of the details.
صراخ أحد الجنود الصهاينة بعد بتر ساقه بإنفجار لغم ارضي أثناء القيام بأشغال هندسية عند حدود بلدة #عيتا_الشعب ونقله بدبابة ميركافا pic.twitter.com/2AMC0xkLmP
— علي شعيب || Ali Shoeib ???????? (@alishoeib1970) March 21, 2023
In first, INSS security think tank issues ‘urgent alert’ calling for halt to overhaul
The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think tank issues a first-of-its-kind statement cautioning that the government’s judicial overhaul as currently being advanced “will seriously harm the functioning of the IDF, will reduce Israel’s ability to deal with its enemies, endanger relations with the USA and sabotage the economy.”
In what it calls an “urgent strategic alert,” the INSS cites growing refusals by IDF reservists to show up for volunteer duty, rifts with the US and growing warnings of economic dangers, as well as polarization in society as a result of the divisive plan, which “magnifies these threats and impairs our ability to tackle them.”
“Pursuing the judicial reform has already generated an unprecedented internal confrontation that weakens Israeli society and intensifies the security, geopolitical and economic threats facing it. We warn that pushing forward with the reform will further diminish social resilience; degrade the spirit that animates the IDF as well as its operational capabilities; undermine Israel’s ability to face its enemies and to preserve the support of its friends, particularly the USA; and weaken its economy as well as its flagship high-tech sector,” it warns.
“Hence, the reform legislation must be stopped immediately, so as to focus instead on the severe threats to Israel’s national security, and on the restoration of social cohesion and resilience.”
In London, FM Cohen attends memorial for late ambassador shot by Palestinians in 1982
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen participates in a memorial ceremony in London for former Israeli ambassador to the UK Shlomo Argov, who died in 2003 after being shot in 1982. The attack, carried out in London by the Palestinian Abu Nidal organization, left Argov paralyzed from the neck down, and was one of the immediate causes of the IDF’s Operation Peace for Galilee in Lebanon.
Cohen is joined by Israel’s current ambassador to the Court of St. James, Tzipi Hotovely, and Lord Tariq Ahmad, the Foreign Office’s Minister of State for the Middle East. Members of the Argov family are also present at the ceremony.
“Terrorism has ambushed our representatives more than once,” says Cohen, “but we will not let up, we will continue to stand with determination against evil and terrorism for the State of Israel.”
Cohen is set to meet with members of the Jewish community before meeting with his British counterpart, James Cleverly. He will also participate in two events with British business leaders before flying to Warsaw tonight.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to fly to London on Thursday to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Bank heads, business chiefs to PM: Halt overhaul ‘turning Israel into dictatorship’
A forum of top business leaders tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the government’s judicial overhaul will “turn Israel into a dictatorship,” calling for it to be halted.
The signatories from the Israel Business Forum include the heads of some of the country’s most successful businesses, as well as the top executives of five banks.
“We call on you to immediately stop the planned legislative moves, chief among them the law to change the committee for the selection of judges,” reads the letter, referring to the judicial appointments bill that will cement the government’s control over the selection of most judges, including High Court justices.
“This law seriously harms the legal system and undermines the foundations of democracy based on the separation of powers and the independence of the legal system, and turns Israel into a dictatorship,” reads the letter, according to Channel 12 news.
“This move will seriously damage Israel’s economy, and beyond that it will damage Israeli society as a whole, its resilience, its security and its values,” the letter charges.
“The forum rejects with disgust the threats and attacks on the gatekeepers in Israel, the High Court of Justice, legal adviser, the IDF, the Shin Bet and the police,” the letter adds.
Russia blames Ukraine for drone attack on oil facility in border region
Russia accuses Kyiv of a drone attack on an oil pumping station in the southern Bryansk region on the border with Ukraine, according to the regional governor.
“The Armed Forces of Ukraine, using a UAV, attacked the territory of the Novozybkov oil pumping station of Transneft. There were no casualties,” governor Alexander Bogomaz says on social media.
IDF: Hezbollah terrorist behind Megiddo bombing crossed into Israel with a ladder
The suspected Hezbollah terrorist who planted a bomb at Megiddo Junction last week crossed the Lebanon border fence using a ladder, defense sources say.
Last night, the IDF said it had figured out how the suspect entered Israel from Lebanon, but did not elaborate, only saying it had ruled out the use of a tunnel.
The use of a ladder by the suspect to climb over the border fence is now released for publication, although the army is still not commenting on the matter.
Despite 2,500 reservations, Knesset panel barrels ahead with judicial appointments bill
More than 2,500 reservations have been submitted against the coalition’s bill to give itself complete control of most judicial appointments, as the opposition seeks to delay a vote on the legislation that would clear it for final Knesset plenum votes.
The Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee is moving closer to voting on the bill, which is one of the two anchors of the coalition’s push to redraw the balance of power between judges and politicians, along with a mechanism for the Knesset to stymie judicial review.
In the ongoing committee discussion, opposition members claim that the bill’s revamped content — submitted earlier this week by committee chair Simcha Rothman — is a “new subject,” meaning it is outside of the scope of authority claimed by a previous version of the bill that passed its first reading.
Rothman swats those concerns away, claiming the changes are “cosmetic,” but the matter will ultimately be decided by the Knesset House Committee. Both committees are under the coalition’s control, and the House Committee is expected to reject the opposition’s claim.
While the Knesset’s legal adviser Sagit Afik wrote in a letter to the committee this morning that she does not see a problem in the committee’s general procedures, she did press Rothman to create enough time for the opposition to submit further reservations against the new draft, rather than vote on it today as planned.
It is yet unclear whether the vote will take place today.
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