ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Israel said to send warning to Hamas over Jerusalem Day Flag March

TV report says messages sent via Egypt to terror group warning of harsh Israeli response to any Jerusalem Day provocations; Netanyahu keen to lower tensions

Hundreds of right-wing activists waving flags attempt to attend a march through Jerusalem's Old City on April 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hundreds of right-wing activists waving flags attempt to attend a march through Jerusalem's Old City on April 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Foreign minister set to take off for Delhi for meetings with Modi, top Indian officials

File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visits people injured in a terror attack in Tel Aviv at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. April 8, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visits people injured in a terror attack in Tel Aviv at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. April 8, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is set to take off for India Monday night, where he will meet in New Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during his three-day visit.

He will also meet the agriculture minister and national security adviser.

Cohen will sign agreements on foreign workers in construction and elder care, and on water technology.

He is bringing a business delegation of some 36 Israeli representatives, and will open the Israel-India Economic Forum.

The final day of the visit will be in Mumbai, where Cohen will visit the Chabad center that suffered the lethal terrorist attack in 2008.

Cohen says that the visit “will deepen the strategic partnership with one of the world powers.’” He adds that India can play a key role in expanding the Abraham Accords.

Diplomats say Hungary, Poland blocked stronger EU response to Ben Gvir incident

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir tours Lod, April 17, 2023. (Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir tours Lod, April 17, 2023. (Flash90)

EU diplomats who were present at the ambassadors meeting this morning in which they decided to cancel the Europe Day reception over the attendance of Itamar Ben Gvir tell The Times of Israel additional details about the debate that took place.

The original motion would have seen all the ambassadors issue a harsh joint statement expressing disappointment over Israel’s decision to send the far-right national security minister. It also would have specifically called on the government to designate someone else, or the party would be canceled.

Hungary and Poland blocked the joint statement, saying that they cannot be seen as questioning a sovereign decision of the Israeli government.

The “usual suspects’’ at the meeting were spoiling for a confrontation with Israel, says one of the diplomats present. Some countries saw Ben Gvir as an intentional snub of Europe by Israel.

The talk moved to the event itself at that point. With demonstrations expected, there was talk of canceling it for security reasons as well as diplomatic.
A consensus began to form around canceling, but it was not clear how to communicate the message.

EU envoy to Israel Dmiter Tzantchev said initially that a statement would come from Brussels, but in the end decided to issue a statement himself as host.

Jewish Council for Public Affairs names Amy Spitalnick as its CEO

Amy Spitalnick.(Courtesy via JTA)
Amy Spitalnick.(Courtesy via JTA)

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs taps Amy Spitalnick, who spearheaded a successful multimillion-dollar lawsuit against neo-Nazis, as its next CEO.

The decision is a sign that the group, called the JCPA, is pursuing a more assertively liberal approach. For nearly 80 years, it was an umbrella for local Jewish community relations groups, and was affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America, which has historically been driven by consensus across local Jewish communities. But in December, it split from the federation system and rebranded as a more explicitly progressive group.

The statement today announcing Spitalnick’s hire highlights her work at the helm of Integrity First for America, the nonprofit that underwrote a successful lawsuit against the organizers of the deadly neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. The statement emphasizes fighting for democracy against hate as priorities, and calls Spitalnick “a powerful national voice on issues of democracy, antisemitism, extremism, and hate.”

Spitalnick, 37, tells the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that she would focus on building relationships with other communities that are vulnerable to hatred and erosions in democracy.

FM Cohen speaks to Blinken, meets US negotiator

File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 30, 2023. (Miriam Shimonovich/Foreign Minstry)
File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 30, 2023. (Miriam Shimonovich/Foreign Minstry)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen speaks to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, his office says.

The conversation focuses on “recent Israeli efforts to advance regional stability,” with the two focusing on expanding the Abraham Accords and the upcoming Negev Forum meetings, the statement says.

The two also reiterate the close ties between Israel and the US.

There is no immediate readout of the conversation from the State Department.

The statement says Cohen also met today with US mediator Amos Hochstein to discuss advancing diplomatic initiatives in the region.

It gave no further details.

Hochstein negotiated last year’s maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon.

Israel said to send warning to Hamas over Jerusalem Day Flag March

File: MK Bezalel Smotrich, center, waves an Israeli flag during the annual 'Flags March' next to Damascus gate, outside Jerusalem's Old City, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
File: MK Bezalel Smotrich, center, waves an Israeli flag during the annual 'Flags March' next to Damascus gate, outside Jerusalem's Old City, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Israel has sent a message to the Hamas terror group via Egypt ahead of the upcoming Jerusalem Day Flag March, warning that Israel will respond harshly to any provocations, Channel 12 reports.

The heavily guarded Jerusalem Day Flag March has become an increasingly combustible issue for Israel, drawing tens of thousands of national religious youth to mark the anniversary of Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War.

The annual, provocative event drives fears of aggravated tensions with Palestinians. Two years ago, the march played a role in touching off a brief war with Gaza-based terrorists, and last year, it saw sporadic clashes and hundreds of participants filmed chanting “Death to Arabs” and other racist and Islamophobic slogans.

According to the TV report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that the march will go ahead as it did in previous years, meaning that it will go through the Muslim Quarter.

This year’s rally is scheduled to take place on Thursday May 18.

Trump civil rape trial hears closing arguments

E. Jean Carroll arrives to federal court in New York, Monday, May 8, 2023. Former President Donald Trump has rejected his last chance to testify at a civil trial where the longtime advice columnist has accused him of raping her in a luxury department store dressing room in 1996. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
E. Jean Carroll arrives to federal court in New York, Monday, May 8, 2023. Former President Donald Trump has rejected his last chance to testify at a civil trial where the longtime advice columnist has accused him of raping her in a luxury department store dressing room in 1996. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A lawyer for Donald Trump’s rape accuser urges a New York jury to find the ex-president liable for damages in closing arguments in a US civil trial.

“No one, not even a former president, is above the law,” E. Jean Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, tells the Manhattan federal court.

Carroll, 79, sued Trump last year alleging that he raped her in a New York department store in the mid-1990s.

The former columnist for Elle magazine also claims that Trump defamed her when he accused her of lying after she went public with the allegation in 2019.

Trump has not been criminally prosecuted and has repeatedly denied the allegations, often referring to Carroll as “not my type.”

Ex-neo-Nazi guilty in slayings of Florida roommates who mocked conversion to Islam

Devon Arthurs in a photo provided on May 20, 2017. (Tampa Police Department via AP, File)
Devon Arthurs in a photo provided on May 20, 2017. (Tampa Police Department via AP, File)

A former member of a neo-Nazi group pleaded guilty Monday to fatally shooting his two Florida roommates in 2017, abruptly avoiding the start of a murder trial in which he had planned to use the insanity defense, according to court records.

Devon Arthurs, 24, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and will serve a 45-year prison sentence. The plea deal with prosecutors means Arthur will not face a possible life sentence.

“This defendant committed a cold and calculated crime and for that he will spend the majority of his life in prison,” said State Attorney Suzy Lopez in a statement. “The victims’ families are satisfied with this outcome which allows them to avoid a painful trial while knowing the defendant will have to dwell upon the pain he has caused for the next several decades behind bars.”

Arthurs admitted killing the roommates, Andrew Oneschuk, 18, and 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman, nearly 6 years ago at the Tampa apartment they shared. Arthurs told police after his arrest that all three had been part of a small, mostly online neo-Nazi group called the Atomwaffen Division and that he shot the pair with an assault-style rifle because they ridiculed his conversion to Islam.

IDF to hold military drill near Lebanese, Syrian border

Illustrative photo of Israeli artillery on the Lebanese border, January 28, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson)
Illustrative photo of Israeli artillery on the Lebanese border, January 28, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson)

The Israel Defense Forces will conduct a military drill in the Galilee Panhandle tomorrow morning, which will include artillery fire toward the Mount Dov area on the border with Lebanon.

The military says the exercise is pre-planned.

Explosions are expected to be heard in nearby towns, the IDF adds.

Mount Dov, also known as the Sheba Farms, is a contested area claimed by Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Halevi slams efforts to pressure IDF over promotion of top generals

IDF chief Herzi Halevi speaks at an award ceremony at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Herzi Halevi speaks at an award ceremony at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi hits back at criticism by right-wing activists after a controversial officer was not promoted during a recent shuffle in the General Staff.

“The selection of commanders in the IDF — standing and reserves — is made with pure professional considerations, and there are no other considerations,” Halevi says at an event honoring outstanding reservists.

Last week, Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter, was passed over for promotion yet again, and was reportedly expected to retire from the IDF. Winter came under considerable criticism in the 2014 Gaza war for comments he made at the time that framed the operation as a religious fight, for allegedly passing information to politicians without proper approval, and for his actions during the highly controversial “Black Friday” battle in Rafah.

Right-wing activists have repeatedly called for him to be promoted in the military, and expressed outrage following the announcement of the latest promotions that did not include Winter.

“It is not the color of the beret, not friendship, not religious beliefs, but only the best and the most suitable for the position,” Halevi says.

“Decisions on appointments in the IDF are made by those who are responsible for them. Any attempt at external intervention or introducing foreign considerations into this process is wrong and even dangerous,” he continues.

“It is good that we get choose from very good ones, it is our duty to choose the most suitable ones,” Halevi adds.

Border Police reinstate officer convicted of assaulting Arab woman at checkpoint

Oriane Ben Kalifa, a former Border Police officer accused of assaulting a Palestinian woman in Jerusalem's Old City, seen as she arrives for a court hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, May 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Oriane Ben Kalifa, a former Border Police officer accused of assaulting a Palestinian woman in Jerusalem's Old City, seen as she arrives for a court hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, May 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The commander of the Border Police announces he is reinstating an officer who was convicted last week of assaulting an East Jerusalem woman by pulling the victim’s hijab from her hair, choking her and shaking her without cause.

A Police statement says the move was authorized by Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and noted that legal proceedings were “still ongoing.”

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court found Oriane Ben Kalifa guilty of assault but acquitted her of obstructing justice, partly citing the sloppy manner in which the Police Internal Investigations Department carried out the investigation.

The far-right Ben Gvir, who is in charge of police, slammed the judge’s ruling, saying at the time the verdict was “not final” and that he would contact police to see what could be done on behalf of Ben Kalifa.

Today, he welcomes her reinstatement.

“Our fighters have my full backing. Contrary to what officials in the military prosecution and the judicial system apparently believe, when fighting terrorism the fight is not conducted under laboratory conditions — but under pressure and in a hostile environment,” Ben Gvir says.

After controversy, Halevi hails ‘exemplary’ service of IDF reservists

IDF chief Herzi Halevi hands a reservist soldier an award during a ceremony at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Herzi Halevi hands a reservist soldier an award during a ceremony at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi hails members of the reserve army for being “exemplary citizens” as some reservists have been berated in recent months for protesting against the government’s controversial judicial overhaul plans.

“Since its establishment, the IDF has relied on reserve personnel, the unique ‘people’s army’ model, there is no other like it in the world,” Halevi says at an event honoring outstanding reservists.

“The right and duty to carry out the task of reserves are shared by a handful in Israeli society, whose experience and competence make them necessary for the security of the state,” he continues.

Halevi says the reservists “aren’t suckers” but rather “exemplary citizens.”

The IDF chief of staff says “commanders at all levels understand very well that the spirit of volunteerism of the reserve officers and their willingness to serve is essential in facing the many and complex threats and challenges in all arenas: from distant Iran, through its branches along the northern and southern borders, to the Palestinian terrorism.”

“Faced with this security reality, we need you, the reserve members. Today, more than ever,” Halevi continues.

But Halevi says that “at the same time, and in order to preserve this wonder… it is also necessary to say in a loud and clear voice: it is forbidden to use reserve service for purposes other than security.”

“Show up and serve to defend the country, without reservations and without conditions,” he adds.

Many reservists, including members of elite units and pilots, had threatened to not show up for duty if the government pushed ahead with the judicial overhaul plans.

Netanyahu opens first Carrefour supermarket in Israel, promises price drop

Outside view of a Carrefour store Aug. 25, 2010 in Ecully, near Lyon, central France (AP Photo/Thomas Campagne)
Outside view of a Carrefour store Aug. 25, 2010 in Ecully, near Lyon, central France (AP Photo/Thomas Campagne)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Bet Shemesh to open the first Carrefour supermarket in Israel, promising the move will help bring down Israel’s soaring cost of living.

The French supermarket chain plans to open its first 50 stores across Israel in the coming year.

In a video posted to Twitter, Netanyahu calls the move a “huge achievement” for Israel and says it will increase competition and bring down prices for consumers.

Netanyahu also touts the approval of Israel adopting EU regulatory standards, meaning products won’t have to be re-approved in Israel.

“Prices will drop, they will come down by dozens of percent for hundreds of products,” he optimistically predicts.

Israel has seen sharply rising costs of living for more than a decade and various government plans have done little to dent the rising prices.

Former finance minister Avigdor Liberman slams Netanyahu for trying to take credit for the work of the previous government.

“Instead of posting videos, the time has come for action, enough of your lies,” Liberman says.

Tel Aviv will welcome nine branches, Herzliya four, Netanya four, Beersheba three, Ashdod three and Haifa three, in addition to store openings in Jerusalem and dozens in smaller communities across the country.

Child, 7, seriously hurt after falling from 4th story of building in Ashdod

The entrance to Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, on January 26, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
The entrance to Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, on January 26, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

A seven-year-old child is seriously hurt after falling from the fourth story of an apartment building in the southern city of Ashdod, medics say.

Magen David Adom medics treat the boy and evacuate him to the nearby Assuta hospital suffering from damage to multiple organs.

Thousands begin gathering in Meron for pilgrimage in shadow of deadly 2021 stampede

Worshipers light a bonfire a day before the Lag b'Omer celebrations, in Meron, on May 7, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Worshipers light a bonfire a day before the Lag b'Omer celebrations, in Meron, on May 7, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

About 40,000 people prepare for the annual Lag B’Omer celebration around the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron, a pilgrimage site where 45 people died in a stampede in 2021.

Thousands of police officers, soldiers and stewards oversee the circulation of the pilgrims, most of them from strictly devout Haredi Jewish communities, who have come to celebrate the Jewish holiday at the burial site of the 2nd-century sage.

Over the next 24 hours of Lag B’Omer, approximately 250,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the site, according to Dov Maisel, deputy head of operations at United Hatzalah, an international Haredi rescue and first response group. However, only up to 50,000 will be on site at any given time, Maisel says.

Some 310 buses from across the country have arrived at Meron so far out of a total of 460 expected, Transportation Ministry officials say.

Police and security near the gravesite are not letting individuals into crowded areas. Color-coded plastic bracelets serve as entrance tickets for pilgrims who pre-ordered them. Anyone without a ticket is denied entry at checkpoints manned by police.

The area around the gravesite has been expanded and larger compounds were built nearby as part of the lessons drawn from the 2021 disaster, Maisel adds. Stewards at the gravesite are responsible for moving worshipers along to make room for new ones.

The Talmud ties Lag B’Omer to a plague that killed thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva, among the greatest early rabbinic figures and a major influence on Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. According to Jewish tradition, the plague ceased on Lag B’Omer, making that date a time of celebration.

Data shows tax revenue dropped, deficit grew in April

Illustrative: Israeli 100 shekel banknotes, December 31, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli 100 shekel banknotes, December 31, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel’s fiscal deficit widened to NIS 4.9 billion, or 0.3% of GDP, in April over the prior 12 months, as state revenue from taxes continues to slide and income from real estate deals slumps, according to preliminary figures released by the country’s Finance Ministry.

March figures showed that for the first time in nine months, Israel swung to a deficit of 0.01%, prompting economists’ warnings that the country will find it challenging to meet its fiscal deficit target for this year.

Among the difficulties expected are a continued decline in tax revenue, the forecast negative effect of the planned judicial overhaul on local economic activity, and a global economic slowdown.

In April, state revenues rose moderately to NIS 40.6 billion versus NIS 40.4 billion during the same month last year. However, since the start of the year, government revenue generated an accumulative NIS 161.2 billion, marking a 3.2% decline compared to the corresponding period in 2022, while state expenditure increased 6.9% during the same period.

Income from taxes dropped by an accumulative 4.3% in the first four months of the year versus the same period last year as tax income from real estate deals fell 35% pointing to further signs that Israel’s booming housing market is cooling down amid a higher interest-rate environment.

Most notably in April, net income from real estate taxation slumped 49% to NIS 1 billion compared to NIS 1.9 billion April 2022. Income from the collection of property appreciation taxes decreased by 56% and income from purchase taxes dropped by 45%, compared to the corresponding period last year.

Smotrich: I stand by coalition deals that will see billions go to ultra-Orthodox

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says he fully stands behind coalition deals that will funnel billions of shekels to the ultra-Orthodox parties in the next budget.

Smotrich’s comments come after major networks revealed yesterday that some NIS 5 billion ($1.37 billion) of that budget will be funneled to meet Haredi demands.

The sum had not been previously known as, unusually, the cabinet only approved the outlines of the budget in February amid intense disagreements, leaving it to the Knesset to handle the brass tacks.

“We are proud of our investment in strengthening Jewish identity,” Smotrich says.

 

Jewish worshipers accused of beating Druze guard at Meron shrine for speaking Arabic

Jewish worshipers attack a Druze guard at the Meron shrine in northern Israel on May 6, 2023. (Screencapture/Twitter used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Jewish worshipers attack a Druze guard at the Meron shrine in northern Israel on May 6, 2023. (Screencapture/Twitter used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Several Jewish worshipers attacked and injured a Druze guard at the Meron pilgrimage site in northern Israel, Hebrew media reports.

The incident occurred Saturday ahead of the mass pilgrimage tonight for the festival of Lag B’Omer.

Security video from the scene shows seven young men attacking Hamoud Sha’afi, 27, hitting him with iron bars, kicking him while he was on the ground, and throwing a traffic barrier on him.

Sha’afi, who has worked at the shrine as a guard for two years, says he and another guard were called in after a group was creating a disturbance.

“They heard us speaking Arabic between us and ran towards us and began beating us,” he tells the Ynet news site.

Sha’afi is hospitalized at Ziv medical center, where he underwent surgery yesterday to repair a broken arm.

Police say they have detained two people on suspicion of assault and expect further arrests.

 

 

 

 

Michaeli slams NIS 12 billion in ‘bribes’ to political parties in state budget

Labor party head Merav Michaeli leads her faction meeting at the Knesset, January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Labor party head Merav Michaeli leads her faction meeting at the Knesset, January 16, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Labor leader Merav Michaeli slams the coalition’s planned allocation of NIS 12 billion to partner parties’ priorities as “political protection payments,” in remarks at the outset of her center-left opposition party’s Monday Knesset faction meeting.

Touching on Sunday night reports that the coalition is planning to distribute a significant amount of discretionary funding to political priorities, she says that the funds are “a bribe to the ultra-Orthodox, a bribe to settlers, and a bribe to the extreme and dangerous messianic right, which endangers Israel.”

In keeping the coalition together through discretionary allocations, Michaeli says, the funds will encourage the cohesion of allied parties that “vote against democracy, against equality, against women’s rights, against LGBT rights, against civil equality, against the prospects for peace — simply against the State of Israel.”

Jewish Federations to hold online rally for detained journalist Evan Gershkovich

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Jewish Federations of North America is holding an online rally for Evan Gershkovich, a Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia on espionage charges, the latest in Jewish community advocacy on behalf of the young journalist.

Today’s rally will include remarks from Sen. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is a Democrat from New Jersey, Gershkovich’s home state.

It will solicit signatures for a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “urging him to take every step in his power to bring Evan home,” a release says.

Blinken and the Biden administration are already committed to securing the release of Gershkovich, 31, saying the charges are bogus and are part of the US-Russia escalation stemming from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

IDF to launch ‘Blue Sun’ joint military drill with Cyprus

IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces will hold a joint drill with the Cypriot military in Cyprus during the coming days.

The IDF says fighter jets, combat helicopters, transport aircraft, and ground forces will participate in the exercise, which is dubbed “Blue Sun.”

The exercise will include “a large number” of training flights simulating “complex scenarios” deep in enemy territory, the IDF adds.

Israel and Cyprus have held several joint military drills in recent years.

Smotrich chides Ben Gvir for threats to bring down government: A prize for terror

Finance Minister and Religious Zionism party chief Bezalel Smotrich leads his party's faction meeting at Jerusalem's Knesset, May 8, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
Finance Minister and Religious Zionism party chief Bezalel Smotrich leads his party's faction meeting at Jerusalem's Knesset, May 8, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich chides far-right coalition partner party Otzma Yehudit and its leader National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for boycotting Knesset and government activity, saying that it would be a “prize for terrorism” if their hard-right government were to topple.

“The way to bring about change is not by threatening to topple the government and boycotting government and coalition votes in the Knesset,” Smotrich says at the outset of his Religious Zionism party’s Monday Knesset faction meeting.

“The biggest prize for terrorism is the overthrow of the right-wing government and the left’s rise to power, alongside terror supporters,” says Smotrich, who ran on a joint list with Ben Gvir in the last election.

Coalition parties routinely call majority-Arab parties “terror supporters.”

Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit has frozen its participation in coalition work since \Wednesday in response to what it says is the government’s “feeble” response to rocket barrages from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Without making a clear call, Smotrich, who also serves as an independent second minister in the Defense Ministry, says that “we must not accept” the rockets raining down on Israel’s southern communities.

Taking a different tack from firebrand Ben Gvir, Smotrich stresses the need for coalition unity, as television network polling points to declining support for the alliance.

“I say to all of my coalition colleagues: this is the moment for unity and for coalition discipline. All of us are obligated by government decisions and we won’t accept discipline violations,” Smotrich says, a day after Ben Gvir skipped Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

“I once again call on my colleague minister Itamar Ben Gvir and the prime minister to sit down and talk and get government and coalition work back on track,” Smotrich adds.

Ben Gvir: It’s a shame that the EU is shutting mouths

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a Border Police ceremony in Latrun on May 2, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a Border Police ceremony in Latrun on May 2, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir reacts to a decision by the European Union to cancel its annual Europe Day event in Tel Aviv rather than allow him to speak.

“It is a shame that the European Union, which claims to represent the values of democracy and multiculturalism, is undiplomatically shutting mouths,” he says.

“It is an honor and a privilege for me to represent the Israeli government, the heroic IDF soldiers, and the people of Israel in every forum,” says Ben Gvir. “Friends know how to voice criticism and true friends also know how to take it.”

Netanyahu’s ex-bureau chief to begin testimony in corruption trial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow, left, and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner, right, as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow, left, and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner, right, as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Ari Harow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff for a year starting in mid-2014 will begin giving testimony tomorrow in the premier’s corruption trial.

Harow is the third and final state witness scheduled to give evidence at the trial.

The US-born Harow — who during part of his year with Netanyahu also served as temporary head of the prime minister’s bureau — turned state witness and agreed to provide information in return for a lighter punishment for separate charges against him relating to an alleged conflict of interest over a business he held.

 

EU cancels Tel Aviv event over Ben Gvir attendance: We don’t want to offer him a platform

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir gives a press statement during a meeting of his Otzma Yehudit party in the southern city of Sderot, May 3, 2023. (Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir gives a press statement during a meeting of his Otzma Yehudit party in the southern city of Sderot, May 3, 2023. (Flash90)

After controversy arose over the attendance of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, the European Union’s delegation to Israel announces that it is canceling altogether the Europe Day diplomatic reception planned for Tuesday.

“The EU Delegation to Israel is looking forward to celebrating Europe Day on May 9, as it does every year,” it says in a statement. “Regrettably, this year we have decided to cancel the diplomatic reception, as we do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the European Union stands for. ”

The cultural event in Tel Aviv for the general public will still take place.

The decision comes after EU ambassadors met this morning at the Delegation offices to decide on a way forward.

The decision at this morning’s meeting was almost unanimous, a diplomat from an EU member state tells The Times of Israel. Only Poland and Hungary, two conservative pro-Israel countries, dissented, according to the diplomat.

Iran says nuclear deal still possible, tells US to stop procrastinating

A student looks at Iran's domestically built centrifuges in an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A student looks at Iran's domestically built centrifuges in an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran says it is possible to salvage an agreement on reviving its nuclear deal if Western parties, particularly the US, put an end to repeated delays.

It comes five years after the US withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal that gave Iran relief from international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

An agreement “is possible both in terms of the technical and political aspects,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani says.

He charges that “the other sides, especially the US, have procrastinated” on reviving the deal, while expressing hopes that they would show “political determination” for a committed return to its implementation.

In March, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi visited Tehran after his agency’s inspectors in the country found uranium particles enriched to just under weapons-grade level.

Girl, 16, killed by truck near Rishon Lezion

Illustrative: Two Magen David Adom ambulances at the scene of a car crash along Route 90, near Agamon Hula lake in northern Israel, December 24, 2022. (Magen David Adom spokesperson)
Illustrative: Two Magen David Adom ambulances at the scene of a car crash along Route 90, near Agamon Hula lake in northern Israel, December 24, 2022. (Magen David Adom spokesperson)

A 16-year-old girl is killed after being hit by a truck while riding a motorcycle on Route 431 near the central city of Rishon Lezion, police and hospital officials say.

The girl was critically wounded and taken by medics to the nearby Assaf Harofeh hospital, where she was declared dead.

A second person who was on the bike with her was lightly wounded.

Police detained the truck driver for questioning and are investigating the incident.

Netanyahu to pull libel suit against journalist in exchange for clarification

Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a court hearing for a case against journalist Ben Caspit at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, on April 23. 2023.  (Tomer Appelbaum/POOL)
Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a court hearing for a case against journalist Ben Caspit at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, on April 23. 2023. (Tomer Appelbaum/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and prominent journalist Ben Caspit reach an agreement to end a libel suit filed by the premier.

Netanyahu will pull the suit and Caspit will publish a statement saying that he never intended to imply Netanyahu’s actions surrounding the payment of benefits to a Knesset legal adviser were corrupt.

In 2018, Netanyahu filed a lawsuit against Caspit, demanding NIS 200,000 ($53,000)  for voicing “false and baseless” claims in his column in the Maariv newspaper.

Caspit wrote in his column that Netanyahu’s “emissary” MK Miki Zohar (Likud)  handed a NIS 6 million ($1.6 million) pension benefit to  Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, shortly before he was due to step down from the position.

Caspit also pointed out that Yinon’s romantic partner, Amit Marari, was the deputy attorney general in charge of criminal affairs, and was involved in the various corruption investigations into the prime minister — implying an illicit attempt to influence the outcome of those investigations.

Man seriously hurt as car plunges 3 meters in parking garage

A 70-year-old man was seriously hurt and another man lightly injured when a vehicle they were in went through a wall in a parking garage in the northern city of Daliat el-Carmel and plunged 3 meters (9 feet), medics say.

It was not immediately clear what caused the car to go through the wall.

The Magen David Adom rescue service says it is transporting the injured to the hospital. The seriously injured man sustained injuries to the head and limbs.

EU proposes new round of Russia sanctions over Ukraine

Police inspect an apartment building damaged by a drone, that was shot down during a Russian overnight strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)
Police inspect an apartment building damaged by a drone, that was shot down during a Russian overnight strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)

Brussels is proposing to EU member states an 11th round of sanctions over Russia’s war on Ukraine aimed at cutting down on evasion, a spokesman says.

“This package will be focusing on the implementation of sanctions, their effectiveness and how we avoid the evasion of sanctions,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer says.

PFLP threatens escalation after leader sent to solitary in Israeli prison

Palestinian supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hold posters of the party's leader Ahmad Saadat, who is currently jailed in Israel, as they call for his release of during a protest in the West Bank city of Nablus, March 15, 2010. The Arabic text on the poster reads "Our compass doesn't point anywhere except to Palestine." (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
Palestinian supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hold posters of the party's leader Ahmad Saadat, who is currently jailed in Israel, as they call for his release of during a protest in the West Bank city of Nablus, March 15, 2010. The Arabic text on the poster reads "Our compass doesn't point anywhere except to Palestine." (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group threatens an escalation in violence after the group’s leader was sent to solitary confinement in an Israeli prison.

In a statement, the group says that if PFLP secretary-general Ahmad Sa’adat is not returned to general quarters at the Ramon prison it will take “steps to escalate the situation.”

There was no immediate comment from the Israel Prison Service.

The move comes the same day the Shin Bet announces that it has arrested 6 members of a PFLP terror cell accused of attempting to carry out a bombing attack on a bus in March and planning further attacks in the West Bank.

Sa’adat is serving a 30-year sentence for his role in the 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi.

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