ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Yesh Atid, National Unity say overhaul talks are ‘only possibility’ to reach solution

In joint statement, opposition parties say their participation is contingent upon ‘making progress,’ but they believe ‘majority of the public prefers talking to leaving the room’

Opposition leader Yair Lapid (left) and National Unity party leader Benny Gantz meet in the Knesset on May 10, 2023. (Courtesy)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid (left) and National Unity party leader Benny Gantz meet in the Knesset on May 10, 2023. (Courtesy)

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

Trial for reporter who exposed case of Mahsa Amini opens in Tehran

An Iranian reporter detained since September after she exposed the case of Mahsa Amini that sparked nationwide protests Tuesday denies all charges against her as her trial on national security charges opens in Tehran, her husband says.

Niloufar Hamedi, 30, tells the court “she had performed her work as a journalist within the framework of the law and did not take any action against Iran’s security,” her husband Mohammad Hossein Ajorlou writes on Twitter.

Hamedi, a journalist with the Shargh newspaper, had reported from the Tehran hospital where Amini was rushed in September in a coma after she was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s dress rules for women. Amini subsequently died, with the news prompting nationwide protests. While the movement had abated in the last months in the face of a crackdown, sporadic actions continue.

The journalist was charged on November 8 with propaganda against the state and conspiring against national security, offenses that potentially carry the death penalty. Hamedi appears at branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court before Judge Abolghasem Salavati, notorious for handing out tough sentences in political cases.

Defense attorney for Pittsburgh synagogue shooter admits he ’caused extraordinary harm’

A lawyer for the man charged in the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history opens her comments in court today by acknowledging that he planned the 2018 massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue and made hateful statements about Jewish people.

Robert Bowers went to Tree of Life synagogue and “shot every person he saw,” defense attorney Judy Clarke says in her opening statement.

Clarke questions whether Bowers was acting out of hatred, or an irrational belief that he needed to kill Jews to save others from the genocide he claimed they were enabling by helping immigrants come into the US.

“He had what to us is this unthinkable, nonsensical, irrational thought that by killing Jews he would attain his goal,” Clarke says, adding: “There is no making sense of this senseless act. Mr. Bowers caused extraordinary harm to many, many people.”

US CENTCOM chief in Israel to witness extensive IDF ‘Firm Hand’ drill

Chief of the United States Central Command arrived in Israel earlier today to observe the Israel Defense Forces’ two-week-long war drill.

The IDF says Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla first visited the military’s Unit 504, which specializes in human intelligence.

Later, the CENTCOM chief joined in a mock assessment as part of the IDF’s “Firm Hand” drill, which is simulating a multi-front war.

Kurilla, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and other officials also held a discussion on cooperation between the US and Israeli militaries, the military adds.

Report: Levin says judicial overhaul must be permanent in case left returns to power

Justice Minister Yariv Levin reportedly says that the government must make its judicial overhaul changes irreversible in case the left manages to return to power.

“A post-Zionist minority is trying to use the judicial system to make its values dominant,” Levin says in purported comments from a closed-door cabinet meeting reported by Channel 13 news tonight. “Change will only come from a deep, fundamental change, when the highest chair is occupied only by those who really value equality.”

The network says that Levin continued: “We won’t be here forever. This government has a historic opportunity to make these changes… we can’t miss it,” he adds. We must be “determined to carry out these changes now and make them in a way that cannot be changed.”

Levin reportedly says that the government “should not be afraid of the left, otherwise, if we will be in the opposite situation [in the opposition], they will get even. If we don’t deal with it, nothing will happen.”

Group of anti-overhaul protesters heading to New York as ministers flock to parade next week

Five leading anti-judicial overhaul protesters plan to travel to New York next week, as close to 20 Israeli lawmakers are also heading to the city for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade.

Calling themselves Democratic Israel for All, the group is a coalition between Brothers and Sisters in Arms, the hi-tech protest, and 555, a pilot’s protest group. The protesters plan to meet with members of local Jewish communities, synagogue groups and influential industry and political leaders.

“We cannot neglect the Jewish diaspora,” says a protest leader from Brother and Sisters in Arms, stressing that the goal is to convince American Jews that a threat to Israel is a threat to their own communities.

Settler groups hold protests across West Bank in wake of deadly shooting attack

Groups of settlers are protesting at several sites this evening in the wake of the murder earlier today of Meir Tamari.

Some are gathering at the site where Tamari was shot dead earlier today in a Palestinian attack near Hermesh.

Other groups are gathering near Tekoa and Kiryat Arba in the southern West Bank, and near the Shiloh Junction and near Beit El, as well as a handful of other places.

Activists behind the protests say they are “not waiting for more funerals,” and instead are “going out to fight for our lives.”

Some settler groups have blamed the IDF for not having enough of a presence in the West Bank near where Tamari was shot dead. A number of Israelis have been hurt or killed in West Bank terror attacks in recent months.

In joint statement, Yesh Atid, National Unity say overhaul talks are ‘only possibility’ for solution

Following another day of judicial reform compromise talks at the President’s Residence, opposition parties Yesh Atid and National Unity say that the yet-to-be-fruitful discussions are the “only possibility” for finding a solution to Israel’s largest political crisis, but said their continued participation is conditioned on ending attempts to change Israel’s system of governance.

In a joint statement, the two parties say that ongoing talks are “the only possibility for finding a common solution,” but stress that “we made it clear that continuing with talks is conditional upon the possibility of making progress.”

The parties also condition talks on “commitment to the process inside and outside the room, and on stopping the sword of the judicial coup with a clear commitment, that there is no legislation that leads to a change of the regime in Israel.”

“We are attentive to calls and know that the majority of the public prefers talking to leaving the room,” the two opposition parties add, in response to sustained pressure from other opposition parties and protest organizations to quit the discussions.

Left-wing critics of the negotiations say that they provide cover for the coalition to continue pursuing legislation in the meantime, while right-wing critics say they are unnecessary because the coalition should unilaterally wield its legislative weight.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recorded telling his Likud party to not believe reports that their plan to curtail judicial power would be shelved, telling the party that the plan was “not dead.”

At least one arrested for disturbances at Edelstein funeral in Bnei Brak

Police detain at least one person at the funeral of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein.

The detention is over disturbances at the Bnei Brak funeral of the leader of the so-called Litvak stream within Ashkenazi Haredi Jewry, which at least 100,000 of his followers are attending.

Several dozen people flanked the main procession to the cemetery in an attempt to stand near the grave when the body of the rabbi, who died Tuesday at the age of 100, is placed there for burial. Police deemed the move dangerous amid the enormous crowds gathered along the route.

Jewish Auschwitz survivor who became judge in Hague court dies at 89

Thomas Buergenthal, an Auschwitz survivor who became a judge with the UN war crimes court in The Hague, has died at age 89.

The government of Goettingen, whose Thomas Buergenthal Centre houses the city library, says in a statement that he had “tirelessly dedicated himself to reconciliation and for human rights his entire life.”

Buergenthal was born in then Czechoslovakia in 1934 to a Jewish family that was forced to flee to Poland when the Germans invaded.

Their odyssey would take them to a ghetto, two work camps and the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was separated from his relatives as a young boy, and later forced on a death march to Sachsenhausen another Nazi concentration camp. A year later, Buergenthal was reunited with his mother in her birthplace of Goettingen where the two lived until 1951.

After completing his schooling in Germany, he emigrated to the United States where he studied law. A specialist in international law and human rights, Buergenthal served as a judge on the International Court of Justice in the Hague from March 2000 until his resignation in September 2010.

He was the sole dissenter in a key non-binding ICJ ruling in 2004 that a barrier built by Israel in the West Bank was illegal.

Prosecutor says Pittsburgh synagogue shooter harbored ‘malice and hate’ for Jews

Prosecutors described in court how a heavily armed suspect barged into a Pittsburgh synagogue and shot every worshiper he could find in the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history.

The federal trial of Robert Bowers gets underway more than four years after the shooting deaths of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue.

“The depths of the defendant’s malice and hate can only be proven in the broken bodies” of the victims and “his hateful words,” Assistant US Attorney Soo C. Song says during her opening statement.

Some of the survivors dab tears, while Bowers, seated at the defense table, shows no reaction.

The defense is expected to present its opening statement before the prosecution begins calling witnesses.

Edelstein funeral procession from yeshiva to cemetery sets out in Bnei Brak

Following the eulogies inside the Ponevezh Yeshiva for Haredi leader Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, who died this morning at age 100, the funeral procession begins toward the cemetery where he will be laid to rest.

Approximately 100,000 people are on hand for the funeral, which is slated to cause major traffic backups across central Israel until late tonight.

EU envoy condemns deadly West Bank shooting attack as ‘cowardly and brutal’

Dimiter Tzantchev, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, condemns the Palestinian shooting attack that killed Meir Tamari in the West Bank earlier today.

“I’m shocked and saddened by yet another shooting attack in the West Bank, which killed an Israeli father of two,” says Tzantchev. “Sending deepest condolences to his family. I condemn this cowardly and brutal act of violence! We stand together against terrorism, which needs to be rejected by all.”

Man shot dead near a restaurant in Umm al-Fahm

A man in his 50s was shot dead near a restaurant in the northern Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, police say.

A woman was lightly wounded in the incident and brought to a hospital for further treatment.

Police say they have opened an investigation and began gathering evidence and eyewitness testimony at the scene.

Violent deaths in the Arab community in Israel have soared in 2023, with at least 85 killed in violent crimes so far this year, according to the Abraham Initiatives watchdog group.

Netanyahu vows that terrorists in deadly Hermesh shooting will face consequences

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sends condolences to the family of Meir Tamari, the father of two who was killed in a shooting attack in the West Bank earlier today.

“Our forces are currently hunting for the terrorists in order to make them pay — which they will do soon,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

“The same way that we have reached every terrorist until now and made them pay — we will do so this time as well,” he adds.

Knesset committee moves to cancel extra Israeli regulations on electronic imports

The Knesset’s Economic Committee takes a step toward putting Israeli electrical appliance imports in line with international standards, canceling Israel-specific regulations.

Headed by Likud MK David Bitan, the committee instead makes it possible for Israeli importers to rely on European standards for electrical appliance efficiency standards.

This removes the need for importers to laboratory test goods to ensure compliance with Israel’s idiosyncratic standards, an expensive and time-consuming process.

The move, which will go into effect 30 days after publication in official records, is expected to increase competition and reduce import costs by 10%, according to an Energy Ministry official testifying before the committee.

Trial begins for accused shooter in 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre

The federal jury trial of the suspect in the nation’s deadliest antisemitic attack gets underway today, four and a half years after the shooting deaths of 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Twelve jurors and six alternates — chosen last week after a month of questioning of more than 200 jury candidates — are hearing the case against Robert Bowers. The jurors consist of 11 women and seven men.

Bowers, 50, could face the death penalty if convicted of some of the 63 counts he faces in the Oct. 27, 2018, attack at the Tree of Life synagogue building. The attack claimed the lives of 11 worshipers from three congregations sharing the building, Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life. Charges include 11 counts each of obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and hate crimes resulting in death.

Members of the three synagogues arrive at the courthouse in a school bus and go inside together.

The families of those killed are divided over whether the government should pursue the death penalty, but most have voiced support for it.

No Israeli dignitaries invited to Jordanian royal wedding this week

No Israeli officials were invited to the wedding of Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein to Saudi architect Rajwa Alseif on Thursday, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

Though the headline guests are royals from around the world, some ambassadors were invited, including from the UK, The Times of Israel has learned.

Israel’s envoy was not invited, nor was President Isaac Herzog.

Germany says panel of historians begin probe into 1972 Munich Olympics attack

A panel of historians set up to review the 1972 attack on the Munich Olympics is starting its three-year mission to examine what happened before, during and after the events of five decades ago today, the German government says.

In April, Germany’s Interior Ministry named the eight-member international commission of experts, most based in Israel or Germany. That was part of an agreement last year with relatives of the 11 Israeli team members who were killed by Palestinian terrorists, who demanded Berlin take responsibilities for its failings.

The panel’s first meeting is being held at the Interior Ministry today. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser pledges that “the events surrounding this terrible attack will finally be examined thoroughly and transparently.”

“The research findings should deliver answers to the many unresolved questions — answers which the German government has owed the victims’ family members and the public for more than 50 years,” Faeser says in a statement. Her ministry says there will be “regular publications and events.”

Ministers hold first meeting to discuss establishing cost of living task force

Government ministers hold their first meeting to set up a cost of living task force, as announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Avi Dichter and their respective staff are discussing “urgent steps required to fight the cost of living,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The ministerial trio decide that Smotrich and Economy Minister Nir Barkat will develop a set of steps to work toward opening Israel’s market, fighting market concentration and lowering regulation, along with a timetable for implementation.

Funeral procession for Rabbi Edelstein begins in Bnei Brak with estimated 100,000 mourners

Funeral proceedings for Rabbi Gershon Edelstein begin in Bnei Brak, with approximately 100,000 people in attendance.

Police estimate that there will be major traffic backups in the entire central area of Israel until late tonight.

Magen David Adom says it is deploying “increased forces” in Bnei Brak during the funeral procession, in coordination with police, and will boost the presence of emergency motorcycles in the area.

MDA calls on those attending “to avoid overcrowding and congestion, refrain from climbing fences, poles, and roofs, watch over children in their care, hydrate adequately” and call 101 with any emergencies.

“We are on full alert to medically secure the funeral procession, with hundreds of EMTs and paramedics deployed in the field and using technological and medical means,” said MDA director Eli Bin. “I urge participants in the funeral to obey the instructions of the security forces and the organizers, avoid overcrowding, and exercise significant responsibility and caution.”

At confab in Slovakia, FM Eli Cohen urges countering Iran before it’s ‘too late’

Meeting with his Czech, Slovakian and Austrian counterparts in Bratislava, Slovakia, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen presents Iran as a threat to Europe.

“Yesterday the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and Israel were in Iran’s sights, today it’s Ukraine,” he says in the closed door meeting, according to the Foreign Ministry. “Tomorrow it’s you.”

“If we don’t work together, it will be too late,” he continues.

Cohen also calls Israel “a strategic asset for Europe’s countries” in energy, security, counterterrorism, and regional stability.

Cohen is the first Israeli minister to address the trilateral Austerlitz, or Slavkov, format, where he is joined by Austria’s Alexander Schallenberg, Czechia’s Jan Lipavský and Slovakia’s Miroslav Wlachovský.

Lapid, Gantz to meet tomorrow to choose opposition’s candidate for judicial committee

Opposition party heads Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz are scheduled to meet tomorrow, to work toward choosing a joint candidate for the June 14 election of two MKs to sit on the Judicial Selection Committee, says an opposition source.

While at least one of the two lawmaker seats will be held by a coalition candidate, by convention one is generally reserved for an opposition MK — provided the opposition can unify votes behind a consensus choice.

Lapid has put forward his Yesh Atid party MK Karine Elharrar for the spot, while Gantz’s National Unity party hopes to nominate a candidate of its own for the closed-door, anonymous election.

The Labor party has put forward MK Efrat Rayten as a possible candidate, but party leader Merav Michaeli said yesterday that she would bow to a consensus choice if all opposition party leaders were to convene and choose one.

Mourners stream into Bnei Brak for Edelstein funeral: ‘We feel absolutely orphaned’

Tens of thousands of Haredi Jews from across the country are passing through Savidor train station in Tel Aviv en route to Bnei Brak for the funeral of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, a prominent spiritual leader and the head of a major movement of Ashkenazi Haredi Jews.

The body of Edelstein, who died earlier today at age 100, is being prepared to be brought for burial in a procession from the Ponevezh Yeshivah, which he headed since 2000. The procession, which hundreds of thousands have come to Bnei Brak to attend, is scheduled to end at a local cemetery.

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, head of the Ponevez Yeshiva, at his home in Bnei Brak, December 19, 2017. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

“We feel absolutely orphaned by the passing of this sage, which is also in a sense the passing of a great generation, for he was the last of them,” says one of the mourners who came to the funeral, Itzaleh Katzburg, who used to be a student of Edelstein at the Ponevezh Yeshivah before Edelstein became the Litvak stream’s leader.

Victim of West Bank shooting attack named as 32-year-old father of two Meir Tamari

The victim of the shooting attack at the entrance to the settlement of Hermesh earlier today is named as Meir Tamari, 32, a resident of the West Bank community.

Tamari is survived by his wife and two young children, aged one and three.

The Samaria Regional Council says Tamari moved to Hermesh after getting married some four years ago.

Tamari was shot by Palestinian gunmen on a road near the settlement. He continued driving until he reached the entrance of the town, where he was treated by medics and later taken by helicopter to a hospital.

His death was declared a few hours later.

The Israeli military says it has launched a manhunt for the terrorists.

Azerbaijan president welcomes Herzog to Baku, lauds defense cooperation

In his public remarks after meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Baku, President Isaac Herzog says the two discussed in depth “the entire global and regional security structure that is endangered and threatened by Iran.”

“Visiting Azerbaijan is a dream come true for me and for my nation,” says Herzog, speaking in English.

Aliyev says the March opening of Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tel Aviv creates “more opportunities to have a closer interaction.”

Aliyev lauds the defense cooperation between the countries, saying that Baku “has access to modern Israeli equipment in this area for many years, which helps us to modernize our defense capability, and to be able to protect our statehood, our values, our national interest, and our territorial integrity.”

Aliyev expresses his interest in seeing more diverse trade between the two countries, moving beyond oil. He points at cybersecurity as a field in which bilateral cooperation is growing. They discussed the potential for energy cooperation in other countries, says the Azerbaijani president. They also discuss Baku’s key role as an energy supplier.

Herzog invites Aliyev to visit Israel.

US, EU criticize Poland over planned law that could keep opposition from holding office

The United States and the European Union criticize Polish plans for a law that could keep political opponents from holding public office without full legal recourse, and the EU threatens to take measures if it became fully clear such a law would undermine democratic standards.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said early this week he would sign a bill that critics view as a tool to remove from political life the opponents of the ruling party — mostly notably opposition leader Donald Tusk, the former EU Council president.

Parliament last Friday already approved the bill, which was proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party as the country heads toward a parliamentary election in the autumn.

Experts say the law violates the Polish Constitution and the opposition has called on Duda to reject it.

“The US Government is concerned by the Polish government’s passage of new legislation that could be misused to interfere with Poland’s free and fair elections,” says US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. He adds such a law “could be used to block the candidacy of opposition politicians without due process.”

The 27-nation EU, of which Poland is a member, also issues criticism.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders says such a law would be “able to deprive citizens, individuals of their rights to be elected in a public function — public office.”

He says that what specifically irks him is that “it will be possible to do that as an administrative decision without any judicial review.”

Lebanese army frees kidnapped Saudi national near Syrian border

A Saudi national who had been kidnapped in Beirut is freed in a “special operation” by the Lebanese army near the Syrian border, it says in a statement.

“An army intelligence patrol managed to free kidnapped Saudi national Mashari al-Mutairi during a special operation on the Syrian border,” the army says. “A number of those involved in the kidnapping were also arrested,” it adds.

A senior Lebanese security source told AFP yesterday that, based on preliminary information, the Saudi was kidnapped by unidentified assailants dressed as security personnel in a four-wheel drive vehicle on the Beirut seafront, where he had been in a restaurant.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati congratulates the army on the “great effort deployed to release him and arrest those involved in the kidnapping.”

Iran says it has ‘resolved’ one of 3 instances raised by UN nuclear watchdog

Iran has “resolved” one of three cases raised by the UN watchdog as possible evidence it had not declared all its past nuclear activities, Iranian media reports.

The reports come just days before the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to meet to review progress in addressing the watchdog’s remaining concerns.

The IAEA had reported the discovery of traces of radioactive material at three sites not declared by Iran as having hosted past nuclear activity in a blow to efforts to restore a landmark 2015 deal between Tehran and major powers.

“With the improvement of interactions between Iran and the IAEA… the case related to one of the agency’s alleged sites — Abadeh — has been resolved,” Iran’s Fars news agency reports. “This concludes the agency’s inquiry into one of the three alleged locations raised,” it adds.

The Marivan site in Abadeh county in the southern province of Fars is the first of the three sites to be addressed under a work plan agreed by Iran and the IAEA in March last year. The other two sites are Varamin and Turquzabad.

Roads blocked as mourners begin arriving ahead of mass funeral for Rabbi Gershon Edelstein

Masses of mourners are beginning to converge on Bnei Brak ahead of the funeral of ultra-Orthodox leader Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, who died this morning at age 100.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the country are expected to attend, with proceedings slated to begin around 3:30 p.m. at the Ponevezh Yeshiva.

Major highways are set to be blocked off, including parts of Route 4, and heavy traffic congestion is expected throughout central Israel. No vehicles will be allowed to enter or exit Bnei Brak during the funeral proceedings.

Hundreds of police officers, Border Police officers and volunteers have been enlisted to help secure the operation, police say in a statement.

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