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

Abbas extends state of emergency in West Bank for additional month

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has extended the state of emergency in Palestinian areas of the West Bank for an additional 30 days, the Wafa official PA news site reports.

Police nab 7 suspects involved in riot last month in Haredi Jerusalem neighborhood

Police announce they have arrested seven men between the ages of 20 and 30 who are suspected of having been involved in riots that took place in the Shmuel Hanavi Haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem last month.

During the riots, a soldier and municipal worker were assaulted, an Israeli flag was burned and damage was caused to property.

An 8th suspect was detained for trying to interfere with the arrests of his peers by pouring oil and blocking the road where police were operating.

7% of those notified by Shin Bet as being in vicinity of carrier have gone on to test positive

Seven percent of those who have received messages from the Shin Bet notifying them that they had been in the vicinity of a coronavirus carrier have gone on to test positive for the virus themselves, according to figures from the security agency reported by Hebrew media.

Yesterday, cabinet ministers authorized an extension of controversial emergency regulations allowing the domestic spy agency to use sensitive personal data to track carriers.

The extension must still be approved by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which is set to convene later today.

The tracking, which uses cellphone location data, credit card purchase data and other digital information, aims to alert and order into quarantine people who were within two meters, for 10 minutes or more, of someone infected with the virus within the preceding two weeks.

Blue and White reportedly gives up on expanded ‘Norwegian Law’ amid court critique

Blue and White has given up on its plans to pass an expanded version of the so-called Norwegian Law after High Court of Justice judges laid into the legislation during a hearing yesterday on the party’s coalition deal with Likud, Walla reports.

The Norwegian Law allows any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.

Blue and White had wanted to pass an expanded version of the law that would allow it to skip lower down the list to replace an MK who has been appointed minister, because since the election, its Telem and Yesh Atid factions have split off and do not intend to join the government.

“We will continue to look for a softened version of the Norwegian Law, taking into account the judges’ comments yesterday, but this will not happen before the government’s inauguration,” a Blue and White official tells Walla.

China reports 1 new virus case, no deaths

China report one new case of coronavirus and no deaths, marking three weeks since it recorded a COVID-19 fatality.

The National Health Commission said 395 people remained under treatment in the hospital, while 949 were under isolation and observation for suspected cases or after testing positive despite showing no symptoms.

The latest figures come as China strikes back against accusations from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others that the pandemic may have originated in a lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where it was first detected late last year.

The World Health Organization has backed up China’s refutations and most experts believe the virus developed naturally among bats and was transmitted to humans via an intermediary animal, most likely the armadillo-like pangolin that is sold for human consumption in wet markets, including the one in Wuhan linked to the pandemic’s origin.

China has reported 4,633 deaths from the virus among 82,881 cases, but strict travel restrictions, testing, quarantining and case tracing policies appear to have stemmed the virus as warm weather arrives in much of the country.

— AP

South Korea reports 3 new virus cases, lowest daily jump since February 18

South Korea has reported three new coronavirus cases, its lowest daily jump since February 18.

The number continues a downward trend as the country restarts professional sports and prepares to reopen schools.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports two more virus-related deaths, bringing national totals to 10,804 cases and 254 fatalities.

After reporting around 500 new cases a day in early March, infections have slowed over the past month amid tightened border controls and waning transmissions in the worst-hit city of Daegu, which reported zero new cases today.

Health authorities still raise concern over a broader “quiet spread” and plan antibody tests to learn how widespread the virus is.

Amid the slowing caseload, officials have relaxed social distancing guidelines and decided to reopen schools in phased steps, starting with high school seniors on May 13.

South Korea’s professional baseball league began its new season without fans in the stands on Tuesday, while the pro soccer league will kick off under similar conditions Friday.

— AP

Coronavirus returns long-banned drive-in movies to Iran

The new coronavirus pandemic has brought back something unseen in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution: a drive-in movie theater.

Once decried by revolutionaries for allowing too much privacy for unmarried young couples, a drive-in theater now operates from a parking lot right under Tehran’s iconic Milad tower, showing a film in line with the views of hardliners.

Workers spray disinfectants on cars that line up each night here after tickets are bought online for what is called the “Cinema Machine” in Farsi. They tune into the film’s audio via an FM station on their car radios.

With stadiums shut and movie theaters closed, this parking-lot screening is the only film being shown in a communal setting amid the virus outbreak in Iran, one of the world’s worst. Iran has reported more than 98,600 cases with over 6,200 deaths, though international and local experts acknowledge the toll is likely far higher.

— AP

Health Ministry raises death toll to 237, up 3 from last night

The Health Ministry updates the country’s death count from the pandemic, raising it by three from last night to 237.

The victims were women aged 89, 92 and 93 respectively.

MAG orders probe into Maglan soldier seriously injured in 2018 training exercise

The Military Advocate General has ordered the launch of an investigation into the serious injury sustained by the Maglan reconnaissance unit’s Corporal Eli Hayut during a training exercise in August 2018, the army announces.

Hayut was seriously injured during a training exercise while jumping from a moving vehicle into a thorn bush, the army said at the time. He injured his back after landing on a rock hidden under the thorns, and underwent surgery.

Knesset committee authorizes extension of Shin Bet virus carrier tracker program

Knesset members have approved a three-week extension to the tracking of coronavirus carriers by Israel’s domestic spy agency, allowing the controversial program to remain in place as legislation to anchor it in law is drafted.

The extension approved by the Knesset Subcommittee for the Intelligence Services was less than the six weeks sought by the government, which sought to keep the program in place until June 16.

It will now expire on May 26.

Liberman offers himself up as candidate for PM in next election

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman tells the Ynet news site that he sees himself as a candidate for prime minister in the next election.

“Only I can handle Netanyahu. To vote for me is to go with what’s certain,” he says, adding that he does not think the recently inked unity deal between Likud and Blue and White will hold.

Just 31 new virus cases in last day, as confirmed case tally climbs to 16,268

The Health Ministry announces that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 16,268, an increase of 31 over the past 24 hours and 22 since last night.

The country’s death toll from COVID-19 stands at 237, up two since last night and three since yesterday morning.

According to the Health Ministry, 89 people infected with COVID-19 were in serious condition, 66 of whom were on ventilators.

Another 56 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms.

So far, 10,223 people have recovered from the virus, while 5,808 are still sick; 1,410 tests have been conducted today, and 8,322 yesterday.

Britain and US start post-Brexit trade talks

Britain has begun post-Brexit trade talks with the United States, with 100 negotiators on each side joining via videoconference.

Many in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government hope for a free trade agreement with Washington as one of the biggest benefits of leaving the European Union.

Officials say the first round of talks would last two weeks and cover issues such as goods and services trade, digital trade, investment and how to support small businesses.

The US ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, says the deal could “jumpstart the economy after we conquer coronavirus” — a message repeated by British officials.

“The US is our largest trading partner and increasing transatlantic trade can help our economies bounce back from the economic challenge posed by coronavirus,” International Trade Secretary Liz Truss says.

Bilateral trade was worth £220.9 billion ($275 billion, 252.6 billion euros) in the last year, and a free trade deal could increase this by £15.3 billion on 2018 levels in the long run, the British government says.

Truss and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will kick off the talks before officials take over, with further rounds due at six-week intervals.

Britain voted in a referendum in June 2016 to leave the EU, and after years of politically wrangling finally quit on January 31 this year.


Palestinian farmer in northern West Bank reports olive trees were cut down

A Palestinian farmer in the northern West Bank village of As-Sawiya says he arrived at his plot this morning to find that 28 of olive trees had been cut down, Yesh Din reports.

Such attacks are regularly carried out by Israeli ultra-nationalists known as hilltop youth.

A Palestinian farmer in the northern West Bank village of As-Sawiya stands in front of one of his chopped down olive trees on May 5, 2020. (Yesh Din)

11 and 16-year-old recover from virus after having been seriously ill

A 16-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl who had been in serious condition due to the coronavirus have recovered and been transferred out of the ICU, Hebrew media reports.

Putin awards commemorative WWII medal to Kim Jong Un

Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded Kim Jong Un a commemorative war medal marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang says.

The medal was awarded to the North Korean leader for his role in preserving the memory of Soviet soldiers who died on North Korean territory, the statement said.

Russia’s ambassador in North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, presented the award to the country’s Foreign Minister Ri Son-gwon. Kim, who was rumored earlier this month to have fallen ill, didn’t attend the ceremony.

Photos of the meeting in Pyongyang showed Russian and North Korean officials wearing face masks despite the fact that North Korea so far has not reported a single case of the new coronavirus.

Last year Russia invited Kim to visit Moscow on May 9 and attend the military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the victory. Putin announced the decision to postpone the parade indefinitely last month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2015, the North Korean leader rejected a similar invitation to the 70th anniversary, citing domestic affairs.

— AP

14 dead, among them Iranians, in airstrikes attributed to Israel — monitor

Fourteen people, among them Iranian and Iraqi nationals, were killed in missile strikes on a research center and a military base north of Aleppo that was attributed to Israel, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reports.

According to Syrian state media the casualties were members of Tehran-backed militia groups.

1 million Israelis tuned into High Court hearing on coalition deal — report

Roughly one million Israelis turned into yesterday’s livestream of the High Court of Justice hearing on the validity of the Gantz-Netanyahu unity deal, Globes reports, citing officials from the Government Press Office.

UN envoy calls on Security Council to ‘significantly improve functioning’ of UNIFIL

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon calls on the Security Council to “significantly improve UNIFIL’s functioning,” claiming the peacekeeping force in Lebanon has been “paralyzed” by Hezbollah, which has intensif[ied] its terror campaign in the region.

“If Hezbollah continues to paralyze UNIFIL operations and intensify its terror campaign in the region, there will be no escape from [us] drawing conclusions on the [continued] need for this force in its current form,” Danon says in a statement after the UNSC met yesterday to discuss UNIFIL operations.

Report: Cabinet forgets to renew lockdown of Bedouin town with highest infection rate

The cabinet forgot to renew its lockdown over the Bedouin town of Hura near Beesheba, which suffers from the highest infection rate in the country, and as a result the measure expired at midnight.

There have been 123 confirmed cases among Hura’s population of 16,983, according to Health Ministry figures.

Western Wall reopens to wider public amid easing of movement restrictions

The Western Wall has reopened to the wider public thanks to the easing of movement restrictions by the cabinet yesterday.

The prayer area is now divided into small domains in which 19 people can pray together, with two meters between each person.



Cabinet to vote on requiring arrivals from abroad to quarantine at home instead of hotels

The cabinet will vote later today on allowing Israelis returning from abroad to quarantine at home for two weeks rather than at state-funded isolation hotels as have been required for the past several weeks, Hebrew media reports.

Ministers have recently raised objections to the hotels, stating that they are massively expensive and that their difficult conditions have led to several suicide attempts by occupants.

Despite virus, March sees 12% drop in death rate compared to last year

Despite the coronavirus, the month of March saw a 12 percent drop in the number of deaths compared to last year and a five percent drop compared to the average rate from the past decade.

A total of 3,875 people died in March 2020, compared to 4,398 in March 2019, according to The Times of Israel’s sister site Zman Yisrael, which cited Interior Ministry statistics.

Ilhan Omar signs onto AIPAC-backed letter calling for extension of arms embargo against Iran

Democratic progressive congresswoman Ilhan Omar has signed onto an AIPAC-backed policy letter calling for the extension of the international arms embargo against Iran, Haaretz and al-Monitor report.

Omar, who has been harshly criticized by AIPAC for statements she has made on Israel, joined 390 members of the House of Representatives in signing the letter.

Blue and White, Likud update unity deal in line with High Court critiques

After High Court of Justice judges raised concerns over three elements of the Blue and White-Likud unity deal, the parties have updated the agreement accordingly.

The judges objected to the agreement’s six-month freeze on non-coronavirus related legislation, so the parties agreed to remove the clause and add a sentence clarifying that virus-related laws would be given preference.

The judges objected to the agreement’s six-month freeze on senior appointments, so the parties agreed to change the period to three months.

The judges also objected to Blue and White’s desired expanded version of the so-called Norwegian Law.

The Norwegian Law allows any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.

Blue and White had wanted to pass an expanded version of the law that would allow it to skip lower down the list to replace an MK who has been appointed minister, because since the election, its Telem and Yesh Atid factions have split off and do not intend to join the government.

In the updated coalition agreement, the clause promising the passing of such a law has been scrapped.

Evangelical GOD TV rises on Israeli television

GOD TV made its official launch on Israeli cable television last week, Haaretz reports.

Israeli subscribers to HOT can now enjoy Shelanu TV, the Hebrew version of GOD TV, which is broadcast in some 200 countries.

“GOD TV has been given government permission to broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ – Yeshua the Messiah – in Israel on cable TV in the Hebrew language. Never before, as far as we know in the history of the world, has this ever been done,” said GOD CEO Ward Simpson a video message announcing the launch.

French doctors: First virus case may have been in December

French scientists say they may have identified a possible case of the new coronavirus dating back to December — about a month before the first cases were officially confirmed in Europe.

In a study published in the International Journal of Microbial Agents, doctors at a hospital north of Paris reviewed retrospective samples of 14 patients treated for atypical pneumonia between early December and mid-January. Among those were the records of Amirouche Hammar, a fishmonger in his 40s from Algeria who has lived in France for years and had no recent travel history.

Hammar tells French broadcaster BFM-TV that he drove himself to a hospital emergency unit at 5 a.m. one morning in late December because he felt very sick, with chest pains and breathing difficulties.

“They said, ‘Perhaps you have an infection, a pulmonary infection, although it’s not certain. But what you have is very serious, very serious, because you are coughing blood. It’s not normal flu,’” he says.

—  AP

Blue and White said to agree to push government swearing-in to next week

The Blue and White party has agreed to push off the swearing-in ceremony for the new government, a unity coalition with Likud, until next week, Ynet reports.

The reported decision comes after the two parties agreed to revise a number of clauses in their agreement to form a new government, after the High Court of Justice signaled they could be struck down.

MKs are currently in the middle of a marathon debate on the amendments to the current Israeli law obligated by the coalition agreement. Voting on some 1,000 requests for revisions to the proposal is currently scheduled to begin on Wednesday afternoon and go on through Thursday morning.

Once the legislation passes, as it is expected to, Blue and White MKs will recommend Netanyahu to form the next government, Ynet reports, giving him two weeks to do so.

— Raoul Wootliff


Pennsylvania lawmaker compares governor’s handling of coronavirus data to Nazi Germany

Republican State Representative Cris Dush of Pennsylvania has compared Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s refusal to release some coronavirus data and information to the actions of Nazi Germany, local media reports.

“More and more I go back to the German Democratic Nationalist Socialist Party, the Nazi party. I go to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR,” Dush said during a House State Government Committee yesterday. “This is a socialist playbook.”

State Rep. Kevin Boyle, the committee’s ranking Democrat, condemned the comparison. “Chairman, this is outrageous. Stop it with the Nazi references. It is offensive and wrong, stop this,” he said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“It’s a statement of history. It’s history. It’s history,” Dush responded. “I have to say that it’s important for the people of this state to start having access to information rather than having it blown off to the side and hidden for an agenda.”

State Rep. Jared Solomon, who is Jewish, tells the Inquirer that after the hearing, on the House floor with all members present, Dush apologized for his remarks.


Education Ministry confirms kindergartens to resume on Sunday

The Education Ministry releases guidelines for kindergartens for children between the ages of 3 and 6, confirming that they will restart activity on Sunday under certain restrictions.

Classes will be limited to a maximum of 18 children at any one time, meaning that kindergarten groups will be split into two, with half of the children attending on Sunday through Tuesday and the others on Wednesday through Friday. Each week the children will switch their allocated days.

Children will be able to attend from 7:55 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. with no afternoon programs.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz says the move comes “as part of a gradual return of the entire education system.”

“Parents will return to their jobs and thus the economy will return to activity and children to their daily routines, all with the maximum adherence to the Health Ministry guidelines,” he says in a statement.

Russia reports more than 10,000 new virus cases

Russian health officials report 10,102 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing Russia’s total to 155,370.

Russia has emerged as a new coronavirus hotspot as many European countries unveil plans to ease lockdown measures after their numbers of new infections and deaths began to fall.

The number of new cases in Russia is significantly higher compared to other European countries, with the United Kingdom in second place reporting just under 4,000 new infections yesterday.

The authorities say they have carried out more than four million coronavirus tests and Russia’s fatality rate has remained low compared to other countries hit badly by the pandemic including Spain, Italy and the United States.

According to the government’s daily coronavirus update, Russia has 1,451 total deaths, after reporting 95 new fatalities over the last 24 hours.

— with AFP

Health Ministry director general: All restrictions to be lifted within six weeks

Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov says he hopes all restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted within six weeks and possibly even by the end of the month.

Speaking in a Facebook live session, Bar Siman-Tov says: We will allow gatherings, up to 100 people. We will allow more classrooms to be opened, after-school activities, parks, swimming pools, competitive sports and restaurants. We hope to do all that by the end of the month.

Bedouin town back under lockdown after measure expired due to bureaucratic error

The government renews its lockdown over the Bedouin town of Hura near Beersheba, which suffers from the second-highest coronavirus infection rate in the country, after the measure expired at midnight due to a bureaucratic lapse.

There have been 123 confirmed cases among Hura’s population of 16,983, according to the Health Ministry’s Tuesday figures, including 20 new infections over the last three days. The number of cases there has tripled over the last week — the highest growth rate in Israel.

Channel 12 reports that despite the number of cases in the town, residents took advantage of the closure being lifted temporarily to return to normal.

A view of the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev Desert, south of Beersheba Sheba, (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Tel Aviv University said to establish virus research center

Tel Aviv University is to establish a multi-disciplinary center for virus research at a cost of tens of millions of shekels, Ynet reports.

According to the report, the center will employ experts from myriad fields including biology, medicine, math, physics and economics.

The center will also provide policy recommendations, alongside holding international conferences and working with hospitals and academic institutions in Israel and around the world.

Attorney General: No reason for intervention in revised coalition agreement

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit tells the High Court of Justice there is no reason to intervene or strike down the revised coalition agreement signed between Likud and Blue and White this afternoon in response to the court’s misgiving over a proposed six-month freeze on senior appointments.

“Intervention by the honorable court in coalition agreements should be reserved for exceptional and rare cases,” says Mandelblit.

Mayor of religious settlement holds virtual event for residents on LGBT acceptance

The mayor of Efrat, a religious settlement, will be hosting a virtual event on promoting the acceptance of LGBT individuals in his community this evening.

The gathering, which is part of an annual series of events spearheaded by religious LGBT activists to mark the Pesach Sheni holiday, has been held in Efrat for the past two years.

Due to government restrictions on gatherings during the pandemic, the event will be held over Facebook Live on Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi’s page at 8 p.m.

Revivi will address the event along with a group of religious LGBT activists.

An Israeli teen wrapped in an LGBT Pride flag near the settlement of Efrat, June 3, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Israel’s Biological Research Institute says its antibody first to be able to precisely target coronavirus

Israel’s shadowy Biological Research Institute says it is the first in the world to develop an antibody capable of attacking the coronavirus precisely, though it warns that it’s still months away from creating a treatment.

The breakthrough is unrelated to the development of a vaccine, but rather a move toward a drug treatment for those who have already contracted the disease.

It says the antibody that it isolated meets three important criteria for a potential treatment: it destroys the virus; it targets the coronavirus specifically, making it better suited than other, more general, antibodies; and it does not contain many additional proteins that can cause complications for patients.

The institute, which is run by the Defense Ministry, and works under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, says it is working to file a patent for the as-yet un-named antibody in the coming days.

“This is an important milestone, but afterwards come complicated tests and a process of getting regulatory approval. Per an assessment by the institute’s scientists, this technological breakthrough is poised to shorten the process, which will go on for several months,” it says in a statement.

– Judah Ari Grosss

El Al extends commercial flight suspension until May 30

El Al reports to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it is extending its suspension of commercial flights until May 30.

The company says in a statement: “In view of the fact that the easing of restrictions published last night by the Health Ministry does not include an easing of restrictions with regard to the obligation on passengers entering Israel to enter quarantine, and in view of the ban on non-Israeli nationals entering the country and low demand for flights, we have decided to extend our temporary suspension of flights. The company will continue to fly cargo flights to and from Israel, including the use of passenger planes for this purpose, and will continue with special passenger flights as needed.”

Jewish headstones used as paving stones found in Prague development project

Dozens of paving stones made from Jewish headstones have been found during redevelopment work in Prague’s tourist district, the Guardian reports.

The discovery came in the opening phase of renovation of the city’s iconic Wenceslas Square, the report says.

“We feel this is a victory for us because until now this was just a rumour. Maybe there were Jewish stones here, but nobody knew,” says Rabbi Chaim Kočí, a senior official with the Prague rabbinate.

“It’s important because it’s a matter of truth.“We are making something right for the historical record. These are stones from the graves of people who were dead for maybe 100 years and now they are lying here. It’s not nice.”

The Guardian says it is believed that the Communist authorities took stonework from Jewish burial sites for the pedestrianisation of Wenceslas Square during the 1980s.

Number of active coronavirus cases in Israel drops below 6,000

Just 29 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, while the number of active cases has dropped below 6,000, according to the latest Health Ministry figures published this evening.

The accumulated number of cases since the outbreak began now stands at 16,289, while the number of active cases has fallen by 376 to 5,586 of whom 91 are in serious condition, with 70 of those cases on respiratory ventilation.

The number of people who have recovered from the virus is up over the past 24 hours by 463 to 10,645.

A total of 9,160 cases were tested yesterday.

Medical workers wearing protective clothing as they stand outside the coronavirus unit at Shaarei Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, May 5, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Hamas says no progress on prisoner swap deal

Sources within Hamas say there has been no “qualitative” progress in negotiations for a prisoner swap with Israel being conducted through Egyptian channels.

In a statement on its website, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip said Israel is conducting a campaign of disinformation through the media.

The statement accuses Israel of trying to “evade the price of the initiative proposed by the movement, to mislead the families of the Zionist prisoners, and to put pressure on the morale of Palestinian prisoners and their families.”

Hamas says that if there are developments it will report them and calls on media outlets not to trust reports coming out of Israel.

National Emergency Authority fears fierce coronavirus second wave

Israel’s National Emergency Authority fears a second wave of coronavirus infections and is calling on the government to use the relative lull in cases to prepare hospitals for a substantial increase in respiratory ventilation and treatment capacities, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

According to the report, the authority has prepared a model that forecasts a second wave of infections at around the time of the Jewish new year, which this year falls in mid-September.

According to the forecast, the number of cases could reach tens of thousands, with thousands hospitalized and deaths estimated between several hundred to the low thousands.

Medical staff in the coronavirus unit, at Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, May 4, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Bennett says willing to accept health minister position

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to offer him the position of health minister in the new coalition government with full powers to prepare for a possible second wave of the coronavirus, he would accept the position.

“Preparing for a possible second wave that may come in the autumn is a mission of national importance,” Bennett says. “We have to be prepared in advance so as not to shut down the Israeli economy and cause critical damage to the livelihoods of a million Israelis.”

Bennett says that in order to do this there is a need to prepare mass testing capabilities and teams to conduct epidemiological investigations.

Dan Eldad calls off meeting with State Comptroller over Mandelblit allegations

Attorney Dan Eldad cancels a planned meeting with State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman with regard to the closure of the case against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in the so-called Harpaz Affair.

Mandelblit was a suspect in the 2010 case but eventually was cleared of wrongdoing by the High Court of Justice.

Eldad had said the meeting was scheduled in his position as acting state attorney, and since he was no longer in that position, it would not be appropriate.

Mandelblit said yesterday that he had declined to extend Eldad’s term and would temporarily assume his duties.

The Israel Hayom daily, however, claims that the real reason was heavy pressure exerted by the attorney general and other senior officials at the State Attorney’s Office.

Trump denies US involvement in alleged Venezuela coup plot

President Donald Trump denies US government involvement in what Venezuela’s president says was an attempted overthrow in which two Americans were arrested.

“It has nothing to do with our government,” Trump tells reporters at the White House.

President Nicolas Maduro said that two US citizens were among those arrested after his forces foiled an “invasion” from the sea.

Maduro, in an appearance yesterday on Venezuelan state television, showed passports identifying the two as Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, who he claimed were members of Trump’s security team.

Maduro accused Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque of being behind the plot.



Likud MK calls on AG to disqualify himself from state attorney appointment

Likud MK Shlomo Karai calls on attorney general Avichai Mandelblit to disqualify himself from any involvement in the appointment of a new state attorney.

“In view of the fact that attorney Dan Eldad launched an investigation into a case that you were involved in, why have you not disqualified yourself from involvement in the appointment of an acting state attorney?” asks Karai. “It would seem that there is cause and effect in your involvement and that there is a conflict of interest.”

Mandelblit said yesterday that he had declined to extend Eldad’s term and would temporarily assume his duties.

Airbnb slashes workforce as pandemic ravages travel industry

Home-sharing platform Airbnb says it will slash a fourth of its workforce — some 1,900 people — as the coronavirus pandemic crushes the travel industry.

The cuts are needed for the San Francisco-based company to survive until people start traveling anew, Airbnb co-founder and chief executive Brian Chesky says in a blog post.

“We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill,” Chesky says.


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