The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold discussions later today on the possibility of announcing nighttime curfews to lower the country’s coronavirus infections, Hebrew media reports.
Ministers and representatives of the health, finance and public security ministries will attend.
Under review will be the possibility of confining people to their homes after 7 or 8 p.m. until the early morning.
According to Channel 12, Health Ministry officials are currently skeptical that a curfew would be effective in lowering infection.
Five years after a squad of jihadist killers carried out France’s deadliest peacetime atrocity, the country is again on its highest security alert following a spate of attacks blamed on Islamist terrorists.
The night of carnage on November 13, 2015, saw 130 people killed and 350 wounded when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade de France stadium, bars and restaurants in central Paris and the Bataclan concert hall.
The sheer horror of the attacks, which were claimed by extremists from the Islamic State group, left scars that have still not healed. Modern France’s attitude toward Islam remains an issue of burning controversy.
The fifth anniversary of the November 2015 strikes will come with France still reeling from three attacks in the last few weeks: a knife attack outside the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo weekly, the beheading of a teacher and a deadly stabbing spree at a Nice church.
— with agencies
Several people have been wounded in a bomb attack at a World War I commemoration ceremony attended by European diplomats at a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, France’s foreign ministry says.
“The annual ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, attended by several consulates, including that of France, was the target of an IED attack this morning, which injured several people,” the ministry says.
“France strongly condemns this cowardly, unjustifiable attack.”
Last month, a Saudi citizen with a knife injured a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah on the same day that a knife-wielding man killed three people in a church in Nice in southern France.
Wednesday’s blast came as French President Emmanuel Macron, the target of ire in much of the Muslim world for vowing to confront Islamist radicalism following a spate of attacks, attended a WWI memorial ceremony in Paris.
Lebanon and Israel kick off a third round of maritime border talks under US and UN auspices to allow for offshore hydrocarbon exploration.
The delegations meet under tight security at a base of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqura, the National News Agency says.
After years of quiet US shuttle diplomacy, Lebanon and Israel in early October said they had agreed to begin the negotiations in what Washington hailed as a “historic” agreement.
The first two rounds of talks were held on October 14 and 28-29.
The negotiations are meant to focus on a 860-square-kilometer (330-square-mile) disputed sea area according to a map registered with the United Nations in 2011.
A delegation of Israeli settlers is visiting Dubai, where they are meeting with Emirati business people to discuss commercial opportunities following the United Arab Emirates’ establishment of formal ties with Israel.
The visit angers the Palestinians, who view Israeli settlements as a major obstacle to peace and a violation of international law.
The delegation is being led by Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, which represents settlements in the northern West Bank. They arrived on Sunday and plan to remain in the Emirates until Thursday.
A council statement says the delegation held “marathon business meetings” with around 20 individuals and companies working in agriculture, pest control and plastics.
“The business people heard from them about the unique needs of the region and discussed with them cooperation, particularly in the fields of agronomy and water desalination,” it said.
Nabil Shaath, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, says it is “painful to witness Arab cooperation with one of the worst manifestations of aggression against the Palestinian people, which is the Israeli settlements on our land.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu sends his condolences to Bahrain for the death of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
“I value his great contribution to the establishment of peace between our countries,” Netanyahu says.
He also issues an Arabic-language tweet offering condolences.
أتقدم باسمي وباسم الشعب الإسرائيلي خالص التعازي لملك البحرين صاحب الجلالة حمد بن عيسى آل خليفة وللأسرة الملكية وللشعب البحريني أجمع في وفاة رئيس الوزراء سمو الأمير خليفة بن سلمان آل خليفة رحمه الله. كما أتقدم بخالص العزاء والمواساة لعائلته. pic.twitter.com/ZlphT5wGE2
— بنيامين نتنياهو (@Israelipm_ar) November 11, 2020
Al Khalifa was one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers, who led his island nation’s government for decades.
Israel yesterday formally approved a normalization treaty signed with Bahrain last month.
Norway’s friendly soccer match against Israel has been canceled because of the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The Norwegian soccer federation says the decision was recommended by national health authorities one day after an Israeli player tested positive.
Norway will still play at Romania on Sunday and at Austria next Wednesday in the Nations League.
Israel is scheduled to play at the Czech Republic on Sunday and host Scotland next Wednesday.
The Israel Defense Forces is on heightened alert, sending additional air defenses to southern Israel, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata, out of concerns the terror group may mark the occasion with an attack.
In addition to the Iron Dome missile defense systems deployed to the south, flights into and out of Israel also appear to have been directed to use Ben Gurion International Airport’s northern paths, keeping them farther from the Gaza Strip.
These precautionary moves come a day before the anniversary of Abu al-Ata’s death on November 12, 2019, which sparked a fierce round of fighting known in the military as Operation Black Belt.
Abu al-Ata was killed, along with his wife, in a precision strike on the apartment in which he was staying in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, following months of preparation by the military.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hundreds of mourners gather in the West Bank city of Jericho for the funeral of Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat, who died yesterday at the age of 65 due to complications from coronavirus.
Earlier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosted the official memorial ceremony for Erekat at his Ramallah compound, where he eulogized the envoy and negotiator as a “great fighter.”
Erekat’s body was then taken to Jericho for burial. Photos from the funeral show that social distancing is not being enforced, and not all the mourners are wearing masks.
He died yesterday at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, where he was taken last month after receiving treatment at home for several days.
— with agencies
Defense Minister Benny Gantz calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene the coronavirus cabinet as soon as possible to make decisions on Israel’s next steps on the pandemic.
Gantz says on Twitter: “We decided to speed up the closure of red cities (with high infection rates). It’s not happening at a satisfactory pace. We decided to raise fines — and that hasn’t happened either. We must not wait for next week. We must make simple, clear and responsible decisions.”
Finance Minister Israel Katz is demanding that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit probe the ministry’s legal adviser, whom he suspects of leaking information.
Katz suspects Asi Messing has been disparaging Katz to reporters based on information from meetings of the coronavirus cabinet.
Katz reportedly has screenshots of texts Messing exchanged with another ministry official on the matter.
Mandelblit issues a statement saying Messing has denied the claims. He says he expects Messing and Katz to settle the matter between themselves.
A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says that the PA is willing to return to negotiations with Israel, as long as US President Donald Trump’s peace plan is dropped and both parties return to negotiations “from the point where they last stopped.”
“The Palestinian leadership is ready to return to negotiations, based on international law, or from the point where they last stopped, or based on Israel’s commitment to previous agreements signed [between the two parties],” veteran Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh says.
Abu Rudeineh makes his remarks in response to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s comments at the Knesset yesterday that “the Palestinian leadership has not understood that it is time to put away the excuses” and return to negotiations.
“I call on Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership: If not for yourselves, do it for your children. They, the future generation, deserve a future of peace and wellbeing,” Gantz said.
— Aaron Boxerman
US President Donald Trump will participate in the Veterans Day observance at Arlington National Ceremony today, emerging in public for the first time since his failed reelection bid to take part in the annual presidential rite.
Trump has spent the last several days holed up at the White House tweeting angry claims of voter fraud after his election loss.
He’s made no public comments since President-elect Joe Biden surpassed the 270 electoral votes on Saturday needed to win the presidency. Instead, he’s offered a barrage of postings on Twitter alleging irregularities in voting in several battleground states that went for Biden.
Although his official schedule has been devoid of public events, Trump has made several personnel moves — firing his Defense Secretary Mark Esper and installing three staunch loyalists to top defense jobs. Meanwhile, his legal team has filed a barrage of lawsuits alleging fraud in the battleground states.
The European Union declares a health emergency and launches moves to build a new agency and joint plan to prepare for crises like the coronavirus epidemic.
Health policy is mainly the responsibility of the bloc’s member states, but EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides says COVID-19 has shown the need for coordination.
Since the disease arrived in its cities in March, Europe has suffered at least 311,000 deaths from more than 13 million infections, and many countries have been hit by a second wave.
European officials admit that the 27 member states failed to coordinate properly during the first peak in infections in the first months of the year — allowing its rapid spread.
The latest round of talks between Israel and Lebanon over the two countries’ disputed maritime border has ended.
A joint US-UN statement says the talks, at a base of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqura, were “productive.”
The United States and the office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon “remain hopeful that these negotiations will lead to a long-awaited resolution,” it says.
The sides agreed to meet again, for a fourth time, next month.
— with AFP
In response to Donald Trump’s claims of rampant voter fraud in the US election, The New York Times reports it has contacted election officials in all 50 states to inquire.
It says none of the people it contacted saw any evidence of foul play.
Pope Francis pledges to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse and offers prayers for victims of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a day after the Vatican released a detailed report into the decadeslong church cover-up of his sexual misconduct.
Francis concludes his weekly general audience by recalling that the report into the “painful case” of the former high-ranking American cardinal was released the previous day.
“I renew my closeness to victims of any abuse and commitment of the church to eradicate this evil,” Francis says. He then pauses silently for nearly a minute, apparently in prayer.
The Vatican report blamed a host of bishops, cardinals and popes for downplaying and dismissing mountains of evidence of McCarrick’s misconduct starting in the 1990s. In particular, it blamed St. John Paul II for having appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington in 2000, and making him a cardinal, despite having commissioned an inquiry that found he shared his bed with seminarians.
Emirates has suspended plans to launch direct flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates until further notice, Ynet reports, after previously planning to start operating the route on December 3.
According to the report, a number of factors contributed to the suspension, including Israel’s ongoing ban on foreign tourism amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the fact that the countries have not yet signed off on a deal to waive the need for visas for tourists.
Ynet says the airline hopes to start regular flights by the end of the year or early next year, depending on developments.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s cabinet agrees on a wide range of anti-terrorism measures meant to plug perceived security flaws identified after a deadly attack by an Islamic extremist in Vienna last week.
The proposals include the ability to keep individuals convicted of terror offenses behind bars for life, electronic surveillance of people convicted of terror-related offenses upon release and criminalizing religiously motivated political extremism.
Kurz says the measures, which will be brought before parliament in December for a vote, take a two-pronged approach, targeting both terror suspects and also the ideology that drives them.
“We will create a criminal offense called ‘political Islam’ in order to be able to take action against those who are not terrorists themselves, but who create the breeding ground for them,” Kurz tweets after the Cabinet meeting.
Four people were killed in the November 2 attack outside a synagogue, and the gunman also died. Twenty others, including a police officer, were wounded.
— with AP
Moderna says it expects to have early data on the effectiveness of its coronavirus vaccine later this month, according to Reuters.
The pharmaceutical firm is currently in late-stage trials.
The news comes after Pfizer’s vaccine earlier this week showed 90 percent effectiveness in phase three trials.
The entire Knesset faction of the Yamina party will enter quarantine, as will lawmakers’ aides and advisers, after MK Matan Kahana of the party was diagnosed with coronavirus.
All five members of the faction were with Kahana at a meeting this week and will thus be required to self-isolate.
Ministers are discussing the possibility of a nighttime curfew to curb infections, at the same time as the potential opening of shopping malls and the return to schools of grades 5-6.
No decisions have been made as of yet of what steps to take in the coming days. Further deliberations are expected.
Ministers were told that Israel’s “R naught” — the number of people on average that each person infects — has been on the rise lately, which could lead to growing case numbers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the ministers he fears once again losing control of the pandemic in the coming weeks due to the rise in the R naught.
Health officials warned Israel should avoid new steps to ease restrictions under the current conditions.
Far-right supporters in Poland clash fiercely with police during an annual Independence Day march attended by thousands in Warsaw that went ahead despite a ban on public gatherings due to the pandemic.
Many participants turned up in cars and on motorbikes to observe social distancing. But others marched on foot, and some threw firecrackers at police in riot gear and into windows with LGBT rainbow flags or signs of anti-government sentiment. An apartment caught fire, but firefighters put it out. No one was hurt.
There are no immediate reports of arrests or injuries, though ambulances were heard approaching the scene of the repeated clashes.
Warsaw authorities banned the march, which a court also declared illegal, citing the ban on gatherings of over five people.
A plan to declare Eilat and the Dead Sea as “tourism islands” during the coronavirus pandemic may face delay after the Knesset was told a system of on-the-spot virus tests called for by the proposal is not yet ready.
The government is hoping to aid ailing hotels with domestic tourism by allowing the relatively remote areas to reopen with a robust testing system.
However, health officials have informed a parliamentary panel that this apparatus still needs more time before it can become functional.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys have requested that the indictment against him be amended “due to serious deficiencies.”
The lawyers take issue with what they claim is the indictment “treating the prime minister and his family as though they are one.”
It “invented a new legal persona named ‘Netanyahu and his family” or ‘Netanyahu and his wife.’
“The prosecution can not accuse the prime minister with acts allegedly committed by his wife and son,” they say.
They also complain that various other details are problematic, including evidence presented against the premier that should not be included at the indictment state, This, they say, is the result of “a flawed and biased investigative process, and considerations that stand in contravention of the principles of justice and fairness.”
Any amendments to the indictment would likely delay the premier’s trial, which is set to go into high gear in January.
Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is now more than 12 times the limit set down in a 2015 deal with world powers, the UN’s nuclear agency reports.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reports in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press that Iran as of November 2 has a stockpile of 2,442.9 kilograms (5,385.7 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, up from 2,105.4 kilograms (4,641.6 pounds) reported on August 25.
The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).
The IAEA reports that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the deal.
Violations of the nuclear pact have followed the decision by the US to pull out unilaterally in 2018.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz endorses the army’s recommendation to officially recognize Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon as an official military campaign, leaving one last approval needed before the move can be implemented.
Until now, this campaign has had no official designation, something a small but vocal group of veterans have fought to change.
If given final approval by a ministerial committee — as is expected — this period will be officially known as “The Security Zone in the Lebanon Campaign” and people who took part in it will receive pins acknowledging their contribution, putting it on par with the Israel Defense Forces’ other wars and major operations.
Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, served as the liaison between the Israeli military and the South Lebanon Army in 2000 when Israel withdrew from the area, ending an 18-year occupation of a strip of southern Lebanon — totaling about 10 percent of Lebanese territory — that had been aimed at defending northern Israel from attack by terror groups, notably the Iran-backed Hezbollah. Gantz, then a brigadier general, was famously the last Israeli soldier to leave the security zone.
“As someone who served for 22 years in Lebanon, and was the last person to leave the security zone, as defense minister of the State of Israel I feel immense privilege and a moral debt to thousands of soldiers who served under me to approve the awarding of this pin,” Gantz says.
— Judah Ari Gross
US President Donald Trump makes his first official post-election appearance for what should have been a moment of national unity to mark Veterans Day, now marred by his refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden’s win.
On a rainy, gray day in Washington, the president visits Arlington National Cemetery for a somber wreath-laying ceremony shortly before 11:30 a.m., four days after US media projected his Democratic rival would take the White House.
Since then he has not addressed the nation other than via Twitter and a statement released to mark Veterans Day, and has not conceded to Biden, as is traditional once a winner is projected in a US vote.
With COVID-19 cases shattering records across the country and states imposing new restrictions in a push to contain the virus before winter arrives, Trump seems to have all but shelved normal presidential duties save for his brief appearance at Arlington, where he made no public remarks.
Control of the Senate won’t be decided until the new year after Republicans won a seat in Alaska today. Neither party can lock the majority until January runoffs in Georgia.
Incumbent Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan defeated Al Gross, an independent running as a Democrat.
With Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Republicans are still short of the 51 seats they need for majority control. They have a 49-48 hold on the Senate with the Alaska win, but two races in Georgia are heading to a January 5 runoff.
The race in North Carolina remains too early to call, though Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham has conceded to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.
With Biden, the path to keeping Senate control is more difficult for Republicans. The vice president of the party in power, which on Jan. 20 will be Kamala Harris, is the tie-breaker. That means if Republicans only have 50 seats, Democrats control the Senate. Republicans would need 51 senators to overcome that.
The Israeli Navy officially receives the first of four new Sa’ar 6-class corvettes from Germany — its first new missile ships in over a quarter-century — which will be used to defend Israel’s natural gas rigs and shipping routes.
The ship, the INS Magen, will reach Israeli shores next month where it will be outfitted with sensors, weapons and communication systems, before being declared operational.
“The INS Magen, the first of four new Magen-series ships for the Israeli fleet, will answer in the best way possible the future challenges on the naval front,” Israeli Navy commander Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit says at the official hand-over ceremony in Germany.
The remaining three ships will be delivered to Israel over the next year.
— Judah Ari Gross
Netanyahu says he spoke with Pfizer’s Jewish CEO, and that he believes Israel will secure a deal to purchase coronavirus vaccines from the company.
“I asked to speak with [CEO Albert Bourla], he agreed immediately. It turns out that Albert Bourla is very proud of his Greek and Jewish heritage… he told me he really appreciates the improvement in ties between Israel and Greece,” Netanyahu says in a video.
“After the conversation, that was very matter-of-fact and business-like, I am convinced we will seal a deal with Pfizer.”
A report on Channel 12 echoes Netanyahu’s claim that the two established a rapport, speaking about a synagogue in Thessaloniki where Bourla was married and which Netanyahu once visited.
Channel 12 reports the sides are discussing vaccines for three million people (six million doses, with each person getting two).
It also says Israel has agreed to a $100 million advance deposit for the vaccines.
Pfizer this week announced its third-phase trials had shown its vaccine to be 90 percent effective.
The vaccine has not yet received final approval for use, and it is not yet clear when it will, though it is likely to take several months before any vaccines reach Israel.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan meets his Sudanese counterpart in New York.
“We agreed to begin to advance projects on water, agriculture and the joint fight against coronavirus,” Erdan says.
Israel and Sudan last month announced plans to normalize ties.
פגישה היסטורית ראשונה במשלחת סודן לאו״ם! פגשתי כעת את שגריר סודן לאו״ם עומאר סיגיד, בכדי לתרגם למעשים את השלום הצפוי בין מדינותינו. סיכמנו להתחיל ולקדם יחד פרוייקטים בתחום המים,החקלאות ומאבקנו המשותף בקורונה. אני חש זכות גדולה לייצג את ישראל בתקופה זו???????????????? pic.twitter.com/o3ykATgh82
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) November 11, 2020
A German appeals court has upheld the decision of the state of Brandenburg to expel a police academy cadet for using Nazi-related terminology during a class exercise on using the phonetic alphabet during radio calls, authorities say.
According to the Berlin-Brandenburg Administrative Court, the cadet phonetically spelled the last name Jung with the German words “Jude,” “untermensch,” Nazi and “gaskammer” or “genozid”: Jew, subhuman, Nazi and gas chamber or genocide.
He was expelled from the academy after the April 2019 incident due to “doubts about his loyalty to the constitution and character,” the court said. The cadet was not named publicly in line with German privacy laws.
Reuters reports that Pfizer CEO Bourla sold $5.56 million worth of shares the day the company announced its promising vaccine progress — or 62 percent of his holdings.
Pfizer has said this was an automatic process set up by Bourla months ago to sell shares the moment they hit a certain price, and was managed by a third party.
Pfizer’s shares jumped from $36.4 to 41.9 the day of the announcement Monday, though it has since dropped to some $38.3.
More on the IAEA document on Iran’s uranium dealings: Reuters reports that Iran has installed new advanced centrifuges at its underground enrichment plant in Natanz.
In the past Iran told the IAEA it would move centrifuges underground after a blast destroyed critical overground equipment. Iran has claimed that incident was an act of sabotage.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the Jewish government staffer who made headlines in 2017 for leaking intelligence to officials to back up US President Donald Trump’s false claim that former President Barack Obama had him wiretapped, has been promoted to a top Defense Department post in the aftermath of Trump’s firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Cohen-Watnick will take over as acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, according to reports from Tuesday. The former official in the role, Joseph Kernan, resigned along with multiple other top department staffers after Trump fired Esper on Monday.
The new acting defense secretary, Chris Miller, said in a statement that Kernan’s departure had been planned “for months.”
— Gabe Friedman / JTA
Opposition leader Yair Lapid lambastes Netanyahu for his claim on Facebook that “the coronavirus vaccine is on its way to Israel.”
The prime minister’s Facebook post includes a video about his talks with Pfizer on the potential purchase of its as yet unapproved vaccine. In it, he says he believes a deal will be made. In the text attached to the video, however, he writes that the vaccine is “on its way.”
“It’s an insane claim,” Lapid says. “There’s no coronavirus vaccine yet, it’s not on its way to Israel, and it’s not even clear who this lie serves. Israel needs a functioning government, not a purveyor of tall tales.”
Yet more on the IAEA report — the UN’s nuclear watchdog says Iran’s explanations over the presence of nuclear material at an undeclared site in the country are “not credible.”
Despite Iranian authorities providing some information about the site, “the agency informed Iran that it continues to consider Iran’s response to be not technically credible,” the watchdog says.
“A full and prompt explanation from Iran regarding the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin… at a location in Iran not declared to the agency is needed,” the report said.
While the IAEA has not identified the site in question, diplomatic sources have indicated to AFP that it is in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, previously identified by Israel as an alleged site of secret atomic activity.
— with AFP
On his final day on the job as coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu criticizes the country’s political leadership throughout the pandemic.
“We can’t have medical needs being weakened by politicking. We need a leadership that doesn’t tell the people why they are [acting] wrong — but speaks to them eye to eye,” Gamzu says at the handover ceremony to his successor.
“These were a hundred difficult days that demanded all the mental strength I had. I received support from Israeli society, including Arab society and parts of the ultra-Orthodox society.
“We have great medical teams, the best professional infrastructure in the Western world. We have the best testing and contact tracing system to cut the chains of infection. Despite the violations here and there, we have a disciplined and great people,” Gamzu says.
Gamzu is returning as planned to his job as director of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital. He has been replaced by Nachman Ash, former chief medical officer of the Israel Defense Forces.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
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