The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Knesset advances bill to ban the unvaccinated from schools
Knesset members advance a bill that would give Israeli authorities the power to ban entry to all educational frameworks any child or person who has not been vaccinated against a disease when there is a national concern over an outbreak of the illness.
MKs back the the so-called “Vaccination Law” by 115 to zero in its preliminary reading, allowing lawmakers to prepare the bill in committee for three further readings.
The law, if authorized in all votes, would apply to all schools — from kindergartens through universities — and comes in response to an outbreak of measles in Israel, which was blamed on those who were not immunized against the disease. Hundreds fell ill with the infectious virus this year, and an 18-month-old toddler died in Jerusalem, the first such death from measles in 15 years.
The bill proposes that “in circumstances when there is a concern of an outbreak of disease against which there is a routine vaccination, educational institutes will prevent the entry to the institute any child, teacher or other person who is not vaccinated against the disease, according to the directions of the director-general of the Health Ministry, for a suitable period.”
— Raoul Wootliff
85,000 children may have died of hunger in Yemen
An estimated 85,000 children under age 5 may have died of hunger and disease since the outbreak of Yemen’s civil war in 2015, an international aid group says.
Save the Children bases its figures on mortality rates for untreated cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition in young children. The UN says more than 1.3 million children have suffered from SAM since a Saudi-led coalition went to war with Yemen’s Houthi rebels in March 2015.
The group says its “conservative estimate” was that 84,701 children may have died, based on historical studies that find that 20 to 30 percent of untreated cases lead to death. It says it calculated the figure based on the number of cases reported in areas where aid groups were unable to intervene.
“For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable,” says Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen director. “Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop.”
The war has given rise to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Three-quarters of Yemen’s people require life-saving assistance and more than 8 million are at risk of starvation. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the fighting.
Knesset moves to stub out ads for cigarettes and tobacco
The Knesset gives its preliminary approval to a proposed ban on cigarette and tobacco ads, except in print media, in a bid to tackle smoking rates in Israel.
The advertising ban extends to cigarettes, cigars, hookah products, and papers used to roll cigarettes. It also outlaws advertising for non-tobacco herbal substances used for smoking, as well as e-cigarettes and all affiliated devices.
The bill makes exceptions for advertisements in stores selling the products, for ads in print media, and for smoking images used for artistic or news purposes.
UAE court sentences British student to life for spying
A United Arab Emirates court has sentenced British student Matthew Hedges to life in jail on Wednesday after convicting him of spying, a family spokesperson said.
“We can confirm that he was sentenced to life in prison,” the spokesperson tells AFP.
“The hearing lasted less than five minutes, and his lawyer was not present.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says he was “deeply shocked and disappointed” by the decision of the UAE court.
“Today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances,” he says.
Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student, was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011, when he was detained at Dubai airport on May 5.
He was granted temporary release on October 29, but constantly monitored until Wednesday’s court hearing, only his third since his arrest.
His wife Daniela Tejada, who had campaigned vigorously for his release, had said last month she could not allow herself to get too excited by his bail until he was fully free.
She had previously expressed concern for his safety, saying he was being held in solitary confinement at an undisclosed location with limited access to the British consulate and his family.
UAE attorney general Hamad al-Shamsi said earlier this month that Hedges was accused of “spying for a foreign country, jeopardizing the military, political and economic security of the state.”
Hedges has repeatedly denied the charges.
Iran denounces latest US sanctions as ‘fruitless’
Iran’s foreign ministry denounces the latest US Treasury sanctions as “fruitless and senseless” in a statement.
“These fruitless, senseless and ineffective sanctions… will undoubtedly never achieve the desired outcome of their designers and enforcers,” it says.
“Sooner or later they will become aware of the futility of their schemes.”
Washington slapped fresh sanctions on Tehran on Tuesday, accusing it of creating a complex web of Russian cut-out companies and Syrian intermediaries to ship oil to Damascus, which in turn bankrolled Hezbollah and Hamas.
The US considers both Hezbollah, a heavily armed Lebanese militia, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, to be terrorist organisations.
The US Treasury said in a statement that Tehran, “working with Russian companies, provides millions of barrels of oil to the Syrian government” of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The Assad regime, in turn, facilitates the movement of hundreds of millions of US dollars to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force for onward transfer to Hamas and Hezbollah,” it says, referring to Iran’s main foreign military operations unit.
UN envoy suggests Iran trying to disrupt fragile Gaza ceasefire
The UN’s special envoy for Middle East peace suggests that Iran is working to disrupt the fragile ceasefire that was maintained following a spurt of violence in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.
Upon being asked at the Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic conference for his thoughts on Tehran’s influence in Gaza, Nikolay Mladenov says, “Someone is trying to disrupt it [the ceasefire].”
“There are forces out there that want to disrupt that agreement and push us all into the abyss of a confrontation,” he adds.
Opposition yanks no-confidence votes after fragile coalition manages to garner majority
The opposition has pulled three no-confidence measures against the government after learning that the 61-member coalition had managed to pull together enough votes that would have seen them defeat the move.
Opposition chairman Tzipi Livni says in response, “We pulled the bill to dissolve the Knesset, but we will not take the subject off the public agenda.”
Earlier today, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Israel Radio that his Kulanu party would not vote in favor of a no-confidence measure after suggesting earlier that it might.
Jewish cemeteries desecrated in Poland
A Jewish burial ground in Poland reportedly has been damaged and another had some headstones defaced with anti-Semitic symbols in two separate incidents.
The alleged damage occurred earlier this week at Wysokie Mazowieckie, a town located 70 miles northeast of Warsaw, the J-Nerations organization, which is involved in the preservation of Jewish burial sites in Poland, says in a statement today. The municipality denied any damage to Jewish burial sites.
At least 10 skeletons “have been extracted without permit or permission for the enlargement of a local bus station,” the statement says. The group’s founder, Meir Bulka, says that bulldozers remained working there even after the mayor promised to halt earthworks on the site, which dates back to the 18th century.
The construction site was supposed to border on the oldest Jewish burial site of Wysokie Mazowieckie but encroached on the graveyard’s territory, Bulka claims. The graveyard does not have headstones, though fragments of them, including ones with Hebrew letters, are scattered across it. The city has a newer Jewish cemetery that does have headstones, Bulka says.
But Anna Niemyjska, head of the town’s municipal property office, denies this in an email to JTA. “No construction works are carried out in this area,” she says. The municipality had commissioned archaeological works in which “graves were revealed, but as of today, we do not know exactly where the graves are,” she adds.
Jerusalem municipality demolishes 16 stores in Shuafat refugee camp
The Jerusalem Municipality has demolished over a dozen storefronts on the main commercial street of the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, as part of the city’s new policy of extending the reach of municipal enforcement to neighborhoods beyond the security fence.
Bulldozers were accompanying a large compliment of police and Border Police officers demolished at least 16 stores, according to rights groups B’tselem and Ir Amim.
The stores, all built without permits in a part of the city that has seen rampant neglect and almost no enforcement by municipal authorities for decades, were given demolition warnings only 12 hours earlier, Ir Amim says.
During the demolition, police were sealing off the street and shut down all movement in the area, effectively sealing residents in the neighborhood, the group charged.
The move is the most significant act of demolition in the area since the construction of the security fence over a decade ago.
Liberman’s request to move Knesset seat away from Arab Israeli MK approved
Yisrael Beytenu Avigdor Liberman’s request to have his seat in the Knesset plenum moved away from that of Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh has been approved.
Liberman’s fellow faction member Sofa Landver will take his seat next to the Arab Israeli lawmaker, whom the former defense minister has called a terrorist.
Knesset votes down measure to recognize Yazidi genocide
The Knesset has voted down a proposal to recognize the Yazidi genocide.
The measure proposed by Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova was voted down 58-38.
In August 2014, two months after sweeping across Iraq’s Sunni heartland, IS jihadists made a second push into an area that had been under Kurdish security control. Thousands of Yazidi men were massacred when the fighters attacked the town of Sinjar and thousands of women and girls were kidnapped and enslaved, Murad among them. Mass graves have since been unearthed in the region.
According to the religious affairs ministry of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, IS has abducted more than 6,400 Yazidis. Around half have been rescued or managed to escape. The fate of the others is unknown, although IS has lost most of the territory it seized in Iraq, including Sinjar.
Of the 550,000 Yazidis living in Iraq before the jihadists’ 2014 assault, nearly 100,000 have left the country.
Committee that approves police chief says he must undergo a polygraph test
The Advisory Committee on Appointments of senior postings, headed by retired Judge Eliezer Goldberg, says Major General Moshe (Chico) Edri will have to undergo a polygraph test before they can approve him to become the next police chief.
Knesset narrowly votes down bill for public transportation on Sabbath
The Knesset narrowly votes down bill that would have allowed for a limited amount of public transportation on the Sabbath.
Kulanu lawmaker Rachel Azaria was the lone coalition MK to vote with the opposition in the measure which lost 58-56.
Erdogan takes aim at Soros over jailed Turkish philanthropist
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses George Soros of aiding a jailed Turkish philanthropist facing hugely controversial charges of seeking to overthrow the government, describing the Hungary-born American billionaire as a “famous Hungarian Jew.”
Erdogan suggests Soros had backed the Turkish financier and philanthropist Osman Kavala who organized civil society events and has been in prison for the last year awaiting trial.
In a speech to local officials, Erdogan accuses Kavala of financing the 2013 protests over the redevelopment of Gezi Park in Istanbul which at the time marked one of the biggest challenges to his rule.
“There is a person who financed the terrorists in the Gezi events. Now he is behind bars,” says Erdogan, referring to Kavala without naming him.
“And who is behind him? The famous Hungarian Jew Soros. This person sends people across the world to divide and tear up nations and uses the large amount of money he possesses to this effect.”
Trump thanks Saudi Arabia for lower oil prices
US President Donald Trump thanks Saudi Arabia for lower oil prices — a day after pledging the US would remain a “steadfast partner” of the kingdom despite the murder of a dissident journalist.
“Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82,” he tweets.
“Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!”
The remarks come a day after Trump linked his decision to continue backing the petro-state — despite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged involvement Jamal Khashoggi’s death — to his desire to keep oil prices low.
“If we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I’ve kept them down,” he told reporters at the White House.
“They’ve helped me keep them down. Right now we have low oil prices, or relatively.”
Oil recovered slightly on Wednesday after slumping more than six percent, with traders fretting that Saudi Arabia may not deliver on planned production cuts.
Liberman criticizes Netanyahu, but stops short of saying its time for new PM
Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman says that he quit the government because it had “capitulated to terror” and pursued other “unacceptable”policies vis-a-vis Hamas in Gaza, he tells a Jerusalem Post conference. At the same time, he stops short of saying that it’s time for a prime minister different than Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I didn’t have any other choice other than to submit my resignation,” he says, declining to discuss what exactly happened in the security cabinet discussion earlier this month ahead of a much-maligned ceasefire with Hamas.
“This is not the right place to discuss what happened within our cabinet. I can assure you that what I spoke outside was the same as in the debate in the cabinet. My position was very clear and very open. I clarified many times in every forum, what I think is necessary to do. Time after time the prime minister refused to accept my position, my policy, and I think it was the right conclusion to submit my resignation.”
In an English-language interview with Jerusalem Post editor Yaakov Katz, Liberman denies that his plan was to topple the current government.
“It was a really important battle [about] what it is the right policy — to fight terror or to give up to the bully? I am sorry to say, but what happened during the last few weeks was completely unacceptable to me.”
Asked if he thinks Netanyahu’s time was over and that it was time for a new prime minister, he replies: “That’s the decision of the people of Israel. We will have elections next year and we will see what happens.”
— Raphael Ahren
Interpol picks South Korean to lead agency as Russia loses out
Interpol names South Korea’s Kim Jong-yang as its new president, in a blow to Russia which denounced “unprecedented pressure” against its own candidate to lead the global policing body.
There had been growing Western calls for Interpol to reject Alexander Prokopchuk — a Russian interior ministry official and current Interpol vice president — over fears Moscow could abuse the role to target political opponents.
US-backed Kim, Interpol’s acting president, has been picked at a meeting of delegates from member nations in Dubai to replace Meng Hongwei, who went missing in his native China in September.
Beijing later said Meng resigned after being charged with accepting bribes.
The Kremlin has expressed dismay that Prokopchuk, who had been seen as the frontrunner, was beaten.
“The election took place in the atmosphere of unprecedented pressure and interference in these elections,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters.
The meeting was Interpol’s largest to date with 180 member states present, its secretary-general Jurgen Stock says.
Describing the agency as “neutral and independent,” he says a breakdown of the secret ballot would not be made public.
Kim’s election was “democratic, transparent, free and clear,” Stock says at a Dubai press conference.
Airbnb: We will look into dropping listings in Western Sahara next
An Airbnb official tells The Times of Israel that it is evaluating whether to drop its listings in the disputed territory of Western Sahara two days after the vacation rental giant announced that it would remove homes in Israeli settlements from its site.
“In the statement we issued on Monday, we noted that we have developed a framework for evaluating how we should treat listings in occupied territories around the world. Western Sahara is one example of a place where we will use this framework,” the official says.
Israeli officials including Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan have lambasted Airbnb’s initial decision as “racist” and anti-Semitic,” arguing that it was applying a different standard to the Jewish state than it was in dealing with other disputed territories around the world.
The Airbnb official clarifies that the decision — which will go into effect in the coming days — will only be applied to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and not homes in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.
Labor lawmaker slams ‘racist’ request by Liberman to move seats away from Arab-Israeli MK
Labor lawmaker Stav Shaffir appeals to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to intervene and prevent Yisrael Beytenu chairman from moving seats away from Joint (Arab) List chairman Ayman Odeh.
“I view with great severity the request of former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, to ask to move his chair so as not to sit next to MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, in the Knesset plenum. This demand stems from blatant and dangerous racism,” Shaffir wrote to Edelstein.
Odeh on Liberman chair swap: He’s not capable of sitting next to an Arab
Joint (Arab) List chairman Ayman Odeh responds to Avigdor Liberman’s request to move seats in the Knesset in order to avoid sitting next to him.
“Two days ago, he was defense minister. Today, he’s playing musical chairs because he’s not capable of sitting next to an Arab,” Odeh tweets.
Palestinians condemn demolition of East Jerusalem shops Israel says were illegal
Palestinian officials condemn Israel’s demolition of 21 businesses and petrol stations which authorities said were built illegally in Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp.
Israeli police confirmed in a statement authorities had demolished “18 illegal businesses and three illegal petrol stations” in annexed East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp, where an estimated 24,000 Palestinians live.
Israeli authorities entered the camp with excavators to destroy the structures as police formed a security perimeter, an AFP journalist reported.
“The municipality will continue to carry out activities with the support of the police against illegal business in the different areas,” the police statement said.
Ahmad Abu Holy, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s refugee department, condemns the demolitions that he said were “under the illegal pretext of building without a permit.”
He makes the comments to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in parts of the West Bank say it’s nearly impossible for them to obtain the required building permits from Israeli authorities.
Khader Dibs, an official from the camp, which is surrounded by Israel’s separation wall and is the only refugee camp within Jerusalem, also condemns the demolitions and said the shops had been built in 2007.
Shop owners said they had been given only 12 hours’ advance notice.
Shuafat camp receives little from Jerusalem’s municipality. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, operates there and provides various services to residents.
Left-wing MKs, NGO rail on Knesset speaker’s cancelling of event that calls for clearing Hebron of settlers
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has cancelled an event which would have called for the evacuation of Jewish settlers from the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron.
The event, which had been slated to feature addresses from representatives of the Breaking the Silence and B’tselem NGOs as well as MKs from the Joint (Arab) List and Meretz parties, had been slated to take place in the Knesset on Monday, the same day that Czech Republic President Miloš Zeman is scheduled to address the plenum.
Edelstein’s office says it has cancelled all events slated to have taken place in the Knesset that day.
However, the event’s participants are not buying the speaker’s reasoning and are claiming Edelstein’s intentions are purely political.
“The Knesset is not the property of the speaker and the extreme right, and the plenum is not a werewolf fortress of the Likud. It is where a democratic debate is supposed to be conducted, reflecting the range of positions in society. We’re going to hold our event anyway. A new location will be released soon,” Joint List MK Dov Khenin tweets.
The event is titled “Hebron first” and calls for the evacuation of Hebron’s Jewish settlers as a first step toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
PM wishes Americans a happy Thanksgiving
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu releases a video on social media in which he wishes Americans a “Happy Thanksgiving!”
“Thanksgiving is a great time to be with your family and your loved ones, to rejoice, to count your blessings. We count our blessing of having this extraordinary relationship with the United States of America. We give thanks to that every day,” Netanyahu says.
US Justice Department rejects PM’s request to allow Jonathan Pollard to move to Israel
The US Department of Justice has rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow Jonathan Pollard to move to Israel, Hadashot news reports.
Pollard, an American spy who served 30 years in prison for selling secrets to the Jewish state, has been prevented from leaving the US since his release in November 2015.
Palestinian arrested trying to sneak into West Bank settlement
A Palestinian man who tried to infiltrate into the central West Bank settlement of Har Gilo has been arrested by security forces, Border Police say.
The town’s security coordinator caught the suspect and reported the incident to authorities, who made the arrest.
The suspect was caught with a bag that included tools that could be used to break through the settlement’s security fence, Border Police say.
Authorities did not specify whether the suspect had a weapon with him and whether he was in the middle of infiltrating the community when caught.
Yemen peace talks set for early December in Sweden
Peace talks aimed at ending the war in Yemen have been set for early December in Sweden between Huthi rebels and the UN-recognized government, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says.
Mattis says the Saudis and United Arab Emirates — who have backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in the brutal three-year-old war — “are fully on board, by the way.”
“It looks like that very, very early in December, up in Sweden, we’ll see both the Huthi rebel side and the UN-recognized government, President Hadi’s government, will be up there.”
Ombudsman fires another salvo in ongoing battle over IDF’s readiness for war
A Defense Ministry ombudsman has accused army commanders of lying about the military’s preparedness for war, in a letter sent to a powerful Knesset committee recently, as part of an ongoing spat between the retired general and the IDF General Staff.
“Commanders are afraid of speaking the truth, among some of them, their mouth and their heart aren’t the same,” wrote Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, in a missive to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which is published by Hadashot news.
Over the past year, Brick has led a campaign warning lawmakers and the public that the Israel Defense Forces is unprepared for war, with significant quantitive and qualitative disparities between what the military says it needs and what it actually has.
The army has roundly rejected Brick’s claims, yet IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot appointed a committee to investigate the allegations.
PM aide accused of sexual harassment to step down as probe against him closed
David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign media adviser, has agreed to officially step down from his position in exchange for the closing of the Civil Service Commission’s investigation into his conduct, Hadashot news reports.
Keyes went on open-ended leave of absence in September, vowing to clear his name after more than a dozen women complained of inappropriate behavior by him, including alleged instances of sexual assault and harassment, all but one of which related to the years when Keyes lived in the US before he went to work for Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2016.
Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, who was tipped off regarding Keyes’s behavior, but did not relay the information to Netanyahu, is expected to have the Civil Service Commission’s probe against him closed and deemed that the information he received had only been general in scope.
Sources in the PMO say they have not heard from the Civil Service Commission and therefore cannot comment on the matter.
PM interviews candidates for deputy IDF chief of staff; decision to be made in coming days
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has completed interviewing the two candidates for deputy IDF chief of staff — Major General Eyal Zamir and Major General Nitzan Alon.
The pair have already been interviewed by incoming Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
A decision on who will be appointed will be made in the coming days.