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Netanyahu hails majority rule as bedrock of democracy in opening Knesset speech

Presumed PM-to-be says his coalition will strive to reach agreements, but if it can’t, then the ones with the most votes win; rejects criticism from outgoing government

Likud party head Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the plenary hall of the Knesset  on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud party head Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the plenary hall of the Knesset on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Rabbis call on students not to go into tank corps after 3 women join course

Two leading religious Zionist rabbis call on their students not to enlist in the Armored Corps, after three female cadets were allowed into tank officers’ training company.

Last month, the Israel Defense Forces announced it was allowing women to serve in tanks — not in its armored brigades, which will remain men-only — but in mixed-gender border security units on the Egyptian and Jordanian frontiers.

To that end, three female soldiers who serve in such units were put into a tank officers training company, within their own female-only platoon.

According to Rabbis Yaakov Medan and Amichai Gordin, of the Har Etzion yeshiva in the Alon Shvut settlement, such a situation of having men and women in a single company “does not fall in the bounds of Jewish law, and that prevents you from serving in it.”

Writing in a letter to their students, Medan and Gordin apologize profusely and say that they can no longer recommend that they serve in the Armored Corps, until the female soldiers are kept away.

“We will hope for better days, days when soldiers who follow the Torah will not be forced to be kept out of combat units, for days when the IDF will honor its commitments,” they write.

The IDF says the Military Rabbinate is working with the tank base where the course is being held to ensure that soldiers who feel they cannot serve alongside women can maintain “proper behavior in accordance with orders.”

Report: Israel provided intel on imminent threat to Iranian journalists in London

Israel was behind the warnings of an imminent threat that were sent to two Britain-based Iranian journalists earlier this month, the Kan broadcaster reports.

On November 7, the opposition outlet Iran International said in a statement that two of its reporters had been notified of an “imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families. Other members of our staff have also been informed directly by the [London] Metropolitan Police of separate threats.”

According to Kan’s unsourced story, those warnings were the result of intelligence that Israeli security services provided to their British counterparts.

Report: Deri would get a ‘super ministry’ to compensate for losing finance office

To make up for the Finance Ministry going to the Religious Zionism party, the Likud party is offering Shas leader Aryeh Deri a “super ministry” that would effectively combine the Interior Ministry and Transportation Ministry into one office, the Kan broadcaster reports.

In addition to this expanded Interior-Transportation Ministry, Deri would be made deputy prime minister. His party would also get control of the Health Ministry, Diaspora Affairs Ministry, and the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev, and the Galilee, which controls funds to assist those farther-flung parts of the country.

As part of coalition negotiations, Deri requested the Finance Ministry for himself, but earlier today Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu offered the job to Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich, in order to get him to rescind his demand for the Defense Ministry.

US awards Legion of Merit to visiting IDF chief

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, left, awards the Legion of Merit to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, left, awards the Legion of Merit to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley awards IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi with the Legion of Merit for “deepening the strategic partnership between Israel and the US,” the Israeli military says.

Milley presented Kohavi with the Legion of Merit following an honor guard ceremony outside the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

“Kohavi exemplified the spirit of collaboration and cooperation in furthering the strategic partnership of the United States and the State of Israel,” the text of the award reads.

The Legion of Merit can be awarded by the US Armed Forces to foreign military and political officials who “distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services,” according to US law. It is the sixth-highest honor that the United States can bestow on a US citizen.

Many of Kohavi’s predecessors have also received the award.

Kohavi is in the US for a five-day trip, during which he is meeting American defense officials for discussions focused on the Iranian threat, the IDF says.

Biden admin said hopeful that ex-envoy Dermer will get top spot in new government

The White House is reportedly hoping that former ambassador to the US Ron Dermer will get a senior position in the next Israeli government.

Dermer, who is close to presumed prime minister-to-be Benjamin Netanyahu, is said to be in the running for the position of foreign minister, a proposition that US President Joe Biden’s administration looks upon favorably, despite members of the administration having had run-ins with him in the past.

“We’ve had disagreements with Dermer, but we would be pleased to work with him in the next government. We know him well and are sure that we can speak with him and that he understands the political and diplomatic sensitivities that are on the table at this time,” a White House official tells the Walla news site.

Ukrainian authorities tell civilians to flee liberated areas before brutal winter

Ukrainian authorities are evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, fearing that a lack of heat, power and water due to Russian shelling will make conditions unlivable this winter. The move comes as rolling blackouts plagued most of the country today.

Authorities urge residents of the two southern regions, which Russian forces have been shelling for months, to move to safer areas in the central and western parts of the country, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says. The government will provide transportation, accommodations and medical care, she adds.

The evacuations are taking place more than a week after Ukraine recaptured the city of Kherson, on the western bank of the Dnieper River, and surrounding areas in a major battlefield gain.

Since then, heading into the winter, residents and authorities alike are realizing just how much power and other infrastructure the Russians destroyed before retreating or damaged just in the last week.

Ukraine is known for its brutal winter weather, and snow has already covered Kyiv, the capital, and other parts of the country.

Earthquake in Indonesia kills more than 150 people, topples buildings

Rescuers inspect a school damaged by an earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, Nov. 21, 2022. (BASARNAS via AP)
Rescuers inspect a school damaged by an earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, Nov. 21, 2022. (BASARNAS via AP)

A strong, shallow earthquake topples buildings and walls on Indonesia’s densely populated main island, killing at least 162 people and injuring hundreds of others as residents fled into the street, some covered in blood and debris.

Officials are gathering information on the toll of those injured and killed by the quake.

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil says the number of confirmed dead has risen to 162.

“The majority of those who died were children,” he says. Many were public school students who had finished their regular classes and were taking extra lessons at Islamic schools, he says.

Kamil says more than 13,000 people whose homes had been heavily damaged were being taken to evacuation centers.

Likud MK says Smotrich will cause problems even after government formed

Likud MK David Bitan at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK David Bitan at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK David Bitan says that Religious Zionism chief Bezalel Smotrich will continue to be a headache for the likely incoming government.

“I know Smotrich. It won’t end just with the coalition negotiations,” Bitan tells Kan public radio amid ongoing standoffs between Likud and Religious Zionism over Smotrich’s future ministerial position.

“This government will have problems all week long with all sorts of legislation and demands from [the party’s] MKs and ministers,” Bitan adds.

The Likud MK says that a right-wing government will definitely be formed, but “we just don’t know how it will look. Since there is no alternative, we’re giving away almost everything and not getting anything — Likud is losing,” he adds, referring to the allocation of ministerial jobs.

Netanyahu: We’ll try to agree, but if we can’t, the majority rules

Presumed prime minister-to-be Benjamin Netanyahu stresses the importance of majority rule in his maiden speech in the Knesset after receiving the mandate to form the next government.

“Democracy is built from the spark of debate. If we can, we’ll reach agreements. If we can’t reach an agreement, the majority decides. Once you harm the will of the majority, you’ve harmed democracy,” Netanyahu says.

In his speech, the Likud leader says his government will “be an expression of the mandate that we received from the people. We will preserve Israeli democracy and Israel.”

Netanyahu rejects the criticisms about the rise of the far-right and threats to Israeli civil society.

“I don’t accept the moral preachings” of the outgoing government, Netanyahu says, accusing it of violating “every norm of proper governance.”

In Persian, Israel hails the defeat of the Islamic Republic… in the World Cup

Iranian soccer fans hold up signs reading Woman Life Freedom and Freedom For Iran, prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Iranian soccer fans hold up signs reading Woman Life Freedom and Freedom For Iran, prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The State of Israel hails the “defeat of the Islamic Republic” of Iran in a Persian-language tweet, referring not to the downfall of the country but the crushing loss by its soccer team in the World Cup today.

Earlier today, Iran’s national team faced England in Qatar, going down to a heavy 6-2 defeat.

In its tweet, the State of Israel’s Persian-language Twitter account includes the hashtag “#Mahsa_Amini,” referring to the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who was killed by Iranian religious morality police and whose death sparked ongoing nationwide protests in Iran.

WHO says it’s trying to identify pathogens that could cause new pandemic

The World Health Organization says it is thrashing out a new list of priority pathogens that risk sparking pandemics or outbreaks and need to be kept under close observation.

The WHO says the aim was to update a list used to guide global research and development (R&D) and investment, especially in vaccines, tests and treatments.

As part of that process, which started on Friday, the United Nations health agency is convening over 300 scientists to consider evidence on more than 25 virus families and bacteria.

They will also consider the so-called “Disease X” — an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic.

“Targeting priority pathogens and virus families for research and development of countermeasures is essential for a fast and effective epidemic and pandemic response,” says WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan.

“Without significant R&D investments prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it would not have been possible to have safe and effective vaccines developed in record time.”

The list was first published in 2017.

It currently includes COVID-19, Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Nipah, Zika and Disease X.

The revised list is expected to be published before April 2023.

Report: Smotrich to become finance minister, defense portfolio to stay in Likud

Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich attends a discussion in the Knesset on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich attends a discussion in the Knesset on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu reaches a compromise with Religious Zionist party leader Bezalel Smotrich in the stalled coalition talks, in which the defense portfolio will stay with Likud while Smotrich will become finance minister, Channel 12 reports.

Smotrich had demanded the Defense Ministry, which would have given him significant control over the West Bank and over the daily lives of Palestinians. Such an appointment was fiercely opposed by the United States and was criticized domestically as well, including by right-wing figures, some of whom noted Smotrich’s lack of security experience and extreme positions regarding the Palestinians.

Smotrich served only briefly in the IDF. He was also arrested in 2005 during protests against the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and was held by the Shin Bet security service for three weeks, maintaining his right to remain silent and refusing to cooperate with the investigation. No indictment was filed against him. He was part of a cell of five people who were caught allegedly planning an attack on motorists on the Ayalon Highway with 700 liters of gasoline.

According to Channel 12’s unsourced report, Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party will nevertheless have some control over Israel’s West Bank policies and will be able to name a subordinate minister within the Defense Ministry, similar to Minister Michael Biton, who currently has such a position under outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Likud MK Yoav Gallant, a former IDF general, has been named as the presumptive next defense minister in such an arrangement.

Under the proposed compromise, which has yet to be confirmed by the parties, Smotrich will gain control of the Finance Ministry, while the other main contender for that job — Shas leader Aryeh Deri — will get the Interior Ministry, Religious Services Ministry and a position in the Prime Minister’s Office for his party, as well as the Negev and Galilee Ministry, which controls funds for those farther-flung, generally disadvantaged regions of the country. Deri will also be named a deputy prime minister.

Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, will be named public security minister, giving him control over the police, and his party will also take the Agriculture Ministry.

Birthright says it plans to cut Israel trips, citing budget woes, higher expenses

Birthright Israel is drastically cutting back on the number of free trips it plans to offer to Jewish young adults, scaling back its operations by up to a third, the organization announces.

The cuts come amid what the organization said is a mix of financial pressures: inflation, heightened travel expenses in a post-COVID world and dwindling fundraising support. It plans to make added appeals to its top donors but still expects to heavily reduce its Israel trips in 2023 to as few as 23,500 participants, down from 35,000 this year and 45,000 annually pre-pandemic.

“The significant cost increases of our program mean that we will not be able to accommodate as many applicants in the coming years,” Birthright CEO Gidi Mark says in a statement.

In first plenary argument, Tibi and Likud MKs joust over World Cup, Arabic language

Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi’s one-minute speech in Arabic on the Knesset floor about the ongoing World Cup in Qatar was interrupted by several MKs, among them new Likud MKs Taly Gotliv and Moshe Saada.

“I don’t understand what he’s saying!” yells Gotliv.

“Why are you sour? Because an Arab country did the best World Cup in history?” Tibi responds in Hebrew.

Presiding over the plenum, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy tells Gotliv and Saada to cool their jets and reminds them that speaking in Arabic on the Knesset floor is permitted.

Less than a day after ‘halting’ coalition talks, Ben Gvir again meets with Netanyahu

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben Gvir are meeting in the Knesset, despite the fact that the the latter declared a halt in their coalition negotiations on Sunday night.

Coalition talks have slowed in recent days as the various parties that are expected to make up the next government have adopted strict bargaining positions over which ministries and authorities they want to control.

The far-right Ben Gvir has demanded the Public Security Ministry, which would give him control over the police, as well as the office tasked with overseeing the Negev and Galil regions. Likud has accepted some of Ben Gvir’s requests on legislative issues, but has pushed back against some of his ministry demands.

In apparent protest, Iranian players don’t sing anthem before first World Cup game

Iranian soccer fans hold up signs reading Woman Life Freedom and Freedom For Iran, prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Iranian soccer fans hold up signs reading Woman Life Freedom and Freedom For Iran, prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Iran’s players did not sing their national anthem before their first game of the World Cup against England, in apparent support for anti-government protesters in their homeland.

Ahead of the game in Qatar, captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh said the team would decide together whether or not to refuse to sing the anthem in a show of solidarity for demonstrations that have rocked the regime in Iran.

The Iranian players stood impassively and grim-faced as their anthem rang out around the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Iranian fans of the team were also heard booing as the anthem was played.

Iran has been shaken by two months of nationwide protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s dress code for women, which includes the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Some Iranian athletes have chosen not to sing the national anthem or celebrate their victories in support of the protesters.

The crackdown since Amini’s death has left nearly 400 people dead, according to Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.

Outgoing PM Lapid accuses Netanyahu of trying to ‘crush’ democracy for personal gain

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid says that the override clause that incoming coalition parties are planning will “crush” Israeli democracy.

“It will crush the court. It will crush Israeli democracy,” Lapid says at the outset of his Yesh Atid party’s Monday faction meeting.

Lapid charges that the override clause — desired by all parties in the right-wing and religious coalition shaping up under Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu — is being particularly pursued for personal reasons.

Netanyahu is currently on trial for three corruption cases, and political partner Shas leader Aryeh Deri was convicted of tax fraud late last year. He will likely require fresh legislation to enable him to take up a ministerial portfolio, given his current suspended sentence.

“It’s all so that Netanyahu can cancel his trial and so Deri can cancel his moral turpitude.”

Deri didn’t receive a conviction with a designation of moral turpitude, which would have barred him from politics for seven years, because he resigned from the Knesset earlier this year as part of a pre-sentence plea deal.

However, his ability to serve as a government minister is almost certain to be challenged in court. The attorney general released an opinion on Sunday saying that the Central Elections Committee must decide on this matter.

Tibi decries ‘ongoing pogrom’ against Palestinians, silence from Israeli officials

Ta’al leader Ahmad Tibi says an Israeli double standard is at fault for what he’s diagnosed as a dearth of condemnations of settler violence against West Bank Palestinians.

Speaking at the Hadash-Ta’al party’s Monday faction meeting, Tibi says that there has been an “ongoing pogrom” against Palestinian residents of the West Bank city of Hebron, which saw clashes between settlers and Palestinians, and between settlers and soldiers, over the past few days.

“We heard no condemnations, not even a demand for condemnation,” he charges, despite “many incidents of violence.”

Meanwhile, “the single attack on the settler soldier by a settler was condemned,” he says, referring to a female soldier from the Israeli settlement in Hebron who was beaten with a stick by a person who turned out to be one of her neighbors.

“It’s a double standard. This is hypocrisy,” Tibi adds.

Ben Gvir threatens to not join coalition if he doesn’t get periphery portfolio

Amid a breakdown in negotiations between his Otzma Yehudit party and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, Itamar Ben Gvir says that he will not enter the government if he’s not given the chance to help the periphery.

Ben Gvir broke off contact on Sunday night after Likud pulled back on its earlier promise to give Otzma Yehudit the ministry in charge of the Negev and Galilee regions, two far-flung parts of the country that are relatively sparsely populated and historically disadvantaged.

“They only made the promise a week ago and went back on it. It’s not acceptable to us,” Ben Gvir says at his party’s Monday faction meeting.

“I’m not talking about a specific portfolio,” Ben Gvir insists. “My goal is to help the periphery.”

The far-right lawmaker focused much of his campaign on the need to use an iron fist to clamp down on crime in the Negev and the Galilee, which have been plagued by poor policing and limited government intervention.

“Without helping the periphery, we can’t be in the government,” Ben Gvir says.

Stumping for secularism, Lapid says incoming coalition creating a ‘halachic state’

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid charges that the incoming government’s policy positions forget that Israel is a Jewish state, not a “halachic state.”

Addressing policies pushed by the religious parties expected to be part of the Likud-headed coalition, Lapid says that in the forming government “yeshiva students will receive more money than IDF soldiers. [Religious Zionism head] Smotrich wants to close soccer matches on Shabbat. A law will be passed to separate men and women in the public sphere.”

Speaking at his Yesh Atid party’s Monday faction meeting, Lapid turns to right-wing Likud’s more than a million voters and asks, “Is this what you wanted? That’s why you voted for Likud?”

“You are going to be a minority in this government. A minority of those serving in the army, a minority of the middle class, a minority of those who believe in a moderate Jewish tradition that welcomes every person,” he adds.

Lapid has said that he will sit in the opposition rather than again join hands with Netanyahu, and his party denied reports last week that it was quietly negotiating to form a unity government with Likud to boot out extremist Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit, and Noam.

“If someone asks where we will be – we will be here in the Knesset day and night, we will be in the streets, we will be in the town squares, we will be on the bridges. We will not be silent, we will not disappear, we will not give up, we are fighting for the future of our children,” he adds.

Chief rabbi calls for government to change immigration law to keep non-Jews out

Chief Rabbi David Lau speaks at a Chabad event in New Jersey on November 20, 2022. (Screen capture: Chabad)
Chief Rabbi David Lau speaks at a Chabad event in New Jersey on November 20, 2022. (Screen capture: Chabad)

Chief Rabbi David Lau calls on the incoming government to revoke the so-called “grandchild clause” from the Law of Return, which grants Israeli citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent who does not practice another religion.

“For 10 years I have been asking to try to change this mistake of the third generation in the Law of Return — to fix it, to ensure that Israel will be a Jewish state, a state of Jews,” Lau says.

Lau makes his remarks at an event in New Jersey late Sunday night honoring Chabad emissaries, who serve in communities around the world on behalf of the Hasidic movement.

In his speech, Lau also boasts of his intransigence on the issue of conversions to Judaism, as the previous government sought to reform the process to open the system up. In an apparent act of protest against these reforms, Lau dramatically reduced the number of conversions that his office recognized.

“I have had the honor in the past year of being the emissary of the rebbe (the late leader of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson) and to continue in his great footsteps of ensuring that conversion will be done in accordance with Jewish law,” Lau says.

Gantz says he backs an override law, but not one that ‘legalizes corruption’

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he supports a form of the hotly debated judicial reforms that would constrain both the High Court of Justice’s ability to invalidate laws and the Knesset’s ability to overcome the court’s strikedown, provided they require two-thirds majorities in each instance.

The National Unity party leader says that he is “in favor of carrying out a broad process of enacting a Basic Law, legislation with balanced checks between authorities, and requiring a large majority of judges in order to invalidate a law and a large majority [of MKs] to invalidate a court decision. For example: two-thirds of the High Court justices in order to invalidate a law, and two-thirds in order to overcome it and reinstate the law.”

During the election campaign that is expected to return Gantz to the opposition benches, he came out strongly against the incoming coalition’s plans to legislate a override clause to reinstate legislation struck down by the court. Negotiations teams from the right-religious coalition’s parties are currently debating the number of the Knesset’s 120 MKs required to do so, but the clause itself is a legislative priority shared by all of their parties.

Speaking at his party’s Monday faction meeting, Gantz charges that an override clause enabled by a simple majority of 61 MKs “legitimize[s] corruption,” alluding to the fact that it can be used to pass legislation that would enable Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to slip his ongoing corruption trial and let Shas head Aryeh Deri assume a ministerial post despite his current suspended sentence for tax crimes.

“Whoever does this is acting in the name of corruption and not in the name of governance. What Netanyahu is seeking to carry out here is a ‘corruption revolution,'” the National Unity party leader charges.

Gantz also says a narrow override clause hurts minority rights and challenges Israel’s ability to maintain “complete social and political equality for all of its citizens.”

“When you overcome the High Court of Justice by a majority of 61 — half of the people — you will feel that this is the government of half the people,” the defense minister adds.

Gantz: Iran likely to cause trouble at World Cup to cause instability

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz warns that Iran is liable to attack the World Cup currently being held in nearby Qatar in order to cause regional instability.

“Iran is looking to preserve instability as a constant thing. At a time when the world around it is stable and thriving — this is the opposite of what is happening inside Iran,” Gantz says, speaking at the start of the National Unity party faction meeting in the Knesset.

“The World Cup is likely be one of those events in which it tries to cause instability,” he says.

Gantz is echoing predictions made by the head of Military Intelligence, who warned that the only thing preventing Iran from disrupting the soccer tournament is the fear of how Qatar will respond.

Three killed, 10 injured in suspected Kurdish attack on Turkey after airstrikes

ANKARA, Turkey — Suspected Kurdish militants in Syria fired rockets across the border into Turkey earlier today, killing at least three people and wounding 10 others, officials say. The attack follows deadly airstrikes by Turkey on suspected militant targets in Syria and Iraq.

The rockets struck a high school and two houses in the town of Karkamis, in Gaziantep province, as well as a truck near a Turkish-Syria border gate, the state-run Anadolu Agency reports.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu says the dead include a teacher and a child. One of the rockets landed on the grounds of a high school but there were no fatalities there.

A soldier and seven police officers were wounded overnight in separate shelling by suspected Kurdish militants that targeted a border area in nearby Kilis, Soylu says.

Turkey will respond to the attacks “in the strongest way possible,” the minister says.

Likud’s Gallant picked to chair powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

Minister of Immigration and Absorption Yoav Galant attends a memorial ceremony for late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on February 21, 2020, at the family's Sycamore ranch, near the Israeli city of Sderot. (Flash90)
Minister of Immigration and Absorption Yoav Galant attends a memorial ceremony for late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on February 21, 2020, at the family's Sycamore ranch, near the Israeli city of Sderot. (Flash90)

Likud MK Yoav Gallant is approved to head the Knesset’s temporary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, after the Arrangements Committee recommended his appointment on Sunday.

A former head of the Israel Defense Force’s Southern Command and a failed nominee for the position of IDF chief of staff, Gallant is also Likud’s candidate for defense minister, a position that is currently hotly contested by Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich.

Gallant replaces Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak, a former top Mossad official who led the committee since 2021.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is considered one of the Knesset’s most important committee, responsible for overseeing the military, defense budgets and other critical areas of national security.

Like the temporary Finance Committee, the temporary Foreign and Defense Committee will become permanent once the Arrangements Committee sets all parliamentary panels.

IDF intel chief: Iran nearing 90% enrichment, world will be tested

Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva says Iran has made “significant progress” toward producing 90 percent enriched uranium.

Speaking at an INSS conference Haliva says, “The moment is coming when the greatest test of the international community will come to light, when Iran entertains [the idea of] enrichment at 90%, even if only symbolically.”

Haliva says IDF chief Aviv Kohavi’s five-day trip to the US, which is focused on the Iranian threat, comes at a “critical” time.

Israeli forces foil gun-smuggling from Jordan, seize dozens of weapons

Weapons seized by security forces after an alleged gun-smuggling over the border with Jordan on October 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Weapons seized by security forces after an alleged gun-smuggling over the border with Jordan on October 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle 73 firearms and weapon parts from Jordan into the West Bank this morning, officials say.

According to the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police, soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted two suspects near the border, close to the Palestinian village of al-Auja.

Troops and officers dispatched to the scene arrested one of the men, and seized the weapons in his possession.

The suspect, a Palestinian from the southern West Bank town of Yata, was found to be carrying 21 handguns, two M-16 assault rifles, and some 50 M-16 weapon parts — bolt carriers and upper receivers.

Police said officers took the suspect for further questioning.

Incidents of weapon smuggling on the border with Jordan are frequent.

Protests at home may push Iran to be more aggressive regionally — intel chief

Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva speaks at an Institute for National Security Studies  conference in Tel Aviv on November 21, 2022. (Screenshot: INSS)
Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva speaks at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv on November 21, 2022. (Screenshot: INSS)

The head of Military Intelligence says he assesses that Iran will continue to act aggressively in the region amid ongoing protests at home.

“The extremely exceptional protests… have moved to a civilian rebellion. The death toll, the attacks on national symbols, this is very troubling for the regime, in combination with sanctions,” Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva says at an Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv.

“There is a real concern within the regime that it endangers the regime. At this stage, I do not see a risk to the regime…. but as the pressure on Iran increases, including internal pressure, the Iranian response is much more aggressive, so we should expect much more aggressive responses in the region and in the world,” Haliva says.

Using soccer terms as the World Cup kicked off yesterday in Qatar, Haliva says “Iran is on the whole field, from nuclear to riots.”

Haliva says Iran has considered disrupting the World Cup in Qatar. “The only thing holding them back is how the Qataris will react,” he says.

Taking Finance Committee, Gafni says he’ll work to address cost of living

Newly appointed head of the Knesset’s temporary Finance Committee Moshe Gafni says that he plans to convene the committee to discuss recent market moves affecting the cost of living.

The Bank of Israel announced its intention to raise the interest rate from its current 2.75 percent, with its next decision set for today. The move is intended to counter inflation, which sits at 5.1% over the past year, far over the 1-3% target set by the central bank.

“I heard that the governor of the Bank of Israel intends to raise the interest rate in the economy and the meaning is that the mortgage holders will pay more money. I intend to hold an extensive discussion on the matter as soon as possible,” says Gafni, moments after being confirmed in a return to the role he held before being ousted in June 2021.

The Finance Committee head also adds that he wants to hold discussions on climbing prices connected to supervised milk products, as well as “a large number of transfers and surpluses that came together on the committee’s table.”

Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman worked closely with the Finance Committee’s former chair, Alex Kushnir, an MK from his Yisrael Beytenu party. Liberman and Gafni are bitter political enemies, stemming from disagreements on Haredi military enlistment, the role of religion in the state, workforce participation and sharing Israel’s economic burden, and core curriculum in education.

“There will be no finance minister telling me not to hold discussions on the critical social issues that belong to everyone,” says Gafni, in a barb thrown at Liberman. Under his former leadership, Gafni says, he ran the Finance Committee as a shared effort among Knesset factions.

“Everyone knew that here in the committee it is a different place from other places. Here, opposition and coalition work together, and do only what is good for the citizens of the State of Israel,” the newly returned chair says.

Fulfilling coalition demand, UTJ’s Gafni named chair of Knesset Finance Committee

The Knesset’s temporary Finance Committee approves United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni as its chair, after the Arrangements Committee responsible for creating the Knesset’s parliamentary panels put him forward.

Gafni was a long-time chair of the committee, but was ousted in 2021 when his party moved into the opposition. Returning him to the seat was one of UTJ’s coalition demands.

Putting Gafni forward, Arrangements Committee chair Likud MK Yoav Kisch says that he has previously worked under Gafni and “he does excellent work.”

Gafni takes over for former MK Alex Kushnir, who was edged out of the Knesset in the November 1 elections. Kushnir is a member of Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, which has worked to encourage ultra-Orthodox Israelis to join the workforce by cutting some of the allocations that previously funded their lifestyles.

“I can tell you that in the previous term, there was also a committee chairman who tried to work, but ran into a finance minister with a clear agenda to harm a certain sector. I hope that in the next government this will change completely,” Kisch says.

The temporary Finance Committee and temporary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are the only impermanent panels required by law, alongside the Arrangements Committee. Once the Arrangements Committee finishes its work setting up Knesset committees, it will dissolve itself and the rest of the committees will be finalized.

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