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Polls show Yamina continuing to challenge Netanyahu as coalition falters

Likud still in lead, and widening advantage according to one survey, as Gantz indicates he is holding out hope government can be saved and early elections avoided

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and then-defense minister Naftali Bennett (2nd L) visit an army base on the Golan Heights overlooking Syrian territory, on November 24, 2019. (Atef Safadi/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and then-defense minister Naftali Bennett (2nd L) visit an army base on the Golan Heights overlooking Syrian territory, on November 24, 2019. (Atef Safadi/Pool/AFP)

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

Sudan denies visit by Israeli delegation

Sudan’s government is denying having information about the visit of an Israeli delegation to Khartoum announced the day before by an official from Tel Aviv.

“The cabinet is not aware of an Israeli delegation and we have no confirmation that this visit took place,” government spokesman Faisal Mohammed Saleh tells AFP.

“We also have no information on a Sudanese delegation visiting Israel.”

On Monday, a senior Israeli official said the Jewish state had sent a delegation to Sudan — the first such visit since last month’s announcement of an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries.

The Israel-Sudan pact has yet to be formally signed.

“We have a pre-existing deal that normalization with Israel should be approved by the transitional parliament,” says Saleh.

— AFP

Netanyahu says he has been tipped for peace Nobel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says he has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize together with the UAE’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayed for their decision to normalize ties.

The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party David Trimble and wife Daphne leave a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, Thursday, May, 5, 2005. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

The nomination is made by British politician David Trimble, who as head of Northern Ireland Ulster Unionist Party helped broker an end to The Troubles there, netting him and David Hume a Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.

Trimble was appointed by Netanyahu a decade ago to sit on the Turkel commission, which examined Israel’s use of force of the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship trying to break the Gaza blockade. The commission found Israel had acted appropriately in fending off attacks on troops during a deadly melee on the ship.

Ex-NYC mayor Dinkins, blamed over Crown Heights riots, dies at 93

David Dinkins, who broke barriers as New York City’s first African American mayor, but was doomed to a single term by a soaring murder rate, stubborn unemployment and his mishandling of the Crown Heights riots, has died. He was 93.

Dinkins died Monday, the New York City Police Department confirms. The department said officers were called to the former mayor’s home in the evening. Initial indications were that he died of natural causes.

Mayor David Dinkins, enduring a pointed public grilling over his handling of the Crown Heights crisis, speaks to reporters at Gracie Mansion in New York, Tuesday, August 24, 1993. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

Dinkins’ death came just weeks after the death of his wife, Joyce, who died in October at the age of 89.

Political historians often trace Dinkins’ political downfall — he lost the mayor’s office to Rudy Giuliani in 1993 — to his handling of the Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn in 1991.

The violence began after a Black 7-year-old boy was accidentally killed by a car in the motorcade of Chabad leader Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. During the three days of anti-Jewish rioting by young Black men that followed, a rabbinical student was fatally stabbed. Nearly 190 people were hurt.

In this Aug. 21, 1991 file photo, New York Police Department officers, in riot gear, walk past a police car that was overturned by rioters in the Crown Heights section of the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/David Burns, File)

A state report issued in 1993 cleared Dinkins of the persistently repeated charge that he intentionally held back police in the first days of the violence, but criticized him for not stepping up as a leader.

In a 2013 memoir, Dinkins accused the police department of letting the disturbance get out of hand, and also took a share of the blame, on the grounds that “the buck stopped with me.” But he bitterly blamed his election defeat on prejudice: “I think it was just racism, pure and simple.”

— AP

Lapid says Yamina will support his no-confidence vote

Opposition leader Yair Lapid says Yamina has informed him it will support a no-confidence motion aiming to topple the government next week.

There is no immediate confirmation from the nationalist party, whose five seats will not be enough to push Lapid’s bid over the edge.

“If Blue and White votes for it, we can switch out this failing government for one that will take care of the million unemployed and businesses falling apart,” Lapid says in a tweet.

The right-wing Yamina has vacillated between supporting and opposing or abstaining from a series of failed no-confidence bids pushed by Lapid.

Party leader Naftali Bennett, whom polls show as the strongest challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he will make a run for prime minister in upcoming elections after a falling out with the Likud leader.

The coalition has teetered in recent days as ties between Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz have been frayed to nearly the point of breaking off completely.

The no-confidence vote is scheduled for December 2.

Court agrees to reconsider demolition order for Mitzpe Kramim outpost

The High Court has accepted a petition by the state to rehear a case involving Israeli homes in an illegal West Bank outpost, three months after ordering them demolished.

The state had petitioned the court to rehear the case regarding Mitzpe Kramim with a larger bench, given the import of the case, according to Ynet.

Mitzpeh Kramim. (Gideon Mermelstein)

In August, a panel of three judges ruled 2-1 that the state had three years to demolish homes in the outpost built on private Palestinian land, since a controversial measure allowing the government to seize Palestinian land that had been built on by Israel “in good faith” did not apply.

The new hearing will focus on the limits of the good faith argument, the court says in a statement.

Binyamin Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz said in August that the original ruling affected four permanent homes, 30 mobile homes and several other community buildings.

The date, number of judges and their makeup for the new hearing will be decided later, the High Court says.

Settler leader dour, but residents hopeful on Mitzpe Kramim rehearing

Yisrael Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council in which the possibly doomed outpost of Mitzpe Kramim sits, expresses pessimism that the court will overturn its ruling ordering the demolition of most of the homes there.

“Unfortunately, the court has proven throughout that its rulings are politicized according to the school of thought of the left wing.  We have no expectations from the judges,” he says in a statement.

The same statement, sent out by the Binyamin Regional Council, also includes residents of Mitzpe Kramim saying they expect the court to overturn the decision in line with a lower court ruling that found the homes were built in good faith and could remain.

“We have been terribly wronged and the court did not give enough weight to the severe harm to families,” it quotes them saying.

 

Expert: Pilot in deadly crash likely attempted emergency landing

Channel 12 news reports that according to eyewitnesses, the light plane that crashed in southern Israel earlier today hit the ground before bouncing back up and then smashing into the ground.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the crash, which killed both people aboard.

The scene of a plane crash near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev, November 24, 2020. (Screenshot: Ynet)

Aviation expert Aaron Lapidot tells the channel that “from the description it seems that the pilots tried to carry out some sort of emergency landing.”

“The fact that the plane glided and then bounced into the air and then crashed could point to the pilots trying to bring the plane down with an emergency landing after discovering a malfunction that necessitated a landing,” he says.

World’s largest rubber glove maker warns of supply disruptions after factory virus outbreaks

Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp., the world’s largest maker of rubber gloves, said Tuesday it expects a two-to-four week delay in deliveries after more than 2,000 workers at its factories were infected by the coronavirus, raising the possibility of supply disruptions during the pandemic.

Top Glove said it has temporarily stopped production at 16 factories in Klang, a town outside Kuala Lumpur, since November 17 to screen workers, with its remaining 12 facilities in the area operating at much reduced capacities.

The government on Monday ordered 28 Top Glove factories in Klang to shut down in stages to allow workers to undergo screening and mandatory quarantine after 2,453 factory workers tested positive for COVID-19.

The health ministry reported 1,511 more cases in the area on Tuesday, but didn’t say how many were factory workers. The cluster contributed to a record daily high of 2,188 cases nationwide, bringing Malaysia’s total cases to 58,847. The cluster in the Klang area is currently the most active in the country with 4,036 cases.

Top Glove says it produces about 90 billion rubber gloves a year, about one-quarter of the world’s supply, and exports to 195 countries, including Israel. It has seen profits soar amid rising demand for its products due to the pandemic.

— AP

Injuries as Palestinians clash with troops in Jordan Valley

One Israeli soldier and two Palestinians have been injured in clashes in the Jordan Valley during a march condemning the Israeli government’s demolition of a Palestinian hamlet in the area.

Israel demolished Khirbet Humsa earlier this month, rendering 73 residents homeless. Israeli authorities say the small hamlet was built illegally in a military firing zone, an opinion upheld by the High Court.

The clashes take place close by the Tayaseer checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tubas northeast of Nablus.

One Israeli reserve officer was lightly wounded in the head by a stone thrown by Palestinians, the IDF says.

Palestinians clashing with Israeli troops during a march in the West Bank on November 24, 2020. (WAFA)

The Palestinian official WAFA news agency says that six demonstrators were struck by tear gas canisters fired into the crowd by troops. Two people were taken to a hospital with light wounds after being struck in the abdomen and the head.

Fatah deputy Mahmoud al-Aloul called for the march yesterday, telling Voice of Palestine Radio: “We will reach the areas which the occupation has threatened. We will reach Khirbet Humsa, which the occupation destroyed. We will make clear that our Palestinian nation is ready to resist against every plot and attempt to expel us.”

— Aaron Boxerman

Record-breaking virus numbers reported among Palestinians

Palestinians have seen a record-shattering 1,811 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, as the pandemic worsens in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Around 26% of tests came back positive among all Palestinians, indicating that the virus could be spreading even more widely while largely undetected.

Seventeen Palestinians died of the virus, setting another daily record.

According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, the West Bank saw a record 1,126 cases over the past day. The previous record, set a day before, was 863.

While the outbreak is worst in Nablus — where 224 cases were identified — hundreds of cases were also discovered in Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Hebron governorates.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has announced that tighter restrictions will soon be put in place on the West Bank to “break the spread of the virus.”

On Friday and Saturday, PA-controlled areas will enter total lockdown before the beginning of a 14-day nightly curfew.

Business leaders, however, have come out in opposition to the lockdown, which they say will topple the already damaged Palestinian economy.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas health authorities identified 685 new cases.

Cases have spiked dramatically in the coastal enclave over the past week, with 3,703 new cases reported over the past five days.

Both the terror group and international observers have warned that the Gaza health system, worn down by years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and three wars, cannot handle a severe increase in cases.

There are currently 14,342 active coronavirus infections among Palestinians: 6,499 in the Gaza Strip and 7,843 in the West Bank. Around 740 Palestinians have died of the virus in the West Bank and Gaza.

— Aaron Boxerman

IDF says two killed in plane crash were soldiers

The two people killed in a plane crash in the south today were a trainer and cadet at the military’s flight school, the Israel Defense Forces says.

IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman says the military is probing what caused the two-seater training plane to crash this morning outside Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev.

The site of a plane crash in which two Israeli soldiers were killed near the Bedouin city of Rahat on November 24, 2020. (Dudu Greenspan/Flash90)

“It is not clear if it was caused by a technical malfunction or human error,” he says in a briefing with reporters. “From the best of our understanding there was no discussion between the plane and the tower [indicating there was a problem] and the weather conditions were good.”

Zilberman says the lack of communication between the plane and control tower is hindering the investigation, as it is unclear when the problems aboard the plane started.

He also says that Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin has halted all training flights until further notice.

— Alex Fulbright

Corbyn backers walk out of leadership meet to protest suspension

Members of the leftist flank of the UK’s Labour party have staged a protest walkout during a virtual meeting of the National Executive Committee to protest party leader Keir Starmer refusing to allow former head Jeremy Corbyn to join Labour’s parliamentary bloc, the Guardian reports.

Corbyn was booted from Labour by Starmer earlier this year over remarks downplaying the extent of anti-Semitism within the party. Starmer allowed Corbyn back into Labour nearly three weeks later, but has refused to restore the whip to him pending a probe, essentially blocking him from joining the party’s parliamentary bloc.

The Guardian reports that 13 members of the NEC walked out virtually to protest the party’s treatment of Corbyn, who was hounded for years by accusations of allowing anti-Semitism to fester in the party. The party has since attempted to repair its relationship with the Jewish community.

The 13 say they do not intend to resign their positions on the NEC and will return to the next meeting.

 

Health minister reportedly okays some outdoor markets to open

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has reportedly agreed to allow several outdoor markets to open, after Transportation Minister Miri Regev complained that malls were being okayed to open as part of a pilot program.

Jerusalemites wearing a face mask shop for grocery at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on November 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

According to Channel 12, Edelstein will okay 10-15 outdoor markets, or shuks, to fully open.

The markets, which many Israelis rely on for produce and other goods, have been ostensibly shut since September, though food stalls have largely been allowed to remain open. It’s not clear if the plan will allow bars inside the markets to begin operating again.

Israel Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman tours Hacarmel Market in Tel Aviv on November23, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Some vendors not allowed to open have staged protests amid frustration over the Health Ministry okaying street-front stores to resume business, but keeping malls and markets closed, aside from stores deemed essential within them. Some malls have also opened in violation of virus rules.

On Monday, ministers agreed to allow 15 malls to open as part of a pilot program.

Regev’s role in negotiating the market plan with Edelstein is unclear, but according to the channel she had complained that malls were getting a pilot program because they were better at lobbying the government than shuk administrators.

Security Council meeting on Ethiopia fighting back on

A UN Security Council meeting on the conflict in Ethiopia’s dissident Tigray region is back on, after division between European and African members over whether the closed-door discussion should take place nearly scuttled the sit-down.

France, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Estonia — backed by the United States — announce the virtual meeting, the first on the conflict, will go ahead Tuesday after African countries pulled out of organizing it.

Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia wait to register at the UNCHR center at Hamdayet, Sudan on November 14, 2020. (AP/Marwan Ali)

“They say ‘Africans solutions to African problems.’ It is something that we have to respect only to a certain degree,” a European diplomat tells AFP on condition of anonymity.

“At a certain moment, we have to put it on the agenda, even if the Africans don’t like it,” he added, highlighting the Europeans’ impatience over the lack of Security Council action on the weeks-long fighting.

Earlier, South Africa, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines withdrew their request because envoys have yet to travel to Ethiopia, said one African diplomat.

— AFP

Pennsylvania officially punches ticket for Biden

Democrat Joe Biden has been certified as the winner of the presidential election in Pennsylvania, the governor says.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, tweets that the Pennsylvania State Department “certified the results of the November 3 election in Pennsylvania for president and vice president of the United States.

“As required by federal law, I’ve signed the Certificate of Ascertainment for the slate of electors for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

President Donald Trump, who lost the state’s 20 electoral votes to Biden, has made Pennsylvania a centerpiece of his unsuccessful legal attempts to invalidate the election results.

— AP

Top Hamas official Abu Zuhri catches coronavirus

Hamas senior official Sami Abu Zuhri has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, the terror group says in a statement.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri (AP/Hatem Moussa)

Abu Zuhri, who has publically denied the Holocaust, is the latest Hamas official to get the virus.

Hamas officials Saleh al-Arouri, Fathi Hammad, and Mousa Abu Marzouq were all previously infected, although none reported having any complications.

— Aaron Boxerman

Netanyahu trial delayed to hash out charge sheet ‘mistakes’

The trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been delayed by several weeks to allow for a hearing on changes to the indictment against him.

The Jerusalem District Court, which is hearing the case, says a session on December 6 will now deal with claims Netanyahu’s defense has raised about what it says are incorrect facts in the charge sheet.

That means a plea hearing will now only take place on January 13 of next year, and the evidentiary phase of the trial will kick off in early February, the court says.

Gantz offers condolences as army struggles to understand plane crash

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has been briefed on the small plane crash that took the lives of an air force pilot and cadet earlier in the day, as the IDF struggles to puzzle out what caused the wreck.

“The military will do everything to probe the incident and internalize the necessary conclusions,” Gantz says after speaking to IDF head Aviv Kochavi about the crash and the initial results of a probe. He also offers his condolences to the families of those killed.

The military has yet to announce the results of the investigation and does not know what caused the crash in southern Israel, according to Channel 12 news.

Neri Yarkoni, a reserves fighter pilot, tells Army Radio that “you would need a confluence of several exceptional factors for this crash to occur. The plane was in a healthy place of its lifespan, which will make an investigation more difficult.”

Swiss police say terror motive possible after woman stabs shoppers

A Swiss woman attacked two other women in a supermarket in southern Switzerland on Tuesday, regional police say, adding that “terrorist motives” cannot be excluded.

Police in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region said they had been alerted to a stabbing in a department store in the city of Lugano shortly before 2:00 .pm.

Initial investigations had established that a 28-year-old Swiss woman had attacked two other women, attempting to choke one with her hands, and injuring a second by cutting her neck with a knife.

Other shoppers managed to subdue the attacker, who was arrested, the police statement said.

An initial medical evaluation showed that one of the victims had suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries, while the other had minor injuries, police said.

Regional police said it did “not exclude terrorist motives,” adding that it was working with federal authorities and the local Lugano police on the case.

— AFP

Two unarmed suspects questioned after crossing from Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces says it has detained two suspects seen crossing from Gaza into Israel.

Both suspects are unarmed and are questioned on the spot, the army says.

Netanyahu speaks to Pollard, asks him when he’ll move to Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office releases a video of him speaking on the phone with Jonathan Pollard, in which he tells the recently freed former spy that Israel is waiting for him to move here.

“When are we gonna see you here, we are waiting for you,” he says in English. Pollard’s reply, which causes Netanyahu to chuckle, cannot be heard.

“You should feel comfortable and you should really feel at home,” he adds.

He also promises to make sure Pollard’s wife Esther gets the cancer treatment she needs.

Speaking to Esther in Hebrew, he says “when you return to Israel, it will be a big moment for us.”

Pollard served 30 years in prison for spying on the US on behalf of Israel, and has been on parole for the last five years.

He was freed from parole last week, and his lawyer has said he plans on moving to Israel, where he had become a cause celebre.

Some have cautioned Israel against overtly feting Pollard, which could strain ties with the US.

 

 

World Bank says Palestinian economy shrinking by 8% in 2020

The Palestinian economy is expected to contract by about 8% in 2020 as it copes with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, an already struggling economy and a political standoff with Israel, the World Bank says in a report.

The report shows how the pandemic has accelerated the trends of sluggish growth and high unemployment plaguing the Palestinian economy in recent years. After clashing with the Trump administration, which cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, the Palestinians are hopeful that improved ties with the incoming Biden administration will help give a lift to the economy.

In its report, the World Bank says the economy contracted by 3.4% in the first quarter of the year, before the pandemic arrived, compared to the same period in 2019. Things only worsened after the internationally backed Palestinian Authority imposed a two-month lockdown in the West Bank in March.

In Gaza, whose economy has been battered by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since terror group Hamas seized power in 2007, authorities are also struggling with a coronavirus outbreak that began in August.

The bank forecasts a contraction of about 8% for the overall Palestinian economy, with the poverty rate at 27.5%. While those figures do not include breakdowns between the two areas, the report says unemployment in the West Bank is at 18.2% and 48.5% in hard-hit Gaza.

— Agencies

Virus death toll rises by 10, nearly 1,000 new cases Monday — ministry

The Health Ministry says 10 people have died of the coronavirus since this morning, bringing the death toll to 2,821.

The ministry says that there were 949 new cases on Monday, the highest figure in over a month.

Over 500 new cases have been confirmed so far Tuesday.

There are 278 patients in serious condition, including 115 people on ventilators.

 

Gantz indicates he’s not ready to give up on government yet

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz refuses to say if he will support a no-confidence motion to pull the plug on a government in which his strained ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have increasingly come to the fore.

Instead, Gantz, appearing on Channel 12, appears to hold out hope that the government can begin to function, saying that he should be prime minister in a year according to a coalition agreement between him and Netanyahu.

“I am not giving up on the rotation … it’s what the country needs,” he says.

However, he allows that the government will collapse “if it looks like the budget won’t be passed by December 23.”

He denies that the timing of his decision to launch a probe into the submarine acquisitions scandal, which concerns allegations against Netanyahu, is politically motivated to pressure the prime minister.

Rather, he claims that there is “new information,” that has come to light regarding the affair, without offering details.

Polls show Netanyahu maintaining lead over upstart Bennett

A pair of polls show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party remaining the largest party in the Knesset, with one showing him pulling away from right-wing insurgent Naftali Bennett.

A poll by the Kan broadcaster gives Likud 31 seats and Bennett’s Yamina 21, followed by Yesh Atid with 17, the Joint List with 11 seats, and Blue and White with nine seats. Also with nine seats are Shas and Yisrael Beytenu, while UTJ snags seven and Meretz six.

A separate poll from Channel 13 shows a closer contest, with Netanyahu maintaining a 27-23 seat advantage over Bennett. The poll gives Yesh Atid 20 seats, the Joint List 11, and Blue and White 10. The poll gives Yisrael Beytenu eight seats, Shas and UTJ seven and Meretz six.

The Labor party fails to clear the threshold to enter the Knesset in both polls.

The Channel 13 numbers show that Bennett could potentially form a narrow right-center coalition with Yesh Atid, Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu. In that instance, Bennett would likely be prime minister.

Polls in past weeks have shows Bennett gaining on Netanyahu, who has seen his party fall to as low as 23 seats.

Speculation of early elections has ramped up in recent days as the government has teetered amid a budget impasse. If the budget issue is not resolved by late December, early elections are likely to be called, the fourth in two years.

 

Biden rolls out national security team, says ‘America is back’

President-elect Joe Biden says his national security team will lead the way in reflecting the fact that “America is back” on the world stage.

During a speech Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden says that his team will “embody my core beliefs that America is strongest when it works with its allies.”

In rolling out his national security picks, including top posts for State Department and Department of Homeland Security, Biden said the nominees show “experience and leadership, fresh thinking and perspective and an unrelenting belief in the promise of America.”

The State Department alone has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks during the Trump administration. Many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service, given limited prospects for advancements under an administration they believed did not value their expertise.

— AP

Incoming top US diplomat Blinken highlights Jewish heritage in debut

Longtime diplomat Antony Blinken highlights his heritage as the descendent of Jewish refugees in his first speech as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as secretary of state.

“For my family, as for so many generations of Americans, America has literally been the last best hope on earth,” Blinken says after being introduced by Biden along with a series of national security and foreign policy appointments.

“My grandfather Maurice Blinken fled pogroms in Russia and made a new life in America. His son, my father Donald Blinken, served in the United States Air Force during WWII and then as a US ambassador. He is my role model and my hero,” Blinken says.

Nominated Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as US President-elect Joe Biden looks on during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 24, 2020. (CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

“His wife Vera Blinken fled communist Hungary as a young girl and helped future generations of refugees come to America.”

“My mother Judith Pisar builds bridges between America and the world through arts and culture. She is my greatest champion.”

“And my late-stepfather, Samuel Pisar, he was one of 900 children is his school in Białystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in Concentration camps,” Blinken says before going on to share a frequently told story about how his step-father learned that WWII was over.

“At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods of Bavaria from his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the Iron Cross. He saw painted on its side a five pointed white star. He ran to the tank, the hatch opened, an African American GI looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words that he knew in English that his mother taught him before the war. ‘God bless America.’ ”

“That’s who we are. That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly,” Blinken says.

— Jacob Magid

Biden highlights Sullivan’s role in brokering Gaza ceasefire

Introducing his nominee for national security adviser, Joe Biden highlights Jake Sullivan’s skills in working with world leaders.

Biden highlights Sullivan’s involvement in early, secret negotiations that led to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 and his efforts to broker the Gaza ceasefire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.

— Jacob Magid

200 Jewish leaders back Georgia Senate candidate accused of anti-Semitism

A group of roughly 200 Jewish faith leaders have signed a letter coming to the defense of Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock, who has come under fire in recent weeks over previous criticism of Israel.

“We stand with Rev. Warnock and reject the baseless claims and attacks targeting him amid this Senate election,” the letter reads. Republicans have released attack ads, branding the Democratic candidate in the January 5 run-off as “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic.”

Warnock’s critics have pointed to a recently uncovered sermon the reverend gave days after the US ceremoniously opened its embassy in Jerusalem as Palestinians in Gaza marched toward the border in protest of the move.

Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, speaks during a rally on November 3, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, Pool)

“We need a two-state solution where all of God’s children can live together,” Warnock said in the sermon. “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey.”

Critics also point to a statement he signed last year that asserted Israel’s “heavy militarization of the West Bank [is] reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa.”

In their letter in defense of the Democratic candidate, the Jewish faith leaders said, “Rev. Warnock recognizes that being a true friend also means being a truth-teller who does not shy away from hard conversations, and he has made no secret of his strong reservations and concerns over Israeli settlement expansion, which may impede prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The clergy members go on to highlight Warnock stated opposition to BDS “and its anti-Semitic underpinnings” and support for US military aid to Israel.

“We are also deeply concerned about the possibility that racial bias is driving these false accusations, which we reject in the strongest possible terms,” the faith leaders write in the letter circulated by the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

— Jacob Magid

Gantz unhappy with Netanyahu over secret trip, Likud not pleased with Gantz

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tells Channel 13 news that he is unhappy with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to keep him out of the loop regarding his secret flight to Saudi Arabia.

“It’s improper,” he says.

Responding to Gantz’s interviews, Likud puts out a statement slamming him. “It’s unfortunate that he’s hopping between TV studios for political interviews on a day that two IDF soldiers were killed in a bad accident,” it says, referring to a plane crash that took two lives Tuesday morning.

 

Parks authority shuts some hiking routes due to flooding fears

With rainstorms bearing down on the country, the Parks and Nature Authority announces that it is closing all hiking routes in the Judean desert, where downpours can turn dry wadis into raging rivers in a matter of minutes.

Rescue officials have raised fears of fresh flooding with the storm expected to dump large amounts of rain over the country starting Wednesday and lasting several days.

Dozens of people needed to be rescued from flooded garages and other areas in the city of Ness Ziona after it was inundated by a storm on Saturday.

IDF drops leaflets in Syria warning against cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah

The Israel Defense Forces drops leaflets in the Syrian Golan Heights warning the country’s military to halt its cooperation with Iran and the Hezbollah terror group, Syrian media reports.

The move comes after Israel reportedly conducted a number of airstrikes in southern Syria, including in the Syrian Golan. Photos of the leaflets were posted to social media this morning.

“We will not allow anyone to upset the stability here,” the fliers read.

Illustrative — An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter flies during an aerial show at a graduation ceremony for soldiers who have completed the IAF Flight Course, at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, December 29, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The military adds that it will “take action against Hezbollah and Iranian operatives at any time, as needed.”

The leaflets also refer to a recent attempt to set off explosive charges against IDF soldiers near the Syrian border, a thwarted attack that Israel says was directed by Iran.

“Hezbollah and Iran, as we have seen in recent years, are using [Syrian] military sites, military personnel and Syrian civilians unwittingly and carrying out their terrorist missions against the State of Israel,” the IDF writes.

— Judah Ari Gross

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