Tuesday updates (closed)

Signs of massive turnout in US as voting begins to wind down in some states

Biden says he’s ‘hopeful’ but refuses to predict victory; long lines reported in several places; first polls close at 1 a.m. Israel time in Indiana and Kentucky

  • Voters mark their ballots at First Presbyterian Church on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Stamford, Conn. (AP/Jessica Hill)
    Voters mark their ballots at First Presbyterian Church on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Stamford, Conn. (AP/Jessica Hill)
  • Children play as voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Waldens Ridge Emergency Services building on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, in Walden, Tennessee. (AP/Ben Margot)
    Children play as voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Waldens Ridge Emergency Services building on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, in Walden, Tennessee. (AP/Ben Margot)
  • Trump supporter Matthew Woods, dressed as a Continental Army soldier, leads a Trump Train Rally through the parking lot of a polling precinct on Election Day in Warren, Michigan, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. (AP/David Goldman)
    Trump supporter Matthew Woods, dressed as a Continental Army soldier, leads a Trump Train Rally through the parking lot of a polling precinct on Election Day in Warren, Michigan, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. (AP/David Goldman)
  • Election inspectors begin processing ballots on Election Day at City Hall in Warren, Mich., in Macomb County, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP/David Goldman)
    Election inspectors begin processing ballots on Election Day at City Hall in Warren, Mich., in Macomb County, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP/David Goldman)
  • Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden yells out to supporters as he departs Relish, a restaurant in Philadelphia, November 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden yells out to supporters as he departs Relish, a restaurant in Philadelphia, November 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • US President Donald Trump speaks at the Trump campaign headquarters on Election Day, November 3, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. (AP/Alex Brandon)
    US President Donald Trump speaks at the Trump campaign headquarters on Election Day, November 3, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. (AP/Alex Brandon)
  • People wait in line to vote at Adam Hall near Auburn Corners, Ohio, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP/Tony Dejak)
    People wait in line to vote at Adam Hall near Auburn Corners, Ohio, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP/Tony Dejak)
  • People wait in line to vote at a polling place on Election Day, November 3, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
    People wait in line to vote at a polling place on Election Day, November 3, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
  • Election workers prepare to register voters on Election Day at a polling place inside the Bartow Community Center, November 3, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
    Election workers prepare to register voters on Election Day at a polling place inside the Bartow Community Center, November 3, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s news as it unfolded.

Paris police arrest man with machete amid heightened terror fears

Reports from Paris say police in the French capital have arrested a man who was carrying a machete and barricaded himself in a building.

There are no reports of injuries in the incident, which comes amid a surge in terrorism in France that saw a schoolteacher beheaded over a cartoon, and a day after a terrorist shooting in Vienna that left several people dead.

France says its forces kill 50 Islamic extremists in Mali

French military forces fighting Islamic extremists in West Africa killed more than 50 jihadists and detained four in an operation last week in Mali, French officials say.

Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted last night that the French force in the region also confiscated weapons and equipment from the fighters in the operation last Friday, which she said “shows once again that terrorist groups cannot act with impunity.”

Drones monitoring the region in northern Mali spotted a convoy of suspected fighters on motorcycles, prompting France to launch the operation, first with airstrikes and then with a ground operation by French commandos, according to an official with the French military headquarters.


Abbas condemns Vienna terror attack

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemns last night’s terrorist attack in Vienna, which has so far left four dead and at least 15 wounded, according to a statement released by his office.

“The Presidency expressed its strong condemnation of this terrorist act, and its permanent rejection of all forms of violence,” the statement says.

“The Palestine Liberation Organization’s policy is to reject all forms of violence and terrorism, whether committed by individuals or armed groups or state terror, especially since our Palestinian people still suffer from occupation, terrorism, oppression and violence,” Abbas’s office says.

The statement further expresses the PA President’s “deepest condolences to the Austrian government, the Austrian people, and the families of the victims.”

— Aaron Boxerman

Austrian minister: Vienna terrorist was convicted for trying to travel to Syria

One of the assailants in last night’s shooting attack in Vienna was a 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual national who had a previous terror conviction, says Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.

The minister says initial investigations indicate the suspect, who was killed, had sympathized with the Islamic State group.

“We experienced an attack last night by at least one Islamist terrorist,” Nehammer tells reporters.

“This is a radicalized person who felt close to IS,” the minister says, referring to the Islamic State terror group.

Nehammer later tells the Austrian APA new agency that the dead assailant, who had roots in the Balkan nation of North Macedonia, had a previous conviction under a law that punishes membership in terrorist organizations.

He was convicted in April 2019 for trying to travel to Syria, Nehammer says.

Fifteen house searches have taken place and several people have been arrested, he adds.

The attacker, he says, “was equipped with a fake explosive vest and and an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete to carry out this repugnant attack on innocent citizens.”

— With agencies

US Jewish umbrella organization urges caution on and after election day

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations releases a special security bulletin urging caution among US Jews on and after Election Day.

While the bulletin says that “there are no known credible threats directed at Jewish institutions or organizations” related to the elections, it warns that the tide could quickly turn, depending on the results, driving “an elevated threat environment at least through early 2021.”

“It remains likely that violent extremists will target individuals or institutions that represent symbols of their grievances, as well as grievances based on political affiliation or perceived policy position, which increases the potential of politically or ideologically motivated threats against the Jewish community,” it says.

“As houses of worship, Jewish community centers, schools, senior centers, and other facilities are often used as voting locations, or located in close proximity to voting locations, leadership and security personnel are encouraged to remain situationally aware of the threats mentioned within this document. It is also encouraged that leaders proactively implement facility and security best practices that effectively address different areas of vulnerability and methods of attacks,” the bulletin adds.

The bulletin also adds the following recommendations, urging vigilance at polling stations in or near Jewish institutions:

  • Identify polling stations at or close to Jewish organizations to have better situational awareness if any civil unrest occurs.
  • Coordinate with law enforcement prior to the election. Keep in mind, every state differs on security at polling stations, and organizations that act as a polling station should understand what the security measures may/may not entail. Organizations should recognize that different communities may receive the presence of law enforcement at polling locations differently, as well.
  • Review who is viewing or posting on any social media account or organizational website to identify potential threats prior to the election.
  • Consider safety procedures so that people waiting outside for entry are protected from street or parking lot access by vehicles.
  • Ensure security procedures are in place, and coordinated with relevant authorities to follow election law and voting guidelines with respect to access to polling stations; be sure that exits are clearly marked and not blocked in case egress is required.
  • Report all suspicious behavior to law enforcement immediately, and do not dismiss any sign of hate. Ensure staff and volunteers are trained to do so as well.
  • Be prepared to quickly close/shutter your facility in case of civil unrest.
  • Collaborate with other interfaith groups/organizations to have a coordinated plan and response if any civil unrest occurs.
  • Have a Crisis Communications Plan to better provide information to employees, members, or congregants to quickly provide updates and courses of action, if necessary.
  • Review or establish Emergency Operations Procedures and ensure you discuss these procedures and the above considerations with your internal safety committees. Ensure all staff and key lay leaders understand any new plan designed.

Gantz, Gamzu praise IDF contact tracing capacity, warn of many undetected cases

Defense Minster Benny Gantz and outgoing coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu visit a Home Front Command facility where soldiers have begun conducting contact tracing investigations.

Both men praise the Israel Defense Forces’ capacity to cut chains of infection, with both saying Israel’s capacity to do so is now one of the best in the world.

Gantz says the soldiers are able to investigate some 4,000 virus carriers a day to determine whom they were in contact with, far more than the capacity when the investigations were handled by the Health Ministry.

Gamzu, however, adds a note of caution, assessing that the true number of new daily Israeli coronavirus carriers could be ten times more than the number of confirmed cases.

“If there were 600 confirmed [cases] this morning, my assessment is that there are ten times more who don’t get tested even when they have a gut feeling [that they’ve been infected],” he says. “These people endanger not only themselves and their families, but the entire operation to reduce infection… They are keeping us from reopening commerce, grades 5-12 and the entire economy.”

Violent clash at hospital as family tries to access woman who died of virus

A crowd of people attempt to force their way into the intensive care unit at a hospital to see a woman who died of the coronavirus, while staff and security guards block them because access to her, as an infected person, is forbidden.

Security personnel at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center outside Rishon Lezion scuffle with the relatives of the woman and are able to fend them off.

The woman’s daughter says they only wanted to pay last respects.

A video of the incident shows the crowd pushing and shoving their way into the intensive care unit as hospital staff watch from the side, and guards attempt to hold them back.

In call with Macron, Abbas offers condolences to France on extremist attacks

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the Palestinian and Egyptian leaders after a week of anti-French protests around the Muslim world and three Islamic extremist attacks on France.

Macron is seeking to calm tensions and to straighten out misunderstandings while also defending France’s values. According to the French president’s office, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi both offer him support.

Around the Mideast and South Asia, demonstrators have expressed anger in recent days over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in French newspaper Charlie Hebdo and Macron’s policies toward freedom of expression and Islamism.

Abbas offers condolences and “his support to France in this ordeal,” according to a statement from Macron’s office.

According to the Palestinian president’s office, Abbas stresses “the need for everyone to respect religions and religious symbols and not allow anything offensive to Prophet Muhammad and all prophets and religions while condemning all those who do so.”

Abbas also emphasizes “his rejection of extremism, violence and terrorism,” while Macron expresses his “respect for Islam and the Islamic world,” according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

In a separate call, el-Sissi expresses his solidarity with France and denounces the attacks as well as the protests, according to Macron’s office.

With AP

Austrian minister: No indication there was a second attacker

Austria’s top security official says that evidence gathered so far shows no indication that there was a second assailant in the attack in Vienna.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer says video material offers no evidence of another attacker though it isn’t the final word.

A 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual citizen, who was shot and killed by police minutes after the attack started on Monday evening, has been identified as the assailant in what authorities say was an Islamic extremist attack. Four people died in the shooting.

Nehammer says that the number of wounded has risen to 22. And he says that 14 people associated with the assailant have been detained for questioning in searches on 18 properties in and near Vienna.


Biden begins Election Day visiting son’s grave

Joe Biden has started Election Day with a visit to church — and the grave of his late son, Beau.

Biden and his wife, Jill, make an early morning stop at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in Wilmington, Delaware, the church he typically visits on Sunday when home. Biden has granddaughters Finnegan and Natalie in tow today.

After a brief church visit, the four walk to Beau Biden’s grave in the church cemetery.

Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, and Biden often speaks on the campaign trail of his courage while deployed to Iraq as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.

Biden’s late wife, Neilia, and infant daughter, Naomi, died in a car crash in 1972, shortly after Biden was elected senator. They are also buried in the cemetery.

Democratic presidential candidate former vice president Joe Biden walks with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden into St. Joseph On the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware, November 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Biden is spending the rest of his day in Pennsylvania as he makes a final push to get out the vote.

— AP

On US election day, Trump says he feels ‘very good’ about chances

US President Donald Trump says he’s feeling good about his chances for victory as election day opens, predicting that he will register big wins in key states such as Florida and Arizona.

“We feel very good,” a hoarse-voiced Trump tells Fox News in a phone interview.

Trump says he expects victory in all the key states that will decide the election, but says he will not “play games” by declaring his win too early.

“We think we are winning Texas very big. We think we are winning Florida very big. We think we are winning Arizona very big,” he says.

“I think we are going to do very well in North Carolina. I think we are going to do well in Pennsylvania. We think we are doing very well everywhere.”

Running behind in most opinion polls, Trump bashes Democratic opponent Joe Biden, “biased” media and the “extreme” left as he repeats his argument for reelection to four more years in the White House.

“Joe Biden is not prime time,” he says.

Trump calls it “terrible” and “dangerous” that millions of votes mailed in might still not be counted on Wednesday.

But he downplays allegations that he plans to prematurely declare victory tonight before enough of the vote is tallied to determine the winner.

“I think we’ll have victory, but only when there’s victory,” he says. “There’s no reason to play games.”


Trump says big rally crowds are ‘ultimate poll’

Also during his interview with Fox, Trump says he believes his large rally crowds during his fast-paced weeks of campaigning are the “ultimate poll” and translate into a lot of votes for his reelection.

Trump says he will spend Election Day making phone calls to people who have been loyal to him and will go to his campaign headquarters in suburban Virginia to thank the staff.

Trump also says he understands why businesses are boarding up their storefronts but thinks it’s very sad they feel the need to do it. He predicts that if there is violence and unrest, it will be in Democrat-run cities like Chicago; New York; Portland, Oregon; Oakland, California; and Baltimore and blames “weak leadership.”

US President Donald Trump dances after a campaign rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, early on November 3, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


Lebanon decides not to charge Ghosn over Israel trip

Lebanon’s prosecutor general has decided not to charge fugitive ex-auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn for visiting Israel in 2008 because a statute of limitations has expired, a judicial source says.

Three lawyers filed a motion in January calling for the 66-year-old businessman to be prosecuted over his trip to the Jewish state as Renault-Nissan chairman.

Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel and forbids its citizens from traveling there.

“Prosecutor general Ghassan Oueidat decided… not to prosecute Ghosn for the crimes attributed to him of entering the enemy country and dealing with it economically,” the source tells AFP.

“A statute of limitations of ten years had passed since the alleged crime,” the source adds.

Ghosn on January 8 apologized to the Lebanese people for having visited Israel to sign a deal to produce electric vehicles, saying he traveled on business for Renault on a French passport.

He also holds Lebanese and Brazilian nationalities.

The ex-Nissan chief was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on financial misconduct charges and spent 130 days in detention, before he jumped bail and smuggled himself out of the country late last year.

Ghosn appeared at a press conference in Lebanon on January 8, denying all charges and claiming he was a victim of a plot by Nissan and Japanese officials.

Japan has called on Ghosn to return to the Asian country to be tried, while Lebanon has asked Japan to hand over his file on financial misconduct charges.

He and his wife Carole are to take part in a documentary and miniseries about his life, the first of which started shooting in Beirut in September.


Biden says he’s feeling good ahead of visit to 2 key Pennsylvania cities

For Joe Biden, it all comes down to Pennsylvania.

Biden is spending Election Day campaigning in his hometown of Scranton and in Philadelphia. He will meet with voters in each city.

Pennsylvania is key to Biden’s White House hopes. While his aides say he has multiple paths to nab 270 Electoral College votes, his easiest is by winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Biden has campaigned in the Keystone State more than any other.

The cities Biden is visiting today hold both strategic and symbolic significance: Biden has made his working-class upbringing in Scranton a centerpiece of his campaign, framing his economic pitch from the perspective of Scranton versus Wall Street, as he seeks to win back the blue-collar voters who helped deliver Donald Trump a win in 2016.

Philadelphia has been the backdrop for some of Biden’s most significant speeches, and he’ll need strong turnout in the heavily Democratic area, particularly among Black voters.

While boarding his flight this morning, Biden tosses a thumbs up to the traveling press and says he is feeling “good.”

Democratic presidential candidate former vice president Joe Biden arrives at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, in Avoca, Pennsylvania on November 3, 2020, with granddaughter Finnegan Biden. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


Vienna shooter had ‘managed to fool de-radicalization program’ – minister

The Austrian interior minister says the suspect in yesterday’s attack in Vienna, Kujtim Fejzulai, 20, had been on a de-radicalization program and had managed to secure an early release.

“The perpetrator managed to fool the de-radicalization program of the justice system, to fool the people in it, and to get an early release through this,” Karl Nehammer says.

Fejzulai, a dual Austrian and Macedonian national, was convicted of a terror offense in April last year for trying to travel to Syria.

He was sentenced to 22 months in prison, but was freed on parole in December.

Kujtim Fejzulai poses with weapons in a picture posted to his Instagram account before carrying out a shooting attack in Vienna on November 3, 2020 (screenshot)

— With AFP

Monitoring vote, Feds say no major problems seen yet

US federal authorities are monitoring voting and any threats to the election across the country at an operations center just outside Washington, DC, run by the cybersecurity component of the Department of Homeland Security.

Officials there says there have been no major problems detected so far today but urge the public to be wary and patient.

US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Christopher Krebs says from the center there are “some early indication of system disruption,” but he does not elaborate. He says he has “confidence that the vote is secure, the count is secure and the results will be secure.”

Krebs says officials have seen attempts by foreign actors “to interfere in the 2020 election.” But he says officials “have addressed those threats quickly” and “comprehensively.”

Krebs says Election Day “in some sense is half-time.”

He says, “There may be other events or activities or efforts to interfere and undermine confidence in the election.” He asks all Americans “to treat all sensational and unverified claims with skepticism and remember technology sometimes fails.”


State backs decision to deny Rabin’s killer furlough, says he’s still dangerous

The state prosecution submits a legal opinion to the Beersheba District Court saying it agrees with the Prison Service’s decision to turn down a furlough request by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s killer, Yigal Amir.

In its opinion, the prosecution cites the Shin Bet security service, saying Amir is “a dangerous activist and the former leader of a terror cell whose goal was to bring about a change in the Israeli government’s policies by carrying out terror attacks.”

It also says Amir, who requested the furlough earlier this week in order to attend his son’s bar mitzvah, still poses a threat due to his attempts to secure his early releases by contacting, illegally, people who are not members of his family.

Malawi planning to open embassy in Jerusalem by summer – Israeli reports

Malawi plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem by next summer, according to Hebrew media reports quoting a conversation between Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his counterpart from the Southeast African country.

Malawi, a mostly Christian nation of 21 million, would the first African country to open a diplomatic mission in the capital.

In September, the new president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, announced plans to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.

“The reforms will also include a review of our diplomatic presence, including our resolve to have new diplomatic missions in Lagos, Nigeria and Jerusalem, Israel. I will be sharing more details about this in the near future,” he said at the time.

The Malawian foreign minister, Eisenhower Mkaka, is currently visiting Israel and will make a statement with Ashkenazi later this evening.

Malawi does not currently have an embassy in Israel.

‘From this house to the White House’: Biden visits his childhood home

Democratic presidential nominee Biden has returned to his roots on his final day of campaigning with a visit to his childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Biden arrives at the small, white two-story house to a hero’s welcome of more than 100 people cheering across the street.

Biden greets the crowd and says, “It’s good to be home!”

Biden lived in the home until he was 10 years old. Today, he walks up the front steps and chats with the current owners before going in with his granddaughters.

When Biden comes out, he says the current residents had him sign their wall.

“From this house to the White House with the grace of God,” reads the writing on the wall.

Biden then walks across the street to greet the crush of supporters, who cheers his name and applaud.

Pennsylvania is key to Biden’s White House hopes. He plans to visit Philadelphia later.

With AP

New Yorkers line up to vote in ‘Mrs. Maisel Country’

NEW YORK — New Yorkers are lined up outside a polling station at Louis Brandeis High School in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood sometimes referred to as “Mrs. Maisel Country.”

Larry Fleischer exits the school smiling with two “I voted” stickers patted to his sweater.

“I only had to wait five minutes!” He says excitedly. “When I tried to come during early voting, I was told I’d have to wait five hours.”

After covering three elections in Israel, this reporter has had to quickly get used to finding different ways to ask voters about their experience at the ballot as only in the Jewish state is it considered appropriate to inquire of a stranger whom they voted for.

But asked what issues he was most concerned with when casting his ballot, Fleischer doesn’t mind sharing the private information. “The issue I cared about was voting out Donald Trump.”

He says he has little problem saying that publicly given how heavily Democrat the Upper West Side leans.

Perhaps that is why Sarah declines to disclose her last name after revealing that she voted for Trump.

New Yorkers line up outside a polling station at Louis Brandeis High School in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (Jacob Magid)

“I wouldn’t share that with a lot of people in the neighborhood,” says the 71-year-old, even though this reporter hasn’t inquired directly.

Sarah says she decided to vote in person on election day because she was worried that her otherwise ballot could be tampered with.

“We don’t know what’s going on with those mail-in ballots,” she says, shaking her head.

Married couple Frannie and Steven say that as Jewish senior citizens, the issues on their minds when casting their ballots were healthcare, the environment, and COVID.

“We need new leadership,” says Steven, as his wife wonders whether this reporter knows her cousin in Israel.

— Jacob Magid

Israeli expat in US explains gap in Trump’s popularity between countries

At the iconic Barney Greengrass deli just five minutes away from the Louis Brandeis High School polling station on the Upper West Side, friends Eli and Charley are having a post-vote brunch.

Though both of them voted early by mail, they say they wanted to use the opportunity to support a local restaurant that’s been hit hard by the pandemic.

“It was nice to have a choice regarding how to vote,” Charley says.

“A couple days ago, I got a notification that my mail-in ballot was validated and that was that,” he adds.

As a server brings out a couple servings of apple sauce and potato pancakes, Eli, an Israeli, gives his take as to why Trump is wildly popular in the Jewish state while Jews across the pond find him far less palatable.

A recent poll showed over two-thirds of Israelis prefer the president, while another survey indicated that roughly 70% of US Jews support Biden.

“It makes senses as our interests are different,” says Eli.

“I care about what’s going on here and how the president’s decisions affect my family. And of course, Trump’s an idiot,” says the now veteran New Yorker of 30 years.

— Jacob Magid

Hamas condemns Vienna terror attack, equates it to Israeli ‘terrorism’

Hamas condemns the terrorist attack last night in Vienna, which claimed four lives and wounded 15.

“These attacks do not come from religion and do not serve the value of coexistence between humanity. We as Palestinians are the most conscious of the dangers of terrorism, given what the Israeli occupation does to us every day officially and methodically,” the Palestinian terror group, which has conducted numerous attacks against Israeli civilians, says.

Hamas further expresses its condolences to the families of the dead and its hope for a speedy recovery for the wounded.

— Aaron Boxerman

Melania Trump casts her vote near Florida resort

US first lady Melania Trump casts her vote, stopping in at a voting center in Palm Beach, Florida, close to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Asked why she didn’t vote with the Republican president last week, the first lady tells reporters: “It’s Election Day so I wanted to come here to vote today for the election.”

The first lady waves and smiles to reporters. She is the only person not wearing a mask when she enters the Morton and Barbara Mandel Recreation Center to vote, presumably for her husband. It’s unclear if she wore a face covering inside the voting center.

US first lady Melania Trump arrives to vote at the Morton and Barbara Mandel Recreation Center on November 3, 2020, in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)


Seemingly bowing to Haredim, ministers halve fine hike for school violations

Amid pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Haredi coalition partners, ministers in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation greenlight a softened version of an initiative to raise the fines for violations of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Most significantly, the fine for defying the ban on opening education institutions (other than preschools and grades 1-4) will be upped from NIS 5,000 ($1,467) to NIS 10,000 ($2,935) instead of the originally planned NIS 20,000 ($5,870).

The Haredi parties have insisted the fines for schools single out their community since the majority of institutions found to be violating the rules so far have been ultra-Orthodox. They have threatened to break with the coalition and vote against the bill to hike the taxes.

Perhaps so as not appear to be giving the Haredim special treatment, ministers agree that the current NIS 5,000 fine for holding a party, conference, ceremony, festival, entertainment or art show in violation of the rules will also be increased to NIS 10,000 instead of the originally proposed NIS 20,000.

In keeping with the original plan, however, businesses that open illegally will also face a fine of NIS 10,000, up from the current NIS 5,000.

Ynet quotes sources in the United Torah Judaism party rejecting the apparent compromise halving the proposed new fines and saying it was not discussed with them. It is not currently clear whether they will vote in favor of the bill in the plenum.

UK increases terrorism threat level to ‘severe’

Britain upgrades the country’s terrorism threat level from “substantial” to “severe,” after a deadly shooting rampage in Vienna and several attacks across France.

“Severe” — the second-highest of five levels — means an attack is “highly likely,” says the domestic intelligence service MI5, which announces the change on its website.

The threat had been deemed “substantial,” where an attack is “likely,” since November 4 last year.

Interior minister Priti Patel says: “This is a precautionary measure and is not based on any specific threat.

“The public should continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police,” she writes on Twitter.

The UK decision is made by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), which conducts a formal review of the threat level every six months, independent of government ministers.

JTAC’s membership includes the security services MI5 and its overseas counterpart MI6, and police, and assesses all intelligence relating to terrorism at home and abroad.


513 virus cases confirmed so far today; testing levels still low

The Health Ministry says 776 new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed yesterday and 513 so far today, indicating the drop in daily new cases has leveled out since the government began rolling back the lockdown restrictions.

In its evening update, the ministry says there are 9,890 active cases, of which 393 are serious, with 171 on ventilators. The death toll is 2,592, 12 more than the number given in this morning’s roundup.

Testing levels continue to be relatively low, with 34,208 tests conducted yesterday and 24,252 so far today, despite a ministry campaign to encourage widespread testing. The positivity rate appears to be steady at just over two percent — 2.3% yesterday and 2.1% so far today.

Two arrested in Switzerland over Vienna attack, police say

Two young Swiss men have been arrested today near Zurich in connection with the deadly shooting rampage in Vienna, Swiss police say.

“Police investigations led to the identification of an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old Swiss citizen. The two men were arrested on Tuesday (November 3, 2020) afternoon in Winterthur in coordination with the Austrian authorities,” Zurich police say in a statement.


More than 100 million voted early in US election, watchdog says

More than 100 million Americans cast their ballots early before Election Day, according to the US Elections Project watchdog, a record figure partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ballots, which were mailed in, deposited in drop boxes or cast at polling stations ahead of today, represent more than 72 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election, according to the tally by the watchdog based at the University of Florida.


In Williamsburg Hasidic bastion, a religious imperative to vote for Trump

NEW YORK — At the Independence Towers Senior Center in Brooklyn Heights there’s no line and a new voter trickles in every minute or so.

The polling site is located in the heart of Williamsburg’s Satmar Hasidic community, though every tenth voter appears to be a young hipster or Latinx immigrant.

Rabbi Izzy Rosenberg, who describes himself as a “macher,” or fixer, in the Satmar community, says it’s a “commandment for all Jews to vote for Donald Trump.”

He then pulls his phone out of his pocket, and scrolls through his extra-large print WhatsApp messages to find one that reads: “Attention: Show this to any Jew who is considering voting for Joe Biden.”

The text that follows is a story of a shouting match Biden had with former prime minister Menachem Begin in 1982 when the former was a young senator.

According to several accounts, Biden slammed his fists on a desk and warned Begin that continued Israeli settlement expansion would jeopardize US support for the Jewish state.

“This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats,” Begin responded, according to the story, which has resurfaced ahead of the election.

Hasidim wait to vote at the Independence Towers Senior Center in Brooklyn Heights on November 3, 2020 (Jacob Magid)

“This George Biden is a danger to Israel,” Rosenberg says.

A recent Ami Magazine poll indicated that 80 percent of Orthodox voters support Trump.

The rabbi acknowledges that most in the Satmar community “don’t support the State of Israel from a religious standpoint but they support the Jews who live there because they are Jews.”

As he speaks, an agitated Hasidic man walks out of the polling site, yelling, “It’s ridiculous.”

Asked what had happened, the man says he showed up to the wrong station but is annoyed because the staffer inside told him to put his mask over his nose.

“You can’t breathe with this thing on,” he says, declining to identify himself beyond his first name, Moshe. “When there were all those Black Lives riots, I didn’t see masks.”

One man pulls a mask out of his pocket upon entering the polling station. Others already have masks on.

In the background, a truck can be heard rolling through the neighborhood with a Yiddish message blasting on the loudspeaker, “No matter who it’s for, go out and vote!”

Most voters coming out of the polling station decline to be interviewed, with many holding flip phones to their ears and signaling that they’re in the middle of a conversation.

— Jacob Magid

Jewish Biden activists feed voters hummus and turkey in Philly

Dan Siegal (right) Gabriel Barnett and Matt Nosanchuk from the Democratic National Convention pose with platters of food for voters in Philadelphia, November 3, 2020 (courtesy)

In Philadelphia, Jewish Democrat activists have filled trucks with 1,000 individual hummus and pita platters and 500 turkey sandwiches that will be handed out to voters waiting in line at polling stations.

“We worked with local chefs from the Jewish community, Mike Sultan of ‘Community’ and Michael Solomonov of Zahav to feed voters waiting in line to cast their ballots today. What’s more Jewish than hummus and pita for democracy?” Says Dan Siegel, who runs Jewish outreach for the Biden campaign in Pennsylvania, a key swing state in today’s election.

Jacob Magid

Pelosi says election about ‘the soul of America’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s “absolutely certain” that Democrats will “solidly hold” onto their House majority.

On an Election Day conference call with reporters, the California Democrat says “this election is about nothing less than taking back the soul of America, whether our nation will follow the voices of fear or whether we will choose hope.”

Pelosi and Rep. Cheri Bustos say the party is reaching deep into Trump country to win seats. Bustos is chair of the campaign arm for House Democrats, who are well positioned to try to add longtime GOP seats in Long Island, Arkansas, Indiana and rural Virginia.

Bustos says Democrats “are going to see some wins in those deep red districts.”

Pelosi says she’s confident Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will win the White House from President Donald Trump.


IS claims Vienna attack, releases video of shooter pledging allegiance to caliph

The Islamic State terror group takes official responsibility for last night’s attack in Vienna, which left four dead and 15 wounded.

In a statement delivered over a Telegram channel linked to the terror group, IS recounts how “the Caliphate’s soldier, Abu Dajana al-Albani” attacked “gatherings of Crusaders” in downtown Vienna.

“All praise and favor to God,” the statement concludes.

The alleged perpetrator, Kujtim Fejzulai, was shot and killed by police during the incident. Fejzulai was an ethnic Albanian, which could explain his Arabic nom de guerre, which literally means “the Albanian.”

In a video distributed by the terror group, Fejzulai can be seen pledging allegiance to the IS caliph, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, while he holds a gun and a long, serrated knife.

In a video distributed by the terror group, Vienna attacker Kujtim Fejzulai pledges allegiance to IS caliph Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, while holding a gun and a long, serrated knife. (screenshot)

“The Islamic State remains, if God wills it,” Fejzulai says in a reference to the IS motto that it is “remaining and expanding.”

Fejzulai was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 because he had tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State terror. Austrian officials said he had been placed in a de-radicalization program, but had managed to “fool” it and get released early.

“The perpetrator managed to fool the de-radicalization program of the justice system, to fool the people in it, and to get an early release through this,” Austrian Interior Ministry said earlier today.

— Aaron Boxerman

US ‘entitled to know’ winner on election day — Trump

US President Donald Trump continues to sow doubt regarding the counting of ballots beyond election day, saying the country is “entitled” to know who won on the day of the vote.

“You have to have a date, and the date happens to be November 3,” he says during a visit to Republican National Committee offices in Arlington, Virginia. “And we should be entitled to know who won on November 3.”

He also says he’s “not thinking about concession speech or acceptance speech yet” and adds, “Winning is easy. Losing is never easy — not for me.”

With AFP

Jerusalem officials assessing that Biden will win – report

Officials in Jerusalem, in keeping with the polls, are assessing that Biden will likely win the election, Channel 12 reports.

The report notes that the Israeli government considers Trump’s term so far to have been “extraordinary” for Israel.

Court rejects government’s request for more time to draft Haredi enlistment bill

The High Court of Justice rejects the government’s request for another extension before a controversial military enlistment law that was deemed unconstitutional in 2017 is annulled.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz had asked the High Court of Justice to postpone its deadline for the passage of new legislation regulating military service for members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community by six months, but the court says the current, unconstitutional law will only remain in force until February 1, leaving the government less than three months to come up with an alternative.

The ultra-Orthodox community has historically enjoyed blanket deferrals from the military in favor of religious seminary studies, and many of its members shun the military service that is mandatory for other Jewish Israelis. However, there is opposition to the arrangement from many in the broader population who want the ultra-Orthodox to help shoulder the burden of defending the country.

Multiple versions of a bill regulating the ultra-Orthodox draft have been advanced by the Knesset and knocked down by the High Court of Justice on constitutional grounds in a decade-long legal and political saga.

Israel’s ongoing political crisis can be traced back to wrangling over the enlistment of yeshiva students.

Fresh tally shows huge surge in early voting

The latest tally of early voting in the US shows that almost 102 million Americans cast their votes before Election Day, an eye-popping total that represents 73 percent of the total turnout of the 2016 presidential election.

The Associated Press tally reveals that the early vote in several states, including hotly-contested Texas and Arizona, has already exceeded the total vote of four years ago.

Early voting — whether in-person or by mail-in or absentee ballot — has swelled during the COVID-19 pandemic as voters have sought the safety and convenience it offers. The greatest gains have been witnessed in Kentucky, where almost 13 times as many voters cast their ballots early as in 2016.


North Carolina results to be delayed after glitch

Results in North Carolina will be delayed by at least 45 minutes, state officials say, after a technical glitch in a single polling place in Sampson County, the News and Observer reports.

Polls there and in three other state-wide locations will be extended by up to 45 minutes.

The state is one of the few that allows early counting of absentee and mail-in ballots, which would normally have been released just when polls close at 7:30 p.m., but will instead need to wait until 8:15.

While the state is not usually included in the roster of key swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida, it is up for grabs, with Biden holding only a slight lead, according to the latest polls.

FBI probing calls telling voters to stay home, vote tomorrow

The FBI has launched a probe after reports of robocalls in Michigan and other states seemingly attempting to suppress voting, telling people to “stay safe and say home,” a senior official says.

A DHS official says the calls are not out of the ordinary for Election Day.

Michigan’s Attorney General says some in Flint got calls telling them that there are long lines and they should vote tomorrow.

There are also reports of calls in Kansas.

However, the DHS official says overall there have been no major disruptions, USA Today reports.

Judge tells Postal Service to check for ballots between the cracks

A federal judge in Washington, DC, has ordered US Postal Service inspectors to sweep more than two dozen mail processing facilities for lingering mail-in ballots and for those ballots to be sent out immediately.

The order, which includes centers in central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, south Florida and parts of Wisconsin, comes after national delivery delays leading up to the election and concerns the agency wouldn’t be able to deliver ballots on time.

The Postal Service’s ability to handle the surge of mail-in ballots became a concern after its new leader, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major GOP donor, implemented a series of policy changes that delayed mail nationwide this summer. Delivery times have since rebounded but have consistently remained below the agency’s internal goals of having more than 95% of first-class mail delivered within five days, with service in some battleground areas severely lagging, according to postal data.

— AP

Some long lines, but things going smoothly in most US polling places

Long lines were reported across the country, which is not unusual, and there were sporadic reports of polling places opening late. There have also been voting equipment issues in counties in Georgia, Ohio and Texas.

But overall, things seemed to be going smoothly in most places, with enthusiastic voters waiting patiently to cast their ballots.

People wait in line to vote at Adam Hall near Auburn Corners, Ohio, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP/Tony Dejak)

Experts expected total votes to exceed the 139 million cast in 2016. About 101 million people voted ahead of Election Day, heeding warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

An NBC News reporter says the American Civil Liberties Union has not flagged any possible cases of voter intimidation at polls.

— with AP

Serious cases dip in new virus tally

New coronavirus numbers from the Health Ministry show the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition has dropped to 383, which is 10 fewer patients than the last update four hours ago.

Another 117 new infections have been recorded since the previous update, bringing the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 316,528. A total of 622 infections have been recorded since midnight, indicating that numbers are leveling off.

Testing also remains low, with just under 30,000 swabs checked so far Tuesday.

The death toll remains at 2,592.

Hand sanitizer jams ballot machine in Iowa

Hand sanitizer on voters’ hands has caused a ballot scanner to jam at a polling place in Des Moines, Iowa, secretary of state spokesman Kevin Hall said.

Hall says some voters’ hands were moist when they handled the ballots and the buildup of sanitizer eventually caused the scanner to stop working. The machine was fixed in about an hour.

The incident underlines challenges faced by voters and officials as they attempt to navigate an unprecedented pandemic-era election.

Republican Senate candidate Sen. Joni Ernst, center, arrives to cast her ballot at Red Oak First Christian Church Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Red Oak, Iowa. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Daily coronavirus infections are rising in all but three states, with the surge most pronounced in the Midwest and Southwest.

Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and New Mexico have all reported record high hospitalizations this week.

— AP

Biden remains hopeful, but won’t predict win

Joe Biden, speaking to reporters in Delaware, says he is superstitious about talking about his possible electoral victory, but is “hopeful.”

He notes the reports of high turnout and says that helps bolster him.

“The things that are happening bode well for the base that are supporting me, but we’ll see,” he says. “If Florida comes in and I won, it’s over. Done.”

Democratic presidential candidate and former US vice president Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a stop in Philadelphia, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

He also dismisses the possibility of Trump declaring victory early affecting the final outcome.

“No matter what he does, no matter what he says, the votes are going to be counted,” he says.

Khamenei pimps Bob Woodward book to trash Trump

Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is weighing in on the US again, and this time he has a book recommendation.

“US is severely suffering from decline. US writers say this. Books have been written over the past years exposing this!” he tweets, above a picture of Bob Woodward’s “Fear,” which chronicles US President Donald Trump’s years in the White House.

“It’s full of evidence of #USdecline. The whole book shows the US political system’s decline via POTUS’ acts,” he says.

No attempts to hack US election, feds say

The cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security says the US election so far has featured the usual technical glitches and routine issues but no apparent signs of any malicious cyber activity — at least not yet.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency also says it’s too early to declare victory as polls near closing time around the nation Tuesday and with days of vote counting and certification ahead.

A senior agency official says, “It has been quiet and we take some confidence in that but we are not out of the woods yet.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity to brief reporters about ongoing nationwide election monitoring efforts ahead of the release of any kind of official evaluation.

The official warned that local and state election systems could experience problems as results are reported, but the most likely cause would be from high demand put on the system as people overwhelm websites to check results.

— AP

Follow our election results liveblog as returns announced

With the first results expected to come in in the next 35 minutes, The Times of Israel is opening a new liveblog to track all the returns as they come in.

You can reach the new liveblog here.

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