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Edelstein formally challenges Netanyahu for Likud leadership

Former Knesset speaker announces he’ll run for party leadership in future; primaries not currently scheduled to be held soon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, seen during a visit at the COVID-19 vaccination center in Zarzir, northern Israel, on February 9, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, seen during a visit at the COVID-19 vaccination center in Zarzir, northern Israel, on February 9, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

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

Launching think tank, former US envoy eyes bringing Muslim tourists to Jerusalem

(L to R) FIFA President Gianni Infantino, former US secretary of the treasury Steve Mnuchin, and former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend the launch of the "Friedman Center for Peace through Strength" at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem on October 11, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
(L to R) FIFA President Gianni Infantino, former US secretary of the treasury Steve Mnuchin, and former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend the launch of the "Friedman Center for Peace through Strength" at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem on October 11, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Speaking at the celebratory opening of The Friedman Center for Peace through Strength, former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman says that his organization will work to bring Muslims to Jerusalem, so that they see for themselves the way Israel protects holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“We are on the cusp of ending the Israeli-Arab conflict and changing the Middle East,” he says to applause.

The event is attended by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, former Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, Israeli officials and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu is also attending.

Ivanka Trump, businesswoman and daughter of former US President, her husband Jared Kushner, and former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attend the launch of the “Friedman Center for Peace through Strength” at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem on October 11, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who were at the Abraham Accords event at the Knesset earlier in the day, stopped by the reception and are now on a plane back to the US.

After being presented with the first Peace through Strength award by Friedman, Pompeo says that peace comes from strength, truth and clarity. He says that recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights was simply a matter of stating the clearly evident truth.

Turning to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pompeo says: “We knew it was important to be strong to the end,” implicitly criticizing the Biden administration.

He thanks Netanyahu by name, but does not mention Bennett or Lapid.

2nd woman steps forward to say Stern ignored her sexual harassment complaint

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (R) with MK Elazar Stern at a press conference in Tel Aviv, on January 18, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/FLASH90)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (R) with MK Elazar Stern at a press conference in Tel Aviv, on January 18, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/FLASH90)

Another woman steps forward to say Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern ignored her complaint of sexual harassment during his military service.

Stern drew an outcry Sunday when he said he had “shredded many anonymous complaints” during his time as head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate and indicated he was referring to claims of sexual assault as well. He later said in TV interviews that he “never shredded complaints of sexual harassment.”

A 46-year-old woman tells Channel 13 on condition of anonymity that she turned to Stern in the 1990s to complain about sexual harassment by a senior officer. Stern — a commander at the time — told her, “It’s nonsense, it’s nothing, I’ll look into it,” according to her account, but never followed up to investigate.

Stern, in response, says that in the incident in question, he responded to the allegations by shortening the officer’s military service and transferring him to another location.

Following his Sunday comments, another woman told Channel 13 anonymously that during his time as head of the IDF’s officers’ school Stern had threatened her not to repeat the allegations she’d raised against a noncommissioned officer.

Sadrists claim most seats in Iraq parliament after vote

The political movement of Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr says it has retained the biggest share of seats in the country’s parliament after elections.

“The approximate number is 73 seats,” out of the 329, a Sadrist official tells AFP, while an electoral commission official confirms that preliminary results from Sunday’s poll showed the Sadrists “in the lead.”

Israel’s new ambassador to UAE submits credentials

Amir Hayek. (Smadar Cafri)
Amir Hayek. (Smadar Cafri)

Israel’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Amir Hayek, submits his credentials to the Emirati foreign ministry, according to local reports.

Khaled Abdullah Belhoul, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, wishes Hayek luck in the new position, the WAM news agency reports.

Amnesty: Iran must halt execution of man arrested at age 17

Amnesty International appeals for Iran to stop the planned execution of a man arrested at aged 17 and sentenced to death in a “grossly unfair trial.”

Arman Abdolali had been moved to solitary confinement in a prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, in preparation for his execution on Wednesday, says the London-based rights group.

“Time is rapidly running out. The Iranian authorities must immediately halt all plans to execute Arman Abdolali,” says Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time the crime was committed is prohibited under international law and constitutes an abhorrent assault on child rights,” she says in a statement.

Abdolali had been sentenced to death for murdering his girlfriend twice before — in July 2021 and in January 2020 — but his execution was stopped both times after an international outcry, says Amnesty.

“Global action helped to stop Arman Abdolali’s previously scheduled executions. We now urge the international community, including the UN and EU, to urgently intervene to save his life.”

Amnesty says Abdolali was first sentenced to death in December 2015 after being convicted of murder in “a grossly unfair trial” by a court that “relied on torture-tainted ‘confessions'” following his girlfriend’s disappearance the year before.

The supreme court granted him a retrial in a case that largely focused on whether there were doubts about his “maturity” at the time of the crime, it adds in the statement.

At the retrial, the court ruled that his criminal responsibility stood in the absence of any evidence to determine his maturity so many years after the crime.

“Given these deeply flawed proceedings, Amnesty International is also calling on the Iranian authorities to quash Arman Abdolali’s conviction and grant him a retrial in line with fair trial standards,” the group says.

Scientists urge speedy switch to renewables in Middle East

In this Dec. 22, 2016 photo, 50,000 mirrors, known as heliostats,encircle the solar tower in the Negev desert, near in Ashelim, southern Israel. In sunny Israel, solar energy supplies just a small percentage of the nation's power needs, leaving it trailing far behind countries with cloudier and colder climates. Now it is trying to turn that around with a large-scale project, highlighted by the world’s tallest solar tower, that could mark a giant leap for the country’s fledgling renewable energy industry.  (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Dec. 22, 2016 photo, 50,000 mirrors, known as heliostats,encircle the solar tower in the Negev desert, near in Ashelim, southern Israel. In sunny Israel, solar energy supplies just a small percentage of the nation's power needs, leaving it trailing far behind countries with cloudier and colder climates. Now it is trying to turn that around with a large-scale project, highlighted by the world’s tallest solar tower, that could mark a giant leap for the country’s fledgling renewable energy industry. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A climate change conference will underscore to policymakers in the Middle East and the east Mediterranean that the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is needed urgently because greenhouse gas emissions are helping to drive up regional temperatures faster than in many other inhabited parts of the world.

George Zittis, a scientist at the Cyprus Institute’s Climate and Atmosphere Research Center, says that although this “can’t happen overnight” because of the region’s heavy dependency on fossil fuels for energy production, governments have to make the switch within the next two decades to avert potentially “irreversible effects” such as desertification.

“We need to completely decarbonize, even go negative,” in greenhouse gas emissions, Zittis tells The Associated Press on Monday in an interview before this week’s 2nd International Conference that focuses on the east Mediterranean and Middle East, which together are recognized as a global “climate change hot spot.”

The conference is organized by the Cyprus government and brings together 65 top scientists, diplomats and policymakers from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Greece to present the results of a two-year study compiled from contributions by 220 experts and to present policy recommendations to countries in the region.

Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network President Jeffrey Sachs and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will address the conference.

Zittis says regional governments should take heed and expedite the move to renewables because the accelerated temperature rise combined with reduced precipitation could mean extended heat waves that would ramp up energy costs for greenhouse gas-spewing desalination plants and electricity-hungry air conditioning units.

Natural gas is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel that could act as a transitional source of energy for the region until renewables such as solar and wind come online on a mass scale, Zittis says.

A hotter region would also mean less moisture in the soil — a key ingredient to keeping air temperatures cooler once that moisture evaporates. The growth of cities in the Middle East and east Mediterranean also means a loss of arable land that could hold such moisture. Zittis says temperatures in urban settings are on average two to four degrees Celsius higher than outside cities.

The east Mediterranean and Middle East now emit almost as much greenhouse gasses as the entire European Union, Zittis says. Scientists will also urge policymakers to ensure that new houses, buildings and vehicle engines are as energy efficient as possible.

Experts will also need to come up with strategies on how countries will need to adapt to a changing climate in order to get a handle on the higher expenditures that will flow from that. Zittis also says that scientists are warning of possible mass migrations from countries in the Middle East as water gets more scarce and temperatures rise.

Source close to Netanyahu: All welcome to run in Likud primaries

Sources close to Benjamin Netanyahu brush off Likud MK Yuli Edelstein’s announcement that he’ll challenge the longtime party leader.

“Likud is a democratic party. Benjamin Netanyahu was elected again as Likud leader with a huge majority of 72.5% less than two years ago. Anyone interested in seeking the leadership is welcome to do so in the primaries,” a source tells Hebrew media.

Edelstein announces he’ll challenge Netanyahu for Likud leadership

Outgoing health minister Yuli Edelstein at a ceremony to install his replacement, held at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Outgoing health minister Yuli Edelstein at a ceremony to install his replacement, held at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein announces he’ll challenge Benjamin Netanyahu for the party leadership. It’s the first challenge to Netanyahu since the last round of elections.

Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker and No. 2 on the Likud list, makes the announcement in an interview with Channel 12.

Edelstein says he’s made the decision to seek the party leadership “because the current government is simply dangerous for Israel.”

Under Netanyahu, Likud is destined to remain in the opposition, he says.

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Edelstein says he knows Likud primaries are not scheduled to be held soon, but expresses hope the internal party vote will be called in the coming months.

UN chief slams ‘broken’ Taliban promises made to women and girls

Women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women's Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 19, 2021. (AP Photo)
Women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women's Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 19, 2021. (AP Photo)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slams the Taliban’s “broken” promises to Afghan women and girls, and urges the world to inject cash into Afghanistan in order to prevent its economic collapse.

“I am particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban being broken,” he tells reporters. “I strongly appeal to the Taliban to keep their promises to women and girls and fulfill their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.”

Number of serious COVID cases drops to 435

The number of serious coronavirus cases drops to 435, according to the Health Ministry.

According to the ministry, 189 of them are on ventilators.

That’s a marked decrease from last month when over 670 people were in serious condition with the virus.

The ministry says another 1,224 coronavirus cases were detected since midnight, with 1.87 percent of tests returning positive. The death toll stands at 7,937.

Taliban to meet EU officials on Tuesday

A Taliban delegation will meet European Union representatives in Doha on Tuesday, acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi says, days after face-to-face talks with the United States.

“Tomorrow we are meeting the EU representatives. We are having positive meetings with representatives of other countries,” Muttaqi says at an event organized by the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in the Qatari capital.

Netanyahu: Bennett is not a ‘real’ prime minister

Addressing the Knesset plenum, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu claims Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is not a “real” premier.

“Bennett sits in the prime minister’s chair and says he’s leading, but in practice he does not determine anything… He may be a prime minister by title, but he isn’t a real prime minister,” says Netanyahu. “It’s pathetic and… maybe even dangerous.”

Jerusalem dedicates square to Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousands of Jews in WWII

Nobuki Sugihara addresses participants at a ceremony in Jerusalem's Kiryat Yovel neighborhood dedicating Chiune Sugihara Square to his father, the WWII Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews when serving as consul-general in Kovno, Lithuania. (ToI staff)
Nobuki Sugihara addresses participants at a ceremony in Jerusalem's Kiryat Yovel neighborhood dedicating Chiune Sugihara Square to his father, the WWII Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews when serving as consul-general in Kovno, Lithuania. (ToI staff)

The city of Jerusalem dedicates a square in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in memory of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who issued over 2,000 visas to Jewish individuals and families, in breach of Japanese policy, when serving as the Japanese vice-consul to Kovno (today Kaunas) in Lithuania.

The recipients were overwhelmingly Jewish refugees and families who had fled Nazi-occupied Poland ahead of Germany’s invasion of then-independent Lithuania. With these visas, and a complex mechanism of aid from other consuls, companies and individuals, up to 10,000 Jews are thought to have been saved from World War II Europe, escaping via the Soviet Union to Japan. Among the recipients were teachers and the entire student body of the Mir Yeshiva, which today thrives in Jerusalem’s Beit Yisrael neighborhood.

Sugihara’s deeds were recognized in 1984 by Israel, which bestowed upon him the title of Righteous Among the Nations, and posthumously by Japan, in 2000.

Chiune’s 72-year-old son, Nobuki Sugihara, who lives in Belgium, addressed the event, having been given a last-minute visa following a Times of Israel report that revealed Israel was denying him entry because of missing COVID-related paperwork.

Nobuki, who was invited to study at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University in the late 1960s after the story of his father’s heroism belatedly began to resonate, said he used to live in the neighborhood near the square, and the area has developed beyond recognition: “The view is different, the trees are bigger; people grew; survivors made children and grandchildren.”

He said his father “never imagined” that so many beneficiaries of the documents he issued would manage to survive; now, Nobuki estimated, there were several hundred thousand descendants of those who were able to escape to safety.

Chiune Sugihara, Kaunas, Lithuania, 1940 (USHMM, courtesy of Hiroki Sugihara)

When he asked his father why he had acted on behalf of the Jews, Nobuki recalled, Chiune explained that he felt pity for these people who gathered outside the Japanese consulate in Kovno, and “had nowhere else to go… no home… He didn’t like to hear ‘saved’; he just did what he could do.”

Over 100 people attended the event, which was covered by Japanese television stations, including survivors and their descendants.

The Japanese Ambassador to Israel, Koichi Mizushima, was among the speakers, and expressed pride “to have such a determined senior colleague” as Sugihara.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion addresses participants at a ceremony dedicating Chiune Sugihara Square to the WWII Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews when serving as consul-general in Kovno. Sugihara’s son Nobuki also spoke at the event. (ToI staff)

Mayor Moshe Lion said the event was “the most emotional” such dedication ceremony he had attended since taking office, because of the vast numbers of descendants given life thanks to Sugihara’s actions.

“We love you,” Lion said, addressing Nobuki and other members of the Sugihara family. “We will always appreciate what you did — and by “we,” I mean the residents of Jerusalem and the people of Israel.”

Bennett spars with opposition over state budget

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the opening of the winter session at the Knesset, October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the opening of the winter session at the Knesset, October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett defends the state budget during a Knesset plenum session called by 40 opposition members.

Several opposition lawmakers are removed from the chamber during the session for heckling and angry outbursts.

“There is no limit to your lack of self-awareness,” Bennett says in comments directed at the opposition. “This government approved in its first reading the most socially [minded] budget we’ve had in years. This [the approval of a state budget] hasn’t happened since March 2018,” says the prime minister.

A state budget hasn’t been approved since 2018 amid the protracted political crisis that resulted in four consecutive election cycles.

The government has until November to finalize the budget and have it approved in its second and third readings, or the coalition automatically dissolves and new elections are called.

First Jewish wedding in 52 years held in Bahrain

Bahrain's Jewish community celebrated its first Jewish wedding in the country in 52 years Sunday. (Houda Nonoo via JTA)
Bahrain's Jewish community celebrated its first Jewish wedding in the country in 52 years Sunday. (Houda Nonoo via JTA)

For the first time in more than half a century, a Jewish couple was married in Bahrain on Sunday.

The wedding, which was held at the Ritz Carlton in Manama and certified kosher with help from the Orthodox Union, was a milestone for the Jewish community in the Gulf nation, which opened diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020 and has recently made an effort to build a relationship with the American Jewish community.

Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s former ambassador to the United States and the first Jewish Bahraini to hold the position of ambassador, shares the news of her son’s wedding on Twitter.

“While I know that every mother thinks their child’s wedding is monumental, this one truly was!” she writes in a tweet.

Bahrain has been home to a Jewish community for more than 140 years, but many of its younger members have chosen to leave the country to study, often remaining abroad permanently. Leaders of the community hailed the wedding as a sign of the community’s resurgence and expressed hope that more young people would raise families there.

“This wedding was an important moment for our family, the community here in Bahrain, and more broadly, for the Jewish community in the region,” Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, a cousin of Nonoo and president of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, says in a statement. “The atmosphere was euphoric as we sat around the chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) which symbolizes the new home being built by the couple, it was also symbolic of the opportunity to further grow Jewish life in the region.”

PA cancels meeting with FIFA president — report

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, hosts by video conference a meeting with deputy Hamas chief Saleh Arouri (on screen from Beirut) discussing Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank, on July 2, 2020. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, hosts by video conference a meeting with deputy Hamas chief Saleh Arouri (on screen from Beirut) discussing Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank, on July 2, 2020. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

The Palestinian Authority has canceled a meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, according to Army Radio.

Infantino was supposed to head to Ramallah to meet the PA’s Jibril Rajoub, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute.

Palestinian sources tell Army Radio the reason for the cancellation is Infantino’s decision to attend the launch of a think tank by former US ambassador David Friedman, to be held at the new Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which was built over a Muslim cemetery.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino after the final match between Ukraine and South Korea at the U20 soccer World Cup in Lodz, Poland, June 15, 2019. (AP/Darko Vojinovic)

IDF to hold emergency preparedness drill in south

The Israel Defense Forces announces it will be conducting an emergency preparedness exercise in the southern Merhavim Regional Council tomorrow.

When the sirens sound, residents and workers in the area are expected to find their nearest bomb shelters to prepare them for a possible real rocket barrage, the IDF says.

The sirens will sound at 7:05 p.m., 7:15 p.m., and 7:25 p.m.

In case of a real emergency during the test, the sirens will sound a second time, the army says.

Man arrested for selling images of naked women, girls online

Police arrest a man on suspicion that he traded images of videos of naked women and girls on the internet, without their permission or knowledge, Israel Police say in a statement.

Some of the media featured minors as young as 14, police say.

The suspect, 21, is arrested at his home in Ofakim in the south of the country following an undercover operation by the Tel Aviv region police department’s cybercrime unit.

Officers seized the suspect’s computer, storage disks and other evidence, the statement says.

Police said the “complex operation” took several months.

Police minister to Arab MKs: IDF won’t be involved in crackdown on crime

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a Labor party faction meeting at the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a Labor party faction meeting at the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev meets with Arab lawmakers to reassure them the government does not intend to use controversial counterterrorism measures to crack down on crime in the Arab community, according to Army Radio.

Barlev tells MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi there will be no use of administrative detention or involvement of the Israel Defense Forces in the effort to reduce violent crime in Arab Israeli towns and cities.

Media reports on Sunday said Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai is personally pushing to allow the use of controversial, far-reaching measures used only by the Shin Bet security service to stem crime.

Egypt arrests 3 over thousands of dumped COVID vaccines

Egyptian authorities arrest three people accused of dumping thousands of unused Covid-19 vaccine shots found last week in a water drain in a southern city, the public prosecution says.

“An investigative committee… found a shortage of 18,400 vaccine doses in the Minya health directorate storage inventory worth 5,023,200 pounds ($319,000),” the prosecution says in a statement posted on its social media accounts.

The statement says 13,412 doses had been found dumped but were unfit for use due to poor storage conditions and insufficient cooling. Another 4,988 doses had also been lost.

It does not identify the type of vaccines involved.

Minya governorate is more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Cairo.

The three people detained are a pharmacist, a driver and a storage inspector all working with the health ministry.

They face charges of “gross negligence” and “misappropriation of public funds,” according to the public prosecution.

The three will be detained pending investigations, the prosecution adds.

Last week, social media was abuzz with images of the abandoned vaccines, with many online users calling for accountability.

Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad said last week that Egypt, the most populous Arab country with over 100 million people, has so far fully vaccinated nearly seven million people.

Daily virus cases have been steadily rising in recent weeks with the toll inching over 312,000, including more than 17,000 deaths.

IDF to hold rocket preparedness drill in north

The Israel Defense Forces announces it will be conducting an emergency preparedness exercise in the northern town of Pekiin and in the Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council over the next two days.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, when the sirens sound, residents and workers in the area are expected to find their nearest bomb shelters, to prepare them for a possible real rocket barrage, the IDF says.

The sirens will sound at 11:05 a.m. and 6:05 p.m. on both days.

In case of a real emergency during the test, the siren will sound a second time, the army says.

IDF soldier critically hurt after falling out of moving car on highway

A 19-year-old Israel Defense Forces soldier is critically hurt after falling out of a moving vehicle on a major highway this morning.

The incident occurred on Route 6, near the Horeshim interchange at around 7:30 a.m, according to Magen David Adom. It says that its medics took the man to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

Military police and the Israel Police are jointly investigating the circumstances.

Virus czar predicts serious COVID cases will soon drop considerably

Coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem, on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem, on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka predicts serious COVID cases will decline in two weeks.

“We are very optimistic about the decline of the positivity rate and of [patients in] serious condition and on ventilators,” he tells reporters.

As of Monday, there were 447 people in serious condition, including 186 on ventilators. On Sunday, 1,457 were newly diagnosed with COVID. Coronavirus morbidity has been on the decline in Israel over the past few weeks.

“Unfortunately, the hospitals are still very strained, but with the drop in morbidity we assess that in two weeks, the serious cases in hospitals will also drop,” he says.

“We are optimistic that we are exiting the fourth wave, but we’re not there yet. The danger still exists, the virus is still circulating, and we must be careful.”

WHO experts recommend COVID booster for immunocompromised

A paramedic with Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service prepares a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Holon, on August 24, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
A paramedic with Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service prepares a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Holon, on August 24, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The World Health Organization’s vaccine advisory group recommends immunocompromised people should have an additional dose of all Covid-19 vaccines authorized by the WHO.

“Moderately and severely immunocompromised persons should be offered an additional dose… since these individuals are less likely to respond adequately to vaccination following a standard primary vaccine series and are at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease,” the UN health agency’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization says.

Merck asks US FDA to authorize promising anti-COVID pill

Shaare Zedek hospital staff wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shaare Zedek hospital staff wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Drugmaker Merck asks US regulators Monday to authorize its pill against COVID-19 in what would add an entirely new and easy-to-use weapon to the world’s arsenal against the pandemic.

If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration — a decision that could come in a matter of weeks — it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All other FDA-backed treatments against the disease require an IV or injection.

An antiviral pill that people could take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed recovery could prove game-changing, easing the crushing caseload on US  hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems. It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.

The FDA will scrutinize company data on the safety and effectiveness of the drug, molnupiravir, before rendering a decision.

Nurses who posed for photo with Hamas prisoner won’t be fired

The Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot says two Arab Israeli nurses won’t be fired for posing with a hospitalized Hamas prisoner for a photo, after they express regret for their actions, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The nurses were summoned for a disciplinary hearing in the hospital and were dressed down over the incident.

Meretz chief says anonymous complaints of sexual harassment must be probed

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz visits  Ziv Medical Center in the northern city of Safed, on August 24, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz visits Ziv Medical Center in the northern city of Safed, on August 24, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz says anonymous complaints of sexual harassment must be thoroughly investigated.

He is responding to an outcry over comments made by Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern yesterday, when he said he had “shredded many anonymous complaints” during his time as head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate and indicated he was referring to claims of sexual assault as well.

Meretz has a “zero tolerance [policy] for sexual harassment,” says Horowitz. “And I’m saying more than that — even an anonymous complaint must be examined.”

Austria swears in new chancellor after Kurz steps aside

Austria's new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg addresses a press conference at the Chancellery in Vienna on October 11, 2021, after he was sworn in. (HANS PUNZ / APA / AFP)
Austria's new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg addresses a press conference at the Chancellery in Vienna on October 11, 2021, after he was sworn in. (HANS PUNZ / APA / AFP)

Austria gets a new chancellor, two days after former leader Sebastian Kurz resigned amid corruption allegations, but the direction of government policy is not expected to change.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen swears in Alexander Schallenberg, the former foreign minister, as chancellor. Career diplomat Michael Linhart becomes the country’s new foreign minister.

Schallenberg, 52, tells reporters later that he would do “everything to refill the trenches” caused by the recent government crisis and also “do everything in my power to serve our beautiful country of Austria.”

He also says he would continue to work closely with the conservative Kurz. Both share a hard line on immigration.

Kurz, 35, announced Saturday that he would step aside to defuse a political crisis triggered by prosecutors’ announcement that he is one of the targets of an investigation into suspected bribery and breach of trust. Kurz’s junior coalition partners, the Greens, had demanded his replacement. Kurz denies any wrongdoing.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz arrives to give a press statement on the government crisis at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna, Austria, on October 9, 2021. (Georg Hochmuth/APA/AFP)

Kurz and his close associates are accused of trying to secure his rise to the leadership of his party and the country with the help of manipulated polls and friendly media reports financed with public money. Kurz became the leader of his Austrian People’s Party and then chancellor in 2017.

Although he is stepping down as chancellor, he is keeping his role as party leader and becoming the head of its parliamentary group, keeping him at the heart of Austrian politics while he fights the corruption allegations.

2 Palestinians charged with aiding Gilboa prisoners after jailbreak

Iham Kamamji in an image from the Shin Bet (right) and one doctored for social media (left). (Shin Bet/Screenshot)
Iham Kamamji in an image from the Shin Bet (right) and one doctored for social media (left). (Shin Bet/Screenshot)

Two Palestinians in the West Bank are charged as accomplices to the prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa prison in northern Israel last month.

The two are accused of offering shelter to two of the escaped prisoners, who were later apprehended in the West Bank city of Jenin.

The suspects are named as Ihab Salama and Abd al-Rahman Abu Ja’afar.

According to the charge sheet, Salama gave the two prisoners a ride and found them a place to stay, while Abu Ja’afar hosted them until their arrest by Israeli forces.

The fugitives were Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, both members of the Islamic Jihad terror group.

Lebanon firefighters quell huge fuel tank fire

Firefighters in Lebanon put out a huge blaze that raged at a key fuel storage depot to the relief of many in the country gripped by desperate energy shortages.

There is no immediate report of casualties from the fire, which sent large plumes of dark smoke billow into the sky.

The fire broke out around 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) in a large petrol tank belonging to the army at the Zahrani facilities some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Beirut, the National News Agency and local media say.

An AFP photographer says firefighters put out the flames at around noon (0900 GMT), and civil defense chief Raymond Khattar tells the press the blaze was “under control.”

Ziyad al-Zein, head of facilities at Zahrani, says the fire broke out as the tank was being emptied.

“We noticed an inclination in the reservoir’s roof yesterday and took immediate measures… this morning to transfer its contents,” he says, adding that “it would have been a disaster if the fire had spread to nearby tanks.”

Energy Minister Walid Fayad says the flames had consumed around 250,000 liters of gasoline and that an investigation had been launched into the cause of the fire.

The army cordoned off the area, cutting off roads leading to the depot as well as the main highway linking Beirut to the country’s south, the photographer says.

Iran says it’s ready to sign strategic partnership with Russia

Iran is ready to sign a strategic partnership with Russia, mirroring one concluded early this year with China, the foreign ministry says.

“The initial arrangements of this document, entitled the Global Agreement for Cooperation between Iran and Russia, have been concluded,” says ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.

“We are in the process of finalizing diverse clauses of the document and we will send it to Moscow,” he tells reporters.

“In recent years, it has become necessary to improve relations between Iran and Russia and to concentrate on strategic partnerships,” he adds. “Between Iran, China and Russia, the eastern axis is emerging.”

He adds that Tehran hopes the document will be signed in the coming months.

Iran in March concluded a 25-year strategic and commercial cooperation agreement with China after several years of talks. And in mid-September Iran was admitted to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, led by Russia and China.

Labor chief backs former MK who accused Peres of sexual assault

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli speaks during a faction meeting of her Labor Party at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli speaks during a faction meeting of her Labor Party at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Labor chief Merav Michaeli backs Colette Avital, a former Labor member of Knesset and a former Israeli consul-general to New York, who recently alleged that the late president Shimon Peres sexually assaulted her twice in the 1980s.

“I always believe the complainants and I believe Collette Avital, too,” says Michaeli at a Labor faction meeting.

Then-consul general to New York Colette Avital looks on as then-foreign minister Shimon Peres addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, May 23, 1994, in New York. (AP Photo/David Karp)

She also addresses the controversy surrounding Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern, who said in an interview yesterday that he had “shredded many anonymous complaints” during his time as head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate.

“I understand that he didn’t have bad intentions,” says Michaeli, adding that “we must do everything we can to protect sexual assault victims.”

Tunisia gets new government, appoints record number of women

Screen capture from a June 2020 video of Najla Bouden who was selected to become prime minister of Tunisia, September 29, 2021. (YouTube)
Screen capture from a June 2020 video of Najla Bouden who was selected to become prime minister of Tunisia, September 29, 2021. (YouTube)

Tunisia gets a new government after more than two months without one, with the prime minister naming her Cabinet, including a record number of women.

The ministerial appointments announced by Prime Minister Najla Bouden fill a vacuum that had persisted since President Kais Saied abruptly dismissed his former cabinet and suspended parliament 11 weeks ago, concentrating all executive powers. His critics and constitutional lawyers have likened his actions to a coup.

Bouden, named Sept. 29 by Saied as Tunisia’s first female prime minister, says during the swearing-in ceremony of her new ministers that their main priority would be fighting corruption.

The new Cabinet has an unprecedented 10 women, including the prime minister. They include Leila Jaffel, new at the Ministry of Justice, and Sihem Boughdiri Nemseya, reappointed as finance minister.

Arab nurses investigated over photo with hospitalized Hamas prisoner

Two Arab Israeli nurses in Rehovot posed for a photo with a hospitalized hunger-striking prisoner identified with the Hamas terror group, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The Kaplan Medical Center says it’s investigating.

The Palestinian security prisoner, Miqdad Qawasmeh, has served sentences in Israeli prison in the past and is currently being held in administrative detention.

 

UK police won’t act against Prince Andrew over Epstein-linked abuse claim

Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attends a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bruges in Bruges, on September 7, 2019. (John Thys/AFP)
Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attends a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bruges in Bruges, on September 7, 2019. (John Thys/AFP)

British police announce they will not take any action against Prince Andrew following a review prompted by a Jeffrey Epstein accuser who claims that he sexually assaulted her.

Virginia Giuffre claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with Andrew in London in 2001, when she was age 17 and a minor under US law. She is suing the prince in a US court.

Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, denies the allegations. He told the BBC in a 2019 interview that he never had sex with Giuffre, saying: “It didn’t happen.”

In August, London’s Metropolitan Police force began a review of allegations connected to late convicted sex offender Epstein. Police chief Cressida Dick said at the time that “no one is above the law.”

The force says in a statement that its “review has concluded and we are taking no further action.”

It also says it will take no action over allegations, first reported by Channel 4 News, that Epstein’s alleged accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, trafficked, groomed and abused women and girls in the UK.

Maxwell, a British socialite, is in a US jail awaiting trial on charges that she recruited teenage girls for Epstein to abuse.

The force says it is continuing to liaise with other law enforcement agencies who are leading the investigation into matters associated with Epstein.

Early results show record low turnout in Iraq’s election

Iraqis voters gather to cast their vote at a ballot station in the country's parliamentary elections in Baghdad, Iraq, October 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
Iraqis voters gather to cast their vote at a ballot station in the country's parliamentary elections in Baghdad, Iraq, October 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Voter turnout in Iraq’s elections was 41 percent, according to preliminary results, a record low in the post-Saddam Hussein era, signaling widespread distrust of the country’s leaders and the vote for a new parliament.

The weekend’s election was held months ahead of schedule as a concession to a youth-led popular uprising against corruption and mismanagement. But the vote was marred by widespread apathy and a boycott by many of the same young activists who thronged the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces in late 2019, calling for sweeping reforms and new elections.

The Independent High Electoral Commission says preliminary results show turnout from Sunday’s election was 41 percent. That’s down from 44 percent in the 2018 elections, which was an all-time low.

Tens of thousands of people protested in late 2019 and early 2020, and were met by security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured within just a few months.

Although authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed crackdown — as well as a string of targeted assassinations — prompted many protesters to later call for a boycott of the vote.

Populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr casts his vote during parliamentary elections in Najaf, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. Iraq closed its airspace and land border crossings on Sunday as voters headed to the polls to elect a parliament that many hope will deliver much needed reforms after decades of conflict and mismanagement. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

More definitive results were expected later Monday, with groups drawn from Iraq’s majority Shiite Muslim factions expected to come out on top as has been the case since 2003. Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who was the major winner in the 2018 elections, is expected to sweep up more seats. Still, none of the parties are expected to win a clear majority, and negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a government were expected to drag on for weeks or even months.

The Fatah Alliance, led by paramilitary leader Hadi al-Ameri, is expected to come in second. The alliance is comprised of parties and affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of mostly pro-Iran Shiite militias that rose to prominence during the war against the Sunni extremist Islamic State group. It includes some of the most hardline Iran-backed factions, such as the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia.

Al-Sadr, a black-turbaned nationalist leader, is also close to Iran, but publicly rejects its political influence.

The election was the sixth held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many were skeptical that independent candidates from the protest movement stood a chance against well-entrenched parties and politicians, many of them backed by powerful armed militias.

Lapid says new government seeks peace with Palestinians, other Arab states

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addresses the launch of the Knesset’s caucus for the Abraham Accords. The parliamentary gathering in Jerusalem is attended by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

In his remarks, Lapid says the new government is advancing normalization with Arab states.

“We renewed relations with Egypt, we opened embassies, we improved our relations with the US,” says Lapid. “I call upon the Palestinians, and every Arab nation that is listening: We seek peace. Peace is not a compromise or a weakness but rather an embodiment of the human spirit. Those living in the Middle East are welcome to look around and see which countries are in a better position — those who seek peace, or those who seek war.”

“One of the subjects [that will come up] in my trip to Washington [departing] tonight is expanding the number of nations that are in this agreement,” says Lapid, who will meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the UAE’s foreign minister this week.

“I want to thank President Trump for his role in the agreements and thank opposition leader Netanyahu, who did a great thing with these agreements,” adds Lapid.

Tal Schneider contributed to this report

In temporary injunction, court orders state not to deport Hebrew Israelites

Members of the Hebrew Israelites Community of the southern city of Dimona protest against deportation orders given to some of their members, Habima Square, Tel Aviv, June 1, 2021. Th banner says, 'We are an integral part of the People of Israel.'  (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Members of the Hebrew Israelites Community of the southern city of Dimona protest against deportation orders given to some of their members, Habima Square, Tel Aviv, June 1, 2021. Th banner says, 'We are an integral part of the People of Israel.' (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Beersheba District Court issues an interim injunction for seven days prohibiting the Interior Ministry’s immigration police from enforcing deportation orders against some 50 members of the Hebrew Israelites community, who live in southern city of Dimona.

Within these seven days, the Interior Ministry can appeal against allowing the court to continue with a class action suit against the deportation that has been submitted on behalf of the deportees.

If it does not appeal, the injunction will remain in place until the judge decides on the case.

None of those ordered to leave by September 23 have done so. On Sunday, immigration police started looking for them in employment areas of the desert city.

Those who received deportation notices either entered Israel from the United States as tourists and remained in the country illegally once their permitted three-month stay was up, or are the children of those who did so.

The Interior Ministry says that neither residency in Israel for a long period nor work in the country are sufficient grounds for a change of status.

The 3,000-strong community, which believes it is descended from an ancient Israelite tribe, began arriving in Israel in 1969, following the late Ben Carter, a Chicago steelworker who renamed himself Ben Ammi Ben-Israel and claimed to be God’s representative on earth.

The community is not recognized as Jewish by Israel’s religious authorities.

1st witness in Netanyahu trial completes testimony, 6 months on

Former CEO of the Walla news website Ilan Yeshua arrives for his testimony at in the case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, September 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former CEO of the Walla news website Ilan Yeshua arrives for his testimony at in the case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, September 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The first prosecution witness in former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial wraps up his testimony, six months into the legal proceedings.

Ilan Yeshua, the former CEO of the Walla news site, was grilled in 33 court sessions. The next witness is former Walla editor Abiram Elad.

Yeshua was a key prosecution witness in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is accused of abusing his powers when he served as both prime minister and communications minister from 2014 to 2017. Netanyahu is charged with illicitly and lucratively benefiting the business interests of Bezeq telecom’s controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on the Bezeq-owned Walla news website.

Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, while Elovitch and his wife have been charged with bribery. All three defendants deny wrongdoing.

There are over 300 witnesses lined up to take the stand during the proceedings.

Ra’am chief presents 5-year economic plan benefiting Arab Israelis

Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra'am party, leads a faction meeting in the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra'am party, leads a faction meeting in the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas formally presents a five-year NIS 29.5 billion ($9.13 billion) economic plan to fix persistent gaps between Arab Israelis and their Jewish counterparts at a Knesset committee hearing.

A previous five-year plan enacted in 2016 had earmarked NIS 10.7 billion ($3.3 billion) for Arab Israelis. However, only 62 percent of the funds were distributed.

“Sure, this is an unprecedentedly large amount for Israel to invest [in the Arab community]. But the gaps are so large that we will have to do more once the plan is over,” Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen tells the Arab Affairs committee.

The budget includes billions of planned investment in fields excluded from previous financial packages, including health, informal education and high-tech, says Hassan Tawafreh, who directs an office responsible for encouraging economic growth among Arab Israelis.

The plan will also allocate funding for mixed cities in order to reach the minority of Arab Israelis who live there, officials say. Many of Israel’s mixed cities saw intense interethnic violence during the May war between Israel and Gaza terror groups.

“This is a serious advance when compared with the earlier programs,” says Alaa Ghantous, who advises Arab mayors on economic policy. He adds that collaboration between Arab mayors and government officials has improved significantly over the past few months.

In rebuke of PM, Gantz says he opposes reveal of Mossad op on Ron Arad

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz speak in the Knesset on September 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz speak in the Knesset on September 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz criticizes Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for revealing information about a Mossad operation that aimed to discover the whereabouts of missing airman Ron Arad.

“Had it been up to me, I wouldn’t have revealed this operation,” says Gantz at a conference organized by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily and Ynet news site.

“I knew the details of the mission, I approved the details of the operation, I sat in on the preliminary discussions, I certainly oversaw its execution. I was in the loop entirely,” he says.

Gantz says the mission was “very successful,” rejecting media reports that it had yielded no leads.

Missing Israeli Air Force officer Ron Arad, photographed by Amal militants in Lebanon in 1987. (Wikipedia)

“Right now we’re processing the information that emerged from this operation,” he says.

Bennett revealed details of the operation during a speech to the Knesset.

Arad bailed out of his plane during an operation in southern Lebanon in 1986. Israel believes he was captured by the Shiite Amal movement before being handed over to Iran, and moved from Lebanon to Iran and then back again.

Several signs of life were received in the first two years of his incarceration, including photos and letters, the last of which was sent on May 5, 1988.

Arad has long been assumed to have died many years ago, although intelligence reports have differed as to the circumstances, timing and location of his death.

Netanyahu meets Kushner, Ivanka Trump in the Knesset

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Kushner and Trump are in the parliament for the launch of a new Knesset caucus dedicated to the Abraham Accords, led by Likud’s Ofir Akunis and Blue and White’s Ruth Wasserman Lande.

They have not requested to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, The Times of Israel has learned.

In Golan, Bennett suggests Biden administration has recognized territory as Israeli

Speaking at the Makor Rishon Golan Conference in Haspin, a moshav commonly known as Hispin, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announces that in six weeks, his government will hold a meeting on the Golan Heights and will present a national plan for the future of the area. The plan aims to double the population of the Golan and to build two new towns there.

The ultimate goal, he says, is to hit 100,000 residents, almost four times the current population.

“The Golan Heights is Israeli, period,” Bennett says to applause.

In his remarks, Bennett says that “our position on the Golan Heights has no connection to the situation in Syria.”

“It is true that the atrocities taking place there for a decade convinced many around the world that maybe it is better for this beautiful and strategic piece of land to be in Israeli hands, that it is preferable for it to be green and flourishing than another theater of killing and bombing.”

“Even in a scenario in which, as can happen, the world changes its position toward Syria, or toward Assad, this would have no connection to the Golan Heights.”

“The Golan Heights is in Israel, period.”

He also suggests the Biden administration has adopted former president Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli, though the US government has not publicly made such an assertion.

He says: “Exactly 40 years ago, the government of Israel led by Menachem Begin made an incredibly brave and important decision: to apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights. Almost three years ago, we were informed of another significant development: The decision of the previous American administration to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel – a perception that has been adopted by the current administration.”

 

 

Ronen Bar named next Shin Bet chief

New Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (L) with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on October 11, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
New Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (L) with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on October 11, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The cabinet approves the nomination of the next Shin Bet security service director.

Ronen Bar, the current deputy head of the agency, will fill the top job at the domestic spy agency.

Bar’s name was previously barred from publication for security reasons. He was approved for the role despite an anonymous letter claiming unspecified misconduct.

Bar served in the Israel Defense Forces’ elite Sayeret Matkal unit, the same detachment in which Prime Minister Naftali Bennett served, and then entered the ranks of the Shin Bet as a field agent. He was tapped to lead the Shin Bet’s Operations Division in 2011, became head of the service’s resource development department in 2016, and took over as deputy head of the organization in 2018.

Bennett calls him a “brave warrior and daring commander, who throughout his life has been engaged in the loftiest mission of all — protecting Israel’s security.”

“He has often risked his life for the homeland,” says Bennett, adding that he’s confident he’ll lead the security service to “new heights of action and excellence.”

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