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COVID death toll stands at 7,999; serious cases dip further to 380

Improvement reported in condition of 6-month-old hospitalized in serious condition with post-corona symptoms; Jerusalem hospital closes COVID ward amid declining morbidity

Illustrative: Shaare Zedek hospital staff wear safety gear as they work in a coronavirus ward, in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Shaare Zedek hospital staff wear safety gear as they work in a coronavirus ward, in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

New images seem to challenge singer’s claim of antisemitic discrimination at German hotel

Screen capture from video of Gil Ofarim, a German-Israeli singer, explaining how he had been denied a hotel room in Leipzig, Germany, because he was wearing a Star of David necklace. (Screenshot from Instagram video via JTA)
Screen capture from video of Gil Ofarim, a German-Israeli singer, explaining how he had been denied a hotel room in Leipzig, Germany, because he was wearing a Star of David necklace. (Screenshot from Instagram video via JTA)

New images published by German newspaper Bild are raising questions about an Israeli-German musician’s claim that he was refused service at a hotel for wearing a Star of David necklace.

In security footage from the hotel in Leipzig, the necklace does not appear to be visible around Gil Ofarim’s neck.

Gil Ofarim, posted a video to social media earlier this month, in which he accused the Westin Leipzig hotel of denying him service because he was wearing a Star of David necklace. The video, which he titled “Antisemitism in Germany 2021” in all capital letters, went viral, with antisemitism watchdogs and others sharing it widely.

“I am speechless,” Ofarim said in the video, in which he can be seen clearly wearing the Star of David pendant.

German media outlets, however, report that police have “serious doubts” about Ofarim’s account and that surveillance footage from the hotel appears to shows he did not have a Star of David around his neck when he tried to check into the hotel.

Additionally, the Bild newspaper reports that while giving a statement to police, Ofarim stated that he did not remember whether he was wearing the Star of David chain at the time, even though in his Instagram video he claimed was.

Police said probing if sex offender rabbi linked to cold case murders

Rabbi Eliezer Berland arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, on February 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Rabbi Eliezer Berland arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, on February 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police are probing whether convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland, head of the extremist Shuvu Bonim sect, was involved in a pair of unsolved murders in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Earlier today, police arrested three suspects — who are reportedly from Shuvu Bonim — in connection to the killings. A court later ordered that all three remain in custody for eight days.

Netanyahu to skip state memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu will not attend the state memorial ceremony tomorrow for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, according to Hebrew media reports.

Netanyahu’s office is not saying why he won’t attend the ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, commenting instead that the ex-premier will speak later at a Knesset ceremony, “in accordance with the protocol.”

Israel preparing for Iran to become nuclear threshold state — TV

The high-level security cabinet convened today for a lengthy meeting on Iran, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The report says Israel is making preparations for Iran to become a nuclear threshold state, given stalled negotiations on restoring the 2015 accord limiting Tehran’s nuclear program.

Shin Bet said to fear Jews may hold prayers at Temple Mount, fueling conflagration

Illustrative: An Israeli police officer stands guard as a religious Jew in army uniform visits the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 3, 2021. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo, File)
Illustrative: An Israeli police officer stands guard as a religious Jew in army uniform visits the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 3, 2021. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo, File)

Officials in the Shin Bet agency are concerned about an “extreme scenario,” in which a group of Jews will try to hold an open prayer service at the Temple Mount, in violation of a ban on non-Muslim worship at the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, the Walla news site reports.

According to the report, the Shin Bet representatives said during a meeting today on the Temple Mount that they fear such a scenario could lead to an outbreak of violence.

They also reportedly said that elements in the Arab world and Turkey are trying to exploit cases of individual Jews praying at the Temple Mount to stir up tensions there.

The report comes after Public Security Minister Omer Barlev issued a statement following the meeting that vowed the existing religious arrangements at the Temple Mount would be maintained.

EU spokesperson: Can’t say ‘if and when’ nuclear talks will be held in Brussels

A spokesperson for the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, is unable to confirm “if and when” a meeting in Brussels will place, after Iran’s foreign minister said nuclear talks would resume in the Belgian capital later this week.

“The goal remains to resume negotiations in Vienna as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson says.

Ex-general Gal Hirsch expected to be indicted in coming days — TV

Former IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch is seen at a press conference in Tel Aviv to announce his entry to politics on December 26, 2018. (Flash90)
Former IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch is seen at a press conference in Tel Aviv to announce his entry to politics on December 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Prosecutors are expected to file charges in the coming days against a former brigadier general who was once in line to head the Israel Police, Channel 13 news reports.

Gal Hirsch, who left the military in 2006 amid criticism over the Israel Defense Force’s failures in the Second Lebanon War, is suspected of aggravated fraud, money laundering, and alleged tax evasion valued at tens of millions of shekels. The suspicions are part of corruption probes into Hirsch’s business dealings as head of the defense services firm Defensive Shield after he left the IDF.

According to the report, Hirsch has been in touch with prosecutors in recent weeks about a possible plea deal, but the sides failed to reach an agreement.

Last year, prosecutors told Hirsch and several of his business partners that they intend to indict them.

654 new COVID infections since midnight; serious cases dip to 380

A Magen David Adom worker takes a swab sample from a man at a rapid coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90 )
A Magen David Adom worker takes a swab sample from a man at a rapid coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90 )

The Health Ministry reports 654 new coronavirus cases since midnight, amid a steady decline in morbidity.

There are 17,975 active COVID-19 cases in the country, including 380 people hospitalized in serious condition, down slightly from this morning. Over 1.3 million infections have been confirmed in Israel since the pandemic began.

The death toll stands at 7,999.

According to the Health Ministry, over 6.2 million Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose and close to 5.7 million have gotten two shots. Additionally, more than 3.8 million have been administered a booster shot.

Hundreds pose nude for Spencer Tunick photoshoot near Dead Sea

A few hundred naked people covered in white paint pose for a group picture taken by Spencer Tunick, outside Arad in southern Israel, October 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A few hundred naked people covered in white paint pose for a group picture taken by Spencer Tunick, outside Arad in southern Israel, October 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hundreds of models wearing only white body paint walk across a stark desert expanse in southern Israel near the Dead Sea, part of the latest photography project of American artist Spencer Tunick.

As for Tunick, dressed, in black, he stands on the roof of a recreational vehicle and issues commands on a megaphone.

“Everyone put your feet together,” he says. “Hands down.”

The 54-year-old photographer is visiting Israel as a guest of the Tourism Ministry to portray for the third time the shrinking Dead Sea via nude subjects.

“For me the body represents beauty and life and love,” says Tunick, who has staged dozens of large-scale nude shoots around the world.

Tunick depicted more than 1,000 nude models a decade ago on the shores of the salty Dead Sea, which is receding at about a meter (yard) a year.

Low turnout in Beirut as Lebanese mark 2 years of protests

BEIRUT — Lebanon marks the second anniversary of its defunct protest movement with a low-key demonstration in Beirut today, while many stay away amid grinding economic woes and deadly tensions over a port blast probe.

Dozens are marching under rain clouds towards Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut, an AFP photographer says.

Mass protests bringing together Lebanese from all backgrounds erupted on October 17, 2019, denouncing deteriorating living conditions as well as alleged official graft and mismanagement, after the government announced a plan to tax phone calls made over messaging service WhatsApp.

Cross-sectarian demonstrations swept the country, demanding the overthrow of political barons in power since at least the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Two years on, Lebanon is mired in a ballooning financial crisis compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, and battered by a devastating explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4 last year.

Draconian banking restrictions have prevented many Lebanese from accessing their savings, while the local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value to the dollar on the black market.

Almost 80 percent of the population live in poverty, struggling to put food on the table amid endless price hikes, fuel shortages and power cuts.

Protester Rabih Zein says it isn’t just previous police crackdowns that are keeping demonstrators away.

“If anyone is wondering why there are not many people, it’s because they’ve deprived us of gasoline, electricity and the money we put in banks,” he says.

Bill Clinton released from hospital after treatment for infection

Former US first lady and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton arrives at the University of California Irvine Medical Center in Orange, California, October 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Former US first lady and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton arrives at the University of California Irvine Medical Center in Orange, California, October 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

ORANGE, California — Bill Clinton is released today from the Southern California hospital where he had been treated for an infection.

The former US president is released around 8 a.m. local time from the University of California Irvine Medical Center.

Clinton, 75, was admitted Tuesday to the hospital southeast of Los Angeles with an infection unrelated to COVID-19, officials said.

Clinton spokesman Angel Ureña had said yesterday that Clinton would remain hospitalized one more night to receive further intravenous antibiotics. But all health indicators were “trending in the right direction,” Ureña said.

An aide to the former president said Clinton had a urological infection that spread to his bloodstream.

Meretz MK urges use of ‘existing means’ to fight violent crime in Arab communities

Meretz MK Mossi Raz in the Knesset on June 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz MK Mossi Raz in the Knesset on June 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MK Mossi Raz says he opposes a government-backed bill that would give police greater powers to carry out warrantless searches, as part of efforts to crack down record levels of violent crime in the Arab Israeli community.

“A worrisome and incorrect decision. There is a lot that can be done with the existing means to fight crime in Arab society — gather up weapons, capture suspects and bring them to justice,” Raz tells Army Radio.

Russia reports daily record for new COVID cases

Russia is reporting its largest daily number of new coronavirus infections, more than 70% up on the number a month ago as the country faces a sustained rise in cases.

The national coronavirus task force says today that 34,303 new infections were recorded in the previous day, compared with the 20,174 reported September 19.

The death toll of 999 was barely lower than the record 1,002 deaths reported yesterday.

Russian authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials stymied the efforts. The government said this week that about 43 million Russians, or some 29% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

Despite the mounting toll, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that badly hurt the economy, eroding President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. Instead, it has delegated the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.

Mineral water company recalling some 1/2 liter bottles over bacteria fears

Neviot water bottles on display in stores on February 17, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Neviot water bottles on display in stores on February 17, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Mineral water company Neviot is recalling some of its half liter bottles due to concerns they were contaminated with bacteria.

A statement from the Health Ministry says there’s a concern the 500 millimeter bottles may contain pseudomonas aeruginosa due to an unspecified “technical malfunction” on the assembly line.

The suspect water bottles have the barcodes 729000233102 and 7290002331018.

“The company stresses that the water source is completely clean,” the ministry statement says.

Jerusalem court extends remand of suspects in cold case murders

A Jerusalem court orders that the three people arrested over their suspected link to a pair of unsolved murders several decades ago remain in custody another eight days.

The three suspects reportedly are part of the extremist Shuvu Bonim sect led by convicted sex offender rabbi Eliezer Berland.

Hospital reports improvement in health of 6-month-old with post-COVID symptoms

Illustrative: Shaare Zedek hospital staff wear safety gear as they work in a coronavirus ward, in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Shaare Zedek hospital staff wear safety gear as they work in a coronavirus ward, in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sheba Medical Center reports an improvement in the condition of a 6-month-old baby hospitalized in serious condition with post-COVID-19 symptoms.

The hospital in Ramat Gan says the baby is no longer on an ECMO machine but remains in serious condition from PIMS, or pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome.

Meanwhile, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem announces it is shuttering one of its coronavirus wards as as morbidity figures continue to decline.

Saudi Arabia ends social distancing at Mecca’s Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca operates at full capacity on October 17, 2021, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. (AFP)
The Grand Mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca operates at full capacity on October 17, 2021, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. (AFP)

MECCA, Saudi Arabia — The Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is operating at full capacity today, with worshipers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Workers removed floor markings that guide people to social distance in and around the Grand Mosque, which is built around the Kaaba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

“This is in line with the decision to ease precautionary measures and to allow pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque at full capacity,” reports the official Saudi Press Agency.

Pictures and footage this morning showed people praying side by side, making straight rows of worshipers that are formations revered in performing Muslim prayers, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year.

While social distancing measures were lifted, the authorities say visitors must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and must continue to wear masks on mosque grounds.

Also, the Kaaba remains cordoned off and out of reach.

Indian FM arrives in Israel for visit, will meet with Lapid and Herzog

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at the State Department in Washington, May 28, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at the State Department in Washington, May 28, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar lands in Israel ahead of his visit tomorrow with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

Other highlights of Jaishankar’s trip will include joining Elharrar as she signs on to Israel’s accession to the International Solar Alliance; visiting the graves of Indian soldiers at a Commonwealth WWI cemetery in Israel; observing the Blue Flag international air combat exercise; and taking part in a Zoom meeting tomorrow evening with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lapid, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.

The four diplomats are expected to discuss environmental issues, energy, and trade during their virtual meeting.

Israeli, German air forces fly over Jerusalem in show of close ties

Israeli and German military aircraft fly over the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Israeli and German military aircraft fly over the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 17, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Israel and German aircraft are conducting a flyby over Jerusalem in a sign of the close connection between the two countries and their militaries.

The head of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, is leading the Israeli planes, while the German aircraft are being led by Lt. General Ingo Gerhartz.

This marks the first time that German military aircraft have flown over Jerusalem since World War I.

The planes are flying over the Knesset and other government buildings, toward the area of Malha in Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day, Norkin and Gerhartz visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in the capital together, the military says.

The German planes are in Israel for a biennial multi-national aerial exercise known as the Blue Flag. The countries taking part in the Blue Flag exercise will perform another flyby in roughly one hour, over both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

 

Swedish FM to make first official visit to Israel in a decade

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde arrives for a news conference after talks with her Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovic, in Belgrade, Serbia, May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde arrives for a news conference after talks with her Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovic, in Belgrade, Serbia, May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s foreign minister will make the first official visit to Israel in a decade, the government says, following seven years of rocky ties after Stockholm recognized a Palestinian state

“Foreign Minister Ann Linde will visit Israel and Palestine on October 18 and 19,” the government says today in a press release.

Since its recognition of the “State of Palestine” in 2014, Sweden has had a difficult relationship with Israel.

Linde will meet tomorrow with her counterpart Yair Lapid as well as President Isaac Herzog. She will also visit Yad Vashem and participate in the opening of an exhibition celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“Having a normal relationship at the level of the foreign minister itself is a new chapter in our foreign policy dialogue,” the minister told Swedish news agency TT on Friday.

On September 15, during a first formal telephone call with Lapid, she had emphasized “the importance of our bilateral relationship.”

“Both of us stressed that friendship and cooperation can and must go hand with respect for each other’s convictions & differences,” Linde tweeted, expressing her support for Israel’s security demands.

The thaw in relations does not call into question Sweden’s recognition of a Palestine state. Linde is also due to visit the West Bank, where she will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well as the head of the PA government and foreign minister.

Bennett decries violent crime surge in Arab towns: ‘We are losing the country’

Police at the scene of the murder of Sahar Ismail, the education minister's aide for Arab society, in the northern Israeli town of Rameh, on August 15, 2021. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Police at the scene of the murder of Sahar Ismail, the education minister's aide for Arab society, in the northern Israeli town of Rameh, on August 15, 2021. (Flash90)

Ministers approve a bill to expand police’s authority to carry out home searches without a court-approved warrant, as part of government efforts to fight record levels of violent crime in the Arab Israeli community.

The bill, sponsored by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, seeks to allow officers to enter a home without a warrant if they believe there’s an object or suspect on the premises that is linked to a “grave crime.”

“We are losing the country,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says during the weekly cabinet meeting.

Several ministers express reservations over the measure, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz calling for it to be temporary.

“We need to make sure that we do not stray over to other issues,” Gantz says.

Palestinian man smashes iconic lion statues in Ramallah

Palestinian Authority police detain a man using a hammer to smash the iconic lion statues in the West Bank city of Ramallah's al-Manara Square, October 17, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Palestinian Authority police detain a man using a hammer to smash the iconic lion statues in the West Bank city of Ramallah's al-Manara Square, October 17, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Palestinian Authority police have arrested a man who smashed Ramallah’s iconic downtown lion statues, reportedly because he considered them to be idols.

The lion statues in Ramallah’s al-Manara Square are well-known landmarks. The suspect managed to knock three of the statues’ heads off before police detained him.

15 American missionaries, family kidnapped in Haiti — security source

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — About 15 American missionaries and family members were kidnapped by a gang outside the Haitian capital, a local security source tells AFP.

The group of between 15 and 17 people, including children, are being held by an armed gang that for months has been engaged in theft and kidnappings in the area between Port-au-Prince and the border with the Dominican Republic, the source says.

The “400 Mawozo” gang has hijacked several vehicles on the roads it controls, kidnapping American citizens and an undetermined number of Haitian citizens.

A spokesman for the US government says it’s aware of the reports but declines to provide any information.

“The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the official says.

The missionaries and their families were returning from a visit to an orphanage about 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Port-au-Prince, a security source tells AFP.

Sudanese pro-military protesters rally for second day in a row

Sudanese protesters take part in a rally demanding the dissolution of the transitional government, outside the presidential palace in Khartoum on October 16, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)
Sudanese protesters take part in a rally demanding the dissolution of the transitional government, outside the presidential palace in Khartoum on October 16, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Hundreds of pro-military Sudanese protesters rally for a second day, aggravating what Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has called the “worst and most dangerous crisis” of the country’s precarious transition.

The protesters rallying in Khartoum are demanding the dissolution of Sudan’s post-dictatorship interim government, saying it has “failed” them politically and economically.

“The sit-in continues, we will not leave until the government is dismissed,” Ali Askouri, one of the organizers, tells AFP.

“We have officially asked the Sovereign Council,” the military-civilian body that oversees the transition, “not to interact with this government anymore,” he adds.

The protests come as Sudanese politics reels from divisions among the factions steering the rocky transition from three decades of iron-fisted rule by Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir was ousted by the army in April 2019 in the face of mass protests driven by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a civilian alliance that became a key plank of the transition.

The latest demonstrations, left undisturbed by security forces, have been organized by a splinter faction of the FFC. Critics allege that these protests are being driven by members of the military and security forces, and involve counter-revolutionary sympathizers with the former regime.

The protesters have converged on the presidential palace where the transitional authorities are based, shouting “One army, one people” and demanding “a military government.”

Britain to beef up security around lawmakers after MP killed

Police officers near the bunches of flowers placed at the scene of the fatal stabbing of Conservative MP David Amess, at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, a district of Southend-on-Sea, in southeast England, on October 16, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)
Police officers near the bunches of flowers placed at the scene of the fatal stabbing of Conservative MP David Amess, at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, a district of Southend-on-Sea, in southeast England, on October 16, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

LEIGH-ON-SEA, England — Britain’s interior minister says MPs’ security will be beefed up, after a lawmaker was stabbed to death as he held a public meeting with constituents, in the second such attack in five years.

Veteran Conservative MP David Amess, 69, was talking with voters at a church in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea, east of London, when he was killed on Friday.

The attack has spread fear among MPs, coming just over five years after the similar killing of Labour MP Jo Cox in the febrile run-up to the Brexit referendum.

Police have said they are investigating “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.” The investigation is being led by Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has ordered a review of security measures for lawmakers and tells Sky News that “we need to close any gaps” in security provision for MPs, whose work includes regular meetings with constituents, called “surgeries.”

She says that police and parliamentary authorities were implementing “immediate changes and measures that are actively being put in place, and discussed with MPs.”

This includes MPs sharing information on their whereabouts with police. Close protection at surgeries was also “in consideration right now,” she adds.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that uniformed police are guarding some surgeries following the attack, which prompted calls from some MPs for a pause in face-to-face meetings.

Bennett urges coalition partners not ‘to rock the boat’ ahead of budget deadline

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urges members of the ruling coalition to minimize their differences ahead of next month’s deadline to pass a state budget.

“I call here on my colleagues around the cabinet table, and especially on the Knesset members in the coalition: We must now focus on passing the budget. This is the main task for the coming weeks. To focus all efforts, to maintain coalition stability so that we can advance the common goals for which we came together and set out together,” he says at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

The premier adds: “Let us focus, especially in the coming weeks, on what we have in common and not on disagreements. There is no point in starting to rock the boat from end to end.”

The coalition has until November 14 to approve a budget or the Knesset will automatically be dissolved and new elections called, the fifth since April 2019.

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