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Bennett in closed meeting: Government will likely fall before Lapid becomes PM

‘I estimate that the rotation will not happen,’ TV quotes premier as saying during past month; PM’s office appears to confirm details but says Bennett will honor power-sharing deal

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, on June 13, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, on June 13, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

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

Facebook rebrands as Meta to emphasize ‘metaverse’ vision

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his company is rebranding itself as Meta in an effort to encompass its virtual-reality vision for the future.

Skeptics point out that it also appears to be an attempt to change the subject from the Facebook Papers, a document trove that has revealed the ways Facebook ignored internal reports and warnings of the harms its social network created or magnified across the world.

IDF sends 1st representative to US CENTCOM, in change meant to help counter Iran

The Israel Defense Forces dispatched an officer to serve as its first representative to the United States Central Command this week, after Israel was moved under CENTCOM’s area of responsibility earlier this year, the military says.

A former fighter pilot, the officer, who can only be identified by his rank and first Hebrew initial, Maj. “Aleph,” will be stationed in CENTCOM’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

“As part of his position, he will be responsible for coordinating joint orders between the IDF and CENTCOM, in peace and wartime, strengthening operational cooperation and exchanging operational knowledge, among other things,” the IDF says.

After decades of working with the US military’s European Command, Israel was moved to CENTCOM this year, in a move that was meant to improve the IDF’s ability to work with the US and its allies in the Middle East to counter Iran.

“Through cooperation in training, intelligence and operational planning, we will continue to tackle current challenges, chief among them the Iranian threat. I have no doubt that the joint work with CENTCOM and Gulf countries will continue to lead Israel and its security to great achievements,” says IDF Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman.

Biden: Sudan’s civilian-led government ‘must be restored’

US President Joe Biden demands that Sudan’s military immediately restore the nation to civilian rule, joining European and UN calls for an end to violence against peaceful demonstrators and the release of detainees.

“Our message to Sudan’s military authorities is overwhelming and clear: the Sudanese people must be allowed to protest peacefully and the civilian-led transitional government must be restored,” Biden says in a statement.

“The events of recent days are a grave setback,” Biden says, referring to a coup that plunged the poverty-stricken African country into chaos, “but the United States will continue to stand with the people of Sudan.”

Active COVID cases drop below 10,000 for 1st time in 3 months

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel has dropped below 10,000 for the first time in over three months, according to figures released by the Health Ministry.

As the Delta outbreak continues to wane, active cases now stand at 9,551, after passing 90,000 in early September.

The data also shows 415 new cases have been confirmed today by 5 p.m.

Serious cases are down to 236, including 136 on ventilators, and the death toll is up by six since this morning for a total of 8,081.

Bennett in closed meeting: Government will likely fall before Lapid becomes PM

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has reportedly said in a closed meeting held in the past month that he doesn’t expect his current power-sharing government to last until August 2023, when Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is expected to become premier as part of a rotation agreement.

“I estimate that the rotation will not happen,” Channel 12 news quotes Bennett as saying. “There is a considerable chance that the government will dissolve between the [passage of the] budget and the time of the change of power, for various reasons.”

Commenting on the report, Bennett’s office appears to confirm the details, but says Bennett “will fully honor the rotation deal, as he has been saying from the get-go.

“The partnership with Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is based on mutual trust and fairness,” the response adds. “Ahead of the passage of the budget, which guarantees the stability of the government, there are predictable reports of various quotes from various times that were only said as estimations.

“The budget will pass and the partnership will continue.”

Bennett to meet world leaders at sidelines of Glasgow summit

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet a series of prominent world leaders while attending the climate summit in Glasgow next week, his office announces.

The statement says that on the summit’s sidelines, Bennett will meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Bahrain Prime Minister and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Prime Minister’s Office says Bennett will address the summit on November 1 and present Israel’s policy on the climate crisis.

It adds that Bennett will take part at the opening ceremony hosted by Boris Johnson and in the reception hosted by Prince Charles.

Russia ‘disappointed’ by Israel’s West Bank construction plans

The Russian foreign ministry says it’s “disappointed” by Israel’s decision to build 3,000 homes in West Bank settlements.

In a statement, the ministry adds: “We reaffirm Russia’s principled position that Israel’s settlement activity is illegal.”

Biden hails ‘historic’ framework for US economy

US President Joe Biden announces what he calls a “historic” framework for a vast social spending plan that is at the core of his domestic agenda.

“I know we have a historic economic framework,” Biden says in an address after traveling to Capitol Hill to discuss the plan with leaders of his party, which has been divided on the cost and details of the initiative.

Palestinian Authority unveils huge restored mosaic at Jericho desert castle

Palestinian authorities unveil one of the largest floor mosaics in the world, in the West Bank city of Jericho, after years of restoration.

Resembling a fine carpet, the vast mosaic covers 836 square meters (8,998 square feet) at the Hisham Palace, an Ummayad Islamic desert castle dating from the eighth century.

The images, seen on dozens of panels, include a lion attacking a deer to symbolize war and two gazelles which symbolize peace, as well as delicate floral and geometric designs.

One of the largest mosaic panels in the world has been unveiled following a multi-year restoration project at Hisham’s Palace in the West Bank city of Jericho, on October 28, 2021. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Hisham Palace had lain forgotten for centuries until it was rediscovered in the 19th century and explored in the 1930s. It was then that the mosaic was uncovered beneath the dust.

One of the largest mosaic panels in the world has been unveiled following a multi-year restoration project at Hisham’s Palace in the West Bank city of Jericho, on October 28, 2021. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

But it still remained neglected until five years ago when the site was closed to visitors as a $12 million Japan-funded restoration effort was launched.

“This mosaic contains more than five million pieces of stone… which have a natural and distinctive color,” Saleh Tawafsha, the under-secretary at the Palestinian Authority tourism and antiquities ministry, tells AFP during the unveiling ceremony.

He says he hopes that the restoration will draw tourists to Jericho.

The Hisham Palace near the Dead Sea covers about 150 acres and comprises baths and an agricultural estate.

The Ummayad Dynasty lasted from 660 to 750 AD.

After rebuke, police say they’re probing threats toward top health official

The Israel Police confirm they have opened an investigation into death threats voiced online against the Health Ministry’s head of public health services Sharon Alroy-Preis.

The announcement comes hours after Alroy-Preis’s husband decried police inaction on the threats, which Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has charged were made by anti-vaxxers.

In their statement, police say: “We take a severe view of any publication directed against public servants.

“We will act with all means available to bring the suspects to justice.”

US slaps sanctions on Lebanese tycoons, lawmaker over ‘corruption’

The US Treasury slaps sanctions on prominent Lebanese tycoons Jihad al-Arab and Dany Khoury and lawmaker Jamil Sayyed for allegedly benefitting from corruption and adding to the breakdown of the rule of law in their country.

The three “have each personally profited from the pervasive corruption and cronyism in Lebanon, enriching themselves at the expense of the Lebanese people and state institutions,” the US Treasury says.

UN Security Council calls on Sudan’s military to restore civilian-led government

The UN Security Council calls on Sudan’s new military rulers to restore the civilian-led government that they toppled this week.

The council unanimously passes a statement that expresses “serious concern” about the coup Monday in the poverty-stricken African nation which has experienced only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956.

The council calls for the immediate release of all those detained by the military authorities and urges “all stakeholders to engage in dialogue without preconditions.”

PM meets DR Congo leader, who reaffirms vow to open Jerusalem diplomatic mission

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi in Jerusalem, who promises to open diplomatic and economic missions in the capital, a pledge Tshisekedi made last year at AIPAC.

Tshisekedi, the African Union chairman, also notes he supports Israel joining the African Union as an observer.

The leaders pledge to deepen cooperation in agriculture, communications, and trade.

World Health Organization says its COVID plan needs $23.4 billion over next year

The World Health Organization says its plan to secure and deploy vaccines, tests and treatments to combat the COVID-19 pandemic needs $23.4 billion over the next 12 months.

“The ACT-Accelerator partnership of leading global health agencies needs US$23.4 billion to help the most at-risk countries secure and deploy Covid-19 tools between now and September 2022,” the WHO says in a statement.

Sudan security forces fire tear gas at anti-coup protesters

Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas to disperse protesters against the country’s military coup in street clashes in the eastern Khartoum district of Burri, AFP reporters say.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — Sudan’s de facto leader since the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir — on Monday dissolved the fragile government, sparking days of protests.

Arab protest convoy briefly blocks Tel Aviv highway

The convoy of Arab politicians, mayors and activists making its way to Jerusalem is passing through Tel Aviv, briefly blocking a major highway.

The convoy, protesting rampant violent crime within the Arab community, blocks Ayalon Highway near Hashalom interchange.

A short while later, the highway is reopened.

Biden announces revamped $1.75 trillion social spending package

US President Joe Biden sets out details of a revamped $1.75 trillion social spending package to structure a more equitable economy and tackle climate change, the culmination of weeks of intense negotiation.

The proposal would lock in key priorities in Biden’s spending agenda on child care and education, health care and the environment, as he heads off to meet world leaders in Europe.

“President Biden promised to rebuild the backbone of the country — the middle class — so that this time everyone comes along. He also campaigned on a promise to make government work for working people again. Today, the President is delivering on these promises,” the White House says.

Swiss president meets Abbas, offers help in renewing peace process

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Swiss President Guy Parmelin in Ramallah, with the former saying that Switzerland can play “an important role in the peace process.”

According to a statement by Abbas’s office, Parmelin says Israelis and Palestinians must return to the negotiating table, and offers Switzerland’s resources to that end.

“Creating a political horizon is at the heart of Switzerland’s concerns, and Switzerland is committed to supporting dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis, because economic steps cannot prevent violence if they are not part of a political effort,” Parmelin says.

Parmelin also urges Abbas to hold national Palestinian elections. Palestinians have not voted for their national leadership in over 15 years; Abbas indefinitely delayed a push to hold elections earlier this year.

Ramallah insists that the elections were delayed because Israel had not allowed East Jerusalem Palestinians to vote. But observers largely agree that Abbas feared his internally divided, unpopular Fatah faction could face a humiliating defeat at the hands of their rivals.

“We urge the Palestinian Authority to end the division and intensify efforts to hold Palestinian national elections,” Parmelin says.

Abbas also criticizes the United States over unfulfilled pledges to reopen an American consulate in East Jerusalem. The office previously served Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Good talk needs actual implementation, especially with regard to the reopening of the American consulate in East Jerusalem,” says Abbas.

13 European states call on Israel to halt plan for 3,000 West Bank settler homes

A group of 12 European countries urges Israel to scrap plans for the construction of more than 3,000 homes in West Bank settlements.

A day after the US criticized the plan, France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden say in a joint statement that Israel should “immediately” reverse its decision to build the homes.

The United Kingdom, which is no longer part of the European Union, separately issues a similar statement.

Bennett asks visiting Swiss president to act against Iran nuclear program

During his meeting with Swiss President Guy Parmelin in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asks that Switzerland take significant steps against Iran’s continued progress in its nuclear program.

Switzerland is one of the 35 states on the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors for 2021-2.

The two leaders also speak about expanding bilateral cooperation in science, security, and health, according to the premier’s spokesperson.

“Mr. President,” says Bennett after their meeting, “we’re eager to cooperate with Switzerland in many areas, including the global battle against COVID-19, in which both Israel and Switzerland have acquired considerable expertise and we gladly can learn from you and I’m sure vice versa. I think in the future we are going to see more pandemics and it’s something that the world has to learn to live with.”

Parmelin is the first Swiss president to visit Israel in more than two decades.

The Swiss president speaks about Israeli-Palestinian relations, urging a return to peace talks.

“Any positive economic measures cannot stop the repeating cycle of violence if they are not part of political process,” he says. “I have therefore called in name of Switzerland to initiate and to continue the process to look for peace for approaching the different people.”

Parmelin offers his country’s service as a potential meeting place for such talks, and says he will offer the same message to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah this afternoon.

Earlier this morning, President Isaac Herzog hosted Parmelin and his wife Caroline at the President’s Residence. Herzog raised the issues of Israeli civilians and MIAs being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Bennett decries ‘anti-vaxxer fake news war’ against Health Ministry official

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issues a statement condemning online death threats made against Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health services in the Health Ministry.

“The fake [news] war by anti-vaxxers against Dr. Alroy-Preis must stop,” says Bennett.

“Vaccines are Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ against the coronavirus,” he adds, likening the shots to an Israeli air defense system that intercepts missiles.

The vaccines, Bennett adds, “are life-saving and enable us to keep Israel open and functioning. Ignore the fake [news], go get vaccinated.”

Iraqi residents kill 11 in revenge for deadly IS attack

Residents of an Iraqi village have killed 11 people in retaliation for a deadly attack claimed by the Islamic State group, an Iraqi security official says.

The inhabitants of the majority Shiite village of Al-Rashad in the eastern Diyala province killed 11 people yesterday in the predominantly Sunni neighboring hamlet of Nahr al-Imam, the security official says, preferring to remain anonymous.

The assailants have accused the residents of Nahr al-Imam of being behind an attack on Al-Rashad the day before in which 15 people were killed, an increase from an initially reported toll of 11.

Another 26 people were injured in the Tuesday attack on Al-Rashad, according to the latest figures from security sources.

The Sunni IS terror group — which considers Shiites to be “heretics” — claimed the Al-Rashad attack last night.

Al-Rashad is known to have many members of security forces among its residents and is populated mostly by members of the Bani Tamim tribe, from which the governor of Diyala hails.

The Iraqi Fiqh Council, the authority on Islamic jurisprudence for Sunnis in the country, condemned the “terrorist attack” on Al-Rashad, as well as the “horrific revenge” on Nahr al-Imam.

Knesset committee green-lights $18.5 billion defense budget

The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee unanimously approves the government’s proposed NIS 59 billion ($18.5 billion) defense budget.

The defense budget — as part of the overall national budget — now awaits confirmation by the entire Knesset.

A committee spokesperson says the vote was held today following dozens of meetings by the committee and its subcommittees about the budget and after they made a number of changes in terms of how the funds were allocated “to allow better appropriation for the security needs identified by the committee and to allow better parliamentary oversight over the use of the budget.”

In a statement, the head of the committee — Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben-Barak — says the budget “provides a good response to the challenges facing us, while understanding the social and economic needs of the State of Israel.”

Hamas sentences six Gazans to death, alleging they’re Israel ‘informants’

The Islamist terror group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip announces that it has sentenced six Palestinian “informants” to death for collaborating with Israel.

The Hamas military court says it has issued sentences “against a number of informants, including six death sentences, other sentences varying between life terms and temporary hard labor, and one acquittal.”

Hamas takes a rigid approach to collaborators with Israel, which has — along with Egypt — put the enclave under blockade since the terror group took power in a bloody coup in 2007.

Hamas says collaborators who turn themselves in will face more lenient terms, and says that the “judgments issued have fulfilled all legal procedures.”

Rights groups in Gaza have urged Hamas to reduce its use of the death penalty.

Arab politicians, mayors block major highway in protest of community crime

Dozens of Arab Israeli demonstrators block Israel’s central Route 6 highway to protest alleged government inaction to end the crime wave in Arab cities and towns.

Demonstrators leave Kafr Qara, in central Israel, in a convoy of vehicles headed for Jerusalem. Parliamentarians from the Joint List bloc of predominantly Arab parties, including Joint List chief Ayman Odeh, are present at the scene. Several Arab mayors have also joined the convoy, as well as Arab Israelis who lost loved ones to the ongoing violence.

“We’re living in a situation in which there are murders every two or three days. If our children can’t live normal lives, the rest of the country cannot go on normally,” Odeh says.

Arab Israelis have long lamented a dearth of law and order in their cities and towns, where they say police rarely care to solve homicides. But this year is poised to be the bloodiest on record, with 104 killings in the community recorded well before year’s end.

Arab politicians, mayors and others block Route 6 in protest of rampant violent crime within the community, October 28, 2021. (Joint List)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government has pledged to act to end the violence. On Sunday, the government advanced a NIS 2.4 billion five-year plan to end the violence; some more extreme measures, such as involving the Shin Bet security service and expanding police powers, are also being examined. The plan will now head to the Knesset, where it is set to be passed as part of the upcoming budget.

The Joint List has sharply criticized the plan, however. “This is a plan to kill 1,400 Arabs,” Odeh said on Tuesday in a video posted on his Facebook page, in which he argued the plan does not allocate enough resources to the problem.

‘Enemy’s goal’ thwarted, Iran general tweets in Hebrew days after cyberattack

Days after Iran blamed a cyberattack that crippled gas stations across the country on a foreign country, an Iranian official tweets in Hebrew that the assault failed in its main aim of fomenting unrest through gas shortages.

“Although the defenses of the passive frontline were inactivated by a cyber attack, the rear guard thwarted enemy’s goal of rioting in Iran through coordinated and timely action by the executive, security and communication agencies,” tweets Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, also writing in Hebrew, Arabic and Persian.

“Intelligent management in October 2021 reveals the recklessness of October 2019,” he says, presumably referring to the deadly fuel riots that took place at the end of 2019 in Iran.

Iran has in the past blamed Israel of fermenting unrest. Most recently in July, Iran claimed to have arrested a Mossad cell that planned to provoke violence during protests over water shortages in the country.

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