The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
The head of a Knesset committee tasked with weighing and approving coronavirus restrictions is speaking out against a fresh lockdown.
Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) says hospital heads are against a lockdown and claims that she heard that “no health considerations stand behind the decision to go to a lockdown.”
“I wish in my heart that somebody will get a hold of themselves and realize that we need to invest in public health, not lock people down,” she says.
Health Ministry officials tell her during the meeting that hospitals are filling up and reaching their breaking point.
At one point, Shasha-Biton claims to have data showing that in one major hospital, 23 percent of deaths marked as coronavirus-related were not caused by the virus.
But the ministry’s Dr. Sharon Elroi shoots her down, telling her that many are dying unnecessarily.
“The virus is spreading and we don’t have control over it. You don’t want to start waving the flag when it’s collapsed, you want to do it before it collapses.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately resumed planning for the upcoming lockdown upon arriving in Washington, his office says.
“Netanyahu held a conference call consultation on preparations for the lockdown with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch, National Security Council head Meir Ben Shabbat, ‘Magen Yisrael’ director Prof. Ronni Gamzu, Health Ministry Director General Prof. Chezy Levy and other officials,” his office says.
It includes a picture of Netanyahu at his Blair House lodging on the phone (not Zoom) and ostensibly holding said consultations.
The release is likely designed to answer critics who have lambasted him for flying to the US for a ceremony to mark the establishment of diplomatic ties with the UAE and Bahrain, with Israel on the cusp of a major emergency and set to lock down in coming days.
Asked earlier if the ceremony could have been postponed, minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Army Radio, “You can’t postpone peace or war.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that airstrikes were carried out, likely by Israel, in recent hours at Albu Kamal, near the Syria-Iraq border.
The report claims 10 pro-Iran fighters were killed in the strikes, which also destroyed munition depots and vehicles.
There are no independent or officials reports of airstrikes or explosions in that area Monday. Strikes attributed to Israel rarely take place during daylight, and are usually accompanied by local and official reports on the attacks.
— with AFP
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is answering his critics in the government and speaking out against what he says is a “campaign to cast doubt over my work and the prosecution’s work.”
“Those behind the campaign hope it will influence me or my decisions. Very bad mistake by them. We are shut off to noises from the outside,” Mandelblit tells a New Year’s toast at the Justice Ministry.
Mandelblit and the prosecution and police have come under harsh attack by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, who object to the criminal charges leveled against the premier.
Mandelblit also answers Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who on Sunday said an indictment against an elected official “harms democracy.”
“The very claim that there are those who are above the law and should be shielded from criminal prosecution is itself damaging to democracy,” Mandelblit says.
The Gaza Strip has recorded 108 new coronavirus cases today, raising the number of active infections detected outside quarantine centers to 1,669, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says.
For seven months, Gaza managed to fend off the coronavirus by subjecting new arrivals to strict quarantine procedures and intensive testing. The coastal enclave’s first coronavirus cases were detected around three weeks ago.
Hamas health officials have warned that Gaza’s fragile health infrastructure cannot handle more than 2,000 active cases. As of two weeks ago, the Strip had only 87 ventilators available for its 1.8 million residents.
Fifteen Gazans have died from coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.
— Aaron Boxerman
Amiram Ben Uliel has been handed three life sentences for a deadly 2014 firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank.
Three members of the Dawabshe family were killed in the attack on their home in the town of Duma. One son survived the fire, but with extensive wounds.
An accomplice, who was a minor at the time of the attack, is set to be sentenced in the coming moments as well.
An Israeli non-profit that analyzes curricula in the Arab world is praising the United Arab Emirates for including a section backing an agreement to normalize ties with Israel in a sixth-grade textbook
“It is remarkable that a textbook that teaches about the UAE-Israel treaty was on the desks of schoolchildren in the Emirates just two weeks after the announcement of the agreement,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff says in a statement.
“The treaty is not just presented as a fact in the textbook. Students are presented with the religious, ethical and national reasons to support the agreement and employ critical thinking in completing an exercise about the importance of peace-making.”
The study quotes Muhammad Matar Al Kaabi, who heads the Emirati General Authority, as saying that the “historic” initiative to establish ties with Israel “stems from the values of our true Islamic religion” which strive towards “building bridges of cooperation.”
“Students are asked to create a presentation on the importance of peace treaties and the UAE’s role in achieving peace. The new section of the textbook also states that the UAE supports efforts towards reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians,” the group finds.
Last week, IMPACT-se published an analysis of the UAE “Moral Education curriculum,” which is taught from grades 1-12. It showed that the young generation of Emiratis are being raised to embrace the values of tolerance and religious pluralism.
“Clearly, the citizens of a country that teaches peace-making, conflict resolution and the acceptance of the Other at school, will be more likely to embrace peace treaties signed by their leaders,” Sheff says.
Public activities and expression in the UAE is tightly controlled by the royal family, which does not allow criticism of its policies.
— Raphael Ahren
One of the groups that are leading protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that it will call off demonstrations outside his official residence in Jerusalem during the lockdown.
The Black Flag group says it is doing so in deference to “social solidarity” and “social responsibility.”
In its announcement, it blames the lockdown on Netanyahu, saying it is “all the result of Netanyahu’s failures.”
Protests at overpasses will continue, but will be done in a safe way, it says.
The Crime Minister group, another protest organization, says it will continue to protest outside the Balfour Street residence, but will move the upcoming protest to Sunday out of deference to Rosh Hashanah.
The weekly protests have drawn 10,000 or more to Jerusalem’s Paris Square. Health officials say that they are not a major vector for virus outbreaks.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh is hailing the decision to sentence Israeli terrorist Amiram Ben Uliel to three life sentences plus 20 years for the murder of three members of the Dawabsheh family in 2015.
“The sentence for the murderers of the Dawabsheh family is partial justice for the murdered and for young [Ahmed], who survived that horrible night. Full justice will occur with the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” says Odeh.
Walla reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says the normalization agreement with the UAE will only go into effect once it is voted on by the Knesset.
The news comes in the form of a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office to a lawyer who had petitioned to know how the deal could go into effect if it is not approved by the government or Knesset, as required by law.
“Given the importance of the agreement, the prime minister intends to suggest that the government present it to the Knesset,” the letter reads.
There is no confirmation from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The wording of the agreement between Israel and the UAE has yet to be officially published, leading to questions about what Jerusalem agreed to.
According to a Kan reporter, Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz claims that included in the deal with the UAE and Bahrain is a freeze on settlement building.
British scientists are beginning a small study comparing how two experimental coronavirus vaccines might work when they are inhaled by people instead of being injected.
In a statement on Monday, researchers at Imperial College London and Oxford University say a trial involving 30 people would test vaccines developed by both institutions when participants inhale the droplets in their mouths, which would directly target their respiratory systems.
Larger studies of the Imperial and Oxford vaccine are already under way, but this study aims to see if the vaccines might be more effective if they are inhaled.
“We have evidence that delivering influenza vaccines via a nasal spray can protect people against flu as well as help to reduce the transmission of the disease,” said Dr. Chris Chiu of Imperial, who is leading the research. He suggested that might also be the case with COVID-19.
“It is critical we explore whether targeting the airways directly can provide an effective response compared to a vaccine injected into muscle,” Chiu said in a statement.
Nasr Dawabsha, a member of the Dawabsha family, says he is satisfied with the court’s decision to give three life sentences to an Israeli man convicted of murdering three members of his family.
Three members of the Dawabsha family — Saad, Riham, and their 18-month-old son Ali — were burned to death in an arson attack committed by Amiram Ben Uliel in 2015. Only their oldest son Ahmed survived; he was five years old at the time.
“This is the most we could have hoped for from an Israeli court. But we wish this decision could have come before the crime — that the Israeli government would have acted from the beginning. That they wouldn’t have allowed the settlers to come and act with their protection,” says Dawabsha.
Dawabsha says that he took Ahmed, now 10 years old, to school today in the West Bank village of Duma. Ahmed is missing an ear from the attack, and so he couldn’t wear a mask like the children.
“He began crying, asking us why he isn’t like the other children,” Dawabsha says.
“These are deep, deep wounds, especially for Ahmed. No matter what the court decides, it won’t give him his childhood back. It should have been his mother and his father taking him to school today,” Dawabsha says, his voice breaking up.
— Aaron Boxerman
A spokesperson for the prime minister is lashing out at Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz for claiming that he had heard that Israel’s deals with the UAE and Bahrain include a commitment to put a moratorium on settlement building.
“Horowitz’s sources as a politician are even worse than those he had as a journalist,” says the spokesperson, who does not stand behind the statement enough to have their actual name used and so asks journalists to identify them as a “source in the entourage” of Netanyahu.
The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 dashboard shows a new one-day record high has been reached with 307,930 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus on Sunday.
The figure, made of data sent in from national health authorities around the world, is 19,870 higher than Saturday’s tally.
Over 3,000 of those cases came from Israel.
Daily confirmed cases have only topped 300,000 once before, when 306,857 were recorded on September 6.
According to the WHO’s figures, there have been more than 28,870,000 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease, while more than 921,800 people have lost their lives, including 5,537 on Sunday.
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi has approved a series of 33 new senior staff positions, including new commanders for four of the military’s infantry brigades, three armored brigades and the Commando Brigade.
The nominees, all of them men, will enter their new positions in the coming months.
Among the nominations are picks for top roles in Military Intelligence, including the head of its operations, the head of the vaunted Unit 8200’s cyber attack department, the head of its digital department, and the head of its technological attack space department.
For security reasons, the officers named to take over these positions can only be identified by their ranks and first Hebrew initials of their names.
Col. Sharon Altit will take over as head of the Kfir Infantry Brigade; Col. Sharon Asman will take over as head of the Nahal Brigade; Col. Eliad Maor as head of the Givati Brigade; Col. Yoav Broner as head of the Paratroopers; and Col. Meni Liberati as head of the Commando Brigade.
Col. Roi Savirsky was tapped to lead the 188th Armored Brigade; Col. Yiftah Norkin to lead the 7th Armored Brigade; and Col. Sagiv Dahan to lead the training 460th armored training brigade.
In addition, Col. Erez Ben-Zion will take over as commander of the Israeli Navy’s 3rd Flotilla, which operates gunships.
Col. Yehud Wach was also nominated to command the IDF’s Officer’s Training Base, known as Bahad 1.
— Judah Ari Gross
Former politician and journalist Yinon Magal is drawing fire for comments made earlier in which he spoke about gunning down journalists.
“If I were [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] long ago I would have pulled out a submachine gun and shot — I don’t want to say at all of you, not you, but the rest of you — brrrrrr, strings of bullets, like Rocky, like Rambo, with the ammo belt going down,” Magal said to Ben Caspit on Radio 103, making actual noises of bullets being shot.
“All the journalists, who for years, every Friday are crucifying him, brrrrrrrrrrr, bullets! Grenades! 21, 23, 23, Boom!” said the grown man who used to be news director at Walla and briefly served in the Knesset before leaving due to sexual harassment allegations.
Immediately challenged, he claimed it was “satire.”
The Israeli Press Council issues a statement in which it condemns Magal’s words.
“We hope that during an unprecedented governmental, economic and health crisis, and at a dangerous time of rising tensions and social divisions, during which a spark could turn into a deadly conflagration, we won’t see any more shows like this, even not as ‘satire.'”
You can listen to his outburst here. Even if you don’t understand Hebrew, it’s … something.
קחו 50 שניות, תישענו אחורה ותקשיבו לינון מגל קורא לרצוח את כל העיתונאים שמבקרים את נתניהו. pic.twitter.com/STxij8MMMg
— Yair Marom (@yair_marom) September 14, 2020
Astronomers have found a potential sign of life high in the atmosphere of neighboring Venus: hints there may be bizarre microbes living in the sulfuric acid-laden clouds of the hothouse planet.
Two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted in the thick Venusian clouds the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Astronomy.
Several outside experts — and the study authors themselves — agree this is tantalizing but say it is far from the first proof of life on another planet. They said it doesn’t satisfy the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” standard established by the late Carl Sagan, who speculated about the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus in 1967.
“It’s not a smoking gun,” says study co-author David Clements, an Imperial College of London astrophysicist. “It’s not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect, but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has spoken with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullah bin Hassan al-Nuaimi over the phone ahead of the signing of a normalization agreement between the two countries tomorrow, according to Bahraini state media.
“The two discussed the importance of the Abraham Accords and of the growing normalization with Israel to regional stability in the Middle East, and talked about their mutual expectation that a close partnership be established between the two defense ministries, which will contribute to both countries’ capabilities, and to maintaining regional security,” Gantz’s office says.
Gantz invites al-Nuaimi to visit Israel for an official visit.
“The two agreed to continue their dialogue soon,” his office says.
— Judah Ari Gross
An official from the Israeli delegation in Washington says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be signing a “peace treaty” with the UAE at Tuesday’s White House ceremony.
Netanyahu will sign a separate “declaration of peace” with Bahrain, which only announced on Friday that it would also normalize relations with Israel, the official says in a briefing with reporters accompanying Netanyahu in Washington.
The official refuses to divulge details about whether the agreements will include Israeli commitments regarding the Palestinian issue.
“There’s a lot of sensitivity because we’re talking about four players here, and as such, the details will not be released beforehand,” says the official.
Despite the fact that Israeli officials have insisted on calling the UAE agreement a “peace treaty,” the official admits that “the difference between this agreement and the ones with Jordan or Egypt is that it does not end a state of war.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly refused to say what is contained in either agreement. The agreement with the UAE will still need to be okayed by the cabinet and possibly the Knesset as well, Netanyahu’s office said earlier.
A spokesperson from his office also mocked Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz for claiming that the agreements include a stipulation for a settlement freeze.
— Jacob Magid
Responding to criticism that the Knesset is not being made privy to the details of the normalization deal with the UAE before it is signed, an Israeli official with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s delegation says, “This is standard procedure. First we sign, and then it is brought before the cabinet for approval followed by the Knesset. That is how it was in the past as well.”
Both agreements with the UAE and Bahrain that will be signed tomorrow mention diverse areas of cooperation planned between the respective countries.
While the deal with the Emiratis will be more detailed than the declaration Netanyahu will sign with Bahrain, there still are issues that will be finalized after Tuesday’s ceremony. These were discussed last week, when the Israeli delegation, led by National Security Council chairman, Meir Ben Shabbat, visited the UAE, the official says.
These clauses will be mentioned in the peace treaty and added into the agreement after the fact, the official adds.
— Jacob Magid
An Israeli official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with US President Donald Trump twice on Tuesday, but indicates no meeting with his challenger Joe Biden is planned.
Netanyahu will join Trump at the Gulf states treaty signing ceremony, and will meet with him one additional time, the official says.
Asked if he has a meeting scheduled with Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, the official says, “What we’re here for is only the ceremony. [The possibility of a meeting] has not been raised. [Netanyahu] is closed off at the Blair House. He’s not going anywhere else.”
— Jacob Magid
The Health Ministry says that Ben-Gurion airport will remain open during the upcoming lockdown, but only on those flights that are already scheduled to fly.
It says already scheduled incoming and outgoing flights will be able to continue, in line with existing guidelines. That will include ticket-holders and those who purchase tickets on the already scheduled flights.
New immigrants will also be able to fly into their new country.
The ministry also warns that two of the three remaining countries that Israelis may travel to without having to quarantine, Bulgaria and Croatia, are in danger of having that “green” status revoked in the coming days.
A government website listing the status of various countries is no longer working. The ministry had earlier announced a list of over a dozen “green” countries.
In a rare interview with an Emirati publication, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Askhenazi praises the United Arab Emirates’ leadership and calls on the Palestinians to learn from the Emirates’ example in normalizing with Israel.
The interview, which is set to be published in full tomorrow, will be printed in the Abu Dhabi-based al-Ittihad newspaper.
Ashkenazi praised UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, whom he calls “a true leader who leads his people to prosperity and success.”
“We appreciate [Bin Zayed’s] vision and pioneering role with his courageous decision to enter the history books alongside the world’s leaders in peace,” Ashkenazi says.
“I call on the Palestinian leadership to understand reality, be responsible, play a leadership role similar to what the UAE and Bahrain, and return to the negotiating table,” Ashkenazi says.
Ashkenazi also says that he is hopeful that the peace with the Emirates will be a warm peace between peoples rather than a cold peace between governments.
“The positive reactions of UAE citizens on social media have filled our hearts with warmth and planted hope within us for security and friendship among peoples,” Askhenazi says.
— Aaron Boxerman
Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu says he will not recommend that the government extend a lockdown beyond three weeks, Channel 12 news reports.
According to the channel, Gamzu is also not convinced of the need for a 500-meter limit on movement and will ask ministers to revoke it, and instead ask law enforcement to concentrate on preventing inter-city travel.
Gamzu came into his role as an anti-lockdown evangelist, vowing to do away with “illogical” restrictions and rebuild public trust.
The head of the Jewish Democratic Council of America is criticizing the fact that details of a peace agreement between Israel and the UAE are being kept under wraps.
“It’s T-minus 23 hrs, and NO ONE knows what they’re signing tomorrow. Not the Israelis, the Emiratis, the Bahrainis, nor the @, b/c to Trump, the details don’t matter. This is NOT normal, and it’s the result of foreign policy being driven by politics & optics alone,” tweets Haile Soifer.
The tweet is atop a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau has kept his Foreign Ministry in the dark about the deal as well.
It's T-minus 23 hrs, and NO ONE knows what they're signing tomorrow.
Not the Israelis, the Emiratis, the Bahrainis, nor the @WhiteHouse, b/c to Trump, the details don't matter.
This is NOT normal, and it's the result of foreign policy being driven by politics & optics alone. https://t.co/xniLKOfXtk
— Halie Soifer (@HalieSoifer) September 14, 2020
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expressing hope that Gulf countries will build their rapprochement with Israel also to end their three-year blockade of Iran-backed Qatar.
“To keep our focus on this work and to close the door to increased Iranian meddling, it’s past time to find a solution to the Gulf rift,” Pompeo says. “The Trump administration is eager to see this dispute resolved and to open Qatar’s air and land borders currently blocked by other Gulf states. I look forward to progress on this issue.”
Pompeo makes the comments at the opening of the US-Qatar strategic dialogue at the State Department also attended by Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and their Qatari counterparts.
Israelis may not know what is in the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is teasing the fact that he does, releasing a video with him holding drafts of the agreements in his hands.
“This is a huge turning point in the history of Israel and the history of the Middle East. This is will have a massive positive impact on all Israeli citizens,” he says while sitting outside in a garden.
He also promises that “based on what I see here, more countries are on the way.”
قال رئيس الوزراء نتنياهو في البلير هاوس بواشنطن:
أمسك بيدي مسودة اتفاقية السلام التاريخية بين إسرائيل والإمارات وتصريح السلام التاريخي بين إسرائيل والبحرين.
هذا هو تحول عظيم في تاريخ إسرائيل وأيضا في تاريخ الشرق الأوسط.
أعدكم, وفقا لما أشاهده هنا, بأن دول أخرى ستقوم بذلك أيضا. pic.twitter.com/0HF72hgAv0
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) September 14, 2020
He is sure to note the fact that he did not forget that Israelis are about to be in lockdown, while he jets to DC to sign a ministerial-level diplomatic agreement.
The Health Ministry announces that the death toll from the coronavirus is up to 1,136, recording 10 more victims since this morning and approximately 17 since an update late Sunday.
The number of cases has risen to 159,290, nearly 3,700 more cases than Sunday night.
The ministry says nearly 3,000 of the cases came between midnight and 7:30 p.m.
524 patients are in serious condition, including 142 people on ventilators.
The number of active cases in Jerusalem has dropped to 4,901 after flirting with the 5,000 threshold the last two days.
The son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting flack after retweeting a crowdfunding campaign in support of Amiram Ben-Uliel.
Ben-Uliel was sentenced earlier in the day to three life sentences plus 20 years for a firebombing attack on the Palestinian Dawabsha family in the West Bank that killed three people, including a toddler.
The retweet from Yair Netanyahu is intended to raise money for Ben-Uliel’s legal fund and calls the trial “a despicable libel.”
The tweet claims that NIS 100,000 has already been raised by the fund.
Yair and his parents and brother are in Washington ahead of the signing of agreements to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
— with AP
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tells Channel 13 news that he has seen the treaty set to be signed with the UAE, and that there is nothing untoward in it.
He says it was drafted “professionally” by the foreign ministry, and does not include anything about sales of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.
Speaking to Channel 12 news, he rebuffs the idea that he or Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi would be annoyed by not even being invited to the White House signing ceremony, despite Gulf countries sending ministers and not leaders.
He also refuses to say whether he thinks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make good on his rotation deal, saying only that the deal exists and it is too early to talk about what will happen in over a year.
Asked about the looming lockdown, he says Israelis should be prepared for it to last “a long while.”
A UN peacekeeping force has rescued 36 people, mostly Syrians, and recovered the body of a passenger from a boat off Lebanon on Monday, the force and the UN refugee agency says.
The destination of the boat is not immediately clear, but Lebanon and neighboring Cyprus have reported several migrant vessels trying to leave the Middle Eastern country in past weeks.
A UNIFIL “ship located at sea outside Lebanese territorial waters, a boat with 37 people inside. Unfortunately, one of them had already passed away,” it says in a statement, without providing details on the cause.
It says the survivors are given medical treatment on board the UNIFIL ship.
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said 25 of them are Syrians, eight Lebanese, and the remaining three are of other nationalities.
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