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Bennett tells US Jewish leaders his diverse coalition is working ‘and beautiful’

After 1st speech to General Assembly, in which he didn’t mention Palestinians, PM also meets UN chief, discusses peace process

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses leaders of the North American Jewish community, hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America, in New York on September 27, 2021 (Facebook screenshot)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses leaders of the North American Jewish community, hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America, in New York on September 27, 2021 (Facebook screenshot)

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

Bedouin woman found dead in home, husband detained for questioning

A woman is found dead in her home in a Bedouin community in the southern region of the country.

The woman’s husband is detained for questioning and police opened an investigation into the incident near the town of Ar’ara BaNegev, police say.

There are conflicting reports in Hebrew media as to who found the woman and then alerted emergency services, with some reports saying it was her husband and others saying it was his son.

Her body showed signs of physical violence, according to reports.

The Magen David Adom service said it was notified of an unconscious woman who was brought to meet an ambulance at the Ksaifa Junction in the Negev region.

Israel’s Erdan warns of ‘growing voices’ in US that threaten Jewish community

Before Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s addresses heads of Jewish federations, Israel’s envoy to the US and the UN thanks the premier for highlighting the unfair treatment Israel receives at the UN.

“There are growing voices here in the US that threaten the safety of the Jewish community,” Ambassador Gilad Erdan says, while stressing that the Democratic Party and American people are overwhelmingly pro-Israel.

He says the “extended Squad” is either ignorant or antisemitic for opposing funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

Bennett to US Jews: I’d like to import your ability to listen

Stressing the unity between Israel and the Diaspora, Bennett continues: “When a Jew in Pennsylvania gets hurt, I hurt. When a Jew in France gets hurt, we feel the pain because we’re one.”

“If there’s one thing I want to import from American Jewry to Israel, it’s the ability to listen, the ability to not put people in a box,” he says. “Here, you’re just a Jew, and you’re welcome.”

Bennett then turns to the fact that Israel is in “the toughest neighborhood in the world.”

“That’s why we need to remain strong,” he says, pointing at an increase in the defense budget.

He also promises to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon, alone if necessary.

He says he was happy with the vote in Congress on funding for Iron Dome that ultimately passed by an overwhelming margin.

And he stresses that Israel is a critical player in the fight against terrorism. “We are 9 million boots on the ground,” he says, emphasizing that Israel will never ask the US to send troops to defend it.

Bennett tells US Jewish leaders his diverse coalition is working, and ‘it’s beautiful’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett focuses on the theme of national unity as he begins his address to heads of Jewish federations and Jewish leaders in NYC.

“I bring with me a new spirit,” Bennett opens, returning to a familiar theme.

“I never thought it work,” he says of the most diverse coalition in Israeli history, adding that he never would have dreamed of sitting in government with his current partners.

“There was a sense of helplessness and despair in the air,” he says referring to the series of four elections in two years.

“If we don’t sit together, this thing is going to tear apart,” he says.

“We have this bug, this legacy of division in our people,” he laments, before describing the loss of the Jewish temples in Jerusalem.

“This time, we’re not going to let it fall apart,” he says to applause, acknowledging that he in the past demonized some of his coalition partners, and they demonized him, but saying the left is no less patriotic than the right. In the serious business of governing Israel, he says, the coalition is working.

He calls his ideologically unwieldy government “beautiful.”

WATCH: Bennett meets with Jewish Federations of North America

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with Jewish communal leaders

The Jewish Federations of North America are proud to host Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett for his first major, in-person meeting with the US Jewish Community, following his inaugural address to the United Nations.Federations will convene Jewish community leaders from across the continent to attend the meeting in New York, both in-person and virtually, six days before he is set to address the Federations' annual General Assembly event.Join us for a live stream of the event.

Posted by Jewish Federations of North America on Friday, September 24, 2021

Bennett swipes at health officials over COVID approach: ‘They don’t see the full picture’

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett takes a swipe at health officials advising the government on its coronavirus approach, amid reported disagreements over whether to impose further restrictions.

“With all due respect to the cabinet of medical experts,” he says during a briefing with Israeli journalists while in New York for the UN General Assembly, “they don’t see the full picture.”

“Some of them objected to the booster at the moment of truth. I don’t accept the ‘who cares’ response regarding money and income. The medical experts are an important [source of] input but not exclusive,” he says.

“They don’t make national decisions, we do,” Bennett continues. “When I asked them why we need to shut down a Shlomo Artzi performance because of this or that community, they stuttered.”

National security adviser to meet US counterpart at White House to discuss Iran

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata will travel to Washington, DC, to meet with his counterpart Jake Sullivan at the White House, a diplomatic source says. The conversation will focus on Iran’s nuclear program.

Bennett, Guterres meet, discuss peace process — UN chief’s office

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, according to the latter’s office.

According to a readout from Guterres’s spokesman, “Prime Minister Bennett updated the Secretary-General on the situation in Israel. They exchanged views on regional developments, including the Middle East Peace Process.”

Bennett was joined at the meeting by UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata, Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo, military secretary Avi Gil and diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir.

The meeting is Bennett’s first with Guterres since becoming premier in June and follows his maiden speech to the General Assembly at the UN’s headquarters in New York. Bennett did not mention the Palestinians or the peace process in his address.

Bennett to attend Shemini Atzeret services at NYC synagogue

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will pray tonight at a local synagogue for Shemini Atzeret services. He and his wife prayed at the synagogue when they lived in New York two decades ago.

Bennett will return from the synagogue on foot because of the holiday’s religious restrictions.

Ahead of meeting with Bennett, JFNA head downplays notion of crisis with last gov’t

Prior to hosting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a New York event with US Jewish community leaders, Jewish Federations of North America CEO Eric Fingerhut downplays the notion that American Jewry is recovering from a crisis in its ties with the previous Israeli government.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai has spoken in recent months about the previous coalition’s neglect of Diaspora Jewry under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Asked about the perception that the new Israeli government must work to heal rifts, Fingerhut is dismissive.

“There’s certainly great appreciation for the outreach that’s come from Prime Minister Bennett and his government,” he tells The Times of Israel. “Have their been disagreements? Yes, and I’m sure there will be with this government too.”

However, Fingerhut says that today’s event is not about highlighting those disputes. “This occasion overrides issues of disagreement. It’s a point of enormous pride when the prime minister speaks at the UN General Assembly. Yes, this time is particularly significant because it’s Prime Minister Bennett’s first such address. I think there’s enough significance in that for people to focus on.”

“We’ve worked well with every government of Israel and will always work well with every government of Israel. It’s our job to do so and it’s what we will always do. That’s why prime ministers want to come and speak to federations and to the Jewish community, because our allegiance is to the State of Israel and whoever is in office.”

Joint List MK: Bennett’s speech shows him following in Netanyahu’s footsteps

MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Arab-majority opposition Joint List party attacks the UN General Assembly speech given by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, claiming that it shows that the current government is continuing on the path of former premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Concealing the occupation and the existence of the Palestinian people, claims of Israel’s moral superiority, and warmongering on Iran. Those are the principles guiding Netanyahu’s right-wing government, and they are guiding Bennett’s government,” she says in a statement.

“Only a change of direction from the path of the right will bring peace and security to both nations,” Touma-Sliman adds.

Likud slams Bennett’s UN address: ‘An empty speech in front of an empty hall’

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, the main opposition party, lambastes Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s UN speech, continuing its efforts to portray the premier as irrelevant and his words as empty.

“Bennett gave an empty speech in front of an empty hall and wasted empty words instead of making use of an important international stage,” Likud says in a lengthy statement that expresses strong disapproval with all parts of Bennett’s address.

The party says that the current government is failing to take action to curb the current outbreak, “and he presents that as leadership. What a joke.”

Likud pans Bennett for touting the current government he heads as a model of unity: “Since when does an Israel prime minister raise internal political matters to the top of the agenda at an international forum?”

It calls the premier’s words on Iran “empty” since he “promised not to wage a global struggle against the nuclear agreement and subjugated our operational activity to prior coordination with the Americans.”

“Bennett showed today how the world views an inexperienced Israeli politician who only has six Knesset seats — like a tree that falls in the woods that nobody saw, nobody heard and nobody cares about.”

Bennett hails Abraham Accords, says more countries to normalize ties with Israel

Bennett touts the Abraham Accords in which Israel normalized relations with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, notably not mentioning Sudan, which also announced such a move but has recently downplayed it.

“More is to come,” the premier promises.

“At a ripe young age of 73, more and more nations are understanding Israel’s value and unique place in the world.”

After thanking the United States for its continued friendship and its recent move to approve additional funding for the Iron Dome air defense system, Bennett says that the country’s new friendships have shown in the record number of countries that walked out of the UN’s commemoration of the antisemitism-plagued 2001 Durban Conference.

“This conference was originally meant to be against racism, but over the years turned into a conference of racism — against Israel and the Jewish people. And the world’s had enough of this.

“I thank the 38 countries who chose truth over lies, and skipped the conference.

“And to those countries who chose to participate in this farce, I say: Attacking Israel doesn’t make you morally superior, fighting the only democracy in the Middle East doesn’t make you ‘woke,’ adopting clichés about Israel without bothering to learn the basic facts, well… that’s just plain lazy.”

PM: Iran’s nuke program ‘at critical point,’ Israel won’t allow it to get weapon

After slamming Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi for ordering mass assassinations of Iranians and “celebrating the murder of his own people by devouring cream cakes,” Bennett warns of the nuclear threat posed by the Islamic Republic, vowing that Israel won’t allow Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

“Over the past few years, Iran has made a major leap forward… Iran’s nuclear weapon program is at a critical point,” he says. “All red lines have been crossed. Inspections — ignored. All wishful thinking — proven false.

“Iran is violating the IAEAs safeguard agreements — and it’s getting away with it. They harass inspectors and sabotage their investigations — and they’re getting away with it. They enrich Uranium to the level of 60 percent, which is one step short of weapons-grade material — and they’re getting away with it.

“Evidence which clearly proves Iran’s intentions for nuclear weapons in secret sites in Toorkooz-abad, Teheran and Marivan — is ignored.

“Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning. There are those in the world who seem to view Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as an inevitable reality, or they’ve just become tired of hearing about it.

“Israel doesn’t have that privilege. We will not tire. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Bennett warns, adding that “Iran is much weaker, much more vulnerable than it seems.”

PM: Iran arming proxies with ‘swarms of killer drones armed with lethal weapons’

Bennett presents what he says is a new military threat posed by Tehran.

“Just this year, Iran made operational a new deadly terror unit — swarms of killer UAVs armed with lethal weapons that can attack any place any time. They plan to blanket the skies of the Middle East with this lethal force.

“Iran has already used these deadly UAVs — called Shahed 136 — to attack Saudi Arabia, US targets in Iraq and civilian ships at sea, killing a Brit and a Romanian.

“Iran plans to arm its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with hundreds and then thousands of these deadly drones.”

Bennett: Iran seeks to dominate Mideast under nuclear umbrella

Bennett switches to speaking about the regional threat posed by Iran and its support for terror group proxies.

“While Israel strives to do good, we cannot lose sight for one moment of what’s happening in our neighborhood. Israel is, quite literally, surrounded by Hezbollah, Shia militias, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. On our borders.

“These terror groups seek to dominate the Middle East and spread radical Islam across the world. What do they all have in common? They all want to destroy my country, and they’re all backed by Iran. They get their funding from Iran, they get their training from Iran, and they get their weapons from Iran.

“Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region — and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella.”

Bennett says that every place that Iran has tried to take over is “falling apart,” citing as examples Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza.

“Like the Midas touch, Iran’s regime has the ‘Mullah-touch.’ Every place Iran touches — fails.”

PM fetes COVID policy of keeping economy open, ‘pioneering’ booster vaccine

Bennett presents his government’s model of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it “fuses the wisdom of science with the power of policymaking.”

He says that the economy “must stay open,” arguing that “we all paid a huge price — an economic price, a physical price and an emotional price — for bringing life to a standstill in 2020.”

“Lockdowns, restrictions, quarantines, cannot work in the long run. Our model, rather than locking people down in passive sleep mode, recruits them to the effort. For example, we asked Israeli families to carry out home-testing of their children so we can keep schools open — and indeed schools stayed open.”

Another aspect of the model is early vaccinations, with Bennett touting the moves by both the previous and the current governments to make Israel the first country in the world to offer widespread shots of the first and third doses, respectively.

“We are in a race against a deadly virus and we must try to be ahead of it,” he says, adding that the move on the third dose “was a tough decision, given that at the time the FDA hadn’t yet approved it.

“We faced a choice to either drag Israel into yet another set of lockdowns [and] further harm our economy and society, or to double-down on vaccines. We chose the latter. We pioneered the booster shot.

“Two months in I can report that it works: With a third dose, you’re seven times more protected than with two doses, and 40 times more protected than without any vaccine.

“As a result, Israel is on course to escape the fourth wave without a lockdown, without further harm to our economy. Israel’s economy is growing, and unemployment is down. I’m glad that our actions have inspired other countries to follow with the booster.”

Bennett says that his third rule within this model is “adapt and move quickly,” saying that a national task force to bypass bureaucracy has shown that “trial and error is key.”

“Every day is a new day, with new data and new decisions. When something works, we keep it. When it doesn’t, we ditch it.”

Bennett hails Israel’s ‘most diverse government’ as model for debate without hate

Bennett hails the new right-center-left-Arab government he heads as the “most diverse government in our history,” saying that it can serve as a model for debate without hate.

“In a polarized world where algorithms fuel our anger, people on the right and on the left operate in two separate realities, each in their own social media bubble. They hear only the voices that confirm what they already believe in. People end up hating each other.

“In Israel, after four elections in two years, with a fifth looming, the people yearned for an antidote: Calm. Stability. An honest attempt for political normalcy.

“Inertia is always the easiest choice. But there are moments in time where leaders have to take the wheel a moment before the cliff, face the heat and drive the country to safety.

“About a hundred days ago, my partners and I formed a new government in Israel. What started as a political accident, can now turn into a purpose. And that purpose is unity.

“Today we sit together, around one table… What we have proven is that even in the age of social media, we can debate without hate.”

Bennett kicks off UN speech, touting Israel as a ‘lighthouse in a stormy sea’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett begins his UN General Assembly speech by touting Israel as a “lighthouse in a stormy sea, a beacon of democracy… eager to contribute to the world despite being in the toughest neighborhood on earth.”

“For way too long, Israel was defined by wars with our neighbors,” he says. “But this is not what Israel is about. This is not what the people of Israel are about. Israelis don’t wake up in the morning thinking about the conflict.

“Israelis want to lead a good life, take care of our families and build a better world for our children. Which means that from time to time, we might need to leave our jobs, say goodbye to our families and rush to the battlefield to defend our country.

“They should not be judged for it. Israelis remember the dark horrors of our past, but remain determined to look ahead, to build a brighter future.”

Bennett arrives at UN building

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s convoy reaches the United Nations building in New York, half an hour ahead of his first address to the UN General Assembly.

Bennett heads to UN headquarters ahead of General Assembly speech

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett heads out to the UN headquarters in New York, where he is set to start his speech at the UN General Assembly in about 30 minutes.

Iran says UN nuclear watchdog’s claim ‘not accurate’

Iran rejects a complaint by the UN nuclear watchdog that it was blocked from a nuclear site, arguing that the facility is exempt from a recent agreement.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said yesterday that it had been denied “indispensable” access to the TESA Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop near Tehran, contrary to a September 12 agreement with Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi rejects the charge on Twitter.

“During the discussions in Tehran and Vienna, Iran indicated that… equipment related to this Complex are not included for servicing,” he writes, referring to IAEA work on its surveillance equipment.

Yesterday’s IAEA statement “isn’t accurate and goes beyond the agreed terms,” he adds.

This month’s agreement between the IAEA and Iran came days after the nuclear watchdog had decried a lack of cooperation from Tehran.

Agency inspectors have been allowed to service monitoring and surveillance equipment, and to replace storage media at “all necessary locations” except the TESA Karaj workshop, the IAEA said yesterday.

Study: COVID caused biggest drop in life expectancy in western Europe since WWII

A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the biggest drop in life expectancy in western European countries since World War II.

The figures show that out of 29 countries — spanning most of Europe, the US and Chile — 27 featured a drop in life expectancy. In some cases, it is such a steep drop that it wiped out years of progress in raising life expectancy.

The biggest decline is among males in the US — 2.2 years compared to 2019, followed by males in Lithuania with 1.7 years, according to The Guardian.

Men have experienced a bigger decline in life expectancy than women.

“Females in eight countries and males in 11 countries experienced losses larger than a year,” says Dr. José Manuel Aburto, a co-lead author of the study.

“To contextualize, it took on average 5.6 years for these countries to achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy recently, progress wiped out over the course of 2020 by Covid-19.”

More than 60 killed in clashes for Yemen’s Marib

Sixty-seven Yemeni rebels and pro-government troops have been killed, as fighting intensifies for the key city of Marib, military and medical sources say.

“Fifty-eight Houthi insurgents and nine loyalists were killed in fighting and airstrikes in the provinces of Marib and Shabwa in the past 24 hours,” military sources tell AFP, in figures that have been confirmed by medical sources.

Iran’s IRGC says 2 of its members killed in fire at Tehran research site

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) says that two of its members have died from injuries they suffered in an unexplained fire yesterday.

The Guard says that the fire erupted in a warehouse at what it describes as a “research self-sufficiency center” west of the capital, Tehran. At least three Guard members were injured, two of whom later died. The statement does not provide any further details.

The powerful Guard runs the Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization, which the US Treasury sanctioned in 2017 over its work “researching and developing ballistic missiles.” It isn’t immediately clear whether the site struck by yesterday’s fire is involved in missile development.

Missile facilities and other sensitive sites in Iran have seen fires before.

The most notable came in 2011, when a blast at a missile base near Tehran killed Revolutionary Guard commander Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, who led the paramilitary force’s missile program, and 16 others.

Initially, authorities described the blast as an accident, though a former prisoner later said that the Guard interrogated him on the suspicion that Israel was behind the explosion.

US says Iran must let UN inspectors into nuke site or face diplomatic action

The United States has warned Iran that it will face diplomatic steps against it if the decision to block UN inspectors from accessing the Karaj nuclear facility isn’t reversed.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said yesterday that its inspectors were seeking to replace and fix up cameras at the site but were turned away, with a statement from the agency’s head, Rafael Grossi, saying the move violated a September 12 agreement to allow inspectors to service the surveillance equipment.

“We call on Iran to provide the IAEA with needed access without further delay,” says a US statement to an IAEA board meeting, according to Reuters. “If Iran fails to do so, we will be closely consulting with other Board Members in the coming days on an appropriate response.”

Palestinian Authority arrests main witness in trial over killing of PA critic

Palestinian Authority security forces this morning arrested the main witness in the trial of 14 PA officers over the killing of anti-PA activist Nizar Banat, his family says.

Hussein Banat was one of two witnesses to the night raid by PA security forces that saw his brother Nizar, a well-known critic of Ramallah’s leadership, die in their custody. His death drew international condemnation and sparked rare protests against the PA leadership by West Bank Palestinians.

A source close to the Banat family tells The Times of Israel that they believe the arrest is a means to pressure them into silence.

Reached by telephone, the Hebron branch of the PA security forces declines to comment. A spokesperson for the PA security forces has not responded to several phone calls.

The Palestinian security officers accused of killing Banat were arraigned today at a Ramallah military court. The charge sheet describes a chilling scene: after bursting into Banat’s south Hebron hideout in the dead of night, the officers viciously beat him with iron rods before dragging him away.

According to Banat’s death certificate, the beating sent him into traumatic shock. He ultimately died of acute cardiac arrest that same morning.

No senior Palestinian intelligence officials or politicians have been charged in the case. The Banat family has denounced the trial as a sham.

Man seriously injured from fall at Jerusalem’s Tower of David

A 49-year-old man is seriously injured after falling from a height of several meters at Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in the Old City.

The man is receiving medical treatment and police have begun investigating the circumstances.

Serious COVID cases drop; key figure shows outbreak at lowest point in 4 months

The Health Ministry says that 3,208 coronavirus cases were identified in the country yesterday, with 4.26 percent of tests giving a positive result. There are 57,724 active COVID-19 cases, continuing a general downward trend in morbidity.

Serious cases are down by some 40 compared to yesterday, at 671, but the number of patients on ventilators is up by 7, reaching 222.

The basic reproduction number — a key epidemiological benchmark representing the average number of people each virus carrier infects — is 0.77, reaching its lowest point in over four months, meaning the outbreak is increasingly waning.

The death toll has grown by 35 since yesterday morning, and reaches 7,684.

Bennett set to address UN General Assembly today

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to address the 76th UN General Assembly in New York in a few hours, his first speech on the last day of this year’s forum of world leaders.

He will speak at 9 a.m. local time (4 p.m. Israel time).

According to a senior adviser, Bennett will seek to portray Israel as a global player whose expertise can offer solutions to pressing world problems.

The speech will tout Bennett’s approach to battling COVID-19, call for action against Iran’s nuclear program, hail Israel’s normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and will not focus on the Palestinian issue.

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