59% disappointed with Netanyahu’s leadership — Channel 13 poll
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Polls show support down for Netanyahu’s Likud if elections held; Yamina surging

In 2 separate surveys, ruling party down to 29-30 seats after polling around 40 several months ago; 19% think Bennett most suited as PM, his party gets 19 seats in one of the polls

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett of Yamina, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting of right-wing parties, on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett of Yamina, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting of right-wing parties, on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Israeli national lab to begin human trials on COVID-19 vaccine as soon as October

An Israeli national laboratory will begin testing its coronavirus vaccine on human subjects in mid-October, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaking at his Blue and White party’s faction meeting in the Knesset, May 27, 2020. (Elad Malka/Blue and White)

Gantz makes the remarks following a visit to the Defense Ministry’s secretive Biological Research Institute in Nes Ziona, where he was informed of recent “advancements in the development of the vaccine and antibodies for the coronavirus,” his office says.

“We must begin tests on humans after the Tishrei holidays,” Gantz says, referring to the Hebrew month in which the Jewish high holidays take place, the last of which ends this year on October 10.

— Judah Ari Gross

‘Good chance’ of finding Beirut survivors: French rescue team

There is a “good chance” of finding survivors of the Beirut port explosion, especially a group believed to be trapped in a room under the rubble, a French rescuer says.

“We are looking for seven or eight missing people, who could be stuck in a control room buried by the explosion,” says a colonel leading a rescue team that arrived in Lebanon late yesterday.

“We think there is a good chance of finding… people alive,” he tells French President Emmanuel Macron as he surveys the scene of Tuesday’s explosion that killed more than 100 people.

A Lebanese man carries his belongings as he leaves his destroyed house near the scene where an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, seen on August 6, 2020. (Hussein Malla/AP)

— AFP

UK says 50 million masks unusable over safety concerns

The British government says it won’t be using 50 million face masks it bought during a scramble to secure protective equipment for medics at the height of the coronavirus outbreak because of safety concerns.

The masks were part of a 252 million pound ($332 million) contract the government signed with investment firm Ayanda Capital in April. Papers filed in a court case reveal that the masks will not be distributed because they have ear loops rather than head loops and may not fit tightly enough.

Clinical Research Nurse Aneta Gupta labels blood samples from volunteer Yash during the Imperial College vaccine trial, at a clinic in London, August 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The government says another 150 million masks supplied by Ayanda are unaffected but are still being tested.

The papers are part of a lawsuit against the Conservative government by campaigning groups the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor.

As the coronavirus outbreak accelerated across the UK in March, it became clear that the country lacked sufficient stockpiles of masks, gloves, gowns and other protective gear for health care workers and nursing home staff. That sparked a race to buy billions of pieces of equipment from suppliers in the UK and abroad.

Opposition parties are calling for an urgent investigation into the way personal protective equipment was acquired.

— AP

Coronavirus testing lab to be opened at Ben Gurion Airport — report

A coronavirus testing lab will be opened at Ben Gurion Airport, likely within several weeks, the Israel Hayom daily reports.

A government tender for opening the lab at Israel’s largest airport has been published and companies can register their candidacy starting next week, according to the report.

Despite the high infection rate in Israel, the government is developing a plan to open the country’s skies.

Bennett to quarantine after being near journalist who contracted COVID-19

Yamina party leader MK Naftali Bennett says he has entered quarantined until the coming Sunday after being in contact with a coronavirus carrier.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the media in Ariel, in the West Bank, January 26, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The former defense minister says he was near the patient only for a few minutes and he hasn’t had symptoms.

Reports say the carrier is a prominent journalist.

The development comes as an unnamed employee at Channel 13 news is said to have caught the disease, which prompted the network’s two most senior anchors and military analyst to isolate themselves.

Health Ministry official said to doubt Israeli vaccine prospects

A senior official at the Health Ministry reportedly casts doubt on the announcement that the Biological Research Institute will begin human trials on its coronavirus vaccine as early as October.

“The coronavirus [crisis] will end before they have a vaccine,” the unnamed official says, according to Army Radio.

Indictments against cops decline for 3rd straight year

Oversight of the Israel Police is becoming weaker and weaker, as the Haaretz daily reports that for the third year running, the body that investigates wrongdoing by officers has filed fewer indictments than the previous year.

During the first six months of 2020, the Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) has only filed 24 indictments against cops, the report says.

It adds that the decline began when Keren Bar-Menachem, the PIID’s current head, entered her job.

The PIID is a body that operates under the Justice Ministry.

“For 24 indictments in six months, there is no need for a department,” Haaretz quotes an unnamed source in the state prosecutor’s office as saying.

Israeli organization says it will send medical aid to Lebanon

An Israeli group says it is planning to fly medical and humanitarian aid to Lebanon to support those injured in the Beirut blast on Tuesday, which killed more than 130 people and wounded thousands.

SmartAID says it will fly in personal protective equipment, ventilators, medical items for burn victims, general supplies for injuries and solar lights, along with more equipment.

The items are being collected in warehouses in North America and Australia, the organization says.

The equipment is meant to be distributed at health institutions and children care facilities.

Lebanon has not approved Israel’s offer to help the country deal with the devastation caused by the explosion, and it isn’t clear whether it will accept this aid either.

Report details non-final government plan for reopening Israel’s skies

A report details how the government is planning to open Israel to flights starting August 16, as discussed by the coronavirus cabinet.

Channel 12 says that according to the plan, which still isn’t final, travelers coming from countries with low infection rates (“green” countries) will no longer be required to quarantine.

The report says they will have to declare that they haven’t been to a country with high infection rates (“red” countries) during their time abroad, but doesn’t say how that declaration will be verified.

Quarantine for arrivals from “red” countries could be shortened from the current 14-day period by several days, the report says.

A coronavirus testing lab will be opened at Ben Gurion Airport, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu says in a press briefing. The Channel 12 report says passengers will be required to undergo a test before departing Israel since many countries demand proof that arrivals don’t have the virus.

It isn’t clear where Israelis will be allowed to travel, since Israel has one of the highest morbidity rates in the world.

Israelis can currently enter the United States and Ukraine, and the report says there are talks with about ten “green” countries about letting in Israelis, including Greece and Cyprus.

Passengers going to — or returning from — “green” countries will go through a different process from those coming or going to “red” countries, the report says.

It adds that the flight crew will wear protective gear, and that one option being considered is having no meals served during the flights.

No tickets can currently be ordered, since airlines will only determine details and prices when they receive government orders.

In first, religious lesbian woman to be appointed to Tel Aviv religious council

Avigail Sperber, 47, an activist who founded “Bat Kol,” an LGBT rights group for religious women, will be appointed next week as a member of Tel Aviv’s religious council, the first time a religious lesbian woman will become part of any religious council in Israel.

The appointment is expected to be approved by the Tel Aviv city council.

Sperber’s father, Daniel Sperber, is a Wales-born Modern Orthodox rabbi and academic who won the Israel Prize for the study of the Talmud religious text.

אביגיל שפרבר, במאית וצלמת הסרט "תקופת מבחן" זוכה פרס הסרט הישראלי הטוב ביותר ופרס הצילום

פורסם על ידי ‏Docaviv דוקאביב‏ ב- יום שני, 19 במאי 2014

 

Protest group calls anti-Netanyahu rallies for tonight throughout country

Crime Minister, one of the three main groups organizing protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for protests tonight in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as on bridges across the country.

The Jerusalem protest will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s official residence on Balfour Street, while Tel Aviv protests will take place at Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s apartment in the Bitzaron neighborhood at 6:30 p.m.

Last Saturday night saw the largest anti-Netanyahu demonstrations yet, with tens of thousands protesting across the country. Around 15,000 gathered in Jerusalem alone in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence, according to police estimates.

Most Thursday night protests have been less well-attended so far than those on Saturday night, but hundreds of demonstrators have arrived at Balfour Street for the past two weeks to call for Netanyahu to resign.

— Aaron Boxerman

Haredi party leaders call on PM, Gantz to pass budget, avoid early elections

Ultra-Orthodox party leaders urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to swiftly pass a new budget to prevent a fresh round of general elections.

The government has until August 25 to approve a budget or it will automatically dissolve. Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to pass a budget through 2021 as part of the coalition deal between their parties, but the premier is now calling for a budget that only covers the rest of the year, citing the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Gantz on the other hand is insisting on a budget that runs through next year as stipulated by the coalition agreement.

With the deadline quickly approaching, the heads of the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties huddle to discuss the impasse.

“We won’t cooperate with any effort to move up elections. The passing of a budget is the order of the day,” Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman and MK Moshe Gafni say in a joint statement after the meeting.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (C), then-health minister Yaakov Litzman (L) and United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni attend the third annual Shas conference at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem on February 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Haredi lawmakers say it would be “complete madness” to hold new elections as Israel grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic fallout.

“This is the time to clear aside everything, bring the state budget for swift approval so we can focus on the challenges of the economy and health system,” they say.

Deri, Litzman and Gafni don’t specify whether they back a budget for only the rest of the year or one that covers 2021 as well.

Court bans social media video with fake news about Netanyahu prosecutor’s son

The Ramle Magistrate’s Court bans the sharing of a social media video with fake news about the son of Liat Ben-Ari, the lead prosecutor in the trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Videos and false claims have been circulating that Ben-Ari’s son assaulted a police officer during a protest by Netanyahu supporters near their house.

The originator of the fake news claims is a woman known as Orly Lev.

The Israel Police has said it will restrict the near-daily rallies near Ben-Ari’s home and require them to be held several hundred meters away, after neighbors complained about the noise.

Iran says US, Israel are nuclear ‘threat’ to region

Iran’s foreign minister says Israel and the US constitute a nuclear threat to the Middle East, on the 75th anniversary of the atomic attack on Hiroshima.

“Today, US & Israeli nukes threaten our region,” Mohammad Javad Zarif says on Twitter.

The first atomic bomb deployed in warfare was dropped on the western city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, by the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay, killing about 140,000 people.

“75 years ago today, the US gained the infamy of becoming the 1st and ONLY user of nuclear weapons. And against innocents,” Zarif says.

Israel is believed to be the Middle East’s sole nuclear-armed power, though it has never confirmed it.

Zarif’s words come in a context of tensions between Tehran and Washington, which unilaterally pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. The US and Israel accuse Iran of being set on developing a nuclear bomb, a charge denied by Tehran, which frequently threatens to flatten Israeli cities.

“It’s long overdue to end the nuclear nightmare & the MAD doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction,” Zarif adds, alluding to a Cold War theory that the threat of a nuclear holocaust generates a disincentive for two nuclear armed powers to go to war.

— with AFP

Haredi party heads believe solution to avert elections near-impossible — report

Despite the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties issuing a joint call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to compromise over the state budget to avert early elections, a report says they believe finding a solution is near-impossible.

The ultra-Orthodox Behadrei Haredim website reports that the faction leaders — Yaakov Litzman, Moshe Gafni and Aryeh Deri — estimated during a meeting in Bnei Brak that it would be difficult and likely impossible to mediate a solution on whether to pass a two-year budget, as Gantz wants and as stipulated in the coalition agreement, or a single-year budget as demanded by Netanyahu.

If no state budget is approved by August 25, the country will automatically go to early elections.

Nasrallah address, delayed due to blast, rescheduled for Friday evening

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah will speak tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. to discuss “developments,” according to the terror group’s official TV station al-Manar.

Nasrallah was originally supposed to given an address last night, but it was delayed after Tuesday’s explosion at the Beirut port, which has killed over 135 people, wounded 5,000 and left 300,000 Lebanese homeless.

— Aaron Boxerman

Macron to meet Hezbollah MPs during visit to Lebanon — report

During his visit to Lebanon following the Beirut blast on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron will meet lawmakers representing the Hezbollah terror group, a Lebanese website reports.

The Al-Jadeed news outlet reports that Macron will meet a delegation from the Al-Wafaa “resistance bloc,” adding that the delegation will be headed by Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad.

France recognizes Hezbollah’s military wing as a terror group, but distinguishes between it and the Shiite group’s political wing.

Police open criminal investigation into mass ultra-Orthodox wedding

The Israel Police says a criminal investigation has been opened regarding an ultra-Orthodox mass wedding held in violation of coronavirus regulations.

Photos from the wedding of the grandson of the spiritual leader of the Belz hasidic sect show some 2,000 people sitting next to each other, indoors, without keeping distance or wearing masks.

Channel 12 reports that attendants included United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler, who belongs to the Belz sect. Eichler refuses to comment.

Police say the wedding organizers have received four fines of NIS 5,000 ($1470) each.

Man, 24, drowns in Sea of Galilee

A 24-year-old man has drowned while swimming in the Sea of Galilee, the Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance service says.

Paramedics tried to save the man’s life at a gender-segregated beach catering to religious communities, but were unsuccessful, MDA says in a statement.

Police are collecting evidence and questioning eyewitnesses to investigate the incident.

Bomb attached to balloon, likely launched from Gaza, found in Arad

Police say an explosive device attached to a balloon has been found in an industrial zone in the southern city of Arad.

Police say a sapper inspected the suspicious object and concluded it is a time bomb, which was then neutralized.

Attaching incendiary devices to balloons has been a popular tactic for terror groups in the Gaza Strip for the past two years, but has been rarely used lately.

However, reports suggest many such devices were sent over the border fence today, since four wildfires broke out today in the Eshkol region near Gaza.

Netanyahu says no lockdown for now, but ‘if it is needed we will do it’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital and says Israel won’t impose a lockdown even though the COVID-19 morbidity rate remains among the highest in the world per capita.

“No country with our infection rate didn’t impose lockdowns, but we are aware of the socio-economic situation,” Netanyahu tells reporters.

“Over the next two weeks we will make efforts to lower the rate with other means, and if everyone wears masks, I have no doubt we’ll succeed,” he adds.

“We are trying to avoid [a lockdown], but of course if it is needed we will do it,” he says, adding that unlike after the first lockdown, this time there will be a robust contact-tracing mechanism prepared by the army, that the PM says will be ready in a month and is designed to stop the infection chains.

New York seeks to dissolve NRA over financial mismanagement

The US state of New York announces it is suing the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its leader Wayne LaPierre for financial fraud and misconduct, aiming to dissolve the powerful conservative lobby.

“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” says state Attorney General Letitia James.

“The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”

— AFP

Twitter moves to curb ‘state-affiliated’ media

Twitter unveils new steps to curb the spread of content from “state-affiliated media” that seeks to advance a government’s political agenda.

The US social media platform says it will add new labels to these accounts and will “no longer amplify” their tweets through its recommendation systems, in the latest move to identify and limit the spread of government-led influence campaigns.

Twitter’s announcement follows a similar action by Facebook earlier this year which labeled content from media which are editorially controlled by governments.

The Twitter move affects media “where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” the company says in a statement.

— AFP

Lebanon customs chief says government told of danger, didn’t respond

The head of Lebanon’s customs department says one of the country’s main security agencies reported to the Cabinet in the past year about the danger from explosive chemicals being stored at the Beirut port.

Badri Daher tells The Associated Press that State Security has been investigating the stockpile of ammonium nitrate for the past year. He says it raised reports about the danger to the Cabinet, the state prosecutor and other state institutions.

Security officials are not immediately available for comment.

Daher confirms that he sent a letter in 2017 to a judge in which he warned of the “dangers if the materials remain where they are, affecting the safety of (port) employees” and asked the judge for guidance.

Daher says he and his predecessor sent a total of six letters but never got a response.

— AP

Facebook removes post by Moshe Feiglin that ‘mocked the victims’ of Beirut blast

Facebook has removed a post by a prominent former Israeli lawmaker that appeared to express glee over the Beirut blast that has killed more than 130 people, injured thousands and left an estimated 300,000 homeless.

Moshe Feiglin, a far-right libertarian and former Likud MK, wrote the post on Tuesday.

Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ramat Gan, on August 29, 2019. (Flash90)

“A real thank you to all the geniuses and heroes who organized this great celebration for love day,” he wrote, referring to the Jewish holiday of Tu B’av which was marked yesterday.

He went on to claim, without evidence, that the blast was caused by explosives being stored by Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terror group. Lebanese authorities say the explosion was caused by some 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port for years. Like others, Feiglin compared the resulting mushroom cloud to an atomic bomb.

“You don’t actually believe this was some disorganized fuel depot, right? Do you understand what hell would have befallen us beneath a rain of missiles?” wrote Feiglin, the leader of the Zehut party.

“The post was removed because its content mocks the victims, which goes against our policy,” Facebook says.

Trump says his comments blocked by Facebook were ‘perfect’

US President Donald Trump insists that his comment about children being nearly immune to the coronavirus — which Facebook and Twitter blocked for being false — was “perfect.”

It was “a perfect statement, a statement about youth,” Trump tells conservative radio host Geraldo Rivera.

The remark refers to the unprecedented decision by Facebook last night to take down a clip from the president’s account for violating its content rules on misinformation. Twitter briefly blocked Trump’s official campaign account over a tweet containing the same video.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, August 4, 2020.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In the video — a clip from an interview Trump did with Fox News — the president claims that children are “almost immune” to COVID-19.

Children are not immune to catching the novel coronavirus, although they are much less likely to become seriously ill, and deaths are extremely rare.

Trump is using his claim to back up a push to get schools fully open again in September and move the country back to normality before the November 3 presidential election.

“Every doctor’s saying what I’m saying. Not every doctor, I guess. There’ll be some that won’t,” he tells Rivera.

Trump relies heavily on Twitter and Facebook, where he has huge followings, but complains of censorship and says that “the internet is totally controlled by a few people.”

“If you happen to be on the right, if you’re a Republican or a conservative Republican, what they’re doing to people is incredible,” he says.

— AFP

Three fires in Israel today sparked by Gaza incendiary balloons — fire service

At least three brush fires were sparked throughout the day in southern Israel by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from the Gaza Strip, marking an apparent return of the phenomenon, the fire department says.

Another balloon that apparently carried an explosive device was found near the city of Arad, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the coastal enclave. It was located by police and detonated in a controlled explosion, police say.

Throughout the day, several blazes were reported in the Hof Ashkelon and Eshkol Regions, northeast and east of the Gaza Strip, respectively — all of which were quickly brought under control.

An investigation into the cause of the fires determined that they were sparked by balloon-borne incendiary devices, the southern division of Fire and Rescue Services says.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF to maintain high alert on northern border

Military chief Aviv Kohavi decides to keep the Israel Defense Forces on high alert along Israel’s northern border out of concerns that the Hezbollah terror group may carry out an attack on a military target in the area, the IDF says.

At the same time, soldiers stationed on the border will again be able to go on furlough — something that has been halted over the past two weeks of heightened tensions — in order “to allow the troops a breath of relief,” the military says in a statement.

— Judah Ari Gross

Brian Hook, US special envoy to Iran, to step down — report

Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran, is set to announce he is stepping down, the New York Times reports.

Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran, in Washington, November 29, 2018. (Carolyn Kaster/ AP)

Hook is one of few foreign policy officials who remained in their post almost throughout US President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Hook’s departure “appears to bury any remaining chance of a diplomatic initiative with Iran before the end of Mr. Trump’s term,” the report says.

The report says Hook will be replaced by Elliott Abrams, a conservative and hardliner on Iran who has thus far been special envoy for Venezuela.

US coronavirus deaths predicted at nearly 300,000 by December 1

A widely cited University of Washington model predicts US deaths from COVID-19 will reach nearly 300,000 by December 1.

The forecast of 295,011 deaths is 137,000 more than the roughly 158,000 US deaths reported so far. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model assumes that many states will impose new stay-at-home orders as deaths climb.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors the model along with forecasts from about 30 other modeling groups. Combined, the models predict from 168,000 to 182,000 total COVID-19 deaths by August 22.

— AP

Brian Hook steps down as US special envoy for Iran

Brian Hook announces he is stepping down as US special envoy for Iran and will be replaced by Elliott Abrams.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanks Hook and calls him “a valued member of my leadership team.”

Polls show drop in support for Netanyahu’s Likud as Yamina surges

Two opinion polls published by TV networks both predict a significant fall in support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, as more and more reports indicate that the premier has resolved to go to elections, the fourth since April 2019.

A Channel 13 poll by Prof. Kamil Fuchs shows Likud with just 29 Knesset seats, down from its current 36 and after it got about 40 in opinion polls several months ago.

The poll shows a remarkable growth in support for Naftali Bennett’s opposition right-wing party Yamina, which currently has 5 seats but gets a whopping 19 in the survey.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid-Telem party also gets 19 seats. The Joint List gets 15, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White gets just 8, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu gets 8, Shas gets 8, United Torah Judaism gets 7 and Meretz also gets 7.

The right-wing religious bloc, including Yamina and excluding Yisrael Beytenu, gets 63 seats in the 120-member parliament.

Another poll by the Kan public broadcaster predicts 30 seats for Likud, 17 for Yesh-Atid-Telem, 15 for Yamina, 12 for Blue and White, 9 for Shas, 8 for UTJ, 7 for Yisrael Beytenu and 6 for Meretz.

The right-wing religious bloc supporting Netanyahu has 62 according to this poll, enough for a razor-thin majority.

The Kan poll finds that Bennett is now regarded by many more people than in the past as worthy of the premiership, the first time in many years that a clear heir has emerged to Netanyahu in the right wing.

The poll finds 37% regard Netanyahu as best suited for the leadership, followed by 19% for Bennett, 15% for Lapid and 10% for Gantz.

59% disappointed with Netanyahu’s leadership — Channel 13 poll

A Channel 13 survey finds 71% are unhappy with the government’s handling of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, and 59% are disappointed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It finds 51% think Netanyahu is fit to be the prime minister, while 31% think so about Benny Gantz, 28% think so about Yair Lapid, 23% think so about former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot and 19% think so about Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

The numbers don’t add up to 100% because each contender was asked about individually.

The Kamil Fuchs survey was conducted among 704 respondents representing Israel’s adult population, with a margin of error of 3.9%.

Government nixes weekend restrictions on shopping, public parks

The government has canceled weekend restrictions on businesses and public parks.

The Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement that the government, in a vote coordinated over the phone, nixed the much-criticized partial lockdown and approved reopening shops, stores and other public places on weekends.

US Senate votes to ban TikTok on government phones

The US Senate votes to bar TikTok from being downloaded onto US government employees’ telephones, intensifying US scrutiny of the popular Chinese-owned video app.

The bill passed by the Republican-controlled Senate now goes to the House of Representatives, led by Democrats.

“TikTok is a major security risk and has no place on government devices,” says Republican Senator Josh Hawley, the sponsor of the bill.

US President Donald Trump, who has locked horns with China on a range of issues including trade and the pandemic, has set a deadline of mid-September for TikTok to be acquired by a US firm or be banned in the US.

— AFP

USC student leader says she quit because she was harassed for supporting Israel

A Jewish student leader at the University of Southern California has said she resigned due to harassment over her support for Israel.

Rose Ritch, the vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government, says in an open letter to the campus community published yesterday that she has to resign to “protect my physical safety on campus and my mental health.”

The university administration has recently stopped impeachment proceedings against Ritch over allegations of complicity in racial misconduct on campus, and for not calling out alleged racial misconduct and microaggressive behavior by the student government president, who resigned last month, the Daily Trojan student newspaper reports.

“I have been harassed and pressured for weeks by my fellow students because they opposed one of my identities. It is not because I am a woman, nor because I identify as queer, femme, or cisgender,” Ritch writes. “All of these identities qualified me as electable when the student body voted last February. But because I also openly identify as a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, I have been accused by a group of students of being unsuitable as a student leader.

“I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist. Students launched an aggressive social media campaign to ‘impeach [my] Zionist a**.’ This is anti-Semitism, and cannot be tolerated at a University that proclaims to ‘nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance.’”

She says the USC student government “has failed to be an inclusive space for numerous communities on campus.”

A USC spokesperson had no immediate comment on Ritch’s accusations, the Daily Trojan reports.

— JTA

Beijing warns against US action that ‘may escalate’ tension: Xinhua

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe has urged the US to avoid actions and rhetoric on Taiwan and other issues that could escalate tensions between the rivals, state media reports.

Wei “urged the US side to stop erroneous words and deeds” and “avoid taking dangerous moves that may escalate the situation,” referring to the status of Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Xinhua News Agency reports.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper initiated the phone call between the two, according to Xinhua, which comes ahead of a contentious visit to Taiwan by US Secretary of Health Alex Azar.

— AFP

Facebook busts deceptive pro-Trump campaign operating from Romania

Facebook says it disrupted a deceptive campaign out of Romania pretending to be Americans supporting US President Donald Trump ahead of the coming election.

The leading online social network removed 35 Facebook accounts, three pages, and 88 Instagram accounts as part of an ongoing fight against “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” according to security policy head Nathaniel Gleicher.

“The people behind this network used fake accounts to pose as Americans, amplify and comment on their own content, and manage pages, including some posing as President Trump fan pages,” Gleicher says.

The network posted about the upcoming presidential election, the Trump campaign, conservative ideology, Christian beliefs, and Qanon, according to Facebook.

The activity originated in Romania and focused on the US, Gleicher says in announcing a series of actions against fake or deceptive accounts on the platform.

— AFP

UN releasing $9 million to help Beirut hospitals

The United Nations says it is releasing $9 million to address immediate needs following the explosion that devastated Beirut, and help strengthen operations in the city’s hospitals.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says the money from the Lebanese Humanitarian Fund will be followed by additional funds from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund.

He says the UN is carrying out assessments of the damage and needs resulting from the massive explosion and hopes to hold a meeting on Monday to inform the 193 UN member states of the results and launch an appeal to help Lebanon.

Haq says: “We’re trying to get the relevant figures ready as soon as we can.”

He adds that the World Health Organization reported that the blast left three hospitals unusable and two others with substantial damage, and that “the equivalent of 500 hospital beds have been lost.”

He says the initial $9 million will be used to expand and establish additional intensive care units where needed and provide trauma kits, ventilators, medical supplies and medicine.

WHO will help “cover 1,000 trauma interventions and 1,000 surgical interventions for people suffering from burns and wounds caused by glass and other debris resulting from the blast.”

— AP

Man, apparently armed, holds four hostages at French bank

A man, apparently armed with a revolver, has taken half a dozen people hostage at a bank in the port city of Le Havre, France, police say.

He subsequently frees two of his captives but continues to hold the other four.

The special intervention unit RAID is expected shortly. RAID officers are trained to negotiate to try to defuse tense situations, and move in if that fails.

An official in France’s national police says the hostage-taker is known to have psychological problems. However, the official does not confirm French media reports that he has put forth confused demands.

The hostage-taking began shortly before 5 p.m. Police quickly blocked off the area.

The two people freed are uninjured.

— AP

Man who took hostages in France making pro-Palestinian demands — reports

French media is reporting that the man who has taken hostages in a bank is demanding that Israel free “unjustly imprisoned Palestinian children” and allow Palestinians free access into the Temple Mount in Jerualem, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The demands have been given directly to the media, not to authorities, according to RTL.

US lifts advice to avoid all foreign travel due to pandemic

The United States lifts a warning to its citizens to avoid all foreign travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to improvements.

The State Department says it will instead resume considering each country on a case-by-case basis.

— AFP

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59% disappointed with Netanyahu’s leadership — Channel 13 poll

A Channel 13 survey finds 71% are unhappy with the government’s handling of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, and 59% are disappointed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It finds 51% think Netanyahu is fit to be the prime minister, while 31% think so about Benny Gantz, 28% think so about Yair Lapid, 23% think so about former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot and 19% think so about Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

The numbers don’t add up to 100% because each contender was asked about individually.

The Kamil Fuchs survey was conducted among 704 respondents representing Israel’s adult population, with a margin of error of 3.9%.