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Blue and White members reject MK’s comment, say coalition to stay intact

As Gantz’s party holds faction meeting, lawmakers say Miki Haimovich was merely expressing her own opinion when she said growing group favors ending partnership with Netanyahu

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum on August 24, 2020. (Knesset Spokesperson's Office)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum on August 24, 2020. (Knesset Spokesperson's Office)

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

Footage shows cop throwing bucket at Haredi boy, arresting him

Reports continue of widespread flouting on coronavirus distancing rules in the ultra-Orthodox community, as a video of an altercation in the settlement of Beitar Illit shows a police officer hurling a bucket at a boy before arresting him.

Some spiritual leaders, concerned that adhering to the nationwide lockdown will cause many to halt their Torah studies, have ordered synagogues and yeshivas to stay open and to shun those who report the violations to authorities, according to Channel 13.

Police have cracked down on several synagogues and institutions that have remained open, and Haredi men have been protesting in various locations.

In Beitar Illit, footage shows a cop throwing the bucket at a little boy before several officers seize him and put him in a police vehicle. It isn’t immediately clear what preceded the incident, which prompts social media condemnation of police.

In record, Russia reports 10,500 new daily cases

Coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record, with the government reporting over 10,000 new confirmed cases for the first time since mid-May.

The 10,499 new cases reported bring the country’s total to over 1.2 million. Russia currently has the fourth-largest confirmed caseload in the world and has so far reported over 21,000 deaths.

Russian authorities insist there are no plans to impose a second lockdown in the country, which has lifted most of the virus-related restrictions imposed in the spring. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday another lockdown is not currently being discussed in the government.

At the same time in Moscow, which reports over 3,000 new cases in the biggest surge in months, officials have recommended the elderly self-isolate at home and have extended upcoming school holidays by a week.

On Thursday, Moscow mayor also ordered employers to have at least 30% of their staff work from home.

— AP

Police say 2 arrested in Beitar Illit; no comment on cop who threw bucket at boy

The Israel Police say that several ultra-Orthodox men in the settlement of Beitar Illit refused to disperse after cops came to deal with an illegal gathering in a synagogue.

Police say two were arrested after hurling stones at a police vehicle, causing damage. Fines were also handed to those in charge of the synagogue and several others, police say.

There is no indication in the statement whether one of those arrested was a boy seen arrested after a bucket was thrown at him by an officer. Police have not directly responded to that video.

Top Arab MK Ayman Odeh says he has COVID-19

Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh, Israel’s top Arab lawmaker, has been diagnosed with coronavirus and will enter isolation, according to a press release from his staff.

“Apart from a slight fever, I feel fine and will continue to work for the public from quarantine. I urge everyone to act carefully and obey guidelines about masks, social distancing and hygiene. The virus is real, dangerous, and contagious,” Odeh says in a statement.

— Aaron Boxerman

Turkey condemns Armenian attacks on ‘civilians’

Turkey condemns what it says are attacks on civilians by Armenian forces on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Armenia’s attacks today targeting civilians in Azerbaijan’s second-largest city Ganja are a new indicator of its stance that does not recognize the law. We condemn those attacks,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.

Turkey backs Azerbaijan in the dispute as Ankara considers Baku “one nation, two states.”

— AFP

Israel’s newest spy satellite declared operational

Israel’s newest spy satellite was declared operational today, three months after it was launched into orbit from central Israel, the Defense Ministry says.

Control of the electro-optical Ofek-16 satellite is therefore handed over from the ministry to the Israel Defense Forces’ visual intelligence Unit 9900, which will operate it going forward.

The reconnaissance satellite was launched into space on July 6. In the three months since, engineers in the Defense Ministry, IDF and various defense contractors have worked to ensure that it was operating properly. In late August, the ministry released photographs taken by the satellite showing ancient ruins in the central Syrian city of Palmyra.

According to Israeli officials, the Ofek-16 has slightly greater capabilities than its forebear, the Ofek-11, which was launched into orbit in 2018.

— Judah Ari Gross

Police say officer who threw bucket at kid acted against organization’s values

Police say they are probing the incident in which a cop was filmed throwing a bucket at an 11-year-old boy in the settlement of Beitar Illit, followed by officers dragging him by the neck to a police vehicle.

Police will hand the footage and the investigation material to the Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID), according to Hebrew-language media.

“During the dispersal of dozens of people who gathered in Beitar Illit, stones and objects were hurled at the forces,” police say. “A suspect seen throwing a cinderblock at the police vehicle was arrested by the officers.

“Simultaneously, we take a severe view of the conduct of the officer at the scene, which contradicts the organization’s values. Accordingly, the district commander ordered the footage to be examined as soon as possible by the PIID.”

Gantz: Israel to be 1st country to get virus test that gives result in 23 minutes

Israel will soon become the first country in the world to receive a coronavirus test kit that gives a result within 23 minutes, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says.

“An important update in the fight against the coronavirus: After months of efforts in the defense establishment, in the coming days the Biological Institute will receive quick test kits that give an answer in 23 minutes,” Gantz tweets. “Due to our efforts, Israel is the first country in the world to get the kit.”

Poll: 65% think Trump would have avoided COVID-19 had he taken it seriously

A poll published by the Reuters news agency shows 65% of Americans, including half of Republicans, think US President Donald Trump would have avoided his COVID-19 infection has he “taken coronavirus more seriously.”

Some 55% say Trump has been lying about the coronavirus while just 34% think he has been truthful. And 57% say they disapprove of the president’s response to the pandemic.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll also shows the gap in favor of Democrat Joe Biden is increasing slightly, with 51% supporting the former vice president and 41% backing the incumbent Trump.

Trump’s condition on Friday was far worse than made public, White House admits

US President Donald Trump’s condition on Friday after catching the coronavirus was far worse than was made public, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tells Fox News last night.

“He’s made unbelievable improvements from yesterday morning when I know a number of us, the doctor and I, were very concerned,” Meadows tells Fox in an interview, according to the Reuters news agency.

“I can tell you this the biggest thing we see is with no fever now, and with him doing really well with his oxygen saturation levels,” he adds. “Yesterday morning we were really concerned by that. He had a fever, and his oxygen level had dropped rapidly. Yet in typical style, this president was up and walking around.”

Number of real estate deals in Israel lowest since 2003

Figures published earlier today show Israel’s real estate market is experiencing its worst times in 17 years as sales were down 27% in the second quarter of 2020, Hebrew-language media.

Only 17,000 apartments were purchased during that time, the lowest number since 2003, when the Second Intifada was raging and the country was experiencing an economic slowdown.

Journalists attacked by ultra-Orthodox mob in Jerusalem

A team of journalists for Channel 13 is assaulted near the hardline ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, with several rioters smashing their vehicle’s windows.

Reporter Yossi Eli and a cameraman are forced to flee the area after the attack near Kikar Hashabbat.

The attackers also charged at police officers in the area, seeking to chase them away, according to Channel 13.

Knesset to hold discussion of police conduct during protests

Blue and White MK Miki Haimovich, the head of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, says she will convene a discussion next week focusing on police conduct during protests, after widespread reports of police violence during a series of anti-government rallies throughout the country Saturday evening.

“In the last few days I have received many queries from citizens who went outside to protest within a kilometer from their homes while adhering to the rules demanding face masks and distancing, and nevertheless were dispersed by police,” Haimovich says.

She says she will call the meeting “against that backdrop and the backdrop of other incidents in the protest in Tel Aviv last Thursday.”

Man accused of attempting to murder wife to be charged tomorrow — prosecutors

State prosecutors say an indictment will be filed tomorrow against Aviad Moshe, a man accused of attempting to murder his wife in a case that sparked widespread anger when a court initially barred his name from publication.

Moshe, 45, is accused of stabbing his wife, Shira, 20 times and hitting her with a rolling pin on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah holiday on September 18. The attack occurred in the couple’s home in the southern town of Mitzpe Ramon, in the presence of their two-year-old child.

The Beersheba District Court last week permitted naming Moshe, overturning a lower court ruling that granted the suspect anonymity to preserve his reputation.

Police Internal Investigations Department probes bucket-throwing incident

The Police Internal Investigations Department has begun its probe of an incident in which a cop was filmed hurling a bucket at an 11-year-old boy in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The footage, published on social media, showed officers seizing the boy after the bucket was thrown and pulling him by the neck into a police vehicle. It prompted condemnation by the police force, which said it took a “severe view” of the officer’s conduct.

Palestinian leader Shtayyeh in Kuwait to pay respects to new emir

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh arrives in Kuwait to pay his respects following the death of Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Sabah.

In a video shot at the Kuwaiti Royal Court during Shtayyeh’s visit, the PA Prime Minister can be seen speaking with new Kuwaiti Emir Nawaf al-Sabah, who was crowned immediately following his half-brother Sabah’s death.

Shtayyeh is accompanied by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

Trips abroad have become a rarity for officials in Ramallah following the end of Palestinian coordination with Israel in protest over Israel’s now-stalled plan to annex parts of the West Bank, as Israel controls all the entrances and exits to the West Bank. Israel and the PA reportedly coordinate periodically to allow important trips such as this, although the PA does not discuss the matter publicly.

— Aaron Boxerman

US ex-diplomat Richard Schifter dies aged 97, hailed as defender of Israel

Former top US diplomat Richard Schifter has died aged 97, according to American Jewish organizations and Israel’s Foreign Ministry director-general.

Schifter, who fled his native Austria to the US ahead of the Holocaust and whose Jewish family was killed by the Nazis, is hailed in many of the comments as a defender of Israel.

US President Ronald Reagan meets with Richard Schifter, US representative to the UN Human Rights Committee in the Oval Office of the White House, February 2, 1984 in Washington. (AP Photo/White House Photo/Mary Anne Fackelman)

A longtime diplomat who spent more than 20 years working in the United Nations, Schifter held roles such as former assistant secretary of state for humanitarian affairs in the Reagan and Bush administrations, US envoy to the UN’s Commission on Human Rights and UNESCO Committee on Conventions and Recommendations and deputy US representative to the UN Security Council.

In 1993, former US president Bill Clinton made him a special adviser to the president and the National Security Council. Since leaving that post in 2001, Schifter had headed the American Jewish International Relations Institute, for which he often spoke publicly about the UN and Israel.

“Ambassador Richard Schifter was a symbol of perseverance and strength who achieved much in his lifetime and worked endlessly on improving Israel’s position in the UN,” tweets Foreign Minister director-general Alon Ushpiz. “My condolences to his family and friends. May his memory be a blessing.”

B’nai B’rith mourns him as “an inspirational leader, accomplished diplomat, public servant, staunch advocate for human rights, a resolute defender of Israel, a strong proponent of trans-Atlantic relations and of America’s place in the world.

“Notwithstanding his immense achievements, Ambassador Schifter’s persona was one of humility and civility,” the organization says.

Blue and White MK says growing group within party favors breaking with Netanyahu

Blue and White MK Miki Haimovich says a growing group within Benny Gantz’s party is seriously considering dissolving the partnership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which would topple the current unity government and result in the fourth national elections since April 2019.

“In recent days there is a growing group inside Blue and White that is definitely thinking about the option of responsibly dissolving the partnership with Likud, without giving up the positions of power but with acting to replace Netanyahu,” Haimovich tells the Kan public broadcaster.

Haimovich’s office clarifies to Channel 12 that that means breaking with Likud only if Knesset elections are called. However, the remark marks an escalation of the current coalition crisis.

Meanwhile, Likud minister Zeev Elkin tells Army Radio that if Blue and White don’t allow the government to function, “there may be no choice but to go to elections.”

Blue and White minister says Christmas may be ‘memorial day for the government’

Further underscoring the coalition crisis between Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, Blue and White minister Alon Schuster tells Army Radio that the upcoming Christmas in late December may also be “memorial day for the government.”

“I very much hope that by then we will be able to say we have embarked on a logical path,” he says.

Incoming Agriculture Minister Alon Shuster (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Doctor set to give Trump health update

US President Donald Trump’s doctors are set to brief the public on his condition after he spent a second night hospitalized with COVID-19.

Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, and the rest of his medical team are expected to provide an update on Trump’s treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The briefing is expected to begin at 11:30 a.m. (local time).

Yesterday’s briefing featured mixed messages, as Conley painted a rosy picture of the president’s health, only to see White House chief of staff Mark Meadows later say officials were very concerned with the president’s condition before he was hospitalized.

A small group of Trump supporters has gathered outside the hospital, some waving large blue Trump flags and others holding smaller American flags and Trump-Pence reelection signs. The song “God Bless the U.S.A.” plays in the background, occasionally interrupted by the supportive honking of a car horn, as the group waves the flags and paces back-and-forth outside the entrance to the military installation. A much larger group gathered last night cheering for the president.

— AP

Trump continuing to improve during virus treatment — doctor

US President Donald Trump “has continued to improve” but faced serious symptoms on Friday, the White House physician says, seeking to clarify contradictory statements and confusion that previously raised questions about the seriousness of the president’s condition.

Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley acknowledges the confusion and offers new details as he addresses the media from on the steps of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Trump is being treated for COVID-19.

Conley says the president had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94% on Friday before he was hospitalized.

“The president has continued to improve,” Conley says.

— AP

Doctor says Trump treated with steroid yesterday

US President Donald Trump’s physician says Trump was treated with a steroid after a drop in oxygen levels on Saturday.

Dr. Sean Conley says at a news conference that he was given the steroid dexamethasone while he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Conley says the president’s oxygen level had dropped down to 93% on Saturday. He says the president did not feel short of breath.

He says the president’s medical team is hoping Trump will be up and about, out of bed and eating and drinking throughout the day.

— AP

Trump could be discharged as soon as tomorrow

US President Donald Trump’s team of doctors says he is doing well after his COVID-19 diagnosis and could be discharged as early as tomorrow to continue his treatment.

Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a specialist in pulmonary critical care, says Trump received a second dose of the experimental drug remdesivir along with a first dose of dexamethasone yesterday and isn’t showing any side effects “that we can tell.”

He says Trump is “up and well” and the plan is to have him “out of bed” today as much as possible.

Garibaldi and Trump’s doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, say if things continue to go well, Trump will be able to return to the White House tomorrow to continue his five-day course of remdesivir treatment and other appropriate therapy.

— AP

After calls to break with PM, Blue and White to hold faction meeting tonight

As Blue and White members increasingly call for breaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and ending the current unity government, the party is to hold a faction meeting at 9:15 p.m., Hebrew-language media reports.

The calls to end the partnership with Likud will reportedly top the agenda of the meeting, which will be held via Zoom video conference, according to the reports.

Doctor: I tried to show Trump’s upbeat attitude by not saying he was placed on oxygen

US President Donald Trump’s physician says he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president and his medical team when he declined to share yesterday that Trump was placed on oxygen the day before.

Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley was pressed on why his rosy picture of the president’s health was contradicted moments later by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who expressed that the medical team was very concerned with the president’s health Friday morning, when he experienced a drop in his blood oxygen levels and had a high fever.

Says Conley: “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had.”

He adds that he “didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”

— AP

Police break up more Haredi gatherings; cop kicks man in face during arrest

Confrontations are continuing throughout the country between police forces and ultra-Orthodox crowds refusing to adhere to the coronavirus lockdown rules, as officers arrive at more mass gatherings and try to break them up, sparking clashes.

During one of the altercations, a cop is filmed kneeing a man’s face, as his colleagues try to wrestle the man to the ground and arrest him, which they eventually do.

German media report shovel attack outside a synagogue in Hamburg

German media report an apparent anti-Semitic attack outside a synagogue in the city of Hamburg, a year after the shooting attack in Halle during Yom Kippur prayers.

According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a man in military clothing attacked a Jewish student with a shovel and injured him before he was overpowered by other congregants.

The victim has reportedly been taken to the hospital with a “significant head injury.”

Netanyahu says fines could be increased, lockdown to be reevaluated Thursday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a video released on social media that decisions on the continuation of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown will be made on Thursday, while tomorrow, the government will weigh increasing fines for violations.

“The lockdown rules are not against the public, they are against the virus,” the premier says.

“I ask our nation to come together like the four species,” he says, referring to four plant varieties used during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, currently being celebrated.

Health Ministry confirms 2,576 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours; test numbers down

The Health Ministry says 2,576 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours, a relatively low number but one that stems from the comparatively low number of tests conducted over the weekend.

The ministry says 23,507 test results came back since last night, almost three times fewer than in previous days. The rate of positive tests, 11 percent, continues a slight downward trend in recent days.

There are 15 new confirmed deaths, bringing the toll to 1,707.

The number of serious patients reaches 890, including 215 on ventilators. Another 330 are in moderate condition, and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

Health Ministry officials to advise against stepping up lockdown — report

There are initial signs of optimism among Health Ministry officials regarding coronavirus infections, as the positive test rate continues its slight decline, according to Channel 12.

The officials will reportedly recommend that the government not step up the lockdown restrictions.

Finance Minister Israel Katz wants to immediately reopen small businesses, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disagrees, the report says.

Fatah, Palestinian terror groups to meet in Syria amid reconciliation push

A Fatah delegation is set to visit Damascus tomorrow to conduct negotiations with a number of Palestinian factions, according to the official Palestinian Authority WAFA news agency.

Fatah Secretary Jibril Rajoub tells Voice of Palestine Radio that the delegation will visit the Syrian capital to meet with members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Both organizations are designated as terror groups under Israeli law.

Rajoub says that the negotiations will aim to “ripen the conditions for calling for elections.”

Rajoub’s remarks come against the backdrop of what Palestinian senior officials say are reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas. The two movements have been at odds since 2007, when the Hamas terror group expelled Abbas’ Fatah faction from the Gaza Strip after a bloody struggle for control of the coastal enclave.

Fatah and Hamas both say a recent series of negotiations led to an agreement to hold elections within six months. Several such promises have fizzled before, however.

A previous deadline for a decree calling for elections by PA President Mahmoud Abbas was delayed until an unknown date. In his interview, Rajoub declined to specify when the next meeting of Palestinian faction heads — at which Abbas would have issued such a decree — will take place.

— Aaron Boxerman

Violent clashes as police try to break up mass gathering at Bnei Brak synagogue

Violent clashes break out in Bnei Brak, as police attempt to disperse hundreds who gathered to pray without distancing or wearing face masks.

Ultra-Orthodox men at a local synagogue call officers, “Nazis,” and urge them to “go back to Germany,” according to footage from the scene.

Even after receiving fines, many refused to leave, and 13 were arrested, police say.

However, footage shows the situation spiraling out of control, with police unable to prevent the crowds from continuing to gather.

US VP Pence again tests negative for coronavirus

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have tested negative for the coronavirus for a second time, days after US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19.

A Pence spokesperson confirms the negative tests.

Despite the president’s hospitalization, Pence is expected to resume regular campaigning this week with no changes to protocols meant to keep him from getting infected.

Pence is set to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

— AP

Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai says police trying to ‘break’ anti-government protests

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai tells Channel 12 that police are being deployed “not to enforce the coronavirus law, but to break the demonstrations.”

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai attends the annual international Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, on February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Huldai says he was at Habima Square last night, where he says some 120 people were demonstrating.

“Everyone was keeping their distance, everything was calm,” he says. “Then someone gave the order and the police — both in uniform and not — waded into the demonstrators and started pulling people out. They targeted one young woman with inexplicable violence.”

“The police are being used as a political tool,” Huldai says, reiterating his previous remark that he will enter national politics when there are elections and “if my being the Number 2 to someone will contribute to ousting this government, I’ll be there.”

Pelosi says Trump’s doctors need to be honest

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the doctors treating US President Donald Trump for the coronavirus must provide trustworthy information to the public.

Pelosi says on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “We need to have trust that what they’re telling us about the president’s condition is real.”

Her interview airs before the president’s medical team holds a news conference at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is receiving treatment.

Pressed about the conflicting information he and the White House released the day before, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley acknowledged that he had tried to present a rosy description of the president’s condition. The doctor also said Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, but he “has continued to improve” since then.

Pelosi says she is worried that the information the doctors are relaying to the public “has to be approved by the president. That’s not very scientific.”

— AP

Gantz holds first-ever town hall with Saudi, Gulf and Arab journalists

Defense Minister Benny Gantz holds a first-of-its-kind town hall with Arab journalists, including two reporters from the Gulf, who, during a webinar last week, described harassment they experienced for taking part in an unprecedented online forum that brought together more than a dozen Arab media people and Israeli journalists and government officials.

Mohamed Al Hammadi, the editor of the UAE-based Alroeya newspaper, and Ahdeya Ahmed Al-Sayed of Bahrain join two Saudi journalists and other colleagues in the call, which was organized and sponsored by the Arab Council for Regional Integration, according to Joseph Braude, the organizer of last week’s webinar.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (middle row on the right) takes part in a first-ever Arab town hall with Gulf and Saudi journalists, October 4, 2020. (Courtesy)

Israeli expert: Early action by Trump doctors apparently averted serious illness

Prof. Gabi Barbash, a top commentator on matters related to the coronavirus since the pandemic began, assesses that US President Donald Trump’s doctors apparently have managed to prevent him from suffering a serious illness.

Prof. Gabi Barbash, former director general at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, on April 7, 2020. (Channel 12)

Speaking on Channel 12, Barbash explains that of the two drugs Trump was given, remdesivir prevents the virus from replicating in the body while Regeneron is experimental and includes antibodies that destroy the virus. Regeneron has been used on 270 patients so far with no side effects, he says.

“I imagine that his doctors assessed that he was on the path to serious illness, judging by the first two days,” Barbash says. “They took a make-or-break decision to give him experimental treatment. They apparently gave it to him very early. The effect of the antibodies given early in the illness… was apparently effective. Now they’re using steroids to prevent complications of the immune system.”

Asked whether Trump is out of danger if they discharge him tomorrow, Barbash says: “He’s not without danger, but, overall, they’ve apparently taken him out of the early stage of what could have been serious illness.”

Top police officials slam minister for pushing to quash anti-government protests

Senior police officials have reportedly issued rare criticism of their superior, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a staunch ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming he is trying to intervene in their operational work to step up action against anti-government protests.

“He tries every day to intervene in the police work in the field, even though that isn’t his job,” an unnamed official is quoted as saying by Channel 13.

Newly appointed Public Security Minister Amir Ohana attends a passing the baton ceremony at the Public Security Ministry in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“He is trying to destroy police, just like he ruined the Justice Ministry,” the source adds, referring to Ohana’s former post as justice minister, when he clashed repeatedly with law enforcement officials.

“Over the past weeks, Ohana is trying to pass the message of zero tolerance to protesters,” the source reportedly says, adding that the minister is trying to pit district commanders against each other, using the race for next police commissioner as leverage.

NY mayor announces shutdown plan for 9 neighborhoods, including Jewish areas

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says he plans to put nine neighborhoods back under tight shutdown, as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the city, which had largely controlled the pandemic after a catastrophic outbreak.

“Today, unfortunately, is not a day for celebration,” de Blasio says, announcing he will ask to close non-essential businesses and all schools in nine neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens.

The proposal, which must be approved by state governor Andrew Cuomo, marks a major setback for the city, since it was hit hard by the coronavirus in March. The city has lost almost 24,000 people to the virus.

Several of the nine neighborhoods have large populations of ultra-Orthodox Jews, and the virus has been spreading rapidly in that community in recent weeks.

The increases coincide with the Jewish High Holidays, the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, which culminated last Monday with Yom Kippur.

De Blasio says he intends to “rewind” the city’s reopening in the worst-affected areas, according to the New York Times.

The city is also monitoring 11 additional ZIP codes that de Blasio described as a “real concern.”

New York became the global epicenter of the pandemic in the spring. But more recently, officials had touted the lowest test positivity rate and infection rate among major US cities.

— AFP

Blue and White members reject minister’s comment, say coalition to stay intact

Blue and White members are distancing themselves from party minister Miki Haimovich’s remark earlier today that a growing group within Benny Gantz’s party favors breaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and toppling the current unity government.

“This is the time to put aside anything else, important as they may be, and focus on what is the most important right now for the citizens of Israel — saving lives and rehabilitating the economy,” says Minister Omer Yankelevich.

“An election right now won’t solve any problems; it will only intensify all the problems,” she writes on Twitter.

Several Hebrew-language news outlets quote unnamed sources within the party as saying Haimovich’s words only reflect her own opinion. They note that no alternative coalition can be realistically formed to avert elections.

Infections slide among Palestinians amid questions about testing

Palestinians saw 429 new infections in the West Bank and Gaza in the past 24 hours, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry.

The number of active cases has fallen over the past two weeks in both the West Bank and in Gaza. But concerns about testing abound: around 15% of West Bank Palestinians tested for the virus in the past 24 hours were confirmed to be carrying the virus.

East Jerusalem saw only 38 new infections yesterday, according to Jerusalem municipality statistics. But in the capital testing appears to be low. On Friday, 38% of tests conducted among East Jerusalem Palestinians came back positive, according to the Kan Public Broadcaster.

According to Health Ministry data, 19% of tests in Jerusalem as a whole yesterday came back positive; the ministry does not differentiate between East and West Jerusalem in its public reports.

— Aaron Boxerman

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Blue and White minister says Christmas may be ‘memorial day for the government’

Further underscoring the coalition crisis between Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, Blue and White minister Alon Schuster tells Army Radio that the upcoming Christmas in late December may also be “memorial day for the government.”

“I very much hope that by then we will be able to say we have embarked on a logical path,” he says.

Incoming Agriculture Minister Alon Shuster (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)