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Report: Gantz tells party more ‘dramatic’ moves on the way

Television report says Blue and White leader told ministers he intends to use next two weeks to promote moves that will serve his voter base

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the alternate prime minister, visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the alternate prime minister, visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Dealings possible with US despite ‘crimes,’ Iran says

The “crimes” committed by the United States against Iran do not prevent “carefully considered” exchanges from taking place, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman says.

“The future of relations between Iran and the United States is not simple,” Saeed Khatibzadeh acknowledges at a press conference in Tehran, as President Hassan Rouhani’s government makes signs of apparent overtures to US President-elect Joe Biden.

“The United States has committed repeated crimes against the Iranian people,” adds Khatibzadeh, citing a long list.

They include Washington’s support for Baghdad during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the “series of sanctions” against Tehran, and the US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January.

Saeed Khatibzadeh (Screen capture: YouTube)

“It is natural that [between two] members of the United Nations [like the US and Iran] there have always been, and there are, very carefully considered exchanges, in a known framework,” Khatibzadeh says, while noting that “does not mean that Iran is forgetting this list of crimes.”

PM proposes areas with many immigrants get priority status, aid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks the cabinet to approve declaring areas with large numbers of immigrants as areas of national priority.

“These areas will receive significant benefit,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri says such areas “have suffered from years of harm to their quality of life.” He says the government will devote funds to building renovations and financial and social aid to communities.

The program includes NIS 20 million in aid.

Cabinet okays support plan for Gaza periphery

The cabinet approves an NIS 1.1 billion ($330 million) benefit plan for communities near the Gaza Strip.

The plan will include investments in population growth, support of high-tech, agriculture, infrastructure and employment.

Cabinet ratifies mutual visa exemption agreement with UAE

Israel’s cabinet ratifies a mutual visa exemption agreement with the United Arab Emirates — the Jewish state’s first ever such agreement with an Arab country.

The ministers vote unanimously to approve the treaty, which was signed in Tel Aviv last month.

It paves the way for easy tourist and business travel between the two countries.

“This will, of course, open up and strengthen economic ties between the two countries,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says before the vote. “I believe that all citizens of Israel — the entire world — see the tremendous change we are bringing about in our region, in every area.”


The UAE government had ratified the agreement on November 1, which means that it will enter into force shortly.

— Raphael Ahren

Yesh Atid MK: Netanyahu trying to turn Yad Vashem into a branch of Likud

Yesh Atid-Telem MK Elazar Stern says the planned appointment of former far-right lawmaker Effi Eitam to head the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial is an attempt to turn the museum into “a Likud branch.”

Stern tweets: “It seems Netanyahu has forgotten what Yad Vashem represents, and has decided to turn it into another public institution that should be dismantled, with a Likud branch established in its stead.

“There is no issue under greater consensus among Israelis and the Jewish people as the Holocaust, and it’s a shame that it too is being turned into a job ‘quarry’ by Netanyahu for his people.”

Chairman of the Afek oil drilling company, Effi Eitam, seen at the Supreme Court during a hearing on oil searching in the Golan Heights, on December 23, 2014 in Jerusalem. (Flash90)

Higher Education Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, selected Eitam for the post, the Haaretz daily has reported. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the appointment, which has not been made public, said Netanyahu supports his candidacy.

German FM slams coronavirus protesters for Nazi victim comparisons

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas lashes out at anti-mask protesters comparing themselves to Nazi victims, accusing them of trivializing the Holocaust and “making a mockery” of the courage shown by resistance fighters.

The harsh words come after a young woman took to the stage at a protest against coronavirus restrictions in Hanover Saturday saying she felt “just like Sophie Scholl,” the German student executed by the Nazis in 1943 for her role in the resistance.

A video of the speech has already been viewed more than a million times on social media, with many sharply condemning the speaker.

“Anyone today comparing themselves to Sophie Scholl or Anne Frank is making a mockery of the courage it took to stand up to the Nazis,” Maas tweets.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 10, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“It trivializes the Holocaust and shows an unbearable forgetting of history. Nothing connects the corona protests with the resistance fighters. Nothing!”


Hundreds of anti-Netanyahu protesters at annual Ben-Gurion memorial event

Several hundred anti-Netanyahu protesters have gathered at Kibbutz Sde Boker in the south to protest against the prime minister, who is set to speak there in the annual memorial service for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

A video shows Ben-Gurion’s grandson Yariv Ben-Eliezer saying ahead of the event: “F**k Netanyahu, and long live Israel.”

Cars carrying the demonstrators drove to the kibbutz where Ben-Gurion spent his final years, with activists saying Netanyahu has failed to live up to the values of Israel’s legendary first leader.

PM: Many Arab states changed attitude toward Israel thanks to our Iran policies

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks at the annual memorial service for David Ben-Gurion in Sde Boker.

He says it is imperative that the world continue with “an uncompromising policy” toward Iran to ensure it does not develop nuclear weapons, and “stops its aggressive behavior, including its support for terror.”

He says it is thanks to “our steadfast positions against Iran’s nuclearization and our opposition to the Iran nuclear deal” that “many Arab countries have completely changed their attitude toward Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a new coronavirus lab at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, November 9, 2020. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool via AP)

In Dubai, Pompeo says Iran ‘central threat inside the region’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defends his tour of Gulf Arab states and the Trump administration’s continued efforts to squeeze Iran, even as a new US administration led by Joe Biden prepares to enter the White House in January.

Although Pompeo has not taken questions from US-based reporters traveling with him over the past 10 days, he sits down with the Saudi-owned broadcaster Al-Arabiya in Dubai for brief televised remarks Sunday.

“Our policies don’t change. Our duty doesn’t change. My responsibilities don’t change,” he says. “I still have an obligation — every hour, every minute — to defend the American people and to keep them foremost in our efforts, and we’ll do that. We’ll do that to the very last minute.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes part in a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Golan Heights, near Merom Golan on the border with Syria, on November 19, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP)

In what is likely his final tour of the Persian Gulf as secretary of state, he touts the Trump administration’s Mideast strategy that focused on Iran as “the central threat inside the region” and for a maximum pressure campaign that hampered Iran’s ability to support militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

“It’ll be our policy until our time is complete,” he says, stopping short of saying when he’d cease work as the top US diplomat.

— AP

Netanyahu: Previous nuclear deal must not be rejoined

In Sde Boker, Netanyahu says, “The previous nuclear deal must not be rejoined,” in an apparent message to US President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he will seek to reenter the 2015 accord that Donald Trump abandoned.

Netanyahu adds: “We will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons.”

Hundreds of cars turned back from Eilat over weekend for lack of virus tests

With Eilat now declared a “tourist island,” tens of thousands of Israelis flocked to the resort city over the weekend to enjoy its hotels, beaches and restaurants, Channel 12 reports.

However, entry into the city is contingent on holding a freshly administered negative coronavirus test. The network says 250 vehicles were turned around for failing to present such documentation.

And three people were arrested after presenting fake test results.

“The opening of Eilat no doubt helps the city’s financial situation and most of all the mood of thousands of residents who have been out of work for long months,” Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi says.

Gantz forms panel of inquiry to probe submarine affair, raising coalition tensions

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces he has formed a committee to investigate the irregular purchase process of submarines and corvettes, an affair that has already resulted in several indictments against senior figures.

The committee will be led by retired judge Amnon Straschnov.

The affair, also known as Case 3000, revolves around allegations of a massive bribery scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aboard the new submarine ‘Rahav’ at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The scandal has embroiled several close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as high ranking military officials, but not the premier himself, despite claims by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon that Netanyahu led an improper effort to buy the submarines from Thyssenkrupp.

Related: Netanyahu and the submarine scandal: Everything you need to know

Gantz’s office says the findings of the committee will be presented within four months and will be shared with the public “transparently.”

The move is seen as one that could inflame tensions with Netanyahu and imperil the already dysfunctional unity government.

— with Judah Ari Gross

Palestinians report 1,390 new virus cases, record 16 deaths in 24 hours

Palestinians saw 1,390 new coronavirus cases and a record 16 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry.

Thirty Palestinians have died from coronavirus over the past two days. Approximately 636 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have died from coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Gaza Strip saw 684 new cases in the past day, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reports. Around 24 percent of coronavirus cases in the Strip came back positive; positivity rates have ranged between 20 to 30 percent over the past week, indicating that many cases are going undetected.

Hamas officers wearing masks stand guard at the main road of Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

PA-administered areas of the West Bank also continue to see a sharp rise in cases, with 706 new infections identified over the past day.

— Aaron Boxerman

Coalition chairman: Gantz’s actions ‘a provocation,’ endanger government

Coalition chairman and close Netanyahu ally Miki Zohar says Gantz’s decision to probe the submarine affair is “no less than a provocation against Likud and its leader.

“Even though Gantz knows well that Netanyahu had nothing to do with the submarine story, he is acting to besmirch him while endangering the coalition.”

Zohar asserts that this action is “yet more proof that Gantz is dragging Israel to elections during a global crisis.”

Likud MK Miki Zohar chairs a House Committee meeting on a bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold fresh elections on May 28, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

IDF says troops prevented attempted attack with explosives in West Bank

The Israel Defense Forces says its troops thwarted an attempt to attack soldiers with improvised explosive devices in the central West Bank earlier today.

According to the military, the explosives had been planted outside the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah. They were uncovered by IDF troops and disarmed by police sappers.

“There were no injuries or damage,” the IDF says.

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers in the village of Bruqin near the West Bank town of Salfit on March 17, 2019 (Flash90)

“IDF soldiers and security forces will continue to operate day and night to ensure the security of residents of the region,” the military adds.

— Judah Ari Gross

Watchdog group says national commission of inquiry needed for submarine scandal

The Movement for Quality Government watchdog group urges Benny Gantz to seek the formation of a national commission of inquiry to investigate the submarine affair, rather than the ministerial panel he has set up.

It says his committee, “important though it may be, cannot be a substitute for a national commission of inquiry with broad investigatory powers.”

Likud: Gantz recycling submarines to get votes; Ohana hints at probe of Gantz

Some more angry reactions from Likud to Benny Gantz’s inquiry:

The party issues a statement saying, “Gantz is unable to rise from the depths in the polls, so he’s recycling submarines to scrounge up some votes, while his party is busy with infighting.

“The Israeli public is smart and can see their tricks.”

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana indicates he’ll consider a panel to look into the Fifth Dimension affair — a case relating to a failed technology firm once led by Gantz that is currently already being examined by the Israel Competition Authority. The firm once won a police contract without a tender, leading to a police investigation.

“I’m actually all for an inquiry,” Ohana tweets, alongside a screenshot of a media report on him weighing an inquiry panel into police’s conduct.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana holds a press conference in Jerusalem, on July 15, 2020. (FLASH90)

US expects to begin COVID-19 vaccinations in early December, official says

The United States hopes to begin a sweeping program of COVID-19 vaccinations in early December, the head of the government coronavirus vaccine effort says.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours of approval” by the US Food and Drug Administration, Moncef Slaoui tells CNN.

“So I expect maybe on Day Two of the approval, on the 11th or the 12th of December.”

A medic in a protective suit and mask holds an injection syringe and vaccine. (oshcherban via iStock by Getty Images)

FDA vaccine advisors reportedly will meet December 8 to 10 to discuss approving vaccines that Pfizer and Moderna say are at least 95 percent effective.


Syria’s Assad names Faisal Mekdad as nation’s new FM

President Bashar Assad appoints Faisal Mekdad as Syria’s new foreign minister, replacing Walid Muallem who died last week, the presidency announces in a statement.

Mekdad will be replaced as deputy foreign minister by Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, the statement said.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his office in Damascus, Syria, April 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


Border Police arrest, question two Hebron teens with knife

Border Police arrest two teens with a knife near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Officials say their motives are currently being looked into.

Police say officers observed the two behaving in a suspicious manner near a bus stop where an Israeli civilian was waiting. Officers approached the two and searched them. One of the teens then threw a knife onto the floor and raised his hands.

The two are aged 16-17. They are being questioned by security forces.

Clip: Tank overturns while attempting to climb onto transporter truck

A tank overturned earlier while attempting to climb onto a transporter truck, the army says.

The military says the tank’s driver attempted to ascend at an incorrect angle. The driver said he was then unable to release the gas, causing the vehicle to drive over the trailer and overturn, as soldiers jump out of the way.

A movie shows the extraordinary event.

No one was hurt in the incident. The army is continuing to investigate.

Ethiopia PM gives dissident region leaders 72 hours to surrender

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gives the leaders of a dissident northern region 72 hours to surrender ahead of a threatened all-out assault on Tigray’s capital, Mekele.

“Your journey of destruction is coming to an end, and we urge you to surrender peacefully within the next 72 hours, recognizing you are at a point of no return,” Abiy says in a statement aimed at the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party. “Take this last opportunity.”

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference in Pretoria, South Africa, January 12, 2020. (Themba Hadebe/AP)


Jonathan Pollard shares photos of cutting his electronic bracelet

Former spy Jonathan Pollard has shared photos of his wife cutting off his electronic bracelet, used to track him during his five-year parole period.

Pollard’s parole period ended Friday. He has said that he intends to immigrate to Israel, though it is not clear when, as his wife Esther is currently undergoing cancer treatments.

Gantz denies Channel 12 report that he’d like Justice Minister Nissenkorn to quit

Channel 12 cites a supposed confidante of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz lashing out at the party’s Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn.

“Nissenkorn has fallen in love with the job of ‘protector of democracy,’ and is taking it too far. He’s building himself up against the interests of Blue and White,” the anonymous person says.

“He is insisting on poking Netanyahu in the eye, even when it doesn’t provide any measurable benefits. Let’s say we won’t shed a tear if he leaves of his own accord.”

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn seen during a visit at the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gantz’s spokesman says in response to the report: “We are tired of denying non-existent disputes. Nissenkorn is an excellent and appreciated justice minister. Whoever is saying things in Gantz’s name apparently is not a confidante.”

Olmert: Pollard should stay in US, his affair continues to cause us damage

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert says it would be preferable if former spy Jonathan Pollard would not immigrate to Israel, now that his five-year parole period has ended.

Olmert tells the Maariv Business Conference: “Attention to this affair causes continuous, serious damage to Israel, and I suggest avoiding welcome celebrations for Pollard if he decides to come to Israel.”

Olmert said he was happy Pollard is free to move around in New York, but he should remain there.

He says the case can still damage Israel today if American security officials see Israel “continue to make use of this affair for Israeli political purposes.”

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a Keshet TV interview broadcast on March 17, 2018. (Keshet screenshot)

He adds: “He was a spy who worked for a lot of money. He was not a Zionist volunteer who sacrificed his life. He was an American, who cared for Israel, who worked for a lot of money.”

Report: Gantz tells party more ‘dramatic’ moves on the way

Channel 13 news reports that Benny Gantz is planning further moves that will serve his voter base.

The network says Gantz gathered Blue and White’s ministers this morning and said: “The next two weeks are going to be dramatic.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Health officials tell TV that Treasury causing delays in vaccine deal

The Health Ministry is accusing the Finance Ministry of causing delays in Israel’s vaccine deal with pharma company AstraZeneca for the purchase of 10 million doses, Channel 12 reports.

Officials in the ministry tell the network that when the Treasury was asked to provide funding for the deal, it responded that there was no budgetary source to fund it, and that one needed to be found.

The Finance Ministry responds: “Money will not be an obstacle for vaccines.”

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Cabinet okays support plan for Gaza periphery

The cabinet approves an NIS 1.1 billion ($330 million) benefit plan for communities near the Gaza Strip.

The plan will include investments in population growth, support of high-tech, agriculture, infrastructure and employment.