The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happen.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch is calling to revive the Shin Bet security agency’s controversial tracking of coronavirus carriers, after a report said Israel has entered a second wave of coronavirus and could soon see hundreds of new deaths from COVID-19.
“The only automated tool that is immediately available to use for disrupting the infection chain is in the hands of the Shin Bet,” Kisch, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, writes on Twitter.
He adds: “Immediate action is needed for expedited legislation in the Knesset, and we should allow the use of the tool in order to save lives and minimize the economist toll on Israel.”
The Shin Bet program, which raised privacy concerns for its use of sensitive data to track people infected with coronavirus and those they’ve been around, lapsed earlier this month after ministers declined to advance legislation anchoring it in law.
TEHRAN — Iran’s currency has dropped to its lowest value ever at 190,000 rial for each dollar, amid severe US sanctions against the country.
The Iranian currency has tumbled from a rate of 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The rial unexpectedly rallied after US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United Stations from the nuclear deal and reimpose crippling trade sanctions over two years ago.
US sanctions have caused Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of income, to fall sharply.
Last week, Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said that Iran’s oil revenues have plummeted to $8 billion from $100 billion in 2011.
Iran recently sent five tankers with at least $45.5 million worth of gasoline and similar products to Venezuela.
It was a way to bring money into its cash-starved Iran and put its own pressure on the US, which under Trump has pursued maximalist campaigns against both nations.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge rules former US national security adviser John Bolton can move forward in publishing his tell-all book despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed.
The decision from US District Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security concerns. But the judge also makes clear his concerns that Bolton had “gambled with the national security of the United States” by opting out of a prepublication review process meant to prevent government officials from spilling classified secrets in memoirs they publish.
The ruling clears the path for a broader election-year readership and distribution of a memoir, due out Tuesday, that paints an unflattering portrait of US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy decision-making during the turbulent year-and-a-half that Bolton spent in the White House.
Nonethless, Lamberth frowns upon the way Bolton went about publishing the book. Bolton took it “upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities” and perhaps caused irreparable harm to national security, Lamberth says.
But with 200,000 copies already distributed to booksellers across the country, attempting to block its release would be futile, the judge writes.
“A single dedicated individual with a book in hand could publish its contents far and wide from his local coffee shop,” Lamberth writes. “With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe — many in newsrooms — the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo.”
The Israel Defense Forces and the Health Ministry are each reportedly distancing themselves from a report saying Israel could soon see thousands of new coronavirus infections a day and hundreds of deaths if immediate measures aren’t taken to contain the pandemic.
According to the Walla news site, both the IDF and Health Ministry are denying they have responsibility over the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, which issued the report. They are also both denying leaking it to the media.
Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist who chairs the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, criticizes the release of the report, noting it was unsigned.
“It is unprofessional and unserious that reports no one signed are released,” he tells Walla. “There is an information center that is not transparent, and it seems there are no epidemiological doctors there at all. The analysis itself is sometimes unprofessional and sometimes mistaken.”
He also says leading epidemiologists in the country were not being granted access to the data used in drawing up the report.
In separate remarks to Channel 13 news, Levine characterized the release of the report “bizarre.”
“Soldiers in the Intelligence Corps have access to health information that I as the chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians can’t access. Where is the transparency?” he said.
A Blue and White minister urges the opposition Yesh Atid-Telem faction to join the government, citing the recent rise in new coronavirus cases.
“I call on Opposition Leader MK Yair Lapid and the former defense minister, MK Moshe Ya’alon, to show national responsibility and declare they’ll join the unity government in any sort of emergency positions until we all know the situation is under long-term control,” Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay writes on Facebook.
Shay cites a recent television poll in which 69 percent of Israelis said the government’s most pressing task is addressing the economic fallout caused by the sweeping lockdown measures put in place to contain the virus, saying other matters like Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plans to annex West Bank lands should be put aside for now.
“After we know we’ve succeeded in this difficult crisis, we’ll return to fighting and quarreling. To forming and dismantling governments. If you really want, we can even go to expensive and wasteful elections, that will bring us to a similar political situation to the one we’re in today,” Shay says.
Lapid and Ya’alon ran on a joint slate with Blue and White in the three elections over the past year, but broke with the party of its leader Benny Gantz’s decision to join a government led by Netanyahu, which they opposed due to the premier’s indictment on graft charges.
Sixteen residents of an elderly living facility in Jerusalem have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Hebrew media reports.
The Kann public broadcaster says two of the sick residents were quarantined at Idan HaZahav, while the rest were sent to hospitals for treatment.
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump says his former national security advisor John Bolton would pay a “big price” for what the Trump describes as an illegal tell-all memoir.
“Bolton broke the law and has been called out and rebuked for so doing, with a really big price to pay,” Trump tweets after a judge declined to block release of the book but said Bolton had likely endangered national security by including classified material.
“He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him!” Trump adds of the famously hawkish Bolton, without elaborating on what action his administration might take.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says at a Ramallah press conference that all of Hebron governorate will be locked down in response to what he calls “a dangerous increase in coronavirus infections.”
A record 84 new cases were confirmed today across the West Bank, according to the PA’s health ministry.
No person nor goods will be let in or out of Hebron except for supplies and food. A five-day curfew is also to be put in place within the governorate, with only bakeries, pharmacies, supermarkets, and some factories to remain open, Shtayyeh says.
Hebron, the West Bank’s largest governorate, has emerged as the center of the new wave of coronavirus infections in the West Bank. Nablus will also be ordered into lockdown for two days to prevent the spread of the virus there, Shtayyeh says.
All social gatherings are now banned throughout the West Bank, although some restaurants and coffee shops will remain open for now, Shtayyeh says.
According to the PA prime minister, the majority of the new infections were due to movement between the West Bank and Israel. Palestinian health officials said yesterday that Palestinian workers and Arab Israelis visiting relatives in the West Bank have been the source of most of the infections.
“I call on our people in the 1948 borders to avoid visiting any city, refugee camp, or village in the West Bank… Additionally, I call on workers who are employed inside the 1948 areas to avoid daily movement between the West Bank and inside [Israel] for 14 days. They can temporarily reside at their place of work,” Shtayyeh says.
— Aaron Boxerman
A “dramatic and pivotal” meeting will be held next week at the White House on whether to give Israel a green light to annex parts of the West Bank designated for it under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, Channel 13 news reports.
Trump is likely to take part in the meeting and will have final say on the matter, according to the network.
Among others Also expected to be present for the meeting are Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
The report said Avi Berkowitz, the administration’s point man for the peace plan, was set to travel to Israel but cancelled his trip to take part in the meeting.
According to Channel 13, administration officials are divided on annexation, with Friedman pushing for the US to give Israel permission to do so immediately. Other officials however are said have reservations about such a move.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch says the government was already aware of many of the details about the rise in coronavirus cases contained in a dire report released earlier today, and is taking steps to deal with them.
In an interview with Channel 13 news, Kisch says the health system is now better equipped to deal with the pandemic than it was in March, when Israel saw its first major outbreak of COVID-19.
He also says he and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein want a thriving economy and don’t want to reimpose sweeping lockdown measures.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is weighing raising fines for Israelis not wearing masks as part of measures to combat the increase in new coronavirus cases, according to the Ynet news site.
Currently, authorities can hit people with a NIS 200 ($58) fine for not donning a mask in public areas.
The report doesn’t say by how much Netanyahu, who is set to to hold a meeting tomorrow on the rising number of infections, is considering raising the fine.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Foreign Ministry says it’s “concerned” about France’s testing of a new ballistic missile and that it is inconsistent with the country’s international commitments, state-run IRNA news agency reports.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi says the French navy’s recent test-firing of a new generation M51 intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying several nuclear warheads is incompatible with France’s commitments to nuclear disarmament.
He urges Paris to fully comply with its international obligations regarding nuclear disarmament.
Mousavi says the weapon is a threat to international peace and security and testing such weapons weakens the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
Yesterday, the board of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency adopted a resolution calling for Iran to provide inspectors access to sites where the country is thought to have stored or used undeclared nuclear material.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is interested in renewing a controversial program allowing the Shin Bet security agency to use sensitive personal data to track coronavirus carriers and those who were exposed to them, the Haaretz daily reports.
The report comes after Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, called earlier today for the swift passage of a law authorizing the tracking program, which lapsed earlier this month after the government declined to advance legislation anchoring it in law.
The army says it has found the body of a soldier who has been missing for two days since leaving the military base he was stationed at in southern Israel.
Soldiers found the body of First Sergeant Adiel Fishler, 21, near the Shizafon base, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Fishler was last seen Thursday evening leaving the base while wearing military fatigues and armed with an M-16 rifle.
There is no immediate word on the cause of his death.
An IDF statement says Fishler’s family was informed of his death and that military police are investigating the incident.
הלוחם עדיאל פישלר- סוף טראגי.
דובר צה"ל מוסר:
"נמצאה גופתו של לוחם צה"ל סמל ראשון עדיאל פישלר ז״ל, בשטח אימונים סמוך לבסיס שיזפון.
הלוחם נמצא ע"י לוחמי עוצבת "בני-אור" שפעלו לאיתורו ביומיים האחרונים. המשטרה הצבאית פתחה בחקירת נסיבות האירוע.
הודעה נמסרה למשפחתו". pic.twitter.com/4ej3xqYlDa
— שמעון ארן شمعون آران (@simonarann) June 20, 2020
Researchers at the Israel Institute for Biological Research have published a new report claiming significant process in their efforts to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus.
The report by the Ness Ziona-based institute, which is under the Defense Ministry’s control, was published yesterday on the website of bioRxiv, an online repository for papers that haven’t yet been peer-reviewed.
In the abstract of the report, the researchers say their vaccine, which they tested on hamsters, “results in rapid and potent induction of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2,” the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Importantly, single-dose vaccination was able to protect hamsters against SARS-CoV-2 challenge, as demonstrated by the abrogation of body weight loss of the immunized hamsters compared to unvaccinated hamsters,” they write in the report.
While the lungs of infected hamsters showed extensive tissue damage and a high viral load, the report says those given the vaccine “showed only minor lung pathology” and had no viral titer.
The Health Ministry confirms 294 new coronavirus cases over the past day, bringing the number of infections since the start of the pandemic to 20,633.
Of the 4,668 active cases, 40 people are in serious condition, of whom 27 are on ventilators. Another 49 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms.
The death toll from the virus remains at 305.
The ministry says 12,765 tests were conducted yesterday, and so far 5,032 were performed today. Testing levels have typically dipped over Shabbat, which begins Friday at sundown and ends Saturday evening.
Prime Minister Netanyahu denounces Channel 12 news journalist Rina Matzliach, who claimed this evening the premier’s supporters have said during interviews that “even if he raped my daughter I would still vote for him.”
Matzliach later apologized for the comment made during the program “Meet the Press,” which she hosts.
“Rina Matzliach, shame on you!” Netanyahu tweets.
Numerous lawmakers from Netanyahu’s Likud party also criticize.
“This evening you raped the honor of a million Likud voters,” Transportation Minister Miri Regev writes on Twitter. “Again and again you lash the right-wing camp and Prime Minister in a severe and despicable manner and this evening all lines were crossed.”
Channel 12 news issues a statement distancing itself from Matzliach’s comments and saying she has been summoned for an inquiry with Avi Weiss, the CEO of the company.
Matzliach has previously come under fire from Netanyahu and others for controversial remarks, most recently in April for saying ultra-Orthodox Jews doesn’t respect the state’s authority.
LONDON — Police in the English town of Reading are dealing with a “serious incident,” authorities say, following reports that multiple people were stabbed in a park.
Witnesses report that police cars and helicopters are responding to an incident in Forbury Gardens, a park in the town of about 200,000 residents west of London. Police block off several roads, and photos show two air ambulances nearby.
The Royal Berkshire Hospital tells the BBC it is treating two casualties from the incident.
The local Thames Valley Police force tweets, “We are aware of reports of an incident in Forbury Gardens, Reading. Officers are on the scene and investigating the incident.”
Jason Brock, the leader of Reading Council, tweets: “Concerning reports from Reading town centre – please stay clear of the area as Police are dealing with a serious incident.”
The report comes hours after an anti-racism protest took place at Forbury Gardens.
Three people were killed and two critically injured in stabbing today in the British town of Reading, the Telegraph newspaper reports.
It remains unclear what the motive for the stabbing was and the Telegraph says police are believed to be the incident as a random attack.
The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council describes the stabbing in Reading as a “serious incident.”
“A number of people sustained injuries and were taken to hospital for treatment,” The Thames Valley Police says in statement.
Witnesses report seeing two air ambulances fly in and land at a public park in the centre of the city of around 220,000. The BBC and Sky News said two people had been taken to Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital with apparent stab wounds.
Police say they arrested “a man at the scene” and urge everyone to stay away.
None of the initial reports suggested a terror motive.
A Black Lives Matter protest took place at the park earlier but organizers say the incident did not appear to be connected to the event.
Home Secretary Priti Patel says she is”deeply concerned.”
— with AFP
British media says police are treating the stabbing attack in the UK town of Reading as “terrorism-related.”
The Press Association news agency and Sky News quote security sources as saying terrorism is suspected in the early evening attack in the city’s Forbury Gardens park.
Police say several people have been taken to hospitals but do not confirm media reports that three people have been killed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his “thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading.”
— with AP
The head of an umbrella group of settler leaders urges Prime Minister Netanyahu to not “surrender” to his Blue and White coalition partners on the issue of West Bank annexation.
“We’re in one of the most critical weeks for settlements. This week the decision will likely be made on extending sovereignty. We say to the prime minister: Don’t surrender to [Joint List MK Ahmad] Tibi. Don’t surrender to [Joint List MK Ayman] Odeh. Don’t surrender to [Defense Minister] Benny Gantz. Don’t surrender to [Foreign Minister] Gabi Ashkenazi,” Yesha council chief David Elhayani is quoted saying in a statement.
He adds: “We also say no to a [settlement building] freeze and no to a Palestinian state.”
While Netanyahu has vowed to begin annexing areas of the West Bank designated for Israel under the Trump administration’s peace plan on July 1, Gantz and Ashkenazi have signaled opposition to annexing lands without international support.