Gantz: Likud prefers probing judges to helping the unemployed
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Helicopter carrying IDF chief experienced a technical malfunction in mid-air

While military says Aviv Kohavi and other passengers aboard chopper last week weren’t in danger, TV report claims the incident nearly ended in ‘disaster’

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

Netanyahu associate blames Israeli public for renewed virus outbreak

A close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it’s the Israeli public’s fault for the renewed coronavirus outbreak, pushing back at growing criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

“A large percentage of the public that didn’t listen to the instructions, didn’t wear a mask, celebrated in nightclubs and on roofs, at the beach and other public places is to blame for the situation,” Natan Eshel says in a statement to Israeli reporters.

He also lashes out at businesspeople who have been critical of the restrictions on their businesses and what they say is a lack of financial assistance.

“The government wanted to help but they didn’t listen to the rules. Now we’ll all pay the economic and personal price,” he says.

Eshel previously served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff before resigning in 2012 over allegations he used a surreptitiously placed camera to film under the skirt of a female colleague. He has continued to work with the premier and took a key role in coalition negotiations over the past year.

Lebanese man convicted in US of financing for Hezbollah returns home

BEIRUT — A Lebanese businessman serving a five-year sentence in the United States for providing millions of dollars to the Hezbollah terror group arrived today in Beirut after his early release, local media report.

Kassim Tajideen was sentenced last year in a federal court in Washington for his role in a money laundering conspiracy aimed at evading US sanctions. He was arrested in Morocco and extradited to the US in 2017, where he was he was charged with laundering money for Hezbollah.

There’s no immediate comment from US or Lebanese officials on his early release.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported Tajideen’s arrival. A local Lebanese TV station, LBC, broadcast a video taken with a cellphone of his arrival at the Beirut airport. He stepped out of small jet, wearing a face mask as a necessary coronavirus precaution. The video shows a man rushing toward Tajideen, hugging him and stooping down to Tajideen’s feet in celebration of his release.

A Washington federal judge had ordered the release of Tajideen in May. The National, an English-language newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, said the 64-year-old Tajideen was granted compassionate release due to health conditions and fears of coronavirus infections in prison. The US Department of Justice had contested the release.

Tajideen was accused of conspiring with at least five other people to conduct over $50 million in transactions with US businesses, in violation of sanctions that barred him from doing business with US nationals and companies because of his support for Hezbollah. Washington has designated the Iran-backed Hezbollah a terrorist group.

— Agencies

Trump says considering TikTok ban to punish China for pandemic

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said he is considering banning the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok as a way to punish China over the coronavirus pandemic, remarks China describes as “a malicious smear.”

TikTok has been caught up in the escalating disputes between the United States and China, with the Chinese-owned firm accused of acting as a spying tool for Beijing — an allegation it denies.

“It’s something we’re looking at,” Trump said during a TV interview yesterday when asked about a possible ban, according to Bloomberg News.

“It’s a big business. Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful.”

Trump did not provide any details, and told Gray Television that it was “one of many” options he was considering against China, Bloomberg added.

The United States is the country worst-hit by the virus, which the American president has blamed on poor management and a lack of transparency in China — which has rejected the allegation.

“The remarks made by some politicians in the US are totally groundless and a malicious smear,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says today when asked about Trump’s comments on TikTok and China’s role in the pandemic.

“The Chinese government has always asked Chinese businesses to conduct cooperation overseas on the basis of law and compliance,” he tells a regular press briefing.

Trump’s comments came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US government was looking at banning Chinese apps — including TikTok — over espionage concerns.

— AFP

Likud says it’ll back forming committee to probe judges’ conflicts of interest

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party says it’ll vote in favor of far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal to establish a Knesset committee to investigate judges’ alleged conflicts of interest, drawing sharp criticism from his coalition partners in the Blue and White party.

“A vote in favor of establishing an investigative committee for judges is a declaration of war against Israeli democracy,” Blue and White says in a statement.

The Likud announcement comes after reports said the coalition would oppose the formation of the committee and that lawmakers in Netanyahu’s party would be required to vote against it.

Justice minister: Whoever backs panel for judges is supporting ‘elimination of Israeli democracy’

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, a member of the Blue and White party, hits out a proposal to form a parliamentary committee to investigate judges’ alleged conflicts of interests, after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party said it would vote to establish the panel.

“In Israel there are over a million unemployed people and everyday over 1,000 new patients are diagnosed with coronavirus and there’s someone for whom it’s most urgent now to destroy the rule of law,” Nissenkorn writes on Twitter.

He doesn’t specify who this is but appears to be referring to Netanyahu, who has repeatedly lashed out at law enforcement and prosecutors over his indictment on graft charges.

“Whoever votes in favor on an investigate committee for judges is voting in favor of the elimination of Israeli democracy. I won’t allow this,” Nissenkorn says.

Meanwhile, Hebrew media quotes Blue and White sources saying a vote by Likud in favor of the panel would mean new elections.

Knesset speaker hails proposed parliamentary panel to investigate judges

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a close Likud party ally of Prime Minister Netanyahu and longtime critic of Israel’s judicial system, applauds a proposal to form a parliamentary committee to probe judges’ alleged conflicts of interest.

“The days in which the Knesset feared to criticize the judicial system are over,” Levin writes on Facebook.

Likud lawmaker Yariv Levin at the Kfar Maccabia Hotel in Ramat Gan, on October 27, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Coalition whip: We don’t want elections, Likud voters expect us to back panel to probe judges

Coalition chairman Miki Zohar denies Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party is seeking new elections by backing the formation of a committee to investigate judges’ alleged conflicts of interest, despite fierce opposition from its Blue and White coalition partners.

“The decision to vote in favor of the investigative committee… derives solely from our desire to meet the expectations of our voters. We have no desire to go to elections,” Zohar tweets.

He adds: “I hope that a way will be found to iron out the difficulties with Blue and White. This is the order of the hour.”

Likud MK Miki Zohar reacts during an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 13, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Leading authors warn in open letter against threat to free speech

LONDON — Dozens of artists, writers and academics have signed an open letter decrying the weakening of public debate and warning that the free exchange of information and ideas is in jeopardy amid a rise in what they call “illiberalism.”

J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood are among dozens of writers, artists and academics to argue against ideological conformity in an open letter in Harper’s Magazine. The letter comes amid a debate over so-called cancel culture — where prominent people face attack for sharing controversial opinions.

“The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy,” the letter says. “But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.”

The letter criticizes the state of public debate and the “swift and severe retribution” dealt out to any perceived wrongs. It decries an “intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.”

“The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away,” the letter says. “We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.

Other signatories include Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem and Malcolm Gladwell.

— AP

Gantz: Likud prefers probing judges to helping the unemployed

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party, slams Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party for announcing it’ll back the formation of an investigative committee into judges’ alleged conflicts of interests.

“Instead of dealing with the unemployed and self-employed, Likud is requesting to investigate judges. Instead of dealing with the economic failure, they’re creating a moral failure,” Gantz writes on Twitter.

He adds: “Whoever prefers to sabotage democracy instead of dealing with saving lives is harming Israeli citizens and I won’t allow this.”

According to the Kann public broadcaster, Gantz phoned the heads of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties in a bid to convince them to oppose the proposal, imploring them “to maintain the integrity of the coalition.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Blue and White’s No. 2, also hits out at Likud over the decision.

“The Likud decision to vote in favor of an investigate committee for judges in Israel is spitting on the face on Israeli democracy and the law enforcement system. For us this is a ‘white flag’ and we won’t agree to a move like this,” Ashkenazi tweets.

He adds: “If they want investigate committees right now instead of dealing with the coronavirus and working for the public, there are additional ideas.”

Ashkenazi doesn’t elaborate on what these ideas are but his comments come as Blue and White sources threaten to push for new elections if Likud goes through with the vote.

Official coronavirus death toll in Iran passes 12,000

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says that its death toll from the novel coronavirus has surpassed 12,000, with authorities considering reimposing restrictive measures in Tehran to contain a resurgence of the disease.

It comes a day after the Islamic Republic reported its highest single-day fatality count of 200 from COVID-19.

Iran has been battling the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the virus since late February.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says that another 153 deaths have been recorded over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 12,084.

She says total cases had risen to 248,379 with 2,691 more people testing positive.

Nine of Iran’s 31 provinces are now classified as “red,” the highest category in the country’s virus risk scaling.

Another 10 are on alert including the capital Tehran and the surrounding province, Lari adds.

“Tehran is facing a very fragile situation,” says Alireza Zali, the head of the city’s virus taskforce.

“The number of infections, deaths and hospitalizations have been on a sharp rising trajectory in the past 10 days,” he iss quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

— AFP

Proposal to form panel to probe judges fails to pass Knesset vote

A proposal to form a parliamentary committee to investigate judges’ alleged conflicts of interested is voted down in a Knesset plenum vote.

Forty-three lawmakers voted in favor of Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal, while 54 voted against.

A number of MKs clap as it is announced the proposal was voted down, which is barred in the Knesset unless approved by the speaker.

Prime Minister Netanyahu was not present for the vote on the proposal, despite his party’s backing for it. Defense Ministry Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White party strongly opposed the measure, was also not present as he is in quarantine after exposure to a COVID-19 carrier.

Explaining opposition to panel to probe judges, Liberman says he likes to troll Netanyahu, Smotrich

MK Avigdor Liberman explains why his right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu party voted against Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal to form a panel to probe judges’ alleged conflicts of interests, which Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud supported.

“I’m always happy when there’s an opportunity to vote against Smotrich and Netanyahu,” Liberman writes on Twitter.

He adds: “I’m ashamed that the Knesset of Israel, instead of dealing with the spread of the epidemic and economic crisis, is trying to help the bullshit government change the agenda and evade responsibility.”

Iran announces plans to strengthen Syria’s air defense systems

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran plans to strengthen war-torn Syria’s air defense systems as part of a military agreement between the allies, state television says.

“We will strengthen Syria’s air defense systems in order to improve military cooperation between the two countries,” the broadcaster quotes armed forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri as saying.

The deal will “further enhance our will… to confront pressures by America,” he adds.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of a civil war there in 2011, targeting government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah.

Iran has always denied sending forces to fight in Syria, saying it only has military advisors there.

The broadcaster publishes on its website a video of the deal being signed in Damascus by Bagheri and Syria’s Defense Minister Ali Ayoub.

It shows an Iranian military spokesman reading a joint statement saying the “comprehensive military-security agreement” aims to “confront increasing dangers (and) takfiri terrorism supported by international and regional powers.”

Iranian authorities use the term “takfiri” to refer to Sunni jihadists, including groups fighting in Syria.

The joint statement also emphasizes “the necessity of the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces having entered Syria illegally.”

Along with Moscow, Tehran is one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main allies in the war that has ravaged the country since 2011.

The conflict has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions.

— AFP

Yamina goes after Likud, Shas after proposed panel to probe judges rejected

The national-religious Yamina party goes after Likud and Shas after its MK Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal to form a parliamentary committee to probe judges’ alleged conflicts of interests was voted down by the Knesset plenum.

“Why do [you] vote right-wing and get left-wing? Eleven votes were missing to form an investigate committee on judges. Thirteen MKs from Likud and Shas were absent on the orders of [Prime Minister] Netanyahu and [Interior Minister Aryeh] Deri,” the party says in a statement.

“Don’t tell us anymore that you’re really in favor of changing the judicial system,” it adds.

In first since start of pandemic, Rivlin receives credentials of new ambassadors

President Reuven Rivlin receives the credentials of new ambassadors to Israel for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from Rivlin’s office says the size of the honor guard was reduced and that the ceremony was held entirely in the President’s Residence in accordance with restrictions against the coronavirus.

During the ceremony, the new ambassadors from Colombia, Greece, Denmark, Romania and Argentina presented Rivlin with their credentials.

President Reuven Rivlin (L) receives the credentials of the new Greek ambassador to Israel during a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on July 8, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Settlers set alight Palestinians fields in northern West Bank, rights group says

Two Israeli settlers have set ablaze fields belonging to Palestinian farmers from the northern West Bank village of Burin, the Yesh Din rights group reports.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the arsonists descended from the nearby Yitzhar and ignited the brushfire before fleeing back toward the flashpoint settlement, according to Yesh Din.

An eyewitness claims to have seen the two culprits pass by a Jeep belonging to Israeli security forces, who didn’t stop them as they fled the scene.

Local Palestinians are currently working to gain control of the fire, which has already damaged trees and crops in the area, Yesh Din says.

— Jacob Magid

Gantz orders Defense Ministry to establish more ‘motels’ for virus patients

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered his ministry to set up two to three new “motels” for coronavirus patients in the next 48 hours, including one for ultra-Orthodox Jews, his office says.

There are currently 12 facilities for housing people infected with COVID-19 or who are required to quarantine, six of which are designated for the ultra-Orthodox community. The order comes as Israel sees a surge in new infections, with an average of over 1,000 new cases recorded in recent days.

“The Defense Ministry is ready to further significantly increase the motel system,” a statement from his spokeswoman says.

The statement also says the Defense Ministry and IDF are upping their efforts to have local authorities and HMOs encourage coronavirus patients to stay at the motels.

9-year-old Israeli boy drowns in Russia while visiting grandfather

A nine-year-old Israeli has drowned in a stream in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where the boy was visiting his grandfather with his family.

The death is confirmed by the Samaria Regional Council, where the boy’s family lives.

The Zaka emergency service says it is in touch with the family along with Israeli and Russian authorities in order to transfer the body back to the Jewish state.

The boy had been in Russia with his mother and five siblings for the past several months.

— Jacob Magid

Rivlin criticizes government’s handling of pandemic, says there’s no clear plan

President Reuven Rivlin criticizes the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, amid a surge in new infections and rising disapproval of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response to the economic fallout caused by government-mandated lockdown measures.

“Up to now, the State of Israel hasn’t developed a clear ‘combat doctrine’ in the fight against the virus,” Hebrew media quotes Rivlin saying during an event for graduates of the National Defense College.

The president laments the lack of a central body to coordinate Israel’s response to the virus, which Netanyahu has resisted appointing. He also decries a reported turf war between the Health Ministry and Defense Ministry over the latter’s desire to take on more responsibility for addressing the outbreak.

“There is no place for political calculations between the Defense Ministry and the Health Ministry. We must give the reins to a body that can bring the best result, while all other ministries are subordinate to it and are helping,” Rivlin says.

Likud MK claims Rivlin worked to sink formation of panel to probe judges

A Likud party ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims President Reuven Rivlin worked to sink a proposal to form a parliamentary committee to investigate judges’ alleged conflicts of interest, which was voted down by the Knesset despite the ruling party’s support.

“President Rivlin tried to do everything to block this proposal. He does this intentionally to hurt Netanyahu,” MK Miki Zohar tells Army Radio.

He offers no proof for the claim. Netanyahu has previously made unfounded accusations that Rivlin, a former Likud lawmaker, has it out for him.

Zohar says criticism made by Rivlin of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was payback for Likud’s backing of the proposed panel to probe judges.

In the interview, Zohar also says Netanyahu told him to ensure the proposal passed. The premier has yet to publicly comment on the proposal, which his coalition partners in the Blue and White party said would be a “declaration of war” on Israel’s democracy.

Rivlin’s office slams ‘outrageous’ claim he worked to block panel to probe judges

The director of the President’s Residence responds to Likud MK Miki Zohar’s claim that President Rivlin worked to block a proposed parliamentary committee to investigate judges in order to harm Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Harel Tuvi calls Zohar’s claim “outrageous” and says he should apologize.

Deri said to angrily hang up on Netanyahu for backing panel to probe judges

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, reportedly angrily hung up the phone on Prime Minister Netanyahu after the premier’s Likud party backed a proposal to establish a parliamentary committee to investigate judges’ alleged conflict of interests, despite fierce opposition to the move by Blue and White.

According to the Walla news site, Deri and United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni tried to convince Netanyahu during a conference call to drop his support for the proposal, but he refused.

The report says Deri then said in a raised voice: “This will topple the government, you want to topple the government?” before slamming down the phone.

Channel 12 news reports Deri also said, “We have a million unemployed people and you’re leading [us to] elections.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri at the Knesset on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Pompeo hints at Iranian link to killing of Iraqi jihadism expert

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demands justice over the killing of a prominent Iraqi jihadism expert and highlighted threats against him by Iran-linked groups.

Hisham al-Hashemi, an internationally known scholar whose vast contacts inside Iraq made him a mediator among rivals, was gunned down outside his Baghdad home late Monday by masked assailants on motorcycles.

“In the days leading up to his death he was repeatedly threatened by Iran backed armed groups,” Pompeo tells a news conference in Washington, without explicitly blaming Tehran.

“The United States joins partner nations in strongly condemning his assassination and call(ing) for the government of Iraq to bring to justice the perpetrators of this terrible crime… swiftly,” he says.

This screengrab from a video made on February 11, 2019, shows jihadism expert Iraqi Hisham al-Hashemi speaking during an interview in Baghdad. (AFPTV / AFP)

Hashemi was an authoritative voice on Sunni extremist movements including the Islamic State group, which are violently opposed to Iran.

But he infuriated Tehran-backed factions in Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network through his support of popular protests last year against a Baghdad government seen as too close to Iran.

Some experts have voiced fear of a new violent phase in Iraq and believe the turning point may have come in January when a US strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to check Iran’s regional activities and choke its economy and frequently seeks to throw a spotlight on purported nefarious activities backed by the clerical state.

— AFP

Number of COVID-19 cases in US passes 3 million, Pence says

WASHINGTON — More than three million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, US Vice President Mike Pence announces.

“At this point, we have tested more than 39 million Americans,” Pence tells reporters at a briefing given by the country’s coronavirus task force.

“Among those, more than three million Americans have tested positive and more than 1.3 million Americans have recovered,” he adds.

— AFP

Health Ministry reports 1,289 new coronavirus cases over past day

The Health Ministry reports 1,289 new coronavirus cases over the past day, with the number of infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic rising to 33,175.

The ministry also announces another fatality, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 344.

According to ministry figures, there are currently 14,516 active virus cases. This includes 113 people in serious condition, of whom 39 are on ventilators. Another 82 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

There were 28,143 tests performed yesterday, with 13,979 conducted so far today.

Gantz cheers defeat of proposed panel to probe judges

Defense Minister Benny Gantz applauds lawmakers from his Blue and White party for helping defeat a proposal backed by Prime Minister Netanyahu to form a parliamentary committee to investigate judges’ alleged conflicts of interests.

“Today we were forced to stop our activities in order to prevent harm to the judges of Israel and the judicial system. I’m happy we did this, I’m proud we did this,” Gantz says in a video statement filmed at his home, where he is quarantining after exposure to a COVID-19 carrier.

Gantz adds: “What’s important in these days is security, health and economy and not any political game. Therefore, Blue and White under my leadership will present our demands on Sunday for an aid package for Israeli citizens.”

He says his party will only support a “long-term plan,” as it feuds with Netanyahu’s Likud over the period of time the next budget will cover.

IDF cancels major drill due to budget shortfall

The Israeli military announces it is canceling a major exercise planned for September, citing insufficient funding amid an ongoing row with the Finance Ministry over the defense budget.

The drill was meant to test the Israel Defense Forces’ ability to move rapidly from routine to wartime operations in the event of a massive multi-front scenario. Thousands of reservists were meant to take part.

“The routine-to-emergency transition exercise that was planned for September will be canceled. That is what IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi decided today as part of a prioritization process of IDF missions for 2020, in light of shortages in the budget, which are currently being discussed,” the military says.

The IDF has effectively been operating without a formal budget since the start of 2020 as there was no government to approve a new one. Instead, each month is was allocated one-twelfth of its 2019 annual budget, which the IDF believed to be insufficient for its multi-year Momentum Plan to revamp itself.

The military is currently negotiating a new budget with the Finance Ministry.

— Judah Ari Gross

AG tells High Court that Likud MK’s parliamentary immunity should be nixed

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says the Knesset lacked the authority to grant Likud MK Haim Katz parliamentary immunity and should therefore cancel the decision.

“The Knesset’s decision to grant immunity to MK Haim Katz is void and lacks validity because it is defected by an erroneous application of the grounds for immunity,” Mandelblit writes in response to a High Court petition against the decision to grant Kantz immunity.

Katz was facing charges of fraud and breach of trust when the Knesset voted to give him immunity in February, saying he carried out the alleged actions in “good faith” and as part of his work as an MK.

Likud MK Haim Katz during a Knesset plenary session debate on his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution, February 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ministers expected to declare lockdowns of virus-hit communities

Prime Minister Netanyahu orders ministers to convene deliberate declaring areas with a high rates of COVID-19 infections “restricted areas,” his office says in a statement.

It doesn’t specify which areas could be put on lockdown, but Channel 12 news says nine communities in whole or in part could be declared “restricted areas.” According to the network, the cities are Jerusalem, Modiin Illit, Ramle, Beit Shemesh, Lod, Kiryat Malachi, Bnei Brak, Ashdod and Ra’anana.

Health Ministry said weighing reducing length of quarantine

The Health Ministry is considering reducing the mandatory quarantine requirement for those potentially exposed to the coronavirus to 7-10 days, according to Channel 12 news, down from the current requirement of 14 days.

Israeli envoy in NY likens calls to condition US aid to parents who throw out an LGBT child

Dani Dayan, Israel’s outgoing consul general in New York, likens those in the American Jewish community calling to cut or condition US aid to Israel to a parent who throws an LGBT child out of their home.

“Sometimes I think there are American Jews who behave like the bigoted father who throws out of his home the son who comes out of the closet,” Dayan says in an exit interview with The Forward and the New York Jewish News conducted over Zoom.

Dayan makes the comments days after a prominent Democratic senator proposed legislation to ban US defense assistance to Israel from being used to annex parts of the West Bank, or going to annexed areas.

Backed by several prominent Jewish groups, including J Street, the amendment to a funding bill introduced by Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen would not allow aid used to “deploy or support the deployment of United States defense articles, services or training to territories in the West Bank unilaterally annexed by Israel after July 1, 2020, or to facilitate the unilateral annexation of such territories.”

“If you’re family you have a right and sometimes a duty to speak out… but there are red lines,” Dayan, a former settler leader, argues while also including advocacy for boycotts of Israel among his “red lines.”

New satellite photos show signicant damage after blast at Iran’s Natanz facility

New satellite photos show extensive damage to a building used for centrifuge production at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran after an explosion there last week.

An unnamed Middle Eastern official has told US media that Israel was responsible for the blast.

IDF says helicopter experienced technical malfunction as chief of staff was onboard

A transport helicopter in which the IDF chief of staff was flying in experienced a technical malfunction in mid-air last week, forcing it to make an emergency landing, the military says.

The IDF says the glitch was not life-threatening, but Channel 12, which first reported on the matter, says the incident nearly led to a “disaster” due to incorrect handling of the situation by the flight crew.

According to the military, one of the Black Hawk helicopter’s motors experienced a “technical malfunction.”

“The immediate actions by the flight crew allowed them to handle the malfunction safely, and at no time was there a threat to the lives of the passengers,” the IDF says.

However, according to Channel 12, the flight crew behaved incorrectly during the incident, shutting down the aircraft’s working motor, causing the helicopter to quickly lose altitude — down to roughly 30 meters (100 feet) — before they realized their error and restarted it, allowing the aircraft to stabilize.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in the military’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The helicopter, which was transporting IDF chief Aviv Kohavi from the Knesset to a military base, was then able to land at the Tel Nof Air Base in central Israel, where a second helicopter was able to ferry the army chief the rest of the way, the military says.

The IDF says the incident is being investigated.

— Judah Ari Gross

Health minister said to have attended wife’s birthday bash after announcing new virus restrictions

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attended a birthday party for his wife last week at which dozens of people were present, hours after he announced new restrictions limiting gatherings to 20 people, the Kann public broadcaster reports.

The broadcaster notes the event didn’t violate Health Ministry guidelines as the new restrictions had yet to take effect, but highlights Edelstein’s comments that same evening likening the pandemic to a “war.”

Edelstein’s office dismisses the report as “cheap gossip.”

“The Health Minister’s wife celebrated her birthday on Thursday at 6 p.m. in an open and large yard with less than 50 people, exactly in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines, government decisions and Minister Edelstein’s statements as they were at the time,” it says in a statement.

It adds: “This is an unfortunate attempt to cause damage to the public’s trust in the health system. We’re sure the public is wiser than this.”

State Department: UN report ‘whitewashing’ Soleimai’s record by criticizing drone strike

WASHINGTON — The United States blasts a UN finding that a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general was unlawful, saying the report whitewashed Qassem Soleimani’s record.

“It takes a special kind of intellectual dishonesty to issue a report condemning the United States for acting in self-defense while whitewashing General Soleimani’s notorious past as one of the world’s deadliest terrorists,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus says.

— AFP

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Gantz: Likud prefers probing judges to helping the unemployed

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party, slams Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party for announcing it’ll back the formation of an investigative committee into judges’ alleged conflicts of interests.

“Instead of dealing with the unemployed and self-employed, Likud is requesting to investigate judges. Instead of dealing with the economic failure, they’re creating a moral failure,” Gantz writes on Twitter.

He adds: “Whoever prefers to sabotage democracy instead of dealing with saving lives is harming Israeli citizens and I won’t allow this.”

According to the Kann public broadcaster, Gantz phoned the heads of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties in a bid to convince them to oppose the proposal, imploring them “to maintain the integrity of the coalition.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Blue and White’s No. 2, also hits out at Likud over the decision.

“The Likud decision to vote in favor of an investigate committee for judges in Israel is spitting on the face on Israeli democracy and the law enforcement system. For us this is a ‘white flag’ and we won’t agree to a move like this,” Ashkenazi tweets.

He adds: “If they want investigate committees right now instead of dealing with the coronavirus and working for the public, there are additional ideas.”

Ashkenazi doesn’t elaborate on what these ideas are but his comments come as Blue and White sources threaten to push for new elections if Likud goes through with the vote.