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Bennett backs no-confidence motion that would’ve made Lapid PM

Netanyahu’s Likud blasts Yamina head for supporting measure, calls him a ‘conniver’; hitting back, Yamina says ruling party should focus on virus fight, ‘not more C-class spins’

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett at the Yamina campaign launch ahead of the general elections, on February 12, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett at the Yamina campaign launch ahead of the general elections, on February 12, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

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

Hospital to no longer accept geriatric COVID patients due to burden on virus wards — report

Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital will no longer accept geriatric COVID-19 patients due to the large number of people being treated in its coronavirus wards, the Haaretz daily reports.

The hospital says it has been unable to find a facility to send 25 geriatric patients who no longer require treatment, leading to the burden on the COVID departments, according to the newspaper.

Ichilov, which is currently treating 110 coronavirus patients, also complains of difficulties in sending patients to other hospitals that have a greater capacity to treat those sick with COVID-19.

Lebanon names team for maritime border talks with Israel

BEIRUT — Lebanon announces the members of its delegation that will hold indirect talks later this week with Israel over the disputed maritime border between the two countries.

The announcement by Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s office comes two weeks after Lebanon and Israel reached an agreement on a framework for the US-mediated talks. The talks are scheduled to begin Wednesday at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in the southern Lebanese border town of Naqoura.

Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as within their own exclusive economic zones.

Aoun’s office says the four-member Lebanese delegation will be headed by air force Brig. Gen. Bassam Yassin. The three other members are navy Col. Mazen Basbous, Lebanese oil official Wissam Chbat and border expert Najib Massihi.

Lebanese officials have made sure to send a team of experts to show that this week’s talks with Israel are purely technical and don’t mean any kind of normalization between the two countries.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group said last week that the talks don’t mean reconciliation with Israel. A statement by Hezbollah’s bloc in parliament said last week that defining the border of “national sovereignty” is the job of the Lebanese state.

The talks will see the Lebanese delegation speaking through UN and US officials to the Israelis.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, is expected in Lebanon ahead of the talks to attend the opening session.

— AP

Iran says US faces ‘historic’ defeat as arms embargo to be lifted

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says the US is facing a “historic” defeat as an arms embargo against Tehran is to be lifted within days despite Washington’s bid to have it extended.

Addressing the issue at a news conference, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh also lashes out at the “insanity” of the latest US sanctions against banks in the Islamic Republic.

Next Sunday the “historic defeat of the United States will be realized, and that came to be despite its attempts, trickery and extrajudicial moves,” Khatibzadeh says.

“Iran again showed that the United States is not as all-powerful as it says,” he adds.

The embargo on the sale of arms to Iran is due to start expiring progressively from October 18 under the terms of a UN resolution that blessed the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers.

Washington suffered a setback in August when it failed to win support from the United Nations Security Council to indefinitely extend the embargo.

US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018 before reimposing US sanctions on Iran.

Since then, the US has slapped additional sanctions on Iran as part of a campaign of “maximum pressure,” with the latest on Thursday concerning 18 banks.

“We used to say they are addicted to sanctions, but now they have reached insanity,” Khatibzadeh says.

The spokesman adds that the excessive use of sanctions had caused the Americans to “cannibalize” themselves, as well as prompted other countries to find alternatives to the US dollar.

— AFP

Iran records single-day highs in COVID deaths, new infections

TEHRAN, Iran — For the second day in a row, Iran announces its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus with 272 people fatalities.

Today’s announcement by Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari sees Iran also announce its single-day highest count of new cases with 4,206 new patients.

Iran has been struggling with the coronavirus since announcing its first cases in February.

— AP

Court rejects leniency for Greek neo-Nazi leaders

ATHENS, Greece — A Greek court rejects calls for leniency for the leaders of notorious Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, paving the way for sentences of up to 15 years after a five-year trial.

The court refuses lawyers’ requests to consider mitigating factors when sentencing party founder and long-term leader Nikos Michaloliakos and six other former party lawmakers.

They were convicted last week of crimes that include running a criminal organization.

The latest decision comes on the 76th anniversary of Greece’s liberation from Axis occupation in World War II.

After over five years of hearings, the panel of three judges on Wednesday unanimously labeled the paramilitary party a criminal organization in the trial described as one of the most important in Greece’s political history.

— AFP

People gather outside a courthouse in Athens on October 12, 2020, after a Greek court found the leaders of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn guilty of running a criminal organization. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP)

Joint US-Israeli delegation reportedly will fly to Bahrain next week

A joint US-Israeli delegation will travel to Bahrain next week to work on finalizing the normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Manama, the Walla news site reports.

Citing Israeli officials, the news site says the trip was requested by Bahrain, which wanted a joint delegation to fly directly from Israel to the Gulf state, following a similar visit made to the United Arab Emirates last month.

The Israeli delegation is expected to be led by the directors general of the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office, while the US team will be headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump’s peace envoy Avi Berkowitz, according to the report.

Lapid: Whoever doesn’t back no-confidence measure ‘is a coward’

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid calls on fellow MKs to back his Yesh Atid party’s “constructive no-confidence” vote, which would see the current government replaced with an alternative one.

“Whoever doesn’t vote in favor of this proposal is a coward,” Lapid says at a Knesset faction meeting. “This government is not fit to lead the [coronavirus] crisis.”

Without the support of the coalition’s Blue and White party, the measure is seen as having little chance of passing.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid at his office in the Knesset, Jerusalem, on September 14, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Gantz: 2021 budget must pass by end of December

Defense Minister Benny Gantz reiterates his call for a budget covering 2021 to be passed by the end of the year, calling this a “red line.”

“This is a national emergency situation that requires the passage of the budget,” Gantz says during a faction meeting of his Blue and White party.

Blue and White party and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud have been feuding over the state budget. Gantz wants a budget through 2021, while Netanyahu is calling for one that will only run through the end of December, which could end up allowing him to go to elections without having to hand over the premiership to Gantz as part of their power-sharing deal.

“Until now we did everything in our ability to allow this government to function and put the wellbeing of the state at the top of the agenda,” Gantz says. “They called us cowards and we held back. They called us weak and we held back. This chapter is over and done. There won’t be any more restraint.”

He says “all options are on the table,” in a warning to Netanyahu that Blue and White could push to remove him if its demands aren’t met.

Gantz also unsurprisingly clarifies Blue and White won’t vote for “constructive” no-confidence measure in the government, effectively sinking the proposal’s chance of passing.

Hasidic rebbe was secretly treated at home for COVID by Hadassah Ein Kerem — report

The leader of the Belz Hasidic sect was secretly treated for coronavirus at his home by medical teams from Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, the Haaretz daily reports.

According to the newspaper, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach received round-the-clock treatment from a doctor and Hadassah medical workers around two months ago when he was in critical condition with COVID-19.

All the necessary medical equipment was brought to his home and the report says his room was effectively converted into an intensive care unit.

Rokeach contracted the virus 11 days after a mass wedding for his grandson was held in violation of the virus rules.

Reports at the time said he had been rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem, but the hospital denied this.

US Senate opens hearings on Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel opens the confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s conservative nominee to join the US Supreme Court, just weeks before the election.

“We will have a hearing hopefully that the country will be (able to) learn more about Judge Barrett, learn more about the law, learn about the differences in judging,” Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham says as he launches the proceedings.

Graham praises the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death in September opened the way for Barrett’s nomination, and “we’re going to fill that vacancy with another great woman,” he says.

— AFP

Netanyahu: Israel ‘on the right path’ toward containing second wave of virus

Prime Minister Netanyahu says at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session that Israel is “on the right path” to containing its second wave of the coronavirus.

He defends the national coronavirus lockdown that was imposed to curb the surge in infections, saying it “saved lives.”

Rivlin calls for immediate passage of budget, appointment of police chief

Speaking at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session, President Reuven Rivlin calls on the government to swiftly pass a budget and appoint a new commander of the Israel Police, which has been without a permanent commissioner since December 2018.

He also addresses the rising social tensions in the country.

“Friends, I feel the air is full of gunpowder. I feel the fury that is flooding the streets. But it is unacceptable that night after night, protesters beat protesters, police beat protesters, protesters throw rocks at police,” he says.

He adds: “Israeli tribalism is bursting through the cracks… Only by recognizing and listening to each other can we deal with the crisis upon us.”

Lapid rips coalition over its COVID response: ‘People are dying, why can’t you work together?’

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid unloads on the government for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and accuses Prime Minister Netanyahu of fueling division in Israeli society.

“People feel abandoned and exposed, so they look for someone to embrace them. They feel like there isn’t a government. There is no one they can trust. There is no one that cares. So if there is no state, at least there is a tribe,” Lapid says. “The problem doesn’t start at the bottom, it starts at the top, it starts with the government.”

Lapid comments on the near-constant coalition infighting and continued lack of state budget.

“People are sick, people are dying, why can’t you work together? Why can’t you pass a budget? Every fifth business in Israel has closed, why aren’t you doing anything? How dare you stay stuck in your poisonous arguments? How dare the prime minister continue to focus on his own criminal trial?” he says.

He declares that the coalition isn’t capable of tackling the pandemic and therefore calls for a new government.

Jenin to be placed under 5-day virus lockdown

The West Bank city of Jenin and the eponymous refugee camp will enter lockdown for the next five days to prevent further spread of coronavirus, says Jenin governor Akram Rajoub.

Small towns in the West Bank have been occasionally been quarantined since the last major attempt at lockdown in July, but the decision to impose a lockdown in Jenin marks the first time that a Palestinian city is being placed under curfew.

Jenin and its refugee camp have about 60,000 residents, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

“After assessing the epidemiological developments in Jenin and Jenin refugee camp and the increase in the number of active infections with the coronavirus to 177, it was decided to lock them both down beginning tomorrow at dawn,” Rajoub says in a statement.

The lockdown is set to begin tomorrow morning and will last until next Sunday, according to Rajoub. Supermarkets and grocery stores will be allowed to open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There are currently 6,069 active cases among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, a sharp decrease from the peak of over 10,000 last month. Much of the decline may be due to limited testing, however. The PA only conducts 3,000-4,000 tests a day for a population of almost 3 million.

— Aaron Boxerman

Facebook announces ban on Holocaust denial, distortion

Facebook is banning posts that deny or distort the Holocaust and will start directing people to authoritative sources if they search for information about the Nazi genocide.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces the new policy, the latest attempt by the company to take action against conspiracy theories and misinformation ahead of the US presidential election.

The decision comes amid a push by Holocaust survivors around the world over the summer who lent their voices to a campaign targeting Zuckerberg, urging him to take action to remove Holocaust denial posts from the social media site.

Coordinated by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the #NoDenyingIt campaign used Facebook itself to make the survivors’ entreaties to Zuckerberg heard, posting one video per day urging him to remove Holocaust-denying groups, pages and posts as hate speech.

— AP

AJC, Lapid hail Facebook ban on Holocaust denial

The American Jewish Committee hails Facebook’s decision to bar posts denying or distorting the Holocaust.

“Today’s welcome announcement, noting AJC’s role, constitutes a significant victory in the battle against Holocaust denial, which, make no mistake about it, is nothing other than unvarnished anti-Semitism,” AJC head David Harris is quoted saying in a statement.

Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid also welcomes the move.

“Holocaust denial is an expression of the lowest strain of anti-Semitism that needs to pass from the world and the internet,” he tweets.

Jordan’s king swears in new cabinet as infections spike

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s King Abdullah II swears in a new prime minister and cabinet, tasking the new government to manage the country through an economic and health crisis as it faces a growing wave of coronavirus infections.

The king appointed Bisher al-Khasawneh as the new prime minister after his predecessor, Omar Razzaz, resigned last week. Al-Khasawneh has held a number of cabinet posts in the past and served as an adviser to the king.

Abdullah frequently shakes up his government, appointing a new prime minister and cabinet every year or two. Although no major policy changes are expected, the government shuffle appears to be aimed at assuring the public that he is responsive during difficult times.

The new Cabinet consists of 31 ministers, but more than half of them have served in previous Cabinets as well. One of them, Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi, keeps his job.

Jordan has suffered in recent years, with its economy burdened by an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq as well as domestic challenges such as high unemployment, poverty and corruption.

After a strict lockdown appeared to bring the coronavirus crisis under control, the rate of infections has skyrocketed since the economy was reopened.

The previous government was criticized for its handling of the pandemic. There was widespread public anger over a lack of freedom and right of expression after authorities imposed a state of emergency and lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic.

— AP

State tells High Court it won’t extend emergency powers limiting protests

The state informs the High Court of Justice the government won’t extend special emergency measures limiting gatherings, including the protests against Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The emergency powers are set to expire tomorrow at midnight, which would allow mass protests to resume Wednesday.

The current measures bar protesters from traveling over a kilometer from home to demonstrate and requires they maintain socially distanced “capsules.”

Settler leader pens letter to Trump urging him to back annexation in West Bank

A settler leader sends a letter to US President Donald Trump calling on his administration to back Israeli plans to annex large parts of the West Bank.

“Please declare your agreement that the government of Israel apply the laws of the State of Israel to the Jewish communities in the Land of the Bible,” writes Yochai Damri, the chairman of the Har Hebron Regional Council in the southern West Bank.

At the unveiling of his peace plan in January, Trump recognized Jewish historic ties to biblical Judea and Samaria and said his administration would be prepared to recognize Israeli sovereignty over those areas beyond the Green Line.

However, that support has appeared to waver since and was officially put on hold when Israel agreed to suspend annexation plans in exchange for normalized ties with the UAE.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the suspension is only temporary, but sources with knowledge of the matter told The Times of Israel last month that the US promised the UAE that it would not back annexation until at least 2024. The Israeli premier has repeatedly acknowledged that he will not go forward with the move without US approval.

The freeze of the plan has deeply angered settler leaders, who had been strong supporters of Trump.

In his letter to Trump, Damri praises him for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

He then insists that preventing Israel from extending sovereignty over West Bank lands is an “injustice.”

“It is unjust that citizens of Israel are subject to a daily regime that denies them the right to live under the laws of their state. Incomprehensibly, that is the current situation of the residents of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” he says in the English letter.

“I have no doubt that God willing remember you and continue to help you, and prove wrong all of the polls and all of your political opponents and se you continue see you continue in your holy work as president of the great United States of America,” Damri concludes.

— Jacob Magid

Har Hebron Regional Council chairman Yochai Damri. (Courtesy)

Anti-Netanyahu protest groups hail coming end of restrictions on demonstrations

Groups leading the ongoing anti-Netanyahu protests welcome the news that the government won’t extend emergency powers limiting public gatherings, including the demonstrations, when they expire tomorrow night.

The “Black Flag” movement says it activists will return to protesting outside the Prime Minister Residence’s in Jerusalem, which had been the center of the ant-Netanyahu demonstrations before the restrictions were imposed.

The Crime Minister group also says its activists will rally at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Saturday evening.

“The state’s response is a harbinger of the end of the political lockdown and the end of the dictatorial regulations,” it says.

The group is referring to the state’s announcement to the High Court of Justice that the measures won’t be extended.

WHO chief: Letting virus ‘run free’ with aim of reaching herd immunity is ‘unethical’

The World Health Organization chief warns against suggestions by some to just allow COVID-19 to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity, saying this is “unethical.”

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual press briefing.

“It is scientifically and ethically problematic,” he says. “Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It’s not an option.”

— AFP

Bennett pummels Netanyahu over his pandemic management: ‘The nation lost its faith’

Yamina MK Naftali Bennett tears into Prime Minister Netanyahu after the premier touted the government’s imposition of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown to curb sky-high infection rates.

“Mr. Prime Minister, you know why there is such a loss of the public’s trust in the government? Because you don’t tell the truth. A lockdown isn’t an image of victory. A lockdown is an image of a failure. A terrible failure,” Bennett says during a speech from the Knesset rostrum.

He adds: “States that conduct themselves badly reach lockdowns. Whoever says they are all reaching a lockdown is lying. The nation lost its faith in you because you don’t believe in the nation. Whoever believes in the nation doesn’t use a lockdown and take pride in it.”

Coronavirus death toll in Israel passes 2,000

The number of fatalities from COVID-19 passes the 2,000 mark, with 16 further deaths since midnight, bringing the national toll to 2,016.

According to the Health Ministry, there have been 293,553 infections since the pandemic began, including 1,915 confirmed so far today.

Of the 52,892 active cases, there are 827 people in serious condition, with 227 on ventilators. Another 287 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 29,507 tests have been performed today, with 6.5 percent coming back positive.

Knesset votes down no-confidence motion against Netanyahu

The Knesset votes down a “constructive” no-confidence motion backed by the opposition that would have seen Prime Minister Netanyahu replaced as premier.

IDF to punish soldiers over brawl at infantry training base

The Israel Defense Forces says it will be punishing the soldiers involved in a brawl that broke out on the Givati Infantry Brigade’s training base on Sunday, as well as their commanders.

Twenty-one soldiers were injured in the fight, eight of whom needed to be taken to the hospital, the military says, referring to the incident as “irregular and severe, which does not match the IDF’s values or the behavior expected of its soldiers.”

According to the military, the tussle broke out while soldiers from the Bedouin 585th reconnaissance unit’s training company and the Shaked Battalion’s training company were waiting in line to go into the dining hall for lunch.

Some 30 soldiers took part in the brawl, which the military says lasted roughly 10 minutes before the commander of the training class arrived and broke it up.

The commander of the Givati Brigade, Col. Itzik Cohen, conducted an investigation into the fight, which he presented to both the head of the 162nd Division, Brig. Gen. Sa’ar Tzur, and the head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi.

“All of the soldiers who took part in the violence, and the commanders who did not fulfill their duty in preventing the incident, will be dealt with harshly, including the commanders of the platoons and teams. In addition, the commanders of the company will be reprimanded for their responsibility for the event,” the military says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Oldest man in Israel dies at 117

Israel’s oldest man, Shlomo Sulayman, has died at the age of 117.

Sulayman died yesterday with is family by his side, according to Ynet. He is survived by six children as well as “dozens of grandkids, great and great-great grandkids.”

Sulayman was living on his own and his mind was clear until the very end, says his grandson, Gil Radia, who says that confinement to his home in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic did his grandfather “harm.”

“Until the pandemic, he would go to the synagogue, even at the age of 116. He was a very modest man, which is why everyone loved him. But I guess the isolation at home contributed to his health deteriorating,” Radia says.

Sulayman, who, his family says, was born in 1903, immigrated from Yemen to Israel with his wife and four children in 1949. Two other children were born in Israel. Sulayman served in the Israel Defense Forces and worked in agriculture. His wife died several years ago at the age of 94.

— JTA

27 troops in elite unit said infected with COVID after commander broke quarantine

A company commander in the IDF’s elite Duvdevan commando unit violated quarantine and attended prayers on Yom Kippur, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Twenty-seven soldiers in his company later tested positive for COVID-19, the report says.

The company commander will reportedly stand trial.

Yamina, Likud trade barbs over no-confidence vote in Netanyahu

Likud and Yamina trade barbs after two MKs from the latter party voted for a no-confidence motion in Prime Minister Netanyahu that would have seen him replaced by Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party.

Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and MK Matan Kahana both voted in favor the motion, which was voted down in the plenum.

“A conniver stays a conniver. Bennett decided this evening to finally quit the right-wing bloc and recommend Yair Lapid,” Likud says in a statement.

Defending its vote, Yamina says Bennett and Kahana were voting to topple the government, not to back Lapid.

“Every novice knows that there was no chance to crown Lapid as prime minister,” the party says in a statement. “We suggest the Likud Knesset members deal with eradicating the coronavirus and restoring the livelihood [of Israelis] and not more C-class spins.”

The back-and-forth comes as recent polls have shown Yamina gaining on Likud, amid discontent over Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic.

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Hasidic rebbe was secretly treated at home for COVID by Hadassah Ein Kerem — report

The leader of the Belz Hasidic sect was secretly treated for coronavirus at his home by medical teams from Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, the Haaretz daily reports.

According to the newspaper, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach received round-the-clock treatment from a doctor and Hadassah medical workers around two months ago when he was in critical condition with COVID-19.

All the necessary medical equipment was brought to his home and the report says his room was effectively converted into an intensive care unit.

Rokeach contracted the virus 11 days after a mass wedding for his grandson was held in violation of the virus rules.

Reports at the time said he had been rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem, but the hospital denied this.