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Treasury budget chief quits in protest of government’s economic policies

Shaul Meridor sends resignation letter to finance minister decrying decision-making process influenced by ‘narrow interests,’ which he warns Israelis will a ‘pay heavy price’ for

Shaul Meridor, head of the Finance Ministry's budget department, speaks at the Maariv newspaper conference in Herzliya on February 26, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Shaul Meridor, head of the Finance Ministry's budget department, speaks at the Maariv newspaper conference in Herzliya on February 26, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah: When Israel kills one of our fighters, we’ll kill one of theirs

Only by killing an Israeli solider will Hezbollah be satisfied that deterrence has been reestablished, ending tensions on Israel’s northern border, the Lebanese terror group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah says.

“I want to be more clear than at any previous time: when Israel kills one of our fighters, we will kill one of your soldiers,” Nasrallah says in a televised speech to mark the holiday of Ashura.

Tensions have been rising between Hezbollah and Israel since Israel reportedly killed Hezbollah commander Ali Kamel Mohsen in a July 20 airstrike close to the Damascus airport. In general, Israel does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, although they have acknowledged that Israeli forces do conduct such airstrikes.

Nasrallah says that Israel is hoping to allow for a simple exchange of fire which would cause material damage on both and end the escalation.

“This is the equation. We’re not going to blast sites and iron fences and tanks. [The enemy] has all the money in the world to replace them. That is not what creates deterrence with Israel,” he says.

According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah fighters operating along the border fence in previous weeks had refrained targeting Israeli drones and materiel as they searched for an Israeli soldier to kill.

“Israel knows that we were not looking for some device to destroy. We were looking for a soldier to kill,” Nasrallah adds. “So he hid all of his soldiers. Like mice, hiding.”

“The question is a question of battlefield. The question is a question of time. And we are not in a hurry,” he warns.

— Aaron Boxerman

Hasidic Jew warns Netanyahu ‘there will be no rest’ until Uman ban lifted

A Hasidic Jew who protested in Jerusalem last night against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over efforts to bar them from a Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman warns the premier “there will be no rest” until their allowed to travel to the Ukrainian city.

“We want to update Prime Minister Netanyahu there are thousands of Hasidim waiting to reach Uman. There will be no rest. Every day there will be noise and he’ll feel us and hear us,” the protester, identified by his first name Eliyahu, tells Army Radio.

Netanyahu said yesterday he was appointing a ministerial team to look into allowing flights to Uman for the Jewish new year, days after Ukraine announced it was closing its borders to all foreign travelers during September.

His announcement came as a group of 200 Hasidic Jews protesting against the ban joined a weekly anti-Netanyahu rally outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. Some of the premier’s Haredi political allies have also spoken out against the ban.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, says he’s working to find a solution to allow the pilgrimage to Uman.

“But it needs to be understand we’re in a time of epidemic and even the glorious gathering in Uman this year can’t take place in its [normal] format and there needs be a limited format,” he’s quoted saying by the radio station.

Bratslav Hasidim protest in Jerusalem against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Ukraine’s ban on foreign travelers, which will prevent them from going to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, April 29, 2020. The sign reads: “Netanyahu against Rabbi Nahman.” (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Suspected balloon-borne explosive found in field near Gaza

A suspected balloon-borne explosive device that was apparently flown from the Gaza Strip is found in a field in the Sdot Negev Regional Council.

Police sappers have been dispatched to the scene, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Lebanon arrests 3 Egyptian suspects in alleged Cairo gang rape

BEIRUT — Lebanese security forces have arrested three Egyptian men wanted in their home country on charges of involvement in an alleged gang rape six years ago.

The arrests, reported last night, follow an Interpol notice for the suspects at the request of Egypt.

A Lebanese security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, says today that “legal and administrative procedures” were underway to deport the three men, who are in their early 30s.

The case was uncovered by a social media account following sexual assaults in Egypt. The alleged gang rape took place at a five-star Cairo hotel in 2014 but word of the assault surfaced only in July when an Instagram account, Assault Police, reported the allegations as part of a vigorous #MeToo campaign that swept Egypt this summer.

Last week, Egyptian prosecutors named nine men as suspects — seven had already left the country after allegations of the rape went viral in July.

Five of the suspects arrived in Lebanon, according to a statement from Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces. Acting on a request from Egypt, three were arrested late Friday in the village of Fatqa, north of Beirut, while the other two have apparently left Lebanon.

Another two suspects were arrested in Egypt, including one last week as he attempted to flee the country. The whereabouts of the other suspects remain unknown.

— AP

German leaders condemn far-right attempt to storm Reichstag

BERLIN — Senior German officials condemn attempts by far-right protesters and others to storm the parliament building following a protest against the country’s pandemic restrictions.

Hundreds of people, some waving the flag of the German Reich of 1871-1918 and other far-right banners, breached a security barrier outside the Reichstag last night but were intercepted by police and forcibly removed.

“Reich flags and right-wing extremist provocations in front of the German Bundestag are an unbearable attack on the heart of our democracy,” Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, says today. “We will never accept this.”

Steinmer says people had the right to express their anger about the coronavirus restrictions and to question them publicly, including with demonstrations.

“My sympathy ends where protesters allow themselves to be used by enemies of democracy and political agitators,” he adds.

Police used pepper spray to drive back the protesters, who earlier in the day had participated in a large rally through the capital.

About 300 people were arrested in front of the Reichstag and following an incident at the Russian embassy, according to police.

Berlin’s top security official, Andreas Geisel, praises three officers who had stood alone against the protesters outside the Reichstag until reinforcements arrived. Opposition parties criticize the police’s failure to station sufficient officers around Parliament despite public warnings from far-right extremists that they planned to try to enter the building.

Robert Habeck, the co-leader of Germany’s Green party, calls for a thorough investigation into the incident.

“The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history,” he tells the Funke media group.

“An incident like on Saturday evening must not be allowed to happen again,” Habeck says. “I expect (federal) Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to decisively combat right-wing extremism at all levels.”

Opinion polls show overwhelming support for the prevention measures imposed by German authorities, such as the requirement to wear masks on public transportation, in stores and in some public buildings such as libraries and schools.

— AP

Police officers push away a crowd of demonstrators from the square ‘Platz der Republik’ in front of the Reichstag building during a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions in Berlin, Germany, August 29, 2020. (Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP)

Netanyahu on UAE deal: ‘No longer’ do we have to wait for the Palestinians for peace

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Jerusalem after meeting with US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

Netanyahu says “it’s a special pleasure” to host the delegation before it travels together with Israeli officials tomorrow on the first ever commercial passenger flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates

“It will pave the way for other countries to normalize their ties with Israel. I think for too long the Palestinians have had a veto on peace. Not only between Israel and the Palestinians but between Israel and the Arab world,” he says, referring to the US-brokered deal for Israel and the UAE to normalize ties.

He adds: “If we’d have to wait for the Palestinians, we’d have to wait forever. No longer.”

Palestinian leaders have sharply criticized the UAE for agreeing to normalize relations with Israel.

Praising Trump’s peace proposal, Netanyahu says no Jews or Palestinians will have to leave their homes, Israel will be able to annex areas of the West Bank and will retain security control west of the Jordan Valley.

He says the Palestinians, when they realize that their veto has dissipated, “will be hard pressed to remain outside the community of peace.”

Other states “are in line” to make peace with Israel, the prime minister says, noting that Kushner had been ridiculed for suggesting this process could happen. “We know that reality has changed,” says Netanyahu, “because we have changed it.”

Turning to Iran, Netanyahu hails the Trump administration for opposing Tehran’s “war machine” and pulling out of the nuclear deal limiting the Iranian nuclear program.

Kushner on Israel-UAE deal: ‘The stage is now set’ for further agreements

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, speaking alongside Netanyahu and Kushner at their joint appearance, says Israel’s security remains a White House “highest priority” and touts American policies in the Middle East under US President Donald Trump.

He says the future for Israel and Arab countries “has never been brighter” and expresses hope the Jewish state will soon establish diplomatic ties with other regional states, following the normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi.

“May God bless Israel and May God bless the United States of America,” O’Brien says.

Speaking after O’Brien, Jared Kushner says it was “a long and winding road” to reach the Israel-UAE deal. Breakthroughs like this, he says, do not “happen often,” and do not “happen easy.”

Kushner lists a series of pro-Israel administration policies, including the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and also touts the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other US actions in the region.

He says the release of Trump’s peace proposal was the “breakthrough” that led to the agreement between Israel and the UAE. “There’ll be a lot more to come.”

He says the president has been “writing a script for a new Middle East,” starting from his first presidential trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome. “He has reversed 20 years of bad outcomes in the Middle East” and built strong foundations for progress.

“A lot of people described the state of the Middle East as hopeless,” Kushner recalls, but in the last weeks “I’ve felt a new sense of optimism… The stage is now set for even more [agreements],” he says.

Trump Administration’s senior adviser and peace envoy Jared Kushner (right) speaks about the Israel-UAE peace deal, in Jerusalem alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien (left), August 30, 2020 (PMO Screenshot)

He adds: “Four years ago, my father-in-law [Trump] asked me to work on peace in the Middle East. I’ve given it my all. There’s still much work to accomplish, but the Abraham Accord [with the UAE] is a giant step forward. To play a role in [the normalization deal’s] creation — and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors — it means more to me and to my family than I can ever express. We will continue to pursue peace between Israel, the biblical homeland of the Jewish people, and its Arab and Muslim neighbors and I have never been more hopeful about peace.”

Finally, says Kushner, the president has asked him to stress how proud he is “of the bond he has been able to restore between the US and Israel.”

Gantz: Defense Ministry readying to house Israelis returning from Uman

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says ministers of his Blue and White party will back coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu’s “traffic light” plan for combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gantz sits with Gamzu ahead of a meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet, when the plan is expected to be approved after a vote to adopt it was delayed several times.

The Blue and White chief tells Gamzu that the Defense Ministry is preparing to house Israelis returning from Uman for Rosh Hashanah at special coronavirus hotels, “in accordance with the framework that will be agreed on between [Gamzu] and the team of ministers.”

Gamzu has expressed opposition to allowing Israelis to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, warning that those coming backing from Ukraine could spread the virus in Israel. Ukraine last week announced it would close its borders to non-nationals during September.

The efforts to prevent the pilgrimage to Uman, where the grave site of venerated Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav is located, have angered members of the Hasidic sect and some of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies.

Palestinian Authority reports 536 new infections in West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says that 536 new cases of the novel coronavirus were recorded today among Palestinians — 460 in the West Bank, 40 in East Jerusalem and 36 in the Gaza Strip. Around 13 percent of tests came back positive, well above the World Health Organization’s 5% threshold for control over the virus.

The number of daily cases among Palestinians hit an all time high of 724 cases per day on Friday across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Around half of the new infections (255 cases) were detected in the Hebron governorate, which remains the center of the outbreak in the West Bank. In previous stages of the West Bank’s second wave, only a few dozen cases were to be found outside of the Hebron governorate. But now around half of cases are spread elsewhere throughout the West Bank, including over 1,000 in the Ramallah-El Bireh governorate.

— Aaron Boxerman

Gaza fire balloons spark 3 blazes in south, a marked drop from recent days

The fire department reports that three blazes were sparked throughout the day in southern Israel by balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip — a significant drop from previous days.

This time yesterday, eight fires sparked by incendiary balloons had been reported.

It is not immediately clear what accounts for this decrease in airborne arson attacks, though earlier in the day Palestinian media reported on a potential breakthrough in ceasefire negotiations between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

According to Fire and Rescue Services, the three fires are all located in the Eshkol region, east of southern Gaza. They are relatively small and do not pose a risk to nearby communities.

— Judah Ari Gross

‘Peace’ painted in English, Hebrew and Arabic on El Al plane that will fly to Abu Dhabi

The word “peace” in English, Hebrew and Arabic has been painted on the El Al plane will make the first ever commercial passenger flight between Israel and the UAE, after the two countries agreed to normalize diplomatic ties.

According to Channel 12 news, Saudi Arabia has granted El Al permission to use its airspace when the plan makes its way tomorrow from Ben Gurion Airport to Abu Dhabi, though there is no official confirmation of this.

A peace logo in Arabic, English and Hebrew is painted on El Al flight 971 on August 30, 2020 ahead of its maiden direct flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi (El Al spokesperson)

New record for electricity use set as Israel swelters under heat wave

The Israel Electric Corporation reports an all time high for electricity use amid a searing heat wave across the country

According to IEC, 14,089 megawatts were generated at 14:33, breaking the previous record of 13,854 set earlier this year on May 20.

Ministers ask Knesset committee to extend coronavirus state of emergency

In a conference call, ministers agree to extend the state of emergency currently in place due to the coronavirus, with Israel continuing to have one of the highest rates of new infections in the world.

A joint statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says ministers will ask the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee to grant final approval to extending the state of emergency until November 7, ahead of its expiration on September 6.

The decision approved by ministers cites “the fact there is still a real risk of a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus and significant harm to public health” as the reason the state of emergency needs to be extended.

Israel to allow Palestinian laborers to return to West Bank each day after work

Starting tomorrow, Israel will permit tens of thousands of Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Israel each day for work, the military liaison to the Palestinians says, following several months of irregular restrictions due to coronavirus.

During the pandemic, Palestinians who work in Israel were largely unable to enter the country, though at several points tens of thousands of workers were allowed to come in on the condition they remain in Israel for several weeks at a time.

Around 70,000 Palestinians work legally inside Israel, according to labor rights group Kav LaOved. Tens of thousands more regularly cross the border fence illegally to work within the Green Line.

— Aaron Boxerman

Rivlin meets Kushner, urges other Arab states to establish ties with Israel

President Reuven Rivlin hosts Jared Kushner and other senior Trump administration officials for a meeting at his official residence in Jerusalem.

Rivlin touts the US-brokered agreement for Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize diplomatic ties, saying it “creates many opportunities for cooperation” in the region.

“I call on other Arab and Muslim states to follow this path of friendship and to establish full and warm relations with the State of Israel – peace between nations and peoples, peace for peace,” he says, according to a statement from his office.

The president also says he hopes the agreement will build trust with the Palestinians, who have denounced the UAE over the deal.

Kushner and the US delegation met earlier with Prime Minister Netanyahu and are set to hold talks later today with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

President Reuven Rivlin (R) meets with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on August 30, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Pilots union publishes planned route of first Israel-UAE commercial flight

The Israeli Airline Pilots Association releases a map of the planned route of the first commercial passenger flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates, showing the El Al plane will pass over Saudi airspace when it flies to Abu Dhabi tomorrow.

On its Twitter account, the pilots union stresses the route is still not final “and to the best of our knowledge still hasn’t been approved by the Saudis.”

Syria’s Assad names new government headed by PM Arnous

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad issues a decree appointing a new cabinet without changing the heads of so-called “sovereign” portfolios, days after confirming Hussein Arnous as the country’s premier.

The decree, published on the presidency’s social media channels, keeps the heads of the foreign affairs, defense, interior, economy and information ministries in their posts but changes those in charge of 12 other cabinet portfolios, including the ministries of finance, energy and public health.

The 29-minister government, which includes three female ministers, is the fifth to be formed since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011.

It comes as Syria grapples with a grinding economic crisis, a spiraling coronavirus outbreak and continued violence in the country’s north.

The government’s official mandate will expire next July when presidential elections are due, after which it will continue to function in a caretaker capacity until a presidential decree is issued naming a new cabinet, as per the constitution.

Assad had on Tuesday named Arnous as prime minister after he was appointed interim premier in June ahead of last month’s parliamentary polls.

Arnous, an engineer who was previously the water resources minister, replaced Imad Khamis after he was sacked more than two months ago.

Khamis headed the government for four years and the presidency did not give an official reason for his removal, but it followed a wave of criticism against the government for its handling of an economic crisis that had plunged war-weary Syrians deeper into poverty.

A new wave of US sanctions against Syria that came into effect in June has sparked fears of deeper economic turmoil.

— AFP

Tens of thousands rally in Belarus for opposition march

MINSK, Belarus — Tens of thousands of Belarus protesters join an opposition rally in Minsk today in the latest mass protest against the re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, AFP reporters at the scene and local media report.

Despite a heavy security force presence, which prevented many lines of people from reaching the main crowd, protesters pack the center of the Belarusian capital with crowds waving the opposition’s red and white flag and chanting “Leave.”

Police have made scores of arrests since the start of the protest in the early afternoon, but don’t resort to tear gas or rubber bullets as they did at previous marches protesting against the August 9 election which the opposition claims was rigged.

Many protesters brandish placards mocking the veteran leader on the occasion of his 66th birthday, some carrying a coffin decorated with a cockroach.

Others confront the anti-riot police, shouting at them to get out of the way.

Images of protests in other towns, such as Brest and Grodno, are circulated by the opposition.

On the two preceding Sundays, an estimated 100,000 people marched through the streets of Minsk, defying an official ban.

— AFP

Opposition supporters rally to protest against disputed presidential elections results in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on August 30, 2020. (TUT.BY/AFP)

Only some 21% of fines for violating virus rules have been paid — report

Only some 21 percent of fines dished out for alleged violations of the Health Ministry’s coronavirus guidelines have been paid, according to figures published by the Ynet news site.

Citing official statistics, the report says 42,342 fines totaling some NIS 17 million ($5.2 million) had been paid by Thursday, out of the 196,319 fines totaling NIS 99 million ($29.4 million) handed out until then.

Of the fines that were paid, only 45% were paid within the 90-day period required by law, according to the news site.

A Jerusalem man is fined by a police officer for failing to wear a face mask outside on July 03, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Minors held in suspected gang rape of 16-year-old in Eilat released to house arrest

The Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court releases five minors suspected of involvement in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat to house arrest.

Police, who oppose the suspects’ release, ask the court to delay the move.

“They were involved directly in the rape. Their place is in jail, not at home,” police sources are quoted saying by Channel 12 news.

Earlier, police said they intended to charge six people in the case.

60-year-old man seriously injured after failing onto Haifa train tracks

A 60-year-old man is seriously injured after falling onto the tracks at a train station in Haifa.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the man was treated at the scene by paramedics before being taken to the city’s Rambam Medical Center.

Gaza fire balloons spark 21 blazes in south

Balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip have sparked 21 fires in Israel today, according to Hebrew media reports.

Gantz meets with Kushner to talk Israel-UAE deal, Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi meet with a delegation of Trump administration officials led by Jared Kushner for talks on the Israel-UAE normalization deal and Iran.

Gantz hails the agreement between Israel and the UAE and says he believes other countries will also establish ties with the Jewish state in the near future, according to a statement from his office. He says the Palestinians, who have denounced the UAE over the deal, should come back to the negotiation table.

The statement says Gantz also discussed with the US officials how to work together to ensure Israel’s military superiority in the region, in apparent reference to America’s possible sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the UAE, and how to counter Iran and prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“I would like to personally thank Jared Kushner and the delegation for their constructive efforts to establish peace in our region and for the American commitment to Israeli security. I look forward to continuing to work together to advance the strategic interests and joint values shared by our countries,” Gantz is quoted as saying.

Qatari envoy to Gaza says he is working to restore calm between Hamas, Israel

Qatari envoy and head of the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee Mohammad al-Emadi says that he has been in touch with “all sides” to restore calm between Hamas and Israel, indicated that such efforts were continuing.

Tensions have been rising between Hamas and Israel for the past few weeks. Gaza-based groups have launched balloons and rockets into Israel, while the Israeli military has conducted repeated night airstrikes to retaliate. Israel has also imposed heavy restrictions on the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza, including banning fuel.

Al-Emadi has been in Israel and the Gaza Strip for the past several days, in part in an attempt to mediate between Hamas and Israel.

“[Al-Emadi] stresses the continuation of efforts and the constant contacts of the State of Qatar in order to reach understandings of calm between the parties,” the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee says in a statement.

“Ambassador al-Emadi wished that his efforts and talks would be crowned with reaching a truce agreement between all parties to provide the basic pillars of a normal and peaceful life for the residents of Gaza, who live in extremely difficult situations,” the statement adds.

— Aaron Boxerman

Treasury budget chief quits in protest of government’s economic policies

Shaul Meridor resigns as head of the Treasury’s budget department in protest of the government’s economic policies in recent months.

“I can’t lend a hand to poor conduct taking place in recent months, which all Israeli citizens will pay a heavy price for in the coming years,” Meridor writes in a letter to Finance Ministry Israel Katz, according to the Walla news site.

He decries a decision-making process influenced by “narrow interests” and the “blatant contempt for staff work,” alleging the ministry’s financial tool box has been trampled on.

Meridor recently came under fire from Katz and Prime Minister Netanyahu for their plan to cut checks to all Israeli adults, regardless of income or whether they were negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Katz fires back at Treasury budget chief over resignation announcement

Finance Minister Israel Katz fires back at budget department chief Shaul Meridor, after the latter announces his resignation in protest of the government’s economic policies.

Katz accuses Meridor of acting out of “narrow political interests” and publicly criticizing his economic policies. He says Meridor’s resignation is therefore a “right and necessary move,” while vowing to soon appoint a replacement.

Number of coronavirus cases rises to 114,020, death toll at 919

The total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began rises to 114,020, as the Health Ministry reports 372 new infections since the morning.

The ministry also reports another 10 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the national toll to 919.

Of the 20,305 active cases, there are 444 people in serious condition, with 127 on ventilators. Another 190 people are in serious condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 10,592 tests were conducted yesterday. Testing levels typically drop off over the weekend.

Ministers approve virus czar’s ‘traffic light’ plan to combat pandemic

The so-called coronavirus cabinet unanimously approves virus czar Ronni Gamzu’s “traffic light” plan for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hebrew media reports.

The plan is meant to differentiate between areas with different infection levels, with “red” localities subject to the strictest restrictions and “green” ones having much looser rules.

The approval of the plan comes after a vote on it was delayed several times.

Rivlin, Gantz bemoan Treasury budget chief’s resignation

President Reuven Rivlin says he is very concerned about Shaul Meridor’s decision to resign as head of the Finance Ministry’s budget department and the implications of the move.

“Shaul is a first-class professional and one of the most dedicated civil servants I had the privilege to work with in recent years,” Rivlin says in a statement. “In these days, more than ever, Israel needs a professional and strong public bureaucracy that works together with the elected echelon to save the people and the country from the serious crisis that has befallen the entire world.”

Meridor sent a resignation letter to Finance Minister Israel Katz this evening decrying the government’s recent economic policies and decision-making process at the ministry under Katz.

“Shaul Meridor is a professional, dedicated and experienced person who contributed greatly to the Israeli economy in the framework of his role,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweets. “He did this in a complicated economic period and his departure is unfortunate.”

Lebanese president calls for proclamation of ‘secular state’

BEIRUT — Lebanese President Michel Aoun calls for the proclamation of a “secular state” during a televised address to mark the upcoming centenary of the Lebanese state.

“I call for the proclamation of Lebanon as a secular state,” Aoun says, during a speech in which he acknowledged the need “to change the system,” after an enormous explosion at Beirut’s port in early August and months of deepening economic crisis.

— AFP

Health Ministry gives okay to reopen border crossing with Egypt

The Health Ministry gives the okay to reopening of the Taba border crossing with Egypt, which has been shuttered since April, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry says its consent is conditioned on those returning from the Sinai Peninsula quarantining for 14 days.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri will hold talks on the matter tomorrow, according to Hebrew media reports.

After budget chief quits, Bank of Israel chief calls for swift passage of budget for 2021

Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron also weighs in on Shaul Meridor’s resignation as head of the Treasury’s budget department.

“I thank Shaul for his many years of work and am sure the Finance Ministry will swiftly appoint a worthy replacement,” Yaron is quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster.

He adds: “Israel’s credit rating doesn’t depend on one person or another, as senior as he may be. Therefore, without any connection this incident, it’s important the government approve an ordered budget for 2021 as soon as possible.”

Dozens of NY Jews protest outside UN against China’s persecution of Uighurs

NEW YORK — Dozens of Jewish New Yorkers gather outside United Nations Headquarters for a rally in solidarity with the Muslim Uighur community being persecuted in China.

An estimated 1 million Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups such as Kazakhs are held in Chinese-run prison-like detention centers — many for indefinite terms — amid reports of harsh treatment and poor living conditions.

Speakers read testimony given by survivors of the Chinese detention camps and lead chants of “never again” that are repeated by the crowd.

“We’re here to say ‘wake up from your sleep,’ Congress [and] pass meaningful legislation…Each of us [must also] wake up from [our sleep], wake up from your sleep [anyone] who loves the oppressed, for we were oppressed in the land of Egypt,” says rabbinical student Hody Nemes over a megaphone.

— Jacob Magid

Jews protest against China’s persecution of the Uighur minority group outside UN headquarters in New York on August 30, 2020. (Shabbos Kestenbaum)

Abbas to chair meeting of Palestinian faction leaders, including heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will chair a meeting on Thursday of leaders of major Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, according to the PA official WAFA news agency.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Islamic Jihad chief Ziyad al-Nakhaleh have announced in press releases they intend to join the conference. Haniyeh is currently based in Turkey, while al-Nakhaleh lives in Damascus. The WAFA report says that faction leaders who cannot attend the meeting in Ramallah will join by videoconference.

According to Fatah Secretary General Jibril Rajoub, the meeting will constitute the “launch of a joint national position to thwart the Deal of the Century,” a term which Palestinians use to refer to the controversial peace plan advanced by US President Donald Trump.

— Aaron Boxerman

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Health Ministry gives okay to reopen border crossing with Egypt

The Health Ministry gives the okay to reopening of the Taba border crossing with Egypt, which has been shuttered since April, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry says its consent is conditioned on those returning from the Sinai Peninsula quarantining for 14 days.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri will hold talks on the matter tomorrow, according to Hebrew media reports.