The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
The head of Iran’s nuclear agency says that the landmark 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers on his country’s atomic program is struggling since the unilateral US withdrawal, but is still worth preserving.
Ali Akbar Salehi tells delegates at a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, has been “caught in a quasi-stalemate situation” since President Donald Trump pulled the US out in 2018.
The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. The remaining world powers in the deal — France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — have been struggling to offset re-imposed American sanctions.
Iran has been steadily breaking restrictions outlined in the deal on the amount of uranium it can enrich, the purity it can enrich it to, and other limitations in order to pressure those countries to do more.
Salehi, speaking in a video address, says it’s of the “utmost importance” that those countries find a solution to resolve “the difficulties caused by the illegal withdrawal of the US from the deal.”
“There is still a broad agreement among the international community that the JCPOA should be preserved,” he says.
Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib urges competing political forces to step up and help him form a desperately needed independent government to save the crisis-hit country.
Adib is under pressure to form a fresh cabinet line-up as soon as possible so the new government can launch a raft of reforms required to unlock billions of dollars in foreign aid.
Lebanon was mired in its worst economic crisis in decades and battling the novel coronavirus pandemic, even before one of the world’s biggest non-nuclear explosions at the Beirut port last month.
“Any further delay will exacerbate and deepen the crisis,” Adib says in a statement.
Political pressure is growing in Europe for governments to tackle the rising number of coronavirus case without resorting to a spring-style lockdown that would hit the continent’s struggling economies.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez meets today with the president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, to coordinate a stronger response to the outbreaks as the country struggles to contain a second wave of the virus.
Britain’s top medical and scientific advisers deliver a sobering assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic to the public, amid expectations the government is preparing to announce new measures to control rising infection rates.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also meets with members of her “coronavirus cabinet” to discuss measures aimed at preventing a second wave.
Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy has warned hospital managers in a letter that the country is at “a time of emergency” and has instructed them to halt all non-urgent surgeries.
He also calls on them to train further staff for work in coronavirus wards, amid expectations of a surge in serious cases.
He says the the current period is “one of the most complicated in the history of the health system,” and urges hospital chiefs to behave responsibly.
Several members of a breakaway Fatah movement associated with former Fatah security chief Mohammad Dahlan were arrested in the West Bank on Monday by Palestinian Authority security forces, their faction says in a statement.
General Salim Safiyya and Fatah Revolutionary Council member Haytham al-Halabi were arrested, along with “several of their comrades,” according to Dahlan’s Democratic Reformist Current. The PA security services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PA officials have publicly charged that Dahlan was involved in recent decisions by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to establish open ties with Israel. Dahlan has lived in Abu Dhabi since fleeing the West Bank in 2011 and is known to be close with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed.
Although Dahlan has little support in surveys conducted in the West Bank and Gaza, he is widely seen as a possible contender to replace aging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and is considered a political rival of the PA leader.
Last week, the Israel Hayom newspaper wrongly printed that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said he was “considering” placing Dahlan in charge of the Palestinian leadership. It later corrected Friedman’s statement to: “We are not looking to engineer the Palestinian leadership.”
Palestinian officials from across the political spectrum ignored the correction and issued numerous condemnations of the statement originally attributed to Friedman. Dahlan released a statement denying any involvement: “None has yet been born who can impose his will upon us [the Palestinians].”
— Aaron Boxerman
Israel’s Employment Service says 41,924 people have registered as unemployed since Thursday, a day before Israel’s new national lockdown came into effect.
It also reports 4,650 who returned to work during this time.
The Ynet news site reports that over 100,000 people are believed to have been furloughed since the lockdown began Friday, with numbers expected to rise.
The Employment Service currently has 779,737 people registered as unemployed.
The state prosecution says it has closed cases against two Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer players who were suspected of statutory rape in engaging in sexual relations with minors.
Omer Atzili and Dor Micha have both also played for Israel’s national team.
It had previously been reported that the cases against the two, who were suspended from the team while the investigation was held, would likely be closed. Associates of the players previously told the Haaretz daily the girls presented themselves as 17, adding they had text messages proving this.
The Israel Defense Forces will send hundreds of additional soldiers to work as coronavirus contact tracers in the coming days, according to the IDF spokesperson.
The army says 600 regular soldiers will be diverted from their normal positions, in addition to dozens of reservists.
Thousands of Home Front Command soldiers were deployed last week throughout the country to work with local authorities in handling the pandemic. The soldiers are not responsible for directly enforcing the lockdown; rather, they conduct tests, run quarantine hotels and distribute food.
— Aaron Boxerman
Abu Dhabi, the conservative capital of the United Arab Emirates, is eliminating its licensing system for alcohol purchases for drinkers after Dubai repeatedly loosened its own rules to boost sales and tourism amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism announced the new rules in a circular dated last week to distributors and liquor stores, but otherwise did not publicize the decision.
Previously, individuals had needed a license to purchase, transport or have alcohol in their homes. But the new rules appear to only set an age limit of 21 and require drinkers to consume the beverages inside private homes or other licensed areas like bars.
“Residents and tourists will be permitted to buy and possess alcohol from licensed retail shops, and are allowed to drink within tourism and hotel establishments, clubs and independent outlets,” the circular says.
Officials in the Agriculture Ministry report they stopped an attempt yesterday to smuggle 11 Pomeranian puppies into Israel through Ben Gurion Airport.
The puppies were found squeezed into two bags of arrivals from Belarus. They were taken to a vet for checkups and will be returned to their point of origin.
The passenger who attempted to smuggle the bags was taken in for questioning.
A similar attempt to smuggle Pomeranians into the country was thwarted in January.
The High Court of Justice has ordered disciplinary action be taken against the Chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, for a series of offensive comments he made about Arabs and LGBT people in the past.
The ruling is in response to a petition filed by several rights group in 2016 against Eliyahu.
Judges rule former justice minister Ayelet Shaked was “extremely unreasonable” in her decision not to take action against Eliyahu at the time.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the Islamic Republic’s 1980-88 war with Iraq showed the country can defend itself, without directly addressing the current circumstances.
“Trying for eight years, doing everything they can, and yet achieving nothing — is there a greater victory for Iran?” Khamenei says, in reference to Iraq.
Khamenei makes the remarks in a televised video address to top military commanders and war veterans across the country, delivered at the beginning of “Holy Defense” week marking the war’s anniversary.
“The Holy Defense showed that aggression towards this country is very costly,” he said.
The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization commends the court decision that will allow Malka Leifer to be extradited to Australia where her alleged sexual abuse crimes were committed.
Rabbi David Stav, chairman of Tzohar, who has met with the plaintiffs, the Ehrlich sisters, and spoken out repeatedly on their behalf, says, “The efforts to keep Malka Leifer in Israel and away from an Australian court were nothing less than a desecration of God’s name and a stain on our country’s reputation for pursuing justice, so we can all hope she will now be held accountable for her alleged actions.”
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who as director of the Tzohar Center for Jewish Ethics has also written extensively about the case, says, “Israel must never become a refuge for sexual abusers. We need to always act in partnership with all other nations in ensuring that these criminals are being brought to justice. Anything less would be gross negligence and is a failure for our national responsibility to act morally and ethically.”
— Jacob Magid
Defense Secretary Benny Gantz orders the military to prepare to establish a field hospital for coronavirus cases as hospitals overflow across the country, the Defense Ministry says in a statement.
“Gantz has ordered staff to begin preparations to build an army field hospital that would contain about 200 beds,” the ministry says.
The statement does not specify when the hospital will be finished and ready to accept patients.
At least two major hospitals in Israel — Assuta Hospital in Ashdod and Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek — announced today that they can no longer accept coronavirus cases due to a sharp rise in infections.
Gantz also orders the military to plan for the potential need for further reinforcements to police, should lockdown measures become more severe.
— Aaron Boxerman
Israel’s total case count per capita has overtaken that of the US, according to the latest data from John Hopkins University, which tracks worldwide coronavirus numbers.
As of September 20, Israel has 2,115.1 cases per 100,000 people, while America has 2079.9.
Israel remains behind such countries as Brazil and Peru in its case count per capita.
The country has been one of the countries with the highest number of daily cases per capita for days now, and that is now starting to show in total numbers as well.
Born out of World War II’s devastation to save succeeding generations from the scourge of conflict, the United Nations officially marks its 75th anniversary today with an appeal from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to preserve the longest period in modern history without a military confrontation between the world’s most powerful nations.
The UN chief tells the mainly virtual commemoration that “it took two world wars, millions of deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust for world leaders to commit to international cooperation and the rule of law,” and that commitment produced results.
“A Third World War — which so many had feared — has been avoided,” Guterres said. “This is a major achievement of which member states can be proud — and which we must all strive to preserve.”
His appeal comes at an inflection point in history, as the United Nations navigates a polarized world facing a pandemic, regional conflicts, a shrinking economy and growing inequality.
“Climate calamity looms, biodiversity is collapsing, poverty is rising, hatred is spreading, geopolitical tensions are escalating, nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert,” he warns, and technologies have opened huge new opportunities “but also exposed new threats.”
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality says it is launching a pilot for electric smart roads that can charge vehicles such as public buses as they drive along.
The technology comes from an Israeli company, ElectReon, which already has a vehicle running the 4.1 kilometer (2.5 mile) route between the airport and town center of Visby on Gotland Island in Sweden. This includes a 1.6 kilometer (one mile) long electric road and is used by an electric bus and an electric heavy duty truck.
Tel Aviv’s pilot, due to start in a couple of months, will see a 600 meter (just under 2,000 foot) recharging stretch built under the two kilometer (1.25 mile) bus route between the Tel Aviv University Railway Station and the Klatzkin Terminal in Ramat Aviv. The vehicle will be an electric bus with a special battery.
If the pilot is successful, more roads will be equipped with the below-surface technology. The municipality plans to examine adding other forms of transportation to the electric roads, such as distribution trucks and private and autonomous vehicles.
— with Sue Surkes
Saudi Arabia releases new details on how it plans to gradually allow Muslims back to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca to perform the year-round pilgrimage, which has been suspended for the past seven months due to the coronavirus.
Hajj Minister Muhammad Benten says the kingdom will launch an online application that allows citizens, residents of Saudi Arabia and visitors to apply and reserve a specific time and date in which they can perform the pilgrimage, known as “umrah,” to avoid crowding and maintain social-distancing guidelines.
The minister, speaking during a virtual seminar, does not say when the pilgrimage will be permitted to resume nor how many people would be allowed to perform it at the same time.
Saudi Arabia today began easing some restrictions on international flights for the first time in six months.
The cabinet is meeting to discuss the ongoing lockdown and aid to businesses hurt by the closure.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a jibe directed at the head of the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, saying: “All those who disregarded the instructions, or worse watered them down at the Knesset, should not ask how infections have risen.”
The United States says it is imposing sanctions on Iran’s defense ministry and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro under a UN authority which is widely contested.
“For nearly two years corrupt officials in Tehran have worked with the illegitimate regime in Venezuela to flout the UN arms embargo,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells reporters. “Our actions today are a warning that should be heard worldwide.”
Pompeo says US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order “that is a new and powerful tool to enforce the UN arms embargo.”
The Trump administration argues that it is enforcing a UN arms embargo that Iran has violated, including through an attack on Saudi oil facilities. But it is using a UN resolution that blessed a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran negotiated by former president Barack Obama, but which Trump pulled out of.
The legal argument has been rejected by virtually all nations on the UN Security Council, including US allies.
The body of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court this week, with arrangements to allow for public viewing despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Ginsburg’s casket will be on public view Wednesday and Thursday under the portico at the top of the iconic steps in front of the building. A private ceremony will take place at the court on Wednesday morning.
Ginsburg will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery in a private service, the court said.
The justice died Friday at age 87.
Congress made similar arrangements for a public viewing outside the Capitol after Rep. John Lewis’ death in July.
The cabinet is discussing cuts to the salaries of ministers and Knesset members, due to the economic difficulties created by the pandemic.
Ministers are looking at a temporary reduction of 10-20 percent.
Several Likud ministers — Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, and Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis — suggest the salaries of top justice system officials should also be cut.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz responds that the government should “not mob judges.”
The prime minister bristles at the harsh criticism directed at an aide of his who was accused of breaking quarantine after being spotted Sunday evening scoping out a protest against the premier in Jerusalem.
“Now, suddenly, everyone wakes up in the case of one man,” he said during a cabinet meeting.
“Everyone who breaks quarantine should pay a fine, but there mustn’t be selective enforcement. Jews, Arabs, left, right — I think everyone should follow the Health Ministry instructions and they should be kept and enforced equally.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is heading to Washington for talks with his US counterpart on maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East, following its historic normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates.
Since the agreement was announced last month, the UAE has made no secret about its desire to acquire F-35 warplanes and other advanced US-made weaponry. Israel is the only US ally in the Middle East to possess the stealth fighter jet.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially said he opposed the sale of the planes to any other nation in the region, even an Arab country at peace with Israel. But since then, he has softened his line, signaling he will trust the US to honor its commitment to ensure Israel’s military edge in the region.
Gantz’s office says he will meet with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other top Pentagon officials. It says the trip will include “meetings to discuss maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge, international policy vis-a-vis Iran and strategy for stopping its expansion and entrenchment in the Middle East, as well as discussion on defense cooperation and procurement.”
EU foreign ministers fail to agree on sanctions over the political crisis in Belarus, despite a plea for support from opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
The former Soviet republic has been convulsed by unprecedented demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko since he was returned to power in a disputed August 9 election and launched a brutal crackdown.
Tikhanovskaya met EU foreign ministers in Brussels and urged them to sanction Lukashenko but, despite repeated statements condemning the veteran strongman and warning of measures, after more than six weeks the bloc has still yet to act.
Cyprus, which has good relations with Lukashenko’s key supporter Russia, has blocked EU agreement on measures against Belarus, insisting that sanctions against Turkey over a maritime gas drilling dispute must be agreed at the same time.
“Although there is a clear will to adopt these sanctions, it has not been possible to do that today because the required unanimity was not reached,” EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell tells reporters after hosting the talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly leaves the cabinet meeting, telling ministers it is for “a call of national importance.”
Notably, a similar scene occurred in August shortly before the announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates. It was later revealed he had held a phone call with de facto UAE leader Mohammed Bin Zayed.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut expresses “deep sorrow” for the passing of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In a statement, Hayut says Ginsburg “was a groundbreaking jurist and a source of inspiration for jurists the world over.”
Noting Ginsburg’s visit to Israel in 2018, Hayut said a lunch held with Ginsburg and Israeli Supreme Court justices past and present was “an unforgettable even.”
“A truly great person is one whose work touches many publics and crosses generations and groups,” she says. “I have no doubt the legacy of this great woman and judge, and the fruits of her work, will continue to be with us all for many generations to come.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the cabinet earlier that since the beginning of the lockdown the country has seen a steep rise in serious cases of coronavirus.
“Tomorrow, we will convene the coronavirus cabinet and review what steps we need to take,” he said.
The Center for Disease Control has quietly removed a note on its website saying coronavirus can be transmitted as an aerosol, a few days after adding the guideline.
An official tells the Washington Post the info “does not reflect our current state of knowledge.”
No further details are immediately available on the reversal.
The guideline that was removed stated: “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet.”
The latest coronavirus figures from the Health Ministry show 9 new deaths today, taking the national death toll to 1,272.
There were 1,652 new cases diagnosed so far today, with the total case count at 190,037, of which 136,502 are active cases.
Of the patients, 653 are in serious condition, 279 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or none.
In an extraordinarily strongly-worded admonishment by a Likud official, Knesset Coronavirus Committee chief Yifat Shasha-Biton strikes out at the prime minister, who earlier indicated she was at least partly to blame for the surge in virus cases, due to second-guessing government decisions in recent months.
“I remind the prime minister that he was the one to water down [coronavirus czar] Prof. Gamzu’s traffic-light program until it became useless,” she says on Facebook, in reference to largely aborted plans to set restrictions locally according to infection levels.
“I am proud of managing to help many business weather the crisis… I suggest that the prime minister get it together and stop looking for blame. It’s time to bolster hospital capacity, create an efficient mechanism to cut the infection chain, enlist the public to the battle… It’s also recommended to set a personal example.
“The prime minister would do well to focus on these, and not in shirking responsibility and slinging mud and filth.”
Reactions from Likud officials to MK Shasha-Biton’s critique of the prime minister are swift and unkind.
Coalition chairman MK Miki Zohar says the Knesset Coronavirus Committee chief has “for some time now not acted as part of the Likud faction or served its purposes.” He adds that “ingratitude is not accepted here, and so I believe her future in the faction should be considered.”
MK Osnat Mark says Shasha-Biton should “take responsibility for [her] reckless decisions.
“Your horrendous conduct will be studied at Populism 101 in the Faculty of Self Importance… Go look for a party that will applaud you.”
An international team of scientists says it has joined forces to combat the spread of anti-Semitism online with the help of artificial intelligence.
The project Decoding Anti-Semitism includes discourse analysts, computational linguists and historians who will develop a “highly complex, AI-driven approach to identifying online anti-Semitism,” the Alfred Landecker Foundation, which supports the project, says in a statement.
“In order to prevent more and more users from becoming radicalized on the web, it is important to identify the real dimensions of anti-Semitism — also taking into account the implicit forms that might become more explicit over time,” says Matthias Becker, a linguist and project leader from the Technical University of Berlin.
The team also includes researchers from King’s College in London and other scientific institutions in Europe and Israel.
Computers will help run through vast amounts of data and images that humans would not be able to assess because of their sheer quantity, the foundation said.
The far-right looks set to lose a fierce battle for the left-wing bastion of Tuscany, in Italy’s regional elections, via a ballot that had risked weakening an already fragile national government.
“It’s an extraordinary victory,” the region’s center-left candidate Eugenio Giani says, as exit polls show him pulling significantly ahead of his far-right competitor.
Experts had warned a flurry of far-right victories in the elections in seven regions could further fracture the brittle national governing coalition of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and its ruling partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).
The highest-profile battle was for Tuscany, which has been ruled by the left for 50 years.
But with the PD’s Giani celebrating and the far-right candidate from Matteo Salvini’s League party sending him a congratulatory SMS, the far-right looks to have failed in its most ambitious attempt.