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Interior minister: General lockdown the only way to lower infection rates

Aryeh Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, claims localized closures too difficult to enforce, says virus czar’s plan to fight pandemic ‘isn’t the cure’

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri arrives at the Knesset for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas party leader Aryeh Deri arrives at the Knesset for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Demonstrators begin gathering for weekly anti-Netanyahu protests at sites across Israel

Demonstrators begin gathering at highway overpasses and junctions across the country for the weekly protests against Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Protests are also to be held outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, which has been the center of the demonstrations against Netanyahu, and near his private home in the coastal town of Caesarea.

Turkey issues fresh threat to Greece ahead of military drill

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issues a threat to Greece over simmering tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, the day before his forces launch military drills in the region.

Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have been embroiled in an increasingly heated spat over gas and oil in the region since Turkey deployed an exploration vessel last month.

“As Turkey and the Turkish people we are ready for every possibility and every consequence,” Erdogan says in a televised speech in Istanbul.

Turkish defense officials say they will start five days of military exercises tomorrow in the breakaway republic of northern Cyprus — an entity recognized only by Ankara.

NATO said this week Greek and Turkish leaders had agreed to take part in technical talks to avoid accidents between their navies.

But Greece later said it had not agreed to the talks, leading to accusations from Turkey that the EU country was shunning dialogue.

Greece and Cyprus have accused Turkey of breaching their sovereignty by drilling in their waters.

But Erdogan makes it clear that he would not compromise, saying: “Turkey is ready for any kind of sharing (of energy resources) as long as it is fair.”

Turkey on August 10 deployed the Oruc Reis research vessel and an escorting flotilla of warships to the waters between Cyprus and the Greek islands of Kastellorizo and Crete.

The vessel’s stay in the contested waters has been extended three times.

Greece responded by staging naval exercises with several EU allies and the United Arab Emirates, not far from smaller ones Turkey conducted between Cyprus and Crete last week.

— AFP

Sudan’s acting FM says US conditioning removal from terror list on normalization with Israel

Sudan’s acting foreign minister says the United States has conditioned Khartoum’s removal from a list of state sponsors of terrorism on its normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel.

“Even if this was the will of the Sudanese street, it is important that defined conditions for normalization be fulfilled,” Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail tells the Sudanese newspaper Al-Tayyar, according to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster.

Ismail says Sudanese leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan discussed these conditions with US Secreterary of State Mike Pompeo during the latter’s visit to Khartoum last month.

“The conditions revolve around the question of what is the economic gain that Sudan will rake in and when it will be removed from the terror list. Pompeo said the administration will examine this with the Israeli side,” Ismail says.

He also says Sudan’s transitional government doesn’t have the authority to make a decision such as normalizing ties with Israel, echoing comments made by Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok during Pompeo’s visit.

Sudan has been widely mentioned as the next Arab country that could normalize ties with Israel after the UAE agreed to do so as part of a US-brokered agreement.

Protesters say police trying to ‘silence’ anti-Netanyahu rally with Jerusalem street closures

Police have closed a number of streets in central Jerusalem ahead of the weekly protest against Prime Minister Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem.

Cars will not be able to access the area around Paris Square, which is adjacent to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Organizers accuse police of seeking to prevent demonstrators from reaching the protest site. The Crime Minister group is quoted by the Kan public broadcaster calling the street closures an “attempt to silence” protesters.

Number of coronavirus deaths in Israel passes 1,000

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Israel passes 1,000 as the Health Ministry reports 14 more fatalities over Shabbat.

The national death toll now stands at 1,007, according to ministry figures.

The ministry also reports 2,349 new infections, bringing the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 128,768.

Of the 26,283 active cases, there are 439 people in serious condition, with 128 on ventilators. Another 132 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

The Health Ministry says 31,601 tests were performed yesterday.

Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh) team wearing protective clothes in the coronavirus ward of Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh), in Be’er Ya’akov, southeast of Tel Aviv, August 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel-UAE normalization accord to have status of full peace treaty, Knesset ratification — report

The normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will be defined as a “peace treaty” and will have similar legal status to the Jewish state’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, the Walla news site reports.

Quoting unnamed Israeli and American officials, the news site says the request to give the agreement the status of a treaty was made by Israel during the joint visit of Israeli and American delegations to Abu Dhabi this week, with the UAE agreeing to the request.

The officials say Israel wanted the deal to be a peace treaty so both sides will be more committed to it and that the agreement will need to be ratified by the Knesset and the UAE’s Federal National Council.

Unlike Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries Jerusalem has ties with, Israel and the United Arab Emirates were never at war.

The report also quotes Israeli officials saying there is still no final date for the planned ceremony at the White House, but it is expected to be held in the coming weeks.

Anti-Netanyahu demonstrators march through Jerusalem to main protest site

A few thousand protesters have begun marching for the third consecutive week from the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem to Paris Square, where they will meet up with the rest of the anti-Netanyahu demonstrators.

Although the march is unapproved, Jerusalem police have allowed it to be held in the past two weeks.

Demonstrators, some of whom are dressed in costumes, carry Israeli flags and a giant pink submarine. The latter refers to the so-called submarine affair, in which multiple associates of Netanyahu face charges, though the premier himself isn’t a suspect.

— Anat Peled

Bennett and Yamina maintain popularity in new survey, as right-wing bloc grows

A Channel 12 survey shows Naftali Bennett’s right-wing/religious Yamina party maintaining its newfound popularity, and Bennett closing in on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israelis’ preferred choice for prime minister.

It also shows the right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc growing at the expense of the center-left-Arab bloc.

If elections were held today, the survey finds, Netanyahu’s Likud would win 31 seats, followed by Yamina with 19; Yesh Atid with 15; the Joint (Arab) List 15; Benny Gantz’s Blue and White 11; Yisrael Beytenu 8; Shas 8; United Torah Judaism 7, and Meretz 6.

(Were MK Ofer Shelach to win his planned leadership battle against Yair Lapid, their Yesh Atid party would fall to 13 seats, with the extra two seats shared by Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz.)

The finding adds up to 65 seats for the right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc, 47 for the center-left-Arab bloc, and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu between the blocs. However, Yamina’s Bennett has indicated he would not automatically recommend Netanyahu as prime minister next time around.

The survey found 37% of respondents believe Netanyahu is best suited to serve as prime minister, compared to 28% for Bennett. Channel 12 suggested this reflects widespread public dissatisfaction with Netanyahu’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

The survey, by pollster Mano Geva, polled 511 respondents and has a 4.4% margin of error.

Meretz MK: I’m marching against Netanyahu because he ‘corrupts everything around him’

Meretz MK Yair Golan says he is marching this evening against Prime Minister Netanyahu because he “corrupts everything around him,” including the country.

“We have a government that is bloated, wasteful. It hasn’t convened for a month, maybe it will convene tomorrow. This is not a how a government functions during an emergency situation and this is all happening for one reason: A corrupt prime minister who corrupts everything around him — his party, the right and all of the State of Israel,” Golan tells The Times of Israel when asked why he is here.

Golan is a regular at the Jerusalem marches.

— Anat Peled

Hundreds protest against Netanyahu near his home in Caesarea

Several hundred people are protesting against Prime Minister Netanyahu near his private residence in the coastal town of Caesarea.

Shas chief: General lockdown only way to curb infection rates, localized closures too hard to enforce

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri comes out against the planned lockdowns in cities with high rates of coronavirus infections and claims a nationwide closure is the only way to reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases per day.

“No one has succeeded in bringing down the numbers with another method,” Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, tells Channel 12 news.

The localized lockdowns, which are set to begin Monday, are part of coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu’s “traffic light” plan to differentiate between areas based upon their per capita infection rates. Many of the localities where the news restrictions will take effect are majority Arab and ultra-Orthodox areas.

“The plan isn’t the cure, it’s a tool for managing the crisis,” Deri says, asserting that a general lockdown is the only way to reduce infection rates.

The Shas chief says a nationwide lockdown will soon come into effect and that ministers will convene Thursday to decide on the matter. He also asserts that localized ones are more difficult to enforce than a general one.

He is also asked during the interview whether he backs Gamzu, who has faced heavy criticism from some ultra-Orthodox lawmakers and members of Prime Minister’s Netayanhu Likud party.

“I didn’t appoint him, the prime minister did. I give him backing all the time, I didn’t personally say a single bad thing about him. The Interior Ministry under my leadership is doing everything to help him… I pray he’ll succeed,” Deri says.

Police say 2 officers hurt by anti-Netanyahu marchers who broke through barricade

Police say officers were injured when anti-Netanyahu protesters marching through Jerusalem broke through a police barricade at IDF Square, right outside the Old City.

A police statement says demonstrators are clashing with officers.

Scuffles break out as police try to take down protesters

Scuffles break out between anti-Netanyahu protesters and police due to the police’s repeated attempts to take down one of the two giant submarines the marchers have been carrying throughout Jerusalem.

Protesters chant “shame” at the police.

It isn’t immediately clear why the police sought to take down the submarine.

Throughout the march, police have been attempting to block demonstrators at certain points in the city, but the protesters have evaded them by taking alternate paths.

— Anat Peled

Police detain protester dressed as naked woman because it ‘could constitute sexual harassment’

Police have detained artist Zeev Engelmayer during the anti-Netanyahu protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Engelmayer, a famous satirical cartoonist, is a regular at the protests and known for his character “Shoshke,” for which he dons a full body suit of a naked woman.

Police say in a statement quoted by Hebrew media that Engelmayer was detained because his costume “could constitute sexual harassment toward the public.”

Windows on cars of anti-Netanyahu protesters smashed in Hadera

Protesters in the northern city of Hadera report that the windows of their cars were smashed while they attended a demonstration against Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The car’s owners are on their way to file a police complaint, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Hasidim protest in Jerusalem against ban on Uman pilgrimage

For a second straight week, Bratslav Hasidim rally in Jerusalem to demand they be allowed to travel to the Ukrainian city of Uman for a Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage.

The protesters are headed to the anti-Netanyahu demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Ukraine has banned all foreigners from entering its borders for the month of September, preventing Israelis and others from traveling to Uman to celebrate the Jewish new year at the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.

Prior to the Ukrainian announcement, the official leading Israel’s response to the coronavirus came out strongly against the pilgrimage, warning travelers could spread coronavirus upon their return.

Court rejects police request to extend remand of 5 protesters for allegedly trying to steal barricades

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rejects the police request to extend the remand of five protesters for allegedly trying to steal barricades ahead of this evening’s anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem, the Walla news site reports.

The court agrees to to keep the five in custody until tomorrow to allow police to appeal the decision.

Police order anti-Netanyahu protesters to stop using sound enhancement equipment

Police order anti-Netanyahu protesters outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to stop using megaphones and other sound enhancement equipment, per a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting their use after 11 p.m.

Hasidim clash with police preventing them from marching to anti-Netanyahu protest

Bratslav Hasidism protesting the ban on this year’s Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman clash with police blocking them from marching to the demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Video shows the sides scuffling on King George Street in the city center.

Anti-Netanyahu protest thins out, but thousands remain outside PM’s residence

Many demonstrators appear to have already left this evening’s demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The protest is relatively quiet for this hour when compared to other anti-Netanyahu demonstrations in recent weeks.

Still, thousands remain, some sitting in the middle of the the intersection, others standing and chanting slogans. In one corner of the demonstration, protesters sing “A Song for Peace.”

— Aaron Boxerman

Hasidim reach anti-Netanyahu rally, perform circle dance

The Bratslav Hasidim reach the protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, after clashing with police on their way to the demonstration.

Video aired by the Kan public broadcaster shows the Hasidim joining with some of the anti-Netanyahu protesters in a circle dance.

Police begin to clear remaining protesters in Jerusalem

With several hundred remaining at the demonstration calling for Netanyahu’s resignation, police announce that they will open Paris Square for traffic.

Some protesters call for demonstrators to sit so as to prevent police from opening the street, but only around a dozen do so.

Police open the street and begin to clear the square, with officers entering to detain demonstrators, seemingly at random.

Police disperse all protesters from anti-Netanyahu rally

Police disperse all the protesters against Netanyahu from Jerusalem’s Paris Square, pushing them onto the sidewalk and slowly forcing them down Agron Street.

Around 12 were arrested during the demonstration, senior Jerusalem police commander Amir Barazani says at a press conference after the dispersal.

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Meretz MK: I’m marching against Netanyahu because he ‘corrupts everything around him’

Meretz MK Yair Golan says he is marching this evening against Prime Minister Netanyahu because he “corrupts everything around him,” including the country.

“We have a government that is bloated, wasteful. It hasn’t convened for a month, maybe it will convene tomorrow. This is not a how a government functions during an emergency situation and this is all happening for one reason: A corrupt prime minister who corrupts everything around him — his party, the right and all of the State of Israel,” Golan tells The Times of Israel when asked why he is here.

Golan is a regular at the Jerusalem marches.

— Anat Peled