The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Naftali Bennett seems to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a pass for calling him “a little dog” in a 2018 phone call with aide Nir Hefetz.
“In closed conversations we all speak freely, and not always gracefully. I don’t hold back in closed conversations either. That’s life, we’re all human, not angels,” he says. “It’s really not important.”
He does attack the person who recorded the conversation — Hefetz, who is now a key witness against the premier in his trial.
“I think those who record conversations are despicable and hinder people’s ability to speak freely.”
He says his problem with Netanyahu is not a years-old quote but rather “a terrible management of the country that has caused unnecessary damage and suffering to Israelis.”
The “worst financial crisis” ever faced by the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees could lead to “disaster” in the Gaza Strip and insecurity in Lebanon, the organization’s chief has warned.
Founded in 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) runs schools and provides health services as well as other humanitarian aid to an estimated 5.7 million Palestinians with refugee status.
“It is in the interest of no one to see schools suddenly suspended… health services being suspended, at a time when people are hit by the [coronavirus] pandemic,” the agency’s chief Philippe Lazzarini tells AFP.
“It would be a total disaster,” he adds.
Last week, Lazzarini announced that UNRWA faced a $70 million funding shortfall.
The head of the World Health Organization says that a vaccine will not by itself stop the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic is raging months after it broke out, with infections soaring past 54 million and claiming more than 1.3 million lives.
“A vaccine will complement the other tools we have, not replace them,” director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says. “A vaccine on its own will not end the pandemic.”
Tedros says that supplies of the vaccine would initially be restricted, with “health workers, older people and other at-risk populations (to) be prioritized. That will hopefully reduce the number of deaths and enable the health systems to cope.”
For the second time this month, there’s promising news from a COVID-19 vaccine candidate: Moderna says its shots provide strong protection, a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges around the world.
Moderna says its vaccine appears to be 94.5 percent effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s still ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the US.
Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomes the “really important milestone” but says having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.
“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Hoge says. “It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in June that Israel signed a deal with Moderna for a future coronavirus vaccine, without specifying the number of doses that would be supplied or the financial details of the agreement.
Last week Israel also signed a deal with Pfizer for its vaccine.
— with AP
A Moroccan man and three alleged accomplices go on trial in France for an attempted terror attack on an Amsterdam-Paris train five years ago that was foiled by passengers whose heroic actions were turned into a Hollywood film.
Director Clint Eastwood, 90, is on the witness list for the trial in Paris, scheduled to last until December 17. It is believed his 2018 film “The 15:17 to Paris” will serve as a reconstruction of the events of August 21, 2015.
Gunman Ayoub El Khazzani was tackled by passengers shortly after emerging bare-chested and heavily armed from a toilet on a Thalys high-speed train.
There were some 150 passengers in the carriage with Khazzani, who had an AK47 slung over his back, and a bag of nearly 300 rounds of ammunition.
One of them, Franco-American professor Mark Moogalian, grabbed Khazzani’s assault rifle as he emerged.
The attacker took a pistol out of his belt, shot and wounded Moogalian, and reclaimed the AK47 only to be tackled afresh and disarmed by two US soldiers — Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos — who heard the commotion from a neighboring carriage.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid says the Israeli government has lost the public’s trust over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
He accuses the prime minister of “not telling the truth on vaccines,” selling them as a silver bullet while the country has major medical and logistical problems in defeating the disease that “will take time” to solve.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein welcomes the news of Moderna’s promising vaccine trial results.
“Moderna was the first vaccine-making company the Health Ministry signed with months ago. The firm’s announcement is excellent news for Israelis,” he says.
He warns, however, that “we have a long road ahead and must not get complacent.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warns that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t “get a grip” on the stalled state budget, “this Knesset will be dispersed. If we go to elections all Israelis will know who dragged them there.”
Gantz also says his party will support reopening grades 11-12 in cities with low infection rates.
Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi has been named the next IDF deputy chief of staff, the military says.
Halevi, a former head of Military Intelligence who currently leads the IDF Southern Command, was nominated for the position by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has approved the recommendation.
“Herzi is an officer with immense experience, who has carried out command and staff positions excellently throughout the IDF system. As someone who has known him for decades, I am confident that he will be an excellent deputy chief of staff, who will help the chief of staff and all IDF commanders to lead the military in the face of dynamic challenges on all operational fronts and in the necessary force build-up processes,” Gantz says.
Halevi will replace Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who has served in the position for two years.
— Judah Ari Gross
A top EU diplomat warns it is getting dangerously late to secure a post-Brexit trade deal as a week of crucial talks begins in Brussels.
“Let’s see if there will be an agreement. We can’t tell at this stage whether this will be by the end of this week or whenever — or at all,” the envoy tells reporters on condition of anonymity.
“This is already getting extremely late,” he adds.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost are in Brussels in hopes of securing an agreement after eight months of talks.
The Gaza Strip sees its highest single-day increase in coronavirus infections, with 453 reported in the coastal enclave over the past 24 hours
Around 18.6% of tests in the past day came back positive, indicating that many more infections could be spreading undetected.
The coastal enclave’s nearly two million residents live in extremely dense conditions, facilitating the virus’s spread. Hamas officials announced a nightly curfew yesterday to curb the spread of the virus.
The Strip currently has 3,366 active coronavirus cases. Around 10,985 Gaza residents have been diagnosed with the disease since the beginning of the pandemic.
— Aaron Boxerman
A Lebanese man who was detained by Israeli troops after he crossed into Israel from Lebanon earlier this week has been returned to his country, the military says.
On Saturday, the man was spotted crossing into Israel near the border town of Ghajar, which straddles Israel and Lebanon, and he was picked up a short while later by Israeli soldiers.
He was taken into custody and interrogated before being returned to Lebanon today through the Rosh Hanikra Crossing, in coordination with UN peacekeepers. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the man is a Lebanese national.
“The IDF takes seriously any attempt to violate Israeli sovereignty,” the military says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel lambastes the lack of a state budget — an issue of contention between Likud and Blue and White.
“Any action over NIS 1 million requires Treasury approval, it’s impossible to function like this,” Eshel says.
“Our big and central problem is the lack of a state budget. We cannot build work plans, make priorities and take action. If we don’t have a budget for 2021 by year’s end we will need to work with last year’s resources… no discussions are happening with the Finance Ministry about a budget. We are prepared to sit with them at any time but there’s a brick wall.”
A senior Bahraini delegation will arrive in Israel on Wednesday to conduct bilateral talks with Israeli officials, the country’s official Bahrain News Agency confirms.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abd al-Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani is leading the delegation to Tel Aviv. According to BNA, the visit will serve to underline “Bahrain’s firm and permanent position towards supporting the peace process… and to shed light on the economic opportunities and opportunities for bilateral agreements with Israel.”
“This official visit to the State of Israel aims to conduct many joint talks between the two countries in light of what has been agreed upon in the Agreement in Support of Peace and the Declaration of Principles in the Abraham Accords,” BNA reports.
The Israeli news site Walla reported last night that Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would both meet with al-Zayani’s delegation during its time in Israel.
— Aaron Boxerman
The acting director of the Prime Minister’s Office will step down soon, Walla news reports.
Ronen Peretz has served in the role since Netanyahu confidant Yoav Horowitz quite in mid-2019.
Political sources tell Walla Peretz will depart due to a High Court petition demanding the PMO have a permanent appointment.
More from Amir Eshel:
Eshel warns that the government must approve the budget to replace the military’s aging fleets of aircraft and inadequate arsenals.
The Israeli Air Force currently operates 50-year-old heavy transport helicopters and refueling planes that are nearly the same age, and requires additional fighter jets to replace outmoded ones.
“No other military in the world flies aircraft this old,” he tells reporters at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.
“Flying 50-year-old helicopters with 50 people on board during wartime and 30 people on board in peacetime — that’s not safe,” Eshel says.
He warns that in a large-scale conflict Israel could find itself without the aircraft it needs to win the war.
— Judah Ari Gross
The Israeli going to space next year will do so out of his own pocket, the Israel Space Agency says.
Former fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe will be taking part in a mission made up entirely of privately funded astronauts, it says.
Stibbe will front the costs for the trip as well as for the equipment he will use to conduct experiments at the International Space Station.
Earlier Stibbe’s trip was announced at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem with great fanfare.
Hungary and Poland block approval of the EU’s long-term budget and coronavirus rescue — a 1.8 trillion euro package — and plunge the bloc into political crisis.
Warsaw and Budapest oppose tying EU funding to respect for the rule of law and their envoys vetoed any decision to proceed, EU diplomats at the Brussels meeting say.
“Hungary has vetoed the budget,” Zoltan Kovacs, a spokesman for Prime Minister Viktor Orban says, arguing that the package must reflect a deal reached in July.
“We cannot support the plan in its present form to tie rule of law criteria to budget decisions,” he said.
Poland and Hungary remain implacably opposed to tying their future funding to Brussels’ judgment on whether their spending is in line with EU law.
The coronavirus cabinet will approve the return to school of fifth and sixth graders next Tuesday in so-called “green” and “yellow” communities with low-to-medium infection rates, according to Hebrew media reports.
Reports indicate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have agreed on the matter. Meanwhile, grades 11-12 will return on December 1.
The two have also agreed on a nighttime curfew in all non-green communities.
When Israeli Eytan Stibbe goes to space next year, he just might be doing it with Hollywood film star Tom Cruise.
Channel 12 reports that Cruise is expected to join the flight — which apparently will be filled with private individuals.
It has previously been reported that Cruise is to fly to space next year to film a new action-adventure movie in cooperation with SpaceX and NASA.
It is not yet clear that the two will be on the same flight, as the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on Hollywood filming schedules, the report says.
United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman will once again be appointed housing minister, Hebrew media reports.
The matter was agreed upon in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Litzman quit the government earlier this year in protest of the government’s decision to impose a general lockdown during the High Holiday period.
Last month it was reported that Litzman would not return to the cabinet due to opposition from his rabbi. It is not immediately clear what may have changed.
A new survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that some 30 percent of Israelis over age 21 report that their mental well-being has deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 37% reported an increase in feelings of pressure and anxiety during the pandemic, 19% reported feelings of depression and 21% reported feeling lonely.
A quarter of Israelis over age 65 reported severe loneliness.
The coronavirus cabinet has approved the reopening of “BIG” strip malls in low-infection zones throughout the country starting tomorrow.
It has also approved grades 5-6 returning to schools next week, and grades 11-12 doing so the week after.
A court in Nablus holds its first session as it reviews a case against the British government for its “crimes” in Palestine during the British Mandate period (1917-1948), as well as for the 1917 Balfour declaration setting out London’s support for a national home for the Jewish people in the land.
The hearing sees witnesses driven from their homes in 1948 testify before the court. The UK has not sent representatives to the court.
The plaintiffs seek compensation from the British government for the “wrongs” its actions brought about.
The government has approved a NIS 800 million aid plan for students hurt by the coronavirus crisis.
It will include a widening of scholarship and employment-seeking programs for students in need.
The plan was agreed upon between the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Union of Israeli Students, the Finance Ministry, and several other ministries.
Prime Minister Netanyahu says he has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the possibility of purchasing Russia coronavirus vaccine, “Sputnik V.”
“We will discuss it in the next few days,” Netanyahu tells a press conference.
“My goal is to bring as many vaccines as possible, from as many sources as possible, for as many citizens as possible and as quickly as possible.”
He stresses that vaccines will not arrive “tomorrow, it will take time, but… we’re talking months.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer says it would be a “mistake” for the incoming Biden administration to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal as President-elect Joe Biden pledged to do during the campaign.
“I think it would be a mistake and hopefully he will look at the Middle East as it is, he will see the benefits of [the normalization] process, of how he can continue that process, and I think to not go back into the same deal,” Dermer says on a panel with his Emirati and Bahraini counterparts in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba and Abdulla Al Khalifa.
The Israeli envoy maintains that both Israel and Arab states opposed the 2015 multilateral agreement and that their views should have been taken into consideration by the Obama administration.
Dermer highlights that in nuclear talks with North Korea, members in the region such as Japan and North Korea had been in the room, which was not the case during the Iran nuclear talks.
“The first thing I would say to the incoming administration: ‘Sit with your allies in the region. Listen to us. We have the most skin in the game. We have the most to lose. Speak to us. Try to work out a common position, which I think is possible, not only to do with nuclear issues but also to deal with the regional aggression of Iran,'” Dermer says.
— Jacob Magid
Dutch prosecutors say that the shooting last week targeting the Saudi Arabian embassy building in The Hague was carried out with a “terrorist” motive.
A 40-year-old suspect arrested on the day the embassy was sprayed with gunfire appeared today before an investigating magistrate. He was ordered held for a further 14 days as investigations continue.
Nobody was injured in the early morning shooting last Thursday that left the white façade and several windows of the embassy riddled with bullet holes.
Prosecutors say in a statement that the man, whose identity was not released, is suspected of crimes “with a terrorist motive” including attempted murder or manslaughter of an embassy guard and “violence toward the building of an internationally protected person.”
The top executives of Facebook and Twitter are set to appear before US lawmakers tomorrow for the second time in less than month for a fresh hearing on the hotly disputed role of social networks in US political debate.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are scheduled to appear remotely at the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Both executives are testifying “voluntarily,” according to the panel.
Committee chair Senator Lindsey Graham called the session to address what he called “censorship and suppression of news articles” and the “handling of the 2020 election” by the platforms.
Graham says the panel will address the decision by both social platforms to limit circulation of New York Post articles which claimed to have exposed malfeasance by Democrat Joe Biden ahead of his election victory.
President Donald Trump and his allies have claimed the major social platforms have suppressed conservative voices, despite his own large following and prolific posting.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he expects to speak soon with US President-elect Joe Biden, though he appears to avoid calling him that.
“I’ve been told that very soon a call will be arranged with President — with uh, Joe Biden, who is supposed to be appointed the next president,” he says at a press conference.
The Health Ministry says 568 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus so far today. The test positivity rate stands at 2 percent, a drop from yesterday’s 2.7% (though numbers may yet rise by the end of the day).
The total number of active cases currently stands at 7,871, with 320 of them in serious condition.
Israel’s experimental coronavirus vaccine has been administered to some 80 people so far, and no significant side effects have been experienced, Ynet reports.
The vaccine was developed by Israeli Biological Research Institute.
Minor side effects have been documented in several cases, such as a rise in temperature and pain at the injection site, which passed within a few hours.
All test subjects remain under observation. If all goes well, a second phase of trials will begin in several weeks.
Hate crimes in the US rise to the highest level in more than a decade as federal officials also record the highest number of hate-motivated killings since the FBI began collecting that data in the early 1990s, according to an FBI report.
There were 51 hate crime murders in 2019, which includes 22 people who were killed in a shooting that targeted Mexicans at a Walmart in the border city of El Paso, Texas.
There were 7,314 hate crimes last year, up from 7,120 the year before — and approaching the 7,783 of 2008. The FBI’s annual report defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on a person’s race, religion, or sexual orientation, among other categories.
The data also shows there was a nearly seven percent increase in religion-based hate crimes, with 953 reports of crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions last year, up from 835 the year before.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has told the High Court of Justice that he believes the state must explain why it has so far failed to appoint a permanent director-general to the Justice Ministry.
He says so in response to a petition filed at the court over the matter.
With no concrete justification given for the failure to move the process forward, Mandelblit “believes there is no choice” but to subpoena state representatives to respond on the issue.
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn announced his pick for director-general months ago, but the Prime Minister’s Office has so far refused to bring the matter to a cabinet vote, amid ongoing infighting between Likud and Blue and White.
Qatar’s foreign minister says Gulf nations’ normalization deals with Israel hurt efforts to achieve Palestinian statehood, but adds the decision is ultimately up to those countries.
“I think it’s better to have a united front to put the interests of the Palestinians to end the [Israeli] occupation,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani tells the online Global Security Forum, according to Reuters.
However, “it is up to them at the end of the day to decide what is best for their countries.”
UN General Assembly president Volkan Bozkir criticizes the Security Council, saying it is failing to respond to world’s biggest challenges due to “competing interests.”
“The council has, on many occasions, failed to carry out its responsibility to maintain international peace and security,” Bozkir, a Turkish diplomat, says at a debate on reforming the body.
“Competing interests among its members and frequent use of the veto have limited the Security Council’s effectiveness. Even in some of the most urgent humanitarian crises, the council could not provide a timely and adequate response.”
There has been growing criticism of the body, which has not been reformed in decades, with France’s President Emmanuel Macron saying in a recent interview with Le Grand Continent that it “no longer produces useful solutions.”
Bozkir says reform of the Security Council is “an unavoidable imperative — both challenging and essential.”
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