The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
The Supreme Court rejects Malka Leifer’s appeal against a lower court’s ruling that the alleged serial pedophile is mentally fit to be extradited to Australia.
This means Leifer’s extradition itself can now be discussed, after dozens of court hearings over six years dealt with the question of her mental fitness, eventually causing a diplomatic rift with Canberra.
The judges unanimously reject Leifer’s appeal, saying none of the arguments presented by her lawyers point to her being mentally unfit to stand trial and be extradited.
Leifer is wanted in Australia on more than 70 counts of molesting girls she taught at an Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne. She fled the country to Israel in 2008.
Amid reports of hundreds of yeshiva students contracting the coronavirus in recent days, a top rabbi of the ultra-Orthodox community has instructed students not to be tested — to avoid closures of institutions and mass quarantines.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky cites a “fear of massive damage to Torah study” for his order.
According to the Ynet news site, some 800 yeshiva students were found positive for COVID-19 in recent days, leading to thousands being ordered to quarantine.
Saudi Arabia will allow flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to pass over its territory when the two countries open their skies to each other in the near future, Riyadh says.
The official Saudi press agency says Saudi Arabia will allow passage in its airspace to flights to and from the UAE “to all countries.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails the decision. “Another huge breakthrough,” he says. “This will lower flight prices, shorten [flight] time and open up massive tourism. It’ll open up our economy.”
“It’ll do something more,” he says. “It’ll open up the [far] east. When you fly to Thailand or anywhere else in Asia it’ll shave off hours and rates.”
Dassi Erlich, one of Malka Leifer’s alleged sexual abuse victims, reacts to the Supreme Court’s decision that she is fit for extradition.
“[Six] years and 70 court hearings regarding Leifer’s mental fitness! We are exhilarated, finally an end in sight!” she tweets. “During this tumultuous journey there were moments that this did not seem possible!”
“Bring on Sept 21 and an extradition decision!” she adds, referring to the date set for a court session in which the Jerusalem District Court is expected to rule on Leifer’s extradition.
6 years and 70 court hearings regarding Leifer's mental fitness! We are exhilarated, finally an end in sight!
During this tumultuous journey there were moments that this did not seem possible!
Bring on Sept 21 and an extradition decision!
Beyond excited! #bringleiferback
— Dassi Erlich #bringleiferback (@dassi_erlich) September 2, 2020
If Jerusalem District Court Judge Chana Miriam Lomp approves Leifer’s extradition on September 21, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn will have to sign off on the order. However, both the court decision and Nissenkorn’s stamp of approval can be appealed to the Supreme Court as well.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, a New York-based rabbi who has close ties to several Gulf states and has long advocated for normalization with Israel, hails the new Saudi policy to allow flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to fly over its territory.
“Today’s announcement is historic and it also signals the beginning of the warming of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel,” he tells The Times of Israel.
“While they are still deeply committed the Palestinian people, this first step is a big one and should be celebrated.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
According to media reports, the two discuss the normalization deal between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, with Sissi saying he supports all steps that will encourage regional peace “in a manner that preserves the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and will allow the formation of an independent Palestinian state, while maintaining Israel’s security.”
Sissi also tells Netanyahu both Israel and the Palestinians must remain committed to calm in the Gaza Strip, adding that Egypt will continue efforts to lower tensions.
Data from Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service shows that antibodies in patients who have recovered from coronavirus drop off precipitously within weeks, the Ynet news site reports.
MDA data further showed that some 17 percent of recovered patients did not produce antibodies at all, Ynet says.
Meanwhile a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has conflicting findings. In a study of some 30,000 people in Iceland — one of the largest yet — researchers found antibodies can last some four months.
There is no immediate explanation for this discrepancy, unfortunately, and it could be a result of sample sizes, different indicators surveyed and a plethora of other factors.
An American consulting firm focused on the hospitality industry projects that Israel’s hotels will only return to pre-pandemic revenue levels in 2024.
However, the Israel Hotel Market Overview 2020 report by HVS, presented at a webinar organized by Israel Tourism Ministry, was generally positive.
“We are cautiously optimistic when considering the Israel hotel industry’s ability to recover at an accelerated pace compared to other countries in the Mediterranean region,” HVS said. “Although this crisis is unprecedented and still deeply uncertain, Israel’s hoteliers have had exceptional experience on how to thrive in periods of uncertainty.”
The report expects the RevPAR (revenue per available room) metric to sharply increase in 2021, occupancy to return to normal in 2023, and RevPAR to return to 2019 levels by 2024.
“We note that the situation remains fluid; forecasts may change as time passes and as more light is shed on the rate of recovery,” HVS says.
The names of a number of suspects in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Eilat last month have been cleared for publication.
Two of the suspects indicted in the rape act itself are Issi Raphaelov, 28, and Ilizir Meirov, 27, both from Hadera. Two other minors have been indicted, but their names have not been released.
Seven others are suspected of other crimes including committing an indecent act, abetting a rape, conspiracy to commit a crime and failing to assist the 16-year-old alleged victim. They include six unnamed minors and one adult, named as Osher Shomo, 19, of the community of Noga near Ashkelon.
More charges are expected to be brought later against others.
The chief spokesperson of the Israel Defense Forces, Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, has been ordered into quarantine after being exposed to a coronavirus patient.
Zilberman is feeling well and will continue to work from home as much as possible, the army says.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan stresses on Twitter that the opening of Saudi airspace to flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates does not change “the Kingdom’s firm and established positions toward the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”
He adds that Riyadh “appreciates all efforts aimed at achieving a just and lasting peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah, considered a close confidant of party leader Yair Lapid, has called for party primaries and said he will run for leadership.
“In recent days I told Yair Lapid of the urgent need to renew the face of the party,” Shelad tweeted earlier. “It must start with immediate primaries… I will run and will be happy for others to do so as well. Without this we will not be an alternative and we will not win.”
Yesh Atid was formed by Lapid in 2012 as a vehicle for his political aspirations. Shelah joined soon afterwards. The party has had no democratic process since its formation, with Lapid deciding on its roster for the Knesset. According to party statutes Lapid is to serve as its leader until the end of term of the 25th Knesset (with the current sitting of parliament being its 23rd).
Yesh Atid says in an official statement: “We are reviewing the matter with the party institutions.”
Egypt’s highest Muslim authority Al-Azhar condemns French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s decision to reprint cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, as the trial opened over the subsequent 2015 terror attack on its Paris office.
“The insistence on the criminal act to republish these offensive cartoons embeds hate speech further and inflames the emotions of faithful followers of religions,” Al-Azhar’s Observatory for Combating Extremism says on its Facebook page.
Al-Azhar Observatory Condemns Charlie Hebdo's Reprint of Cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)"This act incites…
Charlie Hebdo, whose taboo-breaking style makes it a beacon of free speech for many but a lightning rod of racial insensitivity for others, marked the start of Wednesday’s trial by republishing the controversial cartoons that had angered Muslims globally.
Al-Azhar, also considered the foremost religious institution for Sunni Muslims, says the contentious decision to reprint the caricatures is “an unjustified provocation of the emotions of nearly two billion Muslims around the world.”
With tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz still high despite the delay of the budget deadline — and with it the threat of fresh elections — the weekly cabinet meeting is again set to be canceled Sunday, for a fifth time, Channel 12 reports.
Cabinet meeting cancellations, once virtually unheard of, have become a regular affair in recent weeks amid the crisis in the coalition.
Political sources tell Channel 12 Netanyahu remains angry at Gantz for his combative speech on the evening of the vote to delay the state budget deadline.
The victim of a likely terror attack last month who was stabbed multiple times by a Palestinian man says he’s standing on his feet again three weeks after the attack.
Refael Levi was stabbed in Rosh Ha’ayin on August 15 at a construction site. Initial reports about the stabbing indicated that it had occurred during a fight of some kind. But officials later said it was being investigated as a terror attack and that the assailant was a Palestinian man who had entered Israel illegally.
“This is my victory,” Refael Levi says on Facebook. “The terrorist, may he be damned, managed to stab me 28 times and injured me very, very badly. I nearly lost my life, but I won!”
He adds: “Today three weeks later I’m standing on my feet… That’s my answer to terrorism and that’s my answer to the terrorist. They teach their children to murder and hate, we teach ours to live and love!”
זה הניצחון שלי !לפני כמעט 3 שבועות נולדתי מחדש , נפצעתי אנוש ע"י מחבל בראש העין (כן זה אני)המחבל יימך שמו הצליח לדקור…
More on the Netanyahu-Sissi phone call earlier. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says he thanked the Egyptian president “for Egypt’s support in advancing stability in the region, especially in Gaza, and asked that he continue assisting in the return of our prisoners and our missing.”
Egypt is seen as a key actor in calming tensions between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border, including in the most recent flare-up.
“The leaders discussed regional challenges and the strengthening of relations and cooperation in a range of areas. They welcomed the development of relations with the United Arab Emirates.”
Government coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu lambastes Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky’s call for yeshiva students to avoid testing in order to prevent school closures and quarantines.
“The rabbi’s comments endanger the ultra-Orthodox public with ongoing infection,” Gamzu says. And that effect could go beyond the Haredi public, he notes.
Without significant change in cities with high infection rates, Gamzu says, drastic measures could become necessary throughout the entire country.
The cabinet has approved a request by Defense Minister Benny Gantz to tighten restrictions on the return of the bodies of slain terrorists.
According to a statement from Gantz, previous restrictions had related to terrorists who are members of Hamas and other terror organizations, but he requested that all body returns be stopped except in extraordinary circumstances — which were not detailed.
The German government says tests performed on samples taken from Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny show the presence of the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.
He was later transferred to Berlin’s Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications that he had been poisoned.
Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charite initially identied in Navalny.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, demands explanations from Moscow. He says the German government will inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the test results and consult with its partners “on an appropriate joint response.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces sanctions on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, as well as one of her top aides, objecting to the continued investigation into US soldiers for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.
The sanctions include a freeze on assets held in the US or subject to US law and target prosecutor Bensouda and the court’s head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko.
Pompeo had previously imposed a travel ban on Bensouda and other tribunal employees because of its investigation into allegations of torture and other crimes by Americans in Afghanistan.
“Today we take the next step, because the ICC continues to target Americans, sadly,” he said.
Bensouda is also currently looking at the possibility of opening a war crimes probe against Israel and Hamas for incidents in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in past years.
— with agencies
The Supreme Court has called an urgent session Sunday to discuss recent developments in the case of Roman Zadorov.
Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer tells the sides the court wants “clarifications” on various questions, without providing attorneys with further details, Channel 12 reports.
Zadorov, a Ukrainian-Israeli handyman, has spent more than a decade in prison for the brutal 2006 murder of Tair Rada. He has repeatedly asserted that he was wrongly convicted and has requested a retrial over new evidence.
Zadorov’s lawyers, along with many vocal members of the public, insist that Zadorov was framed for an act he didn’t commit and that the real murderer was a woman whose name is blocked from publication by a court order and who suffers from mental illness.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi welcomes Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates over its territory.
“There is no doubt that the relations between Israel and the Emirates are already creating positive change in the entire Middle East, making it safer and more prosperous.”
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews says it handed out 500 protective vests yesterday to social workers and caregivers in communities in the Gaza periphery, to protect them during rocket barrages.
Sderot social worker Avner Chair says: “The majority of the public is unaware of the role that social workers play in an emergency or crisis.
“I am one of many social workers who arrive at the scene of rockets and converse with victims suffering from anxiety and shock while also giving them support and determining the type of extra treatment that they need. Just a week ago, there were three rockets in one day, and I went out to each of the locations.”
Yael Eckstein, president of the IFCJ, adds that aid providers “are forced to respond immediately while under fire. The provision of security for these social workers is essential both at the individual level and the communal level.”
A 30-year-old woman has been seriously injured in a brawl in south Tel Aviv.
She has been rushed to Ichilov Medical Center with a head injury and is under sedation, medical officials say.
New studies confirm that multiple types of steroids improve survival for severely ill COVID-19 patients, cementing the cheap drugs as a standard of care.
An analysis of pooled results from seven studies, led by the World Health Organization and published today by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that steroids reduce the risk of death in the first month by about one-third compared to placebo treatment or usual care alone in these seriously ill patients who need extra oxygen.
“This result opens up more choices” of steroids, says Dr. Martin Landray of the University of Oxford, who led one of the studies. “The more options there are in terms of availability, the better.”
Dr. Anthony Gordon of Imperial College London calls the result “a huge step forward,” but adds, “as impressive as these results are, it’s not a cure.”
Steroid drugs are inexpensive, widely available and have been used for decades. They reduce inflammation, which sometimes develops in coronavirus patients as the immune system overreacts to fight the infection. This overreaction damages the lungs and can prove fatal. These drugs are not the same type of steroids that are used or misused for athletic performance.
Germany’s finding that Alexey Navalny was poisoned with nerve agent Novichok shows that only the Russian state could be responsible, the head of the opposition leader’s organization says.
“Only the state (FSB, GRU) can use Novichok. This is beyond any reasonable doubt,” Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter, referring to Russia’s FSB internal security and GRU military intelligence services.
Navalny, 44, fell ill after boarding a plane in Siberia last month. He was initially treated in a local hospital before being flown to Berlin for treatment.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was the victim of an “attempted murder by poisoning” and the aim was to silence him.
Merkel says there are “very serious questions that only the Russian government can answer and must answer.”
The World Zionist Organization says it will send permanent representatives to the Jewish community of the United Arab Emirates — its first permanent representatives to any Arab state.
The representatives will manage a Jewish daycare, give lessons on Jewish tradition, arrange events for holidays, and open a Hebrew school, WZO says.
“This is an important milestone in the history of the Zionist movement,” WZO Chair Avraham Duvdevani says in a statement to the media.
“We will continue to work in every way to strengthen the connection between Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora.”
Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden will travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin tomorrow, his campaign says, after a controversial visit by Donald Trump to the city at the heart of fresh protests against racism and police brutality.
“Vice President Biden will hold a community meeting in Kenosha to bring together Americans to heal and address the challenges we face,” a statement from his team says, in announcing the trip to the city where a black father, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer, on August 23.
Prior to challenging Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid to a primary, earlier today, party MK Ofer Shelah considered breaking off to form his own political party, Channel 12 reports.
Shelah weighed the matter in recent months and discussed the possibility with various people, but eventually decided to remain in Yesh Atid, the report says.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh is in Beirut for a week-long visit that will see him meet with Palestinian factions, over growing cooperation between their enemy Israel and Arab states.
Haniyeh’s visit, his first to Lebanon in 27 years, comes after an August 13 announcement that the Jewish state is normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates.
Tomorrow, the Hamas chief will meet representatives of other Palestinian factions in rare talks on how to respond to such accords and to a Middle East peace plan announced by Washington this year, says the terror group’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka.
The meeting at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut will coincide with talks in Ramallah between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and representatives of Palestinian factions there.
Thursday’s joint discussions in Ramallah and Beirut aim to develop “a unified Palestinian strategy to confront normalization schemes… and to reject plans to annex the West Bank as well as [Trump’s] ‘deal of the century,'” Baraka says.
Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Yoel Leon visited the city of Uman today to review preparations for Rosh Hashanah celebrations at the Jewish pilgrimage site under coronavirus limitations, the Foreign Ministry says.
The ministry says Leon met with the local governor, mayor, police officials, and heads of the Bratslav Hasidic sect in the city. The ambassador and the governor agreed to maintain contact on issues that come up during the holiday, which draws thousands of Israelis every year.
This year, many have been blocked from travel to Uman, as Ukraine closed its doors over the weekend to foreigners.
Leon also says he asked authorities “to treat incidents of anti-Semitism decisively.”
Yair Lapid deputy Ofer Shelah has told associates that the Yesh Atid party needs change, Walla news reports, after Shelah challenges Lapid to a leadership contest.
“Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid is at a dead end, both electorally and politically,” Shelah is quoted as saying. “Yesh Atid needs a change in conduct, statements, and leadership.”
Health Ministry figures show 2,901 coronavirus cases were diagnosed over the past 24 hours (between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 7 p.m. Wednesday), a new record, with the current case count at 121,023, of which 22,836 are active cases.
Eight people have died since midnight, taking the national death toll to 969.
Among patients, 422 are in serious condition (126 on ventilators), 159 are in moderate condition, and the rest have mild or no symptoms.
Meanwhile Channel 12 reports that more cities are set to be designated as “red,” meaning their infection rate is very high and leading to stricter limitations on the population. The new expected red cities are Bnei Brak, Nazareth, and Elad.
The Kremlin says that Russia is ready to cooperate fully with Germany over the case of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, after Berlin confirmed he was poisoned with a nerve agent.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells journalists: “In general, we confirm that we are ready and have an interest in full cooperation and exchange of data on this topic with Germany.”
A woman was questioned for several hours today on suspicion of sexually harassing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, for a tweet in which she made reference to her own experience of sexual harassment on social media, Haaretz reports.
After the Netanyahus complained last month that a Twitter user had threatened to rape Sara, Iris Boker wrote: “Such a big deal over a single rape threat. Just wait Bibi for it to be by a whole Arab village or Sudanese [immigrants]… After the rape there’s the option of fixing up her ugly disgruntled divorcee face. And the insult, it always comes… ‘Who will even touch you, whore?'”
It appears rather clear Boker was listing threats that she herself had received in the past.
“It’s unimaginable that I was summoned for questioning for such rubbish,” she tells Haaretz. “All I wanted to say was that at long last, Netanyahu remembers to talk about rape threats, after all that we as [female] leftists have suffered on the web from [his supporters]. But when it’s his wife, suddenly he’s appalled.”
Two Bratslav Hasidim in Uman have contracted coronavirus ahead of Rosh Hashanah celebrations in the Ukrainian city, Channel 12 reports.
Ukraine and Israel have feared that the celebrations of the ultra-Orthodox community in the city will lead to mass infection.
Israeli security officials believe the Palestinian Authority is interested in gradually renewing security coordination after three months of disconnect, Kan TV news reports.
Ramallah shut down ties in response to Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, but that plan has now been suspended as part of Jerusalem’s normalization agreement with Abu Dhabi.
A security source tells Kan senior officials in the PA have indicated the desire to renew coordination through various messages, though he does not provide further details.
A new report by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem warns the health system could be overwhelmed due to the rising number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization.
The report, which is presented to the so-called coronavirus cabinet, also warns there could be 600 people in serious condition in two weeks, up from 426 as of this morning.
“The present danger requires decisive action,” the report urges.
The presentation of the report to ministers comes as the Health Ministry reported this morning that yesterday over 3,000 new cases were recorded in one day for the first since the pandemic began.