Vote on reopening of pools, gyms, bars delayed until tomorrow
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Approval rate for Netanyahu’s management of coronavirus outbreak plunges

Survey finds 61% dissatisfied with PM’s policies after only 30% thought so in April; 75% disappointed with government; Netanyahu’s bloc down to 61 Knesset seats in election poll

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

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

Government approves expedited stipends to self-employed amid public anger

Ministers approve stipends of up to NIS 7,500 ($2,170) for self-employed Israelis, wage workers and businesses owners who have been hurt economically by government measures to contain the coronavirus.

The payments are part of a financial aid package unveiled last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, amid complaints from many Israelis that they haven’t received assistance promised by the government.

A joint statement from Netanyahu and Katz pledges the money will enter the bank accounts of those eligible to receive it in the coming days. It also says Katz will distribute a memorandum of a bill authorizing the rest of the aid package, which includes bimonthly payments to businesses and an expansion of the eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Minister said to slam new stipend for self-employed as ‘hangman’s noose’

Labor and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli of the Labor party reportedly quarrels with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting approving expedited stipends for self employed Israelis.

“It’s no wonder at the moment that there is lack of trust by the self-employed,” Shmuli says during the meeting, according to Channel 12, adding that that is “because of what we have promised thus far, because the compensation in this outline isn’t high enough and therefore the self-employed are right.”

“It is no wonder that the feeling is that we threw a hangman’s noose in their direction, rather than a lifeline,” he says.

Netanyahu reportedly retorts: “Listen, young minister, don’t speak to me in slogans. I’m not prepared for talks about hangman’s nooses because that’s what will come out [in the media] eventually. There are broad responsibilities here; you are a minister in the government; you can’t speak in sweeping terms like that.”

Pope ‘very distressed’ over Turkey’s Hagia Sophia conversion to mosque

Pope Francis says he is “very distressed” over Turkey’s decision to convert the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

“My thoughts go to Istanbul. I’m thinking about Hagia Sophia. I am very distressed,” the pope says.


Iran’s Khamenei urges fight against ‘truly tragic’ virus resurgence

Iran’s supreme leader calls the resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the country “truly tragic” and urges all citizens to help stem what has been the region’s deadliest outbreak.

“Let everyone play their part in the best way to break the chain of transmission in the short term and save the country,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says in a video conference with lawmakers, according to his office.


Bus, train service to continue after 10 p.m. starting tomorrow

Transportation Minister Miri Regev order buses and trains to continue their services after 10 p.m. starting tomorrow.

Measures passed last week to fight the coronavirus outbreak canceled public transportation service after that hour, but that restriction will be lifted, Hebrew-language media reports.

Probe opened after cop punches Haredi protester who told him to wear a mask

The Police Internal Investigations Unit (PIID) opens an investigation after footage from last night’s ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem showed a cop punching a demonstrator who had told him to put on his face mask.

Footage shows the protester calling at the officer from the Yasam riot police unit to put his mask on properly.

The officer then turns to him and punches him in the face, before walking away.

Police say they have reported the incident to the PIID, and stress that forces encountered violence from the protesters’ side as well.

In first, Palestinian security prisoner tests positive for coronavirus

For the first time, a Palestinian terror convict in Israeli prison has been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, according to Israeli and Palestinian reports.

Kamal Abu Waer, 46, is serving several life sentences at Gilboa Prison for his role in the murder of Israeli civilians in several terror attacks during the Second Intifada as part of the Tanzim organization. He was arrested in 2003.

In recent months, Abu Waer’s health has deteriorated as he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and he is currently hospitalized at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center.

The Israel Prisons Service says he was tested twice last week for COVID-19. On Wednesday the result was negative, but on Friday it was positive.

All his movements are now being traced and anyone who has been in contact with him will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of dragging its feet in implementing steps designed to prevent outbreaks in prisons.

Hamas denies arresting top commander suspected of collaborating with Israel

The Hamas Interior Ministry denies a report based on “Palestinian sources” that claimed that a senior commander in its armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, had been arrested after suspicions arose that he was working for Israel.

“We reject the fabricated rumors published by al-Arabiya, which attributed claims to the Interior Ministry regarding the arrest of several Hamas members on charges of collaborating with Israel. We emphatically state that al-Arabiya practices deception and works to spread rumors and lies,” the Gaza-based terror group says in a statement.

The report, which was circulated in a number of Arabic- and Hebrew-language publications, was originally published in Amad, a media organization close to exiled Fatah commander Mohammad Dahlan. Dahlan, currently based in the United Arab Emirates, was expelled from Gaza in 2007 after losing a violent conflict with Hamas for control of the area.

— Aaron Boxerman

Sex offender rabbi Berland asks to cancel fraud trial due to his poor health

Eliezer Berland, a rabbi and cult leader who has been convicted of sex offenses and is charged of defrauding followers by offering to cure them from illnesses in exchange for money, has filed a court request to nullify proceedings against him due to his poor health.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, on February 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Holding a trial on this matter would lead to permanent medical damage and endanger his life,” Berland’s attorney Amid Hadad tells the Jerusalem District Court.

“Nobody wants to experience the death of a defendant as a result of holding the trial,” he says of his client, who is 82 years old.

US couple who aimed guns at BLM protesters had run-ins with a local synagogue

Footage of a US couple from St. Louis brandishing guns at Black Lives Matters protesters passing in front of their mansion on a private street quickly became a symbol of white resistance to calls for racial equity.

Now, an extensive report about Patricia and Mark McCloskey’s previous clashes reveals that among their many targets has been the Reform synagogue next door.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch story says: “Mark McCloskey has run off trustees trying to make repairs to the wall surrounding his property, insisting that he and his wife own it. In 2013, he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion’s northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation and left a note saying he did it, and if the mess wasn’t cleaned up quickly he would seek a restraining order and attorneys fees. The congregation had planned to harvest the honey and pick apples from trees on its property for Rosh Hashanah.

“’The children were crying in school,’ Rabbi Susan Talve said. ‘It was part of our curriculum.’”

The story includes a photo of the note threatening legal action that Mark McCloskey left after destroying the hives. McCloskey has previously sued his employer, his neighbors and his siblings, according to the story.

Central Reform Congregation has played a role in previous protests over racial injustice.


Litzman meets Netanyahu over alleged discrimination against ultra-Orthodox

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who heads the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an “urgent” discussion, Litzman’s office says.

The meeting was called “in light of the government policy toward the ultra-Orthodox population by restricting movement only in Haredi neighborhoods and communities, and due to grave claims of police brutality and discrimination against ultra-Orthodox protesters relative to other protesters,” the statement says.

NFL’s DeSean Jackson to visit Auschwitz with Holocaust survivor after anti-Semitic post

NFL star DeSean Jackson, who last week apologized for posting anti-Semitic quotes attributed to Adolf Hitler and Louis Farrakhan, has accepted a Holocaust survivor’s invitation to visit Auschwitz together.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson prior to an NFL game against the Chicago Bears in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Jackson, a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, accepted the invitation yesterday during a Zoom conversation with Edward Mosberg, 94, from New Jersey.

Mosberg, who chairs From the Depths, a Holocaust commemoration group, proposed the call following an outcry over Jackson’s posts on social media. Jackson deleted the posts and apologized for them.

“I grew up in LA, and never really spent time with anyone from the Jewish community and didn’t know much about their history,” Jackson says on the call with Mosberg. “This has been such a powerful experience for me to learn and educate myself.”

Edward Mosberg, holding a Torah scroll, during March of the Living in 2017 at the former death camp Auschwitz in Poland. (Courtesy of From the Depths via JTA)

On the possibility of visiting the former Nazi death camp in Poland, Jackson tells Mosberg: “I would be honored to come to Auschwitz and learn from you,” says From the Depths founder Jonny Daniels, who was on the call.

“Dialogue is the key to making this crazy world we live in a better place, with everything so divided is so powerful to bring us all together,” Daniels says. “We are working with DeSean and his team to set dates for this trip to go ahead and are happy that DeSean agreed.”

The visit has not yet been scheduled. While Auschwitz is open to visitors, Americans cannot currently travel to Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Pools, gyms likely to reopen today after Health Ministry fails to provide data

The Knesset’s coronavirus committee is expected today to cancel last week’s decision to shutter swimming pools and gyms to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The head of the committee, Likud’s Yifat Shasha-Biton, says the restrictions will be lifted this evening after the Health Ministry failed to hand in data to support the closure about infection rates in pools and gyms.

“The Knesset isn’t a rubber stamp for the government,” says MK Yulia Malinovsky from the opposition Israel Beytenu party, a member of the committee. She says decisions must be made “on the basis of factual data rather than hunches.”

Edelstein complains about doctor who encouraged protesters to evade quarantine

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein files a complaint about a doctor at Soroka hospital in Beersheba who called on protesters coming to last night’s anti-government mass rally in Tel Aviv not to bring their cellphones to avoid potential virus quarantine.

Prof. Ruthy Shaco-Levy, head of the Israeli Pathologists Association and head of the hospital’s Department of Pathology, published a Facebook post yesterday saying: “Whoever comes tonight to the protest and doesn’t want to enter a 14-day quarantine tomorrow, do yourself a favor and leave your phone at home!!!”

Authorities are fighting potential infections by tracking cellphones and instructing people to self-isolate if they were near a COVID-19 patient.

The complaint is filed to Dr. Boaz Lev, the government ombudsman on medical issues.

Palestinian official urges ‘immediate’ release of prisoner who has COVID-19

Palestinian Liberation Organization Secretary General Saeb Erekat demands the “immediate and unconditional” release of a Palestinian terror convict infected with coronavirus while in Israeli jail.

Kamal Abu Waer, 46, is serving several life sentences at Gilboa Prison for his role in several terror attacks against Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada as a member of the Tanzim, an armed branch of the Palestinian Fatah movement.

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat speaks at the J Street National Conference, in Washington, October 28, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

“We have warned the international community in recent past months of the risk of coronavirus spreading among prisoners. We have appealed to the nations of the world and human rights organizations to intervene, but Israel did not respond to Palestinian and international demands and evaded compliance with international humanitarian law,” Erekat says.

Erekat calls for an “international panel” to investigate the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

— Aaron Boxerman

90-year-old dies of coronavirus in Ashdod — report

A 90-year-old woman has died of the coronavirus at Ashdod’s Assuta Medical Center, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

If confirmed by the Health Ministry she would be the 359th COVID-19 fatality in Israel.

Doctor ‘clarifies’ her call not to take phones to protest to avoid quarantine

After the Health Ministry complains about her post yesterday that called on protesters to leave their cellphones at home to evade a possible virus quarantine, Prof. Ruthy Shaco-Levy of Soroka Medical Center issues a “clarification.”

“The post I shared here could have been interpreted as if I was calling to behave in violation of Health Ministry orders,” she says. “That wasn’t the intention, and I apologize if that is how it was understood.”

Prof. Shaco-Levy does not provide details on what she did intend to say in her post.

IDF to deploy 120 reservists to help hospital staff fight coronavirus outbreak

Some 120 reservists from the Home Front Command will be deployed to coronavirus wards in hospitals throughout the country to assist staff there, the Israel Defense Forces says.

“The IDF is continuing to assist in the civilian arena in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus,” the military says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Health Ministry says 170 caught COVID-19 at weddings in a month, 35 in gyms

After being accused by lawmakers of failing to provide data explaining why gyms and pools have been closed, the Health Ministry will reportedly present figures showing there were 35 infections confirmed in gyms between June 4 and July 10.

According to Army Radio, the ministry will show data that during that time, 170 infections were confirmed at weddings, 21 in restaurants and six in bars.

The ministry will say that the origin of a significant portion of infections isn’t known, the report says.

Netanyahu, Edelstein said pressuring Knesset committee not to reopen pools, gyms

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein are pressuring the head of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee not to reopen swimming pools and gyms, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The committee head, Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, earlier said if the Health Ministry doesn’t provide data explaining why pools and gyms were closed last week, the decision will be reversed.

The pressure is aimed at delaying the committee decision, in order to give more time for talks over the matter.

Netanyahu to meet ultra-Orthodox politicians after discrimination claims

After claims of discrimination against the ultra-Orthodox community in government decisions of local coronavirus closures and in police treatment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls a meeting with senior Haredi politicians, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be attended by ultra-Orthodox ministers Yaakov Litzman and Aryeh Deri, as well as other lawmakers, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, the statement says.

Experts present ministers with prediction of 100 more COVID-19 deaths this month

A team of experts from the Hebrew University this morning presented the government with a grim prediction that a hundred more Israelis will die of the coronavirus by the end of July, Hebrew-language media reports.

The experts also recommended the reimposition of strict restrictions next week, including a nationwide lockdown, if the rate of new infections doesn’t slow down by then.

White House expert urges using masks in public

A member of the White House coronavirus task force says that despite a surge in cases across the United States, the situation “is not out of control.”

Brett Giroir says it’s going to take “a lot of effort and everybody’s going to have to do their part” to combat the pandemic.

The assistant secretary at the Health and Human Services Department says that “we have to have people wearing a mask in public. It’s absolutely essential.”

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, April 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Giroir tells ABC’s “This Week” that officials would like to see something like 90 percent of people wearing a mask in public in areas that are hot spots.

He says that “if we don’t have that, we will not get control of the virus.” Giroir says there’s no downside to wearing a mask.

When Giroir is asked about whether states that are seeing a spike in cases should consider more stringent lockdowns, he says: “Everything should be on the table.”

Looking ahead, Giroir says it’s possible that the situation “could be worse in the fall” and he thinks that in the fall “we’re going to need tens of millions of more tests a month.” He also says there’s some data that people can get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time and “that’s not really good.”

— AP

Discussion begins on whether to reopen pools, gyms, bars

The Knesset’s coronavirus committee is now deliberating whether to cancel some of last week’s measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

The debate between government representatives and other lawmakers is focused on the decision to close swimming pools, gyms and bars. The Health Ministry is saying those places have conditions ripe for mass infections, but other say the figures the ministry has presented for confirmed infections in those place don’t justify the sweeping closure.

Health Ministry issues criteria for moderate, serious COVID-19 cases

After a delay of more than two weeks, the Health Ministry sends all the country’s hospitals specific, uniform criteria for classifying COVID-19 patients as being in moderate or serious condition.

Until now, different hospitals have classified their patients differently.

The new criteria are based on definitions by the World Health Organization and by health organizations around the world, the document says.

Gantz orders opening of 3 new coronavirus hotels

Defense Minister Benny Gantz orders the opening of three new coronavirus hotels to house and treat both confirmed cases and people requiring quarantine, his office says.

Tel Aviv’s Metropolitan Hotel will house people who need to be in quarantine due to potential exposure to the virus; the Ye’arim Hotel outside of Jerusalem will cater specifically to the Haredi population, and the Seven Arches Hotel in Jerusalem will house confirmed coronavirus patients who have light symptoms, the Defense Ministry says.

The hotels will be operated by the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command.

According to the ministry, some 3,700 people are already housed in IDF-run coronavirus hotels.

Gantz’s office says the Defense Ministry is also working with a number of other government bodies to prepare 25,000 boxes of food for at-risk populations living in areas under lockdown.

— Judah Ari Gross

Health Ministry confirms 1,206 new cases in 24 hours, 17 new serious patients

The Health Ministry announces 1,206 new confirmed coronavirus cases since last night, bringing the total to 38,670.

Four new deaths are reported since this morning, with the toll rising to 362. That’s a total of eight fatalities in 24 hours — a new record.

There are 19,300 active cases, including 151 in serious condition — 10 more than this morning and 17 more than 24 hours ago — with 47 of them hooked up to ventilators. Another 108 are in moderate condition.

The ministry says 19,076 coronavirus tests were conducted Saturday, with a record six percent of them returning a positive result. It says 10,914 tests have been conducted today so far, with 5.9% showing a positive result.

Vote on reopening of pools, gyms, bars delayed until tomorrow

The Knesset coronavirus committee has delayed its vote on whether to reopen swimming pools, gyms and bars, after a fiery debate.

Minutes before the vote, disagreements break out among committee members on whether to vote on all issues in a single vote or hold several separate votes. That, according to Hebrew-language media reports, has caused the decision to be postponed by a day.

In the meantime, all the places closed last week remain shuttered.

Palestinian Authority orders nightly, weekend coronavirus curfew

The Palestinian Authority imposes a night-time and weekend curfew on the West Bank for the coming 14 days to try and rein in rising coronavirus numbers.

“Travel will be prohibited daily from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. in all governorates,” as well as from Thursday evening to Sunday morning, PA government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem tells a news conference.


Public approval for Netanyahu’s coronavirus response plunges further — poll

Public approval for the government’s and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak is plummeting further, according to a survey broadcast by Channel 13.

The poll finds 75 percent do not think the government is successfully dealing with the crisis. Only 16% are satisfied.

Regarding Netanyahu, 61% are not satisfied with his role in fighting the outbreak, while 19% are somewhat satisfied and 15% are satisfied. In April, only 30% were dissatisfied and 70% approved of the premier’s decision-making.

The survey, conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs, also includes a Knesset election poll that similarly sees Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc losing power.

The premier’s Likud party only gets 33 seats in the 120-member parliament, after polling close to 40 in previous surveys. The opposition Yesh Atid party leaps to 19 seats, with the predominantly Arab Joint List at 16, Yamina at 13, Israel Beytenu and United Torah Judaism with 8 each, Shas with 7, and Meretz with 7.

Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc gets 61 seats — the bare minimum to form a coalition — after getting some 65 in most recent polls.

No coordination with Jordan on closing Temple Mount, due to annexation plan — report

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound remains open to mass Muslim prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, despite the coronavirus outbreak, as a result of Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, Channel 12 reports.

During the first outbreak, the holy compound was closed for several months amid coordination between Israel and Jordan, which jointly manage the compound.

But Jordan has refused to coordinate this time around, amid anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to extend Israeli sovereignty over settlements and the Jordan Valley with US approval, the report says.

As a result, no change has been made in the status of the Temple Mount and thousands of Muslims still pray there despite the renewed outbreaks in both Israel and the West Bank.

Muslim worshipers pray at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 31, 2020, after the site had been closed for over two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Shin Bet tracking discovered 70% of last week’s coronavirus patients — report

The number of people placed in quarantine last week solely as a result of Shin Bet tracking of coronavirus patients is 70,051, Channel 12 reports, after the security service tracked the phones of 6,321 patients.

The report says 3,495 of the people placed in quarantine were diagnosed as COVID-19 patients, accounting for 70 percent of all the carriers found last week.

However, the report adds that one quarter of all appeals against the quarantine order were accepted, meaning that while useful in finding new cases, the Shin Bet tracking is also sending thousands into quarantine unnecessarily.

UK study finds recovered COVID-19 patients could lose immunity within months

Assumptions of herd immunity to the coronavirus as more people get infected may be wrong, according to a worrying new study by British researchers, finding that people who recover from COVID-19 tend to lose their immunity within several months.

A team from King’s College in London has found that the amount of antibodies in recovered patients’ blood was significantly down after three months, meaning they could be vulnerable to reinfection, The Guardian reports.

That means people could catch the virus year after year, like the common cold. If confirmed by more research, it would mean that hopes for getting rid of the virus now depend on the development of an effective and safe vaccine.

Treasury said to demand enforcement of social distancing rules in private homes

The Finance Ministry is demanding that social distancing rules be enforced also in private homes, since events that cannot be held in the closed event halls are being held in people’s homes, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The ministry is also reportedly recommending establishing a database to track the locations of infections and determining infection hot spots.

Additionally, it wants the government to refrain from closing down entire sectors that have significant effect on the economy, according to the report.

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Live updates (closed)

Vote on reopening of pools, gyms, bars delayed until tomorrow

The Knesset coronavirus committee has delayed its vote on whether to reopen swimming pools, gyms and bars, after a fiery debate.

Minutes before the vote, disagreements break out among committee members on whether to vote on all issues in a single vote or hold several separate votes. That, according to Hebrew-language media reports, has caused the decision to be postponed by a day.

In the meantime, all the places closed last week remain shuttered.