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Netanyahu bashes AG as report claims officials discussing if PM must step down

Mandelblit’s office denies he is mulling if PM has to leave office for using bully pulpit in service of legal defense; Netanyahu calls for independent probe, saying AG won’t do job

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

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

Palestinian indicted on terror charges for Rosh Ha’ayin stabbing

A Palestinian man has been indicted on charges of attempted murder and terror activity for a stabbing attack in Rosh Ha’ayin last month, Ynet reports.

The attack at a building site in the city was initially investigated as a fight, but after the victim awoke from his coma, told investigators information that led them to change course and probe it as a terror attack.

According to the indictment at Tel Aviv District Court, Walid Mansour, 23, slipped through a hole in the West Bank security fence while armed with a knife.

After coming upon the victim, he lied and said he had keys to check on the apartments in the building and when the two went up, he stabbed him some 20 times, leaving him in critical condition.

“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!” Refael Levi, 31, wrote on Facebook last week.

Mansour, who fled the scene, was later arrested in his hometown of Jenin, the Shin Bet security service said last month.

UN report warns world nearing warming limit as globe sizzles

A new United Nations report warns that the world is getting closer to passing a temperature limit set by global leaders five years ago and may exceed it in the next decade or so.

In the next five years, the world has nearly a 1-in-4 chance of experiencing a year that’s hot enough to put the global temperature at 2.7 degrees (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial times, according to a new science update released today by the UN, World Meteorological Organization and other global science groups.

That 1.5 degrees Celsius is the more stringent of two limits set in 2015 by world leaders in the Paris climate change agreement. A 2018 UN science report said a world hotter than that still survives, but chances of dangerous problems increase tremendously.

The report comes on the heels of a weekend of weather gone wild: Scorching heat, record California wildfires and two more Atlantic storms that set records for earliest 16th and 17th named storms.

In Israel, Jerusalem has seen an unprecedented heat wave. It twice smashed records this month for the highest temperature ever recorded there, hitting 108.8º F (42.7º C) on Friday. Eight of the top 30 high temperatures ever recorded in the city have come in the last 10 days.

Earlier this year, Death Valley hit 130º F (54.4º Celsius) and Siberia hit 100º F (38º C).

The warming that has already occurred has “increased the odds of extreme events that are unprecedented in our historical experience,” Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh says.

— with AP

Norway arrests suspect in 1982 attack on Jewish Paris eatery

Police in Norway have arrested a man wanted in connection with the deadly 1982 bombing of a Jewish-owned restaurant in Paris.

France has for years requested the extradition of Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed, thought to have been a part of the Palestinian terror cell that carried out the attack.

A Norwegian police spokesperson does not identify the name of the suspect but says he was arrested in Skien, the small town south of Oslo where Abu Zayed lives, and says an extradition order from France is being studied.

This file picture dated August 11, 1982 shows people standing in front of the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant in Paris, two days after it was devastated in an attack by Palestinian gunmen (AFP/ JOEL ROBINE)

Six people were killed in August 1982 when attackers threw a grenade into the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant and then stormed in with machine guns.

The attack was blamed on the Abu Nidal Organisation, which was seen in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the most violent Palestinian militant groups.
Abu Zayed’s wife told AFP in 2015 that the allegation against her husband was a case of “mistaken identity.”
“My husband has never killed anybody. He has never been to France,” said the woman, who did not give her full name.
— with AFP

Coalition MK urges schools in virus hotspots to ignore rules, open doors

UTJ MK Yitzhak Pindrus is calling for schools to be reopened in cities with high infection rates, urging administrators to defy orders approved by the government he sits in.

Asked by Ynet if schools should break the rules to open, he answers, “Absolutely.

“There’s no justification. Whoever can, should open schools. This management is not logical and the public doesn’t understand it. There’s no justification, public or medical. It’s also causing anarchy,” he says.

PA minister scolds Arab League for lack of unity against Israel

During an Arab League meeting, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki rails against the lack of discipline in the body toward rebuffing Israel and putting Palestinians first, condemning the normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“This meeting must release a decision rejecting this step. Otherwise, we will be seen as giving it our blessing it, or conspiring with it, or attempting to cover it up,” al-Maliki says.

Such a condemnation seems unlikely, however, given that several Arab states — such as Egypt and Bahrain — have expressed public or tacit support for the deal.

None of the other Arab foreign ministers at the summit see fit to mention the recent normalization deal in their statements, although Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan reaffirms Saudi support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Al-Maliki says that the Arab league refused to accede to his request for an emergency meeting over the normalization deal and levels harsh criticism at other members, without naming names.

“Words cannot explain the lack of adherence and implementation of our decisions related to Palestine…There is no commitment to decisions taken and no respect for them,” he says.

— Aaron Boxerman

Minister moves to take two bird species out of hunters’ sites

After hearing testimony that hunters are shooting at-risk species, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel issues a draft regulation to begin the process of removing the European turtledove and common quail from the list of fowl that may be hunted.

The regulation must go through a public comment period before it can go into effect.

The move is welcomed by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which is campaigning for a stop to all sport hunting, and a ban on hunting of species in danger of extinction.

The European turtledove is listed as “vulnerable” by The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which counts between 12.8 million and 47.6 million of the birds worldwide. The common quail is also on the IUCN Red List of endangered species, but in the category of “least concern,” with between 15 million and 35 million of them flying around.

— with Sue Surkes

Fresh cabinet meeting called for 9 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announces that there will be a cabinet meeting tonight at 9 p.m.

A subject for the meeting is not announced, but it comes a day after a nighttime meeting by the government to approve NIS 11 billion in budget items and begin planning for the next budget.

That meeting ended after only 40 minutes, with no results.


Rules appear to go out window, as weddings continue and schools stay open

Reports are proliferating of cities and officials disregarding curfew rules and instructions against large gatherings.

The Kan broadcaster reports that in Ashdod, schools in some neighborhoods marked as high infection zones opened Wednesday despite being ordered to close.

Schools outside of the main state education system in Bnei Brak, known as “recognized but not official,” are also open, Ynet and Channel 12 report.

The cities have the third and second highest numbers of active cases, behind Jerusalem, according to Health Ministry figures.

Channel 12 reports that the head of Deir al-Assad regional council, which is not under curfew, is insisting on going ahead with his daughter’s wedding tonight. He says the wedding will be small and guests will be confined to capsules.

A video showing the wedding party from a day earlier shows what look to be hundreds of people seated outside.

Weddings are seen as a major infection vector in Arab communities, most of which have welcomed new restrictions.

In Yeruham, a large outbreak among dozens of students is being blamed on a high school party in the southern city, Channel 12 reports.

Trump takes victory lap after Peace Prize nod

US President Donald Trump is reveling in having been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

“Thank you!” Trump tweets above an article about the nomination.

He proceeds to retweet dozens of other posts exulting in the nomination.

Nearly any professor or any member of a national legislative body has the power to nominate whomever they please for a Nobel Peace Prize.

UAE sees major jump in virus infections

The United Arab Emirates has recorded 883 new coronavirus cases, the country’s biggest daily jump since late May.

The figures bring the total number of recorded infections to 75,981 and 393 confirmed deaths. This come as students return to schools for in-person instruction and tourists trickle back to the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai.

The UAE has pushed an aggressive testing campaign, with 85,917 virus tests conducted in the past day.

The country’s climbing infections have raised concerns that authorities could reinstate lockdowns in parts of the country that rely heavily on tourism.

— AP

Parks Authority freezes gender-segregated swimming plan at West Bank spring

The Parks Authority has announced that it will freeze a pilot program that would have established separate swimming times for men and women at a popular watering hole near the Dead Sea, indicating in a statement that the Justice Ministry had raised objections.

“The Authority will act in accordance with the position of the Ministry of Justice (freezing the pilot) until further examination of the issue can be conducted in joint dialogue,” a spokesperson for the Parks Authority says in a statement.

The Parks Authority said last week it was launching the program at the Einot Tzukim nature reserve in the West Bank, in response to increased demand from members of the religious public, who frown upon gender-mixed swimming.

— Aaron Boxerman

Virus czar: Nobody appreciates my work, everyone complains

Responding to reams of criticism against him, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu says in a meeting that his job is “the most thankless job in the world.”

“You don’t give out gifts, just restrictions. You suggest broad things — and everyone yells at you ‘why am I red and he green?’ In the end, the virus will continue to run wild until we have a vaccine.”

Gamzu makes the comments by video conference from home after being forced into quarantine by contact with a senior health official who came down with the virus.

A Health Ministry photo shows Gamzu and Israel’s other top health officials, also put in quarantine, meeting over Zoom from home.

Health officials meeting over Zoom, in a photo released by the Health Ministry on September 9, 2020. (Health Ministry)


Netanyahu, Gamzu meeting to chew the fat on possible lockdown

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding video consultations with coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu and other senior health officials to speak about the possibility of a nationwide lockdown, according to Hebrew media reports.

A meeting with ministers to discuss the issue is slated for Thursday.

According to Haaretz, ministers believe that Netanyahu has already made up his mind about imposing a new lockdown over the holiday period, and will only be seeking their stamp of approval.


Arab League refuses to condemn UAE-Israel normalization

The Arab League has voted down a Palestinian proposal to condemn the normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, according to reports in the Palestinian media.

“After a three-hour debate, some Arab countries refused to include this statement: condemning [the UAE] for abandoning Arab decisions. Additionally, they struck out a clause which discussed the trilateral agreement” between the UAE, US, and Israel, Palestinian Authority Permanent Representative to the Arab League Muhannad Aklouk tells Ma’an News.

— Aaron Boxerman

Arab League: No agreement on Palestinian issue

The Arab League has confirmed that a resolution proposed by the Palestinian Authority to condemn the normalization deal between Israel and the UAE did not pass.

Today’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Arab League was distinguished by a “lack of agreement” over the Palestinian issue, senior Arab League official Hussam Zaki says in a closing statement.

“Of course, discussion around this point was serious and comprehensive. But it did not lead to agreement over the resolution proposed by the Palestinians,” Zaki says.

“A number of amendments were proposed, and then counter-amendments… and we were at a point in which Palestinian demands had not been realized, and the Palestinians preferred it not to pass rather than have it pass in a manner which they believed to be inadequate,” Zaki adds.

— Aaron Boxerman

Woman killed, second seriously hurt, in West Bank crash

A woman, 50, has been killed in a vehicular crash on a northern West Bank highway.

The crash occurs on Road 57, near the settlement of Einav west of Nablus. The woman is declared dead at the scene, the Magen David Adom rescue service says.

Three other people are injured in the crash, including a woman, 25, who is airlifted to a Petah Tikva hospital with serious injuries, MDA says.

The other two people are evacuated by the Red Crescent.

Balloon with grenade found near Ashdod

Police say an improvised grenade attached to a bunch of balloons has been found near the town of Gan Yavne, east of Ashdod.

Police sappers successfully disarm the explosive.

The source of the balloon is not immediately clear. Gan Yavne is some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the northern edge of Gaza, further than most balloons lofted out of the Strip fly.

Dozens of daily balloon-borne bomb and arson attacks out of Gaza stopped last week after a ceasefire agreement was reached.

Sticking point in Israel-Lebanon gas talks ‘absurd’, US official says

US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker says that little progress is being made in talks between Lebanon and Israel over natural gas exploration, describing a remaining sticking point as “absurd.”

Schenker refuses to divulge what the sticking point is, but hints he may do so at some later point.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, at the presidential palace, in Baabda east of Beirut, Lebanon, September 10, 2019. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

Schenker, who is involved in the talks, expresses frustration over the fact that Beirut has shown no urgency to find a way to start negotiating with Israel, with the talks only now getting back to the point where they were last year.

“For some inexplicable reason, there’s no sense of urgency there. We’re talking about free money for a state in a financial crisis. I’m hoping we can get there in the coming weeks but it remains to be seen,” he says in a Brookings Institute video conference.

Israel and Lebanon have competing claims on three Mediterranean gas prospects, thought to contain large amounts of the resource. The US is currently trying to broker a framework that will get the sides to begin negotiations on managing the leases.

Schenker also expresses hopes that Lebanon passes a sovereign wealth fund law, in order to keep it out of the hands of corrupt officials.

US official: Israel knows UAE could cut ties if it annexes

Israel is aware that the UAE could reverse its decision to normalize relations if West Bank annexation comes back on the table, US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker says.

“I think the Israelis are aware of sensitivities in the region,” he says. ‘They must have different calculations based on politics in the region and in the United States.”

He specifically notes the case of trade offices Israel once maintained in Qatar, which were shut down in 2000 in reaction to Israeli military actions at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000.

He adds that “I think they have been pretty savvy with how they have dealt with their Arab partners to build relationships, and they are protective of those relationships.”

Police gear up to enforce curfew this time

Police are gearing up for the second night of curfew in some 40 coronavirus high-infection cities and neighborhoods, and vowing to crack down on rampant rule breaking seen a night before.

Police say in a statement carried by Hebrew language media that forces will be bolstered in curfew towns and enforcement efforts will be focused on illegal gatherings in businesses and public places.

Attorney general may rule Netanyahu has to step down — report

Attorney general Avichai Mandelblit is reportedly holding talks with senior officials about the possibility of demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu step down, according to Haaretz.

Mandelblit believes that Netanyahu’s use of public resources to push his case to the public, including calling press conferences ostensibly about the health emergency which are then used to question the reliability of law enforcement, could constitute a conflict of interest, Haaretz says. It does not cite a source.

According to the report, Mandelblit sees Netanyahu’s inability to juggle his positions as prime minister and criminal suspect as “essential incapacitation.”

The report comes as Netanyahu gives an address at the start of an “urgent” Likud faction meeting, in which he once again speaks out against the prosecution and calls for an investigation following a report that alleged police misconduct was covered up in order to keep from giving his supporters ammunition.

Mandelblit has said in the past that Netanyahu, charged in three criminal cases, does not need to step down.

Future Israel cycling team rider Woods takes lead in Tirreno-Adriatico

Powering up a climb so steep that bystanders gave riders helping pushes, Canadian racer Michael Woods has won Stage 3 of the Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday and taken the overall lead.

Woods, who will race alongside four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome next season on the Israel Start-Up Nation team, was unbeatable on the final ascent up the Muro di Poggio Murella climb that preceded the uphill finish at Saturnia.

“Amazing work by my team, they really pulled a lot for me,” Woods says. “Great teamwork and I finished it. Teamwork makes the dreams work.”

Woods, who currently races for EF Pro Cycling, left behind rivals including 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas on the 20 percent gradient and summited alone. Polish rider Rafal Majka managed to catch Woods on the twisty downhill on the other side. But on the rolling uphill that then followed to the finish, Woods outsprinted Majka to the line.

The 217-kilometer (135-mile) stage started in Follonica.

— AP

AG’s office denies report as Netanyahu speaks out against Mandelblit

The attorney general’s office is denying a report that Avichai Mandelblit is looking into whether Netanyahu has to step down, according to Hebrew media.

The office says Mandelblit’s view that Netanyahu can remain in office while a defendant has not changed.

In comments to his Likud party moments earlier, Netanyahu spoke out against Mandelblit, saying that the AG would never re-open Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is accused of a quid-pro-quo with a newspaper publisher for positive coverage in exchange for hobbling a rival.

According to a report this week, Justice Ministry and police officials covered up the fact that one of the law enforcement officials involved with the case was allegedly having an affair with the newspaper publisher’s sister.

“Is it possible that the attorney general didn’t know about all this behavior? Is it possible he didn’t approve this? I estimate with caution that the attorney general will not check into this. There’s no alternative but an independent inquiry,” Netanyahu says.

Top health officials lobbying for full lockdown — reports

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and ministry head Chezy Levy are both urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to place the country under immediate lockdown, according to Hebrew media reports.

The two told Netanyahu in a meeting earlier that hospital officials have warned them that the situation is bad and could get worse without significant steps.

According to Walla News, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, who came into the post as an evangelist against broad lockdown measures, gave the decision-makers a few options ranging from a heavy-handed lockdown keeping people under lock and key to just restricting movement between cities. The report says he agrees on the general need for a lockdown.

According to Channel 12 news, Defense Minister Benny Gantz believes the public would need a month-long warning before imposing a full lockdown.

Hezbollah allies reject US pressure after rare sanctions

A powerful political group allied with the Hezbollah terror group is denouncing US sanctions against one of its senior members, saying they infringe on Lebanon’s sovereignty and will not succeed in extracting any concessions.

The statement by the Shiite Amal group headed by Lebanon’s longtime Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri comes a day after the US Treasury sanctioned two former cabinet ministers who are allied with Hezbollah.

The new sanctions — a rare move by Washington targeting politicians close to the Iran-backed Hezbollah — sent a strong political message to local allies of the group, including President Michel Aoun, who maintains a political alliance with Hezbollah.

The Amal group says in a statement released after a meeting of its leadership that the sanctions will not make the group change its policies, adding that no matter how much the pressure increases it “will not make concessions” regarding Lebanon’s sea and land border.

— AP

After report on AG, Likud MK threatens ‘we’ll bulldoze it all and start over’

Responding to a report that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is looking into recommending that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be forced to step down, Likud MK Shlomo Karhi threatens fire and brimstone and heavy machinery.

Likud MK Shlomo Karhi at a Knesset committee meeting on January 13, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“If Mandelblit dares to rule such an illegal or ridiculous thing as this, the protests at Balfour will look like nothing in comparison,” he tweets, referring to anti-Netanyahu demonstrations outside his Jerusalem residence.

“There will be nothing left of the Salah-a-din party,” he adds, in apparent reference to the prosecution and the name of the East Jerusalem street housing the court where Netanyahu is being tried. “I am the D-9 [bulldozer] driver. We’ll tear it down and build it anew.”

Pence to attend fundraiser hosted by QAnon fan who shared anti-Semitic posts

Vice President Mike Pence and top officials from US President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign are slated to attend a Montana fundraiser next week hosted by a couple who have expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, according to an event invitation obtained by The Associated Press and a review of social media postings.

The hosts of the fundraiser, Caryn and Michael Borland, have shared QAnon memes and retweeted posts from QAnon accounts, their social media activity shows. The baseless conspiracy theory posits that Trump is fighting entrenched enemies in the government and also involves satanism and child sex trafficking.

While many Republicans have dismissed QAnon, the fundraiser is another sign of how the conspiracy theory is gaining a foothold in the party. Trump has hailed Georgia congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, another QAnon supporter, as a “future Republican star.” The president has refused to condemn QAnon, recently telling reporters that the conspiracy theory is “gaining in popularity” and that its supporters “like me very much.”

Michael Borland has also posted conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family being behind a “globalist” conspiracy to create a totalitarian world order, a classic anti-Semitic trope.

In 2017, he shared a post that alleged Jewish groups working to help migrants were part of a “global cabal.”

— with AP

Gantz tears into Netanyahu for attacks on police

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has stridently split with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowing to protect members of the law enforcement community from attacks.

“You do your jobs and defend the rule of law and democracy, and we will do ours and protect you,” he says at the start of a Blue and White faction meeting.

“Harsh attacks from those in power against the law enforcement system are a danger to Israeli democracy,” he adds. “This is not legitimate criticism, and it’s nothing but an attempt to dismantle it.”

The comments come hours after Netanyahu launched a fresh attack on police, prosecutors and the attorney general, ordering an independent probe into allegations that they conspired to cover up a conflict of interest regarding an investigator who was romantically linked to a relative of another suspect in a case Netanyahu is being tried in.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, also of Blue and White, has rejected calls to reopen the case.

“The justice system was not born and will not be torn down for the benefit or harm of one man or another,” Gantz says. “We will stand together as a wall to protect the law enforcement system.”

One of four last French resistance heroes dies at 100

One of the last surviving heroes of the French resistance against Nazi occupation in World War II, Edgard Tupet-Thome, has died aged 100, leaving just three others still alive out of over 1,000 who were given the highest bravery order by Charles de Gaulle, officials said Wednesday.

The death of Tupet-Thome was announced on Twitter by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who expresses “profound sadness” over his death.

This leaves just three people — Daniel Cordier, Hubert Germain and Pierre Simonet — still alive out of 1,038 decorated with the Order of the Liberation for their heroism by resistance leader and later president de Gaulle.


Virus death toll up to 1,053; Jerusalem passes 4,000 active cases threshold

The death toll from the novel coronavirus has risen to 1,053, according to new Health Ministry numbers.

The ministry says over 2,300 new infections have been recorded from midnight to 7 p.m. alone on Wednesday.

It also raises the total number of infections confirmed Tuesday to 3,563, a new high.

The figures show that there have been 3,499 infections confirmed over the last 24 hours.

The number of patients in serious condition has spiked to 478, with a 143 of them on ventilators, matching a record high reached Tuesday.

In Jerusalem, there are now over 4,000 active cases for the first time.

Bank Hapoalim head says UAE financial deals coming soon

Dov Kotler, the head of Bank Hapoalim who led an Israeli business delegation to the UAE this week, tells The Associated Press that he expects to strike deals soon with major lenders in the United Arab Emirates for the first time.

Kotler says financial agreements will follow the signing of a pact at a White House ceremony on September 15.

“The spectrum is huge,” Kotler says, involving investment in both countries’ stock exchanges and joint ventures in financial technology. “We’d like to have the [Emiratis] visiting us and [receiving] mortgages in Israel, too.”

Kotler says Bank Hapoalim is in talks to partner with the three largest banks in the UAE, but declines to give their names or a timeline for the deals. First Abu Dhabi Bank and Emirates NBD are known as the country’s top two.

— AP

Cops raid renegade Ramot nuptials

Police have broken up a wedding taking place in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood, the Ynet news site reports.

Ramot is under curfew and the wedding had some 100 attendees, according to the report.

Organizers were given an NIS 5,000 fine.

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Woman killed, second seriously hurt, in West Bank crash

A woman, 50, has been killed in a vehicular crash on a northern West Bank highway.

The crash occurs on Road 57, near the settlement of Einav west of Nablus. The woman is declared dead at the scene, the Magen David Adom rescue service says.

Three other people are injured in the crash, including a woman, 25, who is airlifted to a Petah Tikva hospital with serious injuries, MDA says.

The other two people are evacuated by the Red Crescent.