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Latest News in Israel – 14th May

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

President Rivlin grants Netanyahu more time to negotiate new government

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday extended by two weeks the deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new governing coalition, after Netanyahu requested the extra time while he continues to hold talks with potential partners.

Netanyahu met with Rivlin at the president’s official residence in Jerusalem.

The prime minister said Sunday he would ask Rivlin for more time, citing recent holidays and a flareup in fighting with the Gaza Strip last week.

Under Israel’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws, an election winner has 28 days to form a government but the president can grant an extension of up to 14 days.

Netanyahu’s Likud won 35 seats in the April 9 general election, with most lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament recommending that he form the next governing coalition.

On April 17 Rivlin formally tasked him with the mission.

“As in past instances of forming a government, I intend to ask for an extension from the president,” Netanyahu said Sunday in his opening remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu has been conducting low-intensity meetings with heads of the parties expected to join his coalition.

It is expected to include the 16 members of the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, Avigdor Liberman’s nationalistic, Russian-speaking Yisrael Beytenu, and the center-right Kulanu.

Netanyahu’s lawyers were meanwhile negotiating with the Justice Ministry about when the premier’s pre-trial hearings would take place. The attorney general announced in February his intention to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing.

Netanyahu is not required to resign if indicted, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted.

Media reports Monday said that Netanyahu’s Likud party is demanding the coalition agreement include commitments from partners to back a law that would enable the Knesset to override the High Court on administrative and legislative matters, opening the way for the future government to pass legislation granting Netanyahu immunity from prosecution.   (the Times of Israel) Staff

Gantz compares ‘threat to democracy’ from Netanyahu to Israel’s enemies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening Israeli democracy, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz warned in his inaugural speech to the Knesset on Monday.

Gantz mentioned his 38 years in the IDF, saying: “After I fought against enemies who sought to erase us from the Earth, I come today to battle against the new threat to the democratic system’s functioning, and legal and constitutional institutions of the state.”

The Blue and White leader’s comments came after Netanyahu firmly denied a report that the party is seeking to revoke the High Court’s oversight on government decisions and Knesset votes.

However, Likud has been working on an immunity bill for elected officials, which seeks to reverse a change in the law from 2005 and have all MKs automatically be immune to prosecution unless the Knesset votes to strip them of their immunity.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on three counts of breach of trust, three of fraud and one of bribery – pending a hearing, set to take place later this year – and the immunity bill could prevent that from happening as long as Netanyahu remains in office.

In addition, the Likud supports Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) MK Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal of an “override clause,” which would allow the Knesset to re-pass laws that the Supreme Court struck down.

The bills would be part of a “judicial appendix” in coalition agreements, consisting of planned reforms to the judiciary.

Gantz lamented “the amount of accusations [Netanyahu is] trying to avoid through political agreements,” saying this proves that the prime minister puts himself before everything.

“Israel needs leadership that is modest and not arrogant, that is not suspected of bribery, that has time to handle the needs of the state, that verve’s all its citizens,” Gantz said. “It deserves more than a part-time prime minister, and leadership that wants to be above the law.”

Gantz vowed that his party will protect democracy “that is not the tyranny of the majority, but a government that respects the minority, respects the need for limitations of government power and the necessary balance.”

Haaretz reported on Monday that Netanyahu hopes to advance a bill that will mean the Supreme Court can no longer cancel or require changes to government decisions or laws passed by the Knesset. This would prevent the court from overturning any of the measures in the “judicial appendix.”

Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page: “My policy has always been to keep the court strong and independent, but that doesn’t mean the court is omnipotent.

“The media is publishing biased leaks and twisted interpretations that include incorrect proposals,” he added. “All this is meant to sow fear and prevent any changes, with a goal to stop bringing back the necessary balance between branches of government in Israel.”

When the balance is restored, Netanyahu wrote, the government will bring back bills to deport terrorists’ families, to make it easier to sentence terrorists to death and to deport migrants.

Smotrich has made his appointment as justice minister a condition of URP joining the coalition, but Netanyahu prefers to give the portfolio to his close ally, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

Blue and White co-chairman Yair Lapid slammed the override clause, calling it the “Turkish Law.”

“It’s a law that will turn us into Erdogan’s Turkey,” he said at a press conference in the Knesset. “If these laws pass, Israel won’t be the same country. Ask yourselves: In which countries does the ruler have immunity from the law?”

Lapid referred to Netanyahu’s attorneys asking Mandelblit to postpone the premier’s pre-indictment hearing, scheduled for July.

“The attorney-general should cancel Netanyahu’s hearing. He doesn’t deserve one… Netanyahu doesn’t really want a hearing. He wants one thing: to drag the process out. He needs to form his ‘get out of jail’ government,” Lapid said.

According to Lapid, Netanyahu is trying to postpone the hearing until after the Knesset can pass the immunity bill and override clause so that he will be able to avoid the hearing entirely. (Jerusalem Post) Lahav Harkov

IDF said to issue troops near Gaza strict open fire orders ahead of Eurovision

The IDF has tightened the rules of engagement for troops based near the Gaza Strip as Israel seeks to maintain calm as it hosts the Eurovision song contest this week in Tel Aviv, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

According to the report, commanders were instructed to act judiciously and told that any live fire, except in the case of an immediate danger to life, needs the authorization of the senior officer in the command. The decision is no longer left up to the forces in the field.

Israel has taken a series of steps in recent days to ensure quiet after a major round of violence with the terror groups in the Gaza Strip threatened to derail the international singing extravaganza in Tel Aviv.

Israel reopened its main crossings with the Gaza Strip on Sunday as part of a reported ceasefire agreement, after a weekend that saw low-level clashes along the border but no major outbreaks of violence.

The move came days after Israel removed restrictions on a 12-mile fishing zone off the Strip as the sides appeared to keep to a reported Egypt-brokered ceasefire that ended a deadly two-day flareup last week.

 

In some of the heaviest fighting in years, Palestinians shot almost 700 projectiles into Israel on May 4-5, and Israel responded with hundreds of airstrikes. Four Israelis were killed, as were 29 Gazans, including at least 11 members of terror groups.

Palestinian factions announced the ceasefire early last Monday. Israel has refused to officially confirm the ceasefire understandings.

Ahead of that fighting Israel had already deployed its Iron Dome missile defense batteries throughout the country in anticipation of a particularly tense period that includes Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Eurovision, Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days, and the first anniversary of the opening of the contentious US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Haaretz reported that reserve soldiers called up during the fighting to man the missile defense batteries were being kept on until the end of Eurovision on Saturday night.

While there had been concerns that Eurovision would be marred by rocket fire from Gaza — which targeted Israeli towns as far as Rehovot, 20 kilometers (some 12.5 miles) south of Tel Aviv last week — a reported ceasefire that was struck last Sunday evening appeared to be holding, as the long-awaited international event kicked off.

Moreover, no contestants pulled out of the competition, despite intense pressure from activists belonging to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions  (BDS) movement.

But whether it was the recent rocket fire, boycott calls, or simply prohibitive ticket and travel costs for some European fans, the Tel Aviv Hotel Association said the contest has attracted far fewer foreign visitors than expected.

The association’s director, Oded Grofman, estimated that hotels would see around 5,000 visitors, well below Eurovision’s forecast of 15,000. Portuguese tourism authorities claimed that last year’s songfest in Lisbon drew 90,000 people. (the Times of Israel) Staff

Fraud claim against Leifer calls suspect’s incompetency defense into question

An ex-neighbor of accused sex abuser Malka Leifer said Sunday that the former headmistress claiming to be mentally unfit for extradition to Australia had run a scheme in which she fraudulently collected checks and stole money.

Naomi Tzubari was summoned to testify on behalf of the prosecution to demonstrate the degree of Leifer’s mental competence.

She alleged that, far from being an invalid, as the defense has claimed, Leifer both actively helped her raise money from a network of benefactors in Australia and managed to forge her signature to steal checks from her.

Leifer, an Israeli citizen, was ushered out of Australia back to Israel in 2008, days before allegations of sexual abuse against her surfaced, in a plan allegedly orchestrated by officials at the Adass Israel school where she taught.

Leifer has avoided extradition hearings by claiming to be stricken with an illness each time they come up.

But the defense has argued that Leifer has been feigning mental illness in order to prevent her continued jail time and extradition to Australia, where she faces 74 counts of sexual misconduct against her former students.

Tzubari, who was allowed to submit testimony in writing to the Jerusalem District Court for a hearing on Sunday, told The Times of Israel that Leifer had lived above her, in an apartment in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel, roughly a decade ago, shortly after Liefer moved back to Israel.

A private investigator tagged Malka Leifer as she spoke on the phone, while sitting on a bench in Bnei Brak

Tzubari said that nine years ago, Leifer approached her, upon noticing that her neighbor had been going through financial hardship.

The prosecution witness claimed that the National Insurance Institute denied granting her disability funds even though she has not been able to work, due to injuries sustained in a 1991 terror attack.

“There are people that donate money from Australia that can help you,” Tzubari recalled Leifer having told her. “Just don’t tell anyone that I gave you [this money].”

“I didn’t feel that I had any reason to distrust her so I agreed [to let her help me],” the 59-year-old ultra-Orthodox woman said.

Tzubari began receiving regular checks sent in her name to the Emmanuel post office, and she became dependent on them, in order to make ends meet.

After several months, Leifer approached Tzubari asking if she could show her how she signed her name.

While she admitted feeling odd about the request, Tzubari said she complied, telling herself that Leifer had only been trying to help.

From that point on, however, Tzubari stopped receiving the checks.

“I asked her where the donations were and she just told me that they hadn’t come,” the mother of six recalled.

When she approached Leifer several months later, Tzubari said her upstairs neighbor gave her a few shekels and told her there would not be anymore donations.

“I went to the post office shortly thereafter and was told I had received plenty of checks, but that someone had already signed for them,” Tzubari said.

The woman added that when she approached Leifer about the issue, the former principal said that her husband was friends with the owner of the post office and that Tzubari would never be able to receive her checks.

Tzubari said that she reported the matter to the police, but that nothing was done.

“The state has ignored me and then this happened to me on top of it,” Tzubari said on the verge of tears.

It was not immediately clear where the checks had come from, but the scheme would appear to show that Leifer had maintained a support system in Australia whom she could draw on for funds, and was competent enough to tap into the system for herself and others.

Leifer’s attorney Yehuda Fried told The Times of Israel that he had not yet read Tzubari’s testimony and therefore could not comment on the specifics.

However, the lawyer said that his client’s “debilitated” state — which he has argued warrants her release from prison and cessation of extradition hearings — is not a constant reality; but rather something that Leifer “falls into during stressful situations.”

When not triggered, she is able to function normally, Fried argued.

Canberra officially filed an extradition request to Israel for Leifer in 2012. Two years later, Leifer was nabbed in Emmanuel, but released to house arrest shortly thereafter.

Judges deemed her mentally unfit to stand trial and eventually removed all restrictions against her, concluding that she was too ill to even leave her bed.

Prosecutor Matan Akiva said Sunday that the state had a half a dozen other witnesses testifying that Leifer is aware of her actions, has been able to function, and therefore should be extradited.

One of those witnesses, who arrived at the Jerusalem District Court along with Tzubari, was Tzafrir Tzahi, a private investigator who tracked Leifer in December 2017.

Tzahi’s team, which was hired by the Jewish Community Watch NGO, passed along their findings to the police. Leifer was re-arrested less than two months later, in February 2018, and has remained in prison since.

“What we saw was a woman able to carry out daily functions in a normal fashion — doing groceries, hosting guests, taking the bus, being with her children. Everything,” Tzahi told The Times of Israel.

Asked to comment on the defense’s claim that her psychiatric episodes only occur in stressful situations, the private investigator responded, “I too would have a hard time functioning in a normal manner if accused of such a crime.”

On Wednesday, an additional hearing has been scheduled to finalize the agreement the sides reached whereby defense witnesses will also submit their testimony in writing rather than face cross examination.

Sex abuse survivor advocate Manny Waks said he appreciated the court’s attempt to expedite the case. “On the other hand, it was yet another hollow hearing — number 51 in total — bringing additional pain and suffering to Leifer’s alleged victims… and sewing confusion more broadly as to why additional hearings are constantly set, with seemingly very little progress being made.”

Waks is the CEO of Kol V’Oz, an Israel-based organization combating child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community.

The ongoing saga “continues to raise questions regarding Israel’s judicial process, and is detrimentally impacting Israel’s international reputation,” he charged.

Waks warned against allowing Leifer’s supporters to influence the outcome of the trial, referencing Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, whom police suspect sought to use his position in order to obtain a psychiatric legal opinion concluding that Leifer is not fit for extradition. (the Times of Israel) Jacob Magid

Two Eastern Jerusalem Men Accused of Planning Shooting Attack on Tel Aviv Beach

Two residents of eastern Jerusalem were charged Sunday with planning to carry out a shooting attack at a Tel Aviv beach for the Hamas terror organization.

According to the indictments filed at the Jerusalem District Court, the men, ages 23 and 27, concocted the plot while serving time together for terrorism-related offenses in Israel’s Nafha Prison in the Negev in 2017.

According to the charges, the two chose the Tel Aviv seaside as a target over Jerusalem due to the high number of attacks in Israel’s capital city and the higher police presence there.

The indictment noted that after their release from prison in February 2019, the men traveled to Istanbul, where they met with a Hamas operative who recommended that they assassinate former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, ex-Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheich, or Temple Mount activist and then-Likud Knesset member Yehudah Glick. They were given funds and pants stitched with hidden messages from Hamas, according to the indictment.

Glick survived an assassination attempt in 2014 by a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

A third eastern Jerusalem man was also indicted for making contact with the Hamas operative in Istanbul and receiving funds from him.

Prosecutors are requesting that all three men remain incarcerated until the conclusion of their trials.

In January, another eastern Jerusalem Arab was sentenced to 11 years in prison for planning to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barkat on the orders of the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. (the Algemeiner) Staff

Poland cancels Israeli delegation’s visit to discuss Holocaust reparations

Poland’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that it was cancelling the visit of a senior Israeli delegation to Warsaw to discuss Holocaust reparations.

The ministry said that it had made the decision after “Israel made last-minute changes in the composition of the delegation, indicating that the talks will focus mainly on issues related to the return of Jewish property during the Holocaust.”

The issue of returning property to Jews who suffered during the Holocaust has become a bone of contention between Israel and Poland recently. The issue has led to a wave of protests in Poland.

On Saturday, thousands of Polish nationalists marched to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, protesting that the U.S. is putting pressure on Poland to compensate Jews whose families lost property during the Holocaust.

“Why should we have to pay money today when nobody gives us anything?” said 22-year-old protester Kamil Wencwel. “Americans only think about Jewish and not Polish interests.”

Poland views itself as a victim of the Holocaust and not a perpetrator. In 2012, then President Barack Obama caused a diplomatic incident when he referred to a Nazi death camp as a “Polish death camp,” bringing a blistering rebuke from Poland’s prime minister at the time, Donald Tusk.

“When someone says ‘Polish death camps,’ it’s as if there were no Nazis, no German responsibility, as if there was no Hitler,” Mr. Tusk said at the time. “That is why our Polish sensitivity in these situations is so much more than just simply a feeling of national pride.”

Yesterday, Israel’s Ministry for Social Equality announced the coming departure of the delegation, which would be led by the ministry’s director-general, Avi Cohen Scali.

The announcement read, “The government of Israel views the restoration of the Jewish property and the promotion of Holocaust survivors’ rights as a moral imperative of the Jewish state. No factor, political or anti-Semitic, will stop us from carrying out this important order … The hourglass is running out, and we must act more vigorously before it is too late.”

According to the Walla! news site, Labor Knesset Member Itzik Shmuli took the opportunity to blame the Netanyahu administration. MK Shmuli, who chairs the Pensioners and Holocaust Survivors Caucus, said following the news of Poland’s cancellation, “Anyone willing to negotiate with the Poles about the very memory of the Holocaust should not be surprised that in the end we will be humiliated by the Poles.”

“The entire responsibility is on the government, which instead of fighting in the first place, has put the historical Jewish narrative up for sale,” he said.

Blue-and-White Party co-leader Yair Lapid, tweeted, “Once again the Polish government embarrasses the government of Israel regarding the memory of the Holocaust. It started with the Holocaust-denial law, and has now reached the issue of property restitution (about which one could say ‘you murdered and inherited’).”

The Holocaust-Denial law to which MK Lapid referred was passed by the Polish parliament last year and criminalized any accusation that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. The law was later amended to make any offenses civil, and not criminal, offenses.

In June, 2018, the Netanyahu administration came under criticism for a joint statement with Poland about the Holocaust. Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Holocaust in Israel, issued a statement in its wake, saying “”A thorough review by Yad Vashem historians shows that the historical assertions, presented as unchallenged facts, in the joint statement contain grave errors and deception.”  (WIN) Staff

How Palestinian Leaders Punish Patients

by Bassam Tawil                The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14208/palestinian-leaders-punish-patients

  • “By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will be spent on the families of the martyrs and prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people.” — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Media Watch, July 24, 2018.
  • Evidently, the “rest of the people” includes not only the Palestinian Authority (PA) employees, but also Palestinian patients who are in need of medical treatment. Abbas has now decided to punish these patients by depriving them of medical treatment in Israel.
  • The PA decision to stop patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel does not apply to senior Palestinian officials.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel. Last March, the PA Ministry of Health in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, announced that it was halting medical transfers to Israeli hospitals and promised to find alternatives for Palestinian patients in private and government hospitals.

The PA says that it took the decision in response to the Israeli government’s deduction of payments the Palestinian government makes to families of security prisoners and “martyrs” from tax revenues the Israelis collect on behalf of the Palestinians.

A new Israeli law allows the government to impose financial sanctions on the PA for its “Pay for Slay” policy, which encourages terrorists to carry out attacks against Israelis because they know they and their families will be receiving salaries (from the PA government) for the rest of their lives.

One report estimated that the PA spent no less than 502 million shekels [USD $141 million; 126 million euros] of its 2018 budget on salaries and payments to terrorist prisoners and released inmates. At least 230 million shekels [$65 million; 58 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorist prisoners, while another 176 million shekels [$48 million; 44 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorists after they were released from prison, the report revealed. The remaining 96 million shekels [$27 million; 24 million euros] covers additional salary payments and other benefits to the terrorists and their families.

Despite the Israeli deductions, the terrorists and their families are continuing to receive full salaries. The only ones who are paying the price are tens of thousands of Palestinian public employees, who in the past three months have been receiving only 50% to 60% of their salaries.

In the past few months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to continue making welfare payments to the terrorists and their families, even if its costs the Palestinian government its last penny. “We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about,” Abbas said. In another statement, Abbas was quoted as saying: “By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will be spent on the families of the martyrs and prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people.”

Evidently, the “rest of the people” includes not only the PA employees, but also Palestinian patients who are in need of medical treatment. Abbas has now decided to punish these patients by depriving them of medical treatment in Israel.

Osama al-Najjar, spokesman for the PA Ministry of Health, said that the PA government has decided to stop funding medical treatment for Palestinian patients in Israeli hospitals in response to the Israeli deduction of the allowances paid to the terrorists and their families. Al-Najjar estimated the cost of the medical transfers to Israeli hospitals at $100 million each year.

Palestinian journalist Fathi Sabbah said that the decision taken by the PA Ministry of Health was “wrong, hasty and ill-considered.” Noting that the decision was taken before finding alternatives to the Israeli hospitals, he said that the “decision was dangerous because the patients are being denied the right to receive medical treatment that is not available in Palestinian hospitals, endangering their lives. This is a heavy price.”

Sabbah said that the talk about sending the patients to hospitals in Jordan and Egypt would increase their suffering. Many of the patients, he said, have already begun receiving medical treatment in Israel, and now they will be required to start from the beginning with new medical treatment in Jordan and Egypt.

“The Jordanian and Egyptian hospitals will not be able to deal with these patients with the required professional medical care, and the patients will be forced to return to the starting point and undergo new medical tests,” Sabbah added.

“This means additional suffering for the patients and more expenses for the Palestinian government. Besides, the patients will have to bear the suffering of long hours of travelling to Egypt and Jordan. The journey from the Gaza Strip to Cairo lasts two to three days, while the return trip takes three or four days. This means that cancer patients will spend a whole week to get a dose of chemotherapy, while it takes only one day or a few hours to get the same treatment in Israel.”

The PA decision to stop patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel does not apply to senior Palestinian officials.

Last week, Jibril Rajoub, a senior official with Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, was admitted to Ichilov Hospital, the largest acute care facility in Israel. Rajoub, who also heads the Palestinian Football Association and previously spent 17 years in Israeli prison for terror-related offenses, was rushed to the hospital for urgent medical treatment despite the PA’s decision to ban Palestinian patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel.

However, while Israeli doctors were working hard to give Rajoub the best treatment in Ichilov Hospital, the senior Palestinian official sent a letter to the European and Spanish football associations demanding Spanish football giant Atletico Madrid cancel a post-season friendly game with an Israeli team in Jerusalem. “We are not against playing in Israel, but not in occupied Jerusalem,” Rajoub wrote in his letter. Rajoub failed to mention that Teddy Stadium, where the game will take place on May 21, is actually in west Jerusalem.

Days before he was admitted to the Israeli hospital, Rajoub also called on Arabs and Muslims to “halt all forms of sports normalization with Israel.”

Rajoub is not the first or last senior Palestinian official to seek medical treatment in some of Israel’s best hospitals. In 2017, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, who has accused Israel of “genocide,” checked into Israel’s Beilinson Medical Center for treatment after he underwent a lung transplant in the US.

Palestinian leaders are again engaging in hypocrisy regarding medical treatment. On the one hand, they do not miss an opportunity to make various forms of blood libels against Israel. On the other hand, when they fall ill, the first thing they do is contact Israeli hospitals in the hope of receiving the best medical treatment in the Middle East. They do not rush to hospitals in Egypt and Jordan: they know they will not get the best treatment there.

What is disturbing is that Palestinian leaders are now putting their people’s lives at risk by denying them medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. This is yet another sign of how Palestinian leaders act according to their personal interests while endangering the lives of patients whose only fault is that they do not have relatives in senior jobs in the Palestinian Authority leadership who could help them receive treatment in Israel.