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Netanyahu tells security chiefs he’s looking to reach broad agreements

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

US authorities seize three artworks sought by the heirs of a Jewish art collector who died in the Holocaust, officials say.

They confirm a story in The New York Times that said New York investigators had taken these works by the 1900s Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele from three museums throughout the country.

In warrants issued Tuesday and seen by AFP, the New York State Supreme Court said “there is reasonable cause to believe” the works constitute stolen property.

The works were seized from the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College in Ohio.

The works in question are: “Russian War Prisoner” (1916), a watercolor and pencil on paper piece valued at $1.25 million, seized from the Art Institute; “Portrait of a Man” (1917), a pencil on paper drawing valued at $1 million and seized from the Carnegie Museum of Art; and “Girl With Black Hair” (1911), a watercolor and pencil on paper work valued at $1.5 million and taken from Oberlin.

The works are being sought by the living heirs of Fritz Grunbaum, a prominent Jewish art collector and cabaret artist who died in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in 1941.

‘Girl With Black Hair’ by Egon Schiele. (Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week, his office says.

The White House has not yet confirmed the meeting.

This will be Netanyahu’s first meeting with Biden since taking office again in December as the head of a hardline government.

Biden has resisted inviting him to the White House and will only meet him on the sidelines of the GA in New York.

The White House has repeatedly expressed disapproval of many statements and policies emanating from members of Netanyahu’s hardline government, as well as with its judicial overhaul plan, which has roiled the country.

Netanyahu will also meet several other world leaders in New York and Elon Musk during a stopover in San Francisco.

Palestinian fighters agree to a new ceasefire on Thursday after more than a week of deadly violence in Lebanon’s largest refugee camp, two Palestinian officials tell AFP.

At least 17 people have been killed and around 100 wounded in the fighting in Ain al-Helweh refugee camp, on the outskirts of the port city of Sidon, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent’s Lebanon branch.

The clashes have pitted fighters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, which controls the camp, against hardline Islamists.

“The two parties agreed to implement a ceasefire… starting today at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT),” Palestinian camp official Fuad Othman tells AFP by telephone.

A Palestinian official close to Fatah confirms the agreement, requesting anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to the press.

The agreement came after the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, met separately with Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad and Hamas’s Mussa Abu Marzuk on Thursday.

Hamas is not involved in the fighting but is in contact with the Islamist hardliners, Othman said.

During his trip to the UN General Assembly next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, his office announces.

These meetings are in addition to meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that have already been announced.

He will also meet Elon Musk in and other high-tech leaders in San Francisco.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Israel’s security chiefs that he will work to reach broad agreements regarding the government’s judicial overhaul.

Speaking at a New Year’s toast with the heads of the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet, Netanyahu addresses the protests over the overhaul that have roiled the security services, along with the rest of the country.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized to all the security bodies the importance of unity among the people and said that he promises to work to reach as broad agreements as possible,” a statement from his office says.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with dozens of Chabad rabbis in the country ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, and calls for greater support from Israel.

According to rabbis who were at the meeting, Zelensky says he expects stronger backing from the Jewish state, which would make it easier for the country to host the thousands of pilgrims heading to Uman.

Zelensky, who is Jewish himself, handed out decorations to 15 Jewish soldiers at the event.

Turning to the community leaders from cities across the country, Zelensky says, “Because of you, the glorious Jewish community continues to flourish here, and you continue to do your part both within Ukraine and abroad, for the Jews here and for the general population.”

The event was organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, and its head Rabbi Meir Stambler.

“Thank you for supporting our country, our aspiration for peace,” says Zelensky’s office in a statement. “Peace can be achieved through Ukraine’s victory only.”

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp chief Hossein Salami hits back at threats from Mossad head David Barnea, warning that if Israel assassinated top Iranian leaders “your life will be cut short.”

“The Zionists are grappling with many problems, and signs of their decline are evident. Thus, they have resorted to empty rhetoric and threats to assassinate our commanders,” Salami says at a conference in remarks carried by Iran’s PressTV.

“Go ahead if your previous assassination operations have increased your security. However, you should know that if you make threats against [Iran’s] security, we will have more options and your life will be cut short,” he says.

His remarks come after Mossad Director David Barnea on Sunday warned Iran’s leaders that they would pay a direct price if Israelis or Jews are harmed in what he said was an ongoing, significantly stepped-up, state-organized Iranian terror effort worldwide.

He said the terror campaign was being carried out in accordance with a “political directive by the leader” — an apparent reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and threatened the Iranian leadership in response.

“Fortunately for Iran, their terror efforts have been thwarted,” he said. “Why fortunately for them? Because thus far we have only got to the operatives and those who dispatched them.” If Israelis or Jews are harmed, however, he warned, Israel’s response would go all the way to “the highest echelon.”

The Israeli army announces it is imposing a closure on border crossings between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip during Rosh Hashanah this weekend.

The closure is set to begin on Friday, September 15, at 12:01 a.m., and last until Sunday, September 17, at 11:59 p.m.

Still, the Israel Defense Forces says the border crossings for Palestinians will reopen “subject to a situational assessment.”

A separate assessment will be held regarding potential closures on Yom Kippur and Sukkot later this month, the IDF adds.

Such closures are standard practice during festivals and holidays, in what the military says is a preventative measure against attacks at those times, which are seen as periods of increased tension.

Exceptions during the upcoming closure will be made for humanitarian and other outstanding cases, but will require the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hints at alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria.

“Last night we saw another proof that in Israel the roar of the jets is greater than all the other noises on the ground,” Gallant says at a New Year’s greeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF General Staff.

“In the end what counts is action, not words,” Gallant says. “Unfortunately we will have a lot of work on these issues we are responsible for.”

Gallant’s words are seen as a confirmation that Israel carried out a series of strikes in Syria yesterday.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing a military source, said the IAF fighter jets launched missiles from over northern Lebanon toward the Syrian city of Hama.

Earlier Wednesday, the Israeli military allegedly carried out rare daylight strikes against targets near the coastal Syrian city of Tartus — some 80 kilometers west of Hama — killing two soldiers.

While Israel’s military does not, as a rule, comment on specific strikes in Syria, it has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country, over the last decade.

Gallant’s words are also seen as alluding to the ongoing protests against the government’s judicial overhaul. Hundreds of reserve pilots have refused to show up for duty, saying they will not fly for a country that is not democratic.

The move has seriously undermined the readiness of the military.

After three years of increasing pressure on international Christian Zionist groups based in Israel around staff visas, Population Administration Director General Eyal Sisso met on Tuesday with the leaders of three organizations to discuss a solution, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem tells The Times of Israel.

Bridges for Peace and Christian Friends of Israel were also at the meeting.

Since 2020, the Interior Ministry has been cutting back on clergy visas, and tightening the criteria for volunteer staff visas, ICEJ spokesman David Parsons explains.

Sisso, who until recently headed the Foreign Ministry’s Consular division, tells the groups that the prior arrangements will be respected until a long-term policy is finalized.

“We are very grateful that our support for Israel is appreciated across the government,” says Parsons.

The Christian groups had met with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in April, when he pledged his help in finding a solution.

As tens of thousands of Israelis make the annual pilgrimage to the Ukrainian city of Uman for Rosh Hashanah, there continue to be delays at border crossings into Ukraine, Israeli diplomatic sources tell The Times of Israel.

“There is lots of pressure there,” says a diplomat. That is the only significant hiccup currently, as entry into Uman itself is fairly smooth. Some 16 Israeli police officers crossed from Moldova into Ukraine to assist in Uman, while several more are remaining in Moldova.

Ukraine had threatened to block Israelis from entering, but a phone call between the leaders of both countries seemed to sort out the issue.

The head of Ukraine’s border guards also told Israeli Ambassador Michael Brodsky earlier this week that Kyiv would do whatever it could to ensure a smooth entry process for Israelis.

NASA says today that the study of UFOs will require new scientific techniques, including advanced satellites as well as a shift in how unidentified flying objects are perceived.

The space agency releases the findings after a yearlong study into UFOs.

In its 33-page report, an independent team commissioned by NASA cautions that the negative perception surrounding UFOs poses an obstacle to collecting data. But officials say NASA’s involvement should help reduce the stigma around what it calls UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says the agency wants to shift the conversation about UAPs “from sensationalism to science.” Nelson adds the panel found no evidence that UAPs had extraterrestrial origin.

The 16-member panel notes that artificial intelligence and machine learning are essential for identifying rare occurrences, including UFOs.

“NASA will do this transparently,” Nelson says.

At the one and only public meeting earlier this year, the independent team selected by the space agency insisted there is no conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial life associated with UFOs.

No top-secret files were accessed by the scientists, aviation and artificial intelligence experts, and retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, the first American to spend nearly a year in space. Instead, the 16-member group relied on unclassified data in an attempt to better understand unexplained sightings in the sky.

NASA says there are so few high-quality observations that no scientific conclusions can be drawn.

The government refers to unexplained sightings as UAPs versus UFOs. NASA defines them as observations in the sky or elsewhere that cannot be readily identified or scientifically explained.

The study was launched a year ago and cost under $100,000.

The Israeli and Greek air forces wrapped up a joint drill yesterday, which included long-range flights, aerial refueling, low-altitude flights, and the use of live fire, the Israel Defense Forces says.

The IDF says that during the drill, dozens of Israeli Air Force fighter jets flew thousands of kilometers from Israel to Greece and back.

“In Greek territory, the fighter jets practiced low-altitude flights and dropping live ammunition in designated areas,” the IDF says.

The IDF says the drill was carried out under “particularly challenging” weather conditions, but despite this, all the mock targets were destroyed.

Greece experienced major flooding caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel over the last week.

Fighter jets of the Hellenic Air Force joined the IAF warplanes during their long-range flights into Greek territory, which the IDF says is aimed at “mutual learning.”

“The exercise is part of a series of exercises and models carried out by the IAF in the past year and their purpose is to improve operational and mental competence for long-range flights, refueling, attacks deep [within enemy territory] and achieving air superiority,” the IDF says.

Several more drills of this type will be held this year, the military adds.

A court has ordered the Israel Prison Service to allow a transgender prisoner to undergo gender-affirming care, including hormonal treatments and surgery, Channel 12 reports.

The prisoner, who began serving a 23-year sentence for manslaughter in a male prison, will be the first person in Israel to undergo the process while in jail.

The prisoner who began transitioning only after being jailed, first applied for permission in 2018, but was denied by the service. She then appealed to the courts. She has been in a women’s prison since 2019.

“Gender-affirming care has been recognized as an essential medical need in Israel and has been included in the public health basket for over 40 years,” her lawyers tell Channel 12. “The prison service is obligated to provide prisoners the same medical services that are given outside of jail.”

Convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland tries to enter Ukraine despite a ban and is turned away by border guards, Hebrew media reports.

Berland tried to cross from Romania where he has been for the past week so that he can make a pilgrimage to the city of Uman for the coming Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Ukraine put Berland on its visa blacklist after he said in a speech that the country was invaded by Russia in 2022 as a punishment for Kyiv hindering members of his Shuvu Bonim sect from visiting Uman in recent years. The remarks were reported on a website carrying Berland’s Torah lessons, then quickly deleted, but not before Ukrainian officials heard about them and slapped the rabbi with a three-year ban on entering the country.

Berland, 85, has served separate prison sentences in the past for sex offenses and fraud, and in 2021 was implicated but not charged in the decades-old murder of a teenager. He also spent years on the lam from Israeli authorities.

Israeli customs announce that they foiled an attempt to smuggle 16 tons of chemicals that could be used to manufacture rocket fuel from Turkey to Gaza.

Among the containers that arrived at Ashdod port in July were some containing 54 tons of plaster for construction in Gaza.

Among these were hidden 16 tons of ammonium chloride, a dual-use chemical that Israel bars from Gaza due to its potential to be used to construct rockets.

Terror groups in the Hamas-ruled Strip have fired tens of thousands of rockets at Israel in recent years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Elon Musk when he travels to San Francisco next week, his office confirms.

The meeting comes with Musk being accused of amplifying antisemitism on his X social media platform and embroiled in a feud with the Anti-Defamation League.

The Washington Post, citing five people familiar with the situation, says that the planned meeting is part of “a campaign by Musk’s Jewish friends and allies, and executives of his social media company, to stave off the mounting controversy.”

The report claims that Netanyahu’s government defused an earlier antisemitism controversy when Musk went after Jewish megadonor George Soros.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli defended Musk after the tech billionaire had drawn fire from Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the ADL.

Israelis in San Francisco said they intended to protest the meeting.

“It’s deeply disturbing that Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the world’s only Jewish state, is flying across America to seek the counsel and support from a notorious enabler of anti-Jewish hate speech,” Offir Gutelzon, an Israeli tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, tells the Washington Post.

Netanyahu is also likely to face protests during his visit to the US by Israelis opposed to his government’s judicial overhaul.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among several people who gave testimony to the state commission of inquiry into submarine and naval vessel purchases that occurred under one of his previous governments.

Netanyahu’s name was listed among the names of witnesses and those who gave interviews in documents published by the commission.

Israel purchased the vessels from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp in a $2 billion deal that has been under scrutiny for possible corruption and bribery. Netanyahu was questioned by police in connection with the deal and several of his close associates were indicted for their involvement in the negotiations.

The commission was set up under the previous government of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett and was tasked with evaluating the procedures and decision-making employed by the political echelon related to the sensitive procurement.

The publication also said the committee was examing thousands of documents.

A state commission of inquiry is the most serious type of Knesset commission. Imbued with broad powers to call witnesses and compel testimony, it runs a quasi-judicial process that can result in recommendations for further action against both individuals and public sector bodies.

The state prosecution has declined to open a criminal probe into Netanyahu’s involvement in the affair, and the attorney general has said he is not suspected of wrongdoing.

Netanyahu is currently on trial in three other separate graft cases.

President Isaac Herzog has asked French President Emmanuel Macron for help lifting European sanctions against a prominent Jewish oligarch linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Haaretz daily reports.

Russia-born Moshe Kantor resigned last year as the president of the European Jewish Congress after the United Kingdom imposed sanctions on him because of his alleged involvement with Putin’s regime.

Kantor, a dual citizen of Russia and Britain who has been living in London for over a decade, was accused by the UK of being active in industries “which Putin uses to prop up his war economy.”

The sanctions included the freezing of his assets in the United Kingdom.

Kantor is a large shareholder of the publicly traded firm Acron, one of Russia’s largest fertilizer producers.

He has since also faced EU sanctions.

Herzog made the request in a phone call at the behest of European Jewish leaders, Haaretz said, citing sources in the President’s office.

Kantor has also been a major donor to Jewish causes.

The city of Derna has buried thousands of people in mass graves, Libyan officials say, as search teams scoured ruins left by devastating floods and the city’s mayor said that the death toll could triple.

The deluge swept away entire families on Sunday night and exposed vulnerabilities in the oil-rich country that has been mired in conflict since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Health officials have confirmed 5,500 deaths and say 9,000 people are still missing.

The government files a request to the High Court of Justice asking it to cancel a temporary injunction ordered hours earlier against Justice Minister Yariv Levin, asking to justify not convening the Judicial Selection panel.

“With all due respect, the honorable court is requested to cancel its decision to issue a temporary injunction,” the request reads, adding that it was issued “without authority and in contravention of the law.”

“With all due respect, the court is not authorized to determine for the respondents, and certainly when it comes to the justice minister and the Government of Israel, what will be written in the answering affidavit, and this is subject – as it is – to the sole discretion of the respondents,” the request says.

Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan is named by Newsweek among the top 20 “World’s Smartest Hospitals” for the third year in a row, ranking 13th on this year’s list.

The hospitals ranked higher than Sheba were all in the United States except for Karolinska in Solna, Sweden, and Charité in Berlin.

In the last year, Sheba, the largest medical center in Israel and the Middle East, completed the design and rapid adoption of a range of digital health technologies and AI platforms in clinical practice.

Through its innovation arm ARC (Accelerate, Redesign, Collaborate), digital and smart solutions incubated at Sheba are used in-house and in hospitals around the world.

“Sheba Medical Center is proud to be among the leading Smart Hospitals in the world on the Newsweek ranking,” said Prof. Eyal Zimlichman, chief transformation officer and chief innovation officer at Sheba Medical Center and director and founder of ARC Innovation.

“Through our transformation and innovation platform ARC, we see technology, and specifically digital health, as a strategic enabler that will allow us to transform operations and patient care, allowing us to become much more effective, efficient, and centered on human needs.”

Newsweek’s Smart Hospital rankings, produced together with Statista, include an evaluation of candidate hospitals by senior officials in the digital and information fields, a peer survey of directors and experts in the field of smart hospitals, and an international survey of senior professionals in the field. Hospitals are ranked by proficiency and leadership in using electronic functionalities, telemedicine, digital imaging, artificial intelligence, and robotics

Additionally, Sheba’s cardiology, oncology, neurosurgery, and gastroenterology specialty wards all ranked in the top 50 in Newsweek’s ranking of the World’s Best Specialty Hospitals for 2023.

Two people were arrested in connection with the looting of a truck involved in a deadly accident on Route 6 in which the driver of another truck was killed.

The two men, 20, were both arrested in the southern Bedouin town of Hura. Video of the incident showed dozens of people removing the truck’s contents.

One person was killed and another injured in an accident involving four trucks on Route 6 early yesterday.

The High Court of Justice issues an interim injunction against Justice Minister Yariv Levin demanding he explain why he has not convened the Judicial Selection Committee.

The decision comes ahead of a critical hearing in the High Court scheduled for Tuesday in which petitions requesting that the court order Levin to convene the committee will be heard.

Levin has said he is refusing to convene the committee, which appoints all judges in Israel, because he wants to change its composition in order to grant the government control of the panel, and by extension of the judiciary which the justice minister considers overly activist.

Today’s injunction indicates the court does not view his behavior favorably.

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