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Ahead of High Court showdown, top rabbis say ‘no other authority’ above government

The Times of Israel is liveblogging Wednesday’s events as they unfold.

Israeli diamond tycoon released from custody in Cyprus, following last week’s arrest

French-Israeli mining tycoon Beny Steinmetz has been released from Cypriot custody under restrictive conditions after being arrested last Thursday, the Reuters news agency reports, citing local police.

Steinmetz was arrested when he arrived at Larnaca airport on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Romania for a corruption conviction.

The following day, a court extended his remand and declined to release him with restrictions, the Ynet outlet reported Sunday.

He is now expected to face a judge on September 14.

Romania convicted him in absentia for real estate fraud and in December 2020 sentenced him to five years in prison.

Ukrainian parliament approves Crimean Tatar Umerov as new defense minister

Ukraine’s parliament approves President Volodymyr Zelensky’s nomination of Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar, as Kyiv’s new defense minister after the resignation of Oleksiy Reznikov.

“Parliament approved Rustem Umerov as the Defense Minister of Ukraine,” senior lawmaker Yaroslav Zheleznyak says on social media. He posts a photograph of the voting board, showing 338 out of 360 lawmakers voted in favor of Umerov’s nomination.

Netanyahu, Zelensky to speak this week to solve Uman pilgrimage standoff — source

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky are slated to speak by phone this week to come to an agreement on the upcoming Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the Ukrainian city of Uman, diplomatic sources tell The Times of Israel.

The exact timing of the call is still being negotiated between the sides.

A decision on Ukraine’s policy toward Israeli pilgrims to the Ukrainian city had been expected over the weekend, but none was made.

Kyiv has threatened to close its borders to Israeli pilgrims making their way to Uman, in retaliation for Israel deporting Ukrainians, but Israeli officials have dismissed those threats.

Top rabbis imply government wouldn’t have to obey potential court rulings against it

Senior religious Zionist rabbis appear to argue that the government and the coalition will not be obliged to obey a potential High Court of Justice ruling against them in several upcoming high-profile cases that may herald a constitutional showdown between the branches of government.

A written statement on behalf of 14 rabbis, representing the more hardline flank of the religious Zionist community, is published days ahead of crucial hearings on petitions against the government — against the reasonableness law, which is the first bill of the judicial overhaul package that has passed, and against Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s refusal to convene the Judicial Selection Committee in its current form.

“The only authority in the state is the majority, as reflected in elections, the Knesset and the government,” they write, the Ynet news site reports. “There is no other state authority above them.”

The rabbis also note the need to take account of the minority, and urge “the entire public in the state to behave responsibly and try to reach agreement that enables every person to run their lives without any coercion and in accordance with the values of the nation of Israel over the generations.”

Rabbi Yaakov Ariel in the Ramat Gan Yeshiva, November 11, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

The rabbis — some of them affiliated with the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit coalition parties — include Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, and prominent rabbis Dov Lior, Elyakim Levanon, Yaakov Shapira and Zalman Melamed.