The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Peretz: Coalition deal between ‘most extreme elements’ in Knesset
Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz tells Israel Radio that the coalition agreement between Likud and Yisrael Beytenu is “an alliance between the most extreme elements of the Knesset.”
“This is a new chapter in this Knesset, perhaps even in Israeli politics,” he says. “We have to present an alternative that is entirely different.”
Jewish Home activists back Bennett on coalition demand
Thousands of Jewish Home activists sign a letter of support for party leader Naftali Bennett over his demand for a military secretary for the security cabinet in return for his support in bringing Yisrael Beytenu into the government.
“We won’t agree to put civilian lives in danger for the sake of personal political whims, which cause a lack of information about the army from the ruling body,” Ynet quotes the letter as saying. “What we demand is to save lives. We support the head of the movement and the decision of the faction to vote against an expansion of the government unless there is an immediate correction on this issue.”
UN ‘deeply concerned’ at Hamas plan for Gaza executions
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville expresses “deep concern” over Hamas’s declared intent to carry out public executions in Gaza.
“We are deeply concerned about recent statements made by the authorities in Gaza, including the Attorney General, of their intention to implement a number of death sentences, and fear that the first executions may be imminent,” Colville says in a statement.
He also casts doubt on whether correct legal process would be upheld and highlights the ban on public executions under international law.
“Death sentences may only be carried out in extremely limited circumstances, and pursuant to a trial and appeals that scrupulously follow fair trial standards. We have serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards. We are also concerned about reports indicating that these executions will be implemented without the approval of the Palestinian [Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law.
“Media reports indicating that the sentences could be carried out in public also raise alarm, as this is a practice which is prohibited under international human rights law.”
2 Palestinians ram West Bank checkpoint
Two Palestinian men ram a West Bank border crossing in the Samaria region, the Defense Ministry says.
After plowing their car into the checkpoint near the Oranit settlement, the pair attempt to flee the scene. One is quickly apprehended, while the search for the second continues, the ministry says in a statement. No Israeli troops are harmed in the incident.
A police sapper is called to the scene to inspect the vehicle and ensure there are no explosives on board.
Until that investigation is complete, the Samaria border crossing, which lies along the Route 5 highway, will remain closed in both directions, the ministry says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Herzog: Netanyahu is hostage to Liberman, Bennett
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says Netanyahu is being held hostage by Bennett and Liberman, and warns the the new coalition will end in “tragedy.”
“Netanyahu has become a hostage of Bennett and Lieberman, of [Jewish Home MK Bezalel] Smotrich and his friends, and the artificial celebrations we see today will become a tragedy of sadness and pain.”
He adds: “Israel’s citizens should be concerned about the right-wing coalition that will lead Israel into very dangerous places.”
Coalition deal: Liberman won’t target pro-Netanyahu newspaper
The coalition deal signed by Liberman includes a clause in which he undertakes not to advance any initiatives in the communications arena that are opposed by the communications minister, a post currently held by Netanyahu.
This clause effectively bans the advancement of any legislation targeting the notoriously pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom, Army Radio says. Liberman was previously one of the lawmakers behind legislation that would have forced the free tabloid to begin charging a price.
Liberman also drops his demand for the death penalty for terrorists as part of the agreement, and instead receives a change in military law that will allow military judges to hand down a death penalty by majority vote rather than unanimously.
Hamas-led council: Gaza executions don’t need Abbas okay
The Hamas-led Palestinian parliament says it has the authority to rule on implementing death penalties in Gaza without the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council says in a statement it has backed a ruling allowing it to enforce the death penalty “in Gaza.”
In theory all execution orders in the Palestinian territories must be approved by Abbas, who is based solely in the West Bank following a 2007 coup that saw Hamas oust his Fatah movement from Gaza.
West Bank road reopens after ramming attack
A West Bank stretch of the central Route 5 highway reopens to traffic after a sapper determines there is no threat of explosives at the scene of a car ramming earlier today, police say.
A suspect in the attack has been handed over to police for questioning, the Defense Ministry says.
— Judah Ari Gross
2 people found shot dead in Rishon Lezion home
The bodies of a man and a woman are found in an apartment in Rishon Lezion. Both had been shot, Ynet says.
The two, both in their 30s, are found by the woman’s mother in the living room of the apartment. The man was shot in the head while the woman has gunshot wounds in multiple parts of her body.
Yesh Atid MK: Liberman ‘capitulated’ in signing coalition deal
Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen says the entry of Yisrael Beytenu into the coalition signals its “disgraceful capitulation.”
“I would call it a betrayal and abandonment of public trust,” Cohen tells Army Radio. “It is in reality Liberman’s agreement to concessions. He gave up on the pensions [for Israelis from the former Soviet Union], he gave up the principles for which he had struggled. Unfortunately, he forgot his supporters. There is no doubt that his word is not his word.”
Supreme Court petition seeks oversight for atomic agency
More than 100 Israelis file a petition to the Supreme Court calling for legislation to ensure oversight of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.
“The most hazardous industrial complex in the country operates in secrecy, without public control, oversight or even under the law,” the petitioners state, according to a press release from the Israeli Disarmament Movement. “The present situation is dangerous.”
Sharon Dolev, the head of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, slams “the ambiguity typifying the work of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission,” adding that “broadening [its work] into aspects pertaining to citizens’ health and security, the dangers deriving from the condition of the aging reactor, and long-term environmental hazards is totally unjustified.”
Meretz chief: Every public role Liberman held somehow made him rich
Meretz leader MK Zehava Galon expresses her strong opposition to Liberman’s appointment as defense minister, and calls into question his character.
“Do you recall that this man got out of affairs for which he was interrogated only when the witnesses died mysteriously? Do you recall that every public role this man has held mysteriously led to his family getting rich?” she says, according to Channel 10.
Security tight as Lag B’Omer pilgrimage begins in Tunisia
An annual Jewish pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue gets underway in Tunisia, where security forces are heavily deployed to ward off potential jihadist attacks.
Small groups of pilgrims are arriving in the searing heat at the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba in southern Tunisia for Lag B’Omer.
Organizers expect up to 2,000 people to visit over two days, despite heightened worries about security following a string of jihadist attacks in the North African country.
Police and soldiers are out in force while a helicopter monitors from overhead. The island’s Jewish district Hara Kbira is cordoned off and visitors are required to undergo searches.
The number of pilgrims visiting the synagogue has fallen sharply since a 2002 suicide truck bombing claimed by Al-Qaeda that killed 21.
Egypt deports French journalist amid media crackdown
Egypt deports a French journalist without explanation, the reporter and his newspaper say, the latest move in an ongoing crackdown by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government on freedom of expression and the media.
The reporter, Remy Pigaglio, who works for several publications, including Catholic daily La Croix, was returning from vacation in France and prevented from entering Egypt yesterday. Pigaglio says he has a residency work permit and a press card, and was detained for 30 hours at the Cairo International Airport before being sent back to Paris.
La Croix also says the French Embassy tried to intervene on his behalf but did not manage to prevent the deportation.
Afghan Taliban appoints new leader after Mansour’s death
The Afghan Taliban confirms that their leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike last week and says it has appointed a successor — a scholar known for extremist views who is unlikely to back a peace process with Kabul.
In a statement sent to the media, the Taliban names the new leader as Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, one of Mansour’s two deputies. The insurgent group says he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders, which is believed to have taken place in Pakistan, but offers no other details.
Jewish Home: PM refusal of our demands ‘entirely personal’
A Jewish Home source says Netanyahu’s rejection of its demand for security cabinet members to be provided with better intelligence “is entirely personal.”
“It has nothing to do with the demands we are making. Netanyahu does not want to be seen as giving in to Bennett,” the source tells The Times of Israel. “If we had asked for a cup of coffee Netanyahu would have also refused.”
In response to the appointment of Liberman as defense minister, Bennett is demanding Netanyahu appoint the cabinet a military attaché to provide ministers with real-time security updates, increase fact-finding visits to IDF bases and other military zones, and facilitate easier access to classified information.
The Jewish Home is threatening to sink the freshly inked coalition deal by not voting in Liberman as minister if its demands are not met.
— Raoul Wootliff
Herzog: I risked my political future for peace, but PM blinked
Herzog says he was willing to risk his own political future by entering a coalition government willing to work for peace, but Netanyahu chose an extremist government that endangers Israel.
“We had in-depth discussions. We formulated a framework based on understandings with major world leaders. I was personally involved,” Herzog tells the Israel Democracy Institute conference.
“Unfortunately, Netanyahu ultimately blinked and chose to go in a different direction, taking the helm of his government and going with Liberman and Bennett into an extremist government.”
Druze scientist to Druze reservist soldiers: Don’t follow Liberman orders
The head of a Druze scientific organization calls on Druze reservist soldiers to refuse to participate in any missions ordered by Liberman as defense minister.
According to Dr. Amir Hanipas, Liberman’s prior comments about Arabs exempt Druze soldiers from obeying him.
“The Druze community is severing the blood covenant with Israel so as to uphold the covenant of life,” he says, Channel 10 reports.
“Liberman’s record is full of invective and racism and is diametrically opposed to the principles of life,” says Hanipas. “His previous fascistic comments do not allow [us] to remain in the system.”
Kahlon: We will not allow limits on Supreme Court
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon warns that his Kulanu party will not permit any efforts to restrict the authority of the Supreme Court, despite the inclusion of such a provision in the agreement that brought Liberman into the government.
“I understand that the Yisrael Beytenu coalition agreement also has a section calling for limits on the Supreme Court,” Kahlon writes on Twitter. “So as not to leave you in suspense, I will tell you now – this will not happen,” he says.
PA school play claims IDF killing innocent Palestinians — watchdog
The Palestinian Authority is using school plays to indoctrinate Palestinian children against Israel, according to the watchdog organization Palestinian Media Watch.
The group says that a recent play at Tuqu’ High School for Boys in Bethlehem reinforced the claim that Israel was faking many of the stabbing attacks carried out by Palestinians in recent months, first placing knives close to innocent Palestinians and then using that as a pretext to kill them.
Blair: Sunni states ready to normalize Israel ties based on Arab peace plan
Former British prime minister Tony Blair says Sunni Muslim countries are ready to normalize ties with Israel should the Jewish state negotiate a peace deal with the PA on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative.
The plan, first proposed in 2002, calls for full normalization between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for a withdrawal from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. It would include land swaps, the establishment of a Palestinian state and a negotiated agreement on Palestinian refugees.
“Provided the Israeli government is ready to commit to a discussion around the Arab peace initiative … it would be possible to have some steps of normalization along the way to give confidence to this process,” says Blair, according to Haaretz.
“With the new leadership in the region today that is possible. A lot will depend on the response of the Israeli government to President Sissi’s initiative and to the Arab Peace Initiative, and to whatever steps the Israelis are ready to take,” he says.
Blair has in recent years been working independently on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Dan David Prize donating award money refused by UK prof
The board of the Dan David Prize says it will donate the money accompanying an award declined by a British professor who cited the conflict with the Palestinians as the reason for her refusal.
“Some of you may have heard that one of this year’s laureates selected for the Past Prize in Social History, Prof. Catherine Hall, decided not to accept the prize, apparently for political reasons,” says Ariel David, son of the late prize founder Dan David.
“I am happy to announce that the Dan David Foundation will donate the entirety of the sum that Prof. Hall did not collect – $300,000 – to support Israeli and international scholars and researchers in the field of history here at Tel Aviv University,” he says.
“This will give Israelis of all backgrounds, whether Jewish or Arab, as well as international scholars, the opportunity to meet at this beautiful campus and engage in academic discussion, research and discovery. We believe that this action can contribute more to mutual understanding and dialogue than any misguided effort to boycott the bastion of democracy and intellectual freedom that is Tel Aviv University.”
US: Hezbollah ‘in worst financial shape in decades’
The US says that years of sanctions on Hezbollah have left it “in its worst financial shape in decades” and that there is no intention to let up the pressure on the Lebanese-based Shiite group.
“After many years of sanctions targeting Hezbollah, today the group is in its worst financial shape in decades. And I can assure you that, alongside our international partners, we are working hard to put them out of business,” Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin tells the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“I can assure you that, alongside our international partners, we are working hard to put them out of business,” he adds.
Audit faults State Department, Clinton on emails
State Department spokesman Mark Toner says the department is “already working” to improve its email and records management system on the heels of an independent audit that faults it — and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in particular — for lax cybersecurity.
“It is clear that the department could have done a better job preserving emails and records of secretaries of state and their senior staff going back several administrations,” Toner says, adding that the State Department also agrees that compliance with its rules has been “inconsistent across several administrations.”
Toner’s comments come after the State Department inspector general says that Clinton disregarded various guidelines for avoiding cybersecurity risks. During her term as Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton used a private server set up at her home for work and personal emails, including some that have since been classified.
Elton John arrives in Israel ahead of Tel Aviv concert
Musical legend Sir Elton John lands in Israel a day before his sell-out concert in Tel Aviv, which is part of his “Wonderful Crazy Night” international tour.
The singer arrives at Ben Gurion Airport by private plane from Britain, accompanied by his entourage, according to a statement by the concert promoters. This is Sir Elton’s fourth visit to Israel.
On Saturday, he heads to Russia for a performance in St. Petersburg.
Nasrallah to Palestinians: Beware those urging peace with Israel
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah urges the Palestinians to be wary of those pushing them to reach a peace agreement with Israel.
“I say to the Palestinians, beware of who is trying to make Israel your friend. We must remember that Israel is the real enemy,” Nasrallah says in a speech to mark the 16th anniversary of the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Channel 10 reports.
Nasrallah also brands Israel the true threat to the Palestinians and the entire Middle East, and calls for “comprehensive resistance” to Israel by all means, Iranian TV says. He dedicates the May 2000 IDF withdrawal to the Palestinians, crediting it as a Hezbollah victory against the Jewish state.
Barkat: Liberman will make good defense minister
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat says that Liberman will make a good defense minister, who “thinks outside the box.”
In apparent effort to calm fears over the hawkish politician’s previous controversial statements, the mayor adds that Liberman “is not alone and he has the entire establishment around him.”
Speaking to students at the Hebrew University, Barkat also says he will never run against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership, Channel 2 reports. Furthermore, Barkat adds, he intends to seek another term as mayor of the capital.
Egyptian FM: No plans for Netanyahu, Abbas summit
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry denies reports in the Israeli media yesterday that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is working behind the scenes to organize a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu in Cairo.
Shoukry tells a press conference that Abbas will travel to Egypt next Saturday to take part in an Arab League conference, which will prepare Arab foreign ministers for the French peace conference set to take place in Paris on June 3.
— Dov Lieber
Nasrallah credits slain commander for Syrian forces’ gains
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says territorial gains made by the Syrian regime around Damascus are the legacy of Mustafa Badreddine, the Hezbollah commander killed a week ago near capital’s airport in what the group says was rebel shelling.
Nasrallah says Badreddine personally planned the Damascus operation carried out after his death, which led to the capture of strategic ground in the Ghouta suburb and threatens to destabilize a years-long stalemate around Damascus.
Hezbollah has lost over 1,000 members and several top commanders who fought alongside government forces in Syria’s civil war.
Aide: Clinton email practices also used by predecessors
A spokesman for Hillary Clinton says a report by the State Department’s inspector general shows that her email practices were “consistent” with those of past secretaries and senior officials.
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon says in a statement that the report shows problems with the State Department’s electronic record-keeping systems “were longstanding” and emphasizes that her use of a private email server “was known to officials within the department during her tenure.”
The inspector general’s 78-page analysis, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, cites “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” related to the agency’s communications and says Clinton disregarded various State Department guidelines for avoiding cybersecurity risks.
Fallon acknowledges that “steps ought to have been taken” to better maintain official records.
Jimmy Carter quits ‘frontline’ work with rights group
Jimmy Carter is stepping away from his “frontline role” as a member of The Elders, the global human rights group says.
The organization says Carter has “played a key role” in every delegation in the Middle East, including trips last spring to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The statement gives no specific reason for the change in Carter’s status.
“From the Middle East to climate change, women’s rights to superpower diplomacy, Jimmy has brought the gravitas of his presidential office but also the passion of an activist who believes the world can, and must, be changed for the better,” former UN chief Kofi Annan, the chair of the London-based organization, says in a statement. “The Elders would not be the organization it is today without his drive and vision, and he will stay an inspiration for all of us for many years ahead.”
Former South African president Nelson Mandela founded the small group of former global leaders in 2007, and the former US president participated in its first mission later that year in Sudan, focusing on Darfur.
Trump golf course seeks sea wall, citing climate change denied by owner
An Irish golf course owned by Donald Trump, a climate change denier, puts in a planning application for a sea wall to protect against coastal erosion, citing changing weather as the reason.
The presumptive GOP nominee’s Irish holding company TIGL Ireland Enterprises submitted the application earlier this month to build a £7.6 million ($11.2 million) rock barrier, saying that storms had swept away sand dunes.
“The evidence for increased storm activity associated with climate change suggests that the erosion will accelerate,” reads the application by Doonbeg golf course in western Ireland, obtained today by AFP.
The proposed sea barrier would be 2.8 kilometres (1.7 miles) long and three to four meters high. A decision on the application is expected by July 6.
Trump has made no secret of his views, telling CNN last year: “I’m not a believer in climate change.”
Nasrallah: Liberman is ‘crazy defense minister’ in ‘extremist government’
In a speech marking the 16th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah chief calls Liberman a “crazy defense minister in an extremist government.”
“The boastful, crazy Liberman is defense minister in Netanyahu’s extremist government,” Nasrallah says, according to Channel 10. “What does it mean? It makes you wonder. I do not want to get ahead of the analyses.”
Nasrallah also warns the Palestinians not to trust those who are encouraging them to make peace with Israel.
WATCH: PM pays surprise visit to Lag B’Omer party
Netanyahu makes an impromptu appearance at a Lag B’Omer bonfire in Jerusalem, joining young local residents at their celebration of the holiday and even toasting marshmallows with them before posing for photographs.
“This afternoon, I surprised the sweet boys and girls at Lag B’Omer bonfires in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood. I wish everyone a happy Lag B’Omer!” the prime minister writes on Facebook after the event.
Joint (Arab) List: We will resume Temple Mount visits
The heads of the Joint (Arab) List faction say they intend to resume the visits to the Temple Mount during Ramadan, which starts the first week of June.
In a letter informing Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of the intention, the factions says that visiting the flashpoint site is a basic right, Channel 2 reports.
Netanyahu has banned members of the Knesset from ascending the Mount.
The report comes hours after newly sworn-in Likud MK Yehudah Glick tells the Knesset that he “will do all that is in my power to end the injustice that takes place every day at the holiest place in the world, where police officers are under orders to check whether a 90-year-old Jew is, God forbid, moving his lips or not.”
Under the terms of the fragile status quo at the location, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, non-Muslims can visit but not pray.
Leaked IS documents to be used in French jihadist trial
French prosecutors will use leaked Islamic State documents to help identify seven suspected jihadists going on trial next week, including the brother of a Paris attacker, sources close to the investigation say.
The seven men from Strasbourg in eastern France, aged between 24 and 26, are accused of travelling to join the Islamic State group in Syria in late 2013 and returning several months later.
Among the men, who were arrested in May 2014, is Karim Mohamed-Aggad, the brother of Foued Mohamed-Aggad who was part of the three-man group that attacked the Bataclan concert hall on the night of the Paris attacks in November.
The Paris prosecutor’s office intends to use the documents, acquired by British TV station Sky News in March, during the trial that starts on Monday, but the move has been criticized by the defense lawyers.
“Five days from the trial, this is an unusual step,” says one of the defense lawyers, Eric Plouvier, who warns there are doubts over the authenticity of the IS documents.
Israel sues Waqf over restroom built at archaeological site
The Israel Antiquities Authority is suing the Muslim Waqf for the illegal construction of a restroom in an archaeological site in the area of the Temple Mount.
The Antonia Fortress, which is believed to date from at least 31 BCE, sits atop the Western Wall tunnels sparking fears that sewage from the restroom will seep into the structures below, Channel 10 reports.
The suit also includes IAA opposition to a Waqf plan to break through one of the walls on the Temple Mount itself.
Four IS recruiters held in Belgium
Police found “traces” of a plot to launch a new attack in Belgium when they arrested four people suspected of recruiting jihadists for Syria and Libya, prosecutors in Belgium say.
“The four were more involved in the part of recruiting,” Eric Van der Sypt, a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutors, tells AFP. “And we found traces of plans for an attack in Belgium.”
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