Lapid celebrates bar mitzvah with Holocaust survivors
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Iran nuke deal remains elusive as deadline draws to a close

Both sides say negotiations continue; US says progress made but 'sticking points' remain, delegation books Vienna hotel for one more day

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen at the weekly government conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen at the weekly government conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)
  • Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party speaks during a party meeting in the Israeli parliament on June 15, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party speaks during a party meeting in the Israeli parliament on June 15, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran on June 13, 2015. (AFP/Behrouz Mehri)
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran on June 13, 2015. (AFP/Behrouz Mehri)
  • Holocaust survivors celebrate their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. (Oren Hassidim)
    Holocaust survivors celebrate their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. (Oren Hassidim)

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

Rouhani to speak on Iranian state TV today

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will address the nation on state television on Monday night, an official statement said, amid reports a nuclear deal with world powers could be imminent.

Rouhani’s appearance scheduled for 10:00 pm (1730 GMT, 8:30 p.m. Israel time) was announced by the culture ministry in a notice sent to media which said he would talk about the negotiations taking place in Vienna.

Rouhani late Sunday again raised expectations an agreement to end the 13-year dispute about Iran’s nuclear program may be resolved.

“We have come a long way. We need to reach a peak and we’re very close,” Rouhani said, quoted by the ISNA news agency on what was the 16th day of talks in Vienna. “We are so close that if you look down from below you feel as if we have got there, but when you do get there you know there are still some steps to take.”

— AFP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran, Friday April 3, 2015 (Photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran, April 3, 2015 (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Zarif says no announcement of deal today

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif says there will not be an official announcement of an agreement on Iran’s nuclear deal.

The head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, says that agreement was reached on “most technical issues,” as well as the appendices of a potential agreement.

Ya’alon says Iran deal fails to address missiles, terrorism

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says the Iranian nuclear deal, “as we know it, even with any last-minute improvements, is a bad deal, because it essentially enables Iran to be in the nuclear threshold zone and even become a nuclear threshold state, with all that this implies.”

The criticism of the deal comes as world powers and Iran are expected to resolve negotiations by tonight, whether they reach an agreement or not.

Speaking at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ya’alon says the pending agreement “whitewashes everything Iran did in contravention of resolutions.

“This obviously has implications on other states seeing this situation as a threat, neighboring countries speaking of their need to arm – this may start a nuclear arms race in the region. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey have been making statements to that effect.

“Beyond this, there are two issues not included in the framework agreement and worrying not only us but anyone looking for stability in the Middle East and the world. The fact that Iran’s missile project was not discussed, a project that in fact has already brought about the development and manufacture of missiles covering the entire area of Israel and most of Europe, and the continuing development of longer-range missiles, to a range covering the US East Coast. This was not discussed,” Ya’alon says.

The second issue he mentions “on a day-today basis” is Iran’s”terror activity, activity aimed at us, like its support of Hezbollah, funding of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, spreading the knowledge of rocket making, and an effort to open a terror front in the Golan Heights, as we’ve seen earlier this year,” he adds.

Netanyahu erred in handling of Iran’s nukes, says Lapid

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid says at the opening of the party’s faction meeting this morning that the Iranian nuclear agreement is “bad and problematic.”

IAEA inspectors can’t even enter Iranian nuclear facilities without accompaniment, Lapid says. “This is not inspection, this is a joke,” he says.

Lapid declares that he and his colleagues will join the efforts against the deal. “There is no opposition and coalition on this,” he says.

Lapid says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign, since “because of the way he ran this, over the last year, the door of the White House was closed to him, half of Congress doesn’t speak to him.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks at a party meeting at the Knesset on June 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks at a party meeting at the Knesset on June 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Ministry chief: Israel is defending the Sunni states, too

Israel won’t be shy about making its views on the Iran deal heard on Capitol Hill, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold tells The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren in his first major interview since taking up the post last month.

“When Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu stands up and attacks Iran, he’s not just defending Israel. He’s defending Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and all the other Sunni countries,” Gold says.

While Israel needs to express its concerns with civility, he stresses, the government is gearing up to firmly advocate its position in discussions with all the relevant players in the US government. “We’ll do it respectfully, but we have to tell the truth,” he says.

Read the full interview here.

Yesh Atid in court again over PM’s many hats

Yesh Atid again petitions the High Court of Justice with its objection to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding ministerial portfolios apart from that of prime minister. The petition also takes aim at the appointment of UTJ’s Ya’acov Litzman as deputy health minister.

During a High Court discussion on the party’s previous petition on the same issue, Justice Hanan Melcer said the prime minister cannot also serve as a minister. The court asked the petitioners to file an amended petition.

Apart from his role as PM, Netanyahu serves as foreign minister, health minister, communications minister and minister of regional cooperation.

Former finance minister Yair Lapid (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when the last government was in power, in Jerusalem on July 3, 2013. (Flash90)

Former finance minister Yair Lapid (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when the last government was in power, in Jerusalem on July 3, 2013. (Flash90)

Like Lapid, Herzog sees Iran deal as PM’s failure

Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog says the nuclear agreement is “terrible” and will “harm Israel’s security interests.”

“Netanyahu will pay for all the mistakes he made in managing this crisis. The strategy he chose has failed,” says Herzog.

Lapid celebrates bar mitzvah with Holocaust survivors

Yesh Atid leader Lapid joins a Jerusalem bar mitzvah ceremony with 30 Holocaust survivors who have never had a chance to celebrate.

The survivors arrived at the Western Wall, waving Israel flags and singing. They put on tefillin and read the Torah while onlookers threw candy at them, a usual custom for bar mitzvah boys and girls in Israel.

The survivors asked Lapid to speak of his own experience, and he described the event as closing a circle. The Yesh Atid chairman spoke of the bar mitzvah his father, Yosef [Tommy] Lapid, never managed to celebrate.

“Dad was in the Budapest ghetto, in a crowded cellar where almost 600 people lived. And his mother – my grandmother – called him and said, ‘Tommike, today is your bar mitzvah. Your father will not come to the bar mitzvah, and I think he will not come ever again. I can’t make you a cake but there is one thing I can do’,” Lapid says. “She took out a vial of perfume, Chanel No. 5 – that she has kept throughout the war, God only knows how, and she smashed it on the floor. ‘At least I can make sure it doesn’t stink on my boy’s bar mitzvah,’ she told my dad,” says Lapid.

Holocaust survivors celebrate their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. (Oren Hassidim)

Holocaust survivors celebrate their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. (Oren Hassidim)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at the Western Wall in the Old City in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. Oren Hassidim)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at the Western Wall in the Old City in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. Oren Hassidim)

PM says no way to stop deal, but vows to stop bomb

Prime Minister Netanyahu says that as Iran was welcoming the world’s concessions at the negotiating table, Iranian President Rouhani led a parade of hate in the streets of Tehran, where the masses shouted “Death to America,” and “Death to Israel.”

“Even if after these unequivocal calls to destroy those who negotiate with them, they continue with concession. It seems like some will sign the deal at any cost – and there is neither a will nor a way to avoid this bad agreement,” Netanyahu says at the Likud faction meeting.

“In any case, we did not pledge to avoid or prevent a deal, certainly not one the world’s powers are willing to sign at any price. We did pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons – and indeed, were it not for our efforts, Iran would have had the bomb a long time ago,” Netanyahu adds.

“Our commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes is in force today more than ever, and I call on anyone who holds the security of Israel dear to stand behind this commitment.”

Bennett says world ‘committing hara-kiri’

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett says the nuclear deal with Iran will be remembered as a dark moment in world history.

“Friends, even in dramatic days for the State of Israel, the sun shines, the birds tweet and a global terror power is born,” he says. “It all looks the same, but nothing will be the same starting today. These are crucial days for Israel.”

Bennett says that the deal about to be signed will transfer half a trillion dollars to a new terror superpower. “They are going to sign an agreement with the world’s most dangerous country and they do it with a country that says quite openly it wants to destroy states and peoples,” he says.

“Sometimes, when we read the history books of the last hundred years, we cannot seem to understand how terrible processes took place, how the world failed to see what is about to happen. Today, we can understand. The Western world is going to commit international hara-kiri and we are trying, with our feeble powers, to stay its hand,” Bennett says.

Bennett calls on all Knesset members to unite against the deal, saying that “at a time like this, being united is not an option but a national duty.”

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party speaks during a party meeting in the Israeli parliament on June 15, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party speaks during a party meeting in the Israeli parliament on June 15, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zarif says ‘no extension’ but ‘will talk as long as necessary’

Iran’s foreign minister said Monday he believed there should be no further extension to nuclear talks with major powers but he would negotiate “as long as necessary.”

“I always believe there shouldn’t be any extension but we could work as long as necessary to finish this,” Mohammad Javad Zarif says in English as he meets his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Vienna.

Several deadlines have been missed over the more than two weeks of talks between Iran and world powers.

Today the terms of a 2013 interim deal freezing parts of Iran’s nuclear program in return for minor sanctions relief are due to expire, although this has been extended several times already.

With the foreign ministers of all six powers except Britain gathered in Vienna on a 17th day of talks, there some hope that a deal may be finally be in sight.

— AFP

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Hossein Fereydoun, the brother of the Iranian president, talk during  abreak onto a balcony of the Palais Coburg Hotel, where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna on July 11, 2015.  (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Hossein Fereydoun, the brother of the Iranian president, on a balcony of the Palais Coburg Hotel, where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna on July 11, 2015. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Top Iranian negotiator skeptical as deadline for talks looms

Iran’s nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi says there are still some outstanding issues in the negotiations to reach an Iranian nuclear agreement.

“Talks have reached the final breathtaking moments; certain issues still remain,” Araqchi tells reporters, according to Iranian state media outlet PressTV.

“As long as these issues are not settled, one cannot say we have reached an agreement,” says Araqchi. “I cannot promise that the [outstanding] issues will be resolved by tonight or tomorrow night,” he adds.

Any deal will be provisional – Khamenei aide

Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri quotes a Khamenei adviser as saying that any deal with world powers will be “provisional” and subject to his approval:

Sister of President Reuven Rivlin dies

The office of President Reuven Rivlin announces the death of Mrs. Ester (Eti) Herling Binyamin, sister of President Reuven Rivlin. She died today at the age of 84.

Rivlin says, “My big sister Eti was for me a mentor by my mother’s side throughout my childhood in Jerusalem. I will greatly miss her, and the memory of her strong personality will stay with me always.”

The late Eti Herling Binyamin was the president’s half-sister, daughter of Rachel Rivlin and Yehoshua Binyamin, who died when she was a child. She was a fighter in the Irgun, and lived in Jerusalem. She is due to be laid to rest on the Mount of Olives alongside the president’s parents and brother. She leaves behind her three children and many grandchildren.

President Reuven Rivlin, at his residence in Jerusalem on May 28, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

President Reuven Rivlin, at his residence in Jerusalem on May 28, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

US team extends stay in Vienna by one night

A reporter for the Boston Globe tweets that the US delegation in Vienna booked their rooms at the hotel for an additional night:

Report quotes PM as saying gov’t won’t expand West Bank construction

An Israel Radio report quotes Prime Minister Netanyahu as saying that his government will not expand building in Judea and Samaria, quoting comments he made at the Likud faction meeting off the record, after statements to the media were made.

According to the station, during the closed-to-reporters part of the Likud faction meeting, the council head from Beit El, a settlement town in the West Bank, asked the prime minister about building in the settlements.

“You take care of the interests of your community, while I take of the interests of the entire country,” Netanyahu is said to have told the Beit El councilman. “There are international pressures, and we need to manage this cleverly.”

The report did not say whether Netanyahu meant a freeze on all construction, only on new projects, or just specifically in Beit El.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 12, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 12, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)

Erekat replaces Abed Rabbo in top PLO post

Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO’s negotiating team, was today officially appointed as secretary general of the group’s executive committee. Erekat’s appointment comes after his predecessor, Yasser Abed Rabbo was fired. In recent days Abed Rabbo said the decision to fire him was done behind his back, without a vote in the PLO’s executive committee and without prior warning. Abed Rabbo added that his termination reflected the way the PLO has been operating over the past few years.

Erekat did not comment on Abed Rabbo’s statements.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (Photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (Photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

Abed Rabbo was fired after a long period of tension with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who himself served himself as secretary general of the PLO’s executive committee when Yasser Arafat was PA president. Abed Rabbo was removed following allegations that he teamed up with former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad and with disgraced PLO official Muhammad Dahlan. Abbas suspected that the three conspired to weaken his standing within the PA political apparatus as part of a plan to have Dahlan take over in the future. Dahlan was expelled from the West Bank several years ago.

Several months ago the PA froze a fund opened by Fayyad. Among the donors were people in the United Arab Emirates, where Dahlan currently resides.

— Avi Issacharoff

Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Abed Rabbo in better days (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and top official Yasser Abed Rabbo (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Edelstein says coalition ‘may change’ after budget

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) assesses that following the approval of the state budget the coalition may change.
“Nobody wants elections,” Edelstein says.

Earlier today, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) expressed hope that ultra-Orthodox parties would give up on some of the promises made to them in coalition agreements. “We are entering days where a state-level decision on the budget is required,” Kahlon said.

The budget Kahlon wants to pass “is a social budget, with many reforms and structural changes but without raising taxes […] such a budget is only possible if all members of the coalition lend a hand and act responsibly,” Kahlon says, mainly addressing ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem. June 9, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem. June 9, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Iron Dome successfully intercepts test drone

The Iron Dome missile defense system was successfully tested in intercepting unmanned aerial vehicles flying in both high and low altitudes.

A video released by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. shows the system destroying drones.

The threat of drones against Israel has in recent years become palpable, with Hezbollah making several attempts to fly drones into Israel. Hamas in the Gaza Strip also tried to fly UAVs into Israeli territory, but the aircraft either were intercepted before managing to fly deep into Israeli airspace or crashed inside the Gaza Strip.

Iran courts want $50 billion from US in compensation for damages

Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei announces a ruling in Iranian courts for the payment of $50 billion for “losses incurred on real and legal entities,” according to the Fars News Agency.

“Those who had filed a lawsuit against the US, their complaints have been processed,” Ejei tells reporters at a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

Ejei adds that after hearings and completion of judicial procedures of only a number of complaints, Iranian courts have already issued verdicts against the US administration to pay the sum in compensation for the “heavy loss and damage” since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

Among the accusations heard by the Iranian judges is that of “killing the Iranian nationals by assisting their enemies, including Saddam and different terrorist groups against Tehran.”

Zarif ‘sleepy and overworked’ due to Vienna talks

An Iranian journalist tweets a picture of a “sleepy and overworked” Iranian foreign minister.

Rouhani sends, deletes celebratory Iran Deal tweet

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s Twitter account sends out a message feting the Iran deal, apparently prematurely, and then quickly deletes the missive.

“#Irandeal is the victory of diplomacy and mutual respect over the outdated paradigm of exclusion and coercion. And this is a good beginning,” the tweet reads.

The tweet also appeared in Farsi briefly, before being deleted.

A Twitter post by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on July 13, 2015, apparently celebrating the signing of a nuclear agreement. The tweet was hastily deleted.

A Twitter post by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on July 13, 2015, apparently celebrating the signing of a nuclear agreement. The tweet was hastily deleted.

The message, coming on the heels of a similar message from Iranian FM Zarif — though with an operative “if,” — sets Twitter abuzz, with the frenzy only matched by the excitement among twitterati of the fact that he deleted the message.

‘No deal tonight,’ Zarif shouts from balcony

Christiane Amanpour quotes Iranian FM Zarif as saying a nuclear deal “won’t come tonight”:

Iranian source says chances of nuclear deal tonight are ‘low’

There is little possibility that Iran and major powers will agree a historic nuclear deal before Monday night’s deadline, an Iranian source says.

Asked if reaching a deal Monday was now out of the question, the source close to the Iranian delegation says that there is only a “low chance.”

Livni says arms embargo against Iran should remain in place

Zionist Union co-chair Tzipi Livni tweets in Hebrew that the delay in signing the Iranian nuclear deal presents an opportunity to leave the arms embargo in place. In English she says this:

Iran arms embargo among last issues preventing deal

The arms embargo is one of the final issues holding back the Iran nuclear talks. The sides are not in agreement on whether to lift the embargo or remove it on all types of weapons except defensive ones, Channel 2 analyst Ehud Ya’ari says.

Hamas tried to con Israel in Mengistu exchange

Hamas conned Israel in previous talks to release Ethiopian-Israeli Avraham Mengistu, Channel 2 reports.

According to the report, Israel passed a message to Hamas regarding Mengistu. The terror organization agreed to release “the Ethiopian,” as Channel 2 quotes he was called by Hamas sources.

On the day that his release was expected to take place, Israel Defense Forces troops saw a figure arriving and thought it was Mengistu. However, in his stead, Hamas sent an Eritrean illegal migrant. IDF troops reportedly refused to accept the migrant, who returned to the Gaza Strip.

Mengistu remains in Hamas custody.

The man, apparently suffering mental issues, has been held in Hamas custody for 10 months. However, due to a gag order, this information was only made public last week.

UJA New York raises nearly $208 million in donations

The United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York successfully raised nearly $208 million this year, marking an increase over last year of almost $22 million.

“Over the past year, our community proved its resolve to support those in need — whether displaced persons in Ukraine, children in Sderot, or agencies in New York that required our assistance and expertise. Our community response underscores the vital, unique role UJA-Federation plays as a global safety net, protecting vulnerable populations and providing significant resources to address the most pressing needs, both in crisis and every day,” says Eric S. Goldstein, who celebrated his one-year anniversary as CEO of UJA-Federation in July.

“This fundraising accomplishment is testament to a tremendously caring and committed community, one that I am proud to be part of,” comments UJA-Federation President Alisa R. Doctoroff.

“It is also truly remarkable to see how such generosity is put to good use in the work being done in UJA’s network of health, human-service, education, and community-based agencies that spans New York and around the world,” she continues.

UJA-Federation’s annual campaign is the single, largest philanthropic effort by any local community anywhere in the world.

Iranians believe peace won’t come as long as ayatollahs rule

Iranian citizens speaking to Channel 10 TV say that as long as the ayatollah regime controls Iran, there will be no peace with Israel.

“They are Israel’s enemy,” one man tells the interviewer. “But not the people, only the government.”

Another citizen, Sheila, says she believes that “until the end of Rouhani’s term they will only talk and stretch these negotiations.” Sheila says she is pessimistic that “peace will come in our time.”

A third man, Jassem, says both Iran and the US share vast economic interests, and without going into details, adds that “claims that Iran and the US are enemies are just for show.”

Iranian Shiite Muslims pray in Tehran in the early hours of July 7, 2015 in commemoration of the death of the seventh century Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb and in preparation for Laylat al-Qadr -- a high point during Ramadan when the Koran holy book was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Illustrative photo of Iranian Shiite Muslims studying in Tehran during Ramadan, July 7, 2015. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

Netanyahu calls president, expresses condolences on Rivlin’s sister’s passing

Prime Minister Netanyahu calls President Reuven Rivlin and expresses his condolences on the passing of Rivlin’s sister.

Netanyahu tells Rivlin that he knows that Esther — who was born in Jerusalem and fought in the Irgun — was a significant figure in Rivlin’s life.

Netanyahu adds that he wishes to strengthen the president during “these difficult moments.”

US says ‘sticking points’ remain despite progress in talks

Talks on a nuclear deal with Iran have made “real progress” but several issues remain, the White House said Monday, suggesting the negotiations in Vienna could extend into another day.

“They have made genuine progress… but there continues to be some sticking points that remain unresolved,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington.

— AFP

Iranian admiral – Russia will upgrade our fleet

Journalist Amir Taheri quotes an Iranian admiral as saying that Russia will upgrade the Iranian navy as soon as a deal is signed.

Palestinian hunger-striking prisoner rearrested 1 day after release

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an tweets that Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who led several hunger strikes among prisoners in the past, has been rearrested only a day after his release. Adnan’s hunger strikes twice brought him close to danger of death.

Adnan was reportedly arrested at the entrance to the Temple Mount, despite not having a permit to enter the compound.

There was no other confirmation of the report.

Iran deal near, but not quite done

Vienna is abuzz with reports that the P5+1 world powers and Iran are about to finalize their much-anticipated deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

Reports in the last few hours had indicated that an announcement would be made at 2 a.m. Vienna time (3 a.m. in Israel), but it’s no longer clear that this is the case.

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Lapid celebrates bar mitzvah with Holocaust survivors

Yesh Atid leader Lapid joins a Jerusalem bar mitzvah ceremony with 30 Holocaust survivors who have never had a chance to celebrate.

The survivors arrived at the Western Wall, waving Israel flags and singing. They put on tefillin and read the Torah while onlookers threw candy at them, a usual custom for bar mitzvah boys and girls in Israel.

The survivors asked Lapid to speak of his own experience, and he described the event as closing a circle. The Yesh Atid chairman spoke of the bar mitzvah his father, Yosef [Tommy] Lapid, never managed to celebrate.

“Dad was in the Budapest ghetto, in a crowded cellar where almost 600 people lived. And his mother – my grandmother – called him and said, ‘Tommike, today is your bar mitzvah. Your father will not come to the bar mitzvah, and I think he will not come ever again. I can’t make you a cake but there is one thing I can do’,” Lapid says. “She took out a vial of perfume, Chanel No. 5 – that she has kept throughout the war, God only knows how, and she smashed it on the floor. ‘At least I can make sure it doesn’t stink on my boy’s bar mitzvah,’ she told my dad,” says Lapid.

Holocaust survivors celebrate their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. (Oren Hassidim)
Holocaust survivors celebrate their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. (Oren Hassidim)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at the Western Wall in the Old City in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. Oren Hassidim)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at the Western Wall in the Old City in Jerusalem, on Monday, July 13 2015. Oren Hassidim)