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Netanyahu said willing to vacate PM post for Gantz in under 6 months

TV reports quote Likud leader blaming Blue and White’s Yair Lapid for impasse in coalition talks, pledging to leave PM’s office without fuss

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset on November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset on November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.

Netanyahu wishes ‘Mazel tov’ to son of Mumbai terror victims over bar mitzvah

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, send best wishes to Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were killed in the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai when he was 2 years old, and is today celebrating his bar mitzvah.

“I wish that you remain loyal to your people, your country, and your family and continue to have a good and happy life,” Netanyahu says in a video. “Mazel tov, Moishy!”

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg. (Chabad)

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg were the directors of the Nariman Chabad House in the Indian city when it was attacked on November 26, 2008. Along with the couple, four other Israeli and American visitors to the house were killed.

The Chabad House was among 12 locations targeted in coordinated shooting and bombing attacks by Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organization based in Pakistan, that killed 166 people and injured hundreds more in a three-day rampage in Mumbai.

The child was dubbed “Baby Moshe,” when a photo of his terrified-looking nanny running from the besieged Chabad House clutching the little boy was splashed on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

with Agencies

Indian Prime Minister, left, embracing 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, whose Chabad emissary parents were killed in a 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on left in Israel, July 5, 2017 . (Haim Zach/Israeli Government Press Office/File)

Police searching for armed robber in Jerusalem

Police are searching for a suspected thief in Jerusalem, after a business on Derech Beit Lechem Street reports an armed robbery.

According to reports, the man stole a sum of money while threatening violence, before fleeing the scene of the incident, in the capital’s Baka neighborhood, on a motorcycle.

Amazon removes Christmas ornaments with images of Auschwitz

Christmas ornaments and bottle openers featuring the site of the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp that were for sale on Amazon have been removed from the site.

The products are taken off the Amazon website hours after the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum on Sunday morning in Europe asked the site to remove the items.


TV: Netanyahu offered to serve as PM for under 6 months, then give post to Gantz

According to Channel 13, Netanyahu, in closed talks, says he offered Benny Gantz a premiership rotation agreement, under which he would serve as prime minister for up to six months before vacating the position for the Blue and White leader.

Netanyahu says he promised to leave office “without tricks or funny business,” but Blue and White’s Lapid was preventing a deal.

Channel 12 also reports the Likud leader’s offer. It says Blue and White was considering the possibility that Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction in the alliance would not enter the coalition until after Netanyahu departs, should Gantz take up the offer.

Lapid blasts Likud for ‘lying’ about concessions

Blue and White’s Yair Lapid hits back, accusing Likud of “lying” in saying the right-wing party was willing to make “major concessions” to form a unity government with the centrist alliance.

He says Netanyahu is not willing to relinquish his bloc of 55 lawmakers loyal to him, whose inclusion in a future government has been a condition for Likud in coalition talks. The prime minister is also unwilling to allow Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz to assume the role of prime minister first under a power-sharing deal, he says.

“You said ‘Bibi [Netanyahu] is first in the rotation [of prime minister], [United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov] Litzman and [National Union Bezalel] Smotrich are locked in, we won’t give up anything,’ and then publicly make up ‘concessions,'” tweets Lapid. “Let Bibi agree to go second in the rotation, and tomorrow there will be a government.”

Likud: We offered ‘major concessions,’ but Lapid sabotaging unity bid

Likud is blaming Blue and White’s Yair Lapid for the impasse in coalition talks.

“Likud has agreed to major concessions, but Yair Lapid is still making every effort to thwart a unity government. If Lapid ceases to sabotage unity efforts, there is still a real possibility of preventing elections and forming a unity government,” Netanyahu’s party says on Twitter.

Knesset legal adviser clarifies rules on endorsing PM

A lawmaker who endorses two candidates for prime minister will be asked to choose between them, the Knesset legal adviser says.

The legal opinion is handed down during the 21-day period in which Knesset members can back any candidate for premier. The MK who receives 61 signatures could be tasked with forming a government. But Eyal Yinon previously said lawmakers can back more than one candidate.

Now, he says, lawmakers who sign for two different lawmakers will be asked to narrow down their choice to one or have their vote stricken from the list.

Yisrael Beytenu’s Liberman has said he could endorse both Netanyahu and Gantz.

Second London terror victim named as Saskia Jones, 23

London police identify the second victim of the terror attack on London Bridge as Saskia Jones, 23, of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

Her family, in a statement, mourns her as a “funny, kind, positive influence at the center of many people’s lives.”

Walmart denies Jerusalem opening, as mystery deepens

Walmart says its LinkedIn ads seeking employees in Jerusalem — which sparked widespread rumors of an Israel launch — referred to openings in Jerusalem, Illinois.

There’s just one problem: Jerusalem, Illinois cannot be found on a map, though there is a Zion, IL.

The speculation of an Israel launch of the US giant caused the stock of major Israeli supermarkets, including Shufersal and Rami Levi, to dip.


PM rails against EU countries’ support for system to circumvent Iran sanctions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rails against European countries which back the INSTEX system, designed to circumvent US sanctions on Iran.

Paris, London and Berlin on Saturday welcomed six new European countries — Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — to the INSTEX barter mechanism, which is designed to bypass US sanctions against trade with Iran by avoiding use of the dollar. The Paris-based INSTEX functions as a clearing house allowing Iran to continue to sell oil and import other products or services in exchange.

The system has not yet enabled any transactions.

Commending anti-government protesters in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, says Netanyahu: “And while the people of the Middle East bravely stand up to Iran and its henchmen, here’s the absurd thing: While all of this is happening, countries in Europe are working to bypass US sanctions against Iran. While the Iranian regime is killing its own people, European countries rush to support that very murderous regime. While Iran bombs Saudi Arabia’s oil installations, while Iran rushes to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, European countries rush to appease Iran with even more concessions.

“These European countries should be ashamed of themselves. Have they learned nothing from history? Well, apparently not. They are enabling a fanatic terrorist state to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, thereby bringing disaster to themselves and upon everyone else.

“Now is the time to change course. Now is the time to ratchet up the pressures on Iran, not to lessen them. Now is the time to join the United States and increase sanctions against Iran. To those who favor appeasement of Iran, I say this: History and your own people will judge you harshly. Change course now.”

with Agencies

Woman killed in London attack was former Cambridge student

Cambridge University has revealed that the woman stabbed to death in a London terror attack was a former student.

Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope says in a statement Sunday that the woman, who hasn’t been named by police yet, had been part of the Learning Together program that was being celebrated when the attack broke out Friday afternoon.

He says the other person who died, Jack Merritt, was a course coordinator of the program. He also says one of the three people injured is a member of university staff.


Dutch police: No sign of terror motive in Hague stabbings

Dutch police say on Sunday they have found no indications of a terrorist motive after arresting a homeless man for stabbing three teenagers in The Hague.

The 35-year-old man was detained on Saturday after the assault, which happened as shoppers hunted Black Friday bargains in the city’s main commercial street.

“The precise circumstances of the stabbing incident are still unclear. No indications have yet been found to show that there was a terrorist motive,” police say on Twitter.

“The motive for the stabbing incident is still being investigated.”

Police say the suspect had no fixed abode and was “arrested at a homeless shelter in the center of The Hague” before being taken to a police station for questioning.

They had previously said they were investigating “several scenarios.”


Christmas ornaments with images of Auschwitz are for sale on Amazon

Christmas ornaments and bottle openers featuring the site of the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp are for sale on Amazon.

The Auschwitz Memorial and Museum calls Amazon out in a tweet on Sunday which says, “Selling “Christmas ornaments” with images of Auschwitz does not seem appropriate. Auschwitz on a bottle opener is rather disturbing and disrespectful. We ask @amazon to remove the items of those suppliers.”

The Auschwitz ornaments include the iconic image of train tracks leading to the entrance of Auschwitz, and an image of reconstructed barracks with a path down the middle.


German army to suspend elite force member over Hitler salute

The German army is due to suspend a member of its elite KSK force on suspicion of far-right extremism, local media reports Sunday, in a new scandal to hit the armed forces.

Bild am Sonntag newspaper says the army has been covertly investigating him and two other soldiers and was prompted to take action against the man after its probe leaked.

Of the other two suspects, one has been stripped of the right to wear a German army uniform while the other has been classed as a suspicious case.

Both had allegedly made the banned Hitler salute during a private party hosted by the suspect who is to be suspended next week, according to the newspaper.

The elite KSK is charged with the sensitive and risky missions including hostage rescue operations or anti-terror action abroad. But suspicions that some members are far-right leaning have always plagued the force. The head of the military’s counter-intelligence service Christof Gramm had said that there are around 20 suspicious cases at the KSK.


Likud-Blue and White meeting ends, deadlock persists

The meeting between negotiators of Blue and White and Likud has ended without any breakthroughs.

Blue and White says the meeting was amicable but “the gaps between both sides remain significant.”

Another meeting may be held later in the week, says Blue and White.

Israeli to stand trial in Jordan for illegally entering kingdom

An Israeli who illegally crossed into Jordan in October will stand trial, the Jordanian state-run Petra news agency quotes an unnamed official source as saying.

Konstantine Kotov will be tried by Jordan’s State Security Court on charges of illegally entering the Hashemite Kingdom and possessing drugs with intent of using them, the official source says.

His trial will begin on Monday, the source adds.

On October 29, former Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sufyan Qudah said that Jordan arrested an Israeli citizen who he said “illegally” crossed into the kingdom. At the time, he said that Jordanian authorities were interrogating the Israeli before transferring him to “the relevant legal parties to take the necessary legal measures against him.”

Adam Rasgon

President: Jordan reopening Aaron’s Tomb to Israelis

President Reuven Rivlin says Jordan will reopen the Aaron’s Tomb pilgrimage site to Israeli tourists.

In a statement from his office, Rivlin says he updated Foreign Minister Israel Katz on the development, following his meeting last week with Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed in London.

The site was closed to Jewish pilgrims in August, over a video that appeared to show Israelis praying there. At the time, Jordan said several hundred Israelis arrived in Petra, without prior coordination or permission to pray at the site. According to Jordanian media, the visitors held “Talmudic religious ceremonies” at the tomb.

A tour guide denied the Jewish visitors had prayed.

Deri, Liberman trade online blows over ultra-Orthodox, former Soviet immigrants

Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman are trading barbs over their respective constituents, the ultra-Orthodox and largely secular immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

In a Facebook post, Deri responds to Liberman’s earlier statement, in which the Yisrael Beytenu leader says both Likud and Blue and White are beholden to the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Addressing Liberman, Deri writes: “You demanded over NIS 2 billion for pensioners from the former Soviet Union who don’t work and don’t pay taxes. You demanded [Israel] open 17 immigration offices in former Soviet countries, states in which it’s doubtful there are even any Jews. And more, and more. So how do you have the audacity to accuse the Haredim of extorting?”

He denies Liberman’s claim that Blue and White offered four ministerial portfolios to Shas last month to coax the Haredi party into joining the government.

Liberman, in a follow-up statement, says Deri misunderstood him, implying the Shas minister can’t read in a jab at the lack of secular studies in some ultra-Orthodox schools.

“You seem to have a problem with reading comprehension,” writes Liberman. “Maybe this is the results of the lack of core studies in the Haredi schools. In my post, I didn’t write a thing about Haredi extortion. My claims are against Netanyahu and Likud who bow to pressures by the non-Zionist parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.”

Knesset speaker meets with UTJ leaders

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein meets United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni as part of ongoing coalition talks.

No information is immediately released on the meeting.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (L) meets with United Torah Judaism MKs Yaakov Litzman (C) and Moshe Gafni (R) in the Knesset on December 1, 2019 (Courtesy)

Dad of London Bridge victim says son was ‘beautiful spirit’

The first victim of the London Bridge terror attack to be named is praised by his father as “a beautiful spirit.”

Jack Merritt, 25, was one of two people stabbed to death by Usman Khan during the convicted terrorist’s rampage on Friday.

Khan, 28, was shot dead on the bridge by police while wearing a fake explosives vest.

Merritt, a course coordinator at Cambridge University’s criminology institute, was killed as he helped host an event near London Bridge to mark five years of a prisoner rehabilitation program.

Jack Merritt, 25, was killed on Friday November 29, 2019 in a terror attack on London Bridge. (Photo: Merritt’s Instagram page)

Merritt was reportedly a Cambridge University graduate who was working for its “Learning Together” initiative run by the Department of Criminology to promote prison-based education.

“He was an exceptional young man, and I’m only finding out the half of it now he’s gone,” David Merritt, the victim’s father, says in a series of messages on Twitter.

“I talked often with Jack about Learning Together & I was inspired by the stories he told me,” he adds.


2 East Jerusalem men charged with planning Independence Day shootings

Two residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber are charged with planning shooting attacks in the capital on Independence Day 2020, on behalf of the Islamic State terror group, according to Hebrew reports.

The suspects, aged 19 and 21, have attempted to join the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate since 2016.

The pair — named as Ahmad Jabis and Basel Abidat — plotted to carry out a shooting attack either at Safra Square or the Sultan’s Pool, where crowds would gather to mark the festive day in April. They were apprehended by Israeli security forces before they could carry out the attack and are charged in court today.

Israel scolds new European recruits to Iran barter system

Israel scolds six new European members of the INSTEX barter mechanism with Iran, saying it encourages Tehran’s repression of protests.

“Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden could not have picked worse timing,” says an English-language statement from the Israeli foreign ministry.

“The hundreds of innocent Iranians murdered during the latest round of protests are rolling in their graves.”

The Paris-based INSTEX functions as a clearing house allowing Iran to continue to sell oil and import other products or services in exchange.

The system has not yet enabled any transactions.

Protests broke out across sanctions-hit Iran on November 15, hours after a sharp fuel price hike was announced.

Reports of deaths and arrests emerged as security forces were deployed to rein in demonstrations which turned violent in some areas, with dozens of banks, petrol garages and police stations torched.

London-based human rights group Amnesty International has said 161 demonstrators were killed.

“We ask these European countries – what message are you sending to the Iranian people?” Israel’s Sunday statement says.

“Would it not be more effective and ethical to designate the regime officials responsible for the murder of innocent civilians?”


Liberman claims Blue and White offered 4 ministerial portfolios to Shas

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman claims Blue and White last month offered Aryeh Deri’s Shas four ministerial posts in exchange for joining a Benny Gantz-led coalition.

In a statement, Liberman doubles down on his call for a Likud-Blue and White-Yisrael Beytenu government, without the ultra-Orthodox parties.

He says Netanyahu “sold out the secular public and immigrants from the former Soviet Union in favor of his strategic alliance with the Haredim.”

Blue and White’s Gantz, he continues, is no better, having courted the ultra-Orthodox aggressively to join his government.

Gantz “promised Shas last month four cabinet portfolios, two deputy minister posts,” control over matters of religion and state, and the position of “acting prime minister,” Liberman claims.


Iraqi MPs accept premier’s resignation amid ongoing violence

Iraq’s parliament approves the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on Sunday, amid ongoing violence and anti-government demonstrations in the capital that saw one protester shot dead.

Protesters also continue to close roads, including those leading to a major commodities port, in mass demonstrations in southern Iraq.

Parliament enacts Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation without putting it to a vote, according to two lawmakers in attendance. Existing laws do not provide clear procedures for members of parliament to recognize the prime minister’s resignation. Lawmakers act on the legal opinion of the federal supreme court for Sunday’s session.

“According to the federal court’s interpretation there is no need to vote,” says lawmaker Sarkwat Shamsedine, during the session.

Lawmaker Mohamed al-Daraji says that parliament faced a “black hole in the constitution” that didn’t clearly set out how members of parliament should deal with a premier’s resignation.


Is Walmart coming to Jerusalem?

Walmart has posted jobs based in Jerusalem, fueling frenzied rumors the US giant could be opening a branch in Israel.

The jobs posted to LinkedIn include cashiers, pharmacists and warehouse workers.

There is no official announcement on a Jerusalem launch.

KFC returning to Israel, for fourth time — report

The fried chicken franchise KFC will reopen in Israel this month after four failed commercial attempts in the Jewish state, Channel 12 reports.

The first branch will open in Nazareth.

The network says that unlike its previous failed ventures, the US company will not attempt to amend its recipe for kosher consumers and the restaurants will follow the recipe used in the US branches.

Dozens of branches will open across Israel in 2020, the report says.

Should terrorists serve their full jail terms? Corbyn says not necessarily

Britain’s political leaders spar over who is responsible for the early release of a convicted terrorist who launched a stabbing attack in central London that left two dead and injured three.

The argument centers over the early release from prison of Usman Khan, who served roughly half his sentence before being set free. He was able to stab five people before being shot dead by police despite conditions imposed on his release that were supposed to protect public safety.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday blames Khan’s freedom on changes in sentencing rules made by the last Labour Party government before Johnson’s Conservatives took power in 2010. He promises to toughen sentencing laws.

“I think it is repulsive that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years and that’s why we are going to change the law,” he tells BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Other rivals complain that Johnson is trying to score political points in the aftermath of the attack.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accuses the Conservatives of trying to provide security “on the cheap” and said he does not necessarily agree that all terrorist prisoners should be required to serve their full terms.

He says it depends on the circumstances and called for the Parole Board and the probation service to be more actively involved.


Palestinian official condemns Israeli moves in Hebron, blames US

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemns Israel’s announcement that it will build a new neighborhood in the West Bank city of Hebron.

He blames the United States for the move, saying it’s “the first tangible result of the US decision to legitimize colonization.”

That is an apparent reference to the State Department’s announcement last month that it will no longer automatically view the settlements as illegal.

Likud, Blue and White negotiators meet

Unity government talks, hosted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud, begin in Jerusalem.

Negotiators representing Likud and Blue and White are participating in the last-ditch effort to build a coalition.

New Orleans police: 10 wounded in French Quarter shooting

New Orleans police say 10 people were hit in an early morning shooting in the city’s famed French Quarter.

A police release says two people are in critical condition and no arrests have been made. Police Supt. Shaun Ferguson tells The New Orleans Advocate/The Times-Picayune that a person of interest has been detained.

Ferguson says the 10 victims were taken to two hospitals. Further details about their conditions haven’t been released.

The shooting took place on a busy commercial block of Canal Street that has streetcar tracks and is near many hotels. Ferguson says police quickly responded to the scene as patrols were heightened for this weekend’s Bayou Classic, the annual Thanksgiving weekend rivalry football game between Grambling State and Southern University that’s played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.


Left-wing MK censures ‘messianists’ over Hebron moves

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg calls the establishment of a new Israeli neighborhood in the West Bank city of Hebron a “win” for the ideology of the racist far-right former settler leader Meir Kahane.

“Whoever establishes Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of the capital of Israel’s apartheid, instead of dismantling them, is a messianist who intentionally harms the State of Israel,” she says.

Michael Bachner

Top Arab MK blasts Hebron expansion as a ‘dangerous step’

The leading Arab lawmaker in Israel calls the decision to build a new Israeli neighborhood in Hebron — where some 1,000 Jews live among the 200,000 Palestinians residents — a “dangerous step.”

Ayman Odeh calls it a “dangerous step that deepens the occupation over millions of Palestinians.”

“The war against peace continues,” he says in a statement, condemning the “dangerous and messianic vision of the right.”

Jewish settlers in Hebron praise Bennett for approval

The Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron hails the announcement, saying in a statement that it “thanks Defense Minister Naftali Bennett from the bottom of its heart for the decision to return Jewish life to the Jewish property in Hebron… an act of historic justice for which the Israeli nation has been waiting for 90 years.”

New Right MK Ayelet Shaked, the former justice minister, also commends the decision by Bennett, calling it “a historic and important decision.”

“As justice minister I worked for two years to free the land from a legal entanglement in which it was [stuck] for many years, and the neighborhood had waited about a year for the defense minister’s approval. Bennett’s courageous decision will boost the Jewish community and develop the city.”

Michael Bachner

New Jewish neighborhood to be built in Hebron, Bennett says

Newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday announces his approval for planning of a new Jewish neighborhood in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, in a decision that is quickly praised by the right and bashed by the left.

On Sunday, the defense minister’s office says in a statement that Bennett had ordered the relevant offices within the Israel Defense Forces to inform the Hebron municipality that planning was starting for the new neighborhood near the city’s old market.

The area of that market has been under Jewish ownership since the early 19th century. Local Jews fled following the 1929 massacre in which some 65 Jews were murdered by Arab mobs. After Israel gained control of the city in 1967, it approved the construction of a Palestinian market that was active until the 1990s.

The statement says the neighborhood will double the number of Jewish settlers in the city, and create Jewish “territorial continuity” between the existing Avraham Avinu neighborhood and the Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site.

“The market’s buildings will be demolished and new stores will be built instead,” the statement says. “The rights of Palestinians on the ground floor will be preserved as they are today.”

Bennett made the decision following a series of discussions with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Civil Administration — which serves as the military liaison to Palestinians — as well as the Shin Bet and other security officials, the statement adds.

Michael Bachner

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