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Shaked’s Yamina joins forces with fellow conservative Hendel for Knesset run

Union comes as Yamina predicted by polls to fall below electoral threshold in November vote, while Hendel, of Derech Eretz party, left out of Blue and White-New Hope merger

Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) and Yoaz Hendel (Derech Eretz) merge their parties to form the Zionist Spirit party, July 27, 2022. (Ariel Zandberg)
Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) and Yoaz Hendel (Derech Eretz) merge their parties to form the Zionist Spirit party, July 27, 2022. (Ariel Zandberg)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

Lapid meets with Bennett, who has been mostly absent for past month

Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with his predecessor Naftali Bennett this evening at Lapid’s home in Tel Aviv.

The two discussed various security and policy issues, according to a government statement, which did not provide further details on the meeting.

Bennett handed over the premiership to Lapid late last month when the government collapsed, per their coalition agreement.

Bennett said at the time he would be stepping away from politics, and has kept a low profile since, although he still serves as alternate prime minister and is officially the religious services minister, although Deputy Minister Matan Kahana — who held the post during most of the outgoing government — is more active in the ministry.

Bennett’s party, Yamina, has polled poorly in recent weeks, and earlier today announced its merger with the Derech Eretz faction. The join slate will run in November’s elections as Zionist Spirit.

Gantz and Netanyahu trade barbs over appointment of next IDF chief

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu (L) Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (Olivier Fitoussi, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu (L) Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (Olivier Fitoussi, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu exchange fire over Gantz’s decision to move ahead with the appointment of the IDF’s next chief of staff, despite serving in a caretaker government.

Netanyahu pens a letter to Gantz, arguing the crucial appointment should be made in a “stately manner” and away from “political context.”

“The appointment of senior officials should be determined by a permanent government, and not by a transitional government in the midst of elections,” Netanyahu says.

In response, Gantz says: “I’m sorry that he chooses to drag the issue to a political context, in a way that may harm the security of Israel and of the IDF.”

Gantz notes that the appointment received the blessing of the attorney general and that he invited Netanyahu to take part in the process.

The race to replace Avi Kochavi as head of the IDF has been narrowed to two candidates — Eyal Zamir, a former IDF deputy chief of staff currently serving as a research fellow at the Washington Institute think tank, and Herzi Halevi, the current deputy chief of staff.

Demonstrators invade Iraq’s parliament in protest against Iran-backed PM nominee

Mohammed al-Sudani, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote in the country's parliamentary elections in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, May 12, 2018. (AP/Karim Kadim, File)
Mohammed al-Sudani, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote in the country's parliamentary elections in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, May 12, 2018. (AP/Karim Kadim, File)

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters break into Baghdad’s parliament, chanting curses against Iran, in a protest against the selection of a nominee for prime minister by Iran-backed parties.

Many protesters are followers of an influential cleric. Some are seen walking on tables and waving Iraqi flags.

No lawmakers are present at the building. Only security forces are inside and they appear to allow the protesters in with relative ease.

The breach comes amid the biggest protest since the Iraqi elections were held in October.

The demonstrators are protesting the recent nomination of Mohammed al-Sudani as the official nominee of the Coordination Framework bloc, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies.

Zionist Spirit: Shaked’s Yamina and Hendel’s Derech Eretz unite for elections

Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) and Yoaz Hendel (Derech Eretz) merge their parties to form the Zionist Spirit party, July 27, 2022 (Ariel Zandberg)
Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) and Yoaz Hendel (Derech Eretz) merge their parties to form the Zionist Spirit party, July 27, 2022 (Ariel Zandberg)

Yamina party leader Ayelet Shaked and Derech Eretz chair Yoaz Hendel sign an agreement to unite ahead of elections in November.

Recent polling shows that Yamina is at risk of falling below the 3.25% electoral threshold needed to win representation in the Knesset.

The joint slate will go by the name Zionist Spirit.

Derech Eretz was granted the 2nd and 4th slots on the new faction’s electoral slate. Shaked will lead the party.

Hendel’s faction, formerly part of Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, was not included in Sa’ar’s decision to join forces with Defense Minister Gantz’s Blue and White party for the election.

Yamina, previously led by former prime minister Naftali Bennett, was badly battered by its time in power. Some of its voter base was angered over Bennett’s decision to partner with left-wing parties and the Islamist Ra’am faction in the government, and several of its lawmakers defected.

Shaked took the reins of the party when Bennett was replaced as prime minister last month and announced he was stepping away from politics.

While Shaked sought in vain to help former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu form a new coalition last month without resort to elections, Hendel firmly opposed any partnership with Netanyahu.

High Court rules Mitzpe Kramim settlement outpost will not be evacuated

Mitzpe Kramim. (Gideon Mermelstein)
Mitzpe Kramim. (Gideon Mermelstein)

The High Court of Justice rules the Mitzpe Kramim settlement outpost built on private Palestinian land should not be evacuated since it was allocated by the government to the settlers in good faith.

The High Court had previously ruled in 2020 that “good faith” legal measures did not apply to Mitzpe Kramim and that the outpost should be demolished, but determined that the “good faith” principle could be applied to other settlements built on private land.

Legal representatives for the settlement argued that they had received the land in good faith from the Settlement Division of the World Zionist organization and that even though the land turned out to have private Palestinian ownership the settlement should be allowed to remain.

The High Court today upholds that position, which allows the legal tool known as “market regulation” to be employed. The tool grants retroactive legalization to outpost homes built on Palestinian land so long as they were constructed in “good faith.”

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the ruling, saying he would formally legalize the settlement and work toward the legalization and success of “settlement outposts and settlements all over the country” if he is able to establish a new right-wing government after the coming elections.

White House official reportedly says return to Iran nuclear deal ‘highly unlikely’

Enrique Mora, a leading European Union diplomat, second right, attends a meeting with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, third left, in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2022. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)
Enrique Mora, a leading European Union diplomat, second right, attends a meeting with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, third left, in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2022. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Brett McGurk, US President Joe Biden’s Middle East coordinator, says the US and Iran are “highly unlikely” to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a report by the Axios news site.

The report says the diplomat told a group of think tank experts last week that the Biden administration will likely focus on using sanctions and isolating Iran diplomatically while holding back on a military strike, unless the use of force is absolutely necessary.

McGurk said differences between the US and Israel on the issue are not related to a potential military strike, but whether the US should revive the 2015 deal, or try for new, more forceful limitations on Iran, Axios reports.

Health Ministry announces home antigen tests to be reported in official COVID data

The Health Ministry says starting today people who suspect they are infected with COVID-19 can now take a home test while on a video call with an authorized health official.

This ends the need for people to be tested in person in order for their infection to be officially recorded.

IDF presents evidence of Hamas military use of civilian sites to international media

This illustration published by the military on July 27, 2022, shows a red line where a Hamas tunnel allegedly is, next to the Islamic University of Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces)
This illustration published by the military on July 27, 2022, shows a red line where a Hamas tunnel allegedly is, next to the Islamic University of Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces)

In an attempt to strengthen the military’s legitimization for actions in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces briefs international media on Hamas sites in the coastal enclave which are situated near civilian infrastructure.

The efforts come following harsh international scrutiny over Israel’s actions during last year’s 11-day war, which included dozens of civilian deaths and a major airstrike on a building used by international media outlets.

Military officials also admit attempting to explain each Israeli action to the world at the same time as fighting a war is a difficult task.

Reporters are presented with a series of sites, including a tunnel that runs next to a Pepsi soft drink factory and a United Nations-funded school in Gaza City. The IDF says the tunnel is used by Hamas to both store weaponry and mobilize fighters.

Several other Hamas weapon manufacturing and storage sites and tunnels situated near schools, universities mosques, and other civilian sites are presented to the reporters.

Israel argues that Hamas’s use of civilian areas for military activity, including launching rockets at Israel, amounts to war crimes.

Lawmakers respond to state comptroller’s report on Guardian of the Walls riots

Lawmakers are weighing in on the report by Israel’s state comptroller, which called out failures of the police and Shin Bet amid intercommunal riots in May 2021 during a conflict between the IDF and terror groups in Gaza.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev accepts the report’s findings but maintains that during his time in office, which began after the riots, he has implemented measures, such as establishing a national guard within the Border Police.

“I am determined that the events of Guardian of the Walls, as we experienced inside the State of Israel, will not occur again,” he writes.

Religious Zionism party chair Bezalel Smotrich says that the report reveals “blindness and denial in reading reality” by security forces, and claims that police ignored extreme nationalism that is “increasingly present in Arab society.”

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman charges that the report demonstrates a view that “Arab citizens are enemies, or potential enemies that the regime needs,” and that the report ignores “police violence and Jewish racist fascists.”

Biden to leave isolation after testing negative for COVID-19

In this photo provided by The White House, US President Joe Biden talks on the phone with his national security team from the Treaty Room in the residence of the White House in Washington, July 22, 2022 (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)
In this photo provided by The White House, US President Joe Biden talks on the phone with his national security team from the Treaty Room in the residence of the White House in Washington, July 22, 2022 (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)

US President Joe Biden has received a negative COVID-19 test and will end his isolation, his doctor says.

According to the statement by the White House Physician, the commander-in-chief tested negative twice and has “almost completely” recovered from symptoms.

Biden tested positive for the virus last week upon returning from his trip to the Middle East.

3 young Israelis indicted for throwing Molotov cocktails at Arabs in June

Prosecutors have filed an indictment against three young Israelis at the Haifa District Court today after police arrested them earlier in July on suspicion of attacking Arab Israelis with Molotov cocktails last month.

Police say the three, residents of Givat Olga in the northern city of Hadera, approached two people on the beach, then, after speaking to them in Arabic, threw the explosives, which failed to explode and did not cause injuries.

Police say the suspects’ motives were nationalistic.

State comptroller: Shin Bet and police failed during Guardian of the Walls riots

A car set on fire by Israeli Arab residents during riots in the central Israeli town of Lod, on May 11, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)
A car set on fire by Israeli Arab residents during riots in the central Israeli town of Lod, on May 11, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman says police and the Shin Bet failed in their duties during last year’s riots between Jewish and Arab communities, which took place during a major conflict between the IDF and terror groups in Gaza.

“The violent riots during the Guardian of the Walls revealed major deficiencies in the activities of the [security] regime,” Englman writes, adding the failures seriously damaged Israelis’ security.

One of the glaring failures outlined by the report is the lack of police response to almost 3,000 calls made to the 100 emergency number between May 11 and 13 May, while approximately 4,000 others were left without a meaningful response.

Englman also says that he found significant flaws in the division of responsibilities between the Shin Bet and police, which contributed to intelligence gaps.

Israeli team finally approved to fly to Russia for talks on Jewish Agency crisis

Left, Prime Minister Yair Lapid heads a  cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on July 17, 2022. Right, Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, July 1, 2021. (Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP; Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Left, Prime Minister Yair Lapid heads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on July 17, 2022. Right, Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, July 1, 2021. (Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP; Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

An Israeli delegation has finally been given the okay to fly to Moscow tonight to meet with Russian officials amid efforts to prevent the closing of the Jewish Agency in the country.

Last week, Russia’s Justice Ministry filed an appeal at the district court in Moscow seeking to close the semi-governmental agency which facilitates Jewish immigration to Israel.

Tomorrow, the court is expected to hold a hearing on the case.

The delegation had been set to leave on Sunday, but authorities in Moscow reportedly withheld approval. The delegation’s trip is going ahead “on instructions from Prime Minister Yair Lapid and in coordination with the authorities in Russia,” according to an Israeli government statement.

Prosecutors to indict suspect over terror attack in central Israel in July

Yitzhak Dahan, 47, who was seriously hurt in a suspected terror attack between Bnei Brak and Gviat Shmuel, speaks to Channel 12 news on July 6, 2022, a day after the attack. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news)
Yitzhak Dahan, 47, who was seriously hurt in a suspected terror attack between Bnei Brak and Gviat Shmuel, speaks to Channel 12 news on July 6, 2022, a day after the attack. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news)

Israel Police say they have identified a suspect who carried out a terror attack in the center of Israel earlier in July.

Prosecutors say they intend to indict a 33-year-old-man from the village of Einabus in the northern West Bank for attacking a 47 year-old-man on a pedestrian bridge between Bnei Brak and Givat Shmuel with a blunt object, causing mild injuries.

“The investigation of the suspect revealed that he planned to carry out the terror attack with nationalistic intent and even did groundwork in the days before the incident, in order to find a location and date suitable for it,” police say.

Spokesman says German government will compensate families of 1972 Munich massacre

File Photo from September 5, 1972, shows a member of the Arab commando group which seized members of the Israeli Olympic Team at their quarters at the Munich Olympic Village appearing with a hood over his face on the balcony of the village building where the commandos held several members of the Israeli team hostage. (AP/Kurt Strumpf, File)
File Photo from September 5, 1972, shows a member of the Arab commando group which seized members of the Israeli Olympic Team at their quarters at the Munich Olympic Village appearing with a hood over his face on the balcony of the village building where the commandos held several members of the Israeli team hostage. (AP/Kurt Strumpf, File)

The German government plans to pay compensation to the families of victims slain by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, according to German media reports.

The spokesperson for the Federal Interior Ministry told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that the government had reached the decision from “a desire to define the serious consequences for the relatives of the victims in material terms.”

This September will mark 50 years since the attack, in which 11 Israeli athletes and one West German police officer were killed.

Russia halves major pipeline’s natural gas supply to Europe

Russia’s Gazprom is halving the amount of natural gas flowing through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe to 20% of capacity. It’s the latest Nord Stream 1 reduction that Russia blames on technical problems but Germany calls a political move to sow uncertainty and push up prices amid the war in Ukraine.

The Russian state-controlled energy giant announced Monday that it would slash flows on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that runs to Germany because of equipment repairs. It’s raised new fears that Russia could completely cut off gas that is used to power industry, generate electricity and heat homes to try to gain political leverage over Europe as it tries to bolster its storage levels for winter.

Data on the Nord Stream website and the head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Mueller, confirmed the reduction.

“Gas is now a part of Russian foreign policy and possibly Russian war strategy,” Mueller tells Deutschlandfunk radio.

Lapid meets with Jordan’s Abdullah in Amman for 1st time since becoming PM

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) meets with King Abdullah II (R) in Amman, Jordan, July 27, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) meets with King Abdullah II (R) in Amman, Jordan, July 27, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid made his first trip to Jordan as premier to meet with King Abdullah, his office says.

The leaders discussed opportunities to expand bilateral ties on food security, agriculture, and transportation through the joint Israel-Jordan-UAE solar-desalinization deal signed last year, and joint tourism initiatives in the Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Lapid and Abdullah also discussed the recent visit of US President Joe Biden to the region and the opportunities it produced for expanded regional cooperation, Lapid’s office says.

In its statement, the Royal Hashemite Court says that during the meeting, Abdullah reaffirmed the need for a “just, comprehensive, lasting peace on basis of two-state solution.”

The Jordanian statement also emphasizes the need to “bolster regional security, stability, and development, which must include Palestinians.”

Notably, the Israeli readout makes no mention of the Palestinian issue, which is a top agenda item for Jordan but is often downplayed by the Israeli side.

Still, Lapid’s statement highlights the warm nature of the meeting and says the two leaders also enjoyed a joint lunch with their staffs.

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