The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
VIENNA — The United States, Britain, France and Germany have submitted a motion to the UN atomic energy watchdog to censure Iran over its lack of cooperation with the agency, two diplomats say today.
“The text was submitted overnight,” a European diplomat tells AFP. A second diplomat confirms the news.
The resolution urging Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) marks the first time since June 2020 when a similar motion censuring Iran was adopted.
It is a sign of growing Western impatience after talks to revive the 2015 landmark nuclear accord with Iran stalled in March.
The vote is likely to happen on Thursday during the weeklong meeting of the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors, one of the diplomats said.
In a report late last month, the IAEA said it still had questions that were “not clarified” regarding traces of enriched uranium previously found at three sites, which Iran had not declared as having hosted nuclear activities.
Syrian state media reports that air defenses are engaging “hostile missiles” over the southern part of the country.
The state-run SANA broadcaster does not provide any further details, but other local reports say explosions are heard over the capital, reportedly following Israeli missile strikes.
— Aleph א (@no_itsmyturn) June 6, 2022
A bill that would renew the application of Israeli criminal and some civil law to Israelis in the West Bank fails its first reading in the Knesset plenum after two coalition MKs vote against the measure and four other coalition MKs avoid the vote.
The result is a serious setback for the rickety governing coalition, with the opposition — bent on bringing the coalition down — voting against the measure despite supporting it ideologically.
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi and Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim are the only coalition members to vote against the bill. Ra’am’s other three lawmakers are strategically absent from the plenum to avoid voting, as is rebel Yamina MK Idit Silman.
The finally tally is 52 for and 58 against, with additional MKs absent — due to COVID and other issues — paired off between the opposition and the coalition.
The bill would renew a longstanding measure extending Israeli law to citizens living in the West Bank. The measure must be renewed every five years, and failure to pass it could have far-reaching consequences for settlers.
Although technically the extension bill could be delayed further to next week and still meet its end-of-June deadline, the chances of bringing the measure through its committee process, and then second, and third readings before the deadline would be slim, coalition sources say.
Security services in Thailand have foiled a series of planned Iranian terror attacks on Israeli and Western targets in the country, Channel 12 news reports.
According to the network, the Iranian cell was led by an operative who was later arrested in Indonesia with a forged Bulgarian passport.
The report, which did not cite a source, says the Iranians remained determined to target Israelis despite the foiling of the attack plans.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid implored Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar not to take any steps that could decide the government’s future without another vote being held to extend Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank, according to Channel 13 news.
The report says Lapid made the entreaty during a meeting he and Sa’ar held with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ahead of this evening’s vote on the bill, which currently appears not to have sufficient support to pass.
It was unclear how Sa’ar responded.
The network also reports that Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked met with MK Nir Orbach of their Yamina party to make sure he doesn’t surprise them with an announcement to resign after tonight’s vote.
LONDON — Conservative MPs begin casting their ballots in a no-confidence vote in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which could result in his immediate removal as party leader and signal the end of his time in power.
Johnson, fighting for his political survival following the “Partygate” scandal, requires a majority of his 359 Tory MPs to back him to remain in office, with a result expected around an hour after voting ends at 8 p.m. local time.
A senior Israeli official says that diplomatic pressure on Iran is building over its nuclear program, with processes underway that could see the issue go back to the UN Security Council, an outcome Israel would welcome.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors is meeting this week in Vienna and is expected to censure Iran for the first time since June 2020.
“This decision will for the first time put diplomatic pressure on Iran,” the officials says. “Diplomatic pressure that hasn’t been fully and seriously applied since the talks about the return to the JCPOA began.”
“We can see from Iran’s public statements and their threats that they are starting to be under pressure from the fact that the Board of Governors decision is going to be presented,” the official continues.
A resolution drafted by the United States, Britain, France and Germany urges Iran to “cooperate fully” with the IAEA.
The Biden administration is changing its approach toward Iran, the official says, as evidenced by recent statements on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps smuggling oil to pay for terror activities.
The official says that this frustration from the West and the building political pressure is the start of a process that could well end up with Tehran’s nuclear program back in the hands of the Security Council, a decision must be made by the IAEA Board of Governors. Such a step will not be taken during this meeting, the officials acknowledges.
An IAEA report coming out on Iran’s violations of the JCPOA is expected to show that the amount of uranium Iran has enriched to 60 percent could be enough for the three nuclear weapons, says the official.
The official adds that there is currently remarkable coordination between Israel and the US on the Iranian issue, led by Eyal Hulata and Jake Sullivan.
The comments come after Grossi said earlier today that Iran has still not provided satisfactory answers over the presence of uranium at three facilities.
WASHINGTON — The US Justice Department orders the seizure of two aircraft owned by Russian Jewish oligarch Roman Abramovich, saying they had been used in violation of sanctions on Russia imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.
The department says in court filings that the two aircraft, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and Gulfstream G650ER executive jet, had been flown into Russian territory earlier this year, in violation of US export controls.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have been holding US-brokered talks on a number of agreements that could help clear the path to eventual diplomatic ties between the countries, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the report, one such agreement would allow greater rights for commercial flights from Israel to fly over Saudi Arabia in exchange for Jerusalem approving the transfer of two Red Sea islands from Egyptian-control to Riyadh.
The newspaper says officials in the kingdom see a shift in attitudes among young Saudis in favor of normalizing relations with Israel.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces are “holding out” against Moscow’s troops in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, but are outnumbered by a “stronger” Russian side, President Volodymyr Zelensky says.
“We’re holding out,” but “there are more of them and they are stronger,” he tells journalists in Kyiv, adding that Severodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk are both “dead cities now.”
The coalition has decided to also hold a vote this evening on Yamina MK Matan Kahana’s reappointment as religious affairs minister.
The nomination will be a vote of no-confidence, in a move seen as testing Yamina rebel Idit Silman. If she were to oppose Kahana, the vote could give Yamina grounds to officially declare her a defector, which would dent her future political prospects.
Lawmakers begin a plenum debate on a bill renewing the application of Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank, though the coalition currently has no clear majority to pass the measure in this evening’s vote.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar says that if the Knesset does not approve the bill, settlers will become “people without standing.”
He says the school year could be threatened, drivers’ licenses couldn’t be issued, identity numbers could not be assigned and that the West Bank could turn into a “sanctuary” for criminals.
While the opposition’s right-religious bloc ideologically supports the bill, it has committed to blocking it in order to embarrass the coalition, put pressure on its members and force a change in government or dissolution of the Knesset.
“You ask us how we vote against [the bill],” says Likud MK Yoav Kisch. “The answer is very easy. This will topple this bad government.”
“We’ll immediately pass it when we come back,” he adds.
“We can’t leave 500,000 people without law and without order.”
Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim denies reports that he has decided to vote against the coalition’s bill to renew application of Israeli law to Israelis in the West Bank.
“In another hour, everyone will know,” Ghaniam tells The Times of Israel.
“It’ll be fine.”
Three no-confidence motions proposed by Knesset opposition parties fail to pass this evening.
The Likud-sponsored motion fell 50-58, a motion proposed by Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism was defeated 50-56, and a final motion put forward by Religious Zionism fell 49-54.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warns that the volume of grain Ukraine is unable to export because of a Russian blockade could at least triple by the fall.
“Right now we have about 20-25 million tons blocked. In the autumn that could be 70-75 million tons,” says Zelensky, whose country was the world’s fourth biggest grain exporter before the war.
Despite struggling to cobble together a majority to pass the settler law, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is projecting confidence.
“We’ll get through this as well,” he tells reporters at the Knesset, noting the ruling coalition’s struggles since the government was formed last year.
Bennett makes the remarks before meeting with Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, the bill’s chief backer, who is insisting the vote be held today despite the apparent lack of a majority.
Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim tells the Haaretz daily that he’ll vote against a bill extending Israeli civil and criminal law to citizens in the West Bank, further denting the coalition’s odds of passing the measure.
“I didn’t need to think it over too much — and no one influences me,” he says.
However, Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas tells the newspaper that “we’re still in deliberations” and nothing is final.
Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, warns Israel against drilling in an offshore natural gas field claimed by Lebanon, saying the terror group is prepared to act — “including force” — against Israeli operations in the Karish field.
“When the Lebanese state says that the Israelis are assaulting our waters and our oil, then we are ready to do our part in terms of pressure, deterrence and use of appropriate means – including force,” Qassem tells Reuters.
Qassem says “the issue requires a decisive decision from the Lebanese state,” adding the Iran-backed terror group “urged the government to hurry up, to set a deadline for itself.”
He also says Hezbollah will act “no matter the response.”
Businessman David Ezra, who is supermodel Bar Refaeli’s father-in-law, has been arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle over 475,000 euros (more than NIS 1.6 million) out of the country.
He was released from custody after appearing today at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
Rebel Yamina MK Idit Silman is trying to convince MK Mazen Ghanaim of the coalition’s Islamist Ra’am party to vote against a bill that renews the application of Israeli laws to settlers in the West Bank, according to Channel 12 news.
The network reports that Silman told Ghanaim that she’s going to vote against the bill and he should too, saying it won’t be able to pass even with his support.
NEW YORK — Tesla chief executive Elon Musk threatens to withdraw his bid for Twitter, saying the social media company is flouting its obligations to provide required data on fake accounts.
Twitter has committed “a clear material breach” of its “obligations under the merger agreement and Mr. Musk reserves… his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement,” according to a document filed with securities regulators.
Coalition sources believe that Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar won’t seek to bring down the government if a law extending civil and criminal law to Israeli settlers in the West Bank fails to pass, according to the Haaretz daily.
The sources tell the newspaper that if the measure is unable to secure sufficient support later today, they will continue to bring the bill up for a vote until it eventually passes.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s spokesman Matan Sidi is stepping down from his post, the latest in a series of resignations among the premier’s senior advisers.
Sidi was among the prime minister’s first appointments following the government’s formation last year and previously worked with Bennett at several other ministries.
He will be replaced by Bennett’s political spokesman, Yotam Ben Yitzhak.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he has instructed the security establishment to weigh possible workarounds if the coalition is unable to renew a measure extending Israeli criminal and some civil law to Israelis in the West Bank.
At a faction meeting of his Blue and White party, Gantz says one option is having the top military commander in the West Bank issue an ordinance to apply eligible parts of Israeli criminal and civil law to settlers.
“I have instructed the security system to map and examine which of the regulations can be applied as directives by the regional commander, in case the legislation is delayed,” Gantz says.
This would include such measures as asking the regional commander to approve the extension of social security to Israelis living in the West Bank, a potential step that Gantz calls “ridiculous.”
Despite facing a determined challenge from the opposition to block the law, it remains unclear if the coalition can muster its full strength to vote for the bill. Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi reportedly said earlier that she will not vote for the measure and the Islamist Ra’am party remains a question mark.
“I am aware of the difficulties of left-wing elements,” the defense minister says, nodding to Rinawie Zoabi and her fellow Meretz MKs, several of whom say they oppose the law but will vote with the coalition.
Gantz calls on all coalition members to “vote in favor” of the bill to preserve “the status quo,” adding that “it is our duty to act responsibly, to enable the preservation of law and order, and not to allow chaos that will turn Judea and Samaria into a Wild West.”
MOSCOW — The Russian foreign minister has warned the West that if it provides Ukraine with long-range rockets, Moscow will respond by taking over larger areas of Ukraine.
Speaking during an online news conference today, Sergey Lavrov says that “the longer the range of weapons you supply, the farther away the line from where neo-Nazis could threaten the Russian Federation will be pushed.”
The US and Britain have announced they will provide Ukraine with multiple rocket-launchers capable of striking targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. The systems are capable of firing longer range rockets that can hit areas of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) away, but the US said it wouldn’t supply the rockets.
Asked how Moscow would respond if the US and its allies change their mind and provide Ukraine with long-range rockets, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in televised comments yesterday that Moscow will “draw appropriate conclusions and use our strike means, which we have plenty of, in order to hit the facilities that we haven’t struck yet.”
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar warns against the consequences of failing to pass legislation renewing Israeli law for Israelis living in the West Bank, insisting the bill will come up for a vote today despite the coalition currently appearing to lack a majority.
He criticizes opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to back to bill as “a blow to the heart of the national interest.”
He also says, says during a faction meeting of his New Hope party, that all coalition members must back the bill, branding anyone who refuses to do so an “opposition within the coalition.”
“A Knesset member from the coalition who doesn’t support such a fundamental law is working actively to dissolve it,” he adds. “A country can’t be run like this.”
BEIRUT — The Lebanese government invites a US envoy mediating between Lebanon and Israel over their disputed maritime border to return to Beirut as soon as possible to work out an agreement amid rising tensions along the border.
Today’s invitation for Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security at the US State Department, comes a day after Israel set up an oil rig at its designated location at the Karish field, which Israel says is part of its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone. Lebanon insists it is in a disputed area.
The US-mediated indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel have been stalled for months amid disagreement within Lebanon over how big the disputed area is.
Lebanon is home to the heavily armed Hezbollah terror group, which is backed by Iran and has fought several wars with Israel. Hezbollah has also warned it would use its weapons to protect Lebanon’s business rights.
Yesterday, Lebanon warned Israel not to start drilling in the Karish field and President Michel Aoun said maritime border negotiations have not ended, adding that any move by Israel will be considered “a provocation and hostile act.”
Today, the office of Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati says that he has agreed with Aoun to invite Hochstein to return to Beirut for talks on the border dispute and “to work on concluding them as soon as possible in order to prevent any escalation that will not serve the stability that the region is currently witnessing.”
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman blasts opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party for refusing to back a bill renewing the application of civil and criminal Israeli law to Israelis living in West Bank settlements, which is slated to be voted on by the Knesset later today.
“I think that Netanyahu and his friends’ position doesn’t surprise anyone,” Liberman says at faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party.
“MK Miri Regev doesn’t care about anything. Not about rape, not about soldiers, and of course not about settlements,” he adds, referring to recently recorded comments by the Likud lawmaker on opposing the government.
“For power, anything is permitted” to her.
Liberman also says a vote on the bill doesn’t have to be held today, with the coalition currently appearing to lack a majority to pass an extension of the measure.
“We have time until the end of June…. We have to get organized, we have to be smart. And at the end of the day, we’ll pass the Judea and Samaria Regulation Law like every other law,” he says.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The death toll in the collapse of a building in southwestern Iran rises to at least 41, state media reports, two weeks after the disaster struck.
Ehsun Abbaspour, the governor of the city of Abadan, gave the figure based on an official report, state television says.
The May 23 collapse at the Metropol Building some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran, has dredged up painful memories of past national disasters and shined a spotlight on shoddy construction practices, government corruption and negligence in Iran.
It follows weeks of sporadic protests roiling the oil-rich but impoverished Khuzestan province over skyrocketing prices after the government cut subsidies for several food staples. There have been protests in Abadan over the collapse, which have seen police club demonstrators and fire tear gas.
MOSCOW — Moscow denounces the “hostile” actions of several European countries after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was forced to cancel a visit to Serbia over airspace closures.
“Such hostile actions against our country can cause certain problems,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says, while insisting that Russia and Serbia would continue contacts.
KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor in Ukraine says that the situation in a key eastern town has worsened.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai says today that fierce fighting is continuing in the city of Severodonetsk in the epicenter of the Russian offensive. He describes the combat situation as “quite dynamic.”
“Our defenders managed to conduct counteroffensive and free nearly half of the city, but the situation has worsened again now,” Haidai tells the AP. “Our guys are defending the positions in the industrial zone on the outskirts of the city.”
“The shelling of Severodonetsk has intensified, (the Russians) are destroying everything in line with their scorched earth tactics,” he alleges.
Haidai says that the Russians have continued intensive bombardment also of nearby Lysychansk.
The Russians “have an enormous amount of equipment and personnel, they have pulled up a lot of reserves,” he says. He adds that they had shelled a humanitarian center in Lysychansk and destroyed a bakery, and that 98 people had left the town over the past 24 hours.
Haidai says that a key highway between Bakhmut and Lysychansk has been under constant shelling even though it remains in Ukrainian hands.
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