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Yamina MK to hold 3rd meeting in one day with Bennett ahead of likely defection

Nir Orbach is reportedly considering voting to disband the Knesset only in first reading in an effort to prevent Lapid from becoming interim prime minister during election period

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach attends a Knesset committee meeting on September 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yamina MK Nir Orbach attends a Knesset committee meeting on September 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Macron’s alliance predicted to win most votes, parliamentary majority uncertain

French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance is on track to win the largest number of seats in parliament after the first round of voting today, projections from polling firms show, though it remains unclear if it will obtain a majority.

His Ensemble (Together) alliance is projected by three firms to win between 260 and 310 seats in the second round of voting on June 19, with a new leftwing coalition finishing second, for a projected 150 to 220 seats.

Macron would need to secure at least 289 seats to have a majority for pushing through legislation during his second five-year term.

Yamina MK Orbach heading to 3rd meeting today with Bennett ahead of likely defection

Yamina MK Nir Orbach is reportedly set on abandoning the current governing coalition, according to several media reports, and is slated to meet for the third time today with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later this evening.

According to a report in Walla, Orbach is weighing voting to disband the Knesset in an initial vote and then attempting to form a new government within the current Knesset without holding a new national election. Such a move would prevent Foreign Minister Yair Lapid from becoming the interim prime minister during the election period.

But if a new government is unable to be formed, Orbach is expected to vote in a second and third reading to head to a new election, a move that would anoint Lapid as prime minister, as per the coalition agreements.

Orbach, who has been seen as the most likely new defector from the faltering government coalition, met with Bennett on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and already twice earlier today, without issuing any details or decisions from the meetings.

IAEA chief urges Iran to resume stalled nuclear talks ‘now’

The International Atomic Energy Agency urges Iran to resume talks “now” to avoid a crisis that could make it “extremely more difficult” to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord.

Iran this week disconnected some cameras allowing international inspectors to monitor its nuclear activities in response to a Western resolution passed June 8 in which the UN agency denounced Tehran’s lack of cooperation.

Twenty-seven surveillance cameras “have been removed,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi says in an interview broadcast today by CNN, calling it a “very serious move.”

“Recent history tells us that it is never a good thing to start saying to international inspectors, ‘Go home…’ Things get much more problematic,” he adds.

Grossi says he has been telling his Iranian counterparts, “We have to sit down now, we have to redress the situation, we have to continue working together. The only way for Iran to get the confidence, the trust they so badly need in order to move their economy forward… is to allow the inspectors of the IAEA to be present.”

The recent Iranian action, he says, makes “the way back to an agreement extremely more difficult.”

Mansour Abbas: It is too early to eulogize this government

Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas says that he has already achieved success in breaking the paradigm to show that a political alliance between Arabs and Jews is possible.

“If we create this ethos that it is possible — and here we have succeeded — we will always have somewhere to which to return,” Abbas says during a conference at Herzliya’s Reichman University.

“Whoever says there is no chance and the experiment failed is basically saying that there is nowhere to go back to,” he says.

As the government teeters on the edge of collapse, Abbas says: “We succeeded even if the government dissolved and the right wing gained an absolute majority in the Knesset.”

Describing his attitude toward the current coalition as “cautious optimism,” Abbas says that while embattled, the coalition is not yet past the point of no return.

“It is still too early to eulogize the current government,” he says. The lawmaker adds, meanwhile: “It could be that I will be a minister in the next government.”

While Abbas made history in joining the current governing coalition as the head of the Islamist Ra’am party, he opted not to take on a ministerial role. Reports have been swirling that Abbas has been in quiet talks with the opposition Likud party ahead of likely upcoming elections.

Biden expected to visit Israel on July 14 – reports

US President Joe Biden’s planned trip to Israel is expected to take place on July 14, several Israeli media outlets report, citing unnamed Israeli officials.

The officials maintain that the date is still not finalized.

Biden is expected to also visit Saudi Arabia during his trip to the Middle East.

NATO chief says Turkey has ‘legitimate concerns’ over terrorism

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that Turkey has “legitimate concerns” over terrorism and other issues that need to be taken seriously.

Turkey has accused Finland and Sweden of supporting Kurdish militants, and says it will not back the two Nordic nations joining NATO until they change their policies.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Stoltenberg stresses that “no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey,” and pointed to its strategic geographic location with neighbors like Iraq and Syria.

“These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism. It’s about weapons exports,” Stoltenberg says. “We have to address the security concerns of all allies, including Turkish concerns about the terrorist group PKK.”

Washington Post report claims Abu Akleh killed by IDF fire

A new Washington Post report into the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last month claims that evidence points to it being most likely that she was killed by IDF gunfire.

The newspaper states that it examined “more than five dozen videos, social media posts and photos of the event, conducted two physical inspections of the area and commissioned two independent acoustic analyses of the gunshots.” That review, it claims, suggests that “an Israeli soldier in the convoy likely shot and killed Abu Akleh.”

Similar inquiries from CNN and AP have reached the same conclusion. Israel has said it is possible that she was killed by IDF gunfire, but said a full investigation cannot be complete without the bullet, which the Palestinian Authority has refused to turn over.

The IDF has yet to complete its own probe of the incident.

IDF to hold drills near Gaza border this week

The Israel Defense Forces will be holding military drills starting tomorrow and until Tuesday near the border with the Gaza Strip.

The military says explosions may be heard in communities in the area. It adds that the movement of civilians will not be affected by the exercises.

The drill is planned, according to the IDF.

In modest breakthrough, US senators announce outline of gun control deal

Senate bargainers announce a bipartisan framework responding to last month’s mass shootings, a modest breakthrough offering measured gun curbs and bolstered efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.

The proposal falls far short of tougher steps long sought by President Joe Biden and many Democrats. Even so, if the accord leads to the enactment of legislation, it would signal a turn from years of gun massacres that have yielded little but stalemate in Congress.

Leaders hope to push any agreement into law quickly — they hope this month — before the political momentum fades that has been stirred by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

Syrian state media shares images of repair works at Damascus airport

Syrian state media publishes images of repair works at Damascus International Airport after recent airstrikes attributed to Israel damaged both runways and an old passenger hall.

According to the state-run SANA, Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous, accompanied by Transport Minister Zuhair Khuzaim, visited the airport to observe the damage and repair work.

The Syrian Transport Ministry said yesterday that the airport will remain closed until further notice.

Friday’s airstrike heavily damaged both runways at the Syrian capital’s airport, preventing all planes from landing, according to media reports and satellite imagery.

Bennett holds 4th meeting in several days with potential defector Orbach

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is sitting down for yet another meeting with fellow Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who has been tapped as one of the most likely defectors from the government as it teeters on the edge of collapse.

The two also met earlier this morning, and said following that meeting that they had nothing to report. They also sat down together on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings last week. In between, Orbach met with Yamina’s No. 2, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, and the party’s Abir Kara.

Orbach has reportedly told Bennett that the coalition has no shot at long-term survival, and that it is only a matter of time before it dissolves.

Amid search for missing mother, police find unidentified woman’s body

Police say they have come across an unidentified female body amid ongoing searches for a mother of two who has been missing for the past 11 days.

Police say the identity of the body has yet to be confirmed. A widespread search has been ongoing since June 2 for Sapir Nahum, a 24-year-old mother of two from Acre.

Police say the body was discovered near the Bedouin village of Ibtin — about 25 kilometers south of Acre — an area officials have been combing over the past few days amid their search.

Police arrested Nachum’s boyfriend — who has a criminal background — in connection with her disappearance, though he denies any involvement.

Israeli parashooter wins bronze at World Cup in France

Israel’s Yuliya Chernoy wins a bronze medal at the parashooting World Cup in Chateauroux, France.

Chernoy racked up 228.2 points in the final round to take third place in the mixed 50m rifle prone event.

Last week, Chernoy won a gold in the mixed 10m air rifle prone, which guarantees her a spot at the Paris Paralympics in 2024. She also competed for Israel at the 2020 and 2016 Paralympics.

Israel joins EU cultural program that refuses to fund projects in settlements

Israel’s cabinet unanimously approves joining the EU’s Creative Europe program through 2027.

The program offers almost 2.5 billion euros every seven years toward films, visual art, literature and other creative endeavors.

Projects beyond the June 1967 lines — in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights — are not eligible for funding. As with Israel’s agreement with the EU on joining the Horizon Europe R&D funding program, a clause was added stating that Israel does not accept the EU’s definition of territory beyond the 1967 lines as illegal settlements.

In 2017, then-culture minister Miri Regev withdrew Israel’s application to join Creative Europe at the last minute over the settlement exclusion issue after three years of negotiations. In July 2021, Culture Minister Chili Tropper met with his French counterpart Roselyne Bachelot in Cannes to restart talks over Israel joining the program.

“As someone who prioritized improving Israel-EU relations from day one, this is the first tangible, substantive step that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid can show in this government, which hasn’t been in office for a year yet, and looks close to collapsing,” says Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, an expert on Israel-Europe relations at the Mitvim Institute.

Progressive Jewish groups to hold government meeting on Western Wall deal

The heads of the Reform and Conservative movements will meet with the cabinet secretary tomorrow for an update on the implementation of the so-called Western Wall compromise, a long-stalled deal to give non-Orthodox streams of Judaism a voice in the management of the Jerusalem holy site.

This will be the first meeting of the heads of these movements with the Prime Minister’s Office since February, which was itself the first such meeting in several years, following a bitter fallout between former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and non-Orthodox Jewish groups over the freezing of the Western Wall compromise in 2016.

Though Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attended the meeting with the heads of the Reform and Conservative movements in February — a meeting described by all participants as particularly warm and friendly — the premier is not expected to do so tomorrow. Instead it will be led by Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo, according to two people due to attend the meeting.

Shlomo is expected to update the heads of the movements — some from Israel and others visiting from the United States — on developments regarding the Western Wall compromise, which has remained frozen under the current administration due to opposition from more right-wing members of the coalition.

No dramatic updates on the matter are expected, Yizhar Hess, the former head of Israel’s Conservative movement, who will attend tomorrow’s meeting, tells The Times of Israel.

Blue and White MK vows to boycott most coalition legislation as his ultimatum expires

Blue and White MK Michael Biton is the coalition’s next crisis, as he plans to stop voting for the majority of the coalition’s legislative agenda, according to his spokesman.

Starting tomorrow, Biton will only support the coalition against no-confidence motions and to renew the law that applies some Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank.

In protest over pending transportation reforms, Biton shuttered the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee — which he chairs — three weeks ago and announced that he would stop voting with the coalition, with the exception of blocking no-confidence motions.

Biton was quickly lured back into the political alliance by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who promised Biton he would look into the transportation issue. Biton gave the prime minister a two-week timeline for addressing his issues, which expires tomorrow.

Last week, Biton told The Times of Israel that he would consider resuming his strike if his complaints — centered around transportation rate hikes — were not addressed.

Biton’s protest fans flames at a sensitive time for the coalition, which is facing drama from nearly ever corner of its big tent alliance.

Report: Israel foiled Iranian attack against Israelis in Turkey

Israeli security officials foiled an Iranian attempt to attack Israeli targets in Turkey last month, reports the Kan public broadcaster.

According to the report, Israeli officials appealed to their Turkish counterparts for help in thwarting the attack at some point last month.

Late last month, Israel issued a warning against travel to Turkey amid fears that its citizens would be targeted in a revenge attack for the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps senior official Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, which has been widely attributed to Israel.

Bus drivers slated to strike tomorrow morning

Bus drivers in several cities are expected to strike between 5 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. tomorrow as part of an ongoing labor dispute.

The strike is slated to affect buses in Haifa, Afula and Tiberias as well as intercity routes to Jerusalem and Beersheba, tangling the morning commute for many.

Woman hurt when her car is stoned near Ofra settlement

A 41-year-old woman is lightly hurt after stones were hurled at her car near the settlement Ofra in the West Bank, medics say.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says its medics are taking her to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva with an injury to her face.

Iran currency sinks to its lowest ever value amid US sanctions

Iran’s currency drops to its lowest value ever as talks to revive the country’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers remained deadlocked.

Traders in Tehran exchange the rial at 332,000 to the US dollar, up from 327,500 on Saturday. That marks more than a 4.4% change compared to June 1 when it traded at 318,000 to the dollar.

Iran’s currency was trading at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The rial’s new low comes as US sanctions against the country are still in force. Iran’s economy is struggling mightily mostly because of the US pullout from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that restored sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors. Talks in Vienna to renew the agreement have been deadlocked for months.

Orbach, Kara to sit down with Shaked as coalition appears on brink of collapse

Yamina MKs Nir Orbach and Abir Kara will soon sit down with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, their party’s No. 2, according to a report in Maariv.

With the coalition appearing to be on the brink of collapse, Orbach has been viewed as the most likely next defector who could deal the final blow to the government. He sat down with Bennett both Wednesday and Thursday evenings as well as this morning.

Orbach has publicly denied persistent rumors that he is in negotiations to join the opposition Likud party, but sources close to him have told Hebrew media outlets that such a move is under consideration.

Meretz MK says Sa’ar won’t bring West Bank bill up this week since he lacks majority

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi claims that Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar will not bring to a vote this week the West Bank legislation that was defeated in the Knesset last week.

“Minister Gideon Sa’ar decided not to bring the Judea and Samaria Law to a vote in the Knesset this week, after he realized that I am resolutely opposed to the bill on ideological grounds and unwilling to compromise or discuss the issue at all,” Rinawie Zoabi tweets.

A spokesman for Sa’ar says the minister “will bring it whenever he assesses that there will be a majority for it.”

The legislation, which renews the application of Israeli law — criminal and some civil — to settlers in the West Bank, was advanced by the cabinet earlier today.

Sa’ar is possibly hoping that Rinawie Zoabi — as well as Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim, who both voted against the bill last week — will be pressured to quit the Knesset and pave way for new lawmakers to join who could vote in favor.

At least 22 wounded in rare Russian strike on western Ukraine

At least 22 people were wounded when Russia struck the western Ukrainian town of Chortkiv, the regional governor says.

The strike is a rare attack in the west of the country.

“Yesterday at 19:46 (1645 GMT) Chortkiv was hit by four missiles, all fired from the Black Sea,” Volodymyr Trush writes in a Facebook post. He says all 22 people wounded, including seven women and a 12-year-old, have been hospitalized.

Trush, governor of the Ternopil region where Chortkiv is located, says “a military installation was partially destroyed” in the attack “and residential buildings were damaged.”

Chortkiv, which was home to nearly 30,000 people before the Russian invasion, is located 140 kilometers (around 90 miles) north of the border with Romania and 200 kilometers southeast of Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine.

11 days after disappearance, police still hunting for Sapir Nahum

Police officers are still searching for Sapir Nahum, a mother of two who disappeared 11 days ago and has not been seen since.

Eden Nahum, Sapir’s sister, tells Ynet that she refuses to give up hope.

“We don’t have any leads right now, but somehow I still believe that she’s alive,” her sister says.

West Bank bill advances through government following Knesset defeat last week

The government paves the way for another attempt to renew the application of Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank by advancing legislation unanimously through the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

The bill has become an existential test for the embattled coalition and is now cleared to return to the plenum floor after elements from within the coalition torpedoed it there last Monday.

Lacking a majority in the Knesset to pass the bill, which relates to criminal and some civil law, the coalition has yet to decide on whether to bring it to a full vote again tomorrow.

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