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Report details Israelis being whisked from Istanbul as assassins awaited them

Israelis in city were called and told to leave immediately, without even gathering suitcases, after intel showing imminent danger amid Iranian attack threats, according to report

People walk towards the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, Saturday, July 11, 2020. (AP/Emrah Gurel)
People walk towards the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, Saturday, July 11, 2020. (AP/Emrah Gurel)

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

EU frees funding for Palestinians held up over textbook reforms

The European Commission has voted to release long-delayed funding for the Palestinian Authority, after months in which hundreds of millions of euros were held up in a fight over whether to condition the money on reforms to PA textbooks, three sources tell The Times of Israel.

A vote was held earlier today in the European Commission to release the aid — reportedly about $220 million — to the PA. EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi had proposed conditioning some of the money on reforms to Palestinian textbooks to remove alleged incitement, sparking a months-long battle in Brussels as officials argued for and against.

Palestinian officials say the funding was ultimately released without any conditions whatsoever. But the vote’s results are not yet public, and the EU’s envoy to the Palestinians declined to comment.

Earlier this afternoon, EU spokesperson Ana Pisonero said a final decision on the matter would be soon in coming.

“We aim to finalize the procedure shortly and once finalized the funds will be released as soon as possible,” EU spokesperson Ana Pisonero said.

PA textbooks have long been a subject of controversy. Watchdogs have slammed the curricula for allegedly promoting violence and glorifying terrorism. The PA defends them as a faithful reflection of their national narrative.

The decision to release the funding comes as EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen begins a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinians. She is set to meet with PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh Tuesday in Ramallah.

Look at the big brain on Tarantino: Hebrew U. gives director honorary doctorate

Mr. Brown is now Dr. Brown.

Celebrated American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino — who played Mr. Brown in his major feature debut “Reservoir Dogs” —  has received an honorary doctorate from Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The university says it is recognizing the actor, director, screenwriter, author, and two-time Academy Award-winner for his “critically acclaimed cinematic success as a writer, director, and actor.”

Tarantino, who in 2018 married Israeli singer and model Daniella Pick, splits his time between Tel Aviv and Hollywood.

The university notes Tarantino’s “strong ties to Israel through his wife Daniella, and for making Israel his second home.”

Tarantino’s films are known for their signature dark humor. They have garnered global recognition, including seven Academy Awards. His films “Pulp Fiction” and “Django Unchained” won him Oscars for best original screenplay.

ToI staff contributed.

UN passes hat to public for funds to get oil off decaying Yemeni tanker

The United Nations is launching a crowd-funding campaign for an operation intended to prevent an ageing Yemeni oil tanker from unleashing a potentially catastrophic spill in the Red Sea, a senior official says.

“We hope to raise $5 million by the end of June,” David Gressly, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the war-hit country, told an online press briefing, adding it was an “ambitious” target.

The decaying 45-year-old oil tanker FSO Safer, long used as a floating storage platform and now abandoned off the rebel-held Yemeni port of Hodeida, has not been serviced since Yemen was plunged into civil war more than seven years ago.

Deterioration is seen on the FSO Safer, moored off Ras Issa port, Yemen, in 2019. (I.R. Consilium via AP)

It is in “imminent” danger of breaking up, the United Nations warned last month.

The Safer contains four times the amount of oil that was spilled by the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, one of the world’s worst ecological catastrophes, according to the UN.

The UN has said an oil spill could destroy ecosystems, shut down the fishing industry, and close the lifeline Hodeida port for six months. Depending on the season and currents, a spill could affect Eilat as well.

An operation to transfer its 1.1 million barrels of oil to a different vessel could begin next month, according to a website for the crowd-funding campaign, which will begin accepting donations Tuesday.

A UN pledging conference last month for the oil-transfer operation fell far short of its $80 million target, bringing in just $33 million.

Environmentalists warn the cost of the salvage operation is a pittance compared to the estimated $20 billion it would cost to clean up a spill.

Health Ministry recommends return to mask wearing as COVID comes roaring back

The Health Ministry says people should start strapping masks back on their faces in enclosed spaces, with coronavirus infection numbers climbing yet again.

“With infection on the rise, we recommend going back to wearing a mask in closed spaces or gatherings,” the ministry says.

It notes a “sharp” jump in infection numbers in recent days, “along with a rise in the number of serious cases.

“In a situation in which the economy is completely open, normalcy is being preserved and there are no restrictions. It’s the responsibility of each of us to take precautions,” it says.

There is no indication that the recommendation will be enforced, but it could point to government restrictions coming back if infection figures continue to rise.

“This is not a requirement, but an act of solidarity and caring for your fellow man,” it says.

Israel dropped mask-wearing in April, as infection numbers fell off sharply. But since June 6, the rolling average of daily infections has jumped from 2,400 a day to nearly 5,000.

The government previously dropped an indoor mask requirement in June 2021, before slapping it back on two weeks later, as the Delta variant reared its head.

Outdoor masks have not been required since April of last year.

Israelis in Istanbul were whisked to airport as assassins waited at hotel — report

Some Israelis visiting Istanbul were spirited out of the country by Israeli security officials last week, who were acting on intelligence showing that the visitors were at immediate risk of being attacked, Channel 13 news reports.

According to the channel, one woman out visiting a market got a call from a senior Israeli official telling her to not return to her hotel because Iranian assassins were waiting there for her and her spouse. Instead, a caravan with some 10 Israeli security officers took the couple to the airport — leaving their stuff in the hotel — and to Israel, where they were probed for clues about the plot against them.

No details about the couple have been revealed, including whether they were specifically targeted for a reason or if they were only threatened due to being Israeli. It is not clear how many people were contacted and told to leave immediately.

According to Channel 13, the government waited until now to warn the rest of the public about the imminent threat on their lives out of consideration for the Turks, who wanted time to deal with the situation.

Two weeks ago, Channel 12 news reported that Israeli security officials called and directly warned more than 100 Israeli citizens in Turkey that they were in Iran’s crosshairs, and asked them to return.

Israel is not planning on sending rescue flights for Israelis there, and many there are not planning on running away anyway, the channel reports. Flight cancellations for those planning trips, however, are starting to pile up.

US, 21 other countries deride UN rights council after Israel report

The US and 21 other countries have issued a harsh rebuke to the UN Human Rights Council after a Commission of Inquiry formed to probe Israel released a report last week condemning the Jewish state.

“We believe the nature of the COI established last May is further demonstration of long-standing, disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Council and must stop,” US Ambassador Michèle Taylor read out at the 50th session of the HRC in Geneva, where the report is being debated today.

“We continue to believe that this long-standing disproportionate scrutiny should end, and that the Council should address all human rights concerns, regardless of country, in an even-handed manner,” she continues. “Regrettably, we are concerned that the Commission of Inquiry will further contribute to the polarization of a situation about which so many of us are concerned.”

In addition to the US and Israel, the statement is signed by Austria, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Eswatini, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, North Macedonia, Holland, Palau, Togo, and the United Kingdom.

The United Nations flag waves in the wind on the top of a UN building in Geneva, Switzerland, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

“Today is a day of change at the Human Rights Council,” says Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. “A day on which morality is overcoming hypocrisy.”

Lapid thanks his US counterpart Antony Blinken and all the countries that signed on.

In an 18-page report released last week, the COI blamed Israel’s “persistent discrimination against Palestinians” for violence between the two sides.

The Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “nothing more than a waste of money and effort of the United Nations’ systems, part and parcel of the witch hunt being carried out by the Human Rights Council against Israel.”

Some still flying to Istanbul despite travel warning

Despite the warning for Israelis to leave Istanbul and cancel any plans to go there and to avoid Turkey in general, many are still lining up to fly there.

An Army Radio reporter shows a long line of people waiting to check in to a flight to Istanbul, though some may be transferring through there. According to Israeli authorities, it is still safe for Israelis to have a layover in Istanbul, as long as they stay in the airport.

“It is also dangerous in Israel,” one traveler tells Channel 12 news.

For those who are canceling flights, Tourism Minister Yoel Rozvozov has asked airlines to refund Israelis who are heeding the warning.

The Kan network reports that the warning came about after authorities in Turkey identified suspicious activity from actors who appeared to be planning attacks on Israelis in recent weeks, and passed information to their Israeli counterparts about the danger to Israeli nationals.

US negotiator back in Lebanon to iron out gas dispute with Israel

US envoy Amos Hochstein has arrived in Lebanon for talks aimed at resolving a dispute around an offshore oil field claimed by both Jerusalem and Beirut, after Lebanon protested Israel allowing a rig to begin extracting gas there.

Hochstein is set to meet Caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad and will later attend a dinner with Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elias Bou Saab, Lebanon’s Naharnet news outlet reports.

On Tuesday, he is slated to meet President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Interim Prime Minister Najib Miqati.

The visit is the first by the energy envoy since talks broke down last year when Lebanon enlarged the size of the area it was claiming.

According to Reuters, Aoun told lawmakers at a meeting earlier Monday that Lebanon could not back up its larger claim, and was preparing a counter offer instead, citing Lebanese politician Mark Dao.

Lebanese officials invited Hochstein for urgent talks after the Israeli rig moved into the Karish field last week. At the same time, Lebanese terror leader Hassan Nasrallah has made repeated threats to attack the extraction platform.

Army to test rocket sirens near Tel Aviv on Tuesday

The Israel Defense Forces announces it will hold a test of the siren systems and emergency preparedness in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim on Tuesday.

When the sirens sound at 10:05 a.m., residents are asked to enter bomb shelters and to ensure that they are well-stocked for an emergency.

In the case of an actual attack, the sirens will sound twice, the military says.

Netanyahu teases Bennett over inclusion of Ra’am in alliance

Speaking after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu berates the prime minister for proudly talking about meeting with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas.

Netanyahu accuses Abbas of “embracing” terrorists he visits in jail.

“How is the prime minister not embarrassed to embrace someone who embraces terrorists? You have no shame and no choice. You need him, this government depends on the Muslim Brotherhood. You gave control of the government, and by transitive property the state, to the Muslim Brotherhood and Shura Council.”

Speaking to Channel 12 news, Abbas says “I haven’t visited terrorists in jail. Period. He lies.”

Netanyahu also accuses Bennett of being “high on himself” by talking up his government’s achievements.

“In Bennett’s office, like his party, everyone is leaving. They can’t handle all the winning,” he says sarcastically. “To say this government is the best, I think his logic is missing something.”

Bennett: Government has 2 weeks left unless mutineers turn back

In the Knesset, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his faltering coalition has only a week or two left to live unless renegade MKs to return to the fold and pull the alliance back into the majority.

“There are members of the coalition who still haven’t internalized the importance of the hour,” he says. “I call to members of the coalition who are set on voting against the government, we have a week or two to get this straight and then we can continue a long time. If not — then we cannot [continue].”

Bennett says “we are fighting for the government, but it’s reliant on a complicated coalition.”

He also lashes out at the opposition for rendering his government impotent.

“In all the years of the Knesset there has not been an opposition so undignified, so intent on scorched earth as you,” he says.

He makes fun of the opposition’s denials about having held talks with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas. “I met Mansour Abbas like a man. I’m not ashamed.”

Israel raises Istanbul threat level to highest level, tells nationals to leave now

Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau has raised its alert level for Istanbul to the highest possible level, calling on any Israelis in the city to leave immediately or risk their lives.

The announcement comes hours after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced the travel warning at a faction meeting, saying there was a “real and immediate” threat of an Iranian kidnap/murder plot targeting Israelis, and calling on Israelis to avoid any unnecessary travel to Istanbul or Turkey in general.

“Two weeks ago a travel warning to Turkey was raised, after defense officials raised fears of Iranian attempts to harm Israeli targets around the world, especially in Turkey,” reads a position paper from the National Security Council backing the decision.

The move means Turkey now has an alert rating of 4, putting it on par with Iran, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso and other dangerous corners of the globe.

The National Security Council says it raised the alert “given the continued threat and Iranian intentions to hurt Israelis in Turkey, especially Istanbul, cranking up a notch.”

The announcement also raises the warning level for the rest of Turkey to level 3, meaning Israelis should avoid non essential travel.

Iranian officials have vowed to exact revenge on Israel for the assassination of a senior Revolutionary Guard officer it blames on the Jewish state.

UK sees worst monkeypox outside Africa intensify with over 100 new cases

British health officials have detected another 104 cases of monkeypox in England in what has become the biggest outbreak beyond Africa of the normally rare disease.

The UK’s Health Security Agency says there are now 470 cases of monkeypox across the country, with the vast majority in gay or bisexual men. Scientists warn that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is susceptible to catching monkeypox if they are in close, physical contact with an infected person or their clothing or bedsheets.

According to UK data, 99% of the cases so far have been in men and most are in London.

In May, a leading adviser to the World Health Organization said the monkeypox outbreak in Europe and beyond was likely spread by sex at two recent raves in Spain and Belgium.

Last week, WHO said 1,285 cases of monkeypox had been reported from 28 countries where monkeypox was not known to be endemic. No deaths have been reported outside of Africa. After the UK, the biggest numbers of cases have been reported in Spain, Germany and Canada.

Israel reported its fourth case on Thursday. No new cases have been announced since then.

Abbas lands in Cyprus for high-level meetings

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in Cyprus for a three-day official visit, according to his office.

During the trip, Abbas is set to meet with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, as well as the country’s top diplomat Ioannis Kasoulides.

Abbas is accompanied by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and intelligence chief Majed Faraj, alongside other Palestinian officials.

Yamina’s Kara says Orbach had told him coalition freeze was temporary

Yamina MK Abir Kara says he is caught off guard by Nir Orbach’s announcement that he is leaving the coalition, saying that he had been told by Orbach that he was only temporarily freezing cooperation until passage of a law renewing West Bank settlers access to Israeli judicial and government institutions.

“Why would he leave the coalition? He said that he wouldn’t vote with it until the settler law passed,” wonders Kara, who had reportedly been coordinating decisions about whether or not to stay in the coalition with Orbach and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Kara says that he and Orbach “talk sometimes.”

“I hope that all of us in the party are coordinated,” he says.

A Bennett spokesman confirms that Orbach informed Bennett of his decision before the announcement.

Other MKs have elicited anger by announcing splits from their parties without first giving their soon-to-be-former colleagues a heads-up.

Body found in north identified as missing Acre woman

Police say a body found in northern Israel belongs to a young Israeli woman from Acre missing for two weeks and feared dead.

Sapir Nachum (Police spokesperson’s unit)

A widespread search had been ongoing since June 2 for Sapir Nachum, a 24-year-old mother of two from Acre.

A police statement says the body was discovered by police going over an area  a second time near the Bedouin village of Ibtin — about 25 kilometers south of Acre, where searches have been focused.

“Police worked without stop for 11 days to find Sapir, but unfortunately the searches ended with a tragic result,” a police statement says.

It says investigators are at the scene gathering evidence.

Israel Police conduct searches on June 5, 2022, for missing Acre woman Sapir Nachum. (Israel Police)

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

Earlier in the day, a court denied him bail and ordered he remain in custody until at least June 21, though he has not been charged.

Orbach announces he is no longer in coalition, but won’t vote to dissolve Knesset

Yamina MK Nir Orbach announces that he told Prime Minister Naftli Bennett that he is no longer part of the coalition, putting members of Bennett’s government on the ropes and in the Knesset minority.

“I told the PM this morning that given the current situation, I am not part of the coalition,” he says in a message sent by his office.

However, Orbach says he will not vote to dissolve the Knesset in the coming week, saying he doesn’t think another round of elections will add to political stability. Rather, he says he will work for a government with “a national spirit” — implying, but not specifying, that he prefers to see a new, right-wing government take shape without a resort to elections.

“After a week of meetings with the PM and others, I’ve come to the conclusion that the coalition cannot continue to operate the way it is now,” he says.

He claims the coalition has failed to live up to its promises, blaming left-leaning and Arab Knesset members, namely Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim and Meretz’s Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi.

But since further rounds of elections “do not produce the necessary stability for governing the country,” he goes on, “I will not vote in the coming week to dissolve the Knesset. I will work with all my might for a stable government with a national spirit.”

“Extremist and anti-Zionist actors like MKs Ghanaim and Zoabi have taken the coalition in problematic directions. They have held it hostage the whole time,” he says.

Orbach to stop voting with coalition until demands met — reports

Hebrew media outlets report that Yamina MK Nir Orbach has decided to freeze cooperation with the coalition until further notice.

No source is given for the terse statement, which appears in several Hebrew-language outlets simultaneously, indicating it may have originated in a coordinated leak from Orbach or his aides.

The loss of Orbach would appear to cement the demise of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition, which would now find itself a minority in the Knesset and continuing to bleed support.

According to Channel 12 news, Orbach has committed to not support the coalition until it passes a bill in support of West Bank settlers that Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has called essential.

Such an ultimatum would force lawmakers opposed to settlements to decide between holding their nose and supporting the measure or seeing the coalition go down and new elections called.

At the same time, Orbach’s move may make it less likely for left-leaning lawmakers to go to bat for a dying coalition, possibly torpedoing the law anyway. Some critics have accused some lawmakers on the right of using the issue to bring down the coalition while saving face with right-wing voters.

 

Your mandate is your party’s, not yours, Meretz’s Horowitz scolds MKs

Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz says that lawmakers, since they are elected as members of a party, are not free agents to vote however they want but must toe the party line, appearing to aim criticism at party maverick Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi.

“The mandate given to each Knesset member in the coalition is not theirs personally. They need to vote in line with the coalition,” Horowitz says at the start of his Meretz faction meeting.

Rinawie Zoabi was one of several coalition MKs who refused to back a bill renewing legal protections for settlers, sinking it and possibly the coalition.

The comments from the Meretz chief come after he and Rinawie Zoabi met earlier in the day. Both were mum on whether the two were closer to a deal on legislative priorities and commitments; Horowitz called the meeting “important,” and Rinawie Zoabi said it was a “good meeting.”

Lapid warns Israelis to avoid Turkey, says Iranian attempts already foiled

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is urging Israelis in Istanbul to return home in light of alleged attempts by Iran to attack Israeli travelers as it seeks revenge for the assassination of a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Lapid says that Iranian agents are looking to murder or kidnap Israelis, calling it “a real and immediate threat.”

“If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible. If you planned a trip to Istanbul — cancel it. There is no vacation that is worth your lives,” Lapid tells TV cameras at the start of a Yesh Atid faction meeting.

“Do not fly to Turkey at all,” unless such travel is “essential,” the foreign minister adds.

Lapid goes out of his way to thank the Turkish government for their efforts to protect Israelis in the country.

“Israeli security organizations, the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, we have all been part of a massive effort in recent weeks that saved Israeli lives,” he says. “Some of them came back to Israel and are walking among us without even knowing that their lives were saved.”

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Travel warnings generally come from the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office, and not at party meetings, but a Lapid spokesman tells The Times of Israel that the announcement was made because it is where Lapid happened to be making public remarks.

According to Hebrew media reports Sunday, Israeli and Turkish security agencies last month uncovered an Iranian plot to kidnap Israeli tourists in Turkey and foiled it in the nick of time.

Israeli diplomatic missions have been on alert, expecting Iran to seek revenge for the assassination last month of the IRGC officer.

However, Kan reported that the attempted kidnapping happened before the officer’s killing.

Three held on suspicion of leaking classified IDF information online

Three suspects have been arrested for leaking classified military information on social media, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security agency announce.

According to a joint statement, two civilians and one conscripted soldier are being held over social media posts that apparently contained classified information.

The suspects are accused of working together to release the information to gain cred on the internet, rather than being pressured by a spy or other malign actor.

One of the civilian suspects is an intelligence officer in reserves, and the second is a minor. The soldier is to be charged in a military court.

Jewish leaders say Bennett shirking promise to fix up Western Wall egalitarian space

Heads of the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel say they were disappointed by the near-total lack of progress on the prime minister’s promises to improve the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, following a meeting with Cabinet Secretary Shlomo Shalom.

“In some ways, there weren’t just no steps forward; we went back further. This is greatly disappointing,” says Yizhar Hess, the former CEO of the Masorti/Conservative movement and current vice-chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

Shalom spoke with those present about the long-stalled Western Wall compromise, under which non-Orthodox streams of Judaism were meant to gain representation in the management of the site, and about interim improvements that the prime minister had promised to make to the egalitarian prayer space located at the southern portion of the Western Wall, often referred to as Robinson’s Arch. Attendees say there has been no movement on either matter.

A family celebrates a bar mitzva at the small egalitarian prayer platform at the Robinson’s Arch, July 2018. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

“It’s very disappointing to come in and hear that nothing has happened,” says Anna Kislanski, the head of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism.

At a meeting earlier this year, attendees came away buoyed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s promises to take a number of concrete steps to improve the egalitarian prayer space. Bennett said the more comprehensive Western Wall compromise — an arrangement under which non-Orthodox streams of Judaism were meant to gain representation in the management of the site — would likely remain frozen for the foreseeable future, but promised to at least better fund the egalitarian space and provide more security against ultra-Orthodox hooligans.

According to Kislanski, Bennett’s promises have not been kept.

“They haven’t done anything except add two sunshades,” she says.

Baghdad reopens airport after city slammed by dust again

Iraq has reopened its airport after briefly closing it due to choking clouds of dust blanketing the capital, the latest crippling sandstorm in a country that has warned climate change poses an “existential threat.”

It was the tenth duststorm since mid-April to hit Iraq, which has been battered by intense droughts, soil degradation, high temperatures and low rainfall linked to climate change.

On Monday morning, a thick white dust covered the Iraqi capital and surroundings areas, with visibility slashed to a few hundred meters.

Thick dust covers the Iraqi capital Baghdad and surrounding areas, with visibility slashed to a few hundred meters, on June 13, 2022. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Officials at Baghdad airport announced the temporary suspension of flights for a few hours before they were restarted at around 10:30 a.m. local time.

In Najaf, a Shiite holy city in central Iraq, the airport briefly suspended operations in the morning before reopening a few hours later when the dust passed.

Airports have been forced to suspend flights several times due to sandstorms in recent weeks.

UK Labour leader probed for suspected gift rules violation

The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party is under investigation by a parliamentary official over potential violations of rules on earnings and gifts.

According to Parliament’s website, Keir Starmer is being investigated by Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, over whether he broke two sections of lawmakers’ code of conduct on registering interests.

A spokesman for Starmer says the politician “takes his declaration responsibilities very seriously” and that “administrative errors in his office have led to a small number of late declarations.”

Asked about the claims, Starmer tells reporters that he was “absolutely confident” he has done nothing wrong.

“My office is dealing with it and will be replying in due course,” he says.

Rebel MK Chikli challenges Yamina ouster in court

Renegade Yamina MK Amichai Chikli has filed an appeal against his party’s attempts to punish him for breaking with the coalition on key matters.

Chikli claims in Jerusalem District Court that the party’s declaration of him as a defector — stripping him of key campaign finance provisions and hamstringing him the next time there are elections — goes beyond its powers, asking whether the architects of Israel’s democracy intended for party leaders to have a stranglehold on their members.

“Are Knesset members entitled to vote in the Knesset according to their opinion, belief, conscience, party platform and promise to their electorate, or are they merely puppets operated by their faction leaders,” Chikli writes in the appeal.

“Did the legislature intend to give the faction leaders such a dramatic sanction against the members of their faction in order to impose factional discipline?”

He also alleges that the Knesset House Committee that okayed his punishment was “guided by political considerations only,” making its decision a foregone conclusion.

He also argues that under the rules for declaring a rebel MK, the lawmaker must have received something in return for supporting a vote of no confidence in the government — which, he claims, was not his case.

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