The Times of Israel’s liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets a delegation of high-ranking former US defense officials to discuss the security challenges facing Israel, most prominently the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Gantz says he told the delegation that Iran’s “further progress” toward nuclear weapons capabilities is “the most dangerous possibility” and that Israel is “working closely with our friends in the US government… to communicate to Iran that all options remain on the table at all times.”
Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh says an indictment of reckless manslaughter in the case of the police officer who fatally shot the autistic Palestinian man Iyad Halak is “a contemptible and infuriating charge that allows any Palestinian who a cop or a soldier doesn’t like to be killed.”
Odeh says the real justice for Halak would be “ending the occupation.”
TEHRAN, Iran — On the eve of Iran’s presidential election, expected to hand victory to the ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, the candidate-vetting Guardian Council insists that “the political contest is serious.”
“The media and the people have testified that this is a good competition,” says the head of the 12-member council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaee, a day before almost 60 million voters are asked to head to the ballots.
Three televised debates between the seven candidates, all men, who were approved by the unelected body of jurists and clerics had shown that “the political competition is serious,” Kadkhodaee tells a press conference.
Tomorrow’s vote will choose a successor to Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who cannot run again now after serving two consecutive four-year terms, and who leaves office in August.
Turnout is expected to be low in a country where many have been demoralized by years of painful economic crisis that was brought on by a crippling US sanctions regime and worsened by the COVID pandemic.
The election comes as Tehran holds renewed talks with world powers to revive a battered 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States unilaterally withdrew from three years ago under then president Donald Trump.
Prosecutors file an indictment against a Palestinian terrorist who crossed into Israel last month from Gaza with several knives and lightly injured a security official he got into a scuffle with.
Ministers in the new high-level security cabinet will convene on Sunday for the first time.
The new government held a phone vote yesterday to approve the makeup of the forum, which is tasked with approving military operations.
MKs in the coalition and opposition attack each other over a vote in the Knesset on extending legislation that bars Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from receiving citizenship.
Likud MK Fateen Mulla says he would vote against extending the bill. Despite Likud being principally in favor of the legislation, party MKs have indicated they won’t support it because it originates from the coalition government. “We will oppose the law,” says Mulla, “we came to fight against this government until it topples.”
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel of New Hope says Likud’s approach shows it is “showing Bibi-ism over the good of the country and taking an anti-Zionist step.” Hendel tells Ynet that “anyone who gives up on the security of the state and puts its leader above Israel’s security — has a problem.”
Joint List head Ayman Odeh suggests that Yair Lapid won’t take over as prime minister from Naftali Bennett in two years, despite the rotation agreement between the two politicians.
“I don’t think this government will make it to the rotation between Bennett and Lapid,” Odeh says to Kan radio. “We’ll bring down this government. We want to change the current situation, and not just to swap [Benjamin] Netanyahu out for Bennett, [Avigdor] Liberman and [Gideon] Sa’ar.”
A fire breaks out in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, allegedly due to an incendiary balloon sent from Gaza. The incident is still being investigated.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 17, 2021
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court rules that Sheikh Yusuf Albaz, 63, an imam at Lod’s Great Mosque, will be released and placed on house arrest tomorrow at noon. Albaz was arrested this morning on suspicion of incitement to violence, weeks after ethnic riots rocked the mixed Jewish-Arab city. Police had requested that the imam be kept in custody during trial proceedings.
Likud MK Yariv Levin is elected unanimously by the party’s lawmakers to serve as the chair of the Likud faction in the Knesset. Outgoing faction chief Miki Zohar did not run for reelection to a second term in the job. Levin served as Knesset speaker until he was replaced by Yesh Atid’s Mickey Levy earlier this week.
La Compagnie, a French airline that operates business class-only flights, is launching new routes from Tel Aviv to Paris and Newark. The service is slated to launch on July 22 and operate three flights a week.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who his office says called to congratulate him on forming a new government and becoming premier.
While thanking her, Bennett also notes “the opportunity to strengthen ties between the countries,” expresses his appreciation for Germany’s “commitment to Israel’s security” and for backing Israel’s right to defend itself during last month’s fighting against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
He also invites Merkel — who is set to step down as chancellor after general elections in September — to visit Israel.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh meets with Moroccan politicians during his visit to the nation, which recently normalized relations with Israel. Haniyeh is meeting today with PAM and Istiqlal, two of the main opposition parties, according to Reuters, a day after he met with the Islamist PJD, the biggest party in the governing coalition.
King of Morocco Mohammed VI sent a letter of congratulations to new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in which he said the kingdom will continue to promote peace in the region, the Prime Minister’s Office announced yesterday.
#Maroc ???????? #Palestine ????????
Le chef du #Hamas, Ismaïl Haniyeh, en visite au Maroc
Il est arrivé mercredi 16 juin pour sa 1ère visite, à l'invitation du #PJD, parti au pouvoir.
M. Haniyeh est accompagné d’une délégation palestinienne qui séjournera au Maroc plusieurs jours ???? https://t.co/F1Y0l31IfX pic.twitter.com/jafWxa3aGI
— FRANCE MAGHREB 2 (@FMAGHREB2) June 17, 2021
Sheikh Yusuf Albaz, 63, an imam at Lod’s Great Mosque, shared a post yesterday on Facebook with a clip of the film “Wolf’s Creek” depicting the shooting of police officers, writing: “This is the best way to deal with injustice,” reports Channel 12 News.
Albaz was arrested this morning and is slated to be released to house arrest tomorrow.
Defense Minister Gantz calls on Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu to assist in approving a renewal of legislation barring Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from receiving citizenship, after the former premier’s Likud party and allied factions refused to vote with the new coalition to extend the law, despite previously having backed it.
“This law is essential for safeguarding the country’s security and Jewish and democratic character, and security consideration need to be put for all political considerations,” Gantz says, in a statement from his office. “Even in difficult times politically, we put Israel before everything.”
Gantz’s office also says he instructed his party’s deputy coalition whip Eitan Ginsburg to work with Yamina’s chief whip Idit Silman to enlist “all Zionist components” in order to ensure a Knesset majority for extending the law.
Meanwhile, Moshe Arbel, a lawmaker from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a part of Netanyahu’s right-wing-religious bloc, notes the “importance” of extending the law, but says he’ll vote against it as part of the opposition’s efforts to bring down the new government.
Five fires have broken out in the Negev today from incendiary balloons sent from Gaza, according to the Israel Firefighting Services. Officials say firefighters and other forces from the IDF and Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael are working together to battle the blazes.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky’s invitation to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to visit the Eastern European country later this year includes an invitation to attend a forum calling attention to Russia’s occupation and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, according to the Ukrainian presidency.
The invitation to attend the event on Crimea was not mentioned in a readout from Bennett’s office on yesterday’s phone call with Zelensky.
Under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who cultivated closer ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Israel refused to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea and sought to maintain a neutral position.
LONDON — Security teams at Britain’s Manchester Arena “should have prevented or minimized” the impact of the 2017 terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 people, a public inquiry finds.
The suicide bomb attack, as concert-goers were leaving the show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent.
In a report examining security measures at the venue in northwest England, inquiry chairman John Saunders says Arena operator SMG, security provider Showsec and British Transport Police all missed opportunities to either prevent or mitigate the attack, which took place on May 22, 2017.
“The security arrangements for the Manchester Arena should have prevented or minimized the devastating impact of the attack,” he writes.
“Salman Abedi should have been identified on 22nd May 2017 as a threat by those responsible for the security of Arena and a disruptive intervention undertaken.
“Had that occurred, I consider it likely that Salman Abedi would still have detonated his device, but the loss of life and injury is highly likely to have been less,” he adds.
The inquiry had heard that an officer from British Transport Police was supposed to be present in the foyer of the arena at the end of the show, where the bomb was detonated, but nobody was there.
A Showsec security guard also told the inquiry that he had a “bad feeling” when he saw Abedi around five minutes before the attack, but did not approach him for fear of being called a racist.
“I felt unsure about what to do,” says Kyle Lawler, who was aged 18 at the time of the attack. “I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race.”
Lawler says he had tried to radio the control room, but that he gave up as he could not get through due to radio traffic.
Likud MK Yuval Steinitz is against opposing an extension of a ban on Palestinians who marry Israelis from receiving citizenship, according to Channel 12 news.
“The damage to Likud is likely to be greater than the damage to the coalition,” Steinitz is quoted as saying by the network.
Though Likud has previously backed such an extension, it has so far refused to assist the new coalition in approving one.
“The law is good, it safeguards the State of Israel and its character, but there are political considerations. We want to topple the government,” Likud MK Yoav Kisch tells Kan public radio.
Renegade Yamina MK Amichai Chikli says he met with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night, but says he has not decided anything yet about his political future, according to Hebrew media reports.
“It was a getting-to-know-you meeting,” Chikli tells Walla News, “where I thanked Netanyahu for his kind words during his speech to the Knesset plenum” on Sunday. Chikli, who defected from Yamina and refused to vote in favor of the government coalition, has been reportedly discussing joining Likud, but has denied that Netanyahu promised him anything for his vote.
Likud responds to accusations from Defense Ministry Benny Gantz that the party’s lawmakers are endangering the security of the State of Israel by refusing to support legislation renewing a law barring citizenship for Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens.
“Anyone who views Israeli security as important wouldn’t establish a government with Ra’am,” Likud tweets. “Anyone who views Israeli security as important would leave this government immediately.”
WARSAW, Poland — Polish experts say human remains uncovered this month near the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz date to after World War II, and most probably belonged to German soldiers taken prisoner by Soviet forces.
A local resident spotted 12 human skulls and many bones protruding from the banks of the Sola river that runs through the southern Polish town of Oswiecim. Nazi forces occupying Poland operated the Auschwitz camp there during the war.
After the Nazi defeat, Polish and Soviet communist authorities held German prisoners of war — as well as political prisoners — there and in the surrounding area. They were subjected to brutal treatment.
In 1946, those who died were buried in sites through which the Sola now flows, according to Poland’s state Institute of National Remembrance.
There were similar finds of human bones in the same area last year, prompting an investigation then by the institute, which looks into Nazi and communist crimes.
Based on archives, examination and witness testimony, the institute experts concluded that the remains found both last year and this year were of post-war inmates, most probably German prisoners of war, the institute says.
It says that the Polish-German foundation Remembrance took care of the burial of the remains.
New Hope MK Zvi Hauser says it is hypocritical of Likud to slam the new coalition government’s partnership with Ra’am, suggesting that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have given Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas even more had they been able to agree to a coalition.
“Netanyahu would have gone a lot further,” Hauser says to Channel 12 News, amid the ongoing argument over supporting the extension of the family reunification law. “He would have gone [not only with Ra’am but also] with Balad, if they had agreed to back the ‘French law’ [under which a serving prime minister cannot be prosecuted].
“That was all he cared about — subjugating the interests of the state to his personal, private interests,” Hauser charges. “We put an end to that.”
Likud MK Yoav Kisch says there could be room for compromise with the coalition government on the Palestinian family reunification law.
“The law is a good law and I believe that we can find a way to be able to help [the coalition] on this,” Kisch tells Kan radio about the ongoing dispute over extending a law barring citizenship for Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens.
However, he added: “We want to bring down this bad government… with all due respect to Benny Gantz, his decision to establish this government is putting political needs over security needs.”
New Foreign Minister Yair Lapid held phone calls today with his counterparts from Germany, India, Bahrain, and the Netherlands, he writes on Twitter.
“The conversations dealt with the new government that was formed in Israel and strengthening the ties between the countries in the face of regional and global challenges,” Lapid tweets.
PARIS — Prosecutors in the trial of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy call for a six-month jail term over campaign finance violations for his 2012 reelection bid.
At the end of proceedings in Paris, they issue withering criticism of the former head of state and demand a one-year jail term, with six months of it suspended, and a fine of 3,750 euros ($4,500).
“Nicolas Sarkozy clearly regrets nothing because he came to just one hearing,” prosecutor Vanessa Perree tells the court.
“This way of thinking of himself as being above the law, of not being a citizen among others, is the same as it was during the presidential campaign,” she adds.
“The cavalier attitude towards (other defendants) and the court is a reflection of the cavalier attitude during the campaign,” she says.
This is the second trial of the 66-year-old right-winger, who has faced a flurry of investigations into his affairs since he lost his presidential immunity after his single term in office from 2007-2012.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit suggests that he does not support the plan of new Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar to split up his job into two different positions.
“The Turkel Committee asked if it was right to split the Military Advocate General’s responsibilities and decided it was wrong,” Mandelblit says at a panel discussion at Bar-Ilan University. “The committee actually established ideas and rules in order to strengthen the position of the double responsibilities of the Military Advocate General. Anyone who thinks [this plan] has a connection to other current affairs is not necessarily mistaken.”
Sa’ar’s plan aims to create a separate position of chief prosecutor in Israel, and have the attorney general be solely the chief legal adviser to the government.
The activist in the extreme-right Lehava group who questioned by police this week over a sexual harassment complaint is named by the Kan public broadcaster as Yitzhak Gabai, who served time in prison for torching a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly weighs in on the ongoing battle over extending the family reunification law that bars citizenship for Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens.
“They gave up on acting in the national and state interest and we’re supposed to cover for them?” Netanyahu reportedly says at a closed-door Likud faction meeting, according to Walla News. “This coalition has very serious cracks. They established a coalition with Ra’am and now they’re saying, ‘Save us from this coalition.’ Excuse me? What is that? They’re coming with complaints about the security of Israel? Then they shouldn’t have formed a government with Ra’am.”
Police and Palestinians clash at the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City, days after the so-called flag march held by nationalist Jews passed by the flashpoint site.
The Palestinians were protesting chants made against the Muslim prophet Muhammad during Tuesday’s march, according to the Kan public broadcaster, which says cops used stun grenades and a water cannon to clear the demonstrators.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 17, 2021
The Fire and Rescue Services releases an update that eight blazes in southern Israel today were sparked by balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip.
LONDON — The UK has recorded more than 10,000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time in nearly four months, likely the result of the spread of the more contagious delta variant.
Government figures today report 11,007 daily cases, the highest daily amount since February 19.
The variant, which accounts for around 95 percent of all new cases in the UK, is considered by government scientists to be between 40% to 80% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain.
The spread of the variant upended plans for the lifting of all restrictions on social contact next week. Instead, Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the easing by four weeks to July 19.
Most of the new infections are among younger age groups who have not received a vaccine. The UK’s vaccine rollout will be extended to all adults over age 18 tomorrow.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi will lead a senior delegation of top Israeli military officers to Washington on Saturday night to meet with American officials about Iran’s nuclear program and its expansionist efforts in the region, the Israel Defense Forces says.
“The chief of staff will discuss with his counterparts current shared security challenges, including matters dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in the Middle East, Hezbollah’s rearmament efforts, the consequences of the threat of precision-guided missiles, and joint force build-up,” the military says.
The IDF commander will also share with American officials the military’s assessments of its 11-day conflict with the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip last month, particularly how some of its new battle strategies fared in real-world combat, the IDF says.
Kohavi will be joined on the nearly week-long trip by Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman, who leads the IDF’s counter-Iran efforts, as well as Brig. Gen. Amit Sa’ar, who leads Military Intelligence’s Research Division and Israel’s defense attaché in Washington, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, who is due to complete his tenure shortly.
The delegation is scheduled to meet US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, the head of the US Central Command Kenneth McKenzie, the head of the US Southern Command Richard Clark, and others.
During the trip Kalman, Sa’ar, and Fuchs will also hold their own meetings with additional American defense officials, according to the IDF.
Kohavi will also meet with Jewish and other communal leaders in the US before returning to Israel on Friday. IDF deputy chief of staff Eyal Zamir will command the military in his absence.
Police and security forces are gearing up for potential unrest in Lod over the detainment of Sheikh Yusuf Albaz, 63, an imam at the city’s Great Mosque, on charges of incitement. The Rishon Lezion Magistrates’ Court ordered Albaz released to house arrest starting tomorrow, but police have appealed the decision. A final ruling on his release is slated for tomorrow morning.
Documents kept in safes at the Prime Minister’s Office were shredded in breach of the law before Naftali Bennett was sworn in as premier on Sunday, the Haaretz daily reports.
Citing former PMO officials, the newspaper says former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the order to shred the documents.
Some the documents in the safes were transferred to the archives of the Prime Minister’s Office as required by law, the report adds.
Unnamed senior legal officials quoted in the report describe the shredding of the documents as very regular.
In a response sent on his behalf, Netanyahu calls the report “a total lie.”
The Prime Minister’s Office says it was not aware of the matter, but will now look into it.
The Orthodox Union welcomes a United States Supreme Court ruling today that unanimously supported the decision of a Catholic foster agency to refuse to work with same-sex couples. The court says the city of Philadelphia was wrong to limit its relationship with the group as a result of the agency’s policy.
“Today’s historic ruling by the US Supreme Court is of critical important to the American Orthodox Jewish community,” says the OU’s executive director of public policy, Nathan Diament. “As a minority faith community in the United States, the robust legal protection for religious practice is an existential issue for us. Today’s ruling in Fulton reinstates that robust protection at the constitutional level and thus more potently promises that Jews — along with Americans of all faiths — will have our religious practices protected from government interference.”
Police arrest eight people on suspicion of disturbing the peace in clashes between officers and Palestinians at the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The suspects are taken for questioning.
The coalition has agreed that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will select a new ambassador to the US in coordination with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the Ynet news site reports.
The report says the ambassador will remain in the post after Lapid takes over as prime minister in two years, as part of the rotation agreement with Lapid.
The current envoy to the United States is Ambassador Gilad Erdan, who is also ambassador to the United Nations. Erdan was a Likud party minister before he was appointed ambassador last year.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to meet this evening with Religious Zionism head MK Bezalel Smotrich to discuss the debate over extending the Palestinian family reunification law. Netanyahu reportedly seeks to cement the full opposition to oppose renewing the legislation, although it is uncertain if Smotrich can be convinced vote against it.
Though right-wing opposition parties in principle back extending the law barring citizenship for Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens, they have refused to step in to do so in the hopes of embarrassing the new government.
“The citizenship law is a test of the coalition, not the opposition,” Smotrich tweets. “The opposition is not the one who established an extreme left-wing government with terror supporters and anti-Zionists who endanger the security and the Jewish nature of the state. And now it is failing to gather all of its members to pass such an important Zionist bill. On this test, you have already failed.”
A 3.2 magnitude earthquake shook southern Israel this evening, in an area southeast of Dimona, the IDF Home Front Command reports.
A light earthquake shook towns in southern Israel overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, with reverberations felt as far north as Jerusalem. That earthquake was measured as a 4.2 on the Richter scale.
A group of parties in the opposition, led by Likud, introduce a bill to change the Law of Return and to revise Israeli immigration policies. The legislation — which has been introduced, but abandoned in the past — aims to limit and restrict immigration to Israel, and provide the state with greater capabilities in deporting those in the country illegally.
The bill, signed onto by Likud, Religious Zionism, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and renegade Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, would limit the eligibility for temporary residency, permanent residency, and citizenship. It would also provide the Knesset with the power to revoke residency or citizenship, and give the state the ability to seize money brought in by those who enter the country illegally.
The Israeli military conducts airstrikes on a Hamas building in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian media reports.
The attack appears to be in retaliation for the launching of balloon-borne incendiary devices from Gaza over the past two days, which caused at least a dozen fires in southern Israel.
There are no immediate reports of injuries. The IDF has not immediately commented on the strikes.
The strikes come amid reports in Hebrew media this evening that Israeli patience is wearing thin, and that Jerusalem has conveyed to Hamas through Egypt that if peace is not restored, it could well launch a fresh new operation in the Strip.
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