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Lapid said to warn EU official that renewing nuclear talks a ‘strategic mistake’

After Borrell messages FM to update him on plan to travel to Tehran ahead of reviving JCPOA talks, Lapid says move demonstrates lack of care for Israelis being targeted in Turkey

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) and the European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, in Brussels on July 11, 2021. (Twitter)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) and the European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, in Brussels on July 11, 2021. (Twitter)

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

Gantz says officials should only discuss Iran threat behind closed doors, after media reports of disagreements

Defense Minister Benny Gantz responds to reports of disagreements between senior IDF officials and the Mossad spy agency regarding Israel’s stance on the Iranian nuclear deal, saying such discourse must be kept behind closed doors.

“The defense establishment is dealing with the Iranian threat day and night as the most important and urgent strategic issue now for Israel’s security,” Gantz says on Twitter.

“This is done in coordination between all the security arms, and while giving freedom of opinion, the decisions are made by the political echelon,” he says.

“We will continue to hold this open and deep discourse only in the closed rooms. Any other way harms the security of the State of Israel,” Gantz adds.

Iran’s next revolution will be female, says Cannes winner

Iran’s next revolution will be brought on by women taking back the freedoms denied to them in the Islamic Republic, says Zar Amir Ebrahimi, the winner of this year’s Best Actress award at Cannes.

Amir Ebrahimi took the prize for her role in “Holy Spider” as a journalist in Iran who investigates a serial killer murdering prostitutes, and who has to contend with a deeply misogynistic society placing many obstacles in her way.

But in contrast to the movie’s hopelessly grim take on attitudes toward women in Iran — which became an Islamic republic after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah — Amir Ebrahimi says she was now detecting signs that women were finally fighting back.

“If there ever is another revolution in Iran, it will be a revolution by women,” she says in an interview with AFP.

“Women are fighting to keep the few rights they have in this society. They are rolling up their sleeves and they dress differently. They go out and sing, and form clandestine dance groups. There has been so much pressure on us, we’re ready to explode. That’s why I have hope. Change has to happen,” she said.

Turkey police forcibly break up Istanbul Pride march, detaining dozens, including journalist

Turkish police forcibly intervene in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground say.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul, but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed behind his back. Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban — in 2014 — drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

Biden calls latest Russian bombing of Kyiv ‘barbarism’

US President Joe Biden describes Russia’s latest bombing of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv as “barbarism” at the G7 summit in Germany.

“It’s more of their barbarism,” Biden tells reporters at the summit site in the German Alps, when asked for his reaction to the Russian missile strikes against a residential building.

Russia claims its strike in Kyiv hit a weapons factory, not a residential area

Russia says its early-morning strike on Kyiv hit a weapons factory, dismissing as “fake” reports that it had struck a residential area of the Ukrainian capital.

The Artyom factory “was the target, as military infrastructure,” the Russian defense ministry says, adding that it had already been targeted in April.

“Russian forces attacked civilian targets in Kyiv = fake,” the ministry says in a statement.

A Russian missile had “hit the Artyom factory’s workshops,” it says.

The ministry says damage to a nearby residential building had been caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile.

“There was damage to the bottom of the building as well as the top, which confirms the version that it was a falling missile,” it says.

It was not immediately possible to verify the claims.

Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitchko said Russian strikes on an area near the center of the capital early on Sunday had killed one person and wounded six, including a 7-year-old girl.

Lapid said to tell EU official renewing talks with Iran shows lack of care for Israeli civilians

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that the latter’s decision to travel to Iran and relaunch talks to revive the 2015 nuclear with the Islamic Republic is deeply misguided, Politico reports.

Borrell messaged Lapid ahead of his visit to Iran this weekend to give him a heads-up on what was about to unfold, the news site says. But the foreign minister did not take the news well.

“This is a strategic mistake that sends the wrong message to Iran,” Lapid responded, according to a diplomat familiar with the exchange.

“Talking about the great potential in the Iranian context, while Iran is trying to murder Israeli citizens throughout the world and especially in Turkey, indicates a worrying lack of care for the lives of Israeli citizens.”

Jerusalem says Iranian agents have been dispatched to Turkey in order to target Israeli tourists to avenge for recent attacks on Iranian nuclear and military targets attributed to the Jewish state.

Nearly a dozen Iranian agents were arrested by Turkish authorities last Thursday after allegedly trying to kidnap and kill a former Israeli ambassador and his wife.

Prince Charles reportedly accepted bags with millions in cash from Qatari PM

The UK’s Prince Charles accepted bags of cash worth $3.2 million from then-Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani from 2011 to 2015, the Sunday Times of London reports.

The paper reports that Charles’s aides were uncomfortable with the transfers but did little to intervene.

Thani served as premier from 2007 to 2013.

The cash was reportedly handed over in duffel bags, a suitcase and branded shopping bags from the Fortnum & Mason department store.

Charles’s office claims the money was transferred to a charity run by the prince but he has long been accused of using his charities’ bank account for his own personal finances.

Today’s revelation adds to the speculation of a “cash-for-access culture” surrounding Prince Charles. Earlier this year his longtime aide, Michael Fawcett, resigned after it was revealed he used his position to help a Saudi billionaire receive a “golden visa for the UK” and various honors in turn for cash donations.

Abbas meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh tweets.

The two discussed “regional developments,” al-Sheikh writes, using diplomatic code for “stuff.”

Syrian and Russian paratroopers conduct joint drill for second time this month

Hundreds of Syrian paratroopers take part in a joint drill with their Russian counterparts in the war-torn country in the second joint maneuver this month, state media reports.

The agency does not give further details in its Saturday night report about the drill or say where they took place. It said the aim was to train Syrian paratroopers how to respond in varied circumstances.

Russia is a main backer of President Bashar Assad and has a broad presence in Syria where an 11-year conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population.

Russia became involved militarily in Syria in September 2015 helping to tip the balance of power in favor of Assad’s forces.

Earlier this month, the Syrian and Russian air forces conducted drills over different parts of the country, including on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Four months ago, the two countries conducted a drill a week before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. In mid-February, the Russian military deployed long-range nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to Syria for massive naval drills in the Mediterranean Sea.

Iran carries out second test of satellite launcher — state TV

Iran has carried out a second test of its Zuljanah satellite launcher, Reuters reports, citing Iranian state television.

The move will likely spark further tensions in the region as world powers are slated to reconvene in Vienna for talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal after months of deadlock.

The US fears the technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear missiles, Reuters reports.

“The third development phase of the Zuljanah satellite launcher will be based on a combination of information gained during today’s launch,” a defense ministry spokesperson tells Iranian state TV.

It is unclear whether the launch was successful.

The US condemned Iran after it carried out the first test of the Zuljanah last year.

Yamina leadership said to agree Shaked will take over if Bennett quits politics

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked will take over the Yamina party if Prime Minister Naftali Bennett decides to take a break from politics after handing over the premiership to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid later this week, the Kipa news site reports.

The decision is made during a meeting Bennett and Shaked held with Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana.

There has been reports last week that Bennett would hand the keys to Kahana if he quit, as the latter has been one of the prime minister’s closest allies over the past year. Shaked is Bennett’s longterm political partner, but she is believed to have had a difficult time swallowing the unity government.

Second Israeli arrested in deadly stabbing of Palestinian

Israeli police arrest a second Israeli suspect in the suspected killing of a Palestinian man in the northern West Bank, according to her lawyers.

The suspect, an Israeli woman who resides in the settlement of Ariel, was detained by detectives on Sunday afternoon.

Ali Hassan Harb, 27, was stabbed in the heart during a confrontation between settlers and Palestinians on the outskirts of his hometown of Iskaka last Tuesday. The Israelis had apparently come to examine the land to build a new illegal outpost in the area.

The settler suspected of killing Harb has been held incommunicado by the Shin Bet internal security service since Thursday. His lawyer says he acted in self-defense; a gag order requested by Israeli police bars the publication of most of the details of the case.

The second suspect — the Israeli women — is suspected of organizing the group of settlers who arrived with an eye toward building a new outpost on land claimed by the Harb family.

“The Shin Bet has totally lost it. This insanity must be stopped. Children were attacked by a lynch mob and were only saved by a miracle. Meanwhile, the Shin Bet and police are persecuting the victims,” says Adi Keidar, a lawyer with the Honenu legal aid group, which is representing the two suspects.

Negev Summit countries to hold first follow-up meeting in Manama on Monday

The first meeting of the Negev Summit Steering Committee is slated to take place tomorrow in Bahrain, the Foreign Ministry announces.

The meeting in Manama is a formalization of commitments made at the March Negev Summit to turn the meeting into an ongoing forum, says Oded Joseph, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East Division, in a phone briefing to Israeli reporters.

Senior officials from the foreign ministries of Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, Morocco, and the US will attend. Israel will be represented by Joseph and Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert will lead the US delegation.

Joseph says it is no coincidence that the meeting will take place shortly before US President Joe Biden’s July 13-16 visit to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.

The countries will decide on how the six working groups agreed on during the summit will operate, and aim to produce a memorandum detailing what they determine on Monday.

The working groups will deal with regional security, food and water security, energy, health, education and tolerance and tourism. Each of the six countries will head a working group, which will meet two or three times a year.

Jordan, which stayed away from the Negev Summit, were not invited to Manama, but will be asked to attend next year’s summit. Still, says Joseph, many countries around the world are interested in participating in Negev Summit initiatives. As an example, he pointed at Germany’s interest in water security projects.

Ministers approve Sa’ar’s long-shot bill to impose term limits for prime minister

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation re-approves Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s bill to limit prime ministerial term limits to eight consecutive years, enabling the justice minister to advance it to the plenum for its first reading.

The bill is unlikely to pass, though, as the coalition is also hoping to disperse the Knesset as early as tomorrow, leaving Sa’ar with hours to advance his legislation through three readings.

Although it would not apply retroactively, the bill is understood to be a jab against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and most recently held the job for 12 years straight.

“Too long of a rule brings with it a concentration of power and the danger of corruption, and therefore it is correct to include within the Basic Law the principle of term limits,” Sa’ar writes in a statement.

“Restricting terms instead of unlimited tenure is an important principle at the core of the perception that the government will work for the benefit of the citizens, instead of for its own sake and its survival,” the justice minister continues, adding, “We will continue to strengthen Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

A previous effort to pass the term limit bill expired in May, when the coalition lacked the votes to complete its legislative process. Sa’ar, a Netanyahu-insider-turned-rival, has made the term limit bill one of his flagship legislative efforts.

Earlier today, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee discussed a bill to prevent a criminal defendant from forming a government, also viewed as targeted against the Likud leader.

IDF says it foiled drug smuggling attempt from Egypt

Troops foil an attempt to smuggle drugs into Israel from Egypt this morning, the Israel Defense Forces says.

According to the Israeli military, soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted the drug-smuggling attempt and dispatched troops to the scene.

Some 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of an unnamed drug, estimated to be worth NIS 800,000 ($234,000), were seized, the IDF says.

No one was arrested in the incident, according to the army.

Labor to hold leadership primary on July 18

The Labor party — currently headed by Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli — plans to hold its leadership primary on July 18, according to a statement from the party’s spokesperson.

Michaeli is expected to retain her position.

In addition, Labor will hold a party conference to prepare for the upcoming Knesset elections on June 30, during which it will discuss leadership primaries and election regulations.

Leadership primaries and the party conference will be subject to the 24th Knesset’s planned dispersal, the process for which will resume tomorrow.

The primary for the rest of Labor’s slate will be held in early August, the spokesperson said.

US gathered top Israeli, Arab military chiefs for secret talks on Iran – report

The US convened a summit of top regional defense officials from Israel and Arab counties to discuss coordination against Iran’s missile and drone threat, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing US and regional sources to reveal details of the previously secret meeting.

The talks, held at Sharm el Sheikh in March, included participants from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, attended as did Fayyadh bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, chief of staff of the Saudi armed forces. Representing the US was Gen. Frank McKenzie, the-then head of the US Central Command.

It was the first time that such high ranking officers from Israel and Arab countries met under US military auspices, according to the report.

Participants reached an agreement in principle on methods for rapid notification of aerial threats, according to sources familiar with the talks. However, the alerts would be passed by phone or computer and not through a US-style military data sharing system, sources said.

The understandings are not binding but a future step will be to obtain the backing of regional leaders to formalize the notification system and look at broadening the cooperation.

Backing revived Iran deal, Military Intelligence spars with IDF chief, Mossad

Senior defense officials are at odds over Israel’s stance on talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, according to an unsourced report in Hebrew-language media.

Several Israeli generals, including the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate, have begun to support a return to the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers, against Israel’s official policy, the Ynet news site says.

The report is published as world powers ready to reconvene talks in Vienna to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after months of deadlock

The Israeli government has fiercely opposed a return to the 2015 deal, which it campaigned against at the time of its signing, viewing Iran as untrustworthy and unable to keep its commitments.

Successive Israeli governments have warned for decades that Iran seeks to build a nuclear weapon.

But senior military officials believe that even a bad agreement is preferable to no agreement at all, as it gives Israel time to prepare for extensive military responses against Iran, Ynet says.

The officials in support of a return to the deal listed by the news site are the head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva; Brig. Gen. Amit Sa’ar, who leads Military Intelligence’s Research Division; Brig. Gen. Oren Setter, the head of the IDF’s Strategic Division; and Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, the military official in charge of Iran affairs.

But against them, and supporting Israel’s official stance against the deal, were seniors at the Mossad spy agency, and the chief of the IDF himself, Aviv Kohavi, the report says.

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