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Israel offers Jordan aid as toxic barrel explosion in Aqaba kills at least 13

Local official says hospitals in area full with over 200 injured in deadly accident at Jordan’s sole port; Eilat unaffected by chlorine spill but keeping watch

A general view shows the tank (L) that fell while being transported, causing a toxic gas leak in Jordan's Aqaba port on June 27, 2022. (AFP)
A general view shows the tank (L) that fell while being transported, causing a toxic gas leak in Jordan's Aqaba port on June 27, 2022. (AFP)

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

Police arrest suspect in disappearance of Haredi teenager last seen in March

Yeshiva student Moshe Kleinerman, 16, who was last seen on March 25 at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yocha on Mount Meron. (Courtesy)
Yeshiva student Moshe Kleinerman, 16, who was last seen on March 25 at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yocha on Mount Meron. (Courtesy)

Police have arrested a suspect tied to the disappearance of an ultra-Orthodox boy.

Moshe Kleinerman, 16, was last seen on March 25 when he left his home in the Modiin Illit settlement with a few friends for a trip to northern Israel.

Kleinerman and his friends arrived at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mount Meron, where Kleinerman reportedly wanted to seclude himself and asked his friends to continue their trip without him.

He has not been seen since.

Israel slams Hamas for holding ‘mentally ill’ captives, does not deny health woes

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office is lashing out at the Hamas terror group after it issued a warning regarding the deteriorating health of an Israeli citizen held captive in the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas has proven again tonight that it is a cynical, criminal organization, which holds mentally ill civilians against all international rules and norms, as well as the bodies of soldiers,” the PMO says in a statement.

It adds that Israel plans to continue negotiating for their return via Egyptian mediation.

The statement does not address the health of either Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, the two known living Israeli captives in Gaza.

The comments are also not reflective of an earlier statement, which circulated in the Hebrew-language press, attributed to unnamed defense officials, which dismissed the Hamas claim as “psychological warfare.”

“We do not recognize any change in their health,” one official told the Kan public broadcaster.

Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has not specified whether Mengistu or al-Sayed were suffering from health issues, nor how serious they were. But he vows that Hamas will publish proof of its claims in the coming hours.

Death toll in toxic Jordan port blast rises to 13

State-run Jordan TV says the death toll in an explosion of toxic gas has risen to 13 killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, says 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate says a total of 251 people were injured.

The deputy chief of the Aqaba Region Ports Authority, Haj Hassan, tells Al-Mamlaka that an “iron rope carrying a container containing a toxic substance broke, resulting in the fall and escape of the poisonous substance.”

The channel also cites the former head of the company that operates the port, Mohammed al-Mubaidin, as saying that a vessel had been waiting to load almost 20 containers of liquified gas “containing a very high percentage of chlorine.”

He nonetheless adds that the gas is heavy and “it is not easy for its gas clouds to move… as it concentrates in one area and is affected by wind movement.”

Eilat’s emergency services say in a statement that there is no impact on the city, but that they are following the situation closely.

Israel offers Jordan aid as Aqaba hospitals fill up

A general view shows the tank (L) that fell while being transported, causing a toxic gas leak in Jordan's Aqaba port on June 27, 2022. (AFP)
A general view shows the tank (L) that fell while being transported, causing a toxic gas leak in Jordan's Aqaba port on June 27, 2022. (AFP)

Israel is offering Jordan help in dealing with a toxic blast at the Red Sea port of Aqaba that killed at least 10 people and injured 200 more, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says.

“As we’ve told our friends in Jordan, the Israeli defense establishment is ready to assist with any effort, by any means necessary,” he says in a statement.

He offers condolences for the dead and well wishes for the wounded.

Footage on state TV showed a large cylinder plunging from a crane on a moored vessel, causing a violent release of a yellow gas.

The force of the blast sent a truck rolling down the harborside, while port workers could be seen running for their lives.

The injured are transported to two state hospitals, one private facility and a field hospital.

Aqaba health director Jamal Obeidat says that hospitals in the area, just across the Gulf of Aqaba from Eilat, are full and “cannot receive more cases.”

“The injured people are in medium to critical condition,” he adds.

Jordan civil defense spokesman Amer al-Sartawy says that “specialists and the hazardous substances team in the civil defense are dealing” with the incident.

US, UN deplore Russia over deadly strike on Ukraine mall

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is voicing horror at Russia’s deadly strike on a crowded mall in central Ukraine and has vowed to hold Moscow responsible.

“The world is horrified by Russia’s missile strike today, which hit a crowded Ukrainian shopping mall — the latest in a string of atrocities,” Blinken writes on Twitter.

“We will continue to support our Ukrainian partners and hold Russia, including those responsible for atrocities, to account.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office calls the attack “totally deplorable.”

Kremenchuk, the town where the missile strike occurred, had so far been spared direct hits in the conflict, Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric says at a daily press briefing.

“We once again stress that the parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” he says.

Dmytro Lunin, the governor of the Ukrainian region where the missile attack occurred, says at least 10 people were killed and more than 40 injured in the attack, warning the toll is likely to rise.

Accused Nazi camp guard, aged 101, protests innocence ahead of German verdict

Lawyers have asked a German court to acquit a 101-year-old man charged with 3,518 counts of being an accessory to murder for allegedly serving as an SS guard at a World War II Nazi concentration camp.

The defendant, whose name was not released due to German privacy laws, allegedly worked at the Sachsenhausen camp on the outskirts of Berlin between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing.

In their closing statement, the man’s lawyers argued that there was no evidence their client had actively assisted in any killings.

This undated file photo shows a roll call, in the early morning or late evening hours, on the roll call square in front of the camp gate of the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg, on the outskirts of Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo, file)

The man has denied ever working at the camp, but prosecutors presented numerous documents containing his name, date and place of birth, to argue that he did. They have asked the court to impose a five-year sentence on the defendant.

Sachsenhausen was established in 1936 just north of Berlin as the first new camp after Adolf Hitler gave the SS full control of the Nazi concentration camp system. Exact numbers on those killed vary, with upper estimates of some 100,000, though scholars suggest figures of 40,000 to 50,000 are likely more accurate.

The Neuruppin court is expected to rule on the case Tuesday.

January 6 panel calls surprise recess hearing as new evidence emerges

The House January 6 panel says it is calling a surprise hearing on Tuesday to present “recently obtained evidence.”

The hearing comes after Congress left Washington for a two-week recess. Lawmakers on the panel investigating the 2021 insurrection said last week that there would be no more hearings until July.

The subject of the hearings is so far unclear. A spokesman for the panel declined to comment on its substance.

The panel had at least two more hearings planned for July, which lawmakers said would focus on domestic extremists who breached the Capitol that day and on what then-US president Donald Trump was doing as the violence unfolded.

Netanyahu apparatchik Bitan says no chance of alternate government

Likud MK David Bitan tells Channel 12 news that his party is for elections, dismissing the possibility of an alternate government being formed by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We want elections,” he says in an interview from a bustling Knesset hallway.

“I don’t see any chance for a government like this. There are things that need to be finished so we are dealing with them,” he adds.

“It will take a few days but there will be elections,” says Bitan, a Netanyahu apparatchik who nonetheless has publicly opposed forming an alternate government instead of going to elections.

Bitan also vows that the Islamist Ra’am party won’t be part of a Likud-led coalition, a consistent claim belied by public disclosure of Likud-Ra’am contacts a year ago.

He attempts at first to push the Likud claim that it never considered bringing Ra’am into its coalition a year ago, but later changes tack, instead claiming that the party is now out of bounds because “since it entered the coalition it created a lot of problems.”

At least 10 killed by gas leak in Jordan port city of Aqaba

A poisonous gas leak in Jordan’s southern port city of Aqaba has killed at least 10 people and injured around 250, authorities say.

Video carried by state-run media outlets shows a crane hoisting a large tanker from a truck and then dropping it on the deck of a ship, causing an explosion of yellow smoke and sending dock workers racing away.

The Public Security Directorate said a gas tank sprung a leak while being transported. It did not identify the contents of the tanker.

The directorate says authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured to hospitals and sent specialists in to address the situation.

The directorate says 10 people were killed and 251 injured. State-run al-Mamlaka TV said 199 were still being treated in hospitals.

Dr. Jamal Obeidat, a local health official, urges people to stay inside and close windows and doors. The nearest residential area is 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.

Ashkelon residents blame noxious smell on cancer-causing benzene from oil depot

A Health Ministry epidemiologist says there is a “significant level of cancer” around the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel, which is home to a large oil storage compound, but that a connection between the two cannot yet be proven definitively.

Environmental epidemiologist Dr. Isabella Karakis gives her testimony during a hearing of the Knesset’s special committee on complaints from residents about noxious smells from the facility, which they attribute to the release of benzene from the site.

Karakis tells the committee that “there is no safe level for benzene,” a chemical compound that can enter the air from a variety of sources, among them plants that burn fossil fuels, gasoline service stations and vehicle exhausts. The Ashkelon oil storage facility is run by the state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company.

“There is no safe limit because this is a cancer-causing material,” she says, “and any level that’s above zero is likely to be significant in terms of the population’s health.”

The Ministry of Environmental Protection does maintain an approved level of benzene pollution. According to Karakis, sensors around the facility show that emissions are consistently below the maximum level determined by the ministry.

Officials and residents of Ashkelon, and one representative from Eilat, where the EAPC maintains two oil storage depots, tell the committee that complaints about smells from the plants are made frequently.

Those from Ashkelon say that the odors are sometimes so bad that people feel “choked” and don’t want to leave their homes.

An EAPC spokeswoman claims that there have only been four incidents over the last three years and that the company does its best to minimize emissions.

Health of Israeli held captive by Hamas is deteriorating, terror group says

Hamas’s military wing claims “the health of one of its Israeli prisoners has deteriorated” in a tweet by spokesperson Abu Obeida.

The terror group currently holds captive two living Israelis — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers — Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

Abu Obeida says the terror group will publish proof of its claims in the coming hours.

Israel and Hamas have held indirect talks in an attempt to reach a prisoner exchange deal between the two sides. A similar deal to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas’s clutches saw 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners released, many of them convicted terrorists.

Police find intel officer who died mysteriously wasn’t killed by ‘a deliberate act’

A police review of the military’s probe into the mysterious death of a likely-to-be-indicted Military Intelligence officer last year determines he was not killed by “a deliberate act.”

The officer, who was being held in jail under accusations of grave security offenses, and whose name remains barred from publication over a year after his death, was found dead in his cell on May 16, 2021. There was no clear sign of death, and an autopsy in Israel, as well as a blood test at a specialized forensic laboratory in the United States, were inconclusive.

In January, the Israel Defense Forces allowed the police to review its internal investigations.

The police team found “there is no indication that the officer’s death was caused as a result of a deliberate act by any source,” according to a statement published by the IDF.

The statement says the police team found that the IDF “conducted all the investigative actions necessary,” but also recommended to “perform investigative actions in a number of other aspects.”

The officer’s family and lawyer were updated on the police findings, the IDF says.

The officer, who served in a Military Intelligence technology unit, had not yet been indicted when he died, but would have been charged with nearly two dozen separate offenses and faced at least a 10-year prison sentence.

Teachers Union says it will resume school strike tomorrow, blames Finance Ministry

To the grave disappointment of parents throughout the country, the Teachers Union announces it is resuming its strike tomorrow after it fails to reach a compromise with the Finance Ministry.

Kindergartens, elementary schools and Hebrew-language programs, known as ulpanim, will be shuttered as part of the strike. High schools and special education programs are not meant to be affected, though in some cases they have been.

This will be the third day within the span of a week that the Teachers Union has gone on strike as it battles with the Finance Ministry over better salaries and working conditions.

“We have been negotiating with Finance Ministry officials for half a year and the only offer they’ve made has been laughable. Those officials don’t care about anything, not about education, not about students and not about parents,” says secretary-general of the Teachers Union Yaffa Ben David.

Orbach: Knesset unlikely to pass bill to dissolve itself tonight

The Knesset is expected to bring its dissolution bill for a first reading this evening, but not finish the dissolution process today, says Knesset House Committee chair MK Nir Orbach while leading a committee discussion on the bill.

The bill has been stalled, pending due to disagreements between the coalition and opposition on a final date for elections and outstanding legislation to be passed before dispersal.

“We don’t agree on the date and the final legislation to be passed,” says Likud MK Yoav Kisch during the meeting.

In addition, the House Committee decides to keep the bill to disperse the Knesset within its purview, meaning that committee chair Nir Orbach can continue to set the pace for its progression.

IDF, police seize millions of shekels worth of marijuana on Egypt border

Drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, on June 27, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, on June 27, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Security forces foil an attempt to smuggle drugs into Israel from Egypt this morning, the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli Police say.

According to the IDF, soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted suspects approaching the border from Egypt overnight and dispatched troops to the scene.

Several of the suspects were detained by security forces, and three packages of drugs that were hidden nearby were found, the army says.

Some 80 kilograms (176 pounds) of marijuana, estimated to be worth NIS 3 million ($867,000), were seized, the IDF and police say.

Parole board lets rapist nightclub owner out early provided he stay out of Tel Aviv

A prison parole board grants an early release for rapist and sex offender Alon Kastiel, despite strenuous efforts by state prosecutors and by his victims to prevent the panel from shortening his sentence.

Under the board’s ruling, Kastiel will be released shortly on the condition that he stays outside of Tel Aviv — the city where he committed his crimes and where some of his victims still live or work. The board says this decision is out of sensitivity to the victims’ “fears that they will meet the inmate on the streets of the city.”

The exact date will be decided once a clear plan for his release has been drawn up and agreed upon, the board says in its decision.

In 2018, Kastiel was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison as part of a plea deal in which he confessed to committing sexual offenses against four women. Over a dozen women had filed police complaints against Kastiel, including for rape. He was eventually convicted of one charge of attempted rape, forced indecent acts, indecent acts and sexual harassment.

Kastiel first applied for parole last August, but this request was denied. He applied again in May and his request was approved by the parole board, though this was later reversed by a district court following an appeal by state prosecutors.

Kastiel again requested an early release this month. During the hearing, two of his victims appeared and “expressed strenuous opposition to his early release,” as did state prosecutors.

“We are not blind to the views of the victims of the crime, but the circumstances of this case lead us to the conclusion that their positions should not be the deciding factor,” two of the three parole board members write.

A third board member dissents and opposes Kastiel’s release on the grounds that the victims’ fears ought to be the deciding factor.

After delay, Orbach convenes committee meeting to discuss dissolving the Knesset

Knesset House Committee chair and renegade Yamina MK Nir Orbach convenes a long-awaited discussion on 11 bills to disperse the Knesset, after originally scheduling the discussion for early Monday morning.

Ukraine: Russia strikes shopping mall, dozens feared dead

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine — Scores of civilians are feared killed or injured after a Russian rocket strike hit a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine’s central city of Kremenchuk, Ukrainian officials say.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says in a Telegram post that the number of victims was “unimaginable,” citing reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack.

Kyryl Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the presidential office, says in a Telegram post that at least two people were confirmed dead and about 20 hurt, of whom at least nine are in serious condition.

Zelensky stresses that the target presented “no threat to the Russian army” and had “no strategic value.” He accuses Russia of sabotaging “people’s attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry.”

“Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary civilians. It is useless to hope for decency and humanity on its part,” Zelensky says.

Opposition fails to pass likely last no-confidence votes before Knesset dissolves

The opposition fails to pass its potentially last two standalone no-confidence motions of the 24th Knesset, depending on the pace of the ongoing dispersal process.

The motions, which have become a weekly standard feature during the tenure of Israel’s 36th government, were again put forward by the Likud, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.

While the motions served a largely declarative and symbolic purpose, had the opposition succeeded in marshaling the 61 MKs to vote in favor, the government would have immediately transitioned from the current to an alternate slate proposed as part of the motion process.

Gantz: Israel is building a Middle East air defense alliance against Iran

Israel is building a regional air defense alliance to defend its members from Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says.

He appears to be referring to a recent Wall Street Journal report about a US-led effort to counter the threat posed by Iranian missiles and drones, which included representatives from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan. Israel does not maintain official ties with either Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“We are building our wide partnership with additional countries in the region to ensure a secure, stable and prosperous Middle East. Among other things, this also includes aerial defense,” he says. “We will strengthen this, as a stable Middle East is an international, regional and Israeli interest of the highest order.”

Gantz does not explicitly confirm yesterday’s Wall Street Journal report, which came out ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region, including both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“Of course, we are all preparing for Biden’s visit to the Middle East and Israel, which I hope will have a positive influence and maybe even bring a breakthrough in our ability to act against Iranian aggression in the region,” Gantz says, speaking at the start of his Blue and White party meeting.

In his remarks, Gantz stresses Israel’s concerns about a renewed nuclear deal between the world powers and Iran, in light of the impending resumption of indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran about the matter.

“Israel does not necessarily oppose a nuclear agreement, it opposes a bad nuclear agreement. This is the official position of Israel, which has been openly and frankly expressed to our allies in the world,” Gantz says.

“With the expected resumption of nuclear talks, we will continue to work together with the United States and other countries in order to clarify our position and to influence the design of the deal if there indeed will be one. In any case, we will continue intently to defend ourselves with our own forces, to build that force, to act against Iran and its process, and to be prepared for the possibility that it breaks out to a nuclear [weapon],” he says.

Haredi MK says party will try to form new government instead of going to elections

Moshe Gafni, head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism, said his party would work to help Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu form a coalition in the current Knesset instead of having the country head to elections this fall.

Gafni’s office says the decision was made after he discussed the matter with the party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein.

If Netanyahu and his supporters are unable to prevent the elections, Gafni says he will work to get them set for October 25.

“MK Gafni just informed former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that we will do everything possible to prevent these unnecessary elections and that if we do not succeed, then the date we agree on is Tuesday, the 30th of [the Hebrew month of] Tishrei — October 25, 2022,” his office says.

The date of the election is one of the sticking points in the negotiations between the coalition and opposition on the matter. The coalition prefers the elections to be held somewhat later, on November 8, a few weeks after the Jewish high holidays. This would give Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid more time in his position. The opposition is fighting to get the date set as close after the High Holidays as possible, on October 25.

Labor chief warns US-style abortion rulings could come to Israel

Labor leader Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli warns that Israel could soon see measures similar to the US Supreme Court’s overturning the legal right to abortions.

According to Michaeli, one of the strongest feminist voices in Israeli politics, both Israel and the United States are facing “extreme and dangerous right-wing” politics.

Pointing to the US Supreme Court decision to invalidate the legal right to abortion, Michaeli says that a similar force is at play in Israel, where she says the right-wing blocks Israeli accession to the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and wants to change the Supreme Court.

The Istanbul Convention, an international treaty regarding domestic violence and violence against women, was initially on track to be signed by Israel, but right-wing organizations have fiercely fought the move in large part due to the requirements to take in women seeking asylum due to gender-based violence. The issue has stalled due to these efforts.

“If you think it’s different here, it’s not,” Michaeli says.

Gantz: I will do everything to prevent Netanyahu from forming an alternate coalition

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he will “do everything” to prevent opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a new coalition, believing that fresh elections are the better option for the country.

“I will do everything to prevent the formation of an alternative government in this Knesset under [Likud leader Benjamin] Netanyahu,” says Gantz at a press conference ahead of a meeting of his Blue and White party.

In response to questions whether Gantz would agree to form a coalition with Likud if he led it, he said that that was not currently an option.

“I don’t currently see an alternative government in this Knesset,” Gantz says.

“This government didn’t persist, but we proved we could work together,” Gantz adds, referencing the cross-spectrum breadth of the outgoing coalition.

“I will do everything such that after elections there will be a government with representation from across Israeli society,” Gantz adds.

Health minister announces abortion reforms to ease process, contrasts move with US ruling

Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz speaks at a meeting of his Meretz faction in the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz speaks at a meeting of his Meretz faction in the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

For the first time in 30 years, the Knesset Health Committee approves sweeping abortion reforms under which women will be able to have an early-stage pharmaceutically induced termination at a clinic instead of a hospital and will not need to appear in front of the much-criticized abortion panels, the Health Ministry says.

According to previously announced changes, women will be able to complete the necessary paperwork online, instead of having to do it in person.

In addition, a woman requesting an abortion will not be required to initially meet with a social worker. If they do wish to meet with one, the social worker’s job will be to provide support.

The new regulations will take effect within three months, the Health Ministry said.

Although the planned reforms have been in the works for some time, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz hails the changes as a response to last week’s ruling in the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“The right to a woman’s body belongs to the woman alone. The US Supreme Court’s move to deny a woman the right to her body is a dark move, oppressing women and returning the leader of the free and liberal world a hundred years backwards. We are in a different place, and today we are taking big steps in the right direction,” Horowitz says.

“We abolished archaic procedures that were meant ‘to prevent unnecessary abortions,’ removed degrading questions, allowed some abortions at health clinics, abolished the obligation to appear before the committee, and most importantly — strengthened the woman’s most fundamental right to her body and life,” Horowitz says.

Under Israeli law, women do not have an automatic right to an abortion, but rather must request permission from a legally mandated end-of-pregnancy committee made up of three representatives of the hospital or clinic that would perform the procedure.

The panels, which approve the lion’s share of requests, are meant to vet cases based on criteria such as a woman’s age, how the pregnancy came about, and the health of the fetus.

Activists have complained for years that the panels are needlessly invasive and humiliating, and some feel that they have no choice but to lie to the committee in order to be granted permission. The committees rarely prevent a woman from terminating her pregnancy, making the process effectively pointless as well.

In addition, there are only 38 committees across the country, and it can be hard to schedule appointments with some of them due to application quotas. Women face long wait times to schedule an appointment, and face travel and time constraints in accessing the panels.

Negev Summit partners meet in Bahrain, agree to increase security and economic efforts

(L) Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, (C) Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and (R) Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at the Negev Summit follow-up in Bahrain, June 27, 2022 (Foreign Ministry)
(L) Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, (C) Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and (R) Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at the Negev Summit follow-up in Bahrain, June 27, 2022 (Foreign Ministry)

Senior diplomats from Israel, the US, and regional Arab allies wrap up their Negev Summit follow-up meeting in Bahrain, where they agree to increase efforts to improve security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.

The first meeting of the Negev Summit Steering Committee – consisting of Israel, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, Morocco, and the US – is “especially important in light of US President Joe Biden’s expected visit in Israel and Saudi Arabia, and America’s commitments to widen the circle of peace,” reads the Foreign Ministry statement after the meeting.

Biden is slated to visit Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia on July 13-16.

Senior diplomats from Israel, the US, and regional Arab allies pose for pictures at their Negev Summit follow-up meeting in Bahrain, June 27, 2022 (Foreign Ministry)

The Bahraini Foreign Ministry does not immediately release a statement, nor do the other Arab participants.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, and Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz stress in their post-meeting statements that the participating countries see the Negev Forum as a key platform for cooperating on joint challenges in the region.

In Manama, the countries discuss how the six working groups set up during the summit — regional security, food and water security, energy, health, education and tolerance, and tourism — will operate.

Each of the six Negev summit countries will head one of the working groups, which will meet two or three times a year.

“These will become permanent frameworks for cooperation between us and countries in the region,” said Foreign Ministry official Oded Joseph yesterday.

G-7 leaders hold video call with Zelensky, prep new aid for Ukraine

From front center clockwise, Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, US President Joe Biden, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and France's President Emmanuel Macron have taken seat at a round table as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the G7 leaders via video link during their working session at Castle Elmau in Kruen, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 27, 2022 (Tobias Schwarz/Pool Photo via AP)
From front center clockwise, Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, US President Joe Biden, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and France's President Emmanuel Macron have taken seat at a round table as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the G7 leaders via video link during their working session at Castle Elmau in Kruen, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 27, 2022 (Tobias Schwarz/Pool Photo via AP)

ELMAU, Germany — Leading economic powers confer by video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as they underscore their commitment to Ukraine for “as long as it takes” with plans to pursue a price cap on Russian oil, raise tariffs on Russian goods and impose other new sanctions.

In addition, the US is preparing to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile system for Kyiv to help Ukraine fight back against Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

The new aid and efforts by the Group of Seven leaders to punish Moscow come as Zelensky has openly worried that the West has become fatigued by the cost of a war that is contributing to soaring energy costs and price hikes on essential goods around the globe.

Zelensky told the leaders that now is not a time for negotiation with Russia because he needs to be in stronger position first, according to a senior French diplomat. The Ukrainian leader said “he will negotiate when he will be in a position to do so,” said the diplomat, who speaking under condition of anonymity in line with the French presidency’s customary practices.

“His goal is to end the war as quickly as possible and to get out of it in the best possible position, so that he can negotiate from a position of strength,” the diplomat says, adding that Zelensky told the summit leaders that he needs economic, financial and military support.

Liberman: Support a coalition from Meretz to Yamina, not with ‘anti-Zionist’ Religious Zionism

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Avigdor Liberman tells his faction meeting that the Yisrael Beytenu party will not sit in a potential future coalition with the far-right Religious Zionism party, which he describes as “anti-Zionist.”

“We support the formation of a government composed of all the Zionist parties, from Meretz to Yamina,” he says.

“Religious Zionism is an anti-Zionist party that advocates a state of halacha. Nothing else,” says Liberman, using the word to describe a state governed by religious law.

“We will not sit [in a coalition] with [Haredi parties] Shas or United Torah Judaism in any way,” says Liberman, whose party is staunchly secular.

Liberman: Elections will cost NIS 2.4 billion, and the responsible party should pay the price

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on May 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on May 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman tells the Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting that the estimated cost for the upcoming expected elections will be NIS 2.4 billion (approximately $700 million).

“The cost of the election is NIS 2.4 billion. I hope that whoever is responsible for this unnecessary expense will pay for it in the election,” Liberman says.

Last week the Israel Democracy Institute said it estimated the elections would cost NIS 2.54 billion ($733 million) to NIS 2.9 billion ($837 million).

Election day alone, which is a paid day off to enable citizens to vote, will cost NIS 1.5 billion, according to figures from the Macro Center for Political Economics think tank.

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