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Biden says upcoming Mideast trip aimed at boosting Israel’s integration in region

Amid speculation of potential diplomatic breakthrough between Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia, US president reveals Jewish state’s lobbying for him to visit Jeddah

US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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

Turkish media: Iran cell was caught ‘at the last moment’ targeting Israeli ex-consul

Turkish media reports that the intended target of an Iranian terror cell in Istanbul was Yosef Levi Sfari, Israel’s former consul general in the city, who was rescued by authorities and sent back to Israel “in a movie-like operation.”

Yossi Levi Sfari. (Courtesy)

According to the Ynet news site, the reports say the Iranian assassins were staying at the same hotel in which Levi Sfari and his partner were staying as part of a private vacation.

The reports say seven of the eight terror cell members have been brought before a judge to extend their remand. Their alleged target after Levi Sfari was Israeli tourists.

Turkish authorities reportedly tracked the cell’s movements since they entered the country, and they were caught “red-handed, at the last moment,” holding weapons.

Johnson vows UK ‘not giving up on Hong Kong,’ 25 years after handover

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain is “not giving up on Hong Kong” and accuses Beijing of failing to keep its promises, on the 25th anniversary of the handover of the city to China.

“We made a promise to the territory and its people and we intend to keep it, doing all we can to hold China to its commitments,” Johnson says in a video message posted on Twitter, as Hong Kong marks the occasion with a visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Edelstein backtracks, says he won’t run against Netanyahu for Likud helm

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-health minister Yuli Edelstein, seen during a visit at the COVID-19 vaccination center in Zarzir, northern Israel, on February 9, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-health minister Yuli Edelstein, seen during a visit at the COVID-19 vaccination center in Zarzir, northern Israel, on February 9, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

After many months of publicly stating he will compete for the helm of the opposition Likud party, MK Yuli Edelstein backtracks and says he won’t challenge longtime party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu before the upcoming elections.

“Wherever I went, I have always put the Likud movement first,” says Edelstein in a statement. “Now, when we face a critical election for the State of Israel, I cannot drag Likud into an internal fight, and I have therefore decided to retract my candidacy for the party chairmanship in the upcoming election.”

“This decision stems from a will to unite and win. In this election, we will make a change and act differently,” he adds. “Together with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, I will lead to the national camp’s victory in the elections and to the formation of a full right-wing government.”

Edelstein has previously declared his candidacy to replace Netanyahu, citing the latter’s failure to form a right-wing government in four successive elections.

Biden says Mideast trip aimed at boosting Israel’s integration; reveals Jerusalem’s lobbying

US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

US President Joe Biden says that one of the purposes of his upcoming trip to the Middle East is to “deepen Israel’s integration in the region.”

“I think we’re going to be able to do [that], which is good — good for peace and good for Israeli security,” he says during a press conference while visiting Spain.

“That’s why Israeli leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi [Arabia],” he says, publicly revealing the lobbying by Jerusalem for the US president to visit Jeddah, amid apprehension from some in his party over the Gulf kingdom’s human rights record.

“I’m starting off on that trip in Israel… [I] believe it’s really important that I make the trip,” he says. “I’m… going to Israel to meet with Israeli leaders to affirm the unbreakable bond Israel and the United States have.”

Biden will be traveling to Saudi Arabia for a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council on July 15 after two days in Israel and the West Bank. “It’s in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not about Saudi Arabia.”

He confirms that he’ll be “seeing” Saudi Crown Muhammad bin Salman but only as part of the larger GCC+3 meeting. Biden also insists that he won’t be seeking to press Riyadh to increase its oil production in order to compensate for rising gas prices in the US: “I’ve indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production, generically — not to the Saudis particularly.”

“The overall piece here is we’re also going to try to reduce the deaths in the war that’s occurring in Yemen,” he continues. “There’s a whole range of things that go well beyond anything having to do with Saudi [Arabic] in particular.”

“They have real concerns about what’s going on in Iran and other places in terms of their security as well,” Biden acknowledges.

Bennett denies ex-adviser’s claim that he had planned to rely on Joint List

Outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reacts to a scathing interview by his former diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir, in which she said he had failed at managing the government and given in to political “blackmail.”

Declining to attack her back, Bennett says that Meir, who was the first of several high-profile staff members to resign last month, “did her job exceptionally well.”

He does deny one point made by Meir, insisting that “at no stage was relying on the Joint List considered or practiced.” That’s referring to the predominantly Arab opposition party, which Meir said was considered by Bennett as a potential ally to pass legislation as his coalition dwindled.

White House calls Supreme Court environmental ruling ‘devastating’

The White House slams a US Supreme Court ruling that limits the governmental power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as “devastating” and “backwards.”

“This is another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards,” a spokesman for US President Joe Biden says in a statement.

“While the Court’s decision risks damaging our ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, President Biden will not relent in using the authorities that he has under law to protect public health and tackle the climate change crisis. Our lawyers will study the ruling carefully.”

Israeli citizen taken captive by pro-Russian militias in Luhansk

An Israeli citizen who has been living in Ukraine for many years has been taken captive by pro-Russian forces in the Moscow-controlled Luhansk region, according to a social media video of him, apparently filmed in captivity.

Vladimir Kozlovsky is seen displaying his Israeli ID card and identifying himself as a signal operator in the Ukrainian intelligence forces.

In a clip apparently forced out of him by his captors, Kozlovsky says he tried to exit Ukraine after the Russian invasion through the border with Slovakia, after Israeli Consulate officials handed him a document allowing him to leave, but that border officials stopped him and recruited him to the military, while letting his wife and child leave.

After being stationed in Luhansk, Kozlovsky says his force was bombarded with artillery and he was then taken captive after his commanders fled.

“We had weapons but we didn’t know how to use them,” he says. “They didn’t train us and sent us to the battlefield without telling us we were going to fight. They threw us like cannon fodder.”

The Foreign Ministry tells the Ynet news site that they are aware of the situation and are dealing with it.

NYC council members hold hearing on antisemitism in city’s public colleges

New York City council members hold a hearing to denounce antisemitism at the US city’s public colleges and call for action from university leadership.

Advocates and Jewish groups accuse the City University of New York (CUNY) school systems administration of neglecting widespread antisemitism at its 26 colleges.

CUNY’s chancellor, Felix Matos Rodríguez, canceled his appearance at the hearing at the Committee of Higher Education at the last minute, the second time he has put off his attendance. No administrators from CUNY attend in person.

Five council members are in attendance out of 51 in the council, and a couple dozen protesters gather in front of city hall.

“Him not showing up is perpetuating the antisemitism we’re talking about,” Council Member Inna Vernikov says of the chancellor. “What a sham. What an insult to the Jewish community.”

Faculty and students are set to address the lawmakers about their experience of antisemitism on campus. Three CUNY administrators are tuning in via Zoom.

Committee chair Eric Dinowitz shares anecdotes about antisemitism on campuses. Jewish students who were praying were called “dirty Jews,” he says, with no response from the administration. In other cases, students called for violence against Jews, or spoke in favor of Adolf Hitler.

One former professor, who declines to share her name due to concerns about work opportunities, says CUNY fired some Jewish professors last year, around the time of the Gaza conflict, without providing a reason.

“I know a lot of faculty who are disgusted with what they’re doing,” she says.

Qatar gives cash-strapped Lebanese army $60 million

Energy-rich Qatar has given Lebanon’s cash-strapped armed forces $60 million, the foreign ministry in Doha announces.

“The announcement comes within the framework of the State of Qatar’s firm commitment to support the Republic of Lebanon,” the ministry says in a statement, as Lebanon faces a dire economic crisis that has plunged many Lebanese into poverty.

Man dies as tractor flips over near Jerusalem

A man in his 60s dies as a tractor flips over in the Jerusalem-area Mateh Yehuda region.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says medics pronounced the man’s death at the scene, without providing more details on the incident or the location.

Knesset passes law stiffening punishment for abuse of minors by supervisors

In another law passed as part of a last-minute legislative blitz after the Knesset’s vote to disband itself, coalition and opposition lawmakers give final approval to a law hiking the punishment for abuse of minors by non-family supervisors.

Following a series of high-profile cases of abuse of toddlers by daycare and kindergarten staff members in recent years, the law sets a minimum punishment for such cases and increases the maximum punishment to four years in jail.

US Supreme Court limits government powers to regulate greenhouse gases

The US Supreme Court rules that the government’s key environmental agency cannot issue broad limits on greenhouse gases, sharply curtailing the power of President Joe Biden’s administration to battle climate change.

By a majority of 6-3, the high court finds that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the power to set broad caps on emissions from coal-fired power plants, which produce nearly 20% of the electricity consumed in the United States.

Trump says he could endorse Netanyahu even though ex-PM ‘disappointed’ him

Former US president Donald Trump says he would consider endorsing Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Knesset elections even though the ex-premier “disappointed [him] in certain ways.”

Trump does not elaborate when asked about Netanyahu during an interview with Newsmax, but he appears to be referring to the Likud leader’s decision to congratulate Joe Biden for winning the 2020 presidential election — one that Trump falsely claims was stolen.

“He was very early [to congratulate Biden]. Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since. Fuck him,” Trump said in an interview with Israeli reporter Barak Ravid last December.

Netanyahu was actually quite late in congratulating Biden in November of last year, conspicuously doing so long hours after many other world leaders.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump tells Newsmax. “He disappointed me in certain ways, but he also did a very good job in other ways.”

Incoming PM Lapid meets Herzog, acknowledges ‘respectful’ past political rivalry

Incoming prime minister Yair Lapid (L) meets President Isaac Herzog at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on June 30, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Incoming prime minister Yair Lapid (L) meets President Isaac Herzog at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on June 30, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Incoming prime minister Yair Lapid and his wife Lihi meet with President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Herzog — who had previously clashed with Lapid when Herzog ran the Labor party — congratulates the incoming prime minister and offers him “help and support, as I have done with any other prime minister, and the same with you.”

“I am sure that we will work together successfully,” the president tells Lapid, adding that “we have had a few clashes in the past.”

Thanking the president, Lapid politely acknowledges their past political disagreements, which Lapid characterizes as “respect[ful]” in tenor.

“I am glad that you mentioned that we clashed in the past, because we clashed politically while respecting each other, keeping a common language, and remembering that even if we have arguments, they are arguments for the sake of heaven, or for the sake of the State of Israel,” Lapid says. “So I have come here to receive a reminder and a blessing for the way ahead, because this has been your way your whole life.”

Herzog also notes that the upcoming election, held in proximity to the four previous ones since 2019, puts stress on the country, urging Lapid to remember that his first priority is to run the state.

“We must remember that first of all, first and foremost, there is a state to run, a country to lead, a country that must take care of its citizens’ needs, even if there are elections,” Herzog says. “Five elections in such a short time are very unhealthy for a country.”

Knesset passes law recognizing bereaved siblings of fallen soldiers, terror victims

The Knesset passes into law legislation that offers formal state recognition for bereaved siblings of Israelis killed in battle or in terror attacks.

This will offer bereaved siblings the same rights as bereaved spouses, parents and children of soldiers and terror victims. As part of this, officials will now be legally obligated to notify siblings of their loved one’s death.

Siblings will also be eligible for benefits and will be invited to memorial events.

Top Bennett aide who quit: PM gave in to political ‘blackmail,’ failed at management

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with his foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with his foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shimrit Meir, a top diplomatic adviser to outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who resigned from her position last month, says in an interview that she quit because Bennett was “giving in” to threats by various members of his coalition, alleging that the right-wing premier was willing to rely on the opposition Joint List predominantly Arab party, in a “desperate” attempt to save his coalition.

“I answered that it would be a very grave mistake,” Meir says in an interview with the Ynet news site. “I thought he was mowing down the government’s legitimacy out of his will to cling on [to the leadership].”

Meir alleges that the coalition failed miserably in managing its members: “The political management was a failure from day one. Had my area of responsibility been managed like the political one, the Syrians would have already been on the fences [of the Israel border].”

She says the moment where “everything started to go totally downhill” was when Yamina MK Idit Silman quit the coalition and other members of Bennett’s party started to “blackmail” the premier.

Shimrit Meir, then editor-in-chief of Al Masdar (The Source), an online Arabic-language newspaper, in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

Meir adds that Bennett’s relationship with Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked — who will become party leader in the upcoming elections — has been rocky for several years. She alleges that Shaked has no political base — “on the contrary, she scares away [voters]” — and that “for several months she threatened Bennett with a gun that was empty of bullets.”

She also says the government “gave in to blackmail” by the Islamist Ra’am party when it froze its coalition membership over tensions in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

“Everyone was waiting for the Shura Council that night,” she says. “Yair Lapid sent [his chief-of-staff] Naama Schultz to Kafr Qassim with an open check. I told Bennett, you must stop this. This government will be painted with the colors of surrender to the Arabs. Blackmail and surrender — and we were still in the midst of a terror wave.”

Eventually, Meir says, she decided to resign because “I understood he wasn’t listening [to me]. He doesn’t want to hear. And I understood there was no sense to the madness.”

Responding to criticism that she had pulled Bennett closer to the political center and was behind Bennett referring to the “West Bank” in a speech rather than the biblical name Judea and Samaria commonly used in Hebrew, Meir says that’s “nonsense.”

“[Former premier Benjamin] Netanyahu said ‘West Bank’ a million times,” she says. “I don’t remember who wrote it, but I approved it, absentmindedly.”

Biden: US to announce $800 million in new Ukraine weaponry in ‘next few days’

US President Joe Biden says that $800 million in new weaponry for Ukraine will be announced in “the next few days.”

“We intend to announce more than $800 million more” for air defense, artillery, counter-battery systems and other weaponry, he tells reporters at the NATO summit in Madrid.

Top Russian official threatens Western sanctions could be cause for war

Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman and the head of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev chairs a meeting on saving businesses and jobs in foreign companies via video link at Gorki state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, on March 16, 2022. (Yekaterina Shtukina, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman and the head of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev chairs a meeting on saving businesses and jobs in foreign companies via video link at Gorki state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, on March 16, 2022. (Yekaterina Shtukina, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)

A senior Russian official warns that Moscow could see Western sanctions as a cause for war.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, denounces the Western restrictions as “boorish and cynical” and notes that they border on “economic war.”

“Under certain circumstances, such hostile measures could be perceived as an act of international aggression, or even as a casus belli,” the Latin term for cause of war, Medvedev says in a speech at a legal forum. “In response to them, a state receives the right for individual and collective defense.”

He emphasizes that the Western sanctions over Russia’s military action in Ukraine “have a clear goal — to inflict as much pain as possible to as many citizens of our country as they can… to ordinary citizens, not the country’s leadership or business elites.”

“The main aim is to punish the Russian people by trying to reduce economic activity and to provoke hyperinflation,” he adds. Russian officials have sought to play down the impact of Western sanctions, and Medvedev’s statement represents a rare acknowledgment that they hurt.

Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 when Putin shifted into the prime minister’s post due to term limits, was widely seen by the West as more liberal. In recent months, however, he has aired messages that sounded tougher than those issued by the most hawkish Kremlin officials.

German leader slams ‘ridiculous’ claim by Putin that NATO is imperialist

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dismisses as “ridiculous” accusations from the Russian president that NATO has “imperial ambitions.”

Scholz insists at the end of a NATO summit in Madrid that the Western military alliance is “not a threat to anyone” and says it is President Vladimir Putin “who has made imperialism the goal of his politics.”

MKs pass last-minute laws on Omicron grants, protecting sex abuse victims

The Knesset passes legislation approving financial grants to small and medium businesses harmed by the Omicron wave of the coronavirus earlier this year, as part of a package of bills agreed upon by coalition and opposition lawmakers before they voted this morning to disband the parliament and hold new elections.

The long-awaited bill greenlights state compensation to businesses with total revenue of between NIS 18,000 ($5,100) and NIS 80 million ($22.85 million) per year, if they suffered a 25% decrease in that figure during the Omicron wave compared to other years.

The basic grant for businesses with total revenue of up to NIS 300,000 ($85,700) is between NIS 4,350 and NIS 9,350 ($1,240-2,670), and the sum increases the bigger the company.

The approved legislative package also includes a law strengthening the confidentiality of mental care treatments undergone by victims of sexual abuse and domestic abuse, so that those documents will become less prone to be revealed in courts during criminal cases.

Another bill passed into law extends the time in which a civil lawsuit can be filed in sex abuse cases. Such a lawsuit can now be filed until the victim reaches the age of 35, unless criminal proceedings were filed against the abuser after the victim turned 18.

The legislative package also includes laws affirming details of the upcoming elections, including their budget, election-related state employees and special preparations for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We’ll do the best we can,’ says incoming PM Lapid at handover ceremony with Bennett

Outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and his replacement, incoming premier Yair Lapid, along with their spouses, during a handover ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and his replacement, incoming premier Yair Lapid, along with their spouses, during a handover ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a brief transition of power ceremony and handover briefing for incoming prime minister Yair Lapid.

Lapid, who will also continue in his current role of foreign minister, will take over the premiership at midnight, following the Knesset’s morning vote to disband itself.

“This special role, and this country, don’t belong to just one person. It belongs to all of the people of Israel,” says Bennett. “I’m passing you the sacred baton and the responsibility for the State of Israel. I hope you protect it and that God will protect you.”

Lapid tells Bennett that their brief ceremony is not a “goodbye party,” since “we’re not parting from you.”

“I’ve worked under prime ministers, I know prime ministers. You are a good person and excellent prime minister, and you are a good friend,” Lapid says to Bennett.

In a gesture of affection, Bennett blesses Lapid with a prayer customarily recited by parents over their children at the outset of Shabbat, and Lapid says his mother did the same shortly before the ceremony. “Even secular people [do it],” Lapid says with a smile.

Addressing the challenge of the prime ministership, Lapid says: “We’ll do the best we can for a Jewish, democratic state, good and strong and thriving, because that is the job, and it’s bigger than all of us.”

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says the handover process was “organized and thorough” and covered security and diplomatic matters, without elaborating on details.

The ceremony includes members of their respective staffs and families.

Baby dies after being forgotten in car in Elad

A baby forgotten in a car in Elad being taken to the hospital in critical condition, before she was declared dead, June 30, 2022. (Courtesy/United Hatzalah)
A baby forgotten in a car in Elad being taken to the hospital in critical condition, before she was declared dead, June 30, 2022. (Courtesy/United Hatzalah)

The 6-month-old baby left in a car in the afternoon heat in Elad has died, Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva says in a statement.

The baby was forgotten in the vehicle and left there for several hours. Temperatures are around 31 degrees Celsius (approximately 88 degrees Fahrenheit) in Elad.

A friend of the child’s father asked to borrow the car, at which point he discovered the baby.

She was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but medics were unable to save her life.

Baby in critical condition after apparently being forgotten in car in central city of Elad

A baby girl is in critical condition after she was apparently left in a car in the central city of Elad.

The girl, said to be around 6 months old, is taken to the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva for treatment.

According to the Ynet news site, an initial investigation found the girl’s father drove to the kollel, a yeshiva for married men, where he was studying.

The man exited the car, apparently forgetting the child was there.

The baby was left in the vehicle for several hours. Temperatures are around 31 degrees Celsius (approximately 88 degrees Fahrenheit) in Elad.

A friend of the child’s father asked to borrow the car, at which point he discovered the baby.

Health Ministry panel recommends COVID vaccines for Israel’s youngest kids

A young girl receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem on December 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A young girl receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem on December 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A Health Ministry panel of experts recommends COVID vaccines for Israel’s youngest kids, with a final decision on the matter to be made by Director-General Nachman Ash.

The Health Ministry says in a statement that “all members of the panel believed that the vaccine had a high safety profile.”

The decision to back the vaccine is unanimous.

The Health Ministry provides a full breakdown of the votes:

  • 58% voted in favor of a recommendation to vaccinate children with preexisting conditions and to allow the vaccination of children without risk factors.
  • 13% voted in favor of a recommendation to vaccinate all children.
  • 13% voted in favor of allowing the vaccination of all children.
    .
    16% recommended restricting the vaccine only to children with preexisting conditions that could lead to a higher risk if they contracted the virus.
  • 87% said there should be no distinguishing between children who have recovered or were not known to have contracted the virus.
  • 13% thought that those children who have previously tested positive should not be vaccinated.

The recommendation will now be considered by Ash, who will make the final decision on the matter. The panel’s recommendation comes amid a sixth wave of infections in the country.

Earlier this month, US health authorities cleared the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five and younger.

Under US regulations, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the shot widely used in Israel, is authorized for children aged six months to four years.

It is given in doses of three micrograms per injection — one-tenth the adult dosage.

Under the US regimen, children receive three shots — the first two are three weeks apart, followed by a third dose eight weeks later.

Pro-marijuana party in blunt message: ‘Yes, we’ll run’

A ballot being counted for the pro-marijuana Green Leaf party, which did not cross the electoral threshold, on March 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A ballot being counted for the pro-marijuana Green Leaf party, which did not cross the electoral threshold, on March 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Boaz Wachtel, acting chair of the Green Leaf party, says the pro-marijuana legalization party will run in Israel’s upcoming elections.

“Yes, we’ll run,” he says, adding that there are ongoing disagreements within the party over its leadership.

Although the party has run in several elections since it was founded in 1999, it has been unable to cross the electoral threshold to send lawmakers to the Knesset.

The November election will be the first time the party has run since 2015.

A bill to regulate medical cannabis by broadening grants of growers’ licenses, creating quality oversight, and facilitating import and export failed to pass in the Knesset last week.

Incoming PM Lapid visits Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, vows Israel will always defend itself

Incoming prime minister Yair Lapid visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, June 30, 2022 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Incoming prime minister Yair Lapid visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, June 30, 2022 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Incoming prime minister Yair Lapid visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem shortly after the Knesset dispersal vote passes.

He says that he visited the memorial to honor his father, who survived the Holocaust.

“Immediately after the vote, I went to Yad Vashem. There I promised my late father that I will always keep Israel strong and capable of defending itself and protecting its children,” Lapid says in a statement.

Lapid’s father, Tommy, was born in Serbia but the family was captured by the Nazis and later sent to the Budapest Ghetto.

Tommy’s father was killed in a concentration camp, while Tommy and his mother were saved by Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who famously rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazis.

Tommy Lapid eventually moved to Israel where he became a noted journalist, playwright and government minister.

Gantz: We showed that all parts of society can work together for the greater good

Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says that the coalition was proof that it was possible for representatives of all sectors of Israeli society to work together legislate for the good of all citizens in Israel.

“Unfortunately, the curtain has fallen on the 24th Knesset,” Gantz tweets.

“We succeeded in passing many laws on behalf of the citizens of Israel. We have proven that it is possible to come together from all parts of Israeli society,” he says.

“Our task is to take what has been done, strengthen the good elements and continue to do more in the next Knesset,” Gantz says.

Incoming prime minister Lapid to meet Herzog, visit Yad Vashem

President Isaac Herzog (R) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on July 18, 2021. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (R) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on July 18, 2021. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Incoming premier Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will meet with President Isaac Herzog later today, before officially entering the role of prime minister at midnight, according to a schedule published by his office.

First, Lapid will head to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, then hold a “small ceremony” at the Prime Minister’s Office, before a one-on-one meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Later, Lapid and his wife Lihi will meet with Herzog and his wife Michal at the President’s Residence, his office says.

Far-right party leader says ‘no joy’ over new elections, vows to restore ‘national honor’

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich  leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on May 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on May 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Head of the oppositon’s far-right Religious Zionism Party, MK Bezalel Smotrich says he feels “no joy” over the Knesset disbanding and heading for elections.

“On this day, I have no joy. I have great pain over a difficult year of division and the sale of the Jewish state to our enemies, and of the trampling of the most basic rules of Israeli democracy,” Smotrich says in a statement.

“I have great hope for a future of correction, of healing the rifts, of restoring national honor, and of strengthening the Jewish identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” he adds.

Lawmakers vote on bill outlining election rules

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left), the incoming interim prime minister, and outgoing premier Naftali Bennett (right) in the Knesset, following a vote to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left), the incoming interim prime minister, and outgoing premier Naftali Bennett (right) in the Knesset, following a vote to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Lawmakers are now voting on a bill that outlines rules for the election.

There are numerous reservations on the bill, each pertaining to different rules surrounding the upcoming election on November 1, such as where people can vote and what kind of political advertisements are allowed.

Speaker says ‘polarized’ Knesset had hatred that ‘reached new heights’

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy is seen during voting to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy is seen during voting to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy says that the now-disbanded 24th Knesset was “polarized,” and hatred within it “reached new heights.”

“This Knesset was a very complex Knesset. A polarized Knesset that operated during a change of government, in which an opposition became a coalition and a coalition became an opposition,” Levy says to the plenum, moments after the Knesset voted to disperse itself.

“Unfortunately, the abusive discourse and hatred have also reached heights that we did not know in this house,” the speaker adds.

Levy also mentions successes led by the coalition, including that the Knesset passed a budget after three years of having failed to do so, as well as “countless important laws for the public good.”

In addition, the Knesset managed the coronavirus pandemic and returned to functioning after “prolonged paralysis” owing to four elections in the span of two years, he says.

“I hope that we will learn from the mistakes of the 24th Knesset and learn to manage our disputes in a matter-of-fact and proper manner in the next Knesset. We must not continue on this path that could dismantle the Knesset and our ability to lead the country,” Levy adds.

He then thanks the Knesset’s staff and lawmakers.

With 92-0 vote, MKs dissolve parliament and head for new elections, ending Bennett’s year-old government

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the incoming interim prime minister, sits in the Knesset, during voting to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the incoming interim prime minister, sits in the Knesset, during voting to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Lawmakers finally complete voting on the final readings of the bill to dissolve parliament and head for new elections, the fifth within three and a half years.

The dissolution legislation passes 92-0.

Israel will head to the polls on November 1, with Yair Lapid entering the role of interim prime minister tonight at midnight. Lapid will hold the post through the elections and until a new coalition is formed.

Naftali Bennett will serve as alternate prime minister. He announced yesterday that he will not run in the coming elections.

Labor boycotts Knesset dispersal vote after coalition fails to reach agreement on Metro Law

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli attends a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli attends a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Labor lawmakers are not participating in a vote to disperse the Knesset after no agreements are reached to pass a bill to enable the creation of a Tel Aviv-centered metro system.

“The dissolution of this Knesset was born in sin and continued with the sin of not passing the Metro Law because of personal and petty politics,” Labor party leader Merav Michaeli says on Twitter.

“The Labor faction will continue to work for the good of the State of Israel and for the formation of an even better government,” she adds.

Handover ceremony to take place this afternoon, but Lapid to officially become PM only at midnight

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left), the incoming interim prime minister, and outgoing premier Naftali Bennett (right) sit in the Knesset during voting to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left), the incoming interim prime minister, and outgoing premier Naftali Bennett (right) sit in the Knesset during voting to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Outgoing premier Naftali Bennett and incoming interim prime minister Yair Lapid will hold a small handover ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office this afternoon, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

However, Lapid will only officially enter the role at midnight tonight.

Netanyahu argues with Knesset speaker, urges that Arab MK be booted for heckling

In the course of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, he is heckled by Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, and a row ensues between Netanyahu and the Knesset Speaker.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) tells Tibi to sit down.

Netanyahu: “Mr Speaker, I respect you. You should respect this House. This is no way to run a Knesset session.”

Netanyahu slams the podium with his palm, and says angrily, “I am sure that if the head of your faction [was trying to speak], you’d act differently. So please act differently. Boot him [Tibi] out of the plenum.”

Levy attempts to silence an escalating chorus of heckling, and then says to Netanyahu: “Knesset member Netanyahu, I have something personal to say to you. I don’t take instructions from, you, thank you.”

Netanyahu resumes his speech.

Elections set for November 1

Israel will head to the polls on November 1, after an opposition attempt to set elections on October 25 failed 47-57.

MKs are voting on a series of procedural votes leading up to the final readings of the bill to dissolve parliament.

Voting begins to disperse Knesset, set date for elections

The Knesset ahead of a vote to dissolve parliament, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
The Knesset ahead of a vote to dissolve parliament, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Lawmakers have begun to vote on a bill to disperse the Knesset and set a date for elections.

The two possible dates are November 1, which the coalition wants, and October 25, the opposition’s choice.

Netanyahu pledges to lower prices, return national pride, curb Iran ahead of elections

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset ahead of a vote to dissolve parliament, June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset ahead of a vote to dissolve parliament, June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Speaking at the Knesset before it is set to disperse, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu announces his election campaign promises.

He promises to raise Israel “to new heights,” having turned it into the eighth most powerful nation on Earth and brought the Abraham Accords peace agreements. He says the outgoing coalition is reaping the benefits of those achievements, even though some of its members opposed the accords.

“We got Israel out of COVID first in the world and turned Israel into a cyber and high-tech power,” he says.

“We bolstered pride in Jewish identity… Despite international pressure, we doubled the population of the Jews in Judea and Samaria. There’s a huge public behind us.”

“When we win the election we will roll up our sleeves and charge at the goals,” Netanyahu says.

“Our first task is to lower prices and restore economic stability and growth for the benefit of all Israeli citizens — Jews, Arabs, Bedouins, Circassians, religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox. Everyone. This is what we did when we got Israel out of major economic crises of the past,” he says.

He adds that his party will “return national pride” and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu slams ‘failed experiment’ government, moments before Knesset set to disperse

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset ahead of a vote to dissolve parliament, June 30, 2022. (Screenshot)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset ahead of a vote to dissolve parliament, June 30, 2022. (Screenshot)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu slams the government, moments before the Knesset is set to disperse and head to a new round of elections.

“In the past year I have listened to the voices of your heart, I have heard about your problems and troubles,” Netanyahu says in the plenum hall, addressing Israeli citizens.

“I also self-reflected. I learned a lot, a lot. Everyone who listens to the citizens of Israel sees that something fundamental has gone wrong in the past year in our country,” Netanyahu says.

“Personal security was undermined, national honor was humiliated, fear of our enemies increased, Israeli flags were removed and PLO flags were raised,” he says, referring to the Palestinian flag, which lawmakers recently voted to ban at state-funded institutions.

“The cost of living is hitting us all in the pocket, with fuel rising again this morning, with mortgages, with food, with electricity. [The cost of] every Israeli’s shopping basket breaks all-time records, and there is no government to take care of it,” Netanyahu says. “In the schools and kindergartens, endless strikes… Ben Gurion Airport is collapsing… The general feeling is that the state is being wiped out under our feet…. It’s a colossal failure by a government that has no vision… and no capacity to act.”

“You promised change, talked about healing, did an experiment, and the experiment failed. This is what happens when you take fake right-wing and the extreme left, mix it with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Joint List, that’s what you get. That’s exactly what the upcoming elections are about,” he says.

“Will there again be a failed Lapid government, dependent on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Joint List, and supporters of terrorism, or a broad and strong national government headed by us that will return to Israel the pride, strength, and hope,” Netanyahu continues.

“The only government Lapid can muster is with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Joint List… It’s already locked in.”

“We are the only alternative: a strong, stable, responsible national government. A government that will restore national respect to the citizens of Israel. My friends and I are determined to get Israel back on track to success as we did in the best decade in the country’s history, before the last year’s failed experiment,” he adds.

Yisrael Beytenu MK slams coalition members for failing to reach agreement on ‘Metro Law’

MK Yulia Malinovsky at the Knesset on October 27, 2021. (‎Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
MK Yulia Malinovsky at the Knesset on October 27, 2021. (‎Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky attacks her fellow coalition members for not having “discipline,” a day after the Metro Law that her party had committed to push through before the Knesset disperses failed to reach an agreement between coalition and opposition members.

“Whoever wants to be in a coalition needs to learn discipline. That’s the takeaway we all need to learn here,” Malinovsky says.

In order to secure the opposition’s backing for the bill, coalition parties were asked to compromise on the upcoming election date, and allow a reversal of rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli’s ouster from the party. But some coalition parties refused.

Yisrael Beytenu said that in response, it would refuse to pull numerous reservations it filed against the dispersal bill.

Ra’am chief tells soon-to-be dispersed Knesset ‘it’s possible to work together’

Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas speaks at the Knesset plenum hall, June 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas speaks at the Knesset plenum hall, June 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In his parting speech to Israel’s 24th Knesset hours before its expected dispersal, Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas says that he would again support the big tent coalition he helped form in the future.

“I’d give this coalition another mandate in the future to continue,” Abbas says to the Knesset plenum, following remarks in Arabic.

Abbas says the coalition showed that cooperation between Israel’s Arabs and Jews is possible.

Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas speaks in the Knesset ahead of a vote to dissolve parliament, June 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“It’s possible to work together,” he says.

“We didn’t find that there was such a big [gap] between all of the parties,” he adds, saying instead that coalition problems were caused by individual MKs who did not share his understanding of the situation.

Abbas says that he will “continue optimistically” to push his vision of Arab-Jewish partnership and that “this process is in progress, we’ve just started.”

IDF arrests 12 wanted Palestinians in overnight West Bank raids

Israeli soldiers operate in the West Bank, June 29, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli soldiers operate in the West Bank, June 29, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces says 12 Palestinians suspected of terror activity have been arrested overnight across the West Bank.

In the town of Jamma’in in the central West Bank, troops seized cash allegedly used to fund terror, the IDF says.

In Ubeidiya near Bethlehem, troops seized several weapons, including an airsoft rifle.

Still no agreement to pass ‘Metro Law’; Yisrael Beytenu may delay Knesset dispersal

The new Allenby underground station of the light rail Red Line in Tel Aviv, June 23, 2022. Some of the mass transit system runs underground. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
The new Allenby underground station of the light rail Red Line in Tel Aviv, June 23, 2022. Some of the mass transit system runs underground. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

No agreement has been reached to pass a bill to enable the creation of a Tel Aviv-centered metro system, Army Radio reports.

Coalition parties Yisrael Beytenu and Labor have been working to get the legislation passed by submitting reservations to the dispersal bill that Yisrael Beytenu pledges not to pull until the so-called Metro Law is approved.

The law is part of the country’s most ambitious public transportation project, aiming to connect Tel Aviv’s commuter zones and reduce traffic.

Negotiators from the opposition Likud party offered to enable the passing of Metro Law in exchange for their preferred election date and passing a bill to revoke renegade MK Amichai Chikli’s ouster from Yamina.

Coalition negotiators, led by New Hope MK Ze’ev Elkin and Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky, refused to budge.

“Unfortunately coalition officials have torpedoed all options so we will not pull any reservations and go all the way,” Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky tweeted early this morning, after dispersal failed to pass by midnight on Wednesday.

Liberman praises injured senior IDF commander for ‘courage and personal example’

Jewish worshipers are seen at Joseph's Tomb in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on June 30, 2022, amid clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Jewish worshipers are seen at Joseph's Tomb in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on June 30, 2022, amid clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman praises IDF Col. Roy Zweig who was injured after Palestinian gunmen opened fire during clashes with IDF troops guarding worshipers at Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of Nablus.

Zweig, who heads the Samaria Regional Brigade in the northern West Bank, reportedly refused to be taken to hospital for his shrapnel wounds until the safety of all the worshipers was guaranteed.

“I send my best wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded from last night’s shooting attack at the Joseph’s Tomb compound in Nablus. The fighters who operated in the area showed determination and acted as expected of them – quickly and sharply,” tweets Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman.

“I look forward to the speedy return of Roi Zweig to operational activity — the IDF needs people like you, with courage and personal example,” Liberman says.

The Knesset’s dispersal: How is it going to happen?

The empty assembly hall of the Israeli Knesset, in Jerusalem, on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
The empty assembly hall of the Israeli Knesset, in Jerusalem, on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Lawmakers begin to return to the Knesset for final readings of the vote to disperse the Israeli parliament and call new elections.

The process has become increasingly chaotic in recent days, and last night saw MKs head home in the evening, dash back for a possible vote before midnight, and then go home again.

The plenum session was to kick off at 7:30 a.m. with speeches by the heads of the factions. However, many lawmakers appeared to already be running late.

At around 8:45 a.m., Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the plenum.

At 9 a.m., renegade Yamina MK Nir Orbach, Knesset House Committee chair who has been responsible for much of the delay to the dispersal process this week, will give a speech.

At the conclusion of Orbach’s remarks, voting will began for the second and third readings of the dispersal law.

If that successfully passes, votes will be held on legislation agreed upon between the coalition and opposition in recent days during wrangling over the process.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will then succeed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as premier from midnight between Thursday and Friday.

Election law with more transparency for party propaganda approved for 2nd, 3rd readings

Ballots are lined up behind a voting booth during Israel's parliamentary elections on April 9, 2019 in Jerusalem. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Ballots are lined up behind a voting booth during Israel's parliamentary elections on April 9, 2019 in Jerusalem. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approves the law for the expected 2022 elections.

The bill includes amendments that will oblige parties to disclose involvement in any publication, including talkback comments on websites. However the rule for the so-called “transparency clause” will only be valid during election season.

In addition, ballot boxes will be placed in all nursing homes with a minimum of 75 residents.

Also, the Central Elections Committee will publish voter turnout figures five times throughout election day, including regional figures as well as the single national voting rate.

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