The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Netanyahu tells Liberman, ‘Leave Zoabi, join the government’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a public plea during his weekly cabinet meeting for the six-seat strong Yisrael Beytenu faction to leave the left-centrist opposition and join the coalition.
“Leave Zoabi and join the government,” he says, referring to Joint List MK Hanin Zoabi, a constant target of derision from Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.
Liberman’s party is the only right-wing faction in the opposition, which is led by the Zionist Union party. He and Netanyahu had a public falling out in 2014 over the prime minister’s handling of the war in Gaza.
The call comes amid reports of continuing talks between Netanyahu and Labor head Isaac Herzog to join the government. Herzog has so far rejected Netanyahu’s advances, but has left the door open for joining the government, angering some in his party.
Former London mayor bashed for comparing EU to Hitler
Former London mayor Boris Johnson is drawing furious brickbats for his claim that the European Union is behaving like German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler by trying to create a superstate.
Johnson is one of the leading figures campaigning for Britain to leave the EU in a closely-fought referendum being held on June 23.
Johnson said the last two thousand years of European history had featured repeated efforts to bring the continent together under a single government, emulating the Roman empire.
“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods,” Johnson told The Sunday Telegraph.
Johnson’s comments were attacked by opposition politicians and in Europe, while “EU to Hitler” was trending in London on Twitter.
Hilary Benn, foreign affairs spokesman for the main opposition Labour party and a supporter of EU membership, calls the comparison “offensive.”
Another leading pro-EU Labour figure, Yvette Cooper, says Johnson is playing a “nasty, nasty game.”
“The more he flails around with this kind of hysterical claim, the more he exposes his shameful lack of judgment, his willingness to play the most divisive cynical politics, and the emptiness of his arguments,” she says.
— Alexander Stubb (@alexstubb) May 15, 2016
Odeh urges recognition of Palestinian suffering at Nakba day events
A number of events are taking place around the country to mark the Palestinian Nakba or “catastrophe” commemorating the dispossession of Palestinians during Israel’s War of Independence and the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab Knesset factions, strikes a conciliatory tone in comments to mark the day, which brought some 200 people to a commemoration event at Tel Aviv University, often the scene of heated tensions.
“It’s so important to hold these events, esepcially in Tel Aviv and other places with a Jewish majority. Everyone here believes in two states for two peoples. Nobody wants to question the creation of the State of Israel, but just to recognize the injustice done to the Palestinian people,” he tells Channel 2 news. “I understand Israelis’ reluctance. It’s a process, it takes time.”
According to Channel 10, Odeh makes similar comments at another Nakba Day event:
“The Nakba isn’t just history but also the possibility of a shared future. Only after the recognition of the crimes of the past will we be able to build a shared society.”
Gazan protesters said to mass at border fence
Unconfirmed reports have begun filtering in of protesters massing on the Gaza border fence in a repeat of a near-yearly Nakba Day occurrence.
The reports come a day after Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups in Gaza released a joint press statement calling on Palestinians to “activate” the intifada on Nakba Day.
The statement calls for Palestinian youths to confront Israelis on the borders of the West Bank and Gaza.
Ya’alon apologizes for adviser questioning slain soldier’s heroism
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has called the wife and father of slain IDF combat soldier Roee Klein to apologize for a Facebook post by one of his advisers in which Klein was called not a hero, but unthinking for endangering other soldiers’ lives.
Ya’alon calls the comments “hurtful and unnecessary.”
Klein is widely considered a hero for jumping on a grenade during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, killing himself but saving soldiers serving under him.
But Moshe Ben Zaken, Ya’alon’s political adviser, wrote last week that Klein was not a hero but naive since he had ignored orders to hunker down after accidentally leading his unit into a trap set by heavily armed Hezbollah fighters in Bint Jbeil, and instead tried to fight his way out, leading to the deaths of more soldiers, including Ben Zaken’s friend.
“In my conversation with them I told them I was sorry about the post and disagreed completely with the words, which were not written with my knowledge and do not represent the views of the defense establishment and of the IDF,” Ya’alon says in a statement.
Egypt sentences 101 protesters to five years in jail
Egyptian officials say two Cairo courts have convicted and sentenced to five years in jail a total of 101 protesters for taking part in peaceful, anti-government demonstrations last month.
The officials say the 101 were convicted of breaking a disputed 2013 law that effectively bans street protests. Of the 101, 79 were also fined 100,000 pounds (about $10,000) each.
The sentences were passed late Saturday, hours after another Cairo court sentenced 51 protesters to two years in jail for their part in last month’s demonstrations, which were called to protest Egypt’s decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia as part of a demarcation deal.
French FM: Peace confab is impartial, will go ahead
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the peace conference his country is organizing to take place next month is just the beginning of a process aimed at bringing Israelis and Palestinian to the negotiating table, and rejects Netanyahu’s dismissal of the confab as not impartial.
Speaking at Ben Gurion airport after a fleeting visit to the region to meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Ayrault says the conference is not a replacement for direct negotiations.
“It’ clear to us — and I said it to Netanyhau and Abbas — that we cannot fulfill the role of the two sides,” Ayrault says. “They will need to carry out direct negotiations but because the process is stuck they need external help. The goal [of the conference] is to help them return to the negotiating table.”
Ayrault says a second conference will take place “some time in the autumn.”
Netanyhau told Ayrault this morning that France’s “scandalous decision” to vote in favor of a UNESCO resolution “which doesn’t recognize the millennia-old connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount casts a shadow on France’s evenhandedness in any forum it’s trying to convene.”
Ayrault says the opposition does not weaken France’s resolve and the conference will take place next month as planned.
— Raoul Wootliff
Liberman tells Netanyahu where he can take his coalition offer
Avigdor Liberman responds to Netanyahu’s call for him to join the coalition, and while he doesn’t say “no” outright, says a whole lot of other things that would lead one to that conclusion.
“All the spinning of Netanyahu won’t change the simple facts: once again, in direct contradiction to what he promised during elections, he is conducting talks with Tzipi [Livni] and Boujie [Isaac Herzog], with the same party that he termed just a year ago a party whose members are not Zionist and threatened that its him or them,” he writes.
He also accuses Netanyahu of not leading a true right-wing coalition, saying he hasn’t fought terror, hasn’t built in Jerusalem and in settlement blocs and has returned Palestinian attackers’ bodies for burial.
“Any link between him and the nationalist camp is totally coincidental,” he writes. “When they have a serious and true offer for Yisrael Beytenu, we’ll address it.”
French FM: If we don’t advance peace process, Islamic State will prosper
French FM Ayrault says the peace conference being planned by France is important as it can help stop the advance of the Islamic State terror group in the region.
“France has no vested interest, but is deeply convinced that if we don’t want to let the ideas of the Islamic State group prosper in this region, we must do something,” Ayrault tells reporters.
— with AFP
Military drill scaled down to just Jordan and US
Only Jordan and the United States are to take part in this year’s Eager Lion military exercise, commanders said on Sunday, compared with the 18 nations which participated last year.
A total of 6,000 troops will undertake 10 days of maneuvers in the kingdom — 3,000 from each country and including special forces as well as air, ground and naval forces, Brigadier General Ralph Groover says.
Jordan’s Brigadier General Fahd al-Damen says nothing should be read into the absence of other participating countries this year.
“This exercise was from the outset a bilateral event but in recent years we organized multilateral maneuvers at the request of other countries,” he tells a news conference.
Firefighters battle blazes as country swelters
Brush fires are continuing to burn across the country, as high heat combines with dry conditions to create ideal circumstances for blazes.
Firefighting crews are battling blazes outsaide Jerusalem, including near Abu Ghosh, outside the town of Mata and out Mount Sansan west of the city. Blazes are also reported outside Kfar Yona near Netanya and other places, leading to some temporary road closures.
— Naor Dahan (@naorda69) May 15, 2016
Temperatures in some parts of the country soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) over Sunday. Monday is expected to see the mercury climb further before the heatwave breaks and a cooling trend begins Tuesday.
Gazans call for Nakba Day unity, clash with troops
Palestinian factions in Gaza have held a Nakba Day march and called for unity among the various rival groups.
Low-level clashes are also reported between Israeli troops and protesters on the Gaza border and in Bethelehem in the West Bank.
“Sixty-eight years have passed since the Nakba and our people have never forgotten their homeland, Palestine. We will return,” Fatah member Zakariyya al-Agha says during the Gaza rally, according to the Ma’an news site. “Let the whole world know that our people will never accept an alternative to this homeland […] no matter how far the distances or how high the occupier’s walls are.”
Eilat sizzles in 46 degree heat, blazes run wild
The temperature in Red Sea resort city Eilat has climbed to a hellish 46 degrees C (114.8 F), according to various media reports, the highest temperature recorded in the city on a May 15 since 1979.
The temperature is a good 11 degrees C (20 F) more than normal for this time of year, as other cities around Israel see similarly unseasonably high temperatures.
Fires are also being reported in several areas around Jerusalem, including between the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Shuafat and Pisgat Ze’ev in the north of the city.
Police are looking into the possibility the blaze is the result of a firebomb, Channel 2 reports.
To the west of the city, sections of Routes 44 and 375 are closed because of fires.
Deputy IDF head in 2006: You can’t just shoot Palestinians
Several Israeli news sites have published a recording of deputy IDF chief Yair Golan giving a speech in 2006 where he tells newly inducted soldiers that they should risk their own lives rather than imperil the lives of civilians in their midst and says soldiers who kill civilians could be criminals in some cases.
The recordings are pushed out into the limelight over a week after Golan kicked up a firestorm during a Holocaust Remembrance Day event when he seemingly compared some segments of Israeli society to pre-war Germany.
“In the presence of civilians we take on ourselves risks and rightly so,” he says in the recording. “It’s unacceptable that in the name of preventing risk we would decide that now we are going to mow down an apartment building. You would kill women, children, those involved. It’s intolerable.”
Later in the recording he warns soldiers that not every suspect person is a terrorist and tells them they can’t just kill people.
“Not in every combat situation are we all right-wing, are we all about to be slaughtered, and not every woman is hiding a terrorist behind her,” he says. “I expect commanders to understand situations and take reasonable steps.”
He also goes on to give an example where a group of soldiers shot an unarmed Palestinian to death, saying the platoon commander was guilty of criminality for “taking the life of a Palestinian just for nothing.”
Demonstrators retreat from Gaza fence after IDF shows up
Thousands of Palestinians briefly penetrated into the buffer zone between Gaza and the border fence with Israel as part of a Nakba Day demonstration, an IDF spokesperson tells The Times of Israel.
As they approached the fence near Nahal Oz, in the north of the Strip, the army scrambled forces, and upon arriving, the demonstration dispersed “without a single shot being fired or other riot dispersal method used,” the spokesperson says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Manchester United match evacuated over suspicious package
Police ordered Manchester United to abandon their final Premier League game of the season against Bournemouth on Sunday after a suspicious package was discovered at Old Trafford.
The game “has been abandoned, fans are leaving the ground. Please avoid the area if possible,” Manchester police said on their Twitter account.
GMP are working closely with @ManUtd to investigate a suspicious item at Old Trafford. There has been a controlled evacuation.
— G M Police (@gmpolice) May 15, 2016
Tens of thousands of fans were ordered from the 75,600 capacity stadium when the alert was sounded about about 20 minutes before the scheduled kickoff.
United confirms that a suspicious package had been found and sent out a tweet saying the match had been “abandoned.”
Announcements were made on the public address system that security staff should invoke “operation red code.”
Due to the discovery of a suspect package in the NW Quadrant of the ground, the match has been abandoned today on police advice. #mufc
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 15, 2016
Suspects arrested over pipe bomb that seriously injured soldier
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the detonation of four pipe bombs that severely wounded an IDF officer last week, the Shin Bet reveals.
The attack occurred on Tuesday night outside the West Bank village of Hizme, north of Jerusalem.
There has been “a meaningful development” in the investigation into the attack, the Shin Bet security service adds.
— Judah Ari Gross
Officer hurt by pipe bomb recovering — hospital
The officer injured by the pipe bombs outside Hizme, named as Shahar Roditi, is continuing to improve, a spokesperson for Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem says.
The statement says Roditi is fully conscious and in contact with his parents, though his injuries have left him unable to speak.
He was rushed to a hospital on Wednesday night in serious condition and underwent a number of surgeries.
He was visited earlier Sunday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who says he still has a way to go to recover.
“It was emotional for me to visit the officer and his family, who have found real spiritual fortitude,” he says in a statement.
Soccer security scare coincides with Irish dissident threat
A European security official says the suspicious item at Old Trafford coincided with increased chatter about threats to sports stadiums and other targets which would draw considerable crowds.
This said, leaving a package like this runs counter to tactics seen recently by extremists and the official says “many times these things amount to hoaxes.”
“The terror threat level associated with Irish dissidents has been raised recently due to credible threats we’ve been monitoring,” the official says.
Last week, British officials raised the threat level regarding a possible attack on the mainland by Irish Republican dissidents, upping the threat level from “moderate” to “substantial.”
That means an attack was viewed as a “strong possibility.”
Jerusalem thanks Norway for balking at PA funding for terrorists
Foreign Ministry director Dore Gold has thanked Norway for stating that it will not transfer money to the Palestinian Authority that will be used to support convicted terrorists or their families.
Gold expressed “Israel’s appreciation” to Norwegian Ambassador Jon Hanssen-Bauer over the decision made by Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, according to a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
“It is outrageous that killing Israelis has become a source of income for many in the PA. This completely contradicts what peace is all about. These payments incentivize terrorism and must be stopped,” Gold said, according to the statement.
Earlier this month Brende met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and brought up the issue. Abbas told Brende that none of Norway’s aid contribution was going to terrorists or their families.
“In the meeting I emphasized that this funding, where financial payments increased by how long prisoners were sentenced, is unacceptable and should be abolished. I emphasized that with the political and economic challenges that Palestinians now face, it pays to abolish this scheme,” Brende said according to Norway daily Dagen, in a translation posted by right-wing Israeli blog site Elder of Ziyon.
Controlled blast set off in evacuated Manchester stadium
Army experts have staged a controlled explosion at Old Trafford stadium on Sunday after a suspect package was found at the Manchester United field ahead of their final game of the season, police say.
A military bomb disposal unit had been dispatched to the stadium to help police after the discovery of the suspicious item in the stands.
The deployment came as two stands at Old Trafford were evacuated shortly before Sunday’s match against Bournemouth was due to kick off.
Sniffer dogs have also been deployed in the stands and on the field.
Syrian students let out of besieged town to take exams
Activists say the Syrian government has allowed 68 students to leave a besieged town near Damascus to take their year-end exams.
Abdelwahab Ahmad, a media activist inside Madaya, says all ninth-graders requiring to take their year-end examinations were allowed to leave Saturday to take the exams in nearby Rawda.
Government forces and allied militias have allowed relief groups only limited access to rebel-held Madaya since laying siege to it in July last year. Activists have recorded several deaths from starvation.
Ahmad says it is the first time the ninth-graders have been allowed to leave the town in 302 days.
The Britain-based activist monitoring group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the deal resulted from negotiations between the government and Madaya’s local council.
PA police turn back anti-Israel march near Ramallah
Palestinian protesters have been prevented by PA forces from reaching an Israeli checkpoint north of Ramallah, the Ma’an news site reports.
Dozens of protesters, some of them burning tires, attempted to reach the IDF checkpoint near Beit El as part of a Nakba Day demonstration but were turned back, according to the report.
An earlier Nakba Day protest on the Gaza border fence dispersed peacefully after Israeli troops were dispatched to the scene. Low-level clashes were also reported in Bethlehem.
Over 400 people treated for heat-related ailments
The Magen David Adom rescue service reports it treated over 400 people for various heat-related ailments from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, a sharp spike thanks to scorching temperatures around the country.
The emergency service says it treated at least 442 people for heat sicknesses, including 196 who fainted, 31 who suffered dehydration, 212 who complained of feeling faint and three who suffered heatstroke.
One of the heatstroke victims was an 8-year-old girl who was walking on a path alongside a stream in the Galilee.
The heat is expected to continue to climb Monday and the MDA recommends that those more susceptible to the heat, including children and the elderly, stay in the shade and in air conditioning if possible.
The emergency service also issues a special plea to parents to be sure not to leave a child in a hot car.
Netanyahu could make Liberman defense minister — report
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering replacing Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, Channel 2 reports.
The move would likely be a central demand for bringing Liberman and his party into the coalition, after Netanyahu courted him earlier today.
Ya’alon, a Likud apparatchik who is reportedly butting heads with Netanyahu over the army’s behavior, would be moved over to the foreign minister post, according to the report.
Earlier in the day, Liberman rejected Netanyahu urging him to join the coalition, dismissing it as a spin.
‘Perverse’ IS on the defensive in Mosul, US envoy says
The US-led offensive to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group is making progress, the top American envoy to the coalition says.
IS had “returned to suicide bombing” because “this perverse caliphate is shrinking,” and it is on the defensive, Brett McGurk says at a conference in the Jordanian capital.
His remarks come as jihadist suicide assailants broke into a gas plant north of Baghdad and killed at least seven people, in an attack claimed by IS.
“We are now making progress against Daesh,” McGurk says, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
“The campaign to isolate and squeeze and constrict Daesh in Mosul has already began,” he says.
McGurk says Jordan has been contributing by conducting weekly airstrikes, publishing anti-IS propaganda and helping gather intelligence.
Ya’alon urges officers defending values not be silenced by critics
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is delivering a speech in which he is urging Israel Defense Forces leaders to keep speaking out against the “extremist minority” who, he says, are working to undermine Israel’s military values.
“In recent months, we found ourselves fighting against an extremist minority, working in the field and on social media. Some have infiltrated mainstream [Israeli] society, clandestinely and in disguise, and are trying to influence the image and values of the IDF,” Ya’alon says at defense headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The comments are likely in reference to criticism of the army for prosecuting soldier Elor Azaria for killing a wounded and unarmed Palestinian assailant in March, as well as criticism leveled against IDF deputy head Yair Golan for seemingly comparing some segments of society to prewar Germany.
He tells the officers to not be silenced by the opposition, some of which came from the highest echelons of the political order.
“Do not fear, do not hesitate, do not be deterred. Keep being brave not only on the battlefield, but also around the negotiating table,” he says.”A good army is an army whose officers, junior and senior alike, feel safe in their ability to speak their minds at all times with the knowledge they won’t be harmed.
“Keep acting in accordance with your humane conscience and moral compass, and not according to which way the winds are blowing,” he adds.
— Marissa Newman
Bomb at Manchester stadium not ‘viable,’ but ‘lifelike’
Police say that a device found at Manchester United’s stadium before a Premier League match “wasn’t viable,” but looked like it could be.
Greater Manchester Police also say in a tweet that a full search of Old Trafford is ongoing.
In another tweet a few minutes earlier, the police force had described the item found as an “explosive device” that was “incredibly lifelike.”
Bomb disposal experts had carried out a controlled explosion on the item.
Herzog: We need to enter government to give peace a chance
Opposition chief Isaac Herzog is recorded during a meeting with party members explaining why he thinks his Labor Party should enter the government, saying doing so would allow for a rare opportunity for peace, Channel 10 reports.
“I see a regional opportunity, a rare diplomatic opportunity that perhaps we won’t have again,” he’s heard saying. “I’m not saying that for nothing. I’m saying that knowingly. It’s more complicated than ever, it’s got a lot of components, I don’t know if it will happen, but it could be that it will happen only with a change in the makeup of the government. And if we can talk with Abbas, we can talk with Netanyahu.”
The report does not say when the recording was made.
The channel adds that Netanyahu and Herzog are currently working on a joint agreement to scale back settlement building in the West Bank as part of the deal, though the move is expected to be mostly symbolic.
PM responds: Officers can speak freely but Golan was wrong
Netanyahu responds to backhanded criticism from his defense minister, saying that he supports the army, but steps up criticism of Yair Golan over his comments, days after saying the affair was behind him.
“The prime minister firmly believes the comparison with Nazi Germany was uncalled for, ill-timed and caused Israel damage in the international arena,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office reads. “IDF officers speak their minds freely, in relevant forums and on subjects under their aegis. The IDF is a people’s army and needs to be kept away from politics.”
Woody Allen bashed in Cannes over sexual assault claims
Susan Sarandon has slammed Woody Allen at the Cannes Film Festival, where allegations of sexual assault have been renewed against the director.
Speaking at a “Woman in Motion” talk on Sunday, Sarandon says of Allen: “I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that’s right.” Sarandon, who was speaking alongside Geena Davis, declines to comment further on the subject.
Allen’s “Cafe Society” opened the festival on Wednesday. A column posted the same day by his son, Ronan Farrow, called for media, moviegoers and film festivals to reconsider their embrace of the director.
Allen’s daughter, Dylan, has said he molested her when she was 7. Allen has denied it.
Do you rely on The Times of Israel for accurate and insightful news on Israel and the Jewish world? If so, please join The Times of Israel Community. For as little as $6/month, you will:
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we come to work every day - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.
So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.
For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.