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Likud No. 2 urges leadership vote if Netanyahu can’t form gov’t in current Knesset

Yuli Edelstein says he opposes government but also new elections, as he reiterates challenge to former PM: ‘I usually don’t get into fights that I don’t think I can win’

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein speaks at a conference in Herzliya, November 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Likud MK Yuli Edelstein speaks at a conference in Herzliya, November 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.

Russian negotiator: Moscow will weigh swap of Mariupol prisoners for Putin ally

MOSCOW — Moscow will consider exchanging prisoners from Ukraine’s Azov battalion for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Russian negotiator says.

“We are going to study the possibility,” says Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia’s negotiating team on Ukraine, speaking from the separatist city of Donetsk in southeastern Ukraine, the RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Medvedchuk, 67, is a politician and one of Ukraine’s richest people and is known for his close ties to Putin. He is also a politician.

He escaped from house arrest after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February but was re-arrested in mid-April.

Yesterday, the Russian army announced that the last defenders of the strategic port city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, had surrendered after holding out at the Azovstal steelworks for weeks.

Among the Ukrainian fighters who gave themselves up to the Russian troops were members of the Azov regiment, a former paramilitary unit that has integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces.

Russia describes the unit, which has previous links to far-right groups, as a neo-Nazi organization.

On May 26, the Russian Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a request to classify the Azov regiment as a “terrorist organization,” which could complicate an exchange of these prisoners.

Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk separatists, says today that the Ukrainian soldiers who defended the Azovstal plant should be put on trial.

“I believe that a legal case is inevitable: justice must prevail,” says Pushilin, quoted by Ria Novosti at the same news conference at which Slutsky spoke.

Rebel Meretz MK to protesters: I promise a solution will be found to crisis

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi speaks to protesters and reporters outside her home in Nof Hagalil on May 21, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi speaks to protesters and reporters outside her home in Nof Hagalil on May 21, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Rebel Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi addresses a group of protesters urging the Arab Israeli lawmaker to reverse her decision to quit the coalition.

“I know how much our democracy and the future of the entire country are important to us. I know you understand my personal difficulty,” she tells the demonstrators and reporters outside her home in Nof Hagalil while handing out chocolates.

“I promise we’ll find a solution to the crisis that exists today,” she adds.

Rival factions of Hasidic sect clash in Jerusalem

Clashes break out between rival factions of the Gur Hasidic sect in Jerusalem, leading police to intervene.

The fighting comes a day after the factions, which have been at odds for years, scuffled in Jerusalem and the cities of Bnei Brak and Ashdod.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the current beef began after Gur’s leader, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, was heckled by members of the breakaway faction while visiting the grave of his mother-in-law.

European Parliament head to visit Israel and West Bank, give Knesset address

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola delivers a speech during the Conference on the Future of Europe, in Strasbourg, eastern France, May 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola delivers a speech during the Conference on the Future of Europe, in Strasbourg, eastern France, May 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

The head of the European Parliament will be in Israel and the West Bank tomorrow through Tuesday for talks with senior and Israeli and Palestinian leaders, according to the EU’s embassy in Tel Aviv.

Roberta Metsola’s time in Israel will include a special address to the Knesset on Monday. She also hold talks with President Isaac and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, among other top officials, as well as a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum and several other stops.

The trip is her first to Israel since becoming president of the European Parliament earlier this year.

Metsola, who is from Malta, will then meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Likud No. 2 calls for leadership vote if Netanyahu can’t form gov’t in current Knesset

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein speaks at a conference in Herzliya, November 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Likud MK Yuli Edelstein speaks at a conference in Herzliya, November 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein calls for the opposition party to hold leadership primaries if its chief, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cannot form a government in the current Knesset if the current coalition collapses.

Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker and senior minister, announced last year that he would challenge Netanyahu to lead Likud.

“I usually don’t get into fights that I don’t think I can win,” Edelstein tells Channel 12 news.

He calls for the ruling minority government’s collapse and argues a new ruling coalition can be formed without going to new elections.

“If Netanyahu knows how to assemble a government in the current Knesset, I definitely won’t stand in his way because I said the State of Israel doesn’t need elections. If not, then hold a competition for leadership of the party,” he says.

Heads up: Israeli Air Force to hold major exercise over country next week

An Israeli Air Force soldier directs an F-35 fighter jets during a surprise exercise, 'Galilee Rose,' in February 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
An Israeli Air Force soldier directs an F-35 fighter jets during a surprise exercise, 'Galilee Rose,' in February 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

From Sunday through Thursday, heavy aerial activity will be observed as the Israeli Air Force will be holding a major drill over the country, the military says.

At the same time, ground troops will be holding exercises in the Menashe Regional Council, Wadi Ara, and Jezreel Valley regions, the Israel Defense Forces says.

The drills are part of the widescale “Chariots of Fire” exercise, the military’s largest in decades.

Meretz chief vows party won’t cause fall of gov’t, ahead of meeting with rebel MK

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz says he’ll meet with his left-wing party’s rebel lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi tomorrow following her decision to quit the coalition.

Horowitz says Meretz is “completely committed” to the government and vows it won’t be responsible for the government’s fall

“That’s not on the table,” he tells Channel 12 news.

Horowitz, who is health minister, defends being caught off guard by her resignation. “We were all surprised by this,” he says.

He also says he believes Rinawie Zoabi won’t vote for a bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections.

“She understands that… the alternative [to the government] is much worse,” he says.

He is asked about talks on bringing Rinawie Zoabi back to the coalition or having her support the government from outside it.

“The contacts are in a positive direction,” Horowitz says, adding that the “most important thing” for Meretz is the government’s survival.

Health Ministry confirms man who returned from Europe has monkeypox

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)
This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)

A 30-year-old man hospitalized at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv was confirmed to be infected with monkeypox, after having returned from Western Europe, the Health Ministry says.

The ministry says he continues to be in good condition and is being isolated and monitored. On Friday, the ministry said his case was only suspected.

The Health Ministry says it calls on those who recently returned from abroad and are experiencing symptoms to contact their doctor.

The virus, which causes distinctive pustules but is rarely fatal, has previously been seen in Central and West Africa.

Turkey conditions NATO bids of Finland, Sweden on backing in ‘fight against terrorism’

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting of his Justice and Development party at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on May 18, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting of his Justice and Development party at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on May 18, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey won’t look “positively” on Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids unless its terror-related concerns are addressed, despite broad support from other allies including the United States.

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden, which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harboring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan’s threat throws a major potential obstacle in the way of the likely membership bids from the hitherto militarily non-aligned Nordic nations since a consensus is required in NATO decisions.

“Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach these countries’ NATO membership positively,” Erdogan tells NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call, according to the presidency.

On Twitter, Stoltenberg says he spoke with Erdogan “of our valued ally” on the importance of “NATO’s Open Door.”

“We agree that the security concerns of all Allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution,” he says.

Man lightly hurt in Sheikh Jarrah brawl

Police say a man was lightly hurt in a brawl that included gunfire and stone-throwing in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood.

Officers who arrived at the scene say stones were hurled at them as well.

According to police, one of the participants fired into the air.

The injured man had a “penetrative wound” to his torso, according to medics, but the cause of the injury was not immediately clear.

“Forces began working to restore order using various means until the riot ceases,” police say in a statement.

There were no immediate reports of arrests.

Major progress said made on bringing rebel Meretz MK back into coalition

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi is seen after an interview with Channel 12 news, at the network's studio in Neve Ilan, on May 19, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi is seen after an interview with Channel 12 news, at the network's studio in Neve Ilan, on May 19, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Significant progress has been made in talks between the coalition and rebel Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi after she pulled her support for the government this week, according to reports.

Both the Haaretz daily and Kan public broadcaster quote a coalition source involved in the talks saying the matter will be resolved in the coming two days.

According to Haaretz, Rinawie Zoabi will rejoin the coalition and not quit the Knesset. The newspaper says that she was promised during talks over the weekend that funds will be transferred to build new hospital wings in Nazareth, where she lives.

“She wants credit for a few issues so we will give it to her, as well as attention, and thus the crisis will be behind us,” the source says.

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