The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
With the Gaza operation over, political scrambling is continuing, with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid — currently tasked with forming a government — renewing efforts to pass laws limiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of forming a new coalition.
Though Lapid’s own chances of forming a coalition were severely hampered by Yamina chief Naftali Bennett indicating last week that it isn’t an option, he does have hope that parties opposing Netanyahu will support legislation stating that a premier cannot serve for more than two terms, and that a criminal defendant cannot be tasked with forming a government.
Those bills will go up tomorrow at the Knesset Arrangements Committee, with Channel 12 news saying Mansour Abbas’s Islamist Ra’am party is leaning toward backing them.
If the bills pass the committee vote, they will still have to pass a preliminary vote in the Knesset plenum and then three more readings to become law.
A Netanyahu-pushed bill for direct elections for prime minister is likely to fail to pass.
The New York Times cites three Israeli officials as saying that some high-ranking officials in Jerusalem regret having bombed a Gaza building that housed offices of major international media outlets, saying any benefit of destroying Hamas electronic equipment has been outweighed by the damage done to Israel’s global image.
Some military officers had argued against the strike before it was eventually approved, the report says.
Prosecutors demand a jail sentence of 10-12 years and a fine of NIS 1-3 million for former Yisrael Beytenu MK Faina Kirshenbaum, who has been convicted of bribery, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust in a wide-ranging case into corruption within Avigdor Liberman’s party.
Prosecutors say that as Yisrael Beytenu secretary-general, Kirshenbaum used her powers between 2006 and 2014 to receive illicit gifts — including flights and hotels abroad — for herself, her family, the party and her associates.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh meets with Qatari head of state Emir Tamim Hamad Al Thani to discuss “efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip,” as well as other “recent developments,” according to a statement by Haniyeh’s office.
Qatar has pumped millions into the coastal enclave for years with Israeli approval. The funds have gone towards development projects such as hospitals, as well as direct handouts of cash to impoverished Gazan families.
The Gulf state is likely to play a key role in the coming efforts to reconstruct structures demolished by 11 days of fighting between Israel and the Hamas terror group.
According to Haniyeh’s office, the emir vows “to continue supporting the Palestinian people and their just cause.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party renews its media campaign against Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, after the latter released a statement keeping the door open to joining a government that would oust the incumbent premier from power.
“The next government will have to deal with immense challenges — Hamas, Iran, international pressure to uproot communities, defending our soldiers and commanders from the International Criminal Court and stopping the riots in the country,” Likud says.
“Only a right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu can successfully deal with all those challenges, and not a left-wing government that depends on the Joint List and where [Meretz leader] Nitzan Horowitz, [Meretz MK] Tamar Zandberg and [Labor chief] Merav Michaeli sit in the security cabinet,” the party says, referring to a proposed right-center-left “change government.”
“There are politicians who speak right but act left,” Likud says, alluding to Bennett. “While they publish posts and articles that are allegedly ‘right-wing’… they continue trying to form a government that would depend on the Joint List and the left-wing parties of Lapid, Meretz and Labor.”
“It is time they clearly say they won’t join such a government, and that they will join a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu.”
Bennett had tried to form a government with Netanyahu, but the premier failed to recruit a parliamentary majority.
Eight people have died and another two have been seriously injured after a cable car crashed to the ground in northern Italy, emergency services say.
The accident occurred in the resort town of Stresa on the shore of Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont region, a spokesman tells AFP.
Former defense minister and IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon draws left-wing criticism after saying in a radio interview that Arab Israelis would have “slaughtered” Jews if Israel wasn’t a strong Jewish state.
“Had we not been strong, there wouldn’t be a Jewish state here,” he tells the Kan public broadcaster. Asked whether Arabs would have exploited a weakness to slaughter Jews, he says: “Absolutely, I have no doubts about it.”
After Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi decried the remark as incitement, Ya’alon releases a “clarification” statement saying he is “sorry if my remarks weren’t understood properly.”
“In the interview, I stressed the importance of integrating Arab Israelis in Israeli society, and the vast majority of them want that. I clarified that the government must work to integrate them.”
Only 12 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Israel over the past day, a new daily low as the country’s vaccination campaign continues to show its remarkable results.
Just 0.2% of the 7,492 PCR tests came back positive, according to Health Ministry statistics.
The number of active patients, which stood at over 82,000 four months ago, is down to just 542. Serious cases, which had reached over 1,200, stand at 60.
The total death toll has reached 6,398.
The United Arab Emirates is “ready to work with all parties to maintain the ceasefire [between Israel and Hamas],” de facto Emirati head of state Mohammad bin Zayed tells Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Bin Zayed makes the remarks in a phone call between the two leaders, according to a statement published by Emirati government media. He also congratulates Sissi for the role Egypt played in mediating the recent ceasefire.
The UAE is prepared to “explore new paths to de-escalate and achieve peace,” bin Zayed says.
Only 10% of Israelis arrested over raging inter-communal violence in recent weeks in mixed cities have been Jewish, while the vast majority are Arabs, Channel 12 news reports.
The network says police have made 1,552 arrests over the riots, of whom 1,039 have since been released.
Only 168 of them are Jews, showing that the violence was primarily carried out by Arabs — or, alternatively, that police are more likely to arrest Arab suspects.
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party says it will renew negotiations with various parties tomorrow morning as part of efforts to form a government ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power.
Lapid’s mandate to form a government expires in a week and a half. The meetings will be held at Kfar Maccabiah.
However, the meetings won’t include the Yamina party, whose support is vital for the formation of a “change government.”
Yamina sources are quoted by some media outlets as saying the party doesn’t intend to resume negotiations with Yesh Atid.
Thousands are taking part in a pro-Israel demonstration in London, a day after a major pro-Palestinian rally was held in the British capital after a ceasefire was agreed on, ending 11 days of intense fighting with the Hamas terror group in Gaza.
The demonstrators are a mixture of Israelis and Brits.
Similar rallies are planned today in the US cities of New York and Los Angeles.
— Jonny Gould (@jonnygould) May 23, 2021
Earlier today, a pro-Israel rally was held in Melbourne, Australia.
Huge turn out this afternoon – so many Jews and non Jews standing with Israel and for peace ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/8mD6HDPoTe
— Tim Smith MP (@TimSmithMP) May 23, 2021
The High Court of Justice rules that the Knesset made “improper use” of its powers when it last year increased the 2020 budgetary framework by NIS 11 billion — without actually passing a budget, as part of a compromise that extended the days of the Netanyahu-Gantz power-sharing government before it collapsed.
In a precedential ruling, the court — in a 6-3 majority — says that even legislation that amends Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws can be nullified if it is deemed by the justices to violate several vital criteria.
The court doesn’t overturn the law since almost all the money has been used, but it issues a decree stipulating that any similar amendment in the future would be void.
Israeli security cameras capture ongoing efforts by the Hamas terror group to exhume a number of its operatives who were killed when the Israel Defense Forces bombed the attack tunnel they were inside near the Gaza border.
The IDF says it destroyed two such passages, which approached the border with Israel but did not cross it. The Israeli military believes that in both cases the terrorist operatives planned to emerge suddenly from the tunnel just before the security fence and attempt to conduct a cross-border raid.
In total, the IDF believes that 18 Hamas operatives were killed in these two tunnels.
Since a ceasefire was declared on Friday morning, excavators and work teams have been seen near the border, pulling the bodies of the terrorist operatives out of the ground.
Finance Minister Israel Katz, one of the top members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, warns that as part of the Gaza ceasefire, Israel will now respond to any rocket fire by launching targeted strikes aimed at killing leaders of the Hamas terror group.
Speaking with Army Radio, Katz says Hamas’s Gaza governor Yahya Sinwar and the head of its military wing Muhammad Deif should know that if rockets are launched, even by accident, “their heads will be cut off.”
Any fire on the south will prompt “targeted strikes” on the leaders of Hamas, he says.
Katz also says rocket fire on the southern cities of Sderot and Ashkelon — both targeted by many hundreds of projectiles during the recent fighting — will now be considered no different from rocket fire at Tel Aviv.
“The moment there is fire on any community, we will retaliate with full force, even if we know it’ll lead to fire at Tel Aviv,” he says.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin responds to a High Court ruling saying the Knesset made “improper use” of its powers last year when it increased the 2020 budgetary framework by NIS 11 billion — without actually passing a budget — saying it’s an “abhorrent” decision made “without authority.”
“We are witnessing a crazy incident in which a tiny group of six people use the cover of their judge’s robes to carry out a leadership coup,” says Levin in a Facebook post.
Others on the right, including New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar and Yamina’s former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, slam the ruling as improperly using the judicial powers to overrule the Knesset.
The Movement for Quality Government watchdog welcomes the “brave” ruling, saying: “Israel’s Basic Laws aren’t a weather vane that changes according to the petty needs of various political actors.”
A man has yelled antisemitic remarks at a US rabbi in front of a South Florida synagogue. He returned and dumped a bag of human feces in front of the building, authorities say.
Cellphone video captured the unidentified man on an electric bicycle as he went on a rant outside the Chabad of South Broward on Friday, according to Miami television station WSVN.
The man left and returned a short time later, carrying a bag or pillowcase that contained human feces, says Hallandale Beach Police Capt. RaShana Dabney-Donovan.
He dumped the bag in front of the synagogue and yelled, “Jews should die,” according to a police report.
He also spat at a menorah near a sidewalk, according to the police.
Earlier this month, a Hallandale Beach man reported having rocks thrown at him as he walked to the Chabad of South Broward.
“It’s very important for us to combat these types of incidents,” said Dabney-Donovan.
There was a “major explosion” over the weekend at an Iranian drone factory, days after Israel said the Islamic Republic has been supplying Palestinian terror group Hamas with drones, The Guardian reports.
The report says nine workers were injured in the blast at the petrochemical factory in Isfahan, with Tehran not providing information on its cause.
Israel has been blamed for several recent sabotage incidents in Iranian facilities related to its nuclear program.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warns of the risk of “long-lasting apartheid” in Israel in the event the Palestinians fail to obtain their own state.
Le Drian is one of the first senior French officials to use the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel, an accusation usually voiced by pro-Palestinian activists.
The veteran politician makes the remarks in an interview with RTL radio and Le Figaro newspaper in reference to the clashes between Jews and Arabs that erupted in several Israeli cities during the latest conflict.
The violence, which included many incidents in which Arab mobs assaulted Jews and torched synagogues, as well as Jewish revenge attacks, shattered years of peaceful coexistence within Israel.
“It’s the first time and it clearly shows that if in the future we had a solution other than the two-state solution, we would have the ingredients of long-lasting apartheid,” Le Drian says, using the word for the white supremacist oppression of blacks in South Africa from 1948 to 1991.
Le Drian says the “risk of apartheid is high” if Israel continues to act “according to a single-state logic” but also if it maintains the status quo.
“Even the status quo produces that,” he says.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid calls on the bloc of parties opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “immediately replace” Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, after the Likud MK denounced as a “coup attempt” a precedent-setting High Court ruling establishing criteria for amendments to Israel’s Basic Laws.
“The Knesset speaker crossed all the red lines,” Lapid says. “Israel cannot allow itself to have a Knesset speaker who is trying to destroy the foundations of democracy and the rule of law.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says it remains unclear whether Iran is prepared to take the necessary steps to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
Speaking ahead of a fifth round of talks in Vienna on rescuing that deal, Blinken is asked about Iranian reports that Washington has already agreed to lift some of the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
“We know what sanctions would need to be lifted if they’re inconsistent with the nuclear agreement,” he says on ABC’s “This Week.”
He adds that more importantly, “Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side, and what we haven’t seen is whether Iran is ready to make a decision.
“That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer.”
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will not ask for the government to extend existing COVID-19 restrictions in Israel when they expire on June 1, meaning the country will no longer require proof of vaccination or social distancing in any public spaces.
The development comes as just 27 average daily cases have been diagnosed nationwide over the past week, and as active cases drop to just 510.
However, the Health Ministry says face masks in closed spaces will still be required, with a final decision on the matter to be made in the coming two weeks.
Additionally, limits on entry and exit from the country will remain in place and potentially even be made more stringent to prevent the potential entry of new COVID-variants.
“Israel is going back to normal,” Edelstein says. “Less than six months ago, we started the vaccination campaign. Thanks to the excellent work of the workers in the health system… we carried out the best vaccination drive in the world. We have long been reaping our reward with low morbidity.
“Now, to my joy, the situation allows us to cancel the use of the Green Pass and the restrictions of the ‘purple pass,'” he adds.
But, he says, the return to normal comes with an “asterisk.”
“The Health Ministry is working to continue the low morbidity and will continue to comprehensively observe the situation to prevent an outbreak. Of course, if there is an outbreak, we will have to go back.”
Edelstein urges Israelis not to travel to countries with high morbidity rates and to stick to distancing rules when abroad.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz calls for Israel to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and direct Gaza reconstruction efforts through it, rather than through Hamas, which rules the enclave, as Israel looks to stave off future rounds of conflict in the Strip.
However, Gantz says Israel will not permit a full reconstruction of Gaza until Hamas returns two Israeli civilians and the remains of two soldiers that have been held captive by the terror group for over six years.
“The most desirable change in my view is to strengthen the Palestinian Authority as much as possible,” Gantz tells reporters, “and not to let Hamas be the one that sets the agenda, not in the area of the Gaza Strip or in Gaza itself.”
Asked if this represents the view of only himself or if it is also the opinion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz says it is the former.
“I don’t know what Netanyahu thinks,” he says.
Gantz also stresses the importance of responding more forcefully, if and when Hamas chooses to strike Israel, though the defense minister acknowledges that this would not mean retaliating to every single act of aggression from the Strip. He also advocates Israel initiating strikes against Hamas in some cases.
Gantz says it is impossible to keep Hamas from rebuilding by taking advantage of “dual-use” materials like cement. “I am not naïve about the fact that some of the materials that will go in, even after we supervise them, will ultimately be used by Hamas.”
A plurality of Israelis oppose the ceasefire in Gaza, but would not significantly change their voting patterns in the event of a fifth Knesset election in 2.5 years, according to a poll by Channel 12 news.
The network says 47 percent of respondents oppose the ceasefire while 35% support it.
Had elections been held today, the results would be as follows:
Likud: 30 seats
Yesh Atid: 21
Blue and White: 10
United Torah Judaism: 7
Religious Zionism: 7
Yisrael Beytenu: 6
New Hope: 6
Joint List: 5
Pro-Netanyahu bloc: 53
Anti-Netanyahu bloc: 58
Those results would keep the current deadlock largely unchanged, increasing the likelihood that Benny Gantz will succeed Netanyahu on November 17, as per their power-sharing agreement signed last year.
If direct elections for the premier are held, as Netanyahu wants, the incumbent would get 40% of the vote, while Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid would get 35%. A whopping 25% do not know or say they would not support either candidate.
The frenzied shouts of an auctioneer at Gaza City’s main fishing port have brought a welcome reprieve from the din of gunfire and explosions, as life begins slowly returning to normal, following 11 days of hostilities between Hamas and Israel.
Israeli security forces prevented fishermen from sailing during the conflict, but they have began allowing a limited number of ships to set out beginning yesterday, as Egyptian mediators work to firm up a ceasefire that took effect Friday.
Gazans take pride in their seafood, and the return of fishing buoys hopes that the ceasefire will hold.
After a night out on the water, fishermen have unloaded their bounty of crabs, shrimp and other fish at first light at Gaza City’s al-Mina port, where Hamas police are present to maintain order.
Buyers were already waiting to make their bids on boxes of fish arrayed on the ground after being unloaded from the boats, where young boys working as deckhands assisted older men in sorting and washing their catch.
The fish were then loaded onto horse-drawn carts for delivery to local markets.
A Channel 13 poll finds that most Israelis do not think any side has emerged as a victor in the 11-day fighting between Israel and the Hamas terror group.
Asked who won the round of fighting, 54 percent of respondents say neither side did, while 24% think Israel won and 16% say Hamas won.
The survey also finds 48% of the public thinks that Israel should have continued the operation, while 40% think the ceasefire was the right way to go.
Asked to grade the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz during the military campaign on a scale of 1 to 10, the premier gets an average score of 5.4 while Gantz gets 6.2.
Four Israelis died today when a cable car slammed into the side of a mountain in northern Italy, local media reports.
Authorities say a total of 14 have been killed and two seriously injured in the incident Stresa, a resort town on the shores of Lake Maggiore, in Italy’s Piedmont region.
GENEVA, Switzerland — At least 115,000 health and care workers have died from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, the WHO chief says, calling for a dramatic scale-up of vaccination in all countries.
At the opening of the World Health Organization’s main annual assembly, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hails the sacrifices made by health workers around the world to battle the pandemic.
“For almost 18 months, health and care workers all over the world have stood in the breach between life and death,” he says. “They have saved countless lives and fought for others who, despite their best efforts, slipped away.
“Many have themselves become infected, and while reporting is scant, we estimate that at least 115,000 health and care workers have paid the ultimate price in the service of others.”
He says many health workers have since the start of the crisis felt “frustrated, helpless and unprotected, with a lack of access to personal protective equipment and vaccines.”
And they are not alone. He describes the overall inequity in access to vaccines as “scandalous,” warning it was “perpetuating the pandemic.”
More than 75 percent of all Covid-19 vaccines have gone to just 10 countries.
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