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Blinken reiterates US opposition to Israeli evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

Meanwhile, Netanyahu lambastes French FM for his ‘insolent, false claim’ that Israel is on the way to become an apartheid state

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrive for a joint press conference in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021, days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip's rulers Hamas. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrive for a joint press conference in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021, days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip's rulers Hamas. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

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

Islamic nations ask UN to form unprecedented permanent panel to critique Israel

Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are calling on the UN Human Rights Council to set up a permanent commission to report on human rights violations in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

The move comes in the wake of the latest surge in violence in the Israel-Palestinians conflict. If passed, it would mark an unprecedented level of scrutiny authorized by the UN’s top human rights body.

The proposal comes ahead of a special session of the Geneva-based council tomorrow to address “the grave human rights situation” in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The meeting was sought by Pakistan, as the OIC’s coordinator.

The Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, home of the UN Human Rights Council (CC BY-SA Henry Mühlpfordt/Wikipedia)

The session at the 47-member-state rights body paves the way for a daylong debate over the recent deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

A vote on the draft resolution is likely at the end of Thursday’s session, which will be largely virtual.

Council spokesman Rolando Gomez says passage of the draft resolution would mark the first time that a commission of inquiry received a “continuing mandate.”

Israel accuses the council of anti-Israel bias and has generally refused to cooperate with its investigators. Israel’s ambassador, Meirav Eilon Shahar, has called on member states to oppose Thursday’s meeting.

5-year-old Eitan Biran, sole survivor of cable car crash, awakes in hospital

Five-year-old Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of the cable car crash in northern Italy that killed 14 people this week, has awoken three days after the disaster.

Biran had been under sedation in Turin and remains in serious condition.

His parents and baby brother all died in the crash. According to Channel 12, his aunt was with him as he awoke.

Defiant Lukashenko defends Belarus plane diversion, blasts critics

A defiant President Alexander Lukashenko defends Belarus’s diversion of a European flight and arrest of a dissident on board, lashing out at critics at home and abroad.

In his first public statement since the Ryanair flight was diverted and opposition journalist Roman Protasevich arrested on Sunday, Lukashenko dismisses the international outcry the incident provoked.

“I acted lawfully to protect our people,” Lukashenko says in an address to parliament, the Belta state-run news agency reports.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during his meeting with parliamentarians, members of Constitutional Commission and representatives of public administration bodies in Minsk on May 26, 2021 (Maxim GUCHEK / BELTA / AFP)

The criticism is nothing more than another attempt by his opponents to undermine his rule, he says.

“Our ill-wishers at home and abroad have changed their methods of attacking the state,” Lukashenko says.


Meeting British FM in Jerusalem, Netanyahu thanks UK for ‘unwavering support’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab in Jerusalem.

He thanks Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson “for your strong, unwavering support of our right to self-defense during the recent operation” against terror groups in Gaza.

Iran’s Rouhani urges greater ‘competition’ in presidential poll

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani calls for greater “competition” in an election for his successor next month after several hopefuls were barred from running against ultraconservative candidates.

Rouhani says he has asked the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene and warns that “the heart of elections is competition. If you take that away it becomes a corpse.”

Iran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi is now widely seen as the frontrunner to replace Rouhani, a moderate, after the powerful Guardian Council prevented several prominent figures from standing for election.

Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Seven candidates, five of them ultraconservatives, were approved for the June 18 poll, which comes at a time Iran is in talks with world powers to revive the tattered nuclear deal that former US president Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.

The Guardian Council disqualified several well-known figures, including long-time parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a moderate-conservative ally of Rouhani who had been seen as the main challenger to Raisi.


Report: Yamina’s Shaked proposes Smotrich join change bloc

Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked has proposed to Bezalel Smotrich to bring his party into the so-called change government that would see parties on the left, center and right share power, while booting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office, Channel 12 reports.

According to the report, Shaked has proposed that if Netanyahu cannot form a right-wing government, Smotrich bring his hard-right Religious Zionism party into a coalition led by Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on April 4, 2021. (Olivier FItoussi/Flash90)

Meanwhile, she proposed, the Islamist Arb party Ra’am, with which Smotrich has refused to cooperate, would remain outside the coalition.

It is not clear that such a proposal is feasible, due to Smotrich’s slate including the far-right Otzma Yehudit and Noam factions, with whom leftist and centrist parties are unlikely to agree to ally.

Smotrich: Yamina scammed the public into thinking change gov’t off the table

Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference in which he accuses Yamina of “scamming” the public during the recent conflict in Gaza into believing it had given up on attempting to form a power-sharing government with the center-left.

“Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked soothed right-wing voters and created the false appearance that the change government had been taken off the table, while in actuality they continued to work to form a leftist government with terror supporters,” he asserts.

“You’ve been had. So long as a leftist government is on the table there is no chance of forming a nationalist government,” he adds.

Pope kisses tattoo of Auschwitz survivor

Pope Francis has kissed the tattoo of an Auschwitz survivor during a general audience.

Lidia Maksymowicz, a Polish citizen who was deported to Auschwitz from her native Belarus by the age of 3, showed the pope the number tattooed on her arm by the Nazis, and Francis leaned over and kissed it.

Maksymowicz tells Vatican News that she didn’t exchange words with the pope.

“We understood each other with a glance,” she says.

Pope Francis talks with Lidia Maksymowicz, a Holocaust survivor, who was prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp before leaving San Damaso Courtyard at the Vatican for his weekly general audience, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Maksymowicz has participated in events sponsored by Sant’Egidio aimed at educating youth about the Holocaust. She spent three years in the children’s area of the camp, and was subjected to experiments by Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death.” When the camp was freed, she was taken in by a Polish family.

Yamina’s Shaked to hold press conference at 5 p.m.

Yamina’s no. 2 Ayelet Shaked will hold her own press conference at 5 p.m., after Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich accuses her of betraying right-wing voters and striving for a coalition with the left.

Kremlin tempers expectations for Putin-Biden summit in June

The Kremlin is seeking to temper expectations for next month’s summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden but notes the meeting’s importance amid soaring tensions between their countries.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warns against anticipating a “reset” after the June 16 summit in Geneva, emphasizing that differences between Moscow and Washington run too deep.

“It’s obvious that the negative potential that has accumulated in our bilateral relations has some inertia,” Peskov says during a conference call with reporters. “So it’s hard to expect that it would be possible to reach understanding on deep disagreements during just one first meeting.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 4, 2021. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Russia’s ties with the United States and its allies have sunk to post-Cold War lows over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, its’ support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s interference with elections, hacking attacks and other irritants. The Kremlin has denied wrongdoing and denounced Western sanctions as an attempt to constrain Russia’s development.

“I would caution against having excessive expectations regarding results of the meeting, but proceed from the assumption that the event is very important in practical terms,” Peskov says. “It would be wrong to downplay the importance of the meeting.”

Ex-Walla CEO: We tried to stop Rivlin from becoming president at PM’s request

Continuing his testimony in Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua says he cooperated with the prime minister on a negative campaign against Reuven Rivlin to prevent the latter from becoming president in 2014.

“We did a whole campaign so that Rivlin wouldn’t be president, at the request of Netanyahu,” he tells the court.

He adds that he blocked negative reporting about Rivlin’s rival in that presidential race, Labor’s Dalia Itzik. Rivlin went on to win the race anyway.

The Israeli president is elected by the Knesset’s 120 MKs in a secret ballot.

Former CEO of the Walla news site Ilan Yeshua arrives for his cross-examination in the graft trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

UK paper: Saudis may have played role in Jordanian plot against throne

The Guardian reports that Jordanian Prince Hamzah bin Hussein’s alleged efforts against the throne earlier this year may have been tied to other regional players, among them Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It also suggests the former US administration may have been involved to some degree, with Jared Kushner unhappy with Amman’s opposition to his proposed Mideast peace deal.

In early April the Jordanian government accused Hamzah, an ex-crown prince and half-brother of King Abdullah II, of a “wicked” plot and involvement in a seditious conspiracy to “destabilize the kingdom’s security.” Abdullah later appeared to make peace with Hamzah after the latter affirmed his loyalty.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (left) laughs with his brother, then-crown prince Hamzah (right), on April 2, 2001, shortly before the Jordanian monarch embarked on a tour of the United States. (AP Photo/ Yousef Allan/File)

Hamas Gaza chief says group has plenty of cash, won’t take reconstruction funds

Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar says in a statement about rebuilding the territory that the terror group “will make the task easier for everyone, and we will make sure that the process is transparent and fair, and let everyone be sure that no penny [of reconstruction funds] will go to Hamas.”

He adds: “We have sufficient financial resources… a large part of which are from Iran, and another part comes from Arab and Muslim donors and free people of the world who stand in solidarity with our people and their rights.”

Hamas terror group leader Yahya Sinwar holds the child of an Al-Qassam Brigades member, who was killed in the recent fighting with Israel, during a rally in Gaza City on May 24, 2021. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Four Arabs indicted for assault on Haredi man near Jerusalem’s Old City

Four Arabs have been indicted in the Jerusalem District Court for an assault on a Haredi man in the city some two weeks ago, as Israel was in the throes of massive Arab-Jewish unrest in the capital and throughout the country.

The four, aged 17 and 18, are accused of mobbing the Jewish man near the Old City’s Damascus Gate and repeatedly beating him before policemen intervened and chased them away.

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli security forces amid clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 8, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

Police arrest East Jerusalem man who gave them the finger; judge frees him

Police yesterday arrested an East Jerusalem resident after he allegedly raised a middle finger at them while driving past officers in the Old City, Haaretz reports.

Police first asked a court to remand the man for five days for insulting a public official, then downgraded the demand to a release under certain limitations.

However, a judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rejected the request and freed the man on bail without limitations.

His attorney Riyad Sawad said: “If every person who gives police the finger is arrested, half the country will be detained.”

Shaked: Smotrich telling lies, he is the obstacle to a right-wing government

Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked assails Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich, saying he is “the greatest of obstacles to forming a right-wing government.”

She says Smotrich is “firing in all directions” and “telling bold lies” by accusing her party of preventing the formation of a right-wing government.

Shaked says she has demanded that Smotrich back a right-wing minority government with outside support from Ra’am, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attempted to form, but Smotrich has rejected it.

File: Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 5, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Yamina has taken upon itself the mission of extracting Israel from the chaos by forming a government,” she says. “We are paying a heavy public price. But we are proud of it.”

She says she and party leader Naftali Bennett “are leaving no stone unturned to form a nationalist government, so far without success.”

Court postpones hearing in Palestinian eviction case in Silwan

A court postpones a hearing in a case that could see two Palestinian families expelled from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood so Jewish settlers can move in, their lawyer says.

The delayed hearing on the dispute comes less than three weeks after a similar case in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood sparked unrest that set the stage for the 11-day armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas that rules Gaza.

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on September 9, 2019. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

Today’s court session was delayed after the Palestinian families petitioned the attorney general to weigh in on the matter, their lawyer Yazeed Qawaar says.

“Such a public case must include the opinion of the attorney general,” he says. “It’s obvious that the government was supporting the settler project and therefore it’s up to the attorney general to take the responsibility.”

He says the families are now waiting for a decision — possibly within the next week — on whether the Jerusalem district court will refer the file to the attorney general.

Sinwar: Gaza conflict only a drill of what will come if Israel violates Al-Aqsa

Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar tells Palestinian journalists that fighting between Hamas and Israel could renew if the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is “violated.”

“The occupation must know — Al-Aqsa has men who will defend it,” Sinwar says.

Unrest and Israeli police raids on the mosque compound in the Temple Mount in early May preceded the Hamas rocket barrage on Israeli cities and towns that began the 11-day conflict.

“What has happened is but a drill for what will come if Israel violates the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Sinwar says.

Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, gestures on stage during a rally in Gaza City on May 24, 2021 (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

He also praises Arab Israeli riots in which Jewish Israelis and their property were attacked in recent weeks. He says that there are “10,000 suicide bombers in Israel” willing to respond to any Israeli “violations” in Jerusalem.

He says Arab Israelis “have proven that so-called ‘Israelification’ — the attempt to turn them into Israeli citizens rather than Palestinians — and ‘coexistence’ have fallen once and for all,” Sinwar says.

Sinwar also dismisses an Israeli operation to bomb Hamas’s underground network of tunnels, ahead of which Israel attempted to convince Hamas its ground forces were entering Gaza in order to get it to send its men into the tunnels.

“It was clear to our military intelligence that this was a deception, and that there was no ground invasion,” Sinwar says.

Netanyahu blasts French FM for ‘insolent’ claim Israel on way to apartheid

Prime Minister Netanyahu pans French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for saying earlier this week that Israel is at risk of “long-lasting apartheid” in the event that the Palestinians fail to obtain their own state.

Le Drian was referring to Palestinians but also to violent riots by Arab Israelis that erupted in multiple locales amid the fighting with Gaza’s terror groups. He said the unrest “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.”

Netanyahu expresses “a strong protest against the French government and the outrageous comments of the French foreign minister on television.”

Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a working session during the foreign ministers of G7 nations’ meeting in Dinard, on April 6, 2019. (AFP/Pool/Stephane Mahe)

He rejects Le Drian’s comments as “an insolent, false claim that has no basis. In the State of Israel, all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their ethnicity. Israel is a beacon of democracy and human rights in our region… We will not suffer any hypocritical and false moral rebukes on this matter.”

Blinken reiterates US opposition to Israeli evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tells the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper that Washington is opposed to the looming Israeli evictions of several Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The Sheikh Jarrah evictions are based in part on a 1970 Israeli law that allows Jews to reclaim East Jerusalem land owned by Jews before 1948. No similar law exists for Palestinians who lost their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war, and the Knesset passed a law in 1950 barring them from reclaiming property lost.

Palestinian demonstrators wave their national flag at a protest against the eviction of some Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem on Friday, April 16, 2021 (Aaron Boxerman/The Times of Israel)

Blinken says the US is “very concerned” about the evictions, noting that the Palestinians in the homes in question have lived there for generations and that such steps by Israel — along with settlement building and home demolitions as well as incitement and payments to terrorists by Palestinians — distance the sides from a two-state solution.

This is not the first time the US has condemned the evictions, but it has largely kept silent on the matter since the Gaza war broke out, instead focusing on backing Israel and its right to defend itself against Hamas rocket fire.

Sinwar: Assassinating me is ‘the greatest gift Israel can give me’

Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar also says he welcomes any attempt by Israel to assassinate him.

“The greatest gift Israel can give me is to assassinate me,” he says. “I prefer to die a martyr from an F-16 than to die of coronavirus or [another] disease.”

Multiple deaths in shooting at San Jose railyard

Gunfire erupted at a railyard in San Jose, California, and a sheriff’s spokesman says multiple people have been killed and wounded and that the suspect is dead.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis says that he can not specify the number of dead and wounded or describe how the suspect died.

The shooting took place at a light rail facility that is next door to the sheriff’s department and across a freeway from the airport. The facility is a transit control center that stores trains and has a maintenance yard.

The victims include Valley Transportation Authority employees, Davis says.

Assad says Western criticism of Syria vote has ‘zero value’

Syria’s President Bashar Assad says Western criticism of today’s presidential election as “neither free nor fair” has “zero value” as he casts his ballot in a Damascus suburb.

Voting is being held only in government-controlled areas.

The United States and the European Union said yesterday in a joint statement: “This fraudulent election does not represent any progress towards a political settlement.”

Assad and his British-born wife Asma both cast their votes in the suburb of Douma, a key rebel stronghold before it was retaken by government forces in 2018.

Other voters surround Assad at the polling station chanting: “With our blood and with our souls, we sacrifice our lives for you, Bashar.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad (C) and his wife Asma (R) cast their votes at a polling station in Douma, near Damascus on May 26, 2021 (LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)

Military officials mock Nasrallah, say he appeared sick and weak in speech

Military officials mock Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speech yesterday, in which he threatened Israel while appearing pale and coughing frequently. The officials call the event a mistake for the terror chief.

Instead of being menacing, the usually media-savvy Nasrallah appeared sick and weak, Israeli defense officials believe.

Coffins of 5 Israeli family members killed in cable car crash land in Israel

The coffins of five Israeli family members killed in Italy’s cable car disaster this week have landed in Israel.

The victims are Amit Biran and his wife Tel Peleg-Biran, their two-year-old boy Tom and Tal’s grandparents Yitzhak and Barbara Cohen. The sole survivor of the 15 people who were on the cable car as it crashed to the ground is five-year-old Eitan Biran, who awoke today, three days after the disaster.

Amit Biran (R), his wife Tal Peleg-Biran and their son Tom Biran, who were killed on May 23, 2022, when a cable car collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region, northern Italy. (Facebook)

TV: Yamina tells Likud if Netanyahu can’t form gov’t, it will return to Lapid

Yamina has conveyed to Likud that if it is not able to form a coalition, the party will resume negotiations on the formation of a government with Yesh Atid and other parties who oppose Netanyahu, led by Yesh Atid and its leader Yair Lapid, Kan news reports.

According to the report, during a faction meeting today, Yamina chief Naftali Bennett told members: “We are being bullied and pressured. We won’t succumb to pressure. We’ll do what’s good for the country.”

Qatar says it will contribute $500 million for Gaza reconstruction

Qatar says it will contribute $500 million for Gaza reconstruction, Doha’s Foreign Minister says.

“At the directive of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, the State of Qatar announces $500 million in support for the reconstruction of Gaza,” Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abd al-Rahman Al-Thani says in a statement.

Al-Thani vows that Qatar will continue to support Palestinians so as to reach “a just and lasting solution by establishing their independent state in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative.”

A Palestinian woman walks past a destroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Several countries have pledged funds to help reconstruct Gaza. Qatar’s regional rival Egypt has said it will also spend $500 million on reconstruction efforts. The United States has promised $37.5 million in immediate relief to the Gaza Strip, with millions more in development assistance to be distributed later.

Qatar has funneled cash into the blockaded Hamas-ruled enclave for years with Israeli approval. The Gulf state had already pledged $360 million in aid to the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the year.

Gantz: If an attack comes from the north, Lebanon will tremble

Defense Minister Benny Gantz responds to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speech yesterday in which he threatened to attack the Jewish state, saying the Israeli military is ready to strike forcefully in Lebanon if need be.

“We are ready as ever to protect Israeli citizens. If an attack comes from the north, Lebanon will tremble… the houses in which weapons and terrorist operatives are being hidden will become rubble. Our list of targets for Lebanon is bigger and more significant than the one for Gaza, and the bill is ready to be settled if necessary,” Gantz says in a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the 1982 First Lebanon War.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, during a press conference in Tel Aviv, April 22, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Regarding recent threats made by Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, following this month’s 11-day conflict between Israel and the terror group, Gantz says Israel hopes to see the enclave rebuilt, but won’t hesitate to again conduct a military campaign if there are more attacks from the Strip.

The defense minister adds that Israel won’t allow a full reconstruction of Gaza unless Hamas releases two Israeli civilians and the remains of two IDF soldiers from captivity.

“We hope that Gaza will be calm, that it will be reconstructed from the ruins with assistance from the world and the Palestinian Authority — on the condition that the [missing Israelis] are returned home — and that everyone enjoys the fruits of its growth. But if Hamas chooses to prevent the reconstructions for the residents of Gaza and to harm Israeli citizens — we will take action until we get the quiet that serves us all. There’s no other way,” he says.

Biden asks US intel officials to investigate COVID-19 origin

US President Joe Biden asks US intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the possibility that the origins of the virus trace to a Chinese lab.

After months of minimizing the possibility as a fringe theory, the Biden administration is responding both to domestic and geopolitical concerns about putting pressure on China to be transparent about the outbreak.

Republicans, including former president Donald Trump, have promoted the theory that the virus emerged from a laboratory accident, rather than naturally through human contact with an infected animal.

Biden in a statement says the majority of the intelligence community had “coalesced” around those two likely scenarios but “do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.” He reveals that two of the 18 intelligence agencies lean toward the animal link and “one leans more toward” the lab theory, adding, “each with low or moderate confidence.”

Rebel Yamina MK: Sa’ar, Smotrich to blame for failure to form right-wing gov’t

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who has vowed to oppose a potential unity government even if his party moves to back it, attacks other right-wing party leaders, blaming them for the failure to form a rightist coalition.

“My position on a change government is known and has not changed,” he notes on Twitter.

“There is currently perhaps a last chance to form a right-wing government… the ones preventing its formation are Gideon Sa’ar and Bezalel Smotrich.”

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)

Israeli military believes Nasrallah may have contracted coronavirus

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah may have contracted the coronavirus, The Times of Israel has learned.

This assessment by Military Intelligence comes after Nasrallah made a public speech yesterday in which he was seen coughing and occasionally struggling for breath.

The Israel Defense Forces’ appraisal appears to be largely based on circumstantial evidence as according to Israel’s Channel 13, Nasrallah has not yet actually been tested for the coronavirus.

The reclusive terrorist mastermind has lived for many years in a bunker far beneath the ground in order to avoid Israeli airstrikes.

Police arrest 3rd suspect in firebombing of Jaffa home that seriously hurt boy

Police have arrested a third suspect in the firebombing of a Jaffa home that seriously wounded a 12-year-old Arab boy earlier this month.

The suspect has been remanded for five days.

Police suspect the home was attacked by Arab rioters who mistakenly believed the home belonged to a Jewish family amid Arab-Jewish rioting that spread throughout the country.

Muhammad Gintazi was seriously hurt while his 10-year-old sister was lightly hurt.

Blinken: Two-state solution only way to keep Israel secure Jewish, democratic state

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to Channel 12 news in an interview recorded last night.

The conversation covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran nuclear deal, and the rise in antisemitism in the US.

Blinken says he considers a two-state solution as representing probably the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a secure Jewish and democratic state.  And he indicates that the US will return to the 2015 JCPOA deal if Iran comes back into compliance, but that it’s not clear if Iran intends to do so.

On the ceasefire in Gaza, as well as civilian casualties, Blinken says: “We do have to try to break this cycle of violence. Because if we don’t it will repeat itself — maybe it’s next month, maybe it’s next year, maybe it’s in five years… Ultimately what that really comes down to is, at least in our judgment, doing everything possible to make sure that Israelis and Palestinians alike have in their lives equal measures of security, of opportunity, of dignity.”

He adds: “We’re committed to Israel’s security, period. We will make sure Israel has the means to defend itself. Particularly when we have something like what Israelis experienced in the last couple of weeks — attacks from a terrorist group indiscriminately targeting civilians — we want to make sure that Israel has the means to deal with that. At the same time, as a democracy, I think Israel has an extra burden — and we know the same thing — to make sure that when it is defending itself, defending its citizens, it is doing everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, to minimize the harm that is done to those who can get caught in the crossfire.”

He says he believes that Israel “took very significant steps to do that, but we also know that on both sides, men, women and especially children were lost.”

On the issue of Palestinian statehood, he says Washington believes “very strongly that a two-state solution is not just the best way, but probably the only way, to really assure that going forward Israel has a future as a secure Jewish and democratic state and that the Palestinians have a state to which they are entitled. So we want to get to that.

“Right now the focus is on the aftermath of the recent violence, trying to build on the ceasefire, address the immediate needs and concerns, and then see if over time the conditions are such that there is a better environment for trying to pursue a two-state solution.”

Blinken on Iran: If Tehran returns to compliance with 2015 deal, we’ll do the same

Blinken also speaks about Iran to Channel 12, making clear the US would return to the old deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Asked about Iranian President Rouhani’s comments last Thursday that Iran is close to reaching an agreement on the JCPOA — “We’ve taken a big step and an agreement in principle has been achieved” — Blinken says: “That would be news to us.”

In the indirect talks, he says: “We’ve clarified increasingly what each side would need to do to come back into compliance with the JCPOA, but it remains an unanswered question whether Iran is actually prepared to do what it needs to do to come back into compliance. The jury is still out on that.”

Reminded that Netanyahu in their joint presser said he hopes the US does not return to the old JCPOA, Blinken is asked whether the US indeed plans to return to the same terms as the JCPOA or to add additional safeguards. He says “it’s no secret” that the US and Israel “have had differences” over how to ensure their “absolutely united” goal to ensure that Iran “can never acquire a nuclear weapon.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021 (Haim Zach / GPO)

He then defends the original deal: “From our perspective, the JCPOA did exactly what it set out to accomplish, which was to cut off all the pathways that Iran had to producing fissile material for a nuclear weapon on short order. Our experts verified that it was working. International experts verified that it was working.

“It had the most intrusive inspections regime of any arms control agreement ever achieved. And the result was that when the agreement was in force, Iran, had it decided to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon, would have required at least a year to do so, which would have been plenty of time to see it, and if necessary to do something about it.

“But here’s what’s happened since. Now that we’re out of the deal, Iran has started to ignore the constraints that the deal imposed. And it is closer and closer and closer to being able to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon on very short order. And so, far from getting less dangerous without the deal, it’s gotten more dangerous,” he says.

“If Iran returns to compliance with the deal, we would do the same. We would also seek to make it, as we say, longer and stronger. And we’d also work hard to engage the other issues where Iran is a very dangerous and problematic actor for us and for Israel — destabilizing activities in the region, proliferation of weapons, support for terrorist groups, etcetera.”

Asked about the “sunset clauses,” he says “this is important” but stresses: “The two most important timelines — the level at which Iran can enrich, 3.67%; the limits on the stockpile of enriched uranium, 300kg — those don’t expire until 2030. So if Iran were to come back into compliance, we would also have some time to seek to extend those deadlines and others.

Sinwar: Ceasefire will be broken if Israel ‘desecrates’ Al-Aqsa, or Sheikh Jarrah families evicted

The head of the Hamas terror group in Gaza describes the ceasefire to end 11 days of fighting against Israel as “fragile.”

“If the occupiers desecrate the Al-Aqsa Mosque again or force our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to leave their homes — repeat what they did before, the ceasefire will be broken,” Yahya Sinwar tells Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, referring respectively to the mosque atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City and a nearby neighborhood where several Palestinian families face pending evictions from homes claimed by Jewish nationalists.

Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Hamas terror group in Gaza, poses for a ‘selfie’ with supporters as he tours the Al-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, on May 26, 2021, to assess the damaged caused during the recent fighting against Israel. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
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