The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir reportedly plans to be on hand to monitor police operations during the Jerusalem Pride parade later this week, which the far-right leader has protested in the past.
According to Channel 13 news, Ben Gvir intends to visit the mobile police command center and get a tour of the area from officers.
The network says that Bentzi Gopstein, the head of the anti-miscegenation Lehava group and longtime Ben Gvir ally, plans to demonstrate against the parade, which the two had previously done together.
Organizers of the event have called for Ben Gvir to be kept away, noting his involvement in counter-protests and role as the attorney for the brother of a man who murdered teenager Shira Banki at the 2015 march, who was arrested a year later on suspicion of plotting a similar attack.
ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declares victory in a historic runoff election that posed the toughest challenge of his two-decade rule.
“We will be ruling the country for the coming five years,” Erdogan tells his cheering supporters from atop a bus in his home district in Istanbul. “God willing, we will be deserving of your trust.”
Police block off part of Route 90 along the Dead Sea, due to concerns that rain forecasted in the area could cause flash floods.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani congratulates Turkish ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as unofficial results appear to give him an insurmountable lead over his rival in the presidential runoff.
In a tweet, Al-Thani says that he hopes for even tighter ties between the countries.
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan leads his secular rival, with almost all votes counted in Turkey’s historic runoff, putting him on course to extend his two decades in power to 2028.
With 96 percent of the ballots counted, Erdogan has won 52.3% of the vote to Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s 47.7%, the Anadolu state news agency reports.
With unofficial results giving Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a lead in the runoff vote, the Palestinian terror group Hamas releases a statement congratulating the longtime Turkish leader, with whom it has long had close ties.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says that its air defense forces shot down 58 out of 59 drones launched by Russia overnight, mainly targeting the capital Kyiv.
“The Russian Federation carried out another massive attack on the territory of Ukraine, using Iranian attack drones Shahed,” the Ukrainian General Staff says, adding that “according to updated information, 58 out of 59 (drones) were shot down by our defenders.” Ukraine’s air force said earlier that a record 54 drones had been launched.
Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the northern Israeli town of Gan Ner, close to the West Bank security barrier, the military says.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, at least one home was hit by the gunfire.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 28, 2023
Earlier today, a local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed to have opened fire at the town, along with the West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan.
There are no injuries in either attack.
The IDF says troops are scanning the area for suspects.
The Israel Defense Forces says it will hold a preplanned drill at its headquarters in Tel Aviv tomorrow and on Tuesday.
The military warns residents of the area that explosions may be heard between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday, and between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
At 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, a siren will sound in the area, the IDF says.
The IDF says the drill is preplanned, meaning it did not stem from a new assessment.
The military’s headquarters, known as the Kirya base, is located in central Tel Aviv near the Azrieli Mall and Sarona Market shopping areas, a government building, and numerous office buildings.
Jews in Kyiv celebrated the Shavuot holiday as Ukraine’s capital came under fire from Russian drones
Leading Ukraine Rabbi Moshe Azman tells The Times of Israel that at around 4 a.m., after the all-night learning program at the Brodsky Synagogue, the congregants heard explosions and headed down into the synagogue’s basement shelter.
Hundreds of Jews came to the synagogue over the holiday, which celebrates the Jews receiving the Torah. “We prayed, we learned, we ate,” says Azman.
But the Shavuot attack was nothing like what Kyiv experienced earlier this morning, as dozens of Russian drones were shot down over the city. “It was like Gog and Magog,” says the rabbi, referring to the biblical prophecy of a battle that precipitates the messianic era.
Before the holiday, Azman visited Jewish soldiers in hospitals, including one named Grigorii who lost both legs and an eye after stepping on a landmine near Bakhmut. “I went to strengthen him, and I was strengthened,” says Azman. “He promised he would find a way to continue to fight.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Preliminary, unofficial results from Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency show incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead with 49% of ballot boxes counted, while a competing news agency gave a slight lead to the opposition candidate.
Anadolu showed Erdogan at 56%, and his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, at 44%.
Meanwhile, the ANKA news agency, close to the opposition, shows the results at 51% for Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan at 49%, with 52% of ballot boxes counted.
The news agencies get their data from completed ballot box counts that are gathered by personnel on the field, and are strong in different regions, explaining some of the variation in preliminary data.
Anadolu’s numbers were disputed in the May 14 first round election by opposition politicians, who said the news agency was biased in favor of Erdogan. Anadolu rejected the accusation and the final results did not reveal a discrepancy. Erdogan came out more than 4% ahead of Kilicdaroglu, but just short of outright victory, leading to the second round Sunday.
Turkey’s electoral board sends its own data to political parties throughout the vote count but doesn’t declare official results until days later.
Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen says that a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia is “absolutely possible.”
Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies, Cohen — Israel’s top spy in 2016-2021 — says, “in my opinion – and here I am leaning on personal knowledge on the topic — it is absolutely possible.”
“There is indeed in the Middle East a new era in which brave leaders… know how to create normalization.”
He also dismisses the idea that the Abraham Accords are on rocky ground, saying ties with the UAE and Bahrain are “perfect peaceful relations.”
Likud MK David Bitan predicts the judicial overhaul legislation will not return in its current form, but says the coalition will push through a package of changes to the judicial system.
In an interview with Channel 12 news, Bitan says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands the potential economic and diplomatic consequences if some of the most far-reaching proposals pass. He adds that he doesn’t believe Justice Minister Yariv Levin will step in pto rotest.
Bitan says that Netanyahu realizes he made a mistake and accuses Levin of hurting the Likud party, saying the tactics and strategy for advancing the shakeup to the judicial system were wrong.
The Likud MK also says the new ministerial committee to address rising prices that Netanyahu announced earlier today isn’t enough.
The premier said he’ll form the panel at today’s cabinet meeting, during which he was seated alongside Levin. “The fight against the cost of living tops our government’s list of national priorities,” Netanyahu said.
An Israeli protest group in New York announces plans to rally against coalition lawmakers who are visiting the city this week for the annual Israel Parade.
The protesters, part of a network of Israeli activists called UnXeptable, oppose the government’s judicial overhaul plans and have been holding regular rallies in and around New York City.
Organizers say they have collected information on 10 lawmakers who are visiting the city for the annual Israel Parade, a major annual event scheduled for next Sunday. The primary figure for the protesters is MK Simcha Rothman, the chair of the Constitution Law and Justice Committee, and one of the key players in the coalition’s push to overhaul the judiciary.
“This is our opportunity to give everything to push against the delegation of lies and hatred that comes here,” organizers say in a statement. “Our message is simple: whoever dismantles Israeli democracy should not expect a relaxing vacation in New York.”
“They are coming to try to cover up the enormous damage this government is doing to US-Israel relations and to the Jewish community in the Diaspora,” the statement says. “We will be at every conference, every meeting and every event to prevent them from spreading their lies.”
“We will send a clear note to organizations and synagogues that it is very unprofitable to invite those who destroy the economy, security and future of Israel.”
The demonstrators are planning a series of protests outside conferences, receptions and other events in New York and New Jersey.
The main protest is scheduled for next Sunday at 2 p.m. outside a conference at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
The US-based protesters previously called on the organizers of the Israel Parade, the Jewish Community Relations Council and UJA Federation, to disinvite the coalition lawmakers.
ISTANBUL — Turkish polling stations closed Sunday in a historic runoff election that could extend President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-decade rule until 2028.
Preliminary results were expected later Sunday in one of Turkey’s most important elections in its 100-year history as a post-Ottoman state.
BERLIN — Several Jewish groups, politicians and an alliance of civil society groups are planning a memorial ceremony and a protest rally against a concert by Roger Waters in Frankfurt this evening.
They accuse the Pink Floyd co-founder of antisemitism — an allegation he denies.
Waters has also drawn their ire for his support of the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
Frankfurt authorities had initially tried to prevent the concert, but Waters challenged that move successfully in a local court.
The concert is taking place in the city’s Festhalle, where in November 1938 more than 2,700 Jews were rounded up by the Nazis, beaten and abused, and later deported to concentration camps.
“It’s very frustrating” that the concert is going ahead as scheduled even though Frankfurt officials and many others tried to prevent it, says Elio Adler, the head of the Jewish group WerteInitiative, which supports the protest.
“His words and imagery spread Jew-hatred and are part of a trend: to normalize Israel-hatred under the protection of freedom of speech or art,” Adler adds.
Last week, police in Berlin said they had opened an investigation of Waters on suspicion of incitement over a costume the Pink Floyd co-founder wore when he performed in the German capital earlier this month.
Images on social media showed Waters firing an imitation machine gun while dressed in a long black coat with a red armband. Police confirmed that an investigation was opened over suspicions that the context of the costume could constitute a glorification, justification or approval of Nazi rule and therefore a disturbance of the public peace.
Waters rejected those accusations in a statement on Facebook and Instagram, saying that “the elements of my performance that have been questioned are quite clearly a statement in opposition to fascism, injustice, and bigotry in all its forms.”
TEHRAN, Iran — Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, whose Gulf country has been a long-time mediator between Iran and the West, arrives in Tehran for a two-day visit.
His trip comes just two days after Tehran freed Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele from almost 15 months in custody in exchange for diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was held in Belgium over a 2018 plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally outside Paris.
The Gulf Sultanate helped facilitate the prisoner swap.
The sultan was greeted on arrival at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport by First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber and later met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Sadabad palace in north Tehran.
— Mehr News Agency (@MehrnewsCom) May 28, 2023
Ahead of his visit, the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Hamad Al Busaidi as saying it comes “in pursuance of constructive cooperation and consultation about different issues on the regional and international arenas.”
The Omani leader’s visit comes a year after Raisi visited Muscat, and follows a China-brokered rapprochement deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran announced in March.
Busaidi said Oman was optimistic the sultan’s “historic” trip to Iran would be “beneficial in regional and global terms.”
Oman has close ties with Iran, and played a mediating role between Tehran and the United States in the build-up to a nuclear deal Iran and world powers reached in 2015.
The sultanate was reported to have hosted secret US-Iran talks ahead of the signing of the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which gave Iran relief from international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The JCPOA collapsed in 2018 after Washington unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to suspend the implementation of its own commitments to curb nuclear activity.
Stop-start talks that began in April last year to restore the nuclear deal have yet to bear fruit.
The last visit by an Omani sultan to Iran was in 2013 when Qaboos bin Said Al Said visited Tehran during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, who was in office when the 2015 deal was sealed.
Sultan Qaboos also maintained good ties with Tehran and acted as an intermediary between Western countries and Iran.
Police close a portion of Route 40 between Mitzpe Ramon and the Zihor Junction, over concerns that rainy conditions could lead to potentially dangerous flash floods along the southern highway.
After internal divisions over Otzma Yehudit’s proposal to prioritize “Zionist values” in government policymaking surfaced during the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicks deliberations on the matter to a meeting of coalition chiefs.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir is insisting the resolution be approved today, adding that the vote could be held by phone.
Former Israel Bar Association chief Efi Nave can still run for his old job, the organization’s election panel says, after the Lod District Court rejected an appeal to overturn his conviction for smuggling a female acquaintance through passport control.
The committee explains Nave can still vie to be head of the bar association because the verdict against him wasn’t “absolute,” as it can still be appealed at a higher court.
Nave, who resigned in 2019 over separate suspicions he advocated for the judicial appointment of a woman with whom he was romantically involved, said after today’s election panel ruling that he’s staying in the race.
Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank claim to have opened fire at the northern West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan.
In a statement, a local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Jenin says its members managed to flee the area after opening fire.
Local Israeli officials say a Palestinian-owned car parked at the entrance to the settlement is damaged by the gunfire.
There are no reports of injuries, the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service says.
The Israel Defense Forces says troops are scanning the area for suspects.
Local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Jenin claims to open fire at the West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan. Local Israeli officials say a Palestinian-owned car was damaged at the entrance. No injuries. pic.twitter.com/p4ezd4s7Fs
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) May 28, 2023
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will depart tonight for Europe, stopping in Hungary, Austria, Croatia and Slovakia.
He will meet his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto and, though the details remain up in the air, there is a possibility that he will meet with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Cohen will also participate in a meeting of the Austerlitz format, a regional forum of Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In total, Cohen will meet five foreign ministers during the four-day trip.
In a prepared statement, Cohen says that his trip to Central Europe “will strengthen our strategic cooperation with our friends, and create for Israel opportunities to advance its diplomatic and economic interests on the continent.”
This is Cohen’s seventh trip to Europe since he become Israel’s top diplomat in late December.
President Isaac Herzog is flying to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, the latest step in an ongoing and very public expansion of bilateral ties.
Herzog, who will be traveling with his wife Michal, will meet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku at the Zugulba presidential palace.
Aliyev will receive the Herzogs with an honor guard that will play Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva.”
The two presidents will then conduct a working meeting, follow by a state lunch along with the first ladies.
Herzog is also scheduled to participate in a ceremony along with the local Jewish community celebrating Israel’s 75th birthday before heading home on Wednesday.
Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel from the Shas party will accompany Herzog on the visit, and will meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Teymur Musayev.
Arbel and Musayev will discuss cooperation on training doctors, digital health, and emergency preparedness, according to Herzog’s office. They will also sign an agreement on healthcare cooperation.
Several ultra-Orthodox ministers reportedly express opposition to a measure pushed by the far-right Otzma Yehudit party that will require government policy adhere to “Zionist values.”
According to Channel 12 news, Shas Minister Moshe Arbel and United Torah Judaism Minister Meir Porush express concerns the measure will hurt the Haredi community on the grounds that it will prioritize IDF soldiers and military veterans.
“A dangerous thing is developing here,” Porush reportedly says, while the network quotes Arbel saying “this is dangerous.”
The report says Ben Gvir responded by saying “the opposite is true,” claiming his proposal will “prevent discrimination against Jews.”
The lawmaker behind a bill that would likely significantly curb Israeli civil society groups’ ability to accept donations from foreign government pledges his continued backing for the measure after if was shelved following criticism from key Western allies.
“I’m committed to this law and so is the national government,” MK Ariel Kallner, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, tells Channel 12 news.
Kallner says Netanyahu has “broad considerations” and acknowledges the bill was taken off the agenda of today’s cabinet meeting “for various reasons, but the goal remains the same.”
“This is a fight for our sovereignty and independence,” the MK insists.
The bill states that any nonprofit group that engages in public advocacy two years before or after receiving a donation from a foreign government will lose its status as a public institution and will no longer be eligible for tax exemptions. In addition, those nonprofits will be hit with a 65 percent income tax.
“If a foreign government is funding [civil] organizations, it should pay a fee for meddling in Israel’s internal affairs,” Kallner declares in separate remarks to Army Radio.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he’ll establish a ministerial committee “on the fight against the cost of living” amid persistent inflation.
Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu touts the budget passed last week as “a first step” in tackling rising prices and says he’ll head the proposed panel, which will include Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Economy Minister Nir Barkat and “additional ministers and professionals.”
He calls for the committee to submit a plan “with a clear and detailed timetable” on how to address the matter “with all means including encouraging investment, lowering customs and breaking monopolies.”
Netanyahu insists that cost of living is the top issue for his coalition.
Hundreds of devout Jews, including Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King, stage a protest at the near the Western Wall in Jerusalem over what they are describing as Christian worship at the holy site.
The protest at the Davidson Center coincides with the final day of a 21-day period of prayers and fasting by Christians “for the increase of God’s salvation promises and plans for Jerusalem and Israel,” as organizers of those activities describe it.
Some participants in Israel of the global initiative are celebrating its conclusion at the Davidson Center, an archaeological site that borders on the Western Wall, where authorities allow forms of Jewish worship – including by men and women together — that are banned at the main Western Wall plaza because they do not conform to Orthodox customs.
Videos of the protest show police shoving the protesters out of the way as other individuals walk past the demonstrators toward the part of the Davidson Center where a segment of the Western Wall can be accesses. The protesters are shouting “missionaries go home.”
כך נראית עליונות יהודית וייהוד ירושלים – עכשיו ליד הכותל – סגן ראש עיריית ירושלים אריה קינג מוביל הפגנה נגד נוצרים שזקוקים לליווי משטרתי כדי להיכנס, כשברקע ההמון קורא להם מיסיונרים לכו הביתה. שבוע שעבר זה היה מצעד הדגלים, עכשיו זו קבוצה של נוצרים ומה יהיה בשבוע הבא? pic.twitter.com/hGYdAepTyL
— עמק שווה (@EmekShavehHeb) May 28, 2023
Christian worship in Jerusalem is a boon for the Israeli economy thanks to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who visit the country annually, and for the country’s relations with predominantly Christian nations and audiences.
Many Israelis oppose proselytization by some Christian groups — including those that self-identify as Messianic Jews — to Jewish Israelis. King, the far-right deputy mayor, cites both Christian worship at the site, which is holy to Jews, and proselytization by Christians as the reason for the protest.
King in a statement hails those who came to protest the decision by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is responsible for the Davidson Center.
“To allow Christian missionaries to hold a Christian worship and ceremony designed to prepare a missionary effort directed at Israeli residents,” he said. “It is a dignified and just protest against a government company that allowed this, and against the missionaries. As far as I’m concerned, let every missionary know they are not welcome in the Land of Israel.”
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I'm proud of our coverage of this government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
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