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

Indonesia frees Iran-flagged tanker detained for illegally transferring oil

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian authorities say that two oil tankers — the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and Panamanian-flagged MT Freya — have been released after a four-month detention for illegally transferring oil in Indonesian waters.

The two ships were freed yesterday, and their captains were allowed to leave despite being sentenced Tuesday to a year in prison for not complying with shipping channel regulations, says Wisnu Pramandita, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency.

“They have been released conditionally. They do not need to be physically imprisoned, but they cannot commit the same violation in the next two years,” he says.

Iranian state television and the Petroleum Ministry’s SHANA news agency report the MT Horse has resumed its mission and will return home after finishing it.

The MT Horse and MT Freya were detained in late January along with 36 Iranian and 25 Chinese crewmembers. Days later, China’s government called on Indonesia to treat the Chinese sailors fairly, but gave no indication what their oil tanker was doing when it was found at sea transferring fuel from the Iranian ship.

Bennett said set to make final decision on whether to form gov’t with ‘change bloc’

Yamina chief Naftali Bennett has told associates he’ll make a final decision today whether to join with the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu parties to form a government that will see him and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid switch off as prime minister, the Ynet news site reports.

Notably, according to Channel 12 news, he’s already decided to do so.

PA leader Abbas congratulates Assad on winning election denounced by West as sham

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has congratulated Syrian President Bashar Assad after he won a presidential vote denounced as fraudulent by the West, the official PA news agency Wafa says.

Abbas sent Assad a cable saying he hopes to maintain good relations between the nations, according to Wafa.

Dueling protests expected outside homes of Yamina, New Hope leaders

Dueling protests are set to be held outside the homes of several right-wing politicians this evening, when Shabbat ends at nightfall, amid rumors that Yamina chief Naftali Bennett is on the cusp of teaming up with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and anti-Netanyahu parties to form a government.

Protests against the prospect of such a government are set to be held outside the homes of Bennett, Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, while demonstrations in favor of a so-called “change coalition” are also expected to be held outside the houses of Bennett and Sa’ar.

Islamic Jihad threatens rocket fire at Tel Aviv if Israel kills any of its operatives

The head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad threatens the Gaza-based terror group will fire rockets at Tel Aviv if Israel kills any of its operatives.

“Any liquidation by Israel of an operative or person in our leadership — at any place or time — will be met with an immediate response of rocket fire at Tel Aviv,” Ziad Nakhaleh says.

Leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group Ziad Nakhaleh in 2020 (video screenshot)

Key voice Shaked said to back Bennett in forming ‘change government’ with Lapid

Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked has agreed with party leader Naftali Bennett they will join with the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu parties if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t show he is able to form a government, Channel 12 news reports.

The network doesn’t specify a timeline, but cites unnamed change figures in the bloc saying Bennett and Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid could announce tomorrow they are forming a government that will see them rotate the premiership.

Police minister said seeking more cops for potential further outbreak of ethnic unrest

Channel 12 news reports on what it says is a plan backed by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana for dealing with a potential further outbreak of ethnic violence in cities with mixed Jewish and Arab populations.

The plan reportedly includes having the Shin Bet security agency carry out arrests and scan social networks for suspicious activity; adding 5,000 more cops over the next three years; having 300 officers sent as reinforcements to police stations; and placing five Border Police companies in mixed cities.

The network, which doesn’t cite a source, says the plan has angered Arab Israeli leaders, who are protesting the Shin Bet’s proposed involvement. They are also said to be irked they weren’t consulted on the plan.

Gantz talks to US defense chief about Gaza ceasefire efforts

Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke yesterday with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, according to his office.

“Gantz updated Austin about the security challenges and Israel’s efforts to reach long-term calm and to return [its missing and captured citizens], while strengthening the alliance of moderates and the Palestinian Authority after the campaign in the Gaza Strip,” a statement from his office says.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, fist-bumps US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel on April 12, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

“The alliance of moderates” is an apparent reference to Gulf states and Western-backed Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan.

TV: Lapid could tell Rivlin on Monday he is able to form government

Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid could inform President Reuven Rivlin on Monday that he is able to form a government, Channel 12 news reports.

Such a scenario depends on Yamina chief Naftali Bennett formally declaring he’ll join with Lapid and the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu parties in forming a government.

The network says Bennett is expected to make such an announcement tomorrow evening, while stressing all these scenarios depend upon Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked being on board.

The report comes as Yamina puts out a statement saying it will hold a faction meeting tomorrow in Ra’anana, during which Bennett will update the party’s lawmakers on “the developments in recent days.”

Cops arrest first suspect in firebombing of Jewish home in Lod

Police have made a first arrest following the firebombing of a Jewish home in the ethnically mixed central city of Lod.

The suspect is an Arab Israeli in his 20s, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Likud minister to Bennett and Shaked: ‘Come to your senses’ and don’t form gov’t with Lapid

Transportation Minister Miri Regev of Likud calls on Yamina leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked not to form a government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rivals, amid reports Bennett could announce tomorrow that is assembling a coalition with Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid.

“You still have time to come to your senses. Don’t sell out right-wing values,” Regev, a Netanyahu loyalist, writes on Facebook.

Police said looking into threats against Bennett on social media

Police are probing threats made on social media networks against Yamina chief Naftali Bennett amid reports suggesting he may announce tomorrow that he is forming a government with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Hebrew media reports say.

The probe was opened after images were shared of Bennett in an Arab headdress with the caption “the liar,” according to the reports. A similar image of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin were shared in the run-up to his assassination by a far-right Jewish extremist in 1995.

Rallies outside homes of Bennett, Shaked and Sa’ar urge them to form change gov’t

Protesters hold demonstrations outside the homes of Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, his deputy Ayelet Shaked and New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar, calling on them to join a potential government that will see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replaced as premier.

A group of Netanyahu supporters also rally outside Shaked’s house, urging her not to join a coalition with the prime minister’s rivals.

Israelis protest outside the home of Yamina party Naftali Bennet, with signs reading “You promised change- now deliver,” on May 29, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Yamina rebel says ‘black flags fly over’ prospective ‘change government’

Rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who has come out against his party forming a possible government with the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu factions, weighs in as reports indicate Yamina leader Naftali Bennett may announce he’s doing just that tomorrow.

“A government over which black flags fly,” Chikli writes on Twitter, using a Hebrew expression for matters that could have ominous consequences or that, in army parlance, must not be allowed to happen.

TV: Likud’s Katz offered to replace Netanyahu as PM for a year to allow for right-wing gov’t

Channel 12 news reports that Finance Minister Israel Katz recently suggested to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Likud Central Committee hold a vote for the ruling party’s chairman and that whoever wins will serve as premier for a year instead of Netanyahu to allow for the formation of a right-wing government.

The apparent aim of such a move would be entice New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, who opposes sitting in a Netanyahu-led government, into joining a coalition made up of the the premier’s right-wing religious bloc but that isn’t headed by him.

The TV report, which did not cite a source, says Katz believed he could win a snap leadership vote and thus become prime minister if Netanyahu were to agree.

Katz also reportedly told Netanyahu that he and his family can continue living in the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem during that year.

Netanyahu, however, rejected the proposal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, listens to then-Foreign Minister Israel, now Finance Minister, Israel Katz during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, October 27, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP)

The report comes a day after Katz lashed out at Likud MK Nir Barkat, who also sees himself as a successor to Netanyahu, for planning an upcoming conference to unveil his “vision” for Israel, calling it a “subversive” action against the incumbent party leader.

In a separate report, Channel 12 says that if Netanyahu’s rivals succeed in forming a government that will see a new prime minister for the first time in over 12 years, the Likud chief doesn’t intend to leave politics or give up his spot as party leader, and is likely to become opposition leader in the Knesset.

Bennett wrongly uses photo of Pakistani hospital instead of Gaza medical center

In a video uploaded to social media on May 20, Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett hit back at celebrity figures who were highly critical of Israel during the recent fighting in Gaza against the Hamas terror group, such as American late-night comedians John Oliver and Trevor Noah.

Bennett — who could become Israel’s next prime minister — mentioned Gaza City”s Shifa Hospital, accusing Hamas of basing its headquarters there while carrying out terror activity.

The Shifa Hospital that Bennett shared a photo of, however, was not in Gaza City, but Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, where internet users flagged the mistake.

The video remains up over a week later.

read more: