The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
US-led coalition denies reports it killed dozens in Syria airstrikes
BEIRUT — The US-led coalition is denying reports that airstrikes it carried out in a part of eastern Syria held by the Islamic State jihadist group killed dozens of civilians.
Syrian state media, a war monitor and an IS-linked news agency reported Saturday that coalition airstrikes killed 40 people, mostly women and children.
The coalition said in a statement late Saturday that it conducted 19 strikes in the area starting late Friday in support of ground operations against IS. It says all the targets it struck were “legitimate” and that no civilians were present.
It says another 10 strikes in the area were not carried out by the coalition.
Syria and Russia regularly launch airstrikes against suspected militants, and Iraq has carried out cross-border strikes targeting IS.
Kansas governor calls on official who said whites are ‘master race’ to resign
LEAVENWORTH, Kansas — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has called on a white county official to resign after the official said at a public meeting that he belongs to “the master race.”
Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp cited the master race — the Nazi ideology of Aryan supremacy — at a board meeting Tuesday while responding to a presentation by a black official, Triveece Penelton, on road development options in Tonganoxie, just west of Kansas City.
Colyer, a Republican, said in a statement Saturday that the remark was unacceptable. He says: “Racial and discriminative language have no place in our society and most especially when spoken by someone holding public office.”
Some members of the county commission also have called on Klemp to resign.
Klemp, who was appointed to fill a Republican vacancy, told KSHB-TV off camera that his comment was a joke.
Cabinet approves widespread budget cuts to fund salaries of security forces
Government ministers approve budget cuts across a number of ministries to help fund increased pension and salary benefits for police and other members of Israel’s security forces.
“This is good news for police officers, police retirees, the Prison Service, the [Shin Bet] and the Mossad, for those who serve the security of the state with dedication. This is news that they have been hoping for for many years,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a statement following approval of the cuts.
The cuts are passed despite opposition from a number of ministers whose ministries are set to lose budget funds as a result of the measure.
“This is a grave decision that will fatally harm the health of Israeli citizens,” says Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, whose ministry is set to lose tens of millions of shekels as a result of the cuts.
Netanyahu doesn’t reappoint deputy defense minister
Prime Minister Netanyahu has declined to reappoint Eli Ben-Dahan as deputy defense minister.
Ben-Dahan was required to leave his post following last week’s resignation of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister. Under Israeli law, if a minister steps down his deputy must also resign, though the prime minister can allow the deputy minister to continue in his role.
Liberman’s decision to resign left the ruling coalition with a one-seat majority and raised the chances of early elections being called.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is the head of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party to which Ben-Dahan belongs, has demanded the defense portfolio as a condition for remaining in the coalition.
Jewish Home lashes out at Netanyahu for firing deputy defense minister
The Jewish Home party is incensed by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision not to reappoint Eli Ben-Dahan as deputy defense minister.
Ben-Dahan, a member of the party, lost his job last week following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation as defense minister. Under Israeli law, when a minister resigns his deputy must also do so, although the prime minister has the option to reappoint him.
“The cruelty of the prime minister’s people toward the Jewish Home party, this time with the dismissal of Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, is an unfair and unjust act toward an honest and moral public servant,” the party says in a statement.
“The prime minister would not behave this way toward any other party,” it adds. “We call on the prime minister to reverse this decision.”
After resigning as defense chief, Liberman launches election campaign
After resigning as defense minister, Avigdor Liberman launches the national election campaign for his Yisrael Beytenu party.
“The party is preparing to increase its power in elections for the Knesset, similar to the substantial increasing of its power in municipal elections” last month, the party says in a statement.
The announcement is made at an event in Jerusalem where Liberman redesignates the party’s municipal election office as its Knesset election headquarters.
Liberman stepped down as defense minister in protest of a ceasefire to end fighting in the Gaza Strip and called for early elections to be held.
Though the governing coalition maintains a one-seat majority without Yisrael Beytenu, Liberman’s decision to return the party to the opposition benches has raised the likelihood an early vote will be called.
Fired deputy defense chief wants his job back, says ‘common sense’ will win out
Eli Ben-Dahan criticizes Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision not to reappoint him as deputy defense minister, saying his firing violates the coalition agreement and can easily be fixed.
“This is part of the coalition agreement and my continued activities in the Defense Ministry aren’t connected to the future of the coalition, as it is not connected to other ministers,” tweets Ben-Dahan, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home party.
He says it is possible to reverse the decision with a simple phone confirmation.
“I’m sure that common sense and decency will overcome any other considerations,” Ben-Dahan says.
Netanyahu thanks US for opposing UN resolution on Golan
Prime Minister Netanyahu thanks the United States for voting against a UN resolution calling on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria.
The decision by the Trump administration to oppose the United Nations General Assembly resolution on Friday marked the first time the US has ever voted against such a measure.
“We have been talking with our American friends for some time about the present administration’s new policy at the UN. Last Thursday, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman updated me that the US had decided to vote against the traditional resolution condemning us for being on the Golan Heights. And this indeed happened,” Netanyahu says at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Thanking US President Donald Trump and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for opposing the resolution, Netanyahu says the “important and just vote” matches his own position on the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized internationally.
“Israel will always remain on the Golan Heights, and the Golan Heights will always remain in our hands,” he says.
Netanyahu: Sometimes no other choice but to oppose US
Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israel on occasion must make decisions that puts it at odds with the United States, its closest ally.
“Sometimes you have to come out against the US,” he says at a memorial ceremony for former premier Golda Meir.
Netanyahu notes Meir’s decision not to launch a preemptive attack ahead the 1973 Yom Kippur War over concerns Israel wouldn’t receive US backing.
The prime minister does not specify any issue he would be at odds with the US over but his remarks come ahead of the expected release of the White House’s peace plan in the coming months. Trump administration officials have said both Israel and the Palestinians will need to make compromises.
Defense Minister Netanyahu to meet with security chiefs
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv for meetings with top security officials.
The meeting comes after Netanyahu became defense minister earlier today following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation last week in protest of a ceasefire to end fighting with Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
A spokesman for Netanyahu says the premier will meet with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, his nominated successor Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman.
Amid coalition crisis, Netanyahu to appoint foreign minister — report
Amid a political crisis threatening to bring early elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu will appoint a foreign minister, Hadashot TV news reports.
The report does not say who Netanyahu will tap for the post, which he currently holds.
Minutes after the report is aired, Netanyahu’s Likud party puts out a statement saying the prime minister will decide on ministerial appointments in coming days.
Netanyahu earlier today became defense minister following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation. The prime minister has said he’ll keep the defense portfolio for himself despite Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s demand he be made defense minister as a condition for not bringing down the government.
Netanyahu said leaning toward Likud member as foreign minister
Prime Minister Netanyahu will likely nominate a member of his Likud party as foreign minister, Hebrew media reports say.
Channel 10 news reports the leading candidates are Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.
Jewish Home to Netanyahu: Name Bennett defense minister or we go to elections
Following reports Prime Minister Netanyahu will name a foreign minister and keep the defense portfolio for himself, the Jewish Home party says its leader Naftali Bennett must be named defense minister to avert early elections.
“Netanyahu’s announcement on manning the Foreign Ministry does not change anything,” the party says in a statement.
“Without handing over the defense portfolio to Bennett in order to save Israel from the security crisis it’s in, there is no point in having a left-wing government,” it adds.
Trump says he doesn’t want to hear tape of Khashoggi’s ‘very violent’ death
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump says he has been fully briefed on an audio recording of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder but does not want to listen to it himself.
“Because it’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape,” he says in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
“It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.”
The CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul October 2.
But the State Department has called those reports “inaccurate,” and Trump on Saturday told reporters that the US would release “a very full report” on the matter as early as Monday. He was interviewed by Fox on Friday.
Asked whether the crown prince had lied to him in denying any role in the killing, Trump says: “I don’t know. Who can really know? But I can say this, he’s got many people … that say he had no knowledge.”
“He told me that he had nothing to do with it. He told me that, I would say, maybe five times at different points, as recently as a few days ago.”
Trump acknowledges that people close to the prince “were probably involved” but adds, “I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.”
Iraqi president meets Saudi king after visiting rival Iran
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has received Iraq’s President Barham Salih a day after the Iraqi official visited the kingdom’s rival, Iran.
Salih’s back-to-back visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia reflect the delicate balance Iraq seeks to maintain in a region where its two powerful neighbors are battling for supremacy.
Salih was received at the airport in Riyadh on Sunday by the province’s governor and other Saudi officials. King Salman holds a lunch in honor of the Iraqi president with ministers and high-level princes in attendance.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency releases few details about Salih’s talks with the monarch.
On Saturday, Salih was in Tehran where he pledged to improve trade ties less than two weeks after.
خادم الحرمين الشريفين يعقد جلسة مباحثات مع رئيس جمهورية #العراق، , جرى خلالها استعراض العلاقات الوثيقة بين البلدين، والسبل الكفيلة بتعزيزها وتطويرها في مختلف المجالات، بالإضافة إلى بحث مستجدات الأحداث في المنطقة.#واس pic.twitter.com/s9O6NvRRTu
— واس (@spagov) November 18, 2018
Kahlon arrives for meeting with Netanyahu as coalition teeters on the edge
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon arrives to Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv for a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu that could decide whether Israel goes to early elections.
The governing coalition was thrown into a crisis last week after Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister, leaving it with a one-seat majority in the Knesset.
Though Liberman and Kahlon have called for early elections to be scheduled, Netanyahu has said he hopes to keep the coalition in tact until November 2019 when national elections must be held.
Adding to Netanyahu’s woes, Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party has demanded the defense portfolio as a condition for remaining in the government.
Netanyahu to address powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at 10 a.m. tomorrow, the committee’s spokesperson says.
Before a closed-door briefing, Netanyahu will make comments to the press.
The announcement comes amid reports that Netanyahu is planning to retain the defense portfolio for himself after Avigdor Liberman’s resignation which went into effect today, despite Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett’s demand for the position.
— Raoul Wootliff
Meeting between Netanyahu and Kahlon begins
The highly anticipated meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon begins at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The two are set to discuss Kahlon’s reported demand to hold new elections, amid reports that Netanyahu is set to appoint a member of his Likud party as foreign minister.
— Raoul Wootliff
Netanyahu to give televised address at 8 p.m. after meeting with Kahlon
Prime Minister Netanyahu will gave a statement at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv after meeting with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, his office says.
The televised address will be given at 8 p.m., when Israel’s main nightly news broadcasts begin.
— Raoul Wootliff
Four arrested in Iran sugar strikes
TEHRAN, Iran — Four people were arrested in southwestern Iran on Sunday as locals joined striking sugar workers in mounting protests over unpaid wages and alleged criminal activity by managers, the official IRNA news agency says.
Protests by workers from the Haft Tapeh sugar company in Shush, a city in Khuzestan province, have been building in recent days.
IRNA says locals joined the demonstrations on Sunday, without giving numbers.
Those arrested included two local workers’ representatives and a female reporter, it adds.
Iran has seen multiple strikes and protests in recent months over working conditions and unpaid wages in a range of sectors, including steel, education, mining, and transport.
Haft Tapeh, which employs about 4,000 people, has been hit with multiple protests over mismanagement and alleged criminality since the firm was privatized in 2016.
Following Jewish Home uproar, Netanyahu reappoints deputy defense minister
Prime Minister Netanyahu will reappoint Eli Ben-Dahan as deputy defense minister, his office says, after having delayed a vote to do so earlier today.
The decision comes after the Jewish Home party, which Ben-Dahan belongs to, declared it would no longer vote with the coalition until he was reinstated.
Netanyahu to stay defense chief, will choose next deputy IDF head himself
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to announce that he will remain defense minister, and will appoint a new deputy chief of staff himself, Likud sources tell The Times of Israel.
Netanyahu will gave a statement at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv at 8:00 p.m., his office says, when Israel’s main nightly news broadcasts begin.
Before meeting with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Netanyahu met at the Defense Ministry with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, his nominated successor Aviv Kochavi, and Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, to discuss the appointment of a deputy chief of staff, the sources say.
They do not say if any other appointments would be announced at the same time.
— Raoul Wootliff
Bennett, Shaked to announce resignations on Monday — report
Jewish Home ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked will announce their resignations from the government tomorrow, Hadashot TV news reports.
The report comes after the two said they’ll give a statement to the press tomorrow from the Knesset at 10:30 a.m.
Bennett has demanded he be named defense minister as a condition for remaining in the coalition after Avigdor Liberman resigned the post last week.
Netanyahu earlier today became defense minister and has said he will keep the portfolio for himself.
Netanyahu says making every effort to avoid early elections
Prime Minister Netanyahu says he is making every possible effort to prevent the collapse of the government and calling of early elections.
“In the middle of a campaign, we don’t play politics,” he says at a press conference at Defense Ministry headquarters, referring to the ongoing tensions on the Gaza border.
“Thanks. I’m going to work,” he says at the end of his remarks.
Netanyahu: ‘No place for politics’ in security decisions
Prime Minister Netanyahu kicks off his highly anticipated press conference at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv broadcast on Israel’s main nightly news programs.
There is “no place for politics or personal considerations” when it comes to Israel’s security, he says.
“I know what to do and when to do it,” he adds, pointing to his experience as prime minister in making key security decisions.
Netanyahu also touts consistent economic growth in Israel under his watch and the country’s diplomatic status on the world stage.
Trump to meet with advisers on when to roll out peace plan — report
US President Donald Trump will huddle with his senior advisers next week to decide on when he will release his peace plan, Channel 10 news reports.
According to the report, which cited unnamed US officials, the current political instability in Israel will be a key factor in deciding when the White House’s proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace plan will be announced.
The report says that though Trump is pushing to roll out the plan as soon as possible, not all of his top advisers are on board with this.
The meeting, which was called over a month ago, will be attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, the network reports.
Channel 10 says US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman traveled to Washington over the weekend for the meeting.
Backing Netanyahu, Likud ministers pin political crisis on coalition partners
After Prime Minister Netanyahu gives a press conference declaring his desire to avoid early elections, ministers from his Likud party blame fellow coalition parties for the political crisis rocking the government.
“The responsibility for the right-wing government’s existence is on Bennett’s and Kahlon’s shoulders,” Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis says in a statement in reference to the heads of the Jewish Home and Kulanu parties.
Echoing Akunis, Culture Minister Miri Regev writes on Facebook, “It is irresponsible on the part of coalition members to bring down such a good right-wing government.”
Also weighing in is Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.
“The security of the state requires the government continue until November . I believe ministers Bennett and Kahlon understand this and will stop with the unnecessary threats. Let Bibi work,” she says, using the prime minister’s nickname.
At the press conference, Netanyahu said he would remain defense minister after Avigdor Liberman’s resignation of the post last week triggered the current coalition woes.
He also said he was committed to preventing early elections in light of the security challenges facing Israel, such as months-long violence on the Gaza border.
Meretz head accuses Netanyahu of playing politics with Defense Ministry
The head of the left-wing Meretz party accuses Prime Minister Netanyahu of using the Defense Ministry as a political chip, following a speech in which the premier denounced politicizing Israel’s security.
In a prime-time television announcement, Netanyahu declared he would remain defense minister following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation and said he opposed early elections amid security threats from Iran and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
“The hypocrisy of Netanyahu as he talks about the important of the defense portfolio cries out to the heavens,” MK Tamar Zandberg says in a statement.
“This is the same Netanyahu who just two years appointed to this sensitive position a cynical, inexperience and irresponsible man only for considerations of political survival,” she adds, referring to Liberman’s appointment as defense minister in May 2016.
Zandberg calls for Netanyahu to be booted out of office and accuses him of polarizing Israeli society.
Iran’s Rouhani says US has ‘failed to stop oil exports’
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says that US sanctions would not prevent his country from exporting oil and that Iran would not give into pressure from Washington, Reuters reports.
“America blames us for its failures in the region,” Rouhani says during speech in the city of Khoy, which is being broadcast live on television. “We will not yield to this pressure that is part of the psychological war against Iran.”
“They have failed to stop our oil exports,” he says of US sanctions. “We will keep exporting it.”