The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.

Rivlin could tap Netanyahu to form government amid deadlock

President Reuven Rivlin is expected to task Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming the next coalition unless there is progress in unity talks with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, reports say.

The president could make a decision by tonight.

Rivlin, Netanyahu, and Gantz are scheduled to meet at the President’s Residence later this evening for a dinner.

The president has encouraged the leaders of the two largest parties to form a unity government, but an agreement over who would lead such a coalition remains elusive.

Netanyahu received 55 recommendations to be prime minister from right-wing and religious parties, while Gantz got 54. Yisrael Beytenu and the Balad faction of the Joint List didn’t recommend any candidate.

Central Elections Committee slams efforts to ‘delegitimize’ vote

Central Elections Committee chief Hanan Melcer condemns efforts to “delegitimize” the voting system with allegations of rampant fraud.

“They tried to delegitimize the results and the committee, and to amplify marginal incidents [of fraud] in the previous round [of elections in April],” says Melcer, according to the Walla news site.

He is referring to right-wing claims before the election of widespread fraud.

Melcer is heading to the President’s Residence to officially submit the final election results from last week’s vote.

Overnight, Likud received another seat, bringing it up to 32, at the expense of United Torah Judaism. That shift hinged on a mere 68 votes, the Ynet site says.

British parliament resumes after Supreme Court ruling

Britain’s parliament resumes on Wednesday after the Supreme Court rules that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s order to suspend it was “unlawful, void and of no effect.”

Johnson, who has vowed to press ahead with his plans for Brexit on October 31, is due to address MPs later on Wednesday.


Israeli, 25, dies after car accident in Georgia

A 25-year-old tourist from Jerusalem dies in a Georgia hospital, days after a car accident in the Kazbegi region.

The collision occurred on Monday night.

He is named by media reports as Yosef David Becker.

The Foreign Ministry confirms the death and says it is working to bring his body to Israel for burial.

United Torah Judaism plans to appeal vote count after losing seat

The United Torah Judaism party plans to contest the election results after a final ballot count saw it lose a Knesset seat to Likud by a mere 68 votes.

The change early on Wednesday morning gave Likud 32 seats, while UTJ dropped from eight seats to seven.

Receiving election results, Rivlin hopes Israel’s not headed to 3rd vote

Rivlin officially receives the final election results.

Speaking to the Central Elections Committee head, the president expresses hope Israel will avoid a third round of elections. The country previously held a national election in April, which failed to yield a government.

“I hope we won’t have another election soon,” says Rivlin, according to Channel 12, amid a political deadlock between the sides.

Homeless man pleads guilty to Minnesota synagogue fire

A homeless man pleads guilty to starting a fire that destroyed a 117-year-old synagogue in Duluth, Minnesota.

Thirty-six-year-old Matthew Amiot entered his guilty pleas on negligent fire charges Tuesday in St. Louis County District Court.

The fire destroyed the Adas Israel Synagogue on September 9. Authorities say Amiot used a lighter to ignite combustible materials outside the main building, near a separate religious structure called a sukkah.

The complaint says Amiot admitted starting the fire and told police he tried to spit on it to put it out, but walked away when that didn’t work.

Police say they don’t believe the fire was a hate crime.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 25. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports that prosecutors are recommending probation.


Israel, US urge EU to take action against boycott movement

Israeli and US officials are warning about a rise in attacks targeting Jews in Western Europe and are urging European Union leaders to take action against organizations supporting an international boycott of Israel.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister of strategic affairs, tells a news conference in Brussels that the EU should stop funding the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He speaks alongside US envoy Elan Carr.

Israel says the BDS is aimed at delegitimizing its existence. The BDS presents itself as a non-violent campaign for Palestinian rights and does not endorse a specific solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to numbers compiled by Tel Aviv University, anti-Semitic attacks worldwide rose 13% in 2018 from the previous year. The highest number of attacks were in the US, France, Britain and Germany.


Did a Minnesota congressman call Elizabeth Warren a Nazi?

A Minnesota congressman draws sharp criticism for describing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a “national socialist” on his Facebook campaign page, a term usually understood to mean Nazis.

Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn attacked the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate for “socialist extremism” in a post Tuesday in which he vowed to keep working with US President Donald Trump.

Hagedorn later edits the post to replace the term with “Democratic socialist.” Spokesman Jake Murphy says Hagedorn was referring to Warren’s “socialist agenda” and updated the post so it wouldn’t be misconstrued.

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin calls the post “completely reprehensible.” Martin says Hagedorn should apologize to Warren.


Egypt arrests more than 1,000 after anti-Sissi protests

Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 1,000 people, two rights groups say Wednesday, in the wake of rare anti-government protests last week.

The Egyptian Center for Freedoms and Rights says 1,003 had been arrested, while the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights reports the figure of 1,298 detained. Two prominent academics were detained on Tuesday, relatives and lawyers say.


Iran’s defense chief rules out deal with world powers on missile program

Iran’s defense minister has rejected any deal with world powers over Tehran’s missile program.

The official IRNA news agency on Wednesday quotes Gen. Amir Hatami as saying any deal with the United States over Iran’s “missile power” would damage the country’s capabilities. He says Iran’s leaders all support improving their missile program.

Tehran long has insisted its ballistic missile program was nonnegotiable. US President Donald Trump, however, cited it as a reason for unilaterally withdrawing America from the nuclear deal over a year ago.

Hatami’s remarks come as the US and its allies say Iran is behind a major drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. Iran has denied the allegations, saying any strikes by the US or Saudi Arabia will lead to “all-out war.”


Ukraine president, caught in Trump row, says ‘nobody can pressure me’

Ukraine’s president jokes that the only person who can pressure him is his six-year-old son, amid a growing scandal over whether US leader Donald Trump leaned on Kiev to investigate a political rival.

“Nobody can pressure me because I am the president of an independent country,” Volodymyr Zelensky tells the Russian news channel Rossiya 24 from New York.

“The only person who can put pressure on me is my son, who is six years old,” adds the leader, who was a popular comedian before his surprise election to the presidency earlier this year.

Zelensky and Trump are due to meet for the first time Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

US Democrats have launched a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump, accusing him of abuse of power over a reported attempt to pressure Zelensky into opening a corruption probe into ex-vice president Joe Biden, the leading Democrat presidential contender.


This combination photo shows
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in June 17, 2019 in Paris, and US President Donald Trump during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, September 20, 2019. (ludovic MARIN and SAUL LOEB / AFP)

IDF officer accused of raping subordinate dozens of times

A senior IDF officer is convicted of raping a subordinate.

He is accused of attacking her on “dozens of occasions” on the military base where both served and in a military vehicle, despite her attempts to resist, over a period of 18 months.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

Abbas will pledge to hold Palestinian elections in UN speech

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will renew a pledge to hold fresh parliamentary elections in a speech to the UN General Assembly tomorrow, a senior official says.

Abbas will say that “after he returns to Palestine he will call parliamentary elections and specify a date and begin formal preparations,” Ahmed Majdalani, a senior Palestinian official and Abbas aide, tells AFP.

Abbas, 84, has made similar pledges in recent years, but no Palestinian parliamentary elections have taken place since 2006.

Those elections, which were surprisingly won by terror movement Hamas, eventually led to a dramatic split, with Hamas seizing control of Gaza in 2007.

Since then the two have traded accusations of blame over the lack of elections.

In December 2018 Abbas pledged to hold parliamentary elections within six months.

Majdalani said Abbas would also call for more support for Palestinians from the international community in his speech.

“He will demand that the UN decide to provide international protection to the Palestinian people under (Israeli) occupation,” Majdalani says.


Police gear for heightened security presence during three-week holiday period

Law enforcement is preparing to implement various security measures during the three-week holiday period that begins on Sunday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says.

“In general the level of security will be heightened across the country, as is standard for this period every year,” says Rosenfeld.

Patrols will be set up in and around major cities to ensure that Israelis are able to safely visit throughout the holiday period, Rosenfeld says. An emphasis will be placed on Jerusalem where law enforcement is expecting thousands of visitors to the Old City in particular.

In the West Bank, Border Police will also be patrolling in an effort to thwart attempts by Palestinians to infiltrate into Israel. Just about every year, the IDF enforces a closure of its crossings in the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinians. The army has yet to announce its intention to do so this holiday season.

Rosenfeld says that there has been no intelligence warning received by police regarding a possible attack.

The Rosh Hashanah holiday begins Sunday at sundown and is followed by Yom Kippur as well as the Sukkot holidays which end on Monday October 21 at nightfall. The special security measures will continue in between each of the three holidays.

Jacob Magid

Woman lightly hurt near Maccabim Junction; stabbing suspected

Medics say they treated a woman in her 20s near the Maccabim Junction on Highway 443, in what unconfirmed reports say may have been a stabbing attack.

Details to come.

Woman stabbed near Modiin; 14-year-old arrested

A woman appears to have been stabbed near Modiin, with medics saying she sustained wounds to her upper body.

Police say they’ve arrested a suspect, a 14-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank.

Jewish and Arab astronauts blast off for International Space Station

Emirati, American and Russian astronauts have taken off for the International Space Station.

UAE’s Hazzaa al-Mansoori, 35, blasts into space accompanied by Russia’s Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir — a Swedish-American Jew whose father is Israeli — onboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

Mansoori is set to return to Earth with NASA’s Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on October 3. Skripochka and Meir are set to remain on the ISS until the spring of 2020.

Mansoori will be the first Emirati astronaut and the first Arab on the orbiting laboratory, but not the first Muslim.

with AFP

Transcript of call shows Trump pressed Ukraine leader to investigate Biden

US President Donald Trump repeatedly prodded Ukraine’s new leader to work with Rudy Giuliani and the US attorney general to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, according to a rough transcript summarizing the call released Wednesday.

In the call, Trump raised unsubstantiated allegations that Biden sought to interfere with a Ukrainian prosecutor’s investigation of the former vice president’s son Hunter.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that,” Trump said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The conversation between the two leaders is one piece of a whistleblower’s complaint, which followed the July 25 call.

The complaint is central to the formal impeachment inquiry launched Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


President’s office confirms plans to task candidate with forming gov’t tonight

The president’s office confirms Reuven Rivlin plans to task either Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz with forming a government tonight, after the 6 p.m. dinner where the three will meet.

Rivlin will likely do so before 8 p.m., his office says.

He will not only announce the appointment — but formally go through the procedure of tasking the candidate with the job, the statement says.

At Columbia University, Malaysian PM defends past anti-Semitic remarks

At Columbia University, a Jewish student confronts Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad about his past statements that he’s “glad to be labeled an anti-Semite” and denial that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

“I’m exercising my right to free speech,” Mohamad tells the students. “Why is it that I can’t say something against the Jews when a lot of people say nasty things about me, about Malaysia?”

Eric Cortellessa

Netanyahu, Gantz arrive at President’s Residence for meeting

Netanyahu and Gantz arrive at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for a meeting with Rivlin on a unity government.

Unless a compromise is reached during the dinner meeting, Rivlin is expected to task Netanyahu with forming a coalition.

Speaking at UN, Rouhani blasts US peace plan

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the UN General Assembly.

He says the Middle East “is burning in the flames of war, bloodshed, occupation” and the Palestinians “are the biggest victims.”

Rouhani condemns the still-unreleased US peace plan, saying any proposal by an American administration that also recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel’s control over the Golan Heights is “certainly doomed.”

Rouhani: Iran will never negotiate under sanctions

The Iranian president digs his heels in, saying Tehran won’t negotiate over its nuclear program unless sanctions are lifted.

“Our response to any negotiation under sanctions is negative,” says Rouhani.

Iran “will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks to make Iran surrender to the weapon of poverty… and sanctions,” he adds.
“The only way for talks to begin is to return to commitments and compliance.”
“Stop the sanctions so as to open the way to the start of negotiations.”


Blue and White negotiators a no-show at President’s Residence

Negotiators representing the Blue and White party skip a meeting with Likud representatives at the President’s Residence as the impasse in unity talks between the two parties appears impossible to resolve, reports say.

As talks sputter, Lapid says Gantz will be next PM

Blue and White’s No. 2, Yair Lapid, says his party leader Gantz will be the country’s next prime minister in a tweet that apparently rules out a unity government with Netanyahu.

“Benny Gantz will be the next prime minister and Bibi [Netanyahu] will go deal with his criminal cases,” tweets Lapid. “The transparent attempts by Likud to stir up [disagreements among members of Blue and White] don’t impress any of us.”


Netanyahu and Gantz now meeting one-on-one

Netanyahu and Gantz are now meeting one-on-one after Rivlin leaves the room.

Front-row lineup for Rivlin’s announcement hints Netanyahu will be picked

The cards reserving front-row seats for officials at President Reuven Rivlin’s announcement this evening appear to strongly suggest Netanyahu will be chosen to form the next government.

Amid the names of various presidential officials are the heads of the Likud negotiating team, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

No Blue and White officials or negotiators are listed.

Officials from the president’s office later remove the cards for Levin and Elkin.

Raoul Wootliff

Seat arrangements at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019 (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

Analyst: Israel likely heading to 3rd elections in winter

Channel 12’s Amit Segal predicts that Israel is likely headed to a third national election in a single year.

Netanyahu is expected to pick up the nomination to form a government on Wednesday, he says. But the Likud leader is expected to return the mandate to Rivlin as soon as next week after failing to do so.

Rivlin, the analyst notes, does not, at that point, need to give Gantz a chance and could well inform the Knesset speaker that he found no candidate who could cobble together a coalition.

If 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers nominate another candidate to form a government, that candidate will be given a chance. But that’s unlikely, too, and Israel could be facing a third round of elections in January or February, he says.

Rivlin taps Netanyahu with forming coalition

President Reuven Rivlin taps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new coalition, for the second time in five months.

The move comes after efforts to force a unity agreement with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz fail.

Rivlin says he made the decision after consulting with party leaders.

Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz received 61 nominations from MKs, says Rivlin. He therefore decided to pick Netanyahu (55 votes) as he was better poised to form a government than Gantz, who received 54 nominations, 10 of whom — the Arab politicians — have ruled out joining a Gantz-led coalition.

Under the law, Rivlin has seven days after receiving the results to name someone to form a government, but has opted to move ahead without delay.

Netanyahu will now have 28 days to form a government, with a possible two-week extension.

If all attempts fail, Rivlin can then assign the task to someone else. After that, if 61 lawmakers nominate another candidate, that politician will also be given a chance.

Otherwise: Israel heads to its third election in a year.

with AFP

Rivlin warns sides to compromise, or no government will be formed

Rivlin warns political parties must compromise or no government will be formed.

“It’s important to say, based on the results of the election and the fact that none of the MKs got 61 recommendations — therefore one person forming the government is not enough. There needs to be a situation created whereby the political dead end we are in is opened. The responsibility on forming a government is on all of the MKs,” he says.

“As long as boycotts and disqualifying segments of the public exists, as long as there are personal boycotts, no government will be formed. And anyone that reads a newspaper knows what I am talking about. I therefore offered both candidates to form a joint, equal government.

“I also suggested changing the law so that the role of deputy PM will have more power so that the deputy will have full power in the case that the PM in unable to fulfill his role,” he says.

“The people don’t want another election.”

Accepting task, Netanyahu calls for unity government with Gantz

Taking the podium, Netanyahu says he can’t form a government without Gantz’s Blue and White.

“We won’t be able to form a government unless we do it together,” he says, renewing the call for a unity government.

Netanyahu urges “national reconciliation” and says a unity government must swiftly be formed for security reasons, economic reasons and the “one-time opportunity, which won’t return” of the Trump peace deal.

“The nation needs to be united and prepared,” says Netanyahu.


Netanyahu calls for ‘joint leadership’ in broad unity government

Netanyahu says “joint leadership” is possible, indicating he’s open to a rotation agreement with Gantz.

But he stresses such a “wide unity government” must be quickly formed, or “it will probably only be formed as a last resort.”

There is no point in dragging out the process, he says.

Netanyahu says he’ll give back the mandate to the president if he fails to form a government.

President’s electoral reform could see PM step aside to fight charges, then return

Rivlin’s proposal for electoral reform would give more powers to an acting prime minister, should a sitting premier need to temporarily recuse himself.

The current law also limits such a period to 100 days, which Rivlin proposes extending.

The bid comes as Netanyahu is expected to face criminal indictment, and appears designed to permit him to step aside to fight the charges, to be replaced by Gantz, and then return as PM.

But Blue and White rejects such a prospect.

“Blue and White will not sit in a government whose leader is under indictment,” Benny Gantz says. “This issue, along with other essential issues, are more important to us than any discussion on distributing ministerial portfolios or a rotation [of the premiership.]”

Gantz: We still back unity gov’t, but Likud can’t hinge it on right-wing bloc

Gantz also says Netanyahu’s insistence on negotiating on behalf of the 55-seat bloc of right-wing and religious parties, rather than just Likud, doomed the unity talks.

“Blue and White is committed to the idea of unity, but from our perspective, the appropriate order would see negotiations between the two largest parties — and them alone — in order to reach agreements on the substantive issues and the character of the next government.”

TV: West Bank-based Islamic Jihad cells building rockets

Islamic Jihad terrorists are trying to build rockets in the heart of the West Bank, threatening to fire the projectiles at cities in central Israel, Channel 12 says.

The TV network shows photographs of makeshift rockets assembled in Tulkarem.

The rockets produced by these cells are currently amateurish, but could be improved over time, it notes.

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