The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
President Reuven Rivlin issues a remarkably strongly worded statement after the cabinet approves a bill to equip party representatives with cameras at polling stations.
“I support the members of the Central Elections Committee led by Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Hanan Melcer and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in the face of baseless and irresponsible political attacks they are experiencing,” he says.
“I reject with disgust the attempts to erode public trust in these bodies and institutions.”
Melcer and Mandelblit have been under attack from the right for their opposition to the bill, which they have warned could undermine the fairness and legitimacy of the September 17 election.
“We must not defame the best of our public servants, who defend Israeli democracy and safeguard as much as possible the integrity of the elections.”
Turkish and US troops are conducting their first joint ground patrol in northeastern Syria as part of a planned so-called safe zone that Ankara has been pressing for in the volatile region.
Turkey hopes the buffer zone, which it says should be at least 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep, will keep Syrian Kurdish fighters, considered a threat by Turkey but US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, away from its border.
A startled Afghan government says it believes US-Taliban negotiations on ending America’s longest war will not continue “at this stage” after US President Donald Trump said he canceled a secret weekend meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghan leaders and called off talks with the insurgent group.
Trump in a series of tweets cited a bombing in the past week in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a US soldier.
Trump’s announcement Saturday evening was surprising because it would mean that the president had been ready to host members of the Taliban at the presidential retreat in Maryland just days before the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. More than 2,400 US troops have been killed since the US invaded Afghanistan to go after the Taliban, which were harboring al-Qaeda leaders responsible for 9/11.
Reactions are coming in thick and fast to the cabinet’s decision to approve the so-called camera bill for readings at the Knesset plenum.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz warns, “Whoever sows doubt in the most basic democratic process is not fit to lead the country.”
He adds: “Netanyahu seeks to delegitimize the future results of the election, and is laying the groundwork for chaos on election day and its aftermath.”
MK Ofer Shelah of Blue and White says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “doesn’t want clean elections. He wants to besmirch and undermine the status of the attorney general and the entire election process.”
The Democratic Camp accuses Likud of passing a proposal “to steal the election.” It adds that this is unsurprising “in a cabinet composed of sellouts… who bow to the whims of the corrupt” Netanyahu.
“He’ll be out soon, and you’ll need to look yourselves in the mirror,” it warns cabinet members.
It vows to fight the decision with all its power.
Amir Peretz, head of Labor-Gesher, says the alliance will appeal to the High Court of Justice to overturn the so-called camera bill if it is approved by the Knesset and becomes law.
MK Itzik Shmuli of Labor accuses the prime minister of attempting to “assassinate” democracy, and says he is preparing the ground to “blow up the elections” if he is unhappy with their results.
“We are on the edge of a precipice,” he adds.
Iran’s atomic agency chief hits out at European powers, saying their broken promises gave the Islamic Republic little choice but to scale back its commitments under a nuclear deal.
Ali Akbar Salehi speaks to reporters alongside Cornel Feruta, the acting head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who is on a one-day visit to Tehran.
“The European Union was supposed to be the replacement of the US but, unfortunately, they failed to act on their promises,” Salehi says in comments aired on state television.
“We heard the EU spokesperson say they would be committed to the JCPOA as long as Iran is,” he says, referring to the deal by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “I am wondering. Are they committed to non-adherence? Are they committed to breaking promises? Unfortunately, the Europeans have done this so far.”
Yamina head Ayelet Shaked says the camera bill is “Likud campaigning.”
Speaking to the Walla news site, Shaked says: “I understand [CEC head Hanan] Melcer wants to place 3,000 inspectors with cameras and that’s good.”
She adds that “the whole legislation thing is Likud campaigning.”
Channel 12 news reports on the government’s slapdash effort to get the so-called camera bill passed in the Knesset by Wednesday, so that it can be implemented in time for next week’s election.
A first reading of the bill is expected Monday, with committee hearings held Tuesday and the final two readings sought for the following day.
In light of the tight schedule, coalition MKs have been instructed they will need to be present at the Knesset every day, all day. until the bill is passed.
More from Ayelet Shaked on the camera bill:
The former justice minister says the principle of placing cameras at polling stations is “an important and good” one, but notes that the attorney general has warned against a “hasty” process to approve such a law.
She says the way to stop cases of voter fraud is to bring inspectors with cameras to voting locations; Likud wants to allow party operatives, rather than official inspectors, to wield cameras.
A young Israeli man is detained in a community outside the Gaza Strip after telling his mother the he planned to cross the security fence and enter the Palestinian enclave, according to police.
The man, who reportedly suffers from psychological problems, is picked up in the community of Netiv Ha’asara, just north of Gaza.
He has been taken to a nearby police station for questioning, a police spokesperson says.
— Judah Ari Gross
A group of Israelis say they were attacked by Arabs in Warsaw due to their nationality.
The Israelis, law students participating in an exchange program, say they were outside a club in the Polish capital when Arab speakers approached them and asked if they were Israelis. When they answered in the affirmative they were beaten and had to be hospitalized.
Barak Kashpizky, the brother of one of the victims, expresses anger at the Foreign Ministry in a Facebook post for failing to help the Israelis in the aftermath of the attack.
זה יותם אחי התאום. הוא הותקף בוורשה על רק לאומני. יותם הוא סטודנט למשפטים שנסע כחלק ממשלחת של סטודנטים, לסמסטר קיץ…
Iran says that oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 has arrived at its destination and the oil on board has been sold, Reuters reports.
Officials did not provide further details, but the tanker was seen off the Syrian coast yesterday.
The ship was held for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion that it was set to deliver oil from Iran to its main Arab ally Syria in a violation of European Union sanctions.
Gibraltar released the ship, formerly called the Grace 1, on August 18 over US protests after receiving written assurances from Tehran that the vessel would not head to countries sanctioned by the European Union.
Former Likud stalwart Dan Meridor attacks the party for seeking to hastily pass the camera bill ahead of next week’s election.
Meridor, a former justice minister and finance minister, tells Radio 103FM that Likud “is losing its way and its integrity.”
He says the legislation disrespects the attorney general, who has vehemently opposed it.
“Today’s Likud is the exact opposite of what it always was: It was a stately party that maintained the rule of law, and today it is doing the opposite.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again accuses his election rivals in the Blue and White party of seeking to “steal the elections.”
He says he does not understand “how those who talk about the rule of law do not support our demand for cameras.”
He once again claims, without evidence, that without voter fraud in the last election his party bloc could have won 61 seats and prevented this month’s do-over.
“We want to ensure the purity of elections, it’s the lifeline of democracy, it’s the lifeline of the rule of law, and so this resistance cannot be understood,” he says, unless it is due to a desire by Blue and White to win through fraud.
— with Raoul Wootliff
The Taliban says the US “will be harmed more than anyone” but leaves the door open for future negotiations after US President Donald Trump abruptly announces that he has called off year-long talks to end America’s longest war.
“We still… believe that the American side will come back to this position… Our fight for the past 18 years should have proven to the Americans that we will not be satisfied until we witness the complete end of the occupation,” the group says in a statement released on Twitter by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
The statement says the insurgents had “finalized” a deal with the US that had been expected to allow Washington to begin withdrawing troops in exchange for security promises from the Taliban.
Bassam Saih, a member of a Hamas terror cell that killed an Israeli couple in a West Bank shooting attack in October 2015, has died, authorities say.
The 46-year-old Saih died at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, south of Tel Aviv. He suffered from a chronic heart condition.
Eitam and Naama Henkin were killed while driving home with their four young children, when the five-member squad ambushed their vehicle between the settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh.
The parents were fatally shot in front of their children, who survived the attack unharmed.
The Foreign Ministry says it is being forced to freeze most of its diplomatic activities worldwide due to a lack of funds.
The instruction was given by the Finance Ministry’s accountant general due to the significant deficit in the ministry’s budget.
“The main effect is that during this sensitive time, when faced with diplomatic and strategic challenges, first and foremost among them the threat by Iran and its proxies — and on the eve of a UN Security Council summit — the Foreign Ministry and its missions abroad will be almost entirely paralyzed,” the ministry says.
The ministry calls the Finance Ministry’ move “unprecedented.” While it acknowledges a serious deficit, it says it is a result of under-funding against which it has warned “time and again.”
The ministry says Foreign Minister Israel Katz is working to solve the crisis.
— with Raphal Ahren
A US-based Jewish foundation has held an event in Warsaw to honor Polish gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, with US and Israeli diplomats also paying their respects to the elderly Poles who put their lives in danger decades ago to save others.
The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous pays monthly stipends to the rescuers in Eastern Europe, who are now in their 80s and 90s and living on small pensions.
The event today, a luncheon, is an additional gesture of gratitude, something the foundation has done for years in Warsaw — the only place in Eastern Europe where there is a large enough number of rescuers to bring together.
All of the rescuers have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.
Yitzhak Rabin’s granddaughter has clashed on Twitter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netyanyahu’s son Yair, calling him “filth” and saying his late celebrated uncle would be ashamed of him.
Noa Rothman, a member of the Democratic Camp party, appeared on Channel 12’s “Five with Rafi Reshef” to censure the younger Netanyahu’s claims yesterday that Rabin “murdered Holocaust survivors on the Altalena,” saying “all his words were lies.”
Responding to the broadcast, Netanyahu tweeted: “How nice, ‘Uncle Arafat’s’ niece in an emotional reunion with Rafi Reshef, brother of the founder of Peace Now Tzali Reshef on Channel ‘Al Jazeera’ 12.”
Shortly after Rabin’s assassination, Rothman referred to Arafat as being akin to an uncle when he came to pay condolences to the family.
Responding on Twitter, Rothman wrote: “Are you listening, you filth? It’s lucky your real uncle [Yoni Netanyahu] didn’t know you. He’d surely be ashamed.”
The Israeli military launches a large-scale exercise simulating war against Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian forces in the north of the country.
The drill, known in Hebrew as Even HaRosha, or Keystone, will largely be focused on the performance of senior officers and their staffs, rather than on fighting tactics and maneuvers, the army says.
“The goal of the exercise is improving the performance of the [IDF] General Staff and the various headquarters in war,” the IDF says in a statement.
The command units of the army’s air force, navy, ground forces, intelligence, logistics, communications and cyber units will participate in the exercise.
— Juda Ari Gross
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has not decided whether he will defend the camera bill in court, should it pass and face petitions at the High Court of Justice, justice officials tell Channel 12.
Mandelblit is opposed to the last-minute legislation blitz by Likud which seeks to allow party activists to film voters at polling stations in order to prevent fraud.
The attorney general’s objection is based on the Central Elections Committee’s position that trying to enact such policies at the last minute will cause chaos and may undermine the legitimacy of the election.
An Egyptian delegation of security officials is in the Gaza Strip today for talks with the leadership of Hamas and other Palestinian factions on maintaining calm with Israel, Haaretz reports.
The meeting is taking place following recent rocket attacks and border skirmishes.
Hamas officials tell the newspaper they know Israeli leaders want quiet ahead of next week’s election. But in response, they say, they want further moves by Israel to ease the situation and improve conditions in the territory.
IDF troops arrest two Palestinians who crossed the Gaza border fence, the army says.
The two were found carrying a knife, wire cutters and fire-starting tools. They were taken for questioning.
Channel 12 news quotes unnamed associates of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who say the bid to pass the so-called camera bill, and the attacks on the attorney general tied to it, are part of a larger attempt to delegitimize the attorney general as he prepares to possibly indict Netanyahu in three criminal cases.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is intentionally directing the fire and [seeking] conflict with the attorney general to establish his claims [against Mandelblit] ahead of the hearing [in Netanyahu’s cases] and discussions of an immunity law,” the associates say.
“They will claim Mandelblit is once again acting against Netanyahu and working to bring him down through any means.”
They add: “It’s obvious the prime minister is trying to push him into a corner. There is not for a second any thought of giving in.”
And they stress: “If someone is dreaming of the attorney general resigning, that’s not going to happen.”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says Netanyahu is inventing the issue of election fraud to cover for his failures.
“Don’t believe the fake news from Netanyahu,” he says. “To cover his off-key [in Hebrew also “fake”] response to Hamas and rocket attacks…he’s inventing election fakery.”
The body of a former Hezbollah official has been found in his Beirut home, the Lebanese National News Agency reports.
Authorities have opened an investigation into the death of Ali Hatoum, the reports says.
Miriam and Sheldon Adelson told police that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara was not mentally sound, Channel 13 reports.
The alleged comments from the billionaire owners of the Israel Hayom paper come from leaked transcripts from the graft probe into Netanyahu.
According to the transcripts Sheldon Adelson told investigators Sara “is absolutely crazy. She is obsessed with her pictures and how she looks.”
For her part, Miriam Adelson supposedly told investigators that she pitied the prime minister’s wife. “Bibi is smart. She [Sara] is just not well. As a doctor, I have compassion for unhealthy people.”
Iran hints it could release “within days” a UK-flagged oil tanker it seized in July in sensitive Gulf waters amid rising hostilities with Britain’s ally the United States.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tells state television that the “necessary steps” to set the Swedish-owned ship free are “underway.”
“The final steps of the legal procedure are underway and, God willing, the boat will be released in the coming days,” he says, without giving further details.
The seizure of the Stena Impero was seen as a tit-for-tat move after British authorities detained an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar in July on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
Further reports in Arabic press suggest Ali Hatoum was found shot in the head, though it is not clear whether he committed suicide or was murdered.
Hatoum was formerly a regional commander in the Beirut region, but had not been in a senior position for several years.
Incoming rocket sirens sound in southern Israel, sending hundreds of residents running to bomb shelters.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The sirens are triggered in the Eshkol region of southern Israel.
— Judah Ari Gross
The projectiles fired at southern Israel appear to have landed inside the Gaza Strip, according to local government officials.
The launches triggered sirens in open fields in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, not inside Israeli communities.
“A failed launch was spotted from the Gaza Strip. It did not cross into Israeli territory,” the army says.
— Judah Ari Gross
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