The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s government says it is putting down a small coup attempt by military “traitors” working with right-wing opponents.
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez’s comments on Twitter come after opposition leader Juan Guaido calls for a military uprising in a video that shows him surrounded by heavily armed soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo Lopez at a Caracas air base.
Guaido says soldiers who had taken to the streets were protecting Venezuela’s constitution. He makes the comments a day before a planned anti-government rally.
“The moment is now,” he says.
En el marco de nuestra constitución. Y por el cese definitivo de la usurpación. https://t.co/3RD2bnQhxt
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) April 30, 2019
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calls on Iranian workers Tuesday to boost non-oil exports and import substitution, telling them they were “on the front line” against America and its tightening sanctions.
Last year, US President Donald Trump reimposed crippling US sanctions after abandoning a landmark nuclear agreement between major powers and Iran.
Last week, his administration announced that from Thursday it would end oil purchase waivers granted to Iran’s main customers including China, India and Turkey.
The move has piled new pressure on Iran’s reeling economy that the International Monetary Fund was already projecting would shrink by 6.0 percent this year.
Addressing workers in a south Tehran sports complex on the eve of May Day, Rouhani says that boosting Iran’s manufacturing output was vital to shore up the value of the rial.
“Whenever you go for self-sufficiency, you have increased the national currency’s value and the more you can increase production for exports, you have increased our foreign currency revenue,” Rouhani says in the speech broadcast live on state television.
“America’s purpose in cutting oil exports is to reduce our foreign currency revenue and the way to counter it is through the production and export of non-oil goods,” he adds.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a US F-35 fighter aircraft program that excludes Turkey would be “doomed to a total collapse.”
Erdogan makes the comments today at a defense industry fair amid warnings from Washington that Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system will jeopardize Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.
The issue has deepened a rift between the NATO allies. Washington says the S-400 would pose a threat to the F-35 program; Turkey rejects the claim and wants a joint committee to review the possible risks.
Erdogan says: “Turkey does not accept any impositions in the defense field, nor will it” in the future.
He says Turkey has taken steps to produce its own fighter plane and is also planning to build unmanned fighter planes.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia after Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad tells Voice of Palestine, the official PA radio station.
Eid al-Fitr will take place at the beginning of June.
Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, has said the White House will publicize a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after Ramadan.
— Adam Rasgon
Hours before the swearing-in ceremony for the 21st Knesset, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman says his party could sit in the opposition if his policy demands are not met by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
“Everyone agrees that we need to establish a right wing national government as soon. As possible. No one has strength for another election,” he says in his party’s first press conference of the new parliament.
“But we will not give in on the the demands we have made,” he stresses, reiterating that his party would not join a coalition led by Netanyahu unless his demands are met on security, immigration, and religion and state issues, in a government likely to be dominated by the religious right.
Liberman says that his number one priority was setting the state pension and disability benefits at 3,800 NIS ($1,050) per month, 70 percent of the current minimum wage. But he admits that his party’s position on religion and state issues presented a bigger obstacle.
“There are many obstacles. Many, many obstacles,” he says.
Liberman, whose base of supporters is largely made up of secular immigrants from the former Soviet Union, campaigned on opposing “religious coercion,” and supports public transportation and allowing mini-markets to remain open on Shabbat, in addition to ending the Chief Rabbinate’s control over marriage and divorce, and passing the enlistment bill.
“We support and want a Jewish state but we oppose and will not accept religious coercion,” he says.
— Raoul Wootliff
Union of Right-Wing Parties leader Rafi Peretz has acceded to his deputy Bezalel Smotrich’s demand that the national religious faction make support for the so-called immunity bill a condition for joining the next government, the Walla news site reports.
According to Walla, Peretz was initially wary of placing backing for the immunity law among URWP’s coalition demands, putting him at odds with Smotrich.
Smotrich has been the most vocal supporter of the immunity bill, which he says could ensure a Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-led government can serve out its term even if the premier is indicted on corruption charges.
URWP is an alliance of Peretz’s Jewish Home party, Smotrich’s National Union and the extremist Otzma Yehudit that was formed ahead of national elections earlier this month.
In Blue and White’s first faction meeting of the new Knesset, Benny Gantz says his centrist party will work to block any effort to shield lawmakers suspected of criminality from prosecution.
“We won’t allow the Knesset to become a city of refuge for lawbreakers,” Gantz says, hours before the 21st Knesset is sworn in.
Gantz’s comments appear to refer to calls by some right-wing MKs for legislation that would grant lawmakers immunity. The push is seen as an effort to prevent the indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom the attorney general has said he will charge in a series of corruption cases pending a hearing.
Also during the faction meeting, Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid again rules out joining a unity government with Netanyahu’s Likud.
KIEV, Ukraine — Election authorities in Ukraine have officially named TV star and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy as the country’s new president.
The Central Election Commission on Tuesday presents the official results of the April 21 vote, showing Zelenskiy beat incumbent President Petro Poroshenko by winning 73% of the vote.
Zelenskiy, who is Jewish, has criticized election authorities for dragging their feet on naming him the official winner, which reduces his chances of disbanding the parliament. Zelenskiy will be able to call an early election in the parliament, which is currently dominated by the allies of the outgoing president, only if he is sworn in before May 27.
The parliament now has a month to set the date for the inauguration ceremony.
Likud MKs unanimously approve incumbent Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to continue in the position for a third term.
“I thank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Likud faction who unanimously approved my candidacy for the Knesset. I am certain that members of the Likud faction will lead the 21st Knesset with honor and success,” Edelstein says after the vote.
“I am pleased you are continuing,” Netanyahu says shortly afterwards.
Netanyahu’s support of Edelstein comes despite some tension between the two. During February’s Likud party primaries, Netanyahu declined to endorse Edelstein in his recommendations to voters, with some reports suggesting the prime minister feared the Knesset speaker would not toe the line.
Edelstein went on to finish first in the primaries, making him No. 2 on Likud’s electoral slate after Netanyahu.
— Raoul Wootliff
The pomp and circumstance begins at the Knesset as President Reuven Rivlin makes his entrance to the Knesset grounds, accompanied by an honor guard on horseback and the IDF military band.
He is greeted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who was approved minutes earlier by his Likud party to remain in the role for third term, and students from grades one to three of the Jerusalem elementary school Paula Ben Gurion.
The president will place a wreath on the Knesset’s monument for fallen soldiers before meeting privately with Edelstein. The two will then lead the 120 MKs to the Knesset plenum for their first official session.
— Raoul Wootliff
The president places a wreath on the Knesset’s monument for fallen soldiers before meeting privately with the incumbent and likely-to-be-reelected Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Rivlin then signs the first entry in a new “President’s visitors book” welcoming the new lawmakers before he and Edelstein lead the 120 MKs to the Knesset plenum for their first official session.
— Raoul Wootliff
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump is considering placing the Muslim Brotherhood on a US blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations, the White House says Tuesday.
The Brotherhood, an Islamist movement with support across the Middle East, was designated a terrorist organization in Egypt following the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
“The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” says White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Placing the Muslim Brotherhood on a terrorism blacklist would allow US officials to impose sanctions on any person or organization with links to it.
The move comes three weeks after Trump hosted Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose government has been criticized for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as Islamists close to the Muslim Brotherhood.
During their White House talks, Trump praised Sissi for “doing a great job,” saying the United States and Egypt had “never had a better relationship.”
Egypt is one of the biggest US strategic partners — an Arab country that made peace with top US ally Israel 40 years ago and a major recipient of American aid.
President Reuven Rivlin addresses lawmakers at the beginning of the swearing-in ceremony for the 21st Knesset, issuing a call for unity following a contentious election campaign.
“We have disparaged and been disparaged. We have distorted. We have worked overtime in the service of delegitimization, hatred and execration. Now, it’s over. Enough. Time to climb up. To put down the cudgels of elections and to clean up the mess,” he says in a speech at the Knesset plenum.
“Political considerations can no longer be the only guide. This is not only what is expected of you, it is what every citizen of Israel demands and requires of you, our leaders, every member of this house,” he adds.
In a message to opposition-bound MKs, Rivlin hails Israel’s democracy and says “the people are never wrong.”
“The right to serve the people from the opposition is the proof of loyalty to democracy, it is the obligation to criticize and to scrutinize, and it is the challenge and the responsibility to persuade,” he says.
Turning to prospective members of the next government, which is almost surely to be led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president calls for them not to be poor winners.
“One should lose gracefully and one should win gracefully. You are not in the opposition. You have held the keys of power and leadership for a long time. As such, your responsibility is to let up on eliminating your opponents, to let up on the feeling of being the victim, and to govern all the citizens and communities who live here with respect and with love,” Rivlin says.
Opening the 21st Knesset, President Rivlin issues a call for unity in Israeli society following an election campaign filled with allegations of incitement by right-wing parties against Arab Israelis.
“Now is the time to fight for our common home where secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox, Jews and Arabs — yes, they are called Arabs and there is nothing wrong with saying it — right and left, can find themselves equal,” he says in a speech.
“Let us remember, we were not doomed to live together, we were destined to live together,” Rivlin adds.
The president says lawmakers should pass a quasi-constitutional law during the next Knesset entitled “Basic Law: Legislation,” which he says would be a part of a future constitution, and calls for “an end to the dangerous clash between the legislature and the judiciary.”
“We must strengthen the separation of powers, particularly between the legislature and the judiciary, to maintain the dignity and the independence of each branch of government and to end the overlap and mutual erosion between them. You, members of the Knesset, are in a position to add another vital brick in the wall protecting Israeli democracy and to ensure that the State of Israel continues to flourish as a Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish state,” he says.
Israeli lawmakers take their oaths of office, officially marking the opening of the 21st Knesset.
“I pledge,” MKs stand up and say as their names are individually called.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon rejects merging his Kulanu party with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud in the wake of Knesset elections earlier this month.
“We’re independent, the party is independent and we will continue to be independent,” Kahlon says in a faction meeting ahead of the swearing in of the 21st Knesset.
Kahlon, an ex-Likud minister, calls on Israelis to ignore recent reports that he would return to his former party.
Kulanu won four seats in the April 9 elections, down from 10 it had in last the Knesset. A decision by Kahlon to return to the Likud fold would have made the ruling party the largest in this Knesset with 39 seats.
A Palestinian Authority court in Nablus has sentenced a Palestinian for “attempting to cut off a part of the Palestinian lands and [sell] it to a foreign state” to five years in prison, the PA High Judicial Council’s website reports, only identifying him by his initials M.Y.M.
The High Judicial Council report does not state to which foreign state the Palestinian tried to sell land.
— Adam Rasgon
Lawmakers overwhelmingly back incumbent Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein for a third term in the position.
Of the Knesset’s 120 members, 101 vote in favor of Edelstein’s candidacy, with four abstaining. Another 15 lawmakers do not vote.
“Thanks to the members of the 21st Knesset for your trust! A lot of work awaits us. Only together can we faithfully serve the citizens of Israel,” Edelstein writes on Twitter.
Labor lawmaker Shelly Yachimovich, and Hadash-Ta’al members Aida Touma-Sliman and Yousef Jabareen, miss the swearing-in ceremony for the 21st Knesset.
Yachimovich announced in advance she would miss the ceremony, according to the Ynet news site.
All of the lawmakers present from Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad, a pair of alliances of Arab parties, walk out of the plenum during the national anthem, Hatikva.
Israeli security forces arrested 18 far-right activists for violently protesting the demolition of an illegal outpost in the central West Bank, a Border Police spokesman says.
The troops had arrived at Maoz Esther adjacent to the Koshav Hashachar settlement in order to demolish five makeshift buildings that had been built on private Palestinian land, says a spokeswoman for the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body that authorizes West Bank construction.
A Border Police spokesman says that the majority of arrests were for assaulting officers and he added that a number of the primarily young activists hurled food at the troops as they pulled demonstrators away from the scene in order to bulldoze the buildings.
The Honenu legal aid organization representing the arrested activists — most of them not residents of the outpost — says the border cops used excessive force in detaining them.
— Jacob Magid
A balloon-borne incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip sparks a fire in southern Israel, the fire department says.
“A team of firefighters worked to put out a brushfire caused by a balloon in the Gaza area, near one of the kibbutzes,” a spokesperson for the department’s southern district says in a statement.
The blaze occurred outside Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. It was extinguished by a team of volunteers, the fire department says.
Throughout the day, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been launching balloons carrying incendiary devices into southern Israel in an apparent violation of an unofficial ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and terror groups in the enclave.
— Judah Ari Gross
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel hopes for peace with the Arab world despite the ongoing turmoil in the region.
“The Arab Spring has still not ended and the instability is not only in our region but throughout areas around us,” Netanyahu says in a speech at the opening of the 21st Knesset, referring to the series of anti-government uprisings that began in 2011.
Netanyahu says despite this, Israel is developing “new alliances” and hopes to develop ties with its neighbors.
The Israeli military deploys Iron Dome missile defense batteries throughout the country, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip late Monday night and ahead of what is expected to be a sensitive next few weeks.
Earlier in the day, the Israel Defense Forces accused the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad of firing the rocket, which landed several kilometers off the coast.
The military sees the coming weeks as particularly tense, as they will see the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the international Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days and the first anniversary of the opening of the contentious US Embassy in Jerusalem.
— Judah Ari Gross
AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France — French prosecutors urge an appeals court to approve the extradition of an Iranian engineer to the United States after his arrest for violating American sanctions against Tehran.
Jalal Rohollahnejad, 41, was detained at the Nice airport on February 2 after arriving from Tehran via Moscow, having obtained a French visa for professional reasons.
According to court officials, two US judges for the District of Columbia suspect Rohollahnejad was involved in a bid to export sensitive industrial equipment to Iran.
After pulling out of a landmark 2015 deal in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions, Washington re-imposed a wide-ranging trade embargo on the Islamic Republic.
The equipment, parts for industrial microwaves and anti-drone systems, was allegedly being transported clandestinely as part of an order destined for the United Arab Emirates.
Officials claim that with modifications, it could be used for making ultra-precise weapons.
Rohollahnejad is suspected of working on behalf of Iranian firm Rayan Roshd Afzar, which is thought to have links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
If convicted for his alleged actions, which took place between June 2016 and April 2018, Rohollahnejad could face up to 60 years behind bars.
At Tuesday’s hearing in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence, his lawyers deny the charges, saying they were simply part of Washington’s campaign to cut off Iran’s economic lifelines.
“Is it possible that the court has forgotten the situation between the US and Iran, two countries in a cold war?” says one lawyer, Jean-Yves Le Borgne.
But prosecutor Serge Bocoviz says the alleged charges dovetail with French law, meaning there is no legal obstacle to Rohollahnejad’s extradition.
The appeals court will issue its ruling on May 22.
Though he has yet to form a ruling majority needed to secure a fifth term in office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is already discussing the chance of a sixth candidacy as premier.
Speaking with reporters after the swearing-in of the 21st Knesset, Netanyahu says an additional term in office is up to Israeli voters.
“As long as the public wants me to continue to serve it and as long I am able to serve, I will continue to serve,” he says.
Asked if he would seek immunity or legislation to protect him from criminal charges in light of his legal woes to allow for such a possibility, Netanyahu evades the question.
Netanyahu, who holds the record for longest consecutive term as prime minister, is set to overtake founding father David Ben Gurion as Israel’s longest serving premier in July.
If Netanyahu is able to serve out the entirety of his next term, he would remain as prime minister until late 2023, when new elections must be scheduled.
A lawmaker who skipped the swearing-in ceremony for the 21st Knesset explains his absence from the plenum earlier today.
“I wasn’t eager to participate. I feel like a sort of foreigner to all the symbols [of state] there,” Hadash-Ta’al MK Yousef Jabareen tells the Kan public broadcaster.
Jabareen was one of three MKs to miss the ceremony, along with fellow Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Sliman and Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich.
“I preferred to stay in the north and take part in the party for Hapoal Umm al-Fahm’s promotion to the Israeli Premier League,” Jabareen says, referring to a soccer club in the northern Arab Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm.
Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Sliman says she wasn’t at the swearing-in ceremony for the new Knesset today due to a family gathering overseas planned ahead of time.
“And with this opportunity I swear allegiance to fight for civic and national equality for the Arab Palestinian minority; to resist the occupation and for peace that will only be achieved with the establishment of a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem,” Touma-Sliman writes on Twitter.
COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — The first black woman to serve as American University’s student government president is seeking more than $1.5 million in court-ordered damages against a neo-Nazi website operator who orchestrated an online harassment campaign against her.
In a court filing Monday, Taylor Dumpson’s attorneys asked a federal judge in Washington for a default judgment against The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin and a follower accused of racially harassing Dumpson on Twitter. Dumpson sued Anglin and the internet troll last April, but neither responded.
Dumpson seeks a total of more than $1.8 million in damages, fees and costs, including $1.5 million in punitive damages against Anglin and his company, Moonbase Holdings LLC.
Anglin didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Dumpson’s request.
Anglin’s website takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda in Nazi-era Germany, and includes sections called “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.” For months, the site struggled to stay online after Anglin published a post mocking the woman killed by a man who plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
Anglin also faces possible default judgments in two separate lawsuits filed by other targets of his online trolling campaigns, a Muslim-American radio host and a Jewish real estate agent in Montana.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Former Dutch queen Wilhelmina tried to broker a deal through the Vatican to help senior Nazis flee Europe in exchange for the release of Belgium’s King Leopold III, according to a report Tuesday.
The revelation, a sensitive one for a country still wrestling with the legacy of World War II, comes in the newly released diaries of her foreign minister Eelco van Kleffens, Trouw newspaper says.
The queen acted because she feared that Leopold III, who was being held by the Nazis in Austria, would be killed, according to the book “Your Majesty, You Do Not Know Real Life”.
Despite being “anti-papist and anti-German,” queen Wilhelmina asked van Kleffens in March 1945 to “sound out” a possible swap with senior Nazis.
But she was ready to do the deal to help a fellow member of a royal family, Trouw reports.
Wilhelmina was living in exile at the time following the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. She abdicated for health reasons in 1948 and died in 1962.
She decided to take action after a conversation with the Belgian Queen Mother Elisabeth in Brussels who feared that her son and his family would be “liquidated,” Trouw reports.
The Belgian royal family was eventually freed by US troops in May 1945.
Some Belgians opposed Leopold III’s return home after he was accused of pro-German sympathies. He moved to Switzerland after the war and abdicated in favor of his son Baudouin in 1951.
Freshly sworn in Likud MK Nir Barkat requests from the Knesset Accountant to only receive a salary of one shekel per year, as he did during his 10-year tenure as mayor of Jerusalem.
Knesset members currently receive a monthly salary of just under NIS 40,000 ($11,010).
“For me it is a great privilege to serve the public without receiving compensation,” Barkat writes in a letter.
With his swearing-in today, Barkat officially became Israel’s wealthiest lawmaker, with Forbes putting his estimated worth at NIS 500 million ($138,458 million).
Before entering Jerusalem municipal politics, Barkat founded an anti-virus firm with his brother that they later transformed into a successful investment fund in high-tech companies.
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicks off the company’s annual F8 developer conference Tuesday with more details about his new “privacy-focused” vision for the social network — including end-to-end encryption for Messenger conversations and secure WhatsApp statuses that only friends can see.
The new features are part of his strategy for batting away Facebook’s growing array of critics, emboldened regulators and competitors. Zuckerberg acknowledges the skepticism of the company during his keynote.
“Look, I get that a lot of people aren’t sure that we are serious about this,” he says to laughter from the crowd. “We are committed to doing this well and to starting a new chapter for our products.”
Zuckerberg and his lieutenant, Sheryl Sandberg, have apologized repeatedly over the past year for Facebook’s ever-expanding list of mishaps over privacy, data misuse and security problems. Last week, the company said it is setting aside $3 billion to cover a possible fine from the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations. Facebook has suffered hacks, allowed hate speech and live-streamed mass-shooting horror.
Amid all that, Zuckerberg is focusing Facebook’s future by emphasizing private messaging and Facebook’s role in “communities.”
A redesigned Facebook app and desktop version of the site puts private groups in the center of the page. More than 400 million users are in groups — or Facebook pages meant to bring people with similar ideas together. The redesign is structured to make it as easy to connect with groups as with individual friends, Zuckerberg says.
The redesigned mobile app is live for US users today, and the desktop version is coming later this year.