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Likud and Blue and White said to draw close to rotation deal

Report describes emerging agreement that would see Netanyahu serve as PM first for one year and then resign, allowing Gantz to take the reins for two years

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset on November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers seen during a raid in the village of Shuweika, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, October 20, 2018. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s news as it unfolded.

Palestinian reported killed in clash with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank

A Palestinian man is killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the town of al-Arroub, north of Hebron in the West Bank, according to Palestinian reports.

There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

Russia decries Israeli court decision to uphold hacker’s extradition

Russia expresses its displeasure at the decision by the Israeli High Court to uphold the extradition of a Russian hacker.

“We regret the decision of Israeli’s High Court of Justice to turn down Mr. Burkov’s appeal on his extradition to US,” the Russian embassy in Israel says in a brief statement posted to Twitter.

“This decision constitutes a breach of his rights as well as Israel’s international obligations,” it added. “This step does not contribute to the development of Russian-Israeli relations.”

The High Court last Thursday rejected a petition from Aleksey Burkov against his extradition, green-lighting his deportation to the United States against Moscow’s wishes.

Burkov, who was arrested in 2015 at the request of Interpol, is wanted in the US on embezzlement charges over a massive credit card scheme that saw him allegedly steal millions of dollars from American consumers.

His fate is suspected of being linked to Russia’s sentencing last month of Israeli-American Naama Issachar, 26, to seven-and-a-half-years in prison for drug offenses.

Israeli officials have decried the sentence as disproportionate and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for her release.

Peretz says Labor would join minority coalition under Gantz

Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz says his party is willing to join a minority government headed by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in order to prevent third elections.

“The time is coming where the country needs to decide where we are all headed. We are going with Benny Gantz whether it is a broad government or a minority government,” Peretz tells his Labor faction meeting in the Knesset.

“We vehemently oppose the formation of a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and so we support any other government headed by Benny Gantz,” he adds.

Peretz says that the Labor and Blue and White negotiating teams have made “significant progress” on a number of issues including raising the minimum wage and forming a committee to deal with housing prices.

“The negotiators are moving forward,” Peretz says.

Raoul Wootliff

Former Ashkelon mayor convicted of taking bribes

Itamar Shimoni, the former mayor of Ashkelon, is convicted of bribery, breach of trust and money laundering, but is found not guilty of swaying media coverage in his favor.

Shimoni was initially charged also with sex crimes, but those charges were later dropped.

The conviction comes a week after police arrested more than a dozen employees of local municipalities, including the mayor of the northern city of Kiryat Ata, Yaakov Peretz, and Tel Mond Council Head Shmuel Siso, for their suspected roles in a wide-ranging kickback scheme.

Mayor of Ashkelon Itamar Shimoni arrives at the Tel Aviv District Court on February 14, 2017. (Flash90)

Palestinian allegedly shot dead by IDF identified as 22-year-old man

Palestinian medical sources identify the man allegedly shot dead by Israeli forces as 22-year-old Omar al-Badawi.

They say he was hit in the chest with live fire before being taken to Ahali hospital in the nearby city of Hebron, where he was pronounced dead.

with AFP

Gantz says he’s willing to compromise for sake of unity government

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says his party is willing to compromise on its demands if that will avert a third election in under a year.

At a faction meeting in the Knesset, he says he will sit down with Avigdor Liberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, tomorrow, to discuss the terms for a national unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“As you know, MK Avigdor Liberman approached me and asked to meet to discuss the outline he proposed to establish a unity government,” Gantz says.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz addresses members of his faction during a meeting in the Knesset on November 11, 2019 (Elad Malka)

“First of all, I congratulate him on the very initiative aimed at preventing unnecessary, costly elections for the third time in a year. We have agreed to meet tomorrow and discuss his proposal, with the aim of moving toward a unity government, as the public wants.

“We will hear Liberman, we will consider certain compromises as long as they correlate with our worldview and serve the State of Israel,” Gantz adds.

“We want to work for a broad government to express the will of the majority. A government that will also respect and serve the minorities — everyone.”

Gantz also addresses Netanyahu, saying, “For almost a month now, you have been refusing to discuss the essential issues that are plaguing Israeli citizens.

“Send your negotiating teams and let’s finally establish direct, genuine and honest negotiations between Likud and Blue and White. This is the order of the day.”

“Let’s talk about what interests Israeli citizens — and not just what interests you,” he continues. “This is the time, this is the expectation of Israeli citizens of both of us. And they won’t forgive us if we don’t.”

Raoul Wootliff

Liberman: If they have to, Gantz and Netanyahu can ‘flip a coin’

Liberman, addressing a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party, suggests that Netanyahu and Gantz should flip a coin if they cannot come to an agreement on the terms of a national unity government.

“What’s standing between a unity government and a third round [of elections] is a decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to separate from his ultra-Orthodox-messianic bloc and a decision by Benny Gantz to accept the president’s proposal,” he says.

Liberman also notes that Yisrael Beytenu was merely acting as chaperone and would vote for a unity government even if it does not include his party.

Egypt says it’s unearthed large animal mummy, likely a lion

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities says local archeologists have unearthed the mummy of an unusually large animal, most likely a lion or lioness.

The ministry says the mummy was excavated in Saqqara, a town south of Cairo that was a vast necropolis in antiquity and is home to the famed Step Pyramid.

Archeologists frequently find mummified cats but the recovery of a lion is rare. In 2004, the first lion skeleton was found, revealing the sacred status of the animal during ancient times.

The ministry says it will expand on the discovery at a press conference after running radar scans.

— AP

Netanyahu confidants blast Liberman

In a swift response to Liberman’s comments, Hebrew media quote a statement attributed to “Netayahu confidants” poking fun at the Yisrael Beytenu leader’s foreign birth and alluding to past corruption suspicions against him.

“Someone who suggests a coin toss forgets that he is not in a casino in Moldova or Vienna.”

Liberman was born in Moldova in 1958.

The mention of Vienna was presumably a reference to Austrian billionaire Martin Schlaff, from whom Liberman was at one time suspected of taking bribes.

Jordan’s king visits former Israeli enclave

Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrives at the northern Naharayim region, which until yesterday was an Israeli border enclave in his country.

Jordan assumed control of the territory, as well as the Tzofar enclave in the south, yesterday, terminating annexes in the landmark 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement.

Netanyahu’s lawyers say verdict in former mayor’s case helps PM

Netanyahu’s lawyers claim that the verdict in the case of the former mayor of Ashkelon weakens the state’s position in the most severe of the cases against the prime minister.

The former mayor, Itamar Shimoni, was cleared of taking bribes in the case of a local news site critical of the mayor that was bought by a local contractor and then promptly closed.

Netanyahu’s lawyers argue that Shimoni’s verdict is relevant to Case 4000, in which the prime minister is suspected of advancing regulatory decisions that greatly enriched the owner of the Bezeq telecom giant in exchange for positive coverage on a news site that was part of the same group.

Netanyahu is suspected of taking bribes in that case, along with breach of trust and fraud.

Abbas boasts he has ‘slapped’ US in the face

The Palestinian president says he has “slapped” the US administration in the face by rejecting President Donald Trump’s promised peace plan.

In a speech, Mahmoud Abbas derisively refers to the US peace plan, known as the “Deal of the Century,” as the “Slap of the Century.”

“They tried to give us the slap of the century, but we slapped them in the face,” he says during a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death.

Trump has not yet released the plan or said when it will be released. But Abbas has preemptively rejected it, accusing the White House of being unfairly biased toward Israel.

AP

Video seems to show Palestinian shot dead was not clashing with IDF

Video from the scene of the clash where a Palestinian was apparently shot dead by an Israeli soldier earlier this day appears to show that he was unarmed and was not involved in the violence.

According to Ynet reporter Elior Levy, the man, Omar al-Badawi, was emerging from his apartment after it caught fire.

“Someone yells to him and urges him to bring water to put out the fire,” Levy says. “He emerges, is shot and injured and [later in the hospital] dies.”

Jordan says Israel refused to sell land in enclave to Jordan

Jordan’s foreign minister says that his country canceled annexes to its peace treaty with Israel, taking control of two enclaves, after Israel refused to sell to Jordan the parts of the enclave that are privately owned by Israelis.

“During the consultations with Israel, we offered to buy the land, if they want to sell it. They said they do not want to sell it. Therefore, there was no sale,” Safadi says during a press conference.

He goes on to point out that the Jordan-Israel peace deal didn’t refer to a lease but rather only to special arrangements for Israelis to enter land as well as others regarding taxes

“There is nothing that exists that is called ‘a lease,'” he says. “There were no leased lands.”

Safadai also reiterates his country’s commitment to its 1994 peace deal with Israel.

— with Adam Rasgon

Three deadly bombings hit main Kurdish city in Syria

Three simultaneous bombings rock a market in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria Monday, killing at least six civilians, according to a Kurdish security source and a Britain-based monitor.

An AFP correspondent sees charred cars and smoke rise from the site of the blasts, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor says were caused by two car bombings and an explosives-rigged motorcycle.

AFP

Jordan’s king says ‘sovereignty over land’ trumps other considerations

The king of Jordan weighs in on the return to his country of territories long leased by Israel.

“Jordan’s sovereignty over its land is above any consideration,” King Abdullah writes on Twitter.

— Adam Rasgon

EU labors to keep nuclear deal alive after new Iran moves

European Union foreign ministers affirm their support for the nuclear deal with Iran, after the Islamic Republic began enrichment work at its Fordo site in a fresh act of defiance that seems likely to spell the end of the painstakingly crafted international agreement.

At talks in Brussels, the ministers mull what action to take as they await a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency later today on whether Iran is still complying with its commitments.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says that the ministers underlined their “full commitment to the agreement that remains crucial for our security, even if it’s increasingly difficult to preserve it. We will continue our efforts to have a full implementation of the agreement.”

The EU powers that signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — Britain, France and Germany — are due to hold talks later today in Paris to discuss the next steps once the UN’s nuclear watchdog issues its latest findings.

A joint commission meeting of all the signatories is likely to be held in the coming days.

“We want to preserve the (deal), but Iran must finally return to its commitments and comply with them, otherwise we will reserve the right to use all mechanisms that are set out in the agreement,” says German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

AP

IDF opens investigation into killing of Palestinian in clashes

The Israel Defense Forces opens an investigation into the deadly shooting earlier today of a Palestinian man during clashes with soldiers in the West Bank refugee camp of al-Arroub.

Netanyahu says minority government would be a ‘slap in the face’ to IDF soldiers

Netanyahu takes aim at Gantz, saying the prospect of a minority government that is propped up by the Arab-majority Joint List would be a “slap in the face of IDF soldiers that we sent to battle together.”

Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff during the 2014 Gaza war, has not signaled willingness to establish such a government; nor has he denied reports that the option is on the table.

The prime minister, addressing a conference organized by the right-wing Makor Rishon newspaper, also says that such a government would be “a threat to Israel’s security.”

‘Uranium particles’ detected at undeclared site in Iran, IAEA says

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog says it has detected uranium particles at an undeclared site in Iran in its latest report on the country’s nuclear program.

The report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), seen by AFP, says: “The agency detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the agency.”

AFP

Atomic watchdog: Iran’s stockpiles of uranium still growing

In its confidential quarterly report, the UN atomic watchdog also says Iran’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium are still growing in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

It also says Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5%, above the 3.67% allowed.

The agency says as of November 3, Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium was 372.3 kilograms (820.78 pounds) compared to 241.6 kilograms reported on August 19, and past the 202.8 kilogram limit.

Since the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear pact last year and imposed sanctions, Iran has been slowly violating its provisions to pressure other nations to provide more incentives.

AP

IAEA confirms enrichment resumed in underground facility

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog report also confirms that Iran is now enriching uranium at its underground Fordo facility, a move prohibited by the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran invited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to Fordo to see its work.

The nuclear deal had called for Fordo to become a research center. It is now home to more than 1,000 centrifuges.

AP

UN envoy says ‘shocked’ by shooting death of Palestinian man

The United Nations’ envoy to the peace process expresses shock at the apparent killing of Omar al-Badawi, 22, earlier today by IDF soldiers during a clash in the al-Arroub refugee camp in the West Bank.

“Shocking to see the video today’s killing of Omar Badawi by #Israeli security forces in #Hebron in circumstances that would seem to indicate that he posed no threat to anyone,” Nickolay Mladenov tweets. “My deepest condolences to his family. Such acts must be thoroughly investigated.”

Hezbollah chief: Chance of US-Iran war down by 99%, Trump’s strategy failed

The likelihood of war between the US and Iran has decreased by 99 percent, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claims, though he says such a war was possible in recent months.

Nasrallah says regional actors had been preparing for such an eventuality but that it has become far less likely.

He credits “a change in the positions of some Gulf countries, in addition to the steadfastness of Iran after [US President Donald] Trump’s exit from the [2015] nuclear agreement.”

He adds that “strategic observers in America and Israel confirm that Trump’s strategy failed… The war on Iran is gone, Trump’s strategy has failed, and Iran has emerged strong.”

Nasrallah claims his terror group is at peak strength, and denies Israeli and American assertions it is trying to create a land corridor through which to smuggle Iranian missiles to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria.

“This is a false American claim. In truth, we have so many missiles here in Lebanon that we don’t know where to put them,” he says.

Israel says Expo 2020 in Dubai is a bridge to Arab world

Israel’s newly appointed commissioner to Expo 2020 says that next year’s world fair in Dubai offers the country a unique opportunity to present a fresh face to the Arab world, just as Israel is growing closer to the United Arab Emirates and other Arab Gulf states.

Elazar Cohen presents plans for the Israeli pavilion at the world’s largest exhibition, in which it aims to project its technological, scientific and agricultural innovations to the 25 million visitors expected to descend upon the glitzy city-state.

But Cohen says the true target audience is the Emirati hosts and the majority Arab visitors, whom he says would find great interest not only in Israeli technology but in its good intentions and outstretched hand.

“There is curiosity, mixed with concern, about this thing called Israel and we want to alleviate that concern,” he says in a briefing at the Foreign Ministry. “We want to project that Israel is an open country, that Israel is a democratic country, that Israel is a country that respects all its citizens, that everyone finds their place in it.”

His presentation, accompanied by a slick promotional video in English, Hebrew and Arabic, delivered by a prominent Arab-Israeli TV personality, comes a day after the Israeli government officially confirmed its participation in Expo 2020 and allotted a budget to its planned pavilion.

AP

In Poland, thousands join nationalist Independence Day march

Thousands of Poles join in a yearly Independence Day march organized by nationalist groups, an event that has grown over the past decade as the far right across Europe has strengthened and gained a degree of social acceptance.

Participants burn flares and shoot off firecrackers, creating a thick cloud of smoke in the national colors of white and red. There is no immediate police estimate for the size of this year’s march in Warsaw, but it appears by be smaller than in 2017 or 2018, when tens of thousands took part.

As participants march, a group of counter-protesters protected by police sing “Bella ciao,” an Italian anti-fascist resistance anthem, and chant “Warsaw free from fascism,” among other slogans.

AP

Tiny Mercury skips across sun’s vast glare in rare transit

Tiny Mercury is skipping across the vast, glaring face of the sun in a rare celestial transit.

Stargazers use solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury — a tiny black dot — as it passes directly between Earth and the sun.

The eastern US and Canada get the whole 5 ½-hour show, along with Central and South America. The rest of the world, except for Asia and Australia, gets just a sampling.

Mercury is the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet. The next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another shot until 2049.

At Cape Canaveral, Florida, space buffs got a two-for-one. As Mercury’s silhouette graces the sun, SpaceX launches 60 small satellites for global internet service.

This still image from video issued by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows Mercury as it passes between Earth and the sun on November 11, 2019. (NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory via AP)

State witness in Netanyahu case threatens to sue justice minister

Nir Hefetz, a former aide to Netanyahu who is a state witness in the cases against him, sends notice to Justice Minister Amir Ohana, warning him of his intent to take him to court for breaking a gag order and thus violating his privacy while describing alleged misdeeds by police.

Hefetz is a key witness in Case 4000, which involves suspicions the premier pushed regulations benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage from Bezeq’s Walla news site.

It is considered the most serious of the three graft cases facing Netanyahu.

At the Knesset last week, Ohana railed against what he said was police misconduct in leaning on Hefetz to testify against Netanyahu, revealing details of alleged illegitimate pressure tactics used by investigators that had been sealed by the court, supposedly to protect Hefetz’s privacy.

Ohana, who has parliamentary immunity, described how investigators called in a woman who was not directly connected to Case 4000 for questioning, asked her “invasive and intrusive” questions about her relationship with Hefetz, then engineered an “accidental” meeting between the woman and Hefetz in the hallway.

On Sunday, Hefetz angrily stormed out of a court hearing on whether to remove a gag order on details of the police investigation in his case.

“You’re spilling my blood. Just lead me to the gallows,” Hefetz shouted at the Tel Aviv District Court judge for permitting an open hearing.

“It’s a scandal,” he said. “You’re going to get me killed.”

Israeli, Jewish targets under terror threat in India – report

Indian intelligence services have warned Israel that Jewish institutions, Chabad houses and Israeli tourists are under direct threat of terror attacks in the country, Channel 12 reports.

The report says India exposed a terror cell that was planning such attacks, including, specifically, efforts to kidnap Israeli backpackers.

The cell is reportedly at large.

The report says that Jewish institutions upped their security in response to the threat.

Turkey begins deporting foreign jihadists

Turkey deports three foreign jihadists, with more than 20 Europeans including French and Germans in the process of being expelled to their countries of origin.

Turkey has criticized Western countries for refusing to repatriate their citizens who left to join the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria and Iraq, and stripping some of them of their citizenship.

Its interior ministry says it deported an American and a Dane today, while Germany confirms that one of its citizens had also been expelled.

However, there is confusion over the fate of the US citizen, with Greece saying that Turkey had attempted to deport him over their shared land border.

Greek police say they rejected the man and sent him back to Turkey. Images showed him temporarily trapped between the two borders early today.

Turkey says seven more Germans would be deported on Thursday, while 11 French citizens, two Irish and at least two additional Germans are also being processed.

AFP

Likud and Blue and White said to draw close to rotation deal

Likud and Blue and White are drawing closer to a coalition deal, according to a report this evening by Channel 12 news.

The report describes an emerging agreement on a rotating premiership deal between Netanyahu and Gantz that would see Netanyahu serve as prime minister first for one year and then resign, allowing Gantz to take the reins for the next two years.

If — assuming he is indicted — Netanyahu’s trial begins before the year is up, he will take a leave of absence.

The report says, however, that there are still several details that have yet to be ironed out in the talks between Likud and Blue and White.

Chief among these, it says, is the question of how to ensure Netanyahu will indeed step down in keeping with the agreement, as there is no legal mechanism that would force him to uphold the deal.

Another problem is the question of parliamentary immunity, which the Likud is insisting that Netanyahu retain, the report says.

Iran bans sale of Israeli author accused of Darwinism, Zionism

The Tehran publishers’ league in Iran says it has outlawed buying or selling books by the bestselling Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari.

Iran’s culture ministry banned his books from publication in May. The ministry alleges they promote the theory of evolution and fabricate history.

The official IRNA news agency reports on the new warning by the publishers’ league of “possible” legal prosecution for selling Harari’s books.

Hardliners in Iran have long criticized the circulation of his books, calling him a Zionist.

They’re concerned about the influence of Western culture, seeing it as part of efforts aimed at the “soft toppling” of the country’s Islamic system.

Titles by Harari on the banned list include “Sapiens,” ”Homo Deus,” ”21 Lessons for the 21st Century” and “Money.”

AP

Iran says working with IAEA to answer questions

Iran’s deputy UN ambassador has responded to new concerns about the country’s nuclear activities, saying it “continues to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency to answer questions raised by it.”

Eshagh Al Habib tells a UN General Assembly meeting today on the IAEA that all Iran’s activities “are in full conformity with our obligations under Iran’s Safeguards Agreement” with the IAEA.

He says: “While the interaction between the agency and Iran is ongoing, any conclusion by other parties is inconsistent with the agency’s finding and thus unacceptable.”

The IAEA said in its latest report that uranium of a man-made origin has been discovered “at a location in Iran not declared to the agency.”

AP

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Atomic watchdog: Iran’s stockpiles of uranium still growing

In its confidential quarterly report, the UN atomic watchdog also says Iran’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium are still growing in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

It also says Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5%, above the 3.67% allowed.

The agency says as of November 3, Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium was 372.3 kilograms (820.78 pounds) compared to 241.6 kilograms reported on August 19, and past the 202.8 kilogram limit.

Since the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear pact last year and imposed sanctions, Iran has been slowly violating its provisions to pressure other nations to provide more incentives.

AP