Balad doesn’t join other Joint List factions for meeting with Rivlin
Live updates (closed)

Liberman says he received call from Gantz, will meet him Monday

Yisrael Beytenu chief’s announcement of meeting comes after he refrained from backing either the Blue and White chief or Netanyahu to form the next government

Composite picture of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (right) at polling station in Rosh Haayin on September 17, 2019 and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman (left) at Kibbutz Nahal Oz on September 12, 2019. (Jack Guez/Menahem Kahana, AFP)
Composite picture of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (right) at polling station in Rosh Haayin on September 17, 2019 and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman (left) at Kibbutz Nahal Oz on September 12, 2019. (Jack Guez/Menahem Kahana, AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

Netanyahu meets with Shas chief Deri before consultations with president

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Shas party leader Aryeh Deri ahead of political factions’ consultations with President Reuven Rivlin later today on who should form the next government after last week’s elections ended in stalemate.

Deri will give a televised statement to the press at some point prior to the Shas representatives’ meeting with Rivlin, according to Hebrew media reports.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas closely embraced the prime minister in its election campaign and Deri joined a minority “bloc” of right-wing and religious parties last week pledging to only join a government together and that Netanyahu is their candidate for premier.

Though he signed the pledge, Deri was absent from meetings Netanyahu had with the heads of allied parties and since the elections has appeared to soften his opposition to sitting in a government with the centrist Blue and White party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announce a new refugee deal with the UN, hours before suspending it, April 2, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Brother of well-known Egyptian activist gets 15 days in jail after Sissi criticism

CAIRO — An Egyptian rights lawyer says prosecutors have ordered the brother of a US-based well-known Egyptian activist to remain in custody pending an investigation into taking part in activities of an outlawed group and disseminating fake news.

Wael Ghonim, who led a Facebook page that helped ignite the 2011 pro-democracy uprising, has said security forces arrested his brother Hazem Thursday.

Lawyer Mohammed el-Baker tells The Associated Press Sunday that prosecutors ordered Hazim Ghonim to remain in custody for 15 days.

Wael Ghonim claimed that his recent criticism of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi prompted authorities to retaliate by detaining his brother.

The arrest came as Egyptian social media was awash with calls for anti-government protests last week. On Friday, hundreds joined in scattered, small protests in Cairo and other cities.

— AP

In this photo from February 10, 2011, Egyptian Wael Ghonim, center, walks into Tahrir Square after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s televised statement to his nation, in downtown Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Rivlin meets with Trump’s outgoing peace envoy

President Reuven Rivlin is meeting with US President Donald Trump’s outgoing peace envoy at his official residence in Jerusalem.

A statement from Rivlin’s office says Jason Greenblatt wanted to say goodbye before officially stepping down and that the two are discussing the US envoy’s “efforts to promote understanding and trust in the region,” with the president expressing hope they bear fruit.

Greenblatt, who is in the country for the wedding of US Ambassador David Friedman’s daughter, met Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was also supposed to meet with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.

His visit to the country comes after elections last week ended in gridlock, with neither Gantz nor Netanyahu having a clear path to forming a government.

Greenblatt said last week the Trump administration has not yet decided whether it will release its long-delayed peace plan during or after coalition talks.

President Reuven Rivlin (right) meets with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt at his official residence in Jerusalem on September 22, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Citation of merit awarded to officer killed in Gaza operation gone awry

The IDF officer killed in a Gaza raid late last year has been awarded a citation of merit for his actions during the operation, the army says.

The commendation — known in Hebrew as a tzalash — was presented to the family of the officer, who for security reasons can only be identifed by his rank and first initial of his Hebrew name: Lt. Col. “Mem.”

The IDF says Mem earned the citation of merit for “acting with his team behind enemy lines, with determination, level-headedly and courageously in order to defend his comrades with initiative and fearlessness, for taking a lead role in dominating the enemy and for acting wisely in moving to dominate [the enemy].”

The award was presented to Mem’s parents, wife and children in his family home by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

Mem was part of a special forces team carrying out an intelligence operation within the Gaza Strip. The team was caught by members of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza city of Khan Younis, leading to a firefight and a complicated rescue effort, in which Mem was killed by friendly fire, according to an IDF investigation.

Mem’s actions were credited with being crucial to this largely successful rescue operation.

“He made a decision through which he was able to create the conditions so that the situation would not deteriorate into a crisis with strategic implications,” Kohavi says during the ceremony.

— Judah Ari Gross

Joint List heads finish meeting ahead of Rivlin talks; still no word on Gantz recommendation

The Joint List will decide whether to recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to serve as prime minister before it meets with President Reuven Rivlin this evening, Ahmad Darawshe, a spokesman for MK Ahmad Tibi says.

Darawshe makes the statement after the head of the four Arab-majority factions that make up the Joint List held a meeting at the Knesset.

— Adam Rasgon

Joint List leaders Ayman Odeh (2nd-L), Ahmad Tibi (2nd-R), Mtanes Shehadeh (L) and Mansour Abbas meet at the Knesset on September 22, 2019, ahead of their meeting with President Reuven Rivlin on who they’ll recommend should form the next government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud said weighing not recommending anyone for PM so Gantz will get mandate

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly spoken with senior Likud party members about not recommending anyone to form the next government when representatives from the ruling party meet today with President Reuven Rivlin.

According to Channel 13 news, such a move would be aimed at ensuring Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is tasked first by Rivlin with forming a government, on the assumption that he would fail to do so.

The mandate to assemble a coalition would then go to Netanyahu, who the network said argued that he would then have an easier time at putting together a government, despite lacking a majority of seats together with his right-wing religious allies.

The report says Netanyahu will make a final decision on who to recommend before Likud members meet with Rivlin this evening.

Spanish journalist gets 7 year sentence for fatal Jerusalem hit-and-run

A Spanish journalist is sentenced to 7 years in prison for the killing of a Jerusalem pedestrian in a hit-and-run while driving under the influence.

Julio de la Guardia is also ordered to compensate the mother and siblings of Chaim Tukachinsky a total of NIS 150,000 ($42,500), and has his license revoked for 15 years.

Tukachinsky, 31, an ultra-Orthodox pianist, composer and conductor, was struck by de la Guardia’s car at central Jerusalem’s Paris Square as he was returning from prayers at the Western Wall on the first night of the Sukkot holiday.

De la Guardia worked for a number of Spanish outlets over the years and in 2011 was deported from Israel amid a domestic violence dispute. It was not clear why de la Guardia, 51, was issued a new work visa and allowed to return to Israel following the 2011 deportation.

Spanish journalist Julio de la Guardia is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court under suspicion of involvement in a fatal hit-and-run collision in Jerusalem, on September 24, 2018. (Flash90)

Joint List to vote on recommending Gantz as PM

The 13 elected members of the Joint List, a coalition of the four largest Arab-majority factions, will vote on whether to recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz as prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin, MK Mansour Abbas says.

“The result of the vote will determine whether we recommend him,” Abbas tells The Times of Israel, adding that the outcome of the vote will be binding on all of the Joint List factions.

Abbas, whose Ra’am faction is leaning in the direction of voting to recommend Gantz, adds that the decision will be known at 5:30 p.m., an hour before the Joint List is slated to meet Rivlin.

All parties elected to the Knesset are expected to meet with Rivlin today and tomorrow to tell him who they recommend to become prime minister. Rivlin will then decide which Knesset member he will grant a mandate to try to form a government.

Historically, presidents have usually given the candidate who receives the highest number of recommendations the mandate to attempt to put together a coalition, though by law he may task whichever lawmaker he believes has the best shot at doing so.

— Adam Rasgon

Gantz meets with Labor-Gesher heads, who say they’ll recommend him for PM

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz meets with Amir Peretz and Orly Levy-Abekasis of the Labor-Gesher electoral alliance, who say they’ll recommend him he get the first crack at forming the next government.

“The heads of Labor-Gesher stressed their full commitment to replacing the Netanyahu-led government and forming a new government in Israel and therefore will recommend to the president Benny Gantz as the candidate to assemble a government,” a spokesman for Peretz says in a statement after the meeting.

Blue and White and Labor-Gesher also agreed to keep in touch to chart a course of action moving forward, according to the statement.

During the meeting at the Blue and White offices in Tel Aviv, Peretz and Levy-Abekasis presented their list of policy positions, including renewing the peace process, raising the minimum wage, canceling contract worker status, and guaranteeing a monthly pension of NIS 6,000 for seniors and the disabled, among others.

Co-chairmen of the Labor-Gesher party, Amir Peretz and Orly Levy-Avekasis talk to potential voters in an attempt to convince them to vote for the “Labor-Gesher party” at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, September 15, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Deri: ‘Shas will continue to be by Netanyahu’s side’

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri reiterates his ultra-Orthodox Shas party’s allegiance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and dismisses speculation since last week’s elections that he could join a government led by the centrist Blue and White party.

“I’m sorry to disappoint everyone. Shas will continue to be by Netanyahu’s side. Period,” Deri is quoted by Hebrew media telling a Shas faction meeting.

Commenting on punditry that noticed his absence from meetings between right-wing and religious party leaders during which they agreed to act a single “bloc” in coalition talks and only recommend Netanyahu for premier, Deri says the pact was in fact his idea.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks at a Knesset faction meeting of his Shas party on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

FIFA ‘assured’ by Iran that women can attend qualifier

MILAN — FIFA has been “assured” that Iran will lift its 40-year ban and allow women to attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

Soccer’s governing body wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums that breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

“There is women’s football in Iran but we need Iranian women as well to be able to attend the men’s game,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino says in a speech at a conference on women’s soccer. “And we need to push for that with respect but in a strong and forceful way. We cannot wait anymore.

“We have been assured, that as of the next international game of Iran, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums. This is something very important, it is 40 years that this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions, but it is important to move to the next level and to the next stage.”

FIFA sent an inspection team to Iran this week to meet government and soccer officials ahead of Iran’s match against Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on October 10 — its first home match of the 2022 qualifying competition.

— AP


Israel begins cutting electricity to Palestinians in West Bank over debts

Israel’s national electric company says it has begun reducing power supplies to Palestinian areas of the West Bank due to a financial dispute.

The Israel Electric Corporation says that it took the step because the Jerusalem District Electricity Co., the Palestinians’ main power distributor, has debts of roughly $485 million.

Ali Hamodeh, an official with the Palestinian distributor, says power is expected to be cut for two hours daily in several Palestinian towns in the coming weeks.

He accuses Israel of “exaggerating” the level of debt and called the power cuts a “political exploit.”

The Palestinians rely on Israel for nearly all of their electricity.

— AP

Israel baseball team secures spot in Olympics for first time ever

Israel’s national baseball team punches its ticket to next year’s Olympics in Tokyo with its 11-1 win over South Africa today in a qualifying game.

The win makes Israel the only other team besides host country Japan to qualify for the 2020 games so far and marks the first time the Jewish state has ever qualified for the Olympics in baseball.

United Torah Judaism pledges ‘unequivocal backing’ of Netanyahu

Following fellow ultra-Orthodox party Shas, United Torah Judaism says it will back Prime Minister Minister Netanyahu as its candidate to form the next government and stick with the minority of “bloc” of right-wing religious parties.

“It was agreed to continue giving unequivocal backing to Netanyahu,” the party says in a statement after UTJ leaders Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni meet with the prime minister.

United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman (left) and Moshe Gafni at a press conference in Bnei Brak on May 30, 2019. (Flash90)

IDF releases recording of radio chatter from Gaza rescue mission

The Israel Defense Forces releases an edited recording of the radio chatter from a rescue mission to evacuate a team of special forces during a firefight with the Hamas terror group following a failed raid in the Gaza city of Khan Younis.

In the redacted recording, the pilot of the transport helicopter can be heard demanding a precise count of the number of people on board in order to ensure that no troops were left behind, despite the risk posed by staying inside the Gaza Strip for more time.

“How many are there? How many are there?! You need to count [redacted number of soldiers]. We need you to tell us that there are [redacted number of soldiers]. We can’t take off without that,” the flight team is heard saying over the radio.

The rescue operation — dubbed “Operation Tropical Fruit” — was led by the Israeli Air Force’s elite heli-borne Unit 669, which specializes in search and rescue.

The flight crew notes that there is a large amount of gunfire in the area.

After several seconds, the team receives confirmation that all of the troops are on board.

“Everyone is here?” someone asks.

“Yes,” another responds.

“We got it. We’re on our way out. We’ve already left.”

On board, medics from Unit 669 tended to two soldiers hit by gunfir in the Khan Younis raid. One of them — who could only be identified by his rank and first initial of his Hebrew name, Lt. Col. “Mem” — was killed in the battle, the second was injured.

“Within five minutes we’ll be at the hospital,” someone from the flight crew is heard saying in the recording.

— Judah Ari Gross

WATCH: Parties hold consultations with Rivlin on who should form next government

התייעצויות נשיא המדינה לקראת הרכבת הממשלה עם הסיעות: כחול לבן, הליכוד, הרשימה המשותפת, ש"ס וישראל ביתנו. הצטרפו לשידור החי

פורסם על ידי ‏Reuven Ruvi Rivlin – ראובן רובי ריבלין‏ ב- יום ראשון, 22 בספטמבר 2019

Rivlin begins consultations on who should form the next government

President Reuven Rivlin begins his consultations with the political parties elected to the Knesset in last week’s elections on who should form the next government.

First up is the Blue and White party, which according to near-final results finished the elections with 33 seats, making it the largest party.

Benny Gantz, Blue and White’s leader, is seeking the premiership, but currently lacks enough seats together with other parties to form a government.

8 Air Force solders receive citation for rescuing special forces team from Gaza

Eight soldiers from the Israeli Air Force receive official commendation for their role in Operation Tropical Fruit, a rescue mission to evacuate a team of special forces during a firefight with the Hamas terror group following a failed raid in the Gaza city of Khan Younis.

On the night of November 11, 2018, the Israeli special forces troops entered Khan Younis on an intelligence-gathering operation, some details of which remain classified.

During the mission, the soldiers were stopped and questioned by Hamas operatives. As the Hamas members became more suspicious one of the Israeli officers opened fire, killing several Hamas members but also inadvertently hitting one of the IDF officers fatally and another soldier who was moderately injured.

The Israeli Air Force’s elite heli-borne Unit 669, which specializes in search and rescue, flew into the Gaza Strip to bring out the soldiers, with assistance from fighter jets and attack helicopters.

In order to ensure that all of the IDF soldiers were on board, the helicopter’s pilot refused to take off until all of the troops were counted and accounted for, despite the growing risk that the aircraft could come under direct attack.

This decision by the pilot and the flight team is cited as one of the primary reasons for these citations of merit, which are presented by Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.

Earlier in the day, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi also awarded the officer killed in the raid — Lt. Col. “Mem” — with a citation of merit. Later today, additional awards will be presented to soldiers from the Intelligence

Directorate for their efforts during the initial raid and rescue operation.

— Judah Ari Gross

Blue and White backs its leader Gantz for PM, cool toward unity government with Netanyahu

Blue and White representatives Moshe Ya’alon, Avi Nissenkorn, Tzvi Hauser, Merav Cohen, Karin Elharrar and Pnina Tamano-Shata arrive at President Rivlin’s residence in Jerusalem to kick off the stage of presidential recommendations following last week’s elections.

Meeting with Rivlin, the party recommends its leader, Benny Gantz, to form the next government.

“Not even five months have passed but we are back at the same table,” Rivlin says as he opens the meetings with representatives of all parties who won Knesset seats.

“We are here from a sense of mission towards the people of Israel. We have fought two hard elections and we plan to serve the people who sent us here,” Ya’alon tells Rivlin. “Our goal is to create a national liberal government. That is what most of the people want.”

Ya’alon says Blue and White “invites all the Zionist parties to join us. There is great need right now to unite the public.”

Asked if the party would agree to sit in a unity government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ya’alon says, “What we have seen over the last two years and during the last two elections campaigns — we feel that the damage cannot be fixed without a change in leadership.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Liberman says he won’t back either Netanyahu or Gantz for PM

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman says he won’t recommend that either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Blue and White chief Benny Gantz should form the next government when his party holds talks this evening with President Reuven Rivlin.

Liberman rules out Netanyahu because of the premier’s agreement with ultra-Orthodox and “messianic” national-religious parties that they’ll only enter a government together under the Likud leader’s leadership.

The Yisrael Beytenu leader says on the other hand he can’t recommend Gantz because he’s “preserving the option” of forming a government with the ultra-Orthodox and/or the predominantly Arab Joint List.

Rivlin: Government that includes both Blue and White, Likud needed to avoid 3rd elections

President Reuven Rivlin says the next government will have to include both Blue and White and Likud if third elections are to be avoided.

“We all understand that a stable government, one that can prevent third elections for at least a year, is one that will need to include both the two major parties,” Rivlin tells representatives from Blue and White.

Rivlin asks Blue and White’s Moshe Ya’alon if there is another MK, other than Benny Gantz, who could be an appropriate candidate to form a government.

Ya’alon replies: “In one word: No.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Rivlin consults with Likud on who should be next PM

President Reuven Rivlin begins his meeting with representatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party concerning its candidate to form the next government.

Likud backs Netanyahu for PM, calls for Blue and White to join ‘broad unity’ government

Likud Minister Yariv Levin tells President Reuven Rivlin the ruling Likud party recommends Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as its candidate to form the next government.

Levin agrees with Rivlin’s assessment that a third round of elections needs to be avoided and says Likud wants a “broad unity” government that includes both its right-wing religious allies and Blue and White.

He says a meeting needs to be held between Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Gantz to see whether it is possible to form such a government and criticizes Gantz, whose party won more seats than Likud in the elections, for not immediately agreeing to such a sit-down.

Rivlin asks Levin about Likud members’ past support for passing legislation that would require the president to task the head of the largest party with forming a government.

Levin says he didn’t personally back such legislation and notes it was never passed, then says whoever has the most recommendations should receive the mandate to assemble a government.

Regev says Blue and White ruling out Netanyahu is ‘not democratic, illegal and immoral’

Likud Minister Miri Regev calls the rival Blue and White party’s ruling out sitting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in light of his legal woes “not democratic, illegal and immoral.”

President Rivlin says their refusal to sit with Netanyahu is only he is under indictment.

Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separates cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He has a pre-trial indictment on October 2-3 with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will announce afterwards whether he will formally indict the premier.

Joint List to recommend Gantz as prime minister

The predominantly Arab Joint List says it will recommend Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz to form the next government, Hebrew media reports.

Representatives of the Joint List, which won 13 seats in last Tuesday’s election, are scheduled to meet President Rivlin in the next few minutes to give him their recommendation. The Joint List is an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties; one of them, Balad, has opposed endorsing Gantz and, some reports say, may not send a representative to the talks with Rivlin.

If the Join List indeed backs Gantz, he would likely wind up with 57 MKs recommending him as prime minister, to 55 backing incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu. Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, which has eight seats and is not expected to recommend a candidate, would hold the balance of power between the blocs. Liberman is pushing for a “liberal, national, broad” unity government including both Likud and Blue and White.

Likud says it won’t prevent another MK from forming a coalition if Netanyahu can’t

President Reuven Rivlin asks the ruling Likud party if it will return to him the mandate to form a government if its candidate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is tasked with assembling a coalition and fails to do so.

“The answer is yes,” Likud Minister Yariv Levin says.

After failing to form a government after elections in April, Netanyahu pushed through a vote to dissolve the Knesset and call a snap poll rather than have the mandate return to Rivlin. This marked the first time in Israel’s history that elections failed to produce a new government.

Balad doesn’t join other Joint List factions for meeting with Rivlin

MK Mtanes Shihadeh tells The Times of Israel that the members of the Balad faction within the Joint List are not attending the meeting with President Reuven Rivlin.

He says that his faction opposed recommending Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, while the other three factions that make up the Joint List supported doing so.

There are three members of Balad on the Joint List: Shihadeh, Heba Yazbak and Sami Abu Shehada.

— Adam Rasgon

Joint List head publishes NYT op-ed announcing Gantz recommendation

As his Joint List party meets with President Reuven Rivlin, MK Ayman Odeh has an op-ed published in the New York Times announcing they’ll recommend Benny Gantz for prime minister.

“On behalf of the Joint List, I am recommending that Israel’s president choose Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, to be the next prime minister. This will be the most significant step toward helping create the majority needed to prevent another term for Mr. Netanyahu,” Odeh writes.

Odeh clarifies this doesn’t constitute an endorsement of Gantz himself or his policies but was in opposition to Netanyahu, who the Joint List head says “declared that Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population, were to be second-class citizens.”

Joint List head to Rivlin: Our priority is ‘removing Benjamin Netanyahu from power’

Leaders of the Joint List of four predominantly Arab parties meet with President Rivlin for consultations who should form the next government after last week’s elections.

“For us, the most important thing is removing Benjamin Netanyahu from power… so we will recommend Benny Gantz to form the next government,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh tells Rivlin.

“We have been turned into a group that is not legitimate in Israeli politics. If we are being pushed out, we will take our rightful place,” Odeh adds.

Likud on Joint List backing Gantz: We can’t have a coalition with Arab parties that oppose Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party reacts to the Joint List’s recommendation of Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz as its preferred candidate to form the next government.

“As we warned, the Arab parties that oppose Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and glorify terrorists recommended Gantz for prime minister,” Likud says in a statement.

“Likud will make every effort to establish a stable and strong government committed to maintaining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We can’t have a government that relies on Arab parties that oppose the State of Israel,” the ruling party adds.

Balad says it opposed recommending Gantz for PM over his ‘Zionist ideology’

Balad says it rejects recommending “General Benny Gantz” as a candidate to form the next government, despite the rest of its fellow factions in the Joint List doing so.

In a statement, the faction says its members expressed their rejection of appointing Gantz in Joint List meetings because of his “Zionist ideology, his right-wing positions that are not much different than the Likud, his bloody and aggressive military history.”

The statement also says Balad opposes recommending Gantz because “he intends to establish a ‘national unity’ government with the participation of Liberman and the Likud” and because Blue and White refused “to publicly pledge to implement the demands that the Joint List presented it and preferred to ignore and not officially respond to them.”

— Adam Rasgon

Netanyahu says that Joint List’s backing of Gantz was ‘just as we warned’

Prime Minister Netanyahu reacts to the Joint List of four predominantly Arab parties recommending his rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party as its candidate to form the next government.

“Citizens of Israel, this happened just as we warned. The Arab Joint List recommend Benny Gantz for prime minister,” Netanyahu says in a video statement.

“There are two possibilities now: either a minority government will be formed that relies on the those who reject Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state and glorify terrorists that murder our soldiers and citizens. Or a broad national government will be formed,” he continues.

“I know what the answer is and so do you, and therefore I’ll do whatever I can to form a broad national unity government. There is no other solution.”

Joint List MK: Election results also ‘a slap in the face’ to Trump

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi says the results of last week’s elections in Israel were not only “a slap in the face” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also to US President Donald Trump.

“The result is a slap in the face of not only Netanyahu, but also President Trump, who supports all the racism, all the atrocities and is preparing the most anti-Palestinain plan that has even been presented by the US,” Tibi tells reporters in English at the President’s Residence.

“Mr. Trump keep your deal. Please don’t play with the rights of the Palestinian people. Palestinians are a nation that deserve to be free. Can you understand that Mr Trump?” Tibi adds.

— Raoul Wootliff

Shas meets with Rivlin, recommends Netanyahu for PM

President Reuven Rivlin is now meeting with members of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party to hear who they recommend to get the first crack at forming the next government.

The Shas representatives recommend Prime Minister Netanyahu, as the party’s leader Aryeh Deri announced before the meeting and throughout the election campaign.

Despite Netanyahu lacking a clear route to cobbling together a government, Shas lawmaker Yitzhak Cohen says the party does not want third elections.

“This will lead to anarchy,” Cohen says.

Blue and White said to want Netanyahu to get first shot at forming coalition

Blue and White sources tell Hebrew media that they do not want their party leader Benny Gantz to get the first shot at putting together the government.

The shift is based on the assumption that if Prime Minister Netanyahu is tasked first with forming a government, he will fail to do so, better positioning Gantz to assemble a coalition.

Egypt warns media to take care in coverage amid protests

CAIRO — Egypt’s media authority warns that it is monitoring coverage to ensure they abide by “professional codes,” amid a rare burst of protests against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The warning comes hours after the latest small protest was dispersed by police in clouds of tear gas.

In its statement issued today, the State Information Service, which accredits foreign media representatives, says it has “carefully monitored” the coverage of the protest.

It calls for reporters to “strictly abide by professional codes of conduct” and for media to provide a space for “viewpoints to be presented in an equal manner and that includes the viewpoint of the State or who represents it.” The SIS has issued similar statements in the past surrounding sensitive events.

It also warns that “social media outlets should not be considered as sources of news,” because of the numerous “fake accounts and fabrications.”

The new protests emerge from an online campaign, led by an Egyptian businessman living in self-imposed exile who has presented himself as a whistleblower against corruption. His calls for demonstrations come at a time when Egypt’s lower and middle classes have been badly squeezed by years of economic reforms and austerity measures.

— AP

After Liberman says he won’t recommend anyone, Yisrael Beytenu meets with Rivlin

President Reuven Rivlin meets with representatives from the Yisrael Beytenu party for consultations on who should form the next government.

Hours ahead of the meeting, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said he would not recommend either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, citing the former’s alliance with the religious parties and what he called the latter’s entertaining of including ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties in a government.

Liberman vowed during the election campaign he would force a unity government between Yisrael Beytenu, Likud and Blue and White if neither could form a government without him and said he would recommend for prime minister whichever party leader back such a coalition.

Rivlin wraps up consultations for day, will resume talks tomorrow

President Reuven Rivlin finishes his meeting with representatives from the Yisrael Beytenu party, wrapping up his consultations for the day with political parties concerning who should form the next government.

Rivlin spoke today with the Blue and White, Likud, Joint List, Shas, and Yisrael Beytenu parties. Both Blue and White and Joint List backed Benny Gantz, while Likud and Shas supported Prime Minister Netaynahu, giving Gantz more recommendations.

Yisrael Beytenu refrained from backing anyone.

Rivlin will meet tomorrow with the United Torah Judaism, Yamina, Labor-Gesher, and the Democratic Camp parties. The former two have said they will back Netanyahu, while Labor-Gesher and Democratic Camp are poised to throw their support behind Gantz.

Trump’s outgoing peace envoy expected to meet Gantz Monday

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s outgoing peace envoy, will likely meet tomorrow with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.

The Kan public broadcaster quotes Gantz’s office saying there has been talk about meeting tomorrow, but a sit-down has not been finalized.

Greenblatt, who is set to soon leave the White House, met Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blue and White overtook Netanyahu’s Likud in last week’s elections as Israel’s largest party, but neither Gantz nor the premier has a clear path to a government.

The continued political stalemate in Israel could further delay the release of the already long-delayed US peace plan, which the White House had said it would release after the Israeli elections.

Pompeo emphasizes diplomacy amid US standoff with Iran

WASHINGTON — The United States says it will make its case against Iran at the United Nations this week, insisting it wants to give diplomacy “every opportunity to succeed,” in the wake of a devastating attack on a vital Saudi oil complex.

Setting the stage for US President Donald Trump’s address to the annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put aside threats of US military retaliation against Iran for the attack.

“President Trump and I both want to give diplomacy every opportunity to succeed,” Pompeo says in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

“Our administration’s taking this on in a serious way and we are working diligently to see that this has a diplomatic outcome,” he says.

“But make no mistake about it, if we’re unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives.”

The United States has accused Tehran of carrying out the sneak air attacks that set aflame Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil field September 14, knocking out half the kingdom’s oil production.

Pompeo calls it “one of the largest attacks on the global energy supply in history.”

But despite initial warnings by Trump that US forces were “locked and loaded,” the US president quickly softened his rhetoric, brushing off Republican hawks who warned that the absence of a forceful response would be read as weakness in Tehran.

Trump has so far ordered stepped up sanctions against Iran, and a relatively modest deployment of US troops to the Gulf, primarily focused on missions like air and missile defense.


Liberman says he received call from Gantz, will meet him Monday

Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Liberman writes on Twitter that he received a phone call from party chief Benny Gantz and, at the Blue and White party leader’s request, the two will meet tomorrow afternoon.

Liberman’s tweet comes after he refrained from recommending either Gantz or Prime Minister Netanyahu form the next government during Yisrael Beytenu’s consultations this evening with President Rivlin.

With neither Blue and White nor Netnayahu’s Likud having a clear path to a government without Yisrael Beytenu, Liberman has vowed to force a unity government of the three parties.

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Balad doesn’t join other Joint List factions for meeting with Rivlin

MK Mtanes Shihadeh tells The Times of Israel that the members of the Balad faction within the Joint List are not attending the meeting with President Reuven Rivlin.

He says that his faction opposed recommending Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, while the other three factions that make up the Joint List supported doing so.

There are three members of Balad on the Joint List: Shihadeh, Heba Yazbak and Sami Abu Shehada.

— Adam Rasgon