Bennett and Shaked: ‘Everything we did was for the good of the State of Israel’
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Bennett announces New Right to run in September elections

Hours after he was fired as education minister, right-wing leader says hopes he’ll head to polls ‘more modestly’ after failing to clear electoral threshold in April

New Right party leader Naftali Bennett arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 2, 2019, hours before he was fired as education minister. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
New Right party leader Naftali Bennett arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 2, 2019, hours before he was fired as education minister. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Jordan warns ‘provocative Israeli policies’ at Temple Mount could spark violence

Jordan is condemning the “provocative Israeli policies” at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City after clashes between police and Muslim worshipers at the holy site.

The clashes came as hundreds of Jews were allowed onto the site to celebrate Jerusalem Day, which marks the unification of the city following Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. Police had initially said the site would be closed to Jewish visitors and tourists for Jerusalem Day, which this year coincides with the final days of Ramadan.

“We unequivocally condemn the continuation of Israeli violations against Al-Aqsa, by the break in of extremists [to the Temple Mount] in a defiant manner with the backing of security forces,” Jordan’s foreign ministry says in a statement, according to the Ynet news site.

The statement also warns against “the dangerous ramifications of the provocative Israeli policies, which could lead to a new escalation of violence that threatens the entire region.”

Jordan is recognized as the custodian of the Temple Mount, which houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism.

PLO, Hamas condemn Israeli ‘attacks’ at Temple Mount

Senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat denounces what he terms “attacks by the Israeli occupation authority and its provocations in the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” saying they are “dragging the region into a new cycle of violence that will threaten the security of the entire region.”

Erekat’s comments come after clashes at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City between police and Muslim worshipers, following the entry of Jewish visitors to the site for Jerusalem Day. The holiday this year coincides with the final days of Ramadan, when non-Muslims are traditionally barred from entering the Temple Mount.

Hamas, the Palestinian terror group which rules the Gaza Strip, likewise condemns the “brutal attack by the occupation forces on the sanctuaries in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the storming by hundreds of extremist settlers.”

Pompeo: US willing to talk to Iran ‘with no preconditions’

BELLINZONA, Switzerland — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is willing to talk with Iran “with no preconditions,” but he says the United States will continue its campaign of pressure against the Islamic Republic.

Tensions have risen between the two countries, and that’s led to fears of open conflict.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis shake hands during a press conference at the Castelgrande in Bellinzona, Switzerland, June 2, 2019. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Pompeo is in Switzerland for talks with Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran.

America’s top diplomat says the US is “prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions. We’re ready to sit down” with Iran’s leaders.

But Pompeo also is making clear that “the American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue.”

US President Donald Trump has signaled willingness to talk with Iran’s leadership. Iranian officials have hinted at the possibility but have also insisted they will not be bulled.

— AP

Police minister defends opening Temple Mount to Jewish visitors

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan defends the opening of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City to Jewish visitors for Jerusalem Day, following clashes at the site between police and Muslim worshipers.

“My policy since my first day in office has been to do everything in order that the Temple Mount will be open to whoever wants to visit it, most definitely on an important day like today,” Erdan tells reporters ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Erdan hails police for “doing everything” to ensure visitors can access the Temple Mount and says arrests were made ahead of Jerusalem Day “based on intelligence.”

US aircraft carrier, B-52 conduct exercise in Middle East amid Iran tensions

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The US military says a B-52 bomber and an aircraft carrier dispatched to the Middle East over a perceived threat from Iran have conducted a joint exercise together in the Arabian Sea.

The Air Force says in a statement today that the exercise saw F/A-18 Super Hornets, MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and E-2D Growlers from the USS Abraham Lincoln fly with the B-52 bomber.

The Air Force says the aircraft also “simulated strike operations” in the exercise, which took place on Saturday.

The White House dispatched the Lincoln and its strike force to the Middle East in May over a threat it did not describe at the time.

The US pulled out of Iran’s nuclear deal a year ago. Since then, relations have grown tense as America imposes ever-tougher sanctions on Tehran.

— AP

In this photo from, June 1, 2019, the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and part of the Bomber Task Force deployed to the region, conduct joint exercises in the US Central Command area of responsibility in Arabian sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/U.S. Navy via AP)

Arab Israeli woman arrested for joining terror group in Syria

The Shin Bet security service last month arrested a 22-year-old Arab Israeli woman suspected of having joined the al-Nusra Front terror group in Syria in March 2018.

Rania Shenawi, of the Arab town of Makr, was arrested on May 7 upon her return to Israel from Syria, the Shin Bet says.

Last Friday, Shenawi was charged with in a Haifa court with contacting a foreign agent, attempting to join a terror group, illegally leaving the country and theft. She has also been charged with attacking a police officer while she was in custody.

According to the security service, Shenawi traveled to Syria last April, crossing into the war-torn country from Turkey using a counterfeit identity card. In order to fund her trip, Shenawi stole money approximately NIS 10,000 ($2,750) from her father, according to her indictment.

In Syria, she allegedly joined al-Nusra Front, which has been connected off and on over the years to both the Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terror groups.

“The findings of the investigation of Shenawi show that she held an extreme ideological worldview, mostly in supporting the Islamic State terror group and in a deep hatred of Jews,” the Shin Bet says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Man seriously hurt in Jerusalem Old City stabbing now breathing without respirator

A man seriously injured in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday is now breathing without the help of a respirator, according to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

The hospital says Gabriel Lavi’s condition has improved but he remains in intensive care.

In addition to Lavi, 16-year-old Yisrael Meir Nachumberg sustained light-to-moderate wounds in the stabbing near the Damascus Gate.

The suspected terrorist, a 19-year-old Palestinian man from the West Bank, was shot dead by police officers at the scene.

Netanyahu fires Bennett, Shaked from interim government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fired Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the government, his spokeswoman says.

Bennett and Shaked’s New Right party failed to clear the minimum vote threshold in elections on April 9 for Knesset, but the two continued to serve on an interim basis until the formation of a new government. That will now not be until after fresh elections in September, which were called after Netanyahu failed to form a government by Wednesday night’s deadline.

There is no word in the announcement on who will succeed Bennett and Shaked, but Channel 13 news reported Saturday that Netanyahu was expected to tap members of his Likud party for the posts.

Top pro-Israel body joins Australian groups in condemning Israeli minister accused of aiding pedophiles

A prominent pro-Israel group in Australia has joined a growing chorus of the country’s umbrella Jewish groups condemning Israel’s Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who is alleged to have pressured officials in his office to falsify their psychiatric evaluations in which they deemed Malka Leifer unfit for extradition back to Melbourne, where she is charged with 74 counts of sexual abuse.

Responding to a query from The Times of Israel, the Australia/Israel Public Affairs Council says that it is “more than concerned by disturbing reports of alleged wrongdoing by Litzman.”

“Given that new elections have been called in Israel, we call on the acting Israeli government to immediately launch a full inquiry into the disturbing allegations regarding Mr. Litzman with a mandate to deliver its findings before the next Israeli government is formed. We also certainly concur that the results of that inquiry should be applied in determining the suitability or otherwise of Litzman for any future government appointment,” AIJAC adds.

The group stops short of calling for Litzman to step down from his position amid the ongoing police investigation into his actions. Such a demand was made last week by two other Jewish umbrella organizations in Australia — The Zionist Federation of Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

— Jacob Magid

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Supreme Court allows rights activist to stay in Israel during deportation appeal

The Supreme Court has issued a ruling allowing the local director of Human Rights Watch to remain in Israel while he fights a deportation order.

A lower court in April ordered Omar Shakir to leave the country, saying his activities against Israel’s West Bank settlements amount to a boycott of the country. Israeli law bars entry to those who have publicly supported a boycott of Israel or its West Bank settlements.

Shakir, who is a US citizen, had appealed to the court to allow him to stay for the duration of the proceedings.

In today’s ruling, the Supreme Court does not set a date, but says the appeal should be heard in the current court year ending July 21.

— AP

Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 9, 2018. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Right-wing factions said demanding Bennett and Shaked’s ministries

The Jewish Home and National Union factions are demanding the education and justice ministries following the firing of ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, the Walla news site reports.

Walla quotes an unnamed political source saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not expected to oppose the appointments, which would be on an interim basis until a new government is formed.

Jewish Home and National Union are part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, which also includes the extremist Otzma Yehudit.

According to Walla, if the demand is met, the Justice Ministry would likely go to MK Bezalel Smotrich, who had demanded the post during coalition talks before the calling of new elections last week, while the Education Ministry would likely end up with URWP leader Rafi Peretz.

Bennett and Shaked had been the leaders of Jewish Home but left the party ahead of Knesset elections in April to form the New Right party. New Right failed to receive the minimum number of votes to enter the Knesset, but the two have continued to serve in the ministries until the formation of a new ruling coalition.

Meanwhile, the Kan public broadcaster quotes government sources explaining Netanyahu’s decision to fire Bennett and Shaked.

“Bennett and Shaked can’t continue in a sensitive role in the [security] cabinet for half-a-year after they were not reelected by the public,” the sources are reported to say.

Bennett and Shaked: ‘Everything we did was for the good of the State of Israel’

New Right party leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked issue a statement reacting to their dismissals as education and justice minister, respectively, by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Everything we did was for the good of the State of Israel and its citizens. We will turn over in an ordered manner the ministries we headed to the ministers who will replace us,” the statement says.

URWP said to have rebuffed Netanyahu request to demand Bennett, Shaked firings

Union of Right-Wing Parties MKs Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich refused a request by Prime Minister Netanyahu that they demand the firing of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked from the education and justice ministries, according to Hebrew media reports.

The reported request was apparently aimed at allowing Netanyahu to portray his firing of Bennett and Shaked as the responsibility of Peretz and Smotrich.

Likud’s Levin rules out replacing Shaked as justice minister

Likud Minister Yariv Levin rules out replacing Ayelet Shaked as justice minister, after she was fired from the post by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Levin says he is not interested in serving in the role on a temporary basis.

Levin, who is currently tourism minister, was seen a leading contender for the Justice Ministry before fresh elections were called last week following Netanyahu’s failure to cobble together a new government.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin arrives at a Likud party meeting in Jerusalem on May 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Explosive device attached to balloon found in southern moshav

Police sappers have been called to defuse an explosive device attached to a balloon that was found in the southern Israeli farming community of Yinon.

Nationalist Flag March begins making its way through Jerusalem’s Old City

The annual Flag March marking Jerusalem Day arrives outside the Damascus Gate before making its way through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

The march, which is made up primarily of national-religious teenagers, has included incidents of violence in past years between participants and local residents.

Jerusalem Day marks the unification of the city following Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.

Earlier today, clashes erupted on the Old City’s Temple Mount between police and Muslim worshipers after Jewish visitors were allowed into the holy site. Police had initially said the compound would be closed to non-Muslims for this year’s Jerusalem Day, as it coincides with the final days of Ramadan.

National-religious youth wave Israeli flags as they celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Old City of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on June 2, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Iran rules out talks unless US changes its ‘general behavior’

TEHRAN, Iran — Tehran rules out talks with Washington unless it changes its “general behavior,” after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier today his country was ready for negotiations with Iran.

“The change of the general behavior and actions of the United States of America regarding the Iranian nation is the criterion” required for any talks to take place, says foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Moussavi, adding Pompeo was “playing with words.”


AG says interim government can appointment ministers without Knesset approval

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit issues a legal opinion saying the current interim government can appointment new ministers without the need for Knesset approval.

The opinion, which follows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s firing of New Right ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked earlier today, comes as Israel finds itself again going to polls, after Knesset elections in April failed to produce a new government.

Citing “Basic Law: The Government,” Mandelblit says current MKs can be appointed as ministers without receiving approval from the Knesset.

After firings, Netanyahu says he won’t hold education or justice portfolios

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has still not decided who will stand in as interim education and justice ministers after firing Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked from the posts, respectively, earlier today, according to his spokeswoman.

His spokeswoman says the appointments will be decided on in the next 48 hours and that Netanyahu “has no intention to hold one of the vacated portfolios himself.”

The statement came as MKs Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich from the Union of Right-Wing Parties called to be appointed to education and justice minister in place of Bennett and Shaked.

Labor MK Amir Peretz to contend for party leadership

Labor MK Amir Peretz announces he will run for the leadership of the opposition party ahead of general elections scheduled on September 17.

Peretz, who led Labor from 2005-2007, was defeated by current party chief Avi Gabbay during leadership elections in 2017.

Gabbay announced earlier today he would hold a vote for party chair but not primaries for Labor’s electoral slate. He has come under fire from party members since Labor slumped to a historic low of six seats after Knesset elections in April, with criticism of him continuing to grow in recent days after it emerged he entertained a deal from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join the prospective government.

Labor Party MK Amir Peretz at a press conference in Tel Aviv on May 19, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Bennett says New Right to run in elections, doesn’t mention Shaked

Hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired him as education minister, Naftali Bennett says his New Right party will run in general elections on September 17, after it failed to secure enough votes to enter the Knesset in April’s elections.

In a televised statement outside his home in Ra’anana, Bennett strikes an optimistic tone, vowing to assist whoever replaces him as Education Minister in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Turning to the upcoming elections, which were called after Netanyahu failed to form a government following elections in April, Bennett says a fresh vote “is not a happy outcome, but there is an opportunity here for all of us to approach it more wisely, more seriously, more modestly. That also goes for me too.”

“The New Right will bring a line up of the right-wing statesmen and women, which unites all parts of the nation: religious and secular,” he says. “The New Right will be a party that does not compromise on its positions, but will not engage in quarrels with the left.”

Bennett does not mention his longtime political partner Ayelet Shaked, who was fired today from the Justice Ministry.

The two are set to meet later this evening along with other party activists, according to Hebrew media reports.

Sara Netanyahu said to declare ‘Ayelet Shaked won’t be in Likud. Period’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara spoke out forcefully against the possibility of popular former minister Ayelet Shaked returning to the ruling Likud party ahead of general elections in September, Channel 13 news reports.

According to the network, the prime minister was meeting with top Likud members at his official residence on Wednesday before the final Knesset vote to head to fresh elections following his failure to form a government, when Sara Netanyahu heard Shaked’s name mentioned.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces his wife Sara as he appears before supporters of his Likud party in Tel Aviv early on April 10, 2019, as election results are announced. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

Quoting unnamed Likud officials, the report says she lashed out at her husband before saying, “Ayelet Shaked won’t be in Likud. Period.”

The report comes hours after Shaked was fired by the prime minister as justice minister, while her fellow New Right party leader Naftali Bennett was fired as education minister.

It also comes on heels of reports that some Likud members were pushing for Shaked to be guaranteed a spot on Likud’s electoral slate for the September vote.

Channel 13 cites Likud officials saying Shaked would have been an electoral asset for the party.

PM: Iran paying Hezbollah $700 million a year as part of its ‘endless aggression’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses Iran of funding Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group to the tune of $700 million a year as part of its “endless aggression” in the Middle East.

“Every year Iran transfers to its protege Hezbollah $700 million. But it does it in different ways including through fraud. In that framework the Iranian Foreign Ministry transfers more than $100 million to the terror organization. The money is transferred under diplomatic cover, so to speak, to Lebanon and from there to Hezbollah,” Netanyahu says during a ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem marking the anniversary of the city’s unification following the 1967 Six Day War.

Netanyahu says Iran’s backing for Hezbollah and other armed groups in the region also threatens Arab states, which has brought them closer to Israel.

“These enormous amounts are used to fuel the endless aggression by Iran and its satellites in our region. Our neighbors know this, all the Arab states know it, and that is one of the things bringing them to a renewed closeness with us,” the prime minister says.

“We do not underestimate Iran’s threats, but we do not shrink from them either, because those who try to harm us will be hit a lot harder,” he adds.

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Bennett and Shaked: ‘Everything we did was for the good of the State of Israel’

New Right party leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked issue a statement reacting to their dismissals as education and justice minister, respectively, by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Everything we did was for the good of the State of Israel and its citizens. We will turn over in an ordered manner the ministries we headed to the ministers who will replace us,” the statement says.