Bennett: Minority government would have blocked Gaza op
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Israel’s right, center cheer US policy shift on settlements as Palestinians fume

PM says revocation of stance that settlement are illegal ‘rights a historical wrong’; rights groups lambaste Trump, while PA says Washington has ended its role in peace efforts

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the prime minister's Sukkah, during talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 18, 2019. At left is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the prime minister's Sukkah, during talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 18, 2019. At left is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)

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

Report details far-reaching Blue and White, Beytenu deal on religion and state

Channel 12 reports on what it says is a draft agreement between Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu on religion and state issues. If it is accurate, the report would indicate a willingness on the part of Benny Gantz’s party to take a relatively liberal line versus the Orthodox religious establishment.

Reportedly, in coalition talks, representatives of the two parties agreed on the full implementation of a plan that would see the establishment of an egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall as well as a sharing of the administration of the site with non-Orthodox streams.

The agreement reportedly also allows for civil marriage, as well as the legislation of a controversial bill regulating draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox. The ultra-Orthodox parties’ opposition to that legislation was among the main catalysts for the elections in April.

The negotiating teams also agreed to institute public transportation on Shabbat in cities that choose to do so, and repeal a law that limits local authorities’ power to legislate bylaws allowing businesses to remain open on the Jewish day of rest.

Yesterday, the negotiating teams of both parties reported significant progress in talks.

Leaked intelligence cables show Iran’s grip on Iraq – report

The New York Times and The Intercept say they have reviewed hundreds of pages of purported Iranian intelligence documents that detail Iran’s massive influence in neighboring Iraq.

They say the unprecedented leak of 700 pages of Iranian intelligence cables shows Tehran’s efforts to embed itself in Iraq, including paying Iraqi agents working for the United States to switch sides.

Vanessa Gezari of The Intercept says her publication received the documents from an unknown source and that “we still don’t know who they’re from.” The Intercept shared the documents with the Times.

Monday’s article about the documents comes amid growing anti-Iran sentiment expressed by Iraqi anti-government protesters. It also comes at a time of widespread anti-government protests in Iran.

There was no immediate comment from Iraqi or Iranian officials.

Strong, dry winds spark fires around the country

Unusually strong and dry winds spark fires and place firefighting units on alert nationwide.

A blaze in a factory at the Barkan Industrial Zone in the northern West Bank leads to the evacuation of the site and closure of roads nearby.

Another in the village of Yesodot, east of Ashdod, threatens to reach the village’s cowsheds. That fire appears to have started in a hay barn.

Another fire in an industrial zone next to the southern Bedouin city of Rahat threatens a candy factory.

And in Kiryat Haim in the northern city of Haifa, a fire leads to the evacuation of an apartment building.

Germany urges Iran to respect ‘legitimate’ protests

Berlin urges Iran to respect the “legitimate” protests against a gas price hike and open talks with the demonstrators.

“It is legitimate and deserving of our respect when people courageously air their economic and political grievances, as is currently happening in Iran,” says Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer.

“The Iranian government should respond to the current protests with a willingness to engage in dialogue,” she tells a regular press conference, adding that Germany is following the events “with concern.”

“We urge the government in Tehran to respect freedom of assembly and expression,” she says.

The French foreign ministry separately says it is “closely following” the events in Iran.

France is reiterating the need “to respect freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman says.

AFP

Liberman insists he wants national unity while leaving door open to minority government

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman reiterates that the political solution he will be working toward over the next two days is a unity government.

“If by noon on Wednesday we have not reached an agreement then as far as I am concerned we have failed [at forming a unity government] and it’ll be every man for himself,” Liberman tells reporters ahead of a faction meeting at the Knesset, seemingly leaving the door open for negotiations for a minority government during Blue and White’s final 12 hours to form a coalition before the midnight deadline later that day.

Asked about his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, Liberman says it was very “businesslike” and that they did not waste time discussing personal quarrels.

Notably, the Yisrael Beytenu chairman describes his goal over the next 48 hours as the formation of a “national unity government,” dropping the word “liberal,” which he has used frequently in the past, and thus perhaps suggesting more flexibility toward the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Liberman refuses to answer which scenario he views as worse: the formation of a minority government or a third election. Netanyahu said last night that the consequences of the former option would be far more severe — an “existential threat” to the country.

Jacob Magid

Netanyahu: Iran and Hamas will fete Blue and White-led minority government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the first meeting of all 55 MKs from parties that have vowed to support him, says that a minority government would be “a real danger to Israel to the people of Israel.”

“We have met here for an emergency meeting because this is an emergency,” he says. “Represented here are all parts of Israeli society because there is a fateful moment in the history of the State of Israel. There is a possibility that within 48 hours a government will be formed with terror supporters.”

Netanyahu says such a government would be “a real danger to the people of Israel. We are talking about MKs who support terror, want to put soldiers on trial and have called for the destruction of Israel.”

“Blue and White have said it isn’t true. Now we see that they have pulled a trick on their voters and pulled a trick on the public,” Netanyahu charges.

“I told them to stop. I hoped they would. But they haven’t. Everything is moving forward toward a minority government. They are saying it will just be a transitional government. I say we can’t have this for even one day. People don’t even understand how dangerous it is.

“A minority government will be supported by Hamas and Iran. They will celebrate in Gaza and Ramallah and Tehran.”

Raoul Wootliff

PM says ‘there’s still hope’ Liberman won’t join minority government

Netanyahu continues: “Not everything is lost. I think there is still hope. I had a meeting yesterday with Avigdor Liberman, a good meeting — and we will talk again.

“I can’t believe that Liberman would support a government like this, supported by terror supporters that want to destroy the country,” he says, reiterating claims he made in a speech to supporters last night.

“A national unity government is what the country needs right now, and at this historic moment we have to choose between the curse and the blessing.”

Raoul Wootliff

Shas leader says no to minority government shored up by Arab MKs

Shas leader Aryeh Deri, speaking after Netanyahu, slams the idea of a minority government supported by the Joint List.

“My nine MKs will not join, under any circumstances, a government like that,” he says.

Raoul Wootliff

Bennett: Minority government would have blocked Gaza op

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says a minority government supported by the Joint List would have blocked last week’s campaign against the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza.

“If there was a minority government supported by negators of Israel last week, the 22 members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad we killed would still be alive,” he says.

Raoul Wootliff

Lapid says Netanyahu inciting violence against Blue and White members

Yair Lapid, Blue and White’s number 2, calls out Netanyahu and accuses him of inciting violence.

“The words coming out of Netanyahu’s mouth in the past few days are incitement to violence,” he tells his party’s faction meeting. “They are words spoken by followers of Baruch Goldstein, not by a prime minister. It will end badly. He knows it will end badly. He’s been there.

“If he’s not Prime Minister then it’s a terror attack against Israel? If he doesn’t live in [the prime minister’s residence on] Balfour [Street] it’s an Iranian victory? He’s quoting Khamenei. ‘The eradication of the Zionist regime’? Have you lost your mind? You’re recruiting Khamenei to your campaign?”

Lapid goes on to imply that Blue and White members could become targets of political violence, and lays the blame on Netanyahu.

“If, God forbid, something happens to one of the people sitting in this room, it’s because of Netanyahu,” he says. “He caused it. He can’t go on TV afterwards and say how shocked he is. It’s Netanyahu. It’s his incitement. If there’s violence, it’s Netanyahu. Whoever heard him yesterday knows that he’s leading to violence. What he said about the Arab citizens of Israel is racism and it’s intolerable.”

Lapid goes on to confirm the Channel 12 report earlier this afternoon regarding the emerging coalition agreement framework on religion and state between Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu.

He continues: “I’m calling on Netanyahu — come and join us. Stop the incitement. Come and form a unity government. Give up your Haredi messianic bloc, be second in the rotation and we’ll form a government. We will have a government that’s strong on security, strong on the economy and strong on unity for the people of Israel.”

Gantz accuses Netanyahu of ‘hypocrisy, lies and incitement’

Blue and White leader Gantz accuses Netanyahu of “hypocrisy, lies and incitement.”

“Throughout the meetings between our negotiating team and that of Likud and between Netanyahu and myself, we’ve realized that we have been talking to a wall — talking to a bloc,” says Gantz, referencing the 55-member bloc of right-wing, religious parties that have insisted on negotiating as a single unit, rather than independently.

“During the past two days, the hysteria has broken new records. We woke up on Saturday morning to discover that we were enduring nothing short of an ’emergency,’ ‘danger,’ a ‘terror attack.’

“Not because we were being dragged into a third election, not because of rockets that were hitting Sderot and Beersehba and not because of the hospital patients who are forced to lie in the hallways of medical centers [due to lack of hospital beds]. ”

“Every citizen of Israel received an ugly and dangerous show of hypocrisy, lies and incitement before our very eyes,” Gantz says, referencing Netanyahu’s speech last night at a Likud rally, in which he warned against the “dangers” of a Joint-List backed minority government.

“Against this backdrop, I would like to say clearly: I too have disagreements with the Arab members of Knesset. But your verbal assault against them over the past several days must stop. And you, Netanyahu, must walk back what you said immediately. Because leaders are supposed to give people hope.

“Instead of frightening and scaring others, let’s talk. Instead of inciting and dividing, let’s talk. Let’s sit down and reach a compromise that can truly serve all of Israel’s citizens. That can enable the formation of a broad and liberal unity government, as the public wanted,” Gantz says.

“This is what will allow us to serve the public. Let us work together for the security of Israel, for the unity of the people, for the protection of state institutions. For the elderly, the youth, the disabled and the sick. For all those who watching hoping for a better reality. It is not too late.”

— Jacob Magid

Iran spokesman says protesters took police officers hostage

Iran’s government spokesman is saying that violent protesters angry over higher gasoline prices took police and security personnel hostage during the unrest.

Ali Rabiei does not elaborate during remarks to journalists, though the acknowledgment shows the level of unrest gripping Iran since Friday.

Rabiei says the government should soon unblock internet access across the country, and estimates attendance in demonstrations has dropped by 80% compared to the day before.

Security forces have deployed heavily in many cities and towns to try to put down the unrest.

AP

Trump suggests he may give written testimony in House probe

US President Donald Trump suggests he might be willing to offer written testimony in the House impeachment inquiry over whether he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son as he withheld aid to the country.

In a pair of tweets, Trump says he will “strongly consider” an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to testify before the House impeachment panel.

Trump tweets, “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

Pelosi told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Trump could come before the committee and “speak all the truth that he wants.”

AP

UN says Iran amassing heavy water in fresh breach of nuclear deal

The United Nations’ nuclear energy agency says Iran has violated another provision in its deal with world powers by stockpiling more than 130 tonnes of heavy water, according to Reuters.

“On 16 November 2019, Iran informed the Agency that its stock of heavy water had exceeded 130 metric tonnes,” the International Atomic Energy Agency says in a report obtained by the news agency.

“On 17 November 2019, the Agency verified that the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) was in operation and that Iran’s stock of heavy water was 131.5 metric tonnes,” the report says.

In the wake of the unilateral US pullout from the nuclear deal, Iran in recent months has been violating the conditions of the pact by increasing its stockpiles of enriched uranium and increasing its enrichment capacity.

Netanyahu meets Likud rival Gideon Sa’ar

Netanyahu meets with his chief rival in the Likud party, Gideon Sa’ar, in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

In a brief statement, the Likud party says “the meeting dealt with the political issue and the efforts to establish a national unity government and avert a dangerous minority government.”

Sa’ar is the only member of the ruling party to declare that he will run against Netanyahu in the event that leadership primaries are called.

Sources close to Netanyahu have in the past accused Sa’ar of seeking to orchestrate a “coup” against the prime minister.

Odeh says Netanyahu trying to ‘spark a civil war’

Israel’s top Arab lawmaker accuses Netanyahu of trying to “spark a civil war” by inciting against his community.

Netanyahu has stepped up his rhetoric against the possibility of Blue and White chief Benny Gantz forming a minority government backed by Israel’s Arab-led Knesset factions, in what some view as the beginning of a new potential election campaign. Yesterday, the premier held a rally during which he said a minority government backed by the Joint List would be a “terror attack.”

“Netanyahu’s speech wasn’t the beginning of a campaign — it was an attempt to spark a civil war,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh says in a statement. “There has never been a prime minister who gained so much from division, hate and racism. The more Jews and Arabs hate each other, the more he gains. His only hope is our despair.

“We won’t let him fan the flames of hate. The civil war named after Benjamin Netanyahu will not break out. This is our time, Arabs and Jews, to show him that his time is over and that incitement won’t stand.

“It is time for courage. Let’s show him how strong we are together.”

— Michael Bachner

Ginsburg back on bench after stomach bug

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back on the US Supreme Court bench after missing time last week with what the court described as a stomach bug.

The 86-year-old Ginsburg climbs the three steps and takes her seat for a brief court session. She was absent when the justices last met in public, to hear arguments on Wednesday.

Ginsburg has been treated for cancer twice in the past year, including receiving radiation for a tumor on her pancreas over the summer. She missed court sessions in January during her recovery from lung cancer surgery.

Those were her first absences from court arguments in a quarter-century as a justice.

AP

Chabad of Hungary gets status upgrade from government

Amid a deterioration in relations between some Jewish groups in Hungary, the country’s government elevates the status of an organization affiliated with the Lubavitch-Chabad movement.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén signs a document that gives the Chabad-affiliated Orthodox EMIH group “special status” – recognition enjoyed by several churches and Mazsihisz, the country’s largest federation of Jewish communities.

Mazsihisz is widely seen as being Neolog, a Central European Jewish denomination that some people describe as being between Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism in its level of observance.

The special status title allows recognized organizations to receive types of government funding that bodies without the title cannot receive, including core funding and grants for educational work.

“We are pleased that the government has chosen to strengthen its relationship with EMIH, to recognize our achievements and acknowledge us as being one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in central Europe,” Rabbi Shlomo Koves, who heads EMIH, says in a statement.

In recent years, EMIH’s relationship with Mazsihisz has soured, including over Mazsihisz’ critical attitude vis-à-vis the government. Mazsihisz has led protest actions against the right-wing government of Viktor Orban, including on the government’s decision to erect a monument that Mazsihisz and other critics said whitewashes Hungarian complicity during the Holocaust.

EMIH has been less involved in campaigning. It also defended the government from some allegations by Mazsihisz, including that the government is encouraging anti-Semitism through its billboard campaign against the left-leaning Jewish billionaire George Soros.

Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and EMIH Chief Rabbi Shlomo Koves sign an agreement on Monday, November 11, 2019 (courtesy)

JTA

UK Tory candidate said rabbis turn Jews visiting Israel into ‘extremists’

The Jewish Chronicle reports that a candidate for British parliament representing the Conservative Party said in 2014 that local Jews who go to Israel “have come back as extremists – as people that are brainwashed.”

In a speech delivered to the European Parliament in Brussels, Amjad Bashir, who is running for parliament in a Leeds constituency, he said, “Young men are going over from England where I come from – people of the Jewish faith… They will not listen to reason. There is something very peculiar and wrong going on in Israel.”

In the speech, which he delivered in Brussels, he blamed “rabbis and politicians.”

Bashir apologizes for his remarks, expressing “deep regret,” and adds that they were “born from personal experience.”

— with JTA

Gantz and Liberman meet

Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman have concluded a meeting, a statement from their parties says.

The meeting comes ahead of a looming deadline for Gantz to assemble a coalition.

Over half of Americans favor Trump impeachment, poll finds

A slim majority of Americans believe US President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office for his controversial Ukraine actions, according to the first poll after the launch of public hearings in Congress.

Fifty-one percent of those asked said they think Trump should be tried and convicted in the US Senate, while another six percent favor impeachment but not removal, according to the ABC News-Ipsos poll released today.

That appeared to represent an increase from before the hearings in the House Intelligence Committee began Wednesday. An average of previous polls showed about 48 percent supported Trump’s removal, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.

The ABC-Ipsos poll suggests as well a drop in the number of people opposing impeachment, to 38%, compared to the FiveThirtyEight average of about 46%.

But a quarter of all those polled do not think Trump did anything wrong.

— AFP

Officer who shot Ethiopian-Israeli teen to be charged – reports

A police officer will be charged, likely with negligent homicide, in the shooting death of an Ethiopian-Israeli teen in June, Hebrew media reports say.

The family of Solomon Tekah, 19, is thought likely to petition the High Court of Justice to appeal the decision by the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, and ask that the charges be upgraded to manslaughter.

Tekah was shot dead by the officer during an altercation in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood of Haifa.

The officer claimed he was trying to break up a street fight he came across, but was set upon by three youths, who hurled stones at him.

During the investigation into the shooting, the officer maintained that he felt that his life was in danger when he opened fire; however, eyewitnesses disputed that claim.

The incident sparked widespread protests and renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

Man arrested in Jerusalem after threatening people with a knife

A man is arrested in downtown Jerusalem after threatening passersby with a knife.

The man is suspected of stabbing another man in the Givat Shaul neighborhood earlier today.

There is no immediate word on the suspected motive.

Argentina-Uruguay soccer match to kick off in two hours in Tel Aviv

More than two hours before the Argentina-Uruguay match kicks off, with thousands of supporters of both teams having already arrived at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield stadium, some desperate soccer fans are still looking for tickets.

Within three minutes’ walking distance around the stadium, four different people approach this reporter, offering handsome sums to buy their way into the stadium to watch Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and his Argentine squad take on their regional rivals.

For some of the 30,000 who bought tickets in time, tonight’s friendly is a dream come true.

“As soon as we heard about this game, our entire family ran to get tickets,” recalls Gustavo Alguea, 30, who moved from Santa Fe, Argentina — Messi’s hometown — to Tel Aviv as a child.

“What can be better than to see Messi play in the Holy Land?” he says. “And especially against Uruguay — this is the classico,” he adds, referring to traditional soccer rivalry between the two neighboring Latin American countries.

Argentina will win 2-1, Algue predicts.

Jonathan Mitteman, who moved from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Israel a decade ago, hopes that his native country will win, but agrees that Messi’s crew has the better chance of it. Adam, his 6-year-old son, also hopes that Uruguay and its superstar Luis Suarez will score an upset victory, but admits that it appears unlikely.

“Even a tie would be good,” his dad adds.

Raphael Ahren

3 people killed in Oklahoma Walmart shooting

Two men and a woman were fatally shot today outside a Walmart store in Oklahoma, the chief of police says.

Two victims were shot inside a car and the third was in the parking lot outside the store in Duncan, Police Chief Danny Ford says.

Police are looking for witnesses to the shooting, Ford says.

Duncan is about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City.

AP

Senior Islamic Jihad member says his group ‘totally paralyzed’ half of Israel

A senior member of Islamic Jihad in Gaza says his group has completed its response to Israel’s elimination last week of Baha Abu al-Ata, a top military leader in the terror organization.

“The resistance was able to totally paralyze half of the occupation state,” Mohammed al-Hindi, a member of Islamic Jihad’s politburo, tells Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, praising his group’s rocket onslaught on the Jewish state, including Tel Aviv.

Hindi also defends Hamas’s decision to refrain from attacking Israel and joining the fray.

“Hamas and Islamic Jihad are twin brothers,” he says.

“Responding to the crime of assassinating Baha Abu al-Ata is not required of everyone,” adds Hindi. “It is not wise for the Qassam Brigades to involve itself in responding to the crime, so that the confrontation does not develop.”

— with Adam Rasgon

US set to announce it is softening its position on settlements

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to announce today that the US is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the latest in a series of Trump administration moves that weaken Palestinian claims to statehood.

Pompeo plans to repudiate a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

The Trump administration views the opinion, the basis for long-standing US opposition to expanding the settlements, as a distraction and believes any legal questions about the issue should be addressed by Israeli courts, according to a draft of Pompeo’s remarks on the policy obtained by The Associated Press.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo says in the draft. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

Pompeo is expected to say that the US will not take a position on the legality of specific settlements and that that the new policy will not extend beyond the West Bank and create a precedent for other territorial disputes.

He also plans to say that the decision does not mean the administration is prejudging the status of the West Bank in any eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The 1978 legal opinion on settlements is known as the Hansell Memorandum. It had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded US opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength depending on the given president’s position.

AP

Palestinian official blasts US decision to soften stance on settlements

Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, says Washington’s decision to soften its stance on the settlements is “an act of aggression against the Palestinian people.

“In the past, the US always criticized and condemned settlements, but took no action to stop them,” he tells The Times of Israel.

“Now, the Trump administration is working to legitimize the settlements,” Abu Yousef continues. “UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is very clear that settlements are illegal and illegitimate and the State Department’s decision will not change that.”

Adam Rasgon

Settlers welcome US decision to soften stance on West Bank

The Yesha settlement umbrella council’s foreign envoy, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, lauds the expected US announcement that it is softening its stance on the settlements, and calls on the Israeli government to follow suit by annexing the West Bank.

“Settlement is not a crime and it is not an obstacle to peace. The actions of US Ambassador [David] Friedman reflect the reality on the ground and the legal status [of the settlements],” Revivi says in a statement.

Asked to elaborate, the Efrat mayor tells The Times of Israel that the US envoy was personally involved in initiating the policy change over the past few weeks and months.

Friedman is known for his close ties to the settlement movement. He served as the chairman of the American Friends of Beit El organization before becoming ambassador.

— Jacob Magid

Settler leader says US move ‘a major step’ toward annexation

Binyamin Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz also praises the State Department’s change of policy on settlements and calls on the government to annex the West Bank.

“This is a major step toward [Israeli] sovereignty [in the West Bank],” he says.

“We applaud the decision of the American government to recognize the right of the Jewish people to settle, plant and build throughout Judea and Samaria,” Gantz adds, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

“Now is the time for the Israeli government to declare it is applying Israeli law in Judea and Samaria.”

Jacob Magid

Senior Palestinian official says Pompeo ‘waiting for the rapture’

Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi joins the condemnation of the upcoming US announcement on the settlements, swiping at Pompeo’s Evangelical religious beliefs.

“Another blow to international law, justice & peace by a Biblical absolutist waiting for the ‘rapture,'” she tweets.

Right-wing MK calls for applying sovereignty to settlements

Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked of the New Right party also reacts to the US decision, saying that “now is the time to apply our sovereignty to these communities.”

“Thank you President Trump and Secretary Pompeo for recognizing that there is nothing illegal about Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” she says in an English-language tweet. “The Jewish People have the legal & moral right to live in their ancient homeland.”

“It is indeed better late than never,” she says in another, Hebrew-language tweet. “Settlement in Judea and Samaria does not contravene international law and it is good that the world’s greatest superpower is telling the truth and correcting this longstanding injustice.”

Michael Bachner

Peace Now: Trump serving interests of Israeli far right

Peace Now, an anti-settlement watchdog group, says Trump is serving the interests of Israel’s “far right” with his decision on the settlements.

“No declaration will change the fact that the settlements were constructed in occupied territory in contravention of international law, and are an obstacle to peace,” the group says in a statement.

“Trump has been, and remains, a dishonest broker who serves the vision of the far right at the expense of the moderate majority of the Israeli public.”

Netanyahu to respond to US announcement later tonight

Netanyahu will comment on Pompeo’s announcement later tonight, his office tells The Times of Israel, declining to immediately respond.

Raphael Ahren

New York loses rideshare provider as Israeli company drops out

New York-based rideshare firm Juno says it is shutting down its service, citing a “changing market situation,” as its Israeli-based parent company announced a partnership with Lyft.

Gett, the Israeli firm that acquired Juno in 2017, says the move came as it entered into a “strategic partnership” with Lyft to handle Gett’s corporate clients in the United States.

The Juno shutdown also stemmed from what Gett calls “misguided regulations in New York City earlier this year,” which capped the number of vehicles on the streets and required rideshare firms to pay the equivalent of a minimum wage to drivers.

All Juno riders will be invited to join Lyft, the statement says.

“Instead of competing with consumer ridesharing companies, we are partnering with them,” Gett chief executive Dave Waiser says.

“Our strategic partnership with Lyft is a win-win: Gett is expanding its reach across North America at the same time as we continue to see strong momentum in Europe, while Lyft benefits from the large number of Gett enterprise clients traveling to the US.”

When it launched in 2016, Juno promoted itself as being more friendly to drivers than Uber or Lyft, giving the operators a greater share of revenue and equity in the firm.

Gett, founded in 2010, has operations in Israel, Britain and Russia and has a valuation of some $1.5 billion following funding from Volkswagen and others.

AFP

Pompeo says Iran sanctions waivers being pulled

Mike Pompeo has begun to deliver his statement to the press, condemning the Iranian response to protests.

He announces he is rescinding sanctions waivers in response to Iran restarting enrichment at the Fordo nuclear facility.

Pompeo says US shifting on settlements, calling them illegal won’t bring peace

Moving to Israel, Pompeo says the Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach to settlements.

He says US policy has been inconsistent for decades, noting various shifts in the last decades.

He blames John Kerry for ending a carefully thought-out stance on settlements by declaring them illegal.

“The establishment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”

He says the US is expressing no view on the legality of any settlement, punting that decision to Israeli courts.

He says the move does not pre-judge a US position on the West Bank.

“Calling the establishment of settlement inconsistent with international law has not worked,” he says. “It cannot bring peace.”

Pompeo says settlement policy change ‘increases likelihood’ of peace resolution

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the decision to repudiate a legal opinion saying West Bank settlements are not inconsistent with international law has not harmed prospects of a two-state solution .

“We recognized the reality on the ground. We provided a space for Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate. We have increased the likelihood” of a political solution, he contends.

“We have provided the very space for Israel and the Palestinians to come together. What we did here was conduct a legal analysis,” Pompeo says and adds that it was not intended to send a message approving further settlements. “It was intended to be a legal review.”

He adds that the policy change was not driven by domestic political concerns and that he is not concerned the move will isolate Washington on the matter.

“We have encouraged nations to stand up for the State of Israel, so I don’t think the decision increases the isolation,” Pompeo says.

Netanyahu says US settlement policy change ‘rights a historical wrong’

Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails the US announcement on its policy change toward West Bank settlements.

“Today, the United States adopted an important policy that rights a historical wrong when the Trump administration clearly rejected the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently illegal under international law,” his office says in a statement.

“This policy reflects a historical truth — that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria. In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea,” the Prime Minister’s Office adds. “The Trump administration policy is also correct in stating that those who have categorically denied any legal basis for the settlements not only deny truth, history and the reality on the ground, they also set back the cause of peace, which can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.

“Israel’s legal system, which has proven itself fully capable of addressing legal questions related to the settlements, is the appropriate place for these matters to be adjudicated — not biased international forums that pay no attention to history or facts. Israel remains ready and willing to conduct peace negotiations with the Palestinians regarding all final status issues in an effort to achieve a durable peace but will continue to reject all arguments regarding the illegality of the settlements.

“Israel is deeply grateful to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the entire US administration for their steadfast position supporting truth and justice, and calls upon all responsible countries who hope to advance peace to adopt a similar position.”

Netanyahu worked on dramatic US policy change for months — senior official

A senior Israeli official says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been working on the dramatic change in US policy regarding the settlements “for a number of months.”

The issue was advanced in cooperation with the National Security Council and the department for international law at the attorney general’s office, the official adds.

— Raphael Ahren

Jordan warns of ‘dangerous consequences’ of US settlement policy shift

EU rejects Washington’s settlement announcement

The European Union rejects the US announcement that it does not view West Bank settlements as illegal under international law, and says its stance has not changed.

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” an EU spokesperson says in a statement.

“The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties.”

— Raphael Ahren

PA official Erekat says Trump replacing international law with ‘law of the jungle’

Palestinian Authority senior negotiator Saeb Erekat slams the US policy change on West Bank settlements, saying it undermines international law.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Cairo, Egypt in this 2011 file photo. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

“International law and system clearly define the illegality of all Israeli settlements, including by the International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council, and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” he says in a statement. “Israel’s colonial-settlement enterprise perpetuates the negation of the Palestinian right to self-determination.

“Once again, with this announcement, the Trump administration is demonstrating the extent to which it’s threatening the international system with its unceasing attempts to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle.’

“Henceforth, the international community must take all necessary measures to respond and deter this irresponsible US behavior, which poses a threat to global stability, security, and peace. The only way towards achieving peace in Palestine, Israel, and the entire Middle East is with the freedom and independence of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Foreign, justice ministers cheer US settlement declaration

Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomes the US announcement on its policy change toward West Bank settlements.

“There is no doubt around the rights of the nation of Israel in the Land of Israel,” he says in a statement, thanking the Trump administration for its consistent pro-Israel policy.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana says it “recognizes the Israeli nation’s connection to the Land of Israel and the deep connection between the two leaders, Netanyahu and Trump.”

Gantz hails ‘important’ US announcement, calls for peace agreement

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, who is currently tasked with forming a government, praises the Trump administration for its “important declaration” of its settlement policy shift.

Gantz says the fate of the West Bank “should be determined via agreements that withstand the security demands and can promote peace. Agreements that will serve both sides and reflect reality on the ground.”

Top Arab lawmaker says US statement doesn’t change settlement’s status

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties in the Knesset, writes on Twitter that the US change in policy toward West Bank settlements will not “change the fact that the settlements were built on occupied land upon which an independent Palestinian state will be founded alongside Israel.”

US Ambassador Friedman says Pompeo declaration increases chances for peace

J Street bashes Trump, says settlement move designed to help Netanyahu

Left-wing Jewish lobby J Street denounces the Trump administration’s move to soften its position regarding West Bank settlements, saying it “shatters America’s limited remaining credibility in the region and around the world.”

“This announcement is just the latest in a long series of actions by the Trump administration designed to aid the Israeli settlement movement, prevent a two-state solution and provide political gifts to Prime Minister Netanyahu,” J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami says in a statement.

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA/J Street)

“Coming at a moment when Prime Minister Netanyahu is struggling desperately for political survival and faces imminent indictment for corruption, the timing of this announcement can only be read as last-ditch attempt to boost the prime minister’s personal prospects,” he adds.

“With their actions and rhetoric, the president and his advisers have given the Israeli government carte blanche to expand settlements, entrench occupation and move toward formal annexation of the West Bank. By discarding decades of bipartisan US policy and flagrantly disregarding international law, they are trampling on the rights of Palestinians and helping the Israeli right-wing to destroy Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.

“In light of this announcement, it’s more important than ever that Congress move quickly to pass House Resolution 326, which reaffirms support for the two-state solution, notes longstanding US opposition to settlement expansion and clearly opposes any steps toward the formal annexation of the West Bank. While this administration is shredding fundamental norms of US foreign policy, responsible lawmakers must push back — there is no time to waste.”

Abbas says Trump administration has ‘lost its credibility’ in peace process

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, condemns Pompeo’s announcement regarding settlements and repeats the position that they are illegal under international law.

“The US administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process,” he says.

— AP

AIPAC says settlements are ‘not something determined by international bodies’

Pro-Israel US lobby AIPAC says it is not taking a position on settlements, but appears to back the Trump administration’s latest announcement by adding that their status should not be determined by international bodies.

US embassy issues travel warning to Jerusalem, West Bank after statement

The US embassy in Jerusalem issues a travel warning to Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, warning of Palestinian unrest in light of Washington’s settlement policy shift announcement.

“The US embassy advises US citizens in or considering travel to or through Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness in light of the current environment,” it says in the warning. “Individuals and groups opposed to the Secretary of State’s recent announcement may target US government facilities, US private interests, and US citizens.

“Potential targets include public events, such as demonstrations, holiday events, and celebratory gatherings; hotels, clubs, and restaurants popular with US citizens; places of worship; schools; shopping malls and markets; tourism infrastructure; public transportation and airports.

“US citizens should carefully consider risks to their personal safety and security at sites and events that are potential targets. In addition, US citizens in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem should avoid non-essential movements and events that attract attention. US citizens should carefully consider risks to their personal safety and security at sites and events that are potential targets.”

Sanders says Trump ‘undermining diplomacy by pandering to his extremist base’

B’Tselem: US settlement backtrack takes world ’70 years backwards’

Israeli left-wing NGO B’Tselem lambastes the Trump administration over its settlements announcement, claiming that it in effect erases all human rights protections and moves the world “70 years backwards” to the post-World War II era.

UN Security Council to discuss US settlement announcement Wednesday

Israel’s mission to the United Nations says the Security Council will convene on Wednesday, to discuss recent developments in the Middle East, including the US secretary of state’s statement announcing a dramatic policy shift on West Bank settlements.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. local time (5 p.m. Israel time), according to the statement.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon says: “Our right to the Land of Israel is grounded not only in a historical claim, but also in the ideas of justice under international law. We welcome the US government’s announcement and I call upon my ambassadorial colleagues to review the US’ decision without prejudice and adopt its legal basis.”

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Bennett: Minority government would have blocked Gaza op

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says a minority government supported by the Joint List would have blocked last week’s campaign against the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza.

“If there was a minority government supported by negators of Israel last week, the 22 members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad we killed would still be alive,” he says.

Raoul Wootliff