The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s developments as they unfolded.
The secretary-general of the Labor party is calling for chairman Avi Gabbay to resign after leading the party to its worst ever election result, saying that a new leader is needed in order to “begin the work of rebuilding” the once venerable shaper of Israeli politics.
The party, which led Israel for the country’s first 30 years, crashed to just six seats Tuesday with 4.46 percent of the votes, its worst showing in its 71-year history. In the 2015 elections, Labor, as part of the Zionist Union faction, won 24 seats.
In the first public call for Gabbay’s resignation from a Labor party official, secretary-general Eran Hermoni, who was number 11 on the party’s electoral slate, says he told the former Kulanu minister this morning that his time at the helm of Labor was up.
“I made it clear to Gabbay that in light of the devastating election outcome, he must take responsibility and resign immediately from the position of chairman of the Labor party,” Hermoni says in a message sent to party members.
He says that anyone who cares about the future of Labor “has a duty to say clearly: any other chairman who brought such a result would resign.”
The party has a dizzying history of replacing its chairman after election losses. Since it last won the election in 1992, it has seen a whopping total of 13 different leaders.
Hermoni admits that Gabbay’s resignation would not save the party on its own, “but without it,” he adds, “we will not be able to begin the vital work of rebuilding and rehabilitation.”
— Raoul Wootliff
According to Channel 12, the Likud party has won 36 seats, one more than an earlier tally, after the final ballots are counted. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party also benefits, the report says, rising from four to five seats, while United Torah Judaism is believed to slip from eight to seven and the Union of Right-Wing Parties is down to four.
The results are not confirmed.
Veteran Likud minister Tzachi Hanegbi tells Israel Radio that Likud wants to apply Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but won’t take unilateral action until after the unveiling of the Trump peace plan.
“We have no interest in annexing three million Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria and turning them into citizens of Israel and changing the makeup of the Jewish and democratic state,” says Hanegbi, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
“We need to find, in the end, a solution to the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Ma’ale Adumim, Ma’ale Efraim, in the Etzion Bloc… who don’t know what their status is. Are they Israeli or not? And therefore, this issue we want to resolve, it doesn’t come at the expense of anyone.”
But Hanegbi says such a step is not imminent.
“Of course it clashes [with the Trump peace plan] and therefore… we won’t be running to make decisions of this kind in the coming weeks.”
Hanegbi says he doesn’t know what the US peace plan contains, adding “certainly there is no point in taking unilateral steps before we hear what the president’s plan is.”
In the interview, Hanegbi also says he hopes Bennett and Shaked’s New Right crosses the electoral threshold.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin says she has sent an urgent letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit urging him to investigate Likud’s placement of cameras in Arab polling stations on Election Day.
“Likud tried to deter voters in the Arab community from exercising their democratic right, in a manner that could constitute a threat,” she writes on Twitter.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “is no hero,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says following his arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
“What is not acceptable is for someone to escape facing justice and he had tried to do that for a very long time and that is why he is no hero,” Hunt says in a statement.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been removed from power and detained by the army, Defense Minister Awad Ibnouf announces on state television on Thursday.
“I announce as minister of defense the toppling of the regime and detaining its chief in a secure place,” Ibnouf says.
Bashir, who ruled with an iron fist since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has been removed after deadly force failed to end four months of nationwide protests for his ouster.
The Central Elections Committee admits the website recording the official election results has been experiencing technical errors.
The website has not been updated for hours and has the New Right party clearing the electoral threshold, even as officials indicated the party fell short by 1,380 votes. Other snafus include turnout rates of over 100 percent in some areas.
Alongside incoming flights from Istanbul and Lisbon, the Israel Airports Authority has listed the Beresheet moon landing on its arrival timetable. Find out how to watch the landing here.
The Central Elections Committee insists the hand-count of the ballots is accurate, saying the off-mark figures on its official website are due to three separate technical errors.
“Three glitches were found in the data transfer,” it says. “The problem is not with the count but with the typing in of figures into the system. Some of the figures were absorbed into the [online] system and some were not.”
The Central Elections Committee does not believe that a cyber attack is responsible for a glitch on its website responsible for showing incorrect results from Tuesday’s election.
“We are not looking at that option at all,” committee spokesperson Giora Pordes tells The Times of Israel. “It has nothing to do with that. There is no suspicion whatsoever of a hack or anything like that.”
Instead, Pordes explains, the problems on the website are caused by a “technical error in the website programming” that he says will be fixed in the coming hours.
The website has not been updated for hours and shows the New Right party clearing the electoral threshold, even as officials indicated the party fell short. Other snafus include turnout rates of over 100 percent in some areas.
The glitch “only effects the results seen online,” he stresses, explaining that the actual results are recorded on a “separate and secure” system.
In January, the director of the Shin Bet security agency told a closed audience that a world power was planning to disrupt the April 9 vote via a cyber attack. Soon after, news erupted that Iran had hacked the cellphone of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
— Raoul Wootliff
Veteran pollster Mina Tzemach blames her off-mark Channel 12 exit poll on Likud voters, saying they lied to skew the results in order to harm the TV network.
“The idea is to screw over the television [networks], Channel 12, since it represents things that some people don’t like, so they go and mess them up,” she tells Channel 12.
“People lied to us in the sample,” she says. “I’m pained by what is happening in Israeli society, certainly not among everyone, among some.”
“We are looking for a method in which people won’t be able to lie,” she says.
The Channel 12 exit poll gave Blue and White 37 seats, compared to 33 for the Likud party. The results, which are not yet final, have Likud and Blue and White tied at 35, with the right-wing party slightly ahead in terms of votes.
Labor’s No. 2 Tal Russo, a former general who joined the party ahead of the election, may quit politics and the party, paving the way for former lawmaker Merav Michaeli to enter the Knesset, Channel 12 reports.
Labor saw its worst election outcome since the founding of the State of Israel and is projected to receive just six of the 120 Knesset seats. Michaeli is No. 7 on the party slate.
The High Court of Justice green-lights the demolition of the homes of Arafat Irfaiya, charged in the rape and murder of Israeli teenager Ori Ansbacher.
Justices approve the state’s request to destroy two apartments used by Irfaiya.
Irfaiya, a 29-year-old resident of Hebron, was charged with rape and murder in the context of a terrorist act, for brutally attacking 19-year-old Ansbacher in a Jerusalem forest on the evening of February 7.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro tweets congratulations Thursday to his Israeli ally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his “great” election win.
“Bibi is a great leader and we will continue working together for the prosperity and for the peace of our people, based on our values and deep beliefs,” Bolsonaro posts on Twitter, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
Thank you my good friend, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro! https://t.co/rwTVga1udw
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) April 11, 2019
Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also calls Netanyahu to offer his congratulations.
I just talked with Prime Minister @netanyahu. I congratulated him again on his great result in the elections on 9 April. We agreed to further strengthen the excellent bilateral relations between #Israel & #Austria.
— Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) April 11, 2019
Israeli troops arrest two Palestinians who entered Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, the army says.
The two suspects are found to be unarmed.
The pair have been handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning before they will likely be returned to the Gaza Strip.
— Judah Ari Gross
Labor party leader Avi Gabbay is considering resigning over the dismal election outcome that saw the veteran party plummet to just six seats, according to Hebrew reports.
Channel 12 says Gabbay could appoint an interim chairman until party primaries can be held.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London on a US warrant charging him over his alleged role in a massive leak of military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department says Thursday.
Assange faces up to five years in jail on a federal charge of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer,” according to a statement.
The indictment alleges Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, to crack a password stored on Department of Defense computers, leading to “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” the statement says.
The final elections results will likely be published in two to three hours, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
A source in the Central Elections Committee tells the broadcaster that if the results are not finalized in the coming hours, at 7 p.m. the panel will provide an updated, if not final, tally.
The Trump peace plan could be released as early as this month, ABC News reports.
“Though the plan’s release could come this month, sources cautioned a release date has not been finalized and that the administration is weighing a variety of factors. Potential causes for delay could include the upcoming holidays of Passover and Ramadan,” it reports.
As Israel awaits the final results from Tuesday’s national election, the Central Elections Committee is reviewing the ballots at some 35 polling stations, where the number of voters recorded does not match the number of ballots, a spokesperson says.
— Sue Surkes
Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been barred from entering the United States, according to NPR.
“Barghouti was not provided an explanation for his denial of entry beyond ‘immigration matter,'” according to the Arab American Institute, which organized Barghouti’s trip.
He was informed at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv of the decision, the report says.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was arrested in London on Thursday after Quito withdrew his political asylum, will not be extradited to any country where he could face “torture or the death penalty,” Ecuador’s president says.
“I asked Great Britain for the guarantee that Mr. Assange will not be extradited to any country in which he could suffer torture or the death penalty,” President Lenin Moreno says in a video message posted on social media.
“The British government has confirmed in writing” that they will meet this requirement, Moreno says.
Assange was arrested in London on a US warrant over his alleged role in a massive leak of military and intelligence documents in 2010, according to the US Justice Department.
Those charges do not carry the death penalty, however. Assange instead faces up to five years in jail on a federal charge of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer,” the Justice Department says.
The third vote’s a charm for a medical school at a West Bank university.
Israel’s Council for Higher Education approves the establishment of the school at Ariel University on Thursday in a 13-5 vote.
In February, the council voted against opening the school after initially approving it in July. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the second vote after discovering that one of the voting members had a conflict of interest.
The mirror Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria voted in February to approve the school. The two councils have since combined.
The Ariel school is planning an October launch with 70 students. Without government accreditation, its students would not have been able to train at hospitals in Israel.
There are five other medical schools in Israel, an insufficient number to train the number of doctors needed in the country.
Tamar Zandberg, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, accuses the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism of trying to “steal” votes from Meretz.
Dror Morag, the party’s representative at the Central Elections Committee says that while he has not been allowed into the room to view the vote counting, he saw representatives of UTJ inside.
A spokesperson for the elections committee denies a UTJ representative was present.
Zandberg says the party is receiving reports of political intervention in the vote counting process.
“There’s a seat that is supposed to be the fifth seat for Meretz and at the moment we’re getting reports that United Torah Judaism is trying to apply political pressure for that seat to go to them and not to Meretz.”
“We’ve asked members of the public to report anything that seemed odd. We’re getting reports about polling stations [whose votes] have disappeared… about all sorts of inconsistencies between the votes recorded and what was put on the website.”
She claims that during October’s local elections in Tel Aviv, UTJ — running together with Jewish Home — took a seat that had been registered in Meretz’s favor through forgery in a case that is still being investigated by the police.
— Sue Surkes
A bus collided with a group of people standing on the side of a highway in southern Israel, near the kibbutz of Shomria.
Several people are trapped underneath the vehicle and emergency services are in the area, according to Channel 12.
The Magen David Adom emergency service says three teenagers are injured, including one seriously, one moderately and one lightly injured. The bus was empty at the time of the crash.
The elections results will be published “by midnight,” says Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer, adding that the tally may change slightly after that time.
He acknowledges the technical error plaguing the official website, but says after consultations with security officials, there is no suspicion of a cyberattack by a foreign state.
As the drama over the vote counts continues in the Knesset on Thursday, world leaders continue to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his election victory, especially those who have a close relationship with him.
As of Thursday evening, Netanyahu took congratulatory calls from US President Donald Trump and his VP Mike Pence, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, and Prime Minister of the Bulgarian government Boyko Borissov.
Netanyahu’s office scheduled additional calls with foreign heads of state for the coming days.
The leaders of countries such as France, Britain and Germany have not yet called to congratulate, but are expected to do so either after the final election results are announced, or when the new government is sworn in, which will likely take place in several weeks.
— Raphael Ahren
A Yisrael Beytenu MK denies speculation that his party leader Avigdor Liberman and Blue and White’s Yair Lapid were holding covert meetings in Vienna, after both politicians were spotted at Ben Gurion Airport, en route to Europe, following Tuesday’s election.
“The meeting with Lapid in Vienna only exists in the imagination of people who live with conspiracies day and night,” says Oded Forer on Twitter, adding that the idea Liberman would seek a unity government with Blue and White is “paranoid.”
The right-wing Liberman has ruled out sitting in a Blue and White-led government, but also has not committed to joining Netanyahu’s coalition.
The European Union condemns the Israeli government’s announcement of additional plans to expand West Bank settlements.
“Last week, plans for more than 4,600 new housing units for settlers in the occupied West Bank, including the legalization of an illegal outpost, were announced by the Israeli Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration,” a EU spokesperson in Brussels says in a statement.
“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. It erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334.”
— Raphael Ahren
Israeli television says Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon is in “advanced talks” with Likud on the possibility of merging his party with his former right-wing party.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, a decision on the merger could be announced by the middle of next week.
According to the election results, which are not final, Kulanu is set to receive four seats and Likud is projected to win 35.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office tweets “Good luck, Beresheet!” as Israel prepared to land its first spacecraft on the moon. If successful, the Jewish state will become the fourth country to accomplish the feat.
— ראש ממשלת ישראל (@IsraeliPM_heb) April 11, 2019
The landing is scheduled for 10:25 p.m. Israel Time.
After 47 days and 6.5 million kilometers, the Beresheet journey is set to draw to a close on Thursday night as the four-legged spacecraft aims to land on the moon’s surface at 10:25 p.m. (Israel time), with the livestream beginning at 9:45 p.m. If successful, it will make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon.
If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will gently set down on the Sea of Serenity, and spend two to three days carrying out science experiments studying the moon’s magnetic field before the sun’s rays will become too strong and disable the spacecraft’s computers.
— Melanie Lidman
A little shtick from the Israel Aviation Authority before Beresheet (hopefully) lands on the moon in a little over an hour. (Note the destination of the last flight on the departures board at Ben Gurion Airport.)
📷: IAA pic.twitter.com/Tk6VjydBkq
— Judah Ari Gross (@JudahAriGross) April 11, 2019
Here’s how the engineers envision the Beresheet landing will unfold.
First, engineers will bring the spacecraft to a height of about 25 kilometers above the moon’s surface, at which point the spacecraft’s sensors will take over automatically, with its engines pointing down so that activating the engines will act as a braking device, slowing the spacecraft from 6,000 kph to 0 kph. The landing gear utilizes lasers to help the spacecraft brake correctly until it reaches a height of 5 meters (16 feet), when the engines will shut off and the spacecraft will hopefully fall to the moon’s surface. Because the moon’s gravity is about a sixth of Earth’s gravity, it is the equivalent of the spacecraft traveling about 80 centimeters in freefall on Earth.
Beresheet will land blindly on the moon, and stray boulders or craters pose a significant risk that could cause the spacecraft to topple over upon landing, SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby has said. The entire landing process will take about 25 minutes, during which time the spacecraft will be operating automatically and engineers will not be able to correct or change the spacecraft’s movement.
— Melanie Lidman
President Reuven Rivlin is hosting children at his residence in Jerusalem to watch the Beresheet moon landing.
He posts footage of the event, in which dozens of children wave Israeli flags in anticipation. “Good luck ‘Beresheet!” tweets the president.
Dozens of kids who are passionate about science and space, from all over the country, have come to Beit HaNasi to see the landing of the spaceship on the moon tonight. Good luck 'Beresheet'! #IsraelToTheMoon pic.twitter.com/ueWy4jxFQO
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) April 11, 2019
Tens of thousands of people are tuning in to the livestream of the Beresheet.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived at the control center to watch the landing.
Netanyahu pays tribute to the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon in his remarks ahead of the landing.
He says the Beresheet project is the source of “pride and boundless joy.”
“We can already say this: This is another step for humanity, and a huge step for the State of Israel,” says the prime minister.
Netanyahu also says he’s considering investing in an Israeli space program.
The Beresheet landing officially begins.
The spacecraft is finding its position and engineers will soon activate the engines.
“We have passed the point of no return,” says an engineer, as the engines are activated.
From here, the braking process begins.
“The spacecraft is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing right now,” observers are told.
Beresheet snaps its first “selfie” during landing, 22 kilometers from the surface. The photo — taken with the help of NASA — is projected on the screen at the control center, to applause.
“There may be a problem with the main engine.”
“The situation doesn’t look good, we are without our main engine,” observers are told.
“We are losing height.”
The engine returns but Beresheet has already lost a lot of height. The situation is unclear.
The main engine is back, but Israel has lost communication with the spacecraft.
“We fear we didn’t land in the best way. We are looking into the matter.”
Beresheet appears not to have landed successfully on the moon.
Israel “likely won’t be the fourth country in the world” to land, the crowd is told.
“We are on the moon, but not in the way we wanted. But we will check again.”
The spacecraft appears to have crashed.
Netanyahu says Israel will try again.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try again,” says Netanyahu, as the space landing fails.
President Reuven Rivlin is reassuring the children gathered at his residence that the Beresheet spacecraft project was a huge accomplishment for Israel.
The moon attempt is “a big and excellent achievement — that has not yet been accomplished,” says Rivlin.
“This is an important night for the State of Israel,” he says.
“There is no need to be disappointed. We need to praise what we accomplished.”
“A[n Israeli] spacecraft will land on the moon — whole,” says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, predicting that it will happen in two to three years.
SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn says he “doesn’t regret for a moment” the decision to back the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” he says.
After the Beresheet failure, attention in Israel swiftly moves back to politics, with the final results of the elections expected to be announced by midnight.
The New Right is demanding that the outcome not be released tonight, saying the party has received over 1,000 complaints about ballot irregularities.
“There are major irregularities here. We will fight to the last vote,” the party says.
The New Right currently appears to be under the electoral threshold by fewer than 2,000 votes.
NASA officials are sending Israel condolences over its failed moon landing — and congratulations for getting so far.
“While @NASA regrets the end of the @TeamSpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing, we congratulate SpaceIL, Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit,” tweets NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
While @NASA regrets the end of the @TeamSpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing, we congratulate SpaceIL, Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. https://t.co/XwHpN5M8Pu pic.twitter.com/cfMtP4srDr
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 11, 2019
“Space is hard, but worth the risks. If we succeeded every time, there would be no reward. It’s when we keep trying that we inspire others and achieve greatness. Thank you for inspiring us @TeamSpaceIL. We’re looking forward to future opportunities to explore the Moon together,” tweets Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator.
Space is hard, but worth the risks. If we succeeded every time, there would be no reward. It’s when we keep trying that we inspire others and achieve greatness. Thank you for inspiring us @TeamSpaceIL. We’re looking forward to future opportunities to explore the Moon together. pic.twitter.com/yZ35IJKOYC
— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ) April 11, 2019
The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party is joining the New Right in calling for a delay in the publication of the election results, which are scheduled to be released by midnight.
The party claims mistakes have been recorded at five polling stations in ultra-Orthodox areas.
The Central Elections Committee publishes its tally of the votes in this week’s elections, showing that the New Right party fell short of the 3.25% electoral threshold.
The results also show the ruling Likud party gaining one seat to win 36 — one more than the rival Blue and White party — at the expense of United Torah Judaism, which falls to seven seats.
In the tally, which the Central Elections Committee says could yet change, the right-wing bloc maintains a 65-55 lead over the center-left and the Arab parties.
In announcing the results of the elections, Justice Hanan Melcer, head of the Central Elections Committee, says the tally is still subject to possible change before it is finalized and submitted to President Reuven Rivlin on April 17.
“We retain the right,” he says in a letter to the representatives of the Knesset slates that ran in the elections, “to examine the results using additional means at the committee’s disposal… so that they are still subject to changes and adjustments.”
Melcer says he rejected a last-minute appeal by the New Right and United Torah Judaism parties to hold off on publishing the results, because they are still subject to change and are not fully official until they are presented to the president.
He notes that 4,335,320 Israelis voted, from among 6,335,387 who were eligible (68.4 percent), and that 30,756 ballots were disqualified.
The New Right party, which, based on the results published this evening will not be in the next Knesset, hangs on the words of Justice Melcer and puts out a statement asserting that “the results as they were published are not final.
“We would expect the media to show a bit more gravitas in its reports,” the party, led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, says, before quoting Melcer’s letter, which stated the results could yet change in the coming days.
“As we have said, we are not giving up,” the New Right adds, alleging a series of irregularities in the counting of the so-called “double envelopes” — ballots filed by soldiers, diplomats and other citizens who cannot vote in their home towns.
“We will accept the voter’s decision, but will not rest until we find out what that decision truly is.”
The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, which, according to the election results published this evening, has won seven seats rather than the eight previously projected, announces that it will appeal the count.
The party says in a statement that there were irregularities in the tallying of the votes in various ultra-Orthodox areas.