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Gantz calls on Netanyahu to resign, saying Israel can’t have a ‘part-time PM’

Blue and White party leader says announcement of graft charges pending a hearing a ‘sad day,’ vows not to join government headed by Netanyahu

Israel Resilience party chief Benny Gantz speaks at a party gathering in Tel Aviv on February 19, 2019, in a speech in which he castigated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israel Resilience party chief Benny Gantz speaks at a party gathering in Tel Aviv on February 19, 2019, in a speech in which he castigated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

Likud petitions High Court to stop AG announcing indictment against PM

In a dramatic last-ditch attempt to prevent the publication of criminal charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the April election, the Likud party files a petition with the High Court of Justice calling for a block on the expected announcement of intention to indict the premier in three criminal cases against him.

According to the ruling party’s chief legal adviser, publishing the charges pending a hearing process that will only be completed after the vote could unfairly affect the outcome of the election.

Navot Tel-Zur at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 9, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“It is possible that as a result of the publication of the attorney general’s decision, parties that are part of the right-wing bloc that supports the prime minister will receive fewer seats in the Knesset, although this decision may turn 180 degrees as a result of the hearing that will take place only after the elections, but it will be too late for the parties that lost representation in the Knesset and in the government that will arise, as a direct result of this publication,” Navot Tel Zur says.

“This is an unprecedented case since the establishment of the state, in which such a decision will be made against an incumbent prime minister, and great caution is necessary and obvious in terms of preventing intervention in the election campaign.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is widely expected in the coming hours to announce his intention to charge Netanyahu with criminal offenses in all three cases against him, including bribery in the Bezeq corruption probe.

— with Raoul Wootliff

UN probe accuses Israel of possible crimes against humanity

A UN Human Rights Council probe claims that there is evidence that Israel committed crimes against humanity in responding to 2018 protests and border riots in Gaza, as snipers allegedly targeted people clearly identifiable as children, health workers and journalists.

“Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the chair of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Santiago Canton, says in a statement.

The inquiry investigated possible violations from the start of the protests — organized by the Hamas terror organization which rules Gaza and is committed to Israel’s destruction — on March 30, 2018 through to December 31.

Israel regularly accuses the Human Rights Council of anti-Israel bias and disproportionately focusing on the Jewish state.

— with AFP

Israel rejects ‘biased’ UN probe into response to Gaza unrest

Israel rejects the findings of the UN probe into its soldiers’ response to Gaza unrest that began in March last year, calling it “hostile, deceitful and biased.”

“Israel rejects the report outright,” acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz says in a statement after the probe alleged soldiers may have committed crimes against humanity.

Composite image of Transportation Minister Israel Katz (L) and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. (Hadas Parush/Flash90, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“No institution can negate Israel’s right to self-defense and its duty to defend its residents and borders from violent attacks.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett comments that “it’s hard to imagine the UN could sink any lower. Alternating between excusing terror and ignoring terror it is letting down democracies and backing dictators and tyrants.”

— with AFP

Prosecution says petition against PM indictment announcement should be rejected

In response to a High Court petition by the Likud party and attorney Yossi Fuchs against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s expected announcement of plans to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption probes, the state prosecution publishes a letter sent yesterday to Fuchs that says such a petition should be rejected outright.

In the letter, sent by Aner Helman of the prosecutor’s office after Fuchs notified him of the intention to file the High Court petition, he says it should be thrown out for several reasons, including that a similar previous petition was rejected and that Fuchs is intervening in a matter that doesn’t personally involve him.

The prosecution also claims that a reason for the rejection should be the delay in filing it, when it has been known for some time that Mandelblit intends to make the announcement. It also says the arguments should have been raised with Mandelblit himself before taking the matter to the High Court of Justice.

Man trapped as car gets washed away in flood outside Jerusalem

A vehicle gets washed away in a stream outside Jerusalem amid heavy rains, with authorities scrambling to rescue a man who got trapped in the middle of a flooding.

Dramatic footage from the Arazim Valley shows a man standing on top of the car while trying to avoid the rushing water underneath him, with medical and rescue forces struggling to reach him.

A second man reportedly managed to escape earlier by swimming to the riverbank. Both men’s condition isn’t immediately known.

Man rescued from flood near Jerusalem in dramatic footage

The man trapped in a flood at the Arazim valley outside Jerusalem is rescued from atop his car by forces who entered the rushing water attached to a rope and handed him a life preserver.

The dramatic rescue is captured on live TV.

The condition of the man isn’t yet known.

Defense sums up case in Belgium Jewish museum slaying

The defense lawyer for a man charged with terror offenses over the killing of four people at a Jewish museum in Belgium is summing up his case, a week before the verdict is to be handed down.

Lawyer Sebastien Courtoy sets about establishing doubt in the 12 jurors’ minds over the credibility of the evidence and witness testimony against his client, Mehdi Nemmouche.

Sebastien Courtoy, the Belgian lawyer of Mehdi Nemmouche, speaks with reporters at the courthouse in Brussels on January 18, 2019. (John Thys/AFP)

He claims that investigators desperate to secure a guilty verdict even tampered with some of the evidence.

Nemmouche, a suspected French jihadist who spent time in Syria, is charged with “terrorist murder” over the 2014 slaying of an Israeli couple and two employees at the Jewish museum in Brussels.

Courtoy says the killing was the work of Israeli or Lebanese agents, not his client.

— AP

Pakistan to release Indian pilot Friday as ‘peace gesture’

Pakistan will release a captured Indian pilot on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan tells a joint session of parliament, in an overture towards New Delhi after soaring tensions fueled fears of conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.

“As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow,” Khan says, a day after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down in a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbors over the disputed region of Kashmir.

— AFP

Man rescued from flood is in moderate condition, suffering from hypothermia

The driver who was rescued after he was trapped on the roof of his car in a flood at the Arazim valley is taken to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem.

The 50-year-old man is undergoing treatment for hypothermia and is said to be in moderate condition, according to a statement by the medical center.

Israeli rights group calls for inquiry into IDF open fire policy after UN report

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel responds to the UN Human Rights Council probe, which said the Israeli military could have committed crimes against humanity in its response to weekly Gaza border riots over the past year, by calling on Jerusalem to establish a commission of inquiry on its open fire policy.

The rights group, which has previously petitioned to the High Court against the IDF policy, says in a statement that “after the court refused to properly examine the army’s policy of opening fire and the conduct of the forces on the ground, and in light of the United Nation’s findings, it is imperative that the Israeli government establish a commission of inquiry to examine the events on the border in depth.

“It is impossible to ignore the killing and wounding of dozens of civilians, including women and children, on the grounds of self-defense.”

EU Commission rebuts Orban’s accusations against Brussels, Soros over migration

The European Commission has issued a formal rebuttal to accusations by the Hungarian government that the EU is promoting mass migration.

EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva says that “the Hungarian government campaign distorts the truth and seeks to paint a dark picture of a secret plot to drive more migration to Europe.”

A billboard from a campaign of the Hungarian government showing EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) and Hungarian-American financier George Soros with the caption “You, too, have a right to know what Brussels is preparing to do” is displayed at a street in Budapest, Hungary, February 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi)

In a point-by-point statement, the commission insists it is not planning to introduce mandatory resettlement quotas and it is working hard to defeat human trafficking.

Andreeva said Hungarian citizens “deserve fact not fiction.”

In the election campaign of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the Hungarian government sent citizens a letter from the prime minister that warns “the Brussels bureaucrats want to break the resistance of countries opposed to immigration.” The campaign is also focused against Jewish billionaire and liberal philanthropist George Soros.

The dispute comes three months ahead of the European elections.

— AP

Likud blasts expected indictment announcement as ‘attempted political hit job’

The ruling Likud party releases a campaign video preemptively slamming as “an attempted political hit job” Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s expected announcement of planned bribery charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The clip repeats many of Netanyahu’s talking points against the corruption investigations against him, calling them a “house of cards” that will collapse during the hearing process, linking them to the April elections and blaming left-wing pressure applied on a “weak” Mandelblit.

Netanyahu intends to deliver a statement to the press at 8 p.m. if the announcement is indeed made before then.

Netanyahu accuses UN of ‘hypocrisy and lies’ after damning report on Gaza

The UN Human Rights Council is “reaching new heights of hypocrisy and lies out of obsessive hatred toward Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, responding to a probe that said IDF troops may have committed crimes against humanity in the response to weekly Gaza border riots organized by the Hamas terror group.

“Hamas is the one shooting rockets at Israeli civilians, hurling explosives and conducting terror activities during the violent demonstrations on the [border] fence,” Netanyahu adds in a statement.

Brazilian president Bolsonaro to visit Israel shortly before Knesset elections

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro will visit Israel for the first time a week before the April 9 Knesset elections, the Foreign Ministry says.

The staunchly pro-Israel conservative leader is scheduled to come for a four-day visit starting on March 31, which follows a trip made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Brazil in December.

It isn’t clear what the visit will include and whether Brasilia will use it to announce an embassy move to Jerusalem — a step Bolsonaro has confirmed he intends to make.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is welcomed by Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro at the Copacabana fort in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on December 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/Pool/AFP)

Gabbay calls on Netanyahu to resign and fight charges as private citizen

Labor leader Avi Gabbay calls on Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign in light of the expected announcement of bribery and breach of trust charges against him, pending a hearing.

“This is a black day for the state, when a prime minister is accused of grave corruption,” Gabbay says at a local leaders conference in Tel Aviv.

“The prime minister is a symbol of the state, don’t embarrass the citizens of Israel,” he adds. “You deserve to fight to clear your name, but not from the Prime Minister’s Residence.”

US-backed Syria fighters find mass grave near IS-held area

A spokesman for US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State group in Syria says they have uncovered a mass grave near the last IS-held pocket in the country’s east.

Adnan Afrin says the grave unearthed outside the village of Baghouz contains the remains of men and women but says the number of bodies and their identities remain unclear.

A video published by Kurdish-run Furat FM TV station has emerged showing several bodies dug out from a pit.

Warning: Graphic footage

The Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces has been locked in a standoff with remaining IS militants holed up in Baghouz with civilians since early February.

Afrin says his forces managed to free 24 SDF fighters over the course of evacuating civilians from the area.

— AP

Liberman urges Elections Committee to ban Jewish member of mostly Arab party

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman submit a request to the Elections Committee for Jewish candidate Ofer Kassif to be disqualified from running for the Hadash-Ta’al party in the upcoming elections.

“Anyone who claims that Israel should not be a Jewish state cannot sit in the Israeli Knesset,” Liberman charges, according to Hebrew-language media.

Ofer Kassif of the Hadash-Ta’al party. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Whoever permits the [spilling] of the blood of IDF soldiers and determines that harm to them is not terrorism, and anyone who thinks that Jews who go up to the Temple Mount are a cancer that needs to be eliminated, cannot sit in the Israeli Knesset. His place is in parliament in Gaza or in Ramallah,” he adds.

Kassif responds: “I will enter the Knesset no matter what he thinks of me.”

Kassif is the only Jewish candidate on the mostly Arab party’s list, after Dov Khenin announced his resignation from politics last month. He is placed fifth on the Hadash and Ta’al parties’ joint list of top 10 candidates for Knesset elections on April 9.

As a Hebrew University professor, he made headlines four years ago after calling Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum.”

Stray bullets from Egypt hit IDF vehicle near border, military says

The Israel Defense Force says bullets hit an army vehicle near the border with Egypt, adding it is likely spillover from infighting in Sinai.

The military says in a statement that there were no injuries caused in the incident, which follows several similar occurrences in recent months.

High Court throws out Likud petition against PM indictment announcement

The High Court rejects a Likud petition against the expected announcement today of bribery and breach of trust charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pending a hearing.

A panel of three judges rejects the petition outright, arguing that a similar previous petition was thrown out and that the current petition was filed with a significant delay when it was clear for some time that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit intends to make the declaration before the April elections.

Hamas calls for Israel to be held accountable after UN Gaza probe

Hamas calls for Israel to be held accountable after a UN probe said IDF soldiers may have committed crimes against humanity in their response to Gaza unrest fueled by the Palestinian terror group.

“The report indicates beyond any doubt that the Israeli occupation has committed clear war crimes against the Palestinians who came out to protest peacefully to demand the right of return and lift the siege,” Bassem Naim, a senior official for the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip and is committed to the destruction of Israel, tells AFP.

He calls on “the international community to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for the war crimes that it continues to commit against the Palestinians.”

— AFP

Likud slams High Court’s ‘unfortunate’ rejection of bid to delay indictment announcement

Likud criticizes the High Court’s rejection of a petition demanding a delay of the expected announcement of bribery and breach of trust charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pending a hearing.

“It is unfortunate that the High Court didn’t prevent the left from blatantly intervening in the elections,” Likud says in a statement.

“The High Court itself previously ruled, in a case related to [Likud MK] Tzachi Hanegbi, that the attorney general should refrain from making announcements during elections and criticized the former attorney general who did so,” it adds. “It is a shame that the High Court didn’t listen to the High Court.”

Hundreds trapped in Jerusalem school due to floods

Efforts are underway to rescue hundreds of schoolchildren trapped for hours in the Ein Kerem Agricultural School in Jerusalem due to floods blocking all access.

Strong streams around the school premises have thus far prevented police and rescue forces from reaching the trapped students and school staff. Several vehicles attempting to cross the streams ended up trapped in the water and were rescued.

PA hails UN report on Israeli response to Gaza riots, but says it isn’t enough

The Palestinian Authority welcomes the UN Human Rights Council report saying IDF forces may have committed crimes against humanity in its response to weekly Gaza border riots over the past year, but says it doesn’t go far enough in establishing accountability.

Ahmad Shami, a spokesperson for PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, says the probe “is a right step in the right direction, yet is not enough for establishing comprehensive accountability. The international community must take its responsibility and provide international protection for the Palestinian citizens in every inch of Occupied Palestine.”

“We urge the international community and all United Nations related institutions to oblige Israel to commit to the fourth Geneva Convention and uphold its legal obligations as a belligerent occupant to protect the Palestinian citizens under its military control,” Shami adds.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during a joint news conference with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, May 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Meretz says it will call urgent Knesset meeting to discuss charges against PM

Opposition party Meretz says it will call an urgent Knesset plenum discussion, despite the parliament currently being on hiatus, on the expected announcement of corruption charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pending a hearing.

“A prime minister cannot serve with an indictment against him,” party leader Tamar Zandberg says. “Meretz will hold a special discussion and commits to presenting a bill at the beginning of the next Knesset session forcing a prime minister to take a leave of absence if formally charged.”

Gantz files libel suit against woman who accused him of exposing himself to her

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz files a NIS 500,000 ($142,000) libel lawsuit against a US-based Israeli woman who accused the would-be prime minister of exposing himself to her some 40 years ago, when she was 14 and he was 17.

Gantz’s Blue and White party says Gantz filed the suit against Nava Jacobs at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court in response to her accusation of sexual misconduct that is “completely false from start to finish.”

Israel Resilience party chairman Benny Gantz speaks at the 55th Munich Security Conference in southern Germany, February 17, 2019. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP)

“The plaintiff does not remember the accuser, and in any case, the fantastical story she invented in her head never happened,” the party says in a statement.

The suit also claims that Jacobs “acted at the behest of, or with the help of, political parties who seek to humiliate and discredit Gantz.”

Earlier today, the Walla news site reported that Culture Minister Miri Regev’s office was in contact with Jacobs weeks before she made the allegation against Gantz in a public Facebook post yesterday.

According to the report, members of Regev’s staff helped Jacobs approach a journalist with the story last month. Jacobs and Regev’s office confirmed the report.

Regev’s Likud party is in close competition with Gantz’s Blue and White party in the polls, with one of the two factions expected to win the upcoming elections.

PA to appoint new Ramallah government ‘within days’ — official

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will appoint a prime minister to lead a new, Ramallah-based government “within days,” Hussein al-Sheikh, a close confidant of the Palestinian leader, tweets.

In late January, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his fellow government ministers tendered their resignations.

Abbas later accepted their resignations and assigned them the task of maintaining the PA government’s operations until the formation of a new one.

— Adam Rasgon

Mandelblit declares bribery, breach of trust charges against PM, pending hearing

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informs Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers that he will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, including for bribery in the far-reaching Bezeq corruption probe, pending a hearing.

The dramatic decision marks the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister has been told he faces criminal charges, and is sure to rock Israeli politics less than six weeks before general elections.

Despite recommendations from the state attorney and police that the prime minister stand trial for bribery in all of the cases, Mandelblit opts for the lesser charge of breach of trust in two of the affairs, known as Cases 1000 and 2000.

Netanyahu will be notified that he can request a hearing to contest the planned indictment, in a process that could take up to a year, during which time he is not legally obliged to step down. It’s not clear if Netanyahu could continue to serve after being formally charged with criminal offenses.

Likud blasts AG indictment announcement against PM as ‘political persecution’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party comments on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement of bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges against him, pending a hearing

“Nobody is surprised by the attorney general’s announcement that came after three years of relentless pressure on him by the media, the left and judiciary bureaucrats to indict the prime minister at any cost — even when there isn’t anything, just to have it happen before the elections,” Likud says in a statement released immediately after Mandelblit’s announcement.

“This is political persecution,” it alleges. “The witch hunt against the prime minister began with an attempt to frame him with four bribery cases. Already, before the hearing, three of them have collapsed. The rest of the claims will similarly collapse like a house of cards when the prime minister confronts the state witnesses, bring dozens of witnesses who strangely weren’t questioned and present the documents and protocols that prove all of the prime minister’s actions and decisions were lawful.”

“A unilateral publication of the attorney general’s announcement a month before the elections, without giving the prime minister an opportunity to disprove these false claims is a blatant and unprecedended intervention in the elections,” Likud adds.

Netanyahu to make statement on his indictment announcement at 8 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will deliver a press statement from his Jerusalem residence at 8 p.m. after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announces bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges against him, pending a hearing.

Netanyahu will not take questions from journalists during his statement, his office says.

Right-wing alliance says it will recommend Netanyahu as next PM despite charges

The Union of Right Wing Parties, an alliance of the Jewish Home, National Union and Otzma Yehudit parties, says it will back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the next premier despite the announcement of corruption charges against Netanyahu, pending a hearing.

“Every person, including Benjamin Netanyahu, is innocent until proven guilty, and therefore the Union of Right Wing Parties will recommend after the elections that Prime Minister Netanyahu be the candidate to form a strong and stable right-wing government,” the party says in a statement.

“However, in light of past bitter experience, it is now clearer than ever that the Union of Right Wing Parties — the only slate truly committed to the Land of Israel — must be large and strong so that we will not find ourselves the day after the elections with a Bibi-Gantz-Lapid government that could lead us to the establishment of a Palestinian terror state,” it adds.

Opposition chief: Netanyahu unfit to serve as PM after indictment announcement

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer fit to be prime minister after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s announced bribery and breach of trust charges against the premier, pending a hearing.

“As of this sad moment, Netanyahu is fighting for his personal life, is unfit to fight for the lives of the citizens of the state, is unfit to be prime minister, and is unfit to even run in the elections,” Yachimovich says in a statement.

“I call on Netanyahu: if you are a patriot who loves the country, go and clear your name without dragging an entire country with you as a hostage,” she adds. “You are not Superman, there is no human being who can make crucial national decisions without them being affected by his personal battle being on his mind 24 hours a day.”

Shelly Yachimovich leads a State Control Committee meeting in the Knesset on December 31, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Saudi Arabia applauds UK for proscribing Hezbollah as a terror group

Saudi Arabia praises Britain’s decision earlier this week to blacklist Lebanon’s Hezbollah in its entirety as a terror group.

In a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the spokesman for the head of state security says: “The Kingdom welcomes the determination of the United Kingdom to designate militias known as Hezbollah as a terrorist group, including both its political and military branches.”

Shas vows to only back Netanyahu as next leader despite charges

The Shas ultra-Orthodox coalition party responds to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement of corruption charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by confirming it will nonetheless back him — and nobody else — to be the next premier.

“As we said the whole time, Shas will only support Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister and will recommend him to form the next government,” it says.

“Netanyahu is the most fitting person to lead the country at this time and we will back him as prime minister as long as the law allows him.”

Mandelblit decides not to charge PM’s wife and son with bribery in Case 4000

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided not to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and son, Yair, for their role in the Bezeq corruption probe — known as Case 4000 — in which the premier will be indicted for bribery, pending a hearing.

Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in telecom firm Bezeq, will stand trial for bribery — pending a hearing — as will his wife, Iris, according to Mandelblit.

He also intends to charge Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for bribery in Case 2000, in which Netanyahu faces fraud and breach of trust charges, rather than bribery.

1,200 students rescued from Jerusalem school after being trapped for hours

After they were trapped for hours inside the Ein Kerem Agricultural School in Jerusalem due to floods blocking all access, some 1,200 schoolchildren and teachers are successfully rescued.

Heavy rains caused the school to be cut off by flooding that had earlier prevented rescue vehicles from reaching the compound and caused a bridge to collapse.

The students and staff members are transported using police, rescue and firefighter vehicles.

All coalition parties except Kulanu issue statements supporting Netanyahu

After Shas and the Union of Right Wing Parties, all other coalition parties — except Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu — publicly back Prime Minister Netanyahu despite Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement of corruption charges against him, pending a hearing.

“In Israel, the only body authorized to rule whether someone is guilty or innocent is the court,” Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman says in a statement. “The presumption of innocence is assured for anyone, including the prime minister. Therefore as far as we’re concerned, Netanyahu can run in the Knesset elections like anyone else.”

The New Right party similarly says Netanyahu “enjoys the presumption of innocence, like any other citizen. We respect the attorney general’s decision, but just as the attorney general himself said he would come to the [pre-indictment] hearing with an open mind, we will also wait [to judge Netanyahu] until after the hearing. The New Right party will ask the president to appoint Netanyahu to form the next coalition.”

United Torah Judaism also says it views Netanyahu as innocent until proven otherwise, confirming it will continue supporting him “especially during this sensitive time, as long as the law permits it.”

Andre Previn, Oscar-winning Jewish composer, dies at 89

Andre Previn, the pianist, composer and conductor whose broad reach took in the worlds of Hollywood, jazz and classical music, has died. He was 89.

His manager Linda Petrikova says Previn passed away today in his US home in Manhattan.

Previn was a child prodigy whose Jewish family fled Nazi Germany. As a teenager, he found work as a composer and arranger in the musical sweatshops of Hollywood, mostly at MGM, winning four Oscars for his orchestrations of such stylish musicals as 1964’s “My Fair Lady.”

He then abandoned Hollywood for a career as a classical conductor.

In this September 1, 2004 file photo, conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Andre Previn, conducts the 15th symphony concert during the Lucerne Festival in the concert hall in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Urs FlueelerKEYSTONE via AP, File)

— AP

Netanyahu says he will refute all the ‘vile charges’ against him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicks off his press statement, following Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement of bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges against him pending a hearing, by mentioning US President Donald Trump’s praise for him earlier today and saying that his ties with foreign leaders are unparalleled and that the indictment is part of a plan to topple his government.

Netanyahu repeats his allegation of political persecution against him and relentless pressure on Mandelblit to indict him while not letting him respond to the “vile charges” before the April elections.

“Rest assured, I will refute all the allegations,” Netanyahu says at his Jerusalem residence.

Netanyahu: ‘No precedent’ to bribery charges involving positive coverage

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that there is “no precedent” to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision to announce bribery charges based on positive coverage — “two and a half stories in the Walla website” — rather than money.

He brings up US attorney Alan Dershowitz’s letter earlier today defending him, in which he said the announcement would undermine the democratic process in Israel, as an example to his “unparalleled” standing in the international arena.

“We turned Israel into a rising world power, but not with dangerous concessions,” Netanyahu says in his impassioned statement. “The left knows it can’t beat us with such achievements. So for three years it has engaged in an unprecedented political witch hunt with one purpose only: To topple the right-wing government I lead and put in power the left-wing party of [Yair] Lapid and Benny [Gantz].”

Senior legal official dismisses PM’s ‘baseless accusations’ against AG

A senior legal official is quoted by the Ynet news website as dismissing “embarrassing” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit caved in to left-wing pressure by announcing corruption charges against him pending a hearing.

“These are baseless accusations,” the official adds. “Unfounded excuses.”

Labor slams Netanyahu: ‘The show is over, take responsibility and resign’

The Labor Party reiterates its call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign in light of the corruption charges announced against him pending a hearing, after the premier’s defiant televised speech.

“The show is over,” the party says in a statement. “Netanyahu, that’s enough. You are embarrassing us. Take responsibility and resign. The Israeli nation doesn’t want a corrupt leadership.

“Fight your battle as a private citizen. Don’t embarrass the office of the prime minister.”

The left-wing Meretz party asks the Elections Committee to prevent future live broadcast of Netanyahu’s statement, claiming it amounts to “20 minutes of Likud election propaganda.”

Gantz calls on Netanyahu to resign, saying Israel can’t have a ‘half-time prime minister’

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz calls the announcement of bribery and other charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — pending a hearing — a “sad day” for Israel, saying the country can’t have a “half-time prime minister” preoccupied with his own legal defense.

“Don’t forget, the country belongs to all of us,” he says at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “You chose your own benefit over the countries. That is a bad decision.”

He quotes Netanyahu’s remark a decade ago, referring to ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert, that “a prime minister drowning up to his neck in investigations” cannot be expected to make decisions without putting his personal benefit above the country’s.

He calls on Netanyahu to resign.

“I won’t sit [in a government] with Benjamin Netanyahu. Benjamin Netanyahu, I appeal to you from here tonight: Show national responsibility, and resign from your position. If and when you can prove your innocence, you can return to public service with your head held high.”

Likud recalls sexual misconduct claims against Gantz after call on PM to resign

Likud responds to Benny Gantz’s call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign by referring to the Blue and White leader’s own legal woes, with people claiming he exposed himself in front of girls when he was a teenager.

“The presumption of innocence is assured for everyone, including Benny Gantz, and we hope he will clear his name as soon as possible in light of the grave allegations against him,” Netanyahu’s party says.

Lapid reiterates Blue and White won’t sit with Netanyahu in gov’t, even before hearing

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid echoes Benny Gantz’s statement calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and vowing not to join his government after the April elections.

“This is a sad day for the State of Israel,” Lapid says in a statement. “From the bottom of my heart, I hope he’s cleared of all charges.

And yet, Netanyahu cannot continue to serve as prime minister. He knows that better than anyone. The Prime Minister is a symbol and we must not allow that symbol to be tarnished.”

No citizen of Israel would want their children being taught by someone who has been indicted, or being treated by a doctor who has been indicted, or serving under a commander who has been indicted,” he adds. “If Netanyahu loves the State of Israel as he always says he does, then he needs to do what’s best for the country: He needs to resign, immediately. He can pass the baton to someone else in the Likud; there are plenty of good people there.

“It goes without saying that we will not sit in any government in which the prime minister has been indicted for such serious crimes. That’s true now, even before the hearing. If Netanyahu is cleared of the charges, and again I hope for him and his family that he is, he can always come back.”

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EU Commission rebuts Orban’s accusations against Brussels, Soros over migration

The European Commission has issued a formal rebuttal to accusations by the Hungarian government that the EU is promoting mass migration.

EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva says that “the Hungarian government campaign distorts the truth and seeks to paint a dark picture of a secret plot to drive more migration to Europe.”

A billboard from a campaign of the Hungarian government showing EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) and Hungarian-American financier George Soros with the caption “You, too, have a right to know what Brussels is preparing to do” is displayed at a street in Budapest, Hungary, February 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi)

In a point-by-point statement, the commission insists it is not planning to introduce mandatory resettlement quotas and it is working hard to defeat human trafficking.

Andreeva said Hungarian citizens “deserve fact not fiction.”

In the election campaign of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the Hungarian government sent citizens a letter from the prime minister that warns “the Brussels bureaucrats want to break the resistance of countries opposed to immigration.” The campaign is also focused against Jewish billionaire and liberal philanthropist George Soros.

The dispute comes three months ahead of the European elections.

— AP