The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his plan to apply Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements will “come up” as part of the upcoming US peace initiative.
He says he is referring to “all our communities in Judea and Samaria, including the [settlement] blocs as well as areas outside the blocs, and other areas crucial to our security and to securing our legacy.”
Netanyahu makes the statement while is convening his final pre-election cabinet meeting at the Jordan Valley Regional Council — a part of the West Bank he’s vowed to annex if reelected.
It is not immediately clear what Netanyahu means by this — whether such intentions have been incorporated into Washington’s plan or whether Israel will insist upon the move as part of any accord.
Netanyahu’s annexation plans have sparked a cascade of international condemnations. Critics say it could inflame the Middle East and eliminate any remaining Palestinian hope of establishing a state.
Turkey says it has received a second battery of Russian S-400 defense systems which have soured its relations with the US, led to Ankara being kicked out of the F-35 fighter program and raised the prospect of American sanctions on the country.
According to a Reuters report, Turkish authorities say the anti-aircraft system will go online next April.
The US believes Turkey’s posession of the system could compromise its F-35 stealth aircraft program and aid Russian intelligence.
Iran’s foreign minister says blaming his country for Yemeni rebel attacks on major Saudi oil sites will not end the war in the Arab world’s most impoverished country — but that talks might.
Mohammad Javad Zarif also says in a tweet that “Having failed at ‘max pressure,’ US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turning to ‘max deceit.'”
He adds: “Blaming Iran won’t end disaster. Accepting our April ’15 proposal to end war & begin talks may.”
Having failed at "max pressure", @SecPompeo's turning to "max deceit"
US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory.
Blaming Iran won't end disaster. Accepting our April '15 proposal to end war & begin talks may.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 15, 2019
It appears Yamina candidate Naftali Bennett’s purported map of settlement “islands” under the long awaited US peace plan is not based on actual knowledge of the upcoming proposal.
A spokesperson for Yamina tells The Times of Israel: “The map has been compiled by the Yamina party, to highlight the serious threat facing Israel with such a deal.
“The map is based on compiled statements by the prime minister, the US administration, and former minister Bennett’s knowledge of the negotiations.”
— with Raphael Ahren
Central Elections Committee chief Justice Hanan Melcer rejects the prime minister’s request for an emergency meeting before Tuesday’s vote to discuss the threat of supposed election fraud.
In his decision Melcer cites the tight schedule in the final days before the vote, as well as the fact that “the committee is not an investigative body and does not have concrete authority to instruct police.”
He adds that the premier and other lawmakers are free to write in with any concerns.
The cabinet has approved normalizing the West Bank outpost of Mevo’ot Yeriho after the election.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who last week said the move was not possible during an election period, today withdrew his objection, as the cabinet met in the illegal outpost.
The attorney general had said in his initial ruling that approving the action ahead of the vote could be seen as political propaganda.
The reason for his change of heart is not immediately clear.
After the Central Elections Commission chief refuses to meet with him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to address the Knesset shortly on alleged voter fraud in the previous elections.
Ministers Yariv Levin, Gilad Erdan and Amir Ohana will be joining him.
A 20-year-old resident of Tel Aviv has been placed under house arrest over suspicions he raped a young woman in the city.
The woman filed a complaint against the man in the early morning hours. She told police she met the young man while out and agreed to come to his apartment, where he raped her.
The salvos between the secularist Yisrael Beytenu party and ultra-Orthodox factions continue today, with legislators attacking each other over their differing views of the Jewish state’s character.
Speaking to the Ynet news site, MK Yitzhak Cohen of Shas rejects the assertion that there is religious coercion in Israeli public life.
“There is secular coercion,” he claims. Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman “goes on Shabbat to a shop that sells pork and does it in public to mock [us]. That’s secular coercion. He went to Tiv Taam, a shop that sells pork. He eats pork.”
MK Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beytenu calls Cohen “bizarre” and says “he needs to get used to the fact that Shas isn’t going to be in the next government.”
Liberman, who may well become kingmaker after the national vote, has said he plans to force a secular government of Likud, his party and Blue and White.
Ultra-Orthodox leaders are incensed with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for likening himself to the Biblical figure of Moses.
Asked earlier about several gaffes he’s made during interviews, the political neophyte said: “I prefer a prime minister who considers what is best for the people, looks at people as equals, even if he makes a mistake for one second.
“Moses was a stutterer and needed [his brother] Aaron to speak for him, but was a great leader, right? Wasn’t a great speaker. We’ll get there.”
United Torah Judaism chief Yaakov Litzman says he was “horrified” by the comparison and calls on Gantz to show humility.
UTJ’s Yisrael Eichler says: “Moses went with Aaron the priest who blessed Israel with love. In contrast Gantz is going with Balaam to curse Israel with eternal hatred.”
Gantz’s alliance with secularist Yair Lapid and his recent insistence that he will seek to form a secular government have raised the ire of Haredi MKs.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “embarrassing” plan to annex the Jordan Valley is a “despicable” attempt to strengthen his position ahead of this week’s election.
“Israel, encouraged by the support of certain countries, is continuing its aggressive policies that are turning it into a racist, apartheid regime,” he says, according to a Reuters translation of a report in the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Blue and White chief Benny Gantz accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau of attempting to carry out “a targeted assassination” of the Central Elections Committee.
Gantz says that with his unsubstantiated claims of rampant voter fraud and allegations that the CEC is failing to address the problem, Netanyahu “is carrying out a targeted assassination of the CEC” and “leading a process of delegitimization [against] the basic democratic process.”
Yamina head Ayelet Shaked is attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his call for right-wing voters to abandon smaller parties and vote only Likud in order to ensure a right-wing government.
“Netanyahu wants us small, pathetic and without power to influence,” she says in a statement. “We do not intend to be crushed under the wheels of Netanyahu’s truck.”
Shaked asserts the prime minister and his associates have “an irrational loathing” towards her but adds that she will not allow such a “grudge” to hurt “the truly important causes we are fighting for.”
Likud in response says: “Even Shaked, who only two months ago was still trying to join Likud, knows it doesn’t matter if her party receives one seat more or one less, but if Likud isn’t the largest party, we’ll get a left-wing government.”
Speaking to Fox News, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway does not rule out a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Reuters reports.
However, she notes that yesterday’s attacks on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, for which Washington has blamed Iran, “doesn’t help.”
Foreign Minister Israel Katz responds to Turkey’s accusation it is turning into a “racist, apartheid regime” over its plans to annex the Jordan Valley.
“Erdogan’s regime systematically violates human rights, brutally persecutes the Kurds, and supports the terrorists of Hamas. He is the last person who should be preaching morality to Israel,” he tweets.
Erdogan's regime systematically violates human rights, brutally persecutes the Kurds, and supports the terrorists of Hamas. He is the last person who should be preaching morals to Israel.
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) September 15, 2019
The Peace Now settlement watchdog blasts the cabinet’s decision to begin legalizing the Mevo’ot Yeriho outpost in the Jordan Valley, saying the move is meant to strategically prevent the development of the nearby Palestinian city of Jericho.
The northern edge of Jericho, which is in Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A of the West Bank, lies just 650 meters from the border of the illegal Mevo’ot Yeriho outpost.
“This official establishment of another settlement proves yet again that the government is unencumbered by the thought of international backlash or the end to Israeli democracy on its way to annex Area C,” Peace Now says in a statement.
— Jacob Magid
Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman has officially entered his role as IDF spokesman, replacing the outgoing Ronen Manelis.
At a ceremony in Tel Aviv, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate, says Israel “faces a complex reality the likes of which we have not known in many years, and the next conflict could erupt any day.
“The media arena is a legitimate part of the battlefield and fighting over public perception is an inseparable part of winning and achieving results.”
President Reuven Rivlin responds to Shas party chief Aryeh Deri’s complaint that he has not condemned statements against the ultra-Orthodox public during the run-up to the election.
Rivlin says he is “pained by the exclusion of groups in Israel, including the ultra-Orthodox public, and the harsh discourse we have come to in recent election campaigns.”
Deri earlier protested what he said was Rivlin’s failure to speak up over certain parties’ call to exclude the ultra-Orthodox factions from the next government.
The offices of the European Union’s delegation to Israel have been vandalized with graffiti.
The entrance to EU offices in Ramat Gan were spray-painted with the words “German money kills Jews” and “EU get out.”
כתובת נאצה רוססו במשרדי האיחוד האירופי
EU office in Israel vandalized today pic.twitter.com/NEkrO61XCL
— Noa Landau נעה לנדאו (@noa_landau) September 15, 2019
Police are searching for the perpetrators.
— with Raphael Ahren
A spokesperson for the EU mission in Israel responds to vandalism at its Ramat Gan offices.
“No diplomat was present, as the office was closed on Sunday,” the official says.
“This incident aiming to intimidate the EU and its personnel is deplorable and should be condemned,” he adds. “The EU Delegation is in contact with law enforcement and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the necessary follow up and to ensure that adequate security measures are taken.”
— Raphael Ahren
IDF troops in the northern West Bank, near Nablus, arrest a Palestinian man after finding a gun and ammunition in the trunk of his car.
The man was taken for questioning by security forces.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemns the vandalism at the EU Delegation to Israel, saying Israel is “appalled” by the incident.
He says Israel is committed to upholding the security of diplomatic missions.
Police are investigating the attack. “We expect a swift resolution to the investigation, at the end of which, the vandals will be brought to justice,” he says.
Tens of thousands of people are participating in a final election rally of the United Torah Judaism party in Jerusalem.
At the rally, UTJ head Yaakov Litzman decries the intentions of the Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu parties to form a government without ultra-Orthodox parties.
“To think how people would react in Israel and in the world if they’d announce a government without Ethiopians, without Druze, and so on,” he says. “But it’s fine to hurt the Haredim, to slander and humiliate [them].
“The values of Judaism, important and simple issues which were taboo to touch for years — everything is being reopened.”
The Democratic Camp is warning its activists that Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “are preparing to undermine the results of the vote” on election day, Walla news reports.
The party is telling its representatives to prepare for a day of violence.
“We know of preparations by right-wing groups and efforts by unauthorized persons to enter the polling stations. We know there will be attempts to engage in provocations outside the polling stations. Our request for activists is to prepare for a violent election day.”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at a party meeting calls on President Reuven Rivlin to award the mandate for forming the next government only to a candidate who will vow to return it should he fail.
This, “so we don’t go to elections for a third time,” Gantz says.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expresses its “total rejection” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election pledge to annex the strategic Jordan Valley, Saudi state media said.
After an emergency foreign ministers’ meeting in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, the OIC expresses “its total rejection and strong condemnation of the Israeli Prime Minister’s declaration.”
“This dangerous declaration… deliberately undermines international efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace… and pushes the whole region towards further violence and instability,” the 57-member pan-Islamic body adds in a statement carried by Saudi state media.
Saeid Mollaei has been in hiding since he left the Iranian judo team last month, saying he has been ordered to withdraw from the world championships on political grounds.
Now he’s training for next year’s Olympics without a guarantee he can compete.
Mollaei was the defending world champion, and Israel’s Sagi Muki his biggest rival for the gold medal. There was one problem — Iran has a policy of boycotting all competitions against Israelis, even if that means an athlete’s training was all for nothing.
In the end, Mollaei lost a bronze-medal bout and didn’t face Muki, who won gold. The International Judo Federation, which is supporting Mollaei, said he received demands to withdraw from an Iranian deputy sports minister, embassy staff and the head of the Iranian Olympic Committee.
Mollaei tells The Associated Press he was ordered to lose a preliminary bout against a Russian in order to cover up the reason for his withdrawal. When he refused and won, he received more intimidating calls from senior officials.
“For once, I decided to live as a free man for myself, and prove to the world that I am a brave man,” Mollaei says in a recent interview in Germany, where he’s living in an undisclosed location.
“I did this for my human soul. For myself. I wanted to practice and compete with freedom, with peace of mind,” says Mollaei, speaking in Persian. “I didn’t want to worry about whom to compete with and whom not to compete with. I’ll compete with anyone, to honor the Olympic charter.”