Gantz says ‘we’re insisting’ on budget as coalition crisis spirals
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Police detain protesters after thousands refuse to leave Jerusalem rally

Meanwhile Likud and Blue and White say Sunday cabinet meeting canceled, blame each other due to impasse over budget, in new low for crumbling coalition

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on August 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on August 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Thousands expected to mass at Netanyahu residences in latest protests

Thousands of protesters are expected to attend anti-government rallies outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, and his private home in Caesarea.

So-called Black Flag demonstrations are expected to be held on some 260 bridges and intersections across the country.

Recent weeks have seen near-daily demonstrations against Netanyahu due to his criminal indictment for corruption, and to protest his handling of the coronavirus and accompanying economic crisis.

A Friday protest outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence drew 3,000 demonstrators.

Last Saturday’s protest, the largest anti-Netanyahu Jerusalem rally to date, saw some 10,000 people attend, police said.

Number of injured in Beirut blast rises to 6,000; death toll up to 158

The estimated number of people injured in the monster explosion at Beirut’s port shoots up to 6,000, Lebanon’s health ministry says in a statement.

The death toll climbs to 158 and the number of missing drops to 21 from 60 in the latest ministry figures.

The authorities had previously put the number of people injured in Tuesday’s blast at 5,000, stressing that at least 120 of them were considered to be in critical condition.

— AFP

A rescue team worker rests during a search to find bodies at the site of the massive explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Weekly cabinet meeting likely to be canceled amid coalition crisis, report says

The government’s weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday is expected to be canceled, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Government ministers have yet to receive an official announcement on the move, which is reportedly due to a conflict between Likud and Blue and White over the meeting’s agenda.

The Kan report does not cite its source, but a statement to the broadcaster from a senior Likud official appears to confirm the cancellation.

“Blue and White vetoed the agenda and brought the cancellation of the cabinet meeting,” the Likud source says.

“Every moment, Likud is asking to violate another clause in the coalition agreement. They want elections,” a Blue and White official tells the network.

The development comes amid rampant speculation over a new round of elections, accompanied by an escalating crisis over the state budget.

A cancellation would be a dire setback for the coalition.

Hebrew media reported Friday that not a single item was put on the government’s agenda for the meeting, noting that not since the current unity government was formed — and probably not for years — was there a case where no item had been put on the agenda so late in the week.

A new election would be the fourth national vote in under two years.

Macron reportedly cautions Trump about sanctions against Hezbollah

French President Emmanuel Macron told US President Donald Trump on Friday that US sanctions against the Hezbollah terror group are counterproductive, the Reuters news agency reports, citing a French official.

Macron told Trump the US should “reinvest” in rebuilding Lebanon, ahead of a conference France is hosting on aid to Lebanon which Trump will participate in.

France has longstanding, friendly ties to Lebanon, and Macron was the first foreign head of state to visit Beirut after the blast. He urged government reforms and said he wanted to coordinate international assistance to Lebanon.

The US started shipping aid to Lebanon on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron, center, visits the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)

Some 300 protesters gather outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence

Some 300 protesters gather at an anti-government protest outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem.

Streets around the protest site are closed to traffic.

Several hundred other protesters are demonstrating on dozens of bridges and traffic junctions around the country, the Ynet news site reports.

The protests Saturday evening, which will include a rally at Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea, are expected to draw thousands.

Last Saturday’s protest in Jerusalem was attended by 10,000 people, police said, although protester organizers said the number was even higher.

The demonstrators are demanding Netanyahu resign over his indictment on corruption charges and for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic slump.

Member of Lebanese security forces reported killed in Beirut protest

Al-Arabiya reports that a member of the Lebanese security forces has been killed during clashes with demonstrators in downtown Beirut.

Journalists on the scene report the use of live fire by security forces.

The Lebanese Red Cross reports 142 wounded, with 32 taken to hospitals and 110 treated on site.

Thousands of people are massed in Beirut’s main square, where they have set up symbolic nooses to hang politicians whose corruption and negligence they blame for Tuesday’s devastating explosion at Beirut’s port.

The protest Saturday was the first significant demonstration since the explosion and organizers planned to hold a symbolic funeral for the dead.

-Aaron Boxerman

Gallant blames Blue and White for expected cancellation of cabinet meeting

Education Minister Yoav Gallant of Likud in an interview with Channel 13 blames Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party for the expected cancellation of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.

Gallant says that “Blue and White is not setting an agenda for the cabinet meeting because it does not want a budget.”

“I think elections right now for Israel are not a good thing. So I see the opposition from Blue and White and I’m very concerned. Blue and White is not allowing us to come [to] the cabinet meeting as a result of them not wanting a budget,” Gallant says.

Gallant does not say there definitely will not be a cabinet meeting on Sunday, but says, “There’s no agenda. I look at this and say, ‘in another three weeks, or less, we’ll be in elections if nothing happens.’”

“I’m calling for Benny Gantz to come tomorrow, pass a budget, so we can move forward,” Gallant says.

Earlier reports said the meeting was expected to be canceled, which would mark a dire setback for the governing coalition.

The development comes amid rampant speculation over a new round of elections, sparked by the escalating crisis over the state budget.

Education Minister Yoav Gallant at a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gantz says ‘we’re insisting’ on budget as coalition crisis spirals

Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz says he will not drop his demand for a state budget that runs through 2021 as the impasse over the issue threatens to topple the governing coalition.

Gantz tells Channel 12, “To stabilize the government, a plan is needed for 2020-2021. Not a budget for the holidays or weekend — a budget for a full year.”

“By the way, all the best economists are saying this, and therefore we’re insisting,” Gantz says.

“The prime minister maybe wants elections, Lapid maybe wants elections, but I don’t,” Gantz says, adding, “I won’t back down.”

The interview comes as the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday looks like it will be canceled and speculation ramps up over new elections, which would be the fourth national vote in under two years.

Protesters in Eilat say passing vehicle sprayed them with tear gas

Anti-government protesters in Eilat say a vehicle drove past their rally and sprayed them with tear gas before fleeing the scene.

Police at the rally were also hit by the gas, the Walla news site reports.

The police say they are investigating the incident.

“This incident is a direct result of the incident by the defendant Netanyahu,” protest organizers say in a statement.

Channel 12 says a pro-Netanyahu activist attacked a protester outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Friday, and another posted, then deleted, a clip on Facebook saying protest opponents should bring weapons to the rallies.

Thousands are expected to attend rallies throughout the country on Saturday. Previous protests devolved into violence between anti-government demonstrators and counter-protesters, but in recent days the protests have largely been calm.

Health Ministry reports 8 new coronavirus deaths

The Health Ministry releases its latest coronavirus figures, showing that 8 people died of the virus since midnight, bringing the death toll to 592.

There are 389 patients in serious condition, 106 of whom are on ventilators. The number of serious patients is the highest since the start of the outbreak in Israel, Ynet reports.

The ministry carried out 25,279 coronavirus tests in the 24 hours prior to Friday evening, it says, confirming 1,753 new infections.

The total number of infections since the start of the outbreak stands at 82,279 and the number of active cases is 24,617

Lapid: If new elections called, we’ll put forward bill to disqualify Netanyahu

Knesset opposition head Yair Lapid says in an interview with Channel 13 that if new elections are called, he will put forward a bill that would disqualify Netanyahu from running for prime minister.

“We will immediately put for a vote a bill that will not allow a candidate under indictments to run for prime minister,” Lapid says.

Lapid, who leads the Yesh Atid party, says he expects Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party to back the move.

“At least once they will keep a promise to voters,” Lapid says of Blue and White.

Lapid says his faction is prepared for an election.

“I’m talking with everyone who is relevant to political life. I’m talking with all of the Knesset: with Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, the religious Zionists,” he says.

On Twitter, Lapid says there will be no cabinet meeting tomorrow, writing that the weekly discussion was, “Canceled. At the height of the crisis. You are out of your minds.”

“There is a country here to run,” he writes.

Protesters storm Lebanon’s energy ministry

Lebanese protesters storm the country’s energy ministry, the latest in a string of government buildings targeted during a day of rage sparked by the deadly explosion at Beirut’s port.

Footage broadcast live by Lebanese TV channels shows protesters taking over the energy ministry building as powerless police officers look on, with one of the demonstrators saying: “They ruled Lebanon for 30 years, now Lebanon is ours.”

“We entered the energy ministry and we are here to stay. They will be surprised by our actions,” he says, referring to the ruling political class protesters want to remove.

Earlier reports said a member of Lebanon’s security forces was killed in the protests, and that security forces were using live fire in their attempt to control the spiraling demonstrations.

The Lebanese Red Cross reports at least 142 wounded, with 32 taken to hospitals and 110 treated on site.

— with AFP

Meretz head says he too will try to disqualify Netanyahu if elections called

The head of the left-wing Meretz party, Nitzan Horowitz, says that in the event of new elections, he will put forward a bill that would disqualify Netanyahu from being prime minister.

Yair Lapid, head of the opposition, also said he would advance such a bill shortly beforehand.

Horovitz says: “It is not possible for a person who is charged with crimes to run an entire country according to their whims and criminal interests.”

He adds that the law he will advance “will prevent criminal suspects from receiving the mandate to form a government.

“The current Knesset has a majority for this law. Knesset members understand how essential it is to advance it, and it could prevent a fourth round of elections,” Horovitz says, according to the Walla news site.

Report says Likud officials told Netanyahu: ‘Go to elections now’

Two senior officials in Netanyahu’s Likud party in recent days urged him to go to new elections, Channel 12 reports, as a dispute over the state budget threatens to topple the government.

The officials reportedly told the premier, “The meaning of a two-year budget is that Gantz will be prime minister.”

The network also reports that in recent days Netanyahu met with Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata of the Blue and White party for 90 minutes.

Blue and White fears Netanyahu arranged the meeting to gauge whether Tamano-Shata could be tempted to jump ship to the Likud party if the coalition falls, the report said, without citing its sources.

Tamano-Shata shoots down the rumors, saying, “Whoever is looking to join a narrow government is wasting their time.”

On Twitter, Tamano-Shata writes, “On Thursday we had a meeting between myself and PM Netanyahu. The meeting was only professional, and about the [immigration] office’s assessment of the coronavirus period, ahead of the expected waves of immigration to Israel.

“The meeting was held with the knowledge of Benny Gantz. All other speculation is non-existent. I will not give my hand to a narrow government. The only thing that needs to be done now is to pass a budget for 2020-2021.”

Likud officials also say the meeting between Netanyahu and Tamano-Shata was a routine talk to discuss the coronavirus crisis.

Talk of a new round of elections, which would be the fourth in under two years, is at a fever pitch as the Likud and Blue and White parties remained mired in an impasse over the state budget.

Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting is expected to be canceled, which would mark a new low for the governing coalition.

MK Pnina Tamano-Shata attends a Knesset committee meeting on July 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu again rips into Channel 12 for covering protests against him

Netanyahu and his Likud party lash out at Channel 12 for covering anti-government protests, as they have done on past Saturdays.

Netanyahu writes on his Twitter account: “All over the world, the media and countries are acting for the benefit of citizens, while our reporters and analysts are mobilizing for ‘Demonstration Channel 12’ for the benefit of left-wing riots against the government that is fighting for the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel.

“It will not help them. We will continue to work for you and we will win,” Netanyahu writes.

The Likud party says in a statement, which is shared by Netanyahu on social media, “While Prime Minister Netanyahu is fighting to return Israel’s economy to normalcy and transfer funds and grants to the citizens of Israel, Channel 12 is doing all it can do boost the extremist left-wing protests of [opposition head Yair] Lapid and [Joint List chief] Ayman Odeh, who incite murder against the prime minister and his family.”

Some 15,000 protest against Netanyahu in Jerusalem; may be largest rally so far

Thousands of protesters gather in Paris Square, near the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, to demand the resignation of Netanyahu in the latest in a series of ongoing protests against the premier.

Tonight’s protest appears to be largest of the recent demonstrations against Netanyahu so far — the Kan public broadcaster and Ynet news outlet put the number of attendees at around 15,000. Last Saturday’s protest drew 10,000, according to police, although organizers said that was a low estimate.

Other protests are being held at Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea and on bridges and traffic junctions around the country.

Demonstrators flooded the area around the Prime Minister’s Residence, with protesters closely packed up and down the intersection.

Some chant “Bribery, fraud, breach of trust,” a reference to the criminal charges against Netanyahu, while others call for a “revolution.”

There are large numbers of families with children at tonight’s rally, in addition to the typical groups of young people.

For the first time in several weekends, no separate protest of independent workers suffering from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic is being held in Tel Aviv.

Organizers instead called for a single, unified demonstration to be held near Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, August 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Many demonstrators hold handmade signs decrying what they say is a detached government and ask Netanyahu to “Let my people go.”

One group of protesters builds a papier-mache submarine — a reference to a corruption allegation against the premier (which was not part of the criminal investigations against Netanyahu) — and carry it through the crowd.

At least two bands perform at opposite ends of the demonstration, a rare sight since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, while groups of young people dance to protest songs blasting out of a speaker on Keren HaYasod Street.

Michael Cordoba, 41, holds a sign saying, “Left and right refuse to be enemies.”

Cordoba, who identifies as right-wing, says that Netanyahu survives “by dividing us.”

“There are so many reasons why we should be able to work together,” he says.

Cordoba says he is optimistic about the protests after tonight’s turnout.
“The more people come, the more they inspire to follow them,” he says.

–Aaron Boxerman

Trump berated Adelson for not giving enough to reelection campaign, report says

US President Donald Trump rebuked Sheldon Adelson for not donating more money to his reelection campaign, The New York Times reports.

The exchange took place during a phone call earlier this week, the report says, citing “a person familiar with the call.”

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated $10 million to Trump through a super PAC in 2018, and have donated close to $600,000 each to his current campaign, the report says.

Adelson is a billionaire casino magnate and Jewish philanthropist.

Miriam Adelson was born in Israel. The couple own the popular Israeli tabloid Israel Hayom, which is seen as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu.

US President Donald Trump receives a menorah from Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chief Executive and Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson, left, and his wife Miriam Adelson at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Hollywood, Florida, December 7, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

Protest organizers say 20,000 people attend anti-Netanyahu rally in Jerusalem

Protest organizers estimate that some 20,000 people turned out for tonight’s anti-government protest near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The actual number could be far higher, they say.

Demonstrators were handed a white band when they entered the protest. As of 10:00 p.m., around 20,000 bands were given out, says protest organizer Avi Ofer.

The figure would make the rally the largest yet of the recent protests against Netanyahu. Police said last Saturday’s protest drew 10,000 attendees, although organizers said that was a low estimate.

A small group of counter-protesters attends the demonstration, waing a Likud flag and bearing banners that say, “Leftist traitors,” and, “There will be no anarchy here.”

Meanwhile, some 70 right-wing protesters gather outside the Tel Aviv home of the High Court of Justice’s chief justice, Esther Hayut.

The demonstrators, from the “South Tel Aviv Liberation Front,” write in chalk outside Hayut’s home, “Esther is burying Zionism,” the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The anti-migrant group, led by prominent right-wing activist Sheffi Paz, have assailed Hayut in the past, apparently for High Court rulings that have prevented the government from removing migrants from the neighborhood where local residents say they are a source of violent crime, including rape.

Likud and Blue and White say Sunday cabinet meeting canceled, blame each other

Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White faction both say that Sunday’s cabinet meeting is canceled and cast blame on each other, in what appears to be a new low for the crumbling governing coalition.

“The cabinet meeting will not convene tomorrow due to Blue and White’s refusals to put on the agenda a government economic assistance plan, by the prime minister and finance minister, to cope with the coronavirus crisis and amounting to NIS 8.5 billion, which includes assistance for at-risk groups” the Likud party writes on Twitter.

“The plan will create around 10,000 new jobs in the economy,” it adds. “Likud demands from Blue and White to not prevent the transfer of funds to the citizens of Israel at this time, when coping with the coronavirus crisis.”

Netanyahu shares the tweets on his official Twitter page.

Blue and White responds to the charge, saying in a statement, “The cabinet meeting tomorrow will not take place due to Likud’s insistence on not adhering to the coalition agreement.”

“This is not the first time Likud has not stood by its commitments, and every other excuse is a complete lie to the Israeli public,” it says. “As for the finance minister’s plan, it is a multi-billion shekel, long-term plan that has not yet been fully presented and is not yet finalized. Attempting to put it forward between today and tomorrow is nothing more than irresponsible spin.”

Talk of a new round of elections, which would be the fourth in under two years, is at a fever pitch as Likud and Blue and White remain mired in an impasse over the state budget.

Thousands remain in Paris Square

Many have left, but thousands of demonstrators remain in Paris Square outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Organizers estimate 32,000 protesters attended the protest over the course of the night.

Police demand protesters leave Paris Square

Police in Jerusalem have ordered protesters to disperse.

“The demonstration is over. We are opening the street,” police officers announce through a megaphone.

Thousands of remaining anti-Netanyahu demonstrators seem to show no intention of going anywhere.

Police begin clearing out anti-Netanyahu protest

Police have begun dispersing anti-Netanyahu protesters by force, as ranks and ranks of riot police begin pushing demonstrators out of the street.

Demonstrators respond by chanting “without violence, without violence.”

This comes after police initially walked among protesters and asked them to leave, though many refused, instead sitting in the middle of the road and singing.

Haaretz photographer briefly detained by police

A photographer for the Haaretz daily, Ohad Soyzenberg, has been detained by police, despite him repeatedly declaring that he is a credentialed journalist.

Haaretz reporter Josh Breiner writes on Twitter that Soyzenberg is only released after a police spokesperson steps in.

Four held at Jerusalem demo

At least four people have been detained at the Jerusalem protest as police clear the last remaining demonstrators.

A police spokesperson says Haaretz photographer Ohad Soyzenberg was detained after attacking a cop. ““There was a misunderstanding and from all appearances he attacked the officer,” the spokesperson claims.

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Gantz says ‘we’re insisting’ on budget as coalition crisis spirals

Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz says he will not drop his demand for a state budget that runs through 2021 as the impasse over the issue threatens to topple the governing coalition.

Gantz tells Channel 12, “To stabilize the government, a plan is needed for 2020-2021. Not a budget for the holidays or weekend — a budget for a full year.”

“By the way, all the best economists are saying this, and therefore we’re insisting,” Gantz says.

“The prime minister maybe wants elections, Lapid maybe wants elections, but I don’t,” Gantz says, adding, “I won’t back down.”

The interview comes as the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday looks like it will be canceled and speculation ramps up over new elections, which would be the fourth national vote in under two years.