Government swearing-in ceremony postponed until Sunday
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Global coronavirus death toll passes 300,000

Almost 4,500,000 confirmed infections in 196 countries; United States worst hit with 85,000 deaths

Members of the Harris County Sheriff's Honor Guard move the casket of Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski, who died after contracting COVID-19, during a funeral service, May 14, 2020, in Humble, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Members of the Harris County Sheriff's Honor Guard move the casket of Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski, who died after contracting COVID-19, during a funeral service, May 14, 2020, in Humble, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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

US immunologist warns of ‘darkest winter’ if virus rebounds

America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.

Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright makes his sobering prediction in testimony prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rick Bright (Youtube screenshot)

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright says in his prepared testimony posted on the House committee website. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”

— AP

Orly Levy-Abekasis signs coalition deal with Likud, will be made minister

Gesher’s Orly Levy-Abekasis signs a coalition deal with the Likud party, cementing her position in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc in the new government.

Levy-Abekasis will have a new portfolio created for her and will serve as the “Community Strengthening and Advancement Minister.”

That is not the official English name, mind you, which we don’t yet have, but a loose translation of the original Hebrew.

Orly Levy-Abekasis gives a speech during a Labor-Gesher-Meretz campaign event in Tel Aviv on January 29, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Pompeo didn’t fly halfway around world to talk annexation, US officials say

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not fly “halfway around the world to talk about annexation,” senior US officials say.

The officials, speaking anonymously during a State Department briefing, says the issue was not “the top line in Pompeo’s talks” and the new government “has various strands… it’s going to take them a while to come together with what they’re going to do.”

They say the talks focused on other “major priorities” including the Iranian threat, which is “actually severe and getting worse on some fronts,” the coronavirus crisis and “how we can cooperate on the things we can do regionally together.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 29, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/POOL/AFP)

Another central topic was and Washington’s concerns over Israel’s relationship with China. “The Secretary doesn’t have a problem with people having relationships with China but… COVID sort of highlights the dangers of dealing with states that are not transparent, that don’t have fair trade practices.”

The officials say China’s strategic investment around the world is a major issue of concern. “There is no such thing as a privately owned, independent company in China,” he notes.

Ya’alon says attacks on Mandelblit come ‘from Netanyahu emissaries’

Responding to the recent death threats against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Yesh Atid-Telem’s Moshe Ya’alon says such attacks originate with messengers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It is not clear whether he is claiming the death threats themselves came from the prime minister’s associates.

“We’ve become used to hearing that the attorney general is under attack,” he tells Army Radio. “It’s obvious that it is by Netanyahu’s messengers.”

He adds: “I know the people who attack Mandelblit. The one allegedly nurturing them is Netanyahu.”

Moshe Ya’alon holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, March 26, 2020. (Elad Gutman/Blue and White)

US military offers condolences for Iranian friendly fire accident that killed 19

The US military offers condolences to Iran over a friendly fire incident in the Islamic Republic that killed 19 of its troops, identifying the weapon used in the incident as an anti-ship cruise missile.

Iranian authorities on Monday said that a missile struck the Iranian navy vessel Konarak near the port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometers (790 miles) southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman. Authorities said the Konarak was too close to a target and was accidentally hit Sunday in an incident that also wounded 15 troops.

In a statement, Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US Central Command, says the force offers “our sincere condolences to the Iranian people for the tragic loss of life.”

In this photo provided Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, by the Iranian Army, a warship sails while approaching Iran’s southeastern port city of Chahbahar, in the Gulf of Oman (Iranian Army via AP)

However, Urban also criticizes the training for taking place so close to the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes.

“We are troubled that this mishap occurred in such close proximity to a high-traffic international shipping lane and at a time when most of the region’s focus is on the fight against COVID-19,” he says.

— AP

Bennett: PM chose to get rid of Yamina, we go to opposition without hesitation

Yamina chief Naftali Bennett says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has chosen to get rid of Yamina, which served as his national backbone.”

In a Facebook post after the collapse of negotiations with Likud, he claims Netanyahu has chosen “a path that is not right-wing. A path without sovereignty, without governance, without a national posture.”

He asserts he did not seek power in his coalition talks with Likud, but rather “to have influence.” But he says the prime minister “communicated with us only through video clips and tweets.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the 17th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu “needs a strong national compass, but doesn’t really like having one.”

Yamina is “going to the opposition without hesitation,” he says. “We’ll be a straightforward, matter-of-fact right-wing. We’ll be critical when we need to, supportive when we need to.”

UN chief warns psychological suffering from virus is growing

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges governments, civil society and health authorities to urgently address mental health needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, warning that psychological suffering is increasing.

The UN chief says in a video message launching a policy briefing that “after decades of neglect and under-investment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress.”

He points to “grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics, and uncertainty and fear for the future.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to The Associated Press, in Lahore, Pakistan, February 18, 2020. (K.M. Chaudhry/AP)

— AP

Army says soldier’s killer may be among detained West Bank suspects

The Israeli military believes it may have caught the person who killed an IDF soldier earlier this week by throwing a brick at him, though the Shin Bet security service says the case remains open.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion carried out a series of arrests in the northern West Bank village of Yabed. As they were making their way out of the Palestinian village, someone threw a brick at one of the soldiers — Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal — from the roof of a three-story building, striking him in the head and killing him.

An Israeli soldier arrests a Palestinian man as part of a manhunt for the person who threw a brick at Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal, killing him, in the West Bank village of Yabed on May 12, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Over the past two days, the military has arrested many of the residents of the building, as well as other people in the village who may have been involved. The IDF believes that the killer may be among those detained, but it is unable to know for sure at this stage, as the identity of the person who threw the rock is not yet known.

“I know that a number of arrests were made last night. Maybe it’s one of them,” an army spokesperson says.

All of those arrested have denied involvement in the crime, according to the Walla news site, citing defense officials.

The Shin Bet, which is conducting the investigation with the IDF, flatly denies that a specific suspect in the killing has been arrested. “The investigation is ongoing,” the security service says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Rafi Peretz breaking away from Yamina to join new government

Outgoing Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz will leave the Yamina party and be appointed Jerusalem affairs minister in the new government, according to multiple reports.

Peretz accepts the offer from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who lobbied him strongly on the matter yesterday.

In tweet, Smotrich signals he views Peretz’s decision as betrayal

Yamina’s Bezalel Smotrich tweets a picture of a Mitsubishi car key in response to Rafi Peretz’s decision to break away from the party.

He is apparently referring to the so-called “Mitsubishi Deal,” under which former Likud MK Alex Goldfarb supported the Oslo Accords in return for a deputy minister position which came with a Mitsubishi car.

Right-wingers have since used the brand as a symbol of political betrayal for personal benefit.

Attacking Yamina chief, Likud says ‘the Bennett era is over’

Likud is now attacking Naftali Bennett.

The party says Bennett is only attacking the new government because he didn’t get the portfolio he wanted.

“If Bennett had gotten the health portfolio he’d say it was a right-wing dream government. Because he didn’t, he decided to drag Yamina into the opposition,” it says.

“In the first election, Bennett did not pass the electoral threshold and wasted the right’s votes. In the third election — just for the sake of chaos — Bennett opted to take his 6 right-wing seats to the opposition with Lapid and Liberman instead of joining a government that will lead a historic course of sovereignty.

“The Bennett era is over,” the party says.

Miki Haimovitch to head Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee

The Blue and White party’s most senior female MK Miki Haimovitch will not be a minister in the new government.

The party says in a statement that despite chairman Benny Gantz offering Haimovitch “a number of senior ministerial roles,” she has decided to serve instead, for the first 18 months of the government, as chair of the Knesset Interior Affairs and Environmental Protection Committee.

After that Haimovich, a former news anchor and an environmental activist, “will be nominated on behalf of Blue and White for a portfolio related to her expertise, to be delivered to Blue and White in a year and a half as written in the coalition agreement.”

Miki Haimovich with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

— with Raoul Wootliff

Blue and White’s MK Alon Shuster to be appointed agriculture minister

Blue and White announces that party chair Benny Gantz has decided to appoint MK Alon Shuster minister of agriculture in the new government set to be sworn in this evening.

Shuster, an MK since the April 2019 election, is a former head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council

Incoming Agriculture Minister Alon Shuster (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Education system could return to full operation Sunday

The education system could return to full operation on Sunday in most of the country, according to tentative agreements reached between top officials in the education, finance and health ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The plan will be brought before the cabinet for approval.

The decision came after many local authorities rejected the Education Ministry’s outline for reopening schools, which would see 4th to 10th graders in their communities return to class part-time.

The regional leaders — representing 15 cities in Israel, including Tel Aviv and Haifa — said the blanket plan for students to study on intermittent days was ineffective for students and parents, and called for a full reopening of schools in certain areas, with health precautions in place.

Israeli students in Jerusalem wear protective face masks as they return to school for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus. May 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Two people questioned by police in connection with death threats sent to AG

Two people are being questioned under caution by police at this time, on suspicion of connection to threats made against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Dozens of messages sent to Mandelblit’s phone in recent days included death threats against him and his family.

Yesterday he filed a police complaint in the matter.

A statement from the Justice Ministry said Mandelblit provided testimony to police investigators and that the messages appeared to be part of an organized campaign.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a farewell ceremony for outgoing state prosecutor Shai Nitzan in Jerusalem, December 18, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Otzma Yehudit chief: Peretz’s 2nd backstabbing shouldn’t surprise Yamina

The leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party pours some salt on Yamina’s wounds after Rafi Peretz decided to quit the party to joing the government.

“Those who pushed Rafi Peretz to stab his political partners in the back the first time, shouldn’t complain when he adopts the method a second time,” he says.

Peretz notoriously walked back his agreement to run with Otzma Yehudit at the last minute ahead of the last election.

Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir at the entrance to the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The embarrassing U-turn, which left Otzma Yehudit to run on its own (and fail to enter the legislature), included Peretz deleting a tweet, reading “my word is my bond,” just three minutes after he posted it as part of an effort to assure the far-right party that he was not backing out of their deal.

Gantz appoints Tropper culture minister, Shmuli gets welfare portfolio

Benny Gantz’s appointments continue to come in.

Blue and White MK Chili Tropper will lead the culture ministry, taking over from Miri Regev.

Labor’s Itzik Shmuli will be the welfare minister.

Blue and White MK Chili Tropper at the Knesset on April 29, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

No new virus deaths reported since last night, 5 new cases found today

The Health Ministry releases the latest coronavirus figures.

No new deaths have been recorded since last night, with the death toll still at 264.

Five new cases were identified today, taking the total to 16,567, of whom 12,364 have recovered.

Sixty-two people are in serious condition, 52 of them on ventilators, while 53 are in moderate condition.

Gantz: Threats against AG are a ‘dangerous crossing of a line’

Blue and White chief Benny Gantz tweets that the threats against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit “represent a dangerous crossing of a line” and expresses certainty that police will handle the matter.

“In the government that we will form I intend to give backing to all public servants. We will ensure [they] are protected and maintain the rule of law. Criticism — yes, incitement and threats — no.”

Levy-Abekasis’s new ministry will take some of Public Security Ministry’s tasks

Ynet reports that Orly Levy-Abekasis’s newly created ministry will cost taxpayers at least NIS 20 million ($5.6m) and will apparently cannibalize the Public Security Ministry by removing some of its authorities.

These will include the Child Online Protection Bureau, which is largely made up of police officials, as well as the Authority for Prevention of Violence, Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Officials in the Public Security Ministry and the police tell the website it is not clear how the child protection authority can be under a separate ministry from the police.

“Will Orly Levy-Abekasis be giving orders to police officers? …Whoever decided this apparently doesn’t understand the unit’s job,” one says.

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis during a conference of the Israeli Television News Company in the Jerusalem International Convention Center (ICC) on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jordanian FM: Annexation will be ‘catastrophic,’ make one-state solution inevitable

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warns any Israeli steps to annex West Bank territory will be “catastrophic,” end any chance for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, push the region toward further conflict and make a one-state solution inevitable, a statement from Amman’s Foreign Ministry says.

Safadi discussed the matter during a phone call with Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during a joint conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

According to the ministry the two agreed to reject any annexation steps by Israel and reviewed steps to build an international front against such a move.

Avi Nissenkorn confirmed as next justice minister

Blue and White says Benny Gantz just met with MK Avi Nissenkorn. As expected, Nissenkorn, the former head of the powerful Histadrut labor union, will be appointed justice minister in the new government.

Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn arrives at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to file a petition against Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein on March 19, 2020.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

China rejects US claim of attempted vaccine theft as ‘smearing’

Beijing accuses the United States of smearing China after Washington alleged Chinese hackers were attempting to steal research on developing a vaccine against the coronavirus.

The claims have added fuel to tensions between the global superpowers, who have traded barbs over the origin of the pandemic that has killed nearly 300,000 people.

US authorities said Wednesday that Chinese hackers were trying to obtain coronavirus data on treatments and vaccines, warning the effort involved Chinese government-affiliated groups and others.

“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to such smearing,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tells a press briefing. “Judging from past records, the US has carried out the largest cybertheft operations worldwide.”

In this file photo taken Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

He says Beijing has significant achievements of its own in the fight against the pandemic.

— AFP

Ashkenazi is new foreign minister, Tamano-Shata to get immigration portfolio

More confirmations from Blue and White of previously widely reported information:

MK Gabi Askenazi, the former IDF chief of staff, will be the new foreign minister.

Blue and White parliament member Gabi Ashkenazi attends the annual international Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, on February February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

MK Pnina Tamano-Shata will be the minister for aliyah and immigrant absorption.

The first Israeli Jewish woman of Ethiopian origin to be elected to the Knesset, Pnina Tamano Shata, on February 4, 2020, in Hadera. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

PM now offering Peretz new ‘settlement ministry’ instead of Jerusalem affairs

After getting him to burn his bridges with Yamina in exchange for receiving the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now apparently downgraded his offer.

Likud sources have told The Times of Israel that Netanyahu is suggesting Peretz get a newly created post of “minister for settlement affairs.”

This would apparently mean turning the Defense Ministry’s Settlement Division into an entire cabinet ministry, with questionable authority and budget.

Rafi Peretz, then-leader of the Jewish Home party, in Petah Tikva, February 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

According to Walla news, Peretz has refused the offer.

Soldier moderately hurt in suspected West Bank ramming attack, driver shot

A short time ago a car rammed into a soldier, moderately injuring him, in the southern West Bank, a spokesperson for a nearby settlement regional council says.

The driver was “neutralized,” the military says, indicating he was shot. His condition is not immediately known.

The Magen David Adom says the serviceman is roughly 20 years old and is fully conscious, with injuries to his extremities.

The incident took place near the settlement of Negohot, in the South Hebron Hills region.

Illustrative: A road passing through the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

— with Judah Ari Gross

Victim in apparent ramming rushed to Beersheba hospital

The Magen David Adom ambulance service downgrades the condition of a soldier who was hit by a car in a suspected ramming attack to moderate-to-serious.

“When we arrived at the scene, we joined up with an IDF medical team who was giving medical treatment to the young man who was injured by the car. We quickly put him in our intensive care ambulance and took him to the hospital fully conscious and in stable condition,” a medic says.

The soldier is being taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center.

— Judah Ari Gross

Blue and White’s Yizhar Shai to head Science and Technology Ministry

Blue and White MK Yizhar Shai will head the Science and Technology Ministry in the new government, the party says.

Yizhar Shai in 2015 (CC BY-SA Chen Ziv/Wikimedia Commons)

West Bank vehicle ramming suspect dies of gunshot wounds

The driver who rammed his car into an IDF soldier in the southern West Bank has died of his wounds, the military says.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the driver accelerated as he drove his car toward a group of soldiers who were standing next to a military post outside the Negohot settlement.

The driver, whose name has not yet been released, struck one of the soldiers, wounding him moderately-to-seriously, before another serviceman opened fire at the car, killing the assailant, an army spokesperson said.

The driver has been taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

The incident took place on the eve of Nakba day, which Palestinians mark tomorrow May 15, the day after the Gregorian calendar date of Israel’s Independence Day.

— Judah Ari Gross

In Iran, Nakba Day falls victim to coronavirus

Iran’s foreign ministry issues a scathing attack on Israel on the eve of Nakba Day (The Day of the Catastrophe), marked by Palestinians on the day after Israel’s Independence Day according to the Gregorian calendar.

International bodies, especially the United Nations, should “set the stage for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland,” the Iranian foreign ministry says in a statement.

President Hassan Rouhani says, “We must take steps to condemn the occupying Zionist Regime and support the oppressed people of Palestine by using various and more effective methods than in previous years.”

But, he notes, “while this day is important in condemning the occupying regime and supporting the oppressed people of Palestine, observing health protocols are also essential.”

New protective measures introduced at Ben Gurion Airport

Passengers taking an El Al flight to London and Paris today were required to do so under new regulations that are being introduced ahead of a limiting opening up of the country’s skies. Passangers were required to present their passports and flight tickets and have their temperatures taken being allowed inside the arrival hall at Ben Gurion Airport.

Once inside the airport, passengers are now required to wear a band that identifies them as having been allowed in, and a protective mask.

Security and check-in counters now separate staff from passengers with a perspex barrier as required by coronavirus regulations.

“Our aim is to give people the confidence that it is safe to fly,” says Ben Gurion Airport general manager Shmuel Zakai.

An Israir flight attendant wearing full protective gear walks next to passengers during an Israir flight between Tel Aviv and Eilat, May 13, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Report – Gantz turns down Netanyahu request to postpone swearing in ceremony

Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz has turned down a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone the swearing-in ceremony of the national unity government until Sunday, Channel 12 reports.

According to the report, Netanyahu has not yet managed to reach agreements on ministerial appointments with just hours left until the swearing-in.

Netanyahu reportedly offers Gila Gamliel the position of minister of higher education, a new position that would split the Education Ministry, but the Likud MK is said to turn down the offer.

Hundreds protest killing of assailant outside Sheba Hospital

Hundreds of Arab Israelis hold a protest in the Wadi Ara area after Mustafa Yunes, 26, of the northern Arab town of Arara, was shot dead yesterday outside Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan.

Dozens of police prevent the protesters from going out to the main road.

Younes was shot after pulling a knife on a security guard outside the hospital.

Medics at the scene of a stabbing outside the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on May 13, 2020. (Magen David Adom)

Gantz appoints Meirav Cohen as Minister of Social Equality

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has appointed Meirav Cohen as Minister of Social Equality with reponsibility for the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority.

Michael Biton will serve as a minister within the Defense Ministry responsible for civil issues such as the readiness of the Home Front .

 

 

Israel opens UN digital conference on fighting coronavirus with technology

Israel opens a digital conference on innovation and technological tools to combat the coronavirus at the United Nations.
During the two-day conference a number of world-renowned experts will hold discussions on the connection between technological innovation and the fight against the coronavirus and the fulfillment of UN development goals.
A session on “The Science of COVID-19” will feature Israeli Nobel Prize winner Professor Ada Yonat.
 Israel and Ghana  head the United Nations Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Forum.

Nature and Parks Authority issues heatwave warning

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority issues a heatwave warning as the mercury is forecast to continue to rise over the next few days.

The Authority calls on Israelis not to go hiking due to to the extreme weather conditions and the danger of dehydration.

The Israel Meteorological Service is forecasting unseasonably hot up to extremely hot and dry conditions with temperatures rising to as high as 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 Fahrenheit) tomorrow, 37 on Saturday and 38 on Sunday.

Illustrative: Israeli youths enjoy the cool water of the Ein Lavan spring in Jerusalem during a heatwave. (Michal Fattal/Flash90).

Yoav Kisch to be deputy health minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and incoming Health Minister Yuli Edelstein have agreed to appoint Likud MK Yoav Kisch as deputy health minister.

“The Health Ministry is one of the most important ministries. Having someone with the experience of Yoav Kisch at a time like this will be of great importance,” says Edelstein.

“The Health Ministry is a complex ministry with many challenges that have only intensified in light of the coronavirus crisis,” says Kisch.

Government swearing-in ceremony postponed until Sunday

The swearing-in ceremony of the national unity government is postponed until Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to complete his allocated ministerial appointments amid opposition from MKs inside his Likud party.

A joint statement issued by Likud and Blue and White says: “Prime Minister Netanyahu requested from [Blue and White leader] Gantz that the swearing-in of the national unity government be delayed until Sunday to enable him to complete his allocation of portfolios. Gantz responded positively to the request.”

Also Gantz withdraws his letter of resignation as Knesset Speaker.

Beaches to open Wednesday

In the midst of a heatwave, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announces that Israel’s beaches will be opened to the public and the swimming season will commence on Wednesday following a six-week closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision follows a consultation between Deri, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Local authorities will be required to prepare beaches under their jurisdiction by May 20.

Workers arrange beach chairs and umbrellas at the Tel Aviv beach, May 5, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Almost all schools and kindergartens to fully reopen on Sunday

Almost all schools and kindergartens will fully reopen on Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to adopt the plan formulated by the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ronen Peretz, together with the National Security Council, the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry and local authorities.

The plan still requires cabinet approval.

But in towns with high morbidity rates, schools will remain closed. Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh and neighborhoods of Jerusalem are among the communities that will not be able to open Sunday.

Local authorities will decide when exactly each age group returns.

A pupil wears a protective face masks as 1st to 3rd graders returned to school for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus, May 3, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

TV: Delay in swearing in government ‘less a drama, more a farce’

The delay in swearing in the government is “less a drama, and more a farce,” says Channel 12’s political commentator Amit Segal.

It has been caused by a “rebellion” among some Likud members, unhappy at the jobs they’re being offered by Netanyahu, or not offered in the new coalition.

Two senior Likud MKs, Avi Dichter and Tzachi Hanegbi, for instance, have said they’ll boycott the swearing-in ceremony because they’ve not been offered ministerial posts. Nir Barkat and David Amsalem have also been left without ministerial posts as things stand, to their reported deep dismay.

Miri Regev and Gila Gamliel, who have been offered ministries (transportation and higher education, respectively), are both reportedly unhappy too.

The elevation of the relatively junior Likud MK (and current acting justice minister) Amir Ohana, to minister of public security, is reportedly particularly infuriating to the more senior Hanegbi and Dichter.

Gantz is none too happy with the delay, Channel 12 says, in part because it could give Netanyahu and the Yamina party a few more days to perhaps rebuild relations — though this seems unlikely.

Segal stresses that Gantz would not have agreed to the postponement to Sunday if he thought Netanyahu was up to something sneaky. But Segal’s colleague in the studio, Rina Mazliach, says “Gantz really had no choice” but to accept the postponement, “since he has no leverage” over Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and Gantz have until next Thursday to swear in their government; if not, Israel heads to elections.

Saar calls on Netanyahu to resume negotiations with Yamina

MK Gideon Saar calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take advantage of the postponement of the swearing in of the new government until Sunday to try and get Yamina to join the coalition.

“The differences between the sides can be bridged and it would be a shame for Likud’s closest ideological partner to remain outside of the coalition,” Saar tweets.

“It is important for the national [religious] camp’s parliamentary bloc to remain united,” he adds.

Clashes break out in Wadi Ara over police shooting; officers use stun grenades

Police use stun grenades to disperse demonstrators blocking Route 65 in Wadi Ara in northern Israel as protests over the death of an Arab man shot several times by security guards yesterday deteriorated into clashes.

“We will sacrifice our lives for the martyr,” protesters shout following the death of Mustafa Yunes, 26, of the northern Arab town of Arara, who was shot dead outside Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan after pulling a knife on a security guard.

Video shows the guards shooting at Yunes several times as he lies on the ground.

Sources say Blue and White forced to accept postponement of swearing-in

Blue and White sources tell The Times of Israel that party leader Benny Gantz first found out about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “request” to delay the swearing in of the new government from the media, thus forcing him to accept.

“We knew there was a mess at Likud but there was no formal request to move [the swearing in ceremony] to Sunday,” an official in the party says.

“But once it was out there, it became impossible to say no,” they add.

An MK from the party, who asked to remain anonymous, adds that communication from Likud throughout the day has been “at a bare minimum.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Bennett denies negotiations with Likud, accuses Netanyahu of spin

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says reports of negotiations between Likud and Yamina are nothing more than spin.

“There is nothing, because there never was anything,” Bennett says, paraphrasing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dismissal of criminal charges against him.

Bennett, whose party is heading into the opposition after failed negotiations with the prime minister, accuses Netanyahu of reneging on his promise to annex parts of the West Bank, saying he gave in to pressure from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and No. 2 Gabi Ashkenazi.

Netanyahu has rejected the right wing and that is why he never wanted Yamina in the government, Bennett says.

“Dismantling the right-wing bloc is Netanyahu’s greatest error of the past decade,” Bennett says.

Knesset committee approves Sunday swearing-in ceremony

The Knesset Arrangements Committee approves moving the swearing-in ceremony of Israel’s 35th government to Sunday.

The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m, the committee agrees.

The ceremony had originally been scheduled to take place Wednesday, but was postponed to today and then postponed again as Netanyahu fails to complete Likud’s allocation of portfolios amid a “rebellion” within Likud.

Bennett: Netanyahu ‘surrendered and erased sovereignty’ from coalition platform

Naftali Bennett says Netanyahu “erased sovereignty” from the coalition platform, which “they published like thieves in the night” late Wednesday. “He erased the words Judea and Samaria from the platform.”

“Maybe it offended the sensibilities” of Gantz and other leftists, he suggests bitterly.

Says Bennett: “He promised for a year, time and again, that he would extend full sovereignty to all settlements in Judea and Samaria. That wasn’t an election promise. It was the election promise of Netanyahu. But in the last few days the PA threatened that if it appeared in the platform, they’d break off contacts.”

Bennett says the EU and above all Gantz and Ashkenazi also threatened him. “So Netanyahu surrendered, and erased sovereignty from the platform.”

The Yamina leader says Netanyahu has also abandoned all plans for reforms to curb the power of the Supreme Court.

“He wants weak political midgets at his side” — and not a “strong… principled right like us.”

“He’s splintered away from religious and secular Zionism — from the people who were the most loyal to him.”

Yamina, says Bennett, will be a potent, “courageous” alternative to Netanyahu’s government.

Bennett’s colleague, former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, says Netanyahu “sold Salah al-Din Street” in east Jerusalem, where the Justice Ministry is located, to the political left. Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn is to be the new justice minister.

Likud responds to the Yamina press conference by deriding Bennett, saying all his complaints stem from the fact that Netanyahu chose not to give him the post of health minister.

Gantz appoints Farkash as strategic affairs minister

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz has appointed MK Orit Farkash as  strategic affairs minister and MK Asaf Zamir will serve as tourism minister in the next government.

Farkash will also be in charge of overseeing Israel’s role in the battle against rising anti-Semitism in the world and for combating economic and cultural boycotts against Israel.

Farkash will also serve on the security political cabinet and on the social economic cabinet.

15 new cases of coronavirus infections today

The Health Ministry says 15 new cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed today, taking the total number of cases since the outbreak began to 16,579.

The number of active cases now stands at 3,793, of whom 60 are in critical condition, with 50 of them on ventilators.

One person died today, taking the total number of fatalities to 265. The number of tests carried out yesterday was 8,156.

Ohana confirmed as public security minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Amir Ohana as public security minister in the next government, with MK Gadi Yeverkan as deputy minister, in charge of the integration of Israelis of Ethiopian descent.

Ohana who served as justice minister in the outgoing government thanks Netanyahu “for the confidence he has placed in me.”

Ohana says: “Most of my adult life and for most of my professional life I have been part of the law enforcement and justice system. As an investigating officer, then in the Shin Bet, during my stage at the State Attorney’s Office, and a criminal lawyer and most recently as justice minister, I have gotten to know the different sections that work under the Public Security Ministry.”

Miri Regev appointed transportation minister, will become FM

Outgoing culture minister Miri Regev will serve as transportation and national infrastructures minister, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a statement, adding that Regev will serve as foreign minister when the coalition rotates in 18 months time.

“Miri Regev has shown as culture minister that she knows how to lead groundbreaking reforms,” says Netanyahu.

The prime minister adds: “ Furthermore, I have decided that in another year and a half, Regev will take up the position of foreign minister of Israel, one of the most senior and important positions in the leadership of the country.”

Regev will also serve on the Security Political Cabinet and the Judicial Appointments Committee.

Lufthansa to resume Tel Aviv flights in June

Germany’s flagship carrier Lufthansa says it will resume flights to Ben Gurion Airport at the beginning of June.

Lufthansa will operate six weekly flights from Frankfurt and Munich.

The airline notes that its plans are subject to flight regulations.

The Lufthansa Group says that overall it hopes to operate 1,800 flights per week to all destinations by the end of June.

A Lufthansa airplane at Frankfurt Airport. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Chefs meets with Health Ministry officials to chew over restaurant closures

Representatives of the Restaurateurs Association held a meeting this evening with health ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto and Sigal Sadetsky, head of public health at the ministry, to discuss ways to allow restaurants in Israel to reopen next week, Channel 12 reports.

The chefs and restaurateurs presented a model they say will allow restaurants to open by May 20. The restaurateurs say tables will be spaced out, servers will wear masks, utensils will be disinfected at high temperatures and staff and guests will have their temperatures taken.

Celebrity chef Haim Cohen who hosted the meeting at his Jaffa-Tel Aviv restaurant warns that further closures will kill off the restaurant business in Israel.

More than 300,000 COVID-19 fatalities worldwide

The death toll from the global coronavirus pandemic has passed 300,000 according to a count by the Johns Hopkins University.

As of writing, the university has counted 300,315 deaths worldwide.

The worst affected country is the United States with 85,066 fatalities, followed by the United Kingdom with 33,692 deaths and Italy with 31, 368.

China, where the outbreak began in late December last year, has seen 4,637 deaths.

The total number of confirmed cases worldwide is 4,408, 618.

According to the Johns Hopkins count, cases have been confirmed in 188 countries.

No breakthrough in Peretz-Netanyahu talks

Hebrew media report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Rafi Peretz has ended without any agreement over what portfolio the MK who bolted the Yamina party today will receive.

The two have now met three times in the past 24 hours.

Peretz initially accepted the offer to bolt Yamina in exchange for being appointed Jerusalem affairs and national projects minister, but Netanyahu later sought to convince him to accept a newly created post of “minister for settlement affairs,” Likud sources told The Times of Israel earlier today.

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Government swearing-in ceremony postponed until Sunday

The swearing-in ceremony of the national unity government is postponed until Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to complete his allocated ministerial appointments amid opposition from MKs inside his Likud party.

A joint statement issued by Likud and Blue and White says: “Prime Minister Netanyahu requested from [Blue and White leader] Gantz that the swearing-in of the national unity government be delayed until Sunday to enable him to complete his allocation of portfolios. Gantz responded positively to the request.”

Also Gantz withdraws his letter of resignation as Knesset Speaker.