Iran hosts delegation from rival UAE for maritime security talks
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Liberman: We’ll only recommend whoever backs unity government as PM

Yisrael Beytenu chief says his party will demand interior, health ministries in coalition talks; Netanyahu: Voting for Liberman is voting for a left-wing coalition

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman at a campaign event for his party in Tel Aviv on July 30, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman at a campaign event for his party in Tel Aviv on July 30, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Court rejects appeal against deportation of Filipino woman, her children

A court rejects an appeal seeking to block authorities from deporting a Filipino woman who remained in Israel illegally after her visa expired, along with her children, from the country.

The appeals court gives Geraldine Esta and her children, 10-year-old Khean and 5-year-old Kathryn, 45 days to leave the country. It also agrees to release them on bail of NIS 15,000 ($4,285).

The Esta case is seen as a test for dozens of other Israeli-born children of illegal foreign workers who have grown up in the Jewish state, call it home and are now facing deportation.

Many female foreign workers who are still in the country illegally fall foul of regulations according to which foreign workers who become pregnant must send their babies home or they else cannot renew their visas and face arrest if they do not leave the country of their own accord.

Many stay on, doing menial jobs, to give their children a better life than they would get in the Philippines.

German authorities raid suspected members of far-right group

BERLIN — German authorities say they have carried out raids on suspected members of a potentially violent far-right group.

Federal prosecutors say the apartments of six suspects and four other people who aren’t suspects were searched on Tuesday. The raids took place in four German states.

The suspects are alleged to have founded a group called “Storm Brigade” last year as a sub-organization of an outfit called “Wolf Brigade.” Prosecutors say in a statement that the group’s stated aim is the “reinvigoration of a free fatherland” in accordance with a “Teutonic moral law,” and that they suspect it may be prepared to use violence.

Prosecutors say the aim of Tuesday’s raids was to gather more evidence and determine whether the suspects had weapons.

— AP

Switzerland suspends funding to crisis-hit UN agency for Palestinians

GENEVA — Switzerland says it is suspending funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees after an ethics report revealed alleged mismanagement and abuse of authority at the agency’s highest levels.

The internal report by UNRWA’s own ethics department, a copy of which has been seen by AFP, includes allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism and discrimination.

The Swiss foreign ministry tells AFP in an email that it had already made its annual contribution of 22.3 million Swiss francs ($22.5 million, 20.2 million euros) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Switzerland “attaches particular importance to good governance of international organisations,” the foreign ministry says, describing UNRWA as “an important multilateral partner for Switzerland.”

But Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in May called UNRWA “part of the problem” in the Middle East, as it fueled “unrealistic” hope among Palestinians of return after 70 years of exile.

— AFP

Stav Shaffir resigns from Knesset, clearing path for run with Democratic Camp

Labor MK Stav Shaffir resigns from the Knesset, clearing her way to run with the newly formed Democratic Camp alliance in upcoming elections.

“I promised that I’ll do everything in order to replace the Netanyahu government and save Israeli democracy — and that is what I’m doing,” Shaffir says in a statement.

“The Democratic Camp is going to change the face of Israeli politics,” she adds.

Shaffir broke with Labor last week to help form the Democratic Camp, which includes Meretz and former prime minister Ehud Barak’s Israeli Democratic Party, after Labor chief Amir Peretz ruled out merging with the left-wing parties following his alliance with Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party. Shaffir had finished second to Peretz in the Labor leadership primaries earlier this month.

Labor MK Stav Shaffir speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 29, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

PM said to ask settler leaders to press United Right to absorb Otzma Yehudit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is imploring West Bank council leaders belonging to his Likud party to call on the United Right electoral alliance to absorb the extremist Otzma Yehudit faction, according to Hebrew media reports.

Channel 13 says Netanyahu asked the settler heads only to push for Otzma Yehudit to be added to United Right and not Moshe Feiglin’s quasi-libertarian Zehut party.

United Right has so far rebuffed Netanyahu’s entreaties to merge with Otzma Yehudit, saying Likud should instead guarantee the party a spot on its own electoral slate.

Barak launches last-ditch bid to merge with Blue and White, Labor

Former prime minister Ehud Barak is issuing a final plea for the formation of an all-encompassing center-left slate for the upcoming elections.

With Thursday night’s deadline for parties to submit their final lists of candidates fast approaching, Barak calls on Blue and White, Labor and ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni to join forces with the Democratic Camp, an alliance of his Israel Democratic Party, Meretz and breakaway Labor member Stav Shaffir.

“A union between us is necessary and possible,” Barak says in a video. “This is a final call, a call-up order for unity.”

“Only a large union will guarantee victory,” he adds.

Blue and White and Labor have rejected Barak’s calls to team up on a single slate, while Livni has not yet indicated she’ll return to politics.

US asks Germany, France and UK ‘to help secure’ Strait of Hormuz

BERLIN — The United States has asked Germany to join a naval mission to help secure the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid its tense standoff with Iran, the US embassy in Berlin says today.

“We’ve formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Strait of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression,” says a statement by embassy spokeswoman Tamara Sternberg-Greller.

— AFP

Trump to visit Poland for 80th anniversary of WWII

WARSAW, Poland — An aide to Poland’s president says that US President Donald Trump will visit Warsaw from August 31 through September 2 to take part in observances marking the 80th anniversary of World War II.

It would be Trump’s second visit to Poland since July 2017. Poland is among Washington’s closest partners in Europe, with cooperation focusing on defense and energy security.

The head of Polish President Andrzej Duda’s office, Krzysztof Szczerski, says that Trump would arrive in Warsaw on the evening of August 31.

The next day Trump will take part in ceremonies in Warsaw marking 80 years since Nazi German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, starting the war.

He would depart on September 2.

Trump has hosted Duda twice at the White House.

— AP

Germany disciplines diplomats who ‘liked’ anti-Israel tweets

BERLIN — Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it has instituted new social media guidelines and disciplined personnel after anti-Israel tweets were “liked” by the official Twitter account of the German mission to the Palestinian territories.

The Foreign Ministry says today that 10 people had access to the @GerRepRamallah account and it wasn’t clear who clicked the “likes.” The ministry says the account wasn’t secured against unauthorized users.

It says the head of Germany’s office in Ramallah, Christian Clages, and others were disciplined. The social media guidance sent to all diplomatic posts clarifies “that even ‘likes’ are understood as expressions of opinion of the German government” and now require the approval of two people.

The ministry says it “publicly made it clear the contents of the tweets concerned are unacceptable, contradict the attitude of the German government, and are not tolerated.”

— AP

Trump says he is ‘least racist’ person anywhere

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump brushes off accusations of racism as he refuses to back down in his war of words with prominent black and minority left-leaning leaders.

“I am the least racist person anywhere in the world,” he tells reporters at the White House.

Over the past two weeks Trump has laid into four non-white progressive women with seats in the House, a respected black lawmaker representing Baltimore and a prominent civil rights activist.

His attacks have drawn criticism that Trump is stoking America’s racial divisions as he appeals to his white working-class base ahead of next year’s election.

— AFP

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on July 30, 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP)

Iran hosts delegation from rival UAE for maritime security talks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran received a coastguard delegation from the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday aimed at reviving maritime security talks cut off in 2013, state media reports.

“The sixth joint coastguard meeting between Iran and a visiting seven-member delegation from the UAE will be held in Tehran in order to discuss border cooperation between the two countries,” state news agency IRNA says, citing a statement from Iran’s foreign ministry.

“The two countries are set to talk about issues related to shared borders, visits by citizens, illegal entries and facilitating information sharing,” the agency adds.

A Gulf official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity says the two sides had “a regular coordination and technical meeting related to the topic of fishermen and other similar topics.”

The Tehran meeting “has nothing to do with the recent regional tensions,” the official added.

Tensions have increased in sensitive Gulf waters following a series of mysterious attacks on tankers off the UAE coast and the Gulf of Oman.

Washington and its Gulf Arab allies blamed Iran for the attacks, charges Tehran categorically denies.

— AFP

Foreign Ministry slams Canadian court ruling on West Bank settlement wines

The Foreign Ministry condemns a Canadian court’s ruling that wines made in West Bank settlements cannot be labelled “Made in Israel,” saying it singles out the Jewish state and provides backing to boycott efforts.

“The Canadian court’s decision concerning labeling of Israel products encourages and lends support to boycotts and the BDS movement. Israel objects to this,” the ministry says.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Embassy in Canada will continue to act against discriminatory treatment and the singling out of Israel in the matter of product labeling in Canada,” it adds.

— with Raphael Ahren

Captain of Iranian tanker accuses UK marines of using ‘brute force’

MADRID — The captain of an Iranian tanker seized in Gibraltar, provoking a diplomatic crisis between Tehran and London, has accused Royal Marines of unnecessary “brute force” when detaining the ship, the BBC reports.

The supertanker was seized on July 4 by Gibraltar police and British special forces from the United Kingdom off the overseas British territory.

The ship was suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

In an interview with the BBC released today, the Indian captain, who asked to remain anonymous, says Royal Marines boarded the Grace 1 ship and made his unarmed crew kneel on deck at gunpoint.

In a statement, Britain’s defense ministry says it “was a standard boarding that was carried out in full compliance with international rules and norms.”

A Royal Marines vessel sails toward the Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, July 4, 2019. (Marcos Moreno/AP)

In the interview, the captain says that in the early hours of July 4, he was radioed a police request to board his ship and lowered his ladder.

But he says before anyone could board, a military helicopter landed on the ship and Royal Marines came on.

“They didn’t care whether I was master…we had 28 unarmed crew. I was in a state of shock, everybody was in a state of shock,” he is quoted as saying.

“How do you come on a ship like this with armed forces and such brute force. For what reason?” he asks. The marines could have simply boarded and told him he was under arrest, he added according to the BBC.

In a statement, police in Gibraltar say the military intervened to support them, “applying the minimum use of force maxim.”

The Gibraltar government, meanwhile, says it had evidence contradicting the account of the captain, who has already been questioned.

— AFP

Likud secretariat approves party’s electoral slate

The Likud secretariat approves the party’s slate of candidates for the upcoming Knesset elections.

The 35th spot on the list goes to former Kulanu lawmaker Tali Ploskov, after Kulanu MK Roy Folkman announced earlier this week he wouldn’t run in the September 17 vote.

The closure of the slate indicates Likud will not reserve a spot for Itamar Ben Gvir of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party. Likud has been pressuring the United Right electoral alliance to absorb Otzma Yehudit, while United Right is calling for Likud to give him a spot.

COGAT to Gaza residents: ‘Iran is trying to take over the Strip’

The Defense Ministry’s liaison to the Palestinians is warning residents of the Gaza Strip that Iran is working to take control of the coastal enclave.

“Residents of Gaza, Iran is trying to take over the Strip,” the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) says in a video.

The clip then cuts to a quote from Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of the Gaza-ruling Hamas, saying his terror group “is the first line of defense for Iran.”

It then includes a quote from an Iranian official announcing “the formation of united military front from Gaza to Tehran.”

“This is the beginning and only you will choose the end,” the video says in a direct appeal to Gazans.

2 suspects arrested over Tel Aviv LGBT youth hostel stabbing

Police have arrested two suspects in the stabbing of a teenager last week outside a LGBT youth hostel in Tel Aviv.

According to Hebrew media, the suspects are relatives of the teenager and turned themselves in the Arab city of Tamra, where the victim is from.

Police say they will be questioned and determine whether to request an extension of their remand.

The teenager was seriously wounded in the stabbing but the hospital where he is being treated upgraded his condition to moderate earlier this week.

After merger, poll predicts United Right to be third largest party

Liberman: We’ll only recommend whoever backs unity government as PM

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman says his party will only recommend as a candidate for prime minister someone who supports the formation of a national unity government after the September 17 elections.

Speaking at a Yisrael Beytenu campaign event, Liberman says that in addition to the defense and immigration ministries, his party will also demand the health and interior portfolios in coalition talks after the elections.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman at a campaign event for his party in Tel Aviv on July 30, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Netanyahu: Voting for Liberman is voting for a left-wing government

Prime Minister Netanyahu continues his campaign against Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, claiming he will recommend the Blue and White party’s Benny Gantz as premier after September’s Knesset elections.

“Yesterday in an interview on Army Radio, Liberman said he would recommend Benny Gantz to be prime minister. He wants Gantz to be prime minister. Those who vote for Liberman are essentially voting for a left-wing government: Ehud Barak as defense minister, Yair Lapid as foreign minister,” Netanyahu says at a campaign event for Russian speakers at a bar in Rishon Lezion.

In the interview Sunday, Liberman did not explicitly back Gantz for prime minister but said he could recommend him if Netanyahu refuses to break with his ultra-Orthodox and national-religious allies.

Netanyahu and Liberman, once allies, have been at loggerheads since the latter refused the prime minister’s offers to join a coalition unless a bill regulating exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students was passed without exceptions, helping prompt fresh elections.

The premier has been appealing since then to voters from countries of the former Soviet Union, who traditionally have been the key support bloc for Yisrael Beytenu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raises his glass during a campaign event at a bar in Rishon Lezion on July 30, 2019. (Courtesy)

After critical report, Israeli envoy calls for countries to cease funding for UNRWA

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations calls on countries to end financial support for the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, after a report alleged “serious ethical abuses” at the agency.

“The report reveals alarming, but not surprising, findings,” Ambassador Danny Danon says in a statement.

“In addition to propagating false information about its refugee population, UNRWA has in recent years worked to redirect world funds to continue this corruption industry that has served its leadership. The international community, which generously finances UNRWA, must immediately suspend the budgets assigned to the agency.”

He says funding for UNRWA should instead be directed to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“UNRWA has removed itself from the values expected of an international organization, and should not be rewarded for its internal corruption,” Danon adds.

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Iran hosts delegation from rival UAE for maritime security talks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran received a coastguard delegation from the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday aimed at reviving maritime security talks cut off in 2013, state media reports.

“The sixth joint coastguard meeting between Iran and a visiting seven-member delegation from the UAE will be held in Tehran in order to discuss border cooperation between the two countries,” state news agency IRNA says, citing a statement from Iran’s foreign ministry.

“The two countries are set to talk about issues related to shared borders, visits by citizens, illegal entries and facilitating information sharing,” the agency adds.

A Gulf official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity says the two sides had “a regular coordination and technical meeting related to the topic of fishermen and other similar topics.”

The Tehran meeting “has nothing to do with the recent regional tensions,” the official added.

Tensions have increased in sensitive Gulf waters following a series of mysterious attacks on tankers off the UAE coast and the Gulf of Oman.

Washington and its Gulf Arab allies blamed Iran for the attacks, charges Tehran categorically denies.

— AFP