The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Yair Lapid, Blue and White’s co-leader and no. 2, says there will be no change in its leadership structure should new elections be called tonight.
There had been media speculation in recent days that Lapid may challenge Gantz for the alliance’s top spot. Lapid’s new comments appear to quash that.
Iran strongly rejects an accusation by US National Security Adviser John Bolton earlier that it was “almost certainly” behind the May 12 attacks on four ships off the United Arab Emirates.
“Making such laughable claims… is not strange” coming from the US, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi says in a statement.
Bolton’s accusation, which follows a US military buildup in the Gulf, comes on the eve of emergency Arab and Gulf summits called by Iran’s regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia to discuss the standoff and ways to isolate Tehran.
Bolton said that additional US forces in the region were sent as a “deterrent” and that Washington’s response will be prudent.
The IDF says it has completed an internal probe into a deadly West Bank terror attack in March that left a rabbi and a soldier dead, and has found military forces at the scene of the Ariel junction attack failed to respond properly to events.
Several combat soldiers involved in the incident have been dismissed, and their battalion commander has been reprimanded.
The army does not detail how the soldiers failed in their duty.
On March 17, Omar Abu Laila fatally stabbed Sgt. Gal Keidan at the Ariel junction, grabbed the soldier’s gun and opened fire at passing vehicles, hitting Rabbi Ettinger, who later died of his wounds. The terrorist stole a vehicle and fled the scene, later shooting another soldier. He was killed during an attempt to arrest him days later.
A fire has broken out in a field near Kibbutz Kfar Aza, on the Gaza Strip periphery. Firefighting teams are at the scene.
Officials believe the fire was caused by an arson balloon launched from the Palestinian territory.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the “road is not closed” if the US wants negotiations with Iran and returns to the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Rouhani was speaking during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
He does not explicitly name the United States but refers to Washington by saying: “The road is not closed for them, whenever they put aside their cruel sanctions and return to the negotiation table that they left.”
Rouhani’s website also quotes him as saying that if the US chooses “another way and returns to justice and law, the Iranian nation will keep the road open to you.”
Labor party MK Stav Shaffir says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s move to dissolve the Knesset and call a new election if he fails to secure a coalition by tonight is “illegal” and against voters’ wishes.
She tells the Ynet news site she has called on the Knesset’s legal counsel to stop any such legislation.
“The head of the administrative branch, a man suspected of bribery, is trying to force the Knesset to dissolve, and it is against the law and against the will of the voter,” she says.
“Voters also gave 35 seats to the prime minister’s opponent, [Blue and White party leader] Benny Gantz. According to the law what should happen is that at midnight Benny Gantz should be given the opportunity to try and form a government.”
Indeed if the MK tasked with forming a government fails to do so within the legal timeframe, the president can task another MK with the job. Netanyahu’s bid to dissolve the legislature if he cannot form a coalition is intended to prevent such an eventuality.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett are meeting in Tel Aviv amid the growing possibility that new elections will be called tonight.
The two, whose New Right party failed to clear the electoral threshold in April’s elections, were expected to leave politics, at least for a while, once a new government was formed.
However, the political chaos and prospect of a new national poll could yet resurrect their careers.
There has been speculation in recent days that Shaked could join Likud in the event of a new vote.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara has signed a plea deal with state prosecutors in a fraud case against her, and will play a fine of NIS 55,000 ($15,000) to state coffers, but will not admit to fraud.
Netanyahu was charged last year with misusing some $100,000 in funds on catered meals at the Prime Minister’s Residence while there was a full-time chef on staff.
As part of the deal she will admit to intentionally making use of another’s error, but will not admit to defrauding the state. Prosecutors had originally sought to indict the premier’s wife for fraud.
Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who also faced charges in the case, will make a similar plea, pay a fine of NIS 10,000 ($2,700) and do community service.
A Likud source accuses Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman of “deceiving” the public in the coalition row.
“His goal is to destroy Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and then supplant him,” the source says.
“He says of any offer ‘We might consider it,’ stalls for a few days and then rejects it,” the source says of failed negotiations between the sides over a contentious ultra-Orthodox draft law.
“Liberman, who always made deals with the ultra-Orthodox parties… is suddenly painting himself as the representative of the secular vote. For a few [more] seats and a hunger for power Liberman is dragging the entire country to elections.”
In response to Likud accusations against Yisrael Beytenu over stalled coalition talks, Avigdor Liberman’s party says it “regrets the style and language of briefings coming from the Prime Minister’s Office.”
It says: “From the very first moment [of coalition talks] Yisrael Beytenu warned there was only one option: completing legislation [of the ultra-Orthodox draft law] in its second and third readings in the same wording of the first reading,” the party says of the bill opposed by Haredi factions.
“Anything else is spin and a misleading of the public.”
President Reuven Rivlin says he “will do everything in my power to prevent Israel from heading toward another election campaign.”
He says he plans to invite party heads to once again confer over their preferred course of action.
Though he notes in a statement that it is in his power to task another Knesset member with attempting to form a government should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fail to do so, he also acknowledges that if the Knesset passes a dissolution bill — as it may well do before the day is done — there will be no alternative to holding a new national vote.
RIGA, Latvia — The Latvian parliament has elected European Court of Justice judge and former Soviet dissident Egils Levits as the new president of the Baltic state.
Sixty-one of the 100 members of parliament vote for the German-educated candidate of the governing coalition parties.
“I will be president for the whole of Latvia: for those who live in the country and those who live abroad, for the poor and the better-off,” Levits, 63, says.
Levits and his parents, Latvian patriots of Jewish origin, were expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 because the KGB viewed them as a threat to the Communist regime.
The family settled in Germany where Levits obtained law and political science degrees before returning to Latvia a decade later and entering politics.
AMMAN, Jordan — US Presidential adviser Jared Kushner is in Jordan as he tries to rally Arab support for a US peace conference next month in Bahrain.
Jordan, a key US ally, has not yet said whether it will attend.
Kushner, who arrived from Morocco, has said the conference will focus on the economic foundations of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The conference will not include core political issues, such as Palestinian statehood. The Palestinians have rejected the conference.
Reliant on American political and military support, it will be difficult for Jordan to reject the invitation to the conference. But with most of its people of Palestinian descent, it will be difficult to embrace a plan that does not include a Palestinian state.
Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel attacks his Likud counterparts as “pushovers” as the legislature prepares to vote on dissolving itself amid a coalition-building impasse.
Speaking at the Knesset and paraphrasing a 2008 speech by Likud’s own Gideon Sa’ar in which he called Labor MKs “pushovers,” Hendel said: “You don’t have a shred of a personal stance. You stand here in the back of the plenum and say you don’t want elections, then come in here before the cameras and say you do. I’ve never seen such pushovers.
“That’s not what Israel needs,” he says. “Israel need leadership, one that sets an example, with moral clarity, with integrity, with clear positions. One that says a thing and does that thing — not one that says one thing and does the opposite.”
Settler leadership is urging party leaders to find compromise in order to establish “a strong right-wing government” rather than head to new elections.
“We cannot let the hard work of the last election go to waste,” says Hananel Dorani, chairman of the settlement umbrella group the Yesha Council.
He warns against wasting the opportunity such a government would provide to strengthen West Bank settlements.
“The will of the people as it was expressed in the last election was to see a strong right-wing government,” he says. “With time running out, we ask of you to find a way to bridge the small differences.”
As Washington gears up to unveil its peace plan, parts of which will be discussed at a June summit in Bahrain, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweets that Jerusalem “is neither America’s to give away nor Israel’s to take.”
It is also “NOT for brutal accomplices to try to buy,” he says.
Al-Quds (Jerusalem) is neither America's to give away nor Israel's to take. And NOT for brutal accomplices to try to buy.
Quds belongs to Palestine & Palestinians: history shows that whomever ignores this is condemned to ignominious failure.
Iran stands with Palestine. #QudsDay
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) May 29, 2019
Jerusalem “belongs to Palestine & Palestinians: history shows that whomever ignores this is condemned to ignominious failure. Iran stands with Palestine.”
A Jerusalem think tank says latest data shows negative migration from the city has been stopped for the first time in a decade.
According to the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, ultra-Orthodox employment is also on the rise, and the capital’s hi-tech industry is growing at the fastest rate in the country.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion calls the findings “very impressive in each and every parameter” and says “Jerusalem is Israel’s leader in every sense of the word.”
A December report by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed the city’s population is one of the least prosperous in Israel.
Meeting US presidential adviser Jared Kushner in Amman, Jordan’s King Abdullah II tells hims only a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with its capital in East Jerusalem, can lead to long-lasting peace.
Few details have emerged of the Trump administration’s peace plan, but there have been indications that it will not necessarily incorporate the two-state solution.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will name Yisrael Katz as permanent foreign minister.
Katz has been acting foreign minister since February, but that appointment has now expired. Cabinet ministers will be asked to approve the appointment in a phone vote.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, breaking a two-year silence on his investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, announces his resignation from the Justice Department so that he can “return to private life.”
Summarizing his investigation, Mueller says charging US President Donald Trump with a crime of obstruction was “not an option” because of Justice Department policy.
At the same time, Mueller reiterates that his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election did not exonerate the president.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” he says. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his cabinet are meeting in Israel today, waving away complaints that the setting is illegal. They presented a proclamation of support for Israel and the Republican governor signed a bill that prohibits anti-Semitism in Florida’s public schools and universities.
DeSantis calls the meeting historic, but the open government watchdog organization First Amendment Foundation and several media outlets sued in an effort to stop it, claiming it violated state law that requires meetings be accessible to the public.
DeSantis does not acknowledge the lawsuit during the meeting, but quips, “Since we’re in Jerusalem, we may actually get some interest in our cabinet meetings for a change, which would be great.”
Speaking at the Knesset, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman insists he is being reasonable in his coalition demands.
“There is no ulterior motive,” he says in response to Likud accusations he is intentionally blocking the formation of a government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Anyone who is concocting other theories: Try us. There’s nothing else hidden behind this.”
He tells ultra-Orthodox legislators the current version of the military draft law — which remains the point of contention between his party and Likud and Haredi MKs — is the best possible version and “the middle road” that is “good for everyone.
“Try to remain within reason,” he says. He repeats his offer for ultra-Orthodox MKs to abstain during a vote on the bill.
“Any reasonable person would accept my offer,” he says.
More from Avigdor Liberman at the Knesset.
Outside the plenum he tells reporters: “Look, things are exactly where they were. As I’ve said over and over, I don’t have a hidden agenda. There’s nothing going on behind closed doors.
“The moment that the [Haredi draft bill] is approved for a second and third reading [and becomes law], in its original form, precisely as it passed the first reading [last July], all of this is over. This is what separate us between establishing a government and holding early elections.”
Unnamed party officials confirm to the Ynet news site that Likud has offered that the Labor Party join the coalition, and that party officials are discussing the matter.
Amid reports Labor is considering joining the Netanyahu coalition, Blue and White’s Yair Lapid tweets at Labor chief Avi Gabbay: “Even in Israeli politics there is a limit to the repugnance the public can take. I cannot believe you will do such a thing.”
Channel 12 News chief political correspondent Amit Segal tweets that in a desperate bid to avoid new elections Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is offering the Labor Party to join the coalition.
According to Segal, the offer includes four cabinet portfolios, including the Finance Ministry, and no legislative push for immunity from prosecution for Netanyahu or bypassing High Court rulings.
פרסום ראשון: נתניהו מציע לעבודה את תיק האוצר ועוד שלושה תיקים, גניזת חוקי החסינות וההתגברות. גבאי שוקל ומתייעץ בשעות האחרונות עם חבריו לסיעה.
— עמית סגל Amit Segal (@amit_segal) May 29, 2019
Segal says Labor leader Avi Gabbay is conferring with his party. He and no. 2 Tal Russo are considering the proposition, while MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Itzik Shmuli are opposed.
In response to the premier’s reported offer to the party, Amir Peretz tweets: “We will not be Netanyahu’s life jacket. Any other option would be a breach of everything we promised the public. We will do what we promised.”
And this from Shelly Yachimovich: “I warn anyone in my party who would even consider taking advantage of ruining the party through joining Netanyahu’s corrupt government, they will pay a heavy price.”
Itzik Shmuli says “I have no intention of serving in a government under Benjamin Netanyahu… and providing a defensive wall to corruption. I call on my colleagues to reject this offer outright.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu party, responds to reports Labor has been offered the finance portfolio to join the coalition.
“We won’t be in the coalition without the finance portfolio,” he tweets.
Labor chief Avi Gabbay appears to put an end to a media frenzy over reports his party might join the coalition instead of Yisrael Beytenu.
“Over the past month the Labor Party has received several offers to join the government,” he tweets.
“The latest offer yesterday included a promise of a number of steps to safeguard democracy including nixing legislation to bypass [the High Court], for immunity [for the prime minister], personally motivated legislation and more,” he says.
“Members of the faction discussed the offer and we decided not to accept.”
Labor officials tell Hebrew media the offer to the Labor Party to join the coalition included the Justice portfolio for MK Shelly Yachimovich and the presidency for MK Amir Peretz.
Peretz and Yachimovich both rejected the notion of joining the coalition.
The Israel Defense Forces reveals another Hezbollah attack tunnel discovered on the Israeli-Lebanese border during this past winter’s Operation Northern Shield, and says it is “the longest and most significant” one found.
The army says the passage was dug to an incredible depth of 80 meters (260 feet), was a kilometer long and penetrated 77 meters (250 feet) into Israeli territory.
Officials say it was constructed over a period of several years, and will be sealed off and destroyed in the next few days.
סיור במנהרה המשמעותית ביותר של חזבאללה : 80 מטרים עומקה, 680 מטר בשטח לבנון 77 מטרים בשטח ישראל מול זרעית.
מנהרה מטורפת pic.twitter.com/v9W1U8oddS
— יוסי יהושוע (@YehoshuaYosi) May 29, 2019
Likud MK Miki Zohar tells Channel 13 his party tried to lure away two of Labor’s six MKs, knowing full well most of the party would reject joining the coalition, in order to gain a majority in the Knesset.
“The strategy here is very simple,” he says.
Likud believed Avi Gabbay “is finished in the Labor Party” in light of the last election’s results. Meanwhile Tal Russo, who Gabbay dropped into the no. 2 spot using his chairman’s privilege, was seen as someone who could possibly be swayed.
“It was clear the four others would say no, and we could have possibly won Tal Russo and Avi Gabbay and then we’d have 62 [seats].”
Amid the news of Likud’s overtures to Labor, Channel 13 reports that the party also looked at the possibility of bringing Blue and White into the coalition — or at least parts of it.
Members of the party who were thought to be potential deserters were offered portfolios including Defense, Finance, Justice, Culture and Communications, the report said. Some were offered future appointments as ambassadors to either join the coalition or support it from the outside.
Druze MK Gadeer Mreeh, for instance, was offered possible changes to the controversial Jewish nation-state law, which has angered much of her community. Meanwhile MK Pnina Tamano-Shata, of Ethiopian descent, was promised further action to bring Ethiopian Falash Mura — whose claim to Judaism the government does not recognize — to Israel.
However, the report said Likud’s overtures were rebuffed.
Likud is saying it is finishing up coalition agreements with 60 of the Knesset’s 120 MKs. It is not immediately clear whether Likud is going for a non-majority government at this stage.
Ultra-Orthodox parties are reported to have been pushing for such a move.
However, just a short time ago, Kulanu party chief Moshe Kahlon said his party would not be a member of a government with less than 61 MKs. And he’s now tweeted that his party has not signed any coalition deal.
Likud is now clarifying its previous claim. It says agreements with Kulanu have been finalized but acknowledges that the party has said it won’t sign until Yisrael Beytenu also joins up.
Which leaves things more or less where they were 10 minute ago.
The Likud party says that Prime Minister Netanyahu has offered a proposal to both the ultra-Orthodox parties and Avigdor Liberman in which he accepts the Yisrael Beytenu chief’s demand to pass his version of the controversial conscription law.
According to the prime minister’s proposal, as soon as the government is formed, Liberman’s original draft law will be presented as written in his proposal for the approval of the Knesset plenum. After its approval, the law will be prepared for a second and third reading by mutual consent,” a statement from the ruling party reads.
By doing so, the onus would be on the ultra-Orthodox parties to prevent elections.
“This means that the ultra-Orthodox will have to choose between Liberman’s law and a return to the original law, which means full mobilization for the ultra-Orthodox as for all parts of the public.”
“The proposal has now been submitted to the parties and we await their positive response in order to form a right-wing government tonight and prevent unnecessary elections,” the Likud statement says.
United Torah Judaism leader Ya’akov Litzman responds to Netanyahu’s offer for the ultra-Orthodox parties and Yisrael Beytenu to work together to pass a conscription bill by saying he will not accept any law based on Liberman’s proposal.
“We have compromised,” he tells Channel 12 news. “If Liberman won’t accept our offer we will have to go to elections but we cannot budge further.”
Opposition parties have given up their right to deliver speeches opposing the bill to dissolve the Knesset and force new elections, attempting to catch out the ruling Likud party and push the vote forward before it has enough MKs in the parliament.
Likud MK Yoav Kisch, who tried to protest the move, now has 30 minutes to sum up the debate before a vote is held, unless the Likud can find a loophole to extend the debate.
As the Knesset prepared to vote to dissolve parliament and call new elections if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to lock down a government by a midnight deadline, parties not involved in the coalition talks threatened to filibuster the Knesset session to foil the dissolution and enable the possibility of another lawmaker being given a shot at coalition-building. Lawmakers were debating the proposal in the Knesset since noon.
Theoretically, the Likud-drafted motion to dissolve the Knesset could be pulled at any time before the final vote if a compromise to the coalition crisis is found. The prime minister has until midnight to announce a new coalition, and his bid to call elections — the second national ballot in a matter of months — seemed geared to prevent the president from tasking someone else with forming a government.
“We may support another candidate from the Likud to form the government,” says a source in United Torah Judaism, according to Channel 12 news, in response to Netanyahu’s offer for them to work with Yisrael Beytenu.
Yisrael Beytenu rejects Netanyahu’s “final offer” on arrangements to pass the ultra-Orthodox conscription bill and to work with the ultra-Orthodox parties on the law, meaning that new elections look increasingly likely.
“Our offer is well known and is still valid,” the party says in a brief statement after Netanyahu presented party head Avigdor Liberman with what he said was his last effort to bring him into the coalition.
United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman has also rejected this “final offer,” with UTJ accusing Netanyahu of turning his back on them.
The Knesset is set to hold a vote at 11:30 p.m. Israel time on a bill to dissolve itself and set new elections for September 17.
Acting Knesset deputy speaker MK Yisrael Eichler officially confirms from the plenum podium that a vote on the bill to dissolve the Knesset and set new elections will take place at 11:30 p.m.
Netanyahu is reportedly working to ensure that all Likud MKs vote in favor of the bill to dissolve the Knesset and therefore prevent President Rivlin from tasking another MK with forming the coalition.
The prime minister is worried that a group of his own lawmakers may vote against the proposal, Kan news reports.
Netanyahu has called a meeting of all Likud MKs from 11 p.m., half an hour before the vote is set to take place.
Netanyahu will meet with Likud MKs at 11 p.m. before the scheduled vote to dissolve the Knesset at 11:30 p.m.
The Shas rabbinical council approves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compromise deal over the conscription bill whereby Avigdor Liberman’s proposal is approved in the first reading and then only in its final votes “in agreement with all the coalition parties,” Hebrew media reports.
The Degel Hatorah faction within the United Torah Judaism party reportedly agrees to the compromise deal over the conscription bill whereby Avigdor Liberman’s proposal is approved in the first reading and then only in its final votes “in agreement with all the coalition parties.”
The faction, which holds four of UTJ’s eight seats, joins Shas is supporting the deal. If Liberman agrees, the coalition would have a 61 seat majority, even if the Agudat Yisrael faction, holding the other four UTJ seats, rejects the deal.
Avigdor Liberman declares: “To my sorrow, the state of Israel is going to elections.”
He tells reporters this is because of the “complete surrender of the Likud to the haredim.”
“We are natural partners in a right wing government; we won’t be partners in a halachic government,” he says.
“The Likud failed in this work of building a coalition… and they and the haredim are to blame for Israel going to elections.”
Likud MK Miki Zohar presents the bill to dissolve parliament and set new elections for September 17, minutes before the midnight deadline for Netanyahu to form a coalition, as Blue and White MKs chant “embarrassment.”
MKs begin voting on the bill to dissolve the Knesset and set new elections for September 17 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to secure a majority of 61 Knesset members.
MKs are voting in a “named ballot” whereby each must stand one after the other and say whether they support of oppose the bill.
MKs vote by 74 to 45 in favor of the second reading of the bill to dissolve the Knesset and set new elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure a coalition.
The third and final reading is taking place now.
Israel’s parliament votes to dissolve itself after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to meet the midnight deadline to form a new government, triggering an unprecedented second national election this year.
After a raucous 12-hour debate, lawmakers approve by a vote of 74 to 45 a Likud-drafted bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset and hold new elections on September 17.
The Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, Shas and Union of Right-Wing Parties were joined by the two Arab-Israeli parties, Ra’am-Balad and Hadash-Ta’al in supporting the motion. Only Kulanu MK Royi Folkman was absent from the vote.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launches a diatribe against Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman who he blames for “dragging the country to unnecessary elections.”
Claiming that he won the last election, despite only receiving 35 seats — the same as Blue and White — and failing to form a coalition, he said he will win the next too.
“The public in Israel made a clear decision. It decided that I will be prime minister, that the Likud will lead the government, a right-wing government. The public voted for me to lead the state of Israel. Many of the parties said they will support Netanyahu… Liberman said he would support me as prime minister but he had no intention from the first moment to do what he said he would do,” Netanyahu tells journalists immediately after the vote to dissolve the Knesset and set new elections for September 17.
“All of the requests and demands of Yisrael Beytenu were repeatedly rejected. I presented a proposal. He rejected it. He wanted, in the most clear way, to bring down the government. He did it to scrape a few more seats which he thinks he can get. For the second time he has dragged the country to unnecessary elections due to his own political ego,” he continues. “Avigdor Liberman is now part of the left. He brings down right-wing governments. Don’t believe him again. I will tell you about it tomorrow. Maybe I will tell you some things you don’t know.”
Netanyahu says that the Likud “will run a sharp and clear election campaign, and we will win.”
United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman attacks Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, blaming him for the unprecedented second national election to take place on September 17 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition.
“Liberman chose a campaign of incitement against the ultra-Orthodox public and the Torah and used us to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government,” he tells the Kan public broadcaster.