Lapid: If it weren’t for Netanyahu’s corruption probes, we could’ve had a unity government by now
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PM rejected demand of MK who longs for Torah rule to serve as diaspora minister

Channel 13 reports that Netanyahu quickly dismissed request from Bezalel Smotrich due to concerns that it might further rupture ties with Jews abroad

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Left, Bezalel Smotrich, after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)
Left, Bezalel Smotrich, after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)

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

Iran’s top envoy says Netanyahu wants to destroy us, and we will respond

Iran’s foreign minister warns the US that his country will not remain passive while Israel threatens to destroy it.

He also dismisses the Trump administration’s as-yet unpublished peace plan as a “crime against the Middle East.”

“Netanyahu is threatening to destroy Iran. It can’t be that someone threatens our people without a response,” Zarif said at a press conference in Tehran alongside visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

America, Zarif charges, has declared an economic war on Iran by imposing sanctions and last year pulling out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

“We were not the ones and we won’t be the ones to open any kind of war, but if someone does open one, he won’t the one to finish it,” Zarif warns.

Zarif says the US and Israel are the root cause of the problems in the Middle East and called Washington’s peace plan, which it has yet to unveil, a “crime against the Middle East,” Tasnim, an Iranian news site, reported.

 with Agencies

IAEA ‘worried about increasing tensions’ over Iran

The UN’s nuclear watchdog says it was “worried about increasing tensions” over Iran’s nuclear program, after Tehran said it might stop respecting more elements of a 2015 international deal.

“I… hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue,” International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano says in a speech opening the agency’s quarterly board of governors meeting.

On May 8, Iran announced it no longer considered itself bound to keep to the limits of stocks of heavy water and enriched uranium agreed upon as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Tehran’s move came a year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal. Washington has also reinforced economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has also said that if the other parties to the JCPOA do not speed up work on mitigating the effects of US sanctions, by early July it may stop abiding by restrictions on the level to which it can enrich uranium and on modifications to its Arak heavy water reactor.

Two weeks ago, the latest inspections report by the IAEA said that while stocks of uranium and heavy water had increased, they were still within the limits set by the JCPOA.

— AFP

Kremlin says ‘carefully monitoring’ case of arrested reporter

The Kremlin says it is carefully monitoring the case of arrested reporter Ivan Golunov and admits it threw up a “great number of questions.”

“We are carefully monitoring how this case is developing,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says. “This concrete case has triggered a great number of questions.”

— AFP

Authorities probing whether fire near Gaza border community caused by incendiary balloon

Authorities in the Eshkol Regional Council near the Gaza Strip are investigating whether a brushfire that broke out adjacent to one of their communities was caused by an incendiary balloon, a spokesman for the municipality says.

12 French orphans of IS families arrive in Paris from Syria

Twelve orphans born to French jihadist families were flown home Monday from camps in Syria, along with two Dutch orphans who will be handed over to the Netherlands, the French foreign ministry says.

The children — the second such group to be flown to France from Syria since March — were all “isolated and particularly vulnerable,” the ministry says, adding some were sick or malnourished.

— AFP

Real estate firm part-owned by Kushner received millions in foreign funding from hazy investors — report

A real estate firm partially owned by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner received some $90 million in foreign funding from an unknown offshore account since he entered started working for his father-in-law, the Guardian reports.

The British daily cites corporate filings and interviews, which show that investments have been coming in from overseas to the company, Cadre. The money originated from an account run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands.

Ethics experts told the Guardian that the foreign funding revelation could demonstrate a conflict of interest for Kushner, who contineus to work for the US government.

Former Red Sox star Ortiz shot in Dominican Republic

Three time World Series champion David Ortiz was shot and wounded late Sunday at an amusement center in his native Dominican Republic, local authorities confirm.

Ortiz was shot in the back by a motorcyclist and “the bullet went through his stomach,” Dominican National Police spokesman Felix Duran Mejia tells CNN.

Ortiz, 43 was taken to a hospital in nearby Santo Domingo where he underwent surgery.

Ortiz’s father Leo Ortiz told local reporters the former Boston Red Sox star was out of surgery and stable, US sports broadcaster ESPN says.

“David’s family has confirmed that he sustained a gunshot wound to the lower back/abdominal region,” the Red Sox said in a statement on Twitter.

“David is being treated at Clinica Abel Gonzalez in Santo Domingo where he is recovering after surgery.”

Two other people were wounded in the shooting, including Dominican TV host Jhoel Lopez who was with Ortiz, ESPN reported, quoting the Dominican National Police director.

It was not known who the intended target was.

— AFP

Pope says he wants to visit Iraq in 2020

Pope Francis says he wants to visit Iraq as early as next year in spite of the security conditions.

“An insistent thought accompanies me when I think about Iraq, where I want to go next year, so that it can look to the future through peaceful and shared participation in the construction of the common good,” Francis tells a Vatican audience.

The pope voices hope that Iraq “does not return to the tensions which come from the never-ending conflicts between regional powers.”

Iraq has been a battleground for competing forces, including the jihadist Islamic State group, since the US-led ouster of president Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Vatican number two Cardinal Pietro Parolin warned in January that a papal trip to Iraq imposed a “minimum of conditions” that “are not currently met.”

Francis has made boosting ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy.

He has this year visited Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

The pope has already visited several Muslim countries, including Turkey in 2014, Azerbaijan in 2016 and Egypt in 2017.

— AFP

Feiglin clarifies that he won’t join a left-wing government

After dancing around the issue in the last election, Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin, whose party failed to cross the electoral threshold in the last election, says that under no circumstance will he join a left-wing government.

The Facebook post in which he outlined his pro-cannabis legalization faction’s new position on the matter marked a veer rightward from last election, during which Feiglin refused to rule out sitting in any government.

“We will never [help] establish a left-wing government. We will go with whoever is chosen to lead the national camp,” says Feiglin. “But if that person implements a leftist policy, harms the land of Israel or the freedom of its citizens, we will establish an alternative of freedom and Zehut from the opposition.”

The remarks appeared to be in reference to Netanyahu’s last-minute offer to Avi Gabbay for the Labor chairman to bring his party into the Likud leader’s government. The move sparked immense backlash from right-wing critics of the premier, who argued he had been willing to sell out his ideology simply in order to stay in power.

Ya’alon: Like Hamas leaders, Netanyahu rules over Likud with ‘balance of terror’

Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon compares Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reign over lawmakers from his own party to how the Hamas terror group controls its own members.

“In Likud they choose [their list] through democratic elections. Hamas is also elected in democratic elections, but then [the MK] are managed using a balance of terror,” Ya’alon tells Channel 12.

He clarifies that his criticism is directed not at the Likud slate, but at Netanyahu himself. The senior Blue and White MK claims that there are a number of Likud MKs who agree with him privately.

Authorities suspect incendiary balloon caused blaze in forest near Gaza

Authorities in the Sdot Hanegev Regional Council near Gaza suspect that a fire that broke out in the Simhoni Forest earlier today was caused by an incendiary balloon flown from the coastal enclave.

Firefighters gain control of day’s fourth blaze near a Gaza border town

A spokesman for the Israel Fire Service’s Southern District says that emergency forces have gained control of the day’s fourth fire started near communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

Authorities suspect that the fires have been caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza.

Nechirvan Barzani sworn in as president of Iraqi Kurdistan

Nechirvan Barzani has been sworn in as Iraqi Kurdistan’s second president, succeeding his uncle and veteran leader Massud Barzani whose son Masrour will likely be nominated premier on Tuesday.

Nechirvan, the 52-year-old deputy leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was elected as president on May 28 after seven years as the region’s prime minister.

He is the Kurdish region’s second president after his uncle Massud, who served in the role from 2005 until he quit in 2017 following a controversial independence referendum.

The younger Barzani takes his oath of office during a sleek ceremony at Erbil’s Congressional Palace.

Born in northern Iraq in 1966, Barzani spent part of his life in Iran and speaks fluent Kurdish, Farsi and English.

He has had a long political career in the Kurdish region, serving as its vice prime minister, head of government and prime minister since it won autonomy from federal authorities in 1991.

— AFP

Responding to Hamas comparison, Likud says Ya’alon has lost his marbles

After Blue and White lawmaker Moshe Ya’alon compared Netanyahu’s hold on Likud to the reign of Hamas leaders over their members, the MK’s former party says he has long lost his marbles.

“To compare the Likud and Hamas? The left-wing party of Lapid, Gantz and Bogie (Ya’alon) continues to incite against more than a million Likud voters, who chose Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the country. Pathetic!” a Likud statement says.

Lapid: If it weren’t for Netanyahu’s corruption probes, we could’ve had a unity government by now

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid blasts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for requesting another delay in his pre-indictment hearing and claims that if not for the premier’s corrupt conduct, Israel could be led by a unity government.

“The criminal suspect Benjamin Netanyahu today sent the criminal suspect David Bitan to say that he should postpone the hearing again because there is no longer any shame,” he says in a video statement.

“If not for Netanyahu’s criminal problems, we could already have a national unity government of more than 70 seats,” he said referring to a coalition consisting of Likud and Blue and White, which each have 35 seats. “[This would be] without a halachic state, without extremists, good for the economy and good for Israeli society.”

“One person is preventing what the state needs, so let’s move this person aside for the benefit of the State of Israel.”

Gabbay agrees to pay former MK he called a sex offender

Labor chairman Avi Gabbay has reached a settlement with former MK Eitan Broshi, whom he called a sex offender.

Broshi sued Gabbay for the remark but has agreed to drop the case after the latter agreed to take back what he said, apologize and pay him NIS 40,000 ($11,166)

Broshi was accused of two instances of sexual misconduct in 2018, including an incident involving fellow MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin.

Gabbay had temporarily suspended Broshi, saying the Knesset was “no place for sex offenders,” and refused to walk back the remark even after Broshi apologized to Nahmias-Verbin.

Palestinian medic hit by IDF rubber bullet last month succumbs to wounds, Gaza health ministry says

A Palestinian medic succumbed to wounds he sustained on May 3 in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel from a rubber bullet fired by Israeli security forces that impacted his skull, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

The medic, identified as 36-year-old Mohammed al-Judeili, was carrying out humanitarian work when the rubber bullet hit him, the ministry says.

He died in a hospital in Hebron and efforts to coordinate his body’s return to Gaza were ongoing, the ministry adds.

— Adam Rasgon

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer tapped to monitor 2019’s second election

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer has been tapped by his peers on the judiciary to stay on as head of the Central Election Committee.

Ex-Labor MK’s lawyer: There was nothing sexual about my client touching his colleague’s tush

The lawyer of Labor MK Eitan Broshi commends party chairman Avi Gabbay for apologizing to his client for calling him a sex offender.

Gabbay used the term to describe Broshi after the latter faced accusations in 2018 that he sexually harassed a woman 15 years earlier in an elevator, and claims that he sexually harassed and assaulted a female subordinate when he served as a battalion commander in the Israel Defense Forces. Broshi had also recently touched a female MK from his party inappropriately, and then apologized for his actions.

“Gabbay did the right thing when he retracted [his remarks],” Ilan Bombach tells Army Radio. “Broshi has already apologized for this small incident with Nahmias-Verbin, which had no sexual element to it.”

The attorney was referring to accusations made by Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, who said Broshi touched her on the buttocks during a party field trip. She subsequently accepted his apology.

PM: Iran, not Israel, is making annihilation threats

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu releases a video responding to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad, who accused Israel of threatening to destroy the Islamic Republic.

“Zarif is lying once again. It is Iran that is openly threatening annihilation. The heads of the regime threaten daily the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu says.

“Iran is trying to establish itself militarily in Syria, and today it has been reported that it is accelerating its nuclear program,” the premier adds.

“I repeat. We will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons that will endanger us and the entire world.”

For the first time since the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the UN’s nuclear watchdog earlier today did not explicitly report that Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments.

“It is inappropriate for me to make the same statement of business as usual,” International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano said in a speech opening the agency’s quarterly board of governors meeting.

Amano noted the May 8 announcement by Iran that it no longer considered itself bound to keep to the limits of stocks of heavy water and enriched uranium that were agreed on as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

— with AFP

New justice minister: Those who want what’s best for the judiciary must criticize it

In his first address as justice minister in the transitional government, Likud MK Amir Ohana asserts that those who want what is best for the judiciary must be prepared to criticize it.

“Anyone who wants a judicial system free of foreign considerations, strong and just — anyone who wants what is good for the judicial system — must be prepared to criticize it,” he says at an Israel Bar Association ceremony.

“There are judges in Jerusalem, as our teacher and mentor Menachem Begin taught us, but there are legislators as well,” hinting at efforts he has supported in which the Knesset would be able to override High Court of Justice vetoes on legislation.

“There will be struggles, there will be disagreements, but we will conduct them patiently, judiciously and in a civilized manner. However, what is needed is a corrective repair.”

Four fires near Gaza border communities caused by incendiary balloons, authorities determine

Municipal authorities have determined that the four fires that were ignited in fields adjacent to Gaza border towns earlier today were caused by incendiary balloons.

North Korea may be cutting back on public executions — report

North Korea continues to carry out state killings as a way of intimidating its citizens, campaigners say, although the number of executions may be declining in the face of mounting international pressure.

Pyongyang has long been accused of using state killings to instill fear among its population, and leader Kim Jong Un has executed top aides in the past — including his powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in 2013.

A new report by the Transitional Justice Working Group documents hundreds of public executions over several decades — the most recent in 2015 — for charges as trivial as stealing copper or a cow.

“The rules on public execution demand that three shooters fire three rounds each into the body of the condemned person, for a total of nine bullets,” says Seoul-based group, which seeks to highlight what is says are grievous human rights abuses by the North.

This was a widely used tactic, especially against the elites, it added, “designed to maximize public intimidation, in the knowledge that information about execution methods will spread throughout the country.”

But the study — based on the testimonies of 610 North Korean defectors — also suggested that Pyongyang was growing more concerned about international scrutiny, forcing it to scale back on the practice.

— AFP

Top US court upholds indefinite detention of Yemeni at Guantanamo

The US Supreme Court has upheld the detention of a Yemeni prisoner held without charge or trial for 17 years at an American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The top court has refused to take up a petition on behalf of Moath al-Alwi, who was arrested on the Afghan-Pakistan border in December 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo the following January.

The Yemeni national, who was born in 1977, is suspected of having been a body guard of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, which he denies. He is considered to be an “enemy combatant,” a classification that allows him to be held for the duration of the conflict.

Alwi’s lawyers argued that unlike past conflicts, the war in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda is of indefinite duration, creating “the risk of lifelong detention for him.”

Their arguments did not persuade the court, which gave no reason for rejecting the case.

The prison at Guantanamo was opened in 2001 on a US naval base on the southeastern tip of Cuba to hold the Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

Of the 780 prisoners held there, only about 40 remain. No new prisoners have been transferred there since 2008, although US President Donald Trump signed an order in January 2008 keeping the prison open.

— AFP

Palestinian minister hits back at Israeli annexation talk

The Palestinian foreign minister calls for sanctions on Israel if it starts to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

But Riyad al-Maliki also questions whether Israel was a “holy cow” no one dare touch.

He was talking to reporters in Poland after a US envoy’s comments that Israel had the right to annex at least some of the territory captured in 1967.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman made the claim in a New York Times interview published Saturday.

“Friedman with his statement is trying to help Netanyahu to have the courage to take such a decision” to annex, says Maliki.

“This is really something that the international community has to stand up to,” he says.

“We cannot accept the annexation of territories by any country because this is (a) violation of international law.”

— AFP

Likud negotiator told URWP MK he wouldn’t be given justice post because job holds keys to PM’s political survival

In a conversation with Bezalel Smotrich, hours before the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and initiate snap elections, Likud coalition negotiator Natan Eshel told the Union of Right-Wing Parties No. 2 that he would not be appointed justice minister.

“The next justice minister will hold the keys to the fate of the prime minister and his family. There is no chance that you will receive these keys. Forget about [receiving] the justice portfolio,” the Kan public broadcaster quotes Eshel as having said.

“It’s not a political matter. It’s a personal matter, so there’s no way you’ll get the case,” Eshel added.

Eshel, a former aide to Netanyahu, resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.

PM’s attorney says Netanyahu will show up to pre-indictment hearing, but is still hoping it will be further delayed

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney announces that his client will attend his pre-indictment hearing in October.

However, Hebrew media reports that Netanyahu is still expected to submit a petition to the High Court of Justice in the coming months asking for an additional delay after the attorney general declined an identical request last week.

The prime minister’s lawyer Amit Hadad criticizes Mandelblit’s decision to reject their delay request, arguing that dozens of documents were missing from the docket that the AG’s office provided him to review ahead of the October 2 hearing.

Report: Smotrich demanded Diaspora Affairs Ministry after being snubbed from justice. PM rejected

After being snubbed from the justice minister post last week, Union of Right-Wing Parties No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded to be appointed to two positions in the transitional government, Channel 13 reports.

Netanyahu dismissed the hardline MK’s request to head the Diaspora Affairs Ministry outright, wary of sparking additional tension with Jews abroad by appointing a lawmaker who last week expressed desire for Israel to “return to the days of David” when it was governed by Jewish law.

The second post demanded by Smotrich, transportation minister, the premier is expected to give him, Channel 13 reports.

Netanyahu has also offered Smotrich the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which Gilad Erdan is expected to part ways from shortly.

PM looking to appoint minister facing indictment to cabinet post — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking to hand David Bitan a ministerial post in his transitional government, despite the fact that the Likud MK is facing an imminent indictment for corruption, Channel 12 reports.

Netanyahu had been planning on appointing Bitan to serve as the minister responsible for communication between the Knesset and the cabinet. However, when the Knesset voted to dissolve itself last month, that position became irrelevant.

Instead, Netanyahu is looking into appointing Bitan to a different post, along with Likud MKs Yoav Kish, David Amsalem, and Tzipi Hotovely.

In April, police recommended that Likud MK and former coalition chairman David Bitan be indicted on multiple corruption charges including bribery, fraud and money laundering.

Jerusalem’s main entrance to be shuttered for three years starting next month — report

The main entrance to Jerusalem will be closed for construction for the next three years beginning in early July, Channel 13 reports.

As a result of the closure, traffic on Shazar street to the International Convention Center will not be allowed.

The closure is in order to carry out infrastructure work for an extension to the city’s light rail. Alternative routes bypassing the construction will be created, but only for public transportation.

Officials privy to the details of the plans tell Channel 13, “It is going to be a nightmare. Heavy traffic is to be expected in the area.”

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Lapid: If it weren’t for Netanyahu’s corruption probes, we could’ve had a unity government by now

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid blasts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for requesting another delay in his pre-indictment hearing and claims that if not for the premier’s corrupt conduct, Israel could be led by a unity government.

“The criminal suspect Benjamin Netanyahu today sent the criminal suspect David Bitan to say that he should postpone the hearing again because there is no longer any shame,” he says in a video statement.

“If not for Netanyahu’s criminal problems, we could already have a national unity government of more than 70 seats,” he said referring to a coalition consisting of Likud and Blue and White, which each have 35 seats. “[This would be] without a halachic state, without extremists, good for the economy and good for Israeli society.”

“One person is preventing what the state needs, so let’s move this person aside for the benefit of the State of Israel.”