The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel Wednesday to Lisbon, Portugal, to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, amid spiraling tensions over Iran.
The trip comes a day after Netanyahu’s reported plans to meet Pompeo on the sidelines of the NATO conference were called off after London said the prime minister did not give organizers sufficient notice.
Netanyahu will return to Israel on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounces Iran’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, after rights groups said the death toll has soared.
Protests erupted in Iran on November 15 after an announcement that gas prices were going up by as much as 200 percent with immediate effect.
“Iran is killing perhaps thousands and thousands of people right now as we speak,” Trump tells reporters in London ahead of a NATO summit.
“That’s why they cut off the internet. They cut off the internet so people can’t see what’s going on.
“And frankly, I don’t know how you get in there, I don’t know how you do your business but the press ought to get in there and see what’s going on.”
Trump adds: “The word is that thousands of people are being killed in Iran that are protesting.
“Not just small numbers, which are bad; big numbers, which are really bad — and really big numbers.”
Asked if there was more that the United States could do, he replies: “I’d rather not say right now.
“It’s a terrible thing and I think the world has to be watching.
“But many, many people are being killed in Iran right now for protesting. For the mere fact that they’re protesting.”
London-based human rights group Amnesty International said on Monday that at least 208 people were killed in the crackdown.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will meet in Tel Aviv this afternoon for coalition talks, eight days before the final deadline for the Knesset to tap a candidate to form a government.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz have failed to form a coalition after the September vote. Both have pushed for a unity government made up of their Likud and Blue and White parties, but talks have been stuck over Netanyahu’s looming criminal indictments and insistence on negotiating on behalf of his bloc of right-wing and religious parties. Another sticking point is who would serve as prime minister first under a power-sharing deal, and for how long.
Should they fail to reach an agreement, another round of elections — the third in under a year — could be called next week.
According to Channel 12, Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers are pressing chairman Avigdor Liberman to join a narrow right-wing government led by Netanyahu, in the event coalition talks fail to yield a unity government.
Liberman has insisted on a unity government of his party, Likud, and Blue and White.
MKs Oded Forer, No. 2 on the list, and Hamad Amar (who is placed sixth), meet with Liberman and implore him to consider joining a right-wing government should all other options fail, the network says. Such a scenario would see Liberman’s party collaborate with the ultra-Orthodox parties with whom he has been feuding since the April vote.
They claimed Blue and White was being unreasonable in its demands.
“Blue and White and Yair Lapid need to know that if they continue to refuse unity then the alternative will be a narrow right-wing government in order to prevent elections,” the report quotes one of them as saying.
The final decision, the report stresses, will be entirely Liberman’s.
US President Donald Trump criticizes Democrats at the opening of a NATO leaders’ meeting Tuesday, calling the impeachment push by his rivals “unpatriotic” and “a bad thing for our country.”
Trump, who comments while meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, has criticized Democrats for holding an impeachment hearing while he is abroad.
The House Judiciary Committee has set a hearing on the constitutional grounds for Trump’s possible impeachment on Wednesday just before he wraps up two days of meetings with NATO alliance members in London.
“I think it’s very unpatriotic of the Democrats to put on a performance,” Trump says. “I think it’s a bad thing for our country.”
Trump isn’t the only one complaining. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and adviser Kellyanne Conway all have criticized the committee’s timing.
Videos showing harrowing scenes of bleeding protesters, burning roadblocks and snipers on rooftops have emerged after Iran lifted a near-total internet blackout, opening a window onto what analysts say was one of Tehran’s bloodiest crackdowns.
This repression “was harsher” than during previous protests in Iran, Kamran Matin, senior lecturer in International Relations at Sussex University in Britain, tells AFP in Nicosia.
“All the videos I have seen from before the internet was shut down show that from the moment of the gathering of people to ‘shoot to kill’ was very short.”
Many videos from some of the estimated 100 areas where demonstrations erupted appear to show security forces firing at close range at unarmed demonstrators or beating them with batons.
Shaky footage shows bloodied people prone on the street, shouts and panicked screaming as others rush to their aid.
Crowds can be heard chanting slogans against the security apparatus and the ruling elite, venting frustrations over high inflation and unemployment.
Under an emerging unity government deal, Netanyahu would be prime minister for six months, to be replaced by Gantz, while Blue and White’s Yair Lapid would be appointed foreign minister and the party’s Gabi Ashkenazi would receive the defense portfolio, Channel 13 reports.
The treasury would remain in Likud’s corner and the party’s Yuli Edelstein would remain Knesset speaker, the report says, without citing a source.
Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman now appears to be leaving the door open to the possibility of joining a narrow right-wing government, amid rumblings of discontent within his party.
“It’s hard to weigh what’s worse — early elections or a narrow government, but I understand the Yisrael Beytenu MKs who are protesting our conduct,” he tells the Knesset Channel.
Yesterday, at his faction meeting, Liberman referred to himself in the third person, asking, “What does Liberman really want?” Answering the question, he said, “Liberman wants a unity government. Unlike everyone else, Yisrael Beytenu was the only party that from the very first day of the election [campaign] said it wanted a unity government.
“The easiest path would have been for us to join a narrow government. We didn’t do it because the State of Israel needs a broad government. It needs a government made up of the two major parties or it will not be able to make the decisions it must make,” said Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu party holds eight parliamentary seats.
Hundreds of Syrian refugees are headed home in the first batch to leave Lebanon since protests broke out in the small Arab country more than a month ago.
Since the early hours of Tuesday, scores of Syrians boarded buses in several locations in Lebanon before heading back to their hometowns in war-torn Syria.
Vanessa Moya of the UN refugee agency known as UNHCR, says some 225 Syrian refugees are scheduled to head back to Syria, raising the number to about 27,000 refugees who have returned to Syria over the past two years.
Thousands of Syrians have returned home from Lebanon since June 2018 as calm returns to parts of Syria.
Lebanon is hosting some 1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country after the war broke out eight years ago.
US President Donald Trump says he doesn’t want to interfere in Britain’s election campaign. But his presence in London nine days before the December 12 vote is a complication for Prime Minister Boris Johnson — and ammunition for Johnson’s opponents.
Trump, who is attending a meeting of NATO leaders, says Tuesday he’ll “stay out of the election.”
“I don’t want to complicate it,” he says.
Too late. Britain’s opposition parties are relishing the visit by Trump, who is widely unpopular in the UK, and whose statements of support for Johnson and Britain’s departure from the European Union are seen as more harmful than helpful.
Trump repeats his support for Brexit and for Johnson on Tuesday.
“I think Boris is very capable and I think he’ll do a good job,” he says.
The main opposition Labour Party seized on Trump’s two-day visit to renew allegations that a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal could damage the UK’s state-funded National Health Service.
Labour is campaigning heavily on the claim that the overstretched but treasured NHS is not safe in Conservative hands.
Johnson has called that allegation “nonsense.”
“This is pure Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle stuff,” he says Tuesday.
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, again pressed in a media interview to apologize for anti-Semitism within his party, says he’s sorry. But he also insists he’s “dealt with it” and other parties are similarly dogged by problem of anti-Jewish hatred.
“Obviously I’m very sorry for everything that’s happened but I want to make this clear I am dealing with it. I have dealt with it,” Corbyn tells ITV’s This Morning, according to The Guardian.
“Other parties are also affected by anti-Semitism. Candidates have been withdrawn by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives and by us because we do not accept it in any form whatsoever.”
— Sun Politics (@SunPolitics) December 3, 2019
US President Donald Trump says he “knows nothing” about British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn but can work with any elected UK leader, ahead of the December 12 election.
Asked Tuesday about Corbyn, Trump says: “I know nothing about the gentleman.”
“I can work with anybody, I’m a very easy person to work with,” he adds.
— with AP
Allan Gerson, a lawyer who pursued Nazi war criminals and pioneered the practice of suing foreign government in US courts for complicity to terrorism has died at the age of 74.
Gerson died Sunday at his home in Washington, DC, from complications of the degenerative brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, his wife, author Joan Nathan, said, according to The Washington Post.
A deputy assistant attorney general under US President Ronald Reagan, Gerson was also a child of Jewish refugees who fled Poland during the Holocaust.
His father had been a bookkeeper at a family candy store, and his mother was a dressmaker. They spent part of World War II in Siberian labor camps. Gerson was born in Samarkand in June 1945. After the war, the family adopted false identities to secure US immigration visas.
As a Justice Department trial lawyer, Gerson pursued Nazi war criminals who immigrated to the United States. He later became senior counsel to two US ambassadors to the United Nations and advocated for the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which remains the deadliest terrorist attack in British history. The flight exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crewmembers, along with 11 people on the ground.
He later was part of a team representing many families of those killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He also wrote several books on international law, and taught at George Mason University.
He’s survived by his wife and relatives including his three children, a brother and two grandchildren.
The Supreme Court orders alleged serial child rapist Malka Leifer to appear before a psychiatric panel that will determine whether she has been feigning mental illness to avoid extradition to Australia, rejecting an appeal from her attorneys against a lower court ruling.
Leifer will be evaluated on Wednesday by a board of medical experts, which has been ordered to provide a recommendation by December 10.
— Jacob Magid
Ahead of his meeting with Gantz, Netanyahu says he’ll spare no effort to assemble a unity government.
“It’s still possible,” he tells Likud activists, according to Hebrew reports.
He also denies a mutual defense pact with the United States will restrict Israel’s freedom of movement after Gantz on Monday opposed such a treaty.
Prince Andrew will be missing when his mother Queen Elizabeth II hosts NATO leaders at Buckingham Palace this evening, but he is the focus of renewed scrutiny as allegations of wrongdoing receive wide attention on TV.
Andrew, who has stepped down from royal duties because of his involvement with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was the subject of a BBC documentary broadcast Monday night in which he was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old trafficked by Epstein.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, now 35, told the BBC in vivid detail how she says she was forced to have sex with Andrew in London in 2001 after a night on the town at the exclusive Tramp nightclub.
Andrew has categorically denied having sex with Giuffre and apologized for his association with Epstein.
Blue and White MK Tzvi Hauser denies Likud offered a power-sharing deal, under which Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for six months before vacating the post for Gantz.
“There is no deal like that,” he tells the Kan public broadcaster.
“Let the prime minister declare that he won’t seek immunity, that he’s innocent and that he will fight for his innocence in court,” adds Hauser, a former Netanyahu cabinet secretary. “This would be a significant step that could improve arrangements that would ultimately lead to unity.”
French President Emmanuel Macron accuses Turkish forces of sometimes working with fighters linked to the Islamic State group in its operation in northern Syria.
“When I look at Turkey, they now are fighting against those who fought with us. And sometimes they work with ISIS proxies,” Macron says at a London news conference with US President Donald Trump.
Macron, who will meet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later in the day ahead of a NATO summit, also says he stands by comments he made last month alleging that NATO is strategically “brain dead.”
Macron insists there must be no “ambiguity” toward IS, saying that Turkey’s actions against the Kurdish militias that helped the allies fight the jihadist group showed the need for better coordination.
“We have lost cooperation with Turkey, on security and trade and migration and European Union and France,” Macron says, adding that two clarifications must be made at the summit.
“How is it possible to be a member of the alliance, to work with — to be integrated and buy things from Russia?” he asks, referring to Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system.
And secondly, he says it will have to be asked whether Turkey wants to remain a member of NATO if Erdogan makes good on a threat to delay Baltic defense measures unless allies declare the Kurdish militia terrorists.
Netanyahu and Gantz are meeting at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv in an effort to form a unity government.
Democrats on Tuesday are set to approve their report on the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, paving the way for formal charges against the US leader that could include abuse of power, bribery and obstruction.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has led the 10-week-old investigation, says it is important to move quickly because the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing is “overwhelming.”
“We feel a sense of urgency,” Schiff told MSNBC late Monday.
“This is a president who has sought foreign intervention in US elections twice now, and even in the midst of our impeachment inquiry, is again out publicly saying, not only should Ukraine do this, but China should also investigate my opponent,” he said.
“And so this is a threat to the integrity of the upcoming election, and we don’t feel it should wait, in particular when we already have overwhelming evidence of the president’s misconduct.”
The completion of the Schiff report marks the end of the first stage of the impeachment process, which was sparked by an August complaint by an anonymous whistleblower detailing Trump’s pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate rival Democrats ahead of next year’s elections.
The report is expected to support charges of abuse of power, bribery, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress, based on evidence from more than a dozen witnesses who depicted Trump withholding military aid and a White House summit unless Zelensky opened the investigations.
Schiff said the report will be made public Tuesday and, after formal approval by his committee, will be sent to the Judiciary Committee where formal charges, or articles of impeachment, will be drawn up.
US President Donald Trump says he supports the Iranian protesters, shortly after he appeared to distance himself from the demonstrators.
Trump, in London, was asked if he supports the Iranian protesters against a government-imposed gas hike. He responds: “I don’t want to comment on that but the answer is no.”
A short while later, the US president clarifies his comments to reporters, and tweets his backing for their cause.
“We do support them totally and have supported them from the beginning,” says Trump, adding he thought the question was about financial support.
The United States of America supports the brave people of Iran who are protesting for their FREEDOM. We have under the Trump Administration, and always will!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2019
The meeting between Blue and White chief Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ends in Tel Aviv, some 45 minutes after it began.
Minutes after the meeting ends, Likud attacks Blue and White for failing to accept its “far-reaching concessions.”
“The prime minister offered to creatively anchor in law the [premiership] rotation. In the face of far-reaching concessions, Blue and White continues to refuse to form a unity government over the veto imposed by [Blue and White No. 2 Yair] Lapid,” Netanyahu’s party says.
Spain’s new parliament meets for its opening session Tuesday, with the far-right Vox as the third-largest party following a divisive election that failed to resolve years of political deadlock.
Just over three weeks after the vote, lawmakers are on Tuesday taking the oath of office, although there is little indication of when a government would be formed.
The legislature has been gridlocked since an inconclusive April election which the Socialists won but without a majority — in an outcome repeated on November 10, leaving Pedro Sanchez a winner but weakened.
And this time round, Vox — which only a year ago was just a marginal player — more than doubled its showing, snaring 52 mandates and becoming the third-largest faction within the 350-seat parliament.
Days after the election, Sanchez and the radical left-wing Podemos agreed in principle to form a coalition government.
But such a government would only have 155 seats, leaving it dependent on support from other factions for the 176 mandates to pass an investiture vote.
Justice Minister Amir Ohana interviews Deputy State Attorney for Criminal Matters Shlomo Lemberger for the position of interim state attorney.
Lemberger is the only one of five candidates that Ohana has recommended for the post deemed acceptable by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
State Attorney Shai Nitzan will end his term in two weeks.
Blue and White says Benjamin Netanyahu made no new offer during the meeting with Benny Gantz on Tuesday night.
“The Likud chairman brought no offer that matches his legal situation or recognizes that he lost the elections, or any new offer at all,” a statement from the party says. “In the meeting, he refused to commit to the government’s basic outline or to not seek personal immunity [from prosecution].
“In short, Netanyahu chose elections,” it says.
The party adds that it will continue to seek to form a unity government with Likud “until the last moment.” Such a coalition would be based on “partnership and unity,” it says, adding that those are “words that are probably foreign to Netanyahu.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in a meeting on Tuesday in Ramallah that the continuation of settlement building will destroy all chances to achieve a “real peace” based on international resolutions, the official PA news site Wafa reports.
Coveney met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
— Adam Rasgon
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon says he’ll submit a resolution to the UN General Assembly seeking international recognition for Jewish refugees who were forced out of Arab countries with Israel’s establishment in 1948.
“Israel took in these refugees and integrated them into our society,” he tells the international body, at the event marking the anniversary of the November 29, 1947, UN vote on the partition plan. “The international community on the other hand ignored them and built corrupt institutions that only serve so-called Palestinian refugees.
“In order to right the historical injustice that was done to the Jewish refugees of this conflict, I will propose a resolution to the Assembly that will acknowledge the wrong done to the ‘forgotten’ Jewish refugees and will make right the injustice that they suffered.”
He accuses the international community of favoring the Palestinian narrative and ignoring Jewish suffering.
“There were an estimated 850,000 Jews who were forced out of Arab countries and Iran and became refugees in the 20th century. These Jews were subject to brutal attacks and harassment and were forced to flee leaving everything behind: in Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, and many other countries. And still, we don’t hear the international community speak of them when they discuss the refugees of the conflict, perhaps because it doesn’t serve the Palestinian narrative,” says Danon.
More than 100 graves are found covered with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti at a Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg in eastern France on Tuesday, officials said, just hours after similar vandalism in a nearby village.
“It’s a shock,” Maurice Dahan, president of the Jewish consistory for the Bas-Rhin region, tells AFP, adding that most of the graves were daubed with swastikas.
The government’s regional authority says it is investigating the damage to 107 graves at the cemetery in Westhoffen, around 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Strasbourg.
And about 20 kilometers away it says that anti-Jewish inscriptions were also found in the village of Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn.
Likud is denying Blue and White Benny Gantz’s claim that during an earlier meeting in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to commit to refrain from seeking immunity from prosecution.
The party also says the matter of the 55-MK bloc of right-wing and religious parties supporting Netanyahu — and without whom he has said he won’t join a government — was not raised. Blue and White has said the bloc is a major sticking point in negotiations between the parties, and also refuses to serve under a premier facing indictment.
“The issue of the basic guidelines [of the government] did not come up during the meeting, or the bloc, and Netanyahu did not at all address the issue of immunity,” Likud says. “These are Gantz’s excuses to prevent a unity government, simply because Yair Lapid is unwilling.”
Israeli military officials have conveyed to Netanyahu that annexing the Jordan Valley could imperil Israel’s 25-year-old peace treaty with Jordan, Channel 12 says.
Netanyahu has pledged to annex the strategic territory before the September elections. In recent days, he has called for a unity government to be formed so that Israel could take the step, citing a supportive American administration.
Officials warn the prime minister that his public proclamations could spook Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who could be pressed to take steps against Israel, including cutting ties.
Channel 13 provides more information on the ostensible deal that was taking shape between Likud and Blue and White but now appears to have hit a dead end.
The network says both parties agreed the premiership rotation deal and Netanyahu’s leave of absence would be legislated before a government is formed; the Interior Ministry would be handed over to Blue and White; the new government would include over 30 ministers; the religious status quo would be upheld, but would not mention the new public transportation on Shabbat; and Israel would annex the Jordan Valley.
But serious disagreements remain over whether Netanyahu would serve as premier for three or six months and Gantz for 1.5 years or two years, and whether Netanyahu would remain in the security cabinet after vacating the Prime Minister’s Office, the report says.
Channel 13 says Gantz was willing to accept most of the demands but was afraid the deal would split the Blue and White alliance.
The chances of avoiding an election “are low,” Channel 13 says.
Netanyahu is stepping up his attacks on Gantz, as Israel appears to be headed to a third election in under a year.
“Gantz proved today, one again: Instead of putting Israel above all else, he is putting [Blue and White MK] Yair Lapid above all else,” tweets Netanyahu, after a unity talks meeting with Gantz ends without any breakthroughs.
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris is expected to end her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a campaign official.
The official requests anonymity to speak about Harris’ plans.
Her decision to exit the race comes after months of trying to recreate the momentum from her January campaign launch, which drew 20,000 people in her home state of California.
Harris was once considered a front-runner in the crowded Democratic field but saw her campaign eclipsed by rivals such as Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.
She had been heavily focusing on the state of Iowa.
She’ll remain California’s junior senator; her term ends in 2022.
The United States is lobbying moderate Arab states to agree to a non-belligerence pact with Israel, Channel 13 reports, citing Israeli, Arab and American sources.
The report says US Deputy National Security Adviser Victoria Coates presented the plan last week to the ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Morocco in Washington. The diplomats agreed to report back to their capitals on the plan.
The proposal is at its early stages, the report says, acknowledging that it would be difficult to implement without a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel does not maintain diplomatic ties with these four countries but has bolstered its convert relations with these states in recent years over shared concerned about Iran.
Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri says Tuesday he supports the nomination of a prominent contractor to become the country’s next premier, a move that will likely pave the way for the formation of a new cabinet amid a severe economic and financial crisis.
Hariri last week withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse amid nearly eight weeks of anti-government protests.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Hariri says he backs Samir Khatib to become the country’s next prime minister adding that “there are still some details and God willing something good” will happen. Hariri adds that “everyone is trying to pass through this difficult period.”
Khatib heads one of Lebanon’s largest engineering and contracting companies and did not hold any political roles in the past.
Blue and White’s Gantz and Lapid retort to Netanyahu’s tweet accusing them of putting their narrow political interests above the interests of the state.
Netanyahu had tweeted: “Gantz proved today, one again: Instead of putting Israel above all else, he is putting [Blue and White MK] Yair Lapid above all else.”
Gantz responds: “Netanyahu proved today, once again: Instead of putting Israel above all else, he is putting immunity above all else.”
Adds Lapid: “Netanyahu proved today that instead of placing Israel above all else, [he has put] his desperate attempts at sowing conflict above all else.”
The lower house of France’s parliament approves a draft resolution that calls hate of Israel a form of anti-Semitism.
The 577 members of the National Assembly voted on the draft, which also calls on the government to join other European nations in adopting the definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
154 lawmakers back the resolution while 74 oppose it.
The House releases a sweeping impeachment report Tuesday outlining evidence of what it calls US President Donald Trump’s wrongdoing toward Ukraine, findings that will serve as the foundation for debate over whether the 45th president should be removed from office.
The 300-page report from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee makes the case that Trump misused the power of his office and, in the course of their investigation, obstructed Congress by stonewalling the proceedings. Based on two months of investigation, the report contains evidence and testimony from current and former US officials.
“The President placed his personal political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process, and endangered US national security,” the report said.
The panel will vote later Tuesday, in what is expected to be a party-line tally, to send the document to the Judiciary Committee ahead of a landmark impeachment hearing Wednesday.
The evidence for impeaching US President Donald Trump for misconduct in office and obstruction is “overwhelming,” the final report on the House investigation into the US leader says Tuesday.
“The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” says the report, meant to support formal charges against Trump.
“The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the US government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection.”