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ELECTIONS, DAY AFTER: PA says ready for dialogue with any future Israeli leader

In Oslo, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki says he’ll talk with ‘whoever will be able to form a government’

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki attends the opening session of the Arab foreign ministers meeting ahead of the Arab Summit, in Tunis, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki attends the opening session of the Arab foreign ministers meeting ahead of the Arab Summit, in Tunis, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events in the aftermath of Israel’s election day.

Welcome to a day of political fallout

With the election behind us, the true drama is perhaps only beginning. Join us as we follow real-time developments, with Israel finding itself without a clear election winner, and with the Knesset seemingly deadlocked.

It’s going to be an interesting day.

TV report: Tally of 90% of votes shows Knesset deadlocked, PM on shaky ground

Channel 12 is reporting results it says it has received from inside sources in the Central Elections Committee, which the news channel claims reflect around 91% of the national vote.

According to those unofficial results, Likud and Blue and White are tied at 32 seats; next is the Joint List with 12 seats; Shas and Yisrael Beytenu have 9 seats each; United Torah Judaism has 8; Yamina has 7; Labor-Gesher is at 6; and the Democratic Camp has 5.

The right-wing bloc has a total of 56 seats, the center-left has 55 and Liberman has 9.

Channel 12 explains its data is based on the fact that a large majority of votes have already been counted, but due to increased scrutiny, the CEC is doing recounts in order to ensure the information it puts out is accurate.

These results leave no candidate with a clear path to forming a government, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s future as prime minister far from secure.

Attempted stabbing attack reported at West Bank checkpoint

The Ynet new site reports an apparent stabbing attempt at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah.

Security forces shot and wounded a Palestinian woman suspected in the attack, according to preliminary reports.

Official vote tally site lags, undercounts Arabs

The Central Elections Committee website showing “live” vote tally results continues to lag behind media reports. As of 7:09 a.m. it shows a smudge under 35% reporting, with Likud about 35,000 votes ahead of Blue and White.

The site continues to underrepresent the Arab vote, showing the Joint List with a mere 36,795 votes, well below the 12 seats it is expected to receive according to exit polls and unofficial results reported in Hebrew-language media.

When asked about the discrepancy and why Arab votes are being tallied slower, a spokesperson for the committee tells the Times of Israel, “I won’t answer your question. It’s an insult to intelligence.”

Netanyahu wants Olmert prosecutor Korb to defend him

Attorney Uri Korb tells Channel 12 he has been asked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to represent him at an upcoming hearing with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over looming fraud indictments.

Uri Korb, a senior lawyer at the State Prosecutor’s Office seen at the Jerusalem District Court, May 05, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)

Korb knows a thing or two about sending politicians up the river, having prosecuted Ehud Olmert earlier this decade.

Some of Netanyahu’s legal team has left him over issues with payment, which the prime minister has attempted to fund via a rich American cousin, to the chagrin of authorities here.

Korb does not say if he will take the job.

‘Israel’s Ohio’ gives slight lead to Blue and White

In the small city of Rehovot, famous for being a microcosm of Israeli voting patterns, results show Blue and White slightly ahead of Likud, with 30.9 percent to Likud’s 28. Yisrael Beytenu sits in third place with 8.5%, according to official numbers posted to the election committee’s website.

An aerial view of the city of Rehovot, on June 30, 2017. (Gidi Avinary/Flash90)

Kingmaker Liberman says all must bow before his conditions, ‘unity the only way’

Kingmaker Avigdor Liberman appears outside his “castle” in the settlement of Nokdim, offering the gathered masses a royal promise that he will not allow a third round of elections but will also not waste time haggling.

Liberman lays out his demands — a secular wishlist including military service for the ultra-Orthodox, public transportation and commerce on Shabbat, Haredi education standards and other measures — and says he does not plan on speaking to any other party leaders until they meet his preconditions.

But he also softens his tone toward the right wing, describing ultra-Orthodox parties as “political rivals, not enemies,” and expressing willingness to sit in a government under Benjamin Netanyahu.

He calls the idea of forming a government that includes Arab parties “absurd.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaks to press while touring the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv on election day, September 17, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Don’t waste your time. We need to pursue the only possible track as fast as possible,” he says, referring to his demands for a unity government, which he describes as “the only possible action.”

Liberman says President Reuven Rivlin should take a “much more active” role in shepherding a government into existence, appearing to chide him for allowing the new elections, which many have blamed on Liberman’s intransigence.

He also expresses unhappiness with a speech early Wednesday morning from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, which did not address his secular issues.

Voter turnout among soldiers 70.7 percent, IDF says

The IDF says 70.7 percent of soldiers voted in Tuesday’s election, the majority of them on their army bases.

Voting began early for IDF soldiers due to “operational needs,” meaning some troops began casting their ballots Saturday night, the army says.

Approximately 10 percent of soldiers voted in their assigned polling places near their homes, according to the IDF.

— Judah Ari Gross

PM crony admits targeting Arabs with camera bill probably wasn’t such a good idea

Likud MK Miki Zohar, a staunch ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acknowledges that the controversial camera bill that his party aggressively pushed in recent weeks ended up hurting it on election day.

“It woke up the Arab sector that in turn came out to the polls, while it also went on to lull right-wing voters into complacency and many of them remained at home,” Zohar tells the Walla news site.

Netanyahu’s Likud party advocated for legislation opposed by the attorney general that would have allowed party operatives to film inside polling stations. It based the necessity for the bill on the unproven claim of rampant voter fraud in the Arab sector.

In the middle of election day, the party leaked to Channel 13 that it had installed “facial recognition” cameras outside Arab polling stations in what many analysts quickly concluded was an attempt to intimidate Arab voters.

The Joint List, according to unofficial results tallied after over 90% of the vote was counted, went on to receive 12 seats.

TV report: With 96.9% of vote counted, Netanyahu and Gantz’s parties deadlocked at 32

The Kan public broadcaster provides what it calls unofficial results after 96.9% of the vote has been counted, showing Blue and White and Likud knotted up at 32 seats.

Blue and White: 32
Likud: 32
Joint List: 12
Yisrael Beytenu: 9
Shas: 9
United Torah Judaism: 8
Yamina: 7
Labor: 6
Democratic Camp: 5

Odeh says Joint List may recommend Gantz for PM

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh says “it is possible that we will recommend Blue and White head Benny Gantz [to form the next coalition] to President Reuven.”

“However, we have clear conditoins and based on them we will decide. We want to replace Netanyahu,” he tells Army Radio.

In first morning-after comments, Gantz wishes Israel a strong unity government

Mobbed by aggressive cameramen while being driven from his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz says, “We are still waiting for the official results.”

“For a long time we were busy with the campaign, and now the time has come to work on what matters. I’ll wish the State of Israel a strong unity government. “

Likud reaches out to Labor in bid to form coalition without Blue and White or Yisrael Beytenu

Likud officials have reached out to Labor chairman Amir Peretz in an effort to convince him to join a coalition along with the ultra-Orthodox parties and Yamina, Haaretz reports.

Peretz has quickly declined the offer, saying he is only interested in replacing Netanyahu.

Smotrich: Ben Gvir should be embarrassed to show his face this morning

Yamina MK Bezalal Smotrich tears into Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, after the latter failed to cross the electoral threshold after a risky independent run.

“In a normal world, the man would be ashamed to show his face in public,” Smotrich says in a statement.

“Zero responsibility taken, zero mindfulness, zero attention to the results. Everyone is guilty except for him,” he adds in reference to Ben Gvir’s speech after exit polls were released last night in which he blamed Yamina and Likud for Otzma Yehudit’s defeat.

Palestinian official: Next government must realize no peace without ending occupation

Palestinian Liberation Organization secretary-general Saeb Erekat responds to the preliminary election results:

“Israeli elections were about maintaining the status quo or strengthening apartheid. For peace to prevail, next government has to realize that there will be no peace nor security without ending the occupation: Palestine next to Israel 1967 borders,” he tweets.

Election czar says tally of regular ballots complete; official results being updated at slower pace

The director of the Central Elections Committee, Orly Adas, tells Army Radio that the panel has completed counting the regular ballots and that only 250,000 “double ballots” remain.

These include votes from diplomats, security forces, handicapped citizens, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners, which will be counted today and tomorrow.

However, the official results are being checked several times before being published on the election committee website, which has just 44.2% of the vote counted as opposed to unofficial reports from Hebrew media that had the numbers leaked to them and are showing 96.9% having already been tallied.

Election czar says impartial poll watchers prevented troublemakers from making trouble at polls

Central Elections Committee director Orly Adas tells Army Radio that the body’s 3,000 impartial poll watchers prompted anyone who was thinking of making trouble at ballot stations to “think more than twice” and desist.

Several voters came to vote yesterday to learn that they had already done so

Army Radio reports on several instances in which Israelis arrived at polling stations across the country to learn that someone had already voted using their name.

The Central Elections Committee says it is aware of the instances and is looking into them.

Litzman: We’re still with Netanyahu, still won’t serve with Lapid

United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman says his ultra-Orthodox party will stick with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “until the end.”

The deputy health minister, who police have recommended indicting for providing illicit assistance to alleged serial pedophile Malka Leifer, says he will not back down from his decision not to serve in a coalition with Blue and White MK Yair Lapid.

“Lapid damaged and humiliated us. There is no apology for that,” Litzman says.

With 56.09% of vote counted, Blue and White passes Likud for first time in official tally

With 54.6 percent of the vote counted in the Central Elections Committee’s official tally, Blue and White passes Likud with 27.30% (973,520 votes) compared to 26.94% (960,766 votes).

Barak urges Gantz to form temporary minority government with Joint List support from outside

Democratic Camp candidate and former prime minister Ehud Barak urges Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz to form a temporary minority coalition with his party, Labor and Yisrael Beytenu,with support from the Joint List from the opposition.

Barak tells Army Radio that this would last until the end of Netanyahu’s legal proceedings and then a further decision could be made as to whether Likud would be added into the government.

UK’s Corbyn suggests he’ll stay neutral if new Brexit vote

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour party, has suggested he would remain neutral if there was a second referendum on Brexit.

Labour has promised that if it wins the next election, it will seek a new exit deal with the European Union and put that and the option to stay in the bloc to a referendum.

“Only a Labour government would end the Brexit crisis by taking the decision back to the people,” Corbyn writes in an article in The Guardian.

“We will give the people the final say on Brexit, with the choice of a credible leave offer and remain.”

He adds: “I will pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister.”

Labour has been accused of a confused position over Brexit as it seeks a middle way to avoid alienating voters on either side of the 2016 referendum.

However, as the governing Conservatives toughen their position under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pressure is growing for Labour to campaign actively to stay in the EU.

The issue is likely to spark intense debate at Labour’s party conference starting this weekend.

Johnson insists Britain must leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal with Brussels — although he is constrained by a law blocking “no deal” next month.

Meanwhile, the smaller Liberal Democrats agreed at their annual conference last weekend to reverse Brexit if they ever won a majority in the House of Commons.

“We are the only UK-wide party ready to put our trust in the people of Britain to make the decision,” Corbyn writes.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), tweets: “Staying neutral on Brexit is a shameful abdication of leadership.”

— AFP

With 90% of vote officially counted, Blue and White edging out Likud 32-31

The Central Elections Committee releases official results after 90% of the ballots have been counted. Blue and White is slightly ahead of Likud, while the left-wing bloc is edging the right-wing bloc.

Blue and White: 32
Likud: 31
Joint List: 13
Shas: 9
United Torah Judaism: 8
Yamina: 7
Labor: 6
Democratic Camp: 5

Left-wing bloc: 56
Right-wing bloc: 55
Yisrael Beytenu: 9

‘Double envelopes’ to be counted overnight

The Central Elections Committee says it will be commencing its tallying of “double envelopes” at 1 a.m. on Thursday morning.

These ballots include votes from diplomats, security forces, handicapped citizens, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners, which will be counted today and tomorrow.

The tally will be completed early Thursday afternoon.

Erdogan says 3 million refugees could be returned to Syria safe zone

Turkish President Recep Tayyip says that up to three million Syrian refugees could be returned to a “safe zone” it is seeking to establish in northern Syria.

Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees — the highest number in the world — and there have been signs of a public backlash over their presence after eight long years of war in its neighbor to the south.

Working with the United States, Turkish forces are seeking to clear a swathe of northern Syria, in part to push Kurdish rebels away from its border but also to facilitate the return of refugees.

If successful, “we will be able to house, depending on the depth of the safe zone, between two and three million Syrian refugees that are currently in Turkey and Europe,” Erdogan says in a televised speech.

Erdogan says earlier this week that he envisions the “peace corridor” as stretching right across northern Syria all the way to Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa — which he said would allow even more than three million to return.

He calls for “much greater support” from Europe in realizing the plan.

— AFP

Iran suspended from world judo over Israel boycott policy

Iran has been suspended from international judo competitions because it boycotts bouts with Israeli athletes.

Less than a month after world champion Saeid Mollaei walked off the Iranian team in protest at the boycott policy, the International Judo Federation says Iran is suspended ahead of a full hearing.

Iran’s judo federation is accused of discriminating against Israeli athletes and breaking rules over manipulating competition results.

Mollaei has said he was repeatedly ordered by Iranian officials to lose matches or withdraw from competitions, including last month’s world championships, so as not to face Israelis. He is currently in hiding in Germany.

Iran does not recognize Israel as a country, and Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis.

— AP

Arab turnout up to 60%, a 10-point bump from April — report

Turnout in Arab towns in yesterday’s election was roughly 60%, compared to just 50% in last April’s vote, Haaretz reports after tallying 91% of the vote.

The Joint List is slated to receive 13 seats, compared to the 10 seats that Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am Balad received in total when they ran separately in April.

Haaretz quotes pollster Yousef Makladeh who says Netanyahu’s “gevalt” campaign against the Arab public brought a 20% boost in voters. He says the camera bill also worked as a “double edged sword” that further inspired the targeted minority to head to the polls.

Air Force’s first female religious navigator who died on Nepal vacation recognized as killed during operation

The Defense Ministry is recognizing Cpt. Tamar Ariel, the Israeli Air Force’s first religious female navigator, who died in a snowstorm while on vacation in Nepal in 2014, as having been killed during an operation.

The ministry says this decision was made in light of new evidence indicating that Ariel was killed as she tried to save some of the other victims of the blizzard.

Her family will be recognized as a “bereaved family” of a fallen IDF soldier, which grants them certain economic benefits from the state.

In general, only the families of soldiers who fall in battle or in terror attacks receive this distinction, but exceptions are made for troops killed while trying to save lives.

“The recognition of Cpt. Ariel, of blessed memory… was made following a deep investigation by relevent professionals at the Defense Ministry and after new evidence was presented to the ministry that Tamar was killed while trying to save the lives of others,” the ministry says.

In addition to Ariel, several other Israelis — Agam Luria, Nadav Shoham, Michal Charkesky — were killed, along with 36 other people, half of whom were Nepali.

— Judah Ari Gross

Russia accuses US, Syria rebels of blocking refugee evacuation

Russia accuses the US and Syrian rebels of blocking the evacuation of a refugee camp in southern Syria, where the UN has described conditions as “critical.”

The Russian army calls the isolated Rukban camp in a US-controlled desert near the Jordanian border a “death camp.”

According to Moscow, a key backer of the Syrian regime, a UN-led evacuation operation is scheduled to begin on September 27 to transfer the camp’s thousands of refugees to government-controlled territory.

But Russian army general Mikhail Mizintsev tells a press conference the evacuation was “on the verge of collapse because of provocations by rebels under US control.”

According to the Russian army, the rebels refused to ensure the safety of evacuation convoys and took some of the humanitarian aid distributed to the camp.

Rights groups have warned that civilians returning to government-led territory have faced detention and conscription.

The UN said it sent aid to the Rukban camp this month, the first such delivery since February.

According to the UN, some 12,700 people remain in the camp which is near a base used by the US-led coalition.

Syria and Russia said in February they had opened corridors out of the camp, calling on residents to leave.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish and Iranian counterparts met in Turkey this week for their latest summit on Syria, vowing to work together to prevent further humanitarian crises in the last rebel-held bastion of Idlib.

Russian airstrikes have continued in the region despite the latest ceasefire agreed by rebel-backer Ankara and Moscow on August 31.

Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

— AFP

US consular staffer to stay in Turkey jail on spy charges

A Turkish court rules that a US consular staffer would remain in jail while his espionage trial continued, in a case that has added to tensions with Washington.

Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen and liaison for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was arrested in 2017.

He was accused of ties to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says ordered an attempted coup in 2016.

In court today, Topuz again beggs the court for his release.

“What is my crime? Being an employee of the US consulate?” he says.

But the court says he would stay in jail until the next hearing on December 11, while they tried to locate a witness. Defence lawyers said he gave a fake address in Milan.

“I cannot understand the court extending the jail sentence to wait for an individual who is currently abroad,” lawyer Halit Akalp tells reporters.

Topuz says he had 3,000 meetings in his 25 years with the DEA, and that prosecutors had simply cherry-picked those with members of Gulen’s movement.

Gulen has sympathizers across all branches of Turkish society and government until the coup triggered a massive purge.

“I had face-to-face meetings and telephone contact with individuals appointed by the Turkish republic as an assistant liaison officer and translator,” Topuz tells the court.

“All the allegations against me are based on telephone contacts with individuals appointed by the Turkish republic.”

The case comes at a sensitive diplomatic moment between the NATO allies.

Washington’s refusal to extradite Gulen, differences over the Syrian conflict, and Turkey’s recent decision to buy a Russian missile defence system have all trained relations between the two countries.

Since the failed 2016 coup, tens of thousands of people have been arrested over suspected ties to Gulen and more than 100,000 people have been sacked or suspended from public sector jobs. Gulen rejects the coup accusations.

— AFP

Trump announces new sanctions on Iran

Trump announces over Twitter that he’s ordered new sanctions on Iran.

Embassy in Belgium condemns sign language video with hooked-nose gesture for ‘Jew’

Israel’s embassy in Belgium expresses “shock and dismay” after a Belgian university included in its sign-language dictionary a gesture meaning “Jew” which involves signaling a hooked nose.

‘Not even in a parallel universe’: Liberman vows not to sit with Joint List

Avigdor Liberman vows that he won’t sit with the Joint List party, “even in a parallel universe.”

He insists that he will not sit in any government besides one with just Likud and Blue and White and urges the relevant players to quit “wasting time” thinking of other options.

Meeting between Netanyahu and other right-wing faction heads commences

The senior leadership of the Yamina, United Torah Judaism and Shas parties have arrived at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding a possible coordination effort as a united bloc going into coalition negotiations.

With 91% of the vote counted, the right-wing bloc has just 55 seats — not enough to form a coalition on its own.

However, Channel 12 reports Netanyahu is hoping that Rivlin will consider the 55 seat bloc as a single party and therefore agree to task the premier with forming the next government for having a bigger-sized faction than the Blue and White party.

Trump appoints hostage envoy new NSA, filling void left by Bolton

‘I’ll sit with him if he puts on tefillin,’ Litzman says of Liberman

United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman mocks the election’s presumed kingmakers on his way into a meeting of right-wing faction heads at the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Who is Liberman? Is he a minister?”

Asked for his reaction to Liberman’s take-it-or-leave it conditions that he would only sit in a coalition with Blue and White and Likud, the deputy health minister who police recommended be indicted for illicitly using his office to provide assistance to alleged serial sex predator Malka Leifer says he’s prepared to sit with the staunchly secular lawmaker if he starts putting on phylacteries and observing the Sabbath.

Likud says right-wing, Haredi parties ‘committed’ to staying together

The Likud party says the heads of the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties met today at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and “committed” to forming “a single right-wing bloc” to stave off calls for a secularist unity coalition of Likud and Blue and White.

For many of the people in the room — UTJ’s leaders Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni, as well as National Union head Bezalel Smotrich — there aren’t any better alternatives, as a unity government with Blue and White and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would almost certainly condemn them to the opposition.

Shas leader Aryeh Deri had met with Netanyahu earlier today, the party says. He missed the Wednesday afternoon meeting because he had to attend a memorial service for the late Shas cabinet minister David Azoulay.

The parties “decided to form a joint negotiating team,” the Likud statement says.

Exit polls give the collected weight of the assembled parties about 55 seats, short of the 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Netanyahu to issue press statement after meeting of right-wing factions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a press statement at 6 p.m., in about half an hour, following his meeting with the senior leadership of the Jewish Home, New Right, United Torah Judaism and Shas parties at his office.

The factions agreed to function as a “bloc” and conduct coalition negotiations together, Likud says.

A Likud source tells The Times of Israel that he is expected to announce the support of all the parties, which will control some 55 Knesset seats according to preliminary election results.

While not enough to form a coalition on its own, Channel 12 reports Netanyahu is hoping that Rivlin will consider the 55-seat bloc as a single party and therefore agree to task the premier with forming the next government for having a bigger faction than the standalone Blue and White party.

— Raoul Wootliff

Netanyahu to skip UN General Assembly next week after lackluster election showing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirms he will not be attending the United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York on September 24, as he works to shore up his political position after a lackluster showing in Tuesday’s election.

Netanyahu was to meet US President Donald Trump during the UN visit, when the two were slated to discuss a “mutual defense treaty” between Israel and the US. Trump announced the meeting on September 14, three days before election day, in what many interpreted as an attempt to help Netanyahu’s election prospects.

Foreign Minister Katz to replace Netanyahu at UNGA

Foreign Minister Israel Katz will replace Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly.

Netanyahu vows to form next government, warns of ‘dangerous’ dependence on Arabs

In a “special announcement” at the Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists he will be the one to lead the next government.

He notes he’d just met with right-wing and Haredi party leaders from Shas, UTJ, National Union, Jewish Home and New Right.

“We decided unanimously that we’re going forward together to negotiations that will establish a government led by me,” he declares.

“Our [coalition] negotiations will be through a single [shared] representation. Minister Yariv Levin will lead, alongside representatives from all the parties.”

He adds: “Now there are only two possibilities — a government led by me, or a dangerous government that depends on the Arabs. Now more than ever, with the vast security challenges that lie ahead for the country, a government must not be established that depends on anti-Zionist Arab parties. That’s our commitment to the country and to our voters.”

He thanks his fellow Likud lawmakers, “without exception, for your support for me and for Likud,” amid speculation he could be forced out by the party in order to make way for a unity government with Blue and White.

“We’re moving forward together, and the nationalist camp is moving forward together.”

Ahmad Tibi thanks Netanyahu for upping Arab turnout

Joint (Arab) List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi thanks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for helping to get out the Arab vote — through his fear-mongering campaign against the Arab vote.

“Our campaign was asleep, weak, limping, just two weeks ago,” Tibi says in an interview on Channel 12.

“Then a week ago, someone, a magician, set off alarm clocks at the entrances to every Arab town. That was Benjamin Netanyahu. That was the cameras bill [to allow placing Likud’s cameras in Arab polling stations]. Suddenly the Arabs rushed to the polls in droves,” Tibi says.

Netanyahu praises Trump call to up Iran sanctions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his administration is upping sanctions on Iran.

“Iran’s aggression has increased of late, including in the Gulf, and this is precisely the time to increase pressure and sanctions. I am pleased that President Trump has done exactly this,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

Pompeo: Attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure an ‘act of war’

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described strikes on key Saudi oil installations as an “act of war,” reiterating that it was an “Iranian attack.”

“This was an Iranian attack,” he tells reporters on his plane before landing in the western city of Jeddah, calling it “an act of war.”

He adds there was no evidence the attacks had been launched from Iraq, amid media speculation the drones had been fired from there.

— AFP

Labor’s Peretz vows to stick to campaign promise: ‘We won’t sit with Netanyahu’

A day after the election, everyone is sticking to their campaign promises — at least so far.

Labor-Gesher head MK Amir Peretz vows in a Facebook video that he’ll stick with his election partner Orly Levy-Abekasis, and with his campaign promise not to join a Netanyahu-led government.

“Don’t fool yourself, we’re going to be together for many years,” Peretz says of his party’s alliance with Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher.

He addresses Netanyahu: “I know you’re a busy man — so let me save you the phone calls, the time it’ll take you to try to call us. I’m not looking for a job. No one should try to entice us; you have nothing we want. We promised, and we’ll keep our promise — we won’t sit with Netanyahu.”

Labor urges Gantz not to boycott Arabs, Haredim

Labor’s Amir Peretz urges Gantz to remain open to partnership with Arab and Haredi factions.

“Don’t boycott the Arab public’s representatives in the Knesset,” Peretz says, “and not those of the Haredi public either.”

Peretz is responding to Gantz’s own campaign promise to establish a “secular unity government” after his election.

Mortar shell fired from Gaza fails to make it into Israel

A mortar shell is fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, but appears to land inside the enclave, the army says.

The launch does not trigger rocket sirens in any Israeli community, but does set off alarms in an open field in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, a regional spokesperson says.

— Judah Ari Gross

With 95% of votes counted, Blue and White at 33 seats, Likud at 32

The final vote count is being updated.

With 95 percent of the votes counted, these are the preliminary (though still unofficial) results:

Blue and White – 33
Likud – 32
Arab Joint List – 12
Shas – 9
Yisrael Beytenu – 8
United Torah Judaism – 8
The parties formerly known as Yamina – 7
Labor-Gesher – 6
Democratic Camp – 5

Broken down into possible recommendations for prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu falls short with just 56 seats (Likud, Shas, UTJ, Yamina).

So does Gantz, with (possibly) 52 votes from his own faction, left-wing Labor-Gesher and Democratic Camp, and Yisrael Beytenu.

Trump says he hasn’t talked to Netanyahu: ‘Our relationship is with Israel’

Asked by a reporter on the White House lawn if he’d spoken to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after yesterday’s election, US President Donald Trump says, “I have not. Those results are coming in and it’s very close. Everybody knew it’s going to be very close. I said, we’ll see what happens.”

He adds: “Look, our relationship is with Israel. We’ll see what happens.”

PA says Palestinians ready for dialogue with any future Israeli leader

OSLO, Norway — The Palestinians are prepared to engage in dialogue with any future Israeli leader, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki says in Oslo, the day after general elections in Israel.

“Whoever will be able to form a government, we are ready to sit with him or her in order to restart the negotiations,” al-Maliki tells reporters after the elections end in an apparent deadlock between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz.

— AFP

Hasidic man beaten and robbed in Brooklyn

A Hasidic Jewish man is assaulted and robbed in Brooklyn in an incident captured on video and posted on social media.

Authorities say the Tuesday evening attack in the heavily Jewish Williamsburg neighborhood is not being considered a hate crime because no anti-Semitic slurs were made, CBS New York reports. New York Police are calling the incident, which was captured on a surveillance camera, a random attack and robbery.

Four men cornered the man, with long sidelocks and wearing a long black coat, then punched and kicked him. The victim, 24, surrendered his cellphone to his attackers.

Brooklyn of late has seen a string of attacks on visibly Jewish people.

Former New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind in a statement calls on the police department to increase patrols in Jewish areas such as Williamsburg “until this wave of violent anti-Semitism subsides.” Hikind is organizing a rally at City Hall Park on Sunday to call for an end to attacks against Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League announces in a statement that it is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible.

— JTA

Trump says ‘many options’ in responding to Iran’s attack on Saudis

LOS ANGELES, California — US President Donald Trump says he has “many options” for responding to Iranian aggression that include military strikes as well as “a lot less than that,” and that details of newly announced sanctions will come within 48 hours.

Asked by reporters about a possible US attack on Iran, Trump says “there are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options a lot less than that.” He explains that by “ultimate option” he means “war.”

Trump says that the specifics of sanctions he announced earlier would be made public “over the next 48 hours.”

US ally Saudi Arabia says Iran was behind a missile or drone attack setting ablaze major oil facilities last weekend.

Trump has so far appeared to resist calls from some in his Republican party for a more aggressive response.

“There’s plenty of time to do some dastardly things,” he says. “If we have to do something we’ll do it without hesitation.”

Trump also references his frequent message that he wants to keep the United States out of conflicts in the Middle East. “How did that work out?” he asks, referring to Iraq and other conflicts.

— AFP

Netanyahu schedules new meeting with right-wing, Haredi faction leaders

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reconvening the leaders of the right-wing and Haredi factions tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. as he works to ensure their loyalty in the coming coalition talks he may be seeking with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White faction.

The parties include the heads of Shas, United Torah Judaism, Jewish Home-National Union and New Right.

Rockets fired from Gaza fall short, wound 7 Palestinians

Seven Palestinians are wounded after a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities explodes near a house inside the Palestinian enclave.

Palestinian eyewitnesses say two of the three rockets struck outside a home in the southern city of Rafah, and a third fell near the border fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military says it identified “a failed launch attempt” from the Gaza Strip, but that no projectiles entered Israel.

Gaza’s health ministry says seven people were wounded, but doesn’t elaborate on their condition.

It isn’t clear which Palestinian group in Gaza is behind the rocket fire.

— AP

Landmark US Jewish boarding school to reopen, include non-Jewish students

The American Hebrew Academy, a Jewish pluralistic boarding school in Greensboro, North Carolina, that closed abruptly in June due to financial issues, will reopen next year and welcome non-Jewish students as part of a reorganization plan.

“By expanding our admissions to a broader population of students, we are confident the academy will thrive,” trustee Glenn Drew tells the Greensboro News & Record.

The private school, the first and only pluralistic Jewish boarding high school, expects to announce a new name, website and student recruitment campaign in the coming weeks, according to the report.

Drew tells the newspaper that the school has plans to continue to include Jewish studies, Jewish philosophy and Hebrew in the curriculum. However, he says, the school still needs to figure out what form its curriculum, student life and marketing will take. It reportedly hopes to attract international students.

The school opened in 2001 on a 100-acre campus far from a Jewish population center. It had a total enrollment last year of 134. The academy, which cost $42,000 a school year for tuition and boarding, lost money every year, the News & Record reported, citing tax reports, including $13 million in the 2016-17 term and $9.7 million the previous term.

— JTA

Trump says he’d give Iranian leaders visas to attend UN

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump says he thinks the Iranian president and foreign minister should be granted US visas to attend next week’s United Nations General Assembly.

“If it was up to me, I’d let them come,” Trump says on a tarmac in Los Angeles. “I would certainly not want to keep people out if they want to come.”

The administration is required to issue the visas under the UN agreement with the United States, the host country of the organization. The State Department, which issues visas, does not comment on individual cases.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells reporters Wednesday that it has been in contact with the US in order to solve all delegations’ outstanding visa problems.

Tension between the US and Iran has escalated with the weekend attack on oil installations in Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA said earlier that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, may not attend the general assembly in New York because the US had not yet issued them visas. IRNA said Zarif was to travel there Friday and Rouhani was to follow Monday.

The UN has been floated as a possible place for a meeting between Trump and Rouhani, but US officials and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have said direct talks are not planned.

— AP

Woman sues Jeffrey Epstein estate, saying she was abused at age 14

NEW YORK — A woman whose claims of sexual abuse against financier Jeffrey Epstein are outlined in a federal indictment has sued his estate, describing abuse from age 14 to 17.

The lawsuit is filed today in Manhattan federal court on behalf of a woman only identified as “Jane Doe.” The lawsuit says she is “Minor Victim-1” in federal sex trafficking charges that led to Epstein’s July 6 arrest.

Epstein killed himself in jail in August while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges.

According to the lawsuit, the woman suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression as a result of sexual abuse she endured from 2002 to 2005 at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

— AP

Weapons in Saudi oil industry attack similar to Iranian ones, analysts say

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A cruise missile and drone fragments that Saudi Arabia says it recovered from an attack on its oil industry bear similarities to Iranian-manufactured weapons, though more information is needed to make a definitive link, analysts tell The Associated Press.

Particularly striking is the cruise missile, which they say resembles a Quds-1 missile previously displayed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels during a televised weapons exhibition in July.

However, the analysts uniformly agree that missile, with its small, Czech-made TJ100 turbo engine, is limited to a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles). That means it could not have been fired from Yemen, which is over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the oil-processing facility and oil field that were targeted in Saturday’s attack claimed by the Houthis.

“It did not come from Yemen,” says Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “I think the intel reporting seems to be pretty consistently saying that no, this did not come from Yemen, even though they claimed credit for it.”

Saudi Arabia alleged Wednesday that the attack was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” Iran denies being involved and has threatened the US that it will retaliate “immediately” if Tehran is targeted in response.

— AP

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Litzman: We’re still with Netanyahu, still won’t serve with Lapid

United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman says his ultra-Orthodox party will stick with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “until the end.”

The deputy health minister, who police have recommended indicting for providing illicit assistance to alleged serial pedophile Malka Leifer, says he will not back down from his decision not to serve in a coalition with Blue and White MK Yair Lapid.

“Lapid damaged and humiliated us. There is no apology for that,” Litzman says.