The Times of Israel live blogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Liberman slams PM’s deal with ultra-Orthodox
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he will not join the next coalition, NRG reports.
Sources close to Liberman told the Hebrew-language website that the foreign minister was offended by the manner in which coalition negotiations were conducted.
Netanyahu can still establish a 61-MK strong coalition, but he will now be more vulnerable to the at-times competing demands of his coalition partners.
Additionally, the the slimness of the majority means the coalition will have less legislative power and will find it difficult to pass new bills.
Liberman reportedly criticized Netanyahu’s concessions to ultra-Orthodox parties on the issues of conversion and recruitment to the IDF. Both issues are important to the electorate of Yisrael Beytenu, which is largely composed of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Explosion damages Hamas HQ In Gaza
A bomb damaged the security headquarters of Hamas in Gaza, witnesses tell AFP.
Islamic radicals in the Gaza Strip previously gave Hamas an ultimatum to release Salafists held in Hamas prisons.
In a statement posted hours before the explosion, an obscure group apparently formed recently said, “We give Hamas and its security services 72 hours from the dissemination of this press release to release all our Salafist prisoners.”
“All our soldiers are ready to focus on objectives chosen at the end of the ultimatum,” reads the text by the “Partisans of the Islamic State in Jerusalem.”
A month ago, Hamas security services arrested a radical Salafist sheikh, accusing him of belonging to the Islamic State group, an extremist Sunni terror group. Palestinian media also reported recently on a series of arrests in Salafist circles. Hamas has cracked down hard on Salafi groups in Gaza in the past.
Yachimovich boycotts Zionist Union meeting
MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) boycotts the Zionist Union faction meeting and says “the continued two-headed leadership by [Isaac] Herzog and [Tzipi] Livni castrates the leadership of the opposition and has no democratic, practical or ideological validity.”
According to a report in the Ynet news site, Yachimovich, who stayed away from the faction meeting after she realized it would be opened by Herzog and Livni as partners, said, “I respect Livni and expect a fruitful collaboration with her, but I have one chairman and his name is Herzog.”
Zionist Union is an amalgamation of Labor and Hatnua, a small party that was led by Tzipi Livni. Yachimovich, No. 3 on the party’s list, would have been second in command had Livni not been automatically given the second slot upon announcing that her party would run in the election on a joint ticket with Labor.
Liberman says PM’s coalition is ‘opportunist’
In an address to the press announcing his decision to join the opposition rather than the coalition, Liberman says that the government Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is building is not “national” but opportunist and conformist.
“The Nationality Bill was so important in the last Knesset – suddenly no one is talking about it,” he says.
Liberman says PM planning future unity gov’t
Liberman says the future government has “no intention to uproot the Hamas rule in Gaza.”
He also charges that the new government “has no intention to build housing, neither in major settlement blocs nor in Jerusalem. I emphasize – major settlement blocs and Jewish neighborhoods.”
Liberman says Likud made concessions in coalition agreements with other parties that Yisrael Beytenu cannot accept.
“In clause 5 of the UTJ coalition agreement, it says that if the coalition is widened beyond 70 Knesset seats, changes in positions and roles can take place,” Liberman says, adding “it is obviously not an intention to add the Joint Arab List to the government.”
Liberman says Netanyahu is waiting until a Labor holds a primary election, and then he will offer Labor a place in the government.
Liberman says he chose ‘principles over seats’
Liberman says his party’s choice to stay outside the next coalition was a choice “between our principles and our seats, and we chose our principles.”
Joint leadership ran its course – Yachimovich
Yachimovich says her decision to boycott the Zionist Union faction meeting today was “not a protest but a call to go in the right direction.”
“I backed the union [between Labor and Hatnua] with all my strength during the election campaign. I did think rotation [on the role of prime minister] was a mistake and that the two-headed leadership is a mistake.”
Yachimovich says she thinks the party cannot be run for a full four years under a shared leadership.
‘Livni is not my leader’
Shelly Yachimovich says on the Knesset Channel that Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni “is not my leader.”
Sharansky on the Ethiopian-Israeli protests
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky says in a statement following a weekend of protests by Ethiopian Israelis, that “we were all deeply shocked by the terrible video clip in which an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin was seen being beaten by a police officer in broad daylight. Yet although I was stunned by the awful images of a policeman beating a soldier, I was even more affected by the soldier’s heartfelt words about his and his community’s feelings regarding their experience of racism in Israeli society.
The State of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel have invested tremendous effort over many years to bring our Ethiopian brothers and sisters home to Israel. These efforts were based on a deep sense of Jewish solidarity and connection, as are all of our Aliyah efforts around the world.
Our vision is based on the ingathering of exiles and full equality for all of Israel’s citizens, as enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. In light of that vision, we at The Jewish Agency view it as our mission to connect all immigrants to the State of Israel and to ease their integration into Israel’s social fabric, where they must find their rightful place as full and equal citizens.
At this time, as painful cries of protest rise up against discrimination and exclusion targeting Israelis of Ethiopian origin, we must all listen carefully, help foster a more constructive discourse, and mobilize to improve the situation in a real and tangible way. I call on the protesters to exercise good judgment and moderation, to respect the law and public order, and to utilize the societal conversation that has been started to achieve their worthy and legitimate goals using the democratic tools at our disposal.
Only by working together will we find the path toward overcoming the obstacles that lie ahead and ensuring a common future for the State of Israel and the entire Jewish people.
Republican field grows with 2 more presidential bids
Two political outsiders have expanded the Republican field of White House hopefuls as former technology executive Carly Fiorina announced she’s running for president and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was set to launch his bid as well on Monday. Fiorina is likely to be the only prominent woman to seek the party’s nomination, with Carson the only likely African-American.
Both Fiorina and Carson have the potential to help the Republican win over a more diverse group of supporters in 2016.
Both candidates begin the race as underdogs in a campaign expected to feature several seasoned politicians, among them former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, along with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Yet while those prospects have claimed much of the early attention and favor from donors, the Republican race is a wide-open contest that could ultimately feature as many as two dozen major candidates.
Or Asraf’s remains to be flown home tomorrow
The body of Israeli hiker Or Asraf, found yesterday in Nepal, is brought to Kathmandu and will be flown tomorrow to Israel.
A member of the Israeli team that found the remains of Asraf, Oren Morgan, tells Israel Radio that several European hikers were also killed in the place where Asraf died. He says evidence collected during the search for Asraf was given to the UN base in Nepal in order to form a better understanding of what happened to hikers from around the world who weer declared missing following the earthquake in Nepal.
Several members of Asraf’s family were in Kathamandu to receive his remains and are taking care of burial arrangements in Israel.
Final push in Britain’s knife-edge election
The Conservatives and Labour launch their final push to woo voters ahead of this week’s British general election, as potential kingmaker parties mark out their territory.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband kick off the final three days of campaigning with stark messages to voters about the choice they face.
With polls showing the two main parties neck-and-neck and unlikely to win a majority, the race to take Downing Street will likely hinge on smaller parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats.
“It’s the start of a week when Britain will decide its future. By Friday you’ll either have Ed Miliband or me as your prime minister,” Cameron said.
“It’s that simple — an inescapable choice: me leading a strong and stable government, or with him: the chaos of being held to ransom by the SNP.
“Your vote can and will make a difference. It’s that’s close.”
Kahlon, Herzog meet after Liberman opts out
Zionist Union party head Isaac Herzog and future finance minister Moshe Kahlon meet following the announcement of Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman that his party would not join the next government.
Earlier, in a Zionist Union faction meeting, Herzog said there “was no possibility of establishing a unity government,” Ynet reports.
Galloway in hot water over use of public money
A UK expenses monitor group may investigate MP George Galloway’s use of public money after his former parliamentary secretary claimed that he wasted public money on personal chores, the Daily Mail reports.
Aisha Ali-Khan has lodged an official complaint alleging she spent more time on Galloway’s personal errands than she did on parliamentary duties when she worked for the Bradford West MP.
Galloway has vehemently denied Ali-Khan’s accusations, claiming his former employee, whom he sacked after just six months, had a “vendetta” against him.
Galloway is fiercely anti-Israel and has been also accused in the past of being anti-Semitic. He has already declared his constituency an “Israel-free zone” in the past.
Read the full story here.
Kahlon meets Bank of Israel governor Flug
Future finance minister Moshe Kahlon and Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug met today and agreed to establish a committee that would examine the issue of separating credit card companies from banks, Ynet reports.
The two also discuss the future state budget, and Flug tells Kahlon that as finance minister he will need to take steps to lower the cost of living.
Edelstein says Israel ‘at brink of civil war’
Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein speaks during the opening session of the Knesset’s summer session about the violent protest that took place Sunday night in Tel Aviv.
“Yesterday was a sad chapter in the history of Israeli society,” says Edelstein. “The heart aches as we see the struggle of our brothers who come from Ethiopia, which started as a legitimate protest and spiraled sadly to a violent riot. I call on all sides to calm the spirits and lower the flames.”
Edelstein says claims of discrimination and violence should be checked thoroughly. “The government and Israel Police acted correctly in beginning trust-building measures for this end. Freedom of expression must be allowed generously; but once it turns to incitement, violence and anarchism – this should not only be not tolerated, but dealt with harshly,” Edelstein says.
“Let us be careful not to be dragged to a civil war, since I’m afraid we’re already teetering on its brink. The State of Israel is an impressive feat of immigrant absorption, we must guard it vigorously,” Edelstein says.
Copenhagen church vandalized ahead of rabbi’s lecture
A Copenhagen church was vandalized hours before a rabbi spoke there.
“Free Gaza” and “Close the Death Camps” was spray-painted on the door of the Anna Church in the Norrebro district overnight Sunday, the Local reported. Bricks also were thrown through some of the church’s windows.
Bent Melchior, Denmark’s former chief rabbi, presented his address as planned on Sunday about the 70th anniversary of the country’s liberation from the Nazis.
“Without being totally immodest, I have to admit that it was directed at me,” Melchior told the Danish newspaper Politiken. “I am sorry that there are such idiots around, and I am full of regret that I had to be the occasion for such a thing.”
The rabbi reportedly had received repeated death threats, some very specific.
Copenhagen Police are treating the incident as being politically motivated, according to the report.
In February, a terror attack outside a Copenhagen synagogue left a Jewish volunteer security guard dead.
‘Shas wanted a large government’
Shas chairman Aryeh Deri says that his party “always wanted a wide government,” at the opening of the Shas faction meeting. Deri says there was an intention to establish a large coalition and he hopes that “efforts will be made in the future to widen it.”
Deri says that “the smile is back on the transparent people’s faces and they see today that they have hope.” He is referencing the Shas election campaign which claimed the party will represent the “transparent people,” a general term for disenfranchised citizens.
After Liberman announced he will not be joining the next government, Deri says, “Sometimes a small and homogeneous coalition is better than a wider one.” He says the party’s locking horns with Jewish Home was not indication of fundamental disagreement but rather “a way of making sure the next government will last for four years.”
New princess named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana
Prince William and his wife Kate have named their two-day-old baby Charlotte Elizabeth Diana and she will be known as Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, their Kensington Palace residence announces.
The names will be seen as a triple homage to her grandfather Prince Charles, great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and William’s late mother, Diana, whose death in a car crash in 1997 prompted a global outpouring of grief.
Five foreigners beheaded in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia beheaded five foreigners for murder and robbery, an unusually high number that adds to what Amnesty International has called a “macabre spike” in the kingdom’s executions.
Two Yemenis, a Chadian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese were put to death in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, the interior ministry says in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
It identified them as Yemenis Khaled Fetini and Ibrahim Nasser, Hassan Omar from Chad, Eritrean Salem Idriss and Abdel Wahhab Abdel Maeen from Sudan.
They were all convicted of killing an Indian guard at a business and stealing money from the safe.
Their beheadings bring to 78 the number of locals and foreigners executed in Saudi Arabia this year, compared with 87 for all of last year, according to AFP tallies.
Normally, one or two people are executed at a time.
Yesh Atid commends Liberman for going to opposition
The Yesh Atid party congratulates Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman for not joining “the fire-sale coalition” of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
In a statement, the party says that “today, when a new Knesset begins working” should have been “a day full of hope and celebration, but it isn’t — not with these coalition agreements — because, from next week, Israel will be going backwards.
“I want to remind the prime minister and his ministers — you’re the public’s servants,” the statement quotes Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid as saying.
The statement criticizes Netanyahu for reneging on ideas he supported during the last Knesset, including reducing the number of ministers to 18, encouraging employment in the ultra-Orthodox sector and other bills: “It took the prime minister only one year to change his ideology…. He voted for those issues and now it all turns on its head. People say ‘it’s like that in politics.’ It’s not like that in politics; it’s only like that when one has no principles.”
Court extends remand of Ethiopian Israeli protesters
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court extends the remand of 15 people who participated in the protest of Ethiopian Israelis in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
The arrest of 12 of the protesters was extended by 24 hours and that of three others by 48 hours. Four other people were released under special limitations, including warrants forbidding them from entering the city of Tel Aviv.
In all, 26 people were arrested during the protest, police said early Monday.
The Israel Police intends to file indictments against the protesters detained during the protest, Haaretz reports.
Anti-Semitic incidents in Czech Republic rose sharply in 2014
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the Czech Republic rose by more than 200 percent last year, according to an annual report on anti-Semitism.
Prague’s Jewish community released the report on Monday.
In 2014, 46 such incidents were registered across the country, compared to 13 incidents the previous year. An escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, notably Israel’s military operation in Gaza last July and August, was seen as the main factor fueling the surge.
“It is clear that the Czech Republic’s Jewish community becomes a target of anti-Semitism in relation to the situation in the Middle East,” the chair of the Jewish community of Prague, Jan Munk, says in a statement. “Czech Jews are perceived by some groups as envoys of the state of Israel and are blamed for its political decisions.”
While the number of physical attacks against Jewish targets — persons or property — did not register any major change compared to previous years, the number of verbal attacks, hate mail and threats to Jewish people rose four times in comparison to 2013. The number of online anti-Semitic incidents increased by some 20 percent.
In most cases, the perpetrators were not identified; those who were often had no ties to extremist groups. That suggests, according to the report, that anti-Semitic sentiments are increasingly gaining ground among individuals with no links to extremism.
In a trend similar to Western Europe, the report noted a rise in anti-Zionist sentiments expressed in conspiracy theories such as those blaming the ongoing crisis in Ukraine on Jews and Israel. These were often shared by both far-right and far-left groups and reflected by some mainstream Czech news websites.
‘A 61-MK coalition is impossible,’ says Likud official
A senior Likud official says “a coalition of 61 MKs is an impossible coalition. It is enough that Uri Ariel and Bezalel Smotrich from Tkuma decide to flex their muscle and the government will collapse.”
Ariel and Smotrich are members of Tkuma — a small faction that ran with Jewish Home in the last election as well as in the previous one — but which still maintains its identity as a separate entity from Jewish Home.
“Our mission was to first of all close deals with Shas and Jewish Home, stabilize a 61-MK coalition, and only then close with [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman. The assessment was that the odds of Liberman preferring the opposition were slim and that he will enter [a Likud coalition] anyway for the prestigious Foreign Affairs Portfolio,” the Likud official tells Haaretz.
According to Haaretz, at least four senior politicians may seek the Foreign Affairs Ministry: Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, deputy minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who has all but been promised to receive the Education Portfolio.
PM calls for united front against racism
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a united front against racism after talks with leaders of the Ethiopian Jewish community.
“We must stand together as one against the phenomenon of racism, to denounce it and eliminate it,” he says after a three-hour meeting focused on grievances within the community over police brutality and discrimination.
He also met during the afternoon with Damas Pakada, an Ethiopian soldier who was beaten by two policemen and whose assault was caught on video, triggering a wave of angry protests in recent days.
“I was shocked by the pictures that I saw. We cannot accept this and the police are dealing with it,” Netanyahu told him, according to a statement from his office.
“We will have to change things,” he said at the meeting, which was attended by Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and lawmaker Avraham Neguise, a newly elected parliamentarian of Ethiopian descent.
Netanyahu said there was clearly “a deep problem” within Israeli society that needed to be resolved.
“The outburst (of protest) is the result of real distress. We will fight this together. There is a lot of hard work to be done but we are heading in the right direction,” he added.
Addressing Pakada, Danino apologized for the assault on behalf of the police force.
“When I saw the video, which speaks for itself, we immediately fired the police officer,” he said.
The footage showed Pakada being attacked by two men, both of whom appeared to be policemen, but Danino only referred to one.
Kerry ‘confident’ Israel will probe protest violence
US Secretary of State John Kerry says he is confident Israel will investigate violence against the Ethiopian Jewish community after a wave of angry protests in recent days.
“I’m confident the Israeli leadership will work this through in a way that honors the goals and aspirations and traditions and values of the people of Israel,” Kerry tells reporters in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
He says he believed the matter would be put “thoroughly under investigation.”
PM invokes Herzl in first speech to Knesset’s summer session
“Herzl contributed to the regeneration of our people on three levels. First, he clearly saw the danger of murderous anti-Semitism; second, he was the first statesman of our people in the modern era; and third, he called to integrate into the development of the Jewish state — once it was established — the ancient tradition of our people with technological progress,” Netanyahu says during his first address to the Knesset plenum.
“Herzl understood that the only solution for the problem of anti-Semitism is a nation-state that can absorb the persecuted Jews. We paid a hefty price for the passing away of the visionary of Zionism and for the fact that his successors didn’t act on time. This lesson stands in front of us very clearly even today,” continues Netanyahu. “The state of Israel cannot allow itself not to identify danger on the horizon, and preparing for danger is crucial.”
“In the second level acting on the international arena Herzl had a double weapon, the strong belief in allowing the Jewish people to establish a home in our country and shaping our fate, but also the understanding that at the basis of international relations there are interests, and this is why he wanted to create alliances based on interests and this is why he met with leaders who were not great fans of Jews.
“He convinced us that it would benefit their regimes to support Zionism. Herzl managed his battles with his head high, not as someone begging for his life. He stressed at every possibility that a shared interest can be productive for both sides. He understood that when interests collide, we must stand strong and fight forcefully. This is all relevant to our time too,” continues the PM.
“On the third level, Herzl set out a vision of a progressive and prosperous Jewish state. What is described in his novel Altneuland is a pretty accurate copy. Herzl, too, would be astounded at what we have achieved in 67 years of existence. Herzl understood there are tremendous forces within us helping us prevail against all odds,” Netanyahu adds.
Discussing police, Iran president pushes against hard-liners
Ahead of summer in Iran, when hard-liners want women in the Islamic Republic to be veiled and covered to their standards, the country’s president is taking a stand against police enforcing morality rules.
By doing so, President Hassan Rouhani is staking a clear position against hard-liners who largely oppose his outreach to the West amid negotiations with world powers over the country’s contested nuclear program.
Rouhani has made statements twice in recent days opposing the idea, including Monday in a speech broadcast on Iranian state television. He said police are responsible to enforce the law, not different interpretations of Islam.
“Police that possess pistols and handcuffs have been created for enforcement,” Rouhani said. “We can’t tell everybody you can interpret (Islam). That would lead to total chaos.”
Liberman — it’s not personal, it’s about party lines
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, in a Channel 2 interview, rejects the notion that his decision to stay away from Netanyahu’s coalition is based on a personal vendetta against the prime minister.
“This is not personal. I don’t make decisions on a personal basis. It is all about the basic guidelines [of my party],” Liberman says.
“We will fight from the opposition. I will remain in the next Knesset, and I will lead Yisrael Beytenu in the next election, whenever it may be.”
‘Netanyahu will keep foreign affairs for now’
Channel 2 political analyst Amit Segal reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not appoint a foreign minister and will serve in a double role of prime minister and foreign minister for the time being.
Likud’s Gilad Erdan, Tzachi Hanegbi and Yuval Steinitz, as well as Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett all covet the prestigious portfolio, according to a report in Haaretz.
‘Shas to sign coalition deal tonight’
Media outlets in Israel report that Shas, led by Aryeh Deri, will sign a coalition agreement with the Likud as early as this evening and will thus officially announce its entry into a Likud-led coalition.
The reports cite unnamed Shas sources. Several websites report, in addition, that the Likud will sign a coalition agreement with Jewish Home by Wednesday.
Herzog says Herzl would be dismayed at ‘fissures’ in Israeli society
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog says during an address to the Knesset in the first session in the plenum that “racism is racism, and whoever fans the flames is endangering the unique human fabric in which we live.”
He begins his speech on an optimistic note: “If Herzl were to come here for a visit, he would be overjoyed. He would see a vibrant and impressive country, with brilliant men of letters, impressive courts, a powerful army, a developed culture whose products are examined and appreciated by the entire world, youth movements where the future generation receives its education and its backbone of values and many other expressions of the greatness and uniqueness of our loved country.”
But then Herzog turns to criticism: “Sadly, a slightly deeper look would reveal deep fissures in the core of society, deep rifts between brothers, between Arab and Jew, religious and secular, between south and north and center, between Ashkenazi and Sephardi, between women and men.
“The state of the Jews must follow the light of Herzl, and where reality strays from the vision — to work to change it. The challenges are complex and numerous.”
Danish bus ads on Israeli settlements brought to a halt
A Danish group on Monday vows to expand an advertising campaign urging people to boycott products from Israeli settlements after the ads were dropped from Copenhagen buses.
“It’s a clear attempt to deny us our freedom of speech,” Fathi El-Abed, chairman of the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association, tells AFP after bus operator Movia last week pulled the campaign.
“There is nothing whatsoever about this campaign that is harmful, discriminatory or hateful in any way,” he adds.
The advertisements on 35 buses in the Copenhagen area pictured two women beside the quote: “Our conscience is clean! We neither buy products from the Israeli settlements nor invest in the settlement industry.”
Shas signs coalition agreement
Shas signs a coalition deal with the Likud this evening.
Party leader Aryeh Deri is to become economy minister, succeeding Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett who is expected to take over the education portfolio. Bennett’s party has yet to sign a coalition agreement.
The party will also receive the Religious Affairs Ministry, but it is still unclear which MK will receive the portfolio. The party is also expected to receive another ministerial post, two deputy ministers, and the chairmanship of the Knesset’s Education Committee.
Small demo of Ethiopian Israelis near Kiryat Gat
Dozens of demonstrators from the Ethiopian community are marching on Route 35 toward Plugot Punction, accompanied by police officers from the Lachish District.
Police say that, as long as the march does not block Route 40 or Route 35, it will be allowed to continue.
A small section of the road between Plugot and the industrial zone in Kiryat Gat is nevertheless blocked by police, to allow the march to take place there.
Mubarak to receive privileges of former presidents, says court
An Egyptian court rules that former president Hosni Mubarak and his family will enjoy all the privileges reserved for former presidents and their families, Israel Radio reports.
Mubarak is 87 years old today. His family came to celebrate his birthday in his room at the Al Mawadi Military Hospital, where he is hospitalized.