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Johnson crushes Corbyn in UK win, claims ‘powerful new mandate’ for Brexit

Conservatives trounce Labour in election centered on leaving the EU; Corbyn says he won’t lead Labour in another election after party’s worst performance since 1935

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative leader Boris Johnson gives a speech on stage after retaining his seat to be MP for Uxbridge and Ruislip South, on December 13, 2019 (Oli SCARFF/AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative leader Boris Johnson gives a speech on stage after retaining his seat to be MP for Uxbridge and Ruislip South, on December 13, 2019 (Oli SCARFF/AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events and Britain’s election results as they happened.

Netanyahu thanks Trump for executive order ‘against discrimination of Jews’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Donald Trump for yesterday’s executive order extending US federal anti-discrimination enforcement to include Jews.

“Thank you, President Trump, for your executive order against discrimination of the Jewish People. Free speech is not carte blanche for anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish People and the State of Israel,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

The order, which instructs US anti-discrimination authorities to investigate claims of anti-Semitic prejudice in academic programs that receive federal funding, was met with controversy in the American Jewish community, with critics saying it could be used by a Republican administration to silence criticism of Israel on campus. Supporters have said it is vital for combating growing anti-Semitic expressions that have created a hostile environment for Jews and Israelis in many American universities.

Rivlin tells Israelis not to lose faith in democracy, despite third election

President Reuven Rivlin tries to cheer up an Israeli public that just watched its political leaders fail for a second time in a row to form a government and sent the country to a third election in 11 months.

“Dear fellow Israeli citizens, after two rounds of elections and as a third election campaign begins, I believe this is also critical moment for the Israeli public, which will choose its leaders. Israeli democracy was and still is a source of pride, and we know that the democratic system comes at a cost. I pray that the depth of the current political crisis and the divisions it exposes among us will lead us as a society and as a country to fight not only for the right to disagree with each other – but also to the duty to find what we can agree on,” Rivlin says in a statement.

“I hope that this is the last election campaign for the next four years, and that we will be able to grow as a people and a society from the division and disagreement that separates us to agreement and action that benefit us all. We must not allow ourselves to sink into despair or grievance, which do no good. We must not lose faith in the democratic system or in the power it gives us to shape our reality with our own hands. When the time comes, we will all exercise our democratic right and do it in the hope of a better future, as soon as possible, for us all.”

In first for Israel, southern resort town of Eilat bans disposables on beaches

Israel’s southernmost city bans disposable cups and bags from its beaches to protect the Red Sea from the “threat” of plastic, a spokeswoman says.

The amendment to Eilat’s municipal code makes the resort town Israel’s first to adopt such regulations.

Beachgoers will be forbidden from bringing disposable items onto the beach, whether made of plastic, aluminium, cardboard or paper.

Such items will not be sold at kiosks or restaurants by the shore.

The Gulf of Eilat. (Dr. Ilan Malster, Environmental Protection Ministry)

Whether cutlery, cups, bags, wrappings or drinking straws, “disposable items break down into particles of various sizes on land and in the sea, harming terrestrial and aquatic animals” and constituting an eyesore, the text accompanying the new bylaw says.

In the absence of national legislation on the issue, Israel’s beach resorts have taken the initiative, with the Mediterranean coastal city of Herzliya preparing similar regulations.

“Eilat has unique natural resources,” Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy says in a statement. “We must safeguard them in every way.”

The bylaw, which exempts bottles, needs to be approved by the Interior Ministry before taking effect. The city proposes to fine offenders up to NIS 730 ($210).

Israel lags behind the European Union in phasing out the use of disposable plastic. Eilat’s ban is particularly important because of the coral reef that lies a short distance from the beach.

— AFP

High Court throws out petitions demanding Netanyahu resign over corruption cases

The High Court of Justice throws out two petitions demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign over his looming indictment in three corruption cases.

Justice Yosef Elron says there is no need to issue a legal ruling on the question of Netanyahu’s legal right to serve as premier because it would have no practical meaning. A prime minister’s resignation triggers either the appointment of a new premier by the Knesset or a general election, during which time the outgoing PM remains in the post in an interim capacity. The Knesset has already voted to go to new elections, and so Netanyahu is already serving as an interim prime minister until the March 2 vote, a fact that would not be changed if he were ordered to resign.

One of the petitions, filed by the anti-corruption advocacy group Movement for Quality Government, also asked that Netanyahu be ordered to resign his other cabinet posts, based on the decades-old practice that sees cabinet ministers other than the PM step down when they face criminal indictment.

Netanyahu told the High Court this morning he would resign his other posts by the end of the month, Elron notes, so that question, too, does not require the court’s attention.

Storm moves in, lashing coastal towns and wounding 2

Stormy weather lashes the coastline and begins to move inland, raising concerns regarding flash floods over the weekend.

Powerful winds and rain briefly close Ben Gurion Airport, forcing an incoming El Al flight to land for the first time at Ramon airport near the southern city of Eilat.

The Magen David Adom rescue service says there are a number of people hurt in weather-related incidents around the country. A restaurant umbrella blown away in a gust of wind strikes a 46-year-old man in Tel Aviv. Part of the stone facing of a building in Ashdod hits a 33-year-old man in the head.

Both men are taken to hospital. Their condition is not immediately known.

In Beersheba, several cars are damaged from trees felled by gusting winds.

Saudi Aramco reaches unprecedented $2t value in second day of trading

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Shares in Saudi Aramco gain on the second day of trading, propelling the oil and gas company to a more than $2 trillion valuation, where it holds the title of the world’s most valuable listed company.

Shares jump in trading to reach up to 38.60 Saudi riyals, or $10.29, before noon, three hours before trading closes.

Aramco has sold a 1.5% share to mostly Saudi investors and local Saudi and Gulf-based funds. With gains made from just two days of trading, Aramco sits comfortably ahead of the world’s largest companies, including Apple, the second largest company in the world valued at $1.19 trillion.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the architect of the effort to list Aramco, touting it as a way to raise capital for the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, which would then develop new cities and lucrative projects across the country to create jobs for young Saudis and help free the Saudi economy from its dependence on oil.

— AP

German family that once backed Hitler gives millions to Holocaust survivors

BERLIN — One of Germany’s richest families, which owns Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Pret A Manger and other international brands, is giving millions to support Holocaust survivors as it seeks to atone for its use of forced laborers during the Nazi era and its enthusiastic support of Adolf Hitler, The Associated Press has learned.

In addition to 5 million euros ($5.5 million) being given to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany to help thousands of elderly survivors around the world, the Reimann family’s JAB Investors company plans to announce today that it will provide another 5 million euros to find and support forced laborers used by its predecessor under the Nazis. An additional 25 million euros ($27.9 million) will be provided annually to Holocaust education and promoting democratic values to fight the rise of populist nationalism.

The family established the Alfred Landecker Foundation in Berlin to oversee the efforts, named after a German Jew who was killed by the Nazis and whose grandchildren have a combined 45% stake in JAB.

“To confront this was quite an emotional wake-up call for the family,” David Kamenetzky, board chairman of both the foundation and JAB Investors, says in a telephone interview from Washington ahead of today’s announcement.

The 5 million euros dedicated to the Claims Conference’s existing emergency assistance program will be distributed through some 200 welfare agencies over the next three years, says Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the conference.

This year some 10,500 survivors, average age 83, were helped through short-term financial crises by the program in 34 countries. The additional funding will allow for increased payments, or some 3,000 more survivors to receive assistance, with the Claims Conference and partner agencies taking on the administrative costs themselves.

— AP

Trump may turn to Alan Dershowitz for his impeachment defense

US President Donald Trump and some of his top advisers are considering calling in celebrity lawyer and retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to defend him should he face an impeachment trial, several sources tell ABC News.

Rumors that Dershowitz may be added to Trump’s defense team gained momentum after the law professor attended the White House Hanukkah party yesterday and was asked by the president to speak at the event.

Congressman Mark Meadows, Republican for North Carolina, told the House Freedom Caucus yesterday that he wants to see Dershowitz on the president’s team.

“I have advocated that there needs to be one other attorney that’s added to the mix for the president, and that is Alan Dershowitz,” Meadows said. “I think he’d be great to come in, get Alan Dershowitz in to be part of that defense team.”

Trump is alleged to have wielded the power of the presidency for personal and political gain by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 US presidential election while he withheld military aid to the country. The allegations are the subject of an impeachment process now underway in the House of Representatives.

Winter storm claims a fatality, electricity outages hit south

The wintry storm that just arrived on Israel’s shores claims a fatality. An 80-year-old man is found in his apartment in the coastal city of Netanya suffering from acute hypothermia. Rescuers rush him to the city’s Laniado Hospital, but doctors are forced to pronounce him dead shortly after his arrival.

Four soldiers from the Givati infantry brigade are lightly hurt when a tent in which they were sleeping buckles under the heavy winds and rain in their southern training base.

Wind gusts hit 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in central and southern Israel this evening.

The winds downed power cables and knocked out electricity throughout the south, causing electrical outages in the Eshkol Regional Council and other locations.

Sa’ar: If Netanyahu wins Likud primary, he’ll fail again to form government

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who is mounting the first serious challenge to Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership of the party in 14 years, warns that a Netanyahu-led Likud will remain unable to form a government after the March 2 elections.

Netanyahu has twice failed to form a government after the April 9 and September 17 elections, and refused the Blue and White party’s conditions for joining a unity government with it last month. The main condition: That he commit not to seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases.

Likud has tentatively set leadership primaries for December 26.

“If Netanyahu wins the primaries, there won’t be a government,” Sa’ar warns in an onstage interview at a financial services conference in Ashkelon.

“We have to preserve Likud’s democratic tradition for two reasons: because Likud is a democratic movement, and because if it stops being democratic it will fall,” he says, responding to Netanyahu supporters in the party who have accused him in recent days of “betraying” the longtime premier by running against him for party leader.

Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train to start regular runs next weekend

The long anticipated direct Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train will start operating on Saturday evening next week, December 21, according to the schedule on Israel Railways’ official website — 18 years after the project began and 11 years after its originally scheduled completion date.

The electric line, whose launch date has been delayed numerous times over the years, will have its first commercial ride from the capital’s Navon station at 9:56 p.m. and will reach the Tel Aviv Hahagana station at 10:28 p.m. after a stop at Ben Gurion Airport. At the same time — 9:56 — the first train will leave Tel Aviv Hahagana and will reach Navon at 10:30.

Trains will also leave an hour later in both directions, and from Sunday, December 22, service will be every 30 minutes in both directions, except at night.

The new line will significantly shorten the current commute between Israel’s two largest cities. However, while the ride duration cited for years for the new line has been 28 minutes, the schedule has the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv ride taking a longer 32 minutes and the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem commute taking 34 minutes (likely because it is uphill in that direction).

Authorities believe the train will reach other Tel Aviv stations and the northern suburb of Herzliya sometime next year.

Gantz: More women and immigrants to join Blue and White list

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz says his faction’s Knesset list is set to change for the March 2 election.

In a meeting in the Knesset whose contents are reported by Channel 12, Gantz says the party plans to add more immigrants and women to the list.

Just 10 of Blue and White’s 33 MKs are women.

UK election going to the dogs: Polling station pooches trending

LONDON — Britain’s general election is going to the dogs as voters take their pooches to polling stations up and down the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets the tone early when he takes his Jack Russell cross Dilyn with him as he votes in London.

The city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, follows Johnson’s lead, posting a video of himself and his dog Luna at a polling station and urging people to vote.

By early afternoon #dogsatpollingstations is trending on Twitter as other owners follow suit.

Photos show dogs dressed up in costumes varying from a bumble bee to Santa Claus sitting next to polling station signs. One is festooned with festive lights, reflecting the timing of the election less than two weeks from Christmas.

Henry the labradoodle waits outside the polling station at the Create center in Bristol, England, December 12, 2019. (Claire Hayhurst/PA via AP)
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his dog Dilyn leaves after voting in the general election at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

It is not clear how many dogs are getting into voting booths. The electoral commission says animals, with the exception of assistance dogs, “are not usually allowed inside polling stations.”

— AP

Fire on Russia’s only aircraft carrier injures 11

MOSCOW — Russia’s only aircraft carrier suffers a massive fire that injures 11 people and significantly damages the ill-fated ship that has been haunted by incidents throughout its service.

The fire on the Admiral Kuznetsov broke out during welding work at a shipyard in the Arctic port of Murmansk and spread quickly through the carrier’s internal compartments. Emergency crews spent the day battling the blaze.

Authorities in Murmansk said 11 people were injured and 10 of them were hospitalized in intensive care units.

The Admiral Kuznetsov has been plagued by breakdowns and setbacks since its launch in 1985. The massive blaze follows a 70-ton crane crashing onto the Admiral Kuznetsov’s deck in October 2018 when a mammoth floating dock holding the ship sank.

In this handout photo provided by an anonymous source, smoke billows from the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov during a fire in Murmansk, Russia, December 12, 2019. (Anonymous Source via AP)

The crane left a hole of 20 square meters (215 square feet), and the loss of the dock significantly slowed down repairs on the carrier since the navy lacked another of comparable size.

Thursday’s fire will further push back the work to fit the ship with modern control systems and new weapons.

Two years ago, the Admiral Kuznetsov was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean as part of Russia’s campaign in Syria, launching the first carrier-mounted attacks in Russian naval history. It lost two carrier-borne fighters in incidents during the Syria mission.

In this 2004 file photo the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is seen in the Barents Sea, Russia. (AP Photo, file)

— AP

Judiciary panel debates Trump impeachment, moves toward vote

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee argues through a marathon session today ahead of voting on articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump, the latest big step as the politically split panel prepares to send the charges to the full House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounds confident Democrats will have the votes to impeach the president next week but says it is up to individual lawmakers to weigh the evidence and decide for themselves. Republicans seem unwavering in their opposition to expelling Trump.

“The fact is we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi tells reporters. “No one is above the law; the president will be held accountable for his abuse of power and his obstruction of Congress.”

Trump, apparently watching the live proceedings on television, tweets his criticism of two Democratic women on the panel, Reps. Veronica Escobar and Sheila Jackson Lee, both of Texas. He calls their comments about his actions inaccurate.

“Very sad,” Trump tweets.

As the hearing begins, lawmakers dig in for the second day of the Judiciary session, only the fourth time in US history a president is facing impeachment, to consider the two articles brought by Democrats. They charge Trump with abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden while withholding aid as leverage and with obstruction of Congress for stonewalling the House’s investigation.

— AP

Likud officially sets leadership primary for December 26

The Likud Central Committee, the party’s main policy-making body, approves leadership primaries in a vote tonight and schedules them for December 26.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, beset by looming indictments in three criminal corruption cases, faces his first serious challenge in 14 years after Likud’s former no. 2 and popular ex-education minister Gideon Sa’ar announced last month he would challenge Netanyahu for party leader.

Sa’ar is the only declared challenger at the moment.

Sa’ar vowed yesterday to run a “positive, clean and substantive campaign that will present an agenda for Israel’s future. The country needs to turn a corner and end this ongoing political crisis, to establish a strong government and unite the people.”

The vote comes after Netanyahu supporter MK David Bitan started gathering signatures among Central Committee members earlier today on a resolution to cancel the proposed primaries.

Netanyahu called Bitan and asked that he stop, apparently fearing the effort to cancel the vote would make him look afraid to face Sa’ar.

“Likud is a democratic movement, and its members will decide who leads them,” Netanyahu’s campaign said in a statement earlier today. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is certain he will win their overwhelming support.”

Eight would-be Islamist terrorists face custody hearing in Denmark

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Eight people will face pre-trial custody hearings later today after “some 20 people” suspected of involvement in plotting Islamist extremist violence were arrested in a series of raids across Denmark.

They are six men and two women, according to Danish media.

Danish police clamped down Wednesday as they feared the suspects with “a militant, Islamist motive” were preparing one or several terror attacks, possibly on Danish soil.

Copenhagen Police Chief Inspector Joergen Bergen Skov said after the arrests that some of them would face preliminary charges under Denmark’s terror laws behind closed doors, adding “some have procured things to make explosives and have tried to acquire weapons.”

Danish authorities have reported foiling several extremist attacks in recent years, including ones linked to the 2005 publication in a newspaper of 12 cartoons by various artists depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The preliminary charges are a step short of formal charges.

— Agencies

Jersey City attack ‘fueled’ by anti-Semitism, state’s attorney general says

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey — New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says authorities believe the shooting Tuesday in Jersey City was “fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.”

Grewal tells a news conference today that authorities are investigating the attack as an act of domestic terrorism. He says officials believe the attackers were acting on their own.

The two killers who stormed a kosher market in Jersey City had apparently been followers of the Black Hebrew Israelites — a fringe group whose members have been known to rail against white people and Jews — and one of them had made anti-Semitic posts online, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

The findings stoked suspicions that the rampage that left the killers and four victims dead was not a random crime but an anti-Semitic attack, even as state and federal authorities cautioned that the motive was still under investigation.

The FBI on Wednesday searched the Harlem headquarters of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, which is the formal name of the Black Hebrew group, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The why and the ideology and the motivation — that’s what we’re investigating,” Grewal said Wednesday, adding that authorities are trying to determine whether anyone else was involved.

Others, including Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, pronounced the bloodshed a hate crime against Jews, with Fulop saying surveillance video made it clear that the attackers targeted the Jewish market, slowly and deliberately driving up to the grocery in a stolen rental van and immediately opening fire.

— AP

ADL: ‘Disease’ of anti-Semitism has reached ‘epidemic proportions’

The Anti-Defamation League vows “we will not stand down” as anti-Semitism in the US reaches “epidemic proportions,” in a statement following the announcement by New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal that the deadly shooting Tuesday targeting a Jewish supermarket in Jersey City was being investigated as an act of anti-Semitic terrorism.

“The Attorney General of New Jersey revealed today what we had grimly suspected: the two alleged shooters acted out of hatred for Jews and law enforcement. This attack on the Jewish community is nothing short of domestic terrorism,” ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt says in a statement.

“Our community has been terrorized once again by violent anti-Semitism. From Pittsburgh to Poway, and now to Jersey City, the disease that is anti-Semitism has clearly spread to epidemic proportions. But we will not be defeated, we will not stand down, we will not be intimidated. We will continue to speak up and out every time anti-Semitism and bigotry rear their ugly heads. We expect the same from our nation’s leaders.”

Poll shows March 2 election delivering the same indecisive result

A Channel 12 poll reaffirms what pollsters from nearly every media outlet and polling firm have told us for weeks: Blue and White still leads and Likud still lacks an outright rightist-Haredi coalition.

Here are the results of the latest poll, with 4.4% margin of error:

Blue and White – 35 seats
Likud – 32
Arab Joint List – 13
Yisrael Beytenu – 8
Shas – 8
United Torah Judaism – 8
New Right – 6
Labor-Gesher – 5
Democratic Camp – 5

Jewish Home-National Union fail to clear the electoral threshold of 3.25%.

Where does that put Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance of right-wing and Haredi parties? Down one seat from the current 55 to just 54, well short of the 61 needed for a parliamentary majority.

The March 2 vote is on track to deliver the same indecisive result as the April 9 and September 17 races before it.

Gantz: I’d consider immunity for Netanyahu — if he leaves office

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says he’d consider supporting parliamentary immunity for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — in exchange for the latter’s departure from the political scene.

The idea was first broached earlier today by Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman.

“We’d consider that,” Gantz says at a meeting of his faction in the Knesset. “It would be good to save us all the shameful spectacle of a prime minister in prison,” he adds.

He insists he had sought “unity, while Netanyahu wanted immunity” in the failed coalition talks of the past three months.

“Israel is going to yet another election because one man put himself above his fellow citizens,” he accuses.

US Congress recognizes Armenian genocide

The US Congress on Thursday formally recognizes the 1915-1917 murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.

The Senate’s passage of the repeatedly stalled resolution is expected to anger Turkey, which denies there was a genocidal mass murder, insisting the Armenians died as a result of World War I.

The resolution, which had already passed the House and was pushed in the Senate by Democrat Robert Menendez, had been blocked multiple times by allies of US President Donald Trump, who has sought a closer relationship with Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Standing next to Trump at the White House during a visit to Washington in November, Erdogan warned that “some historical developments and allegations are being used in order to dynamite our reciprocal and bilateral relations.”

The resolution declares that it is US policy “to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.”

It is also policy to “reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide.”

“It is fitting and appropriate that the Senate stands on the right side of history,” says Menendez, fighting back tears. “I am thankful that this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide who will be able to see the Senate acknowledges what they went through.”

— AFP

Lebanon asks World Bank, IMF for help with economic rescue plan

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister asks international funding bodies for support in drawing up an emergency rescue plan for his protest-wracked country.

Donors including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday rebuffed a plea for financial aid pending the rapid formation of a new government to implement key economic reforms.

Caretaker premier Saad Hariri calls World Bank president David Malpass and IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva today, his office says, to stress “his commitment to preparing an urgent rescue plan to resolve the crisis, while waiting for the formation of a new cabinet able to implement it. He discussed with both the technical support the Work Bank and IMF could provide in drawing up this plan.”

Lebanon has been rocked by unprecedented popular protests since October 17 over official mismanagement and corruption demonstrators blame for a deteriorating economy. In a country where the local currency is pegged to the US dollar and used in everyday transactions, banks have gradually restricted greenback withdrawals, causing a dollar liquidity crisis that has made imports increasingly difficult and expensive.

Hariri also asks Malpass about “the possibility of the bank… increasing its contribution to funding international trade to Lebanon” to help importers bring in essential goods.

Lebanon has been without a cabinet since Hariri stepped down on October 29, with a bitterly divided political class unable to agree on a new premier ever since.

— AFP

Sa’ar’s journalist wife Geula Even to take vacation for his Likud leadership race

Television news anchorwoman Geula Even, the wife of MK Gideon Sa’ar, will take a two-week leave of absence from her news job while her husband runs to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Likud leader.

Even, who co-anchors with Yaron London the Kan public broadcaster’s main current events discussion show “Geula and London,” has taken similar measures in the past to avoid conflicts of interest between her journalistic work and her husband’s political career.

Sa’ar announced last month he would be running against Netanyahu for party leader, arguing he alone could pull the country out of the political deadlock of the past year.

Likud’s Central Committee voted earlier today to hold the party leadership primary on December 26, in two weeks’ time.

“My dear viewers, after tonight’s show I’ll be leaving for a two-week vacation,” Even tweets. “During this period (i.e., the primaries), I’ll be with my beloved husband, who is running for Likud leader. London will enjoy my absence from the studio. See you on the ground!”

Left recoils at Gantz’s immunity-for-resignation offer to Netanyahu

Centrist political chief Benny Gantz may be considering supporting parliamentary immunity for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (on condition that he resign), but the left is having none of it.

Gantz told a faction meeting earlier today he’d consider supporting a Netanyahu request for immunity — which must be granted to a lawmaker in a Knesset vote — if Netanyahu agreed to leave politics in return.

“I don’t want to see a prime minister in prison any more than you,” Democratic Camp chair Nitzan Horowitz tells Gantz in a statement to the press. “But for that we need a prime minister who isn’t corrupt.”

Horowitz vows: “There isn’t and there won’t be any parliamentary immunity for Netanyahu. In Israel, everyone is equal before the law. If Netanyahu is convicted of the serious offenses of which he is accused, he’ll have to serve his sentence.”

Labor-Gesher chair Amir Peretz sounded a similar tone.

“No one wants to see a prime minister go to prison. But every citizen in Israel must be equal before the law. You can’t buy and sell the position of prime minister,” Peretz says.

“Netanyahu can strike a plea deal right now,” he adds, “instead of continuing to hunker down in [the PM’s residence on Jerusalem’s] Balfour [Street].”

The left’s protestations may be principled, but they’re not decisive. If Blue and White and Likud agree to grant Netanyahu parliamentary immunity, he’ll have 65 votes in favor — a majority in the 120-seat Knesset — and won’t need the 11 combined votes of the two left-wing parties.

As Brits vote, some are doing it in a laundromat, others in a pub

AP offers an adorable glimpse at some of the quirkier polling sites at which Britons are voting today in their general election.

Wensleydale Railway employee Teresa Chapman is pictured with the Polar Express in the background, next to a polling station in a railway carriage as voters go to the polls, in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire, England, December 12, 2019. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
A man dressed as Father Christmas enters his grotto at the Dunster Tithe Barn near Minehead, Somerset, England which is being used as a polling station in the 2019 general election, December 12, 2019. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
A presiding officer and a clerk drink cups of tea next to heaters to keep warm as they sit inside their polling station at Ace Laundrette in Oxford, England, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A sign is seen near a Christmas tree outside the polling station at the Fox & Hounds pub in the hamlet of Christmas Common, in Oxfordshire, England, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A view inside a polling station at the White Horse Inn in Priors Dean, Hampshire, also known by locals as the ‘Pub with no name,’ as voting starts in Britain’s general election, December 12, 2019. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

Trump says US on verge of China trade deal

US President Donald Trump tweets that the United States is on the verge of easing the China trade war, days before new tariffs are due to kick in between the world’s two largest economies.

“Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China. They want it, and so do we!” Trump tweets in a markedly more optimistic tone, after months of false dawns in a trade war roiling world markets.

The news triggers stock market gains and there is a new jump on Wall Street after a Bloomberg news report that a deal had been struck and was only waiting Trump’s approval. An announcement could come as early as Thursday, Bloomberg reports.

Trump’s flagging of an imminent breakthrough comes ahead of new tariffs planned to take effect Sunday and also just as he is almost sure to become only the third US president to be impeached.

— AFP

Police nab Palestinian gun smuggler with shotguns, M16

Police and IDF soldiers catch a Palestinian firearms smuggler in the act, the Israel Police says.

Acting on intelligence information, IDF troops and Northern District Police officers arrived at the border fence with Jordan on the northern end of the Jordan Valley.

They observed as a pickup truck arrived at the scene and the driver, a 29-year-old East Jerusalem resident, loaded a large sack, apparently thrown over the fence earlier, into his truck. The suspect then drove southward on Route 90, the north-south road along the Jordanian border that meets Route 1 toward Jerusalem just north of the Dead Sea.

During the drive, police cruisers intercepted the pickup and searched the vehicle.

They found 11 shotguns and an M16 assault rifle.

The driver and a 17-year-old girl were both arrested and taken for questioning.

Britain’s rain-soaked ‘Brexit election’ nears an end

LONDON — Polls close in less than an hour in Britain’s general election, where voters are deciding which party will form a government and try to break the country’s political deadlock over Brexit.

Some 46 million people are eligible to vote in the country’s first December election since 1923. Thursday’s vote comes amid rounds of blustery weather.

The vote pits Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson against Labour challenger Jeremy Corbyn, who has faced persistent accusations from the British Jewish community of failing to stem rising anti-Semitism within his party.

An exit poll will be released when polls close at 10 p.m., or midnight Israel time. Ballots will be counted throughout the night, with most results declared by Friday morning.

AP and Times of Israel staff.

Welcome to TOI’s UK election results liveblog

The Times of Israel will be liveblogging all the latest developments as results come in throughout the night in the UK’s momentus election.

Will Britain wake up to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader or will Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson gain the mandate he seeks to “Get Brexit Done’?

Stay tuned to find out.

UK election exit polls show big win for Conservatives

Exit polls in the UK election predict that the Conservative party will win 368 of the 650 seats in parliament while its Labour rival will pick up just 191.

The results would mean that Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson would remain in the post, keeping Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn out of 10 Downing Street.

Full results will be trickling in over night with the first constituency expect to announce within the hour.

UK election exit poll

Exit poll predicts worst Labour result since WWII

The exit poll in the UK elections shows Labor dropping 71 seats to 191 while the Conservatives would pick up over 50 seats to a majority of more than 80 in parliament.

If correct, the figures would mark Labour’s worst performance since WWII.

A Sky News political analyst says that, if the poll is accurate, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would “have to resign.”

Labour’s John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, says on the BBC that “the appropriate decisions will be made in the morning.”

After devastating exit poll, Labour says election ‘too early to call’

Responding to the exit poll showing the UK Labour party sinking to its worst result since 1935, a party spokesperson says that conclusions should not yet be drawn.

“It’s only the very beginning of the night, and it’s too early to call the result,” the party says.

“We, of course, knew this was going to be a challenging election, with Brexit at the forefront of many people’s minds and our country increasingly polarized.”

“But Labour has changed the debate in British politics. We have put public ownership, a green industrial revolution, an end to austerity center stage and introduced new ideas, such as plans for free broadband and free personal care. The Tories only offered more of the same.”

BBC chief analyst: The question is not if Corbyn will have to resign, it’s when

BBC chief political analyst Nick Robinson says that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will have to resign his leadership of the party following the election.

“Corbyn will have to resign now. It’s not a question of if, its a question of when,” he says.

Likud MK Nir Barkat: Well done Boris for beating ‘anti-Semitic Corbyn’

Likud MK Nir Barkat write on Twitter in response to the UK election exit poll showing a victory for the Conservative party:

“My friend, Boris Johnson, warm congratulations on your victory in the UK election and the defeat you inflicted on the anti-Semitic Corbyn.

“Knowing you in your role as London mayor, a member of Parliament and prime minister, I have no doubt that you will successfully lead the British nation and strengthen and deepen the UK-Israel partnership.”

PM Boris Johnson tweets his thanks to UK voters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweets his thanks to people who participated in the UK national election.

He does not address the exit poll suggesting that his Conservative Party will likely win a strong majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Official results are not yet in, but if the exit poll is correct, it would be a disastrous result for the opposition Labour Party.

Pound surges after exit poll shows strong Conservative win

The pound is surging after the exit poll in Britain’s election projected that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party likely will win a majority of seats in Parliament.

The pound has so-far jumped over two cents against the dollar, to $1.3445, the highest in more than a year and a half.

Many investors hope a Conservative win would cement the the country’s impending departure from the European Union and ease, at least in the short term, some of the uncertainty that has corroded business confidence since Britons voted in 2016 to leave the bloc.

— AP

Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement blames Corbyn for poor results

The chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Mike Katz says that the predicted poor result for the Labour party is due to “the multiple failures of the leader & his team.”

Exit poll predicts win for Lib Dem’s Luciana Berger in Finchley and Golders Green

The BBC breakdown of the exit poll gives the Liberal Democrat party a 61 per cent chance of winning in the constituency of Finchley and Golders Green, where Luciana Berger, who quit the Labour party over anti-Semitism, is running as the party’s candidate.

The constituency is home to a large Jewish population.

The Finchley and Golders Green result is expected at around 5.30 a.m. UK time.

Snap analysis: Cautious relief for British Jews

Times of Israel’s British-born editor David Horovitz sends this short snap analysis:

Britain’s exit poll would have to be spectacularly wrong for today’s elections to represent anything but a disaster for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

If Boris Johnson’s Conservatives perform as well as predicted, voters will have delivered the most stinging rejection Labour has faced since before World War II.

A victory this big could be ascribed to many factors. Given that the election was focused on Johnson’s pledge to implement Brexit and bring Britain out of Europe, the predicted result would mark an endorsement of that stance. But it would also signal a repudiation of Corbyn.

The vast majority of British Jews will be cautiously celebrating the poll figures, relieved at the likelihood that Britain will not be led by a lifelong opponent of Israel and a party leader who has allowed anti-Semitism to flourish in Labour.

Were Labour to be narrowly defeated, some of Corbyn’s supporters might seek to place some blame on the Jewish community, who they have accused of inflating Labour’s anti-Semitism problem. But if the defeat is as stinging as the poll predicts, even Corbyn’s most fervent supporters will have a hard time deflecting responsibility away from the leader himself.

Conservative party: ‘Voters have rejected Labour’s fudge on Brexit’

The UK Conservative party says in a statement following exit polls showing it winning a majority:

“This is a projection, not a result, it’s important we wait to see the actual results when they come in. What we do know is that voters have rejected Labour’s fudge on Brexit. We needed this election because parliament was doing all it could to frustrate the will of the people.

“A functioning majority would mean we can now finally end the uncertainty and get Brexit done. It would allow the country to come together and move forward by delivering the change people voted for in 2016.”

First results show massive swing from Labour to Conservatives

The first two constituencies announced show an average nine percent swing in favor of the Conservative party, backing up the exit poll which shows similar results nationwide.

While Labour candidates win Newcastle Upon Tyne Central and Sunderland South, albeit with a significantly reduced majority, the Conservatives win the Blyth Valley seat from Labour for the first time since its creation in 1950.

Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth predicted to lose seat

The exit poll in the UK election predicts Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth will lose her Stoke-on-Trent North seat to the Conservatives.

Smeeth was elected to the seat in 2015; it has been held by Labour since its creation in 1950.

Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. (UK Parliament)

A member of Labor Friends of Israel, Smeeth was elected Parliamentary Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement in April this year.

Tory backers cheer exit poll in London pub

In a London pub, Conservative supporters are drinking and cheering following an exit poll that suggests their party will win a majority of seats in the House of Parliament.

Jack Rydeheard, 20, says “I think it’s fantastic. It’s a big relief.” He says the Conservatives could see “the opportunity to get Brexit done and get everything else that we promised.” He says that includes more “investment in the NHS (National Health Service), schools, hospitals, you name it.”

Keith Schofield, a 75-year-old retiree says “we want Brexit to get done.” He says with a majority in Parliament, Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a much stronger hand in negotiating with European Union officials over Britain’s Brexit divorce deal.

Britain is now scheduled to leave the European Union on January 31.

— AP

Israeli Labor MK: I never thought I’d be so happy about Labour’s defeat’

Israeli Labor party MK Itzik Shmuli welcomes the exit poll in the UK elections showing a win for the Conservatives, writing on Twitter, “I would never have imagined I would be so happy about Labour’s defeat.”

Jewish Momentum leader Jon Lansman says Corbyn likely to step down

The Jewish leader of the pro-Corbyn Labour goup Momentum, Jon Lansman, says Jeremy Corbyn may have to stand down as leader of the Labour party following poor election results but should not have to make a decision until the new year.

“Jeremy Corbyn has to make those decisions himself. He’s always been a reluctant leader,” he tells ITV News.

Momentum founder Jon Lansman. (YouTube)

“I don’t think he’ll overstay his welcome, but he should be able to make decisions. I don’t think we should rush into those things.”

“Christmas is not far away. I don’t think decisions about this really need to be taken until the New Year.”

Analysis: Johnson has Brexit momentum but risks remain

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson campaigned on one theme alone — “Get Brexit done” — and if the results of an exit poll projection are correct, that just may happen.

The UK exit poll predicts that Johnson’s Conservatives won a substantial victory Thursday night in the country’s general election.

But even if Johnson pulls Britain out of the European Union by the January 31 deadline, he will still face the mountainous task of negotiating a complex trade deal with the EU by the end of next year — a task many experts say is not possible.

Evercore analyst Krishna Guha is warning that that significant Brexit-related risks still loom. Guha says Britain could still crash out of the EU without a trade deal — a so-called hard Brexit — at the end of 2020 if Johnson does not seek an extension of the Brexit transition period.

— AP

France welcomes apparently decisive UK vote

France welcomes Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s apparently decisive victory in Britain’s election, a minister says, adding it could help ensure an orderly Brexit.

“If the exit poll results are confirmed it should allow for a clear majority, something that has been missing in the United Kingdom for several years,” European affairs minister Amelie de Montchalin says.

“It’s not for me to be relieved — or worried — but, along with the president, we’ve been saying for several months: ‘We need clarity’,” she says, referring to President Emmanuel Macron.

— AFP

EU ready for talks with Britain’s next leader

EU leaders say they are ready to work with the new British leadership on moving ahead with Brexit.

EU Council President Charles Michel promised that EU leaders meeting Friday will send a “strong message” to the next British government and parliament about the next steps on the UK’s impending departure from the 28-nation bloc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “we are ready to negotiate” to get out of the Brexit stalemate of recent months.

They wouldn’t comment on an exit poll projecting that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservatives won a clear majority in Thursday’s election. That result would increase chances that Johnson pulls Britain out of the EU January 31.

— AP

Labour supporters lament ‘catastrophe’

For UK Labour supporters at a pub in London, it’s looking like a very long, tough night.

Rachel Rollinson says “at the minute I feel devastated. I feel shocked.” She says to see that we’ve lost something like 70 seats is devastating.”

The exit poll in Britain’s election projects that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party likely will win a majority of seats in Parliament. The survey predicts the Conservatives will get 368 of the 650 House of Commons seats and the opposition Labour Party 191 seats.

Labour Party candidate Gareth Snell says he expects to lose his seat in Stoke-on-Trent and is blaming the loss on his party’s Brexit strategy and leadership. He says “it’s disastrous, the exit poll is a catastrophe for the Labour Party.”

— AP

Ken Livingstone: ‘Jewish vote wasn’t very helpful; Corbyn will have to resign’

Responding to vast losses for the Labour party in the UK elections, former London mayor and Labour member Ken Livingstone says that, “The Jewish vote wasn’t very helpful.”

“Jeremy should have tackled [anti-Semitism] far earlier than he did,” Livingstone, who was suspended from the party and later resigned for claiming that Hitler supported Zionism, told UK’s PA Media news agency.

“It looks like the end for Jeremy, which is disappointing for me since I’m a close ally. I’m sure he’ll have to resign tomorrow.”

First 20 seats show 7% of voters swinging to Conservatives

According to the BBC, the average percentage swing from Labour to the Conservatives in the first 20 seats that have announced their results is over 7%.

That would represent the largest swing from one party to another since Labour’s historic 1997 victory under Tony Blair.

Corbyn silent as he arrives at his own constituency count

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at the count for his Islington North constituency where he is expected to win by a large margin despite vast Labour losses across the UK.

He refuses to respond to questions about his future as party leader posed by reporters as he enters the building.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arriving at the count for his Islington North constituency, December 13, 2019. (Screen Capture: BBC)

Jewish Labour MP calls on Corbyn to resign immediately: ‘We have become the racist party’

Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, who is expected to lose her seat to the Conservatives, tells Sky News that Jeremy Corbyn “should announce he is resigning as leader of the Labour Party from his count today. He should have gone many, many, many months ago.”

Criticizing Corbyn for his failure to address anti-Semitism in the party, she says “we have become the racist party, the nasty party because of the actions of our leader and the lack of actions of our leader.”

Smeeth says that new leadership must work to repair ties with the Jewish community.

“Everybody must make clear that Jews feel safe in the Labour party and they don’t at the moment.”

Conservatives hold Essex seat of Epping Forest

Conservative MP Eleanor Laing is been re-elected to the seat of Epping Forest in Essex.

The constituency has a Jewish population of 3.8%, making it the constituency with the 12th largest Jewish population, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Updated exit polls show Labour gaining a few more seats

Exit polls in the UK elections have been updated based on the results trickling in from around the country.

The BBC predicts that the Conservatives will win 357 seats while Labour will pick up just 201. The Scottish National party, according to the projections, will win 55 seats and the Liberal Democrats will win 13.

According to Sky News, the Conservatives will win between 358-368 and Labour will win between 192-202.

The original projection had shown 368 for the Tories and 191 for Labour.

Corbyn says he won’t lead Labour into another election

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking after winning his own seat in Islington North, says he will “not lead the party in any future general election campaign.”

“Obviously it is a very disappointing night for the party,” he says, announcing his intention to step down at some point in the future.

However, he says he will stay on for a “period of reflection,” while discussion on the future of the party takes place.

UK Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson loses seat

The leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, has lost her seat in Parliament, while her party is struggling to make election gains.

Swinson was narrowly defeated in her Dunbartonshire East constituency by the Scottish National Party.

The pro-EU Liberal Democrats had high hopes of gaining new seats in Britain’s election because of its strongly pro-EU stance. But so far it looks likely to only win a dozen or so of the 650 House of Commons seats — fewer than it held before the election.

Boris Johnson claims ‘powerful new mandate’ for Brexit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it looks like his Conservative Party has won “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done,” in the country’s general election.

He says the work of delivering Brexit will begin as soon as all the results are in from Thursday’s vote.

Johnson called the election “historic” as he was announced the winner in his Uxbridge constituency in suburban London. The Conservatives appear to be on course to win a solid majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

His main rival, the opposition Labour Party, looked to be facing a notably heavy defeat, losing dozens of seats.

— AP

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Pound surges after exit poll shows strong Conservative win

The pound is surging after the exit poll in Britain’s election projected that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party likely will win a majority of seats in Parliament.

The pound has so-far jumped over two cents against the dollar, to $1.3445, the highest in more than a year and a half.

Many investors hope a Conservative win would cement the the country’s impending departure from the European Union and ease, at least in the short term, some of the uncertainty that has corroded business confidence since Britons voted in 2016 to leave the bloc.

— AP