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PM draws fire from political rivals after rockets disrupt his campaign event

Parties on left and right pan premier’s Gaza strategy after he is taken off stage; Bennett calls it a ‘national humiliation’; Lapid: ‘Netanyahu is done and can leave the stage’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, being moved away from a campaign event stage while surrounded by security as rockets are shot at Ashdod on September 10, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, being moved away from a campaign event stage while surrounded by security as rockets are shot at Ashdod on September 10, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)

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

48,000 new voters added to the rolls since April elections

The Central Bureau of Statistics releases the official voter figures ahead of the September 17 election.

Some 5.8 million resident Israelis are eligible to vote.

Of those 5.8 million, 14 percent are aged 18-24, 30% age 25-39, 31% age 40-59, and 25% are 60 or older.

The voter rolls grew by some 48,000 people since the April 9 race, the committee says, or 0.8% of the total.

Of those eligible voters, 79% are Jews, 16% are Arabs and 5% are from other minorities, including non-Arab Christians and non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The Arab portion of the electorate is likely to grow, the figures reveals, as the Arab population is younger: 38% of Arab Israelis are under 18, compared to 32% among Jews.

The CBS figures do not include some 570,000 Israelis who are also technically eligible to vote, but have lived overseas for many years and are thought unlikely to travel to Israel to vote in next week’s race. Israel has no absentee ballots, except for some 5,000 diplomats and other officially recognized emissaries and their families.

Man moderately wounded in Haifa shooting

A 47-year-old man is shot and moderately wounded on Kibbutz Galuyot Street in the northern city of Haifa.

He is taken to Rambam Hospital in the city.

The incident marks the second shooting in the city in three days, after a local physician was shot on Sunday on Allenby Street.

Police have said there are no immediate indications linking the shootings to terror groups, and are treating the cases as criminal.

North Korea fires 2 projectiles after offering talks with US

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launches two projectiles toward the sea, South Korea’s military says, hours after the North offered to resume nuclear diplomacy with the United States but warned its dealings with Washington may end without new US proposals.

The launches and demand for new proposals are apparently aimed at pressuring the United States to make concessions when the North Korea-US talks restart. North Korea is widely believed to want the United States to provide security guarantees and extensive relief from US-led sanctions in return for limited denuclearization steps.

The North Korean projectiles fired from its South Phyongan province, which surrounds its capital city of Pyongyang, fly about 330 kilometers (205 miles) across the country and in the direction of the waters off its east coast, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Ministry.

The military says South Korea will monitor possible additional launches. The JCS doesn’t immediately say whether the weapons are ballistic missiles or rocket artillery. “More detailed analysis is needed to determine the exact specifications,” JCS spokesman Kim Joon-rak says.

Tuesday’s launches are the eighth round of launches since late July and the first since August 24. The previous seven launches have revealed short-range missile and rocket artillery systems that experts say would potentially expand Pyongyang’s capabilities to strike targets throughout South Korea, including US military bases.

— AP

Two women take IDF to court for excluding women from combat roles

Two prospective young IDF recruits are dragging the army to the High Court of Justice over its refusal to draft women as combat troops in the Armored Corps.

Or Avramson and Ma’ayan Halberstat, both 19, file the petition today against the army and Defense Ministry ahead of their slated draft in March 2020.

In their petition, the two note that the IDF experimented with a coed tank unit, and concluded in June 2018 that the experiment was a success. Women have served as combat instructors in the corps since 1976, they note, suggesting that the only factor preventing their service in combat roles is their gender.

EU slams Iran’s new nuclear centrifuge research

A European Union spokesman in Brussels expresses “great concern” today over Iran’s announcement over the weekend it is launching a new effort to expand its research and development into centrifuges for enriching uranium, part of the country’s nuclear program.

“We note with great concern the announcement made by Iran about the expansion of centrifuge R&D activities. This is a further reduction of its commitments under the JCPOA,” the official acronym of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

“We are also particularly concerned about developments reported by the IAEA in its extraordinary report of 8 September with regard to Iran’s centrifuge R&D activities. The recent installation of centrifuges is inconsistent with the JCPOA, and the intended installation of more centrifuges is extremely worrisome as it could significantly increase Iran’s enrichment capacity,” the spokesman says.

“We have been clear and consistent that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran. We urge Iran to reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments under the JCPOA and to refrain from any further measures that undermine the preservation and full implementation of the nuclear deal. We reiterate our unwavering support to the IAEA and the impartial and technical manner with which it implements nuclear safeguards.”

— Raphael Ahren

Democratic Camp says PM’s 5 p.m. press conference oversteps campaign advertising laws

The Democratic Camp party appeals to the Central Elections Committee to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled 5 p.m. press conference from being broadcast live by television outlets.

The Likud party has said the announcement will be “dramatic,” but has not offered any indication of its subject.

Netanyahu is expected to use the opportunity to further his election campaign, Democratic Camp says, in violation of campaign advertising laws.

In past campaigns, broadcasts of live statements by the prime minister were delayed by 10 minutes in order to give elections officials time to cut parts deemed to violate advertising rules.

Will Netanyahu announce annexation, Pollard’s release or Otzma’s withdrawal?

There are now at least three rumors about what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to announce in the 5 p.m. press conference billed by his party as a “dramatic” announcement.

Channel 13’s Barak Ravid says a “senior Israeli official” is telling him the prime minister is going to announce plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Another source close to the PM says he may be announcing an election “gift” from US President Donald Trump: the release of former spy Jonathan Pollard from the requirement that he remain in the US, and his triumphant arrival in the Jewish state.

Yet another rumor says Netanyahu has finally convinced the extremist Otzma Yehudit party to drop out of the race in a bid to up the number of right-wing votes that go to Likud.

The third rumor, it should be noted, has been denied by Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir.

Past rumors have suggested Netanyahu was trying to broker a US-Israel defense pact ahead of the election.

Dorian death toll rises to 50 in the Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas — The government in the Bahamas says the death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to at least 50.

Authorities say they expect to find more bodies as they search through debris in devastated areas of the northern Bahamas.

Members of the Gainesville, Florida, fire department found five bodies Monday in the destroyed neighborhood known as The Mudd, the Bahamas’ largest Haitian immigrant community.

Dorian is blamed for at least seven other deaths in the Southeast US and Puerto Rico.

— AP

Blue and White petitions against live broadcast of Netanyahu press conference

Blue and White is also appealing against the live broadcast of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 5 p.m. press conference.

The party says in a petition to Central Elections Committee chair Hanan Melcer that Netanyahu will use the opportunity for electioneering, violating election advertising laws.

Mayim Bialik to write and direct her first feature film

Popular Jewish actress Mayim Bialik will write and direct a feature film based on her own experiences.

The comedy-drama titled “As Sick As They Made Us,” which will deal with mental illness, will be Bialik’s screenwriting and directing debut. The news is first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

The film tells the story of a divorced mother who struggles to help her estranged brother visit their father on his deathbed. His death throws the family into disarray as she finds new love and while dealing with her difficult mother and brother, according to the website.

“Growing up surrounded by mental illness is not something that is easy to write about, nor is it easy to live through,” Bialik told Deadline Hollywood. “The challenges ripple out into the lives of children immersed in these families even as they try to make their own lives apart from the challenges they grew up with. After my father’s passing four and a half years ago, I decided to explore the complexity of mental illness and familial responsibility — especially as it falls on women — as well as to highlight the redemptive nature of a family’s love as they navigate death and continue to live life on their own terms.”

Mayim Bialik at The Paley Center For Media’s Paleyfest at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, March 16, 2016. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images/via JTA)

Bialik is best known as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler from the hit show “The Big Bang Theory,” which concluded in May. She was launched into stardom at the age of 15 as the title character in the television series “Blossom.”

— JTA

Iran to probe suicide of female soccer fan amid uproar

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s judiciary has been asked to investigate the death of a woman soccer fan, state media says, after she reportedly self-immolated because she feared imprisonment for trying to enter a stadium.

The country’s vice president for women and family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, asked the judiciary chief to look into the case in a letter, the state-run Iran newspaper reports.

Sahar Khodayari, 30, was arrested last year when she tried to go into a stadium dressed as a man to watch her favorite team, Esteghlal FC, the Varzesh 3 sports news outlet said, citing her sister.

Dubbed “blue girl” because of Esteghlal’s colors, she set herself on fire outside the court last week upon hearing from someone there that she would be going to prison for six months, it said.

The judiciary’s Mizan Online website says no sentence had been issued since there had been no trial and the judge was away on holiday.

The death of Khodayari sparked an outcry online, with many calling on world soccer’s governing body FIFA to ban Iran from international competitions and for fans to boycott matches. Pictures said to be of her in hospital covered in heavy bandages have been shared widely on social media.

Iranian soccer legend Ali Karimi urged his 4.5 million Instagram followers to boycott stadiums until further notice.

“The women of our land are better than men,” he wrote alongside an image of a woman with a soccer ball for a heart and flames over her head.

— AFP

Mandelblit denies investigators pressured witnesses in Netanyahu probes

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit denies investigators pressured state’s witnesses to give false testimony in a series of corruption cases involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mandelblit also rejects accusations that untoward pressure was applied on suspects in the probes to turn state’s witnesses.

“There is no basis to claims about pressure being applied on state’s witnesses to give versions [of testimony] that are not the truth,” Mandelblit writes in a letter to Avi Himi, the head of the Israel Bar Association.

The attorney general says based on his review of the investigatory materials, “police investigators thoroughly clarified to state’s witnesses, and on a number of occasions, that they are required to tell only the truth.” He also says their testimony was recorded and that the witnesses cooperated with police of their own free will.

Mandelblit also addresses a television report from the weekend that police used the son of Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecom giant, to convince him to fire his lawyer as part of a bid to turn him state’s witness.

“As for the claim that Or Elovitch was sent on behalf of police to influence his father to fire his lawyer, this claim is based on a quote from a recording that was made for Or Elovitich and his father during the investigation. However, this quote is a fragment that does not correctly reflect the events,” he says.

“A reading of all the relevant investigatory materials leads to a completely different picture,” Mandelblit adds.

Elections chief allows PM announcement, warns Likud against a campaign ad

Central Elections Committee chair Hanan Melcer rejects petitions by Blue and White and the Democratic Camp to delay the broadcast of a purportedly “dramatic” announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The expected announcement “has a clear news value, which naturally will draw broad media coverage and public attention,” Melcer says.

“It does not constitute prohibited election advertising, and therefore there is no cause for issuing the requested order.”

Melcer says media outlets will nevertheless watch the announcement, and switch from a live broadcast to a delayed one if they conclude it constitutes election propaganda.

Melcer says his decision is “based on statements from Likud and on the assumption that there won’t be Likud campaign literature alongside Netanyahu’s appearance. I am certain that Netanyahu and Likud are aware of the ramifications if it turns out these assurances given to me were inaccurate.”

Netanyahu announcement delayed by an hour

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s purportedly “dramatic” announcement, originally scheduled for seven minutes ago, is delayed by an hour, to 6 p.m., Likud says.

Hezbollah leader warns against new US mediator with Israel

BEIRUT — A US official visiting Beirut to mediate between Lebanon and Israel over a maritime border dispute is a “friend of Israel,” keen to defend its interests, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group warns.

Hassan Nasrallah urges Lebanese officials to negotiate from a point of strength with US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker over the nearly 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea claimed by both countries.

Schenker met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri after arrival on Monday. On Tuesday, he met with President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri who complained about new American sanctions that targeted Jammal Trust Bank for, as the US Treasury Department said, “knowingly facilitating banking activities for Hezbollah.”

The US considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has been imposing sanctions on the group for years. In July, the Treasury for the first time imposed sanctions on two Hezbollah legislators.

— AP

US accuses Iran of ‘possible undeclared nuclear activities’

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuses Iran of “possible undeclared nuclear activities,” as the UN’s nuclear watchdog presses Tehran for answers on its atomic safeguards.

“The Iranian regime’s lack of full cooperation with @iaeaorg raises questions about possible undeclared nuclear material or activities,” Pompeo tweets.

“The world won’t fall for it. We will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.”

Pompeo’s warning comes a day after the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) urged Iran to respond quickly to its concerns, as the troubled 2015 deal with world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program threatens to fall apart.

— AFP

Israeli spyware firm NSO Group adopts ‘human rights policy’

An Israeli spyware company that has been accused of helping authoritarian governments stifle dissent says it has adopted “a new human rights policy” to ensure its software is not misused.

The NSO Group says it will institute a series of oversight measures to ensure adherence and would henceforth evaluate potential clients’ “past human rights performance.”

NSO has come under fire in the past year for selling its surveillance software to repressive governments who use it against dissidents. It does not disclose clients, but they are believed to include Middle Eastern and Latin American states. A Saudi dissident has accused NSO of making software used by Saudi officials in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

The company says its product is used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to fight “crime and terrorism.”

— AP

Jordan Valley leader jumps the gun, thanks Netanyahu for annexation

A public relations company working for Jordan Valley Regional Council chair David Elhayani, Pe’er & Levin PR, may have jumped the gun on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expected “dramatic” announcement this evening, releasing a statement quoting Elhayani lavishing praise on Netanyahu for apparently taking steps toward annexation of the Jordan Valley.

“After 11 years of serving [as council head], which were filled with fear for the future of the Valley, this is one of the most important and exciting moments I have experienced,” Elhayani is quoted as saying.

“I thank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the depths of my soul for transforming this time into a historic moment for Israel. Let us not forget how he stood strong in the face of the Obama administration’s pressure to surrender the Jordan Valley — and in his first opportunity, Netanyahu now shows his leadership, determination and courage as a statesman and true patriot, fulfillling the dream of the Valley’s residents, and of most of Israel’s citizens.”

He goes on: “To the cynics who say this was for the election, don’t worry about them.”

Jordan summons Israeli envoy over arrest of two nationals

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry summons Israeli Ambassador to Amman Amir Weissbrod over arrests Israel made of two Jordanian citizens, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sufyan Qudah says.

In the meeting, the ministry calls for the immediate release of the Jordanians citizens and demands that it be informed of all the details of the arrests and accusations against them, Qudah adds.

Israel detained Abdelrahman Maree and Heba Abdelbaqi after they crossed the Allenby border crossing, Quda says, without stating when they were nabbed.

A Jordanian diplomat in Israel visited Maree and Abdelbaqi on Tuesday “to provide support” to them, according to the spokesman.

— Adam Rasgon

Barak slams Netanyahu ‘fake news’

Democratic Camp candidate and former prime minister Ehud Barak slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expected announcement about the Jordan Valley as a hollow election ploy.

“Netanyahu is good at talking, less good at doing,” he tells Channel 12. “This is all fake news.”

He lists other purported Netanyahu achievements that he considers similarly “fake.”

“I don’t know if Ramat Trump will ever be founded. I don’t know what the legal value is of the [Trump administration’s] Golan recognition. Did the embassy move to Jerusalem, or was a plaque placed on a building?”

Netanyahu: I’ll annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

In a campaign pitch, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promises to “apply Israeli sovereignty” — effectively annexing — to all the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

But he adds he’ll only take the step “after the elections,” out of respect for the Trump administration and its expected peace plan.

“I want from you a clear mandate to apply Israeli sovereignty to all the settlements,” he says.

Netanyahu: I’ll immediately annex the Jordan Valley, if I get voters’ mandate

While he promises to annex all settlements after he’s re-elected, Netanyahu makes another one:

“One place that can have sovereignty immediately applied to it after the elections is the Jordan Valley. The next government will apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley.”

A map presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 10, 2019, showing areas of the Jordan Valley he promises to annex immediately after the September 17 elections. (Courtesy)

He then asks for Israelis’ votes.

“This is a democracy. I won’t do anything without a clear mandate. So I’m asking for a mandate, to do this thing that enjoys a broad consensus, to define at long last Israel’s permanent borders, promising that Judea and Samaria don’t turn into Gaza.

“This map defines our eastern frontier. We haven’t had this kind of opportunity since the [1967] Six Day War, and may not have it against for another 50 years.”

Netanyahu’s announcement draws laughing emojis from Liberman

Reactions are starting to pour in to Netanyahu’s campaign promise to annex the Jordan Valley “immediately” after the elections.

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman mocks Netanyahu’s claim it was a “dramatic” announcement, posting a short tweet with the words “dramatic announcement” and two laughing emojis.

Peace Now dismisses ‘delusional’ annexation as ‘selling out our future’

Peace Now, which backs Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, mocks Netanyahu’s “delusional” promise to annex the Jordan Valley.

“Netanyahu’s delusional post-election annexation is further evidence of the limitless cynicism of a prime minister buried neck deep in serious corruption cases.”

The group notes he’s “opposed annexation for years. This is an election ploy by the head of a caretaker government who, evening after evening, puts on ever more delusional demonstrations of his irresponsibility. What won’t the allegedly corrupt suspect from Balfour [the PM’s official Jerusalem residence] do to scrape more votes from [Otzma Yehudit head Itamar] Ben Gvir and [Yamina candidate Betzalel] Smotrich, in a desperate attempt to ensure his immunity in the next Knesset?”

Unilateral annexation, the group adds, “is bad for Israeli diplomacy, defense and international standing” and “will bring us closer to an apartheid state.” Netanyahu, it says, “is willing to sell out all our futures, and send a message to Israel’s citizens, to the Palestinians, and to the whole world that his political survival means continued bloody conflict and the collapse of our democracy and any chance for peace.”

Poll: 48% of Jewish Israelis support applying sovereignty over Area C

The Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, says it recently polled Israelis on the question of annexing parts of the West Bank. Here are its findings:

“According to the Israel Democracy Institute’s Israeli Voice Index, 48% of Jewish Israelis and 11% of Arab Israelis would favor [applying Israeli sovereignty over Area C of the West Bank] if it were supported by US President Donald Trump and his administration.

“This compares to 28% of Jewish Israelis and 56% of Arab Israelis who oppose this idea. Almost a quarter [of] Jewish Israelis and one third of Arab Israelis remain undecided on this matter.

“In the case of possible annexation of Area C, Jewish Israelis are divided on whether or not a Palestinian state should be established in the remaining parts of the West Bank. 40% would oppose this, while 37% would support it. Among Arab Israelis – 51% of Arab Israelis support this idea – while 20% oppose it.”

Gantz mocks Netanyahu as ‘spinner’

Blue and White chief Benny Gantz mocks Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley, calling the prime minister a “spinner” in a Twitter post featuring a fidget spinner toy.

“In a word — a spinner,” he writes.

Trump abruptly fires John Bolton

US President Donald Trump announces on Twitter he had fired his national security adviser John Bolton.

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore….”

“….I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”

Yamina, too, slams Netanyahu annexation promise as ‘spin’

Netanyahu’s promise to immediately annex the Jordan Valley after the election isn’t going down well with Israeli political parties on right or left. After being slammed as “delusional” and a “spinner” by the left and center, rightist Yamina goes after him, calling his announcement “spin.”

“Netanyahu explained this evening why voters must vote Yamina and not Likud,” the party says in a statement, explaining that Netanyahu’s annexation doesn’t go far enough. “The Bibi-Trump plan will only allow for sovereignty to be applied over the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, leaving out the surrounding areas.”

“Only a big and strong Yamina will ensure that Area C [the roughly 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control] will not be abandoned.

“As for the Jordan Valley, we call on Netanyahu to pass a cabinet decision already this evening, as was done when sovereignty was applied to Jerusalem. There is no need for legislation. We will stand behind him immediately and vote in favor [of such a decision].
Otherwise, the entire nation of Israel will know that this was a cheap political spin meant to nab votes, and nothing more.”

— Jacob Magid

Bolton indicates he found out about his firing on Twitter

Minutes after US President Donald Trump announces the firing of his national security adviser John Bolton on Twitter, Bolton takes to the social network to suggest Trump may have deliberately tried to humiliate him.

“I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow,'” he writes.

Binyamin regional head calls on Netanyahu to annex entire West Bank

Binyamin Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz lauds Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley if he wins next week’s election, but asserts that the move must be immediately followed by the annexation of the remaining settlements in the West Bank.

“There is no reason in the world why Judea and Samaria residents should continue to live as second class citizens of the State of Israel. The move must be complete, applying sovereignty to the Binyamin area and throughout all of Judea and Samaria,” he says.

— Jacob Magid

Blue and White says Netanyahu copied party on Jordan Valley annexation

Blue and White responds to Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley with derision, saying it was an election ploy that copied the party’s own vow to ensure the area remained Israeli “forever.”

The statement reads: “The residents of the Jordan Valley are not Netanyahu’s propaganda props. Blue and White has declared that the Jordan Valley will be part of Israel forever. It was Netanyahu who concocted a plan to surrender the Jordan Valley in [peace talks in] 2014.

“We’re glad Netanyahu came to his senses and adopted Blue and White’s plan for recognition of the Jordan Valley.

“The relationship between Israel and the United States is based on shared interests and values, and is stronger than any prime minister. Netanyahu’s spinning of Israel’s citizens will end on September 17.”

Palestinian official: Netanyahu annexation bid ‘destroys chances of peace’

A senior Palestinian official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley if re-elected destroys all chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“He is not only destroying the two-state solution, he is destroying all chances of peace,” senior official Hanan Ashrawi tells AFP. “This is a total game changer.”

In a tweet, Ashrawi adds: “Netanyahu’s cheap pandering to his extremist racist base exposes his real political agenda of superimposing ‘greater Israel’ on all of historical Palestine & carrying out an ethnic cleansing agenda. All bets are off! Dangerous aggression. Perpetual conflict.”

Top Arab lawmaker: Annexation move part of right’s ‘apartheid vision’

Israel’s top Arab lawmaker, MK Ayman Odeh, slams Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley, but at least doesn’t call it “spin.”

“This isn’t just election spin,” he says, apparently responding to nearly every other faction on left and right that’s already called it that.

“The right’s apartheid vision is composed of two parallel processes — erasing the civil status of Arabs in Israel as well as annexing the territories. They don’t want to turn the West Bank into part of Israel, they want to turn Israel into an appendage of the West Bank.”

That vision, he warned, will lead to “a minority of Jewish citizens [who] will control a majority of Palestinian subjects denied their rights.”

Settlement advocacy group ‘fully anticipates’ annexations beyond Jordan Valley

Regavim, a pro-settlement advocacy group, is one of the few bodies congratulating Netanyahu for his promise to annex the Jordan Valley.

“More than five decades after the return of the Jewish People to Judea and Samaria, we congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu for taking a historic step toward the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the Jewish People in their ancestral homeland,” the group says.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement that immediately following the elections he intends to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is a historic moment in the history of the Jewish People, which took its first steps as a nation when it crossed into the Promised Land in the Jordan Valley. We fully anticipate that Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley will be the first step toward a much broader extension of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”

A Regavim spokesperson adds: “The first step toward sovereignty is law enforcement and establishing facts on the ground. Prime Minister Netanyahu: The true test will be in actions, not announcements – and it is your hands. We expect the State of Israel to take concrete steps to halt the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of the Jordan Valley in order to make Israeli sovereignty a reality.”

Erekat on Netanyahu annexation: ‘Israelis and the world must stop this insanity’

Senior Palestinian official and former top peace negotiator Saeb Erekat, who lives in Jericho in the Jordan Valley, slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to apply Israeli sovereignty over most of the area.

“Netanyahu announced his plan to annex the Jordan Valley and Palestine’s 37.2 kilometer shore along the Dead Sea,” Erekat tweets.

“If he succeeds, he will have buried any chance for peace for the next 100 years. Israelis and the international community must stop this insanity. Annexation is a crime. It means reinforcing apartheid, violence, extremism and the spilling of blood.”

Trump administration sees ‘no change in policy’ after Netanyahu annexation bid

A Trump administration official says “there is no change in United States policy at this time. We will release our Vision for Peace after the Israeli election and work to determine the best path forward to bring long sought security, opportunity and stability to the region.”

Lapid slams ‘election stunt,’ says PM ‘had 13 years’ to annex Jordan Valley

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid slams Netanyahu’s “election stunt.”

In a statement, he says: “Netanyahu has had 13 years as prime minister and no one stopped him from applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley. It’s an election stunt and not a very impressive one because it’s so transparent. He doesn’t want to annex territory, he wants to annex votes from [Yamina’s] Smotrich.”

Jordan Valley council head praises Netanyahu’s ‘courage and leadership’

Netanyahu speaks to Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani, who praises his “courage and leadership” in promising to apply Israeli sovereignty to the area.

“Thank you for your courage and leadership,” Elhayani says, according to a transcript of the conversation from Netanyahu’s office. “You made history! I’m proud that you’re the first prime minister who did this.”

Netanyahu replies: “The Jordan Valley is our iron wall toward the east. Thank you for the support. With God’s help we will win [the election] and do this.”

J Street calls on Congress to respond to Netanyahu annexation promise

The left-wing Washington advocacy group J Street, which backs a two-state solution and opposes Israeli annexation in the West Bank, calls on members of the US Congress to respond to Netanyahu’s annexation promise.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu made absolutely clear today that, if re-elected next week, he plans to annex large portions of the West Bank, make the occupation permanent and condemn millions of Palestinians to a future of living under unending Israeli rule, without basic civil rights or self-determination. These actions would destroy Israeli democracy and constitute a flagrant violation of international law,” the group’s head Jeremy Ben-Ami says in a statement.

“The Prime Minister also made clear his intention to secure President Trump’s full approval for these steps. Given that the administration’s clear embrace of settlement expansion, opposition to the two-state solution and contempt for Palestinian aspirations has helped to bring us to this point, there’s every reason to believe that the White House could soon give Netanyahu the green light. An official presidential endorsement of annexation could come at any minute in the next few days or weeks.

“To respond to this unprecedented threat, House leadership must immediately bring to the floor a vote on House Resolution 326, which clearly opposes annexation and affirms US support for the two-state solution — and already has the support of over 180 Members of Congress. Responsible lawmakers and presidential candidates must also make clear that they will not give the Israeli government a blank check to violate US interests and democratic values. They must make clear that annexation of any portion of the West Bank will lead to major consequences for the future of the US-Israel relationship.”

White House knew about Netanyahu annexation announcement — report

A source familiar with the Trump administration’s thinking says the White House was told about the Netanyahu annexation announcement before it was made, and does not think it precludes the possibility of a political settlement in the future.

Newest poll finds Blue and White ahead, and Otzma Yehudit in the Knesset

Channel 12’s newest poll sees the two most significant recent trends continue, with Blue and White pushing slightly ahead of Likud, while the extremist Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit squeaks into the Knesset with four seats.

The poll gives Blue and White 32 seats, Likud 31, the Arab Joint List 9, Yamina 9, Yisrael Beytenu 9, United Torah Judaism 7, Shas 7, the Democratic Camp 6, Labor 6 and Otzma Yehudit 4.

Asked who they thought was a better fit for prime minister, 40 percent say Benjamin Netanyahu, 32% say Benny Gantz.

Yamina’s Bennett slams Netanyahu as serial breaker of campaign promises

Yamina candidate Naftali Bennett slams Netanyahu’s annexation promise as “just words.”

He says in a statement: “I welcome Netanyahu’s string of promises, but these are just words. You can implement them immediately. I call on the prime minister to pass the ‘Jordan Valley Law’ by tomorrow in three readings, instead of the cameras law” pushed by Likud this week.

“[Former premier Menachem] Begin did it. He didn’t promise, he passed a law through all three [Knesset plenum] readings, in a single day, 14 December 1981.”

He noted a list of similar campaign promises Netanyahu has failed to implement in the past.

“Ahead of the last elections, Netanyahu promised to build in Ma’ale Adumim and the E1 area [east of Jerusalem], after the elections it didn’t happen.”

“Ahead of the last elections, Netanyahu promised a death penalty for terrorists, after the elections it didn’t happen.”

“Ahead of the last elections, Netanyahu promised to destroy Hamas, after the elections it didn’t happen.”

He concludes: “Since I’m still convinced in the prime minister’s honest intentions, I commit to make sure that all the lawmakers of Yamina will show up in any place and at any time to ensure the immediate passage of the Jordan Valley Law” annexing the area.

Jordan slams Netanyahu annexation vow as ‘dangerous escalation’

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi slams Netanyahu’s annexation promise.

In the Arabic statement, Safadi says: “We condemn Israel’s prime minister’s announcement — his intention to annex illegitimate Israeli settlements and apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern parts of the Dead Sea — as a dangerous escalation that undermines the foundations of the peace process, and [constitutes] an election move whose price will be the collapse of opportunities to solve the conflict, and will move the region towards more violence and crisis.”

US announces new sanctions against Hamas, Islamic State

The US says it is imposing new sanctions on a “wide range of terrorists and their supporters,” including Hamas and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Reuters reports.

The statement comes on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

“The sanctions targeted 15 leaders, individuals and entities affiliated with groups including Hamas, al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Iran’s IRGC,” Reuters says, citing a US Treasury Department statement.

Rocket sirens sound in Ashdod, Ashkelon

Rocket alarm sirens are sounding in Ashdod and in Ashkelon’s industrial zone.

Gaza rocket reportedly intercepted by Iron Dome

At least one Gazan rocket is intercepted by Iron Dome, according to initial reports.

No one is reported hurt in the attacks as residents race to their bomb shelters.

Five rockets shot at Ashdod, Ashkelon

At least five rockets are fired from Gaza toward Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Gaza rocket fire interrupts Netanyahu campaign event in Ashdod

The rocket fire from Gaza interrupts Netanyahu’s campaign speech in Ashdod, as it is carried live on Likud’s Facebook page.

Blue and White campaign event also disrupted by Gaza rockets

A Blue and White campaign event in Ashkelon is also interrupted by Gaza rocket fire tonight. The party’s no. 4 Gabi Ashkenazi headlined the event.

Officials say just two rockets fired from Gaza

Security forces are still searching for more fallen rockets, but report that just two rockets appear to have been fired from Gaza a short time ago — and not five as first reported.

One rocket headed toward the southern coastal city of Ashdod and was intercepted by an Iron Dome missile.

The second landed in an open area near Ashkelon.

After rocket siren sounds, Netanyahu urges audience to ‘quietly, quietly leave’

When the rocket siren sounds during Netanyahu’s speech at a campaign rally in Ashdod, the prime minister urges his audience to “quietly, quietly leave the area,” footage of the event shows.

He is then led away from the area by his security detail.

Ashkelon mayor orders city’s bomb shelters opened for residents

Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam orders bomb shelters opened in the city.

“Our residents are experienced, unfortunately. They know they need to listen to instructions by the [military’s] Homefront Command,” he tells Channel 12.

Woman, 46, suffers anxiety attack during rocket siren

One woman, 46, suffers an anxiety attack in Ashdod due to the rocket alert siren. She is taken to Asuta hospital in the city.

Hamas forces evacuating facilities in expectation of Israeli retaliation

Hamas forces are reportedly evacuating facilities throughout Gaza in expectation of Israeli retaliatory strikes following the rocket fire tonight.

Netanyahu returns to stage in Ashdod, continues campaign speech

Minutes after he was spirited away from an Ashdod campaign event amid rocket fire from Gaza at the southern city, Netanyahu returns to the stage to continue his speech.

IDF confirms rocket fire, interceptions

The IDF confirms that two rockets were shot from Gaza. Both were intercepted by Iron Dome batteries, the army says.

UN warns Israel over West Bank annexation plans

The United Nations warns Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his plan to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if reelected would have no “international legal effect.”

Netanyahu issued the pledge today as he gears up for the September 17 elections. He also said Israel would move to annex settlements throughout the West Bank.

“The secretary-general’s position has always been clear: unilateral actions are not helpful in the peace process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says.

“Any Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdictions and administration in the occupied West Bank is without any international legal effect,” the spokesman adds.

“Such a prospect would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace, and the very essence of a two-state solution.”

— AFP

Palestinians report IDF fire toward boats off Gaza coast

Palestinian media is claiming Israeli fire directed at boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

No injuries are reported.

There is no immediate comment from the IDF.

Iran calls Bolton ouster a ‘clear sign of defeat’ of US sanctions campaign

An aide to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the sacking of US National Security Adviser John Bolton is a sign Washington’s campaign of sanctions against Tehran is failing.

“Bolton’s marginalization and his subsequent removal isn’t an accident but a clear sign of the defeat of America’s maximum pressure strategy” against Iran, Hesameddin Ashena tweets.

— AFP

Political rivals tear into Netanyahu’s Gaza policy after rockets disrupt event

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election rivals tear into his strategy regarding the Gaza Strip after the premier is spirited away during a campaign event in Ashdod due to incoming rocket sirens.

Yair Lapid, co-leader of the Blue and White party, tweets: “a red alert this evening in Ashdod while Netanyahu is onstage is a red flag for the citizens of Israel. Netanyahu is done and can leave the stage.”

Labor leader Amir Peretz says: “Nothing is new. Unfortunately, Netanyahu again disappears while neglecting residents of the south. Real leadership requires dealing with the root of the problem, rather than hiding under Iron Dome’s shield.”

Right-wing figures also slam the premier. Yamina party member Naftali Bennett calls the incident “a national humiliation. Hamas has stopped fearing Israel. Israel’s security will be reinstated by assassinating Hamas chiefs, not press conferences.”

“Today’s event proves that Netanyahu’s policy, which is an effective surrender to terror, has gone bankrupt,” Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman says in a statement, adding that he, too, was in Ashdod for a campaign event when the sirens sounded.

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Woman, 46, suffers anxiety attack during rocket siren

One woman, 46, suffers an anxiety attack in Ashdod due to the rocket alert siren. She is taken to Asuta hospital in the city.