Israel: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TV: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

10 months after PM identified ‘secret atomic warehouse’ in Tehran, UN inspectors reportedly conclude that it was indeed used as a nuclear storage facility

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency have found traces of radioactive material at a building in Tehran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified last year as a “secret atomic warehouse,” an Israeli television report said on Thursday.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the site several times after Netanyahu identified it in an address to the UN General Assembly last September, took soil samples, and have now definitively concluded that there were “traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 news reported.

It quoted what it said were four senior Israeli officials involved in the matter, and said the UN agency’s findings had become known to these officials recently.

Iran has denied that the site was a nuclear facility or served any secretive purpose. In an initial response to Netanyahu’s UN speech, Iranian state media claimed the warehouse was actually a recycling facility for scrap metal.

Iran’s alleged ‘atomic warehouse’ in Turquzabad, Tehran (YouTube screenshot)

But the IAEA inspectors, who last visited the site in March, have reached a “definitive conclusion” that “there were traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 said, and are currently preparing a report on the matter.

The TV report noted that “the storing of radioactive material in a secret facility without informing the IAEA is a breach of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT], to which Iran is a signatory.”

Indicating that Washington is also aware of the IAEA inspectors’ findings, the TV report said that Israel and the US expect the agency to issue a public report on the matter shortly.

Coincidentally or otherwise, Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday by phone with US President Donald Trump about Iran. “The two leaders discussed cooperation between the United States and Israel in advancing shared national security interests, including efforts to prevent Iran’s malign actions in the region,” the White House said.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing a suspected “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran containing up to 300 tons of nuclear material. (GPO)

Speaking at the United Nations last September, Netanyahu called on the IAEA to inspect what he said was the “secret atomic warehouse” in the Iranian capital.

He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from the atomic warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents. The site may have contained as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, Netanyahu added. He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.

Netanyahu specified that there was a rug-cleaning business nearby: “Like the atomic archive [revealed by the prime minister in April], it’s another innocent-looking compound. Now, for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no-longer-secret atomic warehouse is on Maher Alley, Maher Street. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there, it’s 100 meters from the Kalishoi, the rug cleaning operation. By the way, I hear they do a fantastic job cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rugs.”

He added: “Now, countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on Maher Alley in the days and weeks ahead. The people they’ll see scurrying back and forth are Iranian officials desperately trying to finish the job of cleaning up that site. Because, you see, since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse.

“Just last month, they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material,” he went on. “You know what they did with it? They had 15 kilograms of radioactive material, they had to get it out of the site, so they took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence. The endangered residents of Tehran may want to know that they can get a Geiger counter on Amazon for only $29.99… They took this radioactive material and spread it around Tehran.

“Now, the Iranian officials cleaning out that site still have a lot of work to do because they’ve had at least, at least 15 ship containers, they’re gigantic, 15 ship containers full of nuclear related equipment and material stored there. Now, since each of those containers can hold 20 tons of material, this means that this site contains as much as 300 tons, 300 tons of nuclear related equipment and material.”

That speech came months after Israel’s disclosure that it had spirited away what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents from Tehran, with Netanyahu saying both the archive and the warehouse were proof that Iran continues to seek atomic weapons despite the 2015 international agreement to limit its nuclear program. “Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu told the UN.

A local businessman speaks to Tasnim news reporter near an alleged secret Iranian nuclear site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran on September 30, 2018. (screen capture: Tasnim)

Following Netanyahu’s UN appearance, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said nuclear inspectors had visited “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” while pushing back against the prime minister’s assertion that the organization had failed to act on intelligence provided by Israel on the warehouse.

Diplomats quoted in April, however, said the IAEA visited the site in Tehran’s Turquzabad district multiple times the previous month. They said tests were underway on environmental samples taken from the facility in order to determine if nuclear materials were present there. It was said then that results could be ready by June.

“We have nothing to hide and any access given to the IAEA so far has been in the framework of laws and regulations and nothing beyond that,” an Iranian official said at the time.

Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country was committed to nonproliferation and noted Iran’s nuclear program was under surveillance of the IAEA. A state TV website briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”

A Tasnim News reporter who visited the warehouse last October was told by a worker from inside the facility that it was not a military site, and that the Israeli leader was “a stupid person” for believing it was a nuclear warehouse. The reporter did not enter the facility, only speaking to the worker via intercom from outside the locked gate.

The owner of the nearby carpet cleaning business told Tasnim “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the warehouse, and asserted that Netanyahu was fed disinformation to “make him a fool.”

In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, right, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano shake hands for media at the start of their meeting at the Presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, December 18, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran when it was signed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, arguing that it would not stop but only delay Iran’s nuclear weapon program, while removing sanctions critical to curbing Tehran. He praised Trump for withdrawing from the accord in May.

Iran has denied it is seeking atomic weapons, while warning it would walk back its commitment to the nuclear accord if it does not receive economic inducements from its remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In recent days, it has breached the accord’s cap on uranium enrichment levels.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Israel: Liberman: We’ll force gov’t with Likud, Blue and White to block ultra-Orthodox

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Liberman: We’ll force gov’t with Likud, Blue and White to block ultra-Orthodox

Yisrael Beytenu leader promises ‘liberal-national’ coalition after elections; Likud: Cat is out the bag — Liberman wants leftist government; Blue and White: Better late than never

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman leaves after a faction meeting at the Knesset, on May 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman leaves after a faction meeting at the Knesset, on May 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said Saturday that after the upcoming elections he would force an “emergency” coalition with the Likud and Blue and White parties to block ultra-Orthodox parties from entering the government.

“We will impose a government with the Likud and Blue and White parties — it will be an emergency government, a liberal-national government. We will do everything to block the ultra-Orthodox; not to let them enter the government,” he told Channel 13 news.

Liberman, who used his party’s five seats to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a coalition after the April 9 elections, is aiming to again be kingmaker or king-breaker after September’s elections. His call for an emergency government involving both Likud and Blue and White amounts to a demand for a government without Netanyahu — though he did not spell this out in Saturday’s interview — since Blue and White, under its leader Benny Gantz, has said it will not sit in a coalition with Netanyahu, who is facing indictment, pending a hearing, in three criminal cases.

Asked whether he would again recommend Netanyahu as prime minister, might recommend another candidate, or would seek to become prime minister himself, Liberman was non-committal. But in recommending Netanyahu after April’s elections, he specified, Yisrael Beytenu had been “committing to an agenda” which it then became clear the coalition Netanyahu sought to build would not have followed. Yisrael Beytenu, he said dryly, had not been “crowning” Netanyahu “for life.”

Later Saturday, in a Facebook post, he added that “the representative of the party that wins the most seats will be the candidate to form a government.”

“Netanyahu is trying to focus the campaign on who will be prime minister,” Liberman said in the TV interview. “I think the much more critical question is what kind of government it will be.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in the assembly session in the plenum hall of the Israeli parliament, as the Israeli parliament vote on the Governance Bill, which among others will raise the electoral threshold. March 11, 2014. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90 )

A Likud, Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu coalition, without the ultra-Orthodox, Liberman added in his Facebook post later Saturday, would represent the will of “an overwhelming majority of the citizens of Israel.” He also ruled out a coalition in which the far-right Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir would be present.

He said he hoped Yisrael Beytenu would win enough seats in September in order to impose such a coalition. He said he’d heard ultra-Orthodox leaders saying they’d refuse to sit in a government with Liberman, and he accepted this completely. “You’ve convinced me,” he said. What was required, he said, was a government without the ultra-Orthodox. He referred to his longtime friend Aryeh Deri, leader of the Shas ultra-Orthodox party, as “my former friend.” And he complained that while Israel was currently facing a budgetary crisis, “the only place they’re not planning to cut is [in funding for ultra-Orthodox] yeshivas.”

The Likud party responded to Liberman, saying: “The cat is out the bag — Liberman says explicitly that he is willing to go with [Blue and White No.2 Yair] Lapid and Gantz, and force the establishment of a leftist government. Anyone who wants a right-wing government must vote only for the Likud party, headed by Netanyahu.”

Gantz’s Blue and White party also issued a statement, saying: “Better late than never. If Liberman had come to this conclusion before he and his party voted for the dispersal of the Knesset, they would have avoided unnecessary elections for the people of Israel.”

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at the Knesset, June 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben-Gvir slammed Liberman, saying he “once again proves that he is deep on the left, and lacks any ideological backbone.”

The Knesset voted to disband itself and called new elections for September 17, after Netanyahu failed to broker a compromise between right-wing secular Yisrael Beytenu and ultra-Orthodox parties in the wake of the April 9 elections. Netanyahu was thus unable to muster a majority coalition.

Initial polls have suggested Liberman may emerge from the coalition standoff in a stronger position, and increase his party’s five Knesset seats to eight or nine in the September election.

Liberman had repeatedly said he backed Netanyahu for prime minister, but would only join the government if there was a commitment to pass, unaltered, the Defense Ministry version of a bill regulating the draft of the ultra-Orthodox into the military. That version of the bill is opposed by ultra-Orthodox parties, who want to soften its terms.

Liberman said last month that he would not back Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister, but refused to be drawn on whether he would support Netanyahu.

Last week the Kan public broadcaster reported that during the failed coalition talks a month ago, Netanyahu agreed to an ultra-Orthodox demand to allow for gender segregation in public spaces.

A leaked draft of Likud’s agreement with the Haredi United Torah Judaism party stated that “within 90 days the government will amend the law in such a way that it will be permissible to provide public services, public study sessions and public events in which men and women are separated. This separation will not constitute discrimination according to the law.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hosted by Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party (left), at a meal to celebrate the birth of Litzman’s grandson, June 18, 2017. (Shlomi Cohen/FLASH90)

The draft agreement also barred individuals from filing a civil suit against municipal organizers of such events on the grounds of gender discrimination.

Ultra-Orthodox groups have pressed in the past to have gender segregated events or facilities, like public transport, but the moves have been knocked down by the courts, which ruled it constituted discrimination.

On Saturday, Yisrael Beytenu MK Evgeny Sova condemned the army’s punishment of a soldier who put dairy and milk in the same fridge on a base, warning it could portend further religious strictures on troops.

“Today they forbid putting milk and meat together in the same fridge. Tomorrow they’ll forbid girls from enlisting in the army. In two days we’ll become the army for the defense of Jewish law,” Sova said.

Liberman on Saturday also attacked the Likud party’s recent announcement of the appointment of a new “special adviser” for Israel’s Russian-speaking community.

Ariel Bulshtein (Courtesy of EAJC)

The adviser, attorney Ariel Bulshtein, will help Likud target a demographic that will be vital for its campaign — right-leaning immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The move is meant to help the party’s efforts to siphon votes away Liberman, whose hard-nosed demands stymied Netanyahu’s efforts to build a coalition by the May 29 deadline.

“It’s an insult to the intelligence and an insult to the dignity of the [Russian] immigrants — Netanyahu has no idea what he is talking about,” Liberman said.

Netanyahu has blamed the Yisrael Beytenu party chief for “dragging the country to unnecessary elections.” Notably, it was Netanyahu who decided to call new elections. The more natural course of events would have been to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he had failed to form a coalition, at which point the president could have tasked another member of parliament with trying to do so.

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JUNE 16, 2019
CURRENT TOP STORIES

US envoy Greenblatt backs Friedman on Israel’s ‘right’ to annex some settlements

White House could delay rolling out long-awaited peace plan until November, due to political turmoil in Israel, says special envoy

L-R: US President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO/File)

L-R: US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO/File)

US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt on Sunday backed comments by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, in support of Israel retaining some parts of the West Bank.

Greenblatt participated in the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York, where he was asked about comments made by Friedman published by the New York Times last weekend.

“I will let David’s comments stand for themselves,” said Greenblatt. “I think he said them elegantly and I support his comments.”

In an interview published by the New York Times last Saturday, Friedman said that some degree of annexation of the West Bank would be legitimate.

“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” Friedman said.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, on March 26, 2019. (Jim Watson/AFP)

An anonymous American official later said Israel has not presented a plan for annexation of any of the West Bank, and no such plan is under discussion with the US.

Greenblatt spoke days before the US is set to lay out an economic component of its long-awaited Mideast peace plan on June 25 and 26 in Bahrain, where Gulf Arab states are expected to make pledges to boost the troubled Palestinian economy.

But it is not clear when the political aspects of the plan — which is expected to avoid calling for the creation of a Palestinian state — will be unveiled.

At the conference Sunday, Greenblatt also signaled that the White House might delay the full publication of its long-awaited peace plan until November, due to political turmoil in Israel, though he said no final decision had been made.

He said that the Trump administration would have published a blueprint for its peace plan this summer if Israel had not dissolved its parliament last month and declared another election — the second in a year — for September 2019.

“The new elections have thrown us off,” Greenblatt said.

Trump’s own reelection campaign for US president “should not be an obstacle,” he added.

In his remarks, Greenblatt conceded that there were limits to Arab concessions to the Jewish state.

Jared Kushner alongside a member of the Saudi delegation at a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2018. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

“There is a limit how far the Arabs will go with Israel, they don’t want to sell out the Palestinians,” he said. “We are not going to push any country to go further than they are comfortable.”

However, he warned that “failure will put this in the box for a long time.” Such a development would be “a tragedy for the Palestinian people.”

Greenblatt also stressed that Washington is not seeking to oust the current Palestinian Authority leadership, which has already said it will reject the peace plan, but rather is hoping that the Palestinian people will be able to decide for themselves if they want to accept the peace deal or not.

“We are not looking for regime change in PA,” he said, before adding that “there is no question” the Palestinian people have the right to see what the plan offers before they decide.

During campaigning for the general election in April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to gradually annex West Bank Jewish settlements, a move long supported by nearly all lawmakers, in his alliance of right-wing and religious parties, and said he hoped to do so with US support.

Friedman, in the New York Times interview, declined to specify how the US might respond to unilateral Israeli annexation, saying: “We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves… These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire — report

Monitor says Iranian, Hezbollah targets hit in airstrikes; IDF says Syrian military positions targeted, including anti-aircraft battery, after 2 rockets fired at Golan on Saturday

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson's unit)

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson’s unit)

Seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed in Israel Defense Forces airstrikes on several military targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Sunday morning in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights on Saturday night, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did not specify the nationalities of the foreigners, but in an earlier statement said that Iranian and Hezbollah targets were hit in the strikes.

Beginning at 4:10 a.m., Israel Defense Forces helicopters and planes attacked several targets connected to the Syrian army, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence outposts, and an SA-2 type air defense unit, the IDF said in a statement.

Syrian media reported that Israel also struck several targets connected to Iran and is proxy militias in Syria, in the area of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. These strikes reportedly targeted weapons caches and a military training facility.

The Israeli army refrained from specifying who it believes fired the two rockets at the Golan Heights — one of which landed inside Israeli territory, the other in Syria — but said it “sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.”

The observation and intelligence targets bombed by Israel were located near the border with the Golan Heights, while the artillery and anti-aircraft batteries were south and south-west of Damascus, the IDF said.

During the exchange, Israeli air defense systems fired in response to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but no projectiles were believed to have landed inside Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that Israel will continue to respond to any attacks on its territory.

“We are not prepared to tolerate firing into our territory and we react with great force against any aggression against us,” the prime minister, who also serves as defense minister, said in a statement. “This is a consistent policy that I lead and so we will continue to do for the sake of Israel’s security.”

Syria’s official SANA news agency said that three Syrian soldiers had been killed and seven injured in the attack, and claimed that Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles coming from the Golan Heights. The attack also caused material damage, the report said.

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

Last night, 2 rockets were launched from Syria to Israel, 1 landing within Israeli territory. In response, we struck a number of Syrian Armed Forces military targets.

Video insertado

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

The Syrian Armed Forces targets we struck included:
🎯 2 artillery batteries
🎯 Observation & intel posts
🎯 An SA-2 aerial defense battery

We hold the Syrian regime accountable and will firmly operate against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians. pic.twitter.com/XtDTqz7Btc

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The two projectiles fired at Israel on Saturday caused no injuries or damage.

The incoming rockets did not trigger alert sirens. These alarms are typically only activated in cases where a projectile is heading toward a populated area, rather than an open field.

The launches came less than a week after a limited clash between Israel and Syria.

On Monday, a Syrian anti-aircraft battery fired at an Israeli fighter jet that was flying within Israeli airspace. Shortly afterward, in response, the IDF attacked the battery and destroyed it, reportedly killing a Syrian officer and soldier. A military vehicle was also said damaged in the attack.

Saturday night’s rockets appeared to be a relatively long-range variety, reportedly fired from the Damascus area, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, similar to an attack earlier this year aimed at Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is located in the northern tip of Israel’s Golan Heights. In addition to a popular ski resort, the area is also home to a number of military installations.

In January, Iranian troops in Syria fired a medium-range, Iranian-made missile at Mount Hermon in what the IDF said at the time was a “premeditated” attack aimed at deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes against the Islamic republic’s troops and proxies in Syria.

The incoming projectile was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Last Saturday, Syria said its air defenses shot down a number of missiles fired from Israel, a day after making a similar claim.

Toward the start of the Syrian civil war, the Israeli military established a number of “red lines” that if violated would result in a retaliatory strike, including any attacks — intentional or otherwise — against Israel.

They also included Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and attempts to transfer advanced munitions to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in response to these “red line” violations.

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Israel: Netanyahu’s legal problems mount as AG won’t delay his hearing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TV report: Netanyahu’s legal problems mount as AG won’t delay his hearing

Following his resort to new elections, PM may now run out of time to pass legislation aimed at evading prosecution in three graft cases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Taking a stance that could drastically reduce Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of avoiding prosecution in three corruption cases, Israeli state prosecutors will reportedly reject any request by his lawyers to defer his pre-indictment hearing beyond its scheduled date at the start of October.

The reports Thursday night also said that the attorney general is aiming to wrap up the Netanyahu cases before the end of the year. If so, Netanyahu, who on Wednesday night called new elections for September 17 having failed to build a governing majority after the April 9 elections, may not now have time to pass planned legislation aimed at protecting him from prosecution.

Netanyahu is facing indictment on three counts of fraud and breach of trust, and one of bribery, pending the hearing — his final opportunity to persuade the attorney general not to file charges against him. The hearing was originally set for July, but was postponed earlier this month to October 2-3, with the possibility of a final session a week later. The prime minister’s lawyers had sought a full year’s delay — a request that was dismissed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who ruled that a speedy resolution of the matter was in the public interest.

Now that Israel is to hold new general elections in September, with Netanyahu having failed to put together a majority coalition after the April 9 election, his lawyers are widely expected to seek another delay in the hearing process. But senior officials in the state prosecution and law enforcement hierarchies quoted at length in TV news broadcasts Thursday night firmly rejected the idea.

“We will not agree to a further delay in the hearing,” a source quoted by Channel 13 news said. “Netanyahu has enough time to prepare for it. He intends to use the matter of [new] elections to seek another postponement? Let him try. It won’t work for him. He has plenty of time to prepare as necessary.”

In similar vein, Channel 12 quoted sources declaring that the announcement of new elections would “not have slightest impact” on the Netanyahu corruption cases. “The date for the hearing has been fixed, and it won’t move a millimeter,” a source was quoted saying.

The officials also noted that it is Netanyahu’s lawyers, rather than the suspect himself, who will appear at the hearing.

Netanyahu is widely reported to have tried to build a coalition after April 9’s election in which his Likud MKs and their allies would initiate or back legislative efforts to enable him to avoid prosecution — first by easing his path to gaining immunity via the Knesset, and then by canceling the Supreme Court’s authority to overturn such immunity.

This latter change would be achieved as part of a wide-ranging reform of the Supreme Court’s role, under which Israel’s justices would be denied their current quasi-constitutional authority to “override” legislation, and Knesset and government decisions, deemed unconstitutional. Plans for this “override” legislation have been described as marking a potential constitutional revolution in Israel, that would shatter the checks and balances at the heart of Israeli democracy.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit addresses an Israel Bar Association event in Eilat, May 27, 2019 (screen grab via Channel 13)

Mandelblit earlier this week castigated planned changes to the current immunity law as being apparently designed to help Netanyahu rather than being in the genuine interest of constructive reform. As for the so-called override bill, he said that it would cause “direct harm to the country’s citizens, who will be left exposed to the possibility of arbitrary decisions by the government. The individual will not have any protection from actions which… may in an extreme case, ignore the individual’s rights and so harm him illegally.”

Earlier this week, as Netanyahu struggled to muster a majority coalition, his associates were said to have warned him that snap elections would likely deny him the time needed to pass legislation shielding him from prosecution. Nonetheless, on Wednesday night, when he concluded that he could not muster a majority, he pushed through a vote to disperse the 21st Knesset, which was only sworn in a month ago, and set Israel on the path to new elections on September 17. He chose this course rather than allow for a different Knesset member, possibly opposition leader Benny Gantz, to have a turn at trying to build a majority coalition.

Netanyahu is widely expected to now seek a delay in the hearing process, by arguing that the recourse to new elections means he will not have sufficient time to prepare for the October hearing. “He chose to support new elections,” Channel 12 quoted a legal official saying in response. “That’s up to him.”

Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust in the three cases against him, and for bribery in one of them, in February. The prime minister’s attorneys requested, and were granted, that the case files not be handed over prior to the April 9 national election in order to prevent information from leaking to the media and affecting the vote.

But after the election, the lawyers refrained for another month from collecting the material, citing a dispute over their fees. They have been accused of engaging in delay tactics.

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for extension of his remand in Case 4000, February 22, 2018. (Flash90)

Netanyahu denies all the allegations against him, and has claimed they stem from a witch hunt designed to oust him, which he claims is supported by the left-wing opposition, the media, the police and the state prosecution, headed by a “weak” attorney general.

Case 1000 involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in exchange for favors; Case 2000 involves accusations that Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth; and Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, involves accusations that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, in exchange for positive coverage from its Walla news site.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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Israel: The People Have Spoken. They Want To Live In Netanyahu’s Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel

Israelis were not under-informed or unfairly swayed. They knew what they’d get with a 5th term of Netanyahu. The result was the highest vote ever for right & ultra-Orthodox parties

David Horovitz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The people have spoken. And a week after the elections, with the president now in the midst of consultations with our newly elected politicians ahead of the formation of our next government, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the people actually said.

They knew that Benjamin Netanyahu was facing criminal charges in three cases, unless he could persuade the attorney general of his innocence. They knew that he had castigated the opposition, the media, the cops and the state prosecutors for purportedly seeking to frame him as part of a political vendetta to oust him. They knew that, if re elected, he might try to use existing or new legislation to avoid being prosecuted, and would likely seek to stay on as prime minister even if he were to be prosecuted. And that, if reelected, he would make the case that the public had given him a mandate to offset the state prosecutors’ recommendations that he be put on trial.

They knew. And 26.45% of the voting Israeli public chose Likud — a vast number, by Israeli standards, 1,139,079 out of the 4,306,520 legitimate ballots cast nationwide.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They knew that they had a clear alternative to four more years of a Netanyahu-led Israel, embodied in a party led by three former IDF chiefs of staff — an unprecedented assemblage of security expertise, in a country where security concerns always figure at the very top of voting considerations. They saw Netanyahu portray that party, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, as a group of weak leftists. Even though it included Netanyahu’s own former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, whose public positions are more hawkish than those of Netanyahu, and even though Netanyahu in 2013 extended Gantz’s term as IDF chief by an additional year in the most overt illustration possible of the confidence he then had in Gantz’s security leadership capabilities.

Members of the Blue White political party Benny Gantz (second left), Moshe Yaalon (right), Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and Yair Lapid hold a press conference at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 10, 2019, a day after the elections. (Flash90)

They watched Netanyahu’s Likud depict Gantz as mentally unstable. They watched Netanyahu attempt to make political capital out of a bizarre saga involving the reported Iranian hacking of Gantz’s phone — a saga in which Gantz and his colleagues did not provide a clear-cut explanation of what had gone on. They watched Gantz veer between an attempted statesmanlike, high-ground approach to beating Netanyahu and a lower-ground trading of insults and accusations.

They watched Netanyahu broker a deal that legitimized the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party as part of a new Union of Right-Wing Parties that would partner Netanyahu in any new Likud-led coalition. They watched URWP’s Bezalel Smotrich declare he’d set his heart on becoming minister of education. They watched the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked vow to curb the power of the Supreme Court if she continued as justice minister.

They watched. And they made their choice. Very few voters from the right of the political spectrum threw their support behind Gantz and the other generals. While Blue and White also topped the million-vote count — 1,124,805 — much of its support came from the center and the now decimated Labor, and that wasn’t enough to thwart Netanyahu’s fifth election victory.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They recognized other likely and possible implications of another Netanyahu victory. He’d vowed in the final days of the campaign to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements — a move that, if realized, would have major consequences for what was once called the peace process. It was clear his most reliable coalition partners would be the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism — on whose behalf he reluctantly froze the Western Wall compromise deal, and whose key agenda items include making Israel more Shabbat-observant and minimizing the number of young ultra-Orthodox males required to share the rights and responsibilities of military and national service.

Self-evidently, enough Israeli voters either share this agenda or are not deterred by it. Enough to hand Netanyahu another term.

The people have spoken.

Residents of the Gaza envelope communities of southern Israel have for years complained about Netanyahu’s policies in dealing with Hamas. They have protested that the government has turned them into rocket fodder. Sderot, the most rocket-battered city of all, voted 43.52% for Netanyahu’s Likud. (The next most popular party was Yisrael Beytenu at 10.14%.) To the east of Gaza, Netivot voted 32.46% Likud (second only to 33.35% Shas.) Ashkelon, to the north, voted 42.61% Likud (followed by Blue and White at 15.62%). By contrast, kibbutzim and moshavim in the Gaza periphery area generally voted overwhelmingly for Blue and White.

The people have spoken.

Early on election day, reports started circulating about Likud-paid activists bringing hidden cameras into polling stations in Arab areas. Some of those involved have since acknowledged that they were indeed acting on behalf of Likud; a PR agency has claimed responsibility, saying it was hired by Likud; the Likud party’s lawyer, on the day, claimed the operation was open and legal, and necessary to ensure the “integrity” of the vote in districts ostensibly prone to voter fraud; Netanyahu himself championed the use of public cameras for the same purpose. (Needless to say, the Central Elections Committee has its own, nonpartisan procedures for preventing election fraud.) In fact, ruled the judge overseeing the elections, the deployment of the cameras was illicit; the equipment was ordered removed.

Israel’s voters watched and read about all these developments in real time.

Some analysts have suggested that the camera gambit depressed Arab turnout — it’s not comfortable showing up to do your democratic duty, as members of a minority that was traduced by the prime minister on the previous election day, when you hear on the news that you’re going to be filmed in the process by his supporters. Arab turnout does appear to have been down last week (an estimated 52%) as compared to 2015 (an estimated 63.7%). And while the Joint (Arab) List won 13 seats in the last Knesset, its constituent parties, now running in two separate lists, managed only 10 this time.

But if the camera ploy worked to Netanyahu’s advantage, possibly costing his political rivals a seat or three, and maybe boosting support for a Likud seen to be taking on the Arabs, there was a more dramatic arithmetical factor on the right-hand side of the spectrum that worked against him. Between Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right (138,491 votes, or 3.22% of the national total) and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut (117,670 votes; 2.73% of the national total), a staggering 6% of right-wing votes went down the drain — a potential six or seven more Knesset seats for a Netanyahu-led coalition. And yet Netanyahu still has a clear, if complex, path (involving reconciling the ultra-Orthodox parties with the fiercely secular Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu) to a 65-strong coalition.

Over 57% of counted votes went to right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud; Shas; UTJ; Yisrael Beytenu; United Right-Wing Parties; Kulanu; The New Right; Zehut, and Gesher). This is the highest proportion in Israeli history. Only 34% went to centrist and left of center Zionist parties (Blue and White, Labor and Meretz).

The two ultra-Orthodox parties, it is worth noting, had repeatedly stressed in the run-up to polling day that they would only consider joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. Even when the polls closed and for a brief moment Gantz was claiming victory on the basis of a predictably inaccurate exit poll, UTJ rushed to say that it would go into the opposition with Netanyahu rather than partner with Gantz.

Menachem Begin, center, speaks to supporters at his party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on May 18, 1977, as they celebrate the Likud Bloc’s election to government after 29 years of Israeli Labor Party rule. (AP Photo)

By way of comparison, the 2015 elections saw over 56% voting for right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home, Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Yachad). In 2013, the comparable figure was 48% (Likud, Jewish Home, Shas, UTJ, Otzma LeYisrael). In 2009, it was 54% (Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, UTJ, National Union and Jewish Home).

Going way back to 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud first won power, the comparable proportion was about 53% — and that’s including the then-relatively centrist National Religious Party, which had partnered with Labor-led governments for the past three decades.

The people have spoken.

Were some worried by Gantz’s warnings that Netanyahu is turning Israel into Turkey — becoming our un-oustable leader, gradually marginalizing opposition, taking control of ever more of the media, bending the cops and the prosecutors and the courts to his will? Doubtless, many were. But not enough to unseat him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a voting slip for his Likud party in a video filmed at a beach in Netanya on election day, April 9, 2019. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The people saw Gantz caught by a camera in his car, toward the end of election day, looking exhausted. They saw Netanyahu, sweating in his suit on the beach at Netanya, imploring potential supporters to get out of the sea and vote Likud.

The people saw everything, internalized what they chose to internalize, and made their decision. No nefarious forces, as far as we know, skewed these elections. The public was not under-informed; nor was it disaffected. The turnout was a healthy 67.9% (compared to 61.4% in the 2016 US presidential elections, or 66.1% in 2015’s British parliamentary elections).

The people want to live in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

Israelis’ choice. Israelis’ consequences.

Note: Figures cited in this piece for the 2019 elections are from the completed-count totals announced by the Central Elections Committee at midnight on April 11; the totals have fluctuated slightly since then, and are to be made official on April 16.

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

Move comes 3 weeks after Trump recognizes Israeli sovereignty over Heights; Mideast envoy Greenblatt tweets picture of the map that also refers to West Bank as Israeli-occupied

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

The US has for the first time published a map showing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, three weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau.

US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted a picture of the map on Tuesday, saying: “Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system.”

The map shows the 1974 ceasefire line between Israel and Syria as a permanent border, whereas the border with Lebanon continues to be demarcated as the 1949 armistice line.

The map also notes that the West Bank is Israeli-occupied, with its final status to be determined in peace talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a security tour in the Golan Heights, near Israel’s northern border with Syria, on April 11, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

And it notes that while the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, it does not take a position on the boundaries of the holy city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state.

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after @POTUS issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights

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However, while the map was updated, text attached to the Israel entry in the latest CIA world factbook, which included the map, continued to call East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights “Israeli occupied.”

Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan sparked widespread international condemnation. The announcement in late March was a major shift in American policy and gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a needed political boost ahead of April elections.

US President Donald Trump, seated, holds up a signed proclamation on the Golan Heights, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing center, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. Second from right is Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and at right is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and in 1981 effectively annexed the area, in a move never recognized by the rest of international community, which considers the Golan Heights to be occupied Syrian territory.

The map was published with the US indicating it may also be on board with Israel annexing West Bank settlements.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements would hurt the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan.

His comments would appear to indicate that the US plan does not provide for Palestinian statehood, or even for Palestinian control of substantive contiguous territory in the West Bank.

Asked during a CNN interview by anchor Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could hurt the US proposal, Pompeo answered “I don’t.”

“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he added.

“We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 21, 2019, during the second day of Pompeo’s visit as part of his five-day regional tour of the Middle East. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

He said the Trump administration wanted “a better life” for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In interviews days before the elections, Netanyahu said he intended to gradually apply Israeli law to all settlements, and that he hoped he could do so with the agreement of the United States.

On Tuesday, a coalition of more than a dozen conservative groups, most of them Jewish, sent a letter to Trump tacitly asking him to respect a potential Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements.

The letter comes in response to a coalition of centrist and liberal groups who last week urged Trump not to recognize a potential Israeli West Bank annexation.

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Joined by Netanyahu, Brazilian president makes trailblazing trip to Western Wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Joined by Netanyahu, Brazilian president makes trailblazing trip to Western Wall

Braving Jerusalem rain, Bolsonaro becomes first foreign head of state to be accompanied by Israeli PM on visit to the holy site

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touch the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of  Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touch the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was joined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall on Monday, becoming the first foreign head of state to visit the site together with a senior Israeli official.

His unprecedented step could be seen as a tacit recognition of Israeli sovereignty over that location in Jerusalem’s Old City, which the international community generally considers occupied Palestinian territory. The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

After Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch read a chapter from the Book of Psalms, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro approached the wall, braving the rainy Jerusalem weather.

After the Brazilian president placed a note in one of the cracks, the two leaders leaned against the ancient stones for several seconds in quiet contemplation.

After the short ceremony, they toured the Western Wall tunnels, which are located underneath the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro visits the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem’s Old City with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 1, 2019 (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

At a visitors center, the two men viewed a virtual reality recreation of the Jewish temple that once stood on the Temple Mount.

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During his election campaign, and even in the weeks that followed his victory, Bolsonaro promised to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead in transferring his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. But before he arrived in Israel on Sunday morning, he appeared to backtrack, indicating that he would open a trade mission in the city instead.

Meeting Netanyahu on Sunday, Bolsonaro announced the opening of a “trade, technology and innovation office” that would be “an official office of the Government of Brazil, in Jerusalem,” the prime minister said.

“I hope that this is a first step toward the opening in time of the Brazilian embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said on Sunday evening during a joint press appearance at the Prime Minister’s Residence on the capital’s Balfour Street.

“Recognizing the historic ties of Jerusalem with the Jewish identity and that the city is the political heart of the State of Israel, I announced today that Brazil will open there a Brazilian office to promote trade, investment and exchange in innovation and technology,” Bolsonaro tweeted later that night.

Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

Reconhecendo os vínculos históricos de Jerusalém com a identidade judaica e também que a cidade é o coração político do Estado de Israel, anunciei hoje que o Brasil abrirá lá um escritório brasileiro para promoção do comércio, investimentos e intercâmbio em inovação e tecnologia.

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So far, the US and Guatemala are the only countries to have their embassies in Jerusalem. Paraguay moved its embassy to the city last year, but has since relocated it to Tel Aviv.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă on March 24 announced that her country would move its embassy to Jerusalem, but an actual relocation seems unlikely because President Klaus Iohannis — who is staunchly opposed to the move — has the last word on the matter.

On the same day, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández announced his intention to “immediately” open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem that would “extend our embassy to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem.”

In recent weeks, several countries have opened or announced plans to open trade or cultural centers in the capital, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

The international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and so visiting foreign dignitaries generally refrain from going there in the company of Israeli officials.

Those who do want to tour the holy site usually do so in a private capacity, though in recent months an increasing number of foreign leaders have defied standard protocol and allowed Israeli diplomats to join them at the wall.

On March 20, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first American top diplomat to visit the site together with an Israeli prime minister, underlining the recent trend.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 21, 2019, during the second day of Pompeo’s visit as part of his five-day regional tour of the Middle East. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
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Hamas Tell’s Brazil’s President What He Can And Cannot Do?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL 247)

 

Israel’s Government Collapses Amid Corruption Charges and Trump’s Mideast Chaos

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE BEAST’ NEWS)

 

Israel’s Government Collapses Amid Corruption Charges and Trump’s Mideast Chaos

The specific issue that brought down Bibi’s government was subsidies for ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers. Still, he thinks he’ll win at the polls again in April.

Amir Cohen/Reuters

JERUSALEM — In the most expected surprise declaration of 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the dissolution of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and elections to be held in early April.

The move comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump roiled the region with the startling announcement he was immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, and as his long-anticipated plan to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians appears to be have shriveled.

A 2019 electoral campaign was inevitable, in fact. Netanyahu’s four-year mandate runs out in November 2019, but Monday’s unforeseen move became inescapable when Netanyahu was unable to muster the necessary votes to pass a popular law levying heavier fines against orthodox Jewish seminary students who dodge Israel’s otherwise universal draft of 18-years-olds on religious grounds.

Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition members opposed the law, and two opposition parties that had initially hinted at support withdrew it due to fears Netanyahu and his religious political partners had cut a secret deal providing financial compensation to counterbalance fines imposed on draft dodgers.

Elections have been in the air since Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation last month, which left the survival of Netanyahu’s coalition hanging by a single Knesset vote.

Lieberman has since taunted Netanyahu for his “government for survival,” but the prime minister remains the most popular leader in Israel’s rambunctious multi-part political process.

The next three months will see Bibi, as Netanyahu is widely known, confront unprecedented tests, none more challenging than his own precarious legal predicament.

Following police and state attorney recommendations that he be indicted on several corruption charges, senior Israeli jurists say his prosecution appears inevitable.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, an essential partner in any future Netanyahu government, restated on Monday that no minister, and no prime minister, can continue to serve if indicted.

Israel’s Justice Ministry issued a rare statement reassuring the public that its work in sifting through the legal recommendations will continue “as usual” despite the announcement of elections.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointee who will make the final determination, said at a conference last week that Israeli law has not yet had to decide whether a sitting prime minister may remain in office if facing legal prosecution.

In recent years, both a president and a prime minister resigned when facing almost certain indictment,. Both eventually served time in prison.

Speaking to a quickly assembled meeting of his parliamentary faction, and ignoring the legal drama, Netanyahu forecast victory in the April vote and said the coalition he currently leads—the most right-wing in Israeli history and one of the most volatile— is “the seed” for his future government.

Listing his administration’s achievements, Netanyahu ignored instability in the financial markets that saw the Tel Aviv stock exchange lose more than 5 percent of its value since U.S. President Donald Trump’s startling decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, where they have provided crucial support for Israeli efforts to contain and halt Iranian entrenchment.

Lauding his government’s “four full years of achievements,” Netanyahu praised Israel as “a growing power, with flourishing diplomatic ties” with continental powerhouse nations such as India, Brazil and Australia, far from Israel’s historic allies.

After extolling ties with “west and east Europe, and central Europe, and Latin America,” Netanyahu extolled Israel’s alliance “with the United States that has never been stronger, with the historic decision made by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

“Israel has the eighth most powerful military on earth,” he boasted to his followers. “It is hard to believe, Israel is not a large country, but serious institutions rank us that high.”

Netanyahu: Denying Israel’s right to exist is the ‘ultimate’ anti-Semitism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu: Denying Israel’s right to exist is the ‘ultimate’ anti-Semitism

Reacting to poll on hatred of Jews in Europe, PM refrains from criticizing right-wing governments accused of employing anti-Semitic tropes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official state ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official state ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that denial of Israel’s right to exist is the “ultimate” form of anti-Semitism.

Asked in an interview with the CNN to react to a poll from the network indicating over 20 percent of Europeans believe Jews have “too much influence” across the world, Netanyahu accused the extreme left and radical Islam of perpetuating the world’s oldest hatred, while refraining from criticizing right-wing leaders accused of using anti-Semitic tropes.

“I’m concerned because I think anti-Semitism is an ancient disease that rears its ugly head. It first attacks the Jews, but it never stops with them. It then sweeps entire societies,” he said.

Despite this concern, Netanyahu commended “most of the European countries’ governments” for working to combat anti-Semitism, specifically naming German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Netanyahu focused much of his criticism of European anti-Semitism from what he dubbed “new anti-Semitism,” which he differentiated from the “old anti-Semitism in Europe that came from the extreme right.”

Protesters on the Place du Chatelet in Paris demonstrating against Israel, April 1, 2017. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

“There’s also new anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme left and also the radical Islamic pockets in Europe that spew forth these slanders and lies about Israel, the only democracy in this entire region, the only one that has the courts, human rights, rights for all religions, gays, everything, I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” he said.

Asked about Hungary and Poland, whose right-wing leaders have been accused of employing anti-Semitic imagery, Netanyahu said he did not believe the two countries’ governments were doing so and said the real problem is calls for Israel’s destruction.

“I don’t think they do and I think that ultimately the real issue is can we tolerate the idea that people say that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, which I think is the ultimate anti-Semitic statement,” he said.

“Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, anti-Israeli policies, the idea that the Jewish people don’t have the right to a state, that’s the ultimate anti-Semitism of today,” Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu’s focus on denial of Israel’s right to exist was notable in comparison to other reactions to the CNN survey, which focused on the historical persistence of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest diseases – racism being another such disease – for which there is no vaccine,” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said in statement. “This disease must be fought before it spreads, and becomes a pandemic. History teaches that if anti-Semitism isn’t dealt with at an early stage, it will threaten people’s lives, as we saw in Pittsburgh.”

“The teaching of the most horrific mass murder in history — the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe during the Second World War — must be taught as part of any curriculum in schools throughout Europe. Especially its lessons and conclusions.”

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance center, said in statement it was “troubled by the lack of Holocaust awareness and the state of anti-Semitism in Europe” revealed in the CNN survey.

Thousands of protesters attend a rally against anti-Semitism near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Sunday, September 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)

“The survey highlights the troubling fact that many entrenched hateful anti-Semitic tropes persist in European civilization, 75 years after the end of the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem said in a statement. “While anti-Semitism does not necessarily lead to genocide, anti-Semitism was central to the Nazis’ worldview and the basis for their ‘Final Solution’ to eradicate all Jews and their culture from the face of the earth.”

Yad Vashem said the survey shows the need to “intensify broad-based efforts in the area of Holocaust education and awareness, which is essential to any effort to contend with anti-Semitism.”

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told CNN that “there will always be people who have anti-Semitic feelings and I don’t know if the number has grown, but this new situation today is they feel that it’s more acceptable socially that they can express these opinions out loud.

“The feeling beforehand was, ‘This is what I believe but don’t tell anyone,’” he added. “It was not perfect but at least there was a social taboo against anti-Semitism.”

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also minister for Diaspora Affairs, struck a similar note to Netanyahu.

“We have always known that for many, being anti-Israel is a natural extension of their anti-Semitic beliefs. This has an impact both on their attitudes to history and to the present,” he said.

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