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Netanyahu announces total curfew for Jewish Passover holiday

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Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late on Monday announced an absolute lockdown for the first days of the one-week Jewish Passover holiday, which starts at sundown on Wednesday.

To prevent a repetition of a mass outbreak of coronavirus that followed the Purim holiday in early March, Israelis would not be allowed to leave their neighbourhoods from 1700 GMT on Tuesday until 0500 on Friday.

They would not be allowed to leave their homes at all from 1600 GMT on Wednesday, the eve of the holiday celebrated by a normally festive family dinner, until 0500 GMT the next day.

“We are in a fateful week. There is certainly an improving trend,” he told a televised news conference.

“But whoever thinks we can end (the lockdown) with ‘Bam!’ and it’s over with, is making a bitter mistake.

“Pesach WILL NOT be Purim”, he added, using the Hebrew word for Passover.

Police units would be dispersed throughout the country to enforce the total lockdown.

A gradual release of the lockdown, which had thus far been partial, would only be possible after Passover, Netanyahu said.

YEE

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
(NAN)

Emmanuel Yashim: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

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Netanyahu suffering from ‘paranoid delusion’ – Opposition leader

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Netanyahu

Jerusalem, May 25, 2020  An Israeli opposition leader said on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was suffering from a “paranoid delusion” if he thought that his corruption trial was only aimed at removing him from office.

A spokesman cited opposition leader Yair Lapid as saying that someone who believes that thousands of people including investigators, journalists, judges, and politicians were part of a vast conspiracy to topple a right-wing leader “isn’t fit to be prime minister.”

Netanyahu launched a fiery tirade against Israel’s justice system on Sunday as the corruption trial against him got under way.

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister was officially indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in January.

The 70-year-old is accused of offering political favours in return for positive press coverage, and helping wealthy business contacts in return for gifts including champagne and cigars.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied all accusations against him.

The trial comes one week after he was sworn in as the head of an emergency unity government including his Likud party and the centrist Blue and White Alliance of his former main rival Benny Gantz.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Defiant Netanyahu goes on trial in Israel charged with corruption

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Defiant Netanyahu goes on trial in Israel charged with corruption

Jerusalem, May 24, 2020   Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday became the first serving Israeli Prime Minister to go on trial, proclaiming his innocence in the corridor before walking into court to face charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes the hand of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following their meeting in Jerusalem (Photo by Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP)

The trial came a week after Israel’s longest-serving leader was sworn in to a record fifth term, demonstrating his knack for survival by securing an unexpected power-sharing deal with his main opponent after three inconclusive elections in a year.

He says the cases against him are a left-wing plot to unseat him.

Netanyahu, 70, was indicted in November in cases involving gifts from millionaire friends and for allegedly seeking regulatory favours for media tycoons in return for favourable coverage.

He appeared at Jerusalem District Court flanked by a clutch of cabinet ministers from his right-wing Likud party.

In the courtroom, Netanyahu and the judges wore face masks because of the coronavirus crisis.

One of the judges asked Netanyahu whether he had read and understood the indictment. He replied: “Yes, your Honour.”

The hearing lasted an hour. The court excused Netanyahu from appearing in person at the next hearing set for July 19. Israeli analysts say the trial could last months or even years.

Before the hearing, Netanyahu appealed to public opinion, taking off his mask to address television cameras in the courthouse hallway.

“These investigations were tainted and stitched-up from the first moment,” Netanyahu said.

“I am appearing here today as your prime minister, standing tall and with head high,” he said.

In a statement, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said prosecutors “will continue to conduct themselves without fear, even given the preposterous attempt – which should be rejected out of hand – to ascribe ulterior motives to law-enforcement authorities”.

Supporters, some in masks, rallied outside the East Jerusalem building, their chants of “Bibi, King of Israel”, using his nickname, audible in the courthouse.

One supporter’s sign read: “You’ll never walk alone”. Many waved blue-and-white Israeli flags.

Anti-Netanyahu demonstrators gathered outside his residence in central Jerusalem holding up a banner reading “Crime Minister,” a slogan that also appeared on some face masks.

Netanyahu, in power now for 11 straight years plus three in the 1990s, kept the position of prime minister by securing the power-sharing deal last month with his main opponent, the centrist former general Benny Gantz.

The pact also opens the way for Netanyahu to proceed towards a pledged annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, land that Palestinians envisage as part of a future independent state.

Bribery charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine. Fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

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2nd LD-Writethru: Opening session of Israel’s Netanyahu corruption trial concludes

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First hearing in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial was concluded on Sunday afternoon, with defense lawyers asking for a six-month delay in the proceedings.

Live broadcast on all Israel’s main TV channels showed Netanyahu entering the small courtroom, surrounded by his bodyguards. He did not sit down before making sure all the photographers left the room to avoid a picture of him sitting at the defendants’ bench.

At the start of the hour-long session at the Jerusalem District Court, Netanyahu was required to confirm that he had read and understood his indictment.

Netanyahu’s lawyers then asked to delay the discussions for at least six months, saying they need to go through “300 folders” of evidence and require additional time to prepare for the trial. The prosecution objected, saying the defense team had more than a year to read the materials and prepare.

The judges are expected to publish their decision by Tuesday.

Upon arriving at the court, Netanyahu launched an all-out attack against the justice system, charging the trial is a conspiracy by media, police, prosecution, and the left-wing to oust him.

With his right-wing Likud party ministers standing around him, wearing masks, Netanyahu accused the justice system of carrying out “an attempt to eliminate the will of the people” and an “attempt to depose a strong right-wing leader.”

Hundreds have rallied outside the court, protesting in support of Netanyahu and against him.

The opening of the trial marks the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister is facing criminal trial.

Netanyahu appeared at the hearing after the three-judge panel rejected last week his request to skip the opening hearing.

The unprecedented trial started a week after Israel’s longest-serving leader had been sworn-in for a fifth term.

Netanyahu is indicted with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. In an affair dubbed by the police, “Case 4000,” Netanyahu allegedly took bribes from Shaul Elovitch, a former control-holder of Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecom company, by giving Bezeq financial and regulatory benefits.

During the alleged offenses, Netanyahu was the communication minister in addition to his capacity as prime minister.

In exchange, Elovitch, a close friend of Netanyahu, allegedly required Walla, a news site controlled by Elovitch, to provide favorable coverage of the Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

In “Case 1000,” Netanyahu and his family allegedly received expensive cigars, champagne, and jewelry worth about 1 million new shekels (268,200 U.S. dollars) from the Israeli businessman and Hollywood tycoon, Arnon Milchan, between 2007 and 2016.

In “Case 2000,” Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel’s largest newspapers, allegedly held talks over an exchange deal, in which Netanyahu would receive favorable coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth.

(XINHUA)

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Israel’s longest-serving PM Netanyahu to stand trial for suspected corruption

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-awaited criminal trial is set to begin in a Jerusalem courtroom on Sunday, marking the first time Israel will see an incumbent prime minster stand trial.

Netanyahu will face the opening hearing of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court at 3 p.m. local time (1200 GMT), after a three-judge panel rejected last week his request to skip the opening hearing.

His charges on bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases will be read and he will be requested to announce his understanding of them, as part of the regular procedure in Israeli proceedings.

Even before its opening, the trial has become a clashing point between Netanyahu and his supporters and Israel’s legal system.

Netanyahu and his allies frequently lash out at the legal system over the trial, with much of the fire focusing on Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit.

The 56-year-old official was a close ally of Netanyahu when the prime minister nominated him as the attorney general in 2016, but after he took the unprecedented move and pressed charges against a sitting leader, he became a frequent target of attacks by Netanyahu’s supporters.

On Thursday, Minister for Cyber and National Digital Matters, David Amsalem, a close ally of Netanyahu, slammed Mandelblit, calling him an “alleged criminal.”

In an interview for Israel’s Army Radio, Amsalem called on to launch an investigation against Mandelblit, charging the attorney general was involved in illegalities around the appointment of the military’s chief 10 years ago.

Yariv Levin, Likud’s speaker of the parliament and Netanyahu close associate, said in a statement on Sunday that the opening of the trial “will be remembered as one of the low points of the Israeli legal system.”

“Likud voters don’t believe the premise created by prosecutors,” Amir Ohana, public security minister and one of the ministers who plan to accompany Netanyahu, told Channel 12 TV news.

Channel 12 TV reported that “thousands” of Netanyahu’s supporters plan to rally outside the court and in several locations in Jerusalem to protest against the opening of the trial.

According to the indictment, in a corruption affair dubbed “Case 4000,” Netanyahu allegedly took bribes from Shaul Elovitch, a former control-holder of Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecom company, by giving Bezeq financial and regulatory benefits.

During the alleged offenses, Netanyahu was the communication minister in addition to his capacity as prime minister.

In exchange, Elovitch, a close friend of Netanyahu, allegedly required Walla, a news site controlled by Elovitch, to provide favorable coverage of the Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

In “Case 1000,” Netanyahu and his family allegedly received expensive cigars, champagne, and jewellery worth about 1 million new shekels (268,200 U.S. dollars) from the Israeli businessman and Hollywood tycoon, Arnon Milchan, between 2007 and 2016.

In “Case 2000,” Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel’s largest newspapers, allegedly held talks over an exchange deal, in which Netanyahu would receive favorable coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth.

Netanyahu, the first prime minister in Israel’s history to stand trial while in office, denies the allegations, charging they are part of “a witch hunt.”

The trial, including the expected appeals, could take several years.

(XINHUA)

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Israeli court orders Netanyahu to attend trial’s opening

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The Israeli court on Wednesday ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appear at the first court session of his upcoming corruption trial.

The Jerusalem District Court rejected a request filed by Netanyahu’s lawyers on Tuesday to exempt him from appearing for the opening hearing.

The lawyers argued that Netanyahu’s presence was unnecessary because he had “read this indictment several times already,” and the five bodyguards needed to secure his arrival would cost the public coffers “a fortune.”

The presence of defendants in their opening session is a regular procedure in Israel.

The trial will begin on May 24 at the Jerusalem District Court.

On Sunday, Israel’s longest-serving leader was sworn in his rare power-sharing government together with his former rival, Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, breaking a year and a half of political stalemate following three rounds of inconclusive elections.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust should have begun in March but was postponed to May 24 because of lockdown restrictions amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Netanyahu, the first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to stand trial, denies all allegations as part of “a witch hunt.”

The trial, including the expected appeals, could take several years.

(XINHUA)

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Netanyahu asks for pass on attending his corruption trial opening

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed on Tuesday a request not to stand before the court at the opening session of his criminal trial next week.

In the request, Netanyahu’s lawyers say that his presence was “unnecessary” and would cost “a fortune.” According to the lawyers, the prime minister’s attending in court would require five security guards.

The request was submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, where the trial of the long-serving leader will begin on Sunday, hours after the justice ministry said that he should not be exempted, as the presence of defendants in their opening session is a regular procedure.

In a statement, the justice ministry said that it “does not see a reason to deviate from the distinguished court’s decision on the presence of the defendants.” The ministry also noted “the importance of justice being seen to be done, and of public trust” during the unprecedented trial.

The moves came only two days after Netanyahu has sworn-in his new power-sharing government together with his former rival, Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party. The unusual unity government broke a year and a half of political stalemate following three rounds of inconclusive elections.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust had been set to begin in March but was postponed to May 24 due to lockdown restrictions amidst the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Netanyahu, the first prime minister in Israel’s history to stand to trial while in office, denies the allegations, charging they are part of “a witch hunt.”

The trial, including the expected appeals, could take several years.

(XINHUA)

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Netanyahu’s new Israeli government eyes West Bank annexations

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Jerusalem, May 17, 2020 Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new unity government on Sunday expressed determination to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.

West Bank is a territory Palestinians want for their own independent state.

“These regions are where the Jewish nation was born and rose. It is time to apply Israeli law on them and write another great chapter in the annals of Zionism,” he said.

But while Netanyahu has set July 1 as a starting point for cabinet discussions on the highly contentious issue, there is no publicly stated deadline for annexation of land that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinians have vehemently opposed such a move, urging international sanctions against Israel in response. It would be certain to heighten tensions in the West Bank and Gaza.

“These colonial and expansionist positions confirm once again his (Netanyahu’s) ideological enmity towards peace,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Israel’s parliament on Sunday approved Netanyahu’s new unity government, ending more than a year of political deadlock.

Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu, 70, first came to power in 1996 and has served three consecutive terms since 2009. He goes on trial on May 24 on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud, which he denies.

“The people wanted unity, and that is what it got,” Netanyahu told parliament, citing a desire to steer clear of a fourth election and the need for a national battle against the coronavirus crisis.

Lawmakers ratified the new administration by a vote of 73 to 46.

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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Israel’s Netanyahu sworn in at head of long-awaited unity government

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Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister at the head of a unity government with former rival Benny Gantz, ending a nearly 18-month political crisis.

The unity deal with former military chief of staff Gantz means Netanyahu has been able to hang on to power for a record fifth term despite corruption charges against him and a looming trial.

Gantz, who is due to replace Netanyahu as prime minister in November 2021, was sworn in as defence minister minutes after Netanyahu.

The ceremony comes after three elections in under a year – the last on March 2 – ended without a clear winner.

Gantz has said that the need for a stable Israeli government to tackle the coronavirus outbreak drove him to break his vow never to serve with Netanyahu.

According to deal between the two sides, Netanyahu may ask his cabinet or the Knesset as early as July 1 to vote on annexing West Bank land with Jewish settlements.

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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Israel’s Netanyahu, Gantz present unity govt, hail crisis’ end 

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Government

Jerusalem, May 17, 2020 Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz hailed the end of an unprecedented one-and-a-half-year political crisis on Sunday as they presented their long-awaited unity government.

“This is an important day for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu told the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, hours before he would be sworn in and start a fourth consecutive term in office, and one week before his corruption trial is set to start in a Jerusalem court.

On May 7, Israel’s top court rejected petitions against the indicted premier starting a fifth term in office, removing the final obstacle for the unity government and cementing the 70-year-old’s reputation as a political wizard, who survives against all odds.

“The time has come to extend the Israeli law over (Israel’s) settlements (in the occupied West Bank) and to start a new chapter in the history of Zionism,” Netanyahu said, a step that would bring peace with the Palestinians “closer” and be carried out with the approval of the U.S.

Former military chief Gantz justified his “difficult decision” to break his vow never to serve with the indicted Netanyahu, saying the choice had been “either unity, or kind of civil war”.

The two men were greeted by loud heckling by opposition lawmakers, one of whom was ushered out of the Knesset by security.

The festive parliament session – delayed twice in the past week – followed three inconclusive elections in a year.

The last of those was on March 2 – after which neither right-wing Likud party leader Netanyahu, nor centrist Blue and White alliance leader Gantz had proved able to muster a majority for a governing coalition.

Gantz broke his long-time vow never to serve with the indicted Netanyahu.

He said Israel needed a stable government to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout and could not afford a fourth election.

Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history – will share the premiership on a rotating basis with Gantz.

Netanyahu will be the first to head the biggest government in Israel’s history for a period of 18 months.

He told parliament that Gantz would replace him on Nov. 17, 2021.

While Netanyahu is premier, Gantz is to serve as “alternate prime minister” – a new, specially created title – and defence minister.

Netanyahu met members of his Likud almost up until the start of the Knesset session, completing the distribution of portfolios only shortly before.

His trial on charges of corruption is set to begin on Sunday, May 24. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Incoming opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the unprecedented size – at least 34, and up to 36 ministers – of the government as wasteful, as more than a quarter of Israel’s working population had filed for unemployment benefits amid the coronavirus lockdown.

“You can place one minister next to the bed of each coronavirus patient,” he said cynically.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Netanyahu presents new Israeli power-sharing gov’t to parliament

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his new power-sharing government to the parliament on Sunday, breaking one and a half year of political stalemate.

Under the power-sharing deal agreed in April, the right-wing leader will remain prime minister for 18 months before being replaced by his former rival Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party.

During the 18 months, Gantz, Israel’s former military chief, will serve as defense minister and alternate prime minister, a title that has never existed before in Israeli politics.

“This is a national unity and emergency government,” Netanyahu told parliament during his speech, citing the COVID-19 crisis and its economic impact.

“The public wants unity, and that is what it got,” Netanyahu said, referring to widespread calls to avoid a fourth election after three rounds of inconclusive ones in about a year.

Reiterating his campaign promise to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, he said the Israeli law should be imposed on the West Bank, an area seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and where the Palestinians wish to build their future state.

The new unity deal opens the way for Netanyahu to proceed with his annexation plan, which is almost certain to irk the Palestinians as well as most of Israel’s European allies.

It is worth noting that the government’s swearing-in comes just a week before Netanyahu’s criminal trial over his suspected corruption.

Speaking after Netanyahu, Gantz said the inauguration of the government ends the “worst political crisis in its history.”

Repeatedly interrupted by his former allies, now in the opposition, Gantz warned that the alternative to the government was “the brink of civil war.”

With 36 ministers and 16 deputy ones, the new power-sharing government will be the largest one in Israel’s history, a result of weeks of negotiation in an effort to please Netanyahu’s coalition partners.

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party of Yesh Atid and leader of the opposition, slammed the size of the government, labelling the ongoing coronavirus epidemic “an excuse for a corrupt party at the expense of the taxpayers.”

“There are fewer than 50 coronavirus patients on ventilators in Israel, but we have more ministers and deputy ministers than patients on life support,” Lapid, Gantz’s alley during the elections, told the parliament.

Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving leader. He was first elected as prime minister in 1996 and has served three consecutive terms since 2009.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud will start on May 27, but he denies any wrong-doing, slamming the allegations as part of “a witch hunt.”

(XINHUA)

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Netanyahu-Gantz new Israeli unity gov’t sworn in

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A new Israeli unity government was sworn in on Sunday after three previous elections yielded no conclusive results in more than a year.

The unprecedented power-sharing government was agreed on in April by Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party, and his former rival Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue and White party.

The 35th Israeli government will have Netanyahu as its prime minister for 18 months before he is replaced by Gantz who will first serve as an alternate prime minister, a title that has never existed before in Israeli politics.

The swearing-in ceremony was initially scheduled for Thursday but was postponed because of political infighting in the Likud.

The new government was inaugurated amid wide criticism and protest against the high number of ministers and the financial cost incurred.

Much of the fire was aimed at Gantz over his agreement to sit in a coalition with Netanyahu after his promise not to do so for Netanyahu’s suspected corruption was a key part of his election campaign in March.

(XINHUA)

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Netanyahu announces success in forming new gov’t

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally notified the president on Wednesday that he was able to form a government, after 18-month-long political deadlock.

In a letter to President Reuven Rivlin and Speaker of the Parliament Benny Gantz, Netanyahu informed them that he has “succeeded in forming a government,” which he will present to the parliament on Thursday.

Netanyahu was tasked by Rivlin to put together a new government after Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, failed to do so following the March 2 elections.

Netanyahu and Gantz, two former bitter rivals, signed a deal to form a power-sharing government in April. Under the unprecedented agreement, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for at least 18 months before being replaced by Gantz.

Gantz will serve as defense minister and “alternate prime minister,” a title not existed before in Israeli politics.

Gantz resigned as speaker of the parliament on Tuesday night, ahead of the swearing-in of the new government. In place of Gantz, Yariv Levin, tourism minister and Netanyahu’s close associate, will be appointed as the speaker.

Netanyahu’s long-time pro-settler ally, the Yamina party, apparently will not join the government. Both Yamina, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and Netanyahu’s Likud party announced on Wednesday that they could not reach an agreement over which portfolios will be held by Yamina.

The new government will be inaugurated after three rounds of elections that produced inconclusive results and some 18 months during which Israel did not have a permanent government, paralyzing Israel’s political arena.

(XINHUA)

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Israel’s attorney-general green-lights Netanyahu for forming gov’t despite corruption trial

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Israel’s attorney-general said on Thursday that no legal grounds exist for preventing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from serving as prime minister during his corruption trial.

In an opinion submitted to the Supreme Court, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said the criminal charges against Netanyahu raise “significant misgivings” but “does not justify a judicial intervention” to bar the long-time leader from forming a new government.

The opinion was part of discussions held at the Supreme Court over a series of petitions submitted by anti-corruption groups and high-profile public figures from the academy, high-tech, and the security system, including two former Shin Bet security service chiefs. They asked the top court to ban Netanyahu from serving as prime minister for his criminal indictment.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli parliament approved in the first reading a bill to enable the unity government deal between Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party and his former chief rival Benny Gantz’ centrist Blue and White party.

Under the unusual power-sharing deal signed on April 20, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months before being replaced by Gantz.

The unity government deal was achieved after three rounds of elections that produced inconclusive results in about a year.

The bill still needs two more full rounds of readings in the parliament before getting its final approvement.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and calls the allegations part of “a witch-hunt.”

His trial is scheduled to begin on May 24 in the Jerusalem District Court.

(XINHUA)

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Netanyahu says Israel will fight any threats on Memorial Day

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned during a Memorial Day ceremony on Tuesday that his country “will always be prepared for a military campaign to fight off threats.”

The remarks were made at Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, in Jerusalem during the main ceremony of the Memorial Day to commemorate fallen soldiers and people killed in attacks.

As part of the country’s efforts to halt the novel coronavirus outbreak, the somber ceremony, typically attended by hundreds of bereaved families and senior officials, was attended by 19 officials, including President Reuven Rivlin who stood in distance wearing masks.

Netanyahu himself did not attend the ceremony but sent pre-recorded remarks on video.

He warned that “everyone needs to know that we will always be prepared for a military campaign to fight off threats.”

Israel was starting to come out of the lockdown over the past few days but the government decided to tighten the restrictions to prevent big gatherings during the Memorial Day and the following Independence Day.

At the beginning of the Memorial Day on Monday, most cemeteries in the country were shut down under government requirements, in order to prevent bereaved families from visiting the graves of their loved ones. Families typically visit the graves of their fallen relatives on this day.

Hundreds of ceremonies that were typically held in cemeteries, city halls, and schools were canceled, or instead, being held with the attendance by a small number of participants or online.

The commemoration of the Day of Remembrance of Fallen Soldiers is marked a week after the Holocaust Remembrance Day, and precedes the celebrations of the Israeli Independence Day which will begin on Tuesday evening and continues through Wednesday.

(XINHUA)

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Israel’s Labor party joins Netanyahu-Gantz unity gov’t

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Israel’s Labor party voted on Sunday to join a government headed by its long-time rival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Members of the left-wing Labor’s central committee approved to join the unity government being formed by Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party and Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue and White party.

Some 64.2 percent of members of the central committee voted in favor of joining the government, the party said in a statement.

Labor’s leader Amir Peretz announced last week that he agrees to join the new government.

Local media reported that Peretz is planned to serve as the economy minister while another Labor lawmaker, Itzik Smhuli, will serve as labor and social services minister.

The power of the Labor, once Israel’s ruling party, has shrunk dramatically over the past years. In the March 2 election, it ran in a unity with Meretz and Gesher, two other left-wing parties. Altogether, they won seven seats in the 120-seat parliament.

Meretz, which refused to join a government headed by Netanyahu, has split out of the unity and will take the seats of the opposition.

During their elections campaign, Peretz and the Labor had repeatedly vowed not to seat in a government with Netanyahu due to a series of criminal cases in which the long-time leader is a suspect. Netanyahu’s corruption trial is scheduled to begin on May 24.

The new governing coalition will apparently include also Shas and United Torah Judaism, two Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties, and Yemina, a far-right pro-settler party.

Under the power-sharing deal signed a week ago between Netanyahu and Gantz, Netanyahu will serve as a prime minister for 18 months before rotating with Gantz.
(XINHUA)

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Israeli NGO resubmits petition to stop Netanyahu forming government

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Israeli civil rights activists again submitted a petition to the Supreme Court against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, in response to a coalition agreement that would see the indicted premier remain in the role for more than a year.

A legal adviser for the Movement for Quality Government, which submitted the petition, said the non-profit group wanted to prevent Netanyahu from serving as prime minister due to corruption charges.

Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly accepting expensive gifts from wealthy businessmen and trying to get sympathetic press coverage in return for favours.

His trial was delayed two months, to May 24, due to the coronavirus.

Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, agreed to form a national emergency government on Monday.

As part of the agreement, according to both sides, the two men will rotate the prime minister role, with Netanyahu first holding the position for a year-and-a-half before being replaced by Gantz, starting from October 2021.

The non-profit group submitted a similar petition to the High Court, right after March 2 elections, but the court dismissed it as premature.

According to Israeli law, a prime minister does not have to resign after being indicted.

However, it is unclear whether Netanyahu can be tasked with forming a government.

According to Israeli television, the Supreme Court has asked the state for a statement by Thursday.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Israeli PM Netanyahu, main rival Gantz ink emergency unity gov’t deal

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, signed on Monday a deal to form an emergency unity government.

The deal, between Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party and Gantz’s centrist White and Blue party, ends more than a year of a political stalemate.

“We have a national emergency government,” Gantz wrote on Twitter.

He said the deal has spared Israel a fourth round of elections in about a year, vowing “to fight the coronavirus and serve the entire people of Israel.”

“I secured a national emergency government that will act to save the lives and the livelihood of the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a separate statement issued by his office.

Under the power-sharing deal, a copy of which was seen by Xinhua, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months before being replaced by Gantz, who will serve the post for another 18 months, as part of a rotation deal that will be bound by law.

Before taking the helm, Gantz will serve as defense minister, while Gabi Ashkenazi, a former military chief from Blue and White, will serve as foreign minister.

The governing coalition will also include a bloc of Jewish ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, which sit in Netanyahu’s current government.

The deal put under question Netanyahu’s controversial promise to annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, which was a major part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called peace plan for the Middle East.

The deal does not straightforwardly cancel the annexation but states that such a move could be made only if it will not harm regional stability and future prospects for peace.

The Palestinians firmly oppose the annexation because the Jordan Valley is part of the West Bank, a territory seized by Israel in a 1967 war, where the Palestinians wish to build their future state.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab-Jewish Joint List party, Israel’s third-largest party, criticized Gantz for choosing to join forces with “the corruption and racism.”

The deal “is a slap in the face of the majority of citizens who repeatedly voted to oust Netanyahu,” Odeh wrote on Twitter, referring to Gantz’s main campaign promise that he will not sit in a government with Netanyahu as a prime minister.

The deal comes a day after more than 2,000 Israelis took to Tel Aviv’s main plaza, calling for Netanyahu’s resignation over a series of criminal cases in which he is involved.

The opening session of his trial is scheduled to begin on May 24, where he will face a series of corruption charges.

Many lawmakers with the opposition criticized the size of the government and its high costs during the economic crisis inflicted by the coronavirus, with about a quarter of the Israelis becoming unemployed.

Under the deal, the government will include up to 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, the largest government in the history of Israel.

“This is Gantz’s and Ashkanzi’s only contribution to the war against unemployment,” Ofer Shelah, a lawmaker with Yesh Atid, a centrist party and Gantz’s former partner, wrote on Twitter.

The deal comes after a period of 484 days in which Israel has an interim government in the wake of three rounds of inconclusive elections in about a year.
(XINHUA)

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Israel’s Netanyahu, Gantz sign unity government deal

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, signed on Monday a deal to form an “emergency” unity government to break an unprecedented political deadlock and deal with the novel coronavirus crisis, parties of the two leaders said.
(XINHUA)

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Israel’s Netanyahu, Gantz to meet in bid to ink unity deal

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz said they will meet on Monday night amidst reports over a looming deal to form an emergency unity government.

The two leaders issued a joint statement, saying they will meet in the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem in an effort to ink a unity agreement that would break an unprecedented yearlong political deadlock and to deal with the novel coronavirus crisis.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV news reported that a deal has been achieved and is expected to be signed later on Monday.

An official with the party of Blue and White, who is involved in the negotiations, confirmed to Xinhua that a compromise in a controversy over the mechanism for appointing judges was achieved, apparently paving the way for a final deal.

However, the official, speaking on conditions of anonymity because he was not in a position to comment on the issue, declined to confirm when a deal could be signed.

On Monday morning, Netanyahu and Gantz met after negotiations teams held overnight talks, solving most of the differences. Local media reported that the two were very close to signing a deal but the meeting adjourned without an agreement.

Gantz, speaker of the Israeli parliament and leader of the centrist party of Blue and White, said after the meeting that he will enable lawmakers to promote bills banning people who were indicted from running in elections. Such a law means Netanyahu, whose corruption trial is scheduled to begin in May, could not be re-elected.

Israel’s political arena has been paralyzed after three consecutive votes in under a year produced inconclusive results.
(XINHUA)

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Israel’s Netanyahu, rival Gantz back at negotiating table

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, on Tuesday met to continue trying to form a national emergency government ahead of a looming deadline.

According to Gantz’s spokesperson, both sides resumed negotiations after talks that went into the early hours of Tuesday produced significant progress, currently holds the mandate to try his hand at forming a government.

His mandate was to run out at midnight (2100 GMT) on Monday, but President Reuven Rivlin extended the deadline to Wednesday.

Rivlin, who originally said he would not extend the mandate, reversed course after the request for an extension was brought with the support of both sides with the understanding that they were very close to reaching an agreement.

Meanwhile, the two rivals had accelerated efforts to form an emergency unity government to cope with the coronavirus outbreak and economic crisis.

Israel has been led by a caretaker government under Netanyahu since the end of 2018. After the country’s third election within the span of one year on March 2, neither side won a parliamentary majority.

Gantz received the mandate to form the government after receiving the backing of other lawmakers, but his efforts to form a coalition with Netanyahu, who is facing corruption charges, broke up his alliance.

Gantz and his centrist Blue and White had repeatedly promised during elections that they would not sit in government with Netanyahu.

However, Gantz reversed course in March, saying that he would put all his efforts into building a coalition government with Netanyahu in light of the coronavirus crisis, and to avoid a fourth election.

According to media reports, one of the main sticking points is the demand by Netanyahu’s Likud party for veto rights on judicial appointments.
Netanyahu also wants a guarantee that the Supreme Court will not deny him the Prime Minister role due to his corruption charges.

Netanyahu is charged with offering political favours to media moguls and wealthy businessmen in return for positive media coverage and expensive gifts, an allegation he denied.

However, his trial would commence in May, having being postponed due to the coronavirus.

“If talks stall once again, I will hand the task of building a government over to the parliament, or Knesset.

“In that instance, any lawmaker, including Gantz and Netanyahu, who manages to gain the support of 61 others in the 120-seat Knesset within 21 days will be given two weeks to try to form a government.

“If that fails, Israel will hold its fourth election since April 2019,“Rivlin said.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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