Israel’s Netanyahu Under Precautionary COVID-19 Quarantine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on December 1, 2019.
Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close aides have been placed under quarantine after a staffer within his office tested positive for COVID-19, a statement and Israeli media said.

“Before the epidemiological investigation was completed and to dispel any doubts, the prime minister decided that he and his close staff would be in confinement until (tests) were completed,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

The statement did not mention the positive test of a staffer, but multiple Israeli media outlets have reported the case, which was confirmed to AFP by separate sources.

AFP

Netanyahu’s Ally Resigns As Speaker Of Israel Parliament

FILES) In this file photo taken on May 16, 2018 Israeli parliament (Knesset) speaker Yuli Edelstein gestures prior to attending a session of Questions to the government at the French National Assembly in Paris, as part of his state visit to France.  Eric Feferberg / AFP

 

A right-wing ally of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped down as speaker of parliament on Wednesday in a blow to the embattled premier, the latest development in a months-long political crisis.

Yuli Edelstein’s resignation paved the way for Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz, who is trying to form a government, to place an ally in the powerful post.

That could spell new risks for the premier as he faces trial for alleged corruption.

Lawmakers who oppose Netanyahu have pushed for a law blocking him from remaining prime minister while facing the charges, all of which he denies.

Edelstein, a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, had refused to schedule a speakership vote until a new government was formed, resigning instead after the Supreme Court set a Wednesday deadline for the vote.

“The High Court ruling constitutes a crude and arrogant intervention of the judiciary in the matters of the elected legislature,” Edelstein said.

“I won’t allow Israel to descend into anarchy. I won’t lend a hand to civil war,” he said as the court’s deadline approached.

“I hereby resign from my position as Knesset speaker.”

His departure, however, would take effect only in 48 hours.

That means he remains bound to call the vote on Wednesday in line with the Supreme Court order, according to attorney general Avichai Mandelblit.

Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party petitioned the Supreme Court, seeking to have Edelstein held in contempt.

But Edelstein doubled down, insisting he would not schedule the vote for Wednesday.

“My conscience does not let me obey the ruling, which is why I resigned,” he told the court on Wednesday, noting his replacement could decide on the matter.

“I have no desire to hold the esteemed court in contempt, but in the light of its ruling, I have found myself in an impossible position, which is why I resigned,” he said.

In an address later Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin said it was “the duty of every one of us to obey the rulings of the courts, and that it is inconceivable that anyone would not do so.”

Political turmoil 

The latest drama came after a year of political turmoil that has seen three inconclusive elections, followed by Netanyahu imposing strict legal and security measures against a novel coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 2,000 Israelis.

Anti-Netanyahu forces claimed 62 seats in the 120-member Knesset in the March 2 election, with the premier’s right-wing party and its religious allies winning 58.

Gantz has been tasked with trying to form a government.

That proved impossible following two previous elections last year, given the deep divisions within the anti-Netanyahu bloc which includes the mainly Arab Joint List and its bitter rival, the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party.

There was no guarantee Gantz would fare better this time, fuelling calls from many sides for a short-term unity government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the divides within the anti-Netanyahu camp, it has been unified in backing legislation that would bar anyone under criminal indictment from serving as prime minister.

Removing Edelstein as a speaker could expedite that legislation.

But Netanyahu has made a series of offers to Gantz on forming a unity government, including deals that would see the premier’s job rotate between the two men.

“There’s deep unrest among all parts of the nation, we must put it aside,” he said in a televised address late Wednesday focusing on anti-coronavirus measures.

“I call for the immediate formation of a national unity government to deal with the crisis.”

As he announced his resignation, Edelstein also said Israel needed a unity government “as a pandemic endangers us from without”.

“We all need to act like human beings, to act, to unify, to rise above,” he said.

AFP

Netanyahu Backs Legalisation Of Recreational Cannabis

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 20, 2017 A man smokes marijuana on Parliament Hill on 4/20 in Ottawa, Ontario. Lars Hagberg / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he was pushing to legalise recreational cannabis in the Jewish state, along the lines enacted by Canada in 2018.

Israel has already partially decriminalised recreational marijuana use, setting fines and treatment for initial offenders instead of criminal prosecution.

It allows tightly-regulated use of the drug for medicinal purposes and its cultivation and export by government-licenced growers.

Writing on his Facebook page Netanyahu said that a committee chaired by newly-appointed justice minister Amir Ohana would look at implementing lessons from Canada, which in 2018 became the first major economy to legalise recreational use of cannabis.

“Minister Ohana has begun work on the issue and he will chair a committee of professionals,” Netanyahu wrote in Hebrew.

The forum, he added, “will examine bringing in the Canadian model for regulating a legal market in Israel.”

Canada’s Cannabis Act, the outcome of an election promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, allows adults to buy up to 30 grammes and grow up to four plants at home for personal use.

Netanyahu said that the Israeli committee would be advised by the chairman of the Green Leaf party which advocates legalisation but has never won a seat in parliament.

It is not running in next week’s general election, the third within 12 months after two previous rounds ended in deadlock.

Netanyahu’s Trial To Begin In March

Netanyahu Seeks To Calm Israeli Concerns Over Trump's Syria Pullout
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018. Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP

 

The trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges will open on March 17, the justice ministry said Tuesday.

It said the indictment would be read by judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman in the presence of Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The announcement comes as the 70-year-old prime minister campaigns ahead of March 2 elections, Israel’s third in less than a year, after two previous polls resulted in a deadlock between Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz.

Gantz had refused after September elections to join a unity government led by Netanyahu, saying he must first settle his differences with the judiciary before taking power.

Netanyahu was charged in the autumn last year with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court on January 28 after Netanyahu had withdrawn a request seeking parliamentary immunity lodged earlier that month.

His opponents had already mustered a majority in the legislature to deny him immunity.

Netanyahu is Israel’s only head of government to have been indicted during his term in office.

Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted of an offence and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Netanyahu denies the charges and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

AFP

Netanyahu Asks Uganda To Open Jerusalem Embassy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech in Jerusalem on October 10, 2019.
GALI TIBBON / AFP

 

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday held talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and called for the opening of missions in each others’ countries, during a visit aimed at boosting ties.

Netanyahu last visited Uganda in July 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue at Entebbe airport, in which his brother Yonatan died.

“There are two things we very much want to achieve… one is direct flights from Israel to Uganda,” Netanyahu told Museveni at a joint press conference.

“And second… you open an embassy in Jerusalem, I’ll open an embassy in Kampala,” he added.

“We are studying that,” Museveni replied.

Traditionally, most diplomatic missions in Israel have been in Tel Aviv as countries maintained a neutral stance over the status of Jerusalem.

But US President Donald Trump shocked the world in December 2017 by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to that city.

In recent years, Israel has boosted its links with African nations, improving ties following a difficult period when many post-independence African leaders sided with Israel’s Arab rivals and viewed Israel’s support for apartheid, South Africa, with intense suspicion.

Israel now has diplomatic relations with 39 of 47 sub-Saharan African states.

Netanyahu is on his fifth visit to Africa in less than four years. The continent is a lucrative market for defence equipment and the agriculture sector.

As Israeli expertise in military and agricultural technology has developed, the opportunity for trade with Africa has grown.

AFP

Israel Prepared For ‘Unavoidable’ Coronavirus, Says Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech in Jerusalem on October 10, 2019. AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday Israel was preparing for “unavoidable” cases of coronavirus, as the disease spreads across the globe.

“Our foremost goal is to postpone the arrival of the virus to Israel. I say ‘postpone’ because its arrival is unavoidable,” Netanyahu said in a statement

“We will then identify, treat, isolate and deal with those infected,” said the prime minister who met ministers and senior health officials to discuss Israel’s preparedness.

There have been no recorded cases in Israel yet.

But authorities have barred all flights from China and are refusing entry to foreigners who travelled to China in the past two weeks.

Israelis who have visited the country have been told to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

Netanyahu’s office on Sunday said the prime minister had instructed Israel’s Biological Institute to try and produce a vaccine against the virus and set up a vaccination network in Israel.

AFP

Netanyahu Hails Trump’s Plan As ‘Historic Day’ For Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with US President Donald Trump, speaks during an announcement of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed a US peace plan for the Middle East Tuesday as a “realistic path to a durable peace” that assures Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

“This is a historic day,” Netanyahu said, speaking alongside President Donald Trump who presented the plan at a White House ceremony.

“Too many plans tried to pressure Israel to withdraw from vital territory like the Jordan Valley. But you, Mr President, you recognized that Israel must have sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and other strategic areas of Judea and Samaria.”

Trump’s proposal, Netanyahu said, would also involve the United States recognizing settlements as part of Israel.

Ambassadors for the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman were in the audience but Palestinian representatives, who have denounced the plan, stayed away.

AFP

Trump Unveils Mideast Plan, Hailing ‘Big Step Towards Peace’

US President Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020. Trump says his plan ‘could be the last opportunity’ for Palestinians. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump Tuesday unveiled long-awaited details of a US plan for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning it may represent the last chance at statehood for the Palestinians.

“Today, Israel takes a big step towards peace,” Trump told a White House news conference, standing alongside visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he revealed key points of the plan already strongly rejected by the Palestinians.

“My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security,” Trump said.

The plan was warmly welcomed by Israel’s prime minister, who called it a “historic day” for the Jewish state.

The plan, Trump said, proposes a four-year freeze of Israeli development in the area eyed for a future Palestinian state.

“Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided, very important, undivided capital,” Trump stressed.

But the plan would also provide the Palestinians with a capital in occupied East Jerusalem, he said, while indicating that the West Bank would not be cut in half under the plan.

“We will also work to create a contiguous territory within the future Palestinian state, for when the conditions for statehood are met, including the firm rejection of terrorism,” Trump said as he called on the Palestinians to turn their back on the radical Hamas movement.

Calling it a “historic opportunity” for the Palestinians to achieve an independent state, Trump said he had written Tuesday to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to enlist his support for the plan.

No Palestinian official was present at the launch although the ambassadors from three Arab nations — Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — were at the White House.

“I explained to (Abbas) that the territory allocated for his new state will remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years,” Trump said.

“This could be the last opportunity they will ever have.”

“Palestinians are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism,” the president added.

“They deserve a far better life.”

Soleimani’s Killing: US Has Right To Self-Defence – Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference regarding his intention to file a request to the Knesset for immunity from prosecution, in Jerusalem on January 1, 2020.
GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP Inset Iran Top General Major General Qasem Soleimani

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday praised US President Donald Trump “for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively” to eliminate an Iranian general in a missile strike.

“Just as Israel has the right of self-defence, the United States has exactly the same right,” he said as he boarded a flight home after cutting short a visit to Greece.

Meanwhile, the world has reacted with alarm to the development, with many governments appealing for restraint.

Although, the attack was praised by US President Donald Trump’s Republicans and close ally Israel, but elsewhere there were sharp warnings it could inflame regional tensions.

Following are some of the reactions from around the world:

 ‘Terminated’ 

US President Donald Trump said Soleimani was “terminated” when he was on the verge of attacking US diplomats but insisted that Washington is not seeking to topple Iran’s government.

But among Democrats, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the killing risks provoking a “dangerous escalation of violence”.

“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden said.

 ‘Aggravate situation’ 

“This action can seriously aggravate the situation in the region,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to a Kremlin readout of a phone conversation with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

 ‘Cannot afford another war’ 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of the need to avoid war in the Gulf.

“This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.

 ‘Remain calm’ 

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”

He said Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.

‘Spark a devastating war’ 

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said the US strike, which also killed an Iraqi commander, would “spark a devastating war”.

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander in an official post is an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people,” he said.

It was a “flagrant violation of the conditions authorising the presence of US troops” on Iraqi soil, he added.

‘Cycle of violence’ 

“The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped before it spirals out of control,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“The EU calls on all the actors involved and on those partners who can have an influence to exercise maximum restraint and show responsibility in this crucial moment.”

 ‘Will not be forgotten’ 

The Syrian regime condemned the killing and heaped praise on the Iranian general.

The Syrian people “will not forget that he stuck by the side of the Syrian Arab army”, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a letter of condolences sent to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 ‘Avoid aggravating situation’ 

Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia cautioned against “anything that could aggravate the situation” while the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Qatar also called for “restraint.”

The Jordanian foreign ministry also called for efforts to be  made to avoid an escalation.

 ‘Meting out punishment’

“Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins… will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide,” the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shiite militant group, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a statement.

“We will carry a flag on all battlefields and all fronts and we will step up the victories of the axis of resistance with the blessing of his pure blood.”

 ‘Threaten peace and stability’ 

“Pakistan has viewed with deep concern the recent developments in the Middle East, which seriously threaten peace and stability in the region,” the foreign ministry said.

“Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity are the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, which should be adhered to. It is also important to avoid unilateral actions and use of force.”

The foreign ministry in neighbouring India said: “We have noted that a senior Iranian leader has been killed by the US. The increase in tension has alarmed the world.”

 ‘Against foreign intervention’ 

“It is manifest that the operation carried out by the US will increase insecurity and instability in the region… Turkey has always been against any foreign intervention in the region, assassinations and sectarian conflicts,” the foreign ministry said.

‘Act with restraint’ 

French President Emmanuel Macron urged restraint after Soleimani’s killing.

In his telephone call with Putin, Macron said there should be no “new dangerous escalation of tensions” and “called on all the parties to act with restraint,” the Elysee said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said London had “always recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force. “Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

AFP

Iran Attack: Israeli PM Netanyahu Cuts Short Foreign Trip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on January 1, 2020. Inset Iran Top General Major General Qasem Soleimani/AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heading home Friday after cutting short a visit to Greece, a source in his office said, after the US killed a top Iranian commander.

Israel’s security cabinet was set to meet Friday to discuss possible threats to the Jewish state after the United States, its closest ally, killed Major General Qasem Soleimani in a missile strike near Baghdad airport on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the world has reacted with alarm to the development, with many governments appealing for restraint.

Although, the attack was praised by US President Donald Trump’s Republicans and close ally Israel, but elsewhere there were sharp warnings it could inflame regional tensions.

Following are some of the reactions from around the world:

 ‘Terminated’ 

US President Donald Trump said Soleimani was “terminated” when he was on the verge of attacking US diplomats but insisted that Washington is not seeking to topple Iran’s government.

But among Democrats, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the killing risks provoking a “dangerous escalation of violence”.

“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden said.

 ‘Aggravate situation’ 

“This action can seriously aggravate the situation in the region,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to a Kremlin readout of a phone conversation with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

 ‘Cannot afford another war’ 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of the need to avoid war in the Gulf.

“This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.

 ‘Remain calm’ 

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”

He said Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.

‘Spark a devastating war’ 

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said the US strike, which also killed an Iraqi commander, would “spark a devastating war”.

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander in an official post is an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people,” he said.

It was a “flagrant violation of the conditions authorising the presence of US troops” on Iraqi soil, he added.

‘Cycle of violence’ 

“The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped before it spirals out of control,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“The EU calls on all the actors involved and on those partners who can have an influence to exercise maximum restraint and show responsibility in this crucial moment.”

 ‘Will not be forgotten’ 

The Syrian regime condemned the killing and heaped praise on the Iranian general.

The Syrian people “will not forget that he stuck by the side of the Syrian Arab army”, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a letter of condolences sent to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 ‘Avoid aggravating situation’ 

Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia cautioned against “anything that could aggravate the situation” while the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Qatar also called for “restraint.”

The Jordanian foreign ministry also called for efforts to be  made to avoid an escalation.

 ‘Meting out punishment’

“Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins… will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide,” the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shiite militant group, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a statement.

“We will carry a flag on all battlefields and all fronts and we will step up the victories of the axis of resistance with the blessing of his pure blood.”

 ‘Threaten peace and stability’ 

“Pakistan has viewed with deep concern the recent developments in the Middle East, which seriously threaten peace and stability in the region,” the foreign ministry said.

“Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity are the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, which should be adhered to. It is also important to avoid unilateral actions and use of force.”

The foreign ministry in neighbouring India said: “We have noted that a senior Iranian leader has been killed by the US. The increase in tension has alarmed the world.”

 ‘Against foreign intervention’ 

“It is manifest that the operation carried out by the US will increase insecurity and instability in the region… Turkey has always been against any foreign intervention in the region, assassinations and sectarian conflicts,” the foreign ministry said.

‘Act with restraint’ 

French President Emmanuel Macron urged restraint after Soleimani’s killing.

In his telephone call with Putin, Macron said there should be no “new dangerous escalation of tensions” and “called on all the parties to act with restraint,” the Elysee said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said London had “always recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force. “Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

AFP

Israel’s Netanyahu Wins Ruling Party Leadership Vote

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at his Likud Party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on election night early on April 10, 2019.
Thomas COEX / AFP

 

Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a “huge” victory Friday, after winning a leadership primary that ensures he will lead his right-wing Likud party into a March general election.

Israel’s longest-serving premier, who faces a corruption indictment and a third general election in 12 months, was expected to beat rival Gideon Saar but the convincing margin of victory strengthened his position in the party he has dominated for 20 years.

With all votes counted, the Likud announced that Netanyahu had secured 72.5 percent, with Saar winning 27.5 percent.

“A huge win! Thank you to Likud members for their trust, support and love,” Netanyahu tweeted.

“With God’s and your help, I will lead the Likud to a big victory in the upcoming election and we will continue to lead the State of Israel to unprecedented achievements,” he added.

Most media commentators had predicted a Netanyahu victory but its scale made banner headlines.

“Netanyahu, big time,” said Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s top-selling daily.

State radio described it as a “landslide” victory for Netanyahu.

The left-wing Haaretz newspaper described it as a battle between the “rational expediency” of Saar supporters and the “tribal loyalty” of the Netanyahu camp.

It noted the historic reluctance of Likud members to depose a sitting leader.

“Since 1948, the Labor Party has replaced its leader 17 times,” it said. “The Likud has had only four leaders since Israel’s inception, and only two since 1995.

“Netanyahu has led the party for the past 14 years consecutively, and for two decades altogether. Younger Likudniks have never known their party without Netanyahu at its helm.”

Netanyahu is scheduled to give a victory address at 11:00 am (0900 GMT).

Around 57,000 Likud members voted on Thursday — a little less than 50 percent of those eligible.

Saar, a former minister seen as to the right of Netanyahu, campaigned on the basis that the leader was no longer able to win elections after deadlocked polls in April and September.

“I am content with my decision to have stood. Those who are unwilling to take a risk for what they believe in will never succeed,” Saar tweeted.

“My colleagues and I will stand behind (Netanyahu) in campaigning for the Likud’s success,” he added.

Saar announced his leadership challenge last month after Israel’s attorney general indicted the prime minister for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Netanyahu, 70, denies the allegations, accusing the police, prosecutors and the media of a witch hunt.

Stephan Miller, a pollster who has worked on multiple Israeli campaigns, said Netanyahu had campaigned harder than ever before to defeat Saar.

Netanyahu held several campaign events a day in different parts of the country, while on Thursday his Facebook page broadcast live video of him phoning supporters.

In the campaign’s most dramatic moment on Wednesday, Netanyahu was rushed off stage at a rally in the southern port of Ashkelon after a rocket was fired from the nearby Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

“His job was on the line and he fought to keep it successfully,” Miller said.

– Immunity focus –

Netanyahu’s downfall has been predicted repeatedly since he was elected for a second term in 2009, but he has defied expectations and beaten off multiple potential rivals.

He will likely remain prime minister at least until a new election on March 2.

The Likud and the centrist Blue and White were near neck-and-neck after polls in March and September, with neither able to form a majority coalition under the country’s system of proportional representation.

Early polls indicate that the March 2020 election could again be a stalemate.

In the short term, attention will now turn to Netanyahu’s legal woes.

Netanyahu is accused of corruption in three separate cases, ranging from receiving illegal gifts worth thousands of dollars to offering to change regulations in exchange for positive media coverage.

On Tuesday, the supreme court is expected to hold a hearing on whether a prime minister who has been indicted can form a government.

Under current understanding of the law, a prime minister is only forced to step down once convicted and with all avenues of appeal exhausted.

also has until January 1 to decide if he will ask parliament for immunity.

Gayil Talshir, a professor of politics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the result could embolden Netanyahu in his campaign against the charges.

“He is going to argue that the people chose him and not the mechanisms and the judiciary,” Talshir said.

“The big game for Netanyahu is immunity and for that he needs 61 votes (in the 120-seat parliament),” she said.

AFP

Netanyahu To Press Pompeo For More Pressure On ‘Tottering’ Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on December 1, 2019. Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Portugal Wednesday to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and call for increased pressure on the “tottering” Iranian government.

The two men will meet on Wednesday night in Lisbon, the US State Department announced.

Speaking before setting off, Netanyahu said US President Donald Trump’s sanctions against Iran were paying dividends and he would be urging Pompeo to take further steps.

“I think President Trump has placed tremendous pressures and sanctions on Iran,” he said.

“We’re seeing the Iranian empire totter. We see demonstrations in Tehran, demonstrations in Baghdad, demonstrations in Beirut. It’s important to increase this pressure against Iranian aggression.”

Israel, which has the Middle East’s sole but undeclared nuclear arsenal, has for years accused Iran of seeking to obtain nuclear weapons and strongly opposed a 2015 agreement designed to address the concerns of major powers.

Trump, a strong Netanyahu ally, unilaterally pulled the United States out of the deal in May last year and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life after an indictment on graft charges, has hailed the Trump sanctions.

Israel believes they have squeezed the Iranian economy, prompting the government to raise fuel prices — sparking nationwide protests.

Lebanon and Iraq, both countries where Iran has significant influence, have also seen major demonstrations.

Netanyahu criticised European governments that have signed up to a barter system that would allow Iran to trade without fear of US sanctions.

AFP