EU Congratulates New Israeli Prime Minister Bennett

Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gives an address before the new cabinet at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 13, 2021. PHOTO: Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP


EU Council President Charles Michel congratulated the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a message posted on Twitter on Sunday after an alliance of parties ousted Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Looking forward to strengthen(ing) the (EU-Israel) partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability,” he tweeted.

The European Council represents the European Union’s member states.

Bennett, a right-wing Jewish nationalist, and former tech millionaire takes over at the helm of an Israeli government pieced together by an eight-party coalition.

Their alliance ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years in power.

Bennett, a former defence minister under Netanyahu, vowed to keep Israel safe from Iran, promising that “Israel won’t let Iran have nuclear weapons”, a goal the Islamic republic denies pursuing.

READ ALSO: Netanyahu Ousted As Israel Approves New Govt

The diverse anti-Netanyahu bloc was cobbled together by the secular centrist Yair Lapid, a former TV presenter.

It spans the political spectrum, with three right-wing, two centrists, and two left-wing parties, and even an Arab Islamic conservative party.


Israel PM Netanyahu To Enter Precautionary COVID-19 Quarantine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on at the Maccabi Healthcare Services vaccine complex handling the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, in Israel’s Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on December 13, 2020. (Photo by Marc Israel SELLEM / POOL / AFP)


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will self-isolate on Monday after having come into contact with a coronavirus patient, his office said calling it a precautionary step.

Netanyahu tested negative for the virus on Sunday and on Monday, but he will still “enter isolation until Friday following contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient”, the statement said.

Several Israeli media outlets have reported that Netanyahu met last week with a member of his right-wing Likud party, Michael Kleiner, who has subsequently tested positive for the virus.

The statement from the prime minister’s office did not provide details regarding Netanyahu’s potential exposure.

Netanyahu was at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport last week to welcome a first shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

He declared that the end of the pandemic was “in sight” and offered to take the first jab in a mass vaccination campaign due to start later this month.

Israel, a country of nine million people, has registered more than 358,000 coronavirus cases, including 3003 deaths.


Netanyahu Calls For Dismantling Of U.N. Palestinian Refugee Agency

Israeli, Benjamin Netanyahu, SoldierIsraeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called for the dismantling of the U.N. agency that aids millions of Palestinian refugees.

He accused it of anti-Israeli incitement, adding that he had conveyed his message to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Adnan Abu Hasna, a Gaza-based spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said Netanyahu was pursuing a “fantasy”.

The United States, Israel’s main ally, was the biggest donor to UNRWA last year, pledging $368 million.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu charged that “in various UNRWA institutions there is a lot of incitement against Israel, and therefore the existence of UNRWA – and unfortunately its work from time to time – perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solve it.

“Therefore, the time has come to dismantle UNRWA and merge its components with the (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees,” the premier added.

Israeli PM Backs Pardon For Soldier Convicted Of Manslaughter

Israeli, Benjamin Netanyahu, Soldier, manslaughter, PalestinianIsraeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has called for the pardon of a soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing an injured Palestinian.

The appeal comes as Sergeant Elor Azaria shot Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the head while he was lying immobile on a road.

A military court had sentenced the 19-year-old after dismissing the claim that the Palestinian still posed a danger.

Top military personnel also said his actions do not reflect the values of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

Reactions have also trailed the incident, one of which was the series of rallies to support the soldier.

Mr Netanyahu took to Facebook on Wednesday to issue his call, saying: “I support giving Elor Azaria a pardon”.

He also appealed to the public to support the IDF.

Former US First Lady, Nancy Reagan Dies

Nancy ReaganAmerica’s former first lady, Nancy Reagan, has died of congestive heart failure, in her home in California.

The 94-year-old was renowned as one of the most influential first ladies in the United States’ history, and her 52-year marriage to then President, Ronald Reagan, was once described as the US Presidency’s greatest love affair.

Reacting to news of her death, US President, Barack Obama, and first lady Michelle, said; “Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House. She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice.”

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he remembered her as a noble woman, who supported President Reagan, and stood by his side, and would be remembered as a great friend to the state of Israel.

The late Mrs Reagan will be buried next to her husband, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California.


Netanyahu Accuses Ban Of Encouraging Terror

Benjamin NetanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has accused UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon of “encouraging terror”.

This came after Mr Ban said it is human nature for oppressed people to react to occupation.

While speaking at the UN Security Council, Mr Ban also condemned recent stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians.

More than 155 Palestinians, 28 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean had died in violence since October.

Mr Ban told the security council that the wave of attacks were driven by a “profound sense of alienation and despair” among some Palestinians, particularly the young.

He condemned the attacks, but said ‘Israel’s settlement-building programme casts doubt on its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state’.

But Mr Netanyahu said that the Palestinians were working against the creation of a state.

The BBC reported that on Monday, a 24-year-old Israeli woman was fatally stabbed in a West Bank settlement – the third such attack in 10 days. The two Palestinian assailants were shot dead by a security guard.

Most of the Palestinians killed had been attackers, Israel said, while others had been shot dead by Israeli forces during protests and clashes.

Israeli Soldier Stabbed In Beersheba Bus Station Attack

Israeli crisisViolence continues in Israel where reports say an Israeli soldier has been killed in a gun and knife attack at a bus station in Beersheba.

After the attack on Sunday evening, police opened fire on two people at the station in the city of Beersheba, killing an alleged Palestinian attacker.

A man of Eritrean origin was mistakenly shot and died later in hospital.

Sunday’s attack brings the total number of people killed in the violence that erupted at the beginning of the month to 52: 44 Palestinians and eight Israelis.

According to the police, the attacker stabbed a soldier and stole his weapon, opening fire on the crowds at the bus terminal.

He shot and killed 19-year-old Sgt Omri Levy, before taking the soldier’s gun and continuing to shoot. The attacker was shot dead by security forces.

The upsurge began amid tensions at a flash-point holy site in east Jerusalem.

Israeli security forces have imposed tighter restrictions in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and there have been clashes with Palestinian protesters.

The suspected attacker was named by police as Muhand Alukabi, 21, a resident of Hura in the Negev.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, called the attack a “natural response” and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian group, said it was a “normal answer to Israeli crimes”.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry is to meet Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and separately, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, this week in a bid to help restore calm.



Jerusalem: Three Israeli Dead In Attack On Bus

Israeli bus attackIsraeli police have said that three Israelis have been killed and more than 20 injured in shooting and stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and central Israel.

The Israeli Ambulance Service said that two were killed when two assailants, who were identified as Arabs, shot and stabbed passengers on a bus in Jerusalem before being shot by police.

Another Israeli died after being run down and stabbed elsewhere in the city.

Others were also injured in another attack in Jerusalem and two in Raanana.

Near-daily stabbings by Palestinians have left Israelis dead and wounded over the past fortnight.

Several attackers and at least 17 other Palestinians have been killed in the upsurge of violence.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, convened an emergency session of the security cabinet to discuss how to prevent further attacks.

Officials said that Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, was considering whether to seal off Arab areas in East Jerusalem from the rest of the city and ease gun-control regulations.

The militant Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, praised the “heroic operations in Jerusalem and greets the heroes who carried them out”.

Two Israelis Killed In Jerusalem, Palestinians Banned

jerusalemPolice have banned Palestinians from East Jerusalem from entering the Old City for two days, after violence erupted following the stabbing of an Israeli couple in the West Bank.

Two Israelis were killed and three others injured during separate attacks in Jerusalem by Palestinians, who were then shot dead by Police.

The restrictions will stop Palestinians from entering the Old City unless they live there, but Israeli local business owners and school children will be allowed in.

The first stabbing incident took place on Saturday, just after the end of the Jewish Sabbath, close to Lion’s Gate in the Old City.

The victims were said to have been passing near the entrance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, en route to the Western Wall.

Abbas Rejects Israel’s Partial Transfer Of Palestinian Tax Revenue

PalestinianPalestinian authorities have rejected hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenues unfrozen by Israel.

Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that he returned the money because Israel deducted a third to cover unpaid Palestinian utility debts.

Israel started withholding around $130 million a month in tax and customs revenue in December.

The move came after the Palestinians announced that they were joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move finalized on April 1.

Under international pressure, Israel agreed last week to resume the transfers, saying it would immediately pay around $400 million, the withheld revenue minus the amount owed by the Palestinians for utilities supplied by Israel.

President Abbas said those deductions amounted to a third of the total sum that Israel owed the Palestinians.

“We are returning the money. Either they give it to us in full or we go to arbitration or to the court (ICC). We will not accept anything else,” he said in a speech.

An official at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that Israel had deducted a portion of the Palestinians’ electricity, water and health bills from tax revenue it transferred and was “willing to transfer back to the Palestinian Authority the sum that was returned whenever it wishes”.

The government made the decision to restart payments two weeks ago but warned at the time that it would make deductions from the transfer.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said at the time that Israel would resume payments partly out of “humanitarian considerations”, adding that the “deteriorating situation in the Middle East” and rise of extremists required him to “act responsibly and judiciously”.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Wins Election

netanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won a surprise victory in Israel’s election on Wednesday after tacking hard to the right in the final days of campaigning, including abandoning a commitment to negotiate a Palestinian State.

In a four-day pre-election blitz, Netanyahu made a series of promises designed to shore up his Likud base and draw voters from other right-wing and nationalist parties, including a pledge to go on building settlements on occupied land and saying that there would be no Palestinian State if he is re-elected.

Exit polls had forecast a dead heat but with almost all votes counted, results gave Likud a clear lead over its main rival, the centre-left Zionist Union.

With 99.5 percent of votes counted, Likud won 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, comfortably defeating the Zionist Union opposition on 24 seats.

It amounted to a dramatic and unexpected victory – the last opinion polls published four days before the vote showed the Zionist Union with a four-seat advantage over Likud.

The outcome gave Mr Netanyahu a strong chance of forming a right-wing coalition government.

It puts the incumbent on course to clinch a fourth term and become Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minster.

In a statement, Likud said Netanyahu intended to form a new government within weeks, with negotiations already underway with the pro-settler Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, as well as with religious groups.

Despite the numbers stacking up in Netanyahu’s favor, Zionist Union leader, Isaac Herzog said “everything is still open” and that he already had spoken to party leaders about the possibility of forming a government, although, the arithmetic for him is much harder to achieve than for Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu described the vote as a “great victory” for Likud, which had trailed the Zionist Union in opinion polls in the run-up to the election.

He said the result was achieved “against all odds”.

“Reality is not waiting for us,” Netanyahu said. “The citizens of Israel expect us to quickly put together a leadership that will work for them regarding security, economy and society as we committed to do – and we will do so.”

Iran To Halt Nuclear Activity For A Decade – Obama

iranIran must commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on sensitive nuclear activity for a landmark atomic deal to be reached, U.S. President Barack Obama said.

The American President, however, added that the odds are against talks with Iran ending with an agreement.

At an Interview at the White House, Obama moved to dial back tensions over Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress on Tuesday, opposing the Iran deal, saying it was a distraction that would not be “permanently destructive” to U.S. Israeli ties.

The President, however, stressed there was a “substantial disagreement” between them over how to achieve their shared goal of preventing Israel’s arch foe from acquiring nuclear weapons and also criticized Netanyahu’s stance.

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of sanctions have reached a critical stage ahead of an end of March deadline for a framework deal and a June 30 date for a final agreement.

Obama’s comment about the time frame for a freeze represents one of the U.S. Government’s strongest signals yet of its red line for a successful deal.

“If, in fact, Iran is willing to agree to double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist . If we’ve got that, and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don’t have a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The U.S. goal is to make sure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one,” Obama said in the interview, carefully timed by the White House a day ahead of Netanyahu’s.

Obama’s robust defense of a possible deal with Iran comes as his administration faces criticism from some quarters that it is being too eager to complete a deal, at the risk of allowing Iran to eventually become a nuclear state.

The White House last week denied a report that the United States and Iran were exploring a possible 10-year deal that would initially freeze Iran’s nuclear program but gradually allow it to increase activities that could enable it to produce nuclear arms in the last years of the agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was expected to urge the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to oppose a deal.

He was invited to speak at the U.S. Capitol by Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, angering Democrats.

Mr Netanyahu, who would face domestic elections in two weeks’ time, would not meet Mr Obama during his visit to the U.S.

But Mr Netanyahu had been wrong on Iran before when he opposed an interim nuclear agreement struck last year, Mr Obama said.