כ' באלול תשע"ט / Friday, Sep. 20 '19

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Headlines

  1. Will deadlocked Knesset bring unity gov't - or a third election?
  2. Liberman's conditions for joining government with haredi parties
  3. Dozens of civilians killed in US drone strike in Afghanistan
  4. Watch: IDF soldiers in Samaria prepare for war
  5. New Jersey man indicted for aiding Hezbollah
  6. 'Right-wing bloc' led by Netanyahu established
  7. 'We will do everything to prevent a dangerous government'
  8. Shaked calls on Gantz to join unity govt. under Netanyahu


1. Will deadlocked Knesset bring unity gov't - or a third election?

by Mike Smith & Michael Blum, AFP

Israeli vote results on Friday confirmed a deadlock in the country's general election and put Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party as the second-largest, leaving him with a tough battle to extend his long tenure in office.

The near-complete official results from Tuesday's election gave ex-military chief Benny Gantz's center-left Blue and White alliance the most seats, with 33 out of parliament's 120.

Netanyahu's Likud won 31 seats, but neither had an obvious path to a majority coalition.

In a stark admission on Thursday, Netanyahu acknowledged he was unable to form a right-wing coalition as he hoped and called on Gantz to join him in a unity government instead.

Gantz responded by saying he would have to be prime minister in a unity government since Blue and White was the largest party.

The standoff has even raised the possibility of yet another election -- which would be the third to be held in a year following April polls that also ended inconclusively.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin plans to begin consultations with all parties voted into parliament on Sunday to decide who to choose to try to form a government.

Final results will be published on Wednesday and there could be changes before then, Israel's election committee said. Some 99.8% of the vote has been counted thus far.

The committee said the results did not include 14 polling stations where verifications were still ongoing.

The third-largest total was the mainly Arab Joint List alliance, which won 13 seats, up from 10 seats its constituent factions won in the April election. The three-seat gain was fueled primarily by a 10-point increase in turnout among Israeli Arabs, from just under 50% in April to approximately 59% in Tuesday’s election.

Its strong showing opened the possibility that its leader, MK Ayman Odeh, could become the country's first Arab opposition chief if Likud and Blue and White form a unity government.

'Won the election'

Following the Joint List, the country's two haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, won nine and eight seats respectively.

Ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman's secular rightist Yisrael Beytenu party also won eight seats, and he could potentially play a kingmaker role. Liberman has called for a unity government between his party, Likud and Blue and White, excluding the haredi parties, which he accuses of seeking to force religious law onto the country's secular population.

But the main focus in the coming days will be on Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister but who is facing potential corruption charges in the weeks ahead.

He was widely seen as hoping to have the new parliament grant him immunity from prosecution, but that may now be impossible even if he does manage to remain premier.

"During the elections, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government," Netanyahu said in a video message on Thursday.

"But unfortunately the election results show that this is not possible."

He went on to call on Gantz to form a "broad unity government today."

The two men shook hands when they crossed paths at a memorial event later in the day, but Gantz made his position clear on Thursday afternoon.

Gantz too called for a unity government, but he insisted that he be prime minister.

"Blue and White, headed by me, has won the election," he said. "Blue and White is the largest party."

One possibility which neither side raised publicly would be the formation of a unity government with a power-sharing agreement in which Netanyahu and Gantz rotate as premier.

In the 1980s, two narrow elections led to the formation of unity governments including both the Likud and Labor.

In 1984 and again in 1988, Likud's Yitzhak Shamir and Labor's Shimon Peres agreed to a power-sharing agreement in which the premiership rotated between them, with Peres becoming prime minister for two years, from 1984 to 1986, before handing the position to Shamir. Shamir retained the position in the unity government formed after the 1988 elections, and was set to return the premiership to Peres in 1990, until Labor bolted from the government in a bid to form an alternative coalition with haredi parties, what was later called the "Dirty Trick" of 1990.



2. Liberman's conditions for joining government with haredi parties

by Hezki Baruch

Yisrael Beytenu chairman and former Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman suggested Friday morning that he is prepared to join a coalition government which includes the haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism – if certain demands are met.

Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu party refused to join a Netanyahu-led government five months ago over a dispute with haredi parties regarding a haredi draft law, is expected to receive eight seats in the 22nd Knesset, three more than in the outgoing Knesset.

Neither the right-wing – religious bloc nor the left-wing – Arab bloc has a clear path to the 61-seat majority needed without Yisrael Beytenu.

During the campaign, Liberman vowed to block the formation of a narrow right-wing government, calling instead for the formation of a secular national unity government led by the Likud and Blue and White parties which would exclude religious factions like Shas, United Torah Judaism, and even the national-religious Jewish Home party.

On Friday, however, Liberman said he would be willing sit with haredi lawmakers – on condition that the government back a series proposals which religious MKs have long opposed, including civil marriages, changes to the conversion system in Israel, and the expansion of an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“In recent days I’ve heard a surprising change in the discourse by the leaders of the haredi parties,” said Liberman. “They’re no longer using epithets against me like ‘Amalek’ and ‘Hitler’, and there are calls to end the hateful talk,” continued Liberman, who was outspoken in his criticism of haredi lawmakers and “Messianic” national-religious parties during the campaign.

“As far as we are concerned, and I’ve already said this in the past, the haredi parties are not our enemies, but are political rivals. We embrace different paths. They are from Beit Shammai, we from Beit Hillel.”

Liberman went on to list his demands for entering a government which includes haredi parties.

Passage of the haredi “draft law, as it is currently written; civil marriage; [permitting] conversions by local rabbis; re-approving the Western Wall deal; requiring haredi schools teach the ‘Liba’ curriculum [of secular subjects]; public transportation and the opening of minimarkets on the Sabbath. The last two issues will be left up to local authorities in every municipality, based on who lives in any given town. We won’t accept anything less than this, even if it means sitting in the opposition.”



3. Dozens of civilians killed in US drone strike in Afghanistan

by Arutz Sheva Staff

Dozens of Afghani civilians were killed and dozens more injured after an American drone strike accidentally struck a group of farmers in eastern Afghanistan.

A US drone aircraft which had been targeting an ISIS position in the eastern Nangarhar province inadvertently struck a group of farm workers collecting pine nuts in Wazir Tangi, Reuters reported.

The incident occurred late Wednesday night, three local officials told Reuters.

At least 30 people were killed and more than 40 others injured in the strike. Locals say about 150 workers were at the scene of the attack for the harvest, and that a number of people remain unaccounted for.

One tribal elder said the workers had been hit by the drone shortly after they lit a bonfire.

“The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” Malik Rahat said.

A US military spokesman in Afghanistan, Colonel Sonny Leggett, confirmed that the US had launched the drone strike against ISIS terrorists, but did not confirm the civilian deaths, acknowledging only that there were “allegations” of non-combatant deaths.

“U.S. forces conducted a drone strike against Da’esh [ISIS] terrorists in Nangarhar,” said Colonel Leggett. “We are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts.”

[youtube:2063467]



4. Watch: IDF soldiers in Samaria prepare for war

by Arutz Sheva Staff

[video:2063465]

IDF soldiers stationed in Samaria took part in a wide-ranging series of military exercises this week, preparing them for a number of possible scenarios: from drive-by shootings and to bomb attacks, to terrorist infiltrations into Israeli towns, and even large-scale military operations.

The exercises were carried out by the IDF’s Ephraim Brigade – which operates in much of Samaria – and included the Nahshon, Shahar, and Bardales battalions, as well as Border Police officers and MDA emergency first responder units.

During the exercises, units were given ‘surprise’ assignments at various locations. The units conducted searches in the field, prepared makeshift war-rooms for large scale military operations, and trained for a variety of scenarios including terrorist attacks using makeshift explosive devices.

“During the exercise, security forces trained together for a number of extreme scenarios which we have to deal with,” said Major Eran Keres, the chief operations officer for the Ephraim Brigade.

“We, the officers and soldiers of the brigade, will continue to improve our readiness and our capabilities in order to ensure the security of residents in the best way possible.”



5. New Jersey man indicted for aiding Hezbollah

by Elad Benari

A New Jersey man was indicted Thursday on charges he supported the Hezbollah terrorist organization by scouting possible targets for an attack, ABC 7 New York reported.

Police said Alexei Saab, of Morristown, has been indicted in federal court for scouting locations in the city and sending information back to Lebanon.

Saab was arrested on July 9 but the case was recently unsealed, according to ABC 7.

Officials said while living in the United States, Saab surveilled dozens of iconic New York City locations, including the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and local airports, tunnels, and bridges --- and provided detailed information on these locations, including photographs, to the Islamic Jihad Organization, a component of Hezbollah.

"In particular, Saab focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveilled in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction. Saab's reporting to the IJO included the materials used to construct a particular target, how close in proximity one could get to a target, and site weaknesses or 'soft spots' that the IJO could exploit if it attacked a target in the future," court records said.

Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996, according to the documents, and received extensive training in weapons and military tactics, including how to construct and detonate bombs.

Saab entered the United States legally in 2000 and applied for citizenship in 2005. He became a naturalized citizen three years later.

He also conducted similar scouting operations in Washington and Boston, among other cities, according to the report.

Saab, 42, is charged with providing material support to a terror organization among other offenses.

Hezbollah is a designated terrorist organization in the US and has been sanctioned several times by the administration in recent years.

In July, the US Treasury placed two Hezbollah members of Lebanon's parliament on its sanctions blacklist, marking the first time Washington has taken aim at the Iran-allied group's elected politicians.

Since 2013, American prosecutors have charged hundreds of radicalized individuals, mostly with crimes related to support for the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.

In July, two refugees from Somalia were arrested in Arizona and accused of providing material support to ISIS.

In June, a man was arrested after he discussed purchasing explosives with the intention of detonating them in New York's Times Square.

In April, a US Army veteran was arrested for allegedly plotting a large-scale terror attack near Los Angeles.

Earlier that month, a Maryland man was charged with stealing a rental truck that he wanted to use to kill pedestrians at National Harbor in Maryland, in an attack similar to the 2016 truck terror attack in Nice, France.



6. 'Right-wing bloc' led by Netanyahu established

by Ido Ben Porat

Right-wing factions convened at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon, deciding to establish a "right-wing bloc" headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, that will work for the establishment of the next government.

It was decided to form a joint coalition negotiations team for all factions in the bloc.

In addition to Netanyahu, the meeting saw the participation of Minister Yariv Levin and faction heads: Yaakov Litzman, Moshe Gafni, Naftali Bennett, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, Ayelet Shaked, and Bezalel Smotrich.

Minister Aryeh Deri met with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this morning, as he was unable to attend the meeting due to the memorial ceremony for the late Minister David Azulay.

Later this evening, Netanyahu will join Likud members for a preliminary hearing on the results of the elections, which gave the right less than the 61 seats required to obtain the mandate for forming the next government.

The Knesset seat distribution, after counting 90% of the votes, shows Blue and White with 32, Likud - 31, Joint List - 13, Shas - 9, Yisrael Beytenu - 9, United Torah Judaism - 8, Yamina - 7, Labor - 6, Democratic Union - 5 .



7. 'We will do everything to prevent a dangerous government'

by Hezki Baruch

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened members of the Likud faction at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem, addressing the election results.

"I come here after a meeting with the leaders of the National Camp parties," said Netanyahu. “We unanimously decided that we will go together into negotiations for the establishment of a government headed by me.”

“We will conduct the negotiations with one delegation, Yariv Levin will be at the head.”

Netanyahu added: "Now that we have established the bloc of right-wing parties, there will be either a government headed by me, or a dangerous government that relies on the Arab parties. We will make every effort to prevent this dangerous government."

Netanyahu thanked Likud members for their "unequivocal support for me and for Likud."

"You made a sharp and clear statement. It's important that the public heard it, and I really appreciate it. We are going together, and the National Camp is going together, and with G-d's help we will establish together a strong, Zionist government that is good for the State of Israel."

Earlier Wednesday, right-wing factions convened at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, deciding to establish a "right-wing bloc" headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, that will work for the establishment of the next government.

It was decided to form a joint coalition negotiations team for all factions in the bloc.

In addition to Netanyahu, the meeting saw the participation of Minister Yariv Levin and faction heads: Yaakov Litzman, Moshe Gafni, Naftali Bennett, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, Ayelet Shaked, and Bezalel Smotrich.

Minister Aryeh Deri met with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this morning, as he was unable to attend the meeting due to the memorial ceremony for the late Minister David Azulay.

The Knesset seat distribution, after counting 90% of the votes, shows Blue and White with 32, Likud - 31, Joint List - 13, Shas - 9, Yisrael Beytenu - 9, United Torah Judaism - 8, Yamina - 7, Labor - 6, Democratic Union - 5.



8. Shaked calls on Gantz to join unity govt. under Netanyahu

by Yoni Kempinski

New Right leader Ayelet Shaked called on Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and the other leaders of the left-wing parties to join a national unity government led by Binyamin Netanyahu.

"The people chose the right but not enough to form a government and so we will all compromise," Shaked said in a statement at her front door in northern Tel Aviv.

According to her, the right-wing parties have formed a joint negotiating team that will work to establish a unity government "on the basis of the principles of a Jewish and democratic state". Shaked emphasized: "I urge Benny Gantz to put the boycotts aside and come to talk with Netanyahu."



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