Tag Archives: israel

Just in: First ever Israeli plane heads to UAE after peace talk.

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The El Al aircraft will carry US and Israeli officials to the United Arab Emirates to cement the ‘normalisation’ deal.


High-level delegations are flying from Israel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the first-ever commercial flight between the Middle Eastern nations to put final touches on a controversial pact establishing open relations.

Top aides to US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be on board the direct flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Israel’s flag carrier El Al on Monday.

Flight LY971 is expected to take off at 10:30am and is set to fly over Saudi Arabia after Riyadh agreed to the Israeli request on Sunday – also a first.

The plane carrying the US and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi has the word “peace” written on it in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

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It is also named after Kiryat Gat, a Jewish settlement built on the remains of two ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, Iraq al-Manshiyya and al-Faluja.

Announced on August 13, the “normalisation” deal is the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years and was catalysed largely by shared fears of Iran.

Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, worried it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

‘Giant step’

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien head the US delegation. The Israeli team is led by O’Brien’s counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

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Officials will explore bilateral cooperation in areas such as commerce and tourism, and Israeli defence envoys are due to visit the UAE separately.

Israeli officials hope the two-day trip will produce a date for a Washington signing ceremony, perhaps as early as September, between Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

That could give Trump a foreign policy boost ahead of his re-election bid in November.

In Jerusalem on Sunday, Kushner called the UAE-Israel deal a “giant step forward”.

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“To have played a role in its creation, and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, it means more to me and to my family that I can ever express,” Kushner said.

The Trump administration has tried to coax other Arab countries concerned about Iran to engage with Israel. The most powerful of those, Saudi Arabia, has signalled that it is not ready.

But in what could presage a more relaxed posture by Riyadh, the El Al plane will be allowed to overfly Saudi territory to cut flight time.

On Sunday, Israeli TV channel Kan reported there was Israeli concern that Riyadh may revoke permission to use Saudi airspace at the last moment. If the flight is allowed, it would mark the first time an Israeli commercial plane uses Saudi territory for an overflight. There was no comment from Saudi officials.

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‘Soon follow’
O’Brien said on Sunday more Arab and Muslim countries were likely to follow Abu Dhabi’s move.

“We believe that other Arab and Muslim countries will soon follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and normalise relations with Israel,” O’Brien told reporters after talks at Netanyahu’s residence.

He did not name the states, but Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan.

Recent news reports suggested Morocco may also be considering a similar agreement with Israel in exchange for military and economic aid.

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However, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani said last week “we refuse any normalisation with the Zionist entity because this emboldens it to go further in breaching the rights of the Palestinian people”.

Palestinians have condemned the UAE’s move as an abandonment of a policy of linking official relations with Israel to the achievement of Palestinian statehood in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said Kushner and his team were “scrambling to convince as many Arab and Muslim leaders as possible” to give Trump an election boost.

“They will be a prop at the backdrop of a meaningless spectacle for a ridiculous agreement that will not bring peace to the region,” she said.

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The UAE-Israel agreement hit an immediate speed bump after it was announced, as contradictory comments on the planned Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley were made.

In spite of earlier comments by the UAE and a joint statement by the three countries that indicated the annexation plan would be “suspended”, senior UAE official Omar Ghobash, has admitted his government did not “have any guarantees as such” that Israel would not annex occupied Palestinian territory in the future.

Kushner has said as part of the Israeli-UAE deal that the United States will not consent to Israeli annexation for “some time”.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, cast the annexation plan – already dogged by disagreements within his governing coalition on the proposed timing – as temporarily on hold. But Israeli officials have signalled they want approval from Israel’s main ally – the US – first.

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Weapons sales
The Israel-UAE accord also faces another problem: a possible sale of stealth F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi that could challenge the Israeli technological edge in the Middle East.

Netanyahu has denied reports the UAE deal hinges on the sale of F-35s to the Emirates, saying he opposes a move that could reduce Israel’s military advantage.

“This deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal,” the Israeli leader said last week.

Ever since the 1960s, the US has guaranteed to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region.

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The policy was enhanced two years ago with a law that Washington must ensure, when selling weapons to another country in the Middle East, that Israel retains the ability to defend itself if the arms were to fall into the wrong hands.

Israel has already received a first consignment of American F-35s, a fighter also coveted by other Gulf powers.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told AFP there is no doubt of the importance of the F-35s.

“I absolutely think that without the F-35, the possibility of buying it, they [the Emiratis] wouldn’t sign the agreement,” said Guzansky. “This is a big hurdle to the fulfilment of the agreement.”

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Guzansky noted before Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979, the US sold Turkey and Iran sophisticated weaponry, “and now these countries are hostile towards Israel”.

But some analysts say a deal can be struck to the satisfaction of both Israel and the UAE, and ultimately Saudi Arabia, a longtime customer of US armaments.

“Although this is not really public, from what I understand arrangements are being made that the version that the Arab country gets is not the absolute latest version,” Joshua Teitelbaum, a Gulf specialist at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University told AFP.

Economic ties
On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott against Israel. Officials from the two countries have said they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology.

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Netanyahu told reporters abolishing “the anachronistic boycott” opened the door for “unbridled” trade, tourism and investment.

Statements issued by the UAE and Israel on Sunday said the UAE minister of state and Israel’s agriculture minister had spoken by phone and “pledged to collaborate on projects that address food and water security”.

The UAE, a desert state, relies on imports for about 80 percent of its food, and has heavily encouraged investment in agricultural technology and farmland abroad in recent years.

Israel and the UAE say they want to promote trade – especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the UAE – establish direct air links, and boost tourism.


#Newsworthy…

Mike Pompeo set for tour amid UAE-Israel deal

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due in Jerusalem on Monday to start a tour focused on Israel’s normalising of ties with the UAE and pushing other Arab states to follow suit.

After meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he is set to visit senior figures in Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said Sunday.

Israel had previously only signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, two neighbours with which it had technically been at war, unlike the United Arab Emirates.

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Following the US-sponsored deal announced on August 13, the new partners say they want to promote trade, especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the Emirates, as well as boosting tourism by establishing direct air links.

Key to that plan would be persuading Saudi Arabia to open its airspace, between Israel and the Gulf, to Israeli commercial airlines.

During his visit, Pompeo will “discuss regional security issues related to Iran’s malicious influence (and) establishing and deepening Israel’s relationships in the region,” the State Department said in a statement.

President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, announced in January, saw cooperation between Israel and those Arab countries who, like Israel, see Iran as their main foe.

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It also gave the Jewish state a green light to annex parts of the West Bank — something Israel committed to “suspending” under the UAE deal, without saying for how long.

The Palestinians have slammed the UAE’s move as a “stab in the back” while their own conflict with the Jewish state remains unresolved.

But the UAE ambassador to Washington, writing on the front page of Israel’s top-selling daily, said closer ties would benefit everybody.

“They will help move the region beyond the ugly legacy of hostility and conflicts, towards a destiny of hope, peace and prosperity,” he wrote in Yediot Aharonot’s weekend edition.

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– F-35 in the crosshairs –

Tel Aviv daily Israel Hayom, a staunch backer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote Sunday that direct talks between the sides on the wording of the deal were close to starting and “a full agreement could be reached within a month.”

A signing ceremony is set to be held at the White House within that timeframe, the paper wrote.

In this file photo taken on November 9, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference with Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe during the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Reports that the agreement hinges on the sale of US F-35 Stealth jets to the Emirates have been vigorously denied by Netanyahu, who says he opposes the move as it could reduce Israel’s regional strategic edge.

“The Emiratis are saying there was a promise there, the Israelis are saying no,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, professor in the department of Middle Eastern studies at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv.

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Historically, Israel (which has F-35s) has opposed the sale of advanced weaponry to other Middle East states, even Jordan and Egypt with which it has peace treaties.

But Teitelbaum said that in the past such objections have been finessed, citing the US sale to Israel and Saudi Arabia of F-15 fighters.

“From what I understand arrangements are made that the version that the Arab country gets is not the absolute latest version,” he told AFP.

“Israel is allowed to put certain modifications in the software that allow it to maintain its edge.”

There can also be cost advantages as a sweetener, he said.

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“The Israeli F-15s and the Saudi F-15s were made in the same factory” in the US, he went on.

“The fact that Israel gave its wink to the Saudi F-15s allowed the actual price to be lowered for the Israelis, because it allowed the assembly line to run (longer) at that factory.”

– Bahrain, Oman, Sudan? –

The surprise announcement of the Israel-Emirati pact sparked huge speculation on who might be next, with frequent mentions of Bahrain and Sudan, which is turning its back on the Omar al-Bashir era.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years supported hardline Islamist forces.

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Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman was fired last week after he made allegedly unauthorised comments indicating contact had been made with Israel regarding normalising ties.

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP.

But the State Department said Pompeo would meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during his tour, to “express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship”,

He will also meet Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa before meeting UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to discuss the Israel deal, it said.

Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by the majority of Arab states, has said it will not follow the UAE’s example until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians.


#Newsworthy…

Police arrest 30 Israeli protesters demanding Netanyahu’s resignation.

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Israeli police said on Sunday they had arrested 30 demonstrators after thousands rallied in Jerusalem demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chanting “Prime Minister” and “You’re fired”.

The demonstrators, some playing musical instruments, gathered in front of the premier’s official residence on Saturday night.

Local media estimated the crowd at around 10,000.

A police statement released early Sunday morning said there were outbreaks of violence during the rally and that officers were hurt.

“During the protests three policemen were injured by protesters,” police said.

Three of those arrested would appear in court on Sunday, the statement added.

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Protests demanding that Netanyahu resign over several corruption indictments and his handling of the coronavirus crisis have been mounting in recent weeks, and the premier has been scathing in his counter-attack.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu accused Channel 12 and another private TV station, Channel 13, of “delivering propaganda for the anarchist left-wing demonstrations” through extensive coverage of the rallies.

Israel won praise for its initial response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the government has come under criticism amid a resurgence in cases after restrictions were lifted starting in late April.

Netanyahu has acknowledged that the economy was re-opened too quickly.


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: UAE, Israeli in mutual agreement to research COVID-19

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Firms from the United Arab Emirates and Israel have signed an agreement to jointly develop research and studies on the novel coronavirus, the UAE’s state WAM agency reported.

The business deal comes days after a surprise political agreement between the UAE and Israel to normalise relations, a historic shift which will make the Gulf state only the third Arab country to establish full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

The UAE’s APEX National Investment and Israel’s TeraGroup signed the “strategic commercial agreement” late Saturday in Abu Dhabi, WAM said in a statement.

“We are delighted with this cooperation with TeraGroup, which is considered the first business to inaugurate trade, economy and effective partnerships between the Emirati and Israeli business sectors,” APEX chairman Khalifa Yousef Khouri said.

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APEX is an investment company with a particular focus on the healthcare sector.

The deal would be “serving humanity by strengthening research and studies on the novel coronavirus,” Khouri added.

The two companies hope to develop a rapid test for coronavirus.

“We are thrilled with our agreement with APEX National Investment, and hope that we will achieve the objectives outlined in this agreement, which in turn will benefit everyone economically,” TeraGroup chairman Oren Sadiv said, according to WAM.

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Last Thursday the UAE and Israel agreed the US-brokered deal to establish full diplomatic ties.

Under that agreement, Israel pledged to suspend its planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, a concession welcomed by European and some pro-Western Arab governments as a boost for hopes of peace.

However, before the political deal, two Israeli defence companies last month signed an agreement with an Emirati company to collaborate on the development of a non-invasive coronavirus screening test.

State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country’s largest aerospace and defence firm, as well as the government’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, signed a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 in July.


#Newsworthy…

Israeli soldiers launches 2 fresh rockets at Gaza.

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Israel’s army launched new airstrikes Sunday against Hamas positions in Gaza and closed the fishing zone around the Palestinian enclave in response to rockets and firebombs sent into Israeli territory.

The measures came after a week of heightened tensions, including clashes on Saturday evening along the Gaza-Israeli border, the army said.

Dozens of Palestinian “rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

Long simmering Palestinian anger has flared further since Israel and the UAE on Thursday agreed to normalise relations, a move Palestinians saw as a betrayal of their cause by the Gulf country.

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Over the past week, Israeli forces have carried out repeated night-time strikes on targets linked to the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

The army says they were carried out in response to makeshift firebombs attached to balloons and kites which have been sent into southern Israel, causing thousands of fires on Israeli farms and communities.

There were 19 such Palestinian attacks on Saturday alone, according to Israeli rescue services.

In response, “IDF fighter jets and aircraft struck a number of Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip,” the army said, adding that among the targets hit were a Hamas “military compound and underground infrastructure”.

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Early Sunday the IDF said two more rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza and intercepted by its Iron Dome defence system.

Smoke and flames rise after Israeli army war planes carried out airstrikes over Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip on August 16, 2020. – The Israeli army said it carried out fresh air strikes against Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on August 16, in response to firebombs sent into Israeli territory attached to balloons. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

“In response, our Air Force just struck Hamas terror targets in Gaza, including a military compound used to store rocket ammunition,” it said.

– Total fishing ban –

Following rocket and incendiary balloon attacks earlier this week, Israel on Wednesday slashed Gaza’s permitted coastal fishing zone from 15 nautical miles to eight, a punitive move often used by the Jewish state in response to Gaza unrest.

Following Saturday’s clashes and rocket-fire, Israel’s military decided “to entirely shut down the fishing zone of the Gaza Strip, immediately and until further notice, starting this morning (Sunday),” a military statement said.

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Israel has also closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

The IDF said Hamas “is responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it, and will bear the consequences for terror activity against Israeli civilians”.


#Newsworthy…

Israel, UAE deal marks “New Era” – PM, Netanyahu

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed “a new era” between Israel and the Arab world on Thursday following a historic US-brokered deal to normalise ties with the United Arab Emirates.

The pact first announced by President Donald Trump includes an agreement from Israel to “suspend” its plans to annex Jewish settlements and territory in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called an “urgent meeting” of his leadership team before announcing the Palestinian Authority’s reaction to the deal.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, rejected the Israel-UAE pact as “a reward for the Israeli occupation and crimes” and said it “does not serve the Palestinian people”.

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Speaking after Trump’s announcement, Netanyahu said he had agreed to delayed annexation plans, but that the project remained “on the table”.

“I will never give up our rights to our land,” the right-wing premier said.

Netanyahu told a televised news conference: “Today a new era began in the relations between Israel and the Arab world.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference in Jerusalem on August 13, 2020. – Israel and the UAE agreed to normalise relations in a landmark US-brokered deal, only the third such accord the Jewish state has struck with an Arab nation. Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP.

Netanyahu, like many in the Jewish state, refers to the occupied West Bank as Judea and Samaria and claims the territory as part of the historic homeland of the Jewish people.

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Israeli plans to annex roughly 30 percent of the West Bank, as outlined in a Trump Middle East peace proposal unveiled in January which triggered global outcry and threats of retaliation against the Jewish state, including from the European Union.

Israel’s alternate prime minister and Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, called the agreement “important and significant”.

“I call upon other Arab nations to advance diplomatic relations in additional peace agreements,” he said.

Once the deal is signed, the UAE will become the third Arab nation to have full diplomatic ties with Israel, following Israeli peace deals with Egypt and Jordan.


#Newsworthy…

US president, Trump makes surprise ‘peace agreement’ announcement between UAE & Israel.

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United States President Donald Trump on Thursday made the surprise announcement of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel is a “HUGE breakthrough” Trump tweeted, calling it a “Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends.”

Speaking to reporters later, Trump suggested more diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and its Muslim neighbors in the region were expected.

File photo: 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

“Things are happening that I can’t talk about,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

‘Hezbollah, playing with inferno’ – Israeli PM, Netanyahu says after allege Border clash

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hezbollah was “playing with fire” after border clashes on Monday, in which the Lebanese Shiite group denied all involvement.

Netanyahu insisted that Hezbollah and the Lebanese government “carry responsibility” for the attempt by gunmen to infiltrate Israeli territory, which resulted in an exchange of gunfire but no reported casualties.

“Hezbollah is playing with fire and our response will be very strong,” the Israeli premier said.


#Newsworthy…

DEVELOPING STORY: Protest to kick out Israeli PM, Netanyahu ‘rising’

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Israeli – “We won’t leave until Bibi leaves.” Israel’s struggle to contain the coronavirus has stirred deep-seated resentment towards Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and protests demanding his resignation are growing by the week.

As the Shabbat rest-day was ending on Saturday evening, thousands of demonstrators headed towards Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence, the main site for protests that have taken place in multiple cities.

Some demonstrators branded Netanyahu — who has been indicted with bribery, fraud and breach of trust — as corrupt, while others condemned a lack of coherence in the government’s response to the pandemic.

For Tamir Gay-Tsabary, who travels each day to the Jerusalem protests with his wife Tami from southern Israel, coronavirus was “a trigger” that brought renewed focus to Netanyahu’s leadership faults.

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The pandemic made people “understand that he doesn’t care (about) Israel, he just cares for himself,” the 56-year-old sales manager told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

Netanyahu won praise for his initial response to the virus.

His government’s quick decisions in March to curb travel and impose a lockdown brought the daily case-count to a trickle by early May.

But an economic re-opening that began in late April has led to an explosion in transmission in the country of about 9 million people, with daily COVID-19 tallies ranging between 1,000 and 2,000 cases in recent weeks.

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Anti-government protests that initially included a few hundred people in Tel Aviv, now regularly count several thousand there and in Jerusalem.

A protester clad in mask due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic stands holding a sign reading in English “Bibi let my people go” during a demonstration against the Israeli government near the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on July 25, 2020. Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

Reflecting on the movement, Einav Schiff of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said it began in response to “a premature victory celebration for having defeated the coronavirus”.

That false victory “morphed into a healthcare and economic failure, which has left a severe crisis of confidence between the public and the government in its wake,” he said.

No ‘plan’
In response to rising cases, Netanyahu’s centre-right coalition has re-imposed economically painful restrictions, including targeting shops and markets.

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It has also approved additional relief measures, notably cash deposits to all citizens.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
Protester Amit Finkerstin said the government’s recent moves reveal it does not “have any plan,” making it impossible for people to prepare for the future.

The 27-year-old waitress, currently unemployed because of the pandemic, pointed to restaurant closures as evidence of the policy chaos.

On July 17, the government announced restaurants would mainly be limited to delivery and takeaway.

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Four days later, parliament overturned that decision. Then the government passed a law allowing it to bypass parliament on coronavirus restrictions, casting further uncertainty over the sector.

“One day yes one day no,” Finkerstin said. “People can’t earn any money.”

A protester holds up a sign reading in English “Bibi Netanyahu & Viktor Orban, same shit, the different name” during a demonstration against the Israeli government near the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on July 25, 2020. Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

The government’s plan to send at least 750 shekels ($220) to every citizen has been criticised by some economists as a knee-jerk response to mounting economic suffering in the place of smart, targeted aid.

Finkerstin accused the government of giving everyone cash “just to shut our mouth up.”

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‘Something is happening’
Netanyahu has taken responsibility for re-opening the economy too soon but said he was seeking a tricky balance between protecting livelihoods and limiting viral transmission, a challenge faced by many leaders.

He has also acknowledged the financial pain felt by many in a country where unemployment currently exceeds 20 per cent, compared to 3.4 per cent in February, when Israel recorded its first COVID-19 case.

But, in a series of tweets, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has also sought to undermine the protests as a product of the “anarchist left” and accused the media of exaggerating their size.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu

In a July 19 tweet that dismissed the protests as an “embarrassment and a disgrace,” Netanyahu highlighted the presence of a Palestinian flag at one rally, saying “the secret is out,” about the movement.

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Despite those dismissals, Schiff insisted that “something is happening” in the protest movement known as “black flag”.

“We can all hear, see and mainly feel it,” he wrote on Sunday.

“It isn’t clear yet whether this is a full-fledged earthquake or whether it is merely a tremor that will ultimately pass, but it’s everywhere.”

Israel’s last major protest movement — 2011 demonstrations over the rising cost of living — fizzled without large-scale impact.


#Newsworthy…

Annexation: Jordan, Egypt, Others issue warning to Israel

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The foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan on Tuesday urged Israel to abandon plans to begin annexing settlements in the West Bank, warning such action could have “consequences” for relations.

“We concur that any annexation of Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 would be a violation of international law and imperil the foundations of the peace process,” the ministers said in a statement after a joint video conference.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had set July 1 as the date when it could begin to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.

The move was endorsed by a Middle East plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January.

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Netanyahu’s office made no announcement on July 1 as expected, but said talks were continuing with US officials and Israeli security chiefs.

“We would not recognise any changes to the 1967 borders that are not agreed by both parties in the conflict,” the ministers warned in the statement issued by the German foreign ministry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wears a protective mask as he opens the weekly cabinet meeting at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem on July 5, 2020. (Photo by GALI TIBBON / POOL / AFP)

“We also concur that such a step would have serious consequences for the security and stability of the region, and would constitute a major obstacle to efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive and just peace,” they said.

“It could also have consequences for the relationship with Israel,” they added, underlining their commitment to a two-state solution based on international law.

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The EU has in recent weeks mounted a diplomatic campaign against annexation, highlighted by a visit to Jerusalem by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to raise a concern about the prospective plans.

But the bloc cannot threaten Israel with formal sanctions without unanimous support among members.

After occupying the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel began establishing a network of settlements the following decade. Construction continues to this day.

Despite being viewed as illegal under international law, the settler population has jumped by 50 percent over the past decade.


#Newsworthy…

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West Bank Annexation: ‘Final Nail in Palestines’ coffin

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Palestinians in Ramallah demonstrate against Israel’s plan to annex a third of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.


But Israeli military and intelligence officials have warned the move could cause an uprising in the West Bank, which would be a grave security risk for Israel.

Furthermore, the plan has been met with condemnation by the Palestinian public, their leaders and the global community alike.

‘Another catastrophe’
“I’m angry because this is history repeating itself,” said Zeina Mustafa, a 20-year-old student from Ramallah.

“The annexation plan is another Nakba [catastrophe] and Naksa [day of setback],” she added, referring to the 1948 Palestinian exodus that saw more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs expelled from their homes and an Israeli state declared, and the 1967 Six-Day War after that saw Israel take control of the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

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For Belal Gaith, a 40-year-old resident of Ramallah, the annexation plan would push Palestinians further under a state of occupation and military rule.

“As soon as the annexation plan is declared, it will be the end of the Oslo Accords,” he said, referring to the 1993 agreement which established the Palestinian Authority (PA) and gave it limited powers.

A Palestinian demonstrator returns a tear gas canister during a protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

“We can potentially lose every single bit of our lands and live as prisoners under Israeli rule,” he added.

In the lead up to the anticipated declaration, the head of the PA and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said the authority had terminated all of its agreements with Israel and the United States amid Israel’s push for annexation.

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned if Israel goes ahead with the plan, Palestinians would unilaterally declare a state along the pre-1967 borders.

A Palestinian demonstrator returns a tear gas canister during a protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah July

A key criticism of the plan is it would prevent Palestinians from accessing their agricultural land and water resources in the fertile Jordan Valley – known as the “bread basket” for Palestinians. The plan could destroy farmers’ export businesses and deprive them of their source of income.

Israel’s Jordan Valley Annexation explained
“Israel is creating an environment in which the Palestinians cannot grow in their lands and business,” said Walid Assaf, a Palestinian minister and chairman of the Commission Against the Wall and Settlements.

Palestinians have decried Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley as the end to a future Palestinian state [Majdi Mohammed/AP]

“The crux of this conflict has been the land and Israel’s helping Jewish settlers take over it and expel the Palestinians in the process.”

Over the past few years, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs have reported an increase in the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jewish settler-only roads that connect them with Israel.

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The structures have further carved up Palestinian territories and added to the disjointed nature of cities, villages and towns.

According to Assaf, Israel has already taken practical steps to annex the areas included in the plan, with the Jewish state allegedly building three new settlements in recent months; two near Nablus and another near Hebron.

Only a formality
Still, many Palestinians believe the plan is only a formality and a de facto Israeli occupation of their land has been under way for many years.

“Israel’s annexation plan has been in process since 1967,” said Salah Khawaja, coordinator of an anti-occupation campaign called the Popular Committee to Resist the Wall and the Settlements.

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“Israel has since built settlements and the wall. And so, annexation has been ongoing for a long time,” he added, as he stood among the crowd of demonstrators in Ramallah.

Although the plan does not aim to annex occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Authority sees as the capital of a future Palestinian state, the international community, including the United Nations and the European Union, have said it threatens to sabotage any peace agreement or two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The plan will be the final nail in the coffin. It will end any chance for a future Palestinian state and our right to self-determination,” said Assaf.

“It will also restrict Palestinian lives in a way like never before. Making it impossible for us to build our lives or dream for the future.”


This is history repeating itself. The annexation plan is another Nakba [catastrophe] and Naksa [day of setback].


ZEINA, 20, RAMALLAH


#Newsworthy…

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West Bank Annexation: US Democrats, Groups warn Israel

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Ocasio-Cortez, Jewish students urge Trump administration to withhold US military aid if Israel annexes the West Bank.


A coalition of progressive Democratic politicians and Jewish groups are calling for withholding US military aid to Israel in response to planned annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is gathering legislators’ signatures on a letter urging the Trump administration to take steps to block Israel’s planned annexation.

“The United States must remain committed to a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians live with full rights, dignity, and democracy,” Ocasio-Cortez and a dozen other legislators said in the letter.

“We therefore urge you to make clear to the Israeli government that such a move is unacceptable,” they said in the letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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‘Lower standard’
Five other letters are circulating in the US Jewish community demanding accountability for the Israeli government and concrete actions by US Jewish institutions if a planned annexation goes forward.

Those letters have drawn more than 3,200 signatures, according to IfNotNow, a US Jewish group that opposes the occupation.

“It is time to stop holding America’s number one recipient of military funding – Israel – to a lower standard than we hold all other countries, exempting it from consequences when it violates our most basic values,” said Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow.

The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) promptly condemned the Ocasio-Cortez letter, saying in a tweet that it threatens the US-Israel relationship.

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Senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives who signed the letter issued statements opposing annexation in strong terms.

“I have long believed that the United States needs to engage in an even-handed approach toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Sanders said in a statement.

“We need a resolution that ends the Israeli occupation and enables a future of security, self-determination, and prosperity for both peoples,” Sanders said.

“Conditioning US aid is one of the tools we can use to help achieve this goal,” Sanders said.

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The US politicians said they would pursue legislation that would tie future US military aid – now $3.8bn a year – to human rights conditions and withhold funding for Israeli arms purchases.

‘Perpetuate and entrench’
Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American, said the Netanyahu government uses aid “to formalise an apartheid system”.

US taxpayers are helping to “perpetuate and entrench human rights violations in Palestine, including limitations on freedom of movement, further expansion of illegal land theft, home demolitions, and cutting off access to critical resources like clean water,” Tlaib said.

The letters and statements reflect a widening rift between the progressive and establishment wings of the US Democratic Party over support for Israel. While critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, leading Democrats like presidential candidate Joe Biden have been reluctant to condition US military support for Israel on changes in policy.

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In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz last week, more than 190 House members voiced “deep concern” about the annexation plans but stopped short of threatening to withhold US military support.

“We understand that historically, US refusal to use its leverage – as we would do with other countries – has enabled a right-wing annexationist agenda to succeed in Israeli politics in the first place,” said Zoe Goldblum, a Democratic political organiser and former student leader at J Street, a pro-Israel advocacy group.

“We want lawmakers to know that young Jews are behind them,” she said.

Support for Israel within the Democratic party has been shifting as newer politicians have come into office.

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Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, known in the US Congress as “The Squad” for their progressive stances, won election in 2016 and have been sharply critical of Trump administration policies towards Israel.

“Unilateral annexation is a violation of international law, a violation of Palestinian human rights, and directly counter to American values of democracy and self-determination,” Omar said.

Last week, progressive challenger Jamal Bowman won a primary election in New York, displacing Representative Eliot Engel, a 16-term member of the House who has been a strong backer of Israel and is currently chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Bowman, who has called for justice for Palestinians, was backed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.


#Newsworthy…

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Reactions from the Globe over Israel’s West Bank annexation

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Several of Israel’s staunchest allies have criticised its annexation plans as jeopardising the status quo.


The plan, which aims to annex all illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank – including the strategic Jordan Valley – amounts to one-third of the territory and is in line with US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Middle East plan,” which envisages a demilitarised Palestinian state on a patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories.

The Israeli annexation was slated for July 1, but Israeli officials said the process would take place later this month in coordination with their American counterparts.

“Coordination with the American administration is not something that can be dismissed,” Israeli cabinet minister Ofir Akunis told Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday.

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is viewed as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there - as well as the planned annexation - illegal.

Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with annexation, which would further undermine a two-state solution.

Several countries, including some of Israel’s staunch allies, have come out with public statements against the annexation.

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United Kingdom
In an editorial in Israel’s largest selling newspaper on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for any annexation plans to be scrapped.

“As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests,” Johnson wrote in Yediot Ahronoth.

“Annexation would represent a violation of international law,” he said.

“I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.”

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France
France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told the French parliament “an annexation decision could not be left without consequences”.

He said Paris was “examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners”.

Germany
The German parliament has called on Israel not to go ahead with the annexation of parts of the West Bank, describing the move as being “in contradiction with international law”.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Israeli plan threatened the stability of the entire Middle East.

“Peace cannot be achieved by unilateral steps,” he said.

PLO rally to protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank

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Australia
In a rare criticism of Israel, Australia warned against “unilateral annexation or change in status of territory on the West Bank”.

Jordan
Jordan has warned annexation could trigger a “massive conflict” and has not ruled out reviewing its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

The Vatican
The Vatican has summoned the US and Israeli envoys over Israel’s annexation plans.

A senior diplomatic source told Reuters that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state and the Vatican’s top diplomat, expressed “the concern of the Holy See regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardise the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the delicate situation in the Middle East”.

Amnesty International
Amnesty International’s deputy Middle East chief Saleh Hijazi said: “International law is crystal clear on this matter – annexation is unlawful,” adding if Israel moves forward it “points to the law of the jungle”.


#Newsworthy…

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Move to Annex West Bank not imminent – Israel signals

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Uncertainty over when Israel will begin controversial process as Palestinians gather for renewed protests.


An announcement on Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank was not imminent on Wednesday, the date set by the coalition government to start the widely criticised process, its foreign minister said.

The statement by Gabi Ashkenazi came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government’s discussions with the United States on the annexation plan would continue “in the coming days”, indicating he would miss the self-imposed July 1 target date to begin debate on the controversial issue.

“I reckon there will be nothing today,” Ashkenazi, a member of the centrist Blue and White party that eventually partnered up with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud after three inconclusive elections, told Israel’s Army Radio.

In a sign of rifts within the coalition over the timing of any unilateral annexation move, which has been fiercely opposed by the Palestinians and most of the international community, Ashkenazi referred further questions on the matter by the interviewer to Netanyahu.

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It also came after Benny Gantz, alternate prime minister and defence minister, said this week that annexation must wait until the coronavirus crisis has been contained. Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, is due to take over as prime minister in November 2021 under the terms of the coalition deal.

Netanyahu may still move forward, either later on Wednesday or in the coming days, with reports in Israeli media suggesting he may announce a symbolic move such as the annexation of one illegal settlement on Jerusalem’s outskirts.

‘Cementing occupation’
Meanwhile, Palestinians began gathering in Gaza City for a demonstration against the plan with rallies in the West Bank also scheduled for later in the day.

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“For Palestinian officials, annexation is still on the table, whether it happens gradually or delayed for weeks and months,” said Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.

“They say this is just one step further of institutionalising and cementing the Israeli occupation.”

Netanyahu has been eager to start the controversial process, which is in line with President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East plan, by Wednesday.

Unveiled in late January and rejected by the Palestinians, the plan offered a path for Israel to annex territory and Jewish West Bank settlements, communities considered illegal under international law.

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It also proposes the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state on a patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian leaders have said they are willing to renew long-stalled talks with Israel – but not on the terms outlined in the Trump proposal.

“We will not sit on a table where the American-Israeli plan is on the table,” said Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “This is not a peace plan from Netanyahu, it’s an annexation, apartheid … and we will not sit on any table.”

Hamas, which administers the besieged Gaza Strip, said Israeli annexations in the West Bank would be a “declaration of war”.

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The planned Israeli annexation would deprive Palestinians of key agricultural land and water resources, especially in the Jordan Valley region.

It would also effectively kill the likelihood of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that was based on the idea of land for peace.

But many Palestinians would argue the annexation is merely a formality for what has already been happening on the ground in the West Bank for years.

Increased settlement construction over the past years, along with Jewish-settler-only roads that connect to Israel, have carved the territory up, resulting in non-contiguous Palestinian cities, towns and villages that now exist in cantons.

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While the US has offered tacit support for immediate annexation as part of the Trump plan, most of the international community is vocally opposed to the project.

The UN secretary-general, the EU and key Arab countries have all said Israeli annexation would violate international law and undermine the goal of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Jordan, one of only two Arab nations that have diplomatic ties with Israel, has warned annexation could trigger a “massive conflict” and has not ruled out reviewing its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Writing in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said although he was a “passionate defender of Israel”, he viewed annexation as “contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.”

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“Annexation would represent a violation of international law,” he said.

Rights group Amnesty International called on the international community to take firm action against the annexation and Israel’s “law of the jungle” mentality.

“Members of the international community must enforce international law and restate that annexation of any part of the occupied West Bank is null and void,” said Saleh Higazi, deputy regional director for Amnesty Middle East and North Africa.

“They must also work to immediately stop the construction or expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a first step towards removing Israeli civilians living in such settlements.”


#Newsworthy…

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Netanyahu to become 1st on seat Israel PM to face crime charge


The long-awaited corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu is due to open in Jerusalem, where he will become the first serving Israeli prime minister to face criminal prosecution.

Netanyahu is required to appear for Sunday’s session in Jerusalem District Court, a week after he was sworn in to a record fifth term as head of a unity government, ending more than a year of political deadlock in the wake of three inconclusive elections.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of cases. He is accused of accepting expensive gifts, such as cartons of champagne and cigars, from wealthy friends and offering favours to media moguls in exchange for favourable news coverage of him and his family.

In the most serious case, he is accused of promoting legislation that delivered hundreds of millions of dollars of profits to the owner of a major telecom company while wielding behind-the-scenes editorial influence over the firm’s popular news website.

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Has Netanyahu won? | UpFront

Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, denies all charges. He has cast his prosecution as a left-wing witch-hunt meant to overthrow a popular right-wing leader.

As prime minister, Netanyahu is under no legal obligation to resign and he has said his court battle will not affect his ability to do his job.

A three-judge panel, which will hear the prime minister’s case, turned down on Wednesday his request to stay away from the opening session.

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In asking to be excused, Netanyahu called the event a formality and argued that bringing his contingent of bodyguards would waste public funds and make it hard to comply with physical distancing rules.

Some critics said Netanyahu was trying to avoid the optics of a prime minister sitting in the defendant’s dock. Turning down his request, the court said it was important for justice to be seen to be done.

Political deadlock resolved
After three bruising elections over the past year, Netanyahu was sworn into office this week for a fourth consecutive term.

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How is BDS affecting Israel

All three elections were seen as referendums on his fitness for office, and all ended in deadlock. After the most recent vote in March, his rival, Benny Gantz, appeared to have mustered enough support in Parliament to pass legislation that would have disqualified Netanyahu from serving as prime minister while under indictment.

However, in a stunning turnaround, Gantz, citing fears of a fourth expensive election and the coronavirus pandemic, agreed to shelve the legislation and instead form a power-sharing government with Netanyahu.

The Supreme Court cleared the way for Netanyahu to remain in power. In a key ruling, it said an indicted politician may serve as prime minister – even though Israeli law requires all other office-holders to resign if charged with a crime.

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Yuval Shany, professor of law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, argued that there is “a basic incompatibility” between Netanyahu’s role as head of the government and his status as a criminal defendant.

In the latter role, Shany said, the prime minister would be “fighting very aggressively and maybe effectively to weaken the government authorities that are prosecuting him”.

“There is a very serious conflict of interest situation,” he told AFP news agency.

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Under their deal, Netanyahu was forced to yield some powers to Gantz, with each wielding a veto over most key decisions. Gantz will hold the title of “alternate prime minister,” and after 18 months, they will swap jobs.

Six years ago, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was found guilty of bribe-taking and served 16 months in jail. His trial took place after his 2006-2009 term in office.


#Newsworthy…

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U.S vs Iran: Tourists urged to leave Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Israel


Westerners and tourists have been urged to immediately leave Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Israel following outrage in Iran and Iraq after the Us Military carried out drone strikes that killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani following orders from US president Donald Trump early Friday morning.

US vs Iran: Westerners and tourists urged to leave Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Israel immediately

Iran’s foreign minister Zarif said the killing was as ‘an act of international terrorism’ and now military experts have warned that holiday spots like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and even Israel isn’t safe for Westerners to be in at the moment.

US vs Iran: Westerners and tourists urged to leave Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Israel immediately

Iranian Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi, from the University of Tehran who is also a Military analyst, speaking to the BBC said: “If I was a Western citizen I would leave the United Arab Emirates immediately.

US vs Iran: Westerners and tourists urged to leave Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Israel immediately

“Not only will Iranian leaders retaliate but also Iraqis will retaliate.

“The Americans have murdered Iraqi war heroes, this was a senior Iraqi government official.


“The American position in Iraq is no longer sustainable and I think that the whole region is now a threat.”

“The whole region’s future is unclear because of the terrorist attack committed in Iraq. No matter how you frame it, it’s the equivalent of assassinating the British commander of the British armed forces.”


“This is essentially a declaration of war against Iran and they have a pretty wide menu from which to choose [as a form of retaliation]”

The US Military has approximately 5000 troops in Iraq, making them a high priority target for the Iranian regime.


#Newsworthy…

Iran dares Israel, America, Saudi Arabia to cross the tehran’s red lines; Says they would be destroyed in no time..

Iran has vowed to ‘destroy’ America, Israel and Saudi Arabia if they cross Tehran’s ‘red lines’.

Gen Hossein Salami, the head of the country’s Revolutionary Guards, accused the US, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia of stoking last week’s violent protests over fuel price hike.

Addressing a pro-government demonstration on Monday, he warned the West: ‘If you cross our red line, we will destroy you… We will not leave any move unanswered.’ Amnesty International says more than 100 people were killed in the protests.

Iran has not released a death toll and cut off internet for several days, making it hard to ascertain the extent and severity of the demonstrations.

Thousands of young and working-class Iranians took to the streets on November 15 after gasoline price hikes of at least 50 per cent were announced, voicing outrage at a further squeeze on living costs compounding hardships imposed by renewed US sanctions.

Protesters quickly expanded their demands to include a removal of leaders seen as unaccountable and corrupt. Violence erupted with at least 100 banks and dozens of buildings torched, the worst disturbances since unrest over alleged election fraud was crushed in 2009, with dozens killed by security forces.

On Monday, state television carried live footage of demonstrators chanting ‘Death to America,’ and ‘Death to Israel’, while marching toward Tehran’s Revolution Square to hear a speech by a commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

State television and the foreign ministry had promoted the government-organised rally since Sunday in response to Western statements of support for the fuel price protests.

#Newsworthy…