Netanyahu Tells Israeli President He Gives up on Forming Gov't

His failure to form a government comes just weeks after the country had its second snap general elections this year after Bibi had already failed to form a government. 

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he was giving up his effort to form a new government after failing to secure a majority coalition in parliament following an inconclusive election in September.

Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, said he was returning the mandate back to Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin after "working unceasingly ... to establish a broad unity government".

Rivlin said he will now hold consultations with the various political parties to tell them he intends to task Netanyahu's centrist rival Benny Gantz with the job of putting together a new government.

Gantz's Blue and White party was the largest to emerge from the Sept. 17 ballot, though he also has no clear path to a parliamentary majority. Should he also fail to bring in enough partners it would almost certainly lead to another general election, the third since April.

 
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Palestinians slam Netanyahu for pledging settlement annexation

Ramallah, September 3 (RHC)-- Palestinian leaders have slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for pledging annexation of all illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Nehru’s reiteration of annexation pledge was a  "continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli."  He added that the move would "not lead to any peace, security or stability.”

The secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said, "Those who claim concern after every Israeli settlement announcement should face reality: Israel's PM is announcing further annexation of occupied territory.”

"Enough impunity: There's an international responsibility to impose sanctions on Israel after decades of systematic crimes," he added.

Netanyahu told an audience at West Bank settlement Sunday that he would annex all illegal settlements.  "With the help of God we will apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities, as part of the [biblical] Land of Israel, and as part of the state of Israel," he said. 

More than 400,000 Israelis live in the illegal settlements in West Bank and around 20,000 live in occupied East Jerusalem.   The prime minister’s comments come amid Israel’s elections due for Sept. 17. After elections in April, Netanyahu’s Likud Party could not secure enough support to form a government coalition and another snap election was called.

According to the polls, the prime minister is running in a very close race with his main rival Benny Gantz from the centrist Blue and White party.  In addition to that, his far-right Likud party needs to come out with a decisive lead in the ballot or Israeli President Reuven Rivlin might decide to appoint another candidate to form a ruling coalition.  It is in this context that he is seeking to draw support from the voters of the right-wing parties close to the influential settlement movement.

Edited by Ed Newman
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Israel bars entry to US politicians Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib

Donald Trump had said letting in high-profile pair would ‘show great weakness’

Israel has announced it will block the US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country after public pressure from Donald Trump.

“It’s unacceptable to allow the entrance to the country of those who wish to harm the state of Israel,” the country’s interior ministry said.

Omar and Tlaib, who have been outspokenly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, had planned to visit Palestine and Jerusalem next week.

There had been vigorous speculation in the past few weeks that the Israeli government might bar the two women, who are among the four Democrats who Trump said last month should go back to the countries they “originally came from”. Three were born in the US and one, Omar, moved there as a child.

Shortly before the Israeli announcement, Trump said allowing the women to enter “would show great weakness”. It was not immediately clear if the Israeli government made its final decision before or after Trump’s comments.

“They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds … They are a disgrace!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The ban prompted strong rebukes from Palestinian, Israeli and US politicians, civil society groups and former diplomats.

The Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren said before the announcement that barring elected officials for their political views would be a shameful and unprecedented move by Israel.

Bernie Sanders, another Democratic contender, said the ban was “a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress and to the principles of democracy”.

Israel passed a law in 2017 that allows the government to deport people who support a boycott of Israel or Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The measure, widely condemned as anti-democratic and anti-free speech, was designed to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Omar and Tlaib have said they support the use of boycotts to pressure governments, including Israel’s, on rights abuses. They have sought to pass a resolution in the House of Representatives championing the right to participate in them.

'She went back with me': Ilhan Omar posts photos with Pelosi in Ghana

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the two women of aiming to use their trip to “strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy”.

Israel has used the BDS legislation to block entry to students and activists but also foreign officials, including French parliamentarians and members of the European parliament. It is not clear if a US member of congress has ever been barred before.

Ayman Odeh, who runs an Arab party in Israel, said the ban exposed “the true face of Israel’s occupation”. Referring to Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, he wrote on Twitter: “Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a US congresswoman.”

The interior ministry said Tlaib could request a permit to enter on “humanitarian grounds for a personal visit with her family”, but approval was not guaranteed.

Omar and Tlaib were planning to see the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah and to spend time in the disputed city of Jerusalem. They would have had to pass through Israeli security checks to enter both the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Alon Pinkas, formerly Israel’s consul in New York, said the country should “engage Omar and Tlaib, [and] show them where they are wrong or have a partial and skewed perception of reality.”

Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, said last month that Israel would not deny entry to US lawmakers “out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America”.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, said the ban was “a sad reversal and is deeply disappointing”.

Trump, a close ally of Netanyahu, has sought to make political support for the Jewish state – long a consensus foreign policy for both major US parties – into a partisan issue, painting Democrats as anti-Israel. He has claimed, without evidence, that Omar and Tlaib “hate Israel, they hate our own country.”

David Brinn, the managing editor of the rightwing Jerusalem Post, wrote that a ban would be “shortsighted and deeply flawed”. He wrote: “A quashed trip is only going to further deepen the divide between Democrats and Israel – moving moderate Democrats away from a positive view of the country – and raise the spectre that Israel is behaving in something less than a democratic fashion.”

Omar and Tlaib make up half of a group of progressive minority ethnic congresswomen nicknamed the Squad, against whom Trump has lashed out with racist slurs. The other two members are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley.

Tlaib was born in Michigan to Palestinian parents. Omar is naturalised US citizen who arrived as a child refugee from Somalia. The pair were the first Muslim women elected to congress.

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Bolton and Netanyahu killed 2005 Iran talks, ‘lured’ Trump into shredding 2015 deal - Iranian FM

National Security Advisor John Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scuppered a 2005 nuclear agreement between Iran and the west, and did the same with President Trump, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said.

“Bolton & Netanyahu killed Paris agreement between E3 & Iran in '05 by insisting on zero enrichment,” Zarif tweeted on Tuesday. “Result? Iran increased its enrichment 100 fold by 2012.”

Referring to Bolton and Netanyahu as the “B Team,” Zarif then said that “they’ve lured Donald Trump into killing JCPOA w/the same delusion,” referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran Nuclear Deal.

Also on rt.com As Iran is pushed to step further away from nuclear deal, what’s next?...

Iran stepped up its uranium enrichment on Monday, going beyond the JCPOA-mandated cap of 3.67 percent purification level, in response to the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA last year, and application of biting economic sanctions on Iran. The step-up in enrichment was also carried out as a response to the JCPOA’s European signatories' failure to live up to their trade obligations with Iran under the deal.

Prior to Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, Netanyahu had pressured his American counterpart to abandon the deal, calling it a “historic mistake” and accusing Tehran of cheating on the deal - with the aid of a theatrical slideshow. In the run-up to the US withdrawal last year, Bolton, a longtime Iran war-hawk, called the deal a scam and promised regime change in the Islamic Republic by the year’s end.

Also on rt.com The world knows Iran doesn’t want nuclear weapons – Revolutionary Guard’s chief...

A similar situation played out in 2005. After reaching an agreement with Germany, France and Britain, Iran agreed to suspend all uranium enrichment and to fully cooperate with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Though the US remained absent from negotiations, Washington then lobbied its European allies to demand that Iran have no uranium enrichment facilities on its own soil, under any circumstances. 

Hardliners within Iran considered the diktat unacceptable, and newly-elected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad abandoned the deal and resumed enrichment the following year. “We do not humble ourselves in the poisoned atmosphere created by foreign sources,” he said in his inauguration speech in August 2005.

As a result, an IAEA report in 2012 claimed that Iran had produced around 190 kilograms of 20-percent-enriched uranium – enough for a single nuclear warhead if further enriched. “Once you get to 20 percent,” Middle East analyst Paul Heroux told RT, “you’re basically 99 precent of the way” to weapons-grade uranium.

Also on rt.com ‘Unilateral bullying is worsening tumor’: China blames US pressure for Iranian nuclear crisis...

After passing the 3.67 percent enrichment threshold on Monday, a spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency threatened to once again up enrichment to 20 percent and to reactivate centrifuges that had lain dormant since the 2015 deal was signed. 

With the events of 2005 playing out again, Heroux cautioned that further sanctions and military action are out of the question for the west. 

“You can’t eliminate the knowledge Iran has,” he said. “You can’t bomb Iran’s knowledge out of existence. The right way is to go back to the negotiating table with Iran, and we’re probably going to get a worse deal.”

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End of Bibi’s era? ‘Bleak’ prospects for Netanyahu as Israel’s embattled PM faces snap elections

Benjamin Netanyahu will struggle to secure a majority in September’s snap elections, analysts told RT, predicting that the Israeli prime minister faces formidable political and legal hurdles if he hopes to keep his job.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted to dissolve late Wednesday night after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition before the midnight deadline. The sizable political hiccup marks the first time in Israel’s history that the presumed prime minister has failed to form a government. Less than two months after Netanyahu declared victory in April’s elections, Israeli voters will return to the polls on September 17.

Also on rt.com Will Netanyahu form a government by midnight – or force new elections?...

While Netanyahu has proven himself to be a resilient politician, the veteran politician will have to overcome a looming indictment, as well as a crumbling alliance with right-wing and religious parties, if he hopes to remain in power.

A shattered alliance

Netanyahu’s problems began immediately after April’s elections. Despite claiming victory, his Likud party was only able to secure 35 seats in the Knesset, requiring him to form a coalition to secure a majority in the 120-seat legislature. The fate of the new government depended on the support of the small, ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, but the group’s leader, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, broke ranks with Netanyahu over military draft exemptions for Orthodox Jews. Lieberman resigned as defense minister in November after Netanyahu’s cabinet agreed to a ceasefire that ended two days of fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Whether Lieberman’s political gambit will pay off in September is an open question, however.

“It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu or Lieberman will be strengthened by this development,” Steve Linde, editor of The Jerusalem Report magazine, told RT. He added that, while Netanyahu still enjoys support in Israel, forming a new coalition will be no easy task.

I think this time he’s going to seek other partners. There’s already talk of him making alliances with other, smaller parties. He even invited the Labor opposition into the government, but they refused.

If Netanyahu does triumph in September’s elections, it’s unlikely that Lieberman will be part of the government, predicted Linde, who said that the two men “won’t budge” on their clashing policy positions.

A ‘doubtful’ political future

There’s no reason to believe that, after failing to form a coalition, Netanyahu’s fortunes will improve in the snap elections, Amir Oren, a defense and political commenter, argued.

Also on rt.com ‘We will win!’ Netanyahu vows better result in snap elections after historic coalition failure....

It’s not certain that even if his party, Likud, gets the biggest number of seats in the Knesset, that he will be able to form a coalition. This is exactly what he failed at last night. His chances now look worse than in the previous elections. So it is doubtful, politically, that he can survive.

Netanyahu’s political troubles are only compounded by a looming indictment on charges of corruption. If Israel’s attorney general decides to press forward with the case – a decision that will be made in September – it would be “more than doubtful that people will join [Netanyahu] in a coalition,” Oren remarked.

“All in all, the situation is quite bleak” for Netanyahu, he summarized.

While Oren was less than optimistic about Netanyahu’s chances, he acknowledged that anything is possible. After all, Lieberman’s party, which controlled only five seats in the Knesset, was able to bring down Netanyahu’s budding coalition.

“Every vote counts,” noted Oren. “Any member of the Knesset could change the situation.”

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Israel Parliament Takes First Step To Hold New Elections Due To Deadlock

Jerusalem: Israel's parliament on Monday took a first step toward holding new elections due to deadlocked coalition negotiations following April polls, giving preliminary approval to a law to dissolve itself.

Three more votes are required for final approval of the law, which would result in new elections being held. The vote was 65-43 with six abstentions, according to parliament's website.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to reach a deal to form a governing coalition ahead of a Wednesday night deadline to do so.

He was due to speak in parliament at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT).

Ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has prevented a deal by refusing to budge from a key demand.

Holding elections so close to one another would be unprecedented in Israel, and there have been concerns over the cost and prolonged political paralysis that would result.

It would also be a major setback for Netanyahu, who received support on Monday from his close ally US President Donald Trump.

"Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!" Trump, currently visiting Japan, said on Twitter, using Netanyahu's nickname.

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Israeli PM Netanyahu says he’ll name Golan settlement after Trump (VIDEO)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will name a settlement in the Golan Heights after Donald Trump, in a show of gratitude for the US president's decision to recognize the region as Israeli territory.

“In honor of President Trump, who recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, [Israel] will soon call for a settlement in the Golan Heights in his name. Happy holiday!” a message posted from Netanyahu’s Twitter account said on Tuesday.

PM Netanyahu will present to the government a resolution calling for naming a new community in the Golan Heights after Donald Trump, as a token of appreciation for his recognition of Israel's eternal sovereignty over the Golan.

Trump announced he was recognizing the Golan Heights as being part of Israel late last month, in the run up to Israel’s election in April.

Israel occupied the Syrian region in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in 1981 in a move that was not recognized by the international community or the UN Security Council. About 40,000 people live in the Golan, half are Druze and Alawites, and half are Jewish settlers.

Also on rt.com 'Unlawful & unrecognized': Twitter heaps criticism as US maps show Golan Heights as part of Israel...

The PM’s decision to name a settlement after Trump is just the latest gesture of admiration the Israeli leader has displayed for his US counterpart. Netanyahu’s Likud party shared posters of Trump and Netanyahu around Israel before the election, while Trump told American Jews that Netanyahu was “your prime minister” as he celebrated his recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory at the Republican Jewish Coalition convention earlier this month.

Trump has also recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there, and pulled funding to Palestinian aid organizations.

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Wins Record Fifth Term In Office: Reports

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won the Israeli national election, securing a record fifth term in office despite running neck in neck with his challenger Benny Gantz, the country's three main television channels said on Wednesday.

With 97 percent of the votes counted, neither of the candidates' parties had captured a ruling majority, but Netanyahu was clearly in a strong position to form a coalition government with other right-wing factions that have backed him.

The closely contested race was widely seen in Israel as a referendum on Netanyahu's character and record in the face of corruption allegations. He faces possible indictment in three graft cases, and has denied wrongdoing in all of them.

The veteran right-wing leader's Likud party and Gantz's new centrist Blue and White party both won 35 seats, according to the Knesset website and the Israeli TV channels. That would mean a five-seat gain for Likud.

"It is a night of colossal victory," the 69-year-old Netanyahu told cheering supporters in a late-night speech at Likud headquarters, while cautioning that a "long night and possibly day" lay ahead awaiting official results.

Fireworks flared behind him as his wife Sara applauded and kissed him. "He's a magician," the crowd chanted.

Final results were expected by Friday.

If he wins, Netanyahu, 69, will be on track to be the longest-serving prime minister in Israel's 71-year history. Netanyahu said he had already begun talks with prospective coalition allies.

Netanyahu, in power consecutively since 2009, has been fighting for his political survival. He faces possible indictment in three graft cases, and has denied wrongdoing in all three.

Rival Gantz, 59, earlier had also claimed victory, citing preliminary exit polls that were published soon after voting ended on Tuesday showed his party had won more seats than Likud.

"We are the victors," said Gantz, a former military chief fighting his first election. "We want to thank Benjamin Netanyahu for his service to the nation."

Despite both men claiming victory on Tuesday night, a clearer picture emerged by Wednesday morning as the results began streaming in, painting Netanyahu as the winner.

Netanyahu highlights trump ties

During the campaign, the rival parties accused each other of corruption, fostering bigotry and being soft on security.

Netanyahu highlighted his close relationship with US President Donald Trump, who delighted Israelis and angered Palestinians by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017 and moving the American Embassy to the holy city last May.

Two weeks before the election, Trump signed a proclamation, with Netanyahu at his side at the White House, recognising Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

In a rare turn during the race towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu further alarmed Palestinians by promising to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected. Palestinians seek a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

During the campaign, Gantz said a government under his stewardship would pursue peace, but stopped short of committing to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Commenting on the election, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo. They have said no to peace and yes to the occupation".

The last round of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Trump is expected to release his administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan after the election. If it includes Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, Netanyahu's probable far-right coalition allies will likely object.

A close result in the election would put smaller parties in a powerful position, turning marginal political figures into kingmakers.

Once the votes are tallied, President Reuven Rivlin will ask parties that have won parliamentary seats who they support for prime minister. He will then pick a party leader to try to form a coalition, giving the candidate 28 days to do so, with a two-week extension if needed.

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