Jewish Agency head warns new government against harming ‘unity of the Jewish people’ – The Times of Israel

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
Israeli and African officials gather in Tel Aviv at a gala headlined by outgoing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Labor Minister Meir Cohen, and Angola’s Labor Minister Teresa Rodrigues Dias.
Dias is visiting Israeli universities and exploring opportunities for collaboration. Bornito de Sousa, who stepped down as Angola’s vice president in September, is also in attendance.
The Moroccan, Ethiopian, Rwandan, Angolan, and Equatorial Guinean ambassadors join as well.
The event is hosted by Israeli businessman Haim Taib, whose Menomadin Foundation released its first report on its activities in Africa, which include a partnership with Save A Child’s Heart — which brings sick African children to Israel for surgery -– and Fundacao Arte e Cultura, which seeks to strengthen communities through art.
In the 1950s and ’60s, Israel enjoyed a heyday in sub-Saharan Africa, where its agricultural and defense expertise was welcomed in many newly independent nations. Those ties collapsed in the wake of the 1967 and 1973 wars, but in recent years, Israel -– in the form of its diplomats, NGOs, and the private sector — has been steadily expanding its presence in Africa.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog both send messages of condolences to Turkey after a bombing in Istanbul earlier today killed at least six people and wounded dozens.
“Shaken by news of the despicable bombing in Istanbul targeting innocent civilians,” says Herzog, “on behalf of the Israeli people, I extend our deepest sympathies to our Turkish friends and the victims’ families. The whole world must stand united and firm against terror.”
Lapid sends condolences “in the name of the State of Israel to the Turkish people,” and sends sympathies to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We will fight terrorism together, with a tough hand, anywhere that terror raises its head.”
Israeli pop star Noa Kirel arrives at the European MTV Awards 2022 in Dusseldorf, Germany, wearing an outfit adorned with the face of rapper Kanye West and dozens of gold chains with the Star of David and the “Chai” symbol.
Kirel — who will represent Israel at the Eurovision next year — won “Best Israeli Act” for the fifth-straight year and is representing Israel at the awards.
West, also known as Ye, has been in hot water over the past few weeks for a series of antisemitic statements and comments that have drawn harsh criticism.
Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Bahrain Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, his office says.
Netanyahu has held numerous conversations with world leaders since he emerged victorious following the November 1 national election.
Israel and Bahrain normalized ties under the Abraham Accords in 2020.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court has sentenced an anti-government protester to death, and handed down jail terms to five others, state media says, against the backdrop of persistent unrest in the country.
The ruling likely marks the first death sentence in the trials of those arrested for participating in protests that have swept Iran over the past weeks demanding an end to clerical rule.
Mizan, a news website is linked to Iran’s judiciary, says the death sentence follows on the heels of charges that the protester set fire to a government building. The five prison terms range from five to 10 years,  given various alleged national security and public order violations.
Mizan says separate branches of the Revolutionary Court issued the verdicts, but did not share further details of the protesters on trial, who can appeal the decisions.
The court was established following the 1979 Islamic Revolutions and is known for meting out harsh punishments to those who oppose Iran’s clerical rulers.
Israeli tourists currently in Istanbul have been warned to stay in their hotel rooms  and not explore the city, following a bombing earlier today in a popular tourist area, according to Hebrew media reports.
Istanbul, just a two-hour flight from Tel Aviv, is a popular tourist destination for Israelis. The Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of any Israelis wounded in the attack, although many were nearby when the explosion went off.
Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi taunts Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir on Twitter, calling on him to “deport me to Syria.”
Tibi was responding to a tweet by Ben Gvir lambasting the Arab lawmaker for comments he made earlier today that he had “the honor of working with [PLO chairman] Yasser Arafat, a leader and a symbol.”
Ben Gvir wrote that “the time has come to send [Tibi] to Syria” for his support of the “master terrorist.”
“OK Samson the Strong — deport me. You’re in power. Go ahead and deport me/us to Syria. What are you waiting for?” tweets Tibi. “I’m here, waiting for you to arrive. If you’re not coming then simply try and talk less. You’re making a lot of noise.”
Ben Gvir has regularly called Tibi a terrorist, and been evicted from the Knesset plenum for doing so. He has called in the past for stripping citizenship for those who do not declare loyalty to the Jewish state.
יאללה שמשון הגיבור, גרש. אתה בשלטון. קדימה תגרש אותי/ נו לסוריה. נו יאללה. למה אתה מחכה. אני כאן, ממתין שתגיע. ואם אתה לא בא פשוט תשתדל לדבר פחות. אתה עושה המון רעש
— Ahmad Tibi (@Ahmad_tibi) November 13, 2022
Syrian state media says two soldiers have been killed and another three wounded, as well as damage caused in an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Homs area.
According to the state-run SANA news agency, citing a military source, Syrian air defenses managed to intercept several of the Israeli missiles.
Syria’s Sham FM radio station says the strike targeted the Shayrat Airbase, south of the city of Homs.
Syria: string of explosions in Shayrat Airbase (SE. Homs) after it was bombed by Israel tonight. Apparently ammo depots blasted. Secondaries & fires ongoing.
— QalaatM (@QalaatM) November 13, 2022
The Israel Defense Forces says it will be holding a military exercise in the Golan Heights this week.
Explosions are expected to be heard in the area, the IDF tells residents.
The IDF says the drill is aimed at “maintaining competence and readiness” of troops, adding that it is preplanned, meaning it did not stem from a new assessment.
The drill is expected to end early Thursday morning.
The head of the Jewish Agency for Israel warns the presumed coalition against alienating world Jewry, after its members proposed legislation that would radically cut immigration to Israel and delegitimize non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism.
“As the challenging task of forming a new government gets underway, we believe that it is critical to ensure our relations with world Jewry remain intact and that the everlasting commitment to enable Jews from all corners of the globe to make aliyah must be upheld,” Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog says in a statement.
The Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body tasked with encouraging and facilitating immigration to Israel and with maintaining Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry, has found itself in an uncomfortable position over the past week and a half, as the likely coalition has raised a number of proposals that would dramatically alter or threaten that mission. Last week, the religious parties called for ending the so-called “grandchild clause” that allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate freely to Israel so long as they do not practice another religion.
Today, the Otzma Yehudit party called for ending official recognition of non-Orthodox conversions for the purposes of citizenship, a move with limited practical implication, but a deep symbolic slight against the Reform and Conservative movements. However, as a non-partisan body that operates largely at the whim of the government, the organization has sought to avoid direct confrontations with the nascent coalition.
In his statement, Almog stresses the importance of unity and respect for all denominations of Judaism.
“At this hour, we believe that nothing is more important than the unity of the Jewish people, including all its denominations, as well as protecting the strategic relations with world Jewry through ongoing dialogue. The Jewish Agency will continue to be the bridge connecting Israel and Jews the world over,” Almog says.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz sends his condolences to Turkey after a bombing earlier today in Istanbul killed at least six people and wounded dozens.
“I would like to express my heartfelt condolences and send my prayers to affected families, to the Turkish nation and to the government of Turkiye,” Gantz tweets. “Israel’s defense establishment is prepared to provide any assistance required.”
Gantz adds that the attack “is a painful reminder that we must continue deepening defense cooperation against bloodthirsty terrorists who seek to harm innocent civilians.”
Three more F-35 fighter jets have landed in Israel’s Nevatim Air Base from the United States, the military says, bringing the country’s fleet to 36.
By 2024, an additional 14 F-35 planes are due to arrive in Israel, to bring the IDF’s total number of the aircraft to 50.
Syria’s official SANA news agency says air defenses are engaging an alleged Israeli airstrike in the northeastern Homs region.
According to other media in the country, the alleged Israeli airstrikes have targeted the Shayrat Airbase, south of the city of Homs.
There are no immediate reports of injuries in the attack.
#بلدي: الطيران الإسرائيلي يستهدف مطار الشعيرات بريف #حمص ووقوع انفجارات عنيفة#سوريا
— شبكة بلدي الإعلامية (@baladinetwork) November 13, 2022
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that initial signs point to a “terror” attack in the explosion in Istanbul which killed six people and wounded 53 others.
“It might be wrong if we say for sure that this is terror but according to first signs… there is a smell of terror there,” Erdogan tells a televised press conference.
The Women of the Wall activist group writes a letter to prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to not appoint firebrand far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir as public security minister.
In the letter, the group — which holds controversial monthly women’s prayers at the Western Wall — says Ben Gvir is unfit for the job because of “his harassment and incitement at the Western Wall against the Women of Wall.”
The Religious Zionism MK — who has demanded the job of public security minister, which oversees the police — is opposed to the group’s activities and has repeatedly shown up at the wall during their prayer services to heckle them.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says an explosion on a major pedestrian thoroughfare in Istanbul was caused by a “bomb attack.” Six people have died.
Speaking before his departure to the G-20 summit in Indonesia, Erdogan says the explosion was a “treacherous attack” and its perpetrators will be punished.
Four people died at the scene and two in the hospital, Erdogan says. Another 53 are wounded, according to information he received from the Istanbul governor.
An explosion on one of Istanbul’s most popular pedestrian thoroughfares kills four people and injures 38, authorities say.
The cause of the blast on Istiklal Avenue is not immediately clear. Five prosecutors were assigned to investigate the explosion, state-run Anadolu news agency says.
A video posted online shows flames erupting and a loud bang, as pedestrians turn and run away. Other footage shows ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users say shops are shuttered and the avenue closed down.
Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary ban on reporting on the explosion — a move that prevents broadcasters from showing videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya tweets the death toll and said those hurt are being treated.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it does not currently know of any Israelis in Istanbul who are unreachable.
The Ra’am political party stresses that it does not belong to either the pro-Netanyahu or anti-Netanyahu bloc, following a meeting of expected future opposition parties.
In comments cited by Ynet, Ra’am MK Walid Taha says he met today with Yesh Atid faction chair MK Boaz Toporovsky, but that he made it clear “that Ra’am has never been part of a bloc, and it will consolidate its positions and decide about its next steps.”
Gyms and public baths are now also off limits to Afghan women, the Taliban confirms, days after banning them from parks and funfairs.
Women are increasingly being squeezed out of public life since the Taliban’s return last year despite the hardline Islamists promising a softer version of the harsh rule that characterized their first stint in power that ended in 2001.
Most female government workers have lost their jobs — or are being paid a pittance to stay at home — while women are also barred from traveling without a male relative, and must cover up with a burqa or hijab when out of the home.
Schools for teenage girls have also been shuttered across most of the country since the Taliban’s August 2021 return.
“Gyms are closed for women because their trainers were male and some of them were combined gyms,” Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, tells AFP.
He said “hammams” — traditional public bathing houses that have always been segregated by sex — are now also off limits.
One video clip circulating on social media — which could not immediately be verified — shows a group of women, backs to the camera, lamenting the gym ban.
“It’s a women-only gym — the teachers and trainers are all women,” a voice says, breaking with emotion. “You can’t just ban us from everything. Do we not have the right to anything at all?”
Turkish media report that an explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue has injured 11 people.
Footage shows ambulances, firetrucks and police at the scene. The cause of the explosion is not clear. Social media users said shops are shuttered and the avenue is closed down.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it is in touch with its envoys in Turkey to establish if there were any Israelis harmed in the incident.
The moment of the explosion in the Istiklal Street, you can see the fire far in the middle and hear the noise in this video
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) November 13, 2022
Shas chief Aryeh Deri and Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich sit down together as both are reportedly gunning to become finance minister in the next government.
Deri — a former interior minister who was convicted of corruption two decades ago and resigned from the Knesset earlier this year as part of an unrelated plea agreement — has told prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu that he wants to be finance minister, which is considered a senior ministerial position.
Smotrich has had his eye on the Defense Ministry, which Netanyahu is reportedly against, or the Finance Ministry.
A special investigative team has been established to investigate the allegations against Rabbi Zvi Tau, following consultations held between the police and the State Attorney’s Office, the Israel Police says.
The Judea police force of the Judea and Samaria District Police is operating the team of investigators under the oversight of district officials.
Multiple women have accused Tau of sexual abuse dating back decades. One woman, Nechama Te’ena, went public several months ago, but her allegations were largely ignored at the time by the police and the media.
According to police, Te’ena is currently the only accuser who has filed an official police complaint. Others have spoken anonymously to the media or spoken to rabbinic officials about their accusations.
Tau is the head of the influential Har Hamor Yeshiva in Jerusalem as well as the spiritual leader of the anti-LGBT Noam political party, which won one seat in the next Knesset.
Members of the likely future opposition meet and agree to work in a united fashion against the expected incoming government.
The heads of the expected opposition factions, led by Yesh Atid faction chair MK Boaz Toporovsky, meet to “plan and organize” their efforts to work in opposition to “the extreme and dark” incoming government, says a statement from Yesh Atid.
All the opposition party leaders “committed to working together toward the goal of returning to power and continuing change,” the statement adds.
Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi also takes part in the meeting, though his party was not part of the outgoing government.
Iran’s judiciary has charged more than 750 people in three provinces for participating in “recent riots,” local media reports, amid nationwide protests since the death of Mahsa Amini.
More than 2,000 people had already been charged, nearly half of them in the capital Tehran, since the demonstrations began in mid-September, according to judiciary figures. Dozens of people, mainly demonstrators but also security personnel, have been killed during the protests, which the authorities have branded as “riots.”
Judicial chief for the southern province of Hormozgan, Mojtaba Ghahremani, says 164 people had been charged “after the recent riots,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online news website reports.
Another 276 people were charged in the central province of Markazi, its judiciary chief Abdol-Mehdi Mousavi is quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. In central Isfahan province, judicial chief Asadollah Jafari says 316 cases have been filed in connection with the recent strife.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks out against a UN move to push for investigating Israeli activities at the International Court of Justice.
“The path to solving the conflict does not pass through the halls of the UN or other international bodies,” Lapid says in a statement from his office following several meetings with security and diplomatic officials. “The Palestinian move at the UN will have consequences.”
The Yesh Atid party, which is about to transition from governing Israel to leading its opposition, says that the incoming government to be headed by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is a “government of destruction.”
Moments after Netanyahu received the mandate to form Israel’s 37th government, Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party releases a statement saying that today is “a black day for Israeli democracy.”
Attacking Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, the statement accuses the prime minister-designate of being “easily extorted by his [coalition] partners,” and says their “common goal is to extricate him from his trial and bring the State of Israel backwards.”
Yesh Atid has criticized Netanyahu and the far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties with whom he’ll form Israel’s next government for pushing an anti-democratic agenda, which includes controversial judicial reform, curtailing LGBT rights and the intention to rollback religious reforms.
“We will never give up our country and liberal values, ​​and we will not allow our children’s futures to be harmed – we will fight united in the Knesset, in the town squares, and on the bridges until we replace the government of destruction with the government of change,” the statement says.
The Israel Defense Forces says it will be holding a military exercise in southern Israel today and tomorrow.
Explosions are expected to be heard, and flares launched by the army will be seen in the area, the IDF tells residents.
The IDF says the drill is preplanned, meaning it did not stem from a new assessment.
The drill is expected to end tomorrow evening.
Upon receiving the mandate to form Israel’s 37th government — and the sixth under his leadership — Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu says that he will be a prime minister for “all of Israel’s citizens, without exception.”
“The people decided clearly in favor of a government headed by me,” he begins, and “we’ll do everything to ensure a stable, successful government — a responsible government… that will act on behalf of all Israeli citizens, without exception.”
He says what is happening “reflects the democratic process that we are rightly proud of, [in] the sovereign, democratic State of Israel.”
Netanyahu adds: “Israel’s freedom and its achievements are not to be taken for granted. In the past decade, we turned Israel into a rising power among the nations… one of the world’s 10 leading nations, even though we are a thousandth of the world’s population.”
With his new coalition, “we’ll do everything to reach still greater heights.”
He says he is as emotional upon receiving the right to establish a government as he was “the first time, 26 years ago.”
Sounding conciliatory, he says: “Voters gave their clear support for me, my Likud movement, and to the partners who share our path. But I want to say: I intend to be the prime minister of everyone — those who voted for me and those who did not vote for me. That is my responsibility as the prime minister of Israel.”
“It reflects what I believe in and it is what guides my actions,” he adds.
“This is how I acted, together with my colleagues, to bring millions of vaccines for all Israeli citizens, to bring the best decade in Israeli history for security and the economy for all Israeli citizens, to bring four historic peace accords for all Israeli citizens — and for the benefit of all the peoples of the region, or at least all who seek peace, which is most of them.”
He says facing Israel’s challenges requires “internal unity” — and so he intends to work to “enlarge the spheres of agreement among us.”
While there are indeed differences, there are many areas on which most if not all Israelis can agree, he says.
“There is wide agreement that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” but also on the imperative “to preserve the individual rights of every citizen.”
He says there is wide agreement, too, on the need to fight terror; to prevent Iran from attaining the nuclear weapons with which it intends to directly threaten Israel’s existence; to maintain the unity of Jerusalem, and to achieve more peace agreements — “peace out of strength, peace in return for peace, with additional Arab states, and thus largely to end the Israeli-Arab conflict. I didn’t say the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he notes, “but in my opinion this [flourishing of regional peace agreements] is the advance stage, that will bring about that result too.”
He also vows to advance the economy, reduce the cost of living, and keep extracting the gas from Israel’s offshore fields.
“There is widespread agreement, citizens of Israel, that we are brothers and we are destined to live next to each other, with all the differences and the contrasts,” he says.
While many are happy with the election results, others are issuing “prophecies of doom,” asserting that Israel is “entering a dark tunnel, that this is the end of the state, the end of democracy — scaring the public,” he says.
It’s not the first time these things have been said. “They said it about [former Likud prime minister Menachem] Begin and about me. It wasn’t accurate then and it’s not accurate today.”
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is formally given the president’s mandate to form Israel’s 37th government, less than two weeks after Netanyahu’s right-religious political bloc won a decisive 64-lawmaker majority at the polls that will enable it to retake power after 19 months in the opposition.
“I decided to bestow upon you, MK Benjamin Netanyahu, the mandate to form a government,” says President Isaac Herzog to Netanyahu, at the president’s Jerusalem residence.
The president says it “hasn’t escaped my notice” that Netanyahu is on trial for corruption.
“I am not oblivious, of course, to the fact that there are ongoing legal proceedings against MK Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, and I do not trivialize this at all,” says Herzog.
“Nevertheless, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has already expressed itself clearly on the matter of pending indictments against a member of Knesset nominated for the role of forming a government, in a number of rulings, including with an expanded panel of 11 justices, when the task of forming a government was assigned to MK Netanyahu by my predecessor, President Reuven Rivlin.
“In light of all this, having considered the facts in accordance with the law, and after you gave your consent to this, as required by law, I have decided to assign to you, MK Benjamin Netanyahu, the task of forming a government,” Herzog continues.
Sunday is the eighth time that Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has received the legally required mandate from an Israeli president in order to attempt to form a government. He has succeeded five times and failed three, and served as prime minister an additional sixth time when he was elevated to the post by a short-lived direct election law in 1996.
Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government. The president also has the discretion to give Netanyahu a 14-day extension should he request it.
Coalition negotiations are ongoing.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem in advance of receiving the mandate to form Israel’s 37th government from President Isaac Herzog.
Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious bloc won 64 of the Knesset’s 120 seats in the November 1 election, clearing its path back to power after 19 months in the opposition.
Negotiations are already underway to form the Likud-led government, which is poised to include the far-right Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit alliance, as well as Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.
DUBAI — A US citizen has been detained in Saudi Arabia after getting into a dispute with security officials while performing the umrah pilgrimage, a lawyer for his family says.
Mohamad Salem was taken into custody on November 1 and has been transferred to a maximum-security facility typically used for high-profile political prisoners and suspected terrorists, Abdallah Moughni says by phone from the US state of Michigan, where Salem lives.
He is one of several Americans who have recently run afoul of Saudi authorities, amid heightened tensions between the two longtime partners over global oil supply.
Salem, a 63-year-old of Yemeni origin, traveled to Saudi Arabia with two of his sons to perform the umrah pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, says Moughni, who is also the family’s spokesman.
While in line, he got into a verbal altercation with security officials who separated him from his sons.
Later, two men approached him, saying they were from Libya and asking what happened.
“At this point, Mohamad was livid, he was furious. He just let it out. He said, ‘If it was not for Mecca and Medina, we would burn this country to the ground,’” says Moughni, who confirmed details of the incident by speaking to Salem’s sons.
The two men turned out to be undercover Saudi agents, and Salem was detained, Moughni says.
Saudi officials and the US embassy in Riyadh did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Incoming Likud MK Danny Danon suggests that Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich should reduce their demands in coalition negotiations.
“Likud should hold the senior portfolios. Our partners forget that we have 32 seats,” Danon tells the Kan public broadcaster.
The comments come as Deri is reportedly demanding the Finance Ministry portfolio and Smotrich is insisting on holding the Defense Ministry.
Deri admitted to tax offenses earlier this year — his second criminal conviction — and resigned from the Knesset as part of a plea deal. However, he is returning to the Israeli parliament with his party holding 11 seats, making it the second-largest party in the right-religious bloc after Likud (Religious Zionism’s 14 seats, while running as one slate, are made up of separate factions).
According to recent reports, Netanyahu is reluctant to hand the defense portfolio to Smotrich.
Smotrich was reportedly suspected of planning a terror attack on a major Tel Aviv highway to protest the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip. He was arrested during protests against the withdrawal and was held by the Shin Bet security service for three weeks, maintaining his right to remain silent and refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is set to arrive at the President’s Residence, where he will receive the mandate to form a government from President Isaac Herzog.
The two will make public statements.
Netanyahu secured the recommendations of the 64 MKs in his right-religious bloc (Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism,) while outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid was nominated by 28 MKs (Yesh Atid and Labor) with the remaining 28 (National Unity, Yisrael Beytenu, Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al) declining to recommend anyone for the post.
From Sunday, Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government. The president also has the discretion to give Netanyahu a 14-day extension should he request it.
Coalition negotiations are still ongoing.
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