Iran's exiled crown prince is scheduled to come to Israel this week on a visit that reflects the warm ties his father once had with Israel and the current state of hostility between Israel and the Islamic Republic. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah to rule Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, said Sunday that he will be delivering “a message of friendship from the Iranian people.” He is set to participate in Israel's annual Holocaust memorial ceremony on Monday night, said Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, who will host him. He is also set to visit a desalination plant, see the Western Wall and meet representatives of the local Bahai community and Israeli Jews of Iranian descent, she said. Also Read: In first, Iran's president addresses Palestinians in Gaza Gamliel praised the “brave decision” by Pahlavi to make what she said would be his first visit to Israel. “The crown prince symbolizes a leadership different from that of the ayatollah regime, and leads values of peace and tolerance, in contrast to the extremists who rule Iran,” she said. Pahlavi left Iran at age 17 for military flight school in the U.S., just before his cancer-stricken father Mohammad Reza Pahlavi abandoned the throne for exile. The revolution followed, with the creation of the Islamic Republic, the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the sweeping away of the last vestiges of the American-backed monarchy. Pahlavi, who still resides in the U.S., has called for a peaceful revolution that would replace clerical rule with a parliamentary monarchy, enshrine human rights and modernize its state-run economy. Whether he can galvanize support for a return to power is unknown. His father ruled lavishly and repressively and benefitted from a CIA-supported coup in 1953. The late shah also had close diplomatic and military ties with Israel. That ended in 1979, when the Iranian revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, declared Israel an “enemy of Islam” and cut all ties. Today, the countries are arch-enemies. Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country's calls for Israel's destruction, its support of hostile militant groups on Israel's borders and its nuclear program. Iran denies accusations by Israel and its western allies that it is pursuing a nuclear bomb. “I want the people of Israel to know that the Islamic Republic does not represent the Iranian people. The ancient bond between our people can be rekindled for the benefit of both nations,” Pahlavi said on Twitter.
Israel is holding over 1,000 Palestinian detainees without charge or trial, the highest number since 2003, an Israeli human rights group said Tuesday. Israel says the controversial tactic, known as administrative detention, helps authorities thwart attacks and hold dangerous militants without divulging incriminating material for security reasons. Palestinians and rights groups say the system is widely abused and denies due process, with the secret nature of the evidence making it impossible for administrative detainees or their lawyers to mount a defense. HaMoked, an Israeli rights group that regularly gathers figures from prison authorities, said that as of April, there were 1,016 detainees held in administrative detention. Nearly all of them are Palestinians detained under military law, as administrative detention is very rarely used against Jews. Four Israeli Jews are currently being held without charge. “There is no sense of when the nightmare will end,” said 48-year-old Manal Abu Bakr in Dheisheh, a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Her 28-year-old son Mohammed lost his four college years to administrative detention. Her husband, Nidal, a journalist and radio presenter, remains in custody. He has spent 17 years behind bars in the past three decades, more than half of it without charge, according to a prisoner’s rights group, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club. The hearing on the renewal of his detention is set for September. “I’m exhausted," Manal said. “It's hard even to hope.” HaMoked says 2,416 Palestinians are serving sentences after being convicted in Israeli military courts. An additional 1,409 detainees are being held for questioning, have been charged and are awaiting trial, or are currently being tried. Among the 76 Palestinians incarcerated in the last month, 49 are administrative detainees. Administrative detention orders can be issued for a maximum of six months, but can be renewed indefinitely. “The numbers are shocking,” said Jessica Montell, the director of HaMoked. “There are no restraints on the use of what should be a rare exception. It's just getting easier and easier for them to hold people with no charge or trial.” A widespread military crackdown on Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank has helped fuel the sharp rise in administrative detentions. Israel's campaign of raids into Palestinian cities and towns following a string of deadly Palestinian attacks last year led to the arrest of over 2,400 Palestinians since March 2022, according to the Israeli military. Israel's Shin Bet security service did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest administrative detention figures. Israel describes the ramped-up raids as a counterterrorism effort to prevent further attacks. Palestinian residents and critics say the operation only further stokes the cycle of bloodshed, as the incursions ignite violent protests and firefights with Palestinian militants. Nearly 90 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli fire this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed 15 people in the same period. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were militants, but the dead have included stone-throwing youths and bystanders who were not involved in violence. The last time Israel held this many administrative detainees was in May 2003, HaMoked said, in the throes of a violent Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada. “The numbers always increase when there are heightened tensions on the ground,” said Sahar Francis, a director of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group . Administrative detention "is an efficient tool for the arrest of hundreds of people in a short time.” The West Bank has been under Israeli military rule since Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want it to form the main part of their future state. The territory’s nearly 3 million Palestinian residents are subject to Israel’s military justice system, while the nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers living alongside them have Israeli citizenship and are subject to civilian courts.
Israeli police raided Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City early Wednesday and attacked Palestinian worshippers, Palestinian media reported, raising fears of wider tensions as Islamic and Jewish holidays overlap. The incidents sparked a wave of Palestinian protests, condemnations and violence. The Israeli military said sirens warning of incoming rockets sounded in Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip. Tension has already been high in east Jerusalem and the West Bank for months, and fears of further violence were fueled with the convergence of the Muslim holy fast month and the Passover. Such confrontations at the contested holy compound, the third holiest shrine in Islam that is also the most sacred site in Judaism and referred to as the Temple Mount, have sparked deadly cross-border wars between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers in the past, the last was in 2021. Videos on social media purportedly showed Israeli police officers beating Palestinians with batons and rifle butts at the mosque in the contested hilltop site revered by both Muslims and Jews. The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, reported that dozens of worshipers, who spend all the night in Ramadan praying, were injured when the police raided the mosque. It was not immediately clear what sparked the violence. The Israeli police said it used force to evacuate worshippers who were holed up at the mosque with fireworks, rocks, and sticks. They added that an officer was injured in his leg by a stone and that dozens of “rioters” were arrested. Talab Abu Eisha, 49, said more than 400 men, women and children were praying at Al-Aqsa when the police encircled the mosque. “The youths were afraid and started closing the doors,” he said, adding that police forces “stormed the eastern corner, beating and arresting men there." ”It was an unprecedented scene of violence in terms of police brutality and intention to hurt the youths," he said, denying police claims that young men were hiding fireworks and rocks. He added that the police prevented all men under 50 years old from passing through the Old City's gates leading to the compound for the dawn prayers. The violence in Jerusalem triggered protests and condemnations from Palestinians. in Gaza, Hamas called for large protests and people started gathering in the streets, with calls to head for the heavily guarded Gaza-Israel frontier for more violent demonstrations. The Palestinian leadership condemned the attack on the worshippers. The spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, warned Israel that such a move “exceeds all red lines and will lead to a large explosion." In Gaza, Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad also called for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel to go and gather around Al-Aqsa Mosque and confront Israeli forces. The Israeli military said Gaza militants fired two barrages of rockets toward southern Israel. Five rockets were intercepted and four landed in open areas. There were no reports of casualties or damage. Earlier on Tuesday, a Palestinian suspect stabbed two Israelis near an army base south of Tel Aviv , police said, in the latest incident in a yearlong spate of violence that shows no sign of abating. The Magen David Adom paramedic service said first responders treated two men for serious and light stab wounds in the incident on a highway near the Tsrifin military base. The men were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment their injuries. Israeli media identified the two victims as soldiers. Police said that civilians at the scene apprehended the suspected attacker, who was taken into police custody for questioning. Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged over the last year, as the Israeli military has carried out near-nightly raids on Palestinian cities, towns and villages and as Palestinians have staged numerous attacks against Israelis. At least 88 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed 15 people in the same period.
Donald Trump may be the first former US president to face criminal charges, but many current and past leaders around the world have been tried or even jailed. Several of those leaders described the charges leveled against them as “politically motivated”. Yet, the charges have not always been a barrier to holding political office, reports CNN.Here are some notable recent examples: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu No one has served as Prime Minister of Israel longer than Benjamin Netanyahu, who was sworn in for his sixth term late last year. He is also being tried for corruption on counts of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. The Israeli PM, however, called the trial a “witch hunt.” While the case continues, Netanyahu has pushed a contentious plan to weaken Israel's judiciary, the report also said. One of the measures limits the methods by which a sitting prime minister may be judged unfit for office, prompting many Israeli opposition lawmakers to accuse Netanyahu of manipulating the judicial makeover to protect himself. He denies the charges. Read More: Trump's day in court as criminal defendant: What to know Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was imprisoned in April 2018, and was released in November 2019.He was jailed for corruption and money laundering after a construction business reportedly paid him and his wife $1.1 million in renovations and costs for a beachfront condominium. Prosecutors claimed that in exchange, the business received lucrative contracts from Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant. Lula has referred to the allegations as a "farce," stating that they are politically driven. Upon his release from jail in 2019, a Brazilian court overturned his corruption convictions, allowing Lula to run for president in 2022, when he beat Jair Bolsonaro. In January, he was sworn in for the third time as president. Bolsonaro is now facing potential legal problems, including allegations that he incited violent attacks in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia in January. Read More: Trump charged with 34 felony counts in hush money scheme Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's current vice president, was sentenced to six years in jail last December after being found guilty of corruption during her two stints as president, from 2007 to 2011 and 2011 to 2015, the report also said. She was accused of conspiring with other government officials to grant contracts worth millions of dollars for road construction that were unfinished, expensive, and useless, according to the complaint.The charges against her were politically-motivated, Kirchner stated. The Argentine court convicted the 70-year-old former president of the country guilty of "fraudulent administration" and barred her from holding public office again. She does, however, have temporary immunity because of her present employment, which means she will not be going to jail anytime soon and can appeal. Read More: Trump indictment ends decades of perceived invincibility Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim After two stints in jail prior to his premiership, Anwar Ibrahim became Malaysia's prime minister in November 2022, in an unprecedented turn of events. Anwar was sentenced to prison in April 1999 after being convicted of sodomy. Sodomy, even if consensual, is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail in Muslim-majority Malaysia. He has always vigorously denied the allegations, claiming they were politically motivated. In 2004, a court reversed that conviction. Further claims of sodomy were leveled against him after his comeback as an opposition figure, and he was remanded to prison in 2014 after a lengthy legal struggle that lasted years. Anwar was freed from jail in May 2018 after receiving a royal pardon. He immediately returned to parliament before leading the Pakatan Harapan coalition to a majority of seats in Malaysia's general election in 2022. Read More: Capitol insurrection: Jan. 6 panel unveils report, describes Trump 'conspiracy' Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi Before 2011, the flamboyant Italian billionaire was a serial prime minister. Berlusconi was the dominating figure in Italian politics for over two decades, during which time he was prosecuted on at least 17 counts of embezzlement, tax fraud, and bribery, said the CNN report.He has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and several of his convictions have been overturned on appeal. His resignation in 2011 was not due to legal concerns, but rather to Italy's debt crisis.The 81-year-old gained a seat in Italy's Senate in September 2022, and his party is a member of the country's ruling coalition. Read More: Trump probe: Court halts Mar-a-Lago special master review
Pakistan on Sunday denied rumors of trade with Israel following a Jewish businessman’s tweet about successfully exporting food samples to Jerusalem and Haifa. Fishel Benkhald, a Pakistani Jew based in the southern port city of Karachi, went viral for tweeting about his first kosher food shipment to Israel. The two countries do not have diplomatic ties. “Congratulations to me as a Pakistani. I exported the first batch of Pakistan food products to Israel market,” he said last week. Benkhald shared a video clip showing his visit to an Israeli market. He walks past stalls with containers of dates, dried fruit and spices with product tags in Hebrew. Also read: Rare shipment from Pakistan reaches Israel Pakistan denied having any diplomatic or trade relations with Israel. “There is no change in the policy,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told media in response to queries about bilateral trade. Pakistan officially backs a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has a longstanding position of non-recognition of Israel until an independent Palestinian state is established within the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Pakistan’s Commerce Ministry said rumors of bilateral trade were “sheer propaganda.” “Neither do we have any trade relations with Israel nor do we intend to develop any,” it said in a statement. Benkhald, who is part of a dwindling Jewish community in the Muslim majority-nation of 220 million, had his religion status in his national Pakistani documents corrected from Islam to Judaism in 2017. Although a statement on his Pakistani passport says the document is valid for travel to all countries except Israel, he is the first Pakistani to have officially performed a pilgrimage there with the permission of Islamabad. “Food, trade, music and tourism bring people together. Let’s build bridges,” Benkhald said in his tweet. Benkhald sent food samples to three businesspeople in Jerusalem and Haifa through the United Arab Emirates, where he met them at food exhibitions, according to the Commerce Ministry. The ministry said the shipment was not supported by the Pakistan government and no banking or official channel was involved. The American Jewish Congress earlier welcomed news of the shipment, saying it could have wider implications for the two countries’ economies and for the region at large. It said Benkhald was at the heart of a small, but growing Pakistani kosher industry exporting food to different destinations. But there were mixed opinions in Pakistan about Benkhald’s venture. Shireen Mazari, a key leader from ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party and former minister for human rights, criticized the government and asked how a Pakistani citizen was exporting to Israel directly and visiting the country on a Pakistani passport. But an interfaith representative from the current administration, Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, said Benkhald was permitted to visit Israel during Khan’s tenure.
An American Jewish organization celebrated the “first shipment” of food supplies from Pakistan that arrived in Israel. The trade last week included Pakistani-Jewish businessman Fishel BenKhald and three Israeli businesses, according to a statement issued by the American Jewish Congress from its New York offices, reports Voice of America. BenKhald resides in Karachi, where he manages a Jewish kosher certification business for food makers selling to international markets. Last Tuesday, he announced the unusual trade on Twitter, the VOA report said. The trader shared a video of his products, which included dates, dried fruit, and spices, on display in a Jerusalem market. The video has subsequently received over 640,000 views. Read More: India-Bangladesh trade using rupee instead of US dollar could start soon "I was not expecting it to be taken that big of a deal," BenKhald said in written comments to VOA, adding that this was not the first export of Pakistani products to Israel. "The Israeli government and buyers have no problem accepting the direct shipment from Pakistan,” he said, adding that Israel does not have a problem sending payments to Pakistani banks, said the report. BenKhald's attempt was largely lauded by Pakistani Twitter users, who included journalists, politicians, and businesses, some of whom sought his assistance on how to market their products to Israel. He tried to respond to every communication, it added. Pakistani officials did not immediately comment on the unusual exchange. Read More: Trade and investment opportunities opening up between Bangladesh, Brazil Islamabad has no diplomatic relations with Israel and refuses to recognize it as a sovereign state until the state of Palestine is created, a position shared by many Muslim-majority nations. Nevertheless, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain established ties with Israel in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, which were brokered by the United States. Sudan and Morocco followed suit. "Trade exhibits hosted by the UAE helped Pakistani and Israeli businessmen conclude a deal that enabled this week's Pakistani shipment to Israel," the American Jewish Congress noted. "We welcome this small step that can have wider implications for Israeli and Pakistani economies and for the region at large." Pakistan is a recognized nuclear power, while Israel is commonly believed to possess nuclear weapons. Since their foreign ministers met publicly in 2005, the two nations have had secret discussions on security matters. Pakistani Islamist organizations and right-wing parties are adamantly opposed to establishing formal relations with Israel over the Palestinian issue, the report also said. Read More: Traders fined in Faridpur for selling meat in violation of price list Pakistani people are barred from visiting Israel since their passport plainly states that they are valid for all nations except Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to “mend the rift” in a nation deeply divided over his proposed overhaul of the country’s judiciary. But he offered no details on how he intends to do so and gave no indication that he would slow down the plan. Netanyahu delivered his appeal in a nationally televised address after another day of mass protests across the country against the plan, and hours after his parliamentary coalition passed the first in a series of laws that make up the overhaul. His vague pledges were quickly rejected by the protest movement, which said it would continue to oppose “Netanyahu’s attempt to become a dictator.” Protesters blocked traffic on main highways and scuffled with police in unrest that shows no sign of abating. Police used water cannons to disperse crowds, and dozens of people — including leaders of the protest movement — were arrested. The government’s plan has plunged the nearly 75-year-old nation into one of its worst domestic crises. Netanyahu and his allies want to weaken the powers of the judiciary, saying unelected Supreme Court justices and other judges wield too much power. Critics say the changes, which would give Netanyahu and his conservative allies the final say in choosing the country’s judges, will destroy a delicate system of checks and balances. They also say Netanyahu has a conflict of interest while he is on trial for multiple corruption charges. In his speech, Netanyahu said he understood the concerns of both sides. He accused the Supreme Court of intervening in political issues but also acknowledged concerns by his opponents that a narrow parliamentary majority could impose its will and harm the rights of LGBTQ people, Palestinian citizens and other minorities. “We will ensure the basic rights of all Israeli citizens — Jews and non-Jews, secular and religious, women, the LGBTQ community, everyone without exception,” he said. “I will do everything to calm the waters and mend the rift in the nation, because we are family.” As he spoke, thousands of people continued to march in cities across Israel, including a large crowd outside of his private residence in Jerusalem. Netanyahu pushed back his departure on an official trip to Britain until 4 a.m. on Friday to deal with the crisis. His opponents quickly rejected the speech. The grassroots protest movement said it would press ahead with the demonstrations, which have taken place weekly for the past three months. “Tonight we saw a dictator-in-the-making who instead of stopping the legal coup, decided to continue with the hostile political takeover of the Supreme Court,” it said. Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Netanyahu made clear he has “no intention of holding true dialogue.” He called on “responsible” members of Netanyahu’s Likud party to speak up against the plan. Among Lapid’s targets is Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a top Likud official who met with Netanyahu shortly before the speech. According to Israeli media, Gallant voiced his concerns that objections by Israeli reservists and other security forces were hurting Israel’s international image and power of deterrence. However, Gallant abruptly canceled a planned statement in which he was expected to call on Netanyahu to freeze the plan. The opposition is rooted in broad swaths of society — including business leaders and top legal officials. Even the country’s military, seen as a beacon of stability by Israel’s Jewish majority, is enmeshed in the political conflict, as some reservists are refusing to show up for duty over the changes. Israel’s international allies have also expressed concern. In a first step of the overhaul, Netanyahu’s parliamentary coalition approved legislation that would protect the Israeli leader from being deemed unfit to rule because of his trial and claims of a conflict of interest. Critics say the law is tailor-made for Netanyahu and encourages corruption. Read more: Israeli police beef up presence in Jerusalem, fearing unrest The law to protect Netanyahu passed in a 61-47 vote in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, after a debate that ran through the night. It stipulates that a prime minister can only be deemed unfit to rule for health or mental reasons and that only he or his government can make that decision. Civil society groups have called on the attorney general to declare him unfit to rule over his legal problems. The attorney general has already barred Netanyahu from direct involvement in the legal overhaul, saying he is at risk of a conflict of interest. The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a good governance organization, said it would challenge the new law in court. On Thursday, protesters launched a fourth midweek day of demonstrations. They blocked major thoroughfares, set tires ablaze near an important seaport and draped a large Israeli flag and a banner with the country’s Declaration of Independence over the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. The protests have intensified in recent weeks, with a number of senior Cabinet ministers accosted and heckled by vocal crowds while making public appearances. Netanyahu called on opposition leaders to “stop the anarchy immediately.” A protest took place Thursday night in Bnei Brak, a large ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv. The overhaul crisis has magnified a longstanding rift between secular Jewish Israelis and religious ones over how much of a role religion should play in their day-to-day lives. Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers in government are central drivers of the overhaul because they believe the courts are a threat to their traditional way of life. In contrast, secular opponents to the changes fear they will open the door to religious coercion. They also object to exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox men from military duty, which is mandatory for most Jews. Along with Thursday’s demonstrations, tens of thousands have been showing up for weekly protests each Saturday night. Netanyahu’s government rejected a compromise proposal earlier this month meant to ease the crisis. It said that it would slow the pace of the changes, pushing most of them to after a monthlong parliamentary recess in April. But the government is plowing forward on a key part of the overhaul, which would grant the government control over who becomes a judge. That measure is expected to pass next week. Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and powerful media moguls. He denies wrongdoing and dismisses critics who say he could find an escape route from the charges through the legal overhaul his government is advancing. Israel’s Palestinian minority has largely avoided participating in the demonstrations. Rights groups and Palestinians say Israel’s democratic ideals have long been tarnished by the country’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of lands the Palestinians seek for an independent state and the treatment of Palestinian Israeli citizens, who face discrimination in many spheres.
Israel’s former prime minister on Thursday urged world leaders to shun Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as he presses ahead with a plan to overhaul the country's justice system. The United States and Germany, two of Israel’s closest allies, called on Netanyahu to slow down. The rare calls for restraint and international intervention came as thousands of Israelis once again took to the streets to protest Netanyahu’s plan. Ehud Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006-2009, told The Associated Press that global leaders should refuse to meet with Netanyahu. He appealed specifically to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is expected to host Netanyahu in the coming weeks. “I urge the leaders of the friendly countries to the state of Israel to refrain from meeting with the Israeli prime minister,” Olmert said. He added that he was aware his call, as a former Israeli prime minister, “is quite extraordinary" but that the situation calls for it. "I think that the present government of Israel is simply anti-Israeli,” Olmert said. He took aim at Netanyahu’s far-right coalition, an alliance of ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist parties that oppose Palestinian independence and support increased settlement construction in occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians. Netanyahu's coalition allies today have close ties with the West Bank settler movement and have a history of statements offensive to Palestinians, women, LGBTQ people and minorities. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the current minister for national security was convicted in the past of incitement to racism and supporting a terror group. Netanyahu's finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, recently called for a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank to be “erased,” though he later apologized after an international uproar over the comments. "Those who are in favor of the state of Israel should be against the prime minister of the state of Israel,” Olmert said. A spokesman for Netanyahu did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Netanyahu and his allies are now barreling ahead with a plan that aims to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court and give his parliamentary coalition control over the appointment of judges. Netanyahu says the plan will correct an imbalance that he says has given the courts too much sway in how Israel is governed. Critics say the overhaul will upend the country’s system of checks and balances and would give the prime minister too much power. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, could escape justice once the court system is revamped. Israel’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, offered a compromise proposal to the nation late Wednesday. But Netanyahu quickly rejected the package as “one sided” and favoring his opponents. The overhaul has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the past two and a half months, and the plan has sparked an uproar from top legal officials, business leaders who say it will damage the economy and from within the country’s military, the most trusted institution among Israel’s Jewish majority. Reservists have pledged not to serve under what they see as a shift toward autocracy. Protesters held a “day of disruption” for a third week on Thursday, with thousands of people blocking roads, including the main highway of the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv. Protesters in Jerusalem drew a large red and pink streak on city streets leading to the Supreme Court and a small flotilla of bloats blocked the shipping lane off the coast of the northern city of Haifa. “The elected government is doing a legislative blitz that aims to give absolute power to the executive. And absolute power to the executive with no checks and balances is simply a dictatorship. And this is what we’re fighting against,” said Shlomit Tassa, a protester in Tel Aviv, waving an Israeli flag. Five opposition party leaders staged a joint press conference and called on Netanyahu to accept the president’s proposal. Yair Lapid, the Knesset opposition leader, said they “welcome the president’s proposal because in a civil war, there will only be losers.” Key Israeli allies also waded into the debate. At a joint news conference with Netanyahu in Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz voiced concern about the overhaul plan and praised the Israeli president’s attempts to seek a “broad basic consensus.” “As close friends of Israel with shared democratic values, we are following this debate very closely, and I cannot hide the fact that we’re following it with great concern,” Scholz said at a news conference alongside Netanyahu. “The independence of the judiciary is a precious democratic asset.” Netanyahu showed no sign of being swayed. “I am attentive to what is happening in the nation, but we need to bring something that is in line with the mandate we received,” he told reporters. The White House also praised Herzog’s effort to broker a compromise. “The genius of our democracy — and frankly Israel’s democracy — is that they’re built on strong institutions, that they include checks and balances that foster an independent judiciary,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. He said Herzog's efforts are "consistent with those same democratic principles.” Olmert was once one of Netanyahu’s fiercest rivals in the hard-line Likud Party. But over time, Olmert veered far to the left. As prime minister, he held months of intense peace talks with the Palestinians before he was forced to resign to face his own legal troubles. Olmert later spent 16 months in prison after being convicted of accepting bribes and obstructing justice for acts committed years before he was prime minister. Olmert announced his resignation in 2008, long before he was indicted. At the time, Netanyahu, then in the opposition, led the calls for him to step down, saying he was unfit to rule while facing a criminal probe. Asked about Netanyahu’s refusal to step down in similar circumstances, Olmert said he had different values than his old rival. He said that at a certain point, he realized the country’s interests were more important than his personal interests. “The state of Israel comes first,” he said. “I retired a year before I was indicted because I felt that it is not right.” ___ Bentov reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writers Geir Moulson in Berlin and Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.
Israeli forces shot and killed three Palestinian militants Sunday who opened fire on troops in the occupied West Bank, the military said, the latest bloodshed in a year-long wave of violence in the region. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, claimed the men killed as members. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the men were killed by Israeli fire near the city of Nablus and identified them as Jihad Mohammed al-Shami, 24, Uday Othman al-Shami, 22 and Mohammed Raed Dabeek, 18. The military said it confiscated three M16 rifles from the militants after the shootout and that one gunman turned himself in and was arrested. Also Read: Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank The deaths Sunday bring to 80 the number of Palestinians killed since the start of the year, as Israel has stepped up arrest raids in the West Bank. A spasm of Palestinian attacks against Israelis has killed 14 people in 2023. The fresh violence follows an Israeli military raid last week on the West Bank village of Jaba, where three Palestinian militants were killed. Hours later, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a busy Tel Aviv thoroughfare at the start of the Israeli weekend, wounding three people before being shot and killed. The current round of violence is one of the worst between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank in years. It began last spring after a series of Palestinian attacks against Israelis that triggered near-nightly Israeli raids in the West Bank. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to the leading Israeli rights group B'Tselem. Palestinian attacks against Israelis during that same time killed 30 people. The military says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed. Israel says the raids are essential to dismantle militant networks and prevent future attacks. But attacks appear to be intensifying rather than slowing down. The Palestinians view the raids as a tightening by Israel of its 55-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for their future state. Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their future independent state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said the remarks by a key Cabinet ally calling for a Palestinian town to be erased were inappropriate, after the United States demanded that he reject the statement. In a Twitter thread posted in English shortly after midnight, Netanyahu did not appear to condemn the remarks outright and implied that the ally, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, misspoke. Netanyahu thanked Smotrich for later walking the comments back and “making clear that his choice of words” was “inappropriate.” The bulk of the thread urged the international community to seek condemnations from the Palestinians over attacks against Israelis. It appeared to be his first public response to Smotrich’s remarks since they were made on Wednesday. Netanyahu’s Twitter thread underlines how the Israeli leader has had to balance the ideologies of the far-right members of his government with the expectations of Israel’s chief ally, the United States. Smotrich is the head of one of several ultranationalist parties that help make up Netanyahu’s government, Israel’s most right-wing ever. Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank last week rampaged through the Palestinian town of Hawara, where earlier in the day two Israeli brothers were killed in a Palestinian shooting attack. Later in the week, Smotrich said the town should be erased — by Israeli forces and not by private citizens. Also Read: Israelis step up protests over government’s legal overhaul Smotrich later backtracked, saying he didn’t mean for the Hawara to be erased but for Israel to operate surgically within it against Palestinian militants. Still, his earlier comments sparked an international outcry. The U.S. called them repugnant and urged Netanyahu to “publicly and clearly reject and disavow them.” The United Nations and Middle East powerhouses Egypt and Saudi Arabia also condemned Smotrich’s remarks. In a Hebrew tweet posted around the same time as his English thread, Netanyahu said even foreign diplomats make mistakes, an apparent reference to a report by Israeli Channel 12 that U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides made disparaging remarks about Smotrich ahead of his visit to Washington this week, saying he would “throw him off the plane,” if he could. The U.S. Embassy denied the ambassador had made the remarks. The White House said Smotrich would not be meeting any U.S. government officials during the upcoming trip. Smotrich, in a tweet Saturday, said he was “convinced that he didn’t mean to incite to kill me when he said I must be thrown from the plane just as I didn’t mean to harm innocents when I said Hawara must be erased.” In his tweets, Netanyahu wrote that “it is important for all of us to work to tone down the rhetoric” amid a spiraling wave of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. “That includes speaking out forcefully against inappropriate statements and even correcting our own statements when we misspeak or when our words are taken out of context,” he posted. Netanyahu then slammed the Palestinian Authority for not condemning Palestinian attacks against Israelis, and the international community for not demanding condemnations from the Palestinians. Israel has long claimed the international community has a double standard in its expectations from Israel and the Palestinians. Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians seek for their future state. Israel maintains a 55-year, open-ended occupation over Palestinians in the West Bank and a blockade, along with Egypt, of the Gaza Strip.