Yisrael Katz Says He Will Run for Likud Chair, Premiership

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER YISRAEL KATZ said he is planning to run for the head of Likud and thus prime minister of Israel, but only after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finishes office. Katz said he would not run against Netanyahu in elections.

It was Katz’s popularity in right-wing Likud that probably spared him from getting fired by the prime minister.

After the transportation minister went back on an agreement with the religious coalition parties and ordered train workers to work on Shabbat, Netanyahu accused Katz of trying to sink the coalition.

Netanyahu publicly threatened to fire him, but failed to gather support for the motion. The prime minister ultimately brokered a deal between Katz and religious coalition parties that ended the crisis.

Still, Netanyahu and Katz continued to scuffle, most recently over the powers to allocate funds.

Now, the coalition faces a political crisis with the corruption probe of the prime minister, which could end with criminal charges against Netanyahu.



As Protective Edge Report Released, Opposition MK Says Israel Failing to Stop Threat from Gaza’s Hamas

OPPOSITION KNESSET REPRESENTATIVE HAIM JELIN (Yesh Atid) accused the Netanyahu government of failing to stop the Hamas threat from regrowing since the 2014 Gaza war.

Jelin said the number of tunnels leading into Israel and Hamas’ rocket arsenal are already at the levels they were at two and half years ago before the summer 2014 IDF operations in Gaza that led to the destruction of dozens of tunnels and Hamas’ weapons caches.

Jelin’s warning joins two government minsters, Yuval Steinitz and Yoav Galant, who said a confrontation with Hamas is innocent.

Jelin said the government had also failed to stop a detente between Hamas and Iran, giving no further details.

The comments by Jelin, a former regional leader in the Gaza-border communities, came on the backdrop of the State Comptroller’s report into the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, which was publicly released today.

The chairman of Jelin’s Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, was a part of the Netanyahu coalition at the time as finance minister. Lapid has since been critical of Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s handling of the war.

The State Comptroller report criticized IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the prime and defense ministers of failing to prepare the Israel Defense Forces for the war. The report said Netanyahu and defense officials concealed information from other cabinet ministers. And it claimed that only half of Hamas’ underground tunnel system was destroyed, although that was one of the core missions of the IDF ground operation.

A LETTER BY BEREAVED PARENTS OF THE 2014 Gaza war accused the Netnayahu government of prematurely announcing the death of Oron Shaul, whose body was taken for ransom by Hamas militants.

Israel initially declared Shaul missing for several days before determining his death. Hamas tried to use Shaul’s body as a bargaining chip for Palestinian prisoners.

MINISTER YUVAL STEINITZ said he had been “skeptical” about the Israel Defense Forces ground invasion of the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war. The ground invasion followed some weeks of aerial barrages.

“I’m not saying I was right; I understand the other position,” he told the IDF radio station today.

“There’s a heavy price to be paid [he used this phrase in a 2014 interview with the BBC] for Israel’s independence and to protect the State of Israel,” Steinitz said, referring to the dozens of soldiers who died in the ground invasion.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU REJECTED the State Comptroller’s findings that information was hidden from cabinet minister during Operation Protective Edge.

The report alleges that the prime minister, along with defense officials, concealed information during Operation Protective Edge from other cabinet ministers.

Jewish Home Rep Says Trump-Netanyahu Meeting Was ‘Clear Deviation’ from Oslo

JEWISH HOME KNESSET REPRESENTATIVE MOTI YOGEV told Israel Radio the Netanyahu-Trump meeting marked a “clear deviation from the Oslo lane and the two-state” solution.

Yogev believed Israel now saw eye to eye with the US on a range of issues, including Iran, the Sunni opposition, Mideast terrorism, and the Palestinians.

He said the vision was Israel sovereignty from the Jordan to the sea, with Jewish settlement and Palestinian autonomy.

He also avoided like the plague answering directly a question by host Aryeh Golan whether Trump’s bluntly public request of Netanyahu not to build in the settlements for a little while did not signal that Washington was really calling the shots on the settlements, rather than Israel.

Yogev likewise rejected later comments from US diplomats like Nikki Haley at the UN that Washington did in fact continue to support the two-state solution.

RAMAT HASHARON LAW ENFORCEMENT agents said they foiled an attempted car-bomb attack against a soccer player in Ramat Hasharon. Two suspects were arrested.

Police believe the two are involved in a criminal cell that set off a car bomb in Tel Aviv earlier this months against a soccer player, wounding six people including the driver of the vehicle.


Gilad Erdan: Nobody in the Israeli Cabinet Supports the Creation of a Palestinian State

MINISTER OF STRATEGIC AFFAIRS Gilad Erdan said nobody in the cabinet supports the creation of a Palestinian state, least of all Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“All of the Cabinet members oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, and leading them is the prime minister. I’d be extremely happy if, following eight years of hard restrictions on hundreds of thousands of our citizens, there are no building limits,” he said, according to Israel’s army radio.

“There’s no justification for the Palestinian side that doesn’t extend its hand in peace,” added Erdan.

Erdan was speaking ahead of Netanyahu’s first White House meeting with the US president, Donald Trump.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett echoed Erdan’s opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, saying the “expectation” among Palestinian nationalists was the creation of a “third Palestinian state” in the West Bank, in addition to Gaza and Jordan.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Israel needed to say firmly “no” to a Palestinian state, and “yes” to an undivided Jerusalem.

Trump has signaled he supports moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Authority has warned will fire up the region.

OPPOSITION CHAIRMAN ISAAC HERZOG meanwhile said he was sure the majority of Israelis continue to support a two-state solution.

“The State of Israel has a clear majority supporting separation from the Palestinians and a two-state vision,” the opposition leader said, as a message to President Trump on Netanyahu’s visit.

HAIFA MAYOR YONAH YAHAV celebrated a court ruling ordering Haifa Chemicals to empty its 12,000-ton ammonia storage facility at Haifa Bay.

“I hope the environmental protection minister will shut down the rest of [Haifa Chemicals’] toxins immediately and will be bold enough to do it,” said Yahav.

“I hope these facilities won’t be with us any longer,” he said.

A couple of weeks ago, a leading Israeli chemist released a report warning that an attack on ships unloading ammonia or the facilities themselves could kill thousands. Haifa Bay is within rocket range from Lebanese Hezbollah.

Following the report, the Haifa Municipality filed an appeal ordering the facilities’ closure. A Haifa court ordered the emptying of the ammonia facilities within 10 days.

Haifa Chemicals attorney Yossi Benkal meanwhile said the country couldn’t survive “more than a few days without ammonia.”

Most of the ammonia imported into Israel is converted into fertilizer and exported.

SHOMRON REGIONAL CHAIRMAN, Yossi Dagan, said he was pessimistic President Trump would take a softer line on the settlements than his predecessor.

“Trump’s going to be condemning Israel a lot more despite saying he’d always be in the middle,” said Dagan, referring to White House sanctioning of Israel’s latest round of settlement housing announcements.

Last Friday, Trump told Israel Hayom‘s Boaz Bismuth that he “didn’t want to” condemn Israel over the settlements. A White House statement last week said new settlements or housing beyond existing blocs was unhelpful for the peace process.

Uri Ariel: Dismantling Amona Part of a ‘Great Achievement’

DESPITE THE HARDSHIPS AND DISPOSSESSION, the dismantlement of Amona was part of a great achievement, Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel told Israel’s national public news.

He was talking about the settlement-arrangement bill. If the settlement-arrangement bill is passed, it will retroactively legalize hundreds of thousands of Israeli homes in the West Bank. To get it to pass the coalition, lawmakers had to agree to remove provisions shielding Amona from demolition.

The compromise for Amona’s destruction was organized by Education Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett.

While the government was supposed to resettle the dozens of families from Amona in a nearby area, these homes were never built. And then Palestinians successfully petitioned the High Court to stop the development completely.

Now, Netanyahu has vowed the government will build a new settlement “ASAP” for the Amona families, who appear to be temporarily homeless since their evacuation beginning on Tuesday. Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said the government had failed the people of Amona.

Although the settlers mostly left peacefully, there were some skirmishes between protesters and police and some reports of violence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged protesters to understand that it was “also hard” for security forces to be dismantling Amona.

Settler leaders like Ariel are hopeful for the realization of Greater Israel including the West Bank and have largely been casting the Amona settlers as unfortunate victims, though the outpost was built on private land and the Supreme Court ordered it to be taken down in 2014.

Jewish Home Knesset rep. Bezalel Smotrich promised the coalition wouldn’t survive a no-vote on the settlement-arrangement bill now that Amona has been dismantled.

TEL AVIV MAYOR RON HULDAI said he’ll be running for mayor again in 2018. It would Huldai’s third term since winning in 1998.

“Still, in a year and a half at Israel’s pace, who knows,” he added.

Huldai beat Meretz candidate Nitzan Horowitz in the 2013 municipal election notably mostly for its low voter turnout.