Netanyahu’s deadline to form government expires, rivals eyed

Netanyahu’s deadline to form government expires, rivals eyed
Netanyahu missed a midnight deadline for putting together a new coalition government. (AP/File)
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Updated 05 May 2021

Netanyahu’s deadline to form government expires, rivals eyed

Netanyahu’s deadline to form government expires, rivals eyed
  • Incumbent’s opponents to get chance to form coalition but no guarantee they can overcome political deadlock
  • Israel has held four inconclusive ballots in two years

JERUSALEM: Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadline for forming a new Israeli government expired early on Wednesday, with the country’s longest-serving prime minister having failed to break more than two years of political deadlock.
There was also no guarantee that, after the conservative incumbent was unable to assemble a new coalition, parties outside his caretaker government could bridge their differences and unseat him.
Netanyahu, 71, has been in office since 2009 and also served for three years in the 1990s. He has been fighting to hold the helm through four inconclusive elections since 2019 and is on trial for criminal corruption charges he denies.
With the midnight deadline having passed, President Reuven Rivlin can assign the coalition-building task to another member of parliament. That is widely expected to be Yair Lapid, 57, whose centrist Yesh Atid party placed second to Netanyahu’s Likud in the March 23 vote.
Netanyahu’s bloc of right-wing and Jewish religious parties failed to win a majority, but so did a camp aiming to oust him, which would have to include his right-wing rivals as well as traditional left-wing and centrist opponents.
Both sides have courted the support of parties representing Israel’s around 20 percent Arab minority, potentially giving them say over a Cabinet for the first time in decades.
Naftali Bennett, head of the ultranationalist Yamina party, has emerged as a kingmaker. Bennett, 49, has voiced a preference to join Netanyahu but said he would seek a partnership with the prime minister’s opponents to avoid a fifth election as Israel reopens its economy following a swift COVID-19 vaccination rollout and grapples with the challenges of Iran’s nuclear program.
A rotation deal in which Bennett and Lapid would alternate as prime minister has also been widely mooted.
Much of the impasse stems from Netanyahu’s legal troubles: Some prospective allies have pledged they would not serve under a prime minister who is on trial.
Should a new nominee tapped by Rivlin fail to put together a coalition within 28 days, the president can ask parliament to agree a candidate within three weeks. If it cannot, Israel will hold another election.
“We are 60 percent headed toward another election and 40 percent toward a new government,” Yoav Krakovsky, Kan public radio’s political affairs correspondent, forecast in a morning broadcast.


Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister
Updated 06 May 2021

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister
  • The reports consisted of damage to public funds, abuse of public office, and abuse of power

LONDON: Qatar’s Public Prosecutor ordered the arrest of Minister of Finance Ali Sharif Al-Emadi over reports of crime related to holding public office, Qatar News Agency reported on Thursday.
“After reviewing documents, and their attached reports, the Attorney General ordered the arrest of the Minister of Finance Ali Sharif Al-Emadi to investigate what was mentioned in the reports of crimes related to practicing public office,” the statement said.
The reports consisted of damage to public funds, abuse of public office, and abuse of power.
The Public Prosecutor ordered wide investigations into the crimes raised in the submitted reports.


UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank
Updated 32 min 47 sec ago

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank
  • UN says eviction of Palestine refugee families in other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem are ‘very worrying’
  • Wennesland says ‘deeply concerned’ by surge in tensions and violence in occupied West Bank since start of Ramadan

LONDON: The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process urged Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law.
“The latest developments related to the eviction of Palestine refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem are also very worrying,” Tor Wennesland said in a statement on Thursday.
Twenty-two Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem, the Red Crescent said Thursday, as tensions flared over a controversial land rights case.
The legal case centers on the homes of four Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City on land claimed by Jews.
He also said he was “deeply concerned” by the surge in tensions and violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the start of the Muslim month of Ramadan.
“In the past few days alone, two Palestinians, including a woman and a child, were killed in separate incidents, by Israeli security forces (ISF) in the context of clashes or attacks,” said Wennesland.
He also said an Israeli was killed by a Palestinian in a drive-by shooting, and several others were injured.
"I reiterate that ISF must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” he added.
Last month, anti-Arab Israeli extremists, emboldened by the election of their allies to parliament, began a march calling for violence against Arabs.
The move raised tensions, prompting cross-border attacks from Gaza and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
Wennesland said perpetrators of violence on all sides must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice.
“I call on political, religious and community leaders on all sides to stand firmly against violence, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric,” he said, adding “if unaddressed, the situation could spiral out of control.”


Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group

Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group
Updated 06 May 2021

Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group

Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group
  • A military court indicted Juana Ruiz Sánchez on Israeli terrorism-financing offenses and other charges
  • Israel, US, Canada and European Union regard the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine a terrorist organization

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Thursday charged a Spanish woman under the country’s anti-terrorism laws, accusing her of funneling large sums of donations from European governments to a banned Palestinian militant group.
Juana Ruiz Sánchez was charged in a West Bank military court. Her indictment was the culmination of a more than year-long investigation into financing for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The group is regarded by Israel, the United States, Canada, and European Union as a terrorist organization.
Ruiz, a Spanish citizen and West Bank resident, has worked for Health Work Committees, a Palestinian non-governmental organization that provides medical services in the territory.
She was indicted on Israeli terrorism-financing offenses and other charges. The Palestinian NGO’s senior accountant, former accountant and former purchasing department manager were expected to be charged with similar offenses in the coming days, according to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency.
Ruiz, 62, had been held by Israeli authorities without charge since her arrest at her home near Bethlehem on April 13. Spanish authorities have provided her with consular assistance and Spain’s deputy consul general has accompanied her during court hearings, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
“We will continue following this case closely, insisting and working together with the Israeli authorities,” it said.
The PFLP is a Palestinian Leninist-Marxist militant group that opposes the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It staged a number of airline hijackings in the 1970s and numerous attacks on Israeli civilians, including the 2001 assassination of then-tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi. It is part of the PLO, the main Palestinian national movement.
The Shin Bet began investigating the PFLP’s finances following an August 2019 attack by the militant group in the West Bank that killed a 17-year-old girl and wounded her brother and father, an Israeli official said.
The investigation found at least seven Palestinian charities had funneled tens of millions of euros donated by European governments and organizations for humanitarian purposes to PFLP coffers.
The Israeli official said the probe found that the NGO, along with other aid organizations, including the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Addameer, “act under PFLP leadership and in accordance with the organization’s directives, as a cover for promoting the PFLP’s activities and funding.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The Health Works Committees did not respond to requests for comment.
Although the PFLP is one of the smaller Palestinian militant groups operating in the occupied West Bank, its cash pipeline from Europe has “developed considerably in the past decade,” the official said. “European governmental money helped build up this organization.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has called on European governments to step up oversight of donations to Palestinian organizations to ensure they don’t wind up funding groups outlawed by the EU.
The European Union’s diplomatic mission in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A petition calling on Israel to free Ruiz and the other detainees’ was signed by nearly 6,000 individuals and organizations in Spain, saying the aid group was attacked by Israel “in a policy of repression, weakening and dismantling of civil society organizations of Palestine.”


Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases
Updated 06 May 2021

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases
  • Iraqi FM said the money was paid to Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo and the Fincantieri shipyard
  • The two countries are underway “to resolve the situation for the best”

ROME: Iraq has asked Italy to return the €90 million ($108.53 million) Saddam Hussein’s regime paid to Italian companies to purchase military equipment that was never delivered because of the 1991 embargo on the sale of arms to Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio in Rome on Wednesday and explained the money was paid to Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo and the Fincantieri shipyard.

“There are 60 million euros frozen in Italian banks, plus interest, and 30 million more in current accounts of the embassy and other employees. It is our right to recover that amount, and we have no intention of giving up on this,” Hussein told press after the meeting.

He added that the release of those sums will “facilitate, improve and increase the relaunch of bilateral relations” between Iraq and Italy.

“Foreign Minister Di Maio has promised to engage in the issue,” he explained, but said it is yet to be decided whether Italy will deliver the purchased equipment or unlock the frozen accounts.

Sources in the Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed to Arab News that negotiations between the two countries are underway “to resolve the situation for the best.”

During his meeting with Di Maio at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hussein also thanked Italy for its help as a member of the international coalition against Daesh.

“I take this opportunity to thank the Italian people, government and institutions for this,” he said.

Italy has provided weapons and training to Kurdish anti-Daesh militias in Erbil for over 10 years. A particularly intense training job has been carried out in Kurdistan by the Carabinieri, the Italian Military Police.

“Thanks to the fundamental Italian contribution to our security forces, Iraq continues to fight those Daesh cells which are still active in the country,” Hussein told Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica.


Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations
Updated 06 May 2021

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

DUBAI: The Jordanian Royal Court has appointed Jaafar Hassan as the director of King Abdullah II’s office, state news agency Petra reported on Thursday.
The royal decree also said the court accepted the resignations of political advisor Haifa Khreisha, King’s advisor Qassem Nasser and economic advisor Zaina Touqan.