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Netanyahu set to form govt under power-sharing deal

Netanyahu faces three indictments of corruption and is scheduled to appear in court at the end of this month.

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Netanyahu and Gantz

Jerusalem, May 11 : After securing support from a majority of lawmakers last week and dodging several legal hurdles, sitting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue his fifth term in office as he prepares to form a government in the coming days uner the power-sharing agreement.

The new government comes after over a year of political stalemate and three consecutive elections which led to inconclusive results, reports Xinhua news agency.

After weeks of political negotiations, Netanyahu who leads the ruling Likud party reached an agreement with his main rival Benny Gantz who leads the Blue and White party.

On Sunday, Netanyahu met members of his party and other coalition partners in order to assign cabinet portfolios.

The COVID-19 pandemic which broke out in the country after the third election was what brought the sides to finally reach a consensus after a year of paralysis.

The country, which has been under a caretaker government for a lengthy period, is now facing a major crisis and lack of a permanent government has made policy and budget decisions difficult.

Netanyahu and Gantz vowed to cooperate in order to lead the country through the crisis, including the major economic fallout which is now over-shadowing the health crisis.

A total of 248 Israelis have died of the virus and over 16,400 people have contracted it.

After weeks of severe lockdown measures, the economy is gradually being jump-started again.

Unemployment has reached a record high and there are many problems to be dealt with, including preparation for a possible second wave of the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Netanyahu and Gantz had failed to reach an agreement despite several attempts.

Netanyahu faces three indictments of corruption and is scheduled to appear in court at the end of this month.

From the beginning of his political career, Gantz vowed not to sit in a government with a leader under indictment.

Three election campaigns later, Israel found itself at an impasse.

In the latest March 2 election, Netanyahu fell just a few mandates short of grasping the 61-member majority needed to rule the 120-member Knesset.

Gantz was also incapable of forming a coalition and decided to turn on his single most prominent campaign promise that was not to serve with Netanyahu.

Gantz’s U-turn led to the disintegration of his party, leaving him to lead just his faction with 15 members, less than half of the original list. The circumstances led to a major change.

The new government is slated to be the largest in Israel’s history with between 34 to 36 ministerial portfolios. The excess comes at a time when the projections for the Israeli economy are that it will shrink in 2020 and there are approximately one million unemployed people.

According to the deal, the sides also agreed that Israel could begin to move on annexation of parts of the West Bank as early as July as part of the implementation of the US peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians.

Gantz and Netanyahu seem to have little differences on the matter.

Middle East

Turkey to extend wage support for another month amid COVID-19

Turkey conducted 51,014 tests for coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall number of tests carried out so far to 3,331,158, he stated.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Ankara, June 30 : Turkey will extend a wage support system for one more month to ease the impact of COVID-19, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.

The government will also extend a financial aid program for low-income families for one more month, Erdogan told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The wage support system, which covers the workers whose working hours are reduced by their employers, was introduced in March for three months just after Turkey introduced strict measures to tackle the virus outbreak.

The Turkish president also said Turkey will deliver an aid package to Iraq on Tuesday.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Monday reported 1,374 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 198,613.

In a single day, 18 more patients died, taking the death toll to 5,115 in Turkey, the minister tweeted.

Turkey conducted 51,014 tests for coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall number of tests carried out so far to 3,331,158, he stated.

Koca said that a total of 171,809 patients have recovered in the country since the outbreak after 1,214 more recoveries were added in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, 1,018 patients are being treated at the intensive care units and 375 being intubated, he added.

Turkey reported the first COVID-19 case in the country on March 11.

Turkey and China have supported each other in the fight against COVID-19. Chinese doctors and medical experts held a video conference with Turkish counterparts to share China”s experience in treating coronavirus patients, protecting medical workers, and controlling the spread of the virus.

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Middle East

Netanyahu, Gantz feud over West Bank annexation plan

The annexation plan was accepted with widespread condemnations by the Palestinians, most of the Arab world, and the international community.

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Netanyahu and Gantz

Jerusalem, June 30 : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main coalition partner, Benny Gantz, were at odds over the timing of the country’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

On Monday, Netanyahu and Gantz, who serves as alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister, held separate meetings with Avi Berkowitz, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for international negotiations over the annexation plan, reports Xinhua news agency.

Netanyahu had already declared that he wants to begin imposing Israeli sovereignty over Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank, as soon as July 1, in accordance with Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

But Gantz told a meeting of lawmakers with his centrist Blue and White party that “anything not related to the struggle against the coronavirus will wait”.

“Before making any political moves, we need to help the public to get back to earn a living with dignity,” Gantz said.

In the afternoon, Netanyahu was quoted as dismissing Gantz”s remarks.

He told a meeting of lawmakers with his right-wing Likud party that he is working “discretely” with envoys of Trump, his close ally.

“The issue does not depend on Blue and White,” he said, according to local media reports.

Under their power-sharing deal, both Netanyahu and Gantz hold veto power over key government decisions.

However, the deal allows Netanyahu to bring an annexation proposal to the cabinet starting from July 1, even without Gantz approval.

The annexation plan was accepted with widespread condemnations by the Palestinians, most of the Arab world, and the international community.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Israel on Monday to halt the “illegal” plan.

“I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity,” Bachelet said in a statement.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and has controlled the territory ever since, despite international criticism.

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Middle East

Iran issues arrest warrants for US President Trump for killing Soleimani

An Iranian Prosecutor said 36 individuals have been identified in connection with the drone strike that killed Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani on January 3.

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Donald Trump

In an extraordinary move, Iran has issued an arrest warrant against US President Donald Trump and has asked Interpol for help in detaining him for his role in the killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad earlier this year.

Tehran Prosecutor General Ali Alqasi-Mehr said that 36 individuals have been identified in connection with the drone strike that killed Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani on January 3.

“36 individuals who cooperated, collaborated, and participated in the assassination of Hajj Qassem, including political and military authorities of the US and other countries, have been identified,” Alqasi-Mehr said on Monday, according to ISNA.

Their arrest warrant has been issued and announced to Interpol, he added.

The prosecutor general explained that Trump is at the top of the list and he’ll be facing prosecution even after his term as president comes to an end. He, however, did not identify other individuals in the list.

France-based Interpol is yet to respond to the Iranian request.

Iran has requested that a “red notice” be put out for Trump and the others, Alqasi-Mehr said. Red notice represents the highest level arrest request issued by Interpol.

Soleimani, who oversaw the Iran Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, was killed in a drone strike on January 3 near Baghdad’s international airport.

The strike took the tension between the two countries to another level and was followed by Iran retaliating with a ballistic missile strike targeting American troops in Iraq.

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