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Israeli PM Netanyahu defiant after corruption indictment

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem : Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday became the country’s first prime minister to be indicted in office, on corruption charges, but defiantly condemned the “coup” against him and vowed to hold onto power.

The shock announcement compounded the political chaos gripping Israel, which has been without a government for months and faces the prospect of its third election in a year.

After months of suspense, Israel’s longest-serving premier was charged by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Netanyahu immediately hit back in an often vitriolic 15-minute speech, accusing the judiciary, police and others of plotting against him with “false” and “politically motivated” allegations.

“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” he charged in a televised address.

“The object of the investigations was to oust the right from government.”

He vowed to stay on as interim premier despite potential court dates and intense political pressure.

“I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said.

Political rival Benny Gantz, who had been trying to form a coalition government, said it was a “very sad” day for Israel to indict a leader, but called on Netanyahu to “step down from his position and focus on the charges against him”.

“There is no coup in Israel, but rather those that have barricaded themselves in power,” he said.

  • ‘Hard and sad day’ –

The 70-year-old premier, nicknamed “Mr Security” and “King Bibi”, has been in power since 2009 and dominates Israel’s political scene.

The indictment comes with crunch talks due on forming a government, after two inconclusive general elections left the country’s political system deadlocked.

Netanyahu is not legally required to resign unless he is convicted and any subsequent appeals process is exhausted, but political pressure is likely to be intense.

He may now ask the parliament, or Knesset, to grant him immunity from prosecution.

The charges against Netanyahu range from receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars to a deal to change regulatory frameworks in favour of a media group in exchange for positive coverage.

Mandelblit said it was a “hard and sad day” for Israel to indict a leader, but it showed no citizen was above the law.

“The citizens of Israel, all of us, and myself, look up to the elected officials, and first and foremost to the prime minister,” Mandelblit said.

“Law enforcement is not a choice. It is not a matter of right or left. It’s not a matter of politics.”

On a day of high political drama, dozens of Netanyahu supporters gathered outside his official residence, many holding pictures of the PM and slogans attacking Mandelblit.

“We are all Netanyahu,” one sign read.

But on Twitter, many hailed the day’s events, and “happy day” quickly became Israel’s top trending phrase.

  • ‘Fight for political life’ –

A perennial fighter, Netanyahu has outlived many political rivals. Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said he wouldn’t give up power easily.

“Now more than ever Netanyahu will be fighting for his political and personal life,” Lovatt said.

Of the three cases against Netanyahu, the third, known as Case 4,000, is seen as the most serious and carries bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges.

He is alleged to have negotiated with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, to secure positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefiting Bezeq.

Elovitch and his wife were also indicted.

Case 1,000 involves allegations Netanyahu and his family received gifts including luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery from wealthy individuals, estimated to be worth more than 700,000 shekels ($200,000, 185,000 euros), in exchange for financial or personal favours.

Another, Case 2,000, concerns allegations Netanyahu sought a deal with the owner of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that would have seen it give him more favourable coverage.

  • Political turmoil –

The next steps in the process remain unclear, with no trial date yet set.

The developments were set to only deepen the political turmoil in Israel, which has been without a stable majority government for much of the year.

Neither Likud leader Netanyahu nor rival Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White party, have been able to form a coalition government following deadlocked elections in April and September.

Netanyahu has remained interim prime minister.

The Knesset has 21 days remaining to find a candidate capable of commanding the support of the majority of the country’s 120 MPs, and the indictment is likely to strengthen former army chief Gantz’s claims.

Gantz has reportedly tried to woo Likud MPs to join him in a broad national unity government, but so far there have been no takers.

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India

India, China are partners not rivals: Chinese Ambassador

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H E Sun Weidong and JP Nadda

New Delhi, July 10 : Amid ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, Chinese Ambassador to India, H.E. Sun Weidong, on Friday said that India and China should be partner and not rivals.

Weidong released a video message talking about the recent stand-off between the two countries in Galwan region in eastern Ladakh.

The Ambassador said that the June 15 violent clash in Galwan Valley, which caused casualties on both sides, was not seen as coming by either China, or India.

Weidong also said that Chinese frontline troops were disengaging from the ground in accordance with the consensus reached.

On July 5, China”s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and India”s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had talked over the phone and reached a positive consensus on easing the border tension.

The Ambassador added that some quarters in India have raised doubts about the consensus reached by the leaders and have a wrong perception about China-India ties.

These have brought disruptions in the bilateral relations. “In this regard, it is imperative for us to clarify some fundamental points,” he said.

He pointed out that India and China should be partners rather than rivals, and both the countries have a history of friendly exchanges of more than 2,000 years.

He also said that during the Wuhan Informal Summit in 2018, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed that the two countries provide each other with development opportunities instead of posing threats, which the two sides should adhere to.

“This is the fundamental judgment on China-India relations charting the course for the development of our bilateral relations,” he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that he has noticed some emerging opinions in recent days, which repudiate the essence of China-India relationship due to the border-related incidents, make false assumptions about China”s intentions, exaggerate conflicts and provoke confrontation.

He said, “It is not the fact. It is harmful indeed and not helpful. China and India have jointly advocated the five principals of peaceful coexistence and uphold independent foreign policies. We should naturally see each other as positive factor in the changing global landscape and as well as partners in realising our respective dream of development.”

The Ambassador said that the two countries should not allow differences to interfere with bilateral relations.

He added that since the boundary question has been left by history, it is now necessary to find a fair and reasonable solution that is acceptable to both countries through consultation and negotiations.

“In the absence of the ultimate solution, both the countries agreed to maintain peace and tranquility in the border area,” he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that for China, peace was of paramount importance.

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India

Etihad Begins Special Flights From 6 Indian Destination Between July 12-26

All passengers must have ICA approval from the government of Abu Dhabi before they travel and will not be permitted to check-in without the necessary approvals.

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etihad Airways

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Etihad Airways will resume a limited number of special flights from six Indian gateways to Abu Dhabi from July 12 to 26.

The announcement comes a day after partial lifting of international flight restrictions by Indian authorities to allow outbound travel.

“During this period, the airline will operate services to Abu Dhabi from Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai to Abu Dhabi,” the company said in a statement.

“All passengers must have ICA approval from the government of Abu Dhabi before they travel and will not be permitted to check-in without the necessary approvals.”

On Thursday, the Centre announced civil aviation authorities of India and the UAE have agreed to operate special repatriation flights between the two countries during July 12-26.

As per the arrangement, chartered flights operated by UAE carriers to bring back Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry ICA (Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship) approved UAE residents to their native country on their return leg.

Further, Indian carriers operating repatriation flights to bring back Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry the ICA-approved UAE residents on their onward journey from India to the Gulf country.

“As part of the close strategic partnership between the governments of India and UAE , and with a view to assisting UAE residents who are presently in India to return to UAE, the Civil Aviation Authorities of both countries have agreed to operationalise a special arrangement,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had tweeted.

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Industry

Google empowers 5,000 Cloud employees in ethical AI

Google recently released a version of this training as a mandatory course for customer-facing Cloud teams and 5,000 Cloud employees have already taken it.

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Google-wefornews

New Delhi, July 10 : Google has trained over 5,000 employees who were part of its customer-facing Cloud teams in asking critical questions to spot potential ethical issues, such as whether an AI application might lead to economic or educational exclusion or cause physical, psychological, social or environmental harm.

In addition to launching the initial ”Tech Ethics” training that over 800 Googlers have taken since its launch last year, Google developed a new training for AI Principles issue spotting.

“We piloted the course with more than 2,000 Googlers, and it is now available as an online self-study course to all Googlers across the company,” the company said on Thursday.

Google recently released a version of this training as a mandatory course for customer-facing Cloud teams and 5,000 Cloud employees have already taken it.

“Our goal is for Google to be a helpful partner not only to researchers and developers who are building AI applications, but also to the billions of people who use them in everyday products,” said the tech giant.

The company said it has released 14 new tools that help explain how responsible AI works, from simple data visualizations on algorithmic bias for general audiences to ”Explainable AI” dashboards and tool suites for enterprise users.

The global efforts this year included new programmes to support non-technical audiences in their understanding of, and participation in, the creation of responsible AI systems, whether they are policymakers, first-time ML (machine learning) practitioners or domain experts, said Google.

“We know no system, whether human or AI powered, will ever be perfect, so we don”t consider the task of improving it to ever be finished. We continue to identify emerging trends and challenges that surface in our AI Principles reviews,” said Google.

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