（照片來源：REUTERS / AZIZ TAHER）
沙特駐黎巴嫩大使Waleed A. Bukhari發推文說，從石榴中發現的毒品數量“足以淹沒整個阿拉伯世界的毒品和精神藥物，而不僅僅是沙特阿拉伯。”
Saudi ban on Lebanese produce adds pressure on country’s economic crisis
A ban over claims that fruit and vegetables are used to smuggle drugs comes as the country experiences its worst economic and political crises ever.
By DANIEL SONNENFELD/MEDIA LINE
APRIL 29, 2021 08:12
A Hezbollah flag flutters in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, near the border with Israel, Lebanon July 28, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER)
Saudi Arabia has declared that it will not allow Lebanese fruit and vegetable imports to enter the country, claiming that they are increasingly being used to smuggle drugs. The ban came into effect on Sunday, and will remain in place until Lebanon can guarantee that it has done what is needed to prevent drug-trafficking.
Also on Sunday, Saudi Arabia frustrated an attempt to smuggle millions of captagon pills – an amphetamine drug – in a shipment of pomegranates arriving from Lebanon. The shipment reportedly originated in Syria, and was later shipped from Lebanon.
Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Waleed A. Bukhari, tweeted that the quantities of drugs discovered with the pomegranates were “enough to drown the entire Arab world in drugs and psychotropic substances, not just Saudi Arabia.”
On Monday, the Lebanese government asked the Saudis to reconsider the ban.
The kingdom’s ban has hit Lebanon as it is drowning in one of the worst crises in its history. The country, which endured and survived 15 years of civil war between 1975-1990 to devastating effect, now is being crushed under the twin weight of political dysfunctionality and a catastrophic economic situation. And COVID-19 isn’t helping.
通過HUDHAIFA EBRAHIM /針對媒體線
（照片來源：REUTERS / STRINGER）
Hezbollah exported drugs, weapons, with Lebanon government knowledge
After massive drug and weapons seizures, Saudi Arabia bans the import of Lebanese produce, with support from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE.
By HUDHAIFA EBRAHIM/THE MEDIA LINE
APRIL 29, 2021 01:09
A view shows a market for groceries with a Hezbollah slogan on it, in Beirut suburbs, Lebanon April 16, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Saudi Arabia on Sunday imposed a ban on the import or transit through the kingdom of all fruits and vegetables from Lebanon after a series of seizures, drugs and weapons in shipments coming from the Land of the Cedars to the Gulf countries.
For more stories from The Media Line go to themedialine.org
On Friday, Saudi authorities intercepted over 2.4 million amphetamine pills, concealed in a shipment of pomegranates coming from Lebanon.
Walid al-Bukhari, the Saudi ambassador to Beirut, tweeted on Sunday that his country had seized more than 600 million narcotic pills and hundreds of kilograms of hashish smuggled from Lebanon over the last six years.
In addition, Greece announced on Thursday evening, following information received from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, that it had seized four tons of cannabis in Piraeus Port, which was hidden in a shipment of industrial cupcake-making machines bound from Lebanon to Slovakia.
The decision, which will also affect Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, will lead to more than $70 million in estimated annual lost sales, NGOs concerned with agriculture in Lebanon told local media outlets.
Four Gulf countries issued statements of support for the Saudi decision by press time, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE, while Qatar had yet to issue a reaction.
Newspapers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reported that decisions will be issued soon related to permanently banning imports from Lebanon until a solution is found to the problem of drug and weapons smuggling.
The products coming from Lebanon constitute at most 10% of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries’ produce imports. said by authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. Countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and India will be able to fill the gap.
RO (whose full name has been withheld for fear of assassination), a former Hezbollah member who used to export arms and drugs to various countries, told The Media Line, “Hezbollah relies mainly on [the sale of] drugs since the lack of funding caused by US sanctions on a number of party members and against Iran, in addition to the collapse of the Lebanese state.
“We were working all day on Hezbollah farms in villages like Yammoune [in the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate] and other Lebanese villages in Shebaa Farms [known in Israel as Mount Dov], which are the main source of drugs in Lebanon and are under the protection of the party’s forces, in addition to sections of the Lebanese army,” RO said.
“The volume of drugs that the party used to ship from Lebanon alone up to 2016 was estimated at more than $5 billion annually, not including its cooperation with Iranian facilities at drug farms in certain Latin American countries. It is a network of drug cartels,” he continued.
“As for farms that export vegetables, they are not owned by Hezbollah, but whoever does not cooperate with it, will have their agricultural crops burned, or they would be threatened or killed, done with the knowledge of the Lebanese state, who cannot do anything about it,” RO said.
He explained: “More than 10,000 people, all of them Lebanese, work with salaries not exceeding $100 a month to pack drugs, and sometimes weapons, and any truck driver who does not cooperate with the party will obtain permits for his exit from Lebanon or regarding other security measures.
“Weapons are imported from Iran, Syria or Iraq, and they are also sent via shipments of vegetables, fruits and some other products exported by Lebanon, such as electrical appliances,” RO said.
“Arms constitute only a small part of these exports, given the difficulty of exporting them, and the countries to which arms are exported in the Gulf are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain,” he said.
“Hezbollah owns more than five camps to train fighters from the Ansar Allah Al-Houthi [Iran-backed Yemeni rebel] group as well as fighters from Bahraini and Kuwaiti groups belonging to the Shiite sect, who undergo training courses of between two weeks and six months in duration,” RO added.
“The weapons that are exported are machine guns and handguns, in addition to detonators, and [explosive] materials such as TNT and C-4. As for the rest of the materials from which bombs are made, they are available in the local market,” the former Hezbollah operative said.
“The Lebanese security services are aware of all these transactions, but they cannot talk about them what with the collapse of the Lebanese state, and what happened in the port of Beirut [the huge explosion last August] was a small example of what Hezbollah owns inside Lebanon. The army, Interior Ministry, customs service, ports and airport are all under the control of Hezbollah,” RO said.
Ibrahim Al Moussawi, a Shiite member of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, the political wing of Hezbollah in the Lebanese parliament, told The Media Line that accusations against Hezbollah of smuggling and trading in drugs are untrue, saying, “What Saudi Arabia did is part of the campaign to starve the Lebanese people in the service of American, Western, and Israeli interests. We do not trade in drugs, and it is forbidden according to Sharia, and the secretary-general of the party, Hassan Nasrallah, has denied these accusations several times.”
He added, “This is nonsense and false accusations against the Lebanese resistance. Saudi Arabia must tighten its security, but not at the expense of the Lebanese people.”
Ibrahim Al-Tarshihi, head of the farmers and peasants’ association in Lebanon’s Bekaa region, told local Lebanese media outlets that “Lebanese agricultural production is innocent of the charge of exporting drugs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
He added, “Lebanon does not have pomegranates to export. We have noticed for several years that there are goods from several countries that are exported as Lebanese goods. Perhaps Syria is the one who exported this shipment as Lebanese.”
Badr Abdulaziz, a Bahraini political and security expert, told The Media Line that Bahrain had several times “confiscated land shipments of Lebanese goods containing weapons or drugs.
“There are dozens of [Bahraini Shiite] fighters whom Bahrain previously announced that Hezbollah had trained in camps in Shebaa Farms or in the southern suburbs of Beirut, but the Lebanese state did not respond to Bahrain or even the Gulf states in this matter,” Abdulaziz said.
“The Saudi decision should have been taken a long time ago, and what Saudi Arabia announced about 200 million [sic] narcotic tablets is but a small part of what Hezbollah tried to smuggle,” he said.
“We all know that the Lebanese state is weak and that Hezbollah controls all the important institutions in it, but the Gulf states cannot allow Lebanon to be a source of drugs or weapons or a training ground for outlaws to destabilize security and stability in the Gulf states,” Abdulaziz said.
“Previously, five or six shipments were seized coming from Lebanon, and this shipment that Saudi Arabia has now seized is perhaps the largest. We in the Gulf countries have not been harmed [by the import ban]. We have other sources to compensate for the simple shortage of vegetables, fruits and other Lebanese products, so the only loser is the Lebanese people,” the Bahraini analyst said.
“An investigation in Bahrain proved that the Lebanese Hezbollah group was planning to try to smuggle weapons into Bahrain, which were seized on a bus coming from Iraq carrying Bahraini Shiite visitors, and although the shipment was coming from Iraq, Hezbollah was responsible for smuggling it,” Abdulaziz said.
Muhammad al-Qubban, a Saudi security expert, told The Media Line, “Over the past six years, Saudi Arabia has seized more than 600 million drug pills arriving in shipments from Lebanon.”
“The decision of the Saudi authorities is a message to Lebanon, that the state, and not political parties and militias in the country, is the responsible actor. Saudi Arabia has informed the Lebanese authorities several times about the smuggling of weapons and drugs from Beirut, but there was no response,” he said.
“Seventy-five percent of the shipments that Lebanon sends to the Gulf contain drugs or weapons and other prohibited items. It is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities to inspect all containers before they leave Lebanon,” Qubban said.
這位官員說：“一個高級機構間代表團將在下週前往，討論與美國國家安全有關的一系列重要 問題 ，以及為減輕中東地區緊張局勢的持續努力。”
一位知情人士說，代表團將由白宮國家安全委員會中東政策協調員布雷特·麥格克（Brett McGurk）和國務院顧問德里克·喬雷特（Derek Chollett）率領。
雖然 最終行程 尚不清楚，但該團隊已製定了訪問沙特阿拉伯，阿拉伯聯合酋長國，埃及和約旦的初步計劃。彭博新聞是第一家報導這次旅行的新聞。
Senior US delegation headed to Middle East amid concerns about Iran deal
While the final itinerary was unclear, there were tentative plans for the team to visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
APRIL 28, 2021 22:54
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)
WASHINGTON - A team of US envoys is traveling to the Middle East this week for talks with key allies, a senior US official said on Wednesday, amid simmering concerns in the region about President Joe Biden's attempt to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal.
"A senior interagency delegation will be traveling over the coming week to discuss a number of important matters related to US national security and ongoing efforts toward a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East region," the official said.
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The delegation will be led by Brett McGurk, the White House National Security Council's Middle East policy coordinator, and State Department counselor Derek Chollett, a source familiar with the trip said.
While the final itinerary was unclear, there were tentative plans for the team to visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. Bloomberg News was first to report the news of the trip.
The officials are also expected to discuss the administration's decision to go ahead with the sale to the UAE of $23 billion in military hardware including 50 F-35 fighters and 18 military drones.
Some US lawmakers have criticized the UAE for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters, and worried that the weapons transfers might violate US guarantees that Israel will retain a military advantage in the region.
The Biden administration has been starkly different for Israel and Arab allies than the Trump presidency. Trump's team negotiated normalization deals between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, but the Biden team has not kept up the momentum.
Many US allies in the region are troubled by Biden's attempt to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, fearing a resumption of the accord may eventually allow Tehran to acquire atomic weapons that would leave them vulnerable to Iranian intimidation or military threat.
"They were vehemently against the deal and going right back into it is something that would alarm them," said a former senior administration official.
Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia began a third round of meetings in Vienna this week aimed at agreeing on steps that would be needed if the agreement, which was abandoned by then-US President Donald Trump in 2018, is to be revived.
隨著美國總統喬·拜登（Joe Biden）探索美國是否有可能重返2015年協議，以遏制其前任唐納德·特朗普（Donald Trump）放棄的伊朗核計劃，以色列已加緊呼籲對敏感的伊朗技術和項目實行更多的限制措施。
Israel's warplanes can reach Iran, minister warns amid nuclear talks
Reiterating Israel's position that it does not consider itself bound by the diplomacy, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said: "A bad deal will send the region spiraling into war."
APRIL 29, 2021 21:45
Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets escort two American B-52 bombers through Israeli airspace. March 7, 2021.
(photo credit: IDF)
JERUSALEM - An Israeli cabinet minister sharpened his country's warnings against what it would deem a bad new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, saying war with Tehran would be sure to follow.
As President Joe Biden explores a possible US return to the 2015 deal to contain Iran's nuclear program that his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned, Israel has stepped up calls for more sweeping curbs to be imposed on sensitive Iranian technologies and projects.
Iran, which this week resumed indirect talks with US envoys in Vienna on reversing its retaliatory violations of the deal in exchange for the removal of sanctions reimposed by Trump, has ruled out any further limitations on Iranian actions.
Reiterating Israel's position that it does not consider itself bound by the diplomacy, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said: "A bad deal will send the region spiraling into war."
"Anyone seeking short-term benefits should be mindful of the longer-term," he told Reuters. "Israel will not allow Iran to attain nuclear arms. Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our planes can reach everywhere in the Middle East - and certainly Iran."
Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
Cohen said that in addition to denying Iran the means of enriching uranium and developing ballistic missiles, world powers should make it stop "destabilizing other countries" and funding militants.
The Vienna talks have been overshadowed by what appeared to be mutual sabotage attacks on Israeli and Iranian ships, as well as an explosion at Iran's Natanz enrichment plant that Tehran blamed on Israel.
Cohen, in keeping with Israeli policy, declined all comment.
Israel sent senior delegates to Washington this week to discuss Iran with US counterparts. The White House said the allies agreed on the "significant threat" posed by Iran's regional behavior.
The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, said the Biden administration would consult with Israel about any new nuclear deal - the prospects for which he deemed hazy.
"We assess, to our regret, that the Iranians will refuse such a discussion," he told Israel's public radio station Kan, alluding to Iran's insistence on restoring the original deal, which Trump called too limited in scope and duration.
"But if it emerges that we were mistaken, and the Americans succeed in securing a discussion of a different, better deal, we will certainly be part of that discussion. We made that clear and the (Biden) administration welcomes this, of course."
由代理商和TOI工作人員今天11:06 pm 0
伊朗柔道運動員Saeid Mollaei在2019年8月28日於東京舉行的2019年柔道世錦賽上對男子81公斤以下級男子進行的半決賽中輸給比利時的Matthias Casse後作出反應。（Charly Triballeau / AFP）
以色列世界冠軍柔道·薩吉·穆基（Judoka Sagi Muki）和伊朗冠軍賽義德·穆拉伊（Saeid Mollaei）於2020年2月10日在巴黎大滿貫上相擁，照片由穆奇在網上發布。（Instagram屏幕截圖）
2021年2月19日，特拉維夫男子20公斤以下大滿貫男子決賽的決賽在2021年2月19日在特拉維夫舉行，男子為伊朗出生的蒙古柔道人Saeid Mollaei（白色）與烏茲別克斯坦的Sharofiddin Boltaboev競爭。
** home page**
Iran hit with four-year judo ban for ordering athletes to avoid Israelis
Judo’s international governing body reaffirms suspension, citing ‘repeated and severe breaches’ of its statutes in Saeid Mollaei case
By AGENCIES and TOI STAFFToday, 11:06 pm 0
Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei reacts after losing to Belgium's Matthias Casse in the semifinal fight in the men's under-81 kilogram category during the 2019 Judo World Championships in Tokyo on August 28, 2019. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)
Judo’s world body issued a four-year ban against the Iranian Judo Federation over Tehran’s demands that its athletes refuse to face Israeli opponents.
The ban was backdated to begin in September 2019, when Iranian judoka and former world champion Saeid Mollaei left the Iranian team during the World Championship in Tokyo, claiming he was ordered to throw matches and withdraw from competitions in order to avoid facing Israeli competitors.
The International Judo Federation initially responded to the Iranian order with an open-ended ban on Iran’s team participating in international judo competitions. That initial ban was overturned in March by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
After an Iranian appeal of the initial suspension, the court acknowledged that the Iranian federation had “committed severe violations of the IJF rules” on discrimination and should be punished, but ruled that the international body overstepped its authority with the severity of the ban. It sent the case back to an IJF disciplinary panel for review.
Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei speaking with a German representative after deciding to stop competing for Iran. (Courtesy IJF)
At the time, the Iranian federation hailed the lifting of its suspension as a “great legal and sporting victory,” and said it hoped the decision would lead to an “improvement” in relations with the International Judo Federation.
The new four-year ban will expire on September 17, 2023.
In its Thursday announcement, judo’s global governing body referred to Iran’s behavior as “extremely severe offenses” and “repeated and severe breaches” of international judo’s statutes and “the fundamental principles of Olympism.”
The case began when Iran’s government ordered Mollaei to withdraw from the 2019 championship to avoid facing Israeli judoka Sagi Muki. At the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the IJF noted that Mollaei had previously lost at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and The Hague Grand Prix in 2018 when he could have faced Muki.
Israeli world champion judoka Sagi Muki, right, and Iranian champion Saeid Mollaei embrace at the Paris Grand Slam, February 10, 2020, in an Instagram photo posted online by Muki. (Instagram screen capture)
Mollaei first inquired with the IJF about changing nationality in November 2018, a month prior to the judoka losing in his first-round match to a Japanese athlete at the Guangzhou World Masters when he once again found himself in the same pool as Muki.
Mollaei then lost at the Paris Grand Slam in February 2019 when on course to face Muki, before winning a bronze medal. He did not attend the medal ceremony.
The incident in Tokyo in 2019 appeared to be the last straw. Mollaei refused to return to Iran and instead sought asylum in Germany.
Mollaei switched allegiances to Mongolia last year and first represented that country in a competition in Israel, the IJF Tel Aviv Grand Slam in February of this year, where he claimed a silver medal in the men’s under-81 kilograms category after being defeated by Paris 2020 Grand Slam finalist Sharofiddin Boltaboev of Ukraine.
Iranian-born Mongolian judoka Saeid Mollaei (white) competes against Uzbekistan’s Sharofiddin Boltaboev during the finals of the men’s under-81kg category of Tel Aviv Grand Slam 2021 in the city of Tel Aviv, on February 19, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)
When approving Mollaei’s switch to Mongolia, the International Olympic Committee said the change did not need permission from Iranian Olympic officials because the judoka was technically a refugee.
While in Israel, Mollaei told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, “I’m competing only for Mongolia. I no longer compete for Iran. That part is over for me… I’ve always been a sportsman. I’ve never engaged in politics.”
Mollaei said Israel had been “very kind. That is something I will never forget.”
Yamina黨的領導人納夫塔利·貝內特（Naftali Bennett）於2021年4月21日在耶路撒冷的以色列議會舉行的新聞發布會上（Yonatan Sindel / Flash90）
Yamina黨領袖納夫塔利·本內特（Naftali Bennett）週三與拉姆黨黨魁曼蘇爾·阿巴斯（Mansour Abbas）舉行了會晤，這是兩黨領導人之間的首次政治接觸。
拉姆黨主席曼蘇爾·阿巴斯（Mansour Abbas）在2021年4月5日在耶路撒冷總統官邸會見魯汶·里夫林總統後發表了講話（Yonatan Sindel / Flash90）
貝扎萊爾·斯莫特里奇（Bezalel Smotrich）和總理本傑明·內塔尼亞胡（Benjamin Netanyahu）
Yesh Atid黨的領導人Yair Lapid在2021年4月26日在耶路撒冷的以色列議會舉行的一次派系會議上（Yonatan Sindel / Flash90）
Bennett meets Ra’am chief Abbas amid effort to form government without Netanyahu
Right-wing and Islamist parties launch unlikely cooperation, with PM’s deadline expiring in 6 days; Smotrich slams move: ‘A government with Abbas is like a government with Hamas’
By TOI STAFF28 April 2021, 3:10 pm 1
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett at a press conference in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on April 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett met Wednesday with Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas in the first-ever political contact between the leaders of the two parties, amid ongoing efforts to form a government without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Bennett’s right-wing party and Abbas’s Islamist faction have initiated unlikely cooperation lately in the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, and the ties have gained steam as Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government nears its end.
Both parties are the only ones that in last month’s elections refused to back either Netanyahu’s right wing-religious bloc or the rival “change bloc” that seeks to oust him.
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Ra’am said in a statement following the meeting at Bennett’s Knesset office that the discussion dealt with the positions of both parties regarding the current political events, and was “conducted in a positive atmosphere.”
An unnamed member of the “change bloc” was quoted by Channel 12 news as saying “significant progress” had been made in coalition talks over the previous day.
After meeting Abbas, Bennett reportedly met New Hope party chief Gideon Sa’ar, while the latter’s No. 2, Ze’ev Elkin, met Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid.
Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party, gives a statement after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich assailed Bennett over his meeting with Abbas, whose party is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and rejects Zionism.
“A government with Abbas is like a government with Hamas,” said the far-right Smotrich.
Smotrich said Bennett would become an outcast on the right if he formed a government with Ra’am, the same way former premier Ariel Sharon was when he decided to evacuate Israel’s settlements from Gaza in 2005.
Smotrich has thwarted the option of Netanyahu himself relying on Ra’am to form a government, but the premier’s efforts to court Abbas’s support have lent his rivals greater public legitimacy to work with the Arab party, which has never been part of any government.
Bezalel Smotrich and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File; courtesy)
Just six days remain for Netanyahu to try and form a government before he is required to return the mandate to do so to President Reuven Rivlin.
On Monday, Bennett and Sa’ar expressed caution over ongoing negotiations to form a unity government, admitting that significant gaps remained between them and the centrist Yesh Atid party, but party leader Lapid insisted that they were still bridgeable.
While Bennett said he would be thrilled if Netanyahu managed to cobble together a coalition, Sa’ar maintained his position that he would not serve under the Likud leader and that the premier would have to step aside.
While admitting it wasn’t their ideal scenario, Bennett and Sa’ar both said that they were prepared to join a unity coalition with Yesh Atid and the left-leaning Labor and Meretz parties.
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid at a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Insisting that a another election would be catastrophic for the economy, Lapid said that it would be possible to reach an agreement to form a unity government within a week or ten days. “We, for our part, will do everything,” he said.
Once the mandate is returned, Rivlin will have several options, including tasking the next lawmaker in line — opposition leader Lapid.
A Bennett-Lapid government would be based on a rotation of the premiership between Lapid and Bennett, according to Hebrew media reports. However, Bennett is said to be facing reluctance from within his own right-wing party to cooperate with Lapid, and some of his Yamina’s seven lawmakers may not agree to join such a coalition, Channel 12 news reported. That would further hamper Lapid’s efforts to build a viable coalition.
Should no government be formed, the country will head to its fifth election in two and a half years.
根據周四的報告，藍白黨領袖本尼·甘茨（Benny Gantz）已與總理本傑明·內塔尼亞胡（Benjamin Netanyahu）進行談判，以組成政府。
2020年8月9日，在羅什哈艾因（Rosh Ha'ayin）的文化和藝術行業工人抗議期間，文化和體育部長Chili Tropper與國防部長本尼·甘茨（Benny Gantz）在甘茨家外對媒體講話時。（Tomer Neuberg / Flash90）
文化部長奇利·特羅珀（Chili Tropper）告訴陸軍電台：“我們不會和內塔尼亞胡坐在一起，不在桌子上。” “目前沒有任何談判在進行。這是提供報價的一方，我們回答“不”。”
Gantz said to hold coalition talks with Netanyahu despite vowing to replace him
Report — strongly denied by Blue and White — says defense minister proposed government of equally shared powers if he goes first as PM, Likud leader rejected offer
By TOI STAFFToday, 4:15 pm 1
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 21, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz has engaged in negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government, going against his pledge not to again form a coalition with the premier, according to a Thursday report.
Blue and White categorically rejected the report.
The Walla news site, citing sources with knowledge of the negotiations, said Gantz proposed an equal share of power like in the current government — with Blue and White’s eight lawmakers having the same influence as the Netanyahu-led bloc’s 52 — but with Gantz going first as prime minister. Netanyahu rejected the offer, according to the report.
The report said that earlier, Netanyahu proposed a government in which Gantz is premier first but without the current mechanism that ensures neither the Netanyahu-led nor the Gantz-led bloc can approve major decisions without the other’s consent.
The sources said Netanyahu tried to find another form of compensation for Blue and White’s small size and influence, but no agreements were reached and the talks didn’t move forward.
Blue and White sources called the report an “outright lie” and insisted that there were “no negotiations with Likud.” They said that Netanyahu has indeed made offers, “but Benny didn’t ask him for anything and didn’t present any conditions.”
The current coalition features a rotation agreement, with Netanyahu serving in the role first and Gantz slated to go second. However, Netanyahu refused to pass a state budget — the only way to call elections without Gantz immediately becoming transitional prime minister — thus undermining the rotation deal.
On Wednesday evening, Gantz spoke to both Channel 12 news and the Kan public broadcaster and told them that Netanyahu has made offers, but he turned them down.
However, he refused to reject the power-sharing option outright — despite having long acknowledged that he was duped by the prime minister and insisting that the Likud leader could not be trusted — merely saying that “this option isn’t relevant at the moment” and it “isn’t feasible.”
Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper, right, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz as they speak to the media outside Gantz’s home, during a protest of workers from the culture and art industry in Rosh Ha’ayin, August 9, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
“As far as I am concerned, he has ended his role as prime minister,” Gantz told Channel 12.
“In the end, one cannot trust Netanyahu anymore,” he told Kan.
But elsewhere in Blue and White, there was dissatisfaction with Gantz’s answer.
“We won’t sit with Netanyahu, it’s not on the table,” Culture Minister Chili Tropper told Army Radio. “There are no negotiations going on. This is one side making offers and us answering ‘no.'”
Raoul Wootliff and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.