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Rivlin invites parties to meet

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 04:39

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will meet with representatives of each of the parties elected to serve in the 20th Knesset.

Through the meetings, which will begin on Sunday, Rivlin will determine which party head will be tasked with forming a new government.

Rivlin’s office on Wednesday evening sent a letter to all of the parties inviting the representatives to the consultations.

According to a statement from the president’s office, the letter read: “In accordance with Article 7 of Basic Law: The Government, President Reuven Rivlin will hold a round of consultations with representatives of the lists of candidates elected to the new Knesset, and shortly thereafter will bestow the task of forming the government upon one of the Members of Knesset.  In coordination with Central Elections Committee Chairman Justice Salim Joubran, it is the President’s intention to open the round of consultations already at the beginning of next week, out of an effort to conclude the process of establishing the new government as early as possible – in order to ensure the citizens of Israel have the assurance of a fully functioning government, in the face of the present challenges which lie before the State of Israel.”

It is expected that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who garnered the most seats, 30, in the election, will be asked to form the new government.

Rivlin cannot appoint anyone to form a new government until the election results are certified on March 25.

Meanwhile, on Thursday morning following the partial counting of some 200,000 absentee ballots from diplomats, soldiers, prisoners and hospitalized or ill persons, the left-wing Meretz Party picked up an extra seat, bringing its total to five, while the United Arab List lost one seat, for a total of 13. The haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party also lost a seat for a total of six.

A final tally will be released Thursday afternoon.

Hate messages painted on Hollywood, Fla. synagogue

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 04:26

MIAMI (JTA) – Vandals defaced a synagogue in Hollywood, Fla.

Hate messages and cryptic warnings including “I’m watching you,” and “[expletive] Jews” appeared on B’nai Sephardim, a Sephardic synagogue, the Miami Herald reported. The synagogue serves about 700 families, according to the B’nai Sephardim website.

Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez said on Wednesday that his department takes “any type of hate messages very seriously,” and promised a thorough investigation.

“These are individuals that want to spread hate, and there is no place for that in our community,” he said.

Fernandez said the offensive painted vitriol appeared sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. The gate of the synagogue had been left open overnight because construction crews were working late.

The Anti-Defamation League  decried the incident. Hava L. Holzhauer, ADL’s Florida regional director, said Wednesday night that the vandalism “is damaging to the community. It is physical damage to a place of worship, and it’s also emotional damage.”

Rabbi Leol Benhamu told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that seeing the spray-painted messages was painful.

“That bring up memories of the past, Holocaust memories and persecution for Jews. I got upset,” Benhamu told the station.

The Hollywood incident joins a string of hate-inspired vandalism in the area. On March 8, a 24-year-old man was arrested after police say he yelled in Arabic at the son of a rabbi in front of a Miami Beach synagogue and then threatened to cut his head off.

In February, hate messages appeared on homes, mailboxes and fences in Miami Gardens. There were several incidents last year, including one in September where a swastika and the letters “KKK” appeared on a temporary sign at Temple Emanu-el, the oldest Conservative Jewish congregation in Miami Beach.


Parents of Turin chief rabbi survive Tunis terror attack

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 17:26

ROME (JTA) — Two Italian Jewish tourists survived the terrorist attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunisia.

Alberto Di Porto, 71, and Anna Di Porto, 60, of Rome both managed to escape the shooting attack Wednesday in the capital city of Tunisia by gunmen wearing what appeared to be military uniforms which, according to reports at press time, left at least 19 people dead, including 17 tourists. The Di Portos, who were visiting Tunis as part of a cruise, are the parents of Ariel Di Porto, the chief rabbi of Turin, Italy.

According to a report by the Italian Jewish magazine Pagine Ebraiche, Alberto Di Porto injured his leg while running from the museum and was taken to a local hospital. The Italian news site La Voce reported that the couple was separated, with Anna Di Porto taken by police with other rescued visitors to a safe and secret location.

“They are both safe and that is the most important thing,” their daughter told Pagine Ebraiche. “I hope that they can get back to Italy as soon as possible. Hopefully even tonight.”

Y.U. to merge Stern, Yeshiva colleges’ faculties

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 17:06

NEW YORK (JTA) — Yeshiva University announced plans to merge the faculty of its two undergraduate schools, Yeshiva College and Stern College.

Richard Joel, president of the university, which is under Orthodox auspices, told students Wednesday that as of July 1, it will begin consolidating all arts and science departments. Stern, a women’s college, and the all-male Yeshiva have separate faculties and their campuses are located more than five miles apart from each other.

Joel said the move will allow for more diverse course offerings and will not affect faculty teaching loads.

The university has faced numerous financial challenges in recent years, and last week Yeshiva College faculty overwhelmingly passed a no-confidence resolution against Joel, who has been president since 2003. The university board responded with a statement in support of Joel.


Obama administration ‘deeply concerned’ about Netanyahu Arab comments

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 16:38

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is “deeply concerned” about Likud Party rhetoric marginalizing Arab Israelis during the recent elections.

“There has been a lot of coverage in the media about some of the rhetoric that emerged yesterday that was propagated by the Likud Party to encourage turnout of their supporters that sought to, frankly, marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday in his daily briefing.

Earnest did not name Benjamin Netanyahu, but the Israeli prime minister posted a video on Tuesday, election day, urging followers to vote, saying “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the ballot box. The Likud Party also texted voters warning them that voting in the Arab sector was high.

“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest said.

Earnest, notably, volunteered the criticism; reporters did not raise the issue with him. He also cast the criticism against the “shared values” that U.S. and Israeli leaders have for decades said the two countries have in common.

“It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together,” he said.

“We’ve talked a lot about how our shared values are an important part of what binds our two countries together, and rhetoric that seeks to marginalize one segment of their population is deeply concerning and it is divisive,” Earnest said. “And I can tell you that these are views that the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.”

Earnest also noted Netanyahu’s rejection in the election’s final days of a two-state solution for the foreseeable future.

“Based on those comments, the United States will evaluate our approach to the situation moving forward,” he said. He prefaced his comment by saying that the U.S.-Israel relationship remained close. “The unprecedented security cooperation between the United States and Israel, including our strong military and intelligence relationships, will continue,” he said.

Earnest also said that President Barack Obama would congratulate Netanyahu once he was charged with forming a government.

FEGS files for bankruptcy, gets debt financing from N.Y. federation

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 15:46

NEW YORK (JTA) — FEGS, one of the country’s largest Jewish social services agencies, has filed for bankruptcy.

A month after announcing that financial problems were forcing its shutdown, FEGS Health & Human Services made the bankruptcy announcement in a news release on Wednesday.

The release said FEGS was in the “final stage” of transferring its programs and contracts to other agencies and “winding down” its operations. It described the bankruptcy filing as a way of ensuring “the uninterrupted continuation of FEGS programs and services to clients under different agencies.”

UJA-Federation of New York said it would offer FEGS, which is a federation beneficiary agency, “debtor-in-possession financing” of up to $10 million to help ensure the smooth transfer of its programs. While FEGS is primarily funded through government contracts, it also provides several Jewish-specific services that are funded by the federation.

In an email to donors, UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein said his group was “actively working to find appropriate homes within our network for FEGS’s programs that are funded by UJA-Federation targeted grants” and will announce a “complete transition plan” by the end of this month.

The federation also is “carefully examining” accountability guidelines, other audit and governance requirements, and training for its network agencies.

At the time it announced its closing, FEGS (an acronym for Federation Employment and Guidance Service) had 2,000 employees and an annual budget of about $250 million. Its announcement in December that it had discovered a $19.4 million loss in the past fiscal year — and its subsequent decision to close — was described as a surprise by leaders of other Jewish and general nonprofit organizations.

New York State recently announced that it will transfer FEGS’ behavioral health programs contracts to the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, another UJA-Federation beneficiary agency.

IDF defuses hidden explosive on Gaza border

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 11:48

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli forces defused an explosive device hidden near the security fence on the Gaza border.

The device was found near the border with the northern Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday hours after it was located and disabled.

A day earlier, Israeli troops captured a Palestinian man who had crossed into Israel carrying a knife.

Dieudonne convicted of condoning terrorism

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 11:42

(JTA) — The French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala was found guilty of condoning terrorism for social media posts sympathizing with the Islamist gunman who killed four Jews at a Paris-area kosher supermarket.

On Wednesday, a Paris court gave Dieudonne a suspended two-month jail sentence. He had faced up to seven years in jail and a $106,000 fine.

Dieudonne posted “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” on Facebook on Jan. 14, days after the hostage siege at the Hyper Cacher supermarket that ended with the four murders and an attack two days earlier at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo magazine that left 13 dead. His post mixed the phrase in support of the magazine — “Je suis Charlie” — with the name of the killer, who also shot a policewoman dead during the murderous spree.

He later removed the post from Facebook.

Dieudonne has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews. He has been charged almost 40 times under France’s hate-speech laws.

Some see Dieudonne as a symbol of France’s growing anti-Semitism problem because of his performances featuring anti-Semitic jokes and creation of the quenelle, a Nazi-like salute that French Prime Minister Manuel Vals has called a “gesture of hatred” and anti-Semitic.

Abbas: Will talk to any Israeli gov’t that backs Palestinian state

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 11:21

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he will talk to any Israeli government that accepts a two-state solution as the basis for negotiations.

“It doesn’t matter to us who the next prime minister of Israel is, what we expect from this government is to recognize the two-state solution,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said Wednesday in a statement, the French news agency AFP reported, in the aftermath of Israel’s national elections the day before.

Without a commitment to a Palestinian state, any future peace negotiations have “no chance,” the statement also said.

Less than a day before Israelis went to the polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state would not be established under his watch.

Chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the election results.

“At a time when we are gravely concerned about a culture of hate which brings with it unprecedented levels of incitement against the 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, the results of the Israeli elections show the success of a campaign platform based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people,” he said in a statement released Wednesday by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The phrase “Palestinian citizens of Israel” refers to Arab-Israelis, who are full citizens and live throughout the country.

Erekat blamed the result on the international community, which he said has not “held Israel to account for its systematic violations of international law.”

European Union foreign policy chief  Federica Mogherini on Wednesday said that the EU “is committed to working with the incoming Israeli government on a mutually beneficial relationship as well as on the relaunch of the peace process.”

Mogherini congratulated Netanyahu for garnering the most seats in the new Knesset.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Tehran that the results of the elections were not important, since “for us there is no difference between the Zionist regime’s political parties. They are all aggressors in nature,” Reuters reported, citing the semi-official Mehr News Agency.

Herzog: I won’t join a national unity gov’t

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 11:11

(JTA) — Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog said he will lead the opposition rather than join a national unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

“We will be an appropriate, real alternative in all areas and all subjects to this extreme-right government whose days are numbered,” Herzog said at a party meeting Wednesday, a day after his party finished with 24 seats in Israel’s elections, behind Likud’s 30.

The election winner must assemble a coalition of at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset in order to obtain a ruling majority and become prime minister. The right-wing and Orthodox camp won at least 57 seats, and the center-right Kulanu party, led by ex-Likudnik Moshe Kachlon, won an additional 10 seats.

Herzog said his party would continue to lead the camp of those who want a state that is “Jewish, democratic, secure and just.”

His campaign partner, Tzipi Livni, said the battle was not over.

“There are two paths with different values: one path of Netanyahu and his partners, and the other of ours and our natural partners,” she said. “We will continue to represent our path. Hope is not lost.”

How Israel’s cities voted: Likud in Jerusalem, Zionist Union in Tel Aviv

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 10:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Likud and haredi Orthodox parties dominated in Jerusalem, while the Zionist Union took the most votes in Tel Aviv in Israel’s national elections.

Nationally, the right-wing Likud Party garnered 23.3 percent of the vote and the center-left Zionist Union coalition garnered 18.7 percent of the vote, followed by the United Arab List with nearly 11 percent of the vote, according to Israel’s Central Elections Committee.

In Jerusalem, Likud finished with 24 percent of the vote and United Torah Judaism won 21 percent. The Sephardic Orthodox Shas party was next with 11 percent, followed by the Zionist Union at 10 percent and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party at 8 percent. The Yachad party, led by former Shas lawmaker Eli Yishai, garnered 7 percent of the vote in the city but failed to meet the minimum number of votes nationally required to enter the Knesset. The Joint Arab List picked up 1.2 percent of the vote in Jerusalem.

In Tel Aviv, the Zionist Union won 34 percent of the vote and Likud had 18 percent. Next were the left-wing Meretz with 13 percent and the centrist Yesh Atid with 11 percent. Both Jewish Home and the Joint Arab List had 3 percent of the city’s vote.

In Sderot, the southern Israeli city that has borne the brunt of rocket attacks from Gaza, 42 percent of ballots went to Likud, 11 percent to Jewish Home, 8 percent to Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party and 7.5 percent to the Zionist Union.

Record number of women elected to Knesset in race with high voter turnout

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 09:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — In an election with the highest voter turnout since 1999, a record 28 women were chosen for the 20th Knesset.

The percentage of eligible voters who came out Tuesday was 71.8; the turnout 14 years ago was 78.7 percent.

Ten of the parties running in the election garnered seats in the Knesset, with 15 not reaching the electoral threshold of 3.45 percent, or four seats.

The number of women elected broke the record of 27 set in the 2013 elections, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. The Zionist Union had eight women elected, followed by the Likud Party with six.

The number of Orthodox and haredi Orthodox lawmakers fell from 39 to 25, while the number of Arab-Israeli lawmakers increased from 12 to 17, including one each in the Zionist Union, Likud and Meretz parties.

The Knesset will welcome 41 new lawmakers, or slightly more than one-third of the parliament, according to the Israel Democracy Institute.


Anne Frank’s cousin, actor Buddy Elias, dies at 89

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 06:39

(JTA) — Buddy Elias, a former president of the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel and a cousin of the teenage diarist from Amsterdam, has died.

Elias, an actor who headed the charity named after his cousin, died Monday shortly before his 90th birthday at his home in Basel, according to Tachles, the Swiss Jewish newspaper.

“For decades, Buddy Elias campaigned for civil society, dialogue and education against discrimination,” Yves Kugelmann, a board member of the Anne Frank Fonds, wrote in a statement. “As a contemporary witness and cousin of Margot and Anne Frank, he was tirelessly engaged in educational work, human rights and, in particular, the rights of children and adolescents.”

In 2012, Elias was instrumental in founding the Frank Family Centre in Frankfurt where archives of the Frank, Elias, Stern and Kahn families will be made accessible to the public.

Born in Frankfurt am Main in 1925, where he spent his early years with Anne Frank, Elias immigrated to Basel in 1931 with his Jewish family.

After World War II, he began his acting career as a clown with Holiday on Ice, touring the world with the show for 14 years. He later became a film actor.

Jewish shopper hit, kicked at mall near Vienna

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 06:34

(JTA) — Austrian police arrested a man who is suspected of a hate crime against a Jewish man in a shopping mall near Vienna.

The alleged victim was shopping Tuesday at a supermarket inside a shopping mall in St. Polten, a city in lower Austria, while wearing a Star of David necklace, the news website Heute.at reported. The man, 53, allegedly was taunted with anti-Semitic slurs by a group of young men before he was attacked by one of the men, according to the report.

The alleged assailant, 21, hit and kicked the victim, prompting police to intervene and arrest him. The victim required medical treatment, the report said, but it did not elaborate on his injuries.

During questioning, the alleged perpetrator admitted to hitting the Jewish man but denied making any anti-Semitic speech or that the attack was an anti-Semitic act.

The report, which named neither man, did not contain the suspect’s explanation as to why he hit the Jewish shopper.

The victim told Heute that St. Polten is “one of the worst areas in terms of anti-Semitism,” adding that he was considering moving elsewhere.

In 2014, the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Austria nearly doubled to 255 from 137 the previous year.

Idaho state lawmaker’s attack on Hinduism draws Jewish demands for apology

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 04:43

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An Idaho state senator’s description of Hinduism as “a false faith with false Gods” drew calls from Jewish clergy for an apology.

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll joined two other Republican senators in refusing to attend the daily invocation on March 3 because a Hindu chaplain, Rajan Zed, led it.

Nuxoll was quoted by The Associated Press as saying that she refused to attend because she sees the United States as a Christian nation.

“Hindu is a false faith with false gods,” she said. “I think it’s great that Hindu people can practice their religion but since we’re the Senate, we’re setting an example of what we, Idaho, believe.”

Her statement led Rabbi Daniel Fink of Boise’s Congregation Ahavatah Beth Israel to recruit a slate of local clergy to sign on to a letter he wrote calling for an apology.

“Being a public official who is expected to represent all citizens, it is highly inappropriate and insensitive for Ms. Nuxoll to unnecessarily label a major religion as ‘false,’ as there are about 3 million Hindus in U.S.A., including some in Idaho,” said the March 14 letter, organized through the state’s Interfaith Equality Coalition. It was signed by 28 clergy and a number of other people.

Also asking for an apology was Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer of congregations in Reno, Nev. and Tahoe Vista, Calif., who has served with Zed on interfaith panels.

“If Nuxoll had a clue, she would know that Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world and it offers rich philosophical thought,” Beyer said in a statement circulated by Zed and which she confirmed to JTA.

Nuxoll drew attention in 2013 when she compared health insurance exchanges to the trains that transported Jews to death camps.

Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog calls Netanyahu to concede

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 04:41

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and conceded defeat in Israel’s national elections.

On Wednesday morning, Herzog told reporters outside his home that he spoke by phone with Netanyahu and “congratulated him on his achievement and wished him good luck.”

“The nation has had its say, and we have to respect that,” Herzog said.

With 99 percent of the ballots counted, the Likud Party surged overnight to 30 seats, while the Zionist Union dropped from initial exit poll data to 24.

Netanyahu reportedly spoke with the leaders of the parties likely to become part of a right-wing government coalition, including the Jewish Home, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Also Wednesday, Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said that if the party’s number of seats remains at four, she would give up her Knesset seat and quit politics, remaining as the left-wing party’s leader until it elects a new chair. With its four seats, down from six in 2013, Meretz just broke the threshold to be included in the Knesset.

Final election results will be confirmed on Thursday morning.

Official election returns give Likud more decisive margin of victory

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 22:12

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrating on Election Day as unofficial results showed his Likud Party with 29 seats in Israel’s Knesset, March 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

(JTA) — Official Israeli election returns showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party heading toward a decisive victory over Zionist Union.

Election returns that came in just before dawn showed Likud taking 29 seats over Zionist Union’s 24, according to Israeli reports.

The results represented a dramatic improvement in Likud’s fortunes just hours after exit polling indicated the party was in a virtual dead heat with Zionist Union.

Exit polls released by three Israeli television channels just as the polls closed at 10 p.m. local time showed Likud and Zionist Union each taking about 27 seats. But as official returns trickled in through the night, Likud saw its position improve significantly.

According to The Jerusalem Post, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, Likud had won 29 seats, Zionist Union 24 and the Joint Arab List 14. Yesh Atid finished fourth with 11 seats, followed by Jewish Home with eight, and Shas and United Torah Judaism with seven each. Next were Yisrael Beiteinu with six and Meretz with four.


Erekat: Israel’s election results mean Palestinians will press at ICC

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 19:00

(JTA) — The Palestinians’ chief negotiator said in the aftermath of Israeli election results that the Palestinians will advance their efforts at the International Criminal Court.

“It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, and for that we say clearly that we will go to the Hague Tribunal, we will accelerate, continue and intensify” legal efforts, Saeb Erekat told the French news agency AFP.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas formally applied for admission to the ICC on Jan. 1, and the Palestinians are slated to fully join the court on April 1. In the meantime, the ICC has begun the process for opening an investigation into potential Israeli war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Israel has responded by withholding more than $400 million in taxes and customs revenue from the Palestinians.

Hamas likewise argued that the election results call for a more confrontational approach with Israel, according to a report by the German news agency DPA, which quoted a statement by Hamas official Ismail Radwan saying, “The results should be enough to convince the Palestinian Authority and Fatah Party to forget about the choice of keeping the absurd negotiations.”

In the closing days of the election campaign, Netanyahu declared that he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state if he remained prime minister.

Herzog calls for ‘government of reconciliation’ as Netanyahu declares victory

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 17:58

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Isaac Herzog claimed victory in Israel’s national elections.

Exit polling on Tuesday found Netanyahu’s Likud and Herzog’s Zionist Union parties tied with 27 seats each.

After the results were broadcast, Netanyahu tweeted, “Against all odds a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!”

Speaking at his Jerusalem campaign headquarters, he said, “I spoke with all party leaders in the nationalist camp and called on them to join me and form a government without delay,” casting doubt on the formation of a national unity government. As he spoke, supporters shouted, “We don’t want unity.”

Herzog, who held a slight lead in the polls in the days leading up to the election, was not conceding defeat.

“The Likud is mistaken — the right wing bloc has shrunk,” Zionist Union said in a statement. “Everything is still open until the release of the final results. Only then will we be able to know which parties actually passed the threshold and we’ll know what government can be formed.”

Herzog and Tzipi Livni, the former justice minister and the party’s co-chair, met after the results were released to address supporters.

“I intend to make every effort to put together a socially conscious government for Israel, a good government, a government that returns Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state, a socially aware country that strives for peace with our neighbors,” Herzog said at his campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv. “I call on all the relevant factions to unite behind me for a government of reconciliation for Israel.”

He called on his supporters to “go to sleep,” since no decisions will be made overnight.

Livni said the party would make every effort to form a government headed by Herzog, a day after she agreed to step aside from a rotating premiership if it would make it easier to form a government coalition.

Yair Lapid, head of the center-left Yesh Atid party, which polled at 11 seats, told supporters on Tuesday night that “we are here to stay.”

“Yesh Atid is a force that can no longer be ignored in Israeli politics,” Lapid said. “We’ll continue to present a real vision for the country, a vision of an exemplary society whose Judaism is embracing and not divisive, whose economy works for the middle class and the middle class works for the weaker segments in society.”

Polls showed the Jewish Home party with eight seats; it had 12 in the last Knesset.

“I was asked if I’m disappointed in our public, in the national-religious public,” party leader Naftali Bennett said in an address to supporters. “And I tell you, the opposite. I’m proud of religious Zionism because it’s a truly ideological community.”

The head of the newly established Kulanu party, former Likud lawmaker Moshe Kahlon, told supporters on Tuesday night that he will  join the coalition of the candidate that chooses a social agenda. Kahlon said he would wait for the final vote counts before speaking to Netanyahu and Herzog, who have both already initiated talks. Kulanu in exit polls had nine seats.

Zehava Galon, whose left-wing Meretz party garnered five seats, according to exit polls, called on Herzog to resist the temptation to form a national unity government, saying it would lend “legitimacy” to Netanyahu and his policies.

Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu Party garnered five seats, down from the 15 it held after the 2009 elections, praised his party for surviving the campaign despite being met with “an attempted assassination of an entire political party by forces from outside the political system, from the media. Many forces tried to destroy an entire party but failed.”

Dozens of Yisrael Beiteinu officials were targeted in a corruption investigation in December.

Wasserman Schultz opts against Senate run

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 17:32

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz opted out of running for one of Florida’s U.S. Senate seats.

“I plan to run and will be running for reelection to my House seat in the House of Representatives,” Wasserman Schultz told CNN on Tuesday.

Wasserman Schultz, who is among the most senior Jewish Democrats, had been touted for a possible 2016 run once Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, indicated that he would not keep the seat should he formally declare for a U.S. presidential bid.

In her CNN interview, Wasserman Schultz, whose district covers part of the Miami area, cited her current position chairing the Democratic National Committee as one reason for deciding against a run.

Another Jewish House member, Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal Democrat who represents the Orlando area, is also considering a Senate run.