Full detail of Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash

Paris/Seattle/Singapore: Minutes after take-off, the pilots of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX were caught in a bad situation.

As soon as the pilots retracted the flaps and slats, according to flight data, a key sensor began to feed faulty information into Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), designed to prevent stalls.

 

Flying at full take-off power, according to the flight data, the crew then struggled with nose-down commands from MCAS, four aviation experts told Reuters. The high speed and the jet’s forward-leaning posture made it nearly impossible to use the controls to pull the nose up.

Moments later, the Boeing Co jet hit the ground, killing all 157 people onboard after six minutes of flight.

A complicated picture of what happened in the cockpit of Flight 302 on March 10 is emerging from the sparse commentary of a preliminary report and a new data plot showing how crew and technology interacted.

Ethiopia’s transport minister said on Thursday that the pilots followed all correct procedures in trying to keep the plane in the air.

“The preliminary report confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that the crew followed the right procedures,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement to Reuters on Sunday. “Under the circumstances, with a number of simultaneous warnings in the cockpit, the crew have performed professionally.”

The engines remained at full take-off power as the airline’s youngest-ever but highly-experienced captain, a 29-year-old with 8,122 hours of flying time, and his 25-year-old co-pilot, with 361 hours, flew the aircraft out of its initial climb.

That would be an unusual step in a regular flight, according to the experts and five current and former pilots interviewed by Reuters, most of whom were not authorised to speak publicly.

“You would never, ever have full power for the whole flight,” said Hart Langer, a veteran former senior vice president for flight operations at United Airlines.

The reason the engines continued at full take-off power was not given in the report. But it is not part of a usual procedure for pilots dealing with the loss of key information such as the sensor data, the four experts said.

The Ethiopian Airlines statement suggested the crew left the throttles at take-off power because they intended to continue to climb and were hampered by the nose-down commands of MCAS.

By the end, the aircraft was travelling at 500 knots (575 mph, 926 kph), far beyond the Boeing jet’s operating limits.

The Ethiopian Airlines statement said “no excess speed was noted at the initial phases of the flight.”

The aircraft’s gathering speed and its downward “trim” when MCAS switched on for the last time may have contributed to a situation in which the pilots were unable to fight flawed Boeing software that eventually sent the jet into an uncontrollable dive, the four experts said after studying the data.

Trim is a manual or automatic setting that helps to keep the plane on a desired up or down trajectory by making it harder for pilots to pull the other way.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash, and another in Indonesia five months earlier, have left the world’s largest planemaker in crisis as its top-selling jetliner is grounded worldwide, and Ethiopia scrambling to protect one of Africa’s most successful companies.

All 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded and Boeing is working on an MCAS software fix and extra training that it says will prevent a repeat of such accidents.

CEO Dennis Muilenburg said on Friday the two accidents were caused by a chain of events, “with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft’s MCAS function.”

Sources who reviewed the crash data said the problems started barely 12 seconds after take-off.

A sudden spike in black box data was consistent with a bird or other debris hitting the plane as it was taking off, shearing away a vital airflow sensor, said the four experts and two U.S. officials briefed on the data.

Ethiopian Airlines on Sunday called that scenario “completely speculative”. Chief investigator Amdye Ayalew Fanta said on Thursday there was no indication of such damage.

Boeing said it would not comment on ongoing investigations.

As with the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, faulty data from the ‘angle of attack’ sensor, which measures how the wing is cutting through the air, may have set off a volatile chain of events.

In both cases, the faulty sensor tricked the plane’s computer into thinking the aircraft was about to stall, or lose lift. The anti-stall MCAS software then pushed the nose down forcefully by intervening in the aircraft’s trim system.

The first time the MCAS software kicked in, flight data shows the Ethiopian Airlines pilots reacted quickly by flicking switches under their thumbs – they had recognised the movements as the same type flight crews had been warned about after the Lion Air crash.

But data shows they were not able to fully counteract the computer’s movements. At that point, they were a mere 3,000 feet above the airport, so low that a new warning – a computerised voice saying “don’t sink” – sounded in the cabin.

When MCAS triggered again, the jetliner’s trim was set to push the nose down at almost the maximum level, flight data shows, while the control column noisily vibrated with another stall warning called a “stick shaker.”

This time, the pilots countered MCAS to greater effect, the experts said after studying the data. But when they turned off the system – as they were instructed to do by Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the wake of the Lion Air disaster – the nose was still trimmed downwards, making it harder to pull up the plane.

The combination of the plane’s speed – edging up towards design limits with the engines still at their take-off power – and the trim setting meant the pilots would have had to exert 50 pounds of force to pull back the control columns, the four experts and one of the pilots said, and moving a backup manual wheel instead was impossible.

Ethiopian Airlines’ position is that the control problems only resulted from the crew’s losing battle with MCAS, a source familiar with the airline’s thinking said. Boeing declined to comment. The preliminary report did not cover this issue.

The captain called out “pull up” three times, according to the cockpit voice recorder. The co-pilot reported problems to air traffic control. In the meantime, the aircraft’s speed remained abnormally high, the five pilots and four aviation experts said.

Several experienced pilots said there was an array of stressful factors sapping the pilots’ attention.

Among the distractions was a “clacker” warning telling the pilots their aircraft was going too fast. This only kicked in after the MCAS system had started firing, the airline said.

“As pilots have told us, erroneous activation of the MCAS function can add to what is already a high-workload environment,” Muilenburg said Thursday, adding Boeing was “sorry for the lives lost” in the crash. “It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it and we know how to do it.”

As the nose gradually fell, the captain asked the co-pilot to try to trim the plane using the manual backup wheel in the centre console to help the plane recover from the dive, according to the voice recorder.

But it was too hard to move the wheel. Both men then tried to pitch the nose up together. The captain, according to the report, said it was not enough.

Data shows the electric trim system was switched back on in an apparent effort to force the reluctant nose higher, the experts said. This in turn would have also reconnected MCAS.

Reactivating MCAS is contrary to advice issued by Boeing and the FAA after Lion Air. The report did not address that. The airline did not comment.

The pilots managed to lift the nose slightly using the electric thumb switches on their control column. The data readout shows they flicked those switches only briefly. The report does not provide a reason for this. It does show the pilots fully engaged in trying to save the plane.

With its power restored, a final MCAS command kicked in, eventually pushing the nose down to a 40 degree angle at 500 knots, far beyond the plane’s safe operating speed, defined by Boeing as 340 knots.

As the 737 MAX plunged, G-forces turned negative, pulling occupants out of their seats.

Just six minutes after take off, the plane crashed into a field.

Israel votes with PM Netanyahu’s future still uncertain

Jerusalem: Israelis began voting on Tuesday in a high-stakes election that will decide whether to extend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long right-wing tenure despite corruption allegations or to replace him with an ex-military chief new to politics.

The vote is expected to be close and likely lead to frantic negotiations to form a coalition government once results are in, with opinion polls having shown Netanyahu best placed to do so.

 

Polls opened at 0400 GMT and were to close at 1900 GMT in most areas, with final results not expected until early Wednesday.

Ex-military chief Benny Gantz has mounted a strong challenge to the veteran prime minister by brandishing his security credentials while pledging to undo damage he says Netanyahu has inflicted on the country with divisive politics.

The election will be in many ways a referendum on the 69-year-old leader who has built a reputation as guarantor of the country’s security and economic growth, but whose populism and alleged corruption have left many ready for change.

He has engaged in populist rhetoric throughout the acrimonious campaign that critics say amounts to the demonisation of Arab Israelis and others.

True to form, Netanyahu issued a deeply controversial pledge only three days before the election, saying he planned to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank should he win.

Extending Israeli sovereignty on a large-scale in the West Bank could be the death knell to already fading hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

It is a move long-sought by Israel’s far-right.

Netanyahu has also sought to portray himself as Israel’s essential statesman, meeting with his close ally US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the run up to the vote.

He has highlighted Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the Golan Heights, while also saying the US leader is aware of his annexation plans.

“Who else can do this? Who can do this? Come on. Honestly,” Netanyahu said in an interview on Sunday with local news site Arutz Sheva.

“Who can stand in front of the world? Who can stand in front of the American Congress? Who can move public opinion in that direction?”

At the same time, he has used Trump-like tactics, calling the corruption investigations a “witch hunt” and denouncing journalists covering them.

On Monday night, he paid a visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall for a last-minute prayer.

Gantz, a 59-year-old former paratrooper who has formed a centrist alliance to challenge Netanyahu, has invoked the corruption allegations against the premier to make his case that it is time for him to go.

Gantz has sought to overcome Netanyahu's experience and achievements by allying with two other former military chiefs of staff and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid to form his Blue and White alliance.Gantz has sought to overcome Netanyahu’s experience and achievements by allying with two other former military chiefs of staff and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid to form his Blue and White alliance.

He has called Netanyahu’s annexation pledge an “irresponsible” bid for right-wing votes.

As for his position on the issue, Gantz says he favours a “globally backed peace agreement” that sees Israel hold on to the large settlement blocs in the West Bank and maintain security control over the territory.

“There’s a need for change and an opportunity for change,” Gantz told Israel’s army radio on Monday.

“Israel needs to choose a direction of unification, connection and hope — or of extremity.”

Gantz has sought to overcome Netanyahu’s experience and achievements by allying with two other former military chiefs of staff and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid to form his Blue and White alliance.

Opinion polls have given Netanyahu’s Likud and Blue and White a similar number of seats in the 120-seat parliament.

Under those polls, both would fall far short of an outright majority — with around 30 seats each — and would need to pull together a coalition.

If polling trends hold, Netanyahu would be best placed to build a coalition thanks to smaller right-wing parties allied to him.

But there have been repeated warnings about opinion polls’ unreliability in the past and the fact that many voters had said they were undecided.

Should Netanyahu win, he will be on track to surpass founding father David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister later this year.

He has been premier for a total of more than 13 years, entrenching himself so firmly at the top that some have labelled him “King Bibi,” using his nickname since childhood.

But if he does triumph, he faces the prospect of becoming the first sitting prime minister to be indicted.

The attorney general has announced he intends to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending an upcoming hearing.

He is not required to step down if indicted, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted.

Theresa May to request Merkel, Macron for Brexit delay

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday to argue for a Brexit delay while her ministers hold crisis talks with the opposition to try to break the deadlock in London.

Britain’s departure from the EU has already been delayed once but May is asking for yet more time as she courts veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, whose opposition Labour Party wants to keep Britain more closely tied to the bloc after Brexit.

 

“The prime minister has not yet moved off her red lines so we can reach a compromise,” Corbyn said ahead of further talks between his team and government ministers on Tuesday.

While May travels to Berlin and Paris ahead of an emergency EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday, British lawmakers will hold a 90-minute debate on her proposal to delay Britain’s EU departure date to June 30 from April 12.

The debate has been forced on the government by parliament passing a law on Monday which will give lawmakers the power to scrutinise and even make legally binding changes to May’s request to extend the Article 50 negotiating period again.

More than a week after Britain was originally supposed to have left the EU, the weakest British leader in a generation warned that Brexit might never happen as she battles to get a divorce deal ratified by a profoundly divided parliament.

May needs Labour votes in parliament to get a deal approved.

But Labour’s demands include keeping Britain in a customs union with the EU,

something which is hard to reconcile with May’s desire for Britain to have an independent trade policy.

The Telegraph reported Labour and the government were still discussing both a customs union and the idea of holding a confirmatory referendum on any deal they agree.

Both ideas are anathema to many in May’s party, whose rebels have helped defeat May’s divorce deal three times this year. The EU has been clear it will accept a softer Brexit.

“I’ve said many times before, we can be more, much more ambitious in our future relationship with the UK,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told a news conference with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Monday.

The 2016 referendum revealed a United Kingdom divided over much more than EU membership, and has sparked impassioned debate about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and what it means to be British.

If Britain’s exit is delayed beyond May 22, the EU has said it will have to take part in European Parliament elections. The British government on Monday took the legal steps necessary to take part in that vote.

“It does not make these elections inevitable, as leaving the EU before the date of election automatically removes our obligation to take part,” a government spokesman said.

EU leaders, fatigued by the serpentine Brexit crisis, must decide on Wednesday whether to grant May a further delay. The decision can be vetoed by any of the other 27 member states.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was “crucial to know when and on what basis (the) UK will ratify the Withdrawal Agreement” as the EU considers May’s request to delay.

Without an extension, Britain is due to leave the EU at 2200 GMT on Friday, without a deal to cushion the economic shock.

While the EU is not expected to trigger such a potentially disorderly no-deal exit, diplomats said all options were on the table – from refusing a delay to granting May’s request or pushing for a longer postponement.

But May is boxed in at home.

Brexiteers in her cabinet insisted on at most a short delay, while Mark Francois, deputy chief of the Conservatives’ Brexit-supporting faction in parliament, demanded she resign and called on the party to vote on forcing her out – even though there is no formal provision to do so before December.

Binyamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz make final pitches before Israeli vote

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to energise supporters on the eve of Tuesday’s elections with warnings and controversial promises, while his centrist challenger urged voters to tell the premier the country has had enough.

The general election in which Netanyahu is seeking to extend his already 13 years in office despite corruption allegations against him is expected to be close, with ex-military chief Benny Gantz posing a serious threat.

 

They spent the campaign’s final hours exhorting voters with two different strategies: Netanyahu repeatedly warned that his Likud was at risk of losing, while Gantz made the case that Israel was on the verge of historic change. The truth was more complicated, with opinion polls giving Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White a similar number of seats in the 120-seat parliament.

Under those polls, both would fall far short of an outright majority and would need to pull together a coalition. If polling trends hold, Netanyahu would be best placed to do so thanks to smaller right-wing parties allied to him. There have however been repeated warnings of the unreliability of polls in the past and the fact that many voters say they remain undecided.

Netanyahu’s claims that Likud may lose were widely seen as a way to ensure his base of supporters turn out to vote. Netanyahu has made last-minute appeals to the right, issuing a deeply controversial pledge to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank. If done on a large-scale, applying Israeli sovereignty there could end any remaining hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

In an interview on Sunday, Netanyahu said US President Donald Trump, who is expected to release his long-awaited deal for Israeli-Palestinian peace sometime after the election, was aware of his plans to do so. He said he planned to apply sovereignty gradually, and that he did not differentiate between Israel’s large West Bank settlement blocs and the isolated ones located deep in the territory on land the Palestinians see as part of a future state.

“Who else can do this? Who can do this? Come on. Honestly,” Netanyahu said, making the case as he has throughout the campaign that he is Israel’s essential statesman.

“Who can stand in front of the world? Who can stand in front of the American Congress? Who can move public opinion in that direction?” Gantz has called Netanyahu’s pledge an “irresponsible” bid for right-wing votes.

He says he favours a “globally backed peace agreement” that sees Israel hold on to the large settlement blocs in the West Bank and maintain security control over the territory.

Gantz has also highlighted his security credentials while saying he will heal divisions he accuses Netanyahu of exacerbating.

“There’s a need for change and an opportunity for change,” Gantz told Israel’s army radio on Monday. “Israel needs to choose a direction of unification, connection and hope — or of extremity.”

The two were also engaging in typical pre-election campaigning, including Gantz riding a motorcycle to his rally on Sunday and Netanyahu visiting Jerusalem’s main market on Monday.

Netanyahu will be on track to surpass founding father David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister should he win on Tuesday. But even if he does, he faces the prospect of becoming the first sitting prime minister to be indicted. The attorney general has announced he intends to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending an upcoming hearing.

The premier’s opponents have seized on the allegations to argue that the 69-year-old Netanyahu has lost his way and must go. But Netanyahu has been defiant, calling the investigations a “witch hunt” and denouncing journalists reporting on them — similar to the tactics used by his ally Trump.

While the threat of indictment hangs over Netanyahu, he has also built a reputation as guarantor of Israel’s security and economic growth. He has repeatedly spoken of Trump’s recognition of the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights as two of his major accomplishments.

Gantz has sought to overcome that in part by allying with two other former military chiefs of staff and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid.

UK court rejects Vijay Mallya’s appeal against extradition order

London: A UK high court has rejected Vijay Mallya’s application to appeal against his extradition, a move that brings India closer in getting back the embattled liquor tycoon wanted in alleged fraud and money laundering charges amounting to Rs 9,000 crores.

The 63-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss had filed the application seeking “leave to appeal” in the high court on February 14 against his extradition order, which was signed by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

 

“The application for permission to appeal was refused by Justice Willi-am Davis on 05/04/2019,” said a spokesperson for the UK Judiciary.

“The appellant (Mallya) has five business days to apply for oral consideration. If a renewal application is made, it will be listed before a High Court judge and dealt with at a hearing,” the spokesperson added.

Mallya’s “leave to appeal” application had been put before Justice Davis, who was to make a decision on the basis of papers submitted as part of the appeals process. Now that the “judge on papers” application has been rejected by Justice Davis, Mallya has the option to “renew his application for permission to appeal” by this Friday.

“If he (Mallya) does so (applies for renewal), there will be an oral hearing at which the Administrative Court (High Court) will consider whether or not to grant permission to appeal,” a CPS spokesperson said.

During the oral hearing, Mallya’s legal team and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) — on behalf of the Indian government —will renew their respective claims for and against an appeal for a judge to determine if it can proceed to a full hearing.

While the rejection by the high court on Friday doesn’t mean that the appeal process in the case has come to an end, the latest decision does move the case one step further in favour of India in bringing back Mallya, who had fled the country in 2016. The ruling marks a fresh legal setback for the UB Group chief who offered to curtail his “lavish” lifestyle after a bid by the Indian banks to recoup some of the nearly 1.145 billion pounds he owed to them as unpaid loans.

Theresa May to meet Merkel, Macron ahead of crucial Brexit summit

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet with German and French leaders Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron as she scrambles to find a Brexit breakthrough ahead of Wednesday’s crucial EU summit.

May will meet the two leaders on Tuesday, their offices announced on Monday, the day before the summit where she is expected to ask the bloc for another delay to Brexit. Britain will fall out of the European Union without a deal on Friday if no delay agreement is reached.

 

“The chancellor and the British prime minister will have an exchange of views on Britain’s exit from the EU as well as on Wednesday’s special summit of the European Council,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.

May was on Monday to press ahead with her bid to find a ‘compromise’ with the opposition Labour Party despite a backlash from her own Conservatives.

“Our intention is to engage further with the opposition today … and we hope that will lead to formal face-to-face discussions” later on Monday, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

Having failed three times to get her withdrawal deal through parliament, May has been locked in talks with Labour to find a modified plan that could command a majority.

“It’ll mean compromise on both sides but I believe that delivering Brexit is the most important thing for us,” she said in a video message released on Sunday. “The longer this takes, the greater the risk of the UK never leaving at all. It would mean letting the Brexit the British people voted for slip through our fingers.”    

Ion Iliescu to stand trial for war crimes

Bucharest: Romania’s former president Ion Iliescu has been ordered to stand trial for crimes against humanity for his role in the deadly aftermath of the 1989 revolution that toppled the country’s communist regime, prosecutors said Monday.

“It is a particularly important moment for Romania’s justice system that is fulfilling a debt of honour to history,” chief prosecutor Augustin Lazar told reporters.

 

The announcement caps a long-running investigation made more difficult by an official reluctance to revisit the 1989 revolution’s bloody aftermath.

Iliescu, now 89, had been a minister in the government of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and went on to lead the National Salvation Front, which took control of the country after the uprising which began in the western city of Timisoara on December 16, 1989.

Iliescu was elected president in 1990 and served another term from 2000 to 2004. Iliescu was indicted last December with three others. Two of them — former deputy PM Gelu Voican Voiculescu and former air force commander Iosif Rus — will also stand trial.

The case against former PM Petre Roman has been dropped for lack of evidence. Prosecutors accuse Iliescu and Voiculescu of “directly spreading misinformation through televised appearances, contributing to the institution of a generalised psychosis”.

Israel PM lags behind in polls; still on course for an unprecedented fifth term

Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fallen behind his main challenger in opinion polls ahead of next week’s Israeli election but still has an easier path to form a government that would keep him in power for a record fifth term.

Netanyahu, who has dominated Israeli politics for a generation, is fighting for his political survival against former top general Benny Gantz, a political novice.

 

The outcome is unlikely to be decided on election day, when voters cast ballots for party lists. No party has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat parliament, meaning days or even weeks of coalition negotiations will lie ahead.

And looming criminal indictments against Netanyahu, who has denied any wrongdoing in three cases of alleged bribery and fraud, could cloud his political future and that of any government he might head, possibly leading to a new election.

On Friday, the last day polling is allowed, Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party was projected to take 30 seats, more than the 26 forecast for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, according to a poll in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

But the poll also projected a combined total of 63 seats for the parties in Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, a slim but workable majority. Other polls showed similar results. The coalition arithmetic for Gantz appears far more difficult.

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, will consult with the leaders of every party represented in parliament and choose whoever he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition. The nominee has up to 42 days to form a government before the president asks another politician to try.

In the final stretch of the campaign, Netanyahu cautioned his right-wing supporters against over-confidence: “It’s a close race between right and left,” he told Israel Radio on Thursday.

Gantz appeared invigorated by the polling numbers on Friday, telling his backers they were “a few metres away from victory”.

“On Tuesday, everything you see here in this country will shift,” Gantz told a rally in Kiryat Ekron.

Netanyahu has fought the campaign under the shadow of the public announcement in February by Israel’s attorney general that he intends to indict him.

No charges have yet been brought and there will be a pre-trial hearing at which Netanyahu can challenge any findings. If indicted, he is under no obligation to quit, but he would need coalition partners to stand by him to avert a new election.

“Netanyahu’s supreme and indeed only imperative will be to cobble together an indictment coalition: one that will make it possible for him to continue to serve even after the hearing and after he’s indicted,” political analyst Yossi Verter wrote in the liberal Israeli daily Ha’aretz on Friday.

That could include efforts, promoted by some Netanyahu loyalists, to pass a law to ban the indictment of a sitting prime minister. Some potential coalition allies have publicly balked at such legislation, including at least one cabinet minister – and potential successor – in Netanyahu’s own party.

Netanyahu’s opponents have campaigned hard on the corruption issue, producing posters, car bumper stickers and election rally banners bearing the words “CRIME MINISTER”.

With Israeli-Palestinian peace talks frozen since 2014, personalities and personal attacks have dominated an election campaign that has largely skated over war-and-peace issues that once dominated Israeli political debate.

Netanyahu has cast Gantz, a former military chief, as a weak leftist who would endanger Israel’s security by giving territorial concessions to the Palestinians.

Gantz professes a commitment to peace while giving no clear indication whether he would support the Palestinian goal of statehood in territories captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

Netanyahu has also highlighted his close relationship with US. President Donald Trump, who overturned decades of US policy and international consensus to move the US. embassy to Jerusalem and recognise it as Israel’s capital.

Netanyahu visited Trump last month. At the meeting, Trump, in what was widely seen as a bid to boost Netanyahu, again broke with long-term policy to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, also captured in 1967.

In Jerusalem, Hezi Levy, 60, a taxi driver, said he backed Netanyahu: “The most important thing in the world is that the left will not assume power, God forbid,” he said.

But other voters deplored recent scandals. “The focus is on the corruption that’s happening politically,” said Ayelet Noff, 43, a public relations manager from Tel Aviv, a Gantz supporter who said she wanted more attention paid to the economy.

UK issues passports without European Union on cover

London: Britain has begun issuing passports with the words “European Union” removed from the front cover — despite Brexit being delayed and uncertainty over when the country will leave the bloc.

The interior ministry confirmed that some passports introduced from March 30, the day after Britain was originally due to depart, no longer include references to the EU following a 2017 decision.

 

However, it said some newly-issued travel documents would still bear the bloc’s name — which has sat atop British passport covers — in a bid to save public money. “In order to use leftover stock and achieve best value for taxpayer, passports that include words ‘European Union’ will continue to be issued for a short period,” a spokeswoman said.

“There will be no difference for British citizens whether they are using a passport that includes the words EU, or not,” she added, noting both designs would be “equally valid for travel”.

Britain was set to leave the EU on March 29 but has been forced to delay its exit amid political paralysis in Westminster over the terms of the divorce deal.

Prime Minister The-resa May on Friday was forced to ask the bloc for another extension, until June 30, to prevent the country crashing out next Friday without an accord. But it is unclear whether the other 27 EU members, which must give unanimous backing, will grant the request or insist on an even longer delay. British passports have become ensnared in the country’s Brexit divisions after the government announced in 2017 it would return to traditional blue passports “to restore national identity”.

The travel documents had dark blue covers from 1921, but Britain switched to burgundy from 1988, in common with other passports in what was then the European Community.

Brexit backers are thrilled by the highly symbolic change, while those who support rema-ining in the bloc have mocked their excitement. Last year it emerged that Franco-Dutch company Gemalto had won the contract to make the new blue passports, prompting fury from Brexit campaigners and ridicule from rema-iners that a UK firm was not chosen.

EU’s Donald Tusk suggests 12-month extension to Brexit date: Report

Brussels: European Council President Donald Tusk is proposing to make an offer of a 12-month “flexible” extension to the UK’s Brexit date, the BBC reported on Friday, citing a senior European Union source.

The plan would let UK leave sooner if the British parliament ratifies a deal but will need to be agreed by EU leaders next week at a summit, the BBC said.

 

After her EU withdrawal deal was rejected three times by lawmakers, British Prime Minister Theresa May invited opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for talks in parliament to try to plot a way out of the crisis.

May said earlier this week she would seek a delay that is “as short as possible” to the current Brexit date of April 12.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told BBC that if the talks between UK’s Conservative and Labour parties fail, the delay is “likely to be a long one”.