EU demands Israel walk back green-light for settlement building
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EU demands Israel walk back green-light for settlement building

European Union officials say decision to authorize 800 units calls Jerusalem’s desire for peace into question

  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., heaps criticism on the Obama administration's policies with Russia, Iran and other international hot spots as he questions Secretary of State Kerry during the committee's hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., heaps criticism on the Obama administration's policies with Russia, Iran and other international hot spots as he questions Secretary of State Kerry during the committee's hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • MK Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    MK Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Israeli security forces stand guard as bulldozers, under an Israeli High Court ruling, start the demolition of the so-called Dreinoff buildings in the settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, on 29 July, 2015. (AFP/ MENAHEM KAHANA)
    Israeli security forces stand guard as bulldozers, under an Israeli High Court ruling, start the demolition of the so-called Dreinoff buildings in the settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, on 29 July, 2015. (AFP/ MENAHEM KAHANA)
  • A Jewish settler is blocked by Israeli security forces, after a border police unit evacuated settlers from the so-called Dreinoff buildings which were due to be demolished under Israeli court ruling, in the settlement of Bet El, north of Ramallah, in the West Bank, 28 July, 2015. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
    A Jewish settler is blocked by Israeli security forces, after a border police unit evacuated settlers from the so-called Dreinoff buildings which were due to be demolished under Israeli court ruling, in the settlement of Bet El, north of Ramallah, in the West Bank, 28 July, 2015. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
  • Israeli settlers scuffle with Israeli security forces as the demolition started of the so-called Dreinoff buildings under an Israeli High Court ruling in the settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah, 29 July, (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
    Israeli settlers scuffle with Israeli security forces as the demolition started of the so-called Dreinoff buildings under an Israeli High Court ruling in the settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah, 29 July, (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
  • Security forces scuffle with settlers who had barricaded themselves in an attempt to prevent the demolition of illegally constructed buildings, at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, on July 28, 2015 (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
    Security forces scuffle with settlers who had barricaded themselves in an attempt to prevent the demolition of illegally constructed buildings, at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, on July 28, 2015 (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
  • Israeli security forces scuffle with Jewish settlers in the Israeli settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, following the High Court's decision to uphold an earlier order to demolish two buildings in the settlement, on July 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
    Israeli security forces scuffle with Jewish settlers in the Israeli settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, following the High Court's decision to uphold an earlier order to demolish two buildings in the settlement, on July 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
  • Israeli security forces walk by a building in which Israeli settlers had barricaded themselves to resist an evacuation at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah on July 28, 2015. (Flash90)
    Israeli security forces walk by a building in which Israeli settlers had barricaded themselves to resist an evacuation at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah on July 28, 2015. (Flash90)
  • Israeli security forces scuffle with settlers who had barricaded themselves in an attempt to prevent the demolition of illegally constructed buildings, at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, on July 28, 2015. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
    Israeli security forces scuffle with settlers who had barricaded themselves in an attempt to prevent the demolition of illegally constructed buildings, at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, on July 28, 2015. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Protesters and police scuffled in Beit El Wednesday after the High Court upheld an earlier order to demolish two buildings in the West Bank settlement.

Right-wing politicians decried the High Court decision, which included remarks made by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, who intimated that a bulldozer should be sent to knock down the Supreme Court for okaying the demolition.

Lawmakers from Yogev’s own party as well as from across the political spectrum panned the comments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of his Likud party in the wake of the incident to authorize the construction of 300 additional units in the settlement.

The Times of Israel liveblogged developments as they unfolded.

Protesters lob rocks, chairs at Border Police

A protest in the Beit El settlement in the West Bank turns violent following a High Court of Justice ruling to uphold its initial decision to destroy two buildings in the town.

Demonstrators start fires, and throw rocks, chairs and tables at Border Police officers. Law enforcement, in turn, uses water cannons against the protesters, according to the Ynet news site.

The court rejected an appeal by the Dreinoff project’s contractor to stave off the demolition order, prompting the violent response.

The High Court determined the neighborhood was built on private Palestinian land seized by the IDF in the 1970s and ordered the buildings destroyed by July 30.

PM okays construction of 300 West Bank units

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approves construction of 300 housing units in the Beit El settlement, during an emergency meeting with Likud ministers, Channel 2 reporter Amit Segal reports.

Netanyahu called the meeting with Likud MKs following an outbreak of violence in the West Bank settlement, Army Radio reports.

Earlier this week, Jewish Home MKs, notably Bezalel Smotrich, threatened to leave the government coalition over the High Court of Justice’s decision to demolish two buildings in the West Bank settlement.

Zionist Union MK accuses Jewish Home MK of incitement

Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson files a complaint against Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev for his remarks he made calling for a bulldozer to knock down the High Court of Justice for its decision to demolish buildings in Beit El.

Yogev on Wednesday morning told Army Radio, “We need to put the blade of a D-9 [bulldozer] in front of the Supreme Court. It’s time we put the head judge in her place and show her who’s the majority.”

“Following his statements, I demand that every statutory tool possible be used against him,” Hasson writes in his statement.

“MK Yogev is attempting to injure democracy with his wild and unambiguous incitement,” Hasson adds. “Instead of calming the storm and calling for the protesters to respect the rule of law, MK Yogev is calling for out-and-out violence.”

Demolition of the Dreinoff project begins

The government begins the Dreinoff housing project demolition.

A backhoe and bulldozer start tearing down the controversial structures as demonstrators watch.

A machine tearing down a building in Beit El on July 29. 2015. (screen capture: Ynet.co.il)

A machine tearing down a building in Beit El on July 29. 2015. (screen capture: Ynet.co.il)

Earlier today the High Court upheld its original decision to knock down the buildings, as the land was proved to have been private Palestinian land that was seized by the IDF in the 1970s.

A tractor moving toward homes to be demolished in Beit El on July 29, 2015. (Screen capture: Ynet.co.il)

A tractor moving toward homes to be demolished in Beit El on July 29, 2015. (Screen capture: Ynet.co.il)

Bennett lauds PM’s approval of housing units

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett praises the prime minister’s decision to approve 300 housing units in Beit El and calls for nonviolence by the protesters.

“I praise the prime minister for his quick, correct and Zionist decision,” Bennett tweets.

“I’ll be there to follow up and ensure this building actually happens,” Bennett adds in an interview on Army Radio.

He tells the protesters, “We must respect the law. I call on everybody: no violence. Not to raise your hand in violence. Not now. Not ever.”

He adds, “We have to look at the big picture. A building is being destroyed. And a minute later they’ll build the very same house. This is bizarre, but still….”

Ya’alon asks protesters to respect court order

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon asks demonstrators to respect the court order and the soldiers who will carry it out.

In a tweet, Ya’alon writes, “I am calling [for people] not to interfere with security forces, with IDF soldiers and Israel police officers in fulfilling the High Court of Justice decision in Beit El and to allow them to carry out their mission.”

The violence, at this stage, appears to have died down in the settlement as the demolition of the Dreinoff buildings got underway.

Earlier today, Ya’alon argued against the prime minister’s decision to approve the construction of 300 housing units in Beit El.

However, the defense minister writes, “I have worked and I am working for the settlement of the West Bank, including Beit El.”

He adds, “But anyone who thinks that I will break the law — is wrong! I will not allow lawlessness.”

MK Michael Oren urges focus on Iran

MK Michael Oren responds to the Beit El protest and MK Moti Yogev’s recent comments against the justice system, saying in a statement, “The recent remarks weaken and damage the special status of the Supreme Court, and an intelligent nation cannot allow harm like this.”

He goes on, “Pictures of the violent removal of people from Beit El will turn the attention of the international community to the actions of Israel in the West Bank, during a time that would be better spent addressing the US Congressional hearings against the Iran deal.

“This is not the time to divert global opinion from this important issue.”

Liberman derides PM for High Court ruling

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman releases statement, pointing to the High Court’s demolition order as proof of the prime minister’s inability to lead.

“The High Court of Justice decision to destroy the houses in Beit El is the final stamp on the failing management of the prime minister and defense minister,” he writes.

“Either they were working ‘in error and against agreements,’ as [Justice Minister] Ayelet Shaked has accused Minister Ya’alon of doing, or they are simply schlemiels that do not know how to maintain control and manage things as needed. In any case, Netanyahu and Ya’alon are not fit to lead the nation.”

Renewed violence as demolition continues

Violence breaks out again in the Beit El settlement, with protesters throwing rocks and hitting police officers, Army Radio reports.

Police arrest up to ten people, according to Israel National News.

Dreinoff project contractor faints during protest

Meir Dreinoff, the contractor of the Beit El building project of the same name, faints during protests against the High Court ruling, Israel National News reports.

Dreinoff, who had not been feeling well, according to reports, fell to the ground during the demolition of his two buildings.

A Magen David Adom team has taken him to Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem.

Temperatures in the settlement reached close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit today.

Yesh Atid leaders rail against government

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and head of party’s Knesset faction Ofer Shellah denounce the violent Beit El protests and the right-wing Nationalist Camp coalition.

“How do they dare call themselves the Nationalist Camp, and then go hit police officers and IDF soldiers?” Lapid asks in a statement.

“How do they dare call themselves the Nationalist Camp and then come out against the rule of law and the court? How do they dare call themselves the Nationalist Camp and then weaken us in front of the world?” he adds.

“The true nationalist camp is the majority of Israeli citizens that are not prepared to have their country disintegrate like outlaws,” Lapid says.

Shellah, meanwhile, tells Israeli citizens, “So that there is no doubt: What is going on in Beit El — and is being reflected in the remarks of ministers and MKs — is not a question of building codes, but rather a fight to resolve the rule of law.”

He says, “For the ten years since the disengagement, those that see themselves as the messengers of a commandment that is above the law have decided to show us who’s boss.

“But the outlaws in the field, that are throwing rocks at police, they are our little problem,” Shellah says.

The bigger problem, he writes, are “the people sitting in the government and in the Knesset, who say things like ‘we need to put a bulldozer’s blade to the High Court’ or who appeal against the right of the court to rule according to the law.”

Afghanistan examining claim Taliban leader is dead

An Afghan official says his government is examining claims that reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar is dead. The Taliban could not be immediately reached for comment on the government’s comments about Omar, who has been declared dead many times before.

Omar, the one-eyed, secretive head of the Taliban and an al-Qaida ally, led a bloody insurgency against US-led forces after they toppled him from his rule in Afghanistan in 2001.

Zafar Hashemi, a deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday in Kabul.

A Pakistani security official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists, calls the circling rumors “speculation” designed to disrupt peace talks.

–AP

 In this undated image released by the FBI, Mullah Omar is seen in a wanted poster. (FBI via AP, File)

In this undated image released by the FBI, Mullah Omar is seen in a wanted poster. (FBI via AP, File)

Exiled Yemeni gov’t to merge ‘resistance’ fighters with army

The exiled Yemeni government issues an order for militiamen fighting alongside loyalist troops against Shiite rebels be merged into the armed forces, as clashes raged Wednesday in the country’s south.

The supreme defense council, which met in Riyadh Tuesday, decided to “assimilate members of the Popular Resistance into the units of the armed forces and security forces,” the government-run news agency says.

The meeting, headed by President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, took the decision to reward them for their “brave contribution to defending the homeland.”

Popular Resistance units were formed when the Iran-backed rebels and their allies advanced on southern regions after they had overran the capital in September.

Four months of fighting has left 3,984 people dead, nearly half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

–AFP

Hollywood celebs show support for Iran deal in YouTube clip

A slew of Hollywood stars and others appear on a recently uploaded YouTube video to lobby Congress support for the Iranian nuclear accord.

Jack Black, Morgan Freeman, Valerie Plum, Queen Noor of Jordan and Natasha Lyonne among others, appear in the three-minute clip, threatening Americans that the only alternative to the deal is war.

The video was produced by anti-nuclear group Global Zero, which posted the following message underneath the clip: “The agreement on the table is the best way to ensure Iran doesn’t build a f*#@ing bomb.”

“We all love our children and the Iranians love their children,” Black says, holding a frisbee. “Don’t let some hot-headed member of Congress screw that up,” Lyonne adds.

Bennett: ‘Bulldoze court’ remarks should not have been said

Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett disassociated himself from remarks made by fellow MK Moti Yogev earlier in the day, who called for the Supreme Court’s demolition after a High Court of Justice ruling authorized the razing of two structures in the Beit El settlement built on private Palestinian land.

Yogev’s remarks should not have been made, Bennett tells Israel radio, adding that he reprimanded the lawmaker in a private conversation.

Police bust East Jerusalem drugs and weapons cartel

Police arrest 24 residents of East Jerusalem suspected of taking part in a crime ring that traded thousands of shekels worth of arms and drugs.

The syndicate was exposed after selling contraband to an undercover police officer. They were brought to the Jerusalem District Court for a remand hearing.

Court rejects petition to change Tel Aviv ligh rail route

The Tel Aviv District Court rejects a suit filed by business owners to alter the planned route of the city’s light rail project.

The petition called for a temporary injunction to prevent the start of construction, scheduled next week, until a hearing on the route could be convened.

Left-wing group pans PM for okaying 500 E. Jerusalem units

Israeli NGO Ir Amim derides Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for caving in to right-wing, “pro-settlement” pressure after he approves the construction of 500 housing units in Jewish East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

“Netanyahu once again broke under the combined pressure of the settlement right and construction criminals in [the West Bank] to promote building in East Jerusalem, which goes against Israel’s interests and … the international community,” a statement by the group reads.

The group accuses Netanyahu of disenfranchising the majority of Israel’s citizens and turning a blind eye to political realities in the Middle East.

Clashes continue in Beit El as bulldozers raze 2 structures

Intermittent clashes between police and youth in the Beit El settlement continue, as residents protest the demolishing of two houses built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

Police say they have arrested 10 teenage demonstrators for disturbing the peace and attacking officers. Demonstrators at the scene say that eight protesters were injured, all of them lightly, two of which required medical care.

The contractor behind the housing project, Meir Dreinoff, was reported to have fainted at the scene and was evacuated to hospital.

Yesha Regional Council heads said they were working to soothe tensions, after a number of violent incidents were brought to their attention, including youths who pelted officers with stones.

Police responded by firing at protesters with water cannons.

Israeli security forces scuffle with Jewish settlers in the Israeli settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, following the High Court's decision to uphold an earlier order to demolish two buildings in the settlement, July 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Israeli security forces scuffle with Jewish settlers in the Israeli settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, following the High Court’s decision to uphold an earlier order to demolish two buildings in the settlement, July 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

PLO calls Israeli settlement approval a ‘war crime’

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi (photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli/Flash90)

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi (Ahmad Gharabli/Flash90)

A senior official from the Palestine Liberation Organization denounces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval of 300 homes in the Beit El settlement as “war crimes.”

“These settlement measures and war crimes are part of a plan by Israeli leaders to impose a ‘Greater Israel’ on historic Palestine and destroy the two-state solution and the chance for peace,” Hanan Ashrawi says in a statement from her office.

–AFP

Turkey to let US use air base for IS strikes

The Turkish government has given its formal approval for the United States to use the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey for raids against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, a foreign ministry official says.

“The cabinet has signed the decree,” the official tells AFP, without specifying when the authorisation was given. “The (Incirlik) air base can be used (by the US against IS) anytime.”

— AFP

Turkey not ready for peace talks, bombs Kurds in Iraq

Turkish jets hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq overnight and the government said strikes would continue until the rebels lay down their arms, despite calls Wednesday by the pro-Kurdish opposition for an immediate end to the violence and the resumption of peace efforts, AP reports.

The warplanes pounded about half a dozen positions belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a government statement said. Locations included the group’s mountainous stronghold in Qandil.

PKK spokesman Bakhtyar Dogan said the airstrikes lasted for three hours and caused “a lot of damage.” He had no casualty figures.

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP, File)

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP)

Turkish warplanes last week began striking targets in Syria of the extremist Islamic State group, in response to an IS suicide bombing in southern Turkey that left 32 people dead, and another IS attack on Turkish forces, which killed a soldier.

But Turkey has also targeted Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling IS in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Kurds have been among the most effective ground forces in the fight against IS and have been backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears a revival of the Kurdish insurgency in pursuit of an independent state.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, called for the peace process to resume. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, rejected the call, saying that would not happen until the party distances itself from the rebels and the PKK withdraws its armed fighters from Turkey’s territory.

“We’ll respond to their call the day they can condemn PKK terrorism the way they condemn DAESH terrorism,” Davutoglu said, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group. “Until they do that they are guilty in our eyes and in the eyes of the people.”

— AP

Mercury to hit 47° C in Beit She’an

A severe heatwave will sweep Israel starting tomorrow (Thursday), according to the meteorological service, Ynet news reports.

Temperatures are expected to hit the 40s over the weekend, with the highest expected in Beit She’an on Sunday at 47ºC (117ºF).

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority urges hikers and travelers to be sun smart and to equip themselves with hats and copious amounts of water.

Justice Minister Shaked disavows Yogev’s remarks

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked distanced herself from comments made by fellow Jewish Home party lawmaker Moti Yogev, who suggested that the Supreme Court should be destroyed for authorizing the demolition of two structures in the Beit El settlement.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the annual Bar Association Conference in Eilat, May 18, 2015. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the annual Bar Association Conference in Eilat, May 18, 2015. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

“Of course I eschew those [comments] — the Supreme Court is a worthy and important institution. Sometimes I do not agree with [the court’s] conclusions, but of course we respect them,” Shaked says.

“I also call on those in the field not to raise their hands [against others] because we are all brothers. Protest is legitimate but violence is not,” she says.

“The State of Israel and the Israeli government is committed to continue building in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. I hope the government will begin building and find appropriate legal solutions [to continue construction],” Shaked concludes.

PM meets Esther Pollard in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted the wife of convicted US-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard at his residence in Jerusalem.

“After 30 years, Jonathan will finally be free from prison. We are waiting for his release,” Netanyahu tells Esther Pollard.

Pollard was sentenced to jail in the US in 1987 after being convicted for spying for – and providing classified information to Israel.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu meets Esther Pollard, the wife of US-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, June 29, 2015 (Amos Ben Gershon/PMO, courtesy)

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu meets Esther Pollard, the wife of US-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, June 29, 2015 (Amos Ben Gershon/PMO, courtesy)

N. Korea rocket launch suspected soon

Fresh satellite images suggest North Korea has completed upgrades at its main satellite launch site, fueling speculation of a long-range rocket launch to coincide with a major political anniversary in October, AFP reports.

The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University says that analysis of the new pictures showed that construction begun in spring 2015 at the Sohae launch center had been concluded.

As a result, space launch vehicle (SLV) stages — and payload — can be prepared horizontally in a new launch support building, then transferred to a movable support structure and conveyed to the launch pad.

The analysis, posted on the institute’s closely watched 38North website, will reinforce predictions that the North is preparing a long-range rocket launch to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party on October 10.

At a rare press conference on Wednesday, North Korea’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, So Se Pyong, insisted that improving satellite capacity was “the right of sovereign countries”.

The North insists its rocket launches are intended only to put peaceful satellites into orbit, while the US and its allies see them as banned tests of ballistic missile technology.

Asked specifically about upgrades to the main launch site at Sohae he confirmed that such upgrades had been ongoing but did not specify that they had been completed.

“This is (our) right to upgrade and upgrade and update all the technologies… for that satellite also,” So said.

— AFP

Munich okays Holocaust memorial plates but not sidewalk plaques

The German city of Munich gives its approval for plaques of individual Holocaust victims to be installed throughout the city but upholds a ban on Europe’s biggest memorial project after months of anguished debate, AFP reports.

The decision by the city council in the birthplace of the Nazi movement will pave the way for some Holocaust victims to be honored with personalized brass plates at their last-known addresses.

However, a long and emotional campaign to bring to Munich the two-decade-old Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) project, in which coaster-sized brass plaques are embedded in the pavement in front of the victims’ former homes, was voted down.

The strongest opposition came from an unexpected place: the leader of Munich’s 4,000-strong Jewish community, Charlotte Knobloch, who argued that victims’ memories would be desecrated once more when passers-by walked on the plaques.

Sculptor Gunter Demnig started the project in 1996 to bring the unfathomable dimensions of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were slaughtered, down to a human scale.

About 54,000 Stolpersteine have been laid in more than 1,200 cities and towns throughout Europe including 500 German communities, with the exception of Munich.

Demnig’s supporters argue that their placement on public property keeps the memory of the Holocaust alive by confronting pedestrians with the fates of individual victims more than 70 years on.

The Bavarian capital’s community of about 10,000 Jews was purged by the Nazis.

A petition against the ban on the Stolpersteine on public property in Munich has drawn nearly 99,000 signatures but the majority on the city council was swayed by Knobloch’s objections.

— AFP

Livni says PM caved to right wing

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni tells Channel 2 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bowed to pressure from right wing activists, after he authorized 300 units in Beit El while demonstrators gathered to protest the razing of two structures there.

MK Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union party seen during a party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

MK Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union party seen during a party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Today is a sad day for the State of Israel,” Livni says, adding that the Jewish state suffered “intolerable harm because of some private contractor” — a reference to Meir Dreinoff, who constructed the two units built on private Palestinian land.

Responding to remarks by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev who intimated that the Supreme Court should be razed for green-lighting the demolition in Beit El, Livni says that the “Supreme Court must show the light and the way for a state that forgets the rule of law.”

“We have a Supreme Court in Jerusalem but no government in Jerusalem,” Livni laments, attacking Netanyahu for “caving” to right wing demonstrators.

Turning her sights on Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Livni accuses her of warning settler leaders of the impending demolition notice in advance, which Livni likens to “warning a criminal that police are coming to arrest him.”

McCain: Iran deal could endanger US soldiers

In his opening comments to the Senate Armed Services Committee, committee chairman Sen. John McCain warns Wednesday that the Iran nuclear deal could endanger US military members’ lives.

“The Iran agreement not only paves Iran’s path to nuclear capability, it will pave Iran’s path toward becoming a dominant power in the Middle East,” McCain says during his opening statement to the committee during a hearing on the Iran deal.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey are all testifying before the committee today as part of the administration’s attempts to sell the deal to Congress.

“Instead of enhancing our deterrence in Iran, it seems to enhance Iran’s deterrence of us,” McCain warns, adding that should the two states find themselves in conflict, “US service members’ lives are more at risk because of this agreement.”

— Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil

Ashton Carter: Deal doesn’t limit US options

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter tells senators that the Iran nuclear deal “takes no option away from a future president,” adding that it is “a deal that deserves your support.”

Carter, who visited Israel last week in an effort to calm the waters after the P5+1 states reached a nuclear agreement with Iran earlier this month, reassures members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the US is “committed to making [Israel] even stronger and more capable” militarily.

He also highlights the anticipated 2016 delivery of top-of-the-line F-35 airplanes and the ongoing collaboration between the US and Israel on the David’s Sling, Arrow, and Iron Dome missile defense systems.

— Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil

Watch: Lion goes under the knife at Ramat Gan safari to remove tumor

Simoni the Lion had a tumor surgically removed from his stomach by veterinary surgeons at the Ramat Gan Safari.

In a two-hour long operation, doctors successfully cut out the growth, which was the size of a tennis ball. The tumor will be sent to a lab to determine its malignancy.

Simoni is expected to return to his enclosure tomorrow morning.

Simoni the lion undergoing surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari to remove a tumor from his stomach on July 29, 2015 (courtesy)

Simoni the lion undergoing surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari to remove a tumor from his stomach on July 29, 2015 (courtesy)

Simoni the lion undergoing surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari to remove a tumor from his stomach on July 29, 2015 (courtesy)

Simoni the lion undergoing surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari to remove a tumor from his stomach on July 29, 2015 (courtesy)

Israeli official: We didn’t get all the details on Iran nuke deal

National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen says that Israel has not yet received the text outline of the Iranian nuclear accord in full.

“Contrary to promises, Israel has not yet received all the written supplements of the agreement signed between Iran and the world powers,” Cohen says.

Cohen is presumably referring to the confidential “side deals” written in to the agreement but undisclosed to the public.

Druze village achieves highest high school scores in Israel

The Druze town of Beit Jann in the Galilee beat out every Jewish locality in the country to achieve the highest matriculation rate in Israel in 2014.

According to the Ministry of Education, 94.4% of students in Beit Jann received their Bagrut, or graduation certificates last year, up 2.45% from 2013. Kochav Ya’ir outside of Tel Aviv came in second place nationwide with a 92.1% success rate, down 1.3% from the previous year.

At the bottom of the list, Modi’in Illit and Bnei Brak came in with 7.3% and 9.2% respectively — the lowest matriculation rate in the country. Both cities feature predominantly Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jewish populations.

John McCain grills cabinet secretaries on “side agreements”

Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain grills cabinet secretaries Ashton Carter and Ernest Moniz on what he describes as “side agreements” between Iran and the IAEA over verification procedures and past military dimensions of Tehran’s nuclear program.

McCain complains that by allowing Iran to negotiate these topics independently with the IAEA, the actual Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) allows Iran too much control over key details outside of the signed agreement.

“The agreement with the JCPOA is that Iran must cooperate with the IAEA,” Moniz explains.

“In every country like Iran, the devil’s in the details,” McCain retorts, after Moniz says that neither he nor Carter has had access to the documents outlining Iran’s commitments to the IAEA. “It is absolutely astounding that you have not seen the documents which outline the practice of verification,” he says. “Otherwise how can we determine if we can enforce and verify?”

–Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil

Former Supreme Court head: Yogev is leading us into an abyss

Former Supreme Court chief Aharon Barak likened the rhetoric of Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev to that which preceded the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitchak Rabin by a Jewish assassin in 1995.

Yogev said earlier today that the Supreme Court should be razed for green-lighting the demolition of two illegally-built structures in the Beit El settlement.

“He’s leading us into an abyss, or to a generation that will judge its judges,” Barak tells Army radio, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to distance himself from the remarks.

“[Yogev] is trying to destroy everything that we have built here — [ensuring] the separation of power … perhaps it’s not the same people or the same groups, but its a similar line that led to the murder of a prime minister,” Barak adds, referring to Rabin.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar is dead: Afghan intelligence

Taliban leader Mullah Omar died two years ago, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency spokesman Haseeb Sediqi says.

The comments came after unnamed government and militant sources said earlier that he had died.

“Mullah Omar is dead. He died in a Karachi hospital in April 2013… under mysterious circumstances,” Sediqi, the spokesman for the National Directorate of Security, tells AFP.

–AFP

Aircraft wreckage washes up on Indian Ocean island

Images of what appears to be the flap of an aircraft, washed up on the shore of Réunion, a French dependency in the Indian ocean, is circulating around social media.

A two meter tall silver flap is seen being carried by a number officials. Some speculate that it may belong to Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared without a trace en route to China in March last year.

PM rejects ‘bulldoze Supreme Court’ remarks

Prime Minister Benjamin distanced himself from remarks made earlier in the day by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev.

In a short one sentence statement, the Prime Minister’s office notes that Netanyahu “completely rejects” the comments against the Supreme Court.

“Israel is a law-abiding democracy that honors the decision of the court. Thus it has been and thus it will be,” Netanyahu says.

Obama to brief J Street supporters to discuss Iran nuke deal

As part of his continued efforts to bolster support for the Iran nuclear accord, President Barack Obama will hold a conference call briefing tomorrow with J Street supporters.

The White House describes the briefing as a “call with President Barack Obama and folks from around the country to discuss the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran.”

“The president will discuss the historic deal and its importance to the country and the international community,” the White House writes.

— Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil

Demonstrators call for Pollard’s release to Israel

A crowd of protesters in Jerusalem gathered to demand that Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard be allowed to travel to Israel after his discharge from a US prison in November.

A US court indicated that Pollard will be prevented from leaving the US for a number of years, ostensibly to prevent him becoming a political icon in Israel.

Israelis calling for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. (Liar Mizrahi/Getty Images, JTA)

Israelis calling for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. (Liar Mizrahi/Getty Images, JTA)

After clashes, uneasy calm in Beit El as demolition continues

Hundreds of demonstrators are still protesting beside two structures being demolished in the Beit El settlement for being built on private Palestinian land.

Bulldozers are still working at the site, slowly clawing away at the structures’ concrete foundation, as hundreds look on behind a police cordon, waving Israeli flags and holdings protest signs.

Egypt says ‘new Suez Canal’ open for business

Egypt said on Wednesday that the “new Suez Canal” was ready for navigation for all kinds of ships, as authorities geared up to launch the shipping route officially next month.

Dubbed the Suez Canal Axis, the new 72-kilometre (45-mile) section built by the Egyptian army is aimed at speeding up traffic along the existing waterway by reducing the waiting period, as well as boosting revenues.

Boats crossing the new waterway at the new Suez Canal in the Egyptian port city of Ismailia, east of Cairo, July 29, 2015. (AFP/ KHALED DESOUKI)

Boats crossing the new waterway at the new Suez Canal in the Egyptian port city of Ismailia, east of Cairo, July 29, 2015. (AFP/ KHALED DESOUKI)

It runs part of the way along the existing canal connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

“We declare that the new Suez Canal is safe for all kinds of vessels,” Suez Canal Authority chief Mohab Mameesh told a news conference in the canal city of Ismailiya.

“We call on all the international maritime carriers to use the current and the new Suez canal. Your navigation is safe.”

A ceremony will be held on August 6 to inaugurate the project. The authorities held the first trial run of the new waterway on Saturday.

–AFP

Beit El demolition completed

The destruction of the so-called Dreinoff project in the Beit El settlement is completed, Army radio reported, ending a nine-hour saga that involved clashes between right-wing activists and police.

Two structures were ordered demolished for being built on private Palestinian land.

Canada to purchase Iron Dome-like radar systems

Canada says it will buy missile defense radars modeled after Israel’s Iron Dome from German defense contractor Rheinmetall.

The defense ministry put the cost of the 10 medium-range radar systems at CAD$243.3 million (US$187.2 million).

Canada’s National Defense Minister Jason Kenney hailed the deal, saying the technology had proved useful for Israel.

“Much like Israel’s successful Iron Dome radar technology, the Medium Range Radar system will be able to instantly track enemy fire aimed at Canadian armed forces personnel and help keep them safe during operations,” Kenney said.

The ministry said the radar systems are “capable of detecting hostile indirect fire, locating the position of the enemy weapon and calculating the point of impact of a projectile, as well as simultaneously tracking multiple airborne threats.”

They will be manufactured by Rheinmetall’s Canadian branch, which will work alongside ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries.

The delivery of the radar systems is expected to begin in 2017.

–AFP

Ukraine crisis a setback for Jewish philanthropy

For many years Rami Waisman, the director of a major jewelry chain, was earning enough to give back handsomely to the Jewish communal institutions in his eastern Ukraine hometown, Dnepropetrovsk.

But these days Waisman is struggling and can no longer financially support such institutions as the local synagogue, mikvah and Jewish day school where his son attends kindergarten. Ukraine’s military conflict against Russian-backed rebels has wreaked havoc on the Ukraine currency, halving the value of its hryvnia against the dollar since 2013.

For Ukrainian Jewry — Europe’s second largest community after France, with approximately 350,000 members — the crisis has resulted in a major setback for homegrown philanthropy and a return to reliance on foreign assistance from Western Jews.

“The customers, who have largely stopped buying anyway, pay in hryvnias, whereas we buy silver in dollars and euros,” Waisman said, noting that it’s meant a 50 percent drop in revenue for his company. “I still try to give when I can, but it’s not like before.”

From total dependence on aid from the West just after the fall of communism, Ukrainian Jewish communities had become far more self-reliant beginning about 10 years ago due to the rise of the middle class in Ukraine and a Jewish cultural revival whose growing popularity had a snowball effect, including on donations.

Yaakov Dov Bleich, a chief rabbi of Ukraine, noted that local donors raised about 50% of the $4.5 million budget for his Jewish community in the capital city of Kiev. Leaders of other Ukrainian Jewish communities, including Chabad, reported a similar breakdown. But Bleich said the war “wiped out this local donor base, making Ukrainian Jewry once more dependent on charity raised abroad.”

— JTA

EU slams Israel for authorizing units in E. Jerusalem, West Bank

The European Union pans the Israeli government for green-lighting construction projects in the West Bank settlement of Beit El and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the 1967 green line.

The recent decision “calls into question the Israeli government’s stated commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in the Middle East Peace Process,” a EU statement reads.

“We urge the government of Israel to urgently reverse recent decisions and put an end to settlement expansion,” it continues.

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