IDF drone crashes in Lebanon, Israel said trying to find remains
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IDF drone crashes in Lebanon, Israel said trying to find remains

UAV reportedly lost in rugged area near Lebanese coast; MKs to begin impeachment proceedings for Ghattas; Adelson to testify in Netanyahu probe -- TV

  • EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during an EU foreign ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on Monday, January 16, 2017. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
    EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during an EU foreign ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on Monday, January 16, 2017. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
  • Benjamin Netanyahu greeted by a supporter as he arrives to a Likud faction meeting on January 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Benjamin Netanyahu greeted by a supporter as he arrives to a Likud faction meeting on January 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • A special plenary session in honor of the late former President Shimon Peres, at the Knesset, on January 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    A special plenary session in honor of the late former President Shimon Peres, at the Knesset, on January 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • British foreign minister Boris Johnson attends an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP/EMMANUEL DUNAND)
    British foreign minister Boris Johnson attends an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP/EMMANUEL DUNAND)
  • Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes arrives for investigation at the Lahav 433 police investigation unit in Lod on January 16, 2017. Ben Drori/Flash90)
    Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes arrives for investigation at the Lahav 433 police investigation unit in Lod on January 16, 2017. Ben Drori/Flash90)
  • Iraqis walk down a street while smoke rises in the background following a car bomb explosion in eastern Mosul, on January 15, 2017. (AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF)
    Iraqis walk down a street while smoke rises in the background following a car bomb explosion in eastern Mosul, on January 15, 2017. (AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF)
  • British foreign minister Boris Johnson, right, and Ireland's Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan attend an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND)
    British foreign minister Boris Johnson, right, and Ireland's Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan attend an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.

Zionist Union to Joint List: Boot Ghattas, or we might

In a letter to the Joint ( Arab) List Knesset faction, The Zionist Union faction tells the party to expel MK Basel Ghattas on pain of support for a law that will allow lawmakers to boot colleagues from the Knesset.

In the missive, Zionist Union, which leads the opposition, says it “does not support the principle of the MK expulsion law, since MKs don’t need to kick out other MKs on their own — but the Joint List needs to work to fire Ghattas from the Knesset following the harsh suspicions against him — or the Zionist Union will allow its members to vote how they please.”

The party says the future of the bill is in the hands of the Joint List, which is also in the opposition.

Ghattas is suspected of passing phones and other contraband to two Palestinians serving time in Israeli jail, one for murder and one for other terror offenses. He was recently released from house arrest but is expected to be charged.

Lapid: Netanyahu innocent until proven otherwise

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “innocent until proven guilty.”

“We need to remember this and we need to respect it,” he says at the start of the weekly faction meeting.

While noting that investigations take time, Lapid also says important public issues are being marginalized as all attention is focused on the graft allegations against Netanyahu.

“It must end as quickly as possible,” he says of the probe, addressing the attorney general.

The Yesh Atid leader also warns against public assumptions that all elected officials are corrupt.

“Not everyone is like that. We are not like that,” he says, adding that these are the people who ought to lead the country.

— Marissa Newman

Hamas says it will release those arrested over power protests

Hamas says it has agreed to release people arrested in connection with protests over severe electricity shortages that prompted an outpouring of anger in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

The interior ministry in Gaza, run by the Hamas terror group, says in a statement the decision was made after a meeting between security chiefs and political movements in the Palestinian enclave.

Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on January 12, 2017. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)

Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on January 12, 2017. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)

It does not say how many people were being released, but rights activists say it involved dozens of people.

A series of protests were held in the Gaza Strip in recent days, including one on Thursday when thousands in northern Gaza walked to the local headquarters of the electricity company.

— AFP

Hanegbi: Palestinians can’t stop US embassy move

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) says the Palestinians have no way to block incoming US President Donald Trump from moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

“What can they do? What can they do?” he says in a briefing to reporters in Jerusalem. “There are not going to be any consequences.”

Trump — who takes office Friday — has pledged to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi arrives to the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 4, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Minister Tzachi Hanegbi arrives at the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 4, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said such a move would have consequences as it was a “red line” whose crossing would ruin hopes for a two-state solution.

Among the threats Abbas has made is that his government could reverse its recognition of Israel, but Hanegbi said that would be suicidal.

Others have suggested it could lead a new Palestinian intifada — or violent uprising.

“This is not a threat. This is shooting themselves in the head,” Hanegbi says in English.

“I don’t think Abu Mazen has an interest to open an intifada, I don’t think the Palestinians would like another intifada,” he adds, referring to Abbas by his Arabic nickname.

— AFP

Yedioth publisher, editor questioned by police

Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes is being grilled by police for a second straight day, with the questioning now nearing its fourth hour.

Publisher and owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Arnon "Noni" Mozes arrives for questioning at the Lahav 433 investigation unit in Lod, January 15, 2017. (Koko/Flash90)

Publisher and owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Arnon “Noni” Mozes arrives for questioning at the Lahav 433 investigation unit in Lod, January 15, 2017. (Koko/Flash90)

Mozes was questioned for eight hours on Sunday, apparently surrounding suspicions he tried to cut a deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would give the premier more favorable coverage in exchange for a friendly piece of legislation.

Also being questioned is Yedioth editor in chief Ron Yaron.

Egyptians celebrate after island handover annulled

Jubilant Egyptians are celebrating outside a Cairo courtroom after judges ruled against the government’s decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia — a landmark verdict likely to deepen tensions with the kingdom and embarrass President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court in Cairo rejected an appeal by Sissi’s government against a lower court’s decision in June to annul the islands’ handover agreement. That deal was signed last April during a high-profile visit by the Saudi monarch, King Salman, who during the visit pledged billions of dollars to Egypt in loans and investments.

Lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali, center, celebrates with others after the Supreme Administrative Court said two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, January 16, 2017. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali, center, celebrates with others after the Supreme Administrative Court said two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government’s claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, January 16, 2017. (AP/Amr Nabil)

The agreement was condemned by many Egyptians who perceived it as a land sell-off. Others saw the surrender of Egyptian territory by Sissi and his government as a worrying precedent.

The verdict is met by an eruption of jubilation by activists and lawyers in the Nile-side Cairo courtroom, with some singing the national anthem and chanting patriotic slogans.

Outside the court, a small number of activists chant: “Saudi Arabia, take your money back, for tomorrow, the Egyptian people will trample on you.” There are minor scuffles between police and several dozen people who attempted to hold a demonstration.

“The verdict is a message to Sissi: ‘Shame, shame on you!'” prominent women’s rights campaigner Azza Suliman tells The Associated Press outside the courthouse.

— AP

Irish ‘concerned’ over US Embassy move to Jerusalem

Ireland has joined the chorus opposing the United States moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a step that would anger the Palestinians.

British foreign minister Boris Johnson, right, and Ireland's Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan attend an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND)

British foreign minister Boris Johnson, right, and Ireland’s Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan attend an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND)

Irish Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan says he “would be concerned at any unilateral departure from what has been a long held position of the United Nations as far as the siting of embassies is concerned.”

Flanagan’s remarks come at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels, where tensions between Israel and Palestinians are the subject of a meeting over lunch.

— with AP

Herzog: Democracy will survive the PM probes

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says the investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marks “difficult days for Israeli democracy.”

“It is difficult now but it may also be cleansing,” he tells his weekly Zionist Union faction meeting. “But I’m sure Israeli democracy will survive.”

Herzog says that reports of the investigations into Netanyahu show he has been investing his time in shady deals to ensure control over the media instead of focusing on the needs of the public.

Repeating a claim he made last week that Netanyahu can no longer remain communications minister in light of the revelations, Herzog says he had sent a letter to the prime minister asking him to resign.

“Even if there has been no criminal wrongdoing, we are taking about a serious breach of trust by the prime minister toward the public,” Herzog says.

Last week Herzog asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to immediately remove Netanyahu from his role as communication minister.

— Raoul Wootliff

Oman takes in 10 Gitmo detainees, 45 remain

Oman says it accepted 10 detainees from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay ahead of President Barack Obama leaving office, shrinking the facility he promised to close to 45 inmates.

The US Defense Department does not immediately respond to questions about the transfer.

Oman’s Foreign Ministry says in a statement that it had accepted the prisoners at Obama’s request. It does not name the prisoners.

“In consideration of their humanitarian situation, 10 persons have been released from detention and arrived in the sultanate today for a temporary residence,” the statement says.

— AP

Hamas says Paris peace confab ‘absurd’

Hamas has blasted the international Paris peace conference which met on Sunday and called for Israel and the Palestinians to commit to a two-state solution, calling its method “absurd.”

“The Paris conference is a return to the absurd negotiating method that lost rights for the Palestinian people and gave legitimacy to the Zionist entity on the land of Palestine,” Hamas says in a press statement.

Hamas has rejected the idea of the Paris peace initiative since it was announced last year. Israeli officials boycotted the summit Sunday, calling it “pointless.”

The terror group in control of Gaza is openly committed to a violent campaign to destroy Israel. Israel believes only bilateral negotiations will be effective to reach a deal with the Palestinians.

— Dov Lieber

Army Radio head kept on for 6 months

Half a year after Army Radio head Yaron Dekel was hauled in for broadcasting a segment on Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has extended his term by six months.

In July, Liberman and other lawmakers had strenuously objected to Dekel’s decision to run the segment on Darwish, who is considered a Palestinian national symbol and was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Liberman will continue to evaluate the necessity of Army Radio remaining on the air as part of the ministry, according to reports.

Netanyahu slams ‘media conspiracy’ against him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slams what he calls a “mass media conspiracy” against him as an attempt to remove him from power.

After arriving at his weekly faction meeting to cheers and singing of “Bibi Melech Yisrael” (Bibi is the king of Israel), the prime minister launches into a diatribe against the Israeli press for publishing “so-called” leaks of secret negotiations he held with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to apparently secure better coverage.

Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes arrives for investigation at the Lahav 433 police investigation unit in Lod on January 16, 2017. Ben Drori/Flash90)

Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes arrives for investigation at the Lahav 433 police investigation unit in Lod on January 16, 2017. Ben Drori/Flash90)

“There is a fake investigation taking place against me on television every night,” he says. “They [the press] are trying to pressure the attorney general and the police into indicting me for no reason.”

Netanyahu described the efforts as a “march to decapitate” him.

“Well, I can tell the public something now,” he says, “that there has been no criminal wrongdoing.”

The “obsession” with the investigation is an attempt to hide the “huge successes” of his government, he says, citing low unemployment and a soft declaration from Sunday’s Paris peace conference.

“The public does not buy it. Many, many people support us and realize this disgraceful game and they are not falling for it,” he says. “I will continue to lead Likud and the state, with the help of God.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Roads in Jerusalem closed as ultra-Orthodox protest draft order

Several streets in central Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Geula and Mea Shearim neighborhoods have been closed off as religious Jewish protesters rally against the arrest of draft dodgers.

Several dozen demonstrators are facing off against in the area around Kikar Hashabbat, a central square in the area.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clash with police during a protest against the arrest of a Jewish seminary students who failed to comply with a recruitment order, next to the army recruiting office in Jerusalem, January 4, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clash with police during a protest against the arrest of a Jewish seminary students who failed to comply with a recruitment order, next to the army recruiting office in Jerusalem, January 4, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A number of protests in recent days have led to scuffles and arrests.

Bennett defends attorney general against bias claims

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett is defending Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in the probe of Netanyahu.

Mandelblit is “straight, strong, and impartial,” says Bennett at the start of the weekly faction meeting.

His comments come as left-wing activists are calling on Mandelblit — a former cabinet secretary for Netanyahu — to recuse himself in the investigations against the premier.

The education minister also alludes to the upcoming inauguration of US president-elect Donald Trump, reiterating that there are new diplomatic opportunities that Israel must seize in the coming weeks.

“For the first time in 50 years, we are being asked what we want,” says Bennett, apparently referring to the new US administration.

He presents two alternatives: annexation of Area C in the West Bank or a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines.

Bennett asserts that there will be no Palestinian state.

“This will also be the government’s position,” he says.

The minister also rejects an Arabic-language campaign by ex-generals urging Israel to separate from the Palestinians, which was launched on Sunday.

“The Israeli public understands that a Palestinian state will flood us with refugees,” he says.

— Marissa Newman

Iran claims to shoot down drone above Tehran

Iran says it has shot down an unidentified drone above central Tehran.

Video broadcast by semi-official media shows cannons shooting at an object in the sky near Tehran University.

According to Fars News, the drone was destroyed.

A photo published by Tasnim news claimed to show air force jets patrolling above Tehran as the UAV entered the city’s airspace.

Merkel rebuffs Trump criticism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has fired back at the US president-elect, insisting that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands,” after Donald Trump criticized the EU and praised Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

The German leader’s comments come after the US president-elect branded the NATO alliance as “obsolete” and lashed out at a key EU-US nuclear deal with Iran.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to the media during a joint press conference with New Zealand's Prime Minister Bill English after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 16, 2017. (AFP / Odd ANDERSEN)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to the media during a joint press conference with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 16, 2017. (AFP / Odd ANDERSEN)

In an interview with two European newspapers, Trump also took aim at Merkel’s decision to let in refugees fleeing war in mostly Muslim nations, including Syria and Iraq, insinuating that this posed a security risk.

But Merkel says Trump mistakenly conflated two separate issues.

“I would clearly separate (terrorism) from the existence of refugees in relation to the Syrian civil war. The Syrian civil war has been far longer, the majority of Syrians left their country because of the civil war, because of the fight against Assad or the oppression by Assad,” she says, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“In addition to this is Islamist terrorism and that concerns all of us, but the civil war as such was in Syria first,” says Merkel, who has also come under fire at home after 890,000 asylum-seekers arrived in 2015 alone.

— AFP

Likud MKs to attend Trump inauguration

Likud lawmakers Yehudah Glick and Sharren Haskel say they are going to the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump in Washington on Friday.

Haskel says during the trip the two right-wing MKs will meet with Evangelical Christian groups, US politicians and others and work on forging ties with the new administration.

The two also defend the dancing and singing of “Bibi, king of Israel” that greeted Benjamin Netanyahu as he entered the Likud faction meeting hours ago.

Both say they are waiting for the results of criminal investigations into the prime minister’s actions.

“We need to give him backing,” Glick says.

Rumors have swirled in recent days that some Likud members are beginning to prepare for the possibility Netanyahu will be forced out of office.

Under threat of Trump, White House defends Iran deal

The White House says the world is a safer place than it was a year ago, thanks to the Iran nuclear deal, which it says Tehran is keeping to.

In a statement marking a year since the implementation of the JCPOA, the White House makes a veiled call for the incoming Trump administration to desist from a promise to renegotiate the deal, saying it is not just an agreement between the US and Iran.

“The United States must remember that this agreement was the result of years of work and represents an agreement between the world’s major powers — not simply the United States and Iran,” the statement reads.

The statement says the deal is preferable to the alternatives: Iran running unconstrained toward a bomb or another war in the Middle East

The statement also expresses concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile program and “support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen.”

“We have remained steadfast in opposing Iran’s threats against Israel and our Gulf partners,” the statement reads.

IDF chief to be laid up in hospital for unspecified ailment

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot will enter a Petah Tikva hospital to undergo an unspecified treatment in the next couple of days, the army says.

The army refuses to divulge the nature of the treatment, citing Eisenkot’s privacy, but says he is expected to be released after a few days.

The ailment was discovered by his doctor two months ago, but has not affected his ability to serve, an IDF source says.

While Eisenkot, 56, is in the hospital, Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan will be acting chief of staff.

— with Judah Ari Gross

Tehran drone escaped unharmed, likely belonged to hobbyist

The drone shot at over Tehran escaped the city’s airspace without being shot down and likely belonged to a filmmaker or hobbyist, it has now emerged.

Gen. Alireza Elhami, deputy chief of Iran air defense headquarters, is quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying the drone flew out of the restricted airspace once it came under fire.

It still is not clear who owned the drone, which Tehran Governor Isa Farhadi described as a quadcopter. That suggests it may have been operated by a local hobbyist or aerial photographer rather than a foreign government. The purpose of its flight also wasn’t clear.

— AP

Palestinian teen killed by troops during West Bank clash

A Palestinian teen has been shot and killed by Israeli forces after throwing stones during a violent protest in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, according to Israeli and Palestinian reports.

The man is identified as Qusay Hussein Umour, 18, according to the Tuqua municipality Facebook page.

According to Walla News, the incident occurred when a soldier responded with fire from a Ruger rifle during a clash, near the settlement of Tekoa in the Etzion bloc southeast of the capital.

According to Palestinian reports, he was hit with three bullets and rushed to a nearby hospital before being declared dead.

There is no immediate comment from the IDF.

IDF looking into West Bank shooting reports

The IDF tells The Times of Israel it is looking into the reports of the Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Red Crescent tells the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that Qusay Umour was detained by Israeli forces after being shot three times and was only later handed over to the Palestinians for medical treatment, after he had died.

The report says it is unclear if Umour died while in Israeli custody or before his body was taken by troops.

Joint List calls on MKs to reject Ghattas expulsion

The Joint (Arab) List criticizes what it says is the “contradictory” position of some opposition members demanding the mainly Arab party expel MK Basel Ghattas from its ranks.

In a letter to the Joint (Arab) List Knesset faction, the Zionist Union faction told the mainly Arab party to expel Ghattas on pain of support for a law that will allow lawmakers to boot colleagues from the Knesset.

“The support of some of the opposition MKs in suggesting the use of the expulsion law against MK Ghattas directly contradicts the position of the opposition, as it was expressed in discussion about the law,” the Joint List statement reads.

Ghattas is suspected of passing phones and other contraband to two Palestinians serving time in Israeli jail, one for murder and one for other terror offenses. He was recently released from house arrest but is expected to be charged.

“The Knesset is not a court and the process of expulsion is a dangerous tool, which is liable to be an opening for vengeance and a serious blow to the rights of MKs, especially Arab MKs,” the Joint List statement adds.

“We call on all members of the Knesset take a principled stand and oppose the expulsion irrespective of the alleged crimes attributed to MK Basel Ghattas,” the statement reads.

— Dov Lieber

Iraqi forces retake bombed-out Jonah’s tomb

Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State group in Mosul have retaken an area where the jihadists in 2014 leveled a shrine revered as the tomb of the biblical Jonah, officials said.

“We retook control of Nabi Yunus area… raised the Iraqi flag above the tomb,” Sabah al-Noman, spokesman for the Counter-Terrorism Service spearheading the Mosul offensive, tells AFP.

People inspect the destroyed Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (photo credit/AP)

People inspect the destroyed Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (photo credit/AP)

He says two other neighborhoods in eastern Mosul were also retaken from IS on Monday.

Iraqis walk down a street while smoke rises in the background following a car bomb explosion in eastern Mosul, on January 15, 2017. (AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF)

Iraqis walk down a street while smoke rises in the background following a car bomb explosion in eastern Mosul, on January 15, 2017. (AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF)

The Nabi Yunus shrine — which was built on the reputed burial site of a prophet known in the Quran as Yunus and in the Bible as Jonah — was a popular pilgrimage site.

In July 2014, weeks after overrunning Mosul and much of Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland, IS militants rigged the shrine and blew it up, sparking global outrage.

— AFP

MK questioned over Balad financing

A police spokesperson says a Knesset member has been questioned under caution over corruption suspicions surrounding funding for the Balad party.

Suspicions include forgery, receiving bribes, falsifying documents and money laundering, police say, adding that the probe came out of a State Comptroller investigation into funding for Balad, a hard-line Arab party that is part of the Joint List faction.

Police do not say who from the party was questioned. One MK, Basel Ghattas, is expected to be charged soon over accusations he passed phones and other contraband to Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli prison.

Police say the investigation is being headed up by the 433 anti-fraud unit.

Britain said to block EU from adopting Paris position

Britain has apparently blocked a meeting of EU foreign ministers from adopting the closing statement of the Paris summit, according to reports.

The move comes a day after the UK refused to sign the Paris statement, which calls on the sides to commit to a two-state solution and renounce violence.

British foreign minister Boris Johnson attends an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP/EMMANUEL DUNAND)

British foreign minister Boris Johnson attends an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, on January 16, 2017. (AFP/EMMANUEL DUNAND)

In a tweet, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the US says London’s position is “very strange .. given its historical & moral responsibility in causing the conflict.”

— with Raphael Ahren

Knesset holds memorial session for Peres

The Knesset plenum is holding a memorial ceremony for the late president Shimon Peres.

The date of the ceremony was set at the request of Peres’s family, according to a Knesset spokesperson.

The memorial begins with a moment of silence for Peres, who died in September.

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Isaac Herzog, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will speak.

Peres’s children, Chief Justice Miriam Naor, and former prime minister Ehud Barak are in the audience.

— Marissa Newman

Mandelblit: Leaks problematic, probe going fine

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is pushing back against claims that the investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being mismanaged, during a speech at the Netanya Academic College.

“The investigation is being conducted to my satisfaction,” he says.

He also slams the near-daily leaks of new information from recordings made of Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes which apparently form a linchpin of one of the probes, but says those trying to call for him to drop or push forward the investigation aren’t having an effect.

“The uncovering of the recordings could cause obstruction … voices from the outside don’t have any influence,” he says.

Politicians and others have called in recent days for Mandelblit to recuse himself from the investigation, while Netanyahu and his cohorts have accused the media of trying to force the attorney general into approving an indictment.

Netanyahu: Peace won’t come from above

In a eulogy for Peres in the Knesset plenum, Netanyahu praises the late president for his commitment to peace, but stresses that peace “will not come from above” or be imposed on Israel in “futile forums” but will only be achieved through direct talks with the Palestinians.

He makes the address a day after the Paris peace summit.

“Alongside our aspirations for peace, we must constantly bolster our [military] strength,” says Netanyahu, adding that he believes Peres would agree.

The prime minister hails Peres’s contribution to the State of Israel, particularly on matters of defense.

In his later years, “Shimon spoke about a new Middle East, in which peace is the solution,” says Netanyahu. “Unfortunately, this has not come to pass.”

In his address, Netanyahu does not speak about the graft allegations against him.

Opposition leader Herzog lauds Peres as “one of the greatest leaders of the Jewish people in recent generations.”

“Not necessarily because of his political leadership,” he adds, “but due to his groundbreaking activities in all areas,” including defense, welfare, the economy, and education.

“But I think that above all, Shimon Peres will be remembered in Israel’s history books as one who looked reality in the eye and instead of being deterred or trying to keep it as is — he chose to change it,” he says.

– Marissa Newman

Ghattas accuses police of witch hunt

MK Basel Ghattas’s spokesperson confirms he is the lawmaker being questioned by police today on suspicions of illegal fundraising for the Balad party, calling the probe “proof of a political witch hunt” against his party.

The MK, already under suspicion in a separate case involving passing contraband to prisoners, says the timing of the police summons is “peculiar” given the fact that the probe seemed to have been closed three months ago.

“This is more improper conduct by the police against me with the goal of influencing my legal case in order to create a hostile atmosphere around me,” Ghattas says in a statement.

An investigation into Balad financing three months ago led to some 60 party activists being questioned by police, including MKs Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, according to the spokesperson.

Army says killed Palestinian was ‘main violence instigator’

The army has confirmed reports that troops shot and killed a Palestinian during a clash in the West Bank.

The army says the shooting occurred during a “violent riot” in which “rioters hurled rocks” at security forces.

“Due to the extent of violence, border police fired 0.22-caliber rounds towards the main violence instigator, resulting in his death,” an army spokeswoman says.

— AFP

Wife of Orlando shooter arrested in California

A US official says the Palestinian-American wife of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen has been arrested for obstruction.

FBI agents arrested Noor Salman at her home in northern California.

Her husband killed 49 people in an shooting rampage at a nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016.

According to The New York Times, prosecutors have been weighing charges against Salman for several months.

Salman’s parents immigrated to the US from the West Bank in 1985. She was arrested and questioned as a person of interest immediately following the shooting, but was later released.

She is expected to appear before a judge in federal court on Tuesday.

— with AP

EU warns of ‘consequences’ if Trump moves embassy to Jerusalem

European Union foreign ministers have come out in opposition to any plan by President-elect Donald Trump to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and are warning that it could ratchet up tensions with the Arab world.

“It is very important for us all to refrain from unilateral actions, especially those that can have serious consequences in large sectors of public opinion in large parts of the world,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says after chairing talks in Brussels.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during an EU foreign ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on January 16, 2017. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during an EU foreign ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on January 16, 2017. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

“We hope that there can be reflection on consequences of any move that is taken,” she says.

Mogherini declines to say what consequences could be considered as no formal decision has been made to move the embassy.

She also says the EU will not follow Trump’s lead.

“We will for sure not move our delegation. That is in Tel Aviv,” Mogherini says.

— AP

Minister says he has enough signatures to boot Ghattas

Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin says he has enough signatures, and then some, to start the process of booting Joint List MK Basel Ghattas from the Knesset.

“We have over 70 signatures! We are about to in the coming minutes present [Knesset speaker] Yuli Edeslstein with 72 signatures gathered by Zeev Elkin to start the process of expelling MK Basel Ghattas,” Elkin’s spokesman says in a message to reporters.

A plenary session at the Knesset, on January 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A plenary session at the Knesset, on January 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier, the Zionist Union had told the Joint List it must remove Ghattas itself or it would allow its members to join the effort to boot the MK, who is suspected of passing contraband to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prison.
Ghattas has rejected the accusations as a political witchhunt.

Netanyahu’s son to testify to police again — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair will give testimony to police tomorrow evening as part of an investigation into suspicions of graft and quid pro quo deals made by the prime minister, Channel 10 reports.

The testimony will focus on “Case 1000,” which centers on allegations Netanyahu received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of cigars, champagne and other gifts, including having hotel rooms for Yair paid for by billionaire benefactors, among them Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer.

Yair Netanyahu is expected to deny that his father knew he had been in contact with Packer, the news report said.

Yair Netanyahu has also been linked to “Case 2000,” which explores claims the prime minister promised to advance legislation to hobble the Israel Hayom daily if competing paper Yedioth Ahronoth gave him more favorable coverage.

Negotiations between Netanyahu and Yedioth publisher Noni Mozes were said to have begun over the prime minister’s efforts to prevent the publication of a story about Yair.

Mozes will be questioned tomorrow for a third day in a row and a fourth time in total.

— Raoul Wootliff

New transcript shows PM, publisher hashing out how many copies of free daily allowed

Channel 2 news has published new snippets from recordings between Netanyahu and Yedioth publisher Mozes, during which the two talk about reducing the number of copies of free daily Israel Hayom.

“It won’t drop totally, it’s won’t drop three-thirds. It’ll drop to two-thirds,” Netanyahu is quoted saying.

“When we spoke about numbers, there were 275,000 copies. Now there’s 325,000. You understand why all the time that’s passing creates a problem? We’re getting back to a problem that we’re trying to defer and it’s harder to solve,” Mozes answers.

After that, Mozes asks to discuss the amount of ads Israel Hayom gets. When Netanyahu objects that he can’t determine that for them, Mozes explains that most of their ads come from the government.

When the two agree to deal with that later, Mozes suggests restricting Israel Hayom’s distribution area.

“We’re trying to do something here together,” Mozes says twice.

Israel, Lebanese army reportedly scrambling to find crashed drone

Israel and the Lebanese army are racing to locate an Israeli spy drone that crashed somewhere in a rugged region of southern Lebanon, according to reports in Lebanese media.

The UAV has been missing since early Monday, and Israeli officials have asked UNIFIL for help in locating the craft, according to reports, while Lebanon is also trying to find the drone.

The crash apparently took place in the Naqoura region, a mountainous area near the coast.

There is no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

UNIFIL also has no immediate comment.

— with Judah Ari Gross

Knesset speaker says he’ll look into process for booting Ghattas

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein says he will speak to parliament legal eagles as he kicks off a process that may see MK Basel Ghattas booted from the august body.

Presented with the signatures of 72 MKs to bring a vote on expelling Ghattas from the Knesset, Edelstein says, “This is the first time this has happened and I hope will be the last.”

Under the newly passed MK impeachment law, 70 signatures are needed to bring the issue to the plenum and 90 must vote in favor in order to kick an lawmaker out.

It seems unlikely that Ghattas will be removed, with 32 MKs confirming they will vote against booting him.

Yuli Edelstein, right, reviewing signatures of 72 MKs supporting a vote on the impeachment of Basel Ghattas, as Zeev Elkin, left, looks on, in the Knesset on January 16, 2017. (Knesset Spokesman's Department)

Yuli Edelstein, right, reviewing signatures of 72 MKs supporting a vote on the impeachment of Basel Ghattas, as Zeev Elkin, left, looks on, in the Knesset on January 16, 2017. (Knesset Spokesman’s Department)

However, a spokesperson for Minister Zeev Elkin, who led the effort to collect the signatures, tells The Times of Israel that he will be able to muster the 90 MKs needed to pass the measure, “with the help of God.”

Should the Knesset legal team okay the process, Edelstein says he will take the issue to committee to begin discussions.

Ghattas is facing likely criminal charges over suspicions he passed phones and other contraband to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prison.

IDF confirms it lost drone in Lebanon

The Israel Defense Forces confirms that one of its drones crashed in southern Lebanon today.

“Earlier today, an IDF tactical Skylark unmanned aerial vehicle fell on the Israeli-Lebanese border, on the Lebanese side,” an army spokesperson says.

The IDF would not comment on its attempts to retrieve the lost drone.

“The incident is being investigated,” the spokesperson adds.

— Judah Ari Gross

Adelson expected to testify in Netanyahu probe — report

Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson is expected to give testimony to Israeli police in the coming days as part of an investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 10 news reports.

Netanyahu reportedly promised to advance legislation to hobble Adelson’s Israel Hayom daily if competing paper Yedioth Ahronoth gave the prime minster more favorable coverage.

Israel Hayom has long been viewed as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, rarely printing anything but positive coverage of the prime minister. Adelson is a long-time supporter and backer of Netanyahu.

It is unclear if Adelson, who lives in the US, will come to Israel to speak with police or will provide a written testimony.

— Raoul Wootliff

Hollande tells Trump EU doesn’t need his advice

French President Francois Hollande has replied bluntly to Donald Trump’s criticism of the European Union, saying the EU “has no need for outside advice” in its affairs.

“I say it here, Europe will always be willing to pursue transatlantic cooperation, but it will determine its path on the basis of its own interests and values,” Hollande says at a ceremony in Paris for outgoing US ambassador Jane Hartley.

“It has no need for outside advice to tell it what it has to do.”

— AFP

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