Israel will get a better military aid deal under Trump — adviser
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Israel will get a better military aid deal under Trump — adviser

David Friedman says package 'in all likelihood will go up in a materiel amount'; Lockheed Martin rolls first planes off production line for Israel delivery at ceremony in Forth Worth, Texas

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

  • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is welcomed by supporters on June 16, 2016 at Gilley's in Dallas, Texas. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images/AFP)
    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is welcomed by supporters on June 16, 2016 at Gilley's in Dallas, Texas. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images/AFP)
  • Donald Trump adviser David Friedman speaking to Channel 2 news, June 22, 2016. (Screenshot)
    Donald Trump adviser David Friedman speaking to Channel 2 news, June 22, 2016. (Screenshot)
  • Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sits in the cockpit of the F-35 stealth fighter jet, as IAF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman stands over him, during an unveiling ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 22, 2016. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
    Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sits in the cockpit of the F-35 stealth fighter jet, as IAF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman stands over him, during an unveiling ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 22, 2016. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
  • Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman unveils the F-35 stealth fighter jet, during a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 22, 2016. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
    Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman unveils the F-35 stealth fighter jet, during a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 22, 2016. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
  • The F-35 Lightning II during a refueling test at dusk in January 2015. (Tom Reynolds/Lockheed Martin)
    The F-35 Lightning II during a refueling test at dusk in January 2015. (Tom Reynolds/Lockheed Martin)
  • President Reuven Rivlin addressing the European Parliament, June 22, 2016. (Screenshot)
    President Reuven Rivlin addressing the European Parliament, June 22, 2016. (Screenshot)
  • Lockheed Martin unveils Israel's first F-35 fighter jet in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 22, 2016. (Lockheed Martin)
    Lockheed Martin unveils Israel's first F-35 fighter jet in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 22, 2016. (Lockheed Martin)
  • Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, left, welcomes President Reuven Rivlin in Brussels, Belgium on June 20, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
    Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, left, welcomes President Reuven Rivlin in Brussels, Belgium on June 20, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
  • President Reuven Rivlin meets with religious leaders at the Red Star Line museum in Brussels, Belgium on June 21, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin meets with religious leaders at the Red Star Line museum in Brussels, Belgium on June 21, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
  • Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem. June 9, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem. June 9, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Coach David Blatt and star player LeBron James both say that Blatt has made the needed adjustments in his rookie season guiding the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Harry How/Getty Images/JTA)
    Coach David Blatt and star player LeBron James both say that Blatt has made the needed adjustments in his rookie season guiding the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Harry How/Getty Images/JTA)
  • Pope Francis invites a group of refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Fabio Frustaci)
    Pope Francis invites a group of refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Fabio Frustaci)

The Times of Israel is liveblogging Wednesday’s events as they unfold.

Siblings ages 2 and 3 die after being left in car

Magen David Adom paramedics declare two- and three-year-old siblings dead after they were left in a car in the summer heat for “a number of hours.”

The ambulance service received a call to a community in the Al Kasum Regional Council in the Negev and found the two children unconscious on their arrival. Paramedics tried for to revive them for over half an hour, according to MDA.

Raad Abuaga, an MDA paramedic, said, “When I arrived at the site I was taken to the house and there we saw the unconscious children, not breathing and without a heartbeat. They told us they had taken them out of the car after they have been inside for a number of hours.”

In recent years, a rash of similar incidents in Israel alarmed the public, launching debates about possible means of prevention and prompting a hypervigilance that had seemed to save some children from a similar fate.

Airstrikes on IS-held Raqqa kill 18 civilians – activists

Airstrikes in Syria target the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, killing at least 18 civilians, including two children, according to activists. The barrage, blamed on the Russian and Syrian air force, came as government forces sought to recover from losses suffered in a stalled offensive on the extremist-held city.

Activists from the group known as Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which relies on residents to smuggle news out of IS-held territory, say the air raids also wounded 28 people.

Illustrative: Smoke and fire following a reported airstrike by Syrian government forces in the Islamic State-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa, on November 25, 2014. (AFP Photo/RMC/STR)

Illustrative: Smoke and fire following a reported airstrike by Syrian government forces in the Islamic State-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa, on November 25, 2014. (AFP Photo/RMC/STR)

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the toll at 25 civilians, including six children, but different casualty tolls are common in reporting from Syria’s civil war, now in its sixth year.

Both activist groups blamed the Russian and Syrian air forces for Wednesday’s airstrikes, saying Damascus and its ally Moscow were pummeling the Islamic State extremists amid frustrations over government losses earlier this week.

— AP

Pope invites refugees to join him on stage for audience

Pope Francis invites a dozen refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica for his general audience to press his demand for Europe to welcome more migrants.

A dozen men ascended the steps with Francis and sat in front of him on the ground as he delivered his weekly catechism lesson. They carried banners of the charity that is caring for them and Vatican flags.

In his remarks, Francis says the refugees had suffered in their home countries.

Pope Francis invites a group of refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Fabio Frustaci)

Pope Francis invites a group of refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, June 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Fabio Frustaci)

He said, “Please they are our brothers. A Christian excludes no one. I ask all of you: Let everyone come.”

Francis brought a dozen Syrian refugees home with him when he visited Greece in April. Recently, the Vatican brought a second group to Rome.

— AP

Trump says he’d remove ban on religious nonprofits endorsing candidates

Donald Trump tells conservative Christians he would work to remove restrictions on churches endorsing political candidates.

“I think maybe that will be my greatest contribution to Christianity — and other religions — is to allow you, when you talk religious liberty, to go and speak openly, and if you like somebody or want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do it,” Trump tells a group of conservative Christian leaders.

Speaking at his corporate headquarters in New York, the real estate magnate and presumptive Republican presidential nominee tells the group that restrictions placed in the 1960s on explicit political endorsement by tax exempt groups inhibited free speech.

“It’s taken a lot of power away from Christianity and other religions,” he says, in an audio recording obtained by the Washington Post.

— JTA

Turkey says normalization deal depends on Israel

Turkey says that reaching a deal at upcoming talks with Israel to normalize relations downgraded after a 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish vessel heading to Gaza depended on steps taken by Israel.

“Whether a deal can be reached at the first upcoming meeting depends on the steps to be taken by Israel,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tells a news conference in Ankara. He did not give the date of the meeting although press reports have said it would take place on Sunday.

Already-frayed relations between once close allies Turkey and Israel hit an all-time low after Israeli commandos staged a raid on a six-ship flotilla in May 2010 as it tried to run the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Ten Turkish activists on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ferry were killed in the scuffle and 10 Israeli soldiers wounded, sparking a bitter diplomatic crisis.

The Mavi Marmara is seen of the coast of Israel in May 2010. Kobi Gideon/FLASH90)

The Mavi Marmara is seen of the coast of Israel in May 2010. Kobi Gideon/FLASH90)

Two of Turkey’s key conditions for normalization — an apology and compensation — were largely met, leaving its third demand, that Israel lift its blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, as the main obstacle.

“Our conditions are not very complicated, they are plain conditions,” Cavusoglu said. “They need to be fulfilled the same as our apology demand.”

— AFP

Police chief, Knesset speaker meet over secret criminal dossier

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein are meeting to discuss a recently leaked secret document compiled by Israel Police in 2014 including evidence regarding alleged offenses committed by dozens of Knesset members.

The head of the Police Investigations and Intelligence Department, Meni Yitzhaki, is also taking part in the meeting.

The document, reportedly drawn up on Yitzhaki’s instruction, is said to include information on alleged corruption cases and other crimes which could form the basis for criminal investigations. It was first revealed by Channel 10 news on Monday.

Edelstein wrote a letter to Alsheich on Tuesday requesting the meeting.

Turkey arrests 3 IS suspects over ‘LGBT rally plot’

Turkish authorities have arrested three suspected Islamic State (IS) jihadists in a probe into a planned attack on a transgender rights rally last weekend, a report says.

The three, comprising one Turkish national and two men from Russia’s volatile Caucasus region of Dagestan, were detained in raids on Friday and remanded in custody by a court on Tuesday, the Dogan news agency says.

Items including suicide belts packed with explosives, camouflage gear and military knives were seized by the authorities, it adds. The three had been planning to attack a rally around Istanbul’s Taksim Square promoting transgender rights. The gathering took place on Sunday but was broken up by police.

Dogan says the raids had been conducted in the Istanbul districts of Basaksehir and Pendik after police acted on a tip-off.

— AFP

Helen Mirren tours ancient Jerusalem

Award-winning British actress Helen Mirren is visiting the City of David archaeological site and the Old City in Jerusalem. She was accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“It’s just the most extraordinary, moving and powerful experience to be here. To look at the incredible work that’s been done to reveal these histories. I’ve always believed in history,” says Mirren.

“I think that we have to remember what happened in the past always as it informs our future and it certainly informs our present. I’m a great believer in that. To be in this situation where you see the past being revealed before your eyes is the most extraordinary, passionate and moving experience.”

Mirren is in Israel to award the annual Genesis Prize in a Thursday ceremony. This year’s prize is being awarded to preeminent violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Anti-Semitic Incidents on US college campuses doubled in 2015

New data released by the Anti-Defamation League shows that anti-Semitic incidents at US college and university campuses nearly doubled in 2015.

A total of 90 incidents were reported on 60 college campuses in 2015, compared with 47 incidents on 43 campuses in 2014. Campus anti-Semitic incidents accounted for 10 percent of the total incidents reported in the in 2015.

The report showed a general increase in violent anti-Semitic assaults in the United States in 2015 compared with the 2014. According to the annual audit there were 941 incidents in the US in 2015, an increase of about 3 percent from the 912 incidents recorded in 2014.

Fifty-six incidents were assaults, the most violent category – representing a more than 50 percent rise from the 36 assaults reported in 2014, the report says.

“We are disturbed that violent anti-Semitic incidents are rising,” says Jonathan A. Greenblatt, head of ADL. “And we know that for every incident reported, there’s likely another that goes unreported. So even as the total incidents have remained statistically steady from year to year, the trend toward anti-Semitic violence is very concerning.”

EU agrees on new border force to tackle migrant crisis

The European Union reaches agreement to set up a new border and coastguard force that could intervene in front-line countries like Greece and Italy to curb the influx of migrants.

Negotiators for the 28 EU member states and the European Parliament say they have endorsed a proposal from the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, to set up the force by the summer.

The parliament is expected to vote on the issue in a key committee next week, and if it clears that hurdle, to act on it in a full session in the French city of Strasbourg next month.

Refugees try to break into the Greek police blockade towards the border fence of Macedonia during a protest demanding the opening of the borders near the village of Idomeni on February 29, 2016. (AFP / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI)

Refugees try to break into the Greek police blockade towards the border fence of Macedonia during a protest demanding the opening of the borders near the village of Idomeni on February 29, 2016. (AFP / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI)

“The agreement on the creation of a European Border and Coast Guard shows that Europe is able to act swiftly and resolutely to deal with common challenges,” says European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the force’s main sponsor.

Several countries have reintroduced border controls that were eliminated years ago as part of Schengen as the EU deals with a record flow of more than one million migrants and refugees since the start of 2015. Under the deal, member states would still manage their borders on a daily basis but could call on emergency support from a pool of at least 1,500 border guards.

— AFP

Israeli lawmaker calls on Cavs to give Blatt a championship ring

An Israeli lawmaker writes a letter to the owner of the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers asking him to give a championship ring to David Blatt, the team’s former coach.

“I want to wish you mazal tov on your success in bringing a long-awaited championship to the great city of Cleveland and its wonderful people,” writes Nachman Shai, head of the Knesset caucus on US-Israel Relations.

“We in Israel were proud of the achievements of one of our own, David Blatt, when you appointed him as the head coach of your team, and we of course, were sorry to see him go. Nevertheless, Israelis remain strong supporters of the Cavaliers, as do their many Jewish fans in Cleveland’s strong Jewish community.”

Blatt was fired as head coach of the team in January. At the time of his dismissal, the Cavaliers had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Blatt had led the Cavs to the 2015 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. On Sunday night, the Cavs defeated the Warriors in a finals rematch, coming from behind 3-1 in the finals series to win in the seventh game.

In this Nov. 2, 2015, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt pats LeBron James on the chest at the end of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez, File)

In this Nov. 2, 2015, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt pats LeBron James on the chest at the end of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez, File)

Shai also writes, “David played a key role in building the Cavaliers, guiding its players, and helping the team become championship-caliber. That is why I want to encourage you to give David the respect and credit he deserves by giving him a championship ring, as is customary for players who have left mid-season. I am sure he would cherish such a ring that would symbolize his part in your team’s success.”

In a season and a half at the helm, Blatt guided the Cavaliers to an 83-40 record; his .675 winning percentage was the best of any coach in franchise history.

— JTA

Syria’s Assad names new prime minister

Syrian President Bashar Assad names electricity minister Imad Khamis as the new prime minister of his war-ravaged country.

Assad tasked Khamis with forming a new government, the official news agency SANA reports. He is to submit his proposal for new ministerial appointments in the coming days.

The 54-year-old engineer replaces Wael al-Halqi who had held the post since August 2012.The changes come two months after Assad’s Baath party and its allies won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections dismissed internationally as a sham.

Khamis had served as Syria’s minister of electricity since 2011 and is an electrical engineer by trade. Since March 2012, he has been sanctioned by the European Union, which accuses him of sharing “responsibility for the regime’s violent repression against the civilian population.”

Syria’s conflict began in 2011 with widespread protests demanding reform but has since escalated into a bloody civil war that has left 280,000 people dead. According to the government, production of electricity has more than halved since the beginning of the crisis.

— AFP

President Rivlin addressing European Parliament

President Reuven Rivlin is addressing the European Union at a special session in Brussels.

“I could say that four hours, and light years, separate Brussels and Tel Aviv, but in truth there is not much difference between them,” Rivlin opens his speech. “Be it in awareness or in essence: two cosmopolitan cities, practically neighbors, not far from each other, both recently struck by a wave of terrorism.”

President Reuven Rivlin addressing the European Parliament, June 22, 2016. (Screenshot)

President Reuven Rivlin addressing the European Parliament, June 22, 2016. (Screenshot)

Rivlin was received at the parliament by President of European Parliament Martin Schulz.

Following his speech the two will give a joint press conference.

Rivlin: Israel and Europe share ‘unbreakable bond’

Addressing the European Parliament, President Rivlin stresses the historical and working ties between the European Union and Israel.

“Distinguished audience, even the wildest of imaginations could not have foreseen a course of events in which an ancient people returned from years of exile and rebuilt its historic homeland. A wild imagination could neither have foreseen such a convoluted historic course of events in which an utterly torn and bleeding continent, awash with the blood of war and strife, would have paved the way to a joint European parliament. And yes, no less important are the solid, steadfast ties created between us,” Rivlin says.

“Ties embodied today in a wide array of joint ventures and cooperation, in research and innovation, in health and the environment, education and culture and many more. Regardless of the perspective with which we look at this, our past, our present, and the future we are awaiting, intrinsically linked, Israel and Europe, in an unbreakable bond,” he adds.

Rivlin: Israel ‘impatient,’ frustrated with European criticism

During his address to the European Parliament, President Reuven Rivlin says some in Israel are frustrated by European criticism of Israel.

“I feel that the massive criticism aimed at Israel in Europe stems from, inter alia, a misunderstanding and an impatience toward this existential need of the Jewish Nation and the State of Israel. On the other hand, and much to my regret, Israel has a growing sense of impatience when it comes to Europe. There are those who feel anger and frustration toward certain European actions, vis-à-vis what they perceive as sometimes unfair criticism, sometimes even contaminated by elements of condescension, and some would even say double standard,” he tell the plenary session in Brussels.

The president asks the representatives of the European Union to “respect the Israeli considerations, even when different from your own. Respect Israeli sovereignty, and the democratic process of its decision-making. Respect Israel’s staunch commitment, indeed its very duty, to protect its citizens. For us it is the most sacred commandment of all.”

Speaking to Europan Parliament President Rivlin slams French initiative

Turning to the peace process, Rivlin tell the European Parliament that while Israel seeks peace, the French initiative to restart the peace process is doomed to fail.

“I speak before you today in the name of the citizens of Israel, grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, sick and tired of this bloody vicious cycle which soaks up the blood of our loved ones, the blood of our sons and daughters. I speak before you in the name of these young men and women who wish to live in their country, and not die in their homeland. I speak to you today in the name of a nation which abhors war and desires life and peace. And I must say, one cannot hope to achieve better results while resorting to the same outlooks and tools which have failed time after time previously,” Rivlin says.

“The French initiative, adopted by the EU institutions only a few days ago, suffers from those very fundamental faults. The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake, not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it. This striving for a permanent agreement ‘now’, is the chronicle of a predictable failure, which will only push the two peoples deeper into despair. This despair is the hottest bed for extremism, and undermines the endeavors of moderates. And this despair, ladies and gentlemen, today seizes not just members of my generation, but also boys and girls growing up in this part of the world, whose world view and awareness are shaped by the violent present. This despair, ladies and gentlemen, is the gravest danger looming over us, Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he adds.

At the beginning of the month France held a summit of foreign ministers in Paris to discuss ways to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority were present.

Rivlin finishes European Parliament speech with Ramadan greeting

President Rivlin closes his address to the European Parliament with a blessing to the Continent’s Muslims for the holy month of Ramadan, which started two weeks ago.

“On behalf of the people in Israel, I wish all Europe’s Muslims and the Muslim believers throughout the entire world Ramadan Karim, Kul Am Wa Antum Bikhair,” he said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may all who love her prosper. Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee,'” he finished, quoting from Psalms 122, 6-8.

Netanyahu confirms Kerry meet next week

The Prime Minister’s Office confirms Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet next week in Rome.

The meeting was first reported last week but the PMO did not immediately confirm the meeting, saying it would “make an announcement when there is something to announce.”

During a two-day visit to Italy, starting on Sunday, Netanyahu will also meet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Helen Mirren rejects efforts to boycott Israel

Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren says she is a “believer” in Israel and rejects efforts to boycott it.

Mirren showered Israeli artists with praise Wednesday and said she opposed efforts by pro-Palestinian groups to boycott them.

Mirren is in Israel to host the Genesis Prize, an award known as “the Jewish Nobel.” The $1 million prize is being awarded to Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman for his accomplishments as a musician, teacher and advocate for the disabled.

Actress Helen Mirren will host the Genesis Prize award ceremony on June 23, 2016 in Jerusalem. (Facebook)

Actress Helen Mirren will host the Genesis Prize award ceremony on June 23, 2016 in Jerusalem. (Facebook)

Mirren, who first visited as a volunteer in the 1960s, says she has a strong connection to Israel.

Mirren is one of the few actors to have won the so-called Triple Crown — an Oscar, Tony and Emmy. She received her Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 film “The Queen.”

— AP

Israel’s chief rabbinate agrees to mikveh immersion without attendant

The Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious Services in a filing with the Supreme Court agrees that the use of an attendant during immersion at a ritual bath will be changed from mandatory to optional.

The state religious bodies were responding to a suit filed by ITIM, a group that supports Israelis in their encounters with the country’s religious bureaucracy.

“Female mikveh bathers can decide for themselves whether to follow this halachic rule (immersing in the presence of the female mikveh attendant), including bathing by themselves or with the company of a friend, while the local religious council and its employees will not condition the bathing with the presence of the female mikveh attendant during the ritual bathing,” reads the response, delivered Wednesday morning to the court by the state attorney’s office, according to ITIM.

Israeli Minister of Religious Services David Azulay visits a luxury mikvah in the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut, as he tours the Gush Etzion bloc on August 25, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Minister of Religious Services David Azulay visits a luxury mikveh in the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut, as he tours the Gush Etzion bloc on August 25, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The response clarifies that the religious position of the Chief Rabbinate is that immersion in the mikveh must be done in the presence of a female mikveh attendant, and that signs to that effect should hang in all mikvehs.

— JTA

EgyptAir hijacker scotched Cyprus asylum bid

A Cyprus Asylum Service official says an Egyptian hijacker fighting his extradition could have been granted asylum because of his declared opposition to Egypt’s government, but the fact he committed such a serious offense wrecked his chances.

Seif Eddin Mustafa hijacked an EgyptAir passenger jet and diverted it to Cyprus in March. The six-hour hijacking ended peacefully and all 72 people aboard were released.

Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, center, an Egyptian man who hijacked an EgyptAir passenger plane the previous day and forced it to divert to Cyprus, wears handcuffs as he leaves the court in Larnaca escorted by Cypriot police, March 30, 2016. (AFP/GEORGE MICHAEL)

Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, center, an Egyptian man who hijacked an EgyptAir passenger plane the previous day and forced it to divert to Cyprus, wears handcuffs as he leaves the court in Larnaca escorted by Cypriot police, March 30, 2016. (AFP/GEORGE MICHAEL)

He had fought extradition to Egypt, arguing that his opposition to Egypt’s military-backed government could put his life at risk in his country.

The Cypriot asylum official, Pantelis Kazantzis, told a court Wednesday that Mustafa admitted to not having been persecuted for his political beliefs by the current Egyptian government since it came to power in 2014.

Mustafa’s asylum claim denial is now under appeal.

— AP

World stocks firm on eve of British referendum

Global stocks are largely rising and the pound clawing higher on the eve of Britain’s closely fought referendum as traders eye the country’s vote on remaining in the European Union.

London’s FTSE 100 index is 0.5 percent up in mid-afternoon deals, as the clock ticked down to the start of balloting to decide Britain’s future in the EU and the future shape of the bloc. The Tel Aviv Stock Market is up 0.33%.

With all eyes trained on the result due early Friday, Frankfurt is just over one percent higher and Paris gained slightly less, buoying US stocks that also opened cautiously higher.

Asian stocks mainly hold in positive territory, despite the head of the US Federal Reserve Janet Yellen warning that a vote to leave, a so-called Brexit, could hammer world markets.

— AFP

WATCH: Lockheed Martin unveils Israel’s F-35 ‘Awesome’ fighter jets

Lockheed Martin is unveiling the first F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet coming off the production line for Israeli delivery at a ceremony in Forth Worth, Texas.

Israel will be the first foreign partner to receive the F-35, which US officials stressed will play a key role in maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East. The aircraft has a range of 2,200 kilometers (1,300 miles approximately) and can carry up to 8,200 kilograms of weapons.

Israel has so far purchased 33 such jets, all set to arrive by 2021, and is expected to purchase more, according to Hebrew media reports.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman will attend the ceremony to formally “receive” the first jet, accompanied by a delegation from the Defense Ministry, the chief of staff of the Israeli Air Force Brigadier General Tal Kalman, Minister without portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi, and senior officials from the US Department of Defense.

“The fact that we are here as the first to receive the F-35 and the first to make the aircraft operational, that says a lot,” said Liberman on Tuesday.

The first two F-35s, renamed “Adir” (awesome) in Hebrew, will arrive in Israel on December 12, 2016, launching a training period for Israeli pilots, said Kalman, adding that the IAF has passed on a request to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenskot to “buy 17 more F-35 to make up 50 aircraft,” adding that the issue would soon be brought before the cabinet.

Trump: Britain should ‘go it alone’ and exit EU

Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump admits he has not studied closely whether Britain should exit the EU — but he weighed in anyway, saying the British should “go it alone.”

“I don’t think anybody should listen to me because I haven’t really focused on it very much,” the provocative billionaire tells Fox News on the eve of a historic referendum that could see Britain become the first nation in EU history to defect from the bloc.

But he pointed to the “mess” of Europe’s migration crisis, a lightning-rod issue that Trump routinely brings up along with US immigration policy at his campaign rallies.

“When you look at the things that are going on over there my inclination would be go it alone and go back to where you came from,” he tells the network. “That’s just my feeling.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters during a campaign rally on June 18, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump returned to Arizona for the fourth time since starting his presidential campaign a year ago. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images/AFP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters during a campaign rally on June 18, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images/AFP)

 

Trump has scheduled a trip to Scotland to attend the ceremonial re-opening of his golf course at Turnberry on Friday, the same day the Brexit results are expected.

— AFP

Arab gang uses broken bottle to slash ‘dirty Jew’ in Tel Aviv

A Jewish teenager was injured Tuesday night in Tel Aviv by an Arab gang who stabbed him with a broken bottle and hurled abuse at him, calling him a “dirty Jew,” police say.

Sahar Tosiya, 17, required medical treatment after he was assaulted in a park on Lavon Street in the south of the city.

The teenager explained he had been going to the park regularly to train in preparation ahead of his induction into the IDF and had already had a previous verbal clash with the gang that attacked him.

“It all began two weeks ago when I went out to exercise in the park on Lavon Street in Tel Aviv,” he said. “A gang of five Arab youths saw me exercising and started to shout at me ‘dirty Jew’,” he tells Channel 2.

Tosiya quickly left the park on that occasion but on Tuesday night he went back again to continue in his training. After checking to make sure the gang was not in sight he began his routine.

As he was doing some push-ups he noticed that one of the youths was coming up to him and cursing him.

“One of them said to me, ‘Look, the dirty Jew has come back again.’ He strangled me and then all five joined him,” he said. I didn’t know what to do, I pushed one of them, I heard he broke his hand and I tried to escape, but they knocked me to the floor.”

— Stuart Winer

Liberman at F-35 unveiling: ‘Israel’s military power ensures its security’

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praises the F-35 stealth fighter jet at the aircraft’s unveiling in Fort Worth, Texas, and stresses its crucial role in maintaining Israel’s security.

“Israel is surrounded by unprecedented military threats,” Liberman says, “including missile threats.”

Addressing the musician David Broza, who performed Hebrew songs about peace at the start of the ceremony, Liberman says: “I’m not as optimistic as you about achieving peace with our neighbors in the near future.”

The F-35, which is being unveiled today, will arrive in Israel in December of this year, meaning it will be first country in the world outside of the US to receive it.

“Israel’s military power ensures its security. The F-35 will dramatically enhance the IDF’s military power,” Liberman says.

“The airplanes will improve the IDF’s ability to protect Israel from the region’s growing threats.”

— Judah Ari Gross

EU trying to arrange Rivlin, Abbas meet

European Parliament head Martin Schulz says he hopes to arrange what would be a first meeting between the Israeli president and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas later Wednesday in Brussels.

Schulz, speaking with President Reuven Rivlin, tells reporters that with Abbas arriving in the evening at the assembly, the two men might cross paths.

“I hope (Abbas) will arrive in due time before President Rivlin will leave, so my answer to you is that the diplomatic progress I wish depends a bit on the timetables of both,” he says. “If we achieve that both are crossing the floor in the European Parliament, I think they will not run away from each other so I will do my best.”

Rivlin interjected, “I can assure you that I will not run away.”

President Reuven Rivlin listens as President of the European Union Parliament Martin Schulz speaks during a joint press conference, after a session of the EU Parliament in Brussels, June 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

President Reuven Rivlin listens as President of the European Union Parliament Martin Schulz speaks during a joint press conference, after a session of the EU Parliament in Brussels, June 22, 2016. (AFP Photo/John Thys)

The European Union has been pressing hard to get the stalled Middle East peace process back on track based on a two-state, Israel and Palestinian, solution.

EU foreign ministers on Monday backed a French initiative to call an international conference on the Middle East, aimed at restarting talks which have been deadlocked since 2014.

— AFP

Henkin killers given life sentences

Four Palestinians were handed life sentences for the killing of an Israeli couple driving in the West Bank with their children last year, the IDF says.

The military court in Samaria handed two life sentences and another 30 years to each of the four members of the Hamas cell that carried out the attack in which Eitam and Naama Henkin were murdered in front of their children,” a statement reads.

The Henkin couple were shot dead as they were traveling in their car near the West Bank settlement of Itamar on October 1, 2015. Their four small children – the oldest was nine years old – were in the backseat and witnessed their murder but were uninjured. Four days later the IDF arrested a five-man Hamas terror cell over the shooting.

Naama and Eitam Henkin, who were killed in a terror attack on October 1, 2015. (Courtesy)

Naama and Eitam Henkin, who were killed in a terror attack on October 1, 2015. (Courtesy)

Two polls put Brexit just ahead on eve of EU referendum

Two polls published Wednesday show public support for Britain leaving the European Union on the eve of the EU referendum.

Opinium had “Leave” at 45 percent and “Remain” at 44%, while TNS put the pro-Brexit camp in the lead with 43% compared to 41% for those who want Britain to remain in the EU.

— AFP

Police detain man for posting photo of justice minister as a Nazi

Police detain a man from Haifa in his 30s for posting a doctored photo to Facebook portraying Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked as a Nazi.

Police said they “regard with severity any attempt to encourage violence — physical verbal or other — against public servants and will work to bring offenders to justice.”

The man was released after interrogation.

Trump blames Clinton for Iran’s ‘dominance’, signaling Middle East will play major role in campaign

Signaling that Israel and Middle East policy will be at the forefront of an increasingly bitter campaign, Donald Trump says Iran is the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East and is on the road to nuclear weapons because of Hillary Clinton.

He says Clinton was corrupted by donations from the Muslim and Arab world to her husband’s charitable foundation, although at least one instance he cited as a gift to Clinton – $58,000 in jewelry from Brunei – was, according to the New York Times, a gift to the State Department and not for Clinton’s use.

Presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during an event at Trump SoHo Hotel, New York City, June 22, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during an event at Trump SoHo Hotel, New York City, June 22, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Describing the world in 2009 at the outset of Barack Obama’s presidency and Clinton’s stint as secretary of state, he says, “Iran was being choked by sanctions.” Now, he says, “Thanks to Hillary Clinton, Iran is now the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East, and on the road to nuclear weapons.”

Criticizing the role Hillary played in the changing the Middle East, Trump says “Egypt was governed by a friendly regime that honored its peace treaty with Israel, something very nice, because by the way, Israel has been totally mistreated by the United States.”

The Hosni Mubarak regime honored the Camp David peace treaty, but so did its successors. Most experts see as inevitable the revolution that toppled Mubarak in 2011.

–JTA

Syrian refugees say water scarce after Jordan seals border

Syrian refugees stranded along the Jordanian border say clean water is getting scarce in their desert tent camp after the area was sealed by Jordan in response to a deadly cross-border attack.

Cellphone footage taken in the Ruqban camp on Wednesday showed refugees chanting, “We want water.” Three Ruqban residents say by phone that people have begun drinking polluted water.

Tens of thousands of refugees in the area depend on daily deliveries of food and water by international aid agencies based in Jordan.

Jordan sealed the area on Tuesday, after a car bomb attack launched from the Ruqban area killed six Jordanian troops and wounded 14.

The UN refugee agency said Wednesday that Jordanian authorities approved plans to deliver water to the camps, but did not provide details.

Trump will increase Israel military aid — adviser

Donald Trump adviser David Friedman tells Channel 2 news that Israel would receive a better military aid package under a Trump administration than the current deal on the table at the moment.

“Our view is that the aid package to Israel will certainly not go down, it in all likelihood will go up in a materiel amount because Israel must maintain a technological and military superiority within in the region,” he says.

“I can’t give advice on how Israel should bargain and how it should develop its own strategy but certainly the Trump administration is not looking to cut back on foreign aid and will in all likely hood increase it significantly,” he adds.

The US and Israel started negotiating a renewal of the 10-year defense package last summer, shortly after the completion of the Iranian nuclear deal.

The memorandum of understanding, as the aid package is formally known, is one of the underpinnings of the US-Israel relationship, and is likely to encompass some $5 billion in defense assistance during the next 10-year period.

Some have suggested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wait until after Obama finishes his term to secure the deal in the hope that he could reach a better agreement under a different president.

Israel hands over body of slain Palestinian teen

Israeli authorities handed over the body of a 15-year-old Palestinian accidentally killed late Monday night.

Ma’an News Agency reports that the Palestinian Red Crescent took the body of Mahmoud Bardan from Ofer Prison, and transferred it to the governmental hospital in Ramallah.

At the medical complex, a protest gathered and some men demanded “revenge for the blood of the martyr,” the report says.

Israeli troops shot dead Mahmoud Badran, 15, and injured several others who were initially suspected of throwing rocks at Israeli motorists. The IDF later acknowledged that they had not been involved and said they were shot in error.

–Dov Leiber

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