The Times of Israel is liveblogging Monday’s events as they unfold.
Belgium seeking details on new terror suspect
Belgian prosecutors are appealing to the public for information about a man who allegedly traveled to Hungary last year with the top suspect in the Paris attacks.
The federal prosecutor’s office says in a statement Monday that they are seeking details about 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui, who is said to have traveled to Syria in February 2013.
It says Laachraoui was checked by guards at the Austria-Hungary border while driving in a Mercedes with attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was captured in Brussels on Friday, and one other person.
Laachraoui is said to have rented a house under the name of Soufiane Kayal in the Belgian town of Auvelais which was allegedly used as a safe house. Prosecutors said traces of his DNA were found there.
UK Jewish leaders warn campus anti-Semitism could spread
Board of Deputies of British Jews Vice President Marie van der Zyl says the latest resignation from Oxford University Labour Club amid allegations of anti-Semitism within the society should be a warning to people of all faiths that hateful sentiments are on the rise.
The club’s disabilities officer, Brahma Mohanty, stepped down after claiming the club forced members to “subscribe to a radical ideology of division and isolation,” the London-based Telegraph newspaper reported Friday.
Van der Zyl says in a statement: “While we await further details of what is behind the latest resignation at the Oxford University Labour Club, one can’t help thinking that Jews are perhaps once again the ‘canary in the coalmine’. When Jew-hatred goes unchecked, other elements of civilized society soon start to unravel.”
Last month, Alex Chalmers resigned as co-chair following claims that his colleagues “have some kind of problem with Jews.”
“This latest resignation should be the catalyst for serious soul-searching and action against hate, both at the OULC, and more widely in the Labour Party and on the left,” Can der Zyl says.
Hillary Clinton to address AIPAC followed by Republican presidential candidates
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is scheduled to address the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, DC at 8:00 a.m. EST (2:00 p.m. Israel time).
She will be followed by US House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and chairman of the Zionist Union and Knesset opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who flew in from Israel.
The evening sessions will feature Republican presidential candidates John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Kuwait deports Lebanese, Iraqis for Hezbollah links: report
Kuwaiti authorities have deported 11 Lebanese and three Iraqis for alleged links with Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon, a local newspaper says Monday.
The 14 were recently expelled at the request of Kuwaiti security services after they were found to belong to Hezbollah, daily Al-Qabas reports, without providing further details.
The newspaper quotes a security official saying that a list had been prepared of Lebanese and Iraqi citizens, some in top corporate positions, “who are unwelcome and should be deported” from Kuwait.
The deportations come amid an increasing crackdown by Sunni Arab Gulf states on foreign citizens with alleged links to Iran-backed Hezbollah.
The Arab League declared Hezbollah a “terrorist” group on March 11, after Gulf monarchies did the same earlier this month over the movement’s support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria’s war.
Last week, Bahrain deported an unspecified number of Lebanese residents for alleged links to Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia warned that it will punish citizens and residents who “support or demonstrate belonging” to the group.
Hollande to meet Paris attack victims after suspect captured
French President Francois Hollande is set to hold his first formal meeting with victims of the November 13 attacks in Paris on Monday, three days after Belgian police captured key suspect Saleh Abdeslam.
Georges Salines, the head of one victims’ group, 13 Novembre: Fraternite et Verite (November 13: Fraternity and Truth), says Hollande would be quizzed on his strategy for fighting the Islamic State jihadist group, which claimed the assault.
“What is being done to prevent future attacks? What are France’s international goals, what is being done to eliminate IS?” asks Salines, whose daughter was among those killed at the Bataclan concert hall.
Hollande’s office on Saturday announced the long-delayed meeting with five victims’ associations formed after the attacks that claimed 130 lives and injured hundreds.
It said the president and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have been in regular contact with victims and their families — and Hollande has met with them previously at ceremonies — but this is the first formal sit-down.
EU official optimistic about Syria’s political process
The European Union’s foreign policy chief expresses optimism about Syria’s peace process, urging international and regional actors to build on current, favorable conditions.
Federica Mogherini says the recent developments have shown “positive” steps unseen in the previous five years of conflict in Syria. She was speaking about a truce that has been relatively holding across Syria since February 27 and the flow of hundreds of trucks carrying aid to besieged areas.
Mogherini spoke during a visit to Lebanon, where she met with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil. She says they also spoke about Syrian refugees and attacks that have hit Lebanon and Europe.
Syria’s second round of UN-sponsored talks between the government and opposition, which resumed in Geneva last week, are to continue on Monday.
UN envoy trashes Israel’s ‘lack of accountability’
The UN expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories voices scathing criticism of Israel, as he stepped down over what he said was a lack of access to areas he was meant to monitor.
Makarim Wibisono, who took on the role of Special Rapporteur on the rights situation in the Palestinian territories in June 2014, presents his final report to the UN Human Rights Council, criticizing Israel’s refusal to cooperate with his mandate.
“It was with deep regret that I accepted that the premise upon which I took up the mandate… was not fulfilled,” he tells the council.
The Indonesian diplomat says he had been assured before taking up the position that he would have access to the occupied Palestinian territories.
But he said repeated requests for access were unsuccessful.
“This lack of cooperation regrettably seems to signal the continuation of a situation under which Palestinians suffer daily human rights violations under the Israeli occupation,” he says, and slammed “a general lack of accountability” for such abuses.
— AFP contributed
Herzog: ‘Convergence of security interests’ with Arab nations
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says Israel is developing a “convergence of security challenges and interests” with some of its Arab neighbors.
Speaking to Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz, Herzog says changing realities in the Middle East require a new way of thinking about international cooperation.
“Iran is at the forefront of pushing for terror and trying to derail any arrangement between Israel and its neighbors,” he says, encouraging interaction with Gulf States opposing moves by Tehran.
AIPAC urges ‘respectful discourse’ ahead of candidates’ addresses
AIPAC Vice President Richard Fishman tells delegates not to boo presidential candidates set to address the conference throughout the day.
“People in this room are dedicated to discourse powered by reason,” he tells the crowd of 18,000.
“It is our responsibility to hear all the candidates’ views on Israel. We have invited candidates with whom we may strongly disagree with on policy or tone but invitation is not endorsement,” he says.
“We must be respectful. No policy position was ever improved by booing.”
Some groups have said they will initiate a walk-out during controversial Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s speech this evening.
Arab League rejects Syrian Kurds’ federal region
The Arab League rejects last week’s declaration by Syrian Kurds of a de facto federal region in northern Syria.
The league’s deputy chief, Ahmed bin Helli, says on Monday that calls for federalization could impact Syria’s unity.
Last Thursday, a meeting of some 200 Kurdish officials declared they were establishing a federal region. The officials insisted they are not seeking secession — but rather making sure the country remains one nation.
In Syria’s civil war, Kurdish fighters have emerged as the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State group and are backed militarily by the United States.
The Kurds, a longtime oppressed minority, have taken advantage of the chaos of the civil war to advance their goals of autonomy. After government troops withdrew from Kurdish areas to focus elsewhere in Syria, they declared their own civil administration in 2013.
Ya’alon orders investigation into Breaking the Silence ‘treason’
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says he has opened an investigation into reports that the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence collected classified information on the IDF.
“If you are worried about the morality of the IDF, if you are worried about the way we operate, why do you go and talk about it abroad? That means, there is a political agenda here,” he tells a group of students in the northern kibbutz of Kfar Blum.
Speaking of the methods that Breaking the Silence used to gather information on the IDF he added, “If they make use of it externally that is very serious, or if they distribute the material abroad — it is treason. If they keep it just for themselves, it also is,” he says.
“That is the reason that I ordered an investigation to be opened. I didn’t say we should shut them up, I didn’t say we should make them illegal.”
Ya’alon also warns that if soldiers made use of any classified information they were exposed to during their service or passed it on to unauthorized people it is also a transgression.
“It is the right of everyone in country to speak out, unless the declarations cause real damage to the security of the country.”
Liberman presents conditions for joining government
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman presents a list of ten demands as conditions for him to join the government.
Liberman opted out of bringing his Yisrael Beyteinu party into the coalition after the 2015 elections.
Speaking at a weekly faction meeting at the Knesset Liberman presented the following conditions:
1. Annihilation of Hamas rule in Gaza and a renewal of the policy of targeted assassinations.
2. Government support for the death penalty for terrorists.
3. Banning parties and MKS who support terror.
4. Approval of 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements.
5. Re-legislating the equal service bill.
6. Government support for the conversion bill, giving municipal rabbi’s authority.
7. Removal of boundaries for marriage registration.
8. Legislating a civil union bill.
9. Government support of pensions reform.
10. Building 3,000 hostels for elderly immigrants.
Herzog outlines security plan to AIPAC
Opposition leader and Zionist Herzog chair Isaac Herzog tells the annual AIPAC conference that Israel needs to separate from the Palestinians in order to secure its own future.
In a broadcast conversation with Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, Herzog says a peace agreement is in Israel’s best interests.
“I don’t feel an immediate peace agreement between us and the Palestinians is around the corner, but we need to preserve the two-state solution,” he says.
“We need to complete the security fence around the settlement blocs. We should always be in direct eye contact with the ideal of moving toward a two-state solution.”
Referencing the ongoing wave of terror attacks, Herzog says that Israel must pursue a negotiated solution at the same time that it “fights terror with no mercy. No ifs and no buts.”
“We should do whatever it takes to calm the situation, first of all by fighting terror with no mercy,” he concludes.
Netanyahu: Not clear if Istanbul bomber targeted Israelis
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it remains unclear whether the Istanbul bomber had targeted Israelis, hours after Turkish reports said the Islamic State operative had tailed the tour group from their hotel.
Netanyahu made his comments at the weekly cabinet meeting.
Three Israelis were killed in the blast when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a shopping mall in the Turkish city on Saturday.
Clinton: US, Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton tells the AIPAC conference that the US and Israel must “take our alliance to the next level.”
“We must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and advance our shared values,” she says.
“We may not agree on every detail but we’ve always shared an unwavering unshakable alliance to Israel’s future as a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”
Clinton to AIPAC: Palestinian leaders must end incitement
Hillary Clinton says the Palestinian Authority must stop inciting violence against Israelis, suggesting it has caused the ongoing wave of terror attacks across Israel.
“These attacks must end immediately and Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop praising martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families, she says, to huge applause from the crowd.
Clinton mentions US citizen Taylor Force who was killed this month in a stabbing attack in Jaffa, calling his killers “terrorists.”
Clinton: US can never be neutral when Israel is targeted
Hillary Clinton tells AIPAC that “anyone who doesn’t understand that some things are not negotiable,” mentioning terror attacks against Israelis, “has no place as our president,” in a reference to Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
“We need steady hands,” she says, “not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday.”
Donald Trump has said he would remain neutral in possible future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Not everything is negotiable,” bellows Clinton. “But Israel’s security is not negotiable,” she says to a roar from the crowd.
“As president I will make a firm commitment to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge. The US should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology.”
Clinton calls on Europe to define Hezbollah as terrorist organization
Hillary Clinton tells AIPAC that Europe should designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
“If the Arab League can designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, then so can Europe,” Clinton says.
“They should do so and they should do so now,” she declares.
Clinton says as president she will reject unilateral moves at UN
Hillary Clinton says she will oppose Palestinian efforts to pursue unilateral recognition at the UN.
“As president I would continue the pursuit of direct negotiations,” she says.
“I would directly oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution – including by the UN Security Council.”
Clinton hits out at Trump in rallying AIPAC speech
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton slams her Republican counterpart Donald Trump over “bigotry” and “racism” in her address to AIPAC.
Drawing comparisons between the roots of the US and Israel as “both nations built by immigrants and exiles,” she says, “we both believe in freedom, pluralism and equality. Both Israel and America are seen as a light unto the nations because of those values. In Israel’s story, we see our own.”
In comments directly referencing recent statements and actions of Donald Trump, although not mentioning him by name, Clinton tells the crowd they have a responsibility to stand up against hateful messages against minorities and immigrants.
“Playing coy with white supremacists, calling for 12 million immigrants to be rounded up and deported?” she asks in seeming shock. “Now we’ve had dark chapters in our history before but America should be better than this.”
“If you see bigotry, oppose it; if you see bigotry, condemn it; if you see a bully, stand up to him,” she encourages the crowd.
Britons to face theft charges in Poland over Auschwitz items
A court in Poland is refusing to drop the case against two British teenagers caught in June taking objects from the site of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp and has referred it to a lower court.
Initially, the teenagers from Hertfordshire, in southern England, pleaded guilty to charges of stealing items from the historic site while on a school trip. But later their lawyers argued that the case should be tossed out, because the teenagers were not aware that the objects they took from the site of the former camp’s warehouses had special historic value.
A court in the southern city of Krakow admitted the items were of no special historic value, but ordered a court in Oswiecim, where the former camp is located, to weigh charges of simple theft.
Poll: Fewer Palestinians, but still majority, back stabbings
A new poll indicates that a majority of Palestinians back near-daily stabbing attacks on Israelis, but that support dropped by nine points to 58 percent over the past three months.
Monday’s survey also shows that a candidate from the Islamic militant group Hamas would handily win presidential elections if competing against the incumbent, Mahmoud Abbas, but would lose to the jailed leader of Abbas’s Fatah party Marwan Barghouti.
Abbas’ popularity remains low. Two-thirds of 1,270 respondents in the West Bank and Gaza said they want him to resign.
Two-thirds also say that if current tensions escalate into an armed uprising, it would serve Palestinian interests better than negotiations.
The poll by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey was conducted last week, with an error margin of 3 percentage points.
Jewish French billionaire to face trial for tax fraud
French billionaire industrialist and politician Serge Dassault is to face trial on suspicion of stashing several million euros in Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, a source close to the investigation says.
The case against the 90-year-old CEO of the Dassault Group, which holds a majority stake in Dassault Aviation, has been committed directly to trial without a preliminary inquiry, the source says, adding that it will open on July 4.
An incumbent member of the French Senate for the region of Essone, Dassult was born to parents of Jewish heritage who had both converted to Roman Catholicism.
— AFP contributed
Democrats Abroad vote for Sanders in primary
Bernie Sanders wins the most votes and the lion’s share of the electoral delegates in the Democrats Abroad global primary.
The party says 34,570 US citizens living abroad in 38 countries cast votes by Internet, mail and in person from March 1 to 8. Sanders received 69 percent of the vote to earn nine of the 13 delegates at stake. Hillary Clinton won 31 percent, picking up four delegates.
Still, Sanders continues to trail Clinton by more than 300 delegates.
Clinton now has 1,163 delegates to Sanders’ 844, based on primaries and caucuses.
When including superdelegates, or party leaders who can support any candidate, her lead is even bigger — 1,630 to Sanders’ 870. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination.
Halfway into the primary season, the Democratic race now moves to Western states this week that Sanders is counting on winning to cut into Clinton’s lead. On Tuesday, Democrats vote in Arizona, Idaho and Utah, with 131 delegates up for grabs; on Saturday, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington hold caucuses with 142 delegates at stake.
Israeli journalist arrested in Turkey, released after FM intervention
The Arab affairs correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon says he was arrested last week by Turkish authorities on the Turkey-Syria border and only freed after an intervention by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Assaf Gabor tells Channel 2 News that he was detained by the Turkish security agency while preparing a report to mark five years since the start of the Syrian civil war.
After meeting with Syrian rebels near the border, the jeep Gabor and a photographer were traveling in was stopped by Turkish police.
“We thought it was standard procedure until they took us out of the car and led us on foot to an army base,” he says.
He said he was handcuffed, tied to a chair and accused of being an Israeli spy.
Gabor says he managed to send a WhatsApp message to his editor who contacted the Israeli Foreign Ministry and was able to secure his immediate release.
Obama, Raul Castro meet in Havana
US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro meet in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution for groundbreaking talks on ending the standoff between the two neighbors.
Obama, seeing Castro only for the third time in a formal setting, is the first US president in Cuba since 1928.
Obama was greeted by a military band at the Palace of the Revolution, a building put up after the 1959 revolution that turned Cuba into a communist state. He then sat for discussions with Castro in front of a backdrop of tall tropical plants and the two countries’ flags.
The United States has yet to lift its decades-old economic embargo on Havana, and Cuba continues to restrict many basic freedoms.
But despite these differences, Obama and Castro say they are ready to bury their Cold War-era conflict and work toward a complete opening of relations.
Ethics Committee censures Odeh for calling former Shin Bet head ‘murderer’
The Knesset Ethics Committee condemns Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh for comments made this week calling fellow MK and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter a murderer.
In an interview on Channel 2, Odeh said the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service murdered Arafat. He said that Avi Dichter, who headed the Shin Bet in 2004 when Arafat died, “sent the people” who murdered him. Dichter is now a Likud MK.
He also said that Dicter had ordered the murders of Hamas co-founders Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi while he headed the internal security service.
Odeh’s comment came in the context of a stormy Knesset debate surrounding a law that would allow MKs to vote to suspend fellow lawmakers.
Responding on his Facebook page, Dichter said he was “proud to have had the privilege” of sending Yassin and Rantisi “deep into the earth,” one within a month of the other, in early 2004.
Republican Jewish Coalition slams Clinton’s AIPAC speech
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) criticizes Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s speech to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, saying her track record proves she will not strengthen Israel-US relations if elected president.
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks says Clinton’s “rhetoric rings hollow.”
“Actions speak louder than words and Hillary’s words can do little to paper over her disastrous tenure as Secretary of State. Under Secretary Clinton, the US-Israel relationship reached its lowest point and she supported the United States-brokered, ill-conceived and disastrous nuclear deal with Iran,” he says in a statement.
In her speech Clinton sought to affirm her commitment to Israel’s security and repeatedly called for elevating the US-Israel alliance to “the next level.”
Brooks said that he actions as secretary of state do not match her words.
“At every turn when her actions could achieve real results and speak louder than words, Secretary of State Clinton chose instead to sit and do nothing. Pro-Israel voters have learned from painful experience that there is a difference between political speeches and governing priorities. Hillary Clinton has proven time and again that talk is cheap, and today was no different.”
Donald Trump reveals foreign policy team
Republican front-runner Donald Trump reveals his foreign policy team in an interview with The Washington Post.
Trump says the team would be chaired by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
“Walid Phares, who you probably know. Ph.D., adviser to the House of Representatives. He’s a counterterrorism expert,” Trump tells the Post.
“Carter Page, Ph.D. George Papadopoulos. He’s an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy. The honorable Joe Schmitz, [was] inspector general at the Department of Defense. General Keith Kellogg. And I have quite a few more. But that’s a group of some of the people that we are dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do. But that’s a pretty representative group,” he says.
He adds that he plans to reveal more members of his team in the coming days.
Turkey says it will abide by refugee rules
A Turkish foreign ministry official says his country will abide by international rules governing refugee rights and cooperate with the UN refugee agency when implementing a deal reached with the European Union on taking back migrants.
The official also says that European nations won’t “pick and choose” the Syrian refugees that they will take from Turkey according to religion or educational status, saying priority will be given to Syrians with special needs as identified by the refugee agency.
Turkey and the EU struck a deal in Brussels last week under which irregular migrants who arrive in Greece will be returned to Turkey, and the EU will take an equal number of Syrians who are currently staying in refugee camps in Turkey.
Some 25 officials from Turkey’s migration authority had been sent to five Greek islands to help prepare for the return of the irregular migrants to Turkey, the official said.
The official requested anonymity in line with Turkish government rules.
UN ceases migrant transfers to sealed Lesbos camp
The UN refugee agency says it will no longer transfer newly-arrived migrants on Lesbos to a camp on the island, after Greece began to confine them to the facility as part of the EU-Turkey deal.
The Moria camp, which was visited by Hollywood star and UN refugee agency envoy Angelina Jolie last week, has now been sealed and migrants transferred there are “not allowed to go out,” says a spokesman.
The UNHCR, which has a policy of not working in sealed camps, will scale back there and only monitor it to identify and assist the most vulnerable migrants, including unaccompanied minors.
Previously migrants at the camp were free to move around the island, despite a heavy police presence in the area.
Spokesman for the UN High Commissioner Refugee Agency Boris Cheshirkov says: “We have taken a principled decision to disengage from transportation operations from the shoreline and the port to the closed facility of Moria.”
He adds that the “majority” of migrants and refugees in Lesbos before Sunday “had left the island” to reception facilities on mainland Greece.
Bill to banish terrorists’ families presented to Knesset
A proposal that would allow Israel to expel the families of terrorists from Israel to the Gaza Strip, or abroad, is being fast-tracked through the Knesset after being officially presented as a bill.
The bill will be debated by the Knesset House Committee on Wednesday.
Committee chair MK Davi Bitan from Likud says the bill was OK’d by the Justice Ministry and will now be sped through the Knesset’s legislative process.
The bill has garnered support from Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, as well as from Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and fellow party member Yaakov Peri, a former Shin Bet security agency chief.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also in favor of the bill, and has directed Attorney General Amichai Mandelblit to examine its legality. Mandelblit has said, in the past, that the bill could contravene international law.
Regime negotiator: Assad’s fate still ‘excluded’ from Syria peace talks
Syria’s regime reiterates its stance that peace talks in Geneva will not address President Bashar al-Assad’s future, after the UN urged Damascus to submit plans for political transition.
“President Assad has nothing to do with the… talks,” lead government negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari tells journalists.
Jaafari insists that political transition in the war-ravaged country and Assad’s fate are “two separate issues. The references of our talks do not give any indication whatsoever with regard to the president of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he says.
Assad’s future “is something that is already excluded from the scene,” Jaafari adds, following his meeting with United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura.
The main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has made Assad’s departure a non-negotiable demand before any peace deal can be made.
De Mistura has described political transition as “the mother of all issues” standing in the way of a breakthrough, but has not directly addressed the Assad question.
De Mistura on Friday said he has been urging the regime to submit concrete proposals for its vision of a transition government that could lead Syria out of five years of brutal conflict.
Jaafari counters that his side has given the UN a document addressing principles for a political solution to the conflict.
Nasrallah rules out imminent war with Israel
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah says he does not expect a large-scale military conflict with Israel in the near future.
“I rule out an Israeli attack or war against Lebanon in the near future,” Nasrallah says in an interview with the Lebanese news site al-Mayadeen.
“Israel does not wage any attack without US approval,” he says.
Trump denies knowledge of rally pastor saying Sanders needs to ‘meet Jesus’
Republican front-runner Donald Trump says he is not aware of comments made by a pastor at a Trump rally calling for Jewish Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders to convert to Christianity.
Answering a question on the comments at a press conference before his address to the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby conference, Trump said: “I didn’t hear anything about it. I don’t know anything about his religious beliefs, honestly, but I will find out.”
Pastor Mark Burns was speaking to rally-goers while waiting for Trump to arrive at the event in Hickory, North Carolina, last week.
After calling for Clinton to “go to jail,” he turned to Sanders, the Jewish, independent, self-described “socialist” senator from Vermont.
“Bernie Sanders who doesn’t believe in God, how in the world we gonna let Bernie — I mean, really?” Burns said.
“Listen, Bernie gotta get saved. He gotta meet Jesus. He gotta have a comin’-to-Jesus meeting.”
Trump says Jewish son-in-law’s ‘friends from Israel’ helped write AIPAC speech
Donald Trump names his son-in-law as the chief adviser in preparing his address to the pro-Israel AIPAC conference tonight.
When asked who helped him write the speech, Trump answered: “My son-in-law Jared,” referring to the husband of his daughter Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner.
“He’s here. He’s coming to AIPAC,” Trump said. “Jared spoke to many of his friends from Israel and we put it together with a lot of great people.”
Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism in 2009 before marrying Jared Kushner, an observant Jew.
Nasrallah says Israelis scared of war with Hezbollah
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah says Israelis are too scared to engage Hezbollah in a large-scale military conflict knowing the damage and loss of life the Lebanese terror group will cause.
“Any Israeli war on Lebanon would be an uncalculated adventure,” he says in an interview with al-Manar TV. “The cost is very important for Israel regarding the casualties and the psychological and economic repercussions. Through its readiness, expertise, military skills and stance, the resistance has made the Israelis realize that any war on Lebanon will be very costly and that they must balance between feasibility and cost.”
Nasrallah says that Hezbollah is able to “exploit” Israel’s value for life in order to build up vast military stockpiles without the threat of an attack.
“The Israelis know that the resistance possesses effective missiles that can hit any point in occupied Palestine. We have a full list of targets in occupied Palestine, including nuclear reactors and biological research centers. We will not abide by any restrictions or red lines in the event of any war against Lebanon,” he warns.
Nasrallah says Syria not distracting Hezbollah
In an interview with al-Manar TV, Hassan Nasrallah says Hezbollah is capable of fighting in Syria while maintaining its activities on the Lebanese-Israel border.
“Some think that Hezbollah is preoccupied in Syria, but we have a team that is dedicated to the Israeli issue and everything the Israelis say,” he explains.
235 Columbia faculty members sign letter backing Israel ties
Columbia University faculty members sign a petition supporting the university’s ties with Israel and opposing divestment from companies that do business with it.
The letter is signed by some 235 professors and other faculty members. It comes in the wake of the establishment of Columbia University Apartheid Divest, which is calling on the university to “divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people,” according to the student newspaper, the Spectator.
“(I)t would not be just or principled to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by disengaging from Israel or from companies that do business with Israel,” the letter reads. “It would be unjust to blame only one side for this conflict, and unprincipled to single out Israel for this sanction, while maintaining ties with other nations that – unlike Israel – are undemocratic, repressive, and much less restrained in their use of force.
“For all these reasons, Columbia’s ties with Israel need to be preserved. While we recognize that the University trustees are responsible for deciding whether to divest from companies that do business in Israel, we write to express our support for these investments.”
The petition comes less than a month after 40 faculty members signed a petition urging the New York Ivy League school to divest from companies that “supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people.”
Republican presidential candidates to address AIPAC at evening session
The Republican presidential candidates are set to deliver speeches to the AIPAC policy conference during this evening’s plenary session.
Governor Jon Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will address the forum in separate addresses from 5:00 P.M. EST (11:00 P.M. Israel Time).
The Times of Israel liveblog will be covering the speeches from that time.
Dozens protest Trump, Israel at AIPAC conference
Several dozen protesters are gathering outside the Verizon Center in Washington protesting Donald Trump’s appearance at the largest pro-Israel advocacy conference.
Thousands of conference attendees file in for the evening session of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday as the protesters alternate between anti-Trump and anti-Israel chants.
“Dump Trump” some say. “Stop the Violence, Stop the Hate — Israel is an apartheid state,” others cry.
The protest is peaceful, and includes a person wearing an oversized Donald Trump head waving to the AIPAC attendees.
Trump is among four presidential contenders scheduled to speak at this year’s annual AIPAC conference.
John Kasich takes stage at AIPAC
Republican party candidate John Kasich says he has been involved with AIPAC since the 1980’s, and recalls his first trip to Israel.
Kasich says during his first trip, he spoke with Avital Sharansky, the wife of Natan Sharansky, who was at the time jailed in the Soviet Union. Kasich says upon his return to the US, he helped organize a rally in Washington demanding the release of Natan Sharansky.
Kasich stresses that he remains committed to upholding the special bond between Israel and the US. He says he will not only honor the connection between the two countries, but will work to expand ties.
The Republican party candidate says he had pushed the US to fund the Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as other military projects aimed at ensuring Israel’s safety.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has not turned its back on the US, unlike other allies in the region, Kasich continues.
He says that he shares Israel’s concerns about the Iranian regime and its nuclear program.
Kasich says he favors suspending nuclear deal with Iran
Kasich stresses that he is in favor of suspending the nuclear deal with Iran, in response to the regime’s recent missile tests. He adds that any further violations should warrant the reinstatement of sanctions on Iran. No amount of money will lead the US to put Israel’s security at risk, he says.
Kasich says that should he become president, his appointees will work tirelessly to assure Israel’s safety, and to block Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah influence in the region, as well as Iran’s.
He says he believes he can lead a coalition to defeat the Islamic state in the Middle East, and ill work to provide relief to Jordan, which has been struggling under the weight of an influx of Syrian refugees. The Republican party candidate says he will work to stop oil shipment from Libya, and help the Egyptian government fight insurgents in the Sinai peninsula.
Kasich says finally, after their mission is complete, he will bring American troops in Afghanistan home.
He stresses that he will fight for Jewish students’right to speak without fear on campus, and to defend Israel.
Kasich condemns the Palestinians for a recent wave of terror attacks on Israeli civilians. If they truly want peace, the Palestinians must prove stop promoting a culture of violence and hate, he says. He demands that all Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, otherwise their cannot be peace.
Jerusalem is Israel’s ‘eternal capital,’ Kasich says
Kasich says allegiance to America comes before party politics, adding that he will work towards promoting US interests rather than Republican interests.
“I will not take the low road” to the White House, he says.
Israel will be the bedrock partner for the US in the Middle East, Kasich says, adding that Jerusalem is the Jewish state’s “eternal capital.”
House Speaker Ryan: My first trip as speaker will be to Israel
House Speaker Paul Ryan, the third in line to the presidency, takes the podium at AIPAC and vows that “My first trip as Speaker of the House, my first trip will be to return to Israel.”
He promises to keep Israel and the relationship safe from his perch at the House of Representatives.
“I can pledge to you here tonight that as long as I am Speaker of the House we will not allow any legislation that divides our countries to come to the floor for any consideration.”
Congress is no small part of the US-Israel relationship, he notes. Congress gave the emergency funding for Iron Dome in 2014, he notes, and “every penny of our security commitments” were funded within weeks of his own taking over of the speakership.
“It is actions and deeds that build trust. America is not safer when we back away from Israel. America is safer when we stand with Israel.”
In a veiled criticism of the Obama White House, the former Republican VP candidate against Obama tells the 18,000 delegates in DC: “My colleagues and I will do everything we can to strengthen our friendships not just with words but with concrete achievements. No taking friendships for granted, no leaving them in the lurch. A friend is a priority.”
‘We were the first country to recognize Israel,’ says Ryan
House Speaker Ryan: “In 1948, we were the first country to recognize Israel just minutes after she declared her independence. The first country!”
And there’s a reason, he argues. “Both the cold war and the world war told us that free countries are safer when they stand together.”
Ryan: ‘Israel is first target of terrorists, US is ultimate target’
Ryan: “When it comes to the fight against terrorism, our interests are one and the same. For the terrorists Israel is the first target and we are the ultimate target. And you know why that is? Because we share the same values. Israel is the lone democracy in a sea of dictatorial regimes. Israel doesn’t fund terrorism in other countries, but it does help the NY Police Department in our country. Pretty profound.”
House Speaker Ryan criticizes Obama over ‘terrible’ nuclear deal
House Speaker Ryan turns to explicitly criticizing President Obama.
“I think this administration understands that we need our allies, but it fails to understand what our allies need. They need more than vague assurances that we have their back. I say this to bring clarity to the situation we are facing. I think this is the most fundamental misunderstanding that undermines our security.”
“Exhibit A is the Iran deal. I think it was a terrible deal. Worst in our lifetime. Not since 1939 have we seen horrible foreign policy like this Iran deal. Because of this deal, our friends in the Middle East are losing faith in us, or at least in our judgment. Iran got billions of dollars in sanctions relief, and in exchange for what? For taking apart some, not all of its nuclear program, and then in 10-15 years all those limits expire? In other words, they get something for essentially nothing. It was a steal, and that’s even if they don’t cheat.
“Look, we all wanted the negotiations to succeed, but we were supposed to get something out of it. It’s fine to negotiate with our enemies, but not at our friends’ expense. That doesn’t make us safer. And I don’t think it’s an accident that every few months we hear of Iran testing another ballistic missile.”
He finishes the point by criticizing those who criticized AIPAC for vociferously opposing the deal. “If anyone questions your right to petition your government, we stand with you.”
US should be ‘clear’ on opposing BDS, House speaker says
“We can and must be clear” on opposing BDS through Congressional efforts to prevent boycotting and singling out of Israel, House Speaker Paul Ryan tells AIPAC.
“You’re probably thinking, what does a guy from Janesville, Wisconsin care about Israel?” Ryan quips as he winds down his speech. “There’s actually a vibrant Jewish community in Wisconsin, and every one of them is a die-hard Packers fan,” he explains, a reference to the Green Bay, Wisconsin football team.
“There’s also a strong pro-Israel community in Wisconsin, from both parties. This isn’t just some constituency to me. These are my friends, my neighbors.”
Trump declares he’s a ‘lifelong friend of Israel’
Donald Trump ascends the podium at AIPAC’s Policy Conference.
“I speak to you today as a lifelong friend of Israel. I’m a newcomer to politics, but not to supporting the Jewish state.”
“In the spring of 2004, I was the grand marshal of the Israel Day Parade, the largest gathering in support of the Jewish state. It was a very dangerous time for Israel, and frankly, for supporters of Israel. Many people declined the honor. I didn’t.”
Trump ‘didn’t come here to pander to you about Israel’
Trump tells AIPAC: “I didn’t come here tonight to pander to you about Israel. This is what politicians do. All talk and no action. I came to speak to you about where I stand.”
But then he calls Israel America’s “strategic ally, unbreakable friendship and cultural brother, the only democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel.”
Trump: ‘My no. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran’
Trump turns to Iran:
“My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran. This deal is catastrophic for Israel, for the Middle East. The problem here is fundamental. We rewarded the world’s number-one sponsor of terror with $150 billion and gotten nothing in return.”
“I’ve studied this issue in greater detail, greater by far than anyone else,” he proclaims, drawing loud guffaws throughout the Verizon Center basketball stadium. “Believe me,” he insists.
“The biggest concern isn’t that Iran will violate it, as you know it has. The biggest problem is that it can keep the deal and run out the clock, and keep the billions and billions of dollars.”
Trump: ‘We will totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network’
At AIPAC, Trump promises to do three things about Iran.
“First, we will stand against Iran’s attempt to dominate the region.
“Iran is a problem in Iraq, a problem in Syria, a problem in Yemen, and will be a very major problem in Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah in Lebanon has received sophisticated anti-ship rockets like few other people or states. In Gaza, Iran supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the West Bank they’re openly offering Palestinians $7,000 per terror attack and $30,000 for every Palestinian terrorist’s home that is destroyed.”
“We will totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network, which is big and powerful, but not powerful like us. Iran has seeded terror all over the world…in 25 different countries on five continents. Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world, and we will work to dismantle that reach. Believe me. Believe me.”
Finally, “at the very least, we must enforce the terms of the previous deal to hold Iran accountable, and will enforce it like you’ve never seen a contract enforced, folks. Believe me.”
Iranian missile tests ‘demented,’ Trump says
“Iran has already test-fired ballistic missiles three times,” Trump tells AIPAC.
“Painted on the missiles in both Hebrew and Farsi, it says, ‘Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth.’ Well, forget that. What kind of demented minds write that in Hebrew?”
Trump rails against ‘utter weakness’ of UN — and Obama
Trump turns to “the utter weakness and incompetence of the United Nations.
“The UN is not a friend to democracy, not a friend to freedom, not a friend to the US where it has its home, and surely not a friend to Israel.”
He bashes Obama explicitly: “With President Obama in his final year – yay” – a mixture of clapping and booing ensues, so he doubles down – “he may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, and you know it, you know it better than anybody.”
And returns to his speech, railing against an “attempt to bring an agreement on peace between Israel and Palestine. Let me be clear: an agreement imposed by the United Nations will be a total and complete disaster. The US must oppose this resolution and use the power of veto, which I will use as president, 100%.”
A Trump White House won’t treat Israel ‘like a second-class citizen’
At AIPAC, Trump recalls the stabbing death of American tourist and West Point graduate Taylor Force in a Jaffa terror attack last week, and says, “you don’t reward behavior like that. You have to confront that.”
He turns to the peace process. “The US can be useful as a facilitator of negotiations, but nobody can tell Israel it must abide by a deal created by others thousands of miles away that don’t really know” the situation in the region.
“Israel has been trying to sit down at the negotiating table for years,” he affirms. “In 2000, Prime Minister Barak made an offer and Arafat rejected it. In 2008, Prime Minister Olmert made an offer and it was rejected.”
In 2014, when the US sought to advance its own framework for peace talks, “the Palestinians never even responded.
“When I become president,” he vows, “the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one.”
Trump: I will meet Netanyahu ‘immediately’ when I’m president
Trump promises that “when I become president, I will meet Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately.”
He’s known Netanyahu for many years, and considers him a “friend,” he adds.
Palestinian society lionizes terrorists, and that prevents peace, Trump says
“In Palestinian society, the heroes are killers of Jews. Glorifying terrorists is a tremendous barrier to peace. That will end and it will end soon, believe me,” Trump tells AIPAC.
“Palestinian textbooks and mosques” foster a “culture of hatred.”
On that point, “there is no moral equivalency.” Israel does not fund or encourage terror, Trump says.
On a tangent, Trump seems to end every point with “believe me,” consistently enough to make it a kind of punctuation dividing subjects. It suggests he wants mightily to be believed by AIPAC’s 18,000 delegates.
Trump: Obama and Clinton ‘have treated Israel very, very badly’
“What President Obama constantly gets wrong about dealmaking is that he constantly puts pressure on our friends and rewards our enemies,” Trump tells AIPAC.
That mistake involves “former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” he adds, “who is a total disaster, by the way. She and President Obama have treated Israel very, very badly.”
Trump: We will move US embassy to Jerusalem
Trump tells AIPAC “we will move the American Embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” if he is president.
Cruz takes the podium: Palestine hasn’t existed since 1948
Texas Senator and Republican candidate Ted Cruz takes the podium at the AIPAC Policy Conference.
“Palestine has not existed since 1948,” he says at the start of his comments, referring to “another speaker” – Trump – who mentioned “Palestine” in his remarks.
Cruz: Taylor Force’s death shows US, Israel together in the fight against terror
Cruz, a Texas senator, tells AIPAC that “the brutal murder” last week in Jaffa “of Taylor Force, a Texan, is a reminder that America and Israel are in the fight together against radical Islamic terrorism.”
Cruz goes after Hillary Clinton for allegedly defending Hamas
Cruz bashes Hillary Clinton for allegedly defending Hamas’s placing of rockets in schools.
“Madame Secretary, with all due respect…Hamas are terrorist monsters using children as human shields.”
Cruz recalls multiple legislative initiatives he sponsored or supported that helped Israel.
Cruz vows to ‘rip Iran nuclear deal to shreds’
“As president, I will lead very, very differently to the current administration,” Cruz tells AIPAC.
“My leading Republican opponent” – Trump – “says he will be neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let me be clear, as president I will not be neutral. America will stand unapologetically with Israel.”
“On my first day in office I will rip this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal to shreds.”
Cruz goes after Iran nuclear deal, vows to shoot down Iranian missiles
Cruz tells AIPAC delegates that the Iran nuclear deal “gives over $100 billion to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism, dwarfing the $3 billion we give to Israel.
“In a mockery of this Iranian nuclear deal, Iran continues launching missile tests, including one that said in Farsi and Hebrew that Israel will be wiped off the map.
“Hear my words, Ayatollah Khamenei, if I am president and Iran launches a missile test, we will shoot that missile down.
“On January 17, there will be a commander in chief who says, either you will shut down your nuclear program, or I will shut it down for you.”
Cruz: I will move embassy to Jerusalem. Really.
Cruz, too, vows to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
“On my very first day in office, I will begin the process of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital of Israel.”
He knows it’s a repeating refrain at AIPAC: “I recognize for years a whole bunch of presidential candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, have said that. Some have said that standing here today. Here’s the difference: I will do it.”
Cruz vows to strip Israel boycotters of access to federal funds
Cruz vows as president to tackle BDS and the delegitimization of Israel.
“Anyone who supports the BDS movement, including schools and colleges, will lose access to federal funding,” he promises. And if the boycotts of Israel are illegal, “they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“All of us here understand that Israel is not the barrier to peace. It is the Palestinian Authority and its so-called unity government with Hamas, and which incites terror attacks,” he explains.
Cruz leaves the stage, presidential candidate plenary concludes
Cruz leaves the stage, concluding the plenary of presidential candidates at AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington, and this liveblog.