Israel source of secret intelligence Trump gave to Russians — report
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Israel source of secret intelligence Trump gave to Russians — report

'Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States,' Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer says

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

  • President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
    President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  • National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC on May 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Olivier Douliery)
    National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC on May 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Olivier Douliery)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot addresses the Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, which is partially made up ultra-Orthodox soldiers, near where they are stationed outside Ramallah, on May 16, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot addresses the Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, which is partially made up ultra-Orthodox soldiers, near where they are stationed outside Ramallah, on May 16, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine 'Rahav' at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
    IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine 'Rahav' at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
  • From left, Fares al-Umari, Muhammad Masri and Mahmoud Luisi, who are charged with planning to carry out shooting attacks against IDF soldiers in the Negev desert on behalf of the Islamic Movement. (Shin Bet)
    From left, Fares al-Umari, Muhammad Masri and Mahmoud Luisi, who are charged with planning to carry out shooting attacks against IDF soldiers in the Negev desert on behalf of the Islamic Movement. (Shin Bet)
  • A handout photo made available by the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 10, 2017 shows US President Donald J. Trump (C) speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC. (HO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP)
    A handout photo made available by the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 10, 2017 shows US President Donald J. Trump (C) speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC. (HO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with newly appointed US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, May 16, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with newly appointed US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, May 16, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Iraq forces say they recaptured over 90% of Mosul

Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly 90 percent of west Mosul from the Islamic State group after retaking the city’s eastern side earlier this year, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

An Iraqi-modified T-72M tank belonging to the pro-government Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces advances towards the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Hatra, southwest of the northern city of Mosul, during an offensive to retake the area from Islamic State (IS) group fighters, on April 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
An Iraqi-modified T-72M tank belonging to the pro-government Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces advances towards the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Hatra, southwest of the northern city of Mosul, during an offensive to retake the area from Islamic State (IS) group fighters, on April 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

IS still controls “10.5 percent of… the right bank,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, told a news conference in Baghdad, referring to west Mosul.

— AFP

Israeli, Italian cyclists honor champ who saved Jews during Holocaust

Italian and Israeli cyclists are paying tribute to Gino Bartali, an Italian cycling champion who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust and in 2013 was recognized as a Righteous Among Nations.

Gino Bartali in 1938 (photo credit: CC BY Wikipedia)
Gino Bartali in 1938 (CC BY Wikipedia)

Bartali, who died in 2000, smuggled Resistance messages and false documents for Jews hidden in his bicycle frame when riding through central Italy, supposedly as part of his training schedule.

In Florence, members of the Israel Cycling Academy, Israeli’s first professional cycling team, join the Mayor of Florence, city council members, and Jewish representatives at a commemorative ceremony before retracing one of Bartali’s routes – the 190 kilometers, or nearly 120 miles, from Florence to Assisi. It was the second year in a row the Israeli team commemorated Bartali in this way.

Italy’s annual Giro d’Italia cycling race – which marks its 100th edition this year – will start the day’s ride on Wednesday from a cycling museum dedicated to Bartali in his birthplace, Ponte a Ema, just outside Florence.

Bartali won the Giro d’Italia, which follows a route in stages around the country, three times.

— JTA

Intel to pay taxes from Mobileye deal in US dollars

Intel Corp. will be allowed to pay taxes derived from its $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye in US dollars if the sale is finalized, the Bank of Israel says, in an effort to prevent an impact on the exchange rate and an “overappreciation” of the shekel.

The matter was decided jointly by Israel’s Tax Authority, the Department of the Accountant General and the Bank of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (third from left) meets with Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich (to his left) and Mobileye founders Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram , respectively first left and first right; (Courtesy: Haim Zach, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (third from left) meets with Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich (to his left) and Mobileye founders Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram , respectively first left and first right; (Courtesy: Haim Zach, GPO)

According to estimates, Israel is scheduled to get some $1 billion -$1.5 billion in tax revenues from Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based developer of advanced vision and driver assistance systems.

The US giant said in March it had entered into an agreement to buy Mobileye in an effort to position itself as a leading technology player in the fast-growing self-driving car market.

— Shoshanna Solomon

Trump defends giving classified info to Russia

US President Donald Trump takes to Twitter to defend his controversial decision to give classified intelligence information to Russia.

According to Trump, he has “the absolute right to do” so and shared the information in order to encourage Russia to “greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

According to revelations in the Washington Post Monday, off-the-cuff disclosures by Trump to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, last Wednesday may have jeopardized an important source of intelligence on the Islamic State terror group.

According to US officials, Trump’s revelations endangered cooperation with a US ally that is reported to have access to the workings of the Islamic State terror group.

Kremlin says Trump allegedly divulging secrets ‘nonsense, not an issue’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the issue of US President Donald Trump allegedly divulging state secrets to Russia is not worth confirming or denying, calling it “nonsense.”

“For us it is not an issue, it’s more nonsense,” Peskov says when asked about the Washington Post report that Trump shared highly classified information during a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “It’s not an issue for confirming or denying,” Peskov adds.

His comments were made minutes before Trump confirmed the reports on Twitter.

— with AFP

Ethiopia activist guilty of terror for Facebook posts critical of government

A judge in Ethiopia’s capital finds a former opposition spokesman guilty of encouraging terrorism with a series of anti-government Facebook posts.

Yonatan Tesfaye was arrested in December 2015 after writing on the social media platform that the government had used “force against the people instead of using peaceful discussion with the public.”

Judge Belayhun Awol ruled the comments “exceeded freedom of expression” and amounted to encouraging terrorism.

The guilty verdict for “encouragement of terrorism” means Yonatan faces a possible sentence of between 10 and 20 years under the country’s anti-terrorism laws, which have been criticized by rights groups and Ethiopia’s allies, such as the United States, for being used to stifle dissent.

“I think the government’s intent and what it seeks is this: to restrict others from speaking freely,” Yonatan’s lawyer Shebru Belete Birru told AFP after the verdict.

— AFP

David Friedman arrives at PMO for first working meeting with Netanyahu

Newly appointed US ambassador to Israel David Friedman arrives at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem ahead of his first working meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Before arriving at the PMO he met with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

Earlier, Friedman presented his letter of credence to President Reuven Rivlin, officially taking up his post as US ambassador to Israel.

Daniel Friedman, the incoming US ambassador to Israel, presents his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin during a ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
Daniel Friedman, the incoming US ambassador to Israel, presents his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin during a ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

“As you know, the president has chosen Israel as the site for his first international visit. His love for and commitment to the State of Israel is rock-solid and it enjoys his highest priority,” he said during a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Friedman, an observant Jew from Long Island, New York, landed with his wife and daughter at Ben Gurion Airport Monday afternoon and headed directly to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. His arrival comes amid ongoing speculation over the US administration’s intention to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu meets Friedman, welcomes him to ‘Jerusalem, our eternal capital’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with newly appointed US ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

“It’s a joy to see you and to welcome you to Jerusalem, our eternal capital,” Netanyahu says, in a veiled reference to reports that US President Donald Trump does not intend to honor a campaign promise and move the US embassy to the city, according to a readout of their meeting released by the PMO.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with newly-appointed US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, May 16, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with newly appointed US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, May 16, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

“I know you visited the Western Wall, which we all appreciate,” the prime minister adds, calling it a “great display of solidarity.”

“There is no other place I would go,” Friedman replies.

The two agreed to work together to continue to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States, the statement says.

Shin Bet breaks up Islamic Movement terror cell

The Shin Bet security service says it broke up a cell of Arab Israeli men from the Islamic Movement who were planning to carry out shooting attacks against IDF soldiers.

According to the Shin Bet, the three men in the cell began plotting the attack in November 2015 in response to Israel’s decision to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

They put together their plan throughout 2016, purchasing a Carlo-style improvised submachine gun and electronic transmitters to set off explosives from afar, the Shin Bet says.

Two of them — Muhammad Masri of Beersheba and Abdullah Abu Ayyash of Kuseife — were arrested in December 2016. The third member of the cell, Mahmoud Luisi of Qalansawe, wasn’t arrested until March 2017, as he had traveled to Turkey.

According to the Shin Bet, while in Turkey, Luisi met with members of Hamas in order to secure funds and training from the terrorist organization. He was picked up by the Shin Bet upon his return to Israel, the security service says.

The interrogations of the three members of the cell also led to the arrest of Fares al-Omari, a senior member of the Islamic Movement, as well as two unnamed men from the Galilee, who are suspected of illegally selling weapons.

Indictments have been filed against the suspects, the Shin Bet says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Denmark convicts jihadist teen of ‘attempted terror act’

A Danish court convicts a 17-year-old jihadist sympathizer of “attempting a terrorist act” by planning to carry out attacks on two schools with bombs made from over-the-counter products.

The Danish girl, whose name was not revealed, will receive her final sentence on Thursday. Under Danish law, attempting a “terror act” can lead to life imprisonment.

She was arrested last year in her home in a village 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Copenhagen, aged 15 at the time, after her family alerted the police about suspicious chemical experiments in the basement.

The court in the town of Holbaek said in a statement that investigators found “a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a bottle of citric acid, a bottle of acetone and a plastic tray with unknown liquid residues inside a metal bowl.” The chemicals were purchased at a Danish cosmetic chain store.

Experts said the ingredients she had gathered to produce the high explosive acetone peroxide (TATP) were not enough to build a dangerous bomb, but the court underlined her criminal intent and motivations in the ruling.

The girl, a Muslim convert, had written notes about planning to carry out attacks in both her former primary school in Farevejle and in a Jewish school in Copenhagen. She also wrote about her sympathies for the Islamic State group (IS) in her notes and tried to contact its leaders via Twitter.

— AFP

State watchdog: Jewish Home minister transferred millions to benefit his cronies

A state comptroller report accuses Jewish Home minister Uri Ariel of transferring millions of shekels, earmarked for poor towns in Israel’s rural areas, to nonprofit organizations run by his political confidants during his tenure as housing minister.

The report urges Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to probe the case.

According to State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, in 2013-2014, Ariel surrounded himself with the leaders of various housing organizations and lobbyists who, while not employed by the ministry, were repeatedly misrepresented on ministry documents as official representatives.

Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Those figures were actively involved in revising a government development plan for their own benefit to apply to all of Israel, rather than solely to poorer areas as was originally intended, the report said. Ministry employees were not included in the reformulation of the plan, known as Resolution 741, it says.

At their prodding, Ariel budgeted millions of shekels to middle- to upper-class areas in Tel Aviv and its suburbs, where the nonprofit organizations were situated, the report says.

— Marissa Newman

7 Anglo immigrants awarded Nefesh B’Nefesh prize for contributions to Israel

Seven immigrants to Israel from English-speaking countries are to be awarded the 2017 Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize.

The $10,000 prizes announced today are awarded to English-speaking immigrants who have made a major contribution the State of Israel. The prizes will be awarded at an official ceremony at the Knesset at the end of June.

The honorees are:

• Professor Benjamin W. Corn, head of the Institute of Radiotherapy at Ichilov Hospital in the field of Science & Medicine

• Beth Steinberg, director and co-founder of ShutafInclusion Programs and artistic director and co-founder of Theater in the Rough in the field of Community & Non-Profit

• Rabbi Chaim Brovender, founder and rosh yeshiva of WebYeshiva.org in the field of Education

• Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor and Professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University in the field of Israel Advocacy

• Yoram Raanan, contemporary Jewish artist in the field of Culture, Art & Sports.

In addition, Lifetime Achievement Awards were announced for Professor Alice Shalvi for decades of inspiring contributions in shaping the status of women in Israel through education and advocacy; and Professor Eliezer Jaffe for his accomplishments in nonprofit and philanthropic giving, raising awareness and support for Israeli citizens in need.

A Young Leadership Prize also was awarded to Captain Libby Weiss, head of the Social Media Department in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, and to Scott Neiss, founder and executive director of the Israel Lacrosse Association.

— JTA

Uri Ariel denies comptroller recommended he be probed

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel denies that a state comptroller report has recommended a criminal investigation into his alleged transfer of millions of shekels, earmarked for poor towns in Israel’s rural areas, to nonprofit organizations run by his political confidants.

“The comptroller did not recommend opening a probe by the attorney general into the actions of the minister,” a statement put out by Ariel says.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel seen in Jerusalem Old City on March 6, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel seen in Jerusalem Old City on March 6, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The report, however, explicitly recommends an investigation into decisions made by Ariel.

“Then-housing minister Uri Ariel, who had personal relationships with the political associates and his advisers at the time, is responsible for the failures that were raised. The decision by the Housing Ministry and the Settlement Division to fund… groups whose members live in, and are active in, neighborhoods with a high socioeconomic status in central Israel, some of which don’t even qualify for Resolution 741, requires an examination by the attorney general,” the report said.

Notably, Ariel’s statement does not deny the allegations.

The minister “respects the findings of the comptroller and has already instructed the relevant authorities to act according to his recommendations,” the statement reads.

 

Netanyahu tells Friedman all embassies should move to Jerusalem

In their half-hour meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu and incoming US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman discussed “regional issues and diplomatic opportunities,” a senior Israeli official says.

The prime minister reiterated his position that all embassies should be in Jerusalem, including the American embassy in Tel Aviv, the official stresses.

— Raphael Ahren

US official who said Western Wall not in Israel could lose job — report

The American official who sniped at his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall, the holiest place for Jews to pray, is not part of Israel and not Israel’s responsibility is named in a TV report as David Berns, the political counselor at the US Consulate in Jerusalem. A second US official, the consulate’s economic counselor Jonathan Shrier, was also involved in the bitter diplomatic incident, which deteriorated into an angry shouting match, Channel 2 says.

The TV report says that Berns’s job might now be under threat, since the incident embarrassed the Trump administration ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel next week.

After publication of the remarks on Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office expressed its shock, sought clarifications from the White House, and said it did not believe the comments reflected Trump’s views.

Shortly afterwards, the White House told The Times of Israel that “The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president.”

Lapid calls for attack on Syrian crematorium

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid calls for Israel to attack the crematorium that Syrian President Bashar Assad is allegedly using to burn the bodies of executed political prisoners.

“We have to wipe that crematorium off the face of the earth,” Lapid writes in a Facebook post.

The party leader says Israel has a “moral responsibility to act when within striking distance of the IDF people are being burnt. We have to wipe that crematorium off the face of the earth.”

Lapid asks how the Jewish people can demand to know why the world did not target the Auschwitz or Mauthausen crematoria during the Holocaust, but not take action now.

“Why did the world know [what was happening], but not do anything? Well now we know, and we’re not doing anything,” he writes.

Truck thief breaks into army base while fleeing police

The IDF and police are chasing after a suspected truck thief who broke into an army base in central Israel after he saw that law enforcement was closing in on him, police say.

Earlier in the day, police received a call about a stolen truck in the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion.

A short while later, the officers came across the truck, which had been abandoned outside the army’s Tzrifin base nearby. During their search for the perpetrator, the police officers noticed a “suspicious man standing nearby,” a police spokesperson says.

As the officers approached, the suspect ran and “jumped into the base,” the police say.

The officers entered after him and are working alongside the base’s emergency response team to find the suspect, an army spokesperson says.

According to the military, the suspect is an Arab man.

“There’s no concern that this is anything terror-related,” the spokesperson says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Austria snap elections set for October 15

Austria’s snap election will be on October 15, party chiefs agreed on Tuesday after the centrist coalition collapsed, the Austria Press Agency reported.

The vote could see the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), whose candidate narrowly failed to be elected president in December, enter government.

— AFP

Police arrest couple suspected of murdering neighbor, cutting up his body

Police arrest a couple from Jerusalem suspected of “brutally” murdering their neighbor and disposing of his chopped-up body parts in order to hide the evidence of their crime, a police spokeswoman said Tuesday.

According to a statement from police spokeswoman Luba Samri, the couple — whose names are being held under gag order — had a running dispute with their neighbor, over which they planned to kill him. Channel 2 on Tuesday named the victim as 59-year-old Shlomo Sami Marciano and said that the suspects are Russian immigrants.

After murdering Marciano overnight Friday-Saturday, the couple cut up his body and placed it in bags, which they later buried in a hole in the communal garden in an attempt to cover their tracks, Samri says.

The police statement did not specify how Marciano was murdered, but police photos of the murder weapons showed knifes, an axe and a wrench, as well as other tools.

While disposing of Marciano’s body parts early Saturday morning, the couple were spotted by a pair of minors in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood where they live, who reported to police that they saw the couple wheeling a large black bag on a cart.

White House: Netanyahu won’t join Trump when he visits Western Wall

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not join US President Donald Trump when he visits the Western Wall during his trip to the region next week, the White House announces.

“No Israeli leader will join President Trump to the Western Wall,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster tells reporters during the daily press briefing.

Earlier this week, a US official doing advance work for the president’s trip reportedly told his Israeli counterparts that Netanyahu will not be allowed to accompany Trump when he visits one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

The senior American official reportedly told the Israeli official the Kotel is “not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.”

The White House promptly sought to distance themselves from that officials remarks.

“The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president,” a senior administration official told The Times of Israel.

White House announces details of Trump’s Israel trip

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster announces details of US President Donald Trump’s foreign travel plans next week, including parts of his schedule while in Israel.

McMaster says Trump will open his trip by laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

“The president will then deliver remarks at the Israel museum and celebrate the unique history of Israel and of the Jewish people, while reaffirming America’s unshakeable bond with our closest ally in the Middle East,” McMaster says, not mentioning a reported speech planned to be given at Masada.

Trump will also meet with Netanyahu and, along with his wife Melania, will join the prime minister and his wife Sarah for a private dinner, McMaster says.

“The president will meet President Abbas in Bethlehem where he will convey his administration’s eagerness to facilitate an agreement that ends the conflict. And he will urge Palestinian leaders to take steps that will help lead to peace,” he adds.

Trump will also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and say a prayer at the Western Wall “to highlight the need for unity among three of the world’s religions, unity in confronting a very grave threat to all of civilization, and unity in embracing an agenda of tolerance.”

Eisenkot praises contributions of ultra-Orthodox soldiers

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot praises the contributions of ultra-Orthodox soldiers and denounces the attacks on them by members of their communities during a visit with the Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, which is currently stationed near Ramallah.

The Netzah Yehuda Battalion is made up largely of religious soldiers, including many from the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, community.

The army chief denounces the violence that has been perpetrated against Haredi soldiers by members of their community, due to their opposition to military service.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot addresses the Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, which is partially made up ultra-Orthodox soldiers, near where they are stationed outside Ramallah, on May 16, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot addresses the Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, which is partially made up ultra-Orthodox soldiers, near where they are stationed outside Ramallah, on May 16, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

“We have to see an end to the phenomenon of soldiers being forced to change out of their IDF uniforms and into civilian clothes from fear of violence against them, and we have to use a firm hand against those that act violently towards IDF soldiers,” the army chief says.

Eisenkot says the battalion’s efforts is what “allow for others from the Haredi community to continue their Torah-driven daily routine.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Trump to visit Bethlehem

US President Donald Trump will meet Palestinian officials in the West Bank town of Bethlehem next week, after talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says.

McMaster tells reporters that, while in the Palestinian territories, Trump “will convey the eagerness to facilitate an agreement that ends the conflict and he will urge leaders to take steps that will help lead to peace.”

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

Stepping up hunger strike, Barghouti stops drinking water

Convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti reportedly stops drinking water in an attempt to escalate a month-long hunger strike being led by Palestinian security prisoners.

A report from the Palestinian Ma’an news agency quotes lawyer Khader Shqeirat of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs as saying that Barghouti’s decision to forgo water would mark “a new turning point in the ongoing open-ended hunger strike.”

The committee also says Israel is taking “a criminal stance regarding the just demands of prisoners,” which it said Barghouti refuses to negotiate or compromise over, according to Ma’an.

Palestinian activists stand around a 5x4 meter (16.5x13 feet) mosaic portrait of Marwan Barghouti near an Israeli military installation in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, May 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Palestinian activists stand around a 5×4 meter (16.5×13 feet) mosaic portrait of Marwan Barghouti near an Israeli military installation in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, May 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

According to Palestinian officials, 1,500 inmates have been refusing food since the strike being led by Barghouti began on April 17 to protest prison conditions. However, Israeli officials say only some 800 continue to refuse food and have dismissed the hunger strike as an attempt by Barghouti to show Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he still wields influence on the Palestinian street.

Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in deadly terror attacks on Israelis. He is seen as a possible successor to Abbas.

Trump to give speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia

US President Donald Trump will give a major speech on the Islamic faith during his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, home to the religion’s holiest shrines, the White House says.

“He will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, where he will deliver an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam,” National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster tells reporters.

— AFP

White House denies Trump caused ‘lapse in national security’

Donald Trump’s national security adviser denies the US president had caused a “lapse in national security” following reports he disclosed highly-classified information about the Islamic State group to Russian officials.

“The premise of that article is false, that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security,” National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster tells a White House briefing.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Asked about concerns Trump could have jeopardized US intelligence relationships by sharing with Russia information supplied by an ally, McMaster responds: “I’m not concerned at all. The conversation was wholly appropriate.”

He then revealed that Trump was not briefed on the source of the information shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

Senior US official: ‘We’ll move embassy, just give us time’ — report

A senior unnamed US official says that despite ongoing reports that Donald Trump plans to ignore a campaign pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, the move will happen, eventually.

“We’ll move embassy, just give us time,” the official says, according to Channel 2 news.

According to Haaretz, US officials told Israeli counterparts that even if Trump signs a waiver next month to prevent the embassy moving, he will carry out the promise to bring the embassy to Jerusalem by the end of his first term in office.

Ya’alon threatens: If Netanyahu isn’t indicted, I’ll tell all

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon threatens to “tell all” on Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged corruption if the prime minister is not indicted in the three corruption probes he or his associates are currently being investigated for.

“I knew about previous prime ministers that were corrupt for their own benefit, but it’s a completely different thing when a prime minister jeopardizes the interest of the country for his gain,” Ya’alon tells an interview on Channel 2.

Ya’alon — ousted as defense minister last year in part over disagreements with Netanyahu over the so-called submarine scandal, in which the prime minister’s personal lawyer allegedly swayed multi-billion shekel deals in favor of the German shipbuilder he represented in Israel — recently gave testimony in the probe known as “Case 3000” over his knowledge over efforts to purchase naval vessels from the German company ThyssenKrupp.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine 'Rahav' at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, then defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine ‘Rahav’ at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Police have opened an criminal investigation into the affair, but have stressed that the prime minister is not a suspect.

Netanyahu is however a criminal suspect in two other ongoing formal police investigations.

In “Case 1000,” police are investigating allegations that a number of businessmen gave lucrative gifts to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, over his years in office. Police are also investigating another case, known as “Case 2000,” in which Netanyahu is believed to have offered the publisher of Israel’s biggest-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth to reduce the impact of Yedioth’s pro-Netanyahu rival, Israel Hayom, in exchange for more favorable coverage. He denies any wrongdoing.

Asked if he thought the prime minister was guilty of corruption, Ya’alon said: “I have absolutely no doubt, no doubt what so over.”

He continued: “If he is not indicted, I will go on a speaking tour to tell all. I will reveal everything.”

Responding to the interview, sources close to the prime minister told Channel 2 news: “[Ya’alon’s] statements are utter garbage and completely void. His brazen lies will soon be exposed as such. It need not even been stated that the Justice Ministry published an official statement, in accordance with the state prosecutor and the attorney general, that the prime minister is not suspected of anything in ‘Case 3000.’ [Ya’alon] would be well advised to find another way for him to pass the electoral threshold.”

Ya’alon has announced that he will form his own political party to challenge Netanyahu’s Likud.

Israel source of secret intelligence Trump gave to Russians — report

The New York Times is reporting that Israel is the source of secret intelligence Trump gave to Russians.

Pushing back against allegations of damaging intelligence disclosures, Trump’s national security adviser insisted earlier that Trump’s revelations to Russian officials about the terrorist threat from the Islamic State group were “wholly appropriate” and amounted to a routine sharing of information.

Trump himself claimed the authority to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” and airline safety with Russia, saying in a pair of tweets he has “an absolute right” as president to do so. Trump’s tweets did not say whether he revealed classified information about IS, as published reports have said and as a US official told The Associated Press.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined a Times of Israel request to comment on the intelligence-sharing.

Israeli officials mum on reports Trump shared Israeli intelligence with Russia

According to the New York Times “a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information” says Israel was the source of the information shared by US President Donald Trump with Russia.

Israeli officials remain quiet on the reports.

“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer told the Times in a statement.

White House won’t confirm if Israeli intelligence was given to Russia

In a press briefing, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer says he cannot comment on the New York Times report that Israel was the country that provided intelligence Trump disclosed to Russian officials.

However, Spicer says he is “happy” that Israeli Ambassador to the United States offered a statement of support for the Trump administration, following the report.

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