The Times of Israel live blogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Orange CEO Richard in Israel for 2 days
French telecom group Orange says its boss Stephane Richard is heading to Israel for a two-day visit after his plans to review ties with a local firm sparked a boycott row.
Richard accepted an invitation from Israel to “clarify the misunderstanding” after he said last week in Cairo that Orange was going to withdraw its brand from the Jewish state.
His comments were seen as a reaction to a report accusing Orange of indirectly supporting settlement activity on territory the Palestinians say is occupied, through its relationship with Israel’s Partner Communications.
Israel reacted furiously, accusing him of bowing to a Palestinian-led boycott campaign.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the campaign to snub Israeli goods was aimed at the “elimination” of the Jewish state.
Richard quickly tried to limit the damage, insisting there was no political motivation and telling AFP at the weekend that he “sincerely regrets” the furor.
US expert says Iran deal is ‘flawed’
The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Flynn, says that the nuclear deal taking shape with Iran is full of flaws and there is no doubt Tehran is planning to build a nuclear weapon. According to Flynn, Iranian control of international monitors’ access to nuclear site and the Iranian demand that inspections be coordinated in advance makes monitoring the facilities impossible.
Israel Radio quotes Flynn as saying Iran’s pronouncements on its intention to destroy Israel are “very real” and added that if sanctions are removed they will not be reinstated.
“Once sanctions are lifted, the genie is out of the bottle; we’re going to see proliferation in the region because we’ve looked at this too narrowly,” he says.
Flynn and several other experts appeared before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
David Cooper, of the US Naval War College, said that the links between medium and long-range missiles and a nuclear payload are clear.
“At this moment, Iran is the only country in the world that says it has no nuclear weapons ambitions and yet has fielded an intermediate-range ballistic missile,” Cooper said.
Bible Lands Museum project aims at East Jerusalem tots
A Bible Lands Museum program to impact education of preschool toddlers brought thousands of students and hundreds of teachers from East Jerusalem to the museum this year.
The program, according to a statement from the museum, is one of the few projects in Jerusalem that focuses on preschoolers and their teachers from East Jerusalem and includes classroom visits as well as field trips.
The program was funded by the Bernard van Leer Foundation in the Netherlands, which gave the museum a grant covering five years. It is now going into its final year.
Amanda Weiss, director of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, says, “Children are our future and the teachers who participate in this conference and the Future Meets Past programs throughout the year, are the stewards and guardians of these children and therefore our best investment to improving the quality of life and education level of each child. We are very pleased to see the high level of interest and participation in this conference and the entire project.”
Syrian rebels say they downed regime jet
Syrian rebels say they succeeded in downing a Syrian army jet in the northeastern part of the country, Israel Radio reports.
In the south of the country, rebels took a Syrian Army airbase. State television denied both claims.
Austria also investigating spying during Iran talks
Austria is also investigating possible spying during nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, a spokesman says after Swiss authorities confirmed they were probing similar claims.
“Investigations are ongoing” regarding the Palais Coburg hotel, the location of numerous rounds of the talks including discussions this week, interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck tells AFP, confirming information from the Austria Press Agency.
Israeli delegation to go to DC ahead of Iran deal
An Israeli delegation headed by Yossi Cohen, the national security adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office, will arrive in Washington next week for a final round of talks with administration officials regarding the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Haaretz reports.
The official deadline for reaching a deal is the last day of June.
A senior Israeli official says Cohen will meet National Security Adviser Susan Rice at the White House, as well as officials heading the American negotiating team. The Israeli delegation, Haaretz reports, will include experts from the Department of National Security at the Prime Minister’s Office, from the Foreign Ministry and from Israel’s Commission on Atomic Energy.
According to the official, one of the delegation’s goals is to make a final effort to influence parts of the agreement which Israel perceives as flawed or in need of correction, as well as raise issues which Israel believes are not addressed by the agreement and deserve consideration.
Route 79 partially closed due to brush fire
Route 79, running roughly northwest from Nazareth to Haifa, is closed between the Reina junction and the Zechuchit junction due to a brush fire that broke out in the area.
Drivers are requested to use alternative roads.
Openly gay Seattle mayor to march in TA pride parade
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, an openly gay US career politician, will march tomorrow with his life partner at the Tel Aviv Pride Parade, Ynet reports.
The boycott against Israel is a serious mistake, Murray says, who arrived on his first visit to Israel as an official guest of the Foreign Ministry. US Ambassador Dan Shapiro will also be marching alongside Murray and his partner at the parade.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement tried to pressure Murray not to visit Israel. Gay anti-Israel activists accused Murray of collaborating with Israeli “propaganda” to exploit the country’s good treatment of the gay community in order to whitewash its bad treatment, as the activists define it, of the Palestinians; a type of criticism known in anti-Israel circles as “pinkwashing.”
Murray says he “hears” the voices calling to boycott Israel, but opposes them vehemently. He expresses his concern over the growing distance between Israel and young liberals in the US. Israel must work hard to brings these communities closer, Murray says, because the two countries have many values in common.
Spain passes law of return for Sephardic Jews
Spain’s lower house gives final approval to a law offering citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews.
Under the law approved Thursday, the Spanish daily El Pais reports, applicants are able to apply without traveling to Spain, as proposed in previous amendments which did not pass, but are required to hire a Spanish notary and pass tests on the Spanish language and history.
Applicants can study for the tests and take them at the facilities of the Cervantes Institute, a government entity that offers courses on Spanish culture and its language in over 20 countries, including Israel.
“The procedure for acquiring Spanish nationality regulated in this law will be electronic,” the law reads. “The request will be in Spanish and will be overseen by the General Directorate of Registrars and Notaries.”
In addition, candidates will need to apply to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, or FCJE, which will vet applications along with government officials, the amendment states. The law comes into effect in October and expires after three years, though it may be extended another year if deemed necessary.
Regev backtracks on threats against actor
Culture Minister Miri Regev walks back her threat against the Elmina Theater run by Israeli-Arab actor Norman Issa and his wife, Haaretz reports.
Regev on Tuesday published a post on Facebook where she threatened to remove state support from Issa’s theater because the actor said he would not perform in a Haifa Theater production of a play called “Boomerang” scheduled to take place in the Jordan Valley, beyond the Green Line.
In a meeting between representatives of a forum of cultural institutions, including theater managers, it was clarified, as Issa himself claimed two days ago, that there are agreements according to which performing artists who refuse to go on stage in certain venues cannot be forced to do so.
According to Haaretz, Issa agreed to come with his own troupe, the Elmina Theater, to perform in the Jordan Valley following a request from head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhiani who was quoted as saying, “I called the Elmina Theater this morning and said ‘come, let’s put politics aside – this is your theater’.” Elhiani says he “read on the [Haaretz] website that they are all for coexistence and these are the values they cherish – I invite them to us. We, as leaders – we have responsibility on the issue of coexistence and tolerance. In invited them to come and speak, to perform.”
His Elmina performance will “make up” for not acting in the production of “Boomerang” by the Haifa Theater. Regev was quoted as saying during the meeting “I gave him a ladder to climb down, and he used it.”
According to some of the representatives at the meeting with Regev, the whole scandal was “cooked” by the Haifa Theater trying to take revenge against Issa for leaving their permanent cast in favor of the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv.
Cornerstone laid at new solar field, one of largest ever
Megalim Solar Power holds a ceremony for laying the cornerstone of the western Negev’s Ashalim solar project, one of the largest of its kind in the world.
The field is expected to feed 320 GWh of electricity annually into Israel’s grid when it is completed in 2017. The project costs are in excess of NIS 3 billion ($800 million), with 80% of the funding provided by an Israeli banking syndicate led by Bank Hapoalim and the European Investment Bank.
The new power facility is part of the Ashalim solar complex, which includes two solar-thermal projects and one photovoltaic project. In total, these facilities are expected to produce about 2% of Israel’s electricity production capacity. They will support the country’s commitment to obtain 10% of the country’s electricity production from renewable sources by 2020.
CEO Richard visit Orange offices in Tel Aviv
French CEO of Orange Stephane Richard arrives at the French telecom’s lab in Tel Aviv, after Orange invites him to “clarify the misunderstanding” sparked by his remarks during a press conference in Cairo on June 3 in which he said the firm was planning to withdraw its brand from Israel.
Int’l Holocaust conference opens in Budapest
Some 200 delegates representing 31 countries attend a concert kicking off the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance conference in Budapest.
At the klezmer concert in the Dohany Street Synagogue, Janos Lazar, Hungary’s state secretary, says that Hungary “could not achieve what it did in the past centuries without our Jewish brothers.”
At the biannual four-day conference, delegates are discussing the Holocaust as a contemporary political issue.
Lazar pledges to find the names of the 600,000 Hungarians who perished in the Holocaust and place the names on the “memorial tree” in the synagogue’s courtyard or on the Memorial Wall at the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center.
He also reiterates a promise made earlier this year that the government’s planned Holocaust museum will not open until it is approved by Hungary’s Jewish community leaders. The museum has been criticized for omitting the culpability of Hungarians and focusing exclusively on the last year of the Holocaust, after most Hungarian Jews had already been deported.
An estimated 7,000 Holocaust survivors live in Hungary, which has a total Jewish population of more than 80,000.
Toronto bans Al-Quds Day rally
Ontario’s government denies permission to hold a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel rally on the grounds of the provincial legislature in Toronto.
The legislature’s sergeant-at-arms denies the permit request for the July 17 or July 18 rally on the grounds of the legislative buildings, known as Queen’s Park, the Canadian Jewish News reports, citing a statement issued on Wednesday by B’nai B’rith Canada.
A B’nai B’rith Canada petition calling on the legislature to deny the request garnered 3,000 signatures.
In a letter to a Toronto legislator saying no permit will be issued, the sergeant-at-arms cites the city’s impending Pan Am Games and Parapan Games as the reasons, according to the Canadian Jewish News.
“Although the Sergeant-at-Arms’ decision this year is tied to considerations regarding the Pan Am and Parapan American Games in Toronto, he must go further and take this opportunity to declare that permits for divisive hate-rallies will no longer be issued in the future,” B’nai B’rith Canada says in a statement.
Global Al-Quds Day rallies were established in 1979 by the government of Iran to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and denounce Israel’s existence.
Past Al-Quds Day rallies at Queen’s Park featured speakers and protesters labeling Jews and Israelis as “inhuman” and “sadistic,” and calling for a two-minute warning before Israelis should be shot. The latter remark prompted a police investigation.
Protesters also have waved flags and symbols of Hezbollah, which is banned in Canada as a terrorist organization.
Physicians would not be forced to implement force-feeding
Security prisoners are threatening a hunger strike beginning at the end of Ramadan, Channel 2 reports.
Ramadan this year begins in a week, on June 18 and ends on July 16.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is considering pushing legislation that would allow prison guards to force-feed, the station reports.
According to the report, the law would not be uniquely implemented on Palestinian security prisoners but on all prisoners conducting hunger strike.
The state would not take sanctions against physicians refusing to implement the force-feeding process, Channel 2 reports.
“Just as prison guards are expected to stop prisoners who are in danger of self-harming,” the report quotes sources in the ministry, “so they would prevent prisoners self-harming by starving themselves.”
Force-feeding bill follows mass hunger strike warning
The force-feeding bill passed a first reading in the past Knesset but did not progress past this stage to a second and third reading before passage.
According to the report, Erdan asked the Knesset Secretariat to bring the bill to a second and third reading. The procedure is pending approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and according to Channel 2, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked signaled that she would try to get the committee to approve.
The Israel Prisons Service says that at present, four prisoners are refusing to eat, and that after the month-long Ramadan holiday, an extensive hunger strike may start. The IPS says it does not have the capability of handling large numbers of hunger-striking prisoners.
According to the revised draft of the bill, a procedure to force-feed a prisoner would require approval from a district court presiding judge or their deputy, and the prisoner in question would have the right to defend their decision through a lawyer.
“I will promote the bill and not let [prisoners] harm the security of the state or succumb to any threats. This is also a humane issue. Just as I expect a prison guard who sees a prisoner trying to hurt themselves to prevent it – we must also prevent a risk of death by hunger-striking,” Erdan said according to Channel 2.
US bill wants to put breaks on unilateral PA moves
Over White House objections, a House panel approves a bill that withholds hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department until it produces more documents to lawmakers investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
The bill provides money for embassy security and assistance to countries, including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Ukraine. It also funds democracy programs; international broadcasting; and Central America’s efforts to address the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children that have come to the United States during the past year. It also states that the Palestinian Authority will not receive economic aid if it continues to pursue unilateral efforts at the United Nations and other international organization outside of a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.
A large part of the bill calls for the publication of emails exchanged by then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton which were sent from a private server. Clinton was accused of hiding some evidence by deleting some of the emails.
Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that handles State Department spending, tried unsuccessfully to remove the punitive provision from the bill, but her amendment failed.
“The proposed 15 percent cut to the State Department’s operating funds if officials don’t feed the sham investigation of Benghazi is simply atrocious,” said Lowey, who accused Republicans of trying to “profit politically” from the tragedy in Benghazi.
IDF opens 3 probes into Protective Edge incidents
Three more investigations related to incidents that took place during Operation Protective Edge will open soon, Army Radio reports.
Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni instructs Investigative Military Police to investigate the three cases, of which the most significant is an IDF attack in which nine Palestinians were killed in a café on the beach at Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
The two other incidents include one case where soldiers are suspected of beating a Palestinian unjustifiably and suspicions that the IDF fired at a Palestinian medical clinic in violation of the laws of war.
Hezbollah says Israel’s concern for Druze of Syria ‘hypocritical’
A report in Hezbollah mocks Israeli reports of the plight of the Druze residents of Syria, saying that “Israel’s concern to the Druze people in Syria is hypocritical, and Israel is doing everything in its power to arm the ‘rebel terrorists,’ especially in the south of Syria.” The comment was aired on Al Manar, a Hezbollah-affiliated TV network.
Likud member Ayoub Kara, Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation and a member of the Druze community, dismisses the comment, calling it “nonsense they publish in an effort to generate conflict.”
Speaking to NRG, a Hebrew news website, Kara says that he is “committed to doing everything to assist the Druze living in Syria. This is a human tragedy and we must help them like we would any person from any nationality or religion who was in trouble.”
Last week, Kara revealed that “Israel is working for the Druze in Syria. This is done quietly, with no publicity. We cannot sit idly by as our brothers are massacred,” he said.
Army closes probe into death of 4 kids on Gaza beach
The office of the Military Advocate General closes an Investigative Military Police investigation into an incident in which four children were killed on the shoreline of the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge. The investigation was closed after the advocate’s office decided there was no reason to suspect the soldiers who carried out the strike broke the laws of war.
The incident was one of the infamous incidents during the campaign. It was not initially clear whether the shell that killed the children was fired by a corvette or from an aircraft.