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Obama reportedly agrees to up defense aid to Israel

Netanyahu’s aides describe high-stakes meeting with Obama as ‘good’; PM commits to 2-state solution, US president says Israeli security at top of agenda in remarks ahead of sit-down

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

  • Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September 6, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg)
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September 6, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg)
  • US President Barack Obama, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
    US President Barack Obama, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
  • US President Barack Obama, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
    US President Barack Obama, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in the White House on November 9, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in the White House on November 9, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
  • Demonstrators march to protest the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the White House November 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. (AFP/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)
    Demonstrators march to protest the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the White House November 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. (AFP/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

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

Jordanian said to kill US officer

A Jordanian officer kills his American trainer and wounds others, before committing suicide, Al-Arabiya reports, quoting a Jordanian source.

AFP reports that two US soldiers are dead.

US not challenged over UNESCO board seat

The United States has succeeded in its bid to remain on UNESCO’s executive board, the only way to wield American power at the world’s cultural and scientific agency now that the US government is no longer funding it.

The victory follows a US diplomatic charm offensive aimed at fending off resistance to its re-election. Following a special visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Paris-based UNESCO, Switzerland withdrew its candidacy and a Monday morning deadline expired for others to throw their hats into the ring — paving the way for the American re-election.

The US bid to remain on the board was expected to run into resistance after it stopped paying its dues following the body’s decision to admit Palestine in 2011. US law prohibits contributions to international organizations that recognize Palestinian statehood.

UNESCO diplomat Michael Worbs told The Associated Press that no other country submitted a candidate to challenge the US seat. That means there are six candidates for the six board seats assigned to Western Europe and North America — making Wednesday’s vote on the re-election at the agency’s biennial general conference a formality.

AP

Attack takes place at Palestinian security training facility

The Jordanian gunman opened fire at a US training facility for Palestinian and Iraqi security forces in Muaqar, outside of Amman, Reuters reports.

Egypt ‘kills leading Islamic State terrorist in Cairo’

Egypt is saying it has killed a leading Islamic State operative in Cairo, AFP reports.

Details to come.

Journalist hurt in Bucharest fire dies in Israeli hospital

A television station says a popular Romanian television editor and photographer has died after succumbing to burns from the nightclub fire in Bucharest, raising the death toll in the tragedy to 46.

ProTV news reports Teodora Maftei died Monday at a hospital in Israel from burns sustained in the October 30 fire.

Maftei, 36, was also a blogger and was well-known for her photographs.

After the fire, a Bucharest restaurant exhibited 23 photos she took in London in August to raise money for her treatment.

Raed Arafat, an emergency situations official, said Monday that 10 patients have been safely transported to Britain and Norway for treatment. Thirteen people died over the weekend.

The nightclub fire erupted after a spark ignited foam decor during a heavy-metal concert in the Colectiv basement club.

AP

2 Americans hurt in Jordan shooting

Two US nationals are hurt in the Jordan shooting, in which two American officers were killed.

One of the wounded is in critical condition while the other is shot in the foot, a source says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

— with AFP

More info on IS operative killed in Cairo

Egyptian police say they killed a top Islamic State group operative in the capital implicated in a string of attacks including the murders of a Croat and an American.

An interior ministry statement says Ashraf Ali Ali Hassanein al-Gharabli was shot dead in an exchange of fire after police tried to arrest him.

AFP

UTJ insists on draft law vote first, budget later

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party says it won’t vote on the two-year budget before its proposed amendments to the draft law are brought to a Knesset vote, the Ynet news website reports.

Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) had suggested earlier that the draft law be voted on after the budget, but the Haredi parties rejected the proposal.

The budget must pass its second and third readings by the end of next week, or Israel goes to elections. The ultra-Orthodox party, which is in the coalition, has been conditioning its budget vote on the postponement of the implementation of mandatory enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox until 2023, and the cancellation of automatic criminal sanctions.

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers attend a swearing in ceremony as they enter the IDF's "Nahal Haredi" unit on Thursday. (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers attend a swearing in ceremony as they enter the IDF’s “Nahal Haredi” unit in June. (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

South African national also said killed in Jordan

Two Americans and a South African have been killed in the shooting at a Jordanian training facility, AP reports, quoting Jordanian officials.

Jordan spokesman confirms 3 dead, 6 wounded

In the first official statement on the Jordan shooting, a government spokesman says a Jordanian policeman opened fire Monday on foreign trainers at a police compound, killing two Americans and a South African before being shot dead.

Mohammed Momani tells the state news agency Petra that two Americans and four Jordanians were wounded in Monday’s shooting at the police training center on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, adding that one of the wounded is in critical condition.

Momani portrays the shooting as a crime and says an investigation has been launched.

The US Embassy has no immediate comment.

AP, Times of Israel staff

Israeli lightly hurt in East Jerusalem rock-throwing

An Israeli man is lightly injured in a rock-throwing attack in the A-Tur neighborhood in East Jerusalem, police say.

The man, who was riding a motorcycle, is evacuated to Shaare Zedek hospital for treatment.

Police are searching for the perpetrators.

Brazilian Jews rally for Israel in five cities

Over 1,000 Brazilian Jews rallied in five cities calling for peace in Israel.

Demonstrators on Sunday marched along the Paulista Avenue, the main business avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city with some 20 million residents and home to 60,000 Jews.

“We are very proud to gather such Zionists and engaged people who speak up for Israel’s right to defend itself and condemn terrorism. Am Israel Chai,” Persio Bider, head of the Organized Jewish Youth organization, tells JTA.

The demonstrators wore blue and white, carried Israeli flags, and sang Israel’s national anthem and various Hebrew songs. Many Evangelical Christians who support Israel also joined the rally in Sao Paulo.

Smaller simultaneous rallies also took place in Belem, Fortaleza, Porto Alegre and Natal. A major rally is scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, home to some 40,000 Jews, on November 29.

JTA

Slain officer’s liver, kidneys donated

The liver and kidneys of Binyamin Yakobovitch, 19, who died Sunday of wounds sustained in a car-ramming attack, have been donated, the Walla news website reports.

One of his kidneys was transplanted in one patient, while his other kidney and liver were given to another patient, the report says.

Binyamin Yakobovich (Courtesy)

Binyamin Yakobovich (Courtesy)

Next Syria talks must identify ‘terrorist groups’ — Iran

The next meeting in Vienna on the Syrian conflict must draw up a list of “terrorist groups,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says.

“There are two important items on the agenda for the next meeting of Vienna,” Zarif tells a news conference with his visiting Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders.

“First is determining which groups are terrorists, which is clear to us. And then agreeing on how to proceed” from there, Zarif says.

AFP

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders hold a press conference after meeting in Tehran on November 9, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders hold a press conference after meeting in Tehran on November 9, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Demonstrators protest PM’s visit at White House

Protesters are gathering outside the White House to protest Netanyahu’s visit.

Members of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect are seen holding signs reading: “Netanyahu go home, you don’t represent Jews or Judaism.”

Protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Washington visit on November 9, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Washington visit on November 9, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Ya’alon says Dawabsha killers still out of reach

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says Israel knows which organization is behind the torching of the Dawabsha home in July, in which the two parents and two-year-old Ali Dawabsha were killed, but cannot pinpoint the specific perpetrators.

“We know the group responsible for the attack, but we still don’t know the names of the attackers,” he says, according to Channel 2. The defense minister says Israel has taken steps — including detaining members of the group without trial and issuing restraining orders — to thwart further attacks.

“This is a very radical group of Jews who want a regime [governed by] Jewish law, and decided to do something that would not only harm Palestinian property, but people,” he says. “The steps we took prevented additional attacks against Arabs.”

The defense minister also says Israel is fairly certain the Russian passenger jet was downed by a bomb.

“We aren’t involved in the investigation, but from our understanding of the case, it seems that a bomb exploded inside the plane,” he says. Ya’alon won’t comment on the CNN report that Israel handed over intelligence on the Sinai crash to the US and UK.

Russian-Jewish billionaire gives out $22m in science prizes

Russian-Jewish billionaire Yuri Milner gives out nearly $22 million in Breakthrough Prize Awards for contributions to life sciences, math and physics.

Milner was joined Sunday night at a televised ceremony in Northern California’s Silicon Valley by prize co-founders Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google, and his ex-wife, Anne Wojcicki; Alibaba founder Jack Ma and his wife, Cathy Zhang; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The prize was established three years ago in an effort to make the sciences more popular.

JTA

PM’s motorcade arrives at White House

Netanyahu’s motorcade arrives at the White House in Washington, DC.

The prime minister and US president will make a statement to the press before starting their meeting.

Raphael Ahren contributed

Obama says Israel’s security among his top priorities

Obama offers condolences to the victims of the shooting in Jordan earlier Monday.

The president says it’s no secret the security in the Middle East has declined, and stresses his commitment to Israel’s security, saying it’s one of his top priorities.

Reporters wait for press briefing at White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Reporters wait for press briefing at White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, 9 November, 2015. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Obama outlines meeting agenda

Obama says he will discuss defense aid to the Jewish state with Netanyahu, as well as the Syrian civil war and the Islamic State’s gains in the region. He says the two will discuss the Iran nuclear deal.

The president says they will discuss rising violence in Israel and the West Bank, which has seen near-daily stabbings and car-ramming attacks.

“A lot of work to do, with too little time,” he says.

He also offers condolences to Israel over the death of former president Yitzhak Navon.

PM says he’s ‘committed to two-state solution’

The president says Israel has the right to defend itself, but wants to get the peace process back on track.

Netanyahu says he’s committed to the two-state solution.

“I want to make it clear. We haven’t given up our hope for peace. We remain committed to the two-state solution,” he says.

Sweet talk, but few smiles at meet

While Obama and Netanyahu conveyed messages of friendship, the two leaders barely smiled and their body language appeared stiff and tense, The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren reports from the Oval Office.

Obama appears unconvinced that Netanyahu’s remarks are sincere, he reports.

Israel will never give up on peace — PM

Netanyahu says Israel has not given up its hopes for peace, and never will.

No one should doubt Israel’s “willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors” that seek it, the prime minister says.

Obama and Netanyahu start meeting

Obama and Netanyahu are now meeting privately in the Oval Office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama in the White House on November 11, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama in the White House on November 9, 2015. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Arab MK slams PM’s ‘meaningless words’

MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) slams Netanyahu’s comments on the two-state solution as “a meaningless string of words that bears no relationship to reality.”

“Talk is no substitute for actions, and in the absence of actions, no one buys Netanyahu’s pretty words, [since he] is working to eradicate the idea of two states,” he says, according to the Maariv daily. “His comments today are also designed to buy him time so he can continue to bury any prospect of peace.”

MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) in Tel Aviv, July 03, 2014. (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)

MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) in Tel Aviv, July 03, 2014. (Melanie Lidman)

One-third of Palestinians believe in ‘armed struggle’ — poll

Nearly one-third of Palestinians believe in “armed struggle and military solutions” to the conflict with Israel, an increase from two years ago.

The percentage of Palestinians who say they believe in violent means rose to 32 percent from 25 percent in 2013, according to a Gallup survey released Monday. Some 52 percent of respondents say they believe “mostly in nonviolent forms of resistance and negotiation,” down from 62 percent in the earlier poll.

Some 64 percent of Palestinians say that relations between Palestinians and Israelis are getting worse, 6 percent say they are improving and 26 percent say they are staying the same. The numbers have remained steady over the last two years.

The face-to-face survey of 1,000 residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip aged 15 and over were conducted between May 24 and June 17, before the spate of Palestinian attacks against Jewish-Israelis began two months ago and the resulting Israeli attempt to stem the violence. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percent.

JTA

A Palestinian protester throws a firebomb during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Al-Ram, near Ramallah, on September 27, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90

A Palestinian protester throws a firebomb during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Al-Ram, near Ramallah, on September 27, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90

Russia says it struck 448 Syrian targets in 3 days

Russia’s air force struck 448 targets throughout Syria over the last three days, the defense ministry says Monday, as Moscow pushes on with its bombing campaign in the war-torn country.

The ministry says in a statement that Russian planes hit a repair workshop for armored vehicles near Kfar Nabuda in Hama province, which belongs to al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front.

Other targets said to belong to the Nusra Front are a command center in Zarbe, a training camp near Kweyris east of Aleppo and a “large munitions stockpile” near Maheen in Homs province.

The air force also says it bombed the Islamic State group’s stronghold in Raqa, where two more munition stockpiles were “completely destroyed.”

Among other targets are a position used by the Nusra Front for launching mortar attacks in Latakia and a stockpile of rockets in the mountains near Damascus kept by the Islamic State group, it says.

AFP

Obama-Netanyahu meeting extended

Channel 2 reports that the Obama-Netanyahu meeting has been extended and is ongoing.

Israel said to approve initial plans for settlement homes

Israel has given preliminary approval to development plans that could build more than 2,000 homes in West Bank settlements over the next decade.

The plans, first reported by the Haaretz daily Monday, would see about 2,200 homes built in several settlements east of the Palestinian city of Ramallah by 2030.

Hagit Ofran of the anti-settlement group Peace Now says the plans need to pass several more stages and it could be years before work begins. Still, she says it shows “the vision” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for the area.

AP

The West Bank settlement of Ofra, in the Binyamin Region north of Jerusalem. (CC-BY-SA/Yakov/Wikimedia Commons)

The West Bank settlement of Ofra, in the Binyamin Region north of Jerusalem (CC BY-SA/Yakov/Wikimedia Commons)

‘Act of terror’ may be behind plane crash — Russian PM

Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev admits that a plane crash in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people was possibly a terrorist attack.

“The possibility of an act of terror is of course there as the reason for what happened,” he says in an interview to Rossiyskaya Gazeta state newspaper, parts of which were published Monday evening.

AFP

Centuries-old mikveh unearthed in former East Germany

Archaeologists discover a centuries-old mikveh underneath a vaulted cellar in the former East Germany.

The ritual bath in the town of Schmalkalden is located near “Judengasse,” or “Jews’ Lane,” where a 17th-century synagogue stood until it was destroyed in the Kristallnacht pogrom exactly 77 years ago on Monday, the day the discovery was announced.

The State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology reports that the mikveh, which was found recently beneath a half-timbered building in a zone slated for urban housing construction, may have been built in the late 16th or early 17th century, when the local Jewish population peaked.

Experts have already determined that it had not been used since the 18th century at the latest.

The first records of Jews in Schmalkalden date back to the 14th century.

JTA

London mayor slams ‘foolish’ Israel boycotters

The mayor of London lashes out against boycotters of Israel as “lefty academics” with no real influence.

Boris Johnson speaks Monday in Tel Aviv during a visit to lure Israeli tech businesses to London.

Locals are jittery as the anti-Israel campaign known as BDS — an acronym for boycott, divestment and sanctions — appears to be gaining steam. They claim that pro-Palestinian activists are not out to promote peace, but instead aim to delegitimize the country’s very existence as a Jewish state.

Johnson says, “I cannot think of anything more foolish” than to boycott “a country that when all is said and done is the only democracy in the region, the only place that has in my view a pluralist open society.”

He says the boycotters are “a very small minority.”

AP

‘Good’ Netanyahu-Obama meeting ends

Netanyahu and Obama conclude their meeting, some 45 minutes past schedule.

The prime minister’s aides say that the meeting was “good.”

Raphael Ahren

UAE FM pans ‘dangerous escalation’ against Palestinians

Arab foreign ministers search on Monday for ways to halt what one calls Israel’s “dangerous escalation” of violence against Palestinians.

“This emergency meeting comes with the dangerous escalation by the Israeli government, the settlers, the Jewish extremist groups, and the Israeli forces in the blessed city of Jerusalem,” United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan tells the meeting, the official Saudi Press Agency reports.

He chairs the gathering of the 22-member bloc, and says the Palestinian issue is key to peace and security in the region.

“We gather today to take a decision about what we can do to stop these crimes and violations,” the UAE minister says.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi urges the UN Security Council and others to work towards an end to the conflict, SPA reports.

AFP

Israeli, Palestinian leaders must make ‘difficult choices’ — White House

The White House says Obama believes Israeli security is best served by peace talks and the two-state solution, and stresses that Israeli and Palestinian leaders must make tough choices for peace.

The “long-simmering conflict has continued to create the kind of instability that allows violence to take root,” says White House Spokesman Josh Earnest.

Obama and Kerry have invested a lot in peace talks, but “ultimately what is clear is that political leaders on both sides need to make difficult choices” that will be “unpopular” among constituents, but will serve them in the long run, he says.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest speaking to reporters, October 7, 2015. (Screen capture/White House video)

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest speaking to reporters, October 7, 2015. (screen capture/White House video)

White House says PM’s comments ‘encouraging’

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest says Netanyahu’s comments are “encouraging, but what matters is the follow through.”

He says Israel and the Palestinians must take a series of confidence-building measures, including a “reduction, if not an end” to the violence and the incitement and “a willingness on both sides to engage constructively.”

Earnest says settlement construction is “counterproductive.”

The White House spokesman says it’s unlikely that a peace deal — or peace talks at all — will be renewed in the last 14 months of Obama’s term.

But he says the US commitment to Israel’s security “is unshakable.”

Israel is “the strongest ally of the US in that region of the world,” he adds.

New IS clip shows execution of 200 children

The Islamic State releases a video of what appears to be the execution of some 200 Syrian children.

In the clip, the kids are lying face-down on the ground in a line, their hands and feet bound. Some 12 terrorists then shoot and kill the Syrian children.

It is not immediately clear when the video was filmed.

White House says no one surprised by Obama’s assessment on peace deal

Josh Earnest says neither Israeli officials nor anyone in the Obama administration was surprised by the assessment that there would be no Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before the president leaves office.

He says there is a “pretty stark divide” right now between Israelis and Palestinians that needs to be bridged.

The White House spokesman dodges a question about whether the US would condition defense aid on settlement construction, and stresses that the US is committed to Israel’s security.

Iran president to make first Europe visit in decade

Hassan Rouhani is to visit Italy and France from Saturday, becoming the first Iranian president to travel to Europe for a decade, state news agency IRNA reports.

It says the tour, which follows the July 14 nuclear accord between the Islamic republic and world powers, will take the president for official talks in Italy before he travels on to France on November 16-17.

Parviz Esmaili of the president’s office, quoted by IRNA, says Rouhani will also meet Pope Francis while in Italy.

Several ministers are to accompany the president.

AFP

‘Obama agrees to boost defense aid’

Channel 2 reports that Obama and Netanyahu have broadly agreed on an increase to Israeli defense aid, both immediately and in the coming decade, but have not hammered out the details.

The two have agreed on a joint US-Israeli task force that will monitor the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, the report says.

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Live updates (closed)

Demonstrators protest PM’s visit at White House

Protesters are gathering outside the White House to protest Netanyahu’s visit.

Members of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect are seen holding signs reading: “Netanyahu go home, you don’t represent Jews or Judaism.”

Protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Washington visit on November 9, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
Protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Washington visit on November 9, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)