Egypt shuts non-functioning power lines to Gaza for maintenance – report
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US appeals court upholds block on Trump travel ban

MKs warn Israel’s elections agency not protected from cyberattacks; Hamas warns of ‘explosion’ in Gaza over PA-ordered electricity cuts

  • US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on June 9, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
    US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on June 9, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
  • Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, January 12, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)
    Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, January 12, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem, June 11, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem, June 11, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
  • Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox women at an Israeli high-tech company (Abir Sultan/Flash90)
    Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox women at an Israeli high-tech company (Abir Sultan/Flash90)
  • US President Donald Trump (left) meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. (Russian Foreign Ministry via AP)
    US President Donald Trump (left) meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. (Russian Foreign Ministry via AP)
  • Women wearing niqab visit the Senate on November 23, 2016 in the Hague, the Netherlands. (AFP PHOTO/ANP/STR)
    Women wearing niqab visit the Senate on November 23, 2016 in the Hague, the Netherlands. (AFP PHOTO/ANP/STR)

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

NYT: Trump’s great leak wasn’t an Israeli spy, but a vital cyber operation

In an article on American cyber warriors’ disappointing showing in tackling Islamic State’s communications and recruitment online, The New York Times has this gem:

Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America’s partner in the attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers.

The intelligence was so exquisite that it enabled the United States to understand how the weapons could be detonated, according to two American officials familiar with the operation. The information helped prompt a ban in March on large electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries to the United States and Britain.

It was also part of the classified intelligence that President Trump is accused of revealing when he met in the Oval Office last month with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak. His disclosure infuriated Israeli officials.

The report suggests US President Donald Trump did not compromise any Israeli spy embedded in the jihadist group, as previously reported and feared, but also indicates the US president did compromise a vital cyber-espionage capability that was saving lives.

Jerusalem Police arrest suspected serial rapist who attacked dozens of women

The Jerusalem Police says it has arrested a man suspected of “dozens of cases of rape and serious sexual offenses against women in his employ.”

In a statement Monday, police spokesperson Luba Samri said police were set on the alleged rapist’s trail by a nonprofit that works with victims of sexual assault. All the women worked at a media and public relations firm managed by the suspect, and all said they had experienced various types of serious sexual assaults by the suspect.

A two-week undercover sting gathered the evidence police needed to nab the suspect, a 30-year-old Jerusalem resident, the statement says.

The assaults included extortion and threats, including threats to some religiously observant women he had allegedly raped that he would reveal the rape to their husbands and community rabbis if they did not continue sleeping with him.

The police statement says the man left the PR firm and now works at a religious seminary for girls in Jerusalem.

His remand is extended until Sunday, and the Jerusalem District Court approves Monday searches of the man’s home and office. Police say they are continuing to search for victims, and urge women hurt by the man, whose identity is not yet released for publication by the court, to file a complaint at a Jerusalem Police station.

Euro advances as Macron heads for huge majority

LONDON — The European single currency advances Monday after French voters put President Emmanuel Macron’s party on course for a sweeping parliamentary majority.

The British pound meanwhile heads back toward last week’s lows that had been triggered by a shock British election result that has thrown the country into uncertainty.

Around 1045 GMT, the euro jumps above $1.12 after Sunday’s first round of voting for the France’s National Assembly.

The pound falls back to $1.2718, having recovered from Friday’s seven-week low of $1.2636.

In France, projections showed Macron’s Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) party and its ally MoDem tipped to win between 400 and 445 seats in the 577-member National Assembly in next Sunday’s second round.

“The rejection of populism has been one the main reasons why the euro has been the best performing G10 currencies this year,” said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in London.

— AFP

Norway to ban full-face Muslim veil in all schools

OSLO, Norway — The Norwegian government on Monday proposes a bill to ban the full-face Muslim veil in all schools, from nurseries to universities, saying it hinders communication between students and teachers.

Norway’s ruling coalition of conservative and anti-immigration rightwing parties had promised the ban last year, targeting the full-face veil called the niqab as well as burqas, balaclavas and masks.

“We do not want clothes covering the face in nurseries, schools and universities,” Minister of Education and Research Torbjorn Roe Isaksen says in a statement.

“These clothes prevent good communication, which is important for students to receive a good education,” he adds.

Norwegian authorities will consult over the coming months with those who could be affected by the draft law.

Norwegian media reports the government can count on the support of most parties, saying the bill is expected to pass in the spring of 2018.

— AFP

Iran urges Arab nations to end Qatar crisis

DOHA, Qatar — Iran’s Foreign Ministry urges the Arab nations that have cut ties to Qatar to negotiate an end to the crisis.

Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi tells reporters in a weekly news conference: “These countries should try to settle their differences at the negotiating table in a positive and comprehensive process.”

The diplomatic crisis, the worst since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and the subsequent Gulf War, has seen Arab nations and others cut ties to Qatar, which hosts a major US military base and will be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Ghasemi also says of the countries involved: “They should move toward peace and stability in the region and we invite them to negotiate and exercise restraint.”

— AP

Livni says Netanyahu was ready to negotiate on 1967 lines in 2014 talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was willing to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on the 1967 lines during the 2014 peace talks, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) says at the Haaretz Peace Conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.

“Netanyahu always veers left, then gets to the crossroads and turns right,” Livni tells the conference. “Bibi the politician doesn’t want to do what Netanyahu the statesman knows needs to be done,” she adds, using the prime minister’s nickname.

In recent days, new details have been revealed about the framework agreement that then-US secretary of state John Kerry presented to Jerusalem and Ramallah. According to the leaks, published in Haaretz, the document called for negotiations based on the 1967 lines.

Netanyahu demanded from the Americans “deniability,” says Livni, who served as his justice minister and chief peace negotiator at the time. She explains that the prime minister did not want be seen by his political base as too soft but that he was ready and willing to work with the framework agreement.

“Netanyahu was ready to negotiate a two-state solution based on the 67 borders with lands swaps. What you hear from him today is a renunciation of that position,” says Livni. “Every single letter was acceptable to him,” she says about the framework agreement.

It was a “great achievement” to have Netanyahu agree to negotiate peace along the lines acceptable to the Palestinians and most of the international community, she says. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “made a historic mistake” by not picking up the gauntlet.

— Raphael Ahren

Livni urges Trump not to ‘reinvent the wheel,’ but to rekindle 2014 peace talks

Speaking at the Haaretz Peace Conference in Tel Aviv Monday, former peace negotiator MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) calls on the current US administration to adopt the framework agreement that was reached at the time as the basis for new peace talks.

The current US administration does not want to coerce the two sides into an agreement, but US President Donald Trump could take the 2014 framework agreement and declare it the basis for a renewed peace process, Livni says.

In recent days, new details have been revealed about the framework agreement that then-US secretary of state John Kerry presented to Jerusalem and Ramallah. According to the leaks, published in Haaretz, the document called for negotiations based on the 1967 lines.

“There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. He could invite Netanyahu and Abbas to Mar-a-Lago, or wherever he meets people, and tell them this is the basis for an agreement,” Livni says.

The PA has dropped its preconditions for entering talks, no longer demanding a settlement freeze, “which makes it so much easier to enter the negotiation room,” the former foreign minister says. “At this stage, neither side wants to tell Trump no. So that’s a good point to start.”

— Raphael Ahren

Herzog warns of ‘dangerous fascistization’ in university lecturers’ ethics code

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) slams the new ethics code proposed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett that would bar university faculty from expressing political opinions in the classroom.

At the start of the weekly Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset, Herzog says he sees trends of “fascism” in Israeli society, including in the proposed code.

“When you silence poets and authors, artists and actors, judges and the media — this is a very dangerous fascistization,” he says.

Herzog also accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of caving to pressure from his rightist coalition partners, thereby missing an opportunity for a historic peace process last year.

“The State of Israel could have been in the midst of an incredible regional peace process that we haven’t seen since the founding of the state,” Herzog says.

“Netanyahu is the one who went soft, he betrayed the opportunity and gave in to pressure from [Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev] Elkin, [Tourism Minister Yariv] Levin, and [Jewish Home leader Naftali] Bennett,” he charges.

Herzog’s comments come after the Haaretz daily reported that he, Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi held a secret meeting in Cairo in April 2016 to discuss efforts at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

— Marissa Newman

Egypt shuts non-functioning power lines to Gaza for maintenance – report

The Gaza Power Company says it was informed by Egyptian officials that Egypt’s power lines into Gaza are being disconnected for maintenance, the Palestinian Shams news agency reports.

According to the IDF, the power lines in question have not been functioning in recent weeks.

A previous report on the issue run by the Israeli news site Walla depicted Egypt’s announcement as a threat to cut its provision of electricity to the Gaza Strip.

The report came a day after the Israeli cabinet voted to acquiesce to a Palestinian Authority request to shrink its own electricity supply to the territory amid an ongoing feud between the PA and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

— Dov Lieber

Netanyahu confirms seeking legislation to limit foreign funding for NGOs

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirms he has tasked Tourism Minister Yariv Levin with formulating a new law that would limit foreign governmental funding to Israeli nonprofits in an effort explicitly targeting left-wing and rights groups.

The previous “NGO law,” passed last year, does not limit the funding a group may receive but set strict reporting and transparency requirements. It “was about transparency,” he says at the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday. The new proposal, however, would limit how much funding the organizations can receive from foreign states altogether, he explains.

“In Israel there is currently no limit on funneling money to all sorts of organizations, [including those that] among other things defame IDF soldiers,” he says.

“The situation, in my opinion, is not right,” the prime minister adds.

The prime minister also says he intends to pass the controversial Jewish nation-state bill in the current Knesset session, which ends on July 31.

— Marissa Newman

US attorney general to testify in ongoing Russia probe

WASHINGTON — US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is preparing to face former Senate colleagues over his role in the controversy around ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, part of an escalating investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Sessions is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee and is due for sharp questioning. It is not yet known whether the hearing will be public or closed.

“I urge that the committee hold a hearing with the attorney general in the open,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon and a member of the committee, says Sunday.

Fellow Republicans, meanwhile, press US President Donald Trump to come clean about whether he has tapes of private conversations with fired FBI director James Comey and provide them to Congress if he does — or possibly face a subpoena. It is the latest fallout from riveting testimony from Comey last week of undue pressure from Trump, which drew an angry response from the president on Friday that Comey was lying.

“I don’t understand why the president just doesn’t clear this matter up once and for all,” says Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine and a member of the intelligence committee, referring to the existence of any recordings.

She describes Comey’s testimony as “candid” and “thorough” and says she would support a subpoena of any tapes if needed.

Sen. James Lankford, a Republican of Oklahoma, also a member of that committee, agrees the panel needs to hear any tapes, if they exist. “We’ve obviously pressed the White House,” he says.

Trump’s aides have dodged questions about whether conversations relevant to the Russia investigation have been recorded, and so has the president. Pressed on the issue Friday, Trump said “I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future.”

— AP

Maryland and DC plan lawsuit against Trump

WASHINGTON — The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia are planning to file a lawsuit against US President Donald Trump.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh plan to announce what they call a “major lawsuit” Monday against the president, reportedly over his alleged violations of the “emoluments” clause of the US Constitution that forbids the US president from receiving gifts or honorifics from foreign powers.

A statement released to the press on Monday says the attorneys general will make the announcement at a news conference planned for noon in Washington.

— AP and Times of Israel staff

Shin Bet arrests 3 Israelis for seeking to join Islamic State

The Shin Bet arrests two Israeli minors, aged 17, from the northern village of Barta’a, on suspicion of supporting and identifying with Islamic State, a statement from the security agency says Monday.

Another Israeli, a resident of East Barta’a in the West Bank, is also under arrest.

The three participated in religious classes in recent months that exposed them to extremist materials praising Islamic State, the Shin Bet statement says. It adds that one of the suspects contacted IS operatives in “various theaters” and asked how he might join the organization’s ranks. All three have sworn allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

They also allegedly built an improvised bomb.

Hamas warns of ‘explosion’ in Gaza over PA-ordered electricity cuts

Hamas says the Israeli decision Sunday to agree to a Palestinian Authority request to reduce the amount of electricity supplied to Gaza will lead to an “explosion” in the Strip.

“The decision of the occupation to reduce the electricity to Gaza at the request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is catastrophic and dangerous. It will accelerate the deterioration and explode the situation in the Strip,” says Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanua.

“Those who will bear the consequences of this decision are the Israeli enemy, who is besieging the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,” he adds.

If Israel follows through on the request, Gazans could be reduced to between two and four hours of electricity a day.

The PA has said, according to Israel, that it will only pay 60 percent of what it was previously paying for Gaza’s electricity amid an ongoing feud with Hamas, leaving Israeli leaders in the position of paying for Gaza’s power usage from state coffers. Israeli officials charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if the group didn’t expend a large part of its resources on rearmament and preparation for future conflict with Israel.

— Dov Lieber

Austria: 9 men charged with violating anti-Nazi laws

VIENNA — Austrian police say they have charged nine men for violating anti-Nazi laws when they yelled a slogan associated with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

In a statement, police say Monday that eight Austrians and one German were charged for chanting “Sieg Heil” with their right arms raised in the Nazi salute.

One person is detained Sunday at the scene, at Salzburg city’s main train terminal, after acting aggressively against police officers.

None are being identified in line with Austrian privacy laws.

— AP

6.2-magnitude earthquake shakes western Turkey, Greek island

ISTANBUL — An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 shakes western Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos Monday, scaring residents and damaging buildings.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management says that the earthquake’s epicenter is in the Aegean Sea at the very shallow depth of seven kilometers (some four miles) and hits at 3:28 p.m. (1228 GMT). At least 20 aftershocks are recorded. Tremors are felt in densely populated Istanbul and in the western Turkish provinces of Izmir.

Authorities in Lesbos say dozens of homes are damaged in parts of the island and some roads are closed, but there are no reports of serious injuries. “We are advising residents in affected areas of Lesbos to remain outdoors until buildings can be inspected,” senior seismologist Efthimios Lekkas says.

Turkey’s emergency management agency says there were no reports of casualties in the country.

Earthquakes are frequent in Greece and Turkey, which are on active fault lines. Two devastating earthquakes hit northwestern Turkey in 1999, killing some 18,000 people.

— AP

MKs warn Israel’s elections agency not protected from cyberattacks

After reported Russian hacking of the Democratic Party in last year’s US election and leaks on the last day of last month’s presidential race in France intended to hurt candidate (and now President) Emmanuel Macron, Israeli lawmakers take up the issue of protecting Israel’s elections infrastructure from the threat of cyberattacks.

MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), chair of the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee, which is meeting Monday on the issue, warns that “even if just half or one-third of the suspicions [of election hacking] turn out to be true, and some have already been confirmed, this transforms from an imaginary scenario to a substantive threat.”

Lawmakers hear in Monday’s subcommittee meeting that no cyber defense agency is specifically tasked with protecting the Central Election Committee’s systems from attack. According to the Knesset’s internal research office, in a report presented to MKs at the meeting, the elections agency is not formally defined as a “critical infrastructure,” a designation that usually refers to vital agencies and infrastructures that might be targeted in wartime, and so is not currently protected by any of Israel’s cyber defense units.

MK Anat Berko (Likud), chair of the Knesset’s Subcommittee for Cyber Defense, laments the dearth of cyber defenses for the nation’s elections mechanisms. “Even the mere suspicion that a foreign state interfered in our elections hurts the democratic process,” Berko warns.

Ivanka Trump decries ‘viciousness’ of Washington

Ivanka Trump says she did not expect the level of “viciousness” her father’s presidency would bring her, but also felt “blessed” by moments, including a private visit to the Western Wall.

“There is a level of viciousness that I was not expecting, I was not expecting the intensity of this experience,” she says Monday morning on “Fox and Friends” on the Fox News Channel. “I think some of the distractions and some of the ferocity was, I was a little blindsided by on a personal level.”

Ivanka Trump, an unpaid aide in US President Donald Trump’s White House, does not describe what attacks particularly affected her. She has come under fire from the left for claiming to bring progressive values to the White House, including on LGBT and women’s rights, while her father rolls back some gains in these areas.

A gag started by “Saturday Night Live” in which Ivanka Trump, who before joining the White House ran an eponymous lifestyle branding company, launches a perfume called Complicit has gone viral.

Trump says she understood the work would not be easy and was instead focused on advancing her father’s jobs agenda.

“My father and this administration intends to be transformative, and we want to do big bold things and we’re looking to change the status quo,” she says.

Trump, who is Jewish, says her visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem was one of many “surreal” moments since her father assumed the presidency.

“It was the first time a sitting president was at the Western Wall and visited the Kotel,” she says, using the Hebrew word for the site. “Every day in this experience has been surreal, but that was truly an unbelievable moment, so I feel truly blessed and privileged to have been there.”

— JTA

Gaza’s Hamas rulers detain activist critical of the group

GAZA CITY — Gaza’s Hamas rulers detain a young man who criticized the group’s call for protests at the border that have set off deadly clashes with IDF troops.

Mohammed al-Taluli’s family says Monday the 25-year-old was detained by Hamas after posting a video on YouTube in which he accuses the group of “pushing the youths to death” to stay in power.

For weeks, Palestinians have rallied at the Gaza fence against living conditions in the impoverished coastal territory, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas took over in 2007. Youths have thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers, and two Palestinians have been killed in the clashes.

Al-Taluli and his friends have been detained by Hamas several times since organizing protests in January against power cuts.

— AP

Nearly 1,000 arrested in Russia in nationwide anti-corruption protests

MOSCOW — Authorities detain Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and nearly 1,000 of his supporters on Monday, as they mount demonstrations across the nation against government corruption.

The protests are the second mass action since March called by Navalny, who has announced his intention to run for president next year and has drawn a new generation to the streets through a relentless online campaign.

Over 200 are detained in Moscow and Saint Petersburg an hour into the protest, according to an NGO that tracks arrests, with Navalny himself picked up by police as he was headed to the event.

On central Moscow’s Tverskaya Street, a helicopter hovered overhead as riot police lined up and pushed back against the crowd, grabbing people and leading them to police vans as others shouted “Shame!”, “Putin is a thief!” and “Freedom to Navalny!”

The action also draws thousands to the streets in cities across Russia, with authorities sanctioning some gatherings and banning others. Some reports say authorities threatened university students with expulsion if they attended.

The 41-year-old Navalny’s anti-corruption videos have needled the country’s most powerful and drawn to the streets crowds unseen since a wave of protests against President Vladimir Putin’s reelection for a third term in 2012.

— AFP

Trump promises press conference on Islamic State fight

US President Donald Trump on Monday promises to reveal details of his long-awaited plan for fighting the Islamic State group, saying a press conference will come within weeks.

“We have had tremendous success against ISIS,” Trump says at a cabinet meeting at the White House.

“We are going to be having a news conference in two weeks on that fight and you’ll see numbers that you would not have believed.”

Tackling the group — which still controls swaths of Syria and Iraq — was among Trump’s most often repeated campaign promises.

Then-candidate Trump went as far as to promise to “bomb the hell” out of them and have a military plan on his desk within 30 days of moving into the White House.

Six months after taking office, Trump has yet to sketch out his strategy.

— AFP

Michigan: Iraqi Christians arrested by US immigration authorities

DETROIT — The arrest of dozens of Catholic Chaldeans in southeastern Michigan by US immigration officials prompts a protest at a detention center in Detroit.

Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna tells the Detroit Free Press that about 40 people have been arrested, mostly on Sunday.

Chaldeans are among Iraqi Christian denominations that emerged in the faith’s early days. Their population in Iraq has dwindled as hundreds of thousands flee war and violence.

MLive.com reports roughly 100 people protested Sunday at a Detroit detention center, some expressing concern for the arrestees’ safety.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say in a statement that Iraq recently agreed to accept Iraqi nationals subject to removal from the US. ICE says all of those arrested had criminal convictions and were ordered deported by an immigration judge.

— AP

Einstein letters on God, McCarthy, Israel go up for auction

A collection of letters written by Albert Einstein is set to go to auction next week, offering a new glimpse at the Nobel-winning physicist’s views on God, McCarthyism and what was then the newly established state of Israel.

The five original letters, dated 1951 to 1954 and signed by Einstein, reveal a witty and sensitive side of the esteemed scientist. They were sent to quantum physicist David Bohm, a colleague who fled the United States for Brazil in 1951 after refusing to testify about his links to the Communist Party to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Bohm’s widow’s estate put the documents on the block after she passed away last year. One of the yellowing pages, bearing Einstein’s signature and embossed seal, and a handwritten general relativity equation, opens at $8,000 and is expected to sell for at least twice that. In all, the collection is expected to fetch over $20,000.

“If God has created the world his primary worry was certainly not to make its understanding easy for us,” Einstein assured Bohm in February 1954, a year before his death.

In another letter from February 1953, Einstein compares “the present state of mind” of America gripped by McCarthyist anti-Communism to the paranoia in Germany in the early 20th century under Kaiser Wilhelm II. Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s led a hunt for alleged communist traitors he believed worked in the government and the army.

Einstein, then 75, tells Bohm the foreseeable future didn’t portend a “more reasonable political attitude” in the United States.

One idea that came up was relocating to Israel, which had declared independence in 1948. But despite Einstein’s ties to Israel’s Hebrew University, he believed the country offered limited opportunities. Einstein himself declined an offer in 1952 to become Israel’s president, though he served remotely on the Hebrew University’s first Board of Governors and left his papers to the school in his will.

“Israel is intellectually active and interesting but has very narrow possibilities,” the Nobel laureate wrote. “And to go there with the intention to leave on the first occasion would be regrettable.”

— AP

Researchers said to discover power grid-wrecking software

PARIS — Researchers discover a troubling breed of power grid-wrecking software, saying in a report published Monday that the program was very likely responsible for a brief blackout in Ukraine late last year.

The malicious software has the ability to remotely sabotage circuit breakers, switches and protection relays, the report says, a nightmare scenario for those charged with keeping the lights on.

“The potential impact of malware like this is huge,” says Robert Lipovsky, a researcher who helped draw up the report for Slovakian anti-virus firm ESET. “It’s not restricted to Ukraine. The industrial hardware that the malware communicates with is used in critical infrastructure worldwide.”

Policymakers have long worried over programs that can remotely sabotage industrial systems because of their potential to deal catastrophic damage across the internet. Examples of hackers being able to turn off the lights were once confined to the movie screens, but that is slowly changing. In 2010 researchers discovered Stuxnet, a groundbreaking piece of malware apparently designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program by sending its centrifuge machines spinning out of control.

Last year’s power outage appears to have been a sequel to Stuxnet. Ukrainian officials have already described the Dec. 17, 2016, outage at a transmission facility outside Kiev, the capital city, as a cyberattack.

The report drawn up by ESET and Dragos, Inc. — a Maryland-based firm that specializes in industrial cybersecurity — adds technical details, saying that the malware was designed to communicate directly with industrial control systems, flipping circuit breakers on and off with a string of code before mass-deleting data in a bid to cover its tracks.

— AP

US appeals court upholds block on Trump travel ban

A US appeals court on Monday leaves in place a block on US President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting citizens from six Muslim-majority nations — the latest in a string of judicial blows for the controversial measure.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit largely upholds an injunction on the ban issued by a lower court, but says the government is within its right to review the vetting process for people entering the country.

“Immigration, even for the president, is not a one-person show,” the ruling says. “The president, in issuing the executive order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress.”

— AFP

Qatar welcomes efforts to end Gulf standoff, but defiant on its foreign policy

Qatar’s foreign minister is welcoming diplomatic efforts to calm the Gulf standoff over alleged Qatari support for Islamic extremists — but insists that no one can dictate its foreign policy.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani says Monday that Qatar is in contact with international aviation authorities and legal organizations as it tries to fight back against moves by Saudi Arabia and its allies to cut off its land, air and sea access.

Speaking after diplomatic meetings in Paris, Al Thani says Qatar is ready to negotiate anything “related to the collective security of the Gulf countries” but insists that Qatari foreign policy is not open to debate.

He also says “no one has the right” to pressure Qatar to silence TV network al-Jazeera, which is based in Doha.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar last week. Al Thani has visited multiple European countries in recent days seeking diplomatic support.

— AP

Eritrea sides with Gulf nations against Qatar

Eritrea expresses support for Saudi Arabia and its allies after they cut ties with Qatar.

The Eritrean Information Ministry’s statement of support on Monday comes despite its previously close ties with energy-rich Qatar.

The statement says the initiative by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates “is not confined to Qatar alone as the potential of Qatar is very limited,” but is “one initiative among many in the right direction that envisages full realization of regional security and stability.”

The three countries along with Bahrain cut ties to Qatar last week and have moved to block air, land and sea routes to the energy-rich Gulf nation.

Both Saudi and Qatari officials appear to be seeking support from Ethiopia. Qatari officials meet Monday with Ethiopia’s prime minister and Saudi officials visit the Ethiopian capital over the weekend.

— AP

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Egypt shuts non-functioning power lines to Gaza for maintenance – report

The Gaza Power Company says it was informed by Egyptian officials that Egypt’s power lines into Gaza are being disconnected for maintenance, the Palestinian Shams news agency reports.

According to the IDF, the power lines in question have not been functioning in recent weeks.

A previous report on the issue run by the Israeli news site Walla depicted Egypt’s announcement as a threat to cut its provision of electricity to the Gaza Strip.

The report came a day after the Israeli cabinet voted to acquiesce to a Palestinian Authority request to shrink its own electricity supply to the territory amid an ongoing feud between the PA and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

— Dov Lieber