The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Europol says global reach of massive cyberattack ‘unprecedented’
The unprecedented global ransomware cyberattack has hit more than 200,000 victims in more than 150 countries, says Europol executive director Rob Wainwright.
The head of the pan-European Union policing agency says that few had given in to the demands for payment to unblock files so far, but warns that the situation was escalating.
Wainwright says he is worried that the ransomware attack might spread further once people return to work on Monday and log on to their computers.
“We are running around 200 global operations against cyber crime each year but we’ve never seen anything like this,” he tells Britain’s ITV television. “The latest count is over 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries. Many of those victims will be businesses, including large corporations.
“The global reach is unprecedented,” Wainwright says. “We’re in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up,” he adds.
He says the motivation remains unknown but ransomware attacks are normally “criminally minded.”
Netanyahu says Israel largely unaffected by global cyberattack
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is largely unaffected by the a massive cyberattack that targeted over 150 countries around the world over the weekend.
“As of now, in Israel, there have not been any attacks against our vital infrastructures,” Netanyahu says at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “The other attacks have been minor so far, but everything could change. Several years ago we established a defense network against cyberattacks.”
He says the National Cyber Authority was established several years ago “in the understanding that there is a new danger that is still ahead of us.”
“There will be more developments and we will need to invest more resources” to ensure that Israel’s civilian and military institutions are protected against such attacks, Netanyahu adds.
Rivlin: ‘No gap’ between Israel as Jewish and democratic state
President Reuven Rivlin this morning tells a visiting delegation of the Montreal Jewish Federation that Israel is both fully Jewish and democratic.
“Today, the State of Israel is a proud democracy, and I can assure you, there is no gap between Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state,” he tells the delegation in Jerusalem.
“There is no gap and there will be no gap in the future,” he adds, “the State of Israel is not just a place, it is an idea: the dream that the State of Israel would be part of the lives of all Jews.”
EU calls North Korea missile test a ‘threat to international peace’
North Korea’s test-firing of a ballistic missile constitutes a “threat to international peace and security” as Pyongyang ratchets up tensions in the region, an EU spokesperson says.
“This and previous launches constitute a threat to international peace and security and further aggravate tensions in the region at a time when de-escalation is instead needed,” the spokesperson says in a statement.
Pyongyang yesterday fired a ballistic missile in an apparent attempt to test the South’s new liberal president and the US.
New French leader Macron vows to fight terror
New French President Emmanuel Macron says he will do everything that is necessary to fight terrorism and authoritarianism and to resolve the world’s migration crisis.
The 39-year-old centrist, speaking at his inauguration at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, says “we will take all our responsibilities to provide, every time it’s needed, a relevant response to big contemporary crises.”
He also listed “the excesses of capitalism in the world” and climate change among his future challenges.
Macron says all countries in the world are “interdependent … we are all neighbors.” He announced his determination to push ahead with reforms to free up France’s economy and pledged to press for a “more efficient, more democratic” European Union.
Deputy AG says Culture Ministry request to vet artistic content illegal
Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber says the request by Culture Minister Miri Regev to require local municipalities to pre-approve plays and other cultural events based on their content is against the law.
Zilber slams Regev’s apparent attempt to clamp down on artistic expression deemed critical of Israel as an assault on free expression.
“This is a worrying accumulation of incidents that conveys a problematic message that the activities of artists and cultural institutions are always under the watchful eye of the state, because they are subject to constant government monitoring,” Zilber says. “This is a request that goes to the roots of free expression.”
“She is terrifying local authorities and cultural institutions by asking that they deny funding to anyone who dares hold an event that she does not like.”
Zilber’s legal opinion comes in response to a petition filed by the Association for Civil Liberties in Israel.
Iran’s reformist ex-president endorses Rouhani
Iran’s reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami endorses President Hassan Rouhani in a video message, calling on voters to give him another term in this week’s election.
“Mr Rouhani’s government has been a successful one, despite all the limitations, problems and the great expectations,” he says in the video posted on social media.
“We should all go and vote for Rouhani, for freedom in thought, logic in dialogue, law in action, securing the rights of citizens and enforcing social and economic justice.”
Khatami praises the government for taming rampant inflation of above 40 percent in 2013 to below 9.5 percent and the “steps” taken against stagnation.
Netanyahu urges expediting Knesset approval of ‘Jewish state’ bill
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for the fast-tracking of controversial legislation that will officially define Israel as a Jewish state and enshrine that definition in the country’s Basic Laws.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu calls for the so-called Jewish state bill to advance through the Knesset as a private bill, sidestepping the requirement for an independent government decision.
In a 48-41 vote, the Knesset plenum last week voted in favor of the bill proposed by Likud MK Avi Dichter following a stormy session that saw three Arab lawmakers escorted out of the hall.
Evacuations of rebels from last Damascus stronghold begins
State media and opposition activists say scores of rebels and their families have begun leaving a northeastern neighborhood of the Syrian capital Damascus toward rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
The evacuations from Qaboun come a day after government forces and their allies captured most of the area from insurgents.
State news agency SANA says hundreds of fighters boarded several buses and left toward the northwestern province of Idlib. It said those who decide to stay can benefit from a government amnesty and return to normal life.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 20 buses left Qaboun and others are expected to follow.
The evacuations from Qaboun come days after hundreds of opposition fighters were evacuated from the nearby neighborhoods of Barzeh and Tishrin.
Trump ‘carefully’ mulling how embassy move would impact Mideast peace
US President Donald Trump is assessing whether moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would help or hurt prospects for clinching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says, revealing Trump’s criteria for a decision that could reverberate throughout the volatile Middle East.
Since taking office, Trump has backed away from his campaign pledge to move the embassy in a gesture to Israel, instead saying he’s still studying the issue. But Tillerson links Trump’s deliberations directly to his aspirations for brokering Mideast peace.
“The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process,” Tillerson says in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He says Trump’s decision would be informed by feedback from all sides, including “whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”
IDF scraps plans for a unified Cyber Corps
Officially abandoning plans for a unified Cyber Corps, the army will keep its defensive and “collection” capabilities separate under a new reorganization of its electronic warfare program, a senior IDF cyberdefense official says.
The IDF recently opted to scrap a 2015 plan to combine its cyber units under one body, and has instead opted to keep the existing arrangement of having the army’s defensive capabilities remain in the IDF Teleprocessing Corps, and the secretive 8200 Unit under the purview of Military Intelligence, the senior officer tells reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Reorganizing the IDF is more like going into a jungle and trying to garden it than writing a white paper, where you draw [the plan] from scratch,” the officer says.
As part of the army’s multi-year Gideon Plan, which is meant to streamline the military and cut costs, the area of electronic warfare is meant to receive a boost in funding across the board, for manpower, equipment and training, the officer says.
“Every year, we try to bring more and more funds into cyber,” the officer says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hitting back at PM, Jordan says stance against terror ‘clear to everyone’
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi hits back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for condemning Amman’s response to yesterday’s police killing of a Jordanian attacker.
“Jordan is and was a voice of reason and peace,” he tells journalists during a press conference in Amman.
“Our positions against violence and terrorism are clear to everyone,” Safadi says, adding that King Abdullah II is “invested in establishing security, peace and freedom for the Palestinians.”
The diplomatic spat between Israel and Jordan erupted yesterday in the wake of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem, in which a Jordanian man stabbed an Israeli police officer and was killed.
Amman in response called the incident “a heinous crime,” and demanded details about the incident from the Israeli government.
Later that day, Netanyahu’s office released a statement calling the Jordanian reaction “outrageous,” and said Amman appeared to be backing terrorism.
Bennett: Peace agreement that divides Jerusalem ‘bound to fail’
Education Minister Naftali Bennett is calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to press US President Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his upcoming visit to the region, and says any future peace agreement with Palestinians that will divide the capital city will be unsuccessful.
“I call on the prime minister to make clear that we expect the US administration to move the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty,” he says in a series of tweets.
Bennett says moving the US Embassy to the capital “strengthens the chances of reaching a true peace, because any agreement based on the division of Jerusalem is bound to fail.”
Jerusalem, he says, “is our only and eternal capital.”
Bennett’s remarks come hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump is “being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process.” He said Trump’s decision would be informed by feedback from all sides, including “whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”
IDF not targeted in massive global cyberattack, official says
A senior IDF official says the military does not believe it was affected by the large-scale cyber attack that hit businesses and government networks around the world this weekend.
“I don’t know of any attempt to attack us,” the officer says.
However, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the military and the country must be ready for attacks like the one this weekend.
“These kinds of attacks happen from time to time and they will happen in the future,” the officer warns. “We are prepared and preparing ourselves against new hacks, which come up every week.”
According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, critical infrastructure was not hit in this weekend’s attack, though there were some “minor” cases in Israel.
The army was not involved in the response to the attack, as the Israeli targets were civilian.
— Judah Ari Gross
Palestinian official hails high voter turnout in West Bank election
Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) chairman Hanna Nasser hails the high voter turnout of Saturday’s municipal elections in the West Bank.
Comission chief Hanna Nassir announces that 393,572 ballots were cast — “nearly 50 percent of voters.”
He says voter turnout was “almost exactly the same as in 2012.”
However, preliminary results indicate a weak showing by the ruling Fatah Party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, even though the rival Hamas terrorist group stayed out of the race.
In Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city, Fatah won just seven of 15 seats. And in Nablus, another major city, Fatah won 11 of 15 seats, but only after forming an alliance with Islamist candidates. Turnout in Nablus was just 21 percent.
Fatah’s popularity has been hurt by a weak economy and frozen peace efforts.
Official results are expected later today.
Tunisia seeks UNESCO status for Jewish pilgrimage isle
Tunisia plans to seek UNESCO World Heritage status for the island of Djerba, site of Africa’s oldest synagogue and an annual Jewish pilgrimage, its culture minister says.
Speaking on the last day of the pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue, Mohamed Zine El-Abidine says the island is important for its “cultural and religious uniqueness.”
He says the application to add Djerba to the World Heritage List would highlight the rich religious heritage of the island, which is home to centuries-old mosques, churches and synagogues.
He does not give a specific time frame for the application.
Abbas’s Fatah party leading local polls in West Bank cities
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party is ahead in most of the West Bank’s main cities after municipal elections that highlighted persistent divisions with its rival Hamas, latest results show.
Voting took place on Saturday only in the West Bank, controlled by Fatah, and not in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Hamas terrorist organization.
Official figures put turnout at 53.4 percent, or nearly the same as local elections in the West Bank in 2012, according to electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser.
However, turnout was far lower in large cities than in surrounding communities, with the lowest in Nablus, the main city in the northern West Bank, where it was less than 21%.
Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40%.
Fatah’s list was notably ahead in the cities of Jenin, Jericho and Hebron. More than half of the 536 lists participating in the elections were not registered as being affiliated with any party.
Hamas did not present candidates under its party label in the vote.
PM says moving US embassy will advance peace process
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to earlier remarks by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who revealed that President Trump is assessing whether moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would help or hurt prospects for clinching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
“Not only will it not harm peace process, but the opposite,” the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement. “It will advance it by correcting a historic injustice and will shatter the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired on Sunday, Tillerson said Trump is “being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process.” He added that Trump’s decision would be informed by feedback from all sides, including “whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”
Palestinians hope for settlement curb if peace talks resume
A senior Palestinian official says he “hopes” Israel will halt settlement construction if US-led peace talks resume, but stopped short of making it a condition.
Saeb Erekat speaks in Jordan after meeting with the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt, ahead of a Mideast trip next week by President Donald Trump.
Asked about linking negotiations to a settlement freeze, Erekat says “no one stands to lose more in the absence of peace and negotiations” than Palestinians.
Adelson to testify in Netanyahu probe during upcoming Israel visit
Israel Police will reportedly question US Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson in the coming days as part of the corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In leaked audio recordings from 2014, Netanyahu appears to promise to advance legislation designed to hobble Adelson’s free Israel Hayom daily in exchange for competing paper Yedioth Ahronoth giving the prime minster more favorable coverage.
According to Channel 2, Israeli investigators are expected to ask Adelson whether he was aware of the alleged quid pro quo deal the prime minister discussed with Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes.
Adelson and his wife Miriam agreed to speak to police after being told they were not suspects in the corruption investigation.
Hunger strike leader Barghouti says ‘snacking video’ fake
A lawyer says Palestinian hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti denies the authenticity of a video purportedly showing him eating secretly in his cell.
Khader Shkirat, who met with Barghouti for three hours earlier today, says his client lost 13 kilograms (28 pounds) since a hunger strike by hundreds of Palestinians detained by Israel began April 17.
Shkirat says Barghouti told him he would escalate the protest soon by refusing to drink water.
Last week, Israel released a video allegedly showing Barghouti snacking.
Shkirat says his client told him the cell featured in the video, with a bunk bed, is much nicer than the run-down single-bed cell with a smelly blanket where he is held.
US, Japan request urgent Security Council session on North Korea
The United States and Japan call for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on North Korea after Pyongyang carried out its latest missile test, diplomats say.
The meeting is being scheduled in principle for Tuesday afternoon, according to the UN mission of Uruguay, which currently holds the council’s presidency.
North Korea launched a ballistic missile early yesterday, in what was seen as a challenge to South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-In, a liberal who has said he wants to ease tensions with the North.