‘Kushner family donated huge sums to West Bank settlements, IDF’
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Live updates (closed)Latest: Outpost bill passes 60-49

Knesset passes settlement bill 60 to 49 in preliminary vote

Poll comes after speeches see plenum descend into yelling match; most Israelis consider Trump ‘pro-Israel,’ new poll finds; Libyan troops retake Sirte from Islamic State

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett speaks at the Knesset on December 5, 2016. (Flash90)
Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett speaks at the Knesset on December 5, 2016. (Flash90)

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

Trump names former rival Carson housing secretary

US President-elect Donald Trump on Monday chose Ben Carson, the mild-mannered retired neurosurgeon who challenged him for the Republican nomination, to turn around troubled US inner cities as secretary of housing and urban development.

Carson, an African American who is a religious conservative, has no background in housing policy but has cited his poor childhood in Detroit as a qualification for the job.

He is the first black selected by Trump for his team.

“Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities,” Trump said in a statement.

“We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities.”

Carson said: “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need.”

— AFP

Knesset to vote on settlement bill today

The so-called Regulation Bill — which would prevent settlements built on private land from being demolished if they were built with state assistance — is “likely” to be voted on during this afternoon’s Knesset plenary session, a spokesman for Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein tells The Times of Israel, despite previous reports that it had been dropped from the agenda.

A final decision will be made during a meeting of the heads of coalition factions scheduled to take place at 2 p.m., he says.

In its current formulation, the bill includes a clause that would retroactively legalize outposts such as Amona, a measure which has been deemed unconstitutional by the attorney general. The High Court has ordered Amona be demolished and its residents evacuated by December 25.

— Raoul Wootliff

Guns N’ Roses coming to Israel

American rock band Guns N’ Roses is coming to Israel on July 15 for a single concert as part of their upcoming tour. The group, perhaps best known for their tracks “Sweet Child of Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle” and “November Rain,” will arrive in Tel Aviv after a jaunt across Europe.

They arrive in Israel after a concert in the Netherlands before heading back to the United States.The band has played twice in Israel before, in 2012 and in 1993.

Tickets go on sale December 9.

Russian jet crashes attempting carrier landing, again

The Russian Defense Ministry says a Su-33 fighter jet, based on the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, has crashed into the Mediterranean Sea after returning from a sortie over Syria.

The ministry says in a statement that was reported by Russian news agencies that “because of the failure of the arrester system’s cable, the Su-33 fighter rolled off the deck” on Monday.

The pilot of the aircraft successfully ejected and was unharmed in the incident. The ministry added that Russian military operations over Syria will not be affected by the incident.

This is the second loss of an aircraft from Russia’s only aircraft carrier since it arrived off Syria last month. The Defense Ministry said that a Mig-29 fighter crashed into the sea on November 15 while attempting to land on the Admiral Kuznetsov.

— AP

Kulanu to abstain on West Bank outpost bill

If the outpost bill — which would prevent settlements built on private land from being demolished if they were built with state assistance — goes to a Knesset plenary vote today, MKs from the Kulanu party will abstain, a party spokesman tells The Times of Israel.

The centrist Kulanu party opposes a clause in the bill that would retroactively legalize outposts such as Amona, which is currently slated to be demolished and evacuated on December 25. The current text of the bill presents two options — one including the controversial clause and one without. If the 1st reading passes today, the bill would go to committee where MKs would decide on the final text of the bill before 2nd and 3rd readings.

But Kulanu will not support the bill with any mention of retroactivity, even as one of two options, the spokesman says.

— Raoul Wootliff

Jewish Home MKs concede: Bill won’t save Amona

Two Jewish Home lawmakers, authors of the so-called Regulation Bill, are conceding that their controversial legislation will not avert the court-ordered demolition of the Amona outpost by December 25.

“I still believe we can extend the Regulation Bill to Amona, but unfortunately it seems that it’s not currently possible, and are trying to find another solution for the residents of Amona,” MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli told the Knesset Channel.

Fellow party member Betzalel Smotrich says he has “mixed feelings” about the affair.

On the one hand, he writes on Twitter, “we will pass the regulation bill and this is an incredible strategic accomplishment” for the settlement movement. The Amona residents, meanwhile, will be moved to a nearby hilltop whose owners are not known, he adds.

“It isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly an accomplishment,” he says of the compromise between the coalition heads, which is awaiting the attorney general’s approval.

Both Smotrich and Moalem-Refaeli have been among the most outspoken advocates against the demolition of the outpost, where some 40 families live, and which the High Court of Justice has ruled was built on private Palestinian land.

— Marissa Newman

Jewish Home delays press conference to ‘discuss options’

The Jewish Home party has delayed a press conference scheduled to take place before their weekly Knesset faction meeting amid confusion over how coalition parties will vote on the controversial outpost bill, likely to face its first plenary reading this afternoon.

The party released a statement saying the press conference had been delayed due to an ongoing meeting of the coalition faction heads where a final decision on whether the bill is to be voted on will be made.

Kulanu have said they will abstain if the vote is brought today.

A Jewish Home source told The Times of Israel that the party will release a statement after the faction meeting as MKs want to “discuss options.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Joint List chief calls for investigation of PM for incitement

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh is accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of incitement against Arab Israelis in his remarks attributing the wave of wildfires last month to arson.

Odeh says he is set to file a formal request with the attorney general to investigate Netanyahu for incitement.

He says that if any of the blazes were deliberately set, the arsonists should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Odeh also slams the bill that would ban mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast the early morning call to prayer, saying it’s a “decree that the community will not be able to withstand.”

And he maintains that the so-called Regulation Bill, which would legalize some West Bank outposts built with state assistance, will lead Israeli leaders to the ICC, as Netanyahu has reportedly warned.

“I recommend they hire lawyers,” he says of Israeli politicians spearheading the legislation.

— Marissa Newman

Libyan troops retake Sirte from Islamic State

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed government said Monday they had seized full control of the city of Sirte from the Islamic State group, dealing a major blow to the jihadists.

The battle for the city, which was the last significant territory held by IS in Libya, took more than six months and cost the lives of hundreds of loyalist troops.

“Our forces have total control of Sirte,” Reda Issa, a spokesman for pro-government forces, told AFP.

“Our forces saw Daesh totally collapse,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

Forces allied with the country’s unity government launched an offensive to retake the city on May 12, quickly seizing large areas of the city and cornering the jihadists.

But IS put up fierce resistance with suicide car bombings, snipers and improvised explosive devices.

— AFP

47-year-old busted for sexting 13-year-old girl

A 47-year-old resident of central Israel was arrested by police for allegedly conducting sexual correspondence with a 13-year-old girl, including sending her pictures, police say.

6 Palestinian kids arrested for throwing rocks at cars

The police detained six Palestinian children suspected of throwing rocks at cars in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan last month. The children, aged nine to 13, were questioned and released, and police say they will punish them to the full extent of the law.

Poll: Most Israelis consider Trump ‘pro-Israel’

A new poll finds that 83% of Israelis surveyed believe President-elect Donald Trump will be “pro-Israel.”

The survey commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation and conducted by Dialog found that 3% of respondents think Trump will “undoubtedly execute” his promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and 48% are concerned about the rise in anti-Semitic incidents since his November 8 victory in the elections.

“Our poll of Israelis regarding the new U.S. administration and its impending impact on Israel and American Jewry shows that Israelis are optimistic that President-elect Trump will be a friend of Israel while at the same time they are concerned about the growing incidents of anti Semitism in the United States and its impact on the American Jewish community,” Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said in a statement.

President-elect Donald Trump gestures toward reporters as he arrives for a party at the home of Robert Mercer, one of his biggest campaign donors, December 3, 2016, in Head of the Harbor, N.Y. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President-elect Donald Trump gestures toward reporters as he arrives for a party at the home of Robert Mercer, one of his biggest campaign donors, December 3, 2016, in Head of the Harbor, N.Y. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Netanyahu: Amona to stay intact after move

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Israeli government has had “excellent conversations” with US president-elect Donald Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence since the US elections.

At the same time, he urges ministers and coalition members to “act with restraint” in commenting on policy that may affect the US-Israel relationship, noting it’s “a very sensitive period from a diplomatic perspective.”

At the start of the weekly Likud faction meeting, the prime minister says the coalition leaders are “working very hard” on a deal that would allow the Amona residents to stay close to their hilltop, moving the caravans just several hundreds meters away, and keeping the community intact. This is “very important news,” he says.

He says there are many “Amonas” and the the government is working on resolving the larger legal problem because “the settlements are important to us.”

Netanyahu says the coalition is “strong” and is overcoming the obstacles posed by the impending evacuation of the outpost.

Asked by an Army Radio reporter whether he really believes Israel has the most free, most critical press in the world, as Netanyahu told the Saban Forum on Sunday, the prime minister reiterates the claim, adding that it is “their right” to be critical. But it is my right to criticize the press in return, he adds.

The prime minister also pokes fun at his receding hairline and carefully attended combover.

After wishing fellow Likud MK Yoav Kisch a happy birthday, the lawmaker notes that his hair is grayer and he’s put on a few pounds since entering Israel’s parliament.

“The color doesn’t matter, and I say this carefully,” Netanyahu responds, to titters. “The important thing is that there’s something [there].”

‘Kushner family donated huge sums to West Bank settlements, IDF’

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family foundation has donated heaps of money to groups in the West Bank settlements, Haaretz reports after examining the group’s tax returns.

Among the organizations that received money from the Kushner family foundation was the American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva, which received $20,000 in 2013, the Etzion Foundation, which received $15,000 in recent years, and the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the hardline outpost of Yitzhar. Jared Kushner sits on the foundation’s board.

The foundation also donated $315,000 between 2011 and 2013 to Friends of the IDF, the military’s fundraising organization in the US.

Jewish Home backs down, agrees to drop Amona from outpost bill

The Jewish Home party is backing down from a demand to include a clause that would have retroactively legalized outposts such as Amona in the so-called Regulation Bill to prevent settlements built on private land from being demolished if they were built with state assistance.

The centrist Kulanu party had opposed the text of the first reading of the bill presents which included an option for the controversial clause to be part of the final law. Earlier, a spokesman for the party told The Times of Israel that Kulanu MKs would abstain from the bill if it came to a vote in its current form.

Following a meeting of the heads of coalition factions this afternoon, it has been decided to remove the clause by having the Knesset vote to reinstate the original preliminary version of the bill before the retroactive clause was added, coalition sources told The Times of Israel. That vote is now scheduled to take place this evening.

A meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is likely to take place this evening after the vote in order to give the bill official coalition backing, the sources say.

— Raoul Wootliff

IDF to hold drills on Lebanon, Gaza borders

As part of two separate army exercises tomorrow, a siren will be sounded in northern Israel and large numbers of troops and military vehicles will be conducting drills near the Gaza border, the IDF says.

The alarm will be sounded at 10:05 a.m. in the following areas: Kiryat Shmona, Nahariya, Metula, Ma’alot Tarshiha, Shlomi, Fassuta, Hurfeish, Peki’in, Gush Halav, Ghajar, Kfar Vradim, Mi’ilya, Mateh Asher, Maale Yosef, Marom Hagalil, the upper Galilee and the foothills of the Hermon.

The exercise in southern Israel will begin just after midnight and last through the morning, the army says.

As part of the drill, the following roadways will be closed to traffic between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.: the Carlsberg Junction, the Yad Mordechai Junction, Gevim Junction, Urim Junction, Tze’elim Junction and Route 25 at Tekuma.

The IDF says these exercises are not tied to any specific event, but are part of the military’s yearly schedule.

— Judah Ari Gross

Bennett: Outpost bill paves way for annexing West Bank

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the Jewish Home party leader, says that the settlement bill going before the Knesset will change the government’s policy from the establishment of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank to the annexation of Judea and Samaria.

He tells reporters it’s a “historic day,” describing it as the day Israel buried the two-state solution and kicked off the process of annexing the West Bank.

“If this law does indeed pass, one could say that the revolution of ’77 happened here again, because today the national camp has returned to govern,” he says, referring to the election of the Likud party under Menachem Begin to power. “It’s a historic day.”

“Today, the Israeli Knesset shifted from a path to establish a Palestinian state, to a path of extending sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Let there be no doubt, the regulation bill is what will spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty,” a smiling Bennett says.

He thanks the prime minister for his support.

— with Marissa Newman

TIME releases Person of the Year shortlist

Time magazine announces the shortlist of 2016 Person of the Year candidates, which include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mandelblit said to oppose settlement bill

Senior judiciary sources say that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit fiercely opposes the settlement regulation bill, even without a clause excluding Amona, Channel 10 reports. The attorney general is reportedly weighing asking the Supreme Court to postpone demolishing the illegal outpost for a month for residents to move.

76-year-old man arrested on suspicion of raping granddaughter

A 76-year-old synagogue cantor from Jerusalem was arrested by police on suspicion of sexually abusing and raping his granddaughter since she was 11, Channel 10 reports. The granddaughter is now 19.

Attorney general comes out against settlement bill

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit comes out against the new draft of the settlement regulation bill, saying it is illegal and violates Israeli and international law. He says that the new version still includes elements that violate accepted legal principles governing land in the West Bank.

Police stoned in East Jerusalem’s Issawiya

Police say rocks were thrown at officers and Border Police troops in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. No injuries are reported. Police dispersed the rock-throwers with riot dispersal means.

The new draft of the Regulation Bill — what it says, what it means

A preliminary vote on a new draft of the Regulation Bill will be held in the Knesset plenum later on Monday.

As it stands, the proposal — endorsed by Jewish Home MKs Betzalel Smotrich and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Likud MKs David Bitan and Yoav Kisch — has the backing of all the coalition parties, including the center-right Kulanu, which had rejected previous versions of the legislation that would have been extended retroactively to avert the razing of the Amona outpost by the end of the year.

While the coalition parties have touted the new version as a compromise that is consistent with Israeli law, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is reportedly still opposed to the proposed legislation.

According to Peace Now assessments, the bill will legalize 55 outposts and 4,000 housing units in existing Jewish outposts and settlements in the West Bank, cast over some 8,000 dunam of privately-owned Palestinian land.

The new bill will not apply retroactively to the Amona outpost, slated for demolition by a court-ordered deadline of December 25.

It will, however, recognize other construction that was built on private Palestinian land, if the construction was carried out in good faith, namely without the knowledge that the land was privately-owned, and if the settlers had some component of state assistance — which in some cases could be as simple as having existing infrastructure, since most infrastructural services fall under the purview of state ministries. The proposed legislation notes that the government support may be explicit or implicit, from the start or post-facto, and the backing of local municipalities is considered state support.

Under the law, the government will be able to appropriate land for its own use if the owners are not known. If the owners are known, they will be eligible for either: yearly damages amounting to 125 percent of the value of leasing the land, a larger financial package valued at 20 years’ worth of leasing the plots, or alternate plots.

The legislation explicitly refers to structures in three settlements that have been subject to legal efforts to demolish buildings constructed on private land — Eli, Netiv HaAvot, and Ofra. It says that all administrative proceedings in these three settlements will be frozen with the enactment of the law, and within the first 12 months, the government must determine whether these structures were built in good faith and with government assistance. If they are — the Regulation Bill will apply to these areas, it stipulates.

“In many cases, settlements were built in agreed-upon areas, and were even encouraged or built in coordination with the state, or were built in good faith by the Israeli residents, who were unaware that this was privately-owned land,” the proposal says. “Leaving the situation as is in these settlements or their destruction is liable to seriously, unjustifiably harm those who have lived there for many years. Therefore, the regulation of these settlements is necessary.”

— Marissa Newman

Coalition throws support behind settlement bill

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation meets in a special session and gives its backing to the Regulation Bill, according to Hebrew reports. With the okay from the ministerial panel, the proposal now has the support of the entire coalition.

— Marissa Newman

Renzi arrives at presidential palace to tender resignation

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi arrived at the presidential palace in Rome late Monday to formally offer his resignation following a crushing referendum defeat.

President Sergio Mattarella is expected to either accept his resignation, ask him to stay on for a few days to pass the country’s 2017 budget, or appoint a caretaker leader until elections can be held in the eurozone’s third largest economy.

Renzi, who had spent an hour with Mattarella earlier to discuss his options, arrived by car at the Quirinale Palace, the historical presidential residence that used to house popes and sits on the highest of Rome’s seven hills.

The downcast 41-year old former mayor of Florence told the country after his defeat at Sunday’s referendum on constitutional change that “my experience of government finishes here”.

But Italian media reported that Mattarella may ask him to stay on until Friday to pass the budget and ease European and investor fears of political and economic instability in the debt-laden country.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) arrives by car at the Quirinale presidential palace to meet Italy's President Sergio Mattarella and formally offer his resignation following a crushing referendum defeat, on December 5, 2016 in Rome. (AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI)

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) arrives by car at the Quirinale presidential palace to meet Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and formally offer his resignation following a crushing referendum defeat, on December 5, 2016 in Rome. (AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI)

–AFP

Knesset chaos as Jewish Home MK tries to speak

Chaos in the Knesset as Jewish Home party MK Bezalel Smotrich tries to speak about something concerning the judicial system and the settlement regulation bill, but it’s hard to follow what he’s saying over the jeers and shouts in the hall. Opposition lawmakers are howling and banging on tables to prevent him from speaking in protest of the settlement regulation bill that appears to be a fait accompli.

Italy President asks PM Renzi to delay resignation for budget

Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Monday asked outgoing Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to delay his resignation for long enough to oversee the adoption of the country’s 2017 budget.

The presidential office confirmed the move after Renzi went to see Mattarella after announcing his intention to step down following a crushing defeat in a referendum on constitutional changes.

— AFP

Outpost bill passes 60-49

After a few stormy speeches, the Knesset passes the controversial settlement Regulation Bill by a tally of 60-49 in preliminary reading.

The controversial measure will now go to committee and could return to the Knesset for first reading as early as Tuesday.

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Live updates (closed) Latest: Outpost bill passes 60-49

‘Kushner family donated huge sums to West Bank settlements, IDF’

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family foundation has donated heaps of money to groups in the West Bank settlements, Haaretz reports after examining the group’s tax returns.

Among the organizations that received money from the Kushner family foundation was the American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva, which received $20,000 in 2013, the Etzion Foundation, which received $15,000 in recent years, and the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the hardline outpost of Yitzhar. Jared Kushner sits on the foundation’s board.

The foundation also donated $315,000 between 2011 and 2013 to Friends of the IDF, the military’s fundraising organization in the US.