The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Palestinians ask world to punish Israel for settlement law
Palestinian Authority Tourism and Antiquities Minister Rula Maayaa calls on the international community to punish Israel for a contentious new law, just hours after the Knesset adopted the bill to retroactively legalize thousands of West Bank settlement homes built unlawfully on private Palestinian land.
“Nobody can legalize the theft of the Palestinian lands. Building settlements is a crime, building settlements is against all international laws,” Maayaa says. “I think it is time now for the international community to act concretely to stop the Israelis from these crimes.”
According to the law, Palestinian landowners would be compensated either with money or other land, even if they did not agree to give up their property. Critics say the legislation enshrines into law the theft of Palestinian land, and it is expected to be challenged in Israel’s Supreme Court.
Assad says EU should have no role in Syria’s reconstruction
Syrian President Bashar Assad says the European Union should have no role in the reconstruction of Syria unless it changes its policy toward the Mideast country.
Speaking to Belgian media, Assad says EU countries back opposition fighters who inflicted destruction on Syria and “they cannot destroy and build at the same time.”
Assad adds that US President Donald Trump’s campaign statements on fighting terrorism are “promising” but it’s still early to “expect anything” on the ground.
UN official Abdullah Al Dardari said in Beirut last month that reconstruction will cost around $350 billion.
Netanyahu says root of conflict is ‘Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel’
A day after the Knesset passed a law to legalize settlement outposts in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the “root of this [Israel-Palestinian] conflict” is Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel.
“The reason that we do not have peace with the Palestinians is a simple truth: the determined refusal of the Palestinians over the last 70 years, 68 years since the foundation of Israel, to recognize Israel under any borders,” Netanyahu says during a press conference with visiting Belgian President Charles Michel.
“I await the day when there will be Palestinians who will finally be able to recognize the State of Israel. That will be the beginning of peace and a big step toward its fulfillment,” Netanyahu says.
Majority of Jewish Israelis oppose annexing territories — poll
Fifty-three percent of the Jewish Israelis believe that Israel should not annex large parts of the West Bank as opposed to just 37% who thinks it should, according to a new poll by the Israel Democracy Institute.
In addition, 50% of Jewish Israelis disagree with calls by right-of-center politicians that with the onset of US President Donald Trump’s tenure Israel has entered a “new era” in its relationship with the United States and should exploit the opportunity to expand construction in the West Bank, the monthly IDI Peace Index finds.
Asked if Palestinians should be given citizenship in the case of annexation, only 24 percent of Jewish Israelis said yes while the rest are divided between those who think they should be given the status of “residents” (30%), and those who think they should not be given any status beyond what they have now (31.5%).
Majority of Israelis think Netanyahu should resign if indicted — poll
A clear majority of Israelis believe that if an indictment is served against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in either of the two police investigations currently opened against him, he should resign immediately even though, according to the letter of the law, he need not do so until he is convicted and his appeal is rejected.
According to the Israel Democracy Institute’s monthly Peace Index, 53 percent of Jewish Israelis say he should resign, with that number rising to 71.5% among the Arab Israeli population.
Netanyahu is being investigated in “Case 1000,” probing allegations he received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of cigars, champagne and other gifts, and “Case 2000,” which explores claims the prime minister promised to advance legislation to hobble the Israel Hayom daily if competing paper Yedioth Ahronoth made its coverage of him less negative.
Israel settlement law crosses ‘thick red line’ — UN
A new Israeli law legalizing dozens of Jewish outposts built on private Palestinian land crosses a “thick red line” toward annexation of the occupied West Bank, UN envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov says.
Mladenov said the bill sets a “very dangerous precedent.”
“This is the first time the Israeli Knesset (parliament) legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues,” he ells AFP. “That crosses a very thick red line.”
Some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government have called for the annexation of much of the West Bank, a move that would end any hope of an independent Palestinian state.
“[The law] opens the potential for the full annexation of the West Bank and therefore undermines substantially the two-state solution,” Mladenov adds.
Exterminator sentenced to 3 years in prison for causing death of 2 girls
An exterminator is sentenced to three years in prison for causing the death of two young girls three years ago when he treated their family’s home in Jerusalem with a dangerous poisonous substance.
Yossi Barkan, from Nataf outside Jerusalem, admitted to causing the deaths of Yael and Avigail Gross, aged 1 and 4, by exposure to toxic chemicals, and causing serious injury to the four other members of the family under a plea bargain that will see him serve a relatively short sentence of three years in prison and pay the family NIS 200,000 ($51,700) in damages.
The Gross family agreed to the deal, having accepted the claim that Barkan suffered from “problematic health at the time of the incident,” according to the Justice Ministry.
French FM condemns outpost law as ‘attack’ on 2-state solution
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault condemns a law passed by the Knesset yesterday legalizing West Bank settlement outposts and calls on Israel to “reconsider.”
“I condemn the adoption yesterday by the Israeli parliament of the law to legalize thousands of homes built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. This law perpetuates the existence of dozens of settlements and outposts by giving them a legal basis for their future development, Ayrault says in a statement.
Calling the law a “new attack on the two-state solution,” Ayrault asks Israel to “respect its international obligations and to reconsider this law.”
Rights groups call on AG, army to disregard outpost law
The Israeli legal rights group Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) are calling on authorities to ignore legislation passed yesterday to legalize West Bank settlement outposts, saying that the law is “illegal.”
In a letter sent to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and IDF Chief Military Advocate General Sharon Afek, the NGOs ask them to “instruct the authorities in the West Bank not to carry out the law.”
According to Yesh Din and ACRI, the law contradicts the “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty” as well as international law, and “could implicate citizens and officers in war crimes at the International Criminal Court.”
21 injured in vehicle pileup on Route 35
Twenty-one people are injured in a car accident involving several vehicles on Route 35 close to the southern city of Kiryat Gat.
Three of those wounded are in serious condition, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service. They have been taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Abbas calls outpost law an ‘attack’ on Palestinians
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls the new Israeli law legalizing dozens of Jewish outposts built on private Palestinian land an “attack against our people” and promises to fight it in “international courts.”
“This legislation in contrary to international law. We will continue our work with the international courts to protect our existence and our survival on Palestinian land,” Abbas says during a press conference in Paris, following a meeting with French President Francois Hollande.
— with AFP
UN says 30,000 have returned to Iraq’s Mosul
The United Nations says some 30,000 people have returned to neighborhoods retaken from the Islamic State group in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul since a major operation to drive out the militants began in October.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday that the number of returnees has steadily increased since Iraqi forces declared the eastern half of the city “fully liberated” last month.
The western half of Mosul, home to an estimated 750,000 people, is still held by the militants. The extremist group captured Mosul in a matter of days in the summer of 2014, when it swept across northern and central Iraq.
Some 190,000 people have been displaced since then, either by the militants or military operations against them, according to the UN.
Jewish ex-con gets 30 years for torching Orlando mosque
A Jewish ex-convict is sentenced to 30 years in prison for setting fire to a mosque that Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen occasionally attended.
Joseph Schreiber, 32, pleaded guilty at a hearing in the district courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution. He had confessed to police that he set fire to the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce last September 11, the 15th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Mateen was killed by police officers after opening fire at the Pulse nightclub on June 12 in a rampage that killed 49 people and wounded 53. The mass shooting, which Mateen said was in the name of the Islamic State group, was the deadliest in modern US history.
The fire destroyed the mosque, causing more than $100,000 in damages, and the leaders recently announced they would move it to a new location. Mateen’s father is among the some 100 regular worshippers at the mosque.
Hezbollah calls for ‘resistance’ to outpost bill
Hezbollah calls for Palestinian “resistance” in response to legislation passed by the Knesset yesterday which in essence legalizes West Bank settlement outposts.
“Hezbollah stressed that the settlement policy of the Zionist entity would not be able to defeat the willingness of the Palestinians whose resistance path could liberate the entire Palestine from the Zionist occupation,” a Hezbollah spokesman says.
Shin Bet arrests Molotov cocktail gang
The Shin Bet security service says it has arrested a group of Palestinian teenagers who are suspected of throwing Molotov cocktails at cars along West Bank highways on a number of occasions.
The seven teens, residents of Beit Anan, a village north of Jerusalem, are believed to have thrown firebombs on highways 443 and 436 near the Givat Ze’ev settlement at least seven times over the past few months, the Shin Bet says.
A military prosecutor filed an indictment Tuesday against the seven suspects and requested to keep them in custody throughout the trial.
“The Shin Bet sees these acts of terror as very serious and life-threatening. Along with our partners, the IDF and Israel Police, we will work vigorously to uncover these terror cells and punish those involved,” the security service says, in a statement.
— Judah Ari Gross
MKs approve releasing Comptroller report sections on Gaza tunnel threat
Lawmakers approve the publication of portions of a State Comptroller’s report on the security cabinet’s handling of the 2014 Gaza war that deal with the threat of Hamas attack tunnels leading into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Last month, the subcommittee on classified information, part of the parliament’s State Control Committee, voted unanimously to release to the public parts of the biting comptroller’s report related to how the security cabinet of top-level ministers handled itself during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, although no official date has yet been given for the report’s release.
MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid), who chairs the State Control Committee, says that as portions of the report approved for publication today contain operational intelligence, “information that can be used against us will be censored,” according to Hebrew media reports.
Elharar also said that the decision to approve for publication the parts of the report dealing with the tunnel threat was made following “the recommendation of the State Comptroller and in coordination with security officials.”
She also said that she hopes State Comptroller Yosef Shapira will publish the report in the next two weeks.
Netanyahu asks Belgian PM to defund Breaking the Silence
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel to defund organizations that “act against IDF soldiers and the State of Israel.”
During the meeting between the two leaders in Jerusalem, Netanyahu requested that Belgium cut all funding to organizations like Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies from former Israel Defense Forces soldiers about alleged human rights violations they witness in the Palestinian territories during their military service.
Yesterday, during a visit to the UK, Netanyahu asked British Prime Minister Theresa May to halt funding for what he called nonprofit organizations that are “hostile to Israel.” He specifically mentioned Breaking the Silence.
Up to 13,000 hanged in Syria’s ‘slaughterhouse’ — Amnesty
Syrian military police hanged as many of 13,000 people over the course of four years in a prison known as “the slaughterhouse” before carting out their bodies by the truckload for burial in mass graves, according to a new report issued by Amnesty International.
The report says that 20-50 people were hanged each week, sometimes twice a week, at the Saydnaya prison in what the organization called a “calculated campaign of extrajudicial execution.”
The report covers the period from the start of the March 2011 uprising to December 2015, when Amnesty says between 5,000 and 13,000 people were hanged.
Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty’s regional office in Beirut, says there is no reason to believe the practice has stopped since then, with thousands more probably killed.
Amnesty says the killings were authorized by senior Syrian officials, including deputies of President Bashar Assad.
Cambridge Jewish student leaders ‘deeply concerned’ about recent campus anti-Semitism
Jewish student leaders at Cambridge University in England say they were “deeply concerned” about recent anti-Semitic activities at the school.
Jewish Society co-presidents Adam Goott and Alex Szlezinger tell the student newspaper, the Varsity, that they were in touch with campus police and Britain’s Community Security Trust following the appearance over the weekend of two swastikas drawn on a campus map and fliers supporting convicted Holocaust denier David Irving.
“We are deeply concerned by the recent escalation in the number of anti-Semitic incidents and CUJS will be in touch with the relevant authorities,” Goott and Szlezinger say.
“Cambridge University Jewish Society firmly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism, including the recent dissemination of flyers advertising abhorrent ideas of Holocaust denial, and swastika graffiti appearing on signs at Jesus Green,” they say.
Ticketmaster launches in Israel
The US entertainment company Live Nation announces it has acquired a stake in an Israeli concert promotion business and launched Ticketmaster Israel.
The Los Angeles-based company purchased a majority stake in Tel Aviv’s Bluestone Entertainment, Billboard reports, and the two companies have partnered on the launch of the popular ticketing site in the Jewish state.
“We have seen a considerable demand for live entertainment with the shows that Live Nation has brought to the market over the last few years and have been very impressed when working with Guy, Shay and the rest of the Bluestone team,” says Alan Ridgeway, Live Nation’s president of international and emerging markets. “Formalizing our partnership and bringing the Ticketmaster brand and technology to the market was the natural next step.”
Founded in 2014 by Guy Oseary, Guy Beser, Shay Mor Yosef and Gadi Veinrib, Bluestone has prompted sold-out shows in Israel by major international acts including Bon Jovi, the Backstreet Boys and Enrique Iglesias. The company has scheduled shows in Tel Aviv by Aerosmith on May 17 and Guns ‘n’ Roses on July 15.
White supremacist fliers found at Indiana University
Indiana University says it has contacted the FBI after white supremacist fliers were found posted on the Bloomington campus.
In a statement, Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel says the fliers were put up “by a group that identifies with white supremacy” and targeted minority faculty members.
“Posted under cover of darkness, targeting the office doors of faculty members of color or scholars of race and ethnicity, these flyers were clearly meant to intimidate, threaten, scare, and provoke anger among faculty, staff, students and visitors,” Robel writes. “The university is working with the police and has notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Robel says the university rejects racism and discrimination and said the fliers run counter to the school’s values.
“Our campus unequivocally rejects the cowardice and ugliness that this group’s action represents,” Robel says. “We stand together as a community in the face of this abhorrent action. We will not be divided by cowards. This is a university. We discuss ideas in the full light of day.”
Trump aide slams ‘asinine’ Holocaust statement criticism
A deputy assistant to Donald Trump says that criticism of the White House statement on the Holocaust that omitted Jews was motivated solely by a desire to attack the president.
Sebastian Gorka lashes out after being asked by conservative talk show host Michael Medved if he would acknowledge that it was “questionable” for the White House not to specifically acknowledge the Jewish people in its Holocaust remembrance day statement last month.
“No, I’m not going to admit it,” Gorka says. “Because it’s asinine. It’s absurd. You’re making a statement about the Holocaust. Of course it’s about the Holocaust because that’s what the statement’s about. It’s only reasonable to twist it if your objective is to attack the president.”
In a statement last month to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House noted the “victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust,” but did not specifically mention the Jewish people. Six million Jews were killed in the Nazi genocide.
UN chief says new Israeli settlement legislation violates international law
A new Israeli law legalizing dozens of Jewish settler outposts in the Palestinian West Bank is in violation of international law, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says.
“This bill is in contravention of international law and will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel,” Guterres says in a statement.
AG considering testifying against state over outpost law in High Court
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is considering testifying against the State in the High Court of Justice over the controversial legislation passed yesterday to legalize West Bank settlement outposts, Channel 2 news reports.
Mandelblit has repeatedly said that he won’t be able to defend the law before the court, warning that it marks the first time Israeli legislation explicitly affirms government support for wildcat settlements, and would openly curtail property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that contravenes the protections granted to occupied populations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The law, which passed with a majority of 60 to 52, allows Israel to compensate Palestinians whose land has been taken over by settlers, instead of removing the outposts.
Several anti-settlement groups have announced their intention to petition the High Court against the new law.
Netanyahu testifies he didnt know about wife’s champagne gifts — report
As part of a criminal investigation into suspicions he received illicit gifts from billionaires, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told police investigators that he did no know about expensive champagne bought for his wife Sara Netanyahu, according to Channel 2 news.
Arnon Milchan, the Israeli film producer at the heart of the corruption investigation, had reportedly confirmed to police that he gave gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels to Netanyahu and his wife Sara over many years, but said he never expected anything in return.
According to testimony the prime minister reportedly gave to police, Netanyahu said that “she is an independent woman and I am an independent man,” to explain why he was not aware that Milchan was giving gifts to his wife.
“You can’t expect that I will know everything in these issues,” he said, Channel 2 reports.
EU joins international condemnation of Israeli settlement law
The European Union says it “condemns” a new Israeli law legalizing dozens of Jewish settler outposts in the West Bank and urges it against implementation.
“The EU urges the Israeli leadership to refrain from implementing the law and to avoid measures that further raise tensions and endanger the prospects for a peaceful solution to the conflict,” foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says in a statement.
Dozens arrested as ultra-Othodox protest blocks major roads
Up to 50 people have been detained by police in mass protests across the country after a member of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian community was arrested for draft dodging.
A number of major highways have been closed after protesters flooded roads in an attempt to stop traffic.
Police say that one officer suffered light injuries after he was attacked by a minor in protest at the Nitzan Junction on Route 4. The youth was arrested.
Betsy DeVos narrowly confirmed as US education secretary
Betsy DeVos is confirmed as secretary of education, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker in a historic 51-50 vote. It marks the first time a vice president broke a tie for a cabinet confirmation.
DeVos, a Michigan billionaire whose advocacy for school choice has led to sweeping changes in the educational landscape in her home state, provoked divergent opinions in the Jewish community.
Both the ulta-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union issued congratulations within minutes of the vote. But the Reform movement’s rabbinical arm, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, was opposed to the nomination, as were the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International.
DeVos’s support for school choice raised concerns among advocates of church-state separation, who oppose the diversion of public funds to religious institutions.