Netanyahu opposed Shalit prisoner exchange — Barak
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IDF dramatically improving ability to strike Iran, says defense official

In leaked tape, Barak says Netanyahu opposed Schalit exchange; over 760 rabbis sign letter against Iran deal

  • File: An F-35 taking off for its first night flight on January 18, 2012. (US Air Force/ Tom Reynolds)
    File: An F-35 taking off for its first night flight on January 18, 2012. (US Air Force/ Tom Reynolds)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seen at the arrival ceremony of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at the Tel Nof air force base, October 18, 2011. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seen at the arrival ceremony of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at the Tel Nof air force base, October 18, 2011. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)
  • Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz hugging Gilad Shalit on the day of his release from Hamas captivity, October 18, 2011, as Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu look on. (IDF Spokesperson/ Flash 90)
    Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz hugging Gilad Shalit on the day of his release from Hamas captivity, October 18, 2011, as Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu look on. (IDF Spokesperson/ Flash 90)
  • President Reuven Rivlin, center, meets with regional councils heads of West Bank settlements at the President's Residence, August 24, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin, center, meets with regional councils heads of West Bank settlements at the President's Residence, August 24, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
  • File: Israeli triple jumper Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko at 2013 World Championships in Athletics. (Wikimedia/Augustas Didzgalvis/CC BY-SA 4.0)
    File: Israeli triple jumper Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko at 2013 World Championships in Athletics. (Wikimedia/Augustas Didzgalvis/CC BY-SA 4.0)
  • File: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Em's Coffee Co. in Independence, Iowa, May 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
    File: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Em's Coffee Co. in Independence, Iowa, May 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
  • Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, July 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, July 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • An Israeli soldier walks in the abandoned Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Southern israel, as Hamas militants in Gaza continue to fire rockets into Israel on the 34rd day of Operation Protective Edge. (Photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)
    An Israeli soldier walks in the abandoned Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Southern israel, as Hamas militants in Gaza continue to fire rockets into Israel on the 34rd day of Operation Protective Edge. (Photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)
  • File: Israelis vacation at a Sinai beach resort in 2006. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
    File: Israelis vacation at a Sinai beach resort in 2006. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
  • Palestinian schoolgirls sit inside their classroom during the opening ceremony of a school in Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 22, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
    Palestinian schoolgirls sit inside their classroom during the opening ceremony of a school in Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 22, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, right, welcomes then-British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond at the start of their meeting in his office, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, right, welcomes then-British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond at the start of their meeting in his office, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

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

Rivlin praises settlers for resilience

President Reuven Rivlin praises the resilience of West Bank settlers in a meeting with settlement leaders at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

“In the last few months, and especially in the last few days, the settlement in Judea and Samaria is dealing with difficult terror attacks,” notes Rivlin, using the Hebrew name for the West Bank. “So especially in these days our meeting is especially important. As always, the pioneers walking before the camp meet the toughest resistance, and pay, together with IDF soldiers, the heavy price.”

The West Bank is seeing a wave of terror attacks against civilians and multiple attacks against IDF and Border Police troops in recent weeks.

Rivlin urges resilience. “We have to cope. We have that ability to cope with the current wave of terror, to fight against it, and not to give anyone the power to disrupt daily life. We must be a wall of iron, a strong shield against those who wish to rise against us.”

Gay parade attacker indicted for murder

An ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed seven people at last month’s Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, leaving one teenage girl dead and six others injured, is charged with murder at the Jerusalem District Court.

Prosecutors indict Yishai Schlissel on one count of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder along with a slew of other related charges, after his attack left 16-year-old Shira Banki dead and a number of other victims fighting for their lives.

A remand extension is requested until Schlissel, who was recently found to be psychologically fit to stand trial, can be brought before the court.

— Avi Lewis

Ashkelon man dies after car overturns

A 70-year-old man dies of his wounds after being trapped in a car that overturned in Ashkelon.

He was evacuated to the city’s Barzilai Hospital in serious condition, but doctors were forced to declare him dead.

UK’s Hammond: Iran too powerful to leave in isolation

Britain’s foreign minister says Iran is a major regional player that can be an ally in fighting terrorism — but the UK must “tread carefully” in its relationship with Tehran.

Tehran and world powers struck a deal last month on Iran’s contested nuclear program, and on Sunday Britain and Iran reopened their respective embassies after closing them in 2011.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran today, says the two countries shared common ground despite a “deep legacy of distrust.”

Hammond tells the BBC that “Iran is too large a player, too important a player in this region, to simply leave in isolation.”

— AP

Roadside bomb kills 2, wounds 24 in Egypt

A roadside bombing in Egypt kills two policemen and wounds 24 others on Monday, security and medical officials say.

The blast targets a bus carrying conscripts in the Nile Delta province of Beheira early Monday morning, police Brig. Gen. Khaled al-Hameed says. Deputy Health Minister Alaa el-Deen Othman confirms the casualty figure.

No group immediately claims responsibility for the attack.

Attacks on police and military personnel have become increasingly common outside of the restive north Sinai, where the government has been battling an Islamist insurgency since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

— AP

Is White House arguing nuclear deal makes it easier to bomb Iran?

Politico has an eyebrow-raising story on what US lawmakers are being told by the White House:

Want to bomb Iran? Then support the nuclear deal.

That’s the provocative argument coming from Obama administration officials and other backers of the deal as they promote it before a crucial vote in Congress next month.

In meetings on Capitol Hill and with influential policy analysts, administration officials argue that inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities under the deal will reveal important details that can be used for better targeting should the US decide to attack Iran.

“It’s certainly an argument I’ve heard made,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “We’ll be better off with the agreement were we to need to use force.”

China blast death toll rises to 129

The death toll from a series of explosions nearly two weeks ago that rocked the northern port city of Tianjin rises to 129, state media report Monday.

There are still 44 people missing and 610 are in hospital, 39 of them critically injured, the official Xinhua news agency reports, citing local officials.

The explosions at a hazardous goods storage facility on August 12 triggered a giant fireball and new fires broke out as recently as Friday.

China’s powerful State Council, or cabinet, vows to conduct a “rigorous” investigation into the cause of the explosions, Xinhua says.

— AFP

Minister seeks to declare Muslim Temple Mount groups illegal

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan asks Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to declare two groups affiliated with Israel’s Muslim Movement – Northern Branch illegal because of their alleged involvement in harrassing Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, Channel 1 reports.

Ya’alon has the power to make such a declaration in the case of groups involved in terror or inter-ethnic violence.

Erdan’s written request reportedly includes a legal opinion from the Shin Bet security service in support of the move, Channel 1 says.

The holy site sees regular clashes between Muslim activists and police. Jewish visitors are not permitted to pray on the site according to a status quo agreement instituted by Israel after it conquered Jerusalem’s Old City in the 1967 Six Day War.

Moody’s fears for coalition over weak growth

Credit rating agency Moody’s worries that news of slow second-quarter economic growth could topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, leading to instability that could threaten the country’s credit rating, the business journal Globes reports.

The Central Bureau of Statistics reported Sunday that Q2 2015 growth was low enough for the Treasury to downgrade its growth forecast for 2015 from 2.5% to 2%.

“A sharp slowdown in growth, if it were to persist, would endanger the deficit targets set in the carefully crafted [coalition] agreements and the government’s ability to gain approval for the budgets in the Knesset, a credit negative that would likely precipitate new elections,” Moody’s analysts Kristin Lindow and Joshua Grundleger write, according to Globes.

“Fiscal authorities have little or no additional room to maneuver because spending ceilings have been set and the central bank policy rate is already virtually zero.”

UNRWA teachers strike shutters Gaza’s schools

A strike by workers at the UN’s Palestinian refugee organization UNRWA shuts schools across the Gaza Strip on the first day of the Palestinian school year, keeping hundreds of thousands of children from their lessons.

Staff are protesting the organization’s financial problems, overcrowding in classrooms, which sometimes see as many as 50 pupils in one room, and unpaid vacation days, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports.

Teaching staff are demanding that the number of students in a class be brought down to a maximum of 38.

Protests are planned for five locations in the coastal enclave, including UNRWA’s Gaza City headquarters, where 13,000 employees are to hold a sit-in.

— Stuart Winer

Egypt gets its first air-conditioned train

Egypt’s first air-conditioned train begins operation Monday, the Egyptian al-Ahram news site reports.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and Transportation Minister Hani Dahi will attend a ceremony inaugurating the new train Monday.

“The new train is equipped with air-conditioning, Wi-Fi internet service, health services including a medic for urgent cases, and security cameras in every car,” al-Ahram quotes a Transportation Ministry spokesperson saying.

Rare white rhino born at Ramat Gan safari

The six-year-old white rhinoceros Keren Peles gives birth to a calf at the Ramat Gan Safari.

The newborn, whose gender was not given, is healthy and almost immediately stood up and began suckling. The father, 35-year-old Atari, is reportedly “very happy,” the safari says in a statement.

It is the 27th rhino calf born at the safari, which is part of an international consortium of zoos working to pull the white rhino back from the verge of extinction.

Police shut brothel after prostitute’s suicide

Tel Aviv District police issue a closure order against a brothel in the city after a prostitute who worked at the site took her own life earlier this month.

Police say the order isn’t due to the suicide at Rehov Hayarkon 98 but rather because local residents complained that the brothel is disruptive and damaging their quality of life.

The building is shut down under a technicality enabling police to limit the use of a premises.

Police say it is the second time that a closure order is issued for the place, but the previous order was annulled in court.

— Stuart Winer

Publishers say they leaked Barak tapes due to rights dispute

The source behind a series of interviews with former prime minister Ehud Barak in which he detailed near-strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities says the tapes were leaked to the media in a dispute over rights to the English version of his biography.

The compilers working on Barak’s Hebrew-language biography say they decided to air the interviews after Barak allegedly backtracked on a pledge to give them the rights to the English-language version of the book.

The publishers, Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor, say they have 100 hours of Barak on tape — which were recorded with his full consent — and the leaked recordings already appear in text form in the soon-to-be-released Hebrew book.

The leaked tapes, detailing three times Israel ostensibly planned to strike Iran but refrained for various reasons, are rocking Israel’s political landscape since they were first aired by Channel 2 news Friday night after being cleared by the country’s military censor.

— Avi Lewis

Israeli villages on Gaza border bounce back, says NYT

Israeli communities on the Gaza border are bouncing back from last year’s war, The New York Times reports. The “crops grew back, 12 new families have recently arrived, and four more are expected by the end of the summer” in Nahal Oz, where four-year-old Daniel Tregerman was killed by mortar fire.

Israeli wins triple-jump world championship silver

Israeli Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko takes silver in the triple jump at the 15th World Championships in Athletics being held in Beijing.

Her jump result – 14.78 meters – beats her previous best from 2012 of 14.71.

File: Israeli triple jumper Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko at 2013 World Championships in Athletics. (Wikimedia/Augustas Didzgalvis/CC BY-SA 4.0)

File: Israeli triple jumper Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko at 2013 World Championships in Athletics. (Wikimedia/Augustas Didzgalvis/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Knyazyeva-Minenko immigrated to Israel from Ukraine in 2013.

Aleksandr Averbukh previously took silver in the pole vault at the 2001 World Championships in Athletics in Edmonton, Canada.

Clinton campaign shies away from global issues in Iowa

Hillary Rodham Clinton goes hyperlocal in Iowa.

In her many visits to the leadoff caucus state, the Democratic presidential contender speaks about the Republican governor’s efforts to close mental health institutions, mourns a murder in an Iowa City area mall, deplores the deportation of an area pastor originally from Honduras and peppers her remarks with all sorts of other regional references.

In her years as secretary of state, she had the world on her plate. Now all politics is local, as the saying goes.

File: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Em's Coffee Co. in Independence, Iowa, May 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

File: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Em’s Coffee Co. in Independence, Iowa, May 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The approach is a stylistic shift from Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid, which began poorly with a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. Advisers say this is the product of many hours spent in small house parties talking to residents, calls to close Iowa contacts and a clear sense she must do more to engage with Iowans intimately.

“She’s really sitting down and talking to people, and I think that’s why,” said Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party. She backed Clinton in 2008 but is remaining neutral this time.

— AP

Amid slowdown, Bank of Israel keeps 0.1% interest rate

The Bank of Israel decides to keep the interest rate for September unchanged at its current rock bottom of 0.1 percent, it announces.

The bank’s current monetary policy, it says in a statement, “is intended to return the inflation rate to within the price stability target of 1–3 percent a year over the next twelve months, and to support growth while maintaining financial stability.”

The decision follows a Sunday Central Bureau of Statistics report that warned second-quarter 2015 growth was equivalent to an annual rate of 0.3%, lower than that of debt-wracked Greece, leading to fears that the economy may be entering a persistent slowdown.

“Indicators of real economic activity are volatile but point to some decline in the growth environment relative to the 2.5–3.0 percent growth range of the past two years, with a decline in exports against the background of decreased world trade, and continued growth of current consumption,” the Bank of Israel notes in explaining its decision.

Suicide attacks kill 8 at Iraqi security post

Police and military officials say a series of suicide car bombings by the Islamic State group targeting a military outpost in Anbar province kill eight soldiers and injure six.

They say the Monday morning attack west of Anbar’s provincial capital Ramadi involves three vehicles, including two fuel trucks. The outpost is home to a joint contingent of army soldiers, policemen and allied Sunni militiamen.

— AP

‘Settlements an expression of our historical right,’ says Rivlin

In a meeting with West Bank settlement leaders, President Reuven Rivlin reaffirms his longstanding position that Israel should retain control of the West Bank, but adds that this carries with it “responsibility for all those who live here.”

“I love the land of Israel with all my heart,” Rivlin says, referring to Israeli territory as well as the West Bank. “I have never and will never give up on this land. For me, our right to this land is not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism.

“We must not give anyone the sense that we are in any doubt about our right to our land. For me, the settlement of the land of Israel is an expression of that right, our historical right, our national right, stemming from a love for the land of Israel, from a recognition of our roots, which come together here,” he adds, according to a transcript of his speech provided by the President’s Residence.

“I have no doubt that it is clear to all of us, that in order to realize the ultimate goal of building the land of Israel, we must be sure to do so only with the use of the legal tools available to us. Our sovereignty in this land means responsibility for all those who live here, and obligates all of us to uphold the strictest of moral codes, which is inherent in each and every one of us. I know that the settlement movement as a whole has confirmed this moral and ethical stance, and I want to strengthen and encourage you on this clear stance.”

German foreign minister to visit Iran in October

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will travel to Iran in early October, the first such visit in more than a decade.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer says the recent conclusion of the nuclear deal with Iran is a “good occasion” to restore Germany’s traditionally close ties with the country.

For decades Germany was Iran’s biggest trading partner and Berlin is keen to ensure its companies can capitalize on the need for investment when sanctions against Tehran are lifted.

Schaefer says details of the visit haven’t been worked out yet.

— AP

Over 760 rabbis sign letter against Iran deal

Over 760 rabbis sign a letter opposing the nuclear deal with Iran, and urge Congress to vote against it.

“We, the undersigned rabbis, write as a unified voice across religious denominations to express our concerns with the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran,” they write.

The hope for a good deal “is not yet realized,” reads the letter, signed by 767 ordained rabbis from various Jewish denominations.

“Together, we are deeply troubled by the proposed deal, and believe this agreement will harm the short-term and long-term interests of both the United States and our allies, particularly Israel. Collectively, we feel we must do better.”

They note the influx of cash expected to result from the deal into the Iranian economy, the regime’s human rights abuses and anti-America and anti-Israel rhetoric.

And, they write, the deal “will not subject Iran to an airtight, comprehensive inspections structure.”

It urges members of Congress to oppose the deal in a looming September vote.

Gov’t warns Israelis not to vacation in Sinai

The Counterterrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office publishes its latest terror threat map for Israeli travelers ahead of the holiday season that begins next month with the new Jewish calendar year.

The report is mostly unchanged from previous years, with warnings of various severity for 41 countries.

The bureau has a special warning against Israelis visiting resorts frequented by them in the past in the Sinai Peninsula, citing rising violence between the Egyptian military and an Islamic State-affiliated jihadist group with close ties to Hamas.

The nuclear deal with Iran has not lowered the motivation of Iranian forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah to carry out terror attacks against Jews and Israelis around the world, the report says. It also warns Israelis not to venture to Islamist terror-struck areas in Kenya and eastern Africa, Thailand and elsewhere.

Israelis enjoy the surf and sun at a Sinai beach resort in 2006 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

File: Israelis vacation at a Sinai beach resort in 2006 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Witness confirms IS destruction of ancient Syria temple

A resident in the Syrian city of Palmyra says Islamic State fighters have demolished the ancient temple of Baalshamin after laying explosives around it for over a month, confirming earlier reports.

The UN cultural watchdog UNESCO calls the destruction of the temple a “war crime” and an “immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity.”

The witness, who goes by the name Nasser al-Thaer, says Monday the bombing took place a day earlier. He says he feared for the other ancient sites in Palmyra but that no explosives have been placed around them.

The Temple of Baal Shamin in Palmyra, Syria, seen in a photograph from 2010. (CC, BY-SA, Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia)

The Temple of Baal Shamin in Palmyra, Syria, seen in a photograph from 2010. (CC, BY-SA, Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia)

An IS operative tells The Associated Press over Skype that a statement would be issued soon.

— AP

US stocks plunge after Chinese stock rout

US markets plunge at the open Monday following a big drop in Chinese stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average falls more than 1,000 points in early trading.

The Dow is 783 points, or 4.8 percent, lower as of 9:40 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index drops 87 points, or 4.5%, to 1,882. The Nasdaq composite falls 247 points, or 5.1%, to 4,465 points.

— AP

Saudi-led strikes in Yemen ramp up

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen doubles its near-daily airstrikes in the central province of Marib and the adjacent border area of Jawf on Monday, paving the way for allies on the ground to push north toward Shiite rebel strongholds, military and security officials say.

There is no immediate word on casualties from the airstrikes.

Marib’s pro-government forces also receive major reinforcements, including hundreds of Saudi-trained troops, ambulances and armored personnel carriers manned by Saudi and Emirati soldiers, the pro-government officials say.

— AP

Gaza hospitals may shut down over fuel shortage – report

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry says the healthcare system in the coastal strip is on the verge of collapse, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports.

Hospitals may be forced to cease operations in the coming hours due to an electricity shortage.

Ashraf al-Qidra, a ministry spokesperson, is quoted by Ma’an saying that “Shifa Hospital, Kamal Adwan hospital, the European Gaza Hospital, and Rantisi Hospital could stop offering services because they are about to run out of fuel.”

“The current situation is the worst since the Ministry of Health was created in the Gaza Strip,” he adds.

Gaza receives its electricity from Israel, Egypt and a single domestic power plant.

Shin Bet says it nabs E. Jerusalem terror cell

A gag order is lifted on the arrest of a terror cell of nine individuals from East Jerusalem allegedly responsible for multiple firebomb and rock-throwing attacks in the West Bank.

The cell, caught by the Shin Bet security service, admitted it was responsible for firebomb attacks on Route 60 in June, Channel 2 reports.

Netanyahu opposed Shalit prisoner exchange — Barak

In another “Barak tapes” leak, the former prime minister and defense minister is heard yet against criticizing his former boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking of the Shalit prisoner exchange, Barak tells his interviewers — who are working on his biography — that Netanyahu was opposed to the exchange of the captive IDF soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, but gave in after Barak pressured him.

“Bibi [Netanyahu] is forced into action, and shows a side [to his personality] that is less elegant, less about self-control, less pretty, when he’s in a personal crisis over something,” Barak says in recordings he did not know would become public.

“As much as he was opposed to [the] Gilad Shalit [exchange], and I pressured him for months to do two things, to do Gilad Shalit and immediately afterward to pass in the government [and in] the Knesset [the recommendations of] the Shamgar Committee” that recommended changing Israel’s prisoner exchange policy.

“In the end he was convinced he had to free Shalit but wasn’t convinced to do the obvious next step [of passing Shamgar], and that’s how he found himself in the [June 2014] kidnapping of the three kids,” teenagers whose kidnapping by a Hamas-affiliated cell in the West Bank triggered that summer’s Gaza war.

Barak slams Netanyahu’s ‘childish obsession’ with image

In the latest leak of Ehud Barak’s interviews with his biographers, the former defense minister slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “childish” in his obsessive concern for his public image.

Barak criticizes Netanyahu for allegedly dominating the 2011 welcoming ceremony for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who had just been freed from five years’ captivity in Gaza.

“He displayed something childish to a truly embarrassing degree, that desire, that supreme importance [to be seen],” Barak says.

The ceremony “took place inside an Air Force base, which in the end I’m responsible for in the government’s name [as Barak was defense minister at the time]. Ordinarily, the ceremony would be organized by a technical person from the [Israel Defense Forces] General Staff. Here, there were these teams from the Prime Minister’s Office to organize this, and everything was focused on one thing — that the very first picture of this kid coming down [off the plane] would be with only Bibi [Netanyahu] in the frame.”

Barak complains that “if I’d listened to the literal instructions of this team, it was possible that the defense minister wouldn’t have been allowed to approach [Shalit] until Bibi was finished speaking to him.

“This intensity is an extreme in his personality, it’s a weakness that can go to these childish places in chasing after momentary things. Bibi has a very strong sense that the picture, the word, is more important than the deed.”

PMO calls leaked Barak criticism ‘irresponsible’

The Prime Minister’s Office urges an end to “irresponsible talk on matters of national security.”

The statement comes in the wake of leaked interviews with former defense minister Ehud Barak in which he criticizes (and in the process reveals new information about) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of Iran, the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange and other issues.

The PMO offers a thinly veiled criticism of Barak’s recent chattiness.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to work responsibly and aggressively for the sake of the security of Israel and its citizens, does not bury his head in the sand, points to dangers and threats as they are, and works determinedly and decisively — just as he did a few days ago in Syria, and as he’s done in dozens of decisions and operations, some of which are hidden from the public eye, as they should be.”

Senate Democrat is 28th to declare support for Iran deal

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow throws her support behind the Iran nuclear agreement, declaring in a news release Monday: “I have determined that the imminent threat of Iran having a nuclear weapon outweighs any flaws I see in the international agreement. For this reason, I must support the agreement.”

Stabenow becomes the 28th Senate Democratic supporter of the deal, pushing backers closer to the 34 votes they need to sustain Obama’s veto of any resolution of disapproval. Increasingly, supporters seem to be in reach of getting the 41 votes they need to block such a resolution from passing the Senate in the first place.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid announced his support on Sunday, pledging to do “everything in my power” to support the pact.

Only two Senate Democrats — Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez — oppose the deal.

— AP

Iran deal monitoring to cost $10.5m a year

A confidential document from the UN’s atomic agency says the extra work related to monitoring Iran’s compliance with last month’s nuclear deal will cost about 9.2 million euros ($10.5 million) each year.

The International Atomic Energy Agency document obtained by The Associated Press also estimates the final tab will be nearly 138 million euros ($157 million) over the life of the pact.

Drawn up for a special IAEA meeting Tuesday, the document says the costs are calculated from the time the deal begins to be implemented, at some point after it is adopted on Oct 18.

The document extrapolates the total cost by saying the estimated annual cost of 9.2 million euros is “foreseen as being applicable for 15 years.” That is the expected duration of the Iran deal.

— AP

Abbas rival calls for ouster of Palestinian leader

A prominent rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls for the ouster of the veteran leader as Palestinians seek to organize a congress for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Mohammad Dahlan, once a leading figure in Abbas’s Fatah party but now in exile in Dubai, took to his Facebook page to criticize the PA president.

His comments came after Abbas resigned Saturday as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee in a bid to force new elections for the top body.

— AFP

File: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Mohammad Dahlan (left), leave a news conference in Egypt, in February  2007. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Mohammad Dahlan (left), leave a news conference in Egypt, February 2007. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Haredi rabbis urge reporting of child sex abuse

More than 100 Haredi Orthodox rabbis and teachers in the United States sign a proclamation saying that Jewish law obligates all Jews to report suspected child sex abuse to the authorities.

The proclamation, called a “kol koreh,” was released in recent days. It cites the statement in the Book of Leviticus — “Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed” — as the basis for the obligation to report suspected abuse.

“Lives can be ruined or ended by unreported child abuse, as we are too often tragically reminded,” the proclamation states.

“We, the undersigned, affirm that any individual with firsthand knowledge or reasonable basis to suspect child abuse has a religious obligation to promptly notify the secular law enforcement of that information,” begins the proclamation.

— JTA

Islamic State says it killed 30 for sodomy, UN told

The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for executing at least 30 people for sodomy, the head of an international gay rights organization says at the first-ever UN Security Council meeting spotlighting what organizers call the “barbaric treatment.”

“It’s about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking center stage,” says US Ambassador Samantha Power, who organized the meeting on violence and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people with Chile’s UN envoy.

Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, tells the council that courts established by the militant group in Iraq and Syria claim to have punished sodomy with stoning, firing squads and beheadings and by pushing men from tall buildings.

Fear of the Islamic State group has fueled violence by other militias and “private actors” against LGBT individuals, she tells the closed-door meeting.

— AP

Stretch of Route 1 closes after bus catches on fire

A section of Route 1, the main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has its eastward lanes closed briefly after a bus catches on fire.

The Jerusalem-bound section of the highway between the Anabe and Latrun junctions is at a standstill as firefighters and rescue crews work at the scene.

There are no immediate reports of casualties.

IDF dramatically improving its ability to strike Iran, says defense official

A senior defense official tells the Walla news site that the IDF’s capabilities vis-à-vis Iran have grown since 2012.

The statement follows leaks of interviews with former defense minister Ehud Barak in which he says that top Israeli defense officials did not believe in 2012 that the IDF was able to carry out a decisive military strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

The leaks have raised questions about Israel’s ability to carry out the so-called “military option” that political leaders regularly say is “still on the table.”

“Anyone who says that the IDF in 2012 was at the apex of its ability to carry out a strike in Iran is lying,” the defense official says. “Every year the IDF improves. No one is sleeping on the job.”

The official cites the purchase of another German-made Dolphin submarine and US-made F-35 fighter jets as evidence of dramatic gains in the IDF’s capabilities.

Israel’s defensive capabilities against Iran — including its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah — have improved dramatically as well, particularly with the deployment of missile defense systems such as Iron Dome.

Hamas sentences Gazan to death for ‘spying for Israel’

A Hamas military court in the Gaza Strip sentences a Palestinian to death for allegedly providing information to Israel said to have led to Palestinians being killed, judicial sources say.

The 28-year-old man is identified only by the initials N.A. and no other details on the accusations against him are provided by Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian territory, which has seen three wars with Israel in six years.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 157 people have been sentenced to death in the occupied territories since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.

Thirty-two have been executed, including 30 in the Gaza Strip.

US judge: Palestinians to pay $10m to secure terror verdict

A US district judge in New York City orders Palestinian authorities to pay $10 million in cash to secure hundreds of millions awarded to Americans killed in terrorist attacks.

Judge George B. Daniels also says the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority must pay $1 million each month while the case is on appeal. Their attorney declines to comment.

A jury awarded $218.5 million in damages this year in a lawsuit brought by victims and survivors of attacks that killed 33 people and injured hundreds more.

That amount was then automatically tripled by the US Anti-Terrorism Act.

This month, the US State Department intervened in the lawsuit, arguing a high bond could destabilize the cash-strapped Palestinian government.

— AP

Massive adultery website hack may have led to suicides

The hack of the cheating website Ashley Madison has triggered extortion crimes and led to two unconfirmed reports of suicides, Canadian police say.

The company behind Ashley Madison is offering a CAD $500,000 (US $378,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of members of a group that hacked the site.

Hackers last week release detailed records on millions of people registered with the website, a month after a break-in at Ashley Madison’s parent company, Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc. The website, whose slogan is, “Life is short. Have an affair,” is marketed to facilitate extramarital affairs.

Toronto Police acting staff-Supt. Bryce Evans said the hack is having an “enormous social and economic fallout.”

— AP

Ashley Madison website logo

Ashley Madison website logo

Dutch man offers money on Facebook to kill ‘devilish’ Jewish neighbor

A Dutch man in a Facebook post offers to pay 10,000 euros, or about $11,500, to anyone willing to kill his Jewish neighbor.

The man posts the message, along with anti-Semitic statements, in connection with his years-long quarrel with his apartment building neighbor, Gabriela Hirschberg, and her partner, The De Telegraaf daily reports. The report does not name the man.

“I have one desire in my life: To tear out this nest of devils,” he writes in reference to Hirschberg’s apartment. Naming his neighbors, he adds, “Each head is worth 10,000 euros to me.”

— JTA

Police intel called Schlissel No. 1 danger to gay march

Police intelligence identified gay pride parade stabber Yishai Schlissel as the “No. 1 potential threat” before Schlissel carried out the attack, Channel 10 reports.

Schlissel killed 16-year-old Jerusalem high schooler Shira Banki and wounded six others in a stabbing rampage at last month’s Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade. He was indicted on murder and attempted murder charges Monday morning.

Schlissel was released from prison only weeks earlier after a 10-year sentence for stabbing Jerusalem pride parade marchers in 2005.

In the wake of the latest attack, and an internal police panel that criticized multiple senior officers’ handling of the case, the focus has shifted to the failure to prevent the attack despite what appears to be clear intelligence about Schlissel and massive deployment of officers to protect the parade itself.

Channel 10’s report includes an image of the pre-march police intelligence report that identifies Schlissel as the top potential threat to the safety of parade participants.

US man carves swastika in neighbors’ lawn

A New Jersey man is sentenced to 15 months in prison for carving a swastika into the lawn of his neighbors’ home.

The sentence handed down Friday in state Superior Court comes about one year after Scott Cooney, 36, was arrested and charged with bias intimidation. His two neighbors in an adult housing development in Lakewood had watched as Cooney carved the swastika into their front lawn.

Cooney pleaded guilty in June.

One of the neighbors is Jewish, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Prior to the swastika, Cooney had threatened the two men for several months with anti-Semitic and anti-gay slurs, according to prosecutors.

— JTA

Route 1 reopens after bus fire

Route 1, the main highway linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, reopens after its east-bound lanes were closed due to a bus fire.

There are no reports of casualties in the fire.

Health Ministry’s weed czar gets death threats

A senior Health Ministry doctor charged with approving medical marijuana applications is placed under police protection after multiple death threats from individuals whose applications were turned down.

Channel 2 reports that security officials have given the senior physician a special emergency watch that, when pressed, will summon police to his location.

To purchase marijuana legally in Israel, individuals must get approval from the Health Ministry, though many senior officials have expressed support for legalizing or at least easing access to the plant, including the chair of the Knesset Committee for the War on Drugs, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, and Israel’s top cop, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.

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Netanyahu opposed Shalit prisoner exchange — Barak

In another “Barak tapes” leak, the former prime minister and defense minister is heard yet against criticizing his former boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking of the Shalit prisoner exchange, Barak tells his interviewers — who are working on his biography — that Netanyahu was opposed to the exchange of the captive IDF soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, but gave in after Barak pressured him.

“Bibi [Netanyahu] is forced into action, and shows a side [to his personality] that is less elegant, less about self-control, less pretty, when he’s in a personal crisis over something,” Barak says in recordings he did not know would become public.

“As much as he was opposed to [the] Gilad Shalit [exchange], and I pressured him for months to do two things, to do Gilad Shalit and immediately afterward to pass in the government [and in] the Knesset [the recommendations of] the Shamgar Committee” that recommended changing Israel’s prisoner exchange policy.

“In the end he was convinced he had to free Shalit but wasn’t convinced to do the obvious next step [of passing Shamgar], and that’s how he found himself in the [June 2014] kidnapping of the three kids,” teenagers whose kidnapping by a Hamas-affiliated cell in the West Bank triggered that summer’s Gaza war.