Netanyahu will seek cabinet approval for new Amona tomorrow — report
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Live updates (closed)Latest: Israel’s defense exports surge to $6.5 bln in 2016

PM to seek cabinet approval for Amona replacement settlement

Arab leaders reaffirm support of 'strategic' 2002 peace initiative with Israel; US ambassador assures Israel it has a ‘friend and fighter’ at the UN; Palestinian shot dead attempting to stab police

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 26, 2017. (AFP/Gali TIBBON)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 26, 2017. (AFP/Gali TIBBON)
  • A section of twenty one kings, presidents and top officials from the Arab League summit pose for a group photo, at a gathering near the Dead Sea in Jordan on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)
    A section of twenty one kings, presidents and top officials from the Arab League summit pose for a group photo, at a gathering near the Dead Sea in Jordan on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)
  • US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (L) and Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon pose for a photo at the United Nations assembly hall on March 29, 2017. (Courtesy: Shahar Azran)
    US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (L) and Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon pose for a photo at the United Nations assembly hall on March 29, 2017. (Courtesy: Shahar Azran)
  • Israeli paramedics and security forces near the body of an alleged Palestinian attacker who attempted to stab police officers guarding Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on March 29, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Israeli paramedics and security forces near the body of an alleged Palestinian attacker who attempted to stab police officers guarding Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on March 29, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • The 2000 lynching of 2 IDF reservists in Ramallah (photo credit: screen capture, Channel 2 News)
    The 2000 lynching of 2 IDF reservists in Ramallah (photo credit: screen capture, Channel 2 News)
  • Illustrative image of police at the scene of a crime (Police Spokesperson)
    Illustrative image of police at the scene of a crime (Police Spokesperson)

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

UN chief warns Arab leaders internal divisions breeding terror

The UN secretary-general warns Arab leaders that their internal divisions have opened the door to foreign intervention and have helped breed sectarianism and terrorism.

Antonio Guterres tells Arab summit that while fighting terrorism is essential, “any success will prove ephemeral” without a political solution to Syria’s six-year-old civil war that allows Syrians to decide their own fate.

He says efforts to end conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya must “not distract us from seeking to heal the longest open wound in the region, the plight of the Palestinian people.”

Guterres says setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the only solution to the conflict. He says Israeli settlements on war-won land are illegal, and called on Israel to halt construction.

AP

King Abdullah tells Arab leaders regional peace impossible without Palestinian state

Jordan’s king tells the opening session of an Arab summit that there can be no peace or stability in the region without setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

King Abdullah II, who is hosting Wednesday’s gathering of 21 Arab leaders, says the Palestinian quest for statehood remains the central issue in the Middle East.

Jordan has a large Palestinian population, and also serves as custodian of a major Muslim-run shrine in Jerusalem on land that is also home to Judaism’s holiest site.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been a scene of frequent Israeli-Palestinian tensions, including clashes. Palestinians fear Israel wants to divide it, a charge Israel consistently denies.

Jordan’s monarch says that “we will continue to fight any attempts to change the status quo” at the site.

AP

Bob Dylan to receive Nobel prize in Stockholm this weekend

Music icon Bob Dylan will receive his Nobel Literature Prize this weekend at a meeting with the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, it was announced Wednesday.

“The good news is that the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend. The Academy will then hand over Dylan’s Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature,” Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Academy, writes in a blog post.

“The setting will be small and intimate, and no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan’s wishes,” she adds.

Dylan is set to perform two concerts in Stockholm, on Saturday and Sunday.

— AFP

Israel to hold anti-BDS summit at UN headquarters

Israel’s UN mission will host a conference aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement at the UN headquarters later today.

The mission says some 2,000 people are expected to attend the summit at the UN General Assembly, which will focus on battling attempts to pressure Israel over its perceived ill-treatment of the Palestinians.

The event aims at “a remarkable show of support for the Jewish state at the UN,” a statement says.

Last May, some 2,000 people attended the first-ever anti-BDS conference at the UN headquarters.

Major French banks financing Israeli settlements, report finds

Four major French banks and one big insurer are financing Israeli settlements in the West Bank through links to local banks and businesses, a report by the International Federation for Human Rights says.

BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale, BPCE and AXA hold shares or are otherwise involved with Israeli banks which are an “essential political tool in the creation of the settlements (and) finance construction,” according to the study.

A photo taken from the Palestinian village of Sa’ir shows the Israeli settlement of Metzad on March 15, 2017. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

The five French groups are also involved with businesses which aid the development of the settlements through the building of “housing, factories, the installation of telephone and internet connections, or surveillance equipment,” according to the study called “Dangerous Liaisons: French banks and Israeli Settlements.”

Much of the international community has raised increasing alarm over settlement expansion, saying it is eating away at prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

— AFP

Britain officially launches Brexit process

Britain formally launches the process to leave the EU, handing a letter to EU President Donald Tusk formally notifying the bloc, an AFP journalist says.

Tim Barrow, Britain’s ambassador to the European Union, personally delivered the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May at Tusk’s office in Brussels, according to the journalist.

“After nine months the UK has delivered. #Brexit,” Tusk tweeted after he received the letter, referring to Britain’s shock June 23, 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU.

— AFP

US arrests Turkish banker on charges of violating Iran sanctions

The US has arrested a senior official at a state-owned Turkish bank on charges of helping Iran violate US sanctions, a move that could fuel tension ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit on Thursday.

Halkbank’s Mehmet Hakan Atilla is accused of helping to process millions of dollars of illegal transactions through US banks for the Iranian government and other Iranian institutions, the state-run Anadolu news agency says.

Reza Zarrab, the Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of violating US sanctions on Iran, seen at an Istanbul police station in 2013. (screen capture: YouTube)
Reza Zarrab, the Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of violating US sanctions on Iran, seen at an Istanbul police station in 2013. (screen capture: YouTube)

“Our deputy general manager in charge of international banking, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was taken into custody in the United States where he was for business purposes on March 28,” the bank confirms, adding that it was working with the authorities.

Atilla is accused of working with Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish businessman, and others to let the Iranian government and other Iranian institutions get around US sanctions.

— AFP

Friend of murdered Tiberias woman says she feared abusive ex-husband

Friends of the Tiberias woman who was found beheaded in her apartment earlier today, say she recently expressed fears her abusive ex-husband would kill her.

One friend of the 33-year-old victim tells the Ynet news site she was happy about the couple’s recent separation.

“She told one of our friends that she was happy about the divorce. She was not in a good place, he abused her.”

Police have arrested her 34-year-old ex-husband, who was seen walking the streets covered in blood, holding the victim’s head in his hands before throwing it into a dumpster.

Egypt, Saudi leaders meet in sign of diplomatic thaw

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman slipped out of an Arab summit session for face-to-face talks, signaling an attempt at possible reconciliation.

A photo handout by the Egyptian delegation shows the two leaders sitting next to each other in white overstuffed chairs.

Relations between the two countries have been tense in recent months.

Saudi Arabia is a leading supporter of the Syrian opposition, while Egypt, fearful of Islamic militants among the rebels’ ranks, has pushed for a political solution that might keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power.

In October, the Saudis abruptly suspended oil aid to Egypt just days after Cairo backed a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria drafted by Assad’s ally Russia. The shipments resumed several days ago.

AP

Eyewitness: Tiberias man was clutching ex-wife’s head ‘like a helmet’

A Tiberias man who was arrested on suspicion of murdering and beheading his ex-wife was seen walking around clutching her head like a helmet before attempting to set it on fire.

“At first I thought he was walking around with a doll’s head, I didn’t realize what it was, he was standing next to the dumpster and was trying to burn it,” Wissam Darawshe tells the Ynet news site.

“He walked up to me as if nothing was wrong and said: ‘Call the fire department because there’s a fire burning that I’m not able to put out,'” he says.

“He had her head under his arm the whole time. It was wrapped in a towel, he was holding it like a helmet, and I did not realize what it was at first,” Darawshe continues.

Police say the 34-year-old suspect set fire to his ex-wife’s apartment after murdering her.

Military academy won’t lose funding over rabbi’s sexist remarks

The Defense Ministry calls off its plans to defund a pre-army program for comments made by one of its leaders that disparaged female soldiers, but announces its intention to restrict the number of students.

Today, the Bnei David preparatory program has no limit on the number of participants who get their army service postponed, unlike other programs that have such a restriction, the ministry says.

This is unfair, the ministry says in a letter to the head of the program, Rabbi Eli Sadan.

Earlier this month, video footage surfaced of one of the program’s other leaders, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, speaking out against women serving in the army, saying they went “crazy” and became “not Jewish” during their time in the military.

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein speaking at the 'Zion and Jerusalem' convention, July 2016. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein speaking at the ‘Zion and Jerusalem’ convention, July 2016. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The video prompted outcries of condemnation from across the political spectrum. Levinstein, however, remained resolved in his opposition to female soldiers, although he later apologized for his sarcastic tone.

Though Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to cut the program’s funding, the ministry says its decision to put in place previously unknown quotas on the institution was made “regardless of the Rabbi Levinstein’s remarks.”

— Judah Ari Gross

2 injured in suspected terror attack outside Damascus Gate

Police have locked down Jerusalem’s Old City after a suspected terror attack outside the Damascus Gate.

Israel Radio says the attacker was shot and seriously wounded.

Police are investigating the incident.

Police say woman shot after attempting to stab officers

Police say a woman “appears to have attempted to stab police officers” near the Old City’s Damascus Gate, in an apparent terror attack.

The border guards at the scene shot her, the police say.

According to Israel Radio, the attacker was killed.

A photograph from the scene that was posted on social media shows a figure, presumably the assailant, lying on the ground surrounded by Border Police officers.

None of the border guards are reported injured.

— Judah Ari Gross

Paramedics say female assailant shot dead by police

The woman who, according to police, attempted to stab officers at Damascus Gate is pronounced dead at the scene by medical professionals from the Magen David Adom paramedic service, a spokesperson for the organization says.

No other injuries have been reported, adds the spokesperson.

— Judah Ari Gross

WATCH: Anti-BDS summit kicks off at UN headquarters

A conference aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel kicks off at the UN headquarters in New York.

Israel’s UN mission says Build Bridges, not Boycotts, is “a remarkable show of support for the Jewish state at the UN.”

Suspect arrested for trying to ram police car near US Capitol

A suspect is arrested for trying to ram a police car near the US Capitol, reports in US media say.

Shots have been fired at the Rayburn Building on the Capitol grounds.

Israel’s UN ambassador says BDS is anti-Semitism

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon praises recent US efforts to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“Today, we are here to say that the fight goes on,” Danon says at the start of the anti-BDS conference held at the General Assembly.

The ambassador thanks US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for taking a strong stance in condemning the BDS movement.

“Seventeen US states now have anti-BDS initiatives. Many more will soon join them.”

Danon says the BDS movement should not be considered a legitimate political debate: “It’s simple hate.”

‘We will not be silent,’ Danon vows at anti-BDS confab

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon says efforts to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel are not diminished.

“We will not be silent,” he says. “Silent is weakness, silent is defeat.”

“We will fight, we will be proud,” he says to a loud applause.

“When you stand for the truth you are never alone,” Danon adds.

Israel now has a ‘friend and fighter’ at the UN, says US ambassador

The US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tells an anti-BDS conference that America will continue to combat discrimination against the Jewish state at the world body.

“Know that the US has Israel’s back. And know that you now have a friend and a fighter in the UN to help you,” she says to a standing ovation.

Haley says BDS efforts are “extensions of an ancient hatred,” and delegitimizing Israel “is a movement away from truth and away from history.

“How tragic that of all countries in the world to condemn, these voices choose to single out Israel,” Haley adds.

Damascus Gate stabber named as Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem

The Palestinian Health Ministry identifies the woman who was shot dead as she allegedly attempted to stab border guards at Damascus Gate as Siham Rateb Nimir, 49, from East Jerusalem.

Police say Nimir approached three Border Police officers with a knife and attempted to stab them. She was shot dead by security forces at the scene.

— Judah Ari Gross

DC car-ramming unlikely terrorism, police say

A woman described as “erratic and aggressive” drove a vehicle into a US Capitol Police cruiser near the Capitol and was taken into custody, police say.

Shots were fired, but the incident appeared to be criminal in nature with “no nexus to terrorism,” says Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki.

No one was injured. She says the US Capitol remains open.

Yemen’s president denounces Iran as ‘sponsor of terror’ at Arab summit

Yemen’s embattled president launches a scathing verbal attack on Iran, saying the non-Arab and mostly Shiite nation is pursuing expansionist policies to destroy the Arab identity.

Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi tells the Arab summit in Jordan that Iran “is the true sponsor of terrorism.”

Civil war has raged in Yemen for two years. The fighting pits Hadi’s troops, backed by a Saudi-led international military coalition of mostly Arab states, against Shiite Houthi rebels, led by Abdul-Malek al-Houthi and backed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his forces. Iran supports fellow Shiite Houthis.

Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) welcomes Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi during a welcome ceremony for the latter at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman on March 28, 2017 ahead of talks on the eve of the Arab League summit. (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) welcomes Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi during a welcome ceremony for the latter at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman on March 28, 2017 ahead of talks on the eve of the Arab League summit. (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)

Hadi, who heads the internationally recognized government based in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, lavishly praised Saudi Arabia for its role in the war.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 civilians, displaced over three million people and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

— AP

Egged investigating driver who kicked disabled man off bus

The Egged bus company is investigating one of its drivers after a video emerged of him appearing to refuse to allow a disabled passenger to board his bus.

A video of the incident shared widely on social media shows the driver of the 83 bus to Tel Aviv insisting that the man with Down syndrome, who is crying profusely, isn’t allowed to board his bus and must take the next one.

According to Channel 2, the driver denied the passenger because he did not have money to pay the fare.

But eyewitnesses say he insisted the disabled man get off the bus even when other passengers offered to pay for him.

The incident reportedly took place yesterday at the Rishon Lezion central bus station.

Counter-terror chief appointed head of National Security Council

Eitan Ben-David, the head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, is appointed the head of the Israel National Security Council.

The announcement comes a day after the interim head of the NSC, Yaakov Nagel, announced he was stepping down.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to name Nagel as permanent NSC chief last year, but he declined citing personal reasons.

Arab League summit reflects Mideast turmoil, Katz says

Intelligence Minister Yi⁠srael Katz says the annual meeting of Arab leaders taking place in Jordan this week is a reflection of “the many challenges faced by the Arab world from both inside and out.”

“One of these is the Palestinian issue which should not be ignored, but at the same time all of us should not lose sight of the strategic regional challenges that need to be addressed now, including the Iranian threat, the threat of the Islamic State organization and phenomenon and the ongoing crises and conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, with their second and third effects,” Katz says.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz attends a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on March 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz attends a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on March 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

By working together to address these challenges and common threats, while also advancing initiatives to improve the conditions of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] as well as in Gaza, we can lay the ground work now for a positive change in the day to day security and economic reality on the regional level as well as in the Palestinian context,” he says.

“A positive regional climate change that could lead in the future to peace,” the minister adds.

— Judah Ari Gross

Dozens of migrants rescued off Cyprus coast

Dozens of migrants are rescued off the coast of Cyprus after their fishing boat ran aground near the holiday resort of Paphos, the island’s authorities say.

Police say 92 migrants including 18 women and 46 children were safely brought to shore after arriving by boat, most probably from Turkey.

A police official says the migrants are still being processed and that their origins were not immediately clear, although most who make the sea journey to Cyprus are Syrian refugees.

–AFP

Palestinian cop convicted in lynching of IDF soldiers released after retrial

A Palestinian police officer who was convicted of participating in the violent lynching of 2 Israeli soldiers in Ramallah 17 years ago, is released from prison after a retrial in a West Bank military court.

Hatam Faiz Khalil Magari was convicted in 2004 for his participation in the brutal murders of IDF reservists Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz, at the start of the Second Intifada in October 2000.

His conviction was based on the eyewitness testimony of one man, Bassam Hassin a-Luah, who also incriminated seven others in the lynching, two of whom confessed.

The 2000 lynching of two IDF reservists in Ramallah (Screen capture, Channel 2 News)
The 2000 lynching of two IDF reservists in Ramallah (Screen capture, Channel 2 News)

Magari appealed the conviction on the grounds that the other people Luah claimed were involved in Avrahami Nurzhitz’s killings were never tried.

He also said that information provided by Israeli interrogators was not included as evidence in his original trial, and could have changed the verdict.

Magari will be deported to the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s defense exports surge to $6.5 bln in 2016

Israeli military exports surged last year to $6.5 billion (some NIS 23.5 billion), a rise of 14 percent buoyed by increased defense budgets, the government says in a statement.

Total deals rose $800 million (NIS 2,896 million) compared with 2015, making the second consecutive annual rise in Israel’s military exports.

“The Israeli defense industries have won great prestige around the world, thanks to advanced quality technology,” the defense ministry says in a statement.

The ministry puts the rise in exports partly down to “increased defense budgets in the face of growing security challenges”.

–AFP

Arab leaders reaffirm support for 2002 peace plan

Arab leaders reaffirm a 2002 peace plan that offers normalized ties with Israel if it cedes lands it captured in the 1967 Six Day War to a future Palestinian state.

The declaration is issued at the end of an Arab summit, attended by 21 presidents, kings and top officials.

The statement says that “peace is a strategic option” for the Arab world, based on a two-state solution — Palestine in the pre-1967 lines — alongside Israel.

It also urges countries around the world not to move their diplomatic missions in Israel to contested Jerusalem, a signal to President Donald Trump who said in the past he would move the US Embassy in Israel to the holy city.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured in 1967, as a future capital.

–AP

Syrian experts visit critical dam spillway near main IS base

Syrian engineers and Red Crescent officials visit a spillway of a key dam west of the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa, opening the gates and relieving pressure, according to the aid organization and Syrian Kurdish media.

The visit follows concerns that the Tabqa Dam is threatened, endangering the surrounding area that has become a battleground as US-backed forces push toward Raqqa, the IS group’s self-proclaimed capital. The main gates of the dam, further to the south from the spillway, are out of service.

The Tabqa Dam, in Raqqa, Syria, March. 27, 2017. (Drone footage, Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, via AP)
The Tabqa Dam, in Raqqa, Syria, March. 27, 2017. (Drone footage, Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, via AP)

— AP

US opens formal investigation into civilian deaths in Mosul

The US military launches a formal investigation into what role the US played in the deaths of dozens of civilians in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this month, amid warnings from a top American general that the dense urban fight is making it harder to avoid killing innocents.

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, told Congress that Islamic State militants are exploiting American sensitivities to civilian casualties, using people as human shields to avoid being targeted by strikes.

Relatives mourn as bodies of Iraqi residents of west Mosul killed in an airstrike targeting Islamic State jihadists are placed on carts and covered with blankets, March 17, 2017. (AFP/Aris Messinis)
Relatives mourn as bodies of Iraqi residents of west Mosul killed in an airstrike targeting Islamic State jihadists are placed on carts and covered with blankets, March 17, 2017. (AFP/Aris Messinis)

“As we move into the urban environment it is going to become more and more difficult to apply extraordinarily high standards for things we are doing, although we will try,” Votel said during a House Armed Services meeting.

–AP

Israel to withhold $2m in UN dues to protest UNHRC resolutions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructs the Foreign Ministry to withhold $2 million (NIS 7.24 million) from its annual United Nations dues in protest of the UN Human Rights Council’s recent adoption of 5 resolutions critical of Israel.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry says the funds will instead go to Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and will be invested in developing countries who support Israel in international bodies.

The ministry says the move seeks to “correct the obsessive discrimination against Israel at the UN and its agencies.”

Netanyahu will seek cabinet approval for new Amona tomorrow — report

The cabinet tomorrow will discuss West Bank settlement construction and the ongoing efforts to reach an understanding with the Trump administration on his government’s settlement policies, Channel 2 reports.

According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring the issue of building a new settlement for the evacuated residents of Amona to a vote during the meeting tomorrow.

Netanyahu has promised to build a new settlement for the residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, which was evacuated in January, but has encountered resistance from the Trump administration.

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Live updates (closed) Latest: Israel’s defense exports surge to $6.5 bln in 2016

Netanyahu will seek cabinet approval for new Amona tomorrow — report

The cabinet tomorrow will discuss West Bank settlement construction and the ongoing efforts to reach an understanding with the Trump administration on his government’s settlement policies, Channel 2 reports.

According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring the issue of building a new settlement for the evacuated residents of Amona to a vote during the meeting tomorrow.

Netanyahu has promised to build a new settlement for the residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, which was evacuated in January, but has encountered resistance from the Trump administration.