The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Law to compensate terror victims abroad passes first hurdle
The Knesset has preliminarily approved a bill to recognize Israelis and Jews injured or killed in terror attacks abroad as eligible to compensation from the National Insurance Institute.
The bill proposed by the Yesh Atid party was put forward following the death of an Israeli woman in a Berlin terror attack last month.
The existing law only grants compensation to Israelis or Jews injured or killed in terror attacks in Israel.
IDF arrests Palestinian from Gaza who crossed border
A Palestinian man reportedly crossed the border fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip this morning. The suspect was arrested by Israeli security forces and taken in for questioning, Army Radio reports.
Arab League raps Israel’s settlement expansion as ‘contempt’
The Arab League on Wednesday condemned Israel’s announcement of new settlements as a sign of contempt for the international community and an obstacle to peace.
Israel on Tuesday approved 2,500 new homes in the occupied West Bank in a major expansion of settlements following the election of US President Donald Trump.
The move drew widespread international criticism. The settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their own state.
Tuesday’s announcement “confirms the Israeli government’s approach, which is full of contempt and defiance for the will of the international (community),” the head of the Cairo-based Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said in a statement.
The statement accused Israel of “causing all efforts to implement the two-state solution to fail.”
It suggested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was feeling “strengthened” by “recent international developments.”
Trump has signaled strong support for Israel, and Israeli right-wing politicians have sought to take advantage, with hardliners calling for an end to the idea of a Palestinian state.
MKs vote down bill for JNF transparency
Knesset members vote down a proposal to include the Jewish National Fund in the Freedom of Information Law that allows citizens to receive information on the activities of most public authorities.
The bill, proposed by Yesh Atid’s Miki Levy, comes days after State Comptroller Yosef Shapira recommended launching an investigation into suspected criminal activity by the JNF, which he slammed in a report as a bloated organization with little transparency that may have mishandled funds and acted out of conflicts of interest.
The organization, the report found, over a period of 15 months between August 2014 and October 2015, spent just a third of its revenue for public projects to develop land while “43 percent [of some NIS 3.5 billion] were used to expand its own financial assets.”
MKs voted on party lines, with 44 coalition MKs opposing the bill and 34 opposition lawmakers backing it.
— Raoul Wootliff
Trump calls for ‘major investigation’ into voter fraud
Trump tweets he’s asking for a “major investigation” into voter fraud, and says he may work to strengthen voting procedures.
MK ejected from Knesset for calling minister ‘terrorist’
Shouting, “You are a terrorist,” Joint (Arab) List MK Taleb Abu Arar is removed from the Knesset plenary for disturbing a speech of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
In response, Erdan shouts back from the podium: “And you are a criminal polygamist.” Abu Arar has two wives and 10 children.
The name-calling took place as Erdan was responding to a proposal to form a parliamentary inquiry committee over the events that took place in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran last week in which a police officer was killed in an alleged vehicular assault.
Erdan said that the incident was a terrorist attack just hours after it took place, despite what the Joint List calls “inconclusive evidence.” An aerial video of the event showed police shooting before the car accelerated into officers.
Erdan defended the assessment saying that both the film and eyewitness accounts confirmed it was a terror attack.
— Raoul Wootliff
Netanyahu faces annual Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins taking questions from lawmakers in the Knesset plenum, as part of the Question Time format introduced in Israel’s parliament last year.
Under the procedure, opposition MKs can choose 10 ministers, including the prime minister, to answer questions once during the legislative year.
The prime minister will answer questions for an hour and 20 minutes (the 20 minutes added for the additional portfolios he holds — foreign affairs and communications). Three-quarters of the questions will come from the opposition.
This is the second time the prime minister will be grilled in the plenum as part of the new format.
— Raoul Wootliff
Netanyahu says more construction to come in West Bank
Netanyahu says that with the end of the Obama administration comes the end of the era of no construction in the West Bank — “not one brick” — and that there will be more construction announcements for buildings over the Green Line like the one made earlier this week.
Netanyahu dismisses questions about police probe
Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu declines to answer a question during Prime Minister’s Question Time on whether he will resign if indicted in one of the two criminal investigations currently opened against him.
The question was asked by MK Tamar Zandberg from Meretz, who quoted Netanyahu himself saying years ago then-prime minister Ehud Olmert could no longer serve as premier due to investigations against him.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says the prime minister does not have to answer questions that do not relate to government activities.
Netanyahu also declines to answer questions on whether gifts he received from billionaire Arnon Milchan or his relationship with lawyer David Shimron constitute a conflict of interest.
— Raoul Wootliff
Netanyahu shrugs off call to apologize for arson claims
Netanyahu shrugs off questions about accusations he made in November that fires that broke out across the country were a deliberate campaign of arson by Arabs to terrorize the Israeli public.
Joint List MK Abd al-Hakim Haj Yahya asks Netanyahu to apologize for making the accusations since no indictments have been filed. Netanyahu dismissed the issue out of hand.
Netanyahu to discuss settlements with Trump
Netanyahu says he will speak with President Donald Trump about settlements when they meet.
Speaking during the annual Prime Minister’s Questions in the Knesset, Netanyahu said the issue would be one of a number of topics discussed.
Netanyahu was answering a question from Jewish Home’s Bezalel Smotrich asking whether, given yesterday’s announcement to build 1,500 new settlement homes, he would disavow his 2009 Bar Ilan speech is support of the two-state solution ahead of meeting the new president.
“Believing in a certain policy does not mean you have to say everything you plan to do,” Netanyahu says.
“I have a clear policy. In order for any possible peace negotiations to be fruitful the Palestinians need to recognize Israel, and they are not willing to, and our territory has to be secured,” he adds.
“Those are the principles I said at Bar Ilan. I haven’t changed them.”
— Raoul Wootliff
As Netanyahu denies all, Herzog says Netanyahu up to his neck
Netanyahu says “there’s no end to the witch hunt” in his rejection of all inquiries regarding police investigations into his alleged misconduct. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog responds saying that he’s up to his neck in investigations.
“You cannot make decisions with a level head,” Herzog says.
28 killed in Mogadishu hotel attack
Twenty-eight people were killed Wednesday when Al-Shabab fighters struck a popular Mogadishu hotel, setting off two car bombs and opening fire on security guards, according to the city’s main ambulance service.
“The number of casualties we have recorded today is 28 dead and 43 wounded. This is what we have confirmed with our teams but there were also other ambulances which carried some casualties (but) I don’t know how many,” said Dr Abukadir Abdirahman Adem, head of the ambulance service.
Lebanon claims to bust Israeli spy ring
The Lebanese intelligence agency says that it has arrested five people for allegedly taking part in “spying in favor of embassies of the Israeli enemy abroad.”
The state news agency says security forces arrested two Lebanese men aged 40 and 35, a Palestinian man aged 25, and two Nepalese women aged 26 and 24. The suspects reportedly confessed to spying for Israel and “admitted having contacted by phone the embassies of the Israeli enemy in Turkey, Jordan, Britain and Nepal in order to collaborate with it and provide it with information.”
“After their interrogation, the arrestees were referred to the competent court on the offense of collaboration with the Israeli enemy, and work is underway to arrest the rest of the people involved,” the General Security Directorate says in a statement.
Trump calls to review US interrogation methods
President Donald Trump is asking for a review of America’s methods for interrogating terror suspects and the possible reopening of CIA-run “black site” prisons outside the United States, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Associated Press.
The order would also reverse America’s commitment to closing the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The document instructs top national security officers to “recommend to the president whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States and whether such program should include the use of detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Israel, US complete David’s Sling test
Israel and the United States have completed tests on the latest version of the David’s Sling anti-ballistic missile system, the Defense Ministry says.
During one of the tests, the defense system’s radar array tracked an incoming test missile, calculated its trajectory, and the David’s Sling launched an interceptor missile that “destroyed the target as planned,” the ministry says.
The David’s Sling is being developed by Israel’s Defense Ministry and the US Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency.
It is one part of a multi-layered missile defense system designed to protect Israel from short-, medium- and long-range attacks. The Iron Dome, for instance, is routinely used to knock down short-range missiles from the Gaza Strip. The now-operational Arrow 3 is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles.
— Judah Ari Gross
Greenpeace unfurls ‘resist’ banner over White House
Greenpeace activists unfurled a large banner with the word “Resist” from a construction crane blocks from the White House Wednesday to protest against President Donald Trump.
The environmental group said on its Facebook page that the gesture targets what it called Trump’s climate denial, racism, misogyny, homophobia and bigotry.
Seven activists clambered up the crane and hung from it the 70-foot by 35-foot (20 meter by 10 meter) banner with “Resist” in black against a yellow background.
They remained up there as of mid-morning, Greenpeace said.
The banner was visible from the White House residence.
‘PA won’t get Obama’s 11th hour funds anytime soon’
A Palestinian official says that the PA received a message from Washington saying it wouldn’t immediately receive the $221 million allocated by the Obama administration just before the ex-president left office last week.
PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah received a message to that effect from an unnamed Trump administration official.
— Avi Issacharoff
Russia’s ‘ship of shame’ returns home from Syria
A Russian aircraft carrier used to wage a massive offensive on the Syrian city of Aleppo is on its way back to Russia, Britain’s defense minister said Thursday, calling it a “ship of shame.”
“We will keep a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia,” Defense Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement.
The Russian warship travelled through the North Sea to Syria last year, to help Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad’s troops recapture rebel areas of Aleppo city after four years of fighting there.
Car-ramming attack said thwarted north of Jerusalem
The IDF is investigating reports of an alleged car-ramming attack in the central West Bank.
According to initial reports, the incident occurred at a crossing near Ma’ale Michmash, north of Jerusalem.
The driver of the vehicle is said to have been shot. No Israelis have been reported injured.
— Judah Ari Gross
IDF kills Palestinian attempting attack on bus stop
IDF troops shot dead a Palestinian man during a suspected car-ramming attempt at a bus stop north of Jerusalem on Wednesday night, the army says.
The Israeli civilians who were standing at the bus stop were uninjured.
According to the military, the driver swerved from his lane and crashed his truck into the metal bollards surrounding a bus stop near the Ma’ale Michmash settlement in the central West Bank.
Israeli troops who were stationed nearby opened fire, killing the Palestinian man.
When the soldiers checked the vehicle, they found that the driver had a knife in his hand, the army says.
The identity of the Palestinian driver has yet to be revealed.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hamas court convicts Fatah members of undermining ‘revolutionary unity’
A court in Gaza on Wednesday sentenced eight members of the rival Palestinian Fatah faction to lengthy jail terms for undermining “revolutionary unity,” the Hamas-run interior ministry said.
The men were found to have collected “security information” against Hamas, including on the “structure and movements” of its militants, in cases dating back to 2014, the ministry said in a statement.
Three were jailed for life by the military court, while the rest received sentences ranging from seven to 15 years.
They were members of the Fatah-led security services.
Fayez Abu Eita, a spokesman for Fatah in the Gaza Strip, called the sentences “political and unjust.”
Hamas has run Gaza for a decade after forcing out Fatah in a near civil war. Fatah still runs the West Bank.
A number of attempts at reconciliation between the two sides have failed.
The Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank, run by Fatah, regularly arrest Hamas members.
‘Israel to take in 100 orphaned Syrian refugee children’
Israel will take in around 100 Syrian children orphaned by the ongoing civil war, Channel 10 reports.
Shas pushing for Western Wall Orthodoxy law
The Shas party is reportedly pushing for a bill that would legislate Orthodox prayer norms at the Western Wall, which entails the separation of men and women. The bill would seek to penalize violators with up to a half a year in prison or a NIS 10,000 ($2,500) fine.
Giuliani: Trump will move embassy to Jerusalem
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani says he believes Donald Trump will move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Donald Trump tends to do what he says what he will do, so I believe he will do that,” he tells Channel 10.
Germany condemns West Bank construction announcement
Germany condemns the government’s approval of 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank. A German foreign ministry spokesman says the move casts doubt on Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution and reaching peace with the Palestinians.
Police weigh probe into Netanyahu as criminal suspect in submarine affair
Police are considering investigating Netanyahu as criminal suspect in the so-called submarine affair in which Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron allegedly swayed multi-billion shekel deals in favor of the German shipbuilder he represented in Israel, Channel 10 news reports.
Doing so would turn the probe, known as Case 2000, into a full-blown criminal investigation.
Labor Union chair Avi Nissenkorn was questioned today over a meeting he had with Shimron in an attempt to secure an Israeli shipyard to store the submarines when they arrived in Israel, the report says.
Channel 2 television reported Tuesday that former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon was questioned by police as part of their initial investigation.
Channel 10 also reports that Case 1000 — looking into claims that Netanyahu and his family received luxury gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from businessmen — has nearly been completed and police investigators are due to present their recommendations on whether or not to indict Netanyahu in the coming weeks.
Case 2000, however — pertaining to recordings of conversations between Netanyahu and Israeli newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the pair allegedly negotiated an illicit quid pro quo deal that would have seen the prime minister pass legislation to hamper a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Mozes’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper — is far from completion with several US businessmen and publishers still to give testimony, Channel 10 says.
— Raoul Wootliff
Trump signs order to build Mexico border wall
President Donald Trump is signing two executive orders in keeping with campaign promises to boost border security and crack down on immigrants living in the US illegally.
“We’ve been talking about this right from the beginning,” he says.
The president signed the two orders Wednesday during a ceremony at the Department of Homeland Security after honoring the department’s newly confirmed secretary, retired Gen. John Kelly.
The executive orders jumpstart construction of a US-Mexico border wall, one of his signature campaign promises, and strip funding for so-called sanctuary cities, which don’t arrest or detain immigrants living in the US illegally.
Crete quake felt in Israel
Israelis are reporting feeling an earthquake that occurred a few minutes ago off the coast of Crete, about 800 kilometers west of the coast of Israel.
The 5.6 magnitude earthquake was felt across the region.
Shots fired at IDF position in central West Bank; none injured
A gunman fired shots at an army post outside the village of Aboud, northwest of Ramallah, the IDF says.
Israeli troops shot the attacker, wounding him, the army says.
No soldiers have been reported injured.
— Judah Ari Gross