Putin praises Abbas for ‘stabilizing’ region
search
Live updates (now closed)Latest: Netanyahu: Nothing can convince me nuclear deal is good

Netanyahu: Nuke deal will let Iran step up terror activities

Israel, US raise hackles over Russian sale of S-300 missiles to Tehran, but Moscow says move won't threaten Israel; US negotiator defends accord as best shot at stopping Iranian bomb

  • A Russian air defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
    A Russian air defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
  • Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov, right, shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting in Astana on April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/ILYAS OMAROV)
    Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov, right, shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting in Astana on April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/ILYAS OMAROV)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shows the way to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (AFP/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)
    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shows the way to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (AFP/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)
  • Participants attend a wreath ceremony during a commemorative event on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora in Nordhausen, eastern Germany, on April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/DPA/MARTIN SCHUTT)
    Participants attend a wreath ceremony during a commemorative event on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora in Nordhausen, eastern Germany, on April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/DPA/MARTIN SCHUTT)
  • European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini speaks during the informal Ministerial meeting gathering foreign ministers from the European Union and the southern Mediterranean nations in Barcelona on April 13, 2015. (AFP/LLUIS GENE)
    European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini speaks during the informal Ministerial meeting gathering foreign ministers from the European Union and the southern Mediterranean nations in Barcelona on April 13, 2015. (AFP/LLUIS GENE)
  • Egyptian relatives and mourners carry the body of police officer Amr Shoukry during his funeral in north Sinai's provincial capital of Al-Arish on April 13, 2015, after he was killed in a bomb attack targeting the Al-Arish police station the previous day. (photo credit: AFP/STR)
    Egyptian relatives and mourners carry the body of police officer Amr Shoukry during his funeral in north Sinai's provincial capital of Al-Arish on April 13, 2015, after he was killed in a bomb attack targeting the Al-Arish police station the previous day. (photo credit: AFP/STR)
  • US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 10, 2015. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)
    US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 10, 2015. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

The Kremlin okayed the transfer of the S-300 air-defense missile system to Iran Monday, saying an embargo in place since 2010 was no longer necessary, given the pact with Tehran over its nuclear program.

The US said it was concerned by the sale and Israel, long fearful of the missile array’s effects on its air superiority, expressed alarm over the move, saying it was proof the nuclear agreement will result in an arms buildup and won’t make the region safer.

In a call to Israeli journalists, top US negotiator Wendy Sherman defended the nuclear deal, saying while Israel has the right to be concerned, there was no alternative. She added that the sides could reach a final agreement by June 30.

In Israel, a soldier was indicted for passing sensitive information to members of his settlement of Bat Ayin, tipping extremists off to an arrest raid, in a case the Shin Bet called “severe.”

Coalition talks saw some progress with the Kulanu and Haredi parties, though a report of a secret meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog was swiftly denied by Herzog.

And a survey ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day showed 45,000 survivors in the Jewish state in a poor economic state, with many of them going without food, medicine or heat.

The survey also showed that almost half of Israelis fear another Holocaust is possible.

The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded.

Admired but sullied German writer Gunter Grass dead at 87

Gunter Grass, the Nobel-winning German writer who gave voice to the generation that came of age during the horrors of the Nazi era but later ran into controversy over his own World War II past and stance toward Israel, dies at 87.

Grass was lauded by Germans for helping to revive their culture in the aftermath of World War II and helping to give voice and support to democratic discourse in the postwar nation.

Yet he provoked the ire of many in 2006 when he revealed in his memoir “Skinning the Onion” that, as a teenager, he had served in the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of Adolf Hitler’s notorious paramilitary organization.

In 2012, Grass drew sharp criticism at home and was declared persona non grata by Israel after publishing a prose poem, “What Must Be Said,” in which he criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel’s nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to “already fragile world peace” over its belligerent stance on Iran.

A trained sculptor, Grass made his literary reputation with “The Tin Drum,” published in 1959. It was followed by “Cat and Mouse” and “Dog Years,” which made up what is called the Danzig Trilogy — after the town of his birth, now the Polish city of Gdansk.

Combining naturalistic detail with fantastical images, the trilogy captured the German reaction to the rise of Nazism, the horrors of the war and the guilt that lingered after Adolf Hitler’s defeat.

Grass untiringly warned his compatriots to remain vigilant against racism.

— AP

Nearly 1 in 4 survivors below poverty line

A report released Monday by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel shows that some 45,000 survivors, or nearly a quarter of Israel’s community, live in poverty with an income below NIS 3,000 per month.

Over one-quarter, or 27%, said they did not have heat in their apartment during the winter months, while 65% said they needed help to pay for their groceries and medications.

Almost half – 45% — report feeling lonely most of the time, though 60% said they meet with family members at least once each week. Over one-third, or 36%, live alone, and half are widowed.

A new study has found that 16 percent of elderly Israelis report abuse (photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

Illustrative photo of a Holocaust survivor (photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

The report, released ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is marked on on April 15-16 this year, also found that 46 percent of Israelis believe a second Holocaust can happen, five percentage points higher than last year. And a similar number of Israel’s 189,000 Holocaust survivors, or 47%, agree.

Some 46% of survivors also say that future generations will not remember the Holocaust after they are gone, a spike of nine percentage points from last year’s study.

— Haviv Rettig Gur

Tapes allege voter fraud against Yachad party

Nearly a month after elections, recordings published by Army Radio allege voting booth fraud by Shas activists attempting to disqualify voting slips for the rival Yachad party.

Yachad, founded by former Shas leader Eli Yishai, fell some 12,000 votes shy of being able to cross the electoral threshold of 3.25% of votes and get into the Knesset in voting on March 17.

In one recording, an alleged Shas activist who was supposed to act as a poll observer, is heard telling a colleague how to make sure the Yachad votes don’t count.

“Tell everyone who votes to grab the [Yachad] slips. Put them in their pockets and in their place put Shas slips. You can draw on them, do a little scribble — which will disqualify them,” the activist is heard saying.

A second recording features other activists giving similar instructions.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews line up to vote in Bnei Brak, Israel, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews line up to vote in Bnei Brak, Israel, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Thai boat fire victim officially ID’d

Thai investigators have completed the process of identifying the body of Shani Maril, the 12-year-old Israeli girl killed in a fire aboard in a ship in the Andaman Sea, Hebrew-language news sites report.

Shani Maril. the 12-year-old girl from Modiin who was killed in a fire on a boat in Thailand on April 8, 2015 (photo credit: courtesy)

Shani Maril. the 12-year-old girl from Modiin who was killed in a fire on a boat in Thailand on April 8, 2015 (photo credit: courtesy)

The confirmation paves the way for Maril’s family to bring home their daughter for burial in Israel.

Maril’s body was found Thursday in the bathroom of the ferry that caught fire and sank off the coast of Thailand a day earlier. She was the only fatality.

Her body was located 18 meters (59 feet) underwater by scuba divers conducting the search on behalf of the Thai navy, Channel 2 reported.

Representatives from the local Chabad house and the Israeli consulate were present at the scene.

She was in Thailand with her family to celebrate her bat mitzvah.

IAEA and Iran to meet in Tehran

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it will hold a meeting with Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday, as the UN’s nuclear watchdog continues to press for access to suspected Iranian nuclear testing sites.

The meeting will be held to discuss “the continuation of the implementation of the Framework for Cooperation,” an interim deal reached between the sides last year, the IAEA said in a statement.

The watchdog will be represented by Deputy Director General Tero Varjoranta, head of the Department of Safeguards.

The US says it will need IAEA verification before it starts to roll back sanctions, an issue which has become a major sticking point between the sides, despite the agreement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif says Monday that Tehran will demand to see all sanctions lifted on day one of the agreement, and not after enrichment curbs are verified, the semi-official Fars News reports on Twitter.

The demand was repeated by several top Iranian officials in the days following the deal.

with The Associated Press

Man hurt by rocks thrown at Jerusalem bus

A 50-year-old man is lightly injured in Jerusalem after rocks are thrown at a bus he is riding on in the Old City, police say.

The rocks also break the windshield of the bus, which was traveling on Ophel Way, which skirts the south and west sides of the Old City.

The man has been taken to an area hospital and police are carrying out searches for the perpetrator.

Hezbollah head Nasrallah to speak on Yemen

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah will speak later this week, for the third time in a month, according to a statement from the Lebanese terror group.

Nasrallah is expected to address simmering tensions in Yemen, where Houthi rebels backed by Iran, and thus aligned with Hezbollah, have managed to force out the president and take control of key areas of the country, drawing Saudi-led airstrikes.

The fighting in Yemen has led to increased Saudi-Hezbollah tensions, according to the Beirut-based Daily Star.

Last week Nasrallah, who makes rare media appearances, addressed fighting with Israel and praised the Iran nuclear pact in an interview to Syrian state-run TV.

‘A shame and an insult’ after report on needy survivors

Politicians are weighing in on a report that shows high numbers of Holocaust survivors living in poverty in Israel and calling for reforms to solve the problem.

“Just sad,” Labor MK Itzik Shmuli writes on Facebook, lashing out at the previous government for failing to come to aid of survivors barely eking out an existence. “This is my country and it is its responsibility to solve this problem once and for all via a clear, short and simple law that will give respectable grants in coordination with the report on the survivors.”

Labor Party head Isaac Herzog calls the report’s findings “a shame and an insult, no less,” and says the government could have avoided the situation by giving survivors the money that was earmarked for isolated West Bank settlements instead.

“I lower my eyes in shame toward the 189,000 Holocaust survivors who live in Israel,” he writes on Facebook. “If a quarter of them are forced to forgo medication, and a third are unable to heat their homes, it’s not just a large disgrace for Jewish, Israeli and human ethics, but also mainly a reminder of the problematic order of preferences that the State of Israel has worked under for years.”

Likud MK Avi Dichter, who has spent the last two years heading the survivors’ welfare fund that released the report, says that more money is now going to survivors but still more needs to be done.

“To Holocaust survivors who turn to me and say ‘let us die with dignity,’ I say I have a different motto. My motto is to worry that they are able to live with dignity,” he writes.

Putin praises Abbas for ‘stabilizing’ region

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin praises Abbas for working to stabilize the region during his time as head of the PA.

“It’s now been ten years since your election as head of Palestine. In that time, you have done a lot of work to stabilize the situation, both domestic, political and economic,” Putin says according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shows the way to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (Photo credit: AFP/ POOL / SERGEI ILNITSKY)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shows the way to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (Photo credit: AFP/ POOL / SERGEI ILNITSKY)

“Those were very difficult years. At the same time, I am glad to say that the relations between Palestine and Russia have developed consistently.”

The two are expected to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts as well as the situation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Russia okays sale of S-300 missiles to Iran

Putin has lifted a ban on supplying Iran with sophisticated S-300 air defense missile systems, the Kremlin said, after Tehran struck a deal with the West over its nuclear program.

A decree signed by Putin lifts a ban on “the shipment from Russia to Iran” of the S-300 missiles, the Kremlin said in a statement. Moscow had blocked delivery of the surface-to-air missiles to Tehran in 2010.

— AFP

EU seeks Mediterranean cooperation against terror

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini calls for stepped-up cooperation between Europe and its Mediterranean neighbors in North Africa and the Middle East to fight terrorism.

“The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Tunis, those yesterday in Egypt and at the Moroccan embassy in Libya, show that we must reinforce our cooperation in the fight against terrorism,” she says at a meeting of foreign ministers from the 28 EU member states and eight nations of the southern rim of the Mediterranean.

“All nations in the region are confronted with a fragile security situation which has worsened due to several armed conflicts, mainly in Syria and Libya,” she adds.

European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini speaks during the informal Ministerial meeting gathering foreign ministers from the European Union and the southern Mediterranean nations in Barcelona on April 13, 2015. photo credit: AFP/LLUIS GENE)

European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini speaks during the informal Ministerial meeting gathering foreign ministers from the European Union and the southern Mediterranean nations in Barcelona on April 13, 2015. photo credit: AFP/LLUIS GENE)

It is the first high-level meeting of the 43-nation Mediterranean Union since the body was launched in 2008 with the aim of creating a more equal dialogue between the wealthy EU and the poorer states that line the Mediterranean.

Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia send representatives to the meeting as do the 28 nations that make up the European Union.

Syria, which is the target of EU sanctions as part of international attempts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and Libya, which is engulfed in a civil war, do not take part.

AFP

Jews inch closer to rest of US on Obama approval

Support for US President Barack Obama among US Jews is shrinking slightly and coming more in line with the general US populations, a poll published Friday shows.

The Gallup poll shows Obama with a 54 percent approval rating among US Jews, while the president enjoys a 46 percent rating from the general public.

The eight point gap is well below the average of 13 points seen throughout Obama’s presidency, and represents the closest the two numbers have come together since he took office in 2009.

The numbers show a slight weakening of Obama’s popularity among Jews, 55% of whom approved of the president over the same time period last year. In 2013, Obama had a 64% approval rating among US Jews.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 3, 2015. (Photo credit: Pete Souza/The White House)

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 3, 2015. (Photo credit: Pete Souza/The White House)

Meanwhile the 46% approval rating among the general population is a slight upturn over the 43% he had last year, but lower than the 49% seen in 2013.

Jewish approval of Obama has generally followed the same trend line as the general population, albeit with sharper spikes and dropoffs.

The gap between the Jewish and general approval ratings has been steadily decreasing since late 2012, when 16 points separated the Jewish community from the rest of the US.

Jews have generally voted heavily Democratic, though analysts say some of that support has waned in recent years, with many mainly religious Jews moving over to the GOP side of the aisle.

The poll shows that religious Jews take the dimmest view of Obama, while college graduates and women were the most likely to approve of Obama’s work.

Wendy Sherman: Iran deal by June 30

Wendy Sherman, the head of the US negotiating team in talks with Iran, tells Israeli journalists that the sides can reach a good deal by the June 30 deadline, and that it will be better than the “alternative.”

She says the US plans on consulting with Israel over its security needs, which Washington is committed to, according to reports in several Hebrew-language news sites.

She tells the Israeli journalists that Jerusalem has the right to be concerned, but the deal that was reached is the only way to stop an Iranian bomb, with a military strike only being able to push the program back by a few years at most.

She adds that it does not make sense to tie recognition of Israel or stopping Iranian support for worldwide terror to an already complicated negotiation, instead saying that those should be dealt with in a parallel track.

Obama to powwow with Jewish leaders over Iran

US President Barack Obama will attend two meetings with Jewish leaders in his bid to persuade the Jewish community to back the Iran nuclear deal.

Obama and Susan Rice, his national security adviser, will meet Monday with top officials of Jewish organizations, including civil defense groups like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, umbrella groups like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America, pro-Israel lobbies like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and J Street, and the major religious streams.

Later that afternoon, Obama and Rice will meet with “Jewish community leaders,” as the White House describes them on its schedule. Sources who have been apprised of the second meeting said the group is composed of “influencers,” or major donors to the Democratic Party who have expressed skepticism about the Iran nuclear deal, among them Israeli-American mogul Haim Saban.

JTA

Egyptian soldier killed at Sinai-Gaza border

Separate attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killed one soldier and wounded another Monday, a day after jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group killed 14 people in twin bombings.

Security officials said gunmen shot dead a soldier at a checkpoint in the Rafah area on the border with the Islamist-run Gaza Strip Palestinian enclave.

They added that a second soldier at another checkpoint in the same area was wounded in a similar attack.

Egyptian relatives and mourners carry the body of police officer Amr Shoukry during his funeral in north Sinai's provincial capital of Al-Arish on April 13, 2015, after he was killed in a bomb attack targeting the Al-Arish police station the previous day. (photo credit: AFP/STR)

Egyptian relatives and mourners carry the body of police officer Amr Shoukry during his funeral in north Sinai’s provincial capital of Al-Arish on April 13, 2015, after he was killed in a bomb attack targeting the Al-Arish police station the previous day. (photo credit: AFP/STR)

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attacks, but Ansar Beit al-Maqdis said it was behind Sunday’s two bombings.

AFP

Russia ready to ship S-300s ‘promptly,’ general says

Moscow is ready to swiftly supply Iran with advanced S-300 air-defense missiles, a senior official in the Russian Defense Ministry says.

General Yury Yakubov says the ministry is only waiting for the okay from the political leadership to ship the system, which has been blocked from being transferred to Iran for years.

“If a political decision is made to supply to Iran the S-300 missiles possessed by the Russian Armed Forces, I believe that the Defense Ministry will promptly fulfill the president’s order,” says Yakubov, coordinator of the general inspectors’ department of the Defense Ministry, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

Israel and the US have lobbied against letting Iran gain control of the missile system, which is considered among the most advanced on the planet.

 

Rubio tells donors he’s entering White House race

Sen. Marco Rubio is telling his top donors that he is running for president, saying he feels “uniquely qualified” to pitch his Republican Party as one that will defend the American dream.

The first-term Republican from Florida told his biggest backers on a conference call on Monday that he sees the coming presidential campaign as a choice between the past and the future. In a swipe at Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rubio said the former first lady “is a leader from yesterday.”

Rubio says he has always felt the United States is about tomorrow.

Rubio spoke on a conference call with donors before a flashy political rally set for Monday night in Miami at which he is expected to officially announce his candidacy.

Rubio, an outspoken supporter of Israel, has slammed US President Barack Obama for allegedly failing to provide sufficient backing for the Jewish state.

AP

Jordan jails men for waving IS flag at wedding

A court in Jordan on Monday has ordered six men jailed for waving the Islamic State group’s flag and singing jihadist slogans at a wedding.

The state security court sentenced two defendants to five years in prison for “carrying out acts that expose the Kingdom to the risk of hostile acts and ruining relations with foreign states.”

The remaining four have been sentenced in absentia to 15 years, after they failed to show up for trial.

The defendants were arrested shortly after the wedding in September in the northern city of Irbid, according to the indictment seen by AFP.

AFP

Soldier indicted for passing info to extremist settlers

A soldier suspected of passing sensitive information to settlers on planned arrests in the West Bank has been indicted in a military court on “severe” espionage charges.

Elad Yaakov Sela, from the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, is accused of giving army information to right-wing activists in February.

The indictment must still be signed off by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

According to the indictment, Sela, a corporal in the Shahar project for ultra-Orthodox recruits, admitted “to taking secret and sensitive documents from the IDF and showing them to extreme right-wing activists in Bat Ayin, for ideological reasons,” a statement from the Shin Bet security service read.

The information was used to tip off extremist Bat Ayin residents of coming arrests after they attacked a resident of a nearby Palestinian village and tried to burn down a mosque.

IDF soldier Elad Yaakov Sela, 25, in court on April 13, 2015 (screen capture: Walla news)

IDF soldier Elad Yaakov Sela (center), 25, in court on April 13, 2015 (screen capture: Walla news)

When soldiers came to arrest suspects, a melee ensued, and troops were forced to fire into the air. It later became clear that some people had been informed of the arrest raid beforehand, the Shin Bet said.

The Shin Bet called the case “severe.”

“The soldier time after time and on a number of different opportunities took advantage of his access to secret information to pass it to sources who were the subjects of the info,” the military prosecutor said, according to a report in Ynet.

Weinstein is expected to make a decision on the case by Monday night.

 

Lavrov: S-300 doesn’t threaten Israel

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tells a press conference that the transfer of S-300 missiles to Iran is not a threat to Israel.

Lavrov says the advanced air-defense system, which Israel and the US have lobbied against Iran receiving, is “purely defensive,” according to Interfax, quoted by Bloomberg News.

The system won’t “threaten the security of any state in the region, including, of course, Israel,” he says.

Lavrov says Putin’s move to lift the block on transferring the weapon system was done after the deal between world powers and Tehran made the self-imposed embargo unnecessary.

He adds that Russia did not want to continue outlaying money to prevent the deal and hints that Moscow was unhappy with international pressure to quash the sale.

“We could not have disregarded the commercial and reputation aspect. As you know, we bear serious financial outlays in connection with the suspension of the contract, and we do not deem such a position necessary any longer,” he said, according to Interfax.

Tehran filed a $4-billion lawsuit against a Russian defense exporter for holding up the $800-million deal in 2010.

Steinitz: S-300 deal direct result of nuke accord

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, a long-standing opponent of the nuclear framework deal reached with Iran earlier this month, says that the technologically advanced S-300 air-defense system that Russia has reportedly cleared for sale with Tehran is inextricably linked to the Lausanne agreement.

“This is the direct result of the legitimacy granted to Iran from the nuclear deal that is being forged,” he says in a written statement, “and it is proof that the Iranian economic momentum, to come in the wake of sanctions removal, will be exploited for arms build-up and not the welfare of the Iranian people.”

He continues, “Rather than demand of Iran that it cease its terror activity, which it spreads across the Middle East and the world, it is being allowed to arm itself with advanced weaponry that will only heighten its aggression.”

Israel has long urged Russian leader Vladimir Putin to refrain from selling the air-defense system to Syria and Iran, as it diminishes the regional aerial superiority that Israel has maintained since the start of the First Lebanon War in the summer of 1982.

Mitch Ginsburg

Pakistan asks Iran to bring Yemen rebels to table

Pakistan’s prime minister is calling on Iran to use its influence to help bring Yemen’s Shiite rebels to the negotiating table on the crisis roiling their country, where Saudi-led airstrikes have been targeting the rebels for over two weeks.

The call comes after the parliament in the predominantly majority Sunni Pakistan voted on Friday to stay out of the Yemen conflict and not send troops for the Saudi-led coalition, as Pakistani officials said the kingdom had asked for. Lawmakers also unanimously demanded that Pakistan “maintain its neutrality in the Yemen conflict” in order to help negotiate a diplomatic solution.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he discussed Yemen in depth with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who visited Islamabad last week, and that he denounced the power grab by the Yemeni rebels known as Houthis.

Iran, which backs the Houthis, has lobbied Pakistan and other Sunni nations to back a cease-fire and a negotiated end to the conflict.

AP

Iran’s Zarif claims country seeking nuke-free world

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says his country wants a “nuclear-free world,” days after Tehran’s leadership cast doubt on an outline deal to curb its nuclear program.

Zarif’s comment comes during a visit to ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, praising the Central Asian nation for giving up its nuclear weapons after the collapse of the USSR.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov, right, shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting in Astana on April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/ILYAS OMAROV)

Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov (right), shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting in Astana on April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Ilyas Omarov)

“Kazakhstan is an important player in this field, as a country firmly committed to a non-proliferation regime and which voluntarily refused nuclear weapons,” Zarif says in a meeting with the head of Kazakhstan’s Senate.

“We all want a nuclear-free world.”

AFP

In first, Nazi-hunting group downgrades US

The world’s predominant Nazi-hunting group is taking the United States to task over its failure to prosecute a member of a notorious Nazi killing unit who lived quietly in Minnesota for decades.

In its annual report, the Simon Wiesenthal Center says that it had lowered its ranking of the US’s Nazi-hunting efforts from A to B. It was the first time the US has been ranked so low.

In this May 22, 1990 photo, Michael Karkoc, photographed in Lauderdale, Minn. prior to a visit to Minnesota from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in early June of 1990. (photo credit: AP/The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Chris Polydoroff)

In this May 22, 1990, photo, Michael Karkoc, photographed in Lauderdale, Minnesota, prior to a visit to Minnesota from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in early June, 1990. (photo credit: AP/The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Chris Polydoroff)

Efraim Zuroff, director of the center’s Israel office, says the ranking was in part because the US took no action against Michael Karkoc. An Associated Press investigation exposed the retired carpenter as a commander in an SS-led Ukrainian unit.

This year’s report praises Germany for loosening criteria to make it easier to prosecute former Nazis.

AP

Bennett says some progress in coalition talks

Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett announces that there has been some movement in coalition-forming talks with the Likud.

On Twitter, Bennett writes that the sides have come closer together on Jewish Home’s pet issue of increasing salaries for soldiers serving in the IDF.

However, he says other issues are still stuck.

Netanyahu: Nothing can convince me nuclear deal is good

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the opening of a police academy, tells gathered dignitaries and cadets that Iran is the largest threat facing Israel, calling the nuclear deal “very bad” and something that legitimizes its terror activities.

“There’s no explanation that can convince me that the deal is a good deal for a simple reason,” he says. “It’s a bad deal. A very bad deal.”

He warns that the deal will lend Iran’s aggressive behavior an international stamp of approval, and lets Tehran continue the aggression.

Without mentioning Russia’s lifting of its block on selling Iran S-300 missiles by name, he notes that the easing of sanctions under the deal will allow Tehran to fund its activities and funnel “tens of millions of dollars” into terror.

“The message Iran is getting is that it can continue and even ramp up its aggression,” he says. “That’s what it’s doing.”

 

 

 

US: Missile sale could endanger lifting of sanctions

Secretary of State John Kerry is raising objections with Moscow over a plan to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

The White House says Kerry made the US opposition clear in a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The call came as Lavrov argued that a preliminary agreement over Iran’s nuclear program made a 2010 ban on sending missiles to Iran no longer necessary.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest says the move could endanger plans to ultimately lift sanctions on Iran as part of a final nuclear deal. He says unity and coordination with nations like Russia is critical to the success of the negotiations.

The agreement is supposed to be finalized by June 30. There is no firm agreement yet on how or when to lift the international sanctions on Iran.

AP

Tennessee synagogue fired at, no injuries

No one is injured as shots are fired outside a Nashville synagogue.

The shots were fired outside the West End Synagogue on Monday morning, The Tennessean reports.

Police identify at least one bullet hole between two windows at the front of the building.

The shooting outside the 400-member Conservative congregation occurs hours before a Holocaust memorial ceremony at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville.

JTA

Kerry to brief lawmakers on Iran deal

John Kerry will hold closed-door briefings with US representatives on the Iran deal later Monday, and with senators on Tuesday morning, State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf says.

State Department: Not the time for S-300 sale

State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf says John Kerry expressed displeasure over Moscow’s sale of the S-300 missile system in a phone call with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Harf says the transfer of the S-300 missile system to Iran would not violate existing United Nations Security Council sanctions.

However, she says given the turmoil in the Middle East, the US believes “this is not the time” for the sale.

When Kimye met Barkat

While some Israeli officials are fretting over the Iran deal, missile sales and coalition talks, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is holding the most important meeting of all, a sit-down with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the Mona restaurant in the capital.

While Kim seems interested in what Barkat has to say about municipal policy, Kanye is more concerned with Candy Crush or whatever is on his phone.

Russia informed Israel on S-300 move ahead of time — report

The Kremlin briefed Israel on its decision to lift a blockade on the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran a short while before announcing the move, a senior Israeli official tells Haaretz.

The official says Israel is worried that components of the air-defense system will be transferred to Syria and Hezbollah, seriously hamstringing the Israeli Air Force’s ability to dominate the skies over Lebanon or Syria.

Report: Netanyahu, Herzog held secret rendezvous

Israel’s Channel 1 news reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Zionist Union party chief Isaac Herzog recently to discuss the creation of a national unity government.

According to the report, the meeting was held in secret and close aides on both sides were kept out of the loop.

Herzog’s bureau swiftly denies the report.

“It never was and never will be,” Herzog says, while his party calls the report “ludicrous.”

Netanyahu’s camp remains silent on the report.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog during the opening session of the Knesset on March 31, 2015. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to shake hands with leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog during the opening session of the Knesset on March 31, 2015. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Iran says S-300 deal will secure region

Iran hails Russia’s decision to lift a ban on supplying Iran with sophisticated S-300 air-defense missile systems as a step toward “lasting security” in the region.

“The development of bilateral cooperation [with Russia] and with neighboring countries in various fields can be very effective for lasting stability and security in the region,” Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan is quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA, referring to “extra-regional threats and the development of terrorist activities.”

Iranians burn and stomp on Israeli and American flags during demonstration against the Saudi-led coalition’s Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran on April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/ATTA KENARE)

Iranians burn and stomp on Israeli and American flags during a demonstration against the Saudi-led coalition’s Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, April 13, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Atta Kenare)

AFP

read more:
comments
Live updates (now closed) Latest: Netanyahu: Nothing can convince me nuclear deal is good

Putin praises Abbas for ‘stabilizing’ region

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin praises Abbas for working to stabilize the region during his time as head of the PA.

“It’s now been ten years since your election as head of Palestine. In that time, you have done a lot of work to stabilize the situation, both domestic, political and economic,” Putin says according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shows the way to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (Photo credit: AFP/ POOL / SERGEI ILNITSKY)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shows the way to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (Photo credit: AFP/ POOL / SERGEI ILNITSKY)

“Those were very difficult years. At the same time, I am glad to say that the relations between Palestine and Russia have developed consistently.”

The two are expected to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts as well as the situation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.