The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Zarif says UN won’t resume sanctions
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells the Iranian parliament that economic sanctions against Tehran won’t be reinstated by the UN, Iranian media reports.
According to Zarif, a vote in favor of reintroducing sanctions would harm the UN Security Council’s standing and may prove unpopular with countries forming economic ties with the Islamic Republic in the wake of last week’s nuclear accord.
Analysts believe a number of Security Council members, including Russia and China, will not be in favor of restoring sanctions, so a danger exists that they may veto a resolution to reintroduce the embargo.
Zarif also tells parliament that from Tehran’s perspective, compromises were involved in order to achieve the deal.
“We have never claimed and do not claim that the [nuke deal] is completely to the benefit of Iran; I emphasize that negotiating is basically giving [something] and taking [something in return], and unless a significant level of the two sides’ demands are met, no agreement is reached,” Zarif says according to English-language Iranian outlet, PressTV.
“In order to meet demands,” he says, “we have had certain flexibility concerning restrictions and monitoring; this flexibility has been goal-oriented and well-calculated.”
US defense chief meets Netanyahu
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to ease tensions over the Iran nuclear deal, as the Israeli leader urged lawmakers in Washington to reject the hard-won agreement.
The two men greeted each other with a long handshake before entering talks that lasted nearly two hours, making no public comment about the tensions over the nuclear accord that Netanyahu has harshly condemned.
The meeting comes on the final day of Carter’s visit to Israel, the first stop on a regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies who have concerns over the Iran deal.
He is also to travel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Gaza power plant shuts down over PA tax spat
The Gaza Strip’s sole power plant has halted production, the Hamas-run energy authority says, in the latest dispute with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over fuel tax.
“The levying of fuel taxes by the finance ministry in Ramallah is preventing the (Hamas) energy authority from running the power station,” a statement from the authority says.
The PA must “lift all taxes on fuel” to get the plant up and running, it says.
Relations between Islamist movement Hamas and the PA, which is dominated by bitter rival group Fatah, are at rock bottom despite an April 2014 agreement that installed a unity government and was meant to centralize administration of the Palestinian territories.
Turkey’s PM says suicide bombing suspect identified
Turkey’s prime minister says authorities have identified a suspect in an apparent suicide bombing that killed 32 people and wounded nearly 100 in southeastern Turkey.
Ahmet Davutoglu says that authorities are probing the international and domestic connections of a specific person they believe was a suicide bomber tied to the Islamic State group. He did not elaborate on the identity of the suspect.
Neither the IS group nor any other group has claimed responsibility for the attack in Suruc, near Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkish officials have said that they believe the attack was retaliation for Turkey’s recent steps against IS militants.
The midday bombing Monday targeted a leftist group that was holding a news conference about efforts to rebuild the city of Kobani across the border.
US ties are ‘cornerstone’ of Israeli policy – Rivlin
President Reuven Rivlin tells Israel Radio that relations with the US are the “cornerstone” of Israel’s foreign policy, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands this.
Despite disagreements between the two countries over the Iranian nuclear accord, Israel remains committed to maintaining close ties with Washington, he says.
Top Iran aide: We still support Mideast ‘axis of resistance’
A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei says that Tehran’s foreign policy hasn’t changed, and it will continue to support the “axis of resistance” across the Middle East, despite signing on to last week’s nuclear accord.
Ali Akbar Velayati, who served as the Islamic Republic’s foreign minister for 15 years, also says that Iran will continue to produce missiles of all types, and that it may yet decide to reject the nuclear agreement, according to remarks translated by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency chief, Abas Aslani.
Although Velayati concedes that Iran will not strive to create WMDs and nuclear bombs, it will continue to manufacture weapons, he says.
Adviser to #Iran supreme leader Velayati: Iran's policies haven't changed & Tehran continues to support axis of resistance in the region.
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) July 21, 2015
Ex-Shin Bet chief: Iran deal is ‘best option’
One of the former heads of Israel’s secret service says that the Iranian nuclear accord “is the best option” when it comes to curbing Tehran’s nuclear weapons capabilities.
Ami Ayalon, who served as head of the Shin Bet security service in the 90s, notes that the deal pushes Iran’s breakout time back to 12 months, as opposed to the two months it had to break out to the bomb prior to signing the agreement, in an interview with the Daily Beast.
“When it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option,” Ayalon says.
“When negotiations began, Iran was two months away from acquiring enough material for a [nuclear] bomb. Now it will be 12 months … Israelis are failing to distinguish between reducing Iran’s nuclear capability and Iran being the biggest devil in the Middle East,” he says.
In the interview, Ayalon faults US President Barack Obama not for signing the deal — but for appearing too gentle in his rhetoric against potential enemies.
Obama “doesn’t have the right combination of the language of peace and the language of war. He has to make it very clear that while he believes in diplomacy, he also knows how to use force,” Ayalon says.
Deal will ‘nuclearize Mideast’ – Sen. McCain
Republican Senator John McCain says that the deal signed with Iran in Vienna last week will “nuclearize the Middle East,” as leaders in the region look to kick off their own nuclear projects to oppose Tehran’s atomic capabilities.
McCain tell MSNBC that he believes Congress will likely sink the deal in its first round.
Middle East leaders are “deeply concerned” about the agreement, McCain says, adding that “they are moving in a direction of acquiring nuclear weapons, because they see this five-year, eight-year, 10-year window that they’re going to have to, as Iran nuclearizes, acquires nuclear weapons after 10 years.”
“I think [the deal] is not going to get through the first round [in Congress], as you know, but the president’s already said he would veto and then the question is, are there sufficient votes to override a veto?” McCain says.
“Frankly, I’m on the side of Bibi [Netanyahu]. [Iran] is now controlling four countries. We just found out when I was in Afghanistan over the Fourth of July. They’re now providing weapons to the Taliban. Everywhere they’re on the move, and they’re succeeding and still the chief state sponsor of terror,” he says.
Official pans proposal to cap defense budget
A senior Defense Ministry official shoots down a suggestion proposed by the so-called Locker Commission to cap the state defense budget at NIS 59 billion ($15.5 billion) per annum for the next five years.
According to the unnamed official, the security establishment may not be able to meet the “strict” five-year budget while still successfully coping with the numerous tasks imposed on it.
The defense budget has traditionally grown by several billion shekels every year, with infusions beyond the official budget.
The official likened the proposal to an “all-inclusive Turkish hotel” deal, in which the defense establishment may have to cheapen its operations and cut corners to lower costs, Ynet reports.
Just half of HS students pass matriculation exam
Just over half of Israeli high school students achieved the scores necessary to receive their Bagrut certificate — the national matriculation test that 12th-graders are required pass in order to graduate.
Only 52.7% of year 12 students up to and including the age of 18 received their matriculation certificates for 2015 — up from 46.1% last year.
Students are eligible to retake their exams following high school and owing to high failure rates, many do so.
When the statistics are weighted to include those over 18 who resat their exams following high school, the number that qualify for a certificate jumps to 65.5% — up from 57.8% last year.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett weighed in on the results: “Better matriculation scores aren’t simply an educational endeavor — they’re a national one,” he says.
“The Israeli economy of tomorrow is the matriculation certificate of today,” Bennett adds.
Academy award winning producer to donate Oscar to Yad Vashem
Croatian film producer and Holocaust survivor Branko Lustig announces he will donate the Oscar he won as producer of Schindler’s List to Yad Vashem tomorrow, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
At a ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, Lustig will present his award to Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. Croatia’s president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović will also be in attendance.
Together with Steven Spielberg, Lustig produced the Holocaust epic, which won Best Picture of 1994 at the Academy Awards.
As a child, Lustig was imprisoned for two years by the Nazis in the Auschwitz death camp. After the war, he became a prominent film producer, and won two Oscars for his work.
Syria army missile kills 18 civilians – report
A missile fired by Syrian regime forces killed at least 18 civilians on Tuesday in a residential neighborhood of the old quarter of Aleppo city, a monitoring group said.
“The missile struck when people were still inside their homes in the Maghayir district. It killed 18 civilians, including one child, and wounded dozens of others,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
He told AFP that more than 35 homes were destroyed in the attack.
Top Iranian aide: No military site inspections
A chief adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has ruled out the possibility of international inspections of Iranian military sites, Iran’s semi-official FarsNews reports.
“They (the Westerners) have made some comments about defensive and missile issues, but Iran will not allow them to visit our military centers and interfere in decisions about the type of Iran’s defensive weapons,” Ali Akbar Velayati, former Iranian foreign minister, says.
Under the nuclear accord signed between world powers and Tehran last, the Islamic Republic may be subject to international inspections at all sites — nuclear and military — after a 24-day notice.
US Defense Secretary Carter lands in Jordan
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter lands in Jordan, where he is to meet American troops stationed in the country and colleagues of a Jordanian pilot burned alive by the Islamic State group.
Carter is on the second leg of a regional mission to try to reassure Washington’s allies over the nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, but he was not scheduled to meet Jordanian officials to discuss that subject.
An AFP correspondent said Carter arrived from Israel at the Muwaffak Salti air base in the north of the kingdom from which a US-led coalition carries out airstrikes on IS targets.
He is scheduled to travel on to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
French prosecutor wants Arafat death probe dropped
A French prosecutor says there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, whose widow alleges he was poisoned.
Arafat died near Paris in November 2004 and his widow lodged a case in 2012 at a court in Nanterre, north of the capital.
Nazi hunter alleges Danish man, 90, worked in concentration camp
A top Nazi hunter has filed a police complaint against a 90-year-old Danish man for allegedly working as a guard in a Belarus concentration camp during World War II.
“Unfortunately the justice ministry chose not to deal with this … so therefore I have come to Copenhagen to submit the complaint myself,” Efraim Zuroff, the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Jerusalem director, tells journalists.
A Danish book released last year claimed Helmuth Leif Rasmussen worked as a guard in the Bobruisk camp in nazi-occupied Belarus, citing a police report from 1945.
Rasmussen, who has since changed his name and now lives in the Copenhagen area, has admitted to being part of a volunteer unit created by the Danish Nazi Party, but told daily Berlingske that he only went to Bobruisk as a 17-year-old to undergo military training.
“We were there to be trained as soldiers and the other (things) we had nothing to do with,” he told the paper.
The alleged war crimes took place between 1942 and 1943.
Zuroff says there was “certainly enough evidence to warrant an investigation.”
People like Rasmussen “are the last people on earth who should have any sympathy, because they had absolutely no sympathy for their victims, some of whom were older than they are today,” he says.
Around 6,000 Danish nazis volunteered for the Free Corps Denmark during the German occupation between April 1940 and May 1945.
Up to 1,000 Danes served in Bobruisk, where at least 1,400 Jews were killed, according to a book released in October last year by Danish historians Dennis Larsen and Therkel Straede.
Military to test warning sirens in Jerusalem tomorrow
The IDF announced it will test the warning siren apparatus in the Jerusalem area tomorrow morning.
Sirens will sound in and around the capital at 10:05 Israel time, as part of an exercise run by the IDF’s Home Front Command.
Defense chief Ya’alon pans Locker report as ‘detached from reality’
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon pummels the so-called Locker Commission, which calls for comprehensive reforms and some major belt-tightening measures in the Israel Defense Forces.
“The report is superficial, extremely unbalanced and completely detached from the reality in and around the State of Israel,” Ya’alon says.
“The report, if implemented, would place a gamble on the safety of Israeli citizens. The shortening compulsory military service to two years [down from three] shows a complete lack of understanding of the military establishment,” he adds.
The commision calls for cuts in the army’s spending plan, a sharp reduction in the duration of compulsory service, transparency and an inflexible five-year budget capped at NIS 59 billion ($15 billion) per year.
White House opens Twitter account to lobby for Iran deal
The White House has opened an official account on Twitter to push for support of the Iranian nuclear accord.
Named simply “The Iran deal,” the account challenges users to ask questions and “get the facts” on last week’s nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
“We’ll set the record straight,” the account’s description adds.
— The Iran Deal (@TheIranDeal) July 21, 2015
Gaza disengagement a ‘security mistake,’ Herzog says
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says that Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a mistake when factoring in defense considerations.
“From a security standpoint, the disengagement was a mistake because it was done unilaterally,” Herzog tells a conference marking the ten-year anniversary of the pullout.
“I think we have to reach a political agreement. I have no desire to give up land, but in the end we will have to make a decision and set [proper] borders — even at a price. Although I think from a demographic standpoint, the disengagement was not a mistake,” he says.
Italy’s prime minister to speak to Knesset
The Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, will visit the Knesset tomorrow, after meeting with Israel’s leaders today.
He is due to be hosted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Palestinian teen dies in Hebron after ‘exorcism’ beating
A young Palestinian man has died after being badly beaten in an “exorcism”, medical and police sources in the West Bank town of Hebron said.
The family of the 19-year-old with psychological problems had called in two “healers”, a man and a woman, who beat the young man to drive out evil “spirits”, Palestinian police sources say.
He was critically injured and taken to hospital in Hebron where he died, police and medics said.
The pair who administered the beating were arrested, as were the victim’s father and brother.
Pentagon chief committed to fighting Iran’s ‘malign influence’
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter addresses military personnel at a Jordanian airbase, and says that the United States and Israel have a “common commitment to countering Iranian malign influence in the region.”
Netanyahu “made it quite clear that he disagreed with us with respect to the nuclear deal and Iran. But friends can disagree,” Carter says.
“We will continue to work with Israel and other partners in this region to counter the danger from Iran, even as we do the same with respect to ISIL,” he adds, using another acronym for IS.
“The enemy has to be defeated,” Carter later tells a small group of US mechanics beside an American F-16 in a hangar at the base.
“It will be, because the barbarians are always defeated by civilization, a few by the many,” he adds.
Morocco says 8 arrested over jihadist attack plots
Morocco says eight people were arrested over alleged plots to carry out attacks mainly targeting security officials on behalf of the Islamic State jihadist group.
The newly formed Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation, dubbed Morocco’s FBI by the media, says an eight-member “terrorist cell” was dismantled across the country in the towns of Tangiers, Bouznika, Khouribga and Taounate.
The suspects had been in contact with IS leaders and given refuge to fighters who had received “intensive training in producing explosives and gang warfare,” the interior ministry adds.
It said members of the network, which included women, were planning “a series of terrorist operations” against security officials and sensitive sites.
They also had links with former Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, it said.
Stone thrown at Jerusalem’s light rail
Unknown assailants pelted the Jerusalem light rail tram with a rock, near the flash-point Damascus gate area outside the Old City, Israel police say.
No injuries were reported, although damage was registered to the carriage. Police say they are investigating the incident and searching for the perpetrators.
3 Spanish journalists missing in Syria: press federation
Three Spanish journalists have gone missing in Syria where they were reporting from the Aleppo region, the president of a Spanish press federation says.
Jose Manuel Lopez, Antonio Pampliega and Angel Sastre entered Syria on July 10 and there has been no news of them since July 12, Elsa Gonzalez, president of the Federation of Press Associations of Spain, tells Spain’s national television by telephone. “For the moment we can only call it a disappearance.”
Obama to US vets: Iran deal could avoid ‘unnecessary wars’
US President Barack Obama tells a gathering of military veterans Tuesday that hardheaded diplomacy with Iran could avoid the type of “unnecessary wars” for which they have paid the highest price.
Obama traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he urged the 1.9 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars to give the nuclear deal with Tehran a chance.
He denounces those “chest beating” against the deal and said some of those opposed to it were the same ones who said the Iraq war would take months.
“We know the consequences of that choice,” he said. “And what it cost us in blood and treasure.”
“There is a smarter more responsible way to protect our national security,” Obama says, adding that “real leadership” means not being afraid to negotiate.
Kahlon says balance needed between security, social needs
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon responds to the so-called Locker commission and says that a financial balance has to be found between social needs and those of the IDF.
“Owing to the budget and the [Locker] commission’s conclusions, a balance has to be found between security needs and the needs of society,” Kahlon says.
Hotovely demands EU stop funding left-wing NGOs
In marathon meetings with European Union diplomats, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely warns that Jerusalem may criminalize European funding to anti-Israel, left-wing NGOs if it continues unabated.
According to Hotovely, European governments have contributed between 100-200 million euros to groups that actively “work to blacken Israel’s name in the world, accuse it of apartheid” and support terror groups.
Hotovely tells EU diplomats that Jerusalem’s red line lies at funding for groups that delegitimize the State of Israel, work toward the Palestinian right of return to pre-67 borders or slander IDF soldiers.
The European officials are urged to increase oversight of their funding projects to ensure their money goes toward human rights’ groups and not organizations that work toward Israel’s destruction, Hotovely says. Otherwise, Israel may mull legislation that will directly criminalize funding of anti-Israel groups.
140 attacks on Israelis in West Bank reported in June
Over 140 incidents of Palestinian stone-throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks on Israeli drivers in the West Bank were registered in June, Channel 2 reports.
Most months involve hundreds of attacks — many of which go unreported or lead to no arrests. The number of incidents on West Bank roads spiked during last summer’s Gaza war, and again in recent months. They have been accompanied by a number of fatal lone-wolf Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians.
Over 1,000 indictments are filed every year for stone-throwing attacks, the report notes.
IDF welcomes class of 2015 recruits
The IDF’s newest recruits will be enlisting in the coming days. They will be inducted into the full scope of units — combat, intelligence, navy, air force and others, Channel 2 reports.
Over 50 percent of enlistees have requested to join combat units, an IDF officer says.
Bombing shows Turkey a vulnerable target for IS
Officials have raised concerns that a deadly bombing in southeastern Turkey is part of a campaign of retaliation by the Islamic State group for a recent crackdown on its operations in the country.
If they are right, Turkey would be a particularly vulnerable target for the extremists.
The country shares a 1,250-kilometer (775-mile) border with Iraq and Syria, putting it nearby to strongholds of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. And, as recent arrests show, the extremist group already has established its reach into Turkey.
In an intensified crackdown, Turkish officials say they have detained more than 500 people suspected of working with IS in the last six months. An operation this month netted 21 terrorism suspects in an investigation of recruitment networks in multiple parts of the country, the officials said.
The moves suggest an attempt to dismantle an entrenched presence inside Turkey. And authorities fear that Monday’s bombing in the town of Suruc that killed 32 people and wounded nearly 100 is a warning by the extremists against such a campaign.
“This attack was against Turkey; against Turkey’s democracy; against the peace and welfare of our people; against public order,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said after the attack that officials called a suicide bombing. He vowed to go after those behind the bombing and made clear he believes it was the Islamic State.
PM says world ‘can be wrong’ about Iranian nukes
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that despite reassurances, the world could be “wrong” about Iran’s intentions and the deal may yet fail to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons — just as the world failed to prevent North Korea from attaining the bomb.
Netanyahu made the remarks in a join press conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
“Sometimes the entire world can be wrong. It was dead wrong on another nuclear deal, the one with North Korea,” Netanyahu says.
“We were told then by the international community, the scientific community, the arms control community that that deal would prevent North Korea from getting nuclear weapons and it would make the world safer,’ he continues, adding, “Well, we all know how that turned out.”
According to Netanyahu, Israel is not alone in opposing the deal — it is opposed my “many” Arab states as well.
Netanyahu also censures the financial windfall Tehran will receive in the wake of the deal: “That’s more money for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, more money for the Quds Force, for Hezbollah, for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, for the Libyan proxy terrorists of Iran, more money for the Shiite militias in Iraq, for the Houthis in Yemen.”