Truck driver under arrest after Tel Aviv chase
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Israel's security owed to cooperation with Arab states, ex-defense official says; ex-Mossad chief warns of 'demographic threat' to Israel

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security division. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security division. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

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

Ex-Mossad chief warns of ‘demographic threat’

A former head of the Mossad warns against a demographic threat to the State of Israel brought about by the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which he says poses the greatest risk to the state.

“The Jewish state has one existential threat,” Tamir Pardo says at a conference in Netanya in memory of his late predecessor, Meir Dagan. The Jewish and Palestinian populations in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are nearly equal, and Israel must act to separate itself. “It’s the time bomb that’s been ticking all the time for a while. In an exceptional way we’ve decided to bury our heads deep in the sand, to preoccupy ourselves with alternative facts and flee from reality while creating other various external threats.”

He says we are fast approaching the point of no return, at which point a bi-national state will be the only solution, marking the end of the Zionist dream. “The clock is ticking, we must weigh the facts and not the alternative facts and reach a decisions. The time has come to choose a direction.”

Truck driver under arrest after Tel Aviv chase

A police officer pulled over a truck in Tel Aviv and the driver of the vehicle fled the scene, striking other vehicles before finally being stopped and arrested.

The driver was taken in for questioning, a police spokesperson says.

Government to fund West Bank settlement tours

The government will allocate NIS 3 million to funding West Bank tours by Israeli settlers for official visitors to “show the truth about what happens in the territories,” Channel 2 reports.

Ex-Mossad head Yatom says fight against IS benefited Israel

Former head of the Mossad Danny Yatom says the fight against the Islamic State and Sunni Muslim countries’ fears of Iran have benefited Israel’s position in the Middle East.

Yatom, speaking at a conference in memory of former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, says these threats are bringing Israel closer to more moderate countries in the region.

The former Labor MK adds the he is opposed to the “messianic” right-wing parties in the parliament who are pushing for annexation of the West Bank.

“This is very dangerous,” Yatom says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Police raid Islamic Movement office in Umm al-Fahm

Police raided the former offices of the Islamic Movement Northern Branch, which was outlawed, in Umm al-Fahm today, Channel 10 reports.

Turkey to seek reversal of US laptop ban

Turkey said Tuesday it would ask the United States to reverse a ban on electronic devices larger than cellphones in the cabin of flights from 10 airports in Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.

“We particularly emphasize how this will not benefit the passenger and that reverse steps or a softening should be adopted,” Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan told reporters, saying the decision was not right.

— AFP

Knesset to swear in new MK

The Knesset is about to swear in Juma Azbarga, a member of the Joint List, as a new lawmaker, to replace Bassel Ghattas.

Ghattas resigned earlier this week pending a plea deal which would land him in prison for two years for smuggling cellphones to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists.

Former defense official: Israel owes security to relations with Arab states

Amos Gilad, the former head of the Defense Ministry’s political affairs bureau, credits Israel’s security with its relationship with its Arab neighbors.

“All our security services have great relationships with Arab countries. That’s an incredible asset for Israel,” he says, referring to Egypt and Jordan, as well as “other” unnamed Arab nations.

“According to foreign reports, even Sudan is changing,” Gilad says.

However, the former defense official says, those ties will also be limited until Israel deals with the Palestinian issue.

“Will there be a peace agreement? I’m not one who thinks there will be. But we need to give it a chance,” he says.

Gilad warns that if Israel’s security cooperation with the Palestinians breaks down, the results could be disastrous, with international ramifications.

The former IDF general disagrees with the view that the Iranian nuclear deal inherently means that the Shiite republic would develop such a weapon.

“It depends on what the world does.”

Gilad says that “everyone agrees that Iran with a nuclear weapon is intolerable.”

He adds that it would be an “image problem” for Israel as well, which has been working tirelessly to prevent its creation.

In addition to the threat of an Iranian nuke itself, it would also inspire other countries in the region to develop their own.

“What? Egypt won’t want a nuclear weapon?” he asks rhetorically.

Gilad defends former US president Barack Obama, who he says has become something of a punching bag for Israel.

“It’s easy to critize [Obama]. But on the military front, the relationship was incredible, is incredible and will continue to be incredible,” he says.

“And besides, we don’t have a replacement for the United States.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Egypt’s Mubarak walks free

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been freed from a Cairo military hospital, five years after he was overthrown.

An Egyptian prosecutor approved a request by Mubarak’s lawyer for his release after a top court acquitted him of involvement in the killing of protesters during the popular revolt.

— AFP contributed to this report.

UK also to introduce electronics ban

The UK is expected to announce a similar ban on laptops and electronics on specific fights, the BBC reports. The report says the ban may differ from that of the US.

Netanyahu: Israel policy in Syria unchanged

Russia has not changed its policy vis-a-vis its coordination with the Israeli air force over the Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, denying reports that Moscow over the weekend decided no longer to allow Israel to attack targets in the war-torn country after one such strike nearly hit a Russian asset.

“If there’s intelligence and operation feasibility, we strike, and so it will continue,” he tells reporters in his Beijing hotel as he wraps up the official part of his three-day visit to Chinese capital.

Netanyahu says that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin during their recent meeting in Moscow that Israel will continue to thwart attempts by Iran and its terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah to smuggle advanced weapons to Lebanon via Syria.

“Our policy is consistent, and this is what I told Putin,” the prime minister says.

Israel launched several attacks targets in Syria in recent days, one of which nearly hit a Russian asset. Moscow subsequently summoned Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to note its protest. Syria’s ambassador to the UN later said that Russia had changed its policy and no longer grants Israel freedom of action over Syrian skies.

Israel does not inform the Russian forces stationed in Syria ahead of attacks there, out of fear for the Israeli pilots.

“We are very careful not to hit whoever is not supposed to be hit,” Netanyahu says.

— Raphael Ahren

Mubarak’s lawyer denies ex-president free

Mubarak’s lawyer dismisses reports that the former Egyptian president was released from a military hospital today, al-Masry al-Youm reports.

Earlier reports said the former president was released Tuesday after he was acquitted of involvement in the killing of protesters during the popular revolt in 2011.

IDF launches massive snap reserve drill

The IDF launches the year’s largest planned exercise for reserve troops today.

The surprise drill includes some 2,000 reservists from the Sinai Division who were called to their units in under 24 hours, the army says.

Brig. Gen. Sa’ar Tzur is overseeing the exercise, which includes four reserve brigades — two infantry and two armored brigades.

Of the reservists called to the exercise, eight percent did not attend, the army says.

Earlier today, IDF Chief Gadi Eisenkot visited the exercise in order to “assess the preparedness of the division for emergency,” the army says.

Reservist soldiers take part in an IDF drill on March 21, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson Unit)

Reservist soldiers take part in an IDF drill on March 21, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson Unit)

— Judah Ari Gross

UK bans laptops on flights from 6 countries

Britain’s government has banned electronic devices in the carry-on bags of passengers traveling to the UK from six countries, following closely on a similar ban imposed by the United States.

The government says in a statement that Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting on aviation security earlier Tuesday in which new aviation security measures on all inbound direct flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia were agreed upon. The statement says that Britain has been in touch with the Americans to fully understand their position.

Under the new arrangements, passengers on the flights “will not be allowed to take any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal sized mobile or smart phone,” into the cabin.

— AP

Liberman warns of EU push for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says that the European Union is planning a diplomatic “assault” on Israel to push for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“Therefore we must be smart, not just right,” he says at a defense conference in Netanya. “All the initiatives and proclamations, particularly with the sensitivity of the situation we live in, must be very cautious.”

Reserve officer dies in Jordan Valley march

A reserve officer in the IDF dies during a military march through the Jordan Valley, the army says.

The officer collapsed after the run. A medical team was called to the scene and pronounced the officer dead.

His family has been notified, the army says.

The name of the officer was not immediately released.

Head of the Central Command Maj. Gen. Roni Numa has called for an investigation into the incident, appointing Col. Kfir Cohen to lead the probe.

In addition, the IDF Military Police has opened its own investigation, the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Israeli artist Dudu Tassa to open for Radiohead on US tour

Israeli musician Dudu Tassa will open for Radiohead at their Israeli concert this summer, and on their US tour starting at the end of this month.

Tassa and The Kuwaitis are a self-styled “cross-cultural joint Jewish-Arabic project from Israel which revives the music of the Al-Kuwaiti Brothers – composers of some of the most popular Iraqi songs from the early 20th century.”

New Zealand lawmaker: FM didn’t have authority to back UN resolution

New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister did not have the required approval of the country’s Cabinet to support a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of Israel, an opposition party charges.

On Tuesday, the leader of the populist political party New Zealand First cited the Cabinet manual as requiring such a proposal get Cabinet approval even though Prime Minister Bill English said that Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully did not need such approval to co-sponsor a measure calling for a halt to the building of Israeli settlements and the re-establishing of the pre-1967 borders.

“Section 5.73 of the Cabinet manual expressly requires that any international proposal, including ‘denunciation,’ must first be approved by Cabinet,” Winston Peters, the New Zealand First leader and a lawmaker for Northland, says in the party’s statement.

“Mr. McCully should never have been allowed to act unilaterally on such an important issue,” Peters also says.

— JTA

Netanyahu, Kahlon get poor marks in performance poll

With a coalition crisis in full swing amid a spat between the prime minister and finance minister, and rumors of an election on the horizon, a new poll suggests Israelis aren’t satisfied with their performances.

A Panels Politics poll published by Channel 2 asked Israelis how they’d rate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance. One-third gave him a failing grade.

Twenty-five percent said the prime minister did well, 24% said not good, 11% said excellent, and 7% were undecided.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon fared equally poorly, with 38% giving the Kulanu party leader a “not good grade,” 29% said good, 11% failing, and 7% were undecided.

The report didn’t say the survey’s sample size.

Hezbollah says IDF chief lying about senior fighter’s assassination

A Hezbollah official responds to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s remarks that the IDF wasn’t behind the assassination of a senior commander in the organization last year, calling the Israeli general’s remarks “false and null.”

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Live updates (closed) Latest: Hezbollah says IDF chief lying about senior fighter’s assassination

Truck driver under arrest after Tel Aviv chase

A police officer pulled over a truck in Tel Aviv and the driver of the vehicle fled the scene, striking other vehicles before finally being stopped and arrested.

The driver was taken in for questioning, a police spokesperson says.