The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Mosque-muffling bill passes 1st Knesset reading
A bill prohibiting the use of loudspeakers in houses of prayer in the overnight hours passes its first Knesset reading 55 to 48 after a stormy debate.
The so-called muezzin bill prohibits the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh is kicked out of the plenum after tearing up a copy of the legislation, which he says is an attack on religious freedom in Israel.
Boris Johnson says Britain still backs 2-state solution
Britain’s foreign minister says his country remains firmly in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Boris Johnson told reporters in the West Bank on Wednesday that his government is “committed” to that vision, saying that “we must not abandon that prospect.”
He says there are obstacles to establishing an independent Palestinian state, including Israeli settlement construction. He also says peace must be reached between the parties, and not be imposed from the outside.
Arab MKs decry mosque muffling bill as racist
Joint (Arab) List chairman Ayman Odeh says the legislation that will silence houses of worship in the nighttime hours is a “persecution of the Arab public, against the presence of Arabs [in Israel], against the Arabic language and against our existence in the region.”
“The sound of the muezzin came before the racists and will still exist after the racists,” Odeh says during a stormy Knesset debate ahead of the vote.
MK Jamal Zahalka, also of the Joint List, decries the bill as “a declaration of war on Islam.”
“This is a racist law whose only purpose is to hurt our public,” he says, adding that “what disturbs the supporters of this legislation is not the noise, but rather that the sound of the muezzin reminds them of the true identity of this land.”
Police investigating attempted arson at Jerusalem church
Police are investigating an act of vandalism and attempted arson at the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
A statement says that the door to the church entrance had been broken and that extensive soot suggests attempted arson.
One suspect has been detained in connection to the attack.
Over 30 killed in Kabul hospital attack
More than 30 people are killed and around 50 wounded in an insurgent attack on Afghanistan’s largest military hospital in Kabul, the defense ministry says.
“Most of the victims are patients, doctors and nurses,” ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri tells AFP, adding that four attackers were also killed.
— Aüd™ (@CodeAud) March 8, 2017
Health Ministry issues listeria warning for smoked salmon
The Health Ministry is warning that packages of smoked salmon may be contaminated with listeria.
A statement says the possible contamination were limited to packages of sliced cold smoked salmon fillet produced by the Two Fisherman company with the batch number 1702-0103 and expiration date of March 10.
Trump urges followers to ‘honor role of women’
US President Donald Trump is taking note of Wednesday’s UN-designated International Women’s Day, and asking his Twitter followers to join him in “honoring the critical role of women” in the United States and around the world.
Trump tweets that he has “tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.”
On International Women's Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2017
Organizers of the massive women’s march in Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration are urging women to take the day off and not spend money as a way of demonstrating their economic strength and impact on American society.
I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2017
“A Day Without a Woman” marks organizers’ first major action since the nationwide marches on Jan. 21 that drew millions of participants in protest against misogyny, inequality and oppression.
Israel advances to 2nd round of World Baseball Classic
The Netherlands’ 6-5 defeat of Taiwan means Israel’s baseball team qualiies for Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo on Sunday.
Team Israel will face The Netherlands tomorrow to determine group placement in Pool A.
Israeli found murdered in Tbilisi apartment
A 75-year-old Israeli businessman was found murdered in an apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Local officials say the unnamed man was killed last Thursday, but it took almost a week for his body to be discovered.
The body showed signs of violence, and officials say $2,000 was reported stolen from the scene.
Police are treating the case as murder.
2 rabbis ban service in mixed-gender units
Rabbis Zalman Melamed and Dov Lior issue a religious directive banning men from serving in mixed-gender units in the IDF.
The directive says the Israeli military “destroys modesty” and its guidelines are “directly opposed to the Torah.”
The ruling comes as lawmakers condemn controversial Rabbi Yigal Levinstein who said on Tuesday that military service makes women “crazy,” unattractive and strips them of their Jewishness.
Islamic State claims Kabul hospital attack as death toll rises to 38
The Islamic State terror group claims responsibility for an ongoing attack on Afghanistan’s largest military hospital in the capital Kabul.
“Infiltrators from the Islamic State attack the military hospital in Kabul,” the group says via a verified Telegram account.
Emergency workers say at least 38 people people were killed and another 70 were injured in the attack.
Shaked says PM doesn’t have to resign unless indicted
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tells Channel 2 that Netanyahu is not legally obligated to resign unless he is convicted of a criminal offense.
If Netanyahu is indicted for corruption-related offenses, Shaked says “we will examine the charges and make a decision.”
The prime minister is being investigated for possible breach of trust and bribe-taking in two separate corruption investigations.
Johnson says UK government ‘strong supporter’ of Israel
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the current British government is a “strong supporter” of Israel at a press conference in Jerusalem alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Johnson reiterates Westminster’s support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and says his government is committed to making a “humble contribution” to brokering a peace deal.
Netanyahu says the conflict is rooted the denial of a Jewish nation state, and not Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
White House ‘anxious’ over rapid settlement expansion – Johnson
The US administration is concerned by Israel’s recent expansions of West Bank settlements, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says during a trip to Jerusalem.
“So I think the very clear message that I got from the press conference between Prime Minister Bibi [Benjamin] Netanyahu and President Trump [on February 15] is that I think there is anxiety in the White House, as there has been for a long time, about the pace of settlements and illegal settlements on the West Bank.”
The UK has “not deviated from our traditional view that a two-state solution is the way ahead,” he tells Channel 10. “We really want to encourage that. And we do think that settlements are illegal and get in the way of it.”
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 8, 2017
— Raphael Ahren
Alleged Iranian spy on German-Israeli group set to be tried in Berlin
A 31-year-old Pakistani man is going on trial in Berlin on allegations he spied for Iran on Israeli and Jewish institutions in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
Syed Mustufa H., whose full name was not given for privacy reasons, is due in court Wednesday on espionage charges.
H., who came to Germany in 2012 to go to university, is accused of having collected information on a professor at a university in Paris, the former president of the German-Israel Society and others in Western European countries.
Prosecutors say he then passed the information to a contact person with the Iranian intelligence agency. He’s alleged to have received at least 2,052 euros ($2,170) for his spying activities.
H., who was arrested in July 2016, faces a possible five years in prison.
4 more bomb threats emailed to JCCs
Bomb threats are emailed to four Jewish community centers following a wave of threats that targeted 16 Jewish institutions on Tuesday.
JCCs in Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut and Vancouver, Canada, receive bomb threats via email either last night or this morning, according to local reports and Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security across Jewish organizations.
The emails, according to Goldenberg, appear to be the tail end of a wave of bomb threats Tuesday that targeted JCCs, Jewish day schools and several offices of the Anti-Defamation League. It was the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year. In total, more than 100 bomb threats have been made against Jewish sites since the beginning of the year, all of them hoaxes.
UK’s Johnson tours West Bank settlements with Peace Now
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson receives a briefing from anti-settlement NGO Peace Now on Israeli building in the West Bank.
Israeli settler leaders had also called for Johnson to meet with them, but a British embassy official tells AFP the brief visit allowed no time to do so.
During an earlier meeting with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Johnson described the uptick in Israeli settlement building in the West Bank as an “obstacle” to peace.
קיימנו היום סיור עם שר החוץ הבריטי, בוריס ג'ונסון, במטרה לחשוף בפניו את ההשפעות השליליות של מדיניות הממשלה והאיומים בשטח על חזון 2 המדינות pic.twitter.com/3ChdoqdCLT
— שלום עכשיו (@PeaceNowIL) March 8, 2017
Minister blames victim for getting killed by police
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan says the Bedouin man killed by police earlier this year is to blame for his own death because he disobeyed officers.
“The driver didn’t obey the officers and continued toward police, and his intentions were not clear,” he says at the Knesset.
For weeks, police maintained that the man, Yaqoub Abu Al-Qia’an, was shot by police while carrying out a deliberate car-ramming attack against police who came to evacuate his unofficial village of Umm al-Hiran. However, leaked findings from an internal investigation indicated that Abu Al-Qia’an was not a terrorist and that officers at the scene fired at him without sufficient justification, before his vehicle struck and killed police officer Erez Levi.
Erdan, who initially sided with police in maintaining that Abu Al-Qia’an was a terrorist, has since partially walked back the claim, but has not apologized.
He says an internal police investigation will review the incident.
Egypt sentences 6 alleged Israeli spies to life in prison
The North Sinai Criminal court sentences 6 Israelis and 3 Egyptians to life in prison for allegedly spying for Israel, Egyptian media reports.
The case is known in Egypt as the “Ovadia Case,” named after the Israeli Mossad agent said to be operating the spy network, Danny Ovadia.
The alleged spy ring was broken up in 2014, and an Egyptian intelligence report at the time said Israel was operating 36 stations in the Sinai Peninsula to recruit informants and gather information on military actions in the area.
Daily News Egypt says two of the Israeli suspects are Israeli Arabs while the other four are intelligence agents.
All 6 are being tried in absentia.
Teens send anonymous apology, $50 for daubing library swastika
Three US teenagers deliver an anonymous apology note and $50 to the Pennsylvania library where they sprayed a swastika using shaving cream in a parking lot.
The teens leave the envelope containing the note and the money in a book depository at the Exeter Community Library. Police and firefighters were called to wash away the graffiti on Friday. The envelope was found by library workers on Monday.
The teens’ note says they are “three stupid teenagers apologizing for our heinous acts,” and didn’t intend to offend or hurt anyone.
They three say they “all have religious roots and did not intentionally mean this as any form of hate speech or dislikeness towards any culture.”
The teens apologize and say they’ll never do anything like that again.
PM: Putin meeting on Iran, Syria ‘very important’ for Israel’s security
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau says his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow tomorrow is “very important for Israel’s security.”
In a tweet, the prime minister says a victory against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria “must not result in an increase in Iranian terror.”
Netanyahu will travel to Moscow on Thursday for talks with Russian officials on the recent developments in Syria and how to thwart the attempts of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from gaining a foothold in the war-torn country that borders Israel.
Russia has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad since it intervened in the civil war in 2015.
מחר – פגישה עם הנשיא פוטין, חשובה מאוד לביטחון ישראל. ניצחון על הטרור של דאע"ש לא יכול להביא להתגברות הטרור של איראן. לא מחליפים טרור בטרור!
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 8, 2017
US needs better leadership — UN rights chief
The UN Human Rights Council chief takes aim at President Donald Trump, saying the United States needs better leadership to meet challenges like surging xenophobia and religious discrimination.
In a keynote speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s main annual session, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein says he is “concerned by the new administration’s handling” of key issues.
“Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities,” Zeid adds.
Zeid warns that Washington’s “vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims” as well as “false claims” about higher crime rates among migrants “fuel xenophobic abuses.”
And, taking direct aim at Trump personally, Zeid says he is “dismayed at attempts by the president to intimidate or undermine journalists and judges.”
Controversial rabbi won’t be investigated for homophobic remarks
The State Attorney’s Office decides not to open an investigation into Rabbi Yigal Levinstein over disparaging and homophobic remarks he made about the LGBT community last year.
Levinstein, who runs a pre-army religious academy in the West Bank, drew censure after calling homosexuals “deviants” in a July speech, and urged the IDF to ban gay people from giving lectures to soldiers.
State prosecutors say Levinstein’s remarks don’t specifically urge violence against the LGBT community, and therefore do not amount to incitement.
Levinstein is facing a fresh scandal after he told army recruits yesterday that IDF service turns women “crazy,” makes them unattractive and strips them of their Jewishness.
Senators seek proof of Trump’s wiretapping claim
The leaders of a congressional inquiry into Russia’s efforts to sway the US election are asking the Justice Department to provide information related to President Donald Trump’s explosive wiretapping allegation.
In a letter sent today, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island are seeking any warrant applications and court orders that could show the Obama administration tapped Trump’s phones during the presidential campaign.
The letter went to Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente and FBI Director James Comey.
Graham, a Republican, and Whitehouse, a Democrat, say Congress “must get to the bottom” of Trump’s allegation.
They say they would take very seriously any abuse of wiretapping authority for political reasons. They also say they’d be alarmed if there were a legally authorized wiretap of Trump.
Key witness in PM gifts probe ‘dramatically’ changes police testimony
One of the witnesses in one of the corruption investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family’s accepting of gifts from wealthy businessmen, has made a “dramatic shift in his testimony to police last week.
Channel 2 reports that Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchin adjusted the total amount of money he spent on the gifts for the Netanyahus, as well as the prime minister’s knowledge of the sums of money involved.
The TV channel says that in light of Milchan’s watered down testimony, police have a renewed interest in locating another witness, Australian billionare James Packer, who has so far eluded Israeli police investigators.
Milchan’s revised testimony is making police question whether the movie director would be a reliable witness should the case go to to trial.
Rabbi declines to apologize for sexist derision of female soliders
A controversial rabbi who runs a pre-army religious academy declines to apologize for telling new IDF recruits yesterday that military service drives female soldiers “crazy” and strips them of their Jewishness.
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein tells Channel 2 the “feminist approach” of the IDF is “incompatible with Jewish law,” and he won’t “retract a single word of what I believe.”
Levinstein says the way he made yesterday’s remarks was “inappropriate,” and expresses regret for “hurting people in the way I communicated myself.”
US general says Russia has deployed banned missile
A senior US general accuses Russia of deploying a land-based cruise missile in violation of “the spirit and intent” of a nuclear arms treaty and charges that Moscow’s intention is to threaten US facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance.
“We believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Selva says he sees no indication that Moscow intends to return to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,410 miles). The treaty was a landmark in arms control in the final years of the Cold War.
Selva’s accusation takes on added political significance in light of President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations with Russia even as Moscow is perceived by US allies in Europe as a military threat of growing urgency. The alleged treaty violation comes amid multiple congressional investigations of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The FBI also is probing ties between Russia and Trump associates during the campaign.
Trump aide said to visit Israel next week for settlement talks
The Trump administration’s special representative for international negotiations will reportedly visit Israel in the coming days for talks with officials on West Bank settlements
Channel 2 says Jason Greenblatt will specifically discuss Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to build a new settlement for the residents of the Amona outpost that was evacuated in January.
While Trump has indicated he will be significantly more tolerant of Israeli settlements than the Obama administration, the US president has recently changed his tone on the issue, and warned Israeli officials to hold off on additional building in the West Bank.
Spicer: No female White House staffers skip work
The White House says none of its female staffers skipped work in support of International Women’s Day.
Spokesman Sean Spicer says everyone has “shown up” and is working hard to advance President Donald Trump’s agenda.
Spicer adds that the administration recognizes the contributions women make to businesses, their families, the economy and society. He says people have the right to express themselves but that women’s contributions should be recognized 365 days a year.
Spicer says hopefully the administration can help change that.
Women around the country are marking International Women’s Day by skipping work, avoiding shopping and attending rallies, including one near the White House.
Liberman urges Tillerson to abandon UNHRC, UNRWA
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman asks US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reconsider US support for the United Nations agencies that deal with human rights and Palestinian refugees.
During a meeting at the State Department, Liberman urges Tillerson to consider quitting the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and to stop funding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA.
The agencies do not fulfill their mission, he tells the secretary, according to readout of the meeting issued by Liberman’s office. “Instead, the Human Rights Council deals with demonizing Israel and with efforts to harm it by distorting reality.”
It is unacceptable that 60 percent of the council’s resolutions targeted Israel instead of dealing with the dire human rights situation in Iran or North Korea or Syria, the defense minister says.
Liberman, who met with US Vice President Pence yesterday, will meet with Congressman and National Security Advisor H.R. Macmaster later today.
— Raphael Ahren