The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Arab Israeli protest convoys converge on Jerusalem
Two convoys of at least 100 vehicles each have converged on Jerusalem from the north and south of the country to protesting the recent demolitions of homes belonging to Arab citizens, and the deadly incident that occurred during one recent demolition.
Hundreds of people are rallying at the Knesset, including several lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List party, with a number of people waving black flags to symbolize mourning and holding pictures of Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, who was killed under uncertain circumstances when the car he was driving rammed into and killed policeman Erez Lavi at a protest in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran during home demolitions last week.
The convoy to the Knesset, one of which left from the Arab village of Qalansawe in the north, where 11 homes were recently demolished, and another collective of drivers from the south, is part of a series of protests called by Israel’s Arab leadership.
— Dov Lieber
Syria rebels say they’ll go to ‘ends of earth’ to end killings
The head of Syria’s rebel delegation at the peace talks in Kazakhstan says the opposition is “ready to go to the ends of the earth” to end the bloodshed in Syria.
Mohammad Alloush tells reporters, after an hour of indirect talks with government representatives in Astana, that the rebels “are men of peace, and at the same time knights of war.”
Alloush is a political officer for the powerful Army of Islam faction fighting mostly around Damascus.
He attacks President Bashar Assad’s rule, calling it a “terror” state, and says only after the ceasefire becomes a “reality on the ground” can the two sides move on to political talks.
He says the Syrian opposition will also insist at the talks in Astana on the resumption of aid deliveries and other humanitarian demands.
German who urged end to Holocaust guilt okayed to stay in party
German right wing populist party AfD decided Monday not to expel a leading member over a speech criticizing Berlin’s Holocaust memorial and urging the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past.
The AfD executive board held a three-hour telephone conference in which it voted 10-3 to instead impose “disciplinary measures” against Bjoern Hoecke, party chairman in the central state of Thuringia, sources tell German media.
Amid an internal power struggle ahead of a September general election, AfD leader Frauke Petry had called Hoecke a “burden on the party” last week after his address in which he condemned the sprawling Holocaust memorial as a “monument of shame in the heart of the capital.”
“We need nothing less than a 180-degree shift in the politics of remembrance,” he added in the remarks Tuesday in Dresden to chants of “Germany, Germany.”
Hoecke’s comments met with an instant uproar, with Social Democrat vice chief Ralf Stegner accusing him of making a “hate incitement speech” — which is illegal in Germany — that called for history to be rewritten.
Lapid demands publication of report on Gaza war failures
Speaking to his Yesh Atid Knesset faction, party leader Yair Lapid calls for the government to release the findings of a State Comptroller report into failures surrounding 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day war with Gaza-based fighters that saw dozens of Israeli soldiers killed.
“They need to release the report for the families of the fallen, they deserve to know what happened there. There’s no room for politics when you are talking about the security of soldiers and well-being of residents of Gaza-area communities,” he says.
Lapid accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of attempting to bury the report, which reportedly damns the government for failing to prepare for the threat of cross-border tunnels, for political reasons.
Herzog praises Netanyahu for holding back on annexation
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog offers rare praise for Netanyahu, saying he agrees with the prime minister’s decision to push off the annexation of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.
“The prime minister was correct not to give in to the demands of the radical right to tear everything apart and make irresponsible unilateral moves toward annexation,” he says in his faction meeting.
The opposition chief also joins the chorus of others calling on the government to release the state comptroller report on the 2014 Gaza war.
“The Israeli public, and especially families who lost loved ones, deserve to know how their leaders acted when they sent their sons into battle, and how discussions on new strategic threats, chief among them the tunnels, were carried out,” he says.
On Tuesday, the Knesset’s state control subcommittee on secret affairs will discuss releasing the report.
Court to rule on petition to release body of suspected car-rammer
The High Court is set to rule on a petition to force the police to release the body of a Bedouin man killed by police in the course of what officials have called an intentional car-ramming attack last week that left one cop dead.
A police representative is arguing to the bench that the family of Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an has refused to agree to terms for the funeral — usually meant to tamp down crowd sizes and keep the procession from turning into a protest — and thus the body cannot be released.
Police have also continued to maintain that the incident was a terror attack, despite mounting evidence the car crash last week was not intentional. Witnesses and others say Abu Al-Qia’an was simply trying to leave when he shot at by police, causing his jeep to speed into a group of cops, killing Erez Levi.
The incident occurred as police were securing the area to carry out the demolition of several homes in the village of Umm al-Hiran, including one belonging to Abu Al-Qia’an, a schoolteacher and father of 12.
Six reported seriously hurt in crash
Six people are being treated for serious injuries after a crash involving a minibus near the northern city of Safed.
Another four people are reportedly hurt, suffering less serious injuries.
According to initial reports, the crash occurred near the Hananya junction on Route 866.
Hamas warns embassy move will inflame all Muslims’ feelings
Senior Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri is warning the US not to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
In a statement on Twitter, Abu Zuhri writes: “Jerusalem is a tenet of the Islamic faith. Any decision by the US to move the embassy there is a legitimization of the Israeli occupation, and represents a provocation to all Muslims’ feelings.”
He adds: “We call on the US administration to reverse this dangerous step.”
On Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said talks had begun on moving the embassy, but seemed to indicate an actual move could be a long time away.
“We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” he said in a statement.
— Dov Lieber
Bennett calls Trump ‘once-in-50-years’ chance
Education Minister Naftali Bennett uses his Jewish Home faction meeting to urge Netanyahu to take action on annexing settlements, calling the presidency of Donald Trump a “once-in 50-years opportunity.”
“We give the prime minister full backing to act with courage and determination,” he says. “There is a view that holds that we need to continue to maneuver and defend ourselves. We think we should initiate and act.”
Bennett also backs releasing a report on failings in the lead-up to the Gaza War, saying the cabinet should take its findings seriously.
“I was there, the cabinet has what to improve,” he says.
Death toll in crash up to 3
Paramedics say three people have been killed in the car crash near Safed.
Another four people are seriously hurt and several more are being treated for more mild injuries, according to rescue officials.
The collision apparently occurred between a minibus and a car. The cause of the crash is not immediately clear.
Giuliani message from Trump to Netanyahu: I like you very much
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani tells Fox News he will travel to Israel later today and will likely meet with Netanyahu where he may deliver an affirmation of friendship from Donald Trump.
Asked by the “Fox and Friends” morning show hosts if he will deliver a message to the prime minister during his trip, Giuliani says: “If I do, it will be from him. But i can give you the general message, which is I like you very much and we’re very good friends.”
Giuliani has been a staunch backer of Trump and was named as an unofficial adviser to the administration on cybersecurity issues.
He says he will be in Israel for business related to his law firm, which has an office here.
Fatalities in crash all in 20s
The three fatalities in the northern Israel car crash have been identified as two men and a woman, all in their 20s. Their names have not been released for publication.
Initial reports indicate the car crash was a head-on collision between a large van and a car. All three victims were in the car.
“Approximately 10 people who were in the minibus suffered a variety of injuries,” United Hatzalah official Shmulik Avraham says. “They were treated on scene by United Hatzalah EMS volunteers and first responders. Some of them were transported by private ambulances to the nearest hospital while the more urgent cases were transported by helicopter. Fire and rescue teams were working to extricate victims from one of the vehicles.”
Police have closed Route 866 between Sheva Junction and Parod Junction.
Netanyahu cheers being freed from years of Obama ‘pressure’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails US President Donald Trump for ushering in a change of approach to the White House after eight years of “pressure” from US President Barack Obama.
Speaking a day after his first phone call with Trump, Netanyahu says the US president, like him, believes the Iran deal is “bad,” and that peace with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct talks.
He says the phone call lasted about half an hour.
He also takes indirect aim at his right-wing coalition partners for advancing a bid to annex the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, saying that “now is not the time for surprises.”
“Therefore, for the benefit of the State of Israel and the settlements, I suggest putting aside any other considerations and letting me lead.”
— Marissa Newman
Safari welcomes escaped capuchin back to the monkey house
After over a week on the run, Conner, the 17-year-old wedge-capped capuchin monkey, has been wrangled back into his enclosure, a spokesperson for the Ramat Gan Safari says.
The monkey, who escaped last week, slipped back into the park grounds at some point and keepers were able to capture him by luring him into a trap with the help of some peanuts and other snacks.
The safari says the other capuchins were “excited” to see their escaped friend, and the park, which has seen a number of escapes over the last several years, plans on upgrading the fence surrounding the monkeys to prevent future adventures.
Trump speech was green light to put Hungary first, Orban says
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says that US President Donald Trump’s “America First” speech sent a signal that he can take the same stance in his country and others can do the same in theirs.
Orban says he interpreted Trump’s statement as “the end of multilateralism” and as permission for Hungary to also put itself in first place.
Trump said in his inaugural address that Washington “will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world.”
“But we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first,” Trump said Friday. “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.”
Orban, an early supporter of Trump who has praised his immigration policies, says Trump’s words are “a great thing, a great freedom and a great gift.”
“We have received permission from, if you like, the highest position in the world so we can now also put ourselves in first place,” Orban says.
France condemns East Jerusalem building plans
France has condemned Israel over plans to build over 500 new homes in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, citing a recent UN resolution and the closing document of last week’s Paris peace conference in calling the move a threat to the two-state solution.
“Settlements constitute a grave threat to the two-state solution, to which the international community reiterated its commitment at the international conference in Paris on January 15,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
“UN Security Council Resolution 2334 reiterated the illegality of the settlements under international law and called for it to immediately and completely halt,” he added.
Israel on Sunday announced it would build 566 new homes in three neighborhoods of the capital. Israel maintains that it has the right to build anywhere in East Jerusalem, which it annexed to the city shortly after capturing it.
Netanyahu reportedly told ministers on Sunday that he would remove any limits on building in East Jerusalem following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.
Israel derided both the Paris peace conference and the UN resolution as anti-Israel efforts that hardened the Palestinians’ position.
Death toll in crash rises to four
Media are reporting that the death toll in the crash in northern Israel has risen to 4.
It is not immediately clear if the new fatality was one of the four previously listed in serious condition.
Joint List MK slams court over hearing on holding suspected car-rammer’s body
The High Court has yet to rule on whether to order the release of the body of Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an, but a decision is expected in the coming hours.
In the meantime, MK Yusuf Jabarin of the Joint List, who is present at the hearing, slams the court for even considering allowing the police to the hold the body of Abu al-Qia’an, who police claim was a terrorist who intentionally plowed his car into officers last week, killing one.
Abu Al-Qia’an was shot and killed by police, though it’s not clear if he was killed before or after the car sped into the group.
“The way the court has managed this hearing is surreal to the utmost. The killed Abu Al-Qia’an, they destroyed his home and the homes of his relatives, and now they are holding his body with no authority,” he says, according to a statement released by the Joint List. “Holding a body for this long after the event is unethical and immoral, and the police are acting like they are above the law.”
Top Democrat Cardin says he can’t back Tillerson
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says he can’t support President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.
Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland says in a statement that Rex Tillerson’s business orientation and confirmation hearing answers could compromise his ability to forcefully promote US values and ideals.
Specifically, Cardin says he based his opposition on Tillerson’s unwillingness to call Russia and Syria’s atrocities “war crimes,” or to describe Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial killings as gross human rights violations.
Cardin also says the former Exxon Mobil CEO misled the committee about the company’s lobbying against sanctions, such as penalties against Russia for its annexation of Crimea.
The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Tillerson’s nomination on Monday afternoon in Washington (11:30 p.m. Israel time).
Rubio says he will support Tillerson, likely paving way for confirmation
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has announced he will unhappily back Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, ending speculation that the former presidential candidate could sink the nomination of the ExxonMobil CEO.
Rubio, whom Trump defeated for the GOP presidential nomination last year, clashed with Tillerson at a committee hearing earlier this month. Rubio bridled at his refusal to label Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” or condemn human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines in strong enough terms. He chided Tillerson over the need for “moral clarity.”
But now Rubio writes on Facebook that he will support Tillerson, despite reservations, in order to not delay the posting of a new top diplomat.
“It would be against our national interests to have this confirmation unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy,” he writes.
Despite the support, most of Rubio’s jeremiad is devoted to raking Tillerson over the coals for his stances and answers during the hearing.
“Mr. Tillerson is likely to have a potentially unprecedented level of influence over the direction of our foreign policy. I remain concerned that in the years to come, our country will not give the defense of democracy and human rights the priority they deserve, and will pursue a foreign policy that too often sets aside our values and our historic alliances in pursuit of flawed geopolitical deals,” he writes.
A “no” vote from Rubio would not have doomed Tillerson’s confirmation, because the nomination could go directly to the Senate floor without a positive committee recommendation. But it would be an embarrassing rebuke to Trump.
— with AP
High Court halts work on moving Amona outpost
The High Court has issued a temporary injunction halting work to move the Amona outpost to a nearby plot of land, responding to a petition by Palestinian landowners who objected to the government’s relocation plans.
The order comes as residents of the West Bank outpost, slated for demolition, have vowed to renew their fight to stay on the land, accusing the government of failing to keep its promise to move them to nearby plots.
The stop-work order means that any infrastructure work going on at the site will need to be halted, complicating government efforts to find a solution for the settlers and avoid a possible violent standoff.
The petition on Monday, filed by human rights group Yesh Din, objected to a government plan to divide certain plots, which supposedly had no present claimant, and called for the deal to be canceled.
“Ever since the notion of using abandoned property was suggested, we have claimed that one injustice cannot be corrected with another, and that additional land cannot be taken over just to appease Amona residents,” Yesh Din executive director Neta Patrick said in a statement.
— with AFP
Netanyahu and Trump barely broached embassy topic — report
Reuters reports that the issue of the US Embassy move to Jerusalem “was barely discussed” during Sunday’s phone call between Netanyahu and Trump, citing Israeli officials.
The lack of talk on the issue would seem to dovetail with assessments that the embassy move was not being placed at the top of Trump’s agenda.
Despite some Israeli news outlets and right-wing politicians seeing Sunday’s statement from spokesman Sean Spicer that the White House was at the “very beginning” of talking about it as a sign the controversial move was on the table, the agency reports that diplomats and officials saw the opposite.
“Sounds more like walking it backwards,” an unnamed Israeli official is quoted saying in a text message.
Europol nabs thousands of ancient artifacts in massive operation
Police from 18 countries recovered over 3,500 stolen works of art and ancient artifacts of “great cultural importance” in a joint operation last year, the European police agency says.
The haul included a marble Ottoman tombstone, a post-Byzantine icon depicting Saint George and hundreds of coins, Europol says.
Dubbed Operation Pandora, the crackdown took place last October and November, leading to the recovery of 3,561 pieces and 75 arrests.
Officials tell AFP that it was hard to put a total value on the haul, as experts had yet to appraise it.
“Several of the retrieved artifacts are of great cultural importance in the archaeological world,” the agency, based in The Hague, says in a statement.
Cohen, Kara approved as ministers in cabinet shakeup
The Knesset has approved a minor cabinet shuffle, making Eli Cohen of Kulanu economy minister and Ayoub Kara of Likud minister without portfolio.
The measure passes 45 to 33, making Kara the state’s first-ever Druze minister.
A number of MKs speak out against the appointments, including Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) who accuses the coalition of having a “fake news government.”
PM: Israeli Arabs have it good, ‘extremists’ trying to ruin progress
Responding to protests by Arab Israelis against home demolitions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says on Facebook he wants them to be normal members of Israeli society, but says “extremists” within their community are trying to take them backwards.
Netanyahu posits that Israeli Arabs don’t know how good they have it, and cites as an example a recent incident when a protesters interrupted a Syrian opposition figure during a lecture at Hebrew University to decry Israeli government policies and call him a traitor for speaking to Israel.
The rebel responded that they should be ashamed, as they are “living in a paradise.”
“That’s true, not only compared to Syria, but also compared to many countries in the Middle East and around the world,” Netanyahu writes.
First day of Syria talks close
A Syrian opposition spokesman says the first day of talks has concluded, after rebel representatives met Russia’s presidential envoy to the talks to discuss ways to reinforce a shaky cease-fire.
Yahya al-Aridi, the spokesman for the rebel delegation to the talks, says the opposition also met Monday with the Russian and Turkish delegations in the presence of the UN envoy to Syria to discuss a nationwide cease-fire.
He says the talks are scheduled to conclude Tuesday.
He says the talks with Russian president envoy Alexander Lavrentyev touched on political issues, but the focus was on the cease-fire. He didn’t elaborate.
Russia had previously asked that Jaysh al-Islam, the group to which the lead rebel negotiator belongs, be designated as a “terrorist” group.
Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, and Turkey which backs the opposition, have sponsored the talks and a shaky cease-fire reached on December 30.
Court rules police must release body of suspected car-rammer
The High Court of Justice has ordered police to release the body of Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, accepting a petition from human rights group Adalah.
By a vote of 2-1, the bench says Abu Al-Qia’an, who was killed by police fire during an incident in which his jeep ran over and killed a policeman, should be buried on Tuesday.
The court also says police cannot set a limit on the number of mourners at the funeral and that it can proceed from Umm al- Hiran to Hura and last up to two hours.
Police had held onto the body, claiming that Abu Al-Qia’an was a terrorist who drove his car into the policemen intentionally and that the family refused to agree to demands designed to limit the number of worshipers and keep the funeral from turning into a protest.
The family and witnesses had claimed that Abu Al-Qia’an was shot at before running into police and simply was trying to leave the scene, where homes were being demolished. The court decision makes no mention of Abu Al-Qia’an being a terrorist.
Joint List head lashes out at police after court decision
Reacting to the court decision forcing police to release the body of Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, Joint List head Ayman Odeh accuses the police of lying to the court and says he is still demanding answers as to why homes in Umm al-Hiran were demolished and why police used so much force while securing the area for the operation.
“The police continue to spread incitement instead of taking responsibility for their terrible failures that led to the unnecessary deaths of two people on the same terrible morning,” he says.
Milchan demands MK take back accusations, or face lawsuit
A lawyer for Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan has demanded that MK David Amsalem walk back comments in which he accused the Israeli mogul of going to the police against Netanyahu, or face a lawsuit for slander.
On Sunday, Amsalem, a close confidant of Netanyahu from the Likud party, accused Milchan of having gone to the police to rat the prime minister out on expensive gifts he received, in a bid to push him from power.
“Ask yourself why Milchan is even telling these stories,” Amsalem told Army Radio. “Milchan came to the police. Something is going on here.”
The letter from Milchan’s lawyer, reported widely in Hebrew media, gives Amsalem 48 hours to make a public pronouncement disavowing the accusations against Milchan, or face legal action.
“These statements and others — are wild slander, unbridled and unfounded. These are false statements that amount to slander,” the letter reads.
US calls Russian claim of joint Syria air strike ‘rubbish’
The Russian military says its warplanes have flown a joint mission in Syria against the Islamic State group together with the US-led coalition.
However, a spokesman for the US-led coalition says the claim is “rubbish.”
The mission would have represented the first coordinated action against IS by Russia and the US-led coalition, marking a sharp shift.
Russia has pushed for such cooperation in the past, but Barack Obama’s administration had refused.
New US President Donald Trump has called for joint efforts with Russia against IS.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces in Syria had received coordinates of IS targets near al-Bab on Sunday “from the US side via hotline with the international coalition headquarters.”
It said Monday that two Russian warplanes and two aircraft of the US-led coalition then struck the targets, destroying several ammunition and fuel depots along with militants and weapons.
The attack followed a joint raid in the same area flown by Russian and Turkish jets on Saturday.
Hebron shooter’s family said to reject deal for 18 months in jail
The family of soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of killing a wounded and unarmed Palestinian attacker, has rejected a deal that would see him go to jail for 18 months, Channel 10 news reports.
Azaria is slated to be sentenced Tuesday and prosecutors are reportedly seeking three to five years in jail over the March 2016 killing in Hebron.
Under the agreement, Azaria would have admitted to the killing, which was caught on video, expressed regret and agreed not to appeal. The time he has spent since March under house arrest in military custody would not count toward the 18-month sentence.
The report says the family rejected the deal, quoting a source close to the Azarias, but does not give a reason.
Azaria’s legal team has said it will appeal the verdict in the trial, which has become a political lightning rod.
After Azaria was convicted earlier this month, several politicians called for him to be pardoned.
Pompeo likely to get CIA nod
The Senate is on track to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA. Senators are expected to vote on his nomination Monday evening.
Congressman Mike Pompeo is a conservative Republican from Kansas and a member of the House intelligence committee. He faced a mostly nonconfrontational confirmation hearing earlier this month.
Senate Republicans had hoped to vote on Pompeo’s nomination on Friday, after Trump’s inauguration. But Democrats succeeded in stalling action until they could debate it on Monday.
If confirmed, Pompeo would take the helm at the nation’s top spy agency at a critical time for US national security, when intelligence has been thrust into the political arena. It’s traditionally a nonpartisan issue.
In the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer has begun his first press conference and chides Democrats for holding up Pompeo’s nomination.
Netanyahu embroiled in two more probes — report
Channel 10 news is reporting on the existence of two more possible criminal probes against Netanyahu — dubbed Case 3000 and Case 4000 — joining the Case 1000 gifts probe and the Case 2000 secret deal with Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes probe.
The channel offers a “cautious estimation” that case 3000 deals with the submarine affair, in which Netanyahu lawyer David Shimron was found to have a possible conflict of interest in dealing with German shipbuilder Thyssenkrup while it was selling Israel vessels.
The channel has no guesses on what Case 4000 could be.
White House: No decision on whether to move embassy
The White House press secretary Sean Spicer says the Trump administration has not yet decided if it will move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Asked about what the strategic interest moving the US embassy serves, Spicer responds that it’s too early to speak about it.
“There’s no decision,” he says. “We are at the very early stages of that decision-making process.”
The comment is an even clearer reflection of the administration’s attempts to walk back Trump’s promises to move the embassy, which he has repeatedly vowed to do.
On Sunday, Spicer said the US was only in the “very beginning stages” of discussing the move. The comment was hailed by some in Jerusalem as a sign that Washington was indeed pushing forwarded with the oft-promised but never carried out move.
However, others saw the statement as the White House attempting to tamp down expectations for an imminent embassy move.
Trump willing to work with Russia against IS
White House spokesman Sean Spicer also says the Trump administration is willing to partner with Moscow to combat the Islamic State group.
Spicer says Trump has been “very clear” that he will “work with any country committed to defeating ISIS.”
He says the administration will work “with Russia or anyone else” to defeat the militant group, either on a military front, or an economic front.
WH: Trump can move embassy by executive order
Sean Spicer says Trump could move the US embassy by executive order, but indicates that it’s not on his agenda right now.
“It’s very early in this process,” he says. “His team is going to continue to consult with [the] State [Department].”