The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s news as it unfolded.
American ambassador calls on PA to release US citizen arrested over land sale
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman calls on the Palestinian Authority to release from custody a US citizen who is suspected of selling property in East Jerusalem to Jewish Israelis.
The arrest of the Palestinian-American, whom Friedman names as Isaam Akel, has prompted Israel to arrest the Palestinian governor of East Jerusalem. He is reportedly being held in custody in Ramallah.
“The Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months,” Friedman tweets. “His suspected ‘crime’? Selling land to a Jew. Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release.”
Iranian supreme leader calls for bolstering military
Iran’s supreme leader says his country should strengthen its military so as to deter its enemies.
“Increase your capability and readiness as much as you can so Iran’s enemies will not even dare threaten these great people,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says, during a meeting with Iranian naval commanders, according to Reuters, which cites his website.
“The Islamic Republic does not intend to start war with anyone,” he adds.
UK Labour won’t sanction MP who called party’s anti-Semitism policy a ‘disgrace’
The British Labour Party will not take action against an MP who has been accused of swearing at party chairman Ian Lavery during a “heated discussion” about Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.
Ian Austin, the adopted child of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, had been potentially facing disciplinary action and possible suspension from the party. The inquiry against him was initiated in July.
Eventually, the party decided to formally reprimand him for his behavior and warn him about his future conduct, but not suspend him or take any other action, UK media reports, citing a Labour source.
In July, Austin wrote that he felt “shocked and ashamed” at his party’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism among its members, in an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper. He had also criticized as a “disgrace” the party’s reluctance to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition in full, a step that was eventually taken in September.
–– Michael Bachner
Saudis pledges $50 million to UN’s Palestinian refugee agency
Saudi Arabia pledges $50 million in aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants (UNRWA), which has been hit by the withdrawal of all US funding.
The announcement is made at a news conference in the Saudi capital by the director of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, Abdullah al-Rabeea.
UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl tells the news conference that the agency has succeeded in containing spending following the decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump in August to end all funding.
The United States had been by far the biggest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees and the move dealt a massive blow to its already stretched finances.
Netanyahu, as defense chief, consults with ex-IDF head and future rival Gantz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with former IDF chief of staff and likely future political rival Benny Gantz for “consultations on professional and defense matters,” according to his office.
For the first time in his long political career, the four-term prime minister, who has also served as foreign minister twice, finance minister and health minister, among many posts, appointed himself defense minister earlier this month following the resignation of Avigdor Liberman.
New defense ministers traditionally hold a series of consultations with their predecessors and former IDF chiefs of staff.
Netanyahu has already met with former defense ministers Amir Peretz and Moshe Arens, and is slated to meet with former chiefs of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Shaul Mofaz in the coming days, the PMO says.
The meeting with Gantz may have been more tense than the others, as Gantz is believed to be exploring a political career, and polls suggest his candidacy could have a dramatic effect on the political landscape of the Israeli center-left.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office say the two men did not discuss politics in the Wednesday meeting.
ICC green lights evacuation of Bedouin village – report
Israel has received assurances from the International Criminal Court that the planned demolition of a Bedouin hamlet in the West Bank would not contravene international law, the Walla news site reports.
The report says that Roi Sheindorf, Israel’s deputy attorney general for international law, was recently in The Hague for consultations with ICC officials on the intention do evacuate Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem.
It quotes two diplomatic officials as saying that the ICC made it clear that the evacuation was “possible.” There is no comment from the Prime Minister’s Office or the Justice Ministry on the report.
Army Radio reported earlier this week that the government intends to postpone the planned evacuation of the hamlet, which has drawn fierce international condemnation, due to an upcoming report by the ICC prosecutor regarding the Palestinian population of the West Bank.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reassured his Likud faction Monday that the central West Bank Bedouin hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar will be razed “very soon.”
But as was the case last week, when Netanyahu told his cabinet that the Palestinian village would be demolished “very soon” and that preparations were underway, the prime minister refused to provide a date for the operation.
A defense official who spoke with The Times of Israel following Netanyahu’s remarks said that no plans are currently in the works to flatten the village, which is home to roughly 180 people.
The High Court of Justice ruled in May to allow the state to move forward with its plans to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, which was established illegally without building permits.
Last month, Netanyahu’s office announced that the planned evacuation would be delayed indefinitely amid new talks between the government and the ramshackle village’s residents. The delay drew angry responses from both Likud and Jewish Home lawmakers, who have demanded the clearing of the hamlet, which would make way for the expansion of the neighboring Kfar Adumim settlement.
— With Jacob Magid
Putin: Ukrainian president orchestrated standoff to get reelected
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays the blame for a standoff with Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea on the Ukrainian president and his desire to get reelected.
It is the first time that Putin has commented on the incident near Russia-occupied Crimea on Sunday that raised the specter of a full-blown conflict between the two neighbors.
Putin says in a televised speech that the incident was entirely provoked by the Ukrainian vessels, which refused to communicate with Russian border guards. Putin lays the blame on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, saying that he ordered the navy to provoke the standoff with the sole purpose of scoring political points and getting reelected next year.
Putin also says the Ukrainian vessels violated the territorial waters off southern Russia — which is the internationally recognized border. This appears to run counter to the claims of the Ukrainian government, which says the ships were approaching from another direction and were firmly in international waters.
Palestinian arrested in Italy on suspicion of planning chemical attack – reports
A Palestinian man is arrested in Italy on suspicion that he was planning a chemical attack, local news outlets say.
The man, reportedly a 38-year-old member of the Islamic State group, is reportedly arrested in the town of Macomer, in Sardinia.
He is said to have planned to poison the water supply in the town with rat poison. There are also reports that he was planning to attack army personnel.
According to reports, the man was tracked by law enforcement for a while before his arrest this morning.
Further details of the investigation are to be released in a press conference scheduled for 4 p.m. Israel time.
Un uomo è stato arrestato dal #Nocs a Macomer (Nu) per il probabile progetto di un attacco in una località della Sardegna. L'operazione è stata
condotta dalla Digos di Nuoro e coordinata dalla #Dcpp pic.twitter.com/QxxhRp4Gyu
— Polizia di Stato (@poliziadistato) November 28, 2018
Archaeologists discover ancient mummies south of Cairo
Egypt says archaeologists have discovered eight limestone sarcophagi with mummies inside about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the capital Cairo.
The Antiquities Ministry says the mummies dating to the Late Period (664-332 BCE) are covered with a layer of painted material called cartonnage, in the form of a human.
The ministry says that the mummies were found in an area of King Amenemhat II’s pyramid in the Dahshur royal necropolis. The necropolis was the burial site for courtiers and high-ranking officials.
The area is home to what is considered to be some of the earliest pyramids, including Sneferu’s Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.
Egypt hopes such discoveries will spur tourism, which is partially driven by antiquities sightseeing that was hit hard by political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.
Suspicious car drives through roadblock in West Bank
A suspicious car barrels through a roadblock set up by Israeli police in the Jordan Valley in the northern West Bank.
According to police, the car continues to drive “wildly” after breaking through the roadblock. It then stops and a number of suspects flee on foot.
Police say they found weapons in the car along with “many weapons parts.”
Officers and soldiers are searching for the suspects.
British minister promotes post-Brexit trade in Israel
British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his country prepares to leave the European Union and pursue an independent trade policy.
Britain’s exports to Israel already grew by 75 percent in the first half of 2018, compared to the same period last year, Fox’s office says, citing Israeli official figures.
Last year saw more than $9 billion in trade between the two nations, a record high, it says.
“And as we leave the European Union and Britain takes up its place as an independent state of (the World Trade Organization), we want to push our concept of free trade even further,” Fox tells Netanyahu ahead of their meeting. “In a world where the siren calls of protectionism are rising, two free-trade nations like ours need to make the case for global free trade because trade spreads prosperity.”
Netanyahu says, “Britain is in fact our largest trade partner in Europe — one of our most important trading partners in the world — and we value the friendship.”
Israel is notably an import market for British cars, while Scotch whiskey sales in Israel have increased by 300% since 2012, according to Fox’s office.
Other leading British exports to Israel have included mineral products and machinery and electrical equipment, as well as chemical industry products, according to the British embassy.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking to convince hostile MPs to back her draft deal for future ties with the EU after her country exits the bloc next March. A vote is scheduled for December 11.
Fox arrived in Israel on Monday and met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah in the West Bank on Tuesday.
IDF employee injured in work accident
A civilian employee of the Israel Defense Forces was injured earlier today when he fell doing “technical” work on a base in the north, the army says.
The man sustained moderate injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The army says it is investigating the incident.
–Judah Ari Gross
Court remands two suspects held in Galilee teen’s killing
The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday extended the remand of two suspects in the killing of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub, who was found dead in her Galilee hometown of Jish on Monday.
The teen’s killing shocked the quiet village of some 3,000, leading local schools and businesses to close Tuesday in protest.
The two suspects, a 50-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man, will remain in police custody at least until Sunday. They were arrested yesterday, bringing the total number of suspects linked to Ayoub’s murder to four, all residents of the village.
The court’s decision comes a day after Ayoub’s late-night funeral, which saw thousands accompany her casket through the streets to the village’s Muslim cemetery.
Ivanka Trump says ‘Lock her up!’ doesn’t apply in her case
Ivanka Trump defends her use of a private email account as she was moving into an adviser’s position in her father’s administration, saying that it cannot be compared to the flap over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private email server and that “Lock her up!” doesn’t apply to her.
“All of my emails are stored and preserved. There were no deletions,” President Donald Trump’s elder daughter and adviser tells ABC News in an interview broadcast today.
The Washington Post reported this month that Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails about government business from a personal email account last year to White House aides, cabinet members and her assistant, many in violation of public records rules.
“There is no restriction of using personal email,” she says. “In fact, we’re instructed that if we receive an email to our personal account that could relate to government work, you simply just forward it to your government account so it can be archived.”
Clinton used a personal email account linked to a private server at her home in Chappaqua, a New York City suburb, during her time as the top US diplomat under President Barack Obama. The FBI found classified information in some of the emails that were sent or received through her private server.
Clinton deleted thousands of emails that she and her lawyers decided were personal or unrelated to her work as secretary of state before she turned over thousands of other emails to federal investigators. She said she had been unaware of rules against using private email to conduct the public’s business.
Hamas leader says he has been invited to Moscow
The top leader of the Hamas terror group says he has received an invitation to make an official visit to Moscow.
The office of Ismail Haniyeh says the invitation was delivered today by a visiting Russian diplomat. Its statement did not elaborate on the purpose of the visit.
Russia maintains high-level contact with Hamas, which Israel, the US and the European Union classify as a terrorist group.
Haniyeh was elected as Hamas’s top leader last year. His predecessor, Khaled Mashaal, visited Moscow frequently.
In 2007, a year after winning parliamentary elections, Hamas drove out the Western-backed Palestinian Authority from Gaza and took over the coastal enclave.
Russia has hosted several rounds of talks aimed at forging reconciliation between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.
US envoy hails warming of Israel-Chad relations
US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy hails the visit to Israel earlier this week of Chad’s leader.
In a series of tweets, Jason Greenblatt calls the meeting — and the expected resumption of Israeli-Chadian ties after four decades — a “milestone on the road to peace.”
This is another milestone on the road to peace. Going forward, we hope to see other Muslim-majority countries joining this positive trend and building on this progress.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) November 28, 2018
Son of Brazil’s president-elect confirms embassy move to Jerusalem
The son of Brazil’s president-elect has confirmed to the US president’s son-in-law that his country’s embassy will move to Jerusalem.
“The question should not be whether we will do it, but when we will do it,” Brazilian congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro told Jared Kushner during a meeting in Washington on Tuesday.
Jair Bolsonaro’s 34-year-old son was reelected in October to a second term and became the Brazilian federal lawmaker to garner the most votes in history with over 1.8 million votes.
“We don’t know the date for the relocation or when it will happen, but we have an intention to do so,” he told Brazilian media when leaving the meeting, wearing a hat bearing the message “Trump 2020.”
After being elected, Jair Bolsonaro announced that he intended to uphold his campaign promise and move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem.
“Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that. Like all other countries, they have the right to choose their capital city,” he wrote.
Reunião hoje de manhã com Jared Kushner @jaredkushner que é um dos mais importantes conselheiros da Casa Branca e grande empresário – além de ser genro do Presidente Trump @realDonaldTrump . pic.twitter.com/EDPOAUZpCf
— Eduardo Bolsonaro (@BolsonaroSP) November 27, 2018
Ultra-Orthodox protesters block Jaffa Road in Jerusalem
Radical ultra-Orthodox protesters are blocking a major intersection in Jerusalem in a demonstration over the military draft.
Police say the intersection of Jaffa Road and Sarei Yisrael Street is closed to traffic and the protesters are also disrupting the light rail service.
The demonstrators are clashing with police over the arrest of a member of their community who is dodging the draft.
Dutch foreign ministry lists Jewish Diaspora criticism of Israel as goal
An official Dutch foreign ministry document listed as an objective actions that “encourage Diaspora Jewish communities to voice their opposition to the occupation.”
The statement, which is unusual for European governments offering funding for organizations they say are promoting peace or coexistence between Israel and Palestinians, appeared in a report published earlier this year on Dutch funding for the Breaking the Silence group.
Titled “Activity Appraisal Document ODA below €250.000,” the report on Breaking the Silence included the reference to Diaspora communities under the rubric: “Goal 3: To increase opposition in the international arena to Israel’s prolonged occupation of the OPT based on global shared values.” OPT stands for “occupied Palestinian Territories.”
NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog group that focuses on funding for Israeli and Palestinian groups, criticized the ministry’s “intruding on Israel-Diaspora relations, on one of the most sensitive issues,” as the group’s founder, Gerald Steinberg, termed it in a statement Tuesday.
Chris Bakker, a spokesperson for Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands’ minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, declines to answer JTA’s questions on the document, including on whether the objectives it specified belonged to his office, or to Breaking the Silence.
Kaag’s ministry pledged $218,000 for Breaking the Silence in its budget for 2018. A former worker for the UNRWA agency for aid to Palestinians, Kaag is also the wife of a former Palestinian Authority diplomat.
US sanctions two Iranians for cyber activities
The US Treasury Department says it has imposed “cyber-related” sanctions on two Iranian nationals.
A notice on the Treasury Department website names the two as Mohammad Ghorbaniyan and Ali Khorashadizadeh.
It doesn’t say what they are accused of.
Israel denies ICC said no legal impediment to razing Khan al-Ahmar
The Justice Ministry denies a report earlier today in Walla, according to which the prosecutor’s office at the International Criminal Court told Israeli officials that there are no legal barriers to evacuating a Bedouin hamlet in the West Bank.
Such reports regarding Khan al-Ahmar “are incorrect,” the ministry says in a statement.
— Jacob Magid
US indicts 2 Iranians over hospital ransomware attacks
The US Justice Department charges two Iranian hackers with extorting at least $6 million from hospitals, city governments and public institutions in the US and Canada by remotely locking down their computer systems.
The DOJ says Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri deployed the SamSam Ransomware into the systems of more than 200 institutions, including the governments of Atlanta, Georgia and Newark, New Jersey, seeking to freeze their operations until they paid ransoms by bitcoin.
“The hackers infiltrated computer systems in 10 states and Canada and then demanded payment. The criminal activity harmed state agencies, city governments, hospitals, and countless innocent victims,” says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
MK hospitalized after feeling unwell, will undergo surgery
Knesset member Saleh Saad of the Zionist Union faction is hospitalized at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after feeling unwell at the Knesset.
According to reports, he is to undergo a cardiac catheterization and will remain in the hospital for observation for several days.
Defense Ministry body: IDF ‘ignoring’ settler violence against soldiers
In an internal letter revealed today, a Defense Ministry official slams the IDF for its approach to violence coming from residents of the Yitzhar settlement and the surrounding outposts in the northern West Bank.
“We cannot continue treating Yitzhar with a double standard: promoting civilian issues, examining unique requests from residents, and finding creative solutions to their problems alongside the continued violation of the rule of law by the residents,” writes an officer in the Civil Administration, which governs daily affairs in Israel-controlled Area C of the West Bank — in a letter published by the Kan public broadcaster.
In her letter to Civil Administration head Achvat Ben Hoor, the officer — later identified by The Times of Israel as Idit Zargarian — goes on to say that it is “inconceivable that the most senior IDF officials seek and assist in the development of the settlement, while blatantly ignoring the actions of [Yitzhar] residents and the residents of the surrounding outposts, which have included attacks on security forces.”
— Jacob Magid
Worshiper critically hurt in Pittsburgh synagogue attack released from hospital
A 70-year-old worshiper who was critically injured in the shooting attack last month at the Tree of Life synagogue has been released from a Pittsburgh hospital.
Daniel Leger went from the hospital to its rehabilitation facility, from where he was discharged on Monday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. His discharge came on the day of the shloshim for the victims, marking 30 days since their deaths.
Leger, a retired nurse and chaplain at the hospital that treated him, was shot in the chest. He is a member of Dor Hadash, one of the three Jewish congregations that were holding services in the building at the time of the October 27 attack by a lone gunman, and lives in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where the complex is located.
Pittsburgh police and SWAT operator Timothy Matson, 40, remains hospitalized, from several gunshot wounds and is listed in stable condition. Three other police officers were injured in the shooting.
Andrea Wedner, 61, who was shot in the arm, was released from the hospital earlier this month. Her mother, Rose Mallinger, 97, was killed in the attack.
No proof Saudi prince ordered Khashoggi killing, US secretary of state says
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defends Washington’s continued strong ties with Riyadh despite the recent killing of a journalist inside a Saudi consulate building, and denied reports linking the Saudi crown prince to the killing.
“I do believe I’ve read every piece of intelligence unless it’s come in in the last few hours … There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo tells reporters after a closed-door Senate briefing.
Senators have grown increasingly uneasy with the US response to Saudi Arabia after the killing of Khashoggi. The briefing with Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis could determine how far Congress goes in trying to punish the longtime Middle East ally.
The White House issued a veto threat of a possible Senate resolution as Pompeo and Mattis briefed the senators. A vote could happen later Wednesday but was not certain.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “some kind of response” was needed from the United States for the Saudis’ role in the gruesome death of Khashoggi. While US intelligence officials have concluded the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have at least known of the plot, the CIA’s findings have not been made public and US President Donald Trump has equivocated over who is to blame.
— With AP
Brazil’s president-elect meets Israeli ambassador
Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, meets in Brasilia with the Israeli ambassador, as he plans to transfer his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I received the illustrious visit of Israeli Ambassador Yossi Shelley,” he writes on Twitter.
“Brazil has what it takes to be a respected and admired nation in the world,” he adds cryptically.
Chad said to condition resumed ties on ‘extensive’ weapons sales
During his visit to Israel earlier this week, the president of Chad presented a laundry list of demands from Israel, which is eager to resume diplomatic ties with the majority-Muslim African nation, Channel 10 news reports.
The report quotes senior officials in the Foreign Ministry as saying that Chad’s President Idriss Deby’s demands focused on weapons acquisition and security cooperation.
The report says the list was “very extensive” and caused “serious concerns among those who were exposed to it.”
It says that Deby and his entourage were “extremely aggressive” about their demands, and hinted that they could condition the resumption of diplomatic ties — which were severed in 1972 — on them being met.
The officials are quoted as saying that Netanyahu and his national security adviser have yet to respond to the demands, which will come up in internal deliberations as well as in talks with Chad in the coming weeks, ahead of the prime minister’s planned reciprocal visit.
Irish Senate advances bill banning settlement goods
Ireland moves closer to banning settlement goods, as the Senate in Dublin advances the Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018.
The bill, which passes by 28 to 14 votes, still faces several hurdles before it becomes law.
— Raphael Ahren
Argentina prosecutor acts on complaint against Saudi prince
An Argentine prosecutor has taken initial action on a Human Rights Watch request to prosecute Saudi Arabia’s crown prince for alleged crimes against humanity.
The rights group’s move is apparently aimed at embarrassing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he attends the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.
A federal court source says a prosecutor has asked a judge to determine if Saudi Arabia or Yemen are investigating the prince for possible crimes against humanity. The judge hasn’t responded.
The source speaks on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak publicly.
Human Rights Watch accuses the prince of war crimes in Yemen and responsibility for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
It says prosecution action shows that powerful figures “will be scrutinized if implicated in grave international crimes.”
Days after concert, Gaza’s grand piano seized by merchant
A Palestinian businessman has seized the Gaza Strip’s only grand piano, claiming he owns the instrument, just days after it made its public debut.
The Edward Said Conservatory says the businessman came to its building today and took away the piano. It fears the piano, which had been silenced for a decade, is at risk again.
Japan donated the piano 20 years ago to the Palestinian Culture Ministry. The instrument was nearly destroyed in a 2014 airstrike that damaged an abandoned theater where it was stored. Foreign experts restored the piano, and a Japanese pianist performed a landmark concert this week.
Saed Herzallah, a merchant, says he bought the inoperative property in 2011 “with everything on it, including the piano.”
Culture Ministry official Fayez Sersawi accuses the businessman of “piracy.”
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