The former head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, slammed a clip showing the apparent dilapidated state of the Prime Minister’s Residence since, he says, filming inside the house constitutes a “severe security breach.”
The somewhat bizarre video stars first lady Sara Netanyahu in the role of tour guide, showing interior designer Moshik Galamin the squeaky doors and damp walls of her dwelling. The clip was released in an effort to diffuse a report by the state comptroller which will be published on Tuesday and will deal with inflated expenses by the prime minister and his family.
Earlier, Pensioners’ Affairs Minister Uri Orbach, who died from an illness on Monday morning, was laid to rest in a funeral in Modi’in. Orbach was 54 years old. The president, the prime minister and the speaker of the Knesset all attended the funeral.
The Times of Israel followed events as they unfolded.
Yachimovich mourns Orbach on her Facebook page
Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich laments the passing of Jewish Home Minister Uri Orbach on her Facebook page: “My friend Uri Orbach passed away and it is sad and painful. It is unjust and maddening that the life of the best of all, the wisest of all, the most honest and most decent of all, the funniest of all — he is the one whose life was cut short, before his time.”
Yachimovich, who shares Orbach’s birthday, continues: “We were born in the same year, in the same month, on the same day and at the same hour. Our connection, despite belonging to opposite political camps — was close and unusual. I join Michal and the children in mourning. May his memory be a blessing.”
Russia vows response to ‘illogical’ EU measures
Moscow says it would respond to the latest EU sanctions over the Ukraine conflict that target several prominent figures including a popular singer, condemning them as “inconsistent and illogical.”
“Such decisions… will be followed by an appropriate response,” the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.
“We note how inconsistent and illogical it is that, every time hope appears of a solution to the crisis inside Ukraine, the European Union rushes to bring in new anti-Russian restrictions.”
The latest EU measures target five Russians, including deputy defense ministers Anatoly Antonov and Arkady Bakhin, as well as Iosif Kobzon, an MP and popular crooner, who is often compared to Frank Sinatra.
CBS assessment: Market recovered from Gaza war
The Central Bureau of Statistics publishes an assessment of the market’s recovery in the last quarter of 2014, following the summer war against Hamas in Gaza.
According to the assessment, growth in Q4 of 2014 stood at 7.2%, after Q3 — when Operation Protective Edge took place — saw growth of only 0.6%. The rise in Q2 was listed as 2%.
The overall gain in the second half of 2014 is assessed at 2.6%, compared with 3.4% during the second half of 2013 and 2.7% in the first half of 2014.
Court to discuss Zoabi, Marzel disqualifications
The Supreme Court will hold three hearings on Tuesday relating to the coming elections — two will deal with the Central Elections Committee decision to bar MK Hanin Zoabi and right-wing activist Baruch Marzel from running in the coming election; and, in a third discussion, the justices will hear the Yisrael Beytenu appeal to remove an order that barred the party from giving away copies of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo as part of its campaign.
French ex-minister says PM Manuel Valls ‘influenced’ by Jewish wife
France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls is under Jewish influence, a former French foreign minister said Monday.
Valls is “not my cup of tea,” Roland Dumas said in an interview, explaining that the prime minister once attacked him for his opposition to Israel’s policies and his support of the Palestinian cause.
“He has personal alliances, everyone knows that he’s married to someone who has an influence on him,” Dumas said, referring to Valls’s wife, Anne Gravoin, who is Jewish.
Several French politicians criticized Dumas’s comments.
Claude Bartolone, the president of the National Assembly, tweeted that he was “repulsed” by Dumas’s comments, adding that they “reveal an ordinary anti-Semitism” and delusional conspiracy theories.
Also Dominique Bussereau, a member of parliament and former minister from the center-right UMP party, indicated that he considers Dumas’s statement anti-Semitic. It is “inadmissible” and a scandal, he wrote on Twitter. “What a shipwreck!”
— Raphael Ahren
Netanyahu speech to be aired at 5-minute delay
Central Elections Committee chairman justice Salim Joubran decides that for fear that it may be exploited for campaigning purposes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3 will be aired at a five-minute delay, so that news editors in TV and radio stations can monitor it and cut out parts which may be considered campaigning, Ynet reports.
Editors will watch the live feed and decide whether the prime minister’s words do not violate any laws on campaigning. In case they do those passages will be cut before being aired.
Joubran decided that the speech be aired at a short delay following a request by Meretz head Zahava Galon and Labor candidate Eldad Yaniv, who initially sought to completely prohibit airing it, on the claim that Netanyahu’s decision to speak in itself constitutes a campaigning trick.
Jerusalem bracing for ‘real snow’ this weekend
Meteorologist Boaz Nehemia, who runs the successful website and mobile app Yerushamayim (an amalgamation of the words “Jerusalem” and “sky” in Hebrew), says that unlike the “disappointment” of Jerusalem residents who were “promised” snow last week — and got sandstorms instead — this weekend looks to have a “wide window of opportunity” for snow.
Speaking to the Walla news website, Nehemia explains what is necessary for “the perfect storm”: “If the lowest level of the atmosphere is cold, it needs to be colder in the upper layer and coldest in the topmost layer. When it is not synchronized, there is either no snow, or snow only in the highest peaks. This time around, things look promising, even though we are still four days away, so one must make reserved predictions. It does look as if Thursday night and Friday morning will see colder air blowing in than in previous instances, when only the highest mountains received snow.
2 men charged with helping Copenhagen shooter
Two men were charged with helping the gunman who killed two people in twin attacks in Copenhagen over the weekend, a lawyer said.
“They are not charged with terrorism, but they are charged with having helped the perpetrator get rid of a weapon and giving him a hiding place,” the lawyer of one of the men, Michael Juul Eriksen, tells AFP.
The two suspects, who appeared in court on Monday following their arrest on Sunday, cannot be named for legal reasons.
There was no immediate confirmation of the charges from police who had earlier announced the arrest of two men “suspected of aiding and abetting the perpetrator” of the deadly shootings at the Krudttoenden cultural center and the synagogue in Krystalgade.
Nine dead in rebel fire on Syria’s Aleppo
Nine people, including three children, were killed Monday in rebel fire on a government-held neighborhood in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s state news agency SANA says.
It says they were killed in Hay al-Seryan, in the government-controlled western part of Aleppo, but gave no further details.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, also reports nine deaths, but says that four children had been killed.
It says another 20 people were wounded.
Herzog says ‘no speech can whitewash Netanyahu’s failure to stop Iran’
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog criticizes Prime Minister Netanyahu and says that he “promised to stop the Iranian threat and after all the speeches and headlines Iran is now a nuclear threshold state.”
“No spin or Congress address will be able to whitewash this failure,” Ynet quotes Herzog as saying.
Lapid says PM will be guilty for Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state
“Because of [Netanyahu’s] speech, Congress will not hit Iran with additional sanctions,” says former finance minister and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at the Institute of National Security Studies annual conference. “Iran,” Lapid says, “will be much closer to becoming a nuclear threshold state.”
Lapid says “an empty will get up to the podium to speak. A real prime minister, one who holds the country’s good in the highest regard, would not bet in a casino on our national security and would not make this speech. The Americans are now no more eager to share information with Netanyahu, because they do trust him or his motives.”
Lapid says Netanyahu “foiled moves with the Americans out of hysteria that [Jewish Home leader Naftali] Bennett would steal on of his Knesset seats. He is not listening to the Americans, but only to the person who does his polls, a man who probably told him voters love it when he fights with Obama. It is a Greek tragedy: What he warned about for years, will eventually come to pass because of him.”
Drilling for oil starts in Golan Heights
After weeks of preparation, Afek Oil and Gas begins the first drilling to look for oil on the Golan Heights. Afek starts the drilling at a site called Oil 5, which is located next to the town of Avnei Eitan, southwest of two reservoirs and in between two small rivers.
The drilling begins after the High Court of Justice threw out a petition in December from environmentalist group Adam Teva V’Din (also called the Israel Union for Environmental Defense) to stop the oil exploration. Environmental activists are adamantly opposed to the exploratory drilling, which they say will endanger priceless natural resources, including the water table that leads to the Kinneret.
— Melanie Lidman
Rivlin, Barkat in front row at Orbach funeral
President Reuven Rivlin, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat are in the front row at Uri Orbach’s funeral in Modi’in.
President Rivlin at Orbach funeral
President Reuven Rivlin eulogizes Uri Orbach. Rivlin choked up in tears several times.
“Uri, my close friend, dearer than a brother…
“Last Sukkot, we had an open house at the president’s residence… the guards found you among the public. A minister in Israel, you waited like all of them, and in typical modesty, you said you didn’t want to trouble the guards. This is one story that tells of your modesty and humility.
“I remember when, two years ago, you were diagnosed with your illness, you said you wanted to read your obituary. I am sorry, Uri, that now, I cannot find the words to mourn you. How does one mourn a person like you, with your unique charm and sense of humor?
“I remember that when I went to Umm al-Fahm, you were the first to say you’re joining me. And you did it just because you’re a human being, not for political gains or any other reason…. You had the ability to love those who did not share your views, to embrace those who could not embrace you.
“You were both a student and teacher to me, as I was to you… Farewell Uri, I will miss you tremendously.”
Netanyahu mourns late minister Uri Orbach
“Until just a few hours ago we stood near Uri’s bed and I repeated the prayer with which I opened the meeting of the cabinet this morning: that God may give strength to our friend who is fighting for his life,” says Prime Minister Netanyahu at Uri Orbach’s funeral.
“I want to tell you Michal, and the other members of the family: your pain is our pain, your suffering is our suffering,” the PM says, addressing the wife and children of the late minister.
“He was talented, winning the hearts of all those around him. He was a writer, a journalist, a true man of letters – and, this I didn’t know – a man of actions,” Netanyahu says, referring to Orbach’s work as a minister.
“Uri will be missed by all the people of Israel. Uri had a unique way, others liked him but he never achieved this with cheap sycophancy. Uri’s humor was unique. During government meetings I called him “the witty minister.” But despite the wit, there was not one iota of meanness in him.
“Uri proved there was no problem in mixing Jewishness and Zionism. His politics was never a politics of swearing: he was always polite, well-spoken and tolerant.
“I must emphasize that throughout most of his disease Uri continued to come to government meetings. He did not always speak, and usually waited for the end of the session to say what he had, but when he did – his words were always precise and to the point. He lived by the rule that my father, may his memory be blessed, told me once: Either say something new, or say something old in a new way.
“Uri lived by this rule. I never heard him say anything which just ‘fits a pattern.’ He always had some originality in his words.
“His words will continue to echo. His actions will continue to light our way. May your memory be blessed, may your soul be cherished in the bond of life.”
48% of Israelis say police not functioning well
Some 48% of Israelis believed that police was not functioning well, according to a wide-ranging survey ordered by the Public Security Ministry in late 2013, even before a series of sex scandals in recent months tarnished the image of the authority in charge of maintaining public order.
According to the survey, conducted by a company called Teldor, 48% said police was “unsuccessful” and 17% had no trust in the police at all. However, 35% of respondents said the police improved over previous years.
Only 33% of respondents said police does not use excessive force, Ynet reports. Around half of the people polled said they do not believe Israeli police officers are corrupt.
Police won higher marks when it comes to preventing terror attacks: 60% said the force was efficient in keeping the peace, preventing terror attacks and dealing with traffic collisions. 43% said police was effective in dealing with violence, domestic violence, organized crime and blue collar crimes. Only 28%, however, said police was effective in dealing with cases of burglary and theft.
Hamas condemns IS beheading of 21 Christians
Hamas condemns the execution of 21 Egyptian Christians by Islamic State terrorists, and calls the act an “atrocious crime which defiles Islam.”
The Libyan branch of IS released a video showing 21 Coptic Christians paraded on the beach of the Mediterranean and then beheaded.
“Hamas condemns this atrocious crime which defiles the image of Islam by going against its principles of tolerance and destroying the relations between Arab Muslims and Christians which have lived in our countries for centuries, since Islam guaranteed their peace and security,” Hamas says in a statement.
“Islam only commands us to kill those who kill us, act with aggression against us or violate our rights,” says the statement from Hamas.
Swedish caricaturist now lives in hiding
Swedish artist Lars Vilks, presumed wounded by two bullets fired at him in Copenhagen, is now living in a secret location, Swedish police announces.
“His hometown of Höganäs (in the south of Sweden) is not a place where he is safe. And he needs to be in a safe place,” says police spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford of the artist. Vilks has been living with police protection ever seen he made a drawing of the prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.
Diskin calls PM residence film a ‘severe security breach’
The headquarters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a 15-minute long clip which aims to show the bad condition of the prime ministerial residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, presumably in an effort to preempt the media fallout of a state comptroller report on expenses by the prime minister and his family expected to be published tomorrow.
The clip was slammed by Netanyahu’s opponents as a cheap electioneering trick, but on Monday evening it was slammed by former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin – known for his dislike of Netanyahu – for entirely different reasons.
Taking to his Facebook page (Diskin’s preferred way of making public statements), Diskin wrote: “Shooting a clip inside the prime minister’s residence is a severe security breach. It seems like the panic over the state comptroller’s report made the royal family forget its very highly developed security concerns.
“What did we have there? Doors, windows, the type of locks, rooms, internal architecture and furniture, all phone connection points and other gadgets and more…
Cynically describing Sara Netanyahu, Diskin says the tour was “Personally led by the ‘acting prime minister’ during 15 minutes inside the residence (and sometimes work space) of the most secure personality in the country…
“From experience, I can say that any intelligence service or terror organization would pay huge sums of money to acquire all these data. The judgment of whoever was behind this sad and miserable clip should be highly doubted. Let’s hope that we will not go to war because of some dampness in the walls…”
Diskin’s status was shared more than 300 times and liked by more than 1,500 people within an hour of being posted.
UAE air strikes hit IS oil refineries
Renewed air strikes by the United Arab Emirates against the Islamic State group have hit oil refineries run by the jihadists, the state news agency reports.
F-16 fighter jets based in Jordan “targeted oil refineries controled by the Daesh (Islamic State) organisation, with the aim of drying up its sources of finance,” the WAM agency says, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
It says the strikes took place last Tuesday and Thursday but did not specify the location of the targets.
Libyan PM accuses world for IS murder of Copts
The Libyan prime minister accuses the international community for the death of Egyptian Coptic refugees at the hands of Islamic State murderers.
In an interview with Sky News in Arabic Abdallah a-Thani says that his country needs weapons and logistical assistance in order to overcome terrorism.
Zionist Union one seat ahead of Likud in poll
A new Channel 2 poll gives the Zionist Union 25 Knesset seats, one more than Likud at 24. The Joint Arab List wins 12 seats in the new poll. Jewish Home and Yesh Atid tie at 11 seats each, while Kulanu, Yisrael Beitenu and United Torah Judaism win seven seats each. Shas would win six Knesset seats if elections were held today, while Meretz and Yachad, Eli Yishai’s right wing party, would win five seats.
When respondents were asked who will be the next prime minister, 67% of those asked said current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be prime minister also in the next government. A mere 17% said Isaac Herzog, leader of Labor and now head of the Zionist Union amalgamation of Labor and Hatnua, will be prime minister.
When asked not who will be the prime minister but who is apt to fill that role, the numbers are just slightly better for Herzog: 51% say Netanyahu can fill the role, and Herzog wins 28%.
PM asks ‘why hide details of Iran deal’ if Israel already knows what they are
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday evening refers to reports that the US will stop sharing information on the advance of negotiations with Iran. Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Netanyahu says that “just as Iran knows” what agreement is being offered, it is natural that Israel will also know the details of the agreement being drafted.
Israel is the country facing the greatest danger should Iran be armed with nuclear weapons. Israel’s consistent stand, says Netanyahu, is that the agreement being forged is a threat to Israel’s security.
“If there are those who believe” the agreement is a good one, “why hide it?”
— Raphael Ahren
Defense Minister leaves for tour of India
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is taking off for a work visit in India. The visit is the first-ever by an Israeli defense minister in the south Asian country.
During his visit Ya’alon will take part in the inauguration of the Israeli booth at a weapons expo in Bangalore and will meet with senior government officials including the Indian defense minister. Ya’alon is also scheduled to meet the Czech defense minister.
Thousands celebrate release of three haredim from military prison
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox citizens are taking part in a rally in Jerusalem celebrating the release of three yeshiva students from military prison.
The three youths were in a military prison for 20 days after they failed to show up at a recruitment center.
Nasrallah denounces mass beheading of Copts
The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group has strongly denounced the Islamic State group’s beheading of a group of Egyptian Christian hostages in Libya.
In a speech to hundreds of his supporters in southern Beirut Monday, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah says the CIA and Israel’s Mossad are behind the extremist group, which serves their interests.
He claims Israel is the only country which has not been affected and does not consider the group a threat.
The Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah group, which has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to help shore up President Bashar Assad’s forces, has positioned itself as a vanguard against Sunni extremists such as the Islamic State group.
Nasrallah called on regional governments to work together to confront IS, whose crimes “are a threat to the entire universe.”
Vatican offers free showers to the homeless
Homeless men and women lined up Monday off St. Peter’s Square to take advantage of Pope Francis’ latest charitable initiative: a free shave and shower for the least fortunate.
Mauro Casubolo, 49, was one of the first clients as the pope’s barbershop opened in the public restrooms just off the Bernini Colonnade. His chin was still red from the shave — his first in three weeks — but he was grateful.
“It’s a beautiful thing he’s done for us, especially for us who live in the middle of the streets, because if you want to try to go find some work you can come here and have a shower,” he said.
Francis’ chief alms-giver, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, has said the project is needed since homeless people are often shunned for their appearance and smell. The initiative is being funded by donations and the sale of papal parchments by Krajewski’s office.
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