Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “determined to go to Washington.” Speaking at a Likud conference for Russian immigrants, the prime minister’s comments came following a Reuters report that said Netanyahu was looking for ways to pull out from his intention to address Congress. Netanyahu’s accepting an invitation from US House speaker John Boehner was perceived by many in the US as an attempt to sidestep the White House. Netanyahu’s words however were carefully chosen, since he is also scheduled to address AIPAC and would need to be in Washington anyway.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic, US President Obama was holding a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel dedicated mostly to the crisis in east Ukraine. Obama did answer a question on Netanyahu’s invitation to the US, and jokingly said that as much as he “loves Angela,” he would not meet her “two weeks from an election.” Obama also mentioned “substantive differences” with Netanyahu on Iran, even as he stressed their frequent conversations and “ongoing coordination.”
The Times of Israel followed events as they unfolded.
6,222 Israelis among names in SwissLeaks list
Israel is No. 6 in a list of 200 countries that are home to 100,000 people who hold around $10 billion in secret accounts.
The list, uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and published by the BBC and the Guardian, was nicknamed SwissLeaks. It details funds deposited in a Swiss branch of the UK’s HSBC bank and among the c. 100,000 names, 6,222 are Israelis. Seventeen of them held secret accounts totaling more than $100 million. Thousands of others had smaller accounts.
Apart from the list some correspondence between HSBC and the clients is revealed, and according to Army Radio it includes a series of letters exchanged between a manager at the Bank of Israel trying to get better rates for one of the clients on the list and an HSBC official.
IDF confiscates NIS 100,000 from Hamas
The IDF announces that in a joint operation with the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration, about NIS 100,000 (c. $25,000) was confiscated near a Palestinian village, north of Ramallah.
A gun, a cartridge and several knives were also found at the scene. The money was reportedly intended to be used for Hamas operations.
US drone kills IS deputy head in Afghanistan
Six people are killed in an attack by a US drone in Afghanistan, one of whom was a senior commander in Islamic State, Israel Radio reports.
The group was traveling in a vehicle loaded with ammunition. When the car was hit it detonated, killing everyone inside.
The man, Mulla Abdul Rauf, was held in Guantanamo in the past. He was a Taliban member who defected and joined IS, where he was appointed deputy commander of IS in the Khorasan region – the Islamic State’s name for Afghanistan.
Shapiro says no crisis in US-Israel relations
Relations between Israel and the United States are not in a state of crisis, says US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
“There are some differences of opinion but we will get over it,” Shapiro tells Israel Radio. The countries, he adds, share an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
NGO wants Kirshenbaum removed from position
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel appeals to the High Court of Justice to instruct the interior minister, the prime minister, and the Knesset to bar deputy interior minister Faina Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beytenu) from serving in the Knesset and the government.
The NGO asks the court to issue a conditional order preventing Kirshenbaum from participating in government meetings or using her authorities as deputy interior minister. The group filed the petition after Kirshnbaum says she will exercise her right to remain silent during her interrogation by the police over allegations of corruption.
A quarter of Israelis unsure who to vote for
About a quarter of Israeli voters are still undecided who to vote for in the coming elections, just over a month away, according to a poll conducted exclusively for The Times of Israel.
During the 2013 elections the number of undecided voters at this time stood at nearly a third (31%).
The TOI poll finds the Zionist Camp beating Likud by 4 Knesset seats, 27-23. The United Arab List, Yesh Atid and Jewish Home tie at 11, with Kulanu wining 10, Yisrael Beytenu and UTJ at 7 each, and Shas, Yahad and Kulanu winning 4 each.
EU halts sanctions ahead of Ukraine summit
The European Union puts fresh sanctions against Moscow on hold ahead of a summit to thrash out a Ukraine peace plan aimed at ending 10 months of bloodshed.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says the EU would hold off implementing new individual sanctions to improve the chances of success at the four-way summit planned for Wednesday in Minsk.
“The latest peace initiative shows that things have begun to move,” Fabius says in Brussels.
“The principle of the sanctions will be kept but their implementation will depend on the situation.”
Hamas backs Qatar’s ‘courage’ against Israel
A Qatar-based senior Hamas leader praises the Gulf state’s “courageous” foreign minister, Khalid al-Attiyah, after an apparent spat with Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz at a German security conference.
In a statement, Izzat al-Rishaq, a member of Hamas’s political bureau in Doha, backs Qatar’s foreign minister for his “strong, courageous statements and response to the lies of the ‘Zionists,’ and his defense of Hamas and the resistance during the Munich security conference.”
At yesterday’s conference, Attiyah said during a panel discussion that failure to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was “the main igniter [sic] to all the turbulence in the Middle East.”
Qatar’s foreign minister also asked why Israel wanted to be recognized as a Jewish state.
“The world is fighting a group calling itself Islamic State, and you want to come and say [you are] a Jewish state,” he said.
Coffin of NZ accident victim to land in Israel
The coffin of Israeli Liora Keren, who was killed in a traffic collision in North Canterbury, New Zealand, on Saturday, will be flown to Israel this evening.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, an investigation of the incident revealed that all passengers were wearing seat belts when the car swerved to avoid hitting a truck on the opposite lane. The driver then lost control and the car crashed down a steep slope.
8,000 Jews visit ‘Israel fairs‘ in France
A record number of people, around 8,000, mostly aged 16 to 35, have visited “Israel fairs” held in France at the initiative of the Jewish Agency and the Ministry for Immigration Absorption.
The fairs are being held in Paris, Lyon and Marseille and are intended to present to French Jews the different options of living in Israel, including placement in learning programs subsidized by the Masa program of the Jewish Agency and the government.
Ukraine Jews to get $650k in emergency aid
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews pledges $650,000 in emergency funding for Jews in the battle zones of eastern Ukraine.
The emergency funding will provide Jews from cities such as Donetsk and Mariupol, who are caught in the crossfire between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists, with medicine, food, housing and security, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFJC founder and president, says in a statement announcing the extra funds.
“We will do everything in our power and means so no Jew will be left homeless or starved,” he writes. The sum will ensure thousands of food and medicine packages, as well as three months of operating soup kitchens and providing security for Jewish synagogues and institutions in Donetsk, Lugansk and Mariupol.
Op-ed: Who to believe on Iran, Obama or the PM?
If the terms are anything like those being repeatedly asserted in recent days by “sources in Jerusalem,” the deal being hatched by US-led international negotiators with Iran is the worst case of appeasement before a would-be genocidal aggressor since 1938. Except that it would be still more indefensible and inexplicable than Chamberlain’s capitulation to Hitler, in that Iran is not yet nearly as terrifying as the rapacious Nazi force that the British prime minister was so desperately and misguidedly trying to sate.
Unlike the Nazis in 1938, Iran likely can be halted through effective diplomacy backed by the threat of further sanctions and force. And if that fails, by force itself. According to those anonymous senior Israeli sources who habitually leak details to Israeli diplomatic correspondents, however, it is the very accord that the Obama administration is allegedly pushing that will enable the regime in Tehran to attain terrifying capabilities.
Read the rest of David Horovitz’s op-ed here.
PA begins major boycott of Israeli products
The Palestinian Authority decides to boycott six major Israeli companies in retaliation for Israel’s freezing of tax funds.
The initial move by Israel was a punitive measure that followed the PA’s efforts to advance lawsuits against Israeli officials on allegations of war crimes at the International Criminal Court, and its moves at the UN intended to gain support for recognition of a Palestinian state independent of a comprehensive peace deal.
Senior Fatah official Mahmoud al-Alul held a press conference after examining the issue and announced that goods and produce of food makers Tnuva, Strauss, Elite, Jafora, Osem and Prigat will not be allowed into territories controlled by the Palestinians.
Additionally, Palestinian merchants storing goods produced by these companies were given two weeks to remove them from shelves. Special inspectors will conduct random checks to make sure that the boycott is being followed.
Alul said the boycott is a first step toward a complete boycott of every product made by Israel.
11 Druze students return to Israel from Syria
Eleven Druze students who reside in the Golan Heights and went to Syria for studies will return to Israel through Jordan, Ynet reports.
The students have been waiting to cross back to Israel since August 2014, when the only active border crossing between Israel and Syria was overtaken by the terror group the Nusra Front, which is fighting against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The process of returning the students was made confidentially out of concern for the students’ well-being.
Shin Bet unveils Jerusalem terror network
A large terror network of Israeli Arabs centered around the Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur was exposed by the Shin Bet, it was made public.
Shin Bet ties several dozen activists to the network and exposes it in the wake of a hike in terror acts over the past few months.
The incidents included the hurling of Molotov cocktails, firecrackers and improvised explosive devices at security forces and Jewish houses in the neighborhood.
Gun, ammo found in car on West Bank road
Security personnel at the Hashmonaim Crossing between Israel and Palestinian-controlled territory found an M-16 assault rifle and cartridges stashed in an Israeli vehicle, Ynet reports.
Guards searched the vehicle after the driver’s behavior raised their suspicion. The driver and another person traveling with him were taken in for questioning.
Rivlin calls on IDF’s Gantz to join politics
President Reuven Rivlin calls on outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz to enter politics.
Speaking at an event in honor of Gantz’s stepping down next week, Rivlin says, “You led the IDF to high peaks, and the people in Israel hope you will lead us in your life as a civilian. The people need you in the front rank of leadership in this country.”
Rivlin also met with the families of the French Jews killed in a terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris last month, Israel Radio reports.
‘Arabs prefer right wing gov‘t to unity gov‘t‘
Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List) and Ayelet Shaked probably did discuss what to wear for a televised duel on Channel 2’s 6 o’clock news.
The matching shirts seemed to be the only point the two agreed upon.
Tibi says “we will not be part of [Isaac] Herzog’s coalition under any circumstances.”
He hints that the joint Arab list, which is polling at a hefty 11 Knesset seats according to the latest Times of Israel poll, will not recommend to the president that either Netanyahu or Herzog be asked to establish the next coalition.
Tibi also says the Arabs prefer a right wing government over a unity government.
Is PM rethinking his address to Congress?
Netanyahu is considering canceling his speech to Congress, a source with ties to the Prime Minister’s Office tells the Reuters news agency.
According to the source, Netanyahu is considering making his speech to AIPAC the centerpiece of his visit, or speaking to Congress but behind closed doors. The source says that Netanyahu discussed the issue with top members of Likud and received differing opinions on how he should act.
There was no official statement by the Prime Minister’s Office on the matter. Israel Radio reports that as of Monday evening, the prime minister has not changed his plans.
Rivlin hosts families of Paris terror victims
President Rivlin hosts members of the families of terror victims who died in the Paris attack last month:
PMO official says no change in Netanyahu’s plans for US
An official at the Prime Minister’s Office says that there is no change in Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress next month, even though he heard several propositions on how to conduct his upcoming trip to the US, dismissing an earlier report by Reuters as untrue, Haaretz reports.
Reuters earlier reported that a source with inside knowledge of the PMO said that Netanyahu was considering canceling the speech, or at least conducting it behind closed doors.
Man caught burning Israel flag near Paris market
A man was detained after trying to burn an Israeli flag in front of the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris, the scene of a terror attack last month where four French Jews were murdered by a jihadist on January 9.
The man, 38, and known to police for “wanton destruction,” was caught “in the act,” according to police officers who were stationed near the supermarket to guard it against future attacks.
Obama sees ‘no reason’ to extend Iran talks
US President Obama sees no reason to extend Iran talks, says “Tehran must now decide.”
Obama is speaking at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Netanyahu ‘determined to go to Washington’
Netanyahu is “determined to go to Washington.” The prime minister says as much in a conference where he launched the Likud campaign aimed at getting the Russian vote.
His comments put to rest the diplomatic bet-hedging that began following a report in Reuters quoting a source — with reportedly good ties to the Prime Minister’s Office — who said Netanyahu was considering alternatives, such as a speech behind closed doors or making his AIPAC address the centerpiece of his visit.
Netanyahu played the trip as completely independent of the elections, which will take place a mere two weeks after his address to Congress: “There is a bad agreement taking shape in Munich. According to reports, Iran, without violating the agreement, will be able to manufacture dozens of nuclear bombs. As prime minister it is my duty to do everything to prevent this dangerous deal and therefore I’m determined to go to Washington and present my position in Congress.”
Netanyahu also addressed what is portrayed in the media as a major crisis in US-Israel relations. “From the day the state was established there were substantive differences of opinion between Israel and the US, but ties remained strong. This is how it will be this time. This issue is not about party politics or other politics.”
Obama says he has ‘differences on Iran‘ with PM but also ‘coordination‘
WASHINGTON — President Obama was asked about Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to the US during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said: “I talk to him all the time. Our teams constantly coordinate. We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections. As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House, and I suspect she would not have asked for one.
“So some of this just has to do with how we do business. I think it’s important for us to maintain these protocols because the US-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party. This isn’t a relationship founded on an affinity between the Labor Party and the Democratic Party, or Likud and the Republican Party. This is the US-Israeli relationship that extends beyond parties.
“It has to do with that unbreakable bond that we feel and our commitment to Israel’s security and the shared values that we have.
“The way to preserve that is to ensure that it doesn’t get clouded by what could be perceived as partisan politics…. That’s something we have to guard against.
“I don’t want to be coy. The prime minister and I have a very real difference around Iran, around sanctions.” He said Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron and he agree “that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they’re about to be complete. And we should play that out.”
Swedish anti-racists swamp first PEGIDA rally
Sweden’s first rally by the German-inspired “anti-Islamization” movement PEGIDA in the city of Malmo was dwarfed Monday by a counter-demonstration about a hundred times larger, according to police estimates.
Television images showed a small group of PEGIDA demonstrators hemmed into a cordoned-off area of the southern city’s central square, surrounded by anti-racism protesters.
“There are at least 3,000 people, most of them counter-demonstrators,” Malmo police spokesman Lars Foerstell told AFP, adding that there were about 30 PEGIDA protesters.
Bahrain ready to back Jordan fight against IS
Bahrain’s ruler tells his Jordanian counterpart that he is ready to assist the kingdom in its fight against the Islamic State group, the royal palace in Amman says.
King Hamad of Bahrain, quoted in a palace statement, tells King Abdullah II that he is “proud to provide all the help Jordan needs to combat terrorism and protect Islam from Daesh (IS).”
Talks between the two monarchs in Amman on Monday focus on reinforcing military cooperation between their countries, notably their air forces, the statement says.
Jordan has vowed to intensify its airstrikes against IS as part of a US-led coalition after the jihadists burned alive one of its pilots captured in December when his F-16 fighter jet went down over Syria.
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