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Obama expresses ‘profound US concerns’ over settlements to Netanyahu

After cordial chat before cameras, US president reportedly clashes with Netanyahu over role of West Bank construction in eroding two station solution

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • US President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting in New York, September 21, 2016. (AFP/Jim Watson)
    US President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting in New York, September 21, 2016. (AFP/Jim Watson)
  • US President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting in New York, September 21, 2016. (AFP/JIM WATSON)
    US President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting in New York, September 21, 2016. (AFP/JIM WATSON)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with US President Barack Obama before their meeting in New York, September 21, 2016. (Times of Israel/Raphael Ahren)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with US President Barack Obama before their meeting in New York, September 21, 2016. (Times of Israel/Raphael Ahren)
  • Police special forces stand guard in front of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on September 21, 2016 after a mentally disturbed Turkish man wielding a knife tried to storm the Israeli embassy. 
Israel's foreign ministry said the assailant was shot by a local guard and that all its embassy staff were safe. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN
    Police special forces stand guard in front of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on September 21, 2016 after a mentally disturbed Turkish man wielding a knife tried to storm the Israeli embassy. Israel's foreign ministry said the assailant was shot by a local guard and that all its embassy staff were safe. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN
  • Israeli border police officers guard at the entrance to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on September 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israeli border police officers guard at the entrance to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on September 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • A view of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, most of which lies over the Green Line. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    A view of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, most of which lies over the Green Line. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded on Wednesday.

Iran sports missiles with threat to Israel

Iran showed off missiles, warplanes, tanks and marching troops on Wednesday in a display of military strength in the face of growing regional tensions.

The Islamic republic used the 36th anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war to parade arms, including 16 ballistic missiles, through Tehran.

A new missile with multiple warheads, called Zolfaghar, was also on show with a threat directed at Iran’s arch-rival Israel written on the side of the truck transporting it.

“If the leaders of the Zionist regime make one false move, the Islamic republic will destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa,” it said, referring to two Israeli cities.

According to the commander of the air wing of the elite Revolutionary Guards, General Amir-Ali Hadjizadeh, the Zolfaghar has a range of 750 kilometers (466 miles).

— AFP

Before Netanyahu-Obama meet, Interior Ministry Jerusalem committee okays building over Green Line

Hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama are set to meet in New York, the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem planning and construction committee approves a project to expand the Ramot neighborhood northward, toward the neighboring Arab village of Bir-Nabala, Israel Radio reports.

Ramot is situated over the pre-1967 Green Line and considered an illegal settlement by the international community, while Israel contends its part of a united Jerusalem.

The 1.6-acre area is slated for the construction of a school to relieve crowded classrooms in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. Other debates in the planning committee were canceled, including one for construction in the Gilo neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, which is also over the Green Line. That meeting was postponed for another two weeks.

Ankara, Israeli embassy comment on attempted attack

The Ankara governor’s office says the man who tried to enter the Israeli Embassy armed with a knife has no known links to terror groups.

A statement from the governor’s office on Wednesday also said that according to a preliminary investigation, the man appears to be mentally unstable.

The governor’s office identified the assailant as Osman Nuri Caliskan and said he was born in 1975, in the central Turkish province of Konya.

He was carrying a 30-centimeter-long (12-inch) knife and a bag.

The man was shot in the leg and captured by police guarding the embassy building.

The Israeli Embassy in Turkey issues a statement about today’s incident outside the embassy in Ankara:

— AP contributed to this post.

Ankara attacker’s Twitter: ‘Allah damn Israel’

The same day that the IDF bombed the Gaza Strip on January 22, 2014, reportedly killing a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s armed wing, an account believed to belong to Osman Nuri Caliskan, the suspected attacker outside Israel’s Embassy in Ankara on Wednesday, tweeted “Allah damn Israel, America and Europe. Amen.”

City hall insists building committee postponed for ‘technical reasons’

The Interior Ministry for planning and construction in Jerusalem, not a municipal committee, approved construction over the Green Line in the Ramot neighborhood Tuesday.

City Hall insists postponing its own planning and construction committee’s meeting is not a deliberate building freeze, and that it was postponed for “technical reasons.”

Army Radio reports that City Hall postponed its committee meetings concerning Jerusalem construction, preventing giving permits for construction over the Green Line during Netanyahu and Obama’s meet.

Deputy Mayor Dov Kalmanovitz rails at the move to delay the meetings, saying that if construction plans get postponed every time the prime minister meets a foreign official, the US State Department had might as well set up a planning and construction committee for Jerusalem in the municipality’s stead.

Iran chief of staff: US aid to Israel pushes us to arm

Iran’s army chief of staff says that the US military aid package to Israel only strengthens Tehran’s resolve to beef up its own military.

“The criminal (US) move to sign an agreement to present a supportive military package to the Zionist regime is a desperate attempt to protect the security vacuum of the regime and makes us more determined to increase our military power,” General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri is quoted by Fars news saying.

He says Iran will continue to develop new “defense systems,” including ballistic missiles that have been the subject of international condemnation.

10 drown after migrant boat capsizes off Egypt

At least 10 people drowned when a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Egyptian coast on Wednesday, with rescue teams saving at least 150 passengers, officials said.

Search teams were looking for more survivors from the incident which took place off the Mediterranean port city of Rosetta, two police officials said.

“There are 10 dead and three injured,” health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed told AFP.

— AFP

Three Jews suspected of attacking East Jerusalem Arab

Three Jewish residents of Jerusalem are under arrest on suspicion of attacking an Arab man from East Jerusalem.

Police say they received a complaint from a resident of Jebal Mukabber that he was assaulted by a young Israeli man. He didn’t need medical attention, and the suspects fled the scene.

Police say the circumstance of the incident were under investigation.

UN Security Council convenes on Syria

The UN Security Council begins a crisis meeting on Syria in New York City as a temporary truce collapses and international tensions rise.

A day after the US, Russia and other powers sought to keep the week-old cease-fire alive, the same set of characters debated the conflict in open setting.

Moscow backs Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government; Washington supports what it deems “moderate” rebels. Both say they’re committed to fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

A relief organization reported five medical staff killed in an airstrike in northern Syria Wednesday.

It was the latest attack on humanitarian workers.

A strike on a Syrian Red Crescent aid convoy earlier this week promoted international condemnation. The UN called it a deliberate attack. US officials say they believe Russia carried out the strike. Russia denies responsibility.

— AP contributed to this report.

Jerusalem deputy mayor: Building debate postponed ‘for political reasons’

After Jerusalem City Hall said its building and planning committee meetings were postponed due to “technical reasons,” deputy mayor and building and planning committee chair Meir Turgeman tells Israel Radio that he decided to put off the debate about construction over the Green Line “for political reasons.”

Turgeman says he postponed it so that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “won’t fail in his mission to the United States,” the radio station reports. Netanyahu is set to meet with US President Barack Obama today.

Russia to send aircraft carrier to Syria

Russia says it’s sending its flagship aircraft carrier to the Syrian coast.

— AFP

Canadian schools, universities evacuated over threat

Some 60 schools and universities in eastern Canada were evacuated Wednesday over an unspecified possible threat, police said.

Students at all primary and secondary schools across Prince Edward Island were taken to safe locations, federal police said, while Nova Scotia police received an anonymous bomb threat against three university campuses in the province.

— AFP

Israeli ambassador denounces UN’s ‘obsession’ with Israel

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon swipes back at Israel’s critics at the UN, singling out US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in particular, saying the international body’s “obsession” with the state of Israel is the problem, not settlements.

“You can’t blame everything on Israel,” he tells Channel 2.

Letters addressed to God delivered to Western Wall

Hundreds of letters addressed to “God,” Our Heavenly Father” and other monikers, as well as to the Kotel, were delivered to the Western Wall.

Israel Post Director General Danny Goldstein handed the letters over to the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Shmuel Rabinowitz, on Monday. Rabinowitz will place them in the cracks of the stones of the Western Wall, according to an Israel Post spokesman.

The letters, which usually arrive without a return address, are sent to the Israel Post Lost and Found Department. They are delivered before the Jewish High Holidays.

Written in many languages, the letters have come from countries around the world, including Russia, China, France, Nigeria, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

— JTA

France urges UNSC to punish use of chemical arms in Syria

France urges the UN Security Council on Wednesday to impose sanctions on those such as Bashar Assad’s regime, which has carried out chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

“No crime should be allowed to pass in silence, even in exchange for honoring a truce. There can be no peace if there is impunity,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says.

— AFP

FBI releases image of New York bomb suspects

The FBI has released an image of two men who took a suitcase holding a bomb that didn’t explode in New York City.

Federal prosecutors have charged Ahmad Khan Rahami with setting a bomb in New Jersey and two in New York City. One of the bombs left in Manhattan didn’t explode.

The FBI issued a poster Wednesday showing “two unidentified individuals” who investigators want to talk to. The agency says the men were seen Saturday night removing the bomb from a piece of luggage, then leaving the device behind while taking the suitcase.

Investigators have said the two men are being sought as witnesses, not suspects.

The FBI released an image of the two men that it says was captured on closed circuit television recordings between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on West 27th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.

— AP

Netanyahu, Obama set to meet in NYC

Netanyahu and Obama are set to meet in New York City in the coming hour at the Palace Hotel.

Netanyahu is expected to thank Obama for the military aid package agreed upon earlier this month.

Netanyahu, Obama start meeting

The much-awaited final meeting between Netanyahu and Obama has started.

Netanyahu thanks Obama for the US military aid to Israel. He says Israel will never give up on trying to reach peace, and that Obama will always be a welcome guest in Israel. Netanyahu says that Obama’s voice for the Jewish people will be heard for many years to come.

Israel-US bond unbreakable, Obama says

Obama in turn says that they’ll arrange a time to get together, and that his thoughts are with former president Shimon Peres.

He says the bond between Israel and the US is unbreakable and based on common values.

Obama: Keep alive possibility of stable Israel alongside Palestinian state

In times of uncertainty, the US wants Israel to be secure, Obama says. The president says he wants to keep alive the possibility of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Obama says concerned about settlement activity

Obama says he hopes to hear about the situation in the West Bank and the latest Palestinian violence from Netanyahu when they speak. He reiterates his concern over settlement activity.

Obama, Netanyahu omit major item in meeting

The Times of Israel’s diplomatic reporter in New York notes a major item that wasn’t mentioned in the final Netanyahu-Obama meeting while the two are in office:

Obama promises to visit Israel as a private citizen, too

Now that the cameras are out, Obama and Netanyahu and their teams have moved onto to the private, substantial part of their meeting.

By necessity, it will be brief. The president has several other meetings lined up.

The public part was clearly intended, by both leaders, to underline the warmth and solidity of the Israeli-American relationship, and to show warmth in the personal ties, too — despite the years of sometimes open friction.

Netanyahu took pains to stress Obama’s personal role in ensuring Israel’s well-being, thanking him on behalf of the people of Israel. Without wishing to disguise that there had been disagreements, Obama praised Netanyahu for always being straight with the administration.

Responding to Netanyahu’s invitation that he visit Israel after his presidency, too, and perhaps play golf at the course near the prime minister’s home in Caesarea, Obama said he would indeed be a frequent visitor, and that if he brings his wife and children, they would enjoy the fact that he wouldn’t have to sit in on bilateral negotiations.

Possible salmonella contamination in Sabra hummus

Osem, manufacturer of Sabra hummus, says it found a possible salmonella contamination in its production line last week.

None of the potentially contaminated packages were distributed to consumers, Channel 2 reports.

The company says it notified the Health Ministry immediately.

Two women dead in head-on collision

Two 20-year-old women are dead after a head-on collision between two vehicles near the southern city of Ashkelon. Another woman was lightly injured.

Arab states said to spike move against Israel at IAEA

Arab member states won’t pressure Israel at the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, by submitting an Israel resolution at this year’s annual conference, an Arab diplomat tells Reuters.

Obama and Netanyahu said to clash over settlements in private meet

US officials say despite smiles at a press availability, Obama and Netanyahu did not “paper over” their differences during the part of their meeting behind closed doors.

In private, Obama was pointed, senior Obama administration officials say, raising “profound US concerns” that settlement-building is eroding prospects for peace.

Netanyahu challenged that notion, says one official.

The meeting lasted a little over half an hour.

— AP

 

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