The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s news as it unfolded.
Culture minister snubbed by Israeli Oscars
The Israeli Academy of Film and Television says it will not invite Culture Minister Miri Regev to the annual Ophir Awards ceremony, Israel’s version of the Oscars, next week.
The organizers say she will be snubbed because during last year’s ceremony, she walked out when a poem by late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish was read, because his poems preached objections to the existence of a Jewish state.
Regev has drawn the ire of local artists due to her aggressive condemnations and attempts to defund institutions that criticize Israeli policies or cast its actions in a negative light.
Most recently, she has gone to war against the Israeli film “Foxtrot,” which contains depictions of IDF soldiers mistreating Palestinians, coming out against it even in the hours after it won the judges’ award at the Venice Film Festival last week.
“Foxtrot” is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Lior Ashkenazi) and Best Supporting Actress (Shira Haas) at the Ophirs.
Rescuers arrive to extract 2 Israelis stuck on a mountain in Greece
A search and rescue team has located two Israeli tourists who are stuck on a mountain in Greece, but isn’t immediately able to extract them due to the bad weather conditions.
The two have been stranded on the mountain since yesterday without food and equipment.
Turkey signs deal to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems
Turkey has signed a deal with Russia to buy S-400 missile defense systems in its first major weapons purchase from Moscow, Turkish newspapers quote President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying.
The accord for the surface-to-air missile defense batteries is also Ankara’s most significant deal with a non-NATO supplier.
“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia. A deposit has also been paid as far as I know,” Erdogan says in comments published in the Hurriyet daily and other newspapers.
“(Russian President Vladimir Putin) and myself are determined on this issue,” he tells journalists.
The purchase of the missile systems from a non-NATO supplier will raise concerns in the West over their technical compatibility with the alliance’s equipment.
The Pentagon has already sounded the alarm, saying bluntly that “generally it’s a good idea” for NATO allies to buy inter-operable equipment.
Erdogan says Turkey is free to make military acquisitions based on its defense needs.
“Nobody has the right to discuss the Turkish republic’s independence principles or independent decisions about its defense industry,” he says in the comments published today.
Film academy chair explains decision to blackball Regev
The chairman of the Israeli film academy, Mosh Danon, says that the decision to refrain from inviting Culture Minister Miri Regev to the annual Ophir Awards ceremony doesn’t indicate an unwillingness to engage in debate, but is rather about “respect” and about celebrating the industry.
He says the ceremony, the local version of the Oscars, is on the “one day of the year when the theater community shows appreciation and respect to the artist and their creations, and commemorates those among its members who have passed on.”
According to Danon, the ceremony is also an important means of connection between filmmakers and the public.
“Regrettably, with time the ceremony has changed its character and gradually become an inappropriate wrestling ring that cheapens the event and, even worse, cheapens the artists and the work that it is meant to show appreciation and respect to.”
He says that trend was on full display during last year’s ceremony, an allusion to Regev’s walkout over the recitation of a Palestinian poem. Still, Danon adds, the decision to exclude her from Saturday night’s event is not meant as a personal slight.
“It should be emphasized that this decision is in no way indicative of a desire to disrespect the culture minister or any other politician, and should not be construed as an attempt to avoid continued debate about our various profound differences on any other day of the year,” he says.
Search on after border guard loses assault rifle in West Bank
Police launch a search for a border guard’s M-16 assault rifle after he lost it near the West Bank city of Qalandiya.
Israel Radio reports that the Border Police officer had rested the gun on the hood of his car, but it fell off and was apparently picked up by a Palestinian.
A police spokesperson confirms that a Border Police officer lost his rifle and that the incident is being investigated.
— Judah Ari Gross
3-year-old hit by minibus in Jerusalem declared dead
A 3-year-old boy who was rushed to a hospital after being hit by a minibus in Jerusalem has been declared dead, Shaare Zedek Medical Center says.
The hospital says the boy was already dead when he was brought to the hospital, though paramedics were still attempting to resuscitate him.
Chinese banks halt transactions for North Koreans
Branches of China’s biggest banks have suspended financial transactions for North Koreans, employees tell AFP, suggesting that Beijing has pursued stronger measures against its nuclear-armed ally than previously thought.
Staff at branches in Beijing and the border city of Yanji — a major trade and transportation hub between the two neighbors — say their banks have banned North Koreans from opening new accounts and some have even started to close existing ones.
The restrictions were imposed well before the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved, with China’s blessing, new sanctions on Pyongyang on Monday following its latest and largest nuclear test.
Employees at several branches of the country’s “big four” — Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China and China Construction Bank — confirm the financial curbs for North Korean clients.
“We have frozen their accounts, which means they cannot withdraw (money),” a staff member at a Yanji branch of China Construction Bank tells AFP.
“They cannot use (their accounts) in Yanji anymore, as well as our services… We have already started to inform them to cancel their account. If they can cancel, we let them cancel. If they cannot, we will not let them use it,” the staffer says.
Hope Hicks to become Trump’s communications director — report
Hope Hicks will be appointed White House communications director, the third person to hold the position over the nine months of Donald Trump’s presidency, NBC News reports.
The longtime Trump aide was appointed interim communications director last month after Anthony Scaramucci was fired.
Hicks has been named as a person of interest in the probe of suspected collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
She is considered close to Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
Regev blasts ‘cowardly’ decision to keep her away from Ophir Awards
Culture Minister Miri Regev says the Israeli film academy is being “cowardly” in deciding to not invite her to this year’s Ophir Awards ceremony.
She says it is a “cowardly and undemocratic decision by a body that disregards the positions of the public and its representatives.
“The only purpose of the decision was to prevent the public from hearing my just position — that films that spread evil and lying defamation of IDF soldiers should’t be funded by the state budget,” she says.
Russian, US-led strikes said to kill 28 civilians in Syria
Separate Russian and US-led coalition air strikes today killed 28 civilians in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province, where rival offensives against the Islamic State group are under way, a monitor says.
The province lies along Syria’s border with Iraq and is seen as a strategic prize by both Russian-backed Syrian troops and an alliance of Arab and Kurdish forces supported by the US-led air coalition.
Deadly coalition raids strike the village of Al-Shahabat, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Coalition air strikes killed 12 members of a single family, among them five children, in a village on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River,” says Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
Liberman warns Hezbollah next war will end in ‘decisive’ Israeli victory
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman issues a stern warning to Hezbollah that a future conflict will “end in a decisive victory for the IDF and the State of Israel,” during a visit to a large, ongoing IDF exercise simulating a war with the Lebanese terrorist group.
Visiting the IDF’s “Or Hadagan” exercise, Liberman says he is “impressed by the preparedness, determination and professionalism of the different forces and among the commanders.”
The defense minister also says the drill — the military’s largest in nearly 20 years — “is a reminder to anyone who is plotting to harm the security of Israel’s citizens.”
While Liberman does not address Hezbollah by name, the 10-day exercise is specifically simulating a war with the terrorist group and the subject of his warning is clear.
The defense minister is accompanied on his visit by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick and Director-General of the Defense Ministry Udi Adam, who also served as head of the Northern Command for most of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
— Judah Ari Gross
2 suspects in submarine affair released to house arrest
Police say David Sharan and Tzachi Lieber, two of the suspects in Case 3000, the investigation into suspected corruption in the purchase of naval vessels from Germany, have been released to house arrest.
Sharan, a former bureau chief to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, is reportedly suspected of taking bribes in exchange for promoting the purchase of submarines and other vessels in deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lieber, a political adviser, is suspected of conveying bribes from state witness Miki Ganor — who represented the German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp.
North Korea says it’ll make US suffer over ‘vicious’ UN sanctions
UNITED NATIONS, United States — North Korea condemns “vicious” new UN sanctions imposed over its sixth and largest nuclear test, warning it will make the US “suffer the greatest pain” it has ever experienced.
The new sanctions imposed unanimously by the UN Security Council Monday ban North Korean textile exports and restrict shipments of oil products.
The resolution, passed after Washington toned down its original proposals to secure backing from China and Russia, came just one month after the council banned exports of coal, lead and seafood in response to the North’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea categorically rejects the new measures, with UN ambassador Han Tae-Song saying in Geneva that the US “fabricated the most vicious sanction resolution” and warning of retaliation.
“The forthcoming measures by DPRK (North Korea) will make the US suffer the greatest pain it has ever experienced in its history,” he tells a disarmament conference in the Swiss city.
US ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday at the UN the tough new measures were a message to Pyongyang that “the world will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.” But she also held out the prospect of a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
“We are not looking for war. The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return,” Haley told the Security Council, adding: “If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure. The choice is theirs.”
Iraq’s parliament rejects Kurdish independence vote
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s parliament votes to reject a controversial referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurds set for later this month, saying it is “unconstitutional” and a “threat” to the country’s unity.
Iraq’s Kurds plan to hold the referendum on September 25 in three governorates that make up their self-ruled region as well as disputed areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
The parliament decision states that the referendum is a “threat to Iraq’s integrity which is guaranteed by the constitution…. in addition to the civil peace and the regional security,” according to the assembly’s website.
The ruling considers the polls “unconstitutional.” It also requires that the central government “shoulder its responsibly to protect the unity of Iraq and to take all necessary measures to preserve that unity.”
All Kurdish lawmakers boycotted today’s session, while Arab lawmakers voted in favor, said lawmaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who attended the session. A breakdown for the vote is not immediately available.
Factory worker critically injured
A worker is critically injured at a factory in the northern Upper Galilee region, according to medics.
The man, said to be 40, is undergoing CPR, and a helicopter is evacuating him to a hospital.
There is no initial word on the cause of his injuries or the name of the factory.
High Court strikes down law postponing ultra-Orthodox draft
The High Court of Justice strikes down as unconstitutional a 2015 amendment to Israel’s Equal Service Law that postponed efforts to increase IDF induction rates among the ultra-Orthodox.
The amendment had brought to a halt previous legislative efforts to level criminal sanctions against yeshiva students who evade the draft.
The original Equal Service Law was passed during the previous government under pressure from the Yesh Atid party, which had made expanding the ultra-Orthodox draft one of its signature policies.
It was overturned through an amendment after the 2015 elections when the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism returned to the coalition, replacing Yesh Atid.
The High Court sets a one-year deadline, until September 12, 2018, for the Knesset and government to establish an alternative to the current framework.
Ultra-Orthodox MK says judges in an ‘all-out war on Judaism’
MK Yisrael Eichler of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party says the High Court’s decision to rule out the continued postponement of a ramped-up draft of Haredi men is eroding the court’s legitimacy.
“The High Court continues to wrap the rope around its oxygen sources and public legitimacy,” he says in a statement.
The judges “proved today that the sole motivation behind its decisions is a dictatorial hunger for power, to oppose the laws of the elected Knesset.
“High Court of Justice judges will bear personal responsibility for the all-out war on Judaism,” he says.
Haredi MK: High Court trying to bring ‘apocalypse’ with ruling on draft
Deputy Minister Meir Porush of the UTJ party says today’s High Court decision on the draft is part of an imbalance that turns the entire legislative process into a “dead letter.”
“The High Court of Justice’s judicial activism,” whereby judges overturn Knesset laws “completely empties Knesset legislation of importance, turning it into a dead letter. Today’s decision just drives another stake into the coffin. The High Court of Justice is eager for the apocalypse.”
Cruz says aide inadvertently caused his porn Twitter post
WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz says an aide was responsible for the “like” that caused a pornographic post to briefly appear on Cruz’s Twitter feed overnight.
The Texas Republican and 2016 presidential candidate says that several aides have access to the account and that one inadvertently posted the pornography.
Cruz tells reporters that “it was a staffing issue and it was inadvertent. It was a mistake. It was not a deliberate action.”
“Liking” — which only people with access to a Twitter account are able to do — causes it to appear on one’s feed.
Cruz seeks to make light of the episode, which gained widespread notice on the popular social media site.
“This is not how I envisioned waking up this morning,” Cruz says. “Although I will say that if I had known that this would trend so quickly, perhaps we should have posted something like this back during the Indiana primary.”
Cruz does not say whether he’ll fire the staff aide or deny the aide access to his social media accounts, though he notes that the aide did not act maliciously.
Cruz is seeking reelection to a second term in next year’s elections.
Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer says it’s the ‘#1 Yair Netanyahu fansite’
The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, which on Saturday welcomed Yair Netanyahu as one of their own for posting a meme that employed anti-Semitic imagery, now features the prime minister’s son in a large banner that runs across the top of its homepage.
The banner proclaims that the Daily Stormer is “The World’s #1 Yair Netanyahu fansite.”
So then this happened: The new banner on the Daily Stormer.
(I'm not including a link to the odious website, but I assure you, it's real) pic.twitter.com/THUBWcEzls
— Judah Ari Gross (@JudahAriGross) September 12, 2017
The younger Netanyahu drew widespread criticism for the cartoon — which had sought to lampoon his father’s political enemies and featured references to Jewish billionaire George Soros, the Illuminati and a reptilian creature — and removed it from his Facebook page two days after posting it.
Netanyahu: Either change Iran deal or cancel it
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Israel wants the Iranian nuclear deal to be amended or canceled altogether, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.
Delivering statements to the press next to Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Netanyahu rejected recent reports claiming that Israel and Saudi Arabia are no longer interested in scrapping the landmark deal, which was reached between Iran and six world powers in 2015.
“There have been stories about Israel’s purported position on the nuclear deal with Iran. Let me take this opportunity to clarify. I’ll be straightforward: This is a bad deal. Either fix it, or cancel it. This is Israel’s position.”
His statement is significant because the Iran deal is up for review in October in the United States, where President Trump has hinted at the possibility that his country could pull out of it.
Netanyahu also condemns Iran’s involvement in global terrorism, saying that the regime and its proxies continue to operate even in Latin America.
Addressing reporters at the Casa Rosada presidential compound, Netanyahu says there is no doubt that Iran was behind the two major terror attacks that struck Jewish and Israeli sites in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s. He thanks Macri for his commitment to find out the truth about the attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Iran’s terror has not stopped since then. They have a terror machine that encompasses the entire world, operating terror cells in many continents, including in Latin America,” Netanyahu says, speaking in English.
“In the case of Iran, it’s not only merely terror but the quest for nuclear weapons that concerns us and should concern the entire international community. We understand the danger of a rogue nation having atomic bombs.”
— Raphael Ahren
Interior minister blasts court decision on ultra-Orthodox draft
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri also weighs in on the High Court striking down a bill that postponed the forced induction of ultra-Orthodox.
The decision, he says in a statement, “proves yet again the grave disconnect between the High Court of Justice and the Jewish people, which knows that Torah study was the only thing that kept us going in the face of persecution and decrees.”
Argentine president praises Israeli tech
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine President Macri, standing alongside Netanyahu, vows to intensify bilateral ties and praises Israel’s achievements technology.
“Your experience clearly is a major benchmark for us that reflects the high potential from learning from the huge progress you have made in recent years,” Macri says in Spanish.
At the event, Israel’s ambassador in Buenos Aires, Ilan Sztulman, signs a series of bilateral agreements with Argentinian officials. Netanyahu and Macri sign a document regarding Holocaust research.
Macri gives Netanyahu a box containing five terabytes of of more than 100,000 digital images including material relating to the period before during, and after the Holocaust.
Earlier today, Netanyahu laid a wreath at the San Martin Palace to honor Argentina’s national hero, General José de San Martín.
Arab feud over Qatar boils over at Cairo meeting
CAIRO — A Qatari diplomat says “dogs” backed by “some regimes” are waging a media campaign against his country, a thinly veiled jab at Gulf countries that drew a sharp rebuke at an Arab League meeting.
Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, delivers the remarks at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo today, angering Saudi and Egyptian representatives.
After his speech, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry rejects what he says are “baseless insults.”
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar in June over its close ties to Iran and its alleged support for extremists. Qatar has denied supporting extremism, saying the crisis is politically motivated.
Hezbollah chief says Syrian regime has won the war
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says the Syrian government has won the war against an insurgency it has been battling for over six years, according to the Al-Akbar news agency.
Speaking at a religious event, Nasrallah says that opponents of Assad have failed and now “the path of the other project has failed and wants to negotiate for some gains,” according to an English translation of his comments carried by the Middle East Eye website.
Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has been fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad with support from Iran and Russia.
“We have won in the war [in Syria],” Nasrallah said. “What remains are scattered battles.”
Neo-Nazis plan to march near Swedish synagogue on Yom Kippur
Jews in the Swedish city of Gothenburg are bracing for a neo-Nazi march scheduled to pass near the city’s main synagogue on Yom Kippur.
Community leaders say they will appeal a police decision last week that would allow the Nordic Resistance Movement to march during the Gothenburg Book Fair, when some 100,000 people will gather in the city for the largest literary festival in Scandinavia.
The police had denied the far-right group’s initial request to march on the main streets of Gothenburg, which is the second-largest city in Sweden and located on the country’s west coast. The alternate route offered by police would take the marchers only about 200 yards from the Gothenburg Synagogue on Judaism’s holiest day, which this year falls on September 30.
Members of the Jewish community, which typically is under tight security, are worried about harassment and physical threats from the marchers, says Allan Stutzinsky, chairman of the Gothenburg Jewish community. People affiliated with the Nordic Resistance Movement were responsible for anti-Semitic threats that led to the shuttering in April of the Jewish community center in Umea, a city in northeastern Sweden, according to Stutzinsky. A community center is part of the synagogue complex in Gothenburg.
”The threat against us is always large, and it becomes even larger when they are marching,” Stutzinsky tells JTA, adding that left-wing counter-protesters may also be a threat to Jews.
Swedish Jews face anti-Semitism both from the nationalist far right as well as the far left, whose strong criticism of Israel sometimes veers into anti-Semitism.
Stutzinsky notes that Holocaust survivors and their descendants are members of the Gothenburg Jewish community.
“Almost all of our members have some sort of connection to the Holocaust,” he says. “It is obvious that it is upsetting for them to see, and maybe hear, Nazis protest close to the synagogue, when everyone is there at the Yom Kippur service.”
The community is not opposed to the group’s right to march, he said, but to the event’s location and timing.
Lapid welcomes court decision on ultra-Orthodox draft
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid praises the High Court decision to strike down Knesset legislation meant to delay efforts to increase the ultra-Orthodox IDF draft, calling on coalition politicians to now “fulfill [their] obligation to the public.”
“Values won today. The spirit of the army won today. Our soldiers won today,” he says at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “We have started to change the game. This is why we got into politics.”
The 2015 amendment to the Equal Service Law — struck down today — had canceled a 2014 law pushed by Yesh Atid that had sought to raise the number of ultra-Orthodox men in military service.
Today’s ruling sets a one-year deadline to implement a different framework for handling the ultra-Orthodox draft.
Lapid calls on the prime minister to ensure that the new law “serves everyone and not just those with influence over the coalition,” referring but not naming the ultra-Orthodox parties that demanded the 2015 amendment to the 2014 law.
“Benjamin Netanyahu can no longer continue to ignore the needs of this country,” Lapid says.
The Yesh Atid chairman also calls on the Yisrael Beytenu party chairman, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, to publicly support a new law obligating conscription for everyone.
“You need to say today that everyone is going into the army. If not there will be no government,” he says of Liberman, suggesting that if he fails to do so, Lapid will not agree to any future coalition with Yisrael Beytenu.
— Raoul Wootliff
Russia touts Syrian gains 2 years after intervention
ALEPPO, Syria — Russia’s military says that Syrian troops have retaken about 85 percent of the territory once controlled by militants, a major turnaround two years after Moscow intervened to lend a hand to its embattled ally.
Russia has been providing air cover for President Bashar Assad’s troops since 2015, changing the tide of the war and giving Syrian and allied troops an advantage over opposition fighters and Islamic State militants.
Lt. Gen. Alexander Lapin announces the gains at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria, saying militants still control some 27,000 square kilometers (10,425 square miles).
Reporters are later flown to Aleppo city, which opposition fighters lost to the Syrian government in late 2016, and where Russian military police patrol some areas.
Syrian troops, with Russian air support and accompanied by Iran-backed fighters, have in recent weeks pushed IS militants out of central Homs province, near the border with Lebanon, and are now fighting them in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor province in the east. A week ago, Syrian troops broke a nearly three-year-old IS siege on government-held parts of the provincial capital.
But activists say civilians are bearing the brunt of the offensive. An overnight airstrike hit Syrians who were recently displaced from Deir el-Zour, killing at least eight civilians.
Two more advanced F-35s to be delivered to Israel
Two additional F-35 stealth fighter jets lift off from the US on Wednesday morning on their way to Israel, the sixth and seventh planes delivered out of 50 Israel has purchased from the United States to upgrade the capabilities of its air force.
The planes, called “Adir” in Hebrew, are expected to land in Israel on Thursday.