The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s news as it unfolded.
Lithuania calls for stronger Israel-EU cooperation on Iran
Lithuania’s foreign minister on Monday called for stronger cooperation between Jerusalem and the European Union on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, saying his visit to Israel this week has opened his eyes about problematic aspects of the nuclear agreement the international community reached with Tehran in 2015.
“I told [my Israeli interlocutors] that many think the Iranian deal is a way to mitigate the problem [of Iran’s nuclear ambitions] through engagement, but here I heard a lot of criticism of the Iranian deal. We need to put all the arguments on the table and to look at them very carefully. Otherwise it will be very difficult to find a common approach,” Linas Linkevičius tells The Times of Israel.
“For me it was a bit new to hear about holes in the agreement, doubts about the implementation, doubts about [Iran] continuing the nuclear program regardless of what was agreed,” he says.
Linkevičius, who has been Lithuania’s foreign minister since 2012, met this week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and other senior officials and security analysts.
— Raphael Ahren
PA security forces member arrested for incitement, praised Hitler on Facebook
A member of the Palestinian security services is in Shin Bet custody on suspicion that he incited violence, the Shin Bet says in a statement.
The man, Muhammad al-Sawiti, was arrested in August after posting on Facebook “extremist content that constitutes a direct call for violent action against Jews, as well as praise and support for the actions of [Palestinian] attackers,” the Shin Bet says in a statement.
He also posted pictures of Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann and expressed admiration for “people like them,” the Shin Bet says.
It says Sawiti is a “senior worker” in the office of the head of Palestinian Preventive Security in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. One of the functions of the PPS is to foil attacks against Israel.
He was charged with incitement on Monday at the Judea military court.
State rejects demand for public transportation on Shabbat
Responding to a petition demanding public transportation on Shabbat, the state says it isn’t required to provide it as a service because there is no “vital need” for it.
“The attempt by the petitioners to establish a claim whereby public transportation is a vital need does not succeed,” the state says.
The petitioners, included a number of liberal groups and Knesset member Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party, argue that standards of “equality, dignity, freedom of movement and freedom from religion” should require the state to provide transportation on the Jewish day of rest.
AG rejects demand to reveal details of submarine probe, grill PM
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rejects a petition demanding his office reveal details about an investigation into suspected corruption in the purchase of naval vessels from Germany, saying that to do so would jeopardize a probe that has already implicated a string of current and former senior officials and military figures.
“Law enforcement authorities cannot reveal at any given moment the findings that they have collected and the steps they plan to take,” his office says in response to the High Court of Justice petition. It says that to reveal such details would impede law enforcement’s “ability to do their jobs” and that they do not fall under the public’s right to know.
The petition also sought to force Mandelblit to interrogate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a suspect in the affair, despite the fact that the attorney general has said he isn’t a suspect.
Several of Netanyahu’s associates, including his personal lawyer, have been implicated.
Mandelblit has been the target of a sustained campaign by activists who claim that he is protecting Netanyahu — the man who appointed him — and dragging his feet in several active investigations involving the prime minister.
The activists have been staging regular protests near the home of the attorney general in Petah Tikva, outside Tel Aviv, demanding that he indict the prime minister in the two investigations against him and name him as a suspect in the probe of suspected corruption in the purchase of naval vessels, including submarines, from Germany.
Trump: Japan, S. Korea can buy more sophisticated US military hardware
Amid rising tensions with North Korea, US President Donald Trump says that he will allow Japan and South Korea to buy more “highly sophisticated” US military equipment.
“I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Trump says in a tweet.
Trump’s statement comes after North Korea on Sunday detonated what it described as a hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile.
Former Netanyahu adviser testifies in submarine affair
A former adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Shalom Shlomo, is giving testimony to police in connection with the so-called submarine affair, officials say.
Shlomo was an adviser to Netanyahu between 2006 and 2009, before Netanyahu started his second stint as prime minister. He has also worked for Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett.
Shlomo, like Netanyahu, is not currently a suspect in the affair, known as Case 3000, that authorities suspect involved bribery and other corruption surrounding the purchase of submarines and other naval vessels from Germany.
Netanyahu has eye examined
Netanyahu undergoes an eye exam at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after feeling a “burning sensation,” according to statements from the hospital and his office.
By the time Netanyahu arrives at the hospital for the exam, the burning sensation has already passed, and the exam finds nothing wrong with his eye.
Syria’s Assad congratulates army on breaking IS Deir Ezzor siege
Syrian President Bashar Assad congratulates government troops who broke a years-long Islamic State group siege on the government enclave of Deir Ezzor city, his office says.
“Today you stood side-by-side with your comrades who came to your rescue and fought the hardest battles to break the siege on the city,” Assad says in a call with the commanders of troops who had been besieged in a base in Deir Ezzor.
Syrian forces and allied fighters arrived earlier Tuesday at the Brigade 137 base on the western edge of Deir Ezzor, effectively ending a siege of more than two years on part of the city.
Hamas tells Red Cross it’ll help uphold ‘international humanitarian law’
In talks earlier today in Gaza with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Hamas’s political leader in the coastal enclave, Yahya Sinwar, said “all institutions will be open before the Red Cross to ensure the standards of international humanitarian law are being applied,” a statement posted to Hamas’s website says.
The ICRC president, Peter Peter Maurer, had asked Sinwar to let him meet with Israeli civilians believed to be held by the Palestinian terror group, the Ma’an news agency reported, citing Palestinian sources. The two men talked for an hour together with senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad.
Hamas is thought to be detaining three Israelis — Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, all of whom entered the enclave of their own accord over the past several years — in addition to the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers killed during the 2014 summer war between Israel and the terror group.
Hamas hasn’t admitted to holding the Israelis, so it is unlikely Sinwar meant he would let the Red Cross visit them.
— Dov Lieber and Stuart Winer
11 million eggs may be tainted with salmonella
The health and agriculture ministries call on the public not to buy or use eggs sold by “Yesh Maof” that bear a sell by date of up to and including October 20, following the discovery of salmonella in a part of the company’s laying sheds at Moshav Goren in the Galilee.
Some 11 million suspect eggs have already reached the market.
Eggs already at home should be thrown into the trash and not returned to the retailer, the Health Ministry says.
The presence of the salmonella was detected during a routine inspection of sheds at Moshav Goren carried out by Agriculture Ministry inspectors.
One shed was definitely infected by salmonella. Another was clean, and a further two were still being inspected.
According to the Health Ministry, inspectors have already checked 60 percent of laying sheds in the country as part of an ongoing program to control salmonella, but have found the bacteria in less than 3% of them.
— Sue Surkes
Putin: Trump ‘not my bride, and I’m not his groom’
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin refrains from criticizing US President Donald Trump at a news conference in China, but says a decision to shutter Russian diplomatic outposts in the US was poorly handled.
Putin dismisses as “naive” a question about whether he is disappointed in Trump.
In comments carried by Russian news agencies, Putin says Trump is “not my bride, and I’m not his groom.”
Asked how Russia would feel if Trump were impeached, Putin says it would be “absolutely wrong” for Russia to discuss domestic US politics.
Defense Ministry reveals futuristic military tech
The Defense Ministry’s Weapons Development Administration unveils nine pieces of technology, including two unmanned submarines and a hybrid gas-electric tank, that are due to enter service in the IDF in the coming years.
Some of the technologies are already in advanced stages of development and have been presented to the military for consideration, while others are still in the planning phase and will need years before they will be combat-ready. None of the technologies presented by the ministry have yet been declared operational by the IDF.
They were developed in collaboration with foreign and domestic companies, and in one case with a public university.
One of the more significant pieces of technology presented today is the Carmel armored vehicle, which is set to eventually replace the army’s current Merkava tank, in use for some 40 years.
— Judah Ari Gross
Rivlin set to depart for Germany, where he’ll inaugurate Munich Games memorial
President Reuven Rivlin will depart this evening for Germany, at the invitation of German President Frank-Walter Stienmeier, where he will inaugurate a memorial to the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics exactly 45 years ago, Rivlin’s office says.
“Forty-five years after the massacre, international terrorism continues to threaten and strike innocent civilians. There are still those who see the massacre of the sportsmen as an heroic act,” the president says in an email statement before departing.
“The center which we will inaugurate must carry a message for the whole world: There can be no apologizing for terror,” he says.
“Terror must be condemned unequivocally, everywhere. In Barcelona, in London, in Paris, in Berlin, in Jerusalem, everywhere. We, the international community, must stand united in the struggle against terror, determined to fight and defeat it.”
Yair Lapid courting ‘reasonable’ English-speaking olim, he tells TOI
Ahead of an English “town hall” event in Jerusalem tomorrow night, MK Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, talks up his recent push to court Anglo voters.
Though elections are not officially scheduled to take place before November 2019, they’re perpetually anticipated to be bumped up, and Lapid is hoping to influence the “reasonable” English-speakers, most of whom hail from “well-established democracies,” he tells The Times of Israel in an interview.
“For those people, the left is not national enough, meaning not Jewish enough. And the right is dangerously filled with contempt to[ward] the basic establishments of democracy,” he says. “And we are a national liberal party, meaning we understand Israel as first and foremost a Jewish state and it doesn’t contradict, to us, democratic values.”
Moreover, Lapid adds, immigrants “tend to take the country more personally. Because it’s not the place they were born, it’s the choice they made.”
The full interview with Lapid will be published on The Times of Israel later Tuesday.
— Marissa Newman
Israel Hayom pulls archive after revelations on calls between PM, editor
The Israel Hayom daily removes its public archive of past editions from its website, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to release the dates of his phone conversations with owner Sheldon Adelson and former editor-in-chief Amos Regev.
Only editions published in 2017 are now available.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court accepted an appeal by Channel 10 investigative journalist Raviv Drucker and ordered Netanyahu to release the information on the phone calls, citing public interest.
The full log, released on Sunday, reveals that Netanyahu held a total of 120 phone conversations with Adelson between 2012-2015 and 223 with Regev during during the same time period.
In many of the cases, late-night phone calls were followed by Israel Hayom front pages praising the prime minister, attacking his detractors or even quoting unnamed sources providing dubious revelations about dramatic political developments.
The online archive has allowed journalists to check the dates of the phone calls against the next day’s Israel Hayom edition.
A spokesperson for the newspaper said that the archive was being moved to a new digital system and its removal “had nothing to do” with the publication of the prime minister’s phone log.
— Raoul Wootliff
US confirms young immigrants program will be phased out
The Trump administration announces that it will wind down a program protecting young immigrants from deportation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls the program, known as DACA, an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
He says the Trump administration is urging Congress to find an alternate way to protect young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.
Sessions says the US needs to have a lawful immigration policy that “serves the national interest” and the US cannot admit everyone who wants to come to the country.
American UN ambassador blasts ‘very flawed’ Iran nuclear deal
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, goes on the offensive against the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, calling it “very flawed and very limited.”
In an address to the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Haley — amid Republican efforts to back out of the deal and ahead of an assessment of Iran’s compliance by US President Donald Trump — says that Tehran’s dovetailing with the deal’s requirements on “uranium enrichment and centrifuges” is distracting from the ways in which it is still thumbing its nose at the international community, including pursuing future nuclear capabilities.
“The deal drew an artificial line between the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and the rest of its lawless behavior,” she says, also noting the continued arming of the Hezbollah militia and Hezbollah’s previous attacks against American and Israeli targets.
She faults the deal, and the previous US administration, for enabling the continued development by Iran of long-range missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads.
“When the nuclear agreement was signed, the Obama Administration took Iran’s non-nuclear activity – the missile development, the arms smuggling, the terrorism, the support for murderous regimes – and rolled it up into one UN Security Council resolution – 2231,” she says, according to a transcript of her speech posted on the American Enterprise Institute’s website.
“Critically, included in this supposed ‘non-nuclear’ activity is the IRGC’s ongoing development of ballistic missile technology. You can call it ‘non-nuclear’ all you want – missile technology cannot be separated from pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” she says.
You can watch the speech and a subsequent discussion here:
France to arm military surveillance drones
PARIS — France is set to arm drones that are currently used exclusively for surveillance and intelligence, a first for the French military, the defense minister says.
Florence Parly says the decision will initially apply only to the six unarmed Reaper surveillance drones that France bought from the United States. Most of them, based in Africa’s Sahel region, are involved in the fight against Islamic extremists.
Parly does not specify a timeframe for when they will be armed or what kind of weapons would be deployed.
The drones won’t become “killer robots,” Parly says, stressing that strikes would be governed by strict national and international rules relating to the use of force.
Arming the drones will give them “endurance, discretion, surveillance and strike capability at the right place and the right moment,” she says in a speech in the southeastern city of Toulon,
The armed drones will help France’s military become “more effective” and enable it to better use its fighter jets, helicopters and other aircrafts, she adds.
Parly adds that in the longer term, France is also jointly working with Germany, Italy and Spain to develop an armed European drone.
The issue has long been sensitive in France, where some critics have expressed fears about pilots operating at a great distance from the battle ground.
A report issued by French senators earlier this year concluded that drones are now “at the heart of all operational tools” in the fight against terrorism abroad.
The report said many countries are already using armed drones, including the United States, Israel, Great-Britain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
Egypt blocks website of leading rights group
CAIRO — A leading Egyptian rights group says authorities have blocked its website in a “new attack” on free speech.
The government in May began blocking hundreds of websites, including leading news sites, as part of a wider crackdown on dissent. It has also shut down the sites of VPN blockers, which allowed users to circumvent such measures.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms says its website has been blocked since Tuesday morning, but that it will continue publishing its reports on human rights abuses on other platforms, including its Facebook page.
It says the crackdown shows that the government “refuses any criticism,” but also that “its arguments are weak.”
Egypt has jailed thousands of people and curbed basic freedoms since the military overthrow of an elected Islamist president in 2013.
Former finance minister chief of staff suspected of taking bribe – report
Miki Ganor, the state’s witness in the investigation of alleged high-level corruption surrounding the purchase of military submarines from Germany, bribed David Sharan, who was chief of staff for the finance minister at the time, Yuval Steinitz, Channel 2 news reports.
The report, citing Ganor’s testimony to police, says Ganor hired strategist Tzachi Lieber to convey the bribe — reportedly hundreds of thousands of shekels — to Sharan so that Sharan would promote the purchase of the submarines.
Lieber is also a suspect in the case, while Steinitz is reportedly to be questioned, though he has not been named a suspect.
After working for Steinitz between 2009 and 2014, Sharan went on to serve as chief of staff for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not a suspect in the case.
Detained Palestinian activist begins hunger strike
RAMALLAH, West Bank — A prominent Palestinian activist begins a hunger strike to protest his detention by the Palestinian Authority after he criticized the autonomy government of President Mahmoud Abbas.
Issa Amro was detained Monday by Palestinian security forces in Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city, after he criticized the detention of a local journalist who had called for Abbas’s resignation. Amro expressed his views in a Facebook post.
Leading human rights groups blasted Amro’s detention. London-based Amnesty International and the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights said it signals a growing crackdown on free expression in the autonomous Palestinian enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Amro is the founder of the group Youth Against Settlements in volatile Hebron, where Jewish settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves in the center of the city.
Amro is on hunger strike to protest what he says is was an unlawful detention, made without a warrant or due process, says his brother, Ahmad Amro.
“Issa started a hunger strike today protesting his arbitrary arrest,” he says. “He has been in detention for more than 24 hours without being presented before a prosecutor and without official charges.”
Netanyahu suspected of taking bribes from producer Milchan – report
The Israeli-American billionaire producer Arnon Milchan was interrogated by Israeli police last week on suspicion that he bribed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Haaretz reports.
Milchan, who gave a deposition in London, already provided testimony in the case in December 2016, answering questions regarding lavish gifts — notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne — that police suspect he gave Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
The report says police decided to interrogate him as a suspect amid suspicions that he tried to enlist Netanyahu’s assistance with his business interests in Israel and abroad.
It says he was questioned on several occasions and that his account shored up the suspicions.
According to reports earlier this year, in 2014 Netanyahu asked then-secretary of state John Kerry three times to arrange a long-term visa for Milchan to live in the United States.
UN says Syrian regime behind deadly sarin gas attack in April
UN-mandated investigators say they have solid evidence a Russian-built plane used by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force conducted a sarin-gas attack in the spring that killed at least 83 civilians and sparked a retaliatory US strike.
The latest report by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria also says US forces failed to take “all feasible precautions” to protect civilians in attacking alleged terrorists in Aleppo in March, destroying part of a mosque complex.
The report offers some of the strongest evidence yet of allegations that Assad’s forces conducted the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province.
The US quickly launched a punitive strike on Shayrat air base, where the report says the Sukhoi-22 plane took off.
The report issued today covers a span from March to early July.