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Netanyahu at Israel’s 70th anniversary celebration: Israel a rising world power

Torch lighting ceremony under way at Mount Herzl; PM and Knesset speaker deliver speeches; festive event showcases Jewish history from Mt. Sinai onward

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of Israel's 70th anniversary celebrations, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of Israel's 70th anniversary celebrations, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
  • A segment on the Holocaust during the official ceremony marking Israel's transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day in Jerusalem, April 18, 2018 (screen capture: GPO)
    A segment on the Holocaust during the official ceremony marking Israel's transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day in Jerusalem, April 18, 2018 (screen capture: GPO)
  • A scene depicting immigration and the pioneering early years of Israel, from Israel's opening 70th anniversary celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
    A scene depicting immigration and the pioneering early years of Israel, from Israel's opening 70th anniversary celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
  • Illustrative: People watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel's 70th Independence Day in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Illustrative: People watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel's 70th Independence Day in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • A scene from Israel's opening 70th anniversary celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
    A scene from Israel's opening 70th anniversary celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
  • A scene from Israel's opening 70th anniversary celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
    A scene from Israel's opening 70th anniversary celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s news in real time.

PM: In depths of grief, we’re together; we will not stop fighting terror

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserts that “in the depths of our grief, we are all together” and that it will not prevent Israel from continuing to fight terror.

Speaking at a Memorial Day service at Mount Herzl, Netanyahu refers to terror as a “global disease raging around us and in distant lands as a result of the barbaric fanaticism of radical Islam.”

However, he clarifies that there exist “signs of change,” which stem from countries recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror at Har Herzl in Jerusalem on April 18, 2018. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Egypt army says killed jihadist leader in Sinai

Egypt’s military says it has killed a jihadist leader in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Islamic State group is carrying out an insurgency.

During an operation in mountainous areas, Egyptian forces “killed Nasser Abu Zaqul, the central Sinai commander of the terrorist group, after significant exchanges of fire,” the army says in a statement.

The military says it found a rifle, two grenades and a large quantity of ammunition with the slain insurgent leader.

Egypt’s army launched a major offensive against the jihadists on February 9 in the northern Sinai Peninsula, in an attempt to neutralize a local branch of IS.

More than 100 of the rebels and at least 30 government troops have been killed since the operation, dubbed “Sinai 2018,” was launched, according to official figures.


Palestinian village vandalized, trees chopped, in week’s 3rd price tag attack

Vandals chop down over two dozen olive trees and spray-paint walls the walls of a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank with the phrase “death to Arabs” in the third apparent price tag attack in less than a week.

A Rabbis for Human Rights field worker says eight large trees were cut down along with 20 smaller saplings in Urif outside of Nablus, which is in Area B, where the Palestinian Authority shares security responsibility with Israel.

Photos show one wall spray-painted with the biblical phrase “the stranger who approaches will be put to death” — a phrase that in context refers to a commoner, a non-High Priest, who enters the holy sanctuary.

Trump confirms CIA chief met Kim Jong Un in North Korea

US President Donald Trump confirms that his new CIA director met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a secret visit to Pyongyang, ahead of a planned summit between the two leaders.

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now,” tweets Trump.

“Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!” he adds.

The tweet comes after the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Pompeo made the trip. The meeting was part of an effort to prepare for a historic meeting in the coming weeks between Trump and Kim, the paper said, quoting two people with direct knowledge of the trip.

The visit came shortly after Pompeo was nominated to be secretary of state, the paper said.

Jewish Home MK urges withholding author Grossman’s Israel Prize

Jewish Home lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich calls for David Grossman to be stripped of his Israel Prize for literature, which he is to be awarded tomorrow, claiming that the author had accused IDF soldiers of committing war crimes.

“I really, really did not want (to have to do this) today. But I have no choice,” tweets the MK. “There are lines that you do not cross.”

“One can criticize and even condemn the government and its leaders, but it is forbidden to slander IDF soldiers on Memorial Day and accuse them of killing innocent civilians — a blatant lie.”

Speaking at a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day service Tuesday evening, Grossman told the crowd of nearly 8,000 that Israel feels like “less of of a home” after “Israeli snipers kill[ed] dozens of Palestinian demonstrators, most of them civilians,” during protests on the Gaza border over the past month.

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks during an Interior Affairs committee meeting at the Knesset, January 1, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Palestinian arrested with knife at Qalandiya checkpoint

Police arrest a 32-year-old Palestinian after finding a knife on him at the Qalandiya checkpoint, near Jerusalem.

During his interrogation, the suspect admitted to having intended to carry out an attack, police say.

Authorities identify the Palestinian as a Gaza resident, but are currently still looking into how he was able to reach the West Bank.

A knife found in a body search of a 32-year-old Palestinian man who approached the Qalandia checkpoint north of Jerusalem on April 18, 2018. (Israel Police)

UN security team comes under fire in Syria’s Douma

A UN security team was fired at while on a reconnaissance mission in the Syrian town of Douma ahead of the deployment of experts investigating an alleged chemical attack, a UN official says.

“Shots were fired yesterday at a UN security team doing a reconnaissance in Douma,” the official tells AFP. “They were not injured and returned to Damascus.”

The experts from the OPCW chemical watchdog were awaiting the green light from the security team before beginning their investigation in Douma of the alleged attack.

The suspected April 7 gas attack on Douma, near Damascus, reportedly left more than 40 people dead and was blamed by Western powers on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.


40 ambassadors to the United Nations visit Israel

Forty ambassadors to the United Nations are visiting Israel.

The five-day visit this week, which includes Israel’s 70th Independence Day, is being led by Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon.

Among the countries that the visiting ambassadors hail from are Serbia, Jamaica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Liberia, Ukraine, Uganda, Slovenia, Malta, Mozambique and Ethiopia. There are no ambassadors from Arab countries.

The trip includes a visit to the city-settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank.

The ambassadors also will be meeting with the President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and other Israeli officials.

The visit, which was planned over several months, is the largest to come to Israel so far. There were nine participants in 2016, and 14 in 2017.

— with JTA

40 UN ambassadors from around the world visit the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim on April 18, 2018. (Ma’ale Adumim spokesman’s office)

EU Parliament resolves to remove hate from Palestinian textbooks

The European Union’s parliament advances legislation geared to prevent hateful content in Palestinian textbooks.

“The European Parliament… insists that educational material financed by Union funds, including PEGASE (Mécanisme Palestino-européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-économique), comply with the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education adopted by education ministers of the Union in Paris on 17 March 2015,” the legislation reads.

The PEGASE fund is the main source of EU funding to the Palestinian Authority.

— Raphael Ahren

Bill Cosby at courthouse for 8th day of retrial

Bill Cosby arrives at a suburban Philadelphia courthouse for the eighth day of his sexual assault retrial.

The 80-year-old comedian’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt speaks to reporters and blasts the testimony from a police sergeant and detective at Tuesday’s trial.

He says that prosecutors were using “tools of incompetence to build monuments of nothingness.” Wyatt says Cosby’s defense thinks the case should be dismissed.

A police sergeant testified Tuesday that a suburban Philadelphia prosecutor closed the original 2005 probe hours after investigators met to discuss leads that needed to be followed up.

Jurors heard from a police interview in which Cosby acknowledged fondling his chief accuser’s breasts and genitals after giving her pills.

Jurors could soon hear explosive 2005 testimony about giving quaaludes to women before sex.

— AP

Bill Cosby, center, arrives for his sexual assault trial, Wednesday, April 18, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Britain accuses ‘reckless Russia’ of breaking chemical arms ban

Britain accuses Russia of breaking the two-decade international ban on chemical weapons at emergency talks into last month’s poisoning with a nerve agent of a former Russian spy.

The accusations come as diplomats from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons met behind closed doors in The Hague to discuss the case.

Experts from the watchdog last week confirmed the British findings that former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter had been poisoned with a nerve agent.

“We will continue to call out Russia’s reckless and indiscriminate behavior when it violates the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention), and when it threatens global security,” British ambassador Peter Wilson says.



Erdogan says Turkey to hold early elections June 24

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announces snap elections in Turkey for June 24, bringing the polls forward by a year-and-a-half after a call from his main nationalist ally.

“As result of consultations with Mr Bahceli, we decided to hold elections on June 24, 2018, a Sunday,” Erdogan says in an address at his presidential palace after meting Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chief Devlet Bahceli.

Both presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on the same day. They had originally been scheduled to be held on November 3, 2019.

In this February 20, 2018 photo, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves as he arrives to parliament in Ankara, Turkey. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Palestinian arrested at crossing with ‘powerful explosive device’ found in truck

Security officials arrest a Palestinian at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank after finding a “powerful explosive device” in his truck.

The truck stopped at the Reihan Crossing also carried merchandise intended for use in various Israeli settlements, the Defense Ministry says in a statement.

Police sappers are currently working to defuse the bomb.

Minister recommends pardon for vet with PTSD jailed for growing own weed

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked submits a pardon recommendation to President Reuven Rivlin for an IDF veteran who served in the First Lebanon War in 1982 and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

The soldier was jailed for growing his own marijuana to treat the condition.

“There is no better day than today —  toward the end of Memorial Day as we enter Independence Day — to convey a message of encouragement, rehabilitation and strengthening to those who fought in Israel’s wars and for years suffered from PTSD and became involved in criminal activity,” Shaked says in a statement.

Liberman praises security forces who thwarted Independence Day bombing

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praises the vigilance of security forces at a northern West Bank checkpoint after they uncovered a massive explosive device hidden on the roof of a Palestinian truck.

“The vigilance and professionalism of the crossing authorities at the Defense Ministry led to the… thwarting of a major attack on the 70th Independence Day,” Liberman tweets.

“We will chase the bastards who planned to attack on our holiday,” he adds, vowing to bring those responsible to justice.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at the faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu part at the Knesset, March 5, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Republican Jewish Coalition: Barbara Bush was ‘gold standard’ for first ladies

Barbara Bush “was the gold standard for what it means to be First Lady,” the Republican Jewish Coalition says following her passing Tuesday night in Houston.

“Barbara Bush was an extraordinary woman,” Norm Coleman, national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former U.S. senator from Minnesota, says in a statement. “She dedicated her life to public service, and worked tirelessly to help sick children and people in need. She inspired millions and helped countless others. She will be deeply missed, but her legacy of charity will live on. May her memory be a blessing.”

On Monday, a Bush spokesperson announced that the former first lady had made a decision to halt medical treatment and receive comfort care in her home. She also suffered from Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes an overactive thyroid gland.

In this file photo taken on July 15, 2013 former US first lady Barbara Bush attends a White House ceremony to recognize the Points of Light volunteer program in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON)


Zimbabwe marks first independence day without Mugabe

Zimbabwe marks its first independence day without Robert Mugabe in power, with new leader Emmerson Mnangagwa vowing to hold “credible” elections and turn around the southern African country’s moribund economy.

Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until last November when he was forced to resign under pressure from his party, the military and the street.

Presiding over Wednesday’s celebrations at the national sports stadium in Harare, Mnangagwa says: “My government has put in place measures for the holding of transparent, free, fair and credible elections.”

Admitting that the country’s economic crisis was causing “great hardship”, he added: “My administration’s focus is on the pursuit of investment-led economic recovery, job creation (and) poverty reduction.”

The celebrations come as the government fired thousands of nurses who kicked off a strike demanding higher pay on Monday amid growing labor unrest.

Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy and a veteran loyalist in the ruling ZANU-PF, is widely expected to retain power along with the party in the elections expected in July or August.


Army General Constantino Chiwenga, center, arrives with his wife Mary at the presidential inauguration ceremony of Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

For 5th straight day Gazans fly flaming kite into Israel, setting fire to field

A fire breaks out in an Israeli wheat field outside the Gaza Strip because of a kite bearing a container of flaming liquid, for the fifth time in as many days, according to the local fire department.

The kite apparently touched down in a field near the Israeli community of Kibbutz Be’eri, east of Gaza.

Firefighters are working to bring it under control, the fire department spokesperson says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Jail for German killer who collected frozen victim’s pension

A man who murdered a German retiree and kept his chopped-up body in a freezer for over a decade to collect his pension is sentenced to life in jail.

Tradesman and junk dealer Josef Szczurek, 56, was convicted of shooting dead the widower identified only as Heinz N. in the old man’s Berlin apartment in late 2006 or early 2007.

Szczurek dismembered the body and placed it into the victim’s own deep freezer, then went on to fraudulently pocket the dead man’s 2,000-euro (about $2,500) a month pension for a decade.

The body was finally discovered when a neighbour reported Heinz N. as missing and police in January 2017 entered the apartment.

The case sparked public revulsion and a nationwide debate about the isolation of many elderly people, especially in big cities.



Women’s March leader attacks Starbucks for including ADL in bias trainings

A Women’s March leader mired in controversy because of her association with the virulently anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan attacks Starbucks for including the Anti-Defamation League among its advisers on bias.

Tamika Mallory accuses the Jewish group of “constantly attacking black and brown people” in a tweet.

The coffee giant said Tuesday that it had solicited counseling from a number of groups, including the ADL, the NAACP and others, after national outrage following the arrest last weekend of two black men sitting at one of its Philadelphia outlets.

Starbucks announced Tuesday that it would close its more than 8,000 stores in the United States on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education with staff.

Experts will only deploy to Douma if given ‘unhindered access’

Chemical weapons inspectors will only deploy to the Syrian town of Douma if they are given unhindered access, the OPCW chief says, adding it was unknown when the team would go.

“I shall only consider such deployment following approval” by a UN security team “and provided that our team can have unhindered access to the sites,” Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons chief Ahmet Uzumcu says.

“At present, we do not know when the team can be deployed to Douma,” Uzumcu adds in a statement.

Uzumcu’s warning comes after a UN security team was fired at on Tuesday during a reconnaissance mission to Douma situated just northeast of Damascus.

OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu talks during a press conference, in Rome, January 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)


German theater’s swastika stunt cleared as free speech

German prosecutors clear a performance of a satirical play named after Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” that promises free entry to spectators who wear a swastika.

The theater in the Bavarian lakeside town of Constance says it aims to show how easily people can be corrupted but the approach sparked numerous legal complaints.

Local prosecutors, however, say the premiere could go ahead on Friday, which marks Hitler’s birthday in 1889, as well as the controversial swastika campaign.

The theater says on its website that those who pay for a ticket will be asked to wear a Star of David “as a sign of solidarity with the victims of Nazi barbarism.”

Under German law, publicly displaying swastikas and other Nazi symbols is illegal, unless it is done as part of an artistic performance covered by constitutional guarantees of free speech.


Picture taken on April 17, 2018 at the theatre in Constance, southern Germany, shows a poster advertising a theater play named after Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf,’ written by George Tabori and staged by Serdar Somuncu. (AFP/dpa/Felix Kästle)

Independence Day ceremony kicks off with musical performances

Independence Day celebrations start with musical performances that include a musical flashback of Jewish tragedies of past.

Actors sing and dance through various parts of Jewish history, beginning from the biblical era.

In one scene representing the Holocaust era, child actors dressed in clothing badged with yellow stars quickly gather their belongings as Nazi soldiers can be heard marching with barking dogs in the background.

A segment on the Holocaust during the official ceremony marking Israel’s transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day in Jerusalem, April 18, 2018 (screen capture: GPO)

PM in Independence Day greeting: We’re just getting started

In an English-language video greeting in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proudly pledges that in terms of its accomplishments the Jewish state “is just getting started.”

“This year Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary. That’s 70 years of freedom, 70 years of democracy, 70 years of bettering the world,” he begins.

“Israel’s success didn’t happen overnight. Men and women from every walk of life – young and old, Jew, Christian, Muslim, religious and secular, men and women that have worked hard to build our nation.”

The prime minister says he has been struck by world leaders’ appreciation and admiration for the Jewish state.

“They seek Israel’s technology. They seek Israel’s ingenuity. They seek Israel’s genius.”

Netanyahu says he’s proud of the assistance Israel provides to people in Latin America, Africa and Asia, allowing them to “live healthier and safer lives.”

“Here’s the best part. We’re just getting started,” he announces proudly.

“I have no doubt that 70 years from now, Israel will be even stronger, even more prosperous than it is today. Thank you to our many friends around the world. Happy Birthday, Israel.”

Knesset speaker lauds Israeli diversity at torch-lighting ceremony

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein praised Israeli complexity and diversity in his opening address at the torch-lighting ceremony in Jerusalem marking Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

“Diversity is our strength and complexity is the fuel to our engine of growth,” he declares.

Edelstein highlights the country’s growth over the past 70 years.

“Together we once grew Jaffa oranges and together we now raise engineered cherry tomatoes,” he says. “Together we have developed a democratic oasis, and together we have transformed our tiny country into a global technological power that is led by justice and morality.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addresses the annual Independence Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery, April 18, 2018 (screen capture: GPO)

Netanyahu in Independence Day speech: Israel a rising world power

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares that Israel is becoming a world power, in his address at the torch-lighting ceremony marking Independence Day.

“We’re turning Israel into a rising world power,” Netanyahu says.

The prime minister thanks US President Trump for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to the holy city.

Calling the relationship with the United States a historic one,” Netanyahu says: “Thank you President Trump! Thank you America!”

The prime minister vows that no one will extinguish the light of Israel.

“Today as well, there are those who wants to extinguish… the light. I promise you, this will not happen, because our light will always overcome their darkness.”

“We are as strong and determined as ever,” he declares.

Netanyahu recognizes the disagreements in Israeli society but calls for citizens to maintain mutual respect and understanding.

He says “admiration for Israel” is finally beginning to be felt in the Arab world. and that Israel stretches out its hand in peace to those neighbors that seek peace.

But addressing adversaries of the Jewish state, who delude themselves that Israel is a passing phenomenon, Netanyahu promises that “in another 70 years, you’ll find here a country that is 70 times stronger, because what we’ve done until today is just the beginning!”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)

If required to do so, Israel will always rise to meet the challenge of defending itself against its enemies, he says. The capacity to defend itself, by itself, says Netanyahu, is “the essence” of independence.

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