Portman told Genesis Prize she was canceling over Gaza, not Netanyahu — report
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Portman told Genesis Prize she was canceling over Gaza, not Netanyahu — report

TV report, citing email correspondence with representatives, ostensibly contradicts statement by Israel-born actress

  • Natalie Portman at the Women’s March in Los Angeles, January 20, 2018. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
    Natalie Portman at the Women’s March in Los Angeles, January 20, 2018. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
  • Illustrative: Smoke and flames rise from fields near the Kibbutz Be'eri on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip east of Gaza City, after Palestinians flew a kite laden with a Molotov cocktail over the border before cutting the string leaving the burning material to fall in Israeli territory on April 17, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
    Illustrative: Smoke and flames rise from fields near the Kibbutz Be'eri on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip east of Gaza City, after Palestinians flew a kite laden with a Molotov cocktail over the border before cutting the string leaving the burning material to fall in Israeli territory on April 17, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
  • Palestinians on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City prepare a firebomb to attach to a kite and fly over the border fence with Israel, on April 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
    Palestinians on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City prepare a firebomb to attach to a kite and fly over the border fence with Israel, on April 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
  • File: Israeli soldiers peer into Syria from their tank on the Golan Heights on February 18, 2016. (Ariel Schalit/AP Photo)
    File: Israeli soldiers peer into Syria from their tank on the Golan Heights on February 18, 2016. (Ariel Schalit/AP Photo)
  • In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)
    In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)
  • Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the Tehran Security Conference in Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2018. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
    Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the Tehran Security Conference in Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2018. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a meeting with his Dutch counterpart in Moscow on April 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a meeting with his Dutch counterpart in Moscow on April 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)
  • President Hassan Rouhani listens to explanations on new nuclear achievements at a ceremony to mark 'National Nuclear Day,' in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2018.  (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
    President Hassan Rouhani listens to explanations on new nuclear achievements at a ceremony to mark 'National Nuclear Day,' in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
  • Illustrative: Palestinian protesters fly a kite with a burning rag dangling from its tail, during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
    Illustrative: Palestinian protesters fly a kite with a burning rag dangling from its tail, during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • An IDF tank is seen near the border with Gaza on April 13, 2018 (Sliman Khader/Flash90)
    An IDF tank is seen near the border with Gaza on April 13, 2018 (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.

In Beijing, Russian FM vows to ‘obstruct’ US exit from nuclear deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meeting with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, says Moscow and Beijing will “obstruct” US efforts to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

“We are against revising these agreements, we consider it very counterproductive to try to reduce to zero years of international work carried out via talks between the six major powers and Iran,” he says in Beijing, according to Reuters.

“We will obstruct attempts to sabotage these agreements which were enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution,” adds Lavrov.

Russia and China are parties in the 2015 accord.

US President Donald Trump is threatening to tear up the 2015 agreement aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear efforts unless European capitals agree to supplement it with tougher controls on Iran’s missile program and future ability to return to nuclear fuel enrichment.

Iran is upping the rhetoric in return — with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warning Saturday that Tehran is ready to “vigorously” resume enrichment if the United States ditches the nuclear accord.

with AFP

Threat of nuclear weapons use growing, UN warns

A top UN official on Monday denounces growing rhetoric claiming that nuclear arms are necessary and warned that the risk of such weapons being used was on the rise.

“The threat of the use, intentional or otherwise, of nuclear weapons is growing,” the UN’s top representative for disarmament affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, tells a preliminary review meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NPT, which was introduced at the height of the Cold War a half century ago, seeks to prevent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles.

But speaking at the opening of the Geneva meeting, Nakamitsu warns that “the world today faces similar challenges to the context that gave birth to the NPT.”

The preparatory committee in advance of the 2020 NPT review conference comes after North Korea, which pulled out of the treaty 15 years ago, declared a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and said it would dismantle its nuclear test site.

Nakamitsu hails the announcement, voicing hope that the move “will contribute to building trust and to sustaining an atmosphere for sincere dialogue and negotiations.”

She warns however that the overall “geopolitical environment is deteriorating.”

“Some of the most important instruments and agreements that comprise our collective security framework are being eroded,” she says.

“Rhetoric about the necessity and utility of nuclear weapons is on the rise,” she says, stressing that “modernization programs by nuclear-weapons states are leading to what many see as a new, qualitative arms race.”

AFP

Iran on nuclear deal: No ‘Plan B,’ it’s ‘all or nothing’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Europe must persuade US President Donald Trump to remain a party in the 2015 nuclear deal and uphold his share of the bargain.

“President Macron is correct in saying there’s no “‘Plan B’ on JCPOA,” he tweets. “It’s either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage President Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more importantly to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith.”

Russia says no decisions made yet on S-300 delivery to Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow has not yet made a decision on whether to deliver its powerful S-300 missile defense system to Syria in the near future.

“We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” the TASS news agency quoted Lavrov as saying, according to Reuters.

“There is probably no secret about this and it can all be announced (if a decision is taken),” says Lavrov.

Citing anonymous government sources, the Russian daily Kommersant reported earlier on Monday that Moscow may soon supply the regime with the S-300, despite opposition from Israel and other Western powers.

with Judah Ari Gross

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

Director Oliver Stone reportedly in Iran for movie festival

Iranian media say American movie director Oliver Stone is in Tehran to attend an international film festival.

Monday’s report by the semi-official Tasnim news agency says Stone briefly visited the historical city of Isfahan the previous day.

According to the report, Stone will host a workshop for filmmakers during the Fajr Film Festival and hold a news conference on Wednesday. French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud and Italian Giovanni Spagnoletti are also attending.

This is the Hollywood director’s first visit to Iran.

In 2007, Iran’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a proposal by Stone to make a film about him. Ahmadinejad said at the time that Stone is part the “Great Satan” cultural establishment, a reference to the United States.

In 2012, Stone’s son Sean Stone visited Iran and converted to Shiite Islam.

AP

It’s a boy! Prince William’s wife Kate gives birth to 3rd child

Kate, the wife of Britain’s Prince William, has given birth to a baby son, Kensington Palace announces Monday.

“Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 11:01 (1001 GMT),” the palace says in a statement. The baby boy weighs eight pounds and seven ounces (3.8 kilograms).

The British Embassy in Israel tweets out a “Mazel tov.”

with AFP

Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, in Ottawa, Canada, July 1, 2011. (Wikimedia Commons)

Human Rights Watch warns of humanitarian crisis in northern Sinai

A leading international rights group warns Monday of a humanitarian crisis in the northern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula amid severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods there due to a massive security operation against Islamic jihadists.

The Egyptian military launched the operation in early February in the restive northern Sinai, the epicenter of an Islamic insurgency spearheaded by the local affiliate of the Islamic State group. The campaign also included parts of the Nile Delta region and the Western Desert, along the porous border with Libya.

The campaign has left up to 420,000 residents in northern Sinai in urgent need of humanitarian aid since the operation started, Human Rights Watch says. The New York-based group also urges authorities to provide sufficient food and allow relief organizations such as the Egyptian Red Crescent to provide resources to address the local residents’ critical needs.

The military campaign against IS has included severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in almost all of northern Sinai, HRW says.

“The Egyptian army’s actions … reveal the gap between what President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s claims to be doing on behalf of the citizenry and the shameful reality,” says Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.

The military, however, has denied that there is a food crisis, saying it continues to provide food convoys and has opened several new facilities that are selling food and goods and other necessities at discounted prices to the local population.

Agencies

Barenboim returns German music award in anti-Semitism rapper row

Berlin-based star conductor Daniel Barenboim on Monday becomes the latest musician in Germany to return in protest his past Echo Music Awards in a row over anti-Semitic rap lyrics.

Outrage has grown after the prize was handed this month to rap duo Kollegah and Farid Bang, who in their song “0815” say their bodies are “more defined than an Auschwitz prisoner.”

Barenboim, 75, says in a statement that the rappers’ lyrics are “clearly anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic and contemptuous of human dignity.”

They constituted an “abuse” of free expression which society must “never tolerate,” writes the Jewish general music director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin.

Barenboim says he, the Staatskapelle Berlin and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra had jointly decided to return the award because “decency and humanity” must outweigh “commercial interests.”

AFP

Argentinian pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim poses for a photograph after launching his new piano, the Barenboim-Maene concert grand, at the Royal Festival Hall in London on May 26, 2015. (AFP / ADRIAN DENNIS)

Israel’s president wishes Kate and William ‘mazel tov’

President Reuven Rivlin sends his congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son, the royal couple’s third child.

“Mazal Tov! Congratulations to TRH the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son #RoyalBaby. Together with Nechama, and all the Israeli people, I send warmest wishes to Her Majesty the Queen, & all the Royal Family. Looking forward to welcoming the Duke to Israel soon,” writes Rivlin on Twitter.

Prince William will travel to Israel this summer, in the first-ever official visit by a member of the British royal family to the Jewish state.

Body of Iran shah possibly found: heritage officials

Tehran’s heritage committee says Monday it has found a mummified body at the site of a former shah’s tomb, raising a storm of interest over whether the long-lost corpse has been rediscovered.

After the 1979 revolution, the newly installed Islamic authorities did their best to erase any memories of the Pahlavi monarchy they had overthrown. This included destroying the enormous tomb in south Tehran of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the military strongman who seized control of the country in the 1920s and abdicated in favor of his son in 1941 under pressure from the British.

Despite efforts to uncover his corpse, it was never found.

But on Monday, the head of Tehran council’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Committee tells state news agency IRNA that a mummified body had been found at the site, during expansion work on an Islamic shrine.

Hassan Khalilabadi says it was “a possibility” the body belonged to Reza Shah Pahlavi.

“This will be examined by responsible bodies,” he says.

AFP

3 East Jerusalem residents arrested for ripping flags off of cars

Three East Jerusalem residents are arrested in the Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill on suspicion they tore Israeli flags off cars parked in the area, police say.

Pompeo’s confirmation uncertain amid rare opposition from Senate panel

US President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is facing serious opposition before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which may not have enough votes to recommend him for confirmation because all Democrats, and at least one Republican, have said they will oppose him.

The full Senate is still expected to consider Pompeo’s nomination later this week. But the rare rebuke expected from the panel Monday, even after Pompeo’s recent visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, would be the first time in years that a nominee for the high-level Cabinet position did not receive a favorable committee vote.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls on Democrats to support Pompeo Monday, saying on Fox News: “at some point Democrats have to decide whether they love this country, more than they hate this president.”

Pompeo’s confirmation before the full Senate now hangs in balance, with the votes of just a handful of senators determining whether he becomes the nation’s top diplomat after Trump fired Rex Tillerson last month.

AP

The new Secretary of State Michael Pompeo seen testifying on Capital Hill while still CIA Director, Washington, January 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Israel hits Syria artillery position after mortar hits Golan

The Israeli army attacks a Syrian artillery position after a mortar shell strikes near the border on the northern Golan Heights, in an apparent case of spillover fighting from Syria’s civil war, the army says.

The army targeted an artillery cannon belonging to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s military, which was in the same area of the Syrian Golan Heights from which the mortar shell was fired.

“The IDF sees the Syrian regime as responsible for every action in its territory and will not tolerate violations of the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its citizens,” the army says in a statement.

Judah Ari Gross

4 flaming kites from Gaza reportedly set Israeli wheat field ablaze

Four kites affixed with flaming materials set a wheat field in southern Israel aflame, according to a report by Channel 10.

Firefighters and local farmers are working to extinguish the blaze, the TV report says.

The burning kites are part of a new tactic utilized by Gaza protesters against Israel.

Some 3,000 Palestinians protested along the Gaza border with Israel on Friday, burning tires and flying flaming kites across the frontier to set Israeli fields ablaze, witnesses and the army said. Soldiers responded with tear gas and live fire, killing four Palestinians, including a 15-year-old, according to the Hamas run-health ministry.

Man stabbed north of Jerusalem; police rule out terror

Medics say a man has been stabbed at the Atarot industrial zone north of Jerusalem.

Police say the incident is not terror-related.

The man has been moderately injured, sustaining wounds to his upper body, the Magen David Adom emergency service says. The victim is being taken to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center for further treatment.

 

Germany: Without Iran deal, Mideast would become more dangerous

Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas says the situation in the Middle East would become “much more dangerous” if the US were to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

World powers are”therefore jointly looking for solutions to safeguard the JCPOA,” he says, referring to the 2015 deal.

“The situation in the Middle East would become much more dangerous without the nuclear agreement with Iran,” he says, according to a tweet by the German Foreign Office.

Berlin Jews call ‘wear a kippah’ rally after anti-Semitic attack

The Berlin Jewish community is organizing a demonstration against anti-Semitism in response to an attack on an Israeli man wearing a yarmulke, and is urging participants to wear a kippah.

A broad coalition from interfaith, political, academic and pro-Israel circles is backing the “Berlin wears a kippah” protest set for Wednesday evening in front of the Jewish community center in the former West Berlin.

On the same day, a similar demonstration is planned for Erfurt, the capital of the former East German state of Thuringia, organized by ACHAVA Festspiele Thüringen, a private cultural organization. The event will take place in the morning and conclude at the New Synagogue in the center of the historic city.

“If you can’t make it to Erfurt, then wear a kippah wherever you happen to be at that time,” the announcement says.

Last week, a young Syrian man assaulted his kippah-wearing victim with his belt and repeated the Arabic word for Jew, “Yahudi,” in public in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. The victim, Adam Armoush, 21, filmed part of the incident and posted it online. He later told the German news media that he is a non-Jewish Israeli from Haifa and that he had donned the kippah to prove to another friend that Berlin is not as anti-Semitic as rumored.

His video was shared widely by the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Antisemitism, and went viral.

JTA

An Arabic-speaking man is seen preparing to whip a Jewish man in an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin in a video published on April 18, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

IDF soldiers arrest 4 unarmed Gazans who infiltrated into Israel

IDF soldiers apprehend four unarmed Palestinians who infiltrated into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, the army says.

The four suspects got past the security fence near the Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim.

They were arrested shortly after crossing into Israeli territory, the army says.

No weapons are found to be in their possession. The suspects are handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

Judah Ari Gross

Nasrallah: Killing of Palestinian engineer in Malaysia a ‘Zionist crime’

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah accuses Israel of assassinating Gaza-born scientist Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh in Malaysia.

The killing of Batsh was a “Zionist crime,” says Nasrallah in a televised speech.

The family of the Palestinian electrical engineer and Hamas member has also accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency on Saturday of killing him on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Batsh was an expert on rocket and drone accuracy. He had reportedly published material recently on drone development, and on transmitters for controlling drones.

Malaysian police said Batsh, 35, was killed in a drive-by motorcycle shooting as he headed on foot to take part in dawn Muslim prayers on Saturday.

Dozens dead in Syrian assault on Yarmouk camp

More than a dozen Syrian regime forces have been killed fighting the Islamic State group in a devastated southern district of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group says Monday.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ramped up their ground operations and bombing raids against the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in southern Damascus last Thursday.

Since then, 15 pro-Assad fighters have been killed as well as 19 IS jihadists, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based war monitor says the assault has also left 12 civilians dead, including women and children.

“Regime forces are continuing to bomb the southern parts of the capital with rockets, artillery, air strikes and helicopters,” the Observatory says.

AFP

Barnard alumni call on college to reject student divestment referendum

Thousands of Barnard College alumni call on the New York school to reject a student referendum asking the administration to divest from eight companies doing business with Israel.

The petition was launched Thursday, hours after results were announced showing nearly two-thirds of the student body voting in favor of the nonbinding ballot. Its some 2,000 alumni signers, as well as two college trustees, say they are “deeply disappointed with the actions of the Barnard Student Government Association (SGA) regarding the recent divestment referendum.”

“By presenting a nuanced and complex issue as one sided and simple, it has biased the student body and failed in its duty to act as a neutral arbiter,” it says.

The petition calls the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel “hateful.”

The student council will vote Monday whether to accept the results of the referendum and formally ask the Barnard Board of Trustees to divest from the companies.

JTA

German authorities search home of suspect in French SS memorial probe

German prosecutors say they have searched the home of a man suspected in a French investigation of a monument to a Nazi SS division in France.

The investigation centers on a memorial stone honoring the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division that was allegedly put up in January on private property near the eastern French village of Volmunster, easily visible to the public. French prosecutors are looking into suspected glorification of war crimes and crimes against humanity. French media reported that authorities quickly removed the memorial.

A German man who lives across the border in Puettlingen, identified only as K., was identified as the property’s owner. Saarbruecken prosecutors say K.’s apartment was searched Monday and evidence seized. German prosecutors must now decide what material can be handed over to France.

AP

100 Israelis rally against rise in anti-Arab vandalism

Some 100 Israelis rally outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence calling on law enforcement to act against the recent uptick in “price-tag” attacks against Palestinians.

The protest is organized by Tag Meir, a grassroots organization created in 2011 to fight hate crimes in Israel and the West Bank.

Demonstrators spray-paint on a piece of cloth some of the hate slogans graffitied on Palestinian property throughout the West Bank. On the other side of the cloth, the dovish activists spray-paint messages of hope and peace.

Among those attending the rally is Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz, who called on the government and the Shin Bet security service to “treat these people as terrorists for all intents and purposes.”

“As we fight against Muslim terrorism, we have to fight them. Our religion connects rather than divides,” Peretz says, referring to the ultra-nationalist perpetrators of seven price-tag attacks in as many days. The vandals have spray-painted various biblical phrases on much of the Palestinian property that they have defaced.

“The right-wingers in Israel and the prime minister must know — these people are hurting you as well,” Peretz concludes.

Jacob Magid

Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz (L) at a rally against a rise in so-called price tag attacks against Palestinians. April 23, 2018 (Yossi Zamir/courtesy)
Activists rally outside the Prime Minister’s Residence against the uptick in anti-Arab hate attacks in recent weeks. April 23, 2010 (Yossi Zamir/courtesy)
Activists rally outside the Prime Minister’s Residence against the uptick in anti-Arab hate attacks in recent weeks. April 23, 2010. (Yossi Zamir/courtesy)

Gaza boy’s leg amputated after border clash with Israel

Doctors have amputated the leg of a Palestinian boy whose image went viral after he was shot by Israeli troops in clashes on the Gaza border with Israel.

A picture of 12-year-old Abdel Rahman Nawfal screaming in pain after being shot was widely shared on Palestinian and Arabic social media last week, after he was shot near the border fence.

The shooting occurred on Tuesday during clashes along the frontier east of Al-Bureij in central Gaza.

He was later taken from Gaza to the West Bank for treatment, but doctors were unable to save the leg.

Attempting to smile as he lay on his hospital bed in Ramallah, Nawfal said he had been stoning Israeli soldiers close to the border when he was shot.

“My friends went to throw stones at the army near Al-Bureij camp. I went with them and started to throw stones,” he tells AFP. “Soon after, I felt the injury.”

AFP

Netanyahu: Iran deal must be ‘fully fixed or fully nixed’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Iran deal in a speech to foreign diplomats, saying the 2015 accord must be “fully fixed or fully nixed.”

“Israel will not allow regimes that seek our annihilation to acquire nuclear weapons. We so resolutely oppose the Iran deal because it gives Iran a clear path to a nuclear arsenal,” he says.

“It needs to be fully fixed or fully nixed.”

Raphael Ahren

Netanyahu, Shaked to powwow with chief justice on High Court bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked will meet with Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut on Sunday morning to discuss a controversial Knesset bill to rein in the top court.

Hayut conditioned the meeting on ministers delaying their vote on the proposed legislation for another week. Ministers, led by Shaked, subsequently agreed to postpone the vote.

The government bill would curb the court’s power to knock down Knesset legislation.

Likud falters slightly in new poll, new kingmaker appears to emerge

The Likud party would receive 28 seats if elections were held today, according to a Hadashot poll.

The second-largest party would be Yesh Atid, with 20 seats, followed by the Zionist Union with 14, the Joint (Arab) List with 12, the Jewish Home with 10. United Torah Judaism would receive seven seats, it predicted, with Kulanu and Meretz receiving six seats apiece, Yisrael Beytenu winning five, and Shas hovering just above the electoral threshold with four seats.

A surprising kingmaker emerges from the poll: independent lawmaker Orly Levy-Abekesis, who is predicted to receive eight Knesset seats for her as-yet unnamed new political party.

With the center-left bloc receiving an overall 52 seats, and the center-right 60, Levy-Abekesis’s theoretical eight seats could prove fateful for the makeup of a future coalition, it notes.

IDF announces beret shake-up for elite units

The elite Egoz and Rimon units will do away with their, respective, brown and purple berets and don red ones next week, the army decides, in a move that has rankled the commandos.

In late 2015, the army brought together the Egoz, Rimon, Maglan and Duvdevan units to form what is known colloquially as the Commando Brigade.

Maglan and Duvdevan already sport red berets, thanks to their original connections to the Paratroopers Brigade, but Egoz, which was historically a part of the brown-bereted Golani Brigade, and Rimon, of the purple-bereted Givati Brigade, have kept their distinct head coverings until now.

Since the Commando Brigade was formed, there has been an internal struggle between the four units that make it up as they try to come together, while maintaining their unique attributes.

Judah Ari Gross

Illustrative: Dozens of paratroopers received red berets that signified the end of their training at a ceremony, February 18, 2018, on Ammunition Hill. (The Times of Israel/Rebecca McKinsey)

Report: Portman told Genesis Prize she was canceling over Gaza, not Netanyahu

Actress Natalie Portman’s representatives originally informed the Genesis Prize Foundation she would not attend the award ceremony over recent events in Gaza — not over her criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Hadashot news, which obtained copies of correspondence.

The TV report quotes emails by Portman’s representatives expressing concerns over recent violence in Gaza, saying it would therefore be inappropriate for the Israel-born actress to attend the “Jewish Nobel” award ceremony.

The Genesis Prize Foundation responded by telling her the border clashes were being orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist group. Canceling the ceremony would serve Hamas and be a “slap in the face” to the Jewish people, they wrote.

On Thursday, the Genesis Prize Foundation, which awards what it calls the “Jewish Nobel,” said it was “very saddened” that the Jerusalem-born, Israeli-American actress would not take part in the ceremony. The foundation said that Portman’s representative notified it that “[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”

Portman later wrote that she did not want her attendance to be seen as an endorsement of Netanyahu.

Head of the US military’s Central Command in Israel for talks

The head of the US military’s Central Command, often known as CENTCOM, which is responsible for American activities in the Middle East, is visiting Israel to meet with senior Israeli officials about Syria, Iran, and other developments in the region, according to Israel’s Kan news broadcaster.

Despite this being the first trip to Israel by the current head of CENTCOM, Gen. Joseph Votel, the visit has been without fanfare or publicity.

Votel commands the American troops in Syria, whom US President Donald Trump has considered returning back to the United States, something Israel would prefer not happen, seeing the American soldiers as helping prevent Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

During his visit, Votel is due to meet with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, the head of Israel’s National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, along with other senior defense officials.

“He will meet with senior officials in order to strengthen the connection between the armies and discuss security issues. This is the first time that the commander of CENTCOM visited Israel,” the army told Kan news.

Though Israel is, obviously, located in the Middle East, it does not often work with CENTCOM and instead operates with the US military’s European Command, or EUCOM.

Judah Ari Gross

Truck runs over a dozen pedestrians in Toronto

A truck has run over a dozen pedestrians in Toronto, local police say.

There is no immediate information on the circumstances surrounding the incident.

With AFP

French Muslims blast anti-Semitism letter as attack on Islam

A French manifesto calling for certain passages of the Koran to be removed on the grounds of rising anti-Semitism sparks anger Monday from Muslims who say their religion is being unfairly “put on trial.”

The open letter published Sunday in the Parisien newspaper blamed “Islamist radicalization” for what it said was “quiet ethnic purging” in the Paris region, with abuse forcing Jewish families to move out.

After a series of high-profile attacks on Jews, Muslim leaders contacted by AFP acknowledge that anti-Semitism is a problem in France.

But they charge that the nearly 300 signatories, who included ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime minister Manuel Valls, are blaming a whole religion for the actions of an extremist minority.

“The only thing we can agree on is that we must all unite against anti-Semitism,” says Ahmet Ogras, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith umbrella group.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, says the manifesto “subjected French Muslims and French Islam to an unbelievable and unfair trial.

“”It creates a clear risk of pitching religious communities against one another,” he says in a statement.

The manifesto calls for verses of the Koran calling for the “murder and punishment of Jews, Christians and disbelievers” to be removed on the grounds that they are “obsolete.

But Tareq Oubrou, imam of the Grand Mosque of the southern city of the Bordeaux, points out that Islam was not the only religion whose ancient holy texts contain anachronistic passages.

“Any number of holy texts are violent, even the Gospel,” Oubrou says, adding that the signatories, who also included celebrities like actor Gerard Depardieu, had misinterpreted the Koran.

AFP

Up to 10 pedestrians hit by Toronto van; unclear if deliberate

A van ran over pedestrians in central Toronto on Monday, injuring as many as 10 people, police say

“Update: unknown of extent of injuries, possible 8 – 10 pedestrians struck,” Toronto police write on Twitter.

A subsequent tweet says it was “too early to confirm the number of pedestrians struck or their injuries.”

Officers were called to the scene at 1:27 p.m. (1727 GMT), police say, without specifying whether or not the incident was deliberate.

According to local media, at least four people were killed in the incident and the vehicle fled the scene.

AFP

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