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Netanyahu says Trump labeled Revolutionary Guard a terror group at his request

‘Thank you for accepting another important request of mine,’ PM tells US president, who has also recently recognized Israeli sovereignty in Golan Heights

US President Donald Trump (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk while walking to the West Wing of the White House for a meeting, on March 25, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk while walking to the West Wing of the White House for a meeting, on March 25, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

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

Jordanian Senate head says kingdom hopes Israeli elections will produce new PM

A senior Jordanian politician says the kingdom hopes Israel’s national elections will produce a new government headed by someone other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Jordan hopes that after these elections, there will be a government led by someone other than Netanyahu, which knows that the only solution to the Palestinian issue is the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Jordanian Senate Speaker Faisal al-Fayez tells The Times of Israel on the margins of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea in Jordan.

This combination of pictures created on April 2, 2019 shows a file photo taken on April 1, 2019 of retired Israeli general Benny Gantz (L), head of the Blue and White party, and a file photo taken on March 10, 2019 of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attending the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office. (Jack Guez and Gali Tibbon/AFP)

“Netanyahu’s position on the Palestinian issue is known. He is not looking to resolve it and I worry that he may want to annex the West Bank in the future.”

The Senate is the upper house of the Jordanian parliament, which proposes and approves legislation. The king appoints its speaker and members.

Asked about Benny Gantz, Blue and White’s top candidate and Netanyahu’s main challenger, Fayez, who has previously served as Jordanian prime minister and defense minister, says: “We, in Jordan, wish that, if he becomes prime minister, he will be less extreme than Netanyahu and that he will make efforts to advance peace.”

— Adam Rasgon

Turkey’s Erdogan sees ‘organized crime’ in Istanbul vote results

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says some “organized crime” was carried out during last week’s election for Istanbul mayor when results showed his ruling AKP candidate narrowly lost the race.

The AKP demanded a recount in Ankara and Istanbul citing irregularities after tallies showed the party was defeated in both cities in what would be a major setback in a decade and a half in power.

Erdogan’s remarks appear to signal more AKP challenges over Istanbul, the country’s economic hub and largest city, echoing commentary in pro-government media last week denouncing a “ballot box putsch” during the March 31 election.

“We are seeing that some organized crimes have been carried out,” Erdogan says at a press conference before a trip to Russia, without giving details. “There is an element of robbery in all of this. There was some theft at the ballot box.”


Weekend attack on synagogue in Argentina was anti-Semitic, Jewish group says

The Jewish umbrella organization of Argentinian Jewry says the deterioration of the country’s socioeconomic situation triggered an attack by a homeless couple on members of a Buenos Aires synagogue.

The attack took place on Friday night at the Mikdash Yosef Orthodox synagogue in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

“The impoverished situation of our Republic provokes, in some sectors of society in a situation of marginality, the invocation of old prejudices installed in society,” the Delegation of Argentine Israelites Associations, or DAIA, says in a statement. The statement designates the attack as anti-Semitic.

On Friday evening a woman entered the synagogue building during Shabbat evening services and was told by worshipers that she could not remain. After the service, as some members of the Jewish community stood talking on the sidewalk in front of the synagogue, a homeless man identified as a friend of the woman broke a bottle and threatened the community members, shouted insults and threw stones. The synagogue’s rabbi, Uriel Husni, grappled with the man and was injured in his arms. The aggressor was eventually held by community members until the police came, according to reports.

The DAIA statement also recommends education to allow Argentina to cross “this difficult moment in peace” with the objective of “taking care of our community, together with the government agencies responsible for that area.”


In first, court convicts divorce refuser of criminal offense

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has issued a legal precedent, convicting a man of a criminal offense for refusing to grant his wife a Jewish divorce, or get, police say in a statement.

According to the statement, the judges ruled yesterday that that man — who has for 20 years denied his wife the option to marry others in a Jewish marriage — is guilty of violating a legal order, an offense that can carry a punishment of up to four years in prison.

However, the husband has been in jail for the last 17 years due to a rabbinical court sentence. Last year, police convinced her to take the case to the criminal arena, after State Attorney Shai Nitzan recently ruled that criminal proceedings can be brought against get refusers.

Netanyahu visits Jerusalem market, warns elections not ‘in our pocket’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pays a traditional visit to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market to boost support the day before Knesset elections and repeat his campaign message that the right-wing rule is in danger.

“Right now there is a gap of several seats and [Benny] Gantz and [Yair] Lapid have the edge,” he tells the shoppers. “Some of our people are complacent, they believe the media which is trying to put them to sleep. They’re saying ‘all is fine, this is in our pocket,’ but it isn’t.”

Russia’s Putin hosts Turkey’s Erdogan to discuss Syria, ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks expected to focus on the situation in Syria and their two nations’ booming economic ties.

Russia and Turkey have closely coordinated moves on Syria, where they created a security zone in the northern province of Ildib.

Russia and Iran have thrown their support behind Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey has backed his foes during the eight-year war. Despite that, the three countries have teamed up to broker a peace deal for Syria, united by their shared desire to undercut US clout in the region.

Greeting Erdogan at the start of Monday’s talks, Putin says they will also discuss the completion of a pipeline that will carry Russian gas to Turkey and other economic projects.

— AP

French consulate worker jailed for 7 years for smuggling guns from Gaza

An Israeli court sentences a former French consulate worker to seven years in prison for smuggling guns from the Gaza Strip after a plea bargain.

Romain Franck, who worked as a driver for the consulate, went on trial after being accused of exploiting reduced security checks for diplomats to smuggle 70 pistols and two automatic rifles from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

He is also given a fine of 30,000 shekels ($8,000, 7,500 euros).


Woman caught trying to smuggle armed Palestinian from West Bank into Israel

Defense Ministry officers arrest an Israeli woman who was caught trying to smuggle a Palestinian man and an unlicensed pistol out of the West Bank in her car, officials say.

While attempting to drive through the Reihan Crossing in the northern West Bank, the woman was stopped by security officials, who were acting on a tip, police say.

She was asked to open the trunk of her car for inspection, but initially refused, claiming the latch was broken. A security officer opened the trunk despite her objections, finding inside the 37-year-old Palestinian man from the town of Zabada, near Jenin, according to the Defense Ministry, which runs the crossing.

A further search of the woman’s car uncovered a loaded pistol, which the woman had without the proper permit, police say.

According to police, the gun appears to have been stolen from a security guard for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The woman, a resident of Gan Hashomron in central Israel, and the Palestinian man have been placed under arrest.

— Judah Ari Gross

New Palestinian Authority government to be formed in days: officials

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Shtayyeh will announce the makeup of his new government in the coming days, Palestinian officials say.

Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh, June 2011 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Shtayyeh has until April 14 to form a new government which is expected to exclude all supporters of terror group Hamas, longtime rival to the Fatah movement of both Shtayyeh and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Analysts say real decision-making power remains with 84-year-old Abbas, in power since 2005.

Deputy President Mahmoud Aloul tells AFP a meeting will be held this evening between Shtayyeh and Abbas to decide on candidates for remaining ministries.

He says agreements have been reached over which factions will control which ministries.

— with AFP

Arab party’s campaign ads vandalized with ‘Death to the Arabs’

Election banners for the mostly Arab Hadash-Ta’al party were vandalized near the city of Nazareth overnight with graffiti reading “Death to the Arabs,” the party says in a tweet.

“This is a photo that summarizes the 2019 election campaign, at the center of which were incitement, racism and delegitimization of the Arab population,” it says.

Libyan capital’s only functioning airport says hit by air raid

A warplane carries out an airstrike against the Libyan capital’s only functioning airport, authorities at the site say, as fighting rages for control of Tripoli.

A security source at Mitiga airport east of the city says no side has yet claimed responsibility for the raid, which hit a runway without causing casualties.

There has been heavy fighting near Tripoli since the forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an assault on Thursday aimed at taking the capital.


Gantz: If elected, I expect US to delay peace plan roll-out until government formed

Blue and White party chief tells the Walla news website that if he wins tomorrow’s Knesset elections and becomes prime minister, he expects the US President Donald Trump’s administration to delay the roll-out of its Middle East peace plan until he forms a government.

Washington has been rumored to be planning to unveil its long-awaited proposal shortly after the Israeli elections.

In the interview, Gantz also says he hopes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t been given details of the plan that he could use as last-minute election campaign propaganda.

US designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a foreign terror organization

US President Donald Trump officially designates Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

“Today, I am formally announcing my Administration’s plan to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its Quds Force, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” Trump’s office says in a statement.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” the statement continues. “The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.

“This designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as a FTO. It underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments. This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime. It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

Madonna will perform at Eurovision in Israel — production company

Veteran US singer and international star Madonna will perform at next month’s Eurovision Song Contest broadcast in Israel, the Live Nation Israel production company confirms, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

The “Queen of Pop” will perform two songs during the show, the Ynet website says. She will be accompanied by more than 60 staff members.

File: Musician Madonna poses for photographers upon arrival at the World premiere of the film ‘The Beatles, Eight Days a Week’ in London, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Tripoli airport suspends flights after air raid: airline

Libyan airport authorities suspend aerial traffic to Tripoli after an air strike against the capital’s only functioning airport, the national carrier and an airport source say.

The civil aviation authority has decided “to suspend aerial traffic until further notice” to Mitiga airport, says Mohammed Gniwa, a spokesman for Libyan Airlines. An airport source, who did want to be named, confirms the closure.


‘We are a foot away from victory,’ Gantz says in final campaign gathering

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz closes his election campaign before tomorrow’s vote with an intimate gathering of activists at the party headquarters, promising them “We are a foot away from victory.”

Gantz says that the party needs “just a few tens of thousands of votes more to make it happen,” referring to a victory over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“People understand what they have to do, they understand that Blue and White has to be the biggest party,” Gantz says, again suggesting that if he wins more seats than Likud, President Reuven Rivlin will task him with forming a coalition. “Nothing is more important than joining us, today.”

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz takes a selfie with activists at the party headquarters, April 8, 2019. (Sraya Diamant)

Gantz also issues a message to Labor party leader Avi Gabbay.

“Instead of blocking our path, Avi Gabbay must recognize that the only way to replace Netanyahu is for Blue and White to be the biggest party,” he says.

— Raoul Wootliff

Likud minister hails US for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terror group

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz (Likud) praises the US for branding Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization.

“This decision will weaken [Iran’s] ability to promote its nuclear plan and its support for regional terrorism, and will also significantly strengthen Israel’s ability to battle Iranian aggression in Syria and elsewhere,” Katz says in a statement.

Netanyahu thanks Trump for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terror group

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Donald Trump for designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

“Thank you for accepting another important request of mine, which serves the interests of our countries and countries in the region,” Netanyahu says in a tweet.

“We will continue to take action in various means against the Iranian regime, which threatens the State of Israel, the US and world peace.”

Hamas West Bank leader given six-month administrative detention

Israel hands down a six-month administrative detention order for a West Bank leader of Palestinian terror group Hamas, his family and the Shin Bet intelligence service say.

Hassan Yousef, a co-founder of Hamas, was arrested on April 2 at his home in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club NGO.

Hamas official Hassan Yousef at his office in Ramallah, July 30, 2015. (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

He was given a six-month administrative detention order today, his family says. The Shin Bet confirmed the decision.

Yousef had been released from a previous imprisonment in October 2018.

A co-founder of Hamas and a member of the defunct Palestinian parliament, 64-year-old Yousef has been arrested multiple times by Israel.

The administrative detention system allows Israel to detain prisoners for renewable six-month periods without charge. Israel says it allows authorities to hold suspects to prevent attacks while continuing to gather evidence, but critics and rights groups say the system is abused.

— with AFP

Neo-Nazi website founder must return to US to face lawsuit

A US federal judge has ruled against a neo-Nazi website operator who asked to be excused from returning to the US for questioning in a lawsuit accusing him of orchestrating an anti-Semitic “troll storm” against a Montana real estate agent’s family.

The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin claims it’s too dangerous for him to travel to the US, but Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch ruled Friday that Anglin’s personal safety concerns are “factually unsupported” and refused to excuse him.

Anglin, an Ohio native, claims he hasn’t been to the US since 2012.

Court records show Anglin suggested meeting in Cuba or Venezuela for his deposition by attorneys for Tanya Gersh, who sued Anglin in 2017. She claims anonymous internet trolls bombarded her family with hateful messages after Anglin published their personal information.

— AP

Aryeh Deri slams Netanyahu for putting his Shas party ‘in danger’

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the Shas ultra-Orthodox party, lashes out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for leading a campaign he says is threatening to wipe out his party.

Minister of Interior Affairs Aryeh Deri January 29, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I feel like my life work is in danger. That is my feeling, unfortunately,” he tells Channel 12. “That’s why I’m feeling ungratefulness [from Netanyahu]. We were the first ones to say we will sit with Netanyahu no matter what, as long as the law permits it.”

Deri claims internal polls he has seen predict a win for Netanyahu, and that the premier could be “throwing away a sure win” in campaigning for right-wing supporters to vote Likud via an aggressive media blitz, which could sink at least one small right-wing party below the electoral threshold.

Asked why he hasn’t contacted Netanyahu personally over the issue, Deri says the two are friends, “but probably before elections he forgets the friendship.”

Following several accidents, IDF says it has found problems in forces’ training

The Israeli military says it has found a number of significant issues in the way its special forces are trained and will seek to correct them in the coming months, following an investigation into the matter prompted by a series of training accidents last summer.

“The [investigatory] commission found lacunae in the norms of these units, which could be seen in some of their exercises and training, and which came from the way in which team leaders were trained in these units,” the army says in a statement.

Then-IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot ordered the probe last August following a number of incidents in the military’s Commando Brigade, including a soldier being accidentally killed by his comrade during a game of “draw,” a serviceman being seriously injured after he jumped out of his jeep into a thorn bush, and a soldier being moderately injured during a martial arts training session without receiving necessary medical care.

The findings of the investigation were presented to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi yesterday by Maj. Gen. Itai Virov, who led the probe.

Kohavi called for a number of changes in the way that these special forces are trained “with a large emphasis on safety principals,” the army says.

The army chief also calls for additional study of safety issues and the “organizational culture” of IDF units in general.

— Judah Ari Gross

Gesher party files police complaint after fake news that it has quit Knesset race

Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party files a police complaint after fake text messages and fake Facebook screenshots saying the party was pulling out of tomorrow’s Knesset elections were shared on social media.

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis attends a Knesset committee meeting on March 15, 2017.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Red lines have been crossed,” the party says. “Criminal acts aimed at slanting the election results are being made at these moments. We have to put an end to it. The situation in which parties and party representatives distribute lies crosses all red lines.”

The party calls on authorities to quickly locate the offenders.

Earlier today, Gesher won cases against the Likud party and the Union of Right-Wing Parties, which were forced to pay it NIS 7,500 ($2,090) each for sending out anonymous text messages “meant to hurt [Levy-Abekasis’s] chances of being elected to the Knesset.”

Central Election Committee head Hanan Melcer handed down the decision regarding the messages, which featured a survey in which Gesher wasn’t one of the options.

Zarif calls for US forces to be put on Iran’s terror blacklist

Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif urges President Hassan Rouhani to place US forces in the region on Tehran’s list of terrorist groups, the foreign ministry says.

The foreign minister requests the move against US Central Command (CENTCOM), which has forces stationed from Central Asia to Egypt, shortly after Washington announced it was designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.


Iran’s foreign minister calls IRGC terror label an ‘election gift’ to Netanyahu

Iranian foreign Minister Javad Zarif says US President Donald Trump’s designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror group is an “election-eve gift” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a tweet, Zarif also calls the decision a “dangerous U.S. misadventure in the region.”

In tit-for-tat move, Iran adds US forces in Middle East to its terror blacklist

Iran designates US forces in the Middle East a terror group, in a tit-for-tat move, shortly after Washington added the Islamic Republic’s Revolitionary Guard Corps to its terror blacklist, according to Iranian state TV, cited by the Reuters news agency.

The move is applied to the US Central Command (CENTCOM), which has forces stationed from Central Asia to Egypt.

Committee issues injunction against fake news that Gesher party quit elections

The head of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, issues an injunction ordering social media sites to remove posts that falsely claim that Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party has pulled out of tomorrow’s Knesset elections.

Melcer says the posts are “an unfair disturbance to Gesher’s election campaign and may significantly mislead voters.”

Hamas prisoners declare hunger strike after talks with authorities collapse

Representatives of Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails announce an open-ended hunger strike, after negotiations between them and the Israel Prisoners Service (IPS) regarding their jail conditions fall apart.

The convicted terrorists are demanding several improvements in their jail conditions, including that Israeli authorities stop jamming cellular reception in prisons.

The IPS says is it waiting to see whether prisoners actually refuse to eat their meals tonight.

Feiglin said to reject negotiation offer from PM in exchange for promising to back him

Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party has brushed away recent contact from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The premier’s representatives reportedly said Netanyahu was open to immediate negotiations over accepting Zehut’s coalition demands, if Feiglin promises to back him as the next prime minister.

Feiglin was said to reject the offer outright.

Kulanu, ultra-Orthodox parties introduce united stance against Feiglin

Several current coalition partners of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly threaten to refuse to join the next coalition if Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin is appointed finance minister, as he is expected to demand.

Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin attends a party conference in Tel Aviv on February 28, 2017. (Flash90)

The move is likely to greatly complicate Netanyahu’s efforts to build a coalition, as polls have indicated that he is dependent on Zehut’s support.

Kulanu, headed by current finance minister Moshe Kahlon, as well as both ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, will demand that Kahlon remain finance minister in the next government, and tell Netanyahu that it is “either Feiglin or us,” the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri earlier today told Army Radio that if Feiglin insists on his stated demands, which include libertarian policies, such as separating church and state — to some degree — and reducing state stipends to yeshiva students, “there is no way we will sit with him.”

US Secret Service director to leave Trump administration — sources

US Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles is expected to leave the Trump administration.

Then-director of the United States Secret Service, Randolph ‘Tex’ Alles, speaks at the Atlanta Press Club in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 1, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

That is according to two administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the personnel matter.

The officials say Alles’ departure stems from a personality conflict within the agency. They said it is unrelated to the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and a recent security breach at the president’s private club in Florida.

Alles, a former Marine general, was recommended to the post by former White House chief of staff John Kelly.

— AP

Trump peace plan roll-out date dependent on makeup of next government — report

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan will be rolled out by mid-June, Channel 13 reports, citing a White House source.

The report says the exact date is dependent on many factors, including the many upcoming Jewish and Muslim festivals, and Israel’s efforts to form a new coalition after tomorrow’s elections.

One of the factors cited is the identity of the new prime minister and the makeup of the government.

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