The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Arab leaders press Abbas to make peace with Dahlan
Arab leaders including the Egyptian president, the Saudi and Jordanian kings and the UAE president are pressuring the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas to patch up differences within Fatah and make peace with its former Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan.
In response, Fatah’s Central Committee resolves to consider readmitting several dozens of senior Fatah figures expelled for their links to Dahlan. But they have not yet agreed to readmit Dahlan himself, who was kicked out of the Strip in 2011 after a spat with with Abbas.
Dahlan is regarded as close to the UAE’s ruler and even the Egyptian president, and his name is mentioned – mainly by Israeli commentators – as a contender to replace Abbas when the time comes.
But despite Arabic media reports about a possible Fatah reconciliation, senior figures within the PA say there is still quite a way to go.
— Avi Issacharoff
Frankfurt airport terminal reopens after security scare
Authorities say Frankfurt airport is fully reopened after a portion of Terminal 1 was evacuated when a person entered a secure area without undergoing required searches.
Airport operator Fraport says on Twitter that the airport is returning to normal operations after a disruption that lasted about two hours. All passengers were evacuated as a precaution and had to go through security controls again.
Fraport says there were some delays caused by the incident and advises passengers to check with their airlines on the status of their flights.
The dpa news agency says police found no threats to security during their search of the terminal and have taken a woman into custody.
Operations in Concourse A resume at 12.30PM. We ask all passengers to follow the instructions of airport staff.
— Frankfurt Airport (@Airport_FRA) August 31, 2016
British PM: No new referendum on Brexit
The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May confirms that she will not hold a second referendum on leaving the European Union or an early general election.
May is chairing a Cabinet meeting at her country retreat to discuss specific plans for the country to leave the EU in a session meant to underscore Conservative party unity.
The meeting at Chequers comes amid reports of feuding among the three ministers tasked with making the break from the EU a reality.
The session also comes as her office sidestepped questions on whether Parliament will be given a formal vote on triggering Article 50, the EU treaty clause that sets up Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc.
Downing Street has said lawmakers will be given “a say,” but adds there’s “no legal obligation” to consult Parliament.
Ethiopian Israeli association: Alsheich cannot be head of law enforcement
The head of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews calls on Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich to step down, saying he cannot remain in charge of Israel’s law enforcement.
The two met this morning over Alsheich’s claim yesterday that “immigrants are invariably more involved in crime than others,” Army Radio reported. Alsheich was speaking in response to a question about persistent accusations of police brutality and racial discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis.
“I told him — there is a certain elite who see themselves as God’s sole deputies and the only human beings, and [the rest of us] are all most likely criminals. Such a person cannot oversee the law enforcement system,” says IAEJ director Ziva Mekonen-Degu.
Erdogan ratifies Israel-Turkey deal
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ratifies the country’s normalization agreement with Israel, some 10 days after it was approved by his parliament.
The deal ends years of frozen ties between the two once-close allies.
‘2 UK-based media outlets linked to Palestinian terror group’
The spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Britain says that two UK-based media outlets — Middle East Monitor and Middle East Eye — have links to Interpal, a pro-Hamas charity classified as a terror organization in Israel and the US.
Writing in The Times of Israel partner Jewish News, Yiftah Curiel names MEMO senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt as a director of Interpal, while quoting a 2014 news report naming the person who registered the MME website as Interpal’s head of policy development.
“The material produced by MEMO and MEE is heavily shared on the official Hamas website and social media accounts,” Curiel writes. “It is not merely copied but proudly displayed with the name of the UK site.”
— Yiftah Curiel (@yiftahc) August 21, 2016
Jerusalem firefighters battle downtown arson wave
Jerusalem firefighters are called to a series of blazes and attempted arson attacks on Jaffa Street, including at a dumpster, a lottery stand, a recycling bin and a car.
According to Ynet, an initial police investigation shows all the fires were started deliberately.
Turkey denies truce with Kurdish-backed militia in Syria
Turkey denies agreeing to a US-brokered truce with Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, saying it would not compromise with a “terrorist” group a week into an unprecedented cross-border offensive.
Washington said yesterday that the two sides — both US allies — had agreed to a cessation of hostilities between their forces in Syria after deadly clashes at the weekend.
“We do not accept in any circumstances … a ‘compromise or a ceasefire reached between Turkey and Kurdish elements,'” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik tells state-run Anadolu news agency.
“The Turkish republic is a sovereign, legitimate state,” he says, adding Turkey could not be put on an equal footing with a “terrorist organization,” referring to the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Police: Deep-rooted corruption at state’s road and rail company
Police say they have completed a corruption investigation involving dozens of senior current and former employees of the state-owned National Transport Infrastructure Company (Netivei Yisrael), which is responsible for Israel’s roads and railways.
“We investigated a suspected systematic and organized mechanism for the transfer of state funds … estimated at hundreds of millions of shekels,” the police say in a statement, according to Channel 2.
“The investigation uncovered alleged systematic criminal activity and deep corruption within Netivei Yisrael for more than a decade, under the tenure of several CEOs and with the involvement of a range of people from different areas of the company, including executives, managers, and junior staff, as well as those who were supposed to be the ‘gatekeepers,'” say the police.
Surprise at Ben Gurion as ‘Wings of Lebanon’ jet touches down
A passenger jet emblazoned with the name of Lebanese airline Wings of Lebanon lands at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, sparking much curiosity.
“At first I though I was hallucinating or couldn’t see straight,” one bystander at the airport tells Ynet.
It soon emerges that the Boeing 737 is leased by Turkey’s Tailwind Airlines from another company, and in turn Tailwind sometimes leases it to Wings of Lebanon, which painted its own logo on the side. On this occasion, however, it is being used by Tailwind for a charter flight to Israel from Antalya.
It is unclear, however why the Istanbul-based airline chose to send this particular plane to a sworn enemy of Lebanon.
Mel Brooks misses being able to call Gene Wilder
Beloved American Jewish comedian Mel Brooks says he misses being able to call his friend and long-time collaborator Gene Wilder, who died Monday at the age of 83.
“I expected it, I expected he would go,” Brooks tells Jimmy Fallon in an appearance last night on “The Tonight Show.”
“But I don’t know, when it happens, it’s still tremendous, it’s a big shock,” he says.
“I’m still reeling from that. No more Gene, I can’t call him, and he was such a wonderful part of my life.”
China backs French plan, calls Israeli-Palestinian conflict ‘central issue’
A Chinese official tells Abbas that Beijing supports France’s peace initiative and views the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the “central issue in the region.”
Gong Xiaosheng, China’s special envoy to the Middle East, makes the comments during a meeting with Abbas today in Ramallah, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Xiaosheng tells Abbas that there is “complete coordination” among the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the need to promote peace, and in viewing the conflict as the “central issue in the region.”
— Dov Lieber
Despite devastation of 5-year civil war, Syria promotes tourism
Syria’s Tourism Ministry releases a new video promoting travel to the country, despite five years of bloody conflict that have left an estimated 400,000 dead and 7.6 million people displaced.
The video, published on the ministry’s Facebook page, shows a jet ski zipping along the Syrian coast as dozens of people enjoy the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The camera then zooms over rolling green fields and a sprawling city scene before returning to the seafront images, while pulsating music plays in the background.
The footage was reportedly filmed at Tartus, Syria’s second port city and home to a Russian naval base, and ends with the slogan: “Syria – Always Beautiful.”
This is not the first time that the embattled Syrian regime has sought to promote the country as a tourist hot spot. Since the start of the conflict, it has released videos showcasing the now-ravaged Aleppo and Damascus, as well as touting the entire country as “the cradle of civilizations.”
US ‘deeply concerned’ by new Israeli settlement homes
The US expresses “deep concern” over an announcement that Israel okayed close to 500 new settlement homes and retroactively approved another 179 already existing units.
“We are deeply concerned by the government of Israel’s announcement today to advance plans for over 500 new settlement units in the West Bank,” the official says.
The US has long held that settlement construction is detrimental to the chances of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians, a charge that Israel rejects.
US commercial flight lands in Cuba for first time in 50 years
The first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half century lands in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, re-establishing regular air service severed at the height of the Cold War.
The flight of JetBlue 387 opens a new era of US-Cuba travel, with about 300 flights a week connecting the US with the island cut off from most Americans by the 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and formal ban on US citizens engaging in tourism there.
“Seeing the American airlines landing routinely around the island will drive a sense of openness, integration and normality. That has a huge psychological impact,” says Richard Feinberg, author of the new book “Open for Business: Building the New Cuban Economy.”
The restart of commercial travel between the two countries is one of the most important steps in President Barack Obama’s two-year-old policy of normalizing relations with the island. Historians disagree on the exact date of the last commercial flight but it appears to have been after Cuba banned incoming flights during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Secretary of State John Kerry says on Twitter that the last commercial flight was in 1961.
8/31/2016:The 1st US commercial flight to #Cuba since 1961, just over a year after raising the flag at US Embassy Havana. Another step fwd.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) August 31, 2016
Russia’s claim it killed top IS strategist a ‘joke’ — US officials
Russia’s claim that it killed Islamic State group spokesman and top strategist Abu Muhammad al-Adnani is a “joke,” and the strike was conducted by a US Predator drone, American officials say.
“That’s a joke,” a US defense official tells AFP when asked about Moscow’s Adnani claim, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
“It would be funny if not for the character of the campaign the Russians have undertaken in Syria.”
Another US official, again speaking on condition of anonymity, also says the strike was carried out by a Predator drone, which fired a Hellfire missile at the car in which Adnani was believed to have been traveling.
Blackmailed Boston-area rabbi dodges jail for embezzlement
A Boston-area court dismisses larceny charges against a former rabbi who dipped into synagogue funds to pay off a blackmailer.
The Norfolk County Superior Court agrees to a continuance of an embezzlement charge against 66-year-old Rabbi Barry Starr, which would lead to the charge being dropped and no jail time if he is not charged with any other crimes in the meantime. He was facing up to 15 years in prison.
Starr resigned in 2014 from Temple Israel in Sharon, Massachusetts, after 28 years, when the missing money came to light.
Blackmailer Nicholas Zemeitus had threatened to expose what he said was the rabbi’s two-year affair with a 16-year-old male. Zemeitus, who pleaded guilty to extortion and larceny for blackmailing Starr, was sentenced in December to up to five years in prison and three years of probation.
Prosecutors said they never found any evidence to support Zemeitus’s allegations, and do not believe that Starr met with minors.
PM opposes using Tel Aviv school for migrants’ children
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he opposes a plan to close a south Tel Aviv school so that it can be used by the children of migrants.
According to Israel Radio, the prime minister says the institution should remain as is — an excellent school founded by immigrants from the former Soviet Union out of a desire to improve standards in education for science, mathematics and the arts.
The PMO says Netanyahu expects educational agencies, the government and the municipality to support the continued functioning of the school in its present form.
IDF troops come under fire near Gaza border
IDF troops come under sniper fire in the area of the Gaza border, close to Moshav Netiv HaAsara.
The troops return fire in the direction of the initial attack, Israel Radio says. No soldiers are wounded in the incident.
US appeals court tosses out $654 million verdict against PLO
A US appeals court tosses out a $654 million jury verdict against the PLO for terrorist attacks in Israel in the early 2000s that killed or wounded Americans, saying US courts lack jurisdiction because the attacks were random and not aimed at the United States.
The written decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan says the attacks in 2002 and 2004 that killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more were “unquestionably horrific,” but “not expressly aimed at the United States.”
The decision says offices maintained by the PLO and Palestinian Authority in Washington were used to promote the Palestinian cause in speeches and media appearances and to retain a lobbying firm, purposes that are insufficient to give US courts jurisdiction over the groups for random attacks abroad.
Robert Tolchin, an attorney for families of Americans killed or injured in the attacks calls the ruling “very surprising,” and says it provides “a free pass for terrorists” to kill Americans overseas. Appeals options are being considered, he says.
Brazil’s Rousseff stripped of presidency
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff is being stripped of the country’s presidency in a Senate impeachment vote, ending 13 years of leftist rule in Latin America’s biggest economy.
Senators are voting by a majority of 61 to 20 to remove Rousseff from office on the grounds that she illegally manipulated the national budget.
Trump making surprise Mexico visit to address immigration
Donald Trump is expected in Mexico today to meet President Enrique Pena Nieto, in a move aimed at showing that despite the GOP presidential nominee’s hardline opposition to illegal immigration, he is no close-minded xenophobe.
The closed-door meeting is taking place hours before Trump delivers a highly anticipated speech on immigration, and as debate about his immigration policies — including his call for building a wall along the border and having Mexico pay for it — reaches fever pitch.
Pena Nieto has categorically rejected the idea of his country paying for a border wall, and has gone so far as to compare Trump to “Hitler and Mussolini.”
Trump’s campaign director Kellyanne Conway says the pair will discuss immigration, along with drugs and trade.
The invitation by Pena Nieto, who was elected in 2012, comes as his own popularity has plummeted.
Trump says on Twitter he is “very much” looking forward to meeting with Pena Nieto.
I have accepted the invitation of President Enrique Pena Nieto, of Mexico, and look very much forward to meeting him tomorrow.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2016
Terror victim’s son: Expel Palestinian scouts for honoring my father’s killer
The son of an American-Israeli man killed in a Palestinian attack last year says he has asked the global scout movement to expel its Palestinian branch after local members dedicate a recent training course to one of his father’s killers.
Micah Lakin Avni says the Palestinian scout branch is violating the world movement’s core ideals.
“The scouts has really been for more than a century an international, nonpartisan organization dedicated to teaching kids to be good citizens of their neighborhood, of their world,” Avni says. “Tragically, they are teaching their kids to hate and be violent.”
A Palestinian scout troop in East Jerusalem held a training course last week that was dedicated to Baha Alyan — one of two Palestinian attackers who shot and stabbed passengers on a Jerusalem bus last October.
Avni’s father, Richard Lakin, was among three people killed in the attack. Alyan was killed by a security guard, while a second assailant survived and is now serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison.
Palestinian scout leader Ahmed Mashahreh says Alyan was active for many years in the scouting movement and that the recognition had nothing to do with the bus attack.
“This had nothing to do with politics,” Mashahreh says. “During his lifetime, Baha was very active in scout activities. That’s why we picked his name, not because of what he did on the last day of his life.”
PM, Tel Aviv mayor row over status of city school
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, a member of the Labor Party, slams Netanyahu for his response to a plan to limit admission to a local school to children of migrant workers, whom the prime minister called the children of “infiltrators.”
When Huldai says the prime minister issues statements “like the last of the talkbackers,” Netanyahu hits back by saying the mayor and municipality “should be ashamed” both of the move to close the school and their response to it.
Alsheich: Members of Ethiopian community ambushed me on comments
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich blames the backlash for his comments yesterday about crime rates among Ethiopian Israelis on some members of the community, Channel 2 reports.
Alsheich drew widespread condemnation yesterday after he appeared to say that it was “natural” for law enforcement officers to be more suspicious of Ethiopian Israelis than of other citizens.
“They ambushed me, I would not be surprised if this was one of those people who spent their whole lives agitating members of the community to hold protests,” the TV quotes the police chief as privately telling his associates today.
“Their ideology widens societal gaps in the country,” he says. “What primarily bothers me is the fact that this storm does damage to the great efforts the police are making in this community. It is frustrating but I have no intention of letting it get me down. It just inspires me to do more.”
Ex-IDF general: We have elevated occupation to art form
A former head of the IDF’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. (res.) Gadi Shami, criticizes the political echelons for the occupation of Palestinian territories, saying it prevents the army from preparing for genuine threats.
The army’s Central Command is responsible for an area that includes the West Bank.
“We have elevated the occupation to an art form,” Shami tells a conference at the IDC Herzliya, according to Channel 2. “We are the world champions of occupation. I was GOC Central Command, a general of the occupation. And I’m asking, is this what we want to be? Every step we take should stem from one strategic goal — separation from the Palestinians.
“The IDF is busy controlling of a population of 2.5 million civilians [which] diverts the army from its primary function. The IDF is having trouble preparing for the threats facing it. The army is losing its values and aptitude and becoming a punching bag for politicians.”