Attorney general said to be bringing charges against Sara Netanyahu
PM’s wife accused of diverting public money for her private housekeeping expenses; Supreme Court orders prime minister to disclose dates of phone calls with Sheldon Adelson
Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.
The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
King Abdullah: ‘The Palestinians’ goal is in danger’
Ahead of a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah following weeks of tensions between his country and Israel, Jordan’s king says that recent developments prove that “the Palestinians’ goal is in danger.”
Abdullah II is currently meeting Abbas in his first visit to Ramallah in five years. The monarch’s visit comes after a peak in Jordanian-Israeli tensions over the Temple Mount, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims. He is not scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the trip.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, King Abdullah said that efforts to come to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians were getting “harder by the day,” Israel’s Channel 2 News reports. He added that there would be “no progress” if the United States did not take an active role in efforts to begin negotiations.
DNA match leads to arrest in 5-year-old attempted rape case
A DNA match helped authorities catch the suspect in the attempted rape of a Holon woman some five years ago, police say in a statement.
Police on Sunday arrested a 37-year-old Nigerian man whose DNA matched a sample taken from the woman he attempted to assault in 2012.
The woman, who successfully fought off her attacker, scratched his face during the struggle. Police collected the skin and blood cells from underneath the victim’s fingernails in an effort to identify her rapist, but the sample turned up no matches in law enforcement databases.
After the suspect was briefly arrested in connection with a separate crime several months ago, police collected a sample of his DNA. His sample was later run through DNA database and matched that of the sample collected on the woman’s fingernail.
— Tamar Pileggi
Police bust thieves who preyed on Birthright visitors
Police say they have arrested a gang of thieves suspected of having targeted Jewish tour groups by learning their movements so as to strike when the visitors were not in their hotel rooms.
The gang, comprising a woman and three men, is believed to be behind a series of robberies among participants on Birthright-Taglit trips who were staying at the Kibbutz Almog guesthouse near the Dead Sea, police said in a statement.
The Birthright organization brings young Jewish adults aged 18-26 on 10-day trips to Israel, where they they tour the country’s highlights and meet young Israelis with the aim of boosting identity with their Jewish heritage.
After a number of trip participants reported thefts of their belongings while they were staying at the Almog facility, police launched an investigation. A combination of undercover operations and sleuthing led police to the suspects, all in their 20s and residents of the central region of the country. They were arrested over the past two weeks, police say in a statement.
Increasing interest in halachic pre-nup, rabbinical group says
In honor of the “Jewish day of love,” Tu B’Av, the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization reports that there is increasing public interest in its halachic prenuptial agreement.
Tu B’Av is observed today, which is the 15th day of the Jewish month of Av.
The Heskem B’Ahava, or “Agreement of Love,” was introduced in 2015 in order to prevent legal and halachic, or Jewish legal, obstacles in the event of the dissolution of a marriage.
Nearly 2,000 couples have signed the Agreement of Love contract before their weddings since its launch, with many more inquiring about it in recent months.
“Every couple who goes under the chuppah deserves to play a part in addressing the growing problem of people trapped by their spouses because of the absence of these types of agreements,” says Rabbi Uri Ganzel, director of the Heskem B’Ahava program in a statement. “So by signing on, a couple is able to help make this process more mainstream and combat that trend with the hope that it will one day be completely eradicated from our society.”
Renault signs €660 million deal with Iran
French automaker Renault signs a long-awaited joint venture deal with Iran worth €660 million ($779 million) to build up to 300,000 cars per year.
The new deal puts Renault in partnership with Iran’s state Industrial Development and Renovation Organisation (IDRO) and private firm Parto Negin Naseh. Renault will hold a 60 percent stake with IDRO and Parto Negin Naseh 20 percent each.
“The first phase of this accord worth 660 million euros provides for the annual manufacturing of 150,000 cars,” IDRO head Mansour Moazami says at a signing ceremony in Tehran.
He said the first cars will roll off the assembly line in around 18 months.
“We are happy to sign one of Renault’s most historical contracts here,” says Thierry Bollore, number two of the French carmaker, at the signing. “Within Renault, Iran is known for its great industrial potential, its automotive industry infrastructure, strong human resources and unique geopolitical position.”
French firms have been at the forefront of rebuilding trade ties with Iran since the nuclear deal, with energy giant Total signing a billion-dollar gas deal last month despite mounting pressure from Washington to isolate the country.
King Abdullah greets Jerusalem mufti
Jordan’s King Abdullah II greeted the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, at his welcome ceremony in Ramallah during a rare trip to West Bank.
His Majesty King Abdullah II’s arrival and official welcoming ceremony in Ramallah #Jordan pic.twitter.com/NiPkXjHCb8
— RHC (@RHCJO) August 7, 2017
The visit is seen as a signal to Israel that he is closing ranks with the Palestinians on key issues, such as the contested Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, a point of contention in recent weeks.
Hussein played a central role in opposing Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount which were introduced after a terror attack there killed 2 Israeli policemen.
Notorious neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel dies in Germany
Ernst Zundel, a far-right activist who rose to notoriety over decades of public neo-Nazi activity in Canada and the US before being deported back to his native Germany on Holocaust denial charges, has died, German authorities say. He was 78.
Marina Lahmann, a spokeswoman for the community of Bad Wildbad in Baden-Wuerttemberg where Zundel lived, says that Zundel died over the weekend. She had no further information, saying the paperwork had not yet been processed.
“We can only confirm at the moment that he died,” she said.
Media in Canada quoted a statement from his wife, Ingrid Zundel, saying that he died of a heart attack at his home on Sunday. His wife, who lives in the United States, told CTV news she had spoken to her husband “just hours before he passed on and he was as optimistic and upbeat as ever.”
Born in Germany in 1939, Zundel emigrated to Canada in 1958 — allegedly to avoid German military service — and lived in Toronto and Montreal until 2001.
He achieved international notoriety for his neo-Nazi beliefs and writings, including “The Hitler We Loved and Why,” and operated Samisdat Publishers, a leading distributor of Nazi and Nazi-era propaganda. He also provided regular content for an eponymous far-right website.
Canadian officials rejected his attempts to obtain citizenship in 1966 and 1994.
Jordan, PA form joint Al-Aqsa crisis team
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki tells journalists after a two-hour meeting between King Abdullah II of Jordan and PA President Mahmoud Abbas that “the visit comes at a time of great importance to conduct a joint assessment of the problem of Israeli attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the attempt to change the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
“We evaluated the experience and are preparing for future actions we expect from Israel and from the person of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he adds, according to the PA’s official news site Wafa.
“It was agreed to form a joint crisis team, which will continue to assess the past phase and its lessons, and to assess any challenges we may face at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
— Dov Lieber
St. Louis Jewish cemetery rededicated after gravestones toppled by vandals
A St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery was rededicated nearly six months after more than 150 headstones were toppled and damaged by vandals.
Dozens of members of the St. Louis Jewish community and its supporters gathered Sunday at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City, Missouri, on Sunday to honor those who are buried there and acknowledge the help and support of the entire local community, local media reports.
“While God could not guard this sacred place from harm, God did send so many to repair, reclaim, and re-dedicate,” Rabbi Roxane Shapiro of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association said during the ceremony.
Among those in attendance at the rededication was Tarek El-Messidi, founder of the Muslim organization Celebrate Mercy. The group, with the support of other Muslim leaders including Linda Sarsour, set up a crowdfunding campaign which raised $162,000 from nearly 5,000 donors, exceeding in the first few hours its $20,000 goal to help repair the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery.
Hundreds of community volunteers came to the cemetery to help with the cleanup and repairs in the wake of the attack, including Vice President Mike Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish and had invited the vice president.
No suspects have been identified in the vandalism attack. The Anti-Defamation has offered a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to an arrest in the case.
Jordanian king to Abbas: Trump committed to peace process
King Abdullah II of Jordan tells PA President Mahmoud Abbas that US President Donald Trump is “committed” to the peace process.
Speaking to the Palestinian leader in Ramallah, King Abdullah “highlighted the commitment of Trump to work towards achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” according to a summary of the meeting in the Jordanian government’s official news outlet Petra.
Abdullah “stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to create real political prospects for progress toward resolving the conflict,” the report added.
— Dov Lieber
Trump attacks Senator Richard Blumenthal in angry tweet storm
US President Donald Trump lashes out at Senator Richard Blumenthal in a series of tweets after the Democrat voiced his concern at the Department of Justice cracking down on leaks.
Although officially on a 17-day vacation in his New Jersey golf club, Trump still found time to attack Blumenthal and criticize his military service during the Vietnam War.
Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2017
Never in U.S.history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2017
…conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2017
Blumenthal had appeared on CNN’s “New Day” earlier, saying he was worried about the Justice Department reviewing subpoena policies for reporters.
“I’m very concerned that the Department of Justice is weaponizing these laws for its personal and political ends, and specifically for the White House’s purposes,” he said.
Iran ridicules US push for inspection of its military sites
Iran mocks the US push for inspections of the country’s military sites, calling it a “ridiculous dream that will never come true.”
This comes after US officials said last month that the Trump administration is pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that Tehran struck in 2015 with world powers.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, tells reporters in Tehran that this request is “possibly something that a satirist wrote up.”
The inspections are one element of what is designed to be a more aggressive approach by Washington to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly described the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers as “bad.”
Fire strikes at another Dubai tower, but is quickly put out
A fire has struck a high-rise in the Dubai Marina for the third time in four days, forcing the evacuation of a beachfront hotel.
The Movenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach said on Twitter that the Monday morning fire was “swiftly brought under control” and that all hotel guests were evacuated safely. They were later allowed back inside.
Video posted online showed black smoke wafting from the building as guests and hotel employees streamed out past a swimming pool.
An intense fire broke out in the more than 1,100-foot-tall (335 meters) Torch Tower early Friday — the second such blaze to hit what is one of the world’s tallest residential skyscrapers.
Firefighters put out a small fire at the Tiger Tower across the street Sunday.
Netanyahu meets with US Democratic congresspeople
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets at his Jerusalem office with an 18-member delegation of US Democratic congressmen led by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with a Republican Congressional delegation led by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
Supreme Court rules PM must provide details of conversations with Sheldon Adelson
The Supreme Court rules that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must publicize a full account of his phone calls with conservative American Jewish gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson, his backer and publisher of the free newspaper Israel Hayom.
According to the ruling, the prime minister will also need to disclose the dates of phone conversations with the editor-in-chief of the paper, which is widely regarded as strongly pro-Netanyahu in its orientation.
The court’s decision came in answer to an appeal by Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker and overturned a 2016 ruling of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court which in turn had overturned a previous 2015 Jerusalem District Court ruling ordering the information be released.
The reports had originally been requested in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law on the grounds that the information is of public interest.
“The public interest in releasing this information outweighs the considerations for Netanyahu and Adelson’s right to privacy,” Justice Menachem Mazuz wrote in the ruling.
Netanyahu is currently a criminal suspect in “Case 2000,” investigating a suspected quid pro quo deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes in which the two seemed to discuss an illicit agreement that would have seen the prime minister hobble Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Amnesty International says Israeli plans to close Al-Jazeera move send ‘chilling message’
Israel’s decision to close the offices of broadcaster Al Jazeera in the Jewish state is “a brazen attack on media freedom,” Amnesty International says.
“The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage,” Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at the London-based group, says in a statement.
“This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” she adds.
She urges to “halt any attempt to silence critical media,” saying that “all journalists should be free to carry out their work without facing harassment or intimidation.”
The government said Sunday it would demand the revocation of the credentials of journalists working for the channel and also cut its cable and satellite connections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said on July 27 that he wanted Al Jazeera expelled amid tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.
Israel has regularly accused the Doha-based broadcaster of bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and incitement that leads to deadly terror attacks.
North Korea vows harsh retaliation against new UN sanctions
North Korea vows to bolster its nuclear arsenal and gain revenge of a “thousandfold” against the United States in response to tough UN sanctions imposed following its recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests.
The warning comes two days after the UN Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions to punish North Korea, including a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1 billion. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, called the US-drafted resolution “the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against” North Korea.
In a statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s government said the sanctions were a “violent infringement of its sovereignty” that was caused by a “heinous US plot to isolate and stifle” the country.
“We will make the US pay by a thousandfold for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country,” the statement said.
Partial lunar eclipse to grace Israel’s skies tonight
Stargazers across Israel will able to join billions of people across the globe tonight in viewing a partial lunar eclipse as the sun, moon and earth, line up (nearly) perfectly to produce the rare night-sky phenomenon.
A partial lunar eclipse is when the earth moves between the sun and moon and a small part of the moon’s surface is covered by the central darkest part of the earth’s shadow.
While the eclipse will last a total of five and a half hours, in Israel, it will only be visible just under two, beginning at 8.22 p.m. and ending at 10.18 p.m. The maximum point of eclipse will be seen at 9.20 p.m.
Weather forecasts predict clear skies across the county.
A livefeed of the eclipse will be available here.
Such a lunar eclipse always occurs around two weeks before or after a solar eclipse, as will happen on August 21.
Al-Qaeda ousted from oil-rich Yemen province
Al-Qaeda fighters have retreated from an oil-rich southern province of war-ravaged Yemen in the face of an assault by an elite US-backed government force, a military official says.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), seen by the United States as the global network’s most dangerous franchise, has exploited Yemen’s war to expand its presence in the country’s south. But special forces, trained by the United Arab Emirates and backed by the United States, on Wednesday launched a “major operation” against the jihadists in Shabwa province.
The group staged a “tactical retreat” from the province with no major clashes, the senior military official said, requesting anonymity, as he was not authorized to talk to the press. The jihadists appear to have moved even further south into neighboring Abyan province.
Residents of an Abyan town near the Shabwa border said they counted at least 45 cars carrying armed AQAP militants through their district.
The province is home to several oil and gas fields, as well as Yemen’s only gas terminal Belhaf, which was operated by French group Total, until the company withdrew in 2015.
Netanyahu associates: Ari Harow has no dirt on prime minister
Close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say that the one-time chief of staff who turned state’s witness in the corruption probe against the premier has no incriminating information and will not have a serious effect on the probe’s outcome, Channel 2 news reports.
“He has no recordings, no documents,” the unnamed sources reportedly said, in an attempt to thrown cold water on recent reports that Ari Harow’s testimony could provide information that will lead to an indictment.
Harow, a former key associate of the prime minister, signed a deal on Friday to turn state’s witness, a day after police explicitly said for the first time that the investigations of Netanyahu revolve around suspicions of “bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”
According to a statement from the Israel Police, Harow is expected to receive six months of community service and a NIS 700,000 fine ($193,000) on breach of trust charges in exchange for testimony in two probes in which Netanyahu is a criminal suspect.
Azaria requests appeals hearing on delaying start of prison term
Former IDF soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of shooting dead a wounded Palestinian stabber, asks the Military Court of Appeals to hold a hearing Tuesday to put off the date he is set to begin his prison sentence.
The request from Elor Azaria was made by his lawyer Yoram Sheftel, who, in a letter to the court, said the case’s “uniqueness” justified a delay and that a ruling determining the sentence must start on the court-mandated date was “baseless,” Channel 2 reports.
Azaria’s request to the appeals court comes after military prosecutors said earlier in the day they opposed his request to delay his entry to prison until the chief of staff rules on whether to commute his manslaughter sentence.
After a military court rejected his appeal last month, Azaria asked IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot to commute or shorten his 18-month sentence.
Controversial soccer team Beitar wins anti-racism award
An Israeli football team known for its anti-Arabic chants and far-right fan base is awarded an anti-racism prize by the president after improving its behavior.
Beitar Jerusalem, known for its often violent ultra-nationalist Jewish fans, was awarded the “ground-breaking achievement” at the Shield of Honor awards by President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem.
The club, which finished third in the Israeli Premier League last year, was recognized for its youth work and the establishment of a forum to deal with incitement and racism.
“I hope that Beitar will continue on the right and proper way, and your success will have a positive impact across the public,” Rivlin, a long-time fan and former manager of the club, said.
The club has a controversial history in Israel. Its fans often sing anti-Palestinian chants at matches, including “Death to Arabs.” They have also chanted support for Yigal Amir, a far-right Jewish nationalist who assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Beitar is also the only club in the Israeli league that has never had an Arab Muslim player.
Last year, 19 members of Beitar’s ultra-nationalist La Familia fan group were charged with attempted murder, including of rival supporters.
Attorney general said to be bringing charges against Sara Netanyahu
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has decided to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu for diverting public money for her private housekeeping expenses, Channel 2 News reports.
She was interrogated at National Fraud Squad headquarters near Tel Aviv last week over allegations she used public money for personal housekeeping expenses at the couple’s official and private residences.
She is suspected of improper behavior and misuse of state funds relating to the Prime Minister’s Residence, including receiving goods under false pretenses, falsifying documents, and breach of trust. The attorney general is said to be bringing charges for four separate allegations.
The most serious involves the hiring of electrician Avi Fahima, a Likud Central Committee member. A committee charged with overseeing residence expenditures — and which included the Prime Minister’s Office legal adviser — ruled against the hiring of Fahima, but he was employed nonetheless.
Further allegations relate to the use of state funds for purchasing furniture designated for the Caesarea home. The furniture was apparently purchased for the official residence in Jerusalem and then moved to the Netanyahu home, while their older furniture was taken to the PM’s residence to replace it.
The prime minister’s wife is also suspected of improper use of state funds for her late father’s medical care and overcharging state coffers for private meals ordered to the Prime Minster’s Residence.
The decision to launch the investigation came in light of the state prosecutor’s recommendation, after allegations were raised in a 2015 report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira that detailed lavish spending by Netanyahu and his wife at their official residence in Jerusalem, as well as at their private home in Caesarea.
Yossi Cohen, Sara Netanyahu’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sara Netanyahu’s lawyer says indictment would be ‘ridiculous’
Yossi Cohen, Sara Netanyahu’s lawyer, responds to reports that the attorney general has decided to indict the prime minister’s wife for diverting public money for her private housekeeping expenses.
“If the reports are correct, we are talking about ridiculous allegations,” he says “How far will the persecution of the Netanyahu family go? Until the cup of tea that an employee of the residence gave Mrs. Netanyahu’s 97-year old father on his death bed while he lived there?”
One of the allegations includes improper use of state funds for her late father’s medical care.
Court to hold urgent hearing on delaying start of Azaria’s prison term
A military appeals court agrees to hold an urgent hearing Tuesday on delaying the start of the prison sentence of an Israel Defense Forces’ soldier convicted of shooting dead a wounded Palestinian stabber, a day before he is set to be put behind bars.
The Military Court of Appeal’s decision comes after Elor Azaria requested from the court that it hold the hearing.
The request from Azaria was made by his lawyer Yoram Sheftel, who, in a letter to the Military Court of Appeals, said the case’s “uniqueness” justified a delay and that a ruling determining the sentence must start on the court-mandated date was “baseless,” Channel 2 reported.
Justice Ministry says no decision yet on Sara Netanyahu indictment
Responding to reports that the attorney general will indict Sara Netanyahu for diverting public money for her private housekeeping expenses, the Justice Department says that no decision has been made yet.
“We want to clarify that at this stage the attorney general has not yet made a decision on the case,” a statement says. “When a decision is made, after the end of the investigation that was ordered by the attorney general, a public statement will be made, as is the accepted practice.”