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Palestinians angrily denounce Moroccan ‘betrayal’ over Israel move

Moroccan king tells Abbas support for Palestinians ‘unshakeable’ after Israel deal, as groups fume; Gantz and Ashkenazi only informed of talks from White House, not Netanyahu

People hold a large Palestinian flag during a protest against normalizing relations with Israel, in Rabat, Morocco, Friday, September 18, 2020. (AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
People hold a large Palestinian flag during a protest against normalizing relations with Israel, in Rabat, Morocco, Friday, September 18, 2020. (AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they occured.

Thursday night restrictions seemingly off table

Lawmakers are becoming increasingly vocal in opposition to a Health Ministry plan to impose certain restrictions on home visits and commercial activity over Hanukkah evenings, seemingly pushing off the start date from the restrictions by at least a day, Channel 12 news reports.

According to the channel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they will not take effect tonight.

The channel reports that Netanyahu will meet with Blue and White head Benny Gantz on the matter, but that Gantz’s party opposes restrictions on commerce.

Blue and White ministers already came out against closing stores in a morning meeting, seemingly forcing the talks to be suspended until later, though it’s unclear when they will resume, if at all.

“The Hanukkah restrictions have crossed the line past good taste,” Minister Alon Schuster is quoted saying by the news site.

“There’s a lack of consistency. It’s strange that people can shop in malls but can’t light candles with their parents. The proposal is creating confusion,” says minister Meirav Cohen.

Report: Netanyahu may appoint Steinitz US envoy

The Walla news site reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to appoint Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz as the next US ambassador in place of Gilad Erdan, who is supposed to take up the role in addition to the UN envoy position he already holds.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the outlet, Netanyahu is meeting with Erdan, and giving him the choice of choosing which position he wants to keep and which he wants Steinitz to have.

Steinitz has been closely involved in US and UN-brokered negotiations with Lebanon over a maritime border dispute.

Netanyahu had apparently been waiting for the results of the US election to make Erdan’s posting official. Ron Dermer is the current ambassador but is expected to leave the post sometime in the near future.

Biden heading to Georgia to stump for Senate candidates

US President-elect Joe Biden is heading to Georgia to campaign for the Democratic candidates in the state’s two critical Senate runoffs.

Biden says he’ll travel to Atlanta on Tuesday to support Jon Ossoff, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and the Democratic ticket in the January 5 runoffs, which will determine which party controls the Senate at the outset of his presidency.

Ossoff, who is Jewish, faces Republican Sen. David Perdue. Warnock, who has taken fire from some conservatives for remarks deemed anti-Israel, faces GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Republicans need one seat for a Senate majority. Democrats need both to make Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.

US President Donald Trump used a weekend rally in Valdosta, Georgia, to push supporters to turn out for Perdue and Loeffler.

Georgia has long been a Republican stronghold but may be on the road to swing state status, particularly after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992 to carry the state.

— AP

Outgoing Lebanon PM, 3 former ministers charged over Beirut blast

The lead investigator of the catastrophic August 4 blast at the Lebanese capital’s port indicted outgoing premier Hassan Diab and three ex-ministers on charges of negligence, a judicial source says..

The damaged site and grain silo following the massive August 4 blast in Beirut’s port area, in Beirut on August 31, 2020. (GONZALO FUENTES / POOL / AFP)

The decision by judge Fadi Sawan to indict Diab and ex-ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Ghazi Zaeiter and Youssef Fenianos came after a blast probe “confirmed that they (the suspects) have received several written notices warning them against postponing the disposal of ammonium nitrate fertilizer,” which authorities say was behind the August 4 blast, the source says.

“They did not take the necessary measures to avoid the devastating explosion and its enormous damages,” the source says.

— AFP

 

FDA head hopes vaccine approval will kickstart return to ‘normal’

Commissioner Stephen Hahn says today’s meeting of the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel to approve a shot developed by Pfizer is “an important day for all of America.”

The FDA head hopes it will lead to the beginning of the end of the pandemic and a return “to a more normal and healthy life.”

A nurse prepares the a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, Yorkshire on December 8, 2020. (Andy Stenning / POOL / AFP)

Hahn says the FDA is working to understand the allergic reactions that turned up when the United Kingdom began vaccinations this week and that FDA would include recommendations in any emergency use authorization as to who should and should not get the vaccine.

Hahn, addressing public skepticism of the vaccine, says if one authorized, it’s important for people to get vaccinated to arrive at herd immunity.

He says: “I have 100% confidence, and I think the American public should as well, with respect to our review of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.”

He spoke this morning to ABC, CBS and NBC.

Israel is expected to follow suit should the FDA approve the Pfizer vaccine.

— with AP

PA says it will jail or fine violators as four areas lock down

The Palestinian Authority Interior Ministry announces that it will punish violators of the week-long lockdown beginning tonight with a $1,400 fine, up to a year in prison, or both.

Four West Bank provinces — Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem and Bethlehem — have been designated as red zones by the PA. Their 1.6 million residents will enter a week-long lockdown starting tonight.

Palestinians take pictures in front of the Ibrahimi mosque, also known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron on December 9, 2020. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

“We have reached the decision to return to lockdown based on the coronavirus situation in some provinces, which have seen 30% rates of tests coming back positive,” PA Interior Ministry spokesperson Ghassan Nimr says in a statement discussing the higher penalties.

Nimr estimated in an interview with Voice of Palestine Radio two weeks ago that adherence to a recent attempt at to lock down West Bank Palestinian areas had been only around 60%.

— Aaron Boxerman

Health Ministry says no Hanukkah restrictions

The coronavirus cabinet has resumed its meeting and will seemingly not push ahead with special Hanukkah restrictions.

Rather, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tells the coronavirus cabinet that the restrictions will stay in the trash bin, but once Israel hits 2,500 new cases a day or a reproduction rate of 1.32, a scheme called “tightened restraint” will automatically kick in, according to reports.

The plan would include shutting walk-in businesses and reducing public transportation.

As Israel nears 3,000 deaths, Netanyahu boasts of low fatality rate

There’s no official word yet on the government’s reported decision to walk back its plans for Hanukkah restrictions.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasts on Twitter that Israel has “among the lowest death rates among coronavirus sufferers in the world.”

“We made the right decisions, saved many lives, and that’s what we will continue to do,” he says, without detailing what decisions he is referring to.

He attaches a chart of unknown provenance showing death rates of coronavirus sufferers, showing Israel as the second-lowest of a handful of countries, beaten only by Iceland.

According to Health Ministry figures released Thursday, 2,937 people have died of the virus in Israel since the start of the pandemic, out of 351,579 cases.

US flies massive bombers around Mideast again in message to Iran

In a new show of military might, two American bomber aircraft took off from the United States and flew over a swath of the Middle East on Thursday, sending what US officials said was a direct message of deterrence to Iran.

The flight of the two massive B-52H Stratofortress bombers over the region, the second such mission in less than a month, was designed to underscore America’s continuing commitment to the Middle East even as President Donald Trump’s administration withdraws thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

A B-52 heavy bomber, flanked by fighter jets, flies to the Middle East in a tacit threat to Iran on November 21, 2020. (US Air Force/Facebook)

“We do not seek conflict, but we must remain postured and committed to respond to any contingency or in opposition to any aggression,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top US commander for the Middle East, says in a statement.

A senior military official, speaking to a small group of reporters on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the mission, said the administration believes that the risk of an Iranian attack on US or allied interests in the region is a bit higher than normal now, and the Pentagon wants to ensure that Tehran thinks twice before doing anything.

Bomber deployments and short-term flights to the Middle East and Europe have been used in the past to message Iran, a few times in the last two years.

According to officials, the bombers flew out of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on Wednesday and conducted the flight into Thursday.

The two bombers were expected to fly a roughly 36-hour mission, across the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, then cross the Arabian Peninsula and fly down the Persian Gulf, making a wide loop near Qatar and staying a safe distance from Iran’s coastline before returning home, said the military official.

The flight was coordinated with US allies in the region, and aircraft from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar flew with the bombers as they traveled through the airspace, according to the official.

The long-range heavy bombers, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons, are a formidable sight and are flown less frequently in the Middle East than smaller combat aircraft, such as American fighter jets. Adversaries often complain about bomber flights in their region, deeming them a provocative show of force.

— AP

Pfizer results impress medical journal as FDA convenes

The full results of a clinical trial for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a major milestone that came as a committee of the US Food and Drug Administration meets to discuss its approval.

An editorial related to the scientific paper says, “The trial results are impressive enough to hold up in any conceivable analysis. This is a triumph.”

The meeting is being streamed live:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kES6WRSpNw

— AFP

Netanyahu to public: We’re trusting you to keep infection low, or else

Speaking at a vaccine distribution center during a tour with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to confirm the government’s decision to do away with special Hanukkah restrictions.

“We made a decision to ask the public to keep infection levels low. If this can’t be done, we’ll go to ‘tightened restraint.’ If that’s not possible, we’ll go to a general lockdown,” he threatens.

The public’s answer:

PMO confirms no new virus curbs, for now

The Prime Minister’s Office sends out an official announcement confirming the decision to not impose additional restrictions over Hanukkah.

According to the statement, when Israel hits 2,500 cases a day or the reproduction rate — how many people each infected person infects — hits 1.32, Israel will enter “tightened restraint” for three weeks.

The statement does not explain what tightened restraint means, or if the 2,500 cases level is for a single day or based on a weekly average.

If after three weeks, the reproduction rate has not fallen below 1, Israel will enter a general lockdown, it says.

‘Science minister has little faith Israel can avoid lockdown’

Science Minister Izhar Shay (Blue and White) voted against the decision to hold off on Hanukkah restrictions but impose harsher ones later on, the Ynet news site reports.

Izhar Shay at the Knesset, on April 29, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“We’re deciding that within a week we’ll go into ‘tightened restraint,’ and in three weeks to a full lockdown. We’re also voting on a lockdown. The tightened restraint doesn’t bring down the numbers, let’s not kid ourselves,” he says, according to the report.

Netanyahu shot back that “I tried to impose a curfew, you were opposed. You got a lockdown,” the report says.

2020 on track to see fewest defense-related deaths in Israeli history

The year 2020 is on track to have the lowest number of security-related deaths in Israel’s history — two — following an overall calm year on the country’s military front, according to new figures from the Israel Defense Forces.

“We are ending a year in which we successfully fulfilled the primary mission of the IDF: providing defense and security. We thwarted every attempt to infiltrate into Israel and we saw a drop in the number of casualties and in the number of rockets fired at Israel,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi tells reporters in a year-end briefing.

According to an IDF tally, 174 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel by December 2020, the majority of them in February during a two-day round of fighting between the IDF and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This amounts to a roughly seven-fold decrease from the previous two years, when 1,296 and 1,164 projectiles were fired, respectively.

Kohavi says Israel has also been succeeding in driving Iran out of Syria, with the military seeing a substantial decrease in the number of Iranian-backed fighters in the country, as well as in the amount of weapons transported into and through it to Tehran’s proxies.

“Iranian entrenchment in Syria is in a clear trend of slowing down as a direct result of IDF activities, though we still have a way to go to reach our goals on this front,” the army chief says.

Read the full report here.

— Judah Ari Gross

Biden taps Susan Rice for domestic policy role

US President-elect Joe Biden is naming Susan Rice as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, giving her broad sway over his administration’s approach to immigration, health care and racial inequality and elevating the prominence of the position in the West Wing.

The move marks a surprising shift for Rice, a longtime Democratic foreign policy expert who served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and UN ambassador. She worked closely with then-Vice President Biden in those roles and was on his short list to become his running mate during the 2020 campaign.

Rice had an often combative relationship with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a 2015 book from Dennis Ross, an adviser to Obama on Mideast affairs.

In the book, Ross accused Rice of mismanaging the US-Israel relationship, and not keeping Jerusalem up to date on the status of Iran nuclear talks.

“In her view, the Israeli leader did everything but ‘use the N-word in describing the president,’” Ross wrote.

Biden is also nominating Denis McDonough, who was Obama’s White House chief of staff, as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, a sprawling agency that has presented organizational challenges for both parties over the years.

In selecting Rice and McDonough, Biden is continuing to stockpile his administration with prominent members of the Obama administration. He will make the formal announcements Friday, along with his nominations of Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Katherine Tai as US trade representative and Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary. Vilsack filled that same role during Obama’s two terms.

— with AP

 

Museums okayed to open — report

The coronavirus cabinet has voted to allow all museums to open, the Walla news site reports.

The move comes about a week after a limited number of museums opened as part of a pilot program, similar to one used for malls and markets, which were subsequently okayed to open.

Health Ministry head says reproduction rate at 1.24

Health Ministry director Chezy Levy says Israel will approve use of the Pfizer vaccine within days of it getting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Levy, speaking at a Hanukkah event, also warns that infection numbers are mounting across all strata of society.

“We see a rise in the number of sick daily and also in the weekly average. It’s not just because there’s more tests,” he says.

He warns that Israel’s viral reproduction rate is at 1.24. “This is a high R,” he says, noting that it was at 0.8 when Israel emerged from lockdown.

Morocco has agreed to normalize ties with Israel — Trump

Morocco has agreed to normalize relations with Israel, US President Donald Trump tweets.

Prosecution says church arson suspect motivated by racism

A Jewish man who sought to commit arson in a Christian holy site in Jerusalem on Friday was charged today with arson and “entering a place of prayer for racist reasons.”

The site in question, the Church of All Nations, lies on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. Some Christians believe the church contains a stone upon which Jesus prayed.

A priest checks the damage after a man poured out flammable liquid inside the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane, in East Jerusalem, on December 4, 2020. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Police had originally said that they believed the suspect, Yehoshua Alkobi, a 49-year old resident of Gilo in Jerusalem, was simply a serial arsonist.

But prosecutors now affirm that the attack was motivated by “antagonism or hatred towards a religious group.”

The suspect, a 49-year-old resident of Gilo, spilled “flammable material” inside the church before setting it alight.

Around NIS 28,000 ($8,609) of damage was caused to nine of the pews in the church, according to prosecutors.

— Aaron Boxerman

No confirmation of Morocco deal from Jerusalem or Rabat

There is not yet any confirmation of the normalization deal from Israel or Morocco.

Axios reports that the deal has been in the works for some two years, but ramped up in recent months, pushed by senior White House aide Jared Kushner and special envoy Avi Berkowitz.

The agreement to normalize, which has been long been rumored, is apparently in exchange for US recognition of the sparsely-populated Western Sahara region.

“The United States believes that an independent Sahrawi State is not a realistic option for resolving the conflict and that genuine autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution,” the White House says in a statement, which does not mention the agreement to establish ties with Israel.

Kushner says Rabat to open liaison office in Tel Aviv ‘immediately’ — report

Reuters reports that senior White House adviser Jared Kushner says Israel and Morocco will allow direct flights between them and move quickly to establish full diplomatic ties.

“They are going reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open embassies. And they are going to promote economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies,” he’s quoted saying.

“Through this historic step, Morocco is building on its longstanding bond with the Moroccan Jewish community living in Morocco and throughout the world, including in Israel. This is a significant step forward for the people of Israel and Morocco,” he’s quoted saying.

“It further enhances Israel’s security, while creating opportunities for Morocco and Israel to deepen their economic ties and improve the lives of their people.”

The report says the deal was sealed in a phone call between Donald Trump and King Mohammed VI earlier in the day.

 

Israeli envoy to US confirms deal with Morocco

Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer has confirmed the deal between Israel and Morocco to establish ties.

Morocco’s Foreign Ministry has not yet commented, but retweets US President Donald Trump’s tweets on the normalization.

Kushner: Deal gives us room to ‘get what we want’ on human rights

Asked during a briefing with reporters what the US is doing to address alleged human rights abuses in the countries it has pushed to agree to normalization agreements with Israel, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner says, “we recognize that some of these countries share our values more than others do.”

He goes on to argue that in forging better relations with such countries, the US is in a better position “to get what we want” on other issues.

He also adds that the Islamic State “was not too good with human rights” either.

— Jacob Magid

Saudi ties ‘inevitable,’ Kushner says

President Donald Trump’s aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner says it is only a matter of time for Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel after Morocco became the latest Arab nation to do so.

“Israel and Saudi Arabia coming together and having full normalization at this point is an inevitability, but the timeframe, obviously, will come — is something that has to be worked out,” Kushner told reporters.

He says it will require “strong US leadership in the region.”

“If you look at where we’ve come in last six months, the region has essentially gone from a solid to a liquid and it feels like there’s a lot more fluidity,” he adds.

— Jacob Magid and AFP

Netanyahu to speak at candle lighting with US envoy at Western Wall

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to comment on the deal with Morocco but will give a speak at a candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall with US ambassador David Friedman at 7:15 p.m.

Virus death toll rises by 19 to 2,956

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 2,956, according to the national coronavirus taskforce.

The tally represents 19 more deaths since this afternoon, according to Health Ministry figures.

The taskforce also says there were over 1,000 new cases on Thursday as of 4 p.m.

Hailing Morocco ties, Netanyahu thanks Trump for bringing ‘peace to Middle East’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks first in Hebrew and then in English on the normalization deal with Morocco, saying the coronavirus vaccine and now peace with the North-African nation represent “a big light for Israel.”

“I always believed in this peace, and now it’s happening before our eyes. I want to thank President Trump for his extraordinary efforts to expand peace to bring peace to Israel and the Middle East.”

“We will never, ever forget this,” he adds.

He says there will be “a very warm peace,” between the countries, noting the large Jewish community from Morocco.

Praising Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, Netanyahu also speaks of Moroccan Jewry as being “the bridge” upon which the new formal peaceful relations between the two countries will now be built.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and US Ambassador David Friedman at the Western Wall on December 10, 2020. (screen capture: Youtube/GPO)

“The light of peace has never shone brighter than today in the Middle East,” he says.

“We will resume liaison offices between Israel and Morocco,” he says, adding that the countries will work as fast as possible to quickly establish full ties and direct flights.

Morocco says flights first, diplomatic ties after

In a statement, Moroccan sovereign King Mohammad VI says Morocco intends to “resume official bilateral contacts and diplomatic relations [with Israel] as soon as possible.”

King Mohammad says that Morocco will take three moves in the near future. First, facilitating direct flights to transport Jews of Moroccan origin and Israeli tourists too and from Morocco. The North African nation will also seek to “resume official bilateral ties and diplomatic relations [with Israel] as soon as possible.”

Morocco will also seek “to develop innovative relationships in the economic and technological fields. As part of this goal, there will be work on renewing liaison offices in the two countries, as was the case in the past for many years, until 2002,” King Mohammad says.

He thanks US President Donald Trump for recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed region of Western Sahara, which observers believe was done as a quid pro quo in exchange for normalization.

Explaining the decision to normalize, King Mohammad cites among other reasons “the historical role that Morocco has played in bringing the peoples of the region together and supporting security and stability in the Middle East, and given the special ties that bind the Jewish community of Moroccan origin, including those in Israel, to the person of His Majesty the King.”

— Aaron Boxerman

Netanyahu did not inform Ashkenazi, Gantz on Morocco talks — report

The Ynet news site reports that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister and Blue and White head Benny Gantz were not informed of talks with Morocco or the agreement to normalize ties from Netanyahu.

The unsourced report says they learned about it from “other sources,” without expanding.

Netanyahu has consistently sought to keep his senior partners out of the loop on diplomatic deals with Arab states.

On Twitter, Ashkenazi praises the deal and thanks US President Donald Trump.

“This is another big day for Israeli diplomacy, a day of light, as befits the holiday of Hanukkah,” he writes.

Israel does not rule out recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara

Asked if Israel will follow the lead of the US and recognize Morocco’s control of Western Sahara, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry says it is too early to say.

Only a handful of countries recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the territory, which is claimed by both Morocco and Polisario Front pro-independence rebels who recently revived their three-decade struggle in the former Spanish territory.

Members of the Polisario Front, the organization disputing sovereignty over Western Sahara with Morocco, mourn their leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, during his funeral held in the Rabouni refugees camp, in south-western Algeria, Friday, June 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Sidali Djarboub)

The United Nations says its position is “unchanged” on the disputed region.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes “the solution to the question can still be found based on Security Council resolutions,” his spokesman says.

The UN deploys a peacekeeping mission called MINURSO mission to the region to monitor a ceasefire and supposedly to organize a referendum on the territory’s status.

— with AFP

Gantz and Ashkenazi learned about Morocco talks from White House

A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi appears to confirm reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not keep his senior partners from the Blue and White party informed about talks with Morocco.

“Defense Minister Gantz and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi were updated a few weeks ago by the White House about contacts toward a deal with Morocco. Today they were updated on the deal coming together by the White House ahead of President Trump’s announcement,” the spokesperson says in a statement to journalists.

Moroccan king tells Abbas he is committed to two-state solution

Moroccan King Mohammad VI has spoken on the phone with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday evening, the Moroccan royal court announces in a statement.

Mohammad informed Abbas about his talks with US President Donald Trump on normalization with Israel and stressed his support for “the two-state solution, and his belief that negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides are the only way to reach a final, lasting and comprehensive solution to this conflict,” the statement says.

In this photo provided by the Moroccan News Agency (MAP), Moroccan King Mohammed VI, center, chats with Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to President Donald Trump, left, as crown Prince Moulay Hassan, right looks on, at the King Royal residence in Sale, Morocco, May 28, 2019. (Moroccan Royal Palace, via AP)

“His Highness, may God preserve him, told the Palestinian President that his position was unshakeably supportive of the Palestinian cause. He told the Palestinian President that he had inherited it from his father Hassan II, may God have mercy on his soul,” the statement says.

The king also invoked Morocco’s historic ties with its Jewish community in the phone call.

“The King of Morocco has a special status, and he has distinguished relations with the Jewish community of Moroccan origin, including hundreds of thousands of Moroccan Jews in Israel,” the king told Abbas, according to the statement.

Ramallah has so far issued no comment on the normalization deal or the phone call.

— Aaron Boxerman

Israeli UN envoy invites Moroccan counterpart to candle lighting

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan has held “warm” talks with his Moroccan counterpart Omar Hilale about their countries’ agreement to establish ties, Erdan’s office says.

“Ambassador Erdan said that this is an especially exciting moment for both nations, and the realization of a dream for many Israelis who were born in Morocco and are proud of their roots and the rich culture they brought from their place of birth,” a statement from his spokesman says.

The statement says that Erdan invited Hilale to a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in New York next week.

There is no comment from Hilale.

Efforts underway for Israel-Morocco phone call, WH signing ceremony — reports

Talks are underway to arrange a three-way phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moroccan King Mohammed VI and US President Donald Trump tomorrow, Walla news reports.

There is a chance Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita will participate instead of the king, according to the report, which cites an unnamed senior Israeli official.

Israel’s Channel 13 news reports that officials are also trying to arrange a White House ceremony to mark the agreement to resume ties, which would presumably take place sometime before Trump leaves office.

EU members reach deal on removing terror content from internet

European Union member states and lawmakers have reached a provisional deal Thursday to take down terror content online within an hour of its being posted.

“The EU is working to stop terrorists from using the internet to radicalize, recruit and incite to violence,” the EU Council says in a statement, adding that the proposed rules would apply to providers operating across the bloc, “whether or not they have their main establishment in the member states.”

Under the agreement, national authorities will be entitled to order platforms to remove content or to disable access to it in all 27 member states. Providers will be forced to act but will remain free to decide how they take down the forbidden material.

“The proposed rules also ensure that the rights of ordinary users and businesses will be respected, including freedom of expression and information and freedom to conduct a business,” the council says. “This includes effective remedies for both users whose content has been removed and for service providers to submit a complaint.”

The proposed regulation still needs to be formally approved by the EU Parliament and EU ministers.

— AP

Palestinians fume at Morocco for moving toward Israel

Palestinians are reacting angrily to Morroco’s decision to establish ties with Israel.

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Bassam as-Salhi tells Reuters that the deal “is unacceptable and increases Israel’s belligerence and its denial of the Palestinian people’s rights.”

He notes that the Arab Peace Initiative is supposed to condition these agreements on Israel withdrawing from Palestinian areas.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad say Morocco betrayed Palestinians

Hamas and Islamic Jihad both condemn Morocco’s decision to normalize ties with Israel, which both terror movements label a “betrayal.”

“Normalization by Morocco with the ‘Israeli’ occupation is a betrayal of Jerusalem and of Palestine,” Islamic Jihad says. “We trust that the Morrocan people will utterly refuse this normalization.”

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem called the Morrocan decision to normalize “a sin.”

“This sin does not serve the Palestinian cause, and the occupation exploits every act of normalization to increase its aggressive policies against our people,” Qassem said.

— Aaron Boxerman

Egypt’s Sissi praises Israel-Morocco deal

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi becomes the first Arab leader to praise Morocco’s decision to normalize ties with Israel.

“I followed with great interest the important development regarding the agreement between Morocco and Israel to normalize relations between them with American mediation. If this step bears fruit, it would create further stability and cooperation in our region,” Sissi says.

Sissi was the first leader to praise the United Arab Emirates’ decision to establish open ties with Israel back in August.

A report earlier Thursday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was planning a trip to Cairo to meet him, the first such visit in a decade

— Aaron Boxerman

Morocco in talks to buy large drones from US — report

Reuters reports that the US is in talks with Morocco to sell it four ultra-advanced drones that can fly some 6,000 nautical miles.

It’s unclear if the talks on the MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones are related to the normalization deal with Israel. The drones, which were recently okayed for export for the first time, are slated to be sold to the UAE in a deal that normalization between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem paved the way for.

The sale would need to be approved by Congress.

It’s not known if they would be sold armed.

Kamala Harris’s husband Emhoff to teach law at Georgetown

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, is set to join the faculty of Georgetown Law next month.

Emhoff, who will be the first Jewish Second Spouse, will serve as a Distinguished Visitor from Practice and teach a two-credit course in the spring semester called “Entertainment Law Disputes.” He will also serve as a Distinguished Fellow of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy. That’s part of a new entertainment and media law initiative for the law school that will include a speaker series and other projects.

Doug Emhoff, husband of Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, speaks during a car rally at East High School, late Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer, had planned to leave his private law practice by Inauguration Day to focus on his White House duties as the second gentleman. He had wanted to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest because his firm, DLA Piper, has a lobbying presence in Washington.

The Biden-Harris transition team says Emhoff’s role at Georgetown will be separate from his role as second gentleman and that he is working to develop a portfolio to support the work of the administration.

The incoming first lady, Jill Biden, is an educator who has said she wants to keep teaching at a community college.

— AP

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