The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
Saudi king: Palestinians have right to East Jerusalem as capital
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Palestinians have the right to Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as their capital, Saudi King Salman says, echoing calls at an Islamic summit in Istanbul from which he had stayed away.
“The kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the king says.
Salman’s address to the kingdom’s Consultative Council comes as the world’s main pan-Islamic body holds an emergency summit in Istanbul in response to last week’s US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Jerusalem to distribute 150 Christmas trees to Christian residents
The Jerusalem Municipality will distribute 150 Christmas trees to the city’s Christian residents on December 21, the city says in a statement.
The distribution of trees is an annual tradition, part of the city’s marking of the Christian holiday each year.
According to the statement, the municipality’s Christmas preparations include “hanging festive lighting and flags in areas of the city where the holiday is celebrated. These neighborhoods include: the Old City’s Christian Quarter, Beit Hanina, and main thoroughfares for pilgrims, such as the Mar-Elias road. The Municipality has also increased rounds by municipal cleaning and landscaping crews in Church areas. Additionally, the Municipal Licensing Department is working closely with the Christian residents of the Old City to accelerate approvals and provide assistance for holiday fairs and celebrations in the Christian Quarter. The Municipality is also working in close collaboration with the police to ensure that as visitors come to the city for pilgrimage and processionals, traffic and parking run smoothly.”
The Christmas trees will be handed out at the Jaffa Gate Plaza outside the Old City walls from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on December 21 “upon presentation of a valid ID card.”
“The Jerusalem Municipality wishes the city’s residents a joyous holiday season,” the statement adds.
Trump says Moore had deck ‘stacked against him’
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump is defending his decision to initially back Sen. Luther Strange against Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate election, saying in a predawn tweet that “Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him.”
“I was right!” the president said in a pre-dawn Twitter post Wednesday, a day after Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Moore, a former state Supreme Court chief justice who was buffeted by allegations of sexual misconduct.
Trump notes in his social media post that the reason he originally sided with Strange was that “I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election.”
The president had sent a tweet late Tuesday congratulating Jones, a former federal prosecutor, on his “hard fought victory.”
Rouhani: Saudi desire for ties with Israel led to Trump’s Jerusalem recognition
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says the only reason Donald Trump “dared” recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was because some in the region sought to establish ties to Israel.
Rouhani’s comments on Wednesday came during the extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation following Trump’s decision. His comments were a stab at Iran’s archrival Saudi Arabia, referencing reports the Gulf kingdom has sought closer cooperation with Israel to counter Iran’s influence in the region. Saudi Arabia has condemned Trump’s decision in a rare public rebuke of Washington.
Rouhani also said the US has never been an honest mediator.
He said in an English tweet earlier that the US decision “is only seeking to secure the maximum interests of the Zionists and has no respect for the legitimate rights of Palestinians.”
Pan-Islamic group urges more countries to recognize Palestine
The secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation calls on countries that have not recognized Palestine as a state to do so.
Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen tells the extraordinary summit in Istanbul of the 57-member organization Wednesday that the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is “an exceptional challenge” facing Muslim nations. He says the decision will fan violence in the region, giving extremists an excuse to sow chaos.
Israeli startup hires soccer star Messi as brand ambassador
BUENOS AIRES — An Israeli startup has hires Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi as its brand ambassador.
Moshe Hogeg, a co-founder and co-CEO of Sirin Labs, posted a photo of himself and the world’s most famous soccer player on his Facebook page.
“We are excited to have Lionel Messi, the best soccer player in the world as the global brand ambassador for Sirin Labs,” he says in the post. “We have identified the potential of blockchain technology and are developing SirinOS to improve the security and user-experience on the blockchain to encourage mass adoption.”
The company has developed an ultra-secure mobile phone using blockchain technology, which is a continuously growing list of computer records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.
Hanukkah candles lit in Polish parliament
WARSAW, Poland – Candles for the first night of Hanukkah are lit in the Polish Parliament.
The ceremony was held on Tuesday evening, shortly after the inaugural address by the new Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, who has Jewish roots.
The candlelighting was attended by the father of the new prime minister, Kornel Morawiecki; parliament speaker Marek Kuchciński; the ambassador of Israel in Warsaw Anna Azari; and representatives of Jewish organizations.
“In the Sejm celebrating Hanukkah together has become a custom,” said Kuchciński. “I believe that the meetings in the Sejm and the Senate held for years during this important time for Polish and Jewish culture show historic close ties connecting the Polish and Jewish communities living in Poland.”
On Thursday, a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony will take place in the presidential palace in Warsaw.
Dozens of masked Israeli assailants enter Palestinian village, throw stones
Approximately 40 masked Israeli settlers enter the Palestinian village of Burin in the northern West Bank and throw rocks at residents and at their homes, the army says.
IDF troops enter the area and, without firing a shot, get the attacking settlers to stop and leave the village, an army spokesperson says.
No injuries are reported.
“Security forces will continue to work to prevent incidents like this from happening again,” the army says in a statement.
— Judah Ari Gross
Video appears to show soldiers failing to stop extremist settler rock-throwing
An Israeli rights group, Rabbis for Human Rights, alleges that while a group of extremist settlers were throwing stones at the West Bank Palestinian village of Burin, IDF soldiers stood by and did nothing.
They post a video of the incident to Facebook showing IDF soldiers apparently standing by while the assailants lob stones into the village.
כך נראית תקיפה של מתנחלים קיצוניים כיום נגד הכפר בורין, בחסות חיילי צה"ל. ללא כל פעולה מצד החיילים למנוע התקיפה. יתירה מכך: בעת שמתנחלים תוקפים בית בכפר הגדילו החיילים לעשות והשתמשו ברימוני גז נגד המותקפים. רבנים למען זכויות האדם קוראים לצה"ל להתחיל סוף סוף להתמודד עם התופעה שבה חיילים מתעלמים מתקיפות אלימות נגד פלסטינים, כפי שתיעדנו כיום. מתנחלים אלימים לא יכולים להיות מעל לחוק; פעולתם לא רק שאיננה מוסרית היא אף תורמת לערעור הביטחון בגזרה וכך מסכנת חיים.
Posted by שומרי משפט – רבנים למען זכויות אדם on Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Saudi Arabia, UAE pledge $130m for West Africa anti-jihadist force
PARIS, France – Saudi Arabia pledges $100 million towards a five-nation anti-terror force in the Sahel region of West Africa, while the United Arab Emirates offers $30 million, French President Emmanuel Macron says.
Macron makes the announcement at a meeting to drum up support for the G5 Sahel force, an initiative pooling troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
In statement, Muslim leaders reject Trump, back Palestinians
Muslim nations reject US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and appear set to counter it with a declaration of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, according to a draft communique distributed to reporters at the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation gathering in Istanbul Wednesday.
The statement says the US decision is “null and void legally” and is considered an attack on the rights of the Palestinians.
The communique says the bloc considers the US declaration as an “announcement of the US administration’s withdrawal from its role as sponsor of peace.”
Would-be suicide bomber in New York City faces court hearing
NEW YORK — In less than 24 hours, authorities say a would-be suicide bomber’s botched attack on a Manhattan transportation hub underneath Times Square became an open-and-shut case after a search of his apartment and hearing the suspect’s own words.
Akayed Ullah, who’s expected to make his first court appearance on Wednesday, made it clear from a hospital bed where he was being treated for burns from a pipe bomb he strapped to his body that he was on a mission to punish the United States for attacking the Islamic State group, said Acting US Attorney Joon Kim. A search of the Bangladeshi immigrant’s apartment turned up bomb-making materials, including screws matching those found at the scene intended as carnage-creating shrapnel.
“His motivation,” the prosecutor says, “was not a mystery.”
Kim says Ullah picked the morning rush on Monday to maximize casualties in his quest “to kill, to maim and to destroy.”
Ullah, 27, with a hate-filled heart and an evil purpose,” carried out the attack after researching how to build a bomb a year ago and planned his mission for several weeks, Kim says.
Settlers from Yitzhar say Palestinians attacked first
Settlers from the Yitzhar area in the northern West Bank say that the attack by Israelis on the Palestinian village of Burin followed an attack by Palestinians near the Yitzhar Junction.
Video shot by residents of the settlement, posted by the Srugim website, appears to show Palestinian youth, apparently from nearby Burin, burning tires and throwing rocks at the main road near Yitzhar.
Minnesota governor said to choose Franken successor
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Minnesota’s governor Mark Dayton chooses Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to fill Sen. Al Franken’s seat until the November election, and she will run in that election to complete the final two years of Franken’s term, a Democratic operative tells The Associated Press.
Smith’s appointment was widely expected soon after Franken, under pressure over allegations of sexual misconduct, announced last week that he would step down. The appointment won’t change the balance of power in the Senate; both Franken and Smith are Democrats.
Erdogan accuses Trump of ‘Zionist mentality’ over Jerusalem recognition
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses US counterpart Donald Trump of having a “Zionist mentality” over his declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, adding Washington had no further role to play in the peace process.
“The real proprietor of these lands is Palestine. Mr. Trump wants all this to be Israel. This is the product of an evangelist and Zionist mentality,” he says at the close of an emergency Muslim summit in Istanbul, adding that there can no longer be “any question” of the United States being a mediator in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Sen. Schumer was victim of fake sexual harassment claim
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer says he was the victim of a fake report regarding sexual harassment.
The news website Axios first reported that Schumer, a New York Democrat, has turned over to Capitol Police a document that alleges in detail sexual harassment accusations by a former staffer.
The former Schumer staffer told Axios in a phone interview that she did not write the document, that none of the charges are true and that her signature was a forgery.
“I have contacted law enforcement to determine who is responsible,” she says in a statement to Axios. “I parted with Senator Schumer’s office on good terms and have nothing but the fondest memories of my time there.”
The 13-page document was prepared to look like a lawsuit that was filed in US District Court, but lacks information that normally would have been included in such a document, including the name and contact information for the attorney of the alleged accuser.
The woman worked for Schumer from 2009 to 2012 but now works elsewhere in the federal government, according to The Hill. She told reporters that she also has contacted police over the fake lawsuit.
Border Police arrest 367 Palestinians residing in Israel illegally
In a massive sting targeting Palestinians residing in Israel illegally, the Border Police arrests 367 Palestinian suspects, including 38 from the Gaza Strip, according to a police statement.
Another 29 people are arrested for allegedly providing accommodations and transportation to the suspected illegal residents.
Police arrest sweep turns up firearms meant for terror groups
According to police, 1,000 officers took part in the massive arrest sweep targeting Palestinians residing in Israel illegally.
The operation also uncovers weapons police believe are meant to be transferred to terror groups, including three firearms, 55 gas canisters that were reconfigured into bombs, 16 firebombs and two pipe bombs.
Jewish lawmaker to lead major Brazilian city chamber
RIO DE JANEIRO — A Jewish lawmaker will preside over the municipal chamber of the city that is home to Brazil’s third-largest Jewish community.
Valter Nagelstein, who has been serving as Porto Alegre municipal chamber’s vice president since 2016, was elected president Monday and will assume the position on January 1, the Brazilian news website G1 reported.
“Walter is acknowledged by everyone as the representative of our state’s Jewish community and also at the national level,” Zalmir Chartzmann, president of the Rio Grande do Sul Jewish federation, tells JTA. “He has been vigorously defending the State of Israel, Zionism and Judaism, always calling for peace and negotiations. His next step is to run for congressman in Brasilia.”
Nagelstein was elected to the City Council in 2008 and is serving his third term as a councilman in Porto Alegre. He has become the new voice of the local Jewish community, succeeding the late lawmaker and activist Isaac Ainhorn, who died two years before Nagelstein took office.
Porto Alegre, the second-largest city in Brazil’s southern region, has nearly 10,000 Jews in a population of 1.5 million people. It is the country’s third-largest Jewish community after Sao Paulo and Rio. Brazil is home to some 120,000 Jews.
US envoy meets Jerusalem mayor to discuss start of embassy move
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat meets with US ambassador to Israel David Friedman in Jerusalem as part of “the beginning of the process of moving the [US] embassy to the capital,” according to a press announcement by the Jerusalem municipality.
The two discuss “a shared future in Jerusalem,” the statement says.
Intelligence minister calls for Saudi crown prince to visit
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz wants Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to visit, his spokesman says, in what would be a historic trip involving two nations with no official diplomatic ties.
Israeli leaders have repeatedly spoken of improving ties with the Arab world and hinted at behind-the-scenes cooperation, particularly involving their efforts to limit their common enemy Iran.
Katz issues the call during an interview with Elaph, a news website run by a Saudi businessman, his spokesman Arye Shalicar says.
The call was not included in the final version of the interview published online. Shalicar could not comment on why, but says Katz had indeed made the comments.
“He said that he asks the king to invite (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu officially to Riyadh, and he asks MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, the son, to come and visit Israel,” Shalicar says of Katz, who is also transportation minister.
Muslim summit ‘rejects and condemns’ Trump Jerusalem move
ISTANBUL — Muslim nations have “rejected and condemned” US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and have called on the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
The Istanbul Declaration on “Freedom for al-Quds” — the Arabic name of Jerusalem — follows Wednesday’s extraordinary summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The final communiqué is a softened version of an earlier draft. With it the organization declares the US announcement as “null and void,” while inviting Trump to reconsider and rescind the “unlawful decision that might trigger chaos in the region.”
The declaration calls on countries who have not yet recognized Palestine to do so and invites “the whole world to recognize East Al-Quds as the capital.”
US announces new assistance to Lebanese military
BEIRUT — The United States announces new assistance to the Lebanese military including helicopters and other advanced military equipment.
The new assistance package was disclosed during a visit by the head of US Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel to Lebanon on Wednesday during which he met with the army chief and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Speaking after the meeting in Beirut, American Ambassador Elizabeth Richard says the package, valued at more than $120 million, includes six new light attack helicopters, six unmanned aerial vehicles and communication and night vision devices.
Washington has been a major supporter of Lebanon’s army, and has provided more than $1 billion in military assistance to Lebanon since 2006.
White House: Abbas rhetoric ‘has prevented peace for years’
A senior White House official insists US President Donald Trump “remains as committed to peace as ever” after his recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The official blasts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent statement rejecting a US role in the peace process and threatening to void past peace agreements over the move.
“This rhetoric, which has prevented peace for years, is not surprising as we anticipated reactions like this,” the US official says. “We will remain hard at work putting together our plan, which will benefit the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”
The president’s words were distorted, the official says, and “it is also important to ignore the distortions and instead focus on what the President actually said last week — the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties, the United States continues to take no position on any final status issues and the United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides.”
The official adds: “We will continue to work on our plan for peace that we hope will offer the best outcome for both peoples and look forward to unveiling it when it is ready and the time is right.”
Netanyahu ‘not impressed’ by Muslim leaders’ Jerusalem statements
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is “not impressed” by Muslim leaders’ statements on Jerusalem after they urged the world to recognize the city’s eastern sector as the capital of Palestine.
“We are not impressed by all these statements,” Netanyahu says in a speech, saying he believes many countries will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
His comments come after an emergency summit of the world’s main pan-Islamic body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), on Trump’s move last week.
“The Palestinians would do better by recognizing reality and acting in favor of peace and not extremism,” Netanyahu says.
“They should recognize another fact concerning Jerusalem: It is not only the capital of Israel, but we also maintain respect in Jerusalem for the freedom of worship for all religions, and we are the ones in the Middle East who do this like no one else.”
With the Islamic world mired in division, the summit in Istanbul fell well short of agreeing any concrete sanction against Israel or the United States.
But their final statement declares “East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine” and invites “all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”
Labor union declares nationwide strike over Teva lay-offs
Histadrut labor union federation chief Avi Nissenkorn announces a warning strike for Sunday over the planned axing of as many as 3,300 jobs by Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva. If the number is indeed that high — the official announcement from Teva is expected Thursday — it would mark the biggest single lay-off by any company in Israel’s history.
Teva’s announcement of the expected firing leads the primetime national news today, in part thanks to the size of the lay-offs and in part because of Nissenkorn’s threat.
The strikes will affect “all of Teva, of course, all its factories,” Nissenkorn says, “and also the rest of the economy, banks, ports, municipalities, health funds.”
The one-day strike, from Sunday morning to afternoon, includes Ben Gurion Airport, Nissenkorn says.
Several residents treated for shock in Sderot
United Hatzalah emergency medical service volunteers in Sderot are treating a number of people for shock as well as one person who sustained light injuries to his legs while he was running to a secure bomb shelter following the rocket attacks that were aimed at the city moments ago.
— Judah Ari Gross
Palestinians at UN push for resolution on Jerusalem
Palestinian diplomats want the UN Security Council to vote on a draft resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, even though the measure would almost certainly face a US veto, diplomats say Wednesday.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour tells AFP that the text would demand that the United States scrap the decision on Jerusalem, but other diplomats suggest the wording would not be so strong.
Egypt is expected to circulate a draft resolution to council members, possibly as early as this week, according to senior council diplomats.
Mansour said late Tuesday that he was working on a draft text that would “reaffirm the positions of the Security Council and ask the Americans to rescind.”
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