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Netanyahu says ‘normalization’ with Arab world won’t wait for Palestinians

Prime minister tells Israeli envoys that ties are opening up despite lack of progress in reaching peace deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on December 16, 2018. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on December 16, 2018. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

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

Israeli woman injured in West Bank as her car is pelted with rocks

An Israeli woman is lightly to moderately wounded after her car is pelted with stones in a suspected Palestinian terror attack on Route 60 in the northern West Bank.

The woman, 24, is taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem with cuts to her face caused by glass shrapnel.

The attack takes place near the settlement of Eli, near the Palestinian village of As-Sawiya.

Arab League pans Canberra’s ‘favoritism toward Israel’

The head of the powerful Arab League condemns Australia’s “favoritism toward Israel” in recognizing some areas of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, and says that Canberra should balance the measure by recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

“The Australian position is incomplete,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit says, according to a report in the Haaretz daily newspaper. “Therefore, it stirs our dismay.”

“Recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while ignoring recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine shows glaring bias toward Israel,” Gheit says at a forum in the United Arab Emirates.

“I call on the Australian government to correct its position and recognize the State of Palestine and its capital as East Jerusalem without delay,” he continues. “Thus, we will consider its position balanced.”

The comments come the day after Australia said it was recognizing West Jerusalem — meaning the areas of the city held by Israel before June 1967 — as the capital, while maintaining support of Palestinian claims in East Jerusalem.

— Stuart Winer

UN calls for ‘credible’ probe into Khashoggi murder

UN chief Antonio Guterres calls for a “credible” probe into journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

“It is absolutely essential to have a credible investigation and to have the punishment of those that were guilty,” Guterres says at a conference in Doha.

The UN chief says he has no information on the case except what has been reported in the media.

Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to the Washington Post, was killed on October 2 shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in what Riyadh called a “rogue” operation.


Ministers advance bill to legalize 66 outposts deep in West Bank

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation votes to advance a bill that will require the state to legalize 66 illegal outposts located deep in the West Bank.

The bill is known as Regulation Law 2 and seeks to regulate hilltop communities built beyond the Green Line over the past 20 years, in light of the High Court of Justice’s freezing of the so-called Regulation Law passed in February 2017.

The legislation focuses on illegal outposts that are claimed to have been built on what is considered to be state land, rather than private Palestinian land.

Regulation Law 2 will give a Knesset-appointed outpost legalization committee, headed by former chairman of the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group Pinchas Wallerstein, a two-year deadline to legalize the 66 outposts.

In the meantime, the hilltop communities would be safeguarded from demolition by the state, despite their construction without the necessary permits. The proposal would see the outposts’ treatment as full-fledged settlements while the state works toward their regulation.

— Jacob Magid

Car bomb kills 8 people in Syria’s Afrin – monitor

A car bomb kills at least eight people including four civilians near a pro-Turkey rebel post in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, according to a British-based war monitor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it is not clear who is behind the blast in the city, which was seized from Kurdish forces earlier this year.

The explosion comes after the Turkish president on Wednesday threatened to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.

The Observatory says the car bombing wounded dozens, and the toll is likely to rise.

“The car bomb exploded near a position of pro-Turkey fighters” in a market, killing four civilians and four fighters, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman says.

The city of Afrin was captured in March this year from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) by Turkish armed forces and Syrian rebels supported by Ankara.

Turkey accuses the YPG of being “terrorists,” but the Kurdish militia also form the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State group in Syria.


Health Ministry warns of possible measles infection on Turkey-Israel flight

The Health Ministry warns the public of possible exposure to measles patients on a flight from Turkey to Israel and on two buses last week, calling on unvaccinated passengers to get immunized.

In a statement, the ministry says a measles patient was traveling on Turkish Airlines flight number TK0786 that departed Istanbul at 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, December 11, and landed at Ben Gurion Airport at 2:40 p.m.

Additionally, a measles patient traveled last Thursday, December 13, on a 319 bus from Rehovot to Bnei Brak that departed at 7 p.m., and on a 979 bus from Bnei Brak to Safed that departed at 9 p.m.

In both cases, the ministry calls on passengers of the plane or bus rides who were born after 1957 and haven’t received two doses of the anti-measles vaccine to consult with their health clinics on whether they should get vaccinated.

It recommends that they get immunized by tomorrow morning.

Israel is going through a measles outbreak that has seen hundreds hospitalized and a baby die.

Knesset speaker: Australia’s Jerusalem recognition ‘encourages Palestinian violence’

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) criticizes Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying it “indirectly encourages Palestinian violence.”

“This sets us years back,” Edelstein tells Army Radio, a day after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement, in which he also said East Jerusalem would be recognized as capital of a future Palestinian state after a solution is reached.

“For years the world tried to give the keys for a future solution to irresponsible players such as the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, and nothing came out of it,” Edelstein says.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein during a memorial ceremony marking 19 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset in Jerusalem, November 5, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Suddenly these calls reemerge to return us to the Oslo [Agreement] days,” he adds. “So I think that not only do the remarks not contribute to any kind of stability in the region — it can be said that they indirectly encourage Palestinian violence and other dreams they have.”

Canberra’s declaration has “nothing new,” Edelstein continues. “Even UNESCO has made similar announcements that West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

“I hope our chilly response will make it clear to the Australians that this is far from what we were hoping for.”

Policeman charged with sexually assaulting female colleague

A 42-year-old policeman is indicted at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for alleged indecent assault against a female police officer while both were traveling in a police vehicle.

According to the charge sheet, the superintendent-ranked policeman committed the sex crime three weeks ago, with two other officers present in the car at the time.

Bill to legalize West Bank outposts slammed by AG, Peace Now

Following the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s approval of a bill that would legalize 66 West Bank outposts built on state land, the Attorney General’s Office releases a statement slamming the proposal and saying it “raises significant legal problems, which may even lead to international repercussions and expose Israel to significant risks in this respect.”

During the debate over the bill, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri warned the ministers that even if the land in question is deemed to be state-owned, it is not clear that the outposts in question were legally acquired by the settlers. However, the ministers dismissed Nizri’s concerns and voted to advance the bill regardless.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog blasts the move, saying that “the time has come to recognize the reality.”

“The right-wing government consists of lying and convicted criminals, who are dancing on the blood of terror victims in order to build and legalize the most organized crime in Israel – the settlement enterprise. It’s illegal, it’s unconstitutional, it’s immoral and it will not work,” the left-wing NGO says in a statement.

— Jacob Magid

‘Why do you hate us?’ settler leader yells at opposition chief during tour of Ofra

The head of the Samaria Regional Council in the West Bank verbally attacks opposition leader Tzipi Livni during a tour in the settlement of Ofra, shouting: “You hate us!”

The incident occurs during a tour by members of the Knesset’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee ofthe community near the scene of last week’s shooting attack that killed a newborn baby.

Yossi Dagan slams Livni for saying settlers were “using” the issue of security to further their ideology.

“Why do you hate me? Why do you hate us? What have we done to you?” Dagan shouts at Livni. “You would never speak like that about residents of communities near the Gaza Strip or about anyone else.”

While other officials tell Dagan to “calm down,” he continues to rail against Livni, saying that she “needs to votes of the extreme left, that’s her base.”

Rivlin warns Hezbollah it will ultimately lead to Lebanon’s ‘destruction’

President Reuven Rivlin visits the Lebanese border in the area where IDF forces have been working to expose Hezbollah attack tunnels from Lebanon into Israel, and where a fourth passage was found earlier today as part as Operation Northern Shield.

“The IDF is prepared and ready to respond to any scenario forced upon us,” Rivlin tells military commanders. “Hezbollah’s offensive tunnels constitute a flagrant violation of Israeli sovereignty, and the international community must understand that Israel will do whatever it takes to defend itself.”

“Hezbollah, which presents itself as the ‘defender of Lebanon,’ will ultimately lead to its destruction,” Rivlin warns the terror group.

“We see the Lebanese government as responsible for everything that happens in Lebanon, and we are warning Hezbollah not to impose an Iranian agenda on Lebanon, or to use it to attack Israel.”

President Reuven Rivlin with IDF commanders near the border with Lebanon on December 16, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Hamas leader ‘not denying’ that West Bank terror attacks were ordered from Gaza

Hamas Politburo chairman Ismail Haniyeh says he does not deny that orders to carry out recent terror attacks in the West Bank came from the Gaza Strip.

“I will also respond to the Zionists who are saying what is happening in the West Bank is based on directives and arrangements from Gaza,” Haniyeh tells tens of thousands of Hamas supporters marking the 31st anniversary of the terror group’s founding in Gaza City. “This is an accusation that we do not deny… because it is a source of pride reigning over all of us.”

Last week, IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan said Hamas was behind two deadly shooting attacks in the central West Bank.

But Haniyeh also says Palestinian men in the West Bank do not need instructions to carry out attacks.

“The men of the West Bank don’t need a remote control or an order,” Haniyeh says in an hour-long speech.

— Adam Rasgon

Terrorist who killed Israeli in West Bank supermarket gets 35 years in prison

The Judea Military Court sentences one of the two Palestinian terrorists who killed an Israeli man at a West Bank supermarket almost three years ago to 35 years in prison.

The terrorist, who cannot be named in media reports since he is a minor, is also fined NIS 1.25 million ($330,000) and sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence, the Walla news site reports.

Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, an IDF soldier who was killed in a stabbing attack in a West Bank supermarket on February 18, 2016 (courtesy)

The February 2016 terror attack was committed by two Palestinians, aged 15 and 14 at the time, who spent 20 minutes searching for a target inside a supermarket at the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone. They then stabbed and wounded a customer, and stabbed to death off-duty soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, who tried to stop them. They were then shot by a civilian and arrested.

The victim’s father, Avraham Weissman, says the family is “disappointed” by the decision, saying he deserves “at least a life sentence.”

“This terrorist not only stabbed the victim, he also initiated the attack, which is very serious,” he says. “I think he doesn’t deserve any less than what my son received, which was [a punishment that lasts] forever. A more stringent punishment would’ve contributed to deterrence.”

The right-wing Honenu legal aid group also slams the sentence, saying the teenager should’ve been jailed for life and that “every time a terrorist gets a reduced punishment it harms deterrence and strengthens terror.”

Couple who lost baby in terror attack say Israelis’ support ‘strengthening’ them

Shira and Amichai Ish-Ran, the couple whose newborn baby died in last week’s terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, hold a press conference at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem where they are hospitalized.

“I feel like the Israeli people is strengthening me,” says a wheelchair-bound Shira Ish-Ran, 21, who had been seven months pregnant when a Palestinian gunman shot and seriously wounded her and six others on December 9. The baby was delivered by doctors in an emergency C-section but died four days later, while the parents’ condition has steadily improved.

“Our baby managed, in the three short days he lived, to do more than others could in an entire lifetime; it simply united us,” says her husband Amichai, who was also injured in the attack.

“We wanted to say thank you to God who blessed us with miracles. I got three bullets in the leg and with God’s help I will be able to walk,” adds Amichai, who thanks the family, the hospital staff, the paramedics who saved Shira’s life, and the whole nation.

Protesting settlers attempting to set up new outpost near Hebron

Dozens of settlers march on a hill in the southern West Bank to set up a new outpost as a protest against what they say is a worsening security situation.

The outpost, called Givat Hamevaser, is situated to the north of Kiryat Arba, a hard-line settlement on the outskirts of Hebron.

Taking part in the protest, which includes the setting up of several trailer homes, are leaders of the settlement and several families.

The action “is a continuation of moves to strengthen Jewish settlement in the Judea region and a protest against the prevailing security situation in Judea and Samaria,” one organizer says, according to the Ynet news site, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

People at the Givat Hamevaser outpost, December 16, 2018. (screen capture: 0404)

Facebook clamps down on PM Netanyahu’s son’s salty posts

Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says he is fuming after Facebook removed a post of his calling for avenging terror attacks and exiling all Palestinians.

“The thought police of the progressive extremists at Facebook have reached me as well,” he writes on the social networking site, sharing a screenshot of his verboten post and accusing them of trying to silence him.

Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on December 10, 2018. (FLASH90)

The post had expressed hopes for avenging a terror attack and referred to Palestinian as “monsters disguised as people.”

“We need to encourage deporting them out of our land and to the 22 lands of their brothers,” he had written.

Last week, Netanyahu junior posted that “There will not be peace here until:
1. All the Jews leave the land of Israel.
2. All the Muslims leave the land of Israel.
I prefer the second option.”

That post has also since been taken down.

German police probing officers who formed neo-Nazi cell

German police have been shaken by accusations that five officers formed a far-right cell that shared Hitler and swastika pictures in a WhatsApp group and threatened a lawyer with Turkish roots.

The officers, four male and one female, in Frankfurt have been suspended from their duties during an ongoing investigation.

The group was discovered after allegedly threatening to “slaughter” the lawyer’s two-year-old daughter in an anonymous fax message, reported the Frankfurter Neue Presse daily.

The message called the lawyer, Seda Basay-Yildiz, who has represented suspected Islamist militants, a “lousy Turkish swine” and told her to “piss off while you still get out of here alive.”

The message, which she received in early August, was signed “NSU 2.0” — a reference to neo-Nazi terror cell the NSU, or National Socialist Underground, that murdered eight Turkish immigrants.


Scores injured in Japan restaurant explosion, cause unclear

More than 40 people have been injured in an explosion Sunday night at a Japanese restaurant in northern Japan, police say.

The explosion occurred in Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido, and caused nearby apartment buildings and houses to shake.

Police say 42 people were injured, most of them mildly, though one was in serious condition. They were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Firefighters carry on rescue works after an explosion at a restaurant in Sapporo, in the northern Hokkaido prefecture on December 16, 2018. (JIJI PRESS/ AFP)

The cause of the explosion, which occurred at a two-story restaurant in Sapporo’s Toyohira district, is under investigation, police say.

TV footage from Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed the restaurant in flames, with debris scattered on the ground.

The footage later showed gray smoke billowing from the restaurant as dozens of firefighters poured water onto the building, which was charred and nearly collapsing. Windows on an apartment building next door were broken, and cars parked outside were partially covered with debris that had fallen on them.

A witness tells NHK that he smelled gas after the sound of an explosion. The broadcaster said the district office was to set up a shelter for neighbors of the restaurant to stay overnight so they could escape the smoke.

— AP

Shaked claims ministers didn’t protest government at anti-Netanyahu rally

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is rebuffing claims her Jewish Home party protested the government during a rally Sunday morning in which several cabinet members attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being weak on terror.

Speaking to the crowd of some 200 right-wing activists calling for a tougher response to recent terror attacks in the West Bank, Party leader Naftali Bennett had said that the “security establishment… has chosen the rights of Palestinians over the security of Israelis.”

“Bibi, resign. You are not wanted anymore!” the crowd chanted, using the nickname of the prime minister.

Settlers and right-wing activists protest against ongoing terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 16, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several people waved flags of the banned racist far-right Kach party and called to burn down Arab villages.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked deliver a statement during a press conference in the Knesset, November 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“The rally was meant to strengthen the government ahead of a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on [regulating outposts]. Anyone who tried to say it was against the government is mistaken,” she says, according to Hadashot news.

Shaked, Bennett and seven other minister, including some from Netanyahu’s Likud faction, had taken part in the protest.

She also continues to insist that the party wants Bennett to be appointed defense minister, a post currently held by Netanyahu, and defended her decision to skip a vote on confirming Netanyahu in the role.

“Not everyone in the government has to vote like sheep,” she says.

IRGC general accidentally kills self while cleaning gun

A Revolutionary Guard general who fought in Syria and Iraq has accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun.

A Sunday report on the Guard’s website says Gen. Ghodratollah Mansouri earlier Sunday accidentally shot himself in the head while cleaning his pistol.

The report said Mansouri was veteran of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and a “defender of the shrine,” a reference to Iranians who fight the extremist Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Since 2014, Mansouri was a regional commander of the Guard’s ground forces in the northeastern city of Mashhad, some 900 kilometers (nearly 560 miles) east of the capital Tehran.

Hundreds of Iranian forces have been killed fighting IS in Syria and Iraq.

Iran, the regional key supporter of Syria’s government, says its forces there only perform an advisory role.

— AP

IDF says gun used in Givat Assaf attack located

The Israeli military says it has recovered the Kalachnikov rifle used in a terrorist shooting attack that killed two soldiers and severely injured a third, as well as a civilian woman.

The army also finds one of the soldiers’ rifles, which had been stolen from the scene after the attack, the IDF says.

The terrorist behind the attack remains at large.

“Security forces are continuing in their efforts to search for the terrorists behind the recent attacks,” the army says in a statement.

— Judah Ari Gross

Jewish Patriots receiver to honor Pittsburgh synagogue victims in Steelers game

New England Patriots wideout Julian Edelman reveals he will be wearing cleats with the names of all 11 victims of the deadly shooting attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in October, when he laces up against the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight.

The shoes also feature the name of the Tree of Life synagogue written in Hebrew, the words, “Stronger Than Hate” (adopted by the Steelers after the attack in their city) and a Star of David.

In November, Edelman, who is Jewish, wore a Team Israel baseball cap to show solidarity with the Jewish community after the attack.

Strasbourg residents gather to honor victims of market shooting attack

Residents of Strasbourg have filled a square in the French city to show respect and sympathy for the four people killed and the dozen wounded during a shooting attack near a famous Christmas market.

More than 1,000 people attended the memorial, which ended with a minute of applause and a rendition of France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” local newspaper DNA reports.

The hour-long ceremony took place in Kleber Square, not far from where a gunman opened fire on Tuesday evening. Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries praised the city’s resilience in the face of hardship.

The “extremely large crowd in the Christmas market” on Saturday “was an illustration of our commitment to these values on which our living together is based, which we will continue to defend against all those who want to attack it,” Ries said.

A massive manhunt for the gunman ended Thursday night when the main suspect, Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29, was killed in a shootout with police in the city neighborhood where he grew up.


Poll shows Gantz-Lapid duo challenging Likud

A poll published by the Hadashot news channel continues to show former IDF chief Benny Gantz playing the role of Knesset juggernaut, should he enter politics.

According to the poll, while Likud would be continue to garner the most votes, enough for 28 seats, a party led by Gantz would be second strongest with 16 seats.

Yesh Atid would be in third place with 13 seats, followed by the Joint List with 12, Zionist Union with 10, Jewish Home with 9, and some other parties with 5-7 seats.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz speaks at the annual World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem, on November 2, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The poll also showed that if Gantz were to join forces with the centrist Yesh Atid party, they would challenge Netanyahu with 26 seats, to Likud’s 29. However, that number is three fewer seats than if they run on separate tickets and then form a coalition.

The survey represents a slight rise for Gantz, who was a popular army chief, but has not said if he will enter politics under his own party or join an existing center-left faction.

Elections are currently scheduled for November, though most political analysts believe they will be moved up before then.

Soldier injured in Givat Assaf attack still fighting for his life

Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Karem Hospitsal says a soldier seriously wounded in an attack on a bus stop in the West Bank on Thursday is still fighting for his life.

Netanel Felber, in an undated photograph.(courtesy)

Netanel Felber is on a ventilator and in an induced coma. He is listed in very serious condition, according to the hospital.

Felber, originally from the Washington, DC, area, was outside the Givat Assaf outpost on Thursday when a terrorist opened fire, killing two other soldiers, and seriously wounding him. A fourth person, a civilian, also suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Another soldier injured during an attack in the settlement of Beit El over the weekend is improving, according to the hospital.

Netanyahu: I won’t wait for the Palestinians to make peace with Arab world

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells a group of Israeli envoys serving in Africa, Asia and Latin America that Israel is pushing ahead with forging ties with the Arab world despite moribund efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians.

“I won’t suspend efforts to reach peace with the Arab world until the Palestinians make peace with us. I won’t do it,” he says, describing a process of “normalization” with the region.

“We are going to the [Arab world] and are not subject to the whims of the Palestinians,” he says, repeating hopes that ties with the Arab world will open up new opportunities to reach a deal with the Palestinians.

He also says Israeli bilateral trade with Turkey is on the rise, despite diplomatic tensions between the two former allies.

— with Raphael Ahren


Fifth victim of Strasbourg attack dies

A fifth victim of Wednesday’s shooting attack on the Strasbourg Christmas Market has died, according to local French authorities.

Railways CEO to step down over Jerusalem line disruptions — reports

Israel Railways CEO Shahar Ayalon will step down soon, the state-run firm says, amid wide criticism over the rollout of a new train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, according to media reports.

The highly anticipated rail line began service in October, but has faced repeated delays and breakdowns, as well as safety concerns. Cars were pulled off other lines to service the Jerusalem train, leading to overcrowding elsewhere.

The resignation is reportedly part of an agreement between Ayalon and Railways chairman Dan Harel.

Earlier on Monday, the line, which does not yet reach all the way to Tel Aviv, was stopped for two hours over what were described as “technical faults.”

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