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Facing indictments, PM set to appoint welfare, agriculture, diaspora ministers

Criminal charges mean Netanyahu can’t hold cabinet posts other than premier; Likud, Shas lawmakers expected to win appointments

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of right-wing parties at the Knesset, November 20, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of right-wing parties at the Knesset, November 20, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Over 1.8 million Israelis live below the poverty line, government says

Some 1.8 million Israelis live below the national poverty line, an end-of-year government report says.

The annual Poverty Report by the Welfare Ministry and National Insurance Institute shows 1,810,500 people, 841,700 of them children, are defined as poor by Israel’s official poverty measures. That’s 469,400 families.

The figures show a rise in the number of elderly poor. The percentage of households headed by an elderly person that were under the poverty line rose from 21.8 percent in 2017 to 23.4% in 2018, while the percentage of elderly individuals who are poor rose from 17.2% to 18.8%.

Israel’s poverty line measures inequality, not absolute income. It is defined as half the median income, and so rises as incomes rise across the board. That means that the poverty rate itself is not enough to understand the financial and overall welfare condition of poorer Israelis. If the wealthy get wealthier, more people fall below the poverty line, even if their incomes are stable or even slowly increasing.

Trump blames Iran for ‘orchestrating’ Baghdad embassy attack

US President Donald Trump blames Iran for Iraqi Shiite militia attacks on US interests, and the current attack by militia supporters against the US Embassy in Baghdad.

“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible,” he says.

“In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

Dozens of angry Shiite militia supporters broke into the US Embassy compound in Baghdad today after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire.

The embassy attack followed deadly US airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The US military said it was in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it had blamed on the militia.

— with AP

September, March elections cost the country NIS 1.2 billion, Knesset learns

The Knesset Finance Committee hears from government finance officials today that the costs of the two elections that followed April’s inconclusive race will hit some NIS 1.2 billion — not including another estimated NIS 6 billion lost to the economy because election day is a work holiday.

The election for the 22nd Knesset on September 17 and the upcoming election for the 23rd Knesset on March 2 will cost the state coffers NIS 1,263,000,000 ($365 million), officials report to lawmakers.

The unprecedented repeat election in September was called after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following the April race and forced a Knesset vote to call new elections rather than let rival Benny Gantz make the attempt. It marked the first time in Israel’s history that an election did not result in the formation of government. Both Netanyahu and Gantz then failed to form ruling coalitions after the September race, triggering the third race in 11 months, slated for March 2.

Iraq PM demands protesters leave US embassy ‘immediately’

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s caretaker premier Adel Abdel Mahdi says crowds that had stormed the US embassy protesting deadly US airstrikes against pro-Iran Iraqi Shiite militias should leave the compound “immediately.”

Demonstrators breached the embassy walls in protest of the Sunday strikes that killed at least 25 fighters from a pro-Iran faction known as Kataeb Hezbollah.

“We recall that any aggression or harassment of foreign embassies will be firmly prohibited by the security forces,” Abdel Mahdi’s office says, several hours after the attack began.

The US strikes were in response to rocket fire by Kataeb Hezbollah that killed a US contractor last week.


Saudi Arabia condemns attacks on US forces in Iraq

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia voices “great concern” over attacks against American forces in Iraq, which Washington has blamed on pro-Iran factions, state media reports.

“Saudi Arabia has followed with great concern the increase of terrorist attacks inside brotherly Iraq… the most recent of which were attacks by terrorist militias supported by the Iranian regime against US forces present in Iraq,” the Saudi Press Agency says, citing an unnamed official source.

“Saudi Arabia condemns and denounces these terrorist attacks… These attacks committed by terrorist militias violate the sovereignty of Iraq and affect its security and stability.”

In recent weeks multiple attacks have targeted Iraqi bases where American forces are present, which Washington has blamed on pro-Iran factions.


Jewish Home-Otzma Yehudit alliance reveals new name, logo

The combined Knesset slate of the Jewish Home and the extremist-right Otzma Yehudit parties announces the new party name it will use in the March 2 elections: The United Jewish Home.

It also has a new logo that highlights the fact that the faction’s leader is Education Minister Rafi Peretz.

The faction hopes to join with the other rightist parties in a broad far-right alliance with the National Union list headed by Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich and the New Right party led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked — though the latter faction has so far resisted the idea.

The United Jewish Home party’s new name and logo, released December 31, 2019, ahead of the March 2 race. The party combines the Jewish Home and extremist-right Otzma Yehudit parties. (Courtesy)

Cyprus defends courts after British teen convicted over Israeli rape claim

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus defends its judiciary after Britain expresses concern over a Cypriot court finding a British teenager guilty of falsely claiming she was gang-raped by a group of Israeli tourists.

The Cyprus “government has full confidence in the judiciary and the courts… which should be strictly left to enforce the laws,” government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos says in a statement.

His remarks come after the British Foreign Office says it is “seriously concerned about the fair trial guarantees” of a British woman convicted of “public mischief” in a Cyprus court on Monday.

The 19-year-old said she was gang-raped by 12 Israeli tourists at a hotel in Ayia Napa in July. She later withdrew her complaint but said she had been pressured by Cyprus police. The accused Israelis, aged 15 to 18, were released without charge after the woman was arrested on suspicion of “making a false statement about an imaginary crime.”

The judge discredited her testimony at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in southeast Cyprus on Monday. “Statements you have given were false,” he told the woman in remarks translated by an interpreter.

Defense lawyers for the woman cited “many violations” in the right to fair trial and vowed to appeal the case the Supreme Court.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said the case was “deeply distressing” and it would raise the case with Cypriot authorities. British legal aid group Justice Abroad, which is supporting the woman, said the defense would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

The Cyprus government would “not intervene in cases heard by the competent courts,” says Koushos, adding that authorities would not comment further on a pending case.


Activists seek crowdfunded pollution monitoring of Leviathan gas platform

As the gas starts to flow today from the Leviathan gas field, anti-pollution activists fighting to move the platform further from Israel’s shores are alleging a government cover-up of pollution data and are raising money to establish a non-governmental pollution monitoring system.

The conspiracy theories came to the fore this morning, when tens of thousands of residents of Israel’s north, from Hadera to Haifa, were urged to check the pollution monitoring websites of the Environment Ministry and local councils to verify that the flow of gas did not lead to raised levels of dangerous pollutants in the air and water. Activists have long argued that the start of gas flow from Leviathan’s platforms would produce levels of pollution that endangered coastal residents.

The websites crashed, sparking a furor on activist Facebook groups. When the monitoring websites went back online a short time after the crash, no dramatic spike in pollution levels was revealed.

Some activists are unimpressed, though, warning that the government data could have been tampered with. They are now launching a crowdfunding effort (Hebrew page here) to try to build their own pollution monitoring infrastructure.

The effort has already garnered 1,096 donors and NIS 230,339 ($66,600), still short of the NIS 1 million ($290,000) goal.

Gantz reacts to poverty report: ‘Israel has to change course’

Blue and White chairman MK Benny Gantz is among the first politicians to react to today’s government poverty report that shows some 1.8 million Israelis living below the poverty line.

“The State of Israel has to change its course in education, priorities and [economic] growth. Macro data hides what is happening at the micro level — particularly in the social and geographical peripheries. Israel needs a government that will work for its citizens,” he says in a statement.

— Jacob Magid

US military instructs soldiers to delete Chinese-owned video app TikTok

The United States military is warning soldiers not to use the Chinese-owned short video app TikTok over national security concerns, US media are reporting.

The US Army is now banning the app on government-owned phones, about two weeks after the Navy did the same.

The app is sparking concerns in the American defense and intelligence community that information sent on it — or contained in other apps used on phones on which it is installed — could be monitored by Chinese authorities, allowing Beijing to track US military personnel and potentially to access information from US military intranets to which the soldiers’ phones may be connected.

“There was a Cyber Awareness Message sent out on 16 December [that] identifies TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use,” CNN quotes Army spokesperson Lt. Col Robin L. Ochoa as saying. “The message directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information. The guidance is to be wary of applications you download, monitor your phones for unusual and unsolicited texts etc., and delete them immediately and uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information.”

West Virginia governor fires 34 prison guard trainees who gave Nazi salute

CHARLESTON, West Virginia — West Virginia’s governor fires 34 correction officer trainees who were photographed giving a Nazi salute, and their instructor. He also says four instructors are being suspended without pay.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice announces his decision after receiving a report from state investigators that the trainees regularly gave the Nazi salute “as a sign of respect” for their instructor in the weeks prior to the release of the photo. Its release earlier this month triggered widespread outrage.

“As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo … in the strongest possible terms,” Justice says in a statement. “I also said that this act needed to result in real consequences – terminations and dismissals. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of state government.”

A three-page executive summary was released Monday detailing the state’s inquiry into the controversial image.

The summary determined that an unnamed number of trainees in Academy Class 18 began using the hand gesture in the second or third week of training “as a sign of respect” for their correctional academy instructor, Karrie Byrd. Other classmates then began using the gesture. Justice says Byrd has been fired.

— AP

Netanyahu won’t renew UN envoy Danon’s term – report

Channel 12 reports that Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon is leaving his post — today.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly decided not to extend Danon’s appointment, and made the decision on the very last day of Danon’s term, which is today.

Danon, a longtime Likud activist and former science minister, has served as Israel’s envoy to the world body since October 2015.

There is no immediate confirmation of the report from either Netanyahu’s office or Danon himself.

Foreign Office ‘camels,’ aides to UK PM bickered over 1995 Orient House visit

The UK Foreign Office and top aides to British prime minister John Major squabbled over whether a government minister should visit the Palestinian Liberation Organization headquarters in Jerusalem during a 1995 trip by the premier to Israel, newly released documents show.

The Foreign Office argued it was EU policy for senior officials touring Israel to visit the Orient House in East Jerusalem and that it would be a “significant departure” from accepted practice if Douglass Hogg, the minister of state for foreign affairs, did not, according to a Guardian report on the documents.

The UK Prime Minister’s Office was worried, however, that a visit by Hogg to Orient House would cloud the Israel trip, following lobbying against such a visit by British Jews.

“These Foreign Office camels never give up. I am amazed they allowed us to go to Israel at all,” Major’s private secretary Roderic Lyne was quoted writing in a Foreign Office note, in apparent reference to the “camel corps” of British diplomats in the Middle East.

Edward Oakden, another of Major’s private secretaries, said the prime minister had a “strong inclination” against the Orient House visit, as he was already set to meet with PLO chief Yasser Arafat in the Gaza Strip.

“I agree. Our highest priority is the success of the visit to Israel. We should not risk tarnishing it,” Lyne wrote in response.

“Israeli feelings about this are clearly pretty strong. And we don’t want a re-run of the row here over the status of Jerusalem. Time to stand up to the FCO’s Arabist lobby!” he added.

Lyne also reached out to the British ambassador to Israel on whether he was consulted about Hogg visiting Orient House.

“This is slightly naughty, but I am wary of camels. They may look innocuous, but they can get you into trouble,” he wrote. “This smells a bit fishy to me (can camels smell fishy?)”

Hogg did not ultimately make the trip to avoid a dust-up with Israel, according to the Guardian, with the British government officially citing prior commitments in London.

Forget ‘hysteria,’ Leviathan gas gets Israel off coal, says environment minister

Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin says “hysteria” over the start of gas extraction from the Leviathan gas field earlier today was “unnecessary.”

His comments, in an interview with Army Radio, come after Environment Ministry figures show that the pollution levels from the gas platform off Israel’s northern coast were at predicted and safe levels.

Activists against the placement of a platform close to Israel’s shores have long argued it would cause dangerous levels of pollution in the sea and in the air.

Critics “accused me of bringing Chernobyl to Israel,” Elkin says, but insists the gas marks an environmental achievement for Israel, helping to steer Israel’s energy market away from coal.

“It’s also a tremendous economic boon for Israel. The money coming into the state coffers goes to defense, education, welfare, health – it’s a new source of income the State of Israel didn’t have before,” he says.

Elkin and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz toured the northern coastline today to keep a close eye on the start of the gas flow.

On Thursday, Steinitz is due to travel to Greece together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign an agreement on a pipeline to ship eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.

“There’s reason to celebrate,” Elkin insists. “We just became an energy power.”

US rabbi refers to Monsey attack in Congress’s last prayer of the decade

A Washington, DC-area rabbi refers to the attacks on a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, and on a Texas church the following day in his prayer opening a pro forma session of the US House of Representatives.

Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a Navy veteran and retired Navy chaplain, calls on listeners to “look ahead with hope, but with eyes wide open to prejudice, hatred, terror that remain — fueling violence like the anti-Semitic Hanukkah party attack Saturday, the Texas church attack Sunday …”

A pro forma session takes place when either the House or Senate is technically in legislative session but when no votes are held and no formal business is typically conducted.

Howard Mortman of C-Span tells the Washington Examiner that it is the first time anti-Semitism in America was mentioned in a prayer opening a House session.

Resnicoff delivers the prayer, the last in Congress for the decade, from the House floor wearing a tie decorated with menorahs. It is his 16th prayer in Congress, the most by any rabbi. The rabbi ends by quoting the song “We Shall Overcome,” which became a mantra for the civil rights movement and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe. We shall overcome someday.”


Greek Jews slam synagogue graffiti attack

ATHENS, Greece — Jewish community leaders in Greece slam the “profane” daubing of anti-Semitic slogans at a recently-restored synagogue, the latest in a series of similar incidents.

“Shameful and insulting slogans, which profane the recently restored historic synagogue of Trikala, provoke indignation and deep sadness,” the Central Jewish Council of Greece (KIS) says in a statement.

“Jewish snakes out,” was just one slogan daubed in bright blue paint on the wall of the building, some 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Athens and one of the oldest synagogues in the country.

KIS adds the incident shows “the struggle against anti-Semitism must continue” while calling on Greek authorities to take “all measures to arrest those behind this desecration and protect Jewish sites in Trikala,” one of Greece’s oldest Jewish communities going back centuries.

A slogan reading “Jewish Snakes Out” is written outside a synagogue in the central Greek town of Trikala, some 300 kilometers north of Athens, on December 31, 2019. (LEFTERIS PARTSALIS/AFP)

There has been a spate of similar incidents in Greece, where the Jewish community today numbers just a few thousand.


Pompeo warns Iraq US will ‘defend its people’ after embassy attack

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warns Iraq that Washington will “defend its people” after supporters of pro-Iran factions breached the wall of the US embassy compound in Baghdad.

In phone calls with both Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and President Barham Saleh, Pompeo “made clear the United States will protect and defend its people, who are there to support a sovereign and independent Iraq,” the State Department says in a statement.

Both Abdel Mahdi and Saleh assure Pompeo “that they took seriously their responsibility for and would guarantee the safety and security of US personnel and property,” the statement says.


Fatah marks 55 years with marches in West Bank cities

Hundreds of Palestinians march through the West Bank city of Ramallah today to mark the 55th anniversary of the Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Established by Yasser Arafat in 1965, Fatah led the Palestinian struggle against Israel for decades as the main component of the Palestine Liberation Organization, orchestrating a number of the 20th century’s most notorious terrorist attacks. A Fatah-led PLO then signed the Oslo peace agreements with Israel in the 1990s and became the dominant force in the newly-established Palestinian Authority.

Around a dozen masked men lead the march through Ramallah, firing several rounds of gunfire into the air. Similar marches are planned elsewhere in the West Bank in the coming days.

Fatah has long vied with the Islamist terror group Hamas for leadership of the Palestinian national struggle. In 2007, the two factions battled one another in Gaza, leading to the Hamas takeover of the coastal strip. Several attempts at reconciliation have failed.

The popularity of Abbas, and by extension Fatah, has plunged in recent years as he has failed to achieve an independent state or heal the rift with Hamas. Many Palestinians also accuse the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority of rampant corruption.

— Agencies

Pittsburgh rabbi calls Monsey attack an ‘oh no, not again’ moment

For Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the attack in Monsey had an eerie feeling.

“For me it was an ‘oh no, not again’ sort of moment,” he tells CNN’s John Berman.

Myers was at the pulpit of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 when a gunman opened fire inside, killing 11 worshipers.

On Saturday night in Monsey, an intruder injured five people with a machete at a Hanukkah party held at the home of a rabbi.

“It made me sort of wonder, I don’t recall them selling licenses to have open hunting season on Jews, but it sure can make Jews feel that way,” Myers says. He also says we “cannot allow terror to win.”

A memorial for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. (Hane Grace Yagel/via JTA)

The rabbi says he cannot point to one “root cause” for the rise in hate and anti-Semitism, but singled out hate speech spewed by unnamed elected leaders and on social media as contributing to “this illness.”

“It sure makes you pause and wonder what’s going on in our society that people feel they have a God-given right to attack any human being for whatever reason they choose to,” he says.


Israeli woman jailed in Russia abruptly moved to distant prison

An Israeli woman serving a seven-year prison sentence for carrying a few grams of marijuana during a stopover in a Russian airport has been moved to a prison far from Moscow without her family being notified, Hebrew media reports.

Naama Issachar was moved to the prison without the warm clothes and books given to her by her family, according to her defense attorney, who traveled to the prison to meet with her yesterday.

Issachar was only located after “intensive” efforts by the Israeli embassy, officials say.

Russian officials now say she is to be moved again to a third prison next week, but would not say which.

Issachar’s family and Israeli officials have charged that Russian officials arrested treating Naama as a de facto hostage.

Issachar has been held by Russia since some 10 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage during a layover in Moscow in April, and lost an appeal in mid-December against her prison sentence.

US sending more troops to Baghdad embassy

WASHINGTON — The US will send more troops to protect the embassy compound penetrated by Shiite militiamen and their supporters in Baghdad on Tuesday and does not plan an evacuation, the Pentagon and State Department say.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the US has taken actions to “ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats” and to “ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy.”

The extra force will consist of a small additional detachment of Marine security guards, two defense officials in Washington say. They would be from the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, which is trained specifically to provide security at US diplomatic missions.

“US personnel are secure,” adds an official from the State Department. “There are no plans to evacuate Embassy Baghdad.”

Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the US Embassy compound, smashing a main door, setting fire to a reception area and drawing tear gas fired by embassy guards. The mob was angered over US airstrikes that targeting the Iran-backed militia on Sunday, a retaliation for rocket attacks by the militia that killed a US contractor last week.

— AP

Trump says ‘great’ coordination with Russia helped thwart terror attack

US President Donald Trump says that “great & important coordination” between the US and Russia had helped thwart a terror attack in Saint Petersburg.

“President Putin of Russia called to thank me and the US for informing them of a planned terrorist attack in the very beautiful city of Saint Petersburg,” Trump tweets.

“They were able to quickly apprehend the suspects, with many lives being saved,” he says. “Great & important coordination!”

Russia on Monday remanded into custody two men, 22-year-old Nikita Semyonov and 23-year-old Georgiy Chernyshov, suspected of planning the New Year’s Eve attack. According to Russia’s FSB security service, the two men had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. The local Fontanka news website reported that they planned attacks in a shopping center and a cathedral and had sent photos to IS contacts to confirm the targets.

The FSB said the two men had been detained Friday based on information provided from “American partners” and that both confessed to preparing attacks.

Although Moscow and Washington are at odds on many issues, both regularly stress their mutual determination to fight terrorism.


Washington says Baghdad failed to ‘protect’ Americans

WASHINGTON – Washington accuses Iraqi authorities of failing to “protect” US interests, the day after deadly American air strikes against a pro-Iran militia spark a Tuesday attack on the US embassy in Baghdad.

At least 25 fighters were killed in Sunday night’s attacks, which were in retaliation for the death last week of a US civilian contractor in a rocket attack by the militia.

“We have warned the Iraqi government many times, and we’ve shared information with them to try to work with them to carry out their responsibility to protect us,” a senior US State Department official tells reporters in Washington.

He notes that the US military and diplomats are in the country “upon the invitation of the Iraqi government. So it’s their responsibility and duty to protect us. And they have not taken the appropriate steps to do so,” he says.

Multiple attacks have in recent weeks targeted Iraqi bases where Americans are present. The United States has blamed the attacks on pro-Iran factions.

On Sunday, the US-led air strikes were directed at several bases belonging to the Hezbollah Brigades, one of the most radical factions of Hashed al-Shaabi, a Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition. The strikes “killed 25 and wounded 51,” according to the Hashed, which holds major sway in Iraq. The attack was in retaliation for the death Friday of a US civilian contractor in Kirkuk in a Hezbollah Brigades rocket attack.


Gertrude Himmelfarb, influential conservative scholar, dies at 97

NEW YORK — Gertrude Himmelfarb, the matriarch of one of the right’s most prominent families and a scholar of Victorian England who argued forcefully for conservatives in the modern “culture wars,” died Monday night at her home in Washington, DC. She was 97.

Himmelfarb was the widow of neoconservative “godfather” Irving Kristol. Her son, neoconservative publisher-commentator William Kristol, says the cause was congestive heart failure.

Few families contributed as much to modern conservatism, although they did so in different ways. While her husband helped organize an influential network of politicians, think tanks and media outlets, and her son became a leading Republican pundit and strategist, Himmelfarb concentrated on social criticism and history’s lessons for the present.

In dozens of books and essays, Himmelfarb scrutinized the life and culture of England before, during and after the reign of Queen Victoria, from the philosophies of Jeremy Bentham and Edmund Burke to the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

Through debates of the past, she directly and indirectly addressed the so-called culture wars of recent decades. She disputed the dull, corseted image of Victorian England, finding it a time of surprising dynamism and an admirable willingness to confront moral and ethical issues. She challenged the idea that the poor and working class were more liberal than the rich and warned against the post-Victorian Bloomsbury circle of Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and other artists and intellectuals.

“Today more than ever, we have reason to be wary of the kind of ‘civilization’ celebrated by Bloomsbury, which dismissed conventional morality as ‘a ridiculous, absurd and antiquated fashion,'” she wrote in 1985.

Like her husband and other neo-conservatives, Himmelfarb was a political radical in her youth disgusted with the upheavals of the ‘60s. Himmelfarb and her liberal opponents agreed that Victorian “virtues,” as she preferred to call them, had been discredited in the 20th century. Yet their fall was not a sign of enlightenment and open-mindedness, she often said, but of breakdown, a perspective that made her an important influence on advocates for “family values.”

A manufacturer’s daughter, Himmelfarb was born in New York City in 1922. She attended Brooklyn College as an undergraduate, while also studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary. The enemy at this time of her life was not the welfare state, but capitalism. She was a Trotskyist who attended meetings of the Young People’s Socialist League, if only because she enjoyed the company of the “smartest people around.”

One was a fellow traveler named Irving Kristol, who proposed to her after just four dates. They married in 1942. She received a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and her first book, “Lord Acton: A Study In Conscience and Politics,” came out in 1953. Other works included “Victorian Minds,” “The Idea of Poverty” and “Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians.”

— AP

Cyprus AG says rape case trial must run its course

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’s attorney general says he couldn’t suspend the trial of a 19 year-old British woman found guilty of lying about being gang raped by as many as a dozen Israeli tourists because she had leveled “grave accusations” against police investigators that had to be adjudicated in court.

Costas Clerides says the woman’s allegation that police coerced her into retracting her rape claim “could not have been left to linger” so he could not move to suspend the trial. Clerides also says the woman’s insistence that she didn’t get a fair trial is “essentially a legal-constitutional matter” that a court of law must rule on.

“Any intervention on the part of the attorney general, either for reasons of public interest or any other reasons, would have constituted nothing more than an obstacle to ascertaining the true facts of the case, as well as interference in the judiciary’s work,” Clerides says in a statement.

The woman, who hasn’t been named, was found guilty on Monday on a charge of public mischief and is due to be sentenced January 7. The charge carries a maximum of a year in prison and a fine of 1,700 euros ($1,907).

She insists that she was raped in a hotel room at a coastal resort town on July 17 and that she was forced to sign the retraction 10 days later while under police questioning. Her lawyers said they would appeal the decision, citing the judge’s refusal to consider evidence that she had been raped.

Famagusta District Court Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said the defendant didn’t tell the truth and tried to deceive the court with “evasive” and contradictory statements in her testimony.

— AP

US embassy personnel in Baghdad safe, no evacuation planned

US personnel at the American embassy in Baghdad, which has come under attack by pro-Iran protesters, are safe and there are no plans to evacuate, the State Department says.

“Our first priority is the safety and security of US personnel,” a State Department spokesperson says in a statement. “US personnel are secure and there has been no breach,” the spokesperson says. “There are no plans to evacuate Embassy Baghdad.”

The US ambassador to Iraq, Matt Tueller, who had been away on “personal travel,” was returning to the embassy, the spokesperson adds.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that the Pentagon is deploying extra troops to Baghdad to provide security for the US embassy after the attack by pro-Iran protesters angered by US airstrikes over the weekend on Iranian-backed paramilitary forces.

“The Department of Defense is working closely with the Department of State to ensure the security of our Embassy and personnel in Baghdad,” Esper says in a statement. “We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the embassy.”

Esper gave no details, but the deployment is likely to involve a small number of US Marines, according to a US defense source.


Schumer calls to quadruple funding for nonprofits at risk of being targeted for terror attacks

US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pledges to fight for a quadrupling of funding for federal security grants for nonprofit organizations.

It would raise the amount provided by the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to $360 million annually from $90 million. The program provides funding to improve the security of nonprofit organizations at risk of being targeted for terror attacks such as synagogues, churches, mosques, schools, Jewish community centers and other faith-based community centers. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, administers the grant program.

Schumer, D-New York, also calls for financial support for federal programs to prosecute hate crimes.

Schumer makes the announcement on Monday in New York, less than 48 hours after a stabbing attack at the home of a rabbi in suburban Monsey, joined by Jewish leaders and leaders of other religious groups.

US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announces in New York that he will fight for a quadrupling of funding for federal security grants for nonprofit organizations, December 30, 2019. (Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Chuck Schumer/via JTA)

The Monsey attack, and attacks on churches and mosques “shows the vulnerability and increased danger in houses of worship,” he says. “With horrific hate crimes and terror attacks against places of worship and schools becoming more frequent, we must continue doing all we can to help protect people of all faiths worship and gather in safety and security.”

Schumer also says hate crimes must be investigated and prosecuted. A 2009 law authorized $5 million for the Department of Justice to provide assistance to state and local law officials in the investigation or prosecution of a hate crime, but it has never been fully funded by the government.


Jewish groups to hold solidarity march in New York City

Jewish groups will hold a solidarity march in New York City under the banner “No Hate. No Fear.”

The January 5 event comes in the wake of violent attacks on Jews in Monsey, Jersey City and Brooklyn.

The march will leave from Lower Manhattan and cross the Brooklyn Bridge, followed by a rally in Columbus Park.

“In light of the ongoing and persistent attacks against our community, it’s time for us to come together and demonstrate our collective resolve,” the organizers say.

The sponsors are the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the Anti-Defamation League of New York, the American Jewish Committee of New York and the New York Board of Rabbis.


Netanyahu to appoint welfare, agriculture, diaspora ministers tomorrow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will appoint three cabinet ministers tomorrow as he vacates the posts due to his looming corruption indictments, Hebrew media reports.

Israeli cabinet ministers facing criminal indictment are required to resign from their cabinet posts, but prime ministers are not. Netanyahu promised the High Court of Justice, which was to hear a petition on his cabinet posts last month, that he would quit all positions except prime minister by the end of 2019 – or tonight.

The posts to be assigned are ministers of welfare, agriculture and diaspora affairs. Due to a now-defunct, but not-yet-replaced coalition agreement from the 20th Knesset, one portfolio will go to a Shas lawmaker while the other two will go to Likud MKs.

Iran blasts ‘audacity’ of US to blame it for Iraq violence

TEHRAN, Iran — Tehran lashes the “audacity” of Washington to blame it for violent demonstrations against the United States in Iraq, and calls on the US to reconsider its policies in the region.

“The surprising audacity of American officials is so great that after killing at least 25… and violating the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, that now… they attribute the Iraqi people’s protest against their cruel acts to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi says in a statement.

US officials, including President Donald Trump, have said Iran was behind a violent attack today by Shiite militiamen and their backers on the US embassy in Baghdad.


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