AG tells police to hold off on Netanyahu graft indictment recommendations
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AG tells police to hold off on Netanyahu graft indictment recommendations

Avichai Mandelblit instructs investigators not to announce findings from year-long investigations until Supreme Court hears petition against publication

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

  • In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of an Israeli F-16 is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, February 10, 2018. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)
    In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of an Israeli F-16 is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, February 10, 2018. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)
  • Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks during a farewell ceremony for outgoing Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor in Jerusalem on November 6, 2017. (Flash90)
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks during a farewell ceremony for outgoing Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor in Jerusalem on November 6, 2017. (Flash90)
  • US President Donald Trump geatures during his meeting with the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the President's House in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (AFP/POOL/ATEF SAFADI)
    US President Donald Trump geatures during his meeting with the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the President's House in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (AFP/POOL/ATEF SAFADI)
  • The head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, speaks to senior officers ahead of the 'Light of the Grain' exercise, the army's largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
    The head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, speaks to senior officers ahead of the 'Light of the Grain' exercise, the army's largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • President Reuven Rivlin visiting IDF pilots, who were injured when an Israeli F-16 was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, February 11, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin visiting IDF pilots, who were injured when an Israeli F-16 was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, February 11, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
  • Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)
    Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)
  • President Reuven Rivlin visiting IDF pilots injured when an Israeli F-16 was downed upon its return from Syria, February 11, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin visiting IDF pilots injured when an Israeli F-16 was downed upon its return from Syria, February 11, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
  • Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during WWII, in Markowa, Poland, on Februay 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during WWII, in Markowa, Poland, on Februay 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
  • Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)
    Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)

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

Rivlin: Syria strikes ‘proved’ Israel can deal with Iran

President Reuven Rivlin says Israel’s targeting of key Iranian military facilities in Syria over the weekend “proved that we are capable of dealing with Iran.”

“We have Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, and today we have Iran, and everyone needs to understand that Israel will not stand idly when someone tries to disrupt our state and our citizens’ daily lives,” he says while visiting pilots injured yesterday when an Israeli F-16 was downed upon its return from Syria. “We aren’t just talking about a nuclear threat, but about a state sponsor of terror.”

Rivlin says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right to have repeatedly warned the international community of the Iranian threat over the past years, including frequent criticism of the 2015 nuclear deal signed with world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

“Everyone in all world powers and in all countries knows that we won’t be able to accept Iranian involvement on our border.”

— Michael Bachner

Antwerp man filmed destroying 20 mezuzahs, harassing Jews

A 24-year-old refugee believed to be Muslim was briefly detained by Belgian police for anti-Semitic hate crimes, including the destruction of at least 20 mezuzahs in Antwerp, local Jews say.

In recent weeks, the same man was filmed in Antwerp destroying at least 20 mezuzahs, religious objects containing a parchment with biblical text inked on it that Jews affix to their door frames, and vandalizing the entrance doors of several Jewish institutions, the Jewish monthly Joods Actueel reports.

He was detained for 12 hours Friday based on footage from security cameras of him destroying the mezuzahs.

He had also placed a Quran near a synagogue, and was filmed knocking off the hat of an Orthodox Jew on the street. He shouted at Jewish passersby: “This is our land, Palestine!” and: “We will show you!”

— JTA

Coalition heads delay settlement annexation bill following Syria clashes

Citing the security incidents on Israel’s northern border over the weekend, heads of coalition parties pull legislation aimed at annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank from the agenda of a meeting to set this week’s legislative timetable.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed the bill from the agenda of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, slated to meet later today to vote on whether to support upcoming legislation. The coalition heads’ meeting was expected to discuss reinstating a vote on the so called Sovereignty Bill.

The proposal, drafted by Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) seeks to apply Israeli sovereignty over all areas of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, which are currently under military rule.

It will now likely be pushed off until next week’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation meeting.

Russian passenger plane crashes outside Moscow

A Russian plane carrying 71 passengers has reportedly crashed near Moscow after dropping off the radar shortly after taking off from the city.

The Saratov Airlines An-148 was en route to the city of Orsk on the border with Kazakhstan.

It is not currently known if there are injuries or fatalities in the crash.

‘No chance’ of survival for Russian plane passengers

A source from Russia’s emergency services tells Interfax that the 71 people on board a plane that crashed outside Moscow “had no chance” of survival.

News agencies say witnesses in the village of Argunovo saw a burning plane falling from the sky and report that the wreckage of the plane was spread over a wide area around the crash site.

The Russian-made plane was 7 years old and bought by Saratov Airlines from another Russian airline a year ago.

Russian media reported that the emergency services were unable to reach the crash site by road and that rescue workers walked to the scene on foot.

The Russian transport minister was on his way to the crash site, agencies reported. The transport ministry said several causes for the crash are being considered, including weather conditions and human error.

The governor of the Orenburg region, where the plane was flying to, told Russian media that “more than 60 people” onboard the plane were from the region.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into Saratov Airlines following the crash.

— with AFP

Injured navigator released from hospital after plane downed by Syrian fire

An Israeli navigator who was lightly injured after his F-16 was apparently shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire has been released from Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, a hospital spokesperson says.

The pilot, who was seriously injured, remains in the hospital’s intensive care unit, though doctors say his condition has improved considerably from yesterday.

President Reuven Rivlin visiting IDF pilots injured when an Israeli F-16 was downed upon its return from Syria, February 11, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

The pilot is now conscious and has been taken off a respirator and is breathing on his own, doctors say.

— Judah Ari Gross

Head of IDF Northern Command: We ‘will not allow’ Iranian entrenchment in Syria

The head of the IDF Northern Command warns that the military “will not allow” Iranian entrenchment in Syria, but is not interested in escalating the situation at this time.

“Iran wants to establish a forward operating base in Syria whose goal is attacking Israel. We will not allow it. We will not allow Israeli citizens to be threatened. We will not allow Iran to threaten the stability of the entire region,” says Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick. “We are not inclined toward escalation, but we have high-level capabilities and we will not hesitate to use them.”

The head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, speaks to senior officers ahead of the ‘Light of the Grain’ exercise, the army’s largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Strick makes his remarks during a ceremony marking the incoming of a new head of the Northern Command’s 210th “Bashan” Division, which is responsible for guarding the Syrian border and the Golan Heights.

“That’s how we’ve operated in the past, that’s how we operated yesterday and that’s how we’ll act, as needed, to any threat,” Strick says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Video shows Israeli F-16 in flames before crash

Newly released surveillance camera footage shows the Israeli F-16 had been on fire before it crashed on Saturday, apparently strengthening the prevailing view that the aircraft was felled by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile.

In the black-and-white video, shared by Channel 10 news, the plane can be seen streaking across the sky in flames before it crashes in the distance in a blaze of light.

The pilot and navigator bailed out of the plane before the crash. The pilot was seriously injured, while the navigator was lightly wounded.

— Judah Ari Gross

Polish PM calls on Poles to avoid anti-Semitic remarks

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki calls on Poles to refrain from making anti-Semitic statements at a time when the country is under fire over a controversial Holocaust law.

The new law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich — or other crimes against humanity and war crimes” and set off criticism from Israel, the United States and France.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during WWII, in Markowa, Poland, on Februay 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

“I would like to invite every one of you to contribute to positive thinking… to avoid anti-Semitic statements, because they are grist to the mill for our enemies, for our adversaries,” Morawiecki says at a town hall meeting in the eastern city of Chelm.

“Let’s avoid it like the plague, even the dumb, unnecessary jokes. Most importantly, let’s all explain together how things really were.”

— AFP

Police officer indicted for beating ultra-Orthodox army draft protesters

The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department files indictments against a police officer on suspicion of beating protesters participating in demonstrations against the draft of ultra-Orthodox citizens into the army.

The charges were filed at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court against the officer from the capital’s Lev Habira station concerning incidents at two demonstrations,  the Justice Ministry says in a statement.

In the first case, which happened on January 17, the alleged victim of the assault was at a demonstration in the Kikar Shabbat area of the capital when another protester shouted a racial slur at an Ethiopian police officer who was helping disperse the protesters. According to the indictment, the defendant apparently thought the victim had called out the insult and, after dragging him aside, hit him twice and then said “Understand?”

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clash with police during a protest against the arrest of a religious seminary students who failed to comply with a recruitment order, next to the army draft office in Jerusalem, November 28, 2017. (Flash90)

In the second case, that happened on September 17, also at Kikar Shabbat, there was a protest against the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox draft dodger, during which demonstrators blocked traffic and pelted police officers with stones, bottles, and other objects.

The defending officer, who injured during the clashes, was deployed with other police to clear the protesters. According to the indictment, he three times kicked or kneed protesters who were being dragged from the street by other officers.

Mario Balotelli booked for ‘racist abuse complaint’

Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli was booked during Nice’s 3-2 loss at Dijon for complaining about racist abuse, his French Ligue 1 club and a local newspaper claim.

Nice says that at Saturday’s math Balotelli “picked up a yellow card after… getting annoyed at fans’ racist abuse.”

Local newspaper Nice Matin in its match report said Balotelli “eyeballed and pointed his finger” at fans and “complained of racist abuse.”

In this photo dated June 24, 2014, Italy’s Mario Balotelli kicks the ball over Uruguay’s Martin Caceres during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

The newspaper said Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet had tried to calm down a furious Balotelli telling him he “hadn’t heard any racist chants,” to which the Italian forward replied it was coming from “two or three supporters.”

The 27-year-old was born in Italy to Ghanaian parents and then adopted by an Italian family. His adopted mother is Silvia Balotelli, the Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors.

— with AFP

Trump says unsure Israel seeks peace with Palestinians

US President Donald Trump says in an interview with Israel Hayom that he is “not necessarily sure” Israel is seeking to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Trump has previously denounced the Palestinians for what he sees as their unwillingness to negotiate, but he has largely refrained from criticizing Israel.

In the interview, Trump notes that while US-Israel relations were “great,” peace with the Palestinians would make them “a lot better.”

“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace. They are not looking to make peace,” Trump tells the paper. “And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens.”

Trump also expresses concerns about Israeli settlement building, although his administration has been far less critical of settlements than that of his predecessor Barack Obama.

“The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements,” he says.

Foreign Ministry says no Israelis on Russia plane crash

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says Russian authorities have confirmed that there were no Israeli citizens on board a plane than crashed outside Moscow, likely killing all 71 passengers.

Russian minister: No survivors from crash of airliner near Moscow

Russia’s transport minister says there are no survivors from the crash of an airliner near Moscow.

There were 65 passengers and 6 crew members aboard the Saratov Airlines An-148 en route to the city of Orsk on the border with Kazakhstan.

Avi Gabbay says West Bank annexation bill would be ‘diplomatic terror attack’

Avi Gabbay says that a bill to annex West Bank settlements would cause a “diplomatic terror attack” for Israel.

“It is good that the absurd bill for the annexation of Judea and Samaria was removed from the government agenda,” Gabbay says in a statement.

Hours earlier, the heads of coalition parties pulled the so-called Sovereignty Bill from the agenda of a meeting on the coming week’s legislative timetable.

AG tells police to hold off on Netanyahu graft probe recommendations

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit instructs police to hold off submitting their recommendations on indictments in two graft probes into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, due to a High Court petition seeking to cancel the police practice of giving an opinion on whether to press charges.

The development comes amid reports that police are poised to recommend indictments against the prime minister in the cases.

In so-called Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Israeli woman murdered in Mexico

An Israeli woman was murdered last week in Mexico while she was driving in a car in the Tulum region, Israel’s Foreign Ministry says.

The woman’s family is now in Mexico and the Israeli consulate in the country is helping her relatives make arrangements to bring her body to Israel for burial.

Land owner considering suing IDF for damage caused by crashed F-16

The owner of land just outside of Kibbutz Harduf in the Golan Heights is considering suing the IDF for damages caused by an F-16 that crashed into his property after it was shot down by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile.

The landowner is the parliamentary aide to Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi, Channel 10 news reports.

He has so far been prevented by the army from accessing the site of the crash in order to asses the damage caused, the report says.

Israel warned Europeans about Iranian threat before latest flareup

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned European leaders of Iran’s continued threat to the region before this weekend’s flare-up in relations, in which Israel shot down an Iranian drone after it entered Israeli airspace from Syrian territory, Channel 10 news reports.

Netanyahu spoke a number of times in recent weeks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May to tell them of the Islamic Republic’s aggression in the region and ongoing efforts to strengthen its ballistic missile program.

In those conversations, Netanyahu said that Israel prefers a diplomatic solution to the problem, but that if that didn’t work, Israel would be forced to use other means, the report says.

In response, France, UK and Germany last week informed Iranian officials, to warn them of Israel’s intentions.

Anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on Barcelona synagogue

Anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted on the walls of a synagogue in Barcelona, according to local reports.

The word “pigs” was written in English, followed by a sentence in the Spanish-Latin hybrid language, Catalan, reading “Get out of the country.”

The graffiti discovered on Wednesday was ordered erased by Barcelona Deputy Mayor Gerardo Pisarello, who called for an investigation into the incident.

“Barcelona is a city which is proud of its differences,” Pisarello says in a statement. “We will not allow actions of intolerance.”

The synagogue is no longer in daily use, according to reports. It serves as a cultural center and a museum, and as a site to host community events.

— JTA

On US visit, Guatemala’s president praised for Jerusalem support

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, on a visit to the United States, receives thanks from several quarters for his support of the US decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

President Donald Trump thanked Morales during a meeting at a hotel in Washington before the annual National Prayer Breakfast, the Associated Press reports. Guatemala was one of nine countries that voted with the United States against a United Nations General Assembly resolution in December rejecting any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Morales announced in December in a post on Facebook that he would move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. The post said that he has instructed his country’s chancellor “to initiate the respective coordination so that it may be,” and said that he made the decision following a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shaking hands during a joint press conference after signing bilateral agreements at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, November 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Abir Sultan/File)

On Friday night, Morales attended a Shabbat meal in Manhattan hosted by Chabad’s Jewish Latin Center. An invitation was extended after Morales said he was interested in experiencing a traditional Shabbat dinner, according to Chabad.org. Morales was honored during the meal, attended by about 200 people, for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Prior to the dinner, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dani Dayan, tweeted: “As the son of a former Ambassador of Israel to Guatemala and as Israel’s Consul General in New York, I will be honored to participate and thank President Jimmy Morales.”

— JTA

Iranian officials say hacks on dailies are from US, Britain

Iranian telecommunication officials are saying that hackers who accessed the websites of some of the country’s dailies are from the United States and Britain.

A Sunday statement carried by the official IRNA news agency quotes the officials as saying the hackers targeted 30 websites on Saturday, including some belonging to Iranian newspapers.

It added, however, that the websites were poorly secured.

Late on Saturday, hackers accessed the dailies’ websites and changed their Farsi top stories to a contrived report about the death of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

No one has claimed responsibility for the cyberattacks.

Since 2012, the US has blamed Iranian hackers for targeting American banks, a small dam near New York City, and the email and social media accounts of Obama administration officials.

– AP

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party elects new leaders

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition elects new co-presidents following a crackdown on the party for alleged terror links that led to the jailing of one of its leaders and hundreds of arrests.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP — the second-largest opposition party represented in the Turkish parliament — unanimously elects lawmaker Pervin Buldan and deputy co-chair Sezai Temelli amid heavy security in Ankara.

The new co-chairmen of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, Pervin Buldan, left, and Sezai Temelli, right, applaud outgoing co-chairwoman Serpil Kemalbay during HDP congress in Ankara, Turkey, February 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Buldan is picked to replace jailed HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, who has been behind bars since November 2016, pending trial on terror charges for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants. Prosecutors are seeking a 142-year prison sentence if he is convicted of leading a terror organization, engaging in terror propaganda and other crimes. Demirtas denies the accusations.

Demirtas, who ran against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey’s first direct presidential election in 2014 and led HDP to parliament in two general elections in 2015, said he would step down as co-chair and not stand for re-election.

— AP

Tillerson in Egypt at start of Mideast tour (sans Israel)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Egypt at the start of a five-nation tour that coincides with heightened regional tension, as well as unease over the Trump administration’s Mideast policies.

In Egypt, as well as in Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan — the tour’s other stops — Tillerson will almost certainly hear misgivings about US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, The move angered Washington’s Arab allies and undermined the chances of a timely resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

He will not be visiting Israel on the trip.

— with AP

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