The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Settler leader: Trump is ‘not the messiah’
Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan, who attended the Trump inauguration in Washington last month and met with administration officials, tells the pro-settlement B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference the US president is “not the messiah.”
Ahead of Netanyahu’s Washington visit, Dagan says the US administration will follow the prime minister’s lead on Israeli-Palestinian peace and the settlements.
“We must not think, it’s wrong to think, that they will make decisions for us,” says Dagan. “Trump will never make a decision to annex Ma’ale Adumim. Trump will never make a decision on building in Judea and Samaria. Trump will always be more left-wing than us.”
“I say this as someone who loves the prime minister, who respects him and thinks he’s a good leader for the State of Israel,” says Dagan. The GOP removed the two-state solution from its platform, and “Netanyahu put it back on the table,” he says. “This is illogical, it cannot be… it’s dangerous.”
The Trump administration doesn’t distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements “and we’re talking about blocs,” he says.
“Therefore I am very troubled by these statements,” he says.
“The ball is not in Washington[‘s court]; the ball is in Jerusalem,” the settler leader adds.
— Marissa Newman
Haredi protesters block road outside Jerusalem draft office
Ultra-Orthodox protesters block the road outside an IDF recruitment center in Jerusalem, in the latest demonstration against the draft of men from the community.
The police remove the protesters and clear the road, Channel 10 reports.
Last week, protesters attacked an IDF soldier during a demonstration in Bnei Brak, drawing a furious response from across the political spectrum.
Herzog: ‘Clear majority’ in Israel for 2-state solution
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares for his upcoming meeting with US President Donald Trump, opposition leader Isaac Herzog tells a conference in Jerusalem that there is a “clear majority” in Israel that supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
“Regarding Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, I say to President Trump and his administration: There is in the State of Israel a clear majority supporting separation from the Palestinians and the realization of the vision of two states,” Herzog says, according to Army Radio.
His comments earn boos from the audience at the pro-settlement B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference.
Lapid to Netanyahu: Don’t push Trump into a corner
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid wishes Netanyahu luck in his trip to Washington, DC, to meet with Trump, and cautions him against making immediate political demands during his first encounter with the new president.
Speaking at his weekly faction meeting in the Knesset, Lapid says the prime minister should not push Trump “into a corner,” and urges ministers to stop asking Netanyahu to use the meeting as an opportunity to push settlement policy.
“It’s almost absurd that I need to say it from the opposition, but I call upon the members of the government and the coalition to give the prime minister their support during this visit, not to expect too much and to remember that managing the country is a long process which requires all of us to act responsibly,” Lapid says.
“There must be a limit to the irresponsibility. Israel’s security and foreign affairs can’t be thrown to one side because of politicians who are only interested in themselves,” he says, adding that this first meeting is not the time to talk about the Palestinian issue.
“The Palestinian issue is a central part of the discussion about Israel’s security, but there will be time for that. We have seen time and again that the Americans don’t like being forced into a corner, exactly as we don’t like it when others try to push us into a corner.”
Instead, Lapid says, Netanyahu should focus the discussions on three issues: creating a united front against Iran; ending attacks on Israel in international forums; and trying to secure a promise from the president that Israel will be exempt from any attempt to force American companies to bring their factories back from abroad.
— Raoul Wootliff
Heading to US, PM says he and Trump see ‘eye to eye’ on Mideast
As he boards his plane to travel the US for his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu hails the relationship between Israel and the US, and says he and the president have shared views on the challenges in the Middle East.
“The alliance between Israel and America has always been extremely strong [and] it’s about to be even stronger,” Netanyahu says in comments on his Facebook page.
“President Trump and I see eye to eye on the dangers emanating from the region, and also the opportunities, and we will talk about both and also upgrading the relationship between Israel and the United States.”
The prime minister confirms that he will also meet with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and various Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate.
Germany’s far-right AfD seeks to oust state leader for Holocaust comments
The heads of the far-right German party Alternative for Germany are calling for the ouster of a local official who branded a Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame.”
AfD leader Frauke Petry slams the comments, saying the speech by AfD’s Thuringia state leader Björn Hocke in Dresden last month is beyond the point of what is acceptable for the party.
In his speech to young AfD members, Hocke derided the Berlin memorial to the Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a “monument of shame,” and denounced the country’s efforts to come to terms with its history, according to the German news outlet Deutsche Welle.
“These stupid politics of coming to grips with the past cripple us — we need nothing other than a 180-degree reversal on the politics of remembrance,” Hocke said.
The final decision on his removal will be made by an AfD arbitration committee in Thuringia, DW says.
Avalanche kills at least four in French Alps
At least four people died in the French Alps when an avalanche engulfed nine people who were in an off-piste area near the ski resort of Tignes, the rescue services say.
“Five people are still buried under a huge mass of snow,” says a rescue official from nearby Albertville.
The rescue workers initially said they had found two people dead and two alive near the resort close to the Italian border, but later reported four dead.
The police say the two people found alive appeared to have died shortly after being rescued.
The avalanche, some 400 meters (yards) wide, was apparently set off by a group of skiers higher up, the ski station says in a statement.
Two helicopters, rescue workers and sniffer dogs are searching for those missing, in the worst accident in France since the start of this year’s ski season.
Livni: Trump meeting a chance to reinforce Israel’s security interests
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni says Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump on Wednesday is “an opportunity to reinforce Israel’s vital security interests.”
“Trump wants to close a deal. There’s only one deal to that can keep Israel a Jewish and democratic state and that is separation from the Palestinians into two nation states,” Livni tells a meeting of her faction at the Knesset in Jerusalem, according to the Walla news website.
“Netanyahu should insist on Israel’s vital interests, like in the [2004 George W.] Bush letter [on Mideast peace] — keeping the settlement blocs and preventing of the right of return — and add the demand for a demilitarized Palestinian state and security arrangements. This is the true Israeli interest.”
Steinitz named as acting PM during Netanyahu’s US trip
Infrastructure and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz is appointed acting prime minister while Netanyahu is in the United States for his upcoming meeting with Trump.
Steinitz will be tasked with calling a cabinet meeting if necessary. But Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz is appointed to call a security cabinet meeting, should the need arise, as Steinitz is not a member.
Katz was appointed acting prime minister during Netanyahu’s visit to the UK last week.
— Raoul Wootliff
Swastika daubed on car in Florida Jewish neighborhood
A large swastika is spray-painted on the side of a car in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Boca Raton, Florida.
The incident occurred early Sunday morning, a local report says. The white swastika took up the entire driver’s-side door of the black Ford Mustang.
The owner of the car is a teenager who is currently visiting Israel, the Miami Herald reports. It is not know if the teen’s visit to Israel made him the intended target.
“This is a direct hate message,” Yona Lunger, an activist in South Florida’s Jewish community, tells the Miami Herald. “We are shocked, devastated.”
Many Holocaust survivors live in the neighborhood, residents say.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is holding an investigation into the incident. Residents have asked the local police for increased patrols and some plan to install surveillance cameras, according to reports.
Report: Merkel nixes meeting of Israeli, German cabinets over outpost law
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has canceled an annual meeting between the German and Israeli cabinets set to take place in Jerusalem on May 10, Haaretz newspaper reports, citing the newly passed law legalizing settlement outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land.
According to Haaretz, Merkel’s official excuse was the upcoming elections for chancellor in September, but German and Israeli officials both say the primary reason for the decision was the German leader’s “dissatisfaction” at the passage of the controversial legislation.
The paper quotes an unnamed Israeli official as saying that he heard from senior German sources in the foreign ministry and Merkel’s office that the step was one of a series of public and backdoor measures intended to express Berlin’s displeasure over the law.
The annual summit, which was created to showcase the close ties between Israel and Germany, takes place in Berlin and Jerusalem on alternate years.
Syrian regime ready for prisoner swap with rebels — state media
Syria’s regime is ready to release detainees in exchange for hostages held by rebels, the official SANA news agency reports, ahead of peace talks in the Kazakh capital.
“The government is ready… as part of efforts towards the next meeting in Astana to exchange detainees for men, women and children — civilians and soldiers — kidnapped by terrorists,” SANA says, referring to the rebels.
Kazakhstan has invited Syrian rebels and government officials to peace talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Astana, after a first round last month organized by regime backers Russia and Iran and rebel ally Turkey.
The Syrian government’s position comes after the “success… of the Syrian state in freeing numerous civilians and soldiers kidnapped by terrorist groups,” the agency cited an official source as saying.
UK speaker kicks off Israel trip by meeting Knesset counterpart
The speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, John Bercow, begins a three-day trip to Israel by meeting with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein in the Israeli parliament.
Bercow is welcomed to the Knesset by the British and Israeli national anthems played by the Knesset Guard band.
The British politician gives no response when asked by the press if he plans to resign due to the controversy over his decision to prevent Trump speaking in Parliament. Bercow said his objection was based on his “opposition to racism and sexism and support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary.”
A spokesman for the Knesset speaker declines to comment when asked by The Times of Israel if Edelstein shares Bercow’s concerns about Trump addressing parliament.
— Raoul Wootliff
Several hurt in crane collapse in Bat Yam
Several people are injured when a crane topples over in the central city of Bat Yam.
Ynet says there are no details yet on the condition of the injured in the incident at a building site in a residential area of the city.
Four hurt, one seriously, in crane collapse — reports
Media reports put the number of injured in the Bat Yam crane collapse at four.
At least one person is said to be in serious condition. All four have been taken to a hospital.
A video shows the crane crushing a car and lying across a main street in the beachside suburb south of Tel Aviv.
Crane operator severely hurt — MDA
The MDA rescue service confirms that four people were hurt in the crane collapse.
The crane operator, 30, was severely injured suffering limb wounds and evacuated to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital while fully conscious.
One 38-year-old male who was in the car hit by the crane was modernly injured, suffering injury to several organs. He was taken to nearby Wolfson hospital.
Two others were lightly injured, a man in his 40s and his 9-year-old daughter. They were taken to Wolfson as well.
MDA personnel are on the scene searching for additional victims.
— Judah Ari Gross
UN rejects Lebanese arming of Hezbollah
A UN official has shot back at Lebanon’s president for backing the arming of Hezbollah, saying that Resolution 1701, reached as part of a ceasefire after the 2006 war between Israel and the terror group, prohibits the country from being allowed weapons.
“UN resolution 1701 is vital for Lebanon’s stability and security. The resolution calls for disarmament of all armed groups. No arms outside control of state,” UN Coordinator Sigird Kaag says in a tweet.
Recalling SCR 1701 vital 4 Lebanon's stability-security. Resolution calls 4 disarmament all armed groups. No arms outside control of state
— UNSigridKaag (@SigridKaag) February 13, 2017
On Sunday night, Michel Aoun said Hezbollah, which supported his presidency, needed arms to battle Israel.
“As long as the Lebanese army is not strong enough to battle Israel … we feel the need for its existence,” Aoun told the Egyptian TV network CBC on Sunday night. He added that Hezbollah “has a complementary role to the Lebanese army.”
On Sunday, The Times of Israel reported that Israeli officials believe Hezbollah and Lebanese troops are cooperating near the border with Israel, in contravention of UNSCR 1701.
A UNIFIL spokesman said the peacekeepers “haven’t seen entry of weapons or increased tension.”
— with AP
Erdogan slams settlement expansion as ‘absolute provocation’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan becomes the latest in a string of world leaders to criticize Israel’s decision to expand its settlements in the West Bank, calling the move “absolute provocation.”
Erdogan made the remarks on live Turkish TV during an official visit to Bahrain, the Reuters news agency reported.
Poll: Americans nearly split on support for Palestinian state
Americans are nearly evenly divided over support for a Palestinian state, according to the latest Gallup poll.
Some 45 percent of Americans back the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 42 percent oppose it, according to the poll taken during the first week of February. Some 13 percent said they have no opinion.
One year ago, support for a Palestinian state was at nearly the same level, 44 percent, but a lower percentage, 37 percent, opposed it. At that time, 19 percent said they had no opinion.
Broken down by political party affiliation, 61 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Independents are in favor of a Palestinian state.
The results are from Gallup’s annual World Affairs poll conducted Feb. 1-5. A random sample of 1,035 Americans over 18 was polled. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
McGill student leader doubles down on ‘punch a Zionist today’ message
A McGill University student leader who advised on Twitter to “punch a Zionist today” is refusing to resign or retract the comment amid rising Jewish anger on campus against him.
Council member Igor Sadikov did not relent at what is described as a “tense” meeting of the student union legislative council on Thursday.
Witnesses who attended the meeting say Sadikov appeared to double down on his stance, arguing that Jews are not “a legitimate ethnic group,” according to B’nai Brith Canada.
“I have never felt so targeted, disgusted or disappointed in my life,” Jewish McGill student Molly Harris later writes in a post on Facebook.
McGill has condemned Sadikov, joining the Jewish groups B’nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The university’s undergraduate arts society formally called on Sadikov to resign and B’nai Brith asked police to investigate whether Sadikov had incited hatred with his tweet.
Shocking image of assassination wins World Press Photo award
AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici’s image of the immediate aftermath of the murder of a Russian diplomat in Turkey in December wins the annual World Press Photo award.
In the photo, Mevlut Mert Altintas, clad in a suit and tie, stands defiantly, pistol in his right hand pointed at the ground and with his left hand raised, his index finger pointing upward. His mouth is wide open as he shouts angrily. The body of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov lies on the floor just behind him.
The photos were captured in the moments before and after the off-duty policeman drew a handgun and shot Karlov at an Ankara gallery on Dec. 19.
Pacing near the body of his victim, the gunman appeared to condemn Russia’s military role in Syria, shouting: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” Altintas was later killed in a shootout with Turkish police.
The image is part of a series titled “An Assassination in Turkey” that also won the Spot News – Stories category in the prestigious awards.
Construction site boss arrested after Bat Yam crane collapse
The manager of a construction site in Bat Yam is arrested after a crane at the site toppled over onto the car of local residents, injuring four people, Walla reports.
The crane operator is in serious condition, while the other three — including a 9-year-old girl — sustained less severe injuries.
UK proposes guidelines to fight municipal boycotts of Israel
The British government unveils a proposed guideline aimed at counteracting and preventing the passing of resolutions to boycott Israel by local municipalities.
“Authorities should not implement or pursue boycotts other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government,” the proposal reads.
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews says his group “warmly welcomes the Government’s measures” since “these boycotts are divisive and undermine good community relations.”
Israel warns nationals against travel to North Korea
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem is advising Israeli nationals not to travel to North Korea, a day after an Israeli tourism company said it has an exclusive agreement to issue tourist visas for the secretive state.
According to Ynet, the travel warning reads: “In light of the fact that Israel has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, Israeli officials will be unable to assist or offer any response if Israeli citizens find themselves in any kind of adversity during their stay there.”
IDF officer stripped of command for verbally abusing female soldier
An IDF officer who threatened and verbally humiliated a female subordinate is immediately stripped of his command and has the incident recorded in his personal file.
The punishment was recommended by IDF ombudsman Major General Yitzhak Brik, after the officer called the soldier, among other things, “an undeveloped child,” “black and evil” and “unbearably ugly,” Israel Radio reports.
He also on one occasion told her: “One more word and I will throw you out of the window.”
Russian Jews horrified by MP’s ‘shameful’ slur
A pro-Kremlin lawmaker is under fire for saying the ancestors of local Jewish opposition figures in Saint-Petersburg “boiled Christians in cauldrons.”
Vitaly Milonov, a Duma deputy known for his anti-gay initiatives, lashed out at the weekend at two local lawmakers leading a protest against handing over St. Isaac’s basilica, a top landmark in Russia’s second largest city, to the Russian Orthodox Church.
“Christians survived despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Vishnevsky and Maksim Reznik boiled us in cauldrons and fed us to animals,” ultra-conservative Milonov said at a rally yesterday to support the controversial handover.
The statement triggered a storm of criticism, with another local lawmaker Alexei Kovalev petitioning for a criminal probe into possible incitement of hatred while prominent Jewish figures said it was shameful and could spark religious tensions.
Shots fired at parked car in Jaffa; none hurt
Shots are fired at a parked car in Jaffa, while the vehicle was empty of passengers.
No one is hurt in the incident on Isakov Street, and police are investigating, Channel 2 reports.
Iraqi air force strikes IS commanders, fate of leader unclear
The Iraqi army says its air force targeted a meeting of Islamic State commanders that the jihadist group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been attending.
It is not clear from the statement issued by the Joint Operations Command, which is coordinating the fight against the jihadists in Iraq, whether the world’s most wanted terrorist was hit.
The statement says Iraqi air force F-16 jets struck the meeting of top IS commanders on February 11, but does not make clear whether Baghdadi was present.
“The direct strike on the meeting location led to the death of 13 Daesh (IS) commanders,” says the statement. The list of names accompanying the statement does not include the Iraqi-born Baghdadi.
Kfar Saba mayor arrested over corruption suspicions
The mayor of the central city of Kfar Saba, Yehuda Ben-Hamo, is among six people arrested on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The six — including the contractor suspected of giving the bribes — appear in court for a remand hearing, in which Ben-Hamo is detained for a further seven days, Channel 2 reports.
Construction company boss: Crane fell due to technical fault
The head of the construction company using the crane that toppled over in Bat Yam says the disaster was the result of a technical fault.
Yuval Atia of the Pathways and Buildings company says the crane had all the relevant permits, according to Channel 2.
“This is a crane with all the licenses and permits,” says Attia. “I believe this was a technical failure, but it is too early to know the cause.”
PM to press Trump on letting Pollard move to Israel
Netanyahu is set to ask Trump to allow convicted spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard to leave the US and move to Israel, Channel 2 says.
Pollard, who was freed from jail last November after serving 30 years of a life sentence, is required under the terms of his parole to remain in the US for five years, despite his desire to move to Israel.
Former president Barack Obama rejected Netanyahu’s request to allow him to leave the country.
White House stops defending Flynn, raising questions on his fate
US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s fate as one of the president’s senior aides remains uncertain following reports that he discussed US sanctions with a Russian envoy before Trump’s January 20 inauguration.
For a fourth straight day, White House officials will not say whether Trump has confidence in Flynn. The president has not publicly commented on Flynn’s status, nor has Vice President Mike Pence, who previously denied that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US.
Stephen Miller, Trump’s top policy adviser, skirted the issue on several news shows yesterday, saying it was not his place to weigh in on the “sensitive matter” or to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.
Top Hamas official: New leader won’t bring ‘radical change’
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk says the terror group’s new leader in Gaza will not bring “radical change.”
The statement follows the reported election of hardline militant Yahya Sinwar as Hamas’s new chief in the beleaguered Strip.
“The Hamas movement is institutional, and a change of leadership is not something that will bring radical change of its policies,” Marzouk tells the pan-Arab news channel al-Araby, without mentioning Sinwar by name.
There have so far been no official Hamas statements about the election of Sinwar.
— Dov Lieber
Israeli lightly hurt in West Bank stone-throwing attack
An Israeli is lightly hurt when Palestinians throw stones at his car in the Etzion Bloc of settlements in the West Bank.
The man sustains minor injuries to his hand when his car is waylaid on a bypass road, Israel Radio reports. Three cars in total are damaged in the incident.
Russian video shows fresh IS damage in Palmyra
Russia releases footage from one of its drones in Syria, revealing for the first time the latest destruction to the ruins of historic Palmyra since it was recaptured by Islamic State militants, as Syrian government forces push ahead on the ground in a new offensive to take the city back.
The drone footage, released in Moscow, shows that IS militants have badly damaged the facade of the Roman-era theater and the Tetrapylon — a set of four monuments with four columns each at the center of the colonnaded road leading to the theater.
The video appears to show that only two of the 16 columns remain standing.
The footage also reveals sustained truck movements around the archaeological site, suggesting the militants could be preparing for further demolitions by bringing in explosives, warns the Russian Defense Ministry.