Parties prod Knesset to convene panel to discuss, reject Netanyahu immunity
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Parties prod Knesset to convene panel to discuss, reject Netanyahu immunity

Blue and White MK to meet Knesset Speaker Sunday to hash out committee; Yisrael Beytenu chief: PM’s announcement shows ‘the only thing’ he cares about is avoiding graft charges

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on December 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on December 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Pro-Iran militia vows to stay at US embassy in Baghdad despite pullback call

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces paramilitary orders its supporters to end their sit-in at the US embassy compound in Baghdad, but hardliners pledge to stay put outside the mission.

“You delivered your message,” the PMF says in a statement addressed to the crowds encircling the embassy since yesterday in outrage over deadly American air strikes on a pro-Iran PMF faction over the weekend.

It calls on supporters to regroup outside the high-security Green Zone where the mission is located, but a leading commander in Kataeb Hezbollah, the group targeted in the US raids, tells AFP they would “remain” at the embassy.

— AFP

Border Police officers clear tent in northern West Bank outpost

Border Police officers take down a tent illegally put up near the Rehalim settlement in the northern West Bank.

As officers began clearing the tent in the Ma’ale Pinhas outpost, members of the so-called hilltop youth arrived, prompting a brief verbal altercation, according to a police official, but the cops were able to remove the shelter without further incident.

— Jacob Magid

Pope says he ‘lost patience’ with exuberant admirer

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis confesses he had “lost patience” with an exuberant admirer who had grabbed his hand on Saint Peter’s Square, prompting a swift pair of slaps.

“We lose patience many times. It happens to me too. I apologize for the bad example given yesterday,” the head of the Catholic church says before celebrating Mass at the Vatican.

— AFP

Iran summons envoy over US ‘warmongering’ in Iraq

TEHRAN, Iran — Tehran summons an official from the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, to complain about American “warmongering” in neighboring Iraq, the foreign ministry says today.

“The Swiss charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry… over stances of American officials with regards to developments in Iraq,” the ministry says.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran conveyed its strong protest… over warmongering remarks made by American officials which are in violation of the United Nations Charter,” it adds.

— AFP

Cop filmed pulling on ultra-Orthodox protester’s sidelocks indicted

The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department files charges against an detective filmed forcefully yanking an ultra-Orthodox protester’s sidelocks in Beit Shemesh.

The indictment, submitted to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, charges Yaakov Sheetrit with assault and obstruction of justice over the July incident.

Sheetrit, who was suspended from the force after the video surfaced, was one of a number of cops accompanying municipal workers carrying out a demolition order in a largely ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in the city.

Clashes broke out between the police and protesters who opposed the demolition, during which Sheetrit was filmed pulling on the sidelocks of Mordechai Kreuzer.

According to the indictment, Sheetrit falsely claimed he was attacked by demonstrators and that a leg fracture he suffered was due to the alleged assault.

תיעוד מחריד: בלש המשטרה כמעט תולש את פאות העצור >>>הוא לא מתנגד למעצר, וכלל לא השתתף בהפגנה – מה שכמובן לא מנע מהשוטר למשוך לו באכזריות בפאות #משטרת_ישראל_2019 • שתפו – ונשים סוף לאלימות המשטרתית!

פורסם על ידי ‏חדשות כיכר השבת‏ ב- יום שני, 8 ביולי 2019

France voices solidarity with US after Baghdad embassy attack

PARIS — French Defense Minister Florence Parly condemns the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad by pro-Iranian demonstrators and expresses solidarity with France’s coalition partner in a New Year’s address to French troops.

“France strongly condemns the attacks carried out against the positions of the international coalition in Iraq and today’s attempted incursion into the US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Parly tells the crew of the French frigate Courbet with whom she rang in the New Year.

In the speech, the text of which was only made public today, she also expresses “full solidarity” with the US.

— AFP

Austria’s conservatives set to form government with Greens

VIENNA — Austria’s conservatives, led by Sebastian Kurz, are expected to hold final discussions today with the Greens before announcing a deal to form a coalition government.

It will mark the first time the Green party has been in power, after Kurz’s alliance with the far-right collapsed in a corruption scandal and triggered elections in September.

Sebastian Kurz (C-R), leader of Austria’s People’s party (OeVP), at an election rally in Vienna, Austria on September 27, 2019. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Kurz’s People’s Party (OeVP) and the Greens made gains in election, bringing them together in unlikely negotiations given Kurz’s carefully groomed image as a hardliner on immigration.

An accord is widely expected to be announced after a last round of talks, which starts at 5 p.m. local time.

Despite progress, observers say a new government will face challenges after Kurz’s previous rule with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) saw a raft of anti-immigration measures passed, sharply dividing Austrians.

— AFP

Energy minister says gas from new Leviathan rig flowing to Jordan

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz says natural gas is now flowing to Jordan after an offshore rig of the Leviathan field went online yesterday.

“Israel is becoming an energy exporter for the first time in its history,” Steinitz tells the Ynet news site.

Though an Israeli firm began sending to natural gas to Jordan in 2017, marking Israel’s first ever gas exports. Leviathan is expected to provide a significantly greater amount.

Steintz says gas is expected to begin flowing to Egypt in the next week to 10 days.

He also dismisses concerns that tests yesterday at the gas rig would lead to a spike in air pollution, calling it “completely baseless, unnecessary hysteria.” He argues there will ultimately be an improvement in air quality, as the natural gas will allow Israel to shutter coal-fired power plants in Hadera and Ashkelon.

Giant Palestinian flag hung on Jerusalem Old City walls taken down

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion says a Palestinian flag bearing the mugs of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas that was hung on the Old City walls has been removed.

“The only sovereignty in Jerusalem is Israeli sovereignty. I won’t allow any organization to try to get a foothold in the city,” Lion writes on Twitter.

The flag was apparently to mark 55 years since the founding of the Fatah party, which was headed by Arafat and is now led by Abbas.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as the capital of a future state.

Naama Issachar reportedly returned to Moscow prison

Naama Issachar, an Israeli-American jailed in Russia on drug charges, has been returned to a prison in Moscow, Hebrew media reports say.

Issachar’s family said yesterday she was moved last week to a prison far away from the Russian capital without her relatives being informed, and that she hadn’t been given winter clothes and books.

Issachar, 27, is serving a 7.5 year prison sentence for drug smuggling after some 10 grams of cannabis were found in her luggage during a stopover in Moscow. She denies the charge, saying she had no plans to enter Russia and did not understand all the legal proceedings.

Her case has become a cause célèbre in Israel, with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin asking Russian leader Vladimir Putin to pardon her.

Israeli-American Naama Issachar, jailed for drug smuggling, attends her appeal hearing at the Moscow Regional Court on December 19, 2019. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)

Pro-Iran demonstrators fully withdraw from US embassy in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — Pro-Iran demonstrators end a sit-in at the US embassy in Iraq’s capital after an order from the Popular Mobilization Forces paramilitary group, an AFP correspondent says, a day after their dramatic incursion.

“We burned them!” the demonstrators shout as they stream out of the high-security Green Zone housing the embassy just as easily as they had walked in on Tuesday.

Trucks pick up the tents and makeshift barricades that had been brought in for the planned sit-in.

— AFP

Woman hurt in stabbing at Tel Hashomer bus stop

A woman is injured in a stabbing at a bus stop in Tel Hashomer in Ramat Gan.

The woman, who police say was lightly to moderately hurt, was taken for medical treatment.

Police say the assailant fled the scene and officers are trying to track him down.

It isn’t clear what the motive for the stabbing was.

Security tight as over 92,000 Jews set to attend religious event at NJ stadium

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — More than 92,000 Jewish people will congregate today at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to celebrate the reading of the entire Talmud in an event called Siyum HaShas — and will draw a significant security presence after recent anti-Semitic attacks in the area.

The New Year’s Day event celebrates the completion of the reading of the 2,711-page Babylonian Talmud, a process that takes 7 1/2 years.

The Talmud contains discussions of Jewish law that guide every aspect of life.

Rabbi Yosef C. Golding, an organizer, tells The Record newspaper that he has worked with more than 50 law enforcement agencies on security for the event, and that more than 300 uniformed state police will be in the stadium. The event will be broadcast internationally.

The last event at the stadium in 2012 drew about 90,000 people, organizers tell The Record.

The New York City region has been rocked by recent attacks on Jews. On December 10, two shooters targeted a kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing three people, and last weekend a man armed with a knife attacked five people at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York.

There also have been several street assaults in New York City in recent weeks.

— AP

Knesset speaker, Blue and White squabble over forming panel to weigh PM immunity

A Knesset’s Arrangements Committee meeting set for tomorrow on forming the parliamentary body that would deal with a potential request by Prime Minister Netanyahu is canceled, as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says he must first consult with the Knesset’s legal adviser.

A statement from Edelstein’s office says he will meet next with Eyal Yinon, the Knesset legal adviser, and only afterwards decide whether to allow the arrangements committee to convene.

The Blue and White party wants the committee, a temporary panel that is formed after elections and handles parliamentary matters until a new government is formed, to approve the formation of a Knesset House Committee, which would consider an immunity request.

“Edelstein’s response is a shameful attempt to prevent the Knesset from deliberating Netanyahu’s immunity request,” Blue and White says in a statement.

Netanyahu has not yet announced whether he’ll request parliamentary immunity from corruption charges, but is widely expected to do so. Such a request could delay his legal proceedings for months.

He has until midnight to submit a request to the Knesset.

Hamas allows rival Fatah to hold anniversary rally in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Tens of thousands of Palestinians take to the streets in Gaza on Wednesday to mark the 55th anniversary of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

The territory’s Hamas rulers permitted the event for the first time in years.

The Islamic terror group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip by force from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007, allowed Fatah supporters to celebrate on a Gaza City street. They denied their request to organize the event at one of the city’s public squares or parks.

But the crowd is so big that several thousand people made their way to nearby Saraya Square, the site of the last massive anniversary festival that Hamas allowed in January 2013.

A Palestinian carries a picture of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, during a rally in Gaza City marking the 55th anniversary of the Fatah movement’s founding, January 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Hamas takeover left the Palestinians divided between two governments, with Hamas controlling Gaza and the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority governing autonomous areas of the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

Fatah and Hamas remain bitter enemies, and repeated attempts to reconcile have failed. But in recent months, they have both pledged to hold new elections. Hamas’s decision to permit Wednesday’s demonstration appeared to be a goodwill gesture toward Fatah.

“This year is the year of Palestinian unity and Fatah’s unity behind its leader Mahmoud Abbas,” says Ahmed Hilles, the top Fatah official in Gaza.

Fatah seeks to portray the large turnout as a reflection of its good standing, though its popularity has plunged in recent years. Abbas has failed to regain control of Gaza and move closer toward his goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state.

— Agencies

Police catch suspect in Tel Hashomer stabbing, say motive criminal

Police catch a suspect in a stabbing earlier today at a bus stop in the Tel HaShomer area of Ramat Gan.

A preliminary probe finds the motive was criminal, police say.

The suspect is a 35-year-old resident of Jaffa.

Ahead of deadline to request immunity, Netanyahu to give live statement at 8 p.m

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a televised statement at 8 p.m., his spokesman says, during which he is expected to announce he will request immunity from graft charges.

Gantz to give statement shortly after Netanyahu speaks

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz will give a live statement at 8:15 p.m., his party says, minutes after Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to speak.

Netanyahu is expected to announce he’ll request parliamentary immunity from graft charges, ahead of a midnight deadline for him to do so.

FM Katz: Iran made ‘grave mistake’ with attack on US embassy in Baghdad

Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemns the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad by pro-Iran demonstrators following American strikes on a militia backed by Tehran.

“Iran made a grave mistake by attempting to harm American diplomats in Iraq,” Katz writes on Twitter.

“We call on the international community to stand indeterminately against the crimes of the murderous regime in Tehran,” he adds.

The tweet from Katz comes after Iran-backed militia fighters and their backers withdrew from the embassy after two days of clashes with American security forces.

US President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the attack on the embassy and the Pentagon dispatched an infantry battalion of about 750 soldiers to the Middle East. A US official familiar with the decision says they will go to Kuwait.

Iran denied involvement in the attack on the embassy.

The US strikes on Kataeb Hezbollah, which killed 25 militiamen, was in response to a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in the northern city of Kirkuk last week that killed a US contractor.

— with AP

Man stabbed in Hanukkah attack may have brain damage, family says

NEW YORK — A man wounded in the Hanukkah stabbings north of New York City may have permanent brain damage and be partially paralyzed for the rest of his life, his family says.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council releases a statement from the family of Josef Neumann, 71, and a graphic photograph showing severe head injuries he received Saturday at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York.

Four other people were injured in the attack, which federal prosecutors say was a hate crime.

The photograph shows an intubated Neumann with a swollen and disfigured face lying in a hospital bed. A gash to his head appears to have been stitched up.

Neumann’s family released the photograph for the world and “the Jewish community to understand the gravity of hate,” Yossi Gestetner, the council’s co-founder, says in an interview. Neumann has seven children.

“These things are vividly and viciously disturbing and have long-term consequences,” Gestetner says.

The 18-inch machete used in the attack penetrated Neumann’s skull, the statement says, adding that Neumann’s “right arm has been shattered.”

“Our father’s status is so dire that no surgery has yet been performed on the right arm,” the statement says. “Doctors are not optimistic about his chances to regain consciousness, and if our father does miraculously recover partially, doctors expect that he will have permanent damage to the brain, leaving him partially paralyzed and speech-impaired for the rest of his life.”

The statement also calls on Jewish people around the world to share their own experiences with anti-Semitism on social media using the hashtag #MeJew.

— AP

Security cabinet meeting said cut short as PM rushes to immunity consultations

A security cabinet meeting on efforts to reach a ceasefire deal with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group was cut short as Prime Minister Netanyahu rushed to hold consultations on requesting parliamentary immunity, the Ynet news site reports.

The meeting was also set to deal with the International Criminal Court’s readying of a probe into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories, but the website says the matter wasn’t discussed.

Netanyahu: I want to lead Israel ‘for many more years,’ immunity a temporary issue

Prime Minister Netanyahu says he intends to lead Israel “for many more years” and hits out at his political rivals as he begins a speech addressing whether he’ll request immunity from criminal charges.

Netanyahu says legislation concerning immunity is meant to prevent “manufacturing of cases” against public officials, which he claims is happening to him.

He also stresses that parliamentary immunity would only apply as long as he is a lawmaker and that it would not indefinitely shield him from criminal charges.

Netanyahu says will inform Knesset speaker he’ll request immunity

Netanyahu says he will inform Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that he’ll request parliamentary immunity in a trio of graft cases.

Liberman says Yisrael Beytenu will vote against Netanyahu immunity request

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman says his party will oppose a request from Prime Minister Netanyahu for parliamentary immunity from corruption charges.

“Now it is clear beyond doubt. The only thing that has interested and interests Netanyahu is immunity,” Liberman writes in a Facebook post shortly after the prime minister’s announcement.

“The State of Israel has become hostage to Netanyahu’s personal problem. He doesn’t care about left or right, religious or secular. The only thing that concerns him is a coalition for immunity. The rest is old wives’ tales,” the Yisrael Beytenu leader continues.

“We, Yisrael Beytenu, will not be part of the immunity coalition. We will all, unanimously, vote against immunity for Netanyahu.”

Gantz: Immunity request shows Netanyahu knows he’s guilty

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz says Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement he’ll request parliamentary immunity from graft charges shows the premier knows he is guilty.

“This is a tough day for the country and a sad day for me,” Gantz says in a speech.

Gantz says his party will push for the establishment of a Knesset House Committee so the immunity request can be debated by parliament.

“Either there is a kingdom of Netanyahu here or a State of Israel,” he says.

Netanyahu loyalist says PM’s decision to request immunity the right one

Likud MK Miki Zohar applauds Prime Minister Netanyahu for announcing he’ll request immunity from graft charges.

Zohar says the March 2 elections will now boil down to one question: “Do you want Netanyahu to lead the country?”

“If there is justice, with the help of God we’ll win the elections and the public will grant the prime minister the right to continue to serve it for the coming years,” Zohar writes on Twitter.

Labor-Gesher: Israel needs immunity from Netanyahu’s policies

The center-left Labor-Gesher party backs calls for the swift formation of the Knesset committee that would deal with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s immunity request.

“The Knesset isn’t a refuge for those suspected of bribery,” the party says in a statement. “All of Israeli society needs immunity from Netanyahu’s policies.”

Likud minister backs PM’s immunity requests: It’s his basic right

Communications Minister David Amsalem, a Likud lawmaker and vocal supporter of Netanyahu, backs the premier’s decision to seek immunity from graft charges.

“In order that the prime minister can manage the affairs of the country, lead and govern, it is his obligation and basic right to request immunity,” Amsalem tweets.

Pompeo postpones Ukraine trip after attack on US embassy in Baghdad

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo postpones a trip to Ukraine, the country at the heart of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, after an attack on the American embassy in Iraq, the State Department announced.

Pompeo had been due to travel at week’s end to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Cyprus.

But yesterday, a mob of pro-Iran demonstrators stormed the US embassy in Baghdad over American airstrikes that killed two dozen paramilitary fighters.

Pompeo’s travel was pushed back “due to the need for the secretary to be in Washington, DC to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus announces.

“Secretary Pompeo’s trip will be rescheduled in the near future and he looks forward to the visit at that time,” she adds.

— AFP

Blue and White MK to meet Knesset speaker Sunday to discuss panel that would weigh immunity

Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn will meet Sunday afternoon with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Eyal Yinon, the Knesset legal adviser, to discuss the formation of the committee that would weigh Netanyahu’s immunity request, the party says.

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