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PM hails US envoy for telling ‘truth’ about Palestinians rejecting peace

Ambassador David Friedman said Hamas’s glorification of attacks and PA’s paying terrorists a monthly stipend is to blame for stagnated peace process

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 21, 2017.  (AFP Photo/EPA Pool/Abir Sultan)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/EPA Pool/Abir Sultan)
  • Rabbi Raziel Shevach with his family, in an undated photo. (Courtesy of the family)
    Rabbi Raziel Shevach with his family, in an undated photo. (Courtesy of the family)
  • Israeli mourners attend the funeral of Rabbi Raziel Shevah in the West Bank wildcat settlement of Havat Gilad near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on January 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Menahem KAHANA)
    Israeli mourners attend the funeral of Rabbi Raziel Shevah in the West Bank wildcat settlement of Havat Gilad near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on January 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Menahem KAHANA)
  • President Reuven Rivlin meets with Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Halbe Zijlstra at the presidential compound in Jerusalem on January 10, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)
    President Reuven Rivlin meets with Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Halbe Zijlstra at the presidential compound in Jerusalem on January 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)
  • Health Minister Yaakov Litzman arrives at the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem on October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
    Health Minister Yaakov Litzman arrives at the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem on October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

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

Hundreds attend funeral of rabbi killed in West Bank terror attack

Hundreds of mourners attend the funeral of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who was shot dead in terror attack last night, near the West Bank outpost where he lived.

The funeral at Havat Gilad is also attended by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, former Shas leader Eli Yishai, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan.

Shevach, a 36-year-old father of six, is the first person to be buried at the illegal outpost Havat Gilad at his own request.

Settler leaders call for increased settlement building at funeral of slain rabbi

Local settler leaders urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow more Israeli construction in the West Bank after Rabbi Raziel Shevach was shot dead in a terror attack last night.

At his funeral in the Havat Gilad outpost, Samaria Rabbi Elyakim Levanon tells mourners it’s time for Netanyahu to revise his settlement polices so that “not every meter of building will be a debate.”

“Our dear Raziel, we are at a war and you are our sacrifice. A war of light against dark,” Levanon says. “And if you want to see a crack of light in the darkness, you are that light. You brought so much happiness to this world.

“We cannot continue in this way as if nothing happened. Mr prime minister, come here and look at this family in the eyes and you’ll see what you have to do,”| he adds.

In his remarks, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan calls on Netanyahu to “restore national pride” and recognize Havat Gilad as an official settlement,

“Rabbi Raziel did not die from cancer, he died because he was a Jew living in Israel,” he says.

“I call on the government — we have the strongest army in the world — to return our national pride. Mr. Prime Minister, we call on you to recognize Havat Gilad as a regulated community that’s part of Israel.”

— Jacob Magid

Bennett’s eulogy at terror victim’s funeral cut short by cries of ‘revenge’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s eulogy at the funeral of an Israeli man shot dead last night in a terror attack is cut short after mourners interrupt his remarks shouting “revenge.”

Bennett, who was speaking at the funeral of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, responds to the hecklers by saying “the only revenge is to keep building.”

The minister in his remarks praised Shevach for his “heart of holiness” as a volunteer paramedic. Like the local settler leaders, he also urges Netanyahu to increase settlement building in response to the attack.

“And you, the residents of Havat Gilad are the real heroes,” Bennett says. “Our enemies think that they can make us desert the land. Their terror stems from the hope that if they kill one more Jew or throw one more rock, that we will break in the end.”

“We will extinguish that hope by building families and building communities,” he says.

Crime boss and his girlfriend among group convicted for beating hospital guards

Six people, including the head of a known Rishon Lezion crime ring and his girlfriend, are convicted of severely beating security guards at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital in September, a statement by the Justice Ministry says.

David Amoyal and his partner, model Elia Kadosh, are convicted along with four of their friends on a half dozen or so assault-related charges. Amoyal will serve 25 months in prison, while Kadosh will undergo psychiatric exams to determine her mental fitness before she is sentenced.

The Justice Ministry statement names Ruslan Misayev, Mor Biton, Hanan Alfasi and Avraham Yosephov as the others who took part in the assault. They are sentenced to jail time ranging from 17 to 22 months.

The defendants are convicted under a plea bargain, with several charges dropped in exchange for their confession and cooperation.

Antitrust Authority nixes El Al bid to acquire competitor Israir

The Antitrust Authority rejects the request by El Al to acquire Israir, citing monopoly concerns.

The Authority says in a statement that the merger would allow the national carrier to monopolize the aviation security and airline industries, particularly the Tel Aviv-Eilat route.

Saudi prince who criticized arrest of relatives is sacked

Saudi news websites are reporting that a prince who headed the kingdom’s Maritime Sports Federation has been sacked from his post and replaced by a military officer.

The move comes after he purportedly made an audio recording calling the government’s publicly stated reasons for arresting 11 princes “false” and “illogical.”

The nearly six-minute-long audio has been posted online and published on Arabic media websites this week. The Associated Press could not independently verify its authenticity.

After the audio was made public, state-linked Saudi news websites Sabq and Okaz reported Prince Abdullah bin Saud bin Mohammed had been fired from his post.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said the 11 princes were arrested for protesting a royal order to halt utility payments for royals.

— AP

Knesset okays Litzman’s return to Health Ministry under Netanyahu

The Knesset passes a law paving the way for United Torah Judaism chief Yaakov Litzman’s return to the Health Ministry as deputy minister, though effectively its head.

Sixty-two lawmakers vote in favor of the amendment to the state’s Basic Law: The Government, to allow a deputy minister to hold de facto authority in a ministry overseen by the premier, thus allowing Litzman to return to the post, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delegating control to him.

Some 38 Knesset members oppose the bill in its third reading. (The vote cleared its second reading minutes earlier 63-37).

The bill soared through its first plenary reading yesterday and was fast-tracked through a Knesset committee for its final readings into law on Wednesday morning, before heading to the plenum for its final votes on Wednesday afternoon in a whirlwind of legislative activity.

Litzman resigned as health minister in November in protest over train maintenance work performed on Shabbat. Since then government officials have been searching for a way of bringing the coalition partner back into the fold.

The UTJ head had previously served as deputy health minister with a minister’s authority between 2009 and 2013, and again in 2015. UTJ lawmakers avoided ministerial positions due to the ultra-Orthodox community’s reluctance to grant full legitimacy to a secular Jewish state.

But a High Court ruling in 2015 said deputy ministers could not fulfill the role of ministers, upon which Litzman received rabbinical approval to serve as health minister in the cabinet. After his resignation last month, Netanyahu took on the portfolio. Litzman will not be a member of the cabinet, however, and thus will not bear responsibility for its actions on matters of Shabbat observance.

— Marissa Newman and Raoul Wootliff

200 arrested, dozens hurt in fresh Tunisia unrest

More than 200 people have been arrested and dozens hurt during clashes in several parts of Tunisia, the interior ministry says, after a second night of unrest driven by anger over austerity measures.

Interior ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani tells local radio that 49 police officers were wounded during clashes across the country and that 206 “troublemakers” were arrested overnight. Properties were damaged, he says, including a branch of the Carrefour supermarket chain in the suburbs of Tunis that was looted.

A witness says youths threw stones at shop windows last night, taking advantage of the chaos to steal goods including electrical appliances. The police intervened, firing tear gas.

The North African country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition since its 2011 uprising, but seven years after the revolution tensions over economic grievances are high. Tunisia has seen rising anger over hikes in value-added tax and social contributions after a tough new budget was applied at the start of the year.


In Israel, Dutch foreign minister vows to fight BDS, anti-Semitism

Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Halbe Zijlstra tells President Reuven Rivlin that his country will work against anti-Semitism and efforts to boycott Israel.

During a working meeting at the president’s Jerusalem residence, Zijlstra says The Netherlands is “opposed to BDS and strongly opposed to anti-Semitism.”

“We will fight them,” he says.

In earlier remarks, Rivlin thanks Zijlstra for Dutch efforts to combat anti-Semitism, warning that it has been legitimized by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“We appreciate very much the attitude of your government toward anti-Semitism, and I want to also emphasize that BDS in some places is part of the wave of anti-Semitism, and we have to be very worried about those waves that come from time to time,” Rivlin says.

Norway, EU call meeting in bid to ‘speed up’ efforts for 2-state solution

Norway and the European Union decide to convene an “extraordinary session” of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a group of donor countries to the Palestinians.

“There is an urgent need to bring all parties together to discuss measures to speed up efforts that can underpin a negotiated two-state solution,” the EU says in a statement.

The meeting, to be held on January 31 in Brussels, is also meant to discuss the need to “enable the Palestinian Authority to execute full control over Gaza” based on the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal signed in Cairo on October 12, 2017.

— Raphael Ahren

EU ambassador ‘appalled’ by terror attack that killed Israeli father

The EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret says he is “appalled” by the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach by Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank last night.

“Appalled by the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach last night – there can be no excuse for violence and terror,” Giaufret says in a tweet.

“My condolences to his young children and the family who will now bring them up without a father. May the attackers be brought to justice,” he says.

Arab FMs to meet in February to discuss Trump’s Jerusalem declaration

Arab foreign ministers will meet early next month to discuss steps against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Arab League says in a memo.

The meeting of the League’s Council will be held on February 1 in Cairo, its general secretariat says in the memo obtained by AFP.

Trump’s decision in December to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Avivwas roundly criticized by the Arab world.


TV executive suing journalists who accused him of sexual misconduct

A senior figure in Israeli national television files a libel lawsuit against two female journalists who recently accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior, demanding they pay him NIS 2 million (almost $600,000) for publishing “baseless slander” and trying to “take advantage of the #MeToo campaign for their own benefit.”

Lawyers for Alex Gilady, president of the Keshet Media group, claim in the lawsuit that journalists Oshrat Kotler and Neri Livneh “banded together, knowingly or unknowingly, to completely turn Gilady’s life upside down, causing him severe damage, some of it irreversible.”

Gilady announced his “temporary” resignation from his position at Keshet in November, after Kotler and Livneh published their allegations and a third, unidentified woman accused him of rape.

— Michael Bachner

Cabinet appoints Litzman deputy health minister after Knesset okay

The Prime Minister’s Office says Yaakov Litzman has been appointed deputy health minister after the Knesset voted to amend the state’s Basic Law in order to approve the move.

Litzman resigned as health minister in November in protest over train maintenance work performed on Shabbat.

The Knesset vote earlier this afternoon allows Litzman to return as a deputy minister. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be health minister, but Litzman will have de facto control of the ministry.

Netanyahu calls on Abbas to condemn terror attack that killed Israeli man

In separate talks with the foreign ministers of Ireland and the Netherlands, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the killing last night of Raziel Shevach.

Netanyahu urges Dublin’s Simon Coveney, and Halbe Zijlstra, from the Netherlands, to urge Abbas to cease paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists and their families.

“The prime minister said that here the true source of the conflict is revealed, which is the refusal to recognize the State of Israel in any boundaries accompanied by the encouragement of the murder of Israelis wherever they are,” Netanyahu’s office says.

— Raphael Ahren

Irish foreign minister holds ‘helpful and stimulating’ talks with Netanyahu

Ireland’s foreign minister says that during his talks with Netanyahu he focused on the situation in Gaza and the prospects of returning to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

According to a readout provided by Dublin, Simon Coveney and Netanyahu discussed “how Ireland and the European Union can play a constructive role” in jump-starting peace talks.

“The Prime Minister set out clearly his Government’s views and perspectives on all these issues. I believe we both found the discussion helpful and stimulating,” Coveney adds.

— Raphael Ahren

One injured in Beersheba stabbing, police say

One person is stabbed in the Beersheba Central Bus Station, police say in a statement.

The victim is taken to a local hospital for treatment. His condition is not immediately known.

The suspect is arrested by police, and an investigation into the incident has been opened.

Police say the incident appears to be criminal, not terror-related.

Settlers, Palestinians said to clash after funeral of Israeli killed in terror attack

Clashes reportedly broke out between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the West Bank following the funeral of Rabbi Raziel Shevach who was murdered in a terror attack last night.

Reports in Hebrew-language media say no one was injured in the incident near the Palestinian village of Farata, close to where the funeral for the Israeli victim was held.

Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO, says the scuffles broke out when a group of 20 settlers returning home from the funeral broke windows at the houses of several Palestinian residents.

Jerusalem bus driver lightly injured in stone-throwing incident

A bus driver is lightly injured by stone-throwers as he drove along Jerusalem’s Uzi Narkiss Road near Pisgat Ze’ev, police say in a statement.

The driver is treated for light injuries by paramedics at the scene.

The statement says police officers are searching the area for the perpetrators.

Palestinians reject ‘prejudiced’ US blame for deadly terror attack

The Palestinian Authority attacks comment by the US ambassador to Israel blaming it for the failure of peace efforts, after an Israeli man was killed in a West Bank terror attack.

In a statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says US Ambassador David Friedman’s comments reflect his “prejudiced and selective attitude towards the occupation, settlement construction, and the Palestinians’ just and legitimate national rights.”

The PA points to Friedman’s silence over what Palestinians say was the killing by Israeli forces of a disabled Palestinian man during recent protests and clashes on the Gaza border and other killings as evidence of his bias.

“Friedman’s remarks and positions further complicated the road towards the peace process and the resumption of negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, specifically after President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem,” the statement adds.

Earlier today, Friedman tweeted: “An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace.”

Friedman, a supporter of West Bank settlements, was referring to payments to the families of imprisoned Palestinians, including those who have carried out attacks against Israelis, and to those killed while carrying out attacks.

— with AFP

Iranian FM in Russia for talks on nuclear deal, Syria

Iran’s foreign minister is visiting Moscow for talks focusing on the future of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and the situation in Syria, where both nations support President Bashar Assad.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasizes the need for close cooperation to safeguard the nuclear agreement during talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

The US has said it would consider scrapping the 2015 deal in which Iran restricted its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Zarif accused Washington of pursuing “destructive policies.” Lavrov vows that Moscow will defend the deal as a “key contribution to the regional stability and nuclear non-proliferation.”

Zarif’s trip to Moscow follows a series of anti-government protests in Iran. Zarif and Lavrov did not mention the unrest in their opening remarks.

— AP

Likud to appeal fine for breaking campaign finance laws

The Likud party vows to appeal a NIS 350,000 fine levied by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira who determined the ruling party violated campaign finance laws by supporting the “Likudiada” confab in Eilat last year.

Shapira says Likud got media coverage as well as donations from the “Likudiada,” without being official sponsors of the event.

“The Likudiada is a private event run by private businessmen,” Likud says in a statement. “We will appeal this ruling in coming days.”

Trump open to US-North Korea talks ‘under right circumstances’

US President Donald Trump is telling South Korea’s president that he’s open to US-North Korean talks “at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”

That’s according to a White House readout of the president’s call with South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

The phone call comes after the Koreas held their first high-level talks in two years. North Korea agreed to send a delegation to the Olympic Games and both sides agreed to hold talks on reducing tensions along their border.

Moon has said he’s open to meeting with Kim Jong Un to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff. But he says the success of such a summit must be guaranteed before the meeting can be realized.

— AP

German politician urges concentration camp visits for all migrants

Germany’s main Jewish leader is giving a guarded welcome to a politician’s suggestion that everyone living in Germany, including migrants, should be obliged to visit a former Nazi concentration camp at least once.

The suggestion by Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin city government official who is Muslim, came amid concern over anti-Semitism among migrants from Muslim-majority countries. She told Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that concentration camp visits should become part of integration courses for migrants.

Josef Schuster, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, tells Deutschlandfunk radio the idea is “good in principle” but there are questions over details. He said it wouldn’t work simply to summon people to concentration camp visits.

Schuster said well-prepared visits would be “absolutely important” for older schoolchildren and for asylum-seekers.

— AP

Trump vows to rewrite US libel law

US President Donald Trump vows to rewrite US libel law, after a book portrayed him in scathing terms as out of his depth in the White House.

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws,” Trump says after a meeting of his cabinet on his first year in office and plans for the year ahead.

Trump says the laws would be changed so that “when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.”

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values,” he says , renewing a long-held desire for curbs against what is written about him.

Trump’s statements, in the context of a meeting with ministers about his agenda, are likely to raise concerns about curbs on free speech.

The US president has been infuriated by the publication of “Fire and Fury,” a salacious tell-all book by author Michael Wolff about the inner workings of the White House.


Netanyahu hails US envoy for telling ‘truth’ about Palestinians rejecting peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises US ambassador to Israel David Friedman for blaming the Palestinian Authority for the lack of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“I want to congratulate US Ambassador Friedman, who tweeted the truth, unvarnished, straight forward,” Netanyahu tells foreign journalists at a New Year’s reception sponsored by the Government Press Office in Jerusalem.

“He said some important things: Abbas’s government is supporting murderers who murdered the father of 6,” he says.

Switching to Hebrew, Netanyahu goes on to say that catching the perpetrator’s of yesterday’s deadly terror attack is “a matter of time.”

“I spoke to the head of the Shin Bet and he told me of the intensive efforts into the murderous attacks yesterday,” he says. “I have no doubt its a matter of time.”

Earlier today, Friedman tweeted: “An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace.”

Friedman, a supporter of West Bank settlements, was referring to payments to the families of imprisoned Palestinians, including those who have carried out attacks against Israelis, and to those killed while carrying out attacks.

Trump to extend sanctions relief for Iran, sources say

US President Donald Trump is expected this week to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, citing progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington’s participation in the landmark accord, according to US officials and others familiar with the administration’s deliberations.

But Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions to Tehran with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, the six people briefed on the matter said. The restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a decision that could test Tehran’s willingness to abide by its side of the bargain.

The individuals — two administration officials, two congressional aides and two outside experts who consult with the government — weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They cautioned that Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster and that no final decision had been made. They said heated discussions were going on within the administration and with key Republican lawmakers.

The State Department and White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

— AP

Syrian refugee sets himself ablaze at UN office in Lebanon

A Syrian refugee in Lebanon set himself on fire outside a UN office in desperation at aid getting cut off to his family, suffering serious burns.

Refugee agency UNHCR and the World Food Programme tells AFP that the man — named by family as 43-year-old father of four Ryad Khalaf Zibou — “set himself alight” at a UN compound in the northern city of Tripoli.

“This tragic incident underscores the pressures and difficulties facing many refugees, who are becoming increasingly vulnerable and who — in rare cases — resort to such desperate acts,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

“UN staff attended to the incident, provided first aid support and rushed him to the hospital where he is in a serious but stable condition.”

Doctor Gabriel al-Saba tells AFP that Zibou suffered third-degree burns over around a third of his body and will require at least two months of treatment.


Bipartisan bill seeks to sanction Iran for taking US hostages

Members of the US House of Representatives introduce a bill to impose sanctions and visa prohibitions on Iranian officials responsible for politically motivated detentions of US citizens and engaging in other human rights abuses.

The legislation, called the Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, comes as Congress overwhelmingly backed a resolution supporting recent anti-government protests in the Islamic Republic.

Introduced by Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul and Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, the measure is designed to give the Trump administration tools to severely punish Tehran for taking hostages.

— Eric Cortellessa

Trains delayed across the country after rail car stalls at TA station

Passengers are complaining of severe delays in service after a train car broke down on the tracks at University Station in Tel Aviv earlier this evening.

Israel Railways says the passenger car was removed shortly after breaking down, but passengers say it has resulted in long delays.

Iran arrests dozens for ‘terrorist’ acts linked to protests

Iran says it has arrested dozens on suspicion of “terrorist activities” during a recent wave of protests.

The official IRNA news agency carries a statement from the Intelligence Ministry saying security forces confiscated arms and explosives from “safe houses” kept by the detainees. It says some detainees had filmed the protests.

Demonstrations broke out across Iran last month fueled by anger at the lackluster economy and official corruption. The protests spread to several towns and cities, with some demonstrators calling for the overthrow of the government.

Clashes broke out at some of the protests, and at least 21 people were killed.

Iran has accused the US, Israel and other foreign powers of inciting violence to try and overthrow the Islamic Republic.

— AP

Top Hamas official denies being appointed West Bank military commander

A senior Hamas official denies a report in the Hebrew-language Ynet news site that claimed he had been appointed the terror organization’s military commander in the West Bank.

“This news does not deserve a comment, as it is a lie and a fabrication from start to finish. It is aimed at promoting media,” he tells the Palestinian news site Quds Press.

The report comes days after Hamas reportedly agreed to hand over its weapons to the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization as part of a reconciliation deal reached by the two rival factions in October.

The report in the Al-Hayat newspaper quoted a senior Hamas official in Ramallah saying that the terror group would agree to disarm if it can gain PLO representation. There was no confirmation of the report.

— Dov Lieber

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