The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Egypt orders probe into report that Cairo backed Trump on Jerusalem
Egypt’s chief prosecutor has ordered an “urgent” investigation into a New York Times report about recordings purportedly of an intelligence officer instructing TV talk show hosts and a famous actress to downplay US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Chief prosecutor Nabil Sadeq’s statement says the report, published over the weekend, “undermines Egypt’s security, public peace and hurts the public’s interest.”
The decision followed a flurry of condemnation of the Times by lawmakers, commentators and the State Information Service.
The government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a close Trump ally, has denounced Trump’s Jerusalem decision.
Michael Slackman, The Times’ international editor, is quoted as saying in an article published Wednesday that the paper’s “story was a deeply reported, consequential piece of journalism, and we stand fully behind it.”
EU backs under-fire Iran nuclear pact at Brussels talks
European Union powers urge US President Donald Trump to endorse a key nuclear agreement with Iran saying the deal is essential for international security.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany throw their weight behind the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions and insisted that the Islamic Republic is respecting it.
“There is no indication today that could call into doubt Iranian respect of the agreement,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tells reporters in Brussels, after a meeting between the Europeans and their Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif.
Le Drian calls on all parties to uphold the agreement, noting that “our American allies should respect it as well. There is no particular reason for any rupture.”
Under the accord, Iran slowed its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international economic sanctions. Trump is expected to decide by Friday whether to extend the sanctions relief or re-impose the restrictions his predecessor, president Barack Obama, suspended two years ago.
Missouri governor acknowledges affair, denies blackmail allegations
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted to having had an extramarital affair, but denied that he blackmailed the woman to keep it under wraps.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL whose seven military awards include the Bronze Star, became the first Jewish governor of Missouri when he was elected in November 2016.
The affair, which happened in March 2015, before Greitens became governor, was first reported by St. Louis TV station KMOV.
The governor admitted to the affair late Wednesday night, just hours after delivering his second “State of the State” speech.
The ex-husband of the woman with whom Greitens had the affair provided a secretly recorded tape of her confession to him, which included details of their first encounter. The woman, who met Greitens because she cut his hair, said that Greitens took a photo of her in a compromising position to use if she ever came forward about the affair.
Traffic cop sentenced to 2 years for accepting bribes
The Haifa District Court sentences a high-ranking traffic police officer to 2 years behind bars for accepting bribes.
The court also sentences the man who paid the bribe, a Krayot resident who sought to have cases against him closed, was sentenced to one year behind bars.
Both defendants were also ordered to pay a NIS 50,000 ($15,000) fine.
PM says leaking recording of his son bragging about strippers ‘crosses all red lines’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the leaking of recordings of his son bragging about strippers “crosses all red lines,” and his ministers suggested legislation should be drawn up to prevent similar leaks in the future.
“This crosses all red lines in regards to security and all red lines in terms of the media,” he tells ministers at a cabinet meeting to discuss next year’s budget.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin tell the prime minister they agreed with him, and suggested drawing up legislation designed to “protect ministers” from similar incidents.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz added that: “Nobody can be trusted, not even secretaries.”
Syrian regime fights jihadists for airbase, monitor says
Syrian regime forces face fierce resistance from jihadists as they fight to capture a key airbase in the northwestern province of Idlib, a monitor says.
Russia-backed government forces battle their way into the Abu Duhur military airport as they pressed a weeks-long battle in the last province beyond their control.
Idlib province is almost entirely held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate.
Government fighters have seized a string of villages in the southeast of the province since launching their offensive on December 25.
But today, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its Islamist allies led a counter-attack, retaking several villages from the regime, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Sixteen jihadists and rebels were killed in the counter-attack as they sought to cut off regime forces at the airport from their rear bases, the Britain-based war monitor said. Yesterday, 35 soldiers were killed at the airport, according to the Observatory.
The regime lost control of the Abu Duhur airbase in 2015 after a two-year siege by jihadists, with only the Shiite villages of Fuaa and Kafraya remaining under its control in the whole province.
US refuses visa for Serbia’s army chief of staff
Serbia’s defense minister says the US’s rejection of a visa application from his army’s chief of staff will have consequences for military relations between the two countries.
Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin says that it was unclear why the US Embassy in Belgrade rejected the visa for Gen. Ljubisa Dikovic, who in October was invited to a conference in Washington on the fight against terror groups.
Vulin says the refusal to issue Dikovic a visa “does not contribute to our cooperation and leaves a bad trail.”
The US Embassy has refused to comment on the general’s application.
Serbian human rights group have accused Dikovic of war crimes committed by his troops during the 1998-99 war against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo. He has never been tried for the alleged crimes.
Netanyahu orders power grid hookup for illegal outpost after terror attack
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders an official electricity grid hookup for the illegal outpost of Havat Gilad in response to a Palestinian terror attack that saw an Israeli father of 6 murdered by Palestinian gunmen, Hadashot news reports.
Havat Gilad is an illegal outpost and therefore is not connected to standard infrastructure services.
PLO mulling rescinding recognition of Israel
A senior Palestine Liberation Organization official says it is considering rescinding its recognition of Israel, claiming Jerusalem is uninterested in pursuing peace with the Palestinians.
Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, tells Voice of Palestine radio that committee members discussed the move in a meeting in Ramallah yesterday.
He says rescinding the recognition was based on the lack of a Palestinian state.
“The discussion focused on coming up with a formula for suspending recognition of Israel on the grounds that recognition could be only done between states,” Majdalani says.
“The Palestinian Authority was created to lead the people from occupation to independence and not to become an agent of the occupation. It is a tool for achieving the Palestinian state,” he says. “The Palestinians cannot remain the only party adhering to the signed agreements while Israel does not abide by them and always violate their terms.”
The Executive Committee is set to meet again on Saturday to discuss the measure. Majdalani says the meeting’s “most important recommendation will be rejecting the US decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
US creates task force to probe Hezbollah ‘narco-terror’
The US Justice Department announces the creation of a special task force to investigate what it called “narco-terrorism” by the powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah, which the US, along with Israel and other countries, has classified as a terror group.
The unit will comprise specialists on money-laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime, targeting Iran ally Hezbollah’s sprawling network, which reaches across Africa and into Central and South America, the department says.
“The Justice Department will leave no stone unturned in order to eliminate threats to our citizens from terrorist organizations and to stem the tide of the devastating drug crisis,” says Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“The team will initiate prosecutions that will restrict the flow of money to foreign terrorist organizations as well as disrupt violent international drug trafficking operations.”
Rivlin thanks visiting Argentinian VP for conclusion of probe into Jewish center bombing
President Reuven Rivlin thanks visiting Argentinian Vice President Gabriela Michetti for her country’s work to wrap up the investigations into the terror attack on the Jewish community building in Buenos Aires in 1994.
Michetti is visitng Israel with a delegation of representatives and deputy ministers from the ministries of industry, economy and tourism, in a bid to to deepen cooperation and strategic partnerships with Israel.
UN peace envoy blasts Israel for entrenching a ‘one-state reality’ with settlements
The United Nations envoy for the Mideast slams Israel for approving over 1,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, saying the move is incompatible with a two-state solution.
In a statement Nickolay Mladenov says “settlement-related activities undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”
He says Israel’s settlement enterprise “entrench[es] a one-state reality that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples.”
Iran says it will continue to comply with nuke deal if US does
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran’s continued compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal was contingent on the US not walking away from the hard-fought accord.
Zarif took to Twitter after a meeting in Brussels with EU leaders to warn that “Iran’s continued compliance conditioned on full compliance by the US.”
Zarif also says there is a “strong consensus in Brussels today” that Iran was complying with the deal and that “any move that undermines (the agreement) is unacceptable.”
Palestinians say protester killed in clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza border
The Palestinian Health Ministry says a protester was killed in clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza border.
Rerpots from Gaza say the incident took place east of the Bureij refugee camp.
The IDF says it is looking into the reports.
Police say 3 Palestinian women arrested at Hebron checkpoint with knives
Border Police officers arrest 3 Palestinian women at the checkpoint near Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs after one was found to be in possession of a concealed knife, police say in a statement.
It says a search of the area turned up two more knives.
Police say the women “apparently intended to carry out a stabbing attack.”
Police reportedly probing corruption at PM’s office
Police are reportedly conducting a preliminary investigation into allegations of corruption at the Prime Minister’s Office.
According to Channel 10 news, the investigators are looking into whether fictitious paperwork was filed in order to award tenders to favored service providers.
According to the report, the probe was launched several weeks ago. It says investigators are also looking into whether Netanyahu was involved in the alleged schemes.
Chief Palestinian official says US encouraging Israel to build settlements
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s top official Saeb Erekat on Thursday said the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December has encouraged the Jewish state to “speed up” building settlements in the West Bank.
“The Israeli government continues with its plan to bury all the chances of a political settlement by announcing the approval of 1,122 new illegal settlement units in 22 illegal colonial-settlements in Occupied Palestine,” Erekat says in a statement.
“President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital did not only disqualify the US from playing any constructive role towards achieving peace, but it provided the extremist Israeli government with an opportunity and a green light to speed up their plans of the disposition of the Palestinian people,” he adds.
The Palestinian leadership is set to convene to form a response to US President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem decision.
— Dov Lieber
State attorney hints police wrapping up probe into Netanyahu
State Attorney Shai Nitzan says he hopes police will submit their recommendations in the corruption probes into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming weeks.
Nitzan, speaking at the Globes newspaper’s annual Israel Business Conference in Jerusalem, pushes back against rumors that the investigations into Netanyahu are being intentionally delayed.
“Any absurd claims that the investigation is being delayed deliberately are false,” he says. “If you believe investigating a prime minister is simple, that is a spurious assumption.”
The probe, he says, “is not dictated by an political interests, and we will do what needs to be done,” adding that he “hopes police will submit their recommendations in the coming weeks.”
Mubarak’s security boss wins appeal against graft conviction
Egypt’s highest appeals court overturns the conviction on corruption charges of former president Hosni Mubarak’s longtime security chief.
Habib el-Adly, who served as interior minister in charge of police under Mubarak, was sentenced last April to seven years in prison. He went into hiding following his conviction and only turned himself in to authorities last month.
Today’s ruling by the Court of Cassation accepted the appeal against his conviction and ordered a retrial. He did not attend Thursday’s hearing.
Mubarak stepped down following a 2011 popular uprising. He and el-Adly were acquitted in 2014 of charges they were responsible for the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 18-day uprising.
More claim sexual inappropriateness against James Franco
Several women have made further claims of inappropriate sexual behavior against James Franco in a Los Angeles Times article.
In the report published today, two former student actresses described negative on-set experiences with the actor-filmmaker while being directed by him. Sarah Tither-Kaplan said in a nude orgy scene three years ago, he removed plastic guards covering the actresses’ groins while simulating sex.
Former students spoke of an unprofessional culture at Franco’s now-closed acting school Studio 4, where he taught a sex scenes class. Two women said Franco became angry shooting a strip club scene when no actresses, who were masked, would go topless. One topless scene filmed during class with Tither-Kaplan was uploaded to Vimeo, she said.
Violet Paley said that during a consensual relationship, Franco once pressured her to perform oral sex in a car and that the “power dynamic was really off.”
Minister fires Shin Bet guards after leaked Yair Netanyahu tape
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel is urging Netanyahu to launch an investigation into the Shin Bet security service after a recording of the prime minister’s son bragging about strippers was leaked to the media.
In a letter sent to Netanayahu and Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman, Ariel says he will no longer use the agency’s guards in protest.
Majority of Egypt’s lawmakers want President Sissi to run again
More than 500 of Egypt’s 596 lawmakers have signed “recommendations” supporting a re-election bid by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, even before he has formally announced his candidacy, according to news reports.
Sissi is considered virtually certain to run in the March 26-28 election and to win a second four-year term. So far, no candidate who can pose a serious challenge to the general-turned-president has emerged.
One prominent potential candidate announced last week he wouldn’t enter the race; two others have faced prosecution in the courts. Most opposition figures are either in jail, living abroad or staying on the sidelines after a general crackdown on dissent since el-Sissi led the military’s 2013 ouster of an Islamist president.
EU urges Israel to rescind approval of latest settlement homes
The European Union condemns Israel’s latest settlements’ announcements, and urges Jerusalem to reverse the decision.
A EU spokesperson says the plans to approve over a thousand Israel homes in the West Bank “will further jeopardize the prospect of a contiguous and viable future Palestinian state.”
“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement construction and related activities is clear and has not changed: all settlement activity is illegal under international law, and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” the spokesperson says.
“The EU expects the Israeli authorities to reconsider and reverse these decisions,” he adds.
— Raphael Ahren
France condemns terror attack, latest settlement homes
France joins the EU in condemning Israel’s plans to build an additional 1,000 homes in West Bank settlements.
In a statement, the ministry of foreign affairs calls settlement activity “contrary to international law” and “undermines the search for just and lasting peace and jeopardizes the two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.”
The statement also condemned Tuesday’s terror attack in the northern West Bank that saw Palestinian gunmen shoot dead an Israeli rabbi.
MK calls Deri’s attempt to bring him to vote after wife’s funeral ‘uncalled for’
Likud MK Yehuda Glick says Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s attempts to get him to come vote for a bill hours after the funeral of his wife were “out of place” and “uncalled for.”
Glick’s wife Yaffa, 51, died last week after a six-month coma following a severe stroke.
The MK tells Hadashot news that “two hours after the burial” last week his assistants told him the Shas party leader was trying to get him to go to the Knesset to help the coalition secure a majority in the controversial bill to shutter convenience stores on Shabbat.
“Aryeh said ‘it would be Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) for you to sit shiva (the Jewish mourning period) at the Knesset,’” Glick recounts.
“I didn’t take it seriously, it was so out of place,” Glick says. “It was so uncalled-for that I didn’t react to it. I was shattered to pieces at the time. Did he really think…I would spend the entire night there?”
Glick said he was not angry or upset, though he notes that Deri had not apologized or spoken to him since the incident.
French publisher shelves reprint of Celine’s anti-Semitic texts
France’s most famed publishing house bows to pressure and suspends plans to reissue a collection of violently anti-Semitic pamphlets by novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine.
The Gallimard publishing house sparked an outcry last week when it revealed it intended to publish a 1,000-page compendium of the controversial writer’s essays from the late 1930s.
The French lawyer and Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld threatened legal action to stop them, saying that Celine had “influenced a whole generation of collaborationists who sent French Jews to their deaths.”
But Gallimard tells AFP that it was shelving plans to reprint the texts in full.
“I am suspending the project, having judged that conditions were not right for ensuring a proper job in terms of methodology and history,” publisher Antoine Gallimard says.
The publisher had earlier insisted that the pamphlets, which have been out of print since 1945, would be put “in their context as writings of great violence and marked by the anti-Semitic hatred of the author.”
It claimed that it wanted to issue a “critical edition” of the anti-Jewish diatribes, which have tarnished the reputation of the author of “Journey to the End of the Night”.
Celine fled France after the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944 and was later convicted in his absence of collaborating with the Nazis.