Bennett the target of defamation campaign by Netanyahu associate — report
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Bennett the target of defamation campaign by Netanyahu associate — report

Hadashot says Zeev Rubenstein was instructing Walla’s owner and CEO to publish negative stories about Jewish Home leader for years

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Tuesday, August 30, 2016. (Abir Sultan/Pool/via AP)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Tuesday, August 30, 2016. (Abir Sultan/Pool/via AP)
  • The scene of an attempted stabbing attack near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on January 21, 2019. (courtesy Samaria Regional Council)
    The scene of an attempted stabbing attack near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on January 21, 2019. (courtesy Samaria Regional Council)
  • Prime Minister of Mali Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga gives an address to Congress on December 29, 2018, in the capital, Bamako. (screen capture: YouTube)
    Prime Minister of Mali Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga gives an address to Congress on December 29, 2018, in the capital, Bamako. (screen capture: YouTube)
  • Israel Bar Association former chairman Efi Nave is seen at a Tel Aviv court on January 16, 2019 (Koko/Pool/Flash90)
    Israel Bar Association former chairman Efi Nave is seen at a Tel Aviv court on January 16, 2019 (Koko/Pool/Flash90)
  • Israelis ski and snowboard on Mount Hermon on January 11, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
    Israelis ski and snowboard on Mount Hermon on January 11, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
  • An Israir plane lands at the new Ramon Airport, named in memory of Ilan and Asaf Ramon. January 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    An Israir plane lands at the new Ramon Airport, named in memory of Ilan and Asaf Ramon. January 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • An explosion, reportedly during Israeli airstrikes near Damascus, Syria, on January 21, 2019. (screen capture: YouTube)
    An explosion, reportedly during Israeli airstrikes near Damascus, Syria, on January 21, 2019. (screen capture: YouTube)

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

Hermon ski resort to reopen Tuesday amid Syria flareup

The Hermon ski resort will reopen as usual on Tuesday, after closing to visitors today following Sunday clashes between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria.

The popular travel destination makes the announcement on its website, saying the decision was made with approval from the Israel Defense Forces.

— Judah Ari Gross

Ex-top lawyer questioned for a third times in sexual bribery case

Efi Nave, the attorney who is accused of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favors, is being questioned by police for the third time.

According to reports in Hebrew-language media, Nave is demanding police investigate Army Radio journalist Hadas Shtaif for hacking his phone and extracting incriminating messages, and is threatening to sue for NIS 5 million.

Nave is seeking to have the messages thrown out by a judge because they were obtained illegally.

EU slaps sanctions on Syrians, Russians over attacks

The European Union is imposing sanctions on Russians blamed for a nerve agent attack in Britain and a Syrian research center as the bloc steps up its action against the use of chemical weapons.

EU foreign ministers on Monday slapped travel bans and asset freezes on nine people and on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center.

Five of those targeted are linked to the Syrian center’s activities. The four Russians on the list are the two men accused of planting the nerve agent in Salisbury last March and their superiors, the head and deputy head of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit.

The ministers said in a statement that the sanctions move “contributes to the EU’s efforts to counter the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, which poses a serious threat to international security.”\

— AP

Erdogan tells Trump Turkey ready to take over security of northern Syrian town

Turkey’s president has told his American counterpart, Donald Trump, that Turkey’s “ready to take over the security” of a key northern Syrian town “without losing time.”

A statement from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office says the two leaders spoke on the telephone earlier today about the town of Manbij in Syria.

The fate of the Syrian town, controlled by US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists, has been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington. Turkey insists on the withdrawal of the Syrian Kurdish militia, which liberated Manbij from the Islamic State group in 2016.

Erdogan also calls last week’s suicide attack in Manbij that killed four Americans a “provocation meant to affect the US decision to withdraw from Syria.”

The statement says Trump and Erdogan agreed their military chiefs would “speed up” consultations about a safe zone in northeastern Syria.

— AP

Suicide attack on Kurdish-US convoy in Syria kills 5 — monitor

A suicide car bomb attack on a military convoy in northeastern Syria Monday killed five members of a Kurdish-led force accompanying US troops in an anti-jihadist coalition, a monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says five fighters from the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are killed in the attack, which occurred on a road in Hasakeh province.

The attack, on which there was no immediate comment from the coalition, came less than a week after another attack on the US-led force and its local partners in the strategic city of Manbij.

— AFP

Kamala Harris officially announces presidential bid

Kamala Harris, a first-term senator and former California attorney general known for her rigorous questioning of US President Donald Trump’s nominees, enters the Democratic presidential race.

Vowing to “bring our voices together,” Harris would be the first woman to hold the presidency and the second African-American if she succeeds.

Harris, a daughter of immigrant parents who grew up in Oakland, California, is one of the earliest high-profile Democrats to join what is expected to be a crowded field. She makes her long anticipated announcement on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I am running for president of the United States,” she says. “And I’m very excited about it.”

— AP

Islamic State claims Syria suicide attack on Kurdish-US convoy

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack on Monday that targeted a convoy of US and Kurdish-led forces in northeastern Syria.

The jihadist organisation’s propaganda arm Amaq reported the attack via its online channels.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the blast killed five members of a Kurdish-led force.

— AFP

Olympic ethics panel closes sexual harassment case against Israeli official

The IOC says its ethics commission ended an investigation into Olympic official Alex Gilady after cases of alleged sexual harassment were settled in Israel.

The International Olympic Committee says its ethics panel closed the file after all parties “accepted their respective explanations.”

Gilady, a former NBC Sports executive and IOC member since 1994, was accused of inappropriate behavior in the 1990s by two journalists in Israel.

In 2017, Gilady said “there was no intention to harm,” and later filed libel suits.

Hebrew-language media reported this month that a mediation process resolved the cases.

The 76-year-old Gilady is vice chairman of an Olympic panel overseeing the 2020 Tokyo Games, and a member of the 2024 Paris Games panel.

— AP

AG to decide ‘in the coming days’ on PM’s request to delay indictment

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense lawyers met with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit earlier today to discuss the bribery cases involving the premier.

Netanyahu’s lawyers asked for the meeting to request that Mandelblit delay announcing a possible indictment until after the upcoming April 9 elections.

After the two hour meeting, the attorney general’s office said in a statement that Mandelblit would take the arguments into consideration, and will “formulate his decision in the coming days.”

Death toll from Mexico fuel explosion rises to 89

The death toll from a fiery explosion in central Mexico rises to 89, as authorities vow to hold accountable those responsible for a deliberate fuel-line puncture that drew hundreds of people looking to gather gasoline before it ignited.

The search for human remains at the site of the explosion in the state of Hidalgo ended late Saturday. While families began to bury the dead, officials indicated the death toll could still rise.

Funerals already have begun, but the handover of remains has been slow because many of the victims were burned beyond recognition.

— AFP

Police finish 3rd interrogation of top lawyer embroiled in sex scandal

The former head of the Israel Bar Association, Efi Nave, leaves the Lahav 433 headquarters after five hours of questioning by police investigating allegations that he advanced judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favors.

Warsaw says Iran not invited to US-Polish Mideast summit

Poland’s foreign minister says Iran has not been invited to an international conference on the Middle East next month in Warsaw, while Russia has declined the invitation.

Iran has protested the February 13-14 conference, calling it a hostile move. Poland and the US are co-hosting the event, which has also met with a lukewarm reaction from the European Union, whose foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will not be attending.

Minister Jacek Czaputowicz says in remarks published this afternoon that Iran’s presence would have hampered talks because the language that Tehran uses is “hard to accept.”

He says Russia has advised that it will not participate, either.

Czaputowicz insists the conference could help solve the impasse over the international agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

— AP

Facebook flags Gantz campaign video lauding Gaza airstrike

A campaign video published yesterday by ex-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz featuring footage of an IDF airstrike is being flagged by Facebook as violent.

One of the four campaign videos released by Gantz’s Israel Resielence party shows a Israeli airstrike that Gantz ordered targeting Ahmed Jabari, the acting head of Hamas’s military wing and mastermind of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping in 2012.

On the party’s Facebook page, users are warned the video titled “Hamas chief Jabari felt safe, but Gantz didn’t agree,” may show “violent or graphic content.”

The same video posted on Gantz’s personal Facebook page is not being flagged.

Gantz’s party released released a series of campaign videos titled “Only the strong survive,” mostly highlighting successful IDF operations in the Gaza Strip during his time as chief of staff.

Palestinian charged with attempted murder for stabbing soldier in Beit El

Military prosecutors file an indictment against a Palestinian man who confessed to attacking an IDF soldier near the West Bank settlement of Beit El last month.

The indictment says the assailant stabbed the soldier and struck him with a rock at a military checkpoint on December 14. He is being charged with two counts of attempted murder.

The soldier, Naveh Rotem, was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries to his head and face after the attack, but made a full recovery and was discharged a week later.

Jordan hits out at Israel’s new Red Sea airport

Jordan hits out at Israel new international airport along their shared border close to the Red Sea, saying it would threaten the kingdom’s airspace.

“Jordan rejects the establishment of the Israeli airport in its current location,” head of Jordan’s Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission Haitham Misto says, according to state media.

Misto says the airport violated “international standards regarding respect for the sovereignty of airspace and territory of other countries.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the opening ceremony for the Ramon Airport earlier today, meant to boost tourism in the Jewish state and serve as an emergency alternative to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.

— AFP

Taliban attack Afghan military base, killing 12

A Taliban assault on a military base and police training center in a province just outside the Afghan capital on Monday killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 30, officials said.

Salem Asgherkhail, head of the area’s public health department, says most of those killed in the attack in Maidan Wardak province were military personnel. Some of the wounded were taken to local hospitals for treatment while the more serious cases were sent to the capital, Kabul.

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the interior minister, says a suicide car bomber struck the base before insurgents opened fire. Sharifullah Hotak, a provincial council member, says four attackers took part in the assault after the bombing, all of whom were killed in the ensuing gunbattle. Hotak said it was a training base for new recruits from the area.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to the media.

— AP

Russia threatens ‘retaliatory measures’ over EU sanctions

Russia is threatening retaliation after the European Union slapped sanctions on Russian military intelligence chiefs over the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain.

“We reserve the right to take retaliatory measures over this unfriendly step,” the Russian foreign ministry says in a statement.

The European Union introduced sanctions against Igor Kostyukov, the new chief of Russia’s GRU military intelligence, and his first deputy Vladimir Alexseyev.

Kostyukov took over the GRU after the death of his predecessor, Igor Korobov, last November.

— AFP

Malian PM to visit Israel in coming weeks — report

Israel is preparing for a historic visit from Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga in the coming weeks, Channel 13 reports.

The report says Maiga’s visit to Israel will be before the April 9 elections.

The Muslim majority country severed ties with Israel in 1973 following the Yom Kippur War. Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Malian president on the sidelines of a summit in Liberia. At the end of the meeting, Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the countries agreed to “warm relations.”

The news comes days after Netanyahu flew to Chad for a single-day visit to re-establish ties with the Muslim-majority country after 47 years.

Later on Sunday, al-Qaeda gunmen, angered by Chad resuming ties with Israel, killed 10 Chadian peacekeepers and injured at least 25 others in an attack on a UN camp in northern Mali.

Egypt arrests 24 in demolition protests near pyramids

Egyptian security officials say police arrested 24 people who tried to prevent authorities from demolishing illegal buildings near the Giza pyramids.

They say police used tear gas to disperse residents and shopkeepers in the Nazlet el-Samman village after they scuffled with police escorting the demolition workers.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Today’s violence follows a recent announcement that a private Egyptian company will take charge of running the historical site that includes the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, which are visited by millions every year.

Many of the village’s residents make a living off visitors, hawking souvenirs and offering horse rides. Tourists have long complained of being harassed or overcharged.

— AP

Tel Aviv to hike tax for short-term rent providers like Airbnb

Israel’s economic capital, Tel Aviv, announces plans to raise taxes for short-term accommodation provided by services like Airbnb to match an increase in long-term rentals.

“The aim is to create an equilibrium” between tourist accommodation and long-term rentals, the Tel Aviv municipality says in a statement.

Several cities, including Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam, also have taken steps to regulate services like Airbnb, which offer short-term accommodation to tourists, mainly.

In October, Ireland announced plans to rein in popular short-term rental services such as Airbnb — whose European headquarters are in Dublin — in a bid to address a historic housing shortage.

The Tel Aviv municipality did not say by how much it would increase property taxes or when the new policy would take effect.

— AFP

Israel and Ukraine sign free trade agreement

Economy Minister Eli Cohen and his Ukrainian counterpart Stepan Kubiv sign a free trade agreement in Jerusalem

In a statement, Cohen says the agreement will “strengthen economic relations between the two countries and promote Israeli industry.”

He says it is the fourth such agreement since the beginning of the year, after Canada, Panama and the European Union.

IDF: Palestinian shot trying to stab soldiers in West Bank

The IDF says a Palestinian man is shot while trying to stab IDF soldiers in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

The statement says there are no Israeli casualties, and that the IDF is investigating the attempted attack.

Reports in Hebrew-language media say the assailant is seriously injured.

Bennett the target of years-long defamation campaign by Netanyahu associate — report

A news report on Channel 12 reveals a years-long plot to politically “assassinate” Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett starting during the 2013 election campaign when his religious-nationalist party was doing well in the polls.

According to the report, the Walla news site published stories to discredit Bennett, casting him as inconsistent and constantly flip-flopping his positions.

The report said the orders came from Netanyahu associate Zeev Rubinstein, who coordinated the ant-Bennett coverage with Walla owner Shaul Elovitch and its CEO Ilan Yeshua.

In one of the criminal corruption cases against Netanyahu, Case 4000, the prime minister is suspected of advancing regulation benefiting Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage from Walla.

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