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Treat Israel like moderate Arab states do, PM tells EU’s Mogherini

Netanyahu says improvement in relations will lead to better ties with Palestinians

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Israeli reporters in his Ramallah office on January 21, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Israeli reporters in his Ramallah office on January 21, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laughs during a conference at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos,  on January 21, 2016. (AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laughs during a conference at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 21, 2016. (AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI)
  • President Reuven Rivlin pays a condolence visit to the family of terror victim Dafna Meir in Otniel on January 21, 2016,  four days after she was murdered in a terror attack at her home (Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin pays a condolence visit to the family of terror victim Dafna Meir in Otniel on January 21, 2016, four days after she was murdered in a terror attack at her home (Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with business leaders at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland on January 21, 2016. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with business leaders at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland on January 21, 2016. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)
  • French President Francois Hollande speaks to the media on January 20, 2016 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)
    French President Francois Hollande speaks to the media on January 20, 2016 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)
  • In this Friday, May 10, 2002 file photo Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy is photographed at his home in London. (AP Photo/Alistair Fuller, File)
    In this Friday, May 10, 2002 file photo Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy is photographed at his home in London. (AP Photo/Alistair Fuller, File)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left and US Vice President Joe Biden meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left and US Vice President Joe Biden meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)

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

Deri revokes residency for 4 East Jerusalem terror suspects

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri revokes the residency of four Palestinians from East Jerusalem charged with killing Israelis in terror attacks, the Ynet news website reports.

Three of the four are charged with killing 64-year-old Alexander Levlovitz when they threw rocks at his car in Jerusalem on Rosh Hashanah, causing a fatal crash.

The fourth is charged with killing three Israelis in an attack on a bus in the capital several weeks later.

“This is an exceptional step but the severity of their actions completely justifies my decision,” Deri says in an announcement of the move.

Britain summons Russian ambassador after Litvinenko report

Britain summons the Russian ambassador after a report finds that the Russian state was “probably” involved in the radiation poisoning murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

London also imposes asset freezes on the two men identified as the perpetrators.

“The conclusion that the murder was authorized at the highest levels of the Russian state is extremely disturbing,” says a spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron.

“It is not the way for any state, let alone a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to behave,” she says. “Regrettably, these findings confirm what we and previous governments already believed.”

Home Secretary Theresa May tells parliament that the killing was “a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law.”


President visits family of terror victim Dafna Meir

President Reuven Rivlin pays a condolence visit to the family of Dafna Meir, who was killed in a terror attack at her home in Otniel on Sunday, his office says.

The president tells Meir’s daughter, Renana, that he was moved by her tributes to her mother following her murder.

“I listened along with the whole nation to your wonderful eulogy of your dear mother. Your close bond, and the wonderful way you spoke of that relationship, left a deep impression,” he says.

Meir’s husband Natan tells Rivlin: “The message I want to spread, and which I have repeated to all those who have come to pay their condolences, is to stop sharpening swords and look for what unites us. We know well the hatred. Enough of this. The true solution is love. I talk with my children each night, and I have not heard from them one word of hatred.”

At the end of the visit, Rivlin and the Meir family plant a laurel tree (called a dafna tree in Hebrew) at the entry to their home.

Hollande: Airstrikes on IS in Iraq, Syria to be ‘accelerated’

French President Francois Hollande says the coalition waging a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group will “accelerate” its airstrikes.

“The pace of the interventions will be accelerated and France will play its role in this,” Hollande says in a Paris speech to ambassadors.

His comments come after yesterday’s meeting by the defense ministers of seven countries in the coalition, who say their strategy is to free the IS “power centers” of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

“They also decided to reinforce support to Arab and Kurdish forces fighting Daesh on the ground,” Hollande says, using an alternative name for IS.


No more central Jerusalem supermarkets on Shabbat

Jerusalem municipality says that supermarkets in the center of the city will no longer be allowed to stay open on Shabbat, with Mayor Barkat intending to shut down the ones that currently do so.

Supermarkets that close within 60 days will not face fines or closure orders, Army Radio says.

Netanyahu, Kerry talk Palestinians, Iran in Davos

Benjamin Netanyahu holds face-to-face talks with John Kerry during the Davos Economic Forum. The two discuss the Iran nuclear agreement, the civil war in Syria and the current wave of Palestinian violence.

Netanyahu shows Kerry a video highlighting of incitement in Palestinian institutions, which he has previously shown to other foreign diplomats.

— Raphael Ahren

Israel diagnoses first case of Zika virus

Israel diagnoses its first imported case of the Zika virus, in a 2-year-old girl who recently returned from Colombia. The diagnosis is made at the national center for virology at Sheba hospital in Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv.

The child is in good condition, and is sent home, the Maariv website says.

The Health Ministry is advising pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where the virus is present, including the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and Haiti.

Clashes as settlers enter Hebron buildings they claim to own

Settlers enter two buildings in Hebron, near the Tomb of Patriarchs, that they claim to have secretly bought from Palestinians several days ago.

Clashes erupt at the scene, with Palestinians hurling stones at the settlers, Ynet reports. IDF troops are at the site and are using riot dispersal measures.

Netanyahu in Davos: US-Israel ties are rock solid

Benjamin Netanyahu tells CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria during a conversation in Davos that there will be no “Israeli-American collapse.”

US-Israel relations did not collapse over disagreements on the Iran deal, he says, calling the relationship “rock solid.”

Man lightly hurt in West Bank firebomb attack

An Israeli man is lightly hurt by a firebomb hurled at his vehicle on the road to Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank.

Paramedics provide emergency treatment at the scene, Walla says.

Ya’alon: Hezbollah wants Arab Israelis to carry out attacks

Lebanon-based Hezbollah is trying to recruit Arab Israelis to carry out terror attacks, Moshe Ya’alon says.

Speaking for the first time about the recent exposure of a Hezbollah terror cell in the West Bank, the defense minister says that “Hezbollah is operating in Judea and Samaria like other terrorist groups.”

He says that these groups are “all Iranian satellites,” which receive funding from Tehran, Channel 10 reports.

“Hezbollah, via Iran, is trying to recruit Palestinians and Arab Israelis to carry out terror attacks inside Israel,” he adds.

Judge must rule on new Hebron settler homes, police say

The police say a decision on the homes in Hebron that settlers claim they bought legally will have to be made by a judge.

The settlers entered the buildings earlier today, and IDF troops were called soon after to intervene in clashes with Palestinians who threw rocks at the Israelis.

— Judah Ari Gross

Literature exam for Arab students leaked

The Education Ministry cancels a questionnaire from a literature exam for students in the Arab community, after its contents are leaked.

A replacement questionnaire is to be sent out via an internal website, the Maariv website says.

This is not the first time that questions in exams for Arab students have been leaked, Israel Radio reports. After similar incidents last year, questions were this year sent out to schools under guard.

Syria taps UN envoy as chief negotiator for peace talks

Syria’s UN envoy will be the regime’s chief negotiator in upcoming peace talks, a government source says, as a dispute over the opposition’s representatives threatened to delay the negotiations.

Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, will be the government’s chief negotiator, with Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Moqdad heading the delegation, the source says.

The latest bid to end the Syrian war through indirect talks between the government and opposition is scheduled to begin on January 25 in Geneva. But a disagreement over which parts of the opposition will be present, and who will represent them, is posing new obstacles.


Dudi Sela through to Australian Open third round

Israeli tennis player Dudi Sela goes through to the third round of the Australian Open after beating Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

Sela’s defeat of Verdasco, who is ranked 87 in the world, comes after the Spaniard beat Rafael Nadal in the first round.

Ex-Mossad agent is first Sephardi Jew to claim Spanish nationality

Avner Azulay, a former agent for the Mossad spy service, becomes the first Sephardi Jew to take Spanish nationality under a new law that seeks to repair the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

The law, passed by Madrid in 2014, offers the citizenship to descendants of the Jews who were expelled to “compensate for shameful events in the country’s past.”

Azulay assumes his new nationality by swearing allegiance to King Felipe VI of Spain at a ceremony near Tel Aviv, the Times of London reports.

Some 4,300 Sephardi Jews are granted Spanish nationality under the new law.

Kremlin dismisses UK Litvinenko inquiry as a ‘joke’

The Kremlin dismisses the results of a British inquiry into the poisoning death of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko as a possible “joke” after a London judge points the finger at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Maybe this is a joke,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, tells reporters. “More likely it can be attributed to fine British humor — the fact that an open public inquiry is based on the classified data of special services, unnamed special services.”


Court convicts Zoabi for insulting public official

Nazareth District Court finds Arab MK Hanin Zoabi guilty of “insulting a public official,” for calling Arab Israeli policemen traitors in a confrontation last year.

The conviction is part of a plea bargain Zoabi reached with the State Attorney’s Office last month, under which more serious charges of incitement were dropped. In exchange, she pleaded guilty to insulting a public official and agreed to waive her parliamentary immunity to enable the conviction.

She also agreed to send a letter of apology to the subjects of her comments, and pay a NIS 3,000 fine.

Police set up special unit for Arab community

The Public Security Ministry and Israel Police are setting up a special department to deal with crime in the Arab community, the Maariv website rwports.

The department is set to be headed by Brigadier General Jamal Hakroush, who will receive a promotion to general with the appointment, making him the first Arab Muslim on the force to hold that rank.

The new national unit will deal with all issues related to the Arab community in Israel, as well as neighborhoods and villages in East Jerusalem.

Jonathan Pollard reportedly to speak with Jewish leaders

Freed spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard is reportedly to address Jewish leaders next week, and has received a more Shabbat-friendly electronic monitoring bracelet.

Pollard will speak to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations next week in New York, the Forward says, citing unnamed sources informed about the event.

The meeting will also include US Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Eliot Engel, both New York Democrats. The meeting will discuss, in part, efforts to ease Pollard’s parole conditions, in which the congressmen have been actively involved, the report says.

Notice of the meeting does not appear on the website of the Presidents Conference, which reportedly informed member organizations of the event by phone rather than by the usual email. This may have been done to prevent news about the meeting from being leaked, an unnamed official tells the Forward.


Jewish extremist Meir Ettinger goes on hunger strike

Jewish Israeli extremist Meir Ettinger is on hunger strike over being held in administrative detention since August.

Ettinger, the grandson of the slain far-right activist Meir Kahane, was arrested on August 3 and placed in detention on August 15 for his alleged “involvement in violent activities and terrorist attacks … and his role as part of a Jewish terrorist group.”

Shin Bet officials say Ettinger heads a movement that also is responsible for the June arson of the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, and which seeks to bring down the government and replace it with a Jewish theocracy.


Police: Jewish pediatrician murdered by husband in NY home

The husband of prominent Jewish pediatrician Robin Goldman is charged with murdering her at their home in the New York suburb of Scarsdale.

Julius Reich, 61, a partner in a New York financial advisory firm, is charged with second-degree murder in yesterday’s killing of his 58-year-old wife. The killing took place during a domestic dispute and Goldman died at the scene, a law enforcement source tells the New York Daily News.

The family belongs to an Orthodox synagogue, the Young Israel of Scarsdale, and their children are graduates of Westchester Day School, an Orthodox school in nearby Mamaroneck. The couple were also reportedly active members of the Westchester Jewish Council.


Elkin: Hebron settlers deserve help, not censure

Minister Ze’ev Elkin praises the settlers who took over buildings in Hebron today, saying their actions serve to expand the Jewish presence in the city of the patriarchs.

“The houses entered by the settlers were bought legally. I urge the defense minister to do his utmost to help the settlers, and not to give into the pressure of the Palestinian rioters. The right answer to murderous Palestinian terror throughout history is the expansion of Zionist settlements,” says Elkin.

Kerry: Some Iran sanction relief could fund terror

John Kerry says it is likely that some of the billions of dollars in sanctions relief granted to Iran under a landmark nuclear deal will go to groups deemed terrorists.

On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Kerry says there is little the US or others can do to prevent the now-unfrozen assets from getting into the hands of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps or “other entities” that Iran has supported in the past.

But, Kerry says, there is no evidence yet to suggest such transfers have occurred.

“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” he tells CNBC television. “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented. But I can tell you this, right now, we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time.”

— AP

Top Saudi cleric bans chess

Saudi Arabia’s most senior Sunni Muslim cleric issues a fatwa against the game of chess, calling it “part of gambling,” and a waste of time that could interfere with prayers and create competition between players.

The ban by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh comes on the eve of a chess championship in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The secretary of the Saudi association says in response that he is not worried over the ban, which he says reiterates a previous policy of Saudi clerics that Riyadh has never bothered to to implement.

Hunt for diamond ring thrown in trash ends in failure

The family of a young Jerusalem woman who accidentally threw her diamond engagement ring into the trash calls off the hunt despite being unable to locate the pricey piece.

The family had urged locals to join them in sifting through refuse as they searched for the ring.

White House: Biden reaffirms US commitment to Israel in Netanyahu meet

Vice President Joe Biden “reaffirmed the unshakable US commitment to Israel’s security,” during his talks today with Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House says.

According to a statement from the US administration, “the two leaders discussed ways to further deepen security cooperation to confront common regional threats.”

Biden and Netanyahu “also discussed regional developments, including Syria, the campaign against [Islamic State], the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, steps to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities, and opportunities for Israel to expand energy partnerships with countries in the eastern Mediterranean to enhance regional prosperity and cooperation,” the statement says.

Court frees Palestinian, but police won’t release him

Jerusalem District Court grants unconditional release to a Palestinian arrested as part of an investigation into far-left activists accused of “turning in” Arabs who sell West Bank land to Jews, but the police decline to release him.

Police tell the lawyer for B’Tselem field worker Nasser Nawaj’ah that he has been transferred to Ofer military prison, where he is remanded in custody until Sunday.

“The Court accepted our position that my client’s arrest was a false arrest, since Israeli courts have no jurisdiction in the matter,” says lawyer Gaby Lasky in a statement on the B’Tselem website. “This is the second instance that has ordered his unconditional release. The police are intent on continuing the pressure on human rights activists under arrest.”

Abbas: Summit talks stagnated when Israel stopped responding

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells Israeli reporters in Ramallah that the initiative for a summit with Benjamin Netanyahu began some two months ago, but that Netanyahu’s camp ultimately stopped responding.

According to Abbas, he agreed that two senior officials from each side would make the preparations for the summit, but says that since that point, the Israeli side has not been in contact.

The Palestinian leader pledges “to continue the PA’s security coordination with Israel, and will act to thwart acts of terror.”

— Avi Issacharoff

World Muslim body slams Iran for attacks on Saudi missions

A global Muslim body condemns the attacks on Saudi missions in Iran earlier this month, and denounces Tehran’s regional “interference.”

A statement from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation “condemns the aggressions against the missions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and Mashhad.” The attacks on the missions came after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

The statement comes during an extraordinary meeting requested by Saudi Arabia after protesters in Iran burned Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran and a consulate in the second city of Mashhad.

Such “aggressions” contravened international law as well as the OIC charter, says the communique, which OIC member state Iran rejects.


US cracks down on visas for visitors to Mideast hotspots

The United States begins enforcing new visa rules for some travelers who have visited or who have dual nationality with Mideast states considered hotbeds of terrorism.

The Department of Homeland Security says would-be US visitors who have been to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria since March 2011 will now always have to apply for a visa.

This will be the case even if the traveller is from a country in the US visa waiver program — the 40 nations seen as friends of America whose citizens can visit freely.

In addition, citizens of visa waiver countries who hold dual Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian nationality will have to apply for a full visa before travelling to America.

Homeland Security says dual nationals and travelers who have visited the four targeted countries will still be eligible for visas if they apply for them properly, but they will no longer be able to skip the visa process by registering with the Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTA) like fellow waiver country citizens.


PM’s office: Abbas claims on summit talks are bid to dodge blame

Benjamin Netanyahu’s office denies Mahmoud Abbas’s claim earlier today that the prime minister’s staff stopped contacting him over a potential summit.

“It isn’t true,” a source in the Prime Minister’s Office says. “It’s an attempt by Abbas to evade responsibility for the lack of talks. Even today, Netanyahu called on Abbas at Davos to come to negotiate without preconditions.”

— Raphael Ahren

Suspected Somali extremists attack Mogadishu restaurant

A suicide car bomber rams the gates of a restaurant near a beach in the capital Mogadishu, and gunmen fight their way into the building, a police official says. It is not immediately clear if there are any casualties.

The attackers may have some hostages inside the restaurant, which is popular with the city’s elite and government officials, Capt. Mohammed Hussein says. The attackers open fire on the customers of the restaurant, known as Liido Seafood, before storming the restaurant in Mogadishu, he says.

There is no immediate claim of responsibility for the ongoing attack, which bears the hallmarks of the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab.

— AP

PM to EU’s Mogherini: Treat us like moderate Arab states do

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that the EU should adopt the policies of the moderate Arab states regarding Israel, as that would lead to an upswing in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.

The PM notes that the Jewish state’s treatment by the EU showed the European body’s double standards, to which Mogherini says that the EU is not boycotting Israel.

— Raphael Ahren

Hundreds protest in Jerusalem over leftists’ detentions

Some 200 people demonstrate in Jerusalem against the detention of three left-wing activists arrested during an investigation into the “turning in” of Palestinians who sell West Bank land to Jews.

The protesters claim the ongoing detentions are politically motivated, and at least one of the detainees has been subjected to abuse and violence, the Walla news website says.

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