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Gantz says supports US peace proposal, will implement it as prime minister

After meeting Trump, Blue and White leader calls the plan set to be unveiled Tuesday a ‘significant and historic milestone’

US President Donald Trump meets with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz in the White House in Washington on January 27, 2020. (Elad Malka)
US President Donald Trump meets with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz in the White House in Washington on January 27, 2020. (Elad Malka)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s news as it unfolded.

Bryant’s helicopter flew in fog that grounded other choppers

The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others that crashed into a rugged hillside outside Los Angeles was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.

The helicopter plunged into a steep hillside at about 9:45 a.m. Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed all aboard. The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the world who mourned the sudden loss of the all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 41-year-old Bryant, who perished with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the game’s most popular players and the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers.

The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department grounded their helicopters.

The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains. He estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete that task before identifications can be made.


Abbas said to refuse to take phone call from Trump

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently refused to take a phone call from US President Donald Trump, the state-run Turkish Anadolu Agency reports, citing a high-ranking Palestinian official.

The report comes ahead of separate meetings that Trump is slated to hold with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz in Washington, DC, today to discuss the administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“There were attempts by Trump to hold a phone call with Abbas, but the latter refused,” the official, who was not named, told Anadolu, adding that they took place in the past couple of days.

PA Social Affairs Minister Ahmad Majdalani confirmed the Anadolu report to the Gaza-based Dunia al-Watan news site, saying that Abbas recently “refused a phone call from Trump.”

Adam Rasgon

Afghan passenger plane crashes in Taliban-held eastern area

A passenger plane from Afghanistan’s Ariana Airlines crashed today in a Taliban-held area of the eastern Ghazni province, local officials say.

Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, says the plane went down around 1:10 p.m. local time (8:40 a.m. GMT) in Deh Yak district, which is held by the Taliban. Two provincial council members also confirmed the crash.

However, Ariana Airlines tells The Associated Press that none of its planes have crashed in Afghanistan, according to Mirwais Mirzakwal, the company’s acting director. The state-owned airline also releases a statement on its website saying all its aircraft are operational and safe.

The conflicting accounts cannot immediately be reconciled. The number of people on board and their fate is not immediately known, nor is the cause of the crash.

The mountainous Ghazni province sits in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains and is bitterly cold in winter. The Taliban control or hold sway over around half the country.


Rivlin to Polish counterpart: ‘Many Poles’ helped murder Jews in WWII

During a meeting with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, in Poland in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Reuven Rivlin notes that while “the Polish people fought with courage and strength against Nazi Germany… many Poles stood by and even assisted in the murder of Jews.”

He is referring to recent efforts by the Polish government to play down the complicity of some Poles in anti-Jewish violence during and after the Holocaust while asserting that the Polish nation, like the Jewish people, was a victim of the Nazi regime.

“Preserving memory is a fundamental building block of our heritage,” Rivlin says.

“Our duty is to fight a determined, clear, uncompromising battle against anti-Semitism and racism,” he adds. “We reach out to the Polish people today and ask work together for the future of the next generation, respecting history and inspired by peace, justice, tolerance and partnership.”

Two Israeli men charged with spying for Hamas

The Shin Bet security service says it foiled a Hamas spy ring operating in central Israel, arresting earlier this month two Israeli citizens who allegedly provided the terror group with details about Israeli security facilities and other intelligence information.

According to the security service, the two men — Rami Amoudi, 30, and Rajab Daka, 34 — were recruited by the Gaza-based terror group and tasked with filming security installations in central Israel, including “military bases, police stations, Iron Dome battery placements.”

The Shin Bet says Daka was also asked to provide the precise locations of where rockets launched from Gaza had landed during the recent bouts of fighting, apparently to help the terror group improve its accuracy.

Both Amoudi and Daka are originally from the Gaza Strip, but were able to move to Israel as they have Israeli mothers. Daka’s mother is an Arab Israeli from the town of Lod, while Amoudi has a Jewish Israeli mother, the Shin Bet says.

The two men were arrested on January 2 and charged in a Central District Court earlier today.

The Shin Bet has long opposed the government’s program allowing for family reunification, in which Gaza-based relatives are able to leave the Strip and move to the West Bank or Israel. The security service has traced this program to multiple Hamas terror rings in recent years.

Judah Ari Gross

Palestinian PM calls on world to boycott Trump peace plan

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh urges international powers to boycott US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which the PA sees as biased toward Israel.

“This a plan to protect Trump from impeachment and protect (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu from prison. It is not a Middle East peace plan,” Shtayyeh tells a cabinet meeting. “This plan gives Israel sovereignty over Palestinian territory.

“We call on the international community to not be partners in this because it contravenes international law,” he says. “The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale.”

Shtayyeh says PA President Mahmoud Abbas will call a meeting of the Palestinian leadership to discuss the best ways to respond to the plan.

In Gaza today a few hundred Palestinians protest against the Trump plan, which Palestinians ironically call the “Deal of the Century.”


Arab MK defends statements seen to approve of attacks on IDF soldiers

Amid an effort to have her banned from running for reelection in March, MK Heba Yazbak of the predominantly Arab Joint List party refuses to retract statements that some have perceived as condoning violence against Israeli soldiers.

In a recent interview with Channel 13, Yazbak said that “international law permits peoples under occupation to take action to liberate themselves.” When the interviewer pressed her and asked if she considered attacks on soldiers to be legitimate resistance she demurred, saying, “What isn’t legitimate is the continued occupation.”

Today, in her response to a query on the quote from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who is processing the request to have her banned, Yazbak says she stands by the quote and insists that it does not imply support for violence.

“I didn’t say that I support, or call for, harming soldiers or any other person,” she says, maintaining that the comments do not amount to incitement to violence and thus should not disqualify her from running. “I stand by the things I said.”

Almost all of the Knesset’s Jewish lawmakers have united behind the efforts to ban Yazbak, including the centrist Blue and White party and parts of the left-wing Labor-Meretz.

Iran’s Rouhani sounds alarm for ‘democracy’ after candidates barred

Iran’s president warns of threats to the Islamic Republic’s “democracy and national sovereignty,” after a body dominated by his ultra-conservative rivals disqualified thousands of candidates, weeks before elections.

President Hassan Rouhani’s moderate conservatives and their reformist allies are locked in a public quarrel with the Guardian Council over the disqualification of thousands of candidates — including 92 sitting MPs.

The council, which oversees Iran’s elections, says it has barred some 9,500 potential candidates from standing, almost two thirds of the 14,500 hopefuls.

Rouhani, whose alliance fears losing its majority in the February 21 polls, says the disqualifications risks appointments being made “elsewhere” than the ballot box.

“The greatest danger for democracy and national sovereignty is the day when elections become a formality,” the government’s website quotes Rouhani as saying in a meeting with provincial governors.

“May God never bring this day,” he adds. “Let us reassure the people and tell them our system is not a single-party system.”

In an apparent reference to ultra-conservatives, he says “they should at least let there be competition and participation.”

He calls on Iranians of all stripes to vote, “even if… there are shortcomings in elections.”

“Sometime I may not want to vote for some reason, but some other time I may not have enough trust to go to the ballot box; this is very dangerous,” he says.


IS vows ‘new phase’ of attacks focused on Israel

In an audio message to its followers, the Islamic State group vows a “new phase” of attacks focused on Israel.

“Make Israel a test field for rockets and chemical weapons,” the group’s spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Qurashi, says, according to a translation posted on Twitter.

With AFP

US army investigating crash, purportedly of military plane, in Taliban-held area

The US military says that it is investigating reports of an airplane crash in Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan.

US Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for US Central Command, says that it remains unclear whose aircraft was involved in the crash.

Riordan declines to immediately comment further.

However, pictures on social media purportedly from the crash site show what could be the remains of a Bombardier E-11A aircraft, which the US military uses for electronic surveillance over Afghanistan.

Local Afghan officials had said earlier today that a passenger place from Afghanistan’s Ariana Airlines had crashed in the Taliban-held area of the eastern Ghazni province. However, Ariana Airlines told The Associated Press that none of its planes had crashed in Afghanistan.


IS: The ‘eyes of the soldiers of the caliphate’ are ‘still on Jerusalem’

In its new audio message calling for attacks on Israel, the Islamic State says, “The eyes of the soldiers of the caliphate, wherever they are, are still on Jerusalem.”

“And in the coming days, God willing, you will see what harms you and what will make you forget the horrors you have seen,” spokesman Abu Hamza al-Quraishi says in the 37-minute message, apparently threatening attacks of unprecedented scope.

With AFP

UK teen says she has PTSD, claims Israeli men were like ‘a pack of wolves’

A British teenager convicted of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as she awaits her appeal, The Sun newspaper reports.

“I lost 2.5 stone (16 kilograms, 35 pounds), in prison. I was really thin when I came out,” she tells the tabloid in her first comments since being handed a suspended four-month jail term and returning to Britain this month.

“They put me on drugs, on Xanax, even though I didn’t want to,” she says, referencing a mild tranquilizer. “Most prisoners were drugged, it seemed they thought that was easier. It gave me horribly vivid dreams, hallucination.”

The 19-year-old cannot be named while she appeals against her conviction in Cyprus’s Supreme Court.

The case has been controversial from the outset — not only with the British media but also with the UK government, which has raised concerns over her treatment by the Cypriot legal system.

She was convicted of causing “public mischief” but her team called the judgment “unfair” when it filed the appeal earlier this month.

The woman tells The Sun she now sleeps for up to 20 hours and developed others PTSD symptoms, including when she hears a foreign language spoken by men.

“The most I can manage is going to the gym with friends and spending time with my (dog). I can’t think further ahead than that yet,” she says.

She also stands by her claim that local police forced her to sign a confession in which she admitted making up being gang-raped.

“I was panicking by now and I told a social worker in the police station what had happened. But she just said, ‘There’s nothing you can do now,'” she recalls.

She describes developing a “normal holiday romance” with an Israeli nicknamed Sam. The pair went up to a “grotty” hotel room at around 2:45 am.

“About five minutes later, I heard the sound of the room door opening and turned around,” she says.

Twelve men “were lining up, excited, talking and shouting in Hebrew. I was trying to fight them off but I just couldn’t. They were like a pack of animals — a pack of wolves,” she says.


Iran accuses Europe of ‘racism’ over nuclear deal move

Iran’s foreign minister says Britain, France and Germany have shown “racism” by activating a dispute mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal.

In a televised speech in Tehran, Mohammad Javad Zarif slams the “illusion” that “only the blue-eyed” can benefit from international law.

In the face of “repeated violations by the United States and Europe, Iran does not have the right to use Article 36 (of the deal) despite several written notifications to European officials,” Zarif says, without elaborating how Iran has been denied that right.

“We do not accept such racism,” he adds.


WATCH: Event commemorating 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

Survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp are gathered for commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of its liberation, returning to the place where they lost entire families and warning about the ominous growth of anti-Semitism and hatred in the world.

In all, some 200 survivors of the camp are expected, many of them elderly Jews and non-Jews who have traveled from Israel, the United States, Australia, Peru, Russia, Slovenia and elsewhere.

Many lost parents and grandparents in Auschwitz or other Nazi death camps, but were being joined by children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Watch a livestream of the event here:

With AP

Taliban say mystery crash in Afghanistan was US aircraft

A US military aircraft crashed in eastern Afghanistan today, a Taliban spokesman and Afghan journalist affiliated with the militant group say.

Tariq Ghazniwal, a journalist in the area, says that he saw the burning aircraft. In an exchange on Twitter, he tells The Associated Press that he saw two bodies and the front of the aircraft was badly burned. He adds that the aircraft’s body and tail were hardly damaged. His information cannot be independently verified.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says a US Air Force plane crashed in the Ghazni province. He claims the crash killed “lots” of US service members. The militant group often exaggerates casualty figures.

Ghazniwal says the crash site was about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from a US military base. Local Taliban have deployed to protect the crash site, he says, and several other militants are combing the nearby village for two people they say survived the crash.

The Taliban controls much of the Ghazni province and has total control over the local area of the crash.

Ghazniwal says the site is near a village called Sado Khelo, in the Deh Yak district. He also says the crash occurred soon after 1 p.m. local time, but residents in the area did not report a loud crashing noise. He can’t say whether the aircraft had been shot down but “the crash was not loud.”

US Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for US Central Command, declines to comment when told about the Taliban claim. She earlier acknowledged American military officials are investigating reports of a crash in Afghanistan. She says that it remains unclear whose aircraft was involved in the crash.


Report: Netanyahu hopes to receive US okay for Ma’ale Adumim annexation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes that after his meeting with US President Donald Trump tomorrow, he will have American approval to annex the large West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem, Channel 12 reports.

“In terms of substance, Netanyahu very much wants to come out of here tomorrow with a declaration on the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim,” reporter Dana Weiss says from Washington.

“From what I understand, they are making preparations on the ground,” she adds, without elaborating.

Channel 12: Trump plan gives Israel Tomb of the Patriarchs, Joseph’s Tomb

Ahead of its expected unveiling today or tomorrow, Channel 12’s Amit Segal reports further purported details of the Trump peace plan, which he says are being leaked wholesale by various sources.

He says that the plan would give Israel control of two holy sites in the West Bank — the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the southern West Bank and Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of Nablus in the northern West Bank.

The report, like other recent reports purporting to reveal details of the plan, is unsourced.

Trump’s meetings with Netanyahu, then Gantz to begin soon

US President Donald Trump is about to hold back-to-back meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger, Benny Gantz, ahead of the unveiling of the US administration’s much-anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The meetings come just a month before Netanyahu and Gantz are set to face off in national elections for the third time in less than a year and amid much speculation over whether the plan has any chance for success since the Palestinians haven’t been consulted and have preemptively rejected any proposal from a White House it considers biased toward Israel.


Russian pardon commission recommends Israeli woman be released

A Russian pardon commission recommends releasing an Israeli-American woman jailed in the country for marijuana charges, in a case that has stoked public interest across the globe and drawn in the leaders of both Israel and Russia.

Naama Issachar earlier this week filed her request for a pardon after Russian President Vladimir Putin promised her mother that she will be released soon.

The pardon commission’s decision is seen as a rubber stamp ahead of an announcement by Putin that he is pardoning Issachar.

Earlier today, the Kremlin said the Russian leader will be making a decision in her case “in the near future.”

Issachar, 27, was sentenced by Russia to 7.5 years in prison after nearly 10 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage during a layover in a Moscow airport in April.

She has denied smuggling drugs, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the layover on her way to Israel from India, and had no access to her luggage during her brief stay in the Russian airport.

Iranian general warns of retaliation against Israel if US threats continue

The chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard warns that it will retaliate against American and Israeli commanders if the US continues to threaten top Iranian generals.

“I warn them to withdraw from this field,” Gen. Hossein Salami tells state television, adding if they do not, they “will definitely regret it.”

The U.S. killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who headed the expeditionary Quds Force, in a drone strike outside of Baghdad’s airport in Iraq on January 3.

Soleimani was responsible for Iranian proxy forces across the Mideast. The US alleged that he was plotting attacks on American targets.

Soleimani’s replacement, Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, has said he would carry with his predecessor’s work.

Salami’s comments today come in response to remarks from the US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, made to an Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper at the Davos economic forum last week.

Asked about Ghaani’s pledge, Hook was quoted by the daily Asharq Awsat daily newspaper as saying that “if he follows a similar path of killing Americans, he will meet the same fate.”

He said any “any attacks against American personnel or interests in the region will be met with a decisive response.”

“I think the regime now understands that they cannot attack America at will, and expect to get away with it,” Hook was quoted as saying. “So we will hold the regime and its proxies accountable for any attacks on Americans, or on American interests in the region.”

Salami said both the US and Israel should know that “if they threaten our commanders, none of their commanders will find a safe place” to live.

He added that Iran’s reaction to continued threats would be “completely different from the past” but did not elaborate.


Netanyahu-Trump meeting begins in Washington

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the White House ahead of his meeting with Donald Trump.

The US president welcomes the Israeli leader as he gets out of his black van.

The two men briefly shake hands in front the Israeli reporters, and proceed inside the Oval Office for what the White House has termed a “restricted meeting.”

Later on, they are set to hold an “expanded bilateral meeting” with their aides.

It is the eighth meeting between the two men since Trump took office.

— Raphael Ahren

Standing next to Netanyahu, Trump says he’ll announce his peace plan tomorrow

Addressing the press, Trump says that his much-anticipated peace plan will be released tomorrow, refusing to give any details about its parameters.

Netanyahu reiterates that he hopes to “make history” on Tuesday together with the American leader.

The prime minister also thanks Trump for his support of Israel, and for increasing pressure on Iran.

— Raphael Ahren

Without the Palestinians ‘we won’t do the deal,’ Trump says

Standing alongside Netanyahu, Trump says his peace plan — already rejected by the Palestinians — has a “chance” and will be unveiled tomorrow at noon local time.

Trump predicts that the Palestinians will “ultimately” come round to giving their support.

He adds that without the Palestinians “we won’t do the deal, and that’s okay,” without elaborating.

Unsourced Israeli reports in recent days said that should the Palestinians persist in rejecting the deal, Israel will eventually be given a go-ahead from the US to begin unilateral steps, including the annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Trump also says that the plan has the support of “all the parties” in Israel, possibly alluding to the opposition Blue and White party, whose leader, Benny Gantz, he will meet after he concludes his sit-down with Netanyahu.

— With AFP

Trump and Netanyahu begin ‘restricted’ part of their meeting

The expanded part of the meeting between Trump and Netanyahu concludes and the two men begin the “restricted” part of their meeting.

Later on, they are set to hold an “expanded bilateral meeting” with their aides.

Prince Andrew uncooperative in Jeffrey Epstein probe – US attorney

A US prosecutor overseeing the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking investigation says that Britain’s Prince Andrew has been uncooperative in the inquiry so far.

Speaking at a news conference outside Epstein’s New York mansion, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, says prosecutors and the FBI have contacted Prince Andrew’s lawyers and asked to interview him.

“To date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation,” Berman says.

He will not discuss the Epstein investigation in detail, but reiterates that the case did not end with his death.

“Jeffrey Epstein couldn’t have done what he did without the assistance of others, and I can assure you that the investigation is moving forward,” he says.


Trump and Gantz begin their meeting

Trump and Gantz begin their meeting in the White House after the US president concludes his sit-down with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu-Trump meeting was ‘excellent,’ focused on Iran – Israeli official

Netanyahu’s White House meeting with Trump was “excellent,” according to a member of his official entourage to Washington.

“The leaders spoke about the peace deal that will be presented tomorrow, though most of the meeting centered on Iran,” the official says.

Trump and Netanyahu discussed the “need to stop Iranian aggression as well as about Iran’s efforts to go nuclear and about the need to continue the pressure on all fronts.”

They also talked about “regional opportunities” that arose in the aftermath of the US assassination of senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

Furthermore, the prime minister spoke to the president about the “need to fight against the International Criminal Court’s attempt to prosecute Israel,” the official says.

Raphael Ahren

Saudi Arabia says Israelis can’t visit, despite announcement Monday

The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia clarifies that despite Israel’s announcement yesterday that it will allow its citizens to travel to the Gulf kingdom, on his country’s end there is no change in policy.

“Our policy remains the same,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan tells CNN. “We do not have relations with the State of Israel and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the kingdom at the current time.”

He adds that Saudi Arabia will establish full relations with Israel once the Jewish state makes peace with the Palestinians.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri signed an order permitting Israelis to go to the kingdom to participate in business meetings or to search for investments, provided that they have an invitation from an official body and have taken care of the necessary paperwork to enter the country.

The order also formally allows Muslim citizens of Israel to travel to the Saudi city of Mecca to perform the hajj or Umrah religious pilgrimage. Israeli pilgrims usually travel for the hajj on temporary Jordanian papers.

Gantz-Trump meeting ends after ‘running longer than anticipated’

Gantz’s office says his meeting with Trump has concluded

Earlier it said the meeting was “running longer than anticipated.”

It says a press briefing of the two men will take place at 3 p.m. Eastern time, or 10 p.m. in Israel.

— Raphael Ahren

AG opposes disqualification of Arab Knesset member Yazbak

Attorney General Mandelblit opposes the disqualification of Joint List MK Heba Yazbak, whom a majority of Jewish Knesset members wish to ban ahead of the March elections.

In a letter to the Central Election Committee, Mandelblit says there is not “a critical mass of evidence” against Yazbak, even though “her statements bring her close to the threshold of disqualification.”

He says that her response to queries from the Central Elections Committee about her controversial statements made it clear that “she doesn’t cross [the threshold].”

In a recent interview with Channel 13, Yazbak said that “international law permits people under occupation to take action to liberate themselves.” When the interviewer pressed her and asked if she considered attacks on soldiers to be legitimate resistance she demurred, saying, “What isn’t legitimate is the continued occupation.”

Earlier today, in her response to a query on the quote from Mandelblit, who is processing the request to have her banned, Yazbak said she stands by the statement and insisted that it did not imply support for violence.

In addition to her comments on Channel 13, Yazbak, a member of the Arab nationalist Balad party in the Joint List alliance, is facing criticism over several of her Facebook posts, including one in 2015 in praise of slain Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, who in 1979 took part in the brutal murder of members of an Israeli family in the northern city of Nahariya.

The post included a picture of Kuntar with the inscription: “The martyr fighter Samir Kuntar.”

— With Raoul Wootliff

‘I’m being raped’: Weinstein accuser details alleged assault

At times sobbing, former “Project Runway” production assistant Mimi Haleyi tells jurors at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial how she tried to fight off the disgraced movie mogul and told him, “No, no, no” while he sexually assaulted her.

As one of two women whose assault claims led to Weinstein’s charges, Haleyi takes the stand and details her allegation that he forcibly performed oral sex on her at his New York City apartment in 2006.

“I did reject him, but he insisted. Every time I tried to get off the bed, he would push me back and hold me down,” she testifies, adding that she told him she was menstruating in an attempt to deter him.

Haleyi, now 42, testifies she thought, “I’m being raped,” and considered different options. “If I scream rape, will someone hear me?” she wondered.

“I checked out and decided to endure it,” she says. “That was the safest thing I could do.”

Weinstein, 67, is charged with sexual assaulting Haleyi and raping an aspiring actress in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013. He insists any sexual encounters were consensual.

Haleyi also describes a second encounter a few weeks after the alleged assault in a Tribeca hotel room where she said she “went numb” as he took her hand, pulled her toward the bed and had intercourse with her.

Haleyi says she “just felt like an idiot” for letting Weinstein convince her to meet again, but thought seeing him could help her regain power as she tried to make sense of the alleged assault.

Asked if she wanted to have sex with Weinstein that night, she says, “No.”

She says she did not call the police because she was working in the US on a tourist visa and was scared of Weinstein’s power, telling jurors: “Obviously, Mr. Weinstein has a lot more power and resources and connections and so forth. I didn’t think I’d stand a chance.”


Judges rebuke Macron for criticism over case of murdered Jewish woman

French President Emmanuel Macron draws a sharp rebuke from the country’s top magistrates for criticizing a court ruling on the 2017 murder of a Jewish woman in Paris.

Sarah Halimi, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her 60s, died after being pushed out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbor shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).

Her murder stoked debate over a new strain of anti-Semitism among radicalized Muslim youths in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods.

But the Court of Appeal in Paris last month concluded that the suspect, a heavy pot smoker, had succumbed to a “delirious fit” and was therefore not criminally responsible for his actions.

During a visit to Israel last week Macron took issue with the finding, saying that “even if, in the end, the judge decided that there was no criminal responsibility, there is a need for a trial.”

His remarks draw a swift riposte from the prosecutor-general and the top judge at France’s top appeals court, which will hear an appeal by Halimi’s family against the lower court’s insanity finding.

In a statement, judge Chantal Arens of the Cour de Cassation and prosecutor Francois Molins note that “the independence of the justice system, of which the president of the Republic is the guarantor, is an essential factor in the functioning of democracy.”

The judges of the Cour de Cassation “must be able to examine all the appeals (in the Halimi case) in all serenity and independence,” the two top magistrates say.

The head of France’s main judges’ union, Katia Dubreuil, says she too was “shocked” by Macron’s remarks, noting that despite his promise not to interfere in court rulings, “That’s exactly what he’s doing!”

Macron had begun his speech in Jerusalem by saying that he could not comment on the court ruling because it was his role, as president, to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

But the French leader, who was in Israel to attend events marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, went on to comment on the case regardless in his speech to Israel’s French community.

Noting that a French judge had in 2018 confirmed that Halimi’s murder was anti-Semitic in nature, Macron declared: “There is a need for the healing that a trial can bring.”


Gantz-Trump meeting was ‘excellent,’ aides say

Sources close to Gantz say there will not be a briefing with Trump because the meeting between the two men went on longer than planned.

The sources characterize the meeting as “excellent” and say it was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

They say Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, did not attend the meeting.

— Raphael Ahren

PA urges Arab envoys to turn down invite to Trump’s unveiling of peace plan

The Palestinian Authority is urging Arab ambassadors in the US not to attend US President Donald Trump’s unveiling of the administration’s peace plan tomorrow.

The officials PA news agency Wafa says envoys have been invited to the event. But Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina calls on them to refuse, saying the Palestinians consider it “a conspiracy aimed at undermining the rights of the Palestinian people and thwarting the establishment of the State of Palestine.”

Gantz says supports US peace proposal, will implement it as prime minister

Addressing reporters at his Washington hotel after his meeting with Donald Trump, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says he supports the US administration’s peace proposal, vowing to implement it as prime minister after the March 2 Knesset election.

The plan is a “significant and historic milestone,” Gantz says, adding that it needs to be implemented in the context of a deal with Israel’s neighbors.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at the Knesset on December 11, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

— Raphael Ahren

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