The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Ministers, but not Liberman, urge pardon for Azaria
Though he publicly supported IDF soldier Elor Azaria before assuming the post of defense minister, Avigdor Liberman offers a tempered response to the manslaughter conviction of the IDF soldier.
This is a “difficult verdict, but must be respected,” says Liberman.
The defense minister also calls for “restraint” and condemns any comments against IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. “We must hold the army above all political debates,” he says.
Other ministers, however, are calling for a presidential pardon for Azaria.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett urges an “immediate” pardon, while Culture Minister Miri Regev says she will bring up the issue with President Reuven Rivlin. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri also says the president should let Azaria off.
Yachimovich says Rivlin should consider pardoning Azaria
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich is the sole opposition lawmaker thus far to call for a pardon for Azaria.
She says in a statement that the courts acted “professionally and bravely” in convicting the soldier for manslaughter.
But she adds that the verdict will cause a social divide in Israel and says the president should therefore consider pardoning him.
“Azaria’s narrow shoulders will not be able to withstand the weight of the divide,” she says.
Lapid says leaders must now work to prevent rift
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid condemns “irresponsible statements” from his fellow politicians on the Azaria case.
“I call on everyone to end the violence and stop the irresponsible statements coming from within the political system. It’s not the way of the Jewish people, of the State of Israel or of the IDF. The court has made its decision and now we also have a role: to prevent a rift in our society and to ensure no harm comes to the people’s army. The State of Israel is powerful because of our wonderful military, our officers and our soldiers and because we are a country of law and order,” he says.
Protesters warn IDF chief to be careful, as ‘Rabin looking for a friend’
Outside the defense headquarters in Tel Aviv, where the verdict was read, protesters gathered in support of Azaria.
At times, the protesters clashed with police deployed in the area. Four protesters have been arrested.
Israel Police arrest two more people at #Azaria protest for allegedly disturbing the peace. One allegedly also attacked a police officer
— Ilån Bεn Zıon (@IlanBenZion) January 4, 2017
Some demonstrators earlier had chanted: “Gadi be careful, Rabin is looking for a friend,” referring to the IDF chief of staff and the slain former prime minister.
— Ilån Bεn Zıon (@IlanBenZion) January 4, 2017
Barak says Netanyahu must back up the IDF chief
On Twitter, former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak slams the protesters and says Netanyahu must back up Eisenkot.
“‘Gadi be careful’ is a threat to murder. One chief of staff was already murdered here. Netanyahu was also silent then. It’s not the time to be deaf now. It’s the time to protect the IDF and the sane Israel. Netanyahu must immediately back up the chief of staff,” he writes.
— Ilan Ben Zion contributed
Herzog says Azaria partly ‘a victim of the situation’
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says in a statement that the verdict must be respected.
He says, however, “it cannot be ignored that Azaria was, to some degree, a victim of the situation, but the ruling strengthens the IDF, since you cannot ignore the circumstances of the incident, which reflect an impossible reality in a field that is complicated, which IDF soldiers deal with daily, hourly.”
Soldier’s father says court accepted ‘B’Tselem version’
Charlie Azaria, the father of the IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter, says, “The judge accepted the B’Tselem version and not the account by the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces,” according to Channel 2.
B’Tselem filmed the shooting in the West Bank city of Hebron last March.
Family spokesperson says verdict ‘stabs’ IDF soldiers in the back
A spokesman for the family of the Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian attacker says the court ignored evidence indicating the soldier was innocent.
Sharon Gal, family spokesman and former lawmaker, tells reporters, “It was like the court was detached from the fact that this was the area of an attack. I felt that the court picked up the knife from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers.”
The soldier’s defense team says it would appeal the verdict.
Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman, a military prosecutor, says, “The judges decided that it was an unjustified shooting. This is not a happy day for us. We would have preferred that this didn’t happen. But the deed was done, and the offense was severe.”
The prosecutor says the verdict was “important, clear, decisive and speaks for itself.”
Egged fined NIS 14 million for Jerusalem bus strike
The Transportation Ministry is fining the Egged bus company NIS 14 million ($3.6 million) for calling a 24-hour strike in Jerusalem, which began this morning, Army Radio reports.
Funeral begins for IDF soldier who died of wounds from Gaza war
The funeral begins in the northern Israel town of Hispin for an IDF soldier critically wounded during the 2014 Gaza war, who succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday.
Maj. Hagai Ben Ari, of the tiny village of Nov on the southern Golan Heights, died Tuesday at the age of 31 after two and a half years in a coma, the IDF said in a statement early Wednesday. Ben Ari was critically wounded on July 21, 2014, and never regained consciousness.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
Father of Palestinian stabber ‘feels good’ about verdict
The father of the Palestinian attacker fatally shot by Israeli Sgt. Elor Azaria is welcoming a military court’s conviction of the soldier for manslaughter.
Yousri al-Sharif, father of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, said, “I feel good. It is fair. This is an achievement of the court that it condemned the soldier.”
“I was exhausted and tense,” he said. “I smoked two packs of cigarettes while watching the verdict.”
Azaria was caught on video fatally shooting Sharif after the Palestinian had stabbed a soldier in Hebron in March. Sharif was lying motionless on the ground when Azaria shot him in the head.
Rivlin condemns meetings between MKs, Europe’s far-right
President Reuven Rivlin tells Jewish representatives that he strongly opposes contacts between his country’s officials and European parties with a history of anti-Semitism.
Rivlin says he will “never condone” meetings between representatives of Israel and “European parties of the far right that are tainted with a history of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial … or the promotion of racial hatred or intolerance.”
Dated December 20, the letter is in response to one sent in November by World Jewish Congress Vice President Ariel Muzicant and Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna’s Jewish community, complaining about contacts between Austria’s Freedom Party and Israeli political figures.
Vienna’s Jewish community emailed a copy to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The party says Wednesday that it doesn’t consider Rivlin’s comments as applying to it.
India travel warning canceled
Israel cancels a travel warning to India.
On Friday, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel warning, calling on Israelis not to visit the country and cautioning those already there that Islamist groups may try to carry out terror attacks in the immediate future.
But the threat had apparently dissipated after New Year’s Day.
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau, however, urges Israeli tourists to remain vigilant while in India.
Zoabi says ‘thousands’ of IDF soldiers are ‘murderers’ like Azaria
Firebrand Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint List) says Azaria is “one of many murderers.”
In a statement after the verdict is handed down, Zoabi alleges that a Palestinian is killed by an Israeli once every 3.6 days.
“Whoever condemns the Azaria murder must condemn the murders by the Israeli army of thousands of babies and women and men and Palestinian youths, an average of a person killed every 3.6 days, and must demand punishment from every soldier who killed a Palestinian,” she says.
Trump suggests DNC’s carelessness led to hack
President-elect Donald Trump is suggesting the Democratic National Committee’s carelessness led to the hack that roiled the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Why was the DNC so careless?” Trump tweets early Wednesday. He is referring to the hacking last year of the committee’s private email traffic, including emails of John Podesta, a top adviser to Hillary Clinton. Trump says WikiLeaks founder “Julian Assange said ‘a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta’…Also said Russians did not give him the info!”
Assange has said his source for the emails WikiLeaks released was not a state, but that left open the prospect that he acquired it from a third party. The US intelligence community, along with numerous Republicans and Democrats, alleges that Russia did the hacking.
Julian Assange said "a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta" – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
Somebody hacked the DNC but why did they not have "hacking defense" like the RNC has and why have they not responded to the terrible……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
things they did and said (like giving the questions to the debate to H). A total double standard! Media, as usual, gave them a pass.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
Israeli arrested in Ukraine, accused of defacing crucifix
Police in the city of Uman in Ukraine arrest an Israeli man they suspect of defacing a large crucifix as payback for the desecration of a synagogue last month.
The suspect, Netanel Shimon, is said to have dismantled on December 31 the Jesus icon from a crucifix that locals in 2013 set up near the bank of a lake where many Jews go to perform tashlikh – a ritual associated with Rosh Hashanah, the holiday when thousands of Jews descend on Uman, the newspaper Gazeta reported Tuesday.
Security footage showed four males wearing traditional ultra-Orthodox garb trying unsuccessfully to bring down the entire crucifix. They leave and another man, wearing a mask, is seen tearing the icon from the cross.
Shimon, who is in his 20s, has denied any wrongdoing and complained in letters published by the news website Behadrei Haredim that authorities are denying him access to legal representation and medicines for his diabetes.
Uman is a major pilgrimage site for followers of Rabbi Nachman, an 18th century luminary, whose gravesite is the focal point of an annual Rosh Hashanah celebration. Some 25,000 Jews arrive there on that holiday annually.
The same cross was defaced with graffiti in 2013.
Judge in Azaria case gets security detail
A judge in the Azaria case is getting security detail after threats are made against her on social media, Army Radio reports.
Police said to carry out Haifa raid linked to shootings
Special police forces are carrying out a raid in the northern city of Haifa linked to twin shootings on Tuesday, in which one man was killed and another was moderately-to-seriously injured.
With the case under a gag order, Israeli media reports merely say there is a “development” in the case.
Palestinian stabber’s father predicts Azaria could get life sentence
The father of the Palestinian stabber shot dead by Azaria while lying wounded on the floor predicts the soldier could get a life sentence.
“For me, a just verdict will be one that is similar to the verdicts our sons (in Israeli prisons) get,” Yusri al-Sharif, the father of the Palestinian, tells reporters in the West Bank city of Hebron, where the shooting occurred.
“Life sentence … But Israel is trying its own son, so there is a possibility it will be lenient.”
The maximum sentence for manslaughter in Israel is 20 years.
— AFP contributed
PA slams ‘mock’ Azaria trial, calls it a ‘farce’
The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry slams the Azaria “mock” trial, calling it a “farce,” the official Wafa news agency reports.
The statement alleges that “Israeli top state officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, and other Israeli nongovernmental organizations have raised funds in favor of a campaign that calls for Azaria’s acquittal,” according to the report.
“The ministry added that not only Azaria ought to stand trial, but also the entire Israeli regime for allowing the killing of Palestinians,” Wafa reports.
Rivlin’s office says defendants, not politicians, seek pardons
President Reuven Rivlin’s office clarifies that defendants, rather than politicians, must apply for clemency, after all legal proceedings have ended.
The statement comes after several ministers urged Rivlin to pardon IDF soldier Elor Azaria.
“In accordance with standard practice regarding requests for pardons on this or any case, requests for pardons are dealt with when submitted by the applicant themselves, or by one with power of attorney, or an immediate relative, following a conclusive judicial ruling,” it says in a statement.
“In light of the foregoing, and in relation to the case of the soldier Elor Azaria, in the event that a pardon should be requested, it will be considered by the president in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities.”
Ya’alon says it’s a ‘hard day’ for all Israelis
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon responds to the Azaria verdict.
“This is a hard day for us all — for the Azaria family, for the citizens of Israel, and for me,” he writes on Facebook.
Ya’alon, who was defense minister when the shooting took place, last week addressed the case. “We don’t just shoot at people,” said Ya’alon, “not even if he’s a terrorist, not even at another soldier who just shot at you but has now surrendered and has been neutralized, we don’t just shoot.”
Israel says China to send thousands of construction workers
China has agreed for thousands of migrant construction laborers to work in Israel in a bid to alleviate a housing crisis in the Jewish state, the Israeli government says Wednesday.
The agreement would see 6,000 Chinese workers arrive in Israel in the six months after the formal signature of the deal expected at the end of February, a joint statement from the interior and finance ministries says.
An Israeli delegation and China’s commerce ministry have signed a draft agreement in China, it says.
The statement quotes Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon as saying the arrival of the Chinese workers would “energize efforts to solve the housing crisis.”
UN worker sentenced to 7 months for aiding Hamas
A Palestinian UN worker accused by Israel of aiding Hamas was sentenced to seven months’ jail Wednesday, his lawyer says, in a plea deal which will see him released soon.
Waheed Borsh was convicted of “rendering services to an illegal organization without intention,” his lawyer Lea Tsemel tells AFP. With time already served, he is expected to be released on January 12.
The case centered on accusations that rubble in Gaza under the responsibility of the United Nations Development Program was misused by Hamas.
Ya’alon says politicians ‘cynically’ used Azaria
Ya’alon accuses politicians of “cynically exploiting” the Azaria case to score political points, hurting the soldier and his family in the process.
“Today, with the conviction, we can say that the IDF and the Azaria family were seriously harmed by politicians who have betrayed their office,” says the former defense minister. “The criminal process that the soldier Elor and his family have experienced has been too difficult to bear and should have looked differently, should have been managed differently. The reason for its dragging out in a way that made it difficult for everyone involved is the cynical exploitation of the case by interested politicians for their own personal gain.”
“Rather than being leaders, they used Elor and his family as a political pawn for a few more seats. They lied to you. I am ashamed of those politicians,” he says.
Over 100 lightly hurt in NYC train accident
New York City authorities say more than 100 people suffered minor injuries when a Long Island Rail Road train hit a bumping block at a Brooklyn station.
Fire officials at the scene Wednesday say metal that appeared to be from a rail pierced the bottom of the train and the wheels lifted up. They said the crash also damaged a work area beyond the tracks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the train was moving very slowly. He said it “wasn’t really a derailment.”
Eleven of the injured were taken to hospitals. Officials at the scene estimate that 600 to 700 people were on the train.
They say many passengers were standing as they prepared to get off the train.
The cause is under investigation.
Bodies of woman, man found in Haifa apartment
The bodies of an 80-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man are found in an apartment in the northern city of Haifa.
Police are investigating.
Azaria sentencing set for January 15
The Israeli military says the soldier convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant will be sentenced in just over a week, on January 15.
In a statement, the military says the sentence for Sgt. Elor Azaria will be handed down following a hearing that Sunday. Azaria faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, though analysts expect him to receive less than that.
Azaria’s defense team has already said it would appeal.
Trump taps New York corporate lawyer to head SEC
President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday nominates New York corporate lawyer Jay Clayton to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying government needs to get rid of burdensome regulations.
Clayton, a partner at the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm, advised Goldman Sachs and other financial firms during the 2008 financial crisis. At the SEC he will be charged with enforcing the nation’s securities laws and setting policy on matters ranging from corporate disclosure to investor rights.
“Jay Clayton is a highly talented expert on many aspects of financial and regulatory law, and he will ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules at the same time,” Trump says in a news release.
“We need to undo many regulations which have stifled investment in American businesses, and restore oversight of the financial industry in a way that does not harm American workers.”
Clayton will replace outgoing SEC chief Mary Jo White. His appointment comes as many expect Washington to pause or pull back on tough regulations of banks and other companies imposed in the wake of the financial crisis.
Deputy FM seeks to change ‘outrageous’ international headlines in Azaria case
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely says she has instructed her Foreign Ministry staff to contact The New York Times and CNN over their “outrageous” headlines in their coverage of the Azaria case.
“The fact is that we are talking about a terrorist who wanted to murder innocents and not a ‘wounded Palestinian,'” she says in a Facebook post that include photos of the headlines.
Lebanese government approves key gas, oil drilling decrees
Lebanon’s new government has issued key decrees to prepare the way for oil and gas extraction off its coast, after more than two years of political deadlock had stymied previous efforts.
The decrees, which come on Wednesday, authorize regulators to divide the offshore areas into blocks for drilling and exploration and to issue tenders.
Earlier this decade, geologists discovered a bonanza of gas reserves off the coasts of Lebanon and Israel, sparking a frenzy of development on the Israeli side to tap into the fields.
Lebanon’s government, beset by infighting and corruption, made only marginal progress toward that goal.
A portion of the reserves lies in territory disputed by the two countries.
Hezbollah has issued numerous threats warning Israel not to tap into Lebanon’s gas reserves.
2 injured in Istanbul restaurant shooting — reports
Turkish media reports say two people have been injured by gunfire at an Istanbul restaurant.
Netanyahu backs pardon for IDF soldier
In his first comment on the manslaughter verdict, Netanyahu says, “I support pardoning Elor Azaria.”
“This is a hard and painful day for us all — first and foremost for Elor and his family, for IDF soldiers, for many citizens, and for the parents of our soldiers, myself included,” the prime minister says in a statement.
“I urge all citizens to act responsibly toward the IDF, the officers, and the IDF chief… IDF soldiers are our sons and daughters, and they must remain above all conflict. I support pardoning Elor Azaria,” he concludes.
67% of Israelis say Azaria should be pardoned — poll
A Channel 2 poll finds that 67 percent of Israelis support clemency for IDF soldier Elor Azaria, with just 19% saying he shouldn’t be pardoned.
The survey says that 36% of respondents back the manslaughter verdict, handed down Wednesday, but a majority (51%) oppose it.
Moreover, 52% of poll participants disagree with comments by IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, who said Tuesday that “an 18-year-old man serving in the army is not ‘everyone’s child.’ He is a fighter, a soldier, who must dedicate his life to carry out the tasks we give him. We cannot be confused about this.” Some 38% agree.
The poll of a representative sample of the Israeli public is being conducted Wednesday.
Bennett says Azaria ‘not a hero,’ but ‘made mistake’
Speaking to Channel 2, Education Minister Naftali Bennett reiterates that Azaria, in his view, should be immediately pardoned.
“He’s not a hero, he is a soldier who made a mistake,” Bennett tells the TV station.
Glick urges leniency, but not pardon, for Azaria
Likud MK Yehudah Glick says Azaria should receive a lenient sentence, but not a pardon.
“I do not think that a pardon is the right way in this case; in my view, leniency in his punishment is preferred,” writes Glick on Twitter, adding that Azaria must “take responsibility and understand his wrongdoing.”
New UN chief has ‘very positive discussion’ with Trump
The United Nations says the new UN secretary-general had “a very positive discussion” with Donald Trump on US-UN relations.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says Antonio Guterres called the president-elect on Wednesday — and their introductory conversation went well.
Trump criticized the UN last month after the United States allowed the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He tweeted: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th” — inauguration day.
A later tweet said the UN “has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
Haq told reporters Guterres and Trump discussed “a number of avenues for participation and cooperation between the United States and the United Nations”
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