Likud mulls changing much-criticized discrimination clause in nation-state bill
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Likud mulls changing much-criticized discrimination clause in nation-state bill

Moves comes after President Rivlin, others lash clause allowing small towns to accept residents according to ethnic or religious criteria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an American Independence Day celebration Airport City, on July 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an American Independence Day celebration Airport City, on July 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Ahead of Trump-Putin meet, EU chief says US doesn’t have many allies

European Council President Donald Tusk is appealing to US President Donald Trump to remember who his allies are as the US leader prepares to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking as he signs a joint EU-NATO declaration Tuesday with alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Tusk says in a message to Trump that “it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem.”

With Trump routinely criticizing his NATO allies for failing to spend enough on their defense budgets, Tusk recalls that the Europeans are spending more than Russia and as much as China.

Tusk urges the Europeans to increase spending as they have promised, but says: “Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have all that many.”

Trump meets Putin on July 16.

— AP

Cuba unfreezing growth of private tourism businesses

The Cuban government will allow new restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and transportation businesses by the end of the year, reopening the most vibrant sectors of the private economy after freezing growth for more than a year.

The government is unveiling a set of new regulations Tuesday meant to control the growth of tourism-related private businesses and collect more tax revenue from them. Private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts boomed after US-Cuba normalization in 2014 prompted rapid growth in tourism to Cuba.

Tax evasion and purchase of stolen state materials also boomed in the mostly cash-based private hospitality sector. Among other measures, the new regulations announced Tuesday require private businesses to move all their revenue through state-run bank accounts. Cuba froze new licenses for restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and other key business in August 2017.

— AP

China frees Nobel widow from house arrest that drew outcry

BEIJING — China allows the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo to be freed from house arrest and leave for Berlin on Tuesday, ending an eight-year ordeal that drove the poet into depression and drew intense criticism of Beijing’s human rights record.

The release of Liu Xia, who has never been charged with any crime, is the result of years of campaigning by Western governments and activists and comes just days before the one-year anniversary of the death of dissident Liu Xiaobo while he was serving a prison sentence for inciting subversion.

Liu Xia’s brother, Liu Hui, wrote on a social media site: “Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life. Thanks to everyone who has helped and cared for her these few years. I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy.”

In this December 6, 2012, file photo, Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, poses with a photo of her and her husband during her first interview in more than two years at her home in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is visiting Germany, a country that in May said it would welcome the widow after a recording was released of her crying in desperation and indicating she had lost hope of being able to leave China.

— AP

Amid draft law talks, head of Haredi party threatens to quit over court deadline

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, head of the Ashkenazic ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, threatens to resign if the High Court of Justice doesn’t extend a deadline on concluding negotiations over a bill on the military draft of Haredi seminary students.

Last September, the High Court threw out a previous version of the law and gave lawmakers a year to institute a new regime for the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox. That year ends in September.

But the Knesset is about to conclude its spring session on July 19, and won’t reconvene for the fall session until mid-October.

On Tuesday, citing the need for dramatic changes to the new bill currently wending its way through committee, UTJ said the parliament needed an extension of the court’s deadline to complete the changes the party is demanding.

To that end, Litzman has sent an ultimatum to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he would resign from the government if Netanyahu doesn’t ask the High Court for more time, or if the High Court doesn’t grant his request.

Litzman did not explicitly say his party would also leave the coalition, suggesting he does not, in fact, want to topple the government and force elections over the issue.

Jezreel Valley residents petition court against a new airport

Residents of the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel appeal to the High Court of Justice against government plans to construct a new airport in the valley.

The airport would “require tearing down residents’ homes, and would hurt Israeli airlines,” the petition claims.

Israeli planners are planning to diversify the country’s air access options, and to better link the country to local and global air travel via the establishment of new airports.

Trump says Putin may be easiest meeting of European trip

US President Donald Trump says his meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin may prove easier than those with European allies, moments before departing for Brussels for a key NATO summit.

“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?” Trump tells reporters before boarding Air Force One, referring to his upcoming meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki.

Trump also vows not to be “taken advantage” of by the EU, which he says does not do enough to support the transatlantic alliance and takes unfair advantage of the US on trade.

— AFP

Gazan kites burn 150 acres in Israel’s south

Some 600 dunams (150 acres) of brush and farmland in Israel’s south are burned today by incendiary kites launched from the Gaza Strip.

Fire truck units were joined by at least six firefighting planes to battle the fires.

Egypt’s inflation rate spikes in June amid price hikes

Egypt’s official statistics agency says annual inflation increased to 13.8 percent in June after a new round of austerity measures designed to overhaul the country’s economy.

The figure, announced Tuesday by the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics, is an increase from 11.4% in May.

Inflation peaked last summer, hovering around 30% after the government cut fuel and electricity subsidies as part of broader economic reforms to meet demands by the International Monetary Fund for a $12 billion bailout loan.

The measures under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi caused prices of basic goods to spike, hitting poor and middle-class Egyptians especially hard.

— AP

UN envoy urges reopening of Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza

The United Nations’ Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov urges reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza.

“I am concerned by the consequences of Israel’s decision to temporarily suspend imports and exports with the exception of basic humanitarian supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing,” he says in a statement. “Humanitarian assistance is no substitute for commerce and trade. I urge the authorities to reverse this decision.”

He adds: “Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza should also do their part by maintaining calm, stopping incendiary kites and preventing other provocations.

“The United Nations is continuing its engagement with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, as well as regional and international partners, to reduce tensions, support intra-Palestinian reconciliation and resolve all humanitarian challenges. This latest development must not divert us from this urgent course of action.”

He urges the sides to “step back from the trajectory of confrontation and escalation.”

Oregon Hillel sign vandalized with pro-Palestinian message and obscenities

A welcome sign at the Hillel at the University of Oregon was defaced with a pro-Palestinian message and obscenities.

The vandalism at the Hillel building on the campus in Eugene was discovered on Friday.

The Hillel posted a photo of the sign in the building’s parking lot on Facebook. One message reads: “Free Palestine you f**ks.”

We apologize for the graphic content, but today we were shocked and saddened to return to our building in Eugene to find…

Posted by The Oregon Hillel Foundation on Friday, 6 July 2018

No other damage or graffiti was discovered on or around the building, according to the organization. Two other Jewish groups on campus were left untouched.

In a message to the campus Jewish community, Kevin Marbury, University of Oregon Vice President – Division of Student Life, said that campus police were working with the Eugene Police Department to investigate the vandalism.

— JTA

While warning Assad’s troops, Liberman says Israel ‘not ruling out’ future ties

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says any Syrian soldier who enters a demilitarized zone separation the Israeli and Syrian parts of the Golan “puts his life at risk.”

As Assad’s forces turn toward the Quneitra area abutting Israel, Damascus-linked troops have been seen entering the buffer zone area, set down in the 1974 separation of forces agreement between Israel and Syria.

Asked by a reporter accompanying his visit to the Golan if he could see a time when Israel and Syria have “some kind of relationship,” Liberman replies, “I reckon we are a long way from that, but we are not ruling out anything,” according to quotes carried by Reuters.

Germany bans Turkish-nationalist biker gang

Germany bans a Turkish-nationalist biker gang on allegations it is involved in organized crime and represents a threat to the general public.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says that searches were carried out in four states in conjunction with the ban on the Osmanen Germania BC club.

In addition to allegations the gang is involved in organized crime, German authorities say the group is believed to have ties to the party of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and has been involved in intimidation in Germany of his critics.

The Interior Ministry says the group, founded in 2015, has 16 chapters around the country.

— AP

IDF stops Palestinian boat attempting to break Gaza blockade

The Israeli Navy stops a Palestinian fishing boat that attempts to break through the naval blockade around the Gaza Strip and arrests eight people aboard, the IDF says.

The vessel was reportedly headed to Cyprus. A number of injured and handicapped people were on board, ostensibly so they could be taken to hospitals there.

“The vessel was stopped without incident,” the army says.

After a search, the boat was towed to the navy’s base at the Ashdod port.

IDF medics provided treatment to the injured people on board the vessel, the army says.

“This is the second time in two months that the Hamas terror group tried to cause a provocation at sea by taking advantage of injured and handicapped people and by paying residents of Gaza to take part in this kind of activity,” the army says.

Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent terrorist organizations from bringing weapons into the coastal enclave.

— Judah Ari Gross

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in Bezeq graft probe, calling suspicions ‘baseless’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denies suspicions that he promoted policies to benefit a media tycoon in exchange for favorable news coverage from the tycoon’s outlets, after he was questioned for over four hours at his residence by police interrogators as part of the Bezeq graft investigation.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has never made a deal with [Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul] Elovitz in exchange for sympathetic coverage,” a statement from Netanyahu’s family spokesman says.

The Bezeq probe, known as “Case 4000” by police, involves suspicions that Netanyahu, who served as communications minister for several years over his past two terms as prime minster, advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage of the Netanyahus from the Walla news site.

But Netanyahu claims on Tuesday that “Walla has consistently provided negative coverage of the prime minister.

“This negative coverage culminated in a flood of virulent articles on the eve of the 2015 elections, in an attempt to persuade the public to vote against him. This is exactly the period of time when he is accused of having allegedly made the Bezeq-Yes deal” that benefited Elovitch, he says.

Netanyahu also denies that he provided special treatment to Bezeq or Elovich. “The caim is baseless,” he says.

“There is not one case that was presented to the prime minister in which — as a minister of communications — he did not take the recommendations of the professional echelon. That’s what he did in this case as well.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Tourist brings unexploded World War II shell to Vienna airport

An American tourist brings an unexploded World War II shell to Vienna airport in her luggage, Austrian police says Tuesday.

The 24-year-old had found the bomb on Sunday while walking in the Dachstein mountains, according to police in Lower Austria state.

She kept the shell in her belongings as a souvenir and declared it to customs officers when she came to the airport on Monday, who immediately called the police.

A bomb disposal unit was called and in order to safely remove the device, the baggage hall and parts of the arrivals area were closed for around 15 minutes.

There was no danger to passengers and no delays as a result, according to police.

The tourist was charged with public endangerment through negligence and given a four-figure fine.

More than 70 years after World War II and a century after World War I, unexploded bombs still regularly turn up across Austria and Germany, often during construction work.

— AFP

Rivlin doubles down on criticism of discriminatory part of nation-state bill

Speaking at an event celebrating 50 years of the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, President Reuven Rivlin appeared to double down on his opposition to a much-criticized clause in the Jewish nation-state bill currently under consideration in the Knesset that would make it legal for small villages and towns to discriminate in accepting new residents based on ethnicity and religion.

He suggested the clause was unnecessary.

“In the Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish, State of Israel, we have proven that settlement flourishes everywhere, for every person, in that they are a person and a citizen in our state,” Rivlin says.

He praises the Israeli settlement movement for its establishment of communities throughout all of Israel and the West Bank.

— Jacob Magid

Hamas says it is invited to Cairo for talks

Hamas accepts an Egyptian invitation to visit Cairo for talks, the Islamist group’s top political body says in a statement.

The group’s politburo says the talks will cover “ongoing developments related to Palestinian and Arab affairs and bilateral ties,” without elaborating.

Egypt has previously hosted Hamas officials in Cairo to discuss efforts to achieve reconciliation with Fatah, a possible prisoner swap deal with Israel, and other issues, including ways to ease the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

The Hamas statement doesn’t say when the talks will take place.

— Adam Rasgon

Liu Xia, widow of Chinese Nobel laureate, arrives in Berlin

Liu Xia, the widow of dissident Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo who had been under de facto house arrest in China, arrives in Germany Tuesday, an AFP photographer says.

The 57-year-old poet, who left Beijing earlier in the day, arrives in Berlin on a Finnair flight from Helsinki, three days before the first anniversary of her husband’s death from liver cancer.

— AFP

FIFA says rescued Thai boys won’t attend World Cup final

MOSCOW, Russia — The soccer world’s governing body FIFA welcomes the rescue of 12 Thai boys from a cave, but says they are too weak to attend Sunday’s World Cup final in Moscow.

Elite foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs saved the final batch of four boys on Tuesday after an 18-day ordeal that captivated the world.

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino had invited the boys’ Wild Boars football team to the final “as our guests” last week.

But FIFA says it had been informed “that due to medical reasons, the boys will not be in a position to travel to Moscow.”

“FIFA’s priority remains the health of everyone involved in the operation and we will look into finding a new opportunity to invite the boys to a FIFA event to share with them a moment of communion and celebration,” a spokesman says.

— AFP

French Jewish family told to remove mezuzah outside apartment

The company that manages an apartment complex in France has ordered a Jewish family to remove a mezuzah from the doorframe.

The Foncière Bergé Corp. cited its regulations last week in a letter to the Saada family in Montpelier, in southern France, according to what appears to be a copy published on Twitter.

During a July 5 inspection of the company’s real estate, “a mezuzah was encountered on your doorframe,” Fabienne Nourigat of its rental department wrote to the family, in a letter dated July 6. “We remind you that no personal object may be presented in public areas and request you move the mezuzah inside your accommodation. Thank you for your understanding.”

The Eretz news website pointed out that apartments in the same building have doormats on the external side of the door and the occupants have not been requested to remove them.

— JTA

Some 40 Jewish groups in Germany call on government to confront anti-Semitism

Nearly 40 Jewish organizations in Germany call on the government to confront anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Jewish attacks in the country.

The open letter, which was signed Monday by such groups as the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Anti-Semitism, calls for Germany to adhere to the International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance’s definition of anti-Semitism and to take seriously the experiences of attack victims. It also calls for recognition that anti-Semitism is an “an attack on the inviolability of human dignity and on the foundations of the entire liberal democratic community.”

“Anti-Semitism cannot be successfully fought as a mere subcategory of racism,” the statement says. “Anti-Semitism, racism, and Islamophobia cannot be equated.”

The statement, written in German, also says that civil and religious groups that have requested or already receive public funding should only receive the funds if they have publicly distanced themselves from all forms of anti-Semitism, including Muslim organizations.

— JTA

Police officer indicted for assaulting settler teen at illegal outpost

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department indicts a police detective who allegedly assaulted a teen while evacuating an illegal outpost in the central West Bank.

Shlomi Nachman is charged with assault over the incident, which took place in December 2017.

According to the indictment, Nachman arrived at the Oz Zion outpost near the Beit El settlement with several other officers to enforce an order that declared the site a closed military zone.

When Nachman began reading reading out the military order to the complainant and another teen who were sitting inside an abandoned makeshift home on the hilltop, the boys began mocking him.

“Tell that to your grandmother,” the indictment quotes the complainant as taunting along with other “disrespectful insults.”

After Nachman finished reading the military order, he lost patience with the complainant and began beating him. The detective kneed the teen in the groin, punched him in the stomach and hurled him to the floor, inflicting a head injury.

— Jacob Magid

Netanyahu meets top Russian envoys ahead of Putin summit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets senior Russian officials ahead of his visit to Moscow, which begins tomorrow, for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the prime minister met with Putin’s special envoy Alexander Lavrentiev and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin to discuss “regional developments.”

Netanyahu’s national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat was in the meeting.

Netanyahu’s talks with Putin will center on Syria, with the Israeli leader expected to reiterate Israel’s position that it “will not tolerate a military presence by Iran or its proxies anywhere in Syria and that Syria must strictly abide by the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement,” according to the PMO.

Boy, 7, said kidnapped in dispute between two families in Arab town

A seven-year-old boy is believed kidnapped in an Arab town in northern Israel.

The boy was taken Tuesday afternoon, sparking a massive, helicopter-aided police manhunt for the kidnappers.

According to officials, the kidnapping is believed to be connected to a financial dispute between two families.

Officers say there is a real fear for the child’s wellbeing.

Likud mulls changing much-criticized discrimination clause in nation-state bill

Likud is reportedly discussing amending a much-criticized clause in the nation-state bill that would make it legal for small towns to discriminate in accepting new residents, a clause seen as advanced by the far-right, which is intended to allow Jewish-only towns in mixed areas of the country, such as the Galilee.

The clause, 7B in the latest version of the bill, was slammed by President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday in a rare criticism by the nation’s figurehead of a piece of pending legislation.

According to Hadashot television news, Likud is reportedly considering changing the text to a sentence that merely acknowledges the international community’s recognition of the right to Jewish settlement in the land “under Israel’s control” — a phrasing that the far-right sees as anchoring the right to Israeli settlement in the West Bank in a basic law.

14 dead in south Syria suicide car bomb claimed by IS

A suicide car bombing on Tuesday kills 14 newly reconciled fighters from pro-government and rebel ranks in an attack on a south Syrian village claimed by the Islamic State group.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the explosion hit Zaizun, a village in the western countryside of Daraa province which rebels agreed in recent days to hand over to regime control.

At least “14 regime and opposition fighters who recently reconciled were killed in a suicide car bomb attack targeting a military position in Zaizun,” says Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, giving an updated toll.

IS claims responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app, saying the car driven by a suicide bomber had been packed with explosives.

— AFP

Jewish candidate in NJ posts article calling blacks ‘a threat’

A Jewish candidate for a New Jersey congressional seat who posted an article saying that black people “are a threat to all who cross their paths” loses the support of the national Republican Party.

The National Republican Congressional Committee pulls its support for Atlantic City attorney Seth Grossman on Tuesday and calls for him to drop out of the race. A day earlier, the website Media Matters for America publishes a report saying that Grossman has promoted propaganda from White Nationalists on social media and in speeches.

Along with posting the article about black people, Grossman was recorded in June calling diversity “a bunch of crap and un-American.”

Media Matters reports that Grossman attempted to distance himself from his endorsement of the “threat” article, saying in an email to the website that he wants to help “take the Democratic training wheels off the black and Hispanic communities so they can succeed even more.”

“Bigotry has no place in society — let alone the U.S. House of Representatives,” Steve Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, says in a statement. “The NRCC withdraws our support of Seth Grossman and calls on him to reconsider his candidacy. The people of New Jersey’s 2nd District deserve an inclusive Republican candidate who will be a trusted conservative voice in Congress.”

In response to the report, Grossman responds in a tweet: “Bubba (Grandma) would say ‘Only in America!’ Where else can the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Russia be a ‘Nazi’? Or ‘White supremacist’ for sharing a post from a black guy (Allen West). ‘Anti-gay’ while …”

— JTA

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