Peretz walks back conversion therapy comment, calls practice ‘invalid and wrong’
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Peretz walks back conversion therapy comment, calls practice ‘invalid and wrong’

Education minister panned for saying he had recommended the dangerous treatment now tells school principals it is ‘invasive,’ ‘harmful,’ and can drive patients to suicide

Education Minister Rafi Peretz attends the opening of an ancient road at the City of David archaeological site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, June 30, 2019. (Flash90)
Education Minister Rafi Peretz attends the opening of an ancient road at the City of David archaeological site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, June 30, 2019. (Flash90)

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

Iran’s leader vows response to British ‘piracy’ over detained tanker

Iran’s top leader says his country will retaliate over the seizure of an Iranian tanker by British authorities.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls the seizure of the ship “piracy” in a televised speech Tuesday, saying: “God willing, the Islamic Republic and its committed forces will not leave this evil without a response.”

The Iranian supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, was seized with the help of British Royal Marines earlier this month off Gibraltar.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday that Britain will facilitate the release of the ship if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel will not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. Tensions have soared in the Persian Gulf over the past year as the Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a move that led Tehran to return last month to enriching uranium beyond the 3.67% allowed under the deal.

— AP

Two-thirds of massive underground anti-tunnel wall on Gaza border completed

Workers have completed some 40 kilometers (25 miles) of a massive underground wall along the Gaza border meant to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from tunneling into Israel, Israel’s Defense Ministry says.

The wall is slated to stretch 64 kilometers (40 miles) along the border, and includes sensors that can detect existing tunnels and digging operations in Gaza, the Walla news site reports.

Construction work on the subterranean barrier has already helped unearth 18 cross-border attack tunnels, most of them uncovered since 2017.

The wall will work in tandem with a 3.5-meter-high (11.5-foot-high) aboveground border fence now under construction. The new fence is much heavier and taller than the fence it is replacing, and so will be more difficult to cross, the IDF says.

Labor, Meretz, Barak look to unify, but no agreement yet

The heads of various left-wing parties are in a whirlwind of meetings in a bid to cobble together a left-wing bloc ahead of the September 17 elections.

Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz is slated to meet today with Labor party leader MK Amir Peretz and, separately, with Israel Democratic Party head Ehud Barak.

The meetings come amid swirling rumors about a union, especially between Meretz and Labor, but a Meretz officials tells reporters today: “There is no movement yet on uniting with Labor. The ball is in Amir Peretz’s court. He knows the polls and he has to make a decision.”

According to the Maariv website, a Meretz source says the party is eager to unite and avoid the risk of falling below the 3.25% electoral threshold.

Donors anxious over stalemate at Poland’s Jewish museum

WARSAW, Poland — A Jewish association says private donors to Poland’s renowned Jewish history museum have suspended their donations out of concern at the government’s failure to extend the term of its director.

A special commission in May approved Dariusz Stola for another five-year term, but Culture Minister Piotr Glinski has not yet officially reappointed him.

Glinski said recently it was because Stola had allegedly refused to make the museum available for a conference related to the ruling conservative party.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN is jointly managed and funded by a Jewish association, the city of Warsaw and the Culture Ministry.

Head of the association Piotr Wislicki says it is running smoothly under an acting director, but many donors, including in the United States, have suspended their contributions, concerned for its future.

— AP

Norway arrests Muslim cleric after Italian terror trial

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Muslim cleric found guilty in Italy of planning terror attacks is detained in Norway on an Italian arrest warrant, The Norwegian domestic security agency says.

Iraqi-born Mullah Krekar, born Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, was detained late Monday, the PST security agency says. The agency tweets hours after an Italian court found Krekar guilty of attempting to overthrow the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and create an Islamic caliphate, and sentenced him to 12 years.

Italian prosecutors had alleged Krekar, who is based in Norway, is behind Rawti Shax, a European network aimed at violently overthrowing the government in Kurdistan. Krekar, who has denied the allegations, plans to appeal, said his Italian lawyer, Marco Vernillo.

In 2015, European authorities arrested 15 Iraqi-Kurdish nationals on terrorism-related charges. Rawti Shax recruited foreign terrorist fighters to be sent to Iraq and Syria and provided logistical and financial support, according to the Italian prosecutors who spearheaded the probe. They alleged that Krekar was the leader.

A refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan who came to Norway in 1991, the 63-year-old cleric has several convictions in Norway, including for threatening Prime Minister Erna Solberg. He also praised the 2015 extremist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Krekar founded the now-defunct Ansar al-Islam insurgent group of Sunni Kurds that reportedly merged with the Islamic State group in 2014.

— AP

China calls Iran nuclear deal ‘irreplaceable’

China calls the Iran nuclear deal “irreplaceable” and the sole way to resolve the concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says that “the complete and effective implementation of the agreement is the only viable and effective way to settle the Iranian nuclear issue and ease tensions.”

He says that Iran’s commitment to the agreement should be dealt with by the joint commission that oversees it.

Geng also blames the United States for causing the current tensions — last year, the Trump administration pulled out of the deal and re-imposed economic sanctions on Tehran.

Geng says the US should stop exerting pressure on Iran and create the conditions for a political and diplomatic settlement of the issue.

— AP

Khamenei: Iran will ‘certainly continue’ to violate nuclear commitments

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says his country will “certainly continue” to roll back on its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

“You did not carry out a single one (of your commitments), why do you want us to stick to our commitments?” Khamenei says, criticizing European countries which are party to the deal.

“We have just started to decrease our commitments (in the deal) and this process will certainly continue,” he says in a speech in Tehran partly aired on state television.

— AFP

British Jewish leader slams ‘appalling’ Trump tweets

The head of the top body of British Jews, the Board of Deputies, slams US President Donald Trump’s racist tweets over the past two days.

Trump had lashed out at progressive women members of Congress, urging four of them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the four were born in the US.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl says in a statement: “These are appalling and unjustifiable comments. Whatever one’s political disagreements, telling people to ‘go back home to where they came from’ can never be the right response. It is also wrong to drag Israel in to these undignified tirades.”

Trump repeatedly slammed the congresswomen for their “hate” toward Israel.

Barak to unveil plan to ‘set Israel’s borders within two years’

Israel Democracy Party leader and former prime minister Ehud Barak will unveil his plan “to set Israel’s borders within two years” this evening, he says.

The plan follows a party commitment to set the “permanent borders” of the State of Israel within two years of the establishment of the government.

“Just as Barak promised to remove Israel from the Lebanese quagmire within a year, and so he did, so will we keep this commitment,” the IDP says in a statement.

Barak will reveal details of his plan in a press conference on the outskirts of the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel, “the place where the Israel Democratic Party is committed to determining the borders of the State of Israel after the elections,” the party adds.

— Raoul Wootliff

Israeli NGO seeks sale of seized Iranian tanker over 2014 terror attack

An Israeli NGO says it is petitioning Gibraltar’s top court to sell an impounded Iranian oil tanker to compensate parents of a child killed by Iran-funded Hamas.

Shurat Hadin, which wages legal battles worldwide against terror groups, won a $178.5 million US court judgement against Iran and Syria in 2017 over the death of an American infant killed in an attack in Jerusalem.

The Iranian tanker Grace I, capable of carrying two million barrels of oil, was seized on July 4 by police and customs officers in Gibraltar — a British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip — with the aid of a detachment of British Royal Marines. US officials believe the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate EU and US sanctions.

Shurat Hadin founder Nitzana Darshan-Leitner tells AFP that the vessel’s sale, if ordered by the Gibraltar Supreme Court, would not raise more than a fraction of the District of Columbia District Court’s award, but it could pave the way for the seizure of other Iranian assets.

She says the petition should be filed with the court today, but she does not know when or even if it would hold a hearing. “Anything can happen,” she says.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, seeking to ease tensions with Iran, said Saturday that the tanker would be released if Tehran guaranteed it was not bound for Syria.

In October 2014, Palestinian Abdelrahman Shaludi drove a car into two groups of pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun and a young woman. He then leapt out of the vehicle and attacked passers-by with an iron bar until police shot him dead. Hamas hailed the attack in a statement, calling Shaludi one of its “hero-martyrs.”

— AFP

Authorities checking if Gaza-area brushfire caused by incendiary balloon

A brushfire is burning in the Sdot Negev Regional Council area near the Gaza border.

Firefighters are fighting the blaze.

There is no immediate information on whether the fire was caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza.

Liberal Israel group says Trump ‘cannot be a friend of Israel’

After US President Donald Trump lashed out at minority women members of Congress in a series of racist tweets urging them to “go back” where they “came from,” the head of liberal advocacy group the New Israel Fund slams the president for “sowing fear and mistrust” and using Israel to “deflect criticism of his bigotry.”

“Trump has done his best to deflect criticism of his bigotry by calling himself a defender of Israel,” says NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch in a statement. “But when Trump wields racist tropes, he has no standing to call himself a friend of Israel. Because an enemy of democracy cannot be a friend of Israel.”

The statement reads: “Democracy is measured by the protections afforded to minorities. The greatness of the United States comes when we welcome the newcomer, and expand the scope of freedoms for all. President Donald Trump understands none of this. His is a narrow and exclusive vision, rooted in sowing fear and mistrust. His hateful rhetoric is corrosive to our democracy.

“NIF fights every day for an Israel that is accountable to the vision of its founding. We fight for Israel’s healthy democracy: one that protects minority rights, and cares for immigrants and refugees seeking better lives within its borders. Standing with the people of Israel, like standing with the people of the United States, means standing with all people regardless of race, religion or national origin.”

Health officials warn of massive heat wave tomorrow

Health officials are warning Israelis of a scalding heat wave set to hit the country tomorrow.

Temperatures in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are expected to hit 38° Celsius (100° Fahrenheit), compared to about 28°C (82°F) yesterday. Haifa will see temperatures of 35°C (95°F), and Beersheba 41°C (106°F).

The Health Ministry urges vulnerable populations, including the elderly, those with certain chronic illnesses, pregnant women and children to avoid exposure to the sun and drink large quantities of water.

Israel’s gay justice minister slams Luxembourg’s gay PM after boycott

Israel’s openly gay justice minister, Amir Ohana of Likud, takes Luxembourg’s prime minister to task for boycotting a farewell dinner yesterday for the Israeli ambassador to protest comments by Israel’s education minister over the weekend in support of the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy” for gays.

“Honorable Prime Minister of Luxembourg, @Xavier_Bettel,” Ohana writes in an English-language Twitter post, “Yesterday, you boycotted an Israeli event due to an inappropriate comment made by an Israeli minister regarding conversion therapy. That comment was denounced and strongly condemned by many, including PM @netanyahu.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) holds a press conference with Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel at the Prime Minister’s Office, in Jerusalem on September 12, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Ohana then posts a photo of Bettel shaking hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, and asks: “With your permission, I have a question: when you shook hands with @Zarif – were you aware of how conversion therapy looks like in the Islamic Republic of Iran? Sincerely, Amir Ohana, Israel’s Minister of Justice (and openly gay, btw).”

Ohana attaches a screenshot of a news report in which Zarif defends Iran’s death penalty for homosexuals.

In an interview with Education Minister Rafi Peretz of the right-wing religious Jewish Home party aired on Israeli television on Saturday, Peretz said he had referred religious homosexuals to undertake the “therapy,” which is viewed by psychologists as dangerous and harmful to the mental health of individuals who undergo it.

Police nab man, 26, suspected of pedophilia and assault of 60 girls

A 26-year-old Haredi man from the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel is under arrest on suspicion of obtaining sexually explicit materials from young girls, extorting them and in some cases assaulting them.

As many as 60 girls were caught up in the man’s alleged crimes, police say, identifying him as Oriya Eliyahu Asis.

He is remanded today for eight more days, with the court ordering he be sent for psychiatric evaluation.

According to a Channel 12 report, Asis allegedly contacted girls online using fake identities, became friendly with them and convinced them to send him sexually explicit photos. In some cases, he then extorted them to continue sending photos and even to meet him by threatening to publicize the intimate materials.

Police say there is evidence that at least in one instance in February, he met with two of the girls and allegedly sexually assaulted them.

Israeli woman held in Georgia for stealing sunglasses is released

A Georgian court releases an Israeli woman indicted 11 days ago for stealing a pair of sunglasses from an airport duty-free shop in the resort town of Batumi.

The woman was detained after boarding an Israir flight to Tel Aviv on July 1. Shortly before her plane was to depart, a duty-free shop salesman noticed the suspect allegedly snatching the merchandise worth $135 on a security camera. He then called airport police who boarded the plane and removed the passenger, delaying the flight for nearly two hours in the process.

She was held under house arrest in a hotel and faced charges with a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison.

She confessed to the theft and apologized. The court fines her $337 and releases her with a suspended sentence.

Channel 12 says she has landed back in Israel, ending a saga that made Israel’s primetime news in recent days.

Prosecutors struggle with case in which preteen boys raped 11-year-old girl

Prosecutors are said to be unsure how to proceed with an unusual rape case in which four boys, ages 11 to 13, are suspected of raping an 11-year-old girl.

The incident took place three months ago. The boys filmed their assault and shared it with friends, according to police. In the videos, the boys can be seen holding the girl at knifepoint as they rape her.

One of the videos from the attack reached the girl’s father, who turned to police.

Police summoned the boys, who were interrogated by specially trained youth officers, and handed its evidence to the state prosecution.

The case is sensitive because of special laws protecting children suspected of serious crimes.

In an interview earlier today with Army Radio, the girl’s father says his family is now being threatened by one of the suspects’ brothers. “While they walk free we get a phone call from one of the boy’s brothers threatening to hurt my family, my wife and kids, to throw a grenade at our house,” the father says.

Choking up, he tells the radio station the videos show “three youths that one after another commit sexual assault, rape and threatening with a knife.”

He says his daughter “still feels that she’s at fault. We’re trying to tell her it wasn’t her fault. She’s in post-trauma. Social services don’t want to release her home yet, as if she was attacked in our home. But nothing at all is being done to those boys.”

The girl’s identity and city of residence are being withheld to protect her privacy.

Teenager who was seriously injured by Gaza rocket as a baby joins elite IDF unit

A teenager who as a baby was seriously wounded in a rocket strike from Gaza is accepted to the Israeli army’s elite naval commando unit, the IDF’s counterpart to the US Navy’s SEALs.

The recruit to Shayetet 13 overcame a crippling disability as a result of sustaining 147 shrapnel injuries to his body at the age of 16 months in 2002, when a Qassam rocket from Gaza exploded in his backyard in Sderot. News reports from that incident identify him as Shilo Naamat.

One of the oldest and most prestigious units in the Israel Defense Forces, Shayetet 13 is considered among the best special forces outfits in the world. In 2017, it held a joint training with the Navy SEALs.

Shayetet 13 has participated in some of the Israeli army’s most daring operations, including the transport of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan in the 1980s. It is often employed against Hamas in Gaza.

Troops from the IDF’s Shayetet 13 naval commando force training in 2017. (Israel Defense Forces/via JTA)

The handful of recruits accepted each year to Shayetet 13 are subjected to a series of grueling selection camps that most applicants do not pass.

“I simply decided I can do it,” Naamat says of his road to recovery and the decision to enlist in Shayetet 13. “I hope to inspire youth from Sderot, to show that despite what we’ve experienced, we can grow and make dreams come true,” the Ynet website quotes him as saying. He often has indistinct nightmares about sirens, but remembers nothing from the injury, he says.

— JTA

US ‘has suspicions’ Iran seized missing UAE tanker

A US defense official tells The Associated Press that Washington “has suspicions” that Iran seized an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates that turned off its tracker over two days ago in the Strait of Hormuz and has gone missing amid rising tensions in the region between the US and Iran.

The official says that the MT Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guard base on it.

The official says: “Could it have broken down or been towed for assistance? That’s a possibility. But the longer there is a period of no contact, it’s going to be a concern.”

The official says that the boat had yet to contact its owners or UAE authorities.

Iranian officials have threatened to respond to the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar over suspicions it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of sanctions.

— AP

Veteran Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich announces ‘time out’ from politics

Veteran Labor Party lawmaker MK Shelly Yachimovich says she’s taking “time out from politics” and will sit out the 22nd Knesset.

“I love the Knesset, but I’m tired of this too-long political season, which has grown poisonous,” she says on Twitter.

“It’s filled me with a feeling of despondency and fecklessness. I was once filled with the strength to get through these sorts of crises, but that’s not true today.”

Yachimovich, 59, a former Labor Party leader between 2011 and 2013, has been an outspoken voice for social-democratic economic policies.

She entered politics in 2005 after a successful career as a radio and television journalist.

Facing censure, Trump insists ‘not a racist bone in my body’

WASHINGTON — Defiant in the face of widespread censure, US President Donald Trump insists his tweets suggesting four Democratic congresswomen of color return to the countries they “came from” — even when three of the four were born in the US — “were NOT Racist,” and he appeals to fellow Republicans to “not show weakness” and to resist a House resolution condemning his words.

“I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” Trump exclaims on Twitter, a day after declaring that “many people agree” with his assessment of the four freshman lawmakers.

“Those Tweets were NOT Racist,” Trump writes amid a continued backlash to his weekend tweets that progressive women “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries. The tweets, which have been widely denounced as racist, were directed at Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are American citizens, and three of the four were born in the US.

Trump alleges again that the women, who strongly oppose his policies and comments, in reality “hate our Country.”

The four lawmakers fired back late Monday, condemning what they called “xenophobic bigoted remarks” and renewing calls for Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings.

The episode served notice that Trump is willing to again rely on incendiary rhetoric on issues of race and immigration to preserve his political base in the leadup to the 2020 election. He shrugged off the criticism. “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “A lot of people love it, by the way.”

At the Capitol, there was near unanimous condemnation from Democrats and a rumble of discontent from a subset of Republicans, but notably not from the party’s congressional leaders.

— AP

Zionist women’s group Hadassah elects new president

Rhoda Smolow is officially elected national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., the group announces.

The new president, the organization’s 27th in its 107 years, will lead over 300,000 members, associates and supporters through the beginning of Hadassah’s second century as the world’s largest women’s Zionist organization, says a statement.

Rhoda Smolow of the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization. (Courtesy of Hadassah/via JTA)

The announcement follows Hadassah’s convention at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel.

Smolow, who has been with Hadassah for 39 years and served as the group’s national secretary before becoming its president, will oversee Hadassah’s continued efforts and initiatives in support of Israel, public advocacy on women’s health, leadership training for women, and support for the organization’s two Jerusalem-based hospitals, the statement says.

Outgoing National President Ellen Hershkin, whose term ends December 31, 2019, has led the organization since 2016.

— JTA

ADL protests Christians-only policy at US government-funded adoption agency

The Anti-Defamation League condemns what it calls government-sanctioned discriminatory practices at an evangelical adoption agency in North Carolina that enjoys government funding.

The ADL addressed the practices of Miracle Hill Ministries in a paper it sent last month to the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor ahead of a June 25 committee hearing about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The foster agency, which accepts only Christian employees and prospective foster parents, “is permitted to broadly discriminate against otherwise qualified, prospective foster parents because a person follows a non-Christian faith,” ADL’s national religious freedom counsel, David Barkey, and three other ADL representatives wrote to Bobby Scott.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Health and Human Services invoked the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to grant “a waiver to South Carolina from federal regulations prohibiting religious discrimination by federally funded, faith-based foster care agencies,” the letter said. This was a misuse of the Act, the cosignatories added.

Miracle Hill “has a record of discrimination,” and “last year it rejected a woman, who had been a foster parent in Florida, as a volunteer mentor for foster children under its care” and “another Jewish woman and a Catholic woman alleged that Miracle Hill rejected them as foster parents because of their faith,” the letter said.

Miracle Hill recently was forced to accept Catholics following a lawsuit, HuffPost reported Friday. Miracle Hill has countered discrimination allegations by stating that it would refer non-Christians and others it won’t service to foster agencies that would.

— JTA

Saudi Hebrew scholar says ‘extremist’ Jews use blood to make matzah

A Hebrew scholar working in Saudi Arabia tells an Egyptian public broadcaster that some Jews use blood to make matzahs for Passover.

Fouad AbdelWahed, a professor at King Saud University, makes the remark during an interview for the show “Blue Line” on Egypt’s Channel 2, part of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union, the Middle East Media Research Institute reports.

Asked where the blood comes from, he said: “By Allah, I don’t know where they get the blood from.” He also said that only “extremist” Jews do this, and that consuming human blood is unhealthy.

The anti-Semitic trope that Jews use blood for preparing matzah was common in Europe in the Middle Ages and has inspired countless blood libels, which at times led to violence.

— JTA

Pink defends photo of her kids running at Holocaust memorial

The pop singer Pink defends posting a photo of her children running at Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.

The Jewish pop singer, whose real name is Alecia Beth Moore, shared photos on Instagram Sunday from her trip to the German capital. One of the images in a post captioned, “Berlin, I love you” that showed her two young children running at the memorial.

The singer Pink attends The BRIT Awards 2019 held at The O2 Arena in London, February 20, 2019. (Mike Marsland/WireImage via Getty Images/via JTA)

“[F]or all of the comments; these two children are in actuality Jewish, as am I and the entirety of my mothers family,” she wrote as part of the post. “The very person who constructed this believed in children being children, and to me this is a celebration of life after death. Please keep your hatred and judgment to yourselves.”

That didn’t stop some from criticizing her, saying she was making light of the memorial to the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis. In response, the singer disabled comments on her posts on Monday.

— JTA

Minister says he didn’t mean to hurt Diaspora Jews with Holocaust comment

Here is a letter sent by Education Minister Rafi Peretz to Jewish Agency Chair Isaac Herzog in which he expresses remorse for comparing intermarriage among American Jews with the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, remarks I made in the Cabinet meeting two weeks ago, a meeting which dealt with Diaspora Jewry, were leaked.

In my remarks I described how worried I am about the future of the Jewish people, particularly in light of the increasing rate of assimilation among Diaspora Jewry, a phenomenon over which I am losing sleep.

Out of deep concern for the fate of the Jewish people, I made use of the word ‘Shoah,’ an expression which was meant to express the depths of my agony, and probably was not proper.

It goes without saying that I had no intention of insulting a single person among Diaspora Jewry.

As one who has always championed Ahavat Yisrael – love of Israel – it is important for me to clarify that I respect and cherish the entire Jewish people in Israel and in the Diaspora.

In this context I would be happy to work together with you to deepen the education for Jewish identity.

Peretz had said in a Cabinet meeting on July 1 that the rate of intermarriage among US Jews is “like a second Holocaust.”

Pelosi says Democrats take offense for ‘our sisters’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democrats are offended by what President Donald Trump has said “about our sisters.”

That’s what the California Democrat tells colleagues at a closed-door meeting. Their gathering comes hours before a planned House vote condemning Trump’s “racist” tweets saying four congresswomen of color should return to their native countries. In fact, all are American.

Pelosi says the House resolution is about “who we are as a people” and recognizes “the unacceptability of what his goals were.”

Republican leaders oppose the resolution.

Pelosi’s defense of the congresswomen comes as she and the four freshmen have feuded over their opposition to bipartisan border legislation the four felt left the Trump administration’s treatment of migrants too unconstrained.

— AP

Candidate to head Pentagon argues for diplomatic approach to Iran

WASHINGTON — Army Secretary Mark Esper, US President Donald Trump’s nominee to become secretary of defense, tells his Senate confirmation hearing that the United States should pursue diplomatic solutions to its differences with Iran and avoid war.

Esper tells the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I agree we do not want war with Iran. We are not seeking war with Iran. We need to get back on the diplomatic channel.”

Esper says the administration plans to brief lawmakers soon on a plan for working with other countries to more closely monitor commercial shipping in and around the Persian Gulf. He says this plan, which he calls “Operation Sentinel,” is intended to deter Iran from impeding navigation in the Gulf and avoid Iranian miscalculations.

Testifying a day after Trump submitted his nomination to the Senate, Esper faced a mostly friendly series of questions from members of the Armed Services Committee. The Republican-led Senate is expected to attempt to get Esper confirmed as early as Thursday, ending seven months of leadership uncertainty at the Pentagon. There has been no Senate-confirmed defense secretary since Jim Mattis left last New Year’s Eve.

Mattis quit after a series of policy disputes with Trump, including the president’s announcement in December that he would withdraw all US troops from Syria — a move he never executed.

— AP

Cop who killed Solomon Tekah suspended for 30 days

The police officer who shot and killed 19-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Tekah on June 30 has been placed on suspension for 30 days, the Justice Ministry tells Tekah’s family.

The officer faces reckless homicide charges in the case that sparked nationwide riots and highlighted longstanding complaints by the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel over systemic discrimination and over-policing.

Tekah’s family earlier today demanded to see the evidence in the case against the officer, a day after the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, an outside agency tasked with investigating police officers, said it had completed its investigation of the shooting and handed the case over to the state attorney’s office, which will decide whether to indict the officer.

Task force created to deal with complaints of cop violence in Ethiopian-Israeli community

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Israel Police Interim Commissioner Motti Cohen established a joint task force of the Justice Ministry and police to deal with complaints of police violence in the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

The task force is charged with increasing the efficiency and speed with which complaints against cops are handled — and comes after a series of consultations by top officials following nationwide protests over the killing on June 30 of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah by an off-duty cop.

Stun grenade thrown on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall

A stun grenade explodes on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall. No injuries and damage are caused in the incident.

The police say the incident appears to be criminal and have launched an investigation.

Palestinians protest Lebanon crackdown on unlicensed foreign workers

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A couple of hundred Palestinian refugees are protesting in the streets of Beirut against Lebanon’s labor ministry cracking down on businesses employing foreign workers without a permit. They and dozens of demonstrators in Palestinian refugee camps in the capital, as well as the south and east of the country, denounce the move as “unfair.”

Last month, the ministry gave companies a one-month deadline to acquire the necessary work permits. After the grace period expired last week, it started inspections, closing down non-compliant establishments and issuing others with warnings.

Critics say the measure essentially targets Syrians who have fled the war next door, but Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon for many decades, most of them born in the country, also fear they will be hit.

Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman denied the inspections had overwhelmingly affected Palestinians. “Of the 550 violations registered since last Wednesday, only two concerned large companies owned by Palestinians,” he says. “The Palestinian reaction is incomprehensible.”

The Palestinian ambassador in Beirut, Ashraf Dabbour, on Monday called on the Lebanese government to exempt Palestinians from these measures. The Palestinian terror group Hamas called for “the immediate end to all closures.”

Around 174,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 camps across the country, a one-off government census said in 2017. In 2010, Lebanon’s parliament revoked a ban that had barred them from dozens of professions for years, restricting them to jobs in fields such as construction and farming. But Palestinians are still not permitted to work in professions reserved for Lebanese citizens such as medicine, law, the army, and police.

— AFP

Mother of fallen soldier held in Gaza slams PM for ‘five years of doing nothing’

Leah Goldin, the mother of fallen IDF soldier Hadar Goldin whose body is being held by Hamas in Gaza, walks out of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tonight, reportedly in tears.

“Why did you suddenly remember us now, after five years of doing nothing?” Goldin berates Netanyahu at the meeting, in comments reported by Channel 12 news.

Netanyahu reportedly urges the families to travel to the UN to testify against Hamas.

“We don’t need to go to New York, as you suggested,” Goldin is quoted as saying. “We’ve already done that ourselves two years ago, and very successfully.”

Netanyahu met tonight with the families of deceased IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and of Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. Goldin and Shaul were snatched by Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. Mengistu and al-Sayed both crossed into Gaza of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively, with their families saying they suffer from mental illness.

The families of those held in Gaza have in the past accused the government of not doing enough to secure the release of their loved ones or bring their remains home.

Netanyahu’s office says in response that the prime minister is “continuing to work in every way possible” to return the captives and fallen soldiers’ bodies home, saying he invited the families to his office today to discuss a proposal for a new discussion at the UN, to be led by the US.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu understands the pain of the families and will continue to do everything possible to bring the boys home,” his office says.

Channel 12 poll shows Liberman still holds the key to Netanyahu’s next coalition

A Channel 12 election poll shows a neck-and-neck race between Likud and Blue and White — and to Netanyahu’s boundless frustration, the deciding vote is in the hands of Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party.

The poll’s numbers, if the election is held today:

Likud – 31
Blue and White – 30
Arab parties, if they unite – 11
Yisrael Beytenu – 10
United Torah Judaism – 8
Shas – 7
Labor – 6
New Right – 5
Union of Right-wing Parties – 4
Meretz – 4
Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party – 4
Zehut – 0 (at 1.7% of votes, it falls under the 3.25% electoral threshold)

That puts a comfortable right-wing coalition (Likud, UTJ, Shas, New Right, URWP) at 55 seats, not a majority in the 120-seat Knesset — and hands Yisrael Beytenu the 10-seat swing vote.

Netanyahu and Liberman are bitter rivals after the latter’s demands on religion-and-state issues robbed Netanyahu of a coalition following the April 9 election.

Channel 12 also looked at the effect of a unified left-wing bloc of Labor, Israel Democratic Party and Meretz. The union took 15 seats, more than the 14 the parties garnered separately — and cost Blue and White two seats, dropping the larger centrist party to 28. Likud was unchanged at 31.

A union on the far-right would also have an effect. If Ayelet Shaked, the popular former justice minister, were to lead the URWP in a joint list with New Right, the combined faction would draw 12 seats, three more than the two parties separately — and rob Likud of three, driving it down to 28.

Trump says US not seeking ‘regime change’ in Iran

US President Donald Trump says the United States is not pushing to topple Iran’s leadership but is determined to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons.

“We are not looking for regime change. We are not looking for that at all,” Trump says during a cabinet meeting. “They can’t have a nuclear weapon.”

The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions. Iran said last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.

Tensions have soared since Trump pulled out of the deal, with the US calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic Republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.

— AFP

Jeffrey Epstein accuser urges more victims to speak out

NEW YORK — One of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers is urging victims to speak out against the wealthy financier as authorities prosecute him on sex charges.

Courtney Wild tells reporters that Epstein “will never stop sexually abusing children until he is in jail.”

Wild’s remarks come a day after she urged a federal judge to deny Epstein bail.

Wild says Epstein started sexually abusing her when she was 14 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Courtney Wild, left, joined by her attorney Brad Edwards, leaves after reading a statement at a news conference calling on victims of Jeffrey Epstein to contact the FBI or lawyers with their information, July 16, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and sex trafficking charges brought by the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Wild’s accusations are not part of that indictment.

Epstein’s attorneys have argued that the new charges should not have been filed because he signed a non-prosecution agreement with the US Attorney’s Office in Miami years ago.

— AP

Portugal suspends visas to Iranians for unspecified ‘security reasons’

LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s foreign minister says his country has temporarily stopped granting visas to Iranians “for security reasons.”

Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva tells a Portuguese parliament committee about the decision but declines to elaborate on the rationale for it. He says he would provide details privately to lawmakers on the committee.

Portugal has long had diplomatic relations with Iran, though trade and ties are minor compared with other European Union countries.

Online newspaper Observador reports that national news agency Lusa quoted Santos Silva saying, “Portugal doesn’t take lightly who it lets into the country.”

— AP

Trump says US won’t sell fighter jets to Turkey

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump says the US is not going to sell F-35 fighter jets to Turkey after Ankara decided to buy a missile defense system from Russia.

The Trump administration has repeatedly told Turkey that it will be cut off from buying F-35s if it buys the S-400 Russian air defense system because it’s incompatible with NATO defenses and could jeopardize sensitive information about F-35 technologies. Turkey is a member of NATO.

Trump blamed the Obama administration for never reaching a deal to sell an American missile defense system to Turkey.

At a White House cabinet meeting, he says Turkey had ordered more than 100 F-35s but because it bought a Russian missile system, the US can’t sell it billions of dollars’ worth of aircraft.

— AP

Hamas leader meets Russia’s deputy FM, who urges intra-Palestinian unity

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov meets with a Hamas delegation in Moscow, the Russian embassy in Israel says.

Bogdanov meets with Hamas politburo member Musa Abu Marzouk, and the two “exchanged views on Israeli-Palestinian settlement.”

The statement declares: “There is no alternative to a political solution to the Palestinian problem on the existing legal basis,” and says the two “also discussed efforts to restore intra-Palestinian unity. The Russian side reaffirmed its readiness to provide the Palestinians with the necessary assistance in order to achieve national consensus.”

Peretz walks back conversion therapy comment, calls practice ‘invalid and wrong’

Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who has been widely panned in recent days after backing the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy” for gays in a Saturday television interview, says in a letter to school principals that he was misunderstood, has “never” recommended the treatment to religious homosexuals who sought his advice, and believes it is “invalid and wrong.”

“During my years as an educator I was approached on several occasions about issues of sexual preference. I always listened carefully to the challenges brought before me and sometimes urged consultations with professionals,” Peretz says in the letter.

“I know conversion therapy is invalid and wrong. This is my unequivocal position. I understand that this is an invasive treatment that is harmful to the human psyche, causes those treated with it more suffering than relief and can even put people’s lives in jeopardy and lead to suicidal tendencies.”

He adds, “I never…suggested conversion therapy, which I oppose utterly.”

Baby dies after being hit by car in southern Bedouin town

A one-year-old girl is pronounced dead after being hit by a car in the southern Bedouin town of Rahat.

The baby was rushed to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba in critical condition a short time ago, but doctors were unable to save her.

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