Netanyahu heard telling supporters he convinced Trump to exit Iran deal
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Netanyahu heard telling supporters he convinced Trump to exit Iran deal

Recording surfaces of prime minister boasting to party members that he 'didn't give up' trying to persuade US president to leave accord

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US President Donald Trump shake hands at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US President Donald Trump shake hands at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
  • IDF soldiers take part in an exercise simulating warfare in the Gaza Strip in July 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF soldiers take part in an exercise simulating warfare in the Gaza Strip in July 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKI)
    US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKI)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the Knesset on October 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the Knesset on October 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
  • Illustrative: Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
    Illustrative: Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with his military secretary, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, right, on his way to a visit in the Etzion bloc in the West Bank on November 23, 2015, following a spate of terror attacks in the area. (Haim Zach/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with his military secretary, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, right, on his way to a visit in the Etzion bloc in the West Bank on November 23, 2015, following a spate of terror attacks in the area. (Haim Zach/GPO)
  • Palestinian trucks seen at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza from Israel, July 9, 2018 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
    Palestinian trucks seen at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza from Israel, July 9, 2018 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
  • A man inspects where a fire balloon landed in the playground of kindergarten in the Sdot Negev Regional Council on July 17, 2018. (screen capture: Channel 10)
    A man inspects where a fire balloon landed in the playground of kindergarten in the Sdot Negev Regional Council on July 17, 2018. (screen capture: Channel 10)

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

Palestinian said shot in Gaza border protests dies of wounds

A Palestinian shot in clashes with Israeli forces on the Gaza border several days ago succumbed to his wounds, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

Sari al-Shobaki had been transferred to Jerusalem for treatment after being shot several days ago east of Gaza City, a ministry spokesman says.

He says the the 23-year-old died at the St Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem.

There was no immediate confirmation from the hospital.

— with AFP

Syria rescue group says 10 killed in airstrike on shelter near Israeli border

A Syrian search and rescue team says at least 10 civilians were killed in a Russian airstrike on a school serving as a shelter in southwest Syria, near the Israeli frontier.

Khaled Solh of the Syrian Civil Defense says the school building in the village of Ain el-Tineh was being used to shelter families who have been forced to flee their homes amid the fighting.

Russia is supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces to recapture territory from rebels in southwest Syria.

Moaz al-Assaad, a photographer at the scene, says he counted at least 20 wounded, including children.

The International Rescue Committee says the government’s advance has trapped tens of thousands of displaced Syrians along the Golan Heights.

— AP

German prosecutors appeal verdict in neo-Nazi trial

German prosecutors are appealing the verdict against a neo-Nazi whose 2 ½-year sentence for supporting a terrorist organization prompted anger last week.

Spokeswoman Frauke Koehler says that federal prosecutors are only appealing the verdict against Andre Eminger, not that of his four co-defendants.

Koehler says details of the appeal would follow once the court issues a written explanation for last Wednesday’s verdicts in the high-profile trial centering on the National Socialist Underground group that targeted immigrants.

Lawyers for the group’s only surviving member, Beate Zschaepe, are also appealing her life sentence for 10 killings, two bombings and more than a dozen robberies.

Families of the victims expressed anger that Eminger, who for years provided the group with identity documents and vehicles, wasn’t convicted as an accessory to murder.

— AP

Knesset passes bill granting PM tax exemptions

The Knesset passes legislation that will exempt the prime minister from paying taxes on certain assets, effectively raising his yearly take-home pay by up to NIS 200,000 ($55,000).

The legislation, authored by Likud MK Miki Zohar, who is considered a loyalist to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, provides the premier with “a tax exemption for payments, services and gifts given to him in the framework of his job, excluding his salary,” according to the text of the bill.

Specifically, the law will exempt the premier from taxes on his state-issued car and on utility bills paid by the state at his personal home.

— Raoul Wootliff

3 Israelis arrested for hate crime at Palestinian village

Police say three Israelis have been arrested on suspicion of carrying out a hate crime attack in the Palestinian village of Husan near the Beitar Illit settlement.

Surveillance camera footage from the June 1 incident documented unidentified vandals puncturing tires and spray-painting a number of buildings in the West Bank village.

Local residents found the words “Jews do not keep silent” and “Husan breeds stone-throwers” painted on a warehouse and several homes.

Two of the suspects have had their remand extended until tomorrow, while the third will be brought before a judge later today.

— Jacob Magid

Body of drowned man found in Yarkon River, near Baptist Village

The body of drowned man was found in the Yarkon River near the Baptist Village in Petah Tikva.

Magen David Adom paramedics declared the man, who appeared to be in his 30s, dead at the scene.

Iran lodges complaint against US over renewed sanctions

Iran has lodged a complaint with the International Court of Justice against the United States’ reimposition of sanctions, the foreign ministry says.

The complaint was registered yesterday, spokesman Bahram Ghasemi says on the ministry’s website.

The goal is “to hold (the) US accountable for its unlawful re-imposition of unilateral sanctions,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posts on Twitter.

“Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of US contempt for diplomacy and legal obligations. It’s imperative to counter its habit of violating (international) law,” he adds.

The complaint came in response to Washington’s decision in May to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

— AFP

Lawmakers strip High Court’s power to adjudicate West Bank land disputes

Knesset lawmakers vote to approve a bill stripping the High Court of Justice of its jurisdiction to hear cases regarding land disputes in the West Bank.

The bill requires Palestinians who claim ownership of land that has been built on by Israeli settlers to first petition the Jerusalem District Court.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who introduced the bill, praises the bill’s passing, saying “the party of petitions filed to the High court by Palestinians extreme leftists” will come to an end.

Critics say the legislation promotes the annexation of the West Bank, and limits Palestinians’ access to the judicial system.

After Gaza flareup, Netanyahu tells soldiers Israel ‘in battle’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is “in battle,” following a violent flareup in Gaza with the Hamas terror group over the weekend.

I’ve seen the steel wall of our military, we are in battle,” he tells troops while visiting an IDF base in southern Israel. “There has been an exchange of blows, and I can tell you that the IDF is prepared for every scenario.”

“I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen here, and I know that like me, all Israeli citizens believe in the IDF, and will support it regardless of any possible development,” he adds.

Over the weekend, Hamas fired some 200 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel and the IDF carried out multiple strikes inside the Palestinian enclave.

On Saturday night, a ceasefire of sorts was brokered by Egypt and other international bodies, though Israel was not directly involved in the talks. The violence has abated to some degree, but tensions endured and cross-border attacks continued.

Liberman denies Israel’s Gaza policies politically motivated

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman denies claims that Israel’s military and civil policies toward the Gaza Strip are motivated by political considerations.

“We have heard a lot of talk yesterday, today, two days ago, about the security policies of the Israeli government. So first of all, it should be clarified that security policies cannot be a response to political or media pressure. We are acting forcefully and wisely,” Liberman says, during a visit to the IDF’s Gaza Division.

“What is needed today is a cool head and nerves of steel, not a stopwatch and media hysteria. We are doing what is necessary to do, and the IDF is prepared for every eventuality,” the defense minister adds.

— Judah Ari Gross

Israel strikes Gazans launching incendiary balloons

An Israeli drone conducts an airstrike near a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons into Israeli territory from the northern Gaza Strip, injuring two of them, according to the Hamas-linked Shehab news outlet.

The Israeli military confirms that one of its aircraft carried out the strike.

According to Shehab, the balloon launchers were operating near the border, east of Gaza City, when the airstrike occurred.

In recent days, the Israel Defense Forces has stepped up this practice, after the security cabinet called on it to take a more forceful stance against the airborne arson attacks on Sunday.

— Judah Ari Gross

Knesset retracts law allowing PM, defense minister to declare war

Knesset lawmakers vote to rescind legislation that allows the prime minister and defense minister to declare war without full cabinet approval.

The cancellation of the clause passes its second and third readings with 77 MKs in favor and 16 against.

Gaza fire balloon lands in playground of Israeli kindergarten

Police sappers are called to a kindergarten in the Sdot Negev Regional Council after an arson balloon flown over the Gaza border lands in the playground there.

According to reports, the kindergarten teacher saw the incendiary device land in the playground while the children were outside, and immediately called police.

No injuries are reported.

15 Afghan Taliban killed in attack by suspected IS rival

Suspected Islamic State militants attacked Taliban fighters attending a funeral in northern Afghanistan and killed at least 15 in the latest violence between the rival groups, officials say.

Another five Taliban were wounded in the attack on a house in Sayad district in Sari Pul province, the provincial police chief Abdul Qayum Baqizoi tells AFP.

A Taliban commander was among the dead, Baqizoi adds.

The attackers, who were armed with guns and grenades, fled the area.

The Taliban has not commented on the attack. IS did not immediately claim responsibility.

— AFP

Officials say fighting in Yemen’s Hodeida kills 30 civilians

Yemeni officials and witnesses say heavy fighting between pro-government forces and Shiite rebels has killed more than 30 civilians, including women and children, in the last two weeks.

Government forces have been trying to seize rebel-held areas along the western coast, while an allied Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the rebels, known as Houthis, with airstrikes.

Yemeni officials say fighting in the al-Tuhyta district, south of the key port city of Hodeida, has left 57 civilians wounded since the beginning of July. Many of them were wounded by land mines, they said.

The officials spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Witnesses spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals.

The coalition has been battling the Iran-allied Houthis since March 2015.

— AP

Strike at West Bank administrative body called off after wage deal reached

Employees of the Civil Administration, which runs daily affairs in the West Bank, have returned to working in full capacity after reaching an agreement with the Finance Ministry to increase their wages.

The Defense Ministry body began massive cutbacks in its activities Sunday in protest of what workers argued was the Finance Ministry’s refusal to meet basic demands for improvements to their employment conditions.

Among the over 20 areas of activity affected by the strike would have been the advancement of tenders for thousands of homes beyond the Green Line, the granting of work and entry permits for Palestinians into Israel and the West Bank, and the clearing of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, which is slated for demolition.

— Jaacob Magid

Trump says meeting with Putin ‘even better’ than with NATO

US President Donald Trump says that his inaugural summit with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin was better than the one he held last week with traditional US allies in NATO.

“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!” Trump tweets.

— AFP

Druze, Circassian leaders say nation-state bill ‘perpetuates discrimination’

The leaders of Israel’s Circassian and Druze communities say the revised version of the nation-state bill will perpetuate discrimination against Israel’s n on-Jewish minority, and are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to nix the controversial legislation.

In a letter, the leaders say the legislation “fails to mention the role of the Druze and Circassian communities in Israel or ensure their rights.”

“Since the establishment of the state, the Druze community has lost more than 75 percent of its land,” the letter says.

“In the Druze villages, there is a severe housing shortage, and not a single housing project has even been built there,” the letter says. “Declaring that the state will encourage Jewish settlement means perpetuating discrimination.”

Earlier this week, a clause sanctioning housing discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion in the nation-state bill was replaced with a declaration celebrating “Jewish settlement” in general terms amid heavy backlash.

Clause 7B of the Likud-sponsored legislation, which the government hopes to have approved by the end of the month, previously would have allowed the state to “authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community.”

Politicians, legal advisers and others have warned that that version of the so-called Jewish State bill is discriminatory and could cast a dark shadow over Israel in the international arena.

Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

Former US President Barack Obama is taking aim at the “utter loss of shame among political leaders when they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more.”

Obama’s spirited speech in South Africa is his highest-profile address since leaving office. He is marking the 100th anniversary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s birth and giving an impassioned defense of the values held by the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

While not directly mentioning his successor, President Donald Trump, Obama says these days “people just make stuff up” in politics and no longer show embarrassment when being caught out.

He warns that the denial of facts could be the undoing of democracy.

Obama says politicians pushing “politics of fear, resentment, [and] retrenchment” are on the move “at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago.”

But he reminds the audience of thousands that “we’ve been through darker times. We’ve been through lower valleys.”

— AP

Russian military offers to cooperate with US in Syria

Russia’s Defense Ministry says it’s ready to boost cooperation with the U.S. military in Syria, following talks between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The ministry says in a statement that it’s ready for “practical implementation” of agreements reached by Trump and Putin.

It says Russia’s military leadership is ready to augment contacts with US counterparts on “cooperation in Syria” and extending the START arms control treaty, but gives no details.

Putin said Russia and the US reached common ground on Syria at yesterday’s talks but gave few details.

The US and Russia have backed opposite sides of Syria’s war, but US and Russian officials are working toward an eventual deal on the balance of regional power in post-war Syria.

— AP

US Mideast peace envoy slams Hamas for damaging Gaza infrastructure

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy slams the Hamas terrorist organization for damaging vital infrastructure in Gaza when it launched a barrage of rockets and mortal shells at Israel over the weekend.

“This past weekend, for the 2nd time in as many months, Hamas rockets damaged power lines bringing electricity to Gaza, which affected thousands of people,” Jason Greenblatt says in a tweet.

“Palestinians in Gaza deserve leaders that improve the people’s lives, not terrorists who destroy the infrastructure that makes life better for all. The Israeli Electric Company once again repaired the damage & restored the power. Let’s focus on who is causing the misery…”

The Gaza Strip has for years suffered from electricity shortages that have badly affected its economy and the daily life of its two million residents.

Judge urges Yair Netanyahu, leftist group to settle libel spat out of court

A judge at Tel Aviv’s Magistrate’s Court urges that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, and left-wing think tank Molad resolve their counter claims of libel outside the courtroom, to avoid a trial.

Judge Hanna Klugman suggests the sides apologize to each other, whether in an official capacity or through Facebook posts. She says Netanyahu and Molad should “recognize the importance of public discourse on controversial matters” while “maintaining people’s dignity.”

The case originated in August of last year when Molad wrote an unflattering Facebook post about the premier’s son titled, “Five things you did not know about Yair Netanyahu.” Netanyahu then called the group “radical” and “anti-Zionist,” leading to a libel suit by Molad and a counter-suit by Netanyahu.

Iran ‘preparing’ to enrich if nuclear deal fails, official says

Iran is ready to boost its uranium enrichment to higher levels if talks with Europe fail to salvage the nuclear deal, a top official says.

“We have of course adopted some measures in order to prepare the ground for eventually increasing the level of enrichment if it is needed and if the negotiations with the Europeans fail,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman and vice-president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, tells a news conference in Tehran.

“We are of course continuing to carry out and implement our obligations based on the JCPOA,” he says, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that put strict limits on its atomic program in return for sanctions relief.

“But at the same time, taking every scenario into consideration, we are preparing ourselves,” he adds.

— AFP

Flaming kites and balloons from Gaza spark 26 fires in Israel on Tuesday

Flaming kites and balloons launched from the Gaza Strip sparked 26 fires in southern Israel throughout the day.

According to reports in Hebrew-language media, the majority of the fires were put out quickly, because the incendiary devices landed in already burned areas where little vegetation is left.

Over the last few months, Palestinians in Gaza have flown thousands of kites and balloons attached to incendiary devices that have set off hundreds of fires in farm lands and nature reserves along the border with Gaza, destroying tens of thousands of acres.

Egypt to re-open Rafah border crossing with Gaza — report

The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip will re-open tomorrow, the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo tells the Hamas-linked daily, al-Resalah, after it was shuttered for more than 24 hours.

Until it was closed on Monday, the crossing, the only pedestrian passageway between Egypt and Gaza, had largely been open since late May.

Ambassador Diab al-Louh says the crossing has been facing technical issues related to its communications systems over the past two days.

— Adam Rasgon

IDF told to prepare for large-scale operation in Gaza — report

Top IDF brass have reportedly been told to prepare for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip.

According to Channel 10, senior members of the government have informed the army that Israel is prepared to launch a major offensive in the Palestinian territory, if the cross-border arson attacks do not stop.

Netanyahu says he convinced Trump to exit Iran deal

Israel’s public broadcaster is publishing a recording of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that he is responsible for persuading US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year.

“We convinced the president of the United States…to leave this agreement,” he says at a Likud gathering, adding that “we didn’t give up.”

Deal reached to evacuate pro-regime Syria towns

A deal was reached earlier today for the evacuation of two pro-regime towns in Syria, allowing thousands to leave after three years of encirclement by hardline rebels.

Fuaa and Kafraya are the last remaining towns under siege in Syria, where the medieval tactic was mostly made notorious by government forces in the seven-year war.

Surrounded and bombed by hostile factions, the Shiite-majority towns became both a rallying cry for the government and a playing card in callous rebel hands.

Their residents are all expected to leave under a major agreement reached Tuesday between government ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara, a war monitor says.

“The deal provides for the total evacuation of residents in the two towns, which are besieged by rebels and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, to regime territory in nearby Aleppo province,” says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, is a jihadist alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria.

Hundreds of people would be released from the regime’s notorious detention centers in exchange, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman tells AFP.

— AFP

Netanyahu helped ‘open doors’ in Trump administration for Hungary’s Orban — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is reportedly worked to “open doors” in the Trump administration for the Hungarian government, which had been shunned by previous US administrations over Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policies that have been criticized as anti-democratic.

According to a Channel 10 report, Orban asked Netanyahu during his visit to Budapest last year to help warm relations between Washington and his government.

Israeli officials told the TV station that Israel’s efforts paid off, and that several senior Hungarian officials had been hosted at the White House in recent months.

The report comes a day before Orban is set to visit Israel, a move that has come under criticism over the Hungarian prime minister’s attacks on Jewish billionaire George Soros — which critics say toys with anti-Semitic stereotypes — and his past praise for a former Nazi ally.

IDF announces military drill in southern Israel amid Gaza tensions

The Israeli army announces that residents of and visitors to southern Israel can expect to see increased troop movements in the areas around the city of Beersheba and town of Ofakim in light of a large exercise taking place there this week.

Soldiers and military vehicles will be moving through the area as the army simulates a war in the Gaza Strip, amid peak tensions with the Hamas terror group, which rules the Palestinian enclave.

As a part of the exercise, sirens are scheduled to go off in the military’s Tze’elim training base at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the army says.

In the case of an actual incoming rocket attack, the alarm system will sound twice.

The military stresses that these exercises were planned in advance as part of the annual training schedule.

The exercises are due to wrap up toward the end of the week.

— Judah Ari Gross

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