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Trump rejects Putin’s proposal to let Russia interrogate US citizens

White House says Kremlin had offered a quid-pro-quo of permitting US justice officials to into Moscow to question 12 Russians indicted for hacking Democratic Party computers

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

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)

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

Rivlin to Orban: Neo-fascism a threat to the world, feeds nationalist hate

President Reuven Rivlin tells Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban that “neo-fascism is a threat to the entire world” and feeds nationalist hate.

The Hungarian statesman has been accused of playing up anti-Semitic stereotypes and being a symbol of Europe’s move toward the hard right.

Orban in response assures Rivlin that Hungary has zero tolerance for anti-Semitism and points out that his country hosts one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities.

Court hands down life sentences to Palestinians who killed Reuven Schmerling

The Central District Court sentences the two Palestinian terrorists who stabbed and beat Reuven Schmerling to death last October to life in prison.

Yousef Kamil and Mohammed Abu al-Rub, both of Qabatiya in the northern West Bank, will also be required to pay NIS 250,000 in damages.

Outside the courtroom, Schmerling’s family praises the court’s decision to hand down the maximum sentence.

The 69-year-old Schmerling was a resident of the West Bank settlement of Elkana. He was stabbed and beaten to death by two of his employees at their workplace in the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Kassem on October 4. The assailants were convicted in March after taking a plea bargain.

EU warns it will retaliate if US imposes ‘disastrous’ auto tariffs

The European Union will retaliate if US President Donald Trump imposes “disastrous” tariffs on automobiles, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom warns.

“We are preparing a list of rebalancing measures,” Malmstrom says, as Washington studies imposing duties on cars following its tariffs on aluminium and steel.

“Similar moves on cars would be disastrous,” the Swedish commissioner tells a conference in Brussels.

Her warning comes before her boss, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, travels to Washington next Wednesday to try to persuade Trump to drop tariffs on metals and avoid duties on cars.

Trump imposed duties of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium in March, but had given temporary exemptions to the EU and some other close trading partners as talks continued.


AG orders police not to prosecute Conservative rabbi for officiating weddings

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has ordered police not to continue their investigation into Conservative rabbi Dov Haiyun after he was hauled in by officers before dawn on Thursday for questioning over wedding ceremonies he conducts outside the state-run Chief Rabbinate.

Mandelblit writes in a letter that Haiyun should not be further questioned until police clarify whether his actions raise suspicion of a criminal offense.

Earlier Thursday, the rabbinical court spokesperson, in a statement, accused Haiyun of performing a wedding of a Jew born of an extramarital affair, known as a mamzer.

Haiyun, who has been officiating at non-Orthodox weddings in Israel for decades, was released several hours later after committing to appear for another round of questioning on Monday, the spokesperson said. Police later called off the planned Monday interrogation, saying the rabbi would be summoned again if the investigation required it.

In a statement, police said they were forced to come to Haiyun’s house after the Conservative rabbi ignored a summons to appear for questioning earlier in the week. Officers were merely executing a rabbinical court order to question Haiyun, the force said, adding that the Israel Police was not independently taking action on the issue.

Putin slams US ‘forces’ who are ready to ‘sacrifice Russia-US ties’

Russian President Vladimir Putin slams US “forces” who are ready to “sacrifice Russia-US ties,” in a response to the pressure that US President Donald Trump has faced at home since refusing to condemn Russian election meddling during their joint press conference at the Helsinki summit.

— with AFP

Tel Aviv hospital to allow LGBT employees to join strike in protest of surrogacy law excluding gays

Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital announces that it will allow LGBT employees to take part in a nationwide strike Sunday in protest of a bill passed by the Knesset that loosened surrogacy regulations but did not include a clause enabling gay couples to use a surrogate in order to have a child.

Employees who want to participate will be allowed to be absent for work, but have been asked to coordinate their absences with their managers in advance.

IDF transfers humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria as Assad continues to bombard rebels

The Israeli military oversaw the transfer of tons of food, thousands of liters of fuel, dozens of tents and medical equipment to the war-torn Syrian southwest over the past week, the military says, as dictator Bashar Assad’s forces bombarded the remaining opposition groups in the area and reportedly forced them to surrender.

“Over the past week, the Bashan Division led six special operations in a number of locations, in which humanitarian aid was transfered to Syrians in tent cities on the [Syrian] Golan Heights,” the army says in a statement.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, these shipments included: 72 tons of food, 70 tents, 9,000 liters of fuel, medicine and medical equipment, clothing and toys.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF declares outpost where settlers hurled stones at troops a closed military zone

The IDF has declared a northern West Bank outpost where settlers hurled stones at security forces yesterday a closed military zone.

Only families who live on the hilltop community of Kumi Uri adjacent to the Yitzhar settlement are being allowed to enter and exit the compound.

Border Police have also announced that they have significantly increased troop presence in the settlement and its surrounding outpost after yesterday’s violent clashes that led to injuries to a Border Police officer and Civil Administration inspector.

Palestinians say Israeli aircraft targeted Gazans launching incendiary balloons

Palestinian media reports that an Israeli aircraft targeted a squad of Gazans launching incendiary balloons near the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

No injuries were reported.

1 Gazan said dead, 3 injured in Israeli drone strike targeting blazing balloon launchers

One Palestinian has been killed and three others were injured in an Israeli drone strike near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center reports.

The IDF had earlier confirmed that it conducted an airstrike at a group of Gazans launching incendiary balloons at Israel.

An Israeli drone fired two missiles at a group of Palestinians near Rafah, a local source tells the news site.

The source adds that the three injured were transported to a nearby hospital.

— Adam Rasgon

Police release 2 settlers arrested for hurling stones at troops at illegal outpost

Police have released two settlers who were arrested yesterday following a violent clash with Border Police in an illegal outpost in the northern West Bank.

The pair have been barred from returning to the Kumi Uri outpost adjacent to Yitzhar where the incident took place.

A third suspect had his remand extended until Sunday. According to the Honenu legal aid organization, he had merely been filming the incident when he was arrested by Border Police.

IDF: Palestinians fired two mortar shells at forces operating along Gaza Strip; no injuries

The IDF says that Palestinians fired two mortar shells at troops operating along the Gaza Strip security fence.

The army says there were no casualties.

Injuries reported in blast at Pennsylvania army depot

Authorities say an explosion at an army depot in Pennsylvania has left some workers injured.

Letterkenny Army Depot officials say the blast occurred around 7:15 a.m. Thursday. They posted on social media that the “incident is contained” and won’t affect depot operations or workforce safety elsewhere on the site. Officials say there is no suspicion of terrorist activity.

The Franklin Fire Company posts on its Facebook page that three burn victims have been transported via air to hospitals. Details about other injuries were not immediately available. Some people have been treated at the scene.

The depot, located 160 miles west of Philadelphia, or about 55 miles southwest of state capital, employs about 3,600. Its website says work there focuses on air defense tactical missile ground support equipment, mobile electric power generation equipment, Patriot Missile recertification and route guidance vehicles.

Depot staff members have been told to stay in their work areas until further notice.

— AP

Zuckerberg clarifies statements on treatment of fake news

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg clarifies his stance pertaining to Holocaust deniers after getting some blowback on social media.

Speaking with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, says in an interview published Wednesday that posts denying the Holocaust took place would not be removed automatically. Zuckerberg says he thinks that there are things “that different people get wrong,” and that he doesn’t think they are “intentionally” getting it wrong.

At this point, Swisher cuts in and said that in the case of Holocaust deniers, it may be intentionally wrong.

Zuckerberg responds by saying that “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.”

The portion of the interview was about hate speech and its potential impact in regions of strife led to an outcry online, and Zuckerberg followed with an email to Swisher attempting to expand on what he had said.

“I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” Zuckerberg write in an email, which was published by Recode.

The goal of Facebook is not to prevent someone from saying something untrue, he said, but to stop fake news from spreading across the social network.

If something is deemed to be fake, he said, it might remain on the site, but it would be pushed down in the news feed so fewer people would see it.

— AP

Trump’s says Biden is his 2020 ‘dream’ Democratic opponent

So which Democrat would US President Donald Trump most like to run against in 2020?

He says it’s Joe Biden. Trump tells CBS News in an interview broadcast Thursday that “I dream about Biden.”

Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama, sought the Democratic presidential nomination twice but eventually dropped out of each race. Biden considered running in 2016, but decided against it, citing the trauma of his son Beau’s death from cancer in 2015.

Now Biden is seen as a possible 2020 Democratic contender. And unlike Obama, he’s shown no reluctance to criticize Trump directly.

Trump returned some of the criticism in the interview, saying Obama took Biden “out of the garbage heap, and everybody was shocked that he did. I’d love to have it be Biden.”

— AP

Trump slams record EU fine against Google

US President Donald Trump lashes out after Brussels hit US tech giant Google with a record fine, and warned he would no longer allow Europe to take “advantage” of the United States.

“I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google,” Trump tweets in reaction to the 4.34 billion euro penalty slapped on Google for abusing the dominance of its mobile operating system.

“They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!” he says.

Premature baby penguin recovers after parents broke her egg

London Zoo says a premature baby penguin has been nursed back to health after her parents accidentally stepped on her egg and broke it.

The zoo says keepers were astonished to find that the female Humboldt penguin chick, nicknamed Rainbow, was still alive inside the broken egg. They rushed the chick to the zoo’s clinic, where vets transferred her to an incubation chamber.

The chick spent weeks cuddling with a soft toy penguin and was fed what the zoo called “penguin milkshake” — blended fish, vitamins and minerals.

Penguin keeper Suzi Hyde says that the birds typically reject chicks when they accidentally step on their eggs.

She says the one-month-old chick is growing quickly and will stay in the incubation chamber until she reaches 10 weeks.

— AP

In this image made available on July 19, 2018, London Zoo unveils a Humboldt penguin chick after they nursed it back to health after its parents accidentally stepped on its egg and broke it. (Zoological Society of London via AP)

Incoming rocket alert sirens sound in Israeli communities outside the Gaza Strip

Red alert sirens wail in the Eshkol Regional Council east of the Gaza Strip.

The IDF says it is investigating what set them off.

Residents of the Eshkol region report hearing explosions after sirens blared in the area, indicating the launch of a rocket or mortar shell from the Gaza Strip.

“Security officials are searching the area. As of now, there are no reports of damage or injuries,” a spokesperson for the region says.

The sirens follow the firing of two mortars at IDF forces operating along the coastal enclave.

Earlier Thursday, an Israeli aircraft targeted a group of Gazans launching incendiary balloons at Israel. Palestinians said one was killed as a result and two were injured.

— with Judah Ari Gross

Trump says looking forward to ‘second meeting’ with Putin

US President Donald Trump says he is looking forward to a “second meeting” with Russia’s Vladimir Putin after what he called the “great success” of their summit in Helsinki.

“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” tweets Trump, who has come under fire at home for what many saw as his unsettling embrace of the strongman Russian leader.

“I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed,” he adds.

Red alert sirens set off by three projectiles launched from Gaza, army says

The military says three projectiles were launched at the Eshkol region from the Gaza Strip, setting off red alert sirens.

They appear to have landed in open fields in the area, causing neither injury nor damage.

IDF strikes Hamas post in response to projectile fired from Gaza Strip

The IDF says it has targeted a Hamas observation post near the city of Rafah in response to the projectile fired at Israel earlier Thursday.

No injuries have been reported


Zionist Union MK files Ethics Committee complaint against fellow faction member

Zionist Union MK Leah Fadida has filed a complaint with the Knesset Ethics Committee regarding the conduct of a fellow faction lawmaker.

According to Fadida, Miki Rosenthal approached her in an aggressive manner and began shouting at her during a faction meeting earlier this week.

Fadida writes that she decided not to respond in the moment, but instead waited until after the session was over to let Rosenthal know that she would not accept being yelled at in such a manner.

According to Fadida, Rosenthal lost his temper again and another Zionist Union MK had to block him from physically confronting Fadida.

In a statement responding to Fadida’s complaint, Rosenthal calls it “nonsense.”

“Fadida wanted to join forces with the extreme right and support a fascist law against the Breaking the Silence NGO for her own personal political interest,” he says.

The complaint comes just one day after it came out that Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi had touched the rear of fellow faction lawmaker Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin.


Hamas military wing says Gazan killed in Israeli strike was one of its members

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, announces on its website that one of its fighters died in an Israeli airstrike earlier in the day.

On Thursday afternoon, the IDF carried out an airstrike on a group of Gazans launching incendiary balloons at southern Israel, according to the army.

The Qassam Brigades identify the deceased fighter as Abdel Karim Radwan.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says Radwan was 22 years old.

— Adam Rasgon

Protesters block Hungarian PM’s convoy leaving Yad Vashem

Dozens of protesters block the convoy of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as he leaves the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.

Demonstrators hold up signs calling Viktor Orban, who has been accused of playing up anti-Semitic stereotypes, a tyrant.

New York state launches tax probe of Trump Foundation

New York state tax officials open an investigation into the Trump Foundation to determine whether US President Donald Trump or his charity violated state law.

The probe began about a month ago and has been confirmed by an official with knowledge of the case. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about active investigations and spoke of condition of anonymity.

If evidence of alleged crimes is found, the matter could be referred to prosecutors, who could seek the release of Trump’s tax returns.

The investigation, first reported by The New York Times, follows Democratic state Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s lawsuit alleging Trump and his adult children used money from the charity to settle business disputes and promote his presidential campaign.

The White House says the lawsuit is politically motivated.

— AP

Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses ‘concern’ over nation-state law

The Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses “concern” over the Jewish nation-state bill passed by the Knesset overnight Wednesday-Thursday, and says it will be passing on its reservations over the legislation to the Israeli Ambassador in the UK.

“Whilst we celebrate Israel’s Jewish-ness, there is concern that some of the measures in this law are regressive steps,” says Board of Deputies senior vice president Sheila Gewolb in an official statement released by the official umbrella body of UK Jewish organizations.

“Being Jewish is a wonderful thing, but this should not lead to doing down others. All people should be valued and Israel’s Arab and other minority populations should be a treasured part of society. The lesson of Jewish history is that societies are stronger when minorities are affirmed, and they decay when minorities are degraded,” the statement adds.” We will be writing to Israel’s Ambassador to express concerns at these measures.”

— Raoul Wootliff

State Department says it is working to extend Iraqi Jewish Archive’s stay in US

The State Department says it is working with Iraq to extend the stay of a trove of Jewish artifacts from the country, while a bipartisan group of senators introduced a resolution recommending that the items not be returned as planned in September.

“We continue to work with the Government of Iraq and relevant stakeholder[s] to extend the exhibition in the U.S.,” a State Department official tells JTA in an email.

Last year, the State Department said that it would return the Iraqi Jewish Archive in September 2018, to the dismay of activists who argue that the collection of thousands of Jewish religious and personal items should be accessible to the Iraqi Jewish community, which fled the country amid anti-Semitic persecution.

On Wednesday, following discussions in the Senate, a group of lawmakers introduced a resolution recommending that the U.S. renegotiate the archive’s return and keep them in the United States.


Yad Vashem says it educated Orban on Hungarian authorities’ cooperation with Nazis

Yad Vashem releases a statement saying that during his tour today at the museum, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received a “comprehensive explanation” regarding the cooperation of Hungarian authorities with Nazi Germany under the leadership of Miklós Horthy.

Orban in the past has praised Hungarian wartime leader and Nazi ally Horthy.

The current prime minister  has been accused of playing up anti-Semitic stereotypes and is seen as a symbol of the far-right in Europe.

Parents arrested for unnecessarily injecting drugs into their children for insurance benefits

A mother and father from Jerusalem have been arrested on suspicion that they have been unnecessarily injecting drugs into their infant son and other children, fraudulently receiving money from the National Insurance Institute for years.

Among other charges, the mother is suspected of injecting insulin into her toddler son, claiming he has diabetes in order to receive insurance benefits. The injections led to a deterioration in the boy’s health.

IDF soldier seriously injured after being bitten by animal at his base

An IDF soldier has been seriously injured after being bitten by an animal while at his base, the army said.

The military spokesperson did not specify what animal had bitten the soldier, who is currently hospitalized and receiving treatment.

Hamas military wing blasts Israel for killing one of its fighters launching incendiary balloons

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, blasts Israel for allegedly killing one of its fighters in an airstrike earlier in the day, accusing the Jewish state of carrying out “a heinous crime.”

“The cowardice enemy’s attack on our fighters’ posting, that led to the death of Abdel Karim Ismail Radwan, is a heinous crime and foolishness for which it bears fully responsibility. [Israel] will pay a price with its blood for it,” the Qassam Brigades says in a statement posted on their official website.

The Qassam Brigades do not say if its fighter was involved in launching incendiary balloons.

— Adam Rasgon

Ben Gurion airport warns of flight delays due to strike in protest of surrogacy law excluding gays

Ben Gurion International Airport has warned passengers to expect delays Sunday after a number of airlines have granted workers to strike in protest of a bill passed by the Knesset that loosened surrogacy regulations but did not include a clause enabling gay couples to use a surrogate in order to have a child.

Dozens of companies across the country have joined the protest in solidarity with LGBT couples.

Mossad foiled European terror attack planned by Iranian diplomat — report

The Israeli Mossad secret service thwarted a terror attack last month, giving authorities in France, Germany, and Belgium intelligence that led to arrests of a cell, headed by an Iranian diplomat, which planned to bomb a rally by an exiled Iranian opposition group, Hebrew media reports.

Israel warned agencies in Europe of the imminent attack, which was intended to attack a conference organized by the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, Hadashot news reports.

The coordinator of the operation, according to the report, was an Iranian diplomat at the Austrian embassy in Vienna, who was arrested in Germany, along with two Belgian nationals and an alleged accomplice in France.

Members of the cell reportedly had communication equipment, and according to Belgian prosecutors the couple, described as being “of Iranian origin,” carried 500 grams (about a pound) of the volatile explosive TATP along with a detonation device when an elite police squad stopped them in a residential district of Brussels.

ICC denies damages to kids born after Congo village attack

War crimes judges rule that five children born after their parents were victims of a brutal 2003 attack on a Congolese village are not eligible to receive compensation.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) judges “dismissed the requests for reparations made by these applicants” in the case of the convicted warlord Germain Katanga, the tribunal says in a statement.

Katanga, 40, a former militia commander from the restive northeastern Congolese Ituri province, was ordered in March 2017 to pay $1 million in damages to his victims after his forces attacked their village.

He was convicted of supplying weapons to his militia, which went on the rampage, shooting and hacking to death with machetes some 200 people, out of a small close-knit community of about 800 people.

But the judges ruled on Thursday that the five children “had not established to the requisite standard of proof the causal nexus between the psychological harm they had personally suffered and the crimes of which Mr. Katanga was convicted.”

Katanga is now behind bars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, serving a 12-year sentence imposed in 2014 on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the attack.


Saudi signs deal for five warships with Spain’s Navantia

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned defense company has forged a deal with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia for a joint venture to build five warships, state media says.

The agreement with Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) for the design and construction of five Avante 2200 corvette warships will start this autumn, with the last unit to be delivered by 2022, the official Saudi Press Agency reports.

The agreement appears part of a framework drafted in April during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Spain for Navantia to provide warships to the Gulf state for around two billion euros ($2.3 billion).

A coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International had urged Madrid not to go ahead with the deal because the corvettes could be used in Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has long been a major global arms importer — but some countries now refuse to sell weapons over the kingdom’s role in the conflict in Yemen, which is gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.


US Conservative movement leader says Diaspora gap with Israel is now a ‘canyon’

The CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism blasted the arrest of rabbinical colleague Dov Haiyun over wedding ceremonies he conducts outside the state-run Chief Rabbinate and said the state of Israel was responsible for an ever-growing divide with Diaspora Jewry.

“After my colleague in Haifa is pulled out of bed at 5:30 a.m. arrested and summoned back for officiating at a non-Orthodox wedding (threatened with 2 years in jail), and the passage of the Nation State Law, I do not believe we can talk about a “gap” between Israel and Diaspora,” writes Rabbi Steven Wernick on Facebook.

He criticized the Jewish nation-state law that was passed last night as discriminatory against Israel’s Arab citizens.

Just sent this to Israel's NY Consul and Vice Consul General.Kevodim,After my colleague in Haifa is pulled out of…

Posted by Rabbi Steven Wernick on Thursday, 19 July 2018

Trump rejects Putin’s proposal to let Russia interrogate US citizens

US President Donald Trump has rejected a proposal by Vladimir Putin to allow Russian officials to interrogate a former US ambassador and other American citizens, White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders says.

Putin had offered a quid-pro-quo of permitting US justice officials to go to Russia to question 12 Russians indicted for hacking Democratic Party computers, in exchange for Russian officials questioning former US envoy to Russia Michael McFaul and others.

“Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt,” says Sanders.


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