Police to recommend closing sex harassment probe against MK
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Police to recommend closing sex harassment probe against MK

Israel reportedly to sue families of terrorists for compensation; Netanyahu vetoes bill aiming to make dividing Jerusalem ‘impossible’; PM lifts ban on MKs visiting Temple Mount

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

  • Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky chairs a meeting of the  Knesset Law, Justice and Constitution Committee on November 22, 2016. (Issac Harari/Flash90)
    Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky chairs a meeting of the Knesset Law, Justice and Constitution Committee on November 22, 2016. (Issac Harari/Flash90)
  • Smoke billows as firefighters attempt to extinguish a massive fire in a camp for Syrian refugees near the village of Qab Elias in the Lebanese Bekaa valley on July 2, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
    Smoke billows as firefighters attempt to extinguish a massive fire in a camp for Syrian refugees near the village of Qab Elias in the Lebanese Bekaa valley on July 2, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
  • The scene where a truck rammed into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing at least four in the Armon Hanetziv neighborhood of Jerusalem. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)
    The scene where a truck rammed into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing at least four in the Armon Hanetziv neighborhood of Jerusalem. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)
  • Illustrative photo of an Israir plane on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport, August 3, 2013 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
    Illustrative photo of an Israir plane on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport, August 3, 2013 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
  • Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is seen shopping at TLV Fashion Mall in Tel Aviv on July 2, 2017, hours after being paroled from Matisyahu Prison. (courtesy)
    Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is seen shopping at TLV Fashion Mall in Tel Aviv on July 2, 2017, hours after being paroled from Matisyahu Prison. (courtesy)
  • Joint List MK Basel Ghattas appears at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court  for a remand hearing on December 26, 2016, following his arrest on suspicion of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian security prisoners. (Photo by Meged Guzani/POOL)
    Joint List MK Basel Ghattas appears at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court for a remand hearing on December 26, 2016, following his arrest on suspicion of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian security prisoners. (Photo by Meged Guzani/POOL)
  • On a tour of the Temple Mount, Yehuda Glick shows religious Jews a diagram of the Jewish temple, believed to have once stood where the golden Dome of the Rock stands today. September 17, 2013.(Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
    On a tour of the Temple Mount, Yehuda Glick shows religious Jews a diagram of the Jewish temple, believed to have once stood where the golden Dome of the Rock stands today. September 17, 2013.(Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

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

Netanyahu lifts ban on lawmaker visits to Temple Mount

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lifts the ban barring Knesset members from visiting the Temple Mount holy site nearly 18 months after imposing the restriction.

Netanyahu banned lawmakers from visiting the Temple Mount since November 2015 as part of an attempt to reduce tensions amid an uptick in terror attacks against Israelis that included car-ramming and stabbing attacks.

In late March, Netanyahu indicated he would consider lifting the ban after three months — a period that would avoid a series of sensitive dates including the Trump visit, Ramadan and Israel’s celebrations of capturing Judaism’s holiest site in the 1967 Six Day War.

That announcement came after an MK from his party, Yehudah Glick, appealed to the Supreme Court over the ban.

The new regulations will go into effect later this month for a one-week trial period.

Jewish Home says PM vetoed bill making it ‘impossible’ to divide Jerusalem

The Jewish Home party says Netanyahu has vetoed a bill that would require a special two-thirds Knesset majority on any decision to divide Jerusalem under a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

“We regret that narrow political considerations prevail over the prevention of the division of Jerusalem,” the party says in a statement. “We will continue to fight to pass this law, and will do every effort to advance the law in the coming days.”

Party chairman Naftali Bennett had proposed legislation that would have amended the Basic Law on Jerusalem so that any future vote to divide the city would require the approval of 80 of the 120 MKs to pass, as opposed to a regular majority. He said the amendment would make dividing the capital city effectively “impossible.”

Ex-MK begins jail sentence for smuggling phones to prisoners with ‘pride’

Former Joint (Arab) List lawmaker Basel Ghattas arrives at Gilboa Prison with “pride” as he begins a two-year sentence for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners.

Ghattas says he is entering prison with his “head held high” and with “support from my people.”

In April, the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court accepted the plea bargain reached between state prosecutors and Ghattas, who was convicted of exploiting his position to sneak cellphones and notes to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

After accepting the deal, the court handed down a two-year prison term to Ghattas, as well as 18 months’ probation and a NIS 120,000 ($33,000) fine.

— with AP

Israel to sue families of Palestinian terrorists for compensation

Israel is reportedly set to file a slew of lawsuits against the families of Palestinian terrorists in a bid to compensate state spending relating to the attacks carried out by their relatives.

Last month, prosecutors from the Jerusalem District Court filed the first such damages suit, in which the state is seeking NIS 8 million ($2.3 million) from the wife and children of Fadi al-Qunbar, the Haaretz daily reports.

Qunbar killed four soldiers in January in a truck ramming attack before being shot and killed by soldiers.

Likud MK Glick praises lifted Temple Mount ban as ‘fair and just’

Likud lawmaker and Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick praises Netanyahu for lifting the 18-month ban barring Knesset members from visiting the Temple Mount holy site.

“The decision top open the Temple Mount is fair and just,” Glick says in a statement. “It’s a shame that we needed to petition the High Court for this decision to be made.”

Glick, a frequent visitor to the compound until the ban was enforced, calls on all MKs to go up the Temple Mount while also “respecting the site in a suitable manner and leaving disputes and [political] agendas outside the compound.”

The MK also calls the prime minister and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan “to act as necessary against those who would exploit the decision to commit acts of terror.”

“We will continue to wish that the Mount will fulfill its purpose of being a world center for peace and reconciliation,” Glick says.

Bennett: Israel ‘won’t allow ‘ Iranian land corridor to Syria, Lebanon

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a land corridor to Lebanon and Syria by way of Iraq, that Tehran is seeking to use to sure up its supply lines to its Syrian and Lebanese proxies.

“Iran is trying to create a contiguous land corridor from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. We will not allow this to happen,” Bennett tells Army Radio in an interview.

Senior Israeli officials have warned of Iranian efforts to set up a land passage from Tehran to Beirut, which Intelligence Ministry Director-General Chagai Tzuriel told The Times of Israel in a March interview would help Iran cement its presence in Syria, which Israel views as a strategic threat.

— Alexander Fulbright

Fresh out of prison, ex-PM Olmert seen shopping at Tel Aviv mall

Hours after being paroled from prison, former prime minister Ehud Olmert is seen browsing Tel Aviv’s newest upscale mall.

Management from TLV Fashion Mall in a statement say the ex-prime minister “purchased a few items” before bumping into IDF Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir, who served as personnel chief during Olmert’s tenure but currently works as the mall’s CEO.

The statement says hundreds of shoppers approached Olmert to wish him well.

Olmert was paroled from Ma’asiyahu Prison earlier today after serving 16 months out of a 27-month sentence for corruption charges.

El Al to acquire competitor Israir

El Al Airlines says its board of directors has approved the merger of Israir with the flagship carrier’s charter subsidiary Sun D’or.

Under the deal, IDB Development will sell all of Israir’s shares to Sun d’Or for $24 million in cash and a 25% stake in the subsidiary.

The merger is subject to the approval of Israel Antitrust Authority director general Michal Halperin.

Monitor says death toll in Damascus bombing rises to 18

The death toll in a suicide bombing in eastern Damascus earlier today rises to 18 people, a monitor says, in the bloodiest attack to hit the Syrian capital in months.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the dead include at least seven pro-regime security personnel and two civilians.

It had not identified the remaining victims.

— AFP

Arab MKs: lifting Temple Mount ban irrelevant, order ignored anyway

Knesset members belonging to Israel’s Islamic Movement say Netanyahu’s lifting of an 18-month ban barring lawmakers from visiting the Temple Mount is inconsequential as they do not heed Israeli-imposed restrictions on the site.

“Our visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque as Arab and Muslim members of Knesset was not and will never be linked to the government or prime minister of Israel,” the MKs say in a statement. “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy place for us as Muslims and it’s our right to be able to visit and pray there.”

Today, the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement is represented in the Knesset as a party in the Joint (Arab) List faction. Three of the Joint List’s 13 current Knesset members are part of the movement.

Egypt sentences 20 to death over killings of 13 police officers

An Egyptian court sentences 20 people to death over the killing of 13 policemen following the army’s 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, according to judicial officials.

The court also hands 114 people sentences ranging from 15 years to life (25 years) and orders a juvenile jailed for 10 years, they say.

A further 21 defendants are acquitted.

On August 14, 2013, a month after the army overthrew Morsi, security forces forcibly dispersed two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo in an operation that killed more than 700 people. Hours later, a furious crowd attacked a police station in the Cairo suburb of Kerdassa, where 13 policemen were killed.

— AFP

French company to sign $4.8b Iran gas deal, biggest since sanctions lifted

French energy giant Total will finally sign its multi-billion-dollar agreement to develop an Iranian offshore gas field tomorrow, the oil ministry says, in the biggest foreign deal since sanctions were eased last year.

“The international agreement for the development of phase 11 of South Pars will be signed on Monday in the presence of the oil ministry and managers of Total, the Chinese company CNPC and Iranian company Petropars,” a ministry spokesman tells AFP.

Total signed a preliminary deal with Iran in November, taking a 50.1 percent stake in the $4.8 billion project. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) will own 30 percent and Petropars 19.9 percent. Total will put in an initial $1 billion for the first stage of the 20-year project.

The gas produced will “feed into the domestic Iranian market starting from 2021,” a Total spokesman told AFP in Paris. He says the company would “implement the project with the strictest respect for national and international law”.

The contract was initially due to be signed in early 2017, but CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in February that Total would wait to see whether the US administration of President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran.

— AFP

Trump tweets video of him beating up favorite media target CNN

US President Donald Trump tweets a video of him wrestling to the ground a person with the CNN logo superimposed over his face.

The video is an edited version of Trump’s appearance in the World Wrestling Entertainment WrestleMania 23 in 2007 in which he stages taking down his friend WWE CEO Vince McMahon.

In the tweet, Trump calls the cable news network “Fraud News CNN.”

Yesterday, Trump angrily tweeted at CNN, saying the network, which he has long pilloried, “has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism.”

Liberman says Israel ‘won’t ignore’ Hezbollah weapons factory

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says Israel will not tolerate Iran building weapons factories in Lebanon, and that Israel “knows what needs to be done” in response.

“We won’t ignore the establishment of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon,” he says. “We know what needs to be done. It’s a significant phenomenon and cannot be ignored.”

Liberman also says that both Lebanon and Syria “are aware of the extent of our military intelligence capabilities and I suggest that no one test us.”

Negev nature reserve to close for a year after acid waste spill

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority says Nahal Ashalim will be closed to visitors for a year after a leak at a nearby fertilizer factory poured 100,000 cubic meters of acid waste through the Negev nature reserve on Friday.

The Authority warns the cleanup and rehabilitation of the wadi in the Negev Desert will take years and cost tens of millions of shekels.

Earlier today, the Environmental Protection Ministry said it was considering opening a criminal investigation against Rotem Fertilizer over the spill.

CNN hits back at Trump: We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his

CNN is responding to US President Donald Trump’s latest tweet.

A network spokesperson says: “It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the president had never done so.”

Earlier, Trump tweeted a mock video that shows him pummeling a man in a business suit — his face obscured by the CNN logo — outside a wrestling ring. It was not clear who produced the brief video, but it was posted from Trump’s official Twitter account.

The CNN spokesperson said that Trump: “is involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”

— AP

Key US donor freezes Israel support over Western Wall, conversion

Leading American philanthropist Isaac “Ike” Fisher says he is freezing his donations to Israel in protest of the recent cabinet decision to shelve a deal for pluralistic worship at the Western Wall and the coalition’s initial approval of a bill that would cement the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on conversions.

“Diaspora Jews as well as Israelis need to stand up and say enough is enough, we cannot tolerate this type of action,” Fisher tells Channel 2.

When asked about remarks made by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin who said that US Jewry should have no role in internal Israeli affairs, Fisher hits back saying Israel was meant to be a home for all Jews, not just religiously observant ones.

“This cabinet minister has no understanding of historical Zionism. Zionism brought about a Jewish state for the larger Jewish people,” he said. “The government represents more than just Israelis, especially in matters like this.”

Fisher clarifies that he is not cancelling any of his major investments in Israel, but was “suspending” them, to mirror the language used by Netanyahu’s cabinet when backtracking on the Western Wall agreement.

“It’s treating with disdain women who love Torah, it’s treating with disdain the overwhelming number of religious leaders in Israel and throughout the world and trying to raise up a small number of extremists, the Haredim [ultra-Orthodox],” Fisher said.

“I’m not walking away from Israel, or canceling my participation, I’m just using language that politicians understand,” he said.

“My heart will always be with [the Jewish people] and I will not cut myself off from that, but I know I represent so many Americans who identify with and feel close to the Jewish state — and so many Israelis — who just want to say dai kvar [enough already], this is a Jewish state, not a Jewish theocracy,” Fisher added.

Fire kills one in Lebanon refugee camp, Red Cross says

A massive fire in a camp for Syrian refugees in central Lebanon kills one person and wounds six others, the Red Cross says, adding that hundreds were being evacuated.

It is unclear what caused the fire, but local residents say the scorching temperatures of 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) and the valley’s whipping winds may have been a factor.

Residents of nearby villages could be seen using their own trucks and tractors to bring tanks of water to help extinguish the blaze.

Lebanon is home to more than one million refugees fleeing the conflict in neighboring Syria, many of whom live in informal tented settlements in the arid Bekaa Valley.

— AFP

Britney Spears said to cancel Netanyahu meeting

American pop star Britney Spears reportedly cancels a meeting this evening with Netanyahu after being thronged by fans while visiting the Western Wall earlier in the day.

According to the Ynet news site, Spears and Netanyahu were slated to meet the pediatric cancer patients from Hadassah Hospital during their meeting.

The report says Spears will meet the kids tomorrow before her show at Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park as part of her “Britney: Live In Concert” world tour.

Police to recommend closing sexual harassment probe against MK

Police are reportedly recommending closing the sexual harassment investigation into Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky over lack of evidence.

According to Channel 2, the eight women who have alleged they were sexually harassed by Slomiansky are to file a joint complaint against him to help the investigation move forward or to appear in court.

Claims against Slomiansky first drew media attention last December after a Jewish Home activist went public with the allegations on Facebook.

The woman accused Slomiansky of indecent assault and exploitation of his position of authority. Many of the alleged acts were said to have been committed inside the Knesset, in Slomiansky’s private office or in committee rooms.

Police: Stabbing ‘victim’ tried to fake own death in staged terror attack

Police say the 52-year-old man who was found stabbed in his home two months ago in his Tel Aviv-area home was attempting to fake his own death.

According to the Ynet news website, the retired IDF lieutenant colonel attempted to make his death look like a terror attack, by writing “Massacre the Jews” with his own blood at the scene and reporting to police that two Arabs had broken into his apartment and attacked him.

The man, who lives in the agricultural cooperative community of Elishama, northeast of Tel Aviv, was hospitalized with multiple stab wounds to his upper body and was described by doctors as being in serious condition.

Police immediately launched a large-scale manhunt for the perpetrators that included a number of roadblocks and a helicopter.

Ynet says the man left Israel after recovering from his self-inflicted wounds and will be interrogated by police when he returns to Israel.

Abu Dhabi airport now exempt from US laptop ban

The capital of the United Arab Emirates becomes the first city to be exempt from a US ban on laptop computers being in the cabins of airplanes coming from the Mideast, the country’s flag carrier says.

Long-haul airline Etihad says it welcomes the decision by the US Department of Homeland Security, which comes “subject to enhanced security measures” at Abu Dhabi International Airport. That airport already has a US Customs and Border Protection facility that allows passengers to clear screening they’d otherwise have to go through when landing in America.

Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said US officials already had seen that “the measures have been implemented correctly and to the full extent required” in Abu Dhabi. He says American monitors would make further visits to ensure the checks were being done properly.

“The enhanced security measures, both seen and unseen, include enhanced screening of passengers and electronic devices,” Lapan says, declining to elaborate. “We commend Etihad for working swiftly to implement these additional measures. Their efforts are a model for both foreign and domestic airlines.”

— AP

Suicide bomber kills 14 at Iraqi refugee camp

A suicide bomber attacks a camp for displaced Iraqis in Anbar province, killing 14 people, according to a police officer and a doctor.

The blast also wounds 13 others, the sources say.

— AFP

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