The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s news as they unfolded.
France drops bid to revoke terrorists’ citizenship
French president Francois Hollande drops his effort to strengthen his country’s state of emergency law in the wake of the devastating terror attacks last November.
One bill that has generated a lot of resistance, and which Hollande abandons, calls for revoking the citizenship of convicted terrorists.
— AP contributed
Army chief: No support for soldiers who break IDF’s code
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot promises full support for soldiers who make mistakes “in the heat of battle,” but threatens swift justice against those who violate the army’s codes of conduct.
In a special message to soldiers in light of the ongoing investigation into a serviceman who shot a disarmed Palestinian attacker in the head last week, he writes: “The IDF puts in your hands the responsibility to fulfill our mission — to defend the nation. Your commanders, and myself at the top, will continue to give support to any soldier who makes a mistake in the heat of battle, against a dangerous enemy threatening the lives of civilians and soldiers.”
Continues Eisenkot, “However, we will not hesitate to exact justice on soldiers and officers who deviate from operational standards and the values we operate by.”
— Judah Ari Gross
Trump ‘doesn’t understand’ Israel’s value to US, Sen. Graham tells TOI
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says Donald Trump’s comments to the effect that Israel should “pay back” the aid it receives from the US represents a “complete misunderstanding of the value of the relationship” between the two countries.
“It’s beyond my capability to explain Donald Trump to Israel or anyone else,” Graham tells The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren. “I think he’s an opportunist; not a Republican. I am very concerned about him actually being a conservative.”
The senator, who ran a brief presidential campaign but backed out of the race earlier this year, has been among the most strident critics of the Republican front-runner among his peers in the GOP.
He is currently visiting Israel, which he calls “the most stable platform in the Mideast.”
“Without a democratic Israel, the whole region would further deteriorate,” he says. “This is not a drain on the American taxpayer; this is a mutually beneficial relationship, and I can’t think of a better use of American taxpayer dollars than to reinforce a stable democratic Israel at a time of great upheaval.
“[Trump] clearly doesn’t understand the value of Israel to the United States.”
The Times of Israel’s full interview with Graham will be published later today.
Man arrested for displaying Palestinian flag on Temple Mount
The Israel Police says officers arrested a Palestinian man on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount today because he held aloft a Palestinian flag while a Jewish group was visiting the flashpoint holy site.
“The police will not abide actions that can harm the public’s wellbeing at the Mount, and will maintain its unwavering enforcement without giving preferential treatment, in order to maintain order and the status quo,” spokeswoman Luba Samri says.
The Palestinian, whose protest was filmed by one of the visitors, is being interrogated by officers, according to Samri.
ערבי שהניף דגל פלסטין במהלך הביקורים בהר הבית, נעצר והועבר לחקירה במרחב דוד pic.twitter.com/znz9NRnsAf
— אלי שלזינגר (@leizersh) March 30, 2016
Quartet envoys meet Israeli, Palestinian officials
Envoys from the Middle East Quartet held talks Monday with Israeli and Palestinian officials, the office of the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process says in a statement, without elaborating on the content of the discussions or the identity of the officials.
“The Envoys from the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations met to discuss preparations for the Middle East Quartet’s forthcoming report,” the statement says. “During their visit they also took the opportunity to meet officials from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority.”
Kahlon urges Netanyahu, Herzog to band together
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon reportedly says he has been urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition chief Isaac Herzog to band together in a unity coalition.
“There’s no doubt that the government’s second year will be much more difficult than the first,” he says at a closed meeting in Tel Aviv, according to a report in Haaretz. “The coalition’s position is very difficult” because it numbers only 61 members, a razor-thin majority, Kahlon adds. “Let’s be honest — over the last two months we haven’t been bringing to the Knesset [floor] any controversial bills.”
Syria war has cost country $200b — Assad
Damage inflicted by the brutal five-year conflict in Syria has cost the country over $200 billion (176 billion euros), President Bashar Assad says in an interview with Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
“The economic damage and the damage to infrastructure exceeds $200 billion,” Assad is quoted as saying in comments carried in Russian, adding that “economic issues can be settled immediately, when the situation stabilizes in Syria, but rehabilitating the infrastructure will take a long time.”
Belgian vice PM says some celebrated Brussels attacks
In the days following the terror attacks in Brussels, street celebrations broke out in several places in Belgium, the county’s vice prime minister says.
Jan Jambon, a rightist politician, said this in an admission that Belgium has a jihadism problem. One of the Europe’s smallest countries, Belgium is Europe’s biggest per capita source of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq. In February, Jambon revealed Belgium’s intelligence services have flagged 451 citizens as jihadists.
But, Jambon says, racial profiling of jihadists is ineffective. He also says that jihadists hail from various backgrounds, not only from poor environments, “including doctors, lawyers, and common criminals.” Only one in six jihadists comes from a poor home in Belgium, he says and urges better pan-European cooperation on terrorism.
Cyprus court orders Egyptian hijack suspect held for 8 days
A court orders an Egyptian man detained for eight days after authorities say he admitted hijacking a domestic EgyptAir flight and diverting it to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus by threatening to blow it up with a fake explosives belt.
Cyprus police prosecutor Andreas Lambrianou says the suspect, whom authorities had earlier identified as 59-year-old Seif Eddin Mustafa, faces charges including hijacking, illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping, and threats to commit violence.
Judge Maria Loizou says she found the police request for the maximum eight-day detention necessary because of fears the suspect might flee and the fact that he admitted to the hijacking in a voluntary statement to police.
Tuesday’s drama, which started when authorities said Mustafa claimed to have explosives and forced the flight from Alexandria to Cairo to land in Cyprus, ended peacefully about six hours later. Most of the 72 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus A320 were released soon after the plane landed, though a handful were held for longer. All were let go before Mustafa surrendered.
State declines to disqualify judge in Sara Netanyahu case
The state rejects a request from Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, that it remove a judge presiding over a lawsuit against her, according to Channel 2.
National Labor Court President Dita Proginin awarded Menny Naftali, a former caretaker at the prime minister’s residence, NIS 170,000 (about $43,735) in damages earlier this month, accepting his claims of mistreatment by Netanyahu.
The prime minister’s wife, in turn, demanded last Sunday that Proginin be disqualified from judging another suit against her, by Guy Eliyahu, a former maintenance worker at the residence. Netanyahu claimed that, in light of Proginin’s previous judgement, she was biased against her, and “The court’s mind was already made up.”
Today the state denies her request, saying there is “no cause” to remove Proginin.
AP willingly cooperated with the Nazis, report shows
The Associated Press news agency willingly cooperated with Nazi Germany, submitting to the regime’s restrictive rulings on the freedom of the press and providing it with images from its photo archives to be used in its anti-Semitic and anti-Western propaganda machine, a new report reveals.
When Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists rose to power in 1933, all international news agencies but the US-based AP were forced to leave Germany. The AP continued to operate in the Third Reich until 1941, when the United States joined World War II.
According to German historian Harriet Scharnberg, the world’s biggest news agency was only allowed to remain in Germany because it signed a deal with the regime.
The news agency lost control over its copy by submitting itself to the Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), agreeing not to print any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home,” she wrote in an article published in the academic journal Studies in Contemporary History.
Scharnberg’s research was first reported by the UK-based Guardian newspaper.
Read the full report here.
— Raphael Ahren
Airline to pay passenger who didn’t get a kosher meal
The German airline Lufthansa is ordered to pay nearly $1,400 for “moral damage” to a Brazilian Jewish passenger for not serving the kosher food he had requested when booking his round-trip ticket between Sao Paulo and Zurich.
Passenger Isaac Kopfler, who was awarded the damages by a court in Sao Paulo on Monday, says he had to fast during the 14-hour flight between Switzerland and Brazil on March 21, 2012. His initial lawsuit requested about $5,000 in refunds and damages.
“The passenger has the right to receive what he paid for. It is a consumer relationship and, unlike what the airline claims, the non-existence of kosher food, despite having been requested in advance, is not an ancillary matter,” reads the court decision. The kosher meal “is of great importance and is based on religious principles.”
In a letter to the Exame news portal this week, Lufthansa apologizes and commits to paying the damages.
Lufthansa says the flight was operated by SwissAir, which belongs to the Lufthansa Group, and the “technical problem” is uncommon. The food reportedly did not board the airplane with the catering service and therefore was not served. Other alternatives would have been offered to the passenger, who may be contacted to receive further compensation in mileage, according to the airline.
Police search for man who kidnapped son, 4, from hostel
Israeli police are searching for the last day for a man who allegedly kidnapped his four-year-old son Tuesday from a Jewish hostel for battered women in which his wife is staying, according to Army Radio.
The report cites the Jerusalem rabbinical court as ruling today that the child’s life is in danger due to the man’s violent nature.
In Israel, Greek president says Holocaust must inform EU refugee policy
President Reuven Rivlin hosts his Greek counterpart, Prokopios Pavlopoulos in Jerusalem for a conversation that centers on regional issues, with a focus on the refugee crisis and the radical Islamic State group, which has ravaged Syria and Iraq and brought a surge of terror attacks to the continent.
“Countries in this region must recognize the common danger posed by militant Islam and IS, unite against this enemy, and form one alliance: a regional security and economic alliance to bring an end to global terror,” Rivlin tells Pavlopoulos, according to a readout from his office.
“IS’s terror is aimed at all of humanity,” Pavlopoulos responds. “We must make clear to Europe that we stand against terror together, and that when it comes to the issue of the refugees, we will not allow expressions of hatred between people, which is the source of racism and anti-Semitism.”
He says he views “with great concern” the “wave of hatred” against refugees in Europe, and invokes the memory of the Holocaust to explain why Europe must fight that “darkness.”
“We must eliminate it, with the memory of the Holocaust; we must fight against terrorism, but for human life,” Pavlopoulos says. “We must not allow the European continent to return to darkness, Europe must continue to be a continent of enlightenment and humanity.”
Teen groped, pepper sprayed at Trump rally
Police are looking for a man who pepper-sprayed a 15-year-old girl as opponents and supporters of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump clashed outside a Wisconsin rally.
The altercation is the latest in a series of confrontations that have marred recent Trump events.
Janesville Police Sgt. Aaron Ellis says that investigators have photos taken by participants at the demonstration outside the Holiday Inn Express on Tuesday, which could help to identify the man with the pepper spray.
Ellis says the girl told police she punched another man who groped her. Police also want to interview that man.
An argument between the girl and the man suspected of groping her was caught on video:
The girl and a 19-year-old woman standing next to her in the crowd were taken to a hospital, treated and released. Ellis says the girl could face charges for punching the other man.
In a second video of the incident, one Trump supporter in the crowd can be heard yelling at the girl, “You goddamn communist nigger-lover, get the hell out of here!”
— AP and Times of Israel staff
Isaac Herzog suspected of corruption — report
Opposition chief Isaac Herzog is the second senior politician suspected of wrongdoing, Channel 2 political correspondent Amit Segal tweets.
The nature of the suspicions against Herzog aren’t immediately clear.
פרסום ראשון: יצחק הרצוג הוא הפוליטיקאי השני שנבדק על ידי רשויות החוק
— עמית סגל (@amit_segal) March 30, 2016
He joins Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who revealed today that police have been conducting a preliminary probe amid suspicions against him in a separate case.
Brazilian Jewish leader relieved Dani Dayan saga over
Two days after Israel withdrew the candidacy of Dani Dayan as ambassador to Brazil, the leader of the country’s Jewish community, Fernando K. Lottenberg, says he’s happy this whole saga is finally over.
“We are relieved that this ended. And we hope now that this could be a fresh start, that we could take this moment to relaunch the bilateral relationship,” he tells The Times of Israel in a telephone interview from Sao Paulo.
“It is very important for both countries and the Brazilian Jewish community to have someone who can represent Israel here and with whom we can work together to improve the relationship.”
In August 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Dayan, a former leader of settlement movement, as Israel’s new ambassador in Brasilia. The Brazilians refused to accept Dayan, but until this week Jerusalem refused to send someone else.
The country’s Jewish community suffered from the month-long standoff, Lottenberg says. “It’s not a good position to be in.”
— Raphael Ahren
Herzog says accusations are warmed over, ‘delusional’
Herzog responds to news of the probe against him, dismissing it as the product of “delusional political muckraking” promoted by the Likud party and “frustrated activists” before last year’s Knesset elections “and denied back then.”
“I’m sure the examination will refute these delusional claims once and for all,” he says in a statement, promising to “cooperate fully” with any party so that “the issue is clarified as soon as possible.”
Herzog suspected of campaign funding irregularities
The allegations against Herzog relate to the 2013 primary elections in the Labor Party, during which he beat the sitting chairwoman, Shelly Yachimovich.
Although Herzog has a relatively positive reputation, this isn’t the first time he has faced suspicions relating to campaign funding.
He once memorably exercised his right to remain silent when he was investigated in 1999 as cabinet secretary, in connection with alleged campaign funding irregularities on the part of then-prime minister Ehud Barak.
— Haviv Rettig Gur contributed
PM pans senator’s demand for probe of ‘extrajudicial killings’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes on a US senator who demanded that the US investigate alleged Israeli human rights abuses and determine whether they are reason enough to cut military aid.
“The IDF and security forces are not murderers,” he says in a statement. “IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers protect with their bodies, in a moral manner, themselves and innocent civilians from bloodthirsty terrorists set on killing them.”
Netanyahu asks, “Where is the concern for the infringement of the human rights of so many Israelis who were murdered and wounded by criminal murderers?”
He is responding to a letter sent by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and 10 House members to US Secretary of State John Kerry on February 17.
Netanyahu concludes that the letter “should have been directed at those who incite children to cruel acts of terrorism.”
Leahy and his fellow signatories asked the president to look into claims of “gross violations of human rights” by Israel and Egypt, citing examples of alleged extrajudicial killings by both countries.
— Stuart Winer contributed
Attorney general confirms probe against Herzog
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit confirms that his office is managing a preliminary probe into alleged “criminal acts” by Isaac Herzog, according to Channel 2.
Mandelblit emphasizes that it isn’t an official investigation at this point.
El Al Madrid-TA flight makes emergency landing in Athens
An El Al flight from Madrid to Tel Aviv makes an emergency landing in Athens.
The airline says the decision to land was made due to smoke in the plane’s rear kitchen.
It says the fault is being investigated and that the plane is expected to take off for Israel soon.
Cruz to address Republican Jewish Coalition
Ted Cruz will speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual Las Vegas event.
The Texas senator and presidential candidate is the only one of the three GOP candidates to confirm his appearance at the April 8-10 event.
Matt Brooks, the RJC director, tells JTA to “stay tuned” regarding possible attendance by front-runner Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is running third behind Cruz in accumulated delegates.
The event is taking place at The Venetian, the casino resort owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major funder of the RJC and a Republican kingmaker. Adelson has yet to declare which candidate he is backing, but has said he has considered backing Cruz and would support Trump if he secured the nomination.
Governors who have endorsed candidates are appearing, including Rick Scott of Florida, who favors Trump, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who is supporting Cruz.
The event is closed to the media.
Israeli Arabs mark Land Day with demonstrations
Israeli Arabs across the country staged demonstrations for Land Day, which commemorates the 1976 decision by the first Rabin government to expropriate some 5,000 acres of land from Arab towns in the Galilee.
The central event took place in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which the government is planning to remove and replace with a Jewish town.
Military closes probe into 2014 killing of Palestinian
The military prosecution closes its investigation into the death of a Palestinians protester during Nakba Day demonstrations in the West Bank village of Beitunia, near Ramallah, on May 15, 2014.
Two Palestinians, Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, and Muhammad Abu Taher, 22, were killed during a demonstration that day.
A video released following the incident appeared to show the two shot while walking in an area away from the demonstration, when they posed no threat to Israeli security forces.
A police probe of the shooting initially found that Border Police officer Ben Deri had used a live round, rather than the nonlethal munitions used to disperse crowds. He has been charged with killing Nawara.
The prosecution now says it didn’t uncover evidence that could shed light on the circumstances of Abu Taher’s death.
“Even after a vigorous investigation, there was no evidence found to point at live fire from IDF soldiers who were present during the incident, but rather only munitions for dispersing riots,” the prosecution tells the B’Tselem human rights group.
Since the shooting, Deri has completed his three-year mandatory service at the West Bank Border Police’s 38th company and has been released from active duty.
— Adiv Sterman contributed
Obama says terrorists trying to ‘weaken our faith’
President Barack Obama says the goal of terrorists is to “weaken our faith” and lead people to strike out against those who look or pray differently.
Obama is using remarks at an Easter prayer breakfast to urge people to stand against extremist groups like those that recently attacked in Belgium and Pakistan. He says the attacks “tempt us to cast out the stranger” and to turn backs on those in need of help and refuge.
Obama says this Easter holiday took on greater meaning as a result of “horrific acts of terror.” He notes that most of the victims were Christian and Muslim women and children.
Obama says he’s been changed by his faith. He says it has taught him there’s always the possibility of redemption.
Female prisoners in Russia get Jewish prayer space
Rabbis in Saint Petersburg open Russia’s first prison Jewish prayer space for women.
The Jewish house of worship in the Number 2 Penal Colony of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia has a capacity of 20 worshipers, the news site www.jewish.ru reports.
Services in the space will be led out of St. Petersburg by Rabbi Ifrah Abramov.
“Convicts of Jewish faith received with joy at the news about the opening of a prayer room in the colony,” he says.
The opening ceremony Tuesday was attended by the deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Valery Nikolaev, and the chief rabbi of St. Petersburg, Menachem Mendel Pevzner, as well as Rabbi Aaron Gurevich, who works with prisoners across Russia.
Elsewhere in Russia, many prisons for men have prayer spaces and synagogues.
Brussels airport says no flights until at least late Thursday
Brussels airport said it will remain closed to passenger flights until at least late Thursday afternoon following last week’s attacks, as the operator carries out further tests for a partial restart.
“The evaluation of the trial is still ongoing and will take at least till tomorrow afternoon. No flights till then,” the airport operator says on Twitter.
The airport began testing temporary check-in facilities and new security measures on Tuesday, using hundreds of airport staff as stand-ins for passengers.
The airport has been shut since suicide bombers Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui blew themselves up in the departure hall on 22 March.
Coordinated attacks claimed by the Islamic State group at the airport and a Brussels metro station killed 32 people.
Police said to have invoices linking Herzog to graft
Channel 10 publishes new information on the nature of the suspicions against opposition chief Isaac Herzog.
In a report it says there is an apparent direct connection between Herzog and alleged transgressions of campaign funding law during the 2013 primary elections in the Labor Party.
The suspicion hinges on a direct payment made by donors to members of his campaign, the report says, adding that police has acquired invoices that show Herzog knew of the illicit transactions.