The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
Jewish Home irate over reported Netanyahu-Herzog peace bid
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Jewish Home ministers demand answers from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over reports that he and opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog nearly formed a unity government last fall.
The report, in the daily Haaretz, carried an English-language text drafted by Netanyahu and Herzog that would have committed Israel to reduced settlement construction, explicitly welcomed a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians and sought wider Arab states’ backing for such a move.
According to Channel 10, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, demands to know if the report is accurate.
Netanyahu tells the ministers the leak comes as part of internal political wrangling within Herzog’s Labor party.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Bennett’s number two, reportedly retorts that the leaked document reached Haaretz not from Labor, but from staffers of former US secretary of state John Kerry.
Wave of IS car bombs targets Iraqi troops in west Mosul
BAGHDAD — Iraqi troops encounter the “heaviest” clashes yet with Islamic State group fighters Sunday in western Mosul since the start of the new push more than two weeks ago, according to a senior commander.
Maj. Gen. Haider al-Maturi of the Federal Police Commandos Division tells The Associated Press that IS militants dispatched at least six suicide car bombs, which are all destroyed before reaching the troops. The militants, he says, are moving from house to house and deploying snipers.
The wave of heavy resistance comes as Iraqi forces launch attacks against IS-held neighborhoods in western Mosul from three points Sunday morning. The Federal Police are closing in on the city’s main government complex in the Dawasa neighborhood and Iraq’s special forces are attempting to push into the Shuhada and Mansour neighborhoods.
The push on Mosul’s west was launched about two weeks ago after the eastern half of the city was declared “fully liberated” in January. The operation to retake Mosul officially began in October after more than two years of slowly clawing back territory from IS militants.
Six top Hadassah pediatric cancer physicians resign
All six senior pediatric hematologist-oncologists at Israel’s largest hospital resign on Sunday amid an ongoing wage dispute with hospital management.
In a statement, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem says it “received today a collective resignation letter of the head of the pediatric hemato-oncology department and five senior doctors in the department. Management will do everything possible to ensure that no child is hurt by this collective resignation.”
One lawmaker, Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuley, who heads the Knesset’s caucus for children with cancer, calls on Health Minister Yaakov Litzman to intervene to prevent the resignations.
US lawmakers on visit to explore possible embassy move
A group of American lawmakers is visiting Israel Sunday to examine a possible move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The delegation, made up of members of the Subcommittee for National Security of the House Oversight Committee, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials on Sunday morning.
Led by Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Florida, the group is set to visit possible locations for the American embassy and is expected to brief Congress and the administration of its findings.
“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years, since King David. That’s a fact that nobody can deny,” says Likud MK Yehudah Glick, a US-born lawmaker who briefed the delegation on the city’s history and political significance.
“Now is the time for the US president to keep his promise and the law passed by Congress in 1995 and lead the free world to recognize reality and declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and the Jewish people.”
— Raphael Ahren
Rivlin: US was, must always remain a safe place for Jews
Amid a wave of anti-Semitic vandalism and bomb threats targeting Jewish communities across the United States, President Reuven Rivlin tells New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday that the US must always remain a safe place for Jews.
“In the time of the Holocaust, few places were safe for Jews. The United States was a rare island of safety. We can never, ever, let that change,” Rivlin says.
Cuomo is in Israel on a visit he says is meant as an act of solidarity in the face of the anti-Semitic wave.
“Your arrival to Israel at this time is an extremely important signal that the US people and government will not let anti-Semitism win,” Rivlin tells the governor. “Our appreciation goes to [US] President [Donald] Trump who condemned the attacks – and we are deeply touched by Vice President [Mike] Pence, who went and gave a hand – and a voice – in fixing the broken gravestones,” Rivlin adds, referring to Pence’s visit to a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, Missouri, that had been vandalized. Pence helped workers replace the toppled headstones.
Ministers look to ease enforcement of marijuana use
Cabinet ministers on Sunday vote to establish a top-level committee that will piece together the nuts and bolts of the government’s developing policy of de facto decriminalization of private use of marijuana.
In the cabinet decision, ministers formally establish the 13-member committee, which includes the heads of the government’s drug enforcement agency, the Health Ministry’s top official dealing with addiction issues, the directors of the Public Security Ministry, a senior police official, treasury and Justice Ministry officials, and others.
The decision follows an announcement last month by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan that he now supports all but canceling enforcement of anti-marijuana laws in cases of private use in private places. The policy is supported by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
The committee has until May 7 to submit its recommendations, which, according to the decision, will include a careful examination of all relevant questions of legislation, enforcement, budgets and health policy that the change in policy might entail.
Dutch far-right MP slams Turkey referendum rally plans
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders Sunday denounces plans by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to attend a Rotterdam rally in support of a high-stakes Turkish referendum.
“They should not come and interfere here with our domestic problems,” Wilders tells reporters, referring to next Saturday’s rally backing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dutch officials, including Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have already condemned the plans to hold the demonstration organized by some of the port city’s sizable Turkish community.
“If I would be prime minister today I would declare — until at least the half of April when they have the referendum — I would call the whole cabinet of Turkey persona non grata for a month or two, not allowing them to come here,” Wilders says, speaking in English.
“We believe that Dutch public space is not the place to hold a political campaign for another country,” Rutte said on his Facebook page.
A Turkish-Dutch political association said Friday that Cavusoglu would attend the rally, hoping to persuade some hundreds of thousands of Turkish-origin citizens to vote “yes” in the April 16 referendum aimed at boosting Erdogan’s powers.
German towns last week banned three similar rallies which had been due to be attended by Turkish ministers, provoking anger from Ankara.
The Turkish public will decide whether to approve constitutional changes that will expand the role of the head of state and remove the office of the premier.
Cuomo calls anti-Semitic attack in New York ‘reprehensible’
Visiting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says Sunday that a recent rash of anti-Semitic acts in the United States was “reprehensible” and his state would have no tolerance for them.
In a visit to Israel, Cuomo makes his first comments following the toppling of headstones at a Jewish cemetery this weekend in Brooklyn. It follows a series of vandalism attacks at Jewish cemeteries and more than 120 bomb threats to Jewish organizations in three dozen states since early January. In New York City alone, anti-Semitic hate crimes nearly doubled in the past year.
Speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Cuomo says the incidents “violated every tenet of the New York State tradition.” He says the state has posted rewards and put together a special police unit to combat the phenomenon.
“New York State by its definition is a celebration of diversity, it accepts all, we believe in the spirit of inclusion and we live by discrimination of none. New York’s principles are built on a rock. They will not change and the political wings will not change them,” he says, alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. “We have made it clear that there will be no tolerance for these acts of anti-Semitism.”
Police arrest knife-carrying Palestinians at West Bank junction
Border Police officers arrest two Palestinian men at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on suspicion of planning a stabbing attack at the site.
According to a statement by police, a policeman stationed at the junction sees two figures walking through an open field near the intersection.
Officers approach the two, find one man in possession of a knife, and arrest them both.
According to police, after questioning the men officials conclude one had carried out reconnaissance of the site and sought to carry out an attack.
— Judah Ari Gross
Troubled Labor Party announces July 3 leadership primary
The Labor Party announces the party’s long-awaited leadership primaries will be held on July 3, with a possible second-round vote, if no candidate passes the 40 percent threshold, on July 13.
The move sends Israel’s troubled main opposition party, which hasn’t won an election in 18 years, into a fierce contest, with at least seven candidates expected to run. These are: incumbent party leader MK Isaac Herzog, former high-tech entrepreneur MK Erel Margalit, former party leader MK Amir Peretz, MK Omer Barlev, former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbai, MK Eitan Cabel and activist-journalist Eldad Yaniv.
The sudden announcement may be an attempt to hurt outsider Gabbai’s chances, as the announcement closes the voter list of eligible primary voters on February 28. Gabbai only joined the party in late December and is still working hard to bring his supporters into the party’s ranks. Anyone who wasn’t registered as a full-fledged party member by February 28 will now not be able to vote in the primary race.
Labor leader candidate Peretz welcomes primary announcement
MK Amir Peretz, a candidate for Labor Party leader in its just-announced leadership primary set for July 3, welcomes the announcement.
“I believe in the wisdom of the masses, and I’m convinced I’ll win and lead the Labor Party to victory in the elections and replace [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” says the lawmaker, who was party leader from 2005 to 2007.
Labor leadership candidate Margalit welcomes July 3 primary
Labor Party leadership candidate MK Erel Margalit welcomes the party’s announcement earlier today of a July 3 date for its upcoming leadership primary.
“The time has come to restart the Labor [Party], and for a return to national leadership,” he says in a statement.
Hamas cancels public holiday on international women’s day
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip cancel plans to give students a day off on Wednesday for international women’s day.
The internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has declared women’s day a public holiday.
But the Islamic militant Hamas, which has controlled Gaza for the past decade, says Sunday it will not obey the order. Wednesday will be a normal work day and schools will be open, it says, though the first hour of classes will include discussions about women’s role in the Palestinian national struggle.
Under the group’s rule, Gazan society has grown increasingly conservative, with Hamas imposing a dress code on female lawyers, principals harassing students who don’t wear headscarves and occasionally women being banned from smoking in cafes.
Trump asks Congress to probe alleged illicit investigations
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump is asking Congress to probe “potentially politically motivated investigations” during the 2016 campaign, the White House says Sunday.
The announcement comes one day after Trump took to Twitter to accuse his predecessor Barack Obama of tapping his phones ahead of the November election, without providing evidence of the explosive charge.
An Obama spokesman has denied Trump’s accusation as “simply false.”
In his statement, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refers to unspecified reports of “potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election” as “very troubling.”
“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” Spicer says.
He adds that there would be no more comment on the matter from Trump or the White House.
Trump leveled his charges against Obama early Saturday, at the end of a week in which his administration was battered by controversy over communications between Russian officials and some of his senior aides including Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Herzog heads to Moscow to talk Hezbollah and the peace process
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog is leaving tonight for a diplomatic visit to Russia after he was invited by the foreign affairs committee of the Russian parliament, the Duma.
Herzog is slated to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his deputy Michael Bogdanov and leaders of the Moscow Jewish community.
The visit comes just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to visit Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on security cooperation and Israeli concerns about Iran.
“Russia is a very influential nation in the world and in our region, and I intend in my meetings to aggressively seek to prevent weaponry given [by Russia] to Syria from reaching the hands of Hezbollah, and the expansion of Hezbollah’s influence to the Syrian Golan, which is a red line from Israel’s perspective,” Herzog says in a statement.
He adds: “I will also focus on the Palestinian issue, the regional issue and social benefits for immigrants from Russia.”
Egypt’s general intelligence registers Washington lobbyist
CAIRO — Egyptian intelligence hires a public relations firm to lobby on the country’s behalf in Washington for $1.2 million annually.
Documents seen on Sunday on the Department of Justice website show that Egypt registers public relations firm Weber Shandwick and releases the details of the engagement to comply with the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938.
The contract posted on the site shows that the company will assist Egypt in “promoting its strategic partnership with the United States,” highlighting its economic development, showcasing its civil society, and publicizing Egypt’s “leading role in managing regional risks.”
Under the heading “Branch or agency represented by the registrant,” the filing states “Egypt’s General Intelligence Service.” The contract is signed by Gen. Nasser Fahmy for Maj. Gen. Khaled Fawzy, GIS director general.
Senior Democratic senator says Trump wiretap claims ‘reckless’
WASHINGTON — The senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling US President Donald Trump’s tweeted allegations that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower without revealing evidence “very reckless.”
Sen. Mark Warner says, “This feels like an attempt where the president is trying to distract us by throwing out unsubstantiated information.”
Trump has offered no supporting evidence for his claims and a spokesman for Obama denied the claim as “simply false.”
The Virginia Democrat tells CBS’s “Face The Nation” that he is not aware of any official intelligence order seeking wiretaps of then-presidential candidate Trump, and Trump’s tweets made it sound like he doesn’t know how legal wiretaps are authorized.
Warner says, “To make that type of claim without any evidence is, I think, very reckless.”
FCC grants temporary waiver allowing JCCs to receive caller information
The Federal Communications Commission grants Jewish community centers throughout the country a temporary waiver allowing them to receive caller information, in response to the recent series of bomb threats on the Jewish institutions.
The waiver, approved on Friday, comes days after 29 JCCs and Jewish schools across the country received called-in bomb threats, the fifth such incident in less than two months. It is also approved the same day that a St. Louis man is charged for making at least eight bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers and the Anti-Defamation League.
On Wednesday, Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader from New York, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking him to grant the targeted institutions special waivers allowing them to work with law enforcement to access caller ID information, calling the waiver “critical.”
“(W)e conclude that there is good cause to grant such a waiver on an emergency basis due to a large number of recent bomb-threat calls targeting these facilities and substantial disruption and fear caused as a result,” the FCC says in its decision. The decision also serves as a notice for public comment on whether to make the waiver more permanent.
Lost 400-year-old Jewish manuscript to be returned to Mexico
RIO DE JANEIRO — The oldest Jewish document of the New World will be returned to Mexico more than seven decades after it disappeared.
The 1595 autobiography of Luis de Carvajal, who was a New Christian or “converso” Jew in Mexico, will be returned this month, the Mexican consulate in New York says on Friday.
The document is considered to be an important artifact showing Jewish life on the American continent, but disappeared from the Latin American country’s national archives more than 75 years ago, according to the consulate.
Mexican Consul General Diego Gomez Pickering hails the “cultural and historical significance” that the document represents for his country and for the history of the Jewish presence in the Americas.
The manuscript was loaned to the museum of the New York Historical Society by the government of Mexico after reportedly resurfacing on the auction circuit in 2015.
Portuguese-born Luis de Carvajal was governor of the Spanish province of Nuevo León in present-day Mexico. His enemies knew he was a descendant of “conversos” and bribed one of his captains to mention his name to the Inquisition in Mexico City.
There, Carvajal was accused of several charges, but only the charge of concealing that his relatives secretly practiced Judaism was upheld. He was put on trial during the Inquisition and executed in 1596, after he denounced more than 120 other secretly practicing Jews, according to the New York Historical Society.
The “Memorias” manuscript consists of Carvajal’s memoirs, a book of psalms and commandments, and a collection of prayers, Mexico’s consulate in New York said. The manuscript is slated to be returned to Mexico’s Museum of Memory and Tolerance after its exhibition is complete on March 12.
Luis de Carvajal wrote under a pseudonym and told of his Jewish faith, according to Swann Galleries in New York, where the manuscript was on sale last June. After he was incarcerated, a cell mate exposed his manuscript, whereupon Carvajal gave in under torture and was ultimately killed.
Report: Ivanka Trump takes private tour of US Holocaust Museum
Ivanka Trump took a private tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum last week, Bloomberg reports.
News of the visit, said to have taken place last Monday, comes from an unnamed person the news service reports is familiar with her visit, which was not announced publicly.
She reportedly was accompanied by her mother-in-law and father-in-law, Charles and Seryl Kushner.
Bloomberg also cites two White House aides who say that Ivanka Trump’s father, US President Donald Trump, has expressed an interest in a similar private tour.
The Trump administration’s statement issued in January for International Holocaust Remembrance Day omitted a specific mention of Jews, which raised hackles in the Jewish community in the United States and around the world.
Republican senator: Intel panel to look at alleged Obama wiretap
A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee says he believes US President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations that his predecessor ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower will become part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton says, “We’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead us. And I’m sure that this matter will be a part of that inquiry.”
Trump has provided no evidence of his tweeted accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.
And Cotton says he has not seen any evidence of official wiretapping.
Cotton tells “Fox News Sunday,” “That doesn’t mean that none of these things happened. It simply means I haven’t seen that yet.”
Military prosecutors to appeal ‘light’ sentence for Hebron shooting soldier
Military prosecutors are set to appeal the 18-month prison sentence given to the soldier who shot and killed a wounded Palestinian attacker last March in Hebron, Channel 10 reports.
The appeal against Elor Azaria’s conviction is to be filed within three days, according to the report.
Prosecutors say the sentence given to Azaria by the Jaffa Military Court is too light, given his conviction for manslaughter.
The move comes after Azaria’s own attorney, Yoram Sheftel, vowed to appeal both the conviction and the sentence.
Police to question Netanyahu Monday in Milchan graft investigation
Police investigators are set to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, in an ongoing criminal investigation over gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels given to the premier and his wife Sara by billionaire Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Officers have complained in recent days that their inquiry has been held up repeatedly by Netanyahu’s frequent travels in recent weeks, including trips to the United Kingdom, United States, Singapore and Australia, and an upcoming trip to Russia.
US House intel panel to probe Trump wiretap claims
WASHINGTON — US House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California) says President Donald Trump’s allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower last year will become part of his panel’s investigation.
Trump has offered no evidence or details to support his claim, and Obama’s spokesman has denied it.
The California Republican says in a statement his committee “will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates.”
The committee is already investigating Russian interference in the presidential election.
Without offering evidence, Trump claimed in a series of Saturday tweets that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped telephones at Trump Tower.
Jewish Home moves ahead with new settlement, despite Netanyahu freeze
Jewish Home ministers are pushing for the establishment of a new West Bank settlement in place of the demolished illegal Amona outpost in the northern West Bank.
The move, first reported by Channel 10, comes in defiance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s order not to establishment any new settlements until the Israeli government reaches an understanding over Israel’s West Bank policy with the Trump administration.
Netanyahu vowed to Amona’s evacuees, the 40 or so families who lived at the site before it was demolished in February, that a new settlement would be established by March 31. The move would mark the first official new settlement established by Israel in the West Bank in years.
But after US President Donald Trump asked Netanyahu to hold off on settlement building as the new administration in Washington found its footing, Netanyahu delayed the implementation of his promise indefinitely.
Now, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who oversees the government’s settlement-building efforts through the nongovernmental Settlement Division, is ordering that NIS 70 million be handed to the Interior Ministry within seven days, to be made available to the Binyamin Regional Council for the purpose of founding a new settlement near where Amona once stood.
The move may be little more than a political gambit, since Netanyahu has the authority to simply cancel the order, but would face political fall-out from his rightist flank in Likud and Jewish Home if he does so.
- Israel & the Region
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- Isaac Herzog
- Naftali Bennett
- Ayelet Shaked
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- Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem
- US Embassy
- Ron DeSantis
- Reuven Rivlin
- anti-Semitism in the US
- Andrew Cuomo
- New York
- Gilad Erdan
- recreational marijuana use
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- Amir Peretz
- Erel Margalit
- Avi Gabbay
- Israel-Russia relations
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- Yehudah Glick