The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
US envoy: ‘Liberal media’ played up Gaza clashes to undermine Trump on Jerusalem
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman accuses the “liberal media” of giving prominent coverage to violent protests on the Gaza border in order to undermine US President Donald Trump’s decision to open the US embassy in Jerusalem.
In an opinion piece for Fox News, Friedman said the “apparent success of the embassy’s opening ceremony enraged the liberal media,” which found a “dark side to an otherwise uplifting story” in the Hamas-led clashes on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Friedman says those who died in Monday’s riots, which came as the US inaugurated its Jerusalem embassy, “were neither heroes nor the peaceful protesters they were advertised to be,” noting Hamas said the majority of those killed were its members.
“At least not before the liberal media entered the scene. Desperate for a narrative to discredit the president’s decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem, they broadcast the opening ceremony on a split screen simultaneously displaying the Gaza riots, and condemned the insensitivity of the ceremony’s participants to the carnage that seemed next door on TV but which in actuality was occurring 60 miles away,” he says.
Detained Iranian-British woman learns of new charges in Iran
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The husband of an Iranian-British woman detained in Tehran says she now faces a new charge of “spreading propaganda against the regime.”
A statement Monday from him says Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe learned of the new charge at a court hearing Saturday before Judge Abolghassem Salavati of Tehran’s hard-line Revolutionary Court.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government while traveling with her young daughter.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, says “the judge told Nazanin to expect that there will likely be another conviction and sentence against her.”
Iranian state media and officials don’t immediately report the court hearing.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case comes as London is considering repaying Tehran some 400 million British pounds from a pre-1979 arms deal.
Soldier attacked while driving in Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox stronghold
A soldier is attacked while driving his car through the Mea Shearim ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, police say.
After spotting the soldier, dozens of ultra-Orthodox “radicals” throw objects at the soldier’s car, according to police. Officers called to the scene escort the soldier from the area. He is unhurt.
Police are searching for those involved in the incident.
“The Israel Police will not allow any incident in which there is a sign of harm to those in uniform and will act firmly and with all means to locate those with a hand in these acts,” police say.
New head of IDF Operations takes up post
The army’s thus far successful efforts to prevent all-out war in the region will be in vain, unless the military “continues to learn to adapt much faster than our enemies,” the outgoing head of IDF Operations tells his successor.
Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who has served in the position for three years, tells his replacement Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva a “heavy responsibility” comes with the new position.
“I can promise you one thing, you won’t be bored for a moment,” Alon says, during a ceremony at the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot also delivers remarks at the event, noting that Haliva is entering the position at a time particularly fraught with tensions — with Iran in Syria, with Hamas in Gaza and with “day-to-day terror” in the West Bank.
“In the past few weeks, the IDF has faced many complicated challenges, from thwarting the efforts of Iran to deepen its grip on our borders, to dealing with terrorism conducted under the over of mass protests by the Hamas terror group, to the prevention of day-to-day terror and the safeguarding of the quality of life in Judea and Samaria,” Eisenkot says, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
In his speech, Eisenkot thanks Alon for his service over the past three years and wishes Haliva luck in his new position.
“No one is better suited than you to command the Israel Defense Forces’ Operations Directorate,” Eisenkot tells Haliva.
— Judah Ari Gross
Liberman: Arab party chief part of a ‘fifth column’
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman renews his attack on Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh over the latter’s confrontation with police following allegations of violence by officers at a protest in Haifa, accusing the lawmaker of being part of a “fifth column.”
Referring to the Gaza solidarity protests, Liberman says protesters sided with Hamas over the IDF.
“This is a fifth column for all intents and purposes,” says Liberman, singling out Odeh and other members of his party.
Liberman laments the “systematic failure” of law enforcement to take action against Odeh “and his friends” and calls for them to be outlawed.
Funeral for Polish WWII hero held in Warsaw
WARSAW, Poland — A funeral with military honors for a World War II hero and Warsaw Rising fighter is held in the Polish capital.
Stanislaw Likiernik, who had Jewish roots, was 16 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, starting the war. He joined Poland’s resistance fighters, the Home Army, and took part in sabotage actions like blowing up German army transports and executions of Nazi informers. He fought and was injured in the failed struggle to liberate Warsaw in 1944. His heroics were an inspiration for a popular novel and film.
After the war he settled in Paris, where he studied political science. After the 1956 easing of the communist regime, he often visited Poland.
Likiernik died April 17 in France and his funeral Monday is at the military section of Powazki cemetery.
Netanyahu thanks Paraguay president for embassy move: ‘He kept his word’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes at his office in Jerusalem following the opening of the Paraguayan embassy in the city.
“In a few weeks [Cartes] is ending his term, and he said: ‘Before the end of my term, as an expression of the friendship between Paraguay and Israel, I will move the embassy.’ He kept his word. Thanks from the bottom of my heart,” Netanyahu says.
Lapid says Trump peace plan to propose Abu Dis as Palestinian capital
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid claims that the peace plan being prepared by the US administration designates the East Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis as the potential future capital of a Palestinian state.
Speaking at his weekly faction meeting at the Knesset, Lapid demands that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirm whether he has agreed to the plan and whether he believes the two-state solution is still a viable option.
“This would not happen without the prime minister being aware of it and giving his agreement,” Lapid says of the rumored proposal for Abu Dis.
Lapid says such a proposal raises two questions: “Has the two state solution been put back in the table with the agreement of the prime minister?” and, “Would Netanyahu accept Abu Dis as the future capital of Palestine?”
The Trump administration is reportedly aiming to roll out its much-hyped but long-delayed Middle East peace plan — which US President Donald Trump has called “the deal of the century” — next month.
Abu Dis is a suburb of Jerusalem but lies east of Israel’s security barrier and outside the capital’s municipal boundary.
— Raoul Wootliff
Pompeo: Iran deal failed to ensure security of Americans
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo begins his speech laying out the White House’s new strategy on Iran after US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
“President withdrew the deal for a simple reason: It failed to guarantee the security of the American people from the risk created by the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. No more,” he says.
Repeating Trump’s criticism of the deal, Pompeo says the deal’s so-called sunset provision set up Iran for a “quick sprint” to the bomb upon its expiration.
“The deal did nothing to address Iran’s development of ballistic and cruise missiles, which could carry nuclear weapons,” he says.
Pompeo also accuses Iran of using the windfall that came from sanctions relief to fund groups in the Middle East such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Houthis in Yemen.
Pompeo: Coming Iran sanctions to be the ‘strongest in history’
Pompeo says new sanctions will be imposed on Iran as part of the US administration’s new strategy toward the Islamic Republic.
“We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness,” he says, adding that further sanctions are in the pipeline.
“The Iranian regime should know this is just the beginning,” Pompeo adds.
He says the new sanctions will be the “strongest in history.”
Pompeo: US will ‘crush’ Iranian and Hezbollah operatives
Pompeo says the US and its allies will work to “deter Iranian aggression,” thwarting Iranian cyberattacks and efforts to interfere with crucial waterways.
“We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah allies around the world and we will crush them,” he says.
“If they restart their nuclear program it will mean bigger problems. Bigger problems than they’ve ever had before,” adds Pompeo.
He also says the US will continue to condemn Iran’s treatment of its citizens, noting the recent protests in the country.
Pompeo: Iran must give ‘full account’ of past work on nukes
Pompeo lays out the conditions for any new nuclear deal with Iran.
“The deal is not the objective. The goal is to protect the American people. Any new agreement will ensure Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear weapon,” says Pompeo.
He says the US will not renegotiate the current nuclear deal.
Iran must give “full account” to IAEA of its past work to develop nuclear warheads, says Pompeo, and cannot pursue the enrichment of uranium or plutonium.
He also says Iran must cease development of ballistic missiles, release US citizens and end its support for regional terror groups, among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Syria says Damascus ‘completely secure’, IS ousted
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s army says Monday it is in full control of the capital Damascus and its outskirts after ousting the Islamic State jihadist group, marking a major milestone in the seven-year war.
“The Syrian army announces today that Damascus, its outskirts and surrounding towns are completely secure,” it says in a statement carried on official media.
The development comes after troops capture a key southern portion of Damascus from IS, the statement says, including the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk and the adjacent district of Hajar al-Aswad.
“The wheel of our progress on the battlefield will not stop until all Syrian land is purified,” it adds.
The army’s announcement comes hours after a tenuous evacuation deal saw hundreds of IS fighters and their relatives quit Yarmouk, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Lapid praises Pompeo speech, says world must act against ‘Iranian terror’
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid praises Mike Pompeo after the secretary of state’s speech laying out the Trump administration’s new strategy towards Iran.
“Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, is right. In a clear and tough speech he said today that Iran needs to get out of Syria and immediately stop its support for Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran needs to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” tweets Lapid.
“The world must work together against Iranian terror.”
Erekat condemns Paraguay over Jerusalem embassy move
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemns Paraguay after the South American nation opened its embassy in Jerusalem, calling on Arab states to sever ties with any country that moves its embassy in Israel to the city.
“We have witnessed today how the Paraguayan president is an irresponsible political leader by defying international law and the achievement of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Erekat says in a statement. “Moving an embassy to Jerusalem is a widely rejected step, condemned by the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Holy See as well as by the local churches of Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine.”
Erekat also says the Palestinians are working with others to take the “necessary diplomatic steps” against the United States, Guatemala and Paraguay for moving their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.
“We particularly call upon Arab countries that host diplomatic missions of these countries to implement the previous resolutions of the Arab League of 1980, 1990 and 2000 to ‘severing all ties with states that transfer their embassies to Jerusalem or recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,'” he says.
Iranian official says Pompeo speech shows US wants regime change
An Iranian official tells Reuters that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech outlining the Trump administration’s new strategy towards Iran shows the United States is seeking to topple the Islamic Republic.
“America wants to pressure Iran to surrender and accept their illegal demands … his remarks showed that America is surely after regime change in Iran,” the official says.
Netanyahu praises new US strategy towards Iran, calls on others to follow
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises the Trump administration’s tough stance toward Iran after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech laying out the conditions for a nuclear deal with Iran.
“No enrichment, tough sanctions and Iran should get out of Syria. We believe that it’s only policy that can ultimately guarantee peace. We call on all countries to follow America’s lead here,” Netanyahu says at a reception for Paraguay’s president in honor of the country’s opening of its embassy in Jerusalem.
“Iran doesn’t need centrifuges for enrichment. If Iran wanted to pursue a peaceful nuclear program they wouldn’t need to hide their nuclear archive,” Netanyahu adds. “Thank you, America, this is the right policy.”
Spanish, Slovenian envoys dressed down after UNHRC approves probe of Gaza clashes
The Foreign Ministry confirms the Spanish and Slovenian ambassadors were summoned for reprimands after their countries voted in favor of a UN Human Rights Council probe into Israel’s handling of deadly clashes along the Gaza border.
The Belgian ambassador will be summoned tomorrow, the Foreign Ministry says.
Spain, Slovenia and Belgium were three of the 29 countries on Friday to vote for the investigation, which Israel vowed not to cooperate with and slammed as “absurd” and “hypocritical.”
J Street condemns Pompeo speech, while AIPAC welcomes it
The left-wing J Street advocacy group slams US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech laying out the White House’s new strategy towards Iran, saying it shows America is “almost totally isolated and is acting as a destabilizing force in the Middle East,” under President Donald Trump.
“Let’s be clear: Today, it’s the US alone that is in violation of the historic JCPOA arms control agreement.. Under the guidance of his new war cabinet, the president has demanded Iran’s complete and unconditional capitulation on a maximalist list of demands – an approach that is a recipe for confrontation and war,” Dylan Williams, the group’s vice president of government affairs, says in a statement.
“The only way now to ensure that a profoundly unfit president and his regime change-obsessed advisers cannot bring about another costly and bloody war of choice is for Congress to exercise its constitutional duty to act as a check on the president,” he adds. “Congress must make clear that the president does not now have its authorization for the use of military force against Iran.”
AIPAC, on the other hand, says it welcomes Pompeo’s speech.
“We welcome @SecPompeo’s important speech on Iran today, in which he outlined a comprehensive US policy to prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon and to confront its regional aggression,” the prominent pro-Israel lobby group says in a tweet.
Trump praises Haspel as she is sworn in as CIA’s first female director
LANGLEY, Virginia — US President Donald Trump praises new CIA Director Gina Haspel at her swearing-in ceremony Monday, saying there was “no one in this country better qualified” for the job.
Striking a different tone than in his previous visit to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Northern Virginia, Trump hails the agency staffers, calling them the “most elite intelligence professionals on the planet” and promises them the “the tools, the resources and the support they need.”
The Senate confirmed Haspel last week after overcoming concerns about her role in the agency’s use of harsh interrogation techniques after 9/11. Trump says she showed courage during the process in the face of “very negative politics.”
Haspel says she took pride in being the first woman to lead the agency, adding: “I stand on the shoulders of heroines who never sought public acclaim, but served as inspirations to the generations that came after them.”
Haspel says she wants to send more officers into the field, improve foreign language proficiency among the ranks and strengthen the agency’s working relationships with intelligence agencies in partner nations.
‘Who are you to decide for Iran,’ Rouhani says after Pompeo speech
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani strikes a defiant note after US secretary of state unveils the Trump administration’s new strategy on Iran.
“Who are you to decide for Iran and the world? The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent… that era is over… We will continue our path with the support of our nation,” state media quotes Rouhani as saying, according to Reuters.
Ken Livingstone resigns from UK’s Labour, denies allegations of anti-Semitism
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone announces his resignation from UK’s Labour, saying allegations of anti-Semitism against him are distracting from the party’s efforts to replace the Conservative government.
“I do not accept the allegation that I have brought the Labour Party into disrepute — nor that I am in any way guilty of anti-Semitism. I abhor anti-Semitism, I have fought it all my life and will continue to do so,” he says in a statement.
“I also recognize that the way I made a historical argument has caused offense and upset in the Jewish community. I am truly sorry for that,” Livingstone adds.
Livingstone has made a number of comments criticized as anti-Semitic, including saying in 2016 that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews,” a claim he was suspended from the party for.
Under Jeremy Corbyn, who became Labour’s leader in 2015, the party has been rocked by allegations of anti-Semitism in its ranks, with UK Jewish groups criticizing him for not sufficiently addressing the problem.
Zarif dismisses Trump administration’s new Iran strategy as a ‘sham’
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismisses the new Iran strategy laid out by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier today as a “sham.”
“US diplomacy sham is merely a regression to old habits: imprisoned by delusions & failed policies — dictated by corrupt Special Interest — it repeats the same wrong choices and will thus reap the same ill rewards,” Zarif tweets.
“Iran, meanwhile, is working with partners for post-US JCPOA solutions,” he adds, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal by its formal name.
US diplomacy sham is merely a regression to old habits: imprisoned by delusions & failed policies—dictated by corrupt Special Interest—it repeats the same wrong choices and will thus reap the same ill rewards. Iran, meanwhile, is working with partners for post-US JCPOA solutions.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) May 21, 2018
UK’s Johnson says ‘jumbo Iran negotiation’ sought by US will be hard to seal
LONDON — The “jumbo Iran negotiation” sought by US President Donald Trump will be “very, very difficult” to achieve, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warns Monday.
US counterpart Mike Pompeo on Monday set 12 tough conditions for a “new deal” with Iran after Trump quit the current nuclear agreement.
But Johnson says that he did not see a comprehensive deal “being very easy to achieve, in anything like a reasonable timetable.”
Defending the original deal, Johnson says it “protected the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb, and in return it gave the Iranians some recognizable economic benefits.”
He adds that G20 foreign ministers would discuss the issue when they meet in Buenos Aires later Monday.
Johnson also says Britain was already taking measures to try to shield British companies dealing with Iran from being hit by US sanctions.
“We’re going to do everything we possibly can,” he said.