The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Saudi Arabia, Canada to restore full diplomatic ties
Saudi Arabia and Canada will restore full diplomatic relations, the kingdom says, following a 2018 dispute over human rights that saw Riyadh expel Ottawa’s ambassador and freeze new trade.
The decision, also announced by Canada’s foreign ministry, comes after talks last year between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Bangkok.
“It has been decided to restore the level of diplomatic relations with Canada to its previous state,” Saudi’s foreign ministry says in a statement.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly says the two countries will “appoint new ambassadors” and a Canadian foreign ministry statement names Jean-Phillipe Linteau as Ottawa’s new envoy to the kingdom.
In 2018, the Saudi government expelled Canada’s ambassador and recalled its own envoy to Ottawa, while freezing all new trade over vigorous calls for the release of activists jailed in the kingdom.
Israeli man stabbed to death in Dubai
An Israeli man has been murdered in Dubai in an apparent stabbing.
The victim is a 32-year-old man from Acre, who is described in Hebrew media reports as “known to police.”
משרד החוץ מאשר: ישראלי כבן 30 נרצח בדקירות בדובאיhttps://t.co/kgZsUTZm5Q@AAWALDMAN pic.twitter.com/po9HG5VnaV
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) May 24, 2023
The Foreign Ministry says that the Israeli consulate in Dubai is aware of the incident, which is being investigated by local authorities.
Hamas-affiliated bloc wins student vote at Birzeit University near Ramallah
A Hamas-affiliated student bloc wins elections at a top West Bank university — while the Palestinians have not held a general election since 2006.
The annual vote for the student council at Birzeit University outside Ramallah has been dominated by politics, which experts say reflects the lack of political horizon for young Palestinians.
Hamas will have 25 representatives on the Birzeit student council, according to results announced by its Student Affairs Department. The Hamas-affiliated bloc is down three seats in today’s vote compared with last year, losing its majority on the student body.
The Fatah movement wins 20 seats — up two from last year — while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine gains one seat, with six in this year’s poll.
French Senate votes unanimously to back Holocaust art restitution efforts
France’s Senate votes unanimously in favor of the restitution of Jewish-owned paintings, book and religious items taken under Nazi rule that are now in French custody.
France’s Ministry of Culture has been working to find the owners of some 2,200 pieces still in the custody of national museums that it suspects were taken from Jewish owners between January 20, 1933, when Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor, and May 8, 1945, when Germany surrendered to the Allies.
Many of the items were taken from or abandoned by French Jews, but some were stolen from German Jews and sent to France by mistake. The ministry has been working with academics and museums to prove the provenance of stolen works, and has returned 76 such works since 2013.
“Nothing can repair the Shoah tragedy, but with every restitution comes an act of justice,” said Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak in an April speech on the measure.
It is estimated that some 100,000 works of art were taken from French Jews in World War II.
Settlers, Palestinians clash in disputed incident near Homesh outpost
Several Palestinians are reported hurt in an alleged attack by settlers near the northern West Bank outpost of Homesh.
According to the Yesh Din rights group, several extremist settlers attacked Palestinians in the village of Burqa and set fire to homes.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reports two wounded.
تغطية صحفية: "صور لمستوطنين يهاجمون قرية برقة شمال مدينة نابلس". pic.twitter.com/psPFP507Lb
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) May 24, 2023
Meanwhile, the Samaria Regional Council and the Israeli Rescuers Without Borders emergency service say one Israeli settler is lightly hurt after stones were hurled at him by Palestinians.
It is unclear which side started the violence. Palestinians and rights groups have accused settlers from Homesh of attacking Palestinians in Burqa in the past.
Yesh Din says the incident comes after foreign diplomats visited the Homesh area, which was recently declared legal for Israelis to enter after 18 years.
Homesh is built partly on private Palestinian land belonging to residents of Burqa, according to a High Court ruling.
US VP Harris: I am ‘deeply concerned’ by rising levels of antisemitism
WASHINGTON — US Vice President Kamala Harris says she is alarmed by the levels of antisemitism, as the White House readies to release its government-wide strategy to combat antisemitism tomorrow.
“I am deeply concerned about what we are seeing in terms of hate, and particularly antisemitism,” Harris says in a meeting with the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
The antisemitism strategy is slated to highlight the IHRA International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism heralded by Jewish legacy organizations, while also citing the Nexus definition preferred by progressive Jewish groups, who argue that IHRA is being used by Israel and its backers to weaponize criticism against the Jewish state.
US envoy to UN criticizes Abbas for Holocaust remarks, Ben Gvir for Temple Mount visit
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield takes both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to task over recent inflammatory moves during her speech at the monthly UN Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Thomas-Greenfield calls Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s equating of Israel with Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels “a gross affront to Holocaust victims and survivors.”
“Making this kind of statement about the world’s only Jewish state is entirely unacceptable, especially during a time of rising antisemitic violence around the world,” says the US envoy, who also took issue with Abbas’s claim that the US “wanted to get rid of the Jews and benefit from their presence in Palestine” before 1948.
This “is totally without basis and it is deeply offensive to the American people,” Thomas-Greenfield says.
Turning to Israel, Thomas-Greenfield calls out far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s “provocative” visit to the Temple Mount earlier this week along with his “accompanying inflammatory rhetoric” while there — that Israel is “in charge” at the holy site.
The US envoy also criticizes the the Israeli decision to lift the ban on citizens entering the evacuated Homesh settlement, which sits on private Palestinian land.
Thomas-Greenfield also calls out the “outrageous and unacceptable” chants of “death to Arabs” and other “racist speech” used by participants at last week’s Flag March of nationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
“These chants… run counter to the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General Moratinos to combat racism and other forms of bigotry, including antisemitism,” she adds.
Each of the issues raised by Thomas-Greenfield have already been criticized by other Biden officials in recent days, and the ambassador’s speech is often a review of statements that the Biden administration has issued since the last Security Council session on the conflict.
Environment Ministry says some budget funds to focus on building climate resilience
The Environmental Protection Ministry announces that as part of the state budget approved early this morning, it will receive a basic budget for the current year of NIS 384 million ($103 million), rising to NIS 395 million ($106 million) in 2024.
This is less than the NIS 429 million ($115 million) basic budget it received for 2022.
However, an additional NIS 510 million ($137 million) will be paid out over two years for special projects, it said.
This breaks down into: NIS 200 million ($53.8 million) for building the country’s climate resilience, helping transition to a net zero-emissions economy, and making urban living more sustainable; NIS 100 million ($27 million) for a new program to integrate environmental content in ultra-Orthodox communities, and for training in Orthodox teacher training colleges; NIS 170 million ($45.7 million) to implement an environmental licensing reform which will combine a slew of environmental permits into one single one; and NIS 40 million ($10.8 million) for various environment-related projects in local and regional authorities.
The ministry will receive 46 new positions to help it implement the licensing reform, six more for waste management, and a further six for purposes not defined.
Grave of Mahsa Amini vandalized in Iran, says family lawyer
The grave of Mahsa Amini, the young Iranian Kurdish woman whose death sparked a protest movement that rattled Iran’s clerical leadership, has been vandalized, according to activists and the family lawyer.
Amini, 22, died in September after being arrested by Tehran’s morality police for purportedly flouting the strict dress rules for women in the Islamic Republic.
Amini, who had been visiting Tehran with her family, is buried in her hometown of Saqez in Iran’s Kurdistan province with activists alleging the authorities are determined to prevent any public rallying around it.
The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) says the grave, which features her Kurdish name Zhina in large Persian letters, had been attacked on the morning of May 21.
Images published on social media, said to be from the Instagram account of her brother Ashkan, showed that the glass protecting a portrait of Amini at the head of the tombstone had shattered.
“Sadly, on Sunday morning, people who are already known to us, and who have done the same things in the past, attacked the grave of Zhina Mahsa Amini,” the family’s lawyer Saleh Nikbakht says in a statement published by KHRN.
He did not specify who these individuals were, while adding the authorities had previously intervened to prevent the construction of a protective canopy over the grave.
“So the glass of your tombstone also bothers them? Let them break it a thousand times, we will make it again, let’s see who gets tired,” Ashkan Amini says in his social media post.
Awarding trophy to Beitar Jerusalem, Herzog says it should have been ‘much happier’
President Isaac Herzog says that the events which occured last night after Beitar Jerusalem won the championship cannot become the norm.
All those involved in the sport in Israel must work to “eradicate this sick evil from the fields,” Herzog says, ahead of his delayed awarding of the trophy to the team.
Following Beitar Jerualem’s win last night, a crowd of fans stormed the field forcing Herzog to be evacuated under heavy security.
Herzog says that the awarding of the trophy was supposed to occur last night “in a much happier manner,” but the “violent dramas” which unfolded prevented it from happening.
The president adds that sports-linked violence has long been a problem, and “the fact that we have not yet paid in human life is a miracle that should not be trusted.”
Sultan of Oman to visit Iran to discuss ‘promoting cooperation’
Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq will embark on a two-day visit to Iran this week, Omani state media says.
The visit which will kick off on Sunday follows a Chinese-brokered rapprochement deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran announced in March.
“Sultan Haitham bin Tariq will go on an official two-day visit to Iran… in response to an invitation from the Iranian president,” the official Oman News Agency says. “The visit will also touch on means of promoting cooperation between Oman and Iran in different spheres.”
The visit comes a year after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Muscat — a trip that saw the two countries sign a string of trade deals.
IDF says it located ‘mock’ rocket launcher in northern West Bank
The Israel Defense Forces says troops located a “mock” rocket launcher in the northern West Bank, after footage showed Palestinians apparently attempting to launch a homemade projectile at a nearby settlement.
The IDF says the launcher was found in the town of Nazlet Zeid, close to the settlement of Shaked.
The Israeli defense establishment is looking into a video circulating online of Palestinians attempting to launch a homemade rocket near the West Bank settlement of Shaked. pic.twitter.com/RO2mmDDB5M
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) May 24, 2023
The clip circulating online ostensibly shows a single rocket being launched, although it is likely the attempt was unsuccessful.
Earlier this month, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar said security forces had foiled attempts by Palestinians in the northern West Bank to manufacture rockets to be launched at Israel.
48 Democrats in Congress sign letter backing Israeli anti-overhaul protesters
WASHINGTON — Forty-eight Democratic House members have signed onto a letter expressing support for the protest movement in Israel against the effort by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judiciary.
The letter is led by Reps. Anna G. Eshoo of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland.
“We proudly stand with you, the Israeli pro-democracy movement, as you fight to preserve your democratic institutions and ensure that the rule of law prevails,” the letter states.
“As we confront challenges to our democracy at home, we admire the fortitude you have shown in facing down efforts to erode Israeli democracy. We share your belief that a strong, vibrant democracy with an independent judiciary is essential to Israel’s future success and the success of the US-Israel relationship.”
The protest movement is in its 20th week though its saliency with the broader public has dipped over the past two months, since Netanyahu agreed to temporarily halt the overhaul in order to engage in talks with the opposition in order to reach a compromise. The prime minister has vowed to return it to the agenda now that his government passed a budget early this morning.
3 IDF soldiers handed jail sentences for beating Palestinian man in West Bank
Three Golani soldiers have been convicted and handed jail sentences over their involvement in an incident where troops beat a Palestinian man in the West Bank last month.
Two of the soldiers, who are convicted of abusing the Palestinian man, are sentenced to 60 days in military prison in a plea deal.
The third soldier is convicted of “exceeding authority to the point of risking life or health,” and is handed a 40-day jail sentence.
All three, who are additionally convicted of obstruction of justice, are also handed suspended sentences, and they are demoted to the rank of private.
The trial of a fourth soldier, who is accused of assault, abuse under aggravated circumstances, threats against the Palestinian victim, abuse of power, exceeding authority to the point of endangering life or health, obstruction of justice, and behavior unbecoming of a soldier, is still ongoing.
He will remain held in custody until May 30, following a recent remand hearing.
According to an indictment filed against the soldiers at a military court earlier this month, the four soldiers took a Palestinian man into their military jeep during a routine patrol in the West Bank in late April, and brought him to a secluded place where he was then beaten.
The Palestinian man was left by the soldiers in the secluded area, while suffering from various wounds, the indictment said.
Netanyahu vows to continue efforts to reach ‘broad consensus’ on judicial overhaul
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirms his intention to continue talks on the judicial overhaul at the President’s Residence, hours after passing the state budget and then immediately saying that the planned shakeup of the judiciary will return to his coalition’s agenda.
In a video message released on social media channels, the premier says, “We will of course continue with our efforts to arrive at a broad consensus agreement, to the extent possible, on the issue of judicial reform.”
“I believe with good will and real will it’s possible to come to agreements that will serve all citizens of Israel,” he says.
The prime minister also promises to fight the rising cost of living, less than a day after passing a two-year state budget that contains no measures targeting the most pressing issue for Israeli voters.
Netanyahu claims that the budget “gives stability and momentum to the economy and also gives four years of stability in our politics, which is an important thing.”
If the government had not passed the budget by its May 29 deadline, Israel would have been automatically sent to its sixth election in four years. Netanyahu’s coalition has now carved out an 18-month runway until it needs to pass the 2025 budget.
Likud minister: It’s unlikely any deal will emerge from judicial overhaul talks
Culture Minister Miki Zohar (Likud) says he does not expect any deal to come out of the ongoing negotiations on the judicial overhaul plan.
“Right now our major task is to reach a broad agreement, but if we don’t reach an agreement — and it seems that we won’t… we’ll have to advance it unilaterally,” Zohar tells Channel 12 news.
Zohar adds that if “some of the reform is not passed, this coalition cannot be preserved.”
The talks being brokered by President Isaac Herzog were largely halted this week during the budget vote and ahead of the Shavuot holiday, but are slated to resume next week, his office said.
UN says more than 1.3 million people displaced by Sudan conflict
The fighting between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary force has displaced more than 1.3 million people, the UN migration agency says.
The International Organization for Migration says the clashes have forced over 1 million people to leave their homes to safer areas inside Sudan. Some 320,000 others have fled to the neighboring countries of Egypt, South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Libya.
The fighting erupted on April 15 after months of escalating tensions between the military, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces commanded by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. The conflict derailed Sudanese hopes of restoring the country’s fragile transition to democracy, which was disrupted by a military coup led by the two generals in October 2021.
The conflict has killed at least 863 civilians, including at least 190 children, and wounded more than 3,530 others, according to the most recent numbers from the Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate — which mainly tracks civilian casualties. It has also pushed the East African country to near collapse, with urban areas in the capital, Khartoum, and its neighboring city of Omdurman turning into battlegrounds.
Director originally wanted Gal Gadot to play ‘Barbie’ in upcoming movie
Israeli actress Gal Gadot was actually the first choice to play “Barbie” in the upcoming live-action movie due out this summer.
Actress Margot Robbie, who plays the title role, tells Vogue that she and writer-director Greta Gerwig believed Gadot had “Barbie energy.”
“Gal Gadot is Barbie energy. Because Gal Gadot is so impossibly beautiful, but you don’t hate her for being that beautiful, because she’s so genuinely sincere, and she’s so enthusiastically kind, that it’s almost dorky,” says Robbie, who also serves as a producer on the film. “It’s like right before being a dork.”
Gadot, however, was not available for the role, the magazine reports.
West Nile virus discovered in mosquitos in southern Israel
Health authorities announce that mosquitos carrying West Nile virus have been found near the southern city of Yeruham and surrounding Ramat Negev Regional Council, the first time this year the disease has been detected in Israel.
The Environmental Protection Ministry says mosquitos infected with the virus were found in Nahal Revivim, near Lake Yeruham, and outside the educational centers of Nitzana and Midreshet Ben Gurion.
It calls on the public in those areas to ensure there are no sources of standing water on their property, to use insect repellents, place screens on windows and wear clothing that covers the skin.
Honored by Jewish Dems, Pelosi calls Israel’s creation ‘greatest political feat of 20th century’
WASHINGTON — Former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the 1948 establishment of Israel “the greatest political feat of the 20th century.”
“We’re so proud that [then-Democratic president] Harry Truman immediately recognized the State of Israel, which I consider to be the greatest political feat of the 20th century — a Jewish democracy in what was Palestine,” she says at a gala event in DC hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which presented her with the “Defender of Democracy Award.”
Also addressing the event were Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Reps. Kathie Manning and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Jeffries last month faced criticism when an article he had written in college defending his uncle and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan amid accusations of antisemitism resurfaced. But at the gala event, Jeffries reiterated the stances he has taken in favor of the Jewish community since entering politics.
“Our pledge as House Democrats is to make sure that we stand up, speak up, show up until we crush antisemitism in the United States of America. That’s a value that we all should share,” Jeffries says.
In his brief remarks, Emhoff notes US President Joe Biden’s personal involvement in the White House’s crafting of an antisemitism strategy that is expected to be released in the coming days. “He has been doing a lot of work with us behind the scenes on the plan,” Emhoff says, adding that his wife, US Vice President Kamala Harris, has done so as well.
Bennett wins defamation lawsuit against rabbi who claimed he wasn’t Jewish
Former prime minister Naftali Bennett wins a defamation lawsuit against a rabbi who claimed that he and his mother were not Jewish.
Rabbi Ronen Shaulov issues a statement apologizing for the comments and how widely they spread, and admitting that he now knows them to be false.
The damages to be paid by Shaulov are slated to be decided by the court at a future date. Bennett has previously stated that he intends to donate any such damages to charity.
Attorneys for Bennett said in a statement that the court ruling is “a clear message of its unwillingness to tolerate the spread of lies.”
Olive and cypress trees dug up to make way for Jerusalem cable car
Laborers dig up more than 20 olive trees in addition to other species such as cypress to eventually make way for a cable car storage area in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor, Haaretz reports.
Eighteen of the olive trees will be replanted in the nearby Liberty Bell Park.
The Israel Antiquities Authority will now conduct an examination of the site prior to any construction.
חורשת הזיתים הזו באבו-תור היא הקורבן הראשון של הרכבל לכותל.
לפני חודש שאלתי את דוברת הרשות לפיתוח ירושלים מה יעלה בגורלה התשובה הייתה קצרה וחד משמעית: "היא לא תכרת". אתמול היא נראתה ככה.
18 זיתים הועתקו, 4 נכרתו בנוסף לברושים, אזדרכת ועצים נוספים. pic.twitter.com/YxlkmvVczC
— نير حسون Nir Hasson ניר חסון (@nirhasson) May 24, 2023
The cable car, for which the government has already budgeted NIS 200 million ($54 million), is planned to stretch from the First Station cultural complex in the south of the city to the Old City’s Dung Gate, which is the closest entrance to the Western Wall.
The project’s backers insist that it will be a tourist attraction and will help relieve traffic gridlock caused mainly by tour buses.
The plan’s critics say the cable car will turn Jerusalem’s most precious historic vistas into a theme park. An analysis of traffic data released in July 2020 suggested that an increase in shuttles would be a better, faster and cheaper way of ferrying tourists from southern Jerusalem to the Dung Gate.
IDF: Gunfire from Syria aimed at IDF drone operating along border
The Israel Defense Forces says suspects in Syria opened fire with light arms at a military drone conducting “routine surveillance activity” over the border.
The IDF says the drone finished its activity and landed safely, with no apparent damage caused.
Troops return machine gun fire at the area in southern Syria where the gunfire was detected, the IDF says.
Herzog says he’ll belatedly award trophy to Beitar Jerusalem after fans rushed field
President Isaac Herzog says he will belatedly present the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team the State Cup at his official residence later today, after ecstatic fans disrupted the original ceremony and forced him off the field following the club’s victory.
Thousands of Beitar Jerusalem supporters charged the pitch after the team’s 3-0 win against Maccabi Netanya last night, before the trophy ceremony. Some participants burned the nets in the goals to take pieces as mementos and made off with medals intended for the players, according to Israeli public radio Kan.
Herzog, who was near the stage where Beitar players were to be given the trophy, was rushed off the field, surrounded by his security detail.
Herzog expresses dismay in a statement today, saying that fans “blew up the joyous occasion so that the trophy could not be awarded.”
Yasur helicopters return to active IAF service after being briefly grounded
The chief of the Israeli Air Force has returned a fleet of heavy transport helicopters back to service, after they were grounded following a technical malfunction last week.
In a statement, the IAF says Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar decided to allow the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion — known in Israel as the Yasur — helicopters to fly again following consultations on the matter yesterday.
On Friday, Bar grounded the Yasur fleet after a technical malfunction caused one helicopter to make an emergency landing several days earlier.
The decision to return the fleet to duty is made following the “completion of a thorough and comprehensive examination and verification that the fleet can return to safe operation,” the military says.
Yasur choppers have been in use for over half a century and have seen a number of maintenance issues in recent years, leading to them being grounded for short periods. They are due to be replaced in the coming years.
Shekel slips against dollar following overnight passage of budget
After the Knesset passed the national budget overnight, the shekel slips against the dollar to NIS 3.73, its lowest since December 2018.
It marks an increase for the dollar of 1.6 percent against the shekel.
The shekel also dips to NIS 4.02 per Euro, down from NIS 3.99 yesterday.
After report of new tunnels, Iranian nuke chief pledges cooperation with international inspectors
The head of Iran’s nuclear program insists that his government will cooperate with international inspectors on any “new activities.”
His statement follows an exclusive Associated Press report about Tehran’s new underground tunnel system near a nuclear enrichment facility.
Speaking to journalists after a cabinet meeting today, Mohammad Eslami of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran seeks to describe the interest in the site as a case of Israel feeling pressured.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is working under the IAEA safeguards, and whenever [it] wants to start new activities, it will coordinate with the IAEA, and acts accordingly,” Eslami says, using an acronym for the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The IAEA does not respond to questions from the AP about the construction at Natanz, about 225 kilometers (140 miles) south of Tehran. Natanz has been a point of international concern since its existence became known two decades ago.
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