The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Iran says ‘will not stay’ in nuclear deal if US walks away
Iran will not remain in the nuclear deal with world powers if the United States decides to quit the accord, a senior adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says.
“If the United States withdraws from the nuclear deal, then we will not stay in it anymore,” foreign policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati was quoted as saying by the state television website.
Lapid says Netanyahu pressuring Trump to unilaterally exit Iran deal
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid comes out against an American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal without European support, arguing that US President Donald Trump should stay in the accord for six more months to negotiate changes to the agreement.
Lapid accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of pressuring Trump to exit the accord without coordinating the move with Europe.
“Netanyahu is trying to unilaterally cancel the agreement, I say let’s take six more months,” Lapid tells Army Radio. “I am opposed to the nuclear deal, but I am not in favor of canceling it unilaterally.”
“Netanyahu has been saying for a year that the deal has to be fixed or nixed, now is the time to find out which of those he supports,” the opposition figure said, adding that Washington “doesn’t fully understand” what the Israeli government’s position is on the matter.
Trump is reportedly poised to scrap the agreement, negotiated in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, ahead of a May 12 deadline for Washington to renew its support for the deal.
— Michael Bachner
Arab League backs Morocco for cutting off ties with Iran
The Arab League says it supports Morocco’s decision to sever ties with Iran over its alleged support for the Polisario Front in the disputed Western Sahara. Tehran has denied supporting the pro-independence group.
The spokesman for the Arab League’s secretary-general Mahmoud Afifi said late on Wednesday that the Arab League condemns and rejects Iran’s s intervention in Morocco or any other Arab country’s internal affairs.
He also called on Arab nations to refrain from non-action in the face of what he called Iran’s strategy aimed at spreading chaos and instability in the region.
Morocco cut ties with Iran on Tuesday. Iran has dismissed Morocco’s accusations as “completely baseless.”
The separatist Polisario Front is seeking the independence of the Western Sahara region, a former Spanish colony that Morocco annexed in 1975.
German rappers accused of crass Holocaust lyrics to visit Auschwitz
Two German rappers who have been under fire for song lyrics that lightheartedly referred to Auschwitz inmates are going to pay a visit to the former death camp that was in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Bild newspaper reports Thursday that rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang have accepted an invitation from the International Auschwitz Committee to visit the memorial on June 3 to learn more about what took place there.
The two have been widely criticized for a track on their new album that contains the phrase “my body more defined than Auschwitz inmates.'” They’ve defended the line as artistic freedom and not political opinion.
Duesseldorf prosecutors said this week that individuals have filed legal complaints against the rappers and they have opened obligatory preliminary investigations of them.
Russian fighter jet crashes off Syria, both pilots killed
A Russian fighter jet crashed after taking off from an airbase in Syria earlier today, killing both pilots, Moscow’s defense ministry said in a statement carried by news agencies.
“As it was climbing after taking off from the Hmeimim airbase, the Russian fighter Su-30SM crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. Two pilots, who fought until the last minute to save the plane, died, according to reports from the scene,” the statement says.
The ministry says the plane had not come under fire, adding that “according to preliminary information, the reason for the crash could have been a bird falling into the engine.”
The accident brings Russia’s official military losses in Syria to 86.
UNESCO chief joins condemnation of Abbas
UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay joins growing criticism of a speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he claimed that the Holocaust was the result of Jewish “social behavior” in Europe at the time.
Azoulay, who is Jewish herself, endorses a statement on Twitter by Middle East Nikolay Mladenov, who slammed Abbas’s speech as “deeply disturbing,” “dangerous” and “in contrast to reality.”
“All forms of anti-Semitism, including Holocaust denial and relativization, are unacceptable,” she adds in her own tweet. “UNESCO promotes Holocaust education against falsifications of history and combats anti-Semitism through education.”
Joining my voice to UN envoy @nmladenov regarding comments by President Abbas. All forms of antisemitism, including Holocaust denial and relativization, are unacceptable. @UNESCO promotes Holocaust education against falsifications of history & combats antisemitism thru education. pic.twitter.com/jTjpssS664
— Audrey Azoulay (@AAzoulay) May 3, 2018
Trump ‘all but decided’ to pull out of Iran deal — report
US President Donald Trump has “all but decided” to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, two White House sources tell the Reuters news agency.
The sources did not indicate when and how Trump would announce his final decision.
According to the report, there is a chance Trump may decide to stay in the deal for the sake of US “alliance maintenance” with France.
Zarif says Iran won’t ‘renegotiate or add to’ nuclear accord
Iran’s foreign minister takes to YouTube to criticize US President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the nuclear deal, saying Iran will not “renegotiate or add onto” the atomic accord.
Mohammad Javad Zarif’s video, which was also posted to Trump’s favorite social media platform, Twitter, appeared to be taking his message to the masses after earlier speaking to news outlets across the United States to defend the deal.
The five-minute video shows Zarif behind his desk, delivering his message on the deal. He offers background first about the deal before laying into Trump and criticizing Europe for offering “the United States more concessions from our pocket.”
“On 11 occasions since, the UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran has implemented all of its obligations,” Zarif, who studied in the US, says in American-accented English. “In contrast, the US has consistently violated the agreement, especially by bullying others from doing business with Iran.”
Zarif adds: “Let me make it absolutely clear once and for all: We will neither outsource our security nor will we renegotiate or add onto a deal we have already implemented in good faith.”
Zarif goes on to say accuse Trump of relying on “cartoonish allegations rehashed from over a decade ago” an apparent jab at Netanyahu’s revelations this week that Israel obtained evidence that Iran lied to world powers prior to signing the agreement, seen by some as an effort by the prime minister to convince Trump to exit the deal.
These efforts, Zarif says, “have fooled no one.”
In the video, Zarif also appears to troll Trump as well, saying: “To put it in real-estate terms, when you buy a house and move your family in it or demolish it to build a skyscraper, you cannot come back two years later and renegotiate the price.”
There was no immediate response from Washington.
— with AP
PM removes post falsely claiming Arabs cheered during memorial for slain teens
A discredited video purporting to show Arab soccer fans disrupting a minute of silence to honor the 10 teens killed in flash floods last week is removed from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page.
Last week, Netanyahu posted a news story from the right-wing Israel National News website claiming Bnei Sakhnin fans whistled and booed during a minute silence held before a league match Saturday against Hapoel Ra’anana, calling it an “utter disgrace.”
But on Sunday, the Israeli soccer league and members of the opposing team confirmed there was no disruption by fans of the Bnei Sakhnin club during the memorial at the team’s home stadium.
Reports in Hebrew-language media noted that it took Netanyahu and his team a full five days to remove the false content from his profile after both the league and eyewitnesses determined the story was untrue.
Germany arrests suspected member of Islamic State group
German authorities say they have arrested a 25-year-old Syrian man on suspicion of being a member of the Islamic State extremist group.
Federal prosecutors say Faisal A.H., whose full name was withheld on privacy grounds, was detained yestersay in the southwestern city of Tuebingen.
Prosecutors say the man is suspected of joining a militia in 2013 that fought against the Syrian government. Later that year the militia merged with the Islamic State group.
Prosecutors said A.H. was initially considered to be a government collaborator by IS, but after undergoing religious “re-education” and swearing allegiance to the group he was made to spy on people in the town of Tabqa and help clear homes seized by IS.
He allegedly left Syria for Germany at the end of 2014.
Israel’s Teva reports jump in first-quarter earnings, raises guidance
Israeli generic drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries says earnings jumped sharply in the first quarter of 2018 as it pressed forward with an aggressive cost-cutting program.
Teva says it posted net income of $1.1 billion, or $1.03 a share, compared to $580 million, or 57 cents a share, a year earlier.
Chief Executive Kare Schultz says the year was off to a “solid start” and raised his 2018 guidance.
He says the company is on track to meet cost-cutting targets, which include reducing one-quarter of the company’s workforce, and is reducing its $30 billion debt load.
The improved earnings came despite a 10 percent drop in revenue to $5.1 billion. It cited the deteriorating US generics market and generic competition to its blockbuster MS drug Copaxone.
UK says Abbas Holocaust remarks ‘deeply unhelpful’ for peace
Britain joins international condemnation of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech earlier this week, saying his remarks suggesting that Jewish “social behavior” led to the Holocaust are “deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace.”
“Palestinian President Abbas’s comments at the Palestinian National Congress were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable,” Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt says in a statement.
Britain warns that “the fundamentals of peace cannot be built on views of the Holocaust which fly in the face of history.”
“President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace,” the statement says.
Tunisia a ‘land of peace,’ PM Chahed tells Djerba Jewish meeting
Tunisia’s prime minister openes a conference on dialogue between religions on the island of Djerba during an annual Jewish pilgrimage that is taking place amid high security.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed says his North African nation “will remain a land of peace and tolerance,” according to Mosaique radio. He says Tunisians from all religions are “full citizens of this country.”
Soldiers and other security forces have been deployed near the 2,500-year-old Ghriba synagogue, which was targeted in a 2002 extremist attack. The pilgrimage this year gathered about 3,000 pilgrims Wednesday and Thursday, some coming from Israel, France and Italy.
Djerba is home to Tunisia’s main Jewish community.
Last January, two Molotov cocktails were thrown at two synagogues on the island during protests over price hikes. Authorities say the incident wasn’t terror-related.
Dozens of rabbis call for ban on long-distance animal shipments
Dozens of rabbis have joined the chief rabbi of Beersheba in calling for an end to the long-distance shipments of sheep and cattle for fattening and slaughter in Israel, in the wake of a documentary that exposed the harsh conditions the animals were kept in.
In the letter released by animal rights activists, Rabbi Yehuda Deri says that anyone buying meat from animals shipped from overseas to Israel for slaughter in cruel conditions is “a partner to and helps those committing an evil crime,” and calls on every rabbi in Israel to protest the practice.
Deri says he will raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of the Chief Rabbinate’s council.
“It is clear.. that whoever buys this meat is a partner to and helps those committing an evil crime, ” he wrote. “Every rabbi in Israel must take part in this protest until the issue is resolved.”
An accompanying petition says that “causing such extreme suffering to animals solely to satisfy our desire for fresh meat is not the way of Torah, and it is not human morality to permit such harsh cruelty to animals.”
Deri’s letter and petition has been endorsed by 60 leading rabbis from across the religious spectrum.
Last week, an investigative report in Australia revealed shocking footage of sheep and cows on transports to the Middle East packed so tightly that many could not reach food and water. The report said thousands die from heatstroke on the journey and are simply tossed overboard.
PLO parliament agrees on measure concentrating Abbas powers
The PLO parliament is preparing to hand its authority over to a smaller council in a move seen as a concentration of power in the hands of President Mahmoud Abbas’s loyalists.
The Palestinian National Council agreed this afternoon to grant the 115-member Central Council authority to assume the political body’s powers, such as appointing a successor to the 83-year-old Palestinian leader and resolving the decade-long rift with the rival Hamas party ruling Gaza.
Abbas aide Ahmad Majdalani says the move will “make it easier for the PLO to handle political developments, and to fill any vacuum in PLO positions.”
The Palestinian National Council, which met this week for the first time in over two decades, is set to formally announce the measure later this evening.
Trump confirms ‘reimbursement’ of lawyer for payment to porn star
US President Donald Trump confirms he reimbursed his personal lawyer for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to stop what he described as her “false and extortionist” claims of an affair.
Trump’s comment contradicted his earlier statements that he had no knowledge of the hush payment by his long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
The payment was made days before the November 2016 US presidential election, which has prompted allegations of a possible violation of campaign financing laws.
In a burst of tweets, Trump denies the funds used to make the payment were connected to his campaign, calling it a “private agreement.”
He also said nondisclosure agreements were “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”
“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump says.
“The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair, despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair,” he adds. “Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.”
The admission came after Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who recently joined the president’s legal team, disclosed Wednesday that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payment over a period of several months.
Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
…very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
Motive unclear as court gags details on Afula bus driver stabbing
Nazareth Magistrate Court judge Naaman Edris says he is not convinced the man suspected of stabbing bus driver Shimon Gabai last night in Afula acted out of nationalist motives, according to reports in Hebrew media.
The motive for a stabbing of a bus driver in the northern city remains unclear, as the court issues a a gag order on the details surrounding the light night attack.
The remand of the 28-year-old man arrested overnight in connection with the stabbing was extended for 10 days, though police did not say whether he was suspected of stabbing Gabai.
Satellite images claim to show ‘unusual activity’ at Iran nuclear site
Satellite images published online today claim to show “unusual activity” at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Fordow in recent days.
Israeli company ImageSat posts satellite images to Twitter showing new building projects and with cars and busses in the facility’s parking lot. The company posts a satellite photo of an apparently inactive Fordow from July 2016 for comparison.
— imagesatintl (@imagesatint) May 3, 2018
The underground facility is under UN monitoring under the 2015 nuclear agreement that the US has threatened to withdraw from unless it is amended.
ImageSat says the renewed activity at Fordow could be a sign that Iran could be preparing a response to a US exit from the multi-national accord.
Book deal for investigators of Anne Frank’s capture
An investigative team looking into who betrayed Anne Frank and her family has a book deal.
“Anne Frank: A Cold Case Diary” will be published in the summer of 2020, HarperCollins Publishers tell The Associated Press. The book was among the most talked about at last month’s London Book Fair.
Former FBI agent Vincent Pankoke has been leading an international effort to solve the decades-long mystery over how the Jewish family’s attic hideout in Amsterdam was discovered in 1944. Anne Frank was sent to a concentration camp and died the following year. Her father later found her diary, which has sold millions of copies.
The publisher acquired world rights to the book.
Actor Moshe Igvy to be indicted for sexual assault
Prosecutors say they intend to indict actor Moshe Ivgy on sexual assault charges after a court rejected his defense in a hearing this afternoon.
Prosecutors say they have sufficient evidence to prove Ivgy exploited his status to commit indecent acts and sexually harass four women between 2012-2013, some of them at his workplace. They denied rumors Ivgy was ever offered a plea deal that would see criminal charges against him dropped in exchange for a full confession.
The 62-year-old prize-winning actor has denied the allegations of sexual misconduct.
Minister says Giro launch in Jerusalem to respect Shabbat
The Giro d’Italia cycling race will respect the Jewish day of rest when it launches in Jerusalem on Friday, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin says.
“We made sure with the organizers not to violate the Shabbat,” Elkin tells public radio.
The tour starts in Jerusalem on Friday with a time trial set to begin just before 2:00 pm (11:00 GMT).
Elkin also says starting the Giro in Jerusalem has lead to a boost in tourism.
“This has attracted 10,000 tourists, all the hotels are full, it will bring in more than 50 million shekels [$14 million], and one billion viewers around the world for six hours will see Jerusalem in a very positive way,” he says.
Israeli Arab poet convicted of inciting violence, supporting terror
The Nazareth District Court convicts an Arab Israeli poet of incitement to violence and support for terrorist organizations for social media posts she made during a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence two years ago.
In delivering its verdict, the court says Tatour’s poem incited violence, adding that free expression has limits. Tatour was also convicted of supporting a terror group.
She has maintained her poem was not a call to violence.
Israel says that a two year-long outburst of attacks that began in 2015 was fueled by Palestinian incitement spread on social media.
— with AP
US commandos helping Saudis against Yemen rebels — report
A team of elite US Green Beret commandos deployed to the Saudi border of Yemen last year to help find and destroy Huthi rebel missile caches, the New York Times reports.
Since Yemen’s brutal conflict erupted three years ago, Huthi rebels have fired multiple ballistic missiles toward Riyadh and other Saudi cities.
According to the Times, which cites US officials and European diplomats, the Army special operations soldiers arrived in December to help Saudi counterparts locate launch sites and destroy the Huthis’ missile supplies.
The unannounced move shows a deepening US involvement in Yemen’s war that has seen the country spiral toward famine and claimed almost 10,000 lives.
Citing operational security, the Pentagon says it cannot comment on the makeup of forward-deployed forces.
Giro organizers say no clamp down on pro-Palestinian protests
Giro d’Italia organizers insisted on Thursday there would be no clamp down on pro-Palestinian protestors and that the three days of racing in Israel would be safe.
The Italian tour organizers had come in for some criticism when announcing they would start the race in Jerusalem followed by two more stages in Israel before the Giro returns to its homeland and Sicily.
But Daniel Benaim, head of the Giro’s local event organizers, said there was nothing to worry about, least of all potential terror attacks.
“I think you can really feel and know that you are [in a] safe country, this is what we wanted to show,” he says. “We are hosting sports events in Israel, this is the most democratic, safest country that can host such a safe event.”
As for any potential pro-Palestinian expression voiced by riders during the race, Giro director Mauro Vegni says there would be no curbs enforced on anyone.
“When we decided to start from Israel it was obvious there would be different points of view to ours,” says Vegni. “We came to Israel — and I’ve repeated this every time — to organize a great sports event.”
Shaked said to refuse Netanyahu request to again delay vote on High Court bill
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s office says the ministerial vote on legislation designed to limit the High Court’s power will go ahead on Sunday as planned, despite a request from the prime minister to delay it another week, Hadashot news reports.
The so-called “supercession clause” bill, proposed by the Jewish Home, would allow the Knesset to re-vote on a law disqualified by the High Court, and thereby to pass the law despite the court’s ruling against its constitutionality.
Last week, Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, both Jewish Home leaders, agreed to delay the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s vote on the bill to allow Netanyahu to meet with Supreme Court president Esther Hayut and then propose a compromise with faction leaders.
But coalition sources tell Hadashot that no progress has been made on issue since last week’s meeting even though faction heads have expressed a desire to reach a compromise.
Top PA official ‘deeply disturbed’ by anti-Semitism accusations leveled at Abbas
Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says he is “deeply disturbed” by accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at PA President Mahmoud Abbas after he suggested earlier this week that Jewish “social function” lead to the Holocaust.
“President Abbas has repeatedly referred to the Holocaust as the most heinous crime in history,” says Erekat, according to the official news agency Wafa. “President Abbas is a man of peace who has dedicated his entire political career to finding a just and lasting peace based on International Law, freedom, justice, equality, and coexistence between Israel and Palestine.”
He says Palestinians’ problem “is not with Judaism but with the systematic denial of our rights committed by Israel.”
Abbas drew widespread condemnation, including from the European Union and the United States, over comments suggesting that Jews’ relations with banking had led to the hostility against them.
Likud: Delay in High Court vote ‘reasonable’ in light of security developments
The Likud party hits back at the Jewish Home for rejecting a request by Netanyahu to again postpone a vote on a controversial bill designed to limit the powers of the High Court, saying that “any reaonsable person” would understand that the prime minister has been busy lately.
“Any reasonable person understands that last week the prime minister dealt with matters of paramount importance to the security of the state,” the party says in a statement.
But Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett insists his party’s bill was necessary for the government to function, and says he expects Netanyahu to vote in favor of the bill during Sunday’s vote “as he has promised.”