The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
Strikes in the Damascus area earlier this week that were attributed to Israel targeted a Hezbollah training base, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
Citing an Middle Eastern intelligence source, the report says fighters connected to the so-called Golan File trained at the camp ahead of operations against Israel.
The Golan File unit is a branch of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group that operates in southern Syria.
Hamas denounces the Pride Parade in Jerusalem tomorrow, calling it “a provocative march of perverts.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Gaza-ruling terror group calls on Palestinians to go to confront marchers “in defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Before Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara’s decision against a non-binding mediation process in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, the three Jerusalem District Court judges overseeing the case recently met with the sides and pushed them to agree, Channel 12 news reports.
The network, which doesn’t cite a source, asserts the target audience of the meeting two weeks ago was Baharav-Miara, who informed Netanyahu’s legal team earlier this week that the process would not move forward.
Netanyahu’s lawyers reportedly met with Baharav-Miara in April to discuss potential mediation, seeking to convince her to back such a process, which was first raised in March when one of the judges asked prosecutors and defense attorneys to consider it.
Confrontations between Israeli settlers and Palestinians close to the illegal outpost of Homesh were reported Wednesday evening, with conflicting reports of events.
Palestinian media outlets first report that settlers had attacked homes in the village of Burqa adjacent to Homesh. Shortly afterwards, a statement is issued by a spokesperson for Homesh saying that “dozens” of Palestinians had marched toward the outpost, threw stones at the IDF soldiers and settlers present, and set fires close by.
The statement adds that IDF soldiers forced the Palestinians back to Burqa. The IDF is yet to issue a statement on the incident however.
A new yeshiva building for Homesh was constructed in the outpost overnight Sunday on state land as a replacement for a previous structure built on private Palestinian land. The development came after a military order barring Israelis from residing in the area was lifted last week, which itself followed the passage of a law in March revoking a 2005 legislative ban on Israelis entering the area.
Settler activists seek to re-establish Homesh as a fully functioning, legal settlement, while opponents, including the residents of Burqa oppose the settlement activity since it prevents them from obtaining access to their land.
PITTSBURGH — It was her brother’s active faith that inspired Carol Black to recommit as an adult to being a practicing Jew several years ago, and their shared commitment brought them to the Tree of Life synagogue on the October 2018 day it was attacked.
Testifying on the second day of the trial of the man who carried out the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history, Black tells jurors today about how she and others in her New Light congregation heard loud noises as they started Sabbath services. They soon realized it was gunfire, so some of them hid in a storage room.
“I just remained calm. … I thought by remaining calm, I would not give my position away,” she testifies in the Pittsburgh federal courtroom.
Black, 71, recalls how she remained hidden even as she saw congregant Mel Wax, who had been hiding close to her, drop dead after the gunman shot him. Wax, 87, was hard of hearing and had opened the storage door, apparently believing the attack was over she says. Black didn’t learn until later that her 65-year-old brother, Richard Gottfried, was among the 11 people killed in the attack.
The testimony came in the trial of Robert Bowers, a truck driver from the Pittsburgh suburb of Baldwin. Bowers, 50, could face the death penalty if he’s convicted of some of the 63 counts he faces in the October 27, 2018, attack, which claimed the lives of worshippers from three congregations who were using the synagogue that day: New Light, Dor Hadash and the Tree of Life.
That Bowers carried out the attack, which also injured seven people, isn’t in question: His lawyer Judy Clarke acknowledged as much on the trial’s first day. But hoping to spare Bowers from getting the death penalty, Clarke questioned the hate crime counts he faces, suggesting instead that he attacked the synagogue out of an irrational belief that that he needed to kill Jews to save others from a genocide that he claimed they were enabling by helping immigrants come to the U.S.
Prosecutors, who rejected Bowers’ offer to plead guilty in exchange for removing the possibility that could be sentenced to death, have said Bowers made incriminating statements to investigators and left an online trail of antisemitic statements that shows the attack was motivated by religious hatred.
An Israeli military court sentences two Palestinians to life in prison for carrying out a deadly shooting attack in the West Bank settlement of Ariel last year.
Vyacheslav Golev, 23, was gunned down inside a guard booth at a gate to Ariel on April 29, 2022 by Palestinian assailants Youssef Sameeh Assi and Yahya Marei.
Golev used his body to shield his fiancée, Victoria Fligelman, from the hail of bullets, saving her life. The couple both worked as security guards at the settlement and would regularly do their shifts together.
Assi and Marei were convicted of intentionally causing the death of Golev. The offense is equivalent to murder in West Bank military courts. They were also convicted of the attempted murder of Fligelman, along with weapons offenses.
The pair are sentenced to life plus 30 years in jail, and are also ordered to pay a total of NIS 3 million ($800,000) to the Golev and Fligelman families.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid receives an economic briefing from Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron.
Both Lapid and Yaron have warned of dire economic consequences from the coalition’s push to constrain the judiciary.
The Israel Defense Forces says that four soldiers arrested by Military Police for allegedly causing a serious injury to a Palestinian detainee will be released amid the investigation.
“Based on the evidence and findings found so far, it was decided that there is no longer any justification to keep the soldiers in detention for the purpose of continuing the investigation,” the IDF says in a statement.
Earlier, the IDF said the soldiers were suspected of causing “serious physical harm” to the Palestinian man in the West Bank.
The soldiers have claimed the incident that led to the man’s injury was an accident.
Opposition party heads Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz meet to try to find a consensus opposition candidate for the Judicial Selection Committee, ahead of the June 14 vote.
The two have yet to decide on a candidate, but “agreed to continue to work together and in coordination on the issue of the Judicial Selection Committee.”
Ahead of the meeting, the Labor party’s Merav Michaeli met with Gantz to discuss the issue.
Lapid is pushing Yesh Atid party MK Karine Elharrar for the committee, while Gantz says he’s deliberating between backing someone from his own National Unity party or another candidate. Michaeli has put forward MK Efrat Rayten.
Yisrael Beytenu is accusing Shas MK Yinon Azoulay of racism for his remarks against the party’s chairman Avigdor Liberman during a back-and-forth at the Knesset.
Addressing the Knesset plenum earlier today, Liberman said the Vilna Gaon — a vaunted 18th century rabbi — studied math and astronomy in his spare time, in a rebuke of Haredi schools that don’t teach core subjects.
Firing back, Azoulay called Liberman “the ignoramus from Moldova,” where Liberman was born and grew up.
“You have no right to talk about the Vilna Gaon,” claimed Azoulay.
Following the exchange, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer urges Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana to remove Azoulay as chair of the Ethics Committee.
“These are severely racist comments,” Forer says. “This committee is meant to act against comments like these and condemn them.”
VIENNA — The UN nuclear watchdog says that Iran’s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium has reached more than 23 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers.
According to a confidential International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report seen by AFP, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was estimated at 4,744.5 kilograms (10,459 pounds) as of May 13. The limit in the 2015 deal was set at 202.8 kilograms.
Additionally, The Associated Press quoted an IAEA reporting that Iran has resolved two outstanding inquiries.
The confidential quarterly report by the Vienna-based IAEA says inspectors no longer have questions on uranium particles found to be enriched to 83.7% at its underground Fordo facility.
The report says investigators also have closed off their investigation of traces of human-made uranium found at Marivan, near the city of Abadeh, some 525 kilometers (325 miles) southeast of Tehran. Analysts had repeatedly linked Marivan to Iran’s secret military nuclear program and accused Iran of conducting high-explosives tests there in the early 2000s.
Iran yesterday said international inspectors closed off the two lines of inquiry over its nuclear program.
The report comes as tensions between Iran and the West have escalated over its nuclear program. Tehran also has faced mass protests recently and anger from the West over it arming Russia with bomb-carrying drones now targeting Ukraine.
WARSAW, Poland — A priceless 16th century Italian painting that was looted by Nazi Germany during World War II and discovered in Japan has been returned to Poland, authorities in Warsaw say.
The “Madonna with Child” attributed to Alessandro Turchi, is the latest of some 600 looted artistic pieces that Poland has successfully repatriated. More than 66,000 so-called war losses remain unaccounted for. The painting was handed over during a ceremony at Poland’s Embassy in Tokyo today.
Culture Minister Piotr Glinski tells reporters in Warsaw that the baroque painting was on the Nazis’ list of the 521 most valuable pieces of art among the tens of thousands of artworks that they looted when they occupied Poland between 1939-45.
He says it is “not easy” to explain the history behind the looted works as well as the need for their return. But he says the “Madonna with Child” was returned following negotiations with the Japanese side and the “Mainichi Auction Inc. as well as the person who was in possession of the painting have decided to return it to Poland, without any costs.”
Agata Modzelewska, head of the ministry’s department for restitution of culture items, says the Polish side always stresses in negotiations that returning looted art is “the best moral and ethical gesture.”
The painting was identified by ministry experts at an auction in Tokyo in 2022. It comes from a collection of Poland’s 18th century aristocrat Stanislaw Kostka-Potocki. In 1823, the painting was listed among art works belonging to another Polish aristocrat, Henryk Lubomirski, in the town of Przeworsk. It was looted during the war and was sold at a New York auction in the late 1990s.
Yulia, an endangered seal who become a local celebrity after visiting Israeli beaches, has now surfaced in the Gaza Strip.
The Kan public broadcaster quotes security Israeli sources saying they were updated by unspecified figures in the Hamas-run enclave about Yulia’s arrival, while noting that the military liaison to the Palestinians published instructions last week on how Gazans should act in her proximity.
כלבת הים יוליה הגיעה היום לראשונה לעזה
גורמי הביטחון בישראל עודכנו ע"י העזתים שכלבת הים יוליה עלתה על החוף ברצועה. בשבוע שעבר פרסם מתאם פעולות הממשלה בשטחים פוסט שבו פרסם הנחיות לציבור העזתי כיצד להתנהג ליד כלבת הים pic.twitter.com/y32RW2nbDo
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) May 31, 2023
At a Chabad event in Hungary, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen says that Budapest will announce in the near future that it is moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
“Hungary will be the first country in the European Union that will announce in a number of weeks that it is moving its embassy to Jerusalem,” he says in a video shared with The Times of Israel.
The Foreign Ministry and Hungary’s embassy in Israel decline to comment.
Hungary, one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe, has a trade office in Jerusalem, which is an official branch of its embassy.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announces this year’s recipients of Israel’s top security prize: a classified military system related to cyber and radio wave defense, and three more classified projects
The award, which is named for the commander of Israel’s pre-state Hagana militia Eliyahu Golomb, is presented each year to people and projects deemed to have made a significant contribution to the country’s security.
The cybertech and electromagnetic spectrum defense system was co-developed by the Israel Defense Force’s Computer Service Directorate, Air Force, Military Intelligence, and Navy.
The other three projects that won the prize this year remain largely classified. Both involved at least two security organizations.
One was a joint effort by the Shin Bet security agency and the Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200; another was a joint effort between the Mossad spy agency and Unit 8200; and the last is a project that involved the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael defense firms.
US Vice President Kamala Harris will attend 75th Independence Day celebrations that the Israeli Embassy in Washington is holding next week, the mission announces.
An embassy statement says Harris will address the event, which will be held at the National Building Museum in the American capital.
Citing a White House source, the Walla news site says Harris will tout the close ties between the countries and stress US support for Israeli security. The source also says that Harris will be accompanied by her husband Doug Emhoff, one of the most prominent Jewish figures in the administration.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Paraguay’s President-elect Santiago Pena, who has pledged to move his country’s embassy back to Jerusalem.
According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, he and Pena expressed their commitment to strengthening bilateral ties and agreed to meet soon to discuss economic cooperation. Netanyahu also praised Pena for his comments on the embassy.
“The State of Israel recognizes Jerusalem as its capital. The seat of the Congress is in Jerusalem, the president is in Jerusalem. So who are we to question where they establish their own capital?” Pena told AFP before the election in late April.
Following the US and Guatemala, Paraguay became the third country to have an embassy in Jerusalem when president Horacio Cortes moved the mission in 2018. However, the move was reversed months later when incumbent President Mario Abdo Benítez took office, raising the ire of Israel.
Since then, Kosovo and Honduras have opened embassies in Jerusalem.
Hundreds attend the funeral of Meir Tamari, who was killed yesterday in a terror shooting near the northern West Bank settlement of Hermesh.
Tamari, who leaves behind a wife and two kids, is being buried on his 32nd birthday. The funeral is being held in Shaked.
“Today we were supposed to have a fun day with the children to celebrate your birthday,” his widow Tal says. “Instead of congratulating you on your birthday, we are here eulogizing you.”
“You were killed sanctifying God’s name, only because you were a Jew,” Tamari’s brother-in-law says in eulogy, according to Army Radio.
Settler leader Yossi Dogan also speaks at the funeral, demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant provide “answers.”
“Jewish blood will not be forfeit,” Dagan says.
During his meeting with his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in Budapest, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó blasts the European Union’s slanted policy toward the Jewish state, according to Israel’s readout of the conversation.
Szijjártó also assures Cohen that Israel can rely on Hungary in international institutions, and that his country would turn to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to oppose Palestinian attempts to implicate Israel there.
The Hungarian diplomat expresses Budapest’s opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons.
According to Hungary, Szijjártó says “cooperation between Hungary and Israel is at a historic high point.” He stresses that Hungary supports Israel’s right to self-defense, condemns terrorism, and calls “for the need for a fair approach towards Israel within the UN.”
The Hungarian statement does not mention the EU.
Szijjártó reiterates Hungary’s stand against antisemitism, while emphasizing “the role of illegal migration in modern antisemitism.”
Cohen also meets Hungary’s President Katalin Novák, but will not end up meeting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
NEW YORK — Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie is expected to launch his second campaign for the Republican nomination for US president next week in New Hampshire.
Christie is planning to make the announcement at a town hall Tuesday evening at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, according to a person familiar with his thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm Christie’s plans.
The timing, which was first reported by Axios, comes after several longtime Christie advisers started a super political action committee to support his expected candidacy.
The Associated Press had previously reported that Christie was expected to enter the race “imminently.”
Christie has cast himself as the only potential candidate willing to aggressively take on former president Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the nomination. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, was a longtime friend and adviser to Trump, but broke with Trump over his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. Christie has since emerged as a leading and vocal critic of the former president.
Christie, who is currently polling at the bottom of the pack, also sought the GOP nomination in 2016. Christie dropped out of that race a day after finishing sixth in New Hampshire’s primary.
John Kerry will make his first trip to Israel as the Biden administration’s climate envoy later this week.
While in Jerusalem, Kerry “will hold meetings with officials regarding global cooperation to combat the climate crisis,” the State Department says.
The statement does not specify whom Kerry will be meeting with.
Kerry is not a particularly popular figure among many coalition lawmakers, following his intense efforts to broker a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians during his time as secretary of state for former US president Barack Obama.
The stop in Jerusalem will be part of a broader foreign trip for Kerry, which will include visits to Amman — where he’ll attend the royal wedding of the Jordanian crown prince — and Dubai and Oslo.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will deliver a speech at a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington on Monday morning, his office says.
It will be his first speech to the pro-Israel lobby as secretary. He spoke last year at a conference of the more dovish J Street.
Also addressing the Monday-Tuesday AIPAC Policy Summit will be US Senators John Barasso and Robert Menendez, and Representatives Mario-Diaz Balart and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Some 500 AIPAC activists are slated to attend the confab and will hold “430 lobbying appointments with Democrats and Republicans to urge Congress to support full funding for security assistance to Israel, adopt new initiatives to strengthen and expand the US-Israel relationship, increase pressure on Iran, and take steps to broaden and deepen normalization among Israel and its Arab neighbors,” says an AIPAC spokesperson.
National Unity MK Gideon Sa’ar tells Justice Minister Yariv Levin “to get hospitalized,” during a heated exchange in the Knesset plenum over the coalition’s judicial overhaul.
“You want to destroy the country, we won’t let you,” charges Sa’ar, who was justice minister before Levin. “You’ve been torpedoing the [judicial] reform talks from day one.”
Sa’ar was responding to Levin’s accusations that the opposition was to blame for the lack of progress in the negotiations being held at the President’s Residence.
WARSAW, Poland — The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum has denounced a political spot by Poland’s ruling party that uses the theme of the Nazi German extermination camp to discourage participation in an upcoming anti-government march.
The state-run museum attacks “instrumentalization of the tragedy” of the 1.1 million people who were murdered at the site during World War II, arguing that it is an insult to their memory.
“It is a sad, painful and unacceptable manifestation of the moral and intellectual corruption of the public debate,” the state museum says.
The 14-second video published today by the Law and Justice party shows images of the former death camp, including the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate, and the words: “Do you really want to walk under this slogan?”
— Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (@pisorgpl) May 31, 2023
The reference is to a now-deleted tweet from journalist Tomasz Lis, who claimed that President Andrzej Duda and ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski deserve to go to prison. He published the tweet amid a heated debate over a law passed by the party lawmakers and signed by Duda that is viewed by the US, the European Union and many Polish critics as anti-democratic.
“There will be a chamber for Duda and Kaczor,” the tweet said, using a nickname for Kaczynski.
He used the Polish word ”komora,” which can be simply a dark cell or chamber but which many in Poland associate with the gas chambers used by Germans in mass murder during the war.
Lis has since deleted the tweet and apologized.
The Knesset advances a bill to automatically recognize foreign medical, dental and pharmacy professional licenses, if they were issued in line with European Union standards.
Clearing its preliminary reading 31-0, the bill would be a particular boon to immigrants to Israel or returning citizens who work in those fields.
“One of the main barriers to immigration and absorption is the process of recognizing the professional licenses of immigrants and returning residents,” says Likud MK Dan Illouz, who sponsored the bill.
Ilouz also points out that Europe has operated a similar automatic recognition system for the past decade.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid will testify in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing criminal trial on June 12 regarding Case 1000, in which the premier is accused of fraud and breach of trust over his relationship with Hollywood movie mogul Arnon Milchan.
Netanyahu is accused of having received large amounts of luxury gifts such as champagne, cigars, and jewelry amounting to some NIS 700,000 from Milchan.
In return, Netanyahu allegedly worked to obtain various benefits for the tycoon, including a long-term US visa, and also sought to advance a law extending tax benefits to expatriate Israeli citizens who returned to the country, which Milchan may have been able to take advantage of.
Lapid, who served as finance minister when the so-called Milchan law was mulled in 2013 and 2014, gave testimony to police in the case. His scheduled testimony at the Jerusalem District Court is not expected to last more than a day, although Netanyahu’s defense attorneys will cross-examine him.
Lapid has previously stated that pressure had been put on him to advance the law but that he and his Yesh Atid party acted as “the last barrier against government corruption.”
The Knesset defeats a proposal to formally insert the principle of equality into Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, with Justice Minister Yariv Levin slamming the opposition for raising the matter in the midst of larger judicial discussions.
“We are not allowed to do anything, but you are allowed to promote a Basic Law that is at the core of the issues in dispute and at the core of what is being discussed at the President’s Residence,” Levin charges from the Knesset rostrum.
He also insists the coalition doesn’t oppose the Basic Law, while blaming the opposition for the impasse in judicial reform talks and railing at the Supreme Court.
“We all have a problem that post-Zionist agendas have entered the judicial system and the Supreme Court in particular, which are used for completely different things, to erase Zionism.”
Put forward by Labor MK Gilad Kariv, the proposal is seen as largely symbolic and was expected to be defeated, but highlights a broader political debate about the intersection of judicial activism and civil rights.
Equality is not guaranteed by statute in Israel, but rather was read into Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty by the Supreme Court. Lauded by civil rights groups, the longstanding decision has also been excoriated by far-right and religious members of the coalition, who slam the court for using equality as a basis for invalidating desired pieces of legislation.
DRESDEN, Germany — A German court sentences a left-wing extremist woman to more than five years in jail for attacking neo-Nazis and other far-right radicals.
The principal defendant, identified only as Lina E., and three other suspects are convicted for participating in a “criminal organization” that carried out several assaults against right-wing extremists between 2018 and 2020.
In their closing argument, prosecutors had argued that there “is no good political violence” and had sought eight years in prison for Lina E.
The defense had urged the judge to acquit the accused, saying that the prosecution had based its case mainly on the statements of a key witness who was a former member of the group and who is currently in a witness protection program.
Prosecutors said the group planned the attacks intensively, including by spying on their victims.
In one attack in October 2018, the group’s members kicked and beat a right-wing extremist in the eastern town of Wurzen, leaving him with serious injuries.
In October 2019, they carried out an assault on the owner and several customers of a restaurant popular with neo-Nazis in the central town of Eisenach.
The owner and several people accompanying him were also assaulted two months later on the streets.
The four defendants shared a “militant far-left ideology,” said prosecutors.
E. and her partner Johann G. — who is still at large — are believed to be ringleaders of the group.
The trial, which lasted a year and a half, was held under tight security.
Ahead of the verdict, police were bracing for far-left violence as the radical scene has threatened “a million (euros) worth of property damage across the country” for every year of imprisonment handed down by the court.
Far-left activists have also called a demonstration in Leipzig on Saturday.
Four Israeli soldiers have been arrested by Military Police for allegedly beating a Palestinian detainee recently, the Israel Defense Forces says.
One of the soldiers is an officer with the rank of lieutenant.
An IDF source says the incident of “serious physical harm” to the Palestinian man was reported to Military Police by the soldiers’ superiors.
Last month, four Golani soldiers were charged with beating a Palestinian man in the West Bank and abandoning him. Three of them have already been sentenced to jail terms.
As he wraps up a visit to Azerbaijan, President Isaac Herzog comments on the ongoing judicial reform talks he’s mediating, acknowledging the gap between the sides while stressing he believes a deal is possible.
“This is a long process and I don’t have a deadline,” Herzog says.
He says he’s “not naive” that the negotiations have yet to yield any breakthroughs, adding the talks are currently focused on forging agreement on “essential principles” before getting into the nitty-gritty.
“I know what I am doing is the best for the State of Israel — to reach broad consensus and get out of this difficult strait that threatens to crumble us from within,” he says.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I'm proud of our coverage of this government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
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