Teachers union threatens to shutter Israel’s high schools in wage dispute
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Teachers union threatens to shutter Israel’s high schools in wage dispute

Finance Ministry, union leaders at odds over scale of wage increase amid accusations of government 'foot-dragging' in negotiations

Illustrative: Israeli high school students in a classroom. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli high school students in a classroom. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.

US ambassador Friedman ‘pretty confident’ Trump will move embassy to Jerusalem

The US ambassador to Israel says he is “pretty confident” that the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during US President Donald Trump’s current term in office.

According to the American Jewish television network JBS, David Friedman made the statement at the ZOA Gala in New York on Sunday.

Friedman was asked by Mark Golub, JBS president, if the embassy would be moved “from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during Donald Trump’s first four years in office.” He replied, “I’m pretty confident that it will. Yes.”

The network will air the ZOA gala, including the Friedman interview, on November 27.

Knesset set to mark 40-year anniversary of Anwar Sadat’s peace mission

The Knesset will mark the 40th anniversary of the visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to the Israeli parliament, a landmark event that heralded the peace agreement between the two nations.

Sadat’s November 20, 1977, speech before the Knesset “has become one of the defining moments in the history of Israel and the Knesset,” according to a Thursday statement to the press from the Knesset.

To remember the occasion, the Knesset will hold a conference on Tuesday, November 21, featuring speeches by Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog. It will be attended by cabinet ministers, scholars and journalists.

The day will also mark the installation in the Knesset of an exhibit by the Foreign Ministry of historic photographs from Sadat’s visits in 1977 and 1979.

After criticism, PM won’t speak at Independence Day torchlighting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he won’t be speaking at the national torch-lighting ceremony on Independence Day Eve, which takes place this year on the evening of May 1.

According to the Hadashot television news network, formerly Channel 2, the cancellation of Netanyahu’s planned address comes after widespread criticism over his intention to speak at the Mount Herzl ceremony, which is broadcast live on national television and marks the official start of Independence Day celebrations nationwide.

The ceremony is traditionally an apolitical one overseen by the speaker of the Knesset. Prime ministers have not traditionally been invited to speak during the event.

According to the report, the cancellation was explained by the Prime Minister’s Office as an attempt to avoid imposing the kind of prohibitive security expenses on the ceremony’s budget that the premier’s speech would entail.

IDF chief tells Saudi news site Israel prepared to share intel against Iran

In an unprecedented step, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot on Thursday gives an interview to a Saudi news outlet, saying that the Jewish state is prepared to share intelligence with the Gulf kingdom in their joint efforts to curb Iranian influence in the region.

Speaking with the London-based Saudi-owned Elaph news site, Eisenkot, in his first-ever interview with Arabic media, offers his views on Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East, and how they could be stopped.

The chief of staff makes clear that Israel isn’t interested in a war with the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, despite Iranian attempts to bring about an escalation on Israel’s northern frontiers.

When asked whether Israel has shared “information” with the Saudis recently, Eisenkot responds, “We are prepared to share information if it is necessary. There are many mutual interests between them [Saudi Arabia] and us.”

— Dov Lieber

IDF chief to Saudi media: On Iran, we’re in complete agreement with Saudi Arabia

When asked what Iran wants in the region, Eisenkot says, “The Iranian plan is to control the Middle East by means of two Shiite crescents. The first [runs] from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, and the second from Bahrain through to Yemen to the Red Sea.”

“This is what must be prevented in the region,” he says.

“In this matter there is complete agreement between us and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has never been our enemy. It has not fought us nor have we fought it.”

“When I was at a meeting of the [US] Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington and heard what the Saudi representative had to say, I found it identical to what I think in the need to confront Iran and its expansion in the region.”

— Dov Lieber

IDF chief surprised by Hariri resignation, says Hezbollah is cash-strapped

Regarding the sudden resignation of former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri last week, Eisenkot says the move was “complicated” and “surprising.”

Hariri said he quit due to an alleged Iranian plan to assassinate him.

Eisenkot says the move also reflects a decline in support for Hezbollah among the Lebanese, and notes, “Hezbollah is beginning to feel financial pressure and starting to get into big material problems.”

— Dov Lieber

IDF chief: Iran trying to escalate in Lebanon, but war unlikely

Responding to claims in Arab media outlets that Israel is planning on attacking the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot tells the Saudi news site Elaph, “We have no intention of attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon leading to a war.”

“However,” he adds, “we will not accept a strategic threat to Israel.”

He says he has been happy with the past 11 years of quiet on the Lebanese border, that Israel sees “Iranian attempts to bring about an escalation,” but adds, “I think it’s unlikely at this stage.”

— Dov Lieber

High school teachers union warn of looming strike over wage demands

The national high school teachers’ union says that it plans to launch a nationwide strike on Tuesday over unmet wage demands.

In a statement, Ran Erez, longtime head of the Secondary School Teachers Union, warns that if talks about upping the planned wage increases for teachers do not end satisfactorily on Monday, the following morning will see Israel’s high school classrooms closed indefinitely.

The statement followed a “warning strike” last Sunday over what the union says is the Finance Ministry’s “foot dragging.”

The union claims the ministry intends to raise veteran teachers’ salaries by just 60 shekels per month, and those of new teachers by 300 shekels. The union has rejected the offer.

Iranian official acknowledges talks over frozen funds in UK

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran and Britain are discussing the possible release of some 400 million pounds ($530 million) held by London since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, an Iranian official acknowledges.

Both Britain and Iran deny any link between the possible money transfer and the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government while traveling with her young daughter.

However, a similar US transfer to Iran happened at the same time American prisoners were released in 2016.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson faces tremendous criticism at home over his handling of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case. Iranian media have speculated that Johnson may visit Iran soon.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi is quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying that the 400 million pounds held by London is a payment Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi made for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered. The shah abandoned the throne in 1979 and the Islamic Revolution soon installed the clerical rule that endures today.

Sanctions between the countries have stopped the money being returned.

— AP

Syria activists: 22 civilians die in fighting near Damascus

BEIRUT — Syrian activists and a monitoring group say almost two dozen civilians have been killed in the last three days of fighting in the suburb of the capital, Damascus, along with dozens of government forces and rebels.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that since Tuesday, 22 civilians died from government shelling and bombardment of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta suburb.

It says 29 pro-government fighters have been killed while scores of rebels were killed or wounded. The fighting is the latest breach of a local truce, brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The activist-run Ghouta Media Center says 15 civilians were killed on Wednesday, when Ahrar al-Sham rebel faction penetrated into a Syrian military compound in the area to battle pro-government fighters there. The fighting is still underway.

— AP

Famed London theater receives 20 allegations against Kevin Spacey

LONDON — London’s Old Vic Theatre says it has received 20 allegations of inappropriate behavior by its former artistic director Kevin Spacey, and acknowledged that a “cult of personality” around the Hollywood star had made it difficult for the alleged victims to come forward.

The London theater launched an investigation into Spacey last month after claims of sexual harassment emerged in the United States. Spacey, 58, led the Old Vic between 2004 and 2015.

The Old Vic says it had received 20 allegations of “a range of inappropriate behavior,” from actions that made people feel uncomfortable to “sexually inappropriate” touching.

A general view of The Old Vic theater in London, Wednesday Nov. 15, 2017. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

All the alleged victims are young men over 18 years old. The reported incidents took place between 1995 and 2013, many of them at the Old Vic, and all but four of the alleged victims are former staff of the theater.

In all but one case the complainants say they did not report them at the time. One man says he reported an incident to his manager, who did not act on the information.

— AP

IDF troops find makeshift firearm in West Bank village

IDF soldiers find an improvised firearm in a “security check” in the Palestinian village of Jit in the northern West Bank, the army says.

The firearm is of a type known as “Carlo,” usually constructed in makeshift workshops throughout the West Bank.

Radio host alleges Sen. Al Franken forcibly kissed her on USO tour

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — A Los Angeles radio host says Democratic Sen. Al Franken forcibly kissed her during a 2006 USO tour. The host says Franken posed for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept.

Leeann Tweeden accuses Minnesota’s Franken in an essay on the website of California radio station KABC, where she anchors a morning talk show. Tweeden says Franken wrote a skit for the pair during a 2006 USO tour to the Middle East and insisted they practice a kiss during rehearsal.

Tweeden says she tried to resist but says Franken forced himself on her and stuck his tongue in her mouth. A copy of the photo is posted with the article.

Franken’s staff has not yet responded to a request for comment.

— AP

Breaking the Silence slams closing of case against spokesman as ‘slanted’

The director of Breaking the Silence responds to the state prosecution’s decision to close the case against the organization’s spokesman Din Issacharoff.

The controversial organization publishes soldiers’ testimonies about human rights abuses in the West Bank. Issacharoff has claimed to have personally carried out such an abuse, saying he beat a Palestinian detainee unconscious during the detainee’s arrest in 2014.

Prosecutors on Thursday said that the testimonies from the Palestinian man himself and several soldiers who took part in the arrest all agree that the beating never took place.

In response, Breaking the Silence CEO Avner Gvaryahu dismisses the prosecution announcement, saying, “What began with a political demand by the justice minister turned into a political investigation and ended in a political and slanted conclusion. The State Attorney, Shai Nitzan, has become a political servant of the justice minister,” who urged police to investigate Issacharoff on suspicion committing a war crime.

“If this issue had reached the court, the truth would have come to light,” Gvaryahu says. “Anyone who thinks you can have an occupation without violence is fantasizing.”

Satellite photos said to show new Iranian base near Syrian-Israeli border

ImageSat International publishes satellite images from Syria that purport to show an alleged Iranian military base that lies roughly halfway between Damascus and the Israeli border.

The presence of such a base was first reported this week by the BBC. The new photos purport to show new vehicle and personnel facilities, and possibly a new mosque, at the site.

Buried testimony from Warsaw Ghetto goes on display for first time in Poland

WARSAW, Poland — Eyewitness accounts of Nazi atrocities found buried in the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto go on display in Poland for the first time.

The exhibition, “What We Could Not Shout Out To The World,” includes more than 35,000 documents compiled and hidden by historian Emanuel Ringelblum and other Jews who lived in the ghetto.

The Ringelblum archive survived the destruction of the ghetto and World War II in 10 metal cases and two metal milk bottles that were recovered in 1946 and 1950, respectively.

Jews are seen lining up in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. (Courtesy of American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives via JTA)

The exhibition opened to the public Thursday at the Polish capital’s Jewish Historical Institute. It tells the story of Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto and its destruction by the Nazis.

The trove includes original documents in Polish, German and Yiddish; Nazi proclamations and Jewish appeals; ghetto ration cards, tram tickets, private letters and photographs depicting life in the ghetto.

Polish President Adrzej Duda visited the exhibition Tuesday ahead of the public opening and said he believed deeply in “speaking the truth about the Holocaust.”

“The Ringelblum archive is a priceless testament to the most tragic chapter in the common history of Jews and Polish people,” he said.

— JTA

Five construction workers hurt in accidents today

Five construction workers were injured today when they fell while working in construction sites.

According to Ofer Petersburg, real estate editor at the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, a 30-year-old worker was seriously hurt in a fall at a Jerusalem site, a 25-year-old was moderately hurt from a similar accident in Pardes Hana and a 23-year-old was moderately hurt after falling in Kiryat Malachi.

Safety advocates say there is lax enforcement of regulations at construction sites, an issue that has made it to the Knesset, which has held hearings in recent weeks about ways to up both inspections and punishments.

Amid gifts probe, Netanyahu presents photos to show friendship with Milchan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals something of his line of defense in the graft probe known as “Case 1000.”

Police are investigating the reasons and possible quid pro quos for Netanyahu and his family receiving expensive gifts of cigars and bottles of wine and champagne over many years from wealthy businesspeople, including billionaire Arnon Milchan.

Netanyahu has argued that Milchan is a close family friend, and said there is nothing improper in a public official receiving gifts from close friends.

Now Hahadashot television news, formerly Channel 2, reports that to bolster his case, Netanyahu has handed over the police photos of his and Milchan’s families at shared get-togethers over the years, including photos of him playing with Milchan’s children and meeting his mother.

Lebanese PM Hariri accepts invitation to France

PARIS — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri accepts an invitation to visit France after his surprise resignation from Saudi Arabia nearly two weeks ago that rattled the region, the French president’s office says Thursday.

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri gives his first televised interview on November 12, 2017, eight days after announcing his resignation. (Screenshot)

Hariri is expected in France in the coming days, according to an official in President Emmanuel Macron’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to talk publicly to the media.

Lebanon President Michel Aoun said Hariri and his family will arrive Saturday in France, “where he will rest for few days” before returning to Beirut to make “a decision regarding the resignation.” Aoun’s statement was carried by the state-run National News Agency.

Aoun had welcomed Hariri’s decision to accept the French invitation, saying he hoped it “opened the door for a resolution” of the political crisis in Lebanon.

“I wait for the return of President (of the council of ministers) Hariri to decide the next move regarding the government,” Aoun told journalists. The comments were published on his official Twitter account.

Hariri announced his resignation Nov. 4 in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia. Aoun refused to accept it, accusing the Saudis of holding him against his will. In the broadcast, Hariri cited concerns over meddling by Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, in regional affairs. He also said he fears for his life.

— AP

Criticism of US sanctions returns in Iran after earthquake

KERMANSHAH, Iran — With Iranian-Americans abroad unable to send money directly to Iran to aid those affected by this week’s powerful earthquake that killed over 530 people, criticism of US sanctions on Iran flared up anew on Thursday.

The 2015 nuclear deal Tehran struck with world powers lifted some sanctions but others, dating back as far as the days after the 1979 US Embassy takeover, still stand, including those that prohibit about 1 million Iranian-Americans from directly sending cash to Iran.

The state-run IRNA news agency, as well as other media, published articles criticizing the rules.

“Despite all the difficulties, Iranians living in the US are doing their best to devise innovative solutions to send their humanitarian supplies to the quake-hit areas in western Iran,” IRNA’s report said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said earlier this week that his country does not need foreign help for the quake and it is capable of managing the aftermath on its own.

— AP

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