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Live updates (closed)Latest: Hundreds protest after swastikas appear in NY park

Erdogan: ‘Impossible’ Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense on Marmara

Trump team confirms Romney vetted for secretary of state; France vows to proceed with peace summit; invoking Trump, officials say thousands of housings planned for E. Jerusalem

Elie Leshem is deputy editor of The Times of Israel.

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to Israel's Channel 2 in an interview aired Sunday, November 20, 2016 (screen capture)
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to Israel's Channel 2 in an interview aired Sunday, November 20, 2016 (screen capture)
  • US President Barack Obama (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre on November 20, 2016 in Lima (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)
    US President Barack Obama (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre on November 20, 2016 in Lima (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)
  • A woman walks by the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, November 2, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    A woman walks by the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, November 2, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • US President-elect Donald Trump arrives at the Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster, New Jersey November 20, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT)
    US President-elect Donald Trump arrives at the Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster, New Jersey November 20, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT)
  • Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney skewers Donald Trump during a speech at the University of Utah, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Salt Lake City.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
    Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney skewers Donald Trump during a speech at the University of Utah, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
  • Bird's-eye view of Ramat Shlomo, March 1, 2013 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
    Bird's-eye view of Ramat Shlomo, March 1, 2013 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
  • An aerial view of the Dome of the Rock, left, in the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, and the Western Wall, center, the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray (File photo: AFP/JACK GUEZ)
    An aerial view of the Dome of the Rock, left, in the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, and the Western Wall, center, the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray (File photo: AFP/JACK GUEZ)
  • President-elect Donald Trump's appointment for senior counselor and chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon looks on during a national security meeting with advisers at Trump Tower, October 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    President-elect Donald Trump's appointment for senior counselor and chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon looks on during a national security meeting with advisers at Trump Tower, October 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s news as it unfolded.

Thousands of new apartments planned for E. Jerusalem

Jerusalem City Hall is set to authorize the construction of thousands of new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods over the Green Line in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in the US, municipal officials say.

Some 1,400 new apartments in the capital’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood are expected to be approved by the Jerusalem Municipality Planning and Construction Committee, the officials say.

“In Jerusalem it’s as if Trump is already in office,” one official tells Channel 2. “The problem is that nobody knows what his policies will actually be.”

“There’s an understanding between us that whatever we’ll be able to accomplish in the coming months may not always be an option later,” the official adds. “Even if the [current] State Department or White House condemns it, it won’t be worth much at this point.”

— Tamar Pileggi

5 Jewish minors detained for ‘violating regulations’ at Temple Mount

Police in Jerusalem detain five Israeli minors at the Temple Mount.

An Israel Police spokesperson says the five were taken in for questioning after they “violated the regulations” at the holy site, where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray.

Hamas warns Israel ‘playing with fire’ in bid to quiet mosques

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, in a statement to the official Turkish news agency Aandolu, says a bill up for debate in Israel that would cap the volume of mosques’ calls to prayer is “playing with fire.”

“What the Israel occupation state is doing at the Al Aqsa Mosque, as well as preventing the call to prayer in Jerusalem, is playing with fire,” he says. “This created a fierce reaction in the Palestinian community and the entire Islamic nation.”

Mashaal adds, mirroring an earlier statement this month, that there can be no “stability in the region without the Palestinians attaining their rights and the departure of the occupation.”

— Dov Lieber

France vows to follow through on peace summit

France is denying reports that it has shelved plans to hold an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Paris next month.

Recent reports quoted President Francois Hollande as saying he is facing difficulties convening the summit, in light of the results of the US election and Israel’s vehement opposition to the conference.

“As President Hollande reaffirmed in his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 20, our goal is to convene an international conference in order to help relaunch the Middle East peace process,” a spokesperson from the French Foreign Ministry says. “We are working closely with our partners and in collaboration with the parties to that end.”

Paris’s special envoy to the planned conference, Pierre Vimont, recently visited the United States, days after he came to Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with senior officials.

“He will continue this work during his upcoming visits to our main partner countries,” the statement reads.

— Raphael Ahren

Merkel says she’ll seek reelection in 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells her conservative party that she wants to seek a fourth term in elections next year, according to national news agency DPA.

After months of feverish speculation, she tells leaders of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that she is prepared to carry the party banner into the poll, expected in September or October 2017.

Merkel is due to hold a news conference at her party headquarters this evening.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama shake hands following a press conference after their meeting at the chancellery in Berlin on November 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan Smialowski)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama shake hands following a press conference after their meeting at the chancellery in Berlin on November 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan Smialowski)

— AFP

Man critically stabbed in Petah Tikva

Magen David Adom medics are trying to resuscitate a man who is in critical condition after being stabbed in Petah Tikva, MDA says.

The man, 35, was stabbed during an altercation, according to reports.

Man stabbed in Petah Tikva dies of wounds

The man who was stabbed in Petah Tikva is declared dead by doctors at the city’s Beilinson medical center, where he was taken for emergency care.

According to initial reports, the man, a bicycle rider, got into a fight with a motorist after a minor crash.

Police are investigating.

Trump boosts ‘impressive’ Gen. Mattis for defense secretary

On Twitter, President-elect Trump drops a big hint as to his preferred candidate for the role of secretary of defense:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/800332639844659201

President-elect Donald Trump talks to the media as he stands with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President-elect Donald Trump talks to the media as he stands with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Syrian government refuses UN truce terms for Aleppo

The Syrian government refuses a UN proposal to grant the rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo autonomy in order to restore calm to the war-torn city.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem says the state’s institutions “must be restored” across the city and the militants expelled.

At least 164 civilians have been killed since the government renewed its assault on the besieged enclave six days ago, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The UN estimates 275,000 people are trapped inside. By Saturday, the government had damaged or destroyed every hospital in the east, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports doctors and hospitals in Syria.

Rebels outside the city have meanwhile launched two unsuccessful offensives to break the government’s siege and shelled the government-held western districts.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura had proposed that the Syrian government grant eastern Aleppo autonomy in exchange for peace, and called on the estimated 900 al-Qaida-linked militants in the east to depart to other rebel-held territory in Syria.

But al-Moallem refuses the offer in a meeting with de Mistura in Damascus. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, the foreign minister says restoring government rule is a matter of “national sovereignty.” He says Damascus will not allow the people of eastern Aleppo to be “hostages to 6,000 gunmen.”

“We agreed on the need that terrorists should get out of east Aleppo to end the suffering of the civilians in the city,” he says.

— AP

Home Front Command drills planned for this week

The IDF announces the Home Front Command will be conducting drills in various locations between Monday and Thursday.

In a statement, the military says drills will take place Monday through Wednesday in Lod, outside Tel Aviv.

Starting in the early morning Wednesday, drills will also be held in Givat Shmuel, Modiin and Beit Dagan.

The statement emphasizes that “the drills were planned in advance,” indicating they do not stem from a new assessment.

Trump team confirms Romney vetted for secretary of state

Vice President-elect Mike Pence confirms speculation regarding a possible cabinet role for former GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Romney is under “active consideration” for the role of secretary of state by President-elect Donald Trump, Pence tells Fox News.

He says that there are other candidates for the job, but Romney is the only candidate he names.

Romney, known for his harsh criticism of Trump during the campaign, met Saturday with the president-elect, sparking speculation.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney skewers Donald Trump during a speech at the University of Utah, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney skewers Donald Trump during a speech at the University of Utah, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Trump, who spent his first weekend outside Manhattan since his election, met for roughly 90 minutes with Romney, who emerged from the session saying nothing about whether he was offered the job or interested in it.

“We had a far-reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance,” Romney said. “We discussed those areas and exchanged our views on those topics.”

— News agencies contributed

LGBT activists protest outside Jerusalem rabbi’s office

Activists are staging a protest outside the office of Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar over comments deemed deeply offensive to the LGBT community.

The protest against Amar, who called homosexuality an “abomination” in an interview, is organized by the local Yerushalmim Party.

Amar, who previously served as the country’s Sephardi chief rabbi, made his controversial statements in an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper published in full on Friday, drawing condemnation and earning himself a police complaint for incitement.

“I call it a cult. It’s a cult of abominations, it is obvious. It’s an abomination,” Amar said. “The Torah says it is punishable by death. It is in the first rank of severe offenses… They say ‘leaning,’ ‘perversion’ – this is nonsense. There is lust, and a person can overcome it if they want to, like all lusts. This is among the most forbidden lusts, the most severe. ”

Amar said he declined to attend a memorial service for teenager Shira Banki, who was stabbed to death by an ultra-Orthodox zealot during 2015’s Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, after her family refused to read aloud a condemnation of homosexuality he included in a condolence missive he sent to them. Amar recalled he told the parents of murdered Shira Banki that “if you want to exalt her soul to the heavens, to repent from your evil ways.”

Earlier Sunday, police were called to the rabbi’s office to investigate after protesters hung a gay pride rainbow flag there overnight.

— Luke Tress and Stuart Winer

Netanyahu residences spent less in 2015 than in previous years — PMO

Expenses for Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem and his private home were the lowest in the past seven years, according to numbers released Sunday by the Prime Minister’s Office.

All expenses were approved by the relevant professionals based on decisions of the Knesset and the government attorney, the PMO says in a statement.

A woman walks by the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, November 2, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
A woman walks by the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, November 2, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The PMO, however, declines to release receipts for the expenses, saying it would have been too time-consuming to collate them and that it was under no legal requirement to do so.

The government spent NIS 1,844,000 ($474,000) in total for the official residence and Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea. That compares to almost NIS 2 million in 2014, and over NIS 2 million in previous years, as well as over NIS 3 million in 2012.

— Times of Israel staff

East Jerusalem groom arrested for waving Hamas flag

Police arrested a bridegroom and another suspect who waved Hamas flags during a parade held for the groom in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday evening, police say.

The two suspects were questioned by police over suspected association with a terrorist organization and behavior that could have caused a public disturbance.

Both the suspects have been arrested and held. The police investigation is continuing.

— Judah Ari Gross

After golf, Trump and Pence go to church

President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence are attending a church service.

The two have been working from Bedminster, New Jersey, to pick people to lead Trump’s upcoming administration.

Trump and Pence leave Trump’s golf club there shortly after 10 a.m. and enter the nearby Lamington Presbyterian Church.

Press is not allowed in the chapel.

US President-elect Donald Trump arrives at the Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster, New Jersey November 20, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT)
US President-elect Donald Trump arrives at the Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster, New Jersey November 20, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT)

— AP

Protester assails actor Ashton Kutcher at Airbnb event over West Bank settlements

American actor Ashton Kutcher was assailed during an Airbnb event by a protester who complained the company lets West Bank settlers list their homes for rent through its website.

Kutcher, an adherent of the Kabbalah movement who is married to Jewish actress Mila Kunis, was an early investor in Airbnb, the short-term rental website. He spoke Saturday along with company CEO Brian Chesky at the Airbnb Open conference in Los Angeles.

During the presentation, Code Pink activist Ariel Gold stormed the stage and demanded to know why Airbnb allows residents in West Bank settlements list their homes through the site, saying it is supporting illegal activity, The New York Post’s Page Six reported.

“People should come before profits,” Gold told Page Six. “So it’s time for Airbnb to stop profiting from Israel’s settlement enterprise and the human rights abuses Palestinians live under every day of their lives.”

With Gold on stage, Kutcher said, according to Page Six, “We all can belong in a world together without borders.

“I can appreciate that this doesn’t happen seamlessly. I can appreciate that it does not happen easily. I can appreciate that where there is change, there will be a fringe case that feels objectified. But this company is about bringing people together.”

An Airbnb spokesperson told Page Six that “Airbnb is based on trust and we depend on hosts and guests to be transparent with one another. Hosts determine how their listing is described and we urge all hosts to provide accurate information about where their listing is located so guests know what to expect.” The spokesman pointed out that guests can leave detailed feedback on the Airbnb website.

JTA

Trump’s wife, son might stay put in NYC for now

While President-elect Donald Trump will be heading to the White House in January, it’s not clear if his wife and 10-year-old son will be immediately joining him full-time.

Spokesman Jason Miller says that there is “obviously a sensitivity” about pulling Trump’s son Barron out of school in the middle of the academic year.

Miller is responding to a report in the New York Post, which said Melania Trump and Barron Trump would not be moving to Washington after the inauguration.

AP

Obama, Putin meet on sidelines of APEC summit

US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin meet briefly on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima on Sunday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“They greeted each other and held brief discussions,” Russian news agencies quotes Peskov as saying.

US President Barack Obama (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre on November 20, 2016 in Lima (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin talk before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre on November 20, 2016 in Lima (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)

— AFP

IDF officer dismissed for failing to intervene in attack

An IDF officer from the armored corps is relieved of his command for failing to intervene in a terror attack in Jerusalem.

The officer, from the storied 401st armored brigade, was dismissed for behavior unbecoming of an officer, the army says.

The officer, who is not named, was at the scene of the October 9 shooting attack near Ammunition Hill, in which two people were killed.

“The officer was dismissed because he didn’t engage the attacker, and acted contrary to what is expected from him as an officer,” the army says.

The gunman also wounded five other people. Three of the injured were shot and two others hurt after the terrorist plowed his car into theirs.

— Judah Ari Gross

3 soldiers hurt in West Bank rock attack

Three IDF soldiers are lightly injured when rocks are thrown at the bus they’re traveling in near Geva Binyamin, north of Jerusalem.

The rocks smash the windows and windshield of the bus, according to a military spokesperson.

It is not immediately clear if the bus used to transport soldiers through the West Bank was fortified against attacks.

Two of the soldiers receive treatment on the scene, while the third is taken to a nearby hospital for further care.

— Judah Ari Gross

A-G to look at material related to submarine deal

The attorney general and state attorney will examine material related to a submarine deal with Germany that critics say may have involved a conflict of interest on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron, and perhaps Netanyahu himself.

Dina Zilber, the deputy attorney general, is leading the process, which has not been defined as an investigation or official probe. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit emphasizes that at present there is no evidence to warrant such an investigation.

Meanwhile, Shimron has taken a lie-detector test to establish that Netanyahu was unaware of Shimron’s relationship with an Israeli man who represented the submarine manufacturer, Channel 2 reports. Shimron passed the test, the report says.

Erdogan: ‘Impossible’ Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense on Marmara

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — despite his recent efforts to restore ties with Israel after years at odds — says “it is impossible to believe” that the Israeli soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara tried to avert bloodshed.

The Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship leading a protest flotilla to the Gaza Strip in 2010. An Israeli raid on the ship, during which naval commandos were attacked, and responded with gunfire, killing nine. Ten Israelis were wounded. The incident soured relations between Jerusalem and Ankara for years.

“We have all of the documents and evidence,” Erdogan says, and “it’s impossible” that the soldiers were acting in self-defense.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to Israel's Channel 2 in an interview aired November 20, 2016 (screen capture)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to Israel’s Channel 2 in an interview aired November 20, 2016 (screen capture)

“Regrettably, 10 of our brothers were martyred there,” he adds.

Erdogan dismisses footage of the incident that showed Turkish activists assaulting the soldiers with metal rods, as well as a severely injured commando held in the belly of the ship.

“We have all [of the evidence],” he tells interviewer Ilana Dayan. “Speak correctly. The fact that you’re a journalist shouldn’t prevent you from speaking correctly.

Former general: Female IDF integration a left-wing plot

In a radio interview, former general Yiftah Ron-Tal claims a recent proposal to integrate women into tank brigades is part of a conspiracy by far-left organizations to harm the Israel Defense Forces.

“I think there are [far-left] groups with special interests behind this that are using this process, which is supposedly a democratic and important process to produce more fighters for the IDF, in order to weaken our army. It’s terrible. I know it’s terrible what I’m saying,” Ron-Tal, currently the director of the Israel Electric Corporation, says. “The people leading this, sorry for the phrasing, are freaks.”

Israel Electric Corporation's Yiftah Ron-Tal. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israel Electric Corporation’s Yiftah Ron-Tal. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Kulanu party MK Rachel Azaria, a proponent of better gender integration in the army, says she considers the allegation bizarre.

“I don’t even know how to answer that,” she tells The Times of Israel in a phone interview.

Azaria brushes off Ron-Tal’s “unfounded” assertion and insists she advocates allowing more women to serve in fighting units out of Zionism and practicality.

“The army needs good soldiers and soldiers who want to serve. Right now that’s women,” she says, citing female troopers’ documented high motivation levels.

— Judah Ari Gross

Hundreds protest after swastikas and ‘Go Trump’ appear in NY park

At least 300 people, including Beastie Boys singer Adam Horovitz, protest in New York against what they say are hate crimes inspired by the election of Donald Trump, after swastikas appeared in a Brooklyn park.

The park bears the name of Adam Yauch, a bassist and singer with the Beastie Boys who militated for human rights. The popular group broke up in 2012 following his death of cancer. Yauch had played in the park as a child.

Sometime before Friday morning, vandals used spray paint to draw awkwardly formed swastikas and the words “Go Trump” on a children’s locomotive in a playground.

City workers quickly painted over the graffiti, and by Sunday the locomotive had been covered with flowers, hearts, messages of love and Tibetan flags, in tribute to Yauch, who was a Buddhist.

The defacement — of a sort seen in many parts of the country since Trump’s shock election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors extremism — sparked widespread outrage on social media.

— AFP

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