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Live updates (closed)Latest: Mexico maintains growth forecasts despite Trump

French presidential candidate’s claim about Jews ‘a misunderstanding’

A-G orders probe into Netanyahu-linked naval purchases affair; IDF chief rabbi-designate: ‘I never wrote, said or thought soldiers can rape’

  • Rabbi Eyal Karim attends a State Control committee meeting, in the Israeli parliament, on September 13, 2010. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
    Rabbi Eyal Karim attends a State Control committee meeting, in the Israeli parliament, on September 13, 2010. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
  • Francois Fillon, candidate in the center-right Les Republicains party primaries and former French prime minister, at a polling station on November 20, 2016 in Paris. (AFP Photo/Martin Bureau)
    Francois Fillon, candidate in the center-right Les Republicains party primaries and former French prime minister, at a polling station on November 20, 2016 in Paris. (AFP Photo/Martin Bureau)
  • The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, November 17, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
    The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, November 17, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
  • Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses an annual economy and trade meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. (Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
    Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses an annual economy and trade meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. (Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
  • Screen capture showing Palestinian cleric Sheikh Abd Al-Salam Abu Al-Izz in a video posted online November 16, 2016. (screen capture, MEMRI - The Middle East Media Research Institute)
    Screen capture showing Palestinian cleric Sheikh Abd Al-Salam Abu Al-Izz in a video posted online November 16, 2016. (screen capture, MEMRI - The Middle East Media Research Institute)
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
  • This photo taken on June 18, 2016 shows flowers and tributes laid in remembrance against a photograph of slain Labour MP Jo Cox in Parliament Square, central London, June 18, 2016. (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)
    This photo taken on June 18, 2016 shows flowers and tributes laid in remembrance against a photograph of slain Labour MP Jo Cox in Parliament Square, central London, June 18, 2016. (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

Turkey’s Erdogan slams those who called Trump a ‘dictator’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asserts on Wednesday that many in the US and Europe are branding US President-elect Donald Trump a “dictator” because he wasn’t their favored candidate. Erdogan calls on them to respect democracy.

Addressing a meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, Erdogan also accuses Western nations of calling any leader that does not serve their interests a despot.

Erdogan has faced withering criticism in the West for shuttering media outlets and conducting a massive nationwide purge of opponents and dissenters, including in such wide-ranging institutions and industries as the media, health services and academia, following an abortive military coup in July.

“The West will continue to welcome tyrants who have blood on their hands with red carpets and label anyone who criticizes them as a dictator,” says Erdogan. “Are they calling someone a dictator? Then you should think the opposite. That person is good, because (he or she) goes against their interests.”

Erdogan adds that he is not concerned about Trump’s comments on Islam or Muslims. “We are used to such things in politics,” he says. “They speak that way today and then they’ll correct that wrong.”

— AP

Iran warns of ‘reaction’ to US renewal of decades-old sanction

Iran’s top leader warns that renewal of a decades-old sanction on his country by the US will lead to “reaction” by Tehran.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website quotes him as saying on Wednesday, “Definitely, the Islamic Republic of Iran will show reaction” about the renewal. He does not elaborate.

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, says the renewal is a violation of last year’s nuclear deal with world powers that capped Iran’s nuclear activities in return for lifting sanctions.

Last week, the US House renewed the Iran Sanctions Extensions, first passed by Congress in 1996 and which expired at the end of the year. There is widespread support in the Senate for approving it.

— AP

Merkel criticizes ‘deliberate’ attacks on Syrian hospitals

German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticizes deliberate attacks on hospitals on Syria, and says it’s “very regrettable” that Russia is supporting President Bashar Assad’s government.

Merkel renews her criticism of Assad and Russia’s backing of him in a speech on Wednesday to the German Parliament.

“There are too many indications that hospitals and medical facilities are deliberately being bombed and, pardon me, that is internationally forbidden, that has to be pursued under criminal law,” she says.

Merkel adds: “The Assad regime must know, and it is very regrettable that Russia is supporting this regime.”

She pledges to keep pursuing political solutions, “even if it seems as hopeless as it does at present.”

— AP

Israel said to plan 500 new homes in East Jerusalem

The Jerusalem municipality submits plans to build 500 new homes in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, the Ir Amim NGO says, a first since the election of Donald Trump.

“This morning, the local planning and building committee made the decision to advance (plans)… for 500 units in Ramat Shlomo,” Ir Amim says, referring to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in the city’s north that lies across the Green Line.

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, November 17, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, November 17, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

— AFP and Times of Israel staff

Palestinian cleric: Use Pakistani nukes to eliminate Israel

In a video posted online last week, a Palestinian Muslim cleric urges the overthrow of Muslim states and the use of Pakistani nuclear weapons to “eliminate the state of the Jews in one or two strikes.”

In a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Sheikh Abd Al-Salam Abu Al-Izz warns Muslims not to expect President-elect Donald Trump to bring about hoped-for nuclear wars.

“The Muslims’ reaction to Trump’s victory was: ‘Hopefully, he will destroy (the US) and sit on its ruins. May he engage in nuclear wars, from which (the Muslims) will emerge intact.’ This is not how things go,” he warns.

Screen capture showing Palestinian cleric Sheikh Abd Al-Salam Abu Al-Izz in a video posted online November 16, 2016. (screen capture, MEMRI - The Middle East Media Research Institute)

Screen capture showing Palestinian cleric Sheikh Abd Al-Salam Abu Al-Izz in a video posted online November 16, 2016. (screen capture, MEMRI – The Middle East Media Research Institute)

“What is supposed to happen is that the nation of Islam will rise, and take its matters into its own hands. It should assume control and command over its armies. It should get rid of the governments, kings, sultans, sheikhs, and emirs. It should toss them into the garbage bin of history. It does not matter whether we hang them on the gallows or not. What matters is that we should kick them out and move forward.”

And he urges: “We should take the armies and the weapons from them. We should take the Pakistani nuclear weapons from those criminals, and use them in the service of Islam. We should take these armies, and eliminate the state of the Jews in one or two strikes, and then bring Islam everywhere in the world.”

FIFA envoy meets Netanyahu, Abbas over Palestinian demands

FIFA says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have met with its envoy trying to broker better relations between the two sides’ soccer federations.

FIFA says its monitoring committee chairman, Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa, held separate talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday.

It says the organization’s president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura “have both committed to visiting the region at the appropriate time in the near future.”

Palestinian soccer leaders want Israel expelled from FIFA over security restrictions on players and opposing teams moving in and out of its territories, plus Israel allowing clubs from West Bank settlements to play in its competitions.

— AP

Far-right extremist found guilty of killing British MP Jo Cox

A far-right extremist is found guilty Wednesday of murdering British MP Jo Cox a week before the European Union referendum, in an attack that sent shockwaves around the country.

This photo taken on June 18, 2016 shows flowers and tributes laid in remembrance against a photograph of slain Labour MP Jo Cox in Parliament Square, central London, June 18, 2016. (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)

This photo taken on June 18, 2016, shows flowers and tributes laid in remembrance against a photograph of slain Labour MP Jo Cox in Parliament Square, central London, June 18, 2016. (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)

The jury at London’s central criminal court convicts Thomas Mair, 53, of shooting and stabbing the mother-of-two as she arrived at a library in Birstall, northern England, to meet her constituents on June 16.

The court earlier heard that Mair shouted “Britain first” as he fired three shots at the lawmaker and stabbed her 15 times.

Following the verdict, Cox’s husband Brendan called the murder “a political act and an act of terrorism.”

— AFP

French presidential candidate: Jews did not want to respect French law

Francois Fillon, a leading contender in France’s presidential election next year, accuses Jews of not wanting to respect French law.

Fillon, a former prime minister who this week won the first round of the presidential primary election within France’s center-right The Republicans party, makes the assertion during an interview Wednesday for the Europe1 radio.

“I think that sectarianism is increasing today within the Muslim community and that the sectarianists are taking that community hostage,” says Fillon, who knocked former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round on Monday and will face off against Alain Juppe, another former prime minister, in the second round of the primaries next week.

“We need to combat this sectarianism and we need to do it as we have in the past,” Fillon continued. “We fought against a form of Catholic sectarianism or like we fought the desire of Jews to live in a community that does not respect the laws of the French Republic.”

Fillon neither elaborates nor says when he believes French Jews did not wish to respect the law.

— JTA

UNESCO confers tolerance award on Moscow Jewish museum

UNESCO, the United Nations agency which has faced accusations of passing anti-Jewish resolutions, awarded Moscow’s main Jewish museum an award for its promotion of tolerance, the Russian Interfax news agency reports.

The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, a $50 million state-of-the-art institution that opened in 2012, received UNESCO’s Madanjeet Singh Prize for the distribution of the ideals of peace and non-violence last week.

Rabbi Alexander Boroda, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia and the museum’s director general, accepted the prize, which is named after an Indian painter, at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, the report says.

Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, whose top aide Rabbi Boruch Gorin is the museum’s chairman, says in a statement that “spreading tolerance is an absolutely necessary thing for Russia,” whose Jewish community he said “is involved in this as much as they can be, specifically after the opening of the Jewish Museum.”

UNESCO has faced criticism in recent months over the passing of several resolutions that were widely seen as erasing Jewish ties to Jerusalem and other holy sites because they referred to Judaism’s holiest sites only by the Arabic-language names as Muslim places of worship.

— JTA

Airstrike hits Mosul bridge, disrupting IS supply lines

An airstrike by the US-led coalition on Wednesday “disables” a fourth bridge across the Tigris River in Mosul, leaving only one intact crossing in the northern Iraqi city and further disrupting the Islamic State group’s supply lines.

The IS-run Aamaq news agency and an Iraqi military commander in Mosul report the pre-dawn airstrike, the second to target a bridge this week. Two other bridges were destroyed by airstrikes last month.

An Iraqi army tank advances towards Qara Tappa during fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

An Iraqi army tank advances towards Qara Tappa during fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The airstrike is followed by intense fighting in an eastern Mosul neighborhood where Iraq’s special forces are slowly advancing toward the city center, hampered by suicide car bombings, snipers and concern over the safety of civilians.

The Tigris River runs through the center of Mosul, and until now most of the fighting has been on the eastern bank. Iraqi forces are expected to use pontoon bridges when they reach the river.

— AP

Trump taps South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as UN envoy

President-elect Donald Trump choses South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the United Nations, the first woman tapped for a top-level administration post during his White House transition so far.

It will be a cabinet-level position, and Haley has accepted.

“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump says in a release Wednesday. “She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”

In this Nov. 15, 2016 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

In this Nov. 15, 2016 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Haley, an outspoken Trump critic throughout much of the presidential race, would become his first female — and first nonwhite — cabinet-level official if confirmed by the Senate. She’s the daughter of Indian immigrants and is the second Asian-American to serve as a US governor.

“Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally, and I am honored that the president-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love as the next ambassador to the United Nations,” Haley said in Trump’s release.

— AP

Biden ‘not interested’ in running for Democratic Party chair

Vice President Joe Biden closes the door on the possibility of leading the Democratic Party after leaving the White House next year.

Biden’s name has been floated in recent days among Democratic insiders looking for someone with the stature and position to lead the party out of its electoral abyss. Democrats urging him this year to run for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship had said his appeal to white, working-class voters might help the party refocus after losing badly among those voters to President-elect Donald Trump.

“The vice president is not interested in being DNC chair, but he intends to remain deeply involved in helping shape the direction of the Democratic Party moving forward,” his spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, says Tuesday.

Largely leaderless other than outgoing President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party early next year will choose a new national chairman following devastating losses in the 2016 elections. Longtime Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down under pressure during the Democratic National Convention in the summer. Since then, interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile has led the party, also under pressure after stolen emails showed she’d communicated with Hillary Clinton’s aides about potential questions to be asked in campaign forums.

“Joe Biden is the one person who I think could bring the party together, the progressive wing of the party, the left and center, and start giving a cogent message to those working-class Democrats who abandoned us,” former DNC Chairman Ed Rendell tells CNBC Tuesday.

— AP

Netanyahu visits firefighting command center as blazes continue

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Fire and Rescue Service Coastal District’s forward command center, where he is briefed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich on ongoing efforts to beat back multiple massive fires across the country.

Conflagrations over the past two days have led to multiple injuries and evacuations amid unusually dry and windy weather.

— Raphael Ahren

Police release video of Galilee fire

Police post a video on Twitter of the view from a police chopper of a brush fire that reached the first line of houses in the village of Rakefet, near Sakhnin in the Galilee.

Dalai Lama: ‘I have no worries’ about Trump’s election

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama says Wednesday he has “no worries” about Donald Trump’s election as US president, adding that he expects the businessman will align his future policies with global realities.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s remarks are his most extensive yet regarding the election of the real estate tycoon and reality television star who has called for putting America’s concerns first and shown little interest in Washington’s traditional espousal of global democracy and social justice.

Commenting at the conclusion of a four-day visit to Mongolia, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism says he looks forward to seeing Trump at some point following the Jan. 20 inauguration. Such meetings usually draw protests from Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to split Tibet from China.

The 81-year-old monk says he has always regarded the US as the leader of the “free world” and wasn’t concerned about remarks made by Trump during the election campaign. Some of those comments have been cited as offensive to Muslims, Hispanics and other US minority groups.

“I feel during the election, the candidate has more freedom to express. Now once they (are) elected, having the responsibility, then they have to carry (on) their cooperation, their work, according (to) reality,” he tells reporters in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. “So I have no worries.”

In this Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, file photo, the Dalai Lama speaks at the Janraiseg temple of Gandantegchinlen monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. (AP Photo/Ganbat Namjilsangarav, File)

Dalai Lama speaks at the Janraiseg temple of Gandantegchinlen monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, November 19, 2106. (AP Photo/Ganbat Namjilsangarav)

— AP

Germany ‘repulsed’ by Hitler salutes at US far-right event

The German government says it’s repulsed by Nazi-style salutes such as those performed at a recent far-right event in Washington, but has confidence the United States can tackle the issue.

Video published by The Atlantic shows participants at Saturday’s event raising their arms in salute during a speech by Richard Spencer, head of the white-nationalist National Policy Institute.

Asked about the clip, government spokesman Steffen Seibert says Wednesday, “Whenever we see videos from anywhere showing people raising their hand to do Hitler salutes we are repulsed.”

Seibert adds Germany has “great faith in American civil society, media and politics to address such bad developments, such terrible events.”

— AP

Netanyahu: We will ask neighbors for fire-fighting help

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders emergency services to ask neighboring countries for help in battling the fires raging throughout the country.

“I asked to immediately increase our request for planes,” Netanyahu says Wednesday. “The need today is less acute” than during the deadly Carmel Forest fire in 2010, “because we have our own [firefighting] aircraft squadron, but there are certain needs, types of planes, that we will be asking our neighbors for,” he says.

Requests from the Israel Police, which is responsible for the fire-fighting squadron, will be delivered to neighboring fire and rescue services via the National Security Council, Netanyahu says.

— Raphael Ahren

Attorney general orders investigation in submarines affair

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit orders the Israel Police to formally open an investigation into the so-called “submarines” affair.

The personal attorney for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, David Shimron, is alleged to have lobbied the government to purchase three new Dolphin submarines from the German company ThyssenKrupp despite the IDF allegedly not wanting the new craft.

Last week, Mandelblit suggested there was no cause to open a criminal investigation.

That seems to have changed this week. According to Channel 2, Mandelblit chaired a meeting earlier today that included the head of the Israel Police Investigations Department and that may have included “new evidence,” according to the television report, that raises the suspicion that Netanyahu and Shimron may have acted with a conflict of interest in the affair.

Jordanian king looks to calm Mideast ‘panic’ over Trump

Jordan’s King Abdullah II says Donald Trump’s election won’t lead to overly dramatic changes in US policy toward the Middle East.

Abdullah makes the comments in an interview with Australian television journalist Tony Jones, who asks him, “Could Donald Trump’s presidency be a game-changer in the Middle East?”

“It will definitely I think change the status quo of a lot of issues that I think we’ve been dealing with,” acknowledges Abdullah, but adds, “I know many members of the transitional team, and, obviously, America is also built on institutions, so there will be some changes in policy, but I don’t think to the extent that everybody’s panicking about, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt at this stage.”

Official: Fire-hit Zichron Yaakov didn’t act to protect itself from fires

A senior firefighting official suggests Wednesday that municipalities bear some of the responsibility for the fire damage to dozens of homes throughout the country over the past two days.

The official says the city of Zichron Yaakov “was warned repeatedly, including a few weeks ago, that homes were built too near to woodlands, and that they needed to implement a fire safety plan. It was never done because of budget issues.”

Minister: Some fires appear to be accidents, some arson

Dozens of homes have been destroyed in fires around the country, leading to suspicions of a systematic arson campaign behind the many different blazes.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan suggests Wednesday the picture may be more complex.

“Yesterday’s fire at Nataf,” outside Jerusalem, “was apparently caused by a gas stove lit [by campers] in the field, against the express orders of fire officials,” Erdan says.

“On the other hand, in the Lachish region, the fire appears to have started at multiple sites, a fact that usually means arson.”

Erdan emphasized that “investigations are only beginning.”

5 countries sending planes to help Israel battle spate of fires

Five countries answer Israel’s call to send fire-fighting planes and equipment, according to Channel 2. They are Russia, Italy, Cyprus, Greece and Croatia.

80 homes evacuated in Galilee village of Gilon

Police say some 80 homes are evacuated in the village of Gilon near the Galilee town of Karmiel as a forest fire approaches homes at the site.

Two homes are already damaged from the fire, a statement by Galilee Police says Wednesday.

Residents are not being allowed to return to their homes as firefighters battle the growing blaze.

Police investigation to focus on gas field ships, not submarines – report

Channel 2 television news reports the police investigation into a possible conflict of interest and corruption case linked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his personal attorney David Shimron will focus not on the purchase of three Dolphin submarines from Germany, but instead on a separate 2014 Defense Ministry tender for naval ships to protect Israel’s Mediterranean natural gas fields.

Netanyahu is not a direct target of the probe, which is looking into evidence that may implicate Shimron in a conflict of interest as he allegedly represented both the prime minister and the ship suppliers. But Netanyahu’s own preference for the purchase of the ships urged by Shimron will be examined during the probe.

IDF chief rabbi-designate: ‘I never wrote, said or thought soldiers can rape’

IDF chief rabbi-designate Rabbi Eyal Karim tells the High Court of Justice that he “never wrote, said or thought that IDF soldiers are permitted to rape women in war-time.”

Karim’s appointment as the IDF’s top chaplain is being held up by the court over revelations that he once wrote Jewish legal rulings that seemed to suggest Jewish law permits forced sexual relations with women on the battlefield, and that forbade relations between men.

Karim’s backers have argued that the rabbi’s comments were taken out of context, and were meant as reflections on the technicalities of ancient legal strictures related to war, not to permit or advocate illegal or immoral behavior on the part of IDF troops.

German Holocaust denier Ursula Haverbeck, 88, again sentenced to prison

Ursula Haverbeck, a well-known historical revisionist, is sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for Holocaust denial by a German court.

Haverbeck, 88, is convicted by a court in Verden on the basis of numerous articles she had published in the local newspaper Stimme des Reiches, or “Voice of the Reich,” in which she denied that the Holocaust occurred. Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany.

According to the German press agency dpa, Haverbeck repeats her theories in her own closing statement in court on Monday, referring to an “Auschwitz lie” and saying that it was not an extermination camp but rather a work camp where no one was gassed to death.

Haverbeck says she would appeal the decision. Her lawyer, Wolfram Nahrath, asks that his client be acquitted.

The sentence follows a string of similar sentences against the repeat offender. In October, a court in Bad Oeynhausen sentenced Haverbeck to 11 months in jail for incitement to hate. In September, a court in Detmold sentenced her to 8 months in prison. And last year, a court in Hamburg sentenced her to ten months in jail. According to dpa, she has appealed all of these decisions as well.

Haverbeck, who has had ties with far-right extremist groups for decades, has been fined for Holocaust denial numerous times. Her late husband, Werner Georg Haverbeck, was a member of the Nazi Party who held high positions in the early years of the Hitler regime.

— JTA

Jewish educator launches online women’s seminary

A Jewish educator founds an online seminary that allows women to study Jewish texts through interactive classes.

CyberSem offers live courses taught in English for Jewish women on subjects including Jewish law, bible and Jewish history.

CyberSem founder Chavi Goldberg, as well as most teachers, identify as Orthodox, a representative says the site “is open to women from diverse hashkafos [religious outlooks] and religious backgrounds,” according to the website.

Goldberg was motivated to create the site by her own experience struggling to find time for Jewish learning.

— JTA

Trump: Kushner’s White House role could range from nothing to peace broker

President-elect Donald Trump says his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner’s role in the White House could range from nothing to brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump is asked Tuesday in an on-the-record meeting with New York Times editorial staff what role Kushner would play in his administration.

“Oh. Maybe nothing. Because I don’t want to have people saying ‘conflict,’” Trump says at first. Then he adds that “the president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants,” according to a published transcript of the meeting.

Trump praises his son-in-law, saying: “Jared’s a very smart guy. He’s a very good guy. The people that know him, he’s a quality person and I think he can be very helpful.”

Jared Kushner, son-in-law of of President-elect Donald Trump walks from Trump Tower, Monday, November 14, 2016, in New York. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Jared Kushner, son-in-law of of President-elect Donald Trump walks from Trump Tower, Monday, November 14, 2016, in New York. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump then segues into the Middle East peace process. “I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. I would love that, that would be such a great achievement. Because nobody’s been able to do it,” he says.

That prompts a question from reporter Maggie Haberman about whether Kushner “can be part of that.”

Trump replies: “Well, I think he’d be very good at it. I mean he knows it so well. He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players.”

Trump adds that though “really great people” have told him it is “impossible” to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, “I disagree, I think you can make peace. I think people are tired now of being shot, killed. At some point, when do they come? I think we can do that. I have reason to believe I can do that.”

— JTA

Netanyahu’s attorney ‘welcomes’ probe in naval purchases affair

David Shimron, the personal attorney to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says he is convinced a new police probe into conflict of interest and corruption suspicions will clear him of wrongdoing.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit earlier today ordered the police to open a probe into allegations Shimron used his closeness with Netanyahu to advance the interests of German shipbuilders ThyssenKrupp as Israel’s Defense Ministry sought to purchase new navy ships.

“I welcome the attorney general’s decision to open an inquiry,” he says in a Wednesday statement to the media. “I’m certain that after the facts are examined by objective professionals, it will become clear once and for all that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever in my actions, and everything was conducted in accordance with the law and conflict-of-interest arrangements.”

He adds: “It goes without saying that I will cooperate with the inquiry as required.”

The probe does not directly target Netanyahu, according to reports. The prime minister denies any knowledge of Shimron’s links to the company that won government contracts at the PM’s instruction.

Erdan orders police patrols in forested areas in bid to stop fires

Police say a wave of fires throughout the country were likely caused by arson.

The suspicion of arson has strengthened, leading Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich to order a dramatic bolstering of patrols in forested areas starting Wednesday night.

Police are also launching a major arson investigation to find the suspected culprits.

French presidential candidate’s claim about Jews ‘a misunderstanding’

A spokesperson for Francois Fillon, a leading contender in the upcoming French presidential election, seeks to soften the candidate’s claim that Jews in the past did not respect French law.

Jérôme Chartier says Wednesday that criticism of Fillon was “a misunderstanding” of the candidate’s attempt to note that all religions have extremists.

“Francois Fillon is very clear on the fact that there may occur in all religious groups sectarian streams,” Chartier says. “They exist, everybody knows it. But at the same time he has always appreciated the integration of Jews in France.”

Chartier adds, “The Jews of France are French like the Christians of France are French and the Muslims of France are French, except for those who partake in Islamic sectarianism, in Islamic totalitarianism, which needs to be fought against.”

Chartier’s statement comes after Fillon said earlier Wednesday that France must combat Muslim sectarianism like “we fought against a form of Catholic sectarianism or like we fought the desire of Jews to live in a community that does not respect the laws of the French Republic.”

— JTA

Mexico maintains growth forecasts despite Trump

Mexico’s finance ministry on Wednesday maintains its growth forecasts for 2016 and 2017 despite volatility in the markets following Donald Trump’s US presidential election victory.

The country’s economy is still expected to grow between 2.0 percent and 2.6% this year and 2.0-3.0% in 2017, Deputy Finance Minister Vanessa Rubio says.

— AFP

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