US Congress committee debates moving embassy to Jerusalem
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US Congress committee debates moving embassy to Jerusalem

UK minister resigns over unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials, including Netanyahu

  • 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 for Jews, October 02, 2007. (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 for Jews, October 02, 2007. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)
  • Britain's International Development Secretary Priti Patel leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 8, 2017, after a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May (AFP/Adrian Dennis)
    Britain's International Development Secretary Priti Patel leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 8, 2017, after a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May (AFP/Adrian Dennis)
  • The US Consulate in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood, adjoining a possible site for the US Embassy (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
    The US Consulate in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood, adjoining a possible site for the US Embassy (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
  • Likud MK David Amsalem, chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee, left, and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, are seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset, July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Likud MK David Amsalem, chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee, left, and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, are seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset, July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a billboard that was vandalized near the entrance to Jerusalem, November 2, 2017 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a billboard that was vandalized near the entrance to Jerusalem, November 2, 2017 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
  • The construction site of the new Israeli settlement Amichai, to be established as the new home for the evacuated residents of Amona, on October 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    The construction site of the new Israeli settlement Amichai, to be established as the new home for the evacuated residents of Amona, on October 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz attends a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on March 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz attends a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on March 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Jerusalem man arrested for defacing women’s faces on billboards

An ultra-Orthodox man is arrested on suspicion of damaging billboards in Jerusalem that showed pictures of women’s faces.

The suspect, 26, from the south of the capital, is questioned at a police station on suspicion of defacing property and damaging property.

In the past two weeks, damage was caused to several billboards that carried ads with women’s faces, prompting an investigation, police say in a statement Wednesday.

In some incidents damage was done with spray paint and in others by ripping off parts the signs, police say.

Police say the suspects was arrested overnight after an undercover operation and was found to be in possession of spray paint cans.

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews object to photos of women in public places or media on grounds of modesty. For decades there have been repeated incidents of posters featuring women being defaced in the capital and other cities.

— Stuart Winer

Settlers block work on settlement access road

Four residents of Geulat Zion, an illegal outpost adjacent to the construction site of the new Amichai settlement, are arrested after blocking construction trucks from entering the area.

The access road being paved to the new settlement runs through Geulat Zion.

It is the third time this week that Geulat Zion residents blocked the construction trucks from entering the compound.

Police identified the four arrested as a mother, father and their two children, both minors.

Amichai is being built for the families evicted from another illegal outpost, Amona.

— Jacob Magid

UK minister faces sacking calls over Israel meetings

British Prime Minister Theresa May summons her aid minister back from a trip to Africa following a row over unauthorized meetings in Israel, prompting speculation she will be the second minister in a week to be sacked.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel left London on Tuesday on a trip to Uganda, but a government source tells AFP she is returning to London today at May’s request.

Patel was forced to apologize on Monday for taking time out of a family vacation to Israel in August to hold 12 separate meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other politicians without May’s knowledge.

Patel was accompanied on all the meetings in Israel except one by Lord Stuart Polak, the honorary president of lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel.

She was publicly reprimanded by the prime minister but appeared to keep her job.

However, it emerged late Tuesday there had been another two unauthorized meetings in September, one with Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

“I don’t understand what more she needs to do to be sacked,” one unnamed minister tells the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

— AFP

Knesset votes on bid to ban police recommendations to prosecute

Knesset members are set to vote on a controversial bill that would prevent police from presenting their legal conclusions to prosecutors at the conclusion of criminal investigations.

The legislation, described as an effort to keep police from pressuring the prosecution to file indictments, is being debated in the plenum.

Critics of the coalition-sponsored bill say its purpose is to protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently under investigation in two cases.

The attorney general and police have come out against the initiative.

Settler teens arrested for assaulting Arab bus driver

Two teenagers from the ultra-Orthodox Beitar Illit settlement south of Jerusalem are arrested after assaulting an Arab bus driver.

Police say the pair boarded the bus intoxicated, refused to pay, and when they heard the driver speak Arabic, began cursing at him.

Upon getting off of the bus, the teens threw stones at the driver, injuring him and causing damage to the bus, police say.

— Jacob Magid

PA top cop: Hamas must disarm under unity deal

The head of the Palestinian police says that Hamas must disarm to allow a landmark reconciliation deal signed last month with rival Fatah to succeed.

Hazem Atallah’s comments come as cracks begin to show in the Palestinian reconciliation deal mediated by Egypt over the issue of security control of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is due to retake control of the Gaza Strip, currently still run by Islamist movement Hamas, by December 1.

“We are talking about one authority, one law, one gun,” Atallah tells journalists in Ramallah in the West Bank, echoing a line from PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Asked whether he could allow Hamas’s armed wing to maintain its weapons while being in charge of police in Gaza, he says: “No way.”

“It is impossible. How can I do security when there are all these rockets and guns and whatever? Is this possible? It doesn’t work.

“Otherwise how can I be in charge? Who is going to be standing and saying, ‘I am the chief of police, I am in charge,’ if I am not controlling everything?”

He says the 8,000-9,000 Palestinian police who worked in Gaza before Hamas took over in 2007 would return to their posts, rejecting the idea of merging with the existing Hamas-led police.

This, he adds, would need major financial support as the police’s budget would effectively double.

— AFP

Minister calls for official to be fired for supporting Palestinian return

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz calls for the sacking of an Arab official in his ministry who was the subject of a front-page newspaper story this morning.

In a Facebook post, Katz blasts Makbula Nassar, who, according to the report in the daily Israel Hayom, supports a right of return for Palestinian refugees and was critical of the public security minister.

“Someone who’s active in anti-Zionist Palestinian organizations is unfit to carry out educational roles,” he says of Nassar, who is in charge of promoting road safety among Israeli Arabs.

Knesset advances bill to prevent police recommending indictments

With a proposal to make the prime minister immune from criminal investigation shelved over coalition disagreements, MKs vote to advance a bill that would prevent police from recommending indictments against public officials.

Following a heated plenary debate marred by technical failures that prevented a simple electronic poll, lawmakers vote 52 to 49 in an excruciating one-by-one count to pass the preliminary bill of Likud MK David Amsalem’s “Recommendations Law.”

In most criminal investigations, the State Prosecution is tasked with deciding whether to press charges or not, based on the investigation carried out by police. Amsalem’s bill would prevent police from presenting, at the end of an investigation, their conclusions as to whether criminal actions were committed (thus requiring an indictment)

Introducing the bill, Amsalem says that of the 40,000 criminal cases brought before the State Prosecution each year, around a third are not brought to trial despite police recommending charges.

Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulai (Shas, left) and MK David Amsalem (Likud) at the Interior Affairs Committee meeting on a law proposal for changing regulations at ritual baths, on June 6, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Those people’s lives are frozen for years until their cases are closed. The police ruin the lives of 15,000 people a year,” Amsalem says, in both a defense of claims that the bill is aimed at protecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from ongoing criminal investigations against him and a tacit attack on the credibility of the investigators carrying out those probes.

“I care for the people of Israel. The people of Israel are important to me. And yes, the prime minister is one of them,” Amsalem adds.

Practically speaking however, the bill would mainly affect high-profile cases as it will only prevent recommendations in cases that are overseen by a state prosecutor.

The bill will now go to committee where lawmakers will prepare it for further plenary votes.

— Raoul Wootliff

Boy, 5, caught smuggling phones to Palestinian prisoner father

Israeli prison guards foil an attempt to smuggle cellphones to a Palestinian security prisoner.

According to authorities, a 5-year-old boy, who comes with his family to visit his father, arouses the suspicion of guards at the Ketziot prison, who upon searching his person find the 10 miniature phones in his underwear, along with three SIM cards.

The father is questioned and put in solitary confinement.

Security coordination with Israel resumed, PA official says

The head of the Palestinian police in the West Bank confirms that security coordination has resumed with Israel, after it was partly suspended in July.

“Everyone is coordinating now. That means things returned to what they were before July 14,” Hazem Atallah says. “Things are normal now.”

He later confirms to journalists in Ramallah that it was around two weeks ago that security coordination resumed fully.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced in July security coordination was being suspended in protest of Israel installing new security measures at the entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, although it was unclear to what extent it was actually cut.

The security measures, including metal detectors, were installed after two Israeli policemen were killed in the area by Arab Israeli gunmen who emerged from the holy site to commit the attack.

Atallah says security coordination was never completely cut for the police, saying 95 percent of the activities had continued.

“The only thing we stopped is we didn’t meet them in the field,” he adds.

“We don’t work with politics. We work for people,” he says, defending the coordination, which polls say is unpopular with most Palestinians.

— AFP

Syrian troops encircle last Islamic State-held town

BEIRUT — Syrian troops and allied fighters encircle the last Islamic State-held town after linking up with Iraqi forces, pro-government media and a Syrian opposition monitoring group said.

Al-Manar TV, the media arm of the Lebanese Hezbollah group, says troops have surrounded the eastern town of Boukamal, on the border with Iraq. The Central Military Media Center, an outlet affiliated with the Syrian military, says Syrian troops and allied fighters have begun entering the town. The two outlets said earlier that Syrian troops had linked up with Iraqi forces across the border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Iraqi forces entered Syria to help surround the town. Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias are fighting alongside Syrian troops. The Observatory says government forces are shelling Boukamal from around 15 kilometers (9 miles) away. There is no immediate comment from the Iraqi side.

Boukamal is the last town controlled by IS in Syria and Iraq and was on a key IS supply route. US-backed Syrian forces have been battling IS in the surrounding province of Deir el-Zour, and were believed to be eyeing the town.

AP

Rouhani warns Saudi Arabia of Iran’s ‘might’

President Hassan Rouhani warns Saudi Arabia that it will achieve nothing by threatening the might of Iran, as a war of words between the regional heavyweights intensifies.

“You know the might and place of the Islamic republic. People more powerful than you have been unable to do anything against the Iranian people,” Rouhani says. “The United States and their allies have mobilised all their capabilities against us and achieved nothing.”

Rouhani appears to be alluding to the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, in which revolutionary Iran successfully resisted an invasion by Saddam Hussein’s regime supported by Gulf Arab and Western governments.

His comments come after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Iran of delivering missiles to Yemeni rebels for use against targets in the kingdom that he described as “direct military aggression.”

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, addresses the 72nd UN General Assembly on September 20, 2017, at the United Nations in New York. (AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS)

Iran strongly denied supplying any missiles to the rebels, saying that it would have been impossible to do so in any case in the face of a Saudi-led air and sea blockade.

Rouhani reiterates that Iran wants a peaceful settlement of the conflict between the rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and of other wars around the region that have placed it at loggerheads with Riyadh.

“We want the welfare and development of Yemen, Iraq and Syria, and of Saudi Arabia too. There are no other paths forward than friendship, brotherhood and mutual assistance,” he says.

“If you think that Iran is not your friend and that the United States and the Zionist regime (Israel) are, you are making a strategic and analytical error.”

— AFP

Netanyahu phones soccer player who had cardiac arrest

Prime Minister Netanyahu calls up a soccer star who collapsed and went into cardiac arrest after being hit in the chest by a ball yesterday .

Elyaniv Barda’s life was saved by the team masseur and an ambulance crew that happened to be in the area at the time and administered electric shocks to restart his heart.

In a phone call today, Netanyahu wishes Barda a speedy recovery.

“I’m glad to hear your voice because we need you running, dribbling and always healthy,” he says, according to a readout. “We all missed a beat.”

“Take care of yourself, and, most importantly, always listen to the doctors before the coaches,” Netanyahu adds.

US Congress committee debates moving embassy to Jerusalem

The US House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee for National Security, which is in charge of security arrangements for US diplomatic missions across the globe, is discussing the possibility of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Representative Ron DeSantis of Florida, who chairs the committee, calls for the relocation, suggesting the US consulate building in the capital’s Arnona neighborhood as a site for the embassy.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, adjoining a possible site for the US Embassy (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

In June, US President Donald Trump signed a waiver that delays for six months any plan to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem. The waiver is expiring on December 1, but Trump is expected to renew it again, arguing that relocating the embassy could jeopardize efforts to relaunch the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“The president has always made it very clear that it is a matter of when, not if. We have no news to share at this time,” a White House official tells The Times of Israel.

“I believe that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and relocating our embassy there on incontestably Israeli sovereign territory would be sensible, prudent and efficient for the United States government,” former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton says.

“Indeed, fully regularizing the American diplomatic presence in Israel will benefit both countries, which is why, worldwide, the US Embassy in virtually every other country we recognize is in the host country’s capital city.”

The then director-general of the Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, speaks during a Foreign Affairs and Security Committee meeting on July 21, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Dore Gold, a former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, argues for the relocation as well, saying that only Israel will safeguard religious freedom for all at the holy sites in Jerusalem.

“It is my view that President Donald Trump has made a commitment in that regard and I believe he will stand by what he has said,” Gold tells the subcommittee.

— Raphael Ahren

Attorneys close to Netanyahu grilled on subs again

Attorneys Yitzhak Molcho and David Shimron are being interrogated for the fourth time in as many days at the headquarters of the Israel Police fraud squad in Lod.

The two, close confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — Shimron is also his cousin — are suspected of promoting for personal gain the purchase of advanced submarines from a German company.

Two more IAF F-35 fighter jets delivered to Israel

Two F-35 fighter jets land in Israel’s Nevatim air base from the United States, after making a short stop in Italy, according to the army.

Two F-35 fighter jets land in Israel on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 (Israel Defense Forces)

With their reception, Israel’s fleet of the fifth-generation stealth fighter, known in Israel as the Adir, grows to nine aircraft. The first of the planes reached Israel in December of last year, and are in the process of becoming fully integrated into the Israeli Air Force.

Israel has agreed to purchase 50 F-35 fighter jets from the US firm Lockheed Martin. They are due to be delivered over the course of the next few years.

— Judah Ari Gross

US, UK and France urge UN to maintain Syria chemical experts

UNITED NATIONS — The top US, British and French diplomats are urging the UN Security Council to renew the mandate of experts charged with determining who was responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also call for those responsible to be held accountable.

Their joint statement follows the latest report by the experts blaming Syria for an attack using sarin that killed about 100 people and the Islamic State extremist group for an attack using mustard gas.

The report was strongly supported by the Western powers, but Russia on Tuesday sharply criticized the experts for blaming Syria.

Russia and the US have submitted rival resolution to extend the experts’ mandate, which expires November 16.

AP

Palestinian official condemns UK minister’s Israel talks

A senior Palestinian official condemns a British minister’s unauthorized meetings in Israel as “scandalous,” urging Prime Minister Theresa May to take action.

British International Development Secretary Priti Patel was summoned back from a trip to Africa on Wednesday to meet with May, with speculation she would be fired.

Patel had apologized Monday for holding 12 separate meetings — including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — during a family vacation in Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

Priti Patel, Britains Secretary of State for International Development , courtesy Facebook

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi condemns the visit, accusing Israel of seeking to turn ministers in foreign government into “advocates” through illegitimate means.

“I think it is scandalous and that leads me to question how many more cases, not just in Britain but other places, have not been exposed,” Ashrawi tells AFP.

“It must warrant serious investigation and serious accountability,” she says, though she stops short of calling on May to fire her. “I think Israeli meddling in other governments’ affairs has to be looked into.”

— AFP

240 new housing units approved in East Jerusalem

Authorities approved building permits for 240 new homes in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, Deputy Mayor Meir Turjeman tells AFP.

A city planning committee approved 90 units in Gilo and another 150 in Ramat Shlomo, Turjeman says.

— AFP

UK minister followed by news helicopter en route to meeting with May

Britain’s international development secretary is back in London, where she is expected to be fired by Prime Minister Theresa May over unauthorized meetings with Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Priti Patel flew back to London today after May ordered her to return to face a reprimand and possible dismissal. She had been due to attend events in Uganda.

The plane carrying Patel from Nairobi, Kenya, lands at Heathrow Airport in the mid-afternoon. She is filmed getting into a ministerial car, which is followed by a news helicopter as it drives into London.

— with AP

Barack Obama answers call for jury duty in Chicago

CHICAGO — Former US president Barack Obama answers a jury summons, arriving at a Chicago courthouse to perform the civic duty asked of all Americans.

The former leader of the free world is the only juror to arrive by motorcade, however, accompanied by tight security and met by a throng of news media.

Former US president Barack Obama arrives for Cook County jury duty at the Daley Center on November 8, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois (Joshua Lott/Getty Images/AFP)

As a prospective juror, Obama — a former law professor — will join fellow citizens at the courthouse, waiting to see if he is chosen to serve on a trial. He will earn the standard compensation of $17.20 per day.

Obama is not the first US president to show up for service that some Americans either dread or find excuses to avoid. Obama’s predecessor in the White House, George W Bush, responded to a jury summons in 2015.

Bush was not selected to serve as a juror, but images of the smiling former president posing with delighted citizens at the courthouse in Dallas, Texas, quickly showed up on social media.

AFP

Abbas says Palestinians ‘stand alongside’ Saudis in face of attacks

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman that Palestinian leadership “stands with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the face of attacks,” according to the official PA news site Wafa.

On Saturday Yemeni rebels fired a missile more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) to near Riyadh international airport, where it was intercepted and destroyed by Saudi air defenses.

The Crown Prince blamed Iran for arming the Yemeni rebels with the missile, and said it may “constitute an act of war.”

— With AFP

Man bitten by snake, hospitalized in serious condition

A man is in serious condition after he was bitten by a snake near the Negev town of Segev Shalom.

The man, 19, is given emergency treatment by MDA paramedics and evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

Iran bans hard-line paper for 2 days over threat to Dubai

TEHRAN, Iran — A semi-official Iranian news agency says authorities have ordered a two-day ban on hard-line newspaper Kayhan after it ran a headline saying Dubai was the “next target” for Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

ISNA reports that Kayhan was ordered not to publish on Saturday and Sunday, after it ignored a previous notice from the Tehran prosecutor.

Kayhan ran the headline after Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile that was intercepted near the Saudi capital. Iran supports the Houthis but has denied Saudi and US allegations that it has given them missiles and other weapons.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, home to Dubai, are close allies and have been battling the Houthis since March 2015.

Iran has a long history of shutting down local media over security charges.

AP

Trump wows Chinese with granddaughter’s Mandarin skills

US President Donald Trump’s granddaughter Arabella Kushner plays a role in bridging US-China diplomacy.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reports that Trump played a video of Arabella reciting ancient Chinese poetry and verses from the Confucian text the “Three Character Classic” to Chinese President Xi Jinping after they met at the Forbidden City ancient palace complex in Beijing today.

Xi responds that Arabella’s Chinese deserves an “A-plus.”

— AP

UK minister resigns over unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials

Priti Patel, the British minister who met with senior Israeli officials without receiving prior authorization from her government, resigns after a brief meeting with UK Prime Minister May, according to reports in Britain.

May summoned International Development Secretary Patel back from a trip to Africa to explain her talks with Israeli politicians.

Patel had apologized on Monday for holding 12 separate meetings — including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — during a family vacation in Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

After a public reprimand from the prime minister, Patel left the UK on Tuesday for a three-day trip to Uganda, but returned to London’s Heathrow Airport today at May’s request.

Patel is the second cabinet minister in a week to leave May’s government, after Michael Fallon quit as defense secretary on November 1 following allegations of sexual harassment.

Critics of the outcry over the unauthorized meetings have said it reflects an anti-Israel sentiment.

Her resignation letter makes no mention of Israel.

— With AFP

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