First day of Netanyahu pre-indictment hearings wrap up after 11 hours
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First day of Netanyahu pre-indictment hearings wrap up after 11 hours

PM not present at deliberations, which included top law enforcement officials; Wednesday’s hearing concerned Case 4000 probe into ties with Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attorney Ram Caspi arrives at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem for a pre-indictment hearing on the prime minister's corruption investigations, on October 2, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attorney Ram Caspi arrives at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem for a pre-indictment hearing on the prime minister's corruption investigations, on October 2, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

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

Arab lawmakers to boycott Knesset swear-in over violence in Arab communities

The Joint List, the parliamentary alliance of four Arab-majority parties, says it will boycott Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony for the 22nd Knesset to protest what it calls the government’s neglect of rising levels of violence in Arab towns.

“Tomorrow, the 13 members of Knesset of the Joint List won’t take part in the festive Knesset swearing-in plenum, as part of the general strike announced by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee over the wave of murders in Arab towns and the uselessness of the police,” MK Ahmad Tibi writes on Twitter.

“The dozens of people murdered since the start of the year are victims not only of violent crime, but also of the disinterest of the government and law enforcement,” writes Joint List head MK Ayman Odeh in a tweet of his own.

Arab lawmakers say the Israel Police and other bodies have failed to devote the necessary resources to fight rising crime in Arab towns and villages.

A year on, Khashoggi remembered outside Istanbul consulate where he died

ISTANBUL — Activists and friends of Jamal Khashoggi gather near Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul to remember the Saudi journalist on the anniversary of his killing by Saudi agents.

The memorial begins just after 1:14 p.m. (1014 GMT) Wednesday — the time that Khashoggi walked into the consulate on October 2, 2018, to collect documents to marry his Turkish fiancee, who was waiting for him outside. He didn’t come out again.

Several questions linger a year since his killing, including the whereabouts of his body and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible culpability.

Saudi Arabia says it is trying 11 people for the killing, but few details about the case have been released.

Prince Mohammed, meanwhile, said in an interview this week he takes full responsibility for the killing but denied he ordered it.

— AP

Israeli tourists planned ‘orgy’ with UK woman accused of inventing rape – report

The group of Israeli teens accused of raping a 19-year-old British woman in Cyprus had exchanged text messages about plans for an “orgy” with her, according to British media reports of testimony heard in the woman’s trial today.

In July, the woman accused 11 Israeli tourists of gang-raping her in a hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa, Cyprus. The suspects were arrested in a sweep by Cypriot police. She later recanted the claim, leading Cypriot authorities to charge her with public mischief. Prosecutors have argued she agreed to the sex, but was enraged when the men filmed it. The footage has since leaked online.

Her trial for allegedly making up the rape claim opened earlier today. She faces up to a year in prison if found guilty.

According to Israeli witnesses’ testimony in the courtroom in Famagusta, Cyprus, today, the Israeli tourists spoke of having sex with the woman in text messages before the events.

“They said they were going to stay in our flat because the English girl was coming there later and they were going to f*** her – all of them,” a statement by one of the Israelis reads, according to quotes carried by the Daily Mail newspaper.

“They were talking about it and laughing, saying they were going to do orgies with her. They were saying this in a very bad and aggressive way and they looked like they were ready — all of them — to f*** her that night,” the statement adds.

According to one of the Israelis, the men spoke about having sex with the woman, saying they had decided she’d be “f***** by all of them.”

Tenfold surge in South Africa teens treated for HIV, study finds

PARIS, France — The number of young people in South Africa receiving treatment for HIV has increased tenfold within a decade, a major new study finds.

South Africa has the largest number of HIV-positive people in the world, with around 7.2 million carrying the virus, which causes AIDS.

Researchers studied more than 700,000 young people receiving treatment for the infection and found 10 times the number of adolescents aged 15-19 being treated compared with 2010.

Authors of the study, published in The Lancet HIV journal, attribute the rise partly to the success of AIDS prevention programs that result in better detection and treatment rates.

However, they find that fewer than 50 percent of young South Africans who present for HIV care go on to initiate antiretroviral therapy, which can prevent transmission and stops a patient developing AIDS.

“Despite the upswing in numbers initiating therapy, barriers persist that prevent many adolescents from starting treatment,” said Mhairi Maskew from the University of Witwatersrand and the report’s lead author.

These include concerns about stigma, a pervasive sense that clinics cannot guarantee patient confidentiality and increased domestic responsibilities for young people, especially in families where children have lost parents to HIV and AIDS.


Yisrael Beytenu says it will propose a coalition if the big parties don’t

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman tells leaders of his party that a new election, the third in a single year, “won’t meaningfully change the political map, so we have to find a smart solution, and to put all personal considerations and ego aside.”

Liberman says he still clings to the hope that Likud and Blue and White will manage to sort out their differences and form a unity government, but adds: “If by Yom Kippur [which begins the evening of October 8] we don’t see a breakthrough, Yisrael Beytenu will come to the two factions with a proposal of its own,” according to a statement from the party.

“In any case, after Yom Kippur the whole coalition building process will go into high gear,” Liberman promises.

He adds that he plans to speak to the heads of Blue and White and Likud tomorrow, when they will all be gathered together in Jerusalem for the 22nd Knesset’s swearing-in ceremony.

US successfully tests new ICBM, Pentagon says

The US military says it has tested an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a reentry vehicle from a base in California across the Pacific Ocean.

Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 1:13 a.m. local time (0813 GMT) the reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles (6,750 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the Air Force Global Strike Command says in a statement.

“The test demonstrates that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is robust, flexible, ready and appropriately tailored to deter twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies,” it says.

“Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions,” it adds.

The US has spent decades and billions of dollars developing technologies to stop an incoming ballistic missile, and is aiming to step up those efforts.


Putin says ‘no evidence’ Iran carried out attack on Saudi oil facilities

Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is “no evidence” that Iran carried out the missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities last month, bucking the prevailing view among Western intelligence agencies.

Speaking at an energy conference in Moscow, the Russian leaders says, “We condemn these (attacks) but we are against shifting the blame to Iran because there is no proof of that,” according to quotes carried by Reuters.

He said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had assured him Iran was not involved.

The attack sent jitters through the oil markets, as Saudi Arabia was temporarily forced to reduce its oil production. The Saudi government, the US, Israel and other countries accused Iran of carrying out the attack.

Swastika and other graffiti painted on wall of former Krakow Ghetto

WARSAW — Polish police are looking for vandals who painted a swastika and other graffiti on the wall of the former ghetto in Krakow.

The graffiti, drawn with a tar-like substance, was painted over on Tuesday, the same day it was discovered.

A fragment of the ghetto wall is located at Limanowskiego Street in Krakow. On Tuesday morning, the inscription “whores Jews, get the f**k out of Poland” was found on the wall alongside a swastika. Police say they do not yet have a lead on the perpetrators.

“While I was extremely upset to see the hateful graffiti on the ghetto wall, especially on Rosh Hashana, the quick reaction by the city and the police reminded me why Krakow is such a good place to be a Jew,” says Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center of Krakow.

Vandals painted a swastika and other graffiti on one of the remaining walls of the former Krakow Ghetto on October 1, 2019. (Jonathan Ornstein/via JTA)


Putin says ‘nothing compromising’ in Trump call to Ukraine leader

MOSCOW, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin defends US President Donald Trump over accusations the US leader pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on a rival, saying there was “nothing compromising” in transcripts of the call.

“I see nothing compromising in the conversation between Trump and (Ukrainian leader Volodymyr) Zelensky,” Putin says of the phone call that has sparked an impeachment probe in the US.

“President Trump turned to a colleague with a request to investigate possible corruption relating to members of the former administration,” the Russian leader says at an energy forum in Moscow. “Any head of state would have had to do the same.”

“They have already been using any excuse to attack President Trump. Now it’s Ukraine,” Putin adds.

The White House last week released a transcript of the July call with the recently elected Zelensky. It showed that Trump asked Zelensky to probe Democratic rival Joe Biden, and the Democrats are looking into whether Trump used a delayed $400 million aid package as leverage.

Ukraine is fighting an ongoing war in its east against Russia-backed separatists, which broke out after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.


Israeli couple held in Turkey over firearm magazine return to Israel

An Israeli couple lands at Ben Gurion Airport after being released from detention in Turkey.

The couple were arrested after Turkish border guards found a firearm magazine in their luggage.

Likud, Blue and White divvy up Knesset committees

Likud and Blue and White may be far from a coalition agreement, but they’ve at least managed to eke out a deal on Knesset committee appointments.

Knesset committee appointments, and especially chairmanships, are usually divvied up as part of broader coalition agreements. They have profound influence on legislation and budgets, and are often highly sought after by political parties.

With no coalition in sight, and no committees properly staffed since the 21st Knesset’s short life began in April, the parties agree to an interim division of the committees in the 22nd Knesset.

Under the agreement, reported today by Channel 12, Likud will head the House Committee and Blue and White will lead the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, whose interim chairman will be former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. United Torah Judaism’s MK Moshe Gafni will retain control of the Finance Committee.

Sheldon Adelson ordered to pay damages to Jewish Democratic group

A federal judge in New York orders billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to pay compensatory damages and legal fees to the National Jewish Democratic Council for using “legal sadism” to disband the organization.

The NJDC now exists in name only as it works to recover its debts from its legal battle with Adelson that began in 2012.

In his ruling, US District Judge Paul Oetken says that “Adelson has failed to demonstrate that his initial lawsuit was a ‘good faith’ communication,” Courthouse News reports.

Adelson had sued the National Jewish Democratic Council in 2012 over an online petition alleging that the major Republican donor allowed prostitution at his casino in Macau. The petition included a hyperlink to an Associated Press article carrying allegations against Adelson. Much of the legal argument was over whether attaching a hyperlink is a clear enough signal that the defendants were citing available information.

Sheldon Adelson with his wife Miriam at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas, February 24, 2017. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/via JTA)

The hyperlink was embedded in an online petition urging Republicans not to take money from Adelson, who in addition to being a major giver to the Republican Party also funds Jewish, pro-Israel and medical philanthropies. The linked AP article reported on a lawsuit by a former employee of Adelson alleging that the employee was terminated for, among other reasons, refusing to allow prostitutes to ply their trade at the casino.

NJDC attorney Richard Emery tells Courthouse News that he plans to depose Adelson on October 15 in Las Vegas, where the lawsuit was first filed. The group is seeking damages under a statute in Nevada that penalizes frivolous lawsuits, in part about 12 other cases in which Adelson sued parties hoping to “destroy them economically,” to establish a pattern of legal behavior.

NJDC and former chairman Marc Stanley are seeking $24 million in punitive damages.


Bernie Sanders has heart surgery, cancels campaign events

Bernie Sanders’ campaign says the Democratic presidential candidate has had a heart procedure for a blocked artery. The Vermont senator is canceling events and appearances “until further notice.”

The campaign says the 78-year-old Sanders experienced chest discomfort during an event Tuesday and sought medical evaluation. The campaign says two stents were “successfully inserted” and that Sanders “is conversing and in good spirits.”

Sanders recently canceled some appearances in South Carolina because he lost his voice. The campaign said at the time he felt fine.

— AP

Netanyahu pre-indictment hearing underway in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first pre-indictment hearing is still underway at the Justice Ministry’s headquarters on Salah ad-Din Street in Jerusalem.

The hearing began several hours ago. The prime minister’s attorneys, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, State Attorney Shai Nitzan, the prosecutor in Netanyahu’s corruption probes Liat Ben-Ari, and many other officials are taking part in the hearing.

Netanyahu’s attorneys, Amit Hadad and Ram Caspi, tell reporters outside the building that the prime minister is not seeking a plea deal, and that he believes the hearings will “unquestionably” result in the cancellation or dramatic reduction of the charges Netanyahu will face in any future indictment.

Netanyahu is suspected of breach of trust and fraud charges in three corruption probes, and of bribery in one of them.

Netanyahu: Lapid holds Gantz ‘hostage,’ dragging country to elections

Likud and Blue and White have spent much of the past couple of weeks preparing the groundwork for blaming the other side for the failure of unity talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues in that vein today, accusing Blue and White no. 2 Yair Lapid of holding the party’s leader Benny Gantz “hostage.” It is the ambitious Lapid, and not Gantz’s repeated insistence that Likud come to the negotiating table alone, without Haredi and right-wing parties in its “bloc,” that is preventing the success of the coalition talks, Netanyahu claims in a Twitter post.

“The only reason we don’t already have a unity government is Yair Lapid. Lapid is holding Gantz hostage, and for an unclear reason Gantz is submitting to him. It’s unbelievable that Lapid is dragging an entire country to elections just because he’s not willing to drop his dream of being prime minister, and giving up the rotation with Gantz,” Netanyahu’s tweet says.

Lapid: It is Netanyahu who holds the country hostage and wants new elections

Yair Lapid responds to Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim he’s holding Benny Gantz “hostage” and leading the country to new elections.

“Yes, one man is holding the country hostage. Yes, one man is preventing a unity government. And yes, one man is doing everything he can to bring elections: Benjamin Netanyahu,” Lapid tweets.

Trump asked UK, Australia, Italy for help uncovering Russia probe’s origins

US President Donald Trump recently asked the leaders of Britain, Australia and Italy to help Attorney General William Barr with an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that shadowed his administration for more than two years, according to multiple American and British media reports.

The revelation underscores the extent to which Trump remains consumed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and the ways in which he has used the apparatus of the United States government to investigate what he believes are its politically motivated origins. It also highlights Barr’s hands-on role in leading that investigation, including traveling overseas for personal meetings with foreign law enforcement officials.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave permission for Barr to meet Rome’s intelligence services as part of Trump-led efforts to discredit claims he has ties with Russia.

British press report that Barr also discussed the Mueller investigation with UK intelligence officials. The Times reports that Trump asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson directly for information that would help discredit the Russia probe.

Following the report, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tells the House of Commons he will not comment on the discussions between Trump and Johnson but that “neither the prime minister… or any member of this government would collude in the way that [was] described.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

Netanyahu, Liberman to meet in bid to break coalition deadlock

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman in an apparent bid to break the coalition deadlock. The two schedule a meeting for tomorrow morning at 9:30 in Netanyahu’s office, a Likud statement says.

The meeting is apparently due to examine what Liberman earlier today described as his own “proposal” for a unity government.

“There’s no point in wasting the country’s time. We’ll meet, we’ll see if it’s serious or not, and then we’ll make a decision,” Netanyahu says in the statement.

Top lawmaker slams Trump for ‘blatant effort to intimidate witnesses’

WASHINGTON — US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says President Donald Trump’s tweets about a whistleblower amount to a “blatant effort to intimidate witnesses” and “incitement to violence.”

Trump says he’s trying to unmask the whistleblower whose complaint about his efforts to pressure Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry. The president has falsely raised the prospect that officials involved are guilty of treason.

Schiff, speaking at a news conference, says any effort by Trump’s administration to block the investigation would be considered more evidence of obstruction and perhaps generate more articles of impeachment.

— AP

Father arrested after wounded baby arrives at Tel Aviv hospital

Police arrest a father of a two-month-old after the baby arrives at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital with moderate wounds after she was allegedly beaten.

The father, a 30-year-old resident of Rishon Lezion, will be taken to a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning, police say.

German city withdraws award to artist over backing for Israel boycott

The German city of Aachen nixes an award to a Lebanon-born artist after discovering that he supports boycotting Israel.

Walid Raad will not get the Aachen Art Prize due to his political views, the mayor says. The prestigious prize comes with an award of approximately $10,900.

“According to research, we have to assume that the designated prizewinner is a supporter of the BDS movement and has been involved in various measures for the cultural boycott of Israel,” Mayor Marcel Philipp says in a statement, according to ARTnews.

The statement says the contemporary media artist was asked about his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel and that his reply was “evasive.”

A view of the German city of Aachen. (José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro/Wikimedia Commons/via JTA)

Raad currently lives in New York, where he teaches at the Cooper Union School of Art.

In May, Germany passed a resolution calling the BDS movement anti-Semitic, becoming the first major European parliament to do so.

In 2014, Raad signed a letter calling on artists to withdraw from an exhibition because it was being shown at Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology. More than 100 artists and intellectuals signed the letter organized by the BDS Arts Coalition.


Trump accuses Democrats of wasting time with impeachment ‘bullshit’

US President Donald Trump accuses the Democratic Party of wasting time on the impeachment probe sparked by the Ukraine scandal engulfing the White House, dismissing the inquiry as “bullshit.”

In a Twitter post, he writes: “The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306. Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”

Trump repeatedly misstates the Electoral College vote in his 2016 presidential race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The official count was 304 to 227.


Netanyahu pre-indictment hearing now in its tenth hour

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing is now in its tenth hour at Justice Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu’s lawyers are meeting with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, State Attorney Shai Nitzan, prosecutor in Netanyahu’s three corruption probes Liat Ben-Ari and dozens of other officials and attorneys.

Today’s hearing concerns Case 4000, focused on alleged illicit ties between Netanyahu and Bezeq telecom controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch.

The hearing is set to close in a couple of hours, at around 10 p.m., after 12 hours. The hearing will resume tomorrow morning.

Bucking speculation, Liberman vows not to sit in rightist-Haredi coalition

Amid growing speculation that the ongoing deadlock in the coalition talks will push Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu faction to rejoin the Netanyahu-led right and enable the formation of a new right-wing government, Liberman himself seems to say he’s sticking to his insistence on a broad unity government.

“All our efforts are directed at establishing a unity government made up of three parties — Yisrael Beytenu, Likud, and Blue and White,” he writes on Facebook.

“We won’t be part of any other government.”

The speculation that Liberman plans to join a Netanyahu government came after Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer slammed Blue and White’s refusal to negotiate earlier today, and the announcement a short time ago by Likud that Liberman and Netanyahu had scheduled a meeting tomorrow morning in the Knesset.

US Treasury sanctions chief Sigal Mandelker leaves post

Reuters reports that Sigal Mandelker, the Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors who has led the Treasury Department’s aggressive sanctions efforts targeting Iran and Venezuela for over two years, is leaving her post for the private sector.

Citing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the wire service notes she oversaw Washington’s massive upping of sanctions on Iran’s oil sector over US fears about Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Mandelker helped the Treasury Department play “an increasingly central role in national security matters,” Mnuchin says today, praising her as a “fierce advocate for effectively leveraging our powerful economic tools to make an impact for a safer world.”

US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker (YouTube screenshot)

Mandelker was appointed Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in June 2017.

Mnuchin says Mandelker had asked him to leave her post over the summer.

IDF troops arrest 3 unarmed Palestinians who crossed border from Gaza

Israeli troops arrest three unarmed Palestinians who breached the security fence and entered southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, the army says.

The suspects are arrested near the Israeli community of Kissufim, east of the southern Gaza Strip.

“IDF soldiers who were called to the area set up a perimeter, searched the area and arrested the suspects,” the army says.

They were not in possession of weapons. They have been handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

— Judah Ari Gross

Israeli cycling group acquires defunct Russian team’s World Tour spot

PARIS, France — The Israel Cycling Academy will replace Russia’s Katusha on the cycling World Tour after signing a deal on Wednesday to take over the Russian-owned team for its racing license.

The deal is subject to approval by the International Cycling Union (UCI), the Israeli team (ICA) says in a statement posted on Facebook.

ICA has raced in the last two Giro d’Italias but the licence opens the door to all the biggest races on the cycling calendar, including the Tour de France.

On Saturday, UCI President David Lappartient said talks were ongoing during the World Championships in Yorkshire.

The team will combine riders from ICA and the defunct Katusha squad.

Katusha has been in the elite class since 2009. One of its stars, the Russian Ilnur Zakarin has already said he is leaving for CCC, but German Nils Politt is under contract until 2020.

ICA has recruited Irish rider Dan Martin from UAE Emirates and Frenchman Hugo Hofstetter from Cofidis for next year.


First day of Netanyahu pre-indictment hearing wraps up after 11 hours

The first day of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing ends after over 11 hours.

Netanyahu was not present at the deliberations, which were held at the Justice Ministry’s headquarters on Salah ad-Din Street in Jerusalem, but was represented by his attorneys, including Ram Caspi and Amit Hadad.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, State Attorney Shai Nitzan, the prosecutor in Netanyahu’s three corruption probes Liat Ben-Ari and dozens of other officials and attorneys also took part.

Today’s hearing concerned Case 4000, focused on alleged illicit ties between Netanyahu and Bezeq telecom controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch.

The hearing will resume tomorrow morning and is set to continue next week.

Netanyahu is suspected of breach of trust and fraud charges in three corruption probes, and of bribery in one of them.

UK PM set to suspend parliament October 8-14

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to ask for parliament to be suspended from October 8 to 14, his Downing Street office says, after a previous attempt was ruled unlawful.

“These timings would mean parliament is prorogued for the shortest time possible to enable all the necessary logistical preparations” for Queen Elizabeth II to outline the government’s new legislative program, it says in a statement.

Johnson previously advised the monarch to suspend, or prorogue, parliament from September 10 to October 14. Pro-European lawmakers were outraged and saw the move as an attempt to stifle democratic debate on Britain’s pending departure from the European Union on October 31.

Following legal challenges in England and Scotland, the Supreme Court judged Johnson’s advice to the monarch was unlawful, and deemed the lengthy prorogation frustrated parliament’s constitutional functions. Britain’s highest court quashed the prorogation, and parliament resumed on September 25.

The move would mean parliament is suspended after the close of business on Tuesday and then miss just two sitting days, on October 9 and 10.


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