Liberman clarifies: Claim Hezbollah fired rockets is mine, not army’s
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Liberman clarifies: Claim Hezbollah fired rockets is mine, not army’s

After IDF says it has no intel to support defense minister's remark, minister makes it clear that it's his own assessment

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • This file photo taken on January 12, 2016, shows the German-made INS Rahav Dolphin 2-class submarine arriving at the military port of Haifa on January 12, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
    This file photo taken on January 12, 2016, shows the German-made INS Rahav Dolphin 2-class submarine arriving at the military port of Haifa on January 12, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, shakes hands with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari at the end of a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on October 23, 2017 (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP photo)
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, shakes hands with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari at the end of a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on October 23, 2017 (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP photo)
  • Head of the Zionist Union party Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Head of the Zionist Union party Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Head of the Jewish Home party and Education Minister Naftali Bennett leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Head of the Jewish Home party and Education Minister Naftali Bennett leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Police officers stand guard as ultra-Orthodox protesters demonstrate against the draft outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 23, 2017.  (Thomas Coex/AFP)
    Police officers stand guard as ultra-Orthodox protesters demonstrate against the draft outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
  • President Reuven Rivlin addresses the Knesset, next to its speaker Yuli Edelstein, during the opening of the parliament's winter session on October 23, 2017. (Knesset)
    President Reuven Rivlin addresses the Knesset, next to its speaker Yuli Edelstein, during the opening of the parliament's winter session on October 23, 2017. (Knesset)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset during the opening of the parliament's winter session on October 23, 2017. (Knesset)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset during the opening of the parliament's winter session on October 23, 2017. (Knesset)
  • Opposition leader Isaac Herzog speaks at the Knesset during the opening of the parliament's winter session on October 23, 2017. (Knesset)
    Opposition leader Isaac Herzog speaks at the Knesset during the opening of the parliament's winter session on October 23, 2017. (Knesset)
  • An ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstrator points towards at a policeman during a demonstration against the conscription of ultra-Orthodox Jews community to the IDF outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstrator points towards at a policeman during a demonstration against the conscription of ultra-Orthodox Jews community to the IDF outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
  • Police spray water to try and disperse a protest by ultra-Orthodox Jews against the conscription of members of their community to the IDF at the entrance to Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Police spray water to try and disperse a protest by ultra-Orthodox Jews against the conscription of members of their community to the IDF at the entrance to Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Germany said set to approve submarine sale today

Germany is expected to approve a controversial sale of three submarines to Israel later today, Israel Radio reports.

The purchase of the Dolphin-class submarines has been mired in controversy, since it came to light that a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was representing the German company that manufactures them.

The initial agreement was replaced with one that is said to include language precluding the sale if impropriety is found.

Japanese defense minister sounds alarm on North Korea

CLARK, Philippines — Japan’s defense minister is sounding an alarm on North Korea, saying its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities have grown to what he called an “unprecedented, critical and imminent” level.

The minister, Itsunori Odonera, said this rising threat means his country, along with South Korea and the United States, have to collectively take what he called “different responses.”

He did not elaborate.

The comments were made at the outset of a meeting with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korea’s defense minister, Song Young-moo, at a meeting in the Philippines.

— AP

Prison term dropped for Scottish man in Dubai bar dispute

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A three-month prison sentence has been dropped for a Scottish man over touching another man’s buttocks in a dispute at a Dubai bar, an activist group says.

Radha Stirling of Detained in Dubai says Jamie Harron’s passport was returned by police on Monday and that he was planning to leave the sheikhdom soon. The decision came only days after a Dubai court ordered 27-year-old Harron imprisoned over the incident.

Stirling says she believed a decree from Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, had resolved the case.

Harron was accused by another man of sexual assault for touching his buttocks during a dispute at the bar in July. One of Harron’s friends, British national James Allen, 37, who lives in Dubai, told prosecutors that the Scotsman bumped into the accuser’s arm by accident, sparking the argument, according to court documents.

Harron’s accuser told authorities that the Scotsman had come from behind and hit him on the buttocks while drunk, according to court documents. The accuser said Harron “laughed” when he asked why he did it and later gave him the finger before police arrived.

He said Harron apologized to the accuser and “placed his hand on the side of his buttocks as a way of apologizing,” according to court papers.

— AP

Bennett blasts judges: ‘They’ve forgotten there’s a government’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says his “central goal” for the Knesset winter session will be to advance a constitutional Basic Law allowing the Knesset to bypass the High Court of Justice.

“There are judges in Jerusalem who have forgotten that there is also a government in Jerusalem,” says Bennett at the weekly Jewish Home faction meeting.

“In recent years, the High Court has placed itself above the legislature, instead of alongside it,” he adds.

Bennett refers to recent court decisions over the summer torpedoing legislation on illegal migrants and the treasury’s third-apartment tax, calling the rate of rulings against the legislation “nearly unprecedented.”

In the Basic Law, there will be a clause blocking the courts from rejecting Knesset legislation, he says.

The Jewish Home minister also criticizes a court decision Sunday to demolish six homes in the West Bank outpost of Netiv Ha’avot, calling it “mystifying and outrageous.”

— Marissa Newman

East Jerusalemite sentenced to 16 years for planning terror attack

A Jerusalem court sentenced an Arab resident of the city to 16 years in prison for planning to carry out a terror attack during a wave of terror attacks in October 2015.

The man, 22-year-old Bahaa Iwisat of the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood, was arrested in the Jewish neighborhood of Nof Zion after residents reported he was acting suspiciously.

When police came, they found that he was hiding a knife up his sleeve. During his interrogation, he said he’d planned to use the knife in a stabbing attack.

He was convicted earlier this year.

IDF general suspected of illegally owning army gear

A brigadier general was questioned on Sunday on the suspicion that he had illegally amassed a collection of military gear, including weapons, the army says.

The equipment, which includes both tactical gear and civilian supplies, was kept in a large storage container. It was discovered as he was preparing to move offices.

At this stage, the army is not releasing the senior officer’s name.

“The investigation is ongoing,” an IDF spokesperson says.

It is unclear what will happen to the brigadier general if the allegations against him prove to be correct.

Three Gazans said kidnapped by Islamic State

Three Gazans were kidnapped by Islamic State militants on the border with Egypt, Palestinian media reports.

The Al Shehab news agency, affiliated with the Hamas terror group that controls the Strip, quotes security sources who say three workers from the Shejaiya neighborhood were kidnapped by the militants.

In a statement, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Interior Ministry says that three men went missing while working in tunnels on the Egyptian border and that an investigation into the incident is underway.

— Dov Lieber

Yesh Atid leader decries law to protect PM as ’embarrassing’

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid slams the government for advancing a bill to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from criminal prosecution.

“It hasn’t been a day since the Knesset has resumed, and we are already embarrassed,” says Lapid, referring to political wheeling-dealing on Sunday over a proposal by Likud MK David Amsalem to grant sitting prime ministers immunity.

“This is the law of Benjamin Netanyahu — call it by its real name — to stop the investigations,” says Lapid of the bill, rejecting comparisons to French laws.

He says Netanyahu will be forced to give testimony in the so-called Case 3000, which involves Germany’s sales of submarines to Israel, and in which Netanyahu is not a suspect. But Lapid says he cannot offer any other information, as he gave his own testimony to police in the case.

Lapid further attacks the government for its plan to relegislate the ultra-Orthodox draft law and strongly criticizes the wave of Haredi protests last week.

— Marissa Newman

Germany approves sale of submarines to Israel

Germany approves a contentious sale of three submarines to Israel, Channel 10 news reports.

The purchase of the Dolphin-class submarines has been mired in controversy since it came to light that a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was representing the German company that manufactures them.

The initial agreement was replaced with one that is said to include language precluding the sale if impropriety is found.

Gabbay accuses ruling coalition of focusing on reelection, not governing

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay accuses the coalition of focusing on reelection instead of advancing laws to better the lives of Israeli citizens.

Speaking at the weekly Zionist Union faction meeting, Gabbay calls the Knesset winter session, which began today, “a crooked session that started with a series of laws and statements by the coalition, that have no connection to our real lives. Everything revolves around the ultimate goal of being reelected.”

He cites the premier immunity law, attempts to lower the Knesset threshold, and a proposal to launch a parliamentary probe into left-wing NGOs as examples of this trend.

“They are dealing with division and incitement,” says Gabbay of the coalition.

The new chairman, who is not a sitting lawmaker, vows to mount a political challenge to Netanyahu’s Likud, presenting the party as the viable “alternative” to run the country.

— Marissa Newman

Russian foreign minister calls for Iraq-Kurd dialogue

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calls for dialogue between the Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad, warning that tensions following last month’s Kurdish independence referendum should not become “another source of instability.”

“We understand the hopes of Kurdish people to strive and strengthen their identity… but it would be right to realize these hopes through dialogue with the Iraqi government,” Lavrov says after talks with Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

He says the issue should be addressed “with consideration of the need to avoid creating another source of instability in the region.”

Iraqi Kurds on September 25 voted overwhelmingly for independence in a poll set in motion by longtime regional leader Masoud Barzani and strongly opposed by Baghdad.

Central government forces last week swept into the oil-rich Kirkuk province, restoring it and Kurdish-held parts of Nineveh and Diyala provinces to Baghdad’s control.

— AFP

Fresh ultra-Orthodox protests break out in capital

Police drive back dozens of ultra-Orthodox men who blocked Jerusalem’s light rail as part of renewed protests against the draft, police say.

In recent weeks, members of the ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredi, community have stepped up their demonstrations against military enlistment, blocking major roadways and intersection in Jerusalem and other cities.

Police say the demonstration today took place on the tram line on Shivtei Yisrael street, near the Bar Lev intersection.

While the area has been cleared, traffic is backed up.

US peace envoy: ‘Palestinians deserve so much better’ than Hamas

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt criticizes the Hamas terrorist organization for sending a delegation to Iran.

“Hamas, which has only brought ruin and misery to Palestinians, now begs Iran for help and again vows to destroy Israel,” Greenblatt writes in a tweet.

“Palestinians deserve so much better than this. We must find a better path forward toward peace and prosperity,” he says.

Greenblatt’s tweets come amid attempts by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to reconcile their differences and form a unity government, something US President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly seen as a positive development.

Widow of soldier killed in Niger says Trump forgot her husband’s name

The pregnant widow of a US soldier killed in Niger says US President Donald Trump forgot her husband’s name during a now-controversial condolence phone call he made earlier this month.

“He couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” says Myeshia Johnson, whose husband La David was killed in an ambush in the African nation, during an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“That’s what hurt me the most because my husband is out there fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country. Why can’t you remember his name? That’s what made me upset and cry even more,” she says.

Johnson confirms Trump said that her husband “knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.”

Trump initially denied that he’d made the comment, but his chief of staff John Kelly later said the comment was taken out of context.

After widow speaks out, Trump calls her a liar

US President Donald Trump denies a claim made by the widow of a US soldier killed in Niger that during a condolence call he forgot her husband’s name.

“I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!” Trump writes in a tweet.

The president’s tweet comes out shortly after the widow, Myeshia Johnson, appears on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and says Trump could not remember her husband’s name.

Liberman says rockets from Syria were launched by Hezbollah

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says the rockets fired from Syria that struck the Golan Heights last Friday were not accidental, but were the work of a Hezbollah cell.

“We are not talking about spillover. This is directed fire carried out by Hezbollah with [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad’s permission, in an attempt to draw us into a conflict,” says Liberman at a faction meeting for his Yisrael Beytenu party in the Knesset.

“We want to say that we see Assad as responsible for any rocket fire from his territory,” the defense minister says.

Liberman also discusses the issue of Elor Azaria, a former IDF soldier who was convicted of manslaughter for killing a disarmed Palestinian assailant last year.

Last week, Azaria requested a presidential pardon, which Liberman says he supports.

“I think we can all agree that the Azaria family has paid a heavy price. The ordeal has affected the unity of Israel and the army,” Liberman says.

“My position is that he must be released immediately. That I want to tell the president,” he says.

— Raoul Wootliff

As Knesset opens, PM pokes fun at criminal cases against him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens his Likud party’s faction meeting with a joke about the criminal investigations against him.

“Did you miss me?” Netanyahu asks his fellow Likud Knesset members. “Well don’t get used to it,” he quips, referring to the criminal cases.

Netanyahu says he will save most of his public comments for his speech opening the Knesset plenary for its winter session, which is set to take place at 4 p.m.

But he adds, “We have returned to the Knesset with renewed strength and we are ready to conquer the mountain.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Ultra-Orthodox protesters again block Jerusalem tram

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators block the Jerusalem light rail for the second time today, as part of a protest against the military draft, police say.

Earlier, a group of ultra-Orthodox men blocked only the tram tracks, but have since expanded their protest to also stop traffic on the adjacent roadway, police say.

In addition, dozens of men from the ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredi, community start a protest outside the Knesset, blocking traffic.

Police say they are working to clear out protesters and reopen the blocked streets, which are causing traffic problems around the city.

Knesset speaker reopens parliament for winter session

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein opens the Knesset for its winter session just after 4 p.m.

Edelstein welcomes the Knesset members, President Reuven Rivlin and other guests, including families of terror victims.

IDF to test rocket alert system in Haifa area

The IDF will tomorrow test its rocket alert system in Haifa and the surrounding suburbs in northern Israel.

At 10:05 a.m., the incoming missile alarm will sound in the city of Haifa, as well as in the surrounding communities of Tirat Hacarmel, Nesher, Kfar Galim and Hahotrim.

In the case of an actual rocket alert siren, the system will sound twice, the army says.

As always, the IDF says that its system tests and exercises are not connected to any particular incident and are often scheduled months in advance.

Knesset speaker opens winter session with condolences for terror victims

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein opens the parliament’s winter session by sending his condolences to families who have lost relatives in terror attacks that took place during the summer recess, many of whom are in attendance.

“In the past months, Israel has faced devastating terror attacks. There are many cases in which we succeeded in thwarting the terrorist in advance but unfortunately, in other cases, their cursed plans succeeded,” he says.

“The relatives of the victims of the attacks on the Temple Mount, in Halamish and in Har Adar are with us today. A little while ago I had the honor of meeting them in my office for a short, painful conversation,” he says.

“Dear families, your sacrifice and your sorrow are immeasurable. We are all partners, together with you. I hope you can find some comfort in this,” he says.

— Raoul Wootliff

‘Bring our sons home!’ says Knesset speaker, opening plenary

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein tells the plenary that whatever the future of the reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, all sides must commit to returning the living Israeli civilians and bodies of Israeli soldiers currently being held in Gaza.

“We are honored by the presence of the families of the kidnapped and missing soldiers, whose sons are still being held captive by the Hamas terrorists,” he says.

“Time will tell whether the fate of the reconciliation deal is to end like its predecessors or to hold out,” he says.

“But our demand from the Palestinian leadership has not changed, and will not change: Bring our sons home!” he says emphatically.

Kulanu MKs allowed to vote against PM protection law

Kulanu party leader Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says he’s allowing his party members to vote however they want on a controversial law that would grant immunity from criminal prosecution to sitting prime ministers.

The bill, known as the “French law” for a similar piece of legislation in the European nation, is seen by many as an attempt to put an end to the multiple criminal investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bill has tepid support among the various parties making up the coalition government and has been widely denounced by opposition parties.

Opening Knesset, Rivlin warns of attempts to weaken Israeli democracy

Speaking at the opening of the Knesset winter session, President Reuven Rivlin launches a passionate defense of the judicial system and the media against what he calls a “coup” from the government to weaken them.

“The Knesset is the representative of the sovereign, the people of Israel, the entire people of Israel. In this house we must remember that it is the people we must live up to. This wonderful people who we have been privileged to serve and represent,” he says.

Slamming legislative efforts to “weaken the Supreme Court” and “silence the free media,” Rivlin likens attempts to the “judicial revolution” of chief justice Aharon Barak in 1996.

“About a decade ago I stood before one of the giants of Israeli law, Aharon Barak, and warned that the announcement of the constitutional revolution was actually a declaration of a coup. I said to him then, and I quote: ‘Any definition that changes the balance [of the branches of government], any act that expresses or even symbolizes stepping into the territory of another branch creates a reality of ‘chaotic democracy,’ of systemic and dangerous chaos,” Rivlin says.

“Today, some three decades after the announcement of that ‘constitutional revolution,’ I would like to point out what I believe to be the counter-movement of the historical pendulum, in what seems to be a decision of the top echelons to tip the balance,” he adds.

He calls on MKs to end “what appears to be an ongoing attempt to weaken the gatekeepers of Israeli democracy.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Ultra-Orthodox protesters block entrance to Jerusalem

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters shut down the entrance to Jerusalem at the Chords Bridge, police say.

The demonstrators migrated to the main entrance of the city after police dispersed them from the road outside the Knesset.

In addition, police say a protest near the tram line near the Bar Lev intersection in the capital is continuing.

Six demonstrators have been arrested so far, the police say.

Opening Knesset, PM says US, Israel on the same page

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel and the US are on the same page regarding the Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

“We want a true peace, not a false reconciliation with those who want to destroy us,” says Netanyahu in the Knesset.

He says Israel will negotiate with a Palestinian government on peace — but not one that incorporates Hamas.

“This is not only our stance; this is the position of the US,” says Netanyahu. “Reconciliation for peace is good. Reconciliation to destroy Israel is not. It’s not that complicated.”

The prime minister adds that Israel is extending “a hand of peace” to all its neighbors.

Netanyahu says he hopes Israel “becomes a place of peace and security.”

— Marissa Newman

Netanyahu praises Trump for Iran deal decertification

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises US President Donald Trump for refusing to recertify the Iran deal, in his speech opening the Knesset’s winter session.

He also hails the US leader for withdrawing from UNESCO, saying “we too, have nothing to seek in this theater of the absurd.”

In his speech, Netanyahu condemns the media and politicians of depressing the population, drawing heckling from opposition Knesset members.

— Marissa Newman

MKs removed from plenum for heckling Netanyahu

Zionist Union MKs Hilik Bar and Michal Biran are removed from the plenum hall after sparring with Netanyahu during the prime minister’s speech.

During his remarks, Netanyahu slammed the “sourpusses” who are only happy “when settlements are being evacuated.”

In response, Bar shouted: “We haven’t evacuated anyone… you carried out the disengagement,” referring to the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005.

“I am happy that concern for the settlements has trickled down to the opposition,” quips Netanyahu.

Bar is removed by security and Biran is asked to leave over her heckling a few moments later.

— Marissa Newman

Netanyahu downplays investigations against him, thanks Merkel for new submarines

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the corruption probes against him in a speech opening the Knesset’s winter session, noting that Germany just signed the submarines deal with Israel.

He thanks Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel for the agreement while arguing the agreement shows the corruption probe over the deal, Case 3000, holds no water.

“There are no submarines, so what’s left? Cigars,” says Netanyahu, referring to other allegations against him involving accepting pricey gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan.

In the wide-ranging speech, Netanyahu also addresses the bill proposed during the last Knesset to close down the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom daily. He accuses the opposition of enjoying positive coverage in the rival Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper during 2014 for their efforts in shutting down the competitor.

He rips into the protesters outside the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who he says want to pressure the attorney general to indict him at whatever cost.

“Is this called the rule of law and democracy?” says Netanyahu.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni leaves the plenum.

— Marissa Newman

Herzog blasts Netanyahu for failing Israeli citizens, world Jewry

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog unleashes a litany of accusations against the prime minister, who he says is failing both Israeli citizens and world Jewry.

Herzog accuses the government of ripping apart the country by exploiting preexisting divisions.

He says Prime Minister Benjmani Netanyahu also made a schism with Diaspora Jews by failing to implement a deal to resolve the Western Wall crisis “that you initiated and then canceled.”

Between canceling that deal and the conversion bill, Herzog charges that Netanyahu has created an “unprecedented” divide.

He also quotes statements attributed to the prime minister in which Netanyahu purportedly said that Israel had “long lost” the support of young Diaspora Jews. Netanyahu waves his hand dismissively as Herzog says this.

Labor MK blasts Likud for not applauding president

Labor MK Yoel Hasson scolds members of the Likud party who did not applaud a speech by President Reuven Rivlin during the opening of the Knesset’s winter session.

Rivlin’s scorching speech warned that elements in the government were threatening Israeli democracy. While the remarks drew praise from members of the opposition, it earned just a tepid response from the ruling Likud party.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” Hasson says.

“There isn’t a government in Jerusalem, but there is a president,” he says.

Moscow journalist stabbed at work, put into coma

MOSCOW — A well-known journalist for Russia’s top independent radio station is stabbed in the throat Monday by an unidentified attacker who burst into her studio — the latest in a string of attacks on journalists and opposition activists in Moscow.

The assailant broke into the Ekho Moskvy offices and stabbed deputy editor Tatyana Felgenhauer, says editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov. She is best known for co-hosting a popular morning radio show.

Felgenhauer, 32, undergoes surgery at a hospital and is put in medically induced coma as doctors determine the best course of treatment, he said.

— AP

Arab MK accuses PM of trying to ‘delegitimize’ law enforcement

MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List party accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being a “bully” and not interested in “dialogue,” during his speech at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session.

Responding to the speech in which Netanyahu accused the opposition and media of being “sourpusses,” Tibi says the prime minister was trying to “delegitimize the authorities investigating him.”

This is a reference to the ongoing criminal investigations related to the prime minister.

Tibi’s speech is eventually interrupted by his longtime foil Likud MK Oren Hazan, who gets kicked out of the plenary.

At Knesset opening, Lapid calls PM a hypocrite

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid calls the prime minister a liar over his earlier comments about the opposition, during his speech at the opening of the Knesset session.

“How many times can you lie?” Lapid asks.

The Yesh Atid leader, who has earned a reputation as a “shadow foreign minister,” says that the prime minister speaks out against him during the day, but then at night he “sends [his] ministers to me to ask my help with the White House and the administration.”

Lapid’s remarks are in response to a speech by the prime minister, in which he referred to members of the opposition as “sourpusses” — literally, “pickles.”

Ohio State sued for denying Richard Spencer a place to speak

The booking agent for white nationalist Richard Spencer files a federal lawsuit against The Ohio State University for refusing a request to rent space on campus for a speech by the controversial far-right figure.

The lawsuit comes after the university informed Cameron Padgett, a graduate student at Georgia State University who handles Spencer’s speaking arrangements, that the request to rent space was denied due to the “substantial risk to public safety.”

Ohio State issued the denial a day after Spencer appeared at the University of Florida, which brought hundreds of protesters and cost the Gainesville university more than $500,000 for security for the event. Prior to the speech, the governor of Florida also declared a state of emergency in the county where the campus is located.

Ohio State, located in Columbus, has more than 2,700 Jewish undergraduates on campus, comprising about 6 percent of the student population. There also are about 350 Jewish graduate students on campus.

— JTA

Rouhani: Iran’s regional status has never been stronger

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran’s position in the Middle East has never been stronger but that the regime is at risk unless infighting between political factions is curbed.

“The greatness of the nation of Iran in the region is more than at any other time,” Rouhani says in a speech in Tehran, carried by the state broadcaster.

“In Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, northern Africa, in the Persian Gulf region — where can action be taken without Iran?”

Rouhani does not directly respond to comments on Sunday by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who called on Iran-backed militias fighting jihadists in Iraq to “go home.”

— AFP

Likud’s Bitan attacks president: ‘He’s not on our side’

Likud MK David Bitan speaks out against President Reuven Rivlin, saying the former Likud member is no longer a supporter of the party.

“He hasn’t been on our side for a while,” Bitan tells reporters in the halls of the Knesset.

At the opening of the Knesset, Rivlin delivered a speech warning of attacks on Israeli democracy, which he referred to as a “coup.”

The speech by Rivlin, who served as speaker of the Knesset for the Likud party, was greeted with enthusiastic support by members of the opposition, but fell flat with the ruling coalition.

Bitan threatens to bring down government over PM protection law

Coalition chair David Bitan threatens to bring down the government if a law protecting the prime minister from criminal prosecution does not pass in the Knesset.

Earlier, Kulanu party leader Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said he was allowing the Knesset members in his faction to vote on the bill according to their conscience, and not according to coalition requirements.

In response, Bitan, who often acts as whip, says he will “take apart the government” if the law is not passed.

Post-plenary, PM publishes picture of pickles

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posts a picture of himself with a can of pickles, driving home the message of his earlier remarks in the Knesset which compared members of the opposition and the media to the sour food.

“We have a wonderful nation that loves to eat sour pickles, but it is not sour,” Netanyahu writes in a tweet, adding an emoji of a cucumber.

A-G comes out against PM protection law, calls it ‘absurd’

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says a bill that would prevent the prosecution of a sitting prime minister is “absurd” and that he “totally opposes it.”

The government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, proposed the law, referred to as the “French law,” for a similar piece of legislation in the European nation. It quickly drew criticism not only from opposition parties, but from within the coalition as well.

Speaking at a legal conference at Tel Aviv University, Mandelblit says such a law would just “mean that you have to wait” until the prime minister’s tenure ends before prosecuting.

“If you know that a prime minister is a corrupt, is this what we want? Because that’s what it would mean,” he says.

“It’s not right, not fitting and not appropriate for our country,” Mandelblit says.

Police: Entrance to Jerusalem reopened after ultra-Orthodox protest

The police reopen the entrance to Jerusalem after it was blocked by more than 1,000 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, who were protesting the military draft.

Officers also clear Bar Lev Street, which was blocked by protesters from the ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredi, community.

Some of the demonstrators remain in the area, but “no longer present a disturbance.”

Police say that so far 11 people have been arrested.

Miri Regev joins chorus of right-wingers decrying president

Culture Minister Miri Regev denounces President Reuven Rivlin for “belittling politicians” with a speech he gave earlier in the Knesset accusing members of the government of weakening Israeli democracy.

“A president who belittles politicians belittles the will of the people and hurts the heart of democracy,” Regev says in a statement.

The firebrand culture minister is not alone in her denunciation of Rivlin’s speech. She is joined by coalition chair David Bitan and Likud MK Oren Hazan.

Regev notes that Rivlin served for years in the Knesset and accuses him of hypocrisy in now criticizing politicians.

“In his speech today, the president spat in the well from which he used to drink,” Regev says.

IDF casts doubt on Liberman’s claim Hezbollah behind Friday’s rocket attack

The IDF says it is not the source of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s claim that the Hezbollah terrorist group was responsible for last Friday’s rocket attack on the Golan Heights.

At a faction meeting earlier in the day, Liberman said the rocket strikes were not accidental spillover from the fighting in Syria, as most have been, but were deliberate attacks ordered by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

However, the IDF has not made the same claim, and unnamed military sources told Hebrew media outlets that this was Liberman’s personal interpretation, not the army’s assessment.

Russia says man who stabbed journalist was Israeli citizen

Russian investigators identify the man who stabbed a journalist in the neck as a dual Russian-Israeli citizen, who apparently had a mental illness.

The Investigative Committee, the top state investigative agency that deals with high-profile crimes, says the attacker is 48-year-old Boris Grits.

The committee says Grits, who has Russian and Israeli citizenship, left for Israel in 2003, and came back to Moscow a month ago.

The attacker, after being apprehended, told investigators he had been in “telepathic contact with Felgenhauer” for five years. In a brief video of his interrogation released by Moscow police, he claims the journalist was “haunting” him.

The committee says he would remain in custody and undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

— AP

Rock thrown at cop car; police suspect ultra-Orthodox protesters

A rock was thrown at a Border Police vehicle, breaking its windshield, following a protest by ultra-Orthodox men against the army draft.

Police say officers spotted a group of ultra-Orthodox protesters who had been throwing stones and then suddenly fled.

“Searches are being carried out for the suspects,” the police say.

There are no reports of injuries.

PM thanks Germany for agreeing to sell submarines

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises the German government for signing a memorandum of understanding to provide Israel with submarines.

The understanding has “strategic importance for the security of Israel, and the signing of it shows the obligations that Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel has toward Israel’s security and the deep cooperation between the two countries,” Netanyahu’s office says.

The prime minister specifically thanks Merkel, the defense minister and the foreign minister for the memorandum of understanding, his office says.

Anti-binary option law passes unanimously in the Knesset

A law aimed at breaking up the binary options industry passes unanimously in the Knesset for its second and third readings.

In the second reading, the law received 53 votes in favor, and in the third and final reading, it received 51.

The law is set to be implemented in the coming months.

Liberman clarifies: Claim Hezbollah fired rockets is my opinion, not army’s

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman clarifies that his claim Hezbollah was responsible for a rocket attack on the Golan Heights was based on his assessment, not the military’s.

Earlier, the army cast doubt on the defense minister’s assertion, saying that it did not have information to support it.

Following the apparent pushback from the army, Liberman’s office says, “The claims are based on his assessment and his judgment.”

IDF suspends general suspected of hoarding army equipment

The head of the IDF’s Ground Forces suspends Brig. Gen. Mordechai Kahane for two weeks after he is suspected of amassing equipment in violation of army orders, the military says.

Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak makes the decision to suspend Kahane in light of the Military Police investigation into the allegation that “for an extended period of time, he received and possessed, improperly, military and civilian equipment,” the army says.

Kahane’s suspension was approved by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

The investigation is ongoing and once it is completed, the military will decide what steps to take against the senior officer.

Until this point, the military had not been willing to identify the brigadier general by name.

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