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In Puerto Rico, Trump implies hurricane not a ‘real catastrophe’

US president compares devastation caused by Maria to Hurricane Katrina, which killed ‘hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people’

  • US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at Luis Muniz Air National Guard Base to survey hurricane damage and recovery efforts, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at Luis Muniz Air National Guard Base to survey hurricane damage and recovery efforts, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
  • A gay Egyptian man lights a cigarette in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, December 11, 2014 (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    A gay Egyptian man lights a cigarette in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, December 11, 2014 (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then on to Puerto Rico (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then on to Puerto Rico (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presides over a Likud faction meeting in the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, outside Jerusalem, on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presides over a Likud faction meeting in the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, outside Jerusalem, on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Nabil Shaath at his Ramallah office, January 18, 2012 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Nabil Shaath at his Ramallah office, January 18, 2012 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd-R) chairs a reconciliation cabinet meeting in Gaza City on October 3, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / POOL / MOHAMMED ABED)
    Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd-R) chairs a reconciliation cabinet meeting in Gaza City on October 3, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / POOL / MOHAMMED ABED)
  • Clip from the movie 'It,' thought to have helped inspire copycat clowns in the northern Israeli town of Afula, September 2017. (YouTube screenshot)
    Clip from the movie 'It,' thought to have helped inspire copycat clowns in the northern Israeli town of Afula, September 2017. (YouTube screenshot)

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

Netanyahu vows to build thousands of apartments in Ma’ale Adumim

Netanyahu vows to build thousands of new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem.

“I support the Greater Jerusalem Bill, which will allow Jerusalem to develop,” he says during a Likud faction meeting held in Ma’ale Adumim, vowing that the city would become “a part of Israel.”

The bill, championed by several right-wing lawmakers, would redraw the lines of the Jerusalem municipality to include a number of West Bank settlements, including Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, the Etzion Bloc, and Beitar Illit, containing in total a population of over 150,000 Israelis.

Nobel physics prize salutes discovery in gravitational waves

The Nobel Physics Prize 2017 is awarded to three scientists for their discoveries in gravitational waves.

Sweden’s Royal Academy of Sciences announces that the winners are Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology, as well as Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Weiss was born to a German-Jewish father. His family fled Germany due to the Nazis’ rise to power.

The three were key to the first observation of gravitational waves in September 2015.

The waves were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity. General relativity says that gravity is caused by heavy objects bending space-time, which itself is the four-dimensional way that astronomers see the universe.

— AP

Education Ministry tackles scary clowns

The Education Ministry publishes guidelines meant to help children cope with a spate of scary clowns causing panic after dark.

“In recent weeks we’ve been receiving reports from pupils of youths dressing as clowns, going out into the streets and hiding in wait for children and others in order to frighten the public,” the ministry says, and urges parents to talk to their kids about it.

It says parents should “hold a conversation that promotes awareness of the issue… while providing information and an address to which to turn for help.”

If teachers decide to talk to pupils about the scary clowns, “It is important to emphasize and take into account the age of the pupils. The conversations must be adapted to their developmental stage, and shouldn’t frighten but rather convey soothing messages and increase their sense of security.”

The ministry says menacing others is a form of violence, and parents should lodge police complaints against any scary clowns they encounter.

Earlier today, police said they had detained eight minors on suspicion of dressing up as clowns and “causing panic.”

UN envoy meets Palestinian PM in Gaza

The United Nations’ peace envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, meets with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the Gaza Strip and says he’s “encouraged” by his government’s move to reassert control in the coastal enclave.

“I was encouraged by the firm commitment of President [Mahmoud] Abbas and the Government to return to Gaza under the full control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority,” he says in a statement. “This is essential for resolving the humanitarian situation as soon as possible, most notably the crippling electricity and health crises, and should facilitate the lifting of the movement and access restrictions on Gaza.”

“Gaza is and must be an integral part of the future Palestinian state,” Mladenov adds.

Palestinian official slams Netanyahu’s settlement pledge

A Palestinian official blasts Netanyahu’s pledge to build “thousands” of homes in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, calls the prime minister’s comments “totally unacceptable.”

“This is an attempt by Netanyahu to destroy the two-state solution and a clear refusal of any attempt to revive the peace process, especially by the United States,” he says.

— with AP

Netanyahu: Palestinian reconciliation comes ‘at the expense of our existence’

In Ma’ale Adumim, Netanyahu also comments on the recent push for Palestinian unity, which today sees the PA’s prime minister chair a cabinet meeting in Gaza.

“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations under which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” he says.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction etc.”

Yesterday, in a speech in Gaza, the Palestinian prime minister said Hamas-Fatah disunity benefited only Israel.

In message to PA cabinet in Gaza, Egypt’s Sissi lauds reconciliation

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi says Palestinian reconciliation is an important step toward peace in the region.

“If the world powers see the unity of the Palestinian parties, it will help to realize complete peace in the region,” Sissi says in a video message delivered by Egypt’s chief of intelligence, Khaled Fawzy, to the Palestinian Authority cabinet currently meeting in the Gaza Strip.

“There is a chance to achieve peace in the region through the concerted efforts of all parties,” Sissi adds.

The Egyptian president says he sent Fawzy to Gaza to show Egypt’s commitment to providing assistance to accomplish “the mission” of Palestinian unity.

“We do not have time to lose, and history will hold accountable those who waste the current opportunity to achieve peace,” Sissi said.

— Dov Lieber

Police vow to crack down on ‘illegal’ scary clowns

Police vow “illegal” clown impersonators will be met with “strict and uncompromising police enforcement,” as children in clown masks frightening people after dark put many Israelis on edge.

In a Facebook post, police describe the recent phenomenon as part of an “international trend that has gathered momentum on social media” and say they have detained “many youths” dressed up as clowns throughout the country.

Describing the youths’ actions as “an illegal act,” police say violators “will encounter strict and uncompromising police enforcement” and call on parents to ensure “their children are not taking part in the phenomenon, which may embroil them in criminal proceedings.”

Police also warn the clowns could be mistaken as a “credible threat” and end in youths being harmed. Police ask the public “not to take the law into its hands and not to harm the youths” since the majority of their antics do not result in any harm to peoples’ persons or property.

— Alexander Fulbright

Defiant Qatar emir meets Iran’s Zarif

Iran’s foreign minister holds talks with the emir of Qatar aimed at strengthening “co-operation,” nearly four months into a Saudi-led blockade against the Gulf emirate.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif meet at a time of heightened Gulf tensions, with Qatari officials warning the ongoing Arab blockade will only drive Doha toward regional powerhouse Iran.

Qatar’s state news agency says the pair discussed the impasse in the region, which has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha over its ties with Iran and accusations that it supports extremists.

“During the meeting, they reviewed relations of cooperation between the two countries in various fields as well as exchanged views on the current situation in the region,” reads the statement from Qatar News Agency.

Tuesday’s visit is notable as it is Zarif’s first since Qatar’s political isolation began on June 5. The Iranian foreign minister on Monday visited Oman — which has remained neutral on the Gulf crisis — meeting with Sultan Qaboos in Muscat.


Trump calls Vegas shooter ‘demented man’

US President Donald Trump is calling the man who killed 59 people and wounded hundreds others at a music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday a “very, very sick individual.”

Speaking to reporters as he departs for a trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, he calls the gunman “demented” and says, “We’re looking into him very seriously.”

Trump also praises Las Vegas police, saying they have done an “incredible job.”

Trump stresses that the shooting was a tragedy. Asked about gun laws, the president says, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”


Disabled protesters block Route 4 south of Tel Aviv

A group of disabled protesters demanding higher government benefits blocks a major highway in the center of the country.

According to police, the protesters are disrupting traffic along Route 4, near the Yavne interchange, south of Tel Aviv.

Police recommend drivers use alternative routes.

Egypt steps up crackdown on homosexuals, arrests 27

CAIRO — Egyptian security officials say authorities are stepping up a crackdown on people suspected of homosexuality, arresting a total of 27 over a little more than a week.

Speaking today, the officials say the 27 arrested since September 25 include a man and a woman picked up by police Monday and face charges of “debauchery.”

The officials speak on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to brief the media.

A gay Egyptian man lights a cigarette in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, December 11, 2014 (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Homosexuality is highly taboo in Egypt among Muslims and Christians alike, but it is not explicitly prohibited by law. In practice, authorities prosecute individuals under such charges as “immorality” and “debauchery.

The latest crackdown is in response to the raising of the LGBT rainbow flag during a recent concert in Cairo.

The crackdown has been condemned by international rights groups.


US-led strike said to kill 18 civilians in Syria’s Raqqa

A US-led coalition airstrike killed at least 18 civilians today in the Islamic State group’s former stronghold of Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.

“International coalition planes targeted water wells where a group of civilians were gathered in the north of Raqqa city, killing at least 18 civilians,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman says.


Israel to prevent Palestinian entry for 11 days due to Sukkot

In a rare move, Israel announces it will be closing off the West Bank and Gaza Strip for 11 days for the Sukkot festival and the following Shabbat, beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

Closures for Jewish and Israeli holidays are a routine procedure. However, in the past, Israel has shut down the crossings surrounding the West Bank and Gaza only for the start and end of week-long festivals like Sukkot, rather than for the entire holiday.

The closure was approved by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman earlier this week, but its implementation was still dependent upon a final situational assessment.

— Judah Ari Gross

Disabled protesters block Ayalon freeway south of Tel Aviv

Disabled protesters who are demanding enlarged government stipends block the northbound lanes of the Ayalon freeway near the Holon interchange, south of Tel Aviv.

Earlier, they blocked Route 4 nearby.

Jewish reporter says she faced anti-Semitism at Australian TV station

A Jewish television reporter for British news station Sky News says that harassment by a former colleague escalated into “brazen anti-Semitism.”

Caroline Marcus writes in a column published today by the Australian edition of Daily Telegraph that the colleague plastered his work station, situated next to hers, with “vile cartoons depicting Jews as Hitler,” and reportedly wrote on Facebook his opinion that Israel was a “f***ing international disgrace.”

Caroline Marcus (Instagram)

Marcus worked with Ben McCormack on Nine Network’s “A Current Affair” in Sydney, Australia. The targeted anti-Semitism took place in 2014.

Among the other anti-Semitic harassment that Marcus endured was McCormack saying, referring to the Holocaust, “Your 70 years of special treatment are over.”

Marcus writes in the Daily Mail that McCormack knew she was Jewish and that her family had survived the Nazis in Eastern Europe. She also writes that she had confided in him during a mediation session that her grandmother, who had sought refuge with Marcus’ father in Israel after World War II, was dying.

“I can tell you it was easily one of the most difficult and lonely periods of my life,” she also writes.

Last week, McCormack pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and faces a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.


Belgium moves to expel imam over security fears

Belgium has moved to expel an Egyptian preacher at the country’s biggest mosque because he posed a “national security” threat, officials say.

Immigration Minister Theo Francken revoked the residency permit of the imam of the Saudi-financed Grand Mosque, near the EU headquarters in Brussels.

Belgium has been hit by several attacks since 2016, including suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 32 people at Brussels airport and a metro station.

“Everybody knows there is a problem with the Grand Mosque in Brussels. I decided to withdraw the residency permit of the imam of this mosque,” Francken tells Bel-RTL.

“We have had very clear signals he is a man who is very radicalised, salafist, very conservative and dangerous for our society and national security,” Francken adds.

Francken does not identify the imam but his office tells AFP his name is Abdelhadi Sewif, a man of Egyptian origin who has lived in Belgium for 13 years.

Belgian authorities first decided in March not to renew the imam’s residence permit but he has appealed against the decision and judges will review his case on October 24, an official says.

After the deadly Brussels bombings in March last year, the mosque defended itself against charges that it was preaching a puritanical strain of Islam and was even a hotbed of extremism.


Elderly man torches his neighbor’s sukkah

An elderly man is arrested on suspicion that he set fire to his neighbor’s sukkah in the city of Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv.

Police says the man, who is in his 80s, torched the structure because he didn’t like the location his neighbor chose for it.

Many Jews erect a sukkah, a temporary hut or booth, during the Sukkot festival.

There was no initial word on the condition of the sukkah.

Illustrative: Israelis walk near a tall Sukkah in the Neot Kedumim park, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, on October 19, 2016 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

US expelling 15 Cuban diplomats in wake of attacks in Havana

The United States has given Cuba a list of 15 of its diplomats that must leave the US within seven days.

A State Department official says the US is “expelling” the Cuban diplomats. But the US isn’t declaring them “persona non grata,” a designation that would prevent them from ever returning.

The official says the US isn’t blaming Cuba for attacks on Americans in Havana and is maintaining diplomatic relations. But the official says the decision was taken because Cuba has failed to protect American diplomats on its soil.

The official also says that the American diplomats the US is withdrawing from its embassy in Havana will be out of Cuba by the end of this week. The official briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.


Labor MK Erel Margalit quits Knesset

MK Erel Margalit of the Labor party announces he is retiring from the Knesset.

Margalit, who was an entrepreneur before going into politics, was a member of Knesset for five years and recently launched a failed bid to capture the leadership of the party.

In a statement, he says he will go back to helming a foundation that he started with his wife 15 years ago.

“The foundation seeks to change the realities of tens of thousands of children through education and community, and gives them a real shot at success.”

Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on January 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay, who beat Margalit in the leadership bid earlier this year, says he’s sorry to see Margalit go.

“I spoke this evening with MK Margalit and I’m happy that despite his retirement from the Knesset, Erel intends to continue to be active in the party,” he says in a statement.

Gabbay also congratulates Margalit’s replacement in the Knesset, Yokne’am Deputy Mayor Lea Fadida.

Trump, first lady touch down in Puerto Rico

US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive in storm-damaged Puerto Rico.

The first couple is visiting to review the US island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria, which blew ashore September 20. They are meeting with local and federal officials working to restore power and deliver food and supplies to Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people.

Trump’s visit comes after what critics have said was a too-slow response to the crisis on the island. The president says that locals “have to give us more help” in responding to the devastation. Trump today praised the federal response, saying, “It’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done.”


In Puerto Rico, Trump implies hurricane not a ‘real catastrophe’

Having just arrived in Puerto Rico, Trump diminishes the effects of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island.

Delivering a press statement, he contrasts the situation there with “a real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina,” which killed “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people.”

He then turns to a local official sitting next to him, and asks, “What is your death count as of this moment? Seventeen?”

“Sixteen,” the man replies.

“Sixteen versus in the thousands,” Trump says.

He also says, “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget out of whack.”

Maria was the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century and unleashed floods and mudslides that knocked out the island’s entire electrical grid and telecommunications, along with many roads.

While early response efforts were hampered by logistical challenges, officials say that conditions, especially in the capital, have improved.

Even before the storm hit on Sept. 20, Puerto Rico was in dire condition thanks to a decade-long economic recession that had left its infrastructure, including the island’s power lines, in a sorry state.

— With AP

Filmmaker, journalist seek to discover who betrayed Anne Frank

Exactly how the Holocaust’s most famous victim came to be captured by the Nazis has intrigued the public for decades.

Now, a team led by an ex-FBI agent hopes to discover exactly who betrayed Anne Frank and her family, leading to their capture and deaths.

According to the project’s website, filmmaker Thijs Bayens and journalist Pieter Van Twisk have assembled a team of 19 experts led by ex-FBI agent Vince Pankoke.

They will use modern policing techniques to examine recently declassified and previously known material, and appeal to witnesses in an attempt to find out who alerted the Nazis to the so-called Secret Annex where the Frank family were hiding.

The goal is to present the results of the investigation and its findings on August 4, 2019, exactly 75 years after the discovery of the secret annex. Progress is being shared online as the investigation goes along in a “Cold Case Diary.”

Anne, with piles of her translated Diaries in the reflection, gift shop of Anne Frank House. (photo credit: Matt Lebovic)
Anne, with piles of her translated Diaries in the reflection, gift shop of Anne Frank House, April 2012 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

Defense Minister says Syria’s Assad has won the civil war

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says that President Bashar Assad has been “victorious” in Syria’s civil war and is now being courted by former enemies.

“Assad has emerged victorious in the battle,” he tells Israeli news website Walla.

“Suddenly, everyone wants to get closer to Assad,” he says. “I see that there is now a long line of countries applauding and wooing Assad, including Western (and) moderate Sunni Muslim (states).”

Assad’s fortunes have changed dramatically since Russia launched a military intervention to shore up his forces in 2015, and he now appears well on top after a series of key victories.

Israel has accused Assad-backer Iran of transferring sophisticated weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and has sporadically struck weapons convoys to the Shiite movement inside the war-ravaged country, as well as Syrian government forces.

Lieberman says Israel is hoping for increased American involvement to counterbalance the Iranian threat.

“We hope that the United States will be more active on the Syrian front and in the Middle East in general. We are on the northern front against the Russians, Iranians, Turks and Hezbollah,” he says.


Hamas leader rejects Israeli, PA demand to disarm

Hamas says it won’t give up its vast weapons arsenal, putting it at odds with both the rival Fatah movement and Israel.

In a TV interview, Hamas’ supreme leader, Ismail Haniyeh, says his group, which has fought three wars with Israel, won’t give up its armed struggle against the Jewish state.

“As long as there is occupation on the ground, our people have the right to possess weapons and resist the occupation with all forms of resistance,” he tells the private On TV station.

In a gesture to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, he says Hamas will not go back to war against Israel unilaterally. “We are ready to negotiate with the Palestinian factions and Fatah on unifying the decision of peace and war,” he says.

Such concessions are unlikely to satisfy Abbas, who issued his own tough statement late Monday saying “everything must be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.”

He said specifically he would not agree to reproduce the “Hezbollah model” of Lebanon, where the armed militant group acts freely under the watch of a weak central government.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier today that his government will not accept a reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian factions that puts Israel at risk.

He said any deal must include recognizing Israel, disbanding Hamas’s military wing and cutting ties with Hamas’ patron Iran.

With AP

Kansas governor made unpublicized trip to Israel in August

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback went on an unpublicized, eight-day trade mission to Israel in late August and early September that included a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In this June 7, 2017 photo, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks during a news conference at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas. (AP/John Hanna)

The trip came a month after President Donald Trump nominated Brownback to serve as US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. But Brownback administration officials said the trip promoted Kansas businesses and sought to further ties between the state and Israel.

The Hutchinson News reports that the state Department of Commerce said the schedule in Israel from August 26 until September 2 included visits to Israeli businesses and discussions, a stop at a hospital and discussions of irrigation and water treatment. The department estimates the cost of the trip at about $32,000. Brownback’s office issued no news releases before, during or after the trip.

The schedule included a 90-minute meeting with Netanyahu on August 30. While Secretary Nick Jordan and other state Department of Commerce officials accompanied Brownback, they were not present for the meeting with the prime minister, department spokesman Kevin Doel says.

Brownback spokeswoman Rachel Whitten says: “They discussed opportunities for Israeli companies in Kansas, and the growth of entrepreneurialism.”


US eschews rebuke of Netanyahu settlement construction pledge

Responding to Netanyahu’s vow earlier today to construct thousands of homes in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, a White House official reiterates Trump’s position that “unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace,” but that past demands for a settlement freeze also have not helped advance talks.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media, says peace envoy Jason Greenblatt’s delegation in the region “is focused on its substantive talks toward an enduring peace deal.”

With AP

Sen. Schumer: Don’t return trove of Jewish artifacts to Iraq

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer exhorts the State Department not to send back to Iraq a trove of artifacts that belonged to its now exiled Jewish community.

In a letter shared with JTA, the New York Democrat urges Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to work with Jewish groups and the Iraqi Jewish community in the United States and abroad to find a place for the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

“These items belong to the people who were forced to leave them behind when the Iraqi government chose to exile them from their homes. Since the exile of Jews from Iraq virtually no Jewish life remains in the country – this treasured collection belongs to the Jewish community and should be made available to them,” the Jewish lawmaker says in the letter.

Last month, the State Department told JTA that the archive will be returned to Iraq in September 2018, according to an agreement reached with the Iraqi government.


Israeli Arab MK congratulates Hamas leader, Abbas on reconciliation

MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks on the phone with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmmoud Abbas to congratulate them on the emerging reconciliation between their respective movements.

“Those who oppose Palestinian reconciliation oppose peace,” he tweets, in an apparent dig at Netanyahu, who today came out against any power sharing deal that doesn’t disband Hamas’s military wing and include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Israel considers Hamas a terror group.

Former Yisrael Beytenu minister to be indicted – report

Former minister Stas Misezhnikov will be indicted on multiple counts including fraud and receiving bribes, Channel 1 news reports.

He is suspected of giving NIS 1 million ($270,000) toward a students’ festival in the southern port city of Eilat and then asking organizers to employ his partner in return. Organizers complied, paying her tens of thousands of shekels.

Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov in court on Wednesday, December 24, 2014 (FLASH90)

He is also believed to have sent aides to buy cocaine, which he used during official events in Israel and abroad.

Misezhnikov, who was a member of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, is one of a string of former officials, among them an erstwhile Yisrael Beytenu deputy minister, facing charges in one of the most far-reaching public corruption cases in Israel’s history.

Ten people in total, among them top former local politicians and party officials, were charged with a range of financial felonies in the case in August, in what the Justice Ministry described as “the first round” of indictments.

Liberman says Arab MKs representing terror groups

Defense Minister Liberman says the Joint List, whose leader earlier today called Hamas’s leader to congratulate him on his group’s emerging reconciliation deal with the rival Fatah party, is a “fifth column” and represents “terror groups in the Knesset.”

“I think the time has come to bring to justice those who subvert the foundations of the state,” he says.

Meanwhile, Ayman Odeh, the Joint List leader, releases a readout of his conversations with Hamas leader Haniyeh and the PA’s Abbas.

Odeh, according to the readout, told the two Palestinian leaders that Arabs throughout Israel are reacting to the reconciliation agreement “with great appreciation and hope.”

“The Palestinian president emphasized during the conversation his resolve to secure reconciliation and agree to a basic plan that will be acceptable to all sides and unite the Palestinian people against the occupation,” the readout says.

Haniyeh, meanwhile, “said that he appreciated [Odeh’s] phone call because it represents the feelings of the Palestinian people wherever they are, and highlights their commitment to unity and to ending their differences and mustering joint efforts to end the occupation.”

Joint (Arab) List party chairman Ayman Odeh reacts during a plenum session in the Knesset, January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli bank: US tax settlement to be higher than thought

Israel’s largest bank says the cost of settling a US tax evasion probe could be “significantly higher” than previously anticipated.

Bank Hapoalim is being investigated by the Justice Department and New York state over allegations that it helped American clients evade taxes.

In a report to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange today, the bank says it is in talks with American authorities over the terms of a potential settlement. It says certain “findings” may have “an adverse effect” without elaborating. The bank already has set aside nearly $200 million for a potential settlement.

Israel’s Bank Leumi allegedly helped US customers evade US taxes from 2002-2010, and reached a settlement with the Justice Department in 2014 to pay $400 million to the US government.


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