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France sends top envoy to push restarting Israel-Palestinian talks — report

National security adviser reportedly meets with Israeli, Palestinian officials to discuss including Mideast conflict in Paris Peace Forum agenda next month

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens during a joint press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on June 5, 2018. 
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens during a joint press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on June 5, 2018. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP)

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

Knesset passes law preventing early release of convicted terrorists

Knesset members vote in favor of legislation preventing the early release of convicted terrorists and other security prisoners.

The new law, proposed by Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, amends a recently passed bill to relieve pressure in overcrowded prisons by allowing the early release of certain convicts, so as to block such provisions for security prisoners.

Around 700 criminals are expected to be released when the new government legislation comes into effect on December 20, allowing the prison authority to reduce each sentence automatically.

Pittsburgh funerals continue after Trump visit and protests

Funerals will be held Wednesday for three of the victims killed in the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, a day after US President Donald Trump encountered hundreds of protesters when he quietly paid his respects.

Melvin Wax, Irving Younger and Joyce Feinberg will be laid to rest.

A makeshift memorial stands outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the in Pittsburgh, October 29, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP)

They were among 11 people who died in the shooting rampage Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue. Robert Gregory Bowers, a 46-year-old truck driver who authorities say raged against Jews, was arrested on federal hate-crime charges that could bring the death penalty.

— AP

Israel selects its first female ambassador to Egypt

The Foreign Ministry announces that Amira Oron has been selected to serve as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, the first woman to hold the position.

Oron, a senior member of the ministry, has previously served in Cairo and Ankara, and headed the Foreign Ministry’s Egypt division. She currently heads the ministry’s Middle East Economic Relations ‎Department.

IDF fires warning at Gazans launching incendiary balloons at Israel

An Israeli drone opens fire at a group of Palestinians launching airborne arson devices at southern Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian media reports.

The Israeli military confirms that one of its aircraft shot at “a terrorist spotted releasing incendiary balloons” toward Israeli territory.

According to the Hamas-linked Shehab news outlet, no Palestinians were injured in the airstrike, east of Bureij in southern Gaza.

— Judah Ari Gross

Bomb injures 3 Russian security officers; attacker dead

A man set off a bomb at the entrance of the local branch of Russia’s main intelligence agency in a northern city Wednesday, injuring three security officials and killing himself, authorities said.

The man entered the local branch of the FSB intelligence agency in Akhangelsk and removed the improvised explosive device from a bag, causing it to detonate, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said.

The explosion killed the man and injured three FSB officers. It was not immediately clear if the man had meant to just leave the bomb or had also intended to die.

Russian investigators later identified the attacker as a local 17-year-old man and said they are treating the attack as an act of terrorism.

— AP

Tel Aviv mayoral loser gives backing to incumbent

Assaf Zamir says he will support Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and join his municipal coalition, a day after he was beaten by the incumbent in the city’s mayoral race.

“Huldai was elected to a fifth term and will complete a quarter of a century in the role of mayor, and we will be with him there, our six council members,” Zamir writes on Facebook [Hebrew]. “I want to wish him the best of luck.”

Asaf Zamir, running for mayor in Tel Aviv, speaks to young voters at his campaign headquarters, on October 14, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Huldai fended off an 11th-hour surge from upstart deputy-turned-rival Zamir and secured a fifth term leading the country’s economic hub.

With the final results in, Huldai held a 46% to 34% lead over Zamir, who had appeared to nearly pull even with the incumbent in polling over recent weeks.

Despite the loss, Zamir’s Rov HaIr party increased its seats on the municipal council from four to six.

Prosecutor: Khashoggi was strangled, dismembered

A Turkish prosecutor says Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of a premeditated killing, and his body was dismembered and disposed of.

A statement from chief Istanbul prosecutor Irfan Fidan’s office also said Wednesday that discussions with Saudi chief prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb have yielded no “concrete results” despite “good-willed efforts” by Turkey to uncover the truth.

The statement is the first public confirmation by a Turkish official that Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered after he entered the Saudi Consulate on October 2 to collect paperwork needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.

— AP

Coalition blocks bill granting surrogate parenthood rights to homosexual men

Coalition members vote down a bill to grant the right to surrogate parenthood for gay men presented by the opposition after lawmakers recently extended eligibility to single women, but not to men.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had initially expressed support for a clause to be added to the legislation that would have extended surrogacy rights to gay couples, but in June, made an about-face and voted against the amendment, sparking a series of mass protests supporting LGBT rights.

The latest bill rejected explained that “in recent years a phenomenon of Israelis traveling abroad has developed in order to bring a child into the world through a surrogate resident of the foreign country. In light of the fact that surrogacy outside of Israel has not yet been regulated by Israeli legislation, it raises many legal and moral difficulties, and the State of Israel is required to retroactively recognize and grant the child Israeli citizenship.”


Hundreds attend funerals for family killed in car crash inferno

Hundreds of people attend the funerals of eight people from the same family killed yesterday in a head-on collision near the Dead Sea.

The entire Atar family — Yariv Atar, 45, and his wife Shoshi, 47, and their children Yaakov Yisrael, 12, Ateret, 11, Ayelet, 9, Moriah, 7, Yedid, 5, and Avigail, 3 — was killed in the crash Tuesday on Route 90 in which their minivan caught fire, trapping them all inside.

The Atar family, killed in a car crash near the Dead Sea on October 30, 2018. (Courtesy)

Israeli 2014 oil spill caused NIS 281 million of damage

A 2014 oil spill by a state-run company that flooded an Israeli nature reserve caused NIS 281 million ($76 million) worth of damage, the Environmental Protection Ministry said on Wednesday.

In what was described as the worst ecological disaster in Israel’s history, a portion of the Trans-Israel pipeline that runs from Israel’s Mediterranean coast to Eilat exploded, spilling five million liters of crude oil into the Evrona nature reserve. The explosion happened as workers labored to move the pipe in order to accommodate the construction of a new international airport being built just north of Israel’s southernmost city.

Oil seeps between desert bushes in the Evrona Nature Reserve, December 7, 2014. (photo credit: Environmental Protection Ministry spokesperson/Roi Talbi)

The ministry sent its estimate to a mediator for its case against the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), a major oil distributor in Israel, Reuters reports.

‘My heart hurts’: 5th Pittsburgh shooting victim buried

The funeral of the fifth victim in Saturday’s mass synagogue shooting, Joyce Fienberg, 74, is taking place in Pittsburgh’s Beth Shalom congregation.

The service for Fienberg, a member of the Conservative Tree of Life synagogue, begins with words from the congregation’s emeritus rabbi Alvin Berkun.

Fienberg, a lifelong educator, was praised as an internationally known academic, valued friend, community volunteer, proud mother to Anthony and Howard, devoted grandmother and beloved wife.

“She brought joy to those she met… Joyce was essentially an honest person. She said what she meant and meant what she said,” Berkun said.

A casket is carried out of Rodef Shalom Congregation after the funeral services for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, in Pittsburgh, October 30, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Fienberg’s brother said, “My heart hurts. And you’re not here to fix it. My sister was murdered.”

Quoting his daughter, the brother said, “She was not the type of person who would be the life of the party, but she would be the type of person to give life to the party.”

“In the end, a life of pure giving is a life well lived” he said, and urged the mourners to examine themselves and strive to take Feinberg’s model as their own. “Sometimes I can’t bear to think of it. Evil tried to shut off the light, but the light refuses to be dimmed even in our broken hearts… Joyce was my sister, but she is your sister too… Her unparalleled goodness lives on.”

— Amanda Borschel Dan

Israeli film pulled from Iraqi festival competition

A film festival in Iraqi Kurdistan pulls an Israeli picture from its official competition, prompting the jury to protest by refusing to present a top award.

Israeli director Yona Rozenkier’s “The Dive,” which portrays three brothers carrying out their father’s last wish, was screened this month at the Duhok International Film Festival in northern Iraq.

But festival organizers say they had “unwillingly” withdrawn the film from the world cinema competition, “due to regional complications and considerations.”

The move led the jury to refuse to announce a winner for the best international feature film, saying in an online statement the change to the selection “compromised our ability to make a final decision.”

Jury president Kristian Feigelson said in a separate statement that the film’s withdrawal was the result of “political pressure coming officially from Baghdad.”


French university students accused of ranking classmates’ levels of Jewishness in Facebook group

University students in France listed and ranked Jewish classmates according to their level of affiliation as part of a string of jokes online and on campus featuring anti-Semitic hate speech, an alleged victim of this behavior says.

The medical student at Paris 13 university, a 19-year-old woman identified only as Rose, filed a complaint with police against her classmates, the Europe 1 radio station reported Monday.

“Jew level 31, involved but capable of interacting with the goyim,” one remark about a Jewish student read on a Facebook group belonging to Paris 13 students.

“Jew level 75, category 4, will do anything for the community,” another said.


Government will probe US-funded report targeting ‘multimillionaire Jew’ George Soros

The US government broadcasting agency says it is investigating a segment aired on its Spanish-language network about “multimillionaire Jew” George Soros that said he was “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.”

The program was presented as part of the TV Marti newscast and introduced by the anchor with the phrase “George Soros, the multimillionaire Jew of Hungarian origin …”  It also calls him “a non-believing Jew of flexible morals.” The conservative organization Judicial Watch, an outspoken critic of Soros, was the only source for the 15-minute video segment.

In this photo from January 26, 2013, George Soros attends the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort of Davos. (Eric Piermont/AFP)

The producers of the report have been put on administrative leave, John Lansing, CEO and director of the US Agency for Global Media, which oversees Radio and Television Martí’s parent office, said in a statement.

“Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct,” the statement said. “Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.”



Headstones toppled at small Jewish cemetery in Texas

Headstones were pushed over at a small Jewish cemetery in the Texas port city of Orange.

The vandalism at the Hebrew Rest Cemetery, which is more than 100 years old, was discovered on Monday morning by the groundskeeper, who had arrived to mow the lawn, the local CBS affiliate KFDM reports. Permanent vases also were ripped from their bases.

Orange Police are investigating the incident as criminal mischief, according to the report.

Orange Mayor Larry Spears Jr. praised the city’s diversity and said that bigotry and hate will not be tolerated within its borders.


National Republican campaign chair denounces Rep. Steve King’s support for ‘white supremacy’

Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, calls Iowa Congressman Steve King’s recent comments “completely inappropriate.”

King has come under fire for recently endorsing Faith Goldy, a white nationalist who has associated with anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi websites, for mayor of Toronto.

Last week, King spoke with a far-right Austrian publication and met with members of a far-right party that has Nazi roots, all while on a trip sponsored by a Holocaust education group. In June, he retweeted an infamous British neo-Nazi.

Republican party leadership had been virtually silent on King’s activity. Stivers is among the most prominent to call him out.


Kim Kardashian honored for effort to match Jewish man with bone marrow donor

Kim Kardashian is being honored for her efforts to match a Jewish man with blood cancer with an appropriate bone marrow donor.

Kim Kardashian being honored by the Gift of Life marrow registry in Los Angeles, October 29, 2018. (Kara Frans Photography)

Kardashian was awarded the Impact Award from the Gift of Life Marrow Registry earlier this week. In 2016 she alerted her followers on social media to help a young Jewish father named Adam Krief, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer and required a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

She was recognized for her support for Gift of Life and the “Hope4Adam” campaign.

A donor was found for Krief in December 2016, but he developed complications and died three months later.


Ukraine chief rabbi says spy device found at Kiev synagogue

Secret recording devices and other surveillance activities were discovered at one of Kiev’s main synagogues, according to a chief rabbi of Ukraine who says the find “discredits the state.”

The synagogue’s security task force discovered individuals who “professionally carried out a covert surveillance of the premises and visitors of the Kiev Central Synagogue on 13 Shota Rustaveli Street,” Moshe Azman, one of two chief Orthodox rabbis in Ukraine, says.

“I am obliged to emphasize my deep concern about actions that not only compromise our community and are manifestations of anti-Semitism, but also discredit the nation as a whole,” he says.


Omani FM meets with Abbas in Ramallah

Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and delivers him a letter from Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat last week, the official PA news site Wafa reports.

Last Thursday, Netanyahu visited Muscat and met Qaboos. His visit was the first of an Israeli prime minister to Oman in more than two decades.

“We are refraining from commenting on Netanyahu’s visit because we do not want to start fights with our Omani brothers,” a Palestine Liberation Organization official, who asked to remain unnamed, said in a phone call on Monday. “We don’t believe that is in our interest.”

— Adam Rasgon

US-backed Syria force suspends anti-IS attacks after Turkey hits

A Kurdish-led force backed by a US-led coalition says it is suspending operations against the Islamic State group after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, joint Arab-Kurdish units led by the Kurds, announced a “temporary halt” to their operation, launched in eastern Syria on September 10, and condemned Turkey’s “provocations.”

On Wednesday, Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions in the Kobane sector of northern Syria killed four fighters, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

The SDF condemned what it called the “coordination” of Turkey’s attacks with a fightback by jihadists and warned of “a prolonged halt to our military operation” against IS if Ankara keeps up its strikes.


Pompeo says Khashoggi murder violated international law

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul was a violation of international law, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

The top US diplomat nonetheless stresses that he wants to preserve the decades-old alliance with Saudi Arabia and declined explicitly to criticize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been consolidating power.

In this image made from a March 2018 video provided by Metafora Production, Jamal Khashoggi speaks during an interview at an undisclosed location. (Metafora Production via AP)

“It’s an awful thing that took place,” Pompeo tells conservative talk show host Brian Kilmeade.

“The killing, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate in Turkey violates the norms of international law. That much is very, very clear,” he says.


AG rules against demolishing homes of mentally ill terrorists

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rules against the demolition of the homes of terrorists who cannot be held responsible for their actions due to psychological disorders.

The decision comes in a letter responding to a query from Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman who had railed against an IDF and Justice Ministry decision last month to not destroy the home of a terrorist who stabbed to death an Israeli man in the Old City of Jerusalem after the stabber’s family showed he had a history of mental issues.

Police charge Pittsburgh synagogue shooter with 15 more hate crimes

The suspect in the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people has been charged on a total of 44 counts, up from 29 counts previously, according to Reuters.

A federal indictment filed earlier today charged Robert Bowers with multiple counts of using a firearm to commit murder, weapons offenses, obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death.

Bowers shot dead 11 people during Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Driver’s License photo of Pittsburgh synagogue massacre suspect Robert Bowers. (Pennsylvania DOT)

Dramatic count of soldiers’ votes underway in Beit Shemesh mayoral race

Election officials are counting some 1,000 votes of soldiers that could decide whether Beit Shemesh mayor Moshe Abutbul will lose his seat to rival Dr. Aliza Bloch.

The city’s mayoral vote has turned out to be one of the tightest and most tense races in the country, with votes too close to call even with 99 percent of the ballots counted.

Only 251 votes separated the two candidates, with the ultra-Orthodox Abutbul narrowly ahead after the lead switched sides several times throughout the night.

Beit Shemesh mayoral candidate Moshe Abutbul, the incumbent, casts his ballot at a voting station during the municipal elections, on October 30, 2018, in Beit Shemesh. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

Now, the result rests on the votes of soldiers and those of other residents who were unable to vote at a local polling station.

The approximately 1,000 votes are expected to be weighted heavily in favor of Bloch, who as a religious-Zionist candidate is in favor of the military draft, as opposed to the incumbent mayor of the polarized city.

Macron sent envoy to discuss peace process with Israelis, Palestinians — report

France’s President Emmanuel Macron sent one of his closest advisers on a trip to Israel this week to discuss with Israeli and Palestinian officials the possibility of restarting peace negotiations between the two sides, Chanel 10 news reports.

The French National Security Adviser reportedly met with high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials to discus with them the possibility of including the Israel-Palestinian issue on the agenda of the Paris Peace Forum, which will take place on November 11 and is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Donald Trump.

If Trump does not present his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan next month, France’s Macron will issue a proposal of his own, a senior Israeli diplomat reportedly tells Knesset members at a closed-door briefing last week.

Alon Ushpiz, the Foreign Ministry’s political director, testified to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that France is waiting until the November 6 midterm elections in the US, but that if Trump does not present his long-awaited plan in the first few weeks after that vote, Macron will publicize his own formula, TV news reports said at the time.

Israeli officials traveled to Chad to discuss renewing ties — report

A delegation of Israeli officials traveled to the Muslim-majority country of Chad this week to discuss the possibility of renewing diplomatic relations between the two, Chanel 10 news reports.

Chad, in central Africa, cut diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in the 1970s.

Israel’s then-Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold paid a rare visit to Chad in September 2017 for talks with senior officials.

“Chad is a central country on the African continent,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement at the time. “It is a Muslim, Arabic-speaking country that deals with radical Islamic terrorism and this year holds the rotating chairmanship of the African Union.”

Other countries that Israel does not have relations with in sub-Saharan Africa are Mauritania, Mali, Niger and the Comoros Islands.



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