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Senators’ support puts Obama on target for Iran deal tally

Democrats Chris Coons, Bob Casey endorse agreement, giving president 33 out of the 34 senators he needs to halt opposition

Lebanese young women take pictures as they hold placards before the start of an anti-government protest organised by a civil society frustrated with a political class they see as corrupt and incapable of providing basic services on August 29, 2015 at Beirut's iconic Martyrs Square. (AFP/ ANWAR AMRO)
Lebanese young women take pictures as they hold placards before the start of an anti-government protest organised by a civil society frustrated with a political class they see as corrupt and incapable of providing basic services on August 29, 2015 at Beirut's iconic Martyrs Square. (AFP/ ANWAR AMRO)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.

Lebanese trash protesters storm ministry

Around 30 Lebanese protesters break into the Environment Ministry in downtown Beirut and demand the resignation of the minister over the country’s trash crisis.

The group from the movement known as “You Stink” post a video of themselves sitting cross-legged on the floor, shouting slogans against the minister, Mohammed Machnouk.

Following a huge protest in downtown Beirut on Saturday, the group demands the minister’s resignation, threatening to escalate action if he does not.

— AP


Netflix explores Israeli market

The Netflix online streaming service is looking into the possibility of starting an Israeli version, Calcalist reports.

The US-based company is using an online survey to find out how many Israelis would be willing to pay for the service. The survey says that the service would cost 30-40 shekels per month, posing a threat to Israel’s HOT cable and YES satellite companies.

Hillary Clinton takes gefilte fish challenge

A newly released email from then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton shows her intervening in a row over the US export to Israel of a key ingredient in the traditional Jewish dish of gefilte fish.

The email has the subject line “Gefilte fish,” and the body of the email reads: “Where are we on this?”

An explanation comes from former Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, who writes in his recently published memoir:

“America signed its first-ever free-trade agreement with Israel back in 1985, but the treaty exempted certain Israeli products liable to be eradicated by their cheaper American counterparts. Apples, avocados, and oranges fell into this category, and, so, too, did the carp cultivated by Galilean farmers. Which is why four hundred thousand pounds of the frozen fish were denied entry into the Promised Land…

“I thought Israel should make this one exception, and told that to the Ministers of Trade and Finance. … ‘You think finding Middle East peace is hard,’ Secretary of State Clinton blithely told reporters. ‘I’m dealing with carp!’ Netanyahu called to question me, ‘What’s all this carp stuff?'”

IDF officer faces sexual harassment charge

An IDF lieutenant is accused of sexually harassing a female soldier under his command, the Israeli daily Haaretz reports.

The paper says that the officer, who serves on the Lebanon border, repeatedly pressed the woman soldier to have sex with him. When she declined, he took away her cellphone and refused to return it until she “gave him a kiss lasting at least two minutes.”

Colbert-Sanders: Senator to appear on ‘The Late Show’

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders will make an appearance on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert, TIME magazine says.

The senator will appear on September 18, alongside “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” actress Lupita Nyong’o and ballet dancer Robert Fairchild. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be a guest on the show the day before.

Christian schools stay shut in funding row with state

Christian schools in Israel stay shut, delaying the start of the new academic year, due to a funding dispute with authorities in the Jewish state.

The strike action affects around 33,000 pupils, mostly Muslim Israeli Arabs, at 47 schools run primarily by the Roman Catholic church.

“All the schools are closed after a call for an open-ended strike,” says the spokesman for Christian schools in Israel, Botrus Mansour.

Christian schools and Israeli authorities have been in tough talks over state funding for them and their 3,000 employees.

“For a year and a half, we have been holding talks with the Israeli authorities and several figures have intervened, even the Vatican,” says Mansour.

“A week ago, President Reuven Rivlin and Education Minister Naftali Bennett made very positive comments … But we still haven’t seen any serious proposal.

“We’ve tried everything and have no option left but to go on strike,” he says.


Pope lets priests pardon women for abortions

Pope Francis is granting priests discretion to absolve women who have had abortions if they seek forgiveness during the upcoming Holy Year, which begins December 8.

“One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life,” the pope writes in the English-language version of his letter. He describes the “existential and moral ordeal” of women who have chosen to terminate their pregnancies.

Francis says that women “who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision” deserve God’s forgiveness if they seek it.

Revolutionary Guard chief says US ‘still the Great Satan’

The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard says the US is still the “Great Satan” regardless of the nuclear deal struck with Americans and world powers over the Islamic Republic’s contested nuclear program.

According to the official Guard website, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari says that “the enmity against Iranian nation by the US has not lessened and it has been increased.”

His comments come shortly after the head of powerful Iran’s Experts Assembly, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, says that “the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the US its No. 1 enemy.”

— AP

Matisyahu to perform in Jerusalem on Friday

Jewish American singer Matisyahu is appearing on Friday at the closing ceremony for the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival, the event’s website says.

According to the site, Matisyahu “is coming especially from the end of his European Tour… in order to sing with local musicians of all religions songs from Jerusalem.”

The singer was at the center of a recent controversy in Spain, after a reggae festival in the country removed Matisyahu from its lineup over pressure from anti-Israel activists, only to reinstate him after accusations of anti-Semitism.

Iran hopes nuclear deal ‘propaganda’ won’t sway US Congress

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says he hopes the US Congress will not be swayed by “warmongers’ propaganda” over the nuclear deal struck between Tehran and world powers.

“What happens in the US Congress, that’s certainly a US issue,” Zarif tells a news conference in Tunisia.

“We believe it’s a mutually beneficial agreement,” he says of the July 14 accord on scaling down Iran’s controversial nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

“And if people are not too much concerned with the propaganda being raged by warmongers in our region and outside our region, there’s no reason for the deal to face any impediments in the United States,” Zarif adds.


Deri: Tax on public transportion to be phased out

Economy Minister Aryeh Deri says VAT on public transportation in Israel will be reduced by 50 percent in the coming year, and then removed altogether, Israel Radio reports.

Speaking at a conference run by Israeli business newspaper Calcalist, Deri also says that weaker sectors of society will get a reduction in electricity and water prices.

2 young rightists under nighttime house arrest

The Shin Bet security service and police are placing two young Israeli right-wingers under house arrest at night, Israel Radio says.

The radio says that one of the suspects is a 16-year-old resident of the West Bank who had previously been investigated for suspected incitement. Under the terms of his arrest order, the teen is now prevented from making contact with 18 other rightist activists.

The other suspect, also a youth, is in police custody until an error on his detention order is corrected, the radio says, after which he will be prevented from leaving his parents’ home in the nighttime hours.

Greek coast guard finds weapons on cargo ship

Greek authorities say a coast guard special unit raid has found a shipment of weapons on board a foreign-flagged cargo ship sailing near the southern island of Crete.

The coast guard says the ship is being taken to a port for a further search and investigation into the shipment. Greece declines to immediately release any further information on the type or amount of weapons on board, where the ship was sailing to or from, the identity of the ship or the crew.

Authorities say further information will be released later in the day.

— AP

Parents strike over Ethiopian kids in kindergarten

Parents at kindergarten in Kfar Yona near Netanya are on strike over the introduction of children of Ethiopian origin into the system, Ynet says.

The director of the Education Ministry, Michal Cohen, says that the protest is a minor one and will not affect the kindergarten.

“This is a few parents who discovered that six students are supposed to arrive, and they don’t like it, but the kindergarten opened nonetheless,” she says. “We are opposed to any statement of this kind. The children are Israeli children and we will not let anyone influence the composition of the kindergarten.”

‘Corbyn fought to free Palestinians behind 1994 London bombings’

The front-runner to lead Britain’s Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, was a leading activist in the campaign to free two Palestinians jailed for their involvement in the bombing of a Jewish charity building and the Israeli embassy in London, the Jewish Chronicle reports.

Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami were jailed for conspiracy to cause the bombings of the embassy and Balfour House after both buildings were targeted by car bombs in 1994. Both were jailed for 20 years, with Botmeh claiming Israel carried out the bombings itself. Twenty people were hurt in the bombings.

The report says Corbyn repeatedly raised the issue in parliament as part of a campaign to overturn their convictions as a miscarriage of justice.

Read the full article here.

Clinton email: Netanyahu ‘can never equal his dead brother’

A new batch of emails from Hillary Clinton reveal the presidential hopeful believes Benjamin Netanyahu lives in the shadow of his warrior brother who died in an IDF rescue mission in Entebbe in 1976.

The release of the emails shows Clinton forwarding an analysis of the prime minister that says he “has never measured up” to Yoni Netanyahu in the eyes of their father, noted historian and Greater Israel proponent Benzion Netanyahu.

“Bibi desperately seeks his father’s approbation and can never equal his dead brother,” reads the 2010 email from former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, which Clinton forwards with the acronym “itys”– shorthand for “I told you so.”

Iran nabs vendors of clothes bearing US, UK flags

Iranian police are arresting merchants for selling clothing that featured the flags of the United States and Britain, two longtime foes of the Islamic Republic, local media says.

Garments imprinted with “Satanic symbols” are seized from stores in Tehran, city police chief General Hossein Sajedinia is quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying.

Sajedinia says reports about the activity had been received in the past two weeks, leading to surveillance and detentions.

“This morning we took these clothes off leading distributors,” he says, noting that any stores that sell such items “will be closed.”


UNESCO calls IS destruction of temple ‘intolerable’

The head of the UN’s cultural agency says Islamic State militants in Syria committed an “intolerable crime against civilization” by destroying the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, one of the ancient world’s most iconic monuments.

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova vows her agency will try to protect “all that can be saved” in the group’s reach.

The militants used explosives to destroy the temple in the ancient city of Palmyra on Sunday. The destruction was confirmed by UN satellite images. IS captured Palmyra and surrounding areas in May.

— AP

Gal Hirsch defends IDF record in bid to be police chief

The former IDF officer tapped to become the new head of the Israel Police spends two hours defending himself in front of the committee to approve senior state appointments, Ynet says.

Gal Hirsch’s nomination is dogged by claims over his performance in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as well as recent revelations that the FBI is investigating alleged corruption at a company linked to him.

IS in Gaza threatens Hamas over member’s arrest

The Islamic State’s Gaza presence is threatening the Strip’s Hamas rulers over the detention of one of its senior members, Ynet reports.

The Salafist group, which identifies with IS, says Hamas has 24 hours to free Abu Hafs al-Maqdisi after his arrest by the Hamas forces.

Israel: Hamas seizing Gaza building materials

The head of Israel’s civil administration in the Palestinian territories says Hamas is forcibly seizing building materials destined to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip after Hamas’ war with Israel last year, Ynet reports.

Yoav Mordechai says the materials are then passed on to Hamas’ military wing, which is using them to construct tunnels for transporting weapons and carrying out attacks.

Ex-UK Jewish leader won’t face sex abuse trial this year

A British judge rules that the former head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews will not face a “trial of the facts” in child sex abuse allegations until next year, the Guardian reports.

The 87-year-old Greville Janner, a former Labour peer, is accused of a total of 22 counts of indecent assault and sexual offenses against nine alleged victims over three decades.

Janner, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is not facing a full trial over the allegations due to his medical condition, which the Crown Prosecution Service says do meet the criteria for prosecution.

PM: I’m ready for negotiations without preconditions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells peace activists that he is willing to hold talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “without preconditions.”

“I have no preconditions for negotiations,” Netanyahu says in a meeting with members of the Women Wage Peace organization.

“I am ready now to go to Ramallah or any other place in order to meet and conduct direct negotiations without preconditions,” he says. “We want to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians. The solution is two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the nation state of the Jews. If you intend to meet with Abu Mazen [Abbas], tell him that I am ready to meet if he is.”

Police: Prosecute Likud MK for assault

The Israel Police recommends that Likud MK Oren Hazan face charges for assaulting a public servant after a lien was placed on his bank account due to an outstanding debt.

Hazan allegedly attacked the director of the Ariel municipality in October 2014.

The recommendation comes after an investigation by both Judea and Samaria police and by the Lahav 443 serious crimes unit.

Slim majority of Americans back Iran deal — poll

A new survey by the University of Maryland shows that a small majority of Americans support the Iran nuclear deal, with 55 percent saying they would want their Congress member to approve it.

The poll also finds that 14 percent of Americans advocate the pursuit of better terms for the deal, 23 percent believe that sanctions on Iran should be ramped up, and seven percent support using the threat of military force.

The US Congress will vote later this month on whether to approve or disapprove of the deal negotiated in July between Iran and world powers.

Abbas won’t run in PLO election, officials say

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tells political confidants he won’t seek re-election to the top posts in the Palestine Liberation Organization or his Fatah movement in upcoming elections, according to Amin Maqbul, the secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

Maqbul tells the Palestinian news agency Ma’an that “Abu Mazen [Abbas] said that he wants to give a space for other factions to participate. … We asked him to think again, especially in this hard and serious period, and amid the effort by some people to get rid of him.”

Abbas and a handful other senior Palestinian officials, including his chief negotiator Saeb Erekat resigned from the PLO Executive Committee earlier this month. The Palestinian National Council is convening this month to elect a new executive committee.

Likud MK confident he’ll escape assault charges

Likud MK Oren Hazan says he is sure that the attorney general will not accept a police recommendation to charge him for assaulting of the head of the Ariel municipality, Israel’s Walla news reports.

Israel’s serious crimes unit says that there is sufficient grounds for charges to be brought.

“I have no doubt in my heart that when the case reaches the attorney general will order it be shelved for lack of guilt,” Hazan says.

“This case — in which I made the first complaint — is built on a foundation of lies and political rivalry. I believe that judicial officials will not drag this out into a media carnival and a campaign of incitement against me.”

UN says Gaza could be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020

The Gaza Strip could become uninhabitable for residents within just five years, the United Nations development agency says.

“The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unliveable by 2020,” the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) writes in its annual report.

“Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current economic trends persist,” the report says.


Another Democratic senator backs Iran deal

Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania says he will support the agreement negotiated with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

“This agreement will substantially constrain the Iranian nuclear program for its duration, and compared with all realistic alternatives, it is the best option available to us at this time,” says Casey.

The announcement gives President Obama 32 of the 34 senators he needs to make the agreement immune to lawmakers overturning a presidential veto should the Republican-dominated Congress vote to disapprove of the deal.

Israel opposes raising Palestinian flag at the UN

Israel expresses strong opposition to a draft resolution that would allow the Palestinian flag to be raised at the United Nations ahead of the annual gathering of world leaders later this month.

Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, appeals to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the General Assembly’s president, Sam Kutesa, to block the move, which would break with the UN practice of flying only the flags of member states.

Prosor says in a letter to the UN leaders that the Palestinian move was an attempt to “score easy and meaningless points at the UN” and that this was “not the path to statehood, this is not the way for peace.”


Deri says Israel was clueless about Egypt gas find

Israel’s ministers had no idea about the discovery of the so-called largest-ever Mediterranean gas field off the Egyptian coast, says Economy Minister Aryeh Deri, calling it a serious intelligence failure.

Deri says that everyone in the Israeli government saw Egypt as a potential customer for its own newly discovered gas fields, the Maariv website reports.

The Italian energy company ENI announced Sunday the discovery of the natural gas field, saying it could fill Egyptian demands “for decades.”

Democrat Chris Coons is 33rd senator to back Iran deal

Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) says he will back the agreement negotiated in July between world powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, leaving President Obama one shy of a veto-proof deal.

“We are better off trying diplomacy first,” Coons tells The Washington Post.

Even if the Republican-dominated Congress votes to disapprove of the deal, with 34 senators behind him, Obama can veto the vote in the knowledge that his opponents are unable to overturn that veto.

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