The Times of Israel blogged Monday’s news as it unfolded.
Former minister, deputy minister to be tried for bribes
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided to press charges against a series of former senior officials, including an ex-minister and an erstwhile deputy minister in the so-called 242 affair involving the Yisrael Beytenu party.
Stas Misezhnikov, who served as tourism minister for the party from 2009 to 2013, will be accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as obstruction of justice and possession of a dangerous drug.
Faina Kirschenbaum, who stepped down as deputy interior minister in early 2015, shortly after news of the suspicions against her was published, will be accused of bribery, breach of trust, fraud, and money laundering, along with other financial felonies.
Several other suspects, including top former local politicians and party officials, are also accused of taking or giving bribes.
Israeli suspected of assaulting Palestinian laborer
An Israeli man suspected of assaulting a Palestinian worker is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing and his arrest is extended till Wednesday.
According to a police statement, the suspect, a resident of the central region in his 20s, is suspected of attacking the West Bank man near to the Even Sapir agricultural community, on the outskirts of the capital, on September 16.
According to police, the Palestinian had finished his work for the day and was leaving the community when he was spotted by the suspect and several other men. They attacked him before escaping in a vehicle, police say.
— Stuart Winer
Plea deal talks defer trial for general accused of rape
The prosecution and the defense in the case of an IDF general accused of rape have agreed, at the behest of a special military tribunal assembled to try the case, to defer his trial and discuss a possible plea bargain.
The mediation process in the case of Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris, will be managed by a former military judge, Maj. Gen. Ilan Shiff, according to a statement from an army spokesperson.
The trial for Buchris, who is accused rape, sodomy and sexual assault against two former female subordinates, was initially set to begin on September 29.
Under Israeli law, sodomy constitutes either oral or anal sex when the authority figure exploits “authority in the workplace or in (national) service.”
Buchris officially resigned from the Israel Defense Forces in July in order to manage his legal defense as a civilian.
— Times of Israel staff contributed
Khamenei nixes Ahmadinejad’s presidential hopes
The Iranian supreme leader put the kibosh on the presumed bid of the country’s former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to reclaim the position, according to the IRNA state news agency.
“He (Ahmadinejad) came to me and I told him not to stand as I think it is not in his interest and that of the country,” Reuters quotes Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying.
“It will create bipolar opposites and divisions in the country, which I believe is harmful,” he adds.
Although Ahmadinejad, who served from 2005 to 2013, had not announced his intention to run, he has raised his public profile in recent months, fueling speculation with a series of speeches.
Misezhnikov also accused of doing cocaine on the job
According to details of the impending indictment against Stas Misezhnikov, the former tourism minister is suspected of using cocaine on the job.
Misezhnikov allegedly sent advisers to purchase cocaine for him on various occasions, both in Israel and abroad, and would then use the drug, including during official functions.
Top PA official blasts Trump for pledging ‘undivided’ Jerusalem
The top Palestinian negotiator takes Donald Trump to task over the Republican US presidential nominee’s comments on Jerusalem after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Mr. Trump’s statement shows disregard for international law, longstanding U.S. foreign policy regarding the status of Jerusalem, including the occupation and illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, as well as hundreds of millions of Arabs, including Palestinians Christians and Muslims,” Saeb Erekat says in a statement.
Trump had told Netanyahu Sunday that if elected president, he would recognize Jerusalem as the “undivided capital” of Israel.
“Mr. Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish People for over 3,000 years, and that the United States, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel,” a statement from the Trump campaign said after the meeting.
Erekat says Trump’s statement “also neglects the calls made by millions of US citizens for peace between Israel and Palestine based on freedom, justice and equality.
“Previous statements delivered by his adviser on Israel show a total abandonment of the two-state solution, international law and UN resolutions, and underscores the urgency of [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’s call at the General Assembly for the international community to bring an end to the occupation and salvage the two-state solution before it is too late,” he says.
— Raphael Ahren contributed
Jordan signs multi-billion-dollar deal to buy Israeli gas
The conglomerate that owns the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel announces it has signed a massive deal to supply gas to the Jordanian National Electric Power Company.
According to the deal, which is projected to earn the conglomerate some $10 billion, Jordan will purchase 3 billion-4 billion cubic meters of gas over a period of 15 years.
At least 7 hurt in apparent mass shooting in Houston
Breaking reports say there has been a shooting at a Houston mall, and that at least seven people are injured.
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) September 26, 2016
Police say they have targeted the shooter.
Active shooter at Weslayan & Bissonnet has been shot by our officers; no reports of other suspects at this time #hounews
— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) September 26, 2016
Spain arrests 2 Moroccans for jihad support
Spain’s Interior Ministry says police have arrested two alleged pro-jihad activists, including one who allegedly attempted to join the armed Islamic State group in Syria to be trained to carry out attacks in Europe.
A ministry statement says the two Moroccans were arrested separately in the northwestern city of Valladolid and in southeastern Murcia.
The ministry says one of the men became indoctrinated on the internet and traveled to Turkey’s border with Syria to join the IS group and be trained. He was arrested by Turkish police, but later released.
The ministry says he returned to Spain and resumed contacts with the second Moroccan, who was helping him try to enter Syria again.
Spanish police have arrested dozens of people for alleged links to extremist groups in recent years.
Soldier hurt in target practice accident
An IDF soldier is lightly injured when shrapnel hits him in the back during target practice at the Adam base, east of Jerusalem.
The IDF says it is investigating the circumstances of the incident.
Several hospitalized after Houston shooting
Police say several people have been taken to the hospital after the shooting in Houston, but that they cannot provide details about how many were shot or the severity of their injuries.
The shooting comes days after a shooting at a Washington state mall that left five people dead. On September 17, a 20-year-old man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall before being shot to death by an off-duty police officer.
Trump campaign says fact-checking debate would help Clinton
The two presidential campaigns disagree on whether moderators should fact-check the candidates’ comments during debates.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, says debate moderators should correct any false statements by Trump so Clinton can use her time discussing her plans instead of correcting her rival. But Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, says fact-checking Trump is tantamount to helping Clinton.
Mook tells NBC’s “Today” show that the media needs to hold Trump accountable and not use low expectations to judge his performance. “We don’t want Donald Trump’s lies, distortions to be a distraction,” he said.
Conway tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the Clinton campaign is trying to “game the ref” — a reference to debate moderators — by pushing them to correct Trump’s statements.
Zionist Union MK endorses Ehud Barak campaign
Former prime minister Ehud Barak, who by all indications is mulling a comeback, receives an unexpected tailwind from a member of his former party.
In a tweet that features a pre-retirement (and pre-retirement beard) picture of Barak, MK Yoel Hasson of the Zionist Union calls for a “revolution” in the party in order to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I call on anyone who wants to replace the government rather than praise it… to participate and join,” he tweets, linking to a longer Facebook post in which he details his reasons for endorsing Barak.
— יואל חסון YoelHasson (@HassonYoel) September 26, 2016
Incidentally, the current leader of the party, Isaac Herzog, who has not been inspiring much respect in his colleagues of late, publishes a statement asserting that he has no intention of bringing his party into the coalition and will in fact be launching an “aggressive campaign against Netanyahu” soon.
BOI keeps interest rate at 0.1 percent
The Bank of Israel leaves the interest rate unchanged for the month, at 0.1 percent.
In a statement, BOI says the decision is consistent with a monetary policy that “is intended to return the inflation rate to within the price stability target range of 1-3 percent a year, and to support growth while maintaining financial stability.
“The Monetary Committee continues to assess that in view of the inflation environment, and of developments in the global economy, in the exchange rate, as well as in monetary policies of major central banks, monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable time.”
Facebook briefly closes Palestinian journalists’ pages, apologizes
Facebook apologizes after temporarily disabling accounts linked to two Palestinian news sites critical of Israel, a move that drew concern over potential online censorship.
Facebook pages of a number of editors of Quds News Network were suspended for several hours last Friday, a campaigner said, in what the social media giant now calls a “mistake.”
Pages linked to the Shehab News Agency were also disabled, an editor there said.
Quds has 5.2 million likes on Facebook, while Shehab has 6.35 million.
“The pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate,” Facebook says in a statement.
“Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”
The US-based company does not respond to a request for more details on what prompted the closures.
At least 10 Turkish troops said killed in PKK attacks
Ten members of the Turkish security forces were killed in two separate attacks in southeastern Turkey on Monday blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), local media reports.
Two soldiers and two village guards — locals employed to combat Kurdish militants — were killed and six others wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Mardin province, the state-run Anadolu news agency reports.
The bomb, planted by the PKK, exploded when a vehicle carrying the forces passed by, it says. The authorities have launched an operation to hunt down the “terrorists” who fled, it adds.
In a separate incident, six Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with the PKK on a highway by the town of Uludere near the Iraqi border, the private Dogan news agency reports.
Another soldier is wounded in clashes that erupted at a checkpoint near a prison on the highway, according to Dogan.
Wet blanket Netanyahu won’t air laundry spending
Prime Minister Netanyahu files an appeal demanding that details on the money his official residence spent on laundry during 2014 be kept under wraps.
In his legal demand to suppress the relevant documents, which were requested by the Movement for Freedom of Information, Netanyahu names the attorney general and the official in charge of freedom of information in his office.
He says the information is “private.”
Netanyahu and his family have been criticized in recent years amid reports of excessive spending, with some cases yielding official probes.
Iran says it has freed Iranian-Canadian academic
Iranian-Canadian anthropologist Homa Hoodfar, who was arrested and jailed in Tehran in June for “security offenses,” has been released and has left the country, the Foreign Ministry says.
The official IRNA news agency quotes a ministry spokesman as saying that the 65-year-old with dual nationality, who had also been accused of “feminist activities,” was freed “for humanitarian reasons.”
Hoodfar traveled to Oman and on to Canada, he says.
Iranian state television has said Hoodfar was a founding member of a London-based advocacy group, Women Living Under Muslim Law (WLUML).
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says in a statement that Canadians are relieved that Hoodfar has been released and will “soon be reunited with her family, friends and colleagues.”
“The government of Canada has been actively and constructively engaged at the highest levels… since her ordeal began,” he says.
“In the absence of diplomatic representation of its own in Iran, Canada worked closely with others who were instrumental in helping secure Dr Hoodfar’s release –- most notably Oman, Italy and Switzerland.
“I would also like to recognize the cooperation of those Iranian authorities who facilitated her release and repatriation,” Trudeau says. “They understand that cases like these impede more productive relations.”
Jewish woman accused of assaulting Arab taxi driver
A Jewish-Israeli woman is accused of committing a racist assault in Jerusalem, after she allegedly threatened an Arab-Israeli taxi driver and tried to keep people from boarding taxis driven by Arabs.
According to Ynet, the woman, 27-year-old Osher Mizrahi, allegedly threatened one taxi driver with a stick, saying: “We’ll slaughter you and burn you like we burned Muhammed Abu Khdeir,” an Arab teenager murdered by Jewish extremists in 2014.
Yesh Atid opening lead over Likud, poll finds
A poll published by Israel’s Channel 1 predicts a growing lead for Yesh Atid over Likud.
It says that were elections to be held today, Yair Lapid’s party would win 25 Knesset seats to Likud’s 21, with the Zionist Union sinking to become only the fifth-largest party, with 12 seats.
The Joint List and Jewish Home would win 13, the poll predicts.
A Channel 2 poll earlier this month predicted a 24-22 lead for Yesh Atid over Likud, with the Zionist Union landing only 13 seats.
Israelis still prefer Netanyahu to Lapid in PM race
Channel 1’s poll also features respondents’ answers as to their preferred candidate for prime minister.
Here, Netanyahu is ahead with 24 percent, followed by Lapid’s 17%.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett gets 8%, then opposition head Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman with 7%.
Bringing up the rear are two erstwhile generals, former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi with 6%, and Ehud Barak, who has already served as prime minister. He receives a paltry 2%, which doesn’t bode well for his emerging campaign.
Fully 29% of respondents didn’t warm to any of the options.
Jewish WWII ‘Avenger’ Joseph Harmatz dead at 91
Holocaust survivor Joseph Harmatz, who led the most daring attempt by Jews to seek revenge against their former Nazi tormentors, has died. He was 91.
His son, Ronel Harmatz, confirms the death.
Harmatz was one of the few remaining Jewish “Avengers” who carried out a mass poisoning of former SS officers in an American prisoner-of-war camp in 1946 that sickened more than 2,200 Germans, but caused no known deaths. The message echoed into a rallying cry for the newborn state of Israel.
Harmatz, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, spoke to The Associated Press shortly before his death and remained unapologetic for his actions.
After the war, Harmatz worked at the Jewish Agency and was director general of World ORT, a Jewish educational organization.
US mall shooting suspect confesses to slayings
The young man accused of killing five people in a Washington state shopping mall before leading authorities on a nearly 24-hour manhunt has confessed to the slayings, according to court documents released Monday.
The documents filed in Skagit Court say Arcan Cetin told detectives who interviewed him that “he did bring the rifle into Macy’s and shot all five victims.”
The 20-year-old was arrested Saturday evening following the slayings at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, on Friday evening.
Cetin, who faces five charges of premeditated murder, will be making an initial court appearance late Monday morning. Authorities are asking that he be held on a $2 million bond.
As the surrounding area absorbed news of the arrest, critical questions remained, including the gunman’s motive. The FBI said early Saturday that there was no indication the shooting was terrorism, but local authorities said later in the day that they were ruling nothing out.
Bill Clinton to travel with wife to debate
Hillary Clinton will have some presidential support as she heads to Hempstead, New York, for her debate: her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
An aide to the former president says he’ll travel to the debate with his wife. The aide isn’t saying yet whether Bill Clinton will actually attend the debate.
The aide isn’t authorized to discuss Bill Clinton’s plans by name and requests anonymity.
The debate’s run-up has been filled with speculation about who will or won’t attend. Donald Trump’s campaign walked back his suggestion that he might invite Gennifer Flowers, a woman who had an affair with Bill Clinton.