US blocks UN Security Council statement on Israel-Hezbollah violence
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US blocks UN Security Council statement on Israel-Hezbollah violence

Diplomatic sources say Washington twice rejected text drawn up by France because it failed to specifically condemn Iran-backed terror group

File: A UN Security Council meeting on June 6, 2019. (Eskinder Debebe/UN)
File: A UN Security Council meeting on June 6, 2019. (Eskinder Debebe/UN)

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

Palestinians refugees in Lebanon want asylum in Canada

Hundreds of Palestinian refugees, waving Palestinian and Canadian flags, are gathered outside the Canadian Embassy in Beirut, requesting asylum in the North American country.

Many among the group are lamenting the deteriorating economic and living conditions in Lebanon and say they want a more dignified life.

The periodic protests outside the embassy on the coastal highway north of Beirut began a few weeks ago, after a crackdown on undocumented foreign labor by Lebanese authorities.

There are tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Lebanon. Most of them live in squalid camps with no access to public services, limited employment opportunities and no rights to ownership.

Today’s protesters are also decrying what they say is widespread corruption at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA.

— AP

Erdogan threatens to flood Europe with Syrian refugees if no support

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is threatening to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Western countries unless a so-called “safe zone” inside Syria is established soon.

Erdogan made the threat in a speech to his ruling party officials on Thursday. He also said Turkey was determined to create the safe zone and would do it alone if there’s no deal with the US by the end of the month.

He says Turkey aims to resettle about 1 million out of the 3.65 million Syrian refugees in the safe zone.

Syrian refugees walk on their way back to the Syrian city of Jarabulus on September 7, 2016 at Karkamis crossing gate, in the southern region of Kilis, Turkey. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)

Erdogan says: “We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone.”

He also added that Turkey “did not receive the support needed from the world” to help it cope with Syrian refugees.

— AP

In new blow, Boris Johnson’s brother quits UK government

Britain’s divide over Brexit has cost Prime Minister Boris Johnson another member of his embattled government — his own brother.

Jo Johnson announces he’s quitting as an education minister and will step down from Parliament, saying he’s “torn between family loyalty and the national interest.”

He tweeted that “it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister.”

Jo Johnson opposed leaving the European Union during the 2016 referendum campaign and later said the country should not quit the bloc without a divorce deal. But in July he accepted a job in the government formed by his brother, who argued the UK must leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal.

— AP

Iran to provide details of latest nuclear move Saturday

Iran will announce details Saturday of its latest scaling back of its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal in response to sweeping US sanctions, the semi-official ISNA news agency reports.

Atomic energy organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi will hold a news conference to set out the details of Iran’s third cut in its nuclear commitments since May, according to ISNA.

Yesterday, President Hassan Rouhani said the new steps included abandoning all limits set by the 2015 deal to Iran’s nuclear research and development.

— AFP

Netanyahu arrives at 10 Downing Street for talks with Johnson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived at 10 Downing Street for talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The two are expected to discuss the growing tensions with Iran.

Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who is currently in London.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside 10 Downing Street in central London on September 5, 2019. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

EU urges Iran to ‘reverse’ scale-back from nuclear deal

The EU is urging Iran to reverse its scale-back of commitments to the nuclear accord struck with world powers after the Islamic Republic announced it was ending curbs on atomic research.

“These activities we consider are inconsistent with the JCPOA (the nuclear accord). And in this context we urge Iran to reverse these steps and refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal,” European Commission spokesman Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela tells a media briefing in Brussels.

— AFP

Massive fire breaks out at Haifa oil factory

A massive fire has broken out at an oil factory in the coastal city of Haifa, causing huge plumes of black smoke dozens of meters into the sky.

There are no immediate reports of injuries. Firefighters from the nearby city of Hadera and the Zevulun Regional Council are making their way to Haifa to help battle the flames.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the fire broke out in a storage facility that holds 80 tons of oil.

The reports say the Haifa port has been closed to all maritime traffic until further notice.

Netanyahu urges greater cooperation with UK to counter Iran ‘aggression’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he would like greater bilateral cooperation with the United Kingdom in countering what he calls the “challenge of Iran’s aggression and terrorism.”

Speaking after a short meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, Netanyahu hails close Israel-UK ties, and thanks his counterpart for his “stance against anti-Semitism and support for Israel’s security.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes PM Netanyahu to 10 Downing Street, September 5, 2019 (Haim Tzach/GPO)

“We have the challenge of Iran’s aggression and terrorism, and I’d like to talk to you about how we can work together to counter these things for the benefit of peace,” Netanyahu says. “And I want to thank you for this opportunity to do so.”

UK government schedules new vote for Monday on snap election

The British government says it will try again next week to trigger an election after its first attempt was rejected by Parliament.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg says a vote will be held Monday on a motion calling for a snap poll.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to hold an election to break the country’s Brexit impasse. But opposition lawmakers are refusing to support him unless he lifts his threat to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 without a divorce agreement.

Parliament is currently passing a law that would compel the government to seek a delay to Brexit rather than crash out on Halloween. The opposition Labour Party says once the bill becomes law — expected to happen Monday — the party will agree to a new election.

— AP

Former police chief slams lack of permanent successor

Former Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich calls for a permanent police commissioner to be appointed immediately, saying that the government’s failure to have done so for the last nine months “seriously damages the vital independence of the force.”

“The independence of the police is absolutely central to Israeli society. In order for there to be independence, there needs to be a permanent commissioner. It can’t be that we are 9 months without a permanent commissioner and everyone is silent,” Alsheich tells Channel 12’s “Influencers Conference” in Tel Aviv.

“There are many candidates from within the police who can fulfill the role. The elections should not delay the appointment of the police commissioner,” he adds.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich at an Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The police force has been led by interim chief Motti Cohen since December 2, when Roni Alsheich ended his term, after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s candidate for the post, Moshe Edri, withdrew his candidacy amid a public scandal over his conduct. Since then, the dissolution of the Knesset and two national elections have delayed the appointment of a permanent commissioner.

Alsheich, who ended his term as Israel’s top cop last year, oversaw three police investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all of which ultimately yielded police recommendations of indictment for bribery and other charges. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has since announced that he plans to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, for the charges.

— Raoul Wootliff

Education minister announces elementary school cellphone ban

Education Minister Rafi Peretz announces a decision to ban cellphones from all elementary schools in Israel.

“We have come to a decision in the Education Ministry that children in elementary school will be able to bring cellphones to school for the sake of getting there and getting home but they will not be allowed to turn them on during school hours anywhere on the school’s property,” Peretz tells Channel 12’s Influencers Conference in Tel Aviv.

Currently, Peretz explains, some elementary school enforce that rule, or other limitations on cellphone use, but there is no ministry ruling across the board.

Peretz says he wants to see children “playing, talking and interacting with each other” instead of looking their cellphone screens.

— Raoul Wootliff

Liberman: Netanyahu would even appoint Ayman Odeh as FM to stay in power

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman hits out at Netanyahu, telling attendees of Channel 12’s Influencers Conference that the prime minister will do whatever it takes to stay in power, including appoint an Arab lawmaker to a senior cabinet position.

“Netanyahu will do anything to stay in power, even if he has to appoint Ayman Odeh as foreign minister, he would have no problem,” Liberman says.

He goes on to criticize Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for his willingness to make concessions to the ultra-Orthodox parties, and says he will likely end up the defense minister in Netanyahu’s government.

Lapid hits back at ultra-Orthodox, says ‘no disaster’ if parties join opposition

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid hits back at ultra-Orthodox parties after Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman accused him of “infecting” the center-right alliance against the religious minority.

“It won’t be a disaster if Litzman and [Moshe] Gafi are in the opposition,” he says at a Channel 12 conference.

Lapid says he believes Blue and White will win the September elections, and will be able to form a majority government without the ultra-Orthodox parties.

“It will still be our responsibility to uphold the Jewish identity of Israel but also to make sure that evry child — whether they are secular or ultra-Orthodox — learn math and English while they are at school,” he says. “There is nothing non-Jewish about that.”

Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz (right) and Yair Lapid speak during a campaign event in Kiryat Ono, on August 7, 2019. (Flash90)

Yesterday, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed to form a “liberal” unity government if he’s tasked with putting together a coalition after the upcoming elections, appearing to rule out joining forces with ultra-Orthodox and national religious parties.

Earlier today, Litzman charged that Gantz had been “infected” by the “contagious disease” that is Lapid, who has long been a bane of ultra-Orthodox politicians.

After Netanyahu, Johnson meets Pence amid Brexit crisis

US Vice President Mike Pence tiptoed into the Brexit fury as he met with embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Wrapping up a week in Europe, Pence thanks Johnson for the welcome “at a very busy time here in the United Kingdom.”

Johnson downplays the Brexit drama, saying it’s “always busy.”

Pence delivered greetings from US President Donald Trump and said Trump has asked him to assure Johnson that the US “supports the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union” and “is ready, willing and able to immediately negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) holds a meeting with US Vice-President Mike Pence (L) inside 10 Downing Street in central London on September 5, 2019. (Peter SUMMERS / POOL / AFP)

Johnson replies that was “fantastic.” He expressed hope for the removal of trade barriers on British products including lamb, beef and haggis, a Scottish delicacy made with the lungs of sheep.

Johnson has been pushing for an early election as a way to break Britain’s Brexit impasse, as lawmakers try to stop the UK from leaving the European Union next month without a divorce deal in place.

His meeting with Pence comes hours after he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

— AP

Police intercept 300 kilos of marijuana, hash at Egyptian border

Border Police officers intercepted a shipment of marijuana and hash at the Egyptian border early this morning, according to a police statement.

The statement says that undercover officers spotted dozens of Egyptian drug smugglers tossing packages over the border fence.

Officers confiscated 300 kilos of drugs and two vehicles belonging to smugglers on the Israeli side.

NATO says US, Romanian soldiers killed in Kabul blast

The NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan says a US service member and a Romanian soldier were killed in the Taliban suicide car bombing in Kabul.

The statement gives no details, simply saying they were killed in action in the Afghan capital on Thursday. The name of the US service member was being withheld for 24 hours until the family was notified in accord with Pentagon policy.

The Romanian soldier was also not identified.

Resolute Support (RS) forces remove a damaged vehicle after a car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 5, 2019 (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan officials say the Thursday morning suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in an area close to the Resolute Support mission and the US Embassy in Kabul also killed at least 10 civilians.

— AP

Jordanian teachers demanding wage increases clash with police

Thousands of Jordanian teachers have held a protest demanding higher wages, with some scuffling with security forces.

Organizers of Thursday’s demonstration in the capital, Amman, say the government has yet to deliver on a 50% wage increase agreed upon in 2014.

Security forces blocked roads and prevented the protesters from reaching the prime minister’s office. The teachers gathered in different areas, chanting anti-government slogans and calling for an open-ended sit-in.

Jordanian teachers clash with security forces during a protest in the capital Amman on September 5, 2019. (Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

Organizers had called on teachers in other cities to protest at their schools if security forces prevented them from traveling to Amman.

The government says it is committed to dialogue with the teachers but that classes should not be interrupted and performance must improve. The Education Ministry says a 50% salary increase would cost nearly $160 million per year.

— AP

Johnson, Netanyahu said to agree on need to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran

Netanyahu and Johnson during their meeting agreed on the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and contain its “destabilizing behavior” in the region, according to news reports.

“Both Prime Ministers agreed on the need to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon and stop wider destabilizing Iranian behavior,” a spokeswoman from 10 Downing Street is quoted as saying.

“The Prime Minister stressed the need for dialogue and a diplomatic solution,” she adds.

Johnson and Netanyahu met briefly to discuss regional issues earlier today. Netanyahu indicated went to London mainly to discuss Iran’s increasing regional aggression with his British counterpart.

Netanyahu says ‘there’s a chance’ for a Trump-Rouhani meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says “there’s a chance” that US President Donald Trump will meet with his Iranian counterpart in the near future.

But Netanyahu tells journalists after his meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London that he “won’t tell Trump who he can meet and when.”

Earlier today, Netanyahu said it was not the time to dialogue with Iran, and called for international pressure on the Islamic Republic after it ended limits to its nuclear research and development in its latest response to US sanctions.

Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt to quit after peace plan released

Jason Greenblatt, the US administration’s top Middle East peace envoy, is planning to step down after the release of the administration’s long-anticipated peace plan, the White House announces.

“Jason Greenblatt has decided to return to New Jersey to be with his wife and six children, who throughout the administration have resided in New Jersey,” a senior administration official tells reporters on a conference call, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Greenblatt continues to “hold the confidence” of US President Donald Trump and his senior peace team, the official adds.

— Raphael Ahren

PM thanks Greenblatt for his ‘dedication to peace’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Trump’s outgoing peace envoy Jason Greenblatt for his attempts to cobble together a proposal for a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal over the last two and a half years.

“I would like to thank Jason Greenblatt for his dedication to toward peace and security, and for never hesitating for a moment to speak the truth about Israel in front of those who defame it.”

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, June 20, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Palestinians slam outgoing Trump envoy as apologist for ‘extremist’ Netanayhu govt

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi says Trump’s outgoing Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt was an apologist for the “extreme” policies of the Netanyahu government, and was more suited to be a spokesman for Israel than a White House adviser.

“Jason Greenblatt was viewed by everybody as an apologist for Israel, a defender of the most extreme, hard-line policies of this government in Israel and somebody who holds its ideologically right-wing views,” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi tells the Times of Israel.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks at a press conference in Ramallah on February 24, 2015. (WAFA/File)

“He was always on a crusade to malign the Palestinians and justify anything the Israelis do,” she says.

“He was someone more suited to be a spokesman for Israel. At the same time, I don’t think it was personal,” Ashrawi says. “This administration certainly is not one that has been friendly to the Palestinians and all the people it has appointed have the clear prerequisite of being pro-Israel and holding an ideological commitment to Zionism and extreme Israeli hard-line policies.”

Trump: Greenblatt’s efforts to broker Mideast peace ‘won’t be forgotten’

US President Donald Trump thanks his outgoing Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt for his service and says his “dedication to Israel and to seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians won’t be forgotten.”

He says Greenblatt is pursuing work in the private sector.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and partner on the peace proposal, also thanks Greenblatt, saying his “work has helped develop the relationships between Israel and its neighbors as he is trusted and respected by all of the leaders throughout the region.”

US President Donald Trump (R) and Special Negotiations adviser Jason Greenblatt. (Twitter)

— with AP

Egypt says six suspected jihadists killed south of Cairo

Six suspected jihadists were killed earlier today in a shootout with police near the Bahariya oasis southwest of the Egyptian capital, the interior ministry says.

Police carried out a dawn raid against “terrorist elements” in a desert area near Bahariya, roughly 300 kilometers (190 miles) southwest of Cairo, the ministry said in a statement.

A shootout led to the death of six suspects, the ministry says, adding that a number of hunting rifles and four assault rifles were found at the site.

Jihadists have launched several attacks in the vast desert area west of the Nile.

— AFP

Three senior Zehut officials endorse Shaked’s Yamina

Three senior officials from Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party officially endorse Ayelet Shaked’s Yamina faction for the upcoming elections.

In a press conference, Gilad Alper, Libby Molad and Refael Minnes announce their decision and call on other party members to vote for the right-wing slate on September 17.

Yamina’s No. 2, Naftali Bennett, says he’s “proud that we are embarking on a journey together for freedom in Israel.”

The move by the Zehut lawmakers comes after Feiglin last week re-joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party for the September vote in exchange for a ministerial post in the next government.

2 weeks before election re-do, polls show Likud still tied with Blue and White

Polls conducted by major TV news channels indicate the ruling Likud party and opposition Blue and White are neck-and-neck ahead of upcoming elections.

The polls conducted by Channel 12 and 13 show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud would win 32 seats if elections were held today, as would former army chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Blue and White. Both parties received 35 seats in the 120-member Knesset in the April 9 elections.

According to Channel 13, Avidor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party comes in third place with 11 seats, followed by the Joint List and Ayelet Shaked’s Yamina with 10 seats.

United Torah Judaism polls at 8 seats, Shas at 6, the Democratic Camp at 6, Labor-Gesher at 5 seats. The extremist Otzma Yehudit falls short of the electoral threshold.

Channel 13’s poll was conducted by Camille Fuchs and samples 1,200 Israeli voters.

Channel 12 has the Joint List coming in third with 10 seats, with Yisrael Beytenu and Yamina tied at 9 seats apiece. United Torah Judaism polls at 8 seats, Shas at 7, the Democratic Camp at 7, Labor-Gesher at 6 seats.

UN peacekeepers investigate Hezbollah missile attack

United Nations peacekeepers conducted an independent investigation of Sunday’s Hezbollah missile attack, visiting the areas hit in the strikes yesterday, the Israel Defense Forces says.

“Following the commander of UNIFIL’s declaration on Sunday [September 1] that a violation of the UN Security Council resolution 1701 took place by Hezbollah, yesterday an investigation into the event was conducted by a technical team from UNIFIL, at the IDF’s request,” the army says in a statement.

A man holds the apparent remains of an anti-tank missile that was fired by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, near the northern moshav of Avivim, September 1, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The technical team visits the road where two anti-tank guided missiles were fired at a military vehicle and a battalion headquarters that was also targeted in the strike. There were no Israeli casualties in the attack but some damage was caused, according to the IDF.

“The findings of [UNIFIL’s] report will be presented to the UN headquarters in New York,” the IDF says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Miriam Adelson says Sara Netanyahu yelled at her when Israel Hayom ‘didn’t defend Bibi’ — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara used to harangue Miriam Adelson, wife of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whenever the Adelson-controlled Israel Hayom daily wrote what she believed to be unflattering articles about her husband.

According to leaked transcripts from her interview with the Israel Police, Miriam Adelson said Sara Netanyahu would call her up and yell at her for minutes at a time when she felt the couple “wasn’t defending them” sufficiently.

“She once told me that if Iran gets nuclear weapons and Israel is wiped out it’ll be my fault because I didn’t protect Bibi,” Miriam Adeslson is quoted as saying by Channel 13.

American billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson (R) and his wife Miriam meet Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu, at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem, May 13, 2008. (Anna Kaplan /FLASH90/ File)

Miriam Adelson was questioned in Case 2000, which involves suspicions that Benjamin Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. The prime minister faces charges of fraud and breach of trust pending an October hearing in that case.

This and other reported readouts from her interrogation has revealed the extent to which both the prime minister and his wife were involved in Israel Hayom’s content each day.

US blocks UN Security Council statement on Israel over Hezbollah omission

The US has blocked a UN Security Council statement on tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, rejecting any criticism of Israel and forcing the text to be scrapped, according to diplomatic sources.

In the first version of the six-point text, seen by AFP, council members expressed “deep concern at the recent incidents” during a flare-up between the sides across the “Blue Line” border.

The draft, drawn up by France, added that “members of the security council condemned all violations of the Blue Line, both by air and ground, and strongly calls upon all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities.”

According to diplomats, Washington blocked the statement twice, calling for Hezbollah to be specifically condemned in the text.

Washington said it was impossible for it to back any statement putting Israel’s right to self-determination on an equal footing with Hezbollah, which it considers a “terrorist organization,” a diplomat explained.

Several other members of the security council objected to the US stance, and the text was eventually abandoned.

— AFP

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