AIPAC leaders meet Netanyahu over Western Wall, conversion bill
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Live updates (closed)Latest: US Supreme Court to hear restitution case from ’97 Hamas bombing in Jerusalem

In biggest terror forfeiture in US history, NY jury finds against Iran-linked skyscraper

Prosecutors will not appeal Olmert parole; he walks free on Sunday; UN condemns fighting in buffer zone between Syria and Israel

  • Aerial view of New York's financial district (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
    Aerial view of New York's financial district (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
  • Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on February 10, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)
    Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on February 10, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)
  • A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border shows smoke rising near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights during fights between the rebels and the Syrian army on June 25, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
    A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border shows smoke rising near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights during fights between the rebels and the Syrian army on June 25, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
  • Screen capture of a Jewish couple who performed a surreptitious wedding on the Temple Mount. (Screen capture: Israel National News)
    Screen capture of a Jewish couple who performed a surreptitious wedding on the Temple Mount. (Screen capture: Israel National News)
  • Parents of late Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin at a protest tent outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, June 27, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Parents of late Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin at a protest tent outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, June 27, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Newly elected Hamas chief, Ismail Haniya, flashes the V-sign after visiting protesters taking part in a sit-in in support of Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners held in Israeli jails, on May 8, 2017, in Gaza City. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
    Newly elected Hamas chief, Ismail Haniya, flashes the V-sign after visiting protesters taking part in a sit-in in support of Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners held in Israeli jails, on May 8, 2017, in Gaza City. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

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

Israel said denying family visits to Hamas prisoners

Hamas says Israel is now denying family visits to members of the terror organization in Israel’s prisons.

Israeli sources unofficially confirm the report, but refusing to do so on the record.

According to Hamas, the new measure is intended to pressure the group to release two Israeli citizens held in Gaza and the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

“We condemn the punishment against our prisoners,” Hamas says in a statement that calls the move “the beginning of a war against the prisoners. We will not allow this decision to stand, whatever the price may be.”

— Avi Issacharoff

Partial US travel restrictions going into effect

The Trump administration sets new criteria for visa applicants from six mainly Muslim nations and all refugees that require a “close” family or business tie to the United States. The move comes after the Supreme Court partially restored US President Donald Trump’s executive order that was widely criticized as a ban on Muslims.

Visas that have already been approved will not be revoked, but instructions issued by the State Department Wednesday say that new applicants from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the United States to be eligible. The same requirement, with some exceptions, holds for would-be refugees from all nations that are still awaiting approval for admission to the US.

Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiancees or other extended family members are not considered to be close relationships, according to the guidelines that were issued in a cable sent to all US embassies and consulates late on Wednesday. The new rules take effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday (0000 GMT on Friday), according to the cable, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

As far as business or professional links are concerned, the State Department said a legitimate relationship must be “formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading” the ban. Journalists, students, workers or lecturers who have valid invitations or employment contracts in the US would be exempt from the ban. A hotel reservation or car rental contract, even if it was pre-paid, would also not count, it says.

— AP

Russia says new British aircraft carrier a ‘convenient target’

Russia on Thursday mocks Britain’s brand new HMS Elizabeth II aircraft carrier, saying it was above all a “convenient target” for Moscow’s forces.

The Russian defense ministry describes as “arrogant” comments by British defense minister Michael Fallon, who labeled Russia’s only aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov as “dilapidated” and said Moscow would look at the UK’s new vessel “with a little bit of envy.”

Fallon’s comments “prove a clear lack of naval knowledge,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says in a statement.

“Unlike the Admiral Kuznetsov, which is equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-submarine missiles and especially Granit missiles to hit ships, the British aircraft carrier is nothing but a big, convenient target in the sea,” he adds.

“With this in mind, it is in the interest of the British Royal Navy not to show off the ‘beauty’ of its aircraft carrier in open waters any closer than from several hundred miles.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth, a 280-meter (919-foot), 65,000-ton vessel, is the largest and most powerful ship ever built for the Royal Navy and set off for its first sea trial on Monday. It cost £3.0 billion ($3.8 billion) to build.

Tug boats maneuver the 65,000-ton British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on the Firth of Forth in east Scotland, on June 26, 2016, after escorting it out of its berth in Rosyth Naval dockyard to begin sea trials. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)
Tug boats maneuver the 65,000-ton British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on the Firth of Forth in east Scotland, on June 26, 2016, after escorting it out of its berth in Rosyth Naval dockyard to begin sea trials. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)

— AFP

Most Israeli Jews back liberal streams on Western Wall, conversion

Nearly two-thirds of Israeli Jews are opposed to the government’s cancellation on Sunday of the Western Wall agreement between the state of Israel and the liberal Jewish streams.

According to a poll by activist group Hiddush, which is generally identified with the liberal streams, fully 63 percent of respondents say the cancellation was wrong. Just 37% support canceling the deal.

Resistance to the latest conversion bill, which is similarly opposed by American Jewish leaders, is just as high. According to the poll, 64% of Israeli Jews oppose the bill, while 36% support it.

The figures appear to cover only those who expressed an opinion. There is no indication of anyone responding that they don’t know or care.

The poll is conducted by Smith Polling Institute on June 27 with a sample size of 500 respondents that are representative of the adult Jewish population.

Germany denies permission for Erdogan rally on G-20 visit

Germany will deny permission for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to address Turks at a rally when he visits for the upcoming Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany’s foreign minister says Thursday.

Turkey officially requested permission Wednesday for Erdogan to make the appearance while in Germany for the July 7-8 summit, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says during a trip to Russia. Gabriel says he told his Turkish counterpart weeks ago that “we don’t think this is a good idea.”

“We are telling Turkey that we are convinced such an appearance in Germany is not possible,” Gabriel says, according to news agency dpa.

Earlier Thursday, Gabriel said that “Mr. Erdogan is an important guest at the G-20 and will be received with all honors by us there. But we believe everything that goes beyond that is inappropriate at this point in time.”

Germany has a large ethnic Turkish minority. Earlier this year, Erdogan accused Germany, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, of “committing Nazi practices” after some local authorities blocked appearances by Turkish ministers hoping to campaign in Germany ahead of Turkey’s referendum on expanding presidential powers.

— AP

UK names head of inquiry into London tower fire

British Prime Minister Theresa May appoints a retired judge Thursday to chair a public inquiry into the devastating west London fire that killed at least 80 people, as more high rises across the country fail fire-safety tests.

May chooses Martin Moore-Bick, a retired court of appeal judge, to head the investigation into the June 14 Grenfell Tower blaze.

“I am determined that there will be justice for all the victims of this terrible tragedy and for their families who have suffered so terribly,” May says.

Fire safety experts have expressed shock at how quickly the public housing tower block became engulfed in flames after a blaze began in a refrigerator. Attention has focused on aluminum cladding installed during recent renovations, and authorities want answers fast because thousands of other buildings are affected.

Hundreds of local government-owned buildings across Britain are being tested to see whether their cladding is fire-resistant. So far, all have failed — 137 buildings in 41 areas.

— AP

Simcha Goldin, father of fallen soldier, praises new pressure on Hamas prisoners

Simcha Goldin, father of Hadar Goldin, the fallen soldier whose body is still held by Hamas some three years after it was taken from the battlefield in the 2014 Gaza war, praises the Israeli government’s reported decision to deny family visits to Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons.

“We’ve been asking the government for two and a half years to apply pressure on Hamas in order to change the equation, to make them understand that holding IDF soldiers is a burden rather than an asset. Something is finally moving,” he adds, according to the Ynet news site.

Rivlin urges government to prioritize ‘unity of the Jewish people’

President Reuven Rivlin weighs in on the Western Wall controversy in an open letter that calls on all sides to remember “that beyond the disagreements, we are all one family.”

The brief missive reads:

As a child I used to walk with my father to the Kotel [Western Wall] each year to hear the shofar blown at the end of Yom Kippur, at a time when Jerusalem was under the British Mandate. I still remember arriving at the crowded area packed with worshipers, while among them waited uniformed British policemen. The tense silence was eventually broken by the cry of the shofar that sounded strongly despite the British policemen who immediately rushed forward to silence the shofar blower who was closely surrounded by his fellow worshipers. For me, this event was a symbol of the eternal faith of our People.

Since then we have all been involved in reconstructing our homeland. During this process we inevitably have to face difficult disputes among us, disputes that are both painful and yet very real, founded in genuine belief. Even so, we must remember that beyond the disagreements, we are all one family and that every Jew has a special place in their heart for the Kotel, the last remnant of our Holy Temple.

The State of Israel is the state of all the Jewish People and will continue to be faithful to that commitment. Our fellow Jews in the Diaspora have an important and significant role in the building of the State of Israel. This has always been so, and will continue to be so. The unity of the Jewish People must always remain an important aspiration of the governments of Israel.

Shaul family urges government to keep up pressure on Hamas

The family of fallen IDF soldier Oron Shaul urges the government to continue upping the pressure on Hamas to return Shaul’s body, taken during the 2014 Gaza war.

“We’re turning to the government of Israel and the man who leads it — don’t let up. This is the right decision, and we hope its purpose is to return Oron at the earliest possible opportunity from Hamas’s hands,” the family says in a statement.

Welfare minister questioned in IAI corruption probe

Welfare Minister Haim Katz is questioned by the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit.

The minister is facing suspicions of ethical violations in a broader Israel Aerospace Industries corruption probe.

A statement from police says the details of the case cannot yet be publicized, but notes that the questioning of Katz was approved by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Trump ridicules female TV host’s looks, calls her ‘crazy’

US President Donald Trump ridicules the looks and temperament of a female cable television host whose show he says he’s stopped watching.

Trump uses a series of tweets to go after Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who’ve criticized Trump on their MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”

Here’s what Trump says: “I heard poorly rated @Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came … to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

They spent time at Trump’s Florida resort — a visit Scarborough said was to arrange a Trump interview.

The White House is not responding to a request for comment.

— AP

AIPAC leaders meet Netanyahu over Western Wall, conversion bill

Leaders of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express concern over the government decision on Sunday to freeze the Western Wall compromise.

AIPAC officials also express concern over the conversion bill proposed by ultra-Orthodox parties that won the government’s backing on Sunday.

Philadelphia institutes stiffer penalties after Jewish cemetery vandalism

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signs into law an ethnic intimidation bill introduced after the vandalism of about 175 headstones at a local cemetery.

The Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism bill signed last week, says that fines for desecrating objects will be applied to each individual act of vandalizing a headstone, grave marker or gravesite, according to the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

The fine for damaging just one headstone is $2,000. For a third violation, vandals can be imprisoned for 30 days.

The bill was introduced by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, in an effort to amend the city ordinance dealing with hate crimes. It applies to all cemeteries in Philadelphia.

He tells the Exponent that he introduced the bill “to send a clear message that these hate crimes will not be tolerated.”

The damage to about 175 gravestones at the Mount Carmel Cemetery, in Wissinoming, a neighborhood in the northeast of the city, was discovered in late February, days after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was vandalized. No suspects have been identified.

— JTA

Anti-Semitic, white supremacist fliers dropped in Washington DC neighborhoods

Anti-Semitic and white supremacist fliers are dropped at houses in a Washington, DC, neighborhood.

Jewish and non-Jewish residents of Glover Park found the two-sided fliers on their front doorsteps Wednesday morning, Fox5 reports. The fliers offer several conspiracy theories against Jews and call for a war on Jews.

The same flier has appeared in DC neighborhoods before.

Police are aware of the latest incident.

— JTA

Cyber authority downplays attack on hospitals

Israel’s National Cyber Authority downplays the reported cyberattack earlier today on Israeli hospitals.

Only two hospitals were attacked, rather than the reported eight, the authority says in a statement. The other six hospitals saw a false alarm triggered by their cyber defense systems, the authority explains.

The number of attack sources is also less than initially believed, the statement adds, saying the attack is unconnected to the Petya ransomware attack that has hit European, Russian and American institutions in recent days.

GOP congresswoman assails Trump for crude tweet

Five-term congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, a Republican of Kansas, assails US President Donald Trump for his crude tweet ridiculing a cable news anchor.

She says on Twitter: “This is not okay. As a female in politics I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women.”

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, the president went after Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who have criticized Trump on their MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” Trump called Brzezinski “crazy” and said he had seen her “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

— AP

Jewish activist couple marries surreptitiously on Temple Mount

An Israeli Jewish couple marries surreptitiously at the Temple Mount, in violation of Israeli-imposed rules governing the flashpoint site that forbid Jewish religious rituals.

In footage released today and broadcast on Channel 2, Tom Nisani, chair of the Students Group for the Temple Mount, is shown walking alongside his fiancé at the site, accompanied by the usual police escort for Israeli visitors.

With confidants filming on their cellphones, he then pulls out a ring, announces his fiancé is “consecrated unto me” in the formula required by Jewish tradition, and places the ring on her finger.

He explains to the camera that the couple had married at the holiest place for the Jewish people.

Police say Nisani will be investigated for violating regulations at the site, and may be placed on a no-go list.

Former UK chief rabbi: Each side on Western Wall issue has a place to pray there

Jonathan Sacks, the previous chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, says the existence of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall means liberal Jews were not defeated by the suspension of a plan to expand that area.

Sacks, who is an Orthodox rabbi, discussed the controversy around the Western Wall at a meeting Wednesday in London with activists of Gesher, an Israeli organization that promotes dialogue between the secular and religious in Israeli society, and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora.

“Neither side should exaggerate on the issue. Each side has a place to pray – and therefore we must not think of victory or defeat,” Sacks says in reference to the Israeli government’s decision Sunday to suspend the implementation of a 2016 compromise on the egalitarian prayer area.

Under the compromise, the government agrees to expand the southern section of the holy site, which is used for egalitarian prayer, open an entrance to it from the main Western Wall plaza and appoint an interdenominational commission to oversee it.

Run by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, the main plaza of the Western Wall features separate spaces for men and women. In Reform and Conservative congregations, prayers are held conjointly.

— JTA

Two GOP senators slam Trump tweet disparaging news anchor

Two Republican senators say the president’s crude tweet about a female cable TV host is beneath the dignity of the office.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, US President Donald Trump goes after Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who have criticized Trump on their MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” Trump calls Brzezinski “crazy” and says he had seen her “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse says on Twitter: “Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tweets: “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”

Sasse did not support Trump in the presidential race, and Graham ran against Trump for the GOP nomination.

— AP

White House defends Trump ‘face-lift’ comments as ‘fighting fire with fire’

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defends US President Donald Trump’s tweets disparaging a TV anchor as bleeding from her face due to a face-lift.

“This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media,” Sanders tells Fox News.

IDF drone crashes near Bethlehem

An IDF drone crashes near Bethlehem, the IDF says.

IDF forces on the ground search for and recover the device, and there is “no concern over information leaks,” a statement from the army adds.

Paul Ryan says Trump’s ‘face-lift’ tweets not appropriate

US House Speaker Paul Ryan says President Donald Trump’s crude tweet about a cable news anchor is not an “appropriate comment.”

Ryan tells reporters Thursday: “Obviously I don’t see that as an appropriate comment. What we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone and civility of the debate, and this obviously doesn’t help.”

The Wisconsin Republican is responding to a series of Trump tweets Thursday morning. The president went after Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who have criticized Trump on their MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” Trump called her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and him “Psycho Joe.” He also claimed to have seen Brzezinski “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

— AP

Prosecutors will not appeal Olmert parole; he walks free on Sunday

The State Attorney’s Office says prosecutors will not appeal the early parole of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who saw a third of his sentence commuted on Thursday for good behavior.

Olmert, who is jailed for corruption offenses, will walk free from Ma’asiyahu Prison on Sunday.

UN condemns fighting in buffer zone between Syria and Israel

The UN Security Council on Thursday strongly condemns fighting in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel and urges the Syrian government and opposition groups to withdraw from the area which is patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

A resolution sponsored by Russia and the United States and adopted unanimously Thursday by the UN Security Council extends the mandate of the peacekeeping mission known as UNDOF until Dec. 31.

UNDOF has patrolled the buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974, a year after the 1973 war. For nearly four decades UNDOF helped enforce a stable truce between the two countries but the Syrian war spilled into the zone.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border shows smoke rising near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights during fights between the rebels and the Syrian army on June 25, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border shows smoke rising near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights during fights between the rebels and the Syrian army on June 25, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The six-year conflict has not only seen some intense fighting in the buffer zone but the abduction of peacekeepers by al-Qaeda-linked anti-Syrian government militants, and other attacks that prompted several countries to withdraw their soldiers.

Israel has tried to stay out of the six-year civil war in Syria and refrained from taking sides, but has responded to spillover fire on numerous occasions. The Israeli military said Sunday it attacked a series of targets belonging to the Syrian military, after several projectiles from Syria landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights for a second day.

— AP

Jury finds that NYC skyscraper owner violated Iran sanctions

A civil jury finds that the Iranian-American charity that owns a majority of a Manhattan skyscraper has violated sanctions against Iran.

The verdict is returned Thursday in a New York federal court.

The jury concludes after a monthlong trial that US government lawyers had proved that the Alavi Foundation hid Iran’s role in control of the building.

Acting US Attorney Joon Kim says the verdict will let the United States seize the 36-story Fifth Avenue building. He says the building valued at over a half billion dollars will represent the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in US history.

The government is seeking to turn over proceeds of a sale to holders of over $5 billion in terrorism-related judgments against the government of Iran.

Defense lawyers didn’t immediately comment.

— AP

Another Republican senator slams Trump’s ‘face-lift’ tweet

A Republican senator is alluding to the recent shooting that wounded a congressman in response to the president’s crude tweets about a cable television host.

US Sen. James Lankford insists President Donald Trump and other leaders “should model civility, honor and respect in their political rhetoric.”

The Oklahoma lawmaker says Trump’s comments “don’t help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue.”

— AP

US Supreme Court to hear restitution case from ’97 Hamas bombing in Jerusalem

The Supreme Court will hear the restitution case from a 1997 Hamas bombing in Jerusalem in which survivors are seeking Iranian artifacts to pay a $71.5 million judgment.

The high court said Tuesday it would hear arguments and determine the outcome of the case during its next term, which begins in October.

Eight Americans injured in the suicide bombing and their families sued Iran last year in US District Court in Chicago for financing the attack and won a default judgment that Iran has refused to pay. Five people were killed and some 200 injured in the bombing.

The plaintiffs want four collections of Iranian artifacts held by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and the Field Museum of Natural History in the city. Both museums claim they own the artifacts, but the plaintiffs argue that Iran does.

According to Reuters, an issue in the case is how to decide which assets are immune from seizure under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which regulates when foreign bodies can be sued in US courts.

Last year, a Chicago federal appeals court ruled in favor of Iran, arguing that the artifacts in question were not being used for commercial activity by Iran, so they did not qualify for seizure under the FSIA.

In a similar case last year, the Supreme Court ruled that nearly $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets would be distributed to the American families of those killed in the 1983 truck bombing by Hezbollah militants, an attack that was also was blamed on Iran.

— JTA

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Live updates (closed) Latest: US Supreme Court to hear restitution case from ’97 Hamas bombing in Jerusalem

AIPAC leaders meet Netanyahu over Western Wall, conversion bill

Leaders of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express concern over the government decision on Sunday to freeze the Western Wall compromise.

AIPAC officials also express concern over the conversion bill proposed by ultra-Orthodox parties that won the government’s backing on Sunday.