Blue and White to Netanyahu: Save some lies for the campaign
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Trump signs executive order combatting anti-Semitism on college campuses

Move at White House Hanukkah party broadens US government definition of anti-Semitism and instructs it to be used in enforcing laws against discrimination on college campuses

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order combatting anti-Semitism on college campuses at the White House Hanukkah party on December 11, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order combatting anti-Semitism on college campuses at the White House Hanukkah party on December 11, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)

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

Gantz: Israel going to 3rd elections because Netanyahu wants immunity

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz asserts that Israel is on its way toward a third election in under a year because of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desire to obtain parliamentary immunity in light of the three criminal indictments he is facing.

“It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” says Gantz at at a Knesset conference on “Protecting the rule of law” held by Labor-Gesher MK Revital Swid.

Gantz says that Netanyahu’s intended “use of the immunity law is out of proportion… We must stand in opposition of this.”

The Blue and White chairman adds that the immunity laws are “not intended as immunity for Knesset members, but rather a means to enable them to perform their duties. We will work in this Knesset, should it hold up, or in the next Knesset to examine the subject and to deal with it.

“There is no room for immunity, and the immunity law in Israel needs to be adapted and used within the context for which it was intended,” he concludes.

Liberman insists that country has Blue and White, Likud to thank for year’s third election

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman charges that the Blue and White and Likud parties are to blame for the year’s third election, which will be called at midnight if a majority of |MKs down’t throw their support behind a particular colleague by midnight.

“The two major parties, which have 65 seats together, are responsible for another unnecessary election. Beyond the ego battle that took place for months, neither really wanted a unity government, but rather another election,” says Liberban at a faction meeting.

He claims that Blue and White leaders deceived their voters by allegedly courting the Haredi parties after campaigning on forming a secular government. Moreover, he says Yisrael Beytenu disapproved of Gantz’s party’s efforts to form a unity government with outside support from the Joint List, claiming without proof that the MKs of the majority-Arab party support the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza.

As for Likud, Liberman claims that Netanyahu’s party was more interested in maintaining immunity for its leader and was willing to take the country to a third election in hopes that the right-wing, religious bloc would win the 61 seats necessary to help the premier evade prosecution.

Odeh blasts ‘racist’ Liberman after Yisrael Beytenu leader claims Joint List MKs support terror

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh responds to Yisrael Beytenu chairman Yisrael Beytenu after the latter repeated the accusation that members of the majority-Arab party are supporters of terrorism.

“We differentiate between the Russian public and the corrupt racist who heads a straw party called Yisrael Beytenu,” Odeh tweets.

“The only budget that Lieberman has passed in his life was into his daughter’s bank account,” he cracks. Police investigated Liberman nearly a decade ago over allegations that money transferred to a firm owned by his daughter from unknown sources outside Israel was later used to pay him millions of shekels. No charges were ever filed.

“Fifteen seats for the Joint List [in the next election] will return him [to his status as] an irrelevant thug,” Odeh continued.

Netanyahu to open 3rd election campaign at yeshiva whose leaders formed far-right, homophobic party

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay a visit to the hardline, national religious Har Hamor Yeshiva on Thursday in what would be his first campaign stop if elections are indeed initiated tonight at midnight.

The head of the yeshiva, Tzvi Tau, had been behind the formation of the Noam party, which campaigned ahead of the recent September election almost exclusively on combating LGBT acceptance.

The far-right slate dropped out days before the election after polling well under the threshold. Netanyahu’s Likud party had reportedly promised to abolish the mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall in Jerusalem if Noam bowed from the race.

Last month, Tau attended a Likud rally in support of Netanyahu amid the criminal indictments he faces.

Iran says it defused large cyberattack on infrastructure

Iran’s telecommunications minister announces that the country has defused a massive cyberattack on unspecified “electronic infrastructure” but provided no specifics on the purported attack.

According to the official IRNA news agency, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi says the “security attack was very large” and that authorities were investigating its exact dimensions.

He says he cannot reveal any further details beyond saying that the “attack has been identified and defused.”

It is not clear if the reported attack caused any damage or disruptions in Iran’s computer and internet systems, and whether it is the latest chapter in the US and Iran’s ongoing cyber operations targeting the other.

“I cannot give details but yes, we were targeted by a very organized and governmental cyber attack,” he says. “We are looking into the attack’s different dimensions and will release a report on it. It was a massive attack.”

On Tuesday, the minister dismissed reports of hacking operations targeting Iranian banks, including local media reports that accounts of millions of customers of Iranian banks were hacked.

“Banks were not hacked,” he said, adding that the rumors evolved from a blackmailing case by a former contractor who had managed to “access complex information.”

This is not the first time Iran says it has defused a cyberattack, though it has disconnected much of its infrastructure from the internet after the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint US-Israeli creation, disrupted thousands of Iranian centrifuges in the country’s nuclear sites in the late 2000s.

In June, Washington officials said that US military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems as US President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone in the strategic Persian Gulf.

— AP

Democratic Camp MK blasts Netanyahu for planned visit to far-right yeshiva

Democratic Camp MK Tamar Zandberg blasts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his planned visit to the yeshiva whose leaders formed the homophobic Noam party in what would be his first campaign stop if elections are initiated at midnight.

“We were told that [the party] was a fad. Today we are told that the prime minister will launch his election campaign there. Not in the overcrowded classrooms or hospital hallways but in the headquarters of the most extreme party ever established in Israel,” tweets Zandberg.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is Time’s 2019 person of the year

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg was chosen as Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year, the magazine announces.

The 16-year-old has found herself in the role of spokesperson for a generation haunted by climate emergency since her solo strike against global warming outside Sweden’s parliament last year.

The magazine cover has a picture of Thunberg with the subtitle “The Power of Youth.”

— AFP

US accused of seeking climate funding waiver at UN talks

The United States has been accused of using crunch UN talks to avoid compensating poorer nations hit by climate change, despite its decision to leave the process to limit global warming.

Delegates and observers at the COP25 negotiations in Madrid tell AFP that Washington was pushing for a change in the rules of the UN climate convention that could let history’s largest emitter largely off the hook when it comes to so-called “loss and damage” funding for developing nations.

Under the bedrock UN climate treaty, adopted in 1992, rich nations agreed to shoulder more responsibility for curbing global warming, and to help developing countries prepare for unavoidable future impacts — the twin pillars of “mitigation” and “adaptation.”

But there was no provision for helping countries already reeling in a climate-addled world, such as Mozambique — recently hit by devastating cyclones — and small island states literally disappearing under the waves.

A new mechanism was established in 2013, but with damage estimates running to $150 billion (135 billion euros) a year by 2025, there is no agreement on where the money might come from or even if it should be paid.

One of the tasks facing delegates in Madrid is reviewing the framework for how countries might pay and account for this money.

A document said to be circulated by US negotiators to delegation heads, seen by AFP, proposes to transpose a key provision under the 2015 Paris agreement — from which the United States is withdrawing — and apply it to the wider COP process, where the US will maintain a seat at the table.

The clause in question was adopted by countries in 2015 to specify that the landmark climate deal “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”

By seeking to apply the wording to the UN process as a whole, observers say the US is essentially proposing a liability waiver for richer countries in financing blameless poorer nations’ fight against climate impacts.

Delegates representing developing countries said the US proposal was “unimaginable” and vowed to block it.

“Climate change has been triggered due to historic responsibilities,” Ammar Hijazi, the head of the G77 negotiating bloc at COP25, tells AFP.

“What’s affecting the most vulnerable needs to be addressed in that vein.”

— AFP

Hosting envoys, Rivlin calls on UN to appoint special envoy to combat anti-Semitism

President Reuven Rivlin has called on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to appoint a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, his office says in a statement.

The recommendation comes at an event at the President’s Residence in which Rivlin hosted UN ambassadors from 22 countries.

“Unfortunately, the UN treats Israel with bias and discrimination. This year, once again, the General Assembly adopted twenty resolutions condemning Israel, while ignoring the world’s worst human rights abusers,” Rivlin also tells the ambassadors. “The real victims of this bias are the millions suffering from human rights violations around the world, who do not receive the attention they deserve. We are not asking to be immune from criticism. We are asking for equal treatment in the family of nations.”

President Reuven Rivlin (bottom right) hosts a group of UN ambassadors at the President’s Residence on December 11, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Jersey City’s mayor says gunmen targeted kosher market

The mayor of a New Jersey city says it’s “clear” that gunmen targeted a kosher market during a furious shooting that killed six people and raised questions about whether anti-Semitism was involved.

A police officer, three bystanders and two suspects all died in the violence Tuesday afternoon in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City. The 40-year-old slain officer, Detective Joseph Seals, who led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, was cut down by gunfire that erupted near a cemetery. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout from inside the kosher market, where the five other bodies were later found.

Mayor Steven Fulop says in a tweet Wednesday that a review of security camera footage shows the gunmen targeted the market.

“Last night after extensive review of our CCTV system it has now become clear from the cameras that these two individuals targeted the Kosher grocery location,” Fulop says. He says two officers one block away immediately responded.

But Fulop does not elaborate, and his public safety director said Tuesday that terrorism wasn’t suspected. Neither the state attorney general, who is running the investigation, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews.

The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000. Seals, who worked for a unit called Cease Fire, was shot around 12:30 p.m.

“It’s a really tough day for the city of Jersey City,” Fulop said Tuesday. Seals “was one of the best officers for getting the most guns off the streets. He was a good cop.”

— AP

PM said to weigh accepting Gantz demand to announce that he’ll forgo immunity

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly weighing Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz’s demand that he announce his willingness to forgo efforts to receive parliamentary immunity in the eight hours left before the midnight deadline to prevent the initiation of snap elections.

Gantz has suggested he would be willing to form a unity government with Netanyahu if the PM agrees to drop efforts to obtain immunity from prosecution in the three criminal cases against him.

After reports on him weighing forgoing immunity, Likud claims Blue and White busy with ‘spin’

Minutes following Hebrew media reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing announcing that he’ll forgo efforts to receive parliamentary immunity, his spokesman issues a statement saying that “Blue and White is in a spasm of spin after failing in every way possible to form a unity government and failing to form a minority government with Joint List leaders Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh.”

“A few hours remain [before the deadline to prevent the year’s third election]. If Blue and White agrees to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and other communities in Judea and Samaria, a government can be formed immediately and prevent elections,” the statement concludes.

Netanyahu has said that he would annex the Jordan Valley immediately if he is able to form a government. The latest statement from his spokesman adds his interest in annexing other settlements in the West Bank.

Turkey doesn’t rule out force to halt drilling off Cyprus

Turkey could use its military forces to halt any exploratory gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims as its own, Turkey’s foreign minister warns.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tells the pro-government A Haber news channel that Turkey “has the right to prevent” any unauthorized drilling in waters that it says fall within its own continental shelf.

Asked specifically if Turkey could use military means to stop such drilling, Cavusoglu says “of course.”

Part of the area that Turkey claims are waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights and where companies including France’s Total and Italy’s Eni are licensed by the east Mediterranean island nation to jointly carry out drilling.

A consortium made up of the two companies is licensed to conduct exploratory drilling in seven of Cyprus’ 13 “blocks” that make up Cyprus exclusive economic zone. The consortium has announced that it would proceed with a new round of exploratory drilling in the new year.

Other licensed companies looking for hydrocarbons inside Cyprus’ zone include ExxonMobil with partner Qatar Petroleum as well as a consortium made up of Texas-based Noble energy, Dutch Shell and Israeli Delek.

Turkey says its claim to a large swath of the Mediterranean is bolstered by an agreement it signed with Libya’s UN-recognized government that delineates the two countries’ maritime borders.

— AP

Suspect in kosher supermarket shooting said to have published anti-Semitic, anti-police posts

A US law enforcement official tells The New York Times that one of the suspects in a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City had published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts on social media, leading investigators to believe that the attack that killed four was motivated by such sentiments.

Taliban bombers target key US Afghanistan base as talks resume

Taliban suicide bombers target a key US military base in Afghanistan in a major attack that wounded more than 70 civilians, officials say, amid renewed peace talks between the United States and the militants.

The early morning assault began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-packed vehicle outside a hospital building near Bagram military base in Parwan province, north of the capital Kabul, according to local officials.

Seven more gunmen, some wearing suicide vests are believed to have then entered the building — which was under construction and not operational — in order to use it as a launching pad for attacks against the nearby US base, local officials say.

Almost 10 hours into the attack, an Afghan interior ministry spokesman said at least three militants were still holed up inside the hospital compound, fighting Afghan and foreign forces.

“Three attackers are still inside the building resisting, while three more have been killed and one arrested,” Nasrat Rahimi tell AFP.

At least two Afghan civilians, including one woman, were killed while 73 others were wounded in the explosion that damaged houses up to 300 meters away, Rahimi said.

A Taliban spokesman later claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that “tens” of US and Afghan soldiers had been killed or wounded.

— AFP

Bill to dissolve 22nd Knesset, initiate elections passes first reading

Legislation to dissolve the 22nd Knesset and initiate snap elections on March 2 has passed its first reading in the special parliamentary committee formed to draft the bill.

The legislation will need to pass two more readings before midnight to allow for the holding of elections eight days earlier than the 90 days after the Knesset dissolves, as mandated by law.

US hopeful for Iran prisoner talks but imposes new sanctions

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he hopes for further dialogue with Iran to free prisoners but announces new sanctions as he vows no let-up in pressure.

Iran has also voiced a willingness for more prisoner swaps after the exchange Saturday of Xiyue Wang, a US scholar detained since 2016, for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States since last year.

“I do hope that the exchange that took place will lead to a broader discussion on consular affairs. We still have Americans held in Iran — too many, for sure.” Pompeo tells reporters.

Pompeo says the United States will “follow every even tiny opening” to free the at least handful of Americans known to be in Iranian custody.

“I hope it portends well for this. We have had some indication that may be the case, but I don’t want to overstate that and I don’t want to give false optimism about that pathway,” Pompeo says.

Pompeo, however, says the United States would not deviate from its campaign of trying to strangle Iran’s economy through sanctions.

“As long as its malign behavior continues, so will our campaign of maximum pressure,” Pompeo says.

In the latest measures, the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on shipping networks owned by Iranian businessman Abdolhossein Khedri.

The Treasury Department says the companies have been used by the elite Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force to send weapons to Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who are battling US ally Saudi Arabia.

The Treasury Department also designates sales offices in Hong Kong and Dubai for Iran’s Mahan Air, which is already under US sanctions.

— AFP

Germany: 91-year-old neo-Nazi denied early release

A German court has decided that a notorious 91-year-old neo-Nazi serving a two-year sentence for Holocaust denial shouldn’t be released early.

Ursula Haverbeck was convicted of incitement by a court in the northern town of Verden in 2017 and started serving her sentence last year.

Haverbeck has repeatedly asserted that the Auschwitz death camp was just a work camp. She has been convicted several times but long avoided prison due to lengthy appeals. Germany’s highest court threw out her case against the Verden conviction.

It is common in Germany for people to be released after serving two-thirds of their sentence. But news agency dpa reported that the state court in Bielefeld, where she is in prison, said Wednesday it has decided not to release Haverbeck in January. It didn’t give reasons for the decision.

Haverbeck’s sentence is due to end next November.

— AP

Weinstein could face jail, bail hike over monitoring issues

Harvey Weinstein’s bail has been increased from $1 million to $5 million over allegations he violated bail conditions by mishandling his electronic ankle monitor.

Judge James Burke rejected prosecution calls to put the disgraced movie mogul in jail over the alleged violation.

Weinstein, 67, arrived at court in the morning using a walker. The disgraced movie mogul is scheduled to stand trial in New York City beginning January 6 on rape and sexual assault charges.

— AP

Jersey City kosher supermarket shooters reportedly identified; one an ex-Black Hebrew Israelite

The two suspects in the New Jersey kosher supermarket shooting have been identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, a local NBC affiliate reports.

Anderson was once a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelites.

232 of 3,322 UK candidates sign pro-Israel pledge ahead of tomorrrow’s election

A pair of pro-Israel groups in the UK, We Believe in Israel and the Israel Britain Alliance, have published a list of 232 general election candidates out of 3,322 who have signed their “Pledge for Israel” ahead of tomorrow’s vote.

Sixty of the candidates are Conservatives, 37 Labour, 48 Liberal Democrats, 26 Brexit Party, 15 DUP and 45 from other parties,

The total number marked a 33 candidate bump from the last election in 2017.

The pledge reads as follows:

If elected to the United Kingdom Parliament I Pledge…

  • To oppose the extremists who challenge Israel ’s right to exist.
  • To support the right of people in the United Kingdom to enjoy Israeli culture and promote business, educational, religious and other connections with the Jewish State without fear of discrimination, boycotts, harassment and/or intimidation.
  • To support those who genuinely seek to promote and establish a permanent, just and comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbours.
  • To celebrate the fact that Israel is a free society and parliamentary democracy that extends to all its citizens the right to practice their religion and have access to religious sites in Jerusalem.
  • To support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.
  • To encourage HM Government to promote trade with Israel that will increase investment and jobs for people in both countries.

Erdan thanks Trump for executive order combatting anti-Semitism

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan thanks US President Donald Trump for his planned signing of an executive targeting anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“I commend President Trump for his significant decision against antisemitism and BDS. Such legislation will severely hamper boycott organizations’ ongoing efforts to threaten Jews and pro-Israel activists on and off campus. The alarming spike in antisemitism and violence against Jews around the world demands dramatic steps be taken. I will continue to work with other countries in increasing awareness regarding BDS and hatred toward the Jewish State for their key role in instigating antisemitism,” Erdan says in a statement.

Trump trial ‘first’ priority in January, says Senate leader

The trial of Donald Trump will be the Senate’s first priority in January if the US president is impeached as expected next week, the top Republican in Congress says.

The House Judiciary Committee was set to meet beginning this evening to debate two articles of impeachment that accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his dealings with Ukraine.

The panel will likely vote to approve the charges on Thursday.

That would send the articles to a full vote by the Democratic-led House of Representatives as early as next week on whether to impeach a US president for only the third time in US history.

The case would then shift to the Senate in the new year for a trial to decide whether Trump is removed from office.

“A Senate trial will have to be our first item of business in January,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tells colleagues on the floor.

— AFP

PM loyalist says no chance third elections will be avoided

Likud MK Miki Zohar tells the Kan public broadcaster that there is no chance that a compromise deal will be reached between Likud and Blue and White before the midnight deadline to prevent the year’s third election.

“At midnight, we’ll be heading to elections,” Zohar says.

Asked about the possibility of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requesting parliamentary immunity from prosecution in the three criminal cases he is facing, Zohar says there would be “nothing more statesmanly than asking for immunity,” arguing that it would be within the confines of the law.

Rohingya refugees reject Aung San Suu Kyi’s genocide denial

Rohingya refugees accuse former Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi of lying to the International Court of Justice in testimony Wednesday in which she denied that her country’s armed forces were guilty of genocide against the Muslim minority group.

Suu Kyi, who is now Myanmar’s leader, tells the court that the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh was the unfortunate result of a battle with insurgents.

She denied that the army had killed civilians, raped women and torched houses in 2017. Critics describe the actions by the army as a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee.

— AP

Egypt urges decisive action against states backing ‘terror’

Egypt’s president calls for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.

The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.

Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi also says achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he says.

The gathering in Aswan is being attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the US, Britain and Canada.

The Sahel region is home to al-Qaida and Islamic State group-linked militants. El-Sissi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.

Egypt has for years been battling an Islamic State-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.

— AP with TOI staff

Bat Yam municipality decides against joining Tel Aviv area in offering Saturday public transportation

The Bat Yam municipality has decided against joining Tel Aviv and surrounding suburbs in offering public transportation to its residents on the Sabbath.

Knesset begins debate on bill to dissolve itself and spark third election

The Knesset has begun debating legislation to dissolve itself and initiate snap elections on March 2.

Introducing the bill, Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn, chair of the Knesset Arrangements Committee, says that it is needed “since it has become clear that there is no way to form a government and the parties in the Knesset want to bring about elections as soon as possible.”

He says he was not presenting the bill with any great joy. “I think that this is hard for every MK here,” he laments.

MKs are set to vote on the bill following a short debate in the plenum. Then, two more votes in the full parliamentary chamber are needed for the bill to become law.

Under Israeli election laws, the Knesset has until Wednesday at midnight to vote one of its members as prime minister or call new elections.

 Raoul Wootliff

Lapid: The next election campaign will be filled with hate, violence and disgust

Addressing the Knesset plenum ahead of a first vote on legislation to initiate snap elections, Blue and White MK Yair Lapid says that the upcoming campaign will be a “festival of hate, violence and disgust.”

“Make sure your children do not see what their elected officials tell them. What was once a great democratic celebration has become a shameful moment for this house. And this election has only three reasons: bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” Lapid says, referring to the charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yisrael Beytenu MK: Likud thinks Netanyahu is the state

Speaking at the plenary debate before the first reading of the bill to disperse the Knesset and set elections for March 2, Yisrael Beytenu MK Hamad Amar says that the Likud never really wanted a unity government and that “the party has one goal: to get to 61 without Blue and White or Yisrael Beytenu and to go for immunity.”

“It reminds me of the phrase, ‘I am the state and the state is me,'” he says, criticizing Netanyahu’s alleged efforts to seek parliamentary immunity to avoid prosecution in the criminal cases against him.

“And Blue and White,” Amar adds, “I can’t understand you. Three chiefs of staff weren’t able to sit down and make concessions to form a unity government? Shame on all of you!”

— Raoul Wootliff

Conference of Presidents lauds Trump for executive order on anti-Semitism

The  Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations lauds US President Donald Trump’s planned signing of an executive order addressing anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“With a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism at home and abroad in recent years, particularly on college campuses, the Jewish community has persistently advocated for the protections this measure provides against Jew-hatred,” says the umbrella group of over 50 Jewish organizations in the US

“Jewish students are now included in the groups protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, meaning US institutions of higher education risk federal funding if they fail to act against anti-Semitic discrimination on their campuses. We hope this will abate the increasingly virulent Jew-hatred on display at some colleges and universities across the country.”

Netanyahu said planning to spend more time on campaign trail ahead of next election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told party confidantes that he plans on spending more time out on the campaign trail and less time interacting with supporters on social media as he did during the last election campaign, Channel 13 reports.

He also plans to push the far-right Otzma Yehudit party to merge the Jewish Home and believes New Right will cross the electoral threshold on its own, Channel 13 reports.

Bitan: These elections will be Netanyahu’s last chance

Likud MK David Bitan tells Channel 12 that the year’s third election will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “last chance” as head of Likud.

Asked what will happen if he fails, Bitan says, “I don’t want to get into that.”

The Netanyahu ally asserts the right-wing religious bloc will manage to win 61 seats in the March election.

PM vows to ‘win big’ in next election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu releases a video accusing Blue and White of “creating a flood of political spin.”

Netanyahu had been reported to have said he is considering announcing in the Knesset Wednesday that he won’t seek parliamentary immunity in his corruption cases if a government is formed.

“They want to hide the fact that they did everything possible to avoid the establishment of a broad national unity government that would annex the Jordan Valley, applying Israeli sovereignty over the communities in Judea and Samaria,” he says of his Blue and White rivals.

“They tried to do everything possible to form a minority government with terrorist supporters Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi and they failed too.”

According to Netanyahu, Blue and White “forced new elections on us.”

Addressing voters, the prime minster says, “There is only one thing to do and it is to win and win big — and that is what we will do.”

Likud reportedly offered Amir Peretz to serve as PM in rotational agreement

The Likud party offered Labor chairman Amir Peretz the opportunity to become prime minister in a rotational capacity with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a last-minute effort to form a coalition, Channel 12 reports.

Likud denies the report.

Miri Regev and Israel Katz will serve as campaign managers for PM in primary

Culture Minister Miri Regev and Foreign Minister Israel Katz will serve as campaign managers for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership primary.

MK Yoav Kisch will serve as Gideon Sa’ar’s campaign manager, Walla reports.

Blue and White to Netanyahu: Save some lies for the campaign

Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who claimed the Blue and White party was responsible for leading the country to the year’s third election, the centrist alliance tells him in a statement to “save some lies for the [upcoming] campaign.”

Third victim from kosher market shooting identified as Miguel Jason Rodriguez

The third victim from yesterday’s shooting at a kosher supermarket in New Jersey has been identified as Miguel Jason Rodriguez, NorthJersey.com reports.

Rodriguez had emigrated from Ecuador three years ago, according to the local news site.

State prosecutor pushes back against claims he’s framing PM in TV interview

In a Channel 12 interview, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan pushes back against claims that his office is framing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by indicting him in three criminal cases.

“I organized the conversations between Netanyahu and [Yedioth Ahronoth publisher] Noni Mozes?” Nitzan asks rhetorically, referring to the talks that formed the basis of Case 2000 — a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed freebie Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

“I don’t understand this ‘he only smoked a few cigars,’ argument. The indictment filed against Netanyahu talks about NIS 700,000 worth of cigars,” Nitzan says

The state prosecutor also rejects the claim that Netanyahu’s legal fate should be decided at the ballot box.

“In a modern-day democracy, the legal fate of a defendant is not decided at the ballot box,” Nitzan insists.

Trump gushes over poll showing Orthodox Jews love him

US President Donald Trump tweets out a poll from Ami Magazine, which shows that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews support him.

According to the poll, which surveyed 723 Orthodox Jews in 15 states, 89% approve of the job Trump is doing as president, 91% think he should not be impeached, 92% trust him and the Republicans in the fight against anti-Semitism, and 92% think he is the US president that has done the most for Israel.

Just 39% of respondents are registered Republicans.

NYC mayor: NJ shooting was premeditated, violent anti-Semitic crime

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio calls yesterday’s deadly shooting at a kosher supermarket in New Jersey “a premeditated, violent, anti-Semitic hate crime.”

“In other words, you can say it was an act of terror,” he adds.

However, it is unclear from what authority de Blasio is speaking as the Mayor of Jersey City Steven Folup refrained from using the term anti-Semitic to describe the attack, saying the matter was still being investigated.

Netanyahu cancels visit to yeshiva whose leaders formed homphobic party

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his Thursday visit to Har Hamor yeshiva, whose leaders formed the far-right, homophobic Noam party, Hebrew media reports.

Joint List chairman vows Arab parties will remain united in upcoming election

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh vows that the majority Arab parties will remain united in the upcoming March election.

“We [the Arab public] played a partial role in preventing Netanyahu from forming a government and preventing him from receiving immunity. We have made it half way there. Now we have another election. We promise our public to stay united as the Joint List,” Odeh says in a statement.

Officials: Jersey attackers are suspects in earlier killing

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says at a news conference with other officials Wednesday that the two Jersey City attackers are prime suspects in the death of a man whose body had been found in a car trunk nearby over the weekend.

Bayonne police responding to a report Saturday evening found a man in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car, officials had said.

He was identified as Michael Rumberger, 34, of Jersey City. He had head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, prosecutors said.

Grewal said Wednesday that the Jersey City attackers are David N. Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50. Both were found dead at the scene of the attack at a kosher market Tuesday in Jersey City, along with three civilian victims.

— AP

Bill to dissolve Knesset, initiate elections passes first reading

The legislation to dissolve the Knesset and initiate snap elections on March 2 passes the first reading in the plenum.

Blue and White to Likud: Show up to Knesset vote or we’ll force Purim election

Blue and White has sent a warning to Likud, saying that if the entire right-wing slate does not show up to the Knesset to vote on the bill to dissolve the Knesset and initiate elections on March 2, the centrist alliance will also refrain from voting and allow the deadline to pass after which elections would be held on March 10, on the Purim holiday, Channel 12 reports.

The purpose of the legislation currently being debated in the Knesset is to make an exception to the law, which requires elections to be held 90 days from the dissolving of the Knesset. That date would have been March 10.

 

Netanyahu lashes out at state prosecutor for ‘using rape victims’ to justify prosecuting him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashes out at State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan after the latter tied the prosecution of rapists to his handling of the cases against the premier.

“Suppose there was a public persona that raped someone, and you were to say to me: ‘But most of the public voted for him.’ What does it matter? It doesn’t work that way in the modern democratic system,” Nitzan explained in a Channel 12 interview defending his decision to indict Netanyahu.

“I am not comparing rape to the current charges, but it is impossible to make legal decisions like in a reality show. A person’s legal fate cannot be decided by a ballot,” he asserted.

Netanyahu in a tweet says: “It is shocking that Shai Nitzan is using rape victims to justify his obsessive witch hunt against me. Apparently there are no limits in the effort to topple the Likud government under my leadership. Shai Nitzan must apologize immediately — and first off to victims of rape.”

Zohar says PM to show up to vote on bill to dissolve Knesset

After Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz threatens to pull his party from the vote preventing elections from being held on the Purim holiday if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t show up to vote, Likud MK Miki Zohar announces at a parliamentary committee that the premier will participate in the second and third votes on the legislation.

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Blue and White to Netanyahu: Save some lies for the campaign

Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who claimed the Blue and White party was responsible for leading the country to the year’s third election, the centrist alliance tells him in a statement to “save some lies for the [upcoming] campaign.”