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PA officials threaten boycott of Liberman as defense minister

Abbas aide accuses Yisrael Beytenu leader of ‘terrorist behavior,’ tells Channel 10 that escalation of conflict is real possibility

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at a meeting of his Likud faction at the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at a meeting of his Likud faction at the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, in Jerusalem on Monday, May 23, 2016 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, in Jerusalem on Monday, May 23, 2016 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
  • Avigdor Liberman speaks to reporters from the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
    Avigdor Liberman speaks to reporters from the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
  • President Reuven Rivlin (R) meets with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 23, 2016. (Photo Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    President Reuven Rivlin (R) meets with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 23, 2016. (Photo Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, right, is accompanied by MK Yael German as he speaks at a press conference from the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Facebook)
    Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, right, is accompanied by MK Yael German as he speaks at a press conference from the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Facebook)
  • French Prime Minister Manuel Valls lays a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2016 (AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON)
    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls lays a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2016 (AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON)

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

PM nixes French plan, offers to meet Abbas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a multilateral French peace initiative in a meeting with his French counterpart, offering instead to hold direct talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says he will speak to President Francois Hollande about Netanyahu’s proposal.

Direct negotiations with the Palestinians are “the only way to proceed to peace,” Netanyahu says, and offers “a different French initiative” of face-to-face talks with Abbas in Paris.

Valls is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to advance his country’s plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

— AFP

Leaders, NGOs meet in bid to transform humanitarian aid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the burden of responding to the world’s crises must be more evenly shared, as leaders and aid groups gather in Istanbul seeking to transform the global humanitarian aid system.

As over 60 heads of state and government meet for the two-day summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the summit represents a chance to forge a “different future.”

“Let us seize this opportunity, let us make our mark as agents of change,” says Ban, warning that realizing the aims is not “an easy task” and requires a “political will on a scale we have not seen in recent years.”

Some 60 million people are displaced around the world and at least 125 million require assistance and protection in the biggest humanitarian crises since World War II.

— AFP

Rivlin to Valls: Direct talks are only option

President Reuven Rivlin echoes the message from Netanyahu in his meeting with Valls, telling the French PM that direct talks are the only viable option for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.

“In the Middle East, there are no shortcuts. Reaching an understanding and an agreement requires direct negotiations,” Rivlin says in their talks this morning at the president’s Jerusalem residence, according to a press release from Rivlin’s office.

“We are convinced… that the only way to bring an end to this tragedy of 150 years between us and our cousins the Palestinians is through direct negotiations,” he says.

Israel gives PA the bodies of siblings killed in attack bid

Israel hands over to the Palestinian Authority the bodies of two West Bank siblings killed last month as they tried to carry out a stabbing attack on troops north of Jerusalem, Israel Radio reports.

Maram Hassan Abu Ismail, 23, and her brother Ibrahim Saleh Taha, 16, were shot dead at the Qalandiya crossing on April 27. An investigation determined that the pair were shot by civilian security guards and not Border Police officers stationed there. Abu Ismail had hurled a knife at security personnel before she was shot, according to the police account of the incident.

Lapid: I would call for no confidence in opposition if I could

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid says he will call for a vote of no confidence in the government, and if he could, would suggest a similar vote for the opposition.

“Last week has been one of absolute cynicism,” he says at a press conference flanked by Yesh Atid MK Yael German. “The left is no better than the right. We are today presenting a proposal of no confidence in the government. If I could, I would in parallel present a proposal of no confidence in the opposition too.”

In a dig at the horse-trading over ministries and coalition talks held by other parties, he adds: “The prime minister came to me several months ago, suggested that I become foreign minister and receive other portfolios. I said ‘thank you very much, I respect you and I respect your government, but the answer is no and there is nothing to discuss.’ Why? Because we promised. It’s not complicated to stand by what you promise.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, right, is accompanied by MK Yael German as he speaks at a press conference from the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Facebook)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, right, is accompanied by MK Yael German as he speaks at a press conference from the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Facebook)

Forces thwart stabbing at West Bank checkpoint

A Palestinian woman is shot by security forces as she tries to carry out a stabbing attack at a West Bank checkpoint, police say.

Liberman on Hebron soldier: Let legal system work unhindered

Presumptive new defense minister Avigdor Liberman hints at a shift in his stance on the soldier accused of manslaughter for killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in Hebron in March.

“Both as defense minister and as an MK, one must allow the military legal system to operate without interference,” he says, according to Walla.

Liberman’s previous appearance at the trial of the soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, at Jaffa Military Court, have been perceived as a show of support for him even as former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and the IDF chief of staff condemned his actions.

Liberman: Coalition talks at impasse, awaiting new offer

Liberman says coalition negotiations with the government are deadlocked, and his Yisrael Beytenu party is waiting for a new offer from Netanyahu.

“Unfortunately, the proposals we have received are not ones that we can accept,” Liberman says. “We have reached an impasse. The obstinacy of the Finance Minister does not give us a good feeling.”

The Yisrael Beytenu leader adds: “I would like to stress we have been consistent in our demands since the [March 2015] elections. We came with clean hands to hold open, transparent negotiations.

“We do not expect to get 100% of what we want,” he says. “We want to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible and are willing to compromise on quite a few issues. And we have compromised as proof of our good will.”

Bennett conditions coalition changes on improved intel sharing

Education Minister Naftali Bennett conditions approval for the expansion of the coalition on Netanyahu correcting “the deficiencies” of intelligence sharing with the security cabinet.

“One cannot expect members of the cabinet to bear responsibility for the security of Israel without giving them the necessary tools; therefore this is a condition of the entire Jewish Home faction for approving the latest changes in the makeup of the government and cabinet,” he says, according to Army Radio.

“This is not a sectarian condition, but rather a critical national need of all members of the cabinet and the one who heads it,” he adds.

A recently leaked report by the state comptroller lists the failure to share information with the security cabinet as one of the flaws in the handling of the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

PM: Coalition talks haven’t collapsed, process takes time

Netanyahu tells reporters that the coalition talks with Yisrael Beytenu have not collapsed and that the process takes time.

“There are negotiations, which have their ups and downs. It takes effort, and there are always crises. Nothing is collapsing, it takes time, my goal is a broad government,” the prime minister tells reporters at the Knesset, where his Likud party is holding a faction meeting.

“I suggest not giving in to mood swings, not losing hope, not succumbing to irritation. We have to join forces in as a broad government as possible, in order to to move ahead with the challenges and opportunities facing the State of Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at a meeting of his Likud faction at the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at a meeting of his Likud faction at the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)

PA: Woman shot at West Bank checkpoint dies of injuries

The Palestinian Authority says the woman shot by Border Police officers while apparently trying to carry out a stabbing attack has died of her injuries.

Coalition chair hits back at Bennett for demand

The coalition chairman, Likud MK David Bitan, hits back at Bennett over his party’s demand for increased sharing of intelligence with the security cabinet before it approves the expansion of the government.

“There is no need make threats every time,” Bitan says, according to Ynet. “I remind Bennett of the time when [former right-wing prime minister Yitzhak] Shamir was toppled… and the Labor Party came in and we got the Oslo Accords.”

Police: We don’t know ID of Palestinian attacker

Israel Police say they are working to discover the identity of the Palestinian woman shot dead in an apparent attack at a West Bank checkpoint earlier today.

The woman had no ID on her at the time of the incident, police say.

Kara storms out of Likud meeting after ministerial disappointment

Likud MK Ayoub Kara storms out of a meeting of his party’s Knesset faction after Netanyahu declines to make him a minister in the cabinet reshuffle.

The Druze MK says he is considering his future in Likud as he exits the meeting, Israel National News reports.

“Does anyone else have anything to declare?” Netanyahu asks after Kara’s outburst.

Police launch murder probe after woman’s body found in Jerusalem

Police are investigating a suspected murder after the body of a woman is found in Jerusalem.

The body of the woman in her 40s is found in an apartment, displaying signs of violence, Channel 2 reports. The discovery is made when emergency personnel are summoned to the apartment following reports that an unconscious woman had been found. The medical team declares the woman’s death at the scene.

Kahlon: Offer to Yisrael Beytenu is fair, we won’t permit a frenzy

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says the offer made to Yisrael Beytenu is a fair one and he will not agree to unrestrained steps in order to secure a coalition expansion.

“The proposal we made to Yisrael Beytenu is extremely fair. It does not discriminate, it is not sectoral and caters to the entire public. We will not permit even one proposal that would widen the [societal] gaps,” he says, according to Walla.

The finance minister says that he has worked to expand government in the past year, but he will not allow “a frenzy – not political, not security and not economic.”

Coalition talks with Yisrael Beytenu reached an impasse earlier today, its party leader Liberman said. One of the sticking points is reportedly the funding for pensions of immigrants from the former Soviet Union — Liberman’s key demographic.

Woman hurt in drive-by shooting near Acre

A woman is lightly to moderately hurt in a drive-by shooting in northern Israel, Walla reports.

The woman in her 30s, who was hit by gunfire in the Arab town of Jadeidi-Makr, and is taken to hospital in the area. Police from the nearby city of Acre are investigating the circumstances of the shooting and searching for the car from which the shots were fired.

Mualem: Jewish Home not seeking gains, just to protect Israel

The head of the Jewish Home Knesset faction, MK Shuli Mualem, says her party is not seeking to gain extra ministries in the changes to the coalition, but rather to properly protect the people of Israel.

Responding to criticism of the party’s demand for better intelligence-sharing with the security cabinet as a condition for agreeing to the expand the government, Mualem says: “According to reports and the [findings] of the Winograd Committee, the security cabinet is improperly managed, as its members are not given the comprehensive information they deserve.

“For as long as Minister Bennett’s demand to remedy the situation is unmet, the misinformation continues,” she says, according to Israel National News.

Mualem adds, “If the prime minister would like to change the structure of the coalition, the Jewish Home faction will give its consent as long as a military secretary is added to the cabinet. Jewish Home does not require ministerial portfolios and asks for no money, only to allow the political echelon to function correctly in upholding the security of Israel and its citizens.”

Court convicts 5 Arab Israelis for bid to join IS

Lod District Court convicts five residents of Jaljulia, an Arab town in central Israel, for trying to join Islamic State jihadists fighting in Syria.

Four of the five were trying to reach Syria through Turkey and the fifth via a glider, Ynet reports.

The five plead guilty under a plea bargain to a series of crimes, including making contacting with a foreign agent and attempting to leave the country illegally.

The central defendant is sentenced to three years in prison and three others are jailed for sentences ranging from 10 months to one year. The report does not provide details on the sentencing of the fifth defendant.

Merkel: Turkey must meet EU terms to get travel rights

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she told Turkey that Ankara must fulfill all the European Union’s conditions, including revisions to anti-terror laws, to secure visa-free travel for its citizens.

Speaking after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Merkel expresses concern about a move to strip legislators of their immunity from prosecution. But she also underlines her commitment to an EU-Turkey deal aimed at stemming Europe’s migrant influx amid rising tensions with Ankara.

Turkey meanwhile complains of “double standards” by the EU and demands that Brussels keep its side of the bargain.

Erdogan’s economy adviser, Yigit Bulut, tells state-run television that Turkey could make “very radical decisions,” including shelving a Customs Union agreement with the EU, if the bloc fails to “meet promises made to Turkish citizens.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, talks through an interpreter to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23, 2016. (Ozan Kose/Pool Photo via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, talks through an interpreter to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23, 2016. (Ozan Kose/Pool Photo via AP)

— AP

PM warns new MK Glick over Temple Mount visit

Netanyahu rebukes incoming Likud MK Yehudah Glick for his visit to the Temple Mount this morning, before he is sworn in this week as the party’s newest lawmaker, Israel National News reports.

Shaking Glick’s hand in the Knesset on the first day of the summer parliamentary session, Netanyahu tells him: “This is the last time that you do something like that to me.”

Glick, who is the head of a group campaigning for Jewish prayer at the flashpoint site, has pledged to abide by a ban on MKs visiting the Mount.

US veteran seeks asylum for Iraqi man who saved his life

Former US Marine Chase Millsap is working to obtain asylum status for the Iraqi military officer who worked with American troops and who is now hiding from Islamic State militants with his family in Turkey.

“The Captain is the epitome of my personal commitment to take care of people,” says Millsap, referring to the former Iraqi officer whose name is kept secret.

The former soldier says the Captain saved his life when a sniper aimed at Millsap’s head during a routine patrol in Iraq.

“He quickly pushed me down and ran towards the gunfire and because of that saved my life,” Millsap recalls, adding that the sniper, seeing an angry Iraqi soldier charging at him, chose to run rather than shoot again.

“He’s one of millions that’s stuck in a system that is broken and he’s just gonna continue to wait,” Millsap says, a day before he travels to Washington to meet with members of Congress and others to discuss just how the US can help foreign soldiers who helped the army.

This June 2015 photo provided by Spencer Millsap shows Chase Millsap, right, and the Captain, posing for a photo in Ankara, Turkey. (Spencer Millsap/National Geographic via AP)

This June 2015 photo provided by Spencer Millsap shows Chase Millsap, right, and the Captain, posing for a photo in Ankara, Turkey. (Spencer Millsap/National Geographic via AP)

— AP

Far-right candidate concedes defeat in Austrian presidential race

The far-right candidate in Austria’s presidential election acknowledges defeat to his left-leaning rival, in a Facebook post thanking his backers for their support.

Norbert Hofer says he is “naturally sad,” adding: “I would have been happy to have cared for our wonderful country as federal president.” He says that the work of his supporters during the election is “not lost but an investment in the future.”

Yesterday’s count of the direct votes put Hofer on 51.9 percent while Alexander Van der Bellen, the Greens politician running as an independent, got 48.1 percent. But adding the count of some 700,000 absentee ballots had put Van der Bellen slightly ahead.

— AP

Likud MK announces plan to quit politics

Likud MK Micky Zohar meets with Netanyahu and informs him of his plan to resign from the Knesset in the near future.

Zohar, who joined the Knesset after the March 2015 elections, is leaving political life for personal reasons, the Israeli media reports.

IDF officer wounded in pipe bomb blast leaves hospital

IDF officer Shachar Roditi, who was seriously injured in an IED attack earlier this month, is released from Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital in good, stable condition.

After the attack, Roditi underwent a 12-hour surgery to remove shards of the four pipe bombs that had become lodged in his face and upper body.

Dr. Hadas Lehman, who led the surgical team, says: “Today, we are happy to say, [Roditi] has been released to his home in satisfactory condition. Shachar will continue his treatment at Hadassah for the next while, and we will continue to care for him diligently.”

— Judah Ari Gross

PM to Knesset: Herzl understood dangers of anti-Semitism

Theodor Herzl understood the dangers of anti-Semitism and made Zionism a diplomatic force, Netanyahu tells the Knesset in a speech to mark Herzl Day.

The founder of modern Zionism never gave in to self-flagellation, and Israel should learn from his example, Netanyahu says.

PM: Future Palestinian state must be demilitarized, recognize Israel as Jewish state

A future Palestinian state must be demilitarized and recognize Israel as the Jewish nation-state, Netanyahu tells the Knesset.

“These two conditions are not up for negotiation,” he says, adding that the only way to advance the peace process is through “direct talks without preconditions.”

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset on May 23, 2016. (screen capture: Knesset channel)

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset on May 23, 2016. (screen capture: Knesset channel)

Herzog: I risked own political position in bid for peace

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says he has faced “unprecedented” attacks in recent weeks, as he made every effort to secure peace for Israel.

In the process, he says in a speech to the Knesset, he has risked his own political position.

Herzog: PM chose own interests over those of the state

Herzog slams Netanyahu for choosing to bring Liberman into the coalition over his own Zionist Union party and the chance for a renewed peace process.

Netanyahu made his choice on whether “to swim against the tide or go with it,” Herzog says. He accuses the prime minister of “closing the door” on moderate Arab leaders and European leaders, which he says will lead Israel to “disaster.”

“I am sorry that you chose to place your own political interests above those of the state,” he says.

PM returns to podium, repeats call for Herzog to join coalition

Netanyahu briefly returns to the podium at a Knesset session to mark Herzl Day, to rebut Herzog’s speech and repeat his call for Zionist Union to join the coalition.

“I didn’t close the door, it is still open,” he says, addressing Herzog. “There is a chance to unite the country, advance a regional agreement… I call on your and your colleagues not to waste the opportunity and joint the national effort toward this aim.”

Foreign media union slams Israel strip-search demand

Israel’s foreign media union condemns a demand for a photographer to submit to a strip search before entering Netanyahu’s office.

“The Foreign Press Association is disturbed and disappointed to hear once again that a photographer covering an event today with the prime minister was asked to take part in a humiliating security check before being allowed to attend,” the FPA says in a statement.

Atef Safadi, a journalist with the European Pressphoto Agency, was attending as the FPA representative to take photos of a meeting between Netanyahu and Valls that would have been shared between media.

— AFP

Dozens of British schools close after terror threats

More than two dozen schools across Britain are shut following a series of threats of terrorist attacks.

According to British tabloid the Daily Mirror, thousands of students are evacuated in locations as far apart as Kent in the south and Newcastle in the north.

The report says that one school experienced “repeated” warnings that a bomb was on the site, whose “shrapnel will take children’s heads off.”

The paper also quotes a teacher as saying that a caller “threatened to shoot pupils and detonate a bomb.”

Iran, India agree port deal, reviving trade ties

India agrees to finance the development of an Iranian port as a trading hub, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to revive economic ties with Tehran after the lifting of sanctions.

The Indian leader meets Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, on a visit to Tehran that he says will mark “a new chapter in our strategic partnership.”

Modi’s visit, the first by an Indian premier to Iran in 15 years, comes after international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in mid-January following an agreement with world powers over its nuclear program.

— AFP

Tel Aviv court puts Arab beaten by cops under house arrest

Tel Aviv District Court orders house arrest for a young Arab supermarket worker who was severely beaten yesterday by police in the city.

Police say that 19-year-old Maysam Abu Alqian, from the Negev town of Hura, was resisting arrest and attacked officers after they asked him for identification.

The youth says the cops called him a “dirty Arab,” Haaretz reports, and after the beating prevented him from receiving medical treatment for his injuries. They also prevented him from contacting his parents, he says.

The police are also investigating the officers’ actions.

Livni’s website suspended after porn-related hack

The official website of veteran lawmaker Tzipi Livni is suspended after it is hacked and the homepage filled with what appeared to be search terms for pornography.

Channel 2 says that this is the third time in recent weeks that Livni’s website has been targeted, although on previous occasions the site was simply caused to crash.

Jewish groups: Narrow loss for Austrian far-right is wake-up call

European Jewish groups say that while they are relieved at the loss by a far-right candidate in Austria’s presidential elections, it is a wake-up call for Europe’s centrist parties.

“While we are certainly satisfied with the result, there is little room to celebrate the high level of support for someone with such extremist views as Norbert Hofer,” says European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor. “Unfortunately, the dissatisfaction with the moderate mainstream parties is providing oxygen to those like Hofer” and the Austrian Freedom Party.

“We are seeing signs of these trends across Europe, so it is incumbent on the more centrist parties to use this as a wake-up call and listen to the grievances of the people,” he says.

— JTA

Police resume probe into Netanyahu travel expenses

Police resume an examination into the so-called “Bibi Tours” affair, which centers on the funding for Netanyahu’s foreign trips during his stint as finance minister over a decade ago.

The inquiry seeks to determine whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation into allegations that Netanyahu present bills more than once for overseas trips for himself and his family, Channel 2 reports.

PA names Palestinian teen shot dead by troops

The Palestinian Health Ministry names the girl shot dead by Border Police troops during an attempted stabbing attack earlier today as 17-year-old Sawsan Ali Dawud Mansur, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports.

The teen was killed as she tried to stab troops at a West Bank checkpoint.

Education Ministry plans Arabic pilot program for fifth graders

The Education Ministry is looking at the possibility of introducing spoken Arabic lessons for students in the fifth grade.

The new scheme will be piloted in a handful of locations at the start of the next school year, before being expanded to every school in Israel, Walla reports.

At present, Arabic literature is only taught from 10th grade and while compulsory on paper, teaching of the subject not enforced by the ministry. Previous attempts to introduce spoken Arabic for fifth graders proved successful only in areas of Haifa and northern Israel, the report says.

PA officials threaten boycott of Liberman as defense minister

Senior PA officials will refuse to meet with Liberman once he becomes defense minister, as anticipated, an advisor to Abbas says, accusing the Yisrael Beytenu leader of “terrorist behavior.”

The Abbas aide tells Channel 10, that “Liberman’s appointment harms the peace process, which is already faltering.” He says the appointment gives rise to the real possibility of an escalation on the ground of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“We will never meet with Avigdor Liberman,” he says.

Another UK Labour member compares Israel to Nazis

Another member of the British Labour party takes to Twitter to compare Israel to the Nazis.

Tony Greenstein, who was apparently refused membership of the party last year but admitted under new leader Jeremy Corbyn, writes that “the Palestinians are the Jews of the Middle East, the new untermenschen” — the Nazi term for those they classed as inferior — and accuses Israel of using “the same logic that the Nazis applied.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, Greenstein previously wrote in online forums that Margaret Thatcher was an “obviously legitimate” target for the IRA and that “Zionists collaborated with the Nazis.”

Bennett: No okay for coalition expansion if demands not met

Naftali Bennett tells Channel 10 that his Jewish Home party will not back the inclusion of new parties in the coalition unless their demands are met.

“We will not support the expansion of government and we will go back to a coalition of 61 Knesset members if our demand for a secretary for each cabinet member is not met.”

Ministers, he said, “cannot be expected to go into the field to obtain information.”

Likud MK Zohar promises PM he’ll rethink resignation

Likud MK Micky Zohar promises the PM he will reconsider his resignation from politics, which he submitted earlier today.

Zohar makes the pledge in a one-on-one meeting with Netanyahu, which came at the PM’s request after reports emerged that Zohar was mulling his resignation, Israel Radio says.

The MK, who only entered parliament last year, is said to be considering leaving for personal reasons.

Amsterdam to pay Jewish community $11M for Holocaust survivor taxes

The city of Amsterdam will give its Jewish community $11 million as compensation for taxes imposed on Holocaust survivors who returned home to the city following World War II.

According to The Telegraph, the survivors were made to pay a tax upon their return because their homes were left empty during the Holocaust. They also had to pay back taxes for the years they had been taken away from the city, as well as insurance fees.

“Amsterdam has 5 million to 10 million euros in its coffers that it doesn’t want, and we have no right to it, so we want to give it back to the Jewish community to be used for important projects,” says a spokesman for Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Lann, according to the Telegraph. “Finding the individual people or their relatives would be very costly and complex, and that is not the idea.”

The city has suggested the money be put toward a Holocaust memorial monument or community programs.

— JTA

PMO denies double-billing allegations

The PM’s office denies that Netanyahu ever billed more than once for trips abroad during his stint as finance minister a decade ago.

The denial comes on the heels of a report that the police are resuming an inquiry into the allegations, in order to determine whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation.

“There was no double-billing,” Netanyahu’s office says, according to Channel 2, which also reported the resumption of the inquiry earlier today. “The attorney general investigated the matter and concluded that there was no reason to open an investigation based on the material that was brought to his attention in 2013.”

Kerry to Lavrov: Push Assad to end bombing of Syrian rebels

Secretary of State John Kerry urges his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to press for end to Syrian bombing attacks on opposition forces, the US says.

The statement comes as UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemns attacks on civilians in the Syrian coastal cities of Jableh and Tartus, where explosions killed more than 80 people and wounded 200.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric says that Ban is especially concerned about escalating military activity in and around Damascus and Homs, which is causing a rising number of civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin sends a telegram to Syrian President Bashar Assad conveying his condolences over the deaths of civilians and confirming Russia’s readiness to continue supporting its “Syrian partners.”

— Agencies

Senior Likud sources: Liberman talks to conclude tomorrow

Senior officials in the Likud party say that coalition talks with Liberman will be finalized tomorrow at the latest, paving the way for him to take his five Yisrael Beytenu seats into the government and assume the post of defense minister.

Jewish Home leader Bennett and Kulanu leader Kahlon are also making demands of their own before approving the coalition expansion, Channel 2 says.

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Education Ministry plans Arabic pilot program for fifth graders

The Education Ministry is looking at the possibility of introducing spoken Arabic lessons for students in the fifth grade.

The new scheme will be piloted in a handful of locations at the start of the next school year, before being expanded to every school in Israel, Walla reports.

At present, Arabic literature is only taught from 10th grade and while compulsory on paper, teaching of the subject not enforced by the ministry. Previous attempts to introduce spoken Arabic for fifth graders proved successful only in areas of Haifa and northern Israel, the report says.