The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Israelis accused of trying to join Islamic State
Two men from the north of Israel have been charged with supporting the Islamic State, with each of them separately making plans to join the jihadist group in Syria.
One man, Abed al Fatah, 24, from Nazareth, visited pro-jihadi websites, expressing support for the group online.
Earlier this year, according to a charge sheet, Fatah made contact with a former Islamic State fighter and made plans to join the group in Syria after he got married.
The second man, Ashraf Arbaye, 35, from nearby Shfaram, also made contact this year with a jjhadi known to help people sneak into Islamic State territory, according to the Shin Bet, which captured the two.
Arbaye is also accused of illegal arms possession, including selling guns.
The prosecution has asked a judge at an arraignment hearing to order the two kept in jail until the end of legal proceedings, Channel 2 reports.
After 6 months, conscientious objector to be freed
An Israeli woman kept in jail for some 150 days for refusing to join the military will be set free, the army says.
In a statement, the IDF says it is releasing Tair Kaminer, who has become the longest-serving conscientious objector, from her duty to be drafted into the army, citing her “bad and egregious behavior.”
Kaminer, 19, has refused to serve, saying she objects to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, and has drawn international media attention.
The army says it is rejects her claim that she is a conscientious objector, but says she is not fit to serve and so can be released.
Kaminer will be released within two weeks, Israel Radio reports.
Assad denies targeting slain US journalist Colvin
Syrian President Bashar Assad is denying his forces targeted US-born journalist Marie Colvin, a veteran correspondent for The Times who was killed in Syria in 2012, but says she was “with terrorists” in his country.
“Nobody knows if she (was) killed by missile, or which missile, and where did the missile come from, or how. No one has any evidence,” Assad says in comments aired by NBC.
Relatives of Colvin are suing Assad’s government in US federal court claiming that Syrian officials targeted and killed Colvin to silence her reporting on Syria and the besieged central city of Homs.
The Syrian president says Colvin entered Syria illegally and “went with the terrorists,” adding that the government cannot be responsible for those who enter the country illegally.
— with AP
Foreigners flee South Sudan but locals turned back at border
The United States, India and other countries are continuing to evacuate their citizens from South Sudan, where a fragile ceasefire appears to hold amid fears of a return to civil war.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj says two aircraft had landed in the capital, Juba, for evacuations.
The US Embassy has said it was arranging flights out of the country for Americans on Thursday.
Other evacuees have already landed in neighboring Kenya and Uganda and elsewhere.
Germany’s foreign office says those evacuated on Wednesday included three wounded Chinese peacekeepers from the UN mission in South Sudan and citizens from Britain, France, Poland, Norway, Australia, Canada, Kenya and other countries.
Israeli aid workers have also been evacuated in recent days, according to IsraAID, which operates there.
But South Sudanese trying to flee the country by road have reported being turned back from the border.
Polls show Clinton, Trump tied, and everyone scared
Presumptive presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are neck and neck in a new poll released by the New York Times and CBS.
The survey gives the Democrat and Republican each 40 percent of American voters’ support, showing Clinton’s lead shrink to nothing despite being cleared by the FBI over her email scandal.
Sixty-seven percent of voters say Clinton is not trustworthy, up five percentage points from last month. 62% say the same about Trump, a figure which has remained constant, according to the New York Times.
The poll was conducted on July 8-12, mostly before Bernie Sanders offered Clinton a long-awaited endorsement.
A separate poll released by AP shows the vast majority of Americans say they are afraid of at least one of the two major candidates — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump — winning the White House, a remarkable finding that reflects an unsettled nation unhappy with its choices.
Eighty-one percent of Americans say they would feel afraid following the election of one of the two polarizing politicians, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. That includes a quarter who say it doesn’t matter who wins: they’re scared of both.
Three-quarters of voters say their pick for president is motivated by a desire to cast their Election Day ballot against Clinton or Trump, more than those who say they’re voting for the candidate who shares their positions on the issues or is the most qualified to hold the office.
— with AP
IS downs Syrian plane, reportedly crucifies pilot
The Islamic State group says it has shot down a Syrian government plane in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and that its pilot has been killed.
A video released on Thursday by the group’s media arm, Aamaq, purports to show the plane’s wreckage in flames and the body of the pilot strung up on what appears to be a pole.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that IS militants shot down a plane near the Deir el-Zour military airport, which is controlled by government forces. The Observatory says the militants later “crucified” the body of the pilot.
It wasn’t clear when the plane was downed.
IS controls the Deir el-Zour province and parts of the provincial capital with the same name, along with the airport.
Kerry phones new UK colleague Johnson
US Secretary of State John Kerry has called his new British counterpart Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Thursday as the anti-EU minister’s appointment raised hackles in Europe.
New Prime Minister Theresa May appointed the former London mayor head of British foreign policy in her first cabinet after Britain voted to quit the European Union.
One of the leading figures in the Brexit campaign, Johnson was once seen as a possible prime minister himself, but failed to win the support of party colleagues.
“The secretary and Foreign Secretary Johnson agreed that the US-UK special relationship is as essential as ever,” State Department spokesman John Kirby says.
“They pledged to work closely together as NATO allies to address the full range of challenges we face and to meet our responsibilities around the world,” he adds.
“The secretary stressed US support for a sensible and measured approach to the Brexit process and offered to stay engaged as the UK government develops its plans.”
Johnson is not a popular figure among European foreign ministers. On Thursday, France’s Jean-Marc Ayrault accused him of having “lied a lot” about Europe to British voters.
Ivanka Trump’s rabbi makes list of GOP speakers
New York Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who converted Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and is currently at the center of a row in Israel’s rabbinical courts, will be among the speakers at the Republican National Convention, organizers say.
Ivanka herself is also among the speakers in Cleveland, as are Trump’s other three children and his wife Melania.
On Wednesday, Israel’s top rabbinical court cast doubt over another conversions performed by Lookstein and forced the women to undergo an expedited conversion in order to get married, in a widely pilloried move. The panel said Lookstein was not on its list of US rabbis who can perform conversions.
Lookstein is the rabbi emeritus of Kehilath Jeshurun, the Orthodox Manhattan congregation attended by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
The speaker list for the convention, which begins next week, will also feature Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin, actor and former underwear model Antonio Sabàto Jr., and college football star Tim Tebow. And in a slap at Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, Mark Geist and John Tiegen will also address the convention, both survivors of the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“This impressive lineup of veterans, political outsiders, faith leaders and those who know Donald Trump the best — his family and longtime friends — represent a cross-section of real people facing the same challenges as every American household,” says Trump spokesman Jason Miller.
Obama hails Iran nuke deal as success, making world safer
US President Barack Obama says the Iran nuclear deal has been a success in pushing back Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, marking a year since the landmark accord was struck over Israeli protestations.
“The Iran Deal has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, avoiding further conflict and making us safer,” Obama says in a statement released by the White House.
Obama says Iran has sent away 98 percent of its enriched uranium and taken apart two-thirds of its centrifuges, as well as filling a plutonium reactor with concrete, calling the oversight regime ” the most intrusive inspection and verification program ever negotiated for a nuclear program.”
“IAEA reports have confirmed that Iran is complying with its commitments,” he says, “As a result, all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon remain closed, and Iran’s breakout time has been extended from two to three months to about a year.”
He also says that the US and its five negotiating partners have held up their part of the bargain in lifting sanctions and will continue to do so “as long as Iran continues to abide by the deal.”
Though the deal has moved forward, it has been hounded by accusations by Iran that the US and other countries are failing to live up to their promises to lift financial penalties.
Tensions have also remained high over Iran’s continued testing of ballistic missiles, which the US says is banned by the deal.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassah Rouhani said Iran could ramp up its nuclear program whenever it wanted, highlighting differences that remain between Tehran and Washington.
However, Obama hails the deal, considered one of his largest achievements, as an example of successful international diplomacy.
“America’s willingness to engage directly with Iran opened the door to talks, which led to the international unity and sustained engagement that culminated in the JCPOA,” he says, using the official acronym for the nuclear deal. “We still have serious differences with Iran, but the United States, our partners, and the world are more secure because of the JCPOA.”
Kerry: Iran nuke deal has proved doubters wrong
Speaking in France, John Kerry also says the nuclear deal with Iran has proven itself over the last year.
“As of today, one year later, a program that so many people said will not work, a program that people said is absolutely doomed to see cheating and be broken and will make the world more dangerous, has, in fact, made the world safer, lived up to its expectations, and thus far produced an ability to be able to create a peaceful nuclear program with Iran living up to its part of this bargain and obligation,” says Kerry, one of the main architects of the accord.
The comment could be seen as a veiled rebuff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was vocal in his opposition to the deal, insisting Iran would cheat and make the world more dangerous.
But Kerry says the deal did the opposite.
“The world is safer today because conflict in the region is not calculated on the basis of the potential of a nuclear confrontation or nuclear explosion, and because we have the ability to be able to work through some issues which we’ve seen, for instance with our sailors who stumbled into Iranian waters and within 24 hours we were able to get them out,” he says. “That could not have happened prior to this agreement having taken place.”
However, he admits there remain differences with Iran.
“Nobody pretends that some of the challenges we have with Iran have somehow been wiped away,” he says. “We need to continue to work and we will continue to work and we have a specially designated ambassador whose day-to-day effort is leading the team to make sure that this deal continues to be lived up to, that we continue to be able to resolve any problems, and that we build on this as an example of what you can do if you marry interests and you marry values in a way that happens to meet the needs of a broader cross-section of countries and people.”
Poland minister pilloried for downplaying Polish role in pogroms
Poland’s education minister in the conservative government has sparked criticism for remarks she made casting doubt over Polish responsibility for two massacres of Jews in the 1940s.
Anna Zalewska’s comments on Wednesday evening in an interview on the private TVN broadcaster raised questions about the populist government’s commitment both to historical truth and to opposing anti-Semitism.
Zalewska suggested that historical evidence that Poles carried out two massacres of Jews was “biased opinions.”
The comments concerned the Jedwabne massacre of 1941, when Poles burned alive more than 300 Jews in a barn and the Kielce massacre of 1946.
Rafal Pankowski, the head of Never Again, an anti-racism watchdog, says his group is “appalled by those comments which amount to denial of the historical truth about anti-Semitic pogroms.”
Bennett bashes bench rabbis for blacklisting Lookstein
Education Minister Naftali Bennett denounces the Supreme Rabbinical Court for refusing to accept a conversion made by an Orthodox US rabbi, calling it an “own goal” for Israel-Diaspora ties and urging the rabbis to publish a list of criteria for rabbis they will accept in the name of clarity.
“The Rabbinical Court’s refusal to recognize the conversion of Rabbi Lookstein is a disgrace of God’s name and a threat to the future of the Jewish People,” says Bennett, who heads the national religious Jewish Home party.
On Wednesday, the court cast doubt over a conversion performed by Haskel Lookstein, a prominent New York rabbi, forcing a woman who sought to get married to undergo an expedited repeat conversion under their auspices, in a case that has drawn high profile protests.
“For dozens of years Rabbi Lookstein has stood on the frontlines, lovingly connecting people to Jewish tradition. Instead of listening to the chief rabbis, who acknowledged and accepted Rabbi Lookstein and his work, the Rabbinical Court disgraced them,” Bennett says.
“We are working to strengthen the ties with Jews in the Diaspora. This arbitrary move against a well-known Orthodox rabbi is an own goal, hurting the rabbinate and risking Israel’s standing as a homeland for all Jews,” he adds.
Jewish justice walks back jeers against Trump
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she regrets her “ill-advised” public criticism of Donald Trump.
Ginsburg says in a statement issued by the court on Thursday that judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. She promises to be more circumspect in the future.
Here's the Justice Ginsburg statement, calls her comments "ill advised" and will be more "circumspect" in future pic.twitter.com/MCsQPsxvvx
— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNPR) July 14, 2016
Ginsburg told The Associated Press last week that she did not want to think about the prospect of the Republican Trump winning the presidency over Democrat Hillary Clinton. She escalated her criticism in subsequent media interviews, including calling Trump a “faker” who “really has an ego,” in a CNN interview.
She herself came under attack for her comments in recent days, leading to Thursday’s statement.
Trump jumped into the fray on Wednesday. He tweeted that the 83-year-old justice was an embarrassment for making “very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot – resign!”
Ginsburg, who is Jewish, was appointed to the high court in 1993 by his opponent’s husband, former president Bill Clinton.
The never-shy Trump has not yet tweeted out congratulations to himself over the apology.
— with AP
Israel tells EU to rethink opening mission in Iran
Israel says the European Union is making a “grave mistake” by opening a diplomatic office in Iran, after EU Foreign policy head Federica Mogherini announced plans for a mission in the Islamic Republic in a statement marking one year since the signing of the landmark nuclear deal.
In a Foreign Ministry statement, Israel calls on Brussels to rethink the move, citing the Iranian regime’s continued repression, support for terror and anti-Israel rhetoric.
“It is the world’s worst state sponsor of terror. It funds murder throughout the Middle East. It hangs gays and brutally represses its own people. Iran brazenly violates its international obligations while literally emblazoning its missiles with ‘Israel will be wiped out,'” the statement reads. “Iran should not be rewarded as it spreads murder and mayhem across the world.”
In the EU statement, Mogherini, who visited Tehran in April, did not detail what shape the mission would take, calling it “an EU Delegation in Iran.”
“The European Union supports a strategy of gradual engagement that is comprehensive in scope, cooperative where there is mutual interest, critical when there are differences and constructive in practice,” she said.
Israel ‘concerned’ over EU revision to UNESCO Jerusalem proposal
A European revision to a controversial resolution by the UN’s cultural body on the Old City of Jerusalem is infuriating Israel, which says it still challenges Jewish historical ties to its holiest site.
A statement from the foreign ministry in Jerusalem expresses “concern’ over the EU revision to the UNESCO resolution, which it says “nullifies the bond and relationship of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount.”
The move comes days after a joint Palestinian-Jordanian resolution was shelved after failing to gain enough support. That proposal urged a return of the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to what it called “the historic status quo” following the 1967 Six Day War, under which the Jordanian Waqf religious authority had the right to administer all aspects of the sites “including maintenance, restoration, and regulating access.”
“The EU proposal still denies the connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount,” the statement reads.
The text of the proposal has not yet been released by the EU.
Noting that Israel is amid a diplomatic blitz to quash the resolution, the Foreign Ministry singles out EU member France, which expressed remorse over its yes vote on another UNESCO resolution that challenged Jewish ties to Jerusalem.
“Nothing is finished yet,” the statement reads.
Egypt unveils papyri showing daily life of pyramid-builders
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo has begun putting on display the country’s oldest papyri, which date back 4,500 years, detailing the daily life of the pyramid-builders.
The items are from the 4th Dynasty of King Khufu, also known as Cheops, for whom the Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a tomb.
Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany tells reporters that the papyri were discovered in 2013 by an Egyptian-French mission inside caves in the port of Wadi el-Jarf.
El-Anany says the items display are “the oldest” papyri in Egypt. Museum chief Tarek Tawfiq said the papyruses depict the daily routine of the workers, who also transferred building material
from the Red Sea port to Giza.
One of the papyri belonged to a senior employee named Marr who played a role in the building of the pyramid and it covered a period of three months of his job, providing information about his duties — including transporting rocks through the River Nile and its canals, says Hussein Abdel-Bassir, another ministry official.
A second ministry official, Sabah Abdel-Razek, tells the state-news agency MENA that other papyri showed the distribution of food portions for workers, including one showing in clear Egyptian hieroglyphs the number of sheep brought in.
Trump picks Mike Pence for Vice President slot — reports
Media speculation is ramping up that Donald Trump will pick Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate.
Trump is expected to make an official announcement on his choice Friday, but the Roll Call website, citing an anonymous source, reports that Trump has already chosen Pence, and other US media outlets have quickly followed suit.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says Pence would be a good pick for Trump’s vice president.
Ryan says it’s no secret he’s a big fan of Pence’s and holds him in very high regard.
“I hope that he picks a good movement conservative. Clearly Mike is one of those,” Ryan says.
— with AP
Trump camp says no pick yet made, media scrum insists otherwise
Trump adviser Jason Miller writes on Twitter that the presumptive GOP candidate has yet to make a choice on his running mate.
1/2 A decision has not been made by Mr. Trump. He will be making a decision in the future…
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) July 14, 2016
However, the New York Times, quoting GOP officials, says they have been told that Pence is the pick, and an Indianapolis Star reporter says he has confirmed that Pence will run alongside Trump.
— Tony Cook (@indystartony) July 14, 2016
Pence seen as strong pro-Israel voice
Pence is broadly seen as a strong supporter of Israel, which he visited in 2014, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The strong and broad bipartisan support for the state of Israel I know will be reflected in decisions that our Congress makes in the months ahead to preserve the support the United States provides to Israel, to ensure that Israel is able to enter into negotiations to achieve defensible borders and secure its own peace and security in the years ahead,” he said while in Jerusalem in December 2014.
The trip was seen at the time as a bid for him to burnish his foreign policy bona fides ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run.
Earlier this year Pence signed into law a bill that banned Indiana from dealing with companies that boycott Israel.
Report: ex-Netanyahu aide grilled as possible suspect in money probe
Former Netanyahu adviser Ari Harow was questioned under caution by anti-fraud police earlier in the day, Channel 2 reports, indicating that the grilling was more serious than original thought.
Being questioned under caution usually indicates that the person in the hot seat is considered a possible suspect and may face prosecution.
Harow was originally brought by police from the airport to simply give testimony for a probe into suspicions surrounding Netanyahu’s campaign fundraising abroad, but investigators later decided to declare him being questioned under caution, Channel 2 reports.
Harow, who served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, was heavily involved in raising money for the prime minister in the US, according to Channel 2.
Obama spokesman compares Boris Johnson to Israeli envoy
White House spokesman Josh Earnest has indirectly compared new British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to Israeli envoy Ron Dermer when asked if the US administration would be able to work with someone who has been vocally critical of Obama.
“I got questions of this variety when Prime Minister Netanyahu had announced that Ambassador Dermer would be the Israeli envoy to the United States. What I said in that situation is what I’ll say here,” Earnest says.
He then goes on to highlight the fact that the US and UK’s special relationship “transcends any single personality.”
“The decision we will make is to seek to deepen and strengthen our special relationship with the UK, regardless of who serves in a position as prominent as foreign minister,” he says.
Johnson, an eccentric former London mayor, known for his gaffes and buffoonery, was chosen Wednesday by Theresa May as the top diplomat to lead the country out of the EU. Among other outspoken remarks, he has refered to Obama as the part-Kenyan President [with an] ancestral dislike of the British Empire,” and compared Hillary Clinton to “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”
Dermer too has been known to be critical of Obama and the White House, though while using less salty language.
Earnest also said Obama had called to congratulate new British Prime Minister Theresa May.
“The president certainly looks forward to working with Prime Minister May in the six months he has remaining in office,” Earnest said.
— with AFP
Agriculture not only invented in Mideast, new study shows
Scientists say a previously unknown group of Stone Age farmers may have introduced agriculture to South Asia, challenging earlier theories that attributed the spread of farming to a different population.
Previous research held that a single group of hunter-gatherers developed agriculture in the Middle East some 10,000 years ago and then migrated to Europe, Asia and Africa, where they gradually replaced or mixed with the local population.
But scientists who analyzed ancient human remains found in the Zagros mountains of present-day Iran say they belonged to a completely separate people who appear to have taken up farming around the same time as their cousins further west in Anatolia, now Turkey.
“There was this idea that there’d been one group of genius inventors who developed agriculture,” says Joachim Burger, one of the authors of the study published online Thursday in the journal Science. “Now we can see there were genetically diverse groups.”
Palestinians said to protest Knesset speaker’s Greece trip
The Palestinian Authority is protesting Greece’s warm welcome to Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein and an invitation for him to address the Greek parliament, Walla News reports.
Ramallah’s ambassador to Greece has filed an official complaint with Athens over the visit, which is began Wednesday and ends Friday.
The Palestinians say Edelstein’s residency in a West Bank settlement should disqualify him from making diplomatic visits.
“Mr. Edelstein lives in an illegal settlement and is an outspoken supporter of settlement building on Palestinian land,” the envoy wrote, according to Walla.
FBI head warns of ‘terrorist diaspora’ as IS ‘crushed’
Senior US national security officials on Thursday warned about a possible rise in extremist violence with the spread of a “terrorist diaspora” once the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is defeated.
“We all know there will be a terrorist diaspora out of the caliphate as military forces crush the caliphate,” FBI Director James Comey tells a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Thousands of fighters will spread worldwide “and our job is to spot them and stop them before they come to the United States to harm innocent people,” he adds.
The IS group’s defeat in Iraq and Syria will make it “desperate to demonstrate its continued vitality, and that is likely to take the form of more asymmetric attacks, of more efforts at terrorism,” Comey says.