The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Iran warns world to prepare for US nuke deal withdrawal
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran warns the world on Monday to prepare for the possible withdrawal of the United States from the landmark nuclear deal agreed on in 2015.
“The international community must be prepared for the US possibly pulling out of the JCPOA,” says deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, using the technical name for the nuclear deal.
Iran signed the accord in 2015 with six world powers, agreeing to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions.
US President Donald Trump openly despises the deal — a central foreign policy achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama — but has so far continued to waive the nuclear-related sanctions at regular intervals as required to stay in compliance.
The next deadline for Trump to waive sanctions falls on Friday.
A withdrawal by the US will lead to an “appropriate and heavy response,” adds foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.
“The US administration will definitely regret it,” he says on state television.
Likud MK decries attempt to eject her from party over opposition to Shabbat bill
Likud MK Sharren Haskel denounces coalition chairman David Amsalem’s effort to eject her from the party over her opposition to a bill empowering the Interior Ministry to prevent stores from opening on Shabbat.
“Is it right to put a noose around a Knesset member’s neck? There are no other ways to have a substantive conversation,” Haskel says at a hearing of Likud’s top internal court regarding her expulsion, according to Hadashot news.
“They are trying to change my vote. Instead of deliberating, they are trying to bring the guillotine down on [my] head,” she adds.
Amsalem filed a petition Saturday night with the party’s top internal court seeking to eject Haskel, claiming that her opposition risks bringing down the government.
A vote on the bill is set for today, but the coalition’s majority may be imperiled by the absence of a lawmaker due to a death in his family.
Saudi Arabia announces women can attend soccer games this month for first time
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia will open their doors to women to attend soccer matches for the first time ever on Friday, the government announces.
“The first match that women will be allowed to watch will be Al-Ahli versus Al-Batin on Friday January 12,” the ministry of information says in a statement on Monday.
It says women would also be able to attend a second match on the following day and a third one on January 18.
Women from across the vast Gulf kingdom may be able to take advantage of this new freedom as the first match will be held in the capital Riyadh, the second in Jeddah on the Red Sea and the third in the eastern city of Dammam.
The kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, has long barred women from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public.
Jordan breaks up IS cell plotting ‘massive terrorist scheme’
Jordan has thwarted a “massive terrorist scheme” planned by an Islamic State cell, the country’s General Intelligence Department announces.
According to the kingdom’s official Petra news agency, 17 people have been arrested for their suspected involvement in the “heinous” plot.
It says the plotters aimed to carry out simultaneous attacks in order to “tamper with national security and ignite havoc.”
Opposition prevents coalition from limiting debate on Shabbat bill
Opposition chief whip Yoel Hasson says the opposition has succeeded in preventing the coalition from implementing limits on the plenary debate for the final votes on the so-called mini-markets bill.
Speaking at the Zionist Union faction meeting, Hasson says that the opposition will set “the parameters of the debate, the length and the time of the vote.”
The second and third votes on the bill, which seeks to give the interior minister the ability to shutter shops on Shabbat, will take place later today.
The coalition had initially sought to limit the debate to nine hours while the opposition wants 14 in total.
“We plan to use all the tools at our disposal,” Hasson says.
— Raoul Wootliff
Gabbay attacks coalition over ‘anti-nationalist’ bills
Zionist Union chair Avi Gabbay slams the governing coalition for what he describes as a series of “anti-nationalist” bills.
Speaking at the faction meeting at the Knesset, Gabbay mocks the government for calling itself the “nationalist camp,” asking rhetorically how the mini-markets bill or the police recommendations bill serve the nation “and not just your own political survival.”
Gabbay says that the mini-markets bill will “allow big corporations to keep their stores open and the small businesses will close.”
“How is that nationalist?” he asks.
“No,” he adds, “you are the anti-nationalist camp and nothing else.”
— Raoul Wootliff
German far-right MP warned over racial slur against tennis star’s son
BERLIN — Germany’s far-right AfD party formally warns one of its deputies over a tweet calling Boris Becker’s son a “little half-negro.”
Jens Maier — a former judge and one of more than 90 members of the Alternative for Germany party elected to parliament last year — had attacked Noah Becker over an interview in which he had complained about being seen as the “eternal son” of his tennis star father.
“It seems the little half-negro simply got too little attention — that’s the only explanation for his behavior,” read the tweet posted on Maier’s account last week.
But Maier claims he did not write the tweet, which has since been deleted, saying one of his staff had posted it, in an explanation which appears to be accepted by the party’s leadership.
The AfD does, however, warn him to take greater care in managing his employees.
Noah Becker has filed a criminal complaint against Maier over the tweet, which was also blasted by his father in a scathing column in Sunday’s Die Welt newspaper.
Opposition slams blacklist barring members of BDS groups
Opposition leaders slam the government’s policy toward the BDS movement following the publication of a list of organizations whose members will be banned from entering Israel.
The blacklist currently covers around 20 groups the ministry says are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and which it says consistently and openly work to delegitmize Israel.
Speaking at the weekly Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, party chairman Yair Lapid calls the list an “idiotic idea.”
“BDS activists are detestable but this is an idiotic idea. So our policy to fight boycotts is by implementing another boycott?” he asks.
Lapid says that beyond “harming the war against BDS,” the list also makes no sense since members of some of the Jewish BDS groups on the list, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, “can just make aliyah and then they will be here anyway.”
Zionist Union chair Avi Gabbay, speaking at his faction meeting, says that the blocking BDS activists “has no logic at all.”
“They are causing damage abroad. So if they are here, they can’t do the same damage abroad,” he says.
Zionist Union number two Tzipi Livni echoes Gabbay’s words, saying that the way to prevent BDS activists is not to keep them out of Israel but to “allow them in so that they can see this country for what is really is.”
— Raoul Wootliff
Ahead of vote, Lapid says coalition ‘will not teach us what Shabbat is’
Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid rails against the so-called mini-markets bill at the weekly Yesh Atid faction meeting.
“More than anything, this is a hurtful law,” he says of the measure that would shutter shops on Shabbat. “It tells people how to live their own lives.”
Lapid says the law does more to damage the sanctity of Shabbat than it does to guard it.
“Shabbat is meant to bring people together. This does the opposite,” he says emphatically.
The bill, sponsored by Aryeh Deri, chair of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, would grant his Interior Ministry the power to oversee and reject local ordinances relating to whether business may remain open on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest that runs from Friday evening until Saturday night.
“They will not teach us what Shabbat is. We also light Shabbat candles at home, but they cannot be allowed to come into people’s houses and decide how they live,” Lapid concludes.
— Raoul Wootliff
Liberman says Shabbat bill ‘absurd,’ vows to do ‘everything’ to stop it
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman calls the bill seeking to close minimarkets on Shabbat “absurd.”
He vows to do “everything we can to stop this law,” noting that his Yisrael Beytenu party will break with the coalition. Four of its five members will vote against the bill and one — Immigration Minister Sofa Landver — will not take part in the vote.
“We will work with our representatives in all municipalities to stop this,” he says.
— Raoul Wootliff
FDNY battling Trump Tower blaze
NEW YORK — The Fire Department of New York says it’s at the scene of a fire at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
The department says it was called around 7 a.m. Monday for a report of a fire on the top floor.
Aerial views showed firefighters on the roof, with smoke billowing from one corner of the high-rise.
There are no immediate reports of injuries.
The building houses luxury apartments and businesses.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 8, 2018
Report: Trump’s lawyers prepping for possible Mueller interview in Russia probe
Lawyers for Donald Trump are preparing for a request by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to interview the US president in his probe into possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, NBC News reports.
According to the report, Trump’s legal team is holding preliminary talks with the FBI regarding a potential interview by Mueller.
NBC says the US president’s lawyers are exploring alternatives to a face-to-face interview, including submitting written responses to questions or an affidavit signed by Trump stating he hasn’t done anything wrong and that there was no collusion.
Trump denies colluding with Russia, while Moscow has rejected the US intelligence community’s assessment it interfered in the election campaign.
UK’s Johnson says Jerusalem should be capital of both Israel, Palestinian state
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson says Jerusalem should be the “shared capital” of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.
“I reiterated the UK’s commitment to supporting the Palestinian people and the two-state solution, the urgent need for renewed peace negotiations, and the UK’s clear and longstanding position on the status of Jerusalem,” he says in a statement after meeting with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, according to Reuters.
“It should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states,” the statement adds.
Held talks with Foreign Minister Riyad al Malki to discuss UK’s commitment to supporting the #Palestinian people, urgent need for progress on the Middle East Peace Process & reiterated UK’s position on the status of Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/NJMAAhhTzx
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 8, 2018
Netanyahu says Shabbat bill could again be delayed
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Shabbat bill could be delayed to a later date, unless the opposition agrees to offset the absence of Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev — whose mother died on Monday — with Zionist Union Yossi Yonah, who was observing the seven-day mourning period over the death of his brother.
Speaking at the weekly Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu says coalition chairman David Amsalem was waiting for a final answer from the opposition.
“We will track the numbers and decide whether to raise the proposal accordingly,” says Netanyahu.
The bill, which could shutter mini-markets on Saturdays, was scheduled to be brought to its final votes overnight Monday-Tuesday, barring any changes. It had been delayed last week after the death of Likud MK Yehudah Glick’s wife on Monday left the coalition without a majority.
— Marissa Newman
Netanyahu brushes off criticism of proposed cuts to Foreign Ministry
Netanyahu also addresses criticism over the 2019 budget, which would see major cuts to the Foreign Ministry. “I spoke to the foreign minister and he also has comments,” jokes Netanyahu, who is Israel’s foreign minister.
The budget will nonetheless pass, he predicts.
— Marissa Newman
Opposition whip rejects offsetting vote on Shabbat bill for bereaved MK
Opposition whip Yoel Hasson, in response to Netanyahu’s comments, says the opposition will not offset the absence of Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev for the Shabbat votes.
Yogev was attending the funeral of his mother, who died earlier on Monday.
The prime minister said in the Likud faction meeting the coalition whip was waiting on an answer from the opposition. If the opposition declines, the final votes on the proposal would be delayed, Netanyahu said.
— Marissa Newman
Wolff disputes Bannon’s explanation of ‘treasonous’ remark
WASHINGTON — The author of a new book about the White House is disputing Steve Bannon’s explanation of comments that angered US President Donald Trump.
Michael Wolff appeared Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
In the book, Bannon described a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., senior campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon, who is Trump’s former chief strategist, sought to make amends Sunday, saying in statement that his description was aimed at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, not Trump’s son.
Wolff says the comments were “directed directly at Don. Jr.”
The book depicts the 45th president as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides. Trump has blasted the book as inaccurate.
Conjoined Gaza twins separated successfully in Saudi operation
RIYADH, Saydi Arabia — Conjoined twin girls born in the blockaded Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip were separated in “successful” surgery in Riyadh Monday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency says in a statement.
Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabiah, who headed the team that operated on Farah and Haneen at the King Abdullah Specialist Children’s Hospital, “affirmed the success of the separation surgery,” SPA says.
The operation began on Monday morning, and involved nine stages of anesthesia and the separation of multiple organs, including the liver, as well as restoring organs in Haneen.
The news comes months after a doctor and family member of the twins pleaded from Gaza that they be allowed to go abroad for the complex surgery.
Iran hints it may stop cooperating with UN nuclear agency
Iran hints it may stop cooperating with the UN’s nuclear watchdog if the US withdraws from the 2015 agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program.
“If the United States does not meet its commitment in the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic of Iran would take decisions that might affect its current cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” the head of Iran’s nuclear agency Ali Akbar Salehi tells IAEA chief Yukiya Amano over the phone, according to Reuters.
Trump must decide by Friday whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal and in turn grant further sanctions relief.
Netanyahu: Voting against Shabbat bill is voting to topple the coalition
Netanyahu says coalition members who don’t vote for a bill that would close mini-markets on Shabbat are in effect voting to bring down the coalition.
“The law will not change much. It needs to be understood that those who vote today against the mini-market bill are bringing down the government,” Hadashot news quotes Netanyahu as telling Likud lawmakers.
Egypt announces March dates for presidential election
CAIRO — The chairman of Egypt’s election commission says the presidential election will be held March 26-28, with a runoff in April.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has yet to formally announce his bid for re-election, but is widely expected to run and win a second four-year term. Authorities have waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent since Sissi, as defense minister, led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.
Lasheen Ibrahim, the chairman of the national election authority, announces today the dates for the election. The runoff will be held April 24-26 if no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote. Egyptian expatriates will vote March 16-18 and April 19-21.
Turkey to extend state of emergency for sixth time
ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish government says it plans to extend the state of emergency imposed after the 2016 failed coup for the sixth time, despite criticism that it is used to target Ankara’s critics.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag says the state of emergency will be “extended one more time” for three months and would be discussed at the next National Security Council meeting. The latest extension is set to end on January 19.
The emergency was introduced a few days after the attempted overthrow of Erdogan on July 15, 2016, blamed on the group led by US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen denies the charges but authorities have used the emergency measures to crack down on those alleged to have links to his movement as well as outlawed Kurdish militants.
Netanyahu trying to quash publication of recording of son
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s family lawyer Yossi Cohen has sent a letter to Hadashot TV news requesting it not release a recording tonight of the premier’s son Yair speaking outside of a strip club.
The TV channel says Yair Netanyahu can be heard in the recording discussing a controversial gas deal with the son of Koby Maimon, a wealthy businessman who was set to gain from the deal’s approval.
Hadashot news says despite the Netanyahu family’s request it will publish the recording.
Likud court rejects petition to expel MK over her opposition to Shabbat bill
Likud’s top court rejects a petition to eject MK Sharren Haskel from the party over her opposition to a bill preventing businesses from opening on Shabbat.
Likud judge Avika Nof says the court doesn’t have the authority to remove Haskel from the party.
“They placed Sharren in front of a firing squad,” Haaretz quotes him as saying.
The petition to expel the freshman lawmaker from Likud was submitted by coalition chairman David Amsalem, whose lawyer could be heard telling Haskel to “grow up” during the hearing in a recording published by Hadashot TV news.
Police release footage of arrest of Bedouin woman suspected of joining IS
The Israel Police release footage of the arrest of one of the two Bedouin Israeli women suspected of joining the Islamic State terror group and planning to carry out attacks on its behalf in Israel.
In the footage, a well-armed team of masked police officers can be seen entering the home of one of the 19-year-old suspects in the southern Israeli town of Lakiya on December 18.
After a quick search of the house, the team leads the suspect away in handcuffs. It is not clear which of the two appears in the video.
Earlier in the day, indictments were filed against Rahma al-Assad and Tasnin al-Assad, on charges they made contact with the Islamic State, planned to carry out attacks in Israel and joined the terrorist group’s affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
— Judah Ari Gross
Driving instructor ‘caught red-handed’ giving lesson while high
A driving instructor is “caught red-handed” giving a driving lesson while under the influence of drugs, police say.
Police say that when they raided the suspect’s home in Beit Shemesh, officers found 12 grams of marijuana, 7.9 grams of hashish and grams of tobacco “suspected of being mixed with various types of drugs.”
The driving instructor, who is in his 50s, was detained on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, as well as for possession and use of drugs, police say.
Pence to visit Middle East this month following postponement
WASHINGTON — US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel this month after postponing a trip to the Middle East in December following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The White House announces Monday that Pence will travel to the region January 19-23, starting with a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Pence will also confer with King Abdullah II of Jordan and then hold two days of meetings and events in Israel.
Alyssa Farah, a Pence spokeswoman, says Pence will travel to the Middle East at Trump’s direction “to reaffirm our commitment to work with the US’s allies in the region to defeat radicalism that threatens future generations.” Farah says Pence was “looking forward to meeting with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel to discuss ways to work together to fight terrorism and improve our national security.”
Pence postponed his visit to Israel and Egypt in mid-December because of a Senate vote on Trump’s tax overhaul. But Pence’s trip to the Middle East, his first as vice president, will be carefully watched following Trump’s decision on Israel’s capital, which prompted Palestinian leaders to cancel planned meetings with the vice president.
Pence is not expected to meet with the Palestinians, who seek East Jerusalem as their capital.
Palestinian woman with knife stopped by Border Police in Hebron
Border Police officers find a knife on a Palestinian woman outside of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, a police spokesperson says.
The knife was found in her bag after police searched the woman, who raised the suspicion of officers, the spokesperson adds.
In recording, Yair Netanyahu heard asking businessman’s son ‘to spot’ him money
In a recording aired this evening on Hadashot TV news, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son Yair allegedly can be heard asking the son of Kobi Maimon “to spot” him money because of a controversial gas deal pushed for by the prime minister that would benefit the businessman.
Yair Netanyahu: “Bro, you got to spot me. My dad made an awesome deal for your dad, bro, he fought, fought in the Knesset for this, bro.”
Ori Maimon: “What?”
Yair Netanyahu: “My dad fought. I remember…”
Roman Abramov: “You owe us, you owe us NIS 25,000 ($7,255).”
Yair Netanyahu: “Bro, my dad now arranged for you a $20 billion show and you can’t spot me NIS 400 ($116)?”
Citing sources familiar with the recording, the TV channel says the men were likely inebriated and that a number of things were said in jest.
Abramov is a friend of Yair Netanyahu.
Hadashot news reported in November that police are looking into why Abramov was given a job by Australian billionaire James Packer, despite lacking relevant business experience.
In a corruption case, known as Case 1000, police are investigating expensive gifts given to the Netanyahu family by Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, and actions he then allegedly took on their behalf. The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Jewish leaders press Israel not to deport African migrants
A group of North American Jewish leaders is urging the Israeli government not to go through with its plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants, most of them from Sudan and Eritrea.
In an open letter to Netanyahu, the leaders rejected Netanyahu’s assertion that most of those in the country are economic migrants.
“We know that many of [the migrants] are indeed asylum seekers and refugees deserving of protection,” they say, adding, “We are deeply concerned for their welfare.”
The signatories stressed their “deep concern as Jews and as human beings for the welfare of those who have sought asylum in Israel as well as [their] readiness to help in addressing the issue.”
Top security body said to warn ICC may open investigation into Israel
Israel’s National Security Council warned members of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that the International Criminal Court will likely open an investigation at some point this year into the 2014 Gaza war or West Bank settlement construction, Channel 10 reports.
The report also says the National Security Council warned the Knesset committee that in the absence of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, there is likely to be an increase in both attempts to delegitimize Israel, and calls to boycott the Jewish state.
The National Security Council made the warnings during a presentation of its 2018 strategic assessment, the report says.
Netanyahus slam broadcast of recordings of Yair Netanyahu
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s family slams Hadashot TV news broadcast of recordings of Yair Netanyahu and his friends being escorted to strip clubs in Tel Aviv by a government funded security detail.
In a statement to the TV channel, the family says the recording was part of a “witch hunt” meant to undermine the prime minister.
“Your witch hunt has reached a new and unprecedented low with the broadcast of a secret tape of things that were said jokingly two and a half years ago, between young people drinking alcohol,” the family says.
It says the prime minister was not aware of his son’s friendship with Ori Maimon, whose father Kobi holds a stake in an offshore natural gas field and stood to benefit from a deal pushed by Netanyahu.
The Prime Minister’s Office defends the provision of security details to Netanyahu’s family members, saying the family was not involved in the decision-making process.
Opposition MKs slam Yair Netanyahu over strip club recordings
Opposition lawmakers attack Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son Yair, after the release of recordings of him visiting strip clubs with friends, while being escorted by a government funded security detail.
“What rot. The ‘friends,’ the hedonism, the smugness, the sense of owning public money, the disrespect and attempt for women and the ‘fun’ of purchasing sex. Eww,” Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg tweets.
“No, Netanyahu. Every parent I know would be ashamed and ask himself what is his responsibility for educating his children to such a moral low,” tweets Zionist Union MK Stav Shapir, referring to the Netanyahus’ response to the report, maintaining that Yair’s remarks in the recording were “empty words.”
Ehud Barak calls Yair Netanyahu a ‘narcissist’ over recordings
Former prime minister Ehud Barak calls Yair Netanyahu a “narcissist who grew up in a foul swamp of corruption,” after recordings were aired of the prime minister’s son visiting strip clubs with friends.
“A narcissist who grew up in a foul swamp of corruption with favors from billionaires and dark deals at the expense of the public,” tweets Barak, referring to allegations against that the prime minister accepted illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors in exchange for advancing their interests.