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Pompeo: Iran the ‘common villain’ in Mideast protests

Lebanese, others in the region see Tehran regime ‘as a violent and a repressive force,’ top US diplomat says

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media in the briefing room at the State Department, on November 26, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/ AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media in the briefing room at the State Department, on November 26, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/ AFP)

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

Attorney general delivers PM’s indictment to Knesset, starting immunity clock

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit hands Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein the charge sheet in three corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a letter to the Knesset speaker, Mandelblit says the legally guaranteed 30-day period during which Netanyahu may ask the Knesset for immunity formally begins today — and not when he first announced he’d be filing charges on November 21, as government officials and media outlets initially reported.

That means the Knesset must decide whether to give Netanyahu immunity in the three corruption cases by January 1.

It’s not clear how the Knesset is going to do that, as the law requires immunity decisions to be made by the Knesset House committee, but that committee has no members after both Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz failed to form a ruling coalition after the September 17 election. Part of the coalition-forming process include divvying up Knesset committees.

In the indictment, Mandelblit says for the first time that the trial will take place in the Jerusalem District Court.

Prosecutors’ charge sheet for Netanyahu trial includes list of 333 witnesses

The indictment handed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein a short time ago includes a list of 333 witnesses for the prosecution.

The list is a veritable who’s who of Netanyahu associates and confidants, as well as well-known Israeli politicians and journalists.

They include wealthy friends and patrons of Netanyahu over the years such as Sheldon and Miriam Adelson; Ron Lauder; the two men involved in the Case 1000 probe, Arnon Milchan and James Packer; and Netanyahu’s cousin and financial supporter Nathan Milikowsky.

It also includes Netanyahu’s top advisers over the years, such as Ron Dermer, Perach Lerner, Nir Hefetz, David Shimron, David Sharan, Ran Baratz and Shlomo Filber, among others.

It includes a list of top defense officials, such as former national security adviser Uzi Arad, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin and former Mossad head Tamir Pardo.

Politicians, current and former, also figure prominently, including Yair Lapid, Eitan Cabel, Yariv Levin, Ze’ev Elkin, Tzipi Livni, Tzachi Hanegbi, Yinon Magal and Gilad Erdan.

Tel Aviv police arrest 7 suspected drug dealers, confiscate luxury cars

Tel Aviv police arrest seven residents of Jaffa on suspicion of running a drug-smuggling operation.

Police raided homes and confiscated several luxury cars in the arrests, officials say.

The suspects will be brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court tomorrow for a remand hearing.

Netanyahu on Trump call: We must seize ‘historic opportunity’ in Jordan Valley

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he spoke with US President Donald Trump yesterday about annexing the Jordan Valley, and seems to suggest the US will not oppose it.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for 12 new factories to be built at Ashkelon’s industrial zone, Netanyahu says there are “historic opportunities” that must be seized, and called on rival Benny Gantz to join in a unity government that will realize them.

“I spoke yesterday with President Trump, a very important conversation for Israel’s security,” he says.

“We talked about Iran, but we also talked at length about historic opportunities that stand before us in the coming months — among them are [establishing] the Jordan Valley as the recognized eastern border of the State of Israel, as well as a defense treaty with the United States. Things we could only dream of, but now we have the opportunity to realize them.

“That’s why I’ve made Benny Gantz an offer — let’s realize these historic opportunities in a unity government that we establish right now in the format I’ve suggested. I’ve gone very far [in political concessions] toward this goal, because we must realize these opportunities.”

Liberman says he’s still seeking a unity government – unlike Netanyahu, Gantz

Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman says that he is still dedicated to forming a national unity government and that his suggestion that he could back both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chair Benny Gantz to receive the mandate to form a government is “another tool to advance that same goal.”

Speaking at his party faction meeting in the Knesset, Liberman refers to himself in the 3rd person, asking, “What does Liberman really want?”

Answering the question, he says, “Liberman wants a unity government. Unlike everyone else, Yisrael Beytenu was the only party that from the very first day of the election [campaign] said it wanted a unity government.

“The easiest way would have been for us to join a narrow government. We didn’t do it because the State of Israel needs a broad government. It needs a government made up of the two major parties or it will not be able to make the decisions it must make.”

Liberman says both Netanyahu and Gantz are “playing a blame game and at the moment don’t really want unity.

“We promised that we would turn over every stone to find any way to create a unity government. The signatures are another tool to push that same goal.”

— Raoul Wootliff

London Bridge reopens to traffic 3 days after terror attack

LONDON — London Bridge reopens to cars and pedestrians, three days after a man previously convicted of terrorism offenses stabbed two people to death and injured three others before being shot dead by police.

Political leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — who have traded blame for the security failures that allowed the attack — attend a vigil at Guildhall Yard in the medieval heart of London to remember the victims and honor members of the emergency services and bystanders who fought the attacker with fists, fire extinguishers and even a narwhal tusk.

The dignitaries, city officials and members of the public observe two minutes of silence in honor of former University of Cambridge students Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25. They were fatally stabbed by 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan during an event designed to connect graduate students with prisoners. Both victims worked for the Cambridge-based prisoner rehabilitation program Learning Together.

Two of the three injured people remain in hospital. The third was discharged.

— AP

Gantz: Israel can’t face security threats with a PM under indictment

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz offers Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his own version of a unity government, after Netanyahu earlier today urged a rotation in which he serves for six months as premier, then gives up the seat to Gantz.

“Politics involves the art of compromise,” Gantz says at a faction meeting in the Knesset. “I understand that part of compromising means that we will not be able to form our dream government. That said, I am not prepared to form a nightmare government.”

Even though “Blue and White won the election,” Gantz says, “we are prepared to allow for a rotation between us as part of a unity government. I will serve for a two-year term, during which time you can remain at the helm of Likud and take care of your affairs. I assure you that we can find the correct status for your unique situation. This will allow you to return, should your name be cleared.”

To Netanyahu’s oft-repeated warning about the country’s dire security situation, he adds: “We are truly facing significant security challenges – Iran has based itself along our northern border and the residents of the south are under fire. The head of the state must be someone able to unite the country, also against these threats — and not a transitional, illegitimate government led by someone under criminal indictment.”

Brits ask Netanyahu not to come to London for flash visit – report

British authorities have reportedly asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to visit London on Tuesday for meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Haaretz daily reports.

Pompeo is in London for a NATO summit beginning Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s visit was planned at “too short a notice,” officials reportedly say, and comes as world leaders are already converging on the British capital and creating security challenges just days after a terror attack on London Bridge.

Some Israeli sources tell Haaretz the visit is being canceled because of “logistical problems,” while other unnamed officials say Netanyahu is backing out of the trip because Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron both declined to meet with him at such short notice.

British officials are said to be unhappy at Netanyahu’s last-minute plans after his last unexpected visit to the city in September to meet US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Netanyahu will try to arrange a meeting with Pompeo in Lisbon, Portugal, next week, Haaretz says. He is expected to raise Israeli concerns over Iranian moves in the region.

Police nab two suspects in murder of Rahat cousins last month

Police arrest two suspected in the double murder last month of cousins Mohammad and Jalal Abu Taha, aged 28 and 34 respectively, of the southern Bedouin city of Rahat.

The cousins were killed in a shooting attack in Omer, a suburb of Beersheba, while they made their way back to Rahat from a condolence visit to relatives in Tel Sheva.

Witnesses said at the time that two white jeeps blocked the cousins’ car and passengers in the jeeps opened fire in an apparent targeted hit seen by locals as part of an ongoing feud between two Rahat clans.

Officials are not identifying the suspects.

Knesset legal adviser says Netanyahu trial must wait till immunity decision

The Knesset’s top legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, issues a legal opinion that may delay Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial for several months.

Netanyahu faces charges in three corruption cases, but is permitted 30 days (starting today) to ask the Knesset for parliamentary immunity. The forum that is legally empowered to consider his immunity request is the Knesset House Committee. But the committee has no members, as the assignment of committee posts between the parliament’s factions is usually carried out as part of a broader coalition negotiations process, and no one has yet succeeded in negotiating such a coalition following the April and September elections. The House Committee thus has no members.

Yinon was asked by Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn whether the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, a temporary parliamentary committee formed after each election in which committee assignments are divvied up, can consider the immunity request instead of the House Committee.

Nissenkorn chairs the Arrangements Committee.

In his opinion, Yinon says the Arrangements Committee cannot take on any of the legal powers given to the House Committee, in part because it is by definition a temporary body with a limited mandate.

Instead, he says, Netanyahu’s immunity request, if it comes, can only be considered by a fully-staffed House Committee, whenever such a committee is formed. And crucially: Netanyahu’s indictment in all three corruption cases will not take place until the committee gives its opinion.

The bottom line appears to be this: No charges can be filed until a majority in the parliament agrees on staffing the Knesset House Committee, which likely won’t happen until a broader coalition is in place that can reach decisions with the opposition factions on staffing all the committees.

If the current Knesset can’t form a coalition by December 11, Israel goes to new elections in March, after which a new coalition will have to be negotiated over the ensuing weeks.

Even if the Knesset refuses to grant Netanyahu immunity, he likely just won several months’ freeze on the start of his corruption trial.

US House impeachment report coming ahead of landmark hearing

WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives impeachment report on US President Donald Trump will be unveiled today behind closed doors for key lawmakers as Democrats push ahead with the inquiry despite the White House’s declaration it will not participate in the first Judiciary Committee hearing.

The Democratic majority on the House Intelligence Committee says the report, compiled after weeks of testimony, will speak for itself in laying out what Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, has called the evidence of “wrongdoing and misconduct” by the Republican president over his actions toward Ukraine. It is being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee for Wednesday’s landmark hearing.

Late Sunday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, he also declined the invitation for the president’s counsel to appear before his panel Wednesday.

Cipollone, in continuing the West Wing’s attack on the House process, said the proceeding “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.” Trump himself was scheduled to attend a summit with NATO allies outside London on Wednesday.

— AP

Pompeo: Impeachment work should pause while Trump is abroad

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasts the House of Representatives on Monday for scheduling impeachment hearings while President Donald Trump is abroad.

Pompeo says it’s “very unfortunate” for the House Judiciary Committee to hold its hearing Wednesday at the same time that Trump is representing the US at this week’s NATO summit in London.

Pompeo tells “Fox & Friends” that there is a long tradition of supporting a president when he is traveling overseas and shouldn’t be distracted by problems at home while discussing international issues with allies.

“I regret that they’ve chosen to hold these hearings at the same time that the president and our entire national security team will be traveling to Europe, to London, to work on these important matters,” Pompeo says. “It’s very unfortunate.”

Separately, Pompeo declines to say whether he plans to step down as secretary of state to run for a Senate seat from Kansas.

— AP

Israeli held for illegally entering Jordan appears in court

AMMAN, Jordan — An Israeli man detained in Jordan appears before a state security court where he is charged with illegally entering the country and possessing drugs.

The 35-year-old Israeli pleads guilty today to entering Jordan illegally but denies the other charge. Konstantin Kotov says that possessing a small amount of marijuana is legal in Israel. The judge rejects the argument, saying Kotov had violated Jordanian law.

Kotov, who was arrested on October 29, does not say why he traveled to Jordan.

— AP

New head at UN nuclear watchdog as Iran tensions rise

VIENNA, Austria — Veteran Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi is sworn in as the new director general of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He tells reporters that Iran’s nuclear program — at the root of a growing international crisis — is a “priority” for the agency and that he plans to travel to Iran in “the relatively near future.”

Grossi had been serving as Argentina’s ambassador to the IAEA and is the agency’s first leader from Latin America.

He previously held high-level posts at the agency between 2010 and 2013 bringing him into contact with Iranian officials at a time when international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear activities were intensifying.

According to the former French ambassador to Iran, Francois Nicoullaud, Grossi will able to draw on “solid experience in proliferation matters.”

“He is someone of a very high caliber who comes from an important country in the nuclear field,” says Nicoullaud.

A current Vienna-based diplomat says on condition of anonymity that Grossi was expected to bring “a lot of energy and innovation” to the post, with a particular focus on pushing gender parity within the agency and promoting the role of nuclear energy in fighting climate change.

Grossi will be taking over from Yukiya Amano, who died in July at the age of 72 having been in the post since 2009.

— AFP

Despite political gridlock, Knesset sends NIS 600m to education

The Knesset Finance Committee approves the transfer of some NIS 600 million ($173 million) to the education system for enrichment and at-risk programming, as well as a host of logistical and welfare demands by schools.

The Knesset has been largely paralyzed since the last functioning government fell in late December 2018, with most of its committees unstaffed. But lawmakers who could not agree on a coalition government nevertheless voted in some of the parliament’s basic oversight bodies — including the Finance Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee — in order to ensure government services are not harmed by the ongoing political deadlock.

The funds will also go to youth organizations, STEM enrichment programs and community centers.

French parliament to vote on whether hate of Israel is anti-Semitic

The lower house of France’s parliament is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution that calls hate of Israel a form of anti-Semitism.

The 577 members of the National Assembly are set to vote Tuesday on the draft, which also calls on the government to join other European nations in adopting the definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA.

The definition states that some forms of vitriol against Israel, including comparing it to Nazi Germany, are examples of anti-Semitism, though criticizing Israel’s policies is not.

Lawmaker Sylvain Maillard of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling LREM centrist party touched off with his draft resolution weeks of debates about it in the French media.

The National Assembly in Paris, France, November 3, 2011 (Franck Prevel/Getty Images/via JTA)

In October, 39 organizations wrote an open letter to National Assembly President Richard Ferrand warning against passing the resolution, arguing against a separate definition of anti-Semitism distinct from other prejudices as it would “weaken the universalist approach” to “combating all forms of racism” and compromise “defense of freedom of expression and assembly for groups and activists that must be allowed to defend the rights of Palestinians and criticize Israel’s policy without being falsely accused of anti-Semitism,” read the letter.

Among its cosignatories was Malik Salemkour, president of France’s Human Rights League, an organization founded in 1898 to fight the anti-Semitic persecution and show trial of the French-Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus.

Maillard defended the draft, telling La Croix that in France today, saying “dirty Zionist…means ‘dirty Jew.'”

The draft denounces “hate toward Israel justified only by its perception as a Jewish collective.”

— JTA

Eight children said killed in Turkish shelling on north Syria

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Eight children are among nine people killed in a Turkish artillery attack that hits near a school in a northern Syrian town today, a Britain-based war monitor says.

Those killed in the attack on Kurdish-held Tal Rifaat were all displaced from the Afrin region which was captured last year by Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

— AFP

Gantz rejects US defense pact, slams Netanyahu for floating the idea

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, a former head of the army, rejects the idea floated once again earlier today by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of negotiating a mutual defense pact of some kind with the United States.

“Blue and White under my leadership will not support an international agreement that limits Israel’s freedom of action and the ability of the IDF to defend the country from the threats it faces,” Gantz says in a Hebrew-language tweet.

Netanyahu earlier today said he had spoken about the idea with US President Donald Trump in a phone call yesterday.

“I feel profound appreciation for our strategic relationship with the United States, an ally that shares our values and interests,” Gantz goes on, but slams Netanyahu’s defense pact idea as a political stunt that could hurt Israel’s security.

“There’s cause for grave concern that a prime minister who’s now thinking only about himself will tie the hands of our security forces, despite the longstanding opposition of the defense establishment.”

There is concern among senior Israeli defense officials that any defense treaty could see Israeli troops put in harm’s way for foreign interests, or (equally unpalatable for Israeli military planners over the decades) foreign troops being called on to defend Israel.

Iran unrest killed ‘at least 208,’ Amnesty International says

LONDON — At least 208 people are believed to have been killed during a crackdown on protests in Iran last month that followed a fuel price hike, Amnesty International says.

“The number of people believed to have been killed during demonstrations in Iran that broke out on 15 November has risen to at least 208, based on credible reports received by the organization,” says the London-based rights group, adding that the actual death toll is likely higher.

— AFP

Netanyahu scoffs at AG’s long witness list as evidence of his innocence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists again that the corruption charges against him are less than “real.”

He points to the 333 witnesses named by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in the charge sheet handed to the Knesset earlier today as evidence of his innocence.

“When there’s a real case, you don’t need 333 witnesses, and when there’s no real case, even 333 witnesses won’t help,” Netanyahu declares in a Twitter post.

That rhetorical flourish has been a recurring theme for Netanyahu throughout the investigations.

In a video posted to Twitter in March 2018, he said the very fact that prosecutors had offered his former aides a state’s witness deal signaled his innocence.

“When you have something real, you don’t need even a single state’s witness. And when you have nothing, even a thousand state’s witnesses won’t help,” he said at the time.

In Israel, Louis C.K. jokes he’s ‘rather be in Auschwitz than New York’

Comedian Louis C.K., performing in Israel, talked about accusations of sexual misconduct against him and his life since he confessed and apologized. And Auschwitz.

“I’d rather be in Auschwitz than New York City,” he told the crowd during his stand-up routine Thursday in Holon, just outside of Tel Aviv.

Then came the punchline: “I mean now, not when it was open.”

The joke got a big laugh from the predominantly Jewish crowd, TMZ reports, noting that the comedian is Jewish on his father’s side.

C.K. had performed in Israel a week earlier for 4,000 fans at the hip Hangar 11 venue in the Tel Aviv port area. His act was “well-received,” according to a review in The Times of Israel.

Louis C.K. performs at The New York Comedy Festival at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, November 1, 2016. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation/via JTA)

His last performances in Israel were in 2016, before he was accused of sexual misconduct by several women.

The Auschwitz joke is not new to C.K’s repertoire. In December 2018, during a stand-up routine at the Governor’s Comedy Club on New York’s Long Island, as he mounted a comeback, he said: “I loved New York for 20 years. Now, I would rather be in Auschwitz. Honestly, I would.”

The audio of the show was leaked about two weeks after his performance, and the Auschwitz joke sparked outrage on social media, CBS News reported at the time.

— JTA

Ukraine leader says he didn’t speak about a ‘quid pro quo’

WASHINGTON — Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he never spoke with US President Donald Trump “from the position of a quid pro quo.”

Trump claims Zelenskiy had said Trump had done nothing wrong. But Zelenskiy did not go that far in a Time interview published today.

Zelenskiy says, “I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars.”

Trump tweets in response, “The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls.”

Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy is at the center of the House impeachment probe. He pressed Ukraine for investigations into Democrats as US aid to Ukraine was withheld.

— AP

Muslim man who stabbed two Jews in Amsterdam ruled unfit to stand trial

AMSTERDAM — A Muslim man charged with trying to kill a Jewish father and son at an Amsterdam market is found not criminally responsible for his actions and sent for psychological care.

A Dutch judge rules that Taha Ewis Bakri Abdel Ghani suffered from delusions, heard voices and experienced a psychosis at the time of the March 16 stabbing incident at the Albert Cuyp Market, the NIW Jewish paper reports today. The judge bases the ruling on a psychiatric report.

The ruling follows several recent cases in Western Europe involving Muslim men who assaulted Jews and were deemed unfit to stand trial.

Abdel Ghani was charged with attempted manslaughter in the stabbings of Martin Colmans and his son Sharon, who were lightly and moderately injured, respectively. The Colmans and Abdel Ghani owned neighboring stores in the market.

A Jewish father and son were stabbed by a store owner at the Albert Cuyp Market in Amsterdam, seen here in 2005. (Wikimedia Commons/via JTA)

According to the Colmans, Abdel Ghani assaulted them following weeks in which he would read the Quran at the entrance to his store and leer at them. During the first hearing in the case, in September, the Colmans asked the judge to consider a religious or racist motive, which was not included in the indictment.

NIW editor-in-chief Esther Voet writes on Twitter that the ruling made her “furious.”

Last week, a judge in Paris upheld an earlier ruling excusing of criminal penalty a man who in 2017 killed his Jewish neighbor while shouting about Allah and calling her a demon. That defendant said he had smoked too much marijuana to control himself.

— JTA

Pompeo: Iran the ‘common villain’ in Mideast protests

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Iran is the uniting factor behind protests around the Middle East, saying demonstrators in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran itself oppose the clerical regime.

While acknowledging diverse local reasons for the unrest that has swept the Middle East as well as other regions, Pompeo points the finger at Iran, considered an arch-enemy by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned “because the people were demanding freedom and the security forces had killed dozens and dozens of people. That’s due in large part to Iranian influence,” Pompeo says.

“The same is true in Lebanon, the protests in Beirut,” he says at the University of Louisville.

“They want Hezbollah and Iran out of their country, out of their system as a violent and a repressive force,” he says.

He says protests inside Iran — which Amnesty International says have killed more than 200 people — show that Iranians are also “fed up.”

“They see a theocracy that is stealing money, the ayatollahs stealing tens and tens of millions of dollars,” he says.

— AFP

Democrats aim to catch up to Trump’s 2020 cash advantage

WASHINGTON — Democrats are narrowing US President Donald Trump’s early spending advantage, with two billionaire White House hopefuls joining established party groups to target the president in key battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome of next year’s election.

Priorities USA and American Bridge, two of the leading Democratic outside groups, are ramping up operations. The organization ACRONYM recently pledged to spend $75 million. And former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged to spend $100 million on ads targeting Trump, while California billionaire Tom Steyer promised $50 million.

The billionaires have come under fire from some Democratic rivals for trying to buy the presidency. But the influx of cash is soothing anxiety in some corners of the party that Trump, who has repeatedly broken fundraising records, was off to an unprecedented early start in the 2020 advertising wars. Some had argued that the Democrats’ overwhelming focus on the sprawling presidential primary field allowed the president to burnish a reelection narrative unchallenged ahead of what is expected to be an exceptionally close election.

“It’s safe to say the gap is closing,” says David Brock, who leads several Democratic groups, including American Bridge. “People can breathe a little bit of a sigh of relief that there is a major Democratic response now and that Trump’s spending will be met.”

The money has put Democrats on firmer footing in states such as Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arizona, which will be key to victory in 2020. But it’s unclear how long it will last.

Trump has built a massive money-raising machine that has fused a traditional network of big-dollar Republican donors with a sophisticated digital operation that has raked in small contributions from rank-and-file supporters.

— AP

Adam Neumann visits native Israel in wake of WeWork ouster

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, who stepped down in September as CEO of the shared office space company, is making a personal visit to his native Israel.

Neumann will not be visiting WeWork’s offices there, the Calcalist business journal reports, citing an unnamed source “familiar with the matter.”

Neumann grew up on a kibbutz. His mother, Avivit Neumann, an oncologist at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, told the Israeli radio station 103FM in October that her son had become religious through the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Neumann, 40, was forced out as chief executive, but has remained chairman of the WeWork parent firm, We Co. Under the bailout, he remains an observer and holds a minority stake, The Wall Street Journal reported.

WeWork founder Adam Neumann speaks in Shanghai, China, April 12, 2018. (Jackal Pan/Visual China Group via Getty Images/via JTA)

The deal gave SoftBank 80 percent ownership of the company, which at the beginning of the year was valued at $47 billion and heading for an initial public offering. The IPO has been delayed, however, as the company suffered a major devaluation amid investors’ fears over the charismatic but unpredictable Neumann’s control of the firm.

— JTA

21 die in Syria as airstrike targets market, school shelled

BEIRUT — A suspected Syrian government airstrike on a market in a northwestern rebel-held town kills 13 civilians, while Turkish artillery shells land near a school in a Kurdish-held town, killing at least nine, including eight children, activists say.

The violence is part of rising tension in Syria’s north, along the border with Turkey. Syrian government troops have renewed their push to reclaim the last opposition stronghold in Idlib province while Turkey, which sees Syrian Kurdish fighters as a threat, has been widening its military operations there to push them away from its borders.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the airstrike hit a popular market in the rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan, killing 13 civilians and wounding 18. The opposition-run Aleppo Media Center also puts the death toll at 13, while the Syrian Civil Defense, a team of first responders known as White Helmets, says nine civilians, including two women, were killed.

Different casualty tolls are common in the chaos of the civil war. Over the weekend, fighting between Syrian government forces troops and insurgents in Idlib — the last opposition stronghold — killed dozens on both sides.

This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows members of the Syrian Civil Defense transporting an injured person after an airstrike hit the northern town of Maaret al-Numan, in Idlib province, Syria, December 2, 2019. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

— AP

Jerusalem mayor says no more plastics in city’s kindergartens

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion announces on Facebook that the city’s kindergartens and preschools will no longer use one-time plastic dishes and utensils.

“Over the next few months, the change will come to all relevant kindergartens and schools, with each adopting the solution that fits best. Some kindergartens will get dishwashers, some will wash their dishes, and some will see the dishes taken home by parents,” Lion says.

The move comes after a successful pilot in 50 kindergartens over the past six months.

The new policy comes with a new curriculum, “in which all educational institutions in the city will teach lessons in sustainability, protecting the environment, and the importance of safeguarding planet Earth from a global perspective.”

Community centers will also get in on the action, Lion says, running “special programs in their neighborhoods.”

Suicide over mounting debt strikes a chord in crisis-hit Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A suicide in Lebanon committed over mounting debt sparks a social media outcry in the protest-hit country, where weeks of political and economic turmoil have raised alarm.

Naji Fliti, a 40-year-old father of two, committed suicide outside his home in the border region of Arsal on Sunday because he could not pay outstanding medical bills for his cancer-stricken wife, a family member tells AFP.

The death resonates with many on social media, who blame the country’s under-fire political class for failing to address a months-long economic downturn that has resulted in inflation, swelling unemployment and fears of a currency devaluation.

“He is a victim of this regime, of this political class and their financial and monetary policies,” Doumit Azzi Draiby, an activist, says on Twitter.

An unprecedented anti-government protest movement has gripped Lebanon since October 17, fueled in part by deteriorating living conditions.

The World Bank has warned of an impending recession that may see the number of people living in poverty climb from a third to half of the population. Unemployment, already above 30 percent for young people, would also go up, it said.

— AFP

Trump fumes over impeachment drive while he is at NATO summit

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump brands Democrats a “disgrace” for holding impeachment proceedings, while he attends a NATO summit in England and rejects participating in what he calls “a hoax.”

“The Democrats, the radical-left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats, decided when I’m going to NATO — this was set up a year ago — that when I’m going to NATO, that was the exact time,” Trump says angrily on departing the White House.

“It’s an absolute disgrace what they’re doing to our country,” he says. “The whole thing is a hoax. Everybody knows it.”

While Trump is away, House Democrats will ramp up momentum on efforts to make the real estate tycoon the third president ever impeached.

The process starts Wednesday with a hearing in the Judiciary Committee at which experts will weigh whether Trump’s alleged crimes in pressuring Ukraine to investigate a domestic political opponent meet the constitutional impeachment bar.

— AFP

Putin signs bill targeting journalists and bloggers

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a bill into law today that gives the government the right to register bloggers, journalists, and social media users as foreign agents.

The bill extends an existing law involving foreign-funded media outlets. That was adopted in 2017 in response to the decision by the US Justice Department to label the Russian state-funded RT television a foreign agent.

The new law can apply to anyone who distributes content produced by media outlets registered as foreign agents and receives payments from abroad. Individuals registered as foreign agents will be subject to additional government scrutiny.

The move has been criticized by many in Russia for restricting freedom of expression in the country even further and allowing the authorities to crack down on dissent.

— AP

Trump campaign bars Bloomberg News, alleging ‘bias’

US President Donald Trump’s campaign says it is banning journalists from Bloomberg News from its electoral events, claiming “bias” by the media group owned by presidential rival Michael Bloomberg.

Brad Parscale, the Trump 2020 campaign manager, says the decision was made after Bloomberg News announced it would not investigate the company boss or his Democrat competitors.

“As President Trump’s campaign, we are accustomed to unfair reporting practices, but most news organizations don’t announce their biases so publicly,” Parscale says in a statement.

The Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events, and will decide “whether to engage with individual reporters or answer inquiries from Bloomberg News on a case-by-case basis,” Parscale adds.

Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said in response: “The accusation of bias couldn’t be further from the truth. We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign.”

— AFP

Trump administration quietly releases Lebanon military aid

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has quietly released more than $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon after months of unexplained delay.

That’s according to two congressional staffers and an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly to the matter. The $105 million in Foreign Military Financing funds for the Lebanese Armed Forces was released last week. Lawmakers were notified of the step on Monday

The money had languished in limbo at the Office of Management and Budget since September although it had already won congressional approval and overwhelming support from the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council. The White House has yet to offer any explanation for the delay despite repeated queries from Congress and the media.

— AP

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Eight children said killed in Turkish shelling on north Syria

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Eight children are among nine people killed in a Turkish artillery attack that hits near a school in a northern Syrian town today, a Britain-based war monitor says.

Those killed in the attack on Kurdish-held Tal Rifaat were all displaced from the Afrin region which was captured last year by Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

— AFP