The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
Foreign Ministry warns of rising anti-Semitism in wake of Polish Holocaust bill
The Foreign Ministry says it is increasingly concerned about a spate of anti-Semitic expressions in the Polish media in the wake of the controversial Polish Holocaust Bill.
Ties between Warsaw and Jerusalem have been tense since Israel voiced its opposition to a bill that criminalizes blaming Poles for atrocities during the Holocaust, angering the Poles.
“The Foreign Ministry is monitoring with concern the rising anti-Semitic feelings expressed through the Polish media and we are considering making an appeal via out embassy in Warsaw,” the ministry says.
Israel has pilloried the legislation — which prescribes prison time for referring to “Polish death camps,” and criminalizes the mention of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes — as “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
IDF foils attack on West Bank settlement
The IDF says it has foiled an attack at the West Bank settlement of Negohot, arresting a Palestinian armed with a knife and a map of the community.
“A short while ago, IDF troops thwarted an attempted terror attack adjacent to the community of Negohot, southwest of Hebron,” the army says.
“Soldiers apprehended a Palestinian suspect wearing a military jacket near the community, a knife and a map of the community were found in his possession,” it says, adding that the suspect was transferred to the security forces for questioning.
— Judah Ari Gross
Bad-boy Likud MK banned from Knesset for 6 months
Bad-boy Likud lawmaker is banned from entering the Knesset for six months for a series in incidents in which he insulted fellow lawmakers.
The Knesset Ethics committee is giving him the maximum possible punishment for offenses including telling one female MK she was too ugly to work to work as a prostitute.
He also called Arab Israeli lawmakers “terrorists.”
The committee, which is made up of two coalition and two opposition MKs tasked with overseeing the behavior and public activities of lawmakers, announces that the decision was made “after receiving numerous complaints of goading, humiliating and offensive comments containing derogatory language.”
They says his actions are “thuggish, brash, degrading and intimidating… and often descended into racist and base comments.”
— Raoul Wootliff
Top Islamic scholar accused of rape held in Paris
French police today detained prominent Swiss Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, a legal source says, months after two women filed rape charges against him.
Ramadan was summoned for questioning to a Paris police station and taken into custody “as part of a preliminary inquiry in Paris into rape and assault allegations,” the source says, confirming a report by RTL radio.
EU urges US not to go it alone with Mideast peace efforts
The European Union is urging the US to not go it alone in any effort to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians and warns that doing so would end in failure.
“Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players — all partners — that are essential to this process. A process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says.
“Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone,” Mogherini tells reporters in Brussels.
Her comments come at an emergency meeting of an international committee coordinating Palestinian development aid. Government ministers from Israel and Egypt, as well as the Palestinian Authority prime minister and a US senior official are attending the talks, to be chaired by Norway.
The meeting is the first of its kind since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with an international consensus that the holy city’s status should be resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
After being boycotted last time, German FM meets Netanyahu
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem after talks were canceled last year when the diplomat met with an Israeli group critical of the military.
Standing alongside Netanyahu on Wednesday, Gabriel says: “Israel always can count on Germany as a fair partner to defend the security of Israel.”
Netanyahu abruptly canceled a meeting in April with Gabriel over his meeting with Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli army veterans opposed to the army’s alleged abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli leaders oppose the group’s work, citing the anonymity of its testimony and its outreach efforts abroad to foreign audiences.
The incident sparked a rare diplomatic feud with Germany, one of Israel’s closest and most important allies.
Liberman warns Israel will use massive force in future Lebanon war
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is warning that Israel will use great force in any future conflict with Lebanon.
“We will do everything possible to go in with the maximum force,” Liberman tells a security conference.
“If we are sitting in shelters in Tel Aviv, then they will be sitting in shelters in Beirut,” he says of the threat posed to Israel by the tens of thousands of rockets in the hands of Hezbollah.
“We cannot accept a situation like in the Second Lebanon War there were pictures of the Lebanese going to the beach while in Tel Aviv people were in bomb shelters,” he says.
Hamas says fuel shortage closed seven Gaza medical centers
Seven medical centers in Gaza have stopped services due to lack of fuel to power generators, the Hamas-run health ministry in the Strip says, two days after a hospital took similar steps.
Ashraf al-Qidre, spokesman for the ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, says the health situation has entered an “unprecedented stage” due to an electricity crisis.
He says the seven centers in different parts of Gaza will stop all services as they do not have the fuel to run backup generators.
On Monday, a hospital in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza announced it would transfer all its patients and stop services due to lack of fuel.
The Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank and run by Hamas’s longtime rivals Fatah, accuses Hamas of exaggerating the problem, saying fuel and funding have been provided.
UN said to postpone publication of blacklist of settlement-friendly companies
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is indefinitely postponing publishing a blacklist of companies operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, following pressure from the US and Israel, the Walla news site reports.
The list reportedly includes some of the biggest firms in Israeli industry as well as some household names in the US, including Coca-Cola, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and Caterpillar.
The US has threatened to withdraw from the international forum if the list is published.
Israeli companies on the list reportedly include pharmaceutical giant Teva, the national phone company Bezeq, bus company Egged, the national water company Mekorot and the country’s two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi.
Palestinian charged with trying to run down two soldiers
A Palestinian is charged with two counts of attempted murder for trying to run over two Israeli soldiers in the Jordan Valley.
The man, Jahed Jabari, hit one of the soldiers in the leg with his vehicle, lightly injuring him.
Prosecutors are asking the military court to hold him in custody until the end of the trial
Warsaw official moves to ban anti-Israel demonstration
A Warsaw governor has taken steps to prevent a planned far-right protest outside the Israeli Embassy by banning traffic in the area, citing security concerns.
Right-wing groups have called the protest for later today amid a spat between Poland and Israel over pending Polish legislation that would bill that criminalizes blaming Poles for atrocities during the Holocaust.
Israel has vehemently protested the law saying it would stifle historic research and truth.
Warsaw regional governor Zdzislaw Sipera says that for security reasons he is banning traffic around the embassy until February 5, except for residents and city services, to prevent protesters from gathering.
He says the embassy has expressed security concerns ahead of the protest.
Israeli envoy slams UN for report on companies that operate in settlements
Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon is slamming the world body for releasing a report on settlement-friendly companies today.
“That they chose to release this list …on the same day as the UN is marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a stain that will never be wiped off the history of the UN,” Danon says, calling it an “embarrassment.”
The UN human rights office says 206 companies — mostly Israeli and American — are facing a review of their business practices involving Israeli settlements that are considered illegal under international law.
But the UN office does not list the names of the companies on the blacklist, apparently following US and Israeli pressure.
Danon vows to keep working to stop the list of companies being published.
Holocaust survivor addresses German lawmakers at parliament
A survivor of the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp praises Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open her country’s doors to asylum seekers in 2015, telling lawmakers at a special parliamentary session commemorating the victims of the Holocaust it was a sign of Germany’s “exemplary” conduct following the war.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a 92-year-old German-born Jew who survived Auschwitz with her sister but lost her parents in the Holocaust, says that after the war they emerged as refugees in a world of closed borders.
“Now they are opened, thanks to an incredibly generous and courageous gesture made here,” she says to wide applause, with Merkel sitting not far away.
But she also urges Germany and other nations to remain vigilant in fighting anti-Semitism, saying that people needed to see one another as individuals and overcome hatred.
“Hate is toxic, and ultimately those who hate poison themselves,” she says.
At least two Jewish billionaires on US Treasury’s ‘Putin list’
At least two Jewish billionaires appear on a list of Russian politicians and oligarchs published by the US Treasury as part of a sanctions law against Moscow.
The 114 politicians and 96 oligarchs, ordered by Congress in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, all rose to power under Russian President Vladimir Putin and are considered to be fair game for sanctions under legislation meant to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 US election as well as other actions such as human rights violations, annexation of Crimea and ongoing military operations in eastern Ukraine.
The Jewish billionaires on the list are Vyacheslav Kantor, known as Moshe Kantor, and Roman Abramovich.
Kantor is a philanthropist who serves as president of the European Jewish Congress. In 2010 he established the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University In 2017, Forbes estimated Kantor’s net worth at $3.1 billion, making him the 34th richest person in Russia and 620th richest person in the world.
Abramovich is the primary owner of the private investment company Millhouse LLC, and the owner of the British soccer team Chelsea Football Club, a Premier League football club. In 2017, Forbes estimated Abramovich’s net worth at $9.1 billion, making him the 139th richest person in the world.
Poland to push ahead with Holocaust bill despite agreement with Israel
The Polish Senate will vote later today on the controversial Polish Holocaust bill, despite agreeing to address Israeli concerns before it moves ahead, Hebrew media reports.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to his Polish counterpart Sunday night, as the two attempted to set aside a diplomatic spat over legislation in Warsaw that criminalizes blaming Poles for Nazi atrocities.
Netanyahu has pilloried the law — which prescribes prison time for referring to “Polish death camps,” and criminalizes the mention of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes — as “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki “agreed to immediately open a dialogue between staffs of the two countries, in order to try and reach an understanding over the legislation,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office read.
But Poland is apparently not waiting and the Senate will vote today, Hadashot news reports.
The bill, passed by the lower house of the Polish parliament, still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president.
Hamas member said killed in tunnel accident
A Hamas member has been killed in an accident in one of the terror group’s tunnels in the Gaza Strip, the Ynet news site reports.
Details on the cause of the accident or the location of the tunnel were not released, Ynet says.
Israel is building a underground barrier to detect the attack tunnels that come into Israel under the Gaza border and recently found and destroyed three of them.
Netanyahu corrects German minister on two-state support
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, publicly correcting him over Israel’s stance on a two-state solution.
In statements after their meeting Netanyahu interrupts Gabriel as he talks about a two-state solution to the conflict.
Gabriel says he was “very thankful to hear that, of course, also the government of Israel wants to have two states” with secure Israeli borders.
Netanyahu interjects to reiterate his position that his country would have to maintain security control in the Palestinian territories under any peace arrangement.
“No, that we will control security west of the Jordan (river)… that is I think the first condition,” Netanyahu says.
“Whether or not it’s defined as a state when we have the military control is another matter, but I’d rather not discuss labels, but substance.”
Trump signs order to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open
US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to keep open the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, marking a formal reversal of his predecessor’s eight-year effort to shut it down.
Trump made it clear during his campaign that he wanted Guantanamo to remain open and to “load it up with some bad dudes,” but he has not yet sent a new detainee to the facility.
The order, which Trump signed last night just before delivering his first State of the Union address, says the US maintains the option to detain additional enemy combatants at the detention center in Cuba when lawful and necessary to protect US national security.
It requires the defense secretary to recommend criteria for determining the fate of individuals captured by the United States in armed conflict, including sending them to Guantanamo.
Israel summons Irish ambassador over settlement bill
The Irish ambassador to Israel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry today to clarify Dublin’s position on a bill that seeks to criminalize the import and sale of settlements goods.
Yesterday, the Irish Senate postponed voting on a bill hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticized the proposed legislation.
The envoy, Alison Kelley, said that the Irish government opposes the bill and it was proposed by “independent elements,” the Foreign Ministry quotes her as saying.
The proposed legislation — a private member bill sponsored by Independent Senator Frances Black — declares it an offense “for a person to import or attempt to import settlement goods.”
NJ town accused of targeting Jews settles lawsuit over boundary
A New Jersey town accused of discriminating against Orthodox Jews from nearby New York State approved a settlement with a group that sued over a religious boundary, or eruv, built with white plastic piping on utility poles.
Mahwah Township’s council voted 5-2 yesterday to settle the suit from the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association after two hours of private legal discussion, the Record reports. The settlement will remain confidential pending approval from the group, says Mahwah Township Attorney Brian Chewcaskie.
The lawsuit was sparked by a now-reversed township ordinance that would have effectively banned the building of an eruv, a religious boundary that some Orthodox Jews rely on to perform tasks on the Sabbath including carrying bags and pushing strollers.
Former MK warns Iran hacked German company building Israeli submarines
Former lawmaker Erel Margalit is warning that Iranian hackers are constantly targeting a range of top-secret Israeli targets and may have stolen the plans for Israel’s naval submarines.
Margalit, a high-tech entrepreneur, says at a conference that the Iranians managed to hack into the computers of Thyssenkrup shipbuilders, who construct Israel’s submarines.
“Iranian actors managed to steal the blueprints for the Israeli submarines from Thyssenkrup,” he says speaking at a security conference.
“Israeli nuclear scientists are attacked every day,” he warns, saying it is all only a prelude to a greater cyber conflict.
In the Knesset, Margalit had chaired the task force on cyber protection.
AG says Netanyahu corruption probes in ‘final stretch’
Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit says the investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged corruption have entered the ‘final stretch.”
Mandelblit has faced weekly protests outside his house by demonstrators who feel he has been holding up the investigations into Netanyahu.
Speaking at a conference Mandelblit dismisses these concerns, saying that the public is unaware of most of the details of the investigations despite frequent leaks and that he would not be swayed by public pressure.
“We act according to evidence, not tweets,” he says. “We won’t be afraid to take difficult decisions.”
In the so-called Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife Sara are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
US State department lists Hamas chief Haniyeh on terror list
The US State Department is listing Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”
In announcing the designation of Haniyeh and two others, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that “these designations target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran – who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process, and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel.”
“Today’s actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities,” he says.
The designations mean that “all of their property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.”
.@StateDept has designated Ismail Haniyeh, Harakat al-Sabireen, Liwa al Thawra, and Harakat Sawa’d Misr (HASM) as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. Full details: https://t.co/6rmZD6rogE
— State Dept CT Bureau (@StateDeptCT) January 31, 2018
Haniyeh led Hamas in Gaza before being elected as the terror group’s overall leader in May 2017.
Russia casts doubt over evidence of Iran-made missiles to Yemen
Russia is dismissing evidence presented by the United States and UN experts that Iran had supplied missiles to Yemen’s Huthi rebels as inconclusive, signaling it will oppose a bid to slap sanctions on Tehran.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia says it was unclear whether missiles and weaponry used by the rebels were Iranian-made or whether they were shipped before the arms embargo on Yemen was imposed in 2015, casting doubt over the findings of a UN panel of experts.
“Iran is vehemently denying it is supplying anything to Yemen,” Nebenzia tells two reporters.
“Yemen hosts a pile of weapons from the old days. Many countries were competing to supply weapons to Yemen during the time of president Saleh, so I cannot give you anything conclusive,” he says.
AIPAC slams UN report on settlement companies
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is slamming a UN report on companies that do business with the settlements as “highly biased,” and calls on Congress to take action
“The UN Human Rights Council has issued a highly biased and anti-Israel report targeting the only democracy in the Middle East. It is very concerning that this report could be used to lay the groundwork for boycotts against American companies that do business with Israel,” AIPAC says.
The statement also calls on Congress to pass the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, calling it “critical legislation to prevent unfair boycotts against Israel.”
Train carrying GOP lawmakers to policy retreat hits garbage truck
A chartered train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a Republican retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck south of Charlottesville, Virginia on Wednesday, lawmakers say.
No lawmakers were believed injured in the accident.
“We’re fine, but our train hit a garbage truck. Members with medical training are assisting the drivers of the truck,” Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., wrote on Twitter.
A GOP aide says the train is partially derailed.
Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole says a person on the truck may have been seriously injured.
Hamas says won’t be deterred by US placing leader on terror list
Hamas says it won’t be deterred by the US placing its leader Ismail Haniyeh on a global terror list.
“It’s a failed attempt to put pressure on the resistance,” Hamas says. “This step won’t deter us from continuing on our path and striving to expel the occupation.”
Haniyeh is now on the US Treasury sanctions blacklist, which freezes any US-based assets he may have and bans any US person or company from doing business with him.
German court clears Algerian in IS attack plot trial
A German court Wednesday clears the second of three defendants in an alleged Islamic State group attack plot after a former suspect was released late last year.
The tribunal has been investigating an alleged plan for coordinated jihadist gun attacks and suicide bombings in the old town center of the western city of Düsseldorf.
However, the court released a 29-year-old Algerian man, who was identified only as Hamza C. in keeping with privacy rules, citing a lack of evidence against him.
It had last month released the co-accused Jordanian Mahmood B. on similar grounds.
The case was launched after the Syrian Saleh A. went into a Paris police station two years ago and told officers about what he said was a “sleeper cell” ready to strike in Germany.
Israel’s first Arab Supreme Court justice said he doesn’t sing national anthem
The first Arab-Israeli Supreme Court justice, now retired, says he cannot sing the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah.”
“Right now, I cannot sing an anthem that includes the words ‘Beats true a Jewish heart,’” Salim Joubran says in an interview published in the Israel Bar Association’s journal in honor of his August retirement.
“If the state expects all of its citizens, including the Arab ones, to respect its national anthem, it needs to respect them and their rights.”
Joubran, 70, who served as a justice starting in 2003, says d he stands at official events when “Hatikvah” is played, but does not sing the words.
“If one day the words of the national anthem are changed, I think I won’t have any problem singing it,” he says. “I definitely think words should be added to be appropriate for the Arab citizen in Israel as well.”
White House says one dead in collision with Republican lawmaker train
The White House is confirming one fatality and one serious injury after a chartered train carrying Republican lawmakers to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says there are no serious injuries among members of Congress or congressional staff.
Sanders says President Donald Trump has been fully briefed on the matter and is receiving regular updates.
The train carrying the lawmakers hit a garbage truck south of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Lawmakers are heading to their annual legislative retreat at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Assistant of Hollywood mogul gives fresh testimony in Netanyahu probe
Police have in recent days again questioned Hadas Klein, an assistant to Israeli-born Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, in connection with a corruption probe into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 10 reports.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from Milchan.
In November, Klein reportedly testified that the prime minister explicitly requested expensive cigars, appearing to contradict the premier’s defense that they were just “gifts” between friends.
Channel 10 quotes a police source as saying the fresh testimony from Klein was “very important.”
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing.
The report also says that police could be ready to submit their recommendations by the end of February.
US-Israel to hold massive missile defense drill next week
The US military is currently deploying large-scale anti-missile defenses across Israel in preparation for a huge joint exercise next week, Channel 10 reports.
The annual Juniper-Cobra exercise will simulate a massive simultaneous rocket and missile attack on Israel from the south and the north, the report says.
Eritrea’s leader criticizes Israel migrant deportation plan
Eritrea’s president in a rare interview is expressing his displeasure with Israel’s plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants, saying they deserve far more than the $3,500 offered to leave.
President Isaias Afwerki’s interview posted on a government website today says the migrants from his country and Sudan paid a “high price” to human traffickers to reach Israel and deserve more like $50,000.
Many leaving the east African nation claim they fled a restrictive Eritrean regime where men are often forced into a military service with slavery-like conditions.
Afwerki claims the Eritrean migrants were enticed abroad to organize an armed opposition but that the “subversive schemes” failed and the migrants have become a burden.
He says Eritrea has offered to register all its migrants but Israeli authorities refused.
Fire breaks out at left-wing Hadash party headquarters in Tel Aviv
A fire broke out at the headquarters of the left-wing Hadash party in Tel Aviv, causing damage but no injuries, a party spokesperson says.
Hadash is a member of the predominantly Arab Israeli Joint List party.
The party’s youth group was meeting at the time of the fire and it is not immediately clear what set off the blaze, the spokesperson says.
Israel hails US decision to put Hamas leader on terror list
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz is praising the US decision to put Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on its terror list.
“I wish to congratulate the US on the righteous decision to designate Ismail Haniyeh as a global terrorist,” he tweets.
“This man is one of the main reasons the citizens of the Gaza strip are suffering since the terror organization Hamas took power of the Strip in 2007.”
Cabinet to vote on recognizing Havat Gilad outpost next week
The Defense Ministry says that the cabinet will vote on Sunday to approve Havat Gilad as a full-fledged settlement, less than a month after resident Raziel Shevach was gunned down by a Palestinian terrorist outside the illegal outpost.
The vote was scheduled for last week, but was pulled at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Right-wing ministers and lawmakers demanded the legalization of Havat Gilad, where Shevach, the 35-year-old father of six, lived.
Shevach was shot dead earlier this month as he was driving in his car on the highway near his home.