Former police top brass: Amend nation-state law over Druze treatment
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Trump says he is willing to meet Iran’s Rouhani with no preconditions

US president says he’ll sit down with counterpart anytime to hash out new nuclear deal, citing meetings with North Korean and Russian leaders

Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov and his wife host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at a reception marking Russia Day in Jerusalem, June 14, 2018 (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov and his wife host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at a reception marking Russia Day in Jerusalem, June 14, 2018 (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s news as it unfolded.

Yisrael Beytenu official appeals sentence

David Godovsky, a former top official in the Yisrael Beytenu party, appeals his sentence.

He was sentenced last month to seven years in prison after being convicted under a plea bargain of four counts of taking bribes, three of money laundering, and two for requesting bribes.

Godovsky says that the sentence contradicts the terms of the plea bargain. He is demanding that the deal be annulled.

Rivlin says he ‘sympathizes’ with Arabs on nation-state law

President Reuven Rivlin comments again on the recently passed nation-state law, which has raised hackles among non-Jewish communities in Israel.

During a tour of the southern Bedouin town of Kuseife, Rivlin says he will “do everything” he can, “as a citizen of the State of Israel that is the fulfillment of the Zionist movement’s dream, to maintain a home where everyone can be partners.

“I have sympathy for the Arab citizens,” he continues, according to Ynet, alluding to criticism of the bill. “Partnership is essential.”

US ambassador said to visit family of Israeli terror victim

David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, reportedly visits the settlement of Adam to pay a condolence call to the family of Yotam Ovadia, who was killed in a terror attack last week.

A spokesperson for the US embassy says her office cannot comment on the ambassador’s schedule.

Labor MK rejects party’s right to suspend him over harassment claims

A Labor lawmaker who was temporarily suspended yesterday by the party leader amid allegations of sexual harassment, says that the measure has no legal basis.

MK Eitan Broshi’s defiance comes amid mounting calls from members of his own parliamentary faction that he step down in light of a television news report of accusations that he sexually harassed a colleague 15 years ago in an elevator.

He also recently touched a female MK from his party inappropriately, and then apologized for his action.

India asks 4 million to prove their nationality in northeast

India releases a final draft of a list of its citizens in the northeastern state of Assam, leaving some 4 million people on edge to prove their Indian nationality.

India says hundreds of thousands of people have illegally entered the country from neighboring Bangladesh over decades and settled down in the northeast. Bangladesh rejects the claim.

The application process for inclusion in India’s national register started in 2015. Of 32.9 million applicants, the names of 28.9 million have been approved and included in the draft, Sailesh, India’s registrar general, told reporters in Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.

— AP

Most Israelis support nation-state law

A majority of Israelis are in favor of the controversial nation-state law, which has come under criticism as being potentially discriminatory against non-Jews in the country, according to a new poll.

The Walla survey finds that 58 percent of the public support the law, and only 34% oppose it.

Among voters of right-wing parties, support soars to 85%, while 75% of left-wing voters oppose it.

Despite supporting the law, a majority of Israelis (54%) also affirm that there is merit the grievances of the Druze community against the law, as opposed to 23% who oppose the Druze campaign.

The poll was conducted online among 532 respondents.

Druze women, children kidnapped by IS in Syria’s Sweida

The Islamic State group kidnapped dozens of Druze women and children when it attacked their village last week in Syria’s Sweida, residents of the southern province and a monitor says.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 36 Druze women and children were abducted, but that four women had since managed to escape while another two had died.

That leaves 14 women and 16 children in IS captivity, says Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. Another 17 men were unaccounted for, but it was unclear if they were also kidnapped.

IS has not claimed the kidnappings and no details on them could be found on its propaganda channels.

According to news outlet Sweida24, the 36 civilians were kidnapped on Wednesday from the village of Al-Shabki, in the eastern hinterlands of Sweida province.

Sweida24 and other online outlets published a video that appeared to show one of the hostages making demands of the Syrian government, purportedly on IS’s behalf.

AFP could not independently verify its authenticity, but several Sweida residents confirmed that a woman appearing in the footage was among those missing after the attacks.


Vast majority of Brits unhappy with Brexit talks, May – poll

A new poll released today indicates that over three-quarters of the British public disapproves of the government’s handling of Brexit negotiations, and a similar number also disapprove of Prime Minister Theresa May’s general performance.

The survey, conducted by the polling unit of Sky News, marks a sharp drop in the public’s confidence in the government to secure a favorable trade deal for the United Kingdom when it exits the European Union in March 2019.

Asked to rate the government’s performance on negotiating a Brexit agreement with the EU, 78 percent of respondents say it is doing a bad job, with only 10% expressing approval.

Sky News says the disapproval rating is up by 23% since the same question was asked for a poll in March, while the approval score is down by 13%.

Only 24% of respondents approve of May’s performance, a 17 point drop.

In light of these high disapproval marks, the poll says 65% of respondents believe the Brexit deal the government negotiates will ultimately be a bad one — including 51% of voters who backed leaving the EU in June 2016 referendum.

Rivlin visits grieving family of Israeli killed in terror attack

President Rivlin pays a condolence visit to the family of terror victim Yotam Ovadia in his family’s home in the West Bank settlement of Adam.

Ovadia was one of three Israelis stabbed by 17-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Yusef last Thursday. The two others were wounded.

“There are no words of comfort I can offer you on a personal level,” the president tells the family, calling their loss “unbearable.”

Yotam’s widow, Tal Tahel, tells the president that while her two children — aged 7 months and 2 years — do not completely understand what happened to their father, “they feel that something has changed.”

Tahel adds that they had chosen to move to Adam due to its proximity to Jerusalem. “I felt that I was living in the safest place there was. I was not afraid for a moment,” she says.

The president replies that “this is a fate that we’ve always endured as a people, and yet when it affects someone at the personal level, it is impossible to comprehend.”

“You are in all of our hearts,” he tells the grieving widow.

Tahel asks the president before he leaves to make an effort to ensure that no leniency is given to the terrorist’s family.

Yusef was shot dead by the third victim he stabbed.

“They get compensation, encouragement, and their house is not destroyed. This cannot be. ”

Rivlin assures the widow that “everyone gets the punishment he deserves.”

The president adds that PA President Mahmoud Abbas “must also understand that murderers cannot be encouraged.”

— Jacob Magid

Former police top brass: Amend nation-state law over Druze treatment

Eight former Israel Police commissioners and some 70 retired deputy commissioners send a letter to cabinet ministers demanding that they amend the nations-state law over its treatment of the Druze community.

In the letter, the officers assert that “during the years of our service, we commanded, fought and served alongside thousands of officers and fighters in the Border Police” who are members of the Druze and other non-Jewish communities, “defending the country, keeping the public peace and safeguarding the rule of law.”

“We call on cabinet members to amend the nation-state law so that it gives appropriate expression to the status of the [Druze] community, so that it is identical to the rights that the law grants us as the people of this land,” they say.

LGBTs lay out demands from government for ‘full equality’

LGBT organizations announce they are calling off a planned protest, fearing it will detract from the Jerusalem Pride Parade set for later in the week, which they expect to be the largest the the city has ever seen amid widespread anger over a law that bars gay men from surrogacy rights.

The Jerusalem march, set for August 2, comes after some 100,000 people packed into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest the exclusion of single men from the surrogacy law, which has drawn accusations of LGBT discrimination in the Jewish state.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv, Agudah, Israel’s umbrella organization for the LGBT community, presents a document, endorsed by 14 LGBT organizations, listing what it expects from the government, stressing it will accept nothing less than “full equality” and an “end to discrimination.”

The demands are divided into six categories: preventing violence against the LGBT community; full recognition of gay families, including equality in surrogacy; providing appropriate social welfare to LGBT people; equality in health care; educating the general population for tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community, and allocating at least NIS 50 million ($13.75 million) for the community.

Ahed Tamimi, fresh out of prison, says she has a ‘political future’

Teenage Palestinian protester Ahed Tamimi vows to keep demonstrating against the Israeli occupation and says she expects to have a “political future,” without elaborating.

Tamimi speaks to The Associated Press after serving an eight-month sentence for slapping two Israeli soldiers in an incident captured on film that has made her an icon among Palestinians and their supporters.

She says she hopes to pursue a law degree in order to document human rights violations.


US woman who drowned near Tel Aviv identified as U of Kentucky student

The body of a University of Kentucky sophomore was found this morning washed up on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

TeNiya Jones, a biology major with a minor in Islamic studies, was on a weekend visit to Israel from Jordan, where she was enrolled in a seven-week exchange program. She was due to return home to Fort Myers, Florida, in a week.

TeNiya Jones was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky. (Facebook)

Jones, 19, went out for the swim with two other exchange students on Saturday night. She disappeared off of a beach near Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

According to one of the students, a strong current pulled the three of them out deeper to sea while they were swimming. Two of the students were able to swim back to shore, but Jones did not make it back, according to a statement issued by the University of Kentucky.


5 passengers said injured by turbulence on Vienna-Tel Aviv flight

Five passengers were injured on a flight from Vienna to Israel due to turbulence, according to initial reports.

Magen David Adom paramedics were reportedly called to Ben Gurion airport in order to give them treatment.

There is no initial word on their condition.

Arson attacks from Gaza said to cause 5 fires in south

Five blazes are reported during the day in the southern Eshkol region, near the Gaza Strip.

Firefighters and other security personnel manage to subdue the fires, which local officials officials surmise were caused by airborne arson attacks from the Strip.

1 child lightly injured on flight from Austria to Israel

The Israel Airports Authority says a five-year-old boy was lightly injured in the head due to the turbulence, which affected an Austrian Air flight en route to Tel Aviv.

The other four, who are adults, are suffering from dizziness.

US pastor appeals house arrest in Turkey

The Turkish lawyer for a US pastor at the center of a diplomatic spat between NATO allies Ankara and Washington appeals to a court for his client’s release.

Andrew Brunson, who ran a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was moved to house arrest last week after nearly two years in prison on terror-related charges.

But his lawyer Cem Halavurt tells AFP that he submitted an appeal for Brunson’s “house arrest and the ban on him leaving the country to be lifted.”

The court must give a response within three days, Halavurt adds. The next hearing in Brunson’s trial is only on October 12.

Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two groups Turkey deems to be terror groups, namely, the movement of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says was behind a 2016 failed coup and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).


Facebook removes video of left-wing Birthright walkout

Facebook has removed a video that documented the walkout that eight left-wing activists staged in the middle of their Birthright trip earlier this month.

IfNotNow, an anti-Occupation organization made up of young progressive Jews in the US, claims that the measure was carried out due to pressure from “right-wing trolls.”

The group says Facebook gave no reason for removing the video.

It calls on the social network to restore it and “commit to an immediate cessation of its policy of removing content from Palestinian activists and other critics of the Occupation.”

— Jacob Magid

IDF probing whether 2 Gaza sniper attacks were work of single gunman

The Israeli military is reportedly probing whether a pair of recent sniper attacks on soldiers along the Gaza border were carried out by the same gunman.

In the first incident on July 20, Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed, making him the first Israeli fatality in an attack from the Strip since the 2014 Gaza war. Days later, a soldier was moderately wounded by sniper fire along the border.

Both soldiers were wearing protective ceramic vests when they were shot.

Quoting sources in the Israel Defense Forces’s Southern Command, the Walla news site reports that though whoever was behind the attack likely did not get a “green light” from Hamas, the shooter or shooters probably received help from the terror group.

The sources also noted the difficulty of effectively targeting a sniper in Gaza from beyond the border and said the sniper(s) apparently used rioting along the security fence as cover to fire at the troops.

“We estimate the sniper exploited distractions to the soldiers in the field during the demonstrations,” the sources are quoted saying. “This isn’t coincidental.”

Trump meeting with Italy’s Conte at White House

US President Donald Trump is meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House, as the US is kicking off new trade talks with the European Union.

Trump is welcoming Conte to the Oval Office for the Italian prime minister’s first trip to Washington since he took over the country’s new populist government.

Trump and EU officials averted escalating a trade dispute last week and are expected to start negotiations aimed at avoiding tariffs on automobiles and removing trade barriers.

Conte leads the euroskeptic coalition of the 5-Star Movement, which considers itself anti-establishment, and the right-wing, north-based League party.

The White House has noted that Italy is an important NATO ally and a key partner to US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.


UN envoy meets with Palestinian officials in Ramallah

The United Nations’ envoy to the peace process meets with Palestinian officials in Ramallah a day after Hamas reportedly rebuffed his efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire in Gaza.

Mladenov tweets that “everyone must do their part” in the effort to end the suffering “on all sides.”

Russian ambassador: We can’t force Iran to leave Syria

Russia’s ambassador to Israel says his country cannot force Iran to withdraw all of its forces from Syria, despite Israel’s insistence that it do so.

Anatoly Viktorov tells Channel 10 news that the Iranians are “playing a very, very important role in our common and joint efforts to eliminate terrorists in Syria.

“The Iranian presence in Syria… is fully legitimate according to the UN principles and the UN charter,” he continues.

Viktorov says Russia can talk to its “Iranian friends” about a full withdrawal from Syria, as Israel demands, but “we cannot force them.”

He also does not confirm Israeli officials’ statement to the effect that Moscow had offered to keep Iran at a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border, though he implies that Russia will not oppose continued Israeli airstrikes on Iranian bases in the country, Channel 10 says.

Russian envoy says ‘not up to’ his country to challenge Israeli strikes in Syria

The Russian ambassador says his country wants to see the implementation of “all of the provisions” of the 1974 separation of forces agreement along the Israel-Syria border.

“We agreed that on the other side of the border, there will only be regular units of the Syrian army,” Viktorov tells Channel 10. “The priority is to secure the State of Israel… These are not empty words for Russian foreign policy.”

Asked how Russia and Israel planned to ensure that the agreement was upheld, he says, “No non-Syrian troops should be in the southern deescalation area. Specific details are still under discussion… it would not be fruitful to reveal.”

When Channel 10’s Barak Ravid asks him whether Russia is “okay” with Israel’s reported airstrikes in Syrian territory against Iranian-affiliated targets, Viktorov says, “We are not okay with any forced action. We cannot agree with all actions that are taken by the Israeli government. How can we be satisfied?”

But, asked whether Russia will seek to prevent Israel from carrying out such strikes in the future, he smirks.

“We cannot dictate [to] Israel how to proceed. It is not up to Russia to give Israel freedom to do anything or to prohibit Israel from doing anything.”

Firefighters battle 2 blazes caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza

Firefighters report that there are two fires raging in areas around Gaza, caused by incendiary balloons sent over the border.

A spokesperson says one of the fires is near Saad and the other near Dorot.

Herzog teases Netanyahu in interview as incoming Jewish Agency chief

Isaac Herzog, the incoming chairman of the Jewish Agency, appears to take a playful dig at Prime Minister Netanyahu in an interview with The Associated Press.

Three years after narrowly missing out on becoming prime minister, losing to Netanyahu, Herzog says he looks forward to becoming the “prime minister of the Jewish people” in his new role.

Netanyahu has reportedly referred to the position at the helm of the Jewish Agency in similar terms when discussing Herzog’s appointment, which he opposed and which was seen as a move by the Agency to defy the prime minister’s policies vis-a-vis Diaspora Jewry.

“It’s a very important position, you’ll be prime minister of the Jewish people, they told me,” Haaretz quoted him as saying during a recent meeting on the matter, recalling that he had himself turned down the position in 1988 in favor of a political career that saw ascend to the premiership. “I thought it over and rejected the idea. There were other volunteers.”

Herzog took the opposite route.

“I was ready to be prime minister of Israel. I wanted to be prime minister of Israel. And yet, now I am actually intrigued by this new challenge,” he tells the AP from his nearly vacated office in the Knesset, where he has just resigned after 15 years.

— with AP

Iran rebuffs ‘media speculation’ it may hold talks with US

Iran’s foreign ministry rejects recent reports it may be open to fresh negotiations with the United States, as the country’s currency hit a record low, ahead of the re-imposition of US sanctions.

“The US or parts of the US may express wishes (about talks), but after the (US) illegal withdrawal from the JCPOA and their hostile policies and push for economic pressure on the Iranian nation, I think there is no such issue” in the works, the Tasnim news agency quotes spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying.

Qassemi also dismisses any connection between a recent trip by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Oman and the Omani foreign minister’s visit to Washington last week. Oman hosted Iranian and Obama administration officials during the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

The foreign ministry’s rebuke of “media speculation” comes just days after the influential parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, was quoted suggesting Iran could be open to talks with the US, if such a move has widespread backing from the country’s leaders.

— with agencies

Trump says he’s willing to meet Iranian president

US President Donald Trump says he would be willing to meet with Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani with no preconditions.

Trump makes the comments at a joint press conference with the Italian prime minister.

“I’m ready to meet any time they want to. I don’t do that from strength or weakness. I think its an appropriate thing to do. If we can work something out that’s meaningful. Not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet,” he says.

He cites his meeting with North Korea’s leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin and repeats he is willing to meet “anytime they want, with no preconditions.”

Gaza incendiary balloons spark 7 blazes in south

Firefighters have battled seven blazes since the morning sparked by balloons launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, a spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services Southern District says.

The spokesman says the fires broke out at the agricultural communities of Nir Am, Tlamim, Erez, Holit, Shokeda and Kissufim. He says firefighters are still working to extinguish a pair of blazes at Kissufim and the fire at Nir Am.

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Former police top brass: Amend nation-state law over Druze treatment

Eight former Israel Police commissioners and some 70 retired deputy commissioners send a letter to cabinet ministers demanding that they amend the nations-state law over its treatment of the Druze community.

In the letter, the officers assert that “during the years of our service, we commanded, fought and served alongside thousands of officers and fighters in the Border Police” who are members of the Druze and other non-Jewish communities, “defending the country, keeping the public peace and safeguarding the rule of law.”

“We call on cabinet members to amend the nation-state law so that it gives appropriate expression to the status of the [Druze] community, so that it is identical to the rights that the law grants us as the people of this land,” they say.