Gantz reversal on peace plan release followed angry messages from US — report
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IDF opens fire on 3 Gazans attempting to infiltrate Israel, attack troops

Netanyahu vows to annex all settlements ‘without exception’ after Gantz supports extending Israeli sovereignty over Jordan Valley

Illustrative: Israeli troops respond to an infiltration by two Palestinian men from the northern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2019. (Yediot Mehashetah)
Illustrative: Israeli troops respond to an infiltration by two Palestinian men from the northern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2019. (Yediot Mehashetah)

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

Gantz promises to annex Jordan Valley after upcoming election

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz vows he’ll push to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley following the upcoming elections.

“The Jordan Valley is the eastern defense shield of the State of Israel, in any future scenario that will take place. Governments that have deliberated returning it made a strategic and grave security mistake,” Gantz says while touring the area.

“We see this piece of land as an inseparable part of the State of Israel and after the elections we’ll work toward applying sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. We’ll do this in a move agreed on nationally and in coordination with the international community,” he adds.

Shortly before elections in September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would immediately push to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley — about a quarter of the West Bank — immediately after a government was formed.

Netanyahu’s promise, which he claimed he would have fulfilled already if not for the attorney general ruling his transition government lacks the authority to do so now, has been put on ice after those elections failed to produce a government and a fresh vote was called for March 2.

In his comments, Gantz also laments last year’s return of two enclaves along the border to Jordan, after the kingdom refused to extend the 25 year lease on them that was agreed on as part of the 1994 peace deal between the countries.

“There can’t be additional incidents like the loss of Tzofar and Naharayim,” Gantz says.

Iran MP offers $3 million ‘to anyone who kills Trump’ — report

TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian lawmaker has offered a $3 million reward to “anyone who kills” US President Donald Trump to avenge the killing of a top general, semi-official news agency ISNA reports.

Ahmad Hamzeh, a little-known member of the Majlis, makes the offer on behalf of the people of Kerman, the hometown and final resting place of storied commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.

“We will give $3 million to anyone who kills Trump,” Hamzeh, who represents Kahnouj county near the southeastern city of Kerman, is quoted as saying by ISNA.

He doesn’t say who would pay the bounty offer, which comes a month ahead of a parliamentary election.

Soleimani, one of the most popular public figures in Iran, was killed on January 3 in US drone strike outside Baghdad airport.

— AFP

Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a US drone strike, in the city of Kerman, Iran, January 7, 2020 (Erfan Kouchari/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

South Korea naval unit to expand operations to Strait of Hormuz

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean anti-piracy unit has temporarily expanded its mission to the Strait of Hormuz, a vital global oil route at the center of soaring tensions between Iran and the United States.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry announces the expansion today, saying it is meant to help ensure the safe passage of South Korean vessels and nationals through the waterway.

South Korea has conducted anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2009 and is expanding to the strait that connects the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf. Tensions in waters around the Arabian Peninsula have soared since US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal and a US airstrike earlier this month killed Iran’s top general.

Iran was accused of sabotaging oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last year, allegations it denied. It seized a British-flagged oil tanker after an Iranian oil tanker was seized by authorities in Gibraltar over suspected sanctions violations. Both ships were released weeks later.

The South Korean ministry’s statement says the unit will work independently but cooperate with a US-led coalition if necessary. It says two South Korean soldiers will be liaison officers at the International Maritime Security Construct headquarters.

Observers say the decision suggested South Korea considered both its relations with Iran and chief ally United States, which has asked it for a contribution to help guard oil tankers.

— AP

Gantz says he hopes Trump will move up peace plan roll-out

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz says he hopes US President Donald Trump will soon release his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, amid growing speculation it could be rolled out before Israel’s upcoming elections.

“I hope the president will move up [the roll-out] and I expect the plan will be released very soon,” Gantz tells reporters while visiting the Jordan Valley.

Gantz, who has previously said the White House should hold off on releasing the plan until after the March 2 elections, is expected to meet this week with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the US administration’s pointman for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Kushner will be in Jerusalem alongside dozens of world leaders for the World Holocaust Forum. He will also likely meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu on Gantz’s Jordan Valley annexation vow: Why wait, let’s do it now

Prime Minister Netanyahu responds to Blue and White chair Benny Gantz’s vow to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley after the upcoming elections.

“Why wait until after the elections if it is possible to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley already with broad agreement in the Knesset? Benny Gantz, I expect your answer this evening, unless [Joint List MK] Ahmad Tibi vetoed you,” Netanyahu is quoted saying by Hebrew media.

Gantz earlier told reporters that he would push to apply sovereignty over the area “in a move agreed on nationally and in coordination with the international community.”

In September, Netanyahu claim he wanted to immediately declare sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, but said was told by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit a transition government could not make such a move so close to an election.

It was not clear from Netanyahu’s remarks why he believes Gantz’s campaign promise would cause Mandelblit to reassess his earlier legal position.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Gantz takes flak from left for Jordan Valley annexation vow

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz is facing criticism from left-wing lawmakers for his pledge to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley after the March 2 elections.

Labor-Gesher party leader Amir Peretz attributes the vow with the centrist Blue and White’s efforts to pick up right-wing voters.

“The declarations about annexing the [Jordan] Valley are hollow and reckless. The IDF must remain in the area as long as needed, but Israel’s hand must be extended toward peace and a diplomatic solution,” he writes on Twitter.

MK Nitzan Horowitz, head of the left-wing Meretz party, says Blue and White is either chasing after right-wing votes due to “insecurity,” or believes in the move out of a “lack of logic.”

“Either way it makes it very clear that center-left people have nothing to look for in Blue and White,” he tweets.

Joint List chief Ayman Odeh says “imitation” is not the way to replace Netanyahu as prime minister and predicts a dark outcome if Gantz were to go through with such a move.

“Annexation is the elimination of any chance for democracy and peace. [Gantz] apparently forgot there is life after the campaign. The pathetic attempt to gather a few votes from the right is not worth the future destruction of all of us,” he says on Twitter.

One-upping Gantz, Netanyahu says he’ll apply sovereignty to all settlements

Prime Minister Netanyahu repeats his campaign promise to apply Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements, shortly after his Blue and White rival Benny Gantz vowed to extend sovereignty over the Jordan Valley following the March 2 elections.

“As I’ve promised, no settlement in Judea and Samaria will be uprooted and we’ll apply Israeli sovereignty over all settlements. This our next step, not just the blocs,” Netanyahu says, using the Biblical term for the West Bank.

He adds: “We’ll ensure settlement in the heart of the Land of Israel together with the American administration.”

Netanyahu makes the comments in a meeting with settlers from the Binyamin region of the West Bank.

Gantz responds to Netanyahu: First we’ll debate immunity, then Jordan Valley sovereignty

Gantz retorts quickly to Netanyahu, who hit out at him for promising to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley after the upcoming elections.

“Bibi, first we’ll deliberate immunity and afterwards we’ll manage applying sovereignty,” Gantz writes on Twitter, referring to Netanyahu’s request for immunity from graft charges.

Lithuania president cancels trip to Jerusalem for World Holocaust Forum

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda cancels his visit to Israel for the World Holocaust Forum, which will bring dozens of world leaders to Jerusalem this week for commemorations marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

Lithuania will instead be represented at the gathering by Lithuanian Parliament Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis, according to a statement from Nauseda’s office.

Nauseda will instead be going to Poland for a memorial ceremony at Auschwitz hosted by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who is also not attending the World Holocaust Forum because organizers would not allow him to speak at the main ceremony.

Duda has recently feuded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will be speaking at the event in Jerusalem, over who is to blame for the start of World War II.

Nauseda decided to cancel because Putin is being allowed to speak but not Duda, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, also has fraught relations with Russia over WWII and Communist-era history.

— with Raphael Ahren

Gantz reversal on peace plan release followed angry messages from US — report

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz reversed his opposition to a potential roll-out of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan before Israel’s upcoming elections after receiving angry messages from the White House, the Walla news site reports.

Following a meeting earlier this month with Avi Berkowitz, Trump’s peace envoy, Gantz declared during a faction meeting that releasing the plan before March 2 would constitute election interference.

“The Americans were very angry that his declaration was made publicly,” Blue and White sources tell the news site.

Earlier today, Gantz said he expects the US peace plan to be revealed soon and that he hope Trump moves up the release date.

Iraqi bank says gas transfers from Iran to stop if US waiver ends

BAGHDAD — The bank through which Iraq pays for Iranian gas imports to power its grids says it’ll stop processing payments if a crucial US sanctions exemption expires next month.

“We’ll stop. As simple as that,” the head of Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) Faisal al-Haimus tells AFP.

That could be devastating for Iraq’s crippled electricity sector, which has relied on Iran for about a third of its supply, and comes at a time of heightened US-Iran tensions.

Washington slapped tough sanctions on Iran’s energy sector in 2018 but has granted Iraq a series of temporary waivers over the last 15 months to allow it to buy gas from Tehran.

Baghdad pays for the imports by depositing Iraqi dinars into an account at the state-owned TBI, which Iran is technically allowed to use to purchase non-sanctioned goods.

But if Iraq’s waiver is not renewed next month, TBI would stop processing payments, Haimus says.

“If the waiver ended, of course TBI will not pay for any gas or deal with any Iranian entity over gas or electricity. Absolutely,” he says.

“As a bank, the most important thing we have is that we are compliant (with international regulations). That’s why people trust us,” the chairman adds.

— AFP

Liberman swipes at Gantz, PM over Jordan Valley annexation: Like the radio show ‘All talk’

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman swipes at Blue and White chair Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu, claiming his party is at the forefront of efforts to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

“The law to annex the Jordan Valley was submitted by the ‘Yisrael Beytenu’ faction on 2 December 2019 and therefore all the debate today between Netanyahu and Gantz is like a dialogue between two presenters on the [Kan public] radio program ‘All talk,'” Liberman writes on Twitter.

His tweet comes shortly after Gantz promise to apply sovereignty over the West Bank area after the March 2 elections. In response to Gantz’s campaign pledge, Netanyahu — who made a similar vow before elections in September — called for the Blue and White leader to help advance the move immediately.

‘Suspicious object’ found attached to balloons in south

A suspicious object resembling a model plane was found attached to a cluster of balloons in an open area at the Ne’ot Hovav industrial area in southern Israel, police say.

“A police sapper arrived at the scene and dealt with the object,” a police statement says.

Hillary Clinton says ‘nobody likes’ Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton says “nobody likes” her former presidential rival Bernie Sanders, even as the Vermont senator remains entrenched among the front-runners in the Democratic race, with the Iowa caucus beginning in less than two weeks.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published today, Clinton is asked about a comment she makes in an upcoming documentary where she says Sanders was “in Congress for years” but, “Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done.”

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the CNN Presidential Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, April 14, 2016. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Clinton replies that the criticism still holds and refuses to say she’d endorse him this cycle if he wins the party’s nomination, adding: “It’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters.”

Sanders’ campaign says it doesn’t have a comment about Clinton’s remarks.

Clinton also blames Sanders’ supporters for fostering a culture of sexism in politics — a charge that is especially sensitive now, given that Sanders’ top progressive rival in the 2020 race, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, has accused him of suggesting a woman couldn’t win the White House during a private meeting between the two in 2018.

In the interview, Clinton attacks a cadre of online Sanders supporters known generally as the “Bernie Bros,” many of whom were sharply critical of Clinton’s 2016 campaign for their “relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture.”

— AP

Blue and White gunning for January 30 start to Netanyahu immunity hearings

Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn, head of the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, has penciled in January 30 as the start of hearings on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity from corruption charges, according to Hebrew media reports.

That scheduled start date depends on a plenum vote set for next Tuesday to set up the panel that will weigh the immunity request, which Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein promised Sunday.

Once it is formed, the Knesset House Committee will also take up Likud MK Haim Katz’s request for immunity from criminal charges.

Poland calls on Putin to tell truth at Holocaust event in Israel

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland has appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to refrain from using World War II and Holocaust victims for current political goals and pointed to wartime documents in which the Polish government called on the Allies to save Jews.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek makes the appeal today before a conference in Israel this week to mark 75 years since Soviet troops liberated the German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Putin, who will be one of the key speakers, recently alleged that Poland bears some blame for the war and accused Poland’s government of the time of anti-Semitism. Poland’s president decided to boycott the conference, saying he wasn’t offered a chance to speak.

Szynkowski vel Sek says that if distortions and untrue allegations are repeated at the conference, Poland will point to historic documents and facts to counter them.

He names efforts by Poland’s resistance and the government-in-exile in London to gather and share with world leaders the facts about the mass extermination of Jews by occupying Nazi Germany.

One such document is Poland’s report on the extermination of Jews that various government leaders received in 1942, when Auschwitz-Birkenau was operating.

From 1940-45, around 1.1 million people, mostly Jews from across Europe, were killed at the camp.

The war began in 1939 with Nazi Germany’s military invasion of Poland, followed two weeks later by the Soviet invasion.

— AP

Hamas chief may not return for months to Gaza from foreign tour

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The leader of Hamas will remain outside the Gaza Strip for up to a year, a senior official says.

Ismail Haniyeh left Gaza in December on his first major foreign tour since taking over as the Palestinian terror group’s leader in 2017.

He has since visited Turkey, Egypt, and Malaysia as well Iran, for the funeral of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, killed by a US airstrike in Iraq.

“Haniyeh will remain abroad and continue to run Hamas until he has completed all the tasks and all the goals of his foreign tour,” Hamas deputy chief Khalil al-Hayya tells journalists.

The trip could last up to a year, he says.

Haniyeh is currently in the Gulf state of Qatar, which is a longtime Hamas ally and allied to the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Hamas has its ideological roots.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran, January 6, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

The Hamas leader left Gaza via Egypt, the only state apart from Israel to border Gaza.

Hayya admits the Iranian visit has caused tensions with Egypt, which is allied with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“Our brothers in Egypt rebuked us for visiting Iran, but (Hamas) has its own independent stance,” Hayya says, saying the visit strengthened “the relationship between Hamas and Iran.”

Hamas has controlled the impoverished Gaza Strip since ousting loyalists of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

— AFP

Film of world leaders condemning anti-Semitism to be shown at Rivlin-hosted dinner

A film featuring condemnations of anti-Semitism by world leaders will be aired tomorrow evening at a dinner hosted by President Reuven Rivlin for dignitaries attending the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem.

A statement from the President Residence’s says the film will be based on 44 letters from a book compiled by Yad Vashem for the events this week marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

“To those who seek the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, I say: never again,” writes US President Donald Trump.

Trump will not be visiting Israel this week, with Vice President Mike Pence attending the forum in his stead.

The film also includes letters from Prince Charles, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

A letter from US President Donald Trump that will be included in a film aired at the President’s Residence during a dinner for visiting dignitaries attending the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. (President’s Residence)

PM said weighing dropping immunity request if Gantz backs Jordan Valley annexation next week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing dropping his request for immunity from corruption charges if Blue and White chair Benny Gantz backs an initiative next week to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Quoting Likud sources, the broadcaster says Netanyahu is considering publicly making such an offer when his party kicks off its election campaign tonight at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Gantz said earlier today he would push to extend sovereignty over the Jordan Valley after the March 2 elections and do so “in coordination with the international community.”

Netanyahu, who before elections in September made a similar campaign pledge, subsequently called on Gantz to back efforts to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley immediately.

Founder of virtual marijuana marketplace barred from running in elections

The Central Elections Committee disqualifies the founder of Telegrass, a virtual marijuana marketplace, from running in the upcoming elections.

Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, who heads the committee, orders Amos Dov Silber be erased from the No. 2 spot on the Liberal Economic Power party’s electoral slate.

Silber is currently in prison awaiting trial after being indicted in September for managing Telegrass, which before it was shut down in March connected drug dealers and customers on the Telegram messaging app.

Telegrass founder Amos Dov Silver appears at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing on August 18, 2019, after being extradited to Israel from Ukraine. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

UK Labour leadership race down to 4 contenders after Phillips quits

LONDON — One of the five contenders to lead Britain’s main opposition Labour Party drops out of the race today after struggling to build momentum behind her campaign.

Lawmaker Jess Phillips says in a video message that the party needs “a candidate that can unite all parts of our movement – the union movement, the members, the elected representatives.” Phillips, who has been a member of Parliament since 2010, adds that “at this time, that person isn’t me.”

Four contenders remain in the race to lead the left-of-center party as as it tries to rebuild support and regain power after last month’s electoral drubbing.

Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry are vying to replace Jeremy Corbyn, who is stepping down after Labour suffered its worst election result since 1935 in Britain’s December 12 election.

Labour is one of Britain’s two dominant political parties, but hasn’t won a national election since Tony Blair’s third consecutive victory in 2005. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won 365 of the 650 House of Commons seats in the December 12 election, while Labour took 203, its worst total since 1935.

The party is enmeshed in a blame game for the defeat, with some members accusing the socialist Corbyn of veering too far to the left and making lavish spending promises that voters regarded as unrealistic. Labour is also agonizing over its Brexit stance — which tried unsuccessfully to satisfy voters who wanted to leave the European Union as well as those who wished to remain — and continuing claims of anti-Semitism in party ranks.

— AP

(L-R) British Labour leadership candidates, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer are seen on stage during the Leader hustings event in Liverpool, England, on January 18, 2020. (Paul Ellis/AFP)

Democrats decry McConnell’s impeachment rules as ‘cover-up’

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial quickly bursts into a partisan fight as proceedings begin unfolding at the Capitol. Democrats object strongly to rules proposed by the Republican leader for compressed arguments and a speedy trial.

Even before Chief Justice John Roberts gavels in the session, Democrats warn that the rules package from Trump’s ally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could force midnight sessions that would keep most Americans in the dark and create a sham proceeding.

“This is not a process for a fair trial, this is the process for a rigged trial” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the prosecution, tells reporters. He calls it a “cover-up.”

The first test will coming at midday as the senators begin to debate and vote on McConnell’s proposed rules.

Republican senators are falling in line behind his plan.

“Sure it will be a fair trial when you’ve got 24 hours of arguments on both sides,” Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa tells state reporters on a conference call.

Trump himself, in Davos, Switzerland, for an economic conference, denounces the proceedings as “a total hoax,” as he does daily, and says, “I’m sure it’s going to work out fine.”

— AP

Putin names new cabinet, keeps key ministers in place

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin forms his new cabinet, replacing many of its members but keeping his foreign, defense and finance ministers in place.

The Cabinet shake-up comes as Putin has launched a sweeping constitutional reform that is widely seen as an attempt to secure his grip on power well after his current term ends in 2024.

Immediately after announcing the proposed changes last week, Putin fired Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who had the job for eight years, and named tax chief Mikhail Mishustin to succeed him.

Today, Putin issues a decree outlining the structure of the new cabinet and names its members. He appoints his economic adviser Andrei Belousov as first deputy prime minister and named

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov are retaining their jobs. Siluanov, however, is stripped of his additional title of the first deputy prime minister he had in the old Cabinet.

Several Medvedev allies lose their Cabinet seats.

Putin meets with members of the new cabinet, hailing it as “well-balanced.”

— AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and New Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin attend a Security Council meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow in Moscow, Russia, January 20, 2020. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Netanyahu: ‘The entire Ethiopian community is coming home to Likud’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicks off his Likud party’s election campaign with an event at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Praising the lawmakers in attendance, Netanyahu name drops Gadi Yevarkan, who defected from the rival Blue and White last week to Likud.

“The entire Ethiopian community is coming home to Likud,” Netanyahu says.

‘Blue and White, you’re left-wing,’ Netanyahu says

Netanyahu continues his campaign speech by rattling off his accomplishments since returning to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009.

“We turned Israel into a power and we turned it into a country that is good to live in,” he says.

Netanyahu next turns to going after his political rivals.

“Blue and White, you’re left-wing,” he says.

Netanyahu vows to extend sovereignty to all settlements ‘without exception’

After Benny Gantz’s earlier promise to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley following the elections, Netanyahu vows to not only extend sovereignty over the area, but over all West Bank settlements “without exception.”

Netanyahu needles Gantz’s Blue and White party, accusing its lawmakers of being at odds with each other on numerous issues.

He also says that Blue and White cannot form a government without the Joint List, an alliance of four majority Arab parties he has repeatedly attacked on the campaign trail, and claims a vote for his rivals will lead to a fourth consecutive round of elections.

Rivlin meets with world leaders as they arrive in Israel for Holocaust forum

President Reuven Rivlin is holding meetings with world leaders and other dignitaries who have arrived in Israel for this week’s World Holocaust Forum.

After meeting earlier with Australian Governor-General David Hurley and Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, Rivlin holds talks with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Minnesota man exposed as commander of Nazi-led unit dies

MINNEAPOLIS — A retired Minnesota carpenter whom The Associated Press exposed as a former commander of a Nazi-led unit accused of war atrocities has died.

Michael Karkoc, whose family maintained that he was never a Nazi or committed any war crimes, lived quietly in Minneapolis for decades until AP’s review of US and Ukrainian records in 2013 uncovered his past and prompted investigations in Germany and Poland. Karkoc died December 14, according to cemetery and public records. He was 100.

His son, Andriy Karkoc, hangs up on an AP reporter without confirming his father’s death. Officials at the Kozlak-Radulovich Funeral Chapel, which was listed on one website as having handled the funeral arrangements, declines to comment.

But records at Hillside Cemetery in Minneapolis show he was quietly buried there December 19, next to his wife, Nadia Karkoc, who died in 2018. And Minnesota Department of Health records show that a Michael Karkoc with the correct birthday died December 14. The family and funeral home did not publish a public obituary.

Karkoc’s involvement in the war surfaced when a retiree who researched Nazi war crimes approached the AP after coming across Karkoc’s name. The AP investigation relied upon a broad range of interviews and documents, including Nazi military payroll information and company rosters, US Army intelligence files, Ukrainian intelligence findings and Karkoc’s self-published memoir.

— AP

Weinstein lawyer says ‘loving emails’ are key to disgraced mogul’s defense

NEW YORK — Defense lawyers want to use a trove of intimate email correspondence between Harvey Weinstein and his accusers to try to convince a jury that any contact was consensual, one of the attorneys says today on the eve of opening statements in Weinstein’s rape trial in New York City.

The defense has “dozens and dozens and dozens of loving emails to Mr. Weinstein” it wants to use to discredit witnesses, attorney Damon Cheronis tells a Manhattan judge.

Some of the same women who claim they were victimized by the disgraced movie mogul “also bragged about being in a sexual relationship with him,” he says.

The request comes during last-minute arguments over how the emails could be used once a jury of seven men and five women starts hearing the case Wednesday.

Judge James Burke bars the defense from using the actual emails in a presentation planned for opening statements but permits referring to their “substance and content.”

— AP

McConnell abruptly eases impeachment limits

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly changes his proposed rules for US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, backing off the condensed two-day schedule to add a third for opening arguments after protests from senators, including Republicans.

The trial quickly burst into a partisan fight at the Capitol as the president’s lawyers opened arguments today in support of McConnell’s plan. Democrats objected loudly to McConnell’s initially proposed rules, and some Republicans made their concerns known in private.

Without comment, the Republican leader quietly submits an amended proposal for the record, after meeting behind closed doors with senators as the trial opened. He adds the extra day and allows House evidence to be included in the record.

“It’s time to start with this trial,” says White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the president’s lead lawyer as the proceedings open in public.

“It’s a fair process,” he says. “There is absolutely no case.”

Chief Justice John Roberts gavels open the session, senators having taken an oath last week to do “impartial justice” as jurors.

Senators are stunned by McConnell’s shift, and aides offer no immediate answers.

But a spokeswoman for Republican Senator Susan Collins says that she and others had raised concerns. The Maine senator sees the changes as significant improvements, says spokeswoman Annie Clark.

— AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, arrives at the Senate for the start of the impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, January 21, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

3 Gazans infiltrate into Israel, attack IDF troops, are shot

Three Palestinians are shot after they crossed the border into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip and threw an explosive at Israeli troops, the military says.

The conditions of the three men are not immediately known.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the three men entered Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip, going to a wooded area near the community of Kibbutz Kissufim.

During this time, the three suspects were under IDF surveillance, the military says.

“IDF troops were called to the scene, closed off the area and began searching for the suspects, who threw an explosive device or grenade at the soldiers,” the IDF says in a statement.

“The soldiers opened fire at the suspects, and a hit was confirmed. There was no threat presented to the [nearby] communities,” the military adds.

— Judah Ari Gross

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Gantz reversal on peace plan release followed angry messages from US — report

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz reversed his opposition to a potential roll-out of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan before Israel’s upcoming elections after receiving angry messages from the White House, the Walla news site reports.

Following a meeting earlier this month with Avi Berkowitz, Trump’s peace envoy, Gantz declared during a faction meeting that releasing the plan before March 2 would constitute election interference.

“The Americans were very angry that his declaration was made publicly,” Blue and White sources tell the news site.

Earlier today, Gantz said he expects the US peace plan to be revealed soon and that he hope Trump moves up the release date.