Gantz: ‘The Joint List will not be part of the government I form’
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Netanyahu responds to Abbas: Trump plan recognizes reality, you ignore it

‘This is the best plan for the Middle East, the State of Israel, and the Palestinians,’ PM tells supporters after PA president slams proposal in UN Security Council meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Likud party campaign event at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Likud party campaign event at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Palestinians rally against Trump plan amid struggle at UN

Thousands of Palestinians are rallying in the West Bank city of Ramallah against US President Donald Trump’s peace plan and in support of the Palestinian leadership as it tries to gain backing at the United Nations for a resolution opposing the proposal.

PA Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to deliver a speech at the UN later in the day, but members will not be voting on a draft resolution. Palestinian officials deny the resolution had been pulled, but diplomats say many members, including European countries, rejected the language in a draft that had circulated.

Protesters are packing Al-Manara Square in Ramallah, the West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, waving Palestinian flags and banners condemning the plan.

Palestinian protesters wave national flags during a demonstration against a US-brokered peace proposal in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on February 11, 2020 (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

An English-language banner read “Trump is part of the problem not the solution,” while another condemned the “theft of the century.”

“All Palestinian people and all the factions, national and Islamic, are standing behind President Mahmoud Abbas,” Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh tells the crowd.

“All the streets are full,” he says. “This is the Palestinian response.”

— AP

Court sends man who helped 2016 Tel Aviv New Year’s Day shooter to prison

Overturning a previous sentence of community service, the Supreme Court sends Mohammed Milhem to prison for a year for providing assistance to Nashat Milhem, the Islamic State-inspired terrorist who killed three people in a shooting in Tel Aviv on New Year’s Day, 2016.

The Haifa District Court had sentenced Mohammed Milhem to 300 hours of community service for purchasing a cellphone for Milhem while he was on the run from security forces, despite the fact that the latter admitted to him that he had carried out the shooting.

The perpetrator of the January 1, 2016, shooting attack in Tel Aviv, 29-year-old Nashat Milhem, seen after a 2007 arrest. (Channel 10 news)

Nashat Milhem killed two people in a shooting attack outside the Simta Bar on Tel Aviv’s busy Dizengoff Street. Shift manager Alon Bakal, 26, and patron Shimon Ruimi, 30, were killed in a hail of bullets as the gunman opened fire with a submachine gun. Seven people were also wounded.

Milhem later shot dead taxi driver Ayman Shaaban as he fled the scene. He abandoned the taxi on a road in northern Tel Aviv, before taking a bus to Ar’ara. He was eventually tracked down by security forces a week later after a massive manhunt and shot dead after he opened fire.

Erdogan vows Damascus will pay ‘heavy price’ for any attack

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vows that Syria will pay a “heavy price” for any attack on Turkish troops, a day after five soldiers were killed in regime shelling in the Idlib region.

“The more they attack our soldiers, they will pay a very, very heavy price,” Erdogan tells a televised ceremony in Ankara.

Turkey responded on Monday with artillery fire on Syrian positions and said it had “neutralized” 101 Syrian regime soldiers after the killing of five Turks in Idlib — the last major rebel bastion.

The exchange was the second such clash in a week, after eight Turks were killed in regime fire last week, which again prompted a military response from Turkey.

“The regime… got what it deserved in Idlib,” Erdogan says. “But it is not enough.”

— AFP

140 suspected coronavirus cases checked in Israel, all cleared

The Health Ministry reports that 140 people suspected of having contracted the coronavirus have been examined so far in Israel, and that all have been cleared of the virus.

“At the same time, the ministry’s assumption is that the coronavirus will arrive in Israel and the system continues to prepare for this scenario,” a statement from the ministry adds.

The ministry says to do so it will be increasing the number of tests done at the Tel Hashomer Central Laboratory, and will prepare an additional three laboratories for coronavirus testing and verification: Soroka hospital in Beersheba, Hadassah in Jerusalem and Rambam in Haifa.

Downing of Syrian regime helicopter kills two pilots

A Syrian military helicopter has been downed by Turkish in Syria’s war-torn province of Idlib, killing both pilots, a war monitor group says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the aircraft crashed near the village of Qaminas, southeast of Idlib city, after being hit by a rocket fired by Turkish forces.

Ankara, which supports Syrian armed groups in the rebel enclave in northwestern Syria, acknowledged the attack but did not claim responsibility.

Turkey’s defense ministry said it had obtained information that “a helicopter belonging to the regime has crashed” without specifying who was responsible.

— AFP

Egypt says its population has hit 100 million

Egypt’s population has reached 100 million, the country’s statistics agency says, highlighting the threat of overpopulation.

The North African country retains its position as the most populous Arab nation and Africa’s third most populous country behind Ethiopia and Nigeria.

A counter installed atop the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) ticked over into nine digits for the first time, the agency says.

A new baby is born in Egypt roughly every 17.9 seconds, the statistics body calculates.

Birthrates in Egypt have skyrocketed in the past three decades with around 1.5 million babies born every year — but they have recently slowed down as Egypt’s government has encouraged smaller families.

Egyptians numbered around 57 million 30 years ago.

— AFP

Britain unveils new laws to stop early release of terrorists

Britain unveils emergency laws to stop convicted terrorists from being automatically released partway through their prison sentences, following two attacks in London.

The government hopes the bill will swiftly pass through parliament and become law by the end of the month.

“No dangerous terrorist should be released automatically only to go on to kill and maim innocent people on our streets. Enough is enough,” says Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.

Prisoners are currently released on license — an automatic parole — around halfway through their sentences.

Under the proposed new law, terror convicts will only be considered for release after serving two-thirds of their sentence, and then only after consideration by a parole board.

The change will affect around 50 prisoners currently behind bars.

— AFP

Abbas to address UN Security Council on Trump peace plan

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to address the UN Security Council at 5 p.m. Israel time (10 a.m. EST) during a special session on
“The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”

PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani told The Times of Israel yesterday that Abbas will call for a multilateral mechanism to support the peace process and will warn of consequences of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank.

Security Council members will not, however, be voting on a draft resolution condemning the peace plan. Palestinian officials denied the resolution had been pulled, but diplomats said many members, including European countries, rejected the language in a draft that had circulated.

Introduced by Indonesia and Tunisia, the resolution was withdrawn because it risked not having nine out of 15 votes in its favor, the minimum required for adoption provided there is no veto by a permanent member.

Guterres to UN Security Council: ‘This is a time for dialogue, reconciliation and reason’

UN Secretary General António Guterres tells a UN Security Council meeting on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” that the UN remains committed to “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side.”

“I address you today with a deep sense on concern as we witness tensions around the world, particularly in the Middle East,” Guterres says ahead of PA President Abbas’s speech.

“This is a time for dialogue, reconciliation and reason,” he says.

UN Special Representative to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, tells the Council that unilateral steps “must be opposed.”

“Such steps would have a devastating impact for the prospects of a two-state solution,” he says of Israeli proposals to immediately annex parts of the West Bank.

Abbas to UN Security Council: Trump plan ‘legitimizes what is illegal,’ strengthens ‘apartheid regime’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells a UN Security Council meeting that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan annuls the Palestinians’ right to “self-determination, freedom and independence in our own state.”

“It legitimizes what is illegal: settlement and annexation of Palestinian land.”

He says it “should not be considered as an international reference for negotiations.”

“This is an Israeli-American preemptive plan in order to put an end to the question of Palestine,” he says. “It was rejected by us because it considers that East Jerusalem is no longer under the sovereignty of the state of Palestine… It leaves Palestine fragmented… It would put an end to the question of Palestinian refugees” and would “end all basis for a peace plan…”

“This plan will not bring peace or stability to the region, and therefore we will not accept this plan. We will confront its application on the ground.”

Abbas said the deal “strengthening the apartheid regime.” It “rewards the occupation instead of holding it accountable for all the crimes it perpetrated against our people and our land.”

Holding up the map of Israel and a potential Palestinian state in the Trump plan, he says it leaves a Palestine looking “like a Swiss cheese” and that nobody would accept it.

Abbas at UN Security Council: Peace is still possible, but not via Trump plan

PA President Abbas says that he believes peace is still possible, but that it will not come via the Trump peace plan.

“I have come before you today to say that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is still possible. It’s achievable. I have come to build an international partnership toward peace,” he says.

“But we must reject this unjust plan,” he insists.

He says it was drawn up by one country (the US), on behalf of another country (Israel), in an attempt to impose terms on the Palestinians in breach of international law and UN resolutions.

Abbas says someone’s giving Trump bad advice on conflict: ‘Trump is not like that’

Abbass, addressing the UN Security Council, says that when he met with US President Trump in 2017, he was promised that the US would announce support for a number of key Palestinians positions.

But, he says, “something happened” that led Trump to change his mind and “fully support Israeli wishes.”

“I don’t know who gave him this unacceptable advice,” Abbas says.

“I know that Trump is not like that. The President Trump I met is not like that. And it is very surprising.”

Abbas says that Israel has ‘rejected every opportunity for peace’

“We are fighting terrorism. We are not terrorists,” PA President Abbas tells the UN Security Council, rejecting what he calls “Israeli misrepresentations.”

“The Palestinians do not waste an opportunity to waste an opportunity. We never waste opportunities for peace,” he says.

“On the other hand, Israeli governments and Israeli settlements have destroyed every opportunity for peace,” he says.

“They are building settlements with impunity. They confiscated land. They continued their war with our people in the Gaza Strip, supported unfortunately by the US administration.”

Abbas to Trump: Give us the opportunity to reach peace. Your plan doesn’t do that

“Believe me, if there is peace between us and the Israeli people, it will be the most beautiful form of peace, but give us this opportunity to achieve peace,” Abbas tells the UN Security Council, claiming the plan does not allow them to.

“I hope that President Trump will be just and fair so that we can have the opportunity to reach peace.”

Abbas: We cannot accept the US as a sole mediator again

PA President Abbas tells the UN Security Council that “the US alone cannot be the sole mediator.”

“Among the Quartet you are welcome but as a sole mediator, we cannot accept,” he says.

“We have tried but we cannot accept it again.”

Abbas: We will not resort to terrorism. We will not resort to violence

PA President Abbas tells the UN Security Council that the Palestinains people will not resort to violence in response to the Trump peace plan or in an effort to gain statehood.

“I would like to call on the Israeli people to say that the continued occupation and continued military occupation of another people will not help your security,” he says. “We have to remain partners, each in his sovereign country.”

He adds: “We are not against Jewish people or Jews. We are Muslims. A Muslim who says he is against a Jewish person is committing blasphemy.”

“We are not against the Jewish people. We are against those who attack us and our land,” he says.

“We call to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state. We will not surrender,” he says, but adds, “We believe in combating violence and therefore we will not resort to violence. We will not resort to terrorism. We will not resort to violence.”

 

 

Israeli envoy Danon to UN Security Council: Abbas ‘not serious about peace’

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon tells the UN Security Council that “President Abbas is not serious about negotiations or about peace.”

“He came here to distract from his unwillingness to negotiate,” he says, noting that the PA president regularly travels to the US to speak at the UN but has not met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 10 years.

If he was serious about peace “he would be in Jerusalem or Washington, DC,” Danon says.

Danon at UN: No chance for peace while Abbas is in power

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon tells the UN Security Council that there is no chance for peace with PA President Abbas remaining in power.

“Only when he steps down can Israel and the Palestinians move forward,” Danon says, claiming the 84-year-old Palestinian leader “can never be a real partner for real peace.”

Knesset plenary to hold vote on MK Haim Katz’s immunity bid next Monday

The Knesset announces that it will hold a plenary vote next Monday on Likud MK Haim Katz’s request for parliamentary immunity from a criminal probe into charges of fraud and breach of trust.

The former welfare minister is facing the charges for allegedly advancing a bill on corporate bond repayment pushed by a financial consultant who was also his close friend and financial adviser, and which benefited Katz financially once it became law. Katz is also accused of concealing those conflicts of interest.

The plenary vote comes after the Knesset House Committee voted in favor of granting Katz immunity.

Israel summons Belgian envoy over UN invite to activist

Israel summons a top Belgian diplomat over his country’s push to have a civil society activist, seen by the Jewish state as biased, address the UN Security Council.

Belgium, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency, has invited Brad Parker of Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), to speak in front of the United Nations’ highest body.

It is the second time this week that Pascal Buffin, number two at the Belgian embassy, has been summoned by Israel’s foreign ministry, Israeli officials say.

DCI-P describes itself as working to protect “the human rights of Palestinian children.”

Israel says the NGO’s board includes individuals affiliated with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States and Israel.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat says Parker, a senior adviser at DCI-P, is “known for extreme positions against Israel.”

Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Emmanuel Nahshon, wrote on Twitter that the speaking invitation to Parker created “unnecessary tension” that was “easily avoidable.”

— AFP

Egypt forces kill 17 militants in North Sinai

Egyptian police have killed 17 militants in a shootout in the restive northern Sinai, the country’s interior ministry says.

Security forces are battling a long-running insurgency in the peninsula, spearheaded by the Islamic State group.

The shootout flared as police, acting on intelligence, raided a hideout in North Sinai’s provincial capital of El-Arish, the ministry says in a statement.

They found “terrorist elements” who were planning “hostile operations” and had weapons and explosives, the ministry adds.

— AFP

Gantz: ‘The Joint List will not be part of the government I form’

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, speaking during a tour of Arab Israeli communities in the north of Israel, says that he will not form a government with the Joint List, and that he will work to implement US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

Saying that Israel “cannot tolerate support for terrorism or avoid condemnation,” Gantz says: “I am not afraid to speak to any legitimate political party, but the Joint List will not be part of the government I form.”

“My disagreements with its leadership on the national and security issues are deep, difficult and unbridgeable,” he says.

Gantz adds: “I intend to implement President Trump’s peace plan, in coordination with all the elements in the region, and see it as a significant milestone.”

His comments come after Joint List chair Ayman Odeh said earlier today that he will not back Gantz as prime minister after the coming elections unless the Blue and White party chief makes a clear statement rejecting two key aspects of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Odeh told Army Radio he wants Gantz to publicly rule out extending Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and other areas of the West Bank. In addition, he must reject a clause in the plan that would see some Arab Israeli towns and their residents become part of a future Palestinian state, Odeh said.

While backing the Trump plan, Gantz said he opposed its suggestion that some Arab Israeli towns become part of Palestine.

“I want to take this issue off the table and state that no Israeli, Jewish or Arab citizen will be coerced into another country,” he says.

— Raoul Wootliff

In about-face, Bennett nixes Jewish terror suspect’s administrative detention

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett orders that a Jewish terror suspect be released from administrative detention, canceling the extraordinary measure that he had signed off on less than 24 hours earlier following uproar from far-right lawmakers and activists.

A statement from his office says that Bennett had ordered a review of the case after being made privy to the initial court decision to release 19-year-old Eliya Ben David on Monday.

“After thorough scrutiny, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will reduce the administrative detention order against Ben David to [an order] restricting entry to Judea and Samaria [West Bank] only, pending approval from the head of the IDF’s Central Command” the statement adds, leaving final say on the matter with Major General Nadav Padan.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett gives a statement to the media in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, January 26, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Ben David was first arrested nine days ago on suspicions that he had hurled a rock at an oncoming vehicle, which struck a Palestinian man in the head, moderately injuring him. But on Monday, the Lod District Court ordered Ben David released due to lack of evidence against him. In the ruling, Judge Ido Druyan-Gamliel criticized law enforcement’s handling of the case, writing “we cannot carry on as if nothing happened here” and ordered that the minutes from the hearing be transferred to the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, as well as to the Shin Bet and the police’s Judea and Samaria (West Bank) District’s Major Crimes Unit for an internal investigation.

— Jacob Magid

Israelis on board quarantined cruise ship call on gov’t to do more to help them

A group of Israelis on board a quarantined cruise ship off the Japanese coast are calling on the Israeli government to do more to help them make their way back home.

Speaking to Israeli media outlets via video message, a number of the Israeli passengers on board the ship say Israel has not done enough to help them.

“We have not heard anything from the Foreign Ministry,” one passenger tells Israel’s Channel 10 news. “We just want to come home.”

Another Israeli passenger, speaking to Channel 12 news, says Israel must help them get back home “without being stuck in quarantine in multiple countries around the world.”

The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since arriving off the Japanese coast early last week after the virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong. When the boat arrived off Japan’s coast, authorities initially tested nearly 300 people for the virus of the 3,711 on board, gradually evacuating dozens who were infected to local medical facilities.

Japanese media reported yesterday that around 60 more people aboard the Diamond Princess have been diagnosed with coronavirus, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130.

Eight to 14 Israelis are believed to be on the vessel. At least one is suspected of having contracted the virus.

Netanyahu responds to Abbas: Trump plan recognizes reality, you ignore it

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation at the UN Security Council of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

“The plan recognizes the reality and rights of the people of Israel, which you constantly refuse to recognize all the time,” Netanyahu says at a Likud campaign event in the city of Bat Yam.

“This is the best plan for the Middle East, the State of Israel, and the Palestinians,” he says.

German state launches probe into police response to Halle synagogue attack

The state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt announces a probe into possible lapses in police response to an attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany.

Concerns were triggered after German news organizations examined the synagogue’s security video.

About 50 worshipers were in the synagogue when the attack started shortly after noon on October 9. The assailant filmed the attack with his own camera, but the synagogue camera also captured what happened after he left the scene.

Shots are heard in the background as callers to police describe the perpetrator, identified as Stephan Balliet, his car and license plate number. The assailant, wearing combat gear and carrying several firearms, had shot a woman passerby near the synagogue and thrown explosives over an adjacent wall into the Jewish cemetery.

Bullet holes in the entrance door of a synagogue are pictured in Halle, Germany, October 10, 2019. (Jens Meyer/AP)

The surveillance video shows that eight minutes passed before the first police car arrives. An officer remains several feet from the prone woman who was shot. No medical personnel appear, and police appear not to be armed or wearing protective gear.

The assailant is seen on the surveillance tape driving past the synagogue for a second time. No one notices.

Following the attack, the head of Germany’s Jewish community questioned why police had not been assigned to protect the synagogue on Yom Kippur.

— JTA

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Gantz: ‘The Joint List will not be part of the government I form’

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, speaking during a tour of Arab Israeli communities in the north of Israel, says that he will not form a government with the Joint List, and that he will work to implement US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

Saying that Israel “cannot tolerate support for terrorism or avoid condemnation,” Gantz says: “I am not afraid to speak to any legitimate political party, but the Joint List will not be part of the government I form.”

“My disagreements with its leadership on the national and security issues are deep, difficult and unbridgeable,” he says.

Gantz adds: “I intend to implement President Trump’s peace plan, in coordination with all the elements in the region, and see it as a significant milestone.”

His comments come after Joint List chair Ayman Odeh said earlier today that he will not back Gantz as prime minister after the coming elections unless the Blue and White party chief makes a clear statement rejecting two key aspects of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Odeh told Army Radio he wants Gantz to publicly rule out extending Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and other areas of the West Bank. In addition, he must reject a clause in the plan that would see some Arab Israeli towns and their residents become part of a future Palestinian state, Odeh said.

While backing the Trump plan, Gantz said he opposed its suggestion that some Arab Israeli towns become part of Palestine.

“I want to take this issue off the table and state that no Israeli, Jewish or Arab citizen will be coerced into another country,” he says.

— Raoul Wootliff