Greenblatt: White House seeks to speak to ‘ordinary Palestinians’ about its peace plan
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Palestinian security officer nabbed by PA for planning terror attack

Officer said to confess last month to planning shooting of Israeli motorists on Route 90 south of Jerusalem

File: Palestinian security forces in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
File: Palestinian security forces in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

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

Russia says concerned over Iran nuclear threat, will ‘continue dialogue’

MOSCOW — Russia is concerned over plans by Iran to breach the uranium enrichment cap set by the 2015 nuclear deal and will pursue diplomatic efforts to save the pact, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says today.

“The situation is of course concerning,” Peskov tells journalists. “Russia aims to continue dialogue and efforts on the diplomatic front. We are still supporters of the JCPOA (the nuclear deal).”

He says the announcement by Iran is one of the “consequences” of the United States abandoning the deal.

“Russia and President (Vladimir) Putin warned of the consequences that would be imminent after one of the countries decided to end its obligations and exit the deal,” Peskov says.

Tehran said Sunday it would implement the breach of the uranium enrichment cap “in a few hours.” It first announced the intention to do this in May, a year after the US unilaterally abandoned the multilateral deal.

— AFP

China blames US ‘bullying’ for Iran nuclear crisis

BEIJING, China — China says “unilateral bullying” by the United States is the cause behind the escalating Iran nuclear crisis, after Tehran announces it is set to breach its uranium enrichment cap.

“The facts show that unilateral bullying has already become a worsening tumor,” says Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a press briefing in Beijing.

“The maximum pressure exerted by the US on Iran is the root cause of the Iranian nuclear crisis,” he says.

Iran threatened on Sunday to abandon more commitments to an endangered 2015 nuclear deal unless a solution is found with the remaining parties after the US pulled out.

— AFP

EU ‘strongly urges’ Iran to stop nuclear enrichment threat

The European Union says it is “extremely concerned” by Iranian plans to breach the uranium enrichment cap set by the 2015 nuclear deal, calling on Tehran to reverse course.

“We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse all activities that are inconsistent with the commitments made under the JCPOA,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic tells reporters. JCPOA is an abbreviation for the deal’s formal name: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

— AFP

Netanyahu, Putin discuss Syria cooperation, PM invited to Moscow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Syria, Iran and other issues, according to statements from the two leaders’ offices.

The Russian statement says Putin invited Netanyahu to Moscow to participate in “celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War,” or World War II. The day will be marked in Russia on May 9, 2020.

The call is initiated by Netanyahu, who takes the opportunity to express condolences for the deaths of 14 Russian sailors, seven of them senior officers, in a submarine fire in the Barents Sea on July 1.

And, the Russian statement adds, the two discuss “Russian-Israeli cooperation on the Syria issue” following up on the trilateral meeting of national security advisers from Russia, Israel and the United States on June 25 — “in particular, the importance of further coordination between militaries.”

Jerusalem court says PA responsible for suicide bombings

In a potentially dramatic ruling, the Jerusalem District Court decides that the Palestinian Authority bears responsibility for 17 terror attacks carried out during the Second Intifada early last decade.

The Second Intifada, or “uprising,” was a four-year wave of Palestinian violence in 2000-2004 that included over 130 suicide bombings targeting Israeli city centers and civilian life.

The ruling could mean that families who saw loved ones lost or wounded in the attacks could sue the PA for civil damages in Israeli courts. Initial media reports of the ruling, given a short time ago, suggest the families whose suits were considered by the district court are asking for as much as a billion shekels ($280 million) in damages.

Officials warn of jellyfish swarm headed north along Israel’s coast

Authorities are warning of a vast swarm of jellyfish headed northward along Israel’s Mediterranean coast from its current location along the southern beaches around Ashdod and Ashkelon.

There are currently only scattered, individual jellyfish in the waters off Tel Aviv and Haifa, but the numbers will rise as the swarm nears, the government’s Haifa-based Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute says today.

Jellyfish tentacles can sting and inject venom into humans, which usually results in mild to serious discomfort but in certain rare cases can lead to extreme pain or even death.

The jellyfish have already caused problems for electricity and desalination plants along the southern coast over the past month, choking up their filtering systems and stopping seawater, used for cooling in the power plants and to produce fresh water in the desalination plants, from reaching the machinery.

Court notes PA’s support and praise for bombers in terror ruling

The landmark Jerusalem District Court ruling that the PA is responsible for Palestinian terror attacks carried out at its instigation and support, publicized a short time ago (link is the court’s Hebrew-language summary), cites the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization’s “financial and practical support” as well as ideological encouragement for the attacks.

It cites the PA’s longtime policy of paying stipends to imprisoned terrorists and their families, as well as to families of suicide bombers killed while murdering Israelis. The ruling also notes that PA and PLO officials lionized the killers of Israeli civilians in official publications, in public rallies and by naming streets and city squares after them.

The PA’s own claims to have encouraged and even sent the terrorists, and “the declared policy of the PLO and PA, led by Yasser Arafat, to carry out terror attacks against Israel,” also point to the Palestinian government’s responsibility, the court says.

Saudi carrier cancels troubled Boeing 737, opts for Airbus

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Saudi budget carrier says it is ordering 30 Airbus planes in a deal that replaces a $6 billion agreement it had with Boeing for its troubled 737 MAX jets, which are grounded around the world after two crashes.

Flyadeal, operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines Corp., says the order results in the airline operating an all-Airbus A320 fleet in the future.

It comes as Boeing faces dozens of lawsuits over the crashes that killed 346 people. Preliminary investigations point to the role played by new software on the jet.

Boeing says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that it wishes flyadeal “well as it builds out its operations” and that it continues to focus on safely returning the 737 to service.

— AP

Iran minister vows to respond to UK detaining oil tanker

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s defense minister vows today to respond to Britain’s detention of an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.

The tanker’s seizure “will not be tolerated by us and will not go without a response,” says Amir Hatami, quoted by Iran’s ISNA and Tasnim news agencies. “This move is against international regulations and a kind of maritime piracy,” he says during a ceremony at Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran.

The 330-meter (1,000-feet) Grace 1, capable of carrying two million barrels of oil, was halted Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip. Authorities in Gibraltar said they suspected the tanker was carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Tehran denies this and claims the vessel was intercepted in international waters.

The tanker’s detention “sets a dangerous precedent and must end now,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweets today. He questions the seizure’s legality, saying “Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo.”

Europe is supposed to be “against extraterritoriality,” unlike the United States, he writes.

— AFP

Greenblatt: White House seeks to speak to ‘ordinary Palestinians’ about its peace plan

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt tells the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam that the US hasn’t set a release date for the political part of its peace plan, including whether to do so before or after the September 17 Israeli elections.

“We haven’t decided when we will release the political vision. We are taking into account the Israeli election to decide whether we should release it before the elections or after, before the government is formed [some time in October-November] or after, and President [Donald] Trump will make the decision soon,” he tells Al-Ayyam.

The White House seeks to speak to “ordinary Palestinians” about its peace plan, which is firmly rejected by Palestinian leaders.

“One idea would be potentially inviting Palestinian journalists to the White House, or maybe somewhere more neutral, and have our team make presentations directly to the Palestinian media and have Palestinian media be able to see and explain to the people what the plan is all about,” he says.

Ethiopian protests to resume today over 19-year-old’s killing by cop

Ethiopian Israeli protests are slated to resume today after the seven-day mourning period for a young man killed by a cop concluded yesterday.

The main demonstration is to take place at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv at 5 p.m., with other protests planned around the country.

Police say in a statement that they won’t tolerate the violence and road closures caused by last week’s protests.

Solomon Tekah, 19, was killed July 1 by an off-duty cop in an incident that Ethiopian Israeli activists say highlights their plight in the face of discrimination and police violence.

UAE reducing troops in war-torn Yemen, moving to ‘peace’ strategy

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates announces today it is reducing the number of troops in war-torn Yemen and shifting from a military strategy to a peace plan.

“We do have troop levels that are down for reasons that are strategic in (the Red Sea city of) Hodeida and reasons that are tactical” in other parts of the country, a senior UAE official tells reporters.

“It is very much to do with moving from what I would call a military first strategy to a peace first strategy, and this is I think what we are doing.”

— AFP

Police officer suspended after pulling sidelocks of protesting Haredi man

A police officer filmed over the weekend pulling the sidelocks of an ultra-Orthodox man during a protest in Beit Shemesh is suspended pending an investigation.

The incident took place Friday during protests by ultra-Orthodox residents against the demolition of a local building, the Haaretz daily reports.

Police attempted to clear the protesters, and were filmed in one case accompanying a Haredi man toward a cruiser, when one officer grabs the man’s sidelock, apparently to pull his head down to steer him into the car.

Police deploy to major intersections to ensure Ethiopian protests are peaceful

Police say they are deployed at all major intersections around the country to ensure that renewed Ethiopian-Israeli protests remain nonviolent and do not cause massive traffic jams, as happened last week.

As the protests are set to renew tonight, the Tekah family, whose son Solomon was killed last Sunday sparking the anger in the Ethiopian-Israeli community, urges demonstrators to remain nonviolent.

Germany says no to US request that it send ground troops to Syria

Berlin says today it has no plans to send ground troops to Syria, refusing a US request for Germany to ramp up its military involvement in the fight against Islamic State.

“When I say that the government intends to continue with its ongoing measures in the framework of the anti-IS coalition, then that means no ground troops,” says German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

US special representative on Syria James Jeffrey told German media, including the Die Welt newspaper Sunday, that Washington wants Berlin to put boots on the ground in northern Syria.

Jeffrey, who was visiting Berlin for Syria talks, added that he expects an answer this month.

The mandate for Germany’s participation in Syria runs out on October 31, meaning that parliament would be called on to decide what to do beyond that date.

— AFP

After parents’ protests, Netanyahu vows to move daycares to Education Ministry

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to an Education Ministry proposal for it to take full responsibility for all state-funded preschool daycare centers, a day after thousands of parents called for the move in nationwide protests.

The demonstrations came amid outrage after a manager at a private kindergarten was charged with harming kids under her care, with parents demanding changes to childcare oversight laws, including tougher sentences for abusive daycare workers and better supervision of daycare centers.

Netanyahu says in a statement that “beyond cameras, training of preschool [teachers] and basic supervision, I have now agreed with Education Minister Rafi Peretz that we will transfer the operation of the daycare centers to the Education Ministry.”

Just 23 percent of daycare centers in Israel are currently under the auspices of the Education Ministry and subject to its oversight. The remainder are overseen by agencies in the welfare or economy ministries, which parents say have lower standards.

Peretz, who was appointed to the position last month, thanks Netanyahu “for accepting our request,” saying that children’s protection was a key priority of his tenure. “The protection of children should be continuous, from the age of birth, through preschool, elementary and high schools. We have to make sure our children are protected in every sense. The Ministry of Education is the most professional and qualified agency to [carry out] this supervision, including from birth to 3 years.”

The decision refers only to state-run facilities from ages 3 and up. It will therefore not affect any private daycare centers, as protesters have demanded.

— Raoul Wootliff

Ethiopian-Israeli march begins in Tel Aviv

Ethiopian-Israeli protesters have begun their planned march through central Tel Aviv, beginning at the Azrieli mall and walking down Kaplan Street.

The march is set to end at Rabin Square, where the main event is to take place. Speakers at the Rabin Square event include MK Pnina Tamano-Shata and the families of Ethiopian-Israelis killed by police in the past.

Ethiopian Israelis and supporters protest against police violence and discrimination following the death of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah on July 1 in Haifa by an off-duty police officer, in Tel Aviv, on July 8, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Germany cautious on next Iran steps

Germany says it is refraining from immediate measures against Iran, but will wait for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection report on Tehran’s claim it is enriching uranium above the level allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul says today that the Vienna-based agency hasn’t circulated the report yet, but it was “more a question of days not weeks.”

Breul tells reporters in Berlin as soon as the report is available, Germany will examine it and discuss with the others in the nuclear pact — Iran, Britain, France, China and Russia — how to proceed.

He adds that “what’s important to us is to get Iran to abide by the agreement again.”

The US unilaterally withdrew from the deal a year ago.

— AP

EU member Cyprus condemns new Turkish drilling off island

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus condemns Turkey’s second attempt to drill for oil and gas in waters off the divided island, after the EU warned Ankara to stop its “illegal” activities or face sanctions.

“The Cypriot government condemns in the strongest terms the new illegal Turkish drilling in the east of Cyprus,” the presidency says.

It says the second attempt is taking place off the Karpas peninsula, in the northeast of the island, and amounts to “an escalation of continued violations by Turkey.”

Ankara has sent a second ship –- the Yavuz — for exploratory activities off eastern Cyprus, after its Fatih vessel entered the island’s exclusive economic zone in the west in May.

The region near the island is believed have rich natural gas deposits, triggering a race between Turkey and EU member Cyprus, which has ramped up exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s first drilling attempts prompted EU leaders in June to warn Ankara of “targeted and appropriate” sanctions if it did not stop its “illegal activities.”

The Cyprus government says that “Turkey continues to violate international law… disrespecting the calls of the European Union and the international community.”

Ankara says its actions abide by international law and that it is drilling inside its continental shelf.

— AFP

Iran says US ‘detained’ its volleyball team at airport

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran charges that the United States had “detained” its visiting volleyball team at a US airport for several hours.

The foreign ministry’s director for North America tells Swiss ambassador Markus Leitner, whose country represents US interests in Iran, that the team was detained for about four hours at an airport in Chicago.

“If America cannot host all the teams fairly and neutrally, it better stop hosting sport events,” the official tells the Swiss envoy.

Iran’s volleyball team is in the US for the 2019 Nations League final six.

The team is set to play against Poland on Thursday and Brazil on Friday, and two out of six teams will face off next Monday in the final.

— AFP

UK report urges global action against Christian persecution

LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary embraces a new report that concludes Christians frequently endure the heaviest burden of persecution globally, arguing that it should be labeled as “Christophobia.”

Jeremy Hunt backs the report by Right Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro. Hunt says that governments have preferred general language of condemnation rather than calling out persecution against Christians for what it is and giving it a name.

Hunt says today the government has not always grappled with the issue “perhaps because of a misguided political correctness or an instinctive reluctance to talk about religion.”

The report recommends that Britain push for a UN Security Council resolution urging governments in the Middle East and North Africa to protect Christians and other persecuted minorities.

— AP

US ‘will not back down’ in Iran nuclear dispute, Pence plans to say

WASHINGTON — US Vice President Mike Pence plans to say the US is open to talks with Iran but “will not back down” amid heightened tensions with the Islamic Republic.

Pence is speaking to a pro-Israel Christian organization in Washington, as Iran says it has begun enriching uranium beyond limits set by a 2015 agreement.

The vice president says in prepared remarks that the US does not seek war with Iran but will continue to oppose what he calls the Islamic Republic’s “malign influence” in the world. He says the US would “never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

US President Donald Trump has put increasing pressure on Iran after withdrawing from an agreement between Iran and world powers that imposed restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Christians United for Israel’s annual summit, Monday, July 8, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

— AP

US to keep up pressure on Iran as nuclear deal falls apart

WASHINGTON — US Vice President Mike Pence says the US will keep up pressure on Iran, as the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers appears to be crumbling.

Pence says in a speech today to a pro-Israel Christian organization in Washington that the US will “never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

In his prepared remarks, the vice president planned to say that the US was willing to talk with Iran but “America will not back down” — but did not say it in his delivered remarks.

He did say that Iran should not “confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve.”

Pence notes that Iran said it has begun enriching uranium beyond limits set by 2015 nuclear agreement.

He says it was part of the Islamic Republic’s “malign” activities that included recent attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region.

— AP

UN watchdog confirms Iran enriching uranium above threshold set in deal

The UN’s nuclear watchdog confirms that Iran has enriched uranium at a level higher than the limit set in a 2015 international pact.

Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency “on 8 July verified that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67% U-235,” the IAEA says in a statement hours after Tehran said it had exceeded the agreed cap and reached 4.5% enrichment, in response to the United States withdrawing from the deal last year.

— AFP

IDF discovers new attack tunnel under southern border with Gaza

The Israeli military says it has discovered a cross-border attack tunnel from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.

The passage was uncovered during the construction of an underground barrier around the coastal enclave, the army says.

“At this time, IDF soldiers are conducting an investigation of the passage. More information will be provided shortly,” the military says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Netanyahu tells US Christian group that pressure on Iran should be increased

Speaking via satellite to the Christians United for Israel conference in Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Iran nuclear deal was “based on a lie.”

He speaks with CUFI head John Hagee, telling the evangelical leader that “the deal was always based on a lie: that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons. And we exposed that lie when we sent our brave operatives to the heart of Tehran and brought back the secret atomic archive of Iran. And it just showed that they’ve been working on developing atomic bombs as early as 20 years ago.”

He adds, according to a partial transcript published Netanyahu’s office, that “it’s a terrible deal because it gave Iran a path to getting a nuclear arsenal when the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programs were removed. It didn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paved it. In fact, it failed to solve the one problem it was supposed to solve. Now, it made other problems worse by removing sanctions on Iran, thereby helping Iran fuel its war machine in the region. See, when you removed the sanctions, Iran got billions and billions — tens of billions of dollars, potentially hundreds of billions of dollars — to fund its aggression.”

He praises US President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the deal in May 2018. “Israel is deeply grateful for that, because this is vital for Israel’s security, for the security of the region, for the security of the United States, for the security of the world,” he says.

And he accuses Iran of “trying to lash out to reduce the pressure. They attack tankers, they down American drones, they’re firing missiles at their neighbors. It’s important to respond to these actions not by reducing the pressure, but by increasing the pressure. We should stand up to Iran’s aggression now. And Europe should back the sanctions instituted by President Trump. We certainly did.”

Gantz confirms Blue and White will run in September in same format

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says his party will go to the September 17 elections in the same constellation of parties that ran together last April.

Blue and White is an alliance of Gantz’s newly-founded Israel Resilience Party, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party — and Gantz and Lapid agreed to take turns as prime minister if the party wins the election, with Gantz taking the first two years and Lapid the next two.

After a recording is leaked today in which Ya’alon complains that Lapid is the only member of the party’s top leadership who insists on keeping the rotation ahead of the next election, Gantz defends Lapid and the agreement.

“Blue and White is a big place, there are discussions, and that’s okay,” he tells Channel 12 in an interview.

Ya’alon’s opposition to the rotation with Lapid is known within the party, he adds, but says there will not be any changes ahead of September, running with “the same structure and path that brought us to 35 seats.”

He adds: “Yair [Lapid] is serious, experienced, understands politics. We’re continuing with the [rotation] agreement.”

Ethiopian-Israeli march reaches Rabin Square, 8 arrested in protests

Tel Aviv’s Kaplan and Ibn Gabirol streets, both main thoroughfares in the city’s center, are reopened after the Ethiopian-Israeli march reaches Rabin Square.

Some 1,000 people are now demonstrating against discrimination and police violence in the square, under signs reading, “Mom, please make sure I’m not the next victim.”

Dozens more are protesting at Poleg Junction in Netanya, and another small protest is under way in Petah Tikva.

Six protesters are detained in Netanya and two in Petah Tikva for disturbing public order, police say.

Palestinian security officer nabbed by PA for planning terror attack

A member of the Palestinian security services in the West Bank is arrested by the PA for planning to carry out a shooting attack against Israeli motorists south of Jerusalem.

According to a Channel 12 report, the officer started behaving strangely, then disappeared from his Bethlehem home four weeks ago, along with his firearm.

Suspecting that he may be planning a terror attack, the Palestinian Authority’s security services launched a search for the man, locating him that night hiding in a cemetery in Beit Jala, north of Bethlehem.

Palestinian sources tell Channel 12’s Ohad Hemo that the man confessed to planning a shooting attack against Israeli motorists on the “tunnels road,” Route 90, headed south of Jerusalem to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

The news of the arrest comes out today, just hours after the Jerusalem District Court issues a landmark ruling that places responsibility for at least 17 terror attacks during the Second Intifada on the Palestinian Authority, and amid a growing chorus of criticism of the PA for paying stipends to terrorists and their families.

Eshkol council thanks IDF soldiers for locating latest attack tunnel

The Eshkol Regional Council on the border with the Gaza Strip issues a statement to residents about the new Hamas attack tunnel found running under the border into Israel.

“The tunnel was found thanks to the groundbreaking technological methods being employed along the border to protect our villages,” the council says.

“The tunnel no longer constitutes a threat and is being taken care of by the IDF. We thank the soldiers and officers of the IDF who are acting with determination and courage to protect us.”

5 Jews left in Cairo with death of matriarch Marcelle Haroun

Marcelle Haroun, mother of the current president of Cairo’s Jewish community, has died at the age of 93.

Her death, announced on Saturday, leaves five Jews known to be living in Cairo, Watani International reports. The five remaining are Haroun’s daughter Magda and four granddaughters. The AFP news service reported in March 2017 that there were also 12 Jews living in the coastal city of Alexandria.

Haroun was married to lawyer and politician Shehata Haroun, known as a Jewish anti-Zionist who was a member of the Communist Party of Egypt, according to the report. Her daughter told Tablet in 2013 that Marcelle was her father’s “comrade.”

Egypt was home to some 80,000 Jews when Israel was founded in 1948. Thousands began leaving in the ensuing years, and many more in two waves, in 1956 and 1967. The Harouns remained, considering themselves Egyptian first, according to Watani.

“The Jewish Community in Cairo (JCC) has regretfully lost Marcelle Haroun, one of its pillars who will be sorely missed,” read the statement announcing her death.

— JTA

Man who torched historic English synagogue ordered hospitalized indefinitely

The man who set fire to the 18th-century Exeter Synagogue in Devon, England one year ago has been ordered to remain hospitalized indefinitely.

Tristan Morgan, 52, also set himself on fire when he attempted to burn down the historic synagogue on July 21, 2018, which was the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av. The crime was captured by a surveillance camera. Prosecutors told a London court on Friday that Morgan was laughing after he caught on fire, and that he was having a psychotic episode at the time of the attack.

He reportedly told police at the time of his arrest, shortly after the attack: “Please tell me that synagogue is burning to the ground, if not, it’s poor preparation.”

The court ordered Morgan to be held in the hospital under the Mental Health Act, along with a restriction order for the safety of the public, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reports.

“Tristan Morgan’s violence was partly driven by his hatred of Jewish people which was clear from the library of extremist literature he had,” the Crown Prosecution Service said. He also composed folk songs encouraging violence against Jews.

A police search of his home and car found 24 knives, a sword, hunting knife and the ax he used in the arson attack. His electronic devices contained anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi material, including documents about Holocaust denial, “ethnic cleansing,” and supposed Jewish global power.

The synagogue, the third oldest in the country and dedicated in 1764, suffered $29,000 in damages.

— JTA

Iran official says Iranian athletes won’t compete against Israelis

Iranian athletes will not compete against Israeli athletes in international competition, the head of Iran’s national Olympic committee says. The statement comes ahead of the Judo World Championships in August.

In May, the International Judo Federation said it had reached an agreement with Iran to end its athletes’ boycott of Israelis in competitions. Under the agreement, Iran’s National Olympic Committee said it would “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle,” though it did not mention Israel by name. Iranian judokas have forfeited matches against Israelis for decades.

Despite the agreement, Syed Reza Salehi Amiri tells the Fars News Agency that he told International Judo Federation chairman Marius Vizer that his athletes would not compete with Israeli athletes.

— JTA

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Greenblatt: White House seeks to speak to ‘ordinary Palestinians’ about its peace plan

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt tells the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam that the US hasn’t set a release date for the political part of its peace plan, including whether to do so before or after the September 17 Israeli elections.

“We haven’t decided when we will release the political vision. We are taking into account the Israeli election to decide whether we should release it before the elections or after, before the government is formed [some time in October-November] or after, and President [Donald] Trump will make the decision soon,” he tells Al-Ayyam.

The White House seeks to speak to “ordinary Palestinians” about its peace plan, which is firmly rejected by Palestinian leaders.

“One idea would be potentially inviting Palestinian journalists to the White House, or maybe somewhere more neutral, and have our team make presentations directly to the Palestinian media and have Palestinian media be able to see and explain to the people what the plan is all about,” he says.