Holocaust commemoration event organizer says event sends ‘powerful message’
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Army walks back rocket report, says internal explosion in Gaza caused sirens

Military issues correction for its initial claim that a missile hit Israeli territory — says no rocket was launched

Illustrative: Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip to Israel, May 5, 2019.  (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Illustrative: Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip to Israel, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Times of Israel liveblogged the World Holocaust Forum event in Jerusalem attended by dozens of world leaders, and other events Thursday.

Zelensky says he gave Ukraine delegation’s seats at Holocaust event to survivors

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he and others in his delegation will give up their seats so that Holocaust survivors can attend a ceremony at Yad Vashem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

Zelenksy says he will join other events and will also attend meetings in Jerusalem.

“We learnt that many of the Holocaust survivors have not been able to visit the World Holocaust Forum. Our delegation gave them our seats, as many Israeli ministers did,” Zelensky tweets. “These people deserve these honors most of all. We will participate in all events and hold scheduled meetings.”

Army Radio reported last week that only 30 of some 800 seats at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum were reserved for survivors of the Jewish genocide, causing consternation among some uninvited survivors and their families.

In light of the report, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin said he would hand over his invitation to a survivor who wished to attend but was not invited. He called on his fellow ministers to do the same.

Katz to Putin: Grateful that Red Army liberated my mother from Auschwitz

Foreign Minister Israel Katz greets Russian President Vladimir Putin on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport, tells him his family’s personal story of the liberation of Auschwitz and talks of the close ties between Jerusalem and Moscow.

“I am pleased to welcome you to the State of Israel for an event that symbolizes most of all the special relationship between our two nations. Your visit to Israel will contribute to strengthening the friendship between Russia and Israel and will deepen our relations,” Katz says.

“On a personal note, thanks to the Red Army my mother — who was in Auschwitz — survived, immigrated to Israel and started a family. Thank you.” Katz adds.

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is taking place at Yad Vashem in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Putin, Netanyahu give statements ahead of meeting in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem ahead of a ceremony at Yad Vashem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

“I want to welcome out great friend the president of Russia. Sara and I are happy to invite you to our home in Jerusalem, and to thank you for the strong ties between Israel and Russia that serve our people, our countries and regional peace. Welcome to Jerusalem.”

Putin responds with a short statement.

“Today we remember the victims of the Holocaust,” Putin says. “I thank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife for their invitation to visit.”

The two are expected to discuss the fate of jailed Israeli-American Naama Issachar as speculation swirls over a possible announcement. Issachar’s mother Yaffa will meet with the two leaders.

Naama Issachar was sentenced by Russia to 7.5 years in prison after less than 10 grams of marijuana was found in her luggage during a layover in a Moscow airport in April. She has denied smuggling drugs, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the layover on her way to Israel from India, and had no access to her luggage during her brief stay in the Russian airport.

Rivlin to UK’s Prince Charles: Hatred starts with Jews but never ends there

President Reuven Rivlin meets with the UK’s Prince Charles in Jerusalem ahead of a ceremony at Yad Vashem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

Rivlin tells the British royal that he was born in Jerusalem when it was still under the British Mandate.

“It’s a great honor and pleasure to have somebody from the Royal Family. We are still expecting your mother to come. We deeply appreciate your participation in this historic event,” Rivlin tells the heir to the British throne.

“Anti-Semitism starts with the Jewish people, but that is never where it ends,” Rivlin says during comments about the rise of hatred around the world.

Prince Charles is also slated to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit.

Yad Vashem: Ukraine decision to give up Holocaust event seats is ‘puzzling’

Yad Vashem says the announcement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he and others in his delegation will give up their seats so that Holocaust survivors can attend a ceremony at Yad Vashem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, is “puzzling” as they have complied with requests.

“This morning, the Ukrainian president announced his withdrawal, claiming that he is transferring to a Holocaust survivor,” the memorial center says in a statement.

“It was explained to the president that we have assented to survivors who approached us in recent days…. Therefore, his decision is puzzling, and it is a pity to take such a step in an event entitled ‘Remember the Holocaust to fight anti-Semitism.'”

Army Radio reported last week that only 30 of some 800 seats at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum were reserved for survivors of the Jewish genocide, causing consternation among some uninvited survivors and their families.

Suspected incendiary balloons found near southern border community

A suspicious bunch of balloons was discovered in the south of Israel, says a local government spokesperson.

“A short time ago, a suspicious bunch of balloons was discovered in an open area,” says a spokesperson for the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. “Military forces immediately came to the scene and handled the situation successfully.”

There is no immediate comment from police or the Israeli Defense Forces on the matter.

In recent days, terror groups in the Gaza Strip have flown numerous bombs and incendiary devices into Israeli territory from the enclave with the aid of helium-filled balloons, at times prompting retaliatory strikes from the IDF, according to Palestinian reports.

The tactic of launching balloons carrying explosive and arson devices from Gaza into Israel emerged in 2018 as part of a series of protests and riots along the Strip’s border, known collectively as the March of Return. The simple and cheap method of attack by Palestinians has proved effective as Israeli security forces have struggled to counter the tactic, but it had largely stopped over half a year ago.

Holocaust commemoration event organizer says event sends ‘powerful message’

Ahead of this afternoon’s World Holocaust Forum memorial event marking 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the organization’s president Moshe Kantor says the event “sends a powerful message that anti-Semitism is an unacceptable danger to all of our societies.”

“It gives Jews hope all around the world that extremism can be countered with the values of moderation and toleration,” Kantor says at a press conference at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem.

He nonetheless says that he has “never been so concerned with the rise in anti-Semitism that I see around us.”

“Just 75 years after the Holocaust, Jewish life in Europe is again under threat,” says the Moscow-born philanthropist and Jewish activist who also heads the European Jewish Congress.

“It’s a sad picture of trembling communities hiding behind high fences,” he says.

The event, headlined “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” is co-organized by the office of President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center and the World Holocaust Forum Foundation.

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev says the event aims “to bring together leaders of the international community to express their new commitment for Holocaust remembrance and understanding the deep meaning of Holocaust remembrance and to commit to fighting antisemitism around the world.”

Shalev says the unexpectedly high turn-out of world leaders “shows that we have created a united front of leaders to present the mission of combating antisemitism.”

At 1:15 p.m. the main memorial ceremony will start at Yad Vashem Warsaw Ghetto Square. In addition to Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Macron, US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain’s Prince Charles and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will address the gathering.

— Raoul Wootliff

Yaffa Issachar, mother of Naama, meets with Netanyahu, Putin

Yaffa Issachar begins a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, as speculation swirled that the Russian leader’s visit could include an announcement on the fate of jailed Israeli-American Naama Issachar.

Naama Issachar was sentenced by Russia to 7.5 years in prison after nearly 10 grams of marijuana was found in her luggage during a layover in a Moscow airport in April.

She has denied smuggling drugs, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the layover on her way to Israel from India, and had no access to her luggage during her brief stay in the Russian airport.

Putin is in Israel for a one-day visit for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Putin tells mother of backpacker he’ll look at case, ‘everything will be okay’

Russian President Vladimir Putin tells the mother of jailed Israeli backpacker Naama Issachar that he will examine her case but that “everything will be okay.”

He also says that Issachar will be visited in jail today by a worker from a human rights organization.

“I met with Naama’s mother and it is clear that she comes from a good family. I know the prime minister’s position on the matter and all this is taken into account in making the decision. I said to Yaffa and I will say again – everything will be okay.”

Yaffa Issachar doesn’t make a statement to the press.

Naama Issachar was sentenced by Russia to 7.5 years in prison after nearly 10 grams of marijuana was found in her luggage during a layover in a Moscow airport in April. She has denied smuggling drugs, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the layover on her way to Israel from India, and had no access to her luggage during her brief stay in the Russian airport.

Hebrew media reports have swirled that a deal for Issachar’s release is nearing completion.

Holocaust commemoration organizer rejects claim event is politicized

World Holocaust Forum president Moshe Kantor dismisses claims that the event has become politicized, saying: “It’s not a political gathering. Our main goal is to use the platform of Holocaust commemoration to raise the issue about the crisis of anti-Semitism. And we have done that.”

Asked to respond to Polish President Duda’s decision not to attend the event after he was refused the opportunity to speak, Kantor says, “We tried to create a wide platform for everybody to come here and be united against that evil. It’s a shame that Poland is not part of that.”

Kantor says Duda was offered to be the first speaker at the state dinner held last night at the president’s house but “unfortunately” turned it down. Poland has denied the claim.

Yad Vashem’s Avner Shalev says there was no political message in the decision to have Russian President Vladimir Putin address the memorial event and not Duda.

“Long before the dispute between Russia and Poland started their dispute, we planned this event and felt that it was appropriate that the representatives of the Allies spoke,” Shalev says.

He says that he feels Duda “got the wrong interpretation of the goals of this meeting,” adding that he “hasn’t seen any sign that Putin is going to use the speech to attack any other country.”

In addition to Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Macron, US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain’s Prince Charles and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will address the gathering.

— Raoul Wootliff

Gantz meets Pelosi, discusses Iran and anti-Semitism in the US

Blue and White head Benny Gantz meets with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in Jerusalem.

Gantz and Pelosi discuss “the strategic partnership” between Israel and the US, according to a statement from Blue and White.

Gantz tells Pelosi he appreciates the steps taken by the US to protect Jews in America, according to the statement, and to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“We are all united in the commitment to prevent the ayatollah regime from obtaining nuclear weapons. I applaud the support of the US in this effort and appreciate its willingness to act in order to avert the strategic threat to regional and international stability,” Gantz says in the statement.

Rivlin to Putin: In Israel we feel every child is our own child

President Reuven Rivlin meets Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In reference to the case of backpacker Naama Issachar, Rivlin tells the Russian leader that “in Israel we feel every [child] is our own child.” He thanks the Russian leader for his efforts on her behalf.

Putin says World War II and the Holocaust were a joint tragedy for the Jewish and Soviet people. He says the world needs to fight anti-Semitism and Rivlin says, “We must fight together.”

Germany bans neo-Nazi organization Combat 18 Deutschland

Germany is banning the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland in what the country’s top security official says is a “clear message” against far-right extremism and anti-Semitism.

More than 200 police officers carried out raids in six German states early today, seizing cellphones, computers, unspecified weaponry, Nazi memorabilia and propaganda material, the Interior Ministry said.

Police officers stand in front of an apartment building in Erfurt, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Germany’s top security official has announced a ban on the neo-Nazi group ‘Combat 18’ Deutschland (Jens-Ulrich Koch/dpa via AP)

The group had spread “far-right extremism and anti-Semitic hatred” in German society by producing neo-Nazi music and staging concerts for extremist bands, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says.

— AP

Putin attends inauguration for new memorial honoring Leningrad siege victims

An inauguration ceremony for a new memorial for victims of World War II’s siege of Leningrad is now starting in Jerusalem, attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The memorial was erected recently in the capital’s Sacher Park, near the Supreme Court.

Also in attendance are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.

Watch the ceremony live here:

Report: Gaza drone carrying explosives lands in Israeli territory

A small drone suspected of carrying an explosive device landed in the Sdot Negev regional council near the Gaza Strip a short time ago, Channel 12 news reports.

There is no official confirmation of the incident as of yet.

Macron visits memorial for the deportation of Jews from France during WWII

French President Emmanuel Macron visits a memorial for the deportation of Jews from France near the city of Beit Shemesh.

The memorial, at the Rogleet Forest, measures up to 100 meters in length and 13 meters in height and contains the convoys of deportations first and last names, and date and place of birth of the deportees.

The grove consists of 80,000 pine trees, in memory of the 80,000 Jews who were deported from France to Nazi death and labor camps during the Holocaust.

Macron laid a wreath and met with youth who are descendants of deportees.

French President Emmanuel Macron (2nd right) visits a memorial for the deportation of Jews from France near the city of Beit Shemesh, Janury 23, 2020 (Haim Versano)

Putin said to ask PM to prevent transfer of church properties to settler group

During their earlier meeting, Russian Presiden Vladimir Putin asked that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevent the transfer of Greek Orthodox Church buildings in Jerusalem to a Jewish settler group, the Ynet news website reports.

Ateret Cohanim, a religious-Zionist organization that works to populate the Old City and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods with Jewish residents by purchasing properties from non-Jewish owners, sought long-term leases to the disputed properties via shell companies in 2004, setting off years of legal wrangling between the two sides.

The church last year filed its current lawsuit in a bid to overturn a Supreme Court decision upholding the sale of the leases. The Patriarchate claimed that it had “clear proof” of corruption in the deal.

 

Jailed backpacker’s mother: ‘There still isn’t a date for Naama’s release’

Yaffa Issachar, mother of jailed backpacker Naama Issachar, tells the Ynet news site, “There still isn’t a date for Naama’s release” after her meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the prime minister on the matter.

Issachar says Netanyahu told her: “It won’t be much longer.”

Naama Issachar and her mom Yaffa in a post to Issachar’s Instagram page in July 2018.

At President’s Residence, Charles says ‘committed to combating anti-Semitism’

Earlier President Reuven Rivlin and Britain’s Prince Charles planted a tree together at the President’s Residence.

The tree was an English oak tree, a tribute to the tree planted at Yad Vashem in honor of Charles’s grandmother Princess Alice, who is recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations for saving the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.

“For me, this is a very significant experience,” Prince Charles said to the president. “Many of my teachers at school were Holocaust survivors and we are all deeply committed to combating anti-Semitism.”

President Reuven Rivlin and Britain’s Prince Charles at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020 (Mark Neyman/GPO)

“We will always remember how your grandmother, Princess Alice, who is buried here on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, saved the lives of many Jews during the Holocaust,” the president said. “Britain stood firm against the Nazi threat.”

Ukraine’s president visits Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The Jewish Zelensky made headlines earlier today when his delegation gave up their seats at the upcoming main event of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem so that suvivors who had been denied seats could attend.

Yad Vashem said his actions were “puzzling.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020 (GoldPR)

Putin hails ‘magnificent monument’ that will hopefully ‘stand for centuries’

Putin speaks at a ceremony for the inauguration of a memorial for the victims of the siege of Leningrad.

At the end of his prepared text at the conclusion of his address, Putin says: “I just want to add a few words. This is a magnificent monument and it will stand for a long time, for centuries, I hope.

“And you can dedicate a monument in many ways. The way that you [Israel] have done this today…” Putin pauses, and shakes his head in appreciation. “Thank you.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 commemorating the people of Leningrad during the Second World War Nazi siege on the city. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

Main ceremony of Fifth World Holocaust Forum slated to start at Yad Vashem

The main ceremony of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum is slated to start at Yad Vashem in a few minutes’ time.

A livestream is available here.

The event may start a bit late, as a previous ceremony involving the leaders of Israel and Russia elsewhere in the capital has only just ended.

Yaffa Issachar: Putin told me he was bringing Naama home

Yaffa Issachar tells Hebrew media the the Russian president has promised her to release her daughter, jailed backpacker Naama, from prison.

Vladimir Putin said “he was bringing the girl home,” Issachar says, adding: “I’m optimistic. He’s lovely.”

Netanyahu: Soviet ‘sacrifice, contribution’ during WWII should not be obscured

At the ceremony for Leningrad victims earlier, the prime minister said the Soviet “sacrifice and contribution” during World War II should not be obscured.

Benjamin Netanyahu noted that millions of Soviet residents were killed during the war.

He said: “We mustn’t for even one second blur the sacrifice and the contribution of the former Soviet Union” in defeating “the Nazi monster.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the inauguration of the Memorial Candle monument in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020, commemorating the people of Leningrad during the Second World War Nazi siege on the city. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

Netanyahu’s comments came after visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin ventured into the charged battle by claiming that 40 percent of Jewish Holocaust victims were Soviet, a figure disputed by historians.

— AP

Main ceremony of World Holocaust Forum now starting at Yad Vashem

The ceremony at Yad Vashem, which is the main event of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, is now starting.

World leaders and other participants at the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 (Screenshot)

The event marks 75 years since the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp.

Here, again, is a livestream of the event, which brings dozens of world leaders to Jerusalem.

Rivlin: Anti-Semitism a malignant disease that dismantles peoples and countries

Speaking first at the Yad Vashem event, President Reuven Rivlin thanks world leaders in attendance “for your commitment to remembering the Shoah, for your commitment to the citizens of the world, to those who believe in the dignity of man.”

He says democracy must not be taken for granted.

The Jewish people know that “if we do not remember then history can be repeated.”

He says anti-Semitism “does not only stop with Jews. Racism and anti-Semitism is a malignant disease that dismantles peoples and countries, and no democracy and no society is immune to that.”

President Reuven Rivlin addresses the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 (Screenshot)

He adds that Israel is not a compensation for the Holocaust… It was established because it is our homeland.” Israel “is no longer a victim. We will always defend ourselves and our people.”

Muslim religious leaders tour Auschwitz alongside AJC officials

Mohammed al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Mecca-based Muslim World League, arrives at Auschwitz alongside Muslim religious leaders and a delegation of American Jewish Committee (AJC) officials.

Issa’s arrival at Auschwitz comes after he toured the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, in May 2018 and wrote an opinion article in the Washington Post in January 2019 — condemning the Nazis’ “heinous crimes.”

AJC CEO David Harris has said the trip represents “the most senior delegation of Muslim religious leaders to visit Auschwitz ever.”

PM: World turned its back on us during Holocaust; now we defend ourselves

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes to the stage in Jerusalem, saying “Israel is eternally grateful for the sacrifice made by the Allies” during World War II. “Without that sacrifice there would be no survivors today.”

But, he adds, “we also remember that some 80 years ago, when the Jewish people faced annihilation, the world turned its back on us.”

He says, “The Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust: that we cannot take threats to annihilate us lightly; to confront threats when they are small; and above all, even though we greatly appreciate the help of our friends, to defend ourselves by ourselves.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 (Screenshot)

— Raoul Wootliff

PM on Iran: World has not unified against most anti-Semitic regime on planet

Netanyahu says he is “concerned” that world leaders have not created “a unified stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet,” in reference to Iran.

“Israel thanks [US] President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for confronting the tyrants of Tehran who threaten the stability of the Middle East and the entire world,” he says, adding, “I call on all governments to make any effort to confront Iran.”

Putin: Holocaust remembrance ‘our shared responsibility to past and future’

Russian President Vladimir Putin tells the World Holocaust Forum memorial event in Jerusalem that “this remembrance is our shared responsibility to the past and the future.”

“We mourn for all the victims of the Nazis, including six million Jews,” he says. “These death camps were operated not just by Nazis but by their henchmen in various countries.”

Putin says Russian “paid the highest price, more than any other. Twenty-seven million Russians were killed. That is the price of victory.”

He says “We need to find the courage not just to speak about anti-Semitism but also to do everything in our power to protect Jews.”

— Raoul Wootliff

European Jewish Congress chief: Situation for Europe’s Jews extremely precarious

Earlier, president of the World Holocaust Forum and the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor told the almost fifty world leaders assembled that the situation for Jewish communities is extremely precarious.

“According to surveys, more than 80 percent of Jews say they feel unsafe in Europe today… more than 40% said they have considered leaving the continent,” Kantor said during his address.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

“In recent years, around 3% of Jews have emigrated from Europe annually because of anti-Semitism, meaning that in only 30 years, if the current trends persist or worsen, there could be no Jews left in Europe by 2050.”

“I am delighted that you have gathered here today to stand side by side with the Jewish people,” Kantor told world leaders. “It sends a powerful message that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and a danger to all of our societies.

“It gives the Jewish people around the world hope that extremism can be countered with the values of tolerance, decency and moderation.”

— Raphael Ahren

Pence: World can only marvel at faith and resilience of Jewish people

US Vice President Mike Pence tells the World Holocaust Forum: “It is deeply humbling for me to stand here before you today on behalf of the American people. We gather to fulfill a solemn obligation, the obligation of remembrance.”

He says: “Today we pause to remember what President Donald Trump rightly called ‘the dark stain on human history.'”

Pence adds that “the world can only marvel at the faith and resilience of the Jewish people. And I am proud to say that the American people have been with you every step of the way. And so will we remain.”

US Vice President Mike Pence seen during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, 23 January 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

— Raoul Wootliff

Pence: In spirit of Holocaust remembrance, we must stand strong against Iran

Mike Pence, like Benjamin Netanyahu before him, draws parallels between Nazi Germany and Iran.

“In the same spirit [of Holocaust remembrance], we must also stand strong against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism,” the US vice president says.

“The one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and calls to wipe Israel off the map. The world must stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

French leader: Xenophobia, intolerance have once again raised their ugly heads

French President Emmanuel Macron praises world leaders for coming together to remember the Holocaust.

“Can one have even imagined this happening nowadays? For us to be so united in remembrance?” he says. “This is not just history that one can read this way or another. No, there is truth and history with evidence. Let us not be confused between these things.”

The French leader says: “After all that has passed, anti-Semitism and the scourge of anti-Semitism has returned, and with it, xenophobia and intolerance have also raised their ugly heads.”

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) greets King Phillipe of Belgium (C) and King Felipe of Spain (R) during an event at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020, to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

In the face of modern anti-Semitism, he says “We will not allow ourselves to stand by in silence because we promise to remember and to take steps. Remember, never forget.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Report: Israel agreed to discuss equating Russian compound to Vatican properties

Israel has agreed to discuss with Moscow equating the status of a Russian-owned compound in Jerusalem to that of properties held by the Vatican, Channel 13’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid reports.

The move to upgrade the status of the compound is one of the gestures Jerusalem is providing for the release of Israeli Naama Issachar, jailed in Russia for cannabis possession.

A general view shows the Sergei Compound in Jerusalem, which became a symbol of imperial Russia’s presence in the Holy Land, after it re-opened on July 18, 2017, after six years of renovation work. (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

The official tells Ravid: “We gave relatively minor benefits that solved the crisis with Naama and improved the atmosphere with the Russians.”

Prince Charles: Hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart

The United Kingdom’s Prince Charles tells the World Holocaust Forum memorial event in Jerusalem: “It is a particular honor, although one of the most solemn kind, to be here today on behalf of the United Kingdom, to remember all those lost in the Shoah.”

In Israel on his first official visit to the country, he says: “It is of particular significance that we should gather here in Israel, where so many that sought shelter from the Holocaust found refuge.”

He says the fact that his grandmother Princess Alice saved a Jewish family and is counted as one of the Righteous Among the Nations “gives me and my family immense pride.”

The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, speaks during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, 23 January 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Prince Charles urges his listeners to “recommit ourselves to tolerance and respect.”

“Hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart, tell new lies and seek new victims. All to often language is used to mark others as enemies, to brand those who are different as somehow deviant,” he says. “Knowing as we do, the darkness that such beliefs can bring, we must never rest in seeking to create mutual understanding and respect.”

German president: With evil of the past spreading again, we say Never again

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany must remain committed to fighting anti-Semitism in any form.

“The industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in humanity, was committed by my country,” he says. “The terrible war which cost over 50 million lives originated in my country. Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, I stand here as the president of Germany, laden with guilt.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivers a speech during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

“I wish I could say that we Germans have learnt from history once and for all, but I cannot say that when hatred is spreading, I cannot say that when anti-Semitism is hidden in criticism of Israeli policy, and I cannot say that when only a thick wooden door prevents a right-wing terrorist from carrying out a massacre on Yom Kippur,” he says.

“It is the same evil, and there remains only one answer: Never again. That is why there can never be an end to remembrance.”

In Jerusalem, Putin calls for summit of UN founder states to ‘defend peace’

During his speech at Yad Vashem earlier, Russian President Putin called for a summit in 2020 of leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to “defend peace” in the face of global instability.

Putin said the world must remember that “disunity in the face of threats can lead to frightening consequences” and that countries must “do everything to protect and defend peace,” he said.

“The founder countries of the United Nations, the five states that hold special responsibility to save civilization, can and must be an example,” he said, calling for a meeting “in any place in the world” of the leaders of Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020, to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

Such a meeting would “play a great role in searching for collective answers to modern challenges and threats,” Putin said.

— AFP

Rivlin heard saying ‘willing to start’ Yad Vashem event without late official

Local media and social media are focusing on some behind-the-scenes drama at today’s ceremony at Yad Vashem, after President Reuven Rivlin was caught on camera before the start of the event saying he was “willing to start” without an unidentified person.

The ceremony was running late as Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin had been delayed at another event.

After speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron, Rivlin is approached by a Yad Vashem official who says someone is late. Rivlin replies: “We know. I’m ready to start immediately without him. He’ll come, I’ll receive him… I’m ready to start, I don’t care if he’s not here.”

Speculation is running rampant that Rivlin was referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose relations with the president have long been rumored to be tense.

But it seems more likely the mysterious late person is Russian President Vladimir Putin: for one thing, Netanyahu is seen entering the hall a few short minutes later; for another, Putin indeed arrived some 20 minutes after the ceremony began and was greeted by Rivlin, who showed him to his seat.

Reports: PM, Gantz to travel to Washington next week for peace plan’s unveiling

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz are both expected to be invited to the White House next week for the unveiling of the administration’s long-gestating peace plan, according to multiple local reports.

Channel 12 reports, without citing sources, that the plan is the most generous ever toward Israel; provides for Israeli sovereignty over all settlements; details a significant moving of Israel’s borders eastwards; ultimately provides for recognition of Palestinian statehood.

But the report adds that the expectation is that the Palestinians will reject it, possibly allowing for Israel to then act unilaterally, such as with the Israeli leadership’s stated plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Suspect balloons, possibly from Gaza, found in Kiryat Gat

A bunch of balloons suspected to have come from the Gaza Strip lands in the town of Kiryat Gat.

Police say sappers are en route to deal with any possible threat.

In recent days multiple balloons carrying bombs and incendiary devices have been flown over the border into Israel.

Monaco to open WWII archives on deportations of Jews

Monaco will for the first time open access to its official archives covering the years 1942 to 1944, when dozens of Jews were arrested and deported by the principality despite its supposed neutrality during World War II, the government says.

The move follows a request by the Simon-Wiesenthal Center, whose researchers work to shed light on the Holocaust and its perpetrators.

Serge Telle, the head of Monaco’s government, met officials from the center while attending ceremonies in Jerusalem to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

“These records have never been made available to anyone until now,” a government official tells AFP on condition of anonymity.

— AFP

Naama Issachar: I believe Putin when he says things will be okay

Jailed Israeli-American backpacker Naama Issachar tells Russian television she “believes” Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says things will turn out alright in her affair.

Putin made the comments while meeting with Issachar’s mother Yaffa alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“When I saw my mom on TV with such important people, I was very moved that [Putin] told my mother everything would be okay with my wonderful family,” Issachar told the local station.

Naama Issachar gestures during an appeal hearings in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2019. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr.)

“I’m still here, but I believe him.”

Bennett: We won’t allow any territorial concessions, Palestinian state

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says his party will not allow any territorial concessions to Palestinians or the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In response to reports that the Trump administration’s peace plan will be unveiled next week and include recognition of a Palestinian state, Bennett says while the president and his administration “are true friends of Israel” and Jerusalem may face “a historic opportunity,” his Yamina alliance of right-wing parties “will not allow land to be handed over to Arabs or the formation of a Palestinian state.”

“We will comment on the details of the plan once they are made public.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a conference organized by the Makor Rishon newspaper at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Smotrich: We’re here to maximize peace deal’s opportunities, neutralize risks

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) adds his two cents on the Trump administration’s peace plan.

“From the little we know of the ‘Deal of the Century’ it apparently includes opportunities but quite a few risks. We are here to maximize the opportunities and neutralize risks,” he says.

He says he will “use all my power” to prevent Israel from being divided under such a plan.

Settler leader urges PM to ‘immediately extend sovereignty over settlements’

Responding to reports the Trump peace plan includes the establishment of a Palestinian state, the head of the Binyamin Regional Council of settlements Yisrael Gantz says such a state “endangers the state of Israel and [the settler community] will fight it with all our might.”

He acknowledges that the administration is supportive of the Jewish state and claims it “recognizes the right and duty of extending sovereignty” over the West Bank.

He calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to immediately bring before the government a motion extending sovereignty over all areas of settlement.”

US official: Soleimani’s successor could share his fate if he follows his path

The US State Department’s special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, has warned that the successor to Qassem Soleimani could end up like the slain general if he acts unwisely in the post.

After Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq early this month he was replaced by Esmail Ghaani.

“If Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Hook tells Arabic-language daily Asharq al-Awsat, in comments translated by Reuters.

This undated photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader shows Maj. Gen. Esmail Ghaani. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

“Any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response,” he says. “This isn’t a new threat… I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

Peace Now: Any plan not based on 1967 borders will end up in dustbin of history

On the left, the Peace Now organization is also warning it probably won’t be a fan of the Trump peace plan.

“Any proposal that does not include the formation of a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders and the evacuation of solitary settlements is a deception that will end up in the dustbin of history,” the group says.

Likud said seeking to delay immunity deliberations over US peace plan

Likud is considering seeking to delay Knesset deliberations next week on forming a House Committee to discuss Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity, citing the Trump administration’s reported intention to unveil its peace plan, Hebrew media outlets report.

Blue and White sources reject any such notion, saying the plenum deliberations will move forward as planned.

The plenum hall of the Knesset during the opening ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netanyahu has sought to prevent the House Committee from weighing his immunity request prior to the March 2 election, as under the make-up of the current Knesset it is all but assured of rejecting it.

Police said preparing for unrest in Jerusalem over news of US peace plan

The Israel Police is preparing for potential unrest in Jerusalem’s Old City and East Jerusalem Sunday, Channel 12 reports.

Officials are said to fear news of the upcoming US peace plan giving unprecedented concessions to Israel that could spark Palestinian violence.

Joint List: US plan could set military rule over Palestinians for generations

The Joint List, made up of Arab-majority parties, says the upcoming US peace could formalize “military rule” over the Palestinian people for generations.

“The true ‘Deal of the Century’ is a prime minister accused of corruption and a president under an impeachment trial attempting to save each other through a dangerous political maneuver that will set military rule over the Palestinian people in the occupied territories for generations.”

Ministers told to keep mum on peace plan as officials hail historic opportunity

The Prime Minister’s Office is forbidding ministers from commenting on the upcoming US peace plan, after several ministers earlier criticized its potential repercussions, Channel 12 reports.

Israeli diplomatic officials tell the network the plan presents Israel with historic opportunities.

Report: US plan’s stipulations a non-starter with Palestinian leadership

Channel 12 news reports details of the upcoming US peace plan said to be unveiled next week.

It says the plan presents the Palestinians with demands that make it a non-starter for the Palestinian leadership: demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, the disarming of the Hamas terror group, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and acknowledgement of Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 6, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Blue and White source claims White House helping PM delay immunity talks

A source in the Blue and White party tells Haaretz the White House is attempting to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postpone immunity deliberations through its reported unveiling of the peace plan next week.

The Knesset is set to convene on Tuesday to vote on setting up a House Committee to deliberate Netanyahu’s request for immunity in three criminal cases — the same day Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will reportedly be invited to Washington for the plan’s release.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, January 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Gil Cohen-Magen, Pool)

The source says the party has no plans to delay the Knesset discussions.

Over the past year the White House is widely believed to have taken action on several occasions to assist Netanyahu’s reelection prospects.

Rocket sirens heard in Israeli community near Gaza

Rocket sirens are heard in the community of Nir Am, near the Gaza Strip, signaling a possible incoming missile.

More details as they come.

Military confirms rocket hit open field inside Israeli territory

The military confirms a rocket was launched from Gaza into Israel a short time ago.

The rocket hit an open field near Kibbutz Nir Am, causing no damage or causalities.

Buckingham Palace denies claims Prince Charles snubbed Pence in Jerusalem

Buckingham Palace dismisses suggestions that Prince Charles deliberately ignored US Vice President Mike Pence at a Holocaust memorial ceremony in Jerusalem, saying the two had a “warm and friendly chat” before the event.

A video, which was circulating widely on social media, shows the prince chatting with various dignitaries at the ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem.

Charles, 71, then approaches Pence, briefly looks at him, but moves on without shaking the US vice president’s hand and greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Shortly before the Yad Vashem memorial event began, the prince and Vice President Pence had a warm and friendly chat, which is why they did not greet each other again in the room,” says a statement from the office of the Prince of Wales.

— AFP

Meeting Putin, Abbas thanks him for supporting Palestinians

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bethlehem a short time ago and thanked him for supporting the Palestinians.

“I welcome Vladimir Putin, a dear friend,” he said. “He never misses any opportunity to talk about the Palestinian cause or support and aid it… We thank the president for supporting us politically, economically and in terms of security.”

Abbas also said that he and Putin needed to discuss “Israel’s announcement of annexing the Palestinian lands.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on January 23, 2020. (Alexander NEMENOV / various sources / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Tuesday to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley as well as every settlement in the West Bank “without exception.”

Labor’s Peretz: We need plan based on two-states, not on one-sided annexations

Labor-Gesher-Meretz chief Amir Peretz says of the purported plans to reveal the US peace plan next week: “We need a plan that jump-starts a political process based on the two-state solution, not on one-sided annexations.”

He adds that such a plan must include the evacuation of isolated settlements and arrangements ensuring Israel’s security.

Meanwhile his deputy, Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz, says: “A true diplomatic plan is not presented as a gimmick a month before elections, and certainly not on the day when the plenum votes on immunity.”

Labor-Gesher head Amir Peretz, left, and Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz shake hands during a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 13, 2020. (Flash90)

The Knesset is set to vote Tuesday on setting up a House Committee to debate Netanyahu’s request for immunity in three criminal cases — reportedly the same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz will meet US President Donald Trump in Washington.

Army walks back rocket claim, says internal explosion in Gaza caused siren

The military is walking back its earlier statement that a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The army now says an explosion inside the Palestinian territory set off alarms in Israel.

No rocket was fired at Israel.

Prince Charles hopes ties between Israel and UK ‘continue to grow ever stronger’

Britain’s Prince Charles, speaking at the residence of the UK ambassador to Israel in Ramat Gan, says he hopes the ties between Israel and the UK “will continue to grow ever stronger.”

“It has been fascinating to hear about all of the cooperative ventures between our countries,” the prince says after seeing a demonstration of four Israeli biotech companies in the fields of healthcare and sustainability.

Prince Charles says the demonstrations showcased Israel “as a leader in innovation and the strong strategic partnership between the UK and Israel” in the fields of science and technology.

Prince Charles at the residence of the UK ambassador to Israel in Ramat Gan, January 23, 2020 (Raoul Wootliff)

“It seems like Israeli genius is holding up the entire NHS,” he quips to laughter, referring to the UK’s National Health System.

— Raoul Wootliff

Iraqi protesters keep up rallies despite pressure from riot police

BAGHDAD — Security forces shoot live rounds to clear protest hotspots in Baghdad and southern Iraq for a second day, sparking skirmishes with demonstrators determined to keep up their movement.

Violence has resurged in the capital and Shiite-majority south this week, with more than 15 people killed as anti-government activists ramped up their road closures and sit-ins while security forces sought to snuff out the campaign.

Yesterday, four protesters were shot dead as riot police stormed protest camps across the country, according to medics, stoking fears of a broader crackdown.

But the demonstrators returned in large numbers throughout the evening and by this morning, they were rallying again.

In Basra, hundreds of students protest over riot police’s dismantling of their main protest camp the previous day, according to an AFP correspondent.

Others gather in the holy city of Najaf and university students lead a protest in Kut, where they erect new tents to replace those taken down the previous day.

— AFP

Anti-government protesters set tires aflame at a make-shift roadblock along the road leading to Najaf International Airport in the central Iraqi holy shrine city on January 26, 2020. (Haidar Hamdani/AFP)

FM Israel Katz to serve as acting prime minister while Netanyahu’s in US

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taps Foreign Minister Israel Katz to fill in as acting prime minister while he’s in the United States this week.

Katz, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, will also chair the high-level security cabinet in the premier’s absence.

Netanyahu will take off this afternoon for Washington, where he is set to meet with US President Donald Trump for talks on the White House’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief political rival, will meet with Trump at the White House tomorrow.

Gantz is set to return to Israel on Tuesday, when the Knesset will vote on forming the panel that will debate Netanyahu’s request for immunity from charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing, will meet with Trump that day and not return to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, listens to Foreign Minister Israel Katz during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, October 27, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP)
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Holocaust commemoration event organizer says event sends ‘powerful message’

Ahead of this afternoon’s World Holocaust Forum memorial event marking 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the organization’s president Moshe Kantor says the event “sends a powerful message that anti-Semitism is an unacceptable danger to all of our societies.”

“It gives Jews hope all around the world that extremism can be countered with the values of moderation and toleration,” Kantor says at a press conference at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem.

He nonetheless says that he has “never been so concerned with the rise in anti-Semitism that I see around us.”

“Just 75 years after the Holocaust, Jewish life in Europe is again under threat,” says the Moscow-born philanthropist and Jewish activist who also heads the European Jewish Congress.

“It’s a sad picture of trembling communities hiding behind high fences,” he says.

The event, headlined “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” is co-organized by the office of President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center and the World Holocaust Forum Foundation.

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev says the event aims “to bring together leaders of the international community to express their new commitment for Holocaust remembrance and understanding the deep meaning of Holocaust remembrance and to commit to fighting antisemitism around the world.”

Shalev says the unexpectedly high turn-out of world leaders “shows that we have created a united front of leaders to present the mission of combating antisemitism.”

At 1:15 p.m. the main memorial ceremony will start at Yad Vashem Warsaw Ghetto Square. In addition to Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Macron, US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain’s Prince Charles and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will address the gathering.

— Raoul Wootliff