Human Rights Watch activist deported by Israel vows to continue work
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Likud to hold leadership primary, perhaps in coming weeks – report

Netanyahu is said to not rule out party vote before new elections are called, as Sa’ar is demanding, but chances of that happening are seen as low

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar, speaking during a conference in Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar, speaking during a conference in Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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

Arab Israeli cleric convicted of inciting terrorism

A prominent Arab Israeli Islamic cleric is convicted Sunday of incitement to terrorism over a speech he made praising a deadly attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Haifa Magistrate’s Court also convicts Sheikh Raed Salah of supporting an outlawed organization. Salah was leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which Israel banned in 2015 for allegedly having links to terror groups and inciting deadly violence.

Salah was arrested and charged in 2017 for praising three Arab Israelis who shot dead two police officers in an attack at the Temple Mount compound. The attack, and Israel’s ensuing decision to beef up security at the holy site, significantly ramped up tensions between Israel and the Arab world.

Toddler dies after choking at Haifa daycare

A toddler dies after choking in a daycare in Haifa.

The 2-year-old was rushed to a hospital, where doctors were unable to save him.

Three employees of the daycare facility are being questioned by police.

Suspected female IS member, children returned to Germany

German authorities say a 30-year-old woman who allegedly was a member of the Islamic State group has returned to Germany with her three children.

German news agency dpa reports the woman and children, whose identities were not revealed, arrived Saturday night in Frankfurt from Irbil in Iraq.

It is believed they were in a detention camp in northern Syria.

Authorities say the woman will be investigated among other things for her membership in the IS group, but that there is no arrest warrant for her.

Earlier this month, Turkey stepped up the return of suspected foreign IS members back to their countries of origin.

Germany has said it will check the background of all suspected Islamic State group members deported back to Germany to assess the risks they pose.

AP

Plane crashes into busy DR Congo city, killing 23

Twenty-three bodies have been recovered after a small plane crashed on takeoff today into a densely populated area of the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rescue workers say.

“We are up to 23 bodies now,” Goma rescue service coordinator Joseph Makundi tells AFP.

The dead are believed to include all those on board the plane as well as people on the ground.

Images from the scene show plumes of black smoke and flames apparently from the burning plane as locals look on.

Rescue workers are also seen combing through the plane’s burned-out fuselage.

Goma airport official Richard Mangolopa tells AFP no survivors are expected from the disaster.

AFP

Arab Israeli man gets life for stabbing death of rabbi

An Arab Israeli man is sentenced to life in prison for stabbing an Israeli to death in the West Bank on February 5, 2018.

The Lod District Court convicted Abed al-Karim Assi in July of murdering Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal at the Ariel Junction.

Assi is also ordered to pay Ben-Gal’s children NIS 258,000 ($74,000) in compensation.

Israeli security forces arrested Assi on March 18, after more than a month of searches, in Nablus, where his father lives.

Before the attack he had used his Israeli citizenship to spend time on both sides of the Green Line, including with his mother, who lives in Haifa.

with Stuart Winer

Protesters demonstrate against US near embassy in Lebanon

A few dozen people demonstrate near the US Embassy outside Beirut against what they are calling America’s intervention in Lebanon’s affairs.

Lebanese troops and riot police employed tight security measures today near the embassy northeast of the city. The protesters later disperse without any reports of violence.

The protesters blast recent comments by former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman before the House Subcommittee on the Middle East in which he said that “the demonstrations and the reactions to them by Lebanese leaders and institutions fortunately coincide with US interests.”

AP

US citizen, a former Israel ally, is jailed in Lebanon

Amer Fakhoury closed his New Hampshire restaurant in September to take his first vacation in years to visit family in his native Lebanon — a country he hadn’t been to for nearly two decades.

He hasn’t returned to the United States. Soon after his arrival, the 57-year-old American citizen was detained by authorities and remains jailed as Lebanon deals with anti-government protests during a worsening economic crisis.

Fakhoury’s family says doctors report that he is in poor health and that his condition is life-threatening.

No charges have been filed against Fakhoury. His lawyer says it’s unclear why he’s being held. Fakhoury was once a member of the former Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.

His family insists he had no direct contact with prisoners, never abused anyone and was never accused of abuse.

A State Department spokesperson says it’s been in contact with Fakhoury.

AP

PM’s cousin bought company that could benefit from deal pushed by Netanyahu

Netanyahu’s cousin Nathan Milikowsky invested in a massive Greek steel conglomerate at around the same time that the prime minister was advancing a deal with Greece and Cyprus, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, Zman Israel, reports.

According to the report, in late June, Milikowsky’s metal company Jordan International bought Hellenic Steel, which for many years was the country’s second-largest steel company.

The report notes that Hellenic Steel had been out of commission for five years amid Greece’s financial crisis, and only resumed its activity last week, marked by a ceremony attended by the Greek prime minister.

The report says Jordan International is expected to invest some 100 million euros in the company, whose output is expected to be some 350,000 tons’ worth of products per year.

Meanwhile, earlier this month the Israel Natural Gas Lines company, the national gas conglomerate, signed a memorandum with IGI Poseidon, a joint venture of the Public Gas Corporation of Greece and Italian Edison S.p.A, on the construction of a gas pipeline from the Mediterranean to Europe.

Israel has several natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, as does Cyprus.

The report says Netanyahu has been pushing for the signing of the pipeline deal.

The prime minister has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support from Milikowsky in order to fund his legal bills in the corruption investigations against him.

Furthermore, according to reports earlier this year, Netanyahu made a return of over 700 percent on stock he bought in Seadrift Coke, a steel company owned by Milikowsky that was sold to German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp before it merged with GrafTech, also owned by Milikowski.

Michael Bloomberg launches Democratic presidential bid

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the world’s richest men, has formally launched a Democratic bid for president.

Ending weeks of speculation, the 77-year-old former Republican announces his candidacy in a written statement posted on a campaign website describing himself as uniquely positioned to defeat US President Donald Trump. He will quickly follow with a massive advertising campaign blanketing airways in key primary states across the US.

“I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America,” Bloomberg writes.

“We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions,” he continues. “He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage.”

AP

Acting police commissioner gives officers support amid public criticism

Motti Cohen, the acting Israel Police commissioner, visits officers at the headquarters of the Lahav 433 anti-corruption to show support amid a rash of criticism of law enforcement from Netanyahu and his allies.

“We must loyally fulfill our public task of uncovering public crime and corruption at all levels, to investigate thoroughly every incidence of corruption and arrive at the truth in every investigation without allowing slander or accusations of any kind to have any influence on our integrity and professionalism,” says Cohen.

Cohen has been the interim commissioner for about a year, and has refrained from speaking out on the Netanyahu investigations.

In north, Netanyahu vows to keep countering Iran

Prime Minister Netanyahu visits the northern border, where he is briefed by Israel Defense Forces officers.

In comments to the press, Netanyahu vows to continue to counter the Iranian efforts to entrench militarily in Syria.

“Iran’s belligerence in the region — including against us — continues,” he says. “We are taking all the necessary steps to prevent Iran from establishing itself here in the area.

“The includes the necessary activity to prevent the delivery of lethal weapons from Iran to Syria, whether by air or over land.”

The prime minister adds that Israel would counter alleged Iranian efforts to turn Yemen into a base for launching rockets and missiles into Israel, and warns that Tehran is planning further attacks.

Six protesters killed in south Iraq as unrest intensifies

Six protesters were killed today in Iraq’s south where angry demonstrations turned up the heat on a paralyzed government facing the country’s largest grassroots movement in decades.

Three demonstrators died and around 50 were wounded in clashes with security forces near the key southern port of Umm Qasr, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission reports.

An AFP correspondent says security forces fired live rounds at protesters trying to block access to the port, a vital lifeline for food and medicine imports as well as energy exports.

Hours earlier, before dawn, three protesters were shot dead and at least 47 wounded by security forces in Nasiriyah, some 300 kilometers (200 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, medical sources says.

AFP

Human Rights Watch activist deported by Israel vows to continue work

A human rights researcher who is being deported from Israel over his alleged boycott advocacy says he will remain in his position and continue doing the “important, urgent work” of documenting violations in Israel and the Palestinian territories from abroad.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch since October 2016, must leave the country tomorrow after the Supreme Court upheld a deportation order earlier this month following a long legal battle.

Israel accuses Shakir of supporting the Palestinian-led boycott movement through his work with Human Rights Watch, allegations denied by the New York-based group.

Human Rights Watch researcher Omar Shakir during an interview in Jerusalem, November 24, 2019 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

AP

Exports on course to hit record $114 billion this year, led by tech industry

Israel’s exports are projected to grow from $109 billion in 2018 to a record $114 billion this year, the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Economy Ministry say.

The Economy Ministry says the increase is mostly due to a 12 percent rise in the export of services, led by the tech industry.

Some 30% of Israel’s economic activity is composed of exports, Reuters reports.

“Overall, exports to the European Union — Israel’s largest trading partner — rose 4.8% this year, led by the UK, Spain, Poland and Belgium. Exports to the United States — the largest export market by country — rose 2% while exports to India grew 9%,” the report says. “Exports to Asian markets including China and Japan fell this year.”

PM meets top Likud official, affirms bid to call off primaries for Knesset slate

Netanyahu meets with MK Haim Katz, who chairs the Likud party’s central committee.

The two decide to convene the committee on December 5, so as to call off the primaries for the Likud Knesset slate ahead of the expected third election rematch sometime next year.

The decision does not relate to the question of snap elections for the leadership of the party, which Netanyahu’s rival Gideon Sa’ar has been pushing in a bid to replace the premier.

US Supreme Court says Ginsburg released from hospital

The US Supreme Court says Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been released from a Baltimore hospital where she had been treated for a possible infection.

The 86-year-old Ginsburg has returned to her home in Washington, DC, and is “doing well,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg says.

Ginsburg spent two nights at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She was taken there Friday after experiencing chills and fever.

The court says she received intravenous antibiotics and fluids and that her symptoms abated.

AP

Sa’ar and Barkat trade blows over Likud leadership primary

MK Gideon Sa’ar, who is challenging Netanyahu for the leadership of Likud, spars with the party’s MK Nir Barkat over the prospect of a leadership primary.

The first volley comes from Barkat, who says, without naming Sa’ar, that “friends within [the party] are openly coordinated with MKs from the left, and trying to defect and use their votes to establish a leftist government.”

Sa’ar, in response, recalls the 2006 elections, when Barkat, as Jerusalem mayor, was a member of the rival Kadima party, which swept the vote.

“When I was fighting for Likud, which was left with 12 seats, Barkat was celebrating with champagne at the headquarters of Kadima, in which he was a member,” Sa’ar says.

“After only a few days in the Knesset,” Barkat is launching an “incitement campaign against me,” Sa’ar continues.

Likud’s most senior ministers have pointedly remained mum on the prospect of a leadership primary.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, among others, are all straddling the sidelines, as Netanyahu clings to power.

with AP

Likud to hold leadership primary, perhaps in coming weeks – report

The Likud party will hold leadership primaries sometime in the coming six weeks, Channel 12 news reports.

The report says Netanyahu “is not ruling out” a primary vote sometime within the coming two and a half weeks — before new elections are called, as Sa’ar is demanding — but that chances of that happening are low.

13 dead in one of the ‘worst’ days of protest in southern Iraq

Thirteen anti-government protesters were killed today by Iraqi security forces in one of the “worst” days of clashes in the country’s south, as protests swept through the oil-rich area, officials say.

Security and hospital officials, who request anonymity in line with regulations, say seven protesters were killed in the southern province of Basra, near the Umm Qasr port. Security forces used live fire and tear gas to disperse the protesters.

Officials say another four protesters were killed in Nassiriya province, and one killed in both Najaf and Diwanieh provinces, respectively.

At least 342 people have died since demonstrations began October 1, when thousands of Iraqis, mostly youth, took to the streets to decry corruption and poor services.

AP

Backing Netanyahu, FM Katz breaks silence on Likud primary

Foreign Minister Katz, who has so far refrained from weighing in on the question of a leadership primary in Likud, tweets his support for Netanyahu.

Recent reports constitute “a bizarre media attempt to distort reality and label me as a ‘silent one,'” he says.

“From the outset I expressed my unreserved support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Likud’s candidate for prime minister in the event that another Knesset election is held, and against efforts to oust him by holding early primaries,” Katz adds.

Netanyahu won’t say whether he’ll seek immunity from prosecution

Asked by a reporter earlier today whether he would seek to gain immunity from prosecution from the Knesset, Netanyahu demurs.

“Well, you’re asking much more complicated questions, my young friend,” he responds to the reporter.

Asked whether his legal troubles were an impediment to him managing the affairs of the country, and especially the fight against Iran, Netanyahu goes on the defensive.

“Well, as you can see, I am doing everything necessary to continue the work of the government and the Security Cabinet, from which I have just come, by all necessary means, to preserve the security of the citizens of Israel and the things that are essential for the State of Israel,” he says.

“Whoever knows me knows that I am doing this. These are not insignificant matters. I am doing this in the best way possible out of a supreme commitment to the security of Israel.”

Top US general meets Israeli brass amid Iran tensions

The top US general is visiting Tel Aviv for meetings with military leaders amid heightened tensions with Iran in the Mideast.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley met today with Israeli counterpart Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi.

The Israel Defense Forces says in a statement that Milley’s visit is a sign of “the depth of the partnership between the forces and its importance in promoting regional stability.”

AP

History students in Argentina create music video featuring singing Nazis

Students in a history class in a private secondary school in a northwest province of Argentina made a music video featuring singing Nazis as a class assignment.

The Nazi music video received nine out of 10 points from the teacher at the Escuela Modelo of San Juan, or Model School, whose website says, “We mold people with integrity, solidarity and entrepreneurship.”

The video is a parody of the song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, in which a student sings changed lyrics: “I’m a Nazi girl in a Nazi world.” The video includes Nazi symbols and shows the singing Nazis humiliating students dressed as Jews and homosexuals.

The video was widespread on social media.

On Monday, a representative of the national Jewish political umbrella DAIA will meet with officials from the Education Ministry of San Juan province.

In a statement released on Saturday, the school expressed “apologies to the representative of the Sociedad Israelita de San Juan,” the local JCC, as well other groups insulted in the video including blacks and homosexuals.

The teacher was sanctioned and fired from the school, according to Argentinian media reports.

Argentina has had a national anti-discrimination law on the books since 1998.

JTA

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Human Rights Watch activist deported by Israel vows to continue work

A human rights researcher who is being deported from Israel over his alleged boycott advocacy says he will remain in his position and continue doing the “important, urgent work” of documenting violations in Israel and the Palestinian territories from abroad.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch since October 2016, must leave the country tomorrow after the Supreme Court upheld a deportation order earlier this month following a long legal battle.

Israel accuses Shakir of supporting the Palestinian-led boycott movement through his work with Human Rights Watch, allegations denied by the New York-based group.

Human Rights Watch researcher Omar Shakir during an interview in Jerusalem, November 24, 2019 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

AP