Iran’s foreign minister hopes resignation empowers diplomats
search
Live updates (closed)

Likud draws fire for campaign ad featuring soldiers’ graves

‘Leave our children alone,’ says head of Israel’s main commemoration group; ruling party calls ad ‘unfortunate error’

Screen capture of a Likud campaign ad warning that a vote for the Benny Gantz-led Blue and White party is "dangerous," against the graves of fallen IDF soldiers, February 26, 2019. (Twitter screen capture)
Screen capture of a Likud campaign ad warning that a vote for the Benny Gantz-led Blue and White party is "dangerous," against the graves of fallen IDF soldiers, February 26, 2019. (Twitter screen capture)

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

Israel’s first Arab justice slams Netanyahu’s warnings about Arab votes

Former Supreme Court justice Salim Joubran lashes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign warnings that rival Benny Gantz will form a coalition with Arab votes.

“The prime minister’s statements are unnecessary and unfortunate, and deeply wound all the country’s Arab citizens,” Joubran, the first Arab Israeli to serve as a permanent justice on the country’s top court, says in an Israel Radio interview.

Joubran served on the Supreme Court from 2004 to 2017. He was also the first Arab Israeli to chair the Central Elections Committee.

“I expected [better] from the prime minister, even if he feels the pressure” of an electoral challenge, Joubran says in the interview. “And I can understand that [pressure]. He faces a challenge from a group of people who served the country, in a new party, and he falls back on the Arab issue. ‘The Arabs are turning out in droves,'” Joubran adds, recalling Netanyahu’s incorrect 2015 assertion that Arab citizens were voting in unusually high numbers.

“Why? What happened? The Arabs are citizens of this country. For the time being at least, we’re equal citizens in all respects. We can vote, run for office, and even unite in a ‘preventative bloc’ [in favor of one candidate over another]. This is all legitimate, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Joubran insists.

He insists “you can’t ignore 1.8 million Arab citizens who have every right to organize in parties that represent their interests. Why is this constantly coming up? Folks, stop it.”

Netanyahu to fly to Moscow tonight for Putin summit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Moscow tonight for a meeting Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two will discuss improving military coordination between the two countries’ armies in Syria and Israel’s efforts to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in the country.

Netanyahu will be accompanied by IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who has served as Netanyahu’s adviser and translator in previous meetings with Putin.

Gazan journalist appeals prison sentence, fine for probing corruption

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A Gaza journalist is appealing a six-month prison term and fine over her reporting on alleged corruption within the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Hajar Harb appears before a Hamas-run court today, where the judge postpones the hearing until March.

Fathi Sabah, a journalist campaigning on Harb’s behalf, says it’s the first time Hamas authorities have sued a journalist for their work since the group seized Gaza by force in 2007.

Harb reported in 2016 that healthy people were paying doctors to help them circumvent the Israeli-Egyptian blockade by issuing medical referrals to hospitals abroad. She was sentenced and fined later that year.

On Monday, Amnesty International called Harb’s prosecution “an outrageous assault on media freedom.”

— AP

US House to vote on revoking Trump’s border-fence emergency order

WASHINGTON — Democrats are moving quickly to try to roll back US President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to siphon billions of dollars from the military to fund construction of a fence along the US-Mexico border.

Tuesday’s vote in the Democratic-controlled House comes on legislation to revoke Trump’s executive order from earlier this month and would send it to the Republican-held Senate, where it would take only a handful of GOP defections to pass it.

Trump is likely to prevail in the end since he could use his first-ever veto to kill the measure if it passes Congress, but the White House is seeking to minimize defections among the president’s GOP allies to avoid embarrassment.

The vote could be challenging for GOP lawmakers who view themselves as conservative protectors of the Constitution and the powers of the federal purse that are reserved for Congress. But GOP vote counters are confident that the tally won’t get near the two-thirds that would overturn a Trump veto.

Democratic leaders said Monday that the vote is not about the merits of Trump’s wall but how Trump is trampling on the Constitution by grabbing money that he can’t obtain through normal means.

Trump’s edict is also being challenged in the federal courts, where a host of Democratic-led states such as California are among those that have sued to overturn the order. The House may also join in.

— AP

Iran’s foreign minister hopes resignation empowers diplomats

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign minister says he hopes his sudden resignation will strengthen the position of his fellow diplomats, hinting at a dispute with the security apparatus and hard-liners over the conduct of the country’s foreign policy.

Mohammed Javad Zarif’s resignation sent shockwaves through Iran, where tensions are already running high over America’s withdrawal last year from the nuclear deal he helped negotiate alongside Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

The Tehran stock market dropped 1,927 points Tuesday, down some 1.16 percent. The Iranian rial, which has rapidly depreciated amid uncertainty over the deal’s future, stood around 135,600 rials to $1. It had been 32,000 to the dollar at the time of the deal.

The state-run IRNA news agency says Zarif told colleagues his resignation would aid in “restoring the ministry to its legal position in foreign relations.”

The remark appears aimed at other bodies within Iran’s government. Zarif was not present for a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad yesterday. Assad was warmly received by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard.

— AP

Ministers rebuked for missing cabinet meeting amid campaigning

Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman issues an unusual rebuke to cabinet ministers after just four bothered to show up for the last meeting on Sunday as most were busy campaigning ahead of the April 9 elections.

There are 18 members of the cabinet.

“A very important decision concerning Israel’s water infrastructures was made in the presence of just four ministers,” Braverman chastises in a letter to ministers.

“I find it necessary to remind you,” he writes, “that despite the lead-up to elections for the Knesset, the cabinet does not go into recess. Cabinet meetings continue to take place at the appointed time each week.”

He concludes: “Your duties in your ministries and as elected public servants have not ended, and I ask that you attend the weekly cabinet meeting.”

British PM says parliament can vote on Brexit delay

LONDON, United Kingdom — British Prime Minister Theresa May says she would allow parliament to vote on March 14 on whether to delay Brexit if MPs reject both her deal and the prospect of leaving the EU without an agreement.

If those two options are rejected the government would put forward “a motion on whether parliament wants to see a short, limited extension to Article 50,” May says, adding that any delay could only be until the end of June.

The prime minister says she still wants Brexit to happen on the scheduled date of March 29 and repeats her promise to hold a parliamentary vote on her deal on March 12.

If the deal is rejected, as it was overwhelmingly by parliament last month, the government would then hold a vote on March 13 on whether MPs want a no-deal Brexit.

The vote on a possible delay would be the following day.

“Let me be clear, I do not want to see Article 50 extended. Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on March 29,” she tells parliament.

— AFP

EU court rules kosher meat, slaughtered without stunning, can’t be organic

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Kosher and halal meat from animals slaughtered by religious ritual without having first been stunned cannot be labeled organic, on animal welfare grounds, a top European Union court rules.

The way the meat is slaughtered “fails to observe the highest animal welfare standards,” says the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The case came to the court after the OABA, a French association promoting animal welfare in abattoirs, urged the agriculture ministry to ban the labeling of such meat as organic.

French courts initially dismissed the OABA’s case before passing it up to the CJEU for a definitive ruling.

“The Court recalls that scientific studies have shown that pre-stunning is the technique that compromises animal welfare the least at the time of killing,” says a court statement Tuesday.

Producers have to meet the highest animal welfare standards to qualify for the EU’s organic label, the court notes.

So while the ritual slaughter of animals is allowed on grounds of religious freedom, if they were not first stunned then that did not meet the highest animal welfare standards required for organic labeling.

The case will now go back to the Court of Appeal in Versailles, France, for a definitive ruling.

— AFP

After attack on Argentina rabbi, Rivlin vows Israel will protect Jews

President Reuven Rivlin tells Argentina’s Chief Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich that Israel will do “everything necessary to protect Jews” after the rabbi was severely beaten by unknown assailants at his Buenos Aires home on Monday.

“I am calling to find out how you are and to express my concern about the safety of the large Jewish community you lead,” Rivlin says in a phone call with Davidovich, according to a statement put out by Rivlin’s office.

“The State of Israel will do everything necessary to protect Jews wherever they choose to live and will take any steps to protect us from danger. We will not allow those who seek our harm to pursue us,” he adds.

Davidovich is currently hospitalized. During the attack, the intruders, who also stole valuables and money from the home, shouted, “We know you are the rabbi of the Jewish community,” according to local reports.

India used Israeli smart bombs in overnight strike in Pakistan – report

The munitions used by Indian fighter jets in a rare strike against targets deep inside Pakistan overnight Monday were Israeli-made SPICE 2000 smart bombs, according to Indian media.

The SPICE — standing for Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective — was created by the government-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The approximately 1,000 kilogram (2,200 pound) air-to-ground missile was launched by Indian Mirage fighter jets.

The powerful missile uses GPS coordinates to locate a target and on-board cameras to ensure that the munition is striking the correct location.

India’s ties with Israel have warmed in recent years, particularly in the area of military cooperation and weapons development, exchanging billions of dollars in defense contracts.

— Judah Ari Gross

Third suspect held in January murder of Jerusalem couple

Police arrest a third suspect in the double murder last month in Jerusalem of Yehuda Kaduri, 71, and his wife Tamar, 68.

Initially believed to have been a terror attack after the Kaduris were found stabbed to death in their apartment in the capital on January 13, police have since turned to a criminal motive, arresting two relatives of the victims, a husband and wife, earlier this month.

The third suspect arrested Tuesday is the brother of one of the suspects, according to Hebrew media reports.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court also extends the remand on Tuesday of the male suspect by eight days, and that of his wife, who is suspected of being an accessory to the crime, by six days.

Dutch Green party endorses boycott of Israel

The Dutch Green Left Party becomes the Netherlands’ first mainstream political movement to endorse a boycott of Israel.

The endorsement came in a vote on a motion during the February 16 General Congress of the party, which has 14 seats out of 150 in the lower house of the Dutch parliament.

“BDS is a legitimate means to help Palestinians in their fight for justice,” the passed motion says. It states that Green Left “will be alert and resist forcefully attempts in any country to criminalize BDS.”

BDS is the acronym for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

While boycotting Israeli goods or products is legal in all of Europe and in other countries around the world, promoting such boycotts is a violation of anti-discrimination laws in France and Spain, courts in those countries have ruled.

The Dutch Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a Jewish group committed to fighting anti-Semitism and performing Israel advocacy work, condemned the resolution.

“Green Left conveniently ignored how, in practice, BDS goes hand in hand with expressions of anti-Semitism and is linked to terrorist groups,” CIDI wrote.

The Likoed Nederland pro-Israel group wrote in a statement that Green Left “has declared itself a racist movement,” noting that the party has passed no other motions on boycotting Morocco, China, Turkey or Russia – all of which are internationally considering occupying powers.

— JTA

Trump, Kim in Hanoi for second round of nuclear talks

HANOI, Vietnam — After long journeys to Vietnam, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are in place for their second summit Wednesday to address perhaps the world’s biggest security challenge: Kim’s pursuit of a nuclear program that stands on the verge of viably threatening targets around the planet.

Trump arrived late Tuesday in Air Force One after a long flight that included refueling stops in England and Qatar. He waved from the stairs of the presidential plane, then shook hands with dignitaries and walked along a red carpet to his motorcade.

Kim arrived in Hanoi earlier and spent the day traveling around the Vietnamese capital in his armored limousine, his squad of bodyguards in tow as he visited the North Korean Embassy, with hundreds of visiting journalists and thousands of local citizens following in his wake. He took a train through southern China and then traveled to Hanoi by car from a Vietnamese border town.

The two leaders are slated to meet over two days, first at dinner on Wednesday followed by meetings on Thursday.

They first met last June in Singapore, a summit that was long on historic pageantry but short on any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.

— AP

Yesh Atid joins appeal to bar extremist Otzma Yehudit from running

The Yesh Atid party’s representatives on the Central Elections Committee announce that they will join an appeal by Labor and Meretz to the committee to nix the candidacy of Otzma Yehudit members Itamar Ben-Gvir and Michael Ben-Ari from running in the election.

“The decision is a result of Yesh Atid’s commitment to do everything in its power to prevent the entry of [Meir] Kahane’s followers into the Knesset,” the party says in a statement.

— Raoul Wootliff

Michael Cohen expected to claim lying, racism, cheating by Trump – report

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is expected to give a behind-the-scenes account of what he will claim is Trump’s lying, racism and cheating, and possibly even criminal conduct, when he testifies publicly before a House committee on Wednesday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Cohen is expected to provide what he will claim is evidence, in the form of documents, of Trump’s conduct, says the person, who requested anonymity to discuss the confidential testimony.

Trump’s former personal “fixer” arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday to begin three days of congressional appearances, starting with a closed-door interview with the Senate intelligence committee. The public won’t have a chance to hear from him until Wednesday, when he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He will go behind closed doors again when he talks to the House intelligence committee on Thursday.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says in a statement Tuesday it was “laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”

Lawmakers are alternately suspicious of Cohen, who is set to serve time in prison for lying to the House and Senate intelligence committees in 2017, and eager to hear what Cohen has to say after he turned on his longtime boss. Senators on the intelligence panel are expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting, a departure from the committee’s usual practice, where witness interviews are conducted by staff only.

As a close confidant of Trump for many years, Cohen’s testimony is among the most anticipated since the House and Senate started investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia ties two years ago. In addition to lying to Congress, Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump. He is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.

— AP

French Jewish school gets hate mail about Hitler

Statements celebrating the Holocaust were sent in a letter to a Jewish school south of Paris and, separately, the words “death to Jews” were painted on the fence of a synagogue north of the city.

In the letter to the school on Montrouge, the authors wrote, “Arab countries would have lived in peace if Adolf Hitler finished exterminating all the Jews” and “France is a rear base of Zionism in Europe,” the LCI television channel reports.

Police are investigating, the report says.

Separately, police are also looking into the spraying of graffiti last week on a wall of the synagogue in the Val-de-Marne area southeast of Paris, Le Parisien reports. The graffiti also featured the acronym LDNA, which is used by the militant group known as Black African Defense League.

In Villiers-le-Bel north of Paris, police apprehended a man they suspect of smashing a monument commemorating the Holocaust on February 14, Le Parisien reported last week.

— JTA

Likud’s US backers slam American Jewish criticism over Otzma Yehudit

The American Friends of Likud, a group that backs the Israeli ruling party, weighs in on American Jewish criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for engineering a merger between right-wing factions that will likely enable the extremist Otzma Yehudit party to enter the Knesset.

The group was “disappointed by the overt interference into (sic) the elections in Israel by certain leaders of American Jewish organizations,” it says, calling the criticism by organizations like AJC and AIPAC “insulting and obtrusive.”

The criticism sends an “unmistakable message to the Israeli public,” it charges, “that these American Jewish leaders are casting their uninvited votes in the election against the Likud, the Prime Minister’s party, and that Israeli voters should vote the same way.”

It urges US Jewish leaders to “refrain from interfering in Israel’s elections. There will be a time for legitimate criticism of positions or statements of Israeli politicians once the democratic electoral process in Israel has been completed.”

It notes that Israel’s Central Elections Committee has in the past ruled parties “illegitimate on the basis of racism, terrorism or other reasons.”

One of those parties was Kach, the party of extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, the mentor and inspiration for Otzma Yehudit’s leadership.

New York Times editor Bari Weiss writing book on anti-Semitism

NEW YORK — New York Times editor Bari Weiss is working on a book about anti-Semitism.

“How to Fight Anti-Semitism” will address the “alarming rise of antisemitism in this country and in Europe,” as well as offer solutions, the Jewish writer posted Monday on Twitter. Weiss said the book will be released in September.

She is also working on another book, part of the same deal for Crown Publishing, called “The New Seven Dirty Words.”

Since starting at The Times last year, Weiss has risen to prominence for her commentary on issues such as Israel, the #MeToo movement and cultural appropriation.

Her writing often criticizes what she sees as hypocrisy among progressives, which has earned her both praise and vilification.

— JTA

Brussels prosecutors seek guilty verdict for ‘savage’ Jewish museum killings

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Prosecutors formally demand a guilty verdict against a Frenchman accused of murdering four people in a “violent and savage” killing spree at the Jewish museum in Brussels.

At the end of a two-day closing summary, prosecutor Bernard Michel urged the jury to find Mehdi Nemmouche, 33, guilty of four counts of “terrorist murder” over the May 2014 attack in which all four victims were coldly shot in the head with either a handgun or a Kalashnikov.

The jury is expected to give its verdict on March 7 before deliberating over what sentence Nemmouche should serve if found guilty.

In his summing up, Michel says Nemmouche, who allegedly fought for jihadist groups in Syria, was “not simply radicalized but ultra-radicalized.”

“If attacking a museum with a combat weapon is not violent and savage then nothing will ever be violent and savage. We are looking at one of the most serious possible crimes,” Michel says.

Prosecutors accuse Nemmouche of carrying out the first attack in Europe by a jihadist returning from fighting in Syria. The Brussels killings came 18 months before the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks which left 130 dead.

— AFP

Drones launched to help preserve Europe’s Jewish cemeteries

RECA, Slovakia — A private organization is expanding its work preserving old Jewish cemeteries in Europe by employing aerial drones to map burial sites in countries where the Holocaust decimated local Jewish populations.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative says Tuesday that teams plan to survey 1,500 Jewish cemeteries in Slovakia, Greece, Moldova, Lithuania and Ukraine this year.

The European Union is funding the effort at a time of rising alarm in some countries over anti-Semitic acts, including swastikas painted on gravestones and other damage at Jewish cemeteries.

The chief executive of the Germany-based initiative, Philip Carmel, says fences will be erected around abandoned graveyards to re-establish their physical presence, “so people know there’s a Jewish cemetery.”

The group also wants to recruit volunteers in the five countries to maintain the cemeteries.

Participants at a conference organized by the Germany-based foundation European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (EJCI) clean a tombstone at a Jewish cemetery near the village of Reca, Slovakia, Tuesday, February 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Tombstones in woods at a Jewish cemetery near the village of Reca, Slovakia, Tuesday, February 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Participants of a conference organized by the Germany-based foundation European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (EJCI) watch a drone take off over a Jewish cemetery near the village of Reca, Slovakia, Tuesday, February 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

— AP

Charges filed against Robert Kraft for soliciting prostitutes

Formal charges are filed against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for soliciting prostitutes in Florida.

Kraft, 77, and two dozen other defendants were charged Monday afternoon with first-degree misdemeanors.

Police say they have video of Kraft engaging in paid sex acts with a worker at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter on two occasions, including on the morning of the AFC championship game.

Kraft denies being involved in “any illegal activity,” a spokesman told reporters.

The charge carries a mandatory $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and a mandatory class on prostitution and human trafficking. The accused also face jail time of 60 days to one year, though prison sentences are not usually given to first-time offenders.

A court date was set for April 24, and Kraft does not have to appear in court but can send an attorney to represent him, according to ESPN.

— JTA

Deri warns Gantz and Lapid will ‘divide the Western Wall’

Aryeh Deri, leader of the Haredi party Shas, warns supporters at a rally in the hardscrabble southern town of Ofakim that the centrist Blue and White alliance led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid will “divide the Western Wall” and “turn Shabbat into just another workday.”

“Forget the nice words you will hear over the next month from Lapid’s people, that they love Haredim,” Deri says. “Everyone here knows how much damage they did, how much they fought against Judaism. They will turn Shabbat into just another workday.”

He charges that Blue and White, an alliance between Gantz’s Israel Resilience party and Lapid’s Yesh Atid, “was established in a villa in [the wealthy town of] Savyon, not in [the working-class towns of] Ofakim, Netivot or Kiryat Shmona. They don’t care about the periphery.”

Deri urges right-wing Likud voters to vote Shas instead. “Shas is Likud’s mezuzah, a strong Shas will be a daily reminder of what it means to be a Jewish state,” he says. “We remind them what the Shabbat table is, and what Shabbat synagogue prayers are.”

Likud draws fire for campaign ad featuring soldiers’ graves

The Likud party has drawn fire from political opponents and commemoration groups for using the graves of fallen soldiers in a campaign ad warning against the “danger” of voting for the opposing Blue and White party.

Eli Ben Shem, head of Yad Labanim, Israel’s main commemoration organization for fallen soldiers, says the video “hurts bereaved families. Leave our children alone, leave IDF soldiers outside the political debate. If Israel has one last sacred cow left, we should protect it, and not trample it so callously and cynically. I don’t understand who could have come up with such a video.”

Blue and White, the party led by Gantz that was the target of the ad, says in a statement, “IDF soldiers who fell in battle and their grieving families did not imagine that the prime minister would use them in a political campaign video.”

Turning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it says, “Go and apologize to the families immediately, or this stain will accompany you all your life. Netanyahu, shame on you.”

“Too far, bibi. Don’t bring your filth to the military cemeteries,” says Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay in a statement.

Amid a growing chorus of criticism, a statement from Netanyahu says he has instructed the Likud campaign to take down the video. The party calls the incident “an unfortunate error,” and says Netanyahu has asked to take steps to ensure “this doesn’t recur.”

Netanyahu says soldiers’ graves ad was ‘mistake’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to the growing furor over his party’s use earlier this evening of soldiers’ graves in a campaign ad, calling the incident a “mistake” and saying he understands the pain of bereaved families.

“As soon as I was told this evening about the unfortunate editorial mistake that was made at Likud’s [campaign] headquarters, I ordered the removal of the image, an inquiry into the incident, and steps taken against those responsible for the mistake,” Netanyahu says.

“As a bereaved brother [of a fallen soldier] who has been going to his brother’s grave on Mount Herzl for the past 43 years, I understand well the pain of the families.”

German far-right party wins injunction over extremism probe

BERLIN — A German court rules that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency shouldn’t have publicly announced that it is investigating the country’s biggest far-right party.

An administrative court in Cologne on Tuesday grants an injunction sought by Alternative for Germany against the BfV intelligence agency.

The agency announced last month that it was increasing its scrutiny of the party, known by its German acronym AfD, amid concerns that it is flirting with extremism.

The Cologne court rules that publicly describing the party as a “case to be investigated” was disproportionate and breached its constitutional rights. The court does not rule on the probe itself.

AfD welcomes the injunction, which can be appealed.

— AP

UK Labour Party questions government’s banning of Hezbollah

Britain’s Labour Party questions the country’s proscription of Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terror group, suggesting it was driven by political motives.

Prior to Monday’s decision by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the United Kingdom differentiated between Hezbollah’s political and military wings, with only the latter outlawed under British law.

Labour, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn once referred to Hezbollah as his “friends,” said Tuesday the Home Office had not provided evidence to justify its change in stance on the Iran-backed organization’s political wing.

“Decisions on the proscription of organizations as terror groups are supposed to be made on the advice of civil servants based on clear evidence that those organizations fall foul of the proscription criteria set out in legislation,” Labour said in a statement.

“The Home Secretary must therefore now demonstrate that this decision was taken in an objective and impartial way, and driven by clear and new evidence, not by his leadership ambitions,” the party added.

Despite questioning the move, Labour said it would not actively oppose it, according to The Guardian.

The new designation was expected to be approved later Tuesday when the House of Commons votes on an amendment that also bans a pair of West African jihadist organizations as terror groups.

US Jewish umbrella group urges Netanyahu to denounce extremist party

WASHINGTON — The umbrella body for American Jewish public policy groups directly urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce a far-right political party that he invited into a marriage of convenience ahead of April elections.

A letter sent Tuesday by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs is unusual in that it directly addresses Netanyahu on the topic of Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, which has roots in the racist anti-Arab views of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. The letter, however, carefully avoids chiding him for courting the party.

“We are unwavering in our support for the nation-state of the Jewish people and the country’s quest for peace and security,” the letter says. “We are dismayed, however, by reports that a racist party was brought into the election process.”

The passive voice is notable: It is Netanyahu who brought Jewish Power into the process. Earlier this month he arranged for a party to the right of his own Likud, Jewish Home, to jointly run with Otzma in the elections and thereby strengthen their chances of success.

“We urge you to speak out against Otzma Yehudit’s racism in no uncertain terms,” the JCPA letter concludes.

Directly addressing Netanyahu is nonetheless significant for a centrist Jewish group that operates through a consensus-building system soliciting Jewish voices from right to left. Several mainstream centrist US Jewish groups have denounced Otzma in recent days, but without mentioning Netanyahu.

Among those groups condemning Otzma are the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It is rare for AIPAC to weigh in on Israeli politics. Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Washington and address the lobby at its annual conference next month.

Netanyahu has defended working with Otzma by accusing critics of hypocrisy for not criticizing the Labor Party for using the votes of non-Zionist parties to maintain power in the mid-1990s.

— JTA

PA official says no comment on Kushner peace plan remarks

A senior Palestinian official says he has no comment on US President Donald Trump’s Middle East point man Jared Kushner’s recent remarks about the US administration’s apparently forthcoming peace plan.

“When something written will be presented to us, we will respond to it,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, tells The Times of Israel. “[Kushner] spoke in a general manner. When we will be given details, we will share our opinion.”

Kushner told Sky News Arabia on Monday: “The political plan, which is very detailed, is really about establishing borders and resolving final status issues. The goal of resolving these borders is really to eliminate the borders. If you can eliminate borders and have peace and less fear of terror, you could have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people and that would create a lot more opportunities.”

— Adam Rasgon

read more:
comments
Live updates (closed)

Iran’s foreign minister hopes resignation empowers diplomats

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign minister says he hopes his sudden resignation will strengthen the position of his fellow diplomats, hinting at a dispute with the security apparatus and hard-liners over the conduct of the country’s foreign policy.

Mohammed Javad Zarif’s resignation sent shockwaves through Iran, where tensions are already running high over America’s withdrawal last year from the nuclear deal he helped negotiate alongside Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

The Tehran stock market dropped 1,927 points Tuesday, down some 1.16 percent. The Iranian rial, which has rapidly depreciated amid uncertainty over the deal’s future, stood around 135,600 rials to $1. It had been 32,000 to the dollar at the time of the deal.

The state-run IRNA news agency says Zarif told colleagues his resignation would aid in “restoring the ministry to its legal position in foreign relations.”

The remark appears aimed at other bodies within Iran’s government. Zarif was not present for a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad yesterday. Assad was warmly received by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard.

— AP