Iraq to hold parliamentary election in May
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Israel calls for Spain crisis to be resolved ‘quickly and peacefully’

Breaking silence on Catalonia crisis, Foreign Ministry appears to side with Madrid, hailing 'longstanding, strong and friendly relations' between the two countries

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Protesters wave Spanish and Catalan Senyera flags during a pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona on October 29, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
    Protesters wave Spanish and Catalan Senyera flags during a pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona on October 29, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a memorial ceremony to mark the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on November 1, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a memorial ceremony to mark the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on November 1, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
  • Palestinian children from the Aida refugee camp attend an event held by secretive British street artist Banksy to apologize for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration on November 1, 2017 at his Walled-Off Hotel in Bethlehem in the West Bank. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
    Palestinian children from the Aida refugee camp attend an event held by secretive British street artist Banksy to apologize for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration on November 1, 2017 at his Walled-Off Hotel in Bethlehem in the West Bank. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
  • President Reuven Rivlin at a memorial ceremony to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin's assassination, at the president's resindce in Jerusalem on November 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    President Reuven Rivlin at a memorial ceremony to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin's assassination, at the president's resindce in Jerusalem on November 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Bicycles and debris lies on a bike path after a motorist drove onto the path near the World Trade Center memorial, striking and killing several people Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
    Bicycles and debris lies on a bike path after a motorist drove onto the path near the World Trade Center memorial, striking and killing several people Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

Netanyahu condemns New York attack, says unity will defeat terror

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns the terror attack in New York city yesterday that killed eight people and injured 12 .

“We stand with our friends from New York after another terrible terror attack,” Netanyahu says in a statement. “We send our prayers to the families of the victims.”

“Together we will defeat the plague of terrorism,” the prime minister says.

Banksy holds Balfour ‘apology party’ for Palestinians

Secretive British street artist Banksy is holding an event to apologize for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration outside his hotel in the West Bank.

The typically surreal event involved 50 children hosted by an actor dressed as Queen Elizabeth II for a British-style tea party.

Their party hats were bullet-riddled helmets with British flags on them, while tattered British flags were flown.

The queen reveals a plaque carved in concrete saying “Er, Sorry,” playing on the common initials for Elizabeth Royal.

The apology is etched into the separation wall, which in many areas cuts through territory Palestinians claim for their future state.

Dual exhibitions lift veil on Nazi-era art hoard

Portions of the spectacular art collection hoarded by the son of a Nazi-era dealer will be shown for the first time since World War II in parallel exhibitions in Switzerland and Germany starting tomorrow.

“Gurlitt: Status Report,” which displays around 450 works by masters including Monet, Cezanne, Renoir and Picasso, aims to shed light on the systematic looting of Jewish collections under Adolf Hitler.

The works in the two exhibitions, which run in Bern and the German city of Bonn until March, are just a small fraction of the more than 1,500 pieces discovered in 2012 in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt.

His father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, worked as an art dealer for the Nazis starting in 1938.

The discovery of the stash made headlines around the world and revived an emotional debate about how thoroughly postwar Germany had dealt with art plundered by the Nazi regime.

“At last it is out of hiding,” the German weekly Die Zeit said about the collection, noting that “for the first time it will be possible to view what many have spoken and written about in the past few years, without being able to see it so far.”

— AFP

Putin arrives in Iran for talks with Tehran, Azerbaijan

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Iran for trilateral talks with Tehran and Azerbaijan, a meeting that comes as the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal is threatened by US President Donald Trump’s refusal to re-certify the accord.

The talks in Tehran are to focus on regional matters, as well as terrorism and security issues. The three countries all share the Caspian Sea and railway and road projects are expected to be discussed at their meeting as well.

Putin landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport for the one-day meeting. It’s his third visit to Iran after previously making trips in November 2015 and in 2007.

Putin also is expected to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

— AP

Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen kills 26 people

A suspected airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen killed at least 26 people and wounded nine others in the country’s north, a Yemeni health official says.

Abdellah al-Ezi, head of the health office of the northern province of Saada, says the airstrike struck a small hotel in a market in the province, which lies on the border with Saudi Arabia. Saada is a stronghold of Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not immediately respond to an Associated Press call for comment on the airstrike.

— AP

Far-right activists to sue after Kahane billboard removed over racism concerns

Far-right activists say they plan to sue a Jerusalem hotel after the municipality ordered a large billboard memorializing ultra-nationalist rabbi Meir Kahane removed.

The billboard, paid for by the the Otzma Yehudit party, was seen hanging on the side of the Jerusalem Gate Hotel at the entrance to the city for several days this week before it was taken down.

The order from the municipality came after MK Ksenia Svetlova had urged the city to remove the sign, saying it promoted racism.

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir and former MK Michael Ben-Ari have filed the NIS 500,000 lawsuit against the Jerusalem Gate Hotel for violating their contract.

Kahane, whose Knesset party Kach was outlawed in 1988 on grounds of incitement to racism against non-Jews and negation of the State of Israel’s legitimacy, was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Kremlin sends condolences to US over ‘tragic, inhumane attack’

The Kremlin sends condolences to the United States over the New York truck attack that killed eight people, calling it “tragic and inhumane.”

“We send our condolences, this is a tragic, inhumane attack,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov is quoted as saying by Russian new agencies.

— AFP

NY governor says attacker ‘radicalized domestically,’ ‘associated with IS’

The Uzbek national who plowed through a New York bicycle path, killing eight people, was associated with the Islamic State group but “radicalized domestically,” the state’s governor Andrew Cuomo, says.

The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, was shot by police at the end of the rampage in lower Manhattan yesterday but is expected to recover from his wounds.

“He’s a depraved coward is what he is, and he was associated with ISIS, and he was radicalized domestically, and he’s a depraved coward,” Cuomo says in an interview with CNN.

— AFP

Israeli troops clash with Palestinians protesting Balfour Declaration centenary

Palestinians protesting the centennial of the Balfour Declaration clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, according to reports in Palestinian media.

According to Maan News, the protesters marched from the southern to the northern end of the city where they hung an effigy of Lord Balfour, beating and throwing shoes at it.

Israeli forces break up the protest using rubber bullets and tear gas.

At Rabin memorial, Rivlin says democracies must denounce violence

President Reuven Rivlin leads the state tributes to Yitzhak Rabin, telling participants at a memorial service at Mount Herzl cemetery the 1995 assassination of the prime minister was “one of the greatest tragedies to befall the Israeli people.”

Addressing the state memorial marking the 22nd Hebrew anniversary of Rabin’s murder, Rivlin says the 1995 murder was “a moment in which Israeli statehood and democracy came under real danger,” adding that a “robust and lively democracy can and should allow dialogue, even it hurts.”

“But democracy,” he adds, “cannot allow for violence, and furthermore, it must denounce violence from within.”

“That violence, as Rabin said in his very last speech, erodes the foundations of democracy, and undermines pillars on which the State of Israel stands,” Rivlin says.

Netanyahu denounces incitement toward politicians at Rabin memorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin requires a “condemnation of violence from whatever the source, especially if that violence is directed at public leaders.”

“The shocking murder has put us to a fundamental test of the danger of self-destruction and the destruction of democracy, and we are absolutely committed to the basic rule of democracy,” Netanyahu says at the state memorial marking the 22nd Hebrew anniversary of Rabin’s assassination.

Ousted Catalan leader won’t go to Madrid court

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont will not return to Spain for questioning this week by a National Court judge investigating him for possible rebellion charges, his Belgian lawyer says suggesting that he could be questioned in Belgium instead.

The fired Catalan regional government leader flew to Brussels after the Spanish government used special constitutional powers to take control of Catalan affairs Saturday and fired his government. Spain took over running the northeastern region after Catalan lawmakers voted the previous day to secede in Spain’s most serious political crisis in decades.

Puigdemont and his 13 former Catalan cabinet members have been summoned for questioning in Madrid on Thursday and Friday.

All 14 faced possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for driving the secessionist bid to a full declaration of independence for the prosperous region that includes Barcelona. Also summoned is Puigdemont’s No. 2, Oriol Junqueras. The crimes are punishable with decades behind bars.

— AP

Director Brett Ratner accused of sexual harassment by 6 women

Six women including actress Olivia Munn have accused film director Brett Ratner of sexual harassment or misconduct in a Los Angeles Times report.

Munn said that while visiting the set of Ratner’s “After the Sunset” in 2004, he masturbated in front of her in his trailer. Munn described the incident, without naming Ratner, in a 2010 collection of essays.

The LA Times report describes other encounters where Ratner aggressively pursued actresses, sometimes following them into a bathroom. An extra on “Rush Hour 2” named Eri Sasaki said Ratner suggested he would give her a line in the film if she slept with him.

Police weren’t contacted about any of the incidents, nor did they result in financial settlements.

Representatives for Ratner didn’t immediately respond to queries.

Ratner is the latest Hollywood figure to be accused of sexual harassment in a scandal that began after The New York Times published an expose last month about decades of harassment allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

— AP

Truck attack probe moves to New Jersey apartment

FBI agents investigating the Manhattan truck attack have emerged from a Paterson, New Jersey apartment building with a black plastic bag.

They put the bag in a vehicle, then went back into the cordoned off area.

On Tuesday, a man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path in lower Manhattan, near the World Trade Center, killing eight people.

The Uzbek immigrant who was the truck driver was wounded by police.

— with AP

Air Force corporal sentenced to 3 years for raping female comrade

A military court sentenced Air Force cpl. Levi Nahari to three and half years in jail for raping a female soldier.

Nahari was also demoted a rank and ordered to pay his victim unspecified damages for the February assault.

Netanyahu calls for national reconciliation after Yuval Rabin’s criticism

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for national reconciliation in the wake of remarks by the son of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at his father’s memorial.

“I have done this many times before, but in light of your moving call, so I repeat this message again with all my might,” he says at a Knesset memorial service for Yitzhak Rabin.

Earlier today at the 22nd anniversary [based on the Jewish calendar] of Rabin’s assassination, Yuval Rabin said “incitement and division continues to devastate” Israeli society and that “anyone who thinks otherwise automatically is labeled as a traitor.”

Dustin Hoffman apologizes for alleged sexual harassment

Dustin Hoffman is apologizing for the alleged sexual harassment of a 17-year-old intern in 1985, saying “it is not reflective of who I am.”

Writer Anna Graham Hunter alleges that the 80-year-old actor groped her on the set of TV movie “Death of a Salesman” and “talked about sex to me and in front of me.”

She was left in tears, she wrote in a column published today in The Hollywood Reporter.

The Oscar-winner replied this morning in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.”

Hoffman is the latest Hollywood name linked to a deluge of sexual harassment and assault allegations that have been levied against producer Harvey Weinstein, director Brett Ratner and writer-director James Toback. Harassment allegations have also been levied against actors Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Piven.

— AP

NPR news chief resigns after sexual harassment allegations

Michael Oreskes has resigned as chief of NPR’s newsroom following accusations of sexual harassment that dated back to the 1990s.

In a statement, Oreskes writes that he is deeply sorry to the people he hurt. “My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility,” he says.

He says he told Jarl Mohn, president and CEO of NPR, on Wednesday morning that he would step down. Earlier, Oreskes had been placed on leave and Mohn appointed Chris Turpin as the temporary news chief.

Two women had accused Oreskes of suddenly kissing them when they were discussing job prospects with him in the 1990s, when he was Washington bureau chief of The New York Times.

— AP

Schumer says Trump taking ‘horrible advantage’ of NY terror attack

The Senate’s top Democrat says US President Donald Trump’s response to the deadly attack in New York City “doesn’t work with New Yorkers” or other Americans.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer says that after Sept. 11, 2001, Republican President George W. Bush united the nation, inviting lawmakers to the White House and promising to work together.

Schumer said Trump is taking “horrible advantage, of a tragedy” and trying “to politicize and divide.

In a tweet, Trump blamed Schumer, saying the attacker came to the United States through a diversity visa program — “a Chuck Schumer beauty.”

Officials said the attacker is an immigrant from Uzbekistan who came to the United States legally in 2010. They haven’t said whether he was admitted through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which covers immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US.

Trump says will terminate green card lottery program

US President Donald Trump says he will end the popular US green card lottery after a radicalized Uzbek man who entered the country under the program killed eight people in New York.

“I am starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program,” Trump tells reporters.

“We have to do what’s right to protect our citizens,” he says. “We will get rid of this lottery program as soon as possible.”

The 1990 program awards US permanent resident visas to around 50,000 applicants from around the world each year, opening the door as well for members of their broader families to follow them, so-called chain migration.

According to Trump, Sayfullo Saipov, who plowed a rented truck into cyclists and pedestrians on a New York City bike path Tuesday, came to the country via the program.

— AP

Kushner, Greenblatt visit Erekat in Virginia hospital

US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner visit Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at a Virginia hospital where he is recovering from a lung transplant.

In a statement, the PLO says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ strategic adviser, Dr. Husam Zomlot, accompanied the two on the visit at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

The 62-year-old Erekat suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, and underwent a lung transplant in the US last month.

Putin, in Iran for talks, offers support for nuclear deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Iran for trilateral talks with Tehran and Azerbaijan, offered his support to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal under threat by US President Donald Trump’s refusal to re-certify the accord.

The talks in Tehran are to focus on regional matters, as well as terrorism and security issues. The three countries all share the Caspian Sea and railway and road projects are expected to be discussed at their meeting as well.

However, the nuclear deal came up during Putin’s meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“The lack of acceptance of international commitments by some countries is not acceptable,” Putin says, according to Iran’s presidency, in a reference to Trump’s move.

“Unilateral dismantling of the nuclear deal under any excuse is not acceptable,” Putin says.

— AP

NY terror suspect planned attack for weeks in name of IS, police say

Terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov spent weeks planning an attack in the name of the Islamic State group, police say after eight people were killed in New York’s worst attack since September 11, 2001.

Authorities say Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who moved to America in 2010, used a rented pickup truck to mow down pedestrians and cyclists along a mile-long stretch of a bike path on Lower’s Manhattan’s West Side yesterday.

“Based on the investigation overnight, it appears that Mr. Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks,” John Miller, deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, tells a news conference.

“He did this in the name of ISIS.”

Miller says notes recovered at the scene show Saipov apparently had followed “almost exactly to a ‘T’ the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels.”

— AFP

Israel calls for Spain crisis to be resolved ‘quickly and peacefully’

Israel’s Foreign Ministry calls for the ongoing crisis in Spain to be resolved “quickly and peacefully,” in its first comments on Catalonia’s bid for independence.

In two tweets, the Ministry appears to side with Spain, saying the two countries “share longstanding, strong and friendly relations, rooted in our common historical heritage and shared democratic values.”

“Israel hopes that the internal crisis in Spain will be resolved quickly and peacefully and through broad national consensus,” the statement says.

New poll shows opposition parties could block Netanyahu in next election

A new poll conducted by Channel 10 news shows that if elections were held today, a bloc of center-left parties in the Knesset have enough seats to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a coalition.

The results show that Yesh Atid would get 22 seats, Zionist Union 19, the Joint (Arab) List 12 and Meretz 8.

Netanyahu’s Likud party would drop to 26 seats, down from its current 30.

Departing to UK for Balfour centenary, PM hails ‘formative’ document

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails the Balfour Declaration a “formative event in the history of Zionism,” as he leaves Israel for the UK for a series of commemorative events marking the document’s centenary.

Speaking to journalists at Ben Gurion Airport, Netanyahu says he will also meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson during the visit to discuss the “difficulties” of the Iran nuclear deal.

Iraq to hold parliamentary election in May

The Iraqi government has decided to hold a parliamentary election on May 15 next year, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says.

The decision needs to be approved by parliament and the president at least 90 days in advance of that date before it can be confirmed, according to the electoral commission.

The commission had previously proposed the election be held on May 12.

The last election took place in April 2014 when the State of Law alliance of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki won most of the votes but fell short of an overall majority.

Maliki ceded power to Abadi that August amid political gridlock as Islamic State group jihadists seized swathes of Iraqi territory.

— AFP

Dutch Red Cross apologizes for failing Jews in WWII

The Dutch Red Cross is offering its “deep apologies” for failing to do enough to protect and help Jews during World War II, after being sharply criticized by a respected research institute.

“The war years are undoubtedly a black stain on the pages of our 150-year history,” says Red Cross chairwoman Inge Brakman, regretting the “lack of courage” the organization had shown during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands.

“We have offered our deep apologies to the victims and their relatives,” she said, adding that the organization “acknowledges the mistakes made during and after the war.”

In a study commissioned by the Dutch Red Cross, the Amsterdam-based NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide studies found there was “a serious shortfall in the help given to persecuted Jews in The Netherlands.”

— AFP

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Iraq to hold parliamentary election in May

The Iraqi government has decided to hold a parliamentary election on May 15 next year, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says.

The decision needs to be approved by parliament and the president at least 90 days in advance of that date before it can be confirmed, according to the electoral commission.

The commission had previously proposed the election be held on May 12.

The last election took place in April 2014 when the State of Law alliance of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki won most of the votes but fell short of an overall majority.

Maliki ceded power to Abadi that August amid political gridlock as Islamic State group jihadists seized swathes of Iraqi territory.

— AFP