Israeli envoy to Germany says he shuns far-right AfD party
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Ex-IDF chief said to warn West Bank ‘volatile’ ahead of US peace plan’s release

Israeli TV quotes Gadi Eisekot telling Trump envoy that White House must work ‘to stabilize the situation on the ground,’ regardless if proposal released

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks during a conference in Netanya on March 18, 2019.  (Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks during a conference in Netanya on March 18, 2019. (Flash90)

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

Netanyahu says site found in Golan for new community to be named after Trump

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a site has been found in the Golan Heights for a new Israeli community that will be named after US President Donald Trump.

“I promised that we would establish a community named after President Trump. I would like to inform you that we have already selected a site on the Golan Heights where this new community will be established, and we have started the process,” Netanyahu says at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

He says he will bring a proposal to break ground on the community for a cabinet vote once the next government is formed.

Netanyahu announced last month he would name a town in the Golan after Trump, in recognition of the US president’s of the area as Israeli territory.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later applied Israeli law to the area, a move tantamount to annexation. Israel’s control of the Golan and Trump’s recognition have been rejected by the rest of the international community.

Iranian magazine that urged talks with US shuttered

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian media say the country’s authorities have shut down a reformist magazine that urged negotiations with the United States.

Another reformist newspaper, Arman, reports Sunday that a court had suspended the weekly magazine Seda a day earlier.

Seda’s most recent front page showed a US aircraft carrier fleet and the caption “At the crossroads between war and peace.”

The magazine called for “high level engagement” between the US and Iran, warning that closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, an occasional threat by Iran, would lead to “widespread war.”

A third of all oil traded by sea passes through the strait, which lies at the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Recent US military deployments to the Persian Gulf, including an aircraft carrier, have raised tensions with Iran.

— AP

The front cover of the May 11, 2019, edition of the weekly reformist magazine, Seda, center, is photographed along with other periodicals in Tehran, Iran, May 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Israeli envoy to Germany says he shuns far-right AfD party

BERLIN — The Israeli ambassador to Germany says he is avoiding any contact with the far-right Alternative for Germany party because their leaders have said things that are “highly insulting for Jews, for Israel and for the entire issue of the Holocaust.”

Jeremey Issacharoff tells German news agency dpa Sunday it is very difficult for him to imagine any interaction with those who feel nostalgia for Germany’s past.

During the Nazis’ reign in 1933-45, the Germans organized and participated in the genocide of 6 million Jews in Europe.

Party leader Alexander Gauland has referred to the time of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship as a “speck of bird poop” in Germany’s history, while Bjoern Hoecke, a powerful party leader in the east, suggested it was time for the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past.

— AP

Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff on March 20, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)

Minister: Iran could fire missiles at Israel amid escaliting tensions with US

Israel’s energy minister, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warns that escalating tensions between the US and Iran may lead the Islamic Republic to launch a missile assault against Israel.

“Things are heating up,” Yuval Steinitz tells the Ynet news site’s online television channel today.

“I wouldn’t rule out anything. Iran may fire missiles at Israel,” he says.

Steinitz, a member of the ruling Likud party, adds that Iran may also choose to attack Israel by activating its proxies,  Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Gaza’s Islamic Jihad.

“The American sanctions are breaking the neck of the Iranian economy, and a new and stronger wave [of sanctions] is still to come,” he warns, suggesting the danger was unlikely to pass in the near future.

Steinitz’s comments follow a report on Israel’s Channel 13 on Friday that said Israel had warned the US that Iran was contemplating targeting Saudi oil production facilities.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv on February 27, 2019. (Flash90)

IRGC chief says US trying to intimidate Iran, ‘does not dare’ attack

The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has said the dispatchment to the Persian Gulf of a US aircraft carrier is “psychological warfare,” according to an Iranian parliamentarian.

MP Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar speaks with Iran’s Fars news agency after Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the IRGC chief, gave a closed-door briefing to lawmakers amid growing tensions between Tehran and Washington.

“Dispatching the US aircraft carrier to the regional waters is nothing but psychological warfare and the US wants to intimidate people and some officials of war,” Pourmokhtar quotes Salami saying.

“The IRGC commander said that US war on Iran is impossible and the US lacks power and does not dare to start a war against Iran,” the lawmaker adds.

Gazan caught with knife after crossing into Israel

IDF troops have arrested a Palestinian man who crossed the border fence into Israel from the Gaza Strip, the army says.

The Palestinian was caught close to where he entered Israel and was found carrying a knife, according to the IDF.

The suspect has been taken in for questioning.

Teen accomplice in Duma terror attack agrees to plea deal

The accomplice in the Duma terror attack reaches a plea agreement with the State Prosecutor’s Office under which he’ll avoid being convicted of planning the murders of the three Palestinians killed in the firebombing.

The 19-year-old, whose name is barred from publication as he was a minor at the time of the incident, will admit to having planned the torching of a Palestinian home in the northern West Bank four years ago. However, the indictment against him will be corrected to make no mention of toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha and his parents, Riham and Saad, who were murdered as a result.

Pending the approval of a Lod District Court judge, the agreement sees the suspect confess to conspiring to commit a crime motivated by racism — the same count for which he was charged in January 2016. However, the indictment will be corrected to specify the crime as having been arson, and not murder as had originally been the case.

An official for the prosecution tells The Times of Israel that the state agreed to the plea arrangement because the suspect was not present during the night of the incident. “For an unknown reason, the accused did not succeed in [reaching] the planned meeting between the defendant and the other that night,” the official quotes the indictment as having stated.

The State Prosecutor’s Office requests that the teen be sentenced to five-and-a-half years of actual jail time. The suspect has already been behind bars for roughly three years.

— Jacob Magid

Palestinians look at the damage after a house was set on fire and a baby killed, allegedly by Jewish terrorists, in the West Bank village of Duma, on July 31, 2015. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Bar Refaeli ordered to pay NIS 8 million in unreported income

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli has been ordered to pay the state back taxes of NIS 8 million ($2.25 million) that she was accused of concealing from Israeli tax collectors.

She is also ordered to pay NIS 120,000 in court costs, according to a verdict released today by state prosecutors.

The court ruling rejects Refaeli’s argument that in 2009-2010 she was living permanently abroad with her then-boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio and therefore did not owe Israeli taxes during that period. The verdict says Refaeli spent 185 and 131 days in Israel during 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The release of the verdict comes just two days ahead of the start of the Eurovision song contest in Israel, of which Refaeli is one of the hosts.

Shin Bet: State to seek tougher penalty for teen convicted in plea deal over Duma attack

The Shin Bet security service says the state will seek a tougher penalty for an Israeli teenager who was convicted today as part of a plea deal over his involvement in the Duma terror attack.

Prosecutors said as part of the plea agreement they will seek a five and a half year prison term for the teen teen, who was a minor at the time of the deadly 2015 firebombing.

“The confession of the accused was given after he claimed during the entire [legal] process that he has no connection to the Duma attack and gave a false confession only because of the conditions of his interrogation,” the Shin Bet says in a statement.

The security service says the state will request a longer prison term for the suspect “in light of the harsh outcome of the conspiracy to which he confessed.”

East Jerusalem men charged with planning attack on behalf of Hamas

A pair of East Jerusalem residents are charged today with planning to carry out a attack on behalf of Palestinian terror group Hamas.

According to the indictments filed at the Jerusalem District Court, Adam Muselmani and Mahmoud Abdel Latif befriended each other in 2017 while serving time at Nafha Prison.

The two planned to carry out a shooting in Hamas’s name at a beach in Tel Aviv following their release from prison, the charge sheets say, citing the high number of attacks in Jerusalem and the heavy police presence in the capital.

Following their release in February 2019, Muselmani and Abdel Latif traveled to Istanbul to meet with a Hamas operative, who allegedly suggested they instead target a public figure. The indictment says the Hamas member named former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, ex-police chief Roni Alsheich and Temple Mount activist and then-Likud MK Yehudah Glick.

The Hamas member later gave them funds to carry out the attack and a pair of pants in which were hidden messages from Hamas, according to the indictment.

A third East Jerusalem man, Issa Bin Nazem Natsheh, was also indicted for contacting the Hamas operative in Istanbul and for using money he received from him.

Prosecutors request all three remain in custody until the end of legal proceedings.

Arab MK says building of new Golan town ‘a war crime in Trump’s name’

An Arab Israeli lawmaker rips Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement earlier today that a site has been located in the Golan Heights for the establishment of a new community that will be named after US President Donald Trump.

“It is fitting for the American President Trump that a settlement whose establishment is illegal and contradicts international law will be named after him,” Hadash-Ta’al MK Yousef Jabareen writes on his Twitter account.

Trump recognized the Golan Heights in March as Israeli territory. Israel captured the area from Syria in the Six Day War and later applied sovereignty over the territory in a move never recognized internationally.

“Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights is spitting in the face of the world. The transfer of Israeli citizens to the Syrian Golan is a war crime according to the International Criminal Court — a war crime in Trump’s name,” Jabareen adds.

MK Yousef Jabareen attends a Knesset committee meeting on December 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Egypt sentences man to death over Islamic State church attack

CAIRO — An Egyptian man has been sentenced to death by hanging for a deadly attack on a Cairo church in 2017 claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, a judicial source says.

Ten people including a police officer were killed as the assailant targeted the Saint Mina Coptic church in Helwan, on the southern outskirts of Cairo.

According to the authorities, the attacker was armed with an assault rifle, ammunition and a bomb he intended to detonate at the church.

A Cairo criminal court sentences the man for “murdering nine Copts and a policeman, possessing weapons and forming a terrorist group linked to IS,” the source says.

A second man, who is on the run, is sentenced to death in absentia, the source adds.

Two others are sentenced in absentia to life in prison, four receive 10-year terms and two are given three years each in prison. Another defendant is acquitted.

All of those convicted have the possibility to appeal.

Coptic Christians, who account for around 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have been targeted in a string of attacks by IS in recent years that have left more than 100 dead

— AFP

Young Europeans gift Jerusalem mayor replica of menorah for Independence Day

A group of people from Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands have gifted Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion a replica of the Menorah used at the city’s ancient Temple.

A spokeswoman for Lion says before the menorah’s creators brought it from Germany to Israel, a ceremony with it was held at Rome’s Titus Gate, which includes a depiction of the ritual lamp and other spoils being hauled off by Roman soldiers following the Temple’s destruction.

The 120 kilogram (265 pound) gift, which cost €120,000 (half a million shekels) was presented to Lion in light of Israel’s 71st Independence Day last week.

“The seven-branched menorah is the symbol of the State of Israel. For us, it’s a symbol that speaks volumes, more meaningful than any words. We came here to bless the State of Israel and the Jewish people and grant this modest gift to the city of Jerusalem with an open heart,” Luca-Alias Hazel, the project’s leader, is quoted saying in a statement from Lion’s office.

A group of young Europeans pose alongside Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion with a replica they made of the Menorah from the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, in a picture released by Lion’s office on May, 12, 2019. (Jerusalem Municipality)

Israeli delegation to visit Poland for Holocaust restitution talks

An Israeli delegation will depart tomorrow for Warsaw for a series of meetings with Polish government officials, amid local opposition to paying compensation to Jews whose families lost property during the Holocaust.

The Social Equality Ministry, which is leading the delegation, refers to the successful scheduling of the meetings as “an important and unprecedented political achievement.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last week that his country would not pay such compensation because the Poles were also victims of the Nazis during World War II.

UAE reports rare ‘acts of sabotage’ against 4 boats

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates says four merchant vessels had been targeted by “acts of sabotage” in Gulf waters off its coast, amid rising tensions between neighboring Iran and the US.

“Four commercial, civilian trading vessels of various nationalities this morning suffered acts of sabotage” off the UAE’s eastern coast, its foreign ministry says in a statement, without naming who was responsible.

— AFP

Suspect arrested over poisoning of Golan vultures

Police have arrested a suspect in last week’s poisoning deaths of eight vultures in the Golan Heights.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the suspect is a resident of northern Israeli, in his 40s. He will be brought before a court tomorrow for a hearing on extending his remand.

TV: Trump peace plan to recognize West Bank settlements as Israeli territory

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan is expected to include a recognition of West Bank settlements as Israeli territory, Channel 12 news reports.

According to the report, which did not cite a source, the plan will call for all settlements to remain under Israeli control, and for major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank to be Palestinian Authority control.

The US is also not expected to oppose any unilateral Israeli moves regarding the status of the settlements, such as the application of civilian law, the network reports.

The White House has said its peace plan will be released after the formation of a new Israeli government and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends at the beginning of June.

Prior to last month’s elections for the Knesset, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to apply Israeli law to West Bank settlements if he were reelected. He is currently holding negotiations to form a ruling coalition, which is expected to be made up of right-wing and religious parties.

Contestants begin arriving for Eurovision opening events

Participants have begun arriving on the “orange carpet” in Tel Aviv for the opening events of the Eurovision song contest.

The competition itself will begin on Tuesday, with the final to be held Saturday evening.

The Israeli contestant in this year’s Eurovision, Kobi Marimi, is currently ranked 25th among oddsmakers.

Israel is hosting Eurovision because Israeli Netta Barzilai won last year’s contest.

Ex-IDF chief said to tell US to consider situation in West Bank before peace plan released

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot warned US President Donald Trump’s top negotiator for Israeli-Palestinian peace to consider the “volatile” situation in the West Bank before releasing the White House’s peace plan, Channel 13 news reports.

The network says the meeting between Eisenkot and Jason Greenblatt took place on Tuesday in Washington. A number of experts on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process also sat in on the meeting, among them veterans of peace efforts during past administrations.

“The situation in the West Bank is sensitive and volatile,” Eisenkot is quoted saying, pointing US aid cuts and the Palestinian Authority’s economic woes.

“The West Bank is likely to ignite before, during, or after the presentation of the American peace plan. You must factor this into your considerations,” Eisenkot reportedly continued. “From the moment this genie is let out of the bottle, it will take five years to put it back.”

The White House has said it will release its proposal after a new government is formed and the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in early June. The plan is expected to rejected by the Palestinians, who have boycotted the Trump administration over its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and perceived pro-Israel bias.

“Whether the peace plan is presented or not, there need to be steps taken to stabilize the situation on the ground so there will be a ‘win-win’ for both sides,” Eisenkot told Greenblatt, according to Channel 13.

The report quoted Eisenkot calling for a return of US security assistance to the PA security forces, improving economic conditions for Palestinians and dealing with issues such as education and infrastructure.

Eisenkot, whose term as IDF chief ended in mid-January, was reported to have issued similar warnings while still in uniform.

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, right, is interviewed by Amos Yadlin at the Institute for National Security Studies annual conference in Tel Aviv, on January 27, 2019. (INSS)

Iranian MP says US won’t start war ‘when Israel is within our range’

A senior Iranian lawmaker says the United States will not risk a military conflict because Israel is within range of the Islamic Republic’s missiles.

“The US military forces’ deployment in the Persian Gulf is more of the nature of psychological warfare. They are not ready for a war, [e]specially when Israel is within our range,” Ali Motahhari, a vice-speaker of parliament, is quoted saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Motahhari also rules out holding negotiations with the US: “We need to continue unity and resistance because the US will be forced to change its method after a while.”

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Israeli envoy to Germany says he shuns far-right AfD party

BERLIN — The Israeli ambassador to Germany says he is avoiding any contact with the far-right Alternative for Germany party because their leaders have said things that are “highly insulting for Jews, for Israel and for the entire issue of the Holocaust.”

Jeremey Issacharoff tells German news agency dpa Sunday it is very difficult for him to imagine any interaction with those who feel nostalgia for Germany’s past.

During the Nazis’ reign in 1933-45, the Germans organized and participated in the genocide of 6 million Jews in Europe.

Party leader Alexander Gauland has referred to the time of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship as a “speck of bird poop” in Germany’s history, while Bjoern Hoecke, a powerful party leader in the east, suggested it was time for the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past.

— AP

Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff on March 20, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)