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Netanyahu: Trump White House ‘on the right side of history’ on Iran

PM thanks Pence for speaking out against Tehran, in contrast with those who are 'remaining silent': American VP says 'best days are yet to come' for Israel and US

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

  • US Vice President Mike Pence is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90
    US Vice President Mike Pence is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90
  • US Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence sign the guestbook at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, across from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara (screen capture: Channel 2)
    US Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence sign the guestbook at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, across from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara (screen capture: Channel 2)
  • US Vice President Mike Pence gives a speech at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ariel Schalit)
    US Vice President Mike Pence gives a speech at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ariel Schalit)
  • Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat talks during a press conference with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi, not pictured, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, October 2, 2011. (Amr Nabil/AP)
    Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat talks during a press conference with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi, not pictured, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, October 2, 2011. (Amr Nabil/AP)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset plenum during a special session with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence, January 22, 2018 (screen capture: YouTube)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset plenum during a special session with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence, January 22, 2018 (screen capture: YouTube)
  • Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog addresses the Knesset plenum during a special session with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence, January 22, 2018 (screen capture: YouTube)
    Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog addresses the Knesset plenum during a special session with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence, January 22, 2018 (screen capture: YouTube)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.

Opposition lawmakers welcome Pence to Israel

Opposition lawmakers welcome US Vice President Mike Pence to the Knesset, ahead of his afternoon speech.

“Today, we welcome Vice President Pence to Israel and to the Knesset,” says Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, in a rare English-language statement at the weekly faction meeting. “He should know that not only the government is grateful for his friendship and delighted to welcome him here, but also the opposition. Vice President Pence is one of Israel’s greatest friends and allies, a longtime opponent of BDS, and a man whose commitment to the security and well-being of Israel are worthy of our gratitude and our praise.”

Lapid says the decision by the Palestinian Authority to snub Pence during his two-day visit is both “curious and disappointing.”

“It is further proof that they once again choose victimhood over a positive approach. I’ll stop here because this isn’t a day for arguments; it’s a day for celebration. A great friend of Israel has come to our home and we welcome him warmly,” he adds.

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay also thanks Pence for his visit, describing him as a “true friend” of Israel. But in 24 hours, when Pence leaves the country, ” there will still be 4.5 million Palestinians here.”

“His visit will not change this fact and won’t change our obligation to resolve this issue and not to pass it on to our children,” says Gabbay. He laments that the coalition, in his view, will not seize the opportunity to advance a peace deal.

— Marissa Newman

Pence arrives at Knesset to deliver remarks to Israeli lawmakers

US President Mike Pence arrives at the Knesset for his address to Israeli lawmakers.

Accompanied by his wife Karen, the vice president signs the guestbook at the Israeli parliament.

MKs from the Joint (Arab) List have vowed to walk out of the plenum when Pence gives his speech, in protest of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month.

Arab parties to walk out of Pence address in protest over Jerusalem

Ayman Oheh, the leader of the Joint List, says it’s the party’s democratic right to boycott the speech by the US vice president.

Earlier, Odeh said in a tweet the Arab party will not provide a “silent backdrop” to a man he called a “dangerous racist.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Joint List lawmakers will walk out on Pence in protest or skip the session altogether.

The Knesset, which is accustomed to such high-profile visits, has added a new layer of security, and other than the speaker and other dignitaries, lawmakers will not have direct access to Pence.

— with AP

Edelstein invokes biblical prophecies to thank Pence for US shift on Jerusalem

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein welcomes US Vice President Mike Pence to the Knesset in Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

He thanks Pence for the Trump administration’s December 6 declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Edelstein says the move fulfills Biblical prophecies and “more than any other country in the world, the United States is a loyal partner in this historical project.”

“I know that in what little spare time you have, you like to read the words of the prophets, and now you can see them coming true. The City of David is rebuilt, and we are guarding our walls again,” he says.

“You’ve said it’s not coincidental — we are tied together by values and aspirations, based on our basic beliefs of liberty, Biblical tradition and peace.”

He slams PA President Mahmoud Abbas for cursing Trump over the move, saying he would not hear similar negative remarks in Israel.

“It’s wrong to assume that repeating the mistakes of the past will yield better results,” he says before thanking Trump.

Edelstein says there are two longstanding lies that are being spread about the peace process:

The first one, he says, is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core problem in the Middle East and not the Iranian regime. The second, he says, is that the weaker side is right and the stronger side is wrong.

Edelstein says both of these “lies” are being reversed by the Trump administration.

“The era of lies will make way for the era of truth. What we’ve learned is that peace won’t descend from the sky. It must grow.”

Netanyahu hails Pence for ‘unequivocal’ support of Israel at Knesset

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes “his good friend” Mike Pence to Israel in

Speaking in English, Netanyahu says Pence being the first ever US vice present to address the Knesset is fitting given his strong support for Israel throughout his political career.

“It’s fitting that you’re the first American vice president to speak at the Knesset in Jerusalem,” he says. “Fitting, because no American vice president has had a greater commitment to Israel and its people.

“As a congressman, you were unequivocal in your support for Israel. As governor you signed the toughest BDS bill in America, and as VP you have stood shoulder to shoulder with President Trump to make the alliance between the US and Israel stronger than ever.

“You, Vice President Pence, stood at President Trump’s side, and you supported the decision with a lot of faith,” he says. “It is truly an honor to have you address the Knesset today,” Netanyahu adds.

Netanyahu tells Pence: Trump’s Jerusalem declaration will go down in Jewish history

Switching to deliver the remainder of his remarks in Hebrew, Netanyahu says the US’s “historic” recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be remembered as “one of the most formative declarations” in Jewish history alongside the Balfour declaration, the November 27, 1947 partition plan, and US president Truman’s recognition of Israel a year later.

He also mentions the Cyrus Declaration, which according to the biblical account, facilitated the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon and the construction of the Second Temple.

“Here in the Knesset,” unlike the rest of the Middle East, people are free to express their opinions,” Netanyahu says.

“There are many disagreements, but I can say that when it comes to recognizing Jerusalem, our capital, I believe that I speak for all of us, opposition and coalition alike, when I express our deep thanks for a historic decision that will never be forgotten.”

Netanyahu goes on to praise the “shared values” between the US and Israel, including working to build “free and productive” societies.

Switching back to English briefly, Netanyahu recalls that there are many American cites called Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem, Utah. Jerusalem, Vermont. Jerusalem, Michigan. And they’re all inspired by this shining city on the hilly, Jerusalem,” he says.

“Mr. vice president, we have a common past, we have a common future, we have a shared destiny.”

“In the name of the people of Israel, I want to thank you and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for the unequivocal support at the UN. In the face of the lies you stand behind Israel. Thank you!”

Netanyahu says Israel “aspires for peace with all of our neighbors. Peace begins with recognition of Israel’s right for independence in its homeland here in the Land of Israel.”

“The bond between us is deep, because it is deeply ingrained in the hearts of our people,” Netanyahu says. “America has no greater friend than Israel and Israel has no greater friend than America.”

“Finally, Mr. Vice President, let me express not only our profound gratitude but also our deepest hope that president trump and you will succeed in strengthening the United States, so that it will continue to be the greatest power in the world for generations to come. A strong America means a stronger Israel.”

“Mr vice president, God bless you and your family. God bless america, and God bless Israel.”

Herzog lauds Pence for ‘moral clarity’ on Jerusalem, urges return to peace talks

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog welcomes Pence to the Knesset as a “friend of the Jewish people and a friend of Israel.”

He thanks him for the Trump administration’s “moral clarity and courageous actions.”

“Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem is praiseworthy and exciting and we thank him for fulfilling this promise,” Herzog says.

Hezoig says Jerusalem is the “holy capital” of the Jewish people, and says “we sacrificed the best of our sons to liberate our city. And for decades, we waited for the recognition of Jerusalem as our capital.”

The opposition leader goes on to say it’s imperative to restart peace talks with the Palestinians in the framework of a two state solution.

“In his announcement, President Trump said he would not determine the border that will be decided in an agreement between Israel and Palestinians. Unfortunately, an agreement like that is not on the horizon.”

“Losing hope is dangerous. History teaches that a loss of hope, desperation, stagnation, creates a swamp that threatens to drown both nations.

“That’s why many of us understand the urgency and necessity to separate from the Palestinians,” he says.

Arab MKs booted from Pence speech after protest

Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List are removed from the Knesset plenum ahead of Pence’s speech.

They are escorted out of the hall by security after brandishing signs protesting the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pence: Trump has done more than any president to boost Israel-US ties

US Vice President Mike Pence says Donald Trump has done more than any other country to bring the US and Israel closer together.

“Thanks to the president’s leadership, the alliance between our two countries has never been stronger,” Pence says to applause.

“I am here to convey a simple message from the heart of the American people: The American people stand with Israel.

“We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values… we stand in Israel because we believe in good over evil, in liberty over tyranny.”

“John Adams said the Jews have done more to civilize man than any other civilization,” Pence says. “Through the generations the American people became fierce advocates for the Jewish aspiration to return to the land of your forefathers.”

“We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, liberty over tyranny.”

“In the story of the Jews we’ve always seen the story of America. it is the story of an exodus, a journey from persecution to freedom.”

Pence says US embassy will move to Jerusalem by end of next year

Pence tells Knesset members that when he visit Yad Vashem tomorrow with his wife, they will “marvel at the faith and resilience” of the Jewish people, who rose up three years after the Holocaust to establish the State of Israel.

Pence then recites the “shehechiyanu” blessing in Hebrew, eliciting a standing ovation from MKs.

He says the US is proud to have been the first country to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Trump, he says, “righted a 70-year wrong” by acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

As such, he says the US embassy will move to Jerusalem “no later than next year.”

Pence recalls that Trump called on all parties to maintain the status quo in the city’s holy sites and that the president said his declaration did not prejudge the final borders in the city.

“We know Israelis want peace, and we know that Israelis need no lectures on the price of war. The people of Israel know the terrible price all too well,” Pence says. “Your prime knows that price, he himself was nearly killed in battle.”

“And you who know the price of war know best what the blessings of peace can bring,” he adds.

Pence says US ‘strongly’ urging Palestinians to return to negotiations

US Vice President Mike Pence says the US is “strongly urging the Palestinian leadership to return to the table.”

“Peace can only come through dialogue,” he says.

“The United States will never compromise the safety and security of the state of Israel,” adding that any peace agreement with the Palestinians “must guarantee Israel’s ability to defend itself, by itself.”

He says he discussed the “remarkable transformation that is taking place across the Middle East today” with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan over the weekend.

Descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are coming together in an unprecedented way, he says, alluding to growing covert cooperation between Israel and Sunni Arab nations.

Pence: US won’t continue certifying ‘ill-conceived’ Iran deal

US Vice President Mike Pence tells the Knesset that “radical Islamic terrorism knows no borders, it respects no creed, stealing the lives of Jews, Christians and especially Muslims.”

“At this very moment, ISIS is on the run,” he says, vowing that that America would “hunt and destroy ISIS at its source.”

Pence says the US has committed more than $110 million to help Christians throughout the Middle East, and calls on Israel and others to join that effort to restore a “rich diversity” to the region.

He goes on to say that the US will continue to work with Israel “to confront Iran, “the leading state sponsor of terror” who “sows chaos across the region.”

Iran, he charges, “supports terrorist groups on Israel’s doorstep.”

Pence calls the Iran nuclear deal “a disaster,” and says Washington will not continue to certify Iran’s compliance with the “ill-conceived agreement.”

“Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed, President Trump has said the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately.”

“The United States will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Pence says. “We will also no longer tolerate Iran’s support for terrorism.”

Pence says US-Iran ties will flourish only after regime falls

Turning his remarks to the Iranian people, Pence says there is a “better message” for them.

“From the people of America to the proud and great people of Iran: We are your friends,” he says, promising them their “day of liberation” is coming soon.

Only then, he says, “the friendship between our peoples will blossom once again.”

He says there is “common hope for a future of security and prosperity and peace and in the common ancestry of faith that runs throughout these very lands.”

“Today, as I stand in Abraham’s promised land, I believe that all who cherish freedom and want a better future” should look to Israel and “marvel at what they behold.”

“It was faith that rebuilt the ruins of Jerusalem and made it strong again,” he says, adding that the US is proud to stand with the Jewish state. “And so we will pray for the peace of Jerusalem”

“We will work and strive for that brighter future where everyone who calls this ancient land their home shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid,” Pence concludes.

Pence concludes remarks to Israeli MKs to standing ovation

US Vice President Mike Pence concludes his remarks at the Knesset to a standing ovation from Israeli lawmakers.

MKs from Arab parties were earlier kicked out of the plenum for brandishing signs protesting the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pence in his remarks hailed the US’s close ties to Israel, saying the countries shared core values. He also urged the Palestinians to return to negotiating with Israel, and slammed Iran over its support for regional terrorist groups.

Abbas urges EU countries to ‘swiftly’ recognize Palestinian state

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is urging EU member states to “swiftly” grant official recognition to the state of Palestine as he arrived to meet foreign ministers from the bloc in Brussels.

“We truly consider the European Union as a true partner and friend, and therefore we call its member states to swiftly recognize the state of Palestine and we confirm that there is no contradiction between recognition and the resumption of negotiations,” Abbas tells reporters.

Abbas delivered the remarks as US Vice President addressed the Knesset and said ties between Israel and the US have “never been stronger.”

— with AFP

Shaked thanks Pence for ‘very Zionist’ Knesset speech

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked thanks US Vice President Mike Pence for his “Zionist” speech at the Knesset earlier.

In a tweet, Shaked says his remarks “expressed the simple truth: The land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years and will remain so forever.”

Shaked says that she, along with all of Israel, is waiting for the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Liberman slams ‘terrorist’ Arab MKs for protesting during Pence’s speech

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says Pence’s speech was “moving, inspiring and conveyed a message of hope to all the people in the region,” and slams Arab lawmakers for their protest against Pence during his Knesset address.

He says the Joint List MKs “proved once again that they are representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset.”

“Their shameful behavior exposed to everyone their disloyalty to the state and its symbols,” Liberman says. “Only when Israeli Arabs allow their voices to represent them will there be a chance for true peace.”

Security minister hails ‘historic’ and ‘moving’ speech by Pence

Strategic Affairs and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan hails Pence’s address as “historic” and “moving.”

“A great leader who really loves us — with all his heart,” he says. “Not as a politician but out of deep faith and understanding of the role and mission of the Jewish state.”

Today is an “exciting day,” he says.

“We are fortunate to have merited to hear his solemn and moving words,” Erdan adds.

— Raphael Ahren

Top Palestinian official says Pence speech ‘a gift to extremists’

Top PLO official Saeb Erekat says the speech by Pence at the Knesset will serve as a gift to extremists in the region.

“The messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists and has proven that the US administration is part of the problem rather than the solution,” Erekat says.

“His message to the rest of the world is clear: violate international law and resolutions and the US will reward you,” Erekat adds.

— Raphael Ahren

El Al pilots refusing to deport African refugees on humanitarian grounds

At least three El Al pilots are refusing to participate in the mass deportation of African asylum seekers by not flying them to Rwanda or Uganda under a new controversial law.

Over the last week, the Aviation Authority and the pilots union said they had received over 7,500 calls urging the pilots not to participate in the deportation “and send the refugees to a place where their lives are in danger.”

One pilot, Iddo Elad, announced on Facebook that he would refuse to fly anyone to their death.

“I have joined my friends in this and I will not fly refugees to their death. I will not participate in this barbarism,” he writes.

Another, Shaul Betzer, also took to Facebook to say that “as a pilot and as a human being” there is “absolutely no way I can take part in transporting refugees to a place where their chances of survival are slim to none.”

Intelligence minister: Pence speech proves ‘true friendship’ with Jews, Israel

Minister of Intelligence and Transportation Israel Katz says Pence’s speech at the Knesset proves his “true friendship” with Jews and Israel.

“Vice President Pence proved again his true friendship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel in a warm pro-Israel speech in the Knesset,” he says.

“Important statements were made by VP Pence, the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem by the end of the year and that the US will never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” Katz adds.

UNRWA launches ‘unprecedented’ fundraiser after US cuts

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has launched what it is calling an “unprecedented” fund-raising appeal seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in response to funding cuts by the Trump administration.

UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl yesterday called last week’s US decision “abrupt and harmful.” His agency provides education, health and welfare services for more than 5 million refugees and their descendants across the Middle East. Some two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people rely on UNRWA for assistance.

The “Dignity is Priceless” campaign aims to raise $500 million to ensure that the agency’s core services are unaffected.

The US, which is the largest donor to UNRWA, withheld a $65 million payment.

US President Donald Trump has blamed the Palestinians for a deadlock in peace efforts and threatened to cut US assistance.

— AP

Netanyahu pleased with Pence’s ‘warm’ Knesset speech

Netanyahu expresses “satisfaction with Vice President Mike Pence’s warm speech and about his clear statements that he made,” his office says in a statement.

The statement specifically noted Pence’s rejection of the Iranian nuclear agreement; the Trump administration’s vow to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019; the “unreserved support for Israel’s security needs and the efforts for peace;” and the willingness to work together against the challenges in the Middle East.

— Raphael Ahren

With Pence in Jerusalem, EU reaffirms support for Palestinian state, UNRWA

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reaffirms “firm” EU support for a Palestinian state and for the UN Agency tasked with providing aid for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Mogherini tells PA President Abbas in Brussels of the EU’s “firm commitment to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as shared capital of the two states: the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.

This is not the time to disengage,” she says.

“The EU and its member states are collectively by far the largest donor, the largest supporter for the Palestinians. And our support will continue, including to UNRWA,” Mogherini adds.

Rivlin thanks Pence for ‘inspiring’ Knesset speech

President Reuven Rivlin thanks US Vice Presiident for his “inspiring and important” speech to the Knesset earlier.

“Jerusalem eagerly awaits the US Embassy, ​​and I am looking forward to our meeting tomorrow,” Rivlin posts on Twitter. “As you said from the Knesset podium, we are thankful to God that He preserved us & brought us to this moment.”

Hazan scuffles with Arab MK who was kicked out of Knesset during Pence speech

Likud MK Oren Hazan spars with one of the Arab lawmakers who were kicked out of the Knesset plenum for causing a disturbance during the speech by US Vice President Mike Pence.

Hazan confronts Jamal Zahalka outside the plenum and calls him and his fellow faction MKs “terrorists.”

As Zahalka attempted to speak to reporters, Hazan shouts him down and says he’s an “embarrassment” to the electorate that he represents, and can be heard yelling at him to “go back to Gaza.”

Berlin museums return works sold at Nazi-era auction

Berlin’s city museums authority says it has returned 11 works that were part of prominent art owner Margarete Oppenheim’s collection and were auctioned off under Nazi rule in 1936.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation says the works were found in two museums’ collections. Of the 11 pieces returned to Oppenheim’s heirs, the foundation bought back five — two works from the Danube School and three 18th-century porcelain pieces.

Margarete Oppenheim, the wife of chemist and industrialist Franz Oppenheim, had one of Germany’s largest and most valuable art collections.

She and her heirs were of Jewish descent. The heritage foundation said it can safely be assumed that the auction, the year after Oppenheim’s death, was not held at a time of her executors’ choosing and the sale can be classified as resulting from persecution.

— AP

Israeli scholars decipher Dead Sea Scroll

Israeli scholars have pieced together and deciphered one of two previously unread manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls more than half a century since their discovery, an Israeli university says.

The more than 60 tiny fragments of parchment bearing encrypted Hebrew writing had previously been thought to come from a variety of different scrolls, a Haifa University spokesman tells.

But Eshbal Ratson and Jonathan Ben-Dov of the university’s Bible studies department found the pieces all fit together after they started examining them just under a year ago, Ilan Yavelberg said.

“They put it all together and said it was actually one scroll,” he says.

A Haifa University statement says that Ratson and Ben-Dov were now working on deciphering the last remaining scroll.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, date from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE. Numbering around 900, they were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea.

The parchment and papyrus scrolls contain Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic writing, and include several of the earliest-known texts from the Bible, including the oldest surviving copy of the Ten Commandments.

Many experts believe the manuscripts of the Dead Sea were written by the Essenes, a dissident Jewish sect that had retreated into the Judaean desert around Qumran and its caves.

The latest deciphered scroll contains references to the 364-day calendar used by the sect, as opposed to the lunar calendar used in Jewish religious practice today.

It also refers to annual wine and olive harvest festivals no longer observed in Judaism.

— AFP

Dozens of Palestinians protest against Pence in Nablus

Dozens of Palestinians in Nablus are demonstrating against US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel.

The demonstrators are chanting slogans condemning US President Donald Trump and are stomping on pictures of Pence.

Earlier, Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party called for a general strike across “all Palestinian sectors” tomorrow to protest Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

EU ready to take central role in peace process, says Mogherini

European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini says Brussels wants to take a central role in forming an international framework to pave the way toward establishing a Palestinian state.

She adds that the US, as well as the other members of the Middle East Quartet Russia must also be a part of this multilateral framework.

Mogherini says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agrees that such a framework would includes the United States.

“We affirmed our conviction that the framework has to be multilateral. We will continue working within the Quartet, which includes the US, Russia and the UN, enlarging this to a few Arab countries, and possibly Norway,” she tells reporters.

“The Palestinian president was perfectly fine with this idea of not having the United States as the only interlocutor for the peace process. But of having a multilateral framework in which the European Union has a central role, that is together with others including our partners in the quartet, including the United States,” she says.

“We will follow up in the coming weeks,” Mogherini adds.

She says the EU is “looking into ways” to increase financial support to the Palestinian Authority.

Mogherini also says that EU members have discussed the idea of having an “association agreement” with the Palestinians and the issue will continue to be discussed.

— Dov Lieber

Pence says door open for Palestinians in peace deal

US Vice President Mike Pence says the “door’s open” for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel on a peace agreement.

Pence spoke to The Associated Press in an interview following his address to the Knesset that the US is hopeful that the Palestinian Authority “will be encouraged to return to the table.”

Palestinian leaders have assailed the US for its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying it is no longer impartial. They have rejected the US role in future peace talks.

Pence says US President Donald Trump made clear in December that the US would respect “the status quo” with regard to holy sites and that boundaries in the Holy Land would be subject to negotiations.

— AP

Polish government pressured to act following report on neo-Nazis

Poland’s right-wing government is facing pressure to act forcefully against far-right extremists following an expose of Polish neo-Nazis who celebrated Adolf Hitler, burning a swastika and dressing in Nazi German uniforms.

Private news channel TVN24 broadcast hidden-camera footage Saturday of neo-Nazis celebrating what would have been Hitler’s 128th birthday in a wooded area in southwestern Poland last spring. The participants chanted “Sieg Heil” and praised Hitler as they burned a large swastika, some of them dressed in the uniforms of Nazi soldiers.

The report revealed that the same neo-Nazi group, “Pride and Modernity,” was behind a November protest where pictures of centrist European Parliament lawmakers from Poland were hung on mock gallows in the city of Katowice. The far-right participants at that protest called the lawmakers traitors to Poland for having voted against the Polish government in a resolution in the European Parliament over alleged rule of law violations and the government’s response to an Independence Day march organized by far-right nationalists.

— AP

Hamas lawmaker rearrested by Israel, says prisoners group

Israel rearrested a Palestinian parliamentarian from the Hamas terrorist group, the Palestinian Prisoners Club says.

Omar Abdul Razek, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was arrested by Israeli forces in the town of Salfit in the northern West Bank overnight, the group says in a statement.

There was no immediate confirmation from Israeli officials, with the Shin Bet security agency denying it had made arrests overnight. The army declined to comment on specific cases.

— AFP

Tillerson sees progress in fixing Iran deal with Europeans

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that he sees progress in getting European support for tough new penalties against Iran that could prevent a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

After meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, national security adviser Mark Sedwill and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Tillerson said they had agreed to set up a working group of experts on fixing flaws in the 2015 agreement that US President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from this spring unless fixes are made to his liking.

“I think there’s a common view among the E3 that there are some areas of the (nuclear deal) or some areas of Iran’s behavior that should be addressed,” Tillerson tells reporters after talks with Johnson. The E3 are Britain, France and Germany, which are all parties to the deal.

Tillerson specifically highlights concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is not covered by the nuclear deal, and provisions in the agreement that allow Iran to gradually resume advanced atomic work.

The working group will begin to meet as early as next week to discuss how to address the flaws “through some type of another side agreement perhaps or a mechanism that would address our concerns,” Tillerson says.

— AP

J Street: Pence used Knesset speech to pander to evangelical base

J Street accuses US vice president of using his address to the Knesset to pander to his far-right base of evangelical Christians.

“Trump and Pence are exacerbating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and severely limiting their own ability to help resolve it,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami says in a statement.

“As the vice president uses Israel as just another partisan issue on which to pander to his far-right evangelical base, it is the Israeli and Palestinian peoples who will pay the price,” Ben Ami adds.

He also warns the Netanyahu’s government is “making a serious mistake” in aligning itself with an “extreme and retrograde worldview that is completely out of step with the majority of Americans and American Jews, and the future of US leadership.”

Palestinian caught with knife at entrance to Tomb of the Patriarchs

Border Police officers arrest a Palestinian armed with a knife near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The man was arrested at a security checkpoint at the entrance to the holy site as he tried to enter the Tomb.

Senate leaders agree on plan to reopen government

Senate leaders have reached an agreement to reopen the government.

Democrats have yielded and ended their delaying tactics against a bill financing federal agencies through Feb. 8.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says in exchange, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to begin debating immigration by that date.

McConnell says the end to the standoff shows “the American people didn’t understand” why Democrats shut down the government because they wanted to help “illegal immigrants.”

The Senate has started a vote to advance the bill reopening government. It is expected to pass easily, and House approval is expected later.

— AP

UK’s Johnson: world ‘very interested’ to see US peace plan

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the international community is eager to see the US plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace

“The world is really waiting to see with great interest what the United States is going to produce by way of a proposal on the Middle East peace process,” he says after meetings with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson, regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

“A process that has been stalled for years, if not decades, could see some progress. And everybody is very interested to see what the United States comes up with,” Johnson says.

“And clearly, Jerusalem now having been recognized by the United States as the capital of Israel, one would expect some sort of symmetrical movement in the other direction to get things moving. So that’s what we’re interested in,” he adds.

Pences arrive at Netanyahu’s residence, sign guestbook

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrive at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem and are greeted by the Netanyahus.

The vice president signs the guestbook ahead of delivering joint remarks with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu says Trump White House ‘on the right side of history’ on Iran

Netanyahu welcomes his “true friend” Pence to Jerusalem

The prime minister says he remembers an incident several years ago in which Pence displayed “clarity and conviction for the direction I was leading Israel,” he says, in remarks delivered at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

He thanks Pence for his speech at the Knesset earlier in the day, and says it was a “powerful expressing of our enduring bond between our two countries.”

He goes on to say the foremost challenge facing both countries is Iran.

“The foremost challenge comes from Iran,” Netanyahu says. Tehran is “spreading murder and mayhem in the Middle East,” and thanks the Trump administration for speaking out, in contrast with others who are “remaining silent.”

“You’re on the right side of history,” and Iran’s people will “thank Washington when they are free,” he says.

Netanyahu goes on to say that Israel will “unequivocally” support the president’s decision to walk away from a bad deal.

“Fully fix it or fully nix it,” he says.

Pence: Trump extends his thanks to Netanyahu for his ‘stalwart commitment’ to freedom

US Vice President Mike Pence says President Trump has extended his thanks to Netanyahu for his “stalwart commitment to freedom,” during remarks delivered at the Prime Minister’s Residence alongside the Israeli leader.

“The American people cherish our relationship with Israel, and your comments today, your gracious words toward the president and myself are greatly meaningful,” Pence says. “It is an honor to stand with you here today in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.”

Pence says that his visit to Israel is “to simply celebrate and affirm the bond between our two people. We stand together in the battle against radical Islamic terrorists.”

Pence adds that “the best days for Israel and the United States are yet to come.”

Journalists complain after Palestinian-Finnish reporter strip-searched at PMO

The Foreign Press Association in Israel is speaking out against an Israeli demand to strip-search a Finnish journalist covering the visit by US Vice President Mike Pence.

The woman says she was taken behind a curtain at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office earlier this afternoon, where she says she was questioned, patted down, and then asked to remove her bra for an inspection. She says she refused and was barred from covering the event.

The woman, who was born and raised in Finland, believes she was singled out because her father is Palestinian.

The FPA, which represents some 400 journalists working for international media in Israel and the Palestinian territories, accused Israel of ethnic profiling. It calls the Israeli practice of strip-searching journalists a “mark of shame” aimed at intimidating reporters.

— AP

Arab League gearing up to thwart Israeli bid to for UNSC membership

An Arab League ministerial committee is drafting a plan to thwart Israel’s bid to become a member of the UN Security Council in the 2019-2020 term.

“The plan of action that was prepared by the committee during its previous meeting was circulated to Member States,” says Saeed Abu Ali, the assistant secretary general for Palestine and occupied Arab lands, according to Wafa, the PA’s official news outlet.

The report says the “coordinated Arab action in this regard is to prevent the Israeli occupying state from becoming a member of the Council.”

Wafa adds that the committee has also approved a plan of action aimed at confronting “Israel’s schemes in Africa.”

In Israel, Pence praises Senate agreement to reopen government

US Vice President Mike Pence is praising a Senate agreement to reopen the Federal government.

Pence says before a dinner in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the shutdown is ending, “thanks to the firm stand taken by President Trump” and congressional Republicans.

Pence says Americans know a “minority” in the Senate chose to shut down the government. He said, “But the Schumer shutdown failed.” He was referring to Senate Demoratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

Pence was joined by Netanyahu for statements at the Prime Minister’s Residence before dinner together with their spouses.

— AP

Asylum seekers protest forced deportations outside president’s residence

Dozens of African asylum seekers are protesting outside President Reuven Rivlin’s residence against a new plan that would see them forcibly deported to Uganda or Rwanda.

Some protesters are chanting: “Don’t despair, we will stop the deportations,” while others are calling on Rivlin “not to abandon human life.”

Bennett okays subsidies for yeshivas that teach Yiddish instead of English

Education Minister Naftali Bennett approves government subsidies for yeshivas that teach students Yiddish instead of English.

According to the temporary order he signed earlier this evening, Yiddish will now be considered “a second language” by the Education Ministry, and will therefore be eligible to get subsidies for up to 55 percent of the institution’s language budget.

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Israeli scholars decipher Dead Sea Scroll

Israeli scholars have pieced together and deciphered one of two previously unread manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls more than half a century since their discovery, an Israeli university says.

The more than 60 tiny fragments of parchment bearing encrypted Hebrew writing had previously been thought to come from a variety of different scrolls, a Haifa University spokesman tells.

But Eshbal Ratson and Jonathan Ben-Dov of the university’s Bible studies department found the pieces all fit together after they started examining them just under a year ago, Ilan Yavelberg said.

“They put it all together and said it was actually one scroll,” he says.

A Haifa University statement says that Ratson and Ben-Dov were now working on deciphering the last remaining scroll.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, date from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE. Numbering around 900, they were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea.

The parchment and papyrus scrolls contain Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic writing, and include several of the earliest-known texts from the Bible, including the oldest surviving copy of the Ten Commandments.

Many experts believe the manuscripts of the Dead Sea were written by the Essenes, a dissident Jewish sect that had retreated into the Judaean desert around Qumran and its caves.

The latest deciphered scroll contains references to the 364-day calendar used by the sect, as opposed to the lunar calendar used in Jewish religious practice today.

It also refers to annual wine and olive harvest festivals no longer observed in Judaism.

— AFP