The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Belarusian-Israeli convert to Islam convicted of trying to join IS
A Belarusian-Israeli convert to Islam is convicted by the Nazareth District Court of three criminal counts after he attempted to join the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.
Valentin Vladimir Mazlevski, 40, was arrested nearly a year ago while trying to travel to Syria via Turkey. He is convicted of contact with a foreign agent, attempting to travel to an enemy country, and obstruction of justice.
Mazlevski is from the Arab Israeli town of Shibli–Umm al-Ghanam, his wife’s hometown. The father of five moved to Israel from Belarus in 1996 at age 18 and converted to Islam four years later, while he was serving in the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet said in its indictment.
— Dov Lieber
Iran police taking softer line on Islamic codes
Iranian police are taking a softer approach to breaches of Islamic rules, opting for education over punishment, Tehran’s police chief says.
“According to a decision of the commander of the police force, those who do not observe Islamic codes will no longer be taken to detention centers nor judicial files opened on them,” Brigadier General Hossein Rahimi says in a speech in the Iranian capital.
“We offer courses and 7,913 people have been educated in these classes so far,” he says, adding that there were more than 100 counseling centers in Tehran province.
Rahimi, who was appointed in August, does not elaborate on which Islamic codes were in question or when the new guidelines were introduced.
It marks a stark shift from his predecessor, General Hossein Sajedinia, who announced in April 2016 that there were 7,000 undercover morality police reporting on things like “bad hijab” — a blanket term usually referring to un-Islamic dress by women.
Figures are rarely given, but Tehran’s traffic police said in late 2015 they had dealt with 40,000 cases of bad hijab in cars, where women often let their headscarves drop around their necks.
These cases generally led to fines and temporary impounding of the vehicle, the spokesman said at the time.
Israeli envoy to New Zealand: Lorde cancellation ‘regrettable’
Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand writes an open letter to pop star Lorde, telling her that instead of canceling her Tel Aviv concert she could have spread a positive message.
Itzhak Gerberg initially tweeted an invitation to the 21-year-old singer to meet with him over her decision to cave to pressure from Israel boycott activists.
Later he took to Facebook to address the songstress directly, telling her it was “regrettable” she had canceled her concert and disappointed her Israeli fans.
“Music is a wonderful language of tolerance and friendship, which brings people together,” he writes. “Your concert in Israel could have spread the message that solutions come from constructive engagement that leads to compromise and cooperation. Music should unite not divide and your performance in Israel could have contributed to the spirit of hope and peace in the Middle East.”
27 December 2017An open letter to Lorde by the Ambassador of Israel to New ZealandDear Lorde,It is regrettable…
Hitler’s Mercedes to be auctioned in Arizona
A 1939 luxury Mercedes limousine used to carry Adolf Hitler around Germany will be auctioned in the US state of Arizona next month — one of only four such models ever built.
Powered by a 7.7-liter supercharged engine capable of exceeding 100 mph (160 kph), the Mercedes-Benz 770K Grosser — known to the world as the “Super Mercedes” — was a potent propaganda symbol of the Third Reich which the Fuhrer rode standing in the front seat.
Billed as “the most historically significant automobile ever offered for public sale,” the imposing four-door convertible will be offered to bidders at the Worldwide Auctioneers event in Scottsdale on January 17 at the city’s annual classic car event.
The car — which carried the number plate 1A 148461 — was used to ferry Hitler on his victory parade through Berlin following the stunning defeat of France, and for a state visit by Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Erdogan: Assad a ‘terrorist’ who killed nearly 1 million Syrians
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad a “terrorist” who must be deposed.
“Assad is definitely a terrorist who has carried out state terrorism,” Erdogan says in Tunisia, according to Reuters. “It is impossible to continue with Assad. How can we embrace the future with a Syrian president who has killed close to a million of his citizens?”
Government approves NIS 40 million for settlement councils
Government ministers approve a NIS 40 million ($11.5 million) grant for Israeli local and regional councils in the West Bank on Wednesday.
The vast majority of the grant will go toward “special expenses related to the security situation” in the Israeli settlements, and NIS 5.5 million ($1.5 million) will be used to bolster medical emergency stations throughout the West Bank.
Yesha settlement umbrella council spokesman Yigal Dilmoni tells The Times of Israel the allocation is an annual grant that Israeli local and regional councils receive each year. He adds that the amount is nearly identical to what they received in 2016.
The cabinet vote, which took place over the telephone, came just one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a group of prominent national religious rabbis — many of them settlers themselves — to request their support as he battles corruption allegations.
During the meeting, the rabbis raised a number of issues they want to see addressed, among them preventing the integration of women in military combat units and stepped-up construction in West Bank settlements, according to Haaretz.
The Prime Minister’s Office flatly denied any connection between the approved grant and Netanyahu’s meeting a day earlier. “This is an annual proposal that passes toward the end of every budget year,” it says in a Wednesday statement.
Dilmoni adds that “the issue (of the grant) was never even raised in yesterday’s meeting.”
— Jacob Magid
Erdogan says Jerusalem is ‘our red line’
Speaking at a joint news conference, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi say their nations will never accept changes to Jerusalem’s historic status after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.
“Jerusalem is our red line. Any steps against Jerusalem’s historic status and holiness are unacceptable,” Erdogan says, adding that his country will work toward international recognition of the Palestinian state and seek the support of the European Union.
Tel Aviv assembles 118-foot Lego tower to break world record
A 36-meter (118 ft.) Lego tower is constructed in Tel Aviv to break the Guinness World record, the mayor of the coastal city says.
Made up of more than half a million pieces, the project honors Omer Sayag, an 8-year-old who died of cancer in 2014. Sayag built Lego towers before his death.
The previous record for the largest Lego tower dates back to 2015 when the Italian subsidiary of the Lego company built a 35.05 meter tower for the Milan World Expo.
A file, including photos taken from a drone, will be sent to Guinness to approve the new record, a spokesman for the town hall tells AFP.
— with AFP
Abbas calls father of soldier-slapping Palestinian teen
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls the father of Ahed Tamimi, who was detained last week after appearing in a controversial video hitting soldiers near her West Bank home.
Abbas assures Bassem al-Tamimi of his daughter’s health and morale, and praised the Tamimi families’ “peaceful marches in Nabi Saleh against settlement and the occupation,” the PA’s official news agency Wafa reports Tuesday night.
Bassem al-Tamimi stresses that his daughter “is a strong and tough believer, and she will continue to challenge the occupation,” the report says.
— Dov Lieber
Due to holiday closures, Israel missing deadline to quit UNESCO
Israel will be missing the deadline to pull out of UNESCO, as the UN’s cultural agency’s offices will remain closed until after the holidays.
To quit the UN body by the end of 2018, Israel was supposed to submit its withdrawal by the end of 2017. However, the offices will remain shut until after New Year’s.
“Even if I need to climb the fence, I’m still at the right age and in shape to do so,” Israel’s envoy to the agency, Carmel Shama-Hacohen tells Hadashot news, indicating Israel was still working to resolve the issue.
Saudi king, Turkey PM discuss Jerusalem status at talks
Saudi King Salman and Turkey’s premier on Wednesday discuss boosting ties and the status of Jerusalem, in a first high-level meeting since the US recognized the city as Israel’s capital.
Firm US ally Riyadh and NATO member Ankara have both slammed US President Donald Trump’s December 6 decision to upend decades of policy by Washington.
But the Saudis only sent a low-level representative to a conference of Muslim nations on the issue hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, amid signs of strains in their relations.
The Saudi SPA agency says King Salman received Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Riyadh and discuss “means of boosting bilateral ties and developments in the region,” without providing details.
Yildirim’s office in Ankara says the status of Jerusalem and supporting the Palestinians were discussed at the meeting.
“The importance of the status of Jerusalem was emphasized and that the whole Islamic world should act with unity to protect the rights of our Palestinian brothers,” the office says citing Yildirim.
He also says that they discussed bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia, “one of the most important countries in the Gulf and the Middle East.”
Liberman: We’ll hit our enemies in north harder than before
At an air force graduation ceremony Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warns that should war break out in the north, Israel will hit its enemies “with a force much more impressive” than in the past.
The comments come days after reports that Iranian-backed militias were gaining ground in Syria close to Israel’s border.
Netanyahu: Quiet in Gaza depends on Gaza
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at an air force graduation ceremony, warns that the possibility of outbreak of war in Gaza depends on the Hamas terror group keeping a lid on tensions.
“We want the local populations to live their lives in peace and quiet, but the decision of whether there will be quiet in Gaza depends most of all on Gaza,” he says. “We will not allow and won’t tolerate any escalation in violence from Hamas or any other terrorist group against Israel. We will use all our efforts to protect our sovereignty and Israeli citizens’ security.”
German man charged with trying to join IS
German prosecutors have charged an alleged member of the Islamic State group who spent time in Syria with membership in a terrorist organization and committing a war crime.
Federal prosecutors say the 32-year-old German citizen, identified only as Abdelkarim E. B. in line with local privacy rules, left Germany for Syria in 2013 and joined IS. They say he received weapons training and fought for the group.
Prosecutors say that, during fighting near Aleppo in November 2013, the man’s unit beat and kicked a captured fighter from an enemy militia and threatened him with torture. The suspect is also accused of filming the scene.
The man is already in custody in a separate case, which prosecutors gave no details of.
Iran votes to declare Jerusalem ‘everlasting’ capital of Palestine
Iran’s parliament has voted to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, according to state-run media.
The vote, which passed 207-0 in the 290-member Majlis, requires Tehran to recognize Jerusalem as “the everlasting capital of Palestine.”
The vote “comes in response to the recent US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in hopes of dealing a blow to Muslims,” the Turkish Anadolu news agency quotes speaker Ali Larijani saying.
Teva to shut Petah Tikva R&D center, fire most workers
Teva workers say they have been informed that a research and development center in Petah Tikva will be the first facility shuttered by the pharma giant, as part of a large restructuring scheme.
Seventy-five percent of the workers at the center will be laid off, according to reports.
Teva plans to fire some 1,700 workers in Israel in the next two years and shut a number of facilities as part of a worldwide reform meant to help the company get out of debt, union leaders say. Word of the layoffs sparked large protests and a mass strike in Israel earlier this month.
Knesset filibuster enters 39th hour
A Knesset filibuster is entering its 39th hour, with opposition lawmakers continuing to drone on to a near empty plenum.
The filibuster is set to end, after 45 long-winded hours, sometime around midnight, at which point MKs will be free to vote on a controversial bill barring police from recommending charges in certain cases, seen as a ploy to protect corrupt politicians.
Earlier in the day, MK Miki Levy (Yesh Atid) tried to set a Knesset record, speaking for 7 hours straight, but fell short of Miki Eitan’s 10-hour oration from 1993.
The doldrums were also broken up by Joint List MK Hanin Zoabi sparring/yelling with Likud lawmakers, including Oren Hazan, who called her a traitor.
Gluttons for punishment can watch the filibuster here.
Senior Muslim cleric pans Jerusalem Trump train plans
Ikrema Sabri, a senior Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, is denouncing plans to extend a train line to Jerusalem and name a stop for Donald Trump, saying that Palestinians won’t accept “any change or act in the occupied territories.”
“Giving the name of Trump to this project will not give it any legitimacy,” the former grand mufti of Jerusalem says. “It would be just another implementation of the unacceptable decision of President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
Army Radio commentator suspended for anti-Rivlin diatribe
Army Radio has decided to suspend commentator Irit Linor after she let loose with a rant against President Reuven Rivlin for appearing to support anti-government corruption protests on Tuesday.
In her tirade, Linor called Rivlin a failed politician.
“The only thing you’ve been able to do serve as a junior minister, and as a president and national symbol, you call on citizens to go out into the street? You insolent piece of work! Who do you think you are?” she said on the radio Tuesday.
“Irit Linor’s comments on the president were not fitting, nor in the way they were expressed,” the station said in a statement.
Linor will be off the air for seven days.
Israel tells Ukraine to take action against ‘worrying’ anti-Semitism
Jerusalem is calling on Ukrainian authorities to take “determined” action against anti-Semitism, after vandalism was discovered at three Jewish sites in Odessa.
“We view this anti-Semitism with worry,” the Foreign Ministry says in a statement. “We expect the Ukrainian government to make a most determined effort to halt the phenomenon of anti-Semitism and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The graffiti, including the words “toasting the Holocaust” on the gate of Odessa’s Holocaust museum, were discovered Monday. The city’s Brodsky Synagogue had the words: “Jews out, Ukraine for Ukrainians” written on its exterior fence.
An offensive symbol appeared on a gate adjacent to the Beit Grand Jewish Community Center. It and the other two graffiti featured the symbol of the Azov Battalion, a National Guard of Ukraine regiment that was set up after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
Ukraine’s government is headed by Volodymyr Groysman, who is Jewish.
— with JTA
Four hurt in St. Petersburg supermarket blast
An explosion at a supermarket in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg injured several people Wednesday, officials say.
A probe was launched after “an unidentified object” exploded, Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko tells RIA-Novosti. “Four people have been hospitalized.”
Police say the blast occurred in a supermarket northeast of the city center.
Milchan said to have gifted expensive Jewelry to Netanyahus
Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan gifted jewelry worth up to $2,500 (NIS 8,700) to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Hadashot news reports, quoting a source close to an investigation into the gift-giving.
According to the report, Milchan told police he was not comfortable giving the jewelry because he worried it could cross legal and ethical boundaries, but the Netanyahus insisted, and he was eventually told by the prime minister it was allowed.
The source also says Milchan told police he gave Netanyahu cigars to be able to stay in an influential position regarding issues affecting Israel, and gave champagne to Sara to keep her calm.
Syria hits back at Erdogan for calling Assad a ‘terrorist’
Syria’s Foreign Ministry says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supports terrorism and bears “prime responsibility for the bloodshed in Syria.”
The ministry fired back after Erdogan on Wednesday called Syrian President Bashar Assad a “terrorist,” who should have no part in Syria’s post-conflict future.
Erdogan’s comments were his sharpest against the Syrian president in months, and came as Turkey, Russia and Iran are trying to advance peace efforts.
Turkey is a supporter of the Syrian opposition, which says Assad should have no role in any future political transition. The government, which has gained the upper hand in the civil war, thanks to heavy Russian and Iranian support, has adamantly rejected that demand.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry says Erdogan has offered “limitless support” to all kinds of “terrorist groups.” The Syrian government refers to all those who have taken up arms against it, including mainstream opposition groups, as terrorists.
Joint List head puts Christmas tree in office
While the opposition is busying blabbering on during their filibuster — which has passed the 41-hour mark — to fight a war on the police recommendations bill, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh is fighting the war on Christmas by bringing some Yuletide cheer to the parliament.
Odeh writes on Twitter that there are no Christmas trees in the Knesset, and so he put one up in his office, for all to stop by and visit.
There is not even one Christmas tree in a public space in the Knesset. In fact, there is no mention of Christian or Muslim holidays. So, in honor of everyone celebrating the holiday, I decided to put a Christmas tree in my office. All are welcome to enjoy it, my door is open. pic.twitter.com/3rOQtsthPY
— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) December 27, 2017
Odeh’s party is home to the Knesset’s only Christian, Aida Toumeh Suleiman.
In 2013, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein rejected a request by MK Hanna Swaid to place a Christmas tree in a public space in the parliament, telling him he could put one in his office instead.
Some 2 percent of Israelis are Christian.
Palestinian teen caught planning stabbing attack — police
Police say a Palestinian teen has been arrested after trying to enter Israel illegally to carry out a terror attack.
The suspect, an 18-year-old female, was turned away once at the Qalandia crossing near Jerusalem, and later tried to cross again using her 7-year-old sister’s permit. When she was refused, she began arguing with border guards and tried to force her way in, a police spokesperson says.
Police say that she was questioned and admitted to planning an attack in the Jerusalem area.
A source with knowledge of the case says the Palestinian suspect planned to buy a knife and stab a police officer.
The woman, from the town of Qataneh, has been jailed, pending a remand hearing. Her name was not released by police.