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Hamas livid as Palestinian Authority restores security ties with Israel

West Bank-based PA resumes cooperation with Jewish state, six months after severing ties over annexation bid

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recites a prayer as he arrives for a meeting in the West Bank's Ramallah on September 3, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recites a prayer as he arrives for a meeting in the West Bank's Ramallah on September 3, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP)

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

Iran warns Trump administration against military strike on nuke sites

An Iranian government spokesman warns the United States against attacking its nuclear sites.

“Any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response,” spokesman Ali Rabiei says, according to Reuters.

He’s responding to a New York Times report on Monday that said US President Donald Trump convened top advisers last week to ask if he had options to strike Iranian nuclear sites during his last weeks in office, but was dissuaded with warnings that it could lead to a wider conflict.

NATO warns against hasty US troop pullout from Afghanistan

A hasty pullout of US and allied troops from Afghanistan could see the country become a “platform for international terrorists” again, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warns.

His blunt message, given in a statement, is in response to reports that US President Donald Trump is planning to accelerate the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, where they support a NATO mission, and from Iraq.

“The price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high,” Stoltenberg says.

“Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on our homelands. And ISIS (the Islamic State group) could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq,” he says.

The warning was unprecedented criticism by Stoltenberg of a Trump decision. Up to now, the NATO secretary general has been careful not to publicly contest statements by Trump relating to the Alliance.


American soldiers wait on the tarmac in Logar province, Afghanistan, November 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

UN warns full-fledged humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia

The United Nations says that thousands of people are fleeing northern Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray region and the border area with Sudan is now facing a full-blown refugee emergency.

“A full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding,” UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch tells a virtual press briefing.

Some 4,000 people are fleeing across the border every day, Baloch says.

In all, more than 27,000 people have now streamed into Sudan since the conflict in Tigray erupted there two weeks ago.

“Refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive exhausted from the long trek to safety, with few belongings,” Baloch says.

“The pace is very rapid,” he says, stressing that the Sudan was now experiencing “an influx unseen over the last two decades in this part of the country.”

Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia wait to register at the UNCHR center at Hamdayet, Sudan on November. 14, 2020. Ethiopia’s defiant Tigray regional government has fired rockets at two airports in the neighboring Amhara region as a deadly conflict threatens to spread into other parts of Africa’s second-most populous country. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced a military campaign in the dissident northern region on November 4.

He said it came in response to attacks by local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), on federal military camps.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018.

A bitter feud has grown as the party became sidelined, growing ever more defiant towards the central government.

Abiy has resisted calls by world leaders to cease hostilities and accept mediation.


Snubbed by Turkish officials, Pompeo meets with leader of Orthodox Christians

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo meets with the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians during a short trip to Turkey that has raised the ire of Turkish officials and includes no meetings with any of them.

Pompeo, who is on a seven-country tour of Europe and the Middle East, tweets pictures of him being greeted by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians, after being shown around the Patriarchate. He is also scheduled to meet with the apostolic nuncio to Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell.

The talks are to center on religious freedoms in Turkey, which has angered Ankara and prompted officials to call on Washington to focus on human rights violations in the United States.

Last week, Turkey issued a sharply worded statement criticizing Pompeo’s plans and said Washington should “look in the mirror” and deal with issues such as racism, Islamophobia and hate crimes.

But the talks went ahead, and Pompeo tweets that “as leader of the Orthodox world” Bartholomew “is a key partner as we continue to champion religious freedom around the globe.”

The trip comes amid already frayed ties between the two NATO allies over a series of issues, even though Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump have maintained friendly personal ties.

Those include Turkey’s decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system, which Washington says is a threat to its F-35 fighter aircraft. Washington has kicked Turkey out of the F-35 program and has also threatened to sanction the country.

Senior US State Department officials said the lack of official meetings in Turkey was due to scheduling issues during the brief stop. They said meetings had been sought but Turkish officials were unable to come to Istanbul from the capital of Ankara during the time Pompeo will be there. The officials noted that Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart plan to see each other in early December at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.


Coronavirus cases worldwide top 55 million

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,328,048 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 GMT on Tuesday.

At least 55,022,350 cases have been registered and at least 35,235,100 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Monday, 7,810 new deaths and 529,892 new cases were recorded worldwide.

Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were United States with 1,008, followed by France with 506 and Italy with 504.

A medical staff member holds a patient’s hand who is suffering from coronavirus in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on November 10, 2020 in Houston, Texas.(Go Nakamura/Getty Images/AFP)

The United States is the worst-affected country with 247,229 deaths from 11,206,054 cases. At least 4,244,811 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 166,014 deaths from 5,876,464 cases, India with 130,519 deaths from 8,874,290 cases, Mexico with 98,861 deaths from 1,009,396 cases, and the United Kingdom with 52,147 deaths from 1,390,681 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 124 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Peru with 107, Spain at 88 and Argentina with 79.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 86,361 cases, including 4,634 deaths and 81,374 recoveries.

Latin America and the Caribbean overall have 425,308 deaths from 12,101,300 cases, Europe 342,547 deaths from 14,901,097 infections, and the United States and Canada 258,227 deaths from 11,505,246 cases.

Asia has reported 183,066 deaths from 11,531,906 cases, the Middle East 70,321 deaths from 2,965,005 cases, Africa 47,638 deaths from 1,987,747 cases, and Oceania 941 deaths from 30,052 cases.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.


Danish government clinches majority to back plan to cull all minks

The Danish government says that a majority in parliament backed its decision to cull the country’s 15 million minks over concerns about a mutated version of the virus that has spread among the animals.

The government had announced the cull despite not having the right to order the killing of healthy animals, an embarrassing misstep that caused it to scramble to build political consensus for a new law.

The one-party Social Democratic minority government made a deal late Monday with four left-leaning and center parties to support a law proposal that would allow for the culling of all mink, including those outside northern Denmark where infections have been found. The law proposal also bans mink farming until the end of 2021.

Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus, December 6, 2012. (AP/Sergei Grits)

“There is now an agreement that will take care of that,” Mogens Jensen, the agriculture minister, says in parliament. “I would like to apologize to the Danish mink breeders that it was not made clear that there was no legal basis.”

It is unclear when a parliamentary vote would take place.

The mutated version of the coronavirus found among the mink can be transmitted to people, though there is no evidence so far that it is more dangerous or resistant to vaccines. Earlier this month, authorities said that 11 people were sickened by it.

The government began last month killing farmed minks in the north of the country and later announced that all minks in the country should be culled, though it did not yet have the legal basis for it.

There are 1,139 mink farms in Denmark, employing about 6,000 people, according to the industry. They account for 40% of global mink fur production and are the world’s biggest exporter. Most exports go to China and Hong Kong.


Pentagon says it shot down mock intercontinental missile in sea-based test

In a first for the Pentagon’s push to develop defenses against intercontinental-range ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, a missile interceptor launched from a US Navy ship at sea hit and destroyed a mock ICBM in flight on Tuesday, officials say.

Previous tests against ICBM targets had used interceptors launched from underground silos in the United States. If further, more challenging tests prove successful, the ship-based approach could add to the credibility and reliability of the Pentagon’s existing missile defense system.

The success of Tuesday’s test is likely to draw particular interest from North Korea, whose development of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons is the main reason the Pentagon has sought to accelerate its building of missile defense systems over the past decade.

North Korea has recently refrained from flight tests of ballistic missiles of intercontinental range and has not continued its nuclear testing. But the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are uncertain as US President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, succeeding President Donald Trump.

Although the current US approach to missile defense is designed to protect the US homeland against an ICBM fired from North Korea, both Russia and China have expressed concern that the US could use its missile defenses to undercut the deterrent value of their nuclear forces, which are larger than those of North Korea.


7-Eleven said in talks to open 500 branches in Israel

US chain 7-Eleven is planning on opening 500 branches in Israel, with the first in mid-2021, Channel 12 reports.

It says the company is in “advanced negotiations” with Israeli suppliers and is scouting out real estate. It plans to open branches in train stations, hospitals and gas stations, according to the network.

In this July 1, 2008, file photo, a 7-Eleven is shown in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Skydiver in serious condition after accident

A man around 30 years old is in serious condition after a skydiving accident in the Hof Hacarmel region in northern Israel.

Medics are providing treatment at the scene.

The circumstances of the crash are not immediately clear.

Shas minister quits in fight with Gantz over political role

Shas member Yitzhak Cohen resigns as minister without portfolio in the Housing Ministry and Finance Ministry, in a convoluted fight with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz over the number of ministerial portfolios each political bloc in the coalition may hold.

Gantz opposed Cohen’s remaining in the position after Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism reassumed his role, two months after resigning. Gantz has reportedly refused to shift the balance within the coalition on the number of ministers Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may appoint, forcing Cohen’s resignation.

But reports say Cohen may return to be a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry, a position he formerly held.

Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen attends a Shas party campaign event in Jerusalem on July 22, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Positive virus tests in Arab towns are 4 times higher than national average

The rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive in Arab Israeli communities is nearly four times the national average, according to a new report released by the Arab Emergency Committee.

The committee reports that around 7 percent of coronavirus tests taken by residents of Arab towns and cities came back positive in the past week, in contrast to 1.8% in the general population.

Around 38% of all active infections in Israel can currently be found in Arab communities, although Arab Israelis constitute just 20% of the total population.

Aaron Boxerman

Putin wants to mass produce virus vaccine for Brazil, India, China, South Africa

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls on fellow members of the BRICS alliance of major emerging countries to mass produce Russian-made coronavirus vaccines.

Speaking during an online summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Putin encourages the other four BRICS members to manufacture and distribute coronavirus vaccines developed by Russia.

“There are Russian vaccines, they work, they work effectively and safely… It’s very important to unite for the mass production of these products into wide circulation,” Putin says.

Putin notes that Russia has agreements in place with India and Brazil to conduct clinical trials of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, as well as manufacturing agreements with China and India.

A new vaccine on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia, August 6, 2020. (Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP)

The world’s largest vaccine producer is in India, the Serum Institute of India.

The Russian leader does not offer specifics as to what broader efforts between the five countries to mass produce the vaccines would entail, or outline the commercial conditions.


Jordan king heads to UAE for meeting with Emirati, Bahrain leaders

Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in the United Arab Emirates for a meeting on Wednesday with its crown prince, which will also include Bahrain’s king, according to Jordanian reports.

The meeting will come as two Bahraini ministers will reportedly make the first official visit to Israel by ministers from the Gulf kingdom to take part in a trilateral meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli and US officials. The Wednesday meeting is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani.

Defense minister holds Syria responsible for mines planted in Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz blames Syria for a number of mines that had been planted within Israeli territory near the border, which were disarmed by  Israeli forces earlier today.

“For a long time, we have been prepared for the possibility of attacks on the northern frontier,” says Gantz during a tour of the border and security briefing. “The IDF has the capabilities and determination to respond severely to any incident, whether from Lebanon or Syria.”

Addressing the mines, he says: “I would like to clearly state — Syria is responsible for what happens in its territory.”

“We cannot ignore this issue,” he says.

The mines were planted in a buffer zone controlled by Israel in the southern Golan Heights, but on the Syrian side of the security fence.

Poll: Majority of Israelis would refuse to get COVID vaccine in first round

An opinion survey finds that fewer than half of Israelis would be willing to get a coronavirus vaccine when it’s first rolled out to the public.

The poll finds that 40% would be willing to get the shot in the first round, while 52% would not. Women were more hesitant than men, with just 33% saying they would get the vaccine, compared to 47% among men.

The survey by the Israel Democracy Institute was conducted with 607 respondents, between November 12 and November 15. Its margin of error is 3.7%.

The poll comes as the two leading vaccine contenders, Moderna and Pfizer, report over 90% success, based on early data. Israel has deals with both companies to supply millions of vaccines.

4 Likud MKs said to illegally visit site of evacuated West Bank settlement

Four lawmakers from the ruling Likud party visit the site of a former Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Sa-Nur, in violation of a law that bans Israelis from entering the area since the 2005 pullout, the Walla news site reports.

The lawmakers are Miki Zohar, Keti Shitrit, Amit Halevi, and Etty Atia, who came in a show of solidarity with former residents of the settlement.

Some 20 Israeli families surreptitiously entered the evacuated settlement of Sa-Nur in the northern West Bank under the cover of darkness early Tuesday, in protest of the government’s refusal to allow them to return permanently to their homes evacuated 15 years ago.

Yair Netanyahu appears to liken kibbutz movement to Nazi Germany

Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, compared Israel’s kibbutz movement to Nazi Germany and other totalitarian regimes.

It’s the latest in a string of inflammatory statements made by the younger Netanyahu, who has emerged as a right-wing provocateur on social media and elsewhere.

“Kibbutzim are something that doesn’t exist outside of North Korea,” Yair Netanyahu said during a recent radio interview. “We always know how ideas for utopian societies end. In the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, there was a desire to create exemplary societies and utopian societies. It never ends well, the desire to engineer human society.”


UK Labour’s ruling body to meet on Corbyn suspension

The British Labour party’s ruling body is meeting today over the suspension of former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn was exiled pending investigation after he refused to accept all the findings of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which said his office had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints by Jewish members.

The panel will decide whether to lift the suspension or seek further action, according to the BBC.

Ahead of the meeting, Corbyn restated his position in a Facebook post.

Last month, I was suspended from the Labour Party, after 54 years’ membership and four and a half years as party…

Posted by Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday, November 17, 2020

But the Jewish umbrella group the Board of Deputies of British Jews rejects “this pathetic non-apology.”

with agencies

Netanyahu still evasive on winner of US election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has congratulated US president-elect Joe Biden on his victory, dodges a question during a radio interview on who won the American election.

“Why do I need to express an opinion?” he tells Galey Israel, when asked directly who won. “They have their organized processes, they have an internal process. I think that everyone more or less understands what will more or less happen.”

Twitter CEO: 300,000 tweets flagged over US election disinformation

The CEO of Twitter says the social media site flagged some 300,000 tweets as part of efforts to combat disinformation in the period around the 2020 US election between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are testifying Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing called to question their companies’ actions around the closely contested election.

The senators are deeply divided by party over the integrity and results of the election itself.

Prominent Republican senators — including the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — have refused to knock down Trump’s unfounded claims of voting irregularities and fraud, even as misinformation disputing Biden’s victory has flourished online.

Graham, a close Trump ally, has publicly urged: “Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.”

Zuckerberg and Dorsey promised lawmakers last month that they would aggressively guard their platforms from being manipulated by foreign governments or used to incite violence around the election results — and they followed through with high-profile steps that angered Trump and his supporters.

Twitter and Facebook have both slapped a misinformation label on some content from Trump, most notably his assertions linking voting by mail to fraud. On Monday, Twitter flagged Trump’s tweet proclaiming “I won the Election!” with this note: “Official sources called this election differently.”

In his written testimony for the hearing, Dorsey said, “We applied labels to add context and limit the risk of harmful election misinformation spreading without important context, because the public told us they wanted us to take these steps.”

Between October 27 and November 11, he said, about 300,000 tweets were labeled for content that was disputed and potentially misleading, representing 0.2% of all US election-related tweets sent during the period. Of the labeled tweets, 456 also were covered by a warning message and were limited in how they could be shared. About 74% of the people who viewed those tweets saw them after a label or warning message was applied.

Facebook also moved two days after the election to ban a large group called “Stop the Steal” that Trump supporters were using to organize protests against the vote count. The 350,000-member group echoed Trump’s baseless allegations of a rigged election rendering the results invalid.


Deputy AG under fire for her comments against Netanyahu

The Civil Service Commissioner, Daniel Hershkowitz, rebukes Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber for her remarks against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Zilber lambasted the government and Netanyahu on Sunday, likening the premier’s attacks on the judiciary and other opponents to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious fabricated anti-Semitic text from 1903 purporting to describe a Jewish cabal plotting global domination. In a lengthy speech broadcast during an online conference by the Israel Democracy Institute, Zilber railed against repeated claims by the premier and his allies that his indictment on graft charges is part of a “judicial coup” carried out by a network of shadowy unelected figures seeking to overthrow the government.

“Sometimes, in order to not admit the truth of a lack of leadership, the fan is turned on to blow the blame in all directions,” Zilber said.

Hershkowitz said he views Zilber’s comments “with severity” and urges Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to take action.

Mandelblit summoned Zilber for a meeting on the issue, according to the Ynet news site.

Netanyahu says he’s negotiating with Moderna for more vaccines

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he spoke with Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel to negotiate the purchase of additional COVID-19 vaccines for Israel.

Israel already has an agreement with Moderna to procure future coronavirus shots. Though inked months ago, the number of doses has not been disclosed by the government.

“We signed a deal with them to supply a certain number [of vaccines]. We’re negotiating with them over an additional number and I hope that as a result of the conversation, we can quickly complete this negotiation,” he says in a video.

Israel has also reached a deal with Pfizer.

A syringe and a vial with the logo of US biotech firm Moderna. (AFP)

Both US-based companies reported over 90% success in their preliminary data.

Germany: ‘Creating facts unilaterally’ will hurt Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Germany’s foreign minister warns against unilateral steps that could hurt Mideast peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians following the change in administration in the United States.

“Creating facts unilaterally won’t help us in this already difficult situation,” Germany’s top diplomat, Heiko Maas, tells reporters after meeting with his Palestinian counterpart in Berlin. “But no doors should be slammed shut either, in view of developments in the United States.”

Maas doesn’t spell out what unilateral measures he is concerned about. But on Monday, his office criticizes Israel’s public call for tenders to build settlements in East Jerusalem as a “step that sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.”

Maas notes that US president-elect Joe Biden agrees with Germany’s position that a negotiated two-state solution should be the basis for peace talks between the parties.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, says he sees in Biden’s election “a window of opportunity, and we want to take advantage of that window of opportunity in order really just to open a new page.”

Al-Maliki adds that “we suffered tremendously, as Palestine, from Trump’s policies.”


9 Israelis rescued from Ethiopia warzone

Nine Israelis have been rescued from the warzone in the northern Tigray area of Ethiopia, the Foreign Ministry confirms.

The Israelis were removed from the area in an operation coordinated by Israel with the Ethiopian government, the United Nations and the local army.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with his Ethiopian counterpart and asked him to ensure the nine Israelis’ safety.

The Israelis had been trapped in the area. Some of them are workers for an agriculture and irrigation company that is operating in the region, while others are aid volunteers.

Palestinian Authority renews security coordination and ties with Israel

The Palestinian Authority announces it is renewing security and other ties with Israel, which were severed in May amid growing talk of West Bank annexation.

According to the official Wafa news agency, the announcement comes after the Palestinians received reassurances from “international contacts” that Israel would abide by agreements.

Israel suspended plans to annex parts of the West Bank in the summer, as part of a normalization deal with the UAE.

Harvey Weinstein accusers endorse Manhattan DA candidate Lucy Lang

A group of women who say they were victimized by Harvey Weinstein, including one who testified at his trial, have endorsed former prosecutor Lucy Lang to replace the Manhattan district attorney who put the movie mogul behind bars.

The women announcing support for Lang’s candidacy Tuesday include actors Rosanna Arquette, Louise Godbold, Jasmine Lobe, Sarah Ann Masse, Katherine Kendall, Caitlin Dulany and Jessica Mann, whose days of grueling testimony helped lead to Weinstein’s conviction.

Lang, one of several women campaigning to become Manhattan’s first female state prosecutor, calls their endorsement an “incredible honor.”

“It’s a privilege to stand beside them in calling for a system that better integrates their experiences and needs into a plan for the future,” she says.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who oversaw Weinstein’s prosecution, has not said whether he’ll seek a fourth term. The primary election is in June, but he hasn’t been raising money for a campaign, leading to speculation he will leave office when his term expires.

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan court as jury deliberations continue in his rape trial in New York, February 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Vance’s ultimately successful handling of the Weinstein case hasn’t silenced criticism for his past reluctance to prosecute similar accusations against affluent and prominent men.

His office initially declined to prosecute Weinstein after a model accused him of groping her in 2015, citing a lack of proof. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison earlier this year after he was convicted of rape and sexual abuse.

Vance also declined to prosecute former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn after a hotel maid accused him of attempted rape. Vance’s office was also criticized for not initially advocating for Jeffrey Epstein to be classified as a top-level sex offender.

Screen capture from video of Jessica Mann at a Manhattan court during the sexual assault trial of Harvey Weinstein, January 2020. (YouTube)

Vance has defended his handling of sex crimes cases, saying he follows the law, which sometimes doesn’t mesh with the court of public opinion. He has said background and wealth are not factors when prosecutors decide whether to charge individuals.

Lang is among a host of candidates who have announced they are running for Manhattan district attorney.

Others include Alvin Bragg, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Liz Crotty, Diana Florence, and Tahanie Aboushie, Janos Marton, Dan Quart, and Eliza Orlins.


Biden announces raft of White House staff hires

US President-elect Joe Biden announces a raft of top White House staff positions, drawing from the senior ranks of his campaign and some of his closest confidants to fill out an increasingly diverse White House leadership team.

Biden confirms that former campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon will serve as a deputy chief of staff, while campaign co-chair Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond and campaign adviser Steve Ricchetti will play senior roles in the new administration. Richmond will leave his Louisiana congressional seat to fill the White House job.

The American president-elect also announces that Mike Donilon, a longtime Biden confidant, will serve as a senior advisor; Dana Remus, the campaign’s current general counsel, will be counsel to the president; Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who was one of Biden’s deputy campaign managers, will serve as director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; and Annie Tomasini, who is currently Biden’s traveling chief of staff, will serve as the director of Oval Office operations.

Anthony Bernal will serve as a senior adviser to Jill Biden, after he was her chief of staff on the campaign, and Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, a former Obama Ambassador to Uruguay, as her chief of staff.

US President-elect Joe Biden speaks about economic recovery at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 16, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The new hires represent an initial wave of what will ultimately be hundreds of new White House aides hired in the coming weeks as Biden builds out an administration to execute his governing vision. The Democrat will be inaugurated Jan. 20.

Late last week, Biden tapped former senior campaign adviser Ron Klain to serve as his chief of staff.

The latest round reflects Biden’s stated commitment to diversity in his staff — the team includes four people of color and five women.

Biden will begin rolling out his higher-profile Cabinet picks in the coming weeks.


Rivlin speaks to Biden, congratulates him on win

President Reuven Rivlin speaks to US President-elect Joe Biden on the phone to congratulate him, becoming the first senior Israeli official to do so.

Says Rivlin: “The United States of America has no stronger ally than the State of Israel, there is nothing stronger than the friendship between the American people and the Israeli people, and the president of the United States of America has no greater friend than the president of the State of Israel, as we have proved over the years.”

“As a long-standing friend of the State of Israel, you know that our friendship is based on values that are beyond partisan politics and that we have no doubt that, under your leadership, the United States is committed to Israel’s security and success,” adds Rivlin.

“I was happy to welcome you to Jerusalem as vice president, and I would be happy to welcome you here when you come to Jerusalem as President,” he says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to speak to Biden.

President Reuven Rivlin, left, with then-US vice president Joe Biden at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on March 9, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu has ‘warm conversation’ with Biden, in first since election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds his first phone conversation with US President-elect Joe Biden, with the call described as “warm.”

According to Netanyahu’s office, “Biden reiterated his deep commitment to the State of Israel and its security.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu said the special connection between Israel and the United States is a cornerstone of Israel’s security and policy. The two agreed to meet soon in order to discuss the many issues on the agenda and stressed the need to continue strengthening the strong alliance between the United States and Israel,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with then-US vice president Joe Biden at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Health Ministry: 861 new virus cases diagnosed Monday

The Health Ministry says 861 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus on Monday, with another 413 confirmed cases since midnight.

The number of active cases stands at 8,052. According to the ministry, 319 people are in serious condition, of which 124 are on ventilators. Another 86 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.

Testing is up, with nearly 50,000 samples taken on Monday and 1.8% returning positive.

The death toll climbs by one since this morning, to 2,736.

UN releases $100 million in aid to avert famine due to pandemic

The United Nations says it is releasing $100 million in aid for seven countries to help them avoid famine because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ethiopia, where fighting has broken out between the central government and the northern Tigray region, will receive one fifth of this money.

The other recipients will be Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen.

“No one should view a slide into famine as an inevitable side effect of this pandemic,” says Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

“If it happens it is because the world has allowed it to happen. Famine can be prevented. But we have to act in time to make a difference,” Lowcock says in a statement.

“Right now, more money for the aid operation is the quickest and most efficient way to support famine-prevention efforts.”


Germany urges confidence-building measures to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks

Germany calls for confidence-building measures, including from the Palestinians, to reinvigorate the moribund Middle East peace process.

Hosting his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas discussed ways to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

“In order to make new negotiations possible, the German Government believes that confidence-building measures and constructive proposals are needed — including from the Palestinian side,” according to a readout issued by the German Foreign Ministry.

“Germany also remains convinced that a negotiated two-state solution will do justice both to Palestinians’ rights and Israel’s security interests.”

Raphael Ahren

Hamas seethes as PA restores security ties with Israel

The Hamas terrorist group is fuming over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to resume security ties with Israel, six months after severing them over Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

The decision “harms all the national values and principles,” says Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, according to the Walla news site.

Hamas says the move also undermines Palestinian “efforts to build a national and strategic fight to deal with the occupation, annexation, normalization and the ‘deal of the century,'” referring to Israel’s new ties with Gulf Arab states and the Trump peace plan.

Report: Jeremy Corbyn to be readmitted into UK Labour party

The ruling panel of the British Labour Party has decided to readmit former leader Jeremy Corbyn, Sky News reports.

Corbyn was exiled last month pending investigation after he refused to accept all the findings of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which said his office had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints by Jewish members.

IDF says it foiled drug smuggling from Lebanon into Israel; 2 arrested

The Israel Defense Forces says it foiled a drug smuggling operation from Lebanon into Israel earlier this evening and arrested two suspects.

According to the military, the attempted smuggling occurred near the village of Ghajjar, which straddles the Israeli-Lebanese border.

IDF soldiers monitoring security cameras along the border spotted a number of suspects approaching the security fence from both sides of the border.

“Soldiers fired a number of illumination shells in the area and arrested two suspects in Israeli territory who have been handed over to the Israel Police for interrogation,” the IDF says.

Last week, a Lebanese national was arrested after entering Israel from the Ghajjar area. Despite suspicions that he was acting on behalf of the Hezbollah terror group, the man was sent back to Lebanon after being interrogated by the Shin Bet security service, a few days later.

Judah Ari Gross

Jewish Labour Movement condemns Corbyn’s reinstatement in party

The Jewish Labour Movement, in a statement, condemns the British party’s decision to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn’s membership.

It calls Corbyn’s statement on his handling of anti-Semitism within the party “insincere,” “wholly inadequate” and “grossly offensive.”

“Today’s decision will only embolden those who agreed with him,” it says.


Poll: Likud would win 29 seats, Yamina 22, if elections held today

A television poll predicts the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox political bloc would pick up 65 of the Knesset’s 120 seats if elections were held today. That includes Likud with 29 seats and the current opposition’s Yamina with 22. Both right-wing parties have recently been at odds.

The center-left, by contrast, would receive 48 seats, with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party winning the remaining seven seats, according to the poll.

The Channel 13 poll predicts:

Likud 29
Yamina 22
Yesh Atid 20
Joint List 11
Blue and White 10
Shas 8
Meretz 7
Yisrael Beytenu 7
United Torah Judaism 6

It also finds that a plurality of respondents (50%) believe elections are preferable to the continued operation of the unity government. Another 35% say the government should continue, while 15% say they don’t know.

The survey also finds that 27% of the public would refuse to get a coronavirus vaccine.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad rages as PA resumes ties with Israel

Palestinian Islamic Jihad harshly criticizes the Palestinian Authority’s decision to restore coordination with Israel.

The Palestinian terror group implies that this could end ongoing efforts to promote national reconciliation between rival factions Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The movements have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip after a bloody struggle for control of the coastal enclave.

“This is a coup against all the attempts to promote national cooperation. This is an alliance with the enemy,” Islamic Jihad says in a statement.

Aaron Boxerman

‘A retrograde step’: British Jews aghast as Corbyn readmitted into Labour

The Board of Deputies of British Jews umbrella group expresses dismay as the Labour Party readmits Jeremy Corbyn back into the party, weeks after his suspension over his handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

“Today’s decision is a retrograde step for the Party in its relations with the Jewish community,” it says. “Jeremy Corbyn’s dismissive approach to the damning EHRC findings rightly saw him suspended.”

“For Jeremy Corbyn’s allies on the NEC to expedite his case whilst hundreds of other cases languished under his tenure, and his confected non-apology earlier today adds insult to injury. This politicization of the process goes against what the EHRC recommended just last month.

“Labour’s mountain to climb to win back the trust of our community just got higher,” it says.

Right-wing MKs press Netanyahu to legalize outposts while Trump is president

Right-wing lawmakers are circulating a petition calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to legalize West Bank outposts in the last gasps of the Trump presidency, Channel 12 reports.

The letter calls for Netanyahu to authorize 70 unrecognized West Bank outposts, home to some 20,000 people.

Those supporting it include a handful of Likud lawmakers and some opposition Yisrael Beytenu MKs, as well as Yamina leader Naftali Bennett.

“It’s unfair, unreasonable and irresponsible to leave these settlements without status, and the tens of thousands of residents without rights,” it says.

Border police officers during operations to demolish illegal structures at Shevach Ha’aretz outpost in the West Bank, August 12, 2020 (Israel Police)

US will reduce troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 in January

The US will cut its troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 in January, the lowest level in nearly two decades of war, as outgoing President Donald Trump follows through on a pledge to end conflicts abroad, the Pentagon announces.

Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller says around 2,000 troops would be pulled from the country by January 15, and 500 more would come back from Iraq, leaving 2,500 in each country.

The moves reflect Trump’s policy “to bring the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to a successful and responsible conclusion and to bring our brave service members home,” Miller says.


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Jordan king heads to UAE for meeting with Emirati, Bahrain leaders

Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in the United Arab Emirates for a meeting on Wednesday with its crown prince, which will also include Bahrain’s king, according to Jordanian reports.

The meeting will come as two Bahraini ministers will reportedly make the first official visit to Israel by ministers from the Gulf kingdom to take part in a trilateral meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli and US officials. The Wednesday meeting is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani.