The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Bennett hails nixing of UN deal; opposition slams ‘weak” Netanyahu
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett hails Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to walk away from the migrant resettlement deal with the UN refugee agency as a “wise decision.”
“Now we must work to remove the illegal infiltrators [from the country],” he says in a statement.
From the opposition, Labor party leader Avi Gabbay slams the U-turn as a reflective of the Israeli leader’s “lack of leadership, cowardice, incitement against groups, empty slogans, inability to make decisions, and zero ability to implement.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says Netanyahu’s backtracking underlines his “weakness and hysteria.”
UN urges Israel to reconsider decision on migrant deal
The United Nations on Tuesday urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “reconsider” a decision to scrap an agreement on resettling thousands of African migrants following tough domestic criticism.
“UNHCR notes the announcement of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that he has cancelled the Israel-UNHCR agreement of April 2nd on solutions for Eritreans and Sudanese living in Israel,” a spokesman for the UN agency, William Spindler, tells AFP in an email.
“We continue to believe in the need for a win-win agreement that can benefit Israel, the international community and people needing asylum and we hope that Israel will reconsider its decision soon.”
Liberman says Israel won’t halt use of live fire on Gaza border
Israel’s defense minister says the military will not change its tough response to Hamas-led mass protests near Gaza’s border with Israel, warning that “anyone who approaches the border is putting their life in danger.”
Avigdor Liberman speaks near Gaza, where 16 Palestinians were said to have been killed by Israeli fire Friday, the first day of what Hamas says will be six weeks of border protests.
Earlier on Tuesday, the international group Human Rights Watch accused Liberman and other senior officials of “unlawfully” calling for the use of live fire against Palestinian protesters who posed no imminent threat to life.
Lieberman signals defiance, saying that “we have established clear ground rules and we do not intend to change them. ”
Igniting fury, Corbyn attends Passover event by anti-Israel Jewish group
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faces sharp criticism from some of his own lawmakers after he attends a Passover event hosted by a Jewish far-left group that has dismissed claims of anti-Semitism in Labour as “faux-outrage” and has called for the “disposal” of the Jewish state.
Corbyn attended a seder — the traditional Passover festive meal — organized by Jewdas, a group that describes itself as “radical voices for the alternative diaspora.”
The Labour chief has been criticized for not doing enough to deal with what is seen as a serious problem of anti-Semitism in his party.
A leaked recording from the event, obtained by the political blog site Guido Fawkes, revealed those who attended shouting “fuck capitalism” and booing the names of prominent Jews, the website says.
Jewdas has in the past tweeted that “Israel is itself a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of” and last week, in a post to its website, described accusations of Labour anti-Semitism as “faux-outrage greased with hypocrisy and opportunism” that is “the work of cynical manipulations by people whose express loyalty is to the Conservative Party and the right-wing of the Labour Party.”
— Stuart Winer
Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem protest autopsy of baby who died in hotel jacuzzi
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox men demonstrate in Jerusalem in protest of a planned autopsy of a baby who drowned in a hotel jacuzzi in the coastal city of Ashdod on Monday.
Protesters are blocking the Kikar Hashabbat intersection in the capital, reports say.
The baby’s parents are both being held in police custody as suspects in the case.
The mother had claimed the baby slipped from her arms while she was bathing him in the family’s room in the Miami Hotel in Ashdod, where they were vacationing for the Passover festival.
On Monday night, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and Ashdod protested the investigation and the possible autopsy, temporarily blocking traffic and the light rail system and clashing with police.
US judge to rule on Nazi ‘troll storm’ against Jewish Montana woman
Attorneys for a neo-Nazi website publisher and a Montana woman will ask a judge today to decide whether the white nationalist had a First Amendment right to unleash a “troll storm” of anti-Semitic messages and threats against the woman’s family.
US Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch is scheduled to hear arguments in Missoula on whether to dismiss a lawsuit by Tanya Gersh, a real-estate agent from the mountain resort community of Whitefish, against The Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin.
The judge had previously ruled against Anglin’s argument to dismiss Gersh’s claims of emotional distress, intimidation and invasion of privacy because Anglin is “not a citizen of any state” and has been living abroad for years.
But the judge wanted to hear from attorneys on both sides in the courtroom before he ruled on another key argument in Anglin’s motion to dismiss — that the neo-Nazi publisher was engaged in political speech protected under the First Amendment.
Lithuanian bill would ban books critical of the country
The Lithuanian parliament is preparing to vote on a government-sponsored bill that would ban selling material that “distorts historical facts” about the nation.
The bill, which Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius submitted Monday, is widely seen as a response to the controversy in Lithuania around the publication of a 2016 book about the Holocaust titled “Our People.” Viewed by some nationalists as an insult against the Lithuanian nation, it is also credited with breaking some taboos in Lithuanian society about collaboration during World War II.
The bill, which according to the Delfi news agency is an amendment to the Law on Consumer Protection, provokes passionate condemnations in Lithuania and beyond by critics who said it curtails freedom of speech and debate about the genocide, in which 90 percent of Lithuanian Jews were killed, mostly by other Lithuanians.
Whereas several Eastern European countries have laws that limit free speech about the Holocaust, including Poland, Ukraine and Latvia, the bill targeting the sale of critical books “would be, if passed into law, one of the most blatant and harshest of them all,” says Holocaust historian Efraim Zuroff, who co-authored “Our People” with Rūta Vanagaite, a best-selling novelist.
Defense Ministry clears minefield near settlement, pledges new housing on site
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says a minefield has been cleared near the settlement of Karnei Shomron, paving the way for the expansion of the Jewish West Bank community.
A special Defense Ministry unit “cleared a decades-old minefield near Karnei Shomron and soon, instead of the minefield, we will build new housing units in Karnei Shomron,” Liberman says on Twitter.
After crown prince’s Israel comments, Saudi king stresses support for Palestinians
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman stresses his support for the Palestinians, a day after the crown prince told The Atlantic that both Israel and the Palestinians have a right to a homeland.
The Saudi monarch emphasizes “the kingdom’s steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” state news agency SPA says, according to Reuters. The official Saudi outlet does not mention the crown prince’s remarks on the Jewish state.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview published Monday, recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state.
OPCW to meet over Britain-Russia spy poisoning case
The world’s chemical watchdog will meet Wednesday to discuss Britain’s allegations against Russia that it had a hand in the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal, documents say on Tuesday.
“The chairperson of the Executive Council… has received a request by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation… to convene a meeting of the Executive Council,” the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says. The confidential meeting will start at 10.00 am (0800 GMT) at the OPCW’s headquarters in The Hague.
5 said arrested in Jerusalem Haredi protests against autopsy
Five ultra-Orthodox protesters are arrested during a Jerusalem demonstration, Hadashot news reports.
Demonstrators are blocking traffic and clashing with police at the Bar Ilan street and Kikar Hashabbat thoroughfares in protest of the court-ordered post-mortem of a baby who died in a hotel jacuzzi in Ashkelon on Monday. The baby’s parents are being held in police custody.
Swastika removed from church bell in Germany
Germany’s Lutheran church says Tuesday that a swastika has been removed from a church bell in a small northwestern town, following a local controversy over the Nazi symbol.
The pastor for the church in Schweringen informed officials on Thursday he had discovered that the symbol engraved on the bell was removed along with part of a Nazi-era inscription, the church’s branch in Hannover says. The church says a note claiming responsibility was found on the church door, but didn’t provide details.
Local newspaper Die Harke publishes a picture of the note, headed: “Spring cleaning 2018.” It says “it was time for spring cleaning to bring fresh air to the village.”
The church suspended the use of the bell last year after the swastika was found, but local church officials decided in mid-March to put it back in use. That move, and a decision not to replace the bell, was contested by the pastor and his objections were still under consideration.
The church says it will now consider how to proceed and whether to take any legal action.
Bells with swastikas were widespread during the Nazi era but most were removed after World War II. In a separate case in February, a small town in southwestern Germany decided to keep a bell dedicated to Adolf Hitler ringing as a memorial to spark dialogue about violence and injustice.
Corbyn defends attending Passover event by anti-Zionist group
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn does not regret attending a Passover seder event organized by a far-left Jewish group that has in the past called for the “proper disposal” of the “steaming pile of sewage” that is the State of Israel.
Corbyn says the event organized by Jewdas was“a celebration of Passover, which I celebrate with young Jewish people from my own community and my own constituency,” according to The Guardian.
“It was very interesting talking to a lot of young people about their experiences of modern Britain and I learned a lot. Isn’t that a good thing?” says Corbyn.
Putin and Erdogan to launch Turkey’s 1st nuclear reactor
The leaders of Russia and Turkey are scheduled to launch the start of the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant as ties between the countries deepen.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin, on his first foreign visit since re-election on March 18, arrives in Ankara on Tuesday for talks with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two will remotely launch the construction of the Russian-made Akkuyu nuclear plant on the Mediterranean coast.
Turkey and Russia have put aside their traditional rivalries and differences on regional issues to forge closer ties. Putin and Erdogan have met several times in the past year and regularly speak on the phone.
On Wednesday, they will join Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss Syria. The three countries are sponsoring a series of peace efforts to end the conflict.
Hamas health ministry: Palestinian, 25, shot dead by IDF
The Hamas-run health ministry says a Palestinian protester was shot dead by Israeli fire on the Gaza border.
The ministry identifies the dead man as 25-year-old Ahmed Arafa, saying he was shot in clashes east of Bureij in central Gaza.
— with AFP
UN expresses ‘disappointment’ with Israel’s about-face on migrants
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expresses “disappointment” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pullout from a deal signed on Monday to resettle 16,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees in Western countries.
“It is with disappointment that UNHCR notes today’s cancellation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Israel-UNHCR agreement of April 2 on solutions for Eritreans and Sudanese currently in Israel,” the UN agency says in a statement.
The UN refugee agency says the deal was negotiated over “an extended period of time.”
“UNHCR continues to believe that a win-win agreement that would both benefit Israel and people needing asylum is in everyone’s best interests,” it says. “And we encourage the Government of Israel to consider the matter further, while standing ready to be of help.”
Half of European flights face delays after computer failure
European air travelers face mass disruption on Tuesday with around half of all flights at risk of delays following a technical problem at Eurocontrol, the agency in charge of the continent’s skies.
Several of the EU’s biggest airports, including Amsterdam’s Schiphol, warn of problems and advise passengers to check on their flights because of the computer breakdown.
“Today 29,500 flights were expected in the European network. Approximately half of those could have some delay as a result of the system outage,” says a statement from Eurocontrol.
The Brussels-based agency, which coordinates European air traffic control operators, says the cause “has been identified and action is underway to return to normal operations” but that that would not happen until “late this evening.”
Facebook asks users if they think it’s ‘good for the world’
Facebook is asking users whether they think it’s “good for the world” in a poll sent to an unspecified number of people.
The latest poll appears under the heading, “We’d like to do better,” when users log in. Possible responses range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”
Facebook regularly polls users on its service. The latest comes as the company grapples with a privacy scandal and other troubles. Facebook did not immediately respond for comment
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he wants to ensure that Facebook is a force for good in the world. Whether it is hasn’t been clear amid revelations of bad actors using Facebook to influence elections, spread hatred, and pilfer user information. In January, Zuckerberg said his personal goal for 2018 is to fix Facebook.
Florida teacher who hosted white supremacist podcast resigns
A Florida middle school teacher who hosted a white supremacist podcast and shared anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content on social media has resigned.
Dayanna Volitich, a teacher at Crystal River Middle School, in the western part of the state, was removed from her classroom early last month when the Citrus County School District began investigating the podcast she hosted under a pseudonym.
The probe started after the Huffington Post reported that, using the name Tiana Dalichov, the teacher bragged about secretly injecting her beliefs into the classroom. She reportedly bashed diversity, said Muslims should be eradicated “from the face of the Earth,” and praised the work of Kevin MacDonald, a retired psychology professor who holds anti-Semitic views. MacDonald has said Jews are genetically programmed to destroy Western societies, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Mullen said on Monday that the district received Volitich’s resignation, CNN reports. The resignation is not final until the letter is accepted by the school board. Mullen says approval of the resignation will be on the agenda at the April 10 school board meeting.
US Reform leader says Netanyahu making ‘moral mistake’ on migrants
President of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs says Netanyahu is making a “moral mistake” in backtracking on the UN deal to resettle some 16,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants currently in Israel in other Western countries, while a similar number would remain in the Jewish state.
And he’s comparing it to the government’s flip-flop on the Western Wall mixed-plaza agreement, which was initially approved by the cabinet, but later dropped over pressure by the government’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.
“Sadly, not a surprise from PM who walked away from commitments in the Kotel agreement. Israel & her friends must push for PM to re-institute UN compromise,” he writes on Twitter.
Moral mistake by PM @Netanyahu to cave to political pressure & abandon humane compromise forged with @UN re: asylum seekers. Sadly, not a surprise from PM who walked away from commitments in the Kotel agreement. Israel & her friends must push for PM to re-institute UN compromise. https://t.co/RQN2BefZfw
— Rabbi Rick Jacobs (@URJPresident) April 3, 2018
Netanyahu seeks parliamentary probe into New Israel Fund
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he asked coalition chairman David Amsalem to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the activities of the New Israel Fund.
The New Israel Fund “endangers the security and future of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” the prime minister writes on Facebook.
He rips into the left-wing group for allegedly convincing Rwanda not to accept migrants deported from Israel (a claim the NIF denied as “lies” on Monday).
“The New Israel Fund is a foreign organization that receives funding from foreign governments and figures who are hostile to Israel, like the funds of George Soros,” says Netanyahu. “The overarching goal of the New Israel Fund is to erase the Jewish character of Israel and turn it into a state of all of its citizens, alongside a Palestinian nation-state free of Jews on the ’67 lines, with its capital in Jerusalem.”
He further accuses the New Israel Fund of supporting “anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian” causes, such as the Breaking the Silence and Adalah NGOs.
“I don’t know of any Western democracy, and particularly the United States, that would tolerate hostile activity funded by foreign countries, as has happened here in Israel with the New Israel Fund for decades,” he says.
Meretz leader: Netanyahu is either paranoid or an ‘inciting liar’
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg berates Netanyahu for his “demonization” of the New Israel Fund.
“If he believes what he’s saying, he’s paranoid; if he doesn’t believe [what he’s saying], he’s an inciting liar,” says Zandberg, shortly after the prime minister called for a parliamentary commission of inquiry in the NIF.
“In any event, this is a situation that raises a real fear about the welfare of the New Israel Fund and civil society organizations,” she adds.
Knesset legal advisers have in the past shot down attempts by lawmakers to open probes into NGOs.
Report lashes France’s ‘lack of ambition’ to return looted Jewish art
An internal French government report criticizes the “inefficiency and lack of ambition” of official efforts to return art looted from Jews during World War II.
The report, seen by AFP, was commissioned by the country’s last culture minister and is scathing about the “40 years of inaction” over thousands of artworks confiscated from Jews during the Nazi occupation or which they were forced to sell for less than their real value.
“The state and the national museums in particular are paying for 40 years of inaction,” says its author David Zivie, a top civil servant and heritage expert.
France has stepped up its efforts in recent years to return looted art to its rightful owners, using geneological experts to trace families.
But the report says even this was “insufficient because of the lack of coordination, management, and visibility.”
Zivie urged the government to set up a special service dedicated to returning the art, with some 2,108 objects that once belonged to Jews still in national collections.
Poll: 47% were against UN migrant deal; 34% favored it
Some 47 percent of Israelis were opposed to the United Nations deal on resettling African migrants, which would have seen some 16,000 remain in Israel, according to a poll by Channel 10.
Another 34 percent supported it, the survey says. Some 19 percent said they didn’t have an opinion.
But the respondents of the poll were also thoroughly unimpressed with Netanyahu’s flip-flopping over the agreement, with 33% describing his handling of the issue as “very bad,” 23% as “not very good, another 23% as “fair,” and just 10% describing it as “very good.” Another 11% said they didn’t know.
After migrant deal snafu, Likud still rising in polls
A Channel 10 poll shows the Likud party widening its lead, even after Netanyahu’s acceptance of a migrant deal with the UN refugee agency on Monday, which he dropped hours later and officially canceled on Tuesday.
The survey predicts the Likud would receive 32 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today, followed by Yesh Atid with just 21 seats. The Joint (Arab) List would receive 13 seats, followed by the Zionist Union with 12, the Jewish Home with 10, Kulanu and Meretz with seven seats apiece, Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism with five seats, and Shas and a new party by independent MK Orly Levy-Abekasis with four Knesset seats.
New Israel Fund denies contacts with Rwanda to block deportations
The New Israel Fund says it never held any discussions with Rwandan officials on Israeli plans to deport Eritrean and Sudanese migrants to the African country.
The New Israel Fund “had no contact with the Rwandan government,” it says in a statement.
The organization is responding to allegations by Netanyahu that the New Israel Fund successfully applied pressure on Kigali to thwart Israel’s deportation proposal.
“The prime minister tonight crossed every red line in inciting against the New Israel Fund,” it says.
TV: Netanyahu seeking fresh Knesset bill to deport migrants
Netanyahu is planning to advance legislation bypassing the High Court of Justice’s rulings to allow Israel to continue jailing African migrants and deport them from the country, Hadashot news reports.
The TV report says Netanyahu was applying pressure on his coalition partners, namely Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, to support the plan. Kahlon has in the past opposed any Knesset bills that clash with court rulings.
The prime minister told his ministers he scrapped the UN refugee agency plan in response to their objections and therefore expected them to support his new legislative bid, the report says.
Kahlon said supportive of new law to jail, deport migrants
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon reportedly favors advancing Knesset legislation that would bypass the High Court of Justice and let Israel resume jailing African migrants in holding centers and deporting them from the country.
“From my perspective, we can legislate the law tomorrow,” Kahlon is quoted by Hadashot news as saying.
The court has ruled against indefinite incarceration of the migrants and said Israel can only deport the Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to a third-party country if it is determined to be safe.
Suspected Palestinian stabber shot at West Bank gas station
A Palestinian man suspected of trying to stab someone at a West Bank gas station was shot by an armed civilian bystander this afternoon, police say.
According to police, the suspect “had an object in his hand and tried to stab a man” who was at the gas station, near the Mishur Adumim industrial area outside the Maale Adumim settlement.
An armed civilian opened fire at the suspect and “neutralized him,” the police say.
The man’s condition was not immediately known.
There were no Israeli injuries, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
— Judah Ari Gross