The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
East Jerusalem man arrested for contact with Hamas officials abroad
Police say a resident of the East Jerusalem village of a-Ram was arrested for suspected contact with members of the Hamas terrorist organization abroad.
According to the police spokesperson, the man in his 30s was detained yesterday on suspicion of contact with a foreign agent. He was to appear in court today for a remand extension hearing.
— Ilan Ben Zion
2 Haredi men arrested for blocking non-segregated Beit Shemesh bus
Two ultra-Orthodox men are arrested in Beit Shemesh for obstructing the passage of a bus that did not have separate seating for men and women.
The two were among dozens of Haredi protesters who blocked a road along which the bus was traveling. They were taken in for questioning by police when they refused to heed repeated calls to disperse, Channel 2 reports.
Man held for Hamas contacts is brother of terrorist who killed 2
The East Jerusalem resident arrested yesterday for contacts with Hamas officials abroad is the brother of Mesbah Abu Sabih, the terrorist who killed two Israelis in an October shooting attack in the capital, Channel 2 reports.
Abu Sabih was killed during a shootout with Israeli security forces in the moments after the attack.
The report says the brother received a call last night from Qatar-based Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, who congratulated him on the attack. The call came shortly after the family’s home was demolished by Israel.
Putin urges Russian nuclear weapons boost
Russian President Vladimir Putin calls for the country to reinforce its military nuclear potential and praises the army’s performance in its Syria campaign.
In a speech recapping military activities in 2016, Putin says the army’s preparedness has “considerably increased” and called for continued improvement that would ensure it can “neutralize any military threat.”
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” he says.
“We must carefully monitor any changes in the balance of power and in the political-military situation in the world, especially along Russian borders, and quickly adapt plans for neutralizing threats to our country.”
He says Russia’s military has successfully demonstrated its capabilities in Syria, showcased its technology to potential arms buyers and helped the Syrian army make considerable advances.
“The Syrian army received considerable support, thanks to which it carried out several successful operations against militants,” he says. “The effective use of Russian weapons in Syria opens new possibilities for military-technical cooperation. We must take maximum advantage of this. We know there is interest in modern Russian weapons from foreign partners.”
Erdan: UN draft on settlements is height of hypocrisy
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan lashes out over the UN draft on settlements due to be voted on this evening, calling it a new height of “hypocrisy.”
“The Egyptian proposal represents a new record in the hypocrisy of the United Nations,” Erdan says, according to the Walla news website.
“Boycotts of any kind only harm the tens of thousands of Palestinian workers who make a living in the joint [West Bank] industrial zones, as well as efforts to revive the peace process,” he says. “Those who truly support peace must reject this decision and every contemptible effort to promote a boycott against Israel via the United Nations.”
Court to Amona residents: Say you will go peacefully regardless of timeframe
The High Court of Justice rejects a declaration by residents of the Amona outpost that they will evacuate the site peacefully, saying it does not go far enough to guarantee there will be no violence when security forces do move in.
Channel 2 says the court has given the settlers until 5 p.m. to come up with a new version of the declaration, one which states there will be no opposition to the evacuation whether or not it approves a state request to extend the court’s December 25 deadline for the removal of residents.
“The statement the [Amona] residents were supposed to deliver according to our decision yesterday was meant to be an unequivocal declaration of peaceful evacuation without resistance,” the court says. “We are allowing the Amona residents to present an unequivocal statement as we requested yesterday, by 5 p.m. today.”
Meretz head: UN draft on settlements is ‘lifeline’ for peace process
The head of the left-wing Meretz party, Zehava Galon, praises the UN draft resolution on settlements, calling it a “lifeline” for peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians.
“This is a lifeline for the two-state solution,” Galon says, according to Channel 10. “The proposal presented by the Egyptians is balanced in its language.”
Trump calls for US veto of UN resolution on settlements
President-elect Donald Trump call for the US to veto an Egypt-drafted UN resolution demanding that Israel immediately halt its settlement activities in the Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem.
“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed,” the Republican says in a statement issued ahead of the vote.
“As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations,” he says.
PM to convene security cabinet on UN settlements resolution
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene his security cabinet at 5 p.m., ahead of the UN Security Council vote on a draft resolution demanding a halt to all settlement activity.
Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have called on the US to veto the resolution.
The US should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 22, 2016
Kerry told PA that US won’t veto UN settlements resolution — Israeli source
Walla quotes a senior Israeli official as saying that Secretary of State John Kerry assured the Palestinian Authority that the US will not veto a UN resolution calling for an immediate halt to all settlement construction by Israel.
The resolution, which was drafted by Egypt and also condemns all attacks on civilians as well as incitement to violence, will be voted on by the Security Council at 10 p.m. Israel time.
Amona residents to High Court: We are committed to non-violence
Amona residents tell the High Court that they are fully committed to non-violence during the evacuation of the West Bank outpost, which is built on private Palestinian land.
The fresh commitment comes after the court earlier today rejected a pledge for a peaceful evacuation, saying it did not go far enough to reassure the justices that there would be no violence whether or not the state succeeds in its bid to delay the December 25 deadline.
Court extends remand for brother of Jerusalem terrorist
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court approves a four-day extension in the remand of Taysir Abu Sabeh, who is suspected of having contact with Hamas officials abroad, and whose brother shot dead two Israelis in Jerusalem in October.
Abu Sabeh was arrested earlier today, shortly after he received a phone call from Qatar-based Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal.
IDF spokesman tapped as new head of Manpower Directorate
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approves the appointment of current IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz as the new head of the army’s Manpower Directorate.
Almoz replaces Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, who resigned after his laptop was stolen from his home earlier this month. Almoz will also be promoted to major general when he takes the post. The date for him stepping into the role has yet to be set, the IDF says.
— Ilan Ben Zion
Kerry speech on Mideast peace expected in coming hours
John Kerry is expected deliver a speech on Middle East peace in the coming hours, an Associated Press reporter says, just hours ahead of a Security Council vote on a resolution calling for Israel to halt all settlement construction.
According to AP’s Bradley Klapper, the secretary of state will speak at 11:30 a.m. EST (6:30 p.m. Israeli time).
Hearing #kerry to make long-awaited statement on Mideast peace stalemate at 1130 today
— Brad Klapper (@bklapperAP) December 22, 2016
Knesset strips immunity of Arab MK accused of giving phones to security prisoners
The Knesset plenum officially approves the removal of parliamentary immunity for Arab MK Basel Ghattas, who is under investigation for smuggling cellphones and messages to Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel.
Ghattas earlier today voluntarily agreed to give up his immunity.
Report: Egypt seeking to delay UN vote on settlements
Egypt has requested a delay in a Security Council vote condemning Israel’s settlements, Haaretz reports, citing Western diplomats.
The draft resolution, which was proposed by Egypt, was set to go to the vote at 10 p.m. Israel time.
Thousands of Hasidic Jews protest ‘desecration’ of Arad synagogue
Thousands of Gur Hasidic Jews gather in Jerusalem to protest the “desecration” of a synagogue in Arad.
Israel National News says the protest, which is the third of its kind in three days, stems from ongoing friction between the Gur community in Arad and the city’s mayor Nissan Ben Hamo, who is a member of the Yesh Atid party.
According to INN, the Gur community says Yesh Atid activists have been operating outside the synagogue on Shabbat, disturbing the worshipers inside.
The earlier protests took place in Bnei Brak on Tuesday and in Ashdod yesterday.
Report: UN settlements resolution postponed ‘potentially indefinitely’
A Western diplomatic source says a UN Security Council vote on the settlements has been postponed “potentially indefinitely,” Reuters reports.
The move comes after Egypt, which drafted the resolution, requested a delay.
U.N. vote on Israeli settlements resolution postponed "potentially indefinitely," Western diplomatic source tells Reuters
— Crispian Balmer (@crispiandjb) December 22, 2016
Kerry cancels speech on Mideast as UN settlements vote delayed
AP’s Bradley Klapper reports that John Kerry canceled his planned speech on the Middle East process after a UN Security Council vote on settlements was delayed.
The postponement came at the request of Egypt, which drafted the resolution.
Further previous, #Kerry statement will apparently be put off, dovetailing with suggestions UNSC vote has been postponed
— Brad Klapper (@bklapperAP) December 22, 2016
France to hold Mideast summit on January 15
France says it will hold its delayed summit on Middle East peace on January 15, Reuters reports.
“France is still determined to hold a conference in Paris to reaffirm the necessity of a two-state solution,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says, according to Reuters. “January 15 is the date that has been fixed and 70 countries are invited. We are not going to give up now.”
The French government will invite Israeli and Palestinian leaders to hold a separate meeting at the end of the summit, Reuters says.
Israel asked Egypt to delay UN settlements vote — report
Israel asked Egypt to delay a UN vote on settlements set for today, Reuters quotes unnamed sources as saying. The vote was postponed a short time ago at Cairo’s request.
According to the report, Israel and Egypt discussed the matter at a “high level.”
Shin Bet says it thwarted Hamas suicide attacks in Haifa, Jerusalem
The Shin Bet security service says it has broken up a Hamas cell in the West Bank that was plotting to carry out shootings and suicide attacks in Haifa, Jerusalem and other parts of Israel.
The agency didn’t specify the exact timing of the sting, carried out in conjunction with the police and IDF, saying only that it occurred in recent months.
The Shin Bet says it arrested over 20 Hamas operatives from across the West Bank, many of whom had previously spent time in Israeli prison on terrorism charges.
It says that the suspects set up a lab in Nablus between May and August 2016, producing nearly 15 pounds of TATP explosives intended for suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa and bus stations across the country.
The cell also obtained M-16 rifles for attacks on Israeli civilians, and enlisted four suicide bombers.
— Ilan Ben Zion
Boulder, Colorado makes Nablus a sister city
The local council in Boulder, Colorado, votes to make the West Bank city of Nablus its eighth international sister city.
Its 7-2 vote comes three years after a council decision against entering into a formal relationship with Nablus and years of heated debate over the issue. The council identifies Nablus as being in “Palestine.”
The Colorado Jewish Community Relations Council says in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” with the December 13 decision.
“While, on the surface, there is nothing wrong with creating a relationship with any city anywhere in the world, the fact that Nablus is inextricably linked with anti-Israel activism cannot be ignored,” the JCRC says. “Appropriately, the City Council’s approval was made with an assurance that both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia would not be tolerated in Boulder.”
US fines Israeli drugmaker Teva $519m over foreign bribes
Israeli generic drug giant Teva will pay $519 million to settle US charges of bribery of foreign officials to win business in Russia, Ukraine and Mexico, American officials announce.
The case included bribes by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries to a “high-ranking Russian government” official who used his authority to boost sales of one of its drug, resulting in more than $200 million in illicit profits for Teva and about $65 million for the Russian official, the Justice Department says.
NYPD chaplain rabbi honored for his 50 years of service
Rabbi Alvin Kass, a New York Police Department chaplain for 50 years, is promoted to three-star chief — becoming the highest-ranking chaplain ever in the department.
Kass, 80, receives the promotion in honor of his half-century with the department. He currently serves as the NYPD’s chief chaplain, leading a staff of nine clergy of different faiths and serving about 34,000 police officers.
Kass once successfully negotiated with a Jewish man who had taken a woman hostage, getting him to agree to turn over his guns in exchange for two pastrami sandwiches. On the day of his son’s bar mitzvah, Kass went to be with the family of a Jewish police officer who had been shot and killed in the line of duty.
Kass is the rabbi emeritus of the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where he served as spiritual leader for three decades.
Sources: US intended to abstain in UN vote on settlements
The United States was planning to abstain from today’s UN Security Council vote on a resolution condemning the settlements, diplomatic sources tell NBC.
And according to CNN, Kerry was planning a major address for today in which he was to lay out the reasoning and vision for such a stance, which would have marked a departure from longstanding US policy.
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) December 22, 2016
IS in Sinai: We are nearing Israel border, IAF attacking us
The Islamic State offshoot in the Sinai says it is nearing the border with Israel, and claims that the Israeli Air Force is taking part in airstrikes on its positions.
According to Channel 2, the head of the jihadist group in Sinai tells the news agency considered close to IS that despite Israel’s technological superiority, its intelligence is inadequate and its attacks ineffective.
“Israel is attacking our subsidiary in the Sinai with the weapons and technology it has, but it lacks intelligence,” says Abu Hajar al-Hashemi.
“So far, the Jews have only intervened in the war against us in Sinai with aerial attacks. We are getting closer to the border every day,” he says.
Trump: US must ‘greatly strengthen’ nuclear capability
Donald Trump calls for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” until the rest of the world “comes to its senses” regarding nuclear weapons.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
Trump makes the statement on Twitter, but does not expand on the actions he wants the US to take or on the issues he sees around the world. His comments come one day after meeting with incoming White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s transition website says he “recognizes the uniquely catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons and cyberattacks,” adding that he will modernize the nuclear arsenal “to ensure it continues to be an effective deterrent.” Beyond that, he has offered few specifics, either as a candidate or during the transition.
Passenger removed from flight after harassing Ivanka Trump, children
A passenger is removed from a JetBlue flight for harassing Ivanka Trump as she is flying with her three children.
TMZ reports that the passenger, holding his own child in his arms, starts screaming at Trump before the plane takes off from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“Your father is ruining the country,” the passenger shouts, according to TMZ. “Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private.”
TMZ, quoting another passenger on the flight, says Trump attempted to distract her children with crayons.
— Home Run Capital (@HomeRunCapNC) December 22, 2016
JetBlue says in response: “The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. If the crew determines that a customer is causing conflict on the aircraft, the customer will be asked to deplane, especially if the crew feels the situation runs the risk of escalation during flight. Our team worked to re-accommodate the party on the next available flight.”
Palestinian FM: We can’t give Netanyahu time to counter UN moves
After a UN Security Council vote on the settlements is delayed, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki says the PA must not give Netanyahu time to foil its planned moves against Israel.
The request to postpone the vote came from Egypt, which penned the resolution, reportedly at Israel’s behest. Before the delay was announced, Netanyahu also appealed to the US to use its veto should the resolution pass as expected.
“The element of surprise is vital,” Maliki tells Palestinian television, according to Channel 10. “We cannot give Netanyahu time to call nations and ask them to use their veto.”
Lapid on UN vote: All attempts to force solution on us will fail
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid praises the decision to postpone the UN vote on the settlements, saying that Israel will not allow itself to be forced into a peace agreement.
“It was the right decision to delay the scandalous debate against Israel in the Security Council,” Lapid says, according to Walla.
“The world should know that any attempt to impose a solution on the people of Israel will eventually fail,” he says. “I urge the Obama administration to veto any resolution proposal of this kind. On this matter, there is no such thing as Israeli opposition or coalition.”
Syrian army says it has retaken Aleppo
The Syrian army says it is in full control of Aleppo, shortly after the last convoy carrying rebels and civilians leaves the battered city.
“The last four buses carrying terrorists and their families arrived in Ramouseh,” a district south of Aleppo controlled by government troops, state television says, adding that the army was preparing to issue a statement declaring “victory in Aleppo.”
Arab FMs meet in Cairo on how to move ahead on UN resolution
Arab foreign ministers are meeting in Cairo to discuss how to progress with the delayed UN resolution on the settlements. The vote was delayed at the request of Egypt, which also drafted the proposal.
The ministers convene after their UN ambassadors in New York decide to refer the issue back for consultations.
The ministers may decide to push for a vote later tonight, which is unlikely, or even tomorrow, which is more of a viable option.
The Obama administration has also not yet instructed its mission the UN on how to vote on the resolution, despite reports that it was going to abstain and not use its veto.
— Raphael Ahren
Israel’s UN envoy: We will keep working to thwart settlements vote
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon says Israel will keep working to ensure that the delayed vote on a resolution condemning its settlements is not passed by the Security Council.
“The delay of the vote is an important step,” Danon says. “However we realize that this issue is not yet resolved. We are continuing with our diplomatic efforts on all fronts to ensure that this disgraceful resolution does not pass the Security Council.”
— Raphael Ahren
High Court approves 45-day delay on Amona evacuation
The High Court approves a request from the state to delay the evacuation of the Amona outpost in the West Bank by 45 days.
An order to demolish the structures on the Palestinian-owned land will be implemented by February 8, the court says, according to the Ynet news website.
“This is the final extension, even if an alternative solution [to rehouse the Amona residents] is not found,” the court warns.
The decision comes after the High Court accepts a renewed pledge by Amona’s residents to peacefully evacuate the outpost, even if the state does not meet its commitments regarding the time frame, Channel 2 says.
Ghattas arrested for smuggling items to security prisoners
Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas is arrested over allegations that he smuggled cell phones and SIM cards to Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel.
The arrest comes at the end of a second round of police questioning under caution and hours after the lifting of his parliamentary immunity.
Police are also concerned that Ghattas could flee the country, Haaretz reports.
Today’s interrogation was attended by senior officials from the State Prosecution, who are required to approve such steps as his arrest and searches of his home and office, Haaretz says.
The police spokeswoman says Ghattas will appear at Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court early tomorrow morning for a remand hearing.
— Ilan Ben Zion
Trump taps Conway for West Wing role, RNC spokesman as press secretary
President-elect Donald Trump names close adviser Kellyanne Conway as his White House counselor, elevating the woman who led his campaign to victory to a senior West Wing position.
Trump also announces his senior White House communications staff, including naming former Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer as press secretary.
Conway, who took over as campaign manager in the summer, has been one of Trump’s most visible advisers, making frequent television appearances on his behalf.
“She is a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda and has amazing insights on how to effectively communicate our message,” Trump says in a statement announcing the position.
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