The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Hamas marks 30th anniversary at low point of Gaza rule
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Many thousands of Palestinians gather in Gaza City to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, the terror group that dominates the territory.
Buses bring in men, women and children brandishing Hamas’s green flags or sporting green scarves to the al-Katiba Square for the rally.
The anniversary comes at a low point for Hamas. A decade after seizing Gaza by force, it has been compelled to seek reconciliation with its Fatah rival, led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
Hamas blames an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade — imposed to prevent the import of weapons — as well as lack of support from Arab and Islamic nations and Abbas’s alleged attempts to undermine the group for the hardships in Gaza. This includes 43 percent unemployment and crippling blackouts.
Implementation of an Egyptian-brokered Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal has been slow.
Bannon, undeterred, under siege from GOP after Alabama loss
NEW YORK — Former White House strategist Steve Bannon is catching blame from fellow Republicans for coughing up a safe Senate seat in deep-red Alabama and foisting damaging political advice on US President Donald Trump. But in the aftermath of this week’s stinging Alabama defeat, Bannon is showing no signs of abandoning his guerrilla war against the GOP establishment.
Bannon wholeheartedly backed Roy Moore, the insurgent conservative who faltered in Tuesday’s special election amid allegations that he had preyed on underage girls decades ago. The accusations prompted the national party to withdraw support for its nominee for a while, but Bannon stuck with Moore, headlining rallies for the candidate and convincing Trump to extend a full-throated endorsement.
But when Moore lost on Tuesday, handing the Democrats control of their first Senate seat in Alabama in a generation, Republicans turned on Bannon. The Breitbart News head already had made scores of enemies for declaring a siege on his own party.
“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” said Steven Law, head of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC for Republicans aligned with GOP leadership. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the president of the United States into his fiasco.”
Bannon’s team vowed that its revolution would continue, insisting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should be the one to take the blame.
Putin praises Trump’s ‘significant achievements’
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says his American counterpart Donald Trump had made “significant achievements” as US leader, rejecting claims that Moscow meddled in the election that brought the American president to power.
Putin speaks in a wide-ranging annual press conference that also touches on Olympic doping and Arctic exploration.
The marathon event, which has in the past lasted up to almost five hours and this year saw more than 1,600 journalists accredited, was Putin’s first major public appearance since announcing he would seek a new six-year term in March 2018 elections.
“We can see several quite significant achievements in the short time he has been at work,” Putin says when asked to assess Trump’s time in power.
“Look at how the markets are reacting, they are growing. This shows confidence in the American economy. With all due respect to (Trump’s) opponents, these are objective facts,” he says.
But he says that accusations Moscow had interfered in last year’s US presidential election to swing the result had been “made up” by US opposition to discredit Trump’s work in the White House.
Hamas chief: We will force America to recant Jerusalem recognition
At Hamas’s 30th anniversary rally in Gaza, the group’s top political leader Ismail Haniyeh vows to reverse US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“We will work on forcing the American administration to reverse its unjust decision,” he says at the rally. “Our goal is to break the American position. We will bring down the Trump decision once and for all.”
— Dov Lieber
German president condemns anti-Israel protests in phone call with Rivlin
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier phones Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin to express his dismay over recent anti-Semitic demonstrations in Berlin that followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“President Steinmeier told the President that such acts of hatred and racism had no place in Germany, and condemned them outright,” according to a statement released from Rivlin’s office. “He explained to the President the ongoing activity by the German authorities and security forces to combat racism, and prosecute the perpetrators,” the statement continues.
The condemnation follows a statement from German government spokesman Steffen Seibert, who said his country was “ashamed” of demonstrations against the US decision.
“At certain rallies over the weekend, slogans were chanted, Israeli flags were burned and slander against the state of Israel and Jews in general were spread which were shameful,” Seibert said.
At a protest last Friday in front of the US embassy in the German capital and this past Sunday in the ethnically diverse Neukoelln district of Berlin, demonstrators burned the Israeli flag and witnesses heard shouts of “Death to the Jews” in Arabic and German.
Israeli man reportedly killed daughter, then himself in Texas
An Israeli man living in the US apparently shot dead his nine-year-old daughter and then fatally shot himself at his home southwest Travis County, Texas.
The murder-suicide was discovered by deputies on Monday when they visited the home after being alerted to the danger by members of the man’s family, the Hebrew media Walla news website reports.
The man’s father, who lives in central Israel, said that his son had sent an email to family telling them of his intention.
“The family alerted police, but to our great regret it was already too late,” the father said and added that he only heard about the tragic end when he received inquiries from media.
The man, 42, who was not named in Israeli media, was reportedly going through a divorce and involved in a custody battle over his daughter. The next hearing in the case was scheduled for January. His wife was in Israel at the time of the shooting and seeking to arrange funds to bring her daughter back to the country, Hadashot news reported.
Hamas chief urges ‘days of rage’ until Trump reverses Jerusalem recognition
Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh calls for every Friday henceforth to be declared “days of rage” over Jerusalem in all Arab and Islamic lands until US President Donald Trump reverses his decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Haniyeh is speaking at a rally in Gaza City marking 30 years to the terror group’s founding.
— Dov Lieber
Lebanese foreign minister proposes establishing an embassy in East Jerusalem
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil urges his government to establish an embassy to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
In a tweet, Bassil says he spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about “establishing an Embassy in Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine,” and said the two governments discussed exchanging territory to provide for the establishment of embassies.
Abbas “promised to act quickly to provide property for Lebanon in East Jerusalem,” Bassil says.
National Jewish museum opens in Italy
FERRARA, ITALY – Italy gets a Hanukkah present – the opening of a national Jewish museum.
The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah, MEIS, opened Wednesday with an inaugural temporary exhibit called “Jews, an Italian Story: The First Thousand Years” that illustrates the history of Jewish presence in Italy from ancient Roman times until the Middle Ages.
The exhibit, which will run until September 16, 2018, is the first step in a multi-year program of exhibits and events that will culminate in the final form of the museum and its permanent core exhibit, expected in late 2020.
MEIS is located in a complex of buildings that once housed a prison in Ferrara, a historic town in northeast Italy between Venice and Bologna that has a Jewish history dating back to early medieval times.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella and other dignitaries attended the formal inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, including Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, who is from Ferrara and has been a longtime supporter of the project.
Uruguay summons Israeli envoy over tweet about Jerusalem
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — The government of Uruguay slams Israel’s ambassador for using social media to criticize a statement by the country’s chancellor that called Tel Aviv the capital of the Jewish state.
“Surprised and disappointed to hear the chancellor declaring that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel. Capaz Salto is the capital of Uruguay? Israel has a capital, Jerusalem, for 70 years. The Knesset, the ministries, the residence of the Prime Minister and the President, the Supreme Court, are there,” Nina Ben-Ami tweeted in Spanish in her personal account on December 7.
Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay.
The ambassador was summoned to Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters “in order to provide explanations on her comments,” the ministry announced. Ben-Ami was urged “to maintain government exchanges through the corresponding official channels,” reported the Aurora news website.
The Uruguayan position was related to Ben-Ami “within the framework of the traditional relationship of friendship and cooperation that unites” both countries, the ministry’s statement reads.
Ben-Ami also posted her comment on her personal account on Facebook, where she added more information.
“Exactly one year ago, during this same week, the [Uruguyan] chancellor was in Israel on an official visit. He had meetings in Jerusalem with the prime minister in his office, and in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, with minister Michael Oren. For promoting peace, we must not kill the truth. When the Palestinians start to see the reality of Israel, as a neighbor and not as something artificial that can disappear, the possibility of building real peace will be even stronger,” she wrote in the post.
Gaza eatery offers discounts to North Koreans but no takers
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A Gaza eatery is offering massive discounts to North Korean diners, but there is just one problem — there are no North Koreans in Gaza.
Ibrahim Raba, manager of a shawarma restaurant in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, says he is offering the 80 percent discounts to show his appreciation for North Korea’s rejection of US President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
He has also placed a large photo of reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the glass door entrance to his restaurant.
A new Kim fan, Raba likes to quote the North Korean leader, saying: “Trump proved he is mentally deranged.”
And though Raba knows there are no North Koreans in Gaza, he hopes they will come someday, perhaps after joining other foreign aid workers.
High Court says Israel can’t hold on to terrorists’ bodies for hostage exchange
Israel cannot hold on to the dead bodies of terrorists as negotiating chips for the release of Israeli hostages and the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza., the High Court of Justice rules today.
The justices say the state has two choices: either legislate a new law giving the government that power, or return the bodies to their families.
Thursday’s decision gives the state six months to do either one.
Immediately after the ruling is announced, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz calls for legislation allowing the state to hold bodies of operatives of terror groups holding Israeli hostages.
“We owe this to the families of the fallen and to the soldiers of the IDF,” Katz says.
Anti-Semitism rampant among Muslim refugees in Germany, study finds
BERLIN — Anti-Semitism among Muslim refugees is rampant and requires urgent attention, a new study suggests.
But the study commissioned by the American Jewish Committee’s Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin also suggests that refugees from persecuted minority communities are more likely to take a stand against anti-Semitism and for Israel.
Titled “Attitudes of refugees from Syria and Iraq towards integration, identity, Jews and the Shoah,” the research report was prepared by historian and sociologist Günther Jikeli of Indiana University and the University of Potsdam, Germany, with help from Lars Breuer and Matthias Becker.
The report, based on interviews with 68 refugees, comes amid a series of virulent anti-Israel and anti-America demonstrations in the German capital denouncing the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Thousands of protesters burned homemade Israeli flags and crowded city subway stations chanting anti-Israel and anti-American slogans on their way to rallies. The numbers of refugees among the demonstrators is unknown.
At the same time, in a show of solidarity with Jewish communities in Germany, local imams joined with Christian and Jewish leaders in public celebrations of Hanukkah, including the annual candle-lighting ceremony at the Brandenburg Gate, where Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal of Berlin was joined in a cherry picker by Mayor Michael Mueller. Security has been tightened throughout Germany and at Jewish venues.
The tensions run deep, the new study indicates. Anti-Semitic attitudes and rejection of Israel are widespread among the newcomers, the head of the Ramer Institute, Deidre Berger, said in a statement.
Goldin family: Put pressure on Hamas for Hadar’s return
The family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, who died in fighting in Gaza in 2014 and whose body is still held by Hamas, blasts the government for failing to take strident action against Hamas for the return of the his body and that of fellow soldier Oron Shaul.
“We have felt for many long months now that the January cabinet decision calling for pressure to be put on Hamas was hollow and declarative only,” the family is quoted as saying in Hebrew media outlets. “The High Court decision will only increase the pressure on [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and cabinet ministers to get up out of their seats, roll up their sleeves and start to work for the return of Hadar and Oron to Israel.”
The statement follows a High Court decision earlier this evening that gives the state six months to either return the bodies of fallen terrorists or pass new laws permitting it to hold the bodies as bargaining chips.
The family “is sick of talk and empty decisions. The time has come for deeds, for effective pressure.”
Defense minister starts drafting legislation to hold terrorists’ bodies
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman orders work to begin “without delay” on new legislation that will allow the State of Israel to hold the bodies of terrorists “for the purposes of negotiations to secure the release of prisoners and missing [soldiers],” his office says in a statement.
Schedule released for Pence trip to Israel, Egypt
US Vice President Mike Pence’s office releases the schedule of his trip to Israel and Egypt next week. Here it is in full.
Tuesday, December 19:
Travel: Washington, DC to Egypt
Wednesday, December 20:
• Bilateral Meeting with the President of Egypt
Travel: Egypt to Israel
• Visit to the Western Wall
Thursday, December 21:
• Bilateral Meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel
• Formal Remarks at the Knesset
• Dinner with the Prime Minister of Israel
Friday, December 22:
• Bilateral Meeting with the President of Israel
• Visit to Yad Vashem- The World Holocaust Remembrance Center
Travel: Israel to Germany
Saturday, December 23:
• Visit with US service members at Ramstein Air Force Base
Travel: Germany to Washington, DC
Lebanon approves first offshore oil and gas exploration
BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanon approves a first bid from an international consortium including France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek to explore for oil and gas off the country’s Mediterranean coast.
The group is the only one to respond to a call for bids by the authorities in Beirut, with Lebanon’s attempts to begin offshore energy exploration in recent years hampered by political instability.
The government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri has made finding progress on the oil and gas prospects a priority since its formation in 2016 as Lebanon looks to tap potential reserves after major offshore gas discoveries by neighboring Israel and Cyprus.
The successful bid from the consortium covers only two of five blocks that were offered by the Lebanese government.
Khalil says the next step would be for the government to sign an official agreement with the group and that explorations would not start before the beginning of 2019.
The country is wracked by severe energy and electricity shortages due to the woeful state of its infrastructure and widespread corruption.
US envoy Haley unveils missile parts, says proof Iran arming Houthis
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the United Nations says “undeniable” evidence proves Iran is violating international law by funneling missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is unveiling recently declassified evidence including segments of missiles launched at Saudi Arabia from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. She’s displaying the missile parts in a hanger at a military base in Washington.
Haley says the missile parts bear markings showing they originate in Iran and that they have technical specifications that are specific to Iranian-manufactured weapons.
Haley says it proves “blatant violations” of UN Security Council resolutions while the international community was “looking the other way” because of the nuclear deal. She says the US will now rally other nations to push back on Iran’s behavior.
PM: Ministers to meet Sunday to find ways to ‘maintain the pressure on Hamas’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says calls the High Court decision on terrorists’ bodies “problematic.”
In a statement carried in a Twitter post, Netanyahu promises to “convene cabinet ministers and the attorney general on Sunday for a special discussion to find practical and legal solutions in order to maintain the pressure on Hamas.”
Iran says US evidence on Yemen missiles is ‘fabricated’
Iran dismisses evidence presented by US Ambassador Nikki Haley that it had supplied Yemen’s rebels with a missile fired at Saudi Arabia as “fabricated,” saying the accusations are baseless.
“This purported evidence, put on public display today, is as much fabricated as the one presented on some other occasions earlier,” says Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations.
Haley told a news conference in Washington that a missile fired on November 4 by the Houthi rebels that was intercepted near Riyadh airport was Iranian-made.
Iran “categorically” rejects the accusation “as unfounded and, at the same time, irresponsible, provocative and destructive,” Miryousefi says in a statement.
“The US government has an agenda and is constantly at work to deceive the public into believing the cases they put together to advance it,” he adds.
The Iranian mission says the accusations leveled by Haley were intended to divert attention from the devastating war in Yemen being led by Saudi Arabia, a key US ally.
US regulator orders rollback of ‘net neutrality’ rules
WASHINGTON – US regulators vote to roll back so-called “net neutrality” rules that require internet providers to treat all traffic equally, amid an acrimonious debate over how it impacts online freedom.
The Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, adopts a proposal by Republican appointed chairman Ajit Pai, who says his plan would end “heavy-handed” rules which discourage investment and innovation.
Democratic member Mignon Clyburn, one of the two dissenters, says the agency “is handing the keys to the internet” to “a handful of multibillion dollar corporations.”
The vote follows a heated partisan debate and is just the latest in a battle over more than a decade on rules governing internet service providers in the courts and the FCC.
Net neutrality activists have staged a series of protests in cities around the US and online, amid fears that dominant broadband providers could change how the internet works by favoring its own services and hindering those of rivals. Pai said ahead of the vote that his plan would restore “light-touch” rules which allowed the internet to flourish, and promote investments to enable new and emerging services.
Major US internet providers hail ‘net neutrality’ rollback
AT&T and other big internet service providers are applauding the Federal Communications Commission for unraveling sweeping net-neutrality rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet.
The FCC voted 3-2 on Thursday to overturn Obama-era rules that had been designed to prevent providers such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter from favoring some sites and apps over others.
AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn says in a blog post Thursday that “the internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.” Quinn says the company won’t block websites and it won’t throttle or degrade online traffic based on content.
The providers have argued that the overhaul will allow them to invest more money in broadband infrastructure over time, though it’s not clear how their claims will be measured.