Senior Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said Tuesday he would boycott Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next month, hours after Netanyahu tweeted his intention to go ahead with the speech.
The US confirmed that aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was held hostage by Islamic State, was killed in a Jordanian airstrike against the terror group.
A new Knesset Channel poll found Moshe Kahlon to be Israelis’ favored candidate for the Finance portfolio, winning the trust of 23% of Israelis vs. 20% for the Zionist Union’s man, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg.
The Times of Israel followed events as they occurred.
Metzger’s bribes said to total NIS 10 million
Former chief rabbi Yona Metzger is alleged to have accepted bribes totaling NIS 10 million ($2.5 million) in bribes, of which he allegedly put NIS 7 million in his pocket.
Metzger is suspected of abusing his position and connections and to have committed his offenses while he served as chief rabbi.
A-G to recommend against banning Zoabi, Marzel
Attorney General Weinstein is expected to oppose disqualifying MK Hanin Zoabi as well as extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel from running in the coming election, Channel 2 news reports.
The Central Election Committee will discuss whether to disqualify the two candidates on Thursday. But Weinstein is expected to send the committee his own opinion on the matter before deliberations begin.
Likud nd other right wing parties support a disqualification of Zoabui, while the Zionist Camp led by Isaac Herzog said it will follow any decision the committee might come by.
4 Qaeda suspects dead in Yemen drone strike
Four suspected Al-Qaeda fighters were killed in a drone strike in Hadramawt province in southeastern Yemen, a military source says.
He says the drone, which only the United States operates in the region, targeted “a gathering of Al-Qaeda fighters” between the village of Qatan and the town of Shibam, killing four and wounding several others.
It was the fourth drone strike since US President Barack Obama vowed on January 25 not to let up in Washington’s campaign against jihadists in Yemen despite the country’s political turmoil.
Aharonovitch slams Shaked’s designs on ministry
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu) criticizes Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked and her boss Naftali Bennett after the Jewish Home party announced it wants Shaked to serve as public security minister in the next government.
During a visit to families of the women who died in a Negev bus crash last week, Aharonovitch also slammed recent comments of Bennett’s that some analysts interpreted as a claim that crime and car theft are more rampant in the Arab sector.
“This was a very unfortunate statement by Bennett, with a populist bent,” Aharonovitch was quoted by the Kikar Hashabat news website as saying.
Aharonovitch also said “police will continue to give precedence to the [Arab] sector. Those who think there will not be thieves or burglars don’t know what they are talking about. Just as there are Arab… there are Jewish burglars and you cannot brand one area or one segment of the population. It’s not right.”
UAE resumes airstrikes against IS jihadists
The United Arab Emirates resumes airstrikes against the Islamic State group which it had suspended after the jihadists captured a Jordanian pilot in December, the military says.
“Aircraft of the F-16 squadron based in Jordan launched raids this morning against positions of the Daesh (IS) terrorist organization, hitting their targets and returning safely to base,” the UAE armed forces command says.
The fighter squadron deployed to Jordan on Sunday to boost the kingdom’s fight against IS after the jihadists brutally murdered the captured pilot.
Obama to request new war powers
US President Barack Obama is expected — as early as today — to ask Congress for new war powers, sending Capitol Hill his blueprint for an updated authorization for the use of military force to fight the Islamic State group.
Haggling then begins on writing a new authorization to battle the Sunni extremists, and will lead to the first war vote in Congress in 13 years — one of the most important votes faced by members of the House and Senate.
To get Congress to approve his request, Obama must find a balance between lawmakers who want wide authority to fight IS and others, including members of his own party, who worry that a new authorization to use military force will lead to US entanglement in another protracted war.
Amos Oz waits for day when PM labeled ‘traitor’
Israeli author Amos Oz says that “on the day they call Prime Minister Netanyahu a ‘traitor’ I will know something is finally moving around here.”
Speaking at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem, the writer says many leaders who changed history for the better were called “traitors”: the biblical prophet Jeremiah, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.
Oz also criticizes the left. Regarding his book, The Gospel According to Judas, Oz was asked whether Christian anti-Semitism could be presented if the term “Jews” was not so closely related to the name “Judas.” The author replies: “It would be like hoping that if we call ourselves the Zionist Camp instead of Labor, people will like us.”
Police seize painting attributed to da Vinci
A painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci of “inestimable value” was seized in Switzerland following a police of Italian police.
The financial brigade of Pesaro and the special force on theft of artworks, Ancona division, announce having retrieved the painting, a Portrait of Isabella d’Este measuring 61 cm by 46.5 cm.
The painting was stored in a safe of a bank in Lugano, near the Italian border, and was “exported in a clandestine manner,” according to the statement.
Investigators succeeded in locating the painting after an Italian lawyer tried to sell the painting for a sum “not lower than 95 million euros,” the statement by Pesaro police said.
The painting is similar to a verified Leonardo drawing of Isabella d’Este and corresponds to his style in many respects. It is not however universally acknowledged as coming from the hand of the master and may have been drawn by an apprentice copying from the drawing.
AFP contributed to this report.
Couple on trial over 271 ‘stolen’ Picassos
A former electrician and his wife who kept 271 works of art by Picasso in their garage for close to 40 years go on trial in France, accused of possessing stolen goods.
Pierre le Guennec, now in his 70s and retired, says the world-famous artist and his wife Jacqueline gave him the oil canvases, drawings and Cubist collages when he was doing work on the last property they lived in before Picasso died in 1973.
But some of the artist’s heirs, including his son Claude, suspect otherwise and filed a complaint against the couple, who were charged in 2011.
The trial in the southeastern city of Grasse, which is likely to be closely scrutinized by the art world, is expected to last three days.
‘Fierce battles near Quneitra in Syrian Golan’
The al Miadin TV network reports fierce battles on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights near Quneitra, between the Syrian military and rebel forces.
According to the report the battles are centered around Deir al Ades, north of Quneitra.
No Jews on German anti-Semitism panel
Leading Jewish groups slam the German government for creating a new commission on anti-Semitism without including a single Jew.
Julius Schoeps from the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies on Tuesday calls it “a unique scandal” that the Interior Ministry did not include any Jewish scientists or community leaders on the commission it created to fight anti-Semitism and support Jewish life in Germany.
Anetta Kahane from the Amadeu Antonio Foundation against anti-Semitism says: “Nobody would even think of creating a conference on hatred of Islam without Muslims or a round table on the discrimination of women without women.”
They announce the creation of an alternative commission that will stress the Jewish perspective.
Germany’s Interior Ministry had no immediate comment on the criticism.
Kahlon favored for Finance Ministry in new poll
Moshe Kahlon is the favored candidate for finance minister according to a new Knesset Channel election poll, winning the trust of 23% of those surveyed. Labor’s Manuel Trajtenberg wins 20% and Yair Lapid, the minister vacating the position, gets a mere 10% of support. Likud’s Yisrael Katz trails behind even Lapid with 7%.
The survey gives Likud and Zionist camp 23 Knesset seats each. The poll gives both parties fewer seats than a poll conducted for the channel last week.
Jewish Home wins 12 seats, one fewer than last week, while Yesh Atid grows from 11 to 12 seats. The Joint Arab List remains stable with 12 seats, like United Torah Judaism which wins 7 as it did in the last poll. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu wins 9 seats, one more than last week.
Meretz, Yisrael Beytenu and Yahad, Eli Yishai’s party each win 5 seats.
The respondents believe Prime Minister Netanyahu should cancel his speech to Congress next month. 43% say Netanyahu should cancel and only 38% say he should go through with the speech, while another 19% are not sure.
The poll, conducted by Panels Politics, surveyed 690 respondents.
FM slams Zionist Camp over Zoabi zigzag
Yisrael Beyetenu chairman Avigdor Liberman continues on a trajectory indicating he wants no part of a left-leaning coalition. “It is not enough to label yourself ‘The Zionist Camp’ – a true Zionist does not give in to threats by the Arabs,” Liberman wrote on his Facebook page.
He was responding to the decision by Zionist Camp leaders to avoid demanding that the Central Election Committee disqualify Hanin Zoabi from running and the election. The Zionist Camp announced that instead the party would not take sides and would follow any decision that comes from the committee’s deliberations, expected to begin Thursday.
The Zionist Camp initially supported disqualifying Zoabi, but the party leaders changed their mind, reportedly following threats from Arab MKs who said they would not recommend to President Reuven Rivlin to appoint Isaac Herzog to build the next coalition. Additionally, some of the more left-leaning members of Labor called on the party leaders to avoid taking a clear stand on the right wing’s efforts to have Zoabi disqualified.
‘World must seize chance for deal’ – Rouhani
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says that world powers must “seize the opportunity” for a landmark nuclear deal, insisting Tehran had taken the “necessary steps” for an accord.
Rouhani’s remarks appeared to be a response to US President Barack Obama, who on Monday said: “The issues now are — does Iran have the political will and the desire to get a deal done?”
Speaking in Tehran, Rouhani said that although gaps remain between Iran and the P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany — it was up to them to close a deal.
“Right now good progress has been made although we are some distance away from the final agreement,” he says during a meeting with India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval.
Bird flu found in Kfar Vitkin turkey farm
Bird flu was discovered in a turkey farm in Kfar Vitkin, the Agriculture Ministry announces.
18,000 birds will be killed due to the outbreak, and farms in the area will be closely monitored by the ministry. The ministry says the most immediate factor that could disseminate the virus is the entry and exit of employees carrying the virus on their clothing from one farm to another.
Netanyahu ‘determined’ to address Congress
Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday he was “determined to go to Washington” but did not elaborate, leaving himself some wiggle room” going to DC but not addressing Congress, addressing Congress without access to the media, or other scenarios. He was speaking in Hebrew at a Likud campaign launch targeted at Russian-speaking voters.
But today Netanyahu clarifies his position:
I'm determined to speak before Congress to stop Iran. RETWEET if I have your support. pic.twitter.com/5qTb89xf2i
— בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 10, 2015
Wikipedia founder chosen for Dan David prize
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is one of the the International Dan David Prize laureates for 2015.
The prize committee awards three prizes, each of $1 million, to six world renowned laureates, in the categories of “past,” “present” and “future.”
In the “past” category, Prof. Peter R. Brown and Prof. Alessandro Portelli were chosen to jointly receive the prize. In the “present” category is Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. In the “future” category Dr. Cyrus Chothia, Prof. David Haussler and Prof. Michael S. Waterman were chosen to share the prize.
The laureates, who donate 10% of their prize money towards 20 doctoral and postdoctoral scholarships, will be honored at a ceremony on May 17, 2015, at Tel Aviv University.
Obama confirms female American hostage killed by IS
US President Barack Obama confirms the death of Kayla Jean Mueller, who had been held by the Islamic State in Syria.
“No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death,” Obama says in a statement.
"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I convey our deepest condolences to Kayla’s family" —President Obama pic.twitter.com/2R2G8ykGDg
— WH National Security (@NSCPress) February 10, 2015
Family of Kayla Mueller ‘heartbroken’
The family of Islamic State hostage Kayla Mueller is “heartbroken” over the news that their daughter is dead.
Mueller was killed in a Jordanian airstrike that the Royal Jordanian Air Force carried out in retaliation for their fallen pilot, Muaz Kasasbeh, who was burned alive two weeks ago.
Read the full story here.
Police find another person’s DNA at Nisman home
Forensics experts found new DNA traces at the house of Argentinean investigator Alberto Nisman, who was found dead last month just a day before he was expected to present his new findings on the mid-1990s AMIA Jewish center terror attack, Reuters reports.
Argentinean police emphasized that the new DNA traces do not match with Nisman’s and come from another person.
Newsweek Twitter feed seems hijacked by pro-IS hacker
Newsweek’s Twitter feed appeared to be hijacked Tuesday by hackers who display messages supporting the Islamic State group.
The feed shows images similar to those from the hacking of the social media feed of the US Central Command last month.
The account shows a picture of a hooded figure and the words “Cyber Caliphate” along with the message “Je Suis IS,” a response to the “Je Suis Charlie” messages following the deadly attacks at French weekly Charlie Hebdo.
Newsweek, a publication now owned by IBT Media, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mueller family was contacted by IS captors
The Islamic State captors of Kayla Mueller contacted her family over the weekend with information and after confirmation by the intelligence community, the family knew she was dead, Reuters reports.
“Over the weekend, the family received a private message from Kayla’s ISIL captors containing additional information,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Once this information was authenticated by the intelligence community, they concluded that Kayla was deceased,” Meehan said.
US closes Yemen embassy over security threats
The US announces it will close its embassy in Yemen for an unknown period of time, due to security threats.
According to a report by news agency Reuters, embassy employees said that Washington officials were considering asking the Turkey or Algeria embassies to take of American interests in the region.
Russia to help Egypt build first nuclear plant
Russian President Vladimir Putin wraps up a visit aimed at boosting ties with Egypt on Tuesday with Cairo and Moscow agreeing to build the Arab country’s first nuclear power plant.
Putin’s two-day visit comes with Moscow seeking to strengthen relations with the most populous Arab country at a time when Cairo’s alliance with Washington has frayed.
Read the full story here.
2 Israelis allegedly hacked to Romanian banks
A Romanian court hears an indictment against a group of hackers alleged to have carried out cyber-attacks against banks in the country, Ynet reports.
Two Israelis are among the members of the group. They were caught during a raid by security forces.
Senior senator says he’ll boycott PM’s speech
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy announced he would boycott Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress next month, joining a growing list of US lawmakers who have vowed not to attended.
Leahy, a powerful figure and the Senate’s most senior lawmaker, called the Republican invitation “a tawdry and high-handed stunt that has embarrassed not only Israel but the Congress itself.”
Read the full story here.
130 treated for weather-related breathing issues
Magen David Adom paramedics treated more than 130 people who suffered from breathing problems brought on by sandstorms that swept Israel.
MDA recommends that people avoid physical activities in the open and remain inside closed spaces as much as they can until the air clears up. Paramedics are also preparing to treat people in the north ahead of an expected minor snowstorm there.
Abbas vouches to work for peace with Israel
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will work to revive peace talks with Israel but skirted questions on how to end the conflict or tackle violence by the Islamic terror group Hamas.
Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has been on hold since the last round of US-brokered talks collapsed a year ago, partly hampered by the gaps between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinian elections are long overdue, strained by the geographic and political split between Abbas and Hamas. In a jab at Hamas, Abbas said Tuesday that Palestinians must be able to decide “who should lead them and if they accept violence or not.”
Abbas was speaking in Stockholm, three months after Sweden became the first European Union member to recognize Palestinian statehood. He thanked Sweden for the gesture.
Strapping young lads – of Palestine
Palestinian men are seen take part in a training session for the presidential guard unit in the West Bank city of Jericho.
Channel 2 calls for televised election debate
Channel 2 issues a public call to heads of Israeli parties to take part in a televised debate. Televised debates are not a usual part of the Israeli pre-election landscape, as they are in the US.
The TV station sent a Whatsapp message to heads of the eleven major parties, with the text:
“Just before the citizens of Israel are going to cast votes in ballots and determine the fate of the country, we believe that as is customary in other world democracies, a sincere and meaningful discussion should be held and a public debate should be its peak. In such a debate the main issues on the minds of Israelis can be discussed.
Channel 2 will hold the debate even if not all party heads confirm their attendance, even though we hope they will all be present.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Meretz head Zahava Gal-On,Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog confirmed that they will take part.
The call issued by the TV station comes about a week after Zionist camp leader Isaac Herzog posted a video online where he called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to ‘take him on’ in a debate.
Swedish PM tells Abbas – With recognition come higher expectations
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven underlined to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that aid to Palestine, as Sweden calls the PA after recognizing the entity as a state, is not unconditional.
“According to our view, Palestine is from now on a state. Therefore our expectations from Palestine and its leaders are going to grow,” Löfven said during a press conference with Abbas.
Löfven announced Krona 1.5 billion (c. $180 million) in increased aid to the Palestinians, to be given in installments until 2019 and which will be dedicated to fighting corruption, advancing human rights and gender equality.
The Swedish recognition infuriated Israel to the extent that it recalled its ambassador temporarily in a sign of protest.
Löfven Asked Israel and the Palestinians to be “constructive,” saying there should be no contradiction between having good relations with Israel and with the Palestinians.
Eli Yishai, Moshe Kahlon join Channel 2 debate
Eli Yishai and Moshe Kahlon confirm that they will take part in a televised debate initiated by Channel 2.
They join Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Meretz head Zahava Gal-On,Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog, who earlier confirmed that they will participate.
Channel 2 is still waiting for the responses of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Shas leader Aryeh Deri, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and United Torah Judaism head Ya’acov Litzman.
Herzog said he would only take part in a one-on-one debate facing off Netanyahu.
Channel 2 says it will be willing to hold a second debate with just Herzog and Netanyahu.
First embassy of ‘Palestine’ to open in Sweden
The first-ever Palestinian embassy in Western Europe is set to open in Sweden, Russia Today reports, quoting the Swedish prime minister’s press service. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in Stockholm for the event.
Germany warns against ‘sabotaging’ Minsk summit
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warns all sides in the Ukraine conflict against acts of “sabotage,” speaking on the eve of a planned Ukraine peace summit in Minsk.
“It wouldn’t be the first time that an act of political sabotage, a targeted strike, destroys all hopes of a ceasefire,” he said.
“That’s why I hope that no party to the fighting pushes things to the point where an explosion of violence calls Minsk into question.”
Intense fighting in Ukraine, including a rocket strike on Kiev’s military headquarters in the east, killed scores of people Tuesday on the eve of the scheduled four-way peace summit.
Polish survivor Roman Frister dies at 87
Roman Frister, a Holocaust survivor who was a former editor of Haaretz, has died.
Frister, a dual Polish and Israeli citizen, died Monday in Poland. He was 87.
Frister survived the Auschwitz and Mauthausen concentration camps.
He was born in 1928 in Bielsko, Poland, but fled with his parents after the outbreak of World War II to Krakow, where his mother was killed. His father died in a concentration camp in Starachowice.
Frister returned to Poland in 1947 and settled in Wroclaw. Ten years later he moved to Israel, where he worked for the Hebrew daily newspaper Haaretz, serving as editor of the weekend edition. He worked also for Radio Free Europe and the Polish section of the BBC.
He was honored by Poland with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit.
Frister will be buried on Wednesday in Warsaw.
‘It’s US vs Iran in nuclear talk showdown’
Five of the six world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program have stepped back, leaving Washington to hammer out a deal with Tehran, a key US lawmaker says.
“It’s evident that these negotiations are really not P5+1 negotiations any more,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said as he emerged from a closed-door briefing by Obama administration officials on the status of nuclear talks with Iran.
“It’s really more of a bilateral negotiation between the United States and Iran.”
The five permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany have undertaken years-long talks with Iran in a bid to halt the Islamic republic’s nuclear drive.