Netanyahu lands in Brasilia for Bolsonaro inauguration, Pompeo meeting
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TV: Attorney general likely to make decision on PM indictment before elections

In meeting with top judicial officials, Avichai Mandelblit reportedly says public has right to know fate of Netanyahu probes before heading to the polls

  • Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a State Control committee meeting in the Knesset on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a State Control committee meeting in the Knesset on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Labor leadership candidate Avi Gabbay, with Labor party members Stav Shaffir and Shelly Yachimovich, make phone calls to potential voters ahead of the second round of the Labor party primaries in Tel Aviv, on July 9, 2017. (Flash90)
    Labor leadership candidate Avi Gabbay, with Labor party members Stav Shaffir and Shelly Yachimovich, make phone calls to potential voters ahead of the second round of the Labor party primaries in Tel Aviv, on July 9, 2017. (Flash90)
  • Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay (L) announces the shock break up of the Zionist Union as his erstwhile partner, head of opposition Tzipi Livni, looks on, during a party faction meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay (L) announces the shock break up of the Zionist Union as his erstwhile partner, head of opposition Tzipi Livni, looks on, during a party faction meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brasilia on January 1, 2019 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brasilia on January 1, 2019 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
  • Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, exit after a visit to the Kehilat Yaacov synagogue, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP)
    Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, exit after a visit to the Kehilat Yaacov synagogue, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP)
  • Opposition leader and chairwoman of Hatnua party, Tzipi Livni, speaks during a press conference at the Knesset, on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Opposition leader and chairwoman of Hatnua party, Tzipi Livni, speaks during a press conference at the Knesset, on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli, during a Knesset Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 30, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli, during a Knesset Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 30, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

After dropping Livni, Gabbay said seeking alliance with Gantz

After abruptly ending his alliance with Tzipi Livni, Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay is courting Benny Gantz, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, according to Hebrew media reports.

Sources close to Gabbay say the dramatic announcement was aimed at Gantz — who recently launched a center-left political party — to signal his interest in joining forces to create a center-left bloc.

 

Livni concedes ouster was a shock, slams Gabbay’s ‘me, me, me’ speech

Acknowledging her surprise ousting, Tzipi Livni tells reporters she received no forewarning.

“Last week I said that our priorities must be the state, the party, and then myself,” says Livni. “What you heard today [Gabbay’s speech] is what I heard throughout this entire period: Me, me, me.”

“My partnership with [Isaac] Herzog brought 24 seats to the party,” she says, referring to the 2015 elections. “Gabbay was right on one thing — there was no partnership between us. He doesn’t want a partnership. The way he ended things today proves that.”

Labor MKs split over Gabbay announcement on Livni

Not all Labor lawmakers are pleased with Avi Gabbay’s decision to cut Livni off.

MK Eitan Cabel has complained about the move, telling fellow party members that Gabbay should have consulted with them first, according to the Kan broadcaster.

Others, like MK Shelly Yachimovich, hail the shock announcement as “brave.”

“Avi Gabbay’s step was dramatic, brave, and displays leadership,” says Yachimovich on Twitter. “We can’t deny the facts: Even though Livni is a worthy person, the agreement between her and Gabbay didn’t work. The opposite. It weakened us, particularly since it was clear that she didn’t accept his leadership.”

Likud MK Glick: I’m getting married!

Likud lawmaker Yehudah Glick announces he will be remarrying, a year after his wife Yaffa’s death.

He makes the announcement, which is met with cheers and well-wishes, in the Knesset plenum.

His wife-to-be is Hadas Disin, who runs a non-profit aiding widows and orphans, according to the Ynet news site.

Likud MK Yehudah Glick in the Knesset, May 29, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yaffa Glick died on January 1, 2018, six months after suffering a stroke.

In all-caps message, Trump sends well-wishes to all, including ‘haters’

In a fully capitalized tweet, US President Donald Trump predicts 2019 will be a great year for “FOR THOSE NOT SUFFERING FROM TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME.”

He also sends his best to the “haters” and “fake news media.”

US Strategic Command sorry for New Year’s tweet about dropping bomb

The US Strategic Command, which oversees America’s nuclear and missile arsenal, boasted in a New Year’s Eve tweet that it’s ready if ever needed “to drop something much, much bigger” than the Times Square ball.

The tweet was accompanied by video of B-2 bombers dropping two 30,000-pound conventional weapons at a test range, according to CNN, which aired the video.

The tweet on Strategic Command’s Twitter account is replaced with an apology: “Our previous NYE tweet was in poor taste & does not reflect our values. We apologize. We are dedicated to the security of America & allies.”

The first tweet read in part: “#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.”

AP

Knesset green-lights watered-down anti-porn bill in first reading

The Knesset approves the first reading of a bill that could facilitate the blocking of pornographic content in Israel.

The amended version of the legislation, sponsored by Likud MK Miki Zohar and Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, will require internet service providers to ask users to what extent they wish to block pornographic content, if at all,

The earlier version of the bill that was unanimously approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in late October required internet service providers to block pornographic content by default and only lift site filtering at the user’s request.

The bill clears the plenum with 18 lawmakers in favor, 12 opposed.

It requires two more votes to become law.

German police: 4 injured in car-ramming attack directed at migrants

German police say at least four people have been injured after a man intentionally drove into a crowd of people in western Germany in what appears to have been an attack directed at foreigners.

Muenster police say the 50-year-old driver of a Mercedes drove into a crowd in the center of Bottrop shortly after midnight Tuesday. Two other attempts by the driver to drive into other people failed.

Police say those hit by the car included Syrian and Afghan citizens, and some are seriously injured. The driver fled toward the nearby city of Essen before being stopped and arrested by police.

Authorities say the driver made anti-foreigner comments during his arrest and the attack is presumed to have been premeditated. Police said there are indications the suspect suffered from mental illness.

AP

Netanyahu lands in Brasilia for Bolsonaro inauguration, Pompeo meeting

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation land in Brasilia ahead of the presidential inauguration later today of Jair Bolsonaro.

In the Brazilian capital, Netanyahu will also conduct a one-on-one meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which will likely focus on the planned withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

Bolsonaro’s inauguration is attended by 12 foreign leaders, according to local press reports, including Evo Morales of Bolivia, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay and Netanyahu.

After the various events connected to the inauguration, Netanyahu will also meet the president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera.

Raphael Ahren

Cabinet approves reshuffle for Gallant, Vaknin, Kahlon

The government has approved the appointments of former Kulanu MK Yoav Gallant as immigration absorption minister and Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin as religious affairs minister.

Gallant, a former housing minister, left Kulanu to join Likud, ahead of the April national elections.

With his departure, Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, who is finance minister, also became acting housing minister.

2 Arab Israelis arrested over killing of Palestinian money-changer

Two Arab Israelis have been arrested in connection with a botched robbery and killing of a Palestinian money-changer in mid-November, police say.

According to police, the suspects arrived outside the Tulkarem home of the victim and attempted to rob him as he was sitting in his car with a suitcase containing NIS 300,000 ($80,000).

In the scuffle, the money-changer was stabbed. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The suspects — residents of Taibe and Kafr Kassem — fled the scene, leaving the suitcase behind. Police say the two suspects were later arrested and their remand is extended Tuesday until January 6.

Judge extends order preventing Jewish suspects from meeting lawyers

A Lod District Court judges extends until Friday the order preventing three Jewish suspects in a major, gagged security probe from meeting with their attorneys.

The judge extends the order that has been in effect since the three minors were arrested Sunday morning.

Yesterday, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended the remand of the teens until this coming Sunday.

The investigation is being conducted jointly by the Shin Bet security service and the police’s nationalistic crime unit, which are probing the incident as a possible Jewish terror plot.

Jacob Magid

Netanyahu meets Pompeo on US withdrawal from Syria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brazil, in talks that are set to focus on the US military withdrawal from Syria.

“We have a lot to discuss,” Netanyahu tells reporters ahead of the meeting. “We’re going to discuss the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States, which will also deal with the questions following the decision, the American decisions on Syria, on how to intensify even further our intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian aggression in the Middle East, to roll it back.

“That’s a common aim, and I have to say that I’m also very appreciative of the support, strong support and unequivocal support that you and the president gave our efforts at self-defense against Syria and Hezbollah just in the last few days,” adds Netanyahu.

Pompeo says the American commitment to Israel’s security is unchanged, despite the US pullout.

“Our effort to counter Iranian aggression continues, and our commitment to… the protection of Israel continues, in the same way before that decision was made,” says the US secretary of state.

with Raphael Ahren

Israel to open new airport near Eilat in late January

Israel plans to inaugurate a new international airport in the south of the country near the Red Sea later this month, the transportation minister announced Tuesday.

The Ramon airport will begin with only domestic flights before gradually moving toward full operation, Transportation Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.

The inauguration ceremony will be held on January 21 with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance.

Initially domestic flights will be operated by the Arkia and Israir carriers. A timeframe was not given for when the airport will be fully operational.

Construction costs for the airport have been put at NIS 1.7 billion ($455 million, 395 million euros). Work got underway in 2013 but original specifications for the project were revised to allow for upgrades.

The airport will be some 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the Red Sea resort of Eilat and near the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

AFP

Florence museum demands Germany return artwork stolen by Nazis

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence on Tuesday appeals to Berlin for help in retrieving a stolen 18th century Dutch painting from a German family.

“An appeal to Germany for 2019: We wish that the famous ‘Vase of Flowers’ by Dutch painter Jan van Huysum that was stolen by Nazi soldiers be returned to the Uffizi Gallery,” the museum’s German director Eike Schmidt says.

According to Schmidt, the oil painting is “currently held by a German family who, after all this time, has still not returned it to the museum despite many requests by the Italian state.”

Before it was stolen during World War II, the still-life, which measures 47×35 cm (18×14 inches), was part of a collection owned by another well-known Florence museum, the Palazzo Pitti.

After being shipped to Germany the work’s whereabouts remained unknown until 1991, after Germany was reunified, Schmidt says.

Van Huysum was a well-known specialist of still-life paintings, and until this one is returned, “the wounds of the Second World War and Nazi terror will not be healed,” the museum director says.

AFP

Knesset House Committee approves dissolution of Zionist Union

The Knesset’s House Committee officially dissolves the Zionist Union into the Labor and Hatnuah parties that formerly made up the center-left alliance.

The motion, which is “in accordance with the agreement signed between the Labor and the Hatenua parties on the eve of the elections to the 20th Knesset” means that the 24 seat union will split into 18 Zionist Union MKs and six Hatenua lawmakers.

In the latest development to shake up Israel’s political scene ahead of April’s election, Labor party leader Gabbay announced earlier Tuesday, as Livni sat at his side, that he was dissolving his partnership with her, the two will not be running together, and he was disbanding the Labor-Hatnua partnership that constituted the Zionist Union.

With Raoul Wootliff

German-Jewish author Edgar Hilsenrath dies at 92

Edgar Hilsenrath, a German-Jewish writer whose fictional account of the Holocaust from the perspective of a Nazi perpetrator became a best-seller, has died at 92.

The German news agency dpa quotes Hilsenrath’s second wife, Marlene, as confirming Tuesday that the author died December 30 in western Germany after battling pneumonia.

Born in Leipzig in 1926, Hilsenrath moved to Romania at 12 to escape Nazi persecution, and was later deported to Ukraine.

His first novel, “Night,” recounting the horrors of trying to survive in a Jewish ghetto, was published in 1954.

Hilsenrath gained international fame with his 1971 novel “The Nazi and the Barber” — a grotesque story about an SS member who pretends to be Jewish after the war to escape prosecution — that sold millions of copies worldwide.

AP

Brazil’s Bolsonaro sworn in as president

Jair Bolsonaro has been sworn in as Brazil’s president. The former army captain is taking the reins of Latin America’s largest and most populous nation promising to overhaul myriad aspects of daily life and put an end to business-as-usual governing.

The New Year’s Day inauguration is the culmination of Bolsonaro’s journey from a marginalized and even ridiculed congressmen to a leader who many Brazilians hope can combat endemic corruption as well as violence that routinely gives the nation the dubious distinction of being world leader in total homicides.

A fan of US President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old longtime congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda. Those stances energized conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers’ Party. Many of his stances also terrify detractors, who fear an increase in violence, particularly by police.

AP

After Livni ouster, Gabbay taps MK Yachimovich as opposition leader

Labor party leader Avi Gabbay appoints MK Shelly Yachimovich as opposition leader, to replace the ousted Tzipi Livni.

“Shelly is an example of a public servant who is committed to change,” Gabbay says in a statement, adding that he is “proud” of the veteran Labor lawmaker and former opposition leader.

“We are ready for elections and victory,” he adds.

Yachimovich accepts offer to serve as opposition leader

Yachimovich accepts the position of opposition leader after Gabbay asks her to fulfill the role until elections.

“The main work of the head of the opposition is during the term of the Knesset and not after its dissolution, but even under these circumstances I promise to represent the entire opposition with loyalty and respect,” she writes on Twitter.

Raoul Wootliff

TV: AG likely to announce decision on PM indictments before election

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has been consulting with top judicial officials, including former Supreme Court justices and former attorney generals, on whether there are any legal obstacles to his announcing a decision on the Netanyahu indictments before the April elections, according to Hadashot news.

During the meeting last week at a hotel outside of Jerusalem, Mandelblit reportedly says: “Announcing a decision before elections is our obligation to the public that is going to the polls. I will do my utmost to finish the work as soon as possible.”

According to the television report, the attorney general has ruled out closing the cases and is likely to summon the prime minister for a pre-indictment hearing.

300 far-right activists demonstrate outside justice minister’s home

Some 300 young far-right activists protest outside the home of Ayelet Shaked in Ramat HaHayal, calling on the justice minister to act against a court order preventing three Jewish suspects in a major, gagged security probe from meeting with their attorneys.

300 right-wing protesters rally outside the home of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked against a court decision to prevent far-right suspects from meeting with their attorneys. January 1, 2019. (courtesy)

Jacob Magid

Trump congratulates Bolsonaro on inauguration

US President Donald Trump congratulates Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro as he takes office Tuesday for a four-year term at the helm of Latin America’s most powerful nation.

“Congratulations to President @jairbolsonaro who just made a great inauguration speech – the U.S.A. is with you!” Trump writes on Twitter.

AFP

PM’s lawyers: Indictment hearing before elections would be a blow to democracy

Responding to the Hadashot news report that the attorney general plans to announce an indictment against Benjamin Netanyahu before the April 9 elections, the prime minister’s legal team says such a decision would be a “blow to the democratic process.”

We believe there will not be an [indictment subject to a hearing] because nothing [untoward] has happened,” Netanyahu’s lawyers say in a statement sent to journalists.

“It is undemocratic to start a hearing before the elections when it can not be concluded until after the elections. It is inconceivable that the public will hear only one side and not the other,” they argue, claiming that many cases are closed following a hearing.

“Declaring a hearing during the election campaign without allowing the other side to respond would therefore be a distortion of the voter’s will and a severe blow to the democratic process.”

Raoul Wootliff

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Netanyahu lands in Brasilia for Bolsonaro inauguration, Pompeo meeting

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation land in Brasilia ahead of the presidential inauguration later today of Jair Bolsonaro.

In the Brazilian capital, Netanyahu will also conduct a one-on-one meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which will likely focus on the planned withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

Bolsonaro’s inauguration is attended by 12 foreign leaders, according to local press reports, including Evo Morales of Bolivia, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay and Netanyahu.

After the various events connected to the inauguration, Netanyahu will also meet the president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera.

Raphael Ahren