Official denies Mossad nod delayed by last-second pressures
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Decision made on Mossad chief after exhaustive process, official says

Source denies ‘last-minute pressure’ caused delay in live announcement, says PM conducted intensive talks with nominees

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu names Yossi Cohen as the new head of the Mossad, in an announcement from his office in Jerusalem, December 7, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu names Yossi Cohen as the new head of the Mossad, in an announcement from his office in Jerusalem, December 7, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
  • File: Israeli security forces gather at the site where a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, on December 7, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
    File: Israeli security forces gather at the site where a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, on December 7, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
  • A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as a French police officer smiles before presenting the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)
    A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as a French police officer smiles before presenting the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)
  • NATO frigates Sps Blas De Lezo of Spain (front r), Dom Francisco De Almeida of Portugal (front L) and HMCS Winnipeg of Canada (back) are docked at Sarayburnu port in Istanbul on December 6, 2015. (AFP / OZAN KOSE)
    NATO frigates Sps Blas De Lezo of Spain (front r), Dom Francisco De Almeida of Portugal (front L) and HMCS Winnipeg of Canada (back) are docked at Sarayburnu port in Istanbul on December 6, 2015. (AFP / OZAN KOSE)
  • An inflatable Santa Claus at the entrance of a shop in Jerusalem's Old City on December 07, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
    An inflatable Santa Claus at the entrance of a shop in Jerusalem's Old City on December 07, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
  • A screen capture from a Facebook post by the Egyptian army showing the Gazan smuggling tunnels it says it destroyed in November 2015. (Screen capture: Facebook)
    A screen capture from a Facebook post by the Egyptian army showing the Gazan smuggling tunnels it says it destroyed in November 2015. (Screen capture: Facebook)
  • President Reuven Rivlin lighting the second candle on Hanukkah together with 100 representatives of rescue organizations, on December 7, 2015. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin lighting the second candle on Hanukkah together with 100 representatives of rescue organizations, on December 7, 2015. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.

Underground stabbing suspect to appear in court

Muhaydin Mire, 29, is due to appear in an English court Monday charged with attempted murder following a knife attack in a London Underground train station.

Mire, who was arrested after the knife attack, is due to make his first appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London on Monday after being charged earlier in the day.

Mire, who lives in Leytonstone in east London, is accused of attempting to kill a 56-year-old man at Leytonstone station on Saturday.

The victim suffered “serious” stab wounds but is in a stable condition in an east London hospital, police said.

A second man sustained a minor injury but did not require medical assistance.

Police fired Taser electric stun guns at a suspect during the incident.

Mire allegedly yelled “This is for Syria,” during the attack, some of which was caught on film.

— AFP

US-led coalition denies it killed Syrian troops

A Qatar-based American military official says the US-led coalition has no indication that the alliance aircraft killed Syrian troops in Syria.

The Syrian government says aircraft belonging to the coalition launched nine missiles on a Syrian army camp in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour Sunday night, killing at least three soldiers and wounding 13 on Sunday night.

Lt. Col. Kristi Beckman, director of public affairs at the Combined Air Operations Center at al-Udeid air base in Qatar, says there was no indication that the coalition had killed Syrian troops.

Beckman tells The Associated Press that the US operations center is “aware of the incident” but that at this time it does not “have any indication our strikes killed Syrian soldiers.”

— AP

IAEA head warns of ‘dirty bomb’ terror threat

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency has warned of the threat of terrorists getting their hands on radioactive material to make “dirty” bombs.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agenc, says all countries should secure material which extremists could use to make such a device.

“Nuclear security is a longstanding and real issue. This is a real threat in all countries where nuclear material is available to terrorists,” he says during a visit to the Philippines for an atomic energy conference.

“If nuclear material falls into the hands of terrorists, that can be used for dirty bombs,” he says, referring to devices that use explosives to spread radioactive material over a wide area to poison people.

Amano says such devices, which are much easier to make than an atomic bomb, could cause widespread panic if unleashed in a city.

— AFP

State bank head gives cautious support to gas deal

Bank of Israel governor Karnit Flug has given tentative backing to the controversial gas deal between Israel and an international consortium looking to develop the country’s offshore gas fields.

Flug says the agreement outline “is not ideal” but is the best of all evils.

“We have a large interest in developing the gas fields, especially Leviathan. At this point in time, this is the best alternative. You need to understand — this is the result of negotiations, it’s not ideal, but it’s definitely a reasonable outline,” she says at a conference put on by the Globes financial publication.

The deal, which government officials say will put hundreds of millions of dollars in Israeli coffers, has come under fire from activists and politicians who say it is too favorable to the business consortium.

Dalai Lama says IS needs to be spoken with

The Dalai Lama is calling for dialogue with the Islamic State group, in an interview reported today by the Italian daily La Stampa.

“Islam is a religion of peace. Those who are intolerant harm their own faith and their own brothers,” the Tibetan spiritual leader is quoted as saying in Bangalore, southern India, where he took part in a seminar on peace and the economy.

Even so, “there has to be dialogue, with IS as well,” the Dalai Lama said, in remarks reported in Italian.

Asked how this should be achieved, he replied, “Through dialogue. One has to listen, to understand, to have respect for the other person, regardless. There is no other way.”

— AFP

Tube stabbing suspect had IS images on phone — court

AFP reports that London Underground stabbing suspect Muhaydin Mire had “IS images on his phone,” according to the Westminster Magistrate’s Court at an arraignment hearing taking place now.

https://twitter.com/AFP/status/673838718919159808

Mire is accused of attempting to kill a 56-year-old man at Leytonstone station on Saturday during a stabbing attack.

Police have said they are treated the attack as a terrorist incident.

During the stabbing Mire reportedly yelled “This is for Syria.”

It’s not immediately clear what images Mire had on his phone.

Former Nazareth Illit mayor cleared of graft charges

Former Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso has been cleared of graft charges in Haifa District Court.

The three judge bench find that while Gapso made inappropriate promises to associates, he did not engage in fraud during local elections in the northern city seven years ago, according to Israel Radio.

Earlier this year Gapso was convicted on a separate bribery charge and ordered to do six months of community service.

Gapso, who has been outspoken in expressing anti-Arab views, is feted by fellow politicians upon news of his victory.

Shimon Gapso, at the time mayor of Nazareth Illit, October 30, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)

Shimon Gapso, at the time mayor of Nazareth Illit, October 30, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)

“I am very happy he beat all the charges against him today and [hope] he will quickly return to run for Nazareth Illit mayor,” says Minister Aryeh Deri, who himself served several years in prison on a graft conviction, according to Channel 10 news.

Minister Miri Regev accuses the media and others of going after Gapso with “wild incitement” and a “festival of lies.”

“I am happy for my dear friend Gapso, a beloved public figure and good and trusted mayor,” she says, according to Israel National News. “I was with him in good times and bad. I believed in his innocence and believed the detractors would eat their hats, and here the day has come.”

 

 

Egypt says it destroyed Gaza smuggling tunnels

The Egyptian military says it has destroyed 20 recently discovered underground tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip.

The army says in a Facebook post the tunnels were found and destroyed in November. There are no further details.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of the Palestinian coastal territory since the Islamic terror group Hamas seized Gaza in 2007. Israel allows in closely monitored humanitarian supplies.

For years, Egypt tolerated a smuggling industry that allowed hundreds of tunnels to bring in goods like cigarettes and spare parts, as well as weapons, into the Strip.

— Agencies

Palestinian police discover man chained in barn for 25 years

Palestinian police say they discovered a mentally ill Palestinian man who had been held captive in a barn for the last 25 years south of Hebron.

Police spokesperson Luay Irzeiqat tells the Ma’an news agency that a cop spotted the man, 35, while passing through the town, which was not named.

The brother of the man was detained for questioning.

According to the report, the man had been held in iron chains and was forced to eat with sheep and chickens.

A picture published by Ma’an showed the man’s badly bruised feet in chains.

1 seriously hurt in Hebron stabbing

One man has been seriously wounded in a stabbing attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, the Magen David Adom rescue service says.

Emergency teams are on the scene and treating the victim. More details to come.

40-year-old man injured in upper part of body

MDA says the stabbing victim, a man in his 40s, was injured in the upper part of his body and has been evacuated to a Jerusalem hospital.

Police confirm the attack occurred near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Initial reports indicate the attacker was shot and killed at the scene. There is no confirmation.

The covered body of an attacker lies on the ground after he was shot dead in a stabbing in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 7, 2015 that seriously wounded one person. (screen capture: Channel 10)

The covered body of an attacker lies on the ground after he was shot dead in a stabbing in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 7, 2015 that seriously wounded one person. (screen capture: Channel 10)

Hebron attacker shot and killed — police

Police confirm that the attacker in Hebron was shot and killed by Border Police troops who opened fire after seeing him attack a man.

According to initial reports, the stabbing attack in Hebron occurred near a Border Police post next to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The victim is a civilian who was walking by.

 

Egypt-bound plane makes emergency landing after bomb scare

A German passenger plane headed from Berlin to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada landed in Budapest on Monday after a bomb scare, Hungarian police said.

The airportal.hu website reported that on approaching Belgrade, pilots decided to turn back the Airbus A321-211 operated by airline Condor carrying 130 passengers and seven staff and land in Budapest.

A screen showing the aborted flight path of the Hurghada-bound plane. (Screen capture: Flightradar24)

A screen showing the aborted flight path of the Hurghada-bound plane. (Screen capture: Flightradar24)

The LiveATC.net air radio traffic website reported that Hungarian fighter planes escorted the plane into the airport. Witnesses said fire and ambulances rushed to the aircraft after it landed.

“The plane is still undergoing checks at the airport,” police spokesperson Viktoria Csiszer-Kovacs told AFP.

— AFP

Victim suffered several stab wounds

MDA Paramedic Zaki Yahav, who treated the stabbing victim, now identified as an Israeli man, says he suffered several stab wounds.

“When we arrived at the scene we saw a 40-year-old man lying on the ground, in and out of consciousness with a number of stab wounds to his upper body. We put him in an intensive care ambulance with the intent of getting him to the hospital quickly. We transported him as we gave him life-saving treatments, including stopping the bleeding, putting in an IV and giving him medications. He remained in and out of conscious and his condition is severe,” he says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Hebron stabbing breaks several attack-free days

Knife used in a stabbing attack on an Israeli civilian near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on December 7, 2015. (Israel Police)

Knife used in a stabbing attack on an Israeli civilian near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on December 7, 2015. (Israel Police)

Police publish a picture of the knife used in the attack.

The Hebron attack breaks several days of relative quiet in the often restive city, which a month ago was seeing several attacks a day.

On Saturday, a woman was arrested after being caught with a knife during a search near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Earlier, an Israeli soldier was lightly injured in a stabbing attack in the West Bank city of Hebron overnight Thursday-Friday. The two Palestinian assailants were shot dead at the scene in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, according to initial reports.

The only shared city in the West Bank, Hebron has seen constant friction between the community of several hundred settlers and the much larger Palestinian population.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs, shared by Jews and Muslims who both revere it as the final resting place of the Biblical Abraham and his kin, has been a particular source of tension in the city.

Ankara summons Russian envoy over sailor with rocket-launcher

Turkey has summoned Russia’s ambassador to Ankara over images of a Russian serviceman brandishing a rocket launcher as his warship navigated through Turkish waters, a foreign ministry official says.

NATO frigates Sps Blas De Lezo of Spain (front r), Dom Francisco De Almeida of Portugal (front L) and HMCS Winnipeg of Canada (back) are docked at Sarayburnu port in Istanbul on December 6, 2015. (AFP / OZAN KOSE)

NATO frigates Sps Blas De Lezo of Spain (front r), Dom Francisco De Almeida of Portugal (front L) and HMCS Winnipeg of Canada (back) are docked at Sarayburnu port in Istanbul on December 6, 2015. (AFP / OZAN KOSE)

Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov was summoned to the foreign ministry headquarters over the images published by the Turkish media on Sunday, the official tells AFP, the latest escalation of tensions following Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane last month.

— AFP

Stabbing victim unconscious, hooked to ventilator

The approximately 40-year-old victim of the Hebron stabbing has arrived at the Trauma Center of Shaare Zedek in very severe condition, with stab wounds to the chest from the attack.

Ambulances arrive at the scene of a stabbing attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on December 7, 2015. (Magen David Adom)

Ambulances arrive at the scene of a stabbing attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on December 7, 2015. (Magen David Adom)

He is unconscious and connected to a ventilator, according to police.

— Judah Ari Gross

Baby dies after being left in car

An approximately six-month-old baby has died after being left in a car in the southern city of Rahat, according to a news report.

The baby’s father says he forgot his daughter in the car and brought her to the hospital in critical condition, according to Ynet.

Police have opened an investigation.

Though temperatures in Israel have dipped this week to the lowest of the winter so far, with the mercury slinking toward zero Celsius at night, days have still been warm and sunny.

Temperatures reached 17 Celsius (63 Fahrenheit) on Monday near Rahat, which is at the northern edge of the Negev desert.

Court to decide on razing two Jerusalem homes of terrorists

The High Court has finished hearing arguments in a case regarding the destruction of the homes of two terrorists who carried out attacks in Jerusalem in October, killing several people.

The court says it will deliver its verdict at a later date, according to Israel Radio.

The two houses under consideration belong to the families of two terrorists who hailed from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber.

On October 13, Alaa Abu Jamal rammed his car into a bus stop on Malchei Yisrael street in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in central Jerusalem before exiting the car and bludgeoning a man to death with an ax. He was shot and killed at the scene.

According to the report, the discussion centered around which of two houses belonging to the Abu Jamal family should be destroyed.

Judge Menachem Mazuz responded that since both belong to the family, and the measure is used as a deterrent, it should not matter, according to Israel Radio.

The second man whose house is under discussion is one of two terrorists who opened fire and stabbed several people on a bus in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, also on October 13.

Bennett given okay to retake Education Ministry

Naftali Bennett has been given the go-ahead to retake his position as education minister, after resigning from the post last week in order to return as a Knesset member.

The opposition boycotted the vote in protest, allowing Bennett to easily reclaim the ministerial post 28-0.

Bennett, who left the Knesset to become a non-MK minister under a recently passed law his own party pushed through, was forced to briefly resign on Wednesday as part of a bureaucratic procedure needed for him to rejoin the Knesset.

His Jewish Home Party was left short a warm body to fill a seat last week after the resignation of Yinon Magal, who left the parliament under a shadow of accusations of sexual misconduct. Rather than allow a member further down the slate to claim the spot, Bennett decided to rejoin the Knesset himself.

Ahead of the vote, Joint List MK Dov Khenin slammed the procedure as a “joke.”

“This seems like a disgrace, there’s no other way to term this move,” Khenin said, according to a Knesset transcript. “Everything just to block Avi Wortzman from the Knesset. It would be funny if this joke weren’t at the expense of the Knesset and the Israeli public.”

Time readers crown Sanders Person of Year

Readers of Time magazine have chosen Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as Person of the Year, according to a poll by the magazine.

Sanders, a Vermont senator who is Jewish, self-identifies as a Democratic socialist and is challenging former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Sanders’s polling numbers have exceeded expectations, but he still trails Clinton by a wide margin.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at Georgetown University in Washington on November 19, 2015. (AP /Carolyn Kaster)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at Georgetown University in Washington on November 19, 2015. (AP /Carolyn Kaster)

Sanders easily outpaced his rivals in the Time survey, receiving more than 10 percent of the vote, with the runner-up, Pakistani girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai, at 5.2%. President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and talk-show host Stephen Colbert rounded out the top five vote-getters. Francis won the honor in 2013.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas garnered 1% of votes each, barely edging out Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at 0.9%.

All three leaders failed, though. to reach the 1.4% of votes claimed by Triple Crown-winning American Pharaoh, who is a horse.

Time will reveal its Person of the Year on Wednesday.

— with JTA

Netanyahu to deliver statement, possibly on new spy chief

Netanyahu will deliver a statement to the press at 8:15 p.m., a statement from his office says.

The statement, to be delivered from the Prime Minister’s Office, was not previously scheduled.

The statement does not say what will be addressed during the statement, but speculation points to the announcement of a new head of the Mossad spy agency.

Frontrunners are said to be current National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen; Ran Ben Barak, head of intel in the Defense Ministry; and an official identified only as “N,” who is currently deputy head of the spook body.

Nearly 1 million refugees registered in Germany in 2015 — minister

Germany’s interior minister says that 965,000 people were registered as asylum-seekers in the country from January through the end of November, though he says the number of migrants arriving in the country has declined significantly over the past week or two.

The figure, given by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Monday puts the total number of new arrivals this year above the total of 800,000 he forecast for 2015 in August. He said he won’t give a new full-year forecast.

The actual number of new arrivals through the end of November is below 965,000 because of people who registered more than once or continued to other countries, he says, but can’t say how much lower.

De Maiziere says refugees and other migrants have been arriving at a pace of 2,000 to 3,000 a day in recent days, down from the 8,000 to 10,000 who often arrived daily over recent months.

He says the cause isn’t entirely clear but pointed to bad weather in the Mediterranean that has deterred people from crossing from Turkey to Greece, and efforts by Turkey to stop people leaving by sea.

“This isn’t yet a turnaround, but it is a good development,” he says.

— AP

US says Syrians killed by Russian airstrike

A senior US military official says the United States is “certain” that it was a Russian airstrike that killed three Syrian soldiers and wounded 13 others.

The US has said it was not a coalition strike, but Syria’s government accused the US-led alliance of bombing the army camp and hitting troops loyal to President Bashar Assad.

The city of Deir el-Zour, where the strikes are said to have been carried out on Sunday, is mainly held by the Islamic State group, but the Syrian government maintains a presence in some parts of it.

The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

— AP

Iran: IAEA report into past nuke work is false

A top Iranian nuclear official says the IAEA’s report on Iran’s nuclear activities, which concluded that Tehran pursued a nuclear weapons program but mostly abandoned it in 2003, is “unacceptable and incorrect.”

Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, says the report released last week, while problematic, shows that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

“Although the report is incomplete, unacceptable and false in some parts, a number of its provisions verify the non-diversion of the Islamic Republic’s peaceful nuclear program,” he says in a meeting with Lebanese Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news outlet.

Shamkhani does not detail what he believes is false in the report.

The report found that Iran mostly stopped pursuing a bomb by 2003 and totally abandoned the project by 2009. While the IAEA delivered the report with several caveats, Iran has said it is proof they can close their probe, thus paving the way for the implementation of a deal with world powers to lift sanctions.

Also on Monday, Russia’s envoy to the IAEA says that — based on the report — the deal should be implemented next month, according to Reuters.

“We believe that, based on this final assessment, the board of governors should close the so-called PMD [possible military dimensions] issue,” Vladimir Voronkov says.

Hungarians protest plan for statue of anti-Semitic figure

A silent protest has been held in central Hungary against a plan to unveil a statue of a former minister of religion and education, who helped draft and supported anti-Semitic legislation in the 1930s.

The protest was held in the city of Szekesfehervar, where a statue commemorating Balint Homan is expected to be unveiled December 29.

The plan has been strongly criticized by local and international groups, including a Hungarian teachers’ union, the World Jewish Congress and several US members of Congress and government officials.

Homan participated in drafting legislation in 1938 and ’39 that restricted the rights of Hungarian Jews, and in 1944 he called for their deportation.

Some 420,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.

Art historian Andras Renyi, a speaker at the protest, said that while it was possible to draw a distinction between Homan’s work as minister and historian and his anti-Semitic acts and views, “the statue legitimizes his whole historical figure.”

US congressional leaders have also protested the construction of the monument.

The co-chairs of the US House Bipartisan Taskforce for Combatting Anti-Semitism on Friday sent a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban protesting the monument to Homan.

The committee in its letter wrote of its “deep concern” about the statue, saying Homan “spearheaded Hungary’s anti-Jewish legislation and paved the way for deportations of and atrocities against Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.”

— Agencies

Yossi Cohen reportedly to get nod for spy chief

The Haaretz daily is reporting that Yossi Cohen will get the nod as new Mossad head.

National Security Adviser and former deputy head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on September 2, 2014 (Noam Revkin Fenton/ Flash 90)

National Security Adviser and former deputy head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on September 2, 2014 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Cohen, who is currently Netanyahu’s national security adviser and is considered close to the prime minister, is expected to beat out two other top candidates for the post, according to the report, which is based on “sources close to Netanyahu.”

Cohen, a Jerusalem native, started as a Mossad case officer and rose up to command the Tzomet department, in charge of all case officers, and serving as the deputy head of the Mossad from 2011-2013, when he was appointed head of the National Security Council.

Netanyahu is expected to reveal his choice to replace Tamir Pardo in a statement to be delivered on live TV at 8:15 p.m.

 

Hebron attacker named as 21-year-old

The attacker shot dead amid a stabbing attack in Hebron earlier in the day has been identified as Hebron-native Ihab Fathi Miswadi, 21, according to Maan.

Miswadi was shot to death by Israeli security forces as he stabbed a man near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, critically wounding him.

The victim stabilized upon reaching a Jerusalem hospital, according to MDA.

Locals tell Maan that Israeli security forces kept Palestinian rescue teams from reaching Miswadi.

In a video, his body can be seen lying on the ground unattended as forces secure the scene.

Erekat related to terrorist whose family he condoled — sources

Palestinian sources tell The Times of Israel that a terrorist who carried out a shooting attack north of Jerusalem last week was a relative of chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Erekat came under fire from Israeli officials for paying a condolence visit to the family of Mazen Aribe over the weekend.

Aribe, a member of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, opened fire on an army position near the Hizme checkpoint north of Jerusalem Thursday, injuring two people.

The sources say the visit was done out of the respect for the family, and not ideological reasons, and did not signal any support for the attack.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting that Erekat, instead of condemning such attacks, praises the perpetrators, which “gives backing and encouragement to acts of terror.”

The visit was considered especially galling considering Erekat’s position as the head peace negotiator for Ramallah.

This week, representatives of the Mideast Quartet are slated to visit the region to meet with officials and talk about ways to calm Israeli-Palestinian violence.

— Avi Issacharoff

Russia shows France puppy love after dog killed in terror raid

Russian police have handed over a puppy to the French ambassador in Moscow to replace a French police dog killed in a raid, a show of solidarity with France in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Diesel, the 7-year-old Belgian shepherd killed in a French police raid targeting the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks in November, has been honored all over the world.

On Monday, Russia’s Interior Ministry gave the German shepherd puppy named Dobrynya after a Russian fairy-tale knight to French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert.

Ripert praised the gift as “a gesture that comes from the heart,” adding that “it shows the relations between Russia and France quite well.”

Scroll down for way too much puppy.

A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as a French police officer smiles before presenting the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as a French police officer smiles before presenting the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

French Ambassador in Russia, Jean Maurice Ripert, holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as his wife Yael and Russian Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Igor Zubov, left, smile during a presentation ceremony of the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

French Ambassador in Russia, Jean Maurice Ripert, holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as his wife, Yael, and Russian Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Igor Zubov, left, smile during a presentation ceremony of the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, before presenting it to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, before presenting it to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as a French police officer smiles before presenting the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

A Russian police officer holds a puppy, named Dobrynya, as a French police officer smiles before presenting the puppy to French police in the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 7, 2015. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

— Agencies

Netanyahu, late for announcement, lights candles with troops

The media is waiting with bated breath for Netanyahu to deliver his statement on the next Mossad chief pick, now over half-an-hour late, but in the meantime, his office releases a statement from his appearance lighting the second night of Hanukkah candles with combat troops from the elite Duvdevan unit, which operates deep in Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu told the troops that the threat of terror isn’t going away, but praises them for helping fight it, according to the statement.

Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and Moshe Ya'alon, left, lighting candles with troops on December 7, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)

Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and Moshe Ya’alon, left, lighting candles with troops on December 7, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“You are at the forefront of our current wave [of terror]. Your ability to enter villages, towns, homes, is the most important thing for the security of Israel,” he says. “Though they are many, most are not suicide attackers. The circle of suicide attackers is limited, but the circle of attackers is much larger, and the ability to get to reach, grab, collect, take, if necessary, of course prevent or kill — that ability is cardinal to our defense.”

 

Herzog jabs at Netanyahu over delay

Netanyahu being fashionably late doesn’t just have the media up in arms. Opposition head Isaac Herzog, seeing a chance to punch a hole in Bibi’s balloon, tweets that the delay is “primetime contempt.”

Herzog is replying to a jokey tweet by Channel 2 reporter Udi Segal that Netanyahu is just waiting for the go-ahead from Abu Dhabi’s police chief to make the announcement.

Possible drama behind Netanyahu delay

Channel 2 reports that Netanyahu’s delay, now close to an hour, is because there is drama behind the scenes after one of the two loser candidates was informed he wouldn’t get the job, and then the prime minister came under heavy pressure.

The reporter has no more details about the appointment.

Meanwhile, the joshing is coming on thick by Israel’s twitterati, joking on everything ranging from Netanyahu forgot “N.’s” name and can’t inform him until he remembers, to the PMO doing some last-second vetting, a reference to embattled PR czar Ran Baratz.

In a strange, non-sarcastic turn, Channel 10’s Alon Ben-David reports on Twitter that Ran Ben-Barak did not get the nod.

Netanyahu finally begins announcement

Netanyahu finally enters the room to deliver his announcement.

He starts by speaking about the fight against Islamic extremism, which is exemplified by Iran and the Islamic State.

He then says Palestinian terror is caused by incitement, but says Israeli security forces are fighting the threat.

He then launches into a discourse on the Mossad, whose new leader he is expected to announce.

Netanyahu nominates Yossi Cohen as next Mossad head

Netanyahu says the Mossad needs intelligence, operational ability and defense and that he took all three characteristics into account when deciding on a new leader.

Citing the French terror attacks and other threats, he says the new Mossad head needs to be wise and professional.

He adds that he carefully considered the appointment and nominates Yossi Cohen, as expected.

PM won’t say why he made announcement on live TV

Netanyahu thanks Tamir Pardo for his hard work and also cites the two other runners-up.

Asked a question about why he decided to announce it on live TV at prime time, Netanyahu hesitates and then walks off without answering.

Race open to replace Cohen on NSC

The nomination of Cohen as Mossad head will leave a hole open on the National Security Council.

Reporter Barbara Opall-Rome writes on Twitter that there are five candidates to replace Cohen as national security adviser, a key role, but the race is anyone’s.

Red Cross seeking talks with Islamic State over aid

The director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross says the organization is trying to reach out to the Islamic State group to help get humanitarian aid to people in areas under its control.

Yves Daccord made the comments to The Associated Press at Monday’s start to a major gathering of the Red Cross and Red Crescent held every four years.

The conference in Geneva aims partly to reinforce international humanitarian law now under threat in conflict zones like Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Daccord said the Red Cross is a “radically neutral” organization trying to have “a relationship where we can do it” with the Islamic State group. He said it’s very difficult in Syria because some IS-controlled areas “are pretty off-limits for any humanitarian.”

— AP

Official denies Mossad nod delayed by last-second pressures

A senior diplomatic official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denies rumors that the almost one-hour delay in Netanyahu’s announcement of Yossi Cohen for Mossad chief was due to last-minute drama.

The official says there were “no last-minute pressures.”

The official also says Netanyahu carefully vetted and thought out his choice. Two earlier nominations this year — Gal Hirsch for police chief, and Ran Baratz for public relations czar — came under fire after the nominations had already been made when new facts came to light.

“The prime minister carried out a process of orderly, intensive and responsible rounds of deep interviews with the three candidates,” the official says. “The prime minister consulted over the last 24 hours with Mossad head Tamir Pardo and with former Mossad head Meir Dagan and made the decision during the day.”

— Raphael Ahren

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Official denies Mossad nod delayed by last-second pressures

A senior diplomatic official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denies rumors that the almost one-hour delay in Netanyahu’s announcement of Yossi Cohen for Mossad chief was due to last-minute drama.

The official says there were “no last-minute pressures.”

The official also says Netanyahu carefully vetted and thought out his choice. Two earlier nominations this year — Gal Hirsch for police chief, and Ran Baratz for public relations czar — came under fire after the nominations had already been made when new facts came to light.

“The prime minister carried out a process of orderly, intensive and responsible rounds of deep interviews with the three candidates,” the official says. “The prime minister consulted over the last 24 hours with Mossad head Tamir Pardo and with former Mossad head Meir Dagan and made the decision during the day.”

— Raphael Ahren