Regev: Police investigators don’t want the truth, they want to hurt the PM
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Justice ministry rejects Netanyahu’s criticism of corruption probes

Law enforcement authorities say investigations against PM were carried out ‘professionally and thoroughly… only according to professional considerations’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, November 18, 2018, saying he will take over temporarily as defense minister, as early elections loom. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, November 18, 2018, saying he will take over temporarily as defense minister, as early elections loom. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

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

Israel said to block latest Qatari cash transfer to Gaza

Israel will block the third installment of $15 million from Qatar to Hamas in the Gaza Strip next week, several Palestinian media outlets report, after a brief escalation in tension between terror groups and the IDF.

The Israeli Air Force Struck several targets in the Gaza Strip before dawn on Monday, after terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into Israel, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

Qatari ambassador Mahmad Al-Amadi has notified Hamas officials that he will delay his trip to Gaza that had been set for next week, until quiet is restored on the border with Israel, Palestinian media reported.

Israel had previously agreed for a total of $90 million to be distributed in six monthly installments of $15 million, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas.

Border guards shoot Palestinian in leg as she ‘suspiciously’ approached them

Border Police officers shot a Palestinian woman in the leg after she ignored calls to stop and a warning shot in the air as she walked toward them at a northern West Bank junction, police say.

The border guards were stationed at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank, a location frequented by both Israelis and Palestinians. It has been the site of many terror attacks.

The officers “spotted the suspect approaching them. Despite the officers’ calls [for her to stop], she continued approaching,” police say in a statement.

“The border guards fired into the air, but she was not deterred and continue approaching them suspiciously. Finally, the officers shot her in the lower body and subdued her.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Indictments filed against suspected El Al airline drug smugglers

Police indict nine suspects accused of running a drug smuggling ring in which security personnel working with the El Al Israel Airlines used their authority to bring 150 kilograms of cocaine into the country via Ben Gurion airport.

The suspects are being charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and bring dangerous drugs into the country. Two of the suspects are also being charged with illegally bringing a weapon into the country and another with violating a court order, the Justice Ministry says in a statement.

The main suspect is identified as Rami Yogev, 54, a high-ranking El Al employee who oversees coordination and development of security, and is also in charge of the airline’s security abroad. His position gave him access to restricted areas of Ben Gurion airport and the ability to bypass standard security checkpoints, prosecutors say.

Six go on trial in Sweden Islamic State terrorism case

The trial of six Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals accused of financing terrorism and planning a terror attack begins in Stockholm.

They are accused of sending funds to Islamic State to finance its terrorism operations and planning an attack in Sweden, where they all reside.

The prosecution believes they acquired large amounts of chemicals to make explosives, as well as gas masks, walkie-talkies and other military materials as part of their plot.

— AFP

Prominent rabbis give ex post facto OK to Shabbat violation to counter threat of Shin Bet interrogations

A group of prominent rabbis from the national religious camp hand down an ex post facto ruling green-lighting the decision by a group of far-right activists to drive on Shabbat in order to coach students on how best to withstand interrogation by the Shin Bet into the killing of a Palestinian woman.

The decision came after word got out regarding the death of Aisha Rabi, a 47-year-old mother of eight who was struck in the head with a large stone, as she sat in the passenger seat of a car being driven by her husband near the Tapuah Junction.

The ruling gives a further stamp of certification to the same conclusion made by a pair of rabbis in Yitzhar who authorized the violation of religious laws against driving on the Jewish Sabbath in real time, as reported by The Times of Israel.

The entrance to the settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank. (Flash90/File)

The latest ruling was signed off by former Kiryat Arba-Hebron chief rabbi Dov Lior; Yehoshua Schmidt, the head rabbi at Yeshivat Nachalat Yosef in Shavei Shomron; and nearly a dozen other rabbis who requested that their names not be published.

Citing an alleged suicide attempt made by one of the suspects in the Duma terror attack as well as other allegations of torture made against agents in the security agency, the rabbis concluded that Shin Bet interrogations pose life-threatening danger that excuse the violation of the Sabbath in order to prepare the minors for what they might endure upon arrest.

— Jacob Magid

French jihadist in court for Brussels Jewish museum attack trial

A French jihadist appears in court ahead of his trial for shooting dead four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014 following his return from Syria.

Mehdi Nemmouche, accused of being the first battle-hardened jihadist to stage a terror attack on European soil, faces a life sentence if convicted over the killing spree in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014.

This court drawing made on June 26, 2014, shows Mehdi Nemmouche, center, the suspect in a deadly terror attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum, during a court hearing in Versailles, France. (AFP Photo/Benoit Peyrucq)

Both Nemmouche, 33, and Nacer Bendrer, a fellow Frenchman aged 30 who allegedly supplied the weapons, deny charges of “terrorist murder.”

More than 100 witnesses are due to testify at the trial, which will be attended by the victims’ families and Jewish community leaders, who have denounced the anti-Semitic nature of the attack.

— AFP

Judge in Aisha Rabi murder case asks for probe into teen suspect’s torture complaint

A Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court judge orders police to investigate a complaint by one of the suspects in Aisha Rabi’s murder who claims he was violently interrogated by Shin Bet security agents, according to the Honenu legal aid organization which is representing the teen.

The directive was given during a Sunday ruling to extend the 16-year-old’s detention until Thursday.

For its part, the Shin Bet has stood by its conduct throughout the investigation, saying it is being overseen by the State Prosecutor’s Office and all practices are being carried out in accordance with the law.

However, the security service claimed in a statement yesterday that the suspects did not raise any complaints regarding their treatment in Israeli custody when they appeared before a judge for remand hearings.

A copy of the protocol obtained by The Times of Israel confirmed Honenu’s assertion that this was in fact not the case and that one of the suspects alerted the lawyer of what he considered to have been a series of violent interrogation tactics that he endured.

— Jacob Magid

Israelis serving abroad to vote on March 28

While most Israeli citizens will have to wait for April 9, nearly 5,000 Israeli representatives in 96 embassies and consulates from Amman to El Salvador will have their chance to cast their ballot in the upcoming general election some two weeks earlier on March 28, the Foreign Ministry announces.

According to Israeli law, private citizens living abroad cannot vote unless they come to Israel. But the exception made for diplomats also applies to emissaries sent abroad by the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemet, Keren Hayesod and the World Zionist Organization.

Voting at the Israeli embassy in London, March 5, 2015 (photo credit: Arieh Miller)

After the March 28 vote, all ballots will be sent to the Knesset in Jerusalem, where they are guarded in a safe until Election Day. Members of the Knesset’s election committee will then look at the names on the envelopes and check back with the polling stations where the citizen is registered to ensure he or she hasn’t voted twice.

After the polls close in Israel and the counting starts, the diplomats’ votes will be counted as well.

— Raoul Wootliff

Palestinian land owners petition High Court to return to Amona plot

A group of Palestinian landowners whose plots are located where the illegal Amona once stood are petitioning the High Court of Justice for permission to return to the central West Bank hilltop.

Amona was demolished in February 2017 after the High Court ruled it had been established on private Palestinian land. However, following the razing, the IDF issued a closed military zone order on the hilltop saying its continued habitation would disrupt public order.

New prefabricated homes are seen under construction in the West Bank between the Israeli outpost of Amona and the settlement of Ofra (background), north of Ramallah, on January 31, 2017. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

While the order has been enforced over the past two years against the Palestinian landowners, the IDF has allowed Israelis to return to the hilltop — once last year for settlers to hold a ceremony marking a year since the demolition of Amona and again last month when settler leaders illegally installed a pair of mobile homes at the site in response to a spate of Palestinian violence. The caravans were eventually removed by security forces in a violent evacuation three weeks later.

In addition to demanding that they be allowed to return to their lands, the petition, submitted together with the Yesh Din rights group, demands that the IDF enforce its order fully against Israelis.

— Jacob Magid

Hamas staff reclaim Egypt-Gaza border as PA withdraws

Hamas employees retake control of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its own staff.

The PA’s civil affairs authority had on Sunday accused Hamas of “summoning, arresting and abusing our employees,” leading it to conclude that their presence at the Rafah border was futile, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 16, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

An AFP journalist saw Hamas officials at the border crossing’s main gate and inside accompanying offices in southern Gaza on Monday afternoon.

A Hamas border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the terror group that rules the Strip had taken control “to avoid a vacuum.”

— with AFP

Jewish terror suspects to meet lawyer for first time

The attorney representing the two teens nabbed in the second round of arrests for Aisha Rabi’s murder says he has reached a deal with the Shin Bet security service in which he will be allowed to meet with his clients for the first time tomorrow morning.

Adi Keidar, from the Honenu legal aid group, had submitted an appeal against the Shin Bet order barring him from meeting with clients since their arrests on Saturday night, which was slated to be brought before the Lod District Court today. The deal saw him drop the appeal in exchange for the Shin Bet agreeing not to extend the order which was set to expire Tuesday anyway.

The three other suspects in the probe who were arrested last Sunday went nearly a week without seeing their attorneys until the Shin Bet’s order expired Saturday night as the two other suspects were being arrested.

Israeli law allows authorities to delay by up to 21 days an attorney visit for an individual arrested in a security-related crime.

— Jacob Magid

Soldier killed in training accident named as 20-year-old Evyatar Yosefi

The Israel Defense Forces identifies the soldier killed this morning in a training accident as Sgt. Evyatar Yosefi, 20, of Givat Shmuel.

Yosefi, who served in the Paratroopers Brigade, drowned while attempting to cross a rain-swollen stream in northern Israel during a navigation exercise.

Yosefi was promoted to the rank of sergeant upon his death.

The military is investigating the circumstances behind the accident.

— Judah Ari Gross

University of Haifa historian named ‘Humanist of the Year’ for Holocaust art exhibit

Art historian Dr. Rachel Perry, a faculty member in University of Haifa’s Weiss-Livnat International Graduate Program in Holocaust Studies, is being awarded the 2018 “Humanist of the Year” award from The Inna and Michael Rogatchi Foundation for her leadership of a groundbreaking museum exhibit at the university.

Perry, who teaches a course on visual culture and the Holocaust, is the chief curator of “Arrivals, Departures,” which went on display at the northern Israeli campus’s Hecht Museum this year.

The exhibition featured the never-before-seen salvaged works of 18 Jewish artists from France who were killed by the Nazis. Those 138 artworks, known as the Oscar Ghez Collection, were donated to University of Haifa in 1978 by Dr. Oscar Ghez, and were researched and restored over the course of two years by students in the Weiss-Livnat program.

The Inna and Michael Rogatchi Foundation said the award was being given to Perry for her “extraordinary in-depth and detailed Arrivals, Departures project on the art and life of the Jewish artists from the École de Paris (School of Paris), sustainable humanistic teaching methodology, visionary art curatorship, in overall, the high act of humanism which has become a notable contribution into the art history of the Holocaust.”

Rwanda’s national carrier to start direct flights to Israel

Rwanda’s national airline will start operating regular flights to and from Israel in the coming months after the two countries on Monday signed a bilateral agreement as part of the Open Skies aviation reform.

The development comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rwandan President Paul Kagame agreed in September to open embassies in each other’s countries, amid a diplomatic flurry that has seen Jerusalem develop closer ties with other African nations such as Chad.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 24, 2018. (GPO)

The civil aviation authorities of Israel and Rwanda conducted several weeks of talks regarding the air service agreement, which has been signed by Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Rwandan ambassador to Israel Joseph Rutabana.

RwandAir intends to start operating its new Kigali-Tel Aviv line within a few months, Rutabana was quoted as saying by Hebrew-language media.

PM to deliver ‘dramatic announcement’ during prime time news

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver a “dramatic announcement” from his residence at 8 p.m., which coincides with the start of the nightly prime time news.

As opposed to previous such addresses, the press statement announcing this one came from the Likud spokesperson and not the Prime Minister’s Office, suggesting the announcement will be political in nature.

Netanyahu says he will deliver ‘special announcement’

Writing on Twitter (in Hebrew), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slightly changes the wording of a statement put out by his Likud party promising a “dramatic announcement” at 8 p.m., saying instead that it will be a “special announcement.”

Netanyahu announcement will reveal new details on investigations — report

A source close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will reveal new details on the corruption investigations against him during his scheduled 8 p.m. announcement, Haaretz reports.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will reportedly decide whether to indict the prime minister next month, ahead of April’s elections, in three cases in which he is suspected of bribery.

 

Zandberg slams Shaked for meeting with families of Jewish terror suspects

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg slams Ayelet Shaked for meeting with the families of the suspects in Aisha Rabi’s murder, claiming that the justice minister’s New Right party has “different standards for Jews and Arabs.”

“Instead of doing soul searching, she is making an electoral calculation and running into the arms of families accused of terror,” Zandberg says in a statement.

Kurdish official asks for US clarifications over Syria withdrawal

A Syrian Kurdish official says that Syria’s Kurds are awaiting clarifications from the US over its plans to pull out its troops from Syria, following comments made by a top White House aide that appeared to contradict earlier comments by US President Donald Trump.

Badran Ciya Kurd says the Kurds have not been informed of any change in the US position and were in the dark about the latest comments by US national security adviser John Bolton and what they indicated.

“We have not been formally or directly notified, all what we heard were media statements,” he says.

— AP

Ginsburg misses Supreme Court arguments for first time ever after cancer surgery

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is missing arguments for the first time in her 25-year tenure on the US Supreme Court in the aftermath of surgery to remove cancer from her lungs.

Ginsburg was not on the bench as the court met Monday to hear arguments. It was not clear when she would return to the court, which will hear more cases on Tuesday and Wednesday, and again next week.

In this photo from November 30, 2018, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the 85-year-old justice is continuing to recuperate and work from home after doctors removed two cancerous growths from her left lung on December 21.

Ginsburg was discharged from a New York hospital on December 25.

— with JTA

Funeral of drowned IDF soldier to be held this evening

The funeral for an IDF soldier who drowned during a navigation exercise in northern Israel will be held at 9 p.m. in Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul military cemetery, the army says.

Sgt. Evyatar Yosefi, 20, who served in the Paratroopers Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion, slipped and fell into the rain-swollen Hilazon stream near the town of Karmiel. His body was found by rescuers approximately 100 meters (330 feet) downstream.

The family of the soldier asks that the media not attend the funeral.

— Judah Ari Gross

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announces resignation

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announces he will step down next month, more than three years before his current term was due to expire.

From left: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, World Bank Group president, Jim Yong Kim, US President Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pose for media at a panel discussion during the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)

“It has been a great honor to serve as president of this remarkable institution, full of passionate individuals dedicated to the mission of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime,” Kim says in a statement.

Kim, who took over leadership of the global lender in 2012, is to join an as-yet unnamed firm focusing on investments in developing countries.

World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva will serve as interim president upon Kim’s February 1 departure, the bank said in a statement.

— AFP

Egypt to keep Gaza crossing closed after Hamas takeover

Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas.

The Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, said earlier that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip.

Hamas handed over control of the Rafah crossing to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as part of a 2017 reconciliation deal. But on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority withdrew its personnel from the crossing.

The withdrawal came as tensions are building between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. The Palestinian Authority said Hamas arrested border officials and Fatah supporters in Gaza to prevent them from holding a rally marking the movement’s founding anniversary.

Michigan synagogue vandalized for second time in 2 months

A synagogue in Battle Creek, Michigan,  has been vandalized for the second time in two months.

A concrete carving of a menorah on the front of Temple Beth El was spray-painted with an unknown but deliberate symbol, and the word “lier,” presumably a misspelling of liar.

The vandalism was reported on Sunday morning, according to the local media.

On  November 23, an unknown vandal took a hammer and chisel to the concrete menorah, damaging the carving.

— JTA

Netanyahu set to deliver ‘dramatic announcement’ at 8 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to deliver his “dramatic announcement” at 8 p.m., amid wild speculation over what he might say.

Unlike previous such announcements, there have been almost no leaks from the prime minister or his associates over the content of his announcement.

Netanyahu to demand to face state’s witnesses against him

Netanyahu will demand to hold a face-to-face meeting with the state’s witnesses in the three corruption cases against him, during his “dramatic announcement” this evening, the Likud party says.

According to a statement, he has requested such a meeting from police investigators twice, but has been refused.

Three of his senior aides have turned state’s witness to provide testimony against him.

Netanyahu demands televised confrontation with state’s witnesses

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands, during a televised announcement, that police allow him to face state’s witnesses who have testified against him in the three corruption cases in which he is a suspect.

“Today, I reveal to you that during my investigations, I demanded a face-to-face confrontation with states witnesses. I was refused. I asked again. I was refused again,” he says.

“Today, I repeat that demand, and as far as I am concerned, it should be on live television.”

Netanyahu says that central witnesses ignored in corruption cases

Netanyahu says that in addition to him not being allowed to face state’s witnesses who have testified against him, police have ignored other possible witnesses who could have testified in his favor.

He says that the head of the anti-trust authority, David Eilat, who backed a regulatory decision considered suspicions by police, was not questioned.

Netanyahu says that the bribery suspicions against him are not bribery

Netanyahu says that the bribery suspicions against him should not be considered bribery because no money was passed between suspects.

Netanyahu is suspected of bribery in three cases, one of which involves gifts from wealthy associates, with the other two involving potential quid-pro-quo deals for regulatory favors in exchange for positive media coverage.

Labor chief Gabbay: ‘In a normal country, a PM does not behave this way’

Labor leader Avi Gabbay says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech attacking law enforcement authorities over the corruption investigations against him proves that Israel needs a new prime minister.

“In a normal country, a prime minister does not behave this way. In a normal country, the prime minister does not attack the law enforcement authorities,” Gabbay says. “Instead of dealing with the security of the residents of the south, the cost of living, or the health system collapsing, Netanyahu is busy rescuing himself from the investigations.”

Gabbay calls on Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Israel Resiliance chair Benny Gantz to unite with him in order to replace Netanayhu in the April elections.

“Lapid and Gantz, you are good people, you saw Netanyahu this evening, wildly attacking the law enforcement authorities. I tell you here: we must not be partners in it. Tonight, more than ever, the time has come for you to announce that in no case will you be Netanyahu’s partners,” he says.

“The State of Israel needs another way, a path of change.”

Regev: Police investigators don’t want the truth, they want to hurt the PM

Culture Minister Regev releases a statement backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that police investigators failed to conduct the corruption probes against him properly.

“Each day, we discover even more how justice is lacking in the cases against the prime minister,” she says. “If the prime minister claims that he is willing to confront any state witness and the police refuses, it only proves that the investigators are not searching for the truth, but for a version that is convenient for them.”

“I back the prime minister and believe in his innocence,” Regev declares.

Zandberg mocks PM ‘dramatic announcement,’ says future addresses shouldn’t be broadcast live

Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing Meretz party, mocked Netanyahu and said that “about such a ‘dramatic announcement,’ you can really say, ‘there’s nothing because nothing happened,'” using the premier’s longtime slogan regarding his corruption probes.

“The only dramatic thing here is a prime minister who continues to serve with a [police] recommendation of three bribery trials,” Zandberg said in a statement. “Until Netanyahu resigns, this is election propaganda that shouldn’t be broadcast.”

Justice ministry rejects PM’s criticism of corruption probes

The justice ministry rejects Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that the corruption probes against him were not carried out properly.

“Every action carried out as part of the investigations relating to the prime minister were conducted professionally and thoroughly, with the assistance of the Tel Aviv District Attorney and under the supervision of the state attorney and the attorney general, all according to professional considerations,” a statement from the ministry says.

“It is inappropriate for law enforcement authorities to relate to the investigative activities and the testimonies in the media, certainly not at this stage,” the statement adds, in reference to Netanyahu’s assertion that certain key witnesses were not interviewed.

Opposition leader Yachimovich: Netanyahu not fit to serve

“Netanyahu isn’t fit to serve in his position anymore,” Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich says in response to his claims that the corruption investigations against him were not carried out properly. “We witnessed a cynical and lame election speech by someone who tries with all his might to escape justice.”

Yachimovich says she will ask the Central Elections Committee to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“It is a blatant and coarse intervention by Netanyahu in his legal case, while creating a fake drama out of nothing and taking over screentime like the last of the dictators,” she charges.

Police says a face-to face meeting between PM and witnesses would not have made a difference

Senior police officials reportedly reject Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that he wanted to confront the state’s witnesses and was refused during his interrogation.

“A confrontation would not have facilitated the investigation. We are talking about events that took place over years,” Ynet quotes police officials as saying.

“We have enough evidence and documents to strengthen the evidence in the case. We are not talking about a specific incident at a given time, in a given place, or something similar to someone’s word versus somebody else’s word. A confrontation would not have changed the general picture in this case,” they add, Ynet says.

Gantz’s Israel Resilience party says Israel’s leader should focus on its citizens

“It is time for a leadership that deals with citizens of the state, not itself,” the party says in a statement, after Netanyahu slams investigations against him.

Livni: We need to save Israel from Netanyahu

Tzipi Livni, the leader of the Hatnua party, who was dismissed from the Zionist Unon opposition party last week, says Netanyahu’s speech was “another transparent attempt to delay justice in a hysterical, victim-like attack on law enforcement bodies for personal needs.”

“Instead of watching Netanyahu’s shows, we need to fight to save Israel from Netanyahu.”

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Regev: Police investigators don’t want the truth, they want to hurt the PM

Culture Minister Regev releases a statement backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that police investigators failed to conduct the corruption probes against him properly.

“Each day, we discover even more how justice is lacking in the cases against the prime minister,” she says. “If the prime minister claims that he is willing to confront any state witness and the police refuses, it only proves that the investigators are not searching for the truth, but for a version that is convenient for them.”

“I back the prime minister and believe in his innocence,” Regev declares.