The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
Senior Likud MK David Bitan says the pending indictment against his fellow party stalwart Haim Katz, which forced Katz to resign from the position of welfare minister last week, “sets a dangerous” precedent in prosecuting lawmakers for legislative activity.
“A terrible injustice has been done to Haim Katz,” Bitan tells Kan Radio in response to reports that he was seeking to be appointed minister in Katz’s stead.
“I have no intention of replacing him,” he insists.
Katz resigned from the government on Friday after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced earlier in the week that he plans to indict him on fraud and breach of trust charges for allegedly advancing legislation meant to benefit a financial consultant to major Israeli firms who was also a close friend and financial adviser to Katz himself.
The attorney general informed Katz he would have to resign over the pending indictment, a practice established in the 1990s with the court-upheld resignations of indicted cabinet members Aryeh Deri and Raphael Pinhasi.
Bitan, whom police have recommended be indicted on separate multiple corruption charges including bribery, fraud and money laundering, says that the indictment against Katz “sets a very dangerous precedent because it deals with parliamentary activity and legislation. So I think his trial will be swift and he will eventually be acquitted.”
Mandelblit has also announced that he plans to bring charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pending a hearing.
— Raoul Wootliff
President Reuven Rivlin asks the Ethiopian government to expedite the transfer to Israel of the body of 21-year old Israeli student Aya Na’amneh, found Sunday in an Ethiopian desert near where she went missing a day earlier.
Writing to his counterpart, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, Rivlin asked “to hasten as much as possible the treatment of transporting the late Aya Na’amneh’s coffin to Israel and her burial by her family’s side in Israel,” according to a statement from the president’s office.
“The president conveyed his deepest condolences to Aya’s family via their family friend, MK Issawi Freij, whom he met with today and asked to give a warm hug of comfort to the mourners,” the statement adds.
Yigal Amir, the Jewish extremist who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, has been sent to “solitary confinement” in the Rimonim Prison in central Israel after launching a hunger strike to protest prison authorities’ confiscation of his telephone.
According to the Israel Prisons Service, Amir’s phone was taken from him for two months after he used it for political purposes in violation of prison rules.
An IPS source said Amir, who is serving a life sentence for the 1995 assassination, has been returning his meals since Friday and was therefore sent to “solitary confinement” — he has served his seven-year sentence in a solitary cell but normally has access to a television and other amenities that will now be removed –Sunday morning for a seven-day stint.
Larissa Trimbobler, who married Amir in 2004 after a protracted legal struggle, wrote on Facebook last week that the confiscation followed a phone call by her husband to Yoav Eliasi, a rapper known as “The Shadow,” known for expressing far-right views.
Despite ongoing tensions on the Gaza border, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to fly to Ukraine this afternoon for a two-day visit to the Eastern European country.
His visit, which will last until Wednesday afternoon, comes less than a month before elections, leading political analysts to suggest he hopes to gain favor with Russian-speaking Israelis with Ukrainian roots.
In Kiev, Netanyahu will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and visit the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, which commemorates the 50,000 Jews killed at the site in 1941, his office confirmed last week.
Wheels-up was scheduled from Ben Gurion Airport at 3:30 p.m. but is currently delayed by an hour.
Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz accuses the government of having lost all deterrence against attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and promises that if his party is elected to lead the country he will launch a military campaign to overcome the terror group once and for all.
Touring communities on the border with the Gaza Strip hours after the IDF said it thwarted an attempted infiltration by armed men and after three rockets were fired overnight from the Palestinian enclave at Israel, the former IDF chief says that under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu security has been “lost.”
“The deterrence is not just eroded, it has been wiped out,” says Gantz, who hopes to unseat Netanyahu in coming September 17 elections.
Gantz vows that a Blue and White-led government would take a more forceful approach to dealing with Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel and is the de facto ruler of Gaza.
“We will carry out a campaign that will be a final campaign, we will militarily overcome Hamas,” Gantz pledges.
Blue and White number two Yair Lapid says that in the case of a repeat of the post-April coalition-building deadlock after September’s election, the Likud party will dump Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as its leader and form a unity government with Blue and White.
In an interview with The Times of Israel, he claims Likud, whose MKs unanimously supported Netanyahu’s resort to new elections when coalition talks failed at the end of May, will not tolerate a recurrence and are ready to abandon their leader if he cannot deliver a clear-cut victory.
“We are already talking to everybody in Likud, who are outraged by three things,” Lapid said, explaining, “They realized too late that the only thing he is negotiating for [when he tries to build a coalition] is his immunity [from prosecution in the three corruption cases against him]. Not, for example, their seats. He was willing to sell all the important ministries to [potential coalition] partners without leaving anything for Likud people. So they’re upset about this. They’re upset about the election. And they’re extremely upset about this walk of shame that he forced them into — signing this North Korean-like vote of confidence. It’s not even a vote of confidence…”
The founder of a virtual marijuana marketplace who police have accused of heading a criminal organization is greeted by cheering supporters as he is brought before a court following his extradition to Israel.
Amos Dov Silver was taken into custody after arriving early Sunday morning in Israel from Ukraine, where he was arrested in March at the request of Israeli police.
Silver, who is accused of founding and running the Telegrass application, briefly escaped from police on Friday as he was brought to the airport in Ukraine to be extradited, but was caught a day later.
Brought into the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing, supporters give Silver a standing ovation, with some chanting his name.
The court ordered Silver be remanded for 12 days after police requested 15, with the judge saying he was a flight risk.
Silver was largely silent in response to reporters’ questions. Turning to one of his police escorts, he said, “the day will come when I’ll tell them everything.”
Britain has revoked the citizenship of a dual national Muslim convert to the Islamic State group dubbed “Jihadi Jack” being held in northern Syria, according to reports on Sunday.
The move targeting Jack Letts, 24, who was a dual UK-Canadian national, has prompted a diplomatic row with Ottawa, Britain’s Mail on Sunday reports.
MoS EXCLUSIVE: Jihadi Jack has British citizenship stripped – sparking major row with Canada ahead of PM’s first G7. pic.twitter.com/O5LNe63DBa
— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) August 17, 2019
Former prime minister Theresa May approved the decision — which had been made by then-interior minister Sajid Javid — in one of her last actions before leaving office in early July, the newspaper says.
A spokesperson for Britain’s interior ministry declined to confirm the report, noting it does not routinely comment on individual cases.
“Decisions on depriving a dual national of citizenship are based on substantial advice from officials, lawyers and the intelligence agencies and all available information,” the spokesperson said. “This power is one way we can counter the terrorist threat posed by some of the most dangerous individuals and keep our country safe.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wishes Kuwait’s 90-year-old Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah a “speedy recovery” after holding “good talks” with the Gulf state’s officials.
Sheikh Sabah, who ascended to power in January 2006, was seen in public last week during Muslim prayers and appeared in good health.
There has been no word on the emir’s health in official media or Kuwaiti newspapers, though it is commonly made public if he is admitted to hospital or travels abroad for treatment.
“Good talks with Kuwaiti crown prince (Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah) and foreign minister. Praying for Emir’s speedy recovery,” Zarif writes on Twitter.
Good talks with Kuwaiti Crown Prince & FM. Praying for Emir's speedy recovery.
Stressed that Iran's proposal for Regional Dialogue Forum and non-aggression pact trumps reliance on extraneous actors.
After short stop in Tehran to brief President, embarking on Scandinavian tour. pic.twitter.com/wlo2LzcA9N
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 18, 2019
Zarif said that during the talks, he stressed that Iran’s proposal for a regional dialogue forum and non-aggression pact would eliminate the need to rely on foreign powers.
Gibraltar rejects a US demand to seize an Iranian oil tanker at the center of a diplomatic dispute as it prepared to leave the British overseas territory after weeks of detention.
Gibraltar’s government says it cannot seek a court order to detain the supertanker because US sanctions against Iran were not applicable in the European Union.
“The EU sanctions regime against Iran — which is applicable in Gibraltar — is much narrower than that applicable in the US,” the Gibraltar authorities say in a statement.
A Gibraltar judge had ordered the Grace 1 tanker released on Thursday, weeks after authorities seized the vessel on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria in breach of European sanctions. Iran has repeatedly denied this.
But on Friday the US Justice Department filed a request to detain the ship alleging it was involved in supporting illicit shipments to Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, listed as a terrorist group by Washington.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem calls Israel’s prime minister a “bully” and says she won’t visit as long as he remains the country’s leader.
In a statement posted online Saturday, she says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to bar a visit by two Democratic congresswomen was “a welcome sign that I never have to enter any country or place under your authority.”
After the urging of US President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar last week over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Israel later granted permission for Tlaib to visit her grandmother in the occupied West Bank, but she declined, saying its preconditions were designed to humiliate her.
Steinem also criticized Trump, calling him the “accidental occupant” of the White House.
— with AP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel will not hesitate to launch a large-scale military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, even during the peak of election season, if deemed necessary.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his flight to Kiev, he says,”I heard comments that I am refraining from a large [military] campaign because of the elections. This is not correct. Everyone who knows me knows that my considerations are matter-of fact and real, that I act with full cooperation with the security forces, with assertiveness and responsibility.
“If it is required, we will embark on a large campaign, with considerations to the elections — with elections or without elections,” the prime minister stresses.
— Raphael Ahren
Jordan has summoned Israel’s ambassador in protest over “violations” at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount compound, the Hashemit Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry says.
It summoned envoy Amir Weissbrod to voice its “condemnation and rejection of Israeli violations” at the highly sensitive site, where Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinian worshipers last week “as well as demand the immediate halt of these provocative and absurd violations in the Noble Sanctuary, which are inflaming the conflict and constitute a clear violation of international law.”
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry adds that Ministry Secretary-General Zeid al-Lawzi “gave the Israeli ambassador a firm message to immediately pass along to his government, which demands that the Israeli violations and efforts aimed at changing the historic and legal statue in the Noble Sanctuary come to a halt at once.”
Jordan supervises the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
— with AFP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel’s initial green light for the visit of two controversial Democratic lawmakers was given before they made an official request and before they submitted their itinerary.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his flight to Kiev, Netanyahu says Israel in fact automatically allows all congresspeople to enter Israel, noting that just two weeks ago he met with a large group of Democratic lawmakers.
“When [Israeli] Ambassador [to the US Ron] Dermer spoke, he was carrying out exactly that policy. There is only one exception: the exception is the BDS Law, that requires us to check the entrance of supporters of BDS. At the time when Ambassador Dermer spoke, there was no specific request for these visits and also no specific itinerary and schedule,” the prime minister says.
“We respect all parties in the United States, but we also respect ourselves. Everyone who comes to boycott us and comes to undermine the legitimacy of State of Israel, we don’t allow them to enter,” he stresses.
Dermer had announced on July 19 that Israel would allow the congresswomen to visit. “Out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” he told The Times of Israel in a statement.
But on Thursday Israel said it had decided to bar Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
Netanyahu, justifying the unprecedented decision to ban serving US legislators from Israel, said last week it was plain that Omar and Tlaib intended to use the visit to harm Israel. “Several days ago, we received [Omar and Tlaib’s] trip itinerary,” Netanyahu said in a statement, “which clarified that they planned a visit whose sole purpose was to support boycotts and deny Israel’s legitimacy. For example, they called their destination ‘Palestine’ and not ‘Israel,’ and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress before them, they did not seek any meeting with any Israeli official, whether government or opposition.”
The Israeli military releases security footage of the group of five armed terrorists who attempted to enter Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip on Saturday night. In the footage, at least two men holding guns can be seen.
According to the IDF, the five men were spotted by soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras as they approached the security fence on Saturday night.
An attack helicopter and a tank opened fire at them.The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said three of the terrorists were killed.
A fourth was injured.
— Judah Ari Gross
Report: Pro-BDS org that sponsored US congressmen’s 2016 Israel visit was same one behind Omar, Tlaib’s canceled trip
The US political news site Politico reports that the pro-BDS organization cited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the reason for barring entry to Israel for US congresswomen Rashida Tlaiba and Ilhan Omar has in fact sponsored other authorized trips to Israel for members of Congress.
“The itinerary of the two congresswomen reveals that their sole purpose is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it. In addition, the organization that is funding their trip is Miftah, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel,” Netanyahu said last week.
But according to Politico, in 2016, Democratic Reps. Matt Cartwright (Pennsylvania), Dan Kildee (Michigan), Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), Luis Gutierrez (Illinois.) and Hank Johnson (Georgia) all went on a five-day trip to Israel and the West Bank sponsored by the group.
“And on that trip,” notes Politico, “the members of Congress listed their destination as “Palestine – Jerusalem – Ramallah” — not Israel,” similar to Tlaib and Omar’s itineraries.
“Those members of Congress stayed in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah. They met with PLO officials and Miftah board members, went to Hebron and met with its mayor, and tried to tour Gaza, but were prevented by the Israeli government,” the report adds.
Top officials in the Yesh Atid party concocted a plan last month to break off from the Blue and White electoral alliance and instead run with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisael Beytenu on a secular slate, party sources tell Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.
According to polls commissioned by party officials, a Yesh Atid-Yisrael Beytenu joint list would pick up 26-27 seats in the elections, more than any other party in the surveys. Liberman, sources close to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said, was aware of the idea and did not reject it out of hand.
The plan, which was formulated days before the August 1 deadline parties had to submit their list of candidates to the Central Elections Committee, would have shaken up the campaign season and possibly changed the political map in Israel. It was Lapid himself, however, who ultimately scrapped the plan.
“I signed an agreement with [Blue and White leaders] Benny Gantz and [Moshe] Bogie Ya’alon and I can’t violate it. This will also look really bad in the eyes of the public,” the sources quote Lapid saying.
Footage broadcast by Channel 13 news shows the moment that Telegrass founder, Amos Ben Silver, briefly escaped from Ukrainian police, as he was being brought to the airport to be extradited to Israel.
In the video clip, Ben Silver can be seen stepping away from his guards, as he waits to pass through the security check.
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) August 18, 2019
On Friday, Silver was taken to Kiev’s Boryspil airport to be flown to Israel, after he had exhausted appeals to stop his extradition, when he managed to slip away from his guards and escape. Following a day-long manhunt, Israeli and Ukrainian police announced Saturday that he had been nabbed, allowing for his successful extradition this morning.
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court later extended his remand for 12 days, with the judge saying he was a proven flight risk.
The Palestinian Authority Police says that it will prevent al-Qaws, a Palestinian LGBT rights group, from organizing any activities in the West Bank, some two weeks after the organization had planned to hold a gathering in Nablus.
PA Police spokesman Louay Arzeikat says in a statement that activities such as those organized by al-Qaws “go against and infringe upon the higher principals and values of Palestinian society,” and adds that the police were not aware of the group holding any recent meeting in Nablus under the title of “Margins.”
Al-Qaws’s Facebook page indicated that the group was planning to hold a meeting in Nablus on August 4, which it referred to as “Margins” and said would discuss gender pluralism in the city. An Al-Qaws staff member declined to confirm in a phone call whether the event ultimately took place, stating that the group does not communicate with the Israeli press.
— Adam Rasgon
A Haredi Orthodox man in Bnei Brak in central Israel, who has been living in poverty, wins more than $140,000 on a scratch lottery ticket.
He purchased the nearly $15 ticket on a whim, the first time he had ever purchased a lottery ticket, according to reports.
He called himself by the name “Ashkenazi Siman Tov,” in interviews with the Yeshiva World News and Arutz 7. Siman tov means good sign and often is used in conjunction with the term Mazel tov, which means good luck.
He bought the ticket in the Chazon Ish store in the city center where he does his weekly grocery shopping. Siman Tov was going through serious financial difficulties after his business went bankrupt.
Siman Tov publicly thanked God for the windfall and promised the store owner a generous tip.