‘Russia snubbed Israeli demand to keep Iran-backed forces 60km away from border’
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US Treasury announces new Iran sanctions

Netanyahu backs bill strengthening security cabinet; Russia said to refuse Israeli plea to keep Iran-backed forces well away from border; Peres honored in state memorial

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3r) meets with Mexican businessmen in Mexico City, September 14, 2017. (Prime Minister's Office)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3r) meets with Mexican businessmen in Mexico City, September 14, 2017. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (c) meets with Mexican businessmen in Mexico City, September 14, 2017. (Prime Minister's Office)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (c) meets with Mexican businessmen in Mexico City, September 14, 2017. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • IDF vehicles driving along the road parallel to the border fence separating the Israeli and Syrian regions of the Golan Heights, July 19, 2017. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
    IDF vehicles driving along the road parallel to the border fence separating the Israeli and Syrian regions of the Golan Heights, July 19, 2017. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
  • Then-defense minister Shimon Peres (c), along with former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (l), meets the hostages released from Entebbe as they land in Israel on July 4, 1976. (Uri Herzl Tzchik/IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Defense Ministry Archives)
    Then-defense minister Shimon Peres (c), along with former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (l), meets the hostages released from Entebbe as they land in Israel on July 4, 1976. (Uri Herzl Tzchik/IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Defense Ministry Archives)
  • Defense Minister Shimon Peres (r) with Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin welcoming the released Entebbe hostages upon their return to Israel on July 4, 1976. (Defense Ministry Archives)
    Defense Minister Shimon Peres (r) with Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin welcoming the released Entebbe hostages upon their return to Israel on July 4, 1976. (Defense Ministry Archives)
  • President Reuven Rivlin and ex-British PM Tony Blair shake hands during a ceremony marking one year since the death of late former president Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on September 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    President Reuven Rivlin and ex-British PM Tony Blair shake hands during a ceremony marking one year since the death of late former president Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on September 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Former British prime minister Tony Blair, Dr. Henry Kissinger and Yoni Peres at the first state memorial in honor of Shimon Peres at Mound Herzl in Jerusalem, September 14, 2017. (Josef Avi Yair Engel)
    Former British prime minister Tony Blair, Dr. Henry Kissinger and Yoni Peres at the first state memorial in honor of Shimon Peres at Mound Herzl in Jerusalem, September 14, 2017. (Josef Avi Yair Engel)
  • People pay their respects near the grave of the late Shimon Peres during a ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, marking one year since his death, September 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    People pay their respects near the grave of the late Shimon Peres during a ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, marking one year since his death, September 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • An illustrative photo of the 2012 Giro D'Italia. (CC, BY-SA Wikimedia)
    An illustrative photo of the 2012 Giro D'Italia. (CC, BY-SA Wikimedia)
  • In this frame grab provided on Tuesday, Sept. 05, 2017, by Russian Defence Ministry press service, showing what they say is along-range Kalibr cruise missile launched by the Russian Navy Admiral Essen frigate in the Mediterranean. (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service photo via AP)
    In this frame grab provided on Tuesday, Sept. 05, 2017, by Russian Defence Ministry press service, showing what they say is along-range Kalibr cruise missile launched by the Russian Navy Admiral Essen frigate in the Mediterranean. (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service photo via AP)

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

Rivlin, Blair honor Shimon Peres at state ceremony

During a state memorial to mark the one-year-anniversary of the passing of Shimon Peres, President Reuven Rivlin says the Israeli elder statesman’s dream of peace, determination and faith will live on “for generations to come.”

Speaking at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem at the ceremony, attended by Peres’ family and state and business leaders, Rivlin says: “You have left us much more to do, but the path you paved, the dream you spoke of, and most of all, your determination and faith, will be with this people for generations to come, and you will continue to be an advocate of all of us.”

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, at the event, said that the country Peres “wanted to create “was to be a gift to the world.”

Former British prime minister Tony Blair speaks at the first state memorial in honor of Shimon Peres at Mound Herzl in Jerusalem, September 14, 2017. (Josef Avi Yair Engel)

“It drew upon the best of the Jewish character developed over the ages, sustained through pogroms, persecution and holocaust, often battered but never subdued. This spirit is the spirit of striving…” Blair said.

“He grasped completely the extraordinary potential there would be if Israel and the region were working together, not simply on security, but on economic advance, technological breakthrough and cultural reconciliation,” he said of Peres, who died last year on September 28 at 93.

Chemi Peres, Peres’ son and the chairman of the Board of the Peres Center said: “My father struggled all of his life with his tremendous love for the State of Israel… His biggest dream – peace – my father did not get to see realized.

“I ask, in the spirit of my father, that you don’t stop dreaming and daring, because it’s the best thing that could happen to our beloved country,” he went on.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, Dr. Henry Kissinger and Yoni Peres at the first state memorial in honor of Shimon Peres at Mound Herzl in Jerusalem, September 14, 2017. (Josef Avi Yair Engel)

Trump denies deal on DACA, says wall ‘will continue to be built’

US President Donald Trump tweets that the wall along the border with Mexico — a key campaign promise — “will continue to be built” despite opposition and criticism.

In a series of tweets, the president also addresses his controversial decision to end the DACA program saying: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..”

“They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security,.”

He further denies that a deal was reached with Democrats, tweeting that “massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”

Giro d’Italia cycling race to start in Israel in 2018

The Giro d’Italia is to begin in Israel in 2018, the first time one of cycling’s three major races has started outside Europe, the ministry of culture and sport says.

A spokesman for Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev confirmed the start, but could not immediately provide further details. A press conference has been scheduled for Monday.

AFP

Russian Navy fires 7 cruise missiles at IS targets in Syria

The Russian Defense Ministry says Russian submarines fired at least seven cruise missiles at Islamic State targets near Deir al-Zor in Syria.

The missiles were fired from the eastern Mediterranean.

“The targets were command posts, communication centers, as well as militants’ weapons and ammunition stockpiles in areas of south-east Deir al-Zor under the control of Islamic State,” the Russian ministry said.

Israeli singer at Morocco jazz festival stirs controversy

An Israeli singer’s participation at a jazz festival in the Moroccan city of Tangier is stirring controversy in a country that is usually perceived as the least unfriendly to Israel.

Some locals have called for the cancellation of the upcoming performances of Noam Vazana, an Israeli-born vocalist, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Tanjazz Festival.

In response to these calls, promoted by the local chapter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the organizer of the event told the Moroccan edition of Huffpost, in remarks picked up by AFP: “Noam Vazana is Dutch, she lives in Amsterdam. That’s not really a Zionist characteristic. But I don’t even want to enter into this ridiculous debate.”

Vazana is set to perform in a joint concert with an Istanbul-based singer named Teema.

She addressed the controversy in a Facebook post, saying that in recent days she has faced “a lot of pressure from BDS to cancel my shows in Morocco,” but that there have also been “beautiful words of welcome from listeners from my previous 2 tours in the country.”

She added that it “was very moving to read your hundreds of loving comments. Thank you all for showing your support! I look forward to the concerts this weekend.”

In a previous post, she said that “this is a concert about cultural diversity, not politics. Music brings people together and that’s all we want to do in Tangier.”

In the last 24 hours I've been receiving a lot of pressure from BDS to cancel my shows in Morocco. But there have been…

Posted by ‎Noam Vazana – נועם וזאנה‎ on ceturtdiena, 2017. gada 14. septembris

IDF exercise simulating war with Hezbollah comes to a close

The IDF’s “Or Hadagan” exercise, which simulated a war with the Hezbollah terrorist group, officially comes to an end after 10 days of mock combat in which tens of thousands of troops took part.

“Over the past two weeks the Northern Command trained, including its various units, both to defend and attack in the northern front. We improved our readiness for future challenges by using the concept of joint cooperation as well as by enhancing our capabilities in intelligence, fire and maneuver,” said the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick.

A video of the exercise that was released by the army shows the involvement of ground troops, unmanned aerial vehicles, naval ships, helicopters, fighter jets and artillery.

This was the army’s largest exercise in 19 years. It got its name from Meir Dagan, a former Mossad chief and former head of the Northern Command, who died last year.

— Judah Ari Gross

In newly released recordings, Peres speaks to Entebbe rescuers, survivors

The Defense Ministry released recordings of Shimon Peres speaking to security personnel who rescued Israeli hostages in the daring 1976 Entebbe military raid, in honor of the one-year anniversary of the elder statesman’s death last year at age 93.

Peres, who was then defense minister, is heard in the recordings greeting survivors of the hostage crisis as they landed back in Israel following the rescue, as well as members of Sayeret Matkal who took part in the raid, telling them, “You left a very worried country and came back to a very proud country.”

The hostages, rescuers and the French flight crew aboard the hijacked Air France flight from Israel to Paris, arrived in Israel on July 5 that year after being rescued a day earlier in a daring raid by a group of some 100 Israeli commandos, led by future Israel Defense Forces chief-of-staff Dan Shomron, Maj. Gen. Yekutiel Adam, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Peled and Lt. Col. Yonatan (Yoni) Netanyahu. The plane was diverted first to Athens and then made its way to Uganda where the hostages were held at the Entebbe airport for days.

The daring rescue operation resulted in 103 out of the 106 hostages being brought back alive and only one fatality among the Israeli forces — Yonatan Netanyahu.

Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli leader assassinated in 1995 by an extremist Jew, and who was the prime minister in 1976, can also be heard in the recordings speaking to the crew of the French flight, who had volunteered to stay with the Jewish hostages, telling them that Israel “greatly appreciates they way you cared for them under the difficult circumstances.”

In the audio, Peres hears the stories of those rescued and their ordeals and then addresses security personnel saying, “You’ve taken risks greater than you probably know” and telling them to rest and that he and the whole country was very proud of them.

Islamic State claims attacks in Iraq that killed at least 50

The Islamic State group claims responsibility for twin attacks that killed at least 50 people in southern Iraq.

In a statement released by its propaganda arm Amaq, IS says several suicide bombers had staged the assault on a restaurant and a security checkpoint.

— AFP

‘Russia snubbed Israeli demand to keep Iran-backed forces 60km away from border’

Russia reportedly disregarded an Israeli demand two months ago that a ceasefire deal in southern Syria between President Bashar Assad and Syrian rebels, under the auspices of the Washington and Moscow, ensure that Iranian forces and Iran-backed Shiite militants would not be allowed to operate within 60-80 kilometers of the border with Israel, Haaretz reports.

Russia refused to answer the demand, made in July while negotiations for the deal were ongoing, committing only to keeping Iranian-backed fighters five kilometers from the armistice line between those of the Assad regime and the rebels in the Golan Heights.

Israeli had wanted a buffer zone of between 60 and 80 kilometers from the border on the Golan Heights, repeatedly warning against Iran’s military ambitions in the area and an increased Iranian presence on Israel’s northern border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he opposes the deal since it did not sufficiently address Israel’s security needs.

White House poised to extend Iran sanctions relief under nuke deal

The Trump administration is poised to extend sanctions relief to Iran, avoiding imminent action that could implode the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

But the move expected Thursday comes as the White House seeks ways to find that Tehran is not complying with the agreement. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal, but has yet to pull out of it.

Trump is working against a Thursday deadline to decide whether to extend the sanctions waivers, which were first issued by the Obama administration.

— AP

Trump says immigration deal must include wall

President Donald Trump says that, “ultimately,” funding for a border wall with Mexico must be part of any immigration deal. But he says that funding can come at a later date.

Trump tells reporters in Florida that: “We have to have an understanding that, whether it’s in the budget or some other vehicle, in a fairly short period of time, the wall will be funded.”

He says, “Otherwise we’re not doing anything.”

Trump and Democratic leaders talked Wednesday night over dinner about what to do with the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer announced they’d reached an agreement with Trump that does not include wall funding. But the White House says that’s premature.

— AP

Netanyahu addresses leading businessmen in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with 16 heads of Mexico’s leading cooperations, seeking to get them interested in investing in Israel.

At a “power breakfast” in the city’s St. Regis hotel, he tells them about Israel’s hi-tech prowess, particularly in the field of cybersecurity and invites them to hold their next meeting in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Mexico’s leading businessmen in Mexico City, September 14, 2017. (PMO)

Later in the day, he is set to speak at an Mexican-Israeli business forum for 30 Israeli and dozens of Mexican businessmen.

After that, he is scheduled to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto and representatives of the local Jewish community.

— Raphael Ahren

Israeli blogger released from Azerbaijan prison says he was tortured

The Israeli-Russian blogger who arrived in Israel following his pardon and release from prison in Azerbaijan says he was tortured and attacked during his incarceration.

Alexander Lapshin landed at Ben-Gurion Airport this afternoon and was taken to hospital for a round of checks after claiming he was feeling unwell.

Lapshin was facing three years behind bars for traveling to an out-of-bounds area in Armenia, but on Monday, the office of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said that he was pardoning Lapshin, who had petitioned to be extradited to Israel.

Lapshin was greeted at the airport by his family and Zionist Union Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova, who was involved in efforts to help the blogger and his family.

In messages to Svetlova, the contents of which were published in the Hebrew press, Lapshin said he was met with threats from the very first moments of his detainment in Baku.

He told the MK he was questioned on alleged cooperation with Russian intelligence and Armenian intelligence against Azerbaijan.

“They tortured me and attacked me and then came the pardon,” he wrote.

Russian-Ukrainian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin, seen in a September 2014 video. (Screen capture: YouTube)

PM backs bill strengthening role of security cabinet, ability to go to war

MEXICO CITY — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses support for a proposed draft amendment to Israel’s Basic law that would strengthen the role of the security cabinet, allowing the prime minister to declare war, or order a military operation that could lead to war, with the approval only of the 10-member body.

“For several years now, I’ve thought that Israel’s constitutional framework doesn’t allow it to deal with military challenges in the modern era. The change that is required is to bring the critical decisions to the cabinet,” he tells reporters on the sidelines of a series of meetings with Mexican and Israeli businessmen.

The needed change can happen only as a consequence of new legislation, the prime minister adds. “This is what we’ll do,” he vows.

Netanyahu stresses that he is not referring to any specific military campaign or timing, but rather seeking a “structural change.

The prime minister rebuffed reporters’ questions about US policy vis-a-vis Iran, referring to his upcoming meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York. “I will hear exactly that the American decisions are based on and what their plans are for the future,” he says.

The bill would have the full cabinet authorize the security cabinet to make decisions about going to war or taking steps that could lead to war. And it would allow decisions to be made even if not all members of the security cabinet were available at the time.

The full cabinet would not need to be briefed on the decisions or the reasons for the decisions, according to the draft.

This bill was prepared by the Justice Ministry in August.

— Raphael Ahren

US Treasury announces new Iran sanctions

The United States has levied economic sanctions on 11 individuals and companies accused of supporting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or engaging in hostile cyber attacks on US banks, the Treasury Department announces.

The move came the same day the White House was expected to announce an extension of sanctions relief under a landmark 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program, which was negotiated by the prior Obama administration.

Trump has criticized the agreement but maintained it so far.

— AFP

Bennett, Shaked announce plan that could limit Supreme Court’s powers

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) and head of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett, also the education minister, announce a plan that could curb the powers of the Supreme Court, Hebrew media reports.

The plan, to be presented in full at a party meeting next week, could see limits to the ability of the court, in its second role as the High Court of Justice — the country’s highest court of equity to which almost anyone can appeal in real-time against the actions of any arm of the state — to strike down legislation passed by the Knesset.

The plan, the ministers say, will bring “reorganization of ties between authorities and will help the government carry out its policies [and agenda]”

Israel’s top court has wielded powers considered by many scholars to be greater than in any other democracy.

Illustrative: The High Court of Justice in session. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
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‘Russia snubbed Israeli demand to keep Iran-backed forces 60km away from border’

Russia reportedly disregarded an Israeli demand two months ago that a ceasefire deal in southern Syria between President Bashar Assad and Syrian rebels, under the auspices of the Washington and Moscow, ensure that Iranian forces and Iran-backed Shiite militants would not be allowed to operate within 60-80 kilometers of the border with Israel, Haaretz reports.

Russia refused to answer the demand, made in July while negotiations for the deal were ongoing, committing only to keeping Iranian-backed fighters five kilometers from the armistice line between those of the Assad regime and the rebels in the Golan Heights.

Israeli had wanted a buffer zone of between 60 and 80 kilometers from the border on the Golan Heights, repeatedly warning against Iran’s military ambitions in the area and an increased Iranian presence on Israel’s northern border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he opposes the deal since it did not sufficiently address Israel’s security needs.