Saudis call for regional talks to combat Iran
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US to begin pushing economic aspect of Israeli-Palestinian peace plan

CNN reports administration will begin rolling out plan Sunday, announcing an international conference to be held in Bahrain meant to boost investment in Palestinians

  • President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, center, departs following an immigration speech by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
    President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, center, departs following an immigration speech by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
  • House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., arrives to lead a hearing on May 16, 2019. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., arrives to lead a hearing on May 16, 2019. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • Polish politician Konrad Berkowicz puts a skullcap on the head of rival lawmaker Anna Krupka during a debate in Kielce on May 18, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)
    Polish politician Konrad Berkowicz puts a skullcap on the head of rival lawmaker Anna Krupka during a debate in Kielce on May 18, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)
  • Police inspect a car and a bus that were damaged by a bomb, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 19, 2019. (AP/Mohammed Salah)
    Police inspect a car and a bus that were damaged by a bomb, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 19, 2019. (AP/Mohammed Salah)
  • The scene where a crane collapsed at a construction site in Yavne, killing four people and injuring one more, May 19, 2019. (Flash90)
    The scene where a crane collapsed at a construction site in Yavne, killing four people and injuring one more, May 19, 2019. (Flash90)
  • A demonstrator wearing a mask, bearing the likeness of American singer Madonna, during a protest calling for a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2019. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)
    A demonstrator wearing a mask, bearing the likeness of American singer Madonna, during a protest calling for a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2019. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)
  • In this May 17, 2019, photo released by the US Navy, the USS Abraham Lincoln sails in the Arabian Sea near the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur, US Navy via AP)
    In this May 17, 2019, photo released by the US Navy, the USS Abraham Lincoln sails in the Arabian Sea near the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur, US Navy via AP)
  • Iceland's Hatari holds up Palestinian flags during Eurovision in Tel Aviv, May 19, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)
    Iceland's Hatari holds up Palestinian flags during Eurovision in Tel Aviv, May 19, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)
  • Kobi Marimi of Israel performs the song "Home" during the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
    Kobi Marimi of Israel performs the song "Home" during the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
  • Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, left, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz deliver a press statement after a meeting on May 19, 2019 in Vienna. (HANS PUNZ / APA / AFP)
    Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, left, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz deliver a press statement after a meeting on May 19, 2019 in Vienna. (HANS PUNZ / APA / AFP)
  • Iraqi security forces remove concrete blast walls leading to the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP/Karim Kadim)
    Iraqi security forces remove concrete blast walls leading to the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP/Karim Kadim)

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

High Court okays nationalist Jerusalem Day march through Muslim Quarter

The High Court has rejected a petition from left-wing organization Ir Amim to move the route of a nationalist march to mark Jerusalem Day on June 2.

The Flag March is an annual parade which passes through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City to mark the city’s liberation in 1967.

Thousands of Jewish marchers wave the Israeli flags as they celebrate Jerusalem Day by dancing through Damascus Gate on their way to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The march is usually attended by far-right activists and the Muslim Quarter route has been the source of tensions in the past. Shopkeepers are usually told to close early and residents are made to stay at home as flag-waving nationalists march by.

Ir Amim had argued that tensions would be heightened because of the overlap with the last days of Ramadan, slated to end June 5.

In their decision, the judges note that police have committed to keep order during the march and say Ir Amim does not have standing in the case to file a petition for an injunction.

Former CIA chief, nuke deal negotiator to brief Democrats on Iran tension

House Democrats will hear from former CIA director John Brennan about the situation in Iran, inviting him to speak next week amid heightened concerns over the Trump administration’s sudden moves in the region, sources say.

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 23, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Task Force (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Brennan, an outspoken critic of US President Donald Trump, is scheduled to talk to House Democrats at a private weekly caucus meeting Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide and another person familiar with the private meeting.

Both were granted anonymity to discuss the meeting.

The invitation to Brennan and Wendy Sherman, the former State Department official and top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, offers counterprogramming to the Trump administration’s closed-door briefing for lawmakers also planned for Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers are likely to attend both sessions.

— AP

Tel Aviv University names new president

Tel Aviv University’s board of directors has appointed law Prof. Ariel Porat as its new president.

Ariel Porat (Courtesy: Yonatan Tzur Duvdevani)

Porat, who is also a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, will replace Joseph Klafter, who is retiring after 10 years at the helm of the school.

Porat served as dean of TAU’s Law Faculty from 2002 to 2006 and in 2014 was a recipient of the Emet prize, among the most prestigious awards for Israeli academics.

In a statement sent out by the school, Porat says he is “proud to take on the task.”

Culture minister blasts Madonna, Eurovision broadcaster over Palestinian flags

Culture Minister Miri Regev on Sunday has criticized the display of Palestinian flags during the Eurovision song contest finals in Tel Aviv, including by one of Madonna’s dancers.

“It was an error,” Regev, a right-wing minister known for provocative stances, tells journalists before a cabinet meeting.

“Politics and a cultural event should not be mixed, with all due respect to Madonna.”

Madonna and Quavo sing “Future” at the Eurovision Song Contest as two dancers walk arm-in-arm with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs, May 18, 2019 (YouTube screenshot)

Regev criticized Israeli public broadcaster Kan for not having prevented the flags from being shown, though it was unclear what could have been done.

During Madonna’s performance at the Eurovision extravaganza, which began Saturday night and stretched into Sunday morning, two of her dancers could be seen side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs.

Separately, Icelandic group Hatari displayed scarfs with Palestinian flags when results were being announced.

Iceland’s Hatari holding up Palestinian flags during Eurovision in Tel Aviv on May 19, 2019. (screen capture: YouTube)

The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, condemned both displays.

Regev also criticized KAN for not having filmed any of its “postcards” of participating singers in the West Bank.

However, Norwegian act KEiiNO filmed its promo in the Judean Desert in an area that appeared to be in the West Bank.

— AFP

Saudis call for regional talks to combat Iran

Saudi Arabia is calling for emergency regional talks to discuss mounting Gulf tensions.

King Salman invited Gulf leaders and Arab League member states to two emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences,” the kingdom’s official SPA news agency reports.

The UAE’s foreign ministry agres the current “critical circumstances” require a unified Arab and Gulf stance.

The meetings will be a “significant opportunity for the countries of the region to achieve their aspirations for establishing peace and stability,” it says.

Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, says his country does not want to go to war with Iran but would defend itself.

— AFP

Explosion targets tourist bus in Egypt — report

An explosion has targeted a tourist bus near Egypt’s pyramids in Giza, Reuters reports.

There is no immediate word on casualties.

16 people reported injured in bus explosion

Initial reports suggest some 16 people were injured in the Egypt bus blast.

Pictures purport to show light damage to the bus and tourists in the area.

IRGC head says Iran not looking for war

The outgoing head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, tells Al-Jazeera his country is not looking for war.

But he adds his army can easily defeat any enemy if need be.

In this undated photo released by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran (Sepahnews via AP)

“The enemies of Iran don’t hunt for a war, either. But there is a difference between them and us: they are afraid of war; their limit is where their life is in danger, which makes them easy to be defeated,” he says, according to state-run news agency IRNA.

The comments echo a similar statement from Saudi Minister Adel al-Jubeir earlier in the day that his country does not seek war but will defend itself.

17 said injured in Egypt bombing, mostly foreigners

AFP reports 17 people have been injured in the Egypt tourist bus blast, attributing the information to medical and security sources.

Reuters reports that many of the injured are foreign tourists.

A video purports to show the bus that was damaged.

Arab League urges Germany to walk back anti-BDS motion

The Arab League is calling on the German parliament to rescind a resolution that condemned a boycott movement against Israel as “anti-Semitic.”

The Bundestag passed a motion on Friday against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, warning that its actions were reminiscent of the Nazis’ campaign against Jews.

Lawmakers attend a polling at the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Friday, May 17, 2019. German lawmakers have approved a resolution denouncing the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel and describing its methods as anti-Semitic. (Wolfgang Kumm/dpa via AP)

The Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestinian affairs Saeed Abu Ali says in a statement the Bundestag’s motion against BDS is “regrettable… unjustified… (and) biased” in favor of Israel.

He urges Germany’s parliament to “reverse this erroneous step and support the Palestinian people’s right for liberation.”

— AFP

South Africans injured in Egypt blast, no Israelis on bus

Security sources tell AFP that South Africans and Egyptians were among those injured when an explosive device went off, hitting a tourist bus.

Israel Foreign Ministry says after an initial check that no Israelis were aboard the bus.

Haifa junction re-opens after explosive gas leak cleared

A major junction in Haifa has reopened after being closed off Saturday when a leak of flammable industrial gas  was discovered in the area.

Police had closed off the so-called Home Center Junction at Yigal Yadin and Halutsei Hata’asiya roads in an industrial zone in the city’s east over the leak.

Israel environment ministry workers spray water into the sewers under a commercial area trying to disperse explosive gas that leaked from the Haifa Bay chemical refineries, May 18, 2019. (Ministry of Environmental Protection)

Authorities say there is no longer any threat to the public, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

Egyptians in car also hurt in bombing — report

The Egypt Independent reports that 25 South Africans were on the bus damaged by a blast near the Giza pyramids.

It says four Egyptians who were in a car on the same road were also injured by flying glass and shrapnel.

 

Five more arrested in deadly crane accident

Five more people have been arrested over a deadly crane collapse at a building site in Yavne Sunday morning.

The arrests brings the number of managers and others detained to 13. Some are questioned as possible suspects while others are just brought in to give testimony, according to Haaretz.

The scene where a crane collapsed at a construction site in Yavne, killing four people and injuring one more, May 19, 2019. (Flash90)

Four people were killed in the work accident, three when concrete slabs fell on them and a fourth when he became trapped atop the crane. According to Haaretz, the four were all Israelis and had been on the site to dismantle and move the crane.

Polish candidates put kippah on rival, say party ‘kneels to Jews’

A debate in the Polish city of Kielce descended into a display of anti-Semitism and skullcap-throwing as candidates sparred over restitution to Jewish Holocaust victims.

During the debate, which took place Saturday, Dawid Lewicki, a candidate for the far-right Confederation political alliance, stuck a kippah in front of a candidate from the ruling Law and Justice party and said, “This is the symbol of Law and Justice. They kneel before the Jews, they sell the country for $300 billion,” according to Polish press reports.

The Law and Justice candidate, Anne Krupka, then threw the kippah off the table. Later when she got up to speak, a video shows Konrad Berkowicz, another Confederation official, pick up the kippah and hold it above her head.

Poland’s ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski says in a tweet that he condemns the incident. “All expressions of racially motivated hatred are unacceptable,” he says.

Trump goes after GOP’s Amash over impeachment call

Donald Trump has dismissed Republican lawmaker Justin Amash as “a total lightweight” for being the first member of the party to call publicly for the US president’s impeachment.

Amash — a staunch libertarian on the right of the party — declared that any other person would have been prosecuted over Trump’s multiple attempts to thwart Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian election interference.

“Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there,” Trump tweets about the Michigan lawmaker, who is of Palestinian heritage.

He says that if the Michigan lawmaker had “actually read the biased Mueller Report… he would see that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and, ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION…”

Trump calls Amash “a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!”

— AFP

Foreign Ministry: Poles behind kippah incident not worth reacting to

Reacting to the Polish anti-Semitism incident, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon says it’s nothing to get worked up about.

“This a fringe racist party that isn’t even worthy of responding to,” he says.

Israel working on anti-missile berm near Gaza border

The Defense Ministry has begun building a large dirt berm along a road that runs near the northern Gaza Strip, to protect vehicles from anti-tank missiles being shot by Palestinian terrorists, Ynet reports.

A video published by the Kan public broadcaster shows the berm near Kissufim and the Black Arrow memorial site. In November, a bus recently emptied of soldiers was hit by an anti-tank missile there, seriously injuring the driver.

https://twitter.com/kann_news/status/1130136948922814464

Earlier this month, an Israeli man was killed when an anti-tank missile shot from Gaza hit his car near Erez, in the same area.

Schiff: War with Iran more likely; Romney: No, it’s not

US President Donald Trump’s policies are making war with Iran much more likely, House intelligence panel head Adam Schiff, a Democrat, tells CBS’s Face the Nation.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat from California, evades reporters as he rushes to a vote during a committee hearing on Russia, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 28, 2019. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

“What is taking place now was all too predictable. The steps the administration has taken to renege on the Iran agreement, to try to force Europe to renege on the Iran agreement, to try to force Iran to withdraw from the agreement to go back to the path of enrichment, the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group, the belligerent rhetoric from the administration from Pompeo, from Bolton, all of these policy decisions have led us to a state where confrontation is far more likely and that cannot be ignored,” he says.

Schiff, one of the few lawmakers to have been briefed on the threat emanating from Iran, says it is real, but “When you take a series of steps that, yes, ratchet up tensions, you shouldn’t be surprised when the intelligence tells you, ‘Hey tensions have been ratcheted up.'”

Senator Mitt Romney tells CNN’s State of the Union that he does not think war with Iran is on the table.

Then-Republican US Senate candidate Mitt Romney, answering a question about tariffs during the debate with Democratic opponent Jenny Wilson in the America First Event Center in Cedar City, Utah, on October 9, 2018. (James M. Dobson/The Spectrum via AP, File)

“I don’t believe for a minute that either the president or John Bolton…has any interest in going to the Middle East and going to war. That’s just not going to happen. There’s no interest in doing that,” he says.

Worker safety at top of agenda after fatal accident

All three of Israel’s main newscasts at 8 p.m. lead off with expanded segments on four workers killed at a building site Sunday morning, reflecting frustration over a lack of worker safety.

Activists, labor representatives workers and others point out that enforcement is lax, and punishment against those involved non-existent.

Twenty workers have been killed so far this year, after 38 were killed last year, leading to a commitment by the government to hire dozens of more safety inspectors, apparently to little avail.

Channel 13 news says the crane industry is almost totally unregulated, with anybody able to build or take down the mammoth machines, potentially endangering the public.

Netanyahu given week to hand over details of finances — report

The state panel mulling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to let foreign businessmen fund his legal defense has given him a week to turn over documents relating to his financial holdings, or they will reject his request, Channel 13 news reports.

The panel has offered to allow Netanyahu’s cousin, Nathan Milikowski, and businessman Spencer Partrich, both based in the US, to pay the prime minister’s lawyers, if he discloses details about his financial dealings with Milikowski.

Suspicions have arisen over Netanyahu’s holdings in a US steel manufacturer, which he sold to Milikowski almost a decade ago, and its ties to German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp.

Explosion rocks Baghdad near US compound

An apparent mortar round has exploded near Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to the heavily fortified US Embassy.

The explosion comes days after the US pulled non-essential staff from the area over an unspecified threat, amid rising tensions with Iran.

— with AP

Report indicates Katyusha rocket possibly used in Baghdad attack

There are unconfirmed reports that a Katyusha rocket was shot at Baghdad’s Green Zone. There are also reports of multiple rounds shot in Baghdad.

There are no immediate reports of casualties, and no claim of responsibility.

 

US set to announce first part of peace plan roll-out

The US is taking its first step toward rolling out the Trump administration’s long awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, and is set to announce a meeting focusing on economic aspects of the long-shot proposal, CNN reports.

The channel, citing a senior administration official, says the administration will announce plans for an economic “workshop,” designed to boost investment in Palestinian territories, to take place in Bahrain on June 25 and 26.

“People are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist,” Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, seen as a main architect of the plan, tells CNN.

Bahrain meeting to avoid politics — Kushner

Kushner tells CNN that the Bahrain meeting will seek to avoid politics to avoid getting bogged down in tougher issues, and foreign ministers will be shunned in favor of finance ministers.

“We recognize that this needs to go hand in hand with the political plan, but this will be the first chance to roll out details of the economic plan,” says an unnamed official.

“We think this will showcase the potential of the entire region,” the official says. “If there’s peace, it will touch on not only the West Bank and Gaza, but also Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. The economies will become integrated.”

US confirms economic meeting for Palestinians in Manama

The White House confirms the Bahrain meeting as the first part of the peace plan roll-out, in a joint statement with Manama.

“This workshop is a pivotal opportunity to convene government, civil society, and business leaders to share ideas, discuss strategies, and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement,” the statement reads.

“If implemented, this vision has the potential to radically transform lives and put the region on a path toward a brighter future.”

US Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin says the meeting will “offer Palestinians exciting new opportunities to realize their full potential.”

No immediate response from Israel, Palestinians

There is no immediate response to the US/Bahrain announcement from either Israel or the Palestinians.

On Twitter, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and US envoy Jason Greenblatt have yet to begin bickering.

Iraq news agency confirms Baghdad Katyusha attack, no casualties

Iraq’s state-run news agency confirms that a Katyusha rocket crashed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone without causing any casualties.

Alert sirens sounded briefly in Baghdad after the explosion was heard, according to Associated Press reporters on the east side of the Tigris River.

— AP

Kushner: Political process must come before economics

In a statement released by the White House, Jared Kushner says the US will present its “vision on ways to bridge the core political issues very soon.”

“Economic progress can only be achieved with a solid economic vision and if the core political issues are resolved,” he says.

“We look forward to engaging with business and thought leaders from throughout the region and the world to build consensus around the best steps the international community can take to develop the foundation for a prosperous future. The Palestinian people, along with all people in the Middle East, deserve a future with dignity and the opportunity to better their lives.”

It is not yet clear whether an Israeli representative will be invited to the Manama meeting.

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Saudis call for regional talks to combat Iran

Saudi Arabia is calling for emergency regional talks to discuss mounting Gulf tensions.

King Salman invited Gulf leaders and Arab League member states to two emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences,” the kingdom’s official SPA news agency reports.

The UAE’s foreign ministry agres the current “critical circumstances” require a unified Arab and Gulf stance.

The meetings will be a “significant opportunity for the countries of the region to achieve their aspirations for establishing peace and stability,” it says.

Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, says his country does not want to go to war with Iran but would defend itself.

— AFP