Sephardi Jewish leader slams Sara Netanyahu for inquisition comparison
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Army readies for Friday Gaza protests, warns Hamas to keep lid on violence

IDF reportedly fears rocket fire may accompany demonstrations if fighting gets out of hand as border protests set to resume after three-week hiatus

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces following a demonstration along the border between Israel-Gaza, on September 6, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces following a demonstration along the border between Israel-Gaza, on September 6, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

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

Former navy chief, Netanyahu aide charged in Case 3000

The state attorney’s office has published charges in so-called Case 3000, allegedly involving a vast scheme to bribe officials close to the navy and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for massive contracts for German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp.

The prosecution says former head of the Israeli Navy, Eliezer Marom, and Miki Ganor, a former agent in Israel for Thyssenkrupp, will be charged with bribery.

Also being charged with bribery are former Netanyahu bureau chief David Sharan and former MK Eliezer Zandberg. Former deputy national security adviser Avriel Bar-Yosef is named but charges against him are not laid out.

Netanyahu’s former personal lawyer and cousin, David Shimron, is being charged with money laundering.

The charges are all pending a hearing.

Former Steinitz aide also caught up in Case 3000 charges

The announcement of charges has not only ensnared former Netanyahu aides, but also those close to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.

Rami Tayeb, a former political adviser to Steinitz, is being charged with facilitating a bribe, along with media strategist Itzik Lieber.

Miki Ganor and David Sharan, are accused of breaking campaign finance laws by giving Steinitz money above the allowed amount, via “strawmen.”

Steinitz and Netanyahu are not suspects in the case.


Bar-Yosef not yet charged, but named in charge sheet

Though the prosecution announcement accuses former deputy national security adviser Avriel Bar-Yosef of being in a “bribery relationship” with suspects Miki Ganor and Eliezer Marom, the Kan broadcaster reports that he has not yet been charged and prosecutors are still mulling charges against him.

Avriel Bar-Yosef attends a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on July 24, 2017. (Flash90)

Ganor is accused of routing money to powerful Israelis in order to push naval vessel deals worth billions of shekels.

Among other things, the prosecution statement notes that there was an “understanding, agreement and expectation that Marom and Bar-Yosef would get kickbacks from Ganor for their work in boosting him as an agent of the firm [Germany’s Thyssenkrupp] and for advancing deals to buy vessels as part of their posts.”

Israel selling radar systems to Czechs in $125 million deal

Israel has agreed to sell eight Iron Dome radar systems to the Czech Republic in a deal worth an estimated $125 million, Israel’s Defense Ministry says.

According to the ministry, the eight ELM-2084 Multi-Mission Radars will be delivered to Prague over the course of three years, from 2021 to 2023.

In Israel, the radar system is used in concert with Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, as well as other parts of the country’s air defense array.

“The acquisition of eight ‘Iron Dome’ radars is one of the key modernization projects on behalf of the Czech Armed Forces and specifically the Air Defense branch,” says Czech Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar.

The contract will be fulfilled by the Israeli Aerospace Industries subsidiary ELTA, with 30 percent of the money required to be spent within the Czech defense industry under the agreement, meaning “significant parts of the systems will be produced locally,” the Israeli Defense Ministry says in a statement.

The director of the International Cooperation Directorate of the Israeli Defense Ministry, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Yair Kulas, says he hopes this agreement will pave the way for further deals with NATO countries.

“It is an expression of confidence in the capabilities of the Israeli defense establishment and defense industries and highlights the significance of Israeli technology in the face of the threats shared by the international community,” Kulas says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Foreign Minister Katz weighs in against Corbyn

Foreign Minister Israel Katz says he hopes the leader of Britain’s Labour Party doesn’t get elected in the country’s upcoming vote.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

He cites a “wave” of anti-Semitism that Jeremy Corbyn “doesn’t deny” as the reason for his opinion.

“I personally hope he doesn’t get elected,” Katz says.

— AP


Flabbergasted Gantz calls Case 3000 charges ‘sad’

Responding to the charges in the suspected submarine bribery scandal, Blue and White head Benny Gantz calls it “another sad day.”

“As someone who served in defense for 38 years, I never thought I would hear the words corruption and Israeli defense said together,” the former IDF chief says.

Man killed by elevator doors in Jerusalem

A middle-aged man was apparently crushed to death by a faulty elevator door in a building next to the Jerusalem International Convention Center, medics say.

A first responder from the Magen David Adom rescue service says the man, in his 40s, was found unresponsive next to a freight elevator and declared dead at the scene.

The incident comes two days after a 19-year-old woman was crushed to death by the light rail near the ICC.

Ya’alon promises panel to probe unanswered aspects of case 3000

Also responding to the charges in the submarine bribery scandal is Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon, who was defense minister during part of the time that the suspected activity was taking place.

Ya’alon repeats his mantra that the case is the worst defense scandal in the country’s history and vows a government led by Blue and White will set up an investigatory panel to look into parts of the case connected to Netanyahu and not yet explored, like the approval of submarine sales to Egypt behind the defense minister’s back.

“Netanyahu’s closest associates have been charged with serious offenses, and he didn’t know?” he puzzles.

Netanyahu, who is touring Lisbon ahead of a meeting the Portuguese prime minister, has not yet commented on the case.

ICC prosecutor ‘concerned’ over West bank annexation plans

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says she is worried about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the closing statements of the trial of Bosco Ntaganda, a Congo militia leader, in The Hague, Netherlands, August 28, 2018. (Bas Czerwinski/Pool via AP)

Fatou Bensouda’s office “followed with concern proposals advanced during the recent electoral process, to be tabled to the Knesset, for Israel to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank,” her office writes in her annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities.

The ICC launched a preliminary examination into the “situation in Palestine” five years ago, leading Palestinian officials to complain that Bensouda is dragging her feet. In the report published Thursday, Bensouda says that the complicated issue needed more time.

“While the situation has been under preliminary examination for almost five years and has benefited from meaningful and constructive engagement with both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities, as well as numerous other actors, which have helped deepen the Office’s understanding and assessment of the situation, the Prosecutor also believes that it is time to take the necessary steps to bring the preliminary examination to a conclusion,” the report states.

— Raphael Ahren

Ex-Netanyahu attorney says charges a ‘pompous’ mix-up

Former Netanyahu lawyer David Shimron is dismissing the pending money laundering charge against him as nothing a but a big flub.

“I got the charge sheet and looked at it. There’s no submarines. There’s no bribery. There’s no fraud. So what is there? A technical violation that has been described in a pompous manner with considerable error,” he says, according to reports in Hebrew media.

He predicts the matter will be dropped once he gets a hearing ahead of the filing of formal charges.

Sara Netanyahu at memorial: My family is suffering an inquisition too

Visiting a memorial to Jews killed during an 1506 massacre in Lisbon, Portugal, near the site of Lisbon’s inquisition, Zman Yisrael’s Shalom Yerushalmi jokingly asks Sara Netanyahu which inquisition is worse, the medieval one or the one her family is being subjected now to via her husband’s legal woes.

Rather than brush it aside or laugh it off, Sara takes the bait and runs with it.

“Ahh, there’s something there,” she says smiling. “I don’t discount the question. I’m happy you understand that this is an inquisition for us.”

When her husband tries to change the subject, she turns to Yerushalmi and says, “We’ll find time to talk about this, eh.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu checking his phone while leaning on a memorial to Jews massacred in Lisbon, Portugal in 1506, on December 5, 2019. (Shalom Yerushalmi/Zman Yisrael)

Some 1,900 people, most of them Jews who had fled the Spanish inquisition years earlier, were killed in the 1506 pogrom. Portugal’s inquisition, in which tens of thousands more would be killed or forced to flee, began 30 years later.


Khamenei orders that innocent protesters who were killed be made ‘martyrs’

Iran’s supreme leader has agreed that people killed in nationwide unrest last month who had no role in fomenting it should be treated as “martyrs” with their families compensated.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision marks a significant softening of position by the Iranian authorities toward those killed during the protests that erupted on November 15 following a surprise hike in fuel prices.

The decision is a response to a report on the protests he commissioned from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, his official website says.


Netanyahu backs Ohana, trashes media

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet commented on the submarine graft case, but he is speaking out to defend his justice minister.

Netanyahu tweets a screenshot of a story in The Marker about suspicions that Justice Minister Amir Ohana received benefits illegally when he was a lawyer several years ago.

“Anyone who works to bring down the right — is shielded by the media. Anyone who criticizes the system — they open an investigation into him. They are running roughshod, with no shame,” he writes.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana holds a press conference in Jerusalem, October 29, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ohana himself doesn’t deny the story but tweets out that “if you put a question mark after it, you can write anything.”

The article in question does not have a question mark on it.

Democrats announce they are moving forward with Trump impeachment

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House is moving forward to draft articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump.

Pelosi delivers the historic announcement as Democrats push toward a vote, possibly by Christmas.

She says she is authorizing the drafting of articles of impeachment “sadly but with confidence and humility.”

“The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution,” Pelosi says.

At the heart of the impeachment probe is a July call with the president of Ukraine, in which Trump pressed the leader to investigate Democrats and political rival Joe Biden as Trump was withholding aid to the country.

“Our democracy is what is at stake,” Pelosi says in her solemn announcement. “The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections.”

— AP

White House says Democrats should be ashamed over impeachment

The White House says Democrats should be “ashamed” after their leader in the lower house of Congress pulled the trigger on impeaching US President Donald Trump.

“Democrats should be ashamed,” Trump’s chief spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham says in a tweet.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Winfield House during the NATO summit, December 3, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Echoing the president’s earlier comments, Grisham said that once the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives votes on impeachment, Trump looks forward to “a fair trial in the Senate,” where his Republican party holds power.


Russian state firm stops work at Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility

Russia’s Rusatom nuclear firm has halted work at Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, Russia’s Interfax news agency says.

The announcement comes weeks after Iran announced it would restart nuclear enrichment there, breaking the 2015 nuclear deal.

The TVEL unit of Rusatom, which makes nuclear fuel components, says in a statement that Iran’s decision to resume uranium enrichment at Fordo makes it impossible to produce radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.

The company notes that uranium enrichment is technologically incompatible with production of such isotopes. It adds that Iran would need to disassemble the centrifuges used to enrich uranium and decontaminate the room to continue the medical project.

The company says it had informed Iran of its decision.

— with AP

Netanyahu meets Portuguese PM after lazy Lisbon morning

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now meeting with his Portuguese counterpart, Antonio Costa, at the latter’s official Lisbon residence.

The meeting is only Netanyahu’s second public event since he arrived in Lisbon yesterday afternoon, when he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Earlier today, Netanyahu and his wife Sara briefly visited a monument in memory of a pogrom on Portuguese Jews in the late Middle Ages.

— Raphael Ahren

Former navy chief says he won’t need to walk the plank

Former navy head Eliezer Marom says he is sure he will be cleared of pending charges announced in an expansive submarine graft case earlier.

“I respect the law enforcement authorities, but am convinced that the suspicions are groundless,” he says, according to Ynet. “I know the facts and am sure of my innocence. I’m sure after a hearing the decision will be changed.”

15 stabbed in Baghdad as pro-Iran group joins protest

Anti-government protesters say at least 15 people have suffered stab wounds in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of their movement, after political parties and Iran-backed militia groups briefly joined them, raising fears of infiltration by authorities.

Lawmakers convened a parliament session Thursday to amend laws governing compensation to include victims of military operations, according to the session agenda seen by The Associated Press.

There were over a dozen knife attacks by the late afternoon when protesters aligned with political parties and Iran-backed militias withdrew from Tahrir, three demonstrators and a witness say. There were no fatalities.

Iraqi supporters of the Hashed Al-shaabi armed network, demonstrate in the capital Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on December 5, 2019. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Another protester who requests anonymity says the attacks, “might have been perpetrated by the parties or someone who wants to ignite problems with the parties.”

Iraqi officials have repeatedly warned of infiltrators within the peaceful protesters seeking to coopt the movement.

— AP

Trump says he will win impeachment fight

A defiant US President Donald Trump predicts he “will win,” after the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives gave the greenlight for impeachment.

“The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win!” Trump tweets.

Trump adds that the “Radical Left Democrats have just announced that they are going to seek to Impeach me over NOTHING.”

Echoing a frequent Republican argument, he says that the “important and seldom used act of Impeachment will be used routinely to attack future Presidents. That is not what our Founders had in mind.”


Lapid: Submarine case will reach Netanyahu eventually

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid says the charges announced Thursday in the Case 3000 submarine scandal are only the beginning, predicting the case will soon reach the prime minister.

“Netanyahu will need to tell a court how people so close to him got millions in the submarine deal,” he says. “If Netanyahu knew what was happening, the probe will reach him too. If not and it happened behind his back, it’s another reason,” he cannot continue to serve.

Authorities have taken pains to note that Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, which has ensnared several aides, a former Navy head, and the prime minister’s former lawyer and current cousin.

Iran says no stop to ballistic missile program

Iran says it is not going to halt or curb activity on its ballistic missile program, in a letter to the UN from envoy Majid Takhte Ravanchi dated from Wednesday.

Ravanchi writes that a November 21 complaint about the missile program to the UN Security Council from France, Britain and Germany is unfounded and based on faulty materials.

“Iran is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles,” Ravanchi writes in a copy of the letter tweeted by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

In a letter circulated Wednesday, ambassadors from the three European nations urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to inform the council in his next report that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Unhateful Pelosi tells reporter ‘Don’t mess with me’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bristling after a reporter asks whether she “hates” US President Donald Trump.

Pelosi tells reporters at her weekly press conference Thursday that as a Catholic, she resents the suggestion that she hates anyone.

“I don’t hate anybody,” Pelosi responds, adding that she prays for Trump.

“Don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

— AP

US says Iran may have massacred more than 1,000 in protests

Senior State Department official Brian Hook says Iranian forces may have killed more than 1,000 people in response to recent protests that have swept the country.

Hook, the special representative for Iran, cites unspecified reports and provides no evidence of the death toll.

Iranian protesters block a road during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the central city of Shiraz on November 16, 2019. (AFP)

Amnesty International recently said more than 200 people were killed in the recent unrest over economic hardship.

Hook tells reporters at the State Department on Thursday the US has seen video of one incident in which more than 100 people were shot and killed.

— AP

Canadians push for former Nazi to be deported after Supreme Court rejects appeal

Jewish groups are calling on the Canadian government to deport former Nazi Helmut Oberlander to Germany to face justice after the Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal over Ottawa’s decision to revoke his citizenship for lying about his participation in a Nazi death squad.

Oberlander, 95, is thought to have taken part in the massacres of thousands of Jews, though he claimed to have only been a translator.

Helmut Oberlander during his time serving as a an interpreter for the Nazis with Einsatzkommando 10a. (CIJA)

“For 24 years, Oberlander has cynically abused Canada’s justice system to avoid prosecution in Germany. Anyone who cares about justice and human rights should join together in calling on the Government of Canada to immediately initiate the deportation process,” says Shimon Koffler Fogel, President of the Centre for Israeli and Jewish Affairs.

“While justice in this case is long overdue, it is not too late for justice to be served,” says Avi Benlolo, head of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The CBC reports that Oberlander’s lawyer says there is no deportation order against him, which may require another legal proceeding.

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship does not answer a question about Oberlander’s immigration status.

Teen found dead in Shfaram, four arrested

Four people have been arrested in connection with the suspected murder of a teen in the Galilee city of Shfaram.

Adel Khatib, 17, was found dead near an elementary school in the majority Arab town earlier Thursday, amid intensive searches after he went missing a day earlier.

The four were identified as “youths” who were being questioned over possible involvement in Khatib’s death.

Sephardi Jewish leader slams Sara Netanyahu for inquisition comparison

Ashley Perry, President of Reconectar, an organization that seeks to reconnect the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities with Israel and the Jewish world, has objected to Sara Netanyahu’s comparison between her husband’s legal woes and the Portuguese Inquisition.

Photo in the Porto Jewish Museum of the Jews being burned at the stake in Portugal during the Inquisition in Porto, Portugal on January 28, 2016. (Rachel Delia Benaim/The Times of Israel)

“These comments are deplorable and demonstrate a contempt for Jewish suffering. I would hope that Mrs. Netanyahu upon reflection would apologize for this inappropriate and insensitive analogy,” Perry, a Sephardi descendant of Jews who suffered at the hands of the Portuguese Inquisition, tells the Times of Israel.

“These comments are sadly reflective of a minimization of historic Sephardi persecution,” he adds.

— Raoul Wootliff

Mandelblit: Judicial values guarantee nobody is above the law

Speaking at a conference in Haifa, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit delivers a defense of the judiciary and says its values guarantee the rule of law in Israel.

“These values are the guarantee that Israel will safeguard human rights,” he says. “They guarantee that no person or regime institution will be above the law.”

Ex-top security aide likely to be charged in sub scandal — report

Channel 13 reports that Avriel Bar-Yosef will likely be charged with bribery in the German submarine scandal.

Bar-Yosef, a former deputy national security adviser, is named in the prosecution’s charge sheet, but not actually accused of any crimes.

According to the channel, the charges are delayed because prosecutors still want to question Bar-Yosef on another unspecified avenue.

Netanyahu says he discussed West Bank annexation with Pompeo

With days to go to solve the country’s political deadlock before third elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he needs to remain prime minister to push Jordan Valley annexation.

He says he discussed the matter with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but it’s mostly stalled because of the lack of government.

“We discussed the issue of annexation, but we’re not talking about time tables yet. These things are much easier when you have a government,” he says.

He also offers very tentative support for a return to direct elections for prime minister, which he says “is starting to become interesting.” While he says he is still hoping to form a unity government, the idea of direct elections “must be looked into.”

— with Raphael Ahren

Netanyahu: We have full right to annex Jordan Valley

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asked about the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor’s statement, issued earlier on Thursday, that she worried about his vow to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

He replies tersely: “It’s our full right to do it, if we decide do it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister at the Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon on December 5, 2019. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

Trump denounces Iran crackdown, cagey on troop deployment

US President Donald Trump refuses to say if the US will be sending troops to the Middle East amid reports of a new threat from Iran.

“There might be a threat and if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly. But we’ll be announcing whatever we may be doing – may or may not be doing,” he says.

He also denounces Iran’s crackdown on protesters as “brutal” and “horrible.”

“They’re killing protesters,” he says in a meeting with representatives from the UN Security Council, urging that something be done. “They’re killing a lot of people.”

Army girds for return of Gaza protests

The military is preparing for the resumption of protests along the Gaza border Friday.

According to Channel 13 news, the Israel Defense Forces has set up Iron Dome batteries in case the violence devolves into rocket fire.

“We are ready, since we know that Hamas is behind this,” an army spokesperson says, according to Ynet. “We will respond with restraint if they don’t come near the border. If there is violence we will use whatever force is necessary.”

The army also says that Hamas is responsible for any casualties.

Channel 13 reports that officials sent a message to Hamas via Egypt and the UN that it’s up to the terror group to ensure that protests do not get out of hand.

Biden gets into heated exchange while chewing fat in Iowa

A tense exchange between Joe Biden and a questioner in New Hampton, Iowa, is starting to go viral.

In the video, the man suggests that Biden is unfit physically for office, and that his son got a job in Ukraine to sell access to the president.

“You’re a damn liar man,” Biden responds, before challenging him to feats of strength or an IQ test.

Perhaps most controversially, at the end of the video Biden appears to address the husky questioner as “Look fat.”

Others, however, insist Biden said “Look Jack,” or “Look facts.”

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Sephardi Jewish leader slams Sara Netanyahu for inquisition comparison

Ashley Perry, President of Reconectar, an organization that seeks to reconnect the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities with Israel and the Jewish world, has objected to Sara Netanyahu’s comparison between her husband’s legal woes and the Portuguese Inquisition.

Photo in the Porto Jewish Museum of the Jews being burned at the stake in Portugal during the Inquisition in Porto, Portugal on January 28, 2016. (Rachel Delia Benaim/The Times of Israel)

“These comments are deplorable and demonstrate a contempt for Jewish suffering. I would hope that Mrs. Netanyahu upon reflection would apologize for this inappropriate and insensitive analogy,” Perry, a Sephardi descendant of Jews who suffered at the hands of the Portuguese Inquisition, tells the Times of Israel.

“These comments are sadly reflective of a minimization of historic Sephardi persecution,” he adds.

— Raoul Wootliff