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State Department said blocking testimony by ex-US envoy in Netanyahu graft probe

Separately, Ron Dermer reportedly confirms to police he reached out to John Kerry at PM’s request to help organize visa for Arnon Milchan

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

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with then US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in April 2013. (Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with then US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in April 2013. (Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Israel's Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, at the president's guest house, in Washington, DC, February 14, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Israel's Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, at the president's guest house, in Washington, DC, February 14, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
  • Britain's International Development Secretary Priti Patel arrives at 10 Downing Street for the weekly meeting of the cabinet in central London on October 31, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)
    Britain's International Development Secretary Priti Patel arrives at 10 Downing Street for the weekly meeting of the cabinet in central London on October 31, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)
  • Ioana Isac from Romania (C), Israel's 3 millionth tourist of 2017 at Ben Gurion Airport, November 7, 2017. (Doron Barsky)
    Ioana Isac from Romania (C), Israel's 3 millionth tourist of 2017 at Ben Gurion Airport, November 7, 2017. (Doron Barsky)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset during a special plenum session marking the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, on November 7, 2017.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset during a special plenum session marking the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, on November 7, 2017.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Ioana Isac from Romania, Israel's 3 millionth tourist of 2017 at Ben Gurion Airport, November 7, 2017. (Doron Barsky)
    Ioana Isac from Romania, Israel's 3 millionth tourist of 2017 at Ben Gurion Airport, November 7, 2017. (Doron Barsky)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 7, 2017. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 7, 2017. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
  • Ioana Isac (2R) and Mihai Georgescu (L) receiving a tour of the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2L) and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, November 7, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
    Ioana Isac (2R) and Mihai Georgescu (L) receiving a tour of the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2L) and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, November 7, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
  • Coalition chairman Likud MK David Bitan, left, with Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, second left, during a meeting of the Finance Committee in the Knesset, November 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Coalition chairman Likud MK David Bitan, left, with Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, second left, during a meeting of the Finance Committee in the Knesset, November 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding KKL-JNF collection box at a tree planting ceremony in the Jerusalem forest on January 15, 2014. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash 90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding KKL-JNF collection box at a tree planting ceremony in the Jerusalem forest on January 15, 2014. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash 90)
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim/Wafa)
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim/Wafa)

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

Government votes to collect Jewish National Fund revenues

The cabinet votes to advance legislation that would channel 80 percent of revenues from Jewish National Fund land sales to national infrastructure projects.

“Over the years the Jewish National Fund has done many important things on behalf of the Jewish People and the State of Israel. But today it is clearer than ever that the future of the Jewish People is strongly bound to the future of the State of Israel. It is here that the fate and future of the Jewish People will be decided. The needs of the State of Israel are many,” Netanyahu tells his ministers at the cabinet meeting.

“The JNF sells lands every year and receives billions of shekels in return. It is very important that this money be channeled to the needs of the State of Israel. These needs cannot wait. This is the nature of our meeting today and we make decisions,” he adds.

The move comes as the government is engaged in a battle with the JNF over some NIS 2 billion ($570,000) owed to the government that could threaten its tax exemption if not paid.

In January, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira released a report slamming the JNF and its operational branch, the Land Development Administration, as a “bloated organization” with little transparency that may have mishandled funds and acted out of conflicts of interest.

Netanyahu welcomes new Yesha Council chairman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with new Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani and wishes him success in his post.

Dorani and Netanyahu agreed to continue working together to advance the settlement enterprise, according to a Yesha Council statement.

“I thank the prime minister for his efforts on behalf of the settlement movement, for promoting the paving of bypass roads and increased security for residents in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” Dorani said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani, November 7, 2014. (Courtesy)

Dorani also sat down with Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, to discuss West Bank security and infrastructure development.

On Monday, Netanyahu announced that he had earmarked NIS 200 million for the paving of a pair of bypass roads for settlers that circumvent Palestinian villages. The prime minister said an additional NIS 600 million for the construction of additional bypass routes, lighting and cellular towers would be allocated within the 2019 budget.

— Jacob Magid

Police arrest would-be parrot thief who got locked in cage

Police say they received a report of a man trying to steal a parrot but his plans were foiled when the bird’s owners locked him in the birdcage.

The 59-year-old man from the central town of Kiryat Ono allegedly tried to steal the parrot from an garden aviary in nearby Yehud, police say.

The owners noticed the man inside the cage and locked him in until the cops arrived.

Gulf stocks slide on Saudi-Iran duel

Stock markets in energy-rich Gulf states take a dramatic hit following rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a royal purge in Saudi Arabia and other regional disputes.

The decline was led by shares in Kuwait and Qatar, where the stock index dropped to its lowest level since March 2011 as the country reels from a five-month-old boycott by neighbouring nations.

Six Gulf bourses ended lower and the Saudi market was down 2.9 percent in afternoon trade at levels last seen more than five months ago.

The Boursa Kuwait index fell 4.4 percent at one point but recovered slightly to end the day down 2.8 percent. Kuwait is also facing an internal political dispute that forced the cabinet to resign last month.

The Qatar Exchange index dropped 1.1 percent to close below the 8,000-point mark for the first time since March 2011.

The Dubai Financial Market index declined 1.8 percent to close the day below the 3,500-point level for the first time in four months.

The Abu Dhabi market dropped 0.35 percent, Bahrain’s exchange slipped 1.0 percent and Muscat inched down 0.01 percent.

Saudi shares were also shaken by the arrest of several leading business figures including billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal in what the authorities said was an anti-corruption sweep.

— AFP

UN urges Saudi coalition to end ‘catastrophic’ Yemen aid blockade

The UN urges the Saudi-led coalition to end a blockade of Yemen which has halted the flow of humanitarian supplies into the country, further threatening some seven million people facing famine-like conditions.

“If these channels, these lifelines, are not kept open it is catastrophic for people who are already in… the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA), tells reporters in Geneva.

Yemenis gather at the site of an air strike in the northern Yemeni governorate of Saada on November 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

Relief supplies into Yemen have been blocked since the coalition sealed off the country’s borders following a missile attack last weekend by Yemen’s Houthi rebels that was intercepted near the Riyadh airport. Humanitarian flights into Yemen have been on hold since Monday.

The coalition has also asked the UN to clear ships from the port of Hodeidah, which “is the backbone of the humanitarian operations in Yemen,” OCHA says in a statement.

— AFP

10 held in Swiss, French anti-terror operation

Ten people were arrested in an anti-terror operation in France and Switzerland including a Swiss man linked to a foiled knife attack by a French teenager, sources close to the probe say.

A 27-year-old Swiss man arrested in France was in contact with a 14-year-old French boy who was “about to carry out the attack,” one of the sources adds. The teenager was arrested in the Paris region on June 20 and charged by an anti-terror judge, the sources say.

The Swiss man was “particularly active on social networks… and he had contacts with individuals living in France with whom he notably discussed violent actions,” a judicial source says.

Nine suspects were arrested in southern France and the Paris region and were aged between 18 and 65, the sources say, adding that most were known to the authorities.

— AFP

UK student discovers 145 million-year-old ‘rat’ teeth

A student at a British university has uncovered teeth from rat-like creatures who lived 145 million years ago and have distant links to humans, a scientific journal reports.

The discovery was made on the coast of Dorset, southwest England, by undergraduate Grant Smith as he sifted through rocks at the University of Portsmouth.

“Quite unexpectedly he found not one but two quite remarkable teeth of a type never before seen from rocks of this age,” says Steve Sweetman, a research fellow at the university.

“I was asked to look at them and give an opinion and even at first glance my jaw dropped!” he writes in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

The teeth are believed to have belonged to two different species of small, furry creatures which were probably nocturnal and survived on insects and perhaps plants.

The two species have been named Durlstodon ensomi and Durlstotherium newmani, the latter after a local pub landlord, Charlie Newman.

— AFP

NATO to boost Afghan mission by 3,000 troops

NATO will boost its training mission in Afghanistan by 3,000 troops, according to chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Around half the new troops will come from the United States, and the overall size of NATO’s training and support mission in the unrest-hit country will increase from 13,000 to 16,000, he said.

Croatian soldiers from the NATO coalition walk past a crater from a bomb blast as they inspect the site of an attack targeting the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on November 11, 2016. (AFP/Farshad Usyan)

Speaking a day before NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels, Stoltenberg says the alliance will boost its presence “to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a clear message to Taliban to the insurgents that they will not win on the battleground.”

“There will be more troops. Current level is around 13,000, the new level will be around 16,000… so far indications are roughly half US, half non-US,” he adds.

— AFP

Israel Post releases stamp to mark Balfour Declaration centenary

The Israel Post releases a new stamp to mark 100 years since the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary Arthur Balfour wrote to Lord Walter Rothschild declaring support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

The Israel Post stamp released on November 7, 2017 to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. (Israel Post)

The five shekel stamp features the words of the declaration on a scroll connected to Declaration of independence, symbolizing the Balfour Declaration’s connection to Israel’s creation.

The stamp was unveiled in a ceremony at the Knesset held by Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Natalie Portman named winner of $1 million ‘Jewish Nobel’

Natalie Portman is named as the winner of the 2018 Genesis Prize, often described as the “Jewish Nobel.”

She joins artist Anish Kapoor, violinist Itzhak Perlman, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor-director Michael Douglas as recipient of the $1 million prize, which honors individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement and commitment to Jewish values and the Jewish people.

Director Natalie Portman attends a photocall for ‘A Tale Of Love And Darkness’ during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 17, 2015. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images, via JTA)

Portman’s prize money will go to programs that focus on advancing women’s equality. The funds will be used for grants to organizations involved in promoting women’s educational opportunities, economic advancement, health and safety, and full participation in policy formulation and political activity. A significant portion of the funds will go to programs advancing women’s equality in Israel, the Genesis Prize Foundation says in a statement.

Parole board releases ex-Ramat Gan mayor, convicted of bribery

Citing his poor health, the parole board of the Israel Prison’s Authority rules to immediately release former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar, 82, after serving nine months of a three-year prison sentence.

In 2015 the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Bar, who served as the mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb for nearly 25 years, to five and a half years in prison after he was convicted of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for promoting a number of real estate projects during his term in office. He was also ordered to pay fines of NIS 800,000 ($224,000).

Former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar at the Supreme Court on December 11, 2016 in Jerusalem. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Supreme Court upheld his conviction but ruled that his age and medical condition warranted his sentence be reduced to three years.

Last month, President Reuven Rivlin, citing his deteriorating health and advanced age, granted Bar clemency and reduced his sentence further to just 15 months.

The parole board’s decision means Bar could leave prison by this evening and will be required to report to police once every two weeks and attend a rehabilitation program until the end of the 15 months.

French court returns WWII looted Pissarro painting to owner’s family

A French court orders the return of a painting by impressionist master Camille Pissarro to the family of a Jewish art collector who was dispossessed during World War II.

‘La cueillette des pois’ (‘Picking Peas’) by Camille Pissarro, painted in 1887. (Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

The court ruled in favor of the relatives of Simon Bauer, who staked their claim to “La Cueillette des Pois” (Picking Peas) after it turned up in a Paris exhibition, on loan from an American couple who said they bought it in good faith.

Bauer, a wealthy businessman with a sizable art collection in 1943, was dispossessed by the anti-Semitic wartime French government which collaborated with the Nazis.

— with AFP

UK politician found dead after sexual misconduct claims

UK politician Carl Sargeant has been found dead just days after resigning over sexual misconduct allegations as part of a wider harassment scandal embroiling parliament, local police say.

Carl Sargeant. (CC BY 2.0 Wikipedia/National Assembly for Wales)

Sargeant’s body was found on Tuesday morning at an address in Connah’s Quay in north Wales. Police say his death is not being treated as suspicious, while the Press Association news agency reports Sargeant was understood to have committed suicide.

The former Welsh government minister resigned on November 3 and was suspended from the Labour party after he was informed of allegations against him.

Sargeant was one of a number of British politicians to have faced allegations of misconduct in recent weeks, prompting party leaders to introduce new safeguards for parliamentary staff on Monday.

— with AFP

Abbas talks US peace plan with Saudi King

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas discusses the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process and the American peace plan with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh.

The official PA news agency Wafa reports Abbas informed the Saudi king of “the latest developments regarding the Palestinian issue and American efforts to move the peace process forward.”

Abbas also describes for the king “developments in the national reconciliation process to end [Palestinian] division,” the report says.

Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, is currently in negotiations with Hamas to bring the PA’s rule back to the Gaza Strip.

The two leaders also discussed ways to develop their “excellent” bilateral relations, the report says.

The Saudi king, the report adds, affirms his government’s support for the Palestinians in international forums, and its commitment to provide “all that is required to bring about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Abbas is expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman later today.

— Dov Lieber

Police are shot at, return fire in Jaffa criminal incident

Police officers come under fire in an shooting incident in the coastal city of Jaffa.

Shots were fired at police officers patrolling the area, police say in a statement. The officers returned fire at the suspect, who fled the scene on a motorbike.

No officers were injured but one bystander was admitted to the Wolfson Hospital with “very minor injuries,” the statement says.

Police say the motive behind the incident was criminal and not terrorism.

Marking record, Israel welcomes year’s 3 millionth tourist

Israel’s three millionth tourist this year lands in the country, a new all-time record for incoming tourism in Israel, according to the Tourism Ministry.

Ioana Isac from Romania, accompanied by her partner, Mihai Georgescu, tourist number 3,000,001, was welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

Ioana Isac from Romania, Israel’s 3 millionth tourist of 2017 at Ben Gurion Airport, November 7, 2017. (Doron Barsky)

“This is a special day and a historic milestone as we break the 3-million-tourist barrier and set a new all-time record. We are set to end the year with an amazing achievement, the likes of which have never been reached since the establishment of the State,” he said.

Later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised Isac and Georgescu at the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem.

Ioana Isac (2R) and Mihai Georgescu (L) receiving a tour of the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2L) and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, November 7, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Netanyahu meets with Armenian foreign minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

The two discussed strengthening bilateral ties and the possibility of cooperation in technology, cybertech and agriculture, a PMO statement says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, November 7, 2017. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Netanyahu also “raised the issue of Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence in the region and its negative influence.” the statement adds.

Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires closing for remodel after record visits

The Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires, Argentina, which last week welcomed a record 17,727 visitors in one night, closes its doors for two years.

The 17-year-old museum set its attendance record on November 4, and announced on Monday that it will close for two years for renovations.

The museum, which daily welcomes Jewish and non-Jewish visitors from around the world, will undertake the building project in order to add space for a permanent exhibit on Adolf Eichmann’s life in Argentina after World War II, and for a permanent exhibit featuring a trove of Nazi-era objects uncovered in June by the Argentine Federal Police and turned over to the museum for display.

The objects include a bust relief of Adolf Hitler, medical devices marked with swastikas used to measure head and body size, Nazi puzzles for children, a magnifying glass attached to a photo of Hitler using that magnifying glass, and knives, among other objects.

— JTA

Syria to join Paris climate pact, US only nation left out

Syria says it will join the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only nation to say it will remain outside the landmark treaty.

“We are going to join the Paris Agreement,” the Syrian delegate says in a plenary at the 196-nation UN climate talks in Bonn, according to Safa Al Jayoussi of the IndyAct NGO, who was monitoring the session.

The United States ratified the 2015 pact, but US President Donald Trump announced earlier this year he would pull out, saying the pact did not serve US interests.

— AFP

Oxford Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan takes leave over sex abuse probes

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan is taking a leave of absence from the University of Oxford following multiple rape and sexual misconduct allegations, the British institution says.

“By mutual agreement, and with immediate effect, Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, has taken a leave of absence from the University of Oxford,” it says in a statement.

Oxford University professor Tariq Ramadan (Wikimedia Commons/Joshua Sherurcij)

Ramadan’s duties will be reassigned and he will not be present on campus, the university says.

Ramadan has furiously denied the allegations as a “campaign of lies launched by my adversaries” and is battling them in the courts.

— AFP

Anthony Scaramucci to join Jewish group’s investment trip to Israel

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci will join an Orthodox Jewish group on an investment trip to Israel.

The Wall Street-based Orthodox Chamber of Commerce will host what it is calling an Executive VIP trip to Israel later this month. Other prominent American business leaders will join the trip, according to the group.

Scaramucci, a financier, spent 10 days at his White House job before being let go in part because of an obscenity-laden interview he gave to The New Yorker magazine.

Anthony Scaramucci departing from “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in New York City, August 14, 2017. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images via JTA)

“My investments are all about belief in markets and Israel is one of the most compelling markets in the world,” Scaramucci says in a statement. “It is a beacon of democracy, an incubator for innovation and is going to be an even larger player in the world economic picture in the future. I couldn’t be more excited to see for myself how this ‘miracle in the desert’ continues to flourish, lead and innovate.”

The group is open to any business that interacts with members of the Orthodox Jewish community, and looks to forge a relationship with the community, according to its website.

— JTA

Marking Balfour at Knesset, PM says Palestinians must recognize Jewish state

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, saying their refusal to accept the Balfour Declaration lay at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking at a Knesset ceremony marking the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, Netanyahu attacks the Palestinians for criticizing the document, which expressed the United Kingdom’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset during a special plenum session marking the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, on November 7, 2017.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“When the leaders of the Palestinian leadership call the Balfour Declaration a war crime [and] call on the British government to apologize for it, they are not going forwards, they are going backwards,” says Netanyahu. “This is the root of the conflict, the 100-year long refusal to recognize Zionism and the State of Israel in any borders.”

Ahead of the anniversary, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week wrote an op-ed lamenting the document, saying it set in motion a process that led to a century of Palestinian suffering and should not be a cause of celebration. Other senior PA officials have called on Britain to apologize for the Balfour Declaration.

Damascus shelling exchange kills 10

Shelling by the Syrian regime on a rebel-held enclave on the outskirts of Damascus killed seven civilians, while retaliatory fire killed three people Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Six civilians, including two children, were killed by shelling on Saqba, in the Eastern Ghouta area that a rebel group controls but is besieged by government forces. Another child was killed in the nearby town of Douma, says Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation.

A total of 18 people were also wounded in the besieged area, he says.

Shelling by the rebels on central Damascus later killed three people, including at least two civilians, and wounded at least 15, Rahman adds.

Up to 400,000 people are believed to live in Eastern Ghouta, which has been under government siege since 2013.

— AFP

Riyadh rejects reports of prince’s death in graft purge

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday rejects reports that a prominent prince had been killed in a sweeping anti-corruption purge of the kingdom’s elite.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd, a son of the late king Fahd, was rumoured to have been killed in custody or while resisting arrest amid the crackdown at the weekend. The hashtag “death of Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd” has since featured on social media, fueling fevered speculation online.

“There is no truth whatsoever to rumours circulating in media concerning Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd,” an information ministry spokesman says in a statement. “Prince Abdulaziz is alive and well.”

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (L) speaks with UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (C) as Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa (R) looks on following a meeting with foreign ministers and military officials from the Saudi-led coalition, in Riyadh, on October 29, 2017. (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Dozens of high-profile figures including princes, ministers as well as billionaire tycoon Al-Waleed bin Talal were swept up in the weekend crackdown — just after an anti-graft commission headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was established. It was the biggest purge of the kingdom’s elite in modern Saudi history.

Separately, on Sunday another prince, Mansour bin Moqren, was reported killed in a helicopter crash near the kingdom’s southern border with Yemen. Authorities did not reveal the cause of the crash.

— AFP

Ramat Gan mayor, convicted of bribery, leaves prison after 9 months

Former Ramat Gat mayor Zvi Bar is released from prison early after serving nine months of a three-year prison sentence.

The parole board of the Israel Prison’s Authority ruled earlier today to immediately release Bar, 82, citing his poor health.

In 2015 the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Bar, who served as the mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb for nearly 25 years, to five and a half years in prison after he was convicted of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for promoting a number of real estate projects during his term in office. He was also ordered to pay fines of NIS 800,000 ($224,000).

Former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar, seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 11, 2016 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Supreme Court upheld his conviction but ruled that his age and medical condition warranted his sentence be reduced to three years. Last month, President Reuven Rivlin, citing his deteriorating health and advanced age, granted Bar clemency and reduced his sentence further to just 15 months.

Bar will now be required to report to police once every two weeks and attend a rehabilitation program until the end of those 15 months.

UK minister under fire for seeking to fund Israel’s treatment of wounded Syrians

Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel is facing criticism over apparently trying to provide UK aid to help Israel’s efforts to to provide medical support for wounded Syrians in the Golan Heights during unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials.

Patel met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and other officials while on a family vacation in Israel in August. UK ministers are required to notify the Foreign Office when conducting official business overseas, but Patel admitted that she failed to do so.

The Guardian, quoting a Downing Street spokesperson, now reports that in those meetings, Patel explored the possibility of financing the IDF’s “Operation Good Neighbor” to treat victims of Syria’s civil war who turn up on its northern border.

Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel arrives at 10 Downing Street for the weekly meeting of the cabinet in central London on October 31, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

“The secretary of state did discuss potential ways to provide medical support for Syrian refugees who are wounded and who cross into the Golan for aid. The Israeli army runs field hospitals there to care for Syrians wounded in the civil war. But there is no change in policy in the area. The UK does not provide any financial support to the Israeli army,” a spokesperson for the UK Prime Minister’s Office told the Guardian.

The paper said that Prime Minister Theresa May had personally rebuked Patel for the meetings.

On Friday Patel said that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was aware of the meetings, but on Monday she issued a full apology.

“In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures,” she said. “I am sorry for this and I apologize for it.”

Texas governor says church shooting not as bad as Hitler

Texas Governor Greg Abbott says that the church shooting in the small town of Sutherland Springs that left 26 people dead needs to be “put in the context of history” and compared it to the “horrific events” of the Nazi era.

Abbott made the comments Sunday in the hours after the deadly attack on the First Baptist Church in the small Texas town during an interview on “Outnumbered Overtime” on Fox News. He was responding to host Harris Faulkner, who asked for a non-political answer to the question “What do we say to each other about this?”

Abbott called for a “a two-step process,” saying that “part is putting this in context.”

“Remember, even though we’re facing these severe tragedies — whether it be what happened in Sutherland Springs, or what happened in Las Vegas, or what happened in New York last week, or what happened in London earlier this year — we have acts of evil taking place, and because they are close in time to us right now, we think this is something heavy right now. But put this in the context of history. Look at what happened with Hitler during the horrific events during that era,” he said.

Abbott continued, going back further in history: “and Mussolini and go back in time before that to the earlier ages, the Middle Ages, when people committed horrific crimes, and when you go back through the history of the Bible, there was evil that took place from earliest stages of the Bible to post-New Testament, so evil is something that has permeated this world.”

The Republican governor has said publicly that not enough Texans own guns and has supported concealed carry weapons legislation.

— JTA

Medieval Jewish cemetery uncovered in Bologna, Italy

Authorities in Bologna, Italy, announce the discovery of the site of the city’s medieval Jewish cemetery, which was destroyed in 1569. They say archeological excavations in 2012-14 uncovered 408 graves, making the cemetery the largest medieval Jewish cemetery known to date in Italy.

“It is a unique discovery,” Bologna Mayor Virginio Merola says at a news conference announcing the discovery. “It is an enrichment of the cultural story of our city and of the presence of the Jewish community in Bologna.”

In a statement, the office of the Bologna superintendent for archaeology said the graves discovered included those of women, men and children, and some “included personal ornaments made of gold, silver, bronze, hard stones and amber.” It said the cemetery was discovered during excavations being carried out in relation to the construction of a residential complex.

The area, which is in and around via Orfeo, was used as a Jewish cemetery from the 1390s, but it was destroyed in 1569 after Pope Pius V banished Jews from everywhere in papal territories except Rome and Ancona. In November 1569, Pius handed over the cemetery to the nuns of the nearby cloister of St. Peter the Martyr and gave them permission “to dig up and send, wherever they want, the bodies, bones and remains of the dead: to demolish, or convert to other forms, the graves built by the Jews, including those made for living people: to remove completely, or scrape off the inscriptions or epitaphs carved in the marble.”

— JTA

Lebanon’s resigned PM visits Abu Dhabi

Days after announcing his shock resignation in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon’s former prime minister Saad Hariri visits Abu Dhabi, where he meets Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Hariri announced his resignation Saturday in a televised speech from Riyadh. He said he feared for his life and accused Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region.

Saudi King Salman, right, meets with outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 6, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency, via AP)

Hariri’s announcement from Riyadh, which coincided with a Saudi purge of princes, ministers and a billionaire business tycoon, sparked speculation in Lebanon that he quit under duress and was subject to Saudi movement restrictions.

Prince Mohammed strongman assured Hariri of his country’s “support” for Lebanon “in the face of regional challenges and interferences in its affairs”.

— AFP

Dermer questioned in PM graft probe, said to confirm visa request for benefactor

Israel’s ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was reportedly questioned by police as part of an ongoing investigation into suspicions Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received bribes from an Israeli-born Hollywood mogul in exchange for advancing his interests.

Dermer, considered a close associate of Netanyahu, confirmed to police that, on the direction of the prime minister, he asked then-secretary of state John Kerry to help organize a visa for Arnon Milchan, Hadashot (formerly Channel 2) news reports.

Israel’s Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, formerly senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Netanyahu and Milchan are being investigated in police “Case 1000,” which in probing allegations Milchan supplied Netanyahu and his wife Sara with cigars, alcohol and jewelry to the tune of hundreds of thousands of shekels. They both deny that the gifts involved any exchange of favors and were merely gestures of friendship. But under questioning, both have reportedly confirmed that Milchan had asked Netanyahu to help him renew his US visa.

The channel also reported that the US State Department is delaying former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro from giving testimony over the visa request.

Netanyahu is said to have asked Shapiro in 2014 to intervene and arrange a long-term US visa for Milchan.

Soccer player brought back from brink of death after collapsing on field

A soccer player who collapsed Tuesday during a training session was saved by the team masseur and an ambulance crew who happened to be in the area at the time and administered electric shocks to restart his heart, Hapoel Beersheba says.

Elyaniv Barda, 35, who is captain of the national champion soccer team, lost consciousness after being hit in the chest by a fast moving ball.

He was taken by ambulance to Soroka Medical Center.

The soccer club says he is recovering in a good condition after having undergone a series of medical tests.

Barak linked Weinstein with Israeli spy firm that helped suppress assault claims

Former prime minister Ehud Barak was the person who first put Harvey Weinstein in touch with Black Cube, an Israeli company comprised mostly of former Mossad officers that helped to suppress sexual assault claims against the shamed film producer.

Responding to a Hadashot news report that he was linked to the effort to prevent the publication of looming stories that Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted scores of women for decades, Barak said he had indeed put the Hollywood mogul in touch with Black Cube but was not aware of the allegations.

Former prime minister and defense minster Ehud Barak speaks during an event to launch the Reporty App in Tel Aviv, March 16, 2016. (Photo by Flash90)
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Soccer player brought back from brink of death after collapsing on field

A soccer player who collapsed Tuesday during a training session was saved by the team masseur and an ambulance crew who happened to be in the area at the time and administered electric shocks to restart his heart, Hapoel Beersheba says.

Elyaniv Barda, 35, who is captain of the national champion soccer team, lost consciousness after being hit in the chest by a fast moving ball.

He was taken by ambulance to Soroka Medical Center.

The soccer club says he is recovering in a good condition after having undergone a series of medical tests.