Swastika engraved in elevator in UK parliament
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Jonathan Pollard charges Netanyahu doesn’t care about returning him to Israel

In rare interview, ex-spy says government prioritizing other issues and missing chances to raise issue with US president; PM responds that he ‘remains committed’ to returning him

Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, leaves a New York courthouse following his release from prison after 30 years, on November 20, 2015 in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, leaves a New York courthouse following his release from prison after 30 years, on November 20, 2015 in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

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

Bahrain says it is hosting US peace workshop to support Palestinian cause

Bahrain responds to the refusal by the Palestinians to participate in next month’s economical workshop initiated by the United States, saying the Arab country’s hosting it was a manifestation of its support for the Palestinian cause.

The Gulf nation’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, says on Twitter that there is no hidden motive behind the Manama conference.

Bahrain supports the Palestinian people in its struggle to “achieve an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to supporting the economy of the Palestinian people in every international and bilateral imperative,” he says.

The goal, he says, is to “enhance their resources to achieve their legitimate aspirations. There is no other purpose for the hosting.”

German Holocaust archive puts millions of documents online

The International Tracing Service in Germany has uploaded more than 13 million documents from Nazi concentration camps, including prisoner cards and death notices, to help Holocaust researchers and others investigate the fate of victims.

Established by the Western Allies in the final days of World War II and initially run by the Red Cross, the ITS also announces it is changing its name to “Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution.”

The archive in Bad Arolsen says with help from Israel’s Yad Vashem, documents with information on more than 2.2 million people are now available online. Work is still being done to improve searchability.

Archive director Floriane Azoulay says with survivors dying out, “it is so important that the original documents can speak to coming generations.”

— AP

Militants kill Indian state lawmaker, 6 others

A state legislator in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and at least six others have been killed in an attack by suspected separatist militants, police say.

Tirong Aboh was killed when insurgents opened fire on their sports utility vehicle in Tirap district of the state, police say.


Ukraine: Snap elections to be formally called in coming days

An adviser to the new Ukrainian president says that he will sign a decree formally dissolving the parliament and calling snap elections within days.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sings the national anthem during his inauguration ceremony at the parliament in Kiev on May 20, 2019. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP)

Andriy Bohdan, adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, says in televised remarks that the Jewish president will send the decree in the coming days. He says he hopes that parliament will vote for changes to the electoral law before it is disbanded.

Moments after he was sworn into office, Zelensky dropped a bombshell when he said he is dissolving the parliament, dominated by allies of the former Ukrainian president. Zelensky sat down with political leaders this morning to discuss the dissolution.

Bohdan says the meeting with the lawmakers showed that they would be willing to adopt the electoral changes Zelensky has proposed.

— AP

Lawyer denies ‘rumors’ PM’s son is behind her nixed state comptroller candidacy

Michal Rosenboim denies claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly dropped his support for her yesterday as the coalition’s favored state comptroller candidate — hours after saying he would back her — due to pressure from his son.

Some political sources have told Hebrew media that Yair Netanyahu convinced his father to reject Rosenboim as a candidate because she has been linked to anti-Netanyahu activist Eldad Yaniv, while others speculated it was due to the attorney having been linked to the premier’s main political rival in Likud, Gideon Sa’ar.

United Torah Judaism officials said earlier today that they were surprised by the change in the prime minister’s position, with some pointing to a Twitter exchange between Yair Netanyahu and Yaniv about Rosenboim as the cause.

But in a statement, Rosenboim says: “I am aware of the rumors about the purported intervention by Yair Netanyahu. I don’t know him, I have never met him, and I want to tell you with certainty that it never happened, [people are] pointing at him for no reason.”

נחשפים השמות. מועמדי הליכוד ומועמד כחול לבן.

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Tal Schneider‎‏ ב- יום שני, 20 במאי 2019

PM dismisses generals’ claims that West Bank annexation would endanger Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to former security senior security officials who reportedly warned earlier today against annexing parts of the West Bank.

Dismissing the claims that such a move — pledged by the premier days before last month’s elections — would “endanger the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu says that “regions in Judea and Samaria are not just a guarantee of Israel’s security — they are also our patrimony.”

“The same ‘experts’ supported the Iran nuclear deal and warned that ‘Bibi is taking a wrong turn and ruining the alliance with America,'” he adds in a tweet.

Earlier today, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan of Netanyahu’s Likud party said annexation was a “natural and moral” step, and Likud MK Sharren Haskel reportedly filed a bill proposing an annexation of the Jordan Valley.

Iran’s Zarif says US ‘playing a very, very dangerous game’ in Persian Gulf

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warns that the United States is risking war by boosting its forces in the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Asia Society in New York, on April 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“Having all these military assets in a small area is in of itself prone to accidents, extreme prudence is required and the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game,” Zarif tells CNN.

He rules out negotiations with the Trump administration unless it shows “respect” and honors its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US left last year.

“We are not willing to talk to people who have broken their promises,” he says. “Iran never negotiates with coercion. You cannot threaten any Iranian and expect them to engage. The way to do it is through respect, not through threats.”

Egypt says security forces kill 16 jihadists in Sinai

Egypt says its police forces have killed 16 jihadists in raids in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

An Interior Ministry statement says security forces exchanged fire with Islamic militants as they stormed insurgent hideouts in the Mediterranean coastal city of el-Arish.

No casualties are reported among the police.

The ministry says the extremists had intended to carry out terror attacks in the city. It says police found weapons, three explosive devices and an explosive belt.

Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland.

Egypt said yesterday that security forces killed 12 suspected terrorists just hours after a roadside bomb struck a tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids outside Cairo, wounding 17.

— Agencies

In rare interview, Jonathan Pollard complains Israel doesn’t care about him

Israeli former spy Jonathan Pollard, who spent 30 years in jail in the United States, gives one of his first media interviews after his release almost four years ago, despite strict parole conditions prohibiting him from speaking to the press.

Questioned by Israel’s Channel 12 at a New York restaurant, Pollard is said to have first refused to speak but then changed his mind, complaining that the Israeli leadership doesn’t care about him.

“If you don’t care about someone like myself, who spent 30 years in prison on behalf of the land and people of Israel, then how much concern can you actually show or exhibit or feel towards anybody in the country, from our soldiers to our civilians?” he says.

The quote is from a snippet from the full interview which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. (Israel time).

Official: Poland entitled to seek German WWII reparations

A Polish official says that contrary to German claims, no documents or records show his country ever renounced its right to seek World War II reparations from Germany.

Berlin insists Poland waived such rights in 1953, while under Moscow’s control. But prominent ruling party lawmaker Arkadiusz Mularczyk tells The Associated Press this isn’t backed up by evidence, and a copy of a 1953 note signed only by Poland’s leader of the time is not legally binding.

He believes that raising reparations with Berlin will improve bilateral ties, and says Poland has not been adequately compensated for the human and material losses it suffered under Nazi German occupation.

Mularczyk heads a team of experts counting the losses, and intends to present it to Germany.

— AP

Iraqi PM says he wants to end tensions between Iran and US

State-run Iraqi media is quoting Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi as saying that Baghdad will send delegations to the US and Iran to help end tensions between the two countries.

In this January 3, 2006 file photo, Adel Abdul-Mahdi is seen during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP/Khalid Mohammed)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Abdul-Mahdi, whose country has close ties to both Iran and the US, says Iranian and US officials have informed Iraq that they have “no desire in fighting a war.”

Abdul-Mahdi said Iraq is “playing a role to calm the situation but it is not a mediation.” He says he will visit Kuwait tomorrow to discuss regional issues.

Last week, the US ordered the evacuation of nonessential diplomatic staff from Iraq amid unspecified threats from Iran and rising tensions across the region.

The White House has sent warships and bombers to the region to counter the alleged Iranian threats.

— AP

Pompeo says ‘quite possible’ Iran behind Gulf incidents

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it is “quite possible” Iran was responsible for the sabotage of Gulf oil interests, although he stopped short of making a definitive conclusion.

“Given all the regional conflicts that we have seen over the past decade and the shape of these attacks, it seems like it’s quite possible that Iran was behind these,” Pompeo, who later today will brief US lawmakers on rising tensions with Tehran, tells conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.


Likud MK boasts government will make Supreme Court ‘irrelevant’

A Likud MK last night gloated during a Knesset House Committee meeting that the coalition intends to make the Supreme Court “irrelevant” and secure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued rule for another decade, according to footage published today by Channel 12.

“How can you hide this embarrassment?” Meretz MK Michal Rozin can be heard the telling committee chairman, Likud MK Miki Zohar.

Likud MK Miki Zohar speaks during a committee meeting at the Knesset on December 14, 2015, during a discussion and a vote on a controversial natural gas deal recently approved by the government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Imagine the override clause passes, the Supreme Court is no longer an address. The immunity law passes, you’ll be stuck with Bibi for another ten years,” Zohar told Rozin, visibly smiling and laughing. “What will you do then? I think this could be one of the most difficult [Knesset] terms for you.”

“It’s the end of democracy,” retorted Rozin.

“An irrelevant Supreme Court and Bibi here for another ten years! Oh my God,” Zohar said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

“In short, Erdogan is here,” Rozin replied, alluding to the Turkish president who has made sweeping constitutional changes to enable him to continue ruling for decades.

Zohar then claimed that Netanyahu “is here democratically; he was voted in,” ignoring the fact that Erdogan has similarly been winning elections.

IDF to recognize same-sex families in updated recruitment forms

The Israel Defense Forces is recognizing same-sex families and changing its forms to accommodate young Israelis whose parents are same-sex couples, Army Radio reports.

Once the decision is implemented in the near future, the recruitment forms will reportedly replace the current listings of “Mother” and “Father” with “Parent 1″ and Parent 2.”

The report says the change comes after a lengthy campaign by LGBT rights groups, after the military first refused to implement the change in order to “avoid getting involved in political disagreements.”

The IDF comments that it “updates and changes the questionnaires from time to time in accordance with comments it receives and needs that come up.”

The decision is immediately chastised in religious and ultra-Orthodox press.

US response has ‘put on hold’ the threat from Iran: Pentagon chief

Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan says that the United States has “put on hold” the Iranian threat to its interests, following a spike in tensions that has seen the US dispatch bomber aircraft to the region.

“I think our steps were very prudent and we’ve put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans,” the acting defense secretary says, as he prepares to brief lawmakers on the Gulf tensions.

“I’d say we’re in a period where the threat remains high and our job is to make sure that there is no miscalculation by the Iranians,” Shanahan adds.


Ukraine’s Zelensky calls snap elections for July 21

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky calls early parliamentary elections for July 21, according to his decree published on the presidential administration’s website.

Zelensky, who took office on Monday, also dissolved the current parliament, the same decree said.


Palestinian ruling party reposts Al Jazeera nixed clip saying Jews exploited Holocaust

Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, yesterday reposted a clip produced by Al Jazeera that claimed “the narrative” that the Nazis killed six million Jews was “adopted by the Zionist movement.”

On its Facebook page, Fatah criticized Al Jazeera’s removal and apology for the clip — posted by its online AJ+ Arabic service — and its firing of two journalists involved in its production and approval, according to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) monitor.

“Al-Jazeera TV did a favor to the occupation and erased the video. Let’s publish it again,” the Palestinian ruling party wrote, according to a PMW translation.

Israel ‘shocked’ as UN official meets senior Hezbollah leader

Israel slams the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis after he tweeted praise for a senior Hezbollah leader, who he had meet recently in Beirut.

“We are shocked and disappointed by this meeting with a designated terror organization’s leader, threatening Israel, Lebanon and the whole region,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon tweets. “One doesn’t need to read the Naim Qassem book, courtesy of Hezbollah terrorists, in order to understand this!!”

Yesterday, Kubis tweeted: “Grateful for an open and substantive discussion on a broad range of topics with Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem of Hizbullah. On top I received a copy of his book – a necessary reading.”

Naim Qassem is a senior member of the Lebanese movement that is widely recognized as a terrorist organization. Qassem is on the record threatening Israel with annihilation.

Responding to a Times of Israel query, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon says it “works with the government of Lebanon and with political and social forces and institutions of Lebanon, notably those elected to the Parliament, including Hizbullah encouraging them to work for the well-being of the country and its people, for peace, security and stability of Lebanon and the region.”

— Raphael Ahren

May says she will give lawmakers a chance to vote on new Brexit referendum

British Prime Minister Theresa May says Parliament will get the chance to vote on whether to hold a new referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, as she tries to get lawmakers to back her divorce deal with the European Union.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference inside 10 Downing Street in London, November 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

May says that an EU withdrawal agreement bill that she plans to bring to Parliament next month will include a provision for a vote on whether to hold a new public poll on whether to leave. That is a key demand of many opposition lawmakers.

May is offering concessions in what she says is a “last chance” to secure an orderly British departure from the bloc.

The deal that she struck with the EU has been rejected by UK lawmakers three times already.

— AP

Israel has agreed to discuss disputed borders with Lebanon, US says

A top US envoy has said Israel agreed to discuss disputed land and sea borders with Lebanon, which is eyeing hydrocarbon exploration off its coast, two Lebanese officials say.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry does not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Last year, Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in its waters, including for a block disputed by Israel, with which it has fought several wars.

The US State Department’s acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, David Satterfield, held a meeting in Beirut yesterday on his second visit in a week.

A maritime map of the eastern Mediterranean showing Exclusive Economic Zone borders, including an area of dispute (marked 4) between Israel and Lebanon. Source: IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2012 (www.iemed.org/medyearbook)

Satterfield “told officials Israel had agreed to hold negotiations to draw up the maritime border” with Lebanon, an official source who attended the meeting tells AFP.

The Jewish state also agreed to discuss the territorial frontier between the two countries, including several disputed areas, the source says.

A delegation from each side will take part in talks at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, UNIFIL, but the latter will not be a party to the talks, he adds.

Another source familiar with the plan says negotiations will begin soon.

“There has been positive progress overall, and the issue is down to the last details before the start of the negotiations,” they say.


Rouhani: US economic pressure won’t defeat Iran

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says the United States will not defeat Iran with economic pressure.

In a live broadcast on state TV, Rouhani says: “The Iranian nation will not be defeated by America, the White House could not defeat the Iranian nation.”

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Rouhani refers to recently imposed sanctions by the US, which have made conditions for Iranians difficult, saying: “But at the end of the road, the victory is ours.”

Rouhani calls the US a “bully” for its measures against Iran.

Last year, the US withdrew from a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed sanctions on Iran targeting the country’s oil sector.

— AP

Fourth construction worker killed in Yavneh crane collapse named

The fourth construction worker killed when a crane collapsed Sunday in the central city of Yavneh is identified as Sergei Simionov, 33.

The four men were killed after the crane came down on Jabotinsky Boulevard in the industrial area of the city.

US intercepted Iran-Hezbollah talks plotting to attack American assets — report

A United Arab Emirates-based news outlets reports that the United States intercepted communications between Iran and the Hezbollah terror group in which they conspired to conduct an attack on American assets.

The report from the al-Hadath television station does not disclose the source of this information.

— Judah Ari Gross

Swastika engraved in elevator in UK parliament

A swastika has been engraved into an elevator in the British Parliament, according to Oliver Denton Lieberman, an aide to Labour MP Tulip Siddiq.

Lieberman posts a photo of the swastika, calling it “sickening” and adds that he has reported it to police.

Israel green lights delivery of EU-donated armored vehicles to PA

For the first time in years, Israel has approved the delivery of armored vehicles to Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank after the European Union donated them.

After years of delay, the ten vehicles were allowed entry earlier today from Jordan, Hebrew-language media reports.

The move comes amid a financial crisis over the PA’s refusal to accept tax revenue from Israel after Jerusalem deducted the amount paid by the PA to terrorists and their families.

The approval of the delivery angers settler leader Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, who says it will endanger the lives of settlers and IDF soldiers in the West Bank.

Jonathan Pollard charges Netanyahu doesn’t care about returning him to Israel

Israeli former spy Jonathan Pollard, who spent 30 years in jail in the United States, strongly criticizes the Israeli leadership and says it doesn’t care about his return, in one of his first media interviews after his release almost four years ago.

“If I didn’t believe in God I’d be very depressed right now,” he tells Channel 12 news. Asked if he is disappointed by Israel, he says: “To be disappointed you need to expect more, my expectation level is so low that I’m not surprised of the indifference toward getting us home.”

Pollard says no Israeli official has been in contact with him.

He accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of missing “several opportunities” to raise the issue of bringing him to Israel with US president Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

“It’s a question of priorities, there’s always seems to be something else. To make it a priority would mean that the government actually cared and said this is what we want, we want him to come home. That simply hasn’t been done,” he says.

“What this means as for the political establishment’s commitment is that if you don’t care about someone like myself, who spent 30 years in prison on behalf of the land and people of Israel, then how much concern can you actually show or exhibit or feel towards anybody in the country, from our soldiers to our civilians?” he charges.

“If you don’t show commitment it suggests you don’t really have a commitment to the rest of the people in the country. That’s where the test is.

“We’re still fighting to get home, and with the help of God we will get home,” Pollard concludes.

The Prime Minister’s Office responds, saying: “Israel remains committed to returning Jonathan Pollard to Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu has raised the matter many times with the US president and will continue doing so until he is returned.”

Security source says armored vehicles approved months ago at US request

Following reports that Israel okayed the transfer of ten armored vehicles to Palestinian Authority security forces amid right-wing criticism, a security source is cited by Hebrew-language media as saying the move was approved nine months ago at Washington’s request.

“The matter was approved at the Americans’ request by the former defense minister [Avigdor Liberman] and the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] more than nine months ago and was delivered to the Palestinians by the Americans already four months ago,” the unnamed source reportedly says.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to hold cabinet meeting in Israel

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is going to Israel with a large contingent of business leaders later this week. That’s not surprising, especially as the GOP woos Jewish voters ahead of the 2020 US presidential election.

Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters at a rally, November 5, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

But DeSantis also has announced plans to hold a meeting with the US state’s three independently elected Cabinet members while he’s there. That has raised concerns about whether the officials are violating the state’s open-meeting laws.

The trip begins Saturday. As of today, the Cabinet hasn’t posted the meeting on its calendar or provided an agenda.

Barbara Petersen of the open-government watchdog group First Amendment Foundation is concerned. She says there is no reason to hold a Cabinet meeting that regular Floridians won’t be able to attend.

— AP

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Swastika engraved in elevator in UK parliament

A swastika has been engraved into an elevator in the British Parliament, according to Oliver Denton Lieberman, an aide to Labour MP Tulip Siddiq.

Lieberman posts a photo of the swastika, calling it “sickening” and adds that he has reported it to police.