Trump tells Netanyahu: Jerusalem off the table for Palestinians in future talks
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Netanyahu: Trump exposed Palestinian disinterest in peace with Israel

At World Economic Forum, prime minister claims PA wants to ‘escape from a genuine discussion on real peace that includes recognition of the Jewish state’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on January 25, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on January 25, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

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

Stormy weather brings road closures, flooding across Israel

Several main roads in Tel Aviv are flooded as the city is overwhelmed by heavier than average rainfall.

This morning, 50 millimeters of rain was recorded in Tel Aviv — with some 16 millimeters falling in the course of just one hour. Rokah Boulevard and Namir Road in Tel Aviv are both blocked to traffic.

Around 20-30 millimeters of rain was recorded this morning in other regions along the coastal plain. A large pool of water formed in the area of Mesubim Junction on Route 4, a main intercity highway that runs along the coast.

Flooding is also being reported in the central city of Rishon Lezion, where the water caused damage to cars. Rescue services are working to extract drivers who were trapped in their vehicles by the floods.

Police are warning drivers to not try crossing any streams flowing over roads in the southeast of the country, citing concerns of flash floods. Drivers everywhere are urged to exercise caution in the wet weather.

More heavy rain is predicted for this afternoon, sweeping in from the sea and spreading across the country. Snow and hail were expected later in the day in high areas of the central region although the snow was not likely to settle.

— Stuart Winer

Saudi intelligence agency reportedly brought weapons into Iran

An official news agency reports that Iran’s intelligence agency has confiscated large amounts of weapons and ammunition including bombs and grenades and officials are blaming Saudi Arabia for bringing them into the country.

Yesterday’s report by the official IRNA news agency says the bombs were seized in the eastern part of the country and accused the Saudi intelligence service of bringing them into the country.

A second operation took place against a “separatist group” in the Kurdish town of Marivan near the Iraqi border, where authorities seized grenades and rockets.

In both areas occasional clashes take place between Iranian forces and IS-linked fighters and militant Kurdish separatists.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused rival Iran of sending weapons to Yemen’s Shiite Houthis rebels to fight the Saudi-backed coalition there.

— AP

Lazio FC fined but avoids stadium ban for Anne Frank photo

Lazio has been fined 50,000 euros ($61,000) but avoided a stadium ban over posters created by their fans featuring Holocaust victim Anne Frank, the Italian football federation (FIGC) announces.

FIGC prosecutor Giuseppe Pecoraro had demanded a fine and two games be played behind closed doors after Lazio’s infamous ultra fans fly-posted photos of Anne Frank in a shirt of bitter city rivals Roma during a game against Cagliari last October.

The FICG says in a statement that its sporting tribunal had decided on a “partial acceptance” of the prosecutor’s requests.

— AFP

Trump peace envoy slams ‘despicable’ Hamas for holding Israelis in Gaza

US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, condemns the “despicable” behavior of the Hamas terrorist group for holding two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers.

After meeting with the families, Greenblatt on Twitter condemns the “unbearable pain as a result the shameful, despicable acts of Hamas.”

“All Israelis must be returned & I pray for their families,” Greenblatt posts.

Hamas is currently holding the remains of IDF soldiers Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, who the army says were killed in the 2014 Gaza war, and is also believed to be detaining Avraham Mengistu and Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima, two Israeli men who crossed into Gaza of their own accord.

On Mideast visit, US house speaker vows to confront Iran

US House Speaker Paul Ryan says more needs to be done to challenge Iran, a message that was welcomed by his hosts in the United Arab Emirates, where he is leading a Congressional delegation.

The Wisconsin Republican delivers his remarks at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy.

Ryan says the US wants to challenge Iran’s ability to threaten the region with ballistic missiles and stop its expansion across the Middle East.

Emirati Ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba was so pleased with Ryan’s comments, he says the speech could have been his own.

Some 5,000 US soldiers are based in the UAE, and its Jebel Ali port is the US Navy’s busiest foreign port of call.

The delegation visited Saudi Arabia yesterday and met with Saudi King Salman.

— AP

Holocaust survivors urge PM to do the ‘Jewish thing’ and reverse planned deportations of Africans

Dozens of Holocaust survivors are urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the deportation of tens of thousands of African asylum seekers back to the continent.

In a letter sent to the prime minister, a group of 36 survivors called on the prime minister to make a “historic decision” and reverse the controversial deportation plan, according to the Haaretz daily.

“Under your leadership, Israel has set itself the goal of reminding the world of the lessons of the Holocaust. So we ask you: Stop this process! Only you have the authority to have a historic decision and show the world that the Jewish state will not allow suffering and torture of people under its protection.”

“Do the Jewish thing, like Menachem Begin who accepted refugees from the Vietnam War, and gave those asylum seekers life.

“As Jews, whom the world turned its back on in our most difficult time, we have a special obligation not to remain indifferent, and to prevent the expulsion of asylum seekers. The state must grant them a safe haven and not send them to their deaths in a foreign country.”

In first, key EU body calls on Palestinians to stop financing terror

The leading European human rights assembly votes to pass a resolution condemning the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but it is amended at the last minute to include an Israeli-drafted amendment calling for the Palestinian Authority to stop financing terrorist activities.

The Palestinian-drafted resolution is the first time the Council of Europe has called on the PA to stop financing terrorist activities against Israel.

A statement from Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen’s office says other Palestinian efforts to have the text further amended to include harsher criticisms of Israel were not included in the final draft.

Shama-Hacohen in the statement called the vote a “diplomatic achievement” for Israel.

“The Palestinians, I think, are sorry for instigating the unnecessary move, but that’s how it is when you’re constantly preoccupied with lies and incitement,” he says.

Egypt slams McCain criticism of Sissi’s ‘unprecedented crackdown’

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry expresses its “absolute rejection” of a statement by US Sen. John McCain criticizing the country’s crackdown on human rights and democracy under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The statement comes on the seventh anniversary of the January 25, 2011, popular uprising that toppled Egypt’s longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, ushering in years of instability punctuated by military and Islamist rule, and Sissi’s rise to power.

The ministry says McCain’s remarks “included unfounded accusations, fallacies, and misinformation” and “flimsy claims.”

McCain’s comments yesterday say that “over the past few years, we have witnessed Egypt lurch dangerously backwards. President Sissi’s unprecedented crackdown on political activism and fundamental human rights has led to the imprisonment of tens of thousands of dissidents, including 19 American citizens and nearly 3,500 young people.”

— AP

Galilee ‘Loaves’ church arsonist appeals sentence to Supreme Court

A Jewish extremist convicted of carrying out a July 2015 arson attack at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in northern Israel is appealing his four-year jail sentence for the hate crime.

In December, the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court sentenced Yinon Reuveni to four years in jail, plus two years’ probation, and ordered the 22-year-old to pay NIS 50,000 ($14,00) in compensation to the church.

Reuveni’s lawyer tells the Supreme Court today that the court “ignored police failures and a serious of question marks in the case.”

Diaspora ministry launches online anti-Semitism tracker

Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Diaspora Ministry unveils a new technology capable of detecting anti-Semitic content online.

The technology, known as the Anti-Semitism Cyber ​​Monitoring System, or ACMS, is “the most advanced development in the world for monitoring anti-Semitism in real time,” the ministry says in a statement.

According to the ministry, the ACMS tracks anti-Semitic posts on social media and can detect how widely they’ve been shared, who is sharing them and which cities and countries produce the most anti-Semitic content.

The system uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism when scanning for content, and will initially monitor posts in English, Arabic, French and German on Facebook and Twitter before expanding to other platforms and languages.

In addition to the system itself, the ministry will operate a “war room” to analyze the anti-Semitic posts and will share the content with internet companies so they can be removed.

Eiffel Tower may have been target of Spain’s IS cell — report

A new report suggests that the Eiffel Tower may have been among the targets of the Islamic State cell that attacked Barcelona last year.

The protective wall that surrounds the Eiffel Tower was installed after video of a trip to Paris was found in a destroyed hideout, according to the report by researchers Fernando Reinares and Carola Garcia-Calvo in January’s CTC Sentinel, a research publication into terrorism. The cell attacked Barcelona’s La Rambla and a beachside town, killing 16 people in August.

Only flawed bomb construction prevented a deadlier attack. The hideout blew up as the cell was assembling explosives.

According to the report, based on interviews with investigators and court documents, members of the cell traveled to Paris before the attack, for reasons investigators have yet to determine. There, they bought a camera and filmed the Eiffel Tower.

— AP

Hungary church scraps Nazi ally’s memorial set for International Holocaust day

A Budapest church says it has canceled a controversial mass and memorial for Hungary’s Nazi-allied wartime leader Miklos Horthy scheduled for the United Nations Holocaust day.

The event was set for Saturday, January 27, designated by the UN in 2005 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to mark the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps.

“It didn’t enter our heads when we began organizing that it fell on that date,” Zoltan Osztie, parish priest at the church and leader of event organizer the Association of Christian Professionals (KESZ), tells a religious affairs website.

Hungary’s main Jewish organization Mazsihisz criticized KESZ yesterday as well as Sandor Lezsak, a lawmaker with Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, who was scheduled to make a speech there.

Mazsihisz said the participation of Lezsak, also a deputy speaker of the Hungarian parliament, “tramples on the memory of all the Hungarian victims.”

Urging Orban to personally intervene, Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress group, says that it was “truly disturbing that (the event) is being given legitimacy through the participation of a high dignitary of Hungary.”

— AFP

Ex-coalition whip faces 5th round of questioning in graft probe

Former coalition whip David Bitan has been summoned to his fifth round of police questioning on Sunday as part of the ongoing corruption probe on suspicion of bribery, fraud, money laundering, and breach of trust.

Bitan is under investigation for allegedly accepting more than NIS 500,000 ($145,000) in bribes from businessmen while serving as deputy mayor of the coastal city of Rishon Lezion.

Last week, Haaretz reported the police investigation into Bitan was boosted by a “major development” that is likely to spell more trouble for Bitan.

Trump tells Netanyahu: Jerusalem off the table for Palestinians in future talks

US President Donald Trump tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Palestinians could face further reductions in aid from the US if they continue to refuse to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel.

Meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump says “Jerusalem is off the table” for Palestinians in future peace talks.

“We have discussions going with Israel on many things including trade,” Trump says. “But the big move, and something that is very historic and very important, is the fact that we’re moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” he says, adding that “it’s way ahead of schedule, by years.

“We anticipate a small version [of the embassy] working sometime next year,” Trump tells Netanyahu.

Trump warns Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel or face further cuts in US aid.

“They disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support — tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands. That money is on the table,” he says. “That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” he says. “Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace. And they’re going to have to want to make peace too, or we’re going to have nothing to do with it any longer. This was never brought up by other negotiators, but it’s brought up by me.”

He adds: “The hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem. We took Jerusalem off the table. So we don’t have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

He turns to Netanyahu: “You won one point, and you’ll give up some points later in the negotiation, if it ever takes places. I don’t know that it ever will take place.”

“But they [Palestinians] have to respect the process also, and they have to respect the fact that the US has given tremendous support to them over the years, in terms of monetary support and other support. So we’ll see what happens with the peace process. But respect has to be shown to the US, or we’re just not going any further.”

Asked questions by the reporters, Trump says “thank you very much everybody,” but then answers:

“We have a proposal for peace. It’s a great proposal for the Palestinians. I think it’s a very good proposal for Israel. It covers a lot of the things that were over the years discussed and agreed on… There were never any deals that came close, because Jerusalem, you could never get past Jerusalem. People say I set it back. I didn’t set it back. I helped it. Because by taking it off the table, that was the toughest issue. And Israel will pay for that… They’ll do something that’s going to be a very good thing.”

He continues: “But they (the Israelis) want to make peace, and I hope the Palestinians want to make peace. And if they do, everybody’s going to be very happy in the end.”

Asked if he’d heard Abbas’s recent remarks castigating the US, Trump says “I didn’t really read his remarks personally. I’m probably better off not seeing them. But we’ve done a lot for them, and hopefully they’ll going to to make peace for their people.

“It’s many years of killing people. It’s many years of killing each other. They have to be tired and disgusted of it…. I think eventually very sound minds — I hope sounds minds — are going to prevail. And it would be a great achievement of mine. I’ve said it from day one.”

Netanyahu tells Trump embassy move ‘forever etched’ in hearts of Jews

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Donald Trump for his “historic” decision to move the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Rebuffing criticism of Trump’s December 6 announcement, Netanyahu says the move will “bring peace forward” and is “etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come.”

The decision, he says “recognizes history, recognizes reality, and peace can only be built on the basis of truth.”

Netanyahu goes on to tell the US president that Israel supports his administration’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.

“You said it’s a disastrous deal, you said if its fatal flaws are not fixed you should walk away from it, and I want you to know that if you decide to do that, then we will back you all the way.”

He also thanks Trump for his “rock-solid support” for Israel at the UN, which he dubs a “house of slander… You told them, enough is enough.”

He says he looks forward to maintaining the “remarkable partnership” in the years ahead.

Trump peace envoy: US will advance Mideast peace with allies ‘at right time’

US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt says the US will resume working with its allies to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “at the right time.”

“Today I spoke with a group of EU Heads of Mission to the PA. At the right time, we will work together with all our friends & allies in Europe, and beyond, to advance our goal of peace,” Greenblatt posts on Twitter.

“The road we travel to lasting peace requires the efforts and support of many,” he says.

Greenblatt arrived in Israel yesterday to meet with envoys from the Middle East Quartet to advance an Israeli-Palestinian accord, amid the continued diplomatic fallout from Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month.

Actors criticize Trump cuts to Palestinian refugees

Actors Hugh Grant and Viggo Mortensen are among more than 25 celebrities and public figures expressing “horror” over US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, according to an advocacy group.

“The real target of this lethal attack is the Palestinian people themselves,” the group said in a joint statement. “It has been launched with the clear aim of dismantling their rights, by dismantling the institution that is charged with protecting them.”

Actresses Gillian Anderson, Olivia Wilde, Emma Thompson and Tilda Swinton are also among the signatories.

The letter was released by the Hoping Foundation, a London-based group that assists Palestinian children.

Expressing frustration with a freeze in Mideast peace efforts, Trump this month blamed the Palestinians for the deadlock and threatened to cut US funding. Washington subsequently suspended a $65 million payment to UNRWA, the UN agency that provides education, health care and other social services to over 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants scattered across the Middle East.

— AP

Suspected neo-Nazi denies carrying out 2000 bomb attack targeting Jews

Nearly 18 years after a bombing at a German commuter rail station that targeted Jewish immigrants, an alleged neo-Nazi denied the crime as he went on trial today.

Ralf Spies, 51, is facing 12 counts of attempted murder and a charge of causing an explosion for the attack in the western city of Dusseldorf on the afternoon of July 27, 2000.

Spies was known to police as a right-wing extremist at the time and ran a military surplus store near the scene of the crime, which shocked Germany and drew international condemnation.

At today’s hearing, he tells the court that he had not carried out the bombing and didn’t know who had, DPA news agency reports.

“I was definitely not at the scene of the crime at the time it happened,” he says.

— AFP

Ex-Arab League chief says Trump peace effort humiliates Palestinians

The former head of the Arab League Amr Moussa says US President Donald Trump’s efforts to broker a Mideast peace deal has humiliated the Palestinians.

“If the purpose of President Trump’s statements is to ensure that one side wins and another side is the humiliated loser, then nothing will come from this peace plan,” Moussa tells Israel’s Walla news on the sidelines of Davos.

“All issues must be on the table, and both sides must be prepared to compromise,” he says. “The Palestinians will not go anywhere with a gun pointed at their head.”

Palestinians reject pressure from ‘oppressor’ Trump

The Palestinians reject US President Donald Trump’s fresh threat to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid on Thursday, with a senior official labeling him an “oppressor.”

Trump earlier said in Davos the Palestinians had “disrespected” the United States by refusing to meet with his Vice President Mike Pence.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said they would not meet with the US administration until it withdrew its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Another senior Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, says “not meeting your oppressor is not a sign of disrespect; it is a sign of self-respect.”

— AFP

Haley tells UN Abbas lacks courage to make compromises for peace

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slams PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN Security Council, saying his Western-backed government “lacks what is needed to achieve peace.”

Addressing the Security Council, Haley says Abbas lacks the courage to make compromises with Israel,

“We will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace,” Haley says. “He rejected any American role in peace talks. He insulted the American president. He called for suspending recognition of Israel.”

“Hate-filled speeches and end-runs around negotiations take us nowhere,” she says referring to Abbas’s fiery speech last week to the PLO.

“Peace will not be achieved without leaders with courage,” adding that an agreement would “require compromise.”

“Real peace requires leaders who are willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths, and make compromises,” Haley says. “The United States remains fully prepared and eager to pursue peace.”

Netanyahu slams ‘deeply flawed’ Iran nuclear deal at Davos

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slams the Iran nuclear deal during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“The preeminent terror state of our time to produce nuclear weapon,” he tells CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

“I think that the present deal is so deeply flawed that it guarantees that Iran will have the opportunity to make nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu says.

“That the fact that they signed a bad deal doesn’t meant they have to keep a bad deal.”

“Inspections are deeply flawed because Iran says, you cannot inspect military sites… this is just one example of how flawed this deal is.”

“I don’t care if they keep the deal or fix it, I don’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons,” he says, adding that the Tehran regime “openly says they will use any weapon to annihilate Israel.”

“By the way, the Arab states — unnamed states — agree with me.

— Jacob Magid

Netanyahu at Davos lauds budding ties with Arab world

Netanyahu at Davos hails the budding ties between Israel and the Arab world.

“I’d agree that there’s an alignment of Israel and other countries in the Middle East that would’ve been unimaginable 10 years ago, and certainly in my lifetime,” he tells Fareed Zakaria.

“Yes, it starts with a common concern for a common enemy which is radical Islam, ISIS and also our common stance against Iran.”

He says another reason for the Arab world’s interest in Israel is its technological prowess.

Netanyahu denies Trump Jerusalem declaration will lead to further annexation

Netanyahu hails Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but says the shift in US policy does not signal the end of a two-state solution.

“President Trump made history by recognizing history, by recognizing those indelible facts of the past and the present,” Netanyahu tells Fareed Zakaria at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“I think he did a great service for peace because peace can only be made by truth.”

The prime minister reiterates that Trump’s announcement does not mean a change in the status quo at Israel’s holy sites, but says Jerusalem will always remain under Israel’s sovereignty.

“We’re keeping the holy sites and the status quo, and I want to stress that under any arrangement that we have, we will always keep the status quo at the Temple Mount and all of the holy sites,” he says.

“Our position is that Jerusalem should remain united under Israel’s sovereignty with complete religious rights for those of all faiths,” he says

Netanyahu also rejects claims that Israel has been emboldened by the Trump administration to annex further territory in the West Bank.

“I think it’s a complete distortion. I think they want to govern themselves, which I don’t have any problem with that,” he says.

“The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves but none of the powers to harm us,” the prime minister says. “Israel will retain the overriding security control, but other than that, the Palestinians will be able to govern themselves.”

— Jacob Magid

Netanyahu says Palestinians ‘have to stop kvetching’

Netanyahu lauds the “very able team” of US President Donald Trump working toward a Mideast peace deal, but says PA President Mahmoud Abbas is unwilling to negotiate with Israel.

“If you want to have peace, you have to negotiate peace and the fact is that Abbas refuses to negotiate,” Netanyahu tells CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

“They always got away with walking away becuase they’re basically pampered by the international community

“It’s a very able team that the president has, they have many abilities,” Netanyahu says, calling the Trump administration’s approach to the conflict “refreshing.”

“The thing that people don’t realize is that people have made their mark in the markets in the real estate field, this is not a real estate deal, but it does have real estate elements,” he says.

The Palestinians, he says, “have to stop kvetching.”

— Jacob Magid

Netanyahu downplays corruption investigations at Davos

Netanyahu downplays the ongoing corruption investigations into him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Nothing will come out of any investigation because they’re nothing to come out,” he says in an interview with Fareed Zakaria.

“Next year, you’ll see if I’m right, and you’ll see that I am,” he says.

— Jacob Magid

First lady skips Davos with Trump, visits Holocaust museum

US first lady Melania Trump remembered the millions of victims of the Nazis, with a visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people whose lives and families were broken by the horrors of the Holocaust,” the first lady said in a statement. “My heart is with you, and we remember.”

The first lady later tweeted that the visit was “a powerful & moving tour that honors the millions of innocent lives lost, and educates us on the tragedies and effects of the holocaust.”

US President Donald Trump was at a global economic summit in Davos, Switzerland.

— AP

J Street: Trump’s approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace ‘delusional’

The liberal Mideast policy group J Street slams US President Donald Trump for his “alienating” remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calling his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “delusional.”

“President Trump again showed that when it comes to the Middle East he seems more interested in exacerbating problems than solving them,” J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami says in a statement. “His handling of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is completely alienating the Palestinians, empowering those on both sides who reject the two-state solution, and shattering his administration’s diplomatic credibility.”

The statement goes on to say that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — thus ‘taking it off the table’ for Palestinians in a future deal — is “playing with fire and drastically undercutting his administration’s role in any meaningful negotiations.”

The president is delusional if he believes this approach offers any kind of pathway to peace,” J Street says.

Netanyahu: Trump exposed Palestinian disinterest in peace with Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Trump’s Mideast peace plan has exposed the fact that Palestinians don’t genuinely seek peace with Israel.

“President Trump trusts in the negotiations. He knows to set clear stances, but also to leave things vague. He made an historical and explicit statement on Jerusalem and he expects both sides to come and grapple with the plan proposed by his team. We are ready for the plan at any time,” he tells reports at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“The Palestinian position has been exposed. They want to escape from a genuine discussion on real peace that includes recognition of the Jewish state that is in control of its own security,” he says.

“President Trump expressed his belief that if we come to the table and they do as well that we will then be able to hold negotiations on the issues. We are ready for negotiations, but I do not see that they are as well,” the prime minister adds.

“I left the conversation very encouraged, not only because of our close friendship with the Americans but beyond that, we spoke about Iran’s ability to establish military bases in Syria — and also Lebanon — and to develop precise weaponry in Syria, and the president conveyed a full understanding of the policy I lead regarding these two aggressive measures aimed at changing the balance of power.”

Asked by The Times of Israel if the issue of settlements was raised in the meeting, Netanyahu shook his head, no.

— Jacob Magid

Trump mulling closing PLO headquarters in Washington — report

The Trump Administration is reportedly considering closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s headquarters in Washington DC if the Palestinian leadership continues to refuse to return to negotiations with Israel,

The Hadashot news report comes hours after Trump said the US would no longer transfer monetary aid to the Palestinians unless they entered peace negotiations with Israel, and excoriated the Palestinian leadership’s reaction to his decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinian flag is seen above the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, DC, November 18, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

Trump says Davos visit ‘very successful’

US President Donald Trump says his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is already proving “very successful.”

He tells reporters on his way between meetings that “we are seeing tremendous investment and today has been a very exciting day, a very great day and great for our country.”

Trump is the first US president to come to the forum in Davos since Bill Clinton in 2000. Earlier today, he met with the leaders of Britain and Israel, Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu, and was due to give a speech to the forum tomorrow.

Later today he is due to hold a reception with CEOs and other global executives.

— AP

Israel’s UN ambassador says Iran controls 82,000 fighters in Syria

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations says there are 3,000 soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria, accusing Tehran of seeking to turn the country “into the largest military base in the world.”

Addressing the Security Council, Danny Danon says Iran controls 82,000 fighters in Syria, including 9,000 members of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, 10,000 Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and another 60,000 Syrians.

“We are releasing this classified information because it is vital for the world to understand that if we turn a blind eye in Syria, the Iranian threat will only grow,” he says.

Danon goes on to say the size of the Iranian-backed force in Syria is proof of Tehran’s intentions to sow chaos in the region and threaten Israel.

Rescue teams continue search for stranded hiker amid heavy rains

Rescue teams are continuing their search for a hiker who has been trapped in a deep canyon between the pools at the Zavitan River since noon today.

The hiker got stranded in the Golan Heights nature reserve during heavy rains and stormy weather earlier today.

The IDF and local volunteers have joined the search efforts.

UN hands Israel 240 recommendations, including ending settlement expansion

A United Nations’ review of human rights issues in Israel has issued 240 recommendations, including that it end settlement expansion.

Israel says it would need time to review 232 recommendations made by individual countries in the Human Rights Council working group in Geneva. It “noted” eight recommendations submitted by the “State of Palestine,” saying the entity doesn’t “satisfy the criteria for statehood under international law.”

Britain urges “immediate action to cease the policy of demolitions of Palestinian properties and buildings” and for Israel “to reverse policy on settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Germany says Israel should end “practices of collective punishment such as the demolition of homes, revocation of residency permits in East Jerusalem, and the closure of entire areas.”

The US made no recommendations in the report.

The UN Human Rights Council (photo credit: CC-BY US Mission Geneva, Flickr)
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (CC BY-US Mission Geneva/Flickr/File)

— AP

Top PLO official and ex-Nablus mayor Ghassan al-Shakaa dies at 74

Ghassan al-Shakaa, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization and former mayor of the West Bank city of Nablus, has died at age 74.

His son Walid says his father died earlier today of pneumonia. He also suffered from kidney problems and prostate cancer.

Al-Shakaa served as mayor of Nablus, the West Bank’s second-largest city, from 1994-2004 and from 2012-2015. He also served on the PLO Executive Committee.

In 1996, he was elected to the Palestinian parliament as a candidate for Fatah, the movement headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas says al-Shakaa “spent his life in the struggle and the service of his people, and in defense of its rights.”

Al-Shakaa, a lawyer, was arrested by Israel in 1981 and served 15 months in prison for Fatah membership.

— AP

British Labour party opposes call for blanket ban on Hezbollah

Britain’s Labour party advised its members to block an effort in parliament that would see the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah banned entirely.

The House of Commons is debating the issue today at the request of Joan Ryan, a Labour lawmaker and chair of the party’s Friends of Israel group, according to The Jewish Chronicle.

The United Kingdom, like the European Union, outlaws contacts with Hezbollah’s military wing but not its political wing.

The motion being debated asserts that “Hezbollah declares itself to be one organization without distinguishable political or military wings.”

A Labour Party circular sent to lawmakers ahead of the debate suggests banning the group in its entirety “could be a move against dialogue and meaningful peace negotiations in the Middle East,” according to the Chronicle report.

— JTA

Erykah Badu says Hitler remarks ‘taken out of context’

Erykah Badu has responded to criticism following an interview in which she said she sees a good side to everyone, including Adolf Hitler.

In a series of tweets Thursday, the singer stresses she was trying to impart a “message of compassion” and encouraged people to read the entire interview, not “out of context” headlines.

The comments come a day after Vulture published an interview with Badu in which she had supportive things to say about Bill Cosby and Hitler. “I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler,” she said.

In another tweet Thursday, the singer says she “used the worst examples possible” to “exaggerate a show of compassion.”

— AP

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Trump tells Netanyahu: Jerusalem off the table for Palestinians in future talks

US President Donald Trump tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Palestinians could face further reductions in aid from the US if they continue to refuse to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel.

Meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump says “Jerusalem is off the table” for Palestinians in future peace talks.

“We have discussions going with Israel on many things including trade,” Trump says. “But the big move, and something that is very historic and very important, is the fact that we’re moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” he says, adding that “it’s way ahead of schedule, by years.

“We anticipate a small version [of the embassy] working sometime next year,” Trump tells Netanyahu.

Trump warns Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel or face further cuts in US aid.

“They disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support — tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands. That money is on the table,” he says. “That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” he says. “Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace. And they’re going to have to want to make peace too, or we’re going to have nothing to do with it any longer. This was never brought up by other negotiators, but it’s brought up by me.”

He adds: “The hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem. We took Jerusalem off the table. So we don’t have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

He turns to Netanyahu: “You won one point, and you’ll give up some points later in the negotiation, if it ever takes places. I don’t know that it ever will take place.”

“But they [Palestinians] have to respect the process also, and they have to respect the fact that the US has given tremendous support to them over the years, in terms of monetary support and other support. So we’ll see what happens with the peace process. But respect has to be shown to the US, or we’re just not going any further.”

Asked questions by the reporters, Trump says “thank you very much everybody,” but then answers:

“We have a proposal for peace. It’s a great proposal for the Palestinians. I think it’s a very good proposal for Israel. It covers a lot of the things that were over the years discussed and agreed on… There were never any deals that came close, because Jerusalem, you could never get past Jerusalem. People say I set it back. I didn’t set it back. I helped it. Because by taking it off the table, that was the toughest issue. And Israel will pay for that… They’ll do something that’s going to be a very good thing.”

He continues: “But they (the Israelis) want to make peace, and I hope the Palestinians want to make peace. And if they do, everybody’s going to be very happy in the end.”

Asked if he’d heard Abbas’s recent remarks castigating the US, Trump says “I didn’t really read his remarks personally. I’m probably better off not seeing them. But we’ve done a lot for them, and hopefully they’ll going to to make peace for their people.

“It’s many years of killing people. It’s many years of killing each other. They have to be tired and disgusted of it…. I think eventually very sound minds — I hope sounds minds — are going to prevail. And it would be a great achievement of mine. I’ve said it from day one.”