Vatican and Israeli Chief Rabbinate preparing joint statement against euthanasia
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Trump says Israel would be in ‘big trouble’ without Saudi Arabia

US president justifies maintaining normal ties with Riyadh despite murder of Khashoggi by saying it has been ‘tremendously helpful’ in region

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters following his teleconference with troops from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, November 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters following his teleconference with troops from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, November 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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

Liberman claims IDF chief accepted 90-95% of ombudsman’s criticism on readiness

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman continues his broadside against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telling a conference that the government is “buying short term” quiet in Gaza and harming long term security, warning that Hamas could turn into a “southern Hezbollah.”

Liberman, who resigned from the Defense Ministry a week ago, in protest of a ceasefire agreement with Gaza’s Hamas after a major flareup, also wades into an increasingly public squabble over the Israel Defense Forces’ combat readiness.

He says he has personally heard the army’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, admitting that “90 to 95 percent” of criticism published yesterday by the military ombudsman is correct.

IDF Ombudsman Yitzhak Brick poses with a copy of his annual report on May 28, 2017. (Defense Ministry)

In a letter to Netanyahu and Liberman in early October, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, formally known as the chief complaints officer in the Defense Ministry, charged that the current situation in the IDF was “worse than it was at the time of the Yom Kippur War” in 1973, when Israel was famously caught off-guard by a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria.

Yesterday, Brick sent a letter to members of the Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee, warning that army officers are not telling the truth about shortfalls, warning of a manpower crisis, and citing problems with the storage and maintenance of tanks and armored personnel carriers.

In public, the army has branded the claims as “improper and off-base” and maintained that the military was in peak combat fitness.

Latest US airstrikes in Somalia kill 6 al-Shabab jihadists

The US military announces the latest of several deadly airstrikes this week against al-Shabab extremists in Somalia, as it targets a region well north of where the al-Qaeda-linked fighters control large parts of the country.

The US Africa Command statement says two new strikes killed six fighters and destroyed a weapons cache yesterday near Harardere. That al-Shabab-controlled community last month was targeted by the deadliest US airstrike in almost a year, with dozens of jihadists killed.

The US has now carried out 35 airstrikes this year against al-Shabab, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group.

Two airstrikes on Monday killed 37 extremists and one on Tuesday killed seven.

This week’s airstrikes have been carried out in Mudug region, well north of the capital, Mogadishu.

— AP

IAEA calls on North Korea to re-admit nuclear inspectors

The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog calls on North Korea to allow inspectors back in to monitor its nuclear program.

Speaking at a board meeting in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Director General Yukiya Amano notes that Pyongyang in September talked about denuclearization measures, including the “permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon” — a reactor where North Korea produces plutonium.

Amano says there has been activity observed at Yongbyon, but “without access the agency cannot confirm the nature and purpose of these activities.”

IAEA inspectors were expelled from North Korea in 2009, but Amano says the agency continues to prepare for its possible re-admittance.

— AP

Remand extended for 3 teens suspected of assaulting 76-year-old

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court extends the remand of three youths suspected of assaulting an elderly woman and stealing her handbag.

The teenagers will remain in custody for five days, after security footage yesterday captured their assault on the 76-year-old Holocaust survivor, who was hurt when she fell onto the road outside her home in Kfar Saba.

Turkey’s Erdogan could meet Saudi crown prince on G20 sidelines: spokesman

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina next week amid tensions between Ankara and Riyadh, the Turkish presidential spokesman says.

“We are looking at the program; there could be” a meeting between the two men, Ibrahim Kalin says in Ankara, as Saudi Arabia and Turkey clash over the murder of Riyadh critic and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last month.

— AFP

Strategic affairs minister heads to Germany, Italy, aiming to curb BDS

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who is in charge of combating the boycott movement against Israel, heads to Europe for a diplomatic tour aimed at promoting the struggle against BDS.

Erdan will visit Germany and Italy and will meet diplomatic officials, leaders of local Jewish communities and representatives of pro-Israel organizations.

He will be the main speaker at Europe’s biggest pro-Israel conference and at other events, the Strategic Affairs Ministry says in a statement.

The statement says that while European countries do not formally boycott Israel, the continent is where BDS is most prominent, with countries funding such organizations either directly or indirectly.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, on September 13, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

UN atomic watchdog says Tehran complying with nuclear deal

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has been complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, two weeks after US President Donald Trump reimposed a second set of sanctions on Tehran having pulled out from the accord.

“Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano tells the UN atomic watchdog’s board of governors in a quarterly meeting, according to the Reuters news agency.

“It is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments,” Amano adds.

In unusual move, IDF censor calls on Israelis not to publish info on Gaza raid

The Israeli military censor calls on Israelis not to share any information they have about a November 11 special forces raid inside the Gaza Strip, in which an officer was killed, after the Hamas terror group publishes photographs purporting to be of the soldiers involved in the operation.

“Hamas is working now to interpret and understand the event that occurred within Gaza on November 11, and every piece of information, even if it is considered by the publisher as harmless, is liable for endangering human lives and damaging the security of the state,” the censor says in a statement.

The announcement is a highly irregular move by the censor, which typically refrains from making public comments.

— Judah Ari Gross

Israel uncovers West Bank Hamas cell said to have planned major terror attacks

The Shin Bet security agency says it uncovered an attempt by the Hamas terror group to set up a terror cell in the West Bank aimed at carrying out “severe” terror attacks in Israel.

Operatives of Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip are said to have recruited members in the West Bank and trained them on preparing explosive devices and setting crowded areas as targets for attacks.

The Shin Bet notes that the activity that was discovered is different in its scope and in its potential danger from previous Hamas efforts in recent years.

Rock throwing damages Israeli car near West Bank settlement

A car driven by an Israeli is damaged from rock throwing near the West Bank settlement of Bruchin.

Nobody is hurt as several cars are pelted by suspected Palestinian terrorists. Damage is caused to one of the vehicles.

Trump accuses judiciary of making US ‘unsafe’

US President Donald Trump renews his attacks on the judiciary, accusing judges of making the country unsafe as he fans a bitter row over asylum seekers.

Trump launches his latest salvo of tweets on the issue a day after clashing publicly with the chief justice of the Supreme Court over the independence of the courts.

“Judges must not Legislate Security … and Safety at the Border, or anywhere else,” Trump tweets.

“They know nothing about it and are making our Country unsafe.”

“Our great Law Enforcement professionals MUST BE ALLOWED TO DO THEIR JOB! If not there will be only bedlam, chaos, injury and death,” he adds.

— AFP

Two landfill employees injured by tractor in Petah Tikva

Two employees at a landfill in the central city of Petah Tikva are injured from a tractor at the site.

One of the workers, a 37-year-old man, suffers moderate to serious wounds, according to Magen David Adom, while a second man is lightly wounded.

Paramedics treat the pair at the scene and take them to the city’s Beilinson hospital.

Court extends man’s remand over death of his sister in Bedouin community

The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court extends by three days the remand of the brother of a woman shot dead yesterday in the Bedouin community of Tel Sheva.

The death of 43-year-old Manal al-Fuzrat was first suspected to have been the result of a stray bullet during a brawl, but witness testimonies have indicated it was likely a case of “honor killing,” in which women are killed by relatives for perceived shame they have brought upon the family.

Qatar to let Israelis attend 2022 soccer World Cup — report

Qatar will allow Israeli soccer fans to attend the 2022 FIFA World Cup with Israeli passports, Hadashot television news reports citing officials in Doha, where the mega sports event will be hosted.

Key suspect in corruption case involving Netanyahu summoned for questioning

Shaul Elovitch, the former chief shareholder in Bezeq, Israel’s main telecommunications company, is questioned in Case 4000, a corruption probe involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Walla news site reports.

Elovitch, who is also the owner of Walla, arrives at the offices of police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit.

In the case, Netanyahu is suspected of advancing regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister that benefited Elovitch, despite opposition from the Communication Ministry’s career officials. Police suspect that in exchange he received positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.

Netanyahu meets top IDF brass, says 500 terror attacks thwarted this year

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets top IDF commanders at the military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv for the first time as defense minister.

On Gaza, Netanyahu says “we are prepared to act and do everything needed to secure residents of the [Gaza] envelope and southern communities.”

In the West Bank, the premier says security forces have thwarted 500 terror attacks this year.

Efforts are continuing to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and to hinder Hezbollah’s project for acquiring precision guided missiles, Netanyahu adds.

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other top IDF officers at the military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 22, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Class action filed against Airbnb for ‘outrageous discrimination’

An Israeli settler who in the past advertised an apartment on Airbnb filed a request for class action against the rental giant to the Jerusalem District Court.

Ma’anit Rabinovich of the Kida outpost says in her request that the decision to ban listings in West Bank settlements constitutes “severe, offensive and extremely outrageous discrimination on the basis of place of residence, country of origin and opinion.”

Rabinovich says she never received an update from Airbnb on its decision, despite having advertised short-term rentals on the website in the past.

“It was way more important to the company to ‘run’ quickly to the media to voice its decision, instead of first updating all the people it was about to harm,” she charges.

The lawsuit also targets Kerem Navot, a left-wing Israeli NGO that helped Human Rights Watch draft a report on apartment rentals in the West Bank. Rabinovich claims the group is “an inseparable part of the BDS movement” and pressured Airbnb to make its decision.

The lawsuit accuses Airbnb of pretending its decision was directed broadly at conflict zones, while it “actually is policy directed solely at those living in settlements in Israel in Judea and Samaria.”

Polish lawmakers commemorate Jewish novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer

The Polish parliament adopts a resolution commemorating Yiddish novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer, who 40 years ago received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In the resolution, Polish lawmakers stress that Singer’s work – in Yiddish – is an integral part of Polish cultural heritage.

As is recalled in the resolution, Singer was honored in 1978 by the Swedish Academy for “full of feelings prose, which, growing out of the Polish-Jewish cultural traditions, at the same time touches on the eternal problems.”

“Isaac Bashevis Singer occupies a unique place in the history of Poland as a writer who in his work has perpetuated and commemorated images of a Jewish community non-existing today in our country,” reads the document approved by the Sejm.

Isaac Bashevis Singer (photo credit: MDC Archives / Wikipedia)

Singer was born in 1902 in Leoncin, Poland and later lived in Warsaw and Biłgoraj. He presented in his works a colorful world of Jews who had lived in eastern Poland for centuries. The resolution also recalls his award-winning writing and journalistic activity after he immigrated to the United States in 1935, as well as his commitment to defending animal rights.

“Appreciating the great contribution of Isaac Bashevis Singer to the Polish and world culture, its sensitivity and originality of thought, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland today adopts a resolution regarding the commemoration of an outstanding artist, expressing the highest recognition for his work and honoring his memory,” says the document.

— JTA

Netanyahu taps Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir as next deputy IDF chief

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir as the next deputy IDF chief of staff, the military says in a statement.

In doing that, Netanyahu accepts the recommendation of Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who has been tapped as the next IDF chief.

Zamir, 52, was the head of the army’s Southern Command until June. He is a former military secretary to the prime minister.

Iran waives visa-stamping rules in bid to bypass Trump measures, boost tourism

Iranian media is reporting that the country has implemented a measure allowing officials to waive rules relating to stamping visas in foreigners’ passports.

The report by Seday-e Miras, a news website affiliated with the country’s tourism department, says the decision is aimed at increasing visits by tourists.

Since 2015, people that have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen have faced restrictions when applying for visas to visit the United States.

In June, former NATO chief Javier Solana’s online application to enter the US was rejected for having previously traveled to Iran.

Other countries, including Israel, have applied similar measures.

— AP

Finland halts military exports to Saudi Arabia, UAE

Finland has joined others in halting exports of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, mainly because of the war in Yemen.

In a statement, Finland says it’s also stopping exports to the United Arab Emirates, saying the halt to both countries came because of “the alarming humanitarian situation in Yemen.”

The Nordic country says it is “complying with the European Union’s arms export criteria, which take particular account of human rights and the protection of regional peace, security and stability.”

No figures are immediately available as to Finland’s arms exports to the two countries.

Earlier today, Denmark said it was stopping military exports, citing “the continued worsening of the already terrible situation in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

— AP

Trump issues Thanksgiving threat to close US-Mexico border

US President Donald Trump is threatening to close the US border with Mexico for an undisclosed period of time if his administration determines that its southern ally has lost “control” on its side.

Trump is citing the situation involving migrants camped in Tijuana, Mexico, after traveling in a caravan to reach the United States.

Trump calls it “a really bad situation” there and says that “if we find that it’s uncontrollable,” then “we will close entry into the country for period of time until we can get it under control. The whole border.”

The president also says he’s given American troops at the border the “OK” to use lethal force against migrants “if they have to.”

Trump tells reporters: “I hope they don’t have to,” but he says, “I have no choice” because “you’re dealing with rough people.”

— AP

Trump says not enough evidence to blame Saudi prince for Khashoggi killing

US President Donald Trump is insisting there’s not enough evidence to blame Saudi Arabia’s crown prince for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

Trump tells reporters during a Thanksgiving appearance at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida: “Maybe the world should be held accountable ’cause the world is a vicious place.”

Saudi prosecutors have said a 15-man team sent to Istanbul killed Khashoggi with tranquilizers.

Trump pushes back on the idea his refusal to punish the Saudis more will embolden other governments to go after journalists and commit other human rights abuses. Trump calls the kingdom an important ally that has helped to lower oil prices.

Republicans and Democrats have accused Trump of ignoring US intelligence that concluded it was likely the crown prince ordered the killing. Trump says the CIA’s report was inclusive.

— AP

UAE hopes for ‘amicable solution’ to jailed Briton case

The United Arab Emirates hopes to find an “amicable solution” to the case of a British academic sentenced to life in jail for spying, the foreign ministry says.

“The UAE is determined to protect its important strategic relationship with a key ally,” the ministry says in a statement, a day after PhD student Matthew Hedges was sentenced.

“Officials from both countries have discussed the matter regularly over recent months.

“Both sides hope to find an amicable solution to the Matthew Hedges case.”

— AFP

France imposes sanctions against 18 Saudis over Khashoggi murder

The French foreign ministry says it will impose sanctions against 18 Saudi citizens over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month.

“These measures… aim to prohibit these individuals from entering national territory and the entire Schengen area” of Europe, the ministry says in a statement.

— AFP

Russia may deploy missiles on allies’ territory: lawmaker

A senior Russian lawmakers says that Moscow could deploy missiles on the territory of its allies if the US stations such weapons in Europe.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, says that the US intention to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty could herald the way for deployment of missiles banned by the pact to Europe.

He warns that if such deployment happens, Russia will target US missiles with its weapons.

Kosachev adds that Russia may also respond to such a move by deploying similar missiles closer to its neighbors and, “if necessary, on the territories of our allies.”

The lawmaker says those options are hypothetical and Russia still hopes that the INF Treaty can be preserved.

— AP

Saudi crown prince leaves on first foreign tour since Khashoggi murder

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman leaves on a visit to “brotherly Arab countries,” state media reports, his first official trip abroad since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Prince Mohammed will visit a “number of” Arab states at the request of his father, King Salman, the royal court says in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency, without specifying the countries to be visited.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on October 23, 2018. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

— AFP

Trump says he’s eyeing staff replacements

US President Donald Trump says he plans to interview potential staff replacements while he’s in Florida for a Thanksgiving break.

Trump doesn’t say which positions he is interviewing people for, but Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and chief of staff John Kelly are considered among the most vulnerable in the administration.

Trump has said he’s generally happy with his cabinet but expects to make several additional changes. Trump demanded and received Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation immediately after the midterm elections.

Trump was speaking to reporters after a Thanksgiving telephone conference with troops deployed abroad. He told the troops, “Your courage truly inspires us.”

— AP

IDF chief congratulates newly appointed deputy Eyal Zamir

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot calls and congratulates Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir who has been selected to be the military’s deputy chief.

Eisenkot, who ends his term next month, hails Zamir as “an officer with many good traits who served as a combat fighter and as a commander on several fronts and held key positions. He has the capabilities for success in this central role and for widespread contribution to the IDF,” according to a statement.

Eisenkot also spoke earlier today with Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who lost out to Zamir, and thanked him for a “worthy selection process.”

Vatican and Israeli Chief Rabbinate preparing joint statement against euthanasia

The Vatican and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate are preparing a joint position statement against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The issue was discussed at a meeting at the Vatican of the Bilateral Commission joining delegations from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism.

The meeting on November 16-18 was the 16th meeting of the Bilateral Commission. Its main theme was “human dignity with special reference to the child” in Jewish and Catholic teaching.

Members of the Bilateral Commission had a private audience with Pope Francis, according to a joint statement issued today.

“At this meeting, the Pope welcomed the information provided to him regarding a draft inter-religious position-paper on end-of-life matters with particular reference to the dangers of legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide instead of providing palliative care and maximal respect for God-given life,” the statement says.

This subject has been a topic of discussion by the Bilateral Commission for years. At a Commission meeting in 2006, participants specifically condemned euthanasia, calling it an “illegitimate human arrogation of an exclusive divine authority to determine the time of a person’s death.”

— JTA

Tehran says it won’t renegotiate nuclear deal

Iran’s foreign minister Mahammad Javad Zarif says Tehran won’t renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, the Reuters news agency reports.

Zarif reportedly tells an international conference in Rome, Italy that the Iranian public will “endure” recently reimposed US sanctions after its president Donald Trump pulled out of the accord earlier this year.

Trump says Israel would be in ‘big trouble’ without Saudi Arabia

US President Donald Trump says that “Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia” while justifying maintaining normal ties with Riyadh despite the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has prompted international backlash.

Trump adds Saudi Arabia is “tremendously helpful in the Middle East. If we didn’t have Saudi Arabia we wouldn’t have a big base.” He argues that many people are getting “killed and slaughtered” all over the world, so “lets not deal with anybody.”

Trump hints he could make first visit to troops in Afghanistan

US President Donald Trump hints he might soon visit American troops in Afghanistan for the first time.

Addressing service members in a Thanksgiving telephone conference, the president tells one colonel deployed to the country: “I’ll see you back when you’re in the United States or maybe I’ll see you over there.”

Questioned later by journalists on whether he would make the trip, the president simply says: “At the appropriate time, we’ll be doing some very interesting thing.”

While 14,000 US military personnel remain deployed in Afghanistan 17 years after the war began in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Republican president has yet to make a visit after nearly two years in office.

Presidential trips to conflict zones are usually kept secret until the last minute.

— AFP

Qatar mulls continuing Gaza cash transfers amid backlash over terror-funding

Qatar is reportedly considering whether to continue with cash payments to Gaza and mulling finding an alternative method for the transfer of the money, due to internal fears that by paying the salaries of Hamas members, the Arab state could be seen to be supporting terrorism.

According to a report on the Walla news site, a document circulated internally among Qatari officials argues that the transfer of money to Hamas was a “problematic” move which led to criticism from both Israel and the Palestinians. The document says the cash transfer “only reinforces the negative view of Qatar as a financier of terror acting against the Sunni states.”

Last year Saudi Arabia and its allies cut off ties with Qatar after accusing the gas-rich state of supporting extremism across the region.

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Vatican and Israeli Chief Rabbinate preparing joint statement against euthanasia

The Vatican and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate are preparing a joint position statement against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The issue was discussed at a meeting at the Vatican of the Bilateral Commission joining delegations from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism.

The meeting on November 16-18 was the 16th meeting of the Bilateral Commission. Its main theme was “human dignity with special reference to the child” in Jewish and Catholic teaching.

Members of the Bilateral Commission had a private audience with Pope Francis, according to a joint statement issued today.

“At this meeting, the Pope welcomed the information provided to him regarding a draft inter-religious position-paper on end-of-life matters with particular reference to the dangers of legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide instead of providing palliative care and maximal respect for God-given life,” the statement says.

This subject has been a topic of discussion by the Bilateral Commission for years. At a Commission meeting in 2006, participants specifically condemned euthanasia, calling it an “illegitimate human arrogation of an exclusive divine authority to determine the time of a person’s death.”

— JTA