The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Liberman to speed up process for choosing next IDF chief
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is scrambling to appoint the military’s next chief of staff by the end of year, his office says.
He is speeding up the process due to two petitions to the High Court of Justice questioning the eligibility of two members of the vetting committee, which could delay the process.
In order to get his pick for Israel Defense Forces chief of staff confirmed by December 31 — when current army chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot is due to complete his four-year tenure — the minister is expected to put forth two candidates to the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee for consideration by the end of this week.
— Judah Ari Gross
Head of military HQ in Tel Aviv quits amid corruption probe
The Military Police launched a corruption investigation into the commander of the IDF’s Tel Aviv headquarters, prompting him to step down from his position immediately.
For the past three years, Col. Yigal Ben Ami has served as the commander of the army’s headquarters, known as the Kirya, in central Tel Aviv. Earlier in the day, the military announced that he had stepped down suddenly, but would not initially say why.
The IDF now confirms that the colonel is under investigation for “breach of trust and violating military orders,” but will not elaborate on the nature of his suspected crimes.
“The investigation is underway, and at this point no additional details can be provided,” the military says in a statement.
“The officer was put on leave and asked to move up his retirement from the IDF. His request was accepted,” the army says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Regev mourns slain athlete; ‘a terrible tragedy for Israeli sport’
Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev says the death of a young athletic star is a “terrible tragedy for Israeli sports.”
Noa Hayat, 20, who competed in multiple fields, including cycling, running and triathlon, was killed while cycling in Haifa yesterday.
“She invested everything she had to train children for triathlon, the sport she loved so much,” Regev said.
Brennan: Trump worked with Russians and now he’s desperate
Former CIA director John Brennan said that US President Donald Trump yanked his security clearance because the president’s campaign colluded with the Russians to sway the 2016 election and is now desperate to end the special counsel’s investigation.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Brennan cites press reports and Trump’s own goading of Russia during the campaign to find Democrat Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.
Trump himself drew a direct connection between the revocation of Brennan’s clearance and the Russia probe, telling The Wall Street Journal the investigation is a “sham,” and “these people led it!”
“So I think it’s something that had to be done,” Trump said.
Brennan writes that Trump’s claims of no collusion with Russia are “hogwash” and that the only question remaining is whether the collusion amounts to a “constituted criminally liable conspiracy.”
“Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him,” he writes.
Former Indian leader Vajpayee dies; oversaw improved ties with Israel
Three-time Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has died, current leader Narendra Modi said of the ailing 93-year-old who had been hospitalized.
“It was Atal Ji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century,” Modi says in a tweet Thursday, using a Hindi-language honorific.
“Atal Ji’s passing away is a personal and irreplaceable loss for me.”
Vajpayee, who served three terms as prime minister, oversaw a major deepening of ties between India and Israel, particularly during his third stint in office from 1999 to 2004.
The highlight was Ariel Sharon’s visit to India in 2003, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister.
His Hindu Nationalist BJP party was far friendlier to Israel than the long ruling Congress party, which only formalized ties with the Jewish state in 1992.
— with AFP
Jerusalem mayor back from mission to Paraguay
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has returned to Israel after representing the country at the inauguration of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez.
“I brought the blessings of the people of Israel to the president of Paraguay as he was sworn in at the Presidential Palace, and I thanked him for the deep friendship between our two countries,” says Barkat.
“We spoke about strengthening our special relationship and further deepening our cooperation. I invited the president to visit Israel and Jerusalem,” he says.
US envoy says ‘no reason’ to evacuate settlements in any peace deal
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman says that “he saw no reason to evacuate settlements” in any future peace deal.
The US envoy made the remarks in a meeting with a number of settler leaders today.
Likud Lawmaker Yehudah Glick, who organized the sit-down with Har Hebron Regional Council chairman Yochai Damari confirms his comments, telling The Times of Israel that the ambassador was “very explicit” in his remark regarding Israeli communities in the West Bank.
A spokeswoman for the embassy declines to comment.
— Jacob Magid
Corbyn met with PLFP terror leader weeks before Jerusalem attack
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met with the leader-in-exile of a Palestinian terror group only weeks before its members carried out an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in which six people were killed.
The Times of London published a picture of Corbyn standing next to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) chief Maher al Taher at a commemoration ceremony for the Black September terrorists who took part in the 1972 massacre of 11 Israelis at the Munich Olympics.
8) I have nothing more to say. I'm in tears as I type this.
I know people will bombard me with hate b/c of this thread.
I apologise if any people were horrified by the pictures. But this is real. And here's Corbyn, standing with the man behind it, just weeks before it happened. pic.twitter.com/lsDQmhiCmX
— Daniel Sugarman (@Daniel_Sugarman) August 15, 2018
Corbyn’s participation in the event, in which he was photographed laying a wreath near the terrorists’ grave, has already caused an international uproar, provoking fierce reactions from British Jews and Israeli politicians alike.
In November 2014, two Palestinian terrorists armed with a gun, axes and knives entered the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood and began killing indiscriminately.
Five worshippers — including three Americans and a British citizen — and a Druze police officer who responded to the incident, were killed. Police killed both assailants, who were identified as residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber and members of the PFLP.
Top Jewish Agency official in US quits — report
The top Jewish Agency official in the US, Joshua Fogelson, has quit, Haaretz reports.
Fogelson was the CEO for international development and his resignation comes just weeks after the appointment of former Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog as head of the agency.
Fogelson gave no reason for his departure, Haaretz says. He served in the position for three years.
UK Labour complains over press coverage of Corbyn’s Palestinian cemetery visit
The UK Labour party has filed a formal complaint with the British press regulator Ipso, claiming that coverage of party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at a ceremony that honored the Munich terrorists was misleading, the Guardian reports.
The complaint names the Sun, the Times, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Express and Metro.
The press regulator has acknowledged the complaint and says it will consider taking the case further, the Guardian says, indicating it might attempt attempt to rule on the definitive chain of events surrounding Corbyn’s visit to the cemetery.
Corbyn says he was only attending a ceremony in Tunisia commemorating the victims of an Israeli airstrike and “did not participate” in the commemoration of the mastermind of the Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes.
Turkish finance chief tries to reassure investors on crisis
Turkey’s finance chief tries to reassure thousands of international investors on a conference call today, in which he pledges to fix the economic troubles that have seen the country spiral into a currency crisis.
The national currency recovered somewhat from record lows hit earlier this week, a day after Qatar pledged $15 billion in investments to help Turkey’s economy. The lira strengthened some 4 percent against the dollar, to around 5.75 per dollar.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak was quoted by private media NTV as saying the economy would emerge stronger from the turmoil.
Albayrak says Turkey’s banks are “healthy and strong” and that implementing structural reforms and maintain tight monetary policy to fight inflation remain a priority. The minister ruled out any move to limit money flows — which is a possibility that worries investors — or any assistance from the International Monetary Fund, NTV says.
Oldest hippopotamus in captivity dies at 59 in Jerusalem
Tami, believed to be the oldest hippopotamus in captivity, died today at the age of 59 in her sleep at Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, the zoo announces.
She was found dead in the lake of the African-themed area where she lived in the zoo. She was “the oldest hippopotamus living in a zoo,” the zoo says.
“She died at an advanced age, surrounded by lots of love and respect.” She was the last hippo at the zoo after the death of Mati, a male, some 10 years ago.
Tami had quickly established herself as dominant among the giraffes, zebras and rhinos in the African area, it says.
“It is a difficult day for us,” zoo employee Gilad Moshe tells the Israel Hayom newspaper. “A little like losing a friend.”
Teachers threaten strike ahead of new school year
The Teacher’s Union are threatening to strike ahead of the new school year.
The union today declares a national labor dispute, saying that promised reforms have not been implemented.
“Not only is there a violation of the agreed reform, but harm to the conditions of the teachers and the students,” it says.
A labor dispute is a precursor to declaring a strike. The new school year starts in the beginning of September.
Israeli official confirms Egypt intel chief met PM in Tel Aviv
An Israeli official is confirming that Egyptian intel czar Abbas Kamel was in Tel Aviv last night to hold talks with Israeli officials on the ceasefire deal.
The visit was initially reported by the pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat.
The official says that Kamel met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Shin Bet Chief Nadav Argaman.
Supreme Court extends sentence of ‘Loaves and Fishes’ church arsonist
The Supreme Court has accepted a petition from the State Attorney’s Office to extend the prison sentence of Yinon Reuveni, who torched the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in northern Israel in 2015.
In December 2017, Reuveni was sentenced to four years behind bars for the arson attack.
The court agreed the original sentence was too lenient and gave him an extra year and a half, taking into account the fact that the 23-year-old had targeted a holy site and that it was a nationalistically motivated crime.
— Jacob Magid
Israel sees a dwindling number of startups
Israel is known as the “Startup Nation,” but the number of companies launched there has dwindled in the past few years.
The Globes financial news website reports that the number of startups has decreased to 700 in 2017 from 1,000 in 2014, according to data from Startup Nation Central, an Israeli NGO. Meanwhile, the number of startup closures rose to 468 in 2016 from 221 in 2014. Last year, 408 startups were shut down.
Meir Valman, an analyst for Startup Nation Central, tells Globes that he believes that many entrepreneurs were unable to obtain the necessary capital to open startups prior to 2014 due to the 2008 recession, but that year more capital began to become available.
However, despite the recovering economy, he believes there were fewer new companies in 2017 than in earlier years because “many of the good ideas already received financing and companies were founded, and the good entrepreneurs are active in the already existing companies.”
Pompeo forms ‘Iran Action Group’ for post-nuke deal policy
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is forming a dedicated group to coordinate and run US policy toward Iran as the Trump administration moves ahead with efforts to force changes in the Islamic Republic’s behavior after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
The State Department says Pompeo will announce the creation of the Iran Action Group on Thursday.
Officials say the group will be headed by Brian Hook, who is currently the State Department’s director of policy planning. Hook led the Trump administration’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to negotiate changes to the nuclear deal with European allies before the president decided in May to pull out of the accord.
Abbas refuses to meet visiting Egypt intel chief — report
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas refused to meet with visiting Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, Israel’s channel 10 TV reports.
Kamal was in Tel Aviv last night where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Shin Bet Chief Nadav Argaman to discuss an emerging ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza.
He was then supposed to travel to Ramallah to met with Abbas, but Abbas reportedly told Kamel he was busy, a move Channel 10 described as a “humiliation” for Kamel.
Shin Bet chief said to warn cabinet over deal with Hamas
Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman reportedly warned the cabinet against reaching a deal with the Hamas terror group in Gaza that does not include the rival Palestinian Authority.
“Pushing Abu Mazen to the side will just prove that terror pays,” Argaman reportedly told the cabinet, according to Hadashot news, referring to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas by his nickname.
Hamas ousted the PA from Gaza in 2007. Several attempts at reconciliation between them have failed.
Reaching a deal with Hamas, while ignoring the PA, which cooperates with Israel, would only prove to the Palestinians that “the only way to achieve results is through violence,” the report quotes Argaman as saying.
Police to question Netanyahu again in corruption probe
Police will again question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Bezeq corruption investigation, Channel 10 reports.
Investigators are expected at his residence at 11:00 am Friday.
The Bezeq probe, known as Case 4000, involves suspicions that Netanyahu, who has also served as communications minister for several years over his past two terms as prime minster, advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage of the Netanyahus from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.
Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing.
US threatens more Turkey sanctions if pastor not freed
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says that the United States will levy more sanctions on the troubled Turkish economy if Ankara does not release an American pastor.
“We have put sanctions on several of their cabinet members,” Mnuchin tells President Donald Trump in a cabinet meeting attended by the press. “We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly.”
Trump prefaced Mnuchin’s remarks by saying that Turkey had not been a very good friend.
Referring to imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump said “they have a great Christian pastor there, he’s a very innocent man.”
Scottish neo-Nazi jailed for 12 years for bomb-making attempt
A Scottish man with far-right views has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for attempting to build a bomb that prosecutors say could have caused carnage.
A search of Peter Morgan’s home found explosive substances, propellants, fireworks, and a bottle with ball bearings and nail-gun cartridges attached, as well as neo-Nazi paraphernalia.
Foster was convicted last month of terrorism and explosives offenses.
Judge Colin Boyd says that jurors had rejected Morgan’s claim that he only planned to blow up a frozen turkey and post it on YouTube.
The judge says that “however abhorrent some may find your views, you are entitled to hold them. What you are not entitled to do is to act on these views for the purpose of committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”
Former defense chief says top IDF officers had to pass interview with PM’s wife
Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says that senior IDF officers who were candidates to be military secretary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first had to pass an interview with his wife Sara.
Speaking to Hadashot news, Ya’alon accuses Sara Netanyahu of interfering in the selection process of military secretary, a key position.
“I don’t like to talk about the house on Balfour [The Prime Minister’s Residence] but at one stage I discovered that there was involvement in decisions on positions,” Ya’alon says in the interview.
“When we needed to choose a new military secretary, the candidates were sent for an interview with the prime minister,” says Ya’alon. “Then the chief of staff comes to me, one Friday, and says: ‘Listen, that was not an interview with the prime minister, that was an interview with his wife.'”
“That really makes me angry,” said Ya’alon, who has become a main critic of Netanyahu since his ouster from the Defense Ministry.
The prime minister’s military secretary serves as a go-between, passing messages from the Israel Defense Forces directly to the premier and vice versa. The job is often seen as a stepping-stone for higher positions within the military.
Victim of suspected attack at Havat Gilad reportedly in critical condition
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the victim of the suspected car-ramming attack near Havat Gilad is in critical condition.
A spokesman for the Samaria Regional Council says the incident appeared to have occurred near the site of an attack in January, when Rabbi Raziel Shevach was shot to death by a Hamas terrorist.
זירת האירוע בצומת חוות גלעד כעת
צילום: מאור לביא/TPS pic.twitter.com/Xpss3JN5lk
— מעריב אונליין (@MaarivOnline) August 16, 2018
Woman hit in suspected West Bank car-ramming dies of injuries
An Israeli woman who was hit in a suspected car-ramming terror attack dies of her wounds, according to medics and the Samaria Regional Council.
However, a spokeswoman for the council says the motive is still not clear and that all possibilities are being checked.
Security forces have erected roadblocks in the area and at the entrance to the Palestinian city of Nablus and are inspecting vehicles in an effort to apprehend the suspects.
Regional council head visits car-ramming scene, says all motives being checked
Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan arrives at the scene of a suspected West Bank car-ramming terror attack in which a woman in her 20s is reported killed.
Dagan is updated by security forces and says: “This is a very difficult incident. All motives are being checked. We, the residents of Samaria, will continue to be strong and sanctify life.”
— Jacob Magid
Woman who died in West Bank ramming said to be in her 40s
The Magen David Adom ambulance confirms the death of the victim of a West Bank car-ramming.
The woman is said to be in her 40s, not in her 20s as initially reported.
The perpetrator is suspected of escaping to the area of the nearby Palestinian town of Jit. Security forces erect roadblocks in the area.
Settler leader says car-ramming is a ‘terror attack, a cold-blooded murder’
Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan says of the fatal West Bank car-ramming attack that “from the point of view of the military commanders in the field, and from our point of view as well, this is a terror attack for all intents and purposes.”
“The junction is a lit by street lamps,” he says, adding that there were no skid marks or other signs that the driver came to a sudden halt. “From our point of view, this is another terror attack, a cold-blooded murder of a Samaria resident on a central road in the State of Israel.”
Earlier, Dagan said all motives for the ramming were being checked.
— Jacob Magid
Palestinian driver who hit woman turns himself in, claims incident an accident
The Palestinian driver who ran over an Israeli woman in the West Bank has turned himself in to Palestinian authorities.
He claims the incident was an accident.
Military sources say the running assumption is now that this was a hit-and-run, not a terror attack.
PA official says driver will remain in Palestinian custody
A senior Palestinian Authority official confirms to The Times of Israel that the driver who killed an Israeli woman in the West Bank has turned himself in to the PA’s security forces.
The official also says the driver is 63 years old and has said what happened was an accident and not an attack.
He adds that the suspect will remain in the custody of the PA Police and will be dealt with within the PA’s judicial system.
— Adam Rasgon