World Bank urges Lebanon to form government, warns of recession
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Hijacking alert at Amsterdam airport a false alarm, airline says

Air Europa issues apology after security alert triggered ‘by mistake,’ leading Dutch police to evacuate all passengers and crew from its Madrid-bound plane

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport (CC-BY-SA Cjh1452000/Wikipedia)
Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport (CC-BY-SA Cjh1452000/Wikipedia)

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

Bennett: High likelihood of 3rd election, in which right will take heavy blow

The New Right’s Naftali Bennett says he believes there’s “a very, very high probability” Israel will go to a third election within a year due to the ongoing political gridlock and inability to form a government.

That eventuality is currently more likely than a coalition taking shape, he says on a newly launched podcast, unless Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman changes course and agrees to join a narrow right-wing religious government.

He warns that the right will likely suffer “a great blow” in such an election. “I’m very pessimistic,” he says.

New Right party member Naftali Bennett at a meeting with Union of Right-Wing Parties head Rafi Peretz, after announcing their electoral alliance, at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem, on July 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With far-right on rise, French PM vows to ‘take back control’ on migration

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says France needs to “take back control” of migration, as part of a carefully controlled government push to listen to voters’ worries over growing immigration that risks playing into the hands of the far-right.

Philippe says in a speech that “it’s about sovereignty. We have to take back control of our migration policy,” but that a new approach on immigration offers a “fair balance between rights and obligations.”

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at a press conference with the Palestinian Authority prime minister at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, on December 7, 2018. (Jacques Demarthon/AFP)

He says he wants to fix quotas on certain aspects of migration, without elaborating.

— AP

Man arrested on suspicion of raping young girl

Police have arrested a 64-year-old resident of the south suspected of raping and abusing an 8-year-old girl, his neighbor, five years ago.

A Beersheba court extended the suspect’s remand by five days.

US envoy visits Gaza periphery, says rockets ‘an entirely unacceptable reality’

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman visited the Eshkol Regional Council near the Gaza border this morning, following Friday night’s rocket barrage on Israeli communities.

“Palestinian terrorists in Gaza shot 10 rockets into Israel, deliberately targeting civilians, and Israelis had only seconds to rush to shelters to be safe,” Friedman said during his visit.

“It’s an entirely unacceptable reality.”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks to members of the Christian press during an event in Jerusalem, October 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Rivlin: Israel, Jews face major threats of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism

President Reuven Rivlin tells Christian media that Israel and the Jewish people “are facing two major threats today: anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.”

At a special meeting at his residence organized by the Government Press Office, Rivlin adds that Iran “continues to spread terror throughout the region” and “continues to build military bases and plan attacks from Syria and other parts of the region.”

He tells the journalists that “truth” in reporting, “together with mutual respect, is a core component of peace.”

Local authorities strike Thursday set to disrupt schools as well

Ahead of a planned strike in local municipalities tomorrow, the Israel Teachers’ Union says it will not allow schools to operate without the presence of security guards — which are provided by the local authorities.

It has instructed members of the union not to let students into class if institutions are unprotected.

Some 170 municipalities are planning to halt their work over the government’s failure to transfer certain promised funds.

Ohana defies gag order, giving details on grilling of witness in PM’s case

Speaking at a Knesset plenary debate over his recent criticisms of the state prosecution and the attorney general, Justice Minister Amir Ohana launches a vicious fresh attack against Israel’s law enforcement authorities, saying they act with impunity and allow corruption to thrive.

Highlighting recent revelations of possible police misconduct, Ohana breaks a gag order on reports into the measures investigators employed to pressure Nir Hefetz into becoming a state witness in one of the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Channel 12 reported this week that another person with no ties to Case 4000 was brought in by police and questioned in order to pressure Hefetz to sign an agreement with authorities, and that Hefetz indeed did so following this move by police.

Describing details of the incident that cannot be published, Ohana says that, “When [Channel 12] reporter Amit Segal inquired into the system, the attorney general replied that he is not familiar with this part of the investigation and shortly thereafter, Amit receives a gag order.  This is what the pursuit of the truth looks like.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Ohana: Police ‘brought in young woman, asked about relationship with Hefetz’

Here is what Amir Ohana said at the Knesset plenum, apparently breaking a gag order against publication of the details on Nir Hefetz’s questioning:

“They brought in a young woman who has nothing to do with the prime minister’s investigations and asked her a series of intrusive and personal questions about the nature of her relationship with [Hefetz].

“After all the information was squeezed out of her like a lemon — and I remind you that she is not suspected of anything — they arrange a meeting between them in the hallway and [later] tell him “Come on Nir, we know everything and we will drop a bombshell on your family… and then Nir gives in, signs an agreement to turn state’s witness and gives the police a version of events.”

Ohana added, in criticizing the justice system: “I’m not talking about mistakes [by investigators], I’m not talking about failures, I’m talking about malice. This is how the system protects itself from real investigation. It allows the decay to take over so that governmental corruption is created.”

Justice minister denies breaking gag order, says he repeated published details

The justice minister is now denying breaking a gag order during his Knesset speech earlier while addressing police interrogation tactics towards a witness in the Netanyahu cases.

Amir Ohana’s office says “there is no truth” to reports he defied restrictions.

The plenum hall of the Knesset during the opening ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“The minister only repeated matters that were already publicized, and did not say anything new because he cannot give new details from investigative material he does not hold.”

Blue and White says Ohana has decided to be justice minister of PM, not Israel

Opposition MKs are furious over Amir Ohana’s defiance of a gag order to give details on police’s controversial pressure tactics on a key witness in the prime minister’s affairs.

The Blue and White party says Ohana “has decided to be the justice minister of Netanyahu and not the State of Israel.”

Labor-Gesher’s MK Revital Swid tells Ohana: “You’ve used your immunity to read out from your boss’s talking points.”

The Democratic Camp’s MK Tamar Zandberg calls Ohana’s comments “another victim-playing speech” and says “the cat’s out of the bag. The rights of suspects… are only of interest when they serve his master Netanyahu.”

Democratic Camp lawmaker Tamar Zandberg at a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on petitions to disqualify the extremist Otzma Yehudit party from running in the September elections, on August 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Blue and White MK calls for investigation of justice minister’s conduct

Blue and White MK Yoav Seglovich, a former head of police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, files a formal request with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to set up a temporary ethics committee to assess Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s behavior.

“This is the only way possible to discuss this serious case,” Seglovich writes to Edelstein. “The behavior of elected officials, especially at a time when Knesset committees are largely inactive, requires all of us at least to pay close attention to our own behavior, and certainly to the law.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein presides over a Knesset plenum session, on June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

— Raoul Wootliff

Blue and White, Likud representatives meet for third time to talk unity

Representatives of the Likud and Blue and White parties are meeting for a third time since the latter party’s leader Benny Gantz was tasked with attempting to form a government.

The teams meeting in Ramat Gan include attorneys Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Shlomo for Blue and White, and ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Yariv Levin for Likud.

They are set to continue talks on a possible unity government.

Local authorities strike canceled as government agrees to supply funds

A general strike in local authorities across Israel that had been planned for Thursday has been canceled.

The Union of Local Authorities says the government has agreed to its demands to transfer funds that had previously been withheld.

Iran said to briefly detain IAEA inspector at Natanz

Iran briefly held a female nuclear inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency last week, seizing her documents and detaining her before letting her go, diplomats tell Reuters.

The unnamed officials say the incident occurred at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility. They add it is the first time such an incident has taken place since the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.

The matter will be discussed at an impromptu IAEA meeting Thursday.

“The agency wants to show how seriously they are taking this. It is a potentially damaging precedent,” one official says.

Israel says UNRWA chief’s removal shows agency must be shut down

Israel’s Ambasador to the UN Danny Danon is calling for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency to be closed following an announcement that the agency chief will step aside over a misconduct probe.

The scandal surrounding the agency “shows there is no other solution but to close it,” Danny Danon says.

“Any who have used world money for their own personal gain while inciting against Israel should be removed.”

The agency, known as UNRWA, said earlier that a probe into alleged abuses of power among top management “relates specifically to the commissioner general” Pierre Krahenbuhl. No further details have been given.

Israel complains that the agency is corrupt and politicized.

World Bank urges Lebanon to form government, warns of recession

The World Bank urges protest-hit Lebanon to form a new government quickly, warning of the threat of an economic downturn that would deepen poverty and worsen unemployment.

The warning comes as anti-government demonstrators push on with rallies and hundreds of school children boycott classes.

Lebanon’s unprecedented protest movement has rallied since October 17 against a political class deemed incompetent and corrupt, despite the government’s resignation last week.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut on August 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The outgoing cabinet continues to function in a caretaker capacity but political leaders are haggling over the makeup of the next government, in a delay donors say the debt-saddled country can ill afford.

— AFP

IAF rescue unit airlifts cruise passenger to hospital after heart attack at sea

The Israel Air Force’s search and rescue unit 669 evacuates a passenger on a cruise ship to a hospital after he suffers a heart attack some 100 kilometers from the coast, Channel 12 reports.

The Aida Blue had set sail from the Haifa Port yesterday night after a daylong stop and was headed to the Suez Canal when the incident occurred.

The passenger was hauled up to an army chopper with suspension cables and rushed to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

Top police official slams ‘criminal behavior’ by justice minister

A top police official tells Channel 12 that Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s defiance of a gag order on details of police measures used to pressure a state witness is “criminal behavior.”

The unnamed official says “someone has decided to burn down the house.”

State witness’s attorney: Justice minister’s disclosure ‘shameful’

State witness Nir Hefetz’s attorney attacks Justice Minister Amir Ohana for revealing details of his client’s investigation that were under gag order.

“It’s shameful and disgraceful for a justice minister to run roughshod over the law and scorn an explicit gag order by the courts, from the Knesset podium,” Ilan Sofer says.

He calls the minister’s actions “a shameful attempt to score political points while seriously harming [Hefetz’s] privacy” and says it “will not go unanswered.”

Former media adviser to the prime minister Nir Hefetz arrives for a remand hearing in Case 4000 at the Tel Aviv District Court, February 22, 2018 (Flash90)

AG, state prosecutor accuse justice minister of misleading public on PM’s probes

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan accuse Justice Minister Amir Ohana of misleading the public through slanted and distorted claims against the justice system.

During his Knesset speech Ohana said the system was acting with malicious intent, “protecting criminals” and allowing “decay to take over.”

Mandelblit and Nitzan say they “reject outright” Ohana’s claims, which they characterize as “severe” and “distorting reality.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony for new Justice Minister Amir Ohana at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on June 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

They say such statements are the latest in “a string of slanted and partial reports in recent days which are misleading to the public.”

They vow to continue their work on the prime minister’s criminal probes in an orderly manner.

US envoy, pastor break ground at new play center for kids near Gaza

The Eshkol Regional Council says US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and American evangelical pastor Jentezen Franklin earlier today participated in the groundbreaking ceremony of a new regional play center for children.

The facility will include an indoor playground and an “innovative learning center that integrates play with education and instills creativity and innovation, communication, and collaboration skills.”

The facility is being established by Franklin and Jewish National Fund-USA.

Pastor Jentezen Franklin (center) lays the cement for the cornerstone of the new state-of-the-art educational campus, as US Ambassador David Friedman (L) and others look on (Eshkol Regional Council)

The center is intended to serve as “a safe and open environment” for children of the region plagued by Gaza rocket attacks to learn and play.

House Democrats announce public impeachment hearings next week

House Democrats have announced they’ll hold the first public hearings next week in their impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump.

Three State Department officials will testify in hearings on Nov. 13 and Nov. 15, according to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Schiff is leading the probe.

Schiff tweeted that top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor, career department official George Kent and former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify. Yovanovitch was ousted in May at Trump’s direction.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, questions Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Likud, Blue and White say ‘significant gaps’ remain between sides

Ending their coalition negotiation meeting, Likud and Blue and White officials issue a joint statement, saying talks were held in “a positive, serious and matter-of-fact atmosphere.”

But they say “the significant gaps remain between the sides,” adding that an additional meeting is set to take place in the next few days.

Man stabbed, seriously injured in brawl in Taibe

A 33-year-old man has been seriously injured after being stabbed during a brawl in the Arab Israeli town of Taibe.

He has been hospitalized in Petah Tikva under sedation.

Two others were wounded in the fight: a 21-year-old who was stabbed and suffered light-to-moderate injuries and a 16-year-old who was lightly hurt.

New Islamic State chief ‘a nobody,’ US official says

The new leader of the Islamic State group is “a nobody” with little apparent reputation but the United States hopes he will be killed soon, a US official says.

The group last week announced Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi as its new leader after a US commando raid killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the chief of the ultra-violent movement.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that monitoring of Islamic State social media indicates that even followers do not know much about Hashimi.

“That has become a major issue in, if you will, the ISIS social media world. This guy appears to be a nobody,” the official tells reporters.

“What little we know about him, we’re not impressed. And if he’s in Iraq or Syria, we don’t think he’s too long for the world anyway,” he says.

— AP

Netanyahu: Extortion of Nir Hefetz extremely serious but we must honor gag order

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement about the justice minister’s breaking of a gag order earlier today at the Knesset.

“Even though the extortion of state witness Nir Hefetz is extremely serious and should worry every citizen, we must honor the gag order issued by the court.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, pool)

UNRWA chief resigns over misconduct scandal

Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, has resigned, hours after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres placed him on “administrative leave” over allegations of misconduct in running the agency.

An internal investigation had found “managerial issues” that need to be addressed, reflecting concerns about allegations of possible sexual misconduct, nepotism and other abuses of authority at the agency.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), attends a ceremony to mark the start of the school year at a UNRWA school in Palestinian refugee camp Al-Wehdat, in Amman, Jordan, September 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

— with AP

Greek neo-Nazi chief pleads innocence in murder trial

The leader of Greece’s notorious neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn is denying any responsibility for the murder of an anti-fascist rapper, in the politician’s first appearance at a long-running trial involving dozens of defendants.

Nikos Michaloliakos is one of nearly 70 defendants, who each face between five to 20 years in prison over the 2013 killing of rapper Pavlos Fyssas and other alleged crimes by Golden Dawn members.

Former MP and leader of Golden Dawn party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, gestures as he testifies before a criminal appeal court in Athens, on November 6, 2019 (Aris MESSINIS / AFP)

“I wish to declare my innocence of the charges, which are a result of a political plot,” Michaloliakos tells the trial, which has already been going on for four years.

— AFP

Report: Asked to fund PA security, Trump said Netanyahu could do so himself

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year asked the US to transfer funds to Palestinian security forces in the West Bank to support their work against terrorism there, but President Donald Trump responded that he could pay them himself if he wanted to, Axios reports.

According to the report by Barak Ravid, who is also a Channel 13 reporter in Israel, the Israeli request came after the State Department discovered $12 million in funds earmarked for the Palestinians that had not been transferred, due to US aid cuts, but had remained in limbo.

Israel, which is keen to preserve the Palestinian Authority, which cooperates with Israeli security forces in the West Bank, asked that the money be handed over to the security apparatuses.

US President Donald Trump, left, welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

But Trump refused, noting his policy of defunding the PA over its decision to cut ties with his administration. When Jerusalem pressed him, Ravid reports, Trump said: “If it is that important to Netanyahu he should pay the Palestinians $12 million.”

Security alert at Amsterdam airport over situation on plane

Dutch military police have tweeted that they are investigating a suspicious situation on an aircraft at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Dutch media reported that emergency services are massing at the airport on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

No further details were immediately available.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (CC-BY-SA Cjh1452000/Wikipedia)

— AP

Dutch police: Passengers, crew safely off plane at Schiphol

Dutch police say they are investigating a “suspicious incident” on a plane at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport but that the passengers and crew had disembarked safely.

“Passengers and crew are safely off the plane,” the Royal Military Police, which deals with ports and airports, said on Twitter without giving further details. “Investigation on site continues.”

The police service had earlier said it was “investigating a suspect situation on board a plane at Schiphol.”

Dutch television station NOS said that it had involved a possible hijacking, without giving its sources, adding that the captain of the plane had pressed a hijacking alarm.

The plane was carrying 27 passengers, it said.

The airport had declared a “serious situation that can have a major impact on the population”, the Dutch news agency ANP reported.

— AFP

Hijacking alert at Amsterdam airport a false alarm, airline says

Spanish airline Air Europa says the security alert that triggered at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is a false alarm.

In a tweet, Air Europa says a hijacking warning was accidentally triggered on one of its Madrid-bound planes.

“Nothing has happened, all passengers are safe and sound waiting to fly soon. We deeply apologize,” the airline says.

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Live updates (closed)

World Bank urges Lebanon to form government, warns of recession

The World Bank urges protest-hit Lebanon to form a new government quickly, warning of the threat of an economic downturn that would deepen poverty and worsen unemployment.

The warning comes as anti-government demonstrators push on with rallies and hundreds of school children boycott classes.

Lebanon’s unprecedented protest movement has rallied since October 17 against a political class deemed incompetent and corrupt, despite the government’s resignation last week.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut on August 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The outgoing cabinet continues to function in a caretaker capacity but political leaders are haggling over the makeup of the next government, in a delay donors say the debt-saddled country can ill afford.

— AFP