The ex-wife of Argentine investigator Alberto Nisman said Thursday evening following a pivately-commissioned investigation into his death last month that he was murdered, not committed suicide, contradicting the official line of authorities in the country.
Earlier Thursday, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with CNN of “seeing peace and stability as existential threats.”
Earlier Thursday, Yoav Galant, a retired major general who is running for Knesset on the Kulanu party’s slate, said Israel and moderate Arab states had shared interests against Iran. Speaking on Israel Radio, Galant said Israel had a rare opportunity to reach alliances and in light of the Iranian nuclear threat as well as the extremist Sunni threat of Islamic State and other non-state actors.
The Times of Israel blogged events as they unfolded.
Galant urges alliance with moderate Sunnis
Kulanu No. 2 Yoav Galant, a former OC Southern Command and today No. 2 on the slate of Moshe Kahlon’s party Kulanu, said Israel should take advantage of the moderate Arab states’ concern regarding iran’s nuclear program and create alliances with these states, whether officially or secretly.
Speaking on Israel Radio, Galant also said his party will join any coalition that will offer party leader Kahlon the finance minister post.
Alert settler foils West Bank stabbing attack
A Palestinian who attempted to carry out a stabbing terror attack in the West Bank, near Yitzhar in Samaria, is intercepted by a settler who notices him and pulls a gun on him, making him flee, Israel Radio reports.
The Palestinian comes near a group of Israelis who are standing at a hitchhiking post, brandishing a knife in his hand. A settler who is there notices him and pulls his gun. The Palestinian then throws away the knife and escapes.
Security forces are searching for the would-be attacker.
Iran FM says Netanyahu ‘sees peace as existential threat’
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “seeing peace as an existential threat” in comments made on CNN.
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour, Zarif says about the negotiations with the P5+1 that they are meant “to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will always remain peaceful and to remove all the restrictions that have been imposed on Iran, in our view – unjustifiably.”
Zarif says Iran believes “that we can in fact reach an agreement, if there is the necessary political will to make the tough choices, and everybody has to make tough choices.”
He continues that “people have been predicting for the past 20 years Iran was a year away from making a bomb and that prediction has been proven wrong, time and again, but unfortunately that is the reality, that this hysteria that has been fanned continues to be fanned.”
In a hint of criticism against the P5+1, Zarif adds that “the other side needs to exercise the same political will, the same resolve, make the same tough choices that sanctions and an agreement don’t go together. You can either have sanctions and continue to seek the path of confrontation or try to resolve this issue through negotiations and through an agreement. I believe we are very close to the latter but people choose the former that is their prerogative but that a wrong decision they’ll be making.”
Asked about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday, Zarif avoids mentioning him by name, but says the speech had “no effect on the negotiating table.” Zarif says he sees that Netanyahu “is trying, and some people who associate with him try to create an atmosphere of hysteria, an atmosphere of fear mongering, based on lies and deception that try to prevent a deal from taking shape.
“The only reason, the only explanation you can have here is,” Zarif charges, is “that some people consider peace and stability as an existential threat, because a deal cannot be threatening to anybody unless you want conflict and tension and mistrust and crisis.”
‘Terror threat from Sinai-Gaza border rises’
Egypt is diluting its presence in the Sinai Peninsula and redeploying troops from the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip to the Egyptian border with Libya in an effort to fortify its front against Islamic State there, Walla reports.
The move comes in light of the tension between Cairo and Washington as well as Egyptian President Mohammed Abdel-Sissi cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the report, Israeli security officials warn that this development may give an opportunity to radical Sunni terrorists to retake the Egypt-Gaza border and to launch terror attacks from there against Israel.
“Egypt is operating according to its priorities, and at this point sees the porous Libyan border as a more significant threat. This is a strip longer than 1,000 kilometers, on the other side of which Islamic State operatives are running amok, murdering Egyptian citizens,” an unnamed security official tells the Hebrew-language website.
“Redeployment of Egypt’s special forces from the Sinai to the Libya border will weaken the Egyptian pressure on the terror groups that may act against Israel,” the source adds.
Bennett says Likud wants unity with Zionist Union
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett warns right-wing voters in a Facebook post that Likud wishes to build a coalition with Zionist Union and without Jewish Home.
“The mask is off,” Bennett writes, perhaps in a reference to the Jewish holiday of Purim, “In Likud they want to establish a government with Buji [Isaac Herzog]/Tzipi [Livni], without Jewish Home. Share, so they won’t lead us on.”
“This happened also last time around,” Bennett continues. “Likud took in Tzipi (with 6 Knesset seats only!) and tried to keep us out. Only a large Jewish Home will force Likud into a government without the left.”
On Thursday morning, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who is running in the seventh slot on the Likud list, said on Army Radio that Likud “was not overruling the possibility of unity [with Zionist Union], but will not agree to a rotational agreement on the role of prime minister.”
The Likud reaction is published by Ynet:
There will be no unity government and there is no possibility of establishing one. Likud led by Netanyahu will not establish a government with a party where top candidates distance themselves from the value of Zionism and from the national anthem ‘Hatikva,’ where some members call for not serving in the IDF, and where the leaders are willing to divide Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu will turn to our natural partners, mostly Jewish Home, to establish a national government – but in order to do this we need a large Likud. Only a large Likud will prevent a left government.
Burned body found in Beersheba
The body of a man was found in a construction site near the central bus station in Beersheba. According to Israel Radio, the body was smoldering and police believe the man may have set himself on fire. Ynet, however, reported that the man died because an accidental fire that started for unknown reasons at the construction site.
Separately, a fire started in a workshop in Givat Amal, a south Tel Aviv neighborhood. The fire caused damage to property but no casualties.
Leaders of Arab list sign petition against violence
Head of the Joint (Arab) List Ayman Odeh and fellow MKs Masoud Ganaim, Jamal Zahalka and Ahmad Tibi sign a petition against violence in Arab society.
During a press conference in Taibeh, the leaders of the parties making up the Joint List call on police to confiscate illegally held weapons and to give more substantial funding to the eradication of crime within the Arab community.
Kamal Rayan, director of the Aman Center for a Safe Society, an NGO operating in the Arab sector, tells Israel Radio that since 2000 some 1,050 people were murdered in that community, and 51 were killed during confrontations with Israeli security forces. These statistics, Rayan said, serve as a warning for the entire Arab society.
US, Iran’s ‘special understanding’ on IS
The US and Iran reach a “special understanding” over the forthcoming offensive against the Islamic State terror organization in Tikrit, Iraqi political sources say, according to a report in pan-Arab paper Asharq Alawsat.
“Iran wanted to take part in the battle for Salah Al-Din and that is part of the special understanding that Tehran has reached with the Americans, with the knowledge of Baghdad, which included not requiring US aerial contribution [to the battle], even though there was a technical need for this,” a senior Iraqi political source is quoted by the paper as saying.
Salah al-Din is a Sunni-dominated governorate in Iraq where the US did not supply assistance from fighter jets, unlike in western and central Iraq where American air superiority greatly helps the anti-IS militias.
Read the full story here.
Egypt interior minister replaced in reshuffle
Egypt’s presidency says Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who spearheaded a deadly crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, has been replaced in a cabinet purge.
The removal of Ibrahim, who was appointed by Morsi, follows mounting criticism of the failure of security forces to prevent militant attacks that have surged since the Islamist leader’s ouster in 2013.
Ibrahim himself survived an assassination attempt in September 2013 while on the way to his office in the capital.
He is replaced by Magdy Mohamed Abdel Hamid Abdel Ghaffar, who previously served in the state security apparatus.
Also dropped from the cabinet are the ministers for agriculture, education, communication, culture and tourism.
The presidency also introduces a ministry of state for population and one for technical education.
The new ministers were sworn in by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, his office says.
In first, NYC schools to close for Muslim holidays
New York will become the first major city to close its public schools for Muslim holidays.
Schools will be shuttered for the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha holidays, which rotate around the secular calendar because they are pegged to the Muslim non-leap lunar calendar. Several other smaller municipalities already close their schools for those holy days, including Cambridge, Mass.; Dearborn, Mich.; and Paterson, NJ, but no major metropolis does, according to The New York Times.
A 2008 study by Columbia University found that about 10 percent of students in New York City’s schools are Muslim, the newspaper reported.
The announcement fulfills a campaign pledge by New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, who called it a “matter of simple fairness.” The announcement came on Wednesday.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha mark’s Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God.
For decades, New York City’s public schools have been closed on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover.
PLO central committee to call for halt to security coordination with Israel
The PLO Central Committee is expected to call to stop security coordination with Israel.
The committee has been convening in Ramallah for the past two days during which senior Fatah officials discussed a series of issues, with security coordination with Israel at the top of the agenda.
A senior Palestinian official tells the Times of Israel that the call to cease coordination comes in response to Israeli measures, including the freezing of tax funds and the continued construction in the settlements.
The source adds, however, that coordination will continue de facto until PA President Mahmoud Abbas publicly announces cessation.
In the past few days senior officials in the PLO and in Fatah have been pressuring Abbas to announce the cessation of security coordination with Israel.
At this stage the committee is expected to grant Abbas the power to make a final decision on the issue.
— Avi Issacharof
Kerry says military pressure may be needed to oust Assad
Heavy fighting shakes the Syrian city of Aleppo Thursday as the exiled opposition chief Khaled Khoja says for the first time that President Bashar Assad’s ouster need not be a pre-condition for peace talks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry says meanwhile that “military pressure” may be needed to oust Assad, as Moscow announces it will host a fresh round of peace talks next month.
Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo, saw fierce clashes between regime forces and rebels near an air force intelligence headquarters that the opposition tried to seize in a spectacular attack on Wednesday.
The attack, which began with a powerful blast from explosives in a tunnel dug near the building, left at least 20 members of regime security forces and 14 rebels dead.
A Syrian military source tells AFP that the army has on Thursday launched an attack “against (rebel) gunmen positions” in the area, “killing and wounding many of them”.
Regime forces also strike rebel-held territory in the east of the city, killing at least 22 civilians, including three children, in a single barrel bomb attack, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.
Norway ‘unlikely’ to arrest 1982 Paris attack suspect
Norway is unlikely to extradite a citizen suspected of links to a 1982 attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris after France issues an arrest warrant for him.
Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed, alias “Souhail Othman”, who has lived Norway since 1991, is one of three suspects on a French international warrant issued two weeks ago.
But his wife angrily denies the charges against him, and an official with the Norwegian Prosecuting Authority says that as he is now a citizen, he cannot be extradited.
“There is no legal basis in Norway for expelling a Norwegian citizen to France or any other country,” the official says, adding that Norway is unlikely to arrest the suspect because a 2013 law exempting “serious acts of terrorism” from a 25-year statute of limitations cannot be applied retroactively.
France on February 20 issued international arrest warrants for three men suspected of involvement in the grenade and shooting attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris that killed six people. The attack was blamed on the Abu Nidal Organization, which was seen in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the most violent Palestinian terror groups.
Abu Zayed’s wife tells AFP that the allegation against her husband, who lives in the small town of Skien south of Oslo, is a case of “mistaken identity”.
“My husband has never killed anybody. He has never been to France,” says the woman, who did not give her full name. Paris remains on high alert after the jihadist attacks in January against a Jewish supermarket and the Charlie Hebdo magazine that left 17 people dead.
Kahlon rejected Lapid’s advances to forge alliance
Moshe Kahlon rejected overtures from Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to create an alliance that would put their two parties in a good negotiating position with Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog.
While the two parties cannot run on a joint ticket, like the Arab parties, or like Labor and Hatnua (joined under the name Zionist Union but still comprising two distinct political parties), since there is a deadline by which factions can join or break apart and it has already passed – they can decide to mutually recommend the same candidate for prime minister and tie the coalition demands of one party with the other.
In the last election, a marriage of convenience between Lapid and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett eventually forced Prime Minister Netanyahu to build a government with Jewish Home and Yesh Atid, instead of his preference for a coalition with Labor and ultra-Orthodox parties.
A Haaretz poll actually found that if they joined forces, Kahlon and Lapid would be the leading list with the potential to get the largest number of Knesset seats in the coming election.
But the paper reports that emissaries from Lapid repeatedly came to Kulanu headquarters over the past week, offering the new party to stand together when the dust settles from counting the ballots.
Kahlon rejected those advances. According to Haaretz, Kulanu refuses to comment and Yesh Atid denies that any proposals to Kulanu were made.
Russia denies US claim of ‘thousands’ of troops in Ukraine
Russian officials dismiss a claim by the United States that Moscow has sent “thousands” of troops to fight alongside pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
“These figures, which are plucked out of the air, of course demoralize and disorientate the international community,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich says.
US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland on Wednesday tells a congressional foreign affairs committee that Russia has deployed “thousands and thousands” of troops to Ukraine, although she says she could not give a precise number.
New Budapest Holocaust museum omits Hungarians’ culpability
Hungarian Jewish leaders are criticizing a new Holocaust museum under construction in Budapest for omitting the culpability of Hungarians in the attempted genocide of the Jews.
The museum in Budapest, called House of Fates, is nearly complete, but the planned exhibition focuses only on the last period of the Holocaust in Hungary, starting in 1944, when the ghettoization and deportation of over 500,000 Hungarian Jews was already complete. It fails to deal with the earlier persecution against Hungarian Jews, starting with the passage of anti-Jewish laws in the 1920s, local Jewish community leaders and historians complained. Community leaders said they were not consulted about the planned exhibition.
Judit Molnar, a well-known Hungarian Holocaust historian, slams the museum for not explicitly mentioning the responsibility of Hungarian authorities in the killing of Hungarian Jews during World War II.
“The responsibility for what happened here during the Holocaust, according to the new Holocaust exhibition concept, were only the German Nazis and the members of the Hungarian Nazi party, the Arrow Cross Party — excluding the responsibility of the then-Hungarian Horthy regime,” Molnar says.
Meretz head warns that party may disappear
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon says there is a possibility that her party will vanish from Israeli politics if it does not pass the electoral threshold, News1, an Israeli website, reports.
Galon says that in such a scenario the left bloc will lose four Knesset seats that will “move to Netanyahu and Bennett” and Isaac Herzog will have no chance of becoming prime minister.
Galon was speaking at a political conference at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.
Former Mossad head says PM leading Israel to apartheid
Former Mossad head charges that Netanyahu’s policy on the Palestinians will end up making Israel a bi-national apartheid state.
Speaking on Channel 2, Dagan says “Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Bennett are leading Israel on a road at the end of which is a catastrophe.”
The full interview with Dagan will be aired Friday. In a snippet from Dagan’s reaction to Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress on Tuesday – which he watched alongside a Channel 2 analyst, Dagan can be seen muttering at the screen “bullshit” after Netanyahu makes a point on Iran’s progress in its nuclear program.
Likud, in a reaction to Dagan’s comments on the speech, said in a statement that the speech’s impact can already be felt by world players who are trying to change the details of the deal between the P5+1 and Iran. The Likud reaction ignored Dagan’s scathing remarks on what he sees as the government’s treatment of the Palestinian dossier.
IDF probe into dog attack cites ‘ethically improper behavior’
An IDF investigation into the incident where troops used an attack dog to detain a Palestinian minor is presented to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Haaretz reports.
The military intends to take disciplinary steps against the soldier who is heard on the video egging on the Oketz dog after he already clenches his teeth on the minor’s pant leg. A military police investigation into the incident has also been opened.
In 2012, the military stopped using dogs from Oketz, the only canine unit, to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank. The dogs are still used by small units to ambush fugitive suspects.
The report written up after the investigation into the footage of the case from December states the use of dogs “against rock throwers and disturbers of the peace” was “a severe incident of using dogs which shows low professional levels, inappropriate and unsatisfactory interpretation of the potential damage to the operation of commanders and ethically improper behavior.”
Court convicts Ehud Barak’s wife of illegally hiring foreign worker
The Tel Aviv Labor Court convicted Nili Priel, the wife of former prime minister Ehud Barak, of employing a foreign worker illegally.
The lawsuit was submitted by the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration (PIBA) in 2011 and refers to the illegal hiring of a worker in 2009.
Argentine prosecutor Nisman was ‘assassinated,’ says family
The Argentine prosecutor who died mysteriously while pursuing a case against President Cristina Kirchner was “assassinated,” his ex-wife said Thursday after commissioning an unofficial probe.
Alberto Nisman, who accused Kirchner of shielding Iranian officials from prosecution over the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center, “was killed, his death is an assassination,” says Sandra Arroyo Salgado, a judge who is his ex-wife and mother of his two daughters.
Nisman was found dead in his bathroom on January 18, on the eve of congressional hearings where he was due to present his accusations against Kirchner.
The family commissioned its own independent investigation into his death, initially labelled a suicide. An official inquiry is ongoing.
New poll after PM’s speech gives Likud 24-seat tie with Zionist Union
A new Channel 1 poll published Thursday evening, after Netanyahu’s Congress speech, gives Likud and Zionist Union 24 Knesset seats each.
It seems Likud’s extra seats come at the expense of Jewish Home, which wins 11 seats in the new poll. Third largest after Likud and Zionist Union is Yesh Atid, with 13 seats. The Joint (Arab) List wins 12 seats and Shas wins eight. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu and United Torah Judaism both win seven seats each, Yisrael Beytenu wins six and Eli Yishai’s Yachad party, together with Meretz, barely scrape the electoral threshold and win four seats each.
Another poll conducted after the speech by pollster Camil Fuchs for Channel 10 also found Likud at a tie with Zionist Union, both at 23 seats.
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