US official: No country can take over US peace role
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US official: No country can take over US peace role

As Pence departs, White House officials say ties with PA severed following Jerusalem recognition; Netanyahu to tell EU leaders: ‘Last chance to amend Iran deal’

  • US Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen wave as they board Air Force Two to depart Israel at Ben Gurion Airpory, January 23, 2018 (US embassy video screenshot)
    US Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen wave as they board Air Force Two to depart Israel at Ben Gurion Airpory, January 23, 2018 (US embassy video screenshot)
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) listens as US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting at New York's Palace Hotel during the 72nd UN General Assembly on September 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) listens as US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting at New York's Palace Hotel during the 72nd UN General Assembly on September 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara prepare to take off for Davos, Switzerland, on January 23, 2018 (Courtesy)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara prepare to take off for Davos, Switzerland, on January 23, 2018 (Courtesy)
  • US Vice President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem's Western Wall on January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
    US Vice President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem's Western Wall on January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
  • US Vice President Mike Pence (C) and his wife Karen (2nd L), Yad Vashem Chairman Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau (L), Yad Vashem Director Avner Shalev (3rd R), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and wife Sara Netanyahu (2nd-R) visit the Hall of Names in Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)
    US Vice President Mike Pence (C) and his wife Karen (2nd L), Yad Vashem Chairman Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau (L), Yad Vashem Director Avner Shalev (3rd R), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and wife Sara Netanyahu (2nd-R) visit the Hall of Names in Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)
  • US Vice President Mike Pence with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
    US Vice President Mike Pence with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
  • Two injured Palestinians, on the ground, after being shot during an attempted stabbing attack at the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank, January 23, 2018. (Samaria Regional Council)
    Two injured Palestinians, on the ground, after being shot during an attempted stabbing attack at the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank, January 23, 2018. (Samaria Regional Council)

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

Pence expected at Western Well within the hour

US Vice President Mike Pence is expected at Jerusalem’s Western Wall within the hour.

He will be escorted by Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz.

Pence’s visit to the holy site has been dubbed a private one, similarly to President Donald Trump’s visit in May of last year.

He is expected to place a note in the wall, as is the custom.

Former French PM: ‘Everyone knows Jerusalem is the capital of Israel’

Former French prime minister Manuel Valls says “everyone knows that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and no one questions it,” but adds that Trump’s recognition of the Israeli capital was unhelpful, as it “did not get things done.”

Asked by France’s BFMTV and RMC about the call by PA President Mahmoud Abbas for Europeans to recognize Palestine as an independent state, Valls says he “does not believe this would be the right solution.

Former French prime minister Manuel Valls on January 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Bertrand Guay)

“I do not believe in unilateral decisions that do not begin with a direct discussion between Palestine and the Israelis,” he says.

— AFP

Pence and Netanyahu complete visit to Yad Vashem

The US vice president has completed his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Pence and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their spouses walked amid the displays, listening as officials with the memorial described the site remembering six million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

Pence solemnly observed the memorial’s Hall of Names, wrote an inscription in a guest book, and participated in a ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance.

Troops foil stabbing attack at West Bank’s Tapuah Junction

There are preliminary reports of an attempted stabbing attack at the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank, south of Nablus.

Two Palestinians armed with knives apparently attempt to stab security forces. Troops shoot the two and neutralize them.

Pence motorcade arriving at Western Wall

Mike Pence’s motorcade has begun to arrive at the Western Wall.

Watch the US Embassy’s live stream of the visit here.

VP greeted at Western Wall by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch

Mike Pence’s is met by the Western Wall’s Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

US Vice President Mike Pence is greeted at the Western Wall by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch (Hadashot news screenshot)

Photos: Pence places hand on the Western Wall

Mike Pence has read a short prayer from the Book of Psalms and prayed at the Western Wall.

US Vice President Mike Pence visits the Western Wall, Jerusalem, January 23, 2018 (YouTube screenshot)
US Vice President Mike Pence visits the Western Wall, Jerusalem, January 23, 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

Pence completes Wall visit

Pence’s visit to the Wall is over almost as soon as it began.

The VP spent no more than 20 minutes at the site. He read a short prayer, inserted a note into the Wall and placed his hand upon the ancient stones. He then signed the Wall’s guestbook and headed out.

More on thwarted Tapuah Junction attack

Officials say an army lookout reported two suspicious Palestinians heading for a bus stop at the junction.

Troops ordered the two to stop, but the pair failed to do so, and one pulled out a knife as he lunged forward.

Soldiers fired at the two men’s lower bodies. They were reportedly moderately injured and taken to an Israeli hospital.

No Israeli soldiers were wounded in the incident.

Wall rabbi thanks Pence, Trump for supporting ‘light’ of Jerusalem

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch told Mike Pence of a visit to the Wall 147 years ago by Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state William H. Seward, who praised the “exalted” prayer he witnessed at the site.

US Vice President Mike Pence (C) recites a Psalm at the Western Wall, with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch (L) at his side, January 23, 2018 (screen capture: YouTube)

Rabinovitch thanked Pence and President Donald Trump “in the name of the Jewish people” to support the “light” of Jerusalem, in the face of darkness.

Pence calls Wall visit ‘inspiring, a great honor’

Pence says his visit to the Western Wall was “very inspiring.”

After placing his right hand on the Wall, the VP signed the site’s guest book: “It is my great honor to pray here at this sacred place. God bless the Jewish people and God bless the state of Israel always,” he wrote.

— AFP

Female US reporters reportedly indignant over separation from Pence at Wall

Haaretz reports that female American journalists were incensed after being separated from Mike Pence at the Western Wall, when male journalists were allowed to accompany the vice president.

Separation between men and women is traditional at the holy site, though it has been a growing point of controversy in recent years.

US Vice President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem’s Western Wall on January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)

According to the report, members of Pence’s entourage removed a white pavilion, which was set up at the scene, to allow the female reporters to stand on chairs and see Pence approach the Wall.

Pence’s visit to Yad Vashem in pictures

Photos have come out from Mike Pence’s visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem:

US Vice President Mike Pence (C) and his wife Karen (2nd L), Yad Vashem Chairman Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau (L), Yad Vashem Director Avner Shalev (3rd R), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and wife Sara Netanyahu (2nd-R) visit the Hall of Names in Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)
US Vice President Mike Pence (3rd-R) and his wife Karen Pence (C), Yad Vashem Director Avner Shalev (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd-L) and his wife Sara Netanyahu (3rd -L), and Yad Vashem Council Chairman Rabbi Israel Meir Lau (2nd R) listen to a guide as they visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)
US Vice President Mike Pence (C) and his wife Karen Pence (L) view pictures of Jewish Holocaust victims at the Hall of Names during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)

Hamas leader: Jerusalem recognition ‘beginning of the end for Israel’

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is “the beginning of the end for Israel,” Channel 10 reports.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh speaks to the press at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on September 19, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

He stresses that he is not speaking out of “emotional turmoil.”

The Hamas leader says Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on Monday “proves that the American administration is horse-trading in the (future of the) region for the benefit of the Zionist entity.”

Intelligence minister: Arab MKs, Hamas have common goals

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz says Arab Knesset members who staged a protest at the plenum during US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech Monday have common goals with the Hamas terror group.

Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List held up up signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” during the speech. Hamas praised their actions.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Tel Aviv, November 9, 2017. (AP/Dan Balilty)

“Hamas, this extremist organization which rejects the existence of Israel, is praising those sitting in the Israeli Knesset,” Katz tells the Ynet news site.

“Perhaps the takeaway is that they should move to Gaza and represent the Hamas Palestinian parliament in the name of the goals in which the believe,” he says. “It is unthinkable that MKs in the State of Israel should…work towards goals praised by Hamas.”

Three arrested and charged in Poland for celebrating Hitler’s birthday

Polish state media reports that three people have been arrested and charged with propagating fascism after a news program revealed details about a neo-Nazi group in Poland that celebrated Adolf Hitler.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says the state will not tolerate any use of totalitarian symbols and that he wants to see the neo-Nazi group banned.

The private news channel TVN24 broadcast an expose Saturday about “Pride and Modernity,” a neo-Nazi group whose members dressed in Nazi uniform to celebrate Hitler last spring on what would have been the German dictator’s 128th birthday.

— AP

US official says ties with Palestinians severed following Jerusalem recognition

A White House official has said ties with the Palestinian Authority were completely cut off following President Donald Trump’s December recognition of Jerusalem, Hebrew media is reporting.

The unnamed official says the administration is still working on its peace proposal and hopes to present it to the sides this year.

Egypt’s military arrests ex-general eyeing presidential run

Egypt’s military has arrested former military chief of staff and presidential hopeful Sami Annan, leveling an array of serious allegations against him in what appears to be a calculated move by the armed forces and the incumbent to push him out of the race.

A security official with first-hand knowledge of the Annan affair says the ex-general was arrested by the military simultaneously with the release to the official media of an armed forces’ statement listing the allegations facing him.

The statement says Annan will be questioned on charges of forging documents relevant to the formal end of his active service, breaching army regulations by declaring his intention to run without first clearing it with the military and inciting against the armed forces.

— AP

Israeli film ‘Foxtrot’ snubbed by Oscars, Lebanon makes final cut

Oscar nominees have been announced, and the Israeli film “Foxtrot” has unfortunately not made the cut.

Yonatan Shiray, now an active combat soldier, in his foxtrotting scene in the award-winning film ‘Foxtrot’ (Courtesy ‘Foxtrot’)

Director Samuel Maoz’s controversial and critically acclaimed feature film had been shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film, but is not among the final nominees.

They are: “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile), “The Insult” (Lebanon), “Loveless” (Russia), “On Body and Soul” (Hungary) and “The Square” (Sweden).

 

US trust awards $18m grant for new research tower at Haifa hospital

A US-based trust has awarded an $18 million grant to Haifa’s Rambam Hospital and the University of Haifa for the construction of a new medical research tower.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust said the Helmsley Health Discovery Tower on Rambam campus will host medical research and innovation projects.

Entrance to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, January 30, 2011. (Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)

It “will be a hub to foster novel ideas for the transformation of health care at the local, national, and global levels.”

Rambam Health Care Campus director Professor Rafi Beyar says “The Health Discovery Tower, with its unique combination of medicine, technology, and humanitarian values, will be the cornerstone of our vision moving forward, enabling us to help not only the people of Israel but to impart critical knowledge across the globe.”

Pence says peace talks progress depends on Palestinians

US Vice President Mike Pence tells Reuters progress in peace talks depends “on when the Palestinians are going to come back to the table.”

US Vice President Mike Pence with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

He says “the door is open” for Palestinians to return to talks.

“We understand they’re unhappy” with President Donald Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he notes, “but the president wanted me to convey our willingness and desire to be a part of the peace process going forward.”

 

Israel blasts UN rights council for ‘unparalleled bias’ against Jewish state

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva Aviva Raz Shechter attacks the UN Human Rights Council for its alleged bias towards the Palestinians.

Shechter tells the council Israel has always stood for human rights and democracy, “while facing serious threats to its security, and while needing to integrate diverse communities and religious groups.”

Ambassador Aviva Raz Shechter, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva. (Photo courtesy of embassies.gov.il)

She lambastes the “unparalleled number of one-sided biased and political resolutions adopted regularly by the automatic majority” of the council’s members, and says these “testify not only to the unfair treatment of the State of Israel, but also to the deficiencies of the Council itself and its agenda.”

Shechter warns that “this theater of the absurd cannot go on forever.”

PM heads to Davos: ‘I’ll tell EU leaders last chance to amend Iran deal’

As US Vice President Mike Pence concludes his visit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife are taking off to Davos, Switzerland, where Netanyahu will participate in the World Economic Forum.

Just before takeoff Netanyahu says: “It was a great honor to host Vice President Mike Pence in Israel. He gave an exceptional expression to the the powerful relationship between Israel and the United States and we’ll always remember his magnificent speech in the Knesset.”

He says in Davos he will meet with French and German leaders and “I will tell them them that the upcoming weeks are the last chance to amend the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran.

“With or without an agreement our policy is to prevent Iran from arming itself.”

— Jacob Magid

NY Times looks at Israel’s historical attempts to eliminate Arafat

A New York Times feature story looks at Israel’s attempts to assassinate late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 — and Arafat’s repeated evasions.

Read it here.

Palestinians get 3G internet after decade of waiting

Palestinians in the West Bank have started receiving 3G mobile telecommunications services, after years of wrangling with the Israeli authorities.

The Jawwal and Wataniya firms have begun offering the service to their customers, with Palestinians seeing the option appear on their phones for the first time.

A Palestinian woman uses her mobile phone to take a family picture, illustrative (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

In blocking 3G for years, Israel has cited security concerns. Officials suggest, for example, that high-speed mobile data could make it easier for Palestinian terrorists to communicate while reducing the risk of Israeli surveillance.

The ban on 3G remains in place in the Gaza Strip.

Third generation services were originally launched around the world in the early 2000s, and much of the world already has 4G technology, while 5G is expected in the next year.

with AFP

Study: Republicans, Democrats increasingly divided on Israel and Palestinians

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center shows a widening partisan divide in attitudes towards the Mideast conflict, with opinions more divided than at any point since 1978.

The poll finds a continuous rise in right-wing support for Israel, parallel to an ongoing decline on the left. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans say they are more sympathetic towards Israel than to the Palestinians, while only 27% of Democrats say the same.

In 2001, those figures were 50% and and 38%, respectively.

Democrats are also more likely than Republicans to say a two-state solution to the conflict is still possible — 58% to 40%.

Attitudes are similarly divided over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who finds 52% favorability among Republicans, but only 18% among Democrats.

Pence departs Israel at conclusion of 2-day visit

US Vice President Mike Pence departed Israel a short time ago, waving goodbye as he boarded Air Force Two at Ben Gurion Airport, at the end of a two-day visit.

(Ziv Sokolov/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Sessions interviewed by Mueller team in Russia investigation

The US Justice Department confirms that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed for hours last week in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The interview comes as Mueller is investigating whether President Donald Trump’s actions in office, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, constituted obstruction of justice. Mueller is also investigating contacts between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

President Donald Trump sits with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony in Quantico, Va, December 15, 2017.(AP/Evan Vucci)

Sessions is thought to be the highest-ranking Trump administration official to be interviewed by Mueller’s team.

He is seen as a potentially important witness given that Trump initially said he fired Comey last May at the recommendation of the Justice Department.

— AP

UN voices ‘deep concern’ over killing of Gaza man by family

The UN is expressing “deep concern” over the killing of a Gaza man by family members last week over his suspected collaboration with Israel.

Hamas suspected Ahmed Barhoum aided Israel in killing three of its commanders during the 2014 Gaza war.

Terrorists from the military wing of the Hamas terror group take part in a parade against Israel in Gaza City on July 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says it “condemns this killing in the strongest terms and reminds the de facto authorities in Gaza of their legally binding obligation to respect and protect the right to life and security of every person in Gaza.

It is calling on Gaza’s Hamas leaders “to undertake immediate, full, independent and impartial investigation into this killing in order to bring the perpetrators to justice and to deter further violations of the right to life.”

Germany to end search for World War II missing

Germany’s Red Cross says it will end its search for missing persons from World War II in 2023, 78 years after the end of the devastating war, leaving the fate of 1.2 million people a mystery.

“We won’t be able to shed light on their fates,” the head of the German Red Cross’s tracing service, Thomas Huber, tells the DPA news agency.

Shelves with boxes of index cards keeping a record of German soldiers who died or went missing in war, in an archive room at the German Red Cross Tracing Service offices in Munich, January 24, 2013. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Victoria BONN-MEUSER)

While interest has waned over the decades, the German Red Cross says it still received some 9,000 requests in 2016 from people looking for information about family members who vanished during the war.

Researchers were able to find answers in 40 percent of those cases after scouring archives from the Second World War and those left behind by the Soviets and authorities in communist East Germany.

— AFP

Stun grenade detonated outside central Tel Aviv police station

Police say a stun grenade was detonated outside a police station in central Tel Aviv a short time ago by unknown persons.

No one was hurt in the incident on Dizengoff Street. The street has been closed off as police investigate.

Officials believe the grenade was thrown from a motorcycle, which then sped off.

Glass booth from Eichmann trial’s returns to Israel after years abroad

The glass booth that housed Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann during his 1961 trial in Israel has returned to the country after years in US exhibits, the Ynet news site reports.

Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann stands in a protective glass booth flanked by Israeli police during his trial June 22, 1961, in Jerusalem. (Photo by GPO)

The booth will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum in the Western Galilee.

“It is a powerful relic,” curator Yaara Galor says. “The most enduring image from the trial is of Eichmann sitting inside the booth. It encourages discussion, as does the trial itself — and that may be the only positive thing one can say about the Eichmann trial.”

Tillerson: Russia ‘bears responsibility’ for Syria chemical attacks

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Russia bears responsibility for recent apparent chemical attacks by the Syrian government.

“Only yesterday, more than 20 civilians, most of them children, were victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack,” Tillerson says of the reported attack in Eastern Ghouta that left its victims struggling to breathe.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a joint press conference with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Toby Melville)

“Whoever conducted the attacks, Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons, since Russia became involved in Syria,” he tells reporters in Paris.

— AFP

 

US official: Outside PA leadership, there is great desire to talk

A senior White House official says even though the Trump administration has not had contact with Palestinian leadership since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem on December 6, there has been communication with non-official individuals.

“There’s a difference between the Palestinian leadership and Palestinians,” the official says.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the PLO Central Committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (Flash90)

“One of the tragic things that I have noticed since December 6th is there are so many Palestinians who are reaching out…over the past 12 months, both in the West Bank and Gaza and Palestinian Americans. They all want to continue to talk, but they’re all afraid to talk. So they’re asking…for quiet meetings, private meetings.

He adds: “They’re under a lot of pressure not to talk. It doesn’t bode well for what we’re trying to create if there’s no freedom of speech among the Palestinians, so that troubles me greatly. And we’re trying to figure out how to deal with it.”

He affirms that negotiators Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner have not spoken to the Palestinian Authority leadership since December 6.

— with Raphael Ahren 

Gal Gadot’s ‘Wonder Woman’ also cold-shouldered by the Oscars

It’s not just Israel’s nominee for Best Foreign Languge film that got no love from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year, it’s also Israel’s breakout film star.

The Associated Press notes that Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” received zero Oscar nominations, even in a year that was surprisingly friendly to big budget hits (like “Logan” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”).

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. (Clay Enos/DC Comics/via JTA)

Of course, a blockbuster superhero film was not going to clinch any acting or best screenplay nominations, but the “Wonder Woman” team could have reasonably hoped to get some nods in technical categories such as visual effects, editing, makeup etc.

Not this time.

Turkey detains dozens more in ‘terror propaganda’ clampdown

Turkish security forces detain dozens more people nationwide on accusations of spreading propaganda for “terror” groups, in a major clampdown as Ankara presses its new offensive inside Syria.

Ninety-one people were detained in 13 provinces ranging from Izmir on the Aegean to Van in the east over their postings on social media.

Twenty-four people were detained in other cities on Monday in raids that have raised new concerns among rights groups over freedom of expression in the country.

— AFP

White House official: No country can take over US peace role

More from the senior White House official on the stalled peace process:

The official dismisses the notion that any European countries can replace the US as peace mediators.

“There isn’t a single European country or other country we’ve spoken to since the December 6th announcement that in any way, shape or form believes a US-led process could be replaced. They all want to work with the US, despite the Palestinian reaction,” he tells reporters.

“I don’t think anybody believes the US can be replaced in this process. Frankly I don’t believe the Palestinians believe the US can be replaced in this process.”

2 unarmed Gazans captured after crossing border fence

IDF forces capture two Gazans who crossed the border fence into Israel.

Officials say the two Palestinians were unarmed, and have been taken in for questioning.

Head of police anti-corruption unit asks to step down amid sexual allegations

The commander of Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit has requested to step down over ongoing sexual assault allegations, though not to resign from the force.

In November the High Court called on police to reconsider a 2015 decision to reinstate Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman despite the allegations.

File: Head of the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit Roni Rittman, arrives at the Police Investigation Department, Jerusalem, December, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“In the coming weeks sensitive investigations held under my leadership will reach their conclusion. In light of this, and under the circumstances, I have decided this is a proper time to ask to step down,” Rittman wrote in his letter to Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.

He noted that he saw himself as “a potential candidate for any position in the Israel Police deemed appropriate for my skills and experience.

Austrian far-right candidate under pressure over Nazi songbook

The far-right candidate in an Austrian state election is under pressure to step down after a magazine report about song texts celebrating the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities.

According to the Falter weekly, Udo Landbauer of the Freedom Party (FPOe), which is in the national governing coalition, is deputy chair of a student fraternity behind a songbook containing the texts.

The Austrian Freedom Party’s Udo Landbauer (YouTube screenshot)

According to the left-leaning weekly, the lyrics of one song read: “In their midst comes the Jew Ben Gurion: ‘Step on the gas, old Germanics, we can make it to seven million’.”

Other songs pay tribute to the Condor Legion, the Nazi unit responsible for the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, as well as paratroopers behind atrocities in Crete in World War II, Falter added.

— AFP

Associates of AG: If PM indicted but acquitted, law enforcement will be in ruins

Hadashot news reports on the challenge that will face Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit if and when police recommend indicting the prime minister on criminal charges.

Sources close to Mandelblit tell the TV station that “an indictment followed by an exoneration in court would mean the ruin of Israeli law enforcement.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the Kohelet Forum Conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, in Jerusalem, on October 24, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

They say that though police are leaning towards recommending an indictment in Case 1000 — in which Netanyahu is alleged to have received illicit gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — officials believe the case still lacks a smoking gun that firmly establishes an illicit relationship.

Mandelblit’s deliberations on the cases could be lengthy, the officials warn.

Channel 10: Milchan asked for visa help, PM asked ‘Have you brought cigars?’

Channel 10 reports on a potentially-damning piece of evidence from the Netanyahu probe.

The stations reports on testimony provided by the prime minister’s ex-chief of staff-turned-state’s witness Ari Harow.

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Harow has reportedly told police that he sat in on a meeting in which Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan asked Netanyahu for help in renewing his US work visa.

The prime minister asked Milchan if he had “brought cigars,” Harow allegedly recounted.

The testimony could be crucial as investigators seek to establish a reciprocal illicit relationship between Milchan and Netanyahu.

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