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‘Iran lied big time’ about nuclear program, Netanyahu says in describing secret files

JERUSALEM (JTA)—“Iran lied big time” about the nature of its nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu on Monday evening unveiled copies of half a ton of material that make up part of what he identified as Iran’s secret nuclear files. He first delivered his presentation in English in an effort to reach the widest possible audience.

The files, which the Israeli leader calls “new conclusive proof of Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” include 55,000 pages of information and 55,000 files on 183 CDs. He said the files had been stored in a secret atomic archive in Tehran, where it was moved last year, locked in massive safes. The original materials, Netanyahu said, “are now in a very safe place.”

Netanyahu did not appear to present evidence of ongoing nuclear activity in violation of the deal signed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers, which traded sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.

President Donald Trump is set to decide by the middle of next month whether it will remain in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is known.

Netanyahu said that Israel has shared the information with the United States and “the United States can vouch for its authenticity.”

Among the documents, Netanyahu said, is proof of the existence of Project Amad, a program to design, build and test nuclear weapons. The program was scrapped in 2003 after the Gulf War, but work continued in other guises and with the same personnel, according to Netanyahu, citing the documents. Other documents also proved that the Fordow uranium enrichment facility was not intended to produce medical isotopes but uranium for nuclear weapons.

“Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said he is certain that Trump will “do the right thing” in deciding whether to stay in the nuclear deal.

“The right thing for the United States. The right thing for Israel. And the right thing for the peace of the world,” he said.

Reactions were mixed to Netanyahu’s address, with many nuclear experts saying the intelligence confirmed what had been known when the nuclear deal was signed.

“[W]hen Iranian officials claim—as they often do—that Iran [never had] a nuclear weapons program, they were lying,” James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment, tweeted. “But, we knew that already. The JCPOA was designed on that basis.”

Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal said it confirmed that Iran cannot be trusted.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote that the documents demonstrate “that the Obama administration lied constantly and repeatedly to the public about Iran’s newfound moderation in order to scam the public into approving Obama’s Iran nuclear deal – a deal that allowed Iran to maximize its regional power with income from the West.”

Netanyahu, Trump speak by phone about threat from Iran

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump spoke by phone about the threat from Iran

The two leaders spoke on Saturday, according to a readout of the conversation released Sunday by the White House. They discussed the “threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities,” the White House said. The call came hours before Netanyahu met in Israel with new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Trump has said he will decide by May 12 whether the United States will remain part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

Following Sunday’s meeting between Netanyahu and Pompeo, the Secretary of State said of the Iran deal: “President Trump’s been pretty clear. This deal is very flawed. He’s directed the administration to try and fix it, and if we can’t fix it, he’s going to withdraw from the deal. It’s pretty straightforward Unlike the past administration, President Trump has a comprehensive Iran strategy that is designed to counter the full array of threats emanating from Tehran.”

He added: “As part of the President’s comprehensive Iran strategy, we are also working to counter the broad set of non-nuclear threats: Iran’s missile systems, its support for Hezbollah, the importation of thousands of proxy fighters into Syria, and its assistance to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. We look forward to working closely with strong allies like Israel in countering these threats and rolling back the full range of Iranian malign influence.”

Pompeo had noted earlier on Sunday that Trump remains undecided about whether the United States would leave the deal.

Pompeo also noted regarding Jerusalem that the United States is “incredibly proud to be opening the new embassy on May 14th, well ahead of the original timetable. This step comes as Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary of independence and 70 years of recognition as steadfast support for Israel from the American people as well. By recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the seat of its government, we’re recognizing reality.”

American-Israeli teen who made bomb threats against JCCs allegedly threatens Israeli schools from prison

(JTA)—The American-Israeli man accused of making hundreds of bomb threats to Jewish community centers in the United States is suspected of making another 100 hoax bomb threats in Israel from prison.

Bomb threats received by the Israel Police against schools in Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba on Sunday were traced to Michael Kadar, Israeli news channels reported. Kadar, 19, of Ashkelon, is being held in Nitzan Prison in Ramle pending his trial. His name is barred from publication in Israel.

In a hearing Monday in Magistrates’ Court in Rishon Lezion on the new charges, police said there have been more than 100 such threats to several schools recently that originated from the prison, and that police searches of the schools did not turn up any bombs.

Kadar was charged in Israel in April 2017 with thousands of counts on offenses that include publishing false information, causing panic, computer hacking and money laundering. He had been arrested in Israel the previous month in a joint operation with the FBI.

Early last month, Kadar was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for federal hate crimes. The hoax threats to the JCCs and other Jewish institutions in the first three months of 2017 forced widespread evacuations and raised fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism.

Kadar, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, also was indicted by grand juries in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, according to the Justice Department statement.

Kadar’s parents and lawyer have not disputed his involvement in the bomb threats but asserted in his defense that he has a brain tumor and a low IQ.

Top Senate challenger in California is white supremacist with anti-Semitic agenda

(JTA)—A top challenger to longtime U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is a white supremacist who espouses anti-Semitic views.

Patrick Little, a Republican, is polling at 18 percent behind Feinstein, a Democrat who has served more than four terms in the Senate. Feinstein is polling at 39 percent in the race, which will pit the top-two vote-getters against each other in the general election in November.

The primary is set for June 5.

Little has been endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, but has complained that “alt-right” media outlets such as The Daily Stormer have not been supportive of his campaign.

Right Wing Watch outed Little’s white supremacist views in an article last week.

In a campaign video posted to YouTube earlier this week, Little said he “woke up to the Jewish question and dedicated my life to exposing these Jews that control our country.”

In a post last month on his blog, Little wrote: “We all want what has been taboo until now to say aloud, we want to be around other whites, safe from non-whites. But unless we start voicing that sentiment regularly at the ballot box, all of the places we have retreated to will be eventually overrun by non-whites.”

Little on his Twitter account has accused Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency of playing a leading role in the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and said that “No man in history saved more Jewish lives than Adolf Hitler.” His Twitter account was suspended earlier this year over statements amounting to Holocaust denial.

Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldinho opens academy in Israel

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—The Brazilian soccer idol Ronaldinho has launched a soccer school in Israel aimed at both native-born and immigrant children and youths.

Ronaldinho, who spent last week in the Jewish state, announced Thursday the establishment of the Ronaldinho Soccer Academy for children aged 6 to 16. The goal is to combine the passion and fun of Brazilian soccer with a strong teaching methodology and friendship values.

The school will launch in the summer as a camp for some 100 youths before opening in September.

“I am very excited to help Israeli children of all faiths raise their game to the highest levels,” Ronaldinho said at a news conference. “I see the school as a first-class educational tool that helps in acquiring skills, tools for life, discipline, teamwork and more. Israel has a tremendous potential, countless talents and a great love for the game.”

The Christian athlete recently affiliated himself with an evangelical political party in Brazil, so opening a school in the Holy Land is a special excitement.

The project was established in cooperation with the Beitar Nordia Jerusalem soccer team along with local partners.

“Our mission is to bring new values to Israeli children and make the sports they are passionate about collaborate in their upbringing, promoting well-being, health, compliance and social engagement,” Mauro Rozenszajn, the Brazilian-born CEO of the new academy, told JTA. “Teachers will be cordial and patient educators.”

Ronaldinho, 38, had a full agenda while in Israel. The former soccer star visited the Beitar Nordia facilities, participated in a match with Israeli players, and visited Raanana, the city with the largest Brazilian community in the country, where he broadcast a table soccer game on Instagram.

“Soccer is the most aggregating activity in the world,”  Rozenszajn said. “Israel has many children coming from abroad. We want to bring joy to these children and their parents, and help them have a ‘klita kala,’ an easy integration,”

The Israeli academy is the 10th global unit following branches in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Korea, India, Azerbaijan and the United States.

Ronaldinho is often considered one of the greatest players of his generation and regarded by many as one of the greatest of all time. Throughout his playing career, he accumulated numerous honors, including the FIFA World Player of the Year award twice and a Ballon d’Or. Ronaldinho played 97 matches for the Brazil national team, scoring 33 goals and representing his country in two FIFA World Cups.

Otto Warmbier’s parents sue North Korea over their son’s torture and death

(JTA)—The parents of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was tortured while being held in a North Korean labor camp, filed a federal lawsuit in the United States against North Korea over their son’s death.

Warmbier, 22, a Cincinnati native, was traveling on a student tour of North Korea in early 2016 when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster. After international outrage and over a year of imprisonment, North Korea released Warmbier in June, saying his health had deteriorated after a bout of botulism. Warmbier’s doctors said he suffered extensive brain damage. He died on June 19, 2017, in Cincinnati.

The 22-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Otto Warmbier was “brutally tortured and murdered” by Kim Jong Un’s “criminal” regime.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, comes as President Donald Trump prepares to meet with the North Korean leader late next month or in early June in order to effect “denuclearization” of the hostile country.

Trump has raised Warmbier’s death repeatedly in public statements in attempts to bring North Korea to the nuclear negotiating table.

The White House was aware the lawsuit would be filed and did nothing to discourage the Warmbiers from bringing it, NBC News reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the case.

Fred Warmbier said in a statement that his son was “taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un. Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son’s life. This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family.”

The lawsuit asks the court to determine a monetary award for punitive damages related to Otto Warmbier’s mistreatment and death, as well as the emotional suffering of his family.

The family had hidden Warmbier’s Jewishness during negotiations for his return. Warmbier, whose mother is Jewish, became active at the University of Virginia campus Hillel following a 2014 Birthright trip to Israel.

3 Palestinians attempting to infiltrate Israel from Gaza killed by soldiers

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians in two separate incidents on the Gaza border.

In one of the Sunday evening incidents, soldiers shot at two Palestinians trying to damage the security fence and infiltrate into Israel, killing one, the Israeli army said. The other was taken into custody for questioning.

In the second incident, two Palestinians broke through the security fence and began throwing firebombs at soldiers, who responded with gunfire, killing both infiltrators.

Earlier in the evening, two Palestinians armed with knives and tools meant to damage the border fence were arrested after they infiltrated into Israel on the border with southern Gaza, according to the Israeli army.

Also Sunday, a fire broke out in the Gaza border-area Kissufim forest after a kite carrying a Molotov cocktail launched from Gaza landed there. The blaze was brought under control by firefighters.

Airstrikes hit military bases in northern Syria, killing at least 26. Is Israel responsible?

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Overnight airstrikes that targeted military bases in northern Syria reportedly have killed at least 26, mostly Iranian pro-Syrian government fighters.

At least 60 fighters were wounded and some also remain missing in the Sunday night attacks on the military bases in Hama and Aleppo, according to reports citing the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Israel’s Security Cabinet convened an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon in response to the strikes.

The human rights monitor reportedly said that Israel is “probably” responsible, and several news outlets pointed the finger at Israel, noting that Israel refused to comment on the attacks. Israel generally neither confirms nor denies such airstrikes. Other media outlets blamed the United States and British forces for the attacks.

A Syrian military source said on state television Sunday night that “Syria is being exposed to a new aggression with some military bases in rural Hama and Aleppo hit with enemy rockets.”

On Sunday, Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, in an onstage interview at The Jerusalem Post’s annual conference in New York City said that Israel would react if Russia delivered its S-300 advanced missile-defense system to Syria to help it protect itself against such rocket attacks.

“No doubt we will take the action,” Liberman told Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz.

“We will keep our freedom of operation in all of Syria. We have no intention to attack Russia or to interfere in domestic Syrian issues,” he said. “But if somebody thinks that it is possible to launch missiles or to attack Israel or even our aircraft, no doubt we will respond – and we will respond very forcefully.”

On Friday, Liberman told a think tank in Washington, D.C., that Israel will take action if Iran begins setting up military bases in Syria.

“What we will not allow is for Iranians to establish a forward base in Syria against Israel,” he said.

Israel in the past reportedly has struck arms shipments to Syria from Iran, as well as the T-4 Syrian military base reportedly housing Iranian military installations.

 

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