Weekly roundup of world briefs
January 18, 2019
Netanyahu wants to face his accusers on TV
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants a chance to take on his accusers on live television.
Speaking Monday night, the prime minister said that during investigations into the corruption cases against him he “demanded a face-to-face confrontation with states’ witnesses.” He said he was denied several times.
“Today I repeat that demand, and as far as I am concerned it should be on live television,” Netanyahu said.
His statement was carried live on Israel’s major news programs and streamed on his Facebook page, but no reporters were invited.
Netanyahu also said that police have ignored potential witnesses that could have testified on his behalf.
“There is nonstop pressure on the attorney general to indict me,” he said. “Maybe if I proposed a new disengagement or divided Jerusalem or abandoned our security they would leave me alone, but I will never do that.”
Netanyahu scoffed at the idea that he bribed Yediot Acharonot publisher Arnon Mozes to get good coverage, saying “Me? The person most hated by the media? It’s absurd.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to make a decision by February on whether or not to indict Netanyahu in three corruption cases. The police have recommended that the prime minister be charged in each case.
Netanyahu has said he would not step down if called to a pre-indictment hearing in order to defend himself against the charges.
Israel is holding national elections on April 9, and Netanyahu is predicted to win another term.
Michigan synagogue vandalized for second time in 2 months
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A synagogue in Battle Creek, Michigan, was vandalized for the second time in two months.
A concrete carving of a menorah on the front of Temple Beth El was spray-painted with an unknown but deliberate symbol, and the word “lier,” presumably a misspelling of liar.
The vandalism was reported on Sunday morning, according to the local media.
On Nov. 23, an unknown vandal took a hammer and chisel to the concrete menorah, damaging the carving.
Israel strikes Hamas targets after Iron Dome intercepts rocket from Gaza
(JNS) In response to a rocket fired by terrorists into Israel early on Monday, Israeli Air Force fighter jets and helicopters struck several Hamas targets in Gaza.
The Iron Dome missile-defense system intercepted the rocket, and Israel retaliated striking at least one Hamas training site in northern Gaza.
“The IDF holds Hamas responsible for all that takes place in the Gaza Strip,” the army said in a statement following the incidents.
The rocket launches allegedly occurred after the IAF hit two Hamas positions in eastern Gaza after an explosive device was flown into Israel attacked to a cluster of colorful party balloons on a model drone craft. The device landed in a carrot field in Sdot Negev and was neutralized by a police bomb disposal robot.
“The IDF will continue to act in defense of the citizens of Israel and against terrorism from the Strip,” the army said.
Police urged residents of Israel’s south to maintain vigilance and to report any suspicious objects to law enforcement.
Rioters from Gaza have launched hundreds of incendiary kites and balloons into Israel over the last nine months, causing arson fires which have burned thousands of acres of farm, residential, and protected natural lands and cause millions of shekels in damaged.
John Bolton: No timeline for US withdrawal from Syria
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said in Israel that there is no timeline for a U.S. withdrawal from Syria and that American troops will remain until the Islamic State is defeated.
Bolton met Sunday with Israeli security and intelligence officials to reassure them over the withdrawal unexpectedly announced by President Donald Trump last month, especially that the U.S. will help Israel if as expected Iranian aggression against Israel from Syria increases. Bolton reportedly disagrees with the withdrawal decision.
Trump also walked back the timetable on Sunday, telling reporters he had “never said we were doing it that quickly.”
“We have the best Israel-U.S. relationship in our history, and on our side we are certainly determined to continue that,” Bolton said during a joint appearance before reporters with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday night.
“President Trump has said repeatedly that he backs Israel’s right to self-defense. He says it proudly and unequivocally. And I would just say to any nation in this region – or not in this region – that has any doubt about America’s support for Israel’s self-defense – it better think about it again.”
Netanyahu called for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and said he would take Bolton on a helicopter tour of the Golan on Monday.
“I think that when you’re there, you will be able to understand perfectly why we will never leave the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said, “and why it’s important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
RBG misses Supreme Court arguments for first time
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is missing arguments for the first time in her 25-year tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court in the aftermath of surgery to remove cancer from her lungs.
The Jewish jurist is working from home following the Dec. 21 operation, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Monday, according to The Associated Press.
The high court returned to hear arguments on Monday following a recess.
Ginsburg, 85, has had two other bouts of cancer. Following the surgery last month, she was declared cancer-free.
She leads the court’s liberal minority and in 2018 vowed to serve another five years, past a second term for President Donald Trump if he is re-elected.
Iraqi delegations secretly visit Israel
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Three delegations from Iraq have secretly visited Israel in recent months and met with Israeli officials.
The delegations, which totaled 15 people, were made up of influential Iraqis including Sunni and Shiite religious leaders, Hadashot television news first reported Sunday night.
The tours were socio-cultural, including visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and meetings with academics and organizations dealing with Iraqi Jewry, according to the report.
The visits were considered unofficial and were held in secret to avoid angering neighboring Iran.
Marco Rubio calls Rashida Tlaib’s jibe on anti-BDS bill ‘anti-Semitic’
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA)—Sen. Marco Rubio is pushing a bill that would protect states that penalize Israel boycotters, spurring a freshman congresswoman to question his loyalties.
On Monday, the Florida Republican decried the statement from Rep. Rashia Tlaib, D-Mich., as anti-Semitic.
“This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line,” Rubio said on Twitter, quoting a tweet from the previous day by Tlaib, a Palestinian American. “#BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel.”
BDS stands for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
Tlaib in the earlier tweet had attacked a Senate bill initiated by Rubio and Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, that incorporates four Middle East-related bills that languished in the last Congress. One of the measures protects states that pass anti-BDS bills, including those that ban work with contractors who boycott Israel, from lawsuits. Civil libertarians have decried the state laws as impinging on speech freedoms.
“They forgot what country they represent,” Tlaib said in her tweet. “This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality.”
Tlaib was quoting a tweet by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that described Rubio’s bill as “absurd” at a time that the government is shut down over President Donald Trump’s refusal to advance funding bills as long as they do not include the more than $5 billion he is demanding for a border wall with Mexico.
Also weighing in on Tlaib’s tweet was the American Jewish Committee.
“Tell us more about dual loyalty, @RashidaTlaib,” AJC said in a tweet attached to a photo of the newly elected congresswoman embracing someone draped in the Palestinian flag.
Spielvogels give $2 million to US Holocaust Memorial Museum
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Carl Spielvogel, a former U.S. ambassador to the Slovak Republic, and his wife, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, have donated $2 million to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Diamonstein-Spielvogel was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a Museum Council member in 1987, and served as founding chair of the subcommittee that commissioned the original artwork created for the museum.
The New York couple’s gift will go to the museum’s endowment. The museum will name a gallery in its permanent exhibition that houses the artwork “Consequence,” by Sol LeWitt, as the Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Ambassador Carl Spielvogel Gallery.
Spielvogel was appointed ambassador under President Bill Clinton.
Amazon buying Israeli startup CloudEndure for $250 million
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Amazon is buying the Israeli startup company CloudEndure for an estimated $250 million.
Through its subsidiary AWS, Amazon is the world’s biggest supplier of cloud services. CloudEndure, a cloud computing company founded six years ago, creates business software for disaster recovery, backup and live migration in the event of a system crash. It places data on multiple clouds operated by providers including Amazon.
The final deal is expected to be announced in the coming few days, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.
“If Amazon added this kind of disaster-resilience service to AWS, it could help attract clients with a particular focus on security or those who were particularly spooked by high-profile ransomware attacks,” CNBC reported.
CloudEndure has raised over $18 million from leading venture capital firms and strategic investors including Dell technologies Capital, VMware, Mitsui, Infosys and Magma Venture Partners. The company is based in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.
In primetime address, Netanyahu dismissed accusations of corruption
(JNS)—Billed ahead of time by his spokesperson as “something dramatic,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied the series of allegations that have been leveled against him, with Israeli police recommending last month that the prime minister and his wife be indicted.
In a primetime address on Monday that ran several minutes long, Netanyahu said it would be “unjust” for him to be charged ahead of the April 9 elections.
He also offered to confront accusers on live television: “What are they afraid of? What do they have to hide?”
Netanyahu has said that he would not step down if indicted. He said on Monday that he is “4,000 percent sure” that he is innocent, appearing to mock one of the probes against him, known as Case 4000.
Samsung in talks to acquire Israeli firm Corephotonics
By Hili Yacobi-Handelsman
(Israel Hayom via JNS)—Electronics giant Samsung is reportedly in talks to acquire the Israeli firm Corephotonics for some $150 million.
Corephotonics, based in Ramat Hachayal, develops multi-aperture camera technologies for smartphones.
Samsung is a major investor in Israeli high-tech companies. In 2016, Samsung and its investment branch, Natures, invested $15 million in Corephotonics. Thus far, Corephotonics has raised $50 million.
Corephotonics was founded by former Chief Scientist at the Science and Technology Ministry Professor David Mendlovic, who serves as CEO; Dr. Gal Shabtay, vice president of Research and Development; and Eran Kali, vice president of licensing.
In response to a query from Israel Hayom, Mendlovic said that “Samsung is an investor in our company. They have expressed interest by investing in us. There is nothing concrete [about an acquisition] at this stage. We will be happy to inform the public when we know anything.”
London mosque cancels Holocaust exhibit following protest
By Shimon Yaish
(Israel Hayom via JNS)—A London mosque has canceled an exhibit on the rescue of Jews by Albanian Muslims during the Holocaust.
The editor of the U.K. Muslim news site 5 Pillars, Roshan Salih, had led the calls for a boycott of the Centre for Islamic Understanding in London’s Golders Green neighborhood, according to a report in the Jewish News of London on Friday.
Citing the exhibit’s ties to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, Salih said, “Commemorations must never be done in conjunction with Israeli oppressors or their supporters.”
In a statement announcing the cancellation of the event, the mosque said: “The aim of the program was to show Muslims in a good light by telling the story of Muslim Albanians who saved Jews in World War II.”
It said mosque officials “did not know of the international connections some organizations had or of the political affiliations... Once that was made clear the event was canceled.”
Salih welcomed the event’s cancellation, saying the mosque “is to be commended for responding to community concerns.”
Karen Pollock, who heads the London-based Holocaust Educational Trust, said it was “a great shame” the event had been canceled.
“What would have been a positive initiative to highlight the role of Albanian Muslims who saved up to 1,800 Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust has been canceled due to a targeted campaign against this mosque and its members,” she said.
IDF captures Arab terrorist who killed two Israeli soldiers
(JNS)—Asem Barghouti, the Palestinian Authority Arab accused of killing two Israeli soldiers and injuring two others at the Givat Asaf community north of Jerusalem on Dec. 13, was captured by Israel Defense Forces near Ramallah after a nearly four-week manhunt.
Pulling up to a bus stop outside the Jewish community near Beit El in southern Samaria, Barghouti shot and killed IDF soldiers Cpl. Yosef Cohen and Sgt. Yuval Mor Yosef, seriously injured IDF soldier Netanel Felber and wounded a civilian woman before fleeing the scene.
Barghouti is believed to have taken part in another shooting four days earlier with his brother, Salih. Seven Israelis were injured in the attack at the Ofra bus stop just minutes from Givat Asaf, including a seven-month pregnant woman, Shira Ish-Ran, whose baby was delivered by emergency Caesarean section but passed away just three days later.
Salih was shot and killed by IDF forces on Dec. 12 while trying to evade arrest.
Asem Barghouti was found with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, multiple full ammunition magazines and night-vision equipment. He was transferred to the custody of the Shin Bet for questioning.
“The arrest by the Israel Security Agency and soldiers from the Yamam Brigade was the culmination of an intelligence and operational effort which began immediately after the attack, during which the Shin Bet and IDF used intelligence, operational and technological means to locate the terrorist,” the Shin Bet said in the statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Shin Bet, IDF and Yamam forces for their successful operation, adding that “the long hand of Israel will reach all those who harm our citizens, and the State of Israel will bring them to justice.”
Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lamented that because the death penalty has not been implemented in Israel, the terrorist will remain alive.
“He should not have been caught alive. He has no right to be caught alive,” the mother of Yuval Mor Yosef, Ilanit, told Israel Army Radio on Tuesday morning.
“The news is not consoling; he was already in prison and released, so what is the point?” she said. “The result is that he is alive, and we are dead,” she added. “He murdered, and he sits alive. In what normal country does this happen?”
She called on the government to destroy Barghouti’s house.