Histadrut Chairman Says Yachimovich ‘Doesn’t Care About Workers’

HISTADRUT CHAIRMAN AVI NISSENKORN SAID Shelly Yachimovich “doesn’t care about workers” and slammed the Zionist Union representative following revelations of her backroom deal with fellow Zionist Union rep Eitan Cabel to dominate Israeli Labor.

Yachimovich announced about a month ago plans to run for chairperson of the Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor federation.

“I waited till this morning to see if Yachimovich would apologize and take responsibility for the deal,” said Nissenkorn, “but she’s doing it her way.”

“Yachimovich ‘went back and forth’ for many months before closing this underhanded deal with the Brothers Cabel. But even worse than that, for months and dozens of interviews she lied in denying the deal,” Nissenkorn said.

Yachimovich refused to come down, continuing to deny the deal that was revealed in taped conversations with Cabel which were aired on Israel’s Channel 2 on Thursday.

In conversations, Cabel says Yachimovich agreed to support him to lead Labor as long as Cabel agreed to support her bid to lead the Histadrut. At one point, Cabel says he “doesn’t’ care about the Histadrut.”

When she announced her candidacy on February 5, Yachimovich accused Nissenkorn of trying to keep her out of the running. She also thanked her “partner,” Eitan Cabel.

Cabel himself ran a failed campaign for the Histadrut chairmanship in 2012. Yachimovich was Labor chairwoman and head of the Opposition from 2012 to 2013, but the party elected Isaac Buji Herzog to replace her in November 2013.

Herzog supports Nissenkorn to lead the Histadrut.

One of Yachimovich’s fellow Labor representative Omer Bar-Lev said the deal represented the kind of “old politics” the public thought had gone away.

“The public is looking for leaders with integrity,”Bar-Lev said, “who know the way forward, who speak the truth in person, who don’t hide or do all these backroom deals. I’m very sorry a [Labor] faction member said what he said.”


Yisrael Katz Says He Will Run for Likud Chair, Premiership

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER YISRAEL KATZ said he is planning to run for the head of Likud and thus prime minister of Israel, but only after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finishes office. Katz said he would not run against Netanyahu in elections.

It was Katz’s popularity in right-wing Likud that probably spared him from getting fired by the prime minister.

After the transportation minister went back on an agreement with the religious coalition parties and ordered train workers to work on Shabbat, Netanyahu accused Katz of trying to sink the coalition.

Netanyahu publicly threatened to fire him, but failed to gather support for the motion. The prime minister ultimately brokered a deal between Katz and religious coalition parties that ended the crisis.

Still, Netanyahu and Katz continued to scuffle, most recently over the powers to allocate funds.

Now, the coalition faces a political crisis with the corruption probe of the prime minister, which could end with criminal charges against Netanyahu.


Jewish Home Ministers Defend State Comptroller’s 2014 Gaza War Report

JUSTICE MINISTER AYELET SHAKED called for an end to criticism against the State Comptroller’s office over its report on the 2014 Gaza war.

She said the government must learn the lessons of the Comptroller’s findings.

According to Jerusalem Post, one of the officials who fared best in the report was Shaked’s Jewish Home party boss, Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel, also a Jewish Home representative, echoed Shaked’s sentiment, calling criticism of the Comptroller an embarrassment.

The 2014 Gaza war report is critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. The report said the three concealed information from other cabinet ministers.

The report also said the Netanyahu government failed to exhaust all diplomatic options before heading off to war.

ISRAEL’S CONDITIONS FOR A PEACE AGREEMENT WITH THE PALESTINIANS would look different today than it would have a couple of years ago because of what’s happening around the region, Israel’s military intelligence chief said.

Israel has to have different systems in place to reach an agreement, Major-General Hertzy HaLevy told the national Israeli news broadcaster.

HaLevy said continued economic development was critical to mitigate Palestinian frustration with the political outlook.

The IDF intelligence chief’s comments came after several Israeli ministers warned that another war with Hamas was imminent.

Israel believes Hamas has built back up its arsenal, redeveloped the underground tunnel system, and sought better relations with Iran after the falling out over Syria.

BREAKING THE SILENCE handed over documents to the state about an IDF soldier being investigated for committing crimes in Gaza during the 2014 war.

The IDF soldier is suspected of committing crimes in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge (TZUK EITAN) on four separate occasions, according to Israeli radio.

Breaking the Silence, a nongovernmental group reviled by the Netanyahu government, documents alleged IDF abuses according to anonymous soldier testimonies.

A GAG ORDER WAS LIFTED on a case about a man who was arrested and charged with joining the Islamic State. The Shin bet apparently arrested the man after he’d bought a one-way ticket to Turkey. He was a member of an online pro-ISIS group.

The man, Vladimir Mazlovsky, had originally immigrated to Israel as a Jew. After serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he converted to Islam. From there, he was apparently radicalized and joined the Islamic State.

ISIS supporters carried out two casualty-heavy attacks in Tel Aviv last year, and many may be among the dozens of stabbers and car-rammers who’ve cropped up since the outset of the Stabbing Intifada in 2015.

Mazlovsky joins a list of other Israelis of different ethnic backgrounds who’ve been arrested over involvement with or fighting for ISIS.

As Protective Edge Report Released, Opposition MK Says Israel Failing to Stop Threat from Gaza’s Hamas

OPPOSITION KNESSET REPRESENTATIVE HAIM JELIN (Yesh Atid) accused the Netanyahu government of failing to stop the Hamas threat from regrowing since the 2014 Gaza war.

Jelin said the number of tunnels leading into Israel and Hamas’ rocket arsenal are already at the levels they were at two and half years ago before the summer 2014 IDF operations in Gaza that led to the destruction of dozens of tunnels and Hamas’ weapons caches.

Jelin’s warning joins two government minsters, Yuval Steinitz and Yoav Galant, who said a confrontation with Hamas is innocent.

Jelin said the government had also failed to stop a detente between Hamas and Iran, giving no further details.

The comments by Jelin, a former regional leader in the Gaza-border communities, came on the backdrop of the State Comptroller’s report into the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, which was publicly released today.

The chairman of Jelin’s Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, was a part of the Netanyahu coalition at the time as finance minister. Lapid has since been critical of Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s handling of the war.

The State Comptroller report criticized IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the prime and defense ministers of failing to prepare the Israel Defense Forces for the war. The report said Netanyahu and defense officials concealed information from other cabinet ministers. And it claimed that only half of Hamas’ underground tunnel system was destroyed, although that was one of the core missions of the IDF ground operation.

A LETTER BY BEREAVED PARENTS OF THE 2014 Gaza war accused the Netnayahu government of prematurely announcing the death of Oron Shaul, whose body was taken for ransom by Hamas militants.

Israel initially declared Shaul missing for several days before determining his death. Hamas tried to use Shaul’s body as a bargaining chip for Palestinian prisoners.

MINISTER YUVAL STEINITZ said he had been “skeptical” about the Israel Defense Forces ground invasion of the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war. The ground invasion followed some weeks of aerial barrages.

“I’m not saying I was right; I understand the other position,” he told the IDF radio station today.

“There’s a heavy price to be paid [he used this phrase in a 2014 interview with the BBC] for Israel’s independence and to protect the State of Israel,” Steinitz said, referring to the dozens of soldiers who died in the ground invasion.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU REJECTED the State Comptroller’s findings that information was hidden from cabinet minister during Operation Protective Edge.

The report alleges that the prime minister, along with defense officials, concealed information during Operation Protective Edge from other cabinet ministers.

Deputy FM Hotovely Calls for Violent Response to Paris Attack of Jewish Brothers

DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER TZIPI HOTOVELY called for a “violent” response to attacks against the Jewish community in France.

Her comments came on the heels of a grisly attack against two Jewish brothers in Paris. A gang of assailants forced the two off the road in Bondy outside Paris , beat the two, and sawed off one of the brother’s fingers.

Hotovely called for a forceful response and to protect the French Jewish community.

KNESSET REPRESENTATIVE NAHMAN SHAI (Zionist Union) called Israel’s decision to deny an entry permit to a foreign Human Right Watch researcher “absolute nonsense.”

The centrist Knesset rep. called for discussions at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee over the move, warning against opening a new front against nongovernmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch.

A letter sent by the Population and Immigration Authority accused Human Rights Watch of long engaging in political activity on behalf of Palestinian propagandists, a sentiment echoed by Foreign Ministry spokesman Emannuel Nahshon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also the acting Foreign Minister.

Human Rights watched condemned the state decision to deny its researcher and entry permit, calling it an “ominous turn.”

SPEAKING ABOUT THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said, “as usual, we’re talking about the Anti Israel Council.”

In comments on his Facebook page, Liberman said the United Nations had a “twisted sense of morality,” evinced by its focus on a single killing in Israel versus the “millions of bullets” in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

Centrist leader Yair Lapid also called out the Human Rights Council, accusing the “terrorist rights council” of an anti-Semitic bias.

Liberman and Lapid were responding to a statement earlier this week by the United Nations, which said the UN was “disturbed” by an Israeli court’s recent sentencing of Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who killed a Palestinian assailant at point blank range after the man was already incapacitated. Azaria was sentenced to 18 months for manslaughter, though several ministers and the Israeli president have stepped forward requesting clemency.

The UN said the Tel Aviv military court’s sentence was “lenient.” The maximum sentence for manslaughter in Israel is 20 years.


IDF Soldier Azaria Sentenced to 18 Months Amid Calls for his Pardon

FINANCE MINISTER MOSHE KAHLON called to pardon Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who shot dead an incapacitated and supine Palestinian assailant at point-blank range, as he was sentenced on Tuesday.

The finance minister said the Azaria family had suffered enough over the last year of legal proceedings and public scrutiny, according to the Israeli national broadcaster.

“The IDF has always been the most ethical and moral army in the world, and the government and citizenry remain committed to protecting the ‘purity of arms’ under IDF Chief of Staff [Gadi] Eizenkott,” said Kahlon.

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon meanwhile advised the Azaria family to request Elor’s pardon, which he said would probably be accepted.

A friend of Azaria’s, Avraham Arnon, insisted on Army Radio that the family had fought the legal battle alone, despite the popular (and sometimes rabid) support for Azaria.

“Not a single lawyer, nobody approached the family. No soldier offered up his help and protection. I am telling you with absolute certainty, not 100%, but 1 million percent, nobody approached them,” Arnon said.

Azaria was sentenced on Tuesday to 18 months in prison for manslaughter and was demoted to private.

THE PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE vowed to follow through on the state’s promise to resettle the families of Amona, who were evicted from their homes a couple of weeks ago as the IDF dismantled the West Bank residential outpost.

The state had agreed to set up alternate housing for the evicted Amona residents, but the High Court struck down plans after deciding they had too confiscated private Palestinian land.

Yoav Horowitz, chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, said the state was making “every effort to reach an acceptable solution” for Amona residents, Israel Radio reported.

Avichai Bauron, head of the Amona council, said the government had until March 31, according to its agreement, to come up with a solution for the dozens of evicted families.

POLITICAL LEADERS ALL OVER JERUSALEM CAME DOWN on the head of a local community group after he suggested “choking the haredim.”

Yahiel Levi, who heads the group Yuvalim, was advocating aggressive measures for pressuring haredi residents to move out of certain (mostly secular) neighborhoods.

“When you choke them, they go,” Levi explained on Army Radio. “When you make life hard, they’re not enthusiastic about staying. It’s a mechanism that works today.”

For example, the Yuvalim director suggested planning public movie screenings and secular events on Shabbat.

Yuvalim is an aliya absorption center for residents of several (mainly) upscale, secular (a demographic in Israel that demands unpacking) Jerusalem neighborhoods. Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox population has made relative demographic gains over secular communities in Jerusalem in recent years.

The Yuvalim head has since apologized for the remarks, but this has not stopped Israeli officials from calling for Levi’s ouster. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat put in a request at the Israel Association of Community Centers calling for the Yuvalim director’s resignation.

At the same time, Shas Knesset rep. Michael Malchieli said Levi was unfit to continue his role at Yuvalim, and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman asked the Jerusalem district attorney’s office to investigate the Yuvalim director for incitement. Litzman is a member of the largely Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism Party, which draws significant support from Jerusalem voters.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called Levi’s comments saddening and angering.

CABINET SECRETARY TZAHI BRAVERMAN filed a complaint with the Attorney-General’s Office about Knesset rep. Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) over a mock letter of resignation the parliamentarian tweeted about the prime minister.

The letter came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned as Communications Minister over an ongoing media scandal (#bibigate).

Braverman asked the Attorney-General’s Office to consider a criminal case against Hasson for misleading the public.

“It’s an honor to receive a complaint from the master of fake news and forgery, Netanyahu,” responded Opposition rep. Hasson, according to Israel Radio. “He understands that his political end is near and so every joke on Twitter has become an existential threat.”

Jewish Home Rep Says Trump-Netanyahu Meeting Was ‘Clear Deviation’ from Oslo

JEWISH HOME KNESSET REPRESENTATIVE MOTI YOGEV told Israel Radio the Netanyahu-Trump meeting marked a “clear deviation from the Oslo lane and the two-state” solution.

Yogev believed Israel now saw eye to eye with the US on a range of issues, including Iran, the Sunni opposition, Mideast terrorism, and the Palestinians.

He said the vision was Israel sovereignty from the Jordan to the sea, with Jewish settlement and Palestinian autonomy.

He also avoided like the plague answering directly a question by host Aryeh Golan whether Trump’s bluntly public request of Netanyahu not to build in the settlements for a little while did not signal that Washington was really calling the shots on the settlements, rather than Israel.

Yogev likewise rejected later comments from US diplomats like Nikki Haley at the UN that Washington did in fact continue to support the two-state solution.

RAMAT HASHARON LAW ENFORCEMENT agents said they foiled an attempted car-bomb attack against a soccer player in Ramat Hasharon. Two suspects were arrested.

Police believe the two are involved in a criminal cell that set off a car bomb in Tel Aviv earlier this months against a soccer player, wounding six people including the driver of the vehicle.


El Al Says Inspectors Pressuring Pilots to Resign in Solidarity

THE HEAD OF HUMAN RESOURCES AT EL AL said flight inspectors were pressuring other pilots at Israel’s signature airline company to quit amid a high-profile labor dispute that has threatened to ground planes and cause financial damage.

“They’re putting inordinate pressure on their friends, with threats, promising future boycotts — after all these inspectors are supposed to go back to flying with them again — to convince them to resign and to disrupt operations,” Shlomi Am Shalom, the head of HR at EL Al, told the IDF radio station.

“We won’t lend a hand to that,” he said.

El Al is being sued for higher wages by pilots at the company aged 65-67 who no longer fly commercial jets, but provide training. The inspectors threatened to resign, which would have disrupted normal El Al flights.

A Tel Aviv labor court ordered intensive negotiations to continue through Saturday and the inspectors agreed not to quit in the interim.

ISRAELI MINISTER YISRAEL KATZ (Likud) said he knew “with certainty” that the US and Israel were not “going to advance the foundation of a Palestinian state.”

The minister called the establishment of a Palestinian state “irrelevant,” especially with Mahmoud Abbas and Yahya Sinwar leading the Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively.

“It’s no surprise, I know it with certainty,” the transportation minister said.

HAIFA CHEMICALS HAS REJECTED a court order to empty a 12,000-ton ammonia tank near Haifa Bay. The court decided the ammonia tank represented a national security threat.

Haifa Chemicals also stopped supplying ammonia to its customers, which violated the court order as well.

After Sinwar, Steinitz Says Confrontation with Gaza’s Hamas a ‘Matter of Time’


ANOTHER ISRAELI MINISTER has said a confrontation with Hamas was “only a matter of time.”

Echoing Housing Minister Yoav Galant, Yuval Steinitz forewarned of a coming battle with the Gaza-based Hamas group.

The former strategic affairs minister and close confidant of Netanyahu said that Hamas’ new prime minister, Yahya Sinwar, was a “cruel” man who saw his leadership in a historic, jihadi light, and would respond to Israel in kind.

Sinwar took over the Hamas premiership this week from Ismail Haniyeh, who ruled as prime minister since 2007. Sinwar’s ascension was largely seen as the belated takeover of Hamas’ political wing by the group’s militant wing.

CHAIRMAN OF THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENSE COMMITTEE and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter said it was a “shame” Israel never managed to take out Sinwar during antiterror operations.

Sinwar was freed by Israel in 2011 during the prisoner-swap deal for Gilad Schalit.

Dichter noted that Sinwar came of age as a terrorist during the First Intifada (from the late 1980s to the early 1990s) under the command of Hamas leader Salah Shehade, who was killed by Israel in 2002.

FORMER COMPTROLLER AND RETIRED JUDGE MICHA LINDENSTRAUSS said not enough measures were being taken to fight corruption on the municipal level.

“If there are good investigators, then matters are uncovered. We have to strengthen the general audit in several municipalities to boost transparency,” said Lindenstrauss, according to Israel’s national radio broadcaster.

Lindesntrauss called for a stronger judiciary to mete out punishments that match the severity of crimes. He also encouraged criminal investigations to resolve faster.

Mayors in two Israeli cities, Safed (Tsfat) and Ashkelon, are currently undergoing investigations for corruption. Law enforcement raided the Safed city hall earlier this month, arresting Mayor Ilan Shohat.

KNESSET REP. YUSUF JABARIN (Joint List) welcomed the Government Advertising Agency’s decision to post three job listings specifically for Israel’s Arab population.

He said at least 20% of the agency’s budget should go to the Arab populations, reflecting Israel’s demographics.

FORMER EDUCATION MINISTER Gideon Sa’ar said he was “taking a break” but would return to politics.

The former Likud representative said he planned to return to that party.

“When will it happen? How will it happen? Let’s wait patiently,” he told Army Radio.

Sa’ar made a shock resignation in 2014 for personal reasons.


Gilad Erdan: Nobody in the Israeli Cabinet Supports the Creation of a Palestinian State

MINISTER OF STRATEGIC AFFAIRS Gilad Erdan said nobody in the cabinet supports the creation of a Palestinian state, least of all Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“All of the Cabinet members oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, and leading them is the prime minister. I’d be extremely happy if, following eight years of hard restrictions on hundreds of thousands of our citizens, there are no building limits,” he said, according to Israel’s army radio.

“There’s no justification for the Palestinian side that doesn’t extend its hand in peace,” added Erdan.

Erdan was speaking ahead of Netanyahu’s first White House meeting with the US president, Donald Trump.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett echoed Erdan’s opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, saying the “expectation” among Palestinian nationalists was the creation of a “third Palestinian state” in the West Bank, in addition to Gaza and Jordan.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Israel needed to say firmly “no” to a Palestinian state, and “yes” to an undivided Jerusalem.

Trump has signaled he supports moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Authority has warned will fire up the region.

OPPOSITION CHAIRMAN ISAAC HERZOG meanwhile said he was sure the majority of Israelis continue to support a two-state solution.

“The State of Israel has a clear majority supporting separation from the Palestinians and a two-state vision,” the opposition leader said, as a message to President Trump on Netanyahu’s visit.

HAIFA MAYOR YONAH YAHAV celebrated a court ruling ordering Haifa Chemicals to empty its 12,000-ton ammonia storage facility at Haifa Bay.

“I hope the environmental protection minister will shut down the rest of [Haifa Chemicals’] toxins immediately and will be bold enough to do it,” said Yahav.

“I hope these facilities won’t be with us any longer,” he said.

A couple of weeks ago, a leading Israeli chemist released a report warning that an attack on ships unloading ammonia or the facilities themselves could kill thousands. Haifa Bay is within rocket range from Lebanese Hezbollah.

Following the report, the Haifa Municipality filed an appeal ordering the facilities’ closure. A Haifa court ordered the emptying of the ammonia facilities within 10 days.

Haifa Chemicals attorney Yossi Benkal meanwhile said the country couldn’t survive “more than a few days without ammonia.”

Most of the ammonia imported into Israel is converted into fertilizer and exported.

SHOMRON REGIONAL CHAIRMAN, Yossi Dagan, said he was pessimistic President Trump would take a softer line on the settlements than his predecessor.

“Trump’s going to be condemning Israel a lot more despite saying he’d always be in the middle,” said Dagan, referring to White House sanctioning of Israel’s latest round of settlement housing announcements.

Last Friday, Trump told Israel Hayom‘s Boaz Bismuth that he “didn’t want to” condemn Israel over the settlements. A White House statement last week said new settlements or housing beyond existing blocs was unhelpful for the peace process.