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Report: Trump to Announce Embassy Move to Jerusalem

By DEBKAfile, VOA News, AFP, Israel Hayom &

The White House announced Sunday night "the beginning stages" of discussing the move of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The announcement came on the second full day of Donald Trump's presidency in fulfillment of his election pledge. It followed a meeting between Jordan's King Abdullah and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas at which they warned Washington not to go through with the embassy transfer to Jerusalem.

According to a Sunday Channel 2 report, an official within the new administration has stated that Trump will announce the embassy move on Monday. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed Sunday that the Trump administration was considering the matter at this time, but said consideration of the subject had only just begun. "We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," Spicer told AFP.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem by reaching out by phone later in the day to Israel's most important ally, the United States."We congratulate President Trump on the start of his term," he said. "I very much appreciate his deep friendship for Israel, as well as his declared willingness to fight radical Islamic terrorism with full force." Netanyahu said he would raise the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian nuclear deal in their conversation.

"Radical Islamic terrorism" appeared to be a swipe at Netanyahu's old White House rival, former President Barack Obama, who refused to use the term. The Israeli leader sees militant Islam as a mutual threat to both to the Jewish state and the West, but Obama sought to separate it from the Palestinian issue, which he saw as a legitimate quest for freedom. It was one of many issues on which the two leaders disagreed.

Another was the Iran nuclear deal with the United States and world powers, which Netanyahu sees as a catastrophic mistake that threatens the security of the State of Israel. He said Iran is one of several matters that will top the agenda with the new administration.

"There are many issues before us including the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the situation in Syria and the Iranian threat," the prime minister said. "I would like to make it clear ... that stopping the Iranian threat, and first and foremost the threat reflected in the bad nuclear agreement that was signed with Iran, continues to be a supreme goal of the State of Israel."

Netanyahu also hopes to turn the page on another sore spot with the Obama administration, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, built on land which the Palestinians claim for a future state.

U.S.-Israel relations plunged to a new low when, in the last days of the Obama presidency, America allowed a tough resolution condemning the settlements to pass in the U.N. Security Council, by abstaining on the vote instead of using its veto as it has traditionally done in the past.

Netanyahu was furious, accusing Obama of a "shameful act" in collusion with the Palestinians. But the former president defended the move, saying the settlements are an obstacle to peace that is destroying the prospects of a two-state solution.

Israel wasted no time in trying to reverse that legacy, announcing on Sunday that 566 new housing units would be built for Jews in disputed East Jerusalem. "On the issue of settlements, none are more concerned about it than the ... government and myself," Netanyahu told his ministers at the Cabinet session. "And we will continue to look out for it wisely and responsibly, for the benefit of the settlement enterprise and the State of Israel." The Jerusalem Municipality said approval of the building permits had been held up by the Obama administration.

"We've been through eight tough years with Obama pressuring to freeze construction," said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. "I hope that era is over and now we can build and develop Jerusalem for the welfare of its residents, Jews and Arabs alike."

There are indications that the Trump administration will be more sympathetic to the settlements than its predecessor. For instance, Trump's choice for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has challenged the notion that the West Bank is "occupied" territory and has financially supported the large Jewish settlement of Beit El. All of this has the Palestinians worried, especially because Trump has publicly vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"By targeting specifically Jerusalem, they [the Israelis] are making use of the statements during the Trump elections campaign about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and therefore legalizing Israel's illegal annexation of Jerusalem in order to expand its settlement activities," Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters. "[This] would bisect the West Bank and therefore prevent the establishment of a territorially contiguous or even viable Palestinian state."

Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could be explosive. There are fears that it could spark a new wave of Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and that protests could spread across the Arab and Muslim world.

Israel's leader has recorded a conciliatory message to the people of Iran, saying, "We are your friend, not your enemy." In a video uploaded to his Facebook page Saturday, Netanyahu addressed the people of Iran in English, with Farsi subtitles.

He said he will soon discuss with Trump how to counter the threat of an Iranian regime that calls for Israel's destruction, but that he distinguishes between the regime and the people. "You have a proud history. You have a rich culture. Tragically, you are shackled by a theocratic tyranny," he said.

Israel regards Iran as its most dangerous adversary because of its nuclear program, development of long-range missiles and continued support for terrorist groups. Netanyahu considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to his country's very existence.

Meanwhile, talks are underway to schedule a first meeting between Trump and Netanyahu. The leaders are expected to speak by phone Sunday, and Netanyahu said he would raise the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian nuclear deal in their conversation.

A number of Israeli public figures congratulated Trump on beginning his term as president. President Reuven Rivlin wrote him a letter, saying, among other things: "Mr. President, as a long-standing friend of the State of Israel, you now stand as leader of the free world, and of Israel's most important and closest ally. "The alliance between our states and our nations is not solely based on friendship. It is rooted in our shared values and long-standing commitment to freedom, liberty, and democracy -- the foundation stones of our societies."

In Ramallah, the congratulatory notes were accompanied by warnings. A statement issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' office said that the Palestinian leadership looked forward to working together with the Trump administration to achieve "peace, security and stability," in the region, but Abbas then warned of the consequences of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed hope that the new U.S. president would not abandon a two-state solution.

In Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and other Palestinian towns, hundreds of Fatah activists took part in anti-Trump protests organized by the movement, condemning the U.S. president's promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Near Rachel's Tomb, protesters hung a banner against the planned embassy move. In Bethlehem, protesters lit on fire a picture of Trump printed with the words "stop racism." Hamas and Islamic Jihad also issued statements warning Trump against moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

David Friedman, who is Trump's pick for Israel Ambassador, has not yet been approved by the Senate, but is set to arrive in Israel at the end of February to begin his new job. Irrespective of whether or not the US Embassy will actually be moved to Jerusalem, Friedman has announced his plan to live and work in Israel's capital city. Friedman owns a large and secured apartment in the Komemiyut neighborhood of Jerusalem. He visits Israel a few times a year.

Though Trump promised several times during his election campaign that he would move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and many are pressuring him to fulfill his promise, Israel's Foreign Ministry has decided not to play an active role in the matter. According to the Foreign Ministry, Israel should not be seen as a country which pressures Trump to carry out controversial actions.

Trump Inauguration Rabbi Attacked with anti-Semitic Hate Speech

By JTA & The Jerusalem Post

The Anti Defamation League said Sunday that it was "outraged and saddened by the anti-Semitism leveled at Rabbi Marvin Hier" after the blessing he delivered at the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Friday.

Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism. He was the target of hundreds of anti-Semitic messages posted on social media during and following his recitation, including anti-Semitic caricatures of him and hate speech from white supremacists.

"For Jew haters, it was a perfect storm," the Wiesenthal Center's associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told The Jerusalem Post Sunday, noting that IT staff working for his center alone had removed hundreds of anti-Semitic messages.

"Trumps inauguration day. U talk alot. Give too much hope in ur speech. Its just too good to be true. But wtf is that jew rabbi there too? — Ö (@hassan_alfaiz) January 20, 2017"

"Obviously a lot of people who don't like Jews had a tough time seeing a Jew stand up proudly before the world," Cooper said." To have a Jew wearing a kippa on an international stage and a declared and well-known Zionist - from the far left to the far right a lot of people were very angry."

"The first person to speak after the President was this goblin, casting his jew spells— Neil Bridewell (@neilbridewell) January 20, 2017

"It's the world we live in today in which social media allows anyone to make such verbal attacks… we can expect to see more of this, and not just against Jews" Cooper added.

Speaking on behalf of Rabbi Hier, who was on a flight Sunday morning, Rabbi Cooper highlighted that, face-to-face, people of all origins, faiths and backgrounds approached Hier to thank him and encourage him. "There's the real world and there's the virtual world and overall it was quite a moment. It was a very special moment, a very proud moment," he said. "I'm absolutely certain it's the first time that Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) was referred to at an inauguration."

Hier was the first Orthodox rabbi ever to give a benediction at an American president's inauguration, and the first rabbi to do so since 1985, when Reform Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin gave a blessing at Ronald Reagan's inauguration.

Hier opened his speech by saying, "Eternal God, bless President Donald J. Trump, and America, our great nation. Guide us to remember the words of the Psalmist: 'Who will dwell on your holy mountain, one who does what is right, and speaks the truth. Who knows that when you eat the labor of your hands you are praiseworthy. That he wws in tears, shall reap in joy. Because the freedoms we enjoy are not granted in perpetuity, but must be reclaimed by each generation."

His participation in the ceremony was protested in petition posted by a Los Angeles businesswoman, Myra Stark. The petition read "Hier is the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, named for the heroic Nazi-hunter, and the Museum of Tolerance — normalizing Trump with his participation will turn these organizations into a mockery and be a shame on the Jewish name forever," read the petition. "Apparently, Hier thinks it is acceptable to legitimize and collaborate with a political figure who the KKK is literally marching in the streets to celebrate."

Israeli Health Ministry: Don't Buy Coffee from Cafes


Israel's Health Ministry has warned the Israeli public to avoid buying coffee from restaurants and cafes, whose machines may leech high levels of lead residue into the water they hold. Hundreds of machines have already been checked and found to have lead levels which are higher than the acceptable amount.

In a statement, the ministry said that in half of the machines already checked, "higher than permitted" lead concentrations of 10ppb-20ppb have been detected. Lead content of up to 10ppb is considered to be safe.

According to Channel 2, the Health Ministry has ordered samples to be taken from all industrial coffee machines suspected of having lead. The models which have excess lead residue are Israeli-made La Favorita and Italian-made Binki coffee machines. However, there may be other models not yet named.

The Health Ministry also said it was launching nationwide recalls and tests in cooperation with the Economy Ministry. They warned the investigation may take a month or more, and emphasized that in the meantime, industrial-grade coffee machines should be avoided. The Health Ministry especially recommends pregnant women avoid using industrial coffee machines until further notice.

"It should be noted that there is no immediate danger. However, during the test period and as a precaution, the Health Ministry recommends, as much as possible, to reduce coffee drinking from industrial machines — until the test results come back, where possible," the Health Ministry said.

Excess exposure to lead can cause various health problems. These include heart, blood vessel, blood pressure, and kidney problems, as well as fertility issues. In addition, lead can cause retardation in children and the unborn.

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