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Report: Trump Asks Israel to Stop Construction

By and The Jerusalem Post

President Donald Trump has warned Israel to stop its unilateral announcements of new construction in Judea and Samaria, an unidentified official in Washington told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The official said Israel's recent announcements, which he said were not coordinated with the White House, undermine Trump's efforts to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and also added that Trump is committed to a negotiated "two-state solution" to the conflict.

The report follows Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's announcement earlier this week of the construction of 3,000 new homes in Judea and Samaria. That announcement came after the approval of 2,500 units last week.

While the construction has been criticized by the UN, the EU and France, the Trump administration has thus far been silent on the issue, angering senior PA officials. Last Wednesday, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said he was "shocked" by the White House's silence on Israel's construction announcement, and called on Trump's administration to clarify its policy.

The American official's comments also come ahead of an upcoming meeting in Washington between Trump and Netanyahu. The White House announced earlier this week that the two leaders will meet on February 15.

The White House noted that the president "has not taken an official position on settlement activity," but said the president would discuss the issue with Netanyahu when they meet, in effect telling him to wait until then.

The statement resembled those issued routinely by previous administrations of both parties for decades, but Trump has positioned himself as an unabashed ally of Israel and until now had never questioned Netanyahu's approach. Trump picked as his ambassador to Israel a financial supporter of West Bank settlement, and he harshly criticized former President Barack Obama in December for not blocking a United Nations resolution condemning settlements.

The shift in position came hours after Trump met briefly with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who raced to Washington to appeal to the new president not to forgo Arab concerns over Israeli policy. In particular, Jordan has been concerned about Trump's promise to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the city Israelis and Palestinians would divide and each make their capital in most versions of a peace deal.

The king came to Washington with no meeting with Trump on the schedule, and some administration officials were leery of setting up such a meeting before Netanyahu's visit. Instead, the king was hosted for breakfast on Monday by Vice President Mike Pence at his official residence. But in the end, the king was able to talk with Mr. Trump on the sidelines of the national prayer breakfast on Thursday morning.

Trump: Nothing 'Off the Table' in Responding to Iran's Missile Launch

By VOA News

President Donald Trump said Thursday that Iran has been "formally put on notice" for its ballistic missile launch, and warned that "nothing is off the table" in dealing with Tehran. In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump also continued his condemnation of the agreement that the U.S. and five other world powers reached to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump said Iran should be "thankful" for the agreement, and that the country was "ready to collapse" before the billions of dollars were unfrozen. Later, at a White House meeting with Harley-Davidson executives and union members, Trump said "nothing is off the table" in response to a reporter who asked whether military action against Iran was an option. The nuclear deal required Iran to limit its enrichment of uranium and convert several of its nuclear facilities to other uses.

On Wednesday, it was Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who condemned Iran's recent missile launch, declaring it "just the latest in a series of incidents" in which Iran has threatened the U.S. and its regional allies over the past six months. He said leaders in Tehran were emboldened to take such action now because the nuclear agreement is "weak and ineffective," and because the other nations involved in the agreement failed to take action to rein in Iran's military ambitions.

Iran confirmed Wednesday that it carried out a missile launch Sunday, but said this did not violate the nuclear agreement by six world powers and Tehran in 2015. U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted after the nuclear deal was reached, called on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles, but it did not specifically ban such activity.

Shahir Shahidsaless, an Iranian-Canadian political analyst, told VOA Persian on Wednesday that the resolution's lack of an explicit ban on ballistic missile activity is problematic for Washington. "The United States cannot rely on this resolution to condemn Iran at the U.N. Security Council, and for the same reason, Russia and China will not cooperate with the U.S. on this," Shahidsaless said. Iran's U.N. mission issued a statement reiterating Tehran's position that "Security Council Resolution 2231 does not prohibit legitimate and conventional missile activities."

Graves of Holocaust Victims Looted, Desecrated Across Ukraine


The remains of Jews murdered during the Holocaust have become the target of grave robbers across the Ukraine, say local Jews, who claim the phenomenon has become common in recent years. Mass graves, where the bodies of Jews slaughtered by the Nazis and their allies were buried, are increasingly being desecrated by looters hoping to find gold teeth or jewelry among the skeletons of Holocaust victims.

"Unfortunately, in the Ukraine there are many mass graves which are not sufficiently protected, where thousands of Jews were executed during the Holocaust," said Michael Yehudanin, President of the European Forum of Russian-speaking Jews, adding that while efforts are being made to protect the remains of Holocaust victims, the struggle against grave robbers is an uphill battle.

"Seventy years after these terrible murders, their graves are being desecrated and looted. These crimes are absolutely inhuman. We are trying to strengthen the graves, to bring order, and clearly mark the mass graves so their significance is known and understood. Unfortunately there is only so much we can do and there are many graves, as well as many grave-robbers. "

Yehudanin has been aided in his efforts by Dr. Dimitry Shiglik, a Ukrainian born businessman and President of the American Forum of Russian-speaking Jews. Both have invested in projects aimed at protecting the graves of Holocaust victims from desecration and looting. As the severity of the crimes and audacity of looters increase, however, Shiglik and Yehudanim say both local authorities and Jewish communities abroad must play a larger role in fighting grave-robbing.

Outside of the cities of Berdychiv and Zhytomyr, they note, dozens of mass graves have been desecrated in recent years. Some grave robbers have even removed remains to sell on Ukrainian markets as gruesome souvenirs, including skulls. "We call on the Jewish communities and their leaders to join this struggle and take a more active role in protecting these mass Jewish graves in order to prevent their desecration, and call for severe punishments for the criminals," said Shiglik.

Ryanair Opens New Israel Routes


Ireland-based low-cost airline Ryanair and the Israel Ministry of Tourism announced that the airline will begin serving a series of new routes in the coming months: seven from Tel Aviv to a variety of European cities and eight from the new Eilat Ovda airport to Bratislava, Budapest, Krakow and Kaunas.

"The significant entry of Ryanair operations into Israel is good news that will make an immediate contribution both in terms of increasing incoming tourism and in reducing the cost of flights in and out of Israel," stated Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

This is the first time the Irish company is increasing its operations in Tel Aviv and Eilat since the beginning of its operations in Israel. The new routes are expected to be operational in March of 2016, though comprehensive details remain to be divulged. According to Ryanair's website, flights from Tel Aviv to Cyprus will begin on March 28, with fares starting at €19.99, approximately 80 shekels.

Ryanair's Chief Commercial Officer David O'Brien stated that to celebrate the launch of the Israel winter 2017 schedule, the company would release seats for sale from Tel Aviv and Eilat Ovda from just €20, which are available for booking until midnight Thursday.

Ryanair currently operates out of 85 bases, reaches 200 airports in 33 countries, maintains over 1,800 routes and flies about 119 million passengers per year. The airline's fleet includes 350 Boeing 737s, and Ryanair has ordered 315 more. The Ryanair application is installed on more than 15 million cellphones, and their website is viewed by more than 46 million people every month. Some 93% of passengers say their service was "good" or "very good."

Are They Married? Wife Says Yes but Husband Insists He's Single


A rabbinical court in Haifa was called upon to rule on whether a man and woman from northern Israel are a married couple. At a hearing held by the court, under the aegis of Rabbi Daniel Edri, the woman claimed that the man is in fact her husband, despite the man's insistence that he is single.

The couple was originally married and registered as a married couple 17 years ago. The marriage produced two daughters before the couple divorced three years ago through a rabbinic court in Haifa.

Yet their status at the time of the hearing was unclear, as the wife claimed her ex-husband had remarried her, but never registered the marriage with the Israeli Rabbinate. As proof, the wife pointed to a celebration the couple held – what she argued was a wedding – adding that a rabbi had even been present to conduct the ceremony. The wedding contract, she said, had been taken and hidden by her husband.

The husband denied the claim, however, stating that the festive meal was never intended to be part of a wedding, and that no marriage agreement had been signed, ring given to the bride, or signatures of witnesses given. For his part, the husband brought the alleged "rabbi" who was said to have conducted the wedding ceremony to testify on his behalf that the couple had not remarried, as the wife had claimed.

But after the wife provided a recording of a conversation between her and the "rabbi" that suggested he did in fact take part in a wedding ceremony. At that point the "rabbi" became exasperated, broke down, admitted he had been lying, and begged forgiveness from the wife. "I'm sorry I lied," he said. "That's it, I can't keep lying," he told the husband.

It was also revealed in the investigation that the "rabbi" in question had never actually been ordained, and had only been presented as such for the purposes of conducting the wedding ceremony. After the discovery, the court urged the husband to issue his wife a divorce, and ordered him to pay 50,000 shekels in damages ($13,300).

Wild Boar Captured in Central Israel


Police received multiple calls regarding two wild boars which were seen walking around a city park in Bat Yam; hogs increasingly seen in cities as cities expand into their habitat. Police were called in to round them up and capture them, and they were released into the wild.

After receiving a multitude of reports of the wild hogs throughout Bat Yam, police found the animals in the industrial zone of the city. They then tranquilized the animals and returned them to the Rishon LeZion wilderness, where authorities believe the boar originated from. It is believed that they were frightened due to noise coming from construction in the area.

While there are many wild boars in Israel, they are still considered a protected species. They are large, intelligent mammals who eat anything and everything. They are also excellent diggers, using their keen sense of smell to dig for tubers, fungi, and various other subterranean animals. They are a nuisance for farmers, and they like to go and dig up fields. Wild hogs have been seen more frequently in Israeli cities and towns as these urban areas expand into the hogs' territory

The boars are originally from northern Israel, but have migrated to the center and south of the country in recent years, and have even been spotted as far south as the Arava desert, south of the Dead Sea.

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