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Report: U.S. Spied on Netanyahu Over Efforts to Block Iran Deal

(Ynetnews) The White House allegedly instructed the NSA to spy on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his aggressive campaign against the Iran nuclear deal, believing the information could help curtail the prime minister’s efforts to thwart the agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday.

The Journal interviewed more than two dozen past and present US officials from the National Security Agency on the topic.

The NSA listened in on communications between Netanyahu and his aides, which the Journal says further deepened the mistrust between the two governments, as well as to private conversations Israeli leaders and officials had with US lawmakers and American-Jewish groups, raising fears the White House will be accused of spying on Congress.

In order to prevent a paper trail, which would have enormous political ramifications if discovered, the White House left the decision of what information to share and what to withhold to the NSA.

“We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ and we didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it,’” a senior US official was quoted as saying.

The NSA intercepts revealed that Israel was spying on the nuclear negotiations, using the information it gathered to leak details from the talks in an attempt to thwart the agreement. Israel later denied that charge, saying it gained information on the talks by spying on the Iranians only.

In addition, the NSA learned that Netanyahu and other Israeli officials used that information to coach representatives of Jewish-American groups, and to ascertain from US lawmakers what it would take to win their vote against the deal.

At first, the Obama administration was worried of a possible Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities without telling the White House, while Washington was pursuing secret talks with Tehran. Spying on Israel continued, however, even after the NSA determined in 2013 that Netanyahu wasn’t going to attack Iran.

All of this was done after, and despite, Obama’s promise to curb eavesdropping on friendly heads of states in the wake of the outrage over the United States spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel some two years ago.

The Obama administration did create a list of heads of states who would be “protected” from NSA spying, like Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, but continued spying on their top advisers.

Asked for comment on the Journal report, a White House National Security Council spokesman said: “We do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike.”


India Successfully Test-Fires Indo-Israeli Barak 8 Missile

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) The Indian Navy successfully test-fired the Barak 8 surface-to-air missile, jointly developed with Israel, overnight Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the India-based Economic Times reported.

Israel Aerospace Industries said in a statement that the system performed according to expectations and that two interceptor missiles hit their targets. The successful trials, according to IAI, signal that the “system is ready.”

In late November, the IDF ran its own test of the Barak 8, which the defense establishment believes can play a key role in securing Israel’s offshore gas installations and naval forces.

“The successful interception tests last night and this morning from the Indian navy ship represents a continuation of the successful Barak 8 test from the Israeli naval vessel a month ago, which doubly validates the system’s impressive operational capabilities,” IAI CEO Yossi Weiss said.


Court Sentences Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert to 18 Months in Jail

(Ynetnews) Supreme Court justices reach final verdict in case of ex-prime minister who got a six-year prison sentence for accepting bribes, overturning convictions for more major charges but upholding other convictions and reducing jail time.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday partially accepted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s appeal of his 2014 bribery conviction, acquitting him of receiving a NIS 500,000 bribe but upholding his conviction for accepting NIS 60,000 and reducing his prison sentence from six years to 18 months.

The verdict brings an end to what may be the largest corruption case in Israel’s history and makes the ex-leader the first prime minister to go to jail. He is to begin serving his sentence on February 15.

Following the verdict, Olmert gave a statement to the press, declaring that he had never accepted any bribes, but respected the decision of the justices to uphold his conviction for the lesser charge. He likened the Holyland affair to “an irritating, onerous black cloud” and said a great weight had been lifted with the acquittal in that case.

Olmert was given a six-year sentence and NIS 1 million fine in 2014 for receiving some NIS 500,000 in bribes through his brother in the Holyland real estate corruption affair during his tenure as Jerusalem mayor before becoming prime minister. He also had NIS 560,000 in assets seized.


Iran Transfers Uranium to Russia as Part of Nuke Deal

(JNS.org) Iran authorized the transfer of 25,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia, fulfilling a key obligation in last summer’s nuclear deal made by six world powers, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Monday.

“All the enriched uranium envisaged by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been removed from Iran’s territory with Russia’s assistance,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Iran was required to ship out all but 660 pounds of their low-enriched uranium, in an effort to reduce Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons.

“The shipment included the removal of all of Iran’s nuclear material enriched to 20 percent that was not already in the form of fabricated fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a written statement.

“This removal of all this enriched material out of Iran is a significant step toward Iran meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day,” Kerry added.


Israeli Stabbed in Hebron Succumbs to His Wounds

Genady Kofman, 41, a maintenance worker at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, was stabbed by a Palestinian as he left work on December 7. Yesterday he died of his wounds. Kofman, who made aliyah from the Ukraine 21 ago, lived in Kiryat Arba and was a married father of two.

PM Netanyahu made a statement at a cabinet meeting today in response to Kofman’s death saying, “I say to all those who would uproot us from the Tomb of the Patriarchs – except for a few years in the previous century, we have been there for almost 4,000 years and we will stay there forever. You cannot defeat us.”


Israel Receives 30,000 New Immigrants in 2015

(JNS.org) The number of immigrants to Israel exceeded 30,000 for the first time in 12 years, with a 50 percent increase in the last two years, according to data from The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.

“The high number of immigrants, particularly from western countries, attests to the drawing power of the Zionist idea. The fact that immigrants choose to come to Israel is a sign that Israel invests their lives with meaning that they cannot find elsewhere,” said Natan Sharansky, head of The Jewish Agency.

The highest number of immigrants, 7,900, came from France this year, while 7,000 new immigrants arrived from the Ukraine. Efforts to encourage Aliyah in those countries were increased this year due to security concerns for Jews living there.

In Eastern Europe alone, there was a 25 percent increase in Aliyah, with a 40 percent increase from last year in the number of immigrants from Russia. However, the United States and Canada saw a decrease in the number of immigrants moving to Israel this year with 3,770 compared to 3,870 last year.

Half of new immigrants to Israel this year were young people, under the age of 30.


Attempt to Smuggle Bulletproof Boards into Gaza Foiled

(Arutz Sheva) Defense Ministry guards at the Kerem Shalom border crossing foiled an attempt Wednesday to smuggle bulletproof boards into Gaza.

An Israeli truck carrying dozens of spare car parts aroused the suspicions of security guards at the crossing. Upon examining the contents of the truck, the guards identified a number of bulletproof boards, reportedly designated for terrorist organizations inside Gaza.

The incident marks the first attempt to smuggle bulletproof material into Gaza.


Jewish Teen Attacked and Beaten in Brooklyn

(Jpost) An orthodox Jewish teen was attacked in a heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood less than 24 hours after a 60-year-old Jewish man was beaten and robbed there.

The boy, 17, was punched in the face and knocked into the street in the Midwood section of Brooklyn while walking home from his yeshiva at approximately 6:30 p.m. Monday, Yeshiva World News reported Tuesday. The side of his face was bruised and he is in stable condition, according to the website.

The assailant was an African-American, the website reported. Early Monday morning, the 60-year-old man was attacked on a residential block in the same neighborhood. Last week, a kippah-wearing student was assaulted at Medgar Evers College in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. The alleged assailant was African-American.

“I’m just in complete shock over the recent spate of violence and brutality,” New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind told Yeshiva World News. Hikind, who visited the victim on Tuesday afternoon, urged the local Jewish community to be on high alert. “We as a community need to be aware and alert of our surroundings,” he said.

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