TIME Israel

Israel Denies Spying on Iran Nuclear Talks With U.S.

Israeli PM Netanyahu weekly cabinet meeting
Abir Sultan—Reuters Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem Feb. 15, 2015.

"The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel's other allies."

Israel did not snoop on closed-door talks over Iran’s nuclear program involving the U.S., a senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday, denying an earlier report.

On Monday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials learned of the spying — which it said was part of Netanyahu’s effort to derail a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program — when American intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Israeli officials. Some of Israel’s information came from French sources, the newspaper reported.

U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment, but Netanyahu’s office slammed the report on Tuesday.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Argentina

Secret Nazi Hideout Believed Found in Argentina

Researchers found German coins and a porcelain plate dating back to World War II

Archeologists have discovered ruins in a remote jungle region of Argentina that are believed to be Nazi hideouts intended to act as safe havens if Germany lost World War II.

Inside three run-down buildings in the Teyú Cuaré park, near the border with Paraguay, researchers found five German coins minted during the Nazi regime and a porcelain plate marked “Made in Germany,” the Clarín newspaper reports.

“Apparently, halfway through World War II, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat — inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff or in the middle of the jungle like this,” team leader Daniel Schávelzon told Clarín.

In fact, the hideouts would prove unnecessary because after the war then Argentine President Juan Perón allowed thousands of Nazis, and other European fascists, to resettle in the South American nation. Most notorious among them was arguably Adolf Eichmann, a leading architect of the Holocaust, who in 1960 was found in Argentina by an Israeli intelligence group. He was abducted and eventually executed in Israel for his crimes.

[Clarín]

Read next: How a Speech Helped Hitler Take Power

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TIME Israel

7 Children Killed in House Fire Brought to Israel for Burial

Fatal Brooklyn Fire
Julio Cortez—AP Mourners attend funeral services for the seven siblings killed in a house fire in Brooklyn on March 22, 2015

The family had moved about a year and a half ago from East Jerusalem

(NEW YORK) — The bodies of seven siblings who died in a house fire are headed to Israel for burial, a day after their sobbing father told mourners in his ultra-Orthodox Jewish community how much joy they had brought him.

“They were so pure,” Gabriel Sassoon said Sunday of his children during a eulogy. “My wife, she came out fighting.”

Flames engulfed the family’s two-story, brick-and-wood home in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood early Saturday, likely after a hot plate left on a kitchen counter set off the fire that trapped the children and badly injured their mother and another sibling, investigators said.

The tragedy had some neighborhood Jews reconsidering the practice of keeping hot plates on for the Sabbath, a common modern method of obeying tradition prohibiting use of fire on the holy day.

The service at the Shomrei Hadas funeral home began with prayers in Hebrew, accompanied by the wailing voices of mourners. They could be heard through speakers that broadcast the rite to thousands of people gathered outside on the streets in traditional black robes and flat-brimmed hats.

After the funeral, mourners hugged the sides of SUVs with flashing lights that took the bodies of the children, ages 5 to 16 — accompanied by their father — to John F. Kennedy International Airport for the flight to Israel.

Sassoon’s surviving wife and a daughter — Gayle Sassoon and 14-year-old Siporah Sassoon — remained in critical condition on respirators.

“My children were unbelievable. They were the best,” Sassoon said at their funerals, calling them “angels.”

Authorities identified the victims as girls Eliane, 16; Rivkah, 11; and Sara, 6; and boys David, 12; Yeshua, 10; Moshe, 8; and Yaakob, 5.

“Eliane was a spirited child. Rivkah, she had so much joy,” their father said.

Rivkah “gave joy to everybody,” he said. “And David, he was so fun.”

Yeshua was “always trying to make others happy,” as was Yaakob, Sassoon said.

At the time of the fire, Sassoon — a religious education instructor — was in Manhattan at a Shabbaton, an educational retreat.

The hot plate was left on for the Sabbath, which lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Many religious Jews use one to keep food warm, obeying the traditional prohibition on use of fire on the holy day as well as work in all forms, including turning on appliances.

The Sassoons’ hot plate apparently malfunctioned, setting off flames that tore up the stairs, trapping the children in their second-floor bedrooms as they slept, investigators said.

A neighbor, Karen Rosenblatt, said she called 911 after seeing flames and smoke billowing from the home. Her husband said he heard “what seemed like a young girl scream, ‘Help me! Help me!'” she said.

Firefighters arrived in less than four minutes and discovered the badly burned and distraught mother pleading for help, officials said. When they broke in the door, they encountered a raging fire that had spread through the kitchen, dining room, common hall, stairway leading upstairs and the rear bedrooms.

“I couldn’t help crying my heart out as I saw the house,” said Dalia Hen, 51, a Midwood neighbor. “It’s like our own children.”

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Midwood, said he’s hearing from more and more people concerned about use of the hot plates on Sabbath. He said he called his daughter, who has six children and uses a hot plate, and told her, “You’ve got to stop using that.”

“This is an important wakeup call for people, because it may save your life or the life of your children,” he said.

Shifra Schorr, 44, a mother of five a few blocks from the Sassoon house, said she and her friends don’t use hot plates, but “we’re all talking about it.”

Earlier at the family’s fire-gutted home on Bedford Avenue, a police officer stood guard as contractors boarded up windows with plywood.

Across the street from the Sassoon home, 89-year-old Izzy Abade said he’d watched Gayle Sassoon grow up, then her children.

“They used to play right across the street, riding bikes, playing in the backyard, playing ball.”

The family had moved about a year and a half ago from East Jerusalem, a contested part of the city where both Arabs and Jews live.

“There’s only one way to survive this,” Gabriel Sassoon said of his children’s deaths. “There is only total and complete, utter surrender.”

TIME

Netanyahu Now Says He Wants a 2-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.
Nir Elias—Reuters Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.

The Israeli Prime Minister backtracked on election-timed statements he made earlier this week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinian despite coming out against a Palestinian state on the eve of Tuesday’s election.

Netanyahu had reversed course on his support for a two-state solution when he said in an interview on Monday that he would not allow a Palestinian state if he remained in office. That stance appeared aimed at bolstering support from Israel’s right ahead of what was expected to be a close election on Tuesday, though his statement drew widespread condemnation abroad, including from the White House.

But fresh off of a surprise strong showing in Tuesday’s vote, Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday with MSNBC that he doesn’t want “a one-state solution.”

“I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that circumstances have to change,” said Netanyahu, who is poised to get a fourth term in office.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, handily defeating his strongest opposition, the Zionist Union, which won 24 seats. According to the Israeli system, President Reuven Rivlin is now expected to select Netanyahu to try to form a new coalition government.

Watch the full interview below:

TIME Israel

Netanyahu: U.S. Has ‘No Greater Ally Than Israel’

President Barack Obama (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 20, 2013.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP President Barack Obama (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 20, 2013.

Israel's Prime Minister calls for strong cooperation between two nations

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that Israel’s relationship with the U.S. was strong despite recent controversies, telling NBC News on Thursday that his nation has “no greater ally.”

Netanyahu’s already-strained relationship with the U.S. frayed further in recent weeks when the prime minister spoke in Congress against a nuclear deal in Iran and — on the eve of the election — pledged to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

In his first American broadcast-network interview since winning close-fought parliamentary elections, Netanyahu told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that while he has yet to speak with President Barack Obama…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Infectious Disease

A New Blood Test Could Stop Doctors From Overprescribing Antibiotics

In this image provided by Duke University, lab research analyst Marshall Nichols does research relating to a new blood test on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, in Durham, N.C.
Shawn Rocco—AP In this image provided by Duke University, lab-research analyst Marshall Nichols does research relating to a new blood test on Sept. 17, 2013, in Durham, N.C.

The procedure distinguishes between viral and bacterial infections

Scientists claim to have established a new blood test that can help doctors quickly distinguish between bacterial and viral infections, giving physicians the ability to prescribe antibiotics more accurately. That’s according to a study published by PLOS One on Wednesday.

Israeli-based company MeMed, along with researchers from other institutes, says that they examined over 1,000 patients and found that their ImmunoXpert blood test could distinguish between immune responses to bacterial or viral infections. The procedure is reportedly fast, taking only hours to complete when alternatives often require days.

“Antibiotic misuse is a pressing public health concern, with devastating healthcare and economic consequences,” stated MeMed CEO Eran Eden in a release to media. “Unlike most traditional diagnostics, this approach builds on an exquisitely informative system crafted by nature — the human immune system.”

While still in the laboratory stage, the test could be important because doctors have long struggled to identify the root causes of infections, meaning that antibiotics, which only attack bacteria, are often prescribed unnecessarily.

TIME Israel

Netanyahu Divides as He Conquers in Israeli Election

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters.
Salih Zeki Fazlioglu—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of the Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters after the first results of the Israeli general election on March 18, 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Hard-right shift leaves him with a remarkably raw relationship with Israeli Arabs

Much of Israel and the rest of the Middle East went to bed late Tuesday with initial exit polls showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in a virtual tie with its main rival, the center-left Zionist Union, but awoke Wednesday to a vastly different outcome.

Not only was Netanyahu re-elected in a landslide that had been undetected by most pollsters ahead of Tuesday’s ballot, grabbing 30 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, but for the first time in Israeli history the third-largest party is Arab, comprising a bloc of 14 seats.

With this ascendency of Israeli Arabs — some of whom prefer to be called Palestinian Israelis — increasingly apparent in the weeks leading up the elections, Netanyahu played on fears of their empowerment on election day. He sent out controversial videos, text messages and tweets saying that “the Arabs are streaming to the polls in droves,” and accused the left wing of “busing them in.” In the 48 hours before the vote, an intense period in which Likud seemed to be trailing three or four seats behind the Zionist Union, an alliance under the leadership of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu vowed there would be no Palestinian state if he was elected.

These moves by Netanyahu may well have helped him win an election that he looked slated to lose just a few days earlier.

Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would work to form a coalition within two to three weeks, adding that he was “thrilled by the heavy responsibility of his victory.” In a trip to the Western Wall, where he appeared to give thanks for his surprise success at the polls, he also promised that he would work for the benefit of all Israel’s citizens — a sore spot after the tactics of a day earlier. “I appreciate the decision by Israel’s citizens to elect me and my friends, against all odds and in the face of powerful forces,” he said, “and I will do everything I can to care for the security and welfare of all Israelis.”
Those friends with whom he’s likely to form a coalition are the Jewish Home party, the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and centrist parties such as Kulanu and Yesh Atid.

But his checkered campaign leaves him with a remarkably raw relationship with the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arab, following his public painting of their voting power as an existential threat to Israel, and it leaves him with no bridges left to burn with the Palestinian Authority, much less moderate Arab countries that have been pushing for a two-state solution since the launch of the Arab Peace Initiative a decade ago. All this, of course, comes amid an historic low point in relations between Washington and Jerusalem. Tuesday’s elections came about two weeks after Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress to warn of a “bad deal” on a nuclear Iran, much to the chagrin of the Obama Administration.

MORE: What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

Senior officials in the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said the election outcome proved that Palestinians had no partner in Israel — a reversal of the accusation that Netanyahu and other right-wing Israeli politicians have often lodged at the Palestinian Authority.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed the international community for not doing more to protest Palestinian rights, and indicated that its tolerance of Netanyahu’s policies had paved the way to his successful bid to consolidate his power.

“Such a result would not have been possible had the international community held Israel to account for its systematic violations of international law,” Erekat said in a media statement. “Now, more than ever, the international community must act. It must rally behind Palestinian efforts to internationalize our struggle for dignity and freedom through the International Criminal Court and through all other peaceful means.” Palestinians have been trying to advance a case in the ICC against Israel over its conduct during last summer’s war, when more than 2,100 Palestinians and about 80 Israelis died.

Netanyahu thumbing his nose at the U.S.-brokered peace process and turning his back on the landmark speech he made at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, during which he said he was in principle open to a Palestinian state, was clearly an attempt to lure back right-wing voters. Many of them had drifted over to parties like Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett, who was a key coalition partner in the last government and will almost certainly be in the next one as well. Many others, says pollster Avi Dejani, president of the Geocartography Knowledge Group, for weeks indicated that they were undecided.

“So we asked, if you do vote, for whom will it be — and for whom did you vote in the past? Likud, they said,” Dejani explained, in a conference call arranged by The Israel Project. “Many, many voters who are politically allied with the Likud got scared that the left may actually win, and they came back home.”

The scare tactics included a video sent out early on election day, telling supporters to rush out and vote because Arabs were supposedly voting in high numbers. Arab voter turnout was higher than in previous years — around 68%, members of the United List say. This upsurge in a sector where so many express feeling disenfranchised and marginalized came in large part from the new wings that Israeli Arab politicians got from their constituents by having put aside their internal differences and uniting.

In an ironic twist, this effort to put all four Arab parties on one list, called the Joint List, was born in part of the efforts of right-wing parties to marginalize Arab lawmakers and force some of them out of the Knesset. These right-wing parliamentarians authored legislation that made it necessary for the first time for any party running for office to earn at least 3.25% of the vote to earn a mandate. This means smaller parties under that new threshold would no longer make it into the Knesset, a change that was most likely to affect smaller Arab parties.

“There were really no buses, by the way,” says Yousef Jabareen a new member of Knesset. “When that video came out, the voter turnout then was still very low. So it was factually misleading, and unfortunately, Netanyahu gained some support because of that.”

The video, he said, raised “a feeling of anger” and some degree of shock that a sitting Prime Minister could portray Israeli citizens going to the ballot box on election day as a threat. “He is the top official in Israel, and you would expect him to encourage people to vote and to be part of the democratic process,” says Jabareen. “However, in Israel apparently, the standards are different. Can you imagine if in Europe the French premiers said he’s worried about too many Jews voting?”

That sentiment was reverberating through the American Jewish community as well. Influential Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev, also the left-wing paper’s U.S. editor, tweeted: “To Netanyahu’s many American friends: what if a US President had said ‘too many Jews are voting?'” Shalev’s comment was retweeted more than 500 times. Rick Jacobs, the leader of Reform Jewish movement spoke out against “disheartening” statements in the campaign and said “Israel deserves better.”

As news of Netanyahu’s win began to settle in, the U.S. rebuked the Prime Minister over his words in the last few days of the campaign, as he aimed to shore up support. “The Obama Administration is deeply concerned by the use of divisive rhetoric in Israel that sought to marginalize Arab Israeli citizens,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Netanyahu is now trying to find coalition partners with whom to build a new government, which may be an uphill battle. But repairing relations with his international partners, like the “special relationship” between Jerusalem and Washington, may prove even harder.

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TIME Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Disgrace in Victory

Israel's Prime Minister won a tragic election by vilifying Arabs and defacing Israel’s history 

A few years ago, I drove from Jerusalem to the West Bank, to the city of Bethlehem, to have dinner with TIME’s Palestinian stringer, the late Jamil Hamad. He was a gentle and sophisticated man, soft-spoken, and levelheaded when it came to politics. After dinner, I drove back to Jerusalem and had to pass through the bleak, forbidding security wall. An Israeli soldier asked for my papers; I gave her my passport. “You’re American!” she said, not very officially. “I love America. Where are you from?” New York, I said. “Wow,” she said, with a big smile. And then she turned serious. “What were you doing in there,” she asked, nodding toward the Palestinian side, “with those animals?”

And that, of course, is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “won” the Israeli election. That is how he won the election even though there was a strong economic case against him, and people were tired of his ways, and about 200 former Israeli military and intelligence leaders publicly opposed his dangerously bellicose foreign policy. He won because he ran as a bigot. This is a sad reality: a great many Jews have come to regard Arabs as the rest of the world traditionally regarded Jews. They have had cause. There have been wars, indiscriminate rockets and brutal terrorist attacks. There has been overpowering anti-Jewish bigotry on the Arab side, plus loathsome genocidal statements from the Iranians and others. But there has been a tragic sense of superiority and destiny on the Israeli side as well.

This has been true from the start. Read Ari Shavit’s brilliant conundrum of a book, My Promised Land, and you will get chapter and verse about the massacres perpetrated by Jews in 1948 to secure their homeland. It may be argued that the massacres were necessary, that Israel could not have been created without them, but they were massacres nonetheless. Women and children were murdered. It was the sort of behavior that is only possible when an enemy has been dehumanized. That history haunted Netanyahu’s rhetoric in the days before the election, when he scared Jews into voting for him because, he said, the Arabs were coming to polls in buses, in droves, fueled by foreign money.

It should be noted that those Arabs represent about 20% of the population of Israel. About 160,000 of them are Christian, and some of them are descendants of the first followers of Jesus. Almost all of them speak Hebrew. Every last one is a citizen—and it has been part of Israel’s democratic conceit that they are equal citizens. The public ratification of Netanyahu’s bigotry put the lie to that.

Another conceit has been that the Israeli populace favors a two-state solution. That may still be true, but the surge of voters to the Likud party in the days after Netanyahu denied Palestinian statehood sends the message that a critical mass of Israeli Jews supports the idea of Greater Israel, including Judea and Samaria on the West Bank. This puts Israeli democracy in peril. The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution. That state can only be Jewish, in the long run, if West Bank Arabs are denied the right to vote.

There will be many—in the Muslim world, in Europe—who will say that the results are no surprise, that Israel has become a harsh, bigoted tyrant state. It has certainly acted that way at times, but usually with excellent provocation. It is an appalling irony that the Israeli vote brought joy to American neoconservatives and European anti-Semites alike.

When I was a little boy, my grandmother would sing me to sleep with the Israeli national anthem. It still brings tears to my eyes. My near annual visits to Israel have always been memorable. About a decade ago, I was at a welcoming ceremony for new immigrants—­thousands of them, Russians and Iranians and Ethiopians. And I thought, if Ethiopians and Russians could join that way, why not, eventually, Semites and Semites, Jews and Arabs?

That was the dream—that somehow Jews and Arabs could make it work, could eventually, together, create vibrant societies that would transcend bigotry and exist side by side. The dream was that the unifying force of common humanity and ethnicity would, for once, trump religious exceptionalism. It was always a long shot. It seems impossible now. For the sake of his own future, Benjamin Netanyahu has made dreadful Jewish history: he is the man who made anti-Arab bigotry an overt factor in Israeli political life. This is beyond tragic. It is shameful and embarrassing.

Read next: What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

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TIME Israel

What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

A lasting settlement for a chronic conflict has rarely seemed so far away

Benjamin Netanyahu has survived a serious political challenge, despite a chorus of complaints about his leadership style as well as gripes over living costs, housing prices, and wages. That would be a bigger surprise in countries where peacetime elections tend to focus on economics. But in Israel, “peacetime” is a relative concept, and this is a country with so many active political parties that winning 30 of 120 seats in parliament allows you to form a government.

How did he do it? First, he recognized that his party needed to win back the votes of hardliners on the peace process who threatened to stray toward the far-right parties. Thus his message became simple: No deals with Iran, no state for Palestinians, and don’t let Arab voters decide the election. It worked. He’ll now form what is likely to be an unwieldy, unstable coalition of the center-right, and then he’ll have to govern.

Netanyahu is likely to pursue a series of controversial policies, such as adoption of the Jewish nationhood bill that would define Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” though 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs. It might also establish Jewish law as an inspiration for future legislation, and delist Arabic as an official language. Expect the construction of more Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In response, Palestinians will push harder to win recognition of statehood at the United Nations, with sympathy from some European governments. Violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank will probably intensify.

MORE 5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israeli Relations

Expect even tougher relations with the Obama Administration and more criticism from European capitals, but Netanyahu can manage these problems because Israel’s position in the Middle East has actually strengthened in the past couple of years. The Israeli and Egyptian governments have common enemies in Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel and Turkey share enmity toward Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The Saudis, Emiratis and others are far more concerned with future threats from Iran than with current help for Palestinians. All these factors ease pressure on Netanyahu to change direction on current policy.

Unfortunately, this leaves the Palestinians with nothing but frustration. A lasting settlement for this chronic conflict has rarely seemed so far away.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy.

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