Rabbi to celebrities pleads guilty in Israel to bribery charges
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yoshiyahu Pinto, an Israeli rabbi who has counseled such celebrities as LeBron James, pleaded guilty in a Tel Aviv court to bribery charges.
In a plea deal, Pinto, 39, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, attempted bribery and obstruction of justice for attempting to bribe a senior police officer for information in another investigation about him. Pinto agreed to provide evidence that he bribed a more senior officer.
He faces up to a year in prison plus fines. He surrendered his passport to the court.
Pinto, the head of several charity organizations and yeshivas in Ashdod, in southern Israel, and in the United States, has been sought out by prominent Israelis, politicians, businessmen and sports figures on business and personal matters. Along with the NBA star James, they include former Rep. Anthony Weiner, businessman Jay Schottenstein and Israeli soccer star Guy Levy.
The rabbi arrived in Israel on Monday and was rushed to a Tel Aviv hospital after complaining of chest pains. A cardiac catheterization showed that he did not suffer a heart attack.
In April 2014, U.S. prosecutors brought charges against former Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., for receiving large contributions from followers of Pinto. Grimm admitted to receiving several hundred thousand dollars in contributions from Pinto followers.
Kim Kardashian, Kanye West visiting Israel
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Reality television star Kim Kardashian and her husband, rapper Kanye West, landed in Israel for a private visit.
The couple and their nearly 2-year-old daughter, North West, as well as Kardashian’s sister Khloe, landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday following a roots visit to Armenia. Photos of their arrival were featured on Israeli news websites and on news programs.
The celebrities and their entourage had originally planned to stay at the new Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem, but reportedly switched to another hotel after their plans were leaked to the public.
An Israeli security firm that specializes in protecting VIPs reportedly was hired for the visit.
The group is scheduled to visit the Western Wall and other Jerusalem sites, where footage reportedly will be shot for the reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The sisters reportedly will make a trip to the Dead Sea and travel from Israel to Jordan.
Later Monday, Ynet reported that the purpose of the visit was to baptize North that day at the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter. They were reportedly scheduled to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre following the baptism.
Reports emerged in January that Kardashian and her two sisters were planning to buy a Tel Aviv apartment worth $30 million.
Israeli soldier indicted for leaking information to right-wing activists
JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli soldier was indicted in military court for allegedly leaking classified military information to right-wing activists.
Cpl. Elad Yaakov Sela, 25, of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, was indicted Monday in Jaffa on charges of espionage and disclosure of sensitive information, according to reports. Sela will remain in custody until the end of proceedings against him.
Sela reportedly provided information on the planned arrest of Bat Ayin activists, the Shin Bet security service said. Three other Bat Ayin residents also were arrested in connection with the case.
The soldier was arrested several weeks ago, according to reports. Sela also allegedly passed on information about military activities against Palestinian terrorists on several occasions.
Israeli mobile game publisher TabTale purchases American developer
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli mobile game publisher TabTale acquired a U.S. mobile game developer for children.
TabTale, a top 10 worldwide mobile game publisher headquartered in Tel Aviv, announced Sunday that it had purchased Sunstorm Games, a Las Vegas-based firm that has released more than 100 games. It is the Israeli company’s first American acquisition and its third foreign buy this year.
No purchase price was disclosed.
Founded in 2010, TabTale has operations in seven countries, including Israel, the United States and China. It has more than 350 applications, 40 million monthly active users and 600 million downloads worldwide.
Body of Thai ferry fatality, Shani Maril, 12, identified
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The body of the 12-year-old girl from Israel who was killed in a fire aboard a ferry in Thailand was positively identified.
Shani Maril of Modiin, in central Israel, was identified on Monday. Her family had taken her to Thailand as a bat mitzvah present.
The transfer of her body back to Israel is being delayed due to a three-day New Year festival in Thailand. The rest of the family, including Shani’s parents, a sister and a brother, returned home on Sunday.
Shani was the lone fatality in the April 8 fire that erupted aboard the Ao Nang Princess 5 tourist ferry. She was locked in one of the bathrooms, which was engulfed by flames.
Netanyahu offers alternatives to Iran deal following latest Obama criticism
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel offered alternatives on the nuclear framework agreement with Iran.
Netanyahu released a statement on Sunday with the changes to the deal signed earlier this month, a day after President Barack Obama told reporters that Netanyahu had not provided any alternatives.
The Israeli leader called on the international community to negotiate a better agreement.
In his statement, Netanyahu criticized Iran for insisting in the wake of the agreement on maintaining its nuclear capabilities and refusing to allow nuclear inspections, as well as its continuing aggression in the region.
“Let me reiterate again the two main components of the alternative to this bad deal: First, instead of allowing Iran to preserve and develop its nuclear capabilities, a better deal would significantly roll back these capabilities – for example, by shutting down the illicit underground facilities that Iran concealed for years from the international community,” he said. “Second, instead of lifting the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear facilities and program at a fixed date, a better deal would link the lifting of these restrictions to an end of Iran’s aggression in the region, its worldwide terrorism and its threats to annihilate Israel.”
On Saturday, Obama spoke at a news conference at the Americas Summit in Panama City, Panama, on Netanyahu’s failure to come up with alternatives.
“The prime minister of Israel is deeply opposed to it, I think he’s made that very clear,” Obama said. “I have repeatedly asked, what is the alternative that you present that you think makes it less likely for Iran to get a nuclear weapon? And I have yet to obtain a good answer on that.”
The Netanyahu statement came the same day that Haaretz reported, citing two unnamed Israeli officials, that Netanyahu said at an April 3 meeting of the security Cabinet that if a final agreement is signed between Iran and the world powers, the greatest concern is that Tehran will fully implement it without violations.
Netanyahu reportedly said at the meeting — hours before the start of the Passover seder and a day after the framework agreement was signed — that he was concerned that Iran will not break the agreement, waiting until it expires in 10-15 years and the country is not considered a threat to restart its nuclear program without the threat of international monitors or sanctions.
The security Cabinet decided at the meeting to try to persuade the Obama administration to improve the agreement. Most ministers, however, reportedly believe the best way to halt or alter the agreement is through Congress, which is where the most effort will be spent.
Rouhani: Iran will sign nuclear deal only if sanctions immediately lifted
(JTA) — President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said his country will sign a final deal on its nuclear program only if sanctions are immediately lifted.
Rouhani made the demand on April 9 in a nationally televised speech on Nuclear Technology Day in Iran.
“We will not sign any agreement unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal,” Rouhani said.
The framework agreement signed last week says sanctions will be lifted only once international inspectors verify that Iran is in compliance with the final agreement. If Iran is found to be in violation of the agreement, the sanctions would be reinstated.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday in a tweet from his official Twitter account, “All #sanctions should be removed just when the deal is reached. If sanctions removal depends on another process then why we started to talk?
June 30 has been set as the deadline for a final agreement between Iran and the six world powers, including the United States.
Armed Palestinian police expand security control
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Armed Palestinian police have expanded security control to Palestinian towns bordering Jerusalem.
Under a deal with Israel, the patrols began working in Abu Dis, A-Ram and Biddu, Reuters reported last week. The patrols include 90 officers.
The towns have been under Israeli security control since the peace process began with the Oslo Accords in 1993.
The Palestinians have threatened to halt security cooperation with Israel since it withheld tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority beginning in January. P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas refused the revenues earlier this month when Israel held back some of the money for utilities payments.
Israel withheld the money as a punitive measure for Abbas signing requests in late December to join the International Criminal Court and other international conventions as a result of the failure of the United Nations Security Council to pass a Palestinian statehood proposal.
Bnei Brak funeral trampling claims second fatality
(JTA) – A teenager became the second person to die in the trampling at the mass funeral of a prominent haredi Orthodox rabbi near Tel Aviv.
On April 8, Yitzhak Samet, 18, of Jerusalem, succumbed to injuries he suffered three days earlier while attending the funeral in Bnei Brak of Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner, the Ynet news site reported. Samet, a member of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic sect, was engaged to be married, according to the Times of Israel.
Nearly 100,000 mourners came to Bnei Brak for the funeral of Wosner, who died on April 3, shortly before the start of the Passover holiday. He was 101.
The first fatality from the funeral was Mordechai Moti Gerber, 27, of Elad, who died shortly after being trampled. Gerber, a former student of the rabbi, is survived by his wife and young son.
The procession began from the offices of the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva headed by Wosner and snaked through the heavily Orthodox Bnei Brak to the Zichron Meir cemetery.
Among the three critically injured at the event was a 14-year-old boy. The police have opened an investigation into possible negligence.
Wosner immigrated to Mandatory Palestine before the outbreak of World War II and later established the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. He is the author of the Shevet Halevi commentary on Jewish law. He had been hospitalized since March.
2 Israeli soldiers stabbed in West Bank, attacker killed
(JTA) — Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank after he stabbed and injured two soldiers, one of them critically.
The knife-wielding attacker stabbed the seriously hurt soldier in the neck on April 8 near the settlements of Shiloh and Ofra, Army Radio reported. The soldier, 20, received medical treatment on site and was airlifted to a Jerusalem hospital, a Magen David Adom paramedic said.
The lightly injured soldier received treatment on site.
None of the individuals involved was named in the Army Radio report. Troops killed the attacker.
Overnight April 8, Israeli security forces arrested nine Palestinians suspected of involvement in riots and terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel in the West Bank.