Israel’s intelligence minister urges US to team up with Russia against Iran

WASHINGTON — The Israeli government wants the United States to negotiate with the Russians to ensure Iran does not gain a permanent military foothold in Syria, Israel’s Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said.

In meetings with senior-level administration officials and high-ranking members of Congress, Katz urged the US to get the Russians to remove Iranian forces from the country, which is in the sixth year of a devastating civil war.

“We discussed how the Americans can negotiate with the Russians,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s in the common interest not only for Israel, but for the Sunni Arab countries in the region.”

Katz, who is a member of the high-level security cabinet, was sent to Washington by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Syria and other matters with American officials.

“In our region, there are two different things, but the things that are existing now are, on the one hand, big threats and dangers, and on the other hand, big chances for cooperation,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen next to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz at the weekly cabinet meeting at Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, September 4, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israel believes that Trump is signaling a new policy toward the Middle East — evident in his ordering a missile attack on a Syrian airfield over an Assad regime chemical weapons attack, and his rhetoric toward Tehran — that will possibly include shifts in how Washington deals with the Iranian challenge, Katz said.

“There is a new policy in the United States, and Iran is on the bad side, not the good side,” he said. “It’s very clear. You see it in declarations and acts.

“Because of the next American policy against Iran, against the Shi’ite axis that Iran leads with the backing of Russia, this is a big opportunity to bring real changes to the regional security situation,” he added.

Katz came to Washington after visiting New York, where he addressed the World Jewish Congress.

‘There is a new policy in the United States, and Iran is on the bad side and not the good side’

In the capital, he met with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and New York Rep. Adam Schiff (D), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

He discussed with them Israel’s hope that the US will negotiate with the Russians to remove an Iranian military foothold in Syria.

Katz insisted that Trump could apply pressure to Russian President Vladimir Putin to soften his resolve to prop up Assad.

“If the Russians want to keep Assad, they have to push Iran out of Syria,” Katz said. The White House is “very close to deciding that Assad has to go,” he added, “so if the Russians want to have the chance to keep Assad in his job, they have to act and to help move Iran out of Syria. Because if they will not do it, they will move Iran out or we will move Assad out.”

On Wednesday, Katz also met with Trump’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt to discuss his plan to develop a regional transportation system that would link Israel to Saudi Arabia by railroad via the West Bank and Jordan.

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“We are maybe going to call it not a truck rail, but a Trump rail,” he said.

Katz said he believes the administration will support his initiative, not necessarily as a component of its hope to broker a “conflict-ending” Israeli-Palestinian accord, but to improve the region, which could foster greater conditions for a peace deal.

“If the United States would support it — and we want them to support it — it would be very much in their interests, because it would be good for Jordan’s economy, its stability, and for the Palestinians’ [economy] as well,” he said.

He also said there was “a strategic logic” to solidify ties between the Sunni world and Israel, which share an interest in countering the Iranian-led Shiite axis.

After the meeting in which Katz presented his plan to Greenblatt, the former lawyer tweeted: “I look forward to discussing the possibilities with all parties.”

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EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT (WHITE FREEMASON) URGES POST-HOLOCAUST RESTITUTION PROGRESS

 

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/European-Parliament-president-urges-post-Holocaust-restitution-progress-489067

 

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani on Wednesday urged European countries to step up efforts to ensure the return of property and possessions seized from Jewish victims during the Holocaust.

Speaking at the opening of an international conference in Brussels titled “Unfinished Justice: Restitution and Remembrance,” Tajani stressed the importance of restitution.

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Declaring that restitution across Europe was still challenged by legal and technical problems, leaving victims without their property, Tajani said: “Restitution, together with remembrance and reconciliation, is a fundamental element to restore justice after the Holocaust.

“The European Parliament has called on the [European] Commission to develop common principles and guidelines,” he added, highlighting that the 2009 Terezin Declaration provides a clear reference point for restitution and a commitment for all European countries.

Forty-seven countries, including all 28 members of the European Union, approved the Terezin Declaration, which recognizes “the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust era between 1933-45.”

According to the World Jewish Restitution Organization, only a small fraction of private and communal property illegitimately seized from Jewish victims during the Holocaust has been returned or compensated.

WJRO also emphasized that, of the remaining 500,000 survivors alive today, up to half are estimated to live in poverty.

“Progress has been made over the last years. Some countries have done a lot and have even developed best practices. Others should do more,” Tajani said.

The European Shoah Legacy Institute – which commissioned a comprehensive study on the status of restitution in each of the countries that endorsed the Terezin Declaration – called out Poland as being the only country that has yet to enact legislation dealing with restitution or compensation of private property nationalized by the Polish postwar Communist regime.

The conference was hosted by the European Parliament and organized by the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors, a coalition of members of the European Parliament committed to issues impacting Holocaust survivors, the WJRO and ESLI, together with the European Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith International. The permanent missions of the State of Israel, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom to the European Union and their respective foreign ministries were also partners in the conference.

During the conference, members of the European Parliament called on the European Commission and all member states to each appoint special envoys for Holocaust-related issues, including restitution, to accelerate activities aimed at securing justice for victims.

Gideon Taylor, chairman of operations for the World Jewish Restitution Organization, praised Tajani’s announcement as a “significant step toward helping Holocaust survivors achieve justice regarding confiscated property.

“The support of the European Parliament sends a strong signal about the importance of fulfilling the pledges countries made under the Terezin Declaration,” he said. “Countries have a moral obligation to ensure that workable property restitution laws are put in place, and we hope that they will respond by reaffirming their commitment to providing justice for the remaining survivors, their families and Jewish communities as a matter of urgency.”

Polish-born British Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott also emphasized the importance of the issue, saying that “committing to a substantial, broad and coordinated program of restitution goes some way to recognizing the suffering, anguish and torment that occurred directly to those Jews present at the time, and the damage it caused for generations afterwards.”

The conference was attended by members of the European Parliament, diplomats, leaders of international Jewish organizations and European Jewish communities as well as Holocaust survivors.

Nikki Haley (Feminist, Zionist, Freemason) urges UN to shift its criticism from Israel to Iran

http://www.timesofisrael.com/nikki-haley-urges-un-to-shift-its-criticism-from-israel-to-iran/

 

UNITED NATIONS — It’s high time the United Nations Security Council set its sights on Iran, rather than Israel, United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Thursday during the Security Council’s monthly meeting on “the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”

“Every month the Security Council convenes a meeting on the Middle East. We have lots of meetings on specific countries and conflicts in this region but this debate is our opportunity to talk about the Middle East as a whole. Regrettably, these monthly meetings routinely turn into Israel-bashing sessions. That’s the way the Security Council has operated for years. It’s a formula that is absurdly biased against one country. It’s a formula that is painfully narrow in its description of the conflicts in the region,” said Haley, who is this month’s president of the Security Council.

In her remarks before the 15-member council, Haley condemned Iran, which she said is responsible for regional tumult, from meddling in Yemen and Syria, to its support of Hezbollah.

“Iran is using Hezbollah to expand its regional aspirations. That is a threat that should be dominating our discussions at the Security Council,” she said.

Since Haley assumed her post in January with the promise that there “is a new sheriff in town,” she has repeatedly chastised the UN for what she says is its Israel obsession and anti-Israel bias.

United Nations Security Council meeting, April 20, 2017. (UN/Rick Bajornas)

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who also addressed the meeting, welcomed Haley’s efforts to redirect the council’s attention. Like Haley, Danon spoke out against what he said was increased Iranian aggression in the region.

“Where there is terror, where there is death, there is Iran. Teheran is an accomplice in the atrocities taking place every single day in Syria. The Iranian proxy Hezbollah places its weapons in homes, mosques and hospitals in Lebanon, and in Gaza, Hamas has spent millions of Iranian dollars on rockets, guns and digging terror tunnels,” he said.

Moreover, Danon told the council, Iran not only threatens the region through proxies, it threatens the region directly with its continued ballistic missile tests, “which are in direct defiance this Council…The Iranians have not hidden their intentions. Just two days ago they wrote on one of their missiles: ‘Death to Israel.’”

Israel ambassador Danny Danon speaks at the United Nations Security Council meeting, April 20, 2017. (UN Photo / Rick Bajornas)

Perhaps in a sign that Haley’s suggestion is being heeded, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, expanded the scope of his remarks beyond the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to include Syria, the millions of displaced, Hezbollah and the Islamic State group.

“Today a perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East and continues to threaten international peace and security. Millions have been displaced in the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. In many countries, societies have fractured along ethnic or religious lines. Non-state actors have taken control of territory, and terror attacks have spread indiscriminately striking civilians of all origin and confession,” Mladenov said.

The Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour said “the Palestinian-Israel conflict is about the denial of a people’s unalienable right to freedom. It is not a conflict arising out of incitement for terror.”

The Ukrainian ambassador, Volodymyr Yelchenko, made brief remarks about the Palestinians and Israel, repeating Haley’s assertion that peace would only be achieved through direct negotiations, before going on to discuss IS and Syria.

Haley’s effort to redirect the council’s gaze faces the opposition of many council members — including France, Russia and Sweden — which ignored her rebuke and spent the majority of their floor time speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Additionally, any resolution against Iran would likely not pass as Russia, which is closely aligned with Iran, is one of five permanent members that hold veto power in the Security Council.

JEWISH GROUP URGES UNESCO TO REJECT ANTISEMITIC QATARI CANDIDATE

 

UNESCO should reject the candidacy of former Qatari minister of culture Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari for its director- general, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s European Office has said.

Al-Kawari is one of nine candidates under consideration to replace Irina Bokova, who has headed the organization since 2009.

 

On Friday, Shimon Samuels, international relations director at the Wiesenthal Center, wrote to UNESCO’s Executive Board chairman Michael Worbs, saying that when Al-Kawari was culture minister, Qatar sold texts at the Frankfurt Book fair that “fomented” conspiracy theories against Jews.

“Mr. Chairperson, he who apparently endorses the language of [the Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph] Goebbels must not head the intellectual arm of the United Nations. We expect you to advise the Executive Board accordingly,” said Samuels.

He added that Qatar supported UN resolutions on Jerusalem that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

UNESCO’s executive board is expected to interview all the candidates in Paris on April 27 and 28. A secret ballot will be held at its October meeting. Another secret ballot to affirm the nomination will be held at the body’s general conference in November.

Three of the nine under consideration are women: Moushira Khattab of Egypt; Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilh of Lebanon; and Audrey Azoulay of France.

The other five are: Polad Bulbuloglu of Azerbaijan; Pham Suan Shon of Vietnam; Qian Tang of China; Juan Alfonso Fuentes Soria of Guatemala; and Saleh Al-Hasnawi of Iraq.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was established in large part to focus on preserving cultural heritage sites around the world.

But the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states have pushed anti-Israel resolutions at its board and committee meetings, turning them into diplomatic battle grounds for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2011, UNESCO was the first UN body to recognize Palestine as a state.

Reform movement urges synagogues to protect immigrants facing deportation

(JTA) — The Reform movement called on its member synagogues to protected undocumented immigrants facing deportation from the United States.

The Union for Reform Judaism issued a resolution Friday recommending that its congregations provide shelter and legal assistance, as well as material, financial or educational support to at-risk immigrants.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who heads the movement’s policy arm, the Religious Action Center, implored synagogues not already aiding immigrants to start doing so.

“Today, we urge congregations to protect undocumented immigrants facing deportation by adopting a plan for providing resources, temporary shelter, legal assistance, or other forms of support to those in need,” Pesner said in a Friday statement. “There are Reform synagogues in communities nationwide that are already supporting and protecting undocumented immigrants facing deportation within their communities, and with this resolution we hope growing numbers will join this holy work.”

Also this week, the Union for Reform Judaism was among more than 50 co-sponsors of a Jewish rally for refugees in Washington, D.C. Nearly 800 people attended the rally organized by HIAS, a refugee resettlement group formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Donald Trump made ending illegal immigrants a central part of his presidential campaign, and as president he has directed the government to observe immigration laws more strictly, including deporting undocumented immigrants, even if they have not committed serious crimes.

Clinton urges women to ‘resist’ Trump agenda

SAN FRANCISCO — Emerging from the political shadows months after a devastating presidential campaign loss to Donald Trump, a fiesty Hillary Clinton — while never directly mentioning the occupant of the White House — urged women to “resist, insist, persist and enlist” in the continuing political struggle on key issues like women’s health care and budget priorities.

“I am thrilled to be out of the woods,’’ Clinton told a sold-out, mostly female audience of 6,000 at the Professional Women’s Business Conference in the Moscone Center on Tuesday, who greeted her arrival with cheers and a standing ovation. “And there’s no place I’d rather be,’’ she added wryly, “… other than the White House.”

Her speech in San Francisco, one of the country’s most liberal bastions, comes amid talk of a “comeback” tour for the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, who has become increasingly active in expressing her views on Twitter.

The Washington Post reported this week that Clinton’s formal re-emergence into the political realm will include a speech at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security on Friday at a ceremony to mark an award that is named in her honor. In addition to getting back on the speaking circuit, Clinton has said she’s also taken on a major writing project — a book of essays and inspirational quotations due out this fall.

In San Francisco, the former secretary of state appeared relaxed, and often resorted to self-depreciating humor to address some of the more painful aspects of her failed campaign — even as she leveled veiled jabs at the Trump administration and its policies, particularly those that affect women. But Clinton, in making several references to her “long walks in the woods” in the past months, appeared to signal she’s rested — and ready to take on new issues and draw contrasts with Trump in the public arena.

“Sure, the last few months are not exactly what I’ve envisioned,’’ she told the audience, “but I do know what I’m fighting for — a fairer, inclusive, big-hearted America.”

Clinton was especially animated when she noted high-profile instances of women’s treatment in the months since Trump has taken office — an administration, she said, which has the lowest levels of women’s hiring in a generation.

“Just look at all that’s happened in the last few days — to women who are simply doing their jobs,’’ she said. Referring to an incident in which White House spokesman Sean Spicer reprimanded African-American journalist April Ryan, she noted that Ryan “was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off just trying to ask a question.”

Clinton also cited Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, who on air laughingly dismissed an impassioned House floor speech by Rep. Maxine Waters for wearing “a James Brown wig.” Waters, Clinton said, was “taunted with a racist joke about her hair.”

“Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kind of indignities in stride,’’ she said. “But why should we have to?”

Clinton also cited recent photos making the rounds on social media showing armies of men standing proudly around the president as he is “making decisions about women’s health.”

“How could they not have invited any women to the table?” she said. “It may not be an oversight at all … but an intentional signal: Don’t worry, the men are in charge of everything.”

Urging women to “resist, insist, persist and enlist” in the political struggle, Clinton said Americans must “resist bias and bullying … hate and fear,” and “insist that we can do better, that is who we are … we are always pushing towards that more perfect union.”

In a pointed reference to Trump’s “American carnage” inauguration speech, she said: “Where some see a dark vision of carnage, I see a light shining on opportunity and creativity.”

“We saw that the day after the Inauguration, when women and men from all walks of life marched … the biggest march in our country’s history,’’ she said. “Afterward, there were plenty of people who wondered whether that level of enthusiasm could be sustained.’’

But Clinton called the run-up to the defeat of the Trump administration’s health care bill last week “the first indication” that the answer is yes.

She said the Republican Congress trying to “jam through a [health care] bill that would have kicked 24 million people off their health insurance,’’ was “met with a wave of resistance.”

And “when this disastrous bill failed, it was a victory for all Americans,’’ she said. Clinton added in warning, “but the other side never quits. Sooner or later they’ll try again.’’

“We will need to fight back” against “bad policies that will hurt our people and take our country in the wrong direction.”

“Obviously the outcome of the election wasn’t one I hoped for,’’ she told the audience. “But I will not stop speaking out” for issues and ideas that will improve the lives of average Americans, she said.

An appearance in California virtually guaranteed a supportive crowd for her re-emergence into the political realm: last November, the Democratic candidate clobbered Trump here by 4.2 million votes in November, or a nearly 2-1 margin.

And San Francisco, an exceedingly friendly turf that the former candidate tapped dozens of times for political fundraising, is also home to Susie Tompkins Buell, one of Clinton’s most longtime and loyal friends, who later shared the stage with her in a conversation at the PBWC event.

Buell, at the close, declared Clinton officially back in the limelight. “It’s clear you’re out of the woods, for us,’’ she told Clinton. “I always knew you would be. Nobody’s going to take you down.”

Rights group urges Jordan to bar or arrest Sudan’s Bashir

AMMAN, Jordan — Human Rights Watch urged Jordan on Sunday to deny entry to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir or arrest him over alleged war crimes in Darfur if he visits this week.

Bashir has reportedly been invited to a summit of the Arab League to take place in Jordan on Wednesday.

“Jordan should deny entry to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir or arrest him if he enters the country,” the New York-based rights group said in a statement.

The Sudanese president is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide related to the conflict in Darfur.

The Hague-based court issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010, but he has so far evaded arrest and steadfastly denies the charges.

“Jordan would be defying its international obligations as an ICC member if it allows Bashir to visit without arresting him,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at HRW.

The conflict in Darfur, a region the size of France, erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalizing the region economically and politically.

At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and another 2.5 million displaced since the conflict erupted, the United Nations says.

In 2015, South Africa refused to arrest Bashir when he attended an African Union summit there, claiming he had immunity as the head of an AU member state.

The ICC is to hold a public hearing on April 7 to probe whether South Africa — a signatory to the Rome Statute of the world war crimes court — failed in its duty in refusing to do so.

ADL URGES UN TO RECALL ‘BIASED’ REPORT TERMING ISRAEL ‘APARTHEID REGIME’

 

NEW YORK – The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday urged the UN to immediately recall a UN agency’s “hostile and biased” that accuses Israel of being an “apartheid regime.”

The 74-page document, published by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on Wednesday, points a finger at Israel for racial discrimination toward Palestinians.

“Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole,” the report states.

This was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge, angering Israeli officials who compared the report to the Third Reich’s wildly antisemitic Der Sturmer newspaper.

“Rather than provide constructive analysis about Israeli policy in the West Bank, this report is rife with outrageous accusations of criminality and apartheid practices, and reflects the biased agenda of the authors,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on Thursday. “This report does not meet any reasonable standard of judiciousness or constructive analysis about Israeli policy or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The ADL praised the office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for distancing itself from the report.

A spokesman for the UN chief said on Wednesday that the report was released without any consultation with the United Nations Secretariat, and that as it stands, it does not reflect the views of the secretary- general.

Both Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and his US counterpart, Nikki Haley, had called on the secretary-general to make this clear.

ESCWA, headquartered in Beirut, is composed of 18 Arab states in Western Asia and aims to support economic and social development in member states, according to its website. The report was prepared at the request of member states.

Trump Urges Supporters to Unite Behind G.O.P. Health Plan

NASHVILLE — President Trump made a plea on Wednesday for his supporters to unite behind the Republican plan to overhaul Americans’ health care as the only way to squelch Democratic attempts to scuttle the plan. At the same time, facing resistance to the bill from within his own party, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said it would be refined and improved.

“We want Americans to be able to purchase the health insurance plans they want, not the plans forced on them by our government,” Mr. Trump told about 10,000 supporters at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. He spoke against the backdrop of a giant American flag to a crowd dotted with red trucker caps bearing his signature slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“We’re going to all get together, we’re going to get something done,” Mr. Trump said. “Remember this: If we didn’t do it the way we’re doing it, we’d need 60 votes, so we’d have to get the Democrats involved. So we’re doing it a different way, a complex way.”

“It’s going to be fine,” Mr. Trump added.

The remarks were a nod to the complicated and politically risky approach Republicans have taken in pushing through legislation to repeal the health care law. The House plan championed by Mr. Ryan is coming under strain amid resistance, both from conservative Republicans concerned it is too close to Obamacare and from moderates who fear it will provide insufficient coverage for Americans who lack health insurance.

Mr. Ryan, fighting to keep the measure on track, said Wednesday that he was making “some necessary improvements and refinements” to the package to answer the concerns, which intensified this week after the Congressional Budget Office released a report estimating that the legislation would increase the number of people without health insurance by 24 million by 2026.

“Now that we have a score, we can incorporate feedback to improve this bill, to refine this bill, and those kinds of conversations are occurring between the White House, the House and the Senate, and our members,” Mr. Ryan said.

Previously, the speaker had referred to the measure as a “binary choice,” suggesting that Republicans must accept what many of them see as a flawed bill or lose the opportunity to enact a health care overhaul.

Mr. Trump has thrown his full support behind the legislation but is plainly concerned that the arcane legislative process will prompt a backlash that could undermine his presidency.

“If we’re not going to take care of the people, I’m not signing anything,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday evening in an interview with Fox News. “I’m not going to be doing it, just so you understand.”

He said he considered himself “an arbitrator” for Republican factions warring over the bill, and, asked whether the measure was the best his party could offer, said, “I think we’re going to have negotiation.”

Mr. Trump made his case on health care as he prepared to unveil a budget on Thursday that is expected to slash scores of domestic programs and illuminate his vision for radically scaling back the government.

“We have proposed a budget that will shrink the bloated federal bureaucracy — and I mean bloated — while protecting our national security,” Mr. Trump said, to cheers from his audience.

But even as he sought to focus on his own agenda during the second campaign rally of his young presidency, Mr. Trump was being drawn into yet another controversy over his travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries. Just before he was scheduled to take the stage in Nashville, Mr. Trump learned that a district judge in Hawaii had blocked the second iteration of his executive order, and the president took the stage fuming about the setback.

“This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach,” Mr. Trump said during his speech. “We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court. We’re going to win.”

Wednesday was supposed to provide a respite for Mr. Trump from the questions and controversies that have consumed him in Washington in recent days. He left behind a capital astir over his allegation that President Barack Obama tapped his phone during the fall campaign, after a top Republican said there was no evidence to back up the claim.

As he strode to Marine One in the morning, he ignored questions shouted by reporters about the leak on Tuesday of a portion of his 2005 tax return, which returned the spotlight to his refusal, unprecedented among recent presidents, to release any portion of his tax returns.

Mr. Trump traveled to Detroit for a speech to automakers highlighting his move to halt Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, arguing that stripping away regulations would allow the manufacture of more cars in the United States.

His decision to hold a rally in Nashville suggested a desire to reach beyond his core supporters. While he won the state of Tennessee handily — claiming 61 percent in the state to Hillary Clinton’s 35 percent — he was deeply unpopular in Nashville, the seat of a largely urban county where he won only one-third of the vote.

But the event contained no glimmer of outreach. It was a raucous re-enactment of the fiery and hyperpartisan rallies that powered his 2016 campaign, complete with Mr. Trump vowing repeatedly to “build that wall” on the southern border — a refrain his supporters chanted loudly in response — and a dig at Mrs. Clinton. He also paused for several moments to allow shouts of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” to echo throughout the hall.

Before the rally, Mr. Trump paid homage to a former American president whom he has often invoked as a kindred spirit, stopping to lay a wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson at his home, the Hermitage, to honor Mr. Jackson’s 250th birthday. Mr. Trump, who has styled himself a populist even thought he advocates many policies sought by corporate interests, has often mentioned his admiration for Jackson, who is also considered a fighter for the working man.

“It was during the Revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite. Does that sound familiar?” Trump told a crowd gathered in front of the Hermitage.

Liberman urges US to cut ties with Israel-bashing UN bodies

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday asked US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reconsider American support for the United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, as well as for the UN Human Rights Council.

During a meeting at the State Department, Liberman urged Tillerson to consider quitting the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and to stop funding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA.

The agencies do not fulfill their mission, he told the secretary, according to readout of the meeting issued by Liberman’s office. “Instead, the Human Rights Council deals with demonizing Israel and with efforts to harm it by distorting reality.”

He said it was unacceptable that 60 percent of the council’s resolutions targeted Israel instead of dealing with the dire human rights situation in Iran or North Korea or Syria.

Last week, the US envoy to the Human Rights Council, Erin Barclay, criticized the council for its outsize focus on Israel.

“Regrettably, too many of the actions of this council do not support these universal principles. Indeed, they contradict them,” she said.

“No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item… The obsession with Israel… is the largest threat to this council’s credibility,” added Barclay, a career diplomat. “It limits the good we can accomplish by making a mockery of this council. The United States will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel.”

Israel has claimed that almost all the Gazan employees of UNRWA are members of the Hamas terrorist group.

US envoy Erin Barclay addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council March 1, 2017 (Screen capture: UNHRC)

US envoy Erin Barclay addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council March 1, 2017 (Screen capture: UNHRC)

On Tuesday it was reported that an employee of the body, Muhammad al-Jamassi, was elected to Hamas’s political bureau, the top governing body of the terrorist organization the rules the Strip.

Jamassi has held various positions within Hamas since 2007, including in the group’s public relations department and its affiliated charities, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

He currently serves as board chairman for the UNRWA engineering department in central Gaza, and oversees all off the agency’s infrastructure projects in the area.

Another UNRWA employee, Suhail al-Hindi, a teacher heading the agency’s employee union in Gaza, was suspended by the organization after he was elected to a top leadership position in Hamas.

Liberman, who met with Vice President Pence on Tuesday, was set to meet with Congressman and National Security Adviser H.R. Macmaster later on Wednesday.