The BBC reports on the continued killings in Syria, and the death of at least 86 people in yesterday’s attack in Hama province. Today, UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is expected to urge the UN Security Council to create a new contact group to help end the violence. The Independent and the Times report that a bill that would have retroactively legalised settlements built on private Palestinian land was defeated yesterday in the Knesset. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned government ministers that they would be sacked if they voted for the bill. According to rulings by the Supreme Court, five houses on Ulpana Hill near Beit El are to be removed by the end of July. The Guardian reports that the government has approved the construction of 300 new housing units in Beit El in response. The Daily Telegraph reports comments by Netanyahu that the P5+1 group of countries had dropped their demands to ‘practically nothing’ in pursuit of a deal with Iran. The Financial Times notes comments from a cyberwarfare conference in Tel Aviv yesterday. Israeli minister of defence Ehud Barak said that Israel was developing both defensive and offensive capabilities in the field, whilst Russian antivirus expert Eugene Kaspersky warned of the dangers posed by viruses such as Stuxnet and Flame which were deployed against the Iranian nuclear programme. The Independent carries a comment by former MK Avraham Burg in support of differential labelling for settlement produce by UK supermarkets.
Yesterday’s Knesset vote dominates the Israeli media this morning. Maariv notes that the bill was eventually defeated by a large margin of 22 in favour and 69 against. None of the ministers who had threatened to vote for the bill and lose their jobs voted for the bill. Israel Radio reports that the US State Department has criticised Israeli plans for additional construction in the settlements. In addition to the 300 units announced by Netanyahu yesterday, housing minister Ariel Attias of Shas announced plans for 550 new units. In the comment pages, Yediot Ahronot’s Sima Kadmon writes that the result ‘taught the settlers an important lesson in the limits of power’. However, in the same paper, Shimon Shiffer warns ‘it’s best to wait until the end of a political move before giving it high marks’. The Jerusalem Post reports that Palestinian officials were ‘surprised’ by reports of President Obama’s comments earlier in the week that it was ‘possible’ that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was no longer interested in peace. Ynet publishes the finding of an annual poll amongst Arab citizens of Israel. Whilst 68% of those polled said they preferred to live in Israel than in other countries, 71% felt Israel was a good place to live and 60% considered Israel both home and homeland, the Haifa University poll found that 63% believed they suffered from discrimination. Haaretz reports from ‘Palestine Place’, an abandoned building on Gray’s Inn Road in London which has become a hub for pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli activities.