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Media Summary

Begum says she should be allowed back as UK let 400 jihadis return

The Financial Times reports that Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, began meeting representatives from the country’s political parties on Monday; the first step towards the formation of a government following last week’s elections. The 11 parties that won seats in the Knesset sat down individually with Rivlin in order of size, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which emerged from the often-bitter contest as the winner with 36 seats. “The Israeli elections are over, but have not been completed,” Rivlin said at the start of his meeting with the Likud officials. “We are here today in order to begin the process, which is meant to reflect the will of the citizens of the state.” Once chosen, the candidate has a month to assemble a coalition that can command a parliamentary majority.

The Independent reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded a decision by the International Criminal Court not to investigate US forces in Afghanistan for possible war crimes, calling the probe “absurd”. The Hague-based body decided on Friday to reject a full-blown investigation into the conduct of Taliban, Afghan and international soldiers in the country since 2003, claiming that to do so would “not serve the interests of justice”. With its limited budget, the court needed to prioritise resources on “activities that would have a better chance to succeed”, the judges added. “To put on trial US or Israeli troops, or the State of Israel and the United States, is absurd,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting. “This is the opposite of the original purpose of the International Criminal Court.”

The Times reports that two lions rescued from appalling conditions at a zoo in the Gaza Strip have been rehoused in South Africa. Motan and Pisa, a male and a female, were flown from Rafah to the Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary in Free State province, which specialises in caring for traumatised animals. Forty-five other creatures, including three young lions and two wolves, were taken to a sanctuary in Jordan.

In the Guardian, Osama Gaweesh, an Egyptian TV presenter living in exile in the UK, writes: “No one believes this vote will be fair”. Gaweesh argues that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has blocked access to opposition websites, introduced draconian penalties and vowed to punish journalists ahead of Egypt’s referendum on proposed constitutional amendments. Amongst the amendments which Sisi is trying to force on the Egyptian people is a provision which could allow him to remain in power until 2034. The amendments would also increase the control of the military,who would be given powers to police the political sphere in Egypt, and would give Sisi control over the appointment of judges and the public prosecutor.

The Telegraph reports that Shamima Begum is to claim she must be allowed to return to the UK because Theresa May has already allowed 400 jihadists to return from Syria without revoking their citizenship. Lawyers for the ‘jihadi bride’ are expected to argue in a taxpayer-funded legal challenge that the action is disproportionate and discriminatory. Tasnime Akunjee, a lawyer who has represented Begum’s family since 2015, said: “There are 400 people who have returned, arguably in more culpable circumstances than her.” Most of the 400 Britons returned around five years ago when May was Home Secretary and were investigated by police and security services. Some were prosecuted, some put in deradicalisation programmes, and a “significant proportion” assessed as not being a national security concern.

In the Telegraph, Colonel Richard Kemp writes: “We urgently need a new legal process for returning ISIL members like Shamima Begum”. Kemp argues that we can no longer prioritise the human rights of terrorists above the lives of innocent victims. Around 400 Islamic State terrorists are known to have returned to the UK so far — with more to come. Of these only around 50 have been successfully prosecuted, he writes, adding that it is not just about failure of justice. It also weakens deterrence against potential terrorists and endangers our citizens. The most dangerous terrorists are those that have been trained, motivated, blooded and have themselves killed.

The Guardian, Independent and Telegraph report that the revelation that a New Zealand nurse is alive and has been detained in Syria for five years has prompted tensions between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the New Zealand government, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticising the aid agency for releasing details of the woman’s abduction. The Guardian reports that on Monday the New York Times, in conjunction with the ICRC, revealed that New Zealander Louisa Akavi, 63, had been abducted along with two Syrian colleagues on 13 October 2013. The trio have now been held hostage for longer than anyone in the 156-year history of the group. New Zealand’s domestic media learned of the abduction in 2013 but were asked by the government not to publish any stories relating to the kidnapping in case it put the group’s safety at risk. At her weekly press conference, Ardern repeatedly refused to comment on the missing New Zealander and said the government remained of the opinion that the nurse’s name and situation should not have been made public.

Reuters reports that according to the country’s media, Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak held talks with US President Donald Trump on Monday and he said Trump took a “reasonable” stance regarding Turkey’s planned purchase of a Russian air defence missile system. Ankara’s plan to buy the S-400 system has fuelled tensions between the NATO allies and Washington has said Ankara could face sanctions over the issue. Turkey’s defence minister called on Monday for issues to be resolved through dialogue. Albayrak, who is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, said he met on Monday with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law.

Reuters reports that on Monday, Britain said that the United Nations’ Security Council should consider “stronger measures” if there was no progress in the coming weeks on a deal between Yemen’s warring parties on a key port, as the UN mediator admitted it was “taking longer than we had hoped.” In an illustration of the delay, UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the council both sides had accepted a detailed operational plan for step one in a withdrawal of forces from the Red Sea port and city of Hodeidah – two months after the world body announced an initial deal on that measure. “Let us be clear that when – and I hope it is when, not if – these redeployments happen they will be the first voluntary withdrawals of forces in this long conflict,” Griffiths told the 15-member council, adding: “Of course it has taken longer than we had hoped but that it should happen at all is extremely welcome.”

Haaretz reports that scientists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have printed the world’s first 3-D heart, complete with blood vessels, using personalized “ink” made of collagen, a protein that supports the cell structures, and other biological molecules. The extraordinary breakthrough was reported on Monday by lead scientists Prof Tal Dvir, Dr Assaf Shapira of TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Nadav Noor, his doctoral student, in advanced science.

Maariv and Haaretz report on the future government coalition. Avigdor Lieberman said last night that he would recommend that the President ask Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the next Government and he would demand the defence and immigration portfolios in the coalition negotiations. Lieberman is expected to insist that the military conscription law be adopted in full. Lieberman said: “We will sign a coalition agreement only after I have seen the agreement that Netanyahu is consolidating with the Haredim and not one minute beforehand…If it means giving up the law and going into the opposition, or holding new elections, we are ready.”

Maariv reports that the ultra-Orthodox parties (Shas and UTJ) together with the United Right are forming a united front in the coalition negotiations against Lieberman’s demands. MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said that the three parties would present an identical and uncompromising position on important principles such as the status of yeshiva students, the sanctity of the Sabbath and upholding the status quo. Gafni said: “If our positions are not accepted, no coalition will be formed. It is unthinkable that Lieberman, with five seats, pose conditions to three parties that are larger than his…We will not, under any circumstances, accept what Avigdor Lieberman wants. We will not compromise on this and will not be willing to listen to anything. If he insists on this, there will be no coalition.”

Discussing Lieberman’s situation, Ben Caspit in Maariv writes that: “When he says that he will not hesitate to be in the opposition and drag Israel into new elections if a single comma is moved in the military conscription law (which passed a first reading), he means every word. This issue is his causus belli. He will make no concessions on it, and he has reason to believe that the Haredim will blink first. In the end, after many good people sweated for a generation on the conscription issue, it will be Lieberman who delivers the goods… He knows that he has only five seats, but he understands very well that Netanyahu does not have a government without him. He knows that Bibi knows that he is capable of going crazy at the last moment and walking away, just like he did in 2015.”

Maariv reports that the international opposition to the so called Trump peace plan is strengthening, to the point of rejecting it before it has even been presented. Based on conversations with senior diplomats at UN headquarters in New York, an “opposition coalition,” as one deputy head of a Western delegation called it, is coalescing. This coalition includes the main Western world powers, a large majority of the EU countries, and the Persian Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia. “I would not be exaggerating if I were to say that there is near consensus about mistrust of the peace initiative,” he said. “From what we can learn from the reports, this plan is an arrangement between the United States and Israel. He will give the Palestinians money, and he will promise Israel that it can continue to rule the territories,” said the diplomat. According to reports at UN headquarters, senior European officials, including leaders of major countries and former foreign ministers, recently approached the EU leadership and recommended that it announce its opposition to the peace plan in advance if it did not contain the two-state solution.

Yediot Ahronoth reports that the Prisons Service has reached an agreement with Security Prisoners on hunger strike. The prisoners said they had reached a compromise over Israel’s use of technology to jam the use of cell phones by prisoners in security wings in Israeli prisons. The prisoners reported that Israel had agreed to the installation of public telephones in the wings, to speak to their relatives, which is to be carried out under the supervision of Israeli security agencies.

In Haaretz, Amos Harel argues that “Sinwar’s comments [at a meeting between him the leaders of other Palestinian factions a few days before Israel’s election], the negotiations to end the hunger strike and the state of affairs on the Israel-Gaza border all attest that the parties are serious about achieving long-term calm. In clashes in the latest Friday weekly protests on the border, one Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli fire and dozens of protesters were injured, but the intensity of the violence was less than in the past. Night-time protests along the border have also died down in the last couple of weeks, as has the launch of incendiary balloons and kites from the Strip into Israel.”

Kan Radio reports that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was willing to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu without preconditions if Russia were to sponsor the meeting. He also said that the Palestinians would not accept a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that did not include an independent Palestinian state.

Haaretz reports that a member of a Jewish-Arab non-profit group, the Abraham Fund Initiatives, was held up at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Saturday night before her return flight to San Francisco. Laura Mandel told Haaretz that during her security check she was asked, among other questions: “Why an American Jew would be interested in relations between Jews and Arabs.”