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Media Summary

Brazilian meat exports could be hit by Jerusalem Embassy move

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Reuters, the FT, the Guardian and the Daily Mail report that the Israel Police on Thursday recommended bribery charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer and five other suspects over a $2bn (£1.bn) sale of German Thyssenkrupp submarines to Israel. Netanyahu was questioned by police in the investigation but, in a statement announcing its conclusion, police reiterated that the Prime Minister is not a suspect. The deal for three submarines and four patrol vessels has been the subject of a corruption investigation since 2016 after Israel’s Channel 10 TV reported that David Shimron, Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and a distant relative, also represented the local agent of Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, raising concerns of a conflict of interest. The FT reports that even though Netanyahu was questioned by police in what is called ‘Case 3000,’ he was not a suspect. Nevertheless, the allegation that people in his inner circle were receiving bribes raises the political stakes for him as he prepares for elections next year. The Daily Mail reports that the Israel Police said Thursday there was evidence to charge a lawyer for Prime Minister Netanyahu with bribery in a corruption probe, one of several cases that have put the premier’s long tenure in office under the spotlight. Besides Shimron, police said the former chief of Netanyahu’s office, David Sharan, is also suspected of bribery, as is the former head of the navy, Eliezer Marom. Two other navy ex-generals were named as being suspected of similar offences, as was former minister Eliezer Zandberg. Referring to Shimron, Netanyahu’s family lawyer who is also a relative of the premier, police said “there is evidence that he committed bribery offences and money laundering”. There was however “insufficient evidence” against another of Netanyahu’s lawyer and long-time associate, Yitzhak Molcho. The Guardian reports that Police said on Thursday they had found sufficient evidence to charge David Shimron, Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and relative, over his role in pushing the government to buy nuclear-capable submarines. Shimron was suspected of promoting the sale from ThyssenKrupp “while using his status and closeness to the prime minister and public officials,” police said. The lawyer had received suspicions payments amounting to 270,000 shekels (£56,000) which were defined as a “reward for success” and for “opening the doors”. The lawyer received the money from an Israeli businessman, Michael Ganor, who has since turned state witness in a deal that will see him serve 12 months in prison.

Reuters report that a proposal by Brazil’s president-elect to relocate its embassy in Israel, following US President Donald Trump’s lead, may set off a diplomatic storm in the Muslim world, threatening a key market for the world’s largest meat companies. Brazil is by far the world’s largest exporter of halal meat, which complies with Muslim dietary rules. President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to move Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, strengthening relations with Israel, has already upset Egypt and could soon stir trouble with other Islamic nations. “The reaction will be given not only as an individual country but on behalf of the whole Muslim world,” a Turkish diplomatic source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “We are expecting Brazil to act with reason and not confront the Muslim world.” Brazil exports $16bn annually to the Middle East and Turkey, with just 3 per cent going to Israel, according to government statistics.

The Daily Mail reports that a Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during clashes along the border of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the health ministry in the coastal enclave said. Israel’s military said soldiers opened fire after “several suspects were spotted approaching the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip and attempting to sabotage it”.

Reuters reports that Israel’s intelligence minister said on Thursday, after a visit to Oman, that Israel and Gulf Arab states should cooperate on aviation security and other civilian areas such as transportation, commercial aviation and tourism. Yisrael Katz, who is also transport minister, was in the Omani capital Muscat this week attending a transportation conference. His visit came less than two weeks after a rare visit to the Gulf state by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said. “In my view cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states can and should be expanded” Katz told Reuters. “Israel also has a lot to offer when it comes to water desalination and irrigation, agriculture and medicine.”

The Daily Mail reports that Saudi Arabia’s leading government-financed think tank is looking into the possible effects on oil markets of a breakup of OPEC. The move comes amid growing pressure on the Saudi Government, including from US President Trump, who has accused the cartel of hiking up oil prices.

The Express reports that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia went on a furious rant about his treatment by the international community after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi when addressing a delegation in the Middle Eastern country last week. He was addressing a group of American evangelicals when he made the comments. The Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was met with a barrage of criticism from around the world after Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, went missing last month, with Turkey accusing bin Salman of authorising his torture and murder.

Reuters reports that President Trump’s strategy to contain Iranian power in the Middle East by forging Arab allies into a US-backed security alliance faces fresh complications. The Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) aims to bind Sunni Muslim governments in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan in a US-led security, political and economic pact to counter Iran. But feuds among Arab allies, especially a Saudi-led economic and political boycott of Qatar, have hampered the founding of the alliance since Riyadh proposed it last year. A summit meeting in the US where Trump and the Arab leaders would sign a preliminary accord on the alliance was expected in January. However three US sources and a Gulf diplomat said the meeting now looks uncertain. It has already been postponed several times, they added.

The Guardian reports that upcoming parliamentary elections in Bahrain have been deprived of any legitimacy by a ban on opposition parties. Legislators in the US, UK, Ireland and the European parliament have sent four separate letters calling on the country to end repression. Bahrain is due to hold elections on 24 November for the Council of Representatives of Bahrain’s national assembly.

The Israeli media is dominated by reports that the Israel Police have recommended indictments in the ‘Case 3000’ submarine purchase scandal. The police recommended indicting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attorney, David Shimron, and his former chief of staff, David Sharan. The police have also recommended that the former Navy commander, Eliezer Marom, and the former acting National Security Council director, Avriel Bar-Yosef, be indicted. If indicted, the suspects will face charges such as bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Ben Caspit writes in Maariv: “Anyone who knows the nature of the familial-intimate relationship between Netanyahu and Shimron, which is decades long, realises that it is impossible that Netanyahu could have pushed for three submarines that the security establishment doesn’t need (right now) over the head of his defence minister, without his knowing that one of the main benefactors of this strategic deal is his cousin.” He concludes: “I, as usual, will have to remain in the negligible minority that thinks that Netanyahu is the main person behind the entire affair.” Yediot Ahronot prominently runs two contradictory opinions. Yoaz Hendel writes: “Netanyahu can distance himself from David Shimron—the man who knows everything and is involved in everything, but he can no longer say that there is nothing. He is not to blame for the affair, but he is responsible for what takes place in his surroundings.” Conversely, Shlomo Petrkovsky states that Netanyahu is “truly not part of this story,” and explains that “the prime minister did not know and he also could not have known because it was in the interest of all of his close associates who were part of this alleged global conspiracy—and it is important to stress of course that these are still only suspicions—that Netanyahu know nothing”.

Amos Harel in Haaretz writes: “Hovering over everyone is Prime Minister Netanyahu, who apparently knows everything and nothing. There’s a long list of suspects and interrogees embroiled in the submarine affair, many of whom are close to the prime minister to some degree. Some, the police announcement implies, are exploiting their ties in government to cut a hefty personal coupon. And Netanyahu? Not only did he hear nothing of any of this, he wasn’t even questioned under caution in the affair – even as the list of his assistants, associates cronies embroiled in criminal activity kept growing.” He then asks a series of unanswered questions, “1. During the investigation, suspicions of a secondary serious affair arose: Germany agreed to sell advanced submarines to Egypt after Israel rescinded its objections. It seems, however, that the political and professional echelons at the Defence Ministry, then-Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and his diplomatic branch leader, Amos Gilead, were bypassed. Did somebody high up compromise on Israeli security for personal gains? Or were there other considerations? The police aren’t saying. 2. During the negotiations with the German shipyard, the Israel Navy significantly changed its requirements for the ships it needed and finally decided to buy much bigger, better and more expensive ones, arguing that they could help defend Israel’s offshore gas rigs.  But an inquiry by Haaretz found that the navy intended to use the boats for that purpose only part of the time. Meanwhile, it turns out that the state wanted to station the gas rigs nearer to shore – the drilling itself is deep under water and doesn’t need protection. Were all those considerations ‘clean’? And what does this have to do with deals for Israel to sell gas, in which some of the suspects were involved? 3. How did the defence establishment’s biggest and most important deals become tainted by such corruption in the first place? Why didn’t alarm bells go off in the relevant Defence Ministry offices?”

Yediot Ahronot reports that President Reuven Rivlin greeted school children from the Gaza periphery who marched 100km to Jerusalem over the last five days. He told the group: “I came to march with you on behalf of every citizen of Israel who is following you and is marching with you in spirit. Happy is the people whose young people march at its head, and happy are the parents who raised their children with such a feeling of national pride, of love of the country, of such a meaningful connection to our wonderful country. You are not the young people of the area around Gaza, you are the young people that embraces the whole country. We hear your call and it breaks our hearts. I promise you: we will not, and we must not, let the Code Red alarm become a routine. Red will remain the colour of the wildflowers that grow in the area.”

Israel Hayom interviews the two candidates in the run off to become Mayor of Jerusalem. Ofer Berkovitch, the young secular candidate is quoted: “My plan is the most serious in understanding the central issues of the city: economic strength, the cleaning revolution, the promotion of public transportation, construction of homes for young families…. I am much more experienced than Leon at the municipal level. I was the deputy mayor, I served as chairman of the municipality’s finance committee, the cultural portfolio, the youth portfolio….This is not a confrontation between me and Leon, it’s a confrontation between me and Gafni and Deri (the Ultra-orthodox leaders)  He is a puppet… I have come to work for everyone fairly. Leon is a captive of Gafni and Deri.” The other candidate, Moshe Leon, says: “I have a very high chance of winning and I hope that’s what it will be, but you have to bring the people to the polls and not think that the victory is in your pocket … I cannot be smug, I’m quite calm from the elections, but I have to work, nothing is taken for granted…. The second round will prove that I have very broad support from the public that is not ultra-Orthodox….It is important for me to reduce the ultra-Orthodox tension, to stop the negative migration from the city, to deal as much as possible with the construction of housing units for young people and to deal with the serious problem of cleanliness.”

Yediot Ahronot reports on the Qatari money entering Gaza as part of the truce agreement and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s increasingly vocal criticism of the agreement. “In the recent period, Lieberman has not concealed his adamant opposition to any kind of truce arrangement with Hamas, and mainly to the authorisation that Israel gave Qatar to transfer money into the Gaza Strip. The Defence Minister was also the only security cabinet member who attacked the transfer of funds both in closed-door meetings and in the media. Yesterday, in discussions with senior Defence Ministry officials, Lieberman spoke in sharp terms, saying: “This is a capitulation to terrorism, and in effect Israel is buying short-term calm with money, while severely undermining long-term security.”

Yediot Ahronot reports that Economy Minister Eli Cohen from Kulanu has been invited to Bahrain to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Network. Senior government officials from all over the world are expected to attend the conference to identify new policy tools that will boost technology initiatives. The invitation follows recent visits by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to Oman, Culture Minister Miri Regev’s trip to Abu Dhabi and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara visit to Dubai.