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Media Summary

Galloway charity may not have given Palestinians any aid

BBC News reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Likud MK Amir Ohana as acting Justice Minister. Ohana becomes the the first openly gay man to become a minister in Israel and supports moves to protect Netanyahu from prosecution.

BBC News reports that the UN has condemned the Palestinian Authority after it emerged that ministers in the previous cabinet gave themselves 67 per cent pay rises. Leaked documents showed their monthly salaries were increased in 2017 from $3,000 (£2,360) to $5,000 (£3,930). UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov said such moves “defy logic and anger people” when Palestinians were struggling with economic hardship. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had agreed to end the practice and has ordered an investigation, during which ministers will reportedly receive half their salaries.

The Telegraph and The Times report that Saudi Arabia has been developing its ballistic missile programme with the assistance of China, despite US efforts to limit missile proliferation in the Middle East. Riyadh has been purchasing technology from Beijing to bolster its arsenal as it seeks to counter Iran. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said during a trip to the US in March that if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would “follow suit as soon as possible”. The revelation has prompted concerns of a potential arms race in the region. The missile advancement could mark another step in potential Saudi efforts to deliver a nuclear warhead were it ever to obtain one.

The Financial Times and Reuters has reported that US President Donald Trump has claimed that Iran is failing as a nation after Washington imposed powerful sanctions last year, adding that he could turn that around very quickly in talks with the leadership in Tehran. “When I became president, Iran was a true state of terror. They still are and were undisputed champions of terror,” Trump told reporters before holding bilateral talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and after attending a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. “They are failing as a nation, but I don’t want them to fail as a nation. We can turn that around very quickly but the sanctions have been extraordinary (in) how powerful they have been.”

BBC News, Reuters and The Financial Times report that the UAE has told the UN Security Council that a “state actor” was most likely behind attacks on four tankers within UAE territorial waters east of the emirate of Fujairah. The 12 May attacks bore the hallmarks of a “sophisticated and co-ordinated operation”, according to the UAE. However, the Arab state did not say who it thought was behind the attacks, which also targeted vessels from Saudi Arabia and Norway. The US has accused Iran of carrying out the attack but Tehran denies this and has called for an investigation.

BBC News reports that members of a Belfast City Council have voted to block council representation on a trade mission to Israel. The chair of the Growth and Regeneration Committee has defended the decision, with Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Green Party and People Before Profit opposing the mission on grounds of “ethical trading”. DUP committee member Guy Spence posted a tweet claiming that Council members had “succumbed to the pressure of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement […] an antisemitic campaign that has nothing to offer our city in regards to International Trade other than small-minded hatefulness”.

The Guardian reports that the top commander of American forces in the Midde East, General Frank McKenzie, has claimed that Iran has chosen to “step back and recalculate” after making preparations for an apparent attack against US forces in the Gulf region, though he remained concerned by Iran’s potential for aggression, and he would not rule out requesting additional US forces to bolster defences against Iranian missiles or other weapons. “I don’t actually believe the threat has diminished,” McKenzie said. “I believe the threat is very real.”

The Guardian reports that an investigation from the UK charity regulator has concluded that a charity fronted by former MP George Galloway may not have conducted any charitable activity or distributed any humanitarian aid despite claiming to have gathered £1m in public donations. Viva Palestina was established in early 2009 and launched a large-scale media fundraising campaign to finance aid convoys to Gaza from the UK, bringing food, medicine, medical equipment and essential goods and services.

The Times reports that scientists from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti — Arab countries that do not recognise Israel — as well as Eritrea, Jordan, Egypt and Israel, are uniting to attempt to save Red Sea coral formations from the effects of global warming and development. Ecologists and oceanographers will work together at a research centre, which is the brainchild of Moaz Fine, a marine biologist at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, who works in Eilat, on the Red Sea. It will be based in Berne and overseen by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz report that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced yesterday he was denying the Prime Minister’s request to postpone his hearing a second time and that the Prime Minister’s attorneys must state by Monday whether he intends to show up for the hearing on 2 October, otherwise he will indict him in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court. Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz said: “Netanyahu, who moved up the elections in order to postpone the hearing and halt the proceedings against him, who failed in forming the government and prevented the option of returning the mandate to the president, who himself called elections that are costing more than four billion shekels just in order to evade justice, continues with his evasion tactics from the defendant’s bench at the expense of Israel’s citizens. All of Netanyahu’s moves are directed solely to create obstacles, gain postponements and circumvent the legal process.”

In election related news, Channel 12 News reported that the former justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, met with right-wing figures who have parties registered in their name but did not get into the Knesset. In the meetings Shaked explored whether she would take one of these “shelf parties,” serve as its leader and negotiate from a position of power on a union with the other right-wing parties. Shaked met with Prof. Aryeh Eldad, leader of the Tikva party, and with Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, leader of the Ahi party, which belonged in the past to Effi Eitam. Senior right-wing figures criticised Shaked, saying: “She’s behaving like a right-wing Tzipi Livni. Every day she’s in contact with another party. It feels like she is just looking for a comfortable place to park.”

Maariv and Israel Hayom report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last night with the leaders of the United Right, Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich, in an attempt to appease the latter after giving the Justice Ministry to Likud MK Amir Ohana. Peretz is expected to be appointed education minister and Smotrich will be appointed as transport minister and diaspora affairs minister and will be given membership of the Security Cabinet.

Yedioth Ahronot reports on developments in the Labour Party. MK Stav Shaffir announced last night that she would run for the party leadership in the primary that will take place in early July. She will be joining Amir Peretz, who announced earlier that he would run. MK Itzik Shmuli and Tal Rousso, as well as Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Golan, also said that they were thinking of running. Shaffir, 34, joined the Labour Party after the social protest of 2011 and was one of its leaders. She served in the 19th and 20th Knessets, after twice coming second place in party primaries.

In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev argues that: “To defeat Netanyahu, his rivals have to reinvent themselves, ignore their own interests and think outside the box, which they are currently entrenched in. God himself, for those who believe, hardened Netanyahu’s heart, compelling him to nix his own 9 April victory and risk new elections. Gantz and his colleagues, however, seem shell-shocked. They may talk the talk of fighting for Israel’s future freedom but they walk the walk of those who have defeat and servitude seared into their hearts and, unfortunately, visible on their faces.”

Haaretz also reports that police officer ‘S.’, who fired the first bullets at the car of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, the teacher killed during the evacuation of the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran in January 2017, admitted a few hours after the incident that he did not feel his life was in danger. His remark, made to a Shin Bet security service coordinator, contradicted his testimony to investigators from the Justice Ministry unit that investigates police misconduct. During the incident, Abu al-Kiyan’s vehicle ran into police officers at the scene, killing officer Erez Levy.