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Media Summary

Iran says it will talk to US if sanctions end

BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Financial Times and Reuters report that Iran has summoned the UK ambassador in Tehran to complain about the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker by the British Royal Marines and authorities in Gibraltar. Spain’s acting foreign minister said the seizure of the ship was at the US’s request because of evidence it was heading to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman called the actions a ‘form of piracy’.

Reuters reports that French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has stated that he hoped that the barter trade mechanism set up by the UK, France and Germany with Iran would complete a first, limited transaction in the coming days. Instex aims to avoid direct financial transfers by offsetting balances between importers and exporters on the European side. “We want Instex to enter into force and I hope the first transaction will be completed in a few days,” Le Maire told journalists at a meeting in Poland. The French Foreign Ministry has stated that Instex would become operational based on Iran’s “full compliance with its JCPOA commitments.”

Reuters reports that Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi has said Tehran and Washington could hold talks only if the US ended its sanctions and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave his approval. “Holding talks with America can be reviewed by Iran only If (US President Donald) Trump lifts the sanctions and our supreme leader gives permission to hold such talks,” Alavi said. “Americans were scared of Iran’s military power, that is the reason behind their decision to abort the decision to attack Iran.”

BBC News and Reuters report that the UN says it has received reports that guards fired on migrants who tried to flee air strikes on a detention centre near Tripoli on Tuesday. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said the air strikes could constitute a war crime whilst 53 migrants of predominantly sub-Saharan African origin were killed and 130 injured in the air strikes. The government and an opposing militia have blamed each other for the attack. The Guardian reports that the Libyan government is considering closing all migrant detention centres in the wake of the incident.

In the Independent, Karen DeYoung asserts that the Trump administration is attempting to present a legal justification for military action against Iran: the administration has ‘opened the door to virtually every legal authority it might use to justify an attack, from tying Iran to al-Qaida, to President Donald Trump’s assertion that it would not involve American ground troops and “wouldn’t last very long”’.

In the Financial Times, Najmeh Bozorgmehr argues that support for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in his hometown of Sorkheh, 200km east of Tehran, is waning as food prices have risen in the face of US sanctions: ‘Rouhani needs to tread a careful path […] like his predecessors, he could fall foul of the Islamic establishment and be relegated to the fringes of political debate’.

The Israeli media continues to report the protests by Ethiopian Israelis. Kan Radio says that the parents of Solomon Tekah demanded that the Police Internal Investigations Department hand over images from security cameras at the scene of the shooting and send them routine updates about the investigation. The organisation representing Police officers (NPO) has accused detectives from the Police Internal Investigations Department of telling media that the officer who fatally shot Solomon Tekah was wrong and had opened fire without justification. The NPO demanded that the Justice Ministry prosecute whoever leaked the story.

Maariv reports that social media experts have suggested foreign elements outside of Israel were involved in inciting riots by Ethiopian Israelis, using fake profiles on social media. A network expert with an extensive background in intelligence found a page that has existed for two years and continuously raises allegations about racism against Ethiopian Israelis in order to attain a viral effect. He said: “There are clear signs of coordinated and inauthentic network activity that fuelled the protest of the Ethiopian Israelis…The intention is not, of course, to claim that the protest of the Ethiopian Israeli community is not authentic or justified. The pain is real. But it is also clear that there are elements that are trying to exploit it cynically in order to expand the [social] rift.”

Kan Radio News reports that Israel has taken 18 items off the list of goods that have been prohibited to bring into the Gaza Strip for years. Among other things, the items include agricultural fertilizer and steel cables meant for use in large fishing boats. As part of the relief measures, Gazan businessmen aged 25 and over will be able to enter Israel. The number of businessmen who are allowed to enter Israel has been increased to 5,000, and the range of goods that can be exported from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, Israel and other countries has been expanded.

Haaretz publishes an op-ed by Saeb Erekat who writes: “A few days ago, we witnessed one of the most grotesquely symbolic events ever seen from a US administration: Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and his special envoy Jason Greenblatt, inaugurated an Israeli settler project in the heart of the Palestinian village of Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem, only a few hundred meters away from the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. This was a celebration of colonization par excellence, with settlers, their donors, and their main political supporters all together delivering a triumphal message for their cause.” He adds that “Palestinians will continue using our right to go to international organisations to advance a just and lasting peace, based on entirely ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and the implementation of our inalienable rights, including to self-determination.”

Maariv reports the latest election polls. The Labour Party, led by Amir Peretz together with Ehud Barak’s party would win 14 seats (rather than six seats for Labour and four seats for Barak if they ran separately). The main victims would be Blue and White, which would lose three seats, and Meretz, which is predicted to win four or no seats. In an interview on Kan Radio, Peretz was asked whether he would be willing to forego the role of leader in favour of a merger with Barak. “If it turns out that being number two in Barak’s party will win the most seats – we’ll do it”. Sources close to Peretz told Maariv that he had no intention of conceding first place in advance and that everything hinged on the issue of who would succeed in winning the most seats for the bloc. Peretz is scheduled to meet soon with former Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Gesher chairwoman Orly Levy-Abekasis. The goal is to bring as many forces from the center and the left as possible into the bloc and increase its power. “I intend to meet with everyone next week, from Benny Gantz to Ayman Odeh”, he said.

Yediot Ahronot reports that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the senior religious Zionist rabbis, opposes placing Ayelet Shaked as leader of the Union of Right Wing Parties, and said that women have no place in politics. At the beginning of the week, Aviner, together with other leading rabbis in the national-Haredi stream of religious Zionism, signed a public statement opposing placing a non-religious person in the top spot of the Jewish Home list, and voiced support for Rabbi Rafi Peretz.

Amit Segal of Channel 12 News points out that in 2012 during the primary elections for the Jewish Home party, the Rabbi Aviner voiced enthusiastic support for Shaked and her then-partner Naftali Bennett, whom he defined as “ethical and idealistic,” and called upon people to join the party and vote for them. He said about Shaked at the time: “As for a woman MK and a secular MK, this has precedents,” and added that people should “not focus on the dividing factors in the nation, but rather in the unifying factors, which are much greater.” Naftali Bennett called Aviner’s comments a “desecration of God’s name,” and said: “The place of women in politics and in all areas of society is not in question.” MK Yair Lapid said, “Religious fanatics and chauvinists should not be in politics. Or in the rabbinate, for that matter.” This morning, Shaked tweeted from her holiday in the Canadian Rocky mountains: “A reminder that women can do everything – to trek, to be mothers, to head a political party, be a mayor, run a company and also to be Prime Minister”.

Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth reports on the increasing deficit in the state budget, which in June reached 3.9 per cent of the GDP. The growing deficit will require a deep cut to the state budget immediately after the new government is formed, and at the recommendation of the governor of the Bank of Israel, taxes will have to be raised and tax exemptions cancelled. Finance Ministry figures published yesterday which referred to the implementation of the state budget show that in June alone, the deficit grew by NIS 6.8 billion, and since the beginning of the year the deficit has amounted to NIS 21.9 billion, representing a deviation of NIS 14 billion from the target approved by the government.

Hannah Gal reports in The Jerusalem Post on the BICOM/RUSI conference on UK Middle East strategy. Gal writes that: “RUSI and BICOM recently brought together some of the country’s top thought leaders to look at what the UK’s involvement in the Middle East (MENA region) might look like post Brexit.”