fbpx

Media Summary

Khamenei says Iran will not be ‘deceived’ by Trump’s negotiation offer

Reuters reports that Israel expects to launch US-mediated talks with Lebanon on setting their maritime border within weeks, according to a senior Israeli official who named a UN peacekeeper compound in southern Lebanon as a possible venue. Last week, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel was open to US-mediated talks on the sea border. Lebanon has not commented publicly on whether it would attend talks or a possible timeline. The US, which has been sending a senior envoy on shuttle missions between Lebanon and Israel, has also not announced a date or venue but has stated that it would be prepared to help them resolve the dispute.

Reuters reports that the US believes Russia could help address US and Israeli concerns about Iran’s regional influence when national security leaders meet in Jerusalem this month, a US official claimed on Tuesday. “We would hope to make the point in conjunction with the Israelis that we don’t see any positive role for the Iranians – and that would extend beyond Syria, to Lebanon, to Iraq, to Yemen – other places where they’re active”, the official said. “And if the Russians recognise that fact, I think we will be very pleased with that outcome.”

BBC News examines why the battle for the opposition-held province of Idlib in north-western Syria matters, maintaining that the battle could become the scene of the final, and perhaps bloodiest, showdown between the government and armed groups seeking its overthrow.

Reuters reports that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran would not be “deceived” by US President Donald Trump’s offer of negotiations and would not give up its missile programme. Trump said last week that Iran “has a chance to be a great country, with the same leadership. “We’re not looking for regime change. I just want to make that clear. We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.” Reacting to those comments, Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state television: “This political trick will not deceive Iranian officials and the Iranian nation”.

In The Times, Oliver Moody examines the legal campaign by a member of the Sukkat Shalom synagogue in Berlin against the Judensau (Jew-sow) of Wittenberg in Germany. More than seven centuries after it was carved, the Judensau, which depicts the timeworn stone figures of three Jews suckling on the teats of a giant sow, is causing division in the Protestant church and anger in Germany’s Jewish community as the legal campaign to have it taken down escalates through the country’s court system. The case may be taken to the European Court of Justice.

The Guardian and Reuters report that the Trump administration twice approved licenses for the export of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. In response to repeated requests, the US Department of Energy informed the Senate on Tuesday that, of a total of seven permits for nuclear technical expertise transfers to Riyadh, one was approved on 18 October 2018 – 16 days after Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The most recent approval was dated 18 February 2019.

Reuters reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Russian media that a rise in tensions in the Middle East owing to US pressure on Iran is worrying and that all parties need to exercise restraint. The Iran nuclear deal should be fully implemented and respected, as it is of crucial importance for peace and stability in the Middle East and non-proliferation, Xi added.

The Guardian reports that Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone has reopened to the public after 16 years. Major General Jassim Yahya Abd Ali stated that the area, which houses the US embassy and Iraqi government offices, was now open “24 hours a day without any exceptions or conditions” and that authorities had removed 12,000 concrete walls from the area.

The Telegraph and Times report on the Sudan’s military leadership’s abandonment of a previously agreed road map for transition to civilian rule which has fuelled fears of a return to full military dictatorship. The Guardian reports that paramilitaries who killed 35 pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum on Monday also committed multiple sexual assaults, beat up medical staff and volunteers at clinics, looted and destroyed property in hospital.

All the Israeli media lead with tributes to Nechama Rivlin, the wife of President Reuven Rivlin, who died yesterday morning at the age of 74 from lung disease. Her funeral will begin at 18:00 Israel time on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. Israel Hayom declares “Goodbye to the First Lady” While Maariv  says “We will miss you Nechama”.  Nahum Barnea writes on the front page of Yediot Ahronot: “Nechama Rivlin always spoke her mind. The people she loved and the things she loved, she loved endlessly. The people she despised and the things that she despised, she despised boundlessly. She was so genuine in her relationships with people, so direct, that the people who loved her—and I was one of them—feared that the self-restraint that was required of the president’s wife would be too much for her to bear. We were wrong, of course: she was a wonderful First Lady, a ray of light and warmth for anyone whose life or circumstances had worsened, and she was a role model for all Israelis….”she was the face of the Israel that we wanted it to be, the Israel that was meant to be. Every high-ranking guest who was hosted at the President’s Residence, every head of state who hosted the president and his wife at his or her palace, immediately befriended her, without any ceremonial pomp. Her directness, which is so rare in the diplomatic and political arena, won over everyone. She was born in one of the most deeply-rooted moshavim in Israel, in Moshav Herut in the Tel Mond bloc, which was the wellspring of her love for the soil, the vegetation, the flowers, a love of the Land of Israel and a wealth of knowledge about the Land of Israel. She was moved by a tree in bloom; money didn’t move her, and neither did gifts that were bought with strangers’ money.”

All the Israeli media lead with tributes to Nechama Rivlin, the wife of President Reuven Rivlin, who died yesterday morning at the age of 74 from lung disease. Her funeral will begin at 18:00 Israel time on Mt Herzl in Jerusalem. Israel Hayom declares “Goodbye to the First Lady” While Maariv says “We will miss you Nechama”. Nahum Barnea writes on the front page of Yediot Ahronot: “Nechama Rivlin always spoke her mind. The people she loved and the things she loved, she loved endlessly. The people she despised and the things that she despised, she despised boundlessly. She was so genuine in her relationships with people, so direct, that the people who loved her—and I was one of them—feared that the self-restraint that was required of the President’s wife would be too much for her to bear. We were wrong, of course: she was a wonderful First Lady, a ray of light and warmth for anyone whose life or circumstances had worsened, and she was a role model for all Israelis…She was the face of the Israel that we wanted it to be, the Israel that was meant to be. Every high-ranking guest who was hosted at the President’s Residence, every head of state who hosted the President and his wife at his or her palace, immediately befriended her, without any ceremonial pomp. Her directness, which is so rare in the diplomatic and political arena, won over everyone. She was born in one of the most deeply-rooted moshavim in Israel, in Moshav Herut in the Tel Mond bloc, which was the wellspring of her love for the soil, the vegetation, the flowers, a love of the Land of Israel and a wealth of knowledge about the Land of Israel. She was moved by a tree in bloom; money didn’t move her, and neither did gifts that were bought with strangers’ money.”

All the media continue to report the spat between Bezalel Smotrich and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and speculation over who will be the next Justice Minister. Maariv quotes Smotrich saying: “It’s obvious to me and my supporters that the attack on me is just an excuse. We’ve been through tougher lynchings than these, and I’m not alarmed. Someone is afraid of me because of my positions and my successes”. “I don’t believe that there’s a single person who thinks that tomorrow morning I’m going to turn Israel into a Halachic state. To those who enjoy attacking me—God bless”, he said. In the papers view: “Likud ministers are not thrilled with the prospect of taking the justice portfolio for themselves. They realise that it would be a temporary appointment, since the portfolio will go to Minister Yariv Levin if the Likud wins the election. Under those circumstances, the prevailing assessment is that a less senior minister or an MK close to Netanyahu will ultimately be appointed. One of the people whose name was mentioned yesterday was MK Amir Ohana, who is considered a close associate of Netanyahu and was a candidate to be a minister in the government that was supposed to be formed. Another person who was mentioned was Tzahi Hanegbi. It is presumed Netanyahu will not hold onto the justice portfolio himself much longer since officials in Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s office are averse to having Netanyahu serve as justice minister while he is suspected of crimes and is awaiting a hearing.” Yediot Ahronot quotes Smotrich’s unnamed “associates” as saying: “Netanyahu’s act of toeing the line with the left’s attacks on Smotrich and Judaism make it look like he’s preparing an alibi for failing in the election and trying to pin the blame on others. He would do well to focus on running a good campaign and not apologising instead of betraying his natural partners.”

In the commentary in Israel Hayom, Amnon Lord takes a different line criticising Smotrich for being motivated by “raw ambition and ego,” arguing that he has been just as damaging to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the prospects of a right-wing government as Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman. Lord writes: “Lieberman has proved to be nationally irresponsible. He showed just how easy it is to damage the State of Israel’s standing, turning it from a once-respected power whose opinions are taken into account into a mockery. The first to discern that change was President Trump. After undermining Israel’s national interests, he has fomented unrest along the religious-secular fault line, to the praise of the Bibiphobic media… The one person who has proved to be Lieberman’s most serious competition is Bezalel Smotrich. We’ve already forgotten his crude behaviour, replete with ultimatums, during the coalition negotiations. But ever since his public statements about applying biblical law, he has moved on to break new records. The first person who ought to be sending him flowers is, of course, Lieberman. Smotrich has helped him dictate an explosive agenda about religion and state, religious versus secular. Long live the divisions!”

Yediot Ahronot reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu is considering appointing Ayoub Kara as Israel’s next ambassador to Egypt as compensation for not being placed in a viable slot on the Likud’s list as a result of the slots on the list that Netanyahu reserved for other candidates. According to Channel 13 News Kara’s candidacy was received angrily within the Foreign Ministry since the Appointments Committee already confirmed the appointment of Amira Oren, a professional diplomat, as Israel’s next ambassador to Egypt in November 2018. Netanyahu has not yet put Oren’s appointment to a cabinet vote. Foreign Ministry officials said that Kara would be a problematic appointment given several past diplomatic incidents that have been tied to him. A second problem with Kara’s possible appointment is the Attorney General’s ban on making political appointments in the run-up to elections. Alternatively, Mandelblit appears to be inclined to approve a bid to appoint Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan as Israel’s next ambassador to the United Nations. Erdan, who is still contemplating whether to accept that appointment, met with Mandelblit to see whether his appointment could be confirmed by a transition government. Mandelblit appeared to be inclined to accept the argument that this case was exceptional, since the term of the current ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, is about to end, and a transition government is expected to serve for a longer period than usual.

Kan radio news reports that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has declined for the third time to accept the tax funds that Israel levies on its behalf, minus the payments that the PA makes to the families of terrorists and to security prisoners who are incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Israel recently tried unsuccessfully to deposit hundreds of millions of shekels into the PA’s bank accounts. Officials in the Israeli security establishment said that they believed that the PA would collapse within three months because of its refusal to accept the money, yet the PA has managed to survive in spite of that. The PA has remained solvent thanks to loans that it has received from Qatar and by withholding payments to the Israel Electric Corporation.