Media Summary

Netanyahu questioned by police in submarine deal investigation

The Independent, the Daily Mail and the Financial Times report that Israeli police have questioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in connection with an investigation into alleged corruption relating to Israel’s $2bn purchase of submarines from Germany for the first time. He was grilled for “several hours” at his official residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday, police said. The police added that Netanyahu is not a suspect in the corruption case. Tuesday’s interrogation focused on Israel’s deal to buy three submarines and coastal patrol craft from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp in 2016. The local representative for the company, Miki Ganor, allegedly bribed Israeli officials to secure the deal. Ganor signed an agreement last year to turn state’s witness, according to reports in Israeli media. Several of Netanyahu’s close associates have been implicated in the case, including a former National Security Adviser and his former Chief of Staff. The Prime Minister’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, who is also Netanyahu’s cousin, acted on behalf of ThyssenKrupp’s representative and has been identified as a suspect in the probe.  Police recommended in February that Netanyahu be indicted in two of the criminal cases pending against him. In the first, he is accused of fraud and accepting bribes in relation to his friendships with Arnon Milchan, an Israeli-born Hollywood film-maker, and Australian billionaire James Packer. He faces similar accusations in the other case, which is related to allegations he agreed to a deal with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth to secure positive coverage from the paper.

The Guardian reports that artists in London and Gaza are to launch a series of simultaneous, live-streamed performances this month in an attempt to connect people living there with international audiences in Britain. Performers will use video projection as a backdrop to simulate walking through each other’s homes and streets and interact as if they were in the same room, even as they are separated by 2,000 miles. The show’s producers say At Home in Gaza and London explores “survival tactics, creative impulses and coping mechanisms that sustain those living in Gaza, while at the same time celebrating a temporary release via the technological innovation of a working space, a playing space, without borders”. It is led by Station House Opera, a UK-based theatre group that has operated concurrent performances across the globe, including in Brazil and Singapore.

The Times and the Daily Mail via AFP report that Jewish settlers were removed by Israeli police yesterday from 15 homes built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. Dozens of settlers protested against the removals at the Netiv Ha’avot settlement. Some threw stones and bottles at police and three officers were hurt. Activists also gathered at the entrance to Jerusalem, stopping traffic. The homes will be demolished and rebuilt nearby and residents will be compensated, officials have said. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered the eviction in 2016 ruling that the outpost was illegal but did not determine precise ownership of the land.

The Daily Mail via AFP reports that the United Nations General Assembly will vote today to condemn Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza in a resolution fiercely opposed by the United States, which wants Hamas to face condemnation. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed the Arab-backed measure as “fundamentally imbalanced” for its failure to mention Hamas and has proposed an amendment that condemns the Palestinian militant group. “Any resolution focused on the protection of civilians in Gaza must recognise the destabilising and reckless actions of Hamas, which endanger the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians,” Haley wrote in a letter sent to fellow Ambassadors on the eve of the vote.

The Daily Mail via AP reports that Israeli authorities have foiled over 200 Palestinian attacks by monitoring social media and sifting through vast amounts of data to identify prospective assailants ahead of time, according to Israel’s public security minister. These pre-emptive actions put Israel at the forefront of an increasingly popular – and controversial – trend used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world that use big data technology to track would-be criminals. While the technology appears to be effective, its tactics drew angry Palestinian condemnation and have raised questions about civil liberties. Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who oversees the national police force, said Israel’s use of algorithms and other technology has been an important factor in lowering the number of knife and shooting attacks in Israel in recent years. He planned on sharing Israel’s knowledge with counterparts at an international security conference he is hosting that begins Tuesday.

All the Israeli media focus on the summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.  The papers quote Netanyahu’s comment: “He [Trump] has also taken a strong stand against Iran’s efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons and against its aggression in the Middle East. This is already affecting the Iranian economy. Trump’s policy is an important development for Israel, the region and the entire world.”  Yediot Ahronot quotes other Israeli leader’s statements including Defence Minister Lieberman who said: “The completion of the agreement and its implementation are the real test, and I am confident that just as President Trump was determined to reach an arrangement, they will also supervise the implementation.”

In the commentary, Ben Caspit in Maariv writes, “Anyone with a sharp eye and a discerning ear will have spotted as much in the deliberately-worded and dry statement that Netanyahu issued yesterday, a good several hours after the summit meeting was over. If I were Netanyahu I’d be worried as well… Trump’s actions yesterday are completely contrary to Netanyahu’s worldview. How can anyone explain the disparity in Trump’s behaviour on North Korea and his behaviour on Iran? After all, Iran negotiated with the world, signed a detailed agreement and did not violate it. It met all of the terms, the supervision and demands, and it rolled back its nuclear program. Nevertheless, Trump crumpled up the agreement and threw it away. In his dealing with North Korea, which has already violated every agreement and has acquired a nuclear bomb, he capitulated gloriously.  Yesterday, without anyone noticing too much, Trump said that Iran wasn’t the same Iran, that it had changed its attitude towards the Middle East, and that it would do well to return to negotiations. Now just imagine if Iran returns to the negotiating table and Rouhani asks to meet with Trump. With all due respect to Kim, Mohammad Javad Zarif possesses far greater personal charm. Who can assure us that Trump won’t fall for that same honey trap again?”

All the papers report on the removal yesterday of the 15 families from the Netiv Ha’Avot outpost. Yediot Ahronot includes a critical commentary that says: “Make no mistake, this is not a story about a land dispute between residents. If that were the story, it would have been resolved years ago to the satisfaction of all the sides. At issue is legal warfare with a simple goal: to dismantle the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. After the extreme left wing despaired of wining in the political field, it shifted to an alternative fields—the legal field and the international field.”

Haaretz report the Syrian army has reinforced its anti-aircraft defences near the Israeli border. Noting the stationing of the Russian-made Pantsir S1 weapon aims “to renew the air defence system against Israel in the first degree,” quoting an anonymous, non-Syrian commander.

Maariv and Haaretz both report that Netanyahu answered questions yesterday from police detectives regarding Case 3000, the submarine affair.  It is expected that the police will soon release its recommendations and will likely announce that the prime minister and the security cabinet ministers were not involved and that the security cabinet’s decisions on purchasing submarines were made on the basis of professional considerations and that the corruption had been discovered in the mid-level ranks, which included, among others, the deputy director of the National Security Council Avriel Bar-Yosef and the director of the Prime Minister’s Bureau David Sharan.