Media Summary

New UK law to crack down on British ‘foreign fighters’

The BBC, Guardian, Independent and the Times report that the first privately funded mission to the Moon has crashed on the lunar surface after the apparent failure of its main engine. The BBC reports that the Israeli spacecraft – called Beresheet – attempted a soft landing, but suffered technical problems on its descent to the Moon’s surface. The aim of the mission was to take pictures and conduct experiments. Israel hoped to become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the Moon. Only government space agencies from the former Soviet Union, the US and China have made successful Moon landings. “We didn’t make it, but we definitely tried,” said project backer Morris Kahn. “I think that the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous, I think we can be proud,” he said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, watching from the control room near Tel Aviv, said: “If at first you don’t succeed, you try again.”

In the Guardian, Oliver Holmes writes on: “Benjamin Netanyahu: The enduring hardman of Israeli politics”. Holmes argues that the “ultranationalist” Prime Minister has, over the last 13 years in power, been at the heart of a backlash against peace efforts.

The Economist reports on Netanyahu’s election victory, asking after winning a fifth term what will the Prime Minister do next.

The Telegraph and Independent report that political operatives working for Benjamin Netanyahu’s party have boasted that they drove down voter turnout among Arab-Israelis by illegally hiding 1,300 cameras inside Arab polling stations. The Telegraph reports that Israeli police intervened in the middle of Tuesday’s election after it emerged that volunteers for Netanyahu’s Likud party were monitoring Arab polling stations with hidden cameras attached to their clothing. Israeli election forbids filming inside polling stations and police confiscated the cameras. Netanyahu defended the use of hidden cameras as an effort to combat voter fraud in Arab areas. Arab and Left-wing political parties said the cameras had deterred Arab voters from turning out because they were intimidated. Overall Arab turnout was at 50 per cent, down from 63 per cent in the 2015 election. The heads of Kaizler Inbar, an Israeli PR firm, wrote on Facebook that they were behind the hidden camera operation and boasted “the percentage of [Arab] voters dropped to 50%, the lowest seen in recent years”.

In the Financial Times, Andrew England writes that a second Arab Spring is brewing in Algeria and Sudan, and that popular uprisings are demonstrating that the root causes of the 2011 unrest have not been addressed.

The Guardian reports that British citizens travelling to live in foreign terrorism hotspots could face up to 10 years in prison under new laws. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 comes into force on Friday and creates a criminal offence of entering or remaining in a “designated area” overseas. Ministers unveiled the measure last year as part of efforts to boost authorities’ ability to tackle the threat from so-called foreign fighters. The act allows the home secretary to designate an area, subject to parliamentary approval. The offence does not allow retrospective prosecutions of individuals who have gone overseas to take part in fighting, such as those who went to territory held by Islamic State, before returning to the UK. The aim is to provide a deterrent effect and further avenue for bringing charges in cases where individuals are suspected of travelling for terrorism purposes.

In the Telegraph, David Oldroyd-Bolt asks: “How can the Government pour billions into countries that ignore the unspeakable persecution of Christians?” Across the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia, Christians are subject to incomprehensible persecution and brutality, writes Oldroyd-Bolt, adding that this is an issue we in the West shall have to deal with before very long – or risk sitting by complacently while a global religious holocaust happens. Of the top twenty beneficiaries of UK aid, he adds, nine – Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Syrian, Nigeria, Iraq and Burma – are in Open Doors’ list of the twenty worst countries for religious persecution. They receive between them £2,036 million a year, 54 per cent of the total for the top twenty recipients.

The Guardian reports that Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has privately urged Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, to cut his ties to a close adviser whom the US has sanctioned for his alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Pompeo is understood to have raised his concerns about Saud al-Qahtani in private conversations with Prince Mohammed and his brother Khalid bin Salman. US authorities believe that Qahtani, a former aide to the crown prince, oversaw the team that killed Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He is thought to have remained a confidant of Prince Mohammed despite having a lower profile in recent months.

BBC Sport and Sky Sports report on the retirement of Israeli football player and former Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham midfielder Yossi Benayoun. BBC Sport reports that the Israeli, 38, who finished his career with Beitar Jerusalem, played 97 times for Liverpool and won the Europa League at Chelsea in 2013.”It’s important for me to thank the fans, the ones who gave me love wherever I went,” Benayoun, who scored 24 times for Israel, said on Instagram. “I am sure that the next chapter will be challenging and no less exciting. Benayoun scored hat-tricks in each of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup during his time with Liverpool, an achievement only matched by Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero and Tottenham forward Harry Kane.

All the Israeli media report the failed moon landing last night.  Maariv calls it a “bitter moon” (as opposed to a honeymoon) noting that three minutes before the scheduled landing, the control room lost contact with the unmanned spacecraft. While Haaretz dramatically declares “Israel spacecraft explodes when attempting to land on the moon”. Both Yediot Ahronot and Israel Hayom reflect a more positive spin noting respectively: “We reached the moon” and the moon was within “touching distance”.  Despite not completing the mission as planned, all the papers are able to include images from shortly before the malfunction from the spacecraft’s selfie with an Israeli flag with the moon in the background.

All the papers report the final election count declared late last night. Yediot Ahronot and Haaretz highlight that Likud received one more seat while Bennett and Shaked of the New Right did not win any seats. Yediot Ahronot reports recriminations and appeals to the Central Election Committee about falsified tallies and results that disappeared. Among them was Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg, who said: “United Torah Judaism is trying to steal a seat from us. We have reports about political intervention in the vote tally, including ballot boxes that disappeared.” United Torah Judaism denied the allegations. Rabbi Haim Amsalem, who held the number two slot on the Zehut list said there was election fraud: “The election website shows that Zehut didn’t get any votes in a particular polling station, but those who counted there said that there had been 300 votes. We will not remain silent.” Maariv reports that the New Right party, despite not reaching the threshold, are still demanding a recount of the soldiers vote.

Yediot Ahronot reports speculation that former Likudnik and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon will merge with the Likud and the two parties will function as one party of 39 MKs, 35 from the Likud and four from Kulanu. This agreement in principle was reached yesterday and the formal agreement will be signed by the two party  leaders in the next few days, before the government is formed. Kahlon is scheduled to attend the Likud celebration event on Tuesday.  What does Kahlon receive? He will remain finance minister in the next government and the Kulanu faction will receive another ministerial position. It will also have an “insurance policy” for its political future, because it will be part of a large party and will not have to battle the electoral threshold, as it did in these elections.  And what will Netanyahu receive? The merger defuses a major landmine in Netanyahu’s fifth term as prime minister. Kahlon promised in the last term that he would not return to the Likud and he also declared that he would not remain in a Netanyahu government if the latter were indicted after a hearing. Now, when he no longer heads an independent party but rather is part of one Knesset faction, he can contend that he must conform to party discipline.

The President is expected to begin consultations with party leaders early next week. Maariv reports that he will invite Prime Minister Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to a three-way meeting and propose that they form a unity government.  A “senior source” told the paper that the incentive for such a government are the challenges that Israel will face in the coming months. He said: “The next government will have to decide whether to raise taxes or cut services. There is also the Trump plan, and the conscription bill that the ultra-Orthodox oppose. These items might make Netanyahu amenable to this idea.”

Yediot Ahronot includes an op-ed by a right wing comedian, Hanoch Daum, and left wing musician, Aviv Geffen, who together declare “Israel wants unity”.  They write, “We happened to meet a day after the elections. For some reason, we felt the same way. Neither of us felt like a winner or a loser. But we had a shared concern. Let’s start from the bottom line: in our opinion, there is one clear and distinct result of these elections, which is that Israel wants unity.  For this reason, we have decided now, with all due modesty, to appeal on behalf of the moderate majority in this country, to the leaders of the two large parties; both of us know how much they love this place. Gentlemen, the people of Israel chose sanity, and you must respect their choice.