UN condemns air strike on Libyan airport
The BBC, Independent, Guardian, Financial Times and the Times report that US President Donald Trump has designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation. The BBC reports that it is the first time the US has labelled another nation’s military as a terrorist organisation. Iran retaliated by declaring US forces in the Middle East as a terrorist organisation, Iran state news reported. Washington-Tehran tensions have risen since Trump withdrew the US from the international Iran nuclear pact. Labelling the IRGC as a terrorist organisation will allow the US to impose further sanctions – particularly affecting the business sector, given the IRGC’s involvement in Iran’s economy. A number of IRGC and affiliated entities have already been targeted by US sanctions for alleged proliferation activities, support for terrorism and human rights abuses.
In the Financial Times, David Gardner writes: “Trump’s move on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard raises the temperature”. It is not clear though, argues Gardner, what designating the IRGC as a terrorist entity is meant to achieve.
Reuters reports that Israelis have begun voting in an election today that could hand conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a record fifth term or see him dethroned by an ex-general who has pledged clean government and social cohesion. Polling stations opened at 7am across the country and close at 10pm. But the victor may not be decided immediately. No party has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat parliament, meaning days or even weeks of coalition negotiations will lie ahead.
In the Times, Michael Lynk writes: “Netanyahu’s pledge to annex territory wrecks peace hopes”. Netanyahu has justified Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank as the result of a defensive war. However, writes Lynk, if Israel carries through with Netanyahu’s promise, then the chances for a genuine peace between Israel and Palestine in the foreseeable future will have gone from implausible to unimaginable.
The Telegraph reports that Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a last-minute campaign blitz to urge Right-wing voters to support him in Tuesday’s election, as he tries to see off a centrist challenger and secure a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. Standing outside a pub in the middle of a busy Jerusalem market, Netanyahu warned that Right-wing Israelis were “complacent” because of media reports that he was on course to victory. “Some of our people are complacent and believe the media, which is trying to put them to sleep,” Netanyahu said. “Right now we are behind by several seats.”
In the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast, Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes, joins India Rakusen to discuss the election and how Netanyahu’s vision of Israel and the policies he has pursued have taken a peace deal with the Palestinians off the table for the foreseeable future.
In the Independent, Bel Trew asks: “Is Netanyahu going to win a fifth term as prime minister?” Trew adds that many fear a Netanyahu victory could mean Israel will have its most right-wing, ultra nationalist government of all time.
Reuters reports that according to a senior administration official, US President Donald Trump will discuss tensions in the Middle East, security, economic reform and human rights in Egypt during a meeting with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House on Tuesday. The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the visit, said the two leaders would also discuss the development of civil society in Egypt and, in a nod to concerns of Vice President Mike Pence, its treatment of religious minorities, including Christians.
In the Times, David Charter, Richard Spencer and Mohammed Ezz write: “Sisi set for warm welcome in US but friendship depends on results”, arguing that while the White House is trying to broker the “deal of the century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is unlikely Egyptian President Sisi will back it.
The BBC reports that the UN has condemned an air strike that closed the only functioning airport in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on Monday. Flights at Mitiga International Airport were suspended and passengers were evacuated. No casualties were reported. The UN blamed the air strike on forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, a commander from the east who is trying to seize the capital. A spokesman for General Haftar’s forces said civilian planes had not been targeted.
The BBC reports that the jury in the fraud trial against four former Barclays bankers – including the former chief executive, John Varley – has been discharged. The case dated back to the financial crisis, when the bank raised billions of pounds from Middle East investors. The others charged were investment banker Roger Jenkins, head of wealth management Thomas Kalaris, and Richard Boath former head of Barclays’ European Financial Institutions Group. The four denied the charges.
Reuters reports that according to a board member on Tuesday, Turkey’s High Election Board has rejected a request by President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party to recount all votes in 31 Istanbul districts, but the party vowed to challenge the decision.
The Israeli media is dominated by election coverage. Yediot Ahronot produces a mirrored front page with the double headline “The Next Prime Minister” half of the page is a picture of Netanyahu with the mirror image of Gantz. Maariv top headline declares, “The Choice is Yours”, similarly Haaretz refers to “The People’s Choice”. Israel Hayom declares “In Your Hands” with one picture of Gantz taking a selfie surrounded by young supporters while the other image shows Prime Minister Netanyahu praying at the Western Wall. Kan radio reports the final messages of the leading candidates. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night warned his supporters against complacency and said that victory was not in the bag. Unless every Likudnik goes to the polling stations, we are liable to wake up to Yair Lapid at the head of a left wing government. While Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said that anyone who thought that there must be change in the country had only one choice—to vote Blue and White. Any other vote is a vote for Bibi.
Israel Hayom publishes an op-ed by President Rivlin, he writes: “Our young democracy has undergone many changes since its inception. Some are also related to technological developments. In this election campaign things are felt more strongly: Sometimes it seems that the place of fundamental and value-based discussions about the image of our dear country has become the culture of virtual discussion. In many cases this culture prefers vulgarity to depth, recklessness over judgment, cynicism over good faith, and sometimes even delusion over truth. In such an atmosphere, I fear that some will feel that there is no point in participating in the democratic act. Therefore, precisely at this time, we must choose: to re-choose ourselves. Not to succumb to doubts, and not to believe those who say ‘What does it matter at all?’ Believe in your ability to influence and shape reality. Ability to dream and the ability to realise dreams. There is only one way to realize our democratic dream: in the ballot box.”
Channel 12 News reports that Bezalel Smotrich, the co-leader of the United Right Party said Prime Minister Netanyahu promised his party the Education and Justice Ministries if the Likud party forms the next government. Smotrich was recorded making the comments at a closed meeting of party activists. The Likud denied the report.
Nahum Barnea in Yediot Ahronot, sums up the central choice for Israeli voters: “To replace or not to replace, that is the question. Or, in other words, Netanyahu or not Netanyahu. That question, which has become a cliché, is completely accurate; these elections are a referendum on Netanyahu. After ten years—or 13, if one adds his first term in office—it seems natural to ask whom we want moving forward.” He further notes, “The outgoing government’s report card is a good basis for analysis. Netanyahu was at his peak in that government; he forged an alliance with a coalition of right-wing governments, from Moscow and Budapest to Washington and Brasilia. The Israeli economy continued to reap the benefits of the global recovery, and the military conflagration with Iran was postponed to future years. Netanyahu reigned in his government. His ministers sat around him at cabinet meetings like children sitting around their kindergarten teacher. Outside the room they puffed up their chests; inside, they were shorter than the grass. Netanyahu liked that government, not because of its right wing orientation, but because no one truly challenged him, not even Bennett.
But Netanyahu changed in the course of that process. Power corrupts, said Lord Acton. A lot of power over a lengthy period of time corrupts vastly.” Barnea concludes, “I don’t know what the results of the elections are going to be. We may not get a clear answer. If Netanyahu survives at the polling stations, he is going to find himself facing a formidable challenge in forming a coalition. His partners are angry with him; Kahlon, Deri and Bennett all dream of a government without him. They won’t say that they will refuse to join a government under him—heaven forbid—but they will present impossible demands. Netanyahu, like Shakespeare’s Richard III, will have to offer them his kingdom for a horse. Blue and White will have a very hard time joining a unity government. The criminal cases pending against Netanyahu won’t be the only impediment; the submarines affair and the filth that was poured over the party’s leaders during the campaign will be as well. But Blue and White will also have a hard time forming a coalition. Not only don’t the numbers add up, the worldviews are incompatible. Elections are a festive, national and stately event. Elections are the citizens’ only opportunity to feel that they are the sovereign. Even if that is an illusion, I’m not prepared to give that up. But the real elections are probably going to begin tomorrow, after the victory celebrations have ended.”
In Maariv Ben Caspit writes: “Today we will wake up to Binyamin Netanyahu’s “last-minute spin.” In 2015, it was the video of him saying that the Arabs were going out in droves, an assertion that lacked any factual basis, but got the job done. This time, he is up against three chiefs of staff, two major generals, one Mossad deputy director and two police commanders. Today’s spin will most likely be, “the media is anesthetising you. Go and vote! Lapid and Benny are leading by seven seats!!” Caspit also admits, “I have no idea who is going win tonight. It depends on too many variables. Gantz might win the battle and lose the war (if Meretz, for example, fails to get into the Knesset). Netanyahu might lose the battle and win the war (if he has a larger bloc), or vice versa—if Netanyahu wipes out one or two right-wing parties in the course of the hurried and panicky cannibalisation campaign that he launched this past weekend.”