Violent protests in Gaza Strip and West Bank as Bahrain conference commences
BBC News and Reuters report that the economic component of the Trump administration’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is being discussed at the two-day ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop in Bahrain. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has stated that the plan will not adhere to Arab Peace Initiative, requiring instead a compromise between that and the Israeli position. The proposals for generating Palestinian economic growth call for $50bn to be invested over 10 years. Palestinian leaders have rejected the plan and will not be in Bahrain. President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas insisted that, before anything else, there had to be a political agreement. Trump is not expected to release the political part of his peace plan until November, once Israel holds a general election. Reuters reports that the peace plan has revived fears in Lebanon of the permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in the country. Reuters reports that Palestinians have protested in the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank on Monday against the Bahrain workshop.
BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Financial Times and Reuters report that US President Donald Trump has stated that he is imposing fresh sanctions on Iran, including on the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Trump said that the sanctions were in response to the shooting down of a US drone and “many other things”. Ayatollah Khamenei was singled out because he was “ultimately responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime”. The Guardian, Telegraph and Reuters report that Iran has said that a US decision permanently closed the path to diplomacy between Tehran and Washington. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded by stating that the Americans “despise diplomacy”. In a tweet sent after the announcement, Zarif also accused the Trump administration of having a “thirst for war”.
The Guardian reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not discuss the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the latest sign that the Trump administration is attempting to drop the subject. Pompeo said in a tweet that he had had a “productive meeting” with King Salman “to discuss heightened tensions in the region and the need to promote maritime security in the strait of Hormuz”. A senior State Department official said the US is building a coalition with its allies to protect Gulf shipping lanes by having “eyes on all shipping” following recent attacks on oil tankers.
The Times reports that Arabic people are increasingly saying that they are no longer religious, according to the largest and most in-depth survey undertaken of the Middle East and North Africa. The finding is one of a number on how Arabs feel about a wide range of issues, from women’s rights and migration to security and sexuality. More than 25,000 people were interviewed for the survey across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories.
Reuters reports that acting US Defence Secretary Mark Esper will update European allies on tensions with Iran as he heads to NATO headquarters this week, a senior US official said. “It’s very important to the (Defence) Department and the US government as a whole that we make sure our allies are as cognizant, and that we are as transparent on this issue, as possible.”
Reuters reports that oil prices fell on Tuesday amid concerns over the outlook for crude demand, but prices were supported after Washington announced new sanctions on Iran. Benchmark Brent crude futures were down 0.5% and US crude futures were down 0.4%. The US benchmark rose 0.8% in the previous session.
In the Times, Richard Spencer argues that the Trump administration’s plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents a mirage.
In the Telegraph, Raf Sanchez argues that the defeat of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s candidate in the Istanbul mayor’s race gives momentum to Turkey’s waning democratic movement.
In the Independent, Borzou Daragahi argues that the scale and depth of Erdoğan’s defeat could change Turkey’s political landscape and trigger an early vote ahead of scheduled 2023 presidential elections.
In the Guardian, Anne Joseph examines the emergence of ‘ultra-Orthodox cinema’ in Israel: ‘long isolated from secular society, Haredi Jews are turning to cinema in increasing numbers – even those who have never seen a film’.
All the Israeli media focus on the Bahrain economic conference that begins today. Haaretz frames the conference as being “between visions of peace and winds of war.” Some of the Israeli media have been allowed to send correspondents to the conference including Ariel Kahane of Israel Hayom, who writes: “From the airplane window coming down into Manama, oil tankers like the ones Iran attacked not far from here in the Strait of Hormuz less than two weeks ago were clearly visible. The flight route from Israel was mostly over Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s ally and Iran’s major adversary. Saudi Arabia, exactly like us, is the target of missiles that are launched from time to time by Iran’s proxies. Someone is liable to take advantage of the opportunity that all the Iranian regime’s enemies are gathering for an international event right in one place, and attack representatives of the big, small and medium Satans all at once. But, and it’s a big but, there is another side to the coin. This evening, entering the reception hall, will be hundreds of people from all around the world who want to move the region a tiny step forward. Most importantly, among them will be Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, and Jews who will put on the table unheard but extensive processes that have been moving forward under the table for many years. In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev says the problem with the US’s economic proposal isn’t its unrealistic proposals, or its Orientalist attitude toward the Palestinians, or its offer to manage and foster Palestinian institutions and civil society in a way that can be viewed either as implicit state-building or as imposing foreign control on a future Palestinian government, but that the Palestinians “have always been wary of the term ‘economic peace’, especially when detached from the real nitty-gritty of resolving their dispute with Israel”.
Yediot Ahronot reports the dissolution of the Union Right Party, as the Jewish Power faction announced that they were withdrawing and preparing to run independently for the Knesset. Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben Gvir’s told United Right leader Rafi Peretz: “After we regrettably haven’t been treated fairly in the past few months and given that your behaviour as well as other members of the Jewish Home was to use Jewish Power and to toss it away. As you well know and as you said in a live television broadcast, the merger between us led to victory in the elections that, had it not been for Lieberman’s conduct, would have facilitated the establishment of a right-wing government. At all events, you’ve become the education minister and an observer in the security cabinet, Bezalel Smotrich was appointed transport minister, and the Jewish Home has four MKs and the National Union Party has two. Despite all that, and despite the fact that the more than 70,000 Jewish Power voters voted for the Union of Right Wing Parties, throughout the entire course of the past few months Jewish Home members’ behaviour has been deplorable.” The main reason for the rift between Peretz and Ben Gvir is the appointment of Peretz and Smotrich as cabinet ministers in the transitional government. The merger agreement that the three parties signed stipulated that if Ben Gvir were not to be elected to the Knesset, the ministers from the other two parties would resign from the Knesset as permitted by the Norwegian law so as to allow Ben Gvir to become an MK. But the Norwegian law can’t be applied during a transitional government.
Maariv reports comments by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Lieberman at a party meeting where he said: “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is thronging to the Arab parties and counting on the safety net that he’ll receive from them after the elections”. Lieberman claimed that two articles published by Netanyahu associate Natan Eshel, in which he urged a bridge with the Arab public, were not coincidental. He said they were a Netanyahu trial balloon: “In preparation for the next move of setting up a minority government—with the support of the Arab parties from outside….The minority government that Netanyahu is planning together with the Haredim and the Arabs —will clearly be at the expense of the public that serves in the army, does reserve duty, works, and pays taxes.” The Likud said the accusation was: “Fake news out of touch with reality. There was not and there will be no cooperation between the Likud and the Arab parties. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will set up a right-wing government led by the Likud.”
Former Likud Minister Limor Livnat, writes in Yediot Ahronot saying: “Way up on high, on a planet of his own, lives a cynical, alienated leader whose remarks, speeches and fervently-made promises have no bearing at all on what he actually does in practice—in the dark, behind the backs of his supporters, his voters and subjects… in his desperate attempts to prevent the president from tasking anyone else with the job of forming the next government, Netanyahu even reportedly held negotiations with the Arab MKs. Lord have mercy. The very man who charged that Gantz would work with the Arab MKs went and stuck a dirty deal with them behind closed doors twice: first to ensure a majority to dissolve the Knesset; then in the election of the new state comptroller. So is it either Bibi or Tibi? It turns out that it’s Bibi and Tibi.”
Kan news reports that Israel has suspended the supply of fuel into the Gaza Strip as of this morning until further notice in response to the spate of incendiary balloons that caused a wave of fires near the Gaza border yesterday. Fifteen fires broke out in the western Negev yesterday. Those fires destroyed around 62 acres of woodlands and other vegetation. A cluster of balloons landed in a kindergarten in the Sdot Negev Regional Council yesterday, just shortly after the kindergarten closed for the day.