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Media Summary

Young Arabs most concerned about cost of living and unemployment

The BBC, Telegraph and Guardian report that the White House said on Tuesday that the Trump administration is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organisation. The BBC reports that the designation will bring economic and travel sanctions against Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, with more than a million members across the Middle East. The decision follows a White House visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in April. Sisi asked US President Donald Trump to make the move, US media said. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the administration is pushing for the designation. “The President has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” Sanders said in a statement. The Trump administration first directed security and diplomatic officials to find a way to impose sanctions on the Brotherhood after a meeting between Trump and Sisi on 9 April, US media report.

The Times reports that Benjamin Netanyahu was among 120 members of Israel’s new parliament sworn in this week, after victory in last month’s elections. His Likud party won 35 seats, as did his main opponents from the centrist Blue and White alliance, led by the ex-military chief Benny Gantz. However, support from smaller right-wing parties will give Netanyahu a majority of 65 and keep him in power.

The Financial Times reports that, according to the region’s largest survey of youth opinion, young Arabs say the rising cost of living and unemployment are the biggest issues facing the Middle East. Some 56 per cent of respondents cited the cost of living and 45 per cent chose joblessness as their top concern in the 2019 Arab Youth Survey, now in its 11th year. “The mother of all priorities for the region is tackling youth unemployment,” said Jihad Azour, International Monetary Fund regional director, at Tuesday’s launch of the survey. “All economic policies will fail if we don’t reduce unemployment.” The study, commissioned by Dubai-based communications agency Asda’a BCW, is based on interviews with 3,300 people aged 18-24 in 15 countries, excluding war-torn Syria and Qatar, which is under a trade embargo imposed by states including the United Arab Emirates. Unemployment has reached more than 30 per cent in many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, and the IMF says this year’s projected regional growth rate of 1.3 per cent is insufficient to create enough jobs for the 2.8m youths joining the workforce every year. A majority of the study’s respondents believe their governments should provide jobs, housing and energy subsidies, illustrating the challenge for Middle Eastern states struggling to balance economic reform with political stability.

The Times and the Guardian report on a new video this week in which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called for vengeance over the group’s military defeat in Syria. In the Times, Richard Spencer argues that the video mimicked bin Laden. In the Guardian, Martin Chulov and Dan Sabbagh report that intelligence officials believe the video was released in an attempt to convince ISIS followers that the elusive leader remained in control of the global terror group and unfazed by increasing dissent within its ranks. Some observers claim his grip on power has dramatically weakened as the group has lost the land it once held, as well as its leaders and loot. Western and regional officials say Baghdadi was trying to relaunch himself on a global stage with the 18-minute video and audio released by ISIS’s media arm on Monday.

Reuters and the Independent report that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, on Tuesday, said that the Islamic State remains a potent threat around the world despite reduced capabilities, adding that its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had made his latest video appearance in a “remote area”. Reuters reports that Abdul Mahdi did not say which country that area was in and the authenticity and date of the recording could not be independently verified.

The Independent reports that at least 45,000 children in Iraq born into the so-called Islamic State may soon become stateless, in what right groups are calling a “human timebomb”. Unless they are formally recognised, tens of thousands of minors – one in every five living in Iraqi camps – are barred from medical care, attending school or receiving food rations warned the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in a new report on Tuesday. At its peak the jihadi group controlled nearly a third of Iraq and children born under the militants’ rule are now missing vital documentation, such as birth certificates.

The Times reports that sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are pushing Iran into a deepening economic recession in which inflation is expected to hit 50 per cent, the highest price surge since the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The International Monetary Fund blamed the grim outlook on sanctions ordered by President Trump last year under his “maximum pressure” strategy against the regime in Tehran. The rial has fallen 60 per cent in the past year against the dollar, wiping out savings, triggering panic-buying of hard currency and pushing up prices of imported goods. Sanctions have already cost Iran $10 billion in lost oil revenues.

Reuters reports that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed a bill into law on Tuesday declaring all US forces in the Middle East terrorists and calling the US government a sponsor of terrorism. The bill was passed by parliament last week in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision this month to designate Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organisation. It was not clear what the impact of the new Iranian law might have on US forces or their Middle East operations. Rouhani instructed the ministry of intelligence, ministry of foreign affairs, the armed forces, and Iran’s supreme national security council to implement the law, state media reported.

The Independent reports that the UN has warned the death toll from the devastating war in Yemen could soar to nearly a quarter of a million by the end of 2019. The UN called the conflict one of the “greatest preventable disasters facing humanity”. In a 60-page report, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said the fighting between the Gulf-backed Yemen government and the Houthi rebels could also set the country back a generation in terms of development. It warned that if a proper ceasefire is not brokered by the end of the year, the total number of dead could rise to 233,000, with 60 per cent of the deceased being children under the age of five. The UN’s projected count includes 102,000 killed in combat and 131,000 who will die due to a lack of food, health services and infrastructure in the war.

Reuters reports that Amnesty International has called on Yemen’s Houthi movement, which controls the capital Sanaa, to free 10 journalists held for nearly four years on what the rights group described as trumped-up spying charges. Amnesty said the 10 men have been held since the summer of 2015 and that they were formally charged in December 2018 with a series of offences, including spying and aiding the coalition, by a specialised court that handles terrorism-related cases. “It is completely outrageous that these men could face the death penalty simply for doing their jobs. The charges against them are false and should be dropped immediately,” Rasha Mohamed, Amnesty’s Yemen researcher, said in a statement.

All the Israeli media cover yesterday’s swearing in of the 21st Knesset.  Kan news highlights the appointment of Yuli Edelstein as Knesset speaker for the third time.  A total of 101 MKs approved the appointment, four abstained, and no one voted against. In the first meeting of the 21st Knesset, the MKs swore their loyalty. Three were absent, Yousef Jabareen, Shelly Yachimovich and Aida Touma-Sliman. They will be sworn in at the first meeting that they attend.  MK Moshe Gafni was unanimously elected chairperson of the Finance Committee by the Knesset arrangements committee, which also elected Avi Dichter chairperson of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. Yediot Ahronoth prominently shows the Blue and White party MK Gadi Yevarkan kissing his mother’s feet at the entrance of the Knesset.  On Army Radio Yevarkan a Jew of Ethiopian descent gave an emotional explanation that this was a spontaneous act to show respect for his mother who walked to freedom from Ethiopia to Israel.

Maariv continues to report on coalition negotiations.  The paper reminds readers that the main hurdle is the need to find a compromise proposal in the disagreement between the Ultra-orthodox and Yisrael Beiteinu on issues of religion and state. The paper notes “Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, considered the hardest nut to crack, sounded much more amenable yesterday than he had sounded up until now.  “The voters’ decision is clear. The Ultra-orthodox and the Ultra-orthodox-Zionist bloc has 22 seats and we have five. It’s clear to us that we won’t be able to implement all the initiatives that we talked about in the elections,” Lieberman said, most likely referring to civil marriages, public transportation on the Sabbath and other social issues that he had talked about in the election campaign. Lieberman further said: “We are willing to cooperate, we are conducting negotiations with an open mind, but we will not accept any undermining of the existing status quo and we will not accept unilateral aggressive courses of action.”  Lieberman again promised that his party would not support any legislation, including an immunity law, until the military draft law was passed in second and third readings as is, with no changes. “As long as there are no agreements on the core issues, we will not hold negotiations on portfolios.”  Meanwhile Yediot Ahronoth suggests, “Natan Eshel, who is one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants and is a senior member of the Likud’s coalition negotiating team, has been working in the past few days to persuade MKs who were elected to Knesset on Blue and White’s list to defect from their party and the opposition. The principal target of those efforts has been Omer Yankelevich, an Ultra-ortodox woman who is 23rd on Blue and White’s list. Eshel recently reached out to several figures in the Ultra-orthodox world in hope of finding ways to influence Yankelevich and to get her to defect to the Likud. As part of those efforts, Eshel tried to find out which rabbi was most likely to be able to help him achieve that goal. Eshel promised to compensate Yankelevich handsomely for her defection—the chair of a Knesset committee—with the goal being to secure for Netanyahu a narrow coalition of at least 61 MKs without Yisrael Beiteinu.”

Maariv reports that the security establishment has recommended the establishment of a joint industrial zone in which about 5,000 Palestinian employees from the Gaza Strip would work, at the abandoned Karni crossing opposite the fields of Kibbutz Nahal Oz. In the past, it was the main crossing for goods into the Gaza Strip and it was closed in 2011 due to security reasons and in wake of the many terror attacks that took place there. Since that time, goods go through Kerem Shalom. The plan is being discussed in the framework of the truce arrangement with Hamas.  The political leadership has not yet approved the plan.

Yediot Ahronoth reports that the rocket that was fired on Monday out of the northern Gaza Strip and Islamic Jihad’s ceaseless efforts to derail the truce arrangement have ratcheted up Israeli concerns about a possible escalation in violence during the sensitive run-up period to Independence Day and the Eurovision competition. The IDF has begun to prepare accordingly, and has deployed additional Iron Dome batteries across Israel.

All the newspapers cover Holocaust Memorial Day that begins this evening.  Yediot Ahronoth refers to “a vanishing generation”, noting there are currently around 10,000 holocaust survivors still alive, but within 6 years half of those will have died.   They also note that one in five survivors live under the poverty line and today they ask – let us live our remaining life in dignity.

Haaretz leads with an expose that the next IDF spokesman Gil Messing was involved in helping the police gather evidence in a major corruption case involving the Yisrael Beiteinu party.  In late 2014, shortly before the 2015 general election, police arrested several senior people in Yisrael Beiteinu on suspicion of taking bribes.  One of them, Amnon Liberman, a media advisor to two of the party’s cabinet ministers, later turned state’s evidence. Police gave Liberman a recording device and sent him to record key people in the case. During this time, Gil Messing assisted Liberman, including hosting him at his home, accompanied him to police facilities and even went with him on his secret recording missions.  Yediot Ahronoth also notes the revelation means that if Avigdor Lieberman is appointed Defence Minister there is no way the appointment will stand.  The paper also suggests that Prime Minister Netanyahu is also unhappy a former adviser to Tzipi Livni has been chosen for the position.