$9.6 billion goods a day held up from Suez blockage
BBC News reports that according to shipping data, the Ever Green container ship stranded in the Suez Canal is holding up $9.6bn (£7bn) worth of goods each day. While efforts to free the ship have been ongoing for several days, some experts warn it could take weeks. The Telegraph and The Independent report that shipping companies may need to re-route vessels around Africa if the Ever Green is not dislodged from the Suez soon. The journey around the Cape of Good Hope would add at least a week in travel time and considerable fuel costs. The Suez Canal carries about one tenth of the world’s trade. The Guardian features a video showcasing efforts to dislodge the 400-meter long Ever Green vessel in the Suez.
BBC News and The Associated Press report that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come up short of a majority in Israel’s March 23 election. Initial results show that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc would end up with two seats short of the 61-seats needed to form a governing coalition. The results leave the country with yet another political deadlock. The Economist notes that “political stalemate is becoming the norm” in Israel.
The Times reports that an Israeli owned ship was hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea. Intelligence sources claim that the missile could have been fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or Houthi rebels in Yemen. The ship was sailing under a Liberian flag from Tanzania to India but is owned by an Israeli company. No casualties or injuries were reported.
BBC News reports that Germany’s national football team wore t-shirts protesting Qatar’s human rights record during a world cup qualifying match. Qatar is due to host the 2022 World Cup, and its human rights record has come under increased scrutiny. German players wore black t-shirts that spelled out ‘Human rights’. A report last month said that 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it was awarded the World Cup in 2010. Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka said: “We wanted to show we are not ignoring that. We have a large reach and we can use it to set an example for the values we want to stand for.”
A video report from BBC News examines the Syrian regime’s suspected chemical attack in the rebel held area in Eastern Ghouta in 2013. The video shows how children were treated after the attack, which killed dozens of people.
The Times, The Associated Press and Reuters report that Houthi rebels fired explosive drones that hit an oil terminal in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Energy Ministry said in a statement last night, “A projectile attack on a petroleum products distribution terminal in Jizan resulted in a fire in one of the terminal’s tanks.” A Houthi military spokesperson confirmed this morning that they launched drone attacks on a number of Saudi military sites and oil facilities.
The Economist reports on Saudi Arabia’s struggle to end the war in Yemen. The paper notes: “Six years have passed since Saudi Arabia declared victory in what it dubbed Operation Decisive Storm, the opening salvo of its war in Yemen. Yet the kingdom is still trying to find its way out of the squall.”
The Economist reports on Iraq’s growing frustrating with Iranian influence in the country: “Many Iraqis once hailed [Qassem] Soleimani as hero for mobilising local forces that beat back the jihadists of Islamic State. But public sentiment in Iraq has turned. The masses who cheered Iran as a liberator increasingly see it as an occupying power. Iraqi politicians are trying to loosen its grip.”
In the Israeli media, Kan Radio reports that a high-ranking security official said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) most likely attacked an Israeli-owned commercial ship earlier this week off the coast of Oman as it was making its way from Tanzania to India. Nobody was hurt, but the ship suffered light damage. It was able to reach its port of destination. Alex Fishman writes in Yediot Ahronot that there has been a substantial decrease in the volume of oil that is shipped by sea from Iran to the port of Latakia in Syria in the last few months. “This is not a coincidence” and is “one of the results of the naval war between Iran and Israel, whose goal is to block the passage of Iranian oil earmarked to fund the military activity of the Iranian Quds Force and of Hezbollah in Syria and in Lebanon. Now it appears that Iran is trying to deter Israel from interrupting the oil supply to Syria by attacking ships that ply the commercial route between Israel and the Far East”.
Kan Radio reports that the Health Ministry demanded yesterday to urgently convene the cabinet to decide on buying NIS 3.5 billion worth of new vaccines and to approve an addition to its budget for a similar sum. The Health Ministry did not explain why it was necessary at this time to purchase tens of millions of vaccines when most of the population had already been vaccinated, and since it still has millions of vaccines as well as commitments to receive more vaccines. The Health Ministry reportedly asked the ministers to sign a document forbidding them from discussing the matter in public. Channel 12 News reports on the success of the vaccines. Yesterday there were only 470 confirmed coronavirus cases representing 1.1 per cent of those tested.
Walla notes that the US State Department is resuming aid to the Palestinians, which was mostly stopped by the Trump administration. The State Department said in a statement that the USAID agency would transfer $15m in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip via Christian-American aid organisation and not via the Palestinian Authority (PA), likely due to several congressional laws that limit the ability of the US to transfer non-security related aid to the PA.
All the Israeli media cover yesterday’s ruling by the High Court of Justice that Prime Minister Netanyahu is bound by the conflict of interest agreement drafted by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. The most significant aspect prohibits the prime minister from making judicial appointments, including the police commissioner and state prosecutor.
Most of the Israeli media is dominated by the election. In Yediot Ahronot Sima Kadmon offers a commentary that outlines the difficulties faced by both the pro-Netanyahu bloc and the bloc seeking to replace the prime minister. She says Gideon Saar is very unlikely to return to the Likud, despite his party’s poor election result. As for Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, Kadmon states: “The best scenario for Lapid is to form a government with the support of the Joint List and to forgo [the partnership with] Bennett. In such a case, he will be able to serve fully as prime minister, without an alternating premiership … this probably won’t happen either. New Hope officials announced last night that they would not consent to form a government with the support of the Joint List.” According to Kadmon, it is a moment of truth both for Lapid and for Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett, who must decide whether to “cross the Rubicon” and join the leadership of the bloc working to remove Netanyahu. A senior source in this bloc is quoted as saying that, “The only option for forming a government is under Bennett’s leadership,” and that Bennett should be installed as prime minister even for a period of 18 months to two years to stabilise the political situation.
Nahum Barnea writes in Yediot Ahronot: “In the end, a majority of the Israelis voted ‘no’ to Bibi. The arithmetic is simple: It includes all those who voted in favour of the parties that pledged not to serve under Netanyahu, plus one quarter or one half of the voters for Bennett’s Yamina, plus all, or nearly all, of the voters for the Islamic list. The majority has spoken. The majority may be wrong; it may be ungrateful; someone from the secret laboratories of the left wing may have inserted an earpiece into its ear at night and broadcasted instructions to its subconscious; but it is difficult to argue with the numbers. The conclusion: Any political manoeuvre that enables Netanyahu to form a government and lead it will be a distortion of the will of the majority.”
Also, in Yediot Ahronot, Yuval Karni quotes senior sources in the “camp of change” who say that the possibility of forming a government headed by someone other than Netanyahu would only be by presenting Bennett’s candidacy for prime minister. They say that Lapid is unable to form the next government due to the refusal of parts of the bloc to accept the support of the Arab parties. “The only option for forming a government is under Bennett’s leadership… he should be positioned as prime minister even for a period of 18 months to two years, in order to extricate the country from the mire and calm down the political establishment.”
Maariv writes that the pro-Netanyahu bloc believes the establishment of a right-wing government will encounter major difficulties because getting Yamina to join will not be enough, and it must get another party to join as well. The Likud is setting its sights on its erstwhile partner, Blue and White. Likud sources said: “Gantz’s achievement was surprising, and he has an advantage since no side boycotts him and he doesn’t boycott either side. His election campaign was called ‘I’ll watch over Netanyahu from the inside,’ and this will make it easier for him to join the Netanyahu bloc.” But the article says it’s hard to see Gantz disappointing his voters once again and joining Netanyahu, and quotes Blue and White sources who say: “We are committed to the bloc for change. There will be no talking to Netanyahu.”