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Media Summary

Details emerge on US assassination of al-Qaeda leader

Reuters and the Independent follow comments by Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who said Iran has a “very ambitious nuclear programme that needs to be verified in the appropriate way,” a day after Tehran declares it had the technical capability to produce an atomic bomb – but no intention of doing so.

The Guardian reports on newly published IDF military testimonies that highlight the bureaucratic power of COGAT’s (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) “permit regime” over Palestinians in the West Bank.

The BBCThe TimesIndependent and The Telegraph write about the US assassination of al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on Sunday. Al-Zawahiri was killed as he stood on the balcony of a house near the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul. He was hit by a Hellfire “Ninja” R9X missile fired from a drone by the CIA, Washington officials said yesterday. The Times notes that the Taliban’s co-operation with other jihadist movements in Afghanistan has been laid bare after al-Zawahiri’s death. The Telegraph reports, however, that talks to release billions of dollars to Afghanistan were in jeopardy as the US accused the Taliban of violating a key peace deal by hosting al-Zawahiri.

Writing in The Telegraph, Tom Tugendhat argues that al-Qaeda has faded as ISIS and others have grown in power, but for much of the past few decades parents have lived in fear that their children would destroy their own lives, and those of their victims, as part of this death cult. Few will mourn al-Zawahiri’s passing; the question now is what happens next.

In the Independent, Kim Sengupta writes, “The assassination comes as al-Qaeda seeks to regain its terrorism leadership while ISIS is still reeling from the loss of its caliphate.”

Reuters reports the US State Department has approved the potential sale of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interceptors to the UAE and Patriot missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia in separate deals worth as much as $5.3 billion.

In the Israeli media, Amos Hochstein, the US envoy for international energy affairs who has been mediating maritime border negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, met with Prime Minister Yair Lapid yesterday following the talks he held earlier this week in Beirut with top Lebanese officials, including the president, prime minister, and parliament speaker. Maariv reports that “Hochstein’s visit to Israel would seem to indicate that progress was made in the talks [he held in Lebanon] and that he hopes to reach an agreement to resolve the border dispute as quickly as possible. American officials said that the chances of resolving the Israeli-Lebanese border dispute were higher than the chances of a military conflagration. The US has been pressuring Israel to take a more lenient stance and to avert a military conflict.”

Yediot Ahronot follows the latest developments in the Likud primaries. “From anonymous text messages against candidates to party activists acting against other party activists: All political moves are considered kosher in the fight for a Knesset seat or a choice spot on the party’s election slate.” One of the central battles shaping up is between Yariv Levin, who has a close relationship with Netanyahu, and Eli Cohen, who has been gaining popularity recently within the party. The two MKs have built a lot of support among party activists on the ground and are both expected to improve their positions on the Likud election list. Likud sources say the battles surrounding the “day after” Netanyahu are also having an outsized impact on the current party election. Likud field activists identified with Yisrael Katz and Nir Barkat have been trying to weaken one another in an attempt to undermine the other candidate’s chances of winning a high-ranking slot on the party’s election list.

Israel Hayom reports that a pilot programme allowing Palestinian passengers to travel from Israel’s Ramon international airport received official approval with a first charter flight to Turkey set for later this month. According to Amir Assi of Al-Amir Group, a company that makes connections between tourists from the Palestinian Authority and the rest of the Arab world, the programme will initially focus on travellers from Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank because the distance is relatively shorter for them to the airport near Eliat. However, it is not clear if Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will be included in the pilot programme.

The Jerusalem Post reveals new details from Jared Kushner’s upcoming book about the Trump administration’s time in office. President Trump threatened not to block international sanctions on Israel if then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unilaterally annexed parts of the West Bank. Kushner also recounted that in 2017, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas “assured me that if I could get a map out of Israel ‘we will be flexible and everything else will be easy.'” However, Kushner did not think the map alone was enough, and said the administration was “struggling to convince Bibi [Netanyahu], a master negotiator, to agree to a compromise that would give tangible life improvements to the Palestinians”.

Channel 12 News reports that Netanyahu is holding up the necessary legislation for Israel to be added to the US State Department’s Visa Waiver Programme. US Ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Nides met with Netanyahu recently and asked him to convene in special session in order to pass the necessary legislation so that Israelis can begin entering the US without needing a visa as early as the beginning of next year. According to leaked notes from the meeting, Netanyahu was not convinced. He apparently wants to prevent Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked from taking credit for this accomplishment. Shaked said last night: “Everything is ready, the process can get underway if only the Likud would stop this needless stonewalling.” The Likud issued the following statement: “According to American law, approval for Israeli visas can only happen a year from now. The requisite legislation in Israel hasn’t even been tabled in the Knesset plenum; at this stage the legislation also includes invasions of Israeli citizens’ privacy that we cannot accept. After we form a stable government, the Likud will push forward with the necessary, responsible legislation and will complete this process by March 2023 so granting visas will not be delayed by even a single day.”