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Media Summary

Egypt’s Sisi prepares his army for Libya intervention 

The BBC reports that Saudi Arabia has lifted its nationwide coronavirus curfew and all economic and commercial activities will resume, but other restrictions on international travel and religious pilgrimages remain in place. The kingdom has not yet made any announcements about the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which attracts over 2.5m Muslims to the city of Mecca in late July. Several countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia, have said they will not allow their nationals to attend.

Avi Shlaim writes in The Guardian that the UK has an historic duty to prevent Israel from extending its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank. Shlaim says the Balfour Declaration of 1917 enabled the Zionist movement to embark on the systematic takeover of Palestine, a process the Zionists themselves initially described as settler colonialism, which is still continuing. He adds were Israel to annex 30 per cent of the West Bank, it would leave the Palestinians with roughly 15 per cent of historic Palestine and “hammer the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution to which the international community still clings”.

According to The Times and the Financial Times, Egypian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has told his army and air force to prepare to join the civil war in neighbouring Libya, amid rising tensions over Turkey’s recent intervention in the conflict. He warned forces loyal to the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli not to cross the front line near the coastal city of Sirte, which separates them and the renegade commander Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army. Sisi’s intervention comes after the GNA rejected a potential ceasefire and the proposal of a new “elected national council” that had been backed by Cairo earlier this month.

The Guardian reports on a new investigation by Amnesty International that claims the Israeli-based NSO Group’s hacking software was used on Moroccan journalist Omar Radi. Amnesty said the timing of the alleged targeting in Morocco indicated that they occurred after NSO published a new human rights policy in September 2019, and after the company became aware of an earlier report by Amnesty that detailed other allegedly unlawful hacking attacks in Morocco that used the company’s technology. NSO said in a statement that it was “deeply troubled” by a letter it received from Amnesty that contained the allegations.

The Telegraph and The Guardian lead with the development of Yemeni separatists, backed by the United Arab Emirates, taking control of most of UNESCO World Heritage site, Socotra Archipelago, over the weekend in what the internationally-recognised government is calling a “full-fledged coup”. The island of Socotra sits at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, some 230 miles south of Yemen, is recognised as globally important for its biodiversity. Over 90 per cent of the reptiles and molluscs on the islands are endemic. It is feared that fighting in Soctora could cause irreversible damage to the World Heritage Site.

All the Israeli media report that Israel is on the verge of re-imposing lockdown measures as daily coronavirus cases continue to rise. It was reported last night that there were 145 new cases in the past 24 hours. At the start of yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that if this rise continued, a new lockdown could be imposed. Some ministers called to immediately reinstate permission for the Shin Bet to track coronavirus patients, but is opposed by its director, Nadav Argaman. The coronavirus cabinet will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss new measures to try and limit the rise of coronavirus.

Yediot Ahronot reports on the request by the Prime Minister’s Offices to the Finance Committee asking for equal conditions for both the alternate prime minister and the serving prime minister. The ample package includes operating a residence, augmenting staff, funding family members, storage services and more. The committee is scheduled to discuss the request. The paper says the request has one clear goal: to have the State of Israel finance the expenses of the Netanyahu family and improve their conditions beyond what they currently are. For example, Netanyahu is now seeking that the state treasury will bear “the household expenses of the prime minister and those who live with him” – i.e., that the state will now officially start paying the expenses of his wife and son. Another improvement expands the number of full-time secretaries a prime minister can have from two to four, who will also continue on to the alternate prime minister. In addition, the document demands a full refund of taxes that Netanyahu paid for the government vehicle that he used from 2009-2018. When the document was released, Gantz announced in a letter to the committee that he was giving up the alternate residence and coverage of his family’s household expenses.

Writing in Ma’ariv, Ben Caspit says, “The requests that were snuck into the Finance Committee by the back door yesterday, under cover of the coronavirus turmoil, are truly monstrous. Netanyahu wants a tax exemption for all of the renovations in his private home. An ordinary citizen, if something is installed in their home, has to pay tax on it. Not the Netanyahu family. He wants a sweeping and retroactive exemption on everything.”

Israel Hayom says Prime Minister Netanyahu is determined to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank. “Applying sovereignty has become his life’s mission … he long ago became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and now he’s fighting for what he will leave behind.” The paper notes that while Netanyahu can be assured of a majority in the cabinet to approve the extension of sovereignty, even without Blue and White, there were other factors that could prevent this, in addition to the Americans, such as Aryeh Deri, who hinted last week that he might not support annexation unless it were also supported by Blue and White, thus leaving Netanyahu dependent on the vote of his erstwhile adviser, Yoaz Hendel. Netanyahu has met with Gantz several times in the last few days and reportedly made it clear to him: “if there’s no sovereignty, there’s no government. It’s either sovereignty or elections; there’s no middle ground.”