Erdoğan calls for new Turkish constitution
The Telegraph reports that hundreds of pro-democracy protestors were arrested last night in Istanbul. Protests have been ongoing for over a month, but this week they focused on the appointment of Melihu Bulu as the new rector of Boğaziçi University. Bulu was appointed in early January without any consultation with the university’s faculty or administration, which caused anger across the student population. Some students suggested Bulu is responsible for the escalation in violence towards the protestors. This week protestors were hit with plastic bullets and pepper spray. The Independent reports that Turkey’s Interior Minister called the protesting students “LGBT perverts” on his twitter, prompting the company to limit access to his profile.
The Times reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the country should consider introducing a new constitution. This comes just over two years after the current constitution granted him sweeping new powers. Critics believe the new constitution would further cement his authority. Erdoğan made the announcement as his approval ratings hit an all-time low whilst the country is facing a deteriorating economic crisis.
The Guardian reports that Australia has pressed Qatar for a report on the “non-consensual intimate medical examination” of 18 women during a Sydney bound flight last October. The women were forced to undergo the exam after a newborn baby was found dumped at the airport in Qatar. Qatari authorities later apologised to the women and added that those responsible would be brought to justice, with legal proceedings beginning this month. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expressed its “disappointment that the government of Qatar has so far not provided the Australian government with a report into the incident at Hamad International Airport”.
BBC News and The Associated Press report that Iran has released the crew of the South-Korean flagged tanker it seized last month. South Korea requested the crew be released, and a statement yesterday from Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the 19 crewmembers would be freed on humanitarian grounds. Iran apprehended the tanker in the Gulf over “environmental pollution,” a claim denied by the tanker’s operator. Reports suggested that Iran seized the South Korean tanker because of $7 billion (£5 billion) of frozen Iranian funds in South Korean banks. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Seoul was trying to unfreeze the money, while a spokesman from South Korea’s foreign ministry said the move would help “restore trust”.
The Guardian reports that a British-Iranian national has managed to escape prison in Iran and is now living in London. Kameel Ahmady was sentenced to nine years in prison for cooperation with “a hostile state power” in November 2020. In an interview with the paper, Ahmady explains that after spending 100 days in Evin prison he faced “a choice of whether I would stay and not see my family and four-year-old child until he was 14, or to risk fleeing”. He escaped by “crossing the border through snow 1.5 metres deep and fog, evading Iranian border patrols”.
The Associated Press reports on Hamas and the upcoming Palestinian elections. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s luxurious lifestyle split between Qatar and Turkey will hamper the group’s election campaign as a “scrappy underdog that is above trading its principles for material comforts”. The report notes that “Hamas’ image among many Palestinians, even onetime supporters, has suffered since 2007. Since then, Hamas has established its own quasi-state with its own civil service and security forces. But it has struggled to provide even basic services with Gaza’s economy devastated by three wars with Israel and a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has confined the territory’s 2 million people to what Palestinians often refer to as the world’s largest open-air prison. That some of its leaders have left Gaza has not helped.”
All the Israeli media continue to cover the aftermath of the shooting incident in the Israeli Arab town of Tamra, where an innocent nursing student Ahmad Hijazi was killed during an exchange of gunfire between police and criminals. A second man was also injured in the crossfire. In addition, one of the criminals was also shot dead, a second sustained serious injuries and the third fled the scene. The third suspect was captured last night, and he was taken into custody. Maariv quotes Northern District Police Commander Shimon Lavi who expressed regret for the death of Hijazi and support for the policemen: “In the past month and a half there have been three incidents of shooting between police officers and criminals. Anyone who raises a gun at police officers needs to die. It’s that simple. I praise the policemen’s conduct, with a caveat on account of the death of a civilian in the incident. Unfortunately, two innocent civilians who apparently had come out of their homes due to curiosity after hearing the gunshots, were caught in those exchanges of fire. One of them was killed and the other sustained light injuries. Currently, it is impossible to tell whether the two of them were hit by shots that were fired by the police or by the criminals. The Police Internal Investigations Department is investigating that.” The paper notes that more than 2,000 people protested in Tamra last night against what they decried as “the racist policies of the government and the police against Arab society”.
Yediot Ahronot prominently features commentary by Zouheir Bahloul, a former Israeli-Arab MK from the Labor Party. He writes, “The virus of violence has continued to spread in Arab society. Even worse, it has already begun to mutate. I doubt whether any vaccine can save us anymore… Arab society is a young, dynamic and energetic society. It naturally yearns for a horizon and a vision, just as every normal society in the world does. The problem is that the state’s leaders have failed to create for the youth either a horizon or a vision, either employment or a dream. The result has been tremendous unemployment… the youth are overwhelmingly uneducated. It views guns as a tool for earning a living and as a macho symbol. They race through the streets in their cars, burning rubber and inspiring terror; they extort and exploit the urban slums for more and more candidates who want to earn fast money — and turn them into the new criminals. The people who failed to act to meet the needs of the Arab minority in Israel have now received in return a lost generation that is sowing destruction and is turning the notion of personal safety into a sad joke. Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot promise something that he has failed to do for 12 years. We too, the Arab leadership, have a role in that. Bibi is going to be hard pressed to rebuild out of the rubble. Either he or the person who replaces him will have to build everything from the ground up: employment, public transportation, development and creating a reality that inspires hope. Otherwise, we will remain stuck in the quagmire of fear and we will continue to bury our sons, as we did in the case of Ahmad Hijazi, an innocent student.”
All the Israeli media look ahead to the cabinet meeting later today to discuss a further extension of the lockdown, which currently ends at 7:00 AM on Friday. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Health Ministry support extending the lockdown until Sunday. Netanyahu said that extending the lockdown would make it possible to inoculate another 200,000 Israelis aged 50 and up who have not yet been vaccinated. According to Israel Hayom, the Likud and Blue and White will agree to reopen the kindergartens early next week.
Kan Radio News reports that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is demanding that some restrictions be lifted as early as Friday, such as the limit of straying more than a kilometre from home, as well as allowing restaurants to take orders for takeout and some businesses to reopen. The Prime Minister and the Health Ministry object to those demands. If other demands that Gantz has posed are met, such as presenting a detailed outline for ending the lockdown, the Blue and White leader might consent to extending the restrictions until Sunday. In response, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that Gantz’s demand was irresponsible and that reopening on Friday after a long lockdown would contribute almost nothing to the economy but would have deadly consequences. He said that the reopening would begin next week with extreme caution. The health minister said further that Ben Gurion Airport would not reopen next week, and that the Health Ministry was considering reopening schools cautiously. The Education Ministry will determine the appropriate model while taking the medical requirements into account.
Israel Hayom reports that the Biden administration will resume financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, reversing President Trump’s decision to cut aid in 2018. The paper quotes State Department Spokesman Ned Price speaking at a press briefing yesterday: “The suspension of aid to the Palestinian people has neither produced political progress nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership. It has only harmed innocent Palestinians. The US will reinvigorate our humanitarian leadership and work to galvanise the international community to meet its humanitarian obligations, including to the Palestinian people. This is something we’re working on very quickly to restore and announce.”
Less than two days remain until the final lists must be submitted to the Central Elections Committee. The Labour Party is showing a rise in momentum following their primaries earlier this week, according to the latest poll on Channel 13 News. The Likud receives 29 seats, New Hope 16, Yesh Atid 16, Yamina 10, Joint List 10, Labor Party 8, Shas 8, United Torah Judaism 8, Yisrael Beiteinu 7, Meretz 5, and Blue and White 4. According to this poll, several parties do not make it over the threshold including, The Israelis, The Religious Zionist Party, Jewish Power and Jewish Home.