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Media Summary

IAEA says it has been unable to fully monitor Iran’s nuclear programme since February

The BBC published a short explainer on the upcoming Iranian Presidential elections. The piece explains why much has changed in the four years since the last election and provides some of the key reasons why this one will be closely watched by the international community. The Financial Times looks inside the Iranian reformers’ battle for change, as decades of struggle is forcing activist in the theocratic state to rethink their tactics.

The BBC looks at the rise of “nationalist” Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, who may be Israel’s next Prime Minister, and explains some of his key policy goals regarding the Palestinian conflict, including “Jewish settlement in the West Bank” and “strengthening Israel’s hold on the West Bank”. The Times reports that Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up pressure on wavering right-wing MPs from the various parties that have joined forces in an effort to end his 12 years in power. The Telegraph quotes heavily from Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s speech yesterday in which he said, “We can end this next week. In a week, the state of Israel can be in a new era with a new prime minister.” Reuters questions whether the 71-year-old Netanyahu, dubbed “the magician” by his admirers, has any cards left up his sleeve to salvage his reign as Prime Minister.

The Guardian reports that over 50 former foreign ministers, prime ministers and senior international officials, including two British Conservative former ministers, have signed an open letter condemning political interference in efforts by the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine. The paper also publishes an opinion in support of the letter.

The Times publishes an article about why the Black Lives Matter movement is backing the Palestinian cause. “The group’s adoption of the Palestinian cause, a largely unpopular and marginal issue in a country that is strident in its support of Israel, resulted in more and larger demonstrations against the state than ever before in the US. And it meant that in Congress, where a vocal group of left-wing Democratic members now sit, some of whom cut their teeth in the BLM, there was open support for the Palestinian cause.”

The Financial Times Editorial Board publishes an op-ed arguing that a lasting peace in Israel needs US engagement. “As Israel’s main ally, the US has a moral obligation to hold the Jewish state to account. It should use its leverage to end maltreatment of Palestinians, whether it be evictions, settlement expansion or the harassment occupied Palestinians endure from Israeli security forces and Jewish settlers.”

The Guardian reports that the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), hasn’t been able to access data important to monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme since late February when the Islamic Republic began restricting international inspections of its facilities. Last week, the IAEA said Iran’s failure to provide credible explanations for traces of uranium found at two undeclared sites was “a big problem” that was affecting the country’s credibility.

The Independent reports that medical workers in Syria have protested furiously after the country’s government was elevated to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) executive board.

The Israeli media is dominated by the increasing prospects of a new government led by Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid. Israel Hayom publishes a commentary this morning that heavily criticises those who call Yamina MK’s traitors, which has resulted in Bennett and Ayelet Shaked requiring bodyguards, “a badge of shame for Israeli society and is unacceptable”. The commentary says, “The overwhelming majority in the right-wing and in the Likud does not take part in violence, but to prevent things from deteriorating to such a low level, that majority must not remain a silent majority. It can protest against Bennett and Shaked, but at the same time, it must also denounce all violence and threats of violence from every side. That is what we expect from the Likud MKs as well as from ministers and the prime minister, who himself suffered not long ago from similar threats.”

Yediot Ahronot reports on the lengths Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to go to in order to thwart any potential initiative from within his own party to oust him. “Netanyahu is now considering calling a Likud party primary quickly in hope of receiving the renewed confidence of the registered Likud members. Netanyahu has said in private conversations that he intends to remain the party chairman and lead the Likud from the opposition.” Instability inside the ranks of the party are already emerging, with Miri Regev criticising Likud Secretariat Chairman Yisrael Katz, who called on Netanyahu to step aside for an 18-month period so as to facilitate the establishment of a right-wing government in which he would not serve as prime minister.

Maariv reports this morning on the ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas under the auspices of Egypt. Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar has told Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Director Abbas Kamel that he is prepared to begin immediately to hold indirect negotiations with Israel about a possible prisoner exchange deal, but refused to accept Israel’s demand that a deal of that kind be linked to the other issues. Israeli security officials said they were sceptical about the chances of a prisoner exchange deal being reached since there were major disparities between the sides over the scope of a possible prisoner release by Israel. According to Kan Radio, Israel has passed on to Hamas a list of security prisoners whom it is willing to release in the context of a prisoner exchange deal. Palestinian sources have said the list had been turned over more than a month and a half ago and that it cited the names of several dozen prisoners, but not hundreds. Sinwar has insinuated that he wants a deal that includes the release of roughly 1,100 security prisoners, many of whom are likely murderers.

Kan Radio reports that the IDF’s inquiry into the Palestinian who infiltrated Israel on Sunday from the Gaza Strip found that he crossed through a hole that had been created by a mortar shell explosion during Operation Guardian of the Walls, and the lookout system did not spot him because of human error. The assailant, who was armed with two knives, walked several kilometres until he was spotted by a resident of the area, who called the security coordinators. One of them shot him, and the assailant sustained light injuries.

The Jerusalem Post reports that David Barnea has become the new head of the Mossad following a final ceremony and a five-and-a-half-year term of Yossi Cohen. In his last speech as Mossad director, Cohen said the agency had “struck deep in Iran’s heart” by virtue of operations revealing the Islamic Republic’ nuclear secrets and its lies as well as actively preventing it from moving forward beyond certain redlines. Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “This may be goodbye, but this is not the end of the story.”

Walla News reports that as of this morning most of the coronavirus restrictions are lifted and no distinction will be made between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. In another week and a half the Health Ministry will review the requirement to wear masks indoors. The prevailing assessment is school pupils will have to continue to wear masks for the time being. However, travel restrictions to certain countries will remain in place for many months. Passengers traveling from Argentina, Russia, Ethiopia, Ukraine, India, Mexico and Brazil will need to quarantine for ten days and be required to take two coronavirus tests, even if they are vaccinated or recovering, for fear of variants entering. If the morbidity trend in these countries continues, the restriction will be extended.