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Media Summary

Iran says US is prepared to lift “almost all” sanctions to return to JCPOA

The BBC and The Guardian report on this morning’s clashes that have broken out between Israeli police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, ahead of a planned Jewish nationalist march. Palestinians threw stones at Israeli security forces, who fired stun grenades, according to reports. Hundreds of Palestinians and more than 20 Israeli police have been injured in clashes over the past three days. There are fears of more violence on Monday over the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March.

Reuters has published an explainer into how and why the tensions and riots in Jerusalem began. The news site also reports that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday expressed “serious concerns” to his Israeli counterpart about violent clashes in Jerusalem sparked by planned evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. Israel and the US also “agreed that the launching of rocket attacks and incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel is unacceptable and must be condemned,” the White House added.

The Independent and Financial Times report on the clashes in Jerusalem over the weekend. Palestinian medics said that 88 people had been taken to hospital and more than 200 injured during two nights of clashes between the Israel Police and Palestinian protesters, mostly by rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings. Gulf and Arab nations condemned the actions of the Israeli security forces over the weekend, while the US and EU allies expressed deep concerns about the growing tensions and violence in the city.

The Times reports that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has announced on state television that the US is prepared to lift “almost all” punitive sanctions on his country in order to revive the JCPOA nuclear deal. Rouhani said that he was optimistic about talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 agreement that was rejected by former US President Donald Trump, with only “some details” remaining to be ironed out. “We’ve reached a point where the Americans and Europeans are saying openly they have no choice but to lift sanctions and return to the [nuclear deal],” Rouhani said.

The Guardian notes that Israel’s supreme court has delayed a deeply contentious decision on whether Palestinians can be evicted by force to make way for Jewish settlers, after hundreds of Palestinians were wounded in confrontations with the police in some of Jerusalem’s worst unrest in years.

The Financial Times’ Editorial Board published an op-ed which argues that Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may be coming to the end of the reign in power.

The Telegraph report that Jordan’s King Abdullah II will make his first trip abroad this week since the family dispute with his younger half-brother that shocked the Hashemite royal family. King Abdullah will travel to Brussels for meetings with NATO and European Union leaders.

The Independent reports that Prominent female Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been summoned by the ministry of interior for questioning three months after her release from prison.

In the Israeli media, Channel 12 News reports that significant progress was made between Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and United Arab List (UAL) leader Mansour Abbas yesterday ahead of agreements that are likely to allow for a new government to be sworn into office next week after Shavuot. The prevailing assessment is that Abbas will vote in favour of the new government and will be part of the coalition, but will not serve as a cabinet minister. Today Bennett, Abbas and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will meet in an attempt to finalise the agreement. The article says the riots in Jerusalem over the past few days have pushed Abbas further away from Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government is perceived as being responsible for the turn of events in the city. Abbas is expected to have his demands met to combat violence in Arab society and to allocate budgets to the sector.

Similarly in Yediot Ahronot, Yuval Karni writes that an agreement would be signed in the course of this week with Abbas, whose party would vote in favour of the new government in a vote of confidence. Abbas convened the UAL Council to present it with the proposed agreement with Bennett and Lapid and to present the UAL’s list of civilian demands formally. One Arab source said that Abbas has consulted with figures within Arab society to contemplate whether to serve as the minister for Arab society affairs. The source said that Abbas wants to play an active role in the government, “but the Shura Council may not want its representative in the government to vote on an operation in Gaza”. The UAL has not yet come to a final decision whether to ask that Abbas be appointed minister for Arab society affairs. Yamina is likely to object in any event.

Meanwhile, a new crack formed in the right-wing-Haredi bloc after Deputy Minister Meir Porush and MK Yisrael Eichler of United Torah Judaism called on Netanyahu to step aside as prime minister for a year and a half to allow for a right-wing government to be formed. “The only way to avert a left-wing government and to avert an election is a clear statement by you that you will grant someone from the right-wing bloc who is able to unite the 65 right-wing MKs the premiership for the first year and a half in an alternating premiership arrangement.” A Likud official said in response: “That’s an internal UTJ issue that has no bearing on the absolute commitment we have to a right-wing government.”

In Yediot Ahronot, Alex Fishman writes that the violent protests in Jerusalem is a means to elevate Hamas’s own standing in the Palestinian mindset as a leading power. He says, “We currently are at a critical phase of Hamas’s plan, in which it is either generating or capitalising on events in order to provoke Israel into reacting violently. It will have a hard time enlisting public support either among the Palestinian public or in the Arab world if it fires dozens of rockets deep into Israeli territory without first being able to show footage of dozens of dead Palestinians in the West Bank or extensive destruction that has been caused by an Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Enlisting the support of the public in Gaza is essential for Hamas, since it is the public in Gaza that will pay the price of the conflict.”

In Channel 12 News, Amos Yadlin explains the wider strategic significance of the Jerusalem riots. He says, “Israel is clinging to an imaginary status quo:  its success in its war on terrorism, the support of the Trump administration that protected Israel from a ‘diplomatic tsunami,’ the Abraham Accords that denied the Palestinians veto right over Israel’s relations with the Arab world, the effective operational response to the threat from Gaza (the Iron Dome system and the underground barrier) and its military might, which acts as a deterrent against a full clash with Gaza—all of these created the illusion that the Palestinian problem either had vanished or that at least there was no need to be proactive and take any initiative. But that is not so. The events of the last few days highlight the need for a comprehensive strategic evaluation about Israel’s goals and how to achieve them. At the moment, there is no political leadership to think about Israel’s strategic manoeuvring, or even on how to manage the crisis intelligently. Every issue has been taken hostage to the ongoing political and legal crisis. The new government, if one is formed soon, will have to devote discussion on the highest of levels to a new and updated definition of its strategic goals in the Palestinian theatre.”

Israel Hayom reports that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat held a telephone conversation with his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan who “encouraged the Israeli government to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations”. Ben-Shabbat informed Sullivan that Israel was handling the events in Jerusalem from a position of “sovereignty, responsibility, and consideration, despite the provocations”. According to an Israeli official, Ben-Shabbat stressed that “International intervention is a prize for the rioters and their handlers, who hoped to have pressure applied to Israel,” and told Sullivan that it would be helpful if international attention were to address the sources of the incitement.