Media Summary

Iranian helicopter flies very close to US warship in Gulf

BBC News publishes a short explanation about the Iran nuclear crisis. The article explains what the JCPOA nuclear deal attempted to accomplish and why it is now close to collapse.

BBC News reports that a 5-day joint naval exercise between the UAE, Bahrain, Israel and the US is signalling increased concerns over Iran. The US said the training would “enhance interoperability between participating forces’ maritime interdiction teams”. The report notes that since the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020 “there has been an intense exchange of diplomatic, military and intelligence contacts between Israel and those Gulf states, as all parties share their concern over Iran’s activities”.

The Times reports that the US has accused Iran’s navy of being “unsafe and unprofessional” after an Iranian helicopter flew within 25 yards of a US ship. The helicopter reportedly circled the USS Essex three times. The Pentagon’s press secretary called the move “dangerous” adding that at one point the helicopter flew as low as 10 feet above the water.

Reuters reports that US President Joe Biden and Chines President Xi Jinping discussed the upcoming negotiations over the JCPOA nuclear deal during a virtual meeting yesterday. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that Biden and Xi “had the chance to talk about how we can align our perspectives heading into that meeting so that the P5+1 is united in dealing with Iran and trying to pave the way for a return to the [deal]”.

The Independent reports that Amnesty International has called on FIFA to ensure that Qatar fulfils its promise to reform labour laws, with just a year to go until the World Cup. Amnesty has also asked David Beckham to do all he can to ensure Qatar does not continue to exploit its workers. Beckham signed a deal with Qatar to be a high-profile ambassador for the 2022 World Cup.

The Times reports that the corruption trial of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was paused after new evidence revealed that his wife received several gifts, including jewellery worth £50,000. The defence was given six days to examine the new evidence, and a spokesperson for Netanyahu said that it was “a jumble of lies and obstructions of justice that arrives at non-coincidental timing and reflects the prosecution’s distress at the weakness of its three cases”.

The Israeli media is dominated by two issues: the latest delay in Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial and the continued detention of Mordy and Natalie Oknin in Turkey. Yediot Ahronot reports that Nir Hefetz, a former confident of Netanyahu and now a state’s witness, had been scheduled to begin testifying yesterday. However, the court delayed proceedings for a week due to a leaked testimony from Hadas Klein the day before, in which she asserted that Sara Netanyahu received an expensive bracelet worth $45,000, along with several other pieces of jewellery from Arnon Milchan and James Packer, two of the family’s benefactors. Chief political correspondent Nahum Barnea says: “This isn’t a fight about the defendants’ innocence or their lawyers’ rights. The fight is over control: who is holding the reigns on the Netanyahu trial and who is being steered; who is setting the agenda, and who is being forced to react to it. Four groups are vying for control: the prosecution, the judges, the media and the people leaking information.”

In Maariv, Ben Caspit takes aim at Netanyahu’s lawyer, Boaz Ben Zur, who had represented Hadas Klein and Arnon Milchan before switching to Netanyahu, and who reportedly advised Klein not to volunteer information to the detectives without being asked. Caspit says: “His first conflict of interest was when he represented both Arnon Milchan and Hadas Klein during the investigation. It has now become evident that Klein, acting on [Ben Zur’s] advice, refrained from volunteering information about jewellery that was purchased for Mrs. Netanyahu (worth nearly quarter of a million shekels). Ben Zur had an excellent reason for giving her that advice: the spiralling number of gifts and other benefits was liable to complicate matters for Ben Zur’s other and wealthier client, Arnon Milchan. Ben Zur, as far as we know, didn’t bother informing Klein that he was serving Milchan’s interests at her expense.”

Reporting from Istanbul, Yediot Ahronot’s Yoav Zitun and Itamar Eichner pointed to comments by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu that Mordy and Natalie Oknin had “marked” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace and described it as “political and military espionage”. The reporters also said Soylu’s statement that a Turkish court “will be the one to decide” might signal that Turkey is not planning to bring this crisis to a quick end — possibly because officials in Ankara are using the Israeli couple as pawns in Turkey’s domestic politics. “Soylu is a very senior figure in Turkey, having served as deputy chairman of Erdogan’s party. He is not particularly close to Erdogan and his statement appears to suggest that the couple has become embroiled in a domestic power struggle in Turkey. What is clear is this: Soylu’s comments make matters more complicated because they mean that Turkey is doubling down on its position,” according to the report.

Kan Radio notes that Israel’s consul in Istanbul, Ronen Levy, visited Natalie Oknin yesterday while the consul-general in Turkey, Udi Eitam, visited her husband, Mordy. The diplomats also met with prison officials to ensure better conditions for the Oknins. The defence lawyers representing Natalie and Mordy, who were arrested on charges of espionage, filed an appeal with a Turkish court in response to a previous ruling to remand the suspects until indictment.

Israel Hayom follows reports from Syria’s state-run media that Israel carried out an attack on the country’s south early Wednesday with two missiles targeting an empty house. The missiles came from the Golan Heights and aimed at the building south of the capital Damascus, the state-run news agency SANA said. It said Syria’s air defence systems intercepted one of the incoming missiles. The attack caused no casualties, the agency said.

Several newspapers in Israel reveal that the head of the Shin Bet security service met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the last few days to discuss security coordination and the efforts to reach an agreement on the Gaza Strip. Ronen Bar has been meeting other high-ranking security officials in recent days, including the head of Egypt’s intelligence, Abbas Kamel, and others from Cairo’s security establishment on Sunday. Before this, he also met with Jordanian security officials. The meeting comes amid concerns in Israel that economic collapse in the West Bank could have severe security ramifications for Israel. Earlier this week, Israel asked the Biden administration to exert pressure on Arab and European countries to increase financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, ahead of today’s Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting for Palestinian funding.