Media Summary

Iran’s decision to enrich uranium metal threatens Vienna talks

BBC News reports that ongoing talks regarding a return to the JCPOA nuclear deal may be in jeopardy after Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it has begun the process of producing enriched uranium metal. The US called the decision an “unfortunate step backwards” while E3 (UK, Germany and France) officials said the move could threaten ongoing negotiations in Vienna.

The Independent reports that the E3 issued a joint statement expressing their “grave concern” about Iran’s decision to produce uranium metal. Iran claimed they were doing it for research and civilian purposes but a joint E3 statement pushed back saying “Iran has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon”. The statement continued, “We strongly urge Iran to halt all activities in violation of the JCPOA, without delay and to return to the negotiations in Vienna with a view to bringing them to a swift conclusion.”

The Telegraph and The Independent report on the dire situation facing Lebanon and the Prime Minister’s warning that “Lebanon is a few days away from the social explosion”. The recent financial collapse has pushed more than half of the population into poverty. The Prime Minister called on the international community to save Lebanon from “death and demise”.

The Times reports that a US military base in northern Iraq was attacked by Iranian-backed militias just hours after the group threatened retaliation for a US strike that killed four members of the militia. The base was reportedly targeted by 20 rockets and three drones, and a video showed widespread fires across the area. The paper notes that this was the third attack on US targets in Iraq in the last two days.

Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia’s deputy defence minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, arrived in Washington for talks with the Biden administration. The discussions will focus on the war in Yemen, threats from Iran and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. Salman is the highest-ranking Saudi official to visit Washington since President Biden assumed office earlier this year.

In the Israeli media, the papers continue to analyse the defeat the Bennett-Lapid government suffered in the Knesset yesterday morning after losing the vote on the so-called “citizenship law”. Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Nahum Barnea says Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to choose Amichai Chilki (who voted against the coalition in the vote) as one of the top seven candidates on Yamina’s list “was the sort of decision one might expect from the chairperson of a school decoration committee, not the leader of a political party”. Barnea adds, however, that there are several things the coalition can take consolation in: “First, most Israelis don’t care much about the citizenship law. It may be an important issue in the Arab sector and a convenient slogan for Kahanists in their speeches, but nobody else had paid much attention to the citizenship law until this week, and they aren’t going to think about it in the weeks ahead either. Second, the Israelis understand that this government isn’t going to do anything that is ideologically revolutionary. They want a functioning government, for a change. Third, the commitment to keeping the coalition intact hasn’t been damaged — not really.”

In Israel Hayom, Ariel Kahana dismisses the notion that the opposition’s decision to vote against the citizenship law was in any way either untoward or a violation of conventional political norms. Kahana writes: “Here’s a news flash: parliamentary oppositions vote against governing coalitions. Yes, that is even true when the opposition votes against the state budget or any other legislation where it can be claimed that they have done damage to the state. But that’s the way the political game works. Coalitions vote ‘yes,’ oppositions vote ‘no.’ Stop being naïve.” Commenting on the substance of the bill and its implications, Kahana argues that the vote will result in a Palestinian “‘right of return’ on steroids.” Kahana concludes: “Less than a month into the radical left-wing-Lapid-Bennett government we’ve already gotten a big blow to the Zionist project. And let us not be fooled by illusions: This is only the beginning. There hasn’t been any international pressure yet. The security challenges are still ahead. Anyone who goes to bed with terrorist sympathisers is going to wake up in the morning to find he’s got no political power to oppose them.”

Sima Kadmon writes in Yediot Ahronot that “it is unfathomable that people like Avi Dichter, who as the former GSS director is closely identified with the cabinet decision from 2001 on the issue of family unification and the law that was passed in 2003, might vote against it. How could he not have been ashamed of himself when he raised his hand against a law that is his only legacy? Not to mention all of the senior Likud MKs who know that their vote was pure partisan politics and was in utter defiance of the position presented by the GSS, which said that a vote against the citizenship law would be damaging to national security. It is baffling to see how no one in the Likud has shaken free from the spell and how they have all continued to be led by the nose by Netanyahu. Once upon a time they could still argue that Netanyahu is able to deliver positions of governmental power to them. But nobody can say that anymore.” Kadmon concludes that despite the loss, the vote might have “brought the members of the coalition closer together. Sure, no one likes to lose in a vote that is a test for the coalition. And yes, this coalition is very fragile and is going to need to choose its battles carefully. But it also proved that all of its members, from Ayelet Shaked to Mansour Abbas, want to see it continue to serve. This is a working and functioning coalition.”

Kan Radio News reports that the Knesset has approved in its second and third readings of a bill to allow four MKs to splinter off from a parliamentary faction, even if the four MKs do not account for one-third of the parent party’s Knesset faction. The vote was 60-54. The government also withdrew a vote on extending a measure to allow the IDF to address the issue of incoming conscripts who falsely declare they are observant Jews in order to dodge military service after failing to guarantee the majority needed to get it passed. The United Arab List faction refused to vote in favour of the bill.

Maariv reports that 521 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Israel yesterday, with 0.7 per cent of tests returning positive. Of those infected, 40 are in serious condition and 16 are on ventilators. Walla writes that the coronavirus cabinet convened yesterday evening to discuss ongoing efforts to prevent the continued spread of the Delta variant in Israel. However, in response to the way the voting was going in the Knesset and the coalition’s fears of losing another vote in the plenum, the coronavirus cabinet meeting was adjourned before any decisions were made. Health Ministry officials who attended the meeting recommended a series of measures, including making rapid testing mandatory at summer camps that are attended by more than 100 children and at the entrances to geriatric facilities. The Ministry also recommended mandating obligatory quarantines for vaccinated Israelis who are in close and regular contact with people who are required to be quarantined; mandating obligatory quarantines for people returning from overseas until the results of the coronavirus test that they took upon landing in Ben Gurion Airport are received; mandating a second coronavirus test for people returning from overseas four days after their arrival (in addition to the test of the ninth day).