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Media Summary

Israel appoints first ambassador to Bahrain

BBC News and The Independent report that Alexanda Kotey, a suspect of the ‘Beatles’ in ISIS, has pleaded guilty in a US court. His plea was to charges of conspiring to murder four US hostages. He initially pleaded not guilty in court last October. The guilty plea indicates Kotey may be willing to cooperate with prosecutors. One of the leading prosecutors said that Kotey was “an avowed member of ISIS … [and] pleaded guilty today to all charges that were brought against him in the United States for his participation in a horrific hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four US citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria. He has agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison. The four American victims in this case — James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff, and Peter Edward Kassig — were journalists and humanitarian aid workers, pillars of courage and kindness on the front lines of a perilous conflict.”

David Gardner writes for The Financial Times that “the limits to American geopolitical reach now on show in Afghanistan could yet lead to new ways of wielding power,” arguing that Middle Eastern leaders have learned not to count on the US.

The Times reports that the clashes in Syria raise a dilemma for US President Joe Biden. The paper argues: “No one expects US troops to get involved in the flashpoint that is Deraa — but that may be the only certainty regarding American policy in the blighted country.”

Reuters reports that Israel has appointed Eitan Na’eh as its first ambassador to Bahrain. Na’eh served as the charge d’affaires of Israel’s embassy in the United Arab Emirates since January. The announcement comes a year after the two countries normalised relations with the historic Abraham Accords.

The Economist argues that while Israel’s foreign policy changed in tone, it has not changed in substance. The paper notes that on the biggest issue confronting the Israeli government, any advancement towards a two-state solution, the country’s policy will be no different from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach.

Reuters reports on the growing climate crisis Jordan is facing. The paper notes that “While climate change has brought drier weather to the Middle East, Jordan has fared worse than its neighbours … meanwhile, demand [for water] had risen sharply. Jordan’s population has doubled in the past 20 years, with waves of refugees, including more than 1 million Syrians, taken in.”

In the Israeli media, the papers focus on yesterday’s successful first reading in the Knesset of the state budget and the arrangements bill. This year’s state budget will be approximately NIS 432bn (£97bn), and next year’s will be about NIS 452bn (£102bn). Fifty-nine out of the 61 members of the coalition voted in favour, with 54 MKs voting against. The missing coalition members were Minister Merav Michaeli, who is overseas, and Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, who paired with Itamar Ben Gvir, who is ill. Yediot Ahronot notes that it has been 42 months since a state budget and an arrangements bill were last introduced in the Knesset. “Yet in spite of this achievement, the government’s task is far from over. After the first vote, the Knesset must pass the budget in second and third readings by November 14, and if a majority fails to pass the budget and the arrangements bill by then, the Knesset will be dissolved and a new election will be called,” Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. He added: “This day symbolises more than anything the end of the era of madness and the return to sanity. This is proof that the government and the coalition are working.” In contrast, the Likud said that the budget would hurt the weak and the periphery, asserting that “Bennett abandoned the citizens of Israel”.

Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Sima Kadmon argues, “The battle over the budget is more significant than just passing a state budget after having not had one for three years. It is a battle between life and death. First of all for the coalition, since if it had failed to pass the budget yesterday in a first vote, this would have marked the beginning of its end. It is also do-or-die battle for the opposition chairman, for the exact same reason but the other way around — passing the budget could spell the end of his political career. If the budget also passes its second and third votes, it will be possible to state officially that Netanyahu will become prey. Even yesterday, the sharks began to circle their bleeding member. The top Likud members who had entrenched themselves in silence for so many years rushed to give interviews to all the media and mark their territory. They intend to run for the leadership. The question as to whether this would happen after the Netanyahu era seemed irrelevant.”

According to Kan Radio, the Gazan Health Ministry reported that one person was killed and fifteen were injured by IDF gunfire during rioting that took place along the fence on the Gaza Strip last night. More than 1,000 Palestinians participated in the night-time disturbance units’ activities in five locations. They threw explosives and burned tires. IDF troops employed crowd-control measures and live fire. No Israeli forces were injured.

In Israel Hayom, Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, comments on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with US President Joe Biden and makes the case that there is no answer to the question of what the position of the US will be if Israel is compelled to take action against Iran. He writes: “It seems that that decision is drawing near … under the regime of the extremely fanatical President Raisi, it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which the Iranians will consent to rejoin the JCPOA from 2015 … Tehran certainly noted that during the meeting with the Israeli prime minister, the American president mentioned the possibility of ‘other options’ against Iran, but deliberately refrained from repeating the threatening formula: all options are on the table … it would have been very important to hear the president publicly pledge to back Israel’s right to defend itself from any regional threat. Behind the scenes, it would have been vital to hear how the US can bolster our ability to defend ourselves.”

Yedioth Ahronot notes that this Sunday the state will present the court with its position on removing the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar. In recent government meetings on the subject, the security establishment recommended not to remove the compound at this time, but to continue talks with the Bedouins and to persuade them to move to another place. One possibility being examined is to ask the High Court of Justice for another extension, even though at the hearing in July the judges said that this was the last extension. There are two camps in the government: Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid support postponing the removal, while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, along with Ayelet Shaked, Avigdor Liberman, Gideon Saar and Zeev Elkin, have insisted in the past on removing it.

With Jewish holidays approaching, Maariv reports that the police will not enforce the coronavirus directives in synagogues, yeshivas and other places of worship on Rosh Hashanah or on Yom Kippur, because of the matter’s sensitivity and to avoid embarrassing incidents. The police do not intend to clash with the Haredim in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and other cities with a large Haredi population, after what happened last year. Police sources said: “The rabbis are calling on people to get vaccinated and to avoid unnecessary congregating. Promises were made that large events will not be held. Furthermore, we don’t enter synagogues on holidays.”