Media Summary

Israel developing “super brain” as part of new age of warfare

The Times reports that three people died after an alleged drone attack on a fuel tanker that was helping deliver Iranian oil off the coast of Syria. The event comes after a series of “tit-for-tat” explosions on Iranian and Israeli ships since early 2021. Syrian state media, citing the country’s oil ministry, claimed that an “attack by a drone” on Saturday had caused a large fire on the oil tanker in the eastern Mediterranean, near the port of Baniyas. Iranian media, however, have tried to row back on the claims of a military strike, saying instead that a welding accident caused the fire. Analysts suggest that this may be an attempt to cover a more serious incident that had happened despite Syrian regime forces and their Russian allies being in the area.

The Telegraph runs an exclusive report on an artificial intelligence “super brain” being developed in Israel to run automated attacks in war. The technology uses an array of high-powered sensors to help tanks and robots patrol battlefields and find enemy targets, as it looks to a new age of warfare.

The BBC, Independent and Telegraph continue their coverage over the fire at a hospital treating coronavirus patients in the capital of Iraq, Baghdad, on Saturday night in which 82 people have died. Initial reports say an accident had caused an oxygen tank to explode in the hospital’s intensive-care unit, sparking the blaze. Videos on social media show firefighters scrambling to extinguish the flames as people flee the building. Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Sunday suspended the health minister and ordered an investigation into the tragedy.

The Financial Times report that Iran’s hardliners are pinning their Presidential election hopes this June on popular justice chief Ebrahim Raisi, who is seen by many conservatives as someone who can unite the population weary of corruption.

The Times reports that Turkey has summoned the US ambassador after President Joe Biden become the first US leader to formally recognise the Armenian genocide. Officials in Ankara, which deny genocide, said that Biden had opened a “wound that would be hard to fix” between the two NATO allies. The Andalou News Agency said that Sedat Onal, the deputy foreign minister, had summoned Ambassador David Satterfield yesterday to object to the “unacceptable” recognition. “The statement does not have legal ground in terms of international law and has hurt the Turkish people,” the ministry said.

As Saudi Arabia marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Kingdom’s ground-breaking Vision 2030 project, the Independent’s Oliver Poole in Riyadh examines its impact and why success is needed if the world is to combat climate change.

The Guardian and Financial Times report on the leaked interview given by Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who has criticised the dominance of the assassinated Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Qassem Soleimani in Iranian diplomacy and admitted his own influence over Iranian foreign policy was sometimes zero.

Also in The Guardian, Peter Beaumont describes how the lessons from the last 10 years of Libya, overshadowed by Syria, have barely been cross examined and if they have, then they have been forgotten. He argues: “It would be a conflict too that would cast a long shadow for international relations, and for the reputations of some.”

In the Israeli media, all of the papers focus on the seven days left of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government. Maariv reports that Netanyahu and his negotiators are spending most of their time trying to reach an agreement with Yamina about forming a right-wing government, coupled with a pledge by Naftali Bennett not to hold any further talks with the pro-change bloc and, by so doing, to scuttle the possibility of an alternative government being formed. Likud officials said: “The moment the other side realises that the option of a Bennett-Lapid government is over, other players will want to join the right-wing government, and that will end the political impasse that was created by Bezalel Smotrich’s refusal to cooperate with the United Arab List in any way.” At Netanyahu’s request, the Likud’s Constitution Committee was convened yesterday and voted in favour of the empowering Netanyahu to offer Bennett to merge Yamina with the Likud ahead of the next election. The Likud said: “Netanyahu will have another bargaining chip to use in his talks with Yamina. At that point, expedited negotiations can be begun with Bennett over a proposal to form a right-wing government under Netanyahu in which Yamina would be given top portfolios, such as defence, foreign affairs and another important portfolio, as well as an agreement to merge the two factions ahead of the next election, with the option of merging the two parties fully further down the line.” It is hoped in the Likud that once Bennett agrees, he will then serve as mediator and hold talks with Gideon Saar about joining the government.

Israel Hayom reports that Netanyahu is now prepared to do things that he refused even to consider just two weeks ago — allowing someone else to serve as prime minister immediately. He first proposed forming a government with Blue and White based on an alternating premiership arrangement in which Benny Gantz would serve first as prime minister for the first year, followed by Netanyahu for two years, and Gantz once again for the last year. After Gantz refused, he then offered a similar deal to Shas leader Aryeh Deri who rejected the idea. The assessment in the Likud is that of all the options that Netanyahu has for an alternating premiership arrangement that will prevent the other side from forming a coalition, having Deri serve as alternating prime minister is the preferred one. Officials in Deri’s office told Israel Hayom, “Deri has no interest in the position of prime minister.”

Channel 12 News’ Amit Segal describes Netanyahu’s offer to Gantz as “a cheat cheating a cheater,” writing: “Even though the proposal was, in fact pitched, it was designed to serve ulterior purposes. For Netanyahu, it was designed to prevent the pro-change bloc from forming a government; for Gantz, it was designed to raise his price for joining the pro-change bloc’s government. The only way Netanyahu is going to be able serve as prime minister at some point in the current Knesset is by means of a second candidate from the right, not from the centre-left.”

In Israel Hayom, Matti Tuchfeld argues: “The idea of giving the position of prime minister to someone else for a year so that Gideon Saar might join a fully right-wing government was discussed in the first days after the elections, but it was flatly rejected by Netanyahu. The prime minister believed throughout that it would be much more difficult for the other side to form a government and, up until now, most of his actions were designed to prevent such a government. All his messages and his crude attacks on Bennett were designed to achieve that goal, so that a government of left-wing parties together with one of the Arab parties would be considered illegitimate. The fact that for the first time Netanyahu now is seriously considering other options is grounds for the new assessment that in this game of chicken he is most likely to blink first. The price will be giving up a year as prime minister, but he may very well stand to gain more from doing that than he stands to lose if he doesn’t.”

Maariv reports that Israel’s Supreme Court has given the country till Tuesday afternoon to fill the vacate Justice Minister position, otherwise it will convene to discuss filling the post. The post has remained empty since Benny Gantz’s term as acting justice minister lapsed on April 1. The appointment of a justice minister is a sensitive issue, given that Netanyahu is currently amid an ongoing corruption trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. In a statement provided to the court on Gantz’s behalf earlier in the day by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the alternate prime minister said he had rejected a proposal by the Likud to divide the position’s powers among several other ministers so that the appointment of a permanent minister can be further delayed.

Yediot Ahronot reports that Coronavirus manager Prof. Nachman Ash warned Sunday mass coronavirus infections could still occur in Israel despite the country’s successful COVID vaccination drive and the subsequent drastic reduction in active cases. There are 1,805 active cases of COVID-19 in Israel, with 248 patients hospitalised for treatment. A total of 6,350 people have died so far from the disease. Ash said: “The pandemic has not ended, but we are in very good condition, thanks to the vaccines first and foremost and to our daily conduct at this time as well. You could say that vaccines are our medical Iron Dome – protecting us and allowing the people of Israel to return to routine while the pathogen runs amuck in the rest of the world.”

Walla reports that the Armenian community in Israel has called on the state to follow the US and 30 other countries by recognising the Armenian genocide. In an interview, Serge Bidoyan, a resident of Haifa, said: “People are slowly waking up to this, and are beginning to understand the magnitude of the matter. I feel disappointed time and time again that the truth is not being published, a real sense of disrespect and reciprocity. I am an Israeli-Armenian who lives here and is proud of the country, stands by the siren on Holocaust Day and respects every possible place, and there is disrespect for the Armenian people who live here.” Several political parties in Israel support the recognition, such as Meretz and Yesh Atid.