Media Summary

Israel to close schools one day before lockdown

The BBC, The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and the Financial Times report on Israel’s landmark peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain signed yesterday at the White House, in which US President Donald Trump hailed the “dawn of a new Middle East”. The BBC refers to the rocket attack from the Gaza Strip while the ceremony was under way, while The Times mentions that most Israelis were watching the signing ceremony and waiting to see whether their prime minister would be wearing a facemask when meeting President Trump. The Financial Times notes that Israel expects to seal deals worth about $500m after the agreements come into force.

The Times’s Richard Spencer writes: “If the rapprochement between Israel and Arab leaders stops with Bahrain and the UAE, critics will claim vindication. Even more so if the various Palestinian factions, normally mutually hostile, turn their joint communiqués denouncing the deal into a practical common front against Israel. However, it is more likely that the Palestinians will end up increasingly powerless, while there is every indication that other Gulf states are open to some kind of relationship with Israel.”

In the Independent, Bel Trew argues that the agreements allow Israel, the UAE and Bahrain to form a coordinated front against Iran.

The Telegraph reports on the Palestinian reaction to yesterday’s event, including the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and the protests in the West Bank.

The Times reports that Egyptian author and critic of President Sisi, Amin el-Mahdy, has been arrested by police and charged with historic financial offences that appeared to be politically motivated. Amin el-Mahdy is one of the few remaining writers in Egypt to openly criticise its autocratic regime and has advocated peaceful relations between Arab states and Israel.

The Independent notes that Israel is set to begin its second lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus cases, which has infuriated Jewish Orthodox factions in Netanyahu’s coalition government, with the housing minister, Yaakov Litzman, resigning from his post on Sunday.

The Guardian, Financial Times and The Telegraph report on President Trump’s warning to Iran that the US will retaliate “1,000 times greater” after reports emerged that Iran continues to plan a retaliation for the assassination by US drone in January of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. On Sunday, a Politico story citing unnamed intelligence officials said Iran was plotting to kill the US ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, a handbag designer and long-time Trump friend. She was placed under extra security protection.

Kan Radio News reports this morning that the education system will shut down tomorrow, one day earlier than planned. The Cabinet approved the decision made by the special ministerial committee, which also decided that people will not be allowed to pick up take-out orders from restaurants themselves ahead of the lockdown. Hotels, reception halls, and bed and breakfasts will all be closed. The ministerial committee also decided that only the nuclear family of soldiers who were killed in the Yom Kippur War will be allowed to visit their graves for memorial services this year.

According to Health Ministry data, there were 5,523 new coronavirus cases recorded on Tuesday, of which 535 are currently hospitalised in a serious condition, including 138 on ventilators. The ministry said 55,734 test results came back on Tuesday — a new record — of which 9.9 per cent were positive. As of Wednesday morning, 166,794 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including 42,862 active cases.

Several op-eds appear in the Israeli media about yesterday’s signing ceremony at the White House. In Ma’ariv, Ben Caspit says: “Who is the real Netanyahu? My guess is that the real Netanyahu would rather annex Judea and Samaria over opening an embassy in Abu Dhabi. But the real Netanyahu is also the Netanyahu who goes with the flow, makes the most out of any given situation and then clips the coupon all by himself. Either way, now he has a legacy. He has continued the tradition of previous generations and has continued the tradition of reaching agreements; he has abandoned messianic dreams and has extended his hand in peace. That is something that no one will ever be able to take away from him.”

On Channel 12, Ehud Yaari argues “the walls of the boycott that the distant Arab countries imposed on Israel are beginning to come down. Personally, I am convinced that that process is going to advance far more swiftly than we might currently imagine. In practice, the ‘Arab peace initiative’ from 2002, which made relations with Israel contingent on the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines, was laid to rest yesterday in a ceremony that failed to mention it even once. The Palestinian veto on the Arabs’ ability to develop open and public relationships with Israel has been shattered.”

Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Ben Dror-Yemini says: “If peace is going to be more than just a ceremony and mere words—that is going to take education. That is already happening: even before the agreement was signed, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), a research institute that deals with textbooks in the Middle East, found that the United Arab Emirates has already rewritten its textbooks, which now sing the praises of the historic peace that has come ‘from the true values of the Islamic religion.’ Nothing of that kind happened in wake of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and it definitely didn’t happen in the Palestinian education system. Now it is happening.”

However, Sima Kadmon also in Yedoit Ahronot takes a more pragmatic approach to yesterday’s events: “It is hard to get excited about political agreements, no matter their nature, when you’re utterly preoccupied with the rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases, a lockdown that is about to be imposed in another two days and an effort to try to decipher the guidelines and restrictions that are going to have ruinous economic consequences.”

Yediot Ahronot and Al-Ittihad, an Emirati newspaper, publish op-eds together in Hebrew and Arabic, respectively. Hamad Al Kaabi, editor in chief of Al-Ittihad, writes in Yediot Ahronot: “The UAE, in these decisive historic times, opened a new window for peace and sent a strong message to complement the humanitarian message, in order to move away from hatred and the cycles of violence. Such is its sovereign right, based on the complete faith that peace is the choice of those who recognize the value of the future and what all humanity has in common, and that the three monotheistic religions can strengthen the efforts to make peace, so that peoples can enjoy prosperity.” Neta Livne, editor of Yediot Ahronot, wrote an op-ed in Al-Ittihad calling for Emirates to “come to Israel and visit holy Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and all of the sites and lovely places that our country has to offer to its visitors.”
In Israel Hayom, Daniel Siryoti says that according to senior Arab officials and from high-ranking sources in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been under immense pressure by Arab and international officials to present a softer stance, and to prepare for the possibility that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will break out of its stalemate.
Israel Hayom also runs quotes from MKs across the political spectrum who welcomed the peace agreement with the UAE and Bahrain. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said: “There are people who seek peace and there are people who seek death and war. A single picture proves which are the peoples that want peace, as opposed to the Hamas terror organization, which seeks to sow destruction and devastation. The agreement proves: anyone who extends their hand in peace will be met by a hand that is eagerly extended by us.” Labor Party Chairman and Economy and Industry Minister Amir Peretz said: “The unity government stopped annexation, which was bad for Israel, and delivered peace with Persian Gulf countries.” Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn wrote on Twitter: “The peace agreements are an historic milestone. Congratulations to the Israeli people and to the citizens of the Emirates and Bahrain. We need to continue to strive for reconciliation with all the peoples of the region and, most importantly, for reconciliation amongst us.” Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich said: “The peace agreement is a moving and exciting moment for the Israeli people, the Emirati people, the Bahrain people and the small Jewish communities in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which are an inseparable part of the Jewish people whose centre is here, in the Holy Land.”