Media Summary

Israeli security official says Israeli tourists face a “clear and immediate danger” in Turkey

The BBC reports that British Muslims hoping to make a pilgrimage to Mecca are at risk of losing thousands of pounds after the Saudi government has enforced online booking. Pilgrims have been told to use a website to register their interest and that a draw will take place to choose who will go on Hajj. Some have already booked with Hajj tour operators and could lose their money. The cost of the once in a lifetime trip varies from about £6,000 to more than £10,000 and many Muslims spend years saving up for it.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave several interviews to British newspapers over the weekend. Speaking to The Times, Bennett denied rumours that he had given up on his coalition despite losing its majority in the Knesset. “I have no dilemmas. I said I would fight with all my strength to keep this government but not at any price,” he said. Speaking about the one-year anniversary of his government, Bennett said: “I’ve developed in this year. I’ve learnt to appreciate the value of compromise. I believe that we can keep on going despite this coalition’s difficult structure.” He also praised the Islamist party leader, Mansour Abbas, a man he promised on the eve of the last election not to sit with in the same government, as “truly a leader who comes along once in a generation”.

Prime Minister Bennett tells The Telegraph that Iran is now “dangerously close” to completing its nuclear weapons programme. Tehran will soon have its hands on a bomb unless the West stands up to the regime in the long-running wrangle over the weapons-grade enrichment of uranium, Bennett warned. He added that Israeli intelligence shows Iran is enriching uranium at an unprecedented rate despite efforts in Vienna to revive the diplomatic dialogue designed to divert the programme into civilian uses only.

The Financial Times reports that a row over International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras in Iran threatens to scupper diplomatic efforts to save the JCPOA nuclear accord and escalate tensions between the Islamic regime and the West. Last week, Tehran informed the IAEA it was removing all 27 cameras the watchdog had installed to monitor the accord, a dramatic retaliation to a western-sponsored IAEA resolution criticising Iran. A senior US official said Iran’s action was a serious blow, but not yet fatal for the deal “because at this point it’s reversible”. But the official warned that the longer the cameras stay off, the harder re-entering the deal would be. “If they don’t [turn the cameras back on soon] then the steps they’re going to have to take to provide the IAEA with sufficient confidence to make up for the gap in knowledge will make it much more difficult to get back into the JCPOA,” the official said.

The Guardian writes that one year after ousting, Benjamin Netanyahu is getting ready for a comeback. According to the report, the former prime minister is eager to exploit the weakness in the fraying coalition that replaced him. Meanwhile, Reuters notes that one year after ending the record reign of Benjamin Netanyahu following months of political turmoil, Israel’s fragile coalition government is teetering on the edge of collapse, raising the prospect of a snap election in the coming months.

Reuters reports that Israel plans to sharply boost construction starts and expand a discount scheme aimed at restraining rapidly rising housing prices as demand continues to outstrip supply.

In the Israeli media, all the papers note the National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau has warned that Iran is still looking to target Israelis in Turkey and reiterated that the travel advisory regarding Turkey was still in force. A gag order was lifted yesterday on a planned attack against Israeli targets that was foiled a month ago in Turkey. The operation to thwart the attack was undertaken jointly by the Mossad and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization. The attackers’ plan had been to kidnap Israeli citizens. Last month, after that attempted kidnapping was foiled, Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari, who was involved in planning attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, was assassinated in Tehran. Iran has accused Israel of being behind that assassination.

Yediot Ahronot quotes an unnamed Israeli security official as saying that Israeli tourists face a “clear and immediate danger” in Turkey. According to the report, several Iranian teams are believed to be operating at present in Turkey: “They plan to abduct and to physically attack Israelis. Israeli intelligence officers are deployed in unprecedented numbers in order to avert these terror attacks from being carried out; there is disagreement among National Security Council members on whether or not to raise the level of the current travel advisory to Turkey to the highest possible level, and to issue an unambiguous statement informing Israelis that they should not visit Turkey, and urging those Israeli citizens currently in Turkey to consider leaving.”

Walla reports that Iran and Hezbollah have begun to smuggle arms and military weapons on civilian flights so as to impede Israeli efforts to track and attack that materiel. According to Israeli security officials, the attack last week on Damascus international airport, an attack attributed to Israel, was not the first of its kind and that similar attacks had been carried out in the past as well to prevent arms smuggling. Israeli security officials added that Iran dramatically scaled back its smuggling operations via airlift to Syrian military bases and overland in trucks in response to the hundreds of attacks in recent years that were carried out under the command of the former IAF commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. Israeli security officials said they could not rule out the possibility that Iran might begin to try to use alternative overland routes in an attempt to slip past Israeli intelligence.

Meanwhile, Israel Hayom follows news from Iran that two scientists from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Force have been hailed as “martyrs” after being killed “in the course of duty,” Iranian news agencies reported Sunday. According to a report in Tasnim, Ali Kamani died in a car accident in the city of Kohmein, south of Tehran, “while fulfilling his duty”. Hours after Kamani’s death was made public, media reported that another member of the IRGC’s Aerospace Unit, Mohammad Abdous, had also been killed. Iran International claimed Abdous, who had been working in Iran’s Northern Semnan Province, had been killed “while on a mission”. These deaths come after the mysterious deaths of three other scientists in Iran in the last two weeks.

Maariv quotes US President Joe Biden who said Sunday his expected visit to Saudi Arabia will also address Israel’s national security. “The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy. It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s the reason I’m going. And it has to do with national security for them — for Israelis,” Biden told reporters before boarding Air Force One. A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said, “We continue to plan for a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, have no further trip details to confirm but will announce as soon as we do. The trip comes in the context of a significant agenda with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the other countries of the Middle East. That agenda is focused on delivering results for the American people as well as ending wars and leading through diplomacy to bring stability to the Middle East region.”

Yediot Ahronot reports on the libel suit that the Netanyahu family brought against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for calling them mentally ill. Netanyahu, his wife Sara and his son Yair testified in court yesterday, as did several former aides to Netanyahu. At the start of the session, Netanyahu said, “These news reports are downright lies of the very worst kind. This is not the normal situation we are familiar with in politics. I have never seen anything like this between two leaders anywhere in the world. The comments weren’t made as an expression of an opinion or to deny one but rather to establish a clinical fact.” Before the court broke for a recess, Netanyahu added, “Not only is my wife not mentally ill. She has the tremendous mental strength to be able to deal with the campaign against her while also serving as a child psychologist.” Sara Netanyahu said during her testimony, “I treat sick people. [Our] society should be ashamed of people like former Prime Minister Olmert who tars them with a negative phrase.” Yair Netanyahu responded to questions about a dozens of Tweets in which he ascribed mental illness to the former IDF chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak: “I was joking about Bogie’s obsession with my father. That is why I mentioned the Abarbanel mental hospital. Why is that a problem? Only Eretz Nehederet [a satire television show] is allowed [to make fun of people]?”