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Media Summary

Israel’s parliament committee approves first climate bill

In the UK media, Israel has informed its allies that it is preparing to send assassination teams to kill Hamas leaders abroad in retaliation for deadly attacks on Israeli civilians in the past two months, sources have told The Times. At least 19 Israelis have died in random attacks by Palestinians since mid-March. Three people died and seven were injured in the most recent incident, on Thursday, when two men leapt from a car and started swinging axes at passers-by in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox town of Elad.

The Guardian reports that the UN is to stage a rare donor conference on Wednesday in a bid to raise the £65m necessary to prevent an ageing oil tanker off the west coast of Yemen exploding and causing an environmental disaster potentially four times worse than the Exxon Valdez spill near Alaska in 1989. The money is needed to offload more than 1.14m barrels of oil that have been sitting in the decrepit cargo ship, Safer, for more than six years because of an impasse between Houthi groups and the Saudi-backed government over ownership and responsibility.

The daughter of a retired British geologist facing the death penalty in Iraq has said she was “heartbroken and afraid” as her father remained in detention for her wedding day, the Independent reports. ‘The horrible, but very real, possibility of the death penalty is hanging over us,’ Leila Fitton says.

“Patronage and threats favour Lebanon’s Hezbollah in key election,” writes the Financial Times. Absence of an alternative means the Iran-backed group is set to dominate in the upcoming parliamentary vote, say experts. A recent Oxfam survey found only 54 per cent of voters were willing to vote in the general election on 15 May, the first since the collapse of the economy in 2019. The apathy is particularly acute for Sunnis who are leaderless after former prime minister Saad al-Hariri and his party withdrew from politics, complaining of Iran’s undue influence.

Reuters note that Qatar’s Emir will visit Iran soon, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh confirmed this morning. “The visit of the Emir of Qatar to Tehran is on the agenda and includes bilateral, regional and international issues. After this trip, Iran’s President will travel to a Gulf country,” Khatibzadeh said. Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will visit Iran before travelling to Germany, Britain and other European states to discuss efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal and energy security in Europe.

In the Israeli media, coalition and opposition leaders met separately yesterday to discuss strategy and tactics ahead of the Knesset’s summer session, which begins today. Maariv reports that the Likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties intend to file a no-confidence motion today but are deliberating whether to introduce a bill to dissolve the Knesset on Wednesday. The Likud reportedly wants to avoid having that bill get shot down, which would force the party to wait six months until being eligible to introduce similar legislation. To that end, the Likud wants to be positive that the United Arab List has not resolved its differences with its coalition partners and is acting on its threats to boycott all parliamentary activity—a state of affairs that would grant the opposition the relative majority it needs to have the bill pass its preliminary reading.

Yediot Ahronot quotes Likud spokesman Jonathan Urich who denies reports that Netanyahu is negotiating a plea bargain with the state over his corruption trial. “That issue isn’t at all on the agenda. Netanyahu intends to return to serve as the prime minister of a national government that will be formed either in the current Knesset or in elections that he is confident that the Likud under his leadership will win. There isn’t any other option, and it would be best if the spin-masters and their handlers were to get used to that.” Urich added: “At the meeting [the parties] agreed on a tenacious and united fight to bring down the government within a short time. The government has lost its majority in the Knesset. It doesn’t have any public legitimacy and it is illegitimate.”

Israel Hayom notes that Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Iranian leaders in Tehran on Sunday, marking his second trip to Iran since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that Assad met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi earlier in the day. It said the leaders praised the strong ties between their nations and vowed to boost relations further. “Strategic relations between Iran and Syria causes the lack of domination of the Zionist regime in the region,” Assad was quoted as saying.

Also in Israel Hayom, ISIS is believed to have carried out a major terrorist attack on a water pumping station east of the Suez Canal in the Sinai, which left at least 11 Egyptian troops, including an officer, the Egyptian military said. In a statement, it said at least five other troops were wounded in the attack, one of the deadliest against Egyptian security forces in recent years. Troops thwarted the attacks and were pursuing terrorists in an isolated area of the northern Sinai Peninsula, the statement added.

Maariv reports that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved Israel’s first Climate Bill. After several delays, and in what Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg hailed as a “historic moment,” the draft legislation seeks to commit the government to cutting global warming emissions by at least 27 per cent by 2030, compared with a 2015 benchmark, and to reaching net zero by 2050. It was unanimously approved by the committee and will now go through the Knesset procedure to be ratified into law.

Walla reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz agreed to end compulsory PCR testing for COVID-19, for all arrivals at the Ben Gurion International Airport, from 20 May. The Health Ministry said the decision was made because of the continued reduction in morbidity from the virus and following discussions with health professionals and the Airport Authority. Horowitz also decided that as of tomorrow, there would no longer be a requirement to present a PCR test before boarding a flight to Israel and an antigen test would be accepted.

Haaretz reports that Victory Day, a Russian celebration over Nazi Germany which became an official holiday in Israel five years ago, is being toned down this year because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but some veterans don’t understand why. The veterans’ groups and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, which oversees the celebrations today, are holding a modest ceremony on Mount Herzl near the Red Army fighters’ memorial. But this year no ambassadors from post-Soviet countries have been invited.

In Channel 12 News, Ehud Yaari writes that over the past several days the Russian army has left a string of bases and outposts that it has held for years, mainly in the eastern and central parts of Syria. It has also done so in the north in the Aleppo area, in certain parts of Damascus and in southern Syria near the Israeli border. The Russians have taken this course of action — without reporting it publicly — because they need to devote more troops to the Ukrainian war effort. Yaari explains why such a development is bad for Israel: “Israel has no way to influence Moscow’s decisions about Russian military deployment in Syria. But the lower the Russians’ profile in the country becomes, the stronger Iran’s grip becomes—and that is something that ought to worry us. It is worth bearing in mind that Russia, even when it cooperated with Iran in Syria on account of its need for the Iranian militias’ foot soldiers to follow up the Russian carpet bombing operations, Russia always tried to restrict Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and to limits its infiltration of the ranks of Assad’s army and other security forces.”