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Media Summary

Jordan’s PM open to bi-national state in Israel

A new report in The Times uncovers collaboration between Turkey and Iran over Iranian dissidents who take refuge in the Turkish republic. Last week Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi, friends in their early twenties who joined anti-government protests in Tehran in November, were sentenced to death in an Iranian court. They had fled to Turkey after a third friend was arrested, and had attempted to claim UN protection. Instead, they were detained and sent back to Iran. The Times believes that at least seven Iranian dissidents have been deported from Turkey since 2017, and a further five are detained and awaiting deportation, potentially in breach of the international law that prohibits states from returning individuals to countries where they will face persecution or torture. All seven dissidents are now in prison back in Iran.

The Telegraph and The Independent lead with the Egyptian parliament’s approval for military intervention abroad, thus Libya, to fight “foreign sponsored terrorist groups” and “militias”. The resolution gave no time frame and made no mention of Libya specifically, but refers instead to a Western deployment. The decision risks escalating the spiralling conflict in its western neighbour, where foreign powers have ignored an arms embargo to support the country’s warring factions with weapons and fighters.

The Guardian covers the comments by Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz who said his country would view positively a “one-state democratic solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as he warned that Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank could unleash a new wave of extremism in the Middle East. “I challenge anybody from Israel to say yes, let’s end the two-state solution, it’s not viable. But let’s work together on a one-state democratic solution. That, I think, we will look at very favourably. But closing one and wishful thinking about the other is just self-deception.”

The Telegraph reports that a German woman was kidnapped in Baghdad, which is heavily guarded by Iraqi security forces, raising fears that foreigners in Iraq’s capital may once again be targeted for abduction. Hella Mewis, who has lived in Iraq since 2015, was seized by unidentified men near the Green Zone on Monday evening. She was taken within sight of a police station by gunmen driving a white pickup truck used by some security forces, an official told AFP.

Writing in The Financial Times, David Gardner says Israel’s push to apply its sovereignty over parts of the West Bank is in part due the fact that “realisation is dawning that Donald Trump may lose his febrile bid for re-election as US president in November. In the Middle East, that prospect is accelerating all manner of deadly activities, with his allies racing to get reckless things done that a future administration under the Democrats’ Joe Biden might prefer undone”.

All the Israeli media cover the protests last night in central Jerusalem yesterday against coronavirus-related legislation that is designed to grant the prime minister the power to declare a state of emergency and to impose emergency measures, including a full-scale lockdown. The protests began outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, while some demonstrators marched to the Knesset where one woman climbed atop a stone sculpture of a menorah and removed her shirt. After midnight the police forcibly dispersed demonstrators who blocked traffic in Paris Square, close to the Prime Minister’s Residence, arresting 34. The police said that the demonstrators had used a smoke grenade and thrown bottles and stones at the police. Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin condemned the protest that was held outside the Knesset, saying: “There is a difference between legitimate protest and the desecration of state symbols. No country in the world would allow its symbols to be desecrated that way.” Levin called on the law enforcement agencies to act immediately to arrest the female protestor [who stood on top the menorah] not only to punish her, but primarily for the educational message in civics.

Channel 12 News quotes Police Commander Ofer Shomer who said the police had shown restraint at every stage of the protest, and that he had commended the demonstrators’ behaviour until they returned to Paris Square. “There was a good and dignified atmosphere, except that later it turned out that during the demonstration, young people who attended it were smoking drugs and drinking alcohol, which probably also had an impact on their behaviour”.

Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Ben-Dror Yemini says the size of protests grows larger each week. Commenting on the people demonstrating, Yemini says: “Presumably, most of the demonstrators aren’t right-wing voters. After all, they’re demonstrating against [Prime Minister] Netanyahu. One needn’t agree with every word, with every placard and with every demonstrator to know that most of the demonstrators are Israeli patriots. They want a more properly-governed country. There are a few anarchists among them. There are red flags. They don’t belong to a particular school of thought, party or movement. One of them, it isn’t clear who, raised the Palestinian flag. That was exactly what Netanyahu needed … he knows that some of the demonstrators are his own former supporters. They have come out to demonstrate because they are fed up. They have come out to demonstrate because he has deceived them. They have come out to demonstrate because his decisions have hurt them. They have come out to demonstrate because his unjustified demand for a huge tax rebate from the state made it clear that he cares mainly about himself.”

Kan Radio News notes the latest coronavirus figures from the Health Ministry, with 1,661 news cases between Monday night and Tuesday night. According to Health Ministry statistics, 30,874 people are actively sick with COVID-19 at present, among whom 256 are in hospital in serious condition and 77 are on ventilators. A total of 425 people have died in Israel thus far from COVID-19.

All the Israeli media report on the appointment of Professor Gabi Barbash to lead Israel’s taskforce to the coronavirus crisis. A well-known media commentator, Barbash, who is 70, served in the past as the Health Ministry director general and the CEO of Ichilov Hospital. He is a trained physician who specialises in internal medicine, and he also has a Master’s degree in medical management. The precise scope of Barbash’s powers are still unclear, but he is likely to be tasked with managing the inter-ministerial handling of the coronavirus crisis while serving under the auspices of the Health Ministry, according to Ma’ariv. Health Ministry Director General Professor Hezi Levy said: “Professor Barbash will assume his duties and will work extensively in a field that requires attention 24 hours a day. He is currently with us, studying the issue and will be integrated into the activity. I am pleased that we will be able to devote a great deal of attention to that, out of the millions of issues that we have to deal with.”

Israel Hayom covers the announcement from the Shin Bet security agency who on Tuesday said it thwarted an Iran and Hezbollah-backed terrorist plot in recent months to launch high-profile attacks in West Bank via the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The Syrian army was reportedly also involved in training the PFLP cell, which operated under the guise of a civilian welfare organisation known as “Al-Shabab Al-Alumi Al-Arabi”. The cell was plotting to conduct major attacks on Israeli targets and communities, including a plan to kidnap an IDF soldier to use as a bargaining chip for the release of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons. The terrorist operation was headed by Assad Al-Amali, a Lebanese resident who worked to connect the cell with Iran and Hezbollah.