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Media Summary

Netanyahu calls on right-wing allies to block government-in-waiting

The BBCTelegraphIndependent and The Times report that Benjamin Netanyahu is calling on right-wing members of the Knesset to block the newly agreed coalition which looks set to remove him from power after 12 years as prime minister. “No rational political enemy of Benjamin Netanyahu can underestimate his ruthlessness and absolute determination to hold on to office. Until a new government with a new prime minister is sworn in, he will do all he can to stop it,” the BBC article notes.

Writing in The Times, Anshel Pfeffer says that “for the new government to be inaugurated, it must first win a confidence vote in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and Netanyahu is trying to prevent that from happening in two ways. First, through the Knesset Speaker, a close ally of his, he is trying to use every procedural obstruction to delay the vote. Every minute he gains will be used to exert pressure on wavering members of Bennett’s party. One of whom has already split and announced he will be voting against the new government. Netanyahu needs one or two more defectors.”

Vernon Bagdanor writes in the Telegraph that there is little “the eight component parties” of Israel’s government-in-waiting “agree on, but they could end up uniting the country’s warring tribes”.

The Guardian reports that many Palestinians welcome the end of the Netanyahu ear, but are pessimistic that their lives will change. “How Palestinians in the occupied territories view changes in Israeli governments is always complicated. The prospect of the departure of Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister, a little less so.”

John Kampfner writes in The Times that Israel’s “voting system ensnares the country in cycle of coulds and maybes … I am a proponent of electoral reform for countries like the UK, where untrammelled power is often vested in parties that secure a third of public approval and where, in many constituencies, MPs are elected as of right. In fact, I wonder whether my vote has ever actually made any difference to anyone. Then again, be careful what you wish for. Each country’s constitution has its vagaries, but perhaps nowhere more than Israel.”

The Telegraph reports that a long-running Taliban ban on door-to-door polio vaccination teams means that one-in-three Afghan children are still not getting polio drops, creating a vulnerable pool of millions where the virus could run riot.

The Guardian reports that Australia’s foreign affairs minister has contacted her Saudi Arabian counterpart to raise the plight of a dual national extradited from Morocco amid mounting concerns about his detention. The Saudi Arabian embassy in Canberra remains silent in response to requests to disclose the whereabouts of Osama al-Hasani, 42, even after human rights advocates raised fears for his welfare.

All the Israeli media, continue to follow developments of the governments formation. Although the full agreements have not yet been made public, Haaretz shares its assessment on how each coalition partner has gained from the deal. New Hope hope to deliver legal reform by dividing the position of attorney general in two: the head of the prosecution and the government’s legal adviser. They are also looking to reform marijuana laws, by decriminalising personal use.  Labour will receive a range of senior positions, including two seats on the inner security cabinet. The United Arab List look to bring massive investment to the Arab sector, 52 billion shekels (£11.3 billion) in government funding for the Arab community over the next few years. According to the paper, “Meretz has boasted over the past day of its success in getting the coalition agreements to include issues of concern to the LGBT community. The agreement states that the parties will use “all the tools at their disposal to advance the gay community’s rights,” including by finding a solution for couples who currently can’t marry legally.” Blue and Whites top priority was to maintain the defence ministry portfolio.

All the papers cover the ongoing right wing campaign to pressure Yamina MKs not to join the government.  Yediot Ahronot quotes a Likud source explaining the plan, “Our intention is to apply public pressure to the Yamina MKs so that they will oppose a left-wing government with the cooperation of the Joint List.”  The papers note Netanyahu was also active on social media, against the Yamina leader, “Bennett has sold the Negev to the United Arab List”. In another campaign, the Likud asserted that the Bennett government would remove settlements, stating, “This is the time for MKs who were elected by right-wing votes to oppose this dangerous left-wing government.” The particular focus had been on one Yamina backbencher, Nir Orbach, who is perceived by the right wing bloc as someone who could vote against the pro-change government. According to Yediot Ahronot, Netanyahu himself tried to reach Orbach by phone, but the latter chose not to reply.  Kan Radio News reported Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich called on Yamina number two MK Ayelet Shaked to “come home,” and not to join the enemies of the Jewish people. Smotrich made these remarks in a demonstration outside Shaked’s home in Tel Aviv last night, where approximately 200 people protested forming the new government.

Haaretz notes that the new government would include a record number of women, “Of the 61 seats in this coalition, nearly a third (19 seats) would be held by women – a record 30.6 percent and eight of them would receive cabinet positions – an all-time high. Among the women who would serve in the government are Labor head Merav Michaeli, who is poised to be transportation minister, Yamina’s No. 2 Ayelet Shaked as interior minister (and then justice minister according to the rotation agreement), Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg as environmental protection minister, and New Hope’s Yifat Shasha-Biton as education minister. Blue and White’s Pnina Tamano-Shata is expected to retain her post as immigration and absorption minister.”

Maariv includes a report that Hamas is threatening to renew the violence if they do not receive money from Qatar in the next week. According to the report, Hamas has informed Egyptian and international mediators that “continuing the enemy’s provocations against Gaza and the poor civilians benefiting from a Qatari grant distributed to 100,000 Palestinian families at a rate of $100 per family only means pushing for escalation and conflict.” Hamas has further warned, that within a short time, “resistance may go to options that will renew the conflict wide open.”

Israel Hayom carries a report from the Wall Street Journal that Hamas has launched several platforms that accept bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, allowing it to bypass international sanctions. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist entity by the United States, the European Union and others. A Hamas official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Wall Street Journal, “Our fundraising strategies keep on evolving as more restrictions are being placed on us.” The report further notes that on Telegram – a Dubai-based encrypted messaging platform that also functions as a conduit for financial transactions – the al-Qassam channel, representing Hamas military wing has gained 261,000 followers, six times more than that of Hamas’ political wing.  The report concluded “Throughout 2020, US authorities seized over $1 million in cryptocurrency linked to the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, while in 2019 the US Treasury said that since 2015 the al-Qassam Brigades had received more than $200 million from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  While some hail the transformative and democratising potential of cryptocurrency, its opacity and lack of centralised control have seen it adopted by criminals, drug traffickers, terrorists and child pornographers.”

All the papers cover yesterday’s Pride Parade in Jerusalem. An estimated 8,000 people attended the parade, the 19th time Jerusalem had hosted the event.  Several MKs from Yesh Atid, Blue and White and Yisrael Beiteinu came to support the event. There was also a small counter-demonstration led by extreme right-wing groups.