Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumes
The BBC and the Financial Times report that US President Joe Biden says he will not lift economic sanctions against Iran until it complies with the terms agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal. Biden was speaking in a CBS News interview aired yesterday evening. However, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Sunday that Tehran would only return to compliance if the US first lifted all economic sanctions.
An exclusive in The Times reveals that Hamas used the chaos of Libya’s civil war to set up an arms-smuggling group that tried to funnel anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to Gaza. According to documents obtained by the paper, a group set up by Marwan al-Ashqar, the Hamas envoy to Libya, was given the job of diverting arms intended for Libyan battlefields through Egypt and used middlemen and Hamas militants in Turkey and Qatar to circumvent an Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Reuters offers an explainer on what’s at stake for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his corruption trial resumes this morning.
The Telegraph notes comments made by Israel’s first ambassador to the UAE as he began his historic posting in Abu Dhabi, in which he said Palestinians stand to reap major benefits from Israel’s peace agreements with the Arab world. The articles says the Ambassador’s remarks are likely to irritate Palestinian leaders, who have described the peace deals as a “stab in the back”.
The Guardian looks at the first foreign policy speech President Joe Biden’s gave last week, describing it as “a breath of fresh air” and marking “a broader policy shift”. It added: “Gone were Trump’s trademark ‘America First’ slogans and the ugly isolationism, protectionism and xenophobia that frequently underpinned them. Biden said he was sending ‘a clear message to the world that America is back’. By this, he meant recommitment to multilateralism, to alliances such as NATO, to UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation and to international agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and Iran nuclear deal.”
The Independent tells the story of how the Arab Spring divided a family in Egypt, where one brother despised what Egypt had become under Hosni Mubarak, and the other was working for his government.
The Times and Reuters report that a 17-year-old Saudi youth sentenced to be beheaded for taking part in protests has had his sentence changed to ten years in jail in the first tangible evidence of the kingdom’s promise to abolish the execution of minors.
The Israeli media focuses on the restart of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court today. Kan Radio News reports that defendants Netanyahu, businessman Shaul Elovitch and his wife, Iris, and Yediot Ahronot publisher Arnon Mozes will be required to attend and enter pleas. Following the main session the court will hear arguments over two motions made by Netanyahu: To obtain the Attorney General’s stamp of approval for the investigations into [Netanyahu’s conduct], and into the issue of the addition of Addendum A into the indictment. The addendum details all the attempts made by Netanyahu or by people acting in his name to influence coverage of the Prime Minister on Walla News.
Maariv notes that the defendants filed their pleas with the court several weeks ago, so today’s session is meant only to be an opportunity for them to add oral statements of clarification to their pleas, or for them to affirm the pleas that have been entered in their names. It is yet unknown whether Netanyahu will use the court appearance as an opportunity to speak out against the indictments against him, as he did prior to the previous hearing.
In Israel Hayom, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) calls to postpone the introduction of evidence and testimony in Netanyahu’s trial until after the general elections. He said the court would be “meddling in the election” if it allowed the trial to continue throughout the campaign. The statement was criticised by Blue and White, Labor and Yesh Atid MKs.
Maariv publishes a commentary by Ben Caspit in which he juxtaposes Netanyahu’s trial with the International Criminal Court’s decision on Friday that the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are within its jurisdiction and that it can therefore investigate and prosecute allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Caspit writes: “At first glance, the fact that a defendant who also serves as the prime minister of Israel will be reporting to the Jerusalem District Court today for his trial is the most effective weapon Israel has against the people who wish it ill in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Look and see how independent and strong the Jewish state’s justice system is! In a first statement that he issued after the International Criminal Court ruling, Netanyahu said that “the court ignores real war crimes and instead persecutes the State of Israel, a state with a firm democratic regime, which sanctifies the rule of law.” He forgot to inform the International Criminal Court that he doesn’t hold the rule of law sacred but, rather, is trying to dismantle it.”
Yediot Ahronot reports about concerns within the health-care establishment about the low vaccination rates among younger Israelis. Only 26 per cent of Israelis aged 16-19, 30 per cent aged 20-29 and 38 per cent aged 30-39 have been vaccinated. Meuhedet HMO CEO Sigal Rosenberg-Regev is quoted as saying: “We have vaccines, but people aren’t coming. Essentially, anyone who wanted to be vaccinated has already gotten the shot. Now younger people are deliberating. We’ve seen that in central Tel Aviv, and not only in Arab society. Younger people aren’t afraid of getting sick. We’ve been contacting them, one by one, inviting policy-holders to come and get vaccinated, but they’ve asked us not to call them again.” So far, 3,475,711 Israelis have received the first dose of the vaccine, with 2,078,318 of those receiving the second does. The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday was 4,557. There are 1,102 people in a serious condition and hospital, of which 332 are on ventilators. The death toll stands at 5,113.
Channel 12 News reports that yesterday the security cabinet approved to buy $9bn worth of combat planes, refuelling planes and helicopters from the US. This deal will require Israel to take out loans from American banks that would cost $220m. Washington presented the Israeli security establishment with the following condition: If no decision is made within two weeks, Israel will lose its place in line [to buy the equipment]. That would postpone the implementation of the deal by two years. In response to that condition, the deal was quickly approved despite the Finance Ministry’s objections. The sale includes Sikorsky CH-53K cargo helicopters, F-35s and F-16s and thousands of tons of bombs and advanced ordinances. Israel will also receive the Eitan armoured personnel carrier, which was co-developed by Israel and the US, and the new cannon that was partially developed by the US and partially by Elbit.