Media Summary

Prime Minister Bennett warns of “strong action” against Ben & Jerry’s

The BBC, Independent and the Guardian write about Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s warning to Ben & Jerry’s that Israel will take “strong action” against its decision to stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements. Bennett said he had spoken to the CEO of parent-company Unilever, Alan Jope, about the “clearly anti-Israel step” taken by the UK-based consumer goods giant’s subsidiary. Unilever said the decision was taken by Ben & Jerry’s independent board, and that it remained “fully committed” to maintaining a presence in Israel.

The Independent reports on the latest controversy behind Israeli-based company NSO and its malware technology that has reportedly been used to spy on journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents on a massive scale. Speaking to The Independent, a source within the company called it a “false report” and said they were being unfairly targeted. Nevertheless, as concerns about NSO’s Pegasus spyware grow, the tech firm’s close relationship with Israel’s defence infrastructure is coming under increasing scrutiny.

The Financial Times writes how Israel used NSO spyware as diplomatic calling card to woo countries such as the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The Associated Press writes that with schools closed due to the May conflict, the coronavirus and the summer hiatus, Gaza’s children have little to keep them occupied as they wade through the wreckage. Most are poor; more than half the population lived in poverty before the pandemic and war wiped out more jobs.

Reuters reports that street protests over water shortages in southwest Iran continued for a sixth night on Tuesday amid rising violence, while residents in the capital of Tehran chanted anti-government slogans.

The Guardian analyses the latest agreement between Syria and China, arguing that China’s high-visibility stake in post-war Syria was straight from its playbook elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as in Asia and Africa: windfall investments in return for local access and global cover.

The Independent reports that Beijing intends to take advantage of Washington’s ‘irresponsible withdrawal’ and befriend the Taliban and the Kabul government to exploit the country’s vast mineral wealth.

In the Israeli media, all papers report that government officials and medical professionals continue to debate whether and how the state ought to react to the rising infection rate. Kan Radio News reports that the Health Ministry wants to re-institute the Green Certificate regulations beginning next Wednesday. However, there is a sharp divide over the issue between ministers at the coronavirus cabinet, which is scheduled to meet tomorrow. Last night the new regulation that events with 100 people or more will be limited to individuals who either are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or who have tested negative for the virus, came into effect. New data suggest that the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy has dropped in the face of the Delta variant, from 95 per cent to 70 per cent, and 50 per cent for people aged 60.

Maariv notes that according to Health Ministry data, 1,377 people tested positive for the coronavirus yesterday, which is the highest number of newly infected people since March. There are currently 59 people hospitalised in Israel in serious condition — about three times more than there were a month ago. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met yesterday with the directors general of the four HMOs in Israel and asked them to step up their efforts to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 15. One of the ideas discussed at the meeting was to make reopening schools in September for seventh and eighth grades contingent on reaching target vaccination rates. The idea being considered is to allow only schools in which 80 per cent of the student body in that age group is vaccinated to resume in-classroom lessons.

In Yediot Ahronot, Nadav Eyal writes that health professionals “have never been as divided as they are now in their attempt to understand the Health Ministry’s latest report and the data provided by Israeli hospitals — and to compare and contrast all that with the data from the UK”. He clarifies: “The experts are divided over whether the data reflect a decline in the vaccine’s efficacy as a result of the time that has elapsed since it was administered, the strength of the Delta variant or whether this is all just statistical noise — a rise in the infection rate that will not generate any risk of hospital overload, a spike in the number of people who become seriously ill and a spike in the mortality rate.”

All the papers report on the latest developments over Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling its ice cream products to Israeli settlements after 2022. Maariv runs with the headline “We Wont Give In,” and Haaretz leads with news that the government is reviewing what actions it can take to the decision, fearing that it may be irreversible. Yesterday Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, sent letters to the governors of the 35 US states that have enacted anti-BDS legislation, requesting that they sanction Ben & Jerry’s over its decision. At a US State Department press briefing on Tuesday, spokesman Ned Price said he does not have “a reaction to offer regarding the actions of a private company” when asked about the situation, but reiterated that White House officials “firmly reject the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel”.

Israel Hayom reports that Prime Minister Bennett and Defence Minister Benny Gantz have prevented the Supreme Planning and Construction Committee in the West Bank from convening, even though the committee was supposed to have convened more than a month ago. Settler officials say the decision to prevent the committee from convening was made in response to a demand that Bennett received from Washington, said settler officials. No new construction can be approved unless the committee is convened.

Israel Hayom reports that the government has said it will launch an inquiry into claims that private Israeli firm NSO Group’s “Pegasus” spyware was used by governments across the globe to spy on political rivals, journalists, and human rights activists. It comes after the mobile phones of French President Emmanuel Macron and 15 members of the French government may have been among potential targets in 2019 of the surveillance spyware, according to French newspaper Le Monde. Another report by Radio France said that Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s phone was on a list of numbers of people identified as potential targets by Morocco’s intelligence services. Morocco on Monday denied the allegations, saying it had “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices.” NSO has denied that it maintains a list of “potential, past or existing targets” and says it only sells to “vetted government agencies” for use against terrorists and major criminals.

Kan Radio News reports that Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata met with Marlène Schiappa, the French Minister Delegate in charge of Citizenship, and discussed ways to fight rising antisemitism in France. Schiappa said her country must fight all forms of Jew-hatred, including anti-Zionism. Tamano-Shata said the only way to fight antisemitism was a joint effort between the countries to advance legislation, and that it would require collaboration with local Jewish leaders and state officials. The pair also laid a wreath at the Hypercacher supermarket where a Muslim gunman murdered four people six years ago. Tamano-Shata returned to Israel with 160 new immigrants.