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Media Summary

Qatar’s ruler is set to visit Egypt today

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to engineer his return to power by launching a “scorched-earth” campaign, courting far-right voters and accusing rivals of being beholden to Islamists, Anshel Pfeffer writes in The Times.

The Guardian reports that Israeli archaeologists have unveiled a rare ancient mosque in the country’s south that antiquities officials said shed light on the region’s transition from Christianity to Islam. The remains of the mosque, believed to be more than 1,200 years old, were discovered during works to build a new neighbourhood in the Bedouin city of Rahat, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said in a statement.

Reuters reports that Qatar’s ruler is set to visit Egypt today, his first trip to the country since the Gulf Cooperation Council (plus Egypt) and Qatar agreed last year to end a long-running regional feud, diplomatic sources said.

The Independent reports that the UK defence and foreign secretaries visited Turkey yesterday to talk war and chance to sell Eurofighter Typhoons ahead of key NATO summit. This followed news of the possible collapse of a major fighter jet deal between Ankara and Washington and came amid a crisis in NATO over efforts to include Nordic countries in the alliance.

Also in the Independent, Borzou Daragahi comments that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seek new opportunities to bolster their power after MBS visited Turkey this week. He writes: “After six years of recrimination, blockades, boycotts, and proxy wars – all of it shadowed by the brutal 2018 murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – the two nations appear to be back on the path towards partnership.”

Reuters notes that Israel’s economy is expected to be resilient during yet another election cycle, but households will suffer as reforms to reduce the cost of living are likely to be shelved and state spending will be scaled back until a 2023 budget is approved.

In the Israeli media, all the papers focus on the political crisis in the government. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke yesterday at a military ceremony saying he did his best for the country while in office. “I hand over a strong and secure State of Israel with quiet on its borders. Our enemies know very well that we will find them anywhere in the world in order to safeguard the security of our citizens. They are learning that whoever plots to attack us here will pay a heavy price at home,” he said. Meanwhile, in a dubious legal move Labour MK Gilad Kariv moved to mark up the bills to dissolve the Knesset to his Constitution Committee, rather than the House Committee led by Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who has indicated he may hold the legislation back to give the opposition a chance to form its own government in the current Knesset.

A poll published in Maariv found that the coalition and the pro-Netanyahu bloc are in a dead heat, tied at 57 seats each with the Joint List on 6 seats. Under those circumstances, neither bloc is projected to have the parliamentary majority needed to form a coalition government. Yediot Ahronot’s Sima Kadmon reports that Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to form a different government in the current Knesset and is intent on holding another election. Kadmon writes: “Make no mistake: he doesn’t really want an alternative government. He is focused on 61 seats, control of the Supreme Court, and the French bill” [a bill that would prevent criminal investigations into a sitting prime minister].

Also in Yediot Ahronot, Yossi Yehoshua reports on news out of Iran yesterday that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has fired its intelligence chief after a string of assassination inside the country on its personnel. He writes: “Iran feels itself to be under attack and its top officials have begun to behave accordingly, even though the reprisals that they tried to execute at any cost, such as murdering Israeli tourists, fail to convey a sense of regional strength and achieve the very opposite. The bottom line is that the Iranians currently have the weaker hand, but Iran is a bitter and tenacious enemy that will continue to seek ways of restoring its honour. A sense of deep frustration might prompt Iran to take desperate action.”

Kan Radio reports on the rising levels on COVID-19. Researchers from the Hebrew University anticipate that approximately 500 people will be hospitalised in serious condition with the virus in another two weeks’ time. The forecast was presented to the National Security Council and the Health Ministry. The research team believes that approximately 30,000 Israelis are contracting COVID-19 every day, although the tests do not reflect the actual number of confirmed cases. The forecast was brought to the attention of the leaders of the Health Ministry, but they do not intend to recommend imposing restrictions aside from wearing masks indoors, a step which is under discussion.

Israel Hayom follows comments made yesterday by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, who laments lack of help from Israel in Hebrew University speech. “Unfortunately, we have not yet seen Israel join the other countries that are boycotting Russia. I can’t say we’ve received the help we want from Israel,” Ukrainian President Zelenskyy told students in a video link from Kyiv. He added: “I’ll be honest with you, I love Israel very much and have visited it several times in the past, but I’ve avoided giving interviews to Israeli journalists because I don’t always know how to answer their questions very well. I don’t know how to answer their questions about Israel’s help, or what it could be doing. I’m grateful to the people of Israel. I am grateful for the sincere and emotional support to the people of Ukraine … but we would like to also get support from your government.”

The Jerusalem Post notes that 24 Democratic senators have signed a letter sent to President Biden calling for “direct involvement” of the US in the investigation of the death of American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqla. It is the largest action yet from US lawmakers seeking an independent resolution to the May 11 killing of the Al Jazeera journalist. Multiple US media investigations have independently concluded that she was most likely killed by Israeli soldiers, with The New York Times this week joining the Washington Post, the Associated Press and CNN in reaching the conclusion.