Schools risk second coronavirus wave in Israel
The BBC and Associated Press report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the killing of Iyad Halaq by Israeli police last month as a “tragedy”. Netanyahu had not commented publicly on the killing until now, the report says, when he offered his condolences and said he expected a full investigation into the shooting. It comes at a time of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the wake of Netanyahu’s declared intention to annex parts of the occupied West Bank – something which has been met with outrage by Palestinians.
The Telegraph leads with a report titled ‘Schools outbreak jeopardises Israel’s emergence from strict lockdown’. The report says that an outbreak of coronavirus cases in schools has jeopardised Israel’s emergence from lockdown and reached all the way to Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, after the Israeli Prime Minister came into contact with an infected maintenance worker whose illness was traced to a Jerusalem school. The Israeli Education Ministry has so far stopped short of closing all schools and universities, as it did for two months from mid-March, despite some secondary schools seeing only 40 to 50 per cent attendance rates as parents keep their children at home over health concerns.
The Times’s Middle East corresponded Louise Callaghan reports that Iran is being forced to reopen its economy despite a spike in coronavirus infections. The Iranian economy is suffering from a mixture of economic sanctions as well as a lull in oil prices. Meanwhile, according to the BBC the deaths of three Afghan refugees in a car fire in Iran has prompted an outpouring of anger towards police, after it emerged the blaze began when officers shot at the vehicle. The deputy governor of the central Iranian province of Yazd, Ahmad Tarahomi, told local media that police officers suspected the car was carrying drugs and undocumented migrants. A graphic video circulating online shows a partially-burnt boy with tattered clothes on the side of a road begging for water.
The Financial Times reports that Saudi Arabia’s vast appetite for Western weaponry and defence equipment has not diminished despite sweeping austerity measures unveiled by the government last month, buoying its US and British suppliers. The Saudi finance ministry told the Financial Times that the kingdom would “continue to support our military needs and spare no resources to defend our people and our territory”. Defence accounts for about 17 per cent of the government’s budget, and for five years Saudi Arabia has been spending tens of billions of dollars pursuing a war against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen.
All the Israeli media report on the rise of coronavirus cases in Israel. The Health Ministry has recorded another 118 new infections since Saturday evening, bringing the national total of cases to 17,870 and 298 deaths. The number of daily cases has hovered around 100 for eight days, after a sustained drop in the daily infection rate. Of the 2,481 active cases, 28 people are in serious condition, including 24 on ventilators. Health officials have attributed the rise to the opening of the school system. Up until now, more than 350 school students and staff have contracted the coronavirus, and 130 schools have closed.
All the Israeli media report on the meeting held last night between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 11 Yesha Council leaders, all of whom support the plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank – last week’s meeting with Netanyahu included the 13 Yesha Council leaders who are opposed to the Trump plan. Kan Radio News says that Netanyahu told the council leaders that the US had yet to give a green light for Israel to apply its law on parts of the West Bank. He said there was a disagreement with the Americans over the size of the area that would be annexed around the enclaves and that all that was required of Israel in the Trump plan was consent in principle to holding negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel Hayom claims Netanyahu told the Yesha council members that roads in Judea and Samaria would at no point be handed over to the Palestinians. It was also promised to those present that after the teams finish drawing up the map, the final draft will be presented to them, and they will be able to send any specific corrections that they see fit to add. They were further told that sovereignty would be applied this coming July, as planned.
According to Israel Hayom, prior to the Yesha Council meeting Netanyahu held talks with Blue and White leaders, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. The two former IDF chiefs of staff presented a coordinated position to Netanyahu that centred on implementing the sovereignty move in a manner that would be widely supported in Israel, and internationally, and without damaging ties with Jordan or Egypt.
Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Ben-Dror Yemini says “it is doubtful whether the prime minister is familiar with such a map. It could be that he still doesn’t know what the US will permit him to annex, if anything”. Yemini adds that the main disagreement over the Trump plan is that “the opponents of annexation fear that it is liable to lead to US restrictions on construction in the settlements, or that after annexation, someone is liable to take seriously the fact that the next stage is a Palestinian state. Annexation supporters, in contrast, say that we have to take what there is, because we can count on the Palestinians to continue to reject. Oddly, it is the moderate right-wing that supports annexation, while the extreme right-wing is opposed to annexation.”
Kan Radio News reports that security forces have arrested the assailant suspected of killing Golani commando soldier First Sgt Amit Ben Yigal a month ago, while he was on operational duty in the village of Yaabed. Nazmi Abu Bakr, 49, threw a rock that hit the combatant from the roof of the building in which he lives. The IDF said in a statement Sunday that the alleged assailant was among those detained in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
Maariv reports that the Norwegian Law bill – which allows parties to refill their Knesset seats whose MKs selected for ministerial posts – will be brought to the Knesset plenum for its second and third readings approval next week, due to the reduction in voting this week as a result of a new coronavirus outbreak. Until then, the coalition and opposition will attempt to reach agreements regarding the sections of the law. Meanwhile, the Constitution Committee begun voting yesterday on the 7,000 reservations to the law in advance of preparation for the second and third readings, but the discussion was halted after the committee rejected about 1,600 reservations. Behind the scenes, the opposition attempted to reach an agreement with the coalition to the remove a large portion of the reservations in exchange for the law becoming temporary – but the parties failed due to Yamina’s opposition.