Seven peacekeepers killed in Sinai crash
BBC News, The Independent, The Guardian and Reuters report that seven peacekeepers were killed in a helicopter crash near Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday. Five Americans, a French national and Czech national – all military service members – were part of the Sinai peninsula’s peacekeeper Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). In a statement the MFA said: “There is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident. We greatly appreciate the co-operation and support of Egypt and Israel in the recovery effort.” A sixth American survived the crash and was airlifted to an Israeli hospital.
The Telegraph reports that in response to the UN’s nuclear watchdog announcing that Iran has stockpiled 12 times more enriched uranium than it is permitted under the JCPOA nuclear deal, Saudi Arabia urged a ‘decisive stance’ against the Islamic Republic. King Salman bin Abdulaziz called for “a drastic handling of [Iran’s] efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and develop its ballistic missiles programme”.
Reuters reports that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the country “will continue to hit with an iron fist against anyone who thinks of threatening our security and stability”. The comments were in response to an attack during a Remembrance Day ceremony that injured two. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the non-Muslim cemetery in the city of Jeddah.
In a report for The Associated Press, Tia Goldenberg writes that “Israel’s settlements could test ties with Biden.” Goldenberg argues: “The coming two months provide a key test for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the matter. The Israeli leader, a long-time supporter of the settlements, may seek to take advantage of the final days of the settlement-friendly Trump administration and push through a flurry of last-minute construction projects. But doing so could antagonise the incoming administration.”
The Economist features an obituary for long-time Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat. The paper notes that “Mr Erekat’s death may say more about domestic politics than about the moribund peace process. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, turns 85 on November 15th and has been ailing for years. His term should have ended 12 years ago. Yet he clings jealously to his post and views would-be successors with suspicion. Mr Erekat was one of the few to stay in his good graces and had been a contender to replace the ageing president. Instead, Mr Abbas will have to replace him; his choice may hint at who leads in the succession struggle.”
All the Israeli media report that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will today sign an agreement with Pfizer to purchase enough vaccines for four million citizens. A statement issued on Edelstein’s behalf said that the vaccines were subject to approval by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Israeli Health Ministry. The supply will begin to arrive in January. Kan Radio News reports that the coronavirus cabinet is scheduled to meet again on Sunday after not making decisions in yesterday’s meeting. The Prime Minister would like to impose a evening curfew starting next Tuesday, but Blue and White has objected to that. According to a proposal to be raised, the curfew will commence at 10:00 PM every night and end at 5:00 AM. The Health Ministry believes that a curfew will not be effective in reducing COVID-19 morbidity. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has demanded that the reopening of school for fifth-, sixth-, eleventh- and twelfth-graders be postponed by at least a week. The Health Ministry believes that sending first- through fourth-graders has not yet made an impact on morbidity and therefore everyone must wait longer before additional parts of the lockdown are eased.
All the Israeli media cover the decision of the High Court of Justice that last night ordered the state to justify within 21 days the laws regulating the alternate government and allowing for the existence of the institution of alternate prime minister. It ruled that from now on the hearings on the matter would be held in a panel of nine justices instead of the three until now. The petitions were filed by the Meretz Party, the Movement for Quality Government, and the NPOs New Contract and Israel Democracy Watch. They argue the arrangement has fundamentally altered Israel’s system of government, which declares that the country has only one prime minister. The Movement for Quality Government has argued that this is a case of two different governments, each with a different prime minister, and this fact has paralysed the executive branch and undermined Israel’s parliamentary democracy. The movement also made the case that the alternate government is tantamount to an unconstitutional amendment that was enacted by abusing the Knesset’s authority and through improper procedure, which requires it to be invalidated. On the other hand, the Likud, Blue and White and the state argued that the petitions should be rejected out of hand since its beyond their jurisdiction. Yediot Ahronot notes, the High Court of Justice’s announcement that it would not reject the petitions out of hand, has the potential for legal and political drama. However, it is possible that the petition will be rejected at the end of the hearing and that the coalition agreement will not be amended.
Yediot Ahronot reports on a new bill being prepared by backbench Likud MKs titled: “The Knesset Election Bill – Amendment and Changes in the Activities of the Central Election Commission and Assembly.” The bill proposes dramatic change in administering elections, including the appointment of party members as secretaries of the polling station committee, political control of the Central Election Commission and allowing cameras at the polling stations. The paper reveals a document from the Central Election Commission that warns against the bill as it is trying to transfer powers from the committee – the independent body that is supposed to oversee the democratic process – to the politicians.
Maariv includes its latest polling, asking, if elections were held today, which party would you vote for? The Likud receives: 30 seats, Yamina: 23 seats, Yesh Atid- Telem: 17 seats, Joint List: 11 seats, Blue and White: 9 seats, Shas: 9 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu: 8 seats, United Torah Judaism: 8 seats, Meretz: 5 seats. Another question found that if elections were held soon, they would be greatly affected by the coronavirus crisis. The results show that 58 per cent of voters will decide how to vote based on how the government is handling the crisis. Among Likud voters, 56 per cent said that their vote would be affected by the handling of the crisis, as did 64 per cent of Yamina voters and 74 per cent of Yesh Atid voters. Among the Likud voters, 40 per cent said that the handling of the crisis would not affect their vote. Among Yamina voters, 35 per cent said that it would not affect their vote, and among Yesh Atid voters, 23 per cent said the same. Another poll revealed 68 per cent believe that Netanyahu is managing the coronavirus crisis badly or very badly, while 18 per cent believe that he is handling it well and 14 per cent say he is handling it moderately well.
Walla News reports that outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to visit a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and tour the Golan Heights during his scheduled trip to Israel next week. They suggest Pompeo is likely to visit the settlement of Psagot, near Ramallah, and will be the first time that a US Secretary of State will visit disputed West Bank territory under Israel’s control.