Media Summary

The Economist suggests, “Saudi Arabia may accept normal relations with Israel”


The Economist  suggests, “Saudi Arabia may accept normal relations with Israel” noting, ”For years Israel and Saudi Arabia have been partners in all but name. The leaders of the two countries confer in secret, share a rival in Iran, plan joint telecoms infrastructure, do quiet business deals and are members of American-led defence alliances. But while five other members of the Arab League already have agreed to full diplomatic relations with Israel, it has not been that simple for the Saudi kings to break 75 years of taboo against “normalisation” with the oft-reviled Jewish state.” However, King Salman “has been loath to make any public overture to Israel while the Palestinian people remain stateless.”

The Times  outlines the contours of the understanding being reached between the US and Iran. According to the report Iran will suspend uranium enrichment at 60%. Iran will restrain its proxies in attacking US forces and contractors in Syria and Iraq. Iran will increase its cooperation with the UN’s nuclear watchdog IAEA. Iran will also limit the supply of ballistic missiles to Russia. In exchange, Iran expects the US not to increase its sanctions, to allow Iranian oil tankers undisturbed passage, to release some of Iran’s frozen assets and refrain from further resolutions against Iran in the UN or the IAEA.

The Telegraph  reports that “Israel is building the world’s first air defence system dedicated to shooting down hypersonic missiles in a major challenge to Russia and Iran, who have claimed that they are impossible to shoot down. The Israeli defence firm Rafael is working on a new “Sky Sonic” system that is specifically designed for intercepting hypersonic missiles, which can fly in the upper atmosphere and travel at five times the speed of sound. The Sky Sonic system will “enable us to intercept all kinds of hypersonic threats – hypersonic ballistic missiles, hypersonic cruise missiles,” Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd.”

The Guardian  covers our main item, noting a “rebellion by members of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s, government in an important vote related to controversial judicial changes has dealt the longtime leader a political setback, bringing divisions in his coalition to the fore and scuppering compromise talks with the opposition.”

The BBC  covers the parents of a Palestinian toddler killed by an Israeli soldier saying the military’s investigation into his death “makes a mockery of our son’s blood”. The report continues “Mohammed Tamimi, two, was shot in the head and his father Haitham was injured in the occupied West Bank on 1 June. The military’s report blames a mix-up for a soldier firing at their car. It says he thought he was shooting at gunmen and that the confusion was caused by another soldier firing in the air in violation of regulations.”  The BBC also reports on an Israeli  investigation into a second Palestinian killed, highlighting, “Israeli troops will not face criminal charges over Palestinian-American’s death” according to their report “Omar Asad, 80, was detained at a temporary checkpoint in the occupied West Bank overnight in January 2022….Before the Israeli soldiers left the area, they found Mr Asad lying face upwards and unresponsive but “did not identify any indications that Asad was in distress”, according to the IDF. “Therefore, they assumed he was asleep, did not attempt to wake him up, and left the location.” The report also quotes the Israeli Military Advocate General saying, “The IDF laments Asad’s death and works to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.”

Kan News reports Defence Minister Gallant met with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin in Brussels and discussed expanding coordination between Jerusalem and Washington in order to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Gallant also mentioned Iranian aggression toward Israel via Tehran’s proxies in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and West Bank. The defence minister emphasised that Israel reserves its right to defend itself against any threat. They agreed to step up the IDF’s joint drills with US Central Command.  A statement that the US Defence Department issued after the meeting said that Secretary Austin had expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank and encouraged further cooperation, including via the US security coordinator, to deescalate conflict and reduce tensions. Austin emphasised US support for a two-state solution.

Regarding the emerging deal, or understanding between US and Iran, Channel 12 News outlines the contours, based on the New York Times report yesterday. According to the report the US  had not shared those details with Israel.  However, Haaretz reports that the Biden administration regularly updates Israel on its indirect talks with Iran, including the talks that took place in Oman last month. An Israeli government told the paper it hasn’t yet decided on a definitive position on these talks, and strongly denied allegations that it was somehow trying to sabotage them by leaking sensitive information.  “The US administration updates us regularly on their indirect talks with Iran, there’s an open and constant dialogue between us,” the senior Israeli official stated. “We were not surprised by media reports about understandings that are being formed.” The senior official added that Israel was still “studying” the terms of the potential understandings, and has not yet decided on a policy position in response. “At the moment, we’re not speaking out publicly against the talks, but we can express our reservations. We keep emphasizing that in any case, we’re not a side to these understandings, and we will maintain our freedom of operation to protect our interests.”

All the Israeli media continue to cover the fallout of Wednesday’s dramatic Knesset vote. Maarivfocuses on recriminations inside the Likud, with one party source quoted saying, “Not only is the opposition telling the truth when it says that at least five coalition members crossed the line and voted for Karin Elharar, in fact the number of rebels was much higher.” However another Likud source explained, “The rebels were entirely in line with Netanyahu, who told the coalition leaders that an opposition representative should be elected so as to prevent the talks in the President’s Residence from derailing. The rebels gave Netanyahu what he wanted, after ministers Yariv Levin, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir forced him to retreat. The problem is not Netanyahu, the problem is Levin and the camp for reform. The rebels rebelled against them, not against the prime minister.” According to another assessment, the Shas MKs could have also voted for the opposition representative so as to prevent the talks in the President’s Residence from derailing, as their top priority is reaching agreement for Aryeh Deri to return to the cabinet. The paper also reports Likud and right-wing activists are stepping up their demand that Netanyahu advance the judicial reform. The right-wing movement Im Tirtzu held a demonstration last night outside the prime minister’s home in Caesarea. “In light of the unending concessions to the anarchists, the refuseniks and the opposition, we demand that you promote the reform!” the demonstrators called. Matan Peleg, the chairman of Im Tirtzu, said: “The time has come to tell the prime minister the truth: 64 seats demand an end to the capitulation.”

In the commentary in Yediot Ahronot Sima Kadmon writes, “The events in the Knesset exposed the fact that there are currently two camps with conflicting interests within the coalition. Netanyahu is facing a growing power group whose interests are different from the prime minister’s and includes Yariv Levin, who until recently was his ally, and his coalition partners Smotrich and Ben Gvir. So against whom was the revolt at the ballot box launched? Against Netanyahu, whose wishes may have actually aligned with Elharrar’s election, or maybe against Levin, at whom Likud members are growing increasingly angry and whose resignation they long to see? It is a mistake to think of Netanyahu as a gifted politician. He is not. “I saw him in the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee this week,” someone said. “I saw a brilliant and smart man who understands security and policy, a superb man. Two days later, I saw the same man bump his head on three trees like the biggest idiot. It’s crazy to think that this is the same man.”  It is important to remember that Netanyahu’s CV never included the job of being an ordinary MK. He always had people at his side who handled the political affairs, and they can all testify that he is easily manipulated. And if there is somebody who knows that better than anybody, it’s Levin, who was there in the role of manipulator and knows Netanyahu’s tendency to postpone everything possible.”

Maariv also includes its latest polling, asking “If elections were held today, for which party would you vote?” The National Unity Party receives 32 seats, Likud: 24, Yesh Atid: 17, Shas: 9, United Torah Judaism: 7, Hadash-Ta’al: 6, Religious Zionist Party: 5, Yisrael Beiteinu: 5, United Arab List: 5, Jewish Power: 5, Meretz: 5. Translated into blocs, gives the current Coalition: 50, the Opposition: 59, with Hadash-Ta’al and United Arab List: 11. When asked:: Who is best suited to be prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz? Gantz receives 47% support and Netanyahu: 37%.

Israel Hayom reports that Russia will open a branch of its embassy in central Jerusalem. “This was concluded in a secret agreement between the countries. The Jerusalem municipality and the Foreign Ministry recently reached a compromise of historic significance. The main point is an official Russian commitment to plan, build and operate a consular branch in the Maalot parking lot in central Jerusalem [on King George Street, facing Independence Park]. In exchange, the municipality will not appropriate the land for the route of the light rail that was planned for there and will seek other transport solutions. The municipality will also let Russia register ownership over an area 100 meters long for the road to the future diplomatic compound. Jerusalem will also drop all the lawsuits and demands against the Russian Federation, which for years did not pay taxes and other fees. Furthermore, the parking lot will continue to operate until the compound of the embassy branch is built. The office will provide consular services to residents of Jerusalem and the region. It will also contain diplomatic living quarters, thus giving the site a higher status than a consular office. The agreement stipulates that construction will be completed within five years, with the possibility of extending the time to a decade.”