Trump dissuaded from striking Iran
The Telegraph leads with the report that US President Donald Trump last week sought options for attacking Iran to stop its nuclear programme during the last two months in office. Trump was dissuaded from such action during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday with top national security advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, new acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
The Financial Times writes that Iran has threatened a “crushing” response to any US military strike on the country’s nuclear facilities. “We have said it before, and repeat it now, that any action against Iranian people will face a crushing response,” Ali Rabiei, Iran’s government spokesman, told journalists on Tuesday.
The BBC reports that European diplomats who visited the Israeli settlement of Givat Hamatos on Monday to protest the decision to issue tenders for 1,250 new homes in the area were heckled by Israeli nationalists. A video posted by Israeli public broadcaster Kan showed a crowd shouting “shame on you” at the diplomats and accusing them of anti-Semitism and supporting terrorism.
The Guardian leads with the overnight airstrikes by Israel’s military against the Syrian army and Iran’s Quds Force in Syria after explosive devices were planted in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The paper cites the statement by the IDF which said the presence of the explosive devices is “is further clear proof of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria”. Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations, the report adds.
Borzou Daragahi writes in the Independent that Iran and the US are on a collision course in the final few weeks of the Trump administration. Referring to reports in the New York Times that President Trump had to be persuaded not to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, officials aboard fear that an embittered and emotionally unstable Trump could use his final weeks as America’s first one-term president in nearly 30 years to settle scores and push through his agenda on Iran.
The Times, Financial Times and the BBC report that senior Republicans and US allies, including the head of NATO, have voiced alarm at the announcement that a large number of American troops will be removed from Afghanistan and Iraq. In Iraq, the number of US troops will be cut by 500 to 2,500, while the number of service personnel in Afghanistan will fall from 4,500 to about 2,500, the US Department of Defense confirmed.
Roger Boyes writes in The Times that China and Russia could exploit the power vacuum in Washington by attacking their rivals.
The Independent writes about a new report by Amnesty International which calls for Qatar to get tougher with abusive employers to ensure the country’s huge number of migrant workers get paid and protected from further potential exploitation. Despite backing the recent announcement of reforms, the human rights group said in a statement released on Wednesday that many workers potentially face further mistreatment unless ground-breaking changes announced recently by Qatar are fully enforced.
The Hebrew papers in Israel report that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has agreed to resume security and civilian relations with Israel. Cooperation between the two sides was halted in May this year by the PA in reaction to reports that the Israeli government planned to annex sections of the West Bank. PA Civilian Affairs Minister Hussein a-Sheikh said: “As a result of the negotiations conducted by President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] regarding Israeli commitments to agreements signed with us and relying on written guarantees we have received from official sources that prove Israel’s commitments, cooperation with Israel will be resumed as before.” This includes accepting money transfers that Israel collects on behalf of the PA. To date, Israel’s Finance Ministry is holding NIS 3 billion that the Palestinians have refused to take. In addition, the Palestinian Authority has been forced to deal with the coronavirus crisis alone, without aid from Israel.
In Yediot Ahronot, Ben-Dror Yemini writes about the rare pressure put on the PA by the Europeans to return to cooperation with Israel, including the acceptance of tax levies that Israel collects on the PA’s behalf. Yemini adds: “The fact that there is no chance at all for a deal is precisely the reason that small steps like a resumption of security coordination are important. There is certainly no need for massive construction projects outside the settlement blocs, about which there is no disagreement. Until the circumstances change, there is no need to make things worse.”
Israel Hayom notes this morning that Israeli officials have begun to delineate Israel’s expectations from a revised nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers if negotiations between the sides begin. According to the report, the prevailing assessment is that Israel will demand any new agreement be extended to include the suspension of Iran’s missile programme and to prevent the Iranians acquiring materials that are crucial to uranium enrichment process. Israel is also expected to demand that the agreement include Iranian consent to end its acts of aggression and its sponsorship of terrorism.
Maariv reports that talks about disbanding the unity government and holding early elections has gained increasing traction in both Blue and White and the Likud. Six months has passed since the established of the unity government, in which the coalition agreement states that as of this morning the government is free to pass legislation that is unrelated to the coronavirus and to appoint civil servants on the basis of agreements between the parties. In reality, the government is unable to carry out such measures. One high-ranking Likud official told Maariv: “We have no intention of giving in to Gantz and his people because with every passing day they break another agreement.” Netanyahu indicated yesterday that he has not changed his position on the 2021 budget. In a live Facebook broadcast, Netanyahu said: “There’s a budget that’s ready and can be approved right now. It’s a budget for three months and it makes it possible for us to pass the 2021 budget, which is being worked on now. But it won’t be ready and it won’t be submitted to the Knesset before the end of February.” Blue and White officials told Maariv in response to Netanyahu’s remarks: “The date that Netanyahu wants to set for passing the 2021 budget is unequivocally unacceptable to us.”
Kan Radio News reports that US Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker arrived in Israel yesterday and met with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. The two men discussed Israel’s maritime border talks with Lebanon. Informed sources on those talks said that Israel and Lebanon remain deeply divided, and that the conflict would only become resolvable if both sides were to take a pragmatic approach. A fourth round of talks between Israel and Lebanon is scheduled to be held in December at the UNIFIL base in Naqoura, Lebanon.