Trump’s pick as Defence Secretary “grudgingly” backs Iran nuclear deal
The online editions of the Guardian and Telegraph both report this morning that the Syrian government has blamed Israel for an overnight attack on a military airport near Damascus. There has been no comment from Israeli officials over the incident. Although Israel has remained firmly on the sidelines of the Syrian Civil War, officials have admitted to periodically launching attacks to prevent attempts to transfer advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.
The Times, Independent and the online edition of the Guardian all report that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described Sunday’s peace conference in Paris as “rigged… to adopt additional anti-Israel stances”. He added that the gathering of representatives from approximately 70 countries, to which Israeli and Palestinians have not been invited, “pushes peace backwards” and is “a relic of the past”. Israeli officials have not backed the Paris conference, fearing that such multi-lateral initiatives will further discourage the Palestinian Authority (PA) from direct talks with Israel.
The Independent covers comments made by Israeli lawyers in the Israeli daily The Marker regarding the criminal investigation facing Prime Minister Netanyahu. They argue that if the allegations circulated in the media prove to be true, then Netanyahu could be guilty of bribery.
The Times reports that the Israeli army has uncovered multiple attempts by Hamas to use fake profiles of seductive women on social media, in order to trick Israeli soldiers into downloading software to their phones which would allow them to be tracked and monitored. Dozens of soldiers are reported to have fallen into the trap.
The Independent reports that Shai Masot, the employee of Israel’s London embassy who was last week caught on camera by an undercover reporter discussing “taking down” MPs, has resigned from His job at the Embassy.
The Guardian online covers a new report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which says that Jews in some European countries are leaving for Israel in increasing numbers, but that it does not constitute an “exodus”.
The Telegraph reports on the Congressional confirmation hearing of James Mattis, incoming-US President Donald Trump’s pick as Defence Secretary. Mattis “grudgingly” backed the nuclear deal with Iran, saying “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies”. Trump has indicated that he will work to negate the deal once he takes office.
The Times says that Iran has taken delivery of the first of 100 Airbus aeroplanes, as part of a major deal reached since the nuclear deal was agreed.
In the Israeli media, the investigations facing Prime Minister Netanyahu continue to be a major item. Maariv says that Likud Minister Yariv Levin and Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel were both questioned by police over the alleged quid pro quo agreement between Netanyahu and Yediot Ahronot’s publisher Noni Mozes. Yediot Ahronot says that Netanyahu’s wife Sara has been questioned by police over gifts given by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Haaretz reports that the investigation is being expedited by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Maariv prominently covers comments made yesterday by Netanyahu about Sunday’s upcoming Paris peace conference. The report says that Israeli officials are concerned that resolutions decided at Sunday’s gathering will be turned into United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions which are hostile towards Israel.
Israel Radio news says that Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai spoke to the Palestinian media about protests in the Gaza Strip over electricity shortages. He said that Hamas was responsible for crisis, as Hamas leaders enjoy electricity 24 hours a day yet Gaza residents have electricity for only three hours a day.
Yediot Ahronot, Maariv and Israel Hayom all mark the death of popular singer Meir Banai, who died yesterday having suffered from cancer, aged 56.