Media Summary

Tunisia’s President sacks parliament

The BBC, Guardian and The Telegraph lead with the nationwide protests in Tunisia yesterday which led to Tunisia’s president sacking the prime minister and suspending parliament. Anger over the government’s handling of a massive recent spike in COVID cases has added to general unrest over the nation’s economic and social turmoil. President Kais Saied, who was elected in 2019, announced he was taking over, which has further caused tensions between his supporters and opponents in parliament who immediately accused him of staging a coup.

The Financial Times publishes a commentary about Israel’s new government. Heba Saleh explains how Israel’s ‘frozen’ coalition holds tight to power by avoiding points of discord.

The Times reports that later today the US will declare an end to combat operations in Iraq, asserting that the fight against ISIS can be led by local forces. The announcement will be part of a deal signed with Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who is in Washington and will meet President Joe Biden.

Reuters reports that Lebanon’s wealthy businessman and former premier Najib Mikati is poised to be designated prime minister on Monday after winning the support of most major parties to form a new government facing a crippling financial crisis.

The BBC notes that Israel will cut carbon emissions by 85 per cent from 2015 levels by the middle of the century. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the decision would help the country gradually shift to a low-carbon economy. Targets include cutting the vast majority of emissions from transport, the electricity sector and municipal waste.

The Guardian publishes a commentary which argues that corporate activism is too often cynical. In Ben & Jerry’s case, it offers hope, argues Nesrine Malik.

The Telegraph writes that parts of the Middle East are at breaking point with power cuts and water supplies running out. Lebanon’s power outages are now often lasting 23 hours a day, while Iran is said to be ‘water bankrupt’.

The Guardian reports how Esmail Qaani – successor to the assassinated Qassem Suleimani as Revolutionary Guard Quds chief – lacks the authority to stop attacks on US targets in Iraq and Syria.

BBC Persian’s Rana Rahimpour explains that security forces in Iran’s southwest Khuzestan province have been firing bullets at people protesting due to severe water shortages. The shortages are happening in one of the country’s hottest regions, where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius.

In the Israeli media, all the papers report on disagreements within the government over how to begin the new school year. The Education Ministry and the Health Ministry disagree on two issues: the length of time in quarantine for students who are exposed to someone infected with COVID-19, and vaccines for students. The Education Ministry is demanding only a two-day quarantine whereas the Health Ministry is insisting that anyone who was exposed to an infected person quarantine for a full week. On the matter of the vaccines, the Health Ministry wants to vaccinate students in the schools, but the Education Ministry is opposed. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened a meeting last night to discuss the issue, but the sides did not reach agreement.

Maariv quotes Prime Minister Bennett during the beginning of the cabinet meeting yesterday, in which he said: “The scientific facts are clear: people who are vaccinated are less sick. People who are vaccinated infect less. Non-vaccination endangers you and it endangers your loved ones, especially the elderly. That is why I am calling on everyone, in particular the young women and men, the schoolgirls and schoolboys ahead of the new school year — go now to get vaccinated.” Prime Minister Bennett also commented on the demonstrations that were held outside his home on Friday afternoon, saying: “I saw the demonstrations. Obviously, that’s legitimate, but demonstrations aren’t going to defeat the Delta [variant]. Vaccination will defeat it.” Bennett also touched on the government’s policies, saying: “The easiest way could have been to go back to an accordion of lockdowns, but that isn’t the right way. We are insisting on protecting [people’s] livelihoods, the economy, education and Israel’s citizens’ liberty via mask-wearing, protecting the elderly and vaccination.”

Yediot Ahronot’s Sarit Rosenblum criticises the government and the public for their response to the rising COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation rate, writing: “More than anything else the way in which the State of Israel has been handling the fourth wave of coronavirus infection attests to its difficulty in coming to terms with reality. The sad conclusion from the events of the last few weeks is that exactly like Israel’s children after a year and a half of pandemic — we, the adults, haven’t learned anything either. The unfathomable failure to understand the cause and effect correlation in the fight against the pandemic is shared by everyone involved in this ongoing farce.” Rosenblum concludes by offering the following practical advice: “We should focus on what is within our control, not on what is not. We need to take action to increase the number of vaccinated, to mandate quarantine for everyone returning from overseas, including the vaccinated and the recovered, to apply the Green Certificate Program to any gathering, large and small, and urgently to prepare the health-care system for a high number of people requiring treatment. At the current rate, that is going to arrive sooner than we think.”

Israel Hayom reports about a potential rift between Israel and the UAE in the wake of Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg’s decision to cancel the agreement that was reached between the Europe Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and an Emirati government company. The agreement signed by the two companies is supposed to allow Emirati oil to be transported via Israel to countries around the world, using the EAPC pipeline. The agreement was signed under the previous government but without the involvement of the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Energy Ministry and a range of other civil servants. The former environment protection minister, MK Gila Gamliel (Likud) demanded that the agreement be cancelled and her position has been endorsed by her successor. One high-ranking Emirati official told Israel Hayom: “Cancelling an agreement of that kind is a violation of the mutual economic appendices that were signed in the framework of the Abraham Accords. Emirati companies will think hard whether to do business with Israeli government companies when they know that there is the reasonable chance that the signed agreement will be cancelled. We do not meddle in other countries’ internal affairs and political issues, but it is clear to us that the move to cancel the agreement stems from political considerations.”

Haaretz refers to the claims made by Russia over the week that its aerial defence systems disrupted an Israeli attack in Syria, and that it has discussed its criticisms of Israel’s behaviour with Washington, which surprised the Israeli defence establishment. The reports says that some of the Russian statements appear to be inaccurate, “But the very fact that Moscow chose to make such statements indicates how unhappy it is with Israel, following a long period of quiet in the bilateral relationship.”

Israel Hayom publishes two commentary pieces that criticise the government for appointing more ministers. After the appointments of Eli Avidar as minister without portfolio and Yair Golan as deputy economy minister, Israel Hayom claims that Blue and White is also considering exercising its right to invoke the Norwegian law for either Benny Gantz or for Deputy Minister Alon Schuster. “All this is happening without almost any criticism from the media, since large parts of it have enlisted to help the government succeed and have been whitewashing its failures. The little that is heard is mainly about senior coalition officials who are now breaking their promises — people who in the past had shouted loudly that the Norwegian law was being used to hand out jobs and then went and broadened it. They said that a government with more than 30 ministers was inflated and wasteful, and then appointed more. They shouted that Netanyahu was a dictator and then trampled the Knesset by creating an artificial majority for the coalition in its committees.”