Media Summary

UAE pupil to be first Gulf foreign exchange student to study in Israel

The BBC, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and Independent follow the exchange of hostilities yesterday between Israel and Hamas in the first major flare-up since 11 days of fighting between the two sides ended in a ceasefire on 21 May. Israel says it has carried out air strikes against Hamas militant targets in Gaza, in retaliation for incendiary balloons launched from the territory that caused multiple fires, according to the Israeli fire service. The BBC says the hostilities followed a march by “Jewish nationalists in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, which had drawn threats from Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza”.

Saudi Arabia has executed a man for offences that human rights groups say he committed while aged 17, despite the kingdom’s assurance that it had abolished the death penalty for minors, says The Times, Independent and BBC. Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish was arrested in 2015 for protest-related offences. Saudi authorities say he was charged with forming a terror cell and trying to carry out an armed revolt. Human Rights organisations Amnesty International and Reprieve say 26-year-old al-Darwish had already recanted his confession, which was allegedly made after he was tortured. Saudi authorities have not publicly commented on the accusation.

The amount of violent speech against Arabs and Palestinians on social media rose by 15 times during the recent conflicts in the Middle East compared to last year, a new report shared exclusively with the Independent has found.

Roger Boyes in The Times writes that the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership in Israel is a gift to Iran. “The threat from Iran is set to intensify and yet it is played down as a piece of Netanyahu-era grandstanding. Israel’s new coalition is literally half-baked: Bennett will have to step down after two years to let his governing partner rule. Israel is adrift. It needs a special kind of leadership now: internationally savvy, with military and geopolitical intuition. For all of his many flaws, Netanyahu had that. Bennett, I fear, does not.”

Patrick Cockburn writes in the Independent that there are similarities between the fall of Netanyahu and that of Donald Trump: Benjamin Netanyahu may dominate the right, but – like his counterpart in the US – he also divides it.

The Guardian’s latest podcast includes Israeli analyst Dahlia Scheindlin who says that despite the momentous week in Israeli politics, it may not produce a significant change of course on the biggest issues facing the country. She also doesn’t rule out a return to the top for Netanyahu in Israeli politics.

Academics Fadi Hassan Andrea Presbitero argue in the Financial Times that the economic sanctions against Syria should be reconsidered after a year of shocks that have put further pressure on the war-torn nation.

The Telegraph reports that Shamima Begum has said joining the Islamic State in Syria was a mistake she made as a “dumb kid” in comments to a British filmmaker. “I don’t think I was a terrorist. I think I was just a dumb kid who made one mistake,” she said of her decision as a 15-year-old to run away from home in Bethnal Green, east London, to travel to Syria along with two school friends. After marrying a Dutch IS fighter, Begum gave birth to three children, all of whom died of illness. She finally fled the last holdout IS territory in 2019 and was found by a Times journalist in a detention camp holding IS supporters and affiliates in northeast Syria.

The Guardian reports that Iran’s next president will ride a wave of voter apathy into power. After years of government corruption, repression and violence, many Iranians are expected to boycott Friday’s elections. Some think that might hurt the hard-line frontrunner and chief of the judiciary Ebrahim Raisi’s chances on 18 June – not to mention his weak performances during the three debates – but with an official poll suggesting a low turnout of about 37–43 per cent, he is likely to be Iran’s next president.

The Financial Times examines how Iranians fared under President Hassan Rouhani, whose eight years as President ends this summer. Data gathered by the paper shows Iran’s centrist president was not able to deliver on many of his promises.

The Israeli media is dominated by the return of incendiary balloons on the Gaza border and IDF retaliation, with several papers alluding to the same problems over Gaza for the new government. In Yediot Ahronot, Ben-Dror Yemini argues that the challenge facing the new government “is to change the paradigm”. He writes: “If we want to meet that challenge we can’t revert to the very same policies that were implemented by the previous prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. His policy was undergirded by a regular flow of Qatari funds. That is a payoff. Israel needs to — it must — put forward a dramatic proposal in cooperation with Western countries to provide extensive aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip. A Marshall Plan that is underpinned by the equation of reconstruction in exchange for demilitarisation.”

All the papers report that US President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled picks for several high-profile ambassadorial postings, including former Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides as ambassador to Israel. Israel Hayom quotes former US Ambassador to Israel Michael Oren who has said that while Nides has had limited contact with Israel, he “loves Israel” and holds moderate opinions. Oren said that Nides’ appointment as ambassador would be a “blessing” to Israel. The former deputy secretary of state for management and resources, who most recently served as managing director and vice-chairman of Morgan Stanley, will still need to make it through a Senate confirmation hearing, but no significant opposition is expected.

Also in Yediot Ahronot, Itamar Eichner questions the usefulness of the extremely short handover between Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Eichner writes that beyond Iran, “there are many other critical and existential issues that likely did not come up in the conversation at all, and even if they did the conversation would have been very shallow. They are key issues that Bennett will have fill in the blanks on without the help of the opposition leader.” These includes, he suggests, Israel’s strategic position vis-à-vis the US, relations with key regional players like Jordanian King Abdullah II, Russian President Putin, Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Israeli ties with China, latest negotiation talks with Hamas over MIA and hostages, and natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Nahum Barnea writes that the “handoff by the cabinet ministers to their successors was more gracious. It was important for the outgoing ministers to show how stately they were. But anyone who ascribes more importance to that than to the handoff at the top is mistaken. The government has been operating without a state budget for the past two and a half years. There are very few new projects that are underway. There isn’t much that the outgoing ministers can take pride in, and there isn’t much advice that they can impart.” Regarding Bennett’s handover, Barnea argues that “every prime minister resets the odometer on his first day in office. Everything he ever did in life before being prime minister pales and disappears. The clock starts from zero — and it is far more demanding and far more challenging. With or without a handoff, Bennett is going to have to cross this river on his own.”

Army Radio reports that Likud MK David Bitan has said that the half-hour handover meeting between Netanyahu and Prime Minister Bennett was part of several meetings that would be held. “The main handover is done by the teams. After the meeting I assume they will meet again. This half-hour was more about how to work together on the handover. The head of the National Security Council sat with Bennett. At the same time, don’t expect Netanyahu to sit with Bennett and teach him how to do the job. If Bennett’s got specific questions, he can call Netanyahu.”

Israel Hayom reports that for the first time ever, a foreign exchange student from the United Arab Emirates will begin his studies at an Israeli university. The student, Mansoor bin Shamekh al-Marzooqi, 19, has enrolled at the IDC Herzliya and will study for a bachelor’s degree in Government while living at the student dormitories. Yesterday, UAE officials released images of the new construction on the Abrahamic Family House, a complex in Abu Dhabi slated to house a synagogue, a mosque and a church, which is 20 per cent complete. The UAE said that the synagogue at the site will be named the “Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue” after the 12th century philosopher and rabbinical scholar Maimonides. The mosque will be named “Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque,” and the church “St. Francis Church”.

Yediot Ahronot reports that Corporal Noam Shahar has become the first transgender soldier to serve in the IDF, as part of the Extrication and Rescue Brigade in the Home Front Command. Noam, a 19-year-old from Kfar Saba, received her new beret a few days ago after completing her lengthy training.

Kan Radio reports that Israel’s high-tech exports in 2020 rose to some $50bn, which accounted for more than 40 per cent of all Israeli exports that year. Whilst only 10 per cent of all employees in Israel work in the high-tech industry, they pay a quarter of the state’s income tax revenues. Foreign investment in Israeli start-up companies is also increasing; international corporations announced in the first quarter of 2021 that they are investing more than $100m in 20 start-ups, which is roughly the total sum that was invested in all of 2020.