Media Summary

UAE to implement reforms to Sharia law

The BBC, Telegraph, Independent, Guardian, Financial Times and The Times report that the United Arab Emirates has toughened penalties for the killing of women by family members as part of an overhaul of the country’s Islamic laws. Another reform will give foreign residents in the country the right to choose their own laws for inheritance and will, as well as drinking alcohol and cohabiting outside marriage. The official WAM news agency said the reforms will “entrench the principles of tolerance in the society”. The Times says the move is part of a long-running drive to attract western tourists and investment despite the strict Sharia-based legal system. About 8.4 million foreigners, including 250,000 Britons, live in the UAE, outnumbering locals by nine to one.

Reuters reports that militant groups in the Sinai are impeding ambitious development projects in the area. Whilst large scale assaults on military and government positions have subsided, militants have shifted tactics, staging more individual attacks, deploying snipers and planting explosives. At least 15 people have been killed by explosive devices around Bir al-Abd since Oct. 10, security sources said, alarming residents and highlighting the risks for development projects.

The Guardian reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has removed the governor of the country’s central bank from his post after the lira currency hit record lows, having lost 30 per cent of its value since the start of the year. Last week Erdoğan said Turkey was fighting an economic war against those squeezing it in “the devil’s triangle of interest and exchange rates and inflation”.

The Independent reports that the US has imposed sanctions on prominent Lebanese Christian politician Gebran Bassil, the leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian block the Free Patriotic Movement, for “systematic corruption”. He is the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun, and his party has a political alliance with Hezbollah. The report notes that the US move may upset attempts by new prime minister designate Saad Hariri to form Lebanon’s new government and break a disastrous political deadlock.

Reuters reports that Iran’s president said on Sunday the Biden administration should use the opportunity to compensate for President Donald Trump’s mistakes. “The heroic resistance of the Iranian people proved that the policy of maximum pressure is doomed to failure,” Hasan Rouhani said.

In the Israeli media new reports emerge this morning over rising tensions within Blue and White over what political course the party and its leadership should take moving forward. A Blue and White official told Maariv: “There are differences of opinion within his [Gantz’s] inner circle. On the one hand, there’s Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, Asaf Zamir, Ram Shefa and other people who are pressuring him to dismantle the package [i.e. the coalition] and to stop giving Netanyahu and the current government a chance. On the other hand, there’s Omer Yankelevich, Hod Betzer (the director general of the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office) and a few other people who believe that we need to continue to operate within the framework of the existing unity government and to give a chance to reaching the date of the alternating premier arrangement. Ashkenazi hasn’t yet stated his position, and Gantz has continued to deliberate.”

Channel 12 News reports on the divided Blue and White party but say a third approach is also emerging in which Blue and White should remain in the government, but frustrate Netanyahu’s life while there. The advocates of such as approach, which include Alon Schuster, Izhar Shay and others, argue that Blue and White needs to immediately form a commission of inquiry into the submarines affair and to introduce a slew of liberal bills, in hope that the voters will show their gratitude next time elections are called.

Yediot Ahronot reports that Prof. Itamar Grotto has resigned from the Health Ministry. “Grotto’s resignation, the latest in a series of resignations by talented and devoted directors who left the ministry in the last few months, attests to the Sisyphean work that has been the lot of this small and professional ministry ever since the coronavirus burst into our lives,” the article notes. “His departure creates another void in the Health Ministry’s management… without Grotto and the other good professionals who left before him, the Health Ministry is a weak ministry and more controllable. It will now be easier for the politicians to do what they want with it.”

Maariv reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit yesterday informed the High Court of Justice that he wished to submit a revised response to the court regarding the petitions that pertain to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conflicts of interest arrangement. The change in Mandelblit’s position was made in response to the argument that Prime Minister Netanyahu made to the court last week in which he repudiated the attorney general’s authority to draft a conflicts of interest arrangement on his behalf, and rejected several of the clauses of the arrangement that was drafted by the attorney general.

Kan Radio News says Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has warned that if Israel were to begin the third stage of lifting restrictions next Sunday, even partially so, the state would lose control over the spread of infection. The next stage of lifting restrictions is to include reopening malls, open-air markets, businesses that have public reception hours as well as classes for 11th and 12th graders in a format to prepare them for their matriculation exams. Prime Minister Netanyahu is contemplating imposing a night-time curfew. The initiative is being examined by National Security Council and is meant to reduce mass-attended events in Arab society, which have precipitated a rise in the infection rate.

Israel Hayom notes that Israeli officials are concerned about the policies that the new Biden administration might enact on Iran and the Palestinians. On the Iranian issue, Biden has said in the past that he intends to try to renew the nuclear agreement that the United States withdrew from under President Donald Trump. While the prevailing assessment in Israel had been that Trump, had he been re-elected, would also have tried to reach an agreement with the Iranians, the fear is that the Biden administration might agree to terms that resemble the terms of the original nuclear agreement, which was drafted late during President Barack Obama’s term in office. Regarding the Palestinian issue, Israel is concerned about a resumption of international pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians even though the past few years have proven that the Palestinians have refrained from engaging in any dialogue and have effectively prevented any progress from being made. Several Israeli officials said they anticipated that American policy in that vein was liable to stymie efforts to persuade other moderate Sunni countries to establish open diplomatic relations with Israel.
Walla reports that the Yesha Council is divided over Joe Biden’s victory. Some of the mayors are concerned about the impact that will have on construction in the settlements, while others are pleased that Trump’s term has ended and even view Biden as a true friend of Israel. Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani is quoted saying: “I don’t think that we lost a true friend of the State of Israel, it’s not such a great loss. I’m not sure that Biden is any less good for Israel. It’s a mistake by Israelis to say that the Democrats are our enemies — it’s good that Trump is going.” Elhayani went on to say: “Trump is the first president to demarcate the borders of a Palestinian state, he gave it 70 per cent of the area of Judea and Samaria, and anyone who supports that is not a friend as far as I’m concerned.  Everything that Trump did was with the thinking, ‘how does this serve Trump?,’ and we enjoyed some of what he did.”