Media Summary

UK Government criticised for cutting Syrian aid

The Telegraph, Guardian and Independent follow comments by aid agencies who have said the UK government is “putting lives at risk” after cutting humanitarian funding to Syria by nearly a third at a major UN donor conference on Tuesday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab promised at least £205m in aid during an international conference on supporting Syria hosted by Brussels. Last year the UK pledged £300m and in 2019 it gave £400m.

The Times reports that the Biden administration has asked Western allies to repatriate foreign fighters and their families from Syria, warning that the violent, squalid camps are spawning a new generation of extremists. “This is an international problem that requires an international solution,” said John Godfrey, special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, on the eve of talks on Syria hosted by the US.

The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen writes that the new Iran-China strategic partnership agreement “will feed into Iran’s face-off with the United States” over returning to the JCPOA nuclear agreement. Bowen writes: “Now that Iran has signed a strategic accord with China, which is also a party to the JCPOA, it will be hoping for more than simply increased oil sales, vital as they are to an economy that has been badly damaged by sanctions. The deal should give Iran more leverage with the US.”

Following its week-long blocking of the essential Suez Canal waterway, the Guardian writes that the EverGiven ship is likely to become the centre of a protracted battle over who will pay for its rescue.

Roger Boyes from The Times argues that speed at which trade link was cut by the EverGiven proves need for tough policing of other maritime chokepoints.

Reuters reports that efforts between the US and Iran over incremental steps to resume compliance with the JCPOA nuclear deal have stalled and Western officials believe Iran may now wish to discuss a wider road map to revive the pact.

“Lebanon could sink like the Titanic, only with no survivors, unless its feuding politicians finally form a government able to deal with its collision of crises,” says David Gardner in the Financial Times.

The Financial Times and The Times reports that former British Prime Minister David Cameron went on a desert camping trip to lobby Mohammed bin Salman only months after the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Cameron was invited on the trip in his role as a paid adviser and lobbyist for the billionaire Australian financier Lex Greensill, who worked as a “senior adviser” in the prime minister’s office during Cameron’s government.

The Associated Press looks at the growing challenge for Iraqi politicians who are trying to roll back the power of Iranian militias in the country.

In the Israeli media Yediot Ahronot reports that the number of seriously ill coronavirus patients in Israel has dropped to 406, the lowest since 16 December. According to Health Ministry data, there is currently 611 people in hospital, of which 203 are on ventilators. 249 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed yesterday after 18,500 tests were conducted, indicating a 1.3 per cent positivity rate. Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Hezi Levi on Tuesday dismissed speculation that Israel could run out of coronavirus vaccines after the cancellation of Monday’s cabinet meeting during which ministers were scheduled to approve the purchase of millions of additional vaccines. The paper also reports that Israel and international partners are preparing a new campaign to vaccinate thousands of merchants in the Gaza Strip, so that they can cross the border into Israel and travel to the West Bank.

Maariv reports that the Taba crossing from Israel to the Sinai has reopened for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Until 12 April, only 300 vaccinated or recovered Israelis will be allowed to pass in each direction a day, and those passing through will require a negative COVID-19 test both ways. Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is a popular vacation spot for Israelis, especially during the Passover holiday. The crossing opened a day after the National Security Council issued a fresh travel advisory, warning that Iran may try to attack Israelis overseas, including in Egypt.

All the Israeli papers report that Palestinian security prisoner Marwan Barghouti has decided to run a separate list to Fatah for the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections in May. Israel Hayom says that the decision “could pose a serious threat to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ hold on power in Ramallah”. Barghouti has until this evening to complete and submit his list, will include more Fatah activists who wish to break away from the party’s line, as well as other independent candidates. Barghouti’s brother, Muqbil, told Qatar-based Al-Araby TV that the late decision was made after Fatah failed to honour agreements on its parliamentary list. One recent poll showed that a separate list by Barghouti would take 28 per cent of the vote, with the Fatah list only expected to win 22 per cent. There are at least 25 groups taking part in the upcoming election, including Hamas and exiled Mohammad Dahlan.

Maariv reports that Israel has informed the EU that Palestinian election observers would not be allowed to enter Jerusalem ahead of the election scheduled to be held on May 22 due to coronavirus regulations. Officials in President Abbas’ office said that “without Jerusalem there will be no elections”. During his recent visit to Europe President Reuven Rivlin Israel would not prevent elections from being held in Jerusalem.

All the Israeli media report that Bahrain has appointed Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma as head of its embassy in Israel. Al-Jalahma was announced as the new ambassador after a conversation Sunday evening between Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif Al Zayani. A team from Bahrain is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming weeks to make the necessary arrangements for embassy.

In Channel 12 News, Ehud Yaari argues that a large portion of the commentary from Israel about the “strategic collaboration agreement” between China and Iran has been wildly overstated and unnecessary. “China has increased its oil purchases from Iran, circumventing American sanctions. It would appear that the new agreement also addresses security collaboration, but the Chinese are very wary about making commitments to Iran because they do not want to draw the ire of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, with which they signed similar deals not long ago.”