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Media Summary

UK military says Israeli-owned ship attacked off coast of Oman

BBC News and The Guardian report that Israel will begin offering a third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 to people over the age of 60. Only those who were fully vaccinated at least five months ago will be eligible for the booster shot. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said yesterday: “Findings show that there is a decline in the body’s immunity over time. The aim of the supplementary dose is to build it up again, and thus reduce the chances of infection and serious illness significantly.”

The Economist writes about the latest developments regarding the Israeli NSO Group and the proliferation of its Pegasus spyware programme. The report notes that the customer list “correlates neatly with many of the governments courted by Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who lost his job in June. These include like-minded populists such as the rulers of Brazil, Hungary and India, along with Sunni Arab regimes with whom Israel recently established diplomatic relations: Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, a fellow enemy of Iran, is listed, too”.

The Associated Press reports that an Israeli-owned merchant ship came under fire off the coast of Oman late last night. The UK Maritime Trade Operations said “an investigation was underway into the incident” without elaborating. Over the past six months, there have been increasing attacks on both Israeli- and Iranian-owned ships, which the countries attribute to each other.

BBC News reports that Israel is investigating the shooting of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who was in a car near the Beit Ummar neighbourhood. Following the child’s funeral yesterday Palestinian protestors clashed with Israeli forces in the West Bank.

The Telegraph reports on the wildfires raging across southern Turkey. The fires have spread to Lebanon and across to the Syrian border. Three people were killed in Turkey and 50 people were hospitalised, while over 100 people had to evacuate from surrounding areas.

The Independent reports that there is increasing evidence the US knew about the threat to journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s life before he was assassinated by a Saudi hit squad in Istanbul. Agnes Callamard, the former UN special rapporteur examining the assassination, has said that any information the US had prior to his assassination would make them “complicit of impunity”.

All the Israeli media cover the government’s decision to begin vaccinating people aged over 60 with a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The first recipients will be President Yitzhak Herzog and his wife Michal this morning. The third dose of the vaccine will be given to people who received their second dose five months ago or earlier. At this point it will not be given to people who have recovered from COVID-19.  Kan Radio News reports Prime Minister Bennett’s appeal last night for the elderly to get vaccinated. He emphasised that the vaccines greatly enhance protection against serious illness and death and will enable us to avoid a return to lockdowns and to keep living our lives along with the coronavirus. He noted that the lockdowns have led to the loss of NIS 200 billion to date, which “we could have used to build 100 hospitals”. Channel 12 News explains that the Health Ministry’s pandemics taskforce made its decision based on several factors, including the sharp rise in the number of vaccinated people who have become seriously ill. Taskforce members presented an up-to-date comparison of the number of antibodies in individuals who received their first two vaccine shots after recovering from COVID-19 and those who were vaccinated but never contracted the virus. In addition, the decision centred largely on the understanding that there is a greater danger of becoming seriously ill than of developing side effects from the vaccine. They note that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz has reassured the Israeli public: “We’ve promised a steady supply of vaccines to ensure there is enough for everybody who wants to get vaccinated.”

As a result of the third vaccine decision, Sima Kadmon in Yediot Ahronot predicts that “soon we will be introduced to several cabinet members’ parents: Bennett’s mother, Lapid’s mother, Saar’s parents, Michaeli’s mother, Elkin’s father … if I am interpreting the prime minister’s intentions correctly, the campaign to administer a third dose of the vaccine is underway and Bennett definitely plans on involving people’s parents. If he succeeds, the parents of the members of his government will mobilise for the campaign and be vaccinated on camera … Bennett realises what we all do: nothing inspires trust better than personal example”. She highlights concerns of some “that we are the world’s guinea pigs” and asks, “Why not wait a little longer until it receives proper approval from the FDA, until there are more professional opinions by researchers and professionals like epidemiologists, immunologists, internal medicine doctors, and mathematicians? Why rush to get vaccinated?” However, Kadmon concedes that we don’t know when there will be a vaccine that protects against the Delta variant: “Bennett has been speaking with the CEOs of Moderna and Pfizer, and he said that they don’t know either.”

Maariv reports that contrary to previous publications, the Israeli defence establishment believes that there is no change in Russia’s policy toward activities attributed to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in Syrian territory. They interpret the remarks made last week by a Russian general that the Russian army is helping the Syrian army thwart airstrikes, as a marketing ploy to sell Russian weapons, rather than the change taking place on the ground. The paper notes that in recent years the Syrian army has been using older outdated Russian defence systems to fire on IAF planes when they attack its territory. The more advanced Russian systems, such as the S-300 deployed by the Russians in Syria, are fully controlled by the Russians and they do not approve their use against Israeli targets. The Israeli defence establishment believes that the Russians understand the situation in Syria is very complex and that they would prefer Israel not to attack, but on the other hand also understand its vital interests. The bottom line, they believe that Israel’s freedom of action in Syria has not changed in recent months and will continue to operate in its territory in accordance with its security interests and efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment.

Israel Hayom reports that last night the US House of Representatives approved a budget bill that anchors defence aid to Israel into law and promises to fund a series of programmes aimed at promoting peace in the region.  According to the bill, “the US will provide Israel with $3.3 billion dollars in defence aid annually, as per an agreement former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached with the Obama administration in 2016. In addition, the bill approves $50 million to support economic ‘opportunities’ between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as $2 million for US-Israel co-development projects involving water, agriculture, and energy. Another $6 million has been approved to fund joint research between Israeli and Arab scientists.”  In addition, they call for more transparency in the textbooks used in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the purpose of which is to eradicate antisemitic content and incitement that currently appears.

Israel Hayom also reports on comments yesterday by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken relating to the negotiations with Iran to re-enter the JCPOA nuclear deal. Blinken is quoted saying: “We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely … at some point the gains achieved by the JCPOA cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear programme. We have clearly demonstrated our good faith and desire to return to mutual compliance with the nuclear agreement. … The ball remains in Iran’s court and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance.”

Ynet continues to follow the fallout of Ben & Jerry’s announcement last week to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank after 2022. The latest pushback comes from a German anti-racism foundation that has cut ties with the ice cream company. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation said in a letter published on its website that they are “disappointed” that Ben & Jerry’s is “following the line of the anti-Semitic boycott movement BDS”. The foundation was established in 1998 to fight against far-right-wing parties, racism and antisemitism. It is named after Amadeu Antonio Kiowa, one of the first victims of far-right violence after the reunification of Germany in 1990. “This decision supports the argument that on the one hand there is an ‘evil Israel’ and on the other hand only ‘good, oppressed’ Palestinians” said the letter. “Boycott movements demonise and delegitimise Israel and thus spread Israel-related anti-Semitism.” Meanwhile, Israel Hayom reports that Ecuador’s largest supermarket chain, owned by El Rosado Group, announced it will no longer sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The company has over 180 stores across Ecuador and is joining other supermarket stores worldwide that are protesting Ben & Jerry’s decision.