UK Minister Gove visits Israel
In the UK media, the BBC, Independent and Sky News report on Cabinet Minister Michael Gove’s visit to Israel to study the country’s “green pass” scheme as the UK considers introducing coronavirus vaccine passports. The Cabinet Office minister was accompanied by England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam on the trip, which Downing Street said was “purely Covid-related”. Gove met with meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. In early April, Gove praised in the Telegraph the Israeli Green Pass and voiced support for adopting a similar system in the UK. One method adopted by Israel is the COVID smartphone app is needed to access facilities such as hotels, gyms, sports venues and theatres. Gove also meet with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and discussed the ongoing negotiations in Vienna for the US and Iran to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
In The Spectator, Katy Balls adds further analysis as to why Gove was in Israel.
Reuters reports that the United Arab Emirates might impose restrictions on people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 as the region’s business and tourism hub pushes its immunisation campaign.
The BBC comments on findings from a new report by Amnesty International that says four of the world’s five top executioners in 2020 were Middle East states. Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia accounted for 88 per cent of the 483 reported executions worldwide, according to a report by the human rights group. It accuses them of displaying “a ruthless and chilling persistence” when most of the world was focused on saving people’s lives from a deadly virus. The global total was the lowest in a decade, but it did not include China.
Reuters reports on comments emerging from the Vienna talks over the JCPOA. “Progress made over the last two weeks,” European External Action Service Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora said on Twitter. “But much more hard work needed. The third expert group was created to address sequencing issues.”
The Guardian, Independent and BBC reports that the UN has called for the United Arab Emirates to provide “concrete” proof that Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler reportedly being held in detention, is alive. In a statement issued on Tuesday, UN human rights experts also said she should be released “urgently”. Princess Latifa tried to flee Dubai in 2018. In footage shared with BBC Panorama, she says commandos drugged her and flew her back to detention.
The Financial Times reports on the criticism facing the Danish government after claims that Copenhagen will soon tell Syrian migrants who fled the civil war six years ago that it is safe to return to their home country. The Danish Refugee Appeals Board has concluded that security in and around Damascus has improved enough that the need to protect people “who are not individually persecuted, but have a temporary residence permit granted on the grounds of the general circumstances, has ceased to exist”, said Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark’s immigration minister in the Social Democrat government. Almost 33,000 Syrian refugees and their families live in Denmark, a tiny fraction of the 5.6m who have fled their homeland since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
In the Israeli media, most of the coverage this morning is dominated by the political developments over the last few days. Elsewhere, Walla reports that the IDF is already preparing for the cancellation of Palestinian elections by President Mahmoud Abbas. The IDF’s Central Command will raise its level of alert next week, and the chief of staff has approved several responses to possible scenarios, such as an eruption of violence on the Palestinian street as a result of popular Palestinian disappointment with the decision that might lead to terror attacks against Israel. Senior military officials also do not rule out the possibility that Hamas and other groups in the Gaza Strip might respond to a PA decision to call off the elections by firing rockets into Israel on a scale that would force the IDF to retaliate powerfully.
Israel Hayom reports that Israel has not yet announced whether it will allow voting to be held in East Jerusalem. Senior Palestinian officials in Ramallah said that if Israel were to prevent the residents of East Jerusalem to vote, it would produce a “sigh of relief among top officials in the muqataa” (the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas). Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority is continuing to demonstrate its willingness to hold elections. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki is set to visit the EU, where he will meet with the Belgian foreign minister and a top EU official. President Abbas said that talks were currently being held with the US, the European Union and the UN to allow the residents of East Jerusalem to vote in the Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Most of the papers report that Israel and the UK are in talks to establish a travel corridor with mutual recognition of vaccinations. The announcement came as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hosted British Cabinet Minister Michael Gove for talks in Jerusalem. Gove is coordinating the UK government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “The fight against the coronavirus pandemic is a challenge the entire world is contending with. After the medical challenge, ways need to be found to get the economy back on course as quickly as possible. We’ll promote, together with Britain, mutual recognition of vaccinations to allow tourists and business people from the two countries to return to routine safely,” Ashkenazi said according to a foreign ministry statement. Ashkenazi and Gove also discussed Iran’s activity. Ashkenazi said: “Iran is destabilising the entire Middle East, and the international community needs to act not to allow Iran to achieve nuclear capability either today or in the future.”
Kan Radio reports that three Israeli officials will visit Washington next week for talks with Biden administration about its efforts to re-join the JCPOA nuclear deal. The officials are IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Mossad Director Cohen and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. A source involved with the talks said it is not an ‘Israeli delegation’; rather, the three men will hold individual talks in Washington. Yesterday, Iranian President Rouhani said that talks in Vienna had made progress on 60-70 per cent of the issues on the table. However, the US downplayed the talks, calling them constructive and business-like, but cautioned, “We have more road ahead of us than we do in the rear view mirror.”
All the Israeli media reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday Israel was readying for another coronavirus vaccination campaign in six months that will include children, after inking new deals with Pfizer and Moderna to buy millions more doses. He also warned of possible new coronavirus variants or even “a new virus,” saying there would be no further COVID-19 resurgence if there are no such “surprises”. No new infections were recorded in about 1,000 localities yesterday. The infection rate stood at 0.3 per cent, with 174 patients in serious condition. The Clalit Health Fund reported just one positive test was recorded out of 890 tests administered. Health Ministry officials said that if the numbers continue to drop despite the relaxing of facemask requirements, additional easing could become possible.