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Media Summary

UK takes part in first drone military exercise in Israel

The Times reports that the Royal Air Force (RAF) has taken part in the first Western military exercise on drone warfare. Personnel from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire were among five NATO air force teams to travel to Israel, where they trained on Hermes 450 drones, simulating joint operations with fighter jets and attack helicopters.

The BBC reports that French President Emmanuel Macon has changed his phone and number after reports that he was targeted with Israeli-made spyware called Pegasus. The president’s office said Macron had also ordered an overhaul of security protocols. This week, Le Monde reported that he and 14 French ministers were flagged for potential surveillance by Morocco. Moroccan authorities have denied using Pegasus, and said the allegations were “unfounded and false”.

The Times and The Telegraph write about a new wave of protests emerging in Iran, including the capital Tehran, due to water shortages which have provoked a rare sympathetic response from the supreme leader. The Telegraph notes that up to seven demonstrators were killed in the protests due to clashes with security forces.

Reuters reports that former UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay will head an international commission of inquiry into alleged crimes committed during the latest conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.

The Guardian interviews locals in Efrat, an Israeli settlement with US cultural links, on the recent decision by Ben & Jerry’s to end its sale of products in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Dahlia Scheindlin writes in The Guardian why Israel is more concerned about Ben & Jerry’s than the Pegasus revelations.

The Telegraph’s Con Coughlin writes that the COVID pandemic could topple the world’s worst regimes, including Iran and Cuba.

The Independent writes that a new report from the Israeli-based Breaking the Silence shows Israel’s security forces are complicit in a “drastic surge” in violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The Financial Times reports how the Delta variant is deepening the COVID crisis for Tunisia’s fragile democracy. The military is reportedly taking command of pandemic response as medical chaos adds to country’s political and economic woes.

All the Israeli media cover Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s speech last night, where he heavily criticised anti-vaxxers. Bennett is quoted extensively saying: “One billion people worldwide have already been inoculated. The anti-vaxxers are endangering their surroundings and the freedom of Israel’s citizens. They are jeopardising our freedom to work, study, and celebrate with family. They are hurting all of us.” Bennett added, “We have the power to act responsibly, or to bury our heads in the sand and bring about another pandemic. We have to sustain the economy and safeguard our health. It can be done. The easiest thing to do was to lock down the country, but our conscience is different. We are waging this war differently … patients who have the Delta variant carry a viral load that is 1,000 times greater. Our challenge is clear: everyone above the age of twelve who can get vaccinated and who does not have an impediment, should go get vaccinated. That is why the coronavirus cabinet has decided that starting from August 8, anti-vaxxers will not be admitted into places where over 100 people are present without showing a COVID test at their own expense. There is no reason for the citizens to fund testing for anti-vaxxers.” Maariv includes a polls showing 48 per cent support more stringent restrictions, while 52 per cent oppose. The poll also shows that 59 per cent support closing Ben Gurion Airport, while 41 per cent are against.

Kan Radio News cover latest Health Ministry data that approximately 1,060 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed yesterday. The infection rate is over 1.7 per cent and the number of seriously ill patients is 75, an increase of seven in that last 24 hour period. The vaccine’s efficacy at preventing infection and preventing symptoms has decreased to approximately 40 per cent. Despite the spread of the Delta variant, the coronavirus vaccine is over 91 per cent effective at preventing serious illness. Its efficacy at preventing hospitalisation has also remained high at 88 pr cent. In addition, starting today, passengers returning from the UK, Cyprus, Turkey and Georgia will be required to quarantine at home for seven days. Starting next Friday, these countries will join the list of places to which travel is banned outright. Israelis who travel to one of the countries on the list without the authorisation of the exceptions committee will be fined NIS 5,000 (£1,110).

Israel Hayom reports that Israel is joining the African Union as a member with an observer status. Israel had observer status with the Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor to the African Union, which was dissolved in 2002. Israel currently has diplomatic relations with 46 of the African Union’s 55 member states. The paper quotes Foreign Minister Yair Lapid: “This is a day of celebration for Israeli-Africa relations. The diplomatic achievement is the result of great efforts by the Foreign Ministry, the African Division and Israeli embassies on the continent. This is a corrective step to the anomaly that was in place for almost two decades and it represents an important part of bolstering and fortifying the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations.”

Yediot Ahronot covers the government’s plan to add a new minister and deputy minister. The paper notes previous quotes from Prime Minister Bennett, who said a year ago that he would “not join the out-of-touch and bloated government”. Similarly, Alternate Prime Minister Lapid pledged in 2015 not to appoint more than 18 ministers, saying that “a bloated government equals corruption”. There are currently 27 ministers in the new cabinet. On Sunday, the cabinet is expected to confirm the appointment of MK Eli Avidar, who stepped down from Yisrael Beiteinu, as minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, making him the 28th minister in the present cabinet. Avidar is quoted saying: “I’m not joining to get a ministerial post. I’m joining to help the government hang on. If I wanted a ministerial post, I could have been a minister without any authority, under [Yisrael Beiteinu leader] Lieberman. The intention is to join and strengthen the government in the spheres that I am familiar with.” Concurrently, as part of the coalition ceding the Immigrant Absorption Committee chaired by MK Yair Golan to the opposition, Golan will become deputy economy minister. In the commentary, the paper also carries criticism of the move: “As ministers, they will cost the taxpayer another few million shekels a year beyond what they cost as MKs. There is no question that the Avidar and Golan of two months ago would have written letters crucifying the politicians who opted for power over working for the public. In a perfect world, Yair Golan and Eli Avidar would be organising protest movements with demonstrators who would stand outside the homes of these two out-of-touch politicians as of tomorrow evening. They would be there with drums, sirens and models of huge fancy cars made out of plastic and shouting ‘leave’.”

Maariv reports that for the second time in month and a half, two migrant workers succeeded in crossing into Israel from Lebanon. Yesterday the IDF arrested two suspects who crossed into northern Israel from Lebanon following an hours-long manhunt.  While the manhunt took place, residents of the border communities, Dovev and Matat, were instructed to remain indoors. About a month and a half ago, two Turkish infiltrators entered Israel from Lebanon and were only apprehended 18 hours later.