UN to raise Princess Latifa video with the UAE
The BBC and Independent follow developments emerging from the leaked video of Princess Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, has accused her father of holding her hostage in Dubai since she tried to flee the city in 2018. The UN has said it will raise the detention of Princess Latifa with the authorities in the United Arab Emirates. The UK Foreign and Development Office said it was a concerning case and, although it was not directly involved, it would follow developments closely.
In an apparent snub to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, The Times and The Telegraph report that US President Biden will deal directly with King Salman when he calls Saudi Arabia, the White House said in a dramatic reset for US relations. Under the previous US administration, Crown Prince Salman developed strong personal links with both President Trump and Jared Kushner that helped to cement his grip on power in the kingdom.
The Times notes that the Biden administration is facing its first challenge from Iran after a rocket attack on a base in Iraqi Kurdistan killed a civilian contractor working for the US-led coalition. The attack was claimed by a shadowy new militia organisation in Iraq that is widely believed to be a front for factions allied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. A similar attack in December 2019 led to President Trump ordering the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, who co-ordinated the activities of all its proxy militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Reuters reports that Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, it will dramatically scale back cooperation with its nuclear inspectors in a week, as it ratchets up protests against US sanctions still choking its economy.
The Telegraph reports that a stillborn foetus in Israel was highly likely to have died from coronavirus, Israeli doctors said on Tuesday, amid concerns that pregnant women risk passing on the disease in utero.
The Independent covers reports that Palestinian health officials yesterday claimed Israel has blocked a shipment of 2,000 coronavirus vaccines to Gaza, the latest in an ongoing row between the two sides over access to jabs needed to stem the spread of the deadly pandemic. Israeli officials have, however, refuted the claim saying it had yet to decide on a transfer request it received for just 1,000 Sputnik V doses. However, this morning the vaccines were transferred to the Gaza Strip with the approval of the Israeli government.
Reuters reports that an American judge has agreed to dismiss a case against Turkish state lender Halkbank filed by victims of attacks by groups linked to Iran, on the condition that the sides reach an agreement to carry on with the case in Turkey. Halkbank has been at the centre of a major dispute between Ankara and Washington. It was indicted in a separate case in New York in 2019, accused of helping Iran evade American sanctions.
In the Israel media, Yediot Ahronot reports this morning about new legislation drafted by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to significantly reducing the number of workers who choose not to be vaccinated from coming to work. The proposal, however, is expected to run into legal obstacles, given that it may be construed as infringing on individuals’ rights to privacy and non-discrimination based on personal beliefs and convictions. More than 4 million people have received the first dose of the vaccination so far, and more than 2.5 million have received both doses. The main challenge for the Health Ministry is facing is the low rate of vaccination amongst young people. Whereas close to 90 per cent of 70-79 year olds have received both doses, among 30-39-year-olds just 22.5 per cent have. There are currently 962 people hospitalised in Israel in serious condition, including 297 people who are on ventilators. A total of 5,441 people in Israel have died to date from the virus. According to unofficial numbers yesterday, more than 3,500 people tested positive for coronavirus, a positive rate of 6.6 per cent.
In election news, Kan Radio notes that the Central Elections Committee will be convened this afternoon to discuss petitions to disqualify candidates and election lists from the upcoming election. Labor Party candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana, brought by Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir and Moaziya Segal of the Labor Party Faithful group will be discussed first. The Committee will also discuss a petition by Jewish Power to disqualify the Joint List Party and the United Arab List. Any disqualification by the Central Elections Committee is likely to come before the Supreme Court. Yesterday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told the Committee that he is opposed to the disqualification motions.
A new poll by Channel 12 News shows that Prime Minister Netanyahu would be unable to form a government, even if Yamina were to join. The Likud continues to lead the polls with 29 seats, followed by Yesh Atid on 18, New hope on 13, Yamina on 10, Joint List on 9, Shas on 8, UTJ on 7, Yisrael Beiteinu on 7, Labour Party on 6, Religious Zionists Party on 5, Blue and White on 4 and Meretz on 4. Netanyahu remains the public’s preferred candidate for Prime Minister with 32 per cent of the vote, with Yair Lapid second on 20 per cent, Gideon Sa’ar third on 13 per cent and Nafatali Bennett fourth on 8 per cent.
Commenting in Yediot Ahronot, Sima Kadmon describes Bennett as the person who holds the “keys to the next government, as he deliberates whether to join a coalition with Netanyahu or the anti-Netanyahu coalition.” Kadmon wonders why Bennett has remained silent about refusing to join Netanyahu, which “would change the entire equation” and “might get a lot of voters who currently are inclined to vote for the Likud to vote instead either for Bennett or for Saar, given their realisation that Netanyahu has no chance of having a 61-seat majority in any event”. Kadmon concludes, “Bennett’s plan is to continue to hold onto the keys to the next government. Presumably, he realises that as long as he continues to hold that power he can demand from either one of the sides to be an alternating prime minister. If he has 16 or 17 seats, he’ll be able to demand to be first; if he has fewer seats, he’ll have to make do with being prime minister second.”
Israel Hayom notes that New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar has suspended his contract with four American consultants whom he hired in the wake of allegations of more than 20 instances of sexual harassment by a senior official with the Lincoln Project (a project by Republicans to oust Trump from the White House). The four consultants hired by Sa’ar were among the founders of the Lincoln Project, whereas the person implicated by the allegations has no connection to Saar’s campaign.
Maariv follows yesterday’s unscheduled cabinet meeting over a matter of “national security”. The talks were held in person, rather than Zoom as has been customary during the coronavirus pandemic, out of concerns for leaks. In recent days Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have held talks their Russian counterpart to request their influence in Syria to help with a humanitarian situation there. Israeli media speculates that the issue might involve “the characteristics of prisoner exchanges,” without attributing the information.
Yediot Ahronot publishes a commentary by Yossi Yehoshua about the Israel Air Force’s (IAF) surprise Vered Hagalil Exercise that began Sunday and was wrapped up last night. The exercise opened with the following scenario: A missile is launched at an IAF aircraft during a routine patrol over Lebanon. The plane is not downed, but it is hit. As a result of the ensuing days of combat Israel decides to go for an all-out campaign against Hezbollah. Yehoshua says, “That is the reason the IAF demonstrated its exceptional offensive capabilities: To make Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah think twice about going to war. Hundreds of combat aircraft, cargo planes and drones participated in the exercise, as did reservists who were called up. The military also drilled warfare protocols during the coronavirus pandemic.”