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Media Summary

US to soften proposed UN resolution on Iran arms embargo

The Trump administration has backed away from a hard-line resolution on Iran that risked alienating UN Security Council allies, and will instead present a “clean” version to extend an arms embargo due to expire in October, according to a report in The Financial Times. A UN security diplomat said the new language was aimed at placating European allies and isolating China and Russia in their opposition. But the diplomat added that the US still did not believe the new resolution would secure the necessary votes to pass.

The BBC leads with reports that Iran has sentenced two men to 10 years in jail for allegedly spying for foreign governments. Massud Mossaheb was convicted of spying for Israeli and German intelligence over his senior role in the Austrian-Iranian Society, and Shahram Shirkhani was accused of working for UK intelligence. Around a dozen foreign and dual nationals are currently being held by Iran, according to Human Rights Watch, which says they are deprived of due process. They include British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was jailed for five years in 2016, and Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic serving a 10-year sentence for espionage.

The Financial Times writes that Israel’s coalition government is in danger of unravelling, just four months after it was formed, raising the spectre of a fourth parliamentary election in under two years.

The Times and The Telegraph write that pressure is mounting on President Michel Aoun after documents showed that he and the Lebanese prime minister were warned of the dangers of a consignment of ammonium nitrate held at the port of Beirut two weeks before it blew up. President Aoun has stayed in office, despite the resignation on Monday of the cabinet and Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who said he had ordered the security agencies to “do what is needed” over the consignment. Protesters, chanting their favoured cry, “All must go — that means all!”, have set their sights on President Aoun and Nabih Berri, the Speaker of Parliament and who is closely tied to the Hezbollah-led faction.

The Guardian says that there are many unknowns going forward in Lebanon, following resignation of the government. “Current ministers are set to assume a caretaker role before a new cabinet is formed. A push for more than one third of Lebanon’s MPs to resign, which would trigger fresh elections, is still under way. A scenario many are hoping could trigger substantive reform is the formation of a so-called national unity government that includes representatives of all the country’s main political parties, some under the guise of technocratic nominees.”

Bel Trew writes in the Independent that protesters fear it will be the same power-brokers behind any new government in Lebanon. “Practically for now the government remains in place in a caretaker role until, at the request of President Michel Aoun, the parliamentary blocs agree on a new prime minister.”

Writing in The Telegraph, Con Coughlin argues that the only real hope for Lebanon is not a new government on whether the malign influence Iran exercises over the country can be brought to an end. He writes that “most Lebanese are in little doubt that ultimate responsibility lies with Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based terrorist organisation that is funded and equipped by Tehran.”

The Guardian reports that Egypt is witnessing a wave of online outrage targeting rape culture and sexual assault, as survivors use social media to shame alleged abusers and demand change.

All the Israeli media report on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, of failing to take death threats against the him and his family seriously. In a letter leaked to the press, Netanyahu stated that the Attorney General’s inaction was nothing less than permitting bloodshed. Mandelblit rejected Netanyahu’s assertions and wrote that 19 investigations by the Israel Police have started into the threats are already underway. Mandelblit concluded his letter to Netanyahu by writing: “I would like to add: it is not in dispute that criminal law has an important role, but the public’s leaders also have a responsibility to calm tempers, so that we do not find ourselves with dire and unforgivable results.”

Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Tova Tzimuki sums up the difference between Netanyahu’s and Mandelblit’s letter as follows: the former is “saturated with emotion, accusations and harsh language that bordered on violence,” whilst the latter “is dry, matter-of-fact and stately. It reveals facts that speak for themselves, and it doesn’t descend into any counter-accusations or insults.” Tzimuki believes that the release of Netanyahu’s letter to the public shows that the campaign for the anticipated fourth election has already begun, and it doesn’t matter whether it is held in November or later, or whether it’s about the budget or some other topic.

In Ma’ariv, Ben Capsit echoes Tzimuki’s argument that Netanyahu’s letter was a sign of elections: “He’s been deep in his election campaign for some time now. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, in the midst of one of the worst economic crises Israel has ever known in the current era, Netanyahu is going to drag the entire country to elections just so he can personally avoid going to trial. The letter to the attorney general is a drum beat that is supposed to gather his base to rally around the leader.”

Channel 12 News reports that the budget crisis between Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz is only a smokescreen for secret negotiations to change other parts of the coalition agreement. The talks have reportedly focused primarily on two demands by Netanyahu. First, to scrap the professional committees that are supposed to be set up to appoint the next state attorney and the next police commissioner and maintain the selection process in the hands of politicians. And second, to insert a clause that will force immediate elections if the Supreme Court justices decide to disqualify him from serving as alternate prime minister because of his criminal indictment. Currently, the coalition agreement only provides him protection in the first six months.

Kan Radio News reports that the Knesset plenum is scheduled to vote on the preliminary reading of the Opposition-backed bill that, if passed into legislation, would prohibit any MK who is under indictment from forming a government. Blue and White announced yesterday that its faction members will be absent from the plenum for that vote. Likud representatives have described Blue and White’s decision as inadequate and a violation of the coalition agreement that will result in new elections being called. The Knesset plenum is also expected to vote today on a bill that was drafted by MK Zvi Hauser that is designed to postpone the final date for approving the state budget by 100 days. The Likud, Blue and White and Shas are all expected to vote in favour of that bill.