Israeli lawmakers to vote for next figurehead president

Israeli lawmakers to vote for next figurehead president
1 / 2
A general view of the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019. (AFP)
Israeli lawmakers to vote for next figurehead president
2 / 2
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, to deliver a political statement in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 02 June 2021

Israeli lawmakers to vote for next figurehead president

Israeli lawmakers to vote for next figurehead president

JERUSALEM: The Israeli parliament Wednesday is set to choose the country’s next president, a largely figurehead position that is meant to serve as the nation’s moral compass and promote unity.
The election will be conducted at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and the 120 lawmakers will cast their votes anonymously.
Two candidates are running — Isaac Herzog, a veteran politician and scion of a prominent Israeli family, and Miriam Peretz, an educator who is seen as a down-to-earth outsider.
Herzog, 60, is a former head of Israel’s Labour Party and opposition leader who unsuccessfully ran against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2013 parliamentary elections.
He is scion of a prominent Zionist family. His father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations before being elected president. His uncle, Abba Eban, was Israel’s first foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations and United States. His grandfather was the country’s first chief rabbi.
Herzog has served as head of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that works closely with the government to promote immigration to Israel, for the past three years since resigning from parliament. Given his deep ties to the political establishment, he is widely seen as the favorite to win.
Peretz, 67, is seen as a more conservative, nationalist candidate.
She immigrated from Morocco as a child and has worked as a teacher, educator and lecturer on Judaism, Zionism and grief. Two of her sons died serving in the Israeli military. In 2018 she was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s top award, for lifetime achievement.
If elected, Peretz would be the first woman to hold the office and also the first settler. She and her family lived in one of Israel’s settlements in the Sinai Peninsula until a peace treaty was struck with Egypt in 1979 and the territory was returned. Peretz then moved to the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev, just north of Jerusalem, where she lives today.
Most of the world considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, who seek the territory as part of a future state.
To win, a candidate must receive at least 61 votes in the 120-seat Knesset. If neither does, a second round of voting will be held. Once elected, the country’s 11th president will hold office for a single seven-year term starting July 9.
The winner will succeed President Reuven Rivlin, who is set to leave office next month, and the new president will take office at a politically crucial time.
The president, while largely a ceremonial head of state, is tasked with tapping a political party leader to form governing coalitions after parliamentary elections.
Israel has held four national elections in the past two years amid a protracted political crisis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents faced a midnight deadline Wednesday to put together a new coalition government. If they fail, the country could be plunged into another election campaign.
The president also has the power to grant pardons — creating a potentially sensitive situation as Netanyahu stands trial for a series of corruption charges.


Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan
Updated 4 sec ago

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Egypt sends medical aid to South Sudan

Cairo: Egypt’s military announced that under the directives of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, tons of medical and pharmaceutical aid have been sent to South Sudan.

The aid, transported by a military plane, was provided by the Ministry of Health and Population.

Officials in South Sudan expressed their appreciation for Egypt’s support, which they said strengthens bilateral relations.

During floods that swept South Sudan earlier this year, Egypt sent aid such as food and medical supplies.


Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022
Updated 08 December 2021

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

Cairo selected as culture capital of Islamic world for 2022

CAIRO: The Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has announced the selection of Cairo as next year’s culture capital of the Muslim world.

Egypt’s Culture Minister Ines Abdel-Dayem told a press conference that this choice reflects Cairo’s position as a meeting place for different cultures, a creative hub and a center for thought and art.

She praised ISESCO’s efforts to celebrate the capitals of Islamic countries and promote relationships between them.


Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’
Updated 08 December 2021

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’
  • Just nine percent of students in state secondary schools pass exams in French, Arabic and mathematics — against 62, 38 and 49 percent respectively in private schools

RABAT: Morocco’s state schools are failing students and “deepening inequality,” a supervisory body has warned, as authorities scramble to raise the quality of teaching after years of neglect
The High Council for Education (CSE) has warned of a “crisis” in public education and said that government schools “are not giving the majority of pupils basic skills or a fundamental education.”
Despite a string of reforms, state schools “are becoming a machine for reproducing inequalities in society,” said the CSE in a report last month, cautioning that this “poses a serious threat.”
The situation has pushed many, including middle class families, to tighten their belts so they can scrape together fees for private schools.
“I pay almost 400 euros a month,” says Siham, an employee in the private sector. “It’s a lot, but it’s essential to guarantee that my two children get a better French and English education, which public school can’t give them.”
Just nine percent of students in state secondary schools pass exams in French, Arabic and mathematics — against 62, 38 and 49 percent respectively in private schools.
“These figures are distressing; they show that we’re raising illiterate citizens,” said Abderazzak Drissi, head of the kingdom’s National Teachers’ Federation.
The situation contrasts with the lofty goals of Morocco’s “New Development Model” presented by a royal commission in May and laying out a string of targets to be met by 2035.
The council’s warning is just the latest in a string of official reports to raise the alarm over problems in the education system and the resulting high unemployment rate among youth, the age group hardest hit by social inequality.
Chakib Benmoussa, who took office as education minister in October, described the system as “painful.”
“Improving the quality of public education depends first of all on the quality of teacher training,” he told parliament this month.
The CSE report agreed, adding that some choose the profession for “lack of alternatives.”
According to ministry figures, this year more than 100,000 candidates applied for fewer than 17,000 teaching jobs.
Under Benmoussa, the ministry has brought in new rules requiring prospective teachers to be aged under 30 and have a university degree with distinction.
The aim is “to select the best candidates who really want to practice this profession, as is the case at medical or engineering schools,” a ministry official told AFP.
But while there is agreement on the problems, opinions vary on the solutions.
The new conditions sparked a backlash from the teachers’ union and trainee teachers, with street demonstrations erupting last month.
Drissi, the union member, said what was needed was “a tougher entrance exam, not an age limit.”
But the ministry official said that “now it is urgent to reform the education system. We’ve delayed too much.”


Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing

Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing
Updated 08 December 2021

Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing

Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing
  • The stabbing took place in Sheikh Jarrah, where several Palestinian extended families are at risk of being evicted by Jewish settlers
  • The attack came days after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli man

JERUSALEM: Israeli officers arrested a young woman after a Wednesday stabbing in a tense neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem, police said.
“In the last few minutes, police forces arrested a suspect, a minor, who was located by the police inside an educational institution near the scene of the incident,” police said.
The victim, 26, was taken to hospital after the knife attack on the road into the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and was being treated for “mild” injuries, police said.
Police deployed helicopters as part of a massive manhunt following the 7:30 am (0530 GMT) stabbing.
Sheikh Jarrah has been hit by waves of unrest linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The neighborhood is home to at least seven Palestinian families who have been waiting for a Israeli legal ruling on whether they must surrender their homes to Jewish settlers in a case that exploded into armed conflict in and around Gaza in May.
There have been sporadic attacks on Israeli targets in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent months, most of them carried out by lone wolf assailants apparently unconnected to established Palestinian militant groups.
A Palestinian teenager rammed his car into an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank early Monday before being shot dead by a security guard, officials said.
On Saturday, a Palestinian assailant stabbed an Israeli civilian and attempted to attack police near the Damascus Gate entry to east Jerusalem’s Old City.
The assailant was shot dead by officers, who appeared to fire on the suspect after he was on the ground, stirring debate about excessive force.
Israeli authorities have insisted the officers acted appropriately.
Last month, a civilian was killed and three people wounded when a Palestinian opened fire in the Old City in a rare gun attack by a militant of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector as the capital of their future state.


Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time
Updated 08 December 2021

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

DOHA: Talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are expected to resume on Thursday, France’s foreign minister said, although he added that he feared Iran was playing for time.

“The elements... are not very encouraging,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French parliament committee, referring to the seventh round of nuclear talks between Iran and major powers that began on Nov. 29 and paused on Friday.

“We have the feeling the Iranians want to make it last and the longer the talks last, the more they go back on their commitments ... and get closer to capacity to get a nuclear weapon,” Le Drian said.

Under the 2015 deal struck by Tehran and six major powers, Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from US, European Union and UN sanctions.

Then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh US sanctions, and Iran began violating the nuclear restrictions a year later.

While Le Drian and Iranian media reports said talks were expected to resume Thursday, a senior US State Department official said Washington did not yet have a confirmed date.

The indirect US-Iranian talks in Vienna, in which other diplomats shuttle between them because Tehran refuses direct talks with Washington, aim to get both sides to resume compliance with the deal.

However, last week’s discussions broke off with European and US officials voicing dismay at sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hard-line government under anti-Western President Ebrahim Raisi, whose June election caused a five-month pause in the talks.

A senior US official on Saturday said Iran abandoned any compromises it had made in the previous six rounds of talks, pocketed those made by others, and demanded more last week.

Each side appears to be trying to blame the other for the lack of progress.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the presidents of the United States and Russia — two of the six major powers in the deal along with Britain, China, France, and Germany — had a “productive” discussion about Iran on Tuesday.

“The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, the more unity there is among the P5+1 and the more they will be exposed as the isolated party in this negotiation,” he told reporters, referring to the six powers.

Speaking on Monday, Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns said the agency does not believe Iran’s supreme leader has decided to take steps to “weaponize” a nuclear device but noted that it has made advances in its ability to enrich uranium, one pathway to the fissile material for a bomb.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

“We don’t see any evidence as an agency right now that Iran’s supreme leader has made a decision to move to weaponize,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.

Burns described Iran’s challenge as “a three-legged race” to obtain fissile material, to “weaponize” by placing such material into a device designed to cause a nuclear explosion, and to mate it to a delivery system such as a ballistic missile.

On weaponization, Burns said “the Iranians still have a lot of work to do there as far as we judge it.”