Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt

Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, speaking in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018, and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid delivering a speech in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 24, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 June 2021

Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt

Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt
  • If the pivotal vote confirms the fragile eight-party alliance it would spell the end of an era, after Netanyahu dominated Israeli politics for more than a decade
  • Naftali Bennett would serve as premier for the next two years, after which the ‘change’ coalition’s centrist architect, Yair Lapid, would take over

JERUSALEM: After weeks of political wrangling the Israeli parliament will vote Sunday on whether to install a “change” coalition and end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12 consecutive years in power.
Announcing the date for the confidence vote on Tuesday, speaker Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally, said “a special session of parliament” would debate and vote on the fragile eight-party alliance.
If the crunch vote hands a majority to the coalition, which is united only by hostility to Netanyahu’s rule, it would spell the end of an era.
The divisive incumbent has dominated Israeli politics for more than a decade, pushing it firmly to the right.
Since the coalition was announced last week, Netanyahu has lived up to his reputation as a ruthless political operator, piling pressure on right-wingers within its ranks to reject this “dangerous left-wing government.”
The anti-Netanyahu bloc includes three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, along with an Arab Islamic conservative party.
On paper it commands a wafer-thin majority, but Netanyahu has urged his supporters to shame right-wing lawmakers in its ranks into returning to the fold under his leadership.
If the new government is confirmed, Netanyahu’s right-wing opponent Naftali Bennett would serve as premier for two years, after which the “change” coalition’s centrist architect, Yair Lapid, would take over.
“The unity government is on the way and ready to work on behalf of all the people of Israel,” Lapid, a former television presenter, said in a statement following the announcement of the vote.
Netanyahu, who faces corruption charges that could result in jail time, has refused to go without a messy fight.
Bitter recriminations within the Israeli right and far right prompted Israeli security services to issue a rare warning against incitement online, which Netanyahu’s opponents say was a warning to the prime minister.

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Alarm has grown over angry rallies by supporters of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, including protests outside the homes of right-wing lawmakers accused of “betrayal” for joining the coalition. Security has been stepped up for some of the MPs.
The 71-year-old prime minister has rejected allegations of incitement, saying “there is a very thin line between political criticism and inciting violence.”
Bennett, who served as Netanyahu’s aide before turning against him, has urged his former boss to “let go.”
Should 11th-hour defections torpedo the fledgling coalition, Israel would likely have to return to the polls for a fifth election in just over two years.
The Israeli political drama is playing out as tensions with the Palestinians smolder, with police cracking down on demonstrations over the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.
And a planned flag march by Jewish nationalists was scrapped after police refused to authorize its contentious route through east Jerusalem citing a high risk of friction with residents — though some far-right politicians said they would demonstrate anyway.
A top Hamas official, Khalil Al-Hayya, warned Israel Monday “against letting the march approach east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.”
“We hope the message is clear so that Thursday doesn’t become (a new) May 10,” he said, in reference to the start of the 11-day war which Hamas launched in response to tensions at the mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, which is also revered by Jews.
Netanyahu convened a late-night meeting Monday with senior government officials to discuss alternatives that could allow the march to proceed — a move that saw his opponents accuse him and his allies of working to ratchet up tensions as his grip on power grows increasingly shaky.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a Likud member, said the final decision on the march would rest with him, and not the police, according to Israeli media.
Labor MP Gilad Kariv, a supporter of the coalition, called the move “another chapter in the outgoing government’s attempt to leave a scorched earth.”


Arab coalition says over 100 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition says over 100 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
Updated 27 October 2021

Arab coalition says over 100 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition says over 100 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
  • 13 military vehicles had also been destroyed in the 26 strikes carried out by the coalition on Juba and Al-Kasarah
  • The coalition has reported heavy strikes around Marib in recent weeks

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Wednesday that more than 105 Houthis were killed during air strikes on two districts near the central Yemeni city of Marib.

The coalition added that 13 military vehicles had also been destroyed in the 26 strikes carried out on Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 24 hours.

Juba is some 50 km south of Marib, whilst Al-Kasarah is 30 km northwest of the city.

The coalition has reported heavy strikes around Marib in recent weeks.


Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes

Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes
Updated 27 October 2021

Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes

Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes
  • The Civil Administration’s high planning committee gave the final green light to 1,800 homes and initial approval for another 1,344
  • About 475,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law

JERUSALEM: Israel advanced plans for building more than 3,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, a military spokesman said, a day after the US forcefully criticized such construction.
The Civil Administration’s high planning committee gave the final green light to 1,800 homes and initial approval for another 1,344, a spokesman for the military body that oversees civilian matters in the Palestinian territories told AFP.
The approvals came a day after the United States criticized Israel for its policy of building settlements, with President Joe Biden’s administration saying it “strongly” opposed new construction on the West Bank.
His administration’s position on the matter stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor Donald Trump, whose presidency saw the US offer a green light to Israel’s activity on occupied Palestinian land.
The homes approved on Wednesday were spread across the West Bank, from the suburbs of Jerusalem to new neighborhoods of settlements deep inside the territory.
Israel’s housing ministry had separately on Sunday published tenders to build 1,355 new homes in the West Bank.
About 475,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law, on land Palestinians claim as part of their future state.
Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem has continued under every Israeli government since 1967.


World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup

World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup
Updated 27 October 2021

World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup

World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup
  • It is the latest blow to the impoverished African nation
  • The military on Monday seized Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and briefly detained him in a coup

WASHINGTON: The World Bank said Wednesday it has suspended aid to Sudan following the military takeover that deposed the prime minister.
“I am greatly concerned by recent events in Sudan, and I fear the dramatic impact this can have on the country’s social and economic recovery and development,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement.
It was the latest blow to the impoverished African nation that had just won its way back into good standing with major Washington-based development lenders after years in the wilderness.
The military on Monday seized Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and briefly detained him in the coup that came just over two years into a precarious power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians after the army ousted longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019.
The World Bank “paused disbursements in all of its operations in Sudan on Monday and it has stopped processing any new operations as we closely monitor and assess the situation,” Malpass said.
The United States also suspended aid to the country.
“We hope that peace and the integrity of the transition process will be restored, so that Sudan can restart its path of economic development and can take its rightful place in the international financial community,” Malpass said.
Sudan had been emerging from decades of stringent US sanctions after Washington removed the country from its state sponsor of terrorism blacklist in December 2020, eliminating a major hurdle to much-needed aid and financial investment.
The World Bank and IMF in June granted Sudan debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, cutting the nation’s debt in half to about $28 billion, and the institutions have offered additional help if economic reforms continue.


UAE coronavirus cases below 100 for seventh day

UAE coronavirus cases below 100 for seventh day
Updated 27 October 2021

UAE coronavirus cases below 100 for seventh day

UAE coronavirus cases below 100 for seventh day
  • The Ministry of Health said the country conducted 295,380 tests in the past 24 hours
  • The country’s total caseload of recorded infections since the pandemic started now stands at 739,566

DUBAI: Daily coronavirus cases in the UAE were below 100 for the seventh straight day, with 95 new COVID-19 infections reported by health authorities.
The Ministry of Health said the country conducted 295,380 tests in the past 24 hours, state news agency WAM reported. It further reported one death and 136 recoveries.
The country’s total caseload of recorded infections since the pandemic started now stands at 739,566, with 2,135 deaths and 733,640 recoveries.
Coronavirus cases in the UAE have been falling in recent weeks with a total number of COVID-19 vaccination doses reaching 20,999,143.


Turkish motion opens door to new Syria operation

Turkish motion opens door to new Syria operation
Updated 27 October 2021

Turkish motion opens door to new Syria operation

Turkish motion opens door to new Syria operation
  • The motion justified a cross-border operation if Turkey’s national security is put under threat
  • Turkey has warned of growing threats from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, east of the Euphrates River, northern Syria

ANKARA: Turkish Parliament has ratified a motion to extend troop deployment for anti-terror operations in Iraq and Syria for another two years, raising questions over whether another cross-border operation looms on the horizon.

The move coincided with the Turkish military’s deployment of massive convoys and reinforcements to the border with Syria.

Barring the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, the governing Justice and Development Party, Nationalist Movement Party and the opposition Good Party backed the motion that emphasized the risks and rising threats posed by ongoing conflicts along the Turkey-Syria border.

The motion also stressed that Turkey places “great importance on the protection of Iraq’s territorial integrity, national unity and stability,” although “the continued existence of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and Daesh in Iraq ... poses a direct threat to regional peace, stability and the security of Turkey.”

Turkey regularly targets PKK hideouts in the Qandil stronghold of northern Iraq, but the country’s government has condemned the operations, describing them as a “violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”

Regarding the situation in the rebel-held province of Idlib, the motion noted that “the peace and stability established via the Astana process continues to be under threat."

The motion justified a cross-border operation if Turkey’s national security is put under threat.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched three cross-border operations into northern Syria — Euphrates Shield in 2016, Olive Branch in 2018 and Peace Spring in 2019. Two were directed against Kurdish forces. The safe zone that covers Tel Abyad, Jarablus and Afrin is currently under Turkish control.

Recently, Turkey has warned of growing threats from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units in the east of Euphrates River in northern Syria, with artillery attacks targeting Turkish border towns and killing police officers. Turkish officials have begun voicing warnings about possible military action in the region.

Based on a senior source within the Syrian National Army, Arab News learned that the Turkish side advised forces to ready troops for a potential operation, but did not give details about the timing or target of the strategy.

Navvar Saban, a conflict analyst and expert at Omran Center for Strategic Studies, and a non-resident researcher at ORSAM in Ankara, said that Turkey is trying to put pressure on the Russian side by making preparations for a potential cross-border operation.

However, Saban added that Ankara will likely “wait until the regional circumstances become ripe” before engaging in military action.

“I don’t expect any immediate military operation. The Turkish side will only increase their artillery fire on the Syrian Democratic Forces positions in the north and will use the military operation as a bargaining chip against Moscow in this area,” he told Arab News.

“Turkey also ordered several army commanders to send more troops to Ras Al-Ain in northern Syria. I think that Turkey will take advantage of its proxy forces on the ground and gain more time in different active battlefronts before pushing the Russians to the negotiation table on terms that are acceptable for all,” Saban said.

Russia has not yet taken a clear position on a potential Turkish offensive, and as a security guarantor, is opting for a wait-and-watch policy to see how far Ankara is testing its boundaries in Syria within the limits of the bilateral commitments under the Astana process.

Separately, the US Senate confirmed on Monday Jeff Flake as the next US ambassador to Turkey. Ankara has long objected to the US support for the YPG, the main local partner of the US in its fight against Daesh.

Levent Kemal, a Middle East political commentator, said that Russia remains wary of giving a green light to Turkey for the launch of its next offensive in Tal Rifaat and Tal Temr.

Tal Rifaat, located in northwestern Syria, has been under the control of the YPG since 2016, and it is mostly populated by Kurds who fled Afrin following the Turkish operation in 2018. Ankara blamed the YPG for using Tal Rifaat as a “launchpad” to stage attacks.

“The US and Turkish presidents are set to meet this week. It is unlikely that Turkey launches an operation before the much-awaited meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart, Joe Biden. It would be too risky to anger both Russia and the US on the same battleground,” Kemal told Arab News.

There are reportedly negotiations between Turkish and Russian authorities over an exchange of control in Tal Rifaat and Idlib, where Ankara-backed rebels have been losing ground for several months.

If Turkey and Russia agree on the swap, it could also bring Erdogan strong support from nationalist constituencies in Turkey through the seizure of new strategic territory from Kurdish forces. However, experts said that Turkey would not totally abandon its commitments in Idlib just for control of Tal Rifaat, and would ask for more territories in return.