1. The Gantz-Lapid factor
A number of Arabic news outlets covered the merger between former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party and MK Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction.
- The Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat reports on Thursday that Gantz realized “a major achievement” in uniting Israel Resilience, which it refers to as “the party of generals,” with Yesh Atid.
- The newspaper’s report says the news of the coalition has aroused “alarm and panic” in the ranks of the Israeli right’s leadership.
- Qatari satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera reports on Thursday that after the announcement of the Gantz-Lapid merger, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be in “a state of confusion.”
- Al-Jazeera headlines its report on the development: “Coalition of generals in Israel threatens Netanyahu’s throne.”
2. Dahlan ally weighs in on Gantz
Sufian Abu Zaida, a former Palestinian Authority prisoner affairs minister, writes that Gantz has become “a real threat” to Netanyahu.
- Abu Zaida, a close ally of Mohammad Dahlan, who is a top rival of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, also remarks in an article published on Thursday in Dunya al-Watan, a Gaza-based news site, that “the [Israeli] elections could have a significant impact on political life in Israel, and of course, they will have consequences for the Palestinian situation.”
- Abbas has reiterated the traditional position of the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership of not intervening in Israeli elections. However, he has said that he hopes the next prime minister will be a person who wants to make peace with the Palestinians.
3. How close are Netanyahu and the Arab world?
Majdi Halabi, a reporter for the Saudi-owned Elaph newspaper, argues that a US-Polish conference on the Middle East in Warsaw last week didn’t show any significant expansion of ties between Israel and the Arab world.
- “In holding the Warsaw conference with Israel participating alongside Gulf states, [Netanyahu’s] friends in the United States have made him appear as if he has achieved peace with the Arabs, and as if embassies will open in Tel Aviv,” Halabi writes in an article published on Tuesday.
- “But [this image] is faraway from reality. What happened was an international meeting in which Israel and Arab states participated,” he says, asserting the format of the conference was not dissimilar to meetings the Jewish state and Arab countries have attended at the United Nations.
- Netanyahu played up the conference as a significant event for Israel and the Arab world’s relations, noting that he and several senior Arab officials sat alongside each other at it.
- He also emphasized that a number of the Arab officials spoke out against Iran’s Middle East policy at the confab, stating “exactly what [he] has been saying for years.”
4. Morocco pushes back on report of Netanyahu-Moroccan FM meeting
Morocco dismisses Israeli report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita met last year, calling it hearsay.
- “I affirm that Morocco does not respond to rumors,” Moroccan government spokesman Mustapha El-Khalfi said when asked whether the meeting took place.
- Channel 13 news reported on February 17 that Netanyahu and Bourita met on the sidelines of the annual gathering of the UN General Assembly in New York City last September, citing a senior Israeli official.
- The TV report also said that Netanyahu asked the top Moroccan diplomat to advance the normalization of Israeli-Moroccan ties, quoting the senior official.
- Morocco and Israel do not have diplomatic ties.
5. Anti-Abbas activity in Gaza
Palestinians publish photos of a billboard and posters in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, calling for Abbas’s ouster. They say: “Leave.”
- Gaza-based Palestinian news sites report that Fatah activists in the Strip tore down some of the posters. Hussein al-Sheikh, a confidante of Abbas, accuses Hamas of putting up the billboard and posters.
— وكالة شهاب (@ShehabAgency) February 23, 2019
- In the past year, Abbas has cut budgets allocated to Gaza to pressure Hamas to give up control of the Strip. While he has reinstated some of the funds he originally halted, Hamas and other factions in the coastal enclave have continued to criticize him for not restoring all of them.
- An anti-Abbas rally is slated to take place in Gaza City on Sunday.
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