After Blue and White faction chairman Avi Nissenkorn sent a written request, signed by 61 Knesset members, to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) demanding the plenum vote Wednesday on the establishment of an Arrangements Committee and a new Knesset speaker, Edelstein adjourned all parliamentary meetings until next Monday. Likud suggested that in light of the Health Ministry's restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 persons, the Arrangements Committee should consist of ten MKs evenly divided between the pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs. Blue and White rejected the proposal, wanting to control, along with its prospective coalition partners, a majority of the seats on the Knesset committees. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned that adjourning the body is "undermining Israeli democracy," while Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz asked for an emergency meeting with President Rivlin to protest Likud's suspension of proceedings. Blue and White plans to challenge Edelstein's maneuver before the Supreme Court. Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon penned a legal opinion holding that, if the Arrangements Committee is not formed by the beginning of next week, "there will be a need to place the choice of [who sits on] the Arrangements Committee on the docket of the Knesset without further delay."
Likud's unity government coalition negotiations with Blue and White continue, with Gantz demanding the defense, justice, foreign, public security, and culture ministries. Blue and White claims to want these ministries to ensure complete control over all law enforcement systems in Israel. To that end, Blue and White also demands a veto over any decision regarding the legal system. So far, Likud appears only willing to concede the defense ministry to Blue and White's Gabi Ashkenazi and the aforementioned veto power.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3rd) lost the Democratic primary in his district, 47% to 45%, to Marie Newman, who made the congressman's support for Israel a central part of her campaign. The 3rddistrict has a large Palestinian population and Newman ran a television ad in which Arab residents condemn Lipinski for "pandering" to AIPAC and introducing the 2014 Protect Academic Freedom Act, which would deny certain federal funds to institutions that boycott Israeli academic institutions or scholars. Newman told Jewish Insider that American aid to Israel should not "support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Israeli blockade of Gaza."
According to the NGO Peace Now, the average annual construction rate in Israeli settlements has risen 25% since US President Donald Trump took office and that there are almost three-quarters of a million Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech Wednesday after a cabinet meeting, "The Americans assassinated our great commander [Qassem Soleimani]. We have responded to that terrorist act and will respond to it." This statement comes amid a wave of rocket attacks on Iraqi bases hosting US forces, including a Katyusha rocket attack on Camp Taji last Sunday that killed one British and two American soldiers. The State Department today issued a press statement today announcing the imposition of sanctions yesterday on "nine entities and three individuals who have engaged in activity that... provide[s] revenue to the regime that it may use to fund terror and other destabilizing activities, such as the recent rocket attacks on Iraqi and Coalition forces located at Camp Taji in Iraq." The sanctions mainly target Iran's petrochemical industry.
The hitherto unknown Usbat al-Thaireen (The Revolutionary League) group video today warning the American-led coalition to "leave vertically before we force them to leave horizontally."claiming responsibility for last Sunday's attack on Camp Taji shortly after it occurred and released another
Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer al-Ghadhban sent a letter Tuesday to OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo calling for an OPEC+ meeting to arrest the precipitous decline in oil prices. Iraq is among the oil-producing countries most dependent on oil revenue to cover its expenses.
Turkey closed its borders with Greece and Bulgaria to entry and exit of passengers Wednesday, a day after confirming its first COVID-19-related death. The total number of infections in Turkey now stands at 98. Earlier in the day, Greek police employed tear gas and water cannons to repel hundreds of migrants trying to enter the country illegally. An estimated 2,000 migrants are still camped out on the Greek-Turkish border.
The Speaker of Arab Parliament, the Arab League's legislative body, Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Sulami condemned the recent kidnapping of seven female school principals from Sanaa by Houthi militants. Yemen's internationally recognized government deplored the abduction and said that it is part of a campaign of Houthi intimidation against Yemeni women.
The United Arab Emirates
The UAE Wednesday banned its citizens from traveling abroad and starting Thursday will suspend issuing visas-on-arrival. Both measures will continue "until further notice." Henceforth, anyone entering the UAE will undergo a 14-day quarantine.
The interior ministry of the Tobruk-based government, which controls most of Libya, issued a statement Wednesday announcing the imposition of a 6 PM to 6 AM curfew, except for security and emergency personnel. Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) headquartered in Tripoli declared a state of emergency last Saturday, closing its borders for three weeks from 16 March and banning most public activities, from religious services to schools. There are so far no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Libya.
Clashes resumed Wednesday in southern Tripoli between GNA forces and Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), which is affiliated with the Tobruk-based government. According to a GNA military spokesman, the LNA attacked GNA troops who were reinforcing their position in southern Tripoli.
In the face of COVID-19, Secretary-General of Tunisia's General Labor Union Noureddine Taboubi announced that all labor strikes and protests will be postponed
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government introduced the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill to the House of Commons Wednesday. The legislation imposes a five-year statue of limitations on most crimes soldiers committed while serving abroad and would thereby protect most British servicemen from prosecution for acts committed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the last election, the Conservative Party's manifesto promised legislation on this issue in their first 100 days.
Micah Levinson is a Washington, DC resident fellow at the Middle East Forum.