Two new Saudi television series on state-owned MBC appear to promote reconciliation with Jews and more positive attitudes toward Israel. Umm Harun (Mother of Aaron), which is set in an unspecified Gulf Arab state from the 1930s to the 1950s, sympathetically portrays a Jewish midwife who faces persecution and ultimately immigrates to Israel. The first episode, aired last Friday, opens with a Hebrew monologue. Characters in another program, Exit 7, repeatedly accuse Palestinians of ingratitude for past Saudi support and allege that the Palestinians' ancestors voluntarily sold their land to the Zionists. One character justifies commercial cooperation with Israelis by saying, "Saudi Arabia did not gain anything when it supported Palestinians, and must now establish relations with Israel... The real enemy is the one who curses you, denies your sacrifices and support, and curses you day and night more than the Israelis." Additionally, a mother on Exit 7 permits her son to play games over the Internet with Israelis. Hamas official Basim Naeem condemned the show as "cultural aggression and brain washing."
Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Commission Sunday publicized a royal decree abolishing capital punishment for minors, ordering prosecutors to substitute executions with at most a 10-year sentence in a juvenile detention facility. There may, however, be a steeper penalty for terrorism-related offenses.
On Sunday, the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) scrapped the November 2019 Riyadh agreement that obliged the STC and the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to remove heavy military equipment from cities and create a unity government equally representing each side. The STC declared a state of emergency and autonomous rule in Aden as well as the other territories under their control. Saudi Arabia, which backs Hadi's government, issued a statement demanding "an end to any escalatory actions" and a "return to the [Riyad] agreement by the participating parties." The UAE, the STC's main benefactor, also rejected the STC's move, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeting: "Frustration at the delay in implementing the [Riyadh] agreement should not be a reason for the unilateral change of the situation" and "we cannot find one more caring for Yemen than sisterly Saudi Arabia."
Demonstrations against political corruption and poor economic conditions reignited Monday, with protestors blocking highways and clashing with police, after a several-month abeyance due to COVID-19. One of the main sources of discontent is the depreciation of the Lebanese pound, which has lost approximately 40 percent of its value since late last year. After Prime Minister Hassan Diab in a Friday speech blamed long-serving central bank governor Riad Salameh for the depreciation and was reportedly seeking his ouster, the French government, according to a Saturday article in al-Joumhouria newspaper, warned against such a move. Then, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri commented in Sunday's an-Nahar newspaper that removing Salameh, just as Beirut seeks to renegotiate its foreign debt obligations after last month's default, would lead to an even more calamitous depreciation of the Lebanese pound. Likewise, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in his Sunday homily accused the Prime Minister of scapegoating Salameh rather than announcing the government reforms necessary to extricate Lebanon from its financial crisis.
While addressing an event marking the centenary of the San Remo Conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence that President Trump would recognize Israel annexing parts of the West Bank allocated to it in the Deal of the Century peace plan. Netanyahu said, "President Trump pledged to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Jewish communities there [the West Bank] and the Jordan Valley. A couple of months from now, I'm confident that that pledge will be honored." A senior Trump administration official told NBC News on Monday that Israel agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinians along the lines set forth in the peace plan is a precondition for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank. At the Palestinian Authority's behest, the Arab League announced Monday that it would hold an emergency conference of foreign ministers to galvanize opposition to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Palestinian Authority must pay $150 million in damages to families of terrorist attack casualties, mostly from the Second Intifada, and that the damages will come out of the taxes Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority. The plaintiffs sought $2 billion in damages.
In a speech Monday, Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Hafter said his armed forces "accept the people's mandate to run the country" and "will work to create the conditions for building permanent civic institutions." It remains unclear whether this statement entails the LNA dissolving the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, to which it is nominally loyal, and assuming direct responsibility for the territory under its control.
The U.S. renewed a waiver to permit Iraq to import Iranian electricity for another 30 days. Previous waivers were for 90 or 120 days. However, a State Department official said that, once Iraq forms a new government, "the Secretary will reassess whether to renew the waiver and for how long, and looks forward to resuming our cooperation with the Government of Iraq to reduce Iraq's dependence on unreliable Iranian energy imports."
The Chief of Space Operations in the United States Space Force, General John W. Raymond, characterized the Nur military satellite that Iran launched into orbit last week as "a tumbling webcam in space; unlikely providing intel."
Cairo Sunday applied for a one-year IMF loan of yet undetermined size to deal with the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi won international praise for implementing austerity measures linked to a 2016 $12 billion IMF bailout package and for his government's rapid response to limit the pandemic's spread and support for adversely affected businesses and individuals.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum