In a Thursday interview with Yisrael HaYom, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to right-wing critics of the Trump peace plan. Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett objected Wednesday on the grounds that 250,000 West Bank Palestinians would receive citizenship. However, Netanyahu maintains that Israel will not grant citizenship to residents of Palestinian towns in annexed parts of the West Bank. "They will remain a Palestinian enclave. You're not annexing Jericho. There's a cluster or two. You don't need to apply sovereignty over them; they will remain Palestinian subjects if you will. But security control also applies to these places." To those rejecting the Trump plan because of a principled objection to Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu stresses the Palestinians "will have an entity of their own that President Trump defines as a state." Netanyahu implies, however, that Israel maintaining a permanent security presence throughout the West Bank while blocking the return of Palestinian refugees makes the Trump peace plan's "Palestinian state" a state in name only.
Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) announced Thursday that since Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) occupied Libya's oil export terminals in January crude oil exports have shrunk by 92 percent, costing the NOC almost $5 billion in revenue. Current revenue does not even cover 10 percent of NOC employees' salaries. Four Western diplomats told Bloomberg on Thursday that the French frigate "Jean-Bart" on May 22 prevented an oil tanker from delivering cargo to Tobruk, the seat of the LNA-aligned House of Representatives, as part of the EU mission to block illicit oil sales that would enrich Libya's warring parties. The tanker was delivering its cargo to a company registered in the UAE, one of the LNA's main backers.
Iran's newly convened, hardline-controlled parliament elected Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as speaker. He replaces fellow hardliner Ali Larijani, who held that position since 2008, but was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April. Qalibaf served as Tehran's mayor, chief of the Iranian Police Forces, and as an air force commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. After the Guardian Council disqualified 51 percent of the candidates who applied to run in February's election, including 75 percent of sitting MPs, many pro-Reformist voters boycotted the election, turnout falling from 62 percent in 2016 to 42 percent in 2020.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told journalists Thursday that the UN is seeking $2.4 billion to continue its aid operation in Yemen. While the UN received $3.2 billion last year for Yemen, so far it has only collected $474 million in 2020 and will need to shutter more than 30 UN aid programs in the country in the coming weeks unless a UN-Saudi-hosted pledging conference next Tuesday raises a considerable sum.
In a departure from Lebanon's decades-old banking secrecy rules, parliament passed legislation Thursday empowering the central bank's Special Investigation Commission and a still-to-be-formed National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate bank accounts of current and former officials suspected of corruption, funding terrorism, money laundering, or funding electoral campaigns. At the last minute, the legislation was watered down by not authorizing judges independently to order bank account disclosures. Hezbollah and Amal completely blocked legislation introduced by some Christian factions to grant amnesty to South Lebanon Army members who collaborated with Israel.
A day after protestors demanding jobs at state-run Gafsa Phosphate brought mining activity to a halt, broader protests by unemployed people demanding work spread to at least 7 cities on Thursday. The official unemployment rate stands at 15.3 percent and the GDP is expected to shrink by 4.3 percent this year.
Sen. Bob Menendez, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, published an article alleging the Trump administration "is currently trying to sell thousands more precision-guided bombs to the President's 'friend,' Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Before we went into pandemic lockdown, I received draft State Department documentation that it is now pursuing this previously undisclosed sale -- details of which have not yet been made public." An opponent of further arms sales to Riyadh, Sen. Menendez wrote, "Iranian attacks against oil facilities at Abqaiq and aggression in the Arabian Gulf confirmed [arms sales to Saudi Arabia] had little to do with deterrence of Iran and everything to do with placating bin Salman."
Algeria recalled its ambassador to France for consultations in protest of two French public television documentaries about the protests that toppled President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019 and persist in the hope of ousting remaining Bouteflika loyalists in government. An Algerian foreign ministry statement Thursday characterized the documentaries as "attacks against the Algerian people and its institutions, including the National Armed Forces."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum