Defense Minister Benny Gantz told US diplomats Monday that Israel should delay annexing West Bank territory as "dealing with the coronavirus and its socioeconomic and health consequences is the more pressing issue that needs to be attended to right now." He expressed the same sentiment during a public Blue and White faction meeting, saying, "Those things that are not related to the fight against coronavirus will wait until the virus is behind us." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded at a Likud faction meeting, "The matter is not up to Blue and White. They are not a factor either way." Yet, multiple knowledgeable American sources informed the Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu's government will not pursue annexation this week even though his coalition agreement with Blue and White permits the cabinet to bring the issue to a vote starting on July 1.
Four House Democrats are circulating a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on the US to respond to the annexation of any West Bank territory by placing "conditions on the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel, including human rights conditions and withholding funds for the off-shore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them." The current signatories are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Betty McCollum (D-MN).
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed in a Monday statement that "annexation is illegal" and she is "deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity."
Iran has issued arrest warrants for President Donald Trump, along with 35 publicly unnamed officials from the US and other countries, on charges of murder and terrorist action for the January 3 targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force. Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said Iran asked INTERPOL to issue red notices for the suspects. A red notice is a "request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action." Without directly addressing Iran, INTERPOL released a statement Monday reiterating that its Constitution and Rules prohibits "any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character" and "would not consider requests of this nature." The Trump administration justified killing Soleimani on the grounds that he "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir and US Iran envoy Brian Hook at a press conference in Riyadh Monday urged the international community to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, scheduled to elapse in October per the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Al-Jubeir spoke on a platform cluttered with Iranian weapons fired at Saudi cities from Yemen and he announced the kingdom seized an Iranian arms shipment to the Houthis as recently as Sunday.
Last Saturday the official spokesperson of Saudi Arabia's Maritime Border Guard revealed that three Iranian boats entered Saudi waters on Thursday, ignored repeated warnings to withdraw, and only retreated after the border guard vessels fired warning shots.
French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Turkey of "a historic and criminal responsibility for someone who claims to be a member of NATO" for its military involvement in Libya, which is "unacceptable to us." Tensions between Paris and Ankara over Libya have waxed since France accused Turkish naval vessels of threatening to attack the French frigate Courbet on June 10 when the latter sought to search a Turkish civilian ship, the Cirkin, suspected of violating the UN arms embargo on Libya.
Turkish energy company Karadeniz Holding will submit a bid to supply up to 1,000 megawatts of electricity in Libya, where civil war has caused major power supply problems. Ankara hopes to profit from rebuilding the regions of Libya controlled by the Government of National Accord, the Turkish foreign and finance ministers visiting Tripoli earlier this month to discuss cooperation in the areas of investment, infrastructure, and oil.
Sudan disclosed Sunday that security forces arrested at least 122 people in Darfur intending to fight in Libya's civil war. Although Khartoum did not identify on which side the mercenaries would serve, most of the approximately 3,000 Sudanese fighting in Libya back the LNA and hope to acquire resources that can be used later against Sudan's transitional government.
Finance Ministry director-general Alain Bifan on Monday resigned in protest of financial institutions stalling government reform efforts by disputing the extent of their losses in the ongoing economic crisis and trying to make the Lebanese public cover the losses. Bifan served as director-general for 20 years and is the second member of the government's negotiating team with the IMF to quit this month.
Saad Hariri's office announced Sunday that Lebanese security forces will investigate a missile attack near the former prime minister's convoy during a tour of the eastern Beqaa Valley 11 days ago. Hariri did not mention the event at the time because he did not want to enflame sectarian violence that erupted earlier this month after videos insulting the Prophet Mohammad's wife Aisha were circulated on social media.
Lebanese Judge Mohammed Mazeh on Saturday banned local and foreign media from interviewing US Ambassador Dorothy Shea for a year, arguing her criticism of Hezbollah during a Friday interview with Saudi broadcaster al-Hadath interfered in domestic affairs and violated diplomatic norms. However, during a Monday meeting with Ambassador Shea, Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti asserted that freedom of the media is a "sacred right" and they issued a conciliatory joint statement emphasizing "the importance of cooperation between the two governments."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum