- Saudi newspaper urges Abbas not to dismiss Netanyahu’s invitation to address Knesset, indicating growing Saudi-Israeli ties
Former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres’ medical condition took a turn for the worse on Tuesday, two weeks after he suffered a stroke. His doctors have said that he is “fighting for his life.” Peres’ family gathered at his bedside to say their farewells to the statesman. The Times of Israel reported that doctors had stopped giving Peres life-saving treatment and sources close to him said “these are the former president’s final hours.” Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri told reporters,“[W]e are all praying. We are all used to seeing an active and intense Shimon…” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who succeeded Peres at that position, said, “I wish to send my prayers to the health of my friend Shimon Peres…My concern right now is with…Peres who is fighting for his life at these very moments.” Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, tweeted, “Keeping Shimon Peres and his family in my thoughts, my prayers and my heart.”
Peres, 93, is one of Israel’s most distinguished and iconic leaders and has generated enormous respect around the world during a career spanning more than six decades. A founding father of the State of Israel, he served as the country’s president, its prime minister on two occasions, and as a member of twelve cabinets. He is renowned for building the country’s military and aviation industries, reforming the economy, pursuing peace, and playing a unifying role as president.
Iran’s likely next Supreme Leader, Iran expert Ray Takeyh wrote in The Washington Post on Monday, sat on a commission responsible for the mass murder of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s. Ibrahim Raisi, wrote Takeyh, is a “reactionary” Iranian hardliner who “oversaw the massacre of thousands of political prisoners” in the summer of 1988, and, given his appetite for violence, “could be the only person in the Islamic Republic who could cause people to miss [current Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei.”
Raisi is 56 years old and spent his career serving as prosecutor general in the Islamic Republic—“responsible for disciplining mullahs who stray from the official line.” As head of one of Iran’s largest charitable foundations—a position to which he was appointed by Khamenei himself—he oversees an endowment valued at an estimated $15 billion, which has been accused of providing funding to Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Raisi is a favorite of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the organization tasked with defending the revolution at home and exporting it abroad that is notorious for its “mafia” style rule and brutal suppression of the Iranian people.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should not be dismissive of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to address the Knesset, a Saudi newspaper asserted on Sunday. Netanyahu made the invitation to Abbas in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday. Netanyahu’s “invitation is reminiscent of the one issued by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Israel – and the rest is history,” the Saudi Gazette editorial read. “Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.” The Saudi daily cautioned against Palestinian skepticism: “Palestinians should note that at the time [of the Camp David Accords], Egypt and Israel were mortal enemies, having fought three wars.” It noted that while the “Arab world derided” the Accords’ provision for a five-year interim period of Palestinian autonomy, “in hindsight, if the provisions had been carried out, Israel and the Palestinians might not be in the impasse they are in at present.”
An article in The Jerusalem Post last month highlighted the phenomenon of local and state-run media outlets in Saudi Arabia beginning to shift their long-held position of enmity toward Israel. Recent changes include quoting Israeli officials; asking Saudis to discard their “hatred of Jews”; and calling for direct talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, free from intermediaries. David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy branded the pivot as “the new normal,” saying that while pragmatic, behind-the-scenes dialogue between Israel and Arab countries is “nothing new,” the presence of two sides in public forums marks an undeniable turning point. “What is noteworthy today is that the issue is being actively and openly debated in major Arab media, with both proponents and opponents each having their say.”
In other signs of this slow but persistent change, Anwar Eshki, a former general who had served in senior positions in the Saudi military and foreign ministry, visited Israel in July as part of a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen. Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold gave an interview last year with a Saudi website, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was likewise recently interviewed by the Saudi media.
Israel experienced a population growth rate of almost two percent over the past Jewish year, according to numbers published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday. The growth rate is consistent with previous years. Israel’s population now registers at 8.585 million, an increase of 172,000 from the same time last year. The country’s birthrate is more than four times the death rate: 189,000 babies were born during the past year compared to 46,000 people dying.
Israel’s Arab population grew by 2.2%, a slightly higher growth rate than that of the Jewish population, which experienced a 1.9% increase. Muslims grew by 2.4% and Christians by 1.5%.
Wedding bells rang for 50,797 couples. Among first-time marriages, 44,412 were grooms and 45,547 were brides. The average age of first-time husbands was 27.6 compared to 25 for first-time wives.