Netanyahu Signs First Coalition Agreements
Israel’s Likud Party, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and victor in the recent national elections, took its first step to forming a ruling coalition when it signed the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party and first-time Kulanu party, which focused its campaign on socio-economic issues during the campaign. Kulanu founder Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud member who found fame as communications minister in a previous Netanyahu-led government by taking on the telecommunications giants and rolling-back the cost of cellphone service, will become finance minister while the party controls the Israel Land Authority, construction ministry and the environmental protection ministry as well. The cost of fielding UTJ for the coalition is already causing controversy since it will include walking-back a hard-fought universal military service bill that addressed what many Israelis believe is the unfair exemption from military service by the “haredi” religious community. It is also expected that other social equality measures promoted by the previous – and highly respected — health minister will go by the wayside as the ultra-religious community re-claims the ministry.
Israeli Field Hospital Opens in Nepal
Less than one day after an Israeli 747 jet arrived in Nepal, the more than 200 passengers on board comprising of some of the world’s most skilled and renowned experts in search-and-rescue, a field hospital was set up and operating in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, its capacity hundreds of patients per day. The hospital is expected to remain in operation for at least two weeks with the strong possibility that its mission will be extended. Two Israelis who were themselves rescued after the earthquake have joined those who flew in and will volunteer in the field hospital.
US, Arab States ask France to Delay Palestinian Resolution in UN Security Council
Concerned that difficult negotiations over a French-drafted UN Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would interfere with American efforts to reach and approve a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, US and Arab officials are reportedly asking Paris to delay its UN effort at least until after the June 30 deadline for the Iranian talks. The French gambit promises to be contentious, presumably including an all-out effort by Israel to derail the measure which reportedly predicates future negotiations upon an acceptance of pre-1967 borders and a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem – stalwarts of the Palestinian bargaining position that have historically been non-starters to the government-elect of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Saudi-Iranian Tension Heats Up; Iranian Plane Defies Saudi Authority
Unrest in Yemen continues to heat up the possibility of direct conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia: the region’s major powers who are seen as facing-off via proxies in the poorest country in the mix. On Tuesday, Iran accused Riyadh of using “Cold War tactics” when it dropped leaflets over Iran’s proxy Houthi fighter-controlled areas of Yemen. More seriously, an Iranian airplane defied Saudi orders to divert to a Saudi Arabian air field for inspection and forced a landing at the Yemeni capital Sana’a. In response, Saudi aircraft bombed the Sana’a runway. Saudi-led coalition bombing of Houthi targets in Yemen is now in its seventh day since it announced the air campaign was “over.” Meanwhile, more than 70 people were reported killed in the course of fighting between Iranian-backed Shiite Houthis and those loyal to the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi who remains in exile in Riyadh.