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Netanyahu builds momentum in final days of third campaign



Netanyahu to become first Israeli to receive COVID vaccine

After 11 years of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, many Israelis have claimed that they are tired of Benjamin Netanyahu. Or are they? Just days before a third round of national polls in less than one year, the latest pre-election polls show Netanyahu’s Likud surging ahead to a two-seat lead over Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party.

Furthermore, a bloc of right-wing and religious parties that support the center-right Likud is closing in on a 61-seat majority necessary to govern and effectively end a drawn-out, rinse-wash-repeat election cycle.

By contrast, a bloc of left-wing and secular parties that support Blue and White is polling more than 10 seats short of a parliamentary majority and would have to rely on support from self-described anti-Zionist Arab parties to govern. Arab parties have never joined an Israeli government since the founding of the state. And the Joint Arab List has staunchly opposed the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” vision, a plan that has received initial support from both Netanyahu and Gantz.

If neither a Netanyahu-led bloc nor a Gantz-led bloc can form a parliamentary majority, the two major parties will either be forced to sit together in a unity government or go to the polls yet again in the fall. Meanwhile, Gantz has insisted that he will not cooperate in any government with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s rise in the polls comes just weeks before a trial is set to begin in Jerusalem District Court on three separate corruption cases. That Netanyahu’s popularity has not plummeted in advance of the trials or during a protracted election cycle remains a testament to his successful record as commander-in-chief of the military, top economist and a diplomat that has made inroads with Arab and African nations.

His high standing in the polls also indicates that many Israelis are not moved by the criminal charges, which include receiving gifts from wealthy friends and attempting to receive better coverage from an otherwise anti-Netanyahu Israeli press.

Yet, perhaps more importantly, after two election cycles where Netanyahu rested on his record, the embattled Likud leader has put on a tour de force over the past two months. After winning a landslide victory in a snap Likud leadership primary, in which former minister Gideon Sa’ar challenged him for the party chairmanship, Netanyahu has demonstrated that he is still the best man to lead Israel during tumultuous times.

Advancing the U.S. peace vision, which will shortly enable the Jewish state to formally apply Israeli sovereignty over every Jewish settlement and outpost; pledging to build in the previously disputed Jerusalem neighborhoods of Givat HaMatos and the controversial E-1 tract between Jerusalem and the large settlement city of Ma’ale Adumim; securing from Russian President Vladimir Putin the pardon and release of Na’ama Issachar, imprisoned during transport from India for flying with a small amount of cannabis; absorbing new members of Ethiopia’s Jewish community; and opening new diplomatic relations with Sudan, Netanyahu has been putting his diplomatic abilities on full display.

Also read:  Britain, on trade collision course with EU, says it could walk away

In addition, the prime minister has been campaigning around the clock, speaking extemporaneously at multiple large events around the country. The campaign has focused specifically on areas of traditional right-wing support, hoping to drum up natural supporters from an electorate that has grown tired of voting.

He has been demonstrating to his direct Likud supporters, as well as to members of his right-wing and religious party bloc, that after 11 years, he still wants the job more than ever.

By contrast, challenger Benny Gantz has relied primarily on attacking Netanyahu, calling him a liar, accusing him of divisiveness and insisting that Israel cannot have a functioning prime minister who is simultaneously defending himself in court. While Netanyahu is out proving himself a competent prime minister, Gantz’s main selling point is that he is not Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Gantz has not clearly communicated a political outlook or vision. He claims that he will heal the rifts in Israeli society, yet refuses to sit alongside Israel’s religious parties. And when attempting to communicate with the Israeli public, he has most recently taken to using a teleprompter after demonstrating a difficulty to think and respond quickly on his feet during a campaign filled with rhetorical mishaps.

Most troubling has been revelations that among Gantz’s closest advisers are a former adviser to President Barack Obama, Joel Benenson. Both Benenson and another top Gantz adviser have tweeted multiple statements likening U.S. President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. And in the last week, Blue and White has put up billboards comparing Netanyahu to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an Islamist dictator.

Should Netanyahu and his supporting parties secure a majority of 61 seats, Netanyahu will have pulled off a stunning victory in an environment in which the media, the judicial system and numerous politicians, including former allies, are all pushing relentlessly for his retirement.

And if Netanyahu’s allies fall short of a parliamentary majority, he will continue to lead a transitional government until the electorate can finally sort itself out or the laws on choosing a prime minister are changed. And based on the way Netanyahu has campaigned and advanced the nation’s interests over the past several months without a coalition, perhaps a transitional government is all the embattled prime minister needs to keep going.




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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin



Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel



A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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Customs Intercepts 414 Sacks Of Donkey Skin, Contraband worth N71.2m



The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Kebbi Command, says it has intercepted a truck loaded with 414 sacks of donkey meat and skins along the Bunza-Kamba axis of the state.

Dr Ben Oramalugo, the Customs Area Controller, made this known while briefing newsmen on the command’s activities, in Birnin Kebbi on Friday.

He said that the seizure of the donkey skin and meat was among the 17 smuggled items intercepted by the command between April 15 and May 15.

“Notably, on Sunday, May 14, following an intelligence report on prohibited items about to be smuggled out of the country through Bunza down to Maje axis, we detailed our officers to increase surveillance along the said routes.

“And through stop-and-search, the officers were able to intercept a truck loaded with 414 sacks of donkey skin and meat along Bunza-Kamba Axis.”

He added that among other items seized were two Toyota Camry 2013 and two Honda Jazz 2005.

Others are, 55 bales of secondhand clothes, 4,925 liters of PMS, 13 bags of foreign parboiled rice, five kegs of vegetable oil, a Volvo truck and one Toyota Corolla used for smuggling items, among others.

“The Duty Paid Value of the seized items is N71.2 million.

“All these successes have been achieved through constant vigilance and intelligence gathering by the officers and men of the command,” he said.

Oramalugo also revealed that the command was able to generate N127.3 million in the month of April.

“This is as a result of the efforts we put in place through routine stakeholders’ engagements and applying advice received from community leaders and indigenous retired and serving security personnel, among others.”

Oramalugo commended patriotic citizens, eminent personalities, host communities, and other stakeholders for providing useful information and advice.

“We appreciate our sister agencies for their prompt intervention when we seek reinforcement,” the controller said.

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