World

MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 31 MAY 2024

Gantz party plots to oust Netanyahu; ‘Iran-backed gangs’ attack Israeli embassies in Sweden

Gantz party plots to oust Netanyahu; ‘Iran-backed gangs’ attack Israeli embassies in  Sweden
From left: Israel's War Cabinet member Benny Gantz. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Michael Reynolds) | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Abir Sultan ANP special assignment)

The political party of Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war Cabinet, said it wanted to dissolve the parliament in a bid to force early elections and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Criminal gangs have been enlisted to attack Israeli interests in Sweden at the behest of Iran, according to Israeli and Swedish security services.

A United Nations tribute to Iran’s late President Ebrahim Raisi, killed in a helicopter crash this month, showcased deep divisions in the world body, as many nations praised his legacy while the US and Israel boycotted the event.

Gantz party calls vote to dissolve Israel’s parliament

The political party of Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war Cabinet, said it wanted to dissolve the parliament in a bid to force early elections and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The National Unity party said it was proposing a vote in the Knesset.

It’s unclear if Gantz’s party will garner enough support for the measure to pass if a vote goes ahead. Netanyahu’s Likud party is the largest in a ruling coalition holding 64 seats in the 120-seat chamber. 

Gantz and Netanyahu are in a three-man war Cabinet along with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. Both have clashed with Netanyahu over the war strategy and Gantz has given the premier a deadline of 8 June to meet a series of demands. He’s said he’ll quit if they aren’t met.

Iran-backed gangs blamed for Israeli embassy attacks in Sweden

Criminal gangs have been enlisted to attack Israeli interests in Sweden at the behest of Iran, according to Israeli and Swedish security services. 

“The Security Service can conclude that criminal networks in Sweden are being used as proxies by Iran,” Daniel Stenling, the head of counterintelligence at Sweden’s Security Service, said at a news conference in Stockholm on Thursday. “Authorities on a national level will jointly implement activities to limit Iran’s ability for operations that threaten security in Sweden.”

Iran has been identified as among the main sources of threats against Sweden, along with China and Russia. Stenling said his agency had seen that the country was increasingly targeting the interests of states that it perceived itself as being in conflict with, such as Israel.

Israeli media, including The Times of Israel, earlier reported that the country’s Mossad spy agency had concluded that a criminal gang known as Foxtrot in Sweden was behind an attempted attack on the Israeli embassy in January, when a hand grenade was found inside the embassy grounds. According to the intelligence agency, the attack was carried out at Iran’s behest.

Swedish police declined to comment specifically on that attack or a subsequent event when gunfire was heard near the embassy.

The Foxtrot group has been involved in numerous violent conflicts in Sweden, contributing to an unprecedented rise in the number of gang-related firearm killings in recent years.

“We have seen that individuals have been moving between terrorism and violent extremism on the one hand, and organised crime on the other,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer said at the news conference. “What we are seeing now is also a connection between organised crime and state actors.”

UN tribute to Iran’s Raisi underscores divide in world body

A United Nations tribute to Iran’s late President Ebrahim Raisi, killed in a helicopter crash this month, showcased deep divisions in the world body, as many nations praised his legacy while the US and Israel boycotted the event.

Nate Evans, a spokesperson for the US mission, said that “some of the worst human rights abuses on record took place during his tenure”. The Israeli mission said, “It is a poor reflection on an organisation to eulogise a dictator responsible for the murder of thousands of his own citizens.”

By contrast, Burundi’s Ambassador Zéphyrin Maniratanga, speaking on behalf of 54 African countries, described Raisi as a “visionary leader” and praised him for fostering international cooperation. The representative of Uganda, speaking on behalf of so-called non-aligned nations, said Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who also died in the crash, played a crucial role in increasing cooperation among developing countries.

Representatives of Latin American and Asian countries also expressed their condolences before the nearly 200-member General Assembly, as European nations remained silent.

Read more: What death of President Raisi means for Iran, Mideast: QuickTake

Speaking before the General Assembly on Thursday morning, Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his deepest condolences to Raisi’s family, while adding that the UN “stands in solidarity with the Iranian people and in the quest for peace, development and fundamental freedoms”.

While the US State Department issued a statement expressing its “official condolences” after Raisi’s death, Secretary of State Antony Blinken soon after hastened to say that the people of Iran “are probably better off” and “we are definitely not grieving over his death”.

Netanyahu’s popularity on the rise in blow to Israeli rivals

Netanyahu is starting to regain his popularity after struggling politically for more than a year, out-polling his main rival Gantz for the first time since the war against Hamas began in October.

A Channel 12 survey conducted on Wednesday of 500 voters representing a cross-section of Israeli society asked: “Who is better suited to serve as prime minister?” It found that 36% chose Netanyahu and 30% Gantz. The margin of error was 4.4%.

Last month, Gantz was ahead by 35% to 29%.

In the new poll, Netanyahu was also ahead of opposition leader Yair Lapid by 37% to 30% and edged above former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett by 34%-32%. 

The findings represent a setback to Israeli opposition leaders who have been trying to work out a way to drive Netanyahu from office as the conflict in Gaza drags on, yet no election is due till 2026 and there’s little evidence that Netanyahu’s party members or coalition partners are ready to desert him.  

Gadi Eisenkot, a former military chief of staff and a member of Gantz’s party who’s in the inner Cabinet, spoke harshly of Netanyahu on Wednesday, accusing him of failing Israel and urging new elections before the end of the year.

The various coalition options favour the opposition forming a government if elections were held now. 

The survey found Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party making gains on Gantz’s centrist National Unity party. If elections were held today, Likud would win 21 seats and National Unity 25 out of parliament’s 120. That four-point gap compares with a December poll that had Gantz’s party at 37 and Netanyahu’s at 18.

The Gaza war started when Hamas militants invaded Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and abducting 250. Israel’s counterattack has left 36,000 dead, according to authorities in the Hamas-run territory who don’t distinguish between civilians and fighters. Hamas is viewed as a terrorist group by the US and European Union. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East crisis news hub

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Luke S says:

    On a meeting between the hostages’ families and the Israeli government:
    “…a fraught meeting between the captives’ families and Israeli officials on Thursday during which Israel’s National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said the government would not end its war on Gaza in return for securing the release of all the captives.”

    On the negotiations for peace:
    ““It won’t happen,” the unnamed official told Ynet. “Israel is fighting in Gaza, it will continue to fight in Gaza with all its strength, and if they [Hamas] want a truce for the benefit of Gaza’s residents it must only be through negotiating the release of hostages.””

    So to all who say “If Hamas will just release the hostages, and it will all be over”, the above is only one recent example of an Israeli government official, often very high-ranking to say that they will continue the ‘war’ whether the hostages are released or not.
    This isn’t a war. There is literally nothing that anyone in Gaza or Hamas can do to stop it. It is a massacre. The only information anyone gets about it comes from a very few journalists still left alive there, Hamas, and the Israeli government. Who can be believed? BBC verify has a number of articles where they have checked before and after satellite photos confirming residences destroyed on a massive scale. SA asked the ICJ to rule that Israel allow independent UN observers in, to get the truth, and they did just that, but Israel refuses, and continues to defend it’s actions based entirely on it’s own words. Words that they can simply make up as they go along, and often have.
    The world, and especially natives from the region who were kicked out for nothing more than a racist reason, are weary. We don’t do things like this anymore in this world. Share the country. If, by some miracle, the Israeli government actually does plan to share it eventually, and give everyone equal rights, they are doing an excellent job of making sure the non-Jews are in the minority when that happens. Genocidal intent, even if it doesn’t go all the way.

    • JP K says:

      Any thoughts on how this ends?

      • Luke S says:

        Yes, but I would be likely to disappear or experience a sudden, unexpected heart failure after a visit from some men in black if I expressed them.

        But seriously, America very clearly has double standards when it comes to who invades who and what they do, and that isn’t emotional or religious. Who would run the biggest monopoly that way? It’s carefully calculated. But the propaganda plays on emotions, of course. Like it always does.
        9/11 was planned and executed by extremist Saudi Arabians, unambiguously because the US forcefully exerts itself on the governments of oil-rich countries, and supports the suppression and repression of the Palestine locals. Either to keep them friends, no matter what their human rights record is, or to keep them poor and weak, if they won’t be friends. Israel is a very useful tool in that metaphorical and literal area. Immediately when it happened while the authorities were “looking the other way”, the response was “Weapons of Mass Destruction!” “Invade Iraq!” (because they’re all brown, right, so it’s the same thing: “Freedom!”). Kept them poor and weak. No connection other than religion and race to invade Iraq after 9/11. The US and half the world population ate it up like salt and vinegar chips with a cream cheese dip on a hangover.

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          Luke with his conspiracy theories, overactive imagination, paranoia and vivid description of the munchies. Definitely a stoner

        • JP K says:

          I agree on the selective application of international law. I think the credibility of the west has also been shown up in a way that to me feels different from say the invasion of Iraq. For me, I’ve no idea how this ends – other than genocide. Globally, maybe we’ll have a reshaping but probably not.

      • Luke S says:

        So tell me, after reading the first hand descriptions of the young IDF women in the observation towers, on the BBC news site from a few months ago, and how they were ignored while reporting military training exercises, do you think that the world’s strongest powers, playing in the world’s resource-rich areas, didn’t just look in the other direction so that they had a good reason to go and spray some pesticide on that population of weeds that’s growing pretty fast?

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    Netanyahu … Trump … Zuma. It’s like the more vilified – the better they end up in the ballot boxes.

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