Police apprehend alleged diamond smugglers; a newspaper defends Saudi Arabia; and Netanyahu backs death penalty bill
Khashoggi killing not a reason to end Saudi love-in, says columnist
The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is not a nearly sufficient reason to reevaluate Israel’s nascent alliance with the House of Saud, argues Tel Aviv University Professor of History Eyal Zisser in the pages of right-wing newspaper Israel Hayom on Monday.
Zisser hailed Saudi Arabia for standing up to Israel’s archrival Iran - unlike, he said, Turkey.
At present, Israel and the US have no other regional ally that is “trustworthy and stable like Saudi Arabia,” Zisser argued, adding that even if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was not an ideal leader, the rest of the royal family would have a moderating influence on him.
International opinion may have turned Saudi Arabia into the “criminal of the month” that “everyone beats on” – but this criticism, the Israeli professor said, was “greatly hypocritical” and would not convince the Gulf kingdom to respect human rights and freedom of the press. Instead, he said, such a move would end up empowering Iran.
Israel has struggled with how to handle the aftermath of Khashoggi’s death, as the international uproar has threatened its growing relationship with Saudi Arabia - which is believed to be playing a role in pushing US President Donald Trump’s "deal of the century".
Netanyahu backs death penalty for 'terrorists'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signalled his support for a draft law that would allow for “terrorists” caught and convicted by Israel could face the death penalty, national broadcaster Kan reported.
The bill is still in the first stages of the legislative process, but with the open support of the prime minister, it stands a good chance of passing into law during the winter session of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
Netanyahu is believed to have lent his backing to the death penalty bill in the wake of warnings from the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party, the bill’s chief proponent.
Yisrael Beiteinu had previously informed the ruling Likud party that it would not consider itself bound by their ruling coalition agreement - mandating that its members vote with the government on other legislation - if their own legislative efforts, such as the death penalty bill, did not receive the Likud’s endorsement as well.
The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will hold its first discussion on the bill on 14 November. A subsequent discussion has already been scheduled to facilitate a preliminary vote on the bill in the Knesset plenum soon afterwards.
“We will not back down and we will not stop until we complete this objective,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted on Tuesday in support of the draft law, stating that its advancement was the fruit of “over three years of determined struggle”.
Relatives of Israeli diamond tycoon arrested
The brother and son of Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev, as well as four of Leviev’s employees, were arrested by police six months into an investigation regarding alleged smuggling, money laundering, conspiracy, and other violations, Maariv reported, in a case that has attracted national coverage.
Additional arrests in relation to the case are expected to follow.
Police suspect that over a six year period, Leviev’s brother, son and at least four other associates helped to smuggle diamonds worth over $100m into the country without informing relevant government officials.
Among the six arrests is the former manager of a diamond polishing plant that Leviev owns in Russia, reported Haaretz.
Authorities believe that, upon moving back to Israel after an extended term living abroad, a senior Leviev employee hid the precious stones inside the numerous suitcases he was allowed by law to bring back into the country.
Leviev’s firm, LLD Diamonds, has rejected the charges, saying in a statement: “Mr Leviev and the firms under his control operated according to the accepted norms, vigilant in observing the law. We hope that the matter will be cleared up quickly and the allegations will be revealed to lack any basis.”