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Israeli press review: Netanyahu holds crisis meeting over Russia tensions

Russia's transfer of anti-missile systems to Syria alarms security cabinet, while MK's meeting with Bulgarian 'Holocaust denier' draws criticism
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin in May (AFP)

Netanyahu convenes cabinet amid tensions with Russia over downed jet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his security cabinet on Tuesday to discuss heightened tensions with Russia, after Moscow announced it would transfer an advanced anti-missile system to Syria, Ynet reported.

Russia approved the transfer of the S-300 missile defence system after the Syrian army accidentally downed a Russian plane during an Israeli air strike on Syria last week. Fifteen Russian crewmen were killed in the incident.

Speaking on Monday by phone with Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu pressured the Russian president to repeal his decision, saying that “transferring advanced weapons systems into irresponsible hands will increase the dangers in the region”.

Once they are installed in the coming weeks, the Russian S-300 ground-to-air missiles are expected to significantly inhibit Israel’s freedom of action over Syrian skies.

In the past year, Israeli jets have bombed more than two hundred targets in Syria, according to the Times of Israel. The Israeli military contends that its attacks are aimed at preventing Iran from putting down roots on Syrian soil.

Following the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu will fly to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, accompanied by his ministers of communications and culture.

Foreign ministry irked over MK meet with Bulgarian far-right

Israel’s Foreign Ministry levelled harsh criticism at a lawmaker from the ruling Likud party, accusing him of meeting with “an anti-Semite” and “Holocaust denier” during a trip this week to Bulgaria, Israel Hayom reported.

“MK [Oren] Hazan travelled on his own initiative. He arranged his own meetings without coordinating anything with us or with the [Israel] embassy. That is how he met with a far-right leader, an anti-semite, a Holocaust denier, a meeting that is completely unacceptable,” the foreign ministry wrote.

The paper published a selfie taken by Hazan with Volen Siderov, the leader of the Attack Party, the second-largest party in the Bulgarian parliament.

Without naming Siderov, Hazan told a reporter that one of his Bulgarian meetings was attended by “a man who wrote or translated a book on Mein Kampf” - a manifesto written by Adolf Hitler – and that the man “apologised over it”.

In 2010, Siderov said in a television interview that a Bulgarian security-agent-turned businessman provided Israeli embassy employees with prostitutes.

Hazan previously lived in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas for two years, managing a casino there. A 2015 Israeli news report alleged that Hazan had procured prostitutes for visitors to the casino.

Israeli ministry to car rental company: Stop discriminating against Arabs

The anti-racism unit of Israel’s Justice Ministry has instructed local outlets of the US-based car rental company Budget to end their discriminatory policies towards Palestinian citizens of Israel, Mako reported.

In a letter, the ministry instructed Budget “to end forthwith all discrimination towards citizens of Arab ethnicity specifically, and towards any person generally, and to publish clear instructions that forbid discriminatory service on a racist basis".

The ministry also instructed Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh to investigate the company’s practices.

The move followed a news report last month which revealed that the firm had circulated an email among its staff instructing them not to rent vehicles to Palestinian citizens of Israel who make up about 20 percent of the population. In the email, Budget blamed Arab customers for recent losses.

“In recent days, several vehicles have been stolen in the South. Additionally, vehicles were returned damaged. And to top it off, there was a confrontation at one of the branches. It’s been decided unequivocally that we want to reduce losses, and therefore we are not renting vehicles at all to [Arab customers],” read an internal Budget email published by Mako.

The 60-year-old American car rental company has 800 offices in the United States, and more than twice that number overseas. In 2006, the firm merged with rival car rental company Avis.

*The Hebrew press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.