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Israeli press review: Labor MP caught by surprise as Peretz joins Netanyahu

Meanwhile, Israel's attorney-general is embroiled in yet another row, and a Palestinian citizen of Israel is denied a press card on security grounds
Amir Peretz, head of the Labor party, addresses a conference ahead of national elections (Reuters)

Gantz and Peretz agree on government deal 

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, and Amir Peretz, head of Labor, agreed together to enter into a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud without consulting many of their allies, Yisrael Hayom reported.

As a result of the deal, reportedly agreed Friday, it sees Peretz serving as minister of economy and industry, and his fellow Labor MP Itzik Shmuli as welfare minister.

Gantz, who was challenging Netanyahu for the premiership, will take the defence portfolio.

Israel’s Labor party has historically been a major player on the political scene, but it only secured three seats in the Knesset in the March election.

The deal was signed secretly between Peretz, Shmuli, and Gantz. Merav Michaeli, the third of Labor’s MPs, opposed entering into a coalition with Netanyahu and only found out about it from newspapers.

"They don't care about our voters or our members and [signing the deal now] proves that they also don't care about the activists at the convention," Michaeli said.

He said that Labor’s activists will vote against the deal next Sunday at the party’s conference, saying they will not enter “Netanyahu’s immunity from prosecution government”.

Huge row breaks out in judiciary

Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Dan Eldad, the acting state attorney, have engaged in a war of words over “professional and managerial matters”, according to local media.

Mandelblit, who is under fire from Netanyahu and his supporters for indicting the premier, accuses Eldad of undermining him and not respecting due process.

A number of senior members of Israel’s state prosecutor's office issued a letter critical of Eldad, saying that “we are horrified by [his] conduct, which has no place in an organisation with values of integrity, honesty and lawfulness”.

Eldad was appointed in February on a three-month contract by outgoing Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana, a close ally of Netanyahu. He is set to leave his post on 1 May.

Mandelblit initially opposed Eldad's appointment but subsequently approved it. He now vehemently opposes extending Eldad’s tenure by another three months.

Mandelblit said that he found Eldad “unfit” for the office.

“[Eldad] concealed from me professional and managerial matters he was involved in, as well as meetings he held with the justice minister, despite the fact that I had instructed him to fully update me on such matters,” Mandelblit wrote in a letter to Israel’s civil service commissioner.

“Eldad’s conduct as acting state attorney is morally, administratively and professionally lacking in a manner that harms the work of the state prosecution,” he said.

The acting state attorney responded by saying that Mandleblit's comments were “unfounded” after he “unearthed worrying information about” the attorney-general.

“From day one… Avichai Mandelblit did everything possible to sabotage my work and interfere with my proper conduct,” Eldad said.

Ohana, meanwhile, issued a statement endorsing his nominee Eldad, saying: “I have not met many attorneys as honest, decent, moral and professional as Dan Eldad… The justice system is insisting on destroying what little public trust it still enjoys.”

Palestinian citizen of Israel denied press card

Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) has rejected an application for a press card from Hiba Masalha, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and journalist working with Al-Arz Productions in Nazareth, Haaretz reported.

Masalha, 30, holds a degree in communications from the Arab American University in Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

The GPO rejected Masalha’s application, saying that a press card will not be issued “to any applicant if the director is of the opinion, after consultation with security authorities, that providing the cards may endanger state security”.

Haaretz said that Israel’s internal espionage agency, the Shin Bet, recommended that Masalha’s request be rejected.

All of Masalha’s colleagues at Al-Arz Productions who applied have been issued press cards.

She has never been arrested or investigated, according to Haaretz, but since 2017 has been married to a Palestinian who has some acquaintances that were arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank, the newspaper reported.