JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s new prime minister appealed to the international community to stand together against Iran, accusing Tehran of marching toward the development of a nuclear weapon and threatening to act alone if the world does not take action.
In his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Naftali Bennett made no mention of Israel’s decadeslong conflict with the Palestinians and instead sought to portray Iran as a menace to global security.
“Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance,” he said. “Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.”
After four inconclusive elections in two years, Bennett succeeded the longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June by forming a diverse coalition of small and midsize parties spanning the Israeli political spectrum.
Where Netanyahu was famous for his showmanship, combativeness and use of visual props in his addresses to the U.N., Bennett — a former high-tech executive — took a more traditional approach. His voice was measured as he sought to portray his country as a “lighthouse in a stormy sea” of the volatile Mideast.
But the content of his message was largely similar to that of Netanyahu as he focused heavily on archenemy Iran.
“Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region — and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella,” Bennett said.
He called Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, the “butcher of Tehran” for his past role in suppressing political dissent and accused Iran of arming, funding and training Israel’s enemies across the region. He said Iranian meddling had brought disaster to countries like Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
“Every place Iran touches fails,” he said, claiming that Iranian activities threatened the entire world. He pointed to Iran’s development of attack drones, which have been blamed for a string of attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf.
Israel believes that Iran aims to develop nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies — and says the international nuclear accord reached with Iran in 2015 did not include enough safeguards to keep Iran from reaching a weapons capability.
Israel welcomed then-President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord in 2018 and has made clear that it opposes the Biden administration’s willingness to return to the agreement. Israel says the agreement needs major modifications before it can be reinstated.
Bennett said that some in the international community have concluded that a nuclear-capable Iran is an “inevitable reality.”
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar Airways announced that it suffered a more than $4 billion loss in revenues over the last fiscal year, as lockdowns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic slashed demand for long-haul travel.
The major loss, which the state-owned airline largely attributed to the grounding of its Airbus A380 and A330 wide-body jets, highlights the dramatic toll of the pandemic on the industry.
Even so, the Doha-based airline reported an increase in earnings to $1.6 billion before taxes and other costs compared to the previous year — costs that dropped significantly as the airline saved on jet fuel, reduced salaries by 15% and cut some 13,400 employees from its workforce. The pandemic has hit international routes the hardest, dealing a heavy blow to super-connectors in the Persian Gulf that essentially lack domestic markets.
In the last several months, the flagship carrier has received a boost from an end to a yearslong boycott that locked Qatar Airways out of the airspace of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The embargo had forced the airline to take longer routes and consume more jet fuel, raising expenses. For the first time since 2017, the energy-rich state’s airline reopened key routes to hubs like Dubai, Cairo and Riyadh as the political dispute eased in January.
The long-haul carrier praised its resilience in the face of the fast-spreading virus variants still racing around the globe, noting that its operational loss of $288 million stood at 7% less than the year before.
“Whilst our competitors grounded their aircraft and closed their routes, we adapted our entire commercial operation to respond to ever-evolving travel restrictions and never stopped flying,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said in a statement.
The airline acknowledged receiving a $3 billion lifeline from the Qatari government to keep operating as it struggled with virus restrictions. Revenue for the airline fell to over $8 billion from $14 billion the year before. The airline incurred charges that ran to $2.3 billion over the grounding of its wide-body fleet.
The carrier took just 5.8 million passengers to the skies in the last fiscal year, compared to 32.3 million the year before — a staggering 82% drop.
TOKYO (AP) — The inclusion of two women among the four candidates vying to become the next prime minister seems like a big step forward for Japan’s notoriously sexist politics. But their fate is in the hands of a conservative, mostly male governing party — and the leading female candidate has been criticized by observers for her right-wing gender policies.
Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda are the first women in 13 years seeking the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in an election. The winner is certain to become the next prime minister because of a parliamentary majority held by the LDP and its coalition partner.
While both are LDP members, they are political opposites in many ways. The ultra-conservative Takaichi advocates a kind of paternalistic nationalism and a stronger military, while the liberal-leaning, pacifist Noda supports women’s advancement and sexual diversity.
“As tiny minorities in Japanese politics, women have limited choices to survive and succeed; they can confront the boys’ club politics or they can be loyal to them,” said Mayumi Taniguchi, an expert on women’s roles in society and politics at the Osaka University of Arts.
Takaichi apparently chose loyalty while Noda appears to work outside the mainstream but without being confrontational, Taniguchi said. “They are quite different.”
In the race to pick a successor to outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the women are competing against vaccinations minister Taro Kono and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Kono and Kishida are considered the top candidates; both are from well-known political families and belong to powerful party factions.
But Takaichi is seen by some as a fast-rising candidate, with the crucial backing of former leader Shinzo Abe, whose arch-conservative vision she supports. The latest media surveys of party lawmakers show she is beginning to rake in support from party conservatives, while Noda remains firmly in fourth place.
The only other earlier female candidate was Yuriko Koike, currently serving as Tokyo governor, who made a run in 2008.
While it’s unlikely either Takaichi or Noda will become prime minister, having two women try for the top job is considered progress for the ruling party. Some experts, however, have criticized Takaichi’s gender policies.