Israel – Palestine/Gaza 2015 – 2016

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28 December
Thomas L. Friedman: Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump
The settlers’ goal is very clear, as Kerry put it on Wednesday: to strategically place settlements “in locations that make two states impossible,” so that Israel will eventually annex all of the West Bank. Netanyahu knows this will bring huge problems, but his heart is with the settlers, and his passion is with holding power — at any cost. So in any crunch, he sides with the settlers, and they keep pushing.
… Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk toward annexing the West Bank and becoming either a bi-national Arab-Jewish state or some Middle Eastern version of 1960s South Africa, where Israel has to systematically deprive large elements of its population of democratic rights to preserve the state’s Jewish character. …
What a true friend of Israel and foe of Iran would do today is just what Obama and Kerry tried — assure Israel long-term military superiority to the tune of $38 billion, but, unlike Trump, who is just passing Israel another bottle of wine, tell our dear ally that it’s driving drunk, needs to stop the settlements and apply that amazing Israeli imagination to preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
(Quartz morning round-up) John Kerry makes a last-ditch Israel-Palestine peace proposal. Days after the US allowed the UN to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion, the secretary of State will lay out a plan for a two-state solution. It will be symbolic, since Israel has resisted recent US peace efforts and Donald Trump is likely to dismantle them
Netanyahu ‘told New Zealand backing UN vote would be declaration of war’
Israeli PM reportedly warned that support for motion on settlements would ‘rupture relations’ between two countries
(The Guardian) … [However] in a sign that the international pressure may be being felt by the Netanyahu administration, scheduled plans to consider for approval 600 new settlement houses in occupied east Jerusalem were abruptly removed from the agenda of the city’s municipality on Wednesday.
Netanyahu’s language and behaviour – which has resulted in ambassadors being reprimanded and consultations with foreign leaders, including the UK’s Theresa May, cancelled – has raised eyebrows among foreign diplomats, who point out that the UN resolution does no more than confirm the longstanding view of the international community on Jewish settlements.
26 December
The genius of the UN’s resolution on Israeli settlements
By Bob Carr, former foreign minister and NSW premier and patron of Australian Labor Friends of Palestine
(The Age, Australia) Both Labor and Likud governments have funded settlers, many religious extremists, and gifted them the best land.
Meanwhile, Palestinians are denied building approval for homes, even a chicken coop. If in Area C they throw up a granny flat it’s promptly demolished by army bulldozers.
If Israel is really open to giving the land back in a peace deal why allow settlements in the first place? …  And settlements not just along the border. Thirty-five per cent are now being approved deep in the territory everyone sees as an ultimate Palestinian state.
This is the essence of the boiling US frustration that resulted in America refusing to veto Friday’s Security Council resolution.
John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations committee that within days of a peace deal in 2014 along came an announcement of 700 new settlement units. “Poof!” he said, the deal got blown sky high. Barack Obama’s envoy and former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, confirms settlements destroyed the deal. Obama has said the same. Hence this parting gift by the outgoing President to a headstrong Israel.
… Sixty per cent of the Netanyahu cabinet – the most chauvinist in the nation’s history – are on record opposing a two-state solution. In other words, they want an indefinite occupation. Settlements are vital to their design – backed by demolitions and land confiscation, nothing less than a creeping annexation.
… The Security Council resolution demands that the world now treat settlements differently from the rest of Israel.
The resolution has undermined the nationalist strategy that says Israel can lose Europe but enjoy new partnerships in Asia and Africa and with Vladimir Putin. In the end not only France and Britain but Russia and China voted to brand settlements flagrantly illegal. Netanyahu is left vowing retaliation against plucky little New Zealand and Senegal.
Donald Trump can tweet and bluster. But the resolution stands as international law, to be taken seriously by cabinets and bind the International Criminal Court. After years of provocation by Israeli hawks that’s the genius of what Obama and Kerry have pulled off.
If Israel responds with more settlements, or annexes slabs of the West Bank, then UN agencies and member states have to decide how to react.
Defying U.N., Israel Prepares to Build More Settlements
Just a few days after the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes.
The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the Council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. American officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Mr. Obama hands over the presidency to Donald J. Trump.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the American ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern on Monday that Mr. Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month.
30 September
World Leaders Gather to Mourn Shimon Peres, and Possibly His Dream
(NYT) From across the ocean and across the Green Line, they came on Friday to the mountaintop sanctuary of Mount Herzl to bid farewell to Shimon Peres, marking what one called the “end of the era of giants.” But the question of the moment was whether it was a funeral for a man or for his dream.
Twenty-three years after Mr. Peres helped negotiate the Oslo Accords heralding peace between Israelis and Palestinians, President Obama and other leaders from around the world paid homage to his tenacious search for reconciliation. And yet the memorial service made clear how elusive that idea has actually become in this part of the world.
The funeral brought together Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, something no mediator has been able to do in recent years, and the men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. But the encounter went no further, and the momentary pause in their war of words seemed unlikely to last beyond the interment.
29 September
With the death of Shimon Peres, “Israel has lost its chief optimist,” argues Jeffrey Goldberg:
The Unbearable Smallness of Benjamin Netanyahu
With the death of Shimon Peres, Israel has lost its chief optimist. And the prime minister remains paralyzed by pessimism.
(The Atlantic) Peres was, for so many years, a prophet without honor in his own country, but he was someone who, late in life, came to symbolize Israel’s big-hearted, free-thinking, inventive, and democratic promise. … Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, [is] the spiritual nemesis of Peres. It is Netanyahu who symbolizes the Israel of the blind, the Israel that ignores the crumbling status quo, the Israel that has convinced itself that its hundred-year war will go on for another thousand years, the Israel that lives a Judaism out of balance, tragically captive to the rock-worshippers of the settlement movement. Peres, though guilty, earlier in life, of encouraging the settlement of the West Bank, was always wedded to the progressive Zionist notion that possession by the Jews of the Land of Israel was not an end in itself. Peres understood that the Jewish people have a mission larger than themselves, and that Israel could, in fact, do two things at once—survive in an inhospitable environment, and serve as a light to the nations, rather than be the nation that forever dwells alone.
28 September
shimon-peresShimon Peres, Nobel winner and giant of Israeli politics, dies at 93
Leading political figure served twice as prime minister, once as president and won Nobel peace prize
(The Guardian) He had been seriously ill on a respirator in an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv and died after his condition deteriorated sharply.
Among those who have said they will attend his funeral and burial on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl on Friday are Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, as well as Prince Charles and François Hollande.
In more than six decades of political life his defining achievement was as one of the key architects of the Oslo peace accords, for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1994 with the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Those peace agreements – signed in Washington in 1993 and Taba, Egypt in 1995, – foresaw the creation of a Palestinian state, and were named after the Norwegian capital where the two sides launched eight months of secret negotiations in which Peres played a key role.
With Peres’s death the last of that trio has now gone.
(BBC) Shimon Peres’s death closes a chapter in Israel’s history

20 June
Israel’s New Settlement Spending Deeply Irresponsible
(J Street) The Israeli cabinet’s decision on Sunday to approve an additional $20 million for West Bank settlements is deeply irresponsible and a deliberate challenge to the United States at a time when the two nations are negotiating a massive military aid agreement to cover the next 10 years.
The government’s official pretext for the appropriation — which comes on top of previously-approved spending on the settlements –- was “the security situation” in the occupied territory. But much of the money will in fact be spent on purely civilian projects like bolstering business development and tourism in the West Bank
19 June
Jeremy Ben-Ami: Word on the Street: Political Change in Israel
(J Street) Most Americans who care deeply about the future of Israel have watched in agony as Prime Minister Netanyahu has led the country ever further to the right politically in ways that challenge the democratic nature and Jewish character of the state.
I’m sure many viewed the replacement of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon with Avigdor Lieberman and the addition of his right-wing party to the governing coalition as simply a further reason for despair.
Yet what I saw on my visit — and what we saw this week in other political developments there — is the emergence of a fracture in Israeli politics that may well spell the end of two decades of Netanyahu dominance.
25 May
Will Bernie Sanders Ignite Israel Feud at Democratic Convention?
(Forward) Nathan Guttman reports, “Sanders would like to include in the platform explicit reference to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, recognition of the Palestinian right to statehood and wording that would frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a two-sided issue, instead of viewing it only from the Israeli perspective. An official draft of his desired changes has yet to be introduced, according to a source with direct knowledge of the document.”
31 January

The Ayatollah’s Plan for Israel and Palestine
(Gatestone Institute) The book has received approval from Khamenei’s office and is thus the most authoritative document regarding his position on the issue.
Khamenei makes his position clear from the start: Israel has no right to exist as a state He claims his strategy for the destruction of Israel is not based on anti-Semitism, which he describes as a European phenomenon. His position is based on “well-established Islamic principles.”
According to Khamenei, Israel, which he labels an “enemy” and “foe,” is a special case for three reasons. The first is that it is a loyal “ally of the American Great Satan” and a key element in its “evil scheme” to dominate “the heartland of the Ummah.”
Khamenei describes Israel as “a cancerous tumor” whose elimination would mean that “the West’s hegemony and threats will be discredited” in the Middle East. In its place, he boasts,” the hegemony of Iran will be promoted.”
Khamenei’s tears for “the sufferings of Palestinian Muslims” are also unconvincing. To start with, not all Palestinians are Muslims. And, if it were only Muslim sufferers who deserved sympathy, why doesn’t he beat his chest about the Burmese Rohingya and the Chechens massacred and enchained by Vladimir Putin, not to mention Muslims daily killed by fellow-Muslims across the globe? (31 July 2015)

Ban: Israel, Palestinians must work toward 2-state solution
Israelis and Palestinians must address long-standing unrest without giving up on a two-state solution, writes United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I will always stand up to those who challenge Israel’s right to exist, just as I will always defend the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own,” he writes. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (1/31), The Times of Israel/Agence France-Presse (1/30)
29 January
Nothing beats the two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians
(Brookings) Let’s take a moment for a thought experiment. I do this days after more Palestinian attacks on Israelis, including the horrific murder of a mother of six children; soon after Israel announced the expropriation of another 370 acres of land near Jericho; and after Majed Faraj, the Palestinian security chief, announced that Palestinian security forces had intercepted 200 potential terrorist attacks against Israel. The thought experiment focuses on whether the “Plan B” for the Israel-Palestine dispute should be Israel’s annexation of the territories it occupied in 1967 and the extension of full citizenship rights to the Palestinians in those areas. … the two-state solution, based on partition of the land, appears to offer the best chance for long term peace. I would dump all Plan B’s and C’s in a heartbeat if leadership emerged in Israel and Palestine—and in the United States—that proved willing to move toward a two-state outcome. I still count myself among the dying breed of those who believe fervently in the two-state solution.
But hoping for better, stronger, more farsighted leadership is not a substitute for policy. The fact is that both Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are further today from bringing forth such leaders than at any time before. Even if Benjamin Netanyahu yields the prime minister’s office to another contender, no one in Israel is proposing the kind of far-reaching accommodation toward which Ehud Olmert was heading in 2008. None of Mahmoud Abbas’s likely successors has even articulated a reasonable peace plan. And none of the candidates for U.S. president is likely to be as committed to the search for peace as Barack Obama has been, and even his commitment has fallen far short of what is needed to move the recalcitrant parties toward peace. The sad reality is that politics—not policy, per se—is what blocks progress toward a two-state solution.
10 January
Israel appoints interior minister who served time for corruption
Israeli cabinet has approved Arieh Deri as the new minister of interior, despite his prison record. Deri, the leader of the ultra-Ortodox Shas party, had spent two years in jail for taking bribes.
Commenting on Deri’s newest appointment, attorney general Yehuda Weinstein said the move was legal, but also “on the limit of what’s appropriate.”

2015

Israelis, Palestinians look ahead with conflicting views
As 2015 closes during a wave of violence, hawkish Israelis in the government say their country is thriving despite criticism, while Palestinians say a lack of leadership and harsh Israeli policies point to a gloomy 2016.
31 December – 2 January 2016
A Pathetic, Racist Milestone on Road of Nationalist Indoctrination of Israeli Children
Even if the decision to ban ‘Borderlife’ from high schools is reversed, it won’t be enough. Netanyahu’s silence proves that his government is sending Israel into the abyss of darkness and racism.
(Haaretz) The Education Ministry’s decision not to allow Dorit Rabinyan’s “Borderlife” to be taught in Israeli high schools was a pathetic one. The reasons given by senior ministry officials to justify their veto had little, if any, connection to education in the accepted sense of enabling students to acquire a better, and generally more complex, understanding of reality. Under Education Minister Naftali Bennett, these goals evidently aren’t at the top of the ministry’s agenda, or even at the bottom.
Novel about Jewish-Palestinian love affair is barred from Israeli curriculum
Government accused of censorship after reportedly saying the award-winning Borderlife by Dorit Rabinyan risked damaging the ‘identity of the nation’
(The Guardian) The rejection of Dorit Rabinyan’s novel Borderlife, which was published in 2014, created an uproar in Israel, with critics accusing the government of censorship.
Earlier, Haaretz cited a letter by ministry official Dalia Fenig, who wrote that the book, which this year received Israel’s prestigious Bernstein literary prize, was excluded because its content was deemed unfit for high school students.
“Adolescent youth tend to romanticise and don’t have, in many cases, the systematic point of view that includes considerations about preserving the identity of the nation and the significance of assimilation,” Fenig was quoted as writing in the letter.
Principals, teachers decry banning of Arab-Jewish love story from schools
Fear is overtaking reason, teachers association says, after Education Ministry rejects novel about relationship between Israeli woman and Palestinian man.
What would we do without our beloved Tony Deutsch to set the record straight?

If memory serves right, Israel has a Jewish population of about six million. Among any group of that size, you will have persons who are stupid, bigoted, and believe in racial superiority, preferably their own. It is truly unfortunate if a small group of such people finds itself within the government, in a position to influence policy. Please note that Israel’s electoral system of proportional representation encourages small parties with some bee in their bonnet (El Al cannot fly on Saturdays) to become very influential by contributing the last three parliamentary votes to keep a government in office.
Now for the immediate subject at hand: mixed couples (Arab-Jewish) do exist in Israel. On my 1981 visit the teen-aged daughter of one of my Jewish colleagues was living with her Arab boyfriend, and as far as I could tell, no one bothered them in public . We went out to share meals a few times, and the young man, who knew all kinds of hidden Arab culinary gems in the Palestinian hills, made his very distinct contribution to our collective well-being. I understand that the couple broke up shortly after my visit, but teen-aged couples do that anywhere without any global tensions surrounding their relationship. Now please note what is not happening . No one is burning the book (or the author!) or banning it from commercial sale. (Bet you the sales are getting a real boost from the controversy!) [ DTN note The Guardian reports: “Israel’s Channel 2 TV reported that sales of the book have increased dramatically since the ban and its news anchor jokingly asked education minister Naftali Bennett if the author had thanked him.”]
It is probable that the target group of senior high school students take a real interest in discovering the forbidden fruit. On balance, the book-banning is likely to be totally counter-productive.
Let me wish everyone a 2016 marked, among other things, by the tolerance of strange ideas!

9 December
A Trump-Netanyahu Meeting Is Happening
The Republican presidential candidate’s visit to Israel was scheduled before his controversial remarks about Muslims.
Trump’s visit to Israel, which he announced on Twitter on Tuesday, has proven highly controversial, and his proposed meeting with Netanyahu has been condemned by some Israeli lawmakers, mostly Israeli Arabs and members of leftist parties.
11 November
EU Says Products Made In Palestinian Territories Should Not Be Labeled “Made In Israel”
(World Post) The European Union released a highly anticipated set of guidelines Wednesday instructing member states how to differentiate between products produced within Israel’s 1967 borders and products made in the occupied Palestinian territories
Under pre-existing laws, European Union member states are required to label the origin of some products, including produce, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs and poultry. Labeling for other industrial products is voluntary. The new guidelines direct member countries to avoid labeling products as “made in Israel” if they are produced in the West Bank, Golan Heights or East Jerusalem.
“The EU legislation on indication of origin is very clear: ‘Made in Israel’ used for the products coming from Israeli settlements would mislead the consumer and therefore is inconsistent with existing EU legislation,” an EU fact sheet explains.
The guidelines direct member states to further differentiate between products that are made in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and goods that are produced in the territories, but not in an Israeli settlement.
9 November
Israel: Netanyahu government approves 2,200 new settlement homes amid rising violence
(IBT) Israel’s prime minister has approved initial plans for 2,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank ahead of his high-profile meeting with US President Barack Obama.
The revelation comes amid a wave of violence, dubbed locally as “the knife intifada”, that has sent tensions running high in the region. Since mid-September, 12 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbing assaults. Meanwhile, 75 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 48 said by Israel to be involved in attacks or attempted attacks.
According to newspaper Hareetz, the plans of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu include the construction of 2,200 homes by 2030 in several settlements, which the international community considers as illegal or illegitimate.
26 October
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Latest Rejection Of A Palestinian State
“You think there is a magic wand here, but I disagree,” he told his political opponents, who have been pushing for peace talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed that he does not envision a two-state solution for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories any time soon
During a parliamentary committee meeting, Netanyahu told members of the Knesset that he has no current plans to surrender control of the occupied West Bank to the Palestinians as part of a peace agreement. “At this time, we need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future,” he told lawmakers, reported Haaretz.
Netanyahu accused members of the opposition government, who have lobbied for renewed two-state solution negotiations, of indulging in an unrealistic fantasy.
21 October
Hitler and Grand MuftiNetanyahu’s fairytale about Hitler and the mufti is the last thing we need
Tom Segev
The Israeli prime minister’s outrageous claim that the Palestinian mufti had inspired the Holocaust comes at an extremely delicate moment
(The Guardian) All Israeli governments have used the Holocaust as a political argument. Every Arab leader since 1948 has been compared at least once to Hitler. All Arab countries have compared Israel to the Nazis. And the Arabs have always refused to acknowledge that the Holocaust is a central element of the Israeli identity. This is particularly unfortunate because unless one understands one’s enemy, one cannot make peace.
Netanyahu has used such rhetoric in his flamboyant speeches against the Iran nuclear agreement, particularly in the US Congress and the UN general assembly. The story of the mufti is also not new to him; apparently it appears in one of his books. It is based on the postwar contention of one of Adolf Eichmann’s aides, Dieter Wisliceny, who also described a conducted tour of Auschwitz that the mufti was supposedly given by Adolf Eichmann. But the exact dialogue between the mufti and Hitler that Netanyahu presented this week goes far beyond anything even he has claimed before.
15 October
Can Anyone Prevent a Third Intifada?
A wave of violence is spreading across Israel — and a leadership vacuum on both sides is allowing it to spiral out of control.
(Foreign Policy) Call it the Third Intifada, a “wave of terror,” or the “Jerusalem Awakening” — perhaps the best way to describe the violence is, simply, “the future.” Netanyahu has ruled the land for six years and seems to have no aspirations beyond indefinitely prolonging the status quo. Abbas is exhausted and isolated, and while he succeeded in raising the Palestinian flag outside the United Nations, that symbolic gesture brings Palestinians no closer to raising it over a capital in East Jerusalem.
The two men can seem like mirror images: unpopular, uninspired leaders who allowed the ailing two-state solution to die a slow death on their watch. A poll conducted last month found that 51 percent of Palestinians no longer believe in it, the highest number ever recorded. It also found, for the first time, that a majority want to dissolve the PA.
“The first intifada gave us the [Palestinian] Authority,” one young man in Jabal al-Mukaber said on Tuesday, dragging on a cigarette and glaring at the hastily erected Israeli checkpoint down the road. “The Third Intifada, maybe we’ll give it back.”
Israel police authorised to seal off Jerusalem areas after attacks
(BBC) Near-daily stabbings by Palestinians have left dozens of Israelis dead and wounded over the past fortnight. Several attackers and at least 18 other Palestinians have also been killed.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated since last month, fuelled by clashes at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and across the Gaza border, as well as the wave of stabbings.
Behind Palestinian-Israeli attacks, angry youth and women … and al-Aqsa
(Reuters) In the absence of any negotiations towards a two-state solution to the conflict – the last talks with Israel collapsed in April 2014 – Al-Aqsa has taken on a national symbolism beyond its religious significance for all Muslims. Anger over Al-Aqsa is fuelled by the perception among many Palestinians that Jewish groups are being given freer rein to visit the site and frequently try to pray there, despite non-Muslim prayer being banned since the 12th century.
Netanyahu has repeatedly said he has no intention of changing the status quo, but his reassurances have done little to calm Palestinian anger. Every perceived violation is quickly shared on social media, creating an echo-chamber of outrage.
Is a third Palestinian Intifada imminent? (video)
(Al Jazeera) Further violence in Palestinian territories and Israel raises fears of a new uprising
8 October
Netanyahu and Khamenei’s political tango
(Open Canada) The Supreme Leader of Iran and the prime minister of Israel appear to have nothing in common, but both need each other more than they’d care to admit
Netanyahu and his right wing coalition need to use politics of fear and present to the Israeli public and to the world the imagery of such a powerful external enemy. He needs the likes of Ahmadinejad to divert attention from the very serious and real Palestinian issue, and Israel’s internal economic and social problems.
Nonetheless, regardless of how hard he tries, Netanyahu cannot divert the world’s attention from the real issues that Israel faces. As evidenced by the very recent heightened tensions and confrontations in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, without resolving Palestinian issues, halting the settlements, lifting the strangulation of the Gazan people, and working towards the establishment of a viable democratic and secular Palestinian state, Israel will continue to face increasing internal problems and further isolation.
Both Israeli and Iranian peoples need and deserve a different type of leadership. Iranians live under a brutal clerical-military regime and for now they do not have the possibility of changing their regime through a democratic process – something that the Israelis have, and we should hope that, instead of buying into the politics of fear, they would use this process to elect a pro-peace government.
29 September
Al-Aqsa tensions trigger clashes across West Bank
(Al Jazeera) Clashes have consumed large parts of the West Bank as Israel places strict age restrictions on the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Since Monday morning, Palestinian men under the age of 50 have been barred from visiting the mosque, while women have not faced any age restrictions. An Israeli police spokesman was not available for comment.
The mosque is the third holiest site for Muslims. “It is in occupied territory and Palestinians have a right to defend their places of worship,” Zahalka said.
22 September
Russia in Syria: Did Putin just clip Israel’s wings?
Netanyahu says he and Putin agreed on ways to avoid conflict between their forces in Syria. For years Israel has had a free hand to attack arms transfers to Hezbollah.
(CSM) Moscow’s decision to boost its military presence in northern Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad has posed a potential challenge to Mr. Netanyahu, who for years has had a relatively free hand to carry out strikes against arms shipments that Israel says goes from Iran, through Syria, to the Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.
7 September
Israel plans to demolish 17,000 Arab buildings in West Bank, UN says
(The Guardian) UN finds only 33 of 2,020 Palestinian planning applications approved, with demolitions causing poverty and leaving families in ‘state of chronic uncertainty’
Israel starts building border fence as Syrian refugees flee civil war
A 30-kilometre stretch of fence has been started at the southern resort city Eilat, on the border with Jordan.
(Toronto Star)  Israel has begun building a fence along part of the country’s eastern border with Jordan as Syrian civil war refugees and other migrants flee their countries.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday: “We see today what happens when countries lose control of their borders.”
He seemed to be referring to the massive influx of refugees from the war-torn Middle East and African migrants heading to Europe.
Earlier in the day Netanyahu bemoaned the “human tragedy” of Syria’s civil war and said Israel has helped out victims. However, he said Israel isn’t large enough to do much more.
17 August
It’s Time to Admit It. Israeli Policy Is What It Is: Apartheid
(Haaretz) I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel. Not anymore
I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country’s settlement and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply.
14 August
Uri Avnery: Jewish Terrorists – OpEd
(Eurasia review) Do we approve of administrative detention, detention without trial and democratic safeguards, perhaps saving thereby the lives of Arabs and Jews, perhaps preventing worse disasters?
Or do we uphold strict democratic principles, release all people held in administrative detention, Arabs and Jews alike, knowing that some of them will go on a killing spree?
After much soul-searching, I vote for the second option. Both for moral and pragmatic reasons.
Morally, I do not believe that one can fight the plague with cholera. Administrative detention is a fascist instrument, even when applied to fascists.
Practically, because it will not help. The detainees will be replaced by others, perhaps even worse ones.
There is also the danger that the arrest of a few will serve as an excuse for doing nothing against the many.
To fight this plague, we need better doctors. The Shin Bet, police and army must be cleansed of fascist sympathizers, officers loyal to the Israeli Republic must take their place. Jews and Arabs must receive the same treatment.
12 August
Thomas Friedman: If I Were an Israeli Looking at the Iran Deal
I’d recognize that if my lobbyists in Washington actually succeeded in getting Congress to scrap this deal, the result wouldn’t be a better deal. It would be no deal, so Iran would remain three months from a bomb — and with no intrusive inspectors, with collapsing sanctions and Israel, not Iran, diplomatically isolated.
So rather than fighting with President Obama, as prime minister I’d be telling him Israel will support this deal but it wants the U.S. to increase what really matters — its deterrence capability — by having Congress authorize this and any future president to use any means necessary to destroy any Iranian attempt to build a bomb.
De-Zionising the US empire
The Obama Doctrine may act to “de-Zionise the American empire” and seriously complicate Israeli-US relations.
United States President Barack Obama’s speech about the Iran nuclear deal at American University on August 5 marks a decisive feature in his Obama Doctrine that one might venture to call and consider “de-Zionising the American empire”.
Does this speech, and a whole array of presidential remarks before and after it, mark a pivotal departure from past US policy towards Israel? And if so, what would that imply for the region at large? …
Indications are that the Obama Doctrine, of which I wrote about soon after the Iran nuclear deal was reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, may entail a particularly significant component of treating Israel like any other client state – like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, etc. That possibility may account for the fact that Israel is now showing such hysterical public manifestations of separation anxiety from its ally.
Jewish Extremism Is Having A Moment. Here’s Why.
(Think Progress) Israeli authorities conducted two relatively common anti-terrorism actions over the weekend, raiding areas of the occupied West Bank and issuing detention orders for suspected extremists. But in an unusual twist, these efforts weren’t directed against Muslim Palestinians or even outside agitators. They’re part of the country’s increasingly aggressive effort to root out terrorists of another variety: So-called Jewish extremists.
The uncommon crackdown is a response to a series of unsettling incidents that have rocked Israel throughout 2015. …
Authorities blamed right-wing militants for what authorities called “Jewish terrorism,” a suspicion given weight by evidence uncovered during the recent West Bank raids. In early August, officers from Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, found a chilling how-to manual in the car of suspected militant Moshe Orbach. Among other things, it contained detailed instructions for how to attack churches, mosques, and Palestinian homes — as well as how to beat Arabs unconscious.
Uri Avnery: The Hebrew State Is Disappearing, the Jewish State Is Taking Over
We are witnessing a mutation of Judaism, a new Judaism – fanatic, violent and now murderous as well. It is liable to bury the state, just as it buried the Second Temple.
(Haaretz) History has many examples of countries in which hardy people from the periphery took over a center that had gone soft. The frontier folk are used to war, while the centrists create culture. …
This danger is now hovering over Israel. The settlers are neither “wild weeds” nor youth from the margins. They constitute an extreme and immediate threat to everything that has been built in this country in recent generations. The Hebrew state is disappearing, and in its place, the Jewish state is taking over.
And this isn’t the Judaism that arose during 2,000 years in exile – the Judaism of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai, the Judaism of a dispersed community that loathed violence. We are now witnessing a mutation of Judaism, a new Judaism – fanatic, violent and now murderous as well. It is liable to bury the state, just as it buried the Second Temple.
The state can still be saved. But to do so, the real Israel – the secular, national Israel – must wake up. We need the courage to change before disaster strikes.
Michael Bell: Settler extremism threatens Israel’s survival
(Globe & Mail) The current chaos in the Arab world, it can be argued, gives pause to any early realization of a distinct Palestinian state, but more certain is that the settlement exercise will give rise to a permanent occupation and a growing ethno-ideological struggle where absolutism and intolerance will be the lietmotif for Israeli and Palestinian alike.
It is difficult to argue that the settlement exercise contributes to Israeli security in this age of modern weaponry, rather the reverse. It creates a running sore as the events of the last few days so vividly demonstrate.
In the immediate term, the settlement enterprise compromises Israel’s efforts to make common cause with both the Europeans and Sunni Arabs against the threat of Shiite expansionism. This argument is made by many well-credentialed and highly regarded security veterans who are anything but soft on Israel’s defense needs. Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Shin Bet, is but one example.
Most fundamentally the settlement exercise and the extremism to which it gives rise threatens the long-term survival of a Jewish democratic state. The future of West Bank Palestinians and their national aspirations cannot be put off forever. If Israeli governments continue on their present course, they risk provoking a tragic day of reckoning.
8 August
Uri Avnery: Divide et Impera
Superficial logic would dictate that the Israeli government support Mahmoud Abbas, who is committed to peace, and help him against Hamas, which at least officially is committed to the destruction of Israel. Well, it ain’t necessarily so. … For Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas is the greater enemy. He attracts international sympathy, the UN and most of the world’s governments recognize his State of Palestine, he may well be on the way to establish a real independent Palestinian state, including Gaza. No such danger emanates from the Hamas mini-state in Gaza. It is detested throughout the world, even by most of the Arab states, as a “terrorist” mini-state. … The tiny enclave does not present a real danger to the mighty Israeli military machine, at most a small irritation that can be dealt with by a small military operation every few years, as happened during the last few years. It would be logical for Netanyahu to make unofficial peace with the regime in Gaza and continue the fight against the regime in Ramallah
7 August
Israeli President Rivlin: Netanyahu’s Anti-Iran Drive Isolates Israel
“I have told him (Netanyahu), and I’m telling him again, that struggles, even those that are just, can ultimately come at Israel’s expense,” the president told the Haaretz daily.
(Reuters) Israel’s president suggested on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been overzealous in opposing the Iran nuclear deal, opening a “battlefront” with Washington and isolating his country. Reuven Rivlin, who holds the largely ceremonial head of state post, argued in three separate newspaper interviews that Netanyahu’s vigorous campaign against last month’s nuclear deal between world powers and Iran could ultimately hurt Israel.
5 August
Netanyahu lobbies US Jews to act against Iran deal
Israeli PM says Iran nuclear deal “will bring war” as he attempts to mobilise Jewish Americans against the pact.
(All Jazeera) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a campaign to mobilise Jewish American citizens against the nuclear deal between Iraq and world powers championed by President Barack Obama, which is facing review by the US Congress.
In a webcast organised by Jewish groups in North America, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s arguments that the July 14 deal was not enough to curb Iranian nuclear projects with bomb-making potential. He argued that a windfall in sanctions relief could help Tehran finance destabilising regional conflicts.
4 August
Meir Ettinger, Suspected Head Of Jewish Extremist Group, Arrested Following Deadly West Bank Arson
(AP) — Israeli authorities kicked off a promised crackdown on Jewish extremists following last week’s deadly arson attack on a Palestinian family, arresting a high-profile activist accused of leading a new movement of defiant settler youths who embrace violence and reject the rule of law in the name of the purity of the Holy Land.
Meir Ettinger, whose arrest Monday was extended in court Tuesday, is the grandson of U.S.-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, Israel’s most notorious Jewish extremist, whose ultranationalist party was banned from Israel’s parliament for its racist views in 1988 and who was killed by an Arab gunman in New York in 1990.
David Grossman: Will the Israeli Right Finally Come to Its Senses?
The terrifying burning of the baby in Duma is a symptom of a much deeper illness: It signals to us Israelis how very serious our situation is, and indicates – in letters writ in fire – that the path to a better future is closing before us.
(Haaretz) What is difficult to understand is how the prime minister and his cabinet ministers are able to distinguish between a fire that they have been stoking for decades and this most recent conflagration. It is hard to conceive how they are capable of not seeing the connection between the occupation regime that has been continuing for 48 years, and the dark, fanatic reality that has been forged at the frontiers of the Israeli consciousness – a reality whose agents and disseminators grow more numerous each day, a reality that is now growing closer and closer to the mainstream, and is becoming increasingly more acceptable and legitimate in the Israeli street, in the Knesset and at the cabinet table.
1 August
Israelis protest hate crimes in wake of baby’s death
Thousands attend rallies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem after occupied West Bank arson attack and Gay Pride march stabbings.
23 July
Israel Security Establishment Breaks With Bibi on Iran Deal
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg, editor-at-large of the Forward
(The Forward) Many of the security insiders say the deal signed in Vienna on July 14 isn’t as bad as Netanyahu claims. Some call it good for Israel. Others say it’s bad, but it’s a done deal and Israel should make the best of it. Either way, they agree that Israel should work with the Obama administration to plot implementation, rather than mobilize Congress against the White House.
All agree that undermining Israel’s alliance with America is a far greater existential threat than anything Iran does. …
The roster should also include a onetime chief of military intelligence, Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and prime minister named Ehud Barak. He was Netanyahu’s defense minister from 2009 to 2013 and helped develop his Iran strategy. In a television interview the day the agreement was signed, Barak said he wouldn’t criticize his old boss or tell him what to do. But he did just that. …
It’s impossible to say for certain whether the dozen or so ex-generals and spymasters who have spoken out are representative of the broader security community. But there are hints. Netanyahu has replaced top personnel repeatedly, but each new cohort takes the same stance: opposing precipitate action; denying that Iran represents an existential threat, insisting that Iran’s leadership is rational and responds to negotiation and deterrence.
22 July
How the Iran deal is good for Israel, according to Israelis who know what they’re talking about
(WaPost) In the aftermath of the deal over Iran’s nuclear program announced in Vienna last week, attention immediately centered on the reaction in one country that was never a direct party to the talks: Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was swift and uncompromising in his criticism, declaring the accord a “historic mistake,” and reiterating his long-standing opposition to rapprochement with the Islamic Republic. His anger was echoed by his center-left political opponents in the Israeli parliament.
[Netanyahu wants ‘permanent’ conflict with Iran, says Britain’s top diplomat.]
But while Israel’s politicians may be singing from the same song sheet, others are less sure. Prominent members of the country’s security establishment have come out at various stages of the negotiations in support of the Obama administration’s efforts.
14 July
After Iran deal, the Gog and Magog war between Obama and Netanyahu begins
Republicans want to use nuclear deal in campaign against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats but they might overplay their hand.
(Haaretz) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views Iran as an incorrigible Great Satan hell-bent on regional hegemony and the destruction of Israel. President Barack Obama sees Tehran as a malevolent Little Satan, but one that can still be redeemed. This – rather than the timing of sanctions, the quantity of centrifuges or the quality of inspections – is the main reason for the impending apocalyptic political war that is destined to break out between Israel and the United States now that the Iran deal has been signed.
Operation Protective Edge: One Year After Israel’s Gaza Strip Assault — No Accountability
One year has passed since Israel began its devastating assault on the occupied and besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip. The 50-day attack, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians—more than two-thirds of whom were civilians—including more than 550 children, made last year the deadliest Palestinians have experienced since Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to the United Nations (PDF).
Israel also damaged or destroyed more than 150,000 Palestinian homes in this assault, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge”. Due to the ongoing joint Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, not a single home has been rebuilt, as more than 100,000 Palestinians remain internally displaced in temporary shelters, in schools, or in others’ homes. The UN has noted that “the extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come”.
18 June
The U.S. Must Stop Enabling Israel
By noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU
By demonstrating tough love, the U.S. can fulfill its moral obligation to best serve Israel’s national security and preserve it as an independent Jewish and democratic state, which for nearly all Israelis is their most cherished dream.
(HuffPost) No one can deny the close, abiding, and unparalleled friendship between the United States and Israel. This tight bond has served both countries well, especially Israel, which has benefitted politically, economically, and militarily from the U.S.’s unwavering support, helping Israel to become a powerhouse second to none in the Middle East. It appears, though, that this unequivocal American support and friendship enabled Israel to become more entrenched in the West Bank by building and expanding the settlements and expropriating Palestinian land, thereby making the prospect of achieving peace ever more remote.
4 June
Obama holds little hope for Israel-Palestine peace during final term
In a remarkably candid interview this week with Israel’s popular Channel 2 television, Mr. Obama said: “I don’t see the likelihood of even a framework agreement” being possible in the 19 months remaining in his presidency
He recalled a declaration made by Mr. Netanyahu in the closing days of Israel’s March election when he assured voters that no Palestinian state would be created on his watch.
“Subsequently,” the President said, “his statements have suggested that there is a possibility of a Palestinian state, but it has so many caveats, so many conditions, that it is not realistic to think that those conditions will be met any time in the near future.”
The Limits of German Guilt
By former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami
(Project Syndicate) Simply put, historic guilt is no longer adequate to compel Germany to support Israel’s wrongheaded policies – especially when those policies are victimizing another group, the Palestinians. Israel’s current leaders should take note.
26 May
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Grade A Pork-Barrel Politics
Israel’s coalition government is a shaky mess. But Bibi’s wheeling and dealing have cemented his hold on power.
(Foreign Policy) The incoming governing coalition has already been called many things; “a circus” is arguably the kindest. It is dominated by ultra-Orthodox and pro-settler groups, is expected to face mounting international pressure, and only enjoys a single-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. The public view of Netanyahu’s political fortunes have once again undergone a dramatic swing: “King Bibi,” who won an overwhelming victory on election night after a last-ditch fear campaign, is gone. Thanks to a tortured coalition negotiation process, many are now putting forward the notion that Netanyahu is once again weak and can be toppled. It has almost become conventional wisdom that his government’s staying power will be measured in terms of months, not years.
But Bibi’s coalition will likely prove more resilient than many expect.
Netanyahu offers to resume peace talks with settlement focus, official says
(Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed resuming peace negotiations with the Palestinians but with the initial focus on identifying those Jewish settlements that Israel would keep and be allowed to expand, an Israeli official said on Tuesday.
4 May
NOT good news
The formation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government has cleared the way for Israel’s ultra- Orthodox parties to return to power after two years in opposition.
Under Israel’s system of proportional representation, the ultraOrthodox have enjoyed power and influence far beyond their numbers by providing a string of prime ministers the needed votes to guarantee a majority in parliament.
As a result, they have won automatic exemptions from compulsory military service and large budgets for a separate school system focusing heavily on religious studies …. In the coalition negotiations, Netanyahu struck questionable deals with the parties that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The quick reversal of policies he previously promoted has drawn a strong rebuke — even from some supporters. The biggest fallout was Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s dramatic refusal to join the government. More
Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman Takes His Party Into Opposition
(AP) — Israel’s foreign minister dealt a blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to build a coalition by announcing Monday he is stepping down and that his secular, nationalist party is joining the opposition.
Avigdor Lieberman said he could not sit in the government after Netanyahu struck a series of deals with ultra-Orthodox partners.
3 April
Netanyahu tells Obama Iran deal threatens Israel; to convene top ministers
(Reuters) Obama called Netanyahu within hours of the deal being struck, saying it represented significant progress toward a lasting solution that cuts off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.
But Netanyahu said in a statement after the conversation that a deal based on the framework announced in Lausanne, Switzerland “would threaten the survival of Israel”.
23 March
Netanyahu apologizes to Israeli Arabs for election comments
The move appeared to be an attempt to heal rifts and mute criticism at home and in the United States. Netanyahu drew accusations of racism in Israel, especially from its Arab minority, and a White House rebuke when, just a few hours before polling stations were to close across the country, he warned that Arab citizens were voting “in droves.”
20 March
White House ‘rethinking’ Israel ties, peace process rules
Military alliance still intact, peace-process backing at UN another matter
Don’t Believe Bibi The Israeli prime minister says he didn’t mean what he said. Even he knows he can’t be trusted.
(Slate) I’d like to believe that Netanyahu was lying to voters on Monday, not that he’s lying to the rest of us now. But I can’t, because in the past, Netanyahu has explained quite cogently why such post-election spin shouldn’t be trusted. He has argued that we should judge leaders by what they tell their own people. And he’s right. When a politician tells voters at election time that they won’t have to accept a land-for-peace agreement as long as he’s in charge, he’s signaling that he doesn’t think they’re ready for such an agreement—and that he won’t risk his re-election by telling them otherwise. No sensible person would expect such a man to make the necessary compromises. He lacks the courage.
Don’t take that verdict from me. Take it from Netanyahu. It’s exactly what he has said about Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.
18 March
With Netanyahu’s reelection, the peace process is over and the pressure process must begin
If Israelis have the right to vote for permanent occupation, we in the Diaspora have the right to resist it.
(Haaretz) My entire adult life, American Jewish leaders have been telling Americans that Israel can save itself. Just wait until Israel gains a respite from terror, they said; then its silent, two-state majority will roar. Give Israelis constant reassurance; never pressure them. If they know “the United States is right next to them,” Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations promised Barack Obama in 2009, Israeli leaders will “take risks” for peace.
Israel has been disproving that theory throughout the Netanyahu era. Now, with this election, Israel has killed it
BIBI’S BACK “The Likud Party, led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has defied expectations and emerged as the winner in Tuesday’s parliamentary elections, the Jerusalem Post reported. Isaac Herzog, Israel’s opposition leader, contacted Netanyahu on Wednesday to concede.” Netanyahu’s win comes at a cost, as several of his last-minute campaign tactics alientated long-standing allies.
Charles Cogan writes: “Netanyahu’s position directly opposes the American policy in favor of a two-state solution that has been in place since the Six-Day War of 1967.The European reaction to this drastic change of policy will not be kind to Mr. Netanyahu. As for the United States, Netanyahu, assuming he remains in power, will be in a deep freeze with an already turned-off Barack Obama and will have to wait for the next American presidency in 2016 for any significant possibility of improvement.”
17 March
Israel votes in poll seen as referendum on Netanyahu
No single party has ever won an outright majority in the Knesset, making coalitions the norm.
Israel’s president picks the political leader whom he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition to have a go first.

(Al Jazeera) The latest opinion poll shows Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party behind the centre-left Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog
Israelis go to polls as Netanyahu fights for re-election
The centre-left Zionist Union has promised to repair relations with the Palestinians as well as the international community.
Mr Netanyahu has vowed not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state if he wins a fourth term.
Neither side is expected to get more than a quarter of the votes.
14 March
Netanyahu, Herzog and the future of Israel
Obama has every reason to throw his weight behind the Zionist Union in the lead up to the elections.
Avi Shlaim,Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University
(Al Jazeera) Responsibility for the current crisis in Israel’s relations with the United States rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of Benjamin Netanyahu. The US and Israel have long enjoyed a special relationship based on common ideals and democratic values. By pursuing undemocratic, illegal, and expansionist policies that violate these values, Netanyahu strikes at the very core of this special relationship. His drive to derail the Obama administration’s efforts to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme is a deliberate distraction from the real issue facing Israel, but it greatly increases the strain on the special relationship.
11 March
(Financial Times) Economic woes fuel Israeli shift to the left
Polls point to close election victory next week for Zionist Union
7 March
Anti-Netanyahu rally draws huge crowd in Israeli city
Israeli media says about 30,000 people gather in Tel Aviv calling for PM to be replaced in March 17 national elections.
5 March
Dr Massoumeh Torfeh: Iran’s hardliners win if Netanyahu gets his way
Netanyahu’s rhetoric ignores the fact that the break up of the Iran nuclear talks would increase the danger to Israel.
(Al Jazeera Opinion) He cannot, for example, be serious in demanding a full freeze on Iran’s nuclear activity when he is sitting on a reportedly huge nuclear arsenal without even declaring it to the world or attempting to become a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). … Israel is seen as being just as much of a threat to Iran, especially with the kind of heated rhetoric that has been associated with Netanyahu. Iran believes that Israel has tried to thwart its nuclear programme, attempted drone strikes against its nuclear installations, and accuses Israel of being behind the assassinations of its nuclear scientists. Israel has rejected all the allegations
4 March
The wound Netanyahu left
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
(WaPost) It fell to Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Netanyahu’s leading opponent in Israel’s March 17 election, to make the essential point: that Tuesday’s speech was “a very harsh wound to Israel-U.S. relations” and “will only widen the rift with Israel’s greatest ally and strategic partner.”
Bibi’s Talk: The 51st State Is Heard From
By Dr. Charles Cogan
(HuffPost) the kindest word one can find in the whole episode of the talk before the Congress, is that Bibi used bad judgment. Firstly, in lending himself (or more) to a cabal of the Israeli Ambassador to Washington and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to set in motion the visit without informing America’s principal policymaker, the President of the United States. Secondly, to do this in the midst of a political campaign in Israel, where such an initiative would presumably produce a winning vote.
28 February
Netanyahu’s Legacy: A Fractured Israel and a Divided America
(HuffPost) In a few days, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will mount the podium of the U.S. Congress to speak before a joint session of the House and Senate. He will use the occasion to blast Iran and issue dire warnings about the current US-led negotiations designed to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
Having successfully used his two previous appearances before Congress to announce his intent to scuttle the Oslo peace process (1996) and to sabotage President Obama’s plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks (2011), Netanyahu apparently hopes to use this address to stiffen the resolve of those in Congress who are opposed to the current negotiations with Iran. The ever-cocky Prime Minister, no doubt, believes he will once again be successful.
Since the speech was announced, negative reaction has been growing. At first criticized as a “breach of protocol” and an “unseemly partisan move”, the response has developed into an increasingly hostile war of words and action. The While House has charged that the Prime Minister’s behavior is “destructive of the fabric of the [U.S.-Israeli] relationship”. Secretary of State John Kerry chided Netanyahu’s critique of the Iran negotiations as uninformed. And, as of Friday, 36 Members of Congress had announced their intention to boycott the speech. One Representative told me he expected the number of boycotters to grow in the coming days.
Equally significant has been the reaction in Israel, where not only Netanyahu’s opponents have accused him of the risky business of “playing politics inside American politics.” A former head of Mossad charged that the speech was “pointless and counterproductive.” And even Israel’s President recently weighed-in criticizing the Netanyahu gambit.
25 February
Israel’s Netanyahu Slams World Powers Over Iran Nuclear Talks
(AP) In his sharpest criticism yet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that world powers “have given up” on stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons in ongoing negotiations.
Netanyahu’s comments, at a meeting of his Likud Party outside of Jerusalem, come as he plans to address the U.S. Congress on the nuclear negotiations.
6 February
Netanyahu’s Allies Are Claiming He Was “Misled” By Boehner. Oh, Please.
(Slate) This would be hard to believe about any world leader, but with Netanyahu it’s frankly ridiculous. Netanyahu—a close personal friend of a number of prominent U.S. politicians, the first world leader invited to address Congress three times since Winston Churchill, whose detractors jokingly refer to him as the “Republican senator from Israel”—is probably more plugged in to U.S. partisan politics than any head of government on earth.
Moreover, the American born and raised Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, the man so close to the prime minister he’s called “Bibi’s brain” and helped orchestrate the invitation with Boehner, got his start in politics working with pollster Frank Luntz on the 1994 Republican takeover. This is a group that understands American politics.
Israeli official suggests Boehner misled Netanyahu on Congress speech
(Reuters) – A senior Israeli official suggested on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been misled into thinking an invitation to address the U.S. Congress on Iran next month was fully supported by the Democrats.
27 January
Netanyahu to American Jews: Get Lost
By accepting Speaker Boehner’s invitation to address Congress, the Israeli leader has chosen to side with political forces opposed by many US Jews.
21 January
John Boehner’s Bibi invite sets up showdown with White House
The speaker didn’t consult with the administration before inviting Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran. — Instead, Boehner’s and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff coordinated with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
(Politico) Netanyahu’s speech could present a spectacle rarely seen in Washington — the leader of another nation, standing just blocks from the White House at the invitation of Congress to rebut the United States’ foreign policy.
14 January
Netanyahu’s invitation to French Jews was awkward. For many reasons.
(Reuters Opinion) Zionism, of course, is predicated on the insistence that Judaism is not merely a faith, but also a nationality. This is the very core of its claim for self-determination, with Israel as the Jewish nation-state. It follows that Israel is the nation-state of all Jews, even if they have not yet immigrated.
But national identity, especially among minorities, is complex — much more complex than the simple Zionist binary of homeland and diaspora will allow.
11 January
Israel moves quickly to exploit Paris attacks
(Electronic Intifada) After hesitations reportedly over cost and security, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally decided to attend the “solidarity” march in Paris on Sunday, ostensibly in support of “free expression” and other “Western values.”
Netanyahu evidently could not resist the publicity given that it is election season in Israel, and he would not want to risk being upstaged by political rivals who had announced their attendance, including such violent racists as foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and economy minister Naftali Bennett.
While Netanyahu was certainly playing to a domestic audience, his presence in Paris is also part of Israel’s swift move to capitalize on the horror in France on a number of fronts: to attack the Palestinians, to sharpen the dangerous discourse of a “war of civilizations” and to speed up the population transfer of Jews from Europe.[emphasis added]
It is not just critics of Israel who understand – at least implicitly – the tacit alliance between anti-Semitism and Zionism – but many European Jews themselves.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the director of the European Jewish Association, described by Haaretz as “the largest advocate for the Jewish organizations and communities in Europe,” sharply criticized Netanyahu’s latest exhortations on Jews to abandon France.
3 January
Israel withholds Palestinian tax revenue in response to ICC move
Israel halted transfers of the tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in retaliation for their move to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Israeli media reported Saturday.
The Palestinians announced earlier this week that they are joining the International Criminal Court in the Hague to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. The move is meant to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories that Palestinians demand for a future state.
It’s a risky strategy for the Palestinians because it means they themselves could be accused of war crimes over rocket attacks by the Islamic militant group Hamas on Israeli residential centres and other Palestinian violence against Jewish targets.
The move drew threats of retaliation from Israel and criticism from the U.S. government, which called it “counterproductive.”

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