Israel, Palestine/Gaza 2019 –

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Israel, Palestine/Gaza 2017 – 2018
Micah Goodman:
Eight Steps to Shrink the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

26 November
Jordan and Israel’s 25-year peace deal under more strain than ever
Unpopular but enduring treaty faces new test in form of Donald Trump’s plan for Middle East
(The Guardian) …the treaty survives, sustained in large part by the open secret that Jordanian and Israeli security services cooperate closely to secure their shared border from militants and smugglers. “Both parties, Israelis in terms of their own security, and Jordanians in terms of their security and ability to negotiate and continue engaging the Israelis, want to keep it,” says Anani, who also served as Jordan’s foreign minister.
The deal also helps to smooth the way for annual US aid payments worth more than $1.5bn each year that keep Jordan’s donor-dependent economy afloat.
To reach its 30th anniversary, the treaty will first need to survive the machinations around the so-called “ultimate deal”, the Trump administration’s anticipated plan to build peace with Israelis and Palestinians. Jordanians fear a barnstorming Trump peace drive could rob the country of its special role in maintaining Jerusalem’s important Muslim sites, cement the occupation of Palestinian territories or further sideline Jordan as the Arab world’s chief interlocutor with Israel.

18 November
Pompeo: US no longer considers Israeli settlements illegal
Pompeo says US will no longer abide by 1978 State Department opinion that settlements are against international law.
(Al Jazeera) “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees… (the) establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the US move “contradicts totally with international law”.
Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian negotiator and member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, said on Twitter before Pompeo’s statement, that the move was “another blow to international law, justice & peace”.
Trump administration says Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law
(WaPo) Pompeo, however, said the new decision would “increase the likelihood” of a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. … In response to a question, Pompeo denied that the announcement was tied to upcoming elections in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life.

12-13 November
Israeli attacks: All the latest updates
Israel pounds Gaza for a second day in most violent assault in months as UN envoy heads to Cairo for mediation talks.
(Al Jazeera) Shortly after the attack on Tuesday morning that killed Bahaa Abu al-Ata and his wife, salvos of rockets were launched from Palestinian groups in the besieged Gaza Strip into Israel.
In response to the rocket barrage, dozens of air raids were launched on Gaza. Overall, 24 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli bombardment in Gaza, according to health officials.
Amid Gaza Escalation, Netanyahu-Gantz ‘Crisis Government’ Closer Than Ever
(Haaretz) Israel may have broken its cycle of elections but at the cost of a barrage of missiles on its southern front and uncertainty in the north
The assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, has – with timing that many consider dubious – reshuffled the deck of the Israeli political game, in which the public had already lost interest out of sheer exhaustion.
Until now, it seemed the entire political system was fumbling all the way to another election, and that perhaps this was our new system of government – elections and yet more elections, devoid of either victory or significance. But on Tuesday, Israelis woke up to a historic moment. A “crisis government” led by Netanyahu, with the participation of Benny Gantz and his Kahol Lavan party, now seems like the most probable outcome.

21 October
Israel’s Netanyahu gives up effort to form new government
(Reuters) – Benjamin Netanyahu gave up his effort to form a new government on Monday after failing to secure a majority coalition, creating an opportunity for centrist rival Benny Gantz to replace Israel’s longest serving prime minister.
Gantz also has no clear path to a majority, and should he come up short, it would almost certainly lead to another general election, the third since April. He will have 28 days to entice potential allies.

1 October
Israel’s political deadlock leaves Trump’s Middle East peace plan in limbo
President Reuven Rivlin had asked Netanyahu to try to form a unity government last week, hoping a power-sharing deal with Gantz might be possible for the two rivals to secure a parliamentary majority.
However, negotiations broke down on Sunday and, with no apparent route out of the crisis, it has raised the possibility of a third national poll over the coming weeks.
“This second election has been devastating in terms of stability and trust… But, a third election would be detrimental to the whole political system,” [said] Gayil Talshir, a political science professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.
Israel quietly lets in thousands of Gaza workers, in bid to ease tensions
(Times of Israel) Amid unofficial truce with Hamas, Palestinian officials say Israel has granted merchant permits to Gazans working in menial jobs such as construction, agriculture
In recent months, Israel has quietly provided some relief as part of an unofficial, Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, in exchange for reduced rocket fire from the territory and the scaling back of weekly protests along the border. It has allowed Qatar to deliver millions of dollars in cash to allow Hamas to pay its civil servants and has allowed the United Nations to step up aid efforts.

29 September
Micah Goodman: How an Israeli Unity Government Could Shrink the Conflict
Shaking the rigid ideologies that have defined Israel’s politics
(NYT) For years the Israeli left promised: If Israel withdraws from the West Bank and permits the creation of a Palestinian state, this will bring peace and security. But election after election, Israelis rejected the left’s generous offer and voted for right-wing governments. In the recent elections, for the first time, the Israeli right made a counteroffer: an annexation of swaths of the West Bank. But the election results show that neither proposal is acceptable to the Israeli public. Just as they rejected the two-state solution, they also rejected an annexation that would create a one-state reality. In other words, Israel’s political deadlock reflects its ideological deadlock: Most Israelis oppose annexation of the West Bank just as strongly as they oppose a withdrawal.

25 September
In a Twist, Netanyahu Wins a Chance to Keep His Job
(NYT) President Reuven Rivlin chose him to try to cobble together a coalition, opening the door to a continued shift to the right for Israel and offering a potential political lifeline to Mr. Netanyahu, who faces a looming indictment for corruption.
Still, the reversal of fortune falls short of a victory, and Mr. Netanyahu’s future in office remains far from assured.
He has 28 days to assemble a majority of at least 61 seats in Parliament and no clear path to that number. The parties that have endorsed his bid for another term won just 55 seats.
Mr. Netanyahu’s chances of success are “not good but not impossible,” said Gadi Wolfsfeld, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. “He’s pulled rabbits out of the hat before.”

24 September

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump’s address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC130092F1B0

Benjamin Netanyahu Is No Longer Israel’s Indispensable Leader
By Anshel Pfeffer
(The Atlantic) Many factors led to Israelis voting against Netanyahu last week. But when the story of his final days of leadership is written, it will be remembered that Netanyahu built his political strategy around whoever was in the Oval Office, and when Netanyahu needed the president’s support most, he was abandoned.
Netanyahu will not be representing Israel at the United Nations General Assembly this week, nor will he be meeting with Trump, seeking to play up his role as Israel’s essential leader. In fact, that strategy—pushing his indispensability and his relationship with Trump, in particular—is a principal reason he just lost the most important election of his life.

23 September
‘Only Bibi’ no more – Israel’s Netanyahu seeks power-sharing deal
(Reuters) – After failing to secure a clear election victory twice in six months, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister now seems to be calculating that he can stay in power only by sharing it.
Benjamin Netanyahu has invited centrist rival Benny Gantz to join forces in a unity government, saying neither has enough support from respective allies to secure a majority of 61 seats in the 120-member parliament.
Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party and a possible kingmaker, said on Monday he believed the only obstacle to such a government was the unresolved question of whether Netanyahu or Gantz would serve first in a rotating premiership.
Weakened by last week’s deadlocked parliamentary election, Netanyahu met Gantz at the behest of President Reuven Rivlin, who is tasked with picking a candidate to try to form the next coalition.

19 September
Explainer: ‘Only Bibi’ no more – Israel’s Netanyahu seeks power-sharing deal
The End of Netanyahu’s Unchecked Reign
The results yielded no clear path to a governing coalition, but represented a rejection of two dangerous ideas.
By Natan Sachs, Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution
(The Atlantic) The one thing that was clear, following the election, was that the results signal a dramatic shift in policy. Israel had stepped all the way to the brink on two fundamental issues, and it has now taken a half step back. These results scuttle Netanyahu’s plans to officially apply Israeli law to parts of the West Bank, annexing the Jordan Valley, and to curtail the Israeli Supreme Court’s powers in order to secure himself immunity from prosecution on corruption charges. Both issues would have had serious ramifications, the former for the possibility of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the future, and the latter for the health of Israeli democracy. Tuesday’s results will not produce peace nor resolve Israel’s internal challenges, but they stave off those prospects, at least for the moment.
…  Netanyahu is likely to face indictment in three different criminal cases, including a charge of bribery. Israel’s attorney general has announced his intention, pending a final hearing, to indict the prime minister. The hearing is scheduled to take place in a couple of weeks, and the final decision is expected in late November or early December, just when coalition formation must wrap up.

18 September

Israeli voters deliver deadlock, Netanyahu’s tenure in doubt

(Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to win a ruling majority in an election that produced a virtual tie between his right-wing bloc and a center-left grouping that would be led by former military chief Benny Gantz.

9-10 September
Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex Much of West Bank
(NYT) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Tuesday that he would move swiftly to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if voters returned him to power in the election next week, seizing what he called a historic opportunity from a sympathetic White House to give Israel “secure, permanent borders.”
Netanyahu announces post-election plan to annex Jordan Valley
(Al Jazeera) The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea constitute almost 30 percent of the West Bank. Some 65,000 Palestinians and about 11,000 illegal Israeli settlers live in the area – most of which is under Israeli military control in what is referred to as Area C.
Netanyahu – who is fighting for his political life in a closely contested election – reaffirmed the pledge to annex all Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank, but said such a move would not be made before publication of a long-awaited US peace plan and consultations with President Donald Trump.

Israel’s settlers and the Palestinians they live among
(Reuters) Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are one of the most heated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians want the area, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, for a future state.
Israel has built more than 120 settlements there, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the run-up to a Sept. 17 election, has renewed his pledge to annex them, alarming the Palestinians.
Most of the international community sees the settlements as illegal and major obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace, a view Israel disputes.

5 September
Kushner’s Middle East peace plan drifts further astray as envoy resigns
(The Guardian) Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Middle East peace, tasked with working on the “ultimate deal” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is to leave the post, it has been announced.
Greenblatt may stay in the role until the publication of the long-delayed plan, which is now due to come out some time after Israeli elections on 17 September. However, if those elections bring about the fall of Donald Trump’s close ally, Benjamin Netanyahu, the plan could be shelved indefinitely.

1 September
(Reuters) Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to annex all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, reiterating an election promise made five months ago but again giving no timeframe. “With God’s help we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all the settlements as part of the (biblical) land of Israel, as part of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said. Palestinians have voiced fears Netanyahu could defy international consensus and move ahead with annexation with possible backing from Trump.

20 August
How the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process Became a Farce
We have peace plans with no partners and movements with no peace plans.
By Thomas L. Friedman
Last week’s ugly mess involving the abortive visit to Israel of two Democratic congresswomen was useful for only one reason: It exposed how much the Palestinian-Israeli peace process has become a pathetic festival of magical thinking, performance art, reality denial, political fund-raising and outright political fraud. It’s become about everything except what it needs to succeed: courageous, fair-minded, creative diplomacy and leadership.
At the official U.S. level, Jared Kushner has spent three years ginning up a peace plan that he still won’t show anyone. So far, his only achievement is an Israeli-Palestinian economic conference in Bahrain that no Israeli or Palestinian officials attended.

15 August
Israel bars Reps. Omar and Tlaib from entering after pressure from Trump
(Axios) Following pressure from President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backtracked on his decision to allow Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to enter the country and is now barring the congresswomen over their support for the BDS movement.
The latest: Netanyahu issued a statement stressing that Omar and Tlaib were planning a trip whose “sole purpose is to strengthen the boycott and delegitimize Israel.” Netanyahu said the congresswomen designated their trip as a visit to Palestine and not to Israel, and they did not ask to meet any Israeli official or member of the opposition. “Omar and Tlaib’s visit plan showed they only wanted to harm Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Why it matters: Netanyahu’s reversal creates an unprecedented moment — an ally of the United States has banned two duly elected members of Congress from entering its country. It could cause a huge crisis with the Democratic Party and damage the U.S.-Israel relationship.
By Barring Omar and Tlaib, Netanyahu Did BDS a Huge Favor
(New York) In deference to the wishes of the United States government, Israel has barred two members of the U.S. Congress from entering its borders. Or at least that’s how Thursday’s bizarre developments in American-Israeli relations appear to have played out.
Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib had been poised to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Hebron as part of a trip ostensibly aimed at raising global awareness of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and strengthening American progressives’ ties to Palestinian civil society. Omar and Tlaib are both supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, also known as BDS, which calls on the global community to cut off economic ties with Israel until it ends its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza. Many within the movement also favor a “one-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which would unify the region under a single, binational government (Omar herself supports a two-state solution).

10 July
Touring the Israeli Occupation: Young U.S. Jews Get an Unflinching View
(NYT) For the past week, 28 college students from the United States had been taking part in a traveling experiment billed as an alternative to Birthright Israel, whose free trips to the country have become a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of young American Jews.
Birthright’s avoidance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has made it the target of angry protests by left-leaning Jewish activists. But for sheer ambition, no critique has approached this week’s attempt by the liberal lobbying group J Street to map out an alternative route for Birthright’s tours.
On Sunday, after several upbeat days hiking in the Galilee, learning about the kibbutz movement and bonding over buffets and Israeli pop songs, the J Street cohort took a sharp left turn into territory where Birthright does not go. In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, they received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish, and visited the city of Hebron, where repeated outbreaks of violence have turned an entire Palestinian business district into a ghost town.

2 July
Kushner’s ‘Deal’ Is Dead on Arrival for Palestinians
The Peace to Prosperity plan being promoted by the Trump administration is either naïve or disingenuous, and has no chance of succeeding.
By Professor Yossi Mekelber
(Chatham House) Ultimately, millions of Palestinians, many of them refugees, are living in dismal conditions and are in dire need for the kind of economic development on offer in the plan introduced in Bahrain by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Yet there are quite a few stings in the tail of this plan, which no glossy document or sleek gathering could conceal.
First and foremost, there is no firm commitment by the Trump administration that this is the only first phase of a more comprehensive plan that will address the core political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as ensuring security for all, Palestinian self-determination, Jerusalem as capital of both Israel and Palestine, and a just and fair solution for Palestinian refugees, wherever they are.

25 June
Kushner says economic plan is a necessary precondition to peace
White House adviser says proposals presented at Bahrain event represent ‘opportunity of the century’ for Palestinians.
(Al Jazeera) The political details of the White House’s plan, which has been almost two years in the making, remain a secret.
Its economic proposal, however, makes no mention of a Palestinian state or an end to Israeli occupation. Instead, it calls for $50bn in investment over 10 years in the Palestinian territories and their Arab neighbours. In total, 179 local projects bankrolled by a “master fund” would cover areas ranging from water and agriculture to education and healthcare.
Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan said the most remarkable part of Kushner’s opening presentation was the complete lack of any mention of the Israeli occupation.

Phase one of US Middle East peace plan greeted with scepticism
No Israelis or Palestinians present for launch of plan that shreds decades of diplomacy
(The Guardian) The first phase of the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan for Israel and Palestine has been rolled out to scepticism, anger and outright derision.
A conference hall of regional officials – with no Israelis or Palestinians present – was the first to hear details of the US-brokered deal, an economic blueprint that shreds decades of diplomacy and which even its mooted financial backers seemed reluctant to embrace.
Nancy Okail, the executive director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, said: “The Palestinian issue is primarily political, and pouring money into it won’t solve it. Kushner’s plan is indicative of his lack of understanding of the history and dynamics in the region, offering a simplistic and unviable, immoral non-solution to a longstanding, complex issue.”

19 June
Israel holds large military drill amid US-Iran tensions
(ABC) Israel wrapped up its largest military drill in years on Wednesday, with thousands of troops from the army, navy and air force simulating a future war with the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group amid fears that Iran would draw its Shiite proxy into the recent growing tensions in the Persian Gulf.
Israeli officials fear Iran may try to mobilize Hezbollah as its most potent toll against Israel in a confrontation. Israel has long identified Iran as its greatest threat, citing its suspect nuclear program, development of long-range missiles and hostile rhetoric.

11 June
Birthright Trips, a Rite of Passage for Many Jews, Are Now a Target of Protests
Over nearly two decades, a nonprofit organization called Birthright Israel has given nearly 700,000 young Jews an all-expense-paid trip to Israel, an effort to bolster a distinct Jewish identity and forge an emotional connection to Israel. The trips, which are partly funded by the Israeli government, have become a rite of passage for American Jews. Nearly 33,000 are set to travel this summer. But over the past year, some Jewish activists have protested Birthright, saying the trips erase the experiences of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank. Activists have circulated petitions, staged sit-ins at Hillels on college campuses and blocked Birthright’s headquarters in New York. But no protests have generated more publicity and outrage than the walk-offs from a handful of Birthright trips.

30 May
Kushner arrives in Israel to political chaos and a new roadblock for his peace plan
(WaPo) Political chaos met presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner as he visited Israel for meetings Thursday to bolster support for his peace plan, as the prospect of a second round of Israeli elections muddied the plan’s long-delayed rollout. The White House is running short of time to release its plan for how to solve the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestinians before the 2020 U.S. election campaign kicks into full swing. Analysts say Netanyahu is unlikely to want to address thorny political issues or the prospect of any concessions with the Palestinians during a campaign period.
The White House is taking its first step of the rollout by holding an economic workshop in Bahrain in late June, with the political component of the plan expected to follow…. some Israeli political analysts say that Netanyahu also does not want to see the plan rolled out. Even if it is immediately rejected by the Palestinians, it could raise questions on issues such as annexation for which there is an array of opinions among Israelis.
“It’s death for the peace plan,” said Gil Hoffman, a political columnist for the Jerusalem Post, referring to Netanyahu’s failure to form a government and new elections.

29 May
Israel heading to 2nd election as Netanyahu fails to form new government
Israel’s parliament has voted to dissolve itself, sending the country to an unprecedented second snap election this year as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition before a midnight deadline. Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past decade, had appeared to capture a fourth consecutive term in the April 9 elections. But infighting among his allies, and disagreement over proposed bills to protect Netanyahu from prosecution stymied his efforts to form a majority coalition.

6 May
Israel and Gaza militants agree to cease-fire after weekend of violence
An uneasy cease-fire settled over the cities of southern Israel on Monday after a weekend that brought a rain of 600 rockets from the Gaza Strip, but not all residents thought the truce was a good thing.

19 April
Israel bars hundreds of Palestinian Christians from traveling on Easter
In an unprecedented decision, Israeli authorities are denying hundreds of Palestinian Christians the right to travel to Jerusalem for the holiday, while barring all movement between the West Bank and Gaza.
The Israeli army limited the holiday travel quota to 200 Christians from Gaza who are over 55, and only for travel outside of Palestine-Israel. Only 120 of the 1,100 Christians in Gaza meet this arbitrary requirement. Palestinians who were planning on visiting the holy sites or their families in the West Bank and Israel, already a rare occasion, will not be able to do so.

15 April
Netanyahu May Have Won, but Israel’s Political Landscape Has Fundamentally Changed
The disappearance of Labor and arrival of the largest centrist party in Israel’s history means that the next political battles will be fought on new issues: Not on peace or the Palestinians, but democracy
Trump says Netanyahu’s reelection is good for peace. Israeli politics could prove otherwise
To boycott or not to boycott: Israel’s election as seen from Ramallah
Meet the world’s last, best hope to prevent Israel’s annexation of the West Bank
(Haaretz) For the first time since 1996, when Labor won 34 seats and Likud 32, the two largest parties now have a majority of Knesset seats (Likud has 36 and Kahol Lavan 35). You would have to go back another election, to 1992, when Labor won 44 seats and Likud 32, for one in which the two largest parties enjoyed a larger total.
Kahol Lavan is now the most intriguing element on the political landscape. Its 35 seats have broken the record not only for centrist parties but also for any first-time party. Major questions loom over the capability of Kahol Lavan — an unwieldy amalgam of three parties and a bunch of disparate politicians — to stay together in opposition. And it isn’t just a question of the clash of personalities and views between its leaders and lawmakers: With its emergence as the main opposition party, one nearly the same size as Likud, there is the question of what sets Kahol Lavan apart.

9 April
Netanyahu, main rival Gantz, claim victory in Israeli election – with several exit polls giving the veteran right-wing leader an advantage in forming a coalition government.
(Reuters) Exit polls on two of Israel’s three main TV channels showed Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party won slightly more seats than Likud in the 120-member parliament, while a third survey forecast a tie.

7-8 April
Israeli elections primer: Final polls and what they mean
(Brookings) Israelis head to the polls on Tuesday to elect the 120 members of the 21st Knesset. The results will provide just the first major stop in a tumultuous political year ahead. Polling averages—see below—suggest a tight race, but one in which incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a consistent advantage over his main challenger, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz. The polls also suggest a great deal of uncertainty: Not only is the pro-Netanyahu advantage modest, but several small parties on both right and left have seen their vote totals hover around the electoral threshold for entrance into the Knesset. If they fail to clear 3.25 percent (nearly 4 seats), their votes would be discarded, potentially upending the equilibrium between the left- and right-wing blocs.
The Future of the Two-State Solution Is at Stake
If Netanyahu wins Israel’s election, his partnership with the far right could end any hope of Palestinian statehood.
(Slate) As Israelis go to the polls Tuesday, a depressing electoral campaign comes to a close. This election could lead to annexation of the West Bank and could have other profound implications for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the end of the two-state solution. Yet, this issue has been nowhere near the center of the campaign. Instead, the election has been primarily about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption and personal attacks on all sides.
Beto O’Rourke: Netanyahu is ‘racist,’ doesn’t represent ‘true will of the Israeli people’
(CNN Politics) A report from Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as telling Channel 12 News Saturday, “A Palestinian state will endanger our existence and I withstood huge pressure over the past eight years. No prime minister has withstood such pressure. We must control our destiny.”
Netanyahu went on to say, “I will extend sovereignty but I don’t distinguish between the settlement blocs and the isolated ones, because each settlement is Israeli and I will not hand it over to Palestinian sovereignty.”
In Israel Election, the Future of the West Bank Is Now on the Ballot
(NYT) As Israelis get ready to go to the polls on Tuesday, a stark, fateful and long-deferred choice has suddenly reappeared to confront them after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unexpected promise to begin extending sovereignty over the West Bank if he is re-elected.
Do voters want to make permanent their country’s control over the West Bank and its 2.6 million Palestinian inhabitants? Or do they want to keep alive the possibility that a Palestinian state could be carved out there one day?
That question has been made newly urgent by Mr. Netanyahu, who is facing a career-threatening challenge from a unified centrist party headed by a team of former army chiefs. His shocking announcement about Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank appeared to be a last-ditch effort to rally his right-wing base and stay in power.

2 April
Israel’s Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow on Thursday
(Reuters) The two leaders will meet five days before Israel’s April 9 election in which the right-wing Netanyahu faces a strong challenge from a centrist candidate.
Israel worries Assad’s Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements could set up bases to attack it from Syria, and has carried out scores of air strikes against them.
Thursday’s meeting could also help Netanyahu in the closely contested election, in which he has played up his statecraft and security credentials in the face of the politically untested challenger Benny Gantz, a former military chief.
No Country for Palestinians
Daoud Kuttab
(Project Syndicate) A bizarre election campaign is heating up in Israel. The incumbent prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has become the first candidate in the country’s history to seek reelection while facing criminal indictments. Meanwhile, the most important topic – the occupation of the Palestinian territories – has not been mentioned, with candidates instead competing over who can be tougher on the Palestinians.
The biggest threat comes from Netanyahu. As he fights for his political life amid charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, fears are rising that he will misuse the enormous power he wields (he also serves as defense minister), escalating tensions both within and around Israel in order to strengthen his own position.
Far from quelling these fears, Netanyahu has been stoking them. He has once again ordered the closure of Bab al-Rahmeh in the Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Islam’s third-holiest site. Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the compound has been administered by Muslims for more than 14 centuries.

1 April
Netanyahu’s Tough Election Campaign Approach Appears To Channel Trump
(NPR) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waging a mudslinging re-election campaign on social media, channeling his close ally President Trump in style and substance.
Netanyahu is known not to use a cellphone personally, so there is no Trump-style improvisational tweeting. But as Israel’s April 9 elections approach, and Netanyahu faces a formidable challenger and possible indictment on corruption charges, his young campaign advisers are churning out a steady supply of memes and video clips on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to boost his profile — and trash his opponent — to his millions of followers.
Twitter Network Uses Fake Accounts to Promote Netanyahu, Israel Watchdog Finds

28 March
The Economist: Binyamin Netanyahu, fighting an election campaign that could see him surpass David Ben Gurion to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. King Bibi is a political giant who embodied muscular nationalism, chauvinism and the resentment of elites long before such populism became a global force. Now he faces his greatest danger, in the form of criminal charges for corruption. As the threat has grown, he has railed against the free press, the judiciary and shadowy forces. Israeli politics is turning into a contest between genuine achievement and demagoguery on one side and the rule of law on the other. All who care about democracy should watch closely.

23 March
Israel’s Netanyahu to play Trump card in tight election
PM gets Washington photo ops after Trump recognises Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights
(The Guardian) Accepting the annexation of conquered land is unprecedented in modern US history and runs counter to the founding principles of the United Nations. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was on hand in Jerusalem to celebrate with Netanyahu when Trump tweeted out his decision on Thursday.
Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, helped amplify Netanyahu’s tendency to frame the current political moment as an echo of biblical episodes when the very survival of the Jews was at stake.
The shared theological – frequently apocalyptic – language, has helped bond an alliance with American evangelicals which is key to Netanyahu’s clout in US politics. Pompeo underlined the symbolism of that coalition by visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, becoming the first senior US official to visit the contested Old City accompanied by an Israeli counterpart

21 March
In Golan Heights, Trump Bolsters Israel’s Netanyahu but Risks Roiling Middle East
(NYT) President Trump declared on Thursday that the United States should recognize Israel’s authority over the long disputed Golan Heights, delivering a valuable election-eve gift to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but jettisoning decades of American policy in the Middle East.
Mr. Trump’s announcement, in a midday Twitter post, came after persistent pressure from Mr. Netanyahu, a close political ally who is fighting for his survival in the election scheduled for April 9, and has invoked his friendship with the American president as a prime argument for staying in office.
But Mr. Trump’s move, while popular in Israel and among some lawmakers in Congress, is likely to be condemned almost everywhere else. … It will also reverberate throughout the Middle East and could undermine Mr. Trump’s long anticipated peace proposal for Israel and the Palestinians. The White House has been enlisting support for the plan among Arab leaders who now face the prospect of acquiescing in the loss of land they had long claimed as Arab.

10 March
David M. Halbfinger: Netanyahu-Trump Partnership Is Stronger Than Ever. Are These Its Final Days?
(NYT) Giant campaign billboards went up in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem a month ago showing the prime minister and the president shaking hands and grinning under the words “A Different League,” implicitly dismissing Mr. Netanyahu’s challengers as amateurs. Hours before Israel’s attorney general announced his intention to indict Mr. Netanyahu on corruption charges last month, Mr. Trump told reporters in Vietnam that the Israeli leader was “tough, smart, strong” and “has done a great job as prime minister.” … All of this is of great help to Mr. Netanyahu with voters in Israel, where polls show Mr. Trump is admired more than in almost any other country. But the prelude to the April 9 election in Israel could well be their last hurrah together.
Mr. Netanyahu’s defeat is now a serious possibility. His party is trailing that of a popular former army chief, Benny Gantz, in the polls. Even if Mr. Netanyahu wins, he may be unable to form a government because Mr. Gantz has vowed not to enter a coalition with him while he faces indictment. And if Mr. Netanyahu could forge a governing majority, it is likely to be so far right as to complicate or even derail the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the United States, Mr. Netanyahu’s new alliance with a racist Israeli fringe party is already freeing Democrats to denounce him with fewer concerns about Republican blowback. And in a matter of months, the criminal case against Mr. Netanyahu could dislodge him from power once and for all.
Netanyahu says Israel is a state ‘only of the Jewish people . . . not of all its citizens’

7 March
Israeli electoral committee bans Arab candidates, allows extreme right to run
(WaPost) A decision by Israel’s electoral committee to ban two Arab parties and a candidate from a third Arab-led slate from running in elections, while allowing a far-right-wing candidate despite recommendations from the attorney general to ban him, was sharply criticized Thursday by leaders of Israel’s Arab community.
The ruling was called unreasonable and racist, and it sparked fears among Israeli Arabs that the country’s 1.8 million Arab citizens could be further politically marginalized ahead of April 9 parliamentary elections.

28 February
Benjamin Netanyahu to be indicted on corruption charges, Israeli media reports
(PBS) In a Justice Ministry statement, Mandelblit says he plans to charge Netanyahu with bribery for promoting regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to telecom giant Bezeq in return for positive press coverage in Bezeq’s popular subsidiary news site Walla.
He will also charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust in two other cases. The first involves accepting gifts from billionaire friends and the second revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in return for favorable coverage.
Robert Fisk: Israel is playing a big role in India’s escalating conflict with Pakistan
Signing up to the ‘war on terror’ – especially ‘Islamist terror’ – may seem natural for two states built on colonial partition whose security is threatened by Muslim neighbours
For months, Israel has been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP government in an unspoken – and politically dangerous – “anti-Islamist” coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance, while India itself has now become the largest weapons market for the Israeli arms trade.

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