Israel, Palestine/Gaza May 2020 – March 2022

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Israel, Palestine/Gaza
U.S. Foreign Policy December 2020-

Peter Beinart: Debunking the myth that anti-Zionism is antisemitic
All over the world, it is an alarming time to be Jewish – but conflating anti-Zionism with Jew-hatred is a tragic mistake
(The Guardian) It is a bewildering and alarming time to be a Jew, both because antisemitism is rising and because so many politicians are responding to it not by protecting Jews but by victimising Palestinians. 7 March 2019

21 March
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Israel to share its Iron Dome technology with Ukraine. But that’s easier said than done
In his latest appeal for help from abroad, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has questioned Israel’s reluctance to sell its Iron Dome missile defence system to the besieged nation.
Israel has condemned the Russian invasion but has been wary of straining relations with Moscow, a powerbroker in neighbouring Syria where Israeli forces frequently attack pro-Iranian militia.
Israel’s Iron Dome system targets incoming rockets, firing interceptor missiles to destroy them in the air within seconds of them being launched.
John Blaxland, a professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University, says Iron Dome is effective, but deploying it in Ukraine would be complex.
“There is an understandable reluctance in Israel to share with Ukraine because Israel is deeply worried about the prospect of Russian vengeance manifested through proxies in Syria,” Dr Blaxland says.
“This is the hard-nosed reality of it all. Israel is deeply worried that by providing Ukraine with this technology, Russia will then let slip its forces and its proxies and provide incentive for Hezbollah and Syrian anti-Israel groups to attack Israel and make life difficult for Israel.
Israeli lawmakers tear into Zelensky for Holocaust comparisons in Knesset speech
Ukrainian president accused of ignoring his country’s part in Nazi genocide; Lapid refrains from criticism, vows Israel will keep aiding Ukraine ‘as much as we can’
(Times of Israel) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset on Sunday evening was received with mixed responses from Israeli lawmakers, with some calling it “outrageous” and others supporting the “distressed” president.
Several MKs harshly criticized Zelensky for drawing comparisons between the Holocaust and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and seemingly ignoring some Ukrainians’ complicity in the Nazi-led genocide.
“I admire the Ukraine president and support the Ukrainian people in heart and deed, but the terrible history of the Holocaust cannot be rewritten,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel tweeted.
In scathing speech, Zelensky pleads with Israel to prevent Russia’s ‘final solution’
Addressing lawmakers via Zoom, Ukrainian leader says Israel ‘will have to live’ with its decisions to withhold military aid from Kyiv and sit out Western sanctions on Moscow
Israel has long maintained good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, and has been seeking to use its unique position to broker an agreement between the two sides, as it tries to walk a tightrope maintaining its ties to both countries.
Ukraine has repeatedly pushed Israel for more support since Russia launched its invasion. But Israel has been seeking to avoid antagonizing Russia, which has a strong presence in Syria, where Israel carries out military action against Iran-linked groups.
Israel’s relationship with Kyiv has also been strained by the fact that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has avoided directly blaming Russia for the war, although Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has done so on several occasions.

18 March
Richard Silverstein: Indifference to Ukrainian suffering could prove costly for Israel
Bennett government’s fumbled response to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine betrays Jewish history and draws attention to Israel’s similarly odious actions.
(Al Jazeera opinion) Since the start of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, many Israelis have been passionately protesting against the aggression, and demanding their leaders do more to help Ukrainians.
Indeed, according to a poll conducted by Direct Polls LTD in early March, 76 percent of Israelis support the Ukrainians, while only 10 percent favour the Russians in this ongoing conflict. While the same poll showed that half of the Israeli population supports the government’s decision to remain neutral, there is still widespread disappointment over how this policy of neutrality has been implemented.

28 February-1 March
Ukraine’s ambassador: Israel is deporting dozens of refugees, we need more help
The issue, he said, was “humanitarian”. The ambassador said he had spoken with Israeli officials and urged them to reconsider the current policy.
Ties with Russia Compromise Israel’s Stance on Ukraine
Putin’s invasion raises questions about whether protecting Jewish national interests eclipses democratic solidarity.
By Bernard Avishai
(The New Yorker) Last Wednesday, with the news that Vladimir Putin had launched an invasion of its neighbor, Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement concerning “steps taken in eastern Ukraine” and endorsing the principle of “territorial integrity.” The statement didn’t even mention Russia, which rankled the Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv. “We just really hope that they will do something that sounds the same as our Western allies,” an Embassy spokeswoman said. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the architect of Israel’s current “center” government, abandoned the passive voice but not the guarded tone. Talking with reporters, he condemned “the Russian attack” as a “serious violation of the international order” and offered “humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian citizens,” but emphasized that Israel has good relations with both sides.


14 November
450 settler attacks on Palestinians in two years: Israeli NGO
Israeli forces are not intervening to stop the attacks in most cases, and often actively join in, B’Tselem rights group says.
(Al Jazeera) In a report published on Sunday, B’Tselem said in 66 percent of the incidents when settlers in the occupied West Bank attacked Palestinians, Israeli forces did not go to the scene. In 170 of the cases where the army did arrive, troops either chose not to intervene to protect the Palestinians or actively joined the attack.

5 November
Israel Moves to Silence the Stalwarts of Palestinian Civil Society
By Zena Agha, Palestinian Iraqi writer and nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
(NYT) On Oct. 19, the Israeli Ministry of Defense singled out six of the most prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, using secret, and thus far insufficient, evidence to accuse them of being “terrorist” organizations with links to a militant group. Just days later, Israel approved the construction of more than 3,000 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank and announced plans to double the Jewish-Israeli population in the Jordan Valley by 2026.
The effective criminalization of Palestinian institutions and the expansion of the settlements are two sides of the same coin. The goal is clear: to silence the independent monitoring of Israel’s human rights violations that stand between total annexation of the occupied West Bank and international accountability.

31 October
Israel’s new prime minister scores a foreign policy hat trick
By Vivian Bercovici, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel. She lives in Tel Aviv.
(National Post) Naftali Bennett is no pushover. His predecessor, ‘King Bibi,’ is neither great at managing succession nor accepting defeat
Bibi’s key nemeses: Gideon Sa’ar, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. The Likud narrative, reinforced by Bibi and his loyalists, was that these challengers were all weak poseurs; inexperienced, unprincipled and ambitious beyond their ability. Most importantly, Bibi warned, they were utterly lacking in the substance and gravitas necessary to navigate the treacherous foreign policy terrain that is Israel’s lot.
In the end, Netanyahu’s humiliation was complete. After four elections in two years, he was unable to form a governing coalition. The crown passed to his one-time Boy Wonder, Naftali Bennett, who cut his political teeth as Bibi’s chief of staff for two years more than a decade ago.
For the first month or so of Bennett’s tenure, Bibi mocked him tirelessly, saying he wouldn’t last a week. Then, a month. For six weeks, Bibi’s family refused to vacate the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, signalling clearly that he anticipated a fifth election in which he would triumph.
In recent months, the Likud attack dogs have gone quiet as they watch the new government undertake the diplomatic files with confidence and success. Not only are Bennett and Lapid taken seriously, but Putin, Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden have gone out of their way — either themselves or through key administration officials — to state specifically that the relationship with Israel is so important and sound that it is not dependent on any single individual to thrive.

25 October
Whose Promised Land?
A Journey Into a Divided Israel
By Patrick Kingsley
(NYT) We found a country still wrestling with contradictions left unresolved at its birth, and with the consequences of its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. We found a people facing complex questions about what it means to be Israeli, or a Palestinian citizen of Israel. And we found a battle of narratives — waged not only between Jews and Arabs, but also among Jews themselves.
Israel’s founders hoped to create a melting pot, a society that blended diverse communities into a single Jewish state. But we encountered an Israel that at times felt more like an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle — a collection of incompatible factions, each with its own priorities, grievances and history.

7 October
Daoud Kuttab: The Palestinian Ultimatum
By issuing an ultimatum before the UN General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hoped to shake the US from its complacency and force Israel to engage in real negotiations to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. With Palestinians losing patience, the alternative is an upsurge in violence.
(Project Syndicate) Last month, [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] addressed [the UN] 76th General Assembly and issued a bold ultimatum: Israel has one year to withdraw from the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, or the Palestinians would no longer recognize Israel based on the 1967 borders, and they would take the occupation before the International Court of Justice.
… Abbas affirms that the Palestinians are “ready to work throughout this year on the delineation of borders and solving all final-status issues under the auspices of the international Quartet” (the UN, the United States, the European Union, and Russia), and in accordance with UN resolutions. But, when a year is up, Israel must end its occupation.

25 September
In Reversal, Israel’s New Government Engages With Palestinian Authority
The government has held high-level meetings with Palestinian officials and aided the Palestinians economically, a sharp change from the previous government.
(NYT) One night last month, a top Israeli minister traveled the winding roads of the occupied West Bank to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.
The meeting between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mr. Abbas at the octogenarian Palestinian leader’s private residence — less than a 10-minute drive from the Israeli military’s regional headquarters — lasted only about 90 minutes, but it immediately made waves in Israel and the West Bank.
It was the first time in more than seven years that a senior Israeli minister was known to have met with Mr. Abbas. Israel’s previous government, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had denigrated Mr. Abbas as an intransigent inciter of violence and never met with him.

11 August
America Needs to Start Telling the Truth About Israel’s Nukes
By Peter Beinart
(NYT Guest opinion) American officials began hiding the truth about Israeli nuclear weapons after Israeli leaders hid the truth from them. In the early 1960s, writes Avner Cohen in his book “The Worst Kept Secret,” Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion repeatedly told President John F. Kennedy that the reactor Israel was building in the desert town of Dimona “was for peaceful purposes only.” When the United States sent inspectors to the site, the Israelis concocted an elaborate ruse, which included building fake walls to conceal the elevators that led to an underground reprocessing plant. By decade’s end, the die was cast. The C.I.A. concluded that Israel already possessed nuclear warheads.

1 August
Roger Cohen: Riots Shatter Veneer of Coexistence in Israel’s Mixed Towns
Seventy-three years after Israel’s birth in the 1948 Independence War, in which hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled or were driven out at gunpoint, Jews and Arabs in Israel live side by side but largely blind to each others’ lives.
The May riots, set off by provocative police interventions at the Aqsa Mosque and the outbreak of the 11-day Israel-Hamas war, tore away a thin layer of civility to expose seething resentments between Israel’s Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Across almost all of Israel’s seven officially “mixed” Arab-Jewish towns, gunfire, arson, stone-throwing and lynching left a trail of destruction. Arab mobs burned Jewish stores to the ground. Rightist Jewish vigilantes chanted “Death to Arabs.” Four people, two Jews and two Arabs, were killed and hundreds, mostly Arabs, were later arrested.
While some 2.7 million Palestinians chafe under military occupation in the West Bank, the nearly two million Palestinians in Israel are increasingly demanding equal rights as Israeli citizens. The tensions in the mixed cities, and the sense of inequality underlying them, pose the question of whether Israel can ever be a Jewish and democratic state if democracy involves full equality under the law for the 21 percent of the population that is Palestinian.
As Israel moved under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toward more strident Jewish nationalism, Palestinians were buffeted in several directions.
Always a hybrid community — Israeli by citizenship, Palestinian by heritage, Muslim or Christian or Druze in religion, bilingual in Arabic and Hebrew, viewed with suspicion by some diaspora Palestinians, scarred by the trauma of their compatriots’ expulsion — they developed a sharper sense of Palestinian identity even as their demands for full rights as Israeli citizens grew.
… At the most basic level, rights diverge. Any Jew can automatically become an Israeli citizen, so there is unequal access to citizenship. Jewish land claims, however murky their origin in Ottoman times or earlier, are generally upheld; Palestinian claims are rebuffed. Palestinians who fled in 1948 were quickly deemed “absentees” by law with no claim to the land they left.

31 July
How Netanyahu plans to bring down Israel’s new government
Analysts say ex-Israeli PM, removed in June after a 12-year tenure, is using a raft of tactics to undermine the gov’t.
(Al Jazeera) Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial, on charges he denies, has only deepened his desperation to return to power, and as the Knesset’s new opposition leader and the head of Likud, the largest party in parliament, he and his allies have been using a range of political tactics to frustrate the government.

9 July
The long and winding road of Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal woes
Plain denial appears to be the overarching strategy from the former Israeli leader’s legal team over a series of corruption cases against him.
(Al Jazeera) Legal experts say Benjamin Netanyahu’s fight against corruption-related charges could take years to conclude after his recent removal as Israel’s longest-serving leader, with court delays likely pushing full-swing witness testimony back until October. The trial has been suspended since June 16 as the prosecution and defence teams haggle over how to handle new evidence that recently came to light.

15 June
Israeli Aircraft Bomb Gaza Just Days Into New Government
After a day of rising tensions, which saw a far-right march in Jerusalem and incendiary balloons launched from Gaza, Israel’s new coalition government ordered airstrikes against Hamas.
The day of rising tensions was the first test of a new Israeli coalition government just three days into its term. It started when the government permitted a far-right Jewish march to pass through Palestinian areas of Jerusalem on Tuesday night, over the objections of Arab and leftist parties in the coalition, and despite threats from Hamas that it would retaliate.

12-13 June
Netanyahu, ‘King of Israel,’ Exits a Stage He Dominated
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister was a polarizing figure who sidelined efforts to resolve the Palestinian conflict but opened relations with four Arab countries.
He came in like a Kennedy, with brilliance and charisma, running rings around the much older Shimon Peres in a televised 1996 debate and introducing a slick, poll-tested American style.
He went out more like Nixon, his accomplishments tainted by allegations of criminality, his circle of trust constricted by banishments, betrayals and arrests until it included few besides his temperamental wife and calumniating eldest son.

Israel approves new governing coalition, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure
(WaPo) Netanyahu delivered a bellicose parting shot to Bennett and his allies, belittling the coalition as incapable of maintaining his record of economic growth, relative peace and standing up to U.S. pressure to acquiesce to a renewed nuclear deal with Iran.
“I’ll be back,” Netanyahu told lawmakers. “Try to ruin our wonderful economy as little as possible so we can fix it as quickly as possible when we return.”
Netanyahu compared the Biden administration’s push to renew the Iran deal to the U.S. failure during World War II to bomb the Nazi trains that took European Jews to the gas chambers.
Yair Lapid Won’t Be Israel’s Next Leader. But He’s the Power Behind the Throne.
If a new coalition government wins a confidence vote in Parliament on Sunday, Naftali Bennett will be Israel’s next prime minister. He wouldn’t be there without Yair Lapid.
By Patrick Kingsley
(NYT) On Sunday, Israeli lawmakers will hold a vote of confidence in a government to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader. The new coalition is a fragile alliance formed from eight ideologically diffuse parties that are united only by their shared dislike of Mr. Netanyahu. If it holds, it will be largely because Mr. Lapid coaxed the unlikely alliance into existence over months of phone calls and meetings with faction leaders.

11 June
Ex-Mossad chief signals Israel attacked Iran nuclear assets
(AP) — The outgoing chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service has offered the closest acknowledgment yet his country was behind recent attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program and a military scientist.
The comments by Yossi Cohen, speaking to Israel’s Channel 12 investigative program “Uvda” in a segment aired Thursday night, offered an extraordinary debriefing by the head of the typically secretive agency in what appears to be the final days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule.
It also gave a clear warning to other scientists in Iran’s nuclear program that they too could become targets for assassination even as diplomats in Vienna try to negotiate terms to try to salvage its atomic accord with world powers.

8-9 June
Israel’s Netanyahu lashes out as end of his era draws near
(AP) — In what appear to be the final days of his historic 12-year rule, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not leaving the political stage quietly.
The longtime leader is accusing his opponents of betraying their voters, and some have needed special security protection.
Netanyahu says he is the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy. He speaks in apocalyptic terms when talking about the country without his leadership.
“They are uprooting the good and replacing it with the bad and dangerous,” Netanyahu told the conservative Channel 20 TV station this week. “I fear for the destiny of the nation.”
Such language has made for tense days as Netanyahu and his loyalists make a final desperate push to try to prevent a new government from taking office on Sunday. With his options running out, it has also provided a preview of Netanyahu as opposition leader.
Netanyahu’s Likely Departure Is Not Easing the Fears of Palestinians
Attacks by settlers in the West Bank have been on the rise for years—and a new Israeli government is no guarantee of change.
By Raja Shehadeh
(The New Yorker) There is no rejoicing that Netanyahu would be replaced by the far-right politician Naftali Bennett, who served as the director general of Yesha, the umbrella organization of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Bennett supports the annexation of much of the occupied territories, and he is committed to the rejection of a Palestinian state. His ascension is a disappointment for anyone who believed that this was a propitious time for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a victory for the far-right settlers whom Palestinians fear.
In the West Bank, we have experienced rising settler violence for decades. When I was the director of the human-rights organization Al Haq, in the nineteen-eighties, settler attacks were infrequent. Since the start of the pandemic, settler attacks are a near-daily occurrence that are supported by the Israeli government and Army in the hope of creating a greater Israel.

30 May-2 June
Netanyahu challenge to legality of rival’s PM bid is rebuffed
Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s former defence minister, announced on Sunday he would join a proposed alliance with centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, serving as its premier first under a rotation deal.
They have until Wednesday midnight (2100 GMT) to present a final pact to Rivlin, who handed Lapid the task of forming a new government after Netanyahu failed to do so in the wake of a close election on March 23.
Netanyahu’s grip on power loosens as rival moves to unseat him
Bennett’s decision, which he announced in a televised address, could enable opposition chief Yair Lapid to put together a coalition of right-wing, centrist and leftist parties and hand Netanyahu his first election defeat since 1999.

27 May
UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate alleged crimes in conflict between Israel, Hamas
The United Nations Human Rights Council voted Thursday to create an international investigation to look into possible crimes during the 11-day conflict between Israel and militant groups in the Gaza Strip this month.
The body voted to establish the inquiry by a 24-9 vote, with 14 abstentions. The resolution to form the investigation was first brought forth by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations.
The establishment of the probe comes as Israel faces a slew of accusations of war crimes over its punishing aerial and artillery campaign against militants in Gaza, which was launched in response to the launching of thousands of rockets from Hamas and other groups toward southern and central Israel.

26 May
Blinken claims progress in effort to boost Israel-Hamas truce
US secretary of state wraps up two-day Middle East visit with pledges on cementing the ceasefire and rebuilding Gaza.
Hamas leader says group won’t touch Gaza reconstruction aid
Yahya Sinwar’s remarks come after the US pledged aid for Gaza, but stressed that the aid must not benefit Hamas.

25 May
Jeffrey Sachs: America, Human Rights, and Israel’s War on Palestine
Human rights are human rights, and they are part of international law under the UN Charter. Whether the case is Xinjiang and the Uighurs, Myanmar and the Rohingya, or Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, the correct way to defend international law is through the United Nations, starting with an independent investigation under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council.

21 May
Gaza: Daunting rebuilding task after 11 days of Israeli bombing
UN warns health facilities in danger of being overwhelmed and urges immediate access to Gaza for supplies and personnel.

Israel-Hamas truce takes hold after 11 days of fighting

(Reuters) An Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and Hamas took hold on Friday after the worst violence in years, with U.S. President Joe Biden pledging to salvage the devastated Gaza Strip and the United Nations urging renewed Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
Israel approves Gaza ceasefire after nearly two weeks of violence
(Al Arabiya) Israeli media say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet has approved a unilateral cease-fire to halt an 11-day military operation in the Gaza Strip.
The decision came after heavy US pressure to halt the offensive.
Israel and Hamas will enter a “mutual and simultaneous” Gaza truce at 2 am on Friday (2300 GMT Thursday), a Hamas official told Reuters.
An Egyptian official said Israel has informed his government, which is mediating a truce, that it intends to end its military operations in Gaza. … The official spoke shortly after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi talked by phone with President Joe Biden. The two leaders discussed ways to stop violence in the Palestinian Territories, al-Sissi’s office said.
Even with a Ceasefire, Israel Must Face a Changed Reality
Bernard Avisha
There is a growing sense that Israel cannot come out of this crisis the same country it was when it went into it.
Israel unleashes strikes as expectations for truce rise
(AP) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back against calls from the U.S. to wind down the Gaza offensive, appearing determined to inflict maximum damage on Hamas in a war that could help save his political career. Still, officials close to the negotiations say they expect a truce to be announced in the next 24 hours.
The current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas began May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.
Since then, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network. Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted.
At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and militant group Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

19 May
Live Updates: Signs That a Gaza Cease-Fire May Be Near, as Diplomatic Pressure Grows
(NYT) President Biden and other world leaders intensified calls to end the conflict, while Hamas and Israel suggested that a halt may come soon.
Rockets fired from Lebanon as Israel expands airstrikes and ceasefire efforts intensify
U.S. President Joe Biden calls for ‘significant de-escalation’ of ongoing conflict
(AP) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday to press ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip, pushing back against calls from the United States to wind down the operation that has left hundreds dead.
Israel strike in Gaza destroys building with AP, other media
(AP) Palestinians on Saturday were marking Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what was now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest.
U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.N. Security Council was set to meet Sunday. But Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official said Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

16-17 May
Israel-Gaza conflict only serves to benefit Hamas, Iran, Israeli far-right
Nadim Shehadi
(Al Arabiya) The current war between Israel and Hamas is a victory for both Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” and benefits Israel’s far-right. It cannot end well for Israel, and comes at the expense of Palestinian lives, and regional peace processes.
Hamas has won this war even before it ends. It is a victory against Hamas’ Palestinian and Arab rivals, who sought peace through negotiations. Israel gifted this to Hamas by giving it the opportunity to take the moral high ground, Israel lost because it has no options itself for a good outcome.
As it stands Israel cannot stop bombing Gaza, that would be capitulation. It also cannot continue bombing Gaza, there is a limit to how many people Israel can kill with no clear objective. Killing for the sake of killing is not a strategy. Israel’s friends in the region are humiliated, its enemies triumphant. Someone needs to save Israel from itself.
Violence in Israel Is a Political Victory for Netanyahu
(New York) Despite growing international pressure to seek a ceasefire, Netanyahu said on Sunday that the offensive against Hamas would continue for some time as Israel sought to exact a “heavy price” on the group for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Israel will inevitably “win” this round of fighting once it has “mowed the grass,” as some in the Israeli security community offensively describe these military campaigns. … This will be a hollow victory, however, as it will only return Israel to a status quo of ever-present tension and threat: in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and every Israeli town where Jews and Arabs live in close proximity. The only real winner here is the man who sold Israelis on the idea that this state of permanent war and occupation is acceptable: Netanyahu himself.
In the most likely scenario, Israelis will end up going to the polls for a fifth time. Netanyahu has pushed for changing the law to allow for direct election of the prime minister, to govern separately from the Knesset, but he does not appear to have the votes for that in the legislature, either. The idea of changing the country’s entire system of government so that he can remain prime minister without a Knesset majority is indicative of how desperate he is to stay in power. Netanyahu is currently on trial for corruption, and a more secure hold on the prime ministry would better position him to seek some form of immunity.

8-14 May
Tamara Cofman Wittes: This is what the death of the two-state solution looks like
The current unravelling has its roots in the political dysfunction of both Israel’s party system and the Palestinian national movement’s decayed one-party dictatorship.
(Brookings) The current crisis between Israelis and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, between Arabs and Jews in cities inside Israel, and between Israel and Hamas, is not analogous to any of the previous rounds of violence inflicted on Palestinian and Israeli civilians by their increasingly feckless and bankrupt political leaders. This is not another 2014, or another 2009, or another Second Intifada. It is something new. This is what the death of the two-state solution looks like.
Shlomo Ben-Ami: The End of Israel’s Illusion
The prevailing consensus among Israelis that Palestinian nationalism had been defeated – and thus that a political solution to the conflict was no longer necessary – lies in tatters. And even as the violence escalates, it has become clear to both sides that the era of glorious wars and victories is over.
(Project Syndicate) Wars can be triggered by an isolated incident, but their cause is always deeper. In this case, the trigger, the eviction of Palestinians in favor of Israeli nationalists in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, touched all the sensitive nerves of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, its humiliating control of access to the Al-Aqsa mosque, the ever-present memory of the 1948 Nakba (the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians when Israel was founded), and the grievances of Israel’s Arab minority are all fueling the current flare-up.It may be true that the contested real estate in Sheikh Jarrah did belong to a Jewish family before 1948. But Palestinians saw the incident as part of Israel’s unrelenting drive to “Judaize” Jerusalem, and a striking injustice, because the state of Israel was built partly on the abandoned properties of Palestinian refugees. While Jews are entitled to reclaim property they owned before Israel’s founding, Palestinians may not.
Bernard Avishai: Hamas and Netanyahu Are Gambling Dangerously in Jerusalem
Forces in Israel and in Gaza are seeking to exploit the polarizing violence.
(The New Yorker) …the case is complex, but the larger provocation is simple. After 1948, many Arab lands and residences on the Israeli side, including the house that I live in, were legally declared to have been abandoned, and thus available to the Israeli government to lease or sell to Israeli Jews. Jordan did the same regarding Jewish property on its side of the city. Israel is now in charge on both sides, and in recent years courts have allowed the enforcement of old Jewish claims, but not those of Arabs.
What kind of country is Israel becoming?
Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
How do we fight a war against terrorists when we internalize the terror and turn against each other? Is this how Israel unravels?
(Globe & Mail) A week ago, Israel was on the verge of forming its first joint Jewish-Arab government, breaking the political deadlock that has caused four inconclusive elections in two years. Though there have been Arab ministers, Arab parties never participated in a government coalition. Arab politicians didn’t want to risk supporting a government at war with our Arab neighbours; Jewish politicians didn’t want to legitimize Arab politicians who sometimes supported terror attacks against Jews. Thanks to the political deadlock, though, both sides were actively exploring a way to co-operate and treat each other as fellow citizens.
But now, suddenly, we are experiencing the worst Arab-Jewish violence in our history. Not in the West Bank but in Haifa, Acre, Lod – the heart of Israel.
Nicholas Kristof : What Your Taxes Are Paying For in Israel
The Middle East is again erupting in fire and fury, and once again extremists on each side are empowering extremists on the other. Kids are dead, and the beneficiaries seem to be Netanyahu and Hamas. I explore this in my column and also raise the question of the several billion dollars in military assistance that the U.S. gives to Israel each year. Is that really a better use of our taxpayer dollars than Covid vaccinations abroad or child care at home? Should our aid be conditioned on it reducing conflict rather than aggravating it?

Gaza’s Rockets: A Replenished Arsenal That Vexes Israel
Despite a blockade, Palestinian militants have used help from Iran, ingenuity, Israeli-fired duds and even plumbing pipes to make thousands of rockets with increased range.

Bloomberg: Netanyahu has no great incentive to back down quickly. His rivals are seeking to piece together a government in Israel after yet another inconclusive election, and the violence is disrupting their negotiations to do so. And by sanctioning military strikes, he can burnish his credentials as a leader willing to protect Israelis when it matters.
Israel-Palestine conflict raises alarm across the world
From calls for ‘restraint’ to worries about possible war crimes, political leaders and international courts weigh in on latest escalation.
Hamas fires rockets after Israel destroys third Gaza tower: Live
Israeli forces bomb police headquarters and security buildings in Gaza as authorities say 65 Palestinians killed, including 16 children, since the escalation began.
Palestinians report several killed in Israeli air raids on Gaza
The attacks were carried out after Hamas fired several rockets at Israel, following the expiration of the group’s ultimatum demanding Israel stand down forces from the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
Israeli police storm al-Aqsa mosque ahead of Jerusalem Day march
180 people reported injured overnight as hard-line Israelis prepare for parade through Old City
Tensions have soared in recent days in advance of the now-delayed Israeli court ruling on whether authorities were able to evict dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, located just outside the old city, and give their homes to Jewish settlers.
About 90 Palestinians injured in Israeli crackdown: Live
(Al Jazeera) The latest violence comes on Islam’s holy night of Laylat al-Qadr, a day after Israeli police stormed Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and injured 205 Palestinians.
Scores injured in fresh night of Jerusalem clashes
(The Guardian) Islamic authorities estimated 90,000 people had gathered for nighttime prayers at the holy city’s al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.
The fresh violence came a day after more than 200 people were wounded in fighting around the mosque, prompting international calls for calm.
Tensions in Jerusalem have soared in recent days, ahead of a Monday Israeli court ruling on whether authorities can evict dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and give their homes to Jewish settlers.
… Earlier, ahead of Laylat al-Qadr, considered to be the holiest night during Ramadan, police had blocked busloads of pilgrims headed to Jerusalem to worship.
World reacts as Jerusalem tensions escalate
More than 200 wounded in Al-Aqsa amid growing anger over Israeli plans to evict Palestinian families from occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah.

14 May
Understanding Israel’s Latest Attack on Gaza — And Who Benefits
Netanyahu’s political troubles — and an arms industry eager to battle test new wares on Gazans — may help explain the latest escalation of violence.
(Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF)) It’s easy to say no one benefits. But it’s not true.
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has a whole lot to gain from this assault — among other things, it may keep him out of jail. More broadly, Israel’s strategic military planners have been waiting for another attack on Gaza. And for Israel’s arms manufacturers, assaulting Gaza is what the leading Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz has called “a cash cow.”
The Hamas rocket fire that began on May 10 did not come out of nowhere. It was a response to Israeli police and settler attacks against Palestinians in Jerusalem, indeed across much of the West Bank as well.
Those attacks included demolitions to force Palestinians out of their homes and the continuing threat of eviction for families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. They included police denying Palestinians access to the steps of the Damascus Gate of the Old City, their traditional gathering place to share iftar (sunset) meals during the fasting month of Ramadan.
And they included the deliberate provocation — not only to Palestinians but to Muslims everywhere — of Israeli police raiding the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in all of Islam, shooting stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets at worshipers at morning prayer in and around the mosque.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is on trial and facing years in jail for a wide range of corruption charges. As long as he remains prime minister, he can’t be jailed — but if he loses his ruling coalition, as he was on the verge of doing just before this crisis, he could go to prison.
So for Netayanhu, maintaining public support is not just a political goal but an urgent personal necessity.
Netanyahu’s political capital is also bound up with his claim to be the only Israeli leader who can maintain the key levels of absolute impunity and uncritical economic and political support from the United States. Certainly the Trump years were characterized by Washington’s warmest embrace of Netanyahu’s right-wing government and the most extremist pro-Israel policies to date. But so far President Biden, presumably convinced that moving to restore the Iran nuclear deal means no other pressure on Israel is possible, has recalibrated only the rhetoric.

4 May
Netanyahu’s deadline to form government expires, rivals eyed
(Reuters) Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadline for forming a new Israeli government expired early on Wednesday, with the country’s longest-serving prime minister having failed to break more than two years of political deadlock.
There was also no guarantee that, after the conservative incumbent was unable to assemble a new coalition, parties outside his caretaker government could bridge their differences and unseat him.
Netanyahu, 71, has been in office since 2009 and also served for three years in the 1990s. He has been fighting to hold the helm through four inconclusive elections since 2019 and is on trial for criminal corruption charges he denies.
Naftali Bennett, head of the ultranationalist Yamina party, has emerged as a kingmaker. Bennett, 49, has voiced a preference to join Netanyahu but said he would seek a partnership with the prime minister’s opponents to avoid a fifth election as Israel reopens its economy following a swift COVID-19 vaccination rollout and grapples with the challenges of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Israel’s ‘shadow war’ and plans to scupper Iran’s nuclear deal
Hawkish elements in Israel will continue to play a leading role moving forward on Tehran’s nuclear programme, analysts say.
(Al Jazeera) Yaniv Voller, senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Kent, said Israel’s efforts against Iran’s nuclear programme – often described as “the shadow war” – are likely to continue given the positive events in Vienna after Tehran’s recent negotiations with world powers on the nuclear accord.
However, Voller said a hot war remains unlikely despite Israel’s best efforts.
“I do not think the shadow war will turn into a full-blown conflict between Israel and Iran. A greater risk is a local conflict between Israel and Iran’s proxies in the region, particularly Hezbollah,” Voller told Al Jazeera.

23 April
Israeli police arrest dozens in night of chaos in Jerusalem
(AP) — Israeli police say 44 people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in a night of chaos in Jerusalem, where security forces separately clashed with Palestinians angry about Ramadan restrictions and Jewish extremists who held an anti-Arab march nearby.
Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Residents braced for possible further unrest as police stepped up security and the U.S. Embassy appealed for calm.

7 April
Reversing Trump, Biden Restores Aid to Palestinians
The move will once again make the United States a leading donor to the United Nations agency that assists about 5.7 million Palestinians in the Middle East.
The package, which gives at least $235 million in assistance to Palestinians, will go to humanitarian, economic, development and security efforts in the region, and is part of the administration’s attempt to rehabilitate U.S. relations with Palestinians, which effectively stopped when Mr. Trump was in office.
In a statement on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the United States would provide $150 million in humanitarian aid, funneled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a vast agency created 72 years ago to assist displaced Palestinians.

6 April
Israeli president picks Netanyahu to try to form government
Israel’s election ended with neither a Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc nor an alliance of his opponents winning a parliamentary majority. “I know the position held by many, that the president should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges,” Rivlin said. But the law says he must.

Defendant No. 1 or Next Prime Minister? Netanyahu Divides Israel
With Benjamin Netanyahu on trial on corruption charges, even as he tries to cobble together a new government, Israel’s democratic system is drawing closer to a constitutional crisis.
(NYT) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in a Jerusalem court on Monday for the opening of the key, evidentiary phase of his corruption trial. Simultaneously, just two miles across town, representatives of his party were entreating the country’s president to task him with forming Israel’s next government.
For many here, the extraordinary convergence of events was an illustration of a political and constitutional malaise afflicting the nation that gets worse from year to year.
After four inconclusive elections in two years, Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, who is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and who denies wrongdoing, remains the most polarizing figure on the political stage. But he is also the leader of Israel’s largest party, which took the most seats in national elections last month.

24 March
Opinion: Israel is at an impasse again, when what it needs is to end the era of Netanyahu
(WaPo editorial board) If Israel is headed for weeks or months of political uncertainty, and possibly a fifth election, it is because of the polarizing effect of one man, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The longest-serving leader in Israel’s history has so alienated some of his own natural constituencies — in part through corrupt behavior for which he is currently on trial — that he is unable to unite the center-right majority that voters chose. Yet he refuses to give up office, and his own cynical maneuvering may well prevent anyone else from doing so.
Netanyahu, who bonded tightly with President Donald Trump, followed his example by claiming “a giant victory” despite the failure of his Likud party and its allies to gain a majority. And it could be that a politician who has survived numerous previous setbacks will again contrive a way to remain in power. That might involve courting a new Islamist party representing Israeli Arabs, while simultaneously embracing openly racist and homophobic Jewish extremists.
Israel Election Live: With Nearly 90 Percent of Votes Counted, All Eyes on Surprise Kingmaker
(Haaretz) Israel elections 2021: Kahanist party makes major gains ■ 450,000 votes in double-sealed envelopes yet to be counted ■ Kahol Lavan, Meretz spring back from brink of demise ■ Islamist party enters Knesset
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud has emerged as the largest party with the majority of the vote counted in Israel’s unprecedented fourth election in two years. However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition. The vote count is expected to continue through Friday.
Exit polls indicate no clear winner in Israeli elections
(AP) Israeli parliamentary elections on Tuesday resulted in a virtual deadlock for a fourth time in the past two years, exit polls indicated, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with an uncertain future and the country facing the prospect of continued political gridlock.
The exit polls on Israel’s three main TV stations indicated that both Netanyahu and his religious and nationalist allies, along with an anti-Netanyahu group of parties, both fell short of the parliamentary majority required to form a new government. That left Naftali Bennett, leader of the small nationalist Yamina party, as the potential kingmaker, though even that was not certain.
COVID-19 vaccinations are proof of Israel’s medical apartheid
(Al Jazeera) The coronavirus does not stop at checkpoints. As an occupier, Israel must provide medical supplies to Palestinians and adopt measures to combat the disease there.
In Israel, more than five million people, or more than half the population, have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and case numbers are dropping.
Just a few kilometres away in Palestine, COVID cases are rising, all of its estimated 200 ventilators are in use, and the Palestinian Authority announced it can no longer put additional COVID patients on ventilators.
Why the disparity? Because Israel has refused to provide vaccines for the more than four million Palestinians living under its military rule. To make matters worse, while refusing to provide vaccines to Palestinians, Israel has sent vaccines to Guatemala and Honduras – two countries that moved their embassies to Jerusalem in defiance of international law; countries whose actions further harm Palestinians.

19 March
Merav Michaeli Leader of Israel’s Labor Party
(Amanpour & Co.) Israel heads to the polls yet again on Tuesday for its fourth election in two years. Another failed coalition left the country without a functioning government during the pandemic, continuing the endless cycle of political deadlock and dysfunction. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now hopes that the country’s world-leading vaccine rollout will propel him and his right-wing allies to victory. Israel’s most revered Labor leaders — David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin — were proud creations of the country’s political Left. Yet now – for the first time in Israeli history – polls are indicating that Labor might be completely shut out in the upcoming election. This is the uphill battle facing the current leader, Merav Michaeli, who is also the only woman leading a major party into this election.

17 March
The Israeli and Palestinian elections offend democracy – each in their own way
Salem Barahmeh
Polls taking place months apart simply highlight the two-tier system that denies Palestinians any real voice or freedom
(The Guardian) Israel occupies and controls the entirety of the West Bank and has de facto annexed large portions of it through the settling of 650,000-750,000 Israelis on Palestinian land. Under the Rome statute of the international criminal court, a settlement enterprise of this nature is not only illegal but also considered a war crime. Yet these illegal settlers are able to run, campaign, and vote in Israeli elections and have come to occupy the position of king-makers in Israeli coalition politics.
Israel’s famed “democracy”, like its expansionist policies, doesn’t stop at or recognise the green line – if anything it has bulldozed them into oblivion. In practice, Israel effectively exercises total control over the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem don’t get to vote for the regime that rules every aspect of their lives, even though the Israelis living on the same land do.

5 March
How a Journalist-Turned-Politician Became the Best Hope for Israel’s Anyone-but-Bibi Camp
(Foreign Policy) Centrist Yair Lapid refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition last year. Now the decision is paying off.
The Israeli politician who may stand the best chance of defeating long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in this month’s election has little name recognition abroad and one simple message at home: sanity. (paywall)

28 February
Israel’s ahead-of-the-world vaccine rollout offers hope for countries lagging behind
(WaPo) Israel’s fastest-in-the world vaccine campaign, which reached half its citizens as of Sunday, is offering other countries the first real-life look at how mass inoculation can bend the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic.
A rush of Israeli medical research — some emerging too fast for academic journals to keep up — reveals that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is even more effective than hoped at preventing serious disease and death, safe for nearly all adults, and almost completely free of serious side effects.
Israel’s scientific results have allowed health officials to open the inoculation program to pregnant women and nursing mothers, while the findings also showed that it was safe for those with food allergies and autoimmune diseases.
And the vaccine has proved so good at protecting the elderly, who are especially vulnerable, that hospital administrators here say it has all but eliminated the risk that covid-19 cases would collapse their critical care systems. Almost 90 percent of Israelis over 50 have been fully vaccinated.

8 February
Israeli PM Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumes weeks before election
(Business Standard) Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in a Jerusalem courtroom Monday to respond formally to corruption charges just weeks before national elections in which he hopes to extend his 12-year rule
Netanyahu was indicted last year for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. In recent months, Israelis have held weekly protests calling on him to resign over the charges and criticizing his government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Protesters gathered outside the courthouse could be heard inside the room where the hearing was being held.
He stands accused of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy friends and offering to grant favours to powerful media moguls in exchange for favourable coverage of him and his family. The latest hearing was postponed last month due to lockdown restrictions on public gatherings.
Netanyahu has served as Israel’s prime minister since 2009, and in the past two years has managed to hang onto power through three tumultuous, deadlocked elections. His flimsy ruling coalition collapsed in December, and he now faces a major battle for reelection in March 23 parliamentary elections.


23 December
Israel to hold fourth election in two years as political crisis grinds on
Failure of fractious coalition government to pass budget triggers snap election and plunges country into more political chaos
(The Guardian) Beset by infighting and distrust, the government was unable to pass a budget by a midnight deadline on Tuesday (10pm GMT), triggering a snap election next March and lurching the country back into a protracted political crisis.
Under their power-sharing deal, Netanyahu serves as prime minister for the first 18 months, after which Gantz would take the leadership role for the remainder of the three-year term.
Political analysts in Israel have speculated that Netanyahu might want to torpedo the government prematurely rather than hand over power, especially as the 71-year-old is engaged in a lengthy corruption case that he would rather fight as prime minister.
A last-ditch attempt failed this week to pass legislation in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to delay the deadline.
Benny Gantz, the former head of the opposition who begrudgingly joined Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition in May, has been unable to get the prime minister to agree to a budget.

6 December
Netanyahu’s reaction to Biden’s victory is appalling
By Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
(WaPo) When U.S. media designated Biden the winner on Nov. 7, Netanyahu delayed until the next day before publicly congratulating him — conspicuously behind other close U.S. allies. Even then, the prime minister’s tweet did not address Biden as president-elect, nor explicitly acknowledge he had won. Fourteen minutes later, Netanyahu separately tweeted thanks to Trump for “the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally.”
Since then, Netanyahu has publicly taken a militant stand against one of Biden’s principal foreign policy pledges: that he would return the United States to the nuclear accord with Iran.
Netanyahu’s preparations for a Biden administration actually began before the election. On Oct. 14, a government committee approved 2,260 new housing units in the occupied West Bank — two-thirds of them in areas that would almost certainly be included in the Palestinian state that Biden strongly supports. Remarkably, 600 of the new units were designated for Jewish settlements that were prohibited from expanding even under Trump’s grotesquely one-sided Mideast peace plan, which Netanyahu endorsed.

13 November
Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Accused in U.S. Embassy Attacks, Is Secretly Killed in Iran
Israeli agents shot Abu Muhammad al-Masri on the streets of Tehran at the behest of the U.S., officials said, but no one — Iran, Al Qaeda, the U.S. or Israel — has publicly acknowledged the killing.
The killing occurred in such a netherworld of geopolitical intrigue and counterterrorism spycraft that Mr. al-Masri’s death had been rumored but never confirmed until now. For reasons that are still obscure, Al Qaeda has not announced the death of one of its top leaders, Iranian officials covered it up, and no country has publicly claimed responsibility for it.

16 September
The conspiracy theory of the UAE-Israel agreement
The Arab leaders who have recognized and normalized with Israel have stated they have not betrayed the Palestinians. Do they know something that we do not know?
(Jerusalem Post) One of the smartest men in the entire Middle East must be Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, colloquially known by his initials as MBZ. He is the Crown Prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. He is also the architect behind the Israel-UAE normalization deal, and probably also the main force behind the Israel-Bahrain full diplomatic relations deal.
The ambitious plan of MBZ, if successful, will turn the entire Middle East upside down. The plan includes a full strategic alliance between the moderate Sunni countries and Israel, with the US tying up the package with massive arms sales. The main purpose of the alliance is to overthrow the regime of the ayatollahs in Iran before it becomes nuclear. At the same time, they plan to reign in the expansionist aspirations of Turkey, and isolate Qatar – the allies of the hated and feared Muslim Brotherhood.

14 September
Daoud Kuttab: The Arab Betrayal of Palestine
For good reason, Arab and Muslim-majority countries have agreed that normalizing relations with Israel must be made conditional on the end of the occupation of Palestinian territories. By breaking with this consensus, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have undermined the prospects for peace.
(Project Syndicate) … The Saudi-initiated Arab Peace Initiative – which was passed unanimously in 2002 and later adopted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – offers diplomatic normalization in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the areas it seized in 1967.
… despite the framework being aligned with international law and moderate enough for any mainstream Israeli party to consider seriously, Israel not only rejected the plan but went on to make the situation even worse. Under the watch of the Israeli army, the construction of illegal Jewish settlements was stepped up, and even more Palestinian homes were bulldozed to make way for them. And since then, Israel’s right-wing government under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has begun to countenance the outright theft – through annexation – of even more Palestinian territory.With such belligerent leadership in Israel, many in the region and beyond were surprised by the United Arab Emirates’ decision to normalize relations with Israel. With a population of just 1.4 million nationals, the UAE is breaking with a global consensus held by 423 million Arabs and 1.8 billion Muslims. A month after the UAE’s decision, Bahrain, with just 1.6 million people, announced that it would follow suit.
… Needless to say, US President Donald Trump’s administration and the Netanyahu government are delighted to have “flipped” an Arab country without any need for meaningful Israeli concessions. For their part, Arabs and Palestinians long for normal relations with Israel, but only after the occupation has ended. When one party is a military power with even more powerful friends, peace must be reached through a just settlement, not unilateral action. A country that serially violates human rights and international treaties should not be rewarded with normal relations, even from tiny Arab gulf countries.

1 September
The Israel-U.A.E. Deal May Boost Both Economies, but It’s Also Another Netanyahu Ploy
By Bernard Avishai
(The New Yorker) Outwardly, Israelis seem willing to bear a political cost for the anticipated commercial benefit. The U.A.E.’s Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, called it “a win for diplomacy” that immediately stops Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threatened annexation of part of the West Bank “and the potential for violent escalation.” The U.A.E.’s foreign-affairs minister, Anwar Gargash, claimed that normalization reflected “badly needed realism.” A snap poll revealed that nearly eighty per cent of Israelis prefer normalization over annexation.
Israelis—some suspicious, some admiring—also understand the deal to be Netanyahu’s latest political maneuver. Another survey, conducted in the wake of the deal’s announcement, revealed that half of respondents thought that Netanyahu was mainly concerned with “his legal future”—his trial for bribery and breach of trust began on May 24th—and only eighteen per cent thought he cared about “the interests of the state.” Still, the same survey reported that, were yet another election called, a Netanyahu-led right-wing coalition would easily win a majority in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Netanyahu, for his part, is trying to capitalize on his new asset, as if a new election campaign were already under way. He claimed success for the “Netanyahu Doctrine”—“peace through strength”—suggesting that he alone could have secured the deal—indeed, that those who said that Palestinians had a veto over Israel’s advance in the Arab world were proved wrong.

13 – 14 August

Israel and United Arab Emirates Strike Major Diplomatic Agreement

President Trump said the deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel would normalize diplomatic relations and begin cooperation in areas such as security, trade and tourism.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a landmark accord sealed by President Trump on Thursday that could presage a broader realignment in the region as the two agreed to “full normalization of relations” in exchange for Israel suspending annexation of occupied West Bank territory.
In a surprise announcement at the White House after a three-way phone call with Israeli and Emirati leaders, Mr. Trump said the deal would lead to greater cooperation on investment, tourism, security, technology, energy and other areas while the two countries move to allow regular direct passenger flights, open embassies and trade ambassadors for the first time.
If fulfilled, the pact would make the Emirates only the third Arab country to have normal diplomatic relations with Israel along with Egypt, which signed a peace agreement in 1979, and Jordan, which signed a treaty in 1994. It could reorder the long stalemate in the region, potentially leading other Arab nations to follow suit in forging an increasingly explicit alliance with Israel against their mutual enemy in Iran while taking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s explosive annexation plan off the table, at least for now.
Thomas Friedman: A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Mideast
The Israel-United Arab Emirates deal will be felt throughout the region.
The agreement brokered by the Trump administration for the United Arab Emirates to establish full normalization of relations with Israel, in return for the Jewish state forgoing, for now, any annexation of the West Bank, was exactly what Trump said it was in his tweet: a “HUGE breakthrough.”
Just go down the scorecard, and you see how this deal affects every major party in the region — with those in the pro-American, pro-moderate Islam, pro-ending-the-conflict-with-Israel-once-and-for-all camp benefiting the most and those in the radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind.
Around-the-halls: Experts analyze the normalization of Israel-UAE ties
(Brookings) Natan Sachs , Director and Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy: Normalization between Israel and the UAE is an excellent thing, in and of itself. It’s high time these countries have open, normal relations. But the context is of course key: the Israeli plan to annex parts of the West Bank, along the lines to be delineated by the U.S. and Israel after the release of Trump administration plan. The UAE-Israeli-U.S. deal allows everyone to climb down: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can avoid the terrible mistake of annexation while claiming he got something big for it (he did!). The UAE can claim it prevented annexation from happening — from UAE Ambassador Yousef Otaiba’s Hebrew-language op-ed warning of the move, to the big carrot of diplomatic normalization. Trump gets to avoid the annexation he himself sanctioned, and all the complications it could have produced, while showing a big win for two of his favorite allies.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy: Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem each had their own good reasons for finding a way to open the door to formal relations, but there’s no question the announcement today is also a boon to Donald Trump as he faces a re-election with few concrete accomplishments to his name and many policy failures. Still, the White House should not take too much comfort from this outcome: Among other things, Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Muhammed bin Zayed (MBZ) have now positioned themselves well for the possibility of a post-Trump Washington. Netanyahu has taken off the table a step that the Democratic presidential candidate has said he firmly opposes, and for which other Democrats in Congress are threatening to impose consequences. And MBZ has taken a step that can only win praise and plaudits from any incoming U.S. administration, while separating his nation from Saudi Arabia in the minds of Democrats who are ill-disposed to Riyadh. It seems both Bibi and MBZ have placed their bets for November.
The big losers in today’s announcement, of course, are the Palestinians — who are supposed to be grateful at being spared a de jure annexation of territory in the West Bank that many would say has been in place de facto for years already. Abu Dhabi, like Anwar Sadat’s Egypt in 1978, is putting its national interests above Arab solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The Emiratis are betting they can easily weather the storm of unwelcome reactions in the Arab world — and they have far more reason than Sadat did to make that judgment.
UAE Strikes Peace Deal With Israel, Sells Out Palestinians
Since its founding in 1971, the UAE had withheld recognition from Israel due to its occupation of Palestinian territories. … But in 2020, the Emirati leadership has more use for warm relations with Israel than they do for the Palestinian cause. The UAE and Israel are both wealthy nations with a shared interest in countering Iranian regional influence. The rising generation of Gulf royals have less personal attachment to Palestinian nationhood than many of their forebears. And Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) feels secure enough in his power to flout domestic public opinion on a matter of foreign policy.
The UAE’s price for providing Israel with this recognition — and providing its embattled leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, with a political victory — was markedly cheap. The Israeli government did not pledge to recognize Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank. It did not promise to halt or even slow the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Rather, Israel agreed that it will not illegally annex its settlements in the West Bank, in wanton defiance of international law and opinion — for a little while.
Iran and Turkey denounce UAE over deal with Israel
Tehran says deal to establish full diplomatic ties is ‘dagger in the backs of the Palestinian people’

4 July
Over 30,000 Israelis Ordered Into Quarantine as Coronavirus Digital Tracking Resumes
Some say they were at home at the time in question, but they have no means of appealing the order which came after Knesset temporarily allowed Shin Bet assistance to locate suspected patients
Like Trump, Netanyahu Is Running Into the Brick Wall of Coronavirus Reality
The resurging coronavirus pandemic, annexation delay, economic slump and his own unforced errors are making snap elections less attractive by the day

30 June – 1 July
Gwynne Dyer: Netanyahu stalls
The problem with annexation is both national and personal. Since Israel already controls the entire West Bank militarily, and effectively treats the third of the territory that has been taken by Jewish settlers as part of Israel, there’s not much to be gained by annexation, and the costs are high.
The ‘two-state solution,’ in which an independent Palestinian mini-state shares historic Palestine with the far larger and more powerful ‘Jewish national state’ of Israel, has in principle been the goal of Israeli-Arab peace talks for almost three decades now. Even though it is really long dead.
It was Netanyahu who killed it, the first time he was prime minister back in 1996-99, but he was careful not to put a stake through its heart. The two-state solution was the ‘threat’ he used to mobilize the growing right-wing majority in Israel to vote for him, posing as ‘Mr Security’ who would never let it happen.
Eventually Netanyahu added another threat to his electoral rhetoric, in the form of an Iran allegedly always on the brink of getting nuclear weapons. He even seems to believe in that one. But the two-state ‘threat’ always remained an indispensable part of his sales pitch, so he must have watched the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in 2016 with mixed emotions.
First, annexation is illegal, and might trigger sanctions and boycotts against Israel in other countries. Secondly, it might lead to a new uprising by the several million Palestinians who live in the occupied areas, and a rupture in relations with Israel’s increasingly friendly Arab neighbours, like Jordan, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps more importantly for Netanyahu, a large-scale annexation of the occupied territory would eliminate the mythical ‘two-state’ threat that has been his greatest political asset — and deprive him of the ability to dangle the prospect of annexation before the settler block again in future elections. He prefers the status quo, and he is now stalling in the hope that he may be able to avoid keeping his promises.
Delay Appears Likely In Israel’s Plans To Annex Parts Of West Bank
For weeks, observers of Israel and the Palestinian territories have had July 1 circled on the calendar. Yet, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous suggestions, it appears that the date will pass without a formal announcement concerning Israel’s plans for annexing part of the occupied West Bank.
“It seems unlikely to me that this will happen today,” said Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of the Blue and White party, which partnered with Netanyahu’s Likud in an uneasy coalition government earlier this year.
Netanyahu’s Annexation Throws 72 Years of Israeli Diplomacy Down the Drain
The proposed land grab undermines long-held support for direct talks, opposition to unilateral actions and efforts to refute analogies with apartheid South Africa (Haaretz – pay wall)

12 June
Israel annexation: UAE ambassador warns of setbacks in first direct address
Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, has written to the Israeli public to lay out the significant impact its government’s annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley will have regionally
In an article published in Hebrew by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, Mr Al Otaiba, also a Minister of State, highlighted the risks to regional stability and Israel’s efforts to build ties with Arab states if the government pressed ahead with a plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and illegal settlements across the West Bank.
“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE,” Mr Al Otaiba wrote.
In recent years there has been significant speculation that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making inroads to normalise ties with several Arab states.
But Mr Al Otaiba made it clear that annexation would pour cold water on any such bid.

9 June
Israel’s High Court Strikes Down West Bank Land-grab Law as ‘Unconstitutional’
The Law for the Regularization of Settlement in Judea and Samaria has been frozen since its approval in 2017 pending High Court ruling
(Haaretz) Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered on Tuesday to nullify a law that would legalize the status of settlements partially built on privately owned Palestinian land under the claim that it is “unconstitutional.”
The “” was approved in February 2017. It was meant to allow the use of privately-owned Palestinian land to build Israeli settlements and to legalize outposts and structures erected on such soil. The law was frozen shortly after its approval in an agreement between the state and until the High Court ruled on the matter.
In her ruling, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said that the law “seeks to retroactively legalize illegal acts perpetrated by a specific population in the region whilst harming the rights of another.”

It didn’t start out as a social experiment; but proved to be a hugely successful one. It should be repeated over and over.
I love this story.

‘Everybody’s Getting Along Here’: How ‘Hotel Corona’ United Israelis And Palestinians

27 May
Israeli Annexation Explained: What Is Netanyahu Planning for the West Bank and What Does It Mean
(Haaretz) Based on his agreement with Gantz, Netanyahu will be able to commence West Bank annexation plans on July 1. Will the U.S. require Israel to implement the less favorable parts of Trump’s Mideast plan as well, and what are the consequences for the Palestinians?
… According to the Trump plan itself and senior U.S. officials, including Pompeo, Israeli annexation is dependent on acceptance of the entire plan, especially its agreement to conduct direct negotiations with the Palestinians for at least four years. During this period, Israel is asked to freeze all construction and demolitions in the territory earmarked for the Palestinian state, as well as possibly in other areas. The plan also includes the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem neighborhoods and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
All these clauses are vehemently opposed by the settler leadership, which sees the plan as a significant compromise on its “Greater Israel” vision. It is deliberating whether to support annexation in the hope that the rest will never come to fruition. The plan also includes a long list of conditions the Palestinians must fulfill. As U.S. Ambassador David Friedman put it, there would only be a Palestinian state “when the Palestinians become Canadians.”
However, while the U.S. administration has repeatedly stressed that Israel must accept the entire plan in order to annex, the committee drawing up the borders for annexation has already done a lot of work. In other words, practically speaking, both Israel and the United States are preparing to carry out a unilateral annexation.
Army Chief Is Preparing IDF for Violence in West Bank Over July Annexation
Defense sources in Israel say that in contrast to previous periods of tension, the break between PA security apparatus and its Israeli counterparts is more significant this time

23-24 May
Netanyahu Corruption Trial Begins, Taking Israel Into Uncharted Territory
(NYT) The prime minister’s trial is expected to last a year or more, with the first witnesses not expected to testify for months. He has long maintained his innocence.
… good-government experts warn, if the accusations against Mr. Netanyahu boil down to conflicts of interest, those are nothing compared with the perceived conflicts that could arise when the prime minister is simultaneously leading the nation and fighting for his freedom.
“If, God forbid, we will have a war, is it going to be because there is a security threat, or because this is going to be a wag-the-dog kind of moment that you want to disrupt public opinion?” said Prof. Yuval Shany, a legal scholar at Hebrew University and the Israel Democracy Institute.
What To Know As Israel’s Netanyahu Goes On Trial For Corruption Charges
(NPR) He was his country’s most powerful man. Time magazine crowned him “king of Israel.” But he couldn’t win over Israel’s unforgiving free press. So he is accused of buying his way inside the newsroom of a leading news site, secretly dictating flattering coverage that helped him win reelection twice.
That allegation is at the center of an unprecedented courtroom drama that kicked off Sunday in Jerusalem: the State of Israel v. Benjamin Netanyahu.
The longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, after 11 uninterrupted years in office, entered the courtroom charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. If convicted, he could spend several years behind bars.
… Netanyahu is not required by law to step down after being indicted and has refused to resign. The conservative leader denies wrongdoing and alleges there is a left-wing witch hunt against him, a claim that has sparked an ugly culture war against Israel’s judiciary, law enforcement and media.

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