Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Israel, Palestine/Gaza February – July 2023
14 September 2022
Two years on, what is the state of the Abraham Accords?
More on Israel
Israel faces an ongoing constitutional crisis — without a constitution
Israel is on the verge of a constitutional crisis — in part because it doesn’t actually have a constitution.
(WaPo) For months, Jewish Israelis have been taking to the streets to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to remake the country’s judiciary. …
Experts and scholars call this kind of conflict, a fundamental rift between branches of government over the function of the state, a “constitutional crisis” — but in Israel’s case, it is in a country without a constitution in the first place.
The crisis is rooted in the same unanswered questions about fundamental rights and governance that prevented Israel’s founders from formalizing such a document. In many democracies, a constitution codifies the structure of government and its fundamental legal principles. In practice, constitutions can: achieve near-unalterable status, as in the United States; be frequently rewritten, as in many other countries in the Western hemisphere; be used to justify authoritarian forms of rule; or come to be entirely disregarded.
Israel, Britain and New Zealand are outliers, as they do not have constitutions, said Hanna Lerner, the author of “Making Constitutions in Deeply Divided Societies.” The United Kingdom and New Zealand rely on common law, bodies of legal thinking and precedent developed over centuries, which serve a de facto constitutional role.
U.K. common law is considered so fundamental that it is interwoven in originalist interpretations of U.S. constitutional law. Israel, a far younger country, relies on Basic Laws with quasi-constitutional status, developed over the past 75 years. (12 July 2023)
I don’t recognize the intolerant, illiberal country Israel is becoming
By Max Boot
It has never been harder to be a supporter of Israel. I should know; I’ve been one as long as I can remember.
… while I retain affection for Israel, I often feel as if I do not recognize what it has become. This is a familiar feeling for me, since I am similarly befuddled by modern America: How did we turn into a land of book banners and covid-19 deniers? Both Israel and the United States have been disfigured by the rise of populist rabble rousers who have tapped into ugly and unsavory prejudices.
… Hundreds of thousands of outraged Israelis have taken to the streets to protest a change not just in their country’s laws but in its very character. The secular, socialist Israel of my youth is fast disappearing. In its place is a far wealthier country — but one that is turning intolerant and illiberal.
Israel’s Supreme Court reform crisis
Natan Sachs, Fred Dews
Israel’s Knesset passed a bill that strips Israel’s Supreme Court of the power to declare government decisions unreasonable. The so-called “reasonableness bill” passed with a 64 to 0 vote after all members of the Knesset’s governing coalition voted for it and all members of the opposition left the chamber. Passage of the bill has sparked turmoil in the country. Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings and a senior fellow in Foreign Policy, discusses what’s happening in Israel.
(Brookings) On Monday, Israel’s Knesset passed a bill that strips Israel’s Supreme Court of the power to declare government decisions unreasonable. The so-called “reasonableness bill” passed with a 64 to 0 vote after all members of the Knesset’s governing coalition voted for it and all members of the opposition left the chamber.
Sachs: Israel operates with a common law system. It does not have a clearly defined constitution. It chose instead to have a gradual legislation, what’s known as basic laws, which we can think of as articles of the constitution. But they are very easy to change. And like in most common law systems, especially the British one, a lot of the legislative doctrine comes from history of judicial decisions. And the reasonableness doctrine came about there. It boils down to a judicial review of administrative decisions.
So, reasonableness does not apply to laws. The court will not strike down any law, never struck down a law because it deemed it unreasonable. Rather, it would sometimes evaluate decisions by ministers, the government, or officials, which, for example, could have a conflict of interest or might not have even weighed the serious ramifications of a decision and made something whimsical, capricious decisions which in the United States could also be struck down. All of these came under the umbrella of reasonableness in Israel. And especially was expanded in the 1980s and to include a lot more.
So, it is a special kind of thing in Israel. It is not unlike other administrative review processes in other countries, but it had become expansive and many people, including many on the opposition today, were actually open to some reform in it, but certainly not the reform the government has passed.
Natan Sachs: Inside the Fight to Save Israeli Democracy
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the public to see his efforts to overhaul the Israeli judiciary as a “reform.” But people have seen it for what it is: a struggle over the very future of democracy itself.
(Journal of Democracy) In Israel, there is only one check on a parliamentary majority’s decision, even if it were to violate minority rights: the Israeli Supreme Court in its role as the High Court of Justice. Israel has unicameral parliamentary system, in which the cabinet serves, in a sense, as an executive committee of the legislature and the executive commands, by design, a majority in the chamber. Thus there is little separation of powers between these two branches of government. The head of the executive, the prime minister, is by far the most powerful member of the legislature, even if constrained by the daily wrangling within his or her coalition. If the prime minister and his faction wanted to pass legislation that violated basic civil liberties, there would be no second chamber or veto or Bill of Rights to stop them, only the Israeli Supreme Court in its role as the High Court of Justice.
‘The Country’s Already Been Destroyed’
By Daniel Gordis
(The Atlantic) The political crisis in Israel is no longer about being in favor of the judicial reform the Netanyahu government pledged to enact, or about opposing it. It is no longer about law; it is about the almost complete erosion of any trust millions of citizens have in the government. It is about the sense here that something deep, sacred to many, has broken, the feeling that, as Asayag put it, “the country’s already been destroyed.”
Israel’s Crisis Is Just Beginning
On the ground in Jerusalem, the fallout from Netanyahu’s power-grab is growing.
(Politico) The latest chapter opened on Sunday night, when former President Reuven Rivlin, 83, addressed a crowd of about 100,000 opponents of Netanyahu’s attempted power grab and Jerusalem still felt like Jerusalem.
The time and the place at which Rivlin, a respected elder statesman and the scion of a well-known Jerusalem family, addressed the crowd could hardly have been more symbolic. He climbed up the steps to the improvised stage at the corner of Kaplan and Rabin streets, just above Ben Zvi Boulevard, which are named for two signatories of Israel’s declaration of independence and a hero of the War of Independence, and reminisced about seeing the first Israeli flag raised in Jerusalem in May 1948.
… The time and the place at which Rivlin, a respected elder statesman and the scion of a well-known Jerusalem family, addressed the crowd could hardly have been more symbolic. He climbed up the steps to the improvised stage at the corner of Kaplan and Rabin streets, just above Ben Zvi Boulevard, which are named for two signatories of Israel’s declaration of independence and a hero of the War of Independence, and reminisced about seeing the first Israeli flag raised in Jerusalem in May 1948.
Within half an hour of the bill passing, 64-0 amid an opposition boycott, hundreds of pilots posted pictures of themselves, many in tears, sending their unit commanders letters ending their decades of service. “We signed a contract to fight for the realm,” they wrote. “We will not fight for a king.” The Israel Defense Forces later revealed that more than half of the air force personnel that signed the original petition to Netanyahu, including pilots, had followed through and informed their units they would no longer report to reserve duty.
Israel on the Brink
Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul mistakes majoritarianism for democracy.
By Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
(The Atlantic) The Knesset’s passage of legislation yesterday to curtail the authority of Israel’s Supreme Court marks a new era for the state of Israel. The disjuncture comes not because of the legal implications alone, although they are substantial. Nor because of the economic, diplomatic, and security damage wrought in the short time since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office, although it is considerable. Rather, the new era begins because of the damage that proceeding with the bill has done to Israeli society itself.
Bret Stephens: Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wound
(NYT Opinion) This is a true disaster for Israel not because the bill is “anti-democratic” — if anything, it is all too democratic, at least in the purely majoritarian sense of the word — but because it risks depriving the country of its most potent weapon: the fierce loyalty of its most productive and civically engaged citizens.
With those citizens — the tech entrepreneurs, the air force reservists, the world-famous novelists and doctors — Israel stands in a league with Switzerland and Singapore: a boutique nation, small and imperfect but widely associated with excellence in dozens of fields.
Without those citizens, Israel is in the club with Hungary and Serbia: a little country, insular and pettily corrupt and good mainly at nursing its grievances.
Parliament passes judicial overhaul plan as police clash with protesters
(WaPo) Lawmakers in the Knesset approved the judicial overhaul proposal in a series of votes throughout the afternoon, after last-ditch attempts for a compromise failed. Outside the building, protesters staged sit-ins as security forces blasted them with water cannons.
Netanyahu, 73, arrived at the Knesset after leaving a hospital in central Israel on Monday morning, more than 24 hours after emergency surgery to have a pacemaker installed for an undisclosed heart condition.
After negotiations collapsed, opposition leader Yair Lapid said it was not possible to secure an agreement “that would preserve democracy.”
More than 10,000 military reserve pilots, cyberwarriors and other experts pledged to decline service if the government doesn’t respond, which top generals warned could impair Israel’s defensive readiness.
White House says passage of judicial overhaul law ‘unfortunate’
(Axios) The White House on Monday said it was “unfortunate” that Israel’s Knesset passed “with the slimmest possible majority” a bill that limits the ability of the country’s Supreme Court to review government decisions.
Why it matters: The Biden administration, including the U.S. president, has for months publicly and privately urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to unilaterally move forward with the legislation, and instead try to reach a broad consensus with the opposition.
Israel’s Netanyahu hospitalized as thousands protest judicial overhaul plan ahead of key vote
(AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recovering in a hospital on Sunday after an emergency heart procedure, as tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of his government’s judicial overhaul plan held rival rallies ahead of a key vote.
Israel’s biggest security threat is Benjamin Netanyahu
By Max Boot
(WaPo) President Biden, a true friend of Israel, has been trying to warn Bibi off the destructive path he is on — but to no avail. Last week, Biden talked on the phone with Netanyahu and even invited him to meet for the first time since taking office in December at the head of what Biden has called “one of the most extremist … cabinets that I’ve seen.” Biden’s offer to meet was a conciliatory gesture that dismayed Israel’s opposition parties. …
Last month, the Israeli cabinet gave Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, an ultranationalist advocate of settlements, almost all control over the future growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This is the same Smotrich who said earlier this year: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language.” Smotrich also said, following a rampage by Israeli settlers through the Palestinian village of Huwara (which an Israeli general described as a “pogrom”): “I think that Huwara needs to be erased.” Smotrich’s alarming goal is to double the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, from 500,000 to 1 million, which will further exacerbate an already volatile situation.
Fierce protests have been rocking Israel for months. What’s fueling them?
(AP) For seven straight months, tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets in the most sustained and intense demonstrations the country has ever seen.
The protesters are part of a grassroots movement that rose out of opposition to a contentious judicial overhaul spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right allies.
Netanyahu’s ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox religious allies say the package is meant to restore power to elected officials. Critics say it is a power grab fueled by various personal and political grievances by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, and his partners, who want to deepen Israel’s control of the occupied West Bank and perpetuate controversial draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men.
The proposals include a bill that would allow a simple majority in parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions. Another would give parliament the final say in selecting judges.
With a relatively weak system of checks and balances, the judiciary plays a large role in checking executive power in Israel.
In the U.S. for example, Congress has two houses that operate independently of the president and can limit his power. But in Israel, the prime minister and his majority coalition in parliament work in tandem.
That leaves the judiciary as “the only check on governmental power,” according to constitutional law professor Amichai Cohen.
Israel also has minimal local governance and lacks a formal constitution. This means that most of the power is centralized in parliament, Cohen said. The “basic laws” — foundational laws that experts describe as a sort of informal constitution — can be changed at any time by a bare majority.
With the overhaul, Cohen said, the Israeli parliament now threatens to further consolidate its power by weakening the judiciary.
Protesters Rally Across Israel in New Push Against Legal Overhaul
Tens of thousands of Israelis blocked roads and demonstrated over Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to limit the power of the judiciary. Demonstrators in Israel blocked roads and rallied outside Tel Aviv’s stock exchange to protest the government’s plan to limit the power of the Supreme Court
(NYT) The protests came just hours after President Biden invited Mr. Netanyahu to a meeting in the United States sometime in the future, months after Mr. Biden said he would not meet with the prime minister “in the near term.”
An alliance of protest movements — whose membership includes groups of authors, economists, political scientists and social workers — published an open letter to Congress on Tuesday, calling on U.S. lawmakers to take a strong stance against Mr. Netanyahu’s domestic policies. And crowds gathered on Tuesday evening outside the U.S. Embassy branch office in Tel Aviv to demand Mr. Biden place more pressure on Mr. Netanyahu.
Biden to Netanyahu: Please Stop Trying to Rush Through Your Judicial Overhaul. Build a Consensus First.
President Biden has had an intense week dealing with the battle inside Israel over the future of its judiciary, speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Monday and President Isaac Herzog in person at the White House on Tuesday.
To make sure that Biden’s position is crystal clear to all Israelis, he invited me to the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon and gave me a statement — unprecedented on this issue — expressing his respect for how the “enduring” protests in Israel are demonstrating the “vibrancy of Israel’s democracy.” He also noted his wish that Netanyahu’s coalition stop rushing to slam through a constitutional overhaul, without even the semblance of a national consensus.
Biden Invites Netanyahu to U.S., Easing Tensions
The invitation to the Israeli prime minister came on the eve of a visit to the White House by Isaac Herzog, the Israeli president.
White House officials declined to address directly what led the president to issue the invitation now, in the absence of any apparent concessions from Mr. Netanyahu. But Mr. Biden — who had pointedly delayed the invitation for months — appeared to have judged that the need to restore a greater sense of normalcy to the United States’ most critical alliance in the Middle East outweighed any benefits of continuing to keep Mr. Netanyahu at a distance
Thousands rally, Israeli reservists step up protest against judicial change
(Reuters) – Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul intensified on Tuesday with demonstrations nationwide, and a retired Israeli air force general said 161 of the corps’ reserve officers had vowed to no longer report for duty.
What’s Next for Israel’s Judicial Overhaul?
Israeli lawmakers are advancing parts of a contentious plan by the right-wing government to reduce the power of the Supreme Court. A final vote is expected by early next week.
(NYT) Mr. Netanyahu and his allies say they want to give elected officials more power and reduce the sway of unelected Supreme Court judges, who they say are overstepping their authority. Critics of the overhaul say that the move will undermine a pillar of Israel’s democracy and is an effort by the government to seize more power for itself.
The bill moved forward last week after a three-month hiatus during which the government and the opposition sought but failed to reach a compromise on the broader proposed overhaul. The government move set off massive protests in Israel, and another major demonstration is planned for Tuesday.
Israel’s constitutional chaos is far from over
The Economist asks At its heart is the question of when the Supreme Court can “reasonably” overrule the government
… [The principle of ‘reasonableness’] was introduced in a ruling in 1980 by Aharon Barak, then a new judge on the Supreme Court. It revolutionised Israeli jurisprudence and is a principle source of the constitutional chaos engulfing Israel today.
Protests swell in Israel as Netanyahu advances judicial plan
Huge crowds rally in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities with organisers pledging further ‘days of disruption’ against far-right government’s judicial overhaul plan.
(Al Jazeera) The bill, which was approved in its first reading, would reduce the “reasonability” clause through which the judiciary can strike down government decisions.
It would also give the government a greater say in the appointment of judges.
The bill still needs to be approved in two more votes, expected by the end of the month, before it becomes law.
“Handmaids” – women dressed in red robes as characters from the dystopian novel and TV series The Handmaid’s Tale – once again took to the streets. Their jarring appearance is meant to drive home the notion that, if the overhaul passes, women could be stripped of their rights.
Israeli Reservists Threaten Mass Resignations if Judicial Plan Proceeds
The U.S. Reassessment of Netanyahu’s Government Has Begun
… Why is Israel’s cabinet trying to crush the country’s Supreme Court? Why did President Biden tell CNN that “this is one of the most extreme” Israeli cabinets he’d ever seen? And why did the U.S. ambassador to Israel just say that America is working to prevent Israel from “going off the rails”?
The short answer to all three questions is that the Biden team sees the far-right Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, engaged in unprecedented radical behavior — under the cloak of judicial “reform” — that is undermining our shared interests with Israel, our shared values and the vitally important shared fiction about the status of the West Bank that has kept peace hopes there just barely alive. …
There is a sense of shock today among U.S. diplomats who’ve been dealing with Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and a man of considerable smarts and political talent. They just find it hard to believe that Bibi would allow himself to be led around by the nose by people like Ben-Gvir, would be ready to risk Israel’s relations with America and with global investors and WOULD BE READY TO RISK A CIVIL WAR IN ISRAEL just to stay in power with a group of ciphers and ultranationalists.
But it is what it is — and it’s ugly. Tens of thousands of Israeli democracy protectors blocked roads and highways and besieged the Tel Aviv airport on Tuesday to make clear to Netanyahu that if he thinks he can snuff out Israel’s democracy just like that, he’s badly mistaken.
Let’s talk about Jenin
If we are to have just, sustainable peace in Palestine, we should do everything we can to set the record straight on what’s happening in the Jenin Refugee Camp.
M Muhannad Ayyash, Professor of Sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary
“The international media has begun to show some of the tragic human consequences of Israel’s assault on Jenin refugee camp,” Birzeit University researchers Rita Giacaman and Penny Johnson wrote in an article titled “Who lives in Jenin Refugee Camp?”
“Yet Israeli officials persist in a rhetoric that brands [the] Jenin refugee camp as a ‘terrorist camp’, with all of its inhabitants, men, women and children of any age, thus also marked as terrorists and all actions taken against them thus justified.”
Most observers of Palestine would agree this is an accurate description of Israel’s – and thus most Western governments, media and intelligentsia’s – framing of the latest episode of settler colonial violence in Jenin. But this article is not from last week. It was first published in April 2002, in the aftermath of another deadly Israeli assault on the camp.
Let that sink in: 21 years later, we are still dealing with the same situation, having the same discussions and being forced to contend with the same tired lies and myths about Jenin, the Palestinians living there, and Israel’s attacks on them.
Protesters block Ayalon Highway in response to removal of Tel Aviv police commander
Thousands descend on highway as Ben Gvir blasts departing Amichai Eshed, who says he’s paid the price for choosing ‘to prevent civil war’; man arrested for driving into protesters
Police Clash With Protesters as Tens of Thousands Demonstrate Judicial Coup at Israel’s Main Airport; Dozens Arrested
Israel: Protest activity against planned judicial reforms likely to continue through late July /update 9
Protests, related labor actions against reforms to judiciary system in Israel likely through July. Increased security, clashes likely.
Israel’s raid left Jenin in rubble. Palestinians are blaming their leaders.
(WaPo) Israel on Wednesday [5 July] ended a two-day operation in the Jenin refugee camp that killed 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier, forced thousands from their homes and sparked new tensions between locals and the Palestinian Authority meant to be governing them.
Israel said the incursion, the largest in two decades and the first in that time to involve airstrikes, resulted in the seizure of hundreds of weapons and hundreds of thousands of dollars in “terror funds.” The operation was necessary, Israel said, because the PA had abandoned the camp to the militants involved in armed attacks against Israel.
In the aftermath of the Israeli raid, the Jenin refugee camp — long a haven for militant groups — was in shambles and filled with tension. … Participants in one procession shouted for the representatives of the PA to leave.
Believe it or not, justice will prevail in Palestine
Amid the Israeli aggression in Jenin, it may be difficult to see the triumph of the Palestinian cause, but it is coming.
Rami G Khouri, Director of Global Engagement at the American University of Beirut
(Al Jazeera) The invasion of Jenin perfectly mirrors and perpetuates this century of Zionist-Israeli aggression that has killed, injured, detained, traumatised, and driven Palestinians into exile – to make room for a Jewish state in an Arab-majority Palestine.
Since the start of the year, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 170 people, including nearly 30 children. Jewish settlers, Zionism’s latest shock troops, have carried out 570 attacks against Palestinian villages and towns in the past six months, an average of three attacks per day, according to new United Nations data.
The situation in Palestine is indeed grim, but numerous other developments across countries and sectors indicate that the Palestinian cause is gaining ground in two particular domains. Diplomacy at the UN and global civic activism both show that the Palestinians are enjoying growing support against Zionist and Western colonial interests, which had prevailed virtually unopposed and stifled Palestinians and their rights for decades.
David Ignatius: Israel’s incursion into Jenin is a bitter taste of things to come
(WaPo) When it comes to “endless wars” in the Middle East, nothing rivals the continuous loop of death and destruction between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As a journalist who has covered the recurring violence for more than 40 years, and the iridescent but always unsuccessful “peace process,” I long ago ran out of hopeful proposals. But here are a few comments about how we got to this latest round.
A year of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians just escalated. Is this an uprising?
(AP) — Airstrikes targeting Palestinian militants in a crowded residential area. Armored bulldozers plowing through narrow streets, crushing cars and piling up debris. Protesters burning tires. A mounting death toll.
Israel’s large-scale military raid into the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Monday had undeniable similarities with the second Palestinian uprising of the early 2000s — a period that claimed thousands of lives
But the current fighting is also different from those intense years of violence. It’s more limited in scope, with Israeli military operations focused on several strongholds of Palestinian militants.
Israel launches most intense military operation in West Bank in years; at least 8 Palestinians dead
(AP) — Israel on Monday launched its most intense military operation in the occupied West Bank in nearly two decades, carrying out a series of drone strikes and sending hundreds of troops on an open-ended mission into a militant stronghold. At least eight Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.
Israel launches new operation in Jenin
(GZERO) So far, the Israelis say they have found a lab for manufacturing explosives as well as a rocket launcher and other weapons.
The timing here is crucial: The raid comes amid fresh reports that the Islamic Republic of Iran has increasingly been arming West Bank militants. Tehran, for its part, has a seeming limitless supply of cheap weapons – and prioritizing supplies to the West Bank is indeed a new challenge for Israel, which typically sees the Lebanese border as its main frontier with Iran.
Indeed, the northern West Bank has increasingly become a hotbed of terror activity, with many assailants who’ve attacked Israeli Jews in recent months hailing from the sprawling Jenin refugee camp. Israel, for its part, says that it should achieve its aims within 24-48 hours, but in such a tight enclave the risk for Palestinian civilians is also mammoth.
Contradicting Ben Gvir, Netanyahu says illegal West Bank land grabs ‘unacceptable’
PM declares government will take ‘strong action’ against those who carry out unauthorized settlement activity; lauds ‘changed equation’ of rare drone strike in West Bank
(Times of Israel) His remarks came after far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited an illegal outpost last week and urged settlers to “run to the hills” in order to seize more territory, with his support.
From Sauvé alumnus Tomer Avital (See Après des années passées à scruter la Knesset, Tomer Avital se lance en politique – Le journaliste à la tête de l’organisation Shakuf abandonne sa carte de presse pour se présenter sur la liste du parti travailliste, en vue des primaires du parti, le 9 août August 2022)
1. Terror attacks, pogroms, and riots. The country is burning on all fronts and the government that was elected on the governance ticket goes from failure to failure.
Instead of coping, they lose touch with reality. Smutrich also proposed today to “disconnect from this dollar gate barometer”.
2. But there’s room for optimism: the Democratic-Liberal camp recorded tonight a huge victory in the Bar Association election. 73% Support to our candidate.
Netanyahu and co are in shock. In the coming days they will try to weaken us through delusional statements and questionable steps.
Ignore and remember: We denounced Neve Ha’avreyen and the crazy gap proves (for the thousandth time): The general public is against the police coup. *The rule of law and morality have returned to eternity*.
Smotrich says ‘morally wrong’ to compare settler attacks to terror against Israelis
Far-right leader says settlers ‘feel like sitting ducks’ but calls ‘to refrain from acts that harm settlement’; off-duty soldier detained for suspected involvement in latest riot
What is behind the rise in violence in the occupied West Bank?
Israel’s attack on the Jenin refugee camp on Monday killed six Palestinians and injured many more.
This year has been marked by the Israeli military’s escalations in the occupied West Bank – the likes of which have not been seen in decades.
Israel’s far-right government has increased its raids against Palestinians by launching military operations that often result in people being killed and wounded.
Israel to ramp up settlement expansion in occupied West Bank
The finance minister was granted sweeping powers to expedite construction, bypassing measures in place for 27 years.
(Al Jazeera) Israel’s hardline coalition government has approved plans for thousands of new housing units in the occupied West Bank and given the far-right finance minister sweeping powers to expedite the construction of illegal settlements, bypassing measures that have been in place for 27 years.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ratified the move in the cabinet, allowing pro-settler Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to bypass the six-stage process for building settlements, which are considered illegal under international law, said Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan in West Jerusalem.
Israel Eases West Bank Settlement Rules, Clearing Way for New Homes
The change could accelerate the construction of thousands of new houses in the occupied territory and puts a far-right minister in charge of giving approvals.
(NYT) The Israeli government on Sunday decided to ease and expedite the process for approving new Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank amid plans to advance thousands of new housing units there.
Israel’s military called the settler attack on this Palestinian town a ‘pogrom.’ Videos show soldiers did little to stop it
(CNN) When hundreds of Israeli settlers rampaged through Huwara and surrounding Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank on February 26, leaving at least one Palestinian man dead and hundreds of others injured, it was billed as “revenge” after a Palestinian gunman killed two brothers who lived nearby.
What unfolded was violence so brutal that the Israeli military commander for the West Bank called it a “pogrom,” and said that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had not been sufficiently prepared for revenge attacks.
A monthslong CNN investigation, based on analysis of videos from the scene, exclusive testimony from an Israeli soldier, as well as interviews with seven eyewitnesses and two Palestinian journalists, sheds new light on the actions of Israeli forces.
CNN found that, not only did the forces fail to stop the riots in Huwara, they did not protect residents as settlers set fire to Palestinian homes and businesses and blocked emergency services from responding. Instead, when residents threw rocks in reaction to the settlers’ aggression, Israeli forces fired at the Palestinians with tear gas and stun grenades, according to analysis of the footage and eyewitness accounts.
Netanyahu’s coalition suffers embarrassing defeat in Israel
(Axios) In one of the most dramatic days for Israel’s parliament this year, the Israeli opposition won a crucial vote when its lawmaker was elected as one of the two Knesset representatives on the committee that appoints judges.
Why it matters: The results of the vote dealt an embarrassing defeat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition and the supporters of the government’s plan to weaken the Supreme Court and other democratic institutions.
But for Netanyahu, this is perhaps the best result he could have hoped for as he struggles to put the drama over the judicial overhaul plan behind him, while also keeping his coalition together.
Hollywood producer and chewing gum heir explore takeover of notorious spyware firm assets
Robert Simonds and William ‘Beau’ Wrigley consider acquiring assets of NSO, blacklisted Israeli company behind Pegasus spyware
Xi: China willing to help foster Palestinian peacemaking with Israel
(Reuters) – China is willing to play a positive role to help the Palestinians achieve internal reconciliation and promote peace talks with Israel, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Palestinian counterpart in Beijing on Wednesday.
“The fundamental solution to the Palestinian issue lies in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Xi said, according to Chinese state media.
Abbas is in Beijing on a three-day visit in which he hoped to demonstrate Chinese support for a Palestinian state, after failing to meet with U.S. officials while in New York for the United Nations General Assembly last year.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged continued U.S. commitment to both Israel’s security and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but said the expansion of Jewish settlements would be an obstacle to peace.
Xi also said the international community should increase development and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.
Xi and Abbas also announced the two sides had agreed to establish a strategic partnership and signed a number of bilateral cooperation documents.
China’s Palestinian moment is about global standing rather than peace
Experts quash claims by Beijing that the Palestinian Authority president’s visit will facilitate new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
Mahmoud Abbas’s four-day visit, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, has been described by Chinese state media as aimed at facilitating new talks predicated on a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict. It also comes on the heels of Beijing’s recent success in brokering a detente between the Middle East’s two major religious and geopolitical poles, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
But Palestinian and Israeli sources told the Guardian that Abbas’ high-profile trip was more about burnishing the standing of China’s president, Xi Jinping, as a global statesman, and diplomatic breakthroughs are not expected.
Blinken takes aim at Israeli settlements; says US will press ahead with Israel-Saudi normalization
(AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the expansion of Israeli settlements and ongoing demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank are taking Israel further away from peace with the Palestinians.
Yet, he stressed that the U.S.-Israel relationship remains “iron-clad,” lauded American security commitments to the Jewish state and said the Biden administration will continue to promote normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors, particularly with Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, he made clear the administration’s displeasure with actions that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has taken in expanding Jewish settlements and increasing Palestinian home demolitions.
Tens of thousands protest judicial reform across Israel for 21st weekend
Demonstrations took place in 150 towns, squares and junctions throughout the country, with the central demonstration on Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv.
Israeli parliament set to approve 2023-24 budget amid protests
(Reuters) – Israel’s parliament began a final vote on the state budget late on Tuesday, granting some political reprieve to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose hard-right coalition government has been strained by months of protests.
Facing last minute funding demands by some of his religious and far-right allies as his government approached a May 29 deadline, Netanyahu expressed confidence that the budget would pass in remarks he delivered shortly before the vote began.
The government is facing economic pressure with rising living costs and fallout from its now-suspended judicial overhaul drive, which triggered one of Israel’s worst political crises, drove away investment and cut growth prospects.
The two-year spending package posed another test to the religious-nationalist coalition, drawing criticism from the government’s own budget division for increasing funding to ultra-orthodox Jewish schools and seminary students in a series of steps it warned would encourage joblessness and harm growth.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said the budget was the most destructive in Israel’s history. … Others in the opposition were equally outraged by hundreds of millions of shekels going toward Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as the core of a future state. Critics said such spending comes at the expense of wider Israeli interests. (See Tomer Avital Comment of 24 May below)
Israeli Parliament Passes Controversial State Budget Despite Widespread Protests
(Haaretz) The state budget is the second and most important of the seven legislative proposals that make up the proposed overhaul of Israel’s judicial system being spearheaded by Netanyahu’s government
In Powerful Statement, World Zionist Congresses Votes Against Israel’s Religious-right Agenda
So-called ‘parliament of the Jewish people’ declared that Diaspora Jews do not support key policies being promoted by the Jewish state, under the most right-wing and religious government in its history
Media coverage of CPJ ‘Deadly Pattern’ report on journalists killed by Israeli military
On May 9, 2023, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published “Deadly Pattern,” a report on the Israeli military’s killing of 20 journalists in 22 years — and how no one has been held accountable for those deaths. Some of the global coverage of the CPJ report:
Deadly Pattern: 20 journalists died by Israeli military fire in 22 years. No one has been held accountable.
(CPJ) The May 11, 2022, killing of Al-Jazeera Arabic correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh is part of a deadly, decades-long pattern. Over 22 years, CPJ has documented at least 20 journalist killings by members of the Israel Defense Forces. Despite numerous IDF probes, no one has ever been charged or held responsible for these deaths. The impunity in these cases has severely undermined the freedom of the press, leaving the rights of journalists in precarity. A CPJ special report.
Israel-Palestine conflict: Fighting ongoing as ceasefire falters
The hostilities amount to the heaviest fighting between the two sides in months.
(Al Jazeera) Israeli officials said more than 400 rockets had been fired as of Wednesday evening. Most, they said, were intercepted or fell in open areas, but Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said about one-quarter had misfired and fallen inside Gaza
Israel and Gaza militants in heaviest fighting for months
(BBC) Israel says Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 460 rockets at it, and that its military has hit over 130 militant targets in Gaza, in the heaviest fighting in nine months.
Six people were killed and 45 injured in Gaza, local medics say.
Several were hurt rushing to shelters in Israel, where most rockets have been intercepted or fell in open areas.
It comes a day after 15 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, including three Islamic Jihad leaders.
Israeli-Palestinian fighting intensifies as Egyptian cease-fire efforts falter
(AP) — Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Wednesday, while Israel pressed ahead with a series of airstrikes that have killed 21 Palestinians, including three senior militants and at least 10 civilians.
A state-run Egyptian TV station announced that Egypt, a frequent mediator between the sides, had brokered a cease-fire. But the truce efforts appeared to falter as fighting intensified late Wednesday, with neither side showing any sign of backing down.
Netanyahu: ‘Campaign Not Over’ Amid Reports of Stalled Israel-Gaza Ceasefire Talks
Israelis rally for 17th week against judicial overhaul plans
(AP) — Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.
The demonstrations have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, and organizers plan to continue, despite Netanyahu delaying the changes last month. The leaders of the mass protests want the proposals scrapped altogether.
Independence Day | Israel Celebrates 75th Birthday as Tens of Thousands of Pro-democracy Protesters Hold Demonstration Party
(Haaretz) The fact that the main weekly protest against Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul is taking place on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv has a symbolic importance that the protesters themselves may not recognize.
The street was named after Eliezer Kaplan, who was Israel’s first finance minister and one of the most important figures in the prestate economy.
Economics should be kept in mind as Israelis mark the country’s 75th Independence Day this week. For many the day will be marked by anxiety over the future of Israeli democracy. But they should be no less concerned about the future of the Israeli economy.
NP View: At 75, Israel remains a beacon of freedom and democracy
Israel at 75: Thanks to the resiliency of its people, Israel will continue to be a safe haven for the Jewish people and a model of liberalism
As Israel marks the 75th anniversary of its founding this year, the National Post is hosting a five-month celebration of the “startup” nation, telling the remarkable story of its rebirth and resilience against all odds.
Seventy-five years ago, on the fifth day of lyar on the Hebrew lunar calendar, which falls on April 26 this year, on the eve of Great Britain, a diminished superpower, pulling out of Palestine, the region’s Jewish community declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.” But the story of modern-day Israel begins nearly 2,000 years earlier, with a superpower unrivalled in world history.
On Independence Day, Israel Honors a Settler Friend of Nazi Apologists From Germany
(Haaretz) The Netanyahu government has chosen to celebrate Vered Ben-Saadon, whose West Bank winery hosted, and legitimated, a delegation from the far-right, Islamophobic, antisemitic and Holocaust revisionist Alternative for Germany
(The Economist newsletter) Israel marks its 75th birthday this week, just as the country is going through a serious political crisis. … There’s a great deal to celebrate in Israel, not least the strength of its economy (especially in tech) and the fact that it’s a democracy in a region that is short on them. On the other hand, there’s also a great deal to worry about, as populism grows along with threats to democratic institutions, notably the courts. Meanwhile, the ongoing misery of Palestinians in occupied territory is as far from ending as ever.
Sauvé alumnus Tomer Avital post of 9 April
“While we were fighting about the police coup, under the radar, Dudi Amsalem received responsibility for all the government companies. Amsalem will appoint the management of dozens of giant companies [equivalent to crown corporations?]
But it is possible to relax. Amsalem will surely use the position to help talented guys in the periphery, what’s not so?
Oh wait, in his previous round Amsalem tried to push unworthy associates to run Israel ports, the Mediterranean Cliff Protection Company, the light rail and more.
His candidates were disqualified because it turned out they did not have the relevant skills for the position, lied in the questionnaires or did not meet the criteria. To everyone, without exception, an affinity to Minister Amsalem was discovered.”
Israel says more than 30 rockets fired from southern Lebanon
The rockets came in response to attacks by Israeli police on Palestinians in Al-Aqsa Mosque for two nights in a row.
‘Red line’: World reaction to Israeli attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque
Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, firing stun grenades and attacking Palestinian worshippers.
Israeli forces storm Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, arresting hundreds of Palestinian worshipers
Since the holy Muslim month of Ramadan began on March 22, some Palestinian worshippers have been trying to stay overnight inside Al-Aqsa, which is typically permitted only during the final 10 days of the festive period, The Associated Press reported. Israeli police have entered the site daily to evict the worshippers, the AP said.
After tens of thousands of people attended prayers at Al-Aqsa Tuesday evening, Israeli officials said they were forced to enter the compound when hundreds of Palestinian “agitators” barricaded themselves inside the mosque armed with fireworks and stones.
Videos posted online appeared to show police storming the compound, beating Palestinians with batons and rifle butts and restraining dozens of worshipers, and Palestinians taking aim at police with fireworks. Police said rocks had also been thrown at the officers.
Israeli cabinet approves funds for national guard under Ben-Gvir
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office says cabinet approved establishment of the force and a committee will determine its authorities.
(Al Jazeera) Israel’s cabinet has voted to approve major budget cuts across ministries to fund a controversial “national guard” led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday that the cabinet approved the establishment of the force, but that a committee comprised of Israel’s existing security agencies would determine the guard’s authorities and whether it would be subordinate to the police, or take orders directly from Ben-Gvir, as he demands. The committee has 90 days to make its recommendations.
Hundreds of Thousands Take to the Streets, Vow Netanyahu’s ‘Pause’ Won’t Quell Anti-judicial Coup Protests
(Haaretz) Israelis rally for 13th week, rejecting Netanyahu’s claim that he wants to negotiate a real compromise, with speakers including author David Grossman, and former heads of the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence
Biden’s Confrontation With Netanyahu Had Been Brewing for Years
The president’s decision to publicly criticize Israel is highly unusual for a leader who has pledged not to interfere in the country’s domestic politics.
It was a remarkably public outbreak of the kind of disagreement that usually takes place in private. But there were other factors at work that had been brewing for many years.
There is no love lost between the two leaders, despite their polite facade when it comes to their decades-long relationship and their common commitment to Israel’s defense. Mr. Netanyahu made no particular effort to hide his backing for President Donald J. Trump in the 2020 election….
Ian Bremmer: Israel’s political crisis, explained
… The showdown came to a head over the weekend when Bibi summarily fired Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister and a member of his own Likud Party, for publicly warning that the legislation would be detrimental to national security.
Mass spontaneous demonstrations erupted almost immediately across the country. Critically, Israel’s largest labor union, representing nearly a quarter (!) of the total workforce, announced a general strike for the first time in its history, shutting down everything from Ben Gurion Airport to shopping centers, hospitals, universities, local governments, and every McDonald’s in the country (they were … not lovin’ it). This prompted more Likud members to speak out against the bills, raising concerns that they would not get enough votes to pass.
Bibi finally blinked on Monday night, delaying a vote on the legislation until the Knesset’s summer session (which starts after Passover and goes until July) in what he called “a timeout for dialogue.” By Tuesday morning, the trade unions had called off the strike.
And so, the crisis was defused — for now.
Who wins and loses from the suspension?
After three months of ceding no ground despite the damage done to Israel’s social, economic, and military fabric, one could be tempted to see Bibi’s announcement as a climbdown or a concession. It’s not. The pause is a pit stop, a tactical breather to lower tensions and deprive the opposition of momentum that doesn’t commit the government to any genuine concessions in return.
Knesset Bans Bread in Hospitals Over Passover, Enshrining Jewish Religious Edict Into Law
(Haaretz) The legislation is the brainchild of finance committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni, whose ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party has moved to reverse many of the reforms to Israel’s religious status quo championed by the previous government
Israeli Democracy Faces a Mortal Threat – If Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition have their way, my country could deteriorate into a dictatorship.
By David Grossman
(The Atlantic) Israel now finds itself in one of the gravest crises it has ever known. Even after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the dangers the country faced were less tangible: In November 1995, it was clear that a new prime minister would be instated in a lawful, orderly transition. The situation now is different. Three of the Israeli Parliament’s most extremist, nationalistic members—Minister of Justice Yariv Levin; Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chair Simcha Rothman; and Benjamin Netanyahu, the near-omnipotent prime minister—are acting with all their might and no qualms to create a new legal system in place of the present one, which they claim discriminates against them and does not represent their worldview or values.
Palestinians ‘an invention’ of past century: Israel’s Smotrich
After calling for Palestinian village to be ‘wiped out’, Israeli finance minister stirs new outrage by denying the existence of Palestinians.
“The Palestinian people is an invention that is less than 100 years old,” added Smotrich, an ultranationalist who also oversees civilian administration in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli-Palestinian de-escalation talks
(GZERO Daily) With Ramadan starting later this week, Palestinian and Israeli mediators met on Sunday in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh – along with Jordanian, Egyptian, and US representatives – to try and de-escalate tensions in Israel and the West Bank.
After talks in Jordan last month failed to make progress, this weekend’s summit aimed to halt the cyclical flare-ups at flashpoint sites that Jerusalem has seen during Ramadan and Passover in recent years.
Both sides agreed on Sunday to set up a mechanism to thwart violence. But reports of a shooting near the town of Huwara in the northern West Bank, which gravely injured one Israeli, cast doubt on the success of the talks. Indeed, it’s the same town where two Jews were killed in a Palestinian terror attack several weeks ago, prompting Jewish settlers to pillage the village and burn scores of Palestinian homes in retaliation.
Netanyahu urges military chief to contain reservist protest
(AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the military’s chief of staff on Sunday to contain a wave of protest from within the ranks over a contentious government plan to overhaul the judiciary.
Starting Sunday, more than 700 elite officers from the Air Force, special forces, and Mossad said they would stop volunteering for duty. The typically taboo talk of refusal to serve in a military that is compulsory for most Jews and is highly respected by the Jewish majority underlines how deeply the overhaul plan has divided Israel.
Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi, has reportedly warned Netanyahu that the reservists’ protest risks harming the military’s capabilities. He has pledged to make sure it doesn’t and keep the military outside of the public debate on the overhaul.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted in response that if Netanyahu suspended the overhaul, reservists would stop refusing to serve.
Elite officers in Israel’s military plan Sunday walkout
Netanyahu’s Response to Iran-Saudi Deal Shows a Growing Detachment From Reality
Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that he is the one leading the Western world’s fight against Iran and that peace with the Saudis is within reach shows how disconnected he is both at home and abroad
(Haaretz) …as Haaretz’s military commentator Amos Harel explained, the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement is not about Israel. The dictators of both countries have a multitude of reasons for choosing this path. And then there are their Chinese brokers, who have been working to fill the vacuum that successive U.S. administrations have left in the region. Jerusalem may be the center of the world, but it isn’t even a bit player here.
10 weeks of street protests in Israel have failed to sway Netanyahu’s nationalist government. So what might?
Israel’s street protesters approach their moment of reckoning
Israel sees one of its biggest-ever protests
On Saturday, protest organisers said as many as 500,000 demonstrators took to the streets across Israel for the 10th consecutive week, in what the Haaretz newspaper called “the largest demonstration in the country’s history”.
In remarkable scenes, crowds applauded Tel Aviv police chief Amichai Eshed as he walked in uniform through the rally.
On Thursday, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had said he was transferring Mr Eshed to head a training division, amid reports the ultra-nationalist politician accused the commander of being too soft on protesters, whom he calls “anarchists”.
The clash over the commander’s position is significant. It comes amid predictions of a possible constitutional crisis, involving Israel’s civil service and security forces being unable to take orders from the government, if no compromise is reached on the planned reforms, says the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.
Speaking at the demonstrations in Tel Aviv, former Israel police chief Moshe Karadi described Mr Ben-Gvir’s control of the force as an unprecedented danger.
He said the minister was “a convicted felon, enacting a hostile takeover of the police and trying to turn it into a private militia to serve his political purposes”.
Saudi Arabia Offers Its Price to Normalize Relations With Israel
The Saudi crown prince is seeking a civilian nuclear program and security assurances from President Biden, a steep price for an agreement long sought by Israel.
(NYT) Riyadh’s ambitious request offers President Biden the chance to broker a dramatic agreement that would reshape Israel’s relationship with the most powerful Arab state. It could also fulfill his pledge to build on the Trump-era Abraham Accords, which brokered similar diplomatic deals between Israel and other Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
Saudi Deal With Iran Surprises Israel and Jolts Netanyahu
Israel had long hoped to isolate Iran and seal ties with Saudi Arabia. A thaw between Riyadh and Tehran has complicated that goal — and was perceived as politically damaging to the prime minister.
Patrick Kingsley, Jerusalem bureau chief, covering Israel and the occupied territories
(NYT) Israeli leaders have for years considered Iran an existential threat, viewed Saudi Arabia as a potential partner and hoped that shared fears of Tehran might help forge formal relations for the first time with Riyadh.
The news of a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday was therefore greeted in Israel with surprise, anxiety and introspection. It also compounded a sense of national peril set off by profound domestic divisions about the policies of the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And it seemed to catch Mr. Netanyahu — who has long presented himself as the Israeli leader best qualified to fight Iran and most able to charm Saudi Arabia — off guard.
The announcement undermined Israeli hopes of forming a regional security alliance against Iran. It suggested that while other countries in the Middle East may see Iran as a menace, they see little gain in isolating and opposing Tehran to the extent that Israel does.
(GZERO) The situation in Israel continued to unravel on Thursday when protesters against the government’s planned judicial overhaul took to the streets in a national “day of resistance.” In a bid to create a balagan (state of chaos), Israelis blocked the Ayalon Highway, a main artery leading to Tel Aviv’s international airport, to try to disrupt PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s planned trip to Rome (he got out)! [See Comment from Tomer Avital below]
Indeed, footage shows police using heavy-handed tactics to break up the crowds, but that didn’t appear tough enough for far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who proceeded to fire the Tel Aviv district commander, decrying police for “not fulfilling my orders.” Israel’s attorney general has since ordered the freezing of the police chief’s ouster, citing legal concerns. Meanwhile, in a very rare emotional speech, President Isaac Herzog – who holds a mostly ceremonial position and remains above the fray of day-to-day politics – urged the government to ditch the judicial reforms. Crucially, things took a turn for the worse Thursday night when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on gatherers in central Tel Aviv, wounding at least three people. With deepening twin crises at home – a constitutional catastrophe and deteriorating security situation – Bibi is going to have a harder time than ever keeping his discordant far-right coalition intact.
The Social Rifts That Led to Israel’s Judicial Crisis
Israeli society is locked in a deep dispute over the future of its judiciary and democracy. The conflict is rooted in shifts of the last three decades.
Patrick Kingsley, Jerusalem bureau chief, covering Israel and the occupied territories
(NYT) The government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary reflects how Israel has changed over the last three decades and highlights the rising influence of two groups that have long locked horns with the court: ultra-Orthodox Jews and West Bank settlers.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews resent the court for opposing handouts and conscription exemptions for their community, while settlers see the court as an unwanted brake on their aims of exerting even more control over the West Bank.
“What you’re now witnessing is a backlash,” said Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. “They have long memories. They want to settle the score. And they are settling it now — big time.”
As Israel’s democracy erodes, its government delegitimizes criticism
European partners need to use their power to stop the erosion of the country’s democracy.
Dvir Aviam Ezra, Israeli-Dutch lawyer and human rights activist based in Tel Aviv.
(Politico Eu) The new government’s plans now include a reform to the judiciary, which would effectively give politicians full control over supreme court appointments and allow parliament to override judicial decisions. Meaning, that if the government gets its way, there would be a de-facto ban on Arab-minority parties running in elections. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s coalition wants to impose religious restrictions on a whole host of activities.
Meanwhile, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is set to be completely frozen. Indeed, not a single party in the incumbent coalition backs the two-state solution, and most even deny Palestinian nationhood and support the deepening of Israel’s occupation in the West Bank. NGOs and activists opposing the occupation may be restricted, as proposed laws would push the narrative that they’re foreign agents, and senior ministers are promising to prevent investigations of violent soldiers, as well as withhold funding from movies dealing with the occupation.
In such an environment, it isn’t surprising that criticism of Israel’s actions — both inside the country and the West Bank — is mounting. But the government has fallen back on a time-worn playbook — equating any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and violence, thus seeking to delegitimize critics. This is a dangerous approach.
28 February-1 March
Jennifer Rubin: Israel has angered its closest supporters
Netanyahu’s government, in its aggressive assaults on the courts, the media and other democratic institutions, and in its incendiary rhetoric toward Palestinians, coupled with indulgence of settlers, risks rupturing ties with its strongest backers. Unless Israel is willing to endure permanent damage to its international economic, diplomatic and moral support system, it needs to reevaluate the right-wing government’s approach.
If it remains defiant, Netanyahu’s government will become an existential threat to the survival of the Jewish state.
Israeli Gov’t Earmarks 2.5 Billion Shekels for ultra-Orthodox Coalition Partners
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also pledges to increase tax credits for working parents, extends subsidy for school aftercare introduced by previous government
(Haaretz) …the Finance Ministry confirmed that 2.5 billion shekels would be budgeted for demands made by ultra-Orthodox parties. This is part of the 12 billion shekels in demands the parties made for 2023-2024 in the coalition agreement. It’s not clear which budgetary items these items fall under, meaning it’s not clear where exactly the money will be going – for instance, how much of it will be going to yeshivas. Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox parties had expressed anger over the past few days that the coalition agreements were not being honored.
Thomas L. Friedman: Netanyahu Is Shattering Israeli Society
Violence between settlers and Palestinians is not new. But when it coincides with the most ultranationalist, ultra-Orthodox government in Israel’s history — that is now driven by messianic religious zealots, whose goal is to annex the whole West Bank and who now control key police, finance and military portfolios — the traditional sober Israeli ministers who would normally draw a line against such actions have been replaced by those who want to erase lines altogether.
Lethal attacks by Palestinian youths against Israelis are coinciding with an expansion of Israeli settlements and the torching of Palestinian villages by settlers, as well as with a popular uprising against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial power grab. Together they are threatening a breakdown in governance the likes of which we’ve never seen before in Israel.
It is a measure of how serious the situation has become that several former chiefs of the Mossad — some of the most respected public servants in the country — have denounced Netanyahu’s judicial putsch, most recently Danny Yatom. He told Israel Channel 13 News on Saturday night, according to Haaretz, that if Netanyahu continues with his plans to effectively eliminate the independence of Israel’s high court, fighter pilots and special forces operatives will be able to legitimately disobey the orders that come from the government.
… In the past few days, some 250 officers from the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division have signed a public letter stating that “they would stop showing up for duty” should the government proceed with its autocratic judicial overhaul, The Times of Israel reported. They added their voices to “groups of pilots, tankists, submariners, sailors and other special forces who have penned similar letters.”
Israel has never experienced a Palestinian intifada, a Jewish settler intifada and an Israeli citizen judicial intifada all at once. But that’s begun to unfold since Netanyahu’s far-right government took office.
On Sunday, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli Jews near Nablus to avenge the deaths of 11 Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli forces in Nablus a few days earlier. Settlers then set fire to and vandalized at least 200 buildings in four Palestinian villages in the area where the shooting happened. And that was after some 160,000 Israelis came out in the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night to oppose Netanyahu’s judicial takeover, in the wake of Netanyahu telling his cabinet ministers, “I want to give you a fist to strike them” — the protesters.
Israeli settlers on the rampage isn’t a shock – it’s daily life for Palestinians in the West Bank
It’s no accident that the Israeli army didn’t stop the violence in Huwara: such intimidation is key to how the state rules over my people
(The Guardian) One cannot ignore the recurrent nature of settlers’ violence and the way it acts as a pillar of Israel’s rule over the Palestinians. The infliction of violence with impunity, the army’s enabling of this violence and the denial of basic rights embody the existing order.