The March visit of the Israeli PM to Washington has aroused rapid opposition among Israel’s supporters in Congress as well as Democratic Party activists. At issue is the matter of protocol, not to say, principle. But there is something else afoot, namely, the realization that Netanyahu’s action risks alienating a political base that is increasingly skeptical of Israeli claims, including those about Iran’s nuclear arms that were exposed as false by Israel’s Intelligence agency. Then there was the PM’s analogy between his leadership of Israel in 2015 and that of David Ben-Gurion in 1948, that was rapidly written off by Israeli critics. At bottom, however, is the threat of blowing open the taboo on plain talk about Washington’s relations with Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Here is the rub. Mr Netanyahu already has a stranglehold on the politics of his potential peace partners. He can easily manipulate the fortunes of the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on the two biggest tests he faces: the peace process overseen by the international community, and reconciliation talks with the rival Palestinian faction Hamas.
According to local press, the Israeli leadership has been “climbing down from the tree” this week with a distinct change in tone from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding attacking Iran. The change in mood is said to be linked to rising tensions with the Obama administration and new rumors that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has changed his mind and is no longer supporting a unilateral attack by Israel.
Under international law, Israel’s rule in the West Bank and Gaza is considered “belligerent occupation” and, therefore, its actions must be justified by military necessity only. If there is no occupation, Israel has no military grounds to hold on to the territories. In that case, it must either return the land to the Palestinians, and move out the settlers, or defy international law by annexing the territories, as it did earlier with East Jerusalem, and establish a state of Greater Israel.
Palestinians in areas of the West Bank under Israeli control live with settler neighbours who beat and shoot them, set alight fields, poison wells, kill livestock and steal crops. These acts of terror have begun to spread elsewhere: homes, cars, cemeteries, mosques and churches are now targets in East Jerusalem and Israel too. Earlier this month a school and several cars were vandalised in Neve Shalom, the only genuinely mixed Jewish-Arab community in Israel.
The rift in Israel between the political leadership’s push for an attack on Iran, and the security establishment’s opposition widened in recent weeks. Three new voices spoke out on the question of Iran in the Israeli press, throwing doubt into the motivation of those who push for an attack, namely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Lia Tarachansky spoke to Ha’aretz journalist Gideon Levy and Major General Shlomo Gazit, the former head of Army intelligence.
[The newly-created coalition] gives Netanyahu time to entrench moves towards authoritarianism. Netanyahu has been behind a series of measures to weaken the media, human rights groups, and the courts. At the moment his government is defying a series of Supreme Court rulings to dismantle several small Jewish settlements on Palestinian land that are illegal even under Israeli law. An uninterrupted 18 months will allow him to further undermine these rival centres of power. One of the promises he and Mofaz made yesterday was to overhaul the system of government. Netanyahu now has enough MPs to overturn even the most sacrosanct of Israel’s Basic Laws.
Human Rights Council votes to dispatch a fact-finding mission to investigate the effects of Israel’s settlements on Palestinians; Netanyahu calls council ‘hypocritical’ and out of touch with reality.
White House tells Sunday Times Obama pressed Netanyahu to postpone Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities until after November, adding president ‘might visit Israel in summer’
Having trapped themselves in a death struggle with Palestinians that they cannot acknowledge or untangle, Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran. An Iranian nuclear bomb would not be a happy development for Israel. Neither was Pakistan’s, nor indeed North Korea’s. The notion that it represents a new Holocaust is overstated, and the belief that the source of Israel’s existential woes can be eliminated with an airstrike is mistaken. But Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis because, unlike the Palestinians, it can be fitted into a familiar ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook: the eliminationist anti-Semite.
Yitzhak Laor: “This bill truly intends to create a democracy for Jews only. If it were passed, no Arab – whether resident of the territories or Israeli citizen – would have access to the law.”
On Friday, Dec 9, 2011 thousands of Israelis marched through Tel Aviv for international human rights day. While Israelis are subject to Israeli civil law, Palestinians are subject to a set of military orders. Order 101 effectively bans political protest of more than 10 people.
A split has developed between Israeli security establishment and Netanyahu. November saw endless speculation about a potential Israeli attack on Iran. At the end of October an Israeli journalist published at article revealing that, against the advice of all Israeli security and intelligence agency heads, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak were deliberating attacking Iran. Perhaps as early as this winter.
Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama are pissed off at [Netanyahu] because he’s not as good a liar as his predecessors in the PM’s Office. They’re angry because he doesn’t bother to cover up the gap between the words and the bulldozers. It makes it harder for them to conceal the falsehood in US and European policy. A policy which supposedly seeks peace in the region and a state for the Palestinians; in practice, one that collaborates with Israel’s aim to impose a capitulation arrangement on the Palestinians.
Former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh on the danger of an Iranian bomb: “Most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with families, and Israelis who can live abroad will… I am afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That’s why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.”
Netanyahu’s UN speech includes a strange statement: “The settlements are a result of the conflict”. The blurring of cause and effect is a constant feature of dominant Israeli rhetoric… And when he says, correctly, that the conflict began before a single settlement was established in the West Bank, he implicitly refers to the fact that, all along, the conflict’ core was the clash between a settler movement (Zionism) and the original inhabitants.
With no hope of statehood, Palestinians will have to devise their own new strategy for coping with the reality of an apartheid system in which the Jewish settlers become their permanent neighbours. Trapped in a single state ruled over by their occupiers, Palestinians are likely to draw on the experience of their cousins inside Israel. Israel’s Arab community has been struggling with marginalisation and subordination within a Jewish state for decades. They have responded with a vocal campaign for equality that has antagonised the Jewish majority and resulted in a wave of anti-Arab legislation.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Israel will release 1,027 prisoners in two stages. Within a week, 450 will be swapped for Shalit and the rest will be freed two months later. Twenty-seven women are among those on the release roster.
[Netanyahu’s] propaganda was sweet as honey dripping from his lips. It improves from speech to speech. But the prime minister promised that this time he would feed us the truth, not another campaign speech. A test of this promise seems apposite.
Israelis and Palestinians express skepticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ UN move, while protests are taking place throughout the West Bank, facing Israel’s technology solution to anti-Occupation resistance: tear gas and a crowd dispersal weapon called “The Scream” which produces a high-pitch sound, disorienting and temporarily deafening the demonstrators.