Archives For: Israel

J.J. Goldberg has a smart take on Israel’s “nation-state” bill. He begins by stressing how redundant it is for Israel to keep proclaiming itself a Jewish state when the UN recognized it as such in the 1947 partition vote, which the PLO ratified in 1998. The bill’s contribution, he concludes, “is not to define what Jewish statehood includes, but what it excludes: Arabic language, Palestinian national pride, a religion-neutral legal culture”:

It’s no accident that the legislation’s sponsors and main backers are the same right-wing factions, in the Likud and Jewish Home parties, that are fighting hardest against territorial compromise and Palestinian statehood. They’re not worried about international opinion. Their problem is the built-in flaw in their own blueprint for the future. Holding onto the territories, maintaining a single state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, means creating a binational state. The advocates face growing pressure — and anger — from the military, academic, arts and legal communities and other sectors, all demanding to know how Israel can absorb two million-plus West Bank Palestinians without losing the Zionist vision of a Jewish state.

Their answer is to ground the state’s Jewish character — its language, calendar, legal culture, national anthem — in a quasi-constitutional basic law that can’t be amended except by a Knesset super-majority. That’s how they intend to defend Jewish statehood: by relegating the culture and values of today’s non-Jewish minority to the sidelines and ensuring they stay there, even if and when they become a majority.

The messy political battle sparked by the bill came to a head yesterday when Netanyahu abruptly fired the bill’s main opponents, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, saying he would “no longer tolerate an opposition within the government”. The move effectively demolished his coalition, forcing new elections that could take place as soon as March. Zack Beauchamp believes the coalition’s collapse was inevitable:

The reason that Livni and Lapid, rather than Bennett and Lieberman, are being dismissed is simple enough:

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Enshrining Inequality In Israel

Dec 1 2014 @ 3:37pm

Last Sunday, Israel’s cabinet advanced a controversial bill that would amend the country’s Basic Laws to define it explicitly as “the national state of the Jewish people”:

According to many critics, the new wording would weaken the wording of Israel’s declaration of independence, which states that the new state would “be based on the principles of liberty, justice and freedom expressed by the prophets of Israel [and] affirm complete social and political equality for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender”. … Netanyahu argued that the law was necessary because people were challenging the notion of Israel as a Jewish homeland.

For my part, I see it as a natural evolution of Israel’s settler policies and the end of any pretense at aiming for a two-state solution. The claim on the West Bank is a religious and racial claim – and that identity is far deeper at this point than any commitment to Western ideas of democracy, and deepening by the day. It’s also a way, of course, to ensure that the slow annexation of the West Bank can continue, because it all but ends any hope of negotiation with the Palestinian leadership. It comes at a time when the Knesset is also considering a proposal (unlikely to pass) that would enshrine punitive home demolitions in Israeli counterterrorism policy, strip citizenship from anyone who expresses support for terrorism, and have anyone brandishing a Palestinian flag arrested for “incitement”. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman openly wants to pay Arab Israelis to leave the country. In such a climate, what can prevent a further weakening of Israeli democracy in favor of racial and religious fundamentalism?

Dahlia Scheindlin nonetheless thinks such a law would be very bad for the Jewish state:

Some insist that it is hypocritical and maybe even anti-Semitic to protest a simple law of national self-definition, when ‘France is for the French people,’ or ‘Germany is the land of the German people.’ Can we lay this argument to rest already? In those examples citizenship overlaps with nationhood. Yes, France is for the French. But what makes someone French is not birth or ethnicity alone, but citizenship. This proposed basic law would codify and demarcate the State of Israel as something that belongs only to a subset of its citizens.

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Israel demolishes Palestinian attacker's home

In response to the recent spate of “lone wolf” terror attacks in Jerusalem, Israel revived its controversial practice of demolishing the homes of the perpetrators last week:

Israel on Wednesday blew up the house of Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, a 21-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem who rammed his car into Israeli pedestrians in October, killing 3-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun and Karen Yemima Muscara, an Ecuadorean woman studying in the city. The Wednesday blast, which rocked the densely populated Silwan neighborhood on a steep hillside just south of Jerusalem’s Old City, marked the restart of a policy of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians responsible for anti-Israeli attacks. According to Danny Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer and left-wing activist who tracks developments in East Jerusalem, it was the first punitive demolition in the city since April 2009, when police razed the home of a Palestinian who went on a rampage a year earlier, killing three Israelis.

The government also issued demolition orders to the families of the attackers in last Tuesday’s synagogue massacre. Just imagine for a moment how such a policy – which, to be perfectly clear, punishes entire extended families for the crimes of individuals – would fly in any other Western country, especially if it targeted members of a particular ethnic group. The return of the demolitions speaks volumes about how Netanyahu, who vowed after Tuesday’s attack to “settle the score with every terrorist”, approaches this conflict. For him, it really is about settling scores. Will Saletan remarks on just what kind of message this policy sends to the Israeli public:

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A Massacre Of Jews At Prayer, Ctd

Nov 19 2014 @ 1:40pm

Mourners Attend The Funeral Of The Policeman Who Died In Synagogue Attack

Speaking before a Knesset committee yesterday, Israel’s Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen pushed back on Netanyahu’s angry assertion that Mahmoud Abbas was to blame for inciting the horrific attack:

No one among the Palestinian leadership is calling for violence, Cohen said, noting that Abbas has reiterated that the path of intifada should be rejected. “ Abu Mazen [Abbas] is not interested in terror,” he explained, “and is not leading [his people] to terror. Nor is he doing so ‘under the table.’” At the same time, however, Cohen admitted that, “There are people in the Palestinian community who are liable to see Abu Mazen’s words of criticism as legitimization for taking action.”

J.J. Goldberg comments on why Cohen’s remarks are significant:

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A Massacre Of Jews At Prayer

Nov 18 2014 @ 12:38pm

Israelis Killed In Synagogue Attack

This is extremely distressing. Early this morning, two Palestinian cousins armed with meat cleavers and a gun burst into a synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem and killed four worshipers before dying in a shootout with police. The attack was the deadliest act of terrorism in the city in years and comes amid escalating tensions and violence surrounding the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex, and may also have been carried out in retaliation for recent attacks on Palestinians in the city. Hamas, which praised the murders and called for more such “revenge” attacks, is certainly spinning it that way:

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said in a BBC interview that attacks like Tuesday’s should be anticipated. “Everyone expected that this would happen,” Hamad said. “Every day Jerusalem is boiling, every day there is a new crime against a Palestinian citizen. We didn’t see any effort of the Israeli government to stop the settlers from attacking the al-Aqsa mosque. They should open their eyes and see there is a revolution in Jerusalem, there is an uprising.”

Goldblog holds this up as further evidence of Hamas’s genocidal ambitions:

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The Two-State Dissolution?

Nov 14 2014 @ 6:46pm

If you haven’t already, take some time this weekend to read David Remnick’s article on Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, the shaky status of the two-state solution, and the resurgent chatter about an alternative. Remnick explores the history of the one-state idea and interviews a wide range of Israeli and Palestinian figures – from Sari Nusseibeh to Caroline Glick – on why it’s in the headlines again. No excerpt quite captures the substance of the piece in its entirety, but here’s the gist of it:

The one-state/two-state debate is highly fraught not least because of proximity. Too much history, too little land. This is not India and Pakistan; the map of Ireland is a veritable continent compared with Israel and the Palestinian territories. Gaza is about as close to Herzliya as Concord is to Hanover; the West Bank, as Israelis are quick to point out, is seven miles from Ben Gurion Airport. Any two-state solution with a chance of working would have to include federal arrangements not only about security but also about water, cell-phone coverage, sewage, and countless other details of a common infrastructure. Talk of a one-state solution, limited as it is, will never be serious if it is an attempt to mask annexation, expulsion, or population transfer, on one side, or the eradication of an existing nation, on the other. Israel exists; the Palestinian people exist. Neither is provisional. Within these territorial confines, two nationally distinct groups, who are divided by language, culture, and history, cannot live wholly apart or wholly together.

Meanwhile, escalating violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere – centered as usual on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif – has raised fears that a third Intifada may be afoot.

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Hadassah Rodham Clinton?

Nov 13 2014 @ 1:40pm

U.S. Hosts Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

If she’s elected, Aaron David Miller predicts that the second President Clinton will bring a quick thaw to American-Israeli relations:

Given the lack of competition, unless he stumbles badly, Netanyahu may well outlast Obama. And that brings us to the matter of Hillary Clinton. Those of you looking for a new sheriff in town — one who is willing and able to teach those Israelis a lesson, cut them down to size, and make it clear to them as Bill Clinton, who exploded in frustration following his first meeting with Netanyahu in 1996, did when he said, “Who’s the fucking superpower here?” — best lay down and lie quietly until the feeling passes.

That’s not Hillary Clinton.

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Since 1948, the US has declined to formally recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, maintaining that the final status of the city remains unsettled as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does. But in 2002, Congress passed a law regarding “United States policy with respect to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”, which, among other provisions, permitted US citizens born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth listed as “Israel” on their passports. State Department policy is to list only “Jerusalem” without designating a country. Bush signed the legislation but issued a signing statement protesting that it interfered with his authority to conduct foreign policy.

Enter Menachem Zivotofsky, the plaintiff in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.

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Who’s The Real Chickenshit?

Nov 4 2014 @ 12:30pm

President Obama Meets With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu At The White House

The White House, answers Stephen Walt, for lobbing childish insults at Netanyahu via anonymous officials rather than acknowledging the real problems with our relationship with Israel. Indeed, in his view, chickenshit-gate itself demonstrates just how messed up that relationship is:

Netanyahu’s decision not to attack Iran wasn’t a show of cowardice (or being a “chickenshit”); it was a sensible strategic choice. The war talk from Israel was intended to distract attention from the settlements issue, keep Iran in the crosshairs as Public Enemy No. 1, and convince the United States to impose stiffer sanctions in the hopes of securing a better deal from Tehran over its nuclear program. But an actual attack was never a serious possibility. Bibi’s bluster might have fooled journalists like Goldberg — who has raised bogus alarms about an imminent Israeli attack on more than one occasion — but sensible observers should not have been taken in by all this folderol.

In the end, this minor incident mostly confirms the unhealthy effects of the “special relationship” itself. The sad truth is that top U.S. officials still can’t say openly what they really think about Israel’s behavior, or what they really think about the relationship itself. The mildest criticism invites automatic abuse from the lobby, and of course, anyone aspiring to a top foreign-policy position still has to mouth embarrassing platitudes and repudiate any previous criticisms in order to get appointed and confirmed. Just ask Samantha Power and Chuck Hagel how this process works. Ironically, it is U.S. leaders who mostly lack courage on these issues, not Netanyahu.

Walt is right so far as he goes – but what administration would want to directly confront the Greater Israel lobby, when it could manage to make some progress by other means?

And look at the long game with Israel – which, beyond the daily headlines, really has been fruitful. Not so long ago, we were warned (by Jeffrey Goldberg among others) that Israel was determined to attack Iran’s nuclear program unless the US intervened and did so itself. This was an existential issue, we were told. The task of the United States was, as ever, to fall in line behind the policy of the state of Israel. The Obama team handled this bluff – and what kind of government bluffs about what it calls an existential threat? – with varying levels of equanimity and exasperation. But they also constructed truly potent sanctions against Iran to prod Tehran to come to a deal.

The sanctions worked. Netanyahu railed against the policy, holding up his famous cartoon bomb at the UN, which measured the Iranian progress. But as the Iranians agreed to talk, and temporarily suspended parts of its program, the threat receded.

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Clashes In East Jerusalem After Israeli Activist Shooting

For the first time in 14 years, Israeli authorities yesterday closed off the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary in the Old City of Jerusalem and prevented men under 50 from praying there this morning, out of fear of escalating tensions in the city amid whispers of a third intifada:

Palestinian leaders had called for a “day of rage” because of the closing on Thursday and the killing by Israeli forces of a Palestinian man suspected in the assassination attempt Wednesday night against Yehuda Glick. Mr. Glick is a right-wing activist who promoted increased Jewish access and prayer at the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. By midafternoon, Israel Radio reported that there were “riots” at several locations in the occupied West Bank, including Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the often-tense city of Hebron.

The situation remained mostly calm today but tensions remain high, and the situation could get worse before it gets better. Daniel Gordis describes the Israeli public’s reaction to the attempt on Glick’s life and the killing of the alleged shooter:

“How had he been found so quickly?” people wondered.

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