Israel’s 1.7 million Palestinian citizens are facing a tidal wave of incitement and hate speech on social media, including from government ministers, community leaders have warned. They say the increasingly hostile political climate in Israel is stoking violence from the police and street gangs, and has laid the ground for a recent raft of racist legislative proposals.
In expressing ambivalence about the final number of states in a peace agreement, Donald Trump may have assumed he was leaving options open for his son-in-law and presumed peace envoy, Jared Kushner. But words can take on a life of their own, especially when uttered by the president of the world’s only superpower. The one-state option mooted by Trump will resonate with both Israelis and Palestinians because it reminds each of their historic ambitions.
Human rights groups and Palestinian leaders condemned what they called the “extremely lenient” punishment of Elor Azaria, the Israeli army medic who was filmed executing a severely wounded Palestinian in Hebron last year. On Tuesday, a military tribunal sentenced the soldier to 18 months in jail and a demotion. The sentence was much lower than the three to five years demanded by the prosecution.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet US President Donald Trump on Wednesday with the aim of winning major concessions on the two issues highest on his agenda, Iran and the Palestinians. Netanyahu hopes to return home with a policy “prize” from Trump that will help him ward off potential challengers from within his coalition as he struggles against a mounting corruption scandal.
Often described as the powder-keg issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jerusalem was expected to loom large in Wednesday’s meeting in Washington between Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Tensions about the city’s future are high, given that Trump has vowed to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would implicitly recognise the city as Israel’s capital.
Some 17 Palestinian municipalities in the occupied West Bank have petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to strike down a new law that retroactively sanctions the theft of their lands by settlers. Lawyers representing the villages have in the meantime asked the court to impose an immediate freeze on the so-called Regulation Law, passed by the Israeli parliament on Monday night.
The Israeli parliament passed the Legalisation Law on Monday – a piece of legislation every bit as suspect as its title suggests. The law widens the powers of Israeli officials to seize the last fragments of Palestinian land in the West Bank that were supposed to be off-limits. Palestinian leaders warned that the law hammered the last nail in the coffin of a two-state solution. Government ministers gleefully agreed.
Benjamin Netanyahu is in danger of being brought down, possibly soon, over what initially appears to be little more than an imprudent taste for Cuban cigars and pink champagne. But the allegations reveal far more than his personal flaws. They shine a rare light on the corrupt nexus between Israel’s business, political and media worlds, compounded by the perverse influence of overseas Jewish money.
If the Trump’s White House approves a relocation of the US embassy, it would overturn decades of international consensus on Jerusalem. The message to the Palestinians and Arab world would be clear and provocative, said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official. “Moving the embassy is the same as recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital. It’s a war crime.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shrugged off the Paris peace summit as the ‘last gasp of the past before the future sets in’. Israel has lost no time in preparing for the future, one in which peace talks and a two-state solution look obsolete. Ministers are rallying behind legislation to annex Maale Adumim, a large settlement east of Jerusalem in a strategically vital location in the West Bank.
Israeli police have refused to return the body of Yacoub Abu al-Qiyan, two days after he was shot dead during a pre-dawn raid to bulldoze his home and those of another dozen families in Umm al-Hiran. But claims that he was an ISIS terrorist who used his car to ram into police, killing an officer, have rapidly unravelled. Video evidence and a leaked autopsy suggest police caused the accident by opening fire on his car, and then allowed him to bleed to death.
The smell of scandal has swirled around Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for years. Now the smell is starting to turn to a stench, say analysts. One commentator suggested Netanyahu’s conduct risked being compared to the behaviour of a head of a “banana republic”. In one of the police investigations, recordings reportedly show Netanyahu promising to help a newspaper editor damage his rival in return for favourable coverage.
The popular reaction in Israel to the military court’s decision to convict Elor Azaria was far more telling than the decision itself. Like Brexit and Trump, Azaria’s trial exposed not only a deep social fissure, but also a moment of transition. Those who see a virtuous system punishing a rotten apple are now outnumbered by those who see a rotten system victimising a hero.
It was the trial almost no one in Israel wanted. It exposed not just the rogue actions of one soldier but the dark underbelly of Israeli society and its “citizens’ army”. Elor Azaria was taken to the Israeli public’s bosom, celebrated as the “child of us all”. But like many of his fellow soldiers and commanders, he consorted with the most extreme settler leaders in Hebron and used social media to express his hatred of Arabs.
A Greek Melkite archbishop, described as an “icon” of the Palestinian liberation struggle, has died in Rome at the age of 94. Hilarion Capucci, who was appointed the Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem in 1965, was jailed nine years later by Israel for arms smuggling. Hanan Ashrawi said Capucci “embodied the activist church – spiritual leaders who were prepared to translate their principles into action and struggle against injustice.”
Some 200,000 documents concerning the mysterious disappearance of thousands of babies in Israel’s early years have been made public for the first time. The Israeli government declassified the files, publishing them in an online archive, after decades of accusations that officials have been concealing evidence that many of the babies were stolen from their Jewish families, who had recently arrived in Israel from Arab states.
For leftwing Israelis, as well as Israel’s Palestinian minority, Netanyahu is considered the king of incitement. His current conduct has revived memories of the mid-1990s, when Yitzhak Rabin, was drumming up support for the Oslo Accords. Footage of the period shows Netanyahu addressing crowds holding aloft placards of Rabin in Nazi uniform. Months later, Rabin was assassinated.
Israel is reported to be ready to expel an award-winning Australian journalist, Antony Loewenstein, after he asked a too-probing question of an Israeli politician. It is unsurprising to learn that Israel has no serious regard for press freedom. But more depressing has been the lack of solidarity shown by journalistic colleagues, most especially the Guardian.
As tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims converge on the Holy Land this week to celebrate the birth of Jesus, senior Israeli rabbis have announced a war on the Christmas tree. In Jerusalem, the rabbinate has issued a letter warning dozens of hotels in the city that it is “forbidden” by Jewish religious law to erect a tree or stage new year’s parties.
Friedman’s appointment would mean more than a change of address for the US embassy and a deterioration in the prospects for Palestinian statehood. Analysts say it would mark a seismic shift in the “special relationship” between the US and Israel – and an early casualty of the shockwaves might be the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.