Tired, confused, desperate and paranoid are just a few of the epithets that have been hurled at Netanyahu in the last days of the campaign. Warning that the whole of the right will fall with him, if he is defeated, Netanyahu ascribed his difficulties not to personal failings but to a sinister plot by "foreign groups". There was "a huge, worldwide effort to topple the Likud", he warned.
The thrust of the right’s election campaign suggests a different reading of Avigdor Lieberman’s move to raise the threshold last year. Then, it was widely assumed he was trying to bar the Arab parties from parliament. Now it seems as if he may have had a more sinister goal in mind. In creating the Joint List, the Arab parties may – rather than foiling the right’s plan – have stepped into its trap.
Israel’s supreme court is to decide next week whether Dahmash village is wiped off the map. For decades officials have refused to recognise its 70 homes, just 20 minutes’ drive from Tel Aviv. Arafat Ismail said that while industrial parks, shopping malls and estates of luxury villas had sprung up all around them, Dahmash’s residents had been treated like “illegal squatters”. What distinguishes Dahmash from the communities around it is that it is Arab, an unwelcome relic from a time when the country was called Palestine.
Palestinians suffer under four types of occupation, according to the Freedom Theatre. Three, including Israel's military occupation, are external. The deepest of all, however, is the internalization by the oppressed of the culture and narrative of the oppressor. Freedom Theatre artistic director Nabil al-Raee says: "We are trying to build a generation that can first free themselves, then fight for the freedom of others.”
Some 200 veterans of the Israeli security services have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of doing irreparable harm to the country’s ties with Washington, just two days before he is due to address the US Congress. It is the first time he has faced a large-scale backlash from Israel’s security establishment – and could damage Netanyahu’s popular image as a strong leader on security matters.
Why is Netanyahu acting like a bull in a diplomatic china shop over Iran, and doing so at the cost of imperilling relations with the US, when his own advisers say there is no obvious threat and a deal next month is unlikely? The answer is to be found on two levels: one related specifically to Netanyahu's personal political survival; and the other to Israel's longer-term regional interests.
The contents of a secret report by Israel's Mossad spy agency on Iran's nuclear programme leaked to the media are shocking and predictable in equal measure. Shocking because the report shows Netanyahu spent years lying to the international community against Mossad's advice; predictable because for four years Israel's security establishment has been screaming as loudly as it realistically could that Netanyahu was not to be trusted on the Iran issue.
A leaked government report paints a dark future for Israel. Western support for the Palestinians will increase, the threat of European sanctions will grow, and the US might even refuse to “protect Israel with its veto” at the UN. One might assume that, faced with this, Israel would reconsider its obstructive approach to peace negotiations and Palestinian statehood. Instead, Netanyahu has begun looking elsewhere for patrons.
The newly launched Joint List is facing a series of crises. Not least, if the bloc breaks up after polling day, as looks likely, it will suggest to the Arab public that it was simply an opportunistic vehicle for bypassing the obstacle of a raised Knesset threshold. Rather than reversing – as intended – the long-term decline in turnout among Palestinian voters, the list's failure could dramatically accelerate it.
Israel’s Central Elections Committee on Thursday barred Haneen Zoabi, one of the most prominent Arab politicians in Israel, from running for the parliament in next month’s general election. Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party had submitted a 50-page dossier of quotes it claimed proved Zoabi supported armed struggle by Israel’s enemies and opposed Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.
For 20 years, the White House stood guard over the peace process, reserving for itself the role of stewarding Israel and the Palestinians to a resolution of their conflict. But Washington’s primacy in the relationship with both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships is unravelling at astonishing speed, opening up for the first time diplomatic wriggle room.
Hizballah’s attack that killed two soldiers on Wednesday was the very minimum retaliation Israel could realistically expect following an air strike earlier this month on a Hizballah convoy in southern Syria. The Lebanese militia appears to want this episode to draw to a close, a message it delivered to Israel via UN peacekeepers. The more pressing question is whether Israel will let the matter drop.
It is not surprising that Quneitra province in southern Syria, where Israel’s air strike occurred, has become a flashpoint. Israel, on the one hand, and Hizballah and Iran, on the other, have been sucked into the relative power vacuum created there since the Syrian army lost its grip on the territory last summer. Israel appears to prefer that the Syrian army, Hizballah and Iran remain trapped in an endless struggle against the opposition saps their resources and military strength.
An Israeli air strike in southern Syria on Sunday that killed 12 commanders from the Lebanese militia Hizballah and Iran's Revolutionary Guard follows a long and ignoble tradition in Israeli politics. Prime ministers facing poor ratings have often been tempted to launch a major military offensive in the middle of an election campaign. The strike was not only the biggest against Hizballah since the conflict with Israel in summer 2006, but - more significantly - Israel's first undisguised military clash with Iran.
The Paris killings have reinforced Israeli suspicions that Europe, with its rapidly growing Muslim population, is being dragged into a clash of civilisations it is ill-equipped to combat. And the targeting of a kosher supermarket that killed four Jews has heightened a belief that Jews outside Israel are in mortal danger. In Netanyahu’s conception, a Jew’s primary bond should be to their “true home”, the Jewish state of Israel. Paradoxically, that view is shared by Europe’s far-right.
Netanyahu was probably the least welcome of the 40 world leaders who participated in the rally in Paris on Sunday to demonstrate their outrage at last week's attack that left 17 people dead, including four French Jews. According to Israeli media, President Francois Hollande's advisers had urged Netanyahu not to come, concerned that he would exploit the visit - and the deaths - to increase divisions in French society. They had good grounds for concern.
Abbas knows a decision to pursue war crimes trials against Israel at the Hague threatens the PA’s very existence. If he ends coordination and goes on the offensive, why would Israel allow the PA to continue functioning? But if his security forces continue to collaborate with Israel, how can he retain credibility with his people? This leaves the Palestinian leader with only two credible strategic options – aside from dissolving the PA himself.
There are many obstacles to be cleared before anyone in Israel reaches the dock in the Hague accused of war crimes. The first test will be whether Mahmoud Abbas’ nerve holds. It will be 60 days before the application to join the International Criminal Court takes effect. In the meantime, Israel and the US – neither of which has ratified the Rome Statute – will exert as much pressure on him as possible to change course.
Israel's large Palestinian Arab minority is facing the most crucial, and possibly most dangerous, general election in its history, according to analysts. Both the survival of Arab political parties in the Israeli parliament and the status of Palestinian citizens – who make up one in five of the population – inside a Jewish state are at stake. Unless they can forge alliances, the three small Arab parties in the current Knesset may fail to win a single seat between them.
While Europe is tentatively finding a voice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, silence reigns across the Atlantic. The White House appears paralysed, afraid to appear out of sync with world opinion but more afraid still of upsetting Israel and its powerful allies in the US Congress. Now there is an additional complicating factor: the Israeli public, due to elect a new government in three months’ time, increasingly regards the US role as toxic.