Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is due to meet Donald Trump in the White House this week to discuss reviving the long-cold corpse of the peace process. Back home, things are heating up. There is anger in the West Bank, both on the streets and within the ranks of Mr Abbas’s Fatah movement. The trigger is a two-week-old hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners.
Israel received three F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States at the weekend – a new generation of “near-invisible” planes that critics fear will free Israel’s hand to launch air strikes and spying operations against neighbouring states undetected. In total, Israel has bought 50 F-35s from Lockheed Martin, and claims it will have the first squadron combat-ready before the end of the year.
Israel is to hold lavish celebrations over the coming weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of the occupation. The jubilee is a potent reminder that for Israelis, most of whom have never known a time before the occupation, Israel’s rule over the Palestinians seems as irreversible as the laws of nature. But the extravagance of the festivities also underscores the growth of Israel’s self-assurance as an occupier.
The annual “March of Return” by Palestinians in Israel, commemorating the Nakba – the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 – has been blocked by the Israeli police for the first time in its history. The police have denied the organisers a permit, saying there is a shortage of officers to oversee the march. But Palestinian leaders in Israel accuse the government of Benjamin Netanyahu of being behind the decision.
The current obsession with BDS reflects a changing political environment for Israel. Concealment at source of damning information is no longer easy, so the battle must be taken to those who disseminate this information. The urgency has grown as artists refuse to visit, universities sever ties, churches pull their investments and companies back out of deals.
The one-man show “Taha” receives its English-language premiere this week in the United States. It offers not only a rare chance to learn about Taha Muhammad Ali, one of Palestine’s finest poets, but provides a visceral account of what it was like to live through the Nakba – the Catastrophe that befell hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were expelled from their homeland in 1948.
The choice of US ambassador to Israel has never before incurred such scrutiny or provoked such controversy. David Friedman’s confirmation by the Senate’s foreign relations committee last week followed a petition signed by tens of thousands of American Jews opposing his nomination. Major Jewish organisations and hundreds of rabbis also objected. But then, Donald Trump’s envoy to Israel is no ordinary ambassador.
Israel has given itself almost complete immunity from paying compensation in cases where its soldiers have killed, injured or disabled Palestinian civilians, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem warned in a new report this week. It said changes to Israeli law over the past 15 years meant Israel now denied many thousands of Palestinians redress in its civil courts, even for harm caused in non-combat situations.
Arabs and Muslims have always struggled to gain entry to Israel. Palestinians are routinely abused at the borders, and thousands, especially from Jerusalem, have been stripped of the right to return home after living abroad. But new figures show entry denials have increased nine-fold in the past five years. Among those increasingly turned away are political activists.
The Israeli leadership shows no signs of heeding the lessons of an official report into the 2014 Gaza war that led to massive destruction and loss of life in the tiny coastal enclave, Palestinians warned this week. In particular, Israel’s State Comptroller faulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to address the mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza – conditions that made hostilities ever more likely, according to the report.
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.