Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, wants to stay in power for as long as possible. He deploys a zero-risk strategy aimed at keeping his rightwing political base behind him, while convincing the public that he alone could lead the country in times of regional turmoil. This week, Netanyahu overcame a key challenge to his coveted political stasis. The deadline for US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian talks passed, while Netanyahu's governing coalition remained intact.
Netanyahu missed an opportunity. He could have leveraged his unchallenged leadership to make headway towards peace, freed Israel from the moral and political burden of its endless occupation in the West Bank, and drawn the country's permanent borders.… Seguir leyendo »
A Middle East news summary: deadly crackdown of protest in Egypt, bloody civil war in Syria, a car bomb in Lebanon, refugee crisis and political uncertainty in Jordan, sectarian war resumes in Iraq. Only in Israel, right in their midst, people are busy with their summer vacations. Here, the hottest news in recent weeks was the nomination fiasco of the national bank governor. Even the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians, after five years of impasse, raises only little interest or hope here.
Israel has never appeared so remote and disconnected from its neighbours. Seen through a mainstream political prism in Israel, the latest switch in the Arab spring revolutions with the military retaking of Egypt simply proves that the Jewish state is, as former prime minister Ehud Barak once said, "a villa in the jungle".… Seguir leyendo »
Israeli voters delivered a painful blow to Binyamin Netanyahu in Tuesday's election, and halted the country's worrying drift to the far right. The incumbent prime minister is likely to keep his job but his political bloc failed to put the expansion of West Bank settlements on top of the national agenda, and to sacrifice civil rights in favour of majority rule.
The election's rising star, Yair Lapid, positioned himself as Israel's new kingmaker and will be the key player in the next governing coalition. Lapid promised his voters one thing: normality – to live in Israel as if you're living in western Europe or North America, with a government that worries about education, housing and economic opportunity, rather than Iran's nuclear programme or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.… Seguir leyendo »
Ehud Barak, who on Monday announced that he is quitting politics, has been the chief author of Israel's national security policy for a generation. He has served as military chief of staff, foreign minister, opposition leader, prime minister and currently defence minister, and his ideas underlie most war and peace decisions. Barak's failed peace proposal to Yasser Arafat is still widely considered to be the basis for any future deal, while his pullout from Lebanon in 2000 serves as the model for Israeli unilateralism. For better or worse, his conclusion of the Camp David debacle – "We have no Palestinian partner" – continues to be the mainstream political thinking in Israel – which makes him the anathema of Israel's dwindling peace camp.… Seguir leyendo »
Seven months into the Arab Spring, Israel’s leaders are getting over their initial alarm and confusion about how to react, and have begun to embrace the region’s new uncertainty. Increasingly, they see it as a diplomatic opportunity to affirm Israel’s importance to its traditional friends.
The West may dislike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy toward the Palestinians — the new calculation goes — but Israel is the only country in the region that will certainly remain a stable, pro-American democracy. By that logic, it should be the West’s ally of choice in a volatile region.
That’s a windfall for the diplomacy of a man who wields power as Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
Israelis enjoy a love-hate relationship with the intelligence service, Mossad. When they succeed in another James Bond-style operation, we sing their praises as an example of all good things Israeli: innovation, daring, outsmarting the competition. But when they screw up, we are quick to identify all of our social maladies: arrogance, carelessness, disregarding the rules.
The assassination of the Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai serves as a rare example of both attitudes. When news of the hit first broke, the global media pointed at Israel's responsibility. Despite the lack of official acknowledgement and the bounds of censorship, Israeli officials and journalists celebrated the "clean" killing of an old enemy – held responsible for the killing of two Israeli soldiers more than 20 years ago, and for the current flow of Iranian arms into Gaza.… Seguir leyendo »
In his global tours and TV appearances, President Obama has spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians and Africans. His words have stirred emotions and been well received everywhere.
But he hasn’t bothered to speak directly to Israelis.
And the effect? Six months into his presidency, Israelis find themselves increasingly suspicious of Mr. Obama. All they see is American pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlements, a request that’s been interpreted here as political arm-twisting meant to please the Arab street at Israel’s expense — or simply to express the president’s dislike for Mr. Netanyahu.
This would seem counterproductive, given the importance the president has placed on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.… Seguir leyendo »
The outburst of violence in and around Gaza puts Israel's government in an unbearable dilemma: should it invade Gaza, to halt the Palestinian rocket fire and oust the Hamas government, or try to negotiate a stable ceasefire with Hamas. Both options carry high political and strategic risks, and the outcome will set the course of Israeli-Palestinian relations for the foreseeable future.
In the eyes of most Israelis, the seeds of the fighting were sown by the Israeli pullout of Gaza in August 2005. It was morally and strategically right. But Israel failed to disengage itself from Gaza. Palestinian terrorist groups kept firing rockets into Israel, and Israel remained responsible for Gaza's wellbeing.… Seguir leyendo »