Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Last week: Sunday – clashes in the Old City of Jerusalem which to some resemble the events that led to the outbreak of the Second Intifada nine years ago; Tuesday – shooting by Palestinians wounds an Israeli motorist in the West Bank; Wednesday – an Israeli Army jeep hitting and killing a 17-year-old Palestinian. (Read more about the September 27th, 2009 clashes here.)
This week: Sunday again – hundreds of Arabs clash again with police in the Old City of Jerusalem. Police briefly block all access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
At the rate things have been going, expecting another act of violence to follow might be the next logical step.
But, looking largely at last week’s Jerusalem clashes, a commentary in the Jerusalem Post, posed an interesting question: Do recent acts of violence portend worse violence? The Jerusalem Post answered No.
It seems last week’s focus, settlement expansion, has given way to this week’s prime focus: Might Israel attack Iran?
Last week the Arab media found Israel’s refusal to cease settlement expansion unsurprising and affirmative of what they said was Israel’s unwillingness to pursue a peace settlement with the Palestinians. An op-ed in Al Ahram Weekly, an English-language newspaper in Egypt, questioned the Arabs’ ability to challenge Israel: “Will they have the courage to shift the focus back from the Israeli-instigated ‘Iranian threat’ to the clear and present Israeli danger to the region?”
Yesterday Reuters reported US President Barack Obama emphatically stating that Joe Biden’s comments this week on ABC were not a “green light” to Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Yet he did reiterrate Biden’s argument that Washington cannot “dictate to other countries what their security interests are.”
If Israel were to decide to try to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, how might it do that? It sounds almost like something from a spy novel, but Reuters’ Dan Williams reports that Israel may use “cyber warfare” to accomplish that goal.
The protests in Tehran have resonated deeply among Palestinian and Israeli bloggers, who are not only looking outward at the events, but inward as well. The protests are seen not only as a wild card in their potential impact in the wider region, but also by some as a touchstone for reassessing how Palestinians and Israelis understand their own conflict.
Some Israeli peace activists see themselves in the Iranian struggle. Blogger and anti-occupation activist Joseph Dana writes on the blog Mondoweiss that despite the many differences between the Iranian and Israeli governments, “both countries’ national characters stress the bond between religion and state and are ideologically driven”, which leads to “oppressive” forms of governance: “The struggle that many young people are taking up against the current Iranian government regarding the election has never taken place in Israel.”
Not the best day at the office yesterday for Benjamin Netanyahu. For a man with one finger on the button of Israel’s presumed nuclear deterrent and the other wagging warningly at Iran, there are better ways to inspire confidence than getting your buttons mixed up in public.
That’s what happened to the prime minister, though, prompting this awkward explanation in the Knesset of why he had cast the only electronic vote against a parliamentary bill proposed by his own government.
Gone were the track suit, the back-slapping and the wise-cracking, all part of Ehud Olmert’s casual demeanor when he used to fly to the United States for White House talks and stand in the back of a chartered El Al plane, fielding questions from the travelling press.
His successor as Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, managed the media very differently this week during his first visit to the White House since taking office on March 31.
One of the most closely watched meetings for decades between an Israeli Prime Minister and a US President took place yesterday when Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu sat together at the White House.
The two men met for two hours - during which time Obama pressed the ‘two state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a reluctant Netanyahu, while Netanyahu underlined his belief that Iran was a more pressing concern than Palestinian statehood.
For many Israelis the sight of European delegates walking out during a speech by Iran’s president at last week’s U.N. conference on racism was a rare moment of solidarity by countries often critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
“Defeated” read a front-page banner headline in one Israeli newspaper next to a picture of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had to face the mass walkout by Western diplomats at the forum in Geneva when he called Israel a “racist state” in his speech.
As Israelis prepare for their annual Holocaust commemorations on Monday, one scholar has taken a different tack on the tragedy by estimating how many Jews might have been alive today were it not for the Nazi genocide.
According to demographer Sergio DellaPergola, the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War Two more than halved the potential global Jewish community in the long-run. Rather than numbering some 13 million now, there might have between 26 million and 32 million Jews, he says in an article to be published in the journal of the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
As Benjamin Netanyahu’s top pick for national security adviser, Uzi Arad will be key to crafting the foreign and defence policies of the incoming Israeli government.
Arad is a retired official of the Mossad intelligence agency who served under the hawkish Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister in 1996-1999. That period saw Israel pursuing U.S.-sponsored interim peace negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as tentative rapprochement with Syria.