The Great Debate

Iran transformed Syria’s army into a militia that will help Assad survive another year

By David Axe
December 17, 2014

A man inspects a damaged site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs thrown by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on al-Ghariya, in the east of Deraa province

In early 2015, the civil war in Syria will turn four years old. If current trends hold, the terrible conflict — which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions — will almost certainly continue to rage through the end of the year. That’s my prediction.

It’s a weird war when Iran and the U.S. are bombing the same country

By Michael Williams
December 10, 2014

A Syrian Air Force fighter plane fires rockets during an air strike in the village of Tel Rafat

The McDonnell Douglas’ F4 Phantom was a workhorse of the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. It was retired from the USAF and the British Royal Air Force some 20 years ago. But the vintage fighter-bomber put in a surprise performance a few days ago over the skies of northern Iraq.

What’s behind the effort to make Israel, the ‘Jewish State,’ more ‘Jewish’

By Matt Duss
December 2, 2014

Israel's PM Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Jerusalem

With the myriad challenges the Israeli government currently faces – regional turmoil, unrest in Jerusalem, and opposition to a highly contentious budget — this might seem like an interesting time for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promulgate a new law defining Israel’s identity as “the nation state of the Jewish people.” The bill, which was supposed to have been voted on this Wednesday but has now been delayed, would recognize Jewish religious law as an inspiration for legislation, and affirm that, “The right to the fulfillment of national self-determination within the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Can you live a moral life in the holy city of Jerusalem?

By Amy Wilentz
November 24, 2014

A man holds an Israeli flag during a mass prayer for soldiers and civilians at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City

While you are reading about violent attacks in Jerusalem on the home page of your newspaper, Jerusalemites are living their lives, most of the time, as if they dwelled in a happy little European nation, say Luxembourg or the Netherlands… or suburban New Jersey. That’s how you can feel there a lot of the time, if you live on the Israeli side. That is assuming you’re not a crazed extremist of some kind.

from John Lloyd:

The problem(s) with Israel

By John Lloyd
November 20, 2014

Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Jews carry the body of Rabbi Mosheh Twersky onto a vehicle during his funeral in Jerusalem

Israel had grown accustomed to an absence of terrorist attacks in its cities: so the bloody murder of four worshippers and wounding of eight more at a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday was a shock. It illuminates the fragile, fractious state of the country, including the fact that the cabinet is riven, and may collapse soon.

A one-state solution: Israel’s settlements aren’t going away

By Dimi Reider
November 13, 2014

Jewish youth hold Israeli flags at the beginning of a rally march in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, near Nablus

Bursts of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, once the subject of intense news coverage, have become almost routine.

Why Palestinians are back fighting on Jerusalem’s streets

By Rashid I. Khalidi
November 13, 2014

Palestinian youths throw stones towards Israeli border police during clashes at a checkpoint between the Shuafat refugee camp and Jerusalem

Once again, widespread popular unrest has broken out in Jerusalem. Since July, there have been clashes between young Arabs and Israeli security forces using tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and truncheons.  

Here’s why Israel loses no sleep over Islamic State

By Dimi Reider
October 21, 2014

A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014 is pictured in this still frame from video

At first sight, it seems that Israel is just as preoccupied with the rise of Islamic State as anyone else. Israeli media report diligently on the extremist group’s assault on the Kurdish town of Kobani and run at least a story every few days on its atrocities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu references Islamic State frequently, as do other Israeli ministers. And the stories of two Palestinian citizens of Israel who died fighting for the group have been recently featured in the press.

Israel appropriated 1,000 acres of the West Bank. Why now?

By Dimi Reider
September 8, 2014

israelflag.jpg

Last week, Israel announced that it was appropriating nearly 1,000 acres of private Palestinian land near Bethlehem. The seizure, which one anti-settlement group called the largest in 30 years, was condemned by Palestinians, the United Nations, and criticized by the United States.

Peace may be the true threat to Hamas, Israel’s leaders

By Amy Wilentz
August 18, 2014

Relatives of a Palestinian woman, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourn during her funeral in Khan Younis

It’s time to wonder whether Israel and Palestine will ever be able to move out of the moral abyss into which they’ve plunged themselves, and address the threat of peace.