Posts Tagged ‘Israel’


On January 19, at the annual Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference, the leader of Israel’s opposition and head of the Zionist Union party, Isaac Herzog, unveiled an alternative approach to the issue of Israel’s nearly 49-year old occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It has some points that clearly distinguish his policy from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s. But it is short on detail, and includes some ideas that could make the situation even worse.Isaac_Herzog

Upon examination, Herzog’s plan seems likely to garner support among the centrist, center-left and even parts of the center-right Israeli voter base. Given recent polls which show the Yesh Atid party garnering as many seats as Herzog’s Zionist Union and reflect more public confidence in Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid, as a potential Prime Minister than Herzog, this plan must be read, at least in part, as an attempt to bolster Herzog’s position as opposition leader. Read more at FMEP’s blog, Facts On the Ground.

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In 2015, Israel ushered in the most right-wing government in its history. But the same election produced another notable outcome: for the first time, Arab parties joined in a bloc with the sole Jewish-Arab party, Hadash, to form the Joint List. The bloc garnered 13 seats in the current Knesset, making it the third largest party and second largest in the opposition.

Ayman Odeh is the Chairperson of the Hadash party and the head of the Joint List. In these roles, MK Odeh has established himself as a respected leader, bringing a principled voice to the Aymanopposition while balancing the diverse and sometimes contradictory politics of his own List. It is not always easy, and MK Odeh has managed to keep his coalition together while positioning himself as a leader of a progressive movement within Israel. While other opposition leaders such as Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) have largely backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in many of his policies dealing with both internal security and the Israel-Palestine conflict, MK Odeh has given voice not only to the views of minority groups within Israel, but also to moderates all over the world who support peace, Palestinian rights and a two-state solution.

In December, MK Odeh embarked on a groundbreaking visit to the United States, his first as well as the first of its kind for a political leader of Israel’s Palestinian community, where he met with many politicians, community leaders and activist groups. The trip, which was supported in part by the Foundation for Middle East Peace, demonstrated that there is a significant opposition in Israel, and that Palestinian citizens of Israel, like MK Odeh, believe themselves to be a part of the country and instrumental to charting a better future for both the citizens of Israel and the Palestinians living under occupation.

FMEP conducted this interview with MK Odeh between December 23, 2015 and January 2, 2016.  Continue reading at FMEP’s blog, “Facts on the Ground.”

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Appearing on Walla! TV in Israel, Yuli Novak, the Executive Director of Breaking the Silence lays out, in a clear manner, the case Breaking the Silence is making. She takes on the tough questions of why the group speaks abroad and its attitude toward BDS, and shreds the opposition’s arguments about Breaking the Silence’s EU funding.

It’s worth praising Walla! as well. This is the sort of TV journalism we do not see in the United States. The interviewer asks the tough questions in a respectful manner, and neither party shies away from the issues. Yes, the voices are raised, but anyone who has been to Israel knows this is standard fare.

The interview is in Hebrew, but the accompanying English subtitles are very good. Yuli Novak, and the rest of Breaking the Silence are the best of Israel. It says a great deal not only about radical rightists like Im Tirzu, but also about the Netanyahu government itself that they are hostile toward or ashamed of Breaking the Silence. They should, instead, be treated like the patriotic heroes they are.

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In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon remarked on the tension between security and liberty. “In the United States until the events of September 11, the balance between security and human rights favored human rights on the issue, for example of eavesdropping on potential terrorists,” he said. “In France aBtselemnd other countries in Europe, [a shift toward security] hasn’t yet happened. Countries fighting terrorism have no alternative in this other than shifting in the direction of security. I assume that we will see a large number of steps [to carry out] inspections: passport inspections, inspections at the entrance to public places.”

As in the U.S. this dichotomy between security and human rights is at the very heart of the debate in Israel. ”We believe not only are these not contradictory, but that human rights provides security,” said Hagai El-Ad, the Executive Director of B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights groups monitoring its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, on a recent press call. “Indeed, we think that human rights are the reasons for which we have security, they are why people have a society that must be protected. So one has to wonder what kind of society do we end up with (in Ya’alon’s framework) and would that society be worth defending if you take Ya’alon’s idea to extremes. I hope that idea will work differently in France. Time will tell.”

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During his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered “a package of meaningful measures in the West Bank.” Although Bibi KerryNetanyahu was apparently vague about what those measures would be, an anonymous Israeli official told a reporter for  Israel’s Ha’aretz, “The prime minister made it clear that we want American recognition of the settlement blocs and of the fact that we can build there.”

Most observers have long recognized that any workable two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is likely to include Israel keeping the large settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim. A key question had been if, and when, U.S. policy should shift to acknowledge this, either tacitly or explicitly. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog.

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Recently, the European Union implemented a procedure for enforcing existing regulations requiring the labeling of some goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel has vociferously objected to any labeling of products from its settlements, and this has prompted concern in Congress, including a bi-partisan letter written by Senators Cruz and Gillibrand protesting the requirement.

The Obama administration has made it clear that it does not object to the EU’s decision. “We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State DepartmentIsraeli settlement winespokesman Mark Toner said in response to a question. “And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel.” Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog. 

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In late October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of the Knesset foreign Affairs and Defense Committees that “at this time we need to control all of the territory (of Occupation in Jerusalemthe West Bank) for the foreseeable future.” He echoed this during his talk at the Center for American Progress on November 10, when he insisted that, despite his stated support for a two-state solution, he saw no alternative to a permanent Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.

These remarks fall within a particular set of parameters of discourse around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this view, Israel is being asked to make a concession by even considering an end to its now 48-year old occupation. In this view, Palestinian liberty is not a self-evident, inalienable right, but an Israeli gift. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog. 

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