Analysis News

Likud is no longer the largest party in the Knesset

Netanyahu now has the same number of seats as his main coalition partner, Yair Lapid. This leaves him at the mercy of his arch-rival, President Reuven Rivlin, if the coalition would need to be reshuffled without new elections being called. 

Up until mid last month, Netanyahu’s coalition enjoyed a reasonably obvious hierarchy. The Likud-Beitenu list led with 31 seats; Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid followed with 19; Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home barely caught up with 12; and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua closed the list with 6.

This classical enough arrangement suffered its first blow in mid- July, when Avigdor Liberman unilaterally broke off the Likud-Beitenu alliance, taking his party’s 11 seats and leaving Netanyahu with 20. But since last Wednesday even this flimsy pyramid unraveled, sliding instead into a gridlock alliance between several identically sized parties: Likud now has 19 seats, as does Yesh Atid; and Yisrael Beitenu has 12 seats, just like Jewish Home. Tzipi Livni still has 6.

The following is a timeline of how this came about:

December 2013:  Carmel Shama-Hacohen, a junior ex-MK who narrowly lost his seat in the last elections (and thus would be next in line if someone in the Likud-Beitenu was to give up their seat), is offered the position of Israel’s ambassador to the Paris headquarters of the OECD. The offer is made by Avigdor Liberman, then-chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

28 May 2014: After several increasingly divisive attempts to undermine the presidential candidacy of former Knesset chair, Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu is forced to admit defeat and offer Rivlin his support.

29 May 2014: Liberman (now reinstated as foreign minister)  declares his party still won’t support Rivlin, while publicly accusing Netanyahu of going behind his back. The rift is now official.

10 June 2014: Rivlin is elected President, and automatically resigns his Knesset seat, which is passed on to Carmel Shama-Hacohen.

7 July 2014: Liberman splits up the Likud-Beitenu alliance, leaving Netanyahu at the head of a 20-seat faction instead of 31, and taking 11 seats for himself.

6 August 2014 Carmel Shama-Hacohen takes up the OECD ambassador post and resigns his seat in the Knesset.

6 August 2014: Owing to a clause of the electoral agreement between Yisrael Beitenu and Likud, Shama-Hacohen’s place is taken by Yisrael Beitenu MK Alex Miller.

Likud 19, Yesh Atid 19, Habayit Hayehudi 12, Yisrael Beitenu 12, Hatnua 6. 

This is not a...

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'Captive soldier would have been better off if we shot him'

New testimonies emerge from soldiers who believe that the capture of a soldier is too strategically risky to be allowed, at any price. The real risk that the botched rescue operation was trying to avert, however, could well be more political than strategic

There has been some controversy during the war about the meaning of the Hannibal Directive, a once-classified order meant to prevent the capture of Israeli soldiers by enemy forces – notoriously, by allowing Israeli troops to fire in their direction, even at risk of injury or death to the captive. Some have taken the interpretation of the order to the extreme, arguing that it effectively means captive soldiers were to be killed by their own army rather than allowed to be taken as bargaining chips for a future prisoner exchange. Others defended it, stating that it merely allows rescue forces greater flexibility, rather than having them paralyzed by the hostage-takers – even if this flexibility came at the cost of some risk to the hostage.

The directive, originally issued in 1986 and made public in 2003, came to the surface during the latest war because of two incidents in which soldiers (St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, on July 20th, and Lt. Hadar Goldin, on August 1) were initially reported as captive but were quickly declared to be missing and presumed dead. In Shaul’s case, it was fairly obvious within hours of the attack on the antiquated APC in which he was traveling that the soldier was dead and that Hamas had, at best, a dead body. But when it came to Goldin, conflicting messages from the political and military leaderships of Hamas, and the apparently genuine uncertainty within the IDF resulted in an excruciating two days during which the soldier was presumed alive but in captivity. Two days in which his family and his fiancée held on to hope against all odds, only to be heartbroken all over again 30 hours later.

Israeli soldier is sen on board his APC near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip while returning from the Gaza strip, August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldier is seen on board his APC near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that...

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Lame duck, not nuclear duck: Netanyahu's staggering defeat

The slow crumbling of Netanyahu’s political prestige reached its nadir on Tuesday, when his own heir apparent Gideon Sa’ar turned against him to elevate arch-rival Reuven Rivlin to presidency. 

Reuven Rivlin’s victory in the presidential elections on Tuesday was a resounding one, but nowhere near as resonant as Benjamin Netanyahu’s defeat – a domestic political defeat to match his 2013 failure to stop Iran-U.S. rapprochement, which yanked the rug out from under his foreign policy.

Rivlin and Netanyahu weren’t running against each other. Quite the contrary, Rivlin was the candidate of Netanyahu’s own party, Likud, adored by the party’s rank-and-file and Israelis in the street alike. With a bit of self-discipline and an exercise of that most elusive quality of leadership – humility – Netanyahu could have transformed today’s event into a sweeping victory for his party, for the nationalist camp and for himself personally. Worst come to worst, he could have even written it off as a pointless formality, playing on the public’s weariness of the largely ceremonial presidential role. Instead, Netanyahu made it into a personal crusade, raising the stakes of the presidential race immensely and amplifying his defeat to match. He is perceived as having ignored, deceived and ultimately betrayed his own party – and all to lose the race. This doesn’t mean Netanyahu will be going anywhere tomorrow, but it does mean that the historical fourth term he covets is becoming increasingly unlikely, and that like many a Prime Minister to have served three terms, the final blow might well come from his own home party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

The Netanyahu-Rivlin rift goes back to 2009, when the freshly victorious Netanyahu had Rivlin elected once again as Speaker of the Knesset. Rivlin, a tradionalist if there ever was one, soon proved to be much more loyal to parliament and to the letter of the law than to his own party. He stalled nearly every piece of anti-democratic legislation that came his way, deferring votes, sending bills to die in committees and even setting up committees especially to kill those bills he felt impinged on democratic rights. Along the way, he protected MK Hanin Zoabi when the Knesset tried to sanction her for taking part in the Gaza flotilla; elevated...

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Why the Left's best president might come from the Right

The opposition is scrambling as Benjamin Ben-Eliezer withdraws days before elections. The Left’s best candidate may well be on the Right, but political tribalism looks set to triumph.

Benjamin Ben Eliezer. Photo: Yossi Gurvitz, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Benjamin Ben Eliezer. Photo: Yossi Gurvitz, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Labor’s candidate for president, Benajmin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer announced on Saturday that he is withdrawing from the race, just four days before the vote. Ben-Eliezer’s decision came after he spent much of Friday being interrogated concerning allegedly illicit cash transfers from an Israeli businessman, which allowed Ben Eliezer to purchase a luxurious penthouse apartment in Jaffa late last year.

Questions have been asked about the house before, as the Labor candidate’s 60 years on state salaries – first in the IDF and then as parliamentarian and minister – made such an ostentatious purchase somewhat suspicious. The prosecution and police, however, moved in only after businessman Abraham Nanikwashwili was implicated in another investigation, that of bribery and nepotism at the port of Ashdod. According to several reports in the Israeli media, police reviewed Ben Eliezer’s bank accounts without his knowledge and found transfers that the veteran parliamentarian failed to report to the Knesset.

The candidate was called in for questioning on Friday morning, and when interrogators deemed his replies unsatisfactory and evasive, he was told that he was now being interrogated under caution. On Saturday afternoon, Ben Eliezer announced that he was withdrawing his name from the race, decrying the timing of the questioning as suspicious and the entire investigation as a “targeted assassination attempt” against his political career.

A scramble for candidates

The withdrawal leaves the center-left without its most senior candidate, and sent parliamentarians scrambling for a figure behind whom they can unite – if not for the first round of votes then for the crucial second one, which will be held to determine which of the two leading candidates will receive over 60 votes (in other words, over half the votes available in the Knesset to become Israel’s 10th president). The challenge is made all the greater considering the vote, by law, is private and confidential; at the end of the day, each MK will be voting according to his or her conscience, and party discipline cannot really be enforced.

To add to the opposition’s woes, for each characteristic they...

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Palestinian-Israeli journalist on bail after incommunicado arrest

Majd Kayyal, 23, a journalist from Haifa who also works as editor for civil rights center Adalah, is out on bail  after  days of solitary confinement and interrogation since his arrest on Saturday night. The gag order on the case was lifted hours earlier, after activists in Israel and abroad ignored the ban. 

Update: The Haifa District Court on Thursday morning released Majd Kayyal, a 23-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel and a journalist from Haifa, who was arrested as he was traveling home from Beirut last Saturday night. Police prosecutors who originally applied for an extended remand earlier this week said  Kayyal was suspected of visiting an enemy state and establishing contact with foreign agents.  The foreign agents allegation was dropped as he was released on bail, but enemy state one remains. According to Adalah, Kayyal has been banned from using internet for 21 days, which Adalah is set to challenge in court.

The gag order imposed on the case was removed several hours earlier.

While it is illegal for Israeli citizens to visit “enemy states” such as Lebanon and Syria, many Israeli journalists do so on a regular basis, some by making use of their dual citizenship and some by simply crossing the border. None of them were formally arrested or charged in recent memory.

The journalist, who made no secret of his visit and posted reflections about it on Jadaliyya while still abroad, was not allowed access to legal counsel since his arrest until Wednesday night, hours before the gag order was to be lifted. The state alleged fears that the interrogation would be compromised should he and his lawyers be allowed to meet – a tactic applied frequently to Palestinians appearing before Israeli military courts in the occupied territories, occasionally to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and almost never to Jewish citizens. Even Kayyal’s solitary court appearance at the remand hearing took place only after his legal team was ordered to leave the room.

Kayyal told his lawyers that the questioning so far focused on his visit to Beirut and the meetings he held during the conference. He said he answered all the questions, and explained all of them were held in his capacity as a journalist, according to Adalah. He was checked on a lie detector and found to be speaking the truth, the rights group said.

According to his lawyers, Kayyal was  held in solitary confinement, without...

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Haaretz columnist Reuven Pedatzur killed in traffic accident

Senior Haaretz security analyst Drץ Reuven Pedatzur was killed last night in a traffic accident on Israel’s coastal highway, emergency services said. He was 66 years old.

Reuven Pedatzur, 1948-2014. Photo by Barry Levinson (Courtesy)

Reuven Pedatzur, 1948-2014. Photo by Barry Levinson (Courtesy)

A reporter, commentator and columnist for Haaretz for almost 30 years, Dr. Reuven Pedatzur also co-hosted a military affairs program on Israel’s Army Radio, wrote for Al Monitor and contributed to many other publications at home and abroad. In a field dominated by sycophancy and regurgitation of official spins and figures, Pedatzur was known as a fiercely independent critic and a bold analyst. He was also one of the most respected civilian experts on Israeli military expenditure, a notoriously murky field jealously guarded by the defense establishment. He combined his journalistic career with an academic one, teaching at Netanya College and the National Security College, and with that of a commercial pilot, most recently flying for Israeli airline Arkia.

Pedatzur frequently took the top brass to task about their insatiable demand for funds, and regularly accused them of employing scare tactics to intimidate both the public and the civilian decision-makers. On some occasions, he did that not only in their face, but to their face. ”A few years ago, during a routine argument between the Finance Ministry and the IDF over the size of the defense budget, I showed up at the office of the chief of staff’s financial adviser with a graph on the defense budget published by the Treasury,” Pedatzur wrote in his column in 2012. “The graph clearly showed how the defense budget was growing annually. Are the figures in this chart acceptable to you in the IDF, I asked the adviser. Yes, of course, he replied. In that case, why do you say they’re cutting the budget when the figures show that it’s constantly growing? You don’t understand, the adviser scolded me, we demand a certain sum for the defense budget every year, and when they don’t approve what we requested, that’s a budget cut as far as we’re concerned. That happens every year, and this time too. The IDF requests an add-on of about NIS 4 billion, and if it doesn’t receive it, that’s a cruel budget cut.”

Over the years, Pedatzur criticized many prestigious IDF projects, especially the much-touted missile defense...

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Lapid's Passover prayer: Lord, get the Palestinians away

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the great secular crusader, has finally found God. And he has but one thing to ask of Him. 

Finance Minister Yair  Lapid, the moderate mainstay of Netanyahu’s right-wing government, published today a long, rambling post drenched in self-pity (typical enough, on the most reassuring of Jewish holidays). The post is titled  ”A (private) Prayer for Passover,” and it contains the following paragraph:

The paragraph has been picked apart by eye rollers – Zeno didn’t live in the 16th century (this, and only this bit, was later edited out from the post), he didn’t invent the omnipotency paradox (it was probably Ibn Rushd), how exactly  several millions of people are one rock, which is also a stone, and who placed it on our collective heart.  The most chilling bit, though, is the core of the “prayer”. Lord, make the Palestinians move away somewhere. Just anywhere. Get them out of our face.

Lapid may not be intelligent, moral, strategic, erudite, principled or good at math, but there is one quality that cannot be denied to him – he is a walking, talking, writing barometer of the Israeli public mood. This is how he got his stardom, this is why he scooped up all these profile votes: because he reflects to Israelis Israelis as they wanted to see themselves. And this inane little ramble touches on the the very heart of the Israeli attitude to Palestinians: They are a nuisance.

Thomas Friedman, back in his actual reporting days in the midst of the First Intifada, had a similar insight in his book, From Beirut to Jerusalem: the rage of the Israelis against the Palestinian is the suburban middle-class rage of people who think they’re home-owners but are constantly reminded that their home is not only their own, and no, they most certainly cannot just kick their shoes off and relax. It is a violent rage (try reading comments on Israeli news sites), but it is curiously like unyielding irritation. And it makes any atrocity Israeli does to Palestinians easy to shrug off and look away from, so long as there is any hope it’ll get them to shut up.

In a way, this craving for Palestinians to shut up and eff off is why anti-normalization is actually soothing and anesthetizing to most Israelis  - we’d find it a lot more difficult to deal with a constant, inescapable inundation...

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Netanyahu gains popularity as peace talks collapse

The prime minister’s personal popularity goes up, while the Likud and Habyait Hayehudi gain seven more seats between them if elections were tomorrow. The Left loses four seats. Coalition troubles aside, ‘peace’ remains electorally toxic. 

The biggest losers from the collapse of the peace talks are the pro-peace parties, a Haaretz weekend poll suggests - a finding unlikely to delight those hoping Netanyahu would swap his hard-right coalition partners for more moderate ones.

According to the poll, conducted soon after the peace talks went into a spiral due to a cancelled prisoner release and the newly announced settlement building plans – Kerry’s “poof” moment – Netanyahu’s personal approval rating went up from 40 percent to 45 percent since mid-February. His faction, Likud-Beitenu, would get five more seats if elections were tomorrow (37 seats instead of 32 in February). Habayit Hayehudi, openly annexationist and home to Construction Minister Uri Ariel whom Kerry indirectly blamed for scuttling the peace talks, would get 15 seats instead of 12.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

The main centrist block in the coalition, Yesh Atid, which neither did nor said anything of substance about the peace talks, manages to keep to the 14 seats it had in February, and the popularity of its chairman, Yair Lapid, improved a little bit from dismal to appalling (from 18 percent in February to 25 percent today). Lapid is still the most unpopular figure in Israeli politics (67 percent think he’s doing a lousy job as finance minister), with Yesh Atid continuing to be the Liberal Democrats to Netanayahu’s Tories – enablers and disposable lightning-rods.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

If anyone thought this was an opportune moment for the opposition parties to raise the Oslo flags once more and ride triumphantly into power / join demurely at the tail of Netanyhu’s train to the White House lawn, the  slump in popularity of all the remotely pro-peace parties would suggest otherwise: “pro peace” remains the single most toxic brand in Israeli politics. Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua goes from five seats in the February poll to three today (half of the six seats...

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Im Tirtzu founder joins Liberman's party

Head of the movement that once threatened to sue Wikipedia for describing it as ‘right-wing,’ takes a senior position in one of Israel’s most right-wing parties.

Ronen Shoval, co-founder of the Im Tirtzu movement, has joined Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party to serve as the CEO of its international branch.

Shoval, who retired in January as the chairman of Im Tirtzu, will also be Liberman’s candidate in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections. In an interview with NRG-Maariv earlier this month, Shoval said his aim was to “rejuvenate” the party and the global Zionist institutions. He also criticized the relatively neutral term “diaspora,” which he said has come to replace the more negative concept of “exile.”

Ronen Shuval, head of Im Tirtzu (Yossi Gurvitz)

Ronen Shoval, former chairman of Im Tirtzu (Yossi Gurvitz)

Although the combination of Im Tirtzu’s ideas, goals, donors and tactics place the movement firmly on the right of every imaginable spectrum, the movement has for years operated under the slogan of “bringing Zionism back to the center,” an ethos on which it built itself. The assumption propagated by Im Tirtzu was that the ideology which, by all accounts, defines every single realm of Israeli life and politics had  been ejected from the mainstream by some sort of omnipotent cabal of postmodernist academics (on a personal note, I’d love a bit of what they’ve been having). In his retirement interview in January, Shoval took pride in “giving birth to sacred cows rather than slaughtering them.”

As a result, despite spending much of its time agitating against left-wing movements and NGOs (especially the New Israel Fund) and even authoring right-wing legislation, the movement fought tooth and nail against anyone describing it as right-wing, including lawsuit threats against the Hebrew edition of Wikipedia (where readers-editors repeatedly squeezed the offending adjective into articles on the movement). This tactic culminated in a libel suit against the operators of a Facebook group that described the Im Tirtzu as “fascists.” The trial ended with the court accepting the objective truth plea of the respondents, upholding the opinions of the expert witnesses summoned by the defense, and all but officially proclaiming Im Tirtzu to be, indeed, fascist.

Shoval’s joining with Lieberman doesn’t make the movement he left behind any more or less partisan than it...

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Bennett's response to Palestinian UN bid: Annexation

The leader of the Jewish Home party asks Netanyahu to convene the cabinet and discuss the formal annexation of the settlements and 60 percent of the West Bank to Israel. ‘The peace talks are dead and I’m proposing an alternative.’

Formal annexation of all Israeli settlements, as well as selected parts of Area C of the West Bank (under full Israeli control) – this is Naftali Bennett’s response to the Palestinian bid to join 15 UN treaties and institutions. The proposal, based on the plan Bennett publicly championed before running for Knesset (outlined in the video below), claims that annexation would bring under formal Israeli rule some 400,000 settlers and “only several tens of thousands” of Palestinians. Bennett’s proposal is to offer these Palestinians Israeli citizenship, so as to preempt any claims that Israel is engaging in apartheid. It should be noted that in the status quo, Israeli civilian law is, de facto, applied to settlements and settlers wherever they go, while a Kafkaesque mixture of Israeli military, British and Ottoman laws are applied to Palestinians living in the same territories. This means that a Palestinian from the West Bank and a settler will never face the same court for the same offense.

The Minister of Economy  - and more importantly, Netanyahu’s single greatest rival on the expansionist right – outlined the proposal in a letter to the prime minister on Wednesday night, suggesting the move be put before the cabinet as early as possible. In a later interview to Ynet, Bennett was casually dismissive about the international fallout that could ensue. “In 1967 [Prime Minister] Eshkol annexed Jerusalem. In 1981 Begin annexed the Golan Heights. The sky didn’t fall,” he said, before adding cautiously that he wouldn’t tell the U.S. to leave Israel alone, but rather advise it to concentrate on other crises, like Syria.

Even though Bennett got some surprising (read: disoriented) support from former Labor stalwart Amir Peretz, who welcomed the fact that his cabinet colleague was finally willing to talk borders, the chances that the cabinet acts on his proposal is small. Netanyahu’s overall approach is easy-does-it, and pushing the Americans even further at this point won’t serve any earthly good. And this is before we even get to Bennett’s dodgy math – the numbers he presents in his proposal are highly contested.

But there are still some...

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dies at 85

Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who spent the last eight years comatose after a series of strokes, died on Saturday, January 11. He was 85 years old.

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2001. (Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO)

A general, politician, statesman, and to many a notorious war criminal, Ariel Sharon was known to combine dogged personal ambition with strategic acumen and ruthlessness, which together shaped one of the most controversial and remarkable careers in Israeli political history. Born in the community of Kfar Malal in 1928, Sharon joined the Haganah in the mid 1940s, and first saw action in the run-up to the 1948 War, when his unit staged raids against Arab villages around Kfar Malal. He was seriously wounded in the battle of Latrun and temporarily left the army in 1949 to study at the Hebrew University. By personal order of David Ben-Gurion, however, Sharon was recalled to military service and asked to head the newly established Unit 101.

The unit was created specifically for the purpose of retaliatory raids against Palestinian refugee guerrillas who operated across the Jordanian and Egyptian borders. As often as not, the attacks were against civilian targets, including refugee camps and villages in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip and Jordanian-occupied West Bank. One such raid, on the village of Qibya in 1953, culminated in a massacre of 69 civilians who were gunned down as they tried to escape their homes or were buried under the rubble of detonated buildings. The public outcry was so severe that Ben-Gurion initially lied to the Israeli public, claiming the act was a spontaneous act of revenge by Jewish civilians retaliating for the death of a Jewish woman in the town of Yahud several days earlier. Internally, however, Unit 101 was highly praised and its experience and tactics were judged successful enough to make the unit the core of the new Paratroopers Battalion, of which Sharon, not yet 30 years old, took command as lieutenant-colonel.

In the Sinai War of 1956, Sharon led his brigade in a disastrous assault on Sinai’s Mitla pass, losing 38 men and earning allegations of impatience and aggression – allegations that would accompany him the rest of his career....

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British activist detained entering Israel, facing 10-year ban

Gary Spedding was detained after landing in Tel Aviv ahead of meetings with parliamentarians and activists. He says his phone was hacked and contacts extracted. 

A high-profile member of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party and a long-standing activist for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Gary Spedding, was detained on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday and told would be deported and banned from the country for 10 years. Speaking from the airport, after being held for eight hours, Spedding told +972 that the interrogating officers hacked into his mobile phone, and copied email addresses and telephone numbers. He also said no reason for his impending deportation was given, except that he was a “liar” and a “security threat.”

“I flew in to Tel Aviv from London Luton at about 4 p.m. local time,” Spedding told +972.  ”When I got to passport control the guy asked me to step aside and wait. After about an hour, three people came and took me to a room. They questioned me and took my phone, asking for my security code. I wouldn’t give my code but agreed to type it in to show the phone was a real phone. What I didn’t realize is that somebody is standing behind me and watching me do it. My Hebrew is not very good, but good enough to pick up he was reading out the digits I was typing to the rest of the security team. ” Spedding said the security team then logged onto his mobile phone without permission and scanned through his contacts, text messages and email, copying some of the content manually onto a notepad.

“They told me they’d hold me for nine days until my return flight, so as not to have to pay for my deportation,” Spedding said. The security team questioning Spedding then changed, and one official told him a decision was made to deport him and ban him from Israel for 10 years. “I was told this was a fact, not a threat, and there was nothing neither I or my government could do,” said Spedding, who is a dual Australian and British citizen.

The activist was still being held near Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night, and the state’s plans regarding his deportation were not immediately clear. “I’m just one guy, sitting here at Ben-Gurion, pretty tired and not feeling so good but apart from that, I’m ok,”...

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Meretz: We won't oppose annexation of Jordan Valley

Far-right politicians prefer it when their more outlandish proposed laws are shot down prudently from across the aisle. One party on the Left now tries to edge out of that role. 

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon on Monday declared that her party will no longer rescue Israel’s ruling coalition from itself, and will not vote against an annexation bill proposed by Miri Regev (Likud).

The bill, endorsed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, would apply Israeli law to much of the Jordan Valley – effectively negating the possibility  a future Palestinian state that might share a border with any country other than Israel. Under international – and Israeli – law, the Jordan Valley is as much an occupied territory as Hebron, Jenin or East Jerusalem, successive Israeli governments have long insisted this area was of special concern – and Israelis have developed a narrative to match. Settlements in the Jordan Valley are referred to in Hebrew as “communities” and “kibbutzim,” creating the impression that they are in Israel proper. In a poll conducted two years ago, most Israelis under 20 did not even know the area was occupied.

The bill proposed by Miri Regev is unlikely to pass into law, and Galon hasn’t given up on the two-state solution: annexation would be a provocation even the apathetic second-term Obama would find impossible to swallow. When I interviewed Galon a few months ago she declined to even discuss alternatives to two states because she feared that would legitimize the one-state prospect. Like much of the center-left at the moment, Meretz seems intent on going down with the two-state ship rather than so much as be overheard considering a lifeboat.

The bill is actually meant as a statement of general intent from coalition members to the right of Netanyahu, and as a means of scoring points with their own electorate. The intention is not to wreck the negotiations so much as to rock the boat a bit. For balance, the provoacteurs and Netanyahu rely both on their own coalition partners – Livni’s Hatnua and Lapid’s Yesh Atid – and on opposition parties like Meretz to stop the boat from capsizing. This way, they can present themselves, time and again, as patriotic victims of back-stabbing lefties, while Netanyahu relies on the same lefties to spare him the need to intervene against a motion most of his own electorate would support. This...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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