+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 29 May 2016 14:58:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 IDF: Secret intel shows Hamas lawmaker is … a member of Hamas http://972mag.com/idf-secret-intel-shows-hamas-lawmaker-is-a-hamas-member/119658/ http://972mag.com/idf-secret-intel-shows-hamas-lawmaker-is-a-hamas-member/119658/#comments Sun, 29 May 2016 14:57:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119658 The army issues an administrative detention order again a Palestinian parliamentarian using secret evidence to ‘prove’ some very un-secret allegations. Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians without charge or trial.

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man, September 27, 2008. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The Israeli army this week submitted secret evidence to a military court in order support an administrative detention order it issued against Hamas legislator Abed al-Jaber Fuqaha.

According to the army, the secret evidence proves that al-Jaber Fuqaha is … a member of Hamas, information which can hardly be considered secret considering he was publicly elected on the political party/terrorist organization’s slate.

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“Information was received, according to which [al-Jaber Fuqaha] is a member of the Hamas terrorist organization and endangers the security of the region,” the IDF Spokesperson said. (The full statement can be found below.)

It is important to note that legally and politically speaking Israel, and the Israeli army, does not differentiate between the militant and political branches of Hamas, the latter of which democratically won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections to have been held, in 2006.

Administrative detention is a practice Israel uses to imprison primarily Palestinians without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are limited to six months but there is no limit on the number of times they can be renewed, making them indefinite.

Fuqaha was released from a previous round of administrative detention just a year ago, and has spent a total of seven years in Israeli prisons. In 2014 he joined a mass Palestinian hunger strike to protest against prolonged detention without charges or trial.

As previously reported here by Noam Rotem, Fuqaha is the seventh Palestinian legislator in Israeli custody, along with Ahmad Sa’adat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who is serving a 30-year sentence; Marwan Barghouti, who is serving four consecutive life sentences; Hatem Hafisha and Hassan Yousef who are being held in administrative detention, Jerusalem resident Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Tir, and PFLP lawmaker and feminist activist Khalida Jarrar.

Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months in prison last December after spending eight months in prison, some of which were spent in administrative detention.

Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians in administrative detention, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. In total, more than 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held as “security prisoners,” as opposed to criminal prisoners, in Israeli detention facilities.

The full IDF statement, which it provided in response to a query, is as follows:

In the matter of Abed al-Jaber Fuqaha, information was received, according to which he is a member of the Hamas terrorist organization and endangers the security of the region. In light of that information, an administrative detention order was issued against him which was approved by a military court after the secret information was presented to it, and as a last resort after no option for preventing the danger he poses was found via other tools.

A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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WATCH: Thousands of Israelis demand opposition to right-wing gov’t http://972mag.com/watch-thousands-of-israelis-demand-an-opposition-to-right-wing-govt/119647/ http://972mag.com/watch-thousands-of-israelis-demand-an-opposition-to-right-wing-govt/119647/#comments Sun, 29 May 2016 09:53:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119647 Left-wing Jewish and Arab parties come together to protest the rightward shift of Israel’s already far-right government. ‘We’re first and foremost against the government but there are also certain people in the opposition who forgot what their role is,’ Zandberg says.

Some 2,000 Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Some 2,000 Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Two thousand Jews and Arabs protesting Israel’s increasingly right-wing government marched through central Tel Aviv Saturday night under the banner, “building resistance, building an opposition, building another path for Israel.”

Marching and delivering speeches together for the first time since elections last year were Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh and Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon. Both of their speeches emphasized the need for a joint Jewish-Arab response to the radical right-wing politics dominant in Israel today. Odeh went as far as saying that “there is a nationalist camp, there is a Zionist camp, and we need to create a democratic camp.”

Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh (left) and Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon speak at the left-wing protest in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh (left) and Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon speak at the left-wing protest in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

The march stopped in front of the ruling Likud party's headquarters on King George St. in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

The march stopped in front of the ruling Likud party’s headquarters on King George St. in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Speaking with +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg explained, “we’re building an opposition, first and foremost against the government but we also oppose certain actors in the opposition who have forgotten what their role is.”

Members of Knesset Yousef Jabareen, Michal Rozin, Dov Khenin, Ilan Gil-On, and Abdullah Abu Ma’aruf also participated in the rally.

The following is a live video feed I broadcasted from the protest:

The makeup of the political parties represented and the rhetoric used Saturday night sparked speculation that the protest could signal the start to broader cooperation between Meretz and Hadash, the latter of which is one of several parties that comprise the Joint List.

In one such analysis, put forward by Local Call co-editor Yael Marom, the two parties might be laying the foundations for a united front ahead of the next elections. During the previous election cycle, Hadash MK Dov Khenin spoke about building “a broad democratic camp.”

Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Arab and Jewish Israelis under Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center, protesting against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

A source in Hadash, who asked not to be named, later said that in response to the growing racism and far-right politics in Israel that it was decided to strengthen Arab-Jewish cooperation between Meretz and the Joint List. The intention, the party source added, is to strengthen the collaborative work in the Knesset and to step up activities on the street, like the protest in Tel Aviv and monthly anti-occupation marches in the West Bank. However, the party source denied any intention of altering the current electoral blocs.

The protest in Tel Aviv was organized by “Standing Together” and “Peace Now,” and was put together in response to the appointment of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister, which pushes the current far right-wing government even further rightward.

Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Left-wing Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Also attending the protest were conscientious objectors Aiden Katri, who was released from military service recently after several short stints in prison, and Tair Kaminer, who is currently in between prison sentences, and recently broke the record for longest imprisonment for a female conscientious objector.

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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What neoconservatives get wrong about U.S. Jews’ relationship with Israel http://972mag.com/what-neoconservatives-get-wrong-about-u-s-jews-relationship-with-israel/119642/ http://972mag.com/what-neoconservatives-get-wrong-about-u-s-jews-relationship-with-israel/119642/#comments Sat, 28 May 2016 13:37:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119642 As much as it chagrins the likes of Elliott Abrams, the increasing difficulty they are having with defending Israel’s policies is due to the policies they are working to defend. The longer the occupation continues, the less support it will find among Jews in the United States.

By Mitchell Plitnick

Elliott Abrams (Photo by Miller Center / CC 2.0, cropped)

Neoconservative pundit Elliott Abrams (Photo by Miller Center / CC 2.0, cropped)

Over the past few years, there has been a good deal of consternation in Israel and in the American Jewish community about the relationship between the two. That concern has grown as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consistently works to please his right flank with ever more controversial statements and actions amid a petrified peace process.

Neoconservative pundit Elliott Abrams reviewed two new books that document this phenomenon and try to explain it. Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel by Dov Waxman of Northeastern University and The Star and the Stripes: A History of the Foreign Policies of American Jews by Michael Barnett of George Washington University both look at shifts in Israeli policy over the years and examine the effects of those policy shifts on Jews in the United States. Abrams sees both books as blaming Israel for the growing divide with the U.S. Jewish community, and he feels compelled to respond by laying the blame instead on Jews in the United States.

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Waxman’s book focuses on the divided reaction of Jews in the United States to Israel’s nearly 50-year old occupation and the Netanyahu government’s policies that entrench and maintain it. Barnett examines the tension between the more tribalistic and nationalistic Israeli Jewish society and the liberal, cosmopolitan U.S. one. In both cases, the authors make the case that the differences between the Israeli and American Jewish communities are driving a wedge between them and pushing Jews in the United States farther away from Israel, politically and communally.

Channeling Kristol

Abrams’ review carries loud echoes of the neoconservative icon, Irving Kristol. Like Kristol, Abrams believes strongly that Israel and the Diaspora Jewish communities are inextricably linked and that Jewish survival in the long term depends on those Diaspora communities, especially in the United States, supporting Israel absolutely. Kristol did not believe that Diaspora Jews had to back all of Israel’s policies blindly. Indeed, most of Kristol’s work was written at a time when Israeli political discourse was far more liberal than it is today. He believed, therefore, that it was “tremendously important to translate the classics of Western political conservatism into Hebrew,” so that Israelis could benefit from the “genuine political wisdom” of the West.

It was important to Kristol, and still is to Abrams, to root out the liberal and universalist trends that had become the hallmarks of the American Jewish community (and were once, particularly in the 1990s, rapidly growing trends in Israel). These trends, both men correctly understood, are completely at odds with the sort of narrow, tribalistic, self-interested, and nationalistic politics that they believed to be the only political path to long-term Jewish security, in Israel as well as the Diaspora. As a result, Abrams is ideologically committed to opposing the very values that Waxman and Barnett contend are causing discomfort with Israel for Jews in the United States.

Abrams begins by dismissing Waxman’s contention that “American Jews … have ‘greater knowledge’ about Israel today than did their parents or grandparents.” He sarcastically asks, “Why would that be, and where did they acquire their balanced and penetrating insights—by reading the New York Times?” The comment implies a casual dismissal of the massive difference between the information that people around the world have access to today than in the past.

To begin with, for the past 25 years or so, people all over the world have had easy access to historical research that, even if one only reads Israeli, Jewish, and Zionist authors, tells a much more nuanced story of Israel’s history than was commonly available previously. Israeli writers such as Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, and others caused a stir with their books in the 1980s and 1990s. More than that, they forced less controversial historians to broaden their own scopes in order to be academically credible. That discursive context was established just before the Internet age permanently altered the accessibility of news and analysis everywhere.

Clearly, The New York Times, whatever its value, is far from the only source of information people have about Israel and its occupation of the Palestinian people. Israeli news sources, as well as European, Arab, and other global sources, provide a far fuller picture of life for Palestinians, as well as the effects of nearly 50 years of occupation have had on Israel. In the past, Israeli peace and human rights groups, to the extent they existed, rarely tried to disseminate their materials in the United States and often did not even bother translating them to English. Now, human rights and other progressive groups in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and around the world report on conditions under Israeli occupation as well as the increasing ethnic tensions within Israel itself.

The advent of video on social media has also served to open the eyes of many to the inevitable nature of any military occupation, especially one that has gone on for so long. Surely, Abrams is well aware of all of this. But he inexplicably, and without substantiation, dismisses the notion that people today are better informed about Israel than they were in the past.

The views of liberal Jews

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

The thrust of Abrams’ point is that more assimilated and intermarried Jews, as Jews in the U.S. increasingly are, cannot have the required passionate attachment to Israel that will lead them to support it. Jews in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, he says, “tend to cast their votes for the political party that supports Israel, having switched allegiance in recent decades to help elect Australia’s Liberal party as well as leaders like Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Stephen Harper in Canada.” By contrast, Jews in the United States vote for more progressive candidates, prioritizing domestic issues over Israel.

In other words, for Abrams, the problem is that Jews in the United States do not vote based on their connection to Israel but rather based on domestic concerns. Although true, it doesn’t follow that this means that Israel is not very important to Jews. The widespread political engagement on the issue is an obvious marker of Jewish attachment to the issue of Israel, but the numbers also don’t support Abrams’ view.

The few data points Abrams uses are not conclusive. In the recent election in Canada, for example, the Conservatives did not win a majority of the Jewish vote, as they had in 2011, despite Prime Minister Harper’s clear dedication to supporting Israeli policies. And, aside from the United States, the Jewish community outside of Israel is small and not particularly influential. Their size makes them more vulnerable to anti-Semitism, an issue which has been much more in the forefront in places like England and France. They also tend to be relatively affluent, which many observers note is at least as big a factor in the community’s shift toward more conservative voting.

And if Abrams is correct, how can he explain the rise of Jewish groups critical of Israel’s policies like J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)? To be sure, some Jewish groups of the past, such as New Jewish Agenda and Breira, have always objected to Israeli policies. But the widespread appeal, political influence, and sheer size of J Street and JVP are unprecedented.

Even staunchly pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are boasting much greater numbers at their annual conferences and a larger membership than they have in the past. It’s impossible to reconcile this level of engagement with Abrams’ statement that, “The American Jewish community is more distant from Israel than in past generations because it is changing, is in significant ways growing weaker, and is less inclined and indeed less able to feel and express solidarity with other Jews here and abroad.” Abrams is, of course, correct in saying that Jews in the United States are less connected to synagogues and Jewish communities in general than in the past. But are they less connected to Israel? A 2013 Pew poll found that 69 percent of American Jews were “very attached” or “somewhat attached” to Israel. That’s the same number as in a 2000-2001 poll that Pew conducted.

Moreover, Abrams bemoans the fact that “only about 40 percent of American Jews have bothered to visit (Israel) at all.” He might be surprised to learn that, according to a 1994 paper (presumably a time before U.S. Jews “abandoned” Israel in Abrams’ view, or at least before the problem was as pronounced as he would see it today) less than 30 percent of American Jews aged 26-64 had ever visited Israel. And, given the fact that tourism to Israel gradually rose from 1948-1995, when it experienced a huge leap, Jews were certainly not visiting Israel, a country that costs a great deal of money to visit, more frequently in the past.

So, although more Jews are intermarrying and disassociating themselves from the mainstream Jewish community in the United States, engagement with Israel has demonstrably not declined. In fact, a 2010 study from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University showed a slow and gradual rise in the attachment of American Jews to Israel since 1986.

The salience of Israeli policies

Israeli Border Police officers man a checkpoint for Palestinians leaving the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, October 15, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli Border Police officers man a checkpoint at one of the only entry and exit points to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, October 15, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

What has changed is the nature of that engagement. Politically conservative Jews may be able to find common cause with an increasingly right-wing Israel. But the vast and liberal majority of American Jews, faced with the realities of Israel holding millions of people under military occupation for five decades and of the increasing and increasingly violent hatred of Arabs and fellow progressive Jews in Israel, have been forced to choose between supporting an Israel that doesn’t reflect their universalist values or speaking out in favor of those values.

Jews in the United States, like Jews everywhere, overwhelmingly support Israel’s existence. But many cannot ignore an Israel that has repeatedly killed and injured many civilians in Gaza, intentionally or otherwise, destroying the infrastructure there and causing massive poverty and misery. They can’t ignore the settlement expansion that cannot be reconciled with a two-state solution. They can’t ignore an Israeli government that brings out voters with racist scare tactics and that includes prominent figures who support annexing major parts of the West Bank. And they certainly can’t ignore an Israeli prime minister who blatantly interferes in U.S. politics in order to block an international agreement that Israel’s military leaders, and many others, uniformly agree would, and has, scored a huge victory in pushing back Iran’s potential for acquiring a nuclear weapon.

As much as it chagrins Abrams and other neoconservatives, the increasing difficulty they are having with defending Israel’s policies is due to the policies they are working to defend. The longer the occupation continues, the less support it will find among Jews in the United States.

That is not due to Abrams being wrong about the source of that reality. He’s actually quite correct. Occupation, the siege of Gaza, and the increasing violence against Israel’s Palestinian citizens are thoroughly incompatible with universalist, liberal values. A more tribal, nationalistic political outlook can accept or at the very least tolerate such things.

Indeed, what’s truly remarkable is how many otherwise liberal Jews have been, and still are, able to excuse the occupation. But until now, Jews who opposed the occupation had no voice. Now, with J Street on one end of the anti-occupation spectrum and Jewish Voice for Peace on the other, and a good number of groups in between, Jews who believe that Palestinians must have the same basic rights as Israelis have a voice. And, yes, this is an outgrowth of the long-held acceptance of universalist, liberal values among Jews. That trend shows no sign of slowing, much less being reversed. As a result, we can all, left and right, look forward to growing Jewish opposition to the occupation.

Mitchell Plitnick is the vice president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Follow him on Twitter at @MJPlitnick. This article was first published on LobeLog. It is reproduced here with permission. 

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Labor must take the security narrative back from Netanyahu http://972mag.com/labor-must-take-the-security-narrative-back-from-netanyahu/119635/ http://972mag.com/labor-must-take-the-security-narrative-back-from-netanyahu/119635/#comments Sat, 28 May 2016 10:55:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119635 The first step is to replace party leader Isaac Herzog, who has adopted the prime minister’s approach to the Palestinians and was willing to join his government.

By Nathan Hersh and Abe Silberstein

Labor chairman Isaac Herzog (Photo by Activestills.org)

Isaac Herzog, whose days as head of the Labor party are surely limited, recently adopted Netanyahu’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Activestills.org)

When Netanyahu abandoned the possibility of forming a coalition with Zionist Union by appointing Avigdor Liberman as defense minister, many on the Israeli center-left, including Labor chairman Isaac Herzog and liberal columnist Ari Shavit, were quick to self-flagellate. The truth is there was no missed opportunity, unless one is speaking of the chance to commit political suicide by linking up with a prime minister who had no intention of moderating his policies.

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Herzog, whose days as head of the party are surely limited, will suffer the most from this turn of events. While his performance during the last election did much to bring the Labor party back to relevance, his leadership since then has backtracked on much of the progress made.

Since 2001, Labor party leaders have done little to confront the security narrative of the ruling Likud party and its partners. Indeed, as Edo Konrad wrote in these pages in February, it was Labor prime minister Ehud Barak’s team who, by pushing the dubious storyline of “no partner,” planted the seeds for the enfeebling of the peace camp. Subsequent Labor leaders have either offered unilateral alternatives to bilateral talks or attempted to shift the political agenda, always unsuccessfully, to kitchen table issues.

Still, Herzog’s January address to a Tel Aviv think tank — in which he adopted Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that peace is impossible at the moment, and calling for the completion of the security barrier around the settlement blocs — represented a particularly upsetting low.

If there was ever a time for the center-left to truly expose the Right’s absurd notion of security, it is now that one of the least experienced defense ministers in Israeli history assumes office. Liberman is taking the helm at the Defense Ministry just when the government’s rift with the defense establishment is at its widest, and his positions on some of the most divisive issues contributing to that rift will certainly not advance any reconciliation. Several former leaders in the defense establishment have been vocally critical of this government’s West Bank policies recently, and Netanyahu’s choice of Liberman can be read as a decision to double down on his position.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and presumptive defense minister Avigdor Liberman sign new coalition agreement, May 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Avigdor Liberman sign new coalition agreement in which Liberman is expected to become defense minister, May 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

One of the Right’s most common arguments against the evacuation of West Bank settlements is the idea that they protect Israel. This is not just an example of empty political pandering, it is also a dangerous and backward suggestion: civilian communities over the Green Line are most exposed to terror attacks; the porousness of the border to accommodate settlers’ travel between Israel and the West Bank is a threat in itself; and the most extreme settlers, emboldened by the government, often instigate violence against Palestinians. This is to say nothing of the duplicitous avoidance of final status negotiations at all costs, most recently evidenced by the government’s lonely opposition to the French peace initiative.

Unfortunately, Herzog tried to sell Netanyahu’s creeping annexation as his own, apparently without realizing that much of his own constituency does not envision annexation as a desirable endpoint. This approach — reaching into Netanyahu’s “pragmatic” center-right base — was the most pathetic attempt to achieve wider popularity in recent memory.

The political goal of the center-left should be to bolster alternatives to the prime minister, not emulate him. As Likud becomes increasingly populated by the most ideological of rightists, only the center-left will be able to provide an alternative to Netanyahu, one that can attract the centrist support necessary to build a coalition. To this end, there are three processes the next leader of the Labor Party should set in motion immediately.

First, begin talks with the left-wing Meretz party to create a single center-left list for the next election. This was an idea floated last year by Uri Avnery and should be seriously revisited given the current balance of political forces in Israel. A center-left list holding between 20 and 25 Knesset seats would be in a strong position to set the agenda of a centrist coalition. This is an eminently achievable goal.

Next, build relationships with political and diplomatic figures overseas. The recent saga of Herzog chasing fig leaf status contains one positive element: the Labor leadership was engaged in a complex effort that involved former Quartet representative Tony Blair and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Cultivating these relationships among the opposition will not only make a center-left list the most attractive choice for a coalition partner, it will also send a signal to those international partners that the era of “managing the conflict” ends with Netanyahu, and that a serious effort toward a two-state solution is worth investing time in.

Finally, the next Labor head must advocate for leaders in the defense establishment to determine the best course for security, and speak against the heavy-handedness of Netanyahu’s leadership. He or she must work toward ending the rift between the political establishment and the military by earning the defense establishment’s support early on. It is clear that Netanyahu’s approach to national security is different from that of many military and intelligence leaders; unless Labor can prove that own its national security goals are in sync with those of leaders in the field, Netanyahu will continue to maintain a monopoly over security in the eyes of the electorate.

New leadership and blood at the top of the opposition offers an opportunity to redefine the center-left’s place in Israeli politics. Just as Herzog was able to reverse the fortunes of a Labor party after two underwhelming election results, so too can new leadership revitalize the party now. It will be the task of Labor’s next leader to chart a different path. Whoever the next Labor leader is, he or she must challenge the current government’s position on the future of the territories.

Nathan Hersh served in a combat unit of the IDF from 2009 to 2011 and has an MA in Conflict Resolution from Tel Aviv University. Abe Silberstein writes on Israeli politics and US-Israel relations from New York.

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When your own Jewish father calls you a Nazi http://972mag.com/when-your-own-jewish-father-calls-you-a-nazi/119627/ http://972mag.com/when-your-own-jewish-father-calls-you-a-nazi/119627/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 15:44:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119627 Once upon a time you could vote for Netanyahu or Meretz and move on with your life. Today even a conversation about the occupation can end relationships between loved ones.

By Su*

Like the very best of internet trolls, today my father banished me to Berlin with the non-Jewish son I never had. In the middle of Tel Aviv’s popular Azrieli Mall, on the second floor, at the cafe where the tables are placed too close to one another. Yarmulka-wearing Israelis sat behind us, while at the next table over two women with Zara shopping bags who ate salads tried their best to pretend they weren’t listening to what was happening at our table.

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Once upon a time one was able to make a distinction between conversations about politics and conversations about life. Once, that was 10 years ago. Today the tension can be felt in the air. One can no longer make the distinction. Once upon a time you could vote for Netanyahu or Meretz, the left-wing party, to vote and go on with your life. Once upon a time you could live in the West Bank settlement Ariel and vote for Labor. Strange, perhaps, but it only seems strange today, looking back. Back then it was a matter of political opinion, life itself was what mattered, when one’s character wasn’t determined by the occupation.

What happened over the years that turn these definitions into rigid, violent, and influential? Maybe I just grew up and it was always like this? Maybe, but I look around, even at those older than me, and I just don’t think that’s it. A good friend of mine went on a date a few months ago, she said he was wonderful, funny, good looking. “But?” I asked. “But he votes for Liberman.” That summed up the conversation. There was no need to ask if they continued to meet.

Did Facebook, the press, and the media radicalize the people, or was it the opposite way around? What caused us to turn our political beliefs into unbending self-definitions? For years I told people, “I’m not a leftist, I am sane.”

More than that, even today I know it does not matter how we define ourselves — what side of the political spectrum we are on — everyone wants peace, everyone was quiet, no one wants to endanger more children.

But the fear. Today I saw it more than ever. In my father’s eyes, telling me that everyone wants to kill me. Everyone. The German people who must disappear because of what they did; that there is no Palestinian people; “one state, one nation” is a great motto. And it all came from fear, everything was filtered through headlines — they want to harm us, it doesn’t matter who they are — whoever isn’t us. My father has become more extreme throughout his life, or perhaps throughout the conversation, to the point that he almost never travels abroad. Life is good at home, no one wants to kill me here.

And our argument? It started from a totally different subject, about life. About work and apartments and mortgages. About flying abroad for the summer. It has been two years, I said, there will be another war, there is no other way, people are beginning to forget to be afraid. And at the end, as we were yelling at each other, all I tried to do was to get him to admit that there is an occupation. It doesn’t matter if he believes that it is good or bad for us, or that without it we would be annihilated. Just say it, Dad. Say that there is an occupation, that we’re controlling another nation. Say that 18 year-olds are being sent into the heart of a civilian population to face horrible situations. No. There is no such thing! He yelled at me with his eyes wide, banging on the table. “You are talking like the Nazis. You want to annihilate us. There is no occupation and there never was.”

I was left speechless, the gulf that emerged between us at that very moment caught me off guard. His opinions were always far from mine, but we always loved each other, like father and daughter. And today I felt that a different hand, foreign and violent, encroached on our tiny space and succeeded in destroying another piece of land that doesn’t belong to it.

I got up, placing the bag of lemons that he picked for me in the moshav on the table. I left. At the parking lot two floors underground I sent my father a text message: “Are you still at the mall? I don’t want to fight.” He didn’t respond.

*Su is a pseudonym. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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WATCH: How one West Bank village is fighting to regain its land http://972mag.com/watch-how-one-west-bank-village-is-fighting-to-regain-its-land/119624/ http://972mag.com/watch-how-one-west-bank-village-is-fighting-to-regain-its-land/119624/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 13:51:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119624 Residents of the village of Deir Istiya, located next to the West Bank settlement Ariel, have been nonviolently protesting the blocking off access to their farmland by the Israeli army, which affects the lives of 500 families.

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Israeli tribunal upholds ban on British human rights activist http://972mag.com/israeli-tribunal-upholds-ban-on-british-human-rights-activist/119615/ http://972mag.com/israeli-tribunal-upholds-ban-on-british-human-rights-activist/119615/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 15:42:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119615 Human rights activist Gary Spedding was refused entry to the country in 2014 over suspicions that he would ‘incite a riot.’ Jerusalem tribunal shortens ban from 10 to 5 years.

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

An Israeli tribunal rejected last week an appeal filed by a British human rights activist who was banned from entering the country for 10 years. The tribunal based its decision on secret evidence handed over by the Interior Ministry.

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Gary Spedding, a 26-year-old human rights and pacifist based in Northern Ireland, was refused entry and banned from Israel in January 2014 due to his social media activity. Spedding, who is active in reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland as well as Israel/Palestine, had planned on visiting Israel for a round of meetings, including with several members of Knesset.

Despite previous visits to the country without any problems, Spedding was denied entrance at Ben Gurion Airport, where he was told that his activity on social media raises suspicions that he may incite riots in Israel and the occupied territories. He was held at the airport, where he was informed that the Interior Ministry refused his entry and banned him for 10 years. He was promptly sent back to the U.K.

Refusing entry and deportation of political activists who are critical of Israel’s occupation has become a common occurrence in the past few years. However, unlike most activists, Spedding decided to appeal the Interior Ministry’s decision. Attorney Gaby Lasky appealed the Interior Ministry’s decision to the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal, where she argued that the decision to refuse him entry stemmed from his political opinions, and that the ban harms not only Spedding, but the Knesset members and Israeli citizens who are interested in meeting with him.

Although the appeal was filed in October 2014, the tribunal only came to a decision last Wednesday. Judge Sarah Ben Shaul Weiss’ decision is laconic and does not truly get to the heart of the matter or respond to the arguments made in the appeal. “According to the law, the interior minister has broad-ranging powers derived from the Entry to Israel Law,” Weiss writes. “The appellant has no right… to enter Israel, even if he previously entered the country and was not accused of disturbing the peace during his previous entries.”

Weiss did recognize that some of the reasons stated for refusing Spedding entry are invalid, cutting his ban down to five years, and ordering Spedding to pay NIS 1,500 in legal expenses.

“The judge writes that she rejects the request, while at the same time shortening the ban — that is, she is able to intervene and thinks that he should be able to enter the country,” Lasky told +972. Spedding is planning on appealing the tribunal’s decision.

“One can see the tribunal’s bias by the very fact that it is making the appellant pay legal expenses in a situation where the appeal was partially accepted. In these cases there is no room for legal expenses — this is a bad legal mistake.”

“The ruling is disappointing but not unexpected,” Spedding told +972. “I had hoped for a positive decision, which would have allowed me to return to Israel and Palestine this summer, but it seems this was not to be. This is happening to many international activists as they try to enter Israel and Palestine. Since my deportation in January 2014 I’ve read of at least 20 other cases where international activists have been treated in similar ways. I’ve seen far more instances where Palestinians have suffered far worse treatment at the entry points. Such discrimination and degrading treatment must end.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Is the Israeli media responding to pressure on underrepresentation of Arabs? http://972mag.com/is-the-israeli-media-responding-to-pressure-on-underrepresentation-of-arabs/119447/ http://972mag.com/is-the-israeli-media-responding-to-pressure-on-underrepresentation-of-arabs/119447/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 12:46:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119447 A new campaign is pushing major media outlets to invite Arab experts to speak on their area of expertise. It seems the media landscape is responding — for the better.

Joint List's Ahmad Tibi is seen at campaign headquarters on election night, Nazareth, Israel, March 17, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Joint List’s Ahmad Tibi is seen at campaign headquarters on election night, Nazareth, Israel, March 17, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

By Oren Persico

New data reveals that leading Israeli news stations are inviting more Arab experts on news programs, following growing pressure by leading Israeli NGOs.

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According to The Seventh Eye website’s “Representation Index,” around 40 Arabs were invited to speak about their area of expertise on the five leading Israeli media outlets during the month of April. This was a decrease from March, yet an increase from January and February when the index was launched.

The Representation Index provides quantitative and qualitative analysis of Arab citizens of Israel who are interviewed on leading news and current affairs programs on three major Israeli television channels (1, 2 and 10), and on radio stations IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal) and Reshet Bet. Each week, The Seventh Eye publishes data about the number and ratio of Arab interviewees during the previous week on the five channels and the 19 main news programs broadcasted in Israel.

In addition The Seventh Eye publishes more in-depth findings once a month, assessing which of the interviewees were interviewed simply because they were Arabs and which were interviewed because their area of expertise was relevant to the issue at hand.

According to April’s statistics, 38 Arab experts took part in news programs on Channels 1, 2, and 10, along with Reshet Bet and Army Radio. For the third month running, Reshet Bet is at the top of the list with 15 different experts appearing on various programs. In second place is Channel 10 (11 experts), followed by Army Radio, Channel 1, and Channel 2 (6, 4, and 2 experts respectively).

The distinction between non-expert and expert is based on the idea that Arabs who are invited to speak on programs due to their expertise are viewed in a positive light. Those who are invited to speak solely because they are Arabs are usually covered in a negative light.

Arab politicians, who are the most commonly featured in the Israeli media, are not defined as experts. For example, in April MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) was interviewed 40 times due to controversial statements he made that month. This was higher than the total number of appearances by all the other Arab experts in the media.

The ratio of Arab experts compared to non-experts shows that only Channel 10 maintained its rate of Arab guests, with 21 percent (the same as March). That number decreased on every other station, albeit only slightly in the case of Army Radio and Channel 2. Channel 1, the only station in March with a decrease in the ratio of Arab experts, continued this trend in April as well.

In terms of the expert/non-expert ratio, Channel 10 has remained in first place since the index launched in January, followed by Reshet Bet, Army Radio, Channel 1 and Channel 2.

The decrease in the number of Arab experts in April should also be compared to the general increase in the number of Arab experts. Since January, in which there were many security-related incidents, 373 Arab interviewees took part in news programs on the five major media stations. There was a decrease to 26 in February, yet there since then we have been seeing a general increase. In March 291 Arabs were interviewed, with the number going up to 335 in April.

In this respect, the biggest achievement of the last month goes to Reshet Bet. Not only was the number of Arab experts in April the largest of all the outlets (89) — and not only was this the highest number since the beginning of the research in January — but the station also succeeded in maintaining its high rate of Arab experts compared to non-experts (17 percent).

One of the explanations for this is found in the schedule in the last month, in which two senior figures in Reshet Bet interviewed four Arab experts each.

In first place is Channel 10′s London & Kirschenbaum with five Arab experts — 42 percent of the total number of Arab interviewees. The number of Arab interviewees on the other programs was negligible.

Seventh Eye’s “Representation Index” is a project in partnership with Sikkuy and the Berl Katznelson Foundation, supported by the New Israel Fund. Research and analysis is carried out by Ifat Media Research Ltd.

The Arab Representation Index is translated to English with the support of the New Israel Fund.

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Israelis’ heartwarming response to shocking police brutality http://972mag.com/israelis-heartwarming-response-to-shocking-police-brutality/119588/ http://972mag.com/israelis-heartwarming-response-to-shocking-police-brutality/119588/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 19:13:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119588 The brutal police beating of a young Bedouin man outside his Tel Aviv workplace, where he was working to save money for university tuition, leads hundreds of Israelis to pitch in and pay his tuition. (Update: the crowdfunding campaign has reached 200 percent of its original goal.)

By Michal Rotem

Mayasem Abu Alqian, a 19-year-old Bedouin citizen from the southern town of Hura, was attacked on Sunday by a group of Israeli Border Police officers near Rabin Square in the middle of Tel Aviv. Two plainclothes policemen approached Abu Alqian on the street outside his work, demanding that he produce an ID. Abu Alqian, not willing to identify himself to just anyone, demanded a uniformed police officer.

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Within a matter of seconds, more policemen arrived at the scene and, according to eyewitnesses, started brutally attacking him. Abu Alqian was arrested and taken to the police station. Only hours later he was brought to a hospital for medical treatment (he is seriously bruised on his head and neck and suffered damage to his cornea). Following an appeal to the district court, he was released to house arrest in the middle of the night.

Abu Alqian moved to Tel Aviv a couple of months ago from the southern Bedouin town of Hura in order to save some money before starting to study psychology later this year. He was working two jobs, at Burger King and in a supermarket, approximately 20 hours a day, he says. The attack by the police officers threw a wrench in that plan — he says he no longer wants to return to Tel Aviv — and that is exactly where a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign stepped in.

Tuesday morning, the Negev Coexistence Forum (where I work) launched a crowdfunding campaign for Abu Alqian. The goal was to raise NIS 40,000 (just over $10,000) to fund his psychology studies. That bar was met within less than 12 hours, as hundreds of Israelis donated to support Abu Alqian.

Mayasem Abu Alqian at his home in Hura, May 25, 2017. (Michal Rotem)

Mayasem Abu Alqian at his home in Hura, May 25, 2017. (Michal Rotem)

Overwhelmed by the success, the NCF decided to try and double the goal, in order to raise some funds to cover Abu Alqian’s legal defense costs. By the time of writing, over 200 percent of the original goal’s sum had already been raised.

While the struggle against police violence in Israel is only in its infancy , this tiny project served as proof for many Arabs and Jews that there is hope out there. It gave Israelis a way to directly support a victim of police brutality, in a very constructive way.

Among the comments made by supporters, people wrote “I would be happy to show Mayasem that there are different people, people who seek peace”; “Mayasem, good luck with your studies”; “Thank you for the opportunity to support Mayasem”; “I am so ashamed, hope we will be able to fix this”. More than 800 Israelis already supported the project.

While the Israeli public seems to still be shocked by Sunday’s events, according to some reports by Israeli media, the Department of Internal Police Investigations had already finished its inquiry and is about to close the case against the alleged attackers. While Mayasem was still on house arrest until Thursday and banned from Tel Aviv for another week, all the involved policemen are free.

Abu Alqian went on the radio Wednesday and thanked all his supporters, stating that it gave him a bit of relief and that he was overwhelmed by the warm embrace he received from so many people. And still, he says he has no intentions to ever come back to Tel Aviv.

Michal Rotem, based in Be’er Sheva, works for the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality and is a Hebrew-language blogger on Local Call.

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Working toward a nuclear weapons free Mideast http://972mag.com/working-toward-a-nuclear-weapons-free-mideast/119585/ http://972mag.com/working-toward-a-nuclear-weapons-free-mideast/119585/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:01:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119585 Can temporary or sub-regional agreements lay the trust and groundwork necessary for building off the momentum of the Iran JCPOA? Can Israel be convinced? A Track 2 initiative tries to figure it out.

By Shemuel Meir

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz Stand With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Vice President of Iran for Atomic Energy Salehi Before Meeting in Switzerland, March 16, 2015. (State Dept. photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz Stand With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Vice President of Iran for Atomic Energy Salehi Before Meeting in Switzerland, March 16, 2015. (State Dept. photo)

Earlier this month, I attended an international conference in Berlin which brought together diplomats, former military officers, academic researchers and think tank analysts from the Middle East and Europe. The conference took place within the framework of the “Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East” of the Peace Research Institute Franfkfurt (PRIF).

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The “orchestra” is composed of experts on the Middle East, from within and outside the region, who meet to discuss ideas and parameters for promoting the diplomatic process in the Middle East in parallel to the official communications and meetings between the countries concerned in a classical Track 2 initiative. When the official meetings between the countries of the region are as tension filled as those of our region are stuck and on the brink of collapse – Track 2 meetings are the only game in town.

And indeed, the meeting in Berlin was intended to discuss ideas and to create a new momentum for preventing the proliferation of weapons on mass destruction in the Middle East following the failure of the NPT Review Conference in May 2015, which concluded in a dead end without reaching a common agreement because of the inability of the U.S. to bridge the gaps between Egypt and Israel regarding the establishment of a zone in the Middle East that would be free of weapons of mass destruction (ME – WMD Free Zone) with an emphasis on the nuclear. Since the 1995 renewal of the NPT, unlimited in time, the issue of a Middle East nuclear free zone has formed a central pillar of the Treaty alongside the pillars on non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful nuclear energy. The U.S., which in the spring of 2015 set as a high priority the achievement of the Iranian nuclear agreement, preferred at that time not to enter into a collision course with Israel on the nuclear issue. The failure of the U.S. mediation effort between Egypt and Israel (in spite of the secret mission of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State) prevented the achievement of a non-proliferation common action plan and ended, for the time being, the efforts to convene the conference on a Middle East WMD Free Zone (the Helsinki process led by the Finns) which had been decided on at the previous Review Conference in 2010.

It is possible that Israel breathed a sigh of relief following the pause in the Helsinki process. But this pause is likely to be short lived. The international community is already preparing for the next Review Conference which will take place in 2020 and will be celebratory in nature since it marks the 50th anniversary of the NPT. Preparatory NPT conferences are planned to begin in the spring of 2017. The Berlin conference was intended to launch Track 2 in anticipation of the preparatory meetings and to serve as platform for ideas and plans for exiting the dead end.

The point of departure for our discussion was to try to understand exactly what happened at the May 2015 Review Conference and the reasons for the failure in reaching a common agreement (a difficult task since the discussions between the U.S. and the sides took place in closed rooms), to identify the mistakes of the Helsinki process for a Middle East nuclear free zone and whether it is possible to formulate ideas and draw conclusions from similar processes in other parts of the world.

The success in reaching the JCPOA on the Iranian nuclear program in Vienna in July 2015 was a milestone in international non-proliferation diplomacy. The agreement blocked the potential tracks for a nuclear weapon equipped Iran. So the question is whether it is possible to build on the JCPOA’s positive momentum and to adopt some of the limitations and prohibitions imposed on Iran as well as the intrusive monitoring system in other parts of the world. It is worth noting in this regard the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s public invitation in The Guardian to the P5+1 on the day following the agreement: “Iran has signed a historic nuclear deal – now it is Israel’s turn.” The Iranians appear to see this as a process that will take years and not a demand for an immediate symmetry.

One of the ideas that was examined in this context at the Berlin conference was an attempt to promote a Middle East nuclear free zone in stages through the establishment of sub regional nuclear free zone that would include the Gulf States and Iran. The establishment of a sub-regional nuclear free zone in the Persian Gulf could act as a pilot to be later expanded to include the Middle East (the Arab League countries plus Iran and Israel). The idea would be to create an interim stage in the establishment of a Middle East NWFZ in which Egypt and the North African countries would be under the umbrella of the Pelindaba Treaty for an African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (bordering Israel up to the Rafah – Eilat line) and in the Arab East (without Syria and Iraq at this stage) in the framework of a Gulf WMD Free Zone.

In spite of the distrust and hostility between the Saudis and the Iranians, it is worth discussing this sub zonal concept. From the Saudi and Gulf country point of view, the agreement with Iran put an end to the domino theory of Middle East nuclearization. One of the Iran deal’s important achievements is the prevention of the appearance of new nuclear states in the Middle East and the cessation of the nuclear arms race in the region which could have developed following a nuclear weapons equipped Iran. From the Iranian point of view, the JCPOA showed its willingness to become part of the international non-proliferation efforts to the extent that it signed an agreement outside the framework of the NPT. Iran also proclaimed the importance that it sees in the improvement of its relations with its neighbors in the Gulf. From this point of view, a Gulf MWD Free Zone could serve as a confidence building measure.

It would appear that at this early stage, Iran and Egypt are not enthusiastic about the idea of the Gulf as a sub region. Egypt in particular who would point to the absence of Israel and ask what the point of the zone would be when all the Arab countries and Iran are signatories of the NPT and under IAEA supervision – comparable to looking for the proverbial penny under the lamplight. Egypt is also likely to see a sub-regional Gulf zone as an additional attempt to “downgrade” its leading position in the nuclear free zone issue in favor of the new player, Iran.

An additional idea discussed for getting out of the dead end was the establishment of a zone that would prohibit nuclear tests in the Middle East as a first step and confidence building measure for a NWFZ. Israel, Iran and Egypt are among the eight countries required to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in order for the Treaty to enter into force. But already as countries that have signed the Treaty, they are obliged to carry out in good faith the Treaty requirements and not carry out nuclear tests. In this context, the ratification of the CTBT by Iran, Israel and Egypt could standardize once and for all and in an obligatory manner the ban on nuclear testing in their borders. The ratification by the countries in the region and the establishment of a Middle East “Nuclear Test Free zone” would be preferable to the proposal to declare a regional moratorium on nuclear testing. The ratification of the CTBT by the three countries would also strengthen the region’s monitoring and verification system.

Including the ban on nuclear testing in the Middle East in the discussion of a nuclear free zone in a Helsinki format could help to break the deadlock on the NWFZ discussion. Most importantly, it would enable a temporary circumvention of one of the preconditions (an Arab demand that Israel sign the NPT) and to give the sides a framework to open professional and practical discussions. In addition, it would introduce substantial strategic content in a real step-by-step process which is often perceived in a negative manner and as a delaying tactic and means to deflect attention from essential issues.

These ideas were combined with a proposal to learn from the multilateral framework to promote regional security and arms control in the Middle East (ACRS). This was the working group for regional security that was active in the 1990s as part of the Israeli-Arab peace process. But this time, there would be necessary to adapt such an effort to the new regional strategic environment. The idea would be to create a broad framework for regional dialogue on proliferation and arms control which would include as many countries of the region as possible. Parallel working groups would discuss regional issues (for example, confidence building measures with military significance and monitoring and verification systems lessons drawn from the Tlatelolco model for the de-nuclearization of Latin America which combined regional and international inspection and verification) and on global agreements on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. One of the reasons for the failure of ACRS (in addition to the collapse of the peace process) was Israel’s insistence not to discuss nuclear arms control and non-proliferation anchored in global agreements. When it comes to nuclear proliferation, the regional and global are intertwined.

Finally, many tend to attribute the inability to advance Middle East nuclear non-proliferation processes to the absence of trust between the sides. My lesson from the Iran agreement is that it is possible to hold discussions and contacts between hostile countries such as the US and Iran even in the absence of trust and mutual affection on condition that the final product is anchored in a tight and intrusive monitoring and verification system of the highest degree.

Shemuel Meir is a former IDF analyst and associate researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Today he is an independent researcher on nuclear and strategic issues and author of the “Strategic Discourse” blog, which appears in Haaretz.

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