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Does Herzog have a chance at unseating Netanyahu?

While Herzog’s chances appear to be higher than they have been for most of the campaign season, he still faces an uphill battle to unseat Netanyahu in an election almost entirely devoid of debate on the issues.

For one of the first times in the current election campaign, the centrist “Zionist Camp” actually has a chance of ousting incumbent prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Israel’s parliamentary system, the premiership is held by the Knesset member who is able to form a coalition around him or herself. Almost no single party has been able to form a government without a coalition constituting a 61-seat majority of the Knesset.

In 2009, for example, Tzipi Livni headed the largest party but was unable to form a coalition of 61 or more members of Knesset to form a government, leading the way for Netanyahu’s second government.

The rise of centrist party Yesh Atid and most recently, Kulanu, the traditionally large Left and Right parties have shrunk, with both polling between 23 and 25 seats for the next Knesset. As explained here in my previous election analysis, the scattered power of smaller and medium-sized parties makes forming and holding together a governing coalition difficult, which is the reason cited by Netanyahu for calling new elections.

The allegiances of the newer centrist parties, much like the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties in the past, are expected to be less principled and could easily join either a left- or right-leaning government led by Herzog or Netanyahu, respectively. However, Lapid’s “Yesh Atid” is less likely to support a Netanyahu government and Moshe Kahlon’s “Kulanu” is more likely to join Likud, the party which he broke off from.

With the Zionist Camp and Likud virtually tied in the polls, the name of the game is coalition building. As it stands, either side could ostensibly form a government with the support of the ultra-Orthodox and one or more of the centrist parties.

A Labor government, according to the latest polls, could consist of: the Zionist Camp (24 seats), Yesh Atid (11 seats), Kulanu (eight seats), United Torah Judaism (seven seats), Shas (seven seats), and Meretz (five seats), for a total of 62 seats, just enough to form a government.

If you assume that the Arab Joint List will throw its support behind the formation of a Herzog-led government from the backbenches, then Herzog could ostensibly have the support...

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The road to a fourth Netanyahu gov’t runs through Haneen Zoabi

The ‘Zionist Camp’ needs the Arab parties in order to form a government. Its decision to vote for disqualifying Zoabi makes that support less and less likely.

The Central Elections Commission on Thursday disqualified MK Haneen Zoabi and candidate Baruch Marzel from running in Israel’s upcoming elections. The decision is not final without the approval of the Supreme Court, which is not expected to uphold the disqualification.

The Zionist Camp, comprised of the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s party, reversed its already-reversed position and joined the majority in voting to disqualify Zoabi. Only six votes were cast against disqualifying the Balad MK, which came from Meretz and the Arab parties.

While the disqualification itself is an act of political theater in an election increasingly straddling one axis — whether, and how Zionist each party and candidate is — it may very well have a definitive effect on the next government.

After the elections, the president asks all of the parties in the new Knesset to recommend who should be given an opportunity to form the governing coalition. Taking those recommendations into consideration, the president then chooses the head of one party, who has 42 days to build a coalition of at least 61 MKs.

The president is not compelled to choose the largest party; he can also choose somebody who is likely to be able to form a viable coalition. For example, after the 2009 elections, Tzipi Livni headed the largest party but she was unable to form a coalition so Netanyahu was given an opportunity — and succeeded.

This is where the Zionist Camp’s vote to disqualify Haneen Zoabi comes into play as perhaps the biggest gamble of its campaign.

Where the polls stand today, the Zionist Camp doesn’t have a large enough block of parties to form a coalition but if it is nevertheless chosen to form a government, it could pull in some of the centrist parties that are more flexible about what type of government they are willing to sit in.

In order to be given the chance to form a government at all, however, they would need the support of the Joint List of Arab parties. By voting to disqualify one of the Joint List’s members, the Zionist Camp runs the risk of losing their support.

All of that means that even if the Zionist...

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The political brilliance of Netanyahu's Congress speech

Whether or not Israel faces consequences for his diplomatic strong-arming, the Israeli prime minister will have accomplished the only two things that matter to him: trying one last time to kill an Iran nuclear deal and convincing Israeli voters that he is the only one who knows how to ensure their survival.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s maneuver to give a pre-election speech to a joint session of Congress is politically brilliant. Within the bounds of his political considerations, Netanyahu can’t lose, even if the political blowback and diplomatic consequences continue to snowball.

It’s easy to forget but there is only one issue that Netanyahu truly cares about, one to which everything else — from the Palestinian peace process to free trade deals to domestic social and societal issues to diplomatic relations — takes a back seat: Iran.

The prime minister fashions himself the savior of the Jewish people and in his mind, the number one threat to the survival of his people is the Islamic Republic of Iran. That attitude endears him to a significant portion of the Israeli electorate — even if he’s inadequate in every other realm of political interest. He sows fear about the crazy people in Tehran and then positions himself as the only person crazy enough to stop them.

He is the strongman. He foresees danger. He will not be stopped by anything.

And that’s the image that he will strengthen by going to Congress and giving the most impassioned speech he’s ever given about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. President Obama’s naïveté for negotiating with “the Ayatollahs.”

Read +972′s full election coverage here

Netanyahu’s stubborn and undiplomatic efforts to derail American-led nuclear talks with Iran by coopting the Republican Congress perfectly fits the image he so carefully fosters back home, especially if he faces consequences for it — that he will burn every bridge he has to cross if it means saving the Jewish people.

And if it doesn’t work?

Even if Netanyahu doesn’t manage to stop an already unlikely P5+1 deal with Iran, even if he can’t secure sanctions that bring us closer to war, he will still have won. Netanyahu will have rallied the Republican Party around his cause. That same Republican Party will be his ally for the next two years, especially as it readies itself to become the most formidable obstacle to...

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What do you call a politician who promises more war?

Election season is a time when most people expect to be presented with a hopeful vision for the future. In Israel, every single leading political figure is promising more of the same.

Israel’s election season officially went into full swing over the weekend as lists of candidates were finalized and the deadline for parties to merge came and went without any last-minute surprises.

While very few of the major parties have published official platforms for the upcoming elections, their leaders and senior officials are beginning to shape what voters can expect from them.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Israel Beitenu party, which is currently embroiled in a massive corruption scandal, is a subscriber of a two-state future of sorts. His vision centers on forced population transfer and the encouraged migration of Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Liberman on Sunday pivoted his campaign on something else: fear. Instead of offering Israelis hope for a better future, the strongman politician promised more war.

“A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, just as a third Lebanon war is inevitable,” Liberman told Ynet. He added that his party will never sit in a left-wing government, essentially shifting his two-state support into something far-off and unimportant.

His political foes aren’t offering anything more hopeful.

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, running together on a joint list they are calling the “Zionist Camp,” all but made the same promise — offering an identical path vis-à-vis Hamas in Gaza that the current government embarked upon, while deriding Netanyahu for compromising and reaching a cease fire.

Speaking near the Gaza border a day after announcing their joint ticket, Livni said: “Hamas is a terrorist organization and there is no hope for peace with it… the only way to act against it is with force – we must use military force against terror… this is instead of Netanyahu’s policy to come to an agreement with Hamas.”

Regarding the more mainstream idea of making peace with more “moderate” Palestinians in the West Bank, Livni and Herzog have used the word hope. But that hope lies entirely in the same framework for peace that has failed for over two decades. Good intentions, maybe; hope, not so much.

Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising to never evacuate West Bank settlements and has in the past said he would not relinquish Israeli control over the...

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The Israeli government's election gift to West Bank settlers

Netanyahu tells supporters at a settlement campaign event that Israel will continue to build in the West Bank, as his Likud party competes with more hawkish parties for settler votes. Erekat calls for boycott, divestment in response.

Less than a month and a half before general elections, the Israeli government published tenders for 430 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank on Friday.

The move could be interpreted as a gift of sorts to the right-wing electorate as the ruling Likud party fights for votes with the further-right Jewish Home party headed by Naftali Bennett. While Netanyahu has ruled out a withdrawal from the West Bank, which would necessarily preclude Palestinian statehood. Other prominent members of the Likud and the entire Jewish Home party outright oppose a two-state solution.

The settlement construction tenders are issued via the Housing and Construction Ministry, headed by Minister Uri Ariel of Jewish Home.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue settlement construction this week, speaking to young Likud supporters in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

“We will not hesitate to stand up and say: we are here, we are staying here, we will build here and cultivate here,” Netanyahu said. “Ariel is a part of the State of Israel, that’s the way it was and that’s how it will be.”

The prime minister also ruled out handing over the central West Bank hill country to the Palestinians, warning of a “second Hamasastan.” Netanyahu put his refusal to withdraw from the West Bank in even clearer terms in July. “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” he said.

The plans include new construction in the settlements of Adam, Elkana, Alfei Menace and Kiryat Arba, according to AFP.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is scheduled to attend a dedication ceremony Monday for a new community center in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, which abuts the Palestinian city of Hebron and the Jewish settlement inside the city. Rivlin is a Likud veteran but has put great effort to stay above party politics since assuming the presidency.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the latest settlement announcement “unsurprising when viewed in the context of the culture of impunity granted to Israel by the international community.”

Erekat called on the international community to hold Israel accountable, saying the world...

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American teen beaten by Israeli police is cleared of wrongdoing

The cousin of Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s videotaped beating by Israeli police in Jerusalem led to widespread outrage. He had been arrested and accused of participating in riots.

Palestinian-American 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir, whose severe beating by Israeli police while he was in custody last summer was caught on video, has been cleared of all wrongdoing in Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.

Following his beating, the American citizen was arrested and held under house arrest for nearly two weeks before being permitted to return home to Florida.

The incident took place after Tariq’s cousin, 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was burned alive and murdered by Jewish extremists in a Jerusalem-area forest. Protests and heavy clashes took place in East Jerusalem after Muhammad’s murder.

Tariq said he was watching the protests, three days after his cousin was killed, and trying to get away from the violence between Israeli police and protestors when he was chased by three officers, beaten and arrested.

Israeli police said the 15 year old took part in the protests, resisted arrested and was carrying a slingshot to throw stones.

The American Consulate in Jerusalem told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Tariq has been cleared of all wrongdoing and is free to return to Israel to visit his family in occupied East Jerusalem.

Tariq Abu Khdeir’s beating was caught on video, which shows the accused officer and additional officers arresting the boy, with one policeman apparently sitting on Khdeir to handcuff him while the accused officer is seen kicking and punching him repeatedly. A third officer is also seen helping drag Abu Khdeir toward a police vehicle, during which time the accused officer again kicks the boy who appears to be unconscious.

In September, one of the police officers was criminally charged with assaulting a minor.

An internal police investigation found evidence “supporting the guilt of the police officer suspected of severe violent crimes,” according to Israel’s Justice Ministry.

The teen, Tariq Abu Khdeir, said at a press conference in Florida at the time, he thinks the other two Israeli officers should be facing charges in his beating.

“I hope everyone, every officer that took part in my beating is taken to justice,” he said.

Israel police violence has taken the lives of at least three Arab citizens in recent months, leading to...

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Israeli soldiers killed in Hezbollah retaliation attack

Two Israeli soldiers are killed in a cross-border attack on an Israeli patrol road with anti-tank missiles. A Spanish soldier serving with UNIFIL is reportedly killed by Israeli retaliatory shelling. Israeli politicians call for harsh response. Israel killed a Hezbollah commander a week earlier.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack on the Lebanese border Wednesday morning, for Hezbollah quickly took responsibility. A Spanish soldier serving with UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, was killed in Israeli retaliatory shelling.

The border attack comes a week after Israel assassinated a Hezbollah commander and an Iranian general in the Quneitra area of the Golan Heights in Syria. In the past 24 hours, two rockets hit the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and the IDF responded by striking Syrian military positions.

Read also: Air strike in Syria: Lies, aggression — at what cost?

Late Wednesday Wednesday Israeli army vehicles traveling on a patrol road along the Lebanese border fence near Shebaa Farms and the village of Ghajar, which is half in Israel and half in Lebanon, were hit by Kornet anti-tank missiles.

Photos and video obtained by Israeli media showed two vehicles along the border fence completely engulfed in flames.

 

A statement by Hezbollah taking credit for the attack said it had been perpetrated by its “Quneitra Martyrs unit,” a reference to last week’s Israeli attack in Syria.

In response to the attack, the Israeli military attacked southern Lebanon with artillery and air strikes, killing a Spanish UNIFIL soldier. An IDF Spokesperson said that the army’s response was not over.

A senior IDF source told Ynet that the Spanish UNIFIL soldier was hit “by one of the mortars we fired. We were immediately in contact with the UN, we regret the incident and will examine it. We will draw conclusions, we have no intention of harming UN forces.”

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 following a similar cross-border attack against a patrol jeep in which two soldiers’ bodies were captured by the Lebanese militant group.

Hezbollah has been active in the Syrian civil war and many analysts have indicated that the group is hesitant to enter into a new war with Israel due to being...

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'Zionist Camp' takes a lead in polls, but Bibi has upper hand

The top two parties are neck-and-neck and the number of political king-makers is growing. With a number of potential wild-cards ahead, it’s anyone’s election.

If elections were to take place today, the next prime minister of Israel could come from either of two directions: the Labor Party’s Issac Herzog or incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of Likud.

The latest polls show that both men would have a decent chance of forming a coalition, although Netanyahu would probably have an advantage.

The centrist parties — the Herzog-Livni Zionist Camp, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, newcomer Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu — and Meretz, the sole remaining Zionist leftist party, would have a combined 45 out of 120 Knesset seats, as predicted by poll aggregator Project 61.

The Right, consisting of Netanyahu’s Likud, Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu, also combine for 45 seats in the latest polls.

In such a situation, ultra-Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and the Sephardic Shas party would likely return to their traditional role of political king-makers. However, if the ultra-Orthodox parties must choose between the Right or a left-leaning government that includes Yair Lapid — who after the previous elections refused to sit in any government that included UTJ or Shas — they will probably throw their weight behind Netanyahu.

The centrist parties, Yesh Atid and Kulanu, could also throw their weight behind Netanyahu for the right price — promises to advance their social agendas.

The combined list of Arab parties could also affect who is given a chance to form a coalition by throwing their support behind Labor and Livni, but they cannot be expected to actually join a government headed by a list that calls itself “the Zionist Camp.”

All of that said, it is far too early to begin making election predictions. There are nearly two months remaining before Israelis head to the polls and the number of potential wild cards are growing by the day.

Read also: Election analysis: A shared Bibi-Herzog government?

The threat of armed conflict is higher than it has been since the end of the Gaza war this summer, and violence in East Jerusalem is bubbling once again.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to the United States and speech at Congress could either boost or hurt him in the polls, depending on how it is perceived in the United States and what...

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The 'anti-Zionist' camp goes mainstream in Israeli elections

Both Netanyahu and Livni are leveraging their international influence for electoral gain: Netanyahu in Congress and Livni at the United Nations. And, will the real Zionist camp please stand up?

Elections are almost always referendums on the incumbent, and an incumbent always has an advantage against any challengers. One of those advantages is the ability to demonstrate leadership and to exploit platforms unavailable to his or her challengers, i.e. speaking before a joint session of Congress.

Such advantages tend not to be fair, or even legal in some cases. In Israel, for instance, there are laws that prevent public servants from using their official platforms to campaign. The most famous case was during Ariel Sharon’s 2003 campaign when the Central Elections Committee instructed Israeli media to cut away from a live speech by the prime minister because it was political, they said. Prime time television news literally cut away from Sharon mid-sentence.

Seven years earlier, when then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was running against incumbent Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Netanyahu accused the latter, who was on a pre-election trip to the United States, of using the visit and his diplomatic ties for electoral gain.

“I can’t find an example of any previous Israeli government whose prime minister, on the eve of elections, made a cynical attempt to use relations between Israel and the United States as a party advertisement,” Netanyahu said at the time.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the tables are turned. This time, Netanyahu accepted an invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress just weeks before general elections in Israel. The criticism is two-fold. Firstly, that the Israeli prime minister is using the platform to augment the perception of his influence over the Republican party in Washington and to “move the Americans,” as he once described his ability to shape U.S. policy. Secondly, some are accusing Republican Speaker of the House Boehner of interfering in Israeli elections by giving him that stage — behind the back of the Obama administration, which claims it is staying out of internal Israeli politics.

But it turns out you don’t even need to be in office to flout international clout during election season, and White House support for an Israeli candidate doesn’t always come through official channels.

Just a few weeks after former Justice Minister and chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni was fired from her post...

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High Court demands a solution to East Jerusalem water crisis

Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem have been suffering from a severe water crisis for 10 months.

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the state to find a solution to the severe lack of running water in four East Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the separation barrier.

Despite their location within territory that Israel unilaterally annexed to its capital, the Palestinian neighborhoods of Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat Refugee Camp have been suffering from a severe water crisis since last March, when residents went three weeks without any water supply.

PHOTOS: Weeks without water in East Jerusalem

They have since been forced to buy water bottles at a high cost, and must limit their consumption by using electric pumps and industrial containers.

The court ordered the Israeli national Water Authority, the private water company in Jerusalem “Hagihon,” the Jerusalem Municipality and the minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources to meet with representatives of the four neighborhoods within two weeks in order to find a solution to the water crisis. The Palestinian neighborhoods are represented by attorneys from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Steps to upgrade the central water mains should be taken immediately, the court ruled, adding that the two sides in the case should report back to the court within 60 days. The justices also said that East Jerusalem residents should be assessed fees to help pay for the upgrades.

Palestinians comprise more than one-third of all Jerusalem residents, and over three-quarters of them live below the poverty line, according to ACRI.

The Jerusalem Municipality does not provide basic municipal services like trash collection and mail delivery to its neighborhoods beyond the eight-meter wall. There is an estimated shortage of over 2,000 classrooms in East Jerusalem. Even police rarely enter and there is no ambulance service in neighborhoods like Shuafat camp, which are completely surrounded by the wall.

Two years ago several young residents of Shuafat decided to take initiative and start an emergency response team (which they named “Taqam Taware’ Assalam,” or Emergency Peace Team) in order to fill in for the lacking infrastructural services. They trained in first-aid and rescue skills and started to work together as a group.

“Since the construction of the wall and the collapse of local infrastructure, Jamil Sanduka, Chairman of the Ras Khamis Neighborhood Committee,...

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Is the ICC running against Netanyahu in Israeli elections?

It’s election season: Israeli politicians are peddling pure spin about the ICC and possible war crimes investigations.

(This analysis first appeared as part of another article, here.)

The Israeli government has gone on the offensive against the ICC since Palestine joined the international court. The attacks and misinformation have reached a crescendo since the ICC’s chief prosecutor announced a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine last week.

What is “the situation in Palestine?” The ICC does not investigate specific complaints like police or a prosecutor would. When the ICC gains new jurisdiction, its prosecutors — “as a matter of policy and practice” — open an examination. They examine both sides and a multitude of events in the “situation.” The situation in Palestine covers everything that transpired between the river and the sea since June 13, 2014. The examination covers acts perpetrated by Palestinians and Israelis, by state actors and non-state actors, by uniformed soldiers, irregular fighters and the politicians who give them their marching orders.

But it’s election season, so you won’t learn that from any Israeli politicians. You won’t learn that Israel was one of the principle parties that helped write the treaty, and even signed it before backing out. You will not hear that the preliminary examination is years away from becoming a possible criminal investigation, let alone one that leads to an indictment. You will also not hear that the Israeli government-appointed Turkel Commission wrote a detailed playbook on how to avoid ending up in the ICC docket, which Israel has almost entirely ignored.

It’s election season, so context, clarity and truth are not high on the agenda. You will be told by the likes of incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that “the ultimate folly” of the ICC is:

The irony of the ICC move, at least according to a popular view of Israeli politics, is that it will strengthen Netanyahu at the polls. This logic surmises that when Israelis feel under attack they look toward hardline leaders, or at least leaders who portray themselves as hardliners — in this case, Netanyahu and his acolytes.

But surpassing the irony of Netanyahu’s — and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s — disingenuous response to the ICC announcement was Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

“It would be more appropriate for the court to investigate the Palestinian terror … and not a democracy that protects itself and has an independent and objective judiciary,” Read More

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Retired Israeli general suggests Syria attack timed for election effect

As elections approach, Israeli politicians are misleading the public about war crimes probes, and according to one general-turned-politician, about war itself.

(This analysis originally contained a previous section called, ‘Is the ICC running against Netanyahu in Israeli elections?’ It has been published as a separate article here.)

“War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” — Carl von Clausewitz

Retired Israeli army general Yoav Galant suggested that Israel’s assassination of a senior Hezbollah commander and an Iranian general in Syria on Sunday might have been timed with electoral politics in mind.

Appearing as a guest commentator on Israel’s Channel 2 News, responding to the air strike in Syria earlier in the day, Galant told a story from his time heading the IDF’s Gaza command.

“If you look at the previous elections, [the timing of the assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari] wasn’t something that was possible only on that date.”

The Jabari assassination was the opening shot in 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, which left over 150 Palestinians and six Israelis dead. It took place two months before Israel’s most recent elections.

“I was the commander of the [Southern Command] for five years before that and there were many, many opportunities in which it would have been possible to do it and I recommended as much, and for some reason it didn’t happen on those dates,” Galant continued.

Speaking about the assassinations in Syria on Sunday, Galant, who recently announced his own candidacy, suggested that election politics may be playing a role in the political-military decision-making behind the latest Israeli attack.

There are security needs and it should be assumed that those in charge are acting responsibly and seriously, he said. “However, you can learn from past events that sometimes the timing isn’t entirely unrelated to elections.”

Operation Cast Lead, which took place in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009, also immediately preceded Israeli elections.

A full cast of former military officials and politicians came out to reject Galant’s commentary. His accusations should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. Galant, too, is in the middle of an election season.

Following the backlash, Galant went on Army Radio Monday morning and said he was just floating a scenario that “some people” might believe. “I don’t believe that there’s a connection between the two things,” he Read More

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U.S. Consulate desegregates security staff, Israeli guards quit in protest

Unnamed Israeli guards working for the American consulate in Jerusalem say it is irresponsible for the U.S. to train its Palestinian guards in tactical driving, weapons use, accuse it of ‘raising a Palestinian militia,’ Ynet reports.

A number of Israeli guards working for the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem quit in protest of a decision to arm and train Palestinian guards employed by the Consulate recently, according to Ynet.

Unnamed “sources,” presumably the disgruntled Israeli guards themselves, accused the Consulate’s chief security officer of “raising an armed militia of Palestinians,” according to the report.

The U.S. State Department has refused to directly address the reports, telling numerous Israeli news outlets that it “has complete faith in the professionalism of its staff.” State does not discuss the security of its diplomatic missions, it told the Times of Israel.

Based on the interviews with Ynet, it appears the Israel guards simply cannot fathom the idea that Palestinians can be trusted with defensive driving skills, let alone weapons.

“[The Palestinians are] trained in weapons use, Krav Maga and tactical driving,” the “source” told Ynet. “This is irresponsible. Who is ensuring that putting this weaponry in Palestinian hands will not lead to terror?”

Israel demands that armed non-American guards be IDF combat veterans, according to the report.

The American consulate, like a host of other countries’ consulates in Jerusalem, primarily serves the Palestinian territories and its officials regularly travel to Palestinian areas in the West Bank. (Because no country in the world recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv.)

It’s not difficult to imagine why the consulate might be rethinking sending American diplomatic officials into Palestinian-controlled territories with armed Israeli army combat veterans. It would be logical for the consulate to employ Arabic-speaking Palestinian security officers and drivers for that work.

Earlier this month a U.S. consular convoy was attacked by stone-throwing Israeli settlers near the Palestinian village of Turmus Aya. The attack took place adjacent to where a Palestinian minister collapsed and later died after a confrontation with Israeli security forces in December.

Not all embassies employ Jewish-Israeli guards and drivers. In 2012, two Arab-Israeli drivers for the Japanese ambassador were not allowed out of their vehicles during a visit to the Israeli army’s headquarters in Tel Aviv. Jewish and Filipino drivers were permitted to exit their vehicles and wander around.

In 2003,...

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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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