Analysis News

The hand that holds the status quo together

The Palestinians put forward a Security Council resolution calling for the end of the occupation by 2017. The Obama administration, which has supported essentially every Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, has promised to use its veto power.

The Kingdom of Jordan on Wednesday submitted a resolution draft to the United Nation Security Council, which calls for the establishing of a Palestinian state as well as a deadline for the occupation: 2017, two years from now. The proposal, which could be voted on at any time, was drafted by the Palestinian Authority in the aim of breaking the diplomatic impasse in efforts to establish a Palestinian state.

According to reports, should the Obama administration vetoe the resolution, the Palestinians will join dozens of international agencies, including perhaps the International Criminal Court – a move that may allow the court to hear future charges against Israeli officials.

The United States opposes the Palestinian motion. The Israeli media reported yesterday that Secretary of State Kerry informed Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority that the U.S. will veto the resolution should it come to a vote. It seems that the Americans also object to a more modest resolution proposed by the French government. The French proposal is said to put forward several parameters for a final-status agreement, setting a two-year deadline for negotiations.

The idea of a deadline on the occupation is required to solve an inherent problem with the diplomatic process: it depends entirely on the Israeli will to make concessions. There is simply no incentive for any Israeli leadership (not just Netanyahu’s) to move forward, certainly not at a time when Israel enjoys relative calm and prosperity, as it has over the past decade. The negotiations are not balanced: one side is holding all the cards while the other depends on its good will; one side is in a state of emergency, and the other can ignore the issue altogether; one side gains international credit by merely agreeing to talk, while the other side of the deal — a Palestinian state — is only promised in the very distance future, if at all.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

Millions of Palestinians have been living under...

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Bennett is not the problem

American administrations have a tendency to blame the ‘radical’ settlers for torpedoing peace missions. The real problem, however, is with the ‘moderates’ who are complicit in maintaining the status quo. 

There is a lot of talk in some circles about Naftali Bennett’s appearance at the Saban Forum last weekend (video below). Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party and is the star of the Israeli Right, took to the stage with former special envoy to the peace process Martin Indyk. Bennett essentially declared that Israeli will never accept the two-state solution, that there will be no more “land for peace” and that he has the Israeli public behind him. “How many more missiles need to fall on Ashkelon until you wake up?” he asked Indyk, who remained mostly speechless. Bennett shared a clip of the event on his Facebook page.

Bennett, with his overtly confrontational attitude, is clearly the new boogeyman in the eyes of the Obama administration. According to mainstream thinking, if he ends up being appointed the next defense minister, the peace process will be as good as dead. This is a mistake: there is no hope for peace with Bennett, but this is not where the real problem lies.

American administrations have a tendency to divide societies into “good guys” and “bad guys,” or “moderates” and “radicals.” Moderates, they believe, are the ones you can do business with, and thus are the political forces worth cultivating.  The Israeli case is no different: there is a non-stop effort to decipher whether or not certain politicians – specifically rising stars and potential leaders – are “moderates.” The settlers are always the radicals, while Labor leaders are the moderates as long as they show some interest in the Palestinian issue. Liberman was a radical; now he is a potential moderate. Netanyahu was the exact opposite; there was a moment when he had the ability to become a moderate, but is now considered a hopeless case.

While amusing, this game misses the point entirely. Besides a lot of wishful thinking, it betrays a simple misunderstanding of Israeli politics. What political leaders think or say is not as important as the balance of interests and the environment that shape their behavior.

The heart of the matter is this: the common denominator that allows coalitions in Israel to exist is an agreement on the status quo with...

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Pundits’ consensus: Netanyahu is vulnerable

Are we nearing the end of King Bibi’s reign? Much of that depends on his allies, his rivals and the determination of international actors to address the disastrous trends on the ground.

In 2009 and 2013 it was easy to call who the next prime minister would be a month before the polls opened in Israel. Netanyahu underperformed in 2013, when his bloc of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties ended up winning 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, the minimum number that could prevent any other politician from forming a government. But he did win, as most people expected.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

Things are far from being that clear this time. The right is still polling over 60, but there are indications that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman may defect from the right, and together with Tzipi Livni, Labor’s Isaac Herzog, Yair Lapid and former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon (who will head a new party), form a centrist government that would send Bibi back home.

Nearly every political pundit in Israel was mulling these options over the weekend. Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben Caspit in Ma’ariv, Channel 2 news. In Haaretz, columnist Uri Misgav already predicted that Isaac Herzog will be Israel’s next prime minister (way too early, I believe). Only among the pages of Sheldon Adelson Yisrael Hayom Netyanyahu is still the sun, the planets and everything around them. This is how Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer summed it up:

 

Rumors abounded that Netanyahu might try to have the ultra-Orthodox parties enter his government and prevent the elections, only to be torpedoed by Liberman. In a press release earlier today, the foreign minister made it clear that he will not be part of such a coalition, and that we are indeed heading for elections. This only added to the speculations that Liberman also senses the end of King Bibi’s reign, and is not ready to save him. Not this time.

How likely is such a scenario? In my view Netanyahu is still a favorite in these elections. But...

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Israel's elections: A referendum on Netanyahu

The coalition is falling apart, and the Knesset is likely to agree on early elections soon. Current polls suggest we are heading toward a fourth Netanyahu government, which will be even more right wing than the current one.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu headquarters, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman n election night 2013. Netanyahu would like to form a new government with his old political partners (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Netanyahu’s third government has reached its end. New elections, which seemed likely when the Gaza war ended, are practically inevitable at this point. UPDATE: The Knesset’s parties agreed to hold the elections on March 17, 2015.

The two central pillars of the government – Netanyahu’s Likud party and Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (comprising 18 and 19 seats, respectively, out of the Knesset’s 120) –  are not able to cooperate with each other any longer, with bad blood running especially high between the two politicians. Growing disputes led to Netanyahu firing both Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni from his government on Tuesday evening.

Theoretically an alternative coalition can emerge without elections. In recent days both Lapid and Netanyahu have tried to gain the support of Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ), the two ultra-Orthodox parties. With that support, either one of them could have gathered the necessary 61 votes to become prime minister. But the ultra-Orthodox parties refused both Bibi and Lapid, believing that they will have better leverage after the elections, even if they end up winning fewer seats than in the current Knesset. Unless the ultra-Orthodox change their mind soon, the government will not have a majority in the Knesset and new elections will become inevitable.

Netanyahu will likely not resign, since the risk of seeing Lapid or Herzog assemble an alternative coalition is too great. Instead the Knesset will likely pass a quick bill on early elections – the way it does every time a government is about to fall. Netanyahu would like to have as short a campaign as possible – the common wisdom is that long election cycles hurt incumbent prime ministers running for reelection.

Netanyahu will run as the head of the Likud party. Avigdor Lieberman will run independently with his Yisrael Beitenu party (last election...

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Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin

‘Imagine the type of state [Palestinian] society would produce. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy?’ Prosor said in a speech on Monday.

In recent years Israeli government officials have learned that rejecting the rights of Palestinians should always go hand-in-hand with a verbal commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state. But the consensus in Israel is moving toward the right, and Israeli officials are more explicit than ever in their rejection of Palestinian statehood or any form of equal rights for Palestinians, for that matter.

Since his appointment, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has made it clear that regardless of any political solution, the Israeli army should have the freedom to operate within the Palestinian territory. Prime Minister Netanyahu insists that Israel maintain control over the Jordan Valley for an indefinite period of time. Neither demand leaves much in the way of a sovereign Palestinian state, with Ya’alon even admitting as much in a recent interview, in which he said that this “state” will actually be an “autonomy,” regardless of how people choose to call it.

Another such acknowledgement came Monday in a speech by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor. Prosor attacked the European parliaments who are voting on the recognition of Palestine, dismissing the Palestinian issue as less important than the plight of other nations. After blaming Palestinians for celebrating and supporting terror, he rejected the mere idea of handing them their independence. Here’s the money quote:

Other nuggets include:

“Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free – and they are all citizens of Israel”.

“Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences.”

And so on. You can read the rest here. The text is full of manipulations. Prosor claims Israel didn’t listen to the international community when it decided to withdraw from Gaza. In reality it was a unilateral move initiated as an alternative to the two-state solution promoted by the international community.

The speech, however, does capture the current mood in Israel. The two-state solution is simply not on the table anymore, nor is the idea of giving Palestinians their rights within Israel. For Ya’alon or Prosor, and certainly for Netanyahu, the status quo – keeping millions under a military regime without rights – is the solution. The world...

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Welcome to Netanyahu's 'resolution' to the conflict

Netanyahu, Bennett and Lieberman all promised Israelis quiet and prosperity without having to end the occupation. This is what we got instead.

Israeli emergency personnel remove victims’ bodies from the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinians killed four worshippers and seriously wounded seven others. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli emergency personnel remove victims’ bodies from the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinians killed four worshippers and seriously wounded seven others, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Following this morning’s horrifying terror attack, it’s not so difficult to imagine how Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman or Benjamin Netanyahu might describe the current government if they weren’t its leaders. You can almost see them showing up at the scene of the attack and screaming into the microphones denouncing the “wicked government,” recalling every last pogrom in Jewish history.

But no dice. Netanyahu has been prime minister for five years now and Liberman and the settlers, his partners in it. This is all taking place on their watch. If they think that Mahmoud Abbas is the problem — as their public statements declared this morning — then they should deal with him. We all know that’s not going to happen. This government needs Abbas much more than the Palestinians need him. The Palestinian leader has a dual role: he maintains quiet in the West Bank, and is also the punching bag the Israeli Right uses to explain away its reverberating failures.

Netanyahu promised Israelis prosperity and quiet without having to solve the Palestinian conflict. That has been his promise since the 1990s. To Netanyahu, terrorism is just card we’ve been dealt, and only military force can resolve it. There is no problem with continuing to build in the settlements, including inside the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem, because there is no connection between the settlements and the actions of the Palestinians. That’s what Netanyahu has been saying for decades already — both to the world and to Israelis. There’s no reason to give Palestinians their rights because that endangers Israel: they can make due with “economic peace.” It’s okay to discriminate and legislate against Israel’s Arab citizens. Hell, they should be saying thank you that we even let them live here; things are much worse in every other country in the Middle East. The government is here to...

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'Chickengate:' In the confrontation between Bibi and Obama, Palestinians are only a sideshow

The rift between Washington and Jerusalem has to do with the changing American interests in the Middle East and internal Israeli politics, not with an end to the occupation. 

In a story in The Atlantic Tuesday, Jewish-American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg cited a White House official calling Netanyahu “chickenshit,” blaming him for lack of political vision or guts. Relations between Jerusalem and Washington have reached the lowest point he can remember, Goldberg wrote. This was the top story in the Israeli media this morning. Even the pro-Netanyahu, free tabloid Israel Hayom quoted Goldberg.

In his response, Netanyahu maintained the confrontational tone, saying in the Knesset on Wednesday that he was attacked “for defending the State of Israel,” no less (thus hinting that the American administration is doing the opposite). Later, an official statement from the White House rejected the terms used by Goldberg’s sources, which was to be expected. So, what should one make of this?

1. The messenger is important: Goldberg was as pro-Bibi a journalist as one could find among Jewish Democrats. On major policy issues, Goldberg has consistently taken Jerusalem’s side: in 2010, he authored a piece that predicted Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities; he criticized the administration for its public confrontations with Netanyahu and blamed PA President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to recognize Israel “as a Jewish state,” thus aiding the collapse of the Kerry Initiative. Even in his recent piece, Goldberg agrees that the time is not right for the creation of a Palestinian state — which is just what Netanyahu says. So I think Goldberg would be the last person to exaggerate the rift between the Obama Administration and the government in Jerusalem.

In fact, much of Goldberg’s unique professional position has to do with the “special relationship” between the two governments. A piece in a DC magazine once called him a mashgiah, a Hebrew term that, in this context, relates to Goldberg as the gatekeeper for what is legitimate in the Israeli-American political conversation. If Goldberg is (quoting someone) calling Bibi a “chickenshit,” then everyone can call Bibi a chickenshit.

2. This is not about a Palestinian state or an end to the occupation. The administration deserted this cause along with the Kerry mission, and it is now trying to cut its losses. I think the American goal is to contain the Israeli-Palestinian problem, not only because the chances of...

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How the very concept of human rights has failed Palestinians

Certain rights should be inalienable — yet Israel refuses to grant them to Palestinians and the world continues to treat the country as a rights-based democracy. What does this absurdity say about human rights as a political tool, and about the powers, entities and institutions that speak in their name?

Human Rights March 2009 (Naama Saar Stavy)

Human Rights March 2009 (Naama Saar Stavy)

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman MK David Rotem laid out some of his beliefs and world views in an extensive interview with Israeli financial daily Globes a few weeks ago. One of Rotem’s statements – which made the headline of the piece – was that “human rights are [reserved] for people who are citizens of the state.”

Rotem was referring the Israeli High Court of Justice’s decision to strike down, for the second time, an amendment to the “anti-Infiltration Law,” which authorized the prolonged imprisonment of asylum seekers who entered the country illegally. The final word in this legal battle has yet to be said, as Rotem’s committee will soon discuss and advance yet a third version of the law, which in all likelihood will be also be challenged before the High Court.

Yet when it comes to Israel’s decades-long occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, Rotem’s statement captures the entire logic of the system. This logic is tolerated, and often even accepted, by entities and institutions that see themselves as guardians of human rights. In that sense, that fact that a man like Rotem now heads the Israeli parliament’s constitutional committee is more telling than it seems. Human rights here are not a given, but something that are reserved for one category of people and deprived from another.

* * *

Many 20th century scholars, even liberal ones, have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of human rights as a political concept that can be used for advancing freedom and dignity for all human beings.

The fact that these “inalienable” rights were quickly attached to the concept of “national rights” and citizenship is even more troubling. Jewish philosopher Hanna Arendt pondered the fate of the person who is not entitled to citizenship – making it “legal” to strip him of his human rights, too. The result is a “legitimate” form of abuse, which could actually be worse than what preceded the...

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Defense Minister Ya'alon: I am not looking for a solution, I am looking for a way to manage the conflict

Moshe Ya’alon is telling it like it is: What you see now in the West Bank and Gaza is Israel’s solution. 

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon looks over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's shoulder at a military exercise, (Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon looks over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s shoulder at a military exercise. Ya’alon is the closest minister to Netanyahu since the Gaza war (Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave a few holiday interviews to the Israeli media. Ya’alon, who has been Netanyahu’s closest partner in the coalition since the Gaza war, was fairly open when he spoke about the Palestinian issue, and a couple of his answers were especially telling.

When asked by the pro-Netanyahu paper Yisrael Hayom whether he sees in Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas a partner for peace, Ya’alon not only rejected the idea, but went on to dismiss the mere notion of “solving” the Palestinian issue. In short, Ya’alon thinks that maintaining control over the Palestinians is in Israel’s national interest, which no “solution” can or should compromise on.

I believe this is the view of most of the Israeli establishment right now. But Ya’alon, as Secretary Kerry learned last year, has a habit of saying what others around him are thinking.

I am not looking for a solution, I am looking for a way to manage the conflict and the maintain relations in a way that works for our interests. We need to free ourselves of the notion that everything boils down to only one option called a [Palestinian] state. As far as I am concerned let them call it the Palestinian Empire. I don’t care. It is an autonomy if it is ultimately a demilitarized territory. That is not a status quo, it is the establishment of a modus vivendi that is tolerable and serves our interests.”

What is interesting in the above quote is the light it sheds on the idea of a Palestinian state: Netanyahu and his government were willing to sign onto something that would be called a state (they can call it the Palestinian Empire for all Ya’alon cares), but never an independent state, the way the world understand this term. So even if the Kerry process would have ended with...

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Ex-Israeli ministers, MKs, academics to British MPs: Support Palestinian statehood

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On criticizes Israeli Labor party for opposing the motion: ‘Labor is conducting itself like another foreign office for Netanyahu’s government.’

Hundreds of Israeli public figures, academics, former ministers and Israel Prize laureates (the state’s official civil decoration) signed a public letter calling British MPs to support Palestinians statehood in a symbolic motion set to face a vote in the UK’s parliament on Monday.

Among those who added their names to the letter are Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Daniel Kahneman, former Meretz ministers Ran Cohen and Yossi Sarid, four former MKs (including Naomi Chazan, the former head of the New Israel Fund), six winners of the Israeli Prize and the former attorney-general Michael Ben Yair.

The letter reads:

The motion caused a controversy within the British Labour party, with two dozen MPs demanding to add an amendment conditioning the recognition of Palestine on the conclusion of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (thus stripping the motion of its meaning). The chairman of the Israeli Labor party, MK Hilik Bar, also called on the British MPs to oppose the motion. Bar was criticized by members of the dovish Meretz party.

“One cannot say that Netanyahu won’t promote a diplomatic initiative, but then, when the world tries to lead a UN motion, help Netanyahu torpedo it. Labor is conducting itself like another foreign office for Netanyahu’s government,” said Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On.

Related:
Labour MPs: Vote yes on Palestinian statehood


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Labour MPs: Vote yes on Palestinian statehood

In an appeal that demonstrates the complete bankruptcy of the peace camp, the Israeli Labor Party is  calling on its British counterparts to oppose the motion on Palestinian statehood Monday, ‘in the name of peace.’ Netanyahu couldn’t have put it better.

Houses of Parliament, London, UK (photo: Ramón Cutanda López / (CC BY 2.0)

Houses of Parliament, London, UK. The British Parliament will take a symbolic vote on Palestinian statehood on Monday (photo: Ramón Cutanda López / (CC BY 2.0)

The British Parliament will vote Monday on a motion supporting the Palestinian Authority’s request to recognize it as a state. The vote is mostly symbolic, and the British government will still be able to take any form of action it wants. The big drama is taking place within the ranks of Labour. The opposition party is supporting the motion, but Israel is hoping to get as many MPs as possible to defy the party line and oppose. Apparently, a real controversy is taking place.

The call to recognize independent Palestine is just about the last card in Mahmoud Abbas’ hand, apart from dismantling the Palestinian Authority, which is a highly risky move that could lead to unknown consequences throughout the region. Abbas, like any sensible observer, finally realized that Israel has made up its mind to reject the two-state solution. Even if Abbas was to recognize Israel “as a Jewish State” – even if he was to join Likud – there is a consensus in the Israeli leadership against withdrawing from the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem. This alone makes any two-state solution impossible, before even getting to issues like refugees or the fate of the settlements.

Netanyahu made his position on the Jordan Valley and Jerusalem clear to John Kerry, and has repeated it publicly since. The war in Gaza didn’t change Israel’s mind – in fact, it made it even more determined to maintain the status quo.

Abbas is therefore trying to get the international community’s help in creating diplomatic momentum that might make Israel reevaluate its policies. Recognizing Palestine won’t change a lot on the ground, but it will make it clear to Netanyahu’s government that the world doesn’t accept the status quo — like Israel does — as the preferred option for the foreseeable future.

It is surprising, therefore, to see...

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Elie Wiesel and Amos Yadlin congratulate East Jerusalem settlers

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin of the centrist think tank is among the signatories of an ad praising the Jewish settlers who entered 25 apartments in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan last week. ‘By your act of settlement you make us all stand taller,’ the ad reads. Yadlin and Wiesel serve on the public council of Elad, the organization behind the settlement in Silwan.

The City of David archaeological park, against the background of Silwan (photo: JC/Activestills.org)

The City of David archaeological park, against the background of Silwan (photo: JC/Activestills.org)

One of the most dramatic settlement efforts in decades took place a couple of weeks ago, when 25 apartments in the Palestinian neighborhood Silwan, in East Jerusalem, were occupied by Jewish settlers. Silwan is the prize trophy for the settler movement, since it sits right on the edge of the Old City, inside the Holy Basin. The new Israeli push into the Palestinian part of the city was condemned by the international community and stood at the heart of the media coverage during Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S. The settlement effort, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, was carried out “by individuals who are associated with an organization whose agenda, by definition, stokes tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The settlement activities in Silwan are carried out by a non-governmental organization called Elad, which is said to have had good ties with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jerusalem Municipality. The government appointed Elad to run City of David, the Jewish archaeological site in Silwan, and an attempt to give Elad rights near the Western Wall was recently struck down by the High Court.

Peace groups and investigative journalists have been warning for years about the role Elad plays in changing the demographic and political reality in East Jerusalem. (A comprehensive background document to the Israeli effort to take over Silwan can be found here.) Elad itself doesn’t have a web site, and the government has granted it a waiver from the requirement to disclose its considerable financial sources.

This morning, Elad’s public council ran an ad in Haaretz congratulating the settlers who entered the Palestinian neighborhood. The ad is signed by the chairman of the public council, Nobel Prize Laureat Elie Weisel. Weisel, a Holocaust survivor, is known for his support of Israel’s effort to settle Palestinian East...

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A couple of Netanyahu's not-so-white lies to Americans

In the past week or so, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated a couple of talking points that diverged from the truth, but few people called him out on it.

1. In a meeting with the Jewish Federations of North America in New York last Tuesday,  the prime minister fielded a question regarding the state’s practice of sending asylum seekers to detention facilities in the desert, sometimes for unlimited periods of time. This has been the first time the prime minister commented since a recent ruling by the High Court that ordered the detainees to be released. “There is no asylum seeker problem in Israel – they are illegal job immigrants,” responded Netanyahu, according to Barak Ravid’s report in Haaretz. ”We don’t have to open our doors to be swamped by the way other people run their economies.”

But if those who crossed the border from Sudan and Eritrea are job seekers, why doesn’t Israel deport them, like countries do with illegal immigrants? The fact of the matter is that Netanyahu’s government itself gave “group protection” to all asylum seekers from those countries (At the same time, Israel refrains from individually examining their asylum request). Netanyahu might say that the asylum seekers are immigrants, but his own policies dictate a different approach.

2. During Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S., settlers occupied 25 apartments in Silwan, East Jerusalem – the largest entrance of settlers to this flashpoint Palestinian neighborhood since the early nineties. Netanyahu dismissed the fierce criticism the government got over this issue. This is what he said in a press briefing in New York (and again Saturday on Israel’s Channel 2):

Let’s leave aside the various ties between the government and all those organizations and agencies who settle Jews beyond the Green Line, and take Netanyahu’s words at face value. The simple truth is that Palestinians from East Jerusalem cannot buy apartments anywhere they want in the city. East Jerusalem Arabs – who make up one third of the city’s residents – are not Israeli citizens, but rather permanent residents. They have a lower legal status, which, among other things, prevents them from buying apartments on state land – and most of the big housing projects in Jerusalem are done on state land (East Jerusalemites cannot vote in national elections, and if they leave the country for seven years – de jure, though de...

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