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  • New law would demote Arabic language in the name of 'social cohesion'

    Members of Knesset say law builds a 'collective identity' that will preserve the 'values of democracy.' By Orly Noy A group of MKs from Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Jewish Home recently submitted a bill that calls to rescind the status of Arabic as an official language in Israel. On its own, the bill is neither out of the ordinary nor surprising, as it joins a long list of draft laws that were brought before the Knesset plenum over the past years, including the Citizenship Law, the Nakba Law, the Loyalty Law, the Basic Law that declares Israel as the nation state…

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  • Likud is no longer the largest party in the Knesset

    Netanyahu now has the same number of seats as his main coalition partner, Yair Lapid. This leaves him at the mercy of his arch-rival, President Reuven Rivlin, if the coalition would need to be reshuffled without new elections being called.  Up until mid last month, Netanyahu's coalition enjoyed a reasonably obvious hierarchy. The Likud-Beitenu list led with 31 seats; Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid followed with 19; Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home barely caught up with 12; and Tzipi Livni's Hatnua closed the list with 6. This classical enough arrangement suffered its first blow in mid- July, when Avigdor Liberman unilaterally broke…

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  • On Gaza, differences between Labor and Likud are superficial

    When it comes to Israeli policies, Labor likes to paint itself as the complete opposite of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. That is, unless we're talking about Gaza. By Aaron Magid In the wake of the 2013 elections, Israel's Labor Party was consistently critical of Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister. Just last month, Labor Chairman Isaac Herzog slammed Netanyahu for isolating Israel from the international community. “Netanyahu speaks [but] the world doesn’t listen,” exclaimed Herzog. Yet during the recent conflict in Gaza, the Labor Party’s usual critical approach towards Netanyahu shifted dramatically, with influential Labor lawmakers sounding eerily similar to…

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

    The slow crumbling of Netanyahu's political prestige reached its nadir on Tuesday, when his own heir apparent Gideon Sa'ar turned against him to elevate arch-rival Reuven Rivlin to presidency.  Reuven Rivlin's victory in the presidential elections on Tuesday was a resounding one, but nowhere near as resonant as Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat - a domestic political defeat to match his 2013 failure to stop Iran-U.S. rapprochement, which yanked the rug out from under his foreign policy. Rivlin and Netanyahu weren't running against each other. Quite the contrary, Rivlin was the candidate of Netanyahu's own party, Likud, adored by the party's rank-and-file…

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  • Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dies at 85

    Israel's former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who spent the last eight years comatose after a series of strokes, died on Saturday, January 11. He was 85 years old. A general, politician, statesman, and to many a notorious war criminal, Ariel Sharon was known to combine dogged personal ambition with strategic acumen and ruthlessness, which together shaped one of the most controversial and remarkable careers in Israeli political history. Born in the community of Kfar Malal in 1928, Sharon joined the Haganah in the mid 1940s, and first saw action in the run-up to the 1948 War, when his unit staged…

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  • Jews, Arabs work to resist racist municipal election campaign

    In the face of a nationalistic mayoral campaign by the local Likud chapter, a group of Jews and Arabs in Karmiel choose to focus on eliminating gaps, building public housing and creating a city where everyone can live together as equals. By Dov Caller and Alan Traister “If the Arabs keep coming, Jews will leave and we will even end up with an Arab mayor. The attempt to elect representatives of the Arab community to the city council shows that Karmiel is on the way to becoming a mixed city. Karmiel of 2013 is fighting for its life as a…

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  • Israel’s ultra-Orthodox: Unorthodox partners for peace?

    History has shown that the longer the ultra-Orthodox are excluded from the Israeli coalition, the more likely are the chances that they forge alliances with left-of-centre and dovish partners. Could the Haredi parties be the ones to tip the balance in favor of a peace agreement? By Romana Michelon As of late July, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is once again making global headlines. Largely the result of the diplomatic efforts made by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, this is the first time since 2010 that chief negotiators representing Israel and the Palestinian Authority confront one another in direct, albeit…

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  • Who deleted Gaza?

    Israeli policy conveys that there is no Palestine, only two chunks of land divided by people, politics and culture. Some international actors and many Israelis are convinced. Are Palestinians?   A recent New York Times report on the World Economic Forum held at the Dead Sea last month, carried the following headline: “Trying to Revive Mideast Talks, Kerry Pushes Investment Plan for West Bank.” The first paragraph of the article went on to explain: In an effort to revive the moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a plan on Sunday to invest as…

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  • One by one, Israel's coalition members abandon two-state rhetoric

    More and more, members of Israel's ruling parties are matching their public statements to the reality they are implementing every minute on the ground: Israel's opposition to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict.  Economy Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett is the latest MK to join a robust list of Israeli government coalition members who have publicly stated that the two-state solution is dead and that the notion of a Palestinian state is a thing of the past. Although it's no new position for him, Bennett is making it clear that no…

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  • Likud MK: Settlement construction is good for peace with Palestinians

    Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ofir Akunis took Netanyahu's position that settlement construction is not an impediment to a negotiated solution with the Palestinians to a whole new level. According to a report in Haaretz Tuesday: ... [Akunis asserted] that past experience has shown that a halt to construction has only driven the Palestinians away from negotiating with Israel. "The Likud policy is very consistent. Our call to the Palestinians to enter into direct peace negotiations without precondition is in effect," he said. (Emphasis mine) Akunis, the same Likud lawmaker who in the last Knesset proposed a bill to limit all foreign…

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  • What will the third Netanyahu government look like, and how will it deal with the Palestinian issue?

    Netanyahu would like to include some centrist elements in his government in order to present a more moderate face to the world. However, any meaningful effort to end the occupation is not very likely.  The Israeli post-election routine is under way, and tomorrow (Saturday) night, President Shimon Peres will officially ask Benjamin Netanyahu to try and form a new government. Netanyahu will have 28 days for his coalitions talks (which are already underway), and he may ask for an extension of 14 days. While I do not have high hopes from the new government regarding the Palestinian issue, it is enough…

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  • The one good thing the next government could accomplish

    If Yair Lapid's party takes over the Education Ministry, it could bring an end to the Greater-Israelization of the country's schools and universities. After 45 years of occupation and no end in sight, it would be better for Israel to have a completely right-wing/ultra-Orthodox government than a right-wing/centrist one with Yair Lapid, Kadima and possible other fig leaves. A purely hardline government would attract more opposition, especially abroad, while a right/center amalgam will fool a lot of people into thinking things aren't so bad. In short, a Bibi/Lapid government is more beneficial to the occupation than a Bibi/Yishai government -…

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  • Final elections results posted; settler party rises to 12 seats

    The counting of the votes has ended, and we now have the official results for the 2013 Knesset elections. In the last 24 hours Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party has won one more seat at the expense of the United Arab List. The rest of the map is unchanged. Here are the full results: Likud Beitenu 31; Jewish Home 12, Shas 11; United Torah Judaism 7; Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) 19, Kadima 2, Hatnuah (Livni) 6; Labor 15; Meretz 6. Hadash 4; United Arab List 4; Balad 3 Notable changes from the previous elections: Jewish Home, associated with the settlers,…

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