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The future is the center: Meet the parties shaking up Israeli politics

Caught between growing extremism on the right and a battered left, Israelis are flocking to a new crop of centrist politicians who prioritize economic issues over solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Galia Ben Haim discussed her political opinions while driving back from jail. In addition to her day job, she volunteers at a women’s prison.  The inmates, she says, committed their crimes after Israel’s social institutions failed them.

In the last two elections the 48-year-old mother of four says she voted for Yesh Atid, the centrist party founded by TV icon Yair Lapid in 2013. She is considering supporting them a third time when Israel holds general elections in April. “I really care about social issues,” she explains. “We need to rehabilitate families, help social workers, welfare agencies, women who are in prison, the poor,” she says.

Over the last two electoral cycles, Israel has experienced the rise of a new kind of political center in an arena generally seen as a battle of left and right, largely due to voters like Ben Haim. There are now two main centrist parties in Knesset, Yesh Atid, and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, which first competed in 2015. Together, they hold 21 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

This is an important development, given that the Israeli electorate is weighted in favor of another right-wing victory. Only around 20 percent of adults in Israel self-define as left wing — not enough for the left to win an election. Any chance for a real change of government will have to come from the center.

By contrast, the center camp shows potential for growth. In 2015, the two parties won just over 16 percent of the vote (10 seats for Kahlon and 11 for Lapid). Yet in surveys, about one-quarter of Israelis regularly self-define as centrist. In other words, 10 percent of Israelis are potential swing voters for centrist parties. Those numbers could be augmented by moderate right-wingers who are increasingly disenchanted by Netanyahu’s longevity in power, the corruption investigations against him — or simply his rhetoric and style of governing.

Ronen Ashkenazi, 42, runs a kiosk in the heart of Tel Aviv. He considers himself to be centrist and has supported Likud in the past but voted for Yesh Atid in more recent elections. Now he’s not sure which party to vote for, but Netanyahu has to go. “Enough of Bibi already – he’s corrupt, he needs to go home....

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Israel's upcoming elections will have plenty of surprises in store

Israeli voters will head to the polls in three-and-a-half months to elect a new government. Here’s what that means, and where the elections may go.

After weeks of feverish speculation, the Israeli governing coalition voted unanimously on Monday to disband the Knesset and call early elections in April 2019.

Prime Minister Netanyahu had kept the country on its toes since November when some Israeli news outlets irresponsibly reported that Israel was headed for elections following the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Instead Netanyahu wriggled out of a tight spot and convinced his remaining coalition partners to stay for a spell. But with just 61 seats out of 120, the slim government was precarious from the start and the announcement was hardly a surprise.

How should we understand what these elections mean, what will they be about, and what might they bring?

One thing should be clear: these elections should not be considered “early.” It is true that they will be held before the regularly scheduled date, which would have been in November 2019. But any meaningful consequence of the date is overshadowed by the fact that by April, four full years will have passed since the previous elections in March 2015. This reasonable length is rare in a country best known for squabbling, short-lived governments; Netanyahu will invariably be credited with stability, not blamed for elections half a year early.

Further, 3.5 months might be meaningful if poll numbers and electoral trends were volatile – if so, early elections might reflect the best possible speculation, like buying the right stock at the right time. Not so – in Israel, broad electoral trends have been remarkably stable over the last decade. Likud, Netanyahu’s ruling party, has won the last two elections (2013 and 2015) and the right-leaning breakdown for ideological blocs – right-wing, center, and left-wing parties – meant that only Likud was able to form the coalition in 2009, even though the party came in second place by one Knesset seat.

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Since the last elections, public opinion surveys have shown Likud winning relentlessly over all runner up parties, with a lone exception or two well over a year back – outlier polls that showed...

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The right keeps winning in Israel because Israelis are right wing

The political map in Israel hasn’t fundamentally changed since a decade ago, when left-wing voters migrated to the center and centrist voters moved right.

The last week has seen feverish speculation about the possibility of early elections in Israel, primarily against the backdrop of infighting about how to handle Gaza. Defense Minister Liberman resigned and the governing coalition teetered; but on Monday the Jewish Home party announced its intention to remain, pulling Israel back from the brink of elections — for the moment. The situation is so volatile that new elections could still be called early — in March or May. At latest, they will be held one year from now, as scheduled, in November 2019.

To understand where Israel might wind up, we need to know what about the political system will not change — and where potential surprises might lie.

What we know

First, the current government has essentially maxed out its four-year term, and Netanyahu will be credited with generating relative stability in Israel’s notorious political jungle. In the past, it was rare for an Israeli government to last even close to a full term.

Second, the ideological splits in the Israeli public have been stable for roughly a dozen years. Seismic shifts during the Second Intifada led to a migration of left-wingers to the self-defined political center. They added to that camp but also replaced some centrists who migrated right, causing the percentage of Jewish right-wingers to drift upward over the decade (from around 40 percent prior to the intifada).

By around 2007, this process was complete. The political map has hardly changed since then. Currently, the portion of all Israelis who call themselves right wing stands at around 46 percent — among the Jewish population, that’s just over half. The number of self-defined centrists is roughly one-quarter, and the portion of left-wingers is stable at about one-fifth (about 14 to 15 percent of the Jewish population). Overall, most polls show a slight plurality of right-wingers, versus the center-left bloc.


Given that, the Knesset is a roughly fair representation of the citizens who vote in national elections. Of 120 seats, the right and religious coalition has 12 more seats than the center, left and Arab opposition parties combined — 66 to 54.

It makes sense, therefore, that a third relatively stable feature...

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Death penalty for Pittsburgh terrorist is wrong

Sentencing Robert Bowers to death isn’t likely to honor the victims. What’s worse, it might build up the case for capital punishment for terrorists in Israel.

Prosecutors are reportedly planning to seek the death penalty for Robert Bowers, suspected of murdering 11 Jews in a mass shooting attack as they celebrated a bris at their synagogue in Pittsburgh. They shouldn’t.

There is a human instinct that cries out to match the most awful crime with the ultimate punishment. As I watched the miserable news pour in, every face looked like someone in the synagogue where I grew up, in Brooklyn. Every time I saw Rabbi Myers speak of his congregants, tears flowed uncontrollably.

At moments, the pain this week ran so deep that even imagining death of the murderer feels unsatisfying — as if his one evil life somehow equals 11 innocent ones. Maybe there’s something worse: torture, suffering, hellfire.

But none of these ideas actually make me feel better; they disgust me. If emotions are a spectrum, the revenge side feels like a brick wall. Maybe that’s what prompted a woman from Charleston to say, “I forgive you,” to Dylann Roof, who slaughtered her mother at prayer. It was astonishing to see a woman at her darkest hour triumph over the worst and most natural of human instincts — I doubt I would be able to do it. In his book Between the World and Me, Ta Nehisi Coates admitted with candor that he felt “a great distance from the grieving rituals of my people,” when those whose loved ones had been cut down for being black, offer forgiveness in return.

But even Coates opposed the death penalty for Roof, who was convicted of 33 charges and sentenced to death in a federal court. Coates didn’t forgive Roof, but he thought about the kind of society he wanted America to be. For that, he looked to Dr. King:

Although hackneyed by the tragic necessity of overuse, there is something to the entreaty “don’t let the terrorists win.” Robert Bowers represents an America that confronts difference by destroying it. He longs for an America where political opinions are expressed by violence, in which difference of opinion is punishable by death. in response, America should not enforce law and morality by killing a man.

Would killing him honor the victims? It’s unlikely. The large majority of American...

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Who needs a Nation-State Law? What Israelis really think

Several polls show that a surprising coalition of Israelis oppose the Jewish Nation-State Law, or at least think it is unnecessary and harmful.

Those of us who are committed to equality of all citizens in Israel feel, once again, like specks drowning in a sea of chest-beating nationalists.

The passage of the Jewish Nation-State Law looks like another example of ethno-nationalist populism sweeping Israeli society. “Massive support from the right for Nation-State Law,” read a headline reporting on a survey from Walla! News this week; Haaretz commentator Yossi Verter declared:

“Public support for it extends beyond the borders of the right-wing camp… It sharpens the debate between right and left, and redraws the ‘us’ and the ‘them,’ the former being those who love the country and the latter, its denigrators.”

But a close reading of public opinion this week shows a more complex picture. From the government’s perspective, the best news is the Walla! News survey, conducted by Panels Politics, showing 58 percent support for the bill. That does look like a strong majority, and would justify Verter’s claim, since the self-identified right is only about 45 percent of Israeli society.

But the ideological breakdown also shows the opposite side of the coin: there is near-consensus on the right and the left in support or opposition, respectively, while center-identified respondents were split clear through – about half for (49 percent) and just under half against (45 percent). Of Joint List voters in the poll, 100 percent opposed the law.

With nearly half of the mainstream Israeli center camp against the bill, the opposition is not just a matter of isolated dissidents. The center is a key constituency and currently holds a combined total of 21 out of 120 seats in the Knesset – in other words, about 10 centrist seats oppose the law. Together with almost the whole left and Arab respondents, this is a substantial portion of society.

Does it re-define the left and right, as Verter claims? Yes, but not in the way he thinks. The ‘against’ camp can’t be smeared as a bunch of radical leftists as Netanyahu tried hard to do, rather, the center is legitimizing opposition to the bill.


But another survey exposes more serious doubts. The monthly Peace Index, conducted by Tel...

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Torture ruling unites right and left, but leaves justice by the wayside

Both left and right-wingers hailed a decision by an Israeli court to throw out parts of confessions provided by two Israelis suspected of a murdering a Palestinian family because they were obtained through torture. The shared satisfaction across political camps is rare. It is also flawed and worrying.

Both left-wing and right-wing voices lauded an Israeli court on Tuesday for throwing out parts of the confessions provided by two Israeli Jews suspected of a lethal terror attack against a Palestinian family, because they were obtained through torture. In the middle of the night in August 2015, attackers set fire to the Dawabshe family home in Duma, outside Nablus. Both parents, Saed and Riham Dawabshe, and their baby son, Ali, were burned to death. Ahmed, four at the time, suffered severe burns, and has required extensive surgeries and rehabilitation.

The shared satisfaction across political camps about the ruling is rare; it is also flawed and worrying. Why?

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), a tireless human rights organization, broke with its usual statements of outrage to issue a rare positive response.

Throwing out the confessions is “commendable,” PCATI wrote, noting that “[t]he judgment also clearly stated that ‘necessity interrogations’ are a severe violation of basic human rights, and as such disqualify their products.”

Physicians for Human Rights — Israel, another dogged human rights organization, gave a similarly enthusiastic response decrying the use of torture in any form.

Meanwhile Haim Shain, a right-wing commentator for the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom newspaper, wrote: “A freedom-seeking democracy should not allow interrogators to employ any means without limits or proportionality to reveal the truth. It is obliged to find the appropriate balance between protecting human dignity and the right of the public to live secure from criminals and terrorists…” Such words would make any human rights organization proud.

And in fact, supporters of human rights should laud the court’s decision. This was different from the horror scenes of Abu Ghraib, which represented a total breakdown of command and pornographic levels of torture. Rather, Israel’s internal security agency (Shin Bet) had prior legal approval from the attorney general to use “special methods,” which reportedly included forcing suspects to hold painful positions for long hours. The exact nature of the interrogation tactics have not been made public.

In 1999, the Israeli High Court outlawed the use of torture but left a loophole for suspects who...

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Out of Iran deal, into war? Either way, Netanyahu's popularity soars

Netanyahu appears to have inoculated himself against looming corruption charges due to the dramatic developments on the security front. As war with Iran looms, why does the old formula work so well? 

On Wednesday night, the day after Trump announced his withdrawal from the Iran deal, in between Israeli airstrikes in Syria, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported the Likud’s highest polling numbers in a decade — 35 seats, five more than it holds today.

Is it really that simple? Netanyahu, 12 years in office, facing multiple corruption investigations and a possible indictment, just pulls out the magic security card and his polls rise as if standing at attention. As Arlo Guthrie once said, “it’s amazing that somebody can get away with singing a song this dumb, for that long.”

But oh, those numbers. The glory of watching rivals wither: Yair Lapid, who had to defend himself this week from an unforgivable position that just maybe the U.S. should not withdraw unilaterally or immediately from the scourge of a deal, slid down to 18 seats in the poll, far from his party’s perch in the mid-20s in recent months.

Other electoral dynamics did not change significantly. A new party established by former Israel Beitenu MK Orly Levi dropped from eight seats – which in fairness was probably an inflated result anyway – to five in the current poll. Given that she comes from the right, those votes probably went to Likud. In times of war, you don’t play around with girlie parties.

On Tuesday night, moments before Trump was due to speak, the IDF ordered bomb shelters in the Golan Heights opened, following IDF “leaks” about suspicious Iranian troop movement. Wednesday night, 20 rockets were fired from Syria – none actually hit Israel – apparently by Iranian forces or proxies, sirens went off in the Golan, and Israel launched its largest airstrikes in Syria in decades. As Israel cheered Trump’s announcement like a choir, war felt more imminent than at any time in recent years.


Still, a few days earlier, a friend told me that if elections were held today, she would change her vote from Kachlon in 2015, to Netanyahu. Never his biggest fan, she explained that despite her misgivings, she cannot help being impressed by a few of his achievements, citing three examples:...

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The real danger of Natalie Portman

Israeli leaders are relentlessly hammering home the idea that the kind of political dissent displayed by Natalie Portman is foreign. And dissenters, by definition, are not real Israelis.

When Natalie Portman announced that she would not attend the lucrative Genesis Prize ceremony because she opposes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was to present the prize to her, reactions in Israel were smoke-out-the-ears hysterical.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan wrote her an impassioned open letter with gimmicky Star Wars references, to help Portman, who starred in the film, understand her mistakes. Jews in Israel and abroad bemoaned her fall into the clutches of BDS, sounding a lot like the anti-miscegenation group Lehava. Others informed the Harvard-educated Portman that she had failed to “do her homework.”

But one of the lesser-noticed responses says much more disturbing things about Israel today. Shortly after her announcement, lawmaker Oren Hazan, who is currently suspended from Knesset, demanded that the interior minister revoke Portman’s Israeli citizenship.

It is easy to write Hazan off as a playboy-provocateur, just a fool who mugs for selfies with Trump and reportedly ran drugs and brothels in Bulgaria. Why consider him representative? Hazan was elected in 2015 to the Knesset as a member of Likud, Netanyahu’s ruling party. According to all polls, Likud would still win if elections were held today. He was suspended for six months for bullying, but presumably will be back in August.

Nor was Hazan’s stunt an isolated event. When Hagai El-Ad, director of Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, testified to the UN Security Council about the ills of occupation, then-coalition chair David Bitan demanded he, too, be stripped of his citizenship. There was no censure against him; Bitan left the Knesset of his own accord to deal with his corruption investigations.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has proposed a grandiose plan for collectively stripping some 300,000 Israelis of their citizenship. His proposal for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves simply shearing off the densely populated Arab area of Israel known as “The Triangle,” making it part of Palestine instead. These citizens are not being judged for treason or any other crime, not even rejecting a prize or testifying at the UN. They are guilty only of aspiring to live as equal citizens in the country of their birth.

The rush to formally excommunicate citizens even sheds new light on the latest...

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Elections: Good for Netanyahu, bad for Israel

A coalition crisis could mean elections in a matter of months. If Netanyahu wins, even a post-election indictment will not stop the slide into a darker future for Israel.

He wants them, he wants them not, he wants them, he wants them not. Over the last two weeks, the sport of Netanyahu psychoanalysis in the Israeli press over the possibility of snap elections has taken on a feverish tone.

He doesn’t want them because he loves holding onto power. Because he wants to prove that of all Israeli leaders he alone is capable of sitting out a term and proving himself King Bibi, the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history. Should he resolve the current coalition crisis — on the issue of drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF — in addition to being the only statesman who speaks American, or speaks Trump, or speaks AIPAC, he will also brand himself the only responsible adult at home.

On the other hand, he does want elections. Through the irritating fog of corruption investigations, he can’t keep his eyes off those tantalizing surveys. Most have Likud winning by a healthy margin of three to five seats over the second-ranked party, Yesh Atid. Until recently, none showed Likud going beyond the 30 seats it won in the 2015 elections – until a survey published by Israel Hayom last Friday. Never mind that Israel Hayom is to Bibi what Brietbart is to Trump. When a survey dangles 34 seats before your eyes, suddenly there’s a coalition crisis around every corner.

Why stop at Bibi? What about the coalition partners: do they want elections? What about the opposition? On Sunday, Naftali Bennett, head of the far-right Jewish Home party which is part of the governing coalition, took a stiff line against Netanyahu, working all the morning shows to tell the public that elections are a ruse, unnecessary for Israel and purely “personal” – just Netanayhu’s attempt to boost himself. Most surveys actually show Bennett’s party doing pretty well, going beyond the current eight seats. One even has him at 14. But perhaps Bennett doesn’t trust surveys – after all, he was running around 12 seats in most of them leading up to the 2015 elections, but ended up with just eight.

At the moment of writing, the question of early elections seems to rest in the hands of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who...

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At AIPAC, Israel's problems went unmentioned

Although AIPAC activists regularly acknowledge that, of course, Israel is not perfect, it felt like the people there were cheering and stomping for a different country.

AIPAC’s annual policy conference ended on Tuesday to thunderous applause for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. For three days, the conference was a seamless marriage of the highest level technology and meticulous organization. Organizers successfully shuttled 18,000 people, according to the staff, from hotels in Washington, DC to three sprawling buildings of the convention center and helped them circulate within the labyrinthine structure. An “agenda builder” phone app was used to register for events. The number and impeccable training of the perennially cheerful staff reminded me of the dazzling Olympic opening ceremony I attended in Sydney in 2000.

If there were glitches, I didn’t see them. When anti-occupation demonstrators marched to the main entrance to the Convention Center on Sunday, conference-goers were swiftly rerouted to the nearby Marriot hotel, where they connected to the convention center through a plush-carpeted corridor. Inside, the ecosystem swallowed up any further distractions. In one cavernous room called the “AIPAC Village,” a wall-sized electronic mural displayed an idyllic, brightly colored village scene that looked suspiciously like the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City.

The “Village” contained a thicket of app kiosks, booths showcasing Israeli innovation and social welfare organizations, a cafeteria, and TED-like stage platforms for speaker sessions. Lest anyone harbor lingering discomfort from the political protest outside, the entire affair was defended not only by DC police for blocks around, but by an actual Iron Dome installation towering over delighted onlookers at the center of the village.

Something for everybody

It was easy to feel disintegrated; it was a conference about everything. The app subject search included 15 different topics related to Israel and the US. Under just one of them, “Israel and the World,” 23 different breakout sessions were offered over two days. With dozens of events happening simultaneously, two attendees could have completely different experiences.

One could attend sessions with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett from the far-right  Jewish Home party which is part of the governing coalition, or one of the numerous events addressing core AIPAC themes: fighting BDS and anti-Semitism (often used synonymously), how the Christian-Jewish alliance has succeeded in passing anti-BDS legislation in the US, and AIPAC’s legislative agenda in general. Iran and Israel’s foreign relations featured prominently.


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A Netanyahu indictment won't save Israeli democracy

In Netanyahu’s Israel, checks and balances are irrelevant or corrupt, accountability is conspiracy, and a watchdog media is a national saboteur. Tough times are ahead.

There has been no shortage of people who were thrilled by the announcement Tuesday night that Israeli police recommend indicting Benjamin Netanyahu in two corruption cases. A Haaretz headline crowed that “Netanyahu’s countdown has begun.” Opposition figures such as Labor chairman Avi Gabbay said, “the Netanyahu era has ended.”

But in Netanyahu’s defiant speech moments following the publication of the police recommendations, he insisted that his government would last its full term — through November 2019.

Netanyahu’s total dismissal of the idea of resigning — which he hardly seemed to consider long enough to reject it — is only one of the deep offenses to democracy that investigations have come to represent. What should be an enviable display of independent law enforcement agencies holding public representatives accountable, is turning into a showcase — and possibly a harbinger — of the erosion of democratic norms in Israel.

The immediate response of Netanyahu and his cronies throughout the investigation process is the outstanding example. In the lead-up to and immediate following the police recommendation to indict, their messaging went into overdrive, with eerily carbon-copy themes. David Amsalem, the current head of the coalition who replaced David Bitan, himself now under a corruption investigation, responded with a screed calling the police investigation “illegitimate in a democracy,” accusing the police of a political coup, and calling their investigation “chutzpah” – a severe accusation in Hebrew. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, quoted in Ynet, said: “Tonight has exposed a deplorable move to enact a coup, against the wishes of the voter. It is disgraceful that the main witness against Netanyahu is [politician] Yair Lapid, who has been trying to replace him for years.”

The notion that the investigation is little more than political persecution has been repeated so steadily by Likud figures that the Israeli media began hunting for a “message box,” to determine if there was a campaign-like decision about the message. As a political consultant in my day job, I’ll speculate an obvious yes.

Further, the investigation has become a confusing fiasco of accusations and counter accusations. In the week before the announcement, Police Chief Roni Alsheikh – hand-picked by Netanyahu himself – implied that the police’s anti-corruption unit had come under pressure from private investigators...

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The violent repercussions of Trump's declaration

Trump’s speech sparked a new blood feud that claims the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, unleashing forces destined to kill even more.

Israel was reeling this week after a shooting attack Tuesday evening that killed a 35-year old father of six near the West Bank outpost where he lived, called Havat Gilad. Although Rabbi Raziel Shevach lived in a community not even recognized under Israeli law, he was also a civilian: at the time of the shooting, he was not in a situation of active combat, and as far as is known, he was unarmed. His life in that territory was a highly political act, but his death is a crime with no justification.

And yet there is no escape from the political context of his death, both the causes and the consequences.

The attack that killed Raziel Shevach is part of a wave of violence that is the direct result of U.S. President Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While neither Trump’s move nor anything else justifies killing civilians for political aims, the likelihood of escalation was so clear that even Trump had to call for calm in the very speech he knew would break it.

But since the declaration changed nothing for the U.S. or for Israel, what exactly was the point other than bloodshed? And if Trump doesn’t share the sorrow over the Palestinians who died over the last month, is the death of a Jewish Israeli father of six what he had in mind?

Despite the routinized Hamas mantra that the attack was about defending Jerusalem, it seems more like the next response in the month-long blood feud: revenge for 12 unarmed Palestinians, including two on Thursday alone, who have been killed since the speech. Most were killed during protests, which for Israelis proves that they were violent upstarts courting their own death. It is an image honed over decades of viewing Palestinians as rabble to be controlled by a military regime, rather than as individual human beings with the right to protest having been made to live as prisoners.

What is a demonstrator? As a child, I pored over the famous image of a protestor killed at the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at Kent State University, fascinated by the iconic power of the photo to horrify America for what it had done. When a 16-year old Palestinian demonstrator, Nadeem Nawara, was killed in...

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How Trump energizes deniers of Palestinian independence

Taking their cues from the American president, right-wingers like Bret Stephens argue that the Palestinians don’t deserve a state. Here’s why they’re wrong.

President Trump could have made a tremendous statement last week had he recognized the claims of both Israel and the Palestinians to a capital in Jerusalem. Instead, he reinforced Israel’s already disproportionate advantage in the conflict. Right-wing hawks then took it further, seizing on his statement to revive the dusty arguments rejecting of Palestinian statehood altogether.

Conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens provides Exhibit A, with his decree that Palestinians have not proved sufficiently worthy of a state. To make his case, Stephens relies on several baffling points.

He claims that Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city “aligns the United States with the country toward which we are constantly professing friendship.” According to Stephens, the U.S. has somehow “stinted” Israel by withholding such recognition. Apparently propping up Israel with massive political, financial and military aid from 1948 to the present is worthless, compared to the sin of failing to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This despite the fact that just one paragraph earlier, Stephens claims that “most Israelis couldn’t care less where the embassy is ultimately located.” He does not explain why Israelis might have felt “stinted”, if they are indifferent to the matter.

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Then Stephens displays actual denialism, explaining why Palestinian independence must be suppressed, conditioned or otherwise thwarted.

Peace and a Palestinian state will come when Palestinians aspire to create a Middle Eastern Costa Rica — pacifist, progressive, neighborly and democratic — rather than another Yemen: by turns autocratic, anarchic, fanatical and tragic.

For the international community, that means helping Palestinians take steps to dismantle their current kleptotheocracy, rather than fueling a culture of perpetual grievance against Israel. Mahmoud Abbas is now approaching the 13th anniversary of his elected four-year term. Someone should point this out.

The contradiction is right there in his sentence: Yemen is going badly, but the Yemenis have their own state. The history of modern statehood is strewn with non-democracies and dysfunction. Referring to the wave of decolonization in the 1960s, the scholar...

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