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Israel is systematically revoking Arabs' citizenship. Don't act surprised

Hundreds if not thousands of Bedouin are having their citizenship revoked seemingly for no reason, according to ‘Haaretz.’ Shocking as it may be, it’s not surprising. Citizenship has never provided non-Jewish Israelis with the same security it gives their Jewish compatriots.

Imagine going to renew your passport or change your official address and after a few minutes of pattering on a keyboard without looking up to see the human being in front of him or her, a government clerk informs you that you are no longer a citizen of the only country you have ever known. The country of your birth.

And no, it’s not that your citizenship is being revoked, the clerk calmly explains. It’s not like that. You were never a citizen in the first place, you see, it was all a mistake — never mind the fact that you were born in Israel to parents who are Israeli citizens, and your siblings are Israeli citizens, and maybe you even served in the Israeli army.

Hundreds if not thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel have undergone that exact terrifying experience in recent years, according to a report by Jack Khoury in Haaretz Friday.

The Kafqesque ordeal, to which Jewish Israelis are exempt, is part of a policy in which one’s citizenship is re-adjudicated, without a judge or judicial process of course, every time one comes into contact with an Interior Ministry clerk for the most routine reasons, according to the Haaretz investigation.

The gut-wrenching practice is shocking on the most basic levels. For those of us lucky enough to be citizens of a country, so much of our security in this world comes bundled up with it. Of course, Palestinians and other non-Jews have never had the same level of security attached to their citizenship in Israel as their Jewish compatriots do. Many of them, like the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, don’t even have citizenship to begin with.

As shocking as the Haaretz report is, nobody should be surprised. The Israeli prime minister has openly declared his belief that some, namely Arab, Israeli citizens should be stripped of their citizenship for making political statements not to his liking. A senior government minister recently threatened a “third Nakba,” referencing the largely forced displacement of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948. And then there was the landmark ruling earlier this month actually stripping...

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After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days

The five-month closure of the Rafah crossing was the longest since the blockade began in 2007, according to rights groups. The Israeli army recently added new restrictions for Palestinians hoping to leave Gaza.

Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing this week for the first time in five months. Israel controls the only other way in and out of the Gaza Strip, and has placed more and more restrictions on Palestinians who want to come and go in recent months.

Egypt allowed the passage of pilgrims, humanitarian cases, and Gazans stranded in Egypt to pass through the border this week. The border closed again on Friday, after five days, according to Gaza-based Palestinian news site PalToday. There are a reported 30,000 Palestinians on a waiting list to leave the Strip via Egypt.

The five-month closure of Rafah marked the longest consecutive closure since 2007, according to Gisha, an Israeli organization that promotes Palestinian freedom of movement. Between 2011 and 2013, around 40,000 people crossed the border to and from Egypt every month, according to the rights group.

Egypt clamped down on the border following that country’s military coup which ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement affiliated with Hamas, which rules over the Gaza Strip.

Israel has also vastly reduced the number of Gazans it allows to leave the besieged coastal enclave recently. According to Gisha, the number of Palestinians who exited Gaza via Israel dropped 55 percent in the first half of 2017, from a monthly average of 14,000 in the first half of 2016 to 6,302 a year later.

In addition, Israel also recently imposed new restrictions on how long Gazans can leave and what they can bring with them. Earlier this month, the Israeli army banned Palestinians leaving the Strip from bringing with them any electronic devices other than cellular phones, any food, and any toiletries. This week, The Times of Israel reported that Israel was also making Palestinians leaving Gaza sign an agreement saying that they will not return for a year.

This year marks a decade since the start of Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip. Despite the 2006 withdrawal of settlers and ground troops, the Israeli army controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as all of its land crossings save for Rafah, controlled by Egypt and closed on all but the rarest of...

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Palestinian journalists the latest victim of Hamas-Fatah rivalry

Fatah-affiliated security forces arrest five journalists in the West Bank; Hamas forces are holding at least one journalist in Gaza. Palestinian rights groups demand both parties keep journalists out of their political rivalry.

Palestinian Authority security services arrested five Palestinian journalists in the West Bank Tuesday night in what appears to be a worrying manifestation of escalating tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

Fatah-aligned PA security forces accused the five journalists of “leaking sensitive information to hostile parties,” presumably Hamas, according to a report on the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA Wednesday. Several of the arrested journalists work for Hamas-affiliated news outlets.

WAFA also published a parallel report on Wednesday about Hamas security forces arresting and detaining two journalists, at least one of whom works for a Fatah-aligned media outlet. One of the two, Fouad Jaradeh, has been imprisoned for two months by Hamas, which accuses him of collaborating with the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah, according to a Gaza-based rights group.

The idea that rival political groups are targeting journalists because of their affiliation with either Fatah or Hamas is particularly troubling.

+972 Special Coverage: Censorship and Press Freedom

In a statement published Wednesday, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), “call[ed] on the Palestinian security services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to stop the policy of arresting journalists, and keep these journalists far from the internal political division and their internal frictions.”

The split between Fatah and Hamas has escalated in recent months, most notably when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) cut off funding for the Hamas-run Gaza Strip’s electricity supply, making an already dire humanitarian situation even worse.

Hamas then made a deal with Abbas’s arch-rival, Mohammad Dahlan, to help the Gaza-based group broker better relations and an alternative source of electricity with Egypt.

MADA condemned the latest arrests of Palestinian journalists as “part of a marked escalation of violations against media freedoms and a blatant violation of the Palestinian Basic Law, which protects freedom of expression and the press.”

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) also expressed concern that internal Palestinian political rivalries “is descending to a very dangerous situation, where the basic rights are denied and public freedoms are totally undermined.”

“PCHR follows with concern the measures taken by the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,...

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The Israeli judge who decided certain Arabs are predisposed to violence

Arab citizens with one parent from the occupied territories are more likely to commit acts of violence, an Israeli judge claims, in order to justify stripping the citizenship of Alaa Zayoud.

An Israeli court revoked the citizenship of an Israeli citizen on Sunday, setting the stage for a constitutional challenge to a 2008 law that allows the state to strip citizenship from anyone convicted of terrorism-related crimes. Alaa Zayoud, who was convicted of four counts of attempted murder for a 2015 vehicular and stabbing attack, will be left stateless on October 31, 2017 if the ruling is not overturned. Zayoud’s case is the first time the 2008 law has been used.

But the case of Alaa Zayoud is about more than the revocation of one person’s citizenship. It also dives head first into the myriad of statuses Israel assigns Palestinians living under its control, through which it determines what rights they have and according to which laws and standards to hold them.

In a 30-page judgment, Haifa District Court Judge Avraham Elyakim places Alaa Zayoud into a subset of Israeli citizens that was contrived by the Shin Bet; these people, he says, require more deterrence than the rest of the Israeli population. Thus he justifies the extreme step of revoking Zayoud’s citizenship.

Adopting the Shin Bet’s language, Judge Elyakim describes Zayoud, who was born in Israel to an Israeli-citizen mother and therefore automatically became an Israeli citizen at birth, as a “second-generation child of family unification.” In other words, Zayoud’s father is a Palestinian from the West Bank who was granted residency in Israel by virtue of his marriage to Zayoud’s mother.

“Intelligence gathered in interrogations of ‘second-generation children of family unification’ shows that despite being born and raised as Israeli citizens, they still retain a Palestinian identity and they see the State of Israel as an enemy state that is in conflict with their people,” Judge Elyakim wrote in his judgment, citing a Shin Bet expert opinion. By virtue of having family on both sides of the Green Line, he continued, such people are exposed to a culture that “doesn’t reject” terrorism or violence against the Israeli public.

“Under such circumstances, ‘second generation children of family unification’ live with an ‘identity tension’ between different societies. That leads to Palestinian loyalty and nationalist triggers which increase their willingness to carry out acts of terror,” Elyakim continues. Revoking citizenship...

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As Netanyahu scandals deepen, the more extreme his policies get

From outlawing foreign funding for human rights NGOs to reviving the death penalty (for Palestinians), to population transfer and more, Benjamin Netanyahu is going a little wild. It probably isn’t unrelated to the multiple police investigations into him and his friends.

Benjamin Netanyahu has a few things in common with Donald Trump. The two men are known to obsess over loyalty, which invariably leads to nepotism and empowering immediate family members. They both are convinced there is constantly some sort of media conspiracy to topple them from their positions of power — and that they deserve that power. And the more embroiled they and their tight circles become in investigations of alleged improprieties, the crazier and more rash their behavior gets.

Netanyahu and his closest cronies are currently at the center of at least three major scandals being seriously investigated by the fraud and corruption unit of the Israeli police. The investigations range from corruption in the purchase of nuclear-capable submarines, demanding and receiving extravagant gifts from various billionaires who may or may not have received political favors in return, trading legislation to all but guarantee the failure of a major newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage from its main competitor, and more.

In addition to denying all wrongdoing, the Israeli prime minister’s response has been to play to his base with more and more nationalist and radical propositions, statements and stunts, hoping to preempt anyone in his government flanking him from the right while he is vulnerable. To the rest of the world, Netanyahu’s behavior makes him out to be an increasingly unreliable populist politician who doesn’t care what anybody outside Israel thinks about him.

Part of that attitude, of course, comes from the cover he believes he gets from the even-wilder circus camped out on the shores of the Potomac at the moment, and the absence of anybody in Washington who is interested or capable of keeping him in line.

So here’s an incomplete list of the craziest things Benjamin Netanyahu has said and done so far this summer, in no particular order:

Ban foreign funding of left-wing and human rights NGOs in Israel

Anti-occupation and human rights organizations in Israel have been under attack for years, be it via smear campaigns and incitement or abusive legislation that manipulates existing transparency regulations to paint those organizations as foreign agents. Many of those legislative attempts were restrained...

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WATCH: Israeli police arrest, rough up Activestills photojournalist

Journalists were standing off to the side of a mass prayer action that devolved into light clashes when police charged at them, singling out Faiz Abu Rmeleh, later beating and harassing him, he says.

By Oren Ziv and Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

Israeli police roughed up and detained Activestills photojournalist Faiz Abu Rmeleh Tuesday night while he was covering a mass prayer at the Lions’ Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem. The incident is one of many in recent days in which Israeli, Palestinian and foreign press have accused police of restricting their access and in some cases assaulting them.

Police accused Abu Rmeleh of attacking them and held him until 4 a.m., eventually releasing him with a 15-day restraining order from Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Lions’ Gate, and the Old City of Jerusalem, despite the fact that he lives in the Old City. Multiple witnesses and Abu Rmeleh himself reject the accusation that he acted in any way violently toward officers. He has not been charged.

More than 1,000 worshipers gathered at the Lions’ Gate, one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City, and held prayers there as an act of civil disobedience Tuesday night, as they have every night over the past week or so. At the end of prayers, once the majority of worshipers had dispersed, things deteriorated, with some Palestinian youth throwing stones and police using stun grenades against the members of the crowd that remained.

“It was clear the police were ready for trouble. For about the last five minutes of prayers they had stun grenades already in their hands,” The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont, told +972 Magazine.

A group of journalists was standing on some steps off to the side of the action when police came at them and began pushing them away, several members of the press recounted.

“We didn’t have anywhere to go,” Abu Rmeleh told +972 Magazine after he was released Wednesday morning. “They jumped on me and said, you’re under arrest. I asked why, and they said for assaulting a police officer.”

“Faiz was photographing,” Beaumont, the Guardian correspondent, recalled. “Several [officers] made a bee line for Faiz and grabbed him. The only reason appeared to be that he continued taking photographs.”

Despite other journalists telling police that Abu Rmeleh is a press photographer, officers took him to two separate police...

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Senior Israeli gov’t minister warns Palestinians of ‘third Nakba’

Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu, threatens Palestinians with ethnic cleansing in response to the latest round of violence.

A senior minister in the Israeli government and a close ally of Prime Minister Netanyahu warned the Palestinian people over the weekend of mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing if they don’t put an end to the current round of violence.

“Remember 1948” and “remember 1967,” Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi wrote in a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday, responding to the murder of three Israeli civilians inside their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish the night before. “This is how a ‘Nakba’ begins.”

(Find a full translation of Hangebi’s statement below.)

“Nakba” is the Palestinian name for the events surrounding 1948, when some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled by Israeli forces as part of the war that led to the establishment of Israel. Israel allowed neither those whom it expelled nor those who fled during the fighting to return once the war was over, leading to a massive refugee crisis that continues to this day. Another 300,000 or so Palestinians were forced to flee during the 1967 Six-Day War, roughly half of whom were refugees from 1948.

“When you want to stop it all it will already be gone,” Hanegbi wrote, suggesting that the current cycle of violence will lead Israel to carry out another mass expulsion or to the displacement of Palestinians. “It will already be after the third Nakba.”

“You’ve already paid that crazy price twice for your leaders,” he continued, urging the Palestinian public to break from their leaders, whom he described as reckless, religious zealots. “Don’t try us again because the result won’t be any different.”

Israel regularly accuses the Palestinians of incitement to violence against Jews and Israelis, yet nobody in the Israeli government has condemned Hanegbi’s warning of ethnic cleansing. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not fired him, demanded he retract the threat to carry out a war crime, nor has any Israeli official made public any indication that such statements are unacceptable.

The Netanyahu government has portrayed Palestinian incitement as one of the major hurdles to peace in the most recent American attempts to re-start a peace process.

Violence broke out in Jerusalem and the West Bank in recent days as Palestinians protested new Israeli security measures outside Al-Aqsa Mosque compound,

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America's BDS law is an attack on far more than free speech

The world long ago made clear to the Palestinians that violence is not a legitimate path for seeking independence. Now Congress is trying to criminalize one of the few nonviolent tools left.

A pair of laws currently making their way through the United States Congress would impose criminal sanctions on Americans who support an economic boycott of Israel or its illegal West Bank settlements. The bill follows in the footsteps of, and in some was surpasses the dozens of American states that have passed their own anti-boycott laws in recent years.

The Senate bill, S. 720, known as the “Anti-Israel Boycott Act,” also goes far beyond what even the Israeli government is willing to do to counter the grassroots movement to end the occupation and achieve certain basic rights for Palestinians. Indeed, Israel has its own anti-boycott law on the books but it not criminal, and it does not directly limit the right to call for such boycotts. Even in Israel calling to boycott the country, its institutions, its citizens, and its settlements are still considered protected speech. The punishment for violating the proposed American law, on the other hand, would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and/or up to a year in prison.

“This bill would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote to U.S. Senators this week, adding that such punishments would be “a direct violation of the first amendment.” Even requesting information about companies that are boycotts would become illegal, the ACLU noted.

But the efforts to stymie boycott efforts in the United States and elsewhere — similar legislation has popped up in Europe — are far more sinister than just restricting the free speech and political expression of American and other supporters of Palestinians. Its true purpose is to block one of the few remaining legitimate, nonviolent tactics Palestinians have for achieving national self-determination and individual rights.

When the Israeli government and its supporters (the Senate bill is being promoted by AIPAC) attempt to delegitimize the Palestinian-led boycott — a political and economic pressure tactic well within the normative democratic toolbox — they are actually saying that Palestinians do not have the same political rights as others with regards to individual political expression, but more importantly, the right to national self-determination.


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Rattling the Gilded Cage: An Interview with Larry Derfner

“No Country for Jewish Liberals,” by Larry Derfner, Just World Books, 260 pp., $26.95

Moving to Israel was an experiment of sorts for Larry Derfner. As a journalist, it was an attempt to advance his career. More significantly, at least with the benefit of hindsight, it was an attempt to reconcile the intoxicating appeal of muscular nationalism with the liberal values he absorbed in his Los Angeles home and by coming of age in the Vietnam-era anti-war movement.

It was easier to be liberal in the United States because the real-world consequences of dovish policies rarely put you at personal risk, Derfner tells me in a broad-ranging conversation about his recent book, No Country for Jewish Liberals. “You want to be a liberal here? You better get a better idea of what’s at stake. I wanted to test my ideals against reality. That’s what I thought Israel was.”

Derfner is best known as a columnist and opinion writer, for The Jerusalem Post, for several years at +972 Magazine, and currently with Haaretz. The book itself also feels like a journalistic experiment at times: a director’s cut of his decades-long body of work. But mostly, it is an accounting of his personal political transformation, and through it, the story of Israel over the past three decades and the many deep-seated contradictions it comprises.

When Larry Derfner first started writing for +972 Magazine, one of the first major public discussions in which he took part centered on the question of whether Liberal Zionism poses an inherent contradiction. Looking back on that debate today, it is clear that Larry has always been uncompromising in his assessment of the world but is also willing to accept certain contradictions — and even some injustices — as unmovable foundations of reality. That often leaves him uncomfortably wedged between the uncompromising nature of the radical left and the mainstream’s unwillingness to look reality in the eyes.

Nevertheless, many of his views have continued to progress over the years.

In that +972 Magazine debate back in 2011, Derfner had already come to acknowledge that, “Zionism privileges the Jews over Arabs and other gentiles, and that’s at odds with liberal values.” However, he continued, “if Israel stops being a Jewish state it will become a Palestinian state, and on the way to that it will be a state at civil war that will bring on the exodus...

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Hundreds march against occupation on major West Bank highway

Palestinian and Israeli anti-occupation and pro-peace groups march along main settler highway. MK Ayman Odeh calls for Palestinian statehood while putting an end to ‘the racist discourse of separation.’

Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis marched along a major highway used by settlers in the West Bank on Friday demanding an end to the occupation and a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

For two years now, Combatants for Peace and other organizations have held the near-monthly marches on Route 60, the southern West Bank’s main north-south artery that connects Jerusalem, Beit Jala, the Gush Etzion settlements, and Hebron.

Participants marched along the side of the highway, chanting against the occupation and violence and playing drums. At the end of the march, several speakers addressed the crowd.

“We stand here together, Israelis and Palestinians, who want to build peace together, standing together against the occupation, and opposing the racist discourse of separation,” Member of Knesset Ayman Odeh, head of the Knesset’s third-largest party, said in a speech at the march. “The idea of seeking a Jewish majority is racist and harms our joint struggle. We support the establishment of a Palestinian state for the benefit of the Palestinian people and their right to live with independence and dignity, and because it will be good for both peoples.”

“It was really moving to see hundreds of people marching here today — Jews and Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories — chanting in two languages but with one message: Israeli-Palestinian peace is for the good of both peoples,” said Suf Patishi, one of the organizers of the event from Standing Together. “We will continue to march, and we will continue to speak that message.”

“We came together because we believe that with nonviolent, joint direct action against the occupation we can change the reality here,” said Karen Isaacs, an organizer with anti-occupation collective All That’s Left. “So I say, occupation is not my Judaism. Through nonviolent direct action, a world of kindness will be built here.”

[Video by A. Daniel Roth:]

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10 must-read articles for World Refugee Day

A selection of articles and stories about asylum seekers and refugees in Israel on the occasion of World Refugee Day. (Full disclosure, I couldn’t include just 10)

It has been more than a decade since refugees from Darfur first began making the dangerous journey across the Sinai desert in order to seek asylum in Israel. Since those early years, Israeli society and successive Israeli governments have become increasingly hostile toward the asylum seekers from Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere who sought safety and dignity in the country.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, here is a selection of articles about African refugees in Israel over the years. Since +972 Magazine was founded, we have always put special emphasis on telling refugees’ stories, letting refugees tell their own stories, and documenting their struggles in Israel.

The following list is organized semi-chronologically, with the most recent issues and coverage presented first. Also, check out our full collection of articles on refugees and asylum seekers in Israel.


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Extremist rabbi indicted for incitement against Palestinians

The indictment, which was approved by Israel’s attorney general, was the result of a years-long petition demanding the state take action. Israel’s quasi-constitution has no explicit protection of free speech.

A extremist Israeli settler rabbi who has published articles and books on the permissibility of killing non-Jews was indicted for incitement to violence on Tuesday, years after penning his most notorious work, “Torat Halmelech.”

The indictment of Rabbi Yosef Elitzur was the result of a petition filed two years ago by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), and Tag Meir, demanding that the state take criminal action against him.

“It is high time Israel cease to tolerate the intolerable,” Anat Hoffman, executive director of IRAC, said of the indictment. “A rabbi like him contaminates our Jewish tradition and pollutes our democracy. Freedom of speech ends when hate and violence are preached and practiced.”

Incitement charges are most common against Palestinians in Israel, with authorities rarely holding Jewish citizens to the same standards of criminal liability. Freedom of speech is not explicitly guaranteed under Israeli law, and authorities and legislators place many limits on protected speech in the country.

Read +972’s Special Coverage: Censorship and Freedom of Information

In recent years, hundreds of Palestinians have been put on trial in civilian and military courts for statuses posted on Facebook that Israeli authorities deem inciting.

One of the most famous cases was the trial of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, who was charged criminally for a poem she wrote and posted online. Earlier this week, a Jewish Israeli activist lawyer was criminally convicted for a song he wrote about a police officer.

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Netanyahu vows to occupy the West Bank forever

If Israel is not willing to relinquish military control over the West Bank, then it is saying that there can be no two-state solution.

Benjamin Netanyahu last week promised that Israel will never relinquish security control over the West Bank, even as part of a two-state peace deal, which is to say that the Israeli army will occupy the Palestinian territory forever.

“[I]n any agreement, and even without an agreement, we will maintain security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” the prime minister said at an event marking 50 years since Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza Strip, putting them under military rule, otherwise known as the occupation.

Let’s break that down: the Israeli prime minister, who regularly blames the Palestinians for the lack of progress toward peace, has openly admitted — again — that he is unwilling to end the occupation. Without ending the occupation there can be no Palestinian sovereignty. Without Palestinian sovereignty there can be no Palestinian state, and no national self-determination.

Without Palestinian national self-determination and statehood, the Palestinian people are left living as subjects under a military regime with no civil rights, no suffrage.

But have no illusions, this is far from the first time that Netanyahu made clear that he has no intention of ever ending the occupation. The world has heard him say it time and again, year after year.

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Yet time and again, the world pretends like the Israeli prime minister is a partner for peace, that if only the Palestinians could be convinced to make one more concession, peace would be within reach.

The truth is that Netanyahu’s grasp on power is predicated on his record of stability, which means maintaining the status quo — occupation and all. For the most part, Israelis are in one of most comfortable positions they’ve ever been in vis-à-vis the Palestinians. There is no urgency to end the occupation. The perceived risk in relinquishing territory and “security control” to the Palestinians far outweighs any perceived benefit.

What Netanyahu said this week, however, is not only that he doesn’t think it wise to take those risks in the foreseeable future. He...

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