Israel

The increasing irrelevance of Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem The most tedious question in Israeli politics is: ‘Will this be the end of Benjamin Netanyahu?’ It has come up again in recent weeks as Israel has found itself on the brink of chaos over his coalition government’s attempts to pass laws weakening the independence of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. And while the civilian unrest is unprecedented in the country’s history, anyone who has spent even a moderate amount of time observing Israel in the past decades should know by now that the answer, as long as Netanyahu is still breathing, is ‘no’. Netanyahu can’t discipline or sack his ministers. To do so would almost certainly cost

Netanyahu’s war on lawyers has thrown Israel into turmoil

Chaos reigns in Israel, a country in the throes of an ad hoc general strike called by trade unions, university students, numerous industries across the country, and many military and civil defence reservists. Demonstrators are storming buildings and fighting the police. Some council leaders say they are beginning a hunger strike. If you wanted to fly into Ben Gurion airport today, as tens of thousands of people usually do of a weekday, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. It’s closed.  Why is all of this happening? In the immediate term, because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked his defence minister, Yoav Gallant. Gallant is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and is a loyalist. He said that Netanyahu should

A Third Intifada looms in Israel

Peace has never seemed further away for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Several dreadful incidents recently have made that point sadly obvious. The most vicious was a terrorist attack: a horrific shooting in which seven people were killed and many injured outside a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday. We don’t know the organisational affiliation of the attacker, Khairi Alqam. He could have been Hamas. He could have been Islamic Jihad. None of those organisations claimed this attack. Some observers – on the basis of speculation, or possibly evidence not in the public domain at the moment – believe that he was a member of the Islamic State. What we know for sure is that this

It looks like Bibi is back from the dead

Could it really be over? As Israeli political reporters stand before their cameras or hunch over their keyboards, their brains screaming with caffeine, that is the one question they’re asking. As are millions of voters, who remarkably turned out on Tuesday in impressive numbers, despite their election fatigue.    As I write this, there are still a quarter of the votes in Israel’s general election waiting to be counted. Many of the ballot boxes come from Bedouin communities in the Negev desert and other Arab communities. Who knows, perhaps they could still change the outcome? Mathematically it’s certainly possible. Israel’s multi-party proportional-representation election system is a machine with a lot of

The agony and frustration of reporting from the Middle East

For 25 years, Abed Takkoush assisted foreign reporters like Jeremy Bowen when they arrived to cover the chaos and conflicts in Lebanon. He drove them around in his battered Mercedes, pointing out with grim relish the places where dark deeds had taken place: the assassinations, atrocities, kidnappings and slaughter of civilians that scar this mesmerising nation. During one Israeli onslaught in 1996, Abed sped past a gunship firing at cars on the highway between Sidon and Tyre, laughing with relief when shells exploded on the road rather than the car. ‘We laughed with him,’ writes the veteran BBC reporter. ‘It was a calculated risk. The alternative was turning back to

Stephen Daisley

Labour is still overrun with anti-Israel cranks

As unhinged Labour conference motions go, the party’s anti-Aukus resolution will likely capture the headlines. The text describes the new defence pact between Australia, the UK and the US as a ‘dangerous move that will undermine world peace’. Sir Keir Starmer is on record backing the alliance but the Labour leader can at least take comfort in how close the card vote was: a mere 70.35 per cent of delegates voted for the motion. For a classic Labour conference motion, though, the prize has to go to the composite on… the NHS? Covid? Fuel shortages? No, silly: Palestine. A motion was passed which ‘condemns the ongoing Nakba in Palestine’, using

Can Israelis trust the UN?

You probably think you’ve heard every story there is to hear about people getting fired over their tweets. Well, here’s the story of Sarah Muscroft. She’s got them all beat. Until last Friday, Muscroft was the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHA). For 72 hours beginning on 5 August, Islamic Jihad fired 1,000 rockets into Israel and Israel responded with 170 counterstrikes, with the terrorist group citing as its pretext Israel’s targeted killing of two of its senior commanders and the arrest of dozens of its members. Eventually, a ceasefire was brokered with the assistance of Egypt.  Muscroft, based

Are the Abraham Accords working?

Two years ago, UAE citizens were barred from entering Israel. No longer. The inaugural Emirates flight touched down in Tel Aviv last week, a Boeing 777 carrying 335 passengers. For much of the 20th century, the only thing that the Middle East could agree on was the destruction of the Jewish state. But attitudes are changing. The purported reason is the so-called Abraham Accords, signed in 2020 after Donald Trump decided to solve the seemingly intractable problem of the Middle East. If Don the Dealmaker couldn’t do it, who could? Seven decades of antagonism had failed, the White House argued, and the Palestinian cause seemed as troubled as ever, so

The odd couple: Israel and Turkey’s tentative alliance

 Jerusalem On Friday night, when the Israeli government usually shuts down for Shabbat, the Prime Minister’s office issued an emergency briefing. An attack on Israeli tourists in Istanbul was ‘imminent’, it said. Israelis in Turkey were ordered to stay in their hotel rooms for fear of assassins, sent by Iran. There was no attack that night, as it happened, but the threat to the many Israelis in Turkey remains. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has become increasingly enraged by Mossad’s assassinations of IRGC officers in Iran, and decided that the best and easiest way to get revenge is to target the thousands of Israelis in Istanbul. Both Turkish and Israeli

Is a return to power in Netanyahu’s grasp?

Jerusalem ‘Netanyahu’s coming back soon, and he’ll be back with a vengeance!’ Simcha Rothman’s eyes flashed as he made his bold prediction. The normally mild-mannered lawyer, an ultra-nationalist Knesset member, was convinced. ‘He’s coming back and it’s all the left-wing’s fault for demonising him. If it wasn’t for them, the right-wing would have found a different leader by now. But the left made him into an icon and much more dangerous.’ Will Rothman be vindicated soon? It’s been a year since Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, was forced into opposition by an eclectic coalition of parties united only by their determination to keep him out office. At 72,

Israel is an apartheid state

If you’re after evidence of apartheid in Israel, you don’t have to look very far. Amid rioting by Palestinians and Arabs, the Israel Police has declared the Temple Mount in Jerusalem off-limits. For ten days, only practitioners of one religion will be allowed to visit. For context, Temple Mount is home to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism, and is where the First and Second Temples stood until their destruction by the Babylonians and Romans, respectively. Following Jerusalem’s conquest by Islamic imperialists in the 7th century, a succession of caliphs worked to Islamise the Temple Mount by erecting Muslim worship sites including the Dome of the

How Israel’s Prime Minister got burnt by bread

Jerusalem For nearly ten months now, ever since his surprising elevation to the Israeli prime minister’s office, Naftali Bennett has been focused mainly on one thing. He has been trying to prove to Israelis that he can be every bit the master statesman his predecessor, the eternal Benjamin Netanyahu was. And by all accounts that has worked well. He’s had two successful meetings with Joe Biden and met twice with Vladimir Putin as well, the second of those meetings, a surprising flight to Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine began, was made in the hope of brokering a ceasefire between the two countries. He charmed world leaders with ‘green tech’ ideas

Stephen Daisley

Is Israel facing a new Intifada?

Dizengoff Street is one of the busiest thoroughfares in Tel Aviv, a strip of bars, restaurants and Bauhaus architecture that is typically bustling with young people on a Thursday evening. Last night, it was the scene of the latest Palestinian terror attack when a gunman opened fire outside the Ilka bar, killing three and wounding nine. One of those killed was Olympic kayaker Barak Lopen, who represented Israel at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. In the past two weeks, 14 Israelis have been killed by a mixture of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists. For comparison, there were 17 terrorism-related fatalities in the entirety of last year. I asked on Coffee House

Why is Biden copying Obama’s mistakes with Iran?

There was a picture taken on Tuesday that says more than just a thousand words. The photograph was snapped in Sharm el-Sheikh and shows Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett seated either side of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. According to the Egyptian president’s office, they met to discuss ‘the repercussions of global developments, especially with regard to energy, market stability, and food security’ but ‘they also exchanged visions and views on the latest developments of several international and regional issues’. That’s a very wordy way of saying ‘Iran’. Obama and Biden’s foreign policies are indistinguishable Iran is what this meeting

Mossad is preparing to strike at the heart of Iran’s nuclear programme

Iran is about to be hit by a fresh wave of Mossad operations, sources in Jerusalem have told me. This is the result of a change in Israeli policy: from now on, when Tehran’s proxy militias make trouble in the region, the Jewish state will retaliate on Iranian soil. ‘No more attacking the tentacles of the octopus,’ one source said. ‘Now we will go for the head.’ For the foreseeable future, I can confirm, this will not take the form of air raids, missile strikes or drone attacks. Instead, Israel’s feared secret service has been told to carry out pinpoint operations inside the Islamic Republic, inflicting surgical but devastating punishment.

Priti Patel’s Hamas ban doesn’t go far enough

It’s been a rough old week for Hamas. The UK announced plans to proscribe the organisation, Justin Bieber ignored its call to cancel his 2022 concert in Tel Aviv, and even the recently friendly Labour party has vowed that it ‘does not and will not support BDS’. One minute, you’re going about your business, trying to drive the Jews into the sea, and the next you’re being treated like you’re the bad guy. Priti Patel’s decision to add Hamas to the Home Office list of terrorist organisations corrects a 20-year-old error which saw the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades — Hamas’s paramilitary wing — outlawed in 2001 but the rest of

The sinister targeting of Israel’s ambassador at the LSE

A mob waving flags and chanting slogans hounds a Jewish leader, forcing her to be bundled into a car and driven off for her own safety. These were scenes that might have been expected on 9 November 1938, when the ‘Kristallnacht’ pogroms raged across Nazi Germany, marking the beginning of the Holocaust. Instead, they took place 83 years later, on 9 November 2021, outside that august institution, the London School of Economics, in the heart of the British capital. The recent BBC series Ridley Road smugly suggested that antisemitism in this country was confined to decades past; real life is far more worrying. Antisemitic, you say? That’s a bit strong. The baying

In Israel, there’s never an easy fix

From an Israeli army base on the border with Lebanon, I can see the village of Maroun al-Ras. An Iranian flag flies from the dome of the mosque. Nearby, strapped to a post, is a 20ft cutout of the late Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, which was put there earlier this year by Hezbollah after he was killed by an American air strike. His right arm and index finger are stretched out, pointing menacingly over the valley at Israel. Hezbollah, backed by Tehran, control Maroun al-Ras, and I can hear the buzz of a drone watching them. Some Israeli officials say Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb

The Democrat ‘squad’ will regret shooting down Israel’s Iron Dome

America’s left-wing progressives won a victory this week in their long-running battle with Israel. They managed, at least temporarily, to block $1 billion (£730 million) in U.S. funding to replenish the missile interceptors Israel used to shoot down the latest barrage of terror rockets from Gaza. The funding was initially included in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stopgap spending measure to raise the debt ceiling and fund the U.S. government. The victory was short-lived since House leaders stuck the funding into another bill after the public outcry. Who opposed the funding? The leaders were the ‘Squad,’ particularly congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Like others on the hard left across America and

How China drove a wedge between America and Israel

Two weeks ago, CIA director William Burns – who has rather a lot on his plate just now – had a quiet word in the Israeli prime minister’s ear about Chinese investment in the Jewish state. It was the latest and most urgent of America’s attempts to prevent Israel from slipping further towards the Beijing dragon’s maw, an issue which has increasingly threatened to drive a wedge between the two allies. It’s no secret that in recent years, Uncle Sam has found himself asleep at the wheel while China has been pushing ahead in the global race. Four decades of pursuing a policy of friendship towards Beijing had simply opened