Israel Votes and Hope Loses – Spectator Blogs

Today’s Israeli election does not, it is fair to say, take place in at a moment of supreme hope in the Middle East. Quite the contrary. This is an election whose result seems liable to depress most foreign observers. Bibi Netanyahu is no-one’s idea of a moderate but the fact remains that, presuming he is returned for a third term as Prime Minister, he may be one of the more left-wing members of the new Israeli government. Indeed, Netanyahu is liable to be one of the more liberal members returned on the Likud list. Daniel Levy has a very useful primer on the dispiriting ‘facts on the ground’. As Levy

Israel’s Tragedy: Even If She Wins She Loses – Spectator Blogs

Next time someone bores on about the so-called decline of the British literary novel you might consider pointing out to your dinner-party companion that this is not such a bad thing. It suggests, if the thesis is true, that there aren’t too many problems in this realm that are still worth exploring, far less solving. Consider, by contrast, the twin and warring agonies of Israel and Palestine. Is there a better, bigger, subject for any novelist working today than this? I suspect not which is one reason why the likes of Amos Oz and David Grossman (and, doubtless, others too) are vital in every sense of the word. These dual

Have Israel and Britain given up on each other?

Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement to authorise more than 800 new housing units in West Bank settlements, and the condemnation which followed from British Foreign Secretary William Hague, has marked a new high-water mark in the mutual frustration felt by the two governments. The move, which followed close on the heels of the Israeli Prime Minister’s decision to block legislation to regularise unauthorised settlement building, was criticised in a strongly-worded statement from Mr Hague last Thursday: ‘While we appreciate the Israeli Government’s efforts to avoid damaging legislation in the Israeli Knesset by voting against a bill to legalise West Bank outposts, the decision to move settlers from an illegal outpost by creating

The Israel Palestine question

After a hiatus, the Middle East Peace Process is about to return to the international stage. The Palestinians are pushing at the UN for recognition. Nobody knows yet what they will actually ask for: full statehood or just upgrading their UN status to “non-member”. But, whatever the language of the resolution, the issue will be contentious. By some estimates, 126 states are poised to back the Palestinian request, including France, India, Brazil, Spain. The US will not support a Palestinian move, nor is Germany likely to. Britain remains undecided, hoping to help the Palestinians draft a resolution that other Europeans can sign up to. It’s not clear what Britain and

Britain’s Palestinian statehood question

The Palestinians are seeking United Nations recognition as a state and a vote is apparently imminent. The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland has a useful account of the diplomatic arithmetic and explains how the possible vote could be decided by European countries and by Britain in particular. ‘Barack Obama has already said the US will vote against any Palestinian move towards statehood at the UN general assembly now gathering in New York. Large swaths of Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East plan to vote for it. Which leaves Europe as the diplomatic battleground. If the leading European powers side with the US, the Palestinian initiative will be seen as a

Relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorate

Last summer, I spoke to Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, about the Mavi Marmara row. Davatoglu was not only animated, but clear on what he thought. Unless Israel apologised, he said, the “relationship would change”. Now, Turkey has reacted to the publication of a UN report (which insists that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal but that Israeli soldiers used unreasonable force) by following through on some of Davutoglu’s threats. Many military agreements between Turkey and Israel have been suspended and the Israeli ambassador has been expelled. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, has also warned that relations will disintegrate further unless Israel offers an apology, pays compensation and removes

An Israeli Spring?

Israeli politicians have been worrying that the Palestinians would join the protests sweeping the Middle East. So far, this has not happened. But now the Israeli leadership is facing something it probably never expected: an Israeli Spring.   Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets last weekend to protest against the high cost of living and demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conduct extensive economic reforms. Over 150,000 people are thought to have demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Beersheba and six other cities in left-wing protests against housing policy, but which seem to be morphing into a broader political movement. The dissent began a few weeks ago when

Will Britain recognise Palestine?

Will Britain recognise Palestine as a state if, as planned, the matter comes to a vote at the UN General Assembly in September? Right now, the government says it has not decided. But if France were to push, the likelihood is that William Hague will order British diplomats either to accept or abstain from the vote. The strategic rationale for a Yes vote is obvious: at a time when Britain is waging war in Libya and rallying support against Syria and Iran, it would be disadvantageous to be seen by Middle Easterners as blocking Palestinian aspirations. And having accepted the case for Palestinian statehood in principle why not support it

Netanyahu’s Myopia

What scares Israel more than anything else? Not, I wager, the rockets flying over the fence from Gaza or even, at least on a quotidian basis, the Iranian shadow. No, what happens if the Palestinians say Yes? Granted, the Palestinian leaderships – not without their own battles – have persistently demonstrated a fatal lack of imagination. Jerusalem or Bust and it’s always been Bust. But if the Palestinians could bring themselves to acknowledge the Jewish state, Israel would find itself in a corner, hemmed in by the Palestinians’ engagement, international pressure and its own sense of what kind of country it should be. But freezing the conflict – which is

1967 And All That

How do you reconcile these comments? Argument A: “Abbas and co have had a laughably free pass despite their serial aggression, bad faith, reneging on treaties and repeated expressions of exterminatory aggression and incitement to hatred and murder of Jews. Yet it’s Israel alone upon which Obama has dumped, by expecting it to make suicidal concessions to its attackers. At best, Obama remains even-handed between Judeophobic exterminators and their victims; that puts him on the side of the exterminators.” Argument B: “Obama offered the Palestinians nothing.” They’re from the same post. If B is true then A seems odd; if A is true then B seems even odder. Meanwhile, it’s