8/11/15 Growing Criticism of Netanyahu's Actions in Washington - History

8/11/15 Growing Criticism of Netanyahu's Actions in Washington - History


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by Marc Schulman

When the P5+1 agreement with Iran was reached I wrote a piece on Israel’s response to the deal. Before I actually started talking to people I was sure my article would say something to this effect–“While until now Prime Minister Netanyahu has had the support of almost all Israeli politicians, as well as the public, now that the agreement has been finalized – if he continues to protest against it – he might find himself alone in that fight.” After interviewing and speaking with a wide range of Israelis I ended up writing a very different article; an article reporting that the majority of Israelis truly stand with Netanyahu.

Over the past few weeks most Israelis, across the political spectrum, began to look nervously at events taking place in Washington – as Prime Minister Netanyahu, supported by a large part of the organized Jewish community staked out positions on one side and President Obama and his supporters (including the remainder of the Jewish community) held their ground on the other side of the debate on the deal with Iran. Both sides have chosen to engage in scorched earth tactics in their fight over the plight of the agreement with Iran in the Congress. Concerns over the Congressional vote on the deal reached a strident peak, after the twin speeches – first by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Jewish community via video conference, followed by President Obama’s response at American University to what Netanyahu had to say. In each of their comments both leaders “protested too much” that the current disagreement will not effect future relations.

In Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech he stated that “It wasn’t long, certainly not that long ago, that the Jewish people were either incapable, or unwilling to speak out in the face of mortal threats, and this had devastating consequences.” The Prime Minister called on American Jewry not to remain silent in the face of this threat.

President Obama’s speech contained a long defense of the agreement with Iran. In response to Netanyahu’s remarks, the President stated: “I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees; disagrees strongly. I do not doubt his sincerity. But I believe he is wrong. I believe the facts support this deal. I believe they are in America’s interest and Israel’s interest. And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally. I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States. I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel.”

Israeli politicians and others remained reticent to voice their disapproval of Netanyahu’s strategy, until the above exchange and an interview with President Reuven Rivlin, in which the President strongly criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying that:

“The most important strategic asset Israel has is its relationship with the United States; the second most important strategic asset Israel has is its relationship with the United States; and the third most important strategic asset Israel has is its relationship with the United States.

Rivilin’s words opened a floodgate of criticism against Netanyahu. MK Omer Bar Lev, from the Zionist Camp, and former commander of the elite forces unit Sayeret Matkal, wrote a long Facebook post asserting the agreement with Iran is not bad. General (ret.) Moshe Kuplinksy, former commander of the Central Command and military advisor to PM Ariel Sharon, appeared on Channel 10’s nightly news, and stated that what is going on in Washington, is a disaster and will weaken Israel. Kuperwasser stated: “We must accept the fact that this is a done deal, and that the Americans do not have to ask us before they enter into an agreement”.

Speaking yesterday to group of Congress members brought to Israel by AIPAC, Opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog stated that the P5+1 agreement with Iran was not a good deal, and went on to criticize two main points of the agreement – First, Herzog expressed deep concern that the effects of releasing all of the money to Iran “might destabilize the region between moderate and extreme nations.” Furthermore, Herzog was disturbed that the agreement recognized Iran as a nuclear threshold State in 10–15 years, something that it is currently not. Herzog continued:

“However, there is a big ‘but’ between Netanyahu and me in the following – I have no intention of intervening in American politics. I have no intention of telling you what to vote for, and I have not intention of directly challenging and frontally the White House and the President of the United States. I think the relationship between our countries is key to Israel’s National security.”… I think arguments between us and United States are arguments between the family. We must set rules on how we argue and we may not cross some lines.”

Zahava Galon, head of the Meretz opposition party, has supported the agreement all along, while recognizing some of its weaknesses. Galon declared that “what the government of Israel needs to do now is put and end to the unnecessary icy relationship with the White House and dissociate from any field attempts to carry out a coup against the President in the U.S. Congress.”

Even Yair Lapid, who when I had interviewed him the day the agreement was announced spoke about his intention to join the fight against it in Congress stated yesterday: “For 67 years Israel took care to not be aligned with any party.” …“Today, Israel is [seen as being] on the side of the Republican party. We have no way of maintaining the allegiance [with the US] if we don’t repair this damage. The damage has Netanyahu’s name on it, so he is the one who must repair it,” Lapid alerted.

In Netanyahu’s speech to the Jewish Federations he lamented, “Here in Israel, Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Labor Opposition, the man who ran against me in this year’s election, and who works every day in the Knesset to bring down my government, Herzog has said that there is no daylight between us when it comes to the deal with Iran.” That is no longer the case.

It is likely that if a poll were held in Israel today Netanyahu would still have the support of the majority of Israelis. However, the extent to which this fight has led to a souring of relations between the U.S. and Israel has given many Israeli pause. As a result, a significant number of Israelis are calling on the government to accept reality and stop fighting a rear-guard action that harms Israel’s interests.


Criticism of the Israeli government

Criticism of the Israeli government, often referred to simply as criticism of Israel, [1] [2] [3] is an ongoing subject of journalistic and scholarly commentary and research within the scope of international relations theory, expressed in terms of political science. Within the scope of global aspirations for a community of nations, Israel has faced international criticism since its declaration of independence in 1948 relating to a variety of topics, [4] [5] [6] [7] both historical and contemporary.

The government of Israel has been criticized for issues regarding Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, its treatment of Palestinians, the conduct of the Israeli Defense Forces in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip, [8] with its impact on the economy of the Palestinian territories, the country's nuclear weapons arsenal, [9] and its targeted killings program. [10] [11] Other long-standing issues with ongoing consequences have also been criticized including: the refusal to allow post-war Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and the prolonged occupation of territories gained in war and the construction of settlements therein. Israel's status as a representative democracy has also been questioned because Israeli residents of the occupied territories are allowed to vote in Israel's elections while Palestinian residents are not. [12] [13] [14]

Criticisms of Israeli policies come from several groups: primarily from activists, within Israel and worldwide, the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations including European churches, and mass media. Media bias is often claimed by both sides of the debate. Since 2003, the UN has issued 232 resolutions with respect to Israel, 40% of all resolutions issued by the UN over the period and more than six times that of the second placed country, Sudan. [15] Some critics of the Israeli government seek to delegitimize Israel's right to exist, [16] [17] [18] which has led to an ongoing debate regarding at what point criticism of the Israeli government crosses the line to antisemitism. One of the effects of international criticism has been the impact on the social psychology of the Israeli Jewish public—according to a survey, more than half of Israelis believe "the whole world is against us", and three quarters of Israelis believe "that no matter what Israel does or how far it goes towards resolving the conflict with the Palestinians, the world will continue to criticize Israel". [19]


Netanyahu Torches CBS Host On What U.S. Would Do If Attacked: ‘You Know Damn Well What You Would Do’

Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed CBS News host John Dickerson on Sunday over seeming insinuations Dickerson made that Israel was not being careful to avoid the killing of innocent civilians as it targeted Palestinian terrorists inside Gaza.

Netanyahu noted that Israel was going out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, sometimes having to take “special pains” to prevent innocents from being harmed.

“You know, if Hamas would simply move these rockets out of the civilian areas, if they moved their command posts out of these homes and offices, then there wouldn’t be any problem,” Netanyahu said. “You know it. And I know it. But the fact is they’re sending thousands of rockets on our cities with the specific purpose of murdering our civilians from these places.”

“What would you do?” he continued. “If it happened to Washington or to New York? You know damn well what you would do. You’d do at the very least what we’re doing.”

Further, Netanyahu presses Dickerson: "What would you do if it happened to Washington and to New York? You know damn well what youɽ do. You do, at the very least, what we're doing." pic.twitter.com/CGL50se7C1

— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) May 16, 2021

JOHN DICKERSON: And Mr. Prime Minister, the arguments about how careful Israel have been are familiar ones to your critics. And in this case, with 181 Palestinians dead, 52 of them children, there’s significant criticism. Amnesty International has asked the International Criminal Court to look into a refugee camp attack. The UN is meeting today. Foreign ministers of the EU are meeting, and the response has been like this one from the foreign minister of Ireland: “Israel has international legal obligation to protect children in conflict and are not doing so.”

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: That’s just false. I mean, the reason we have these casualties is because Hamas is criminally attacking us from civilian neighborhoods, from schools, from homes, from office buildings. That’s what they’re doing.

JOHN DICKERSON: But–

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: And we’re taking action, trying to target them with as great precision as we can. Unfortunately, there are occasionally civilian casualties, which we regret. But here’s what happens. When the international community attacks Israel, they’re actually encouraging Hamas to continue these attacks because Hamas says it’s great, we’re both killing Israeli civilians. And unfortunately, some of our — and they’re happy with their own civilian casualties because it gets the international community to focus their attacks on Israel instead of Hamas.

JOHN DICKERSON: But it’s–

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: That’s wrong. It’s both wrong and unproductive. Because actually what it does is prolong the conflict and escalate and increase the number of casualties that happen as a result of the continuation of the conflict.

JOHN DICKERSON: But the question, Mr. Prime Minister, is U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that Israel has an extra burden, that Israel, because of its strength and power and dominance, has an extra burden on these questions of casualties. The question is whether Israel is meeting its extra burden in responding to these rocket attacks from Hamas.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Certainly are, and I can tell you that there have been many studies by serious military analysts who have compared Israel’s actions with that of other Western armies in similar situations, fighting radical Islamists, whether it’s in Iraq or in Afghanistan or elsewhere. And you know how prolonged those conflicts are, how many casualties are caused. So I think there has to be a measure of fairness. There has to be a measure of reasonableness in projecting this kind of criticism against the Israeli army that is second to none in seeking to minimize civilian casualties while protecting our own civilians. You know, if Hamas would simply move these rockets out of the civilian areas, if they moved their command posts out of these homes and offices, then there wouldn’t be any problem.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you, Mr. Prime–

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: You know it. And I know it. But the fact is they’re sending thousands of rockets on our cities with the specific purpose of murdering our civilians from these places.–

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you–

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: What would you do?

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you–

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: If it happened to Washington or to New York? You know damn well what you would do.

JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Prime Minister, let me ask–

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: You’d do at the very least what we’re doing.

The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member .


Netanyahu’s Negotiating With Neo-Fascists for a ‘Consensus View’ of the Holocaust

To the consternation of Diaspora Jews who feel increasingly threatened, Israel’s prime minister is making nice with Europe’s far-right leaders and compromising history.

Noga Tarnopolsky

ODED BALILTY

JERUSALEM—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen an improbable way of celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding: He’s palling around with neo-fascists and coddling Holocaust revisionists.

The year 2018 has seen Netanyahu embracing a parade of such leaders and, in a no less perplexing twist, we've had the Jewish state blatantly dismissing the needs of Diaspora Jews as they face mounting antisemitism and insecurity in Western countries roiled by social unrest.

On Thursday, Netanyahu acknowledged that he is negotiating with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for an acceptable “consensus narrative” in which the Hungarian state’s part in the Nazi crimes that wiped out half a million Hungarian Jews during World War II will be minimized, if not erased, in a new revisionist Holocaust museum to be opened in Budapest.

On Tuesday Netanyahu was welcoming Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new, nationalist interior minister to Jerusalem.

Salvini, you guessed it, is a close European ally of Orbán. He acceded to his post last summer and has become Western Europe’s de facto leader of the populist anti-immigration movement since.

Italian Jews are not thrilled by the visit. A statement written by philosopher and painter Stefano Levi Della Torre and circulated among Italian Jewish communities says it is “alarming that Netanyahu is about to provide Salvini with a pro-Israel license [that would] exonerate him from the suspicions of anti-Semitism while he carries on with his xenophobic, racist campaign and with his alliances with anti-Semitic forces in Italy and Europe.”

A few hours ahead of his arrival, an irritated Salvini told Israel’s Foreign Press Association that “the growing anti-Semitism goes together with Islamic extremism, to which no one is paying attention.” Thus letting old-fashioned European fascist anti-Semitism off the hook. Salvini added, “I don’t have to justify myself every time I go to Israel.”

Protests were planned for Salvini’s visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, and Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who opposes Netanyahu’s cozy rapport with neo-fascists, announced he would not be receiving Salvini.

If you scratch beneath the surface of Netanyahu’s new friendships, the picture becomes clear: Like Britain’s UKIP and possibly like U.S. President Donald Trump, Netanyahu hopes to destabilize what has come to be known as “the international order.”

One way he is trying to do this is by encouraging European nations to break EU ranks and move their embassies to Jerusalem, as Trump has. Last month, Netanyahu welcomed Czech President Milos Zeman to Israel and accompanied him as Zeman opened a “Czech House” in the Israeli capital.

Jerusalem is burbling with rumors that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who visited Israel in October and hopes to defeat Israel’s boycott of his Freedom Party ministers who represent a onetime neo-Nazi movement, may move his embassy to Jerusalem.

In September, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was embraced by Netanyahu, even though he is a self-professed fan of Adolf Hitler who said he’d “be happy” to emulate Hitler by exterminating 3 million drug users and vendors.

Netanyahu recently announced his plans to attend the inauguration of Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, another figure on the nationalist far right who is dangling the possibility of moving his embassy to Jerusalem as an enticement for Netanyahu.

President Rivlin, who has become more vocal on the subject, told CNN last week that “you can't say we admire the State of Israel and want ties with it, but we're neo-fascists.”

In July it was Orbán’s turn for a whirl around Jerusalem, and that is when they may have discussed plans for the House of Fates, an institution intended to instill in the public a revisionist interpretation of Holocaust history, a “consensus narrative” in which the murder of more than half a million Hungarian Jews, enabled by the Nazi-allied government of Miklós Horthy , will be reconfigured.

The Israeli foreign ministry holds that any new Holocaust museum should stick to the historical record “as it is depicted in Yad Vashem and in Washington’s Holocaust Museum,” but was overruled by Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s foreign minister, and its representatives were shut out of talks between Orbán and Netanyahu officials last week in Jerusalem.

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, and the son of a Holocaust survivor, described Netanyahu’s action as “appalling.”

Netanyahu’s agreement “to Hungary's attempt to eliminate its part in the Holocaust is appalling,” he tweeted. “The Hungarians were deeply involved in the destruction of Hungarian Jewry as part of the murder machine. The only response to Orbán’s is that the museum should reflect the truth and nothing else. No negotiations, no consensus, just truth.”

Orbán has appointed Maria Schmidt, an historian and the leader of a movement to rewrite the Holocaust, to lead the House of Fates. Schmidt first made her name whitewashing history as the founder of Budapest’s House of Terror, a pseudo-museum advancing the theory that the suffering of eastern European nations who fell into the Soviet sphere of influence after WWII was worse than the suffering inflicted by the Nazi régime in Germany.

Schmidt, one of Orbán’s closest associates, was most recently associated with an overt act of political antisemitism Orbán has refused to condemn: last week’s cover of Figyelő, the “conservative Christian” business magazine owned by Schmidt, showed the face of Hungarian Jewish community president András Heisler surrounded by banknotes.

An Orbán spokesperson told World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder that any comment would “be contrary to freedom of the press.”

The Netanyahu high-wire act on Holocaust revisionism has reached an apex just as the European Union is grappling with a frightening upswing in European antisemitism.

On Thursday, rejecting several points Netanyahu had advanced, the EU adopted a new working definition of antisemitism.

Some EU states fear that the definition issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) that has been adopted by over 20 countries and that Israel pushed for, could stifle criticism of Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The IHRA states that some criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic, including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, or by applying double standards to Israel not imposed upon other nations.”

The EU chose to use the IHRA definition merely as a “guidance tool.”

A second EU survey published Monday reported that an astonishing nine out of 10 European Jews believe anti-Semitism has worsened in their countries over the past five years and more than one third are considering emigration.

The report prepared by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was based on a poll of 16,000 respondents in 12 member states.

Almost 30 percent of the respondents said they had experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment in the past year, and 2 percent reported having been physically attacked, with a further 2 percent saying their property had been deliberately vandalized in the past year because they were Jewish.

In October, following the deadly attack against the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer said that whereas “Netanyahu wants the right to speak as the representative of all Jews, in America and Europe he's abandoned all pretense of solidarity with them.”

In 2015, upon returning to Israel from a memorial ceremony for French Jews murdered in a terror attack, Netanyahu said, "I went to Paris not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people."

In fact, Pfeffer notes, “t he elected leader of a country in which less than half the Jews of the world live (and only a quarter of them actually voted for him in the last election) wants the right to address the world as the representative of all Jews. And he won’t even check with them first.”


Netanyahu calls for administrative detentions to quell Arab-Jewish violence

Visiting the central Israeli city of Lod, which has been the scene of major Jewish-Arab riots over the past few days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he would approve far-reaching measures to quell the violence seen across Israel, including deploying military forces.

His comments contradicted those of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has said he does not agree to using the military for policing operations.

Meeting with Border Police officers sent to the city, Netanyahu said: “We have no bigger threat now than these pogroms, and we have no choice but to restore law and order via determined use of force.”

Speaking after the worst night of internal Jewish-Arab chaos for years, with scenes of rioting, hate rallies, and growing social chaos spreading throughout numerous cities, Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Forces were trained in containing such unrest and should be called in “to prevent these riots, this calamity and violence.”

Citing the response to the 1976 “Land Day” mass protests in which IDF troops were deployed to several Arab Israeli cities (and four Arab Israeli civilians were killed by the IDF), Netanyahu said there was precedent for such a move and that Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai “has the approval and permission to use IDF forces in the way that is already permitted by law today.”

It is unlikely that Netanyahu has authority to approve such action independently.

Apparently siding with Gantz, Shabtai was quoted by Hebrew media following Netanyahu’s comments as telling associates that he objects to deploying the army.

Netanyahu also proposed the use of administrative detention of rioters, a controversial measure commonly deployed against Palestinians in the West Bank.

“There are nationalist elements here who are breaking the law, in fact, disturbing the framework of the State of Israel, so in the face of such a threat, it is possible to use administrative detentions,” Netanyahu said.

Administrative detention enables authorities to detain people for extended periods of time without leveling formal charges against them, in a practice decried by critics as undemocratic and abusive, but defended by the security establishment as a necessary measure in cases where revealing the evidence would harm national security.

Amid criticism of police actions in the past week of riots across the country, including in Jerusalem, Netanyahu told Border Police officers in Lod to act without the fear of investigation of their actions.

“We hear talk of apprehension over [future] commissions of inquiry, investigations, inspections — we will give you all the tools to protect yourself and the citizens of Israel,” he said. “You have our full backing, do not be afraid.”

Gantz on Thursday ordered a major call-up of Border Police reservists to bolster officers working to contain the unrest, but specifically ruled out deploying troops at this time.

“We are in a time of emergency,” Gantz said, noting the nationalist background of the turmoil. “At this time, a massive response by forces on the ground is needed.”

However, Gantz stressed that no IDF soldiers would be involved in police activities, “which are not part of the IDF’s mission as a people’s army.”

Gantz added that policing and enforcement were not a replacement for “responsible leadership and reducing the tensions.”

Later Thursday, Gantz, who also serves as justice minister, was reported to have agreed with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and other senior officials that top priority would be given to investigating the violence that is currently taking place across the country.

Despite two previous days of ever-expanding unrest, and a call-up of reinforcements for both police and Border Police, law enforcement once again Thursday seemed unequipped to handle the scope of the chaos, with many scenes of violence going ahead.

Violence continued Thursday morning with a Jewish man, 34, stabbed near a market in Lod, a city with Jewish and Arab populations that has become an epicenter of the ethnic violence gripping the country. The injured man was on his way to prayers and was attacked near a mosque in the city, according to Hebrew media reports.

“He went to the car and on his way, a group of Arabs shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and attacked him with stones and rocks,” his wife told Army Radio. “One pulled out a pocketknife and stabbed him in the back. He managed to fend him off and escape, but another Arab man still tried to grab him.”

“I saw the whole thing from the window of the house. I screamed for them to leave, but I was afraid to come down in case something happened to me,” she said.

The man suffered moderate injuries and was taken to the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Rishon Lezion for treatment, the Israel Police said in a statement. The stabber escaped.

Meanwhile, an Arab woman in the city was seriously injured by a rock thrown at her head. She was pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby at the hospital after the attack, according to reports.

In the south of the country, street lights were toppled into the road along Route 31 between Beersheba and Arad, Kan news reported. Video footage showed cars driving slowly under the lamps. One driver said that stones were thrown at his car, and that police were not taking any action.

בכביש מערד לב"ש הופלו עמודי תאורה כדי לחסום רכבים של יהודים ולפגוע בהם, לצד מחסומי אש. נהג יהודי לכאן חדשות: "השוטרים חסמו את כביש 31 – אבל לא את הכניסה אליו. רגמו אותי באבנים 4 ק"מ מהמחסום שהיו בו שוטרים. הם לא עשו כלום[email protected] pic.twitter.com/Xft8rxUTrC

&mdash כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 13, 2021

In other incidents during the morning, a small hotel was set on fire in Jewish-Arab Acre and two police patrol cars were torched in the Arab town of Kfar Qasim.

Five people were arrested in Jerusalem on suspicion of attacking a Jewish man near the Damascus Gate to the Old City, police said. In a video of the incident, several youths were seen running up behind an ultra-Orthodox man, knocking him to the floor and trampling on him before running off. The man required medical treatment, police said.

Violence between the Jewish and Arab communities spiraled from confrontations in Jerusalem surrounding the month-long Muslim month of Ramadan and clashes on the Temple Mount, and came to a head as Israel engaged in an escalating clash with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

President Reuven Rivlin, who celebrated a Ramadan iftar meal just weeks ago, on Wednesday condemned what he termed a “pogrom” by a “bloodthirsty Arab mob.” As Jewish mobs joined the fray, he later called on all sides to “stop this madness.”

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Biden approves $735m sale of precision-guided missiles to Israel, drawing criticism from Democrats

The Biden administration has approved the sale of $735m of precision-guided weapons to Israel, raising the ire of some Democrats who question support for the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Washington Post reports that Congress was officially notified of the proposed sale on 5 May, citing three people familiar with the notification — a week before the current conflict with Hamas began.

Rockets fired from Gaza into Israel have led to the deaths of 10 Israelis. Airstrikes on Gaza have left almost 200 Palestinians dead.

The Biden administration has called for a ceasefire but also maintains that Israel has the right to defend itself.

While a large majority of Congress backs this position, a growing minority of Democrats, particularly in the House of Representatives, have raised concerns about supporting Mr Netanyahu and question the timing of the sale.

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Some suggest using the sale as leverage to push for a ceasefire.

“In the past week, the Israeli military's strikes have killed many civilians and destroyed the building that housed the Associated Press, an American company reporting on the facts in Gaza,” a Democratic lawmaker on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the Post.

“Allowing this proposed sale of smart bombs to go through without putting pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire will only enable further carnage.”

After official notification of a weapons sale, Congress has 15 days to object by way of a non-binding resolution of disapproval.

Most of the deal with Boeing is for Joint Direct Attack Munitions which transform bombs into precision-guided missiles.

Israel maintains it uses precision-guided munitions to minimise civilian casualties, accusing Hamas of using its own people as human shields in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Given the majority support for Israel in Congress, it is unlikely that action will be taken to block the sale, but coming during the middle of the current conflict, it has highlighted a growing split in the Democrat ranks over the special treatment the ally receives.

Younger lawmakers, in particular, are more open to criticising Israel’s actions, and this has opened the way for criticism from those that defend the country as the death toll in Gaza mounts.

“I am deeply troubled by reports of Israeli military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as Israeli targeting of buildings housing international media outlets,” said Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a statement over the weekend.

Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin tweeted: “We cannot just condemn rockets fired by Hamas and ignore Israel’s state-sanctioned police violence against Palestinians — including unlawful evictions, violent attacks on protestors & the murder of Palestinian children. US aid should not be funding this violence.”

New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez labelled Israel an “apartheid state” on Twitter saying that it could not be considered a democracy.

She also tweeted: “This is happening with the support of the United States. I don’t care how any spokesperson tries to spin this. The US vetoed the UN call for ceasefire. If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to? How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights?”


Criticism grows over Netanyahu's response to US neo-Nazism

Jerusalem (AFP) - Criticism grew Thursday over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's limited response to a US white supremacist rally and President Donald Trump's controversial remarks about it, with calls for him to speak out against anti-Semitism.

The issue highlighted Netanyahu's reluctance to be seen as criticising Trump, who has expressed strong support for Israel and whose rise to the presidency was welcomed by the Israeli premier, some analysts said.

Netanyahu regularly speaks out against anti-Semitism in other countries, but the United States is Israel's most important ally, providing it with more than $3 billion per year in defence aid and important diplomatic backing.

Netanyahu had a testy relationship with Barack Obama, a Democrat who often pressured him over Israeli settlement building, but he has repeatedly praised Republican Trump.

So far, Netanyahu's only response to the weekend white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that ended in bloodshed was a tweet on Tuesday that many saw as vague.

"Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred," Netanyahu posted in English.

A Facebook post by Netanyahu's son Yair further raised eyebrows.

He denounced "neo-Nazi scum," but added that they were "dying out" and seemed to suggest left-wing counter-protesters "who hate my country" were a growing threat.

Criticism of Netanyahu among opposition politicians and others has grown louder over the last couple of days, particularly after Trump's comments on Tuesday in which he said there was "blame on both sides."

Perhaps the harshest criticism came from Shelly Yachimovich, a parliament member and former leader of the opposition Labour party.

"‎And you, the prime minister of the Jewish people in their land, the man who constantly warns us about a Holocaust, with excessive portions of fear and bombast and promises of '‎never again,' ‎what about you?" she wrote on Facebook.

"Was it too trivial, an anti-Semitic march in Charlottesville with Third Reich memorabilia?"

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, also from Labour, said "an Israeli leader should have said within six hours our position as Jews, as Israelis, as brothers of a large community, the American Jewish community, including in Charlottesville, who live under threat."

Others issued more forceful denunciations of the rally than Netanyahu, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Opposition member Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, pointedly said in reference to Trump's comments that "there aren't two sides."

Israeli papers devoted front-page coverage to Trump's comments on Thursday, with top-selling paper Yedioth Ahronoth running a photo of him and the headline "shame."

Some commentators however pointed out that freesheet Israel Hayom, owned by Netanyahu and Trump backer Sheldon Adelson, buried the story deep inside the paper.

A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment on Thursday.

After Netanyahu's post on Tuesday, an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity that "the tweet is unequivocal and states his revulsion at the scenes of bigotry that the world has witnessed."

But for some, it has not been nearly enough.

Gideon Rahat of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank said the Israeli government should be expected to respond to such events as a state founded as a "safe haven" for Jews.

"You know we always have the Holocaust on our minds, so you take this and you see that Jews are attacked somewhere," Rahat said.

But he said of Netanyahu that "I think that his concerns are his relationship with Trump."

For Abraham Diskin, an emeritus political science professor at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, Netanyahu has no choice but to be "cautious."

"You have to choose your fights," he said.

"You cannot fight on every issue. You cannot clash with someone who is that important to Israel on issues like that."

Whether Netanyahu could see a wider political backlash at home over the issue is an open question.

For Rahat, denunciation of such anti-Semitism is part of the "consensus" in Israel and opposition figures "can clearly use it against" Netanyahu.

Diskin said however that he believed most Israelis would not focus on the issue for long.

"Altogether, I think the vast majority of people will not remember the issue a week from now," he said.


Biden and key Democrats adopt forceful stance on end to conflict

As the Israeli war military machine pounded Gaza harder and harder, a shift in Washington’s perspective of the war began to rapidly evolve. As President Biden’s conversations with Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu increased in number, totaling six, they also became franker. Ultimately, along with Egypt’s role in convincing Hamas to end its rocket attacks, Biden’s insistence that Israel’s pounding of Gaza stop was definitive.

Biden had help from members of his party, in particular Senator Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who, according to the Washington Post, “set off a commotion inside the White House.” Menendez unusually sharp comments were at odds with his previously solid support of Israel, come what may. His terse statement averred, “The violence must end. Any death of civilians and innocent Jews and Arabs alike is a setback to stability and peace in the Middle East.” Menendez made his comments independent of the White House, causing aides there to figure out how this computed with other Democrats’ stances.

Senator Menendez (D. NJ), head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, spoke forcefully about ending U.S. support of Israeli bombardments of Gaza, independently of the White House Photo thenationalherald

Then, there was Representative Rashida Tlaib’s eight-minute meeting on the tarmac at Detroit’s airport. There, she met with President Biden and fellow Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell. Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress, expressed problems with Israel’s explanation for its continued military attacks on Gaza. She has equated Israel’s attacks on Palestinians with the American racial justice movement, namely Black Lives Matter.

In a speech in the House as the Hama-Israel conflict intensified, Tlaib proclaimed, “It is our duty to end the apartheid system that for decades has subjected Palestinians to inhumane treatment and racism.” In the tarmac meeting, Biden and Tlaib talked about her family who live in the West Bank and her issues with their miserable treatment under Israeli military occupation.

During the eleven days of fighting in which Biden acted on his convictions about the conflict, his thinking rapidly evolved. In the words of the Post, “No member of Congress swayed Biden’s thinking or the White House strategy, a senior administration official said, but the changing political mood did give administration officials an opening to further press Israel to wind down the conflict. The shifting political sands were a key component in Biden’s own evolving response to the Gaza conflict, which is the first major foreign policy crisis of his administration…The episode also marks a clear inflection point in U.S.-Israel relations, reflecting growing skepticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu among Democrats alarmed by the Israeli leader’s recent actions — as well as his solicitous relationship with former president Donald Trump.”

The Biden decision to communicate bluntly with Netanyahu did not emerge sui generis from his head. There, listening to “a lot of loud progressive voices,” most loudly from Menendez and most emotionally from Tlaib. Here, we also want to credit the Egyptian mediators, who convinced Hamas to knuckle under to all the pressure. In the end, the sixth conversation, Biden told Netanyahu that he expected to see the conflict terminate that day.

Israeli attacks on Gaza seemed endless Photo tawainesenews


Israel summons ambassadors for dressing down over UN resolution

Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned the ambassadors of all UN security council members which backed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements to “personally reprimand” them.

According to Israeli media reports the ambassadors summoned on Sunday for the Israeli prime minister’s dressing down include all those from security council members with permanent missions in Israel: Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, France, Britain, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay and Spain.

The resolution, which passed on Friday with 14 votes in support and only the US abstaining, condemned Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as constituting a flagrant violation of international law.

It also demanded that states “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”.

Netanyahu also accused the US president, Barack Obama, of directly coordinating the resolution at the morning cabinet meeting. “We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated its versions and insisted upon its passage,” he said. Washington has denied this.

The rebuke came as Israel continued to retaliate against countries that supported the motion, cutting aid to Senegal, cancelling forthcoming official visits – including by the Ukrainian prime minister – and recalling two of its ambassadors.

Netanyahu is under renewed political pressure to bring forward controversial legislation to legalise dozens of currently illegal outposts in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Significantly, the US ambassador was not summoned, despite the Obama administration’s decision not to veto the resolution – an abstention described by Netanyahu as an “underhanded and anti-Israel manoeuvre”.

Later on Sunday, however, the US state department said its ambassador would meet the Israeli prime minister.

“We can confirm Ambassador Shapiro will meet with PM Netanyahu this evening,” the state department said in a brief statement to Agence France-Presse.

A senior diplomat quoted by the Haaretz newspaper suggested irritation in the diplomatic community with Netanyahu’s Christmas Day summons. “What would they have said in Jerusalem if we summoned the Israeli ambassador on Yom Kippur?” the diplomat told the paper.

The ambassadors’ dressing-down comes amid mounting criticism of Netanyahu from Israeli politicians and the media. Some prominent columnists have blamed Netanyahu’s poor relationship with Obama and his prioritisation of Jewish settlers for the UN resolution.

Israel has continued to condemn Obama and Friday’s resolution, which demanded a halt to settlements in Palestinian territory – the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.

By deciding not to use its veto, the US deeply angered Israel, which has accused Obama of abandoning its closest Middle East ally in the waning days of his administration.

The text was passed with support from all other members of the 15-member security council. Applause broke out in the chamber when the vote results were read out.

The landmark vote came despite intense lobbying by Israel and calls from the US president-elect, Donald Trump, to block the text.

While the resolution contains no sanctions, Israeli officials are concerned it could widen the possibility of prosecution at the international criminal court. They are also worried it could encourage some countries to impose sanctions against Israeli settlers and goods produced in the settlements.

Netanyahu called the resolution a “shameful blow against Israel at the United Nations”.

“The decision that was taken was biased and shameful, but we will withstand it,” the Israeli leader said on Saturday evening. “It will take time, but this decision will be annulled.”

Singling out New Zealand and Senegal, he added: “Two countries with which we have diplomatic relations co-sponsored the resolution against us at the UN therefore, I ordered yesterday that our ambassadors be recalled from Senegal and from New Zealand. I have ordered that all Israeli assistance to Senegal be halted, and there’s more to come.

“Those who work with us will benefit because Israel has much to give to the countries of the world. But those who work against us will lose – because there will be a diplomatic and economic price for their actions against Israel.”

Netanyahu said Obama had broken a longstanding US commitment not to “dictate the terms of peace to Israel” at the UN. The resolution, Netanyahu said, was “part of the swansong of the old world that is biased against Israel, but, my friends, we are entering a new era”, referring to Trump’s imminent presidency.

Trump reacted after the vote by promising change at the UN. “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th,” he tweeted, referring to the date of his inauguration.

“The big loss yesterday for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad, but we will get it done anyway!” Trump tweeted later.

The US has traditionally served as Israel’s diplomatic shield, protecting it from resolutions that Israel opposes. It is Israel’s most important ally, providing it with more than $3bn (£3.1bn) a year in defence aid. That number will soon rise to $3.8bn per year under a new decade-long pact – the biggest pledge of US military aid in history.

The Obama administration has grown increasingly frustrated with settlement building in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied for nearly 50 years. There have been growing warnings that settlement expansion is fast eroding the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the basis of years of negotiations.

Settlements are built on land the Palestinians view as part of their future state and seen as illegal under international law.

“We cannot stand in the way of this resolution as we seek to preserve a chance of attaining our longstanding objective of two states living side by side in peace and security,” said Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN. “The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution.”

After the vote, Israel’s justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, of the far-right Jewish Home said Israel needed “to talk about annexation” of the West Bank.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank, and a further 200,000 Israelis live in annexed East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.


US-Israel relations poised to enter new phase without Netanyahu

The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is poised for critical change with political momentum building to oust longtime Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu Benjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE .

Israel's next prime minister will undoubtedly factor into President Biden Joe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE 's Middle East agenda and influence a bilateral relationship between Washington and Jerusalem that has come under criticism from progressive lawmakers in Congress.

Netanyahu is under immense pressure by a coalition of Israeli political parties who are aiming to break his 12-year grip on power.

His ousting could come as soon as Wednesday, the deadline for Netanyahu’s opponents to announce a 61-member majority-coalition in the 120 seat Israeli Knesset, or parliament.

Anything can happen in Israel’s chaotic governing system — which has held four elections in two years — and Netanyahu has shown no signs of backing down from the fight.

But the announcement Sunday by Israel’s hard-line conservative politician Naftali Bennett that he is prepared to join a rotational premiership and coalition government with Yair Lapid, the leader of the center-left Yesh Atid party, is stacking the deck against Netanyahu.

The deal being worked out between Bennett and Lapid will require a delicate balance of support among a wide faction of Israeli political parties to vote in favor of their coalition in the Knesset in a week's time.

Biden’s own Middle East agenda — from rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran to helping maintain a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — is unlikely to face great challenges from a fragile governing coalition of Bennett and Lapid.

A change in Israeli leadership could also provide a fresh start for the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Bennett and Lapid, while political polar opposites, are likely to be less confrontational with the U.S. than Netanyahu, whose 2015 address to Congress opposing then-President Obama’s negotiations with Iran for what eventually became the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) marked a fracturing of support for Israel on Capitol Hill.

Biden and his team appear to be weeks away from rejoining the JCPOA, despite ongoing Israeli opposition. He may encounter a softer tone from Bennett and Lapid.

“I think those coalition partners understand that it’s better to work with the Americans on assurances, monitoring and trying to improve some of the things in the JCPOA,” said Shira Efron, policy adviser for Israel Policy Forum and the RAND Corporation’s special adviser on Israel.

“I don’t see any new leader in Israel — neither Bennett, definitely not Lapid — no one’s trying to pick a fight with the U.S.,” Efron added.

Lapid, in particular, has focused on building support among Democrats that was chilled from Netanyahu’s antagonistic approach.

“Lapid has spent the last several years conducting outreach to Democrats on the Hill in an attempt to help shape opinions about Israel so that Democrats don’t view Israel as [Netanyahu],” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan research institute on national security and foreign policy.

But that doesn’t mean Netanyahu is likely to disappear from the world stage anytime soon.

“It’s definitely a mistake to count Netanyahu out before the moving truck actually is departing with his stuff from the prime minister’s residence,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a left-leaning Israeli and Palestinian advocacy organization in the U.S.

Over the past two days, Netanyahu has brandished the support of prominent Republican members of Congress, welcoming to Jerusalem Sens. Lindsey Graham Lindsey Olin GrahamBiden to host Afghan president at White House on Friday Portman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight MORE (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz Rafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Ted Cruz says critical race theory is as racist as 'Klansmen in white sheets' Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE (R-Texas) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).

Netanyahu on Sunday gave a speech in which he called Bennett’s political coup the “fraud of the century” and painted the unity coalition as an existential threat to Israel’s security — from Tehran to Washington.

“How will we look to our enemies?” Netanyahu said in an address Sunday night. “What will they say in Iran? What will they say in Gaza? What will they do in Iran and in Gaza? What will they say in the hallways of power in Washington?”

The close ties between Netanyahu and the Republican Party paved the way for former President Trump Donald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE to push through significant U.S. policy shifts related to Israel, criticized by Democrats as a death knell for America’s long-held position to push toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This includes offering U.S. recognition and legitimization for Israeli claims to Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and West Bank settlements, in addition to Trump withdrawing from the JCPOA in 2018.

A Bennett and Lapid government could provide an opening to shift relations with Washington amid growing criticism from U.S. progressives over Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

A small but vocal group of Democrats have slammed the Israeli government over threats to Palestinian livelihoods in east Jerusalem neighborhoods, access to Islamic holy sites in the Old City and the death and destruction wrought on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

While Bennett supports Israeli annexation of Area C of the West Bank — the more than 60 percent of territory identified as under Israeli control in the 1993 Oslo Accords and that comprises the nearly 400,000-person settlement enterprise — he has signaled openness to more Palestinian autonomy in Areas A and B.

Area A is exclusively administered by the Palestinian Authority, and Area B is administered by the Palestinian Authority but controlled by Israeli security.

The Biden administration may have an opportunity for creative cooperation as part of its own outreach to the Palestinians, restarting relations that were severed by the Trump administration.

“Can we find this Venn diagram, can we find this sweet spot between what this coalition can do and what the U.S. can do in keeping the two-state solution open?” Efron asked.

Bennett is a proponent of private sector investment in the Palestinian economy, and other members of the coalition are in favor of confidence-building measures with the Palestinians to repair the relationship, Efron added.

Those approaches could be supported by the Partnership Fund for Peace Act, a bill that passed in the last Congress and provides $250 million over five years for Israeli and Palestinian people-to-people projects and projects that stimulate the Palestinian economy.

Other areas for cooperation include bolstering Israeli and Palestinian security partnership, which Efron said enjoys popular Israeli support and is backed by the U.S., and could provide an avenue for greater Palestinian autonomy.

While Biden has signaled he’s in no rush to push Israelis and Palestinians into negotiations and aspirational talks of a final-status agreement, he is under pressure to do more for the Palestinians amid criticism from prominent progressive members of Congress accusing Israel of terrorism, ethnic cleansing and running an apartheid state.

Those lawmakers are calling for conditioning U.S. military assistance to Israel to ensure no funds are being used in the oppression or killings of Palestinians.

But even Netanyahu’s ousting would be unlikely to moderate the criticism of progressives, according to J Street’s Ben-Ami.

“The departure of Trump from the White House didn’t mean that the United States had overcome structural racism — the departure of Netanyahu from the prime minister’s office is not going to mean that the occupation has come to an end,” he said.

“What people are focused on is not the name on the door of the prime minister’s office, but on the conditions that millions of Palestinian’s are living in, under an occupation that is funded by American tax dollars, and that is what motivates progressive lawmakers.”


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