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Internal divisions threaten to derail Israel’s many external successes

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The visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week showcased the paradoxical position in which Israel finds itself. While Jerusalem’s long-held positions on the danger represented by Iran have received a very significant boost on the global stage over the past year, stark internal divisions and growing security challenges closer to home are casting dark shadows.

Washington clearly finds it impossible to ignore the direction of events in this corner of the Middle East, despite the current US focus on the Russia-Ukraine war, and the long-term American pivot towards the Asia-Pacific region as the crucial centre of global strategic affairs.

The Blinken visit followed a series of dramatic developments. A raid on a drone facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan on January 28, carried out by Israel according to statements by US intelligence officials, reflected the growing scope, and effectiveness of Israel’s “shadow war” against the Islamist regime in Tehran.

Once Israel’s campaign on Iranian soil focused narrowly on the country’s nuclear program. During the prime ministership of Naftali Bennett, it became apparent that the focus had widened, and that Israel now had both the capacity and the desire to strike at will at a far wider bank of targets inside Iran.

The list now included officials engaged in Iran’s broader program of influence-building and subversion across the Middle East. It also, as reflected in the most recent ­action, includes Iran’s drone and missile programs.

The apparent use of quadcopters in the raid suggests that it was carried out by individuals located on Iranian soil, and in fairly close proximity to the facility itself. This is a further indication that Israel appears to have established a network within Iran, which it can activate and then stand down at will, under the noses of the authorities.

A raid the following day by ­unidentified aircraft on a convoy of trucks carrying Iranian weapons across the Albukamal border crossing between Iraq and Syria indicates that in addition to actions on Iranian soil, Israel is continuing to monitor and, where required, target Tehran’s efforts to supply its various proxies and franchises in Syria and Lebanon.

Global events with regard to Iran are moving in Israel’s direction. Once Western diplomats would listen sympathetically to Israel’s expressions of concern, while privately concluding that this was not their country’s problem. Not any more. Iran’s assistance and support of the Russian war effort in Ukraine, and the emergent strategic axis which it reflects, have changed this picture. Efforts to ban the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the EU and Britain showcase the extent to which Israel’s long war against the Iranian regime is increasingly located within the Western consensus.

Unsurprisingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his remarks following his meeting with Blinken on Monday, chose to focus on this issue. He noted that in the recent period, “many in the international community – I would say most of the international community – have seen the true face of Iran”.

Blinken, too, acknowledged this process and its cause, confirming the US and Israel’s “deepening co-operation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilising activities in the region and beyond”.

“Just as Iran has long supported terrorists who attack Israelis and others, (it) is now providing drones that Russia is using to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians,” Blinken said.

The efficacy of Israel’s long arm against Iran, however, was not the only generator of Israel-related headlines over recent weeks. Nor, evidently, was it the main focus of the US Secretary of State’s visit.

Blinken opened his remarks by expressing condolences “for the seven Israelis who were killed in the horrific terrorist attack early this week outside their synagogue”.

The attack in Neve Yaakov in Jerusalem on January 27, in which seven Israelis were killed, was the latest incident in a significant uptick in violence over the past two years to which the Israeli authorities have struggled to find a response. The attack was the bloodiest in Jerusalem since 2008.

The current violence differs from previous rounds in significant ways. The perpetrators are for the most part not dispatched by any ­organisation. Some of them (perpetrators of attacks in Jerusalem, Hadera and Beersheba over the past year) identified with the ideas of the Islamic State organisation. Others are connected to a loose nexus of militants in the northern West Bank, centred around the cities of Jenin and Nablus.

For the most part, their radicalisation takes place online or via their immediate milieu, leaving no obvious organisational chain for the authorities to trace and unravel. It is nearly 20 years since the Second Intifada ended.

Three thousand Palestinians and more than 1000 Israelis were killed in that period. Since then, a kind of quiet has largely prevailed.

This period appears to be drawing to a close. The underlying causes of the conflict remain nowhere close to resolution, with no diplomatic process on the horizon.

Blinken, on a number of occasions during his visit, reiterated US support for a two-state solution as the only way of resolving the conflict. This call, to both Israeli and Palestinian ears, seems increasingly to bear little connection to the observable reality.

Meanwhile, over the past two years, the month of Ramadan has witnessed a sharp uptick in violence. This year, Ramadan is due to commence on March 22. The increased religious focus of this month, and perceived threats to the al-Aqsa mosque, appear to be the factors that serve to galvanise the politically unaffiliated youths who carry out the attacks.

The presence of a far-right radical, Itamar Ben-Gvir, serving as Israel’s National Security Minister, may further ­affect the situation in as yet unpredictable ways.

Ben-Gvir’s presence in government reflects the second main focus of Blinken’s visit, obvious US concern at the direction of events within Israel itself.

Israel is today starkly divided on the issue of proposed judicial reform. The country’s “activist” Supreme Court, and the belief that its rulings reflect a liberal political bias, is a longstanding focus of anger among significant parts of the Israeli right. The current proposed reform is set to sharply reduce the powers of the court.

According to the provisions of the proposed reform, the court’s powers of judicial review will be ­significantly reduced. The Knesset (parliament) will be able to overturn a court decision to nullify a law by a simple majority vote.

“Unreasonableness” as a grounds for reviewing administrative decisions will be abolished. The process by which judges are appointed will be changed, giving a greater role to the executive and legislature, and the role of the attorney-general will be reduced.

But this issue has come to mark the faultlines of a deep and profound division in Israeli society. A significant part of Israel’s secular middle class looks at the make-up of the current government and notes that 32 of the 64 parliament members belong to religious or ultra-Orthodox factions. They fear a transformation of their country into something unrecognisable, with the judicial reforms as merely the first step. Large demonstrations have taken place in protest against the proposals.

Blinken, in his public remarks, appeared to acknowledge their concerns. He noted, pointedly, that “building consensus for new proposals is the most effective way to ensure they’re embraced and that they endure”, while suggesting on a number of occasions that “shared interests and shared values” underlay the bond and alliance between the US and Israel.

Blinken made a point of seeking out and meeting with Israeli civil society organisations, devoting a number of hours to dialogue with them.

The point he was making was clear, though tactfully made (at least publicly). The US is concerned at the direction of events in Israel. Washington wants minimum problems in the Middle East, while it focuses elsewhere.

Some commentators have remarked that internal discord in ­Israel is now at its greatest height since the 1990s.

The shadow war with Iran continues to register its successes. The West Bank simmers on. Continued success against external challenges, though, must ultimately be based on maintaining a certain required level of internal cohesion.

Article link: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/internal-divisions-threaten-to-derail-israels-many-external-successes/news-story/5d844aaf0ed8720e75956d0a4189745a
Article source: The Australian | Jonathan Spyer |February 4, 2023

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Netanyahu Fires Key Ally From Cabinet

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fired a crucial ally from his cabinet after the country’s Supreme Court annulled the appointment, leaving the stability of the newly sworn-in coalition in question.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled last week that the ministerial ­appointment of Shas party leader Aryeh Deri was “extremely unreasonable” in light of his conviction last year for tax evasion. The court also noted his subsequent promise to quit political life as part of a plea deal and his conviction two decades ago on bribery, fraud and breach-of-trust charges while in office, for which he served nearly two years in prison.

The Attorney-General said Mr Netanyahu must fire Mr Deri to remain in compliance with the court’s ruling, but didn’t provide a deadline.

The order has put Mr Netanyahu in a bind because Mr Deri and his party are still demanding a senior role in government ­despite the court’s ruling. The government could lose its majority if Shas, an ultraorthodox party, leaves the coalition. Shas controls 11 seats in the ruling coalition of 64 MPs in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. Political analysts say it is unlikely Shas will want to bring down the conservative government so soon after its establishment.

Mr Netanyahu, in a letter to Mr Deri dismissing him from his cabinet positions, said on Sunday that he was firing him with “a heavy heart”, and that the court’s ruling had undermined the will of those who voted for Mr Deri and the current coalition.

“This sad decision ignores the will of the people,” Mr Netanyahu wrote.

Also on Sunday, ministers from the ultranationalist Religious Zionism Party boycotted a cabinet meeting in response to a decision by Mr Netanyahu and his Defence Minister to raze an ­illegally built outpost in the occupied West Bank two days before.

Mr Netanyahu gave Religious Zionism Party leader and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich control over a military body inside the defence ministry that controls civilian affairs in the West Bank. But that body has always been under full control of the ­defence minister, leading to a disagreement over who had the authority to decide the fate of the outpost.

“It’s simple. We want the coalition agreements to be respected,” National Missions Minister Orit Strock, a member of ­Religious Zionism told Army Radio on Sunday.

The ruling against Mr Deri comes as Mr Netanyahu’s government is rolling out a plan to overhaul the justice system, which coalition members demanded be expedited in light of the court’s decision on Mr Deri.

Should the judicial overhaul pass in parliament, it will give the ruling coalition control over which judges are appointed, limit the top court’s ability to strike down laws and allow a simple ­majority of Knesset members to override the Supreme Court should it strike down legislation.

Some current and former justice officials – including the current Attorney-General and Supreme Court chief judge – and the political opposition say the ­judicial reforms could undermine the country’s ­existing system of checks and balances.

Mr Netanyahu and his allies have defended the wide-ranging proposals as necessary to restrain what they say is judicial overreach.

Israeli media estimated that more than 100,000 people protested on Saturday night against the proposed judicial overhaul, the third week that mass protests took place.

Thousands more protested in other big cities including Jerusalem and Haifa.

Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=e7264590-4e24-43bb-9b9d-07da3a155431
Article source: The Australian / Wall St Journal | Dov Lieber | 24 January 2023

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Palestinian backers and Israel at odds over holy site visit

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians and many Muslim and non-Muslim supporters sharply disagreed with Israel on Thursday at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting over the visit of an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister to a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site and its impact.

The Palestinians warned it could lead to another deadly uprising, while Israel dismissed it as “a trivial matter” and “non-event.”

The Palestinian U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said new Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a West Bank settler leader who draws inspiration from a racist rabbi, didn’t go to visit the site, “but to pursue his extremist view, to end the historic status quo” under which Jews have been allowed to visit but not pray there since Israel captured the area in the 1967 war.

Known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for the Noble Sanctuary, the site is the holiest in Judaism, home to the ancient biblical temples. Today, it houses the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. The site has been the scene of frequent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces.

Calling Ben-Gvir “an extremist minister of an extremist state” who was convicted of incitement and is known for his “racist views,” Mansour said the Israeli minister is committed to allowing Jews to pray at al-Haram al-Sharif. He urged the Security Council and all countries to stop this from happening, and “to uphold international law and the historic status quo,” warning that “if they don’t, our Palestinian people will.”

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan, who also visited the Temple Mount as minister of public security in 2017, criticized the Security Council for holding the emergency meeting, saying Ben-Gvir’s 13-minute visit was non-violent and within the status quo and his right as a Jew.

Erdan told reporters that calling the meeting “is an insult to our intelligence” and “pathetic,” and that the council should instead be meeting about the war in Ukraine or Iran’s killing of protesters.

“Israel has not harmed the status quo and has no plans to do so,” Erdan said. “The only side that is changing the status quo is the Palestinian Authority. Why? Because by turning the site into a battleground … the Palestinian Authority is making it clear that not only is Jewish prayer intolerable on the Temple Mount, but so is any Jewish presence.”

“This is pure anti-Semitism,” he added.

Khaled Khiare, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, briefed the council at the start of the meeting, saying that Ben-Gvir’s visit wasn’t accompanied or followed by violence. But, he said, “it is seen as particularly inflammatory,” given the minister’s “past advocacy for changes in the status quo.”

The visit sparked widespread condemnation in the region and internationally “as a provocation that risked sparking further bloodshed,” he said.

Khiare said that U.N. efforts to de-escalate the situation will continue and that “leaders on all sides have a responsibility to lower the flames and create the conditions for calm.”

In September 2000, Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s opposition leader, visited the Temple Mount, which helped spark clashes that led to a full-fledged Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada. The Security Council deplored Sharon’s visit, which it called a “provocation.”

Most recently, in April 2021, clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian demonstrators in and around the site also fueled an 11-day war with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

When Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount on Tuesday he described it as “the most important place for the Jewish people” and decried what he called “racist discrimination” against Jewish visits to the site.

With the Islamic shrine the Dome of the Rock in the background, he said visits would continue. As for threats from Gaza’s Hamas militant group, Ben-Gvir said in a video clip taken during the visit: “The Israeli government won’t surrender to a murderous organization, to a vile terrorist organization.”

At the emergency meeting, which was called jointly by the Palestinians, the United Arab Emirates, China, France and Malta, all 15 council members expressed concern at Ben-Gvir’s visit and the potential fallout, and strongly supported the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood underscored the firm support by President Joe Biden for “the historic status quo,” especially the “Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount.”

Wood said the United States, which is Israel’s closest ally, noted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s platform calling for preservation of the status quo, adding: “We expect the government of Israel to follow through on that commitment.”

Wood also said that the possibility of a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be preserved, “and we must ensure all Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal measures of freedom, justice, security and prosperity.”

UAE deputy ambassador Mohamed Abushahab, the Arab representative on the council, and Jordanian Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud, whose country’s ruler is custodian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, both called Ben-Gvir’s act “the storming of Al Aqsa mosque” under protection of Israeli forces. They said it was a “provocative” move that violates the historic and legal status of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Abushahab said the minister’s action further destabilizes the fragile situation in the Palestinian territories, moves the region further away from a path to peace, and threatens to escalate current tensions “and contribute to fueling and stoking extremism and hatred in the region.”

Hmoud warned that serious consequences and repercussions could result from any unilateral Israeli measures “that aim to impose new realities on the ground,” such as annexing more land, expanding settlements, violating Jerusalem’s holy sites or demolishing houses.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, expressed “serious concern” at Ben-Gvir’s visit and said he hoped the new Israeli Cabinet “will not take the path of escalation” and “create irreversible realities on the ground.”

“The explosive developments in Jerusalem once again demonstrate how urgent it is to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

He reiterated Russia’s call for a ministerial meeting of the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.N., U.S., Russia and the European Union — and key regional players to relaunch direct dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.

Nebenzia said the U.S, has “again and again refused to cooperate in resuming the peace process” under the Quartet, which he called the only internationally recognized mechanism approved by the Security Council.

Article link: https://apnews.com/article/politics-israel-government-west-bank-jerusalem-82bd322687b21d159074a2f82c6d43ed
Article source: Associated Press

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Israel unveils controversial plans to overhaul judicial system

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Critics warn changes will weaken supreme court and undermine country’s democracy

Benjamin Netanyahu’s justice minister has unveiled the new government’s long-promised overhaul of the judicial system that aims to weaken the supreme court. Critics say the plan will undermine Israel’s democracy by giving absolute power to the most rightwing coalition in the country’s history.

The justice minister, Yariv Levin, a confidant of Netanyahu’s and a longtime critic of the supreme court, presented his plan a day before the justices debate a new law passed by the government allowing a politician convicted of tax offences to serve as a cabinet minister. “The time has come to act,” Levin said.

He proposed a series of changes aimed at curbing the powers of the judiciary, including allowing lawmakers to pass laws that the high court has struck down and in effect deemed unconstitutional.

Levin laid out a law that would empower the country’s 120-seat Knesset to override supreme court decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes. Levin also proposed that politicians play a greater role in the appointment of supreme court judges and that ministers appoint their own legal advisers instead of using independent professionals.

Levin argued that the public’s faith in the judicial system had plummeted to a historic low, and he said he planned to restore power to elected officials that now lay in the hands of overly interventionist judges.

“We go to the polls and vote, choose, but time after time, people who we didn’t elect decide for us,” he said. “That’s not democracy.”

The planned overhaul has already drawn fierce criticism from Israel’s attorney general and the Israeli opposition, though it is unclear whether they will be able to prevent the far-right government from racing forward.

Yair Lapid, the former prime minister and head of the opposition, said he would fight the changes “in every possible way” and vowed to cancel them if he returns to power. “Those who carry out a unilateral coup in Israel need to know that we are not obligated to it in any way whatsoever,” he said.

If Levin’s proposed “override” law is passed, Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist allies have said they hope to scrap supreme court rulings outlawing Israeli outposts on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. They would also seek to allow for the protracted detention of African asylum seekers and make official the exclusion of ultra-Orthodox people from mandatory military service.

In Israel, supreme court judges are appointed and dismissed by a committee made up of professionals, lawmakers and some justices. Levin wants to give lawmakers a majority in the committee, with most coming from the rightwing and religiously conservative ruling coalition.

“It will be a hollow democracy,” said Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at Jerusalem’s Israel Democracy Institute, a thinktank. “When the government has ultimate power, it will use this power not only for issues of LGBTQ rights and asylum seekers but elections and free speech and anything it wants.”

Recent opinion polls by the Israel Democracy Institute found a majority of respondents believe the supreme court should have the power to strike down laws that conflict with Israel’s Basic Laws, which serve as a sort of constitution.

In a speech on Wednesday before Levin’s announcement, Netanyahu appeared to back his justice minister by vowing to “implement reforms that will ensure the proper balance between the three branches of government”.

Since being indicted on corruption charges, Netanyahu has campaigned against the justice system. He denies all charges, saying he is the victim of a witch-hunt orchestrated by a hostile media, police and prosecutors. Levin said his plan was “not connected in any way” to Netanyahu’s trial.

Hours before Levin’s speech, the attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, a prime target of the new government, declared her opposition to the ministerial appointment of one of Netanyahu’s key coalition partners who has been convicted of tax offences. On Thursday, the supreme court is expected to hear petitions against Aryeh Deri serving as minister.

Associated Press in Jerusalem

 

Article link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/04/israel-unveils-controversial-plans-to-overhaul-judicial-system
Article source: The Guardian

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Letters to The Australian

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Israel must be strong

One can argue ad nauseam regarding Israel’s conservative political parties and their idiosyncracies (“Netanyahu must steer ship of state”, 28/12). Despite national opposition, past Israeli governments have returned strategically important regional areas to Arab overlords. The result has been catastrophic, militarily, with many Israeli lives lost. Until at least one influential representative Arab leader declares that the Palestinian Arabs accept the existence of the democratic state of Israel, in the first instance, it is all a waste of time.

Aviva Rothschild, Caulfield North, Vic

It’s a measure of the extremism represented in the governing coalition cobbled together by Benjamin Netanyahu that even the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has voiced its concern. The far-right dogmatism and ambition of partners such as West Bank settlers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich pose a defiant challenge to Netanyahu’s captaincy.

He may well be “Israel’s longest-serving and most experienced political leader”, as Mark Leibler and Colin Rubenstein declare, but what they and your editorial fail to point out is that Netanyahu is exploiting all his political skills to battle corruption charges.

The Faustian pact he has forged with ultra-Zionist radicals may delay his reckoning but will not serve Israel well, much less address the moral malady that afflicts its nationhood, the entrench­ed and worsening disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people.

Tom Knowles, Parkville, Vic

Article link: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/letters/chinas-persecution-of-uighurs-remains-a-hurdle-to-detente/news-story/c5400a62770a9fdd1971272052396abf
Article source: The Australian (29/12/2022)

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“World’s oldest hatred”: Rabbi Shmuley claims people who attack Israel hate Jews

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Author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says when people claim they hate Israel but love Jewish people, they are “dyed in the wool liars” and anti-Semites.

He said Jewish people are not hated because of “Israeli aggression”, but rather Israel is hated because of anti-Semitism.

“The reason why people attack Israel is they don’t care about Arab rights and they don’t care about Arab LGBTQ rights – they care about hating Jews,” Rabbi Shmuley told Sky News host Rita Panahi.

“This is the world’s oldest hatred, we see it repeated over and over again.”

Article link: https://www.news.com.au/national/worlds-oldest-hatred-rabbi-shmuley-claims-people-who-attack-israel-hate-jews/video/174e2ae16bc1b8b1fc0f4139880439bd
Article source: Sky News, 29/12/2022

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Israel parliament passes laws ahead of Netanyahu return

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Israel’s parliament has passed controversial legislation paving the way for the return of veteran Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.

Following his November 1 election win, Mr Netanyahu secured a mandate to form a government backed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and an extreme-right bloc.

Mr Netanyahu, 73, will present what analysts have said will be the most right-wing government in Israel’s history to parliament on Thursday.

On Tuesday, members of the Knesset passed legislation that now allows anyone convicted of offences but not given a custodial sentence to serve as a minister.

Before the law was passed, there had been uncertainty over whether Aryeh Deri, a key ally from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, would be able to serve as he had previously pleaded guilty to tax offences.

A second law passed allows for two ministers to serve in the same office, a measure targeting the defence portfolio.

Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the extreme-right formation Religious Zionism, is to be the minister with control over civil affairs in the West Bank — a responsibility usually falling to the defence minister, who has yet to be announced.

The Knesset also voted to expand the powers of the national security minister, a portfolio set to be handed to Itamar Ben Gvir, another extreme-right figure.

The morning session also saw Netanyahu ally Yariv Levin resign as interim speaker of the Knesset, ahead of his expected appointment to a ministry.

Rules require that he had not been in the speaker’s post for 48 hours before any ministerial appointment.

Mr Netanyahu, who is fighting corruption allegations in court, has already served as premier longer than anyone in Israel, including a 1996 to 1999 stint and a record 12-year tenure from 2009 to 2021.

His incoming government has sparked fears of a military escalation in the West Bank amid the worst violence in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory for nearly 20 years.

Late on Tuesday, outgoing Defence Minister Benny Gantz expressed “fear” over the “extremist direction” of the incoming government, which he said could harm Israel’s security.

“I think that if the government acts in an irresponsible way, it could cause a security escalation,” he told Channel 12 television

The Wall Street Journal reports that senior Israeli officials have raised concerns over coalition agreements.

Unelected officials, including Israel’s attorney-general and police chief, condemned proposed legislation that seeks to weaken the judiciary and hand politicians greater authority over law enforcement.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who holds a ceremonial role and typically refrains from speaking about specific policies, condemned anti-gay views after Mr Netanyahu’s partners planned to include legislation in a coalition deal that would permit religious-based discrimination against LGBT people.

In a rare move, the army’s chief of staff called Mr Netanyahu on Monday to caution him against legislation that would place some military branches under the direct control of one of his ultranationalist partners.

The condemnation from top officials underscores growing concerns about the incoming government, which analysts say will be Israel’s most right-wing and religious government in its history. “We’ve never seen a wave of legislation like this,” Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute told The Wall Street Journal. He said the proposed changes were “a critical blow to democracy.”     AFP

Article link: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/israel-parliament-passes-laws-ahead-of-netanyahu-return/news-story/f170af4cc02db5530e9b4bd257a45691
Article source: The Australian, 28-9/12/2022

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Israel’s Netanyahu ‘to pursue Saudi ties’

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Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the United States to reaffirm its commitment to Saudi Arabia and pledged to pursue formal Israeli ties with the Middle Eastern country for a “quantum leap” in peace, Al Arabiya English reports.

The US-Saudi strategic partnership has frayed under US President Joe Biden’s administration and there has been tension between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, which forged relation “The traditional (US) alliance with Saudi Arabia and other countries, has to be reaffirmed. There should not be periodic swings, or even wild swings in this relationship, because I think that the alliance… is the anchor of stability in our region,” Netanyahu told the Saudi-owned website.

“I’m to speak to President Biden about it,” Netanyahu said according to a published transcript of the interview.

Having come ahead in a November election, Netanyahu is in talks on forming a coalition with religious-nationalist partners and has until December 21 to finalise the government.

Netanyahu said he was committed to building on normalisation pacts signed with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 under his leadership, known as the Abraham Accords, which created a new axis in the face of Iran’s growing influence in the region.

Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia blessed the US-brokered pacts but stopped short of formally recognising Israel in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian statehood goals.

An accord with Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam, would be a “quantum leap for an overall peace between Israel and the Arab world” and ultimately facilitate Palestinian-Israeli peace, Netanyahu said.

“I intend to pursue it,” he said, voicing hope the Saudi leadership would “partake in this effort”.

Gulf states, which rely on the US security umbrella, have questioned the country’s commitment to the region.

US-Saudi ties have been strained over human rights, the Yemen war and more recently energy policy.

Saudi Arabia has made some gestures towards Israel, announcing in July during a visit by Biden to the kingdom that it would open Saudi airspace to all carriers.

Progress on that for Israeli airlines hinges on approval from Oman on use of its airspace to skirt Iran for journeys to Asia.

Article link: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/8022007/israels-netanyahu-to-pursue-saudi-ties/
Article source: Canberra Times
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