The Invincible Benjamin Netanyahu, The New York Times
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “No matter how deep their frustration with Mr. Netanyahu, no figures on the right want to openly challenge the most successful nationalist leader in Israel’s history. None are prepared to risk being accused of opening the way for the return of the defeatist left with its dangerous ideas of relinquishing territory….This political and ideological ascendancy confers on Mr. Netanyahu at least temporary immunity — political, if not necessarily legal. Mr. Olmert was forced to resign when he was charged with bribery only because he was already weakened and discredited as a prime minister. But the course of justice was slow. It took seven and a half years from his resignation to him actually going to jail. A similar fate may well be in store for Mr. Netanyahu, but only years from now. As long as he is satisfying his political base and the opposition fails to come up with a better narrative with which to replace his, he can continue fighting his legal battles from office.”
Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Anti-Semitism, The New York Times
Michelle Goldberg writes, “The conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a bit of rhetorical sleight-of-hand that depends on treating Israel as the embodiment of the Jewish people everywhere. Certainly, some criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, but it’s entirely possible to oppose Jewish ethno-nationalism without being a bigot. Indeed, it’s increasingly absurd to treat the Israeli state as a stand-in for Jews writ large, given the way the current Israeli government has aligned itself with far-right European movements that have anti-Semitic roots…As long as the de facto policy of the Israeli government is that there should be only one state in historic Palestine, it’s unreasonable to regard Palestinian demands for equal rights in that state as anti-Semitic. If the Israeli government is going to treat a Palestinian state as a ridiculous pipe dream, the rest of us can’t act as if such a state is the only legitimate goal of Palestinian activism….[P]eople with an uncompromising commitment to pluralistic democracy will necessarily be critics of contemporary Israel. That commitment, however, makes them the natural allies of Jews everywhere else.”
Seven Wounded, One Seriously, in Shooting Attack Near West Bank Settlement, Haaretz
Seven people were wounded in a drive-by shooting attack near the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank on Sunday evening. Security forces have launched a manhunt for the assailant. One of those wounded is a 21-year-old pregnant woman who is in serious condition after sustaining wounds to her upper body. She has been evacuated to the Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. Doctors delivered the baby, who is premature, but in stable condition.
Israel tests waters for truce talks with return of Gaza fishing boats, Al-Monitor
In cooperation with Gaza’s maritime police, the Ministry of Agriculture in the Gaza Strip handed over 25 Palestinian fishing boats to their owners Dec. 2. On Nov. 29, Israel had released these boats that had been in its possession for four or five years. This development can only be interpreted in regard to the Egyptian- and Qatari-mediated truce talks between Israel and Gaza’s factions, and particularly in light of Israel’s expectations that the parties make headway in the talks.
New poll shows strong anti-Arab sentiment among Israeli Jews, Times of Israel
A new poll released Sunday indicated that there is a strong anti-Arab sentiment among Israeli Jews, particularly among religious communities. According to the poll, secular Israelis are far more tolerant of Arabs than religious Israelis. The results indicated the more religious the respondent, the more likely they were to reject the non-Jewish minority.
Former Military Chief Benny Gantz to Head New Political Party, Report Says, Haaretz
Former military chief Benny Gantz has decided to head his own political party, rather than join an existing one as number two, the Israel Television News Company reported on Thursday night. According to the report, 130 founding members have officially signed up to Gantz’s party. The report added that if Gantz is to join an existing party, he would do so with his list, rather than as an individual candidate.
Coalition backs bill to limit president’s power, block ‘coup’ against Netanyahu, Times of Israel
Coalition heads agreed Sunday to advance a bill that would limit the powers of the president in deciding whom to task with forming a government after elections, a proposal seen as an attempt to prevent a potential “coup” within the ruling Likud party against its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli gov’t is trying to defund +972 Magazine, report says, +972
Israel asked the German government to pressure two left-leaning political foundations to stop funding +972 Magazine, according to a report in the German media Thursday. +972 was able to independently verify the report.
Netanyahu Spins Operation Against Hezbollah Tunnels Into Armageddon-style Mission, Haaretz
Yossi Verter observes, “Netanyahu has figured out the formula for penetrating voters’ hearts and minds in a way that no one before him has. His system is to plant seeds of fear and terror, which he then systematically cultivates and irrigates by way of a Chinese water-torture method of piling threat upon concern, danger upon complication, fright upon panic. There’s no hope in his lexicon, no future, and the only dream is a bad dream. Nor is there any light at the end other than the blinding flash of missiles.”
The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House, The New York Times
“A delegation of Saudis close to the prince visited the United States as early as the month Mr. Trump was elected, the documents show, and brought back a report identifying Mr. Kushner as a crucial focal point in the courtship of the new administration. He brought to the job scant knowledge about the region, a transactional mind-set and an intense focus on reaching a deal with the Palestinians that met Israel’s demands, the delegation noted….Inside the White House, Mr. Kushner has continued to argue that the president needs to stand by Prince Mohammed because he remains essential to the administration’s broader Middle East strategy, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Whether Prince Mohammed can fulfill that role, however, remains to be seen. His initial approaches to the Palestinians were rejected by their leaders, and their resistance stiffened after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without waiting for a negotiated agreement on the city’s status.”
Israel Seeks to Leverage Op Against Hezbollah Tunnels to Complete Lebanon Border Wall, Haaretz
Amos Harel reports, “Along with the location and destruction of the tunnels, Israel also wants to take advantage of the discovery and the publicity for two goals: Leveraging it for the public relations war against Hezbollah in the international arena, and speeding up the construction of the new wall at disputed points along the border, in the area of Manara and Misgav Am in the east, and east of Rosh Hanikra in the west.”
The dogs of war make headlines, the lions of peace make…peace, Times of Israel
Michael M. Cohen writes, “[T]he Arava Institute hosted its 3rd annual Track II Environmental Forum with Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. Since its inception Forum members have held ongoing meetings to create a new and important paradigm building environmental projects. The Forum is based on a partnership of respect and equality. Underlying the Forum is the use of civil society, Track II diplomacy; a departure from traditional government led negotiations known as Track I. Track I diplomacy aims to establish over-arching peace agreements, often leaving citizens out of the process contributing to its inability to deliver. A weakness of Oslo was the disregard to include everyday citizens within its Accords. By contrast the Forum believes working with people, communities, and institutions promoting specific ground-up, in this case environmental, projects can catalyze positive change on the ground, and by extension in the political arena.”