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Netanyahu’s hopes for a comeback dim as Israel passes budget, AP
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watched from the sidelines Thursday as the government that toppled him after 12 years in power passed a national budget, dealing a major blow to his hopes of a swift return to the country’s top office. The man whose shadow loomed so large for so long over Israel, whose rule sparked both mass protests and cult-like devotion, has been relegated to the backbenches as opposition leader, far from the levers of power and exposed to serious corruption charges.
UN Palestine aid agency is ‘close to collapse’ after funding cuts, The Guardian
Cuts to the budget of the UN’s relief agency for Palestinians – including a halving of the UK grant – means the agency is close to collapse, the head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, has said. The UK has cut its core grant by more than 50% from £42.5m in 2020 to £20.8m in 2021. Lazzarini, the commissioner general of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which serves Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza but also in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, said the agency was in an existential crisis due to a $100m (£74m) shortfall this year, but also because of a method of long-term funding that has proved unsustainable.
Israel Moves to Silence the Stalwarts of Palestinian Civil Society, New York Times
Zena Agha writes, “The effective criminalization of Palestinian institutions and the expansion of the settlements are two sides of the same coin. The goal is clear: to silence the independent monitoring of Israel’s human rights violations that stand between total annexation of the occupied West Bank and international accountability. Since the 1990s, Palestinian civil society has expanded to fill the role of exposing and resisting the crimes of the Israeli occupation and the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It has become the last line of defense. It will be harder to hold Israel to account if some of the most important Palestinian rights organizers are silenced, weakened or eliminated.”
Stability Returns to Israel With Passage of 2021, 2022 Budgets, Bloomberg
Israel’s parliament approved the 2022 national budget, injecting a long-absent sense of stability into the country’s economic planning and removing an immediate threat to the survival of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s fractious government. A day earlier, lawmakers passed a spending plan for 2021, the first approved in more than three years. The votes prevented the collapse of the government, which would have fallen automatically if no budget had been approved, and moved Israel beyond years of political chaos that eased when Benjamin Netanyahu was unseated in June.
Three major Jewish groups ask Senate to move forward Deborah Lipstadt nomination to be antisemitism monitor, JTA
Three major Jewish organizations are calling on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to convene a hearing on President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the State Department’s antisemitism monitor, Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt. “We are compelled to urge you to hold the Committee’s hearing on Prof. Lipstadt’s nomination without further delay,” said the letter from the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and the Anti-Defamation League.
“The Palestinians Face a Possible Lebanon-type Meltdown. Israel Will Pay the Price, Haaretz
The West Bank is suffering a housing shortage and a dearth of money for salaries, but Israel isn’t really helping out despite its approval of new construction.
A host of 2024 hopefuls — including Donald Trump, via video — will feature at Republican Jewish Coalition conference, JTA
The Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2020 conference was one of the last Jewish conferences to be canceled as the pandemic set in: The group had gone so far as to order branded hand sanitizer. Now, it’s one of the first to resume, and it’s doing so amid a great deal of change relevant to the group’s agenda. There was the election of President Joe Biden last fall and the tumultuous transition as Donald Trump exited the White House while remaining a looming figure in the Republican Party.
Labor MK sits out progressive prayer service at Western Wall to calm tensions, Times of Israel
Labor MK Gilad Kariv did not attend a progressive prayer group’s service at the Western Wall on Friday morning, after President Isaac Herzog asked him to forgo the ceremony, in a bid to calm the waters at the holy site ahead of potential clashes between the group and ultra-Orthodox MKs and activists. Following Kariv’s announcement, the ultra-Orthodox MKs also stood down from their earlier call to block the prayer services, and also skipped the morning’s events. Scuffles at the site between protesters and activists were broken up by police and security guards without a major escalation.
The Long Arm of Israeli Repression, Foreign Policy
Youssef Munayyer writes, “The recent designation of six leading Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz—which has been dismissed by European governments and recently exposed in the Israeli press as based on dubious evidence—is the most recent and perhaps most high-profile step in a long-running campaign aimed at silencing critics of Israel’s human rights abuses around the globe. Because of a robust, global anti-terrorism financing regime, this designation will likely imperil any financial support provided to these human rights organizations, leaving them unable to do their valuable work.”
Iran probably won’t cave on its nuclear program, Washington Post
John Ghazvinian writes, “The history helps explain why Iranians across the political spectrum support the nuclear program, despite the harsh sanctions imposed by the West. It also reveals that they have a legitimate complaint about the provisions of the NPT being enforced inconsistently, depending on a country’s relationship with the United States. Understanding this historical reality also helps explain why Iran probably will continue taking a hard line in negotiations with the Western powers, and why the best chance of limiting Iran’s nuclear program may, ironically, be accepting its existence.”
U.S. and Israel Are Split on Iran. One Thing Unites Them, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “The professional and personal relations between Israel’s prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister with their American colleagues are good. However, the gap between their respective positions, mainly on the Iran issue, is sizable. The main thing that unites the sides at the moment is their desire to see Netanyahu remain in the opposition. This is one of the reasons President Joe Biden publicly displays warmth towards Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.”
Jeers or cheers? Where the process failed Rabin, Times of Israel
Avi Meyerstein writes, “Rabin’s murder underscores that leaders — even trusted ones — can’t do it alone. The fact that two bullets could take down the hopes and dreams of millions shows just how precarious and fragile the entire endeavor was. For all the visionary thinking and courage of Oslo’s architects, the process had a critical design flaw: It was an entirely top-down effort, developed in secret.”