Is Netanyahu’s son pulling him to the far-right?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays with his sons Yair (L) and Avner at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2013

On Aug. 12, an ultranationalist in a far-right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killed 32-year-old left-wing American activist Heather Heyer. A short time later, Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, posted a comment on his Facebook page. “To put things in perspective,” wrote Yair. “I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli [and] the neo-Nazi scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However, the thugs of Antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter] who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”

He took care to publicize the post in Hebrew and English. A public storm broke out in Israel almost immediately. In contrast to his father, Yair does not even try to hide behind a fake mask of political correctness. He made the exact same comparison as did US President Donald Trump a few days earlier when Trump denounced extremists from “both sides” after the Virginia events.

Yair went beyond Trump’s words. According to the doctrine of Yair, considered by his family as “the official heir,” the damage done by left-wing organizations and organizations fighting for the rights of blacks is greater than the “marginal” damage inflicted by neo-Nazis and white power supremacists.

Yair, 26, is viewed as the strongest, most dominant figure in the official Jerusalem residence. Gossip about the power of Sara Netanyahu and her ability to manipulate her husband’s decisions has been heard in Israel for eons. Now, it seems, it is actually the firstborn son who rules the roost over both of them. Netanyahu has an older daughter from a previous marriage, but his family at the Jerusalem residence does not really count her as important. It is the son who rules both the father and mother; Yair is the “holy spirit.”

In the early days after the Virginia events, Netanyahu himself kept mum and did not publicize any kind of statement. For this, he was severely criticized in the Israeli political system, mainly but not only from the left. Even personalities such as Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who usually avoids censuring the prime minister on foreign affairs issues, expressed his strong opinion on the matter.

Only three days after the slaying and 24 hours after Trump corrected his response and publicized a more explicit condemnation of the alt-right activists and neo-Nazis who marched in Virginia did the prime minister also join the admonishers. That is because Netanyahu is trying not to get on the president’s nerves these days. The strong differences of opinion between them regarding the emerging arrangement in Syria, which was revealed in a previous Al-Monitor article, is enough of a headache for the prime minister. But Netanyahu’s son, in contrast, does not view himself as bound by these rules of behavior.

Many view Yair as the alter ego of his father. “Yair says what Netanyahu thinks,” a high-level Likud source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “What he hears in the prime minister’s residence living room, he expresses on Facebook. He can allow himself to do so because he holds no official state position, and he has no inhibitions or mental blocks.”

There are many signs that the reality may be even more extreme than this description. According to many sources who are knowledgeable about what goes on in the prime minister’s home, Yair does not merely listen to the dialogue between his parents and translate it in the external world. Instead, they say, Yair is the one to dictate the dialogue. Yair is the engine behind his father’s right-wing radicalization, and he doesn’t hesitate to “tell off” his father when the two disagree. Yair is attentive to the goings-on on social networks, and he is viewed as the figure behind several of the prime minister’s more combative responses to newspaper articles over the last two years.

If we return for a minute to the father, we cannot help but note the growing similarities between Netanyahu and Trump with regard to political machinations. Netanyahu and Trump both owe their present positions to the far-right. With Trump, it is the alt-right and white-power supremacists in all their stripes. With Netanyahu, by contrast, it is the settlers, including the extremists among them.

It is important to emphasize that in Israel, most of the settlers are viewed as a law-abiding public with values. However, there is a minority of settlers associated with extremist elements who hold anarchist and racist views. Thus, there is no intent here to create any kind of comparison between neo-Nazis in the United States and the settlers in Israel.

One way or the other, Netanyahu, like Trump, tries not to antagonize this electoral base. In the last few weeks of his electoral campaign for the 2015 elections, he turned to this base, the West Bank settler activists, and roused them to make strong efforts and mobilize. These efforts resulted in his re-election. The prime minister even succeeded in gaining quite a number of votes that usually go to Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi. This is the reason that in recent years the prime minister dances to Bennett’s tune and tries to pass him on the right in every issue, debate or public discussion. This course of action reached its heights in the affair of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria who shot an incapacitated terrorist in Hebron. In that saga, Netanyahu adopted a stance opposite that of the defense establishment, the Israel Defense Forces top brass and then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Netanyahu knew that the extreme right supported the soldier, and he joined ranks with them.

The situation is similar with Trump, except for one thing: The American president took action last week and dismissed the person who represented the alt-right in the White House, his top strategic adviser, Steve Bannon. While the effect of Bannon’s dismissal on Trump’s policies and stances is still unclear, what is clear is the fact that Trump evidently understood that Bannon had crossed several red lines, and he took action.

It will do us no good to wait for similar action by the prime minister because the person most similar to Bannon in Netanyahu’s court is Yair, and he cannot be dismissed. Yair has been raising a lot of commotion lately and not just regarding the Virginia affair. He has posted a number of unrestrained, incitement-filled texts against the Israeli left on his Facebook page to the extent that one of the left-wing organizations is suing him for libel.

And Yair leaves the impression that he has no intentions of calming down. His opinions are far more extreme-right than his father’s; they are full of racism, hatred of Arabs and minorities, and contempt for anything smelling of liberalism or moderation. During the era of President Barack Obama, it was Yair who carried the grudge of resentment and contempt in the direction of the American president. His father hardly did a thing to rein in his errant son.

To Netanyahu the father, his son carries out a vital role: He sends signals to the far-right as to where the heart of the Netanyahu family really lies, even though the body itself is not always able to express those same positions.

(Source / 22.08.2017)

Bannon boycotted meeting with ‘terrorist’ Abbas

White House former chief strategist Steve Bannon attends joint press conference by U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on 17 March, 2017 [Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency]

White House former chief strategist Steve Bannon attends joint press conference by U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on 17 March, 2017

Donald Trump’s former Chief Strategist reportedly refused to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Washington in May, Vanity Fair has revealed. Steve Bannon apparently stayed at home during the scheduled visit and texted to a friend that, “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist.”

Although he was fired last week after a review of his position by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and has now gone back to his role with far-right media, during his time in office Bannon also lobbied aggressively for Trump to keep his campaign promise and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Moreover, he is said to have pushed the US President’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to adopt a tougher stance toward the PA.

Kushner will be arriving in Israel later this week at the head of an American delegationscheduled to meet Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Read: Mahmoud Abbas goes to Washington

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on 3 May, 2017 in Washington, DC. [Thaer Ganaim/Apaimages]

(Source / 22.08.2017)

Rights groups reject Israeli plan for train line on Bedouin lands in Negev

Pal Bedouin woman

A Palestinian Bedouin woman stands next to her destroyed tent in the village of Atouf in the Jordan Valley

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Two human rights organizations released a joint statement on Monday rejecting Israeli plans to construct a passenger train line between the Negev and the Israeli city of Arad in southern Israel, saying the plans would “destroy the lives” of some 50,000 Palestinian Bedouins residing in villages near the proposed train line.

Israeli NGO Bimkom and Palestinian-run rights group Adalah filed an objection to the proposed Beer Sheva-Arad train line on Aug.10 on behalf of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab (Negev) and other Bedouin villages, the groups said in the statement, demanding that the Southern District Planning and Building Committee explore other alternatives to the planned route of the train line.
The groups reported that the train route would “gravely violate the rights of Bedouin citizens in the area,” including causing mass land appropriation, home demolitions, and state-enforced evictions of Bedouin along the train’s route.
According to the statement, the current plan would seize 4,700 dunams (1,160 acres) of lands in the Negev for the construction of the tracks, stations, access roads, and other planned infrastructure.
The drafters of the plan had ignored the potential impact the train line’s construction would have on tens of thousands of Bedouin residing in the villages of al-Furaa, al-Kseifeh, and unrecognized villages in the area, including al-Buhireh, al-Mazraa, al-Katmaat, and al-Azeh, the groups said.
The proposed rail line would “destroy the lives of hundreds of families, their homes, their economic investments, and harm their societal and tribal lifestyles,” the statement said.
Bimkom and Adalah’s objection to the proposed train line included a suggested alternative plan that would divert the route to the north of Highway 31, where the land is “entirely empty of buildings, and the shift would greatly reduce the damage to the existing infrastructure and human fabric.”
Unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev face routine Israeli demolitions and attempts to forcibly expel the populations from the area and transfer them to government townships in order to make room for planned Jewish neighborhoods.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages, which Israel has refused to provide with basic services, such as running water, health care, electricity, and education.
However, Bedouin villages that are officially recognized by the Israeli state continue to face Israeli demolitions owing to Israel’s discriminatory zoning and planning regime, and the overlap of some Bedouin villages on lands designated for planned Jewish towns.
Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya released a scathing report on the treatment of the Bedouin in the Negev back in 2011 — shortly before the Israeli cabinet approved plans to relocate some 30,000 Bedouins from 13 unrecognized villages to government-approved townships.
He stated that Bedouins in the permanent townships “rank on the bottom of all social and economic indicators and suffer from the highest unemployment rates and income levels in Israel.”
According to rights groups, Bedouin communities have continued to face these same discriminatory policies some six years later.
(Source / 22.08.2017)

Israeli police prevent Palestinian textbooks from entering Al-Aqsa schools

Lions'Gate entrance

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli police stationed at the Lions’ Gate entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem prevented textbooks from being delivered to Palestinian schools located inside the walled holy site on Tuesday, a day before the first day of school.

Ahad Sabri, head of one of the schools awaiting the textbooks, the Al-Aqsa Sharia School for Girls, told Ma’an that the Israeli police prevented the books from entering on the grounds that they were printed with the logo of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Sabri said that 100 textbooks, destined for students in the 7th and 12th grade, were being held on the floor outside the compound. According to PA-owned Wafa news agency, the books were headed to three Palestinian schools, two high schools and a kindergarten.
An Israeli police spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Sabri highlighted the it was not the first time Israeli authorities have restricted educational materials from entering Al-Aqsa. She said that just last week, Israeli forces prevented a private car from delivering a scanner to girls’ school, forcing children to roll it through on a wheelchair.
She noted that Israeli police also prevented standard A4 paper from being delivered to the school for a two-week period last year.
According to the school director, Israeli forces also raided and searched the classrooms when the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound was closed in mid-July in the wake of a deadly shooting at the site and an ensuing mass civil disobedience campaign and boycott against new Israeli security measures there.
She said that Israeli forces confiscated electronic equipment from the school during the closure.
Back in May, the Israeli security cabinet advanced a plan pushed forward by Israel’s far-right Minister of Education Naftali Bennett to incentivize Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem to switch to the Israeli curriculum by denying the schools that teach the Palestinian textbooks financial subsidies while granting those that teach the Israeli curriculum hefty portions of financial assistance.
Palestinians say Israeli textbooks distort and misrepresent Palestinian history and culture, and the PA has described Bennett’s plan as part of an Israeli campaign to “Judaize” Jerusalem by threatening the Arab and Islamic heritage of the holy city marginalizing Palestinian Jerusalemites.
The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.
(Source / 22.08.2017)

Israeli state argues that confiscation of occupied land benefits Palestinians

Illegal settlement and law

A Palestinian rides on a donkey with a settlement in the background

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli government defended the legality of the outpost “Regularization law” at the Israeli Supreme Court on Monday, and said that the expropriation of Palestinian-owned land would benefit Palestinians because they would receive financial compensation for it, reportedly describing Palestinian laws prohibiting the sale of land to Israelis as “racist.”

The hearing came in response to two petitions filed by human rights groups to the court demanding to strike down the law, which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of illegal Israeli settler outposts.
The Regularization law, passed by the Israeli parliament in February, states that any settlements built in the occupied West Bank “in good faith” — without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians — could be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners.
Israeli NGO Peace Now said in a statement on Monday that in response to the petitions — one of which was submitted by Peace Now and fellow rights groups Yesh Din and ACRI — the government justified the law by saying that the Palestinian landowners would receive monetary compensation.
“The government even went as far as to claim that the Palestinian landowners whose land was stolen by Israeli citizens actually benefit from the law, since they actually want to sell their lands, but can’t do so due to Palestinian laws,” Peace Now said, adding that the response also claimed that the illegal settlements in the West Bank “are a national interest that justifies confiscation of private lands.”
Israel also claimed that Palestinian laws that prohibit selling land to Israelis were “racist,” ACRI said in a statement.
According to ACRI, the Israeli state’s response argued that the parliament, or Knesset, can impose law in the occupied territory to address “problems faced by Israelis” and that settlers were considered a “local population.”
The state of Israel responded to arguments that imposing laws in the occupied territory was unjustified, due to the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank cannot vote for the Knesset, saying the issue was “irrelevant, since Palestinians also do not vote for the Military Commander who is enacting laws in the West Bank,” ACRI reported.
The rights groups had argued in the petition that the law was not just a contravention of international law but unconstitutional for Israel, as it “clearly violates the basic law: human dignity and liberty, while forcing authorities to expropriate rights of land ownership and usage from Palestinians for an unlimited time period.”
“The government attempts to present Israeli citizens, who are directly involved in land theft of Palestinians, as deserving a reward for their participation in the thievery,” the Peace Now said.
“Additionally, the law violates international humanitarian law, the laws of occupation and other international conventions signed by Israel, which oblige the state of Israel to protect the rights of residents of the occupied territory and forbid the expropriation of their property for any use by an immediate security need,” the petitioners said.
“Up until today, Israeli laws in the West Bank applied only to Israeli citizens on a personal basis. Passing the law is a clear act of applying sovereignty and thereby it is an act of illegal annexation.”
ACRI wrote that the Israeli state’s response “completely ignores the extent of the continuous unlawful violations of rights of Palestinian landowners caused by illegal takeovers of their land for settlement purposes. It expresses Israeli policies to retroactively legalize illegal Israeli construction in the West Bank in contravention to Israeli law as well as International Humanitarian Law, while rewarding the perpetrators who had illegally taken over land not belonging to them.”
Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.
The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.
While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right, with more than 50 percent of the ministers in the current Israeli government publicly stating their opposition to a Palestinian state.

(Source / 22.08.2017)

Abbas: Trump’s Administration is in Chaos

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses reporters after a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium, February 9, 2017

Ramallah– Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that since President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, he had held over 20 meetings with US officials, yet still had little idea what their plans for peace negotiations were.

Abbas told parliamentarians from Meretz party visiting Ramallah on Sunday that the entire Trump administration is in “chaos,” and indicated that the White House disarray was affecting peace efforts.

“I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos,” Abbas told the delegation.

He said that each time they reiterate their commitment to a two-state solution and the stop to settlement building, adding that he urged them to tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, but they refrain.

It is impossible to know what Trump and his team are planning, according to Abbas, and he doesn’t know to what extent this will be reflected in the results of the upcoming visit of the US delegation, part of Trump’s effort to restart the peace process.

Abbas’ comments came as Trump is set to send three top aides to the region in an attempt to relaunch peace efforts.

Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper had previously published reports about the Palestinian growing anger with the US administration.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell will all head to the Middle East, according to the White House, and will begin a lengthy tour in the Middle East where they will meet leaders from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The US delegation is expected to pressure for the launch of real negotiations between Palestine and Israel and will also discuss the possibility of regional peace.

Last negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis were held in March 2014 after nine months of US-sponsored talks.

Palestinians relied on the new US president’s capabilities of sponsoring negotiations and they requested that they begin from where they reached with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert focusing on borders and that it has to be limited by a timetable with guarantees to end the occupation. They also want Israel to commit to stopping settlements and to release detainees.

But, after series of Palestinian-US negotiations, Palestinian officials realized that Washington is more biased to Israelis. A top official told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that this prompted Abbas to reject meeting US Envoy Greenblatt.

Abbas told the Israeli group that he intends to ask Kushner again to have the White House express its commitment to a two-state solution and to demand a halt to settlement construction.

Abbas noted that the Palestinian Authority recently approached Israel, offering to resume some kind of security cooperation, but Israel has not responded to the offer.

Security cooperation between the two states had been suspended following al-Aqsa Mosque crisis on July 21.

Despite the suspension in security coordination, Abbas instructed Palestinian security forces to increase surveillance of individuals who might be liable to carry out terrorist attacks on the Mount, and did so to prevent another clash that would turn the conflict into a religious one.

The president also said that Palestinian security forces briefed the Trump administration on all the steps they take in the war against terrorism.

Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Ahmed Majdalani said Monday that there is no meaning for any US effort unless it focused on the two-state solution and end of settlements establishment.

Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio, Majdalani said the US administration’s peace efforts focus on minor issues rather than the major ones and therefore there are no signs of progress in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

The top official explained that the efforts should focus on the main issue, and not on minor secondary ones, and that is how to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine based on international resolutions.

“There are no signs that the US delegation’s visit to Palestine scheduled for the end of the month is going to have any breakthrough in the peace process deadlocked since April 2015,” he told the Radio.

Majdalani warned that Palestinian cause is not a priority issue to the US administration which focuses its efforts on issues of China, Iran, Russia and North Korea.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that connections are stopped between both parties except in urgent or humanitarian cases.

Netanyahu aide told Reuters that the reported remarks are simply incorrect.

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to elaborate, citing policy of not publishing details on security contacts with the Palestinians.

(Source / 22.08.2017)

Protest at Gaza European hospital against forced retirement

European Hospital Khan Yunis

Medical staff at the European Hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip staged a protest on Tuesday against the Palestinian Authority (PA) punitive measures which included forcing Health Ministry’s employees into early retirement and suspending patients’ medical referrals.

European Hospital’s director Dr. Yousuf al-Aqqad said that the hospital departments will have to reduce their health services once the forced retirement decision comes into force, warning that this will negatively affect Gazan citizens.

Aqqad added that they will try by all means to preserve employees’ rights and ensure the provision of health services to all citizens in a full and continuous process, noting that about 48% of Gaza’s Ministry of Health employees receive their salaries from the PA in Ramallah.

He called on Palestinian factions and international health organizations to pressure the PA to stop the arbitrary measures waged against the health sector in the Gaza Strip.

(Source / 22.08.2017)

Israeli court orders eviction of Jerusalemite family

Shamasna family eviction home

An Israeli court ordered Tuesday the eviction of the Shamasna family from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem.

Earlier on Monday, the court had refused an appeal submitted by the family against the eviction order which was issued several years ago.

Speaking to the PIC reporter, Mohamed Shamasna expressed concern that the family house could be evicted at any moment.

For his part, Hatem Abdel-Qader, a member of Fatah movement’s Revolutionary Council, considered the eviction order as a political decision par excellence which only serves Israeli settlers.

Israelis have claimed that Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was once the site of a 19th century Jewish community. Many families in the neighborhood have been embroiled in legal disputes for decades, as various Israeli settlers have attempted to claim ownership over their homes.

According to the Israeli law, Jewish Israelis are permitted to claim ownership over property believed to have been owned by Jews before 1948 during Ottoman or British rule. However, such a law does not exist for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their lands and homes during and after the establishment of the state of Israel.

(Source / 22.08.2017)

Hamas leader sentenced to 4 months without charge or trial

Shaker Amara

The Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) issued Tuesday a four-month administrative detention order against the leader in Hamas Movement Shaker Amara.

Family members quoted the lawyer as affirming that Amara was held in administrative detention for four “renewable” months.

Amara, 55, was arrested on July 23 from his house in Aqbat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho during an Israeli large-scale raid and arrest campaign.

A court hearing is scheduled to be held in the coming days to endorse the administrative detention order, the sources added.

The family pointed out that Amara, who spent more than 11 years in Israeli jails in separate arrests, suffers a number of health problems and needs special health care.

A practice dating back to the British Mandate, the decision to hold a prisoner in administrative detention is issued by the military commander based on a secret file. Both the lawyer and the detainee are not allowed to know the content of this file.

Since 1967, around 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested. In March 2017, the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails reached 6,300, including 500 administrative detainees, according to Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

(Source / 22.08.2017)

Two Palestinian homes demolished in Negev

2 pal homes demolished

The Israeli police forces stormed, along with a number of military bulldozers, Wadi al-Naam town in Negev on Tuesday and demolished two Bedouin homes before razing a nearby agricultural land.

The local activist Khaled Abu Khurma affirmed that two homes owned by al-Walidi family were demolished for being allegedly built without “Israeli permit.”

A nearby agricultural land in Khashm Zana village was also razed during the raid, he added.

Last year, more than 1,000 Palestinian houses were demolished in the Negev under the same Israeli pretext.

Nearly 50 Bedouin villages in the Negev are not recognized by Israel and have been targeted with demolition in preparation for building Jewish-only towns.

(Source / 22.08.2017)