Category Archives: Domestic Israeli News

Let the Electioneering Begin

It’s always good to escape Israel for a couple weeks – to clear one’s the head from the barrage of security concerns and political manoeuvring that dominates the Israeli news cycle. Thus I escaped to northern Europe for a couple of weeks, forcing myself to avoid all possible contact with Israeli news websites or my over-bloated Twitter feed (a battlefield of leftist/rightist hyperbole).

Back ‘home’ the first Israeli newspapers I stumbled across were covered with the news that we will be having early elections – presumably late January.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to call for early election was hardly unexpected. The nature of Israeli politics with its broad (and historically shaky) coalition governments means that it is rare that any government lasts its scheduled term. Now we can ‘look forward’ to three months of electioneering and intense political horse-trading as parties position themselves accordingly – with the prospect of yet another hodgepodge coalition government a given.

The main players in Israel’s elections

It’s hard to be enthused by this election, which is undoubtedly going to be dominated by the Iran, with Benjamin Netanyahu likely to cast the election as referendum on his plan to deal with Iran militarily in the coming year. I am curious to see to what extent the Israeli-Palestinian issue or the increased cost of living in Israel will be debated, and what solutions, if any, the various parties will offer on these issues. Though I am definitely not getting my hopes up.

I will try my best to keep you posted…

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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Domestic Israeli News


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Israel’s Call for Change

Here’s a better (and more visually appealing) description of what I was trying to explain in my previous post about the spate of demonstrations unleashed across Israel this summer by CNN’s Middle East correspondent Kevin Flower – who, by the by, I saw give a very interesting Q&A at Hebrew University earlier this year where he did a very good job of trying to persuade a tough audience that the foreign media does not have an inherently anti-Israel bias

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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in Domestic Israeli News


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A Summer of Discontent

In the space of a couple of days last week I attended two protests in central Jerusalem; one evening the annual gay pride parade followed a couple of days later by the even larger housing demonstration.

Yes, it’s the summer of discontent for sure.

I am not sure how much the news of these latter protests have reached the wider world but here in Israel the sights and sounds of chanting students alongside tented villages has become all-pervading.

The cause: initially it was the issue of rising housing costs that face students and young people that had protesters erecting tented villages along Tel Aviv’s main boulevard and in parks and squares in other cities. As the number of tents multiplied their grievances began to touch upon wider issues of social justice. And now a day doesn’t go past without a myriad of other single-issue demonstrations tagging themselves onto the protests. It’s not entirely surprising as Israeli society has become increasingly unequal and unfair despite its strong economy and low unemployment levels (Israel’s Economic Miracle (or is it…?). For all the bravado that successive Israeli government have put on about the state of the Israeli economy and the dynamism of its hi-tech sector it has been failed miserably in addressing the societal inequalities that have steadily built up over a generation. As is happening across Europe and North America there is a sudden realisation that the young generation today are going to be worse off than the generation before them.

No one really knows where this is going and how long it can last. The government is unlikely to cave in as none of the coalition parties have anything to gain from jumping ship and the central-left parties are still too disorganised to gain any advantage – besides elections are still a year and a half away. Then there is the spectre of a September show-down as the Palestinians push for statehood at the United Nations; not to mention the possibility of rocket attacks from Lebanon or Gaza and whatever other security threats may exist.

Life here is definitely hotting up (as is the weather)…

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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Domestic Israeli News, Jerusalem


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Israel’s Economic Miracle (or is it…?)

7.8% economic growth; are you sure we aren’t mistaking theses for China’s figures?! – Whilst economic growth in the developed world continues to falter the news that the Israeli economy grew by 7.8% in the final quarter of 2010 took many by surprise.

In a week where the history of the Middle East continues to be rewritten it seems pretty trivial to talk about the latest growth figures of the Israeli economy. However, last week amongst the latest reports from Bahrain, Egypt and Libya, and the opinion pieces depicting future scenarios of either hope or fear in the Middle East, one of the front pages in the Haaretz was devoted to a beaming Prime Minister Netanyahu – for once – announcing that his “sound economic policy” is helping propel the Israeli economy to dizzy new heights (Israeli GDP surges up OECD ranks in 2010) . This is nothing new, as this 2008 graph from The Economist below shows…

A graph showing Israel's impressive economic growth in comparison to the rest of the developed world.

A graph showing Israel's impressive economic growth in comparison to the rest of the developed world.


See, if you spent your life in Tel Aviv, working in the hi-tech industry parks in the latest  start-up company, living in the plush seafront neighbourhoods with your view over the Mediterranean, the idea that Israel’s successful hi-tech sector was helping drive the Israeli economy ever onwards towards OECD respectability and envy would seem inevitable.

But over the year and a bit I have now  lived in Israel it’s quite obvious that the economic dictum that a rising tide lifts all boats does not apply to Israeli society – that economic growth has not been shared fairly and the gap between rich and poor widens. As this next graph shows, for all the stellar growth and weekly pronouncements of another successful Israeli start-up, the level of income inequality continues to rise.


Income equality on the rise in Israel

Venture beyond the  Tel-Avivian seafront, past the quiet environs of the Israeli center and into the Israeli hinterland and another picture emerges. In the south Bedouin villages dot the Negev; precarious settlements often without the basic amenities and services. In Jerusalem the religious orthodox neighbourhoods are bursting at the seams as family sizes of sometimes a dozen live in deteriorating apartment blocks – with the men opting to study the Torah and the women locked in a state of constant pregnancy or childcare, families rely on state hand-outs to survive. And in the north large Arab communities find themselves marginalised with the first steps up onto the Israeli economic ladder blocked by a  lack of opportunity due to discriminatory nationalist/religious/racial hurdles.

It’s a shame that a country originally founded upon the values of economic justice and equality along with a sense of community and togetherness should now have reverted to being one of the world most unequal ‘rich’ countries. But in a country where security issues dominate the news and political agendas, it’s hard for these type of debates to be heard.


Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Domestic Israeli News


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Anti-Obama Poster Campagin: Israeli Style

“Beware! A PLO Agent in the White House”

Here is one of many anti-Obama posters that began springing up in Jerusalem over the last couple of weeks. You don’t even have to understand the Hebrew text to get the message – Obama bowing in submission to the Arab world.

Launched by one of Israel’s many far-right political parties this particular campaign attempted to latch on to the growing antagonism between the Israel and the Obama administration. This thankfully is not the view of the majority of Israelis – this specific poster, around the corner from our apartment, only lasted a few days before being partially ripped off.

This is not to say however that Israelis view Obama as particularly friendly towards Israel. Just 9 percent of Jewish Israelis think US President Barack Obama’s administration is more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, whilst 48% of Jewish Israelis think he is more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel. In contrast when George W Bush was in power 88% of Jewish Israelis viewed the US President as more pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian.

It’s been slightly surreal seeing the sudden change of tone  from the US. Of course whether it leads to any real change in action is another matter. When Joe Biden was in town a few weeks back he managed to bring much Jerusalem to complete standstill as he and his motorcade shuttled back and forth between Jerusalem and in nearby Palestinian capital Ramallah. Since then the peace process has been at a standstill as accusations and excuses flew back and forth over the Atlantic between Jerusalem and the Washington.

And reading my English-language Israeli newspaper (The Haaretz), it’s been fascinating following the relentless ire and dissatisfaction leveled at Benjamin Netanyahu and his unsteady coalition government – made up of ultra-nationalistic and religious parties. Unless Obama backs down from his demands it seems like this is a coalition doomed to disintegrate in the face of the tough (but justified) US demands. One can only hope…

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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Domestic Israeli News


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Foreign Office Advice: “Be careful with your passport”

Does anyone remember the assassination of a top Hamas member by supposed Israeli Mossad agents in Dubai; the fuzzy CCTV footage, the dubious disguises, the international outcry, the Israeli denial? Well that was 2 months ago. Since then Israel has been embroiled in yet another international diplomatic row – this time over settlement construction in East Jerusalem. Such has the focus been on the settlement dispute that  you could have almost been forgiven for thinking that the Dubai assassination episode had successfully been swept under the carpet; the story had seemingly fallen away from the headlines.

But yesterday the story was back in the headlines both here and in the UK, as the British Foreign Minister announced the decision to expel a high-level Israeli diplomat from the UK – most probably the head of Mossad’s UK office.

In his statement to the House of Commons, Davie Miliband noted that the forgery of UK passports by Israel “presents a hazard for the safety of British nationals in the region”. Travel advice from the British Foreign Office has been updated to include this following statement.

UK passport holders should be aware of a recent Serious Organised Crime Agency investigation into the misuse of UK passports in the murder of Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai on 19 January 2010.  The SOCA investigation found circumstantial evidence of Israeli involvement in the fraudulent use of British passports.  This has raised the possibility that your passport details could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control.  The risk applies in particular to passports without biometric security features.  We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary.

Tellingly, this comes before all information on the dangers of entering the Gaza strip or the threats of terrorism.

Not such good news for myself. I have presented by British passport to Israelis on dozens of occasions – carrying I.D. in Israel is obligatory and thus my passport has become essential for a whole number of things: entering public buildings, crossing checkpoints and so on. To be honest I am not too concerned (if at all), but I still feel somewhat bemused as to how Israel thought it could get away with showing so much “disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom”. You can’t  imagine that they would have the chutzpah to undertake a similar action using US passports. Although given the vitriolic dislike towards Obama shown by some parts in Israeli society I wouldn’t put it pass them quite yet.

Still expelling a diplomat here and there is hardly going to change things. Promises and assurances that this will never happen again are meaningless; an Israeli diplomat was expelled from the UK in the 1987 due to a similar case of passport forgery.

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Posted by on March 24, 2010 in Domestic Israeli News


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Israeli Aid to Haiti – but what about Gaza?

Along with rest of the world, news coverage in Israel has in the last week focused on the cataclysmic earthquake in Haiti. Just like so many other countries it wasn’t long before Israel had its very own rescue team on the ground – searching for survivors under the rubble, setting up field hospitals – their hard work and determination to help the Haitian people broadcast proudly on the evening news.

There is no doubting the outstanding expertise and determined effort behind these Israeli rescue teams when parachuted into the latest horrific natural disaster; the countless lives they save, priceless.

But isn’t it slightly strange that the Israeli army is willing to send out the very best rescue teams and humanitarian aid to these far-flung locations at the drop of a hat when right next door millions of innocent civilian are living in abject poverty, and without much hope for a better future – citizens for whom Israel continues to have a legal responsibility for? What about the 1.5 million Gazans still suffering the aftermath of the violent conflict and the now unrelenting Israeli/Egyptian blockade?

This was the argument laid out in opinion piece by Israeli journalist Akiva Eldan in today’s Haaretz newspaper: Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza

The remarkable identification with the victims of the terrible tragedy in distant Haiti only underscores the indifference to the ongoing suffering of the people of Gaza. Only a little more than an hour’s drive from the offices of Israel’s major newspapers, 1.5 million people have been besieged on a desert island for two and a half years. Who cares that 80 percent of the men, women and children living in such proximity to us have fallen under the poverty line? How many Israelis know that half of all Gazans are dependent on charity, that Operation Cast Lead created hundreds of amputees, that raw sewage flows from the streets into the sea?

Of course, unlike in Gaza, the leaders of Haiti aren’t out on a mission to destroy Israel. Nevertheless it is still perplexing that nothing is done let alone broadcast on national Israeli TV of the humanitarian catastrophe that it is happening right now, every day, right next door.