Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Knesset’

What Hope for Palestine?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 28th September, 2018

Netanyahu TrumpOn the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York, Donald Trump met Binyamin Netanyahu for a friendly chat. The relationship between the United States and Israel remains as close as it has ever been. President Trump did say in his trademark casual way that he thought he liked the idea of a two-state solution to the Middle East impasse. But his actions so far have done everything to undermine that goal. First there was the decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in defiance of the almost universal convention that until the final status of Jerusalem has been agreed, the Holy City should not be acknowledged as Israel’s capital. The PLO Office in Washington was ordered closed and bilateral relations between the US and Palestine downgraded. Then came the swingeing cuts to US funding for UNWRA, the agency that supports Palestinian refugees as well as the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, leaving millions of people — many already on the breadline — destitute. No wonder that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has declared that the Americans are no longer a credible mediator.

Israe; Palestine separation wallThe Netanyahu government, meanwhile, was quick to announce that any future Palestinian state will be a “state-minus”. It won’t be allowed to be in charge of its own defence and security, as Tel Aviv intends to keep control of things militarily right up to the Jordanian border. So in other words, the Occupation would continue in all but name. Moreover, the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, in contravention to international law, means that there is no viable Palestinian state left any more. The best that can be hoped for is a few little bantustans within an apartheid system. Anyone who doubts the appropriateness of the term “apartheid” in the Israel/Palestine context today needs to study the Nation State law recently passed in the Israeli Knesset. Non-Jews were de facto discriminated against within Israel before the passing of the law, but now that discrimination is officially sanctioned. As the USA under Trump is not going to do anything significant to stop the ongoing deterioration of the situation for Palestinians, it is time for the European Union to step up to the plate and become the Middle East mediator, with economic as well as political pressure on Israel to change its ways. Given Britain’s historical responsibility for mandate-era Palestine, the UK ought to be in the forefront of such action, though that is unlikely so long as Theresa May’s Conservatives are in power. However, one ray of sunshine in the otherwise cloudy landscape is that the Labour Party this week called for the immediate recognition of the State of Palestine following a similar move by the Liberal Democrats last year.

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What Next for Israel?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 10th February, 2009

Votes are being counted from Israel’s general election, with exit polls suggesting that the centrist Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni may just have edged ahead of Likud and Binyamin Netanyahu, though only by a whisker — and falling well short of a majority in the Knesset, which means that there could be weeks of coalition building by whichever of the two is invited by President Shimon Peres to try to put together a government. What does seem clear is that the centre-left Labour Party of Ehud Barak has almost certainly fallen to fourth place behind the brash new Yisrael Beiteinu party and its demagogic leader, Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman — a Moldovan immigrant who has rallied considerable support among fellow immigrants from the former Soviet Union — has been championing the idea of an Israeli loyalty oath, which would in practice require the country’s Arab population to swear alleigance to Israel as a Jewish state or else forfeit their citizenship — a singularly explosive issue at this time. Lieberman has been referred to as a ‘kingmaker’ by several media commentators, suggesting that a new coalition would have to include his party. But if Israel has any sense, it will avoid that option like the plague, or else it will certainly suffer the consequences, both at home and abroad.

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What Sort of Democracy Bans Legitimate Political Parties?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th January, 2009

ahmad-tibi       Israel likes to portray itself as a model democracy in a region where various forms of non-democratic government are more the norm. Certainly it has just about the purest form of PR in the world, though its lack of a threshold means that some real nutters get into the Knesset as long as they can garner at least 1% of the popular vote. Thus there are some really extreme, racist, right-wing political parties represented which sometimes wield considerable power, as larger parties are unable to form governments without having some form of broad coalition.

This makes it all the more outrageous that Israel’s Central Election Committee has voted by an overwhelming majority to ban two of the three main Israeli Arab parties — Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al — from standing in next month’s general election.  The committee, which comprises representatives of the country’s major political parties, has voted by a seven-to-one margin in favour of barring the two parties on the grounds that they ‘support terrorism’. Ahmad Tibi, a UAL-Ta’al MP, told the BBC ‘they are accusing us of supporting the terror while they are killing the children of Gaza.’ He continued, ‘This racist government wants us out of the Knesset during the war on Gaza.’ The Supreme Court will have the final say on Friday; if it endorses the Committee’s stance, that ;eans the two parties are out of the race. That would do wonders for Israeli Arabs’ confidence in the democratic process!

Christian and Muslim Arabs make up 20% of Israel’s population, though they have just 7 MPs in the 120-seat Knesset. In principle, they are full citizens of Israel, but they complain of systematic discrimination within the self-defined Jewish state. Some extreme fundamentalist Jewish religious leaders and politicians have argued that the Arabs should be expelled from Israel, and even more believe that Israel should formally annexe the occupied Palestinian territories as part of their vision of a Greater, supposedly ‘historic’, Israel. Not surprisingly, most Israeli Arabs are distraught about what is happening in Gaza, even if many disapprove of Hamas.

It was significant that the Israeli media the other day claimed that 90% of the population of Israel supported the onslaught on Gaza. Obviously, Israeli Arabs must not have been included in this crude opinion poll. Not for the first time, it appears that as far as the powers that be are concerned, non-Jews don’t count.

 (photo of Ahmad Tibi: Hagai Aharon)

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