Bronze-level articleIsrael

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Israel is a country in the Middle East that proclaims itself as a Jewish state.[1] It is the only country with a majority[2] Jewish population. The goal of historical Zionism, Israel was formed in the aftermath of the Holocaust and World War II.

Israel is situated on the south-eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea and borders Lebanon in the north, Syria and Jordan in the east, Egypt on the south-west and the Palestinian territories to the east ("West Bank") and south-west ("Gaza Strip"). Israel also controls the Golan Heights which were conquered in the 1967 war against Syria.

Israel has passed a law declaring its capital as Jerusalem, and that is where all major Israeli governmental institutions and the Knesset (Israel's parliament) are located. However, most of the world and the UN do not recognize the law establishing all of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The world's embassies to Israel - including that of the US - are therefore in Tel Aviv.[3] Calling for the American embassy to be moved to Jerusalem is a perennial cause for some Republican candidates who want to out- "I support Israel" each other.[4]

One of the most common names in Israel is Yael.


[edit] Territory

The total area under Israeli law, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi). The total area under Israeli control (with Israeli law for the Jewish settlers and military law for Arabs), including the militarily occupied and Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi).

The international community, including even Israel's allies, recognizes neither the Israeli occupation of the West Bank nor the status quo in Gaza nor Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Supporters of Israel claim that any land occupied is only being held for security purposes, and argue that Israel was not the aggressor in all of its wars (a surprisingly common opinion among participants in wars). The Arab League declared that despite its defeat by Israel, no member would recognize the State of Israel or enter any peace agreement.[5] When Egypt broke the so called "triple no" -- no peace, no negotiations, no recognition -- some Arab states in turn boycotted Egypt. To this day, Egypt and Jordan are the only neighbors of Israel with full, normal diplomatic relations and a peace treaty with Israel. Technically, Lebanon and Syria are still at war with Israel and neither formally recognizes it. The latter mostly due to the Golan issue and being currently rather busy with other things[wp].

[edit] Founding

"Founding father" David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister

Immediately prior to World War II, what is now Israel was part of the British Mandate Territory of Palestine. The British Mandate incorporated two main areas: Transjordan (now the Kingdom of Jordan), and the area today known as Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jews were a minority in the Mandate territories, but a majority in the areas designated to them in the United nations 1947 partition plan. The work and agitation of Zionists like Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920s had resulted in a growing demand for a Jewish homeland in the region, and Jewish-European immigration picked up. Initially both Transjordan and Mandatory Palestine were open to Jewish settlement, but Arab pressure would eventually lead to the Brits declaring all land east of the Jordan off limits to Jews.

In 1917, Arthur James Balfour, British Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to Walter, the 2nd Baron Rothschild, in which he promised the Jewish people would return to their homeland in Palestine, as though such a thing was Britain's to give. That letter contained the key phrase "a national home for the Jewish people" which was regarded by many as a binding statement. All they had to do was wait, it seemed. Unfortunately, the British had also promised Palestine to the Arabs, during a Cabinet Eastern Committee meeting that same year. Initially Jews and Arabs lived if not in harmony than at least in an uneasy truce in Mandatory Palestine, with moderate Arab leaders even welcoming Jewish settlement as a means to "develop" the mostly barren and arid land.

However, one Arab leader, a certain Amin al-Husseini, said that there should be no cooperation, no living side by side or indeed no selling land to Jews. Husseini and other Arabs caused a massive anti-British and anti-Jewish uprising in 1936. While the British authorities tried to work together with moderate Arab and Jewish leaders to suppress the uprising, many Zionists saw that their continued presence and security in Palestine was not guaranteed and thus formed several self defense groups, among which Haganah (moderate) and Irgun (terrorist) were the most notable. When the Arab uprising was finally suppressed by the British, thousands of Jews - both Zionist and non-Zionist - and hundreds of Arabs were dead and al-Husseini had greatly increased his influence among many Palestinian Arabs. The British in an effort to keep some semblance of control published a "White Paper" that limited Jewish immigration to mandatory Palestine to no more than 10 000 per year for the next five years and none without Arab approval thereafter.[6] Further restrictions were put on Jews buying land inhabited by Arabs.

Of course the White Paper plan did not work; illegal Jewish immigration and Zionist terrorism made it impossible. As the 1948 British Government Statement on the End of the Mandate states:

The Arabs were critical of many of the provisions in the White Paper but it seemed probable that they would eventually acquiesce in their application. The Jews, on the other hand, were bitterly opposed to it and its publication was immediately followed by an outburst of Jewish violence which continued until the beginning of the war.

...1939 also saw the beginning of organized attempts by large numbers of Jews to enter Palestine in excess of the permitted quota. These attempts have continued ever since, and, by exacerbating Arab resentment, have greatly increased the difficulty of maintaining law and order in Palestine. ...but was also the principal cause of the steady increase in Jewish terrorist activities. These had ceased at the beginning of the war, in whose prosecution both Jews and Arabs had loyally cooperated, but broke out again in 1942. From that year until the end of the war Jewish extremists carried out a number of political murders, robberies and acts of sabotage...Once Germany had been defeated, these activities, previously sporadic and supported by only a minority of the Jewish community, increased in scale and intensity as the efforts of terrorist gangs were supplemented by those of Haganah and assisted by members of the Jewish Agency. Communications were attacked throughout the country; Government buildings, military trains and places of entertainment frequented by Britons were blown up; and numbers of Britons, Arabs and moderate Jews were kidnapped or murdered. This wholesale terrorism had continued ever since.[7]

Jewish terrorist groups -- Irgun and Lehi -- bombed the King David Hotel (where the British authorities were headquartered), assassinated UN mediator Folke Bernadotte, and murdered Arab civilians and politically unacceptable Jews.[8][9]

The aftermath of the war in Europe left large numbers of stateless Jews, many of whom fled to Palestine. The terrible treatment of Jews under Nazi Germany and other Nazi-occupied and Nazi-allied nations during the war, and especially the horrors of the Holocaust, led to growing Zionist support among the Jews of Europe and Palestine, and increasing sympathy for the Zionist cause from the international community.

After the Second World War, the battered British declared that they would step out of Palestine, and both Jews and Arabs seized the chance. The Haganah and Jewish Agency began mobilizing, ready to take control at a moment's notice. The Arabs mobilized through John Bagot Glubb's Arab Legion.

In the meantime, the UN assumed the responsibility for the Mandate territory that Britain was throwing off, and devised and voted for a partition plan. The Jews accepted the agreement as a tactical maneuver (as Ben Gurion's biographer Michael Ben Zohar notes, the omission of borders in Israel's declaration of independence was not a mistake) with the goal of eventually stealing conquering more territory, to include southern Lebanon, southern Syria, today's Jordan, the whole West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula.[10] The Arabs angrily rejected the plan for which they'd not been consulted; they constituted more than two-thirds of the population but the proposal allocated them only 44% of the land.[11] Israel ended up in a dominant position after Israeli troops and terrorists forcibly evicted -- and sometimes slaughtered -- some 750,000 Palestinians and destroyed as many as 530 Arab villages. Palestinians refer to these events as the Nakba, the Arabic word meaning Catastrophe.[12][13] Later, the Zionist goal of territorial expansion was realized and Israel gained 22% more land than allocated in the partition plan.[14]

The Transjordan area (approximately 80% of the British Mandate Territory) was given to the Arabs and became the Kingdom of Jordan, under the Hashemite royal family.

[edit] Arab-Israeli conflicts

A map of the area that was the Mandate of Palestine until 1948. The green bits are under de facto Palestinian (be it Hamas or Fatah) control.

Though the original UN partition of the area into a Jewish and Arab state would have disrupted relatively few people, when the neighboring states attacked Israel in 1948, a massive dislocation of Arabs in Israel and Jews in Arab countries followed. Claiming that Israel was a European colony, many Arab states (once they achieved independence) tried to destroy the state of Israel. In the first war from 1947 to 1949 (the Arab-Israeli War), the Arab forces greatly outnumbered the Israeli forces, but the Israelis, perhaps due to better leadership and troop morale,[15] prevailed. The Suez War (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the War of Attrition (1967 again) and the Yom Kippur War (1973) all followed the same pattern. After 1967 in particular, Israel took large portions of the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria as well as Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, controlling their territory and population without annexing them outright. Currently, Israel is in something of a Cold War-esque conflict with Iran, with such proxies as Hamas in Gaza (from 2006 to the present) and Hezbollah in Lebanon arrayed against Tel Aviv since the presidency of the Dinner Jacket. Things have calmed down, for now, with Hassan Rouhani replacing Ahmadinejad in mid-2013. However, even the "moderates" in Iranian politics are not all that chummy with Israel and ultimately no important decision in Iran can be made against the will of Ayatollah Khamenei (the successor of Ruhollah Khomeini) who - like his predecessor - is no big friend of Israel to say the least.

Hamas' status as a terrorist organization is disputed, though it's not unreasonable to call it one because it targets civilians. Oddly, Hamas's parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, is considered to be a terrorist organization by more countries in spite of it being less violent; politics and all that. The secular PLO however, which was considered the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people for the majority of the situation, is not currently considered a terrorist organization by any nation. (Historically, only the United States and Israel have ever designated the PLO as a terrorist organization.) The PLO did engage in the 1970 Avivim school bus massacre, airplane hijackings, Munich Olympics Massacre, 1974 Ma'alot Massacre, 1975 Savoy Hotel hostage crisis and the 1978 Coastal Road massacre,[16] but then denounced violence, and the US and Israel adjusted their positions. The 1977 hijacking of the Landshut passenger jet was conducted by the PFLP, than a subset of the PLO in cooperation with the German leftist terrorist group Rote Armee Fraktion (the "Bader-Meinhof gang"). During this as well as other hijackings by Palestinian terrorists, Jews or people believed to be Jewish were treated worse than the rest of the hostages.[17]

[edit] Human rights

[edit] Gay rights

Israel is the only state in the Middle East to extend gay rights. However, Palestinian gay rights groups resent being used as "cover" for Israel's treatment of Palestinians in general.[18] Moreover -- and as true in many countries -- there are still significant homophobic members of the Israeli parliament.[19]

Israel's relatively positive stance on homosexuality is often used by its supporters as evidence that it is an inherently progressive country.[20] There is, however, no gay marriage in Israel because Israeli marriage law falls firmly under the control of the Orthodox rabbinate. Therefore, neither Reform nor Conservative rabbis may perform marriages in Israel, although Israel recognizes both gay and straight marriages entered abroad.[21]

Some have pointed out how gay rights has been used to "pink wash" Israel's oppressive policies toward Palestinians. During one of the Freedom Flotillas made up mostly of Americans who set out to break the controversial blockade of Gaza, an anonymous gay man named Mark posted a YouTube video, claiming to be shocked by widespread homophobia among those on the flotilla. The Israeli government initially promoted this video; however, it turned out that "Mark" was actually an Israeli actor and the video was tweeted by Guy Seemann, an employee of the prime minister of Israel. Seemann denied that he had posted the video in any official capacity.[22][23][24]

[edit] Arab and minority rights

When it comes to other minorities, Israel's record is somewhat more complicated. Defenders of Israel point out that while Israel is infringing on the rights and freedoms of Arabs by building settlements on occupied Arab territory in violation of the Geneva Conventions, Arabs living within Israel's borders are granted more freedoms than most Arabs in Arab countries. Arab Israelis have the right to vote, to organize, and to conduct their own religious services. Such rights do not, however, extend to the approximately 4 million Palestinians in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel has come under fire for banning a few Arab political parties, but the Supreme Court quickly overruled the bans. The justification given for banning the parties was their alleged support of terrorism and their refusal to recognize the existence of the state of Israel. However, there have in the past also been bans of Jewish political parties and terrorist organizations and most of those were held up by the Supreme Court, which might indicate in fact an anti-Jewish bias,[25] for fear of criticism of a perceived anti-Arab bias. There's also the occasional call for the genocide of the Palestinians issued by hardcore rabbis.[26]

Many Arabs living in Israel support liberal Zionist parties,[27] and a few Muslim Arabs do serve in the IDF, but the Netanyahu government issued dire, panicked warnings about heavy Arab voting in the 2015 election campaign.[28] Israel has a large population of Africans, which includes African Jews (mostly from Ethiopia), as well as asylum-seekers from war-torn nations like Sudan and Eritrea. African Jews experience a great deal of racism[29] in Israel which leads to protests.[30] Public and legal opinion on the Sudanese asylees is split, as many entered Israel illegally through border with Egypt after a long and often dangerous journey.[31] Many Israelis refer disparagingly to the asylees as "infiltrators," and Israel holds thousands of these refugees in encampments surrounded by barbed-wire fencing somewhere deep in the Negev desert.[32] The Washington Post reports that in May 2015 the refugees were given "30 days to accept Israel's offer of $3,500 in cash and a one-way ticket home or to an unnamed third country in Africa, or face incarceration at Saharonim prison."[33] Those that stay are helped by organizations such as B'nai Darfur (Sons of Darfur), which provides them with economic and social aid while raising awareness about the Darfur genocide.[34]

[edit] Women's rights

The centrality of religion to Israel's identity leads to particular tensions for women. Israeli women enjoy all of the rights and social mobility that one would expect in a liberal democracy. They are also subject to obligations that women in most other states are free or barred from, namely conscription - though the period of conscription is shorter for women than for men. However, the strong social and political influence of certain strains of Orthodox Judaism means that women in Israel are sometimes faced with official and unofficial sexism justified by religious dogma in places where fundamentalist communities are predominant, such as Meir Shearim in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, where some buses and public utilities serving these areas are sex-segregated.[35][36][37] While Israeli women enjoy more rights than some of their Arab counterparts (not including Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, etc.), there are feminists that criticize Israel, especially its policies vis a vis the Palestinians.[38]

[edit] Collective punishment

Human rights organizations have strongly denounced Israel's practice of demolishing the homes of the families of those considered to be Arab terrorists. Human Rights Watch has called this common, collective punishment a war crime.[39] Israel leaves the homes of the families of Jewish terrorists standing.[40] A majority of Israeli Jews support both due-process free, summary execution of anyone deemed to be an Arab "terrorist" as well as razing their families' homes. They oppose, however, adopting the same draconian policies for Jewish terrorists and their families.[41]

In November of 2015, Israel legislated a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for throwing rocks at Israeli troops, civilians or vehicles. The law also allows Israel to cancel national health insurance and other benefits for the parents of an imprisoned minor. The government purports that the legislation is temporary, passed in response to as an increase in Palestinian protests -- including rock-throwing -- against Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.[42]

[edit] Jewish Israelis criticize their country's human rights record

Amos Oz, one Israel's most celebrated writers, announced in November of 2015 that because of "the growing extremism in the present government's policy in various areas" he would not attend events hosted by Israeli embassies abroad. Israel's embassies have often hosted the author to honor him and show him off to the world.[43]

Israeli academic at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Neve Gordon, calls visual recordings of the IDF shootings of Arabs "snuff videos," including that of the shooting of Asraa Zidan Tawfik Abed, a 30-year-old Palestinian mother. Writes Gordon: "Asraa...sobs and cries out. She clearly poses no threat whatsoever to those around her, and yet suddenly a police officer nonchalantly walks toward her, aims, and shoots, three times. Asraa falls to the ground, while someone in the crowd shouts, 'Daughter of a whore!'"

Gordon argues that "the current popularity of snuff media in Israel is the product of a local melodrama industry that solicits intense pathos, which is aimed at encouraging heroic retribution against those considered responsible for so-called national injuries." And further that this industry promotes  "orgies of feeling":

Netanyahu’s recent declaration that the mufti of Jerusalem was the one responsible for the Final Solution was aimed at creating a direct link between Palestinians and Nazis in order to produce and exacerbate intense feelings of pain and outrage among Israeli Jews. These emotions are then mobilized to produce the feeling that the state must forcefully punish the culprits. Finally, it also creates what [ Elisabeth] Anker calls a felt legitimacy, the feeling among Jews that any response to the “Palestinian threat” is legitimate.[44]

[edit] Israeli nukes and Iran

Of all UN Member states only India, Pakistan, Israel, and South Sudan have declined to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.[45] (India, Pakistan, and Israel[46] all have nuclear arsenals, but South Sudan is a new country which happens to be really busy and hasn't yet found the time to sign it.) Israel's close relationship with the US shields it from the possibility of American pressure to sign that treaty.

Israel currently has a policy of "nuclear opacity[wp]," where it refuses to confirm or deny the existence of its arsenal despite common knowledge of its existence. Israeli leaders have repeatedly pledged not to be the first to "introduce" nuclear weapons to the Middle East, which makes you wonder what "introduce" actually means to a native Hebrew speaker. Israel's nuclear program had French assistance and was opposed by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, although the Nixon administration agreed to turn a blind eye. According to Avner Cohen, probably the most famous historian of Israel's nuclear program, Israel was able to assemble two nuclear weapons just in time for the 1967 Six Day War.[47] It is generally accepted that Israel had nuclear weapons by the time of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and that Egypt and Syria knew this when they chose to launch a surprise attack against Israel. The fact that the Israeli government has never threatened to use nuclear weapons, even during two wars including one in which it was caught unprepared, does not stop hipsters on the internet from calling Israel a "nuclear rogue state" that poses a threat to world security. Critics might argue that Israel and in particular its supporters have breached codes of the UN Charter by threatening to use nukes in a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" of Iranian facilities. This same history also might make you wonder what the point of Israel's arsenal is. This example, along with the Falklands War[wp] and Kargil War[wp], are often cited by critics of Nuclear Peace Theory[wp].

The question of Israeli nukes is inseparable from the fact that it is surrounded by states that have historically adapted an aggressive stance towards its very existence, and needs to ensure its survival. Critics of this argument would point that in wars excluding the 1948, Israel more often than has emerged as a less than peaceful partner (even in 1973 when it rebuffed Sadat's offer to withdraw from occupied territories) according to declassified Israeli documents, as military historian Zeev Maoz notes in "Defending the Holy Land". Maoz notes for the Six-Day War in 1967, "Israeli misconduct during border conflict with Syria was to a large extent responsible for the process of escalation that evolved into the May-June 1967 crisis. . . . The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] command was not too worried about an Egyptian surprise attack. . . . Most observers seem to agree that Nasser did not want a war."[48]

In recent years, alleged threats on the part of Iran to destroy Israel have complicated the issue.[49] However, there is some controversy over the Dinner Jacket's 2005 speech in which he was quoted as saying "the occupying regime must be wiped off the map."[50] Every scholar of Persian who commented on the alleged speech, as well as Mossad's own notes on the speech, do not translate Ahmadinijad's words as threatening to "wipe Israel off the map." The expression "wipe off the map" does not exist in Persian; Ahmadinijad was quoting from Ayatollah Khomeini, referring to a call for regime change in Israel as opposed to the obliteration of the state.[51][52] Unfortunately, nobody seems to have told the Iranian government's own staff translators that the Persian doesn't translate to "wipe off the map."[53]

On the other hand, Ahmedinejad unabashedly said such deligitimizing things about Israel and Jewish history that many consider fear of Iran to be wholly justified. Ahmadinedjad's government on different occasions hosted Holocaust denial conferences with speakers including anti-Semites and white supremacists such as David Duke.[54] This headache of a man finally left public view in 2013, when he was term-limited from running again; nobody's sad that he's gone now, not even Ali Khamenei, who himself is very much anti-Israel.

[edit] Politics

The Israeli parliament is called the Knesset; it sits in Jerusalem, is unicameral and has 120 members.[55] The Israeli electoral system is based on a party-list proportional representation with the entire country forming a single electoral district.[56] The threshold for an electoral list to enter the Knesset is two percent,[57] although there are efforts within the Israeli Knesset and the government to raise it to three or four percent.[58]

The Israeli political system is a parliamentary one in which the support of a majority of Members of Knesset (MKs) is needed in order to form a government (except for a short-lived experiment in the 1990s when the Prime Minister was elected directly by the people). After the Knesset is elected the President of Israel gives the task of forming a government to the head of the parliamentary faction whom (s)he sees as most likely to get the support of a majority of MKs, which usually though not always is also the head of the single biggest vote getting bloc. If the person chosen by the President succeeds in this task (s)he becomes Prime Minister. The term of a Prime Minister is set in law as four years, although in reality no government has managed to survive an entire term due to intergovernmental conflicts.[59] Presidents in turn are elected for a seven year term by the Knesset; other than their aforementioned role in the formation of government and their authority to grant pardons to prisoners, their function is largely ceremonial.[60]

Under current Israeli law, in order to register a party for the parliamentary elections one must receive the support of 100 sponsors,[61] although a new parliamentary list can bypass this requirement by running in the name of a registered party which no longer actually operates.[62] The proportional allocation of seats and the low threshold for entering the Knesset allows many political parties to gain parliamentary representation. With so many political parties it's bloody well impossible for any one of them to get a majority by itself, so most Israeli governments have been coalitions, leading to intense power struggles between and within parties, palace revolts, and split-offs. This effectively proves the "two Jews, three opinions" theory.

Israel has a whopping array of political parties. Almost all are split-offs from larger parties (in the best Jewish tradition) and many of them don't get along with each other. The six largest Israeli parties are:

  • Likud (Benjamin Netanyahu, reactionary and expansionist, but made to be less economically conservative thanks to social justice protests)[63]
  • Zionist Union, the largest opposition entity within the current Knesset, is composed of:
    • Labour (Isaac Herzog, centre-left/social democracy),
    • Hatnuah (Tzipi Livni, centrist)
  • Joint List (Aymen Odeh, Arab, left-wing, two-state solution), second largest opposition entity
  • Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid, centrist, liberal)
  • Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon, center-right), part of the ruling coalition
  • The Jewish Home (Naftali Bennet, religious party, nationalist, far-right)

Keep in mind, these are not actual parties; these are amalgamations of smaller parties, who are represented as themselves in the Knesset. Thus, a candidate from Ahdut HaAvoda (merged with Labor) could run on the Labor ticket but still be Ahdut in the Knesset. Crazy, no?

There are also a truckload of others, many of them two parties amalgamated due to lack of funds/actual leadership. These include:

  • Yisrael Beiteinu (Avigdor Lieberman, nationalist.[64] Before the 20th Knesset, Yisrael Beiteinu caucused with the Likud in a joint parliamentary faction,[65] similar to the way independent Senators in the US caucus with another party despite not being formal members.) However, now they are part of the opposition
  • United Torah Judaism, (Ya'akov Litzman, a party representing Haredi Jews of Ashkenazi descent.)
  • United Arab List/Ta'al (Ibrahim Sarsur, Israeli-Arab interests/anti-Zionism.)
  • Maki (Collective leadership, Marxist-Leninist.), the only Marxist party in Israel
  • Kadima (party leadeship vacant, centrist, was the largest party in 17th and 18th Knesset[66] but in the 19th one it had only two seats, making it the smallest party[67]) Did not run candidates for the 20th Knesset and therefore has no Knesset representation currently
  • Hadash (Mohammed Barakeh, socialist), part of Joint List
  • Shas (Eli Yishai, a party representing Haredi Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent.)

As for Arab parties, there are several. The largest is the United Arab List, with four three seats. The other United Arab List, which is called "United Arab List (1976)," does an effective job of confusing people when they are looking for the actual UAL campaign headquarters. The most visible, however, is Balad, led by Jamal Zahalka.[68] Zahalka earns special mention because he earned his BA, MA, and PhD at Hebrew University,[69] is the leader of an Israeli political party (on three Knesset committees), and complains vocally that he is a victim of Israeli apartheid.

There are currently five parties without Knesset seats:

  • Hatzohar
  • the Popular Arab Bloc
  • the Women's Party
  • Tafnit, and
  • Yamin Israel

These parties have all been disbanded as of this writing. There is one party that has been banned from the Knesset, the militantly anti-Arab Kach party.[70] No one misses it.

Benjamin Binyamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel, with Shimon Peres as President. Netanyahu's Likud merged with Yisrael Beiteinu, the nationalists, before the most recent election. However, they needed even more parties to join them to form a coalition after Yesh Atid did better than expected. The Likud Yisrael Beiteinu merger invited Yesh Atid and two more parties (the liberal centrist Ha'Tnua and the religious nationalist The Jewish Home) to form an extremely broad coalition of conservatives, centrists, nationalists, secularists, and orthodox Jews. They tried to include Shas (basically the Jewish Constitution Party), but disagreed with the ruling coalition on conscription (see below), so the social conservatives joined their polar opposites, the Labor party, in opposition.[71]

[edit] U.S. Aid

At $3.1 billion annually, Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid.[72] In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package. In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Barack Obama for a new $5 billion per year agreement. Obama signaled that the amount of aid to Israel will increase and he will be sending a team to Israel to determine the exact amount.[73] This occurs as the U.S. is cutting the The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) for needy Americans who lack food security.[74]

[edit] Conscription

In Israel, because the population is so small and the nature of some of its not-so-friendly neighbors, all Jews (and several non-Jews) are required to join the military. When Israel was founded, there was (and still is) a large ultra-orthodox population who devote their lives to studying the Torah. In fact, they are very large welfare recipients and a lot of them are not employed. To appease these fairly politically powerful groups, Israeli conscription law gives what some may consider to be actual "moochers" (as opposed to welfare recipients in the United States) an exemption from serving in the military. This is similar to conscientious objection, but they don't even have to work nonviolent but productive jobs. Therefore, most of the political parties want to end the exemption, but the Shas party is powerful and valuable in a coalition (which always happens), so this exemption is still in place. Some of these orthodox groups object to the existence of Israel as they believe, according to the Torah, that Israel is not supposed to exist until the Jewish Messiah appears.

Due to the fact that most of Israel's military engagements have been with Arab nations and terrorist organizations, Arab-Israelis are not drafted to the military. However, they can volunteer and some, especially Bedouins, have done so - even as early as the 1948 war[75]. The Israeli Druze[wp] community (a monotheistic ethnoreligious group) has a generally good relationship with the Israeli authorities, and therefore Druze men are also drafted to the military (women are exempted) unless they decide to devote their life to religious studies and service, in which case they are exempted. The same holds true for the Israeli Circassian[wp] community. The Druze living on the Golan Heights are a bit of a different story. While they were offered Israeli citizenship when Israel extended its civil administration to the Golan (the same was done in the course of the 1980 Jerusalem Law[wp] for the Arabs residing in East Jerusalem, but almost all Arabs in question rejected this offer), only 10%[76] took up the initial offer. Non-citizens are not drafted regardless of ethnicity or religion.

However, in recent years, the younger generation of Golan Druze seems to have come to terms with Israel as evidenced by rising numbers of applications for Israeli citizenship. The latter may also be due to the Syrian civil war, however, as the Syrian Druze (many inhabitants of the Golan have or had Syrian citizenship) are a somewhat privileged group in the Assad regime and fear reprisals from Islamist extremists.[77][78] The process for gaining Israeli citizenship is a long and arduous one, however, and many applications are rejected, for some mysterious reason.[79]

[edit] Torture

The Israeli government admits that its security forces tortured prisoners between 1988 and 1992,[80] and human rights organizations have stated that torture has continued on a widespread institutionalized basis into the present.[81][82]

Although in large part outlawed by the Israel's High Court of Justice in 1999, their verdict left open an allowance for torture under certain circumstances which human rights organization B'Tselem said "legitimated, if only by implication, the use of torture and ill-treatment" and left open "the slippery slope leading to an increase in torture and ill-treatment."[83]

[edit] Apartheid

Israel has long been accused of being an apartheid state.[84]. Many supporters of Israel, such as American pro-Israel activist Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, reject this charge.[85] The liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, editorialized that the name for Netanyahu's implemented policies and stated intentions -- which envision Israel holding military dominion over the occupied territories essentially in perpetuity -- is apartheid.[86].

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Sources

  • Avner Cohen. 1998. Israel and the bomb. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231104838.

[edit] Footnotes

  2. roughly 80% of those living within the 1967 lines. The biggest minorities are (in descending order) Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Druze and various smaller groups
  3. Which was the capital of Israel briefly after independence and the second largest city of Israel.
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Khartoum Resolution.
  9. International Terrorism: Image and Reality by Noam Chomsky
  11. Wm. Roger Louis, "The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945–1951: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism", (New York, 1984), p. 445
  13. is the nakba
  14. Bar-Zohar, Michael "Ben-Gurion: A Biography" (New York, 1978), p. 162
  15. Many may have very justifiedly believed that they were literally fighting for their lives, which tends to engender a bigger fighting spirit then having to conquer some land for no real reason than the boss saying so
  16. See the Wikipedia article on PLO #Terrorist activities.
  17. see here[wp] for an example
  19. [1]
  25. though the banned party[wp] certainly deserved banning, some of the Arab parties and politicians are no better when you get down to it
  26. [2]
  35. "Israeli woman refuses ultra-Orthodox dictate to move to back of bus", Haaretz 12 December 2011
  36. [3]
  37. [4]
  45. North Korea was a signatory by withdrew in 2003, so is effectively another non-signer.
  46. Though Israel's official policy is one of "nuclear opacity", i.e. the stupid CIA game of "neither confirm nor deny"
  47. Avner Cohen. Israel and the bomb. Columbia University Press, New York, 1998.
  48. Maoz, Zeev "Defending the Holy Land: A critical analysis of Israel’s security and foreign policy" (Ann Arbor: 2006), pp. 36, 82-93 (1967).
  49. Israel condemns Iranian threats, BBC
  50. New York Times' text of the speech
  55. The State: Legislature: The Knesset
  56. The State: Elections
  57. The Electoral System in Israel
  59. Israeli Democracy-How does it work
  60. THE STATE: The Presidency
  61. The Israeli law regulating the formation of political parties
  62. Definition of "Mifleget Madaf" (shelf party)
  63. Likud, on the Knesset's website
  64. Yisrael Beiteinu, on the Knesset's website
  65. Likud Yisrael Beitenu, on the Knesset's website
  66. See the the respective elections results for the 17th and 18th Knesset
  67. Final official results of the Elections for the Nineteenth Knesset
  68. National Democratic Assembly (Balad), on the Knesset's website
  69. Jamal Zahalka, on the Knesset's website
  70. Kach, on the Knesset's website
  75. see here[wp] and here
  77. With Syria ablaze, dozens of Golan Heights Druze seek Israeli citizenship
  78. Young Druze seek Israeli citizenship as Syrian crisis worsens
  80. "Israel admits torture," BBC, 9 February 2000
  81. "ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION, The Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees" B'Tselem, May 2007
  82. "Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories Annual Report 2012" Amnesty International, 2013
  83. "Torture and ill-treatment as perceived by Israel’s High Court of Justice" B'Tselem, 1 Jan 2011
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