Preliminary results of Israel's election show Benjamin Netanyahu weakened but likely to serve a third term as prime minister, in a shift toward what mainstream accounts call "the center." Netanyahu's bloc made up of the right-wing Likud and far-right Yisrael Beitenu came out on top with 31 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset—down form 42. Coming in second, the new "centrist" Yesh Atid (There is a Future), led by ex-TV personality Yair Lapid took a projected 19 seats. The center-left Labor, once the mainstay of Iraeli politics, came in third with only an estimated 15 seats. Arab parties are projected to have won 12 seats. The biggest party in the last Knesset, the "center"-right Kadima, dropped from 28 seats to none. (Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel blog, JTA, Jan. 23) But an election-time controversy demonstrated the degree to which ultra-right positions have become mainstreamed in Israeli politics...
Palestinian activists have established a protest encampment in the E1 Corridor, a piece of land where the Israeli government plans to build new settlements linking Jerusalem with the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc. Some 250 activists are now at the tent city, which they have dubbed Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun), and they say they plan to stay for the long-term. The camp was launched last month ago, mainly by Palestinian residents of villages in danger of having their lands "frozen" to accommodate settlement expansions.
Some 20 settlers rioted in the West Bank village of Jallud, near Ramallah, on Jan. 2, according to the residents. Witnesses said the settlers shattered the windows of one home, assaulted three residents, vandalized a parked car, and then fled the scene. The attacked residents were taken to a hospital in Nablus by the Red Cresecent. The incident took place hours after a similar incident was broken up the IDF, leading to a clash between the settlers and soldiers. The IDF said the settlers arrived in Jallud and began pelting Palestinian reisdents with stones, damaging cars and intruding into a local home. IDF forces were dispatched to the scene and dispersed the rioters. A statement said: "The IDF treats such public disordered very seriously, as they may destabilize the area and force the IDF to divert attention from its primary mission—protecting Israel and its citizens." (YNet, Jan. 2)
Israeli forces on Dec. 31 delivered evacuation orders to around 100 Palestinian families in the northern Jordan Valley ahead of a military training exercise. The evacuation affects around 1,000 Palestinians living in rural communities around Wadi al-Maleh, local mayor Arif Daraghma told Ma’an News Agency. They must leave their homes by Dec. 2 for 48 hours, or they will be subject to penalties, he said. The orders state that Israeli troops will be holding military drills in the area. "To ensure the safety of the local inhabitants, temporary eviction notices were distributed today to the residents of the illegal structures located in a closed military zone to be used in the exercise," Israel's army said in a statement. The residents will be allowed to return after the military exercises have been completed. "It should be emphasized that these structures, located in closed military zones actively used by the IDF, are illegal in nature," the statement added.
We have noted before the systematic discriminaiton against the Ethiopian Jews, or Falash Mura, in Israel—including a recent move to abolish their traditional priesthood. Now a Dec. 11 report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency loans credence to long-standing charges of contraception abuse against the community. JTA cites a report in Hebrew on Israeli Educational Television, charged that coercive contraception is behind a 50% decline in the Ethiopian birth rate in Israel over the past decade. Israeli and Jewish aid officials are denying the report. Ethiopian women interviewed for the program, called "Vacuum" and hosted by Gal Gabbai, said they were coerced into receiving injections of Depo-Provera, a long-acting birth control drug, both at Jewish-run clinics in Ethiopia and after their move to Israel.
Israeli government officials announced plans Nov. 30 to build 3,000 settlement units in the so-called E-1 area of the occupied West Bank—a day after Palestine was admitted to the UN as an observer state in a vote opposed by the US and Israel. E1, lying between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim settlement bloc, is a particularly contentious area, as Palestinian leaders say settlements there will divide the West Bank and prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he plans to "promote planning and construction" in the E-1 area.