Latest News on Israel and the Jewish World

JNS.org freelance reporters and staff editors strive to provide high quality news coverage of the latest news from Israel and the Jewish world. In this section JNS.org offers analytical reports and commentaries on politics and international affairs, culture and lifestyle features, arts and sports content, and religious news. For the latest news on Israel, we also include exclusively syndicated content from Israel Hayom, a major daily newspaper in Israel. If you are interested in a specific topic, please browse through the content “categories” in our navigation bar or search our site.

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“You are living in a paradise in comparison to the Syrian people. Shame on you. We are being killed,” said Issam Zeitoun, who lives in the Syrian portion of the Golan Heights, in response to Arab-Israeli students who accused him of being a traitor because he was speaking in Israel. Zeitoun was one of two Syrian opposition figures who addressed Israelis Jan. 17 at Hebrew University's Truman Institute. The event featured Sirwan Kajjo, a Syrian-Kurdish author from the city of Qamishily, and Zeitoun, who lives minutes from the border with Israel in the village of Bet Jan. Asked about his views on Israel's best course of action in the bloody Syrian arena, Kajjo said the Jewish state should “make more friends in Syria,” calling that approach “the right thing to do in this chaotic environment.”

Two separate investigations into the conduct of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have dominated headlines in the Israeli media during the past several weeks. While Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has yet to announce whether any indictments are forthcoming and many details of the cases remain unknown, many Israeli journalists and members of the political opposition are piecing together initial details to reach what experts are warning could be prematurely negative conclusions on the prime minister’s conduct. Dr. Jonathan Spyer, director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya university, said it should come as no surprise that many journalists are “hostile” to Netanyahu. “For those that think this is an obituary for Netanyahu, that obituary has been written many times,” said Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster and public opinion expert.

After raising some pro-Israel concerns early in his campaign by saying that he would remain “neutral” in navigating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Donald Trump has increasingly taken positions that mirror the Israeli government’s views, including his vows to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But upon his Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump’s emerging Cabinet contains a mix of assurances and mysteries when it comes to the officers’ pro-Israel credentials. JNS.org examines the Israel-relevant records of six Trump Cabinet nominees and one appointee with Cabinet-level status.

American victims of Palestinian terrorism are applauding Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and are urging him to press the PA to take specific anti-terror steps. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson said that while the PA has renounced terrorism, "it's one thing to renounce it and another thing to take serious actions to prevent it." He also said Palestinian leaders have to do "something to at least interrupt or prevent [terrorism]" before there can be "any productive discussion around settlements.” Sarri Singer, who was seriously wounded in a June 2003 Jerusalem bus bombing, said she is “encouraged” by Tillerson’s comments and urged Tillerson to press the PA to honor the 36 requests Israel has submitted for the extradition of Palestinian terrorists. Arnold Roth, whose teenage daughter Malka was killed in the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem, said he hopes the incoming Donald Trump administration will “actively pressure” the PA to reform its educational system.

In the aftermath of the Obama administration’s refusal to veto the U.N. resolution against Israel's settlement policy, Israeli political figures are increasingly mulling the idea of annexing the West Bank and implementing a “one-state solution” during the incoming Donald Trump era. “The U.N. resolution destroyed any residual chance there might have been to achieve peace with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization),” said Caroline Glick, an influential Israeli-American columnist and author of the book “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.” Eli Hazan—director of communications and international relations for Israel’s ruling Likud party—said that despite how Trump’s victory is “raising hopes and expectations on the right regarding government policy in Judea and Samaria,” he believes “the status quo will continue despite all the talk.”

The incoming Donald Trump presidency likely means a sharp break from President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. For Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel and two of the most reliable U.S. allies in the Middle East, the Trump administration will provide new opportunities and challenges going forward on issues such as Islamic extremism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the status of Jerusalem. JNS.org interviews Mideast experts about prospects for the region's future dynamics during the Trump era, including how American policy might affect relations between Israel and Arab states.

A former State Department official’s new plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace is the latest in a long series of Foggy Bottom proposals for a Mideast solution that went nowhere. Writing on the op-ed page of The New York Times Jan. 5, former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk argued that dividing control of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the key to “moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.” JNS.org's Rafael Medoff recounts 10 major State Department proposals for Israeli-Arab peace.

A Palestinian driver rammed a truck into a crowd of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem Sunday, killing four and injuring 16 others in a terror attack that immediately drew comparisons to recent vehicular attacks in Nice (July 2016) and Berlin (December 2016). But Dr. Mordechai Kedar, senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, took the comparison a step further, likening the Jerusalem truck-ramming to the attacks of September 11, 2001. “It’s just like airplanes that were crashed into skyscrapers,” Kedar told JNS.org “Whether it is a car, a truck or an airplane, it is the same idea—to take something which looks innocent, which looks peaceful, which looks constructive, and to turn it into a deadly weapon.”

Jewish leaders are criticizing a former U.S. diplomat for using what they say is “dehumanizing rhetoric” in his denunciation of Israeli settlements. David A. Korn, who served at American embassies in the Middle East and Africa, ignited the controversy with a Jan. 3 letter in the Washington Post, in which he wrote that “settlements speckle the area like a rash.” Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said, “I favor a two-state solution, but I strongly object to the demonization of the settlers and the tarring of all of them with the brush of a marginal few fanatics.” Korn said it is “ridiculous” for Jewish leaders to consider his rhetoric offensive, telling JNS.org that he is “not going to apologize to anyone.”

Silently cruising in the depths of the seas, near and far from Israel’s Mediterranean coastline, the Israeli Navy’s growing submarine fleet conducts missions that are shrouded in secrecy and are considered essential for national security. Yet recently, the submarines made headlines for all the wrong reasons after Israeli media outlets accused government decision-makers of being in a conflict of interest when they ordered three additional submarines from German manufacturer ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. The controversial order is designed to replace Israel’s three oldest submarines with state-of-the-art vessels, enabling the Jewish state to maintain a modern fleet of six submarines. “One of the problems when discussing the question of whether to acquire three more submarines is that I, as a researcher, cannot say anything [about what they do]. I really do not know,” said Yiftah Shapir, head of the Middle East Military Balance Project at the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Institute for National Security Studies.

Arabs in Israel maintain a higher quality of life than their brethren elsewhere in the Middle East, yet a significant number continue to support the Palestinian-Arab struggle against the Jewish state. One of the latest incidents occurred in the Arab city of Nazareth, where the municipality held a recent event that ended up glorifying terrorist murderer Baha Alyan, who along with an accomplice murdered three Israelis on a bus in Jerusalem last year. Additionally, Arab Member of Knesset Basel Ghattas is under investigation for allegedly smuggling cell phones and SIM cards to Palestinian security prisoners in Israel. Dr. Mordechai Zaken, head of minority affairs in the Israeli Public Security Ministry, told JNS.org that Israel’s Arab public can be divided into various parts and should not be generalized. Arabs can be grouped according to location, religion, sect, professional affiliation and other factors, he said.

A leading Palestinian spokesperson is telling American television audiences that she rejects the concept of Islamic countries—but an investigation by JNS.org has found that the largest donors to the organization she heads are self-described Islamic countries. The controversy began with a recent CNN appearance by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, who has served as a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to American audiences for more than two decades. CNN anchor Don Lemon asked Ashrawi whether the Palestinians are willing “to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Ashrawi replied, “If you want to give religion to states, that is against our principles.” Her statement, however, appears to contradict an official PA document that states, “Islam is the official religion in Palestine.” 

The onset of 2017 comes several weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, ushering in a new era in the U.S.-Israel relationship. The new year and new administration bring intrigue and unanswered questions on a number of major storylines that could shape the complexion of American-Israeli ties both this year and for years to come. JNS.org presents five potential major developments to watch for this year.

The timing of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s so-called farewell speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seemed to stem largely from “personal animosity” between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and obsessively focused on Israeli settlements while ignoring illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank, Middle East experts told JNS.org's Sean Savage.

While Secretary of State John Kerry was addressing the media Dec. 28 in Washington, D.C.—castigating Israel for criticizing the Obama administration’s refusal to veto the United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements—a different crowd took the streets of New York City to protest America’s inaction on the U.N. measure. Organized by the New York-based Jewish Voice newspaper, the rally outside the U.S. Mission to the U.N. featured speaker after speaker deriding President Barack Obama and Kerry for the administration’s policy, while encouraging attendees to remain strong and to stand with the Jewish state. 

Several Jewish organizations and leaders are expressing alarm over former U.S. diplomat Martin Indyk’s role in the Obama administration’s recent Israel policy moves. Indyk was President Barack Obama’s envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2013-2014, and reliable Washington sources report that the maps and proposals he formulated in recent years are still central to Obama’s strategy for the Palestinian issue. Now, several Jewish organizations are urging Indyk to clarify whether or not he made a series of harsh remarks about Israel and Jews in a tape-recorded private conversation in 1989. In that conversation, Indyk reportedly said Israelis are “paranoid,” “arrogant,” and think that “the rules of society do not apply [to them]” because “they are the goy’s rules.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the Israeli government over settlement building, warning that the two-state solution is “in jeopardy,” in a lengthy speech Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly called “almost as unbalanced” as the United Nations Security Council’s recent anti-settlement resolution. “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace,” Kerry said in his speech, which lasted an hour and a half and detailed the outgoing Obama administration’s vision for Mideast peace. Netanyahu expressed “deep disappointment” in how Kerry blamed Israeli policy for the conflict and merely “paid lip service” to the unrelenting terrorism waged against the Jewish state.

President-elect Donald Trump, who frequently takes pride in his track record as a negotiator, this week named one of his campaign's Israel advisers as the incoming administration’s special representative for international negotiations. Real estate transactions lawyer Jason Dov Greenblatt, who alongside U.S. ambassador to Israel appointee David Friedman co-chaired the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee, earned high praise from Trump in the president-elect’s announcement of his White House role. “He has a history of negotiating substantial, complex transactions on my behalf, as well as the expertise to bring parties together and build consensus on difficult and sensitive topics,” Trump said in a statement on Greenblatt, who has worked for The Trump Organization since 1997.

President Barack Obama sprang his much-anticipated “December surprise” on Israel at the United Nations, capping off 2016 with a bang as it relates to the Gregorian calendar year’s major events surrounding the Jewish state. JNS.org recaps 10 Israel news storylines that defined this past year.

With the U.S. abstaining from Friday’s vote, rather than exercising its veto power, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction beyond the 1967 lines. The resolution was put forward Friday by four non-permanent Security Council members—New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal—a day after Egypt, which originally sponsored the resolution, withdrew under pressure from President-elect Donald Trump and Israel. The decision not to veto by outgoing President Barack Obama, who has had a tenuous and sometimes hostile relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the last eight years, marks a substantial break from the longstanding American policy of defending Israel against one-sided resolutions criticizing the Jewish state in the world body.