Israeli government

What could still go wrong for Israel's prime minister.

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The Lost Art

By the standards of contemporary atrocity, Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner’s striking Andreas Ias in the face with the butt of his M-16 was a trifle. Eisner was the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade of the Israeli army, and Ias was a Dane on a bicycle who supported the Palestinians. The video of the incident depicts Eisner screaming in Hebrew to a group that does not understand Hebrew to go home, and holding his rifle horizontally, like an instrument of crowd control.

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Amid growing tension about Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of an Israeli strike (with or without advance notice to the United States), President Obama sat down for an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. When discussing the potential for a U.S.-led assault on Iranian nuclear facilities, Obama said, “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff.” Wait, really? Put aside dangerous geopolitical friction for a moment.

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Over the weekend I had the privilege of sitting in on the 8th annual Saban Forum, a high-level, Brookings-sponsored dialogue between Israeli and American officials (current and former) along with journalists, intellectuals, and representatives from other countries in the Middle East.

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The Obama administration, after failing to head off a Palestinian request to the Security Council for United Nations membership, is prepared to use its veto against it. In an undistinguished address to the General Assembly on Wednesday, President Barack Obama advised the Palestinians to bypass the UN and to confine their campaign for statehood to negotiations with Israel.

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  Andrew Sullivan recently posted an item titled "How The Pro-Israel Lobby Works," continuing with his explanation, "By fear, threats, and stigmatization." The item links to a Media Matters blog post by M.J.

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Road Block

In his State Department speech last week, Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet to Benjamin Netanyahu. In the Oval Office a day later, and more fully in an address to Congress yesterday, Netanyahu picked it up and threw it right back.  The question now is whether this clash can be turned into a new understanding between the United States and Israel that improves the prospects for the two-state solution both parties say they want. To bring this about, Obama will have to make further tweaks to his approach and rethink his declared stance on Palestinian refugees, among other matters.

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The childish panic that has swept the policy establishment over the past few weeks over the Wikileaks revelations themselves will soon subside.

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In response to a couple entreaties to Bibi Netanyahu to abandon the settlers and form a more centrist, pro-peace coalition, an exasperated Matthew Yglesias replies: At some point don’t we need to give this game up? You can make the case that even if the current Israeli government were much more reasonable than it in fact is that there still wouldn’t be a peace deal thanks to bad behavior on the Palestinian side. But it’s actually not puzzling at all why Netanyahu doesn’t form a different coalition and agree to a settlement freeze—Netanyahu favors settlement building.

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The other shoe has now dropped in the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In place of the partial freeze set to expire by the end of this month, Prime Minister Netanyahu intends to adopt more limited restraints on construction in the West Bank.

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