West Bank

The End of the Two-State Solution

Why the window is closing on Middle-East peace

We're on the cusp of a generational shift that will make the dream of peace not just implausible but impossible.

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The real drama of Israeli politics will occur after the votes are tallied.

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Pundits in Israel are still struggling to make sense of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s surprise announcement yesterday that, at age 70, he is retiring from politics. The move, like Barak’s January 2011 decision to leave Labor and start his own political party, caught everyone off guard.

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr has announced a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. It's good news that the fighting will stop. But aside from the immediate cessation of hostilities there's little to cheer about. Here are three reasons why in the absence of considerable outside intervention, it's only a matter of time until war breaks out again. A comprehensive peace agreement is not in sight: Peace in the former Palestine rests not only on a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but on a comprehensive agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

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Yes, Hamas can change and evolve. In some ways, it already has.

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It’s no secret that Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist faction that controls Gaza, has long considered exchanging its underground smuggling tunnels to Egypt for a policy of above-board trade. What has only recently begun to register is that Hamas may be contemplating a bolder political gambit still: Cutting its financial ties to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, in preparations for declaring full independence on behalf of Gaza. Al-Hayat first reported the story on July 22.

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Last Tuesday, Israelis woke up to a new political reality. In the middle of the night, as the Knesset was voting to enact an early general election, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced a surprising deal with Shaul Mofaz, the recently elected leader of the main opposition party. All of a sudden, the snap election was called off and Mofaz’s Kadima party was part of the governing coalition. The deal was essentially about self-serving domestic politics; all the main actors (Netanyahu, Mofaz, and defense minister Ehud Barak) reaped rewards from the arrangement.

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The Visionary

If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.

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Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of the Second Generation By Robert S. Leiken (Oxford University Press, 354 pp., $27.95)  After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent By Walter Laqueur (Thomas Dunne Books, 322 pp., $26.99)  In two separate incidents in March, Mohammed Merah, a French-born French citizen who thought he was waging jihad, ambushed four soldiers around Toulouse, killing three of them. A week later, he shot dead three children arriving for morning classes at a nearby Jewish school, along with a young rabbi who was father to two of them.

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No, I am not writing about whether the Palestinian Arabs should have their own sovereign slice of Jerusalem. That is an extremely complicated matter, not least because increasingly the Arabs of the holy city and its close environs want to stay with Israeli rule, paying high taxes, enjoying liberties to which even their brothers and sisters enjoying whatever there is to enjoy during the Arab Spring season will not and cannot imagine and—most of all, I suppose—living, more or less, in a highly developed social welfare state.

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