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Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meets Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu at UN Headquarters in 2018

With the diversion of Israel’s military resources towards West Bank, Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian territory appears imminent, pending approval from and coordination with the American administration. Struggling to rally right-wing voters amidst the fight for his political survival in the elections of April, September 2019 and March 2020, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had stated that he would “apply Israeli sovereignty” over the West Bank, if re-elected. Bolstered by the reversal of decades of American policy on the issue and the subsequent release of Trump’s much criticized, one-sided ‘Middle East Peace Plan’ in January 2020, Netanyahu has aggressively pursued the annexation agenda with the emergency government formed with Benny Gantz in March 2020. Considering the expected blockage of the Security …

The Israeli general election scheduled for 9th April is widely expected to be followed with the release of what has been termed the ‘Trump peace plan’ for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The release of the plan likely rests on the outcome of the election: if Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is not returned as the largest party with him as Prime Minister then the status of the plan is uncertain given that the Trump-Netanyahu relationship underpins it. However, who will win the election is far from certain, with the latest polling placing Likud in second place, but suggesting that the right-wing coalition headed by Netanyahu would retain a majority. Given the recent surprise announcement that the United States recognises the Israeli annexation of …

Last week Yochanan Gordon posted a blog entry on The Times of Israel’s website entitled “When is Genocide Permissible?” The answer to this question so blatantly obvious that one has to wonder why the question was asked. Indeed, this inaugural post was almost one word long. However, I felt compelled to look at Mr. Gordon’s reasoning given that it has caused such outrage among people on both sides of the conflict. To borrow from J.S. Mill, doing otherwise makes dead dogma out of living truth (Mill, 37). Genocide is obviously evil, but the forensic examination of an argument with which we disagree is the best way to refute it and, hopefully, convince those who hold it to put it aside.

In September 1938, European statesmen gathered in Munich for a fateful conference. Hitler wanted to annex the Sudetenland, a German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia; Britain and France, desperate to avoid war with Nazi Germany, caved in and granted the Führer’s request. It was hoped that Hitler’s appetite for territorial expansion would be sated: Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s prime minister, proclaimed that the concession had achieved “peace for our time“. Within a year, Hitler had invaded Poland and the Second World War had begun. The policy of appeasement, it appeared, had failed and forever would fail – or so it came to be thought. As the twentieth century evolved, ‘appeasement’ evolved into a term of abuse that would automatically discredit the granting of concessions to satisfy an opponent. What had previously referred to the pacific settlement of disputes through pragmatic negotiation, argues historian David Dilks, “came to indicate something sinister, the granting from fear or cowardice of unwarranted concessions in order to buy temporary peace at someone else’s expense”. The spectre of Munich came to hang over every international crisis: the Korea, Vietnam, Falklands and Suez wars were all justified in terms of the inevitable failure of appeasement. Most recently, the willingness of the West to allow Crimea to fall to Russia has been denounced as ‘appeasement’, and it is common to hear the crisis spoken of as ‘Obama’s Munich‘. The 2005 Gaza Disengagement was Israel’s Munich moment: in Israeli discourse, ‘Gaza’ is to ‘unilateral withdrawal’ what ‘Munich’ is to ‘appeasement’. Israel withdrew its army and 8,000 settlers from Gaza Strip; the power vacuum was soon filled by Hamas, and this densely populated coastal strip became a launching pad for thousands of rockets against Israeli civilian areas, provoking two mini-wars.

Much has been written about how the media misreported the Israeli elections and I want to briefly dispel two particular misconceptions. 1) The majority of Israelis did not vote against Benjamin Netanyahu. Polls indicate quite clearly that a majority of Israelis wanted to see Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Many voters, though, were opposed to the newly created alliance between his Likud Party and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beyiteinu Party.

Hamas has been in power in Gaza – and democratically elected – since 2006. Hamas controls what comes in and out of Gaza through tunnels – more than 700 were reported in 2011. Hamas is not only the government, it is the organisation on which Gazans rely for schooling, health, housing and protection. Of course international organisations in Gaza play a large role in providing those services too, but Hamas is the overarching authority. Now that Hamas and other para-military organisations such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees, along with Salafi groups and even the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade are firing rockets at Israel intensely again, why are Gazans supporting them?

On Wednesday 24th October, Oxford’s Dr Avi Raz delivered a talk at the DPIR in order to launch his new book, “The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War”. The book – an expansion of his doctoral thesis – is a well-researched account of events surrounding one of the most important periods in the history of the Middle East: one which saw Israel secure a resounding victory over the Arab armies in the six day war, therein gaining territory 3 times the size of its nation and, after 2000 years, returning a united Jerusalem to Jewish authority.

In international relations there is sometimes a situation of political make-believe whereby states conduct themselves in a manner that actively and consciously ignores reality. On some occasions this is warranted in order to avoid a crisis or mitigate conflict. And once relevant self-deception can become ingrained after time, even though its usefulness is debatable at best. Such is the case (or perceived to be) with Israel’s capital city. Israel’s capital is Jerusalem. The government is located there; so are the Supreme Court and the Bank of Israel. All are located in West Jerusalem, which is seen by the international community as part of Israel’s sovereign territory – and would almost certainly be so following a future peace agreement with the …