TIME celebrities

Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Site Cuts Kim Kardashian From Photo

The photo of Kardashian, her husband Kanye West and Jerusalem's Mayor Nir Barkat was altered to put Kardashian behind a restaurant receipt

(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish news website has cut Kim Kardashian — one of the world’s most photographed women — from a photo taken of her in Jerusalem this week.

The original photo of Kardashian, her husband, Kanye West, and Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat was altered to put Kardashian behind a restaurant receipt. Kardashian was blurred in another.

Nissim Ben Haim, an editor at the Kikar HaShabbat website, said Wednesday they removed Kardashian because she’s a “pornographic symbol” who contradicts ultra-Orthodox values.

In an article chiding Barkat for dining with them at a non-kosher restaurant, Kardashian was referred to as “West’s wife.”

Within the insular Ultra-Orthodox community, pictures of women often aren’t shown out of modesty. In January, an ultra-Orthodox newspaper removed German chancellor Angela Merkel from a photo.

TIME portfolio

These Teenagers Are Israel’s Future Soldiers

They learn how to assemble an AK-47 assault rifle and how to react in an urban, house-to-house fighting situation

In a country where military service is mandatory (three years for men and two for women) groups of young Israeli teenagers are increasingly joining advance-training programs to prepare – physically and mentally – for duty.

“In Israel, once you join the army, you become a grown-up,” says Oded Balilty, an Associated Press photographer based in Tel Aviv. “One day, you’re a teenager, the next you’re a soldier with a gun. And so, some of them want to prepare themselves and feel more comfortable with the idea of being a soldier.”

For Israelis, conflict has become a fact of life — Israeli reservists can be called into active duty during times of crisis. “Yet, most kids will often only hear about it in the news; they don’t really live it,” says Balilty. “Of course, during wartime, they go down to shelters if necessary, but they mostly hear about it from their parents and friends around the dining table. Teenagers care about different stuff. They care about dating girls; they care about parties; they care about their iPhones and their iPads.”

For most of them, war only becomes a reality when they start their military service, and end up on the front lines.

Balilty spent six days following 400 students taking part in military combat fitness-training programs organized by Excellent Training, an independent company founded by Nir Cohen, a former Israeli paratrooper. Students meet three times a week, over a year, and are put through grueling exercises designed to strengthen them ahead of their military service. “For example, those who train to join the Navy are sent in the water when it’s cold weather,” says Balilty. “They go in and out, and at the same time the instructors are asking them questions about the history of Israel to see if they’re focused and if they are mentally stable. It’s very intense. [The instructors] want to simulate the tension and stress that soldiers are under in the military.”

The students also learn how to assemble an AK-47 assault rifle, and how to react in an urban, house-to-house fighting situation.

Excellent Training is just one of the many companies, founded by former members of the Israeli military, that have been offering these training programs in the last decade. “There are many others in each large city [in Israel],” says Balilty, who has followed several of these groups in recent months.

In the end, says Balilty, “these teenagers are definitely more ready than most of the teenagers that go straight into the army. I’ve seen 16 and 17-year-old kids that were really mature. Other kids tend to be more scared about joining the army. They can break mentally. So I think this [sort of training] is really helping them.”

Oded Balilty is an Associated Press photographer based in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Israel

Netanyahu Presses U.S. to Secure a ‘Better Deal’ With Iran

"I think the alternatives are not either this bad deal or war. I think there's a third alternative"

(JERUSALEM) — Israel’s prime minister on Sunday urged world powers to step up pressure on Iran as they finalize a nuclear deal in the coming months, saying there was still time to improve what he said was a deeply flawed framework agreement reached last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearances on multiple American TV news programs on Sunday signaled the launch of what is expected to be a furious lobbying effort to scuttle or reshape a deal that he has criticized as “bad” and a threat to Israel’s very existence. A document drawn up by experts in Netanyahu’s office, obtained by The Associated Press, gives a glimpse of the arguments the Israeli leader is going to raise, targeting vague language in the system of inspections and its failure to address issues beyond the nuclear program.

The framework agreement was announced on Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, by U.S.-led world powers and Iran after years of negotiations.

The deal aims to cut significantly into Iran’s bomb-making technology while giving Tehran relief from international sanctions. The commitments, if implemented, would substantially pare down Iranian nuclear assets for a decade and restrict others for an additional five years.

Netanyahu believes the deal leaves too much of Iran’s suspect nuclear program intact, would give it quick relief from economic sanctions and create an easy path for the Islamic Republic to gain the ability to produce a bomb. He also says the deal fails to address Iran’s support for militant groups across the Middle East.

“I think the alternatives are not either this bad deal or war. I think there’s a third alternative. And that is standing firm, ratcheting up the pressure, until you get a better deal,” Netanyahu told CNN. “A better deal would roll back Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure and require Iran to stop its aggression in the region, its terror worldwide, and its calls and actions to annihilate the state of Israel.”

Netanyahu faces an uphill struggle as he takes aim at a deal negotiated by six global powers — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — and Iran. After last week’s preliminary deal, the sides will try to work out a final agreement by a June 30 deadline.

Netanyahu’s criticism has contributed to rising tensions with President Barack Obama. Last month, Netanyahu delivered a speech to Congress against the emerging deal, angering the White House because it had not been coordinated ahead of time. Obama’s assurances in recent days that the deal would protect Israeli security have had little effect.

The Israeli analysis of the framework raises 10 questions about alleged shortcomings in the framework. It was obtained from an official who declined to be identified because it has not yet been made public.

According to a U.S. document summarizing last week’s deal, Tehran is ready to reduce its number of centrifuges, the machines that can spin uranium gas to levels used in nuclear warheads, and submit to aggressive monitoring and inspections of its nuclear facilities.

But the Israeli analysis claims the system of inspections is not as thorough as proclaimed because it does not explicitly force the Iranians to open their sites “anywhere, anytime.”

It also claims the agreement is vague about what happens to Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, a key ingredient in producing nuclear bombs, or how sanctions might be re-imposed if Iran violates the deal.

While Iran is not supposed to enrich uranium with its advanced centrifuges for 10 years, the deal permits limited “research and development” of the advanced centrifuges, according to the U.S. document. Israeli officials say this means that Iran could immediately put these centrifuges into action after the deal expires or breaks down.

They also want Iran “to come clean” about its past nuclear weapons efforts. Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, a claim that is widely disputed.

As Netanyahu lobbies against the deal, he is expected to urge the world to take action against Iran’s non-nuclear activities as well.

In his TV appearances Sunday, Netanyahu noted Iran’s development of ballistic missiles, which are capable of delivering nuclear warheads, and Iran’s support for hostile militant groups across the region.

Netanyahu fears that Iran will take advantage of the international community’s goodwill and press forward with an illicit weapons program, much the way North Korea did. The reclusive Asian country has managed to develop a weapons capability, despite two decades of on-again off-again talks with the international community and inspections by international experts.

In 2007, North Korea agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor. Within two years, it had halted international inspections and reactivated its nuclear facilities.

“The entire world celebrated the deal with North Korea,” Netanyahu told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”But it turned out to be a very very bad deal.”

Read next: Obama Defends Iran Deal as ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Opportunity

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TIME Iran

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Iran Deal

We finally have a framework for a nuclear deal. Here's what that means.

After 18 months of drawn-out negotiations, the U.S. and its partners on Thursday arrived at an agreement on a framework for curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

If that sounds tentative, that’s because it is. The two sides have until June 30 to hash out the details of a final agreement. As President Barack Obama warned following the announcement of the latest progress, “there will be no deal” if Iran backtracks.

But the agreement sets the stage for a comprehensive deal that the U.S. and its allies believe could prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons in the near future, while providing relief to Iran’s limp economy. Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing talks:

What does the U.S. and its partners want?

The U.S. side consists of U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France and Russia as well as Germany (dubbed the P5+1). They are pressing for restrictions that will extend the amount of time it will take Iran to build a nuclear weapon — the so-called “breakout time” — from the current 2-3 months to a year. To do that, the P5+1 are pushing to reduce the number of centrifuges Tehran can use to enrich uranium into fuel for a nuclear weapon, as well as cut its stockpiles of enriched uranium. Meanwhile, the U.S. and its partners are demanding monitors to continuously inspect Iran’s nuclear program.

What does Iran want?

Iran is keen to see the removal of sanctions to ease pressure on its struggling economy and gain access to the international market. But it insists that it has the right to nuclear capabilities for energy and medical purposes and is unwilling to scrap its nuclear resources altogether.

So what does the framework agreement say?

According to the framework agreement, Iran agreed to cut by two-thirds its supply of centrifuges, from roughly 19,000 to about 6,000, and retain only its earliest generation centrifuges. It said it would keep continuing enrichment far below levels necessary for a nuclear weapon and also agreed to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 97%.

But exactly how it plans to scrap its extra centrifuges and enriched uranium is the kind of question negotiators will be answering over the next three months. Finally, Tehran pledged to give the International Atomic Energy Agency access to all of its nuclear facilities and to its nuclear supply chain. “If Iran cheats, the world will know,” Obama said.

The U.S., the United Nations and the European Union will lift nuclear-related sanctions once Iran is deemed to have complied with its side of the bargain; American sanctions related to terrorism, human rights abuses and non-nuclear weapons will remain in place. Meanwhile, the U.S. will be poised to “snap-back” nuclear sanctions if Iran backpedals.

What do opponents of a deal say?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been a staunch critic of the negotiations, came out swinging after the framework agreement was reached. “The proposed agreement would constitute a real danger to the region and the world, and it would threaten the existence of Israel,” said Netanyahu, who was re-elected last month. An official close to his office went even further, saying the framework agreement “kowtows to Iranian dictates.”

Opponents say in part that a one-year breakout time is insufficient, giving the U.S. and its allies too little time to react if Iran does race to build a nuclear weapon. They also raise concerns that no matter what access Iran gives IAEA inspectors, they could still attempt to build a weapon without inspectors or U.S. intelligence finding out. “We are all concerned that the Iranians will circumvent the deal,” said Israeli politician Yair Lapid, a leading Netanyahu opponent who still says the deal is troubling to all Israelis.

In the U.S., Republicans, with some support from Democrats, have lined up a bill that will effectively require Congressional approval for a nuclear deal by giving legislators the power to reject lifting sanctions on Iran. The White House opposes the perceived interference from Congress and has said it would veto such a bill. “If Congress kills this deal, not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative, then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy, international unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen,” Obama said.

Other lawmakers appear willing to hear out the administration when the negotiators reconvene on April 13, albeit with a heavy dose of skepticism:

What do the Iranians Say?

In Iran, people took to the streets to celebrate news of the framework agreement. In a sign that the deal has the support of supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Friday prayer leaders throughout the country praised the negotiations, calling the talks a success. President Hassan Rouhani, who has spearheaded the talks since he took office in 2013, was scheduled to speak Friday afternoon.

What happens now?

Now the hard work begins, as both sides determine the details and logistics of a deal. The White House will have to contend with a skeptical Congress that wants more of a say in the details of a final deal, as well as with potential schisms with its negotiating partners, which include rival Russia. Meanwhile, the talks will continue even as Iran engages in proxy and increasingly overt wars with U.S. Sunni allies in the region. There’s always the chance that the June 30 deadline will be extended, but as TIME’s Massimo Calabresi notes, “keeping Congress onside, the sanctions coalition together and the Iranians at the table may be impossible after the next deadline.”

TIME Israel

Netanyahu and Cabinet ‘United in Strongly Opposing’ Iran Nuclear Deal

Netanyahu convened his Cabinet on Friday

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he and his Cabinet are united in “strongly opposing” a framework deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran and six world powers announced a set of understandings on such a framework on Thursday. They face a June 30 deadline for a final deal.

Netanyahu vehemently opposes the negotiations, demanding instead that Iran’s nuclear program be dismantled. He argues that Iran cannot be trusted and that leaving certain facilities intact will enable Iran to build a nuclear bomb eventually.

Iran says it is developing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

Netanyahu convened his Cabinet on Friday, on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday.

He says that the Cabinet is “united in strongly opposing” the proposed Iran deal.

TIME Israel

Israeli Police Say Feared Kidnap in West Bank Is a Hoax

The report prompted a massive manhunt and topped the evening newscasts

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli police on Friday said a missing Israeli man who they feared had been kidnapped in the West Bank has been located, and that the incident was a hoax.

Police said that 22-year-old Niv Asraf and his friends had “staged” the kidnapping, and that he had been found outdoors with camping gear and canned food near a West Bank settlement.

Police said they received a call on Thursday afternoon about a car stopping to fix a flat tire and Asraf going into a nearby Palestinian village to seek help. The caller said he stayed back in the car when his friend left to find help. The friend had left his phone in the car, according to the caller.

The report prompted a massive manhunt and topped the evening newscasts, even as a global nuclear deal with Israel’s archenemy Iran was being announced.

Police said the men would be questioned and face prosecution.

Last year, Palestinians abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers sparking a chain of events that led to a 50-day summer war in Gaza.

Earlier Thursday, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a government proposal to route the West Bank separation barrier through church properties in a scenic valley outside of Jerusalem, a long-running case that has drawn the interest of Pope Francis.

Israel began building the barrier more than a decade ago, saying it prevents Palestinian attacks inside Israel. Palestinians charge that the barrier is mainly a land grab because much of it runs through the West Bank, often zig-zagging to include Jewish settlements and additional lands on the “Israeli side” of the barrier.

Israel’s Defense Ministry had proposed to route the barrier through the Cremisan Valley, leaving a Roman Catholic monastery on the Jerusalem side of the barrier and its sister convent on the West Bank side, and separating Palestinian landowners from their lands. Israeli authorities had promised access between the monastery and convent, and for the Palestinians to their lands, through gates manned by soldiers.

The monastery, convent and Palestinian landowners in the area petitioned the court to change the planned route so the barrier would run closer to Jerusalem and keep the valley intact. Palestinian landowners presented their case to Pope Francis on his visit to the Holy Land last year. They said he promised to look into it.

The court ordered the Defense Ministry to offer an alternative route that poses less of a burden on the local Palestinian residents, as well as the monastery and convent.

In a separate incident, Israel arrested a female Palestinian lawmaker from a left-wing militant group for disobeying an Israeli order barring her from the city of Ramallah.

The military said it arrested Khalida Jarrar, a senior political leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, early Thursday due to “substantial concerns about the safety and security of the region.”

Last year, the military confined her movement to the city of Jericho and its surroundings. The army said the restraining order was based on her “incitement and involvement in terror.” It gave no further details.

Her husband, Ghassan Jarrar, said she was arrested from their Ramallah home. She had long flaunted the Israeli ban. The military said it has not decided whether to press charges.

TIME Israel

Israel Dismayed by Iran Nuclear Agreement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivering a statement to the media in Jerusalem on Apr. 1, 2015.
Debbie Hill—Reuters Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivering a statement to the media in Jerusalem on Apr. 1, 2015.

The agreement unveiled Thursday was criticized by politicians and officials on right and left

A framework agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear development program announced Thursday was met with concern and criticism across the political spectrum in Israel, with recently re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying it would “threaten the existence of Israel.”

Netanyahu, who has long criticized the negotiations between Israel and six world powers, said his cabinet was united in opposition to the outline deal. “The proposed agreement would constitute a real danger to the region and the world, and it would threaten the existence of Israel,” he said. Any deal, he added, must recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Earlier, an official close to Netanyahu’s office told reporters late Thursday that in the Prime Minister’s eyes, the framework agreement “kowtows to Iranian dictates” and that it “will not lead to a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, but rather to a military nuclear program.”

The official, who provided reaction in the form of an written statement, said the deal would allow Iran to continue progress toward a nuclear bomb unimpeded. “Iran will retain extensive nuclear capabilities. It will continue to enrich uranium, it will continue in is research and development of centrifuges, it will not close even one of its many nuclear facilities, the underground facility in Furdow, and much more.”

The official concluded that there was “no demand that Iran stop its aggression in the region, its terrorism around the world or its threats to destroy Israel, which it has repeated again over the past several days.” (That is a reference to comments made Tuesday by Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who said that “erasing Israel off the map” was “non-negotiable.”)

That reaction might have been expected of Netanytahu, whose stout opposition to the deal has helped cause a public rift between the U.S. and Israel. But even the Prime Minister’s opposition, which has been critical of his handling of the issue and his March 3 speech to Congress against the wishes of the Obama administration, said it was deeply concerned about the framework agreement.

Omer Bar-Lev, a leading member of Knesset of the left-wing Zionist Union, Netanyahu’s main opposition, said that Israel should work to convince Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the one-year period in which Iran, if the agreement collapses, could weaponize its nuclear capabilities – often referred as a “breakout time” – was not nearly enough to assuage Israel’s greatest fears. “If we can convince them to work on these small details, maybe we can get to a point where there will be an expansion of that time period, and perhaps we can get something that is less bad than what we’re seeing here,” Bar-Lev said in an interview with Israel’s Channel One.

Yair Lapid, the head of centrist party Yesh Atid, which was part of Netanyahu’s last government but refuses to join the coalition he is trying to form, says the deal troubles all Israelis. “On the Iranian nuclear issue there is no opposition and coalition. We are all concerned that the Iranians will circumvent the deal and Israel must protect its own security interests,” Lapid said in a statement to reporters. “There is no basis for the determination that today Iran was prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon. Israel needs to work with the United States and the international community to ensure there is no Iranian fraud, something which would threaten Israel’s security and that of the world.”

Dr. Ephraim Asculai, a former member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and an expert who served as a senior member of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for over 40 years, says he is most troubled by the lack of scrutiny into his former group’s assessment that Iran was testing a nuclear explosive mechanism.

“That is a serious issue I haven’t heard a word about in any statement,” says Asculai, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. Moreover, he said, he would have expected a more aggressive inspections regime, and for Iran to be left with far fewer centrifuges.

“This deal is not enough. It doesn’t give the right for inspectors to look anywhere in Iran at any time, and Iran is a huge country — it can set up a mechanism anywhere,” he told TIME. “Keeping 5,000 to 6,000 centrifuges is a large number.”

Finally, he said, one year of breakout time hardly reassures anyone in Israel, just a few hundred miles away from the Iranian border. “I think it is too short a period to deal with this problem, because by the time you discover it, it takes a long time to do something about it … I think that President Obama depends too much on intelligence to uncover any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, intelligence has been known to fail – and we know that Iran is very good at concealing what it’s up to.”

TIME Israel

The U.S. and Israel Are Divided — and That Won’t Change

President Barack Obama meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington on Oct. 1, 2014.
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters President Barack Obama meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington on Oct. 1, 2014.

Obama and Netanyahu don't like each other, but Israel and the U.S. will have problems even when they're both out of office

Some accuse President Obama of undermining Israel’s security to protect a peace process that’s going nowhere. Others say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poisoning Israel’s relations with his country’s superpower protector and isolating Israel internationally. It’s clear that Obama and Netanyahu don’t trust or like each other. But the widening divide between these countries can’t be reduced to a personality conflict between leaders. Differences in the interests and worldviews of the two governments are becoming more important.

Begin with the “two-state solution.” In Washington, leaders of both parties will continue to prioritize the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. But Obama isn’t the only U.S. official who publicly supports the idea of an eventual Israeli compromise with Palestinians. Former President George W. Bush described himself in 2008 as the “first American president to call for a Palestinian state.” Support for this aspiration remains part of the Republican Party platform.

Israelis, on the other hand, even those who support a two-state solution in principle, are far more aware of the challenges in creating a viable country that connects Gaza and the West Bank—to say nothing of the political nightmare of trying to evict thousands of Israeli settlers from disputed land. Support for a two-state solution is not dead in either country, but Americans and Israelis do not look at this question with the same eyes. With every surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence, that gap becomes more obvious.

Obama and Netanyahu also hold opposing views on how best to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons, but that difference reflects divergent ideas within their governments on the role Iran might play in the future. For the Obama administration, Iran might one day become an agent of change in the Middle East, because it’s a country that holds genuinely contested elections, however flawed, and it’s one in which a sizeable majority isn’t old enough to remember the religious revolution that the country’s leaders say gives them their mandate. For Israel’s government, Iran’s hardliners remain in firm control. Whatever the aspirations of its young people, Israel believes Iran must remain isolated until its elections are fully free and fair and its leaders recognize Israel’s right to exist. Nuclear negotiations have widened this gap.

These differences are made possible by the reality that the United States can afford to be less involved in the region’s rivalries than it once was. First, following the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is limited public support in the United States for any military commitment that might require a costly long-term occupation of territory. Bombing ISIS is one thing; invading Iraq all over again is another. Americans are not ready for a war with Iran. Second, the remarkable surge in U.S. domestic energy production of recent years leaves the U.S. less vulnerable to Middle East conflict. By the end of this decade, the United States will produce almost half the crude oil it consumes. More than 80 percent of its oil will come from North and South America. By 2020, the US could be the world’s largest oil producer, and by 2035 the country could become almost entirely energy self-sufficient.

That advantage allows the U.S. President to shift security and trade policy toward a stronger focus on East Asia, the region more important than any other for the strength and resilience of the global economy over the next generation. The men and women hoping to succeed Obama as President can afford to offer familiar reassurances on America’s commitment to Israel’s security, but the shifting international landscape, the challenges and opportunities created by China’s continued rise and new trans-Pacific trade opportunities will occupy a growing percentage of the next administration’s time.

Netanyahu has won another term, though his staying power will remain in question. Obama will be in office for another 22 months. The next leaders of the two countries will surely like each other better than Netanyahu and Obama do, but differences in U.S. and Israeli national interests are not going away.

TIME Middle East

Palestinians Want Leverage on Israel in International Court

Netherlands International Court Palestinians
Mike Corder—AP Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki holds up a copy of the International Criminal Court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, after a ceremony welcoming the Palestinians as the court's newest member in The Hague, Netherlands, April 1, 2015.

The Palestinians became the 123rd member of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday

(RAMALLAH) — The Palestinians formally joined the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, as part of a broader effort to put international pressure on Israel and exact a higher price for its occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state.

Beyond seeking war crimes charges against Israel at the court, the Palestinians want the U.N. Security Council to set a deadline for an Israeli troop withdrawal and hope for new momentum of a Palestinian-led international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

The atmosphere seems ripe for international intervention after recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu startled the world with a pledge to voters, since withdrawn, that he would not allow a Palestinian state to be established.

But a legal and diplomatic showdown isn’t inevitable as aides say Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas isn’t interested in an all-out confrontation with Israel. War crimes charges against Israel could be years away and Washington likely will soften any Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood.

Here is a look at what’s expected:

THE COURT
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki was meeting with court officials Wednesday, but it’s largely ceremonial.

Attempting to lower expectations among Palestinians of speedy court action, Malki told the Voice of Palestine radio Wednesday: “I don’t want to disappoint our people, but the ICC procedures are slow and long and might face lots of obstacles and challenges and might take years.”

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda already launched a preliminary review to determine if there are grounds for an investigation of possible war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — lands captured by Israel in 1967 and recognized by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 as the “state of Palestine.”

A senior Palestinian official said the Palestinians will wait for the outcome of that review — which can take months or years — before considering further action. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss Palestinian strategy.

Earlier this year, the Palestinians accepted the court’s jurisdiction dating back to June 2014, to ensure that last summer’s Gaza war between Israel and the militant group Hamas will be included in any review.

The Palestinians suffered heavy civilian casualties in the war, prompting allegations by some rights groups that Israel committed war crimes. Hamas, which rules Gaza, is also exposed to war crimes charges because it fired rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilian areas.

Israel’s settlement construction, deemed illegal by much of the world, is also bound to be examined by the prosecutor. Since 1967, Israel has moved more than 550,000 of its civilians to occupied lands.

Palestine’s court membership could help shift focus to settlements as a legal and not just a political issue, said Alex Whiting, a former official in the international prosecutor’s office.

Israel and Palestine also will have to show that they are looking into possible war crimes on their own — a shield against ICC involvement if deemed credible. Israel says it’s investigating alleged violations by its troops in Gaza. Hamas is not investigating its actions, claiming rocket attacks were self-defense.

Israel vehemently opposes Palestinians joining the court. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said unilateral Palestinian moves are “absolutely counterproductive” and will make it harder to resume negotiations.

THE U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL

France is working on a Security Council resolution that would set the parameters for a Palestinian statehood deal. The draft would define the pre-1967 frontier as a reference point for border talks, designate Jerusalem as a capital of two states and call for a fair solution for Palestinian refugees.

Last year, the council rejected a Palestinian resolution demanding an end to Israeli occupation within three years. The U.S. opposed that draft, saying Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through negotiations, but didn’t have to use its veto.

French diplomats now say they are working on a new draft with their allies, including the U.S., to ensure broad support. A resolution could be introduced later this month.

The U.S. said after Netanyahu’s comments on Palestinian statehood that it would re-evaluate its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a possible sign that Washington would no longer shield Israel in the Security Council.

Israel opposes imposed parameters for negotiations, but Palestinians are also skeptical.

They want internationally backed ground rules, after Netanyahu rejected the pre-1967 lines as a starting point. However, they also fear they’ll get a resolution that lacks enforceable deadlines and instead introduces the definition of Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas opposes such wording as a threat to the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.

BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS

Organizers said they expect Netanyahu’s re-election will galvanize support for the 10-year-old Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

BDS activists promote different objectives, with some focusing on a boycott of the settlements and others saying everything Israeli must be shunned until Israel withdraws from occupied lands.

The movement has scored recent successes, including some European businesses and pension funds cutting investments or trade with Israeli firms connected to West Bank settlements.

Nahshon, the Israeli official, dismissed BDS campaigners as a small group driven by anti-Semitism and “a wish to destroy” Israel.

THE WAY FORWARD

Instead of a dramatic Israeli-Palestinian showdown, continued paralysis appears more likely.

Netanyahu and Abbas have signaled that they don’t want strained relations to break down.

Israel initially punished Abbas for seeking court membership, freezing monthly transfers of more than $100 million it collects for the Palestinians. Israel resumed the transfers after three months amid warnings that a continued freeze could bring down Abbas’ government.

Abbas has indicated he won’t end security coordination between his forces and Israeli troops in the West Bank that is aimed at shared foe Hamas.

Abbas also told senior PLO officials in March he remains committed to negotiations and would go along with the idea of an international peace conference, proposed by France, “despite low expectations.”

Laub reported from Amman, Jordan. Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Mike Corder at The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.

 

TIME Iran

Differences Persist on Deadline Day for Iran Nuke Talks

Kerry has been meeting with his Iranian counterpart since Thursday in an intense effort to reach a political understanding

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) — Diplomats scrambled Tuesday to reach consensus on the outline of an Iran nuclear deal just hours ahead of a self-imposed deadline to produce an agreement.

Facing a midnight local time (6 p.m. EDT) target to conclude a framework accord, substantial differences persisted with officials predicting a long day of talks that may or may not result in success. The top diplomats of four of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany met alone and then with Iran’s foreign minister to try to bridge the remaining gaps. They hope to hammer out an understanding that would serve as the basis for a final accord to be reached by the end of June.

It was not immediately clear what missing the deadline would mean for the nearly two years of negotiations that have been twice extended since an interim agreement was reached in November 2013. Most countries involved have said they are not interested in another extension, although they have also said that the interim agreement will remain in place until July 1, suggesting talks could continue.

“Long day ahead,” the spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said in a tweet announcing the early Tuesday morning start of the foreign ministers’ meeting with Iranian officials.

Late Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry told a CNN reporter that “everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow,” adding that “there are still some tricky issues.”

Kerry has been meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Swiss town of Lausanne since Thursday in an intense effort to reach a political understanding on terms that would curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Kerry and others at the table said the sides have made some progress, with Iran considering demands for further cuts to its uranium enrichment program but pushing back on how long it must limit technology it could use to make atomic arms. In addition to sticking points on research and development, differences remain on the timing and scope of sanctions removal, the officials said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Monday that Iran’s expectations from the talks are “very ambitious” and not yet acceptable to his country or the other five negotiating: the U.S., Britain, China, France and Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov left the talks on Monday and planned to return only if the prospects for a deal looked good.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told Iranian state television on Monday that the talks were not likely to reach any conclusion until “tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”

The Obama administration says any deal will stretch the time Iran needs to make a nuclear weapon from the present two to three months to at least a year. But critics object that it would keep Tehran’s nuclear technology intact.

Officials in Lausanne said the sides were advancing on limits to aspects of Iran’s program to enrich uranium, which can be used to make the core of a nuclear warhead.

Tehran has said it is willing to address concerns about its stockpiles of enriched uranium, although it has denied that will involve shipping it out of the country, as some Western officials have said. One official said on Monday that Iran might deal with the issue by diluting its stocks to a level that would not be weapons grade.

Uranium enrichment has been the chief concern in over more than a decade of international attempts to cap Iran’s nuclear programs. But Western officials say the main obstacles to a deal are no longer enrichment-related but instead the type and length of restrictions on Tehran’s research and development of advanced centrifuges and the pace of sanctions-lifting.

Over the past weeks, Iran has moved from demanding that it be allowed to keep nearly 10,000 centrifuges enriching uranium, to agreeing to 6,000. The officials said Tehran now may be ready to accept even fewer.

Tehran says it wants to enrich only for energy, science, industry and medicine. But many countries fear Iran could use the technology to make weapons-grade uranium.

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