TIME Israel

Provocative Israeli Cartoon on Deteriorating Relations With U.S. Evokes 9/11

It was published days after a White House official reportedly called Netanyahu "chickens--t"

A cartoon published Thursday by the left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz has sparked controversy for its blunt attempt to depict deteriorating relations between conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.

The cartoon shows Netanyahu flying an airplane aimed at a tall building topped with an American flag, which resembles one of the Twin Towers that were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

The cartoonist, Amos Biderman, told the Times of Israel that the image was intended to imply that Netanyahu was leading to “a disaster in Israel-U.S. relations on the scale of 9/11.” But it has drawn criticism in the U.S. and in Israel, with Vox writing that “it so breaches the very basics of good taste that it is astounding.”

Relations between Netanyahu and the White House have been notoriously poor, and the Israeli leader moved earlier this week to accelerate planning for new settler homes in East Jerusalem despite the Obama Administration’s opposition. On Tuesday, the Atlantic quoted one unnamed White House official calling Netanyahu “chickens–t.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest later said the official’s comment did not “accurately reflect at all” the administration’s view about Israel.

Read next: Sweden Becomes the First E.U. Member to Recognize a Palestinian State

TIME Israel

Israel Recalls Ambassador to Sweden

(JERUSALEM) — Israel has recalled its ambassador to Sweden to protest Stockholm’s recognition of a Palestinian state.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said Thursday the ambassador was being recalled for consultations, but declined to say how long he would remain in Israel.

Hirschson said the move was made “because of the recognition of the Palestinian state.”

Earlier Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had called it “a miserable decision that strengthens the extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism.”

TIME sweden

Sweden Becomes the First E.U. Member to Recognize a Palestinian State

The decision, which has drawn the ire of Israel, comes unexpectedly early

The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday.

Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, Haaretz reports.

“Some will claim that today’s decision comes too early. I’m rather afraid it’s too late,” writes Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. “The past year, we’ve seen how the peace negotiations once again have halted, how decisions on new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have obstructed a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza.”

Wallstrom writes that the recognition aims to support moderate forces among the Palestinians, make future negotiations more equal and give young Palestinians hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Israel has publicly protested the move, which some believe is feeding unrealistic Palestinian expectations of working out a resolution with the international community but without involving Israel, writes the Jerusalem Post.

A total of 134 other countries recognized Palestine before Sweden. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia all did so before joining the E.U.

TIME food and drink

SodaStream to Move Controversial West Bank Facility

Scarlett Johansson SodaStream Partnership
SodaStream unveils Scarlett Johansson as its first-ever Global Brand Ambassador at the Gramercy Park Hotel on January 10, 2014 in New York City. Mike Coppola—2014 Getty Images

The company says the move does not come in response to a Palestinian activist-led boycott

SodaStream announced Wednesday that it will move a controversial facility located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The company said that their reason for moving was “purely commercial,” and not due to pressure from Palestinian activists.

The Israeli company will relocate its operations from Maaleh Adumim in the West Bank to Lehavim, northern Israel by 2015. “We are offering all employees the opportunity to join us in Lehavim, and specifically, we are working with the Israeli government to secure work permits for our Palestinian employees,” SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said, according to the Associated Press.

Palestinian activists launched a boycott of the company because of its location in the West Bank, land that Israel has controversially laid claim to since 1967. Up until now, the company has maintained that shutting down its facility—which employed 500 Palestinians, 450 Israeli Arabs and 350 Israeli Jews—would not benefit the cause for Palestinian statehood or the Israeli-Palestine peace process.

Scarlett Johansson was swept up in the controversy earlier this year when the actress stepped down from her position as an Oxfam International ambassador over her role as a spokesperson for SodaStream. The Avengers actress said she had a “fundamental difference of opinion” with the international charity, which opposes all trade from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Johansson later defended the ad: “I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation,” she said. “Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Meanwhile, SodaStream has been having a hard time convincing U.S. consumers to buy at-home soda machines. Its third-quarter earnings dropped 14% from last year.

[AP]

TIME Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Infant’s Killing in Jerusalem Reignites Talk of a New Intifada

Mideast Israel Palestinians
A masked Palestinian kicks a burning tire during clashes with Israeli security forces a day after 14-year-old Palestinian-American, Orwah Hammad was killed by Israeli troops during clashes, in the village of Silwad, near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Oct. 25, 2014. Majdi Mohammed—AP

Incidents of violence in the city and the West Bank increase tension between Israelis and Palestinians

Gill Schechter has lived in the Armon HaNatziv neighborhood of East Jerusalem for over 30 years, during which time he has always felt safe — until recently. His street abuts a Palestinian neighborhood, from which rocks and cement chunks have been lobbed at the Jewish homes and cars here with increased intensity.

He doesn’t remember ever before worrying, as he does now, about driving in and out of his neighborhood or letting his kids walk home from school.

“I don’t think it’s heading in the direction of an Intifada — I think it’s here already,” says Schechter, a 41-year-old Israeli electrical engineer and father of four, referring to the Arabic word for uprising “People don’t want to walk in the streets, people’s houses are being trashed and we see very little being done, as the police have their hands tied behind their backs.”

Tensions increased in the city, including in Schechter’s neighborhood, on Oct. 22 when a 21-year-old Palestinian resident of Jerusalem named Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi drove into a line of people waiting for a tram in the center of the city. Shaloudi’s car hit Haya Zissel Braun, a three-month-old Israeli baby, throwing her into the air. She landed on her head and later died. Police shot Shaloudi as he tried to flee the scene on foot. He later died of his wounds.

Schechter is a member of the security committee for Armon HaNatziv, which sits in the southern part of the city and borders two Arab villages that are part of Jerusalem — Jabel Mukaber and Sur Baher. Armon HaNatziv is over the Green Line, which marks Israel’s pre-1967 borders, and therefore is considered by Palestinians as an illegal settlement. Many Israelis consider Armon HaNatziv simply as a neighborhood of the capital.

“I’m not a war-monger, but there is a limit to what the authorities should allow when you’re in charge of a city,” Schechter tells TIME. “We have young guys across the road throwing huge chunks of concrete at us. Were it to hit someone in the head, it could easily kill a person.”

Across town, to the north, Saedi Shrateh is a 22-year-old construction worker and student at Al-Quds University in the West Bank city of Ramallah, north of Jerusalem. He lives near the Qalandia checkpoint, which separates Jerusalem from the southern outskirts of Ramallah. Although he has an Israeli-issued Jerusalem resident’s ID, which allows him to go anywhere in the city, he stays away from West Jerusalem more and more following a spate of attacks on Arabs by Israeli ultranationalists. Everyone, he says, tries to avoid walking alone.

“As witnessed in the past week or so, the vibe in the streets is for a third Intifada. But not all Palestinians are willing to participate,” says Shrateh, who wears a black T-shirt that reads “Gaza is under fire,” a reminder of the recent seven-week-long war between Israel and the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. “I think we need another Intifada to achieve our goals, but I’m afraid too many people will sit at home. Nowadays, people are more concerned about making it in life and advancing their economic situation.”

There is almost no corner of this city that isn’t abuzz with talk of a third Intifada. (The first Palestinian uprising started in 1987, and the second in 2000.) Fears grew over the summer after the murder in June of a Palestinian youth named Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The teenager was abducted in Jerusalem and then murdered. Police have charged three Israelis with the murder, including two minors, saying the three were upset by the news that three Israeli teenagers had been kidnapped in the West Bank — Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah — and shot dead by Hamas operatives.

Although the clashes simmered down following an Israel-Hamas cease-fire in late August, the rage among many Palestinians has yet to abate. In recent weeks, several events seemed close to reigniting the conflict. One has been the arrival in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood near the Old City of Jerusalem, of several dozen Jewish settlers who have moved into two buildings they had bought. Palestinians see these moves as a provocation. To them, any time a group of Israeli Jews moves into the neighborhood, it not only causes friction but potentially marks it is as territory Israel would retain control of in a peace deal. Israeli Jewish groups who move their activists to these neighborhoods say they’re reclaiming ancestral land and acknowledge that part of their goal is to prevent Jerusalem from being redivided, as it was between 1948 and 1967. The Jerusalem municipality says it cannot stop anyone from moving to another neighborhood of Jerusalem if the property is purchased legally.

Also in recent weeks, Jewish groups seeking to hold holiday prayers at the Temple Mount — known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, housing both the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock — have led to concerns that a dangerous showdown is brewing over Jerusalem’s holiest site. And each time things get tense Israeli police keep young Muslim worshippers out, only allowing access to people over 50. Earlier this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told activists from his Fatah party that Palestinians should be present on the site at all times to stop “the fierce onslaught on Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre Church.”

When news broke Wednesday night that a Palestinian from Silwan had driven his car into pedestrians waiting for a tram, killing the three-month-old, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately blamed the attack on Abbas and said his “incitement” was responsible. In response, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Netanyahu’s accusations represented a “dangerous new low” in Israeli-Palestinians relations.

The two sides have only seemed to exacerbate tensions, likely setting the stage for more violence.

The tensions are not limited to Jerusalem, but are also spreading to the West Bank. During riots on Friday, Israeli forces shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian-American youth named Orwah Hammad. The shooting took place in the village of Silwad, north of Ramallah.

Government ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet and Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, have argued for taking a tougher line in East Jerusalem, arguing that this is the only way to stop Palestinian rioters. Barkat also announced he was deploying more police throughout the city, installing cameras in neighborhoods like Schechter’s, and launching a surveillance balloon over East Jerusalem to collect information about riots as they are forming.

Schechter — and many others Israelis in Jerusalem — seemed pleased with the response. But Palestinians say it will only bring further trouble.

“I certainly don’t see this moving in the direction of calming down,” Adnan Husseini, who holds the Jerusalem portfolio for the Palestinian Authority, tells TIME. “The Israeli government is doing everything to accelerate tensions and make things more difficult. We have a confrontation in almost every area of Jerusalem, on every street. It may not have been announced, but is seems there is a small Intifada already.”

Read next: Palestinian Killed in Clash With Israeli Military

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 21

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. After another war, it seems more clear that the Israeli siege of Gaza continues through “inertia.”

By Itamar Sha’altiel in +972

2. A new project looks to inspire a generation to bold new scientific innovation by stimulating creative storytelling.

By Michael White in Pacific Standard

3. Attempts to combat voter fraud should be balanced against a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

By Matthew Yglesias in Vox

4. More than meets the eye: Visual inspection is far from sufficient for guaranteeing the safety of meat and poultry. It’s time to reform USDA food safety systems.

By the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Center for Science in the Public Interest

5. Lifting teachers into leadership roles could help achieve the big gains for students we’ve been seeking.

By Ross Wiener in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Israel

Raising the Dead: Lack of Space Forces Cemeteries Skywards

Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel
Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel Dan Balilty / AP

From Israel to Brazil, elevated cemeteries are providing the final resting place for thousands of people as space runs out at ground level

At first glance, the multi-tiered jungle of concrete off a major highway does not appear unusual in Petah Tikva, an Israeli city of bland high-rises. But the burgeoning towers are groundbreaking when you consider its future tenants: They will be homes not for the living but rather the dead.

With real estate at a premium, Israel is at the forefront of a global movement building vertical cemeteries in densely populated countries. The reality of relying on finite land resources to cope with the endless stream of the dying has brought about creative solutions…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Israel

Israel Grapples With British Vote to Recognize Palestine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Oct. 13, 2014.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Oct. 13, 2014. Menahem Kahana—EPA

Some fear a domino effect while others hope it will aid the push for peace

Israel was bracing for a diplomatic tidal wave this week after lawmakers in the United Kingdom, one of the world’s friendliest countries to Israel, voted overwhelmingly in favor of a recognizing Palestine as a state on Monday. Israel is largely trying to weather the storm by downplaying it, emphasizing that the 274-to-12 vote doesn’t force any binding changes in British foreign policy and should not be treated as sea change in the conflict.

But coming on the heels of a decision by Sweden to recognize Palestine as a state, a move that was much easier for Jerusalem to dismiss as marginal or anti-Israeli in nature, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking increasingly likely to face a new and unprecedented wave of international pressure to move toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Although Netanyahu has voiced a theoretical endorsement of a negotiated settlement to the conflict that would lead to two states, his critics say he has consistently stalled progress in peace talks while continuing robust settlement growth in the West Bank.

Palestinians widely celebrated the vote in London, saying it was a move whose time had come – or was perhaps overdue: “Palestinians see this vote as the first step in righting the wrong of the Balfour Declaration,” Kamel Hawwash, a British-Palestinian academic, told TIME, referring to the 1917 decree in which Britain said it supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Almost a century later, the Jewish people have had a state for 66 years. But Palestinian statelessness was put back into the international spotlight this summer during the devastating war between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, making it clear how untenable the status quo is.

Some Israelis view these moves in the U.K. and Sweden with great concern. While government officials have been measured in their remarks—so as not to blow wind into the sails of the “victory” the vote presents for Palestinian statehood, or to do damage to the friendly British-Israeli relationship—they have been vocal about their disappointment with the parliamentary move, saying it was not helpful to peace efforts.

“We have no question that the British people are interested in conflict resolution,” said Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. “The undercurrent of this is saying, ‘we want to drive peace forward.’ We just think they’re not going about it the right way.

“This kind of step discourages Palestinians from coming back to the negotiating table in the first place, or getting them to compromise,” Hirschson added. “But this is only going to be resolved around the negotiating table.” Trying to force Palestinian statehood on Israel via international bodies, he said, will never bear fruit and only lead to frustration.

“The stated policy of the Israeli government is already in support of a Palestinian state,” Hirschson said. “So there’s no big deal here on substance, the question is process.”

But other Israelis said there is substance at stake. Although Netanyahu stated in a landmark 2009 speech that he supports a two-state solution to the conflict, his critics say he has done little to advance that agenda, and has been undermining it in day-to-day settlement growth and in severe criticism of his would-be peace partner, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

One of the leading voices among these critics is Dr. Alon Liel, the former Director General of Israeli foreign ministry and a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa. On the eve of the vote, Liel organized a public letter urging the British parliament to pass the motion, and had it signed by 363 former Israeli diplomats, government ministers and prominent peace advocates.

“What happened Monday in Cairo was the world pledged $5.4 billion for Gaza—after we physically destroyed the Gaza Strip. We also destroyed the peace process and without the outside world, it cannot recover,” Liel told TIME. “I see this decision by Sweden and Britain as a recovery process for the diplomatic chaos we’ve made. Israelis who have worked for two states side by side for many years, as I have, have to be part of this effort.”

Liel said he was surprised by how many prominent former Israeli officials who support a two-state solution were willing to sign the letter in the 24 hours during which he and other partners organized the campaign. And the Israeli embassy in London, in turn, was surprised to find that he was behind it.

“They sent me an email saying, ‘did you really sign this?’ I said I did. I think it’s good for Israel. They didn’t send a reply email,” Liel said. He blamed both Israeli and Palestinians leaders for making the grim atmosphere seem that much more hopeless during their speeches at the U.N. last month—Abbas accused Israel of genocide, and a week later Netanyahu said Abbas collaborates with ISIS-style terrorists in Hamas by allowing them in his unity government. And Liel said only an outside push will lodge the parties from their stalemate.

“It’s not as if we can say, ‘OK, let’s have the status quo for 10 or even two years and then come back to it later,’” Liel said. “Even after another two years of what’s happening on the ground in terms of settlement expansion, we will lose the opportunity for a two-state solution. Many people like me feel the change must come, if not from within, from without.”

Read next: U.K. Parliament Votes to Recognize Palestinian State

TIME Iran

Iran’s President Says a Nuclear Deal With the West Is ‘Certain’

Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani participates in an interview in Tehran on Oct. 13, 2014 Mohammad Berno—AP

President Hassan Rouhani makes the pledge during a televised national broadcast

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to the nation’s airwaves on Monday night to proclaim that a nuclear deal with the West will be signed ahead of a deadline in late November.

“We will find a solution to the nuclear subject and we believe that the two sides will certainly reach a win-win agreement,” said Rouhani, according to Iranian broadcaster Press TV.

Representatives from the U.S., E.U. and Iran are set to meet up in Vienna later this week to attempt to hammer out the details of the agreement. Diplomats issued the new Nov. 24 deadline after failing to meet an earlier target in July.

On Monday night, Rouhani struck a confident tone as he discussed the agreement, saying only the finer details of the deal need to be ironed out.

“Of course details are important too, but what’s important is that the nuclear issue is irreversible. I think a final settlement can be achieved in these remaining 40 days,” said Rouhani, according to a translation by Reuters.

The potential deal aims to guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program remains strictly for peaceful purposes. Iran has been hit with myriad sanctions by Western nations for moving ahead with a nuclear program that Tehran claims is engineered to meet the country’s scientific and energy needs. However, the U.S. and Israel have long argued that the Islamic Republic’s leadership has been attempting to develop a clandestine nuclear arsenal.

President Rouhani was swept into power 14 months ago after campaigning on a more moderate platform and signaling that he aimed to ease the animosity that’s been brewing between Washington and Tehran for decades. The potential nuclear deal is also seen as pivotal to staving off an all-out future war between Israel and Iran.

TIME Palestine

U.K. Parliament Votes to Recognize Palestinian State

A pro-Palestine supporter wears a Palestinian and Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London
A pro-Palestine supporter wears a Palestinian and Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London Oct. 13, 2014 Luke MacGregor—Reuters

Vote overwhelmingly in favor, although more than half of lawmakers did not participate

(LONDON) — British lawmakers voted Monday in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state, a symbolic move intended to increase pressure for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Legislators in the House of Commons voted 274 to 12 to support a motion calling on the British government to “recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”

Prime Minister David Cameron and other government leaders abstained, and more than half of the 650 Commons members did not participate in the vote.

But the motion had support from both government and opposition lawmakers, who said it could help kick-start the peace process following a summer war in Gaza that claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians, the majority civilians, and more than 70 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Labour Party legislator Grahame Morris said recognizing a Palestinian state could help break the impasse in peace negotiations before it was too late.

Otherwise, he said, “any hope of a two-state solution — the only viable solution — will have disappeared altogether.”

Conservative lawmaker Nicholas Soames — grandson of World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill — said that “to recognize Palestine is both morally right and is in our national interest.”

The government said the vote would not change Britain’s official diplomatic stance. Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said the U.K. would recognize Palestinian statehood when it would help bring about peace.

In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize a state of Palestine on territories captured by Israel in 1967. But the United States and many European countries have not followed suit.

But Western politicians have expressed frustration with Israel’s continued settlement-building on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a future state.

Earlier this month Sweden’s new Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said his government would recognize the state of Palestine, an announcement that drew praise from Palestinian officials and criticism from Israel.

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