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 Israel

Israel Denies Spying on Iran Nuclear Talks With U.S.

Israeli PM Netanyahu weekly cabinet meeting
Abir Sultan—Reuters Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem Feb. 15, 2015.

"The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel's other allies."

Israel did not snoop on closed-door talks over Iran’s nuclear program involving the U.S., a senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday, denying an earlier report.

On Monday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials learned of the spying — which it said was part of Netanyahu’s effort to derail a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program — when American intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Israeli officials. Some of Israel’s information came from French sources, the newspaper reported.

U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment, but Netanyahu’s office slammed the report on Tuesday.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Argentina

Secret Nazi Hideout Believed Found in Argentina

Researchers found German coins and a porcelain plate dating back to World War II

Archeologists have discovered ruins in a remote jungle region of Argentina that are believed to be Nazi hideouts intended to act as safe havens if Germany lost World War II.

Inside three run-down buildings in the Teyú Cuaré park, near the border with Paraguay, researchers found five German coins minted during the Nazi regime and a porcelain plate marked “Made in Germany,” the Clarín newspaper reports.

“Apparently, halfway through World War II, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat — inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff or in the middle of the jungle like this,” team leader Daniel Schávelzon told Clarín.

In fact, the hideouts would prove unnecessary because after the war then Argentine President Juan Perón allowed thousands of Nazis, and other European fascists, to resettle in the South American nation. Most notorious among them was arguably Adolf Eichmann, a leading architect of the Holocaust, who in 1960 was found in Argentina by an Israeli intelligence group. He was abducted and eventually executed in Israel for his crimes.

[Clarín]

Read next: How a Speech Helped Hitler Take Power

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TIME

Netanyahu Now Says He Wants a 2-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.
Nir Elias—Reuters Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.

The Israeli Prime Minister backtracked on election-timed statements he made earlier this week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinian despite coming out against a Palestinian state on the eve of Tuesday’s election.

Netanyahu had reversed course on his support for a two-state solution when he said in an interview on Monday that he would not allow a Palestinian state if he remained in office. That stance appeared aimed at bolstering support from Israel’s right ahead of what was expected to be a close election on Tuesday, though his statement drew widespread condemnation abroad, including from the White House.

But fresh off of a surprise strong showing in Tuesday’s vote, Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday with MSNBC that he doesn’t want “a one-state solution.”

“I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that circumstances have to change,” said Netanyahu, who is poised to get a fourth term in office.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, handily defeating his strongest opposition, the Zionist Union, which won 24 seats. According to the Israeli system, President Reuven Rivlin is now expected to select Netanyahu to try to form a new coalition government.

Watch the full interview below:

TIME Israel

Netanyahu: U.S. Has ‘No Greater Ally Than Israel’

President Barack Obama (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 20, 2013.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP President Barack Obama (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 20, 2013.

Israel's Prime Minister calls for strong cooperation between two nations

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that Israel’s relationship with the U.S. was strong despite recent controversies, telling NBC News on Thursday that his nation has “no greater ally.”

Netanyahu’s already-strained relationship with the U.S. frayed further in recent weeks when the prime minister spoke in Congress against a nuclear deal in Iran and — on the eve of the election — pledged to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

In his first American broadcast-network interview since winning close-fought parliamentary elections, Netanyahu told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that while he has yet to speak with President Barack Obama…

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

TIME Infectious Disease

A New Blood Test Could Stop Doctors From Overprescribing Antibiotics

In this image provided by Duke University, lab research analyst Marshall Nichols does research relating to a new blood test on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, in Durham, N.C.
Shawn Rocco—AP In this image provided by Duke University, lab-research analyst Marshall Nichols does research relating to a new blood test on Sept. 17, 2013, in Durham, N.C.

The procedure distinguishes between viral and bacterial infections

Scientists claim to have established a new blood test that can help doctors quickly distinguish between bacterial and viral infections, giving physicians the ability to prescribe antibiotics more accurately. That’s according to a study published by PLOS One on Wednesday.

Israeli-based company MeMed, along with researchers from other institutes, says that they examined over 1,000 patients and found that their ImmunoXpert blood test could distinguish between immune responses to bacterial or viral infections. The procedure is reportedly fast, taking only hours to complete when alternatives often require days.

“Antibiotic misuse is a pressing public health concern, with devastating healthcare and economic consequences,” stated MeMed CEO Eran Eden in a release to media. “Unlike most traditional diagnostics, this approach builds on an exquisitely informative system crafted by nature — the human immune system.”

While still in the laboratory stage, the test could be important because doctors have long struggled to identify the root causes of infections, meaning that antibiotics, which only attack bacteria, are often prescribed unnecessarily.

TIME Israel

Netanyahu Divides as He Conquers in Israeli Election

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters.
Salih Zeki Fazlioglu—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of the Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters after the first results of the Israeli general election on March 18, 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Hard-right shift leaves him with a remarkably raw relationship with Israeli Arabs

Much of Israel and the rest of the Middle East went to bed late Tuesday with initial exit polls showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in a virtual tie with its main rival, the center-left Zionist Union, but awoke Wednesday to a vastly different outcome.

Not only was Netanyahu re-elected in a landslide that had been undetected by most pollsters ahead of Tuesday’s ballot, grabbing 30 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, but for the first time in Israeli history the third-largest party is Arab, comprising a bloc of 14 seats.

With this ascendency of Israeli Arabs — some of whom prefer to be called Palestinian Israelis — increasingly apparent in the weeks leading up the elections, Netanyahu played on fears of their empowerment on election day. He sent out controversial videos, text messages and tweets saying that “the Arabs are streaming to the polls in droves,” and accused the left wing of “busing them in.” In the 48 hours before the vote, an intense period in which Likud seemed to be trailing three or four seats behind the Zionist Union, an alliance under the leadership of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu vowed there would be no Palestinian state if he was elected.

These moves by Netanyahu may well have helped him win an election that he looked slated to lose just a few days earlier.

Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would work to form a coalition within two to three weeks, adding that he was “thrilled by the heavy responsibility of his victory.” In a trip to the Western Wall, where he appeared to give thanks for his surprise success at the polls, he also promised that he would work for the benefit of all Israel’s citizens — a sore spot after the tactics of a day earlier. “I appreciate the decision by Israel’s citizens to elect me and my friends, against all odds and in the face of powerful forces,” he said, “and I will do everything I can to care for the security and welfare of all Israelis.”
Those friends with whom he’s likely to form a coalition are the Jewish Home party, the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and centrist parties such as Kulanu and Yesh Atid.

But his checkered campaign leaves him with a remarkably raw relationship with the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arab, following his public painting of their voting power as an existential threat to Israel, and it leaves him with no bridges left to burn with the Palestinian Authority, much less moderate Arab countries that have been pushing for a two-state solution since the launch of the Arab Peace Initiative a decade ago. All this, of course, comes amid an historic low point in relations between Washington and Jerusalem. Tuesday’s elections came about two weeks after Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress to warn of a “bad deal” on a nuclear Iran, much to the chagrin of the Obama Administration.

MORE: What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

Senior officials in the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said the election outcome proved that Palestinians had no partner in Israel — a reversal of the accusation that Netanyahu and other right-wing Israeli politicians have often lodged at the Palestinian Authority.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed the international community for not doing more to protest Palestinian rights, and indicated that its tolerance of Netanyahu’s policies had paved the way to his successful bid to consolidate his power.

“Such a result would not have been possible had the international community held Israel to account for its systematic violations of international law,” Erekat said in a media statement. “Now, more than ever, the international community must act. It must rally behind Palestinian efforts to internationalize our struggle for dignity and freedom through the International Criminal Court and through all other peaceful means.” Palestinians have been trying to advance a case in the ICC against Israel over its conduct during last summer’s war, when more than 2,100 Palestinians and about 80 Israelis died.

Netanyahu thumbing his nose at the U.S.-brokered peace process and turning his back on the landmark speech he made at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, during which he said he was in principle open to a Palestinian state, was clearly an attempt to lure back right-wing voters. Many of them had drifted over to parties like Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett, who was a key coalition partner in the last government and will almost certainly be in the next one as well. Many others, says pollster Avi Dejani, president of the Geocartography Knowledge Group, for weeks indicated that they were undecided.

“So we asked, if you do vote, for whom will it be — and for whom did you vote in the past? Likud, they said,” Dejani explained, in a conference call arranged by The Israel Project. “Many, many voters who are politically allied with the Likud got scared that the left may actually win, and they came back home.”

The scare tactics included a video sent out early on election day, telling supporters to rush out and vote because Arabs were supposedly voting in high numbers. Arab voter turnout was higher than in previous years — around 68%, members of the United List say. This upsurge in a sector where so many express feeling disenfranchised and marginalized came in large part from the new wings that Israeli Arab politicians got from their constituents by having put aside their internal differences and uniting.

In an ironic twist, this effort to put all four Arab parties on one list, called the Joint List, was born in part of the efforts of right-wing parties to marginalize Arab lawmakers and force some of them out of the Knesset. These right-wing parliamentarians authored legislation that made it necessary for the first time for any party running for office to earn at least 3.25% of the vote to earn a mandate. This means smaller parties under that new threshold would no longer make it into the Knesset, a change that was most likely to affect smaller Arab parties.

“There were really no buses, by the way,” says Yousef Jabareen a new member of Knesset. “When that video came out, the voter turnout then was still very low. So it was factually misleading, and unfortunately, Netanyahu gained some support because of that.”

The video, he said, raised “a feeling of anger” and some degree of shock that a sitting Prime Minister could portray Israeli citizens going to the ballot box on election day as a threat. “He is the top official in Israel, and you would expect him to encourage people to vote and to be part of the democratic process,” says Jabareen. “However, in Israel apparently, the standards are different. Can you imagine if in Europe the French premiers said he’s worried about too many Jews voting?”

That sentiment was reverberating through the American Jewish community as well. Influential Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev, also the left-wing paper’s U.S. editor, tweeted: “To Netanyahu’s many American friends: what if a US President had said ‘too many Jews are voting?'” Shalev’s comment was retweeted more than 500 times. Rick Jacobs, the leader of Reform Jewish movement spoke out against “disheartening” statements in the campaign and said “Israel deserves better.”

As news of Netanyahu’s win began to settle in, the U.S. rebuked the Prime Minister over his words in the last few days of the campaign, as he aimed to shore up support. “The Obama Administration is deeply concerned by the use of divisive rhetoric in Israel that sought to marginalize Arab Israeli citizens,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Netanyahu is now trying to find coalition partners with whom to build a new government, which may be an uphill battle. But repairing relations with his international partners, like the “special relationship” between Jerusalem and Washington, may prove even harder.

Read next: American Donors Give to the Israeli Right

TIME Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Disgrace in Victory

Israel's Prime Minister won a tragic election by vilifying Arabs and defacing Israel’s history 

A few years ago, I drove from Jerusalem to the West Bank, to the city of Bethlehem, to have dinner with TIME’s Palestinian stringer, the late Jamil Hamad. He was a gentle and sophisticated man, soft-spoken, and levelheaded when it came to politics. After dinner, I drove back to Jerusalem and had to pass through the bleak, forbidding security wall. An Israeli soldier asked for my papers; I gave her my passport. “You’re American!” she said, not very officially. “I love America. Where are you from?” New York, I said. “Wow,” she said, with a big smile. And then she turned serious. “What were you doing in there,” she asked, nodding toward the Palestinian side, “with those animals?”

And that, of course, is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “won” the Israeli election. That is how he won the election even though there was a strong economic case against him, and people were tired of his ways, and about 200 former Israeli military and intelligence leaders publicly opposed his dangerously bellicose foreign policy. He won because he ran as a bigot. This is a sad reality: a great many Jews have come to regard Arabs as the rest of the world traditionally regarded Jews. They have had cause. There have been wars, indiscriminate rockets and brutal terrorist attacks. There has been overpowering anti-Jewish bigotry on the Arab side, plus loathsome genocidal statements from the Iranians and others. But there has been a tragic sense of superiority and destiny on the Israeli side as well.

This has been true from the start. Read Ari Shavit’s brilliant conundrum of a book, My Promised Land, and you will get chapter and verse about the massacres perpetrated by Jews in 1948 to secure their homeland. It may be argued that the massacres were necessary, that Israel could not have been created without them, but they were massacres nonetheless. Women and children were murdered. It was the sort of behavior that is only possible when an enemy has been dehumanized. That history haunted Netanyahu’s rhetoric in the days before the election, when he scared Jews into voting for him because, he said, the Arabs were coming to polls in buses, in droves, fueled by foreign money.

It should be noted that those Arabs represent about 20% of the population of Israel. About 160,000 of them are Christian, and some of them are descendants of the first followers of Jesus. Almost all of them speak Hebrew. Every last one is a citizen—and it has been part of Israel’s democratic conceit that they are equal citizens. The public ratification of Netanyahu’s bigotry put the lie to that.

Another conceit has been that the Israeli populace favors a two-state solution. That may still be true, but the surge of voters to the Likud party in the days after Netanyahu denied Palestinian statehood sends the message that a critical mass of Israeli Jews supports the idea of Greater Israel, including Judea and Samaria on the West Bank. This puts Israeli democracy in peril. The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution. That state can only be Jewish, in the long run, if West Bank Arabs are denied the right to vote.

There will be many—in the Muslim world, in Europe—who will say that the results are no surprise, that Israel has become a harsh, bigoted tyrant state. It has certainly acted that way at times, but usually with excellent provocation. It is an appalling irony that the Israeli vote brought joy to American neoconservatives and European anti-Semites alike.

When I was a little boy, my grandmother would sing me to sleep with the Israeli national anthem. It still brings tears to my eyes. My near annual visits to Israel have always been memorable. About a decade ago, I was at a welcoming ceremony for new immigrants—­thousands of them, Russians and Iranians and Ethiopians. And I thought, if Ethiopians and Russians could join that way, why not, eventually, Semites and Semites, Jews and Arabs?

That was the dream—that somehow Jews and Arabs could make it work, could eventually, together, create vibrant societies that would transcend bigotry and exist side by side. The dream was that the unifying force of common humanity and ethnicity would, for once, trump religious exceptionalism. It was always a long shot. It seems impossible now. For the sake of his own future, Benjamin Netanyahu has made dreadful Jewish history: he is the man who made anti-Arab bigotry an overt factor in Israeli political life. This is beyond tragic. It is shameful and embarrassing.

Read next: What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

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