TIME

Morning Must Reads: January 21

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

How 7 Ideas From the State of the Union Will Affect You

President Barack Obama threw out a lot of big ideas during his State of the Union address, but how will they affect you? Here’s a look at seven proposals and how they could affect your life

France to Hire 2,600 Officers to Monitor 3,000 Terror Suspects

France will hire 2,600 new counter-terrorism officers and spend $490 million in response to the Paris attacks, the prime minister announced Wednesday

Netflix Goes ‘Full HBO’ in 2015

Television and online video are colliding, and 2015 could be the year Netflix-original shows transform from a novelty to an expectation among subscribers

NBC to Stream Super Bowl Online

NBC announced on Tuesday that it will stream all Super Bowl content for free on Feb. 1, including pregame coverage, the game and the halftime show. The Seattle Seahawks go up against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., for football’s top prize

Palestinian Stabs Passengers on Bus in Israel

A Palestinian man stabbed nine people, wounding some of them seriously, on a bus in central Tel Aviv before he was chased down, shot and arrested, Israeli police said on Wednesday. The Islamist militant Hamas group praised the stabbing

Benedict Cumberbatch Inspires Clothing Line

L.A. fashion brand Poprageous, which specializes in pop-culture apparel, has launched a “Cumberbitch” collection ranging from crop tops to leggings. Prints of Cumberbatch’s face are tiled on the fabric ad infinitum, leaving the actor within close gaze of his ardent fans

France Issues First Charges Against 4 in Terrorist Attacks

Four men with ties to one of the gunmen responsible for three days of terror in the Paris region are the first to be charged in connection with the attacks that left 20 people dead. The attacks started with the Jan. 7 massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo

Movie Ticket Prices Hit All-Time High

The average price in 2014 was $8.17, an all-time yearly high, but only a slight increase from the 2013 average of $8.13, the National Association of Theater Owners said on Tuesday. That figure has steadily increased since the mid-1990s, when tickets were around $4

A Bad Childhood Can Literally Age You, Study Says

You’ve heard of people who go through trauma and get old before their time? Well, it can be literally true. Childhood adversity and certain psychiatric conditions may cause individuals to experience accelerated aging, according to research published last week

5 More Disney Workers Get Measles

More employees at Disneyland California have been diagnosed with measles, bringing the total number of cases up to 53. All staff who have come into contact with newly infected workers have been asked to show vaccination records or be tested

Pope Francis and Manila’s Vanishing Street Kids

Was the Philippine capital really purged of unsightly urchins for Pope Francis’ visit last week? In a word, yes, although only a small fraction of this was anything new. According to activists, street kids are constantly being rounded up across this sprawling city of 12 million

Lil Wayne Just Dropped His New Mixtape

After much anticipation, Lil Wayne has just released his new mixtape Sorry 4 the Wait 2. The new project is a sequel to his 2011 Sorry 4 the Wait, and features artists 2 Chainz, Drake, Christina Milian, iLoveMakonnen, Nicki Minaj, Mack Maine and more

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TIME Israel

Palestinian Stabs Passengers on Bus in Israel

Israeli police crime scene investigators work at the scene of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, Jan. 21, 2015.
Israeli police crime scene investigators work at the scene of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, Jan. 21, 2015. Nir Elias—Reuters

Nine Israelis stabbed on a bus in central Tel Aviv

(JERUSALEM, Israel) — A Palestinian man stabbed 11 people on and near a bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, seriously wounding three of them before he was shot and arrested by Israeli police.

Police described the assault as a “terrorist attack,” and the Islamic militant group Hamas praised it. It appeared to be the latest in a series of “lone-wolf” attacks in which Palestinians have killed and wounded Israelis using knives, acid and vehicles, citing tensions surrounding a disputed Jerusalem holy site.

The man, who was riding the bus with the other passengers, began stabbing people, including the driver, then managed to get out of the bus and run away from the scene, stabbing a woman in the back on his way.

Officers from a prison service, who happened to be nearby, saw the bus swerving out of control and a man running away. They gave chase, shot the man in the leg, wounding him lightly, and arrested him.

“He had murder in his eyes,” a bus passenger who gave her name as Orly, told Israel Radio.

Eleven people were stabbed and three remain in critical condition, according to Lee Gat, a spokeswoman at Tel Hashomer hospital, and a statement from the Ichilov hospital. Police earlier said nine people had been stabbed, citing initial numbers giving by paramedics at the scene.

Video aired by Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed the attacker running in the street and stabbing a woman in the back as he tried to escape. Police confirmed that the attacker stabbed a woman as he attempted to flee.

Police identified the assailant as 23-year-old West Bank resident Hamza Mohammed Matroukh, a Palestinian who had entered Israel illegally.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Matroukh was in custody and undergoing questioning. Police said he confessed to the stabbing, saying he carried it out in response to last year’s Gaza war and tensions surrounding a Jerusalem site holy to Jews and Muslims.

The stabbing appeared to be the latest in a series of attacks in recent months carried out by individual Palestinians with no known ties to armed groups, which have killed about a dozen people, including five killed when two men attacked a Jerusalem synagogue with guns and meat cleavers. Police say the attacks are almost impossible to prevent.

The violence comes weeks ahead of March elections, in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk, is facing a challenge from a joint list headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, who support negotiations with the Palestinians. The violence could sway votes in Netanyahu’s favor.

At the scene of the attack, a Jewish head covering lay beside headphones on the floor of the bus, with blood splattered nearby. Police sealed the central intersection where the attack occurred, which is typically clogged with cars, as paramedics tended to the wounded.

Herzl Biton, the bus driver, was stabbed in the upper body and liver and was in surgery, his niece Cheli Shushan said. She said he had tried to fight back and sprayed the attacker with pepper spray.

Biton called his friend, Kazis Matzliach, as the attack was unfolding, describing the mayhem. Matzliach said he could hear the sounds of screaming while his friend was talking, telling him if “something happens to me, please take care of my children.”

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, did not claim responsibility but praised Wednesday’s attack as “brave and heroic” in a tweet by Izzat Risheq, a Hamas leader residing in Qatar.

The stabbing is a “natural response to the occupation and its terrorist crimes against our people,” Risheq said.

Israeli officials say the attacks stem from incitement by the Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.

“The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state,” Netanyahu said Wednesday. “This same terrorism is trying to attack us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, condemned the violence but said it came as a result of the Israeli occupation.

“You cannot have a violent military occupation with full impunity and then expect all its victims to be calm and quiet,” she said.

Most of the recent violence has occurred in Jerusalem, though there have been other attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

In Jerusalem, the violence came after months of tensions between Jews and Palestinians in east Jerusalem — the section of the city the Palestinians demand as their future capital. The area saw a wave of violence last summer, capped by a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

Much of the recent unrest has stemmed from tensions surrounding a key holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City. It is the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because of the revered Jewish Temples that stood there in biblical times. Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

TIME Middle East

The Path to Peace

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A Palestinian man prays in a Gaza neighborhood destroyed during the war last year between Hamas and Israel Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos

Chaos in the Middle East is sowing the seeds for an unlikely alliance between Israel and the Arab states

On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia–Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal–sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had “crossed the Rubicon” and “don’t want to fight Israel anymore.”

The Turki-Yadlin dialogue was not “official,” but it sent a clear message. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah had personally approved the meeting, intending it as an olive branch to the Israelis. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to reciprocate–at least not openly. It was too dangerous politically. Crucial components of Netanyahu’s coalition, especially his supporters among right-wing Jewish settlers in the West Bank, oppose any deal with Palestinians.

And yet, in the months after he decided against a public gesture to the Saudis, Netanyahu was suggesting at private meals with editors and influential figures at the U.N. General Assembly meetings last September that an alliance with the Arabs was not only possible but perhaps the best way to resolve the Palestinian problem.

Other odd things have been happening recently in the gridlocked Middle East. On New Year’s Day, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi made an interesting speech, challenging Islamic radicalism and calling for a Muslim reformation. “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred,” he said, “should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!” The sentiments were not unexpected, since al-Sisi had come to power by overthrowing the country’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood leaders in 2013. (Al-Sisi won a largely uncontested presidential election last year.) But these are not sentiments that have often been uttered publicly by Arab leaders before.

And then, the very next day, the Times of Israel reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and exiled Palestinian leader Mohammed Dahlan had met privately in Paris. Dahlan has made no secret of his desire to replace Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas; Lieberman is a conservative who has fallen out with Netanyahu and wants to be part of a coalition to replace him. So what on earth were Dahlan and Lieberman talking about?

All of this may add up to nothing. But there seems to be a growing impatience with the perpetual status quo in the region. There is a new generation of leaders pushing for power in Israel and Palestine. There are dangerous new threats like ISIS. There is concern about the U.S.–the possibility of a nuclear deal with Iran, the waning need for Middle East oil. There is the memory of the Arab Spring, which ultimately produced chaos instead of democracy.

The established powers in the region, like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have found in recent years that they have increasingly aligned foreign policy interests. The Israelis and Saudis have been sharing intelligence for the past few years, according to regional sources. The Israelis and Egyptians are cooperating on security efforts in Sinai and in Gaza, where Hamas–the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood–is a common enemy. There are private talks going on between Israeli and Saudi Arabian officials. “It might be called mushroom diplomacy,” an Israeli told me. “It can only grow in the dark.”

Most Israeli and Arab officials I spoke with during a December tour of the region acknowledge the mushrooms and hope that the burgeoning relationships–especially the acceptance of Israel as a de facto ally–can be brought to light in time. There are, of course, all the usual roadblocks, including the eternal one: nothing can happen publicly without an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. The Saudis and the Arab League promised to recognize Israel in 2002 if such a deal were made, but the Arab terms–a return to 1967 borders, with Palestinians’ right of return to their former lands in Israel–were unacceptable to the Israelis. Now those terms may be changing. Prince Turki described the proposal as a “framework,” which implies room to maneuver.

Is it possible that the Middle East has become so unstable that an Arab-Israeli peace is no longer unthinkable?

The ISIS Effect

As 2015 begins, the Middle East seems to be a greater mess than it ever was–especially when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The deterioration began with Israel’s 50-day war in Gaza last summer, which increased the popularity of Hamas in the West Bank and has led Abbas to take a series of steps toward the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. In recent weeks, the Palestinian Authority applied for membership in the International Criminal Court–a red flag to the Israelis because the Palestinians would presumably use membership to bring war-crimes charges against Israel. In return, the Israelis have cut off the monthly payment of taxes they collect for the PA, which represent almost 80% of the government’s $160 million monthly budget. It is possible that the Palestinians could retaliate by suspending government operations in the West Bank–schools, health care and, especially, security. Chaos would be the likely result.

In the rest of the region, the sectarian split between Sunni and Shi’ite has become more dangerous, even as it has become more confusing. The Sunni Arab nations–which include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states–have worried for a decade that the U.S. demolition of Saddam Hussein’s ugly but stable dictatorship in Iraq has created a power vacuum in a broad swath of the region that the Iranians are exploiting. They call it the “Shi’ite crescent,” a sphere of influence stretching from Hizballah-controlled southern Lebanon and President Bashar Assad’s Alawite regime in Syria, to Iraq and Iran, right up to the border of the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, a majority-Shi’ite area where most of the country’s oil is produced.

But the old Sunni-Shi’ite conflict has been complicated by a new threat in the region: ISIS, a Sunni radical military force vastly more competent and frightening than al-Qaeda. ISIS began in Iraq but made its mark in the rebellion against Assad’s government in Syria. Assad isn’t well liked by his Sunni neighbors–and some of them, like Qatar and perhaps private sources in Saudi Arabia, gave surreptitious support to ISIS and other Sunni militias in the early days of the rebellion.

The lightning march ISIS made through Iraq last year changed the equation. An ISIS-controlled Iraq would be a threat not only to Iran but also to some of the Sunni royal families in the region, as well as Egypt. The Jordanians–already overwhelmed by refugees from Iraq, Syria and Palestine–are vulnerable. The Saudis, governed by an increasingly feeble gerontocracy–the 90-year-old Abdullah was hospitalized with pneumonia at the start of the new year–are worried too. The Egyptians are fighting ISIS-style terrorists in Sinai and are threatened by Libyan militias, which may also be loosely affiliated with ISIS.

In response, a heterodox alliance has gathered to make war with ISIS. Iranian-backed militias, like Hizballah, are the most ardent fighters in this war, along with the Kurds. But they are now joined by U.S. airpower–as well as pilots from Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Another potentially major change in the region: the Israelis, Iranians, Saudis and Egyptians are increasingly concerned about Turkey, which sees the ISIS threat somewhat differently from its neighbors. Turkey has allegedly allowed thousands of militants to cross its border and join ISIS because the group is fighting Assad and militant Kurdish groups like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turks see as a permanent threat in the south and east of their country. (Turkey has acknowledged that its border with Syria is porous but has denied accusations that it purposefully allows militants to cross.) “Why aren’t you Americans making more of a fuss about Turkey’s support for ISIS?” a prominent Egyptian official asked me. “I read a lot more about our humanitarian problems in the American press than I do about the Turks who are allowing terrorists to cross their border and behead Americans.”

Of course, the “humanitarian problems” in Egypt are very real, as al-Sisi’s forces have led a brutal suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Egyptians have become sensitive to the point of paranoia about the changing U.S. role in the region. I had dinner in Cairo with a group of prominent leaders. One of them, a banker, asked seriously, “Is it true that there is a secret alliance between Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize the existing Sunni governments in the region?”

I started to laugh, but none of the Egyptians at the table were smiling. They didn’t buy the banker’s conspiracy theory, but they laid out an array of charges, ranging from the (pre-Obama) Iraq invasion to the President’s support for the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak to the Administration’s recent slow walk of military supplies, especially spare parts, to the al-Sisi government. “Doesn’t he want us to be fighting ISIS in Sinai?” asked the banker.

The Obama Administration maintains that all al-Sisi has to do is free some political prisoners–especially those who are American and three jailed journalists from al-Jazeera who were accused, implausibly, of joining a terrorist group and broadcasting “false news”–and the military support will flow again. The Administration argues that its overall policy–steering clear of neocolonial adventurism like the 2003 invasion of Iraq and working to bring Iran back into the international community–has been more effective than George W. Bush’s neoconservatism. Obama aides also point out that there are two U.S. naval fleets in the region, plus U.S. bases in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Djibouti. “Does that sound like disengagement?” one of them asked me. “We’re not going anywhere.”

From Washington, the region seems a jigsaw puzzle ruled by anarchic moving pieces–a disproportionate source of concern that leaches attention from growing problems in Russia and East Asia. From Cairo and Riyadh and Jerusalem, though, the U.S. seems a fickle ally that can’t decide whether its policy is to support stability or the naive hope for democracy in a region that isn’t ready for it.

The modern Middle East was stabilized, in a toxic but effective way, by the Cold War, when partnership with superpowers provided security and economic aid. In the 21st century, the USSR is gone and the U.S. no longer has the incentive, or the money, to lavish vast aid packages on local clients. But the nations of the Middle East have been unable to wean themselves from their dependency on outside forces. “Whenever we’re in trouble we dial 911,” an Arab diplomat told me. “But it is illogical to think the U.S. was created to protect the Sunnis.”

With few other options, the Arabs have returned to an old idea, which was mostly bluster in the past–that they must unite to protect themselves. And any serious conversation about security and economic development has to include the one nation in the region that has succeeded at both: Israel. There is no love for the Israelis, but there is respect. And so there is a hope–a conversation that is occurring across the Arab states–that perhaps the only alternative is to bank on the regional forces of stability to create a security alliance against the extremist threat of both Shi’ite and Sunni militias. Even if that means partnering with Israel.

Strange Bedfellows

Is such an alliance even vaguely possible? History says no, vehemently. But in the days before Netanyahu’s government collapsed in December, Israeli intelligence sources–usually the most skeptical people in the country–were allowing tiny shreds of hope to creep into their calculations. The common security interests with the Arabs were compelling, several of them told me, and might lead to new arrangements in the region. It was not impossible that the Arabs could help broker a peace deal with the Palestinians. The Egyptians could help provide security; the Saudis and Gulf states could provide funds for Palestinian economic development.

For that to happen, though, Israel would need to make changes of its own. “These governments can’t be seen to be cooperating with Israel as long as there isn’t a deal with the Palestinians,” said one intelligence expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “ISIS can turn the Arab street, especially their young people, against them. It’s bad enough that [the U.S.] is dropping bombs on Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. That strengthens [ISIS] on the street as well.”

At the heart of this conundrum stands Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister may have been selling an alliance with the Arabs in New York, but he’s been selling intransigence back home. That includes a new law that would make Israel a “Jewish” state–with the implication of second-class citizenship for its 1.7 million Arab citizens. His insistence on pushing that law resulted in the collapse of his government, as moderate parties led by Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid refused to support the legislation.

Netanyahu is no longer very popular in Israel, but no one is betting against him in the March election. Given his political skills, the absence of a charismatic mainstream challenger and the steady tattoo of terrorist incidents–stabbings, shootings, cars running over pedestrians–most observers assume that Netanyahu will prevail somehow, though he might even struggle to maintain control of his Likud Party. The rising tide seems to be with the settler-movement leader Naftali Bennett, whose party might well outpoll Likud in March. It is also possible that the moderate-liberal coalition of the Labor Party and the splinter party of Livni’s supporters will challenge Likud for first place in the March election and the right to attempt to form a government of its own.

The real negotiations begin after the election. Netanyahu will try again to cobble together a centrist coalition. The big question is whether he will have to include Bennett in a government; if so, there will be no hope of Israel’s negotiating a deal with the Palestinians–and no hope of closer public ties with its Sunni Arab neighbors.

But there are other possibilities as well. If Labor-Livni polls strongly and is joined by Lapid’s centrist party, they may find a partner in Avigdor Lieberman. The Foreign Minister and leader of the Israel Beitenu party ran a crass, anti-Arab campaign last time. “But Lieberman plays a different game inside the government than he does outside,” says Shai Feldman, director of Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies. “As Foreign Minister, he’s had to deal with the leaders of other countries. He’s more of a realist now.” But he’s also less of a political force, as recent polls show support for his party waning dramatically because of renewed corruption charges against Lieberman. “It is absolutely impossible to predict how this election is going to turn out,” Feldman says.

The New Generation

Netanyahu has been at the center of Israeli politics for nearly 25 years. Abbas has been a force in Palestinian politics even longer. But a new generation of leaders is rising, which is why the Lieberman-Dahlan meeting in Paris was noteworthy, at the very least. One thing the two men have in common, despite their wildly divergent politics, is that both believe the Netanyahu-Abbas era is coming to a close.

Dahlan is perhaps the most skilled of the next generation of Palestinian leaders, although he developed a well-deserved reputation as a thug when he led the Palestinian security services in Gaza. He is a young-looking 53, a protégé of Yasser Arafat’s and a native Gazan. He’s also the sworn enemy of Abbas, who accused Dahlan of corruption and convicted him in a show trial; Dahlan has been living in Abu Dhabi since 2011. He has already announced that he will run for President of the PA against Abbas–who is supremely unpopular–should Abbas ever call the Palestinian election that has been long delayed. But Dahlan’s strategy is more expansive than a one-on-one fight with Abbas. His hope is to create a new coalition that would appeal to people across the Palestinian political spectrum, from Hamas to Fatah.

How could he manage that? By forming an alliance with a Palestinian leader currently sitting in an Israeli prison. Marwan Barghouti, 55, is considered a folk hero by both Hamas and Fatah. He was a prominent leader of the first and second intifadehs before he was arrested by the Israelis in 2002 and sentenced to five continuous life terms for murder. Barghouti’s wife has already announced her support for a movement to draft him for President. Dahlan’s vision is that Barghouti would be the titular head of the PA from inside prison and Dahlan himself would be the hands-on guy, running the show from Ramallah, while former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, widely considered Palestine’s most effective bureaucrat, would administer the West Bank.

Netanyahu has long lamented the fact that he doesn’t have a “strong” partner on the Palestinian side. Abbas has never had the support among his people to cut a deal, and his predecessor Arafat had little desire to do so. But a government led by Barghouti or Dahlan could hardly be considered weak, and a Barghouti-Dahlan coalition would be formidable. The question of what to do with Barghouti–whether to release him or not–has been discussed by Netanyahu’s inner circle. At this point, Barghouti’s political views are a mystery; he has been described as “Mandela-esque” and utterly unrepentant.

Dahlan has been meeting with Arab leaders across the region. He is close to Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and also to Egypt’s al-Sisi. His aspirations parallel Netanyahu’s: that the Arab states could be brought into the talks as intermediaries. Dahlan hopes the Arabs will nudge the Israelis to make concessions; Netanyahu hopes that the Arabs will nudge the Palestinians to make concessions. But the bottom line is the same: visions of commercial cooperation that transforms ports in Gaza and Haifa into Middle Eastern Singapores; visions of a security alliance strong enough to fend off Islamic radicalism, both Shi’ite and Sunni.

The only thing preventing all this is what usually gets in the way in the Middle East–reality. Here is what might also happen in 2015: Israel might elect a right-wing government that wants nothing to do with the Arabs. The West Bank may fall into chaos as the PA struggles without the funds necessary to keep its security forces in operation. The U.S. might make a nuclear deal with Iran, with unforeseen consequences for the region. The U.S. might not make a nuclear deal with Iran, with unforeseen consequences for the region. King Abdullah might pass away in Saudi Arabia. The moderate Jordanian government might be overwhelmed by the tide of Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. Bashar Assad might fall, or survive, with consequences for the Kurds, the Turks and the Lebanese. Libyan militias might find common cause with ISIS. The rickety new government in Iraq might collapse.

Any of these events is more likely to occur than a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, brokered by the Arabs. But the fact that the conversation is taking place–between Prince Turki and Amos Yadlin, between Mohammed Dahlan and Avigdor Lieberman, secretly at the U.N. and in capitals across the region–means that peace, the most unlikely Middle East result, is no longer off the table.

TIME Middle East

U.N. Chief Says Palestinians Will Join International Court on April 1

Joining the ICC is part of a broader Palestinian strategy to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories and agreeing to Palestinian statehood

(UNITED NATIONS) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Tuesday that the state of Palestine will join the International Criminal Court on April 1, a high-stakes move that will enable the Palestinians to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.

The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established the court last Friday, the last formal step to accepting the jurisdiction of the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal. The U.N. said the secretary-general would review the paperwork.

In a statement posted on the U.N.’s treaty website, the secretary-general announced his acceptance of the documents saying “the statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015″ in accordance with the court’s procedures. He said he was “acting in his capacity as depositary” for the documents of ratification.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents to join the ICC a day after the U.N. Security Council rejected a resolution on Dec. 30 that would have set a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel.

Joining the ICC is part of a broader Palestinian strategy to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories and agreeing to Palestinian statehood. Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to take stronger action against Israel after a 50-day war between the Jewish state and militants in Gaza over the summer, tensions over holy sites in Jerusalem, and the failure of the last round of U.S.-led peace talks.

The Palestinian decision to join the ICC has already sparked retaliation from Israel which froze the transfer of more than $100 million in tax funds collected for the Palestinians on Saturday. It promised tougher action on Sunday.

The United States also opposed the move, calling it an obstacle to reaching a permanent peace agreementl that would give the Palestinians an independent state. The Obama administration said Monday it was reviewing its annual $440 million aid package to the Palestinians because of the decision to join the ICC.

While Palestinian membership in the ICC doesn’t automatically incur U.S. punishment, any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support under American law.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said last week that the Palestinians are seeking to raise alleged crimes committed by Israel, including during last summer’s war in Gaza. He said the Palestinians will also seek justice for Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, which he said constitute “a war crime” under the Rome statute.

The ICC said the Palestinians submitted a document to the court’s registrar, Herman von Hebel, in The Hague, Netherlands on Jan. 1 stating that Palestine accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC starting June 13 — about a month before the Gaza war started.

The International Criminal Court was created to prosecute individual perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Palestine will become the 123rd member.

But in Monday’s press release, the court stressed that accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC “does not automatically trigger an investigation.” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must determine whether the criteria under the statute for opening an investigation have been met, it said.

The secretary-general also approved Palestinian documents joining 16 other international treaties, conventions and agreements on Tuesday night.

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Weighs Cutting Aid to Palestinians Over ICC Move

Riyad H. Mansour
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour speaks to reporters at the U.N. headquarters on Jan. 2, 2015 Devra Berkowitz—AP

Any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support

(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration said Monday it was reviewing its annual $440 million aidpackage to the Palestinians because of their effort to join the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.

At the same time, however, the U.S. criticized Israel for withholding tens of millions in tax revenues to the Palestinians, saying such a step “raises tensions.” Taken together, the statements reflected Washington trying to come to grips with a Palestinian move it has spent years trying to avert and a peace process that offers no hope for an immediate breakthrough.

The Palestinian decision to join The Hague court came after the U.N. Security Council last month rejected setting a three-year deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian-claimed lands. Israel fears Palestinian membership there could lead to a rash of politically motivated prosecutions that further isolates the Jewish state and makes it hard for Israeli officials to travel abroad.

“We’re deeply troubled by the Palestinian action,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. She said joining the court “is entirely counterproductive and does nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state. It badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

Under American law, any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support. Membership itself doesn’t automatically incur U.S. punishment.

Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the matter by telephone over the weekend with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other U.S. officials spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hoping to dissuade him from his course.

Abbas has been under heavy pressure to take stronger action against Israel amid months of rising tensions. U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed last spring and a 50-day war followed between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza over the summer.

The administration is reviewing its assistance to the Palestinians to ensure it complies with U.S. law, Psaki said. She said there is a range of ways for the U.S. to respond, but suggested none would happen immediately.

“The focus right now is to continue to encourage both sides,” Psaki said. She cited Israel, too, for escalating tensions by freezing the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinians.

“What we’re trying to avoid here is a back-and-forth tit-for-tat,” Psaki said.

Israel, like the U.S., is not a member of the international court and doesn’t recognize its jurisdiction. The court has no police force and no authority to go into Israel and arrest suspects. But it could issue arrest warrants that European and other countries would be willing to enforce. The U.S. accepts Israel’s position that Palestinian membership in the court is an impediment to peace.

TIME Palestine

U.N. Security Council Rejects Palestinian Resolution

UN Security Council rejects draft resolution on Palestinian statehood
Riyad Mansour, second right, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, is seen during the United Nations (UN) Security Council meeting in New York on Dec. 30, 2014. Cem Ozdel—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The measure was not expected to pass due to U.S. opposition

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Tuesday rejected a Palestinian draft resolution, strongly opposed by the United States, that sought peace with Israel within a one-year time frame.

The resolution failed to win the nine-vote majority required for approval, the Associated Press reports. Eight countries voted in favor of the resolution, while two opposed (U.S. and Australia), and five abstained.

“The fact that this draft resolution was not adopted will not at all prevent us from proceeding to push the international community, specifically the United Nations, towards an effective involvement to achieving a resolution to this conflict,” said Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar after the vote.

The resolution, whose voting had been requested by Jordan, demanded that East Jerusalem become capital of Palestine, according to Al Jazeera. It also asked that negotiations be based on territorial lines prior to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

The measure was not expected to pass due to strong opposition from the U.S., according to Reuters. U.S. diplomats previously said the resolution would bind Israel and Palestine to a “rushed” timeframe to resolve a decades-long conflict, and that they would use their veto if necessary.

“We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power. “We voted against it because … peace must come from hard compromises that occur at the negotiating table.”

[AP]

TIME Middle East

Palestinians Will Present a Resolution to the U.N. on Israeli Withdrawal

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Moscow
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks to media about the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not seen) in Moscow on Aug. 19, 2014 Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

But Israel wants the U.S. to use its veto to block it

The Palestinians are set to present a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, setting out a two-year time frame for ending Israeli control of the West Bank.

Israel wants the U.S. to use its veto power to block the resolution from passing, but Washington remains undecided, Reuters reports.

“We all want to keep open the hope of a two-state solution and we all want to prevent to the best of our abilities an escalation of the violence on the ground,” an unnamed senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday before flying to Europe to meet with Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Nabil al-Arabi, head of the Arab League, to try and work out a compromise.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Dec. 5 – Dec. 12

From the ongoing protests against police brutality in the U.S. and the dismantling of the main pro-democracy protest camp in Hong Kong to the British royal couple’s first New York visit and Malala Yousafzai receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Ireland

The Irish Parliament Looks Set to Recognize a Palestinian State

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Irish Parliament in Dublin John Harper—Getty Images

Ireland would be joining the U.K., France, Spain and other countries in extending symbolic recognition

The Irish government accepted a motion Tuesday calling for the symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood “on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in U.N. resolutions.”

On Wednesday, members of the lower house of the Oireachtas, or Irish Parliament, will continue debating the nonbinding bill, which is being put forward by the opposition, Reuters reports. A government spokesman said it would not oppose the motion.

“Recognizing the independent state of Palestine would be a symbolically important expression of Ireland’s support for the people of Palestine’s right to self determination,” said member of Parliament Dominic Hannigan, according to the Irish Examiner.

The Irish upper house passed a similar resolution in October.

Spain, the U.K. and France, have also passed symbolic votes of recognition, however some European countries have gone a step further and officially recognize a Palestinian state, with Sweden recently becoming the largest European nation to do so.

TIME migration

Nearly 5,000 Refugees Were Killed in 2014, Data Shows

Syrian Refugees' Hunger Strike Outside Greek Parliament
Syrian refugees wait in tents during a hunger strike outside the parliamentary building in Athens on Nov. 30, 2014 Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The majority died attempting to cross the Mediterranean

The number of refugees killed while fleeing their home countries more than doubled in the past year, according to data released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which said the toll for 2014 was nearly 5,000

According to the New York Times, citing IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle, about 3,000 of those people drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, up from 707 out of 2,376 last year.

Doyle added that a majority of the refugees were from Iraq, Syria and Palestine, killed in the process of escaping escalating conflicts.

[NYT]

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