TIME Art

Watch a Video of British Artist Banksy in Gaza

Several of Banksy's latest graffiti pieces are highlighted

British graffiti artist Banksy, known for his subversive street art, released a two-minute video from war-torn Gaza on his website Wednesday.

“Make this the year you discover a new destination,” it wryly says, in the style of a tourism video. But instead of sandy beaches, it offers viewers a glimpse of what a Gazan sees “well away from the tourist track”: tunnels, rubble and children gazing at some of the 18,000 homes destroyed last July in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

The video also spotlights several of Banksy’s latest graffiti pieces, including images of children swinging from a surveillance tower, a parent grieving over a child in a bombed-out setting, and a kitten donning a pink bow.

“A local man came up and said ‘Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens,” Banksy writes.

“The cat found something to play with,” a Palestinian man says during the video. “What about our children?”

TIME Israel

U.S. Trial Over Attacks Could Hurt Palestinian War Crimes Push

Mideast Palestinians PLO Lawsuit
John McConnico—AP In this July 31, 2002 file photo. police and volunteers examine the body of one of the victims of an explosion at Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The plaintiffs have turned to the U.S. court because some of the victims were American citizens

(JERUSALEM) — Palestinian officials are nervously watching a landmark terrorism trial in the United States, brought by victims of Palestinian suicide bombings and shootings aimed at civilians. They fear a negative verdict could hurt their international image at a time when they are preparing to press war crimes charges against Israel.

The $1 billion lawsuit was filed over a series of deadly attacks in or near Jerusalem that killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, a decade ago. The plaintiffs have turned to the U.S. court because some of the victims were American citizens.

Although the cases are not directly linked, a ruling against the Palestinian Authority in New York federal court threatens to undermine Palestinian efforts to rally international support for a brewing battle at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. With American plaintiffs seeking billions of dollars in damages, it could also deliver a tough financial blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority refused to comment on the lawsuit. But several senior Palestinian officials said the case is being closely watched in Ramallah and acknowledged they are worried about the outcome. The officials spoke anonymously on the advice of their lawyers.

At issue are several Palestinian attacks between 2001 and 2004 targeting civilians, including a bombing at a packed cafeteria at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, as well as suicide bombings and shootings on busy streets.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel-based Shurat HaDin Law Center, a lawyer who is representing the victims’ families, said “it will definitely have an impact” on the Palestinians’ image, saying the case is “full of evidence” that Palestinian Authority security men helped plan or carry out the attacks.

“Those involved in the attacks still receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority and still get promoted in rank while in jail,” she said. Families of suicide bombers receive monthly salaries from a Palestinian “martyr’s foundation,” she said.

She said a militant linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party drove a female suicide bomber to downtown Jerusalem, where she set off her explosives on a busy street in 2002, killing an 81-year-old man and wounding dozens. The driver is currently in Israeli prison, she said.

Defense attorney Mark Rochon told jurors in closing arguments Thursday that the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization were not privy to the attacks and argued that an entire organization can’t be held liable for the actions of the suicide bombers and gunmen, whom he said acted on their own.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi made the point at the trial that the Palestinians were hit hard during the 2000 intifada, which in addition to the attacks saw Israeli troops battle Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on a near-daily basis. The conflict killed around 3,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis.

“I knew and lots of my friends knew that this was counterproductive, that it really damaged our cause and didn’t serve the cause of the PLO, nor the cause of freedom and justice. So we tried to prevent violence from all sides,” the Jerusalem Post quoted her as saying earlier this month.

The Intifada fizzled out after Abbas took office in 2005 following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Abbas has repeatedly condemned violence, and his forces have coordinated security in the West Bank with Israel for nearly a decade, though Israel accuses the official Palestinian media of incitement.

Members of a family from Long Island testified in early February about the attack. Rena Sokolow said the world seemed to be spinning “like I was in a washing machine,” and blood flowed so quickly from a broken leg she thought she would die.

“I looked to my right and saw a severed head of a woman about three feet from me,” she testified. Her daughter Jamie, then 12, suffered multiple facial wounds.

The female bomber, Wafa Idris, is widely regarded as a hero in the Palestinian territories, as are other militants who have carried out attacks.

Meshulam Perlman described to the court in January the aftermath of a Palestinian suicide bombing that targeted a crowded bus in Jerusalem.

“Bodies, corpses were flying. They were flying onto balconies and rooftops,” said the 70-year-old flower shop owner. “People were severed in two, severed into pieces,” he said.

The 2004 lawsuit was brought under the Anti-terrorism Act of 1991 and seeks $1 billion from the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say any damages awarded would be automatically tripled because the claims involve acts of terrorism. The Palestinian officials said they are worried they will be faced with a hefty bill.

The Israeli government says it has no official involvement in the case.

The case was delayed for years as lawyers for the Palestinians tried to challenge the American court’s jurisdiction.

Closing arguments were delivered Thursday. A spokesman for the plaintiffs said the jury could issue a verdict as soon as Monday, or it could take days or weeks.

A negative ruling would be a setback for the Palestinians’ campaign to seek international recognition of their independence in the absence of a peace deal with Israel.

Disillusioned after two decades of failed peace talks, the Palestinians gained observer status at the United Nations in 2012, clearing the way for them to join various international organizations. Most notably, the Palestinians recently moved to join the International Criminal Court, where they hope to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.

TIME Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Calls for Scrapping U.N. Gaza War Probe

Benjamin Netanyahu
Gali Tibbon—AP Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Feb. 1, 2015

The head of the U.N. commission investigating potential war crimes in Gaza has resigned amid accusations of bias against Israel

(JERUSALEM) — Israel’s prime minister says the United Nations commission investigating potential war crimes in Gaza should be scraped now that its head has resigned amid accusations he was biased against Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the commission, set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council, is an “anti-Israeli body” that has proved it has nothing to do with human rights.

Netanyahu says that in 2014 alone, it passed more resolutions against Israel that Iran, Syria and North Korea combined.

Netanyahu’s remarks came after reports emerged that Canadian law professor William Schabas has stepped down as head of the inquiry. The commission was due to issue its report next month.

Israel did not cooperate with it, saying it was hostile to Israel and that its conclusions were known in advance.

TIME

Morning Must Reads: January 21

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

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 Middle East

The Path to Peace

vanAgtmael_11.JPG
Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos A Palestinian man prays in a Gaza neighborhood destroyed during the war last year between Hamas and Israel

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 Palestine

U.N. Security Council Rejects Palestinian Resolution

UN Security Council rejects draft resolution on Palestinian statehood
Cem Ozdel—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images 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.

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
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images 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

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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John Harper—Getty Images Irish Parliament in Dublin

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
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Syrian refugees wait in tents during a hunger strike outside the parliamentary building in Athens on Nov. 30, 2014

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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