It was, even by the dispiriting standards of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, a futile concept: a peace conference without either of the warring parties. On January 15th diplomats from more than 70 countries flew to Paris for a summit against which Israeli officials had been inveighing for weeks.
It was a valedictory speech, irrelevant in a few weeks, but John Kerry’s much-anticipated remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were still a remarkable indictment. In a 75-minute address at the State Department on Wednesday, the secretary of state outlined a long list of reasons why the two-state solution was on its deathbed, and defended last week’s abstention from a controversial Security Council vote on Israeli settlements. He laid most of the blame on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government.
By August it had become a familiar scene: A woman standing on a Mediterranean beach is stopped by authorities, who proceed to ask her to change her clothes lest she offend her fellow beachgoers. Except this wasn’t France, where several municipalities recently tried to ban the burkini, a full-body swimsuit worn by some conservative Muslim women, but Israel. And the woman, singer and former reality-show star Hanna Goor, who was in town for a music festival in nearby Ashdod, wasn’t being asked by authorities to remove a burkini. Quite the opposite.
Iyad Qassem is trying to run a coffee shop without water. He reuses the stuff in his sink, which quickly fills with muck, and in the shishas that Palestinians puff on his patio. It would be a difficult task, if he had many customers: but it seems people who haven’t showered in a week lose interest in sipping tea in 35°C heat. “The café is empty because everyone is worried about the situation. It’s getting impossible to run a business,” he says.
Four years ago, when Muhammad Abu Khair took in his first dog, it caused a family feud. His daughter brought home a stray that was wandering the streets of Jabalia, a district of Gaza City. He was unhappy about keeping it, a common feeling in Gaza’s conservative society: Islam views dogs as unclean and frowns on owning them as pets. But he relented, hoping to make his daughter happy. His relatives were not so understanding. For a while they stopped visiting the house.
As arms deals go, it was not the slickest. On an industrial street near the kasbah in the West Bank city of Nablus, a balding middle-aged man described his services. He couldn’t supply an AK-47 or a Tavor, the standard-issue Israeli assault rifle—those are too hard to find. In fact, he had no guns at all. But he insisted that he had the next-best thing: a friend with a lathe.
This might be the most surprising poll from a wild, unpredictable 2016 campaign: One in four Israeli Jews would vote for Donald Trump.
In the past few months, a veteran Israeli radio presenter lost half his airtime because he asked a top security official a tough question. Members of the foreign press were called before parliament twice to answer charges of “bias.” A lawmaker claimed that journalists were inciting violence to besmirch his nation’s good name, and The Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief was briefly detained by police on suspicion of doing exactly that.
The message from the top Palestinian leadership, delivered with more than a hint of panic and desperation, seems to be this: You’ll miss us when we’re gone.
The residents of Jesus’s birthplace, snug in their beds on Christmas Eve, will hope that the only unexpected visitor is wearing a red suit and coming down the chimney. At least 55 people have been burgled in the city of peace over the past two months. Some of the thefts were quite serious, with more than $64,000 lifted from a house in the suburb of Beit Jala on December 11th.
Young men, hundreds of them, are holed up in a house of worship, a squat building carved from Jerusalem’s famous limestone. The worshippers have stockpiled explosives inside, they say, to stop Israeli soldiers from changing the decades-old status quo at the site.
A pair of bodies on the pavement, covered in blood-spattered white sheets. Dozens of police officers sweeping through Jabal al-Mukaber, a rough neighborhood in East Jerusalem, searching cars and clashing with local youth. An emergency cabinet meeting to discuss home demolitions and closing the Palestinian parts of Israel’s “eternally reunited” capital to traffic.
The men who patrol the isolated village of Douma after nightfall cannot do much except raise the alarm; they must hope it will be enough to prevent another tragedy. Two Palestinian homes in the village, outside Nablus, were firebombed early on the morning of July 31st, killing an 18-month-old toddler named Ali Dawabsheh, and leaving his parents and young brother severely burned.
Iyad al-Buzm leaned forward against his lavender desk and tried to sound reassuring. “Gaza is perfectly safe. You can walk anywhere at three in the morning,” said the spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry. “There is no Islamic State in Gaza.”
The rally at Birzeit University felt more like a military parade than campus politics. Set in the green hills of the West Bank, north of Ramallah, the Palestinian college has long been affiliated with nationalist movements. But on April 22nd a bloc linked with Hamas, the radical Islamist militant group, won a rare majority in student elections. Dozens of supporters marched through campus the next morning (pictured above), waving green flags and chanting about last summer’s war in Gaza. “We have brought the spirit of resistance to Birzeit,” one campaigner shouted.
The thousands of mourners gathered under a clear blue sky on Tuesday for the funeral of the four Jews who were gunned down at a kosher supermarket in Paris last week heard a stark and seemingly contradictory message: European Jews shouldn’t have to flee their countries — but they probably should, anyway.
For months, Salem al-Ajla, 65, has kept a lonely vigil outside the twisted heap of concrete that was once his home. One day, he hopes workers will arrive to help him to rebuild it.
A small crowd stands outside a synagogue, chanting “death to terrorists” and “revenge,” hours after two Palestinian men armed with knives, axes and a gun hacked worshippers to death. Four bodies are still inside, still wrapped in their bloodied prayer shawls. “This happened because we talk with terrorists,” says an angry mourner. “We can’t have peace while we allow terrorists to live in Jerusalem.”
After a week of photo ops and press conferences by Israeli police and politicians aimed at reassuring the public that Jerusalem is safe, tensions in this disputed city skyrocketed on Oct. 29 with the attempted assassination of right-wing activist Yehuda Glick, who was shot at close range after leaving a conference.
Children across Israel went back to school on Monday, after a summer of war and unrest, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped by several classrooms for the obligatory photo ops.
Pro-war demonstrators stand behind a police barricade in Tel Aviv, chanting, "Gaza is a graveyard." An elderly woman pushes a cart of groceries down the street in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and asks a reporter, "Jewish or Arab? Because I won't talk to Arabs." A man in Sderot, a town that lies less than a mile from Gaza, looks up as an Israeli plane, en route to the Hamas-ruled territory, drops a blizzard of leaflets over the town. "I hope that's not all we're dropping," he says.
The day started with a cease-fire, and ended with a ground invasion. Israeli troops moved across the border into the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday night, the first large-scale ground offensive since a 2008-2009 war that killed more than 1,400 people and caused widespread destruction. The invasion, announced at around 10:30 p.m. local time, followed hours of heavy shelling aimed at clearing improvised explosive devices from the border.
The Israeli cabinet is under mounting pressure to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, and much of it comes from towns like Sderot, where residents say they want an end to the bi-annual salvos of rocket fire from Gaza.
Down in the south there is a feeling of déjà vu: Israeli jets have dropped thousands of tons of bombs on Gaza, hundreds of rockets have been launched into Israel and troops are amassing along the border ahead of a possible ground invasion.
As the sun sets on Shuafat and residents prepare to break the Ramadan fast, the Palestinian neighborhood goes dark and quiet. A once-busy main road is almost empty, littered with rocks and glass; streetlights and traffic signals are broken; and local men anxiously watch a contingent of black-clad border policemen.
There are about 1,100 people in this hardscrabble farming village in the south Hebron hills, all of whom, according to the Israeli authorities, have to live in less than eighty homes.
Last summer, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy was one of thousands of protesters who took to Tahrir Square to give Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian army chief, a mandate to "confront terrorism" -- the Egyptian government's euphemism for cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood.Tomorrow, he will appear in court on the receiving end of that mandate: He stands accused of running a terrorist cell from a luxury hotel in Cairo.
The choreographed dance of Egypt's military-orchestrated politics inched closer to its climax on Monday, Jan. 27, as the country's popular army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, moved a step closer to announcing his candidacy for president.
The Egyptian government, after designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization last week, is now extending its crackdown to an ever-widening list of enemies. But even as the generals in Cairo prepare for a series of crucial elections, persistent terrorist attacks continue to undermine their attempts to restore a sense of normality to the country.
Ola Ezzat is already making plans to protest again, just two weeks after she and 20 other women were sentenced to 11-year jail terms for their activism.