meanwhile in israel
March 10, 2019

In response to an Israeli actress who criticized the government for the way it treats Arab citizens, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday declared that Israel "is not a country of all its citizens."

In 2018, Israel passed a "nation-state law," declaring that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and downgrading Arabic to a language with "special status." In his message on Sunday, directed at actress Rotem Sela and posted on social media, Netanyahu said because of this "basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people — and only it."

He said his rightwing Likud party has "invested more in the Arab sector than any other government," and Arab citizens "have equal rights like all of us." At a Cabinet meeting later in the day, Netanyahu expressed that Israel, with its 17 percent Arab population, is a "Jewish, democratic state" and a "nation state not of all its citizens but only of the Jewish people."

Israelis will head to the polls on April 9, and critics say Netanyahu is likely trying to drum up support from rightwing voters. Netanyahu is facing indictment on corruption charges, and The Guardian reports he's being strongly challenged by a centrist political alliance led by Yair Lapid, a former finance minister, and Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff. Catherine Garcia

June 21, 2018

The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu, has been charged with fraud and breach of public trust as part of a food-ordering scandal, The Jerusalem Post reports. The charges stem from a scheme that ran between September 2010 and March 2013, in which Sara Netanyahu and then-Prime Minister's Office Deputy Director-General Ezra Seidoff allegedly lied about employing a cook in order to "circumvent and exploit regulations that stated, 'in a case where a cook is not employed in the [prime minister's] official residence, it is permitted to order prepared food as needed,'" the Post writes. Netanyahu is accused of having ordered more than $100,000 worth of meals while falsely claiming cooks were not on the staff.

There is some historical weight to the charges against Sara Netanyahu; former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin resigned in 1977 when his wife, Leah, was discovered to hold a U.S. dollar bank account, which at the time was illegal.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also under investigation into allegations of corruption. He is expected to face an indictment by early 2019, The Jerusalem Post reports. Jeva Lange

January 31, 2016

On Sunday, Israel's Cabinet voted to allow non-Orthodox Jewish prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The Western Wall is administered by ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities, The Associated Press reports, and there are separate prayer sections for men and women. Prayers led by women and mixed-gender services are forbidden, and in 2013, after complaints from more liberal Jews in the Reform and Conservative movements, a temporary prayer platform for mixed-gender prayer was put up. Now, the government plans to build a $9 million permanent platform for mixed-gender prayer adjacent to the Orthodox prayer area. This new section will not be managed by the Western Wall's ultra-Orthodox rabbi, but rather representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements.

A source told AP that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted the plan to go through to please American Jews, despite opposition from the ultra-Orthodox and some members of his government. In Israel, most Jews are secular but follow Orthodox traditions, and Reform and Conservative rabbis are not recognized. Catherine Garcia

November 17, 2015

The Israeli prime minister's office announced Monday that the country's security cabinet has outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which Israel says is a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood and a sister-movement to Hamas.

Now, the government can confiscate land belonging to the organization, and it will be considered a criminal offense for an individual to belong to or assist the group, punishable by imprisonment, Haaretz reports. The prime minister's office said the organization had to be outlawed in order to protect public safety, and the move is "not directed against the Arab and Muslim public in Israel, the great majority of which upholds the laws of the state and disavows incitement and terrorism."

Documents released by the prime minister's office say the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, is behind an incitement campaign "falsely labeling Al-Aqsa 'in danger,' [and] falsely accusing Israel of intent to harm the mosque and deviate from the status quo." Security cabinet member Zeev Elkin called the decision "historic," saying Israel has decided to "deal face to face with extreme agitation of radical Islam." Catherine Garcia

July 7, 2015

A gaining global boycott against Israel has many world leaders worried — including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

The movement, called BDS or "boycotts, divestment, and sanctions" against Israel, was begun by a group of Palestinian activists in 2005, as inspired by peaceful anti-apartheid movements in South Africa. The group has since gained an enormous global following, to the point that Israel has now identified it as a threat akin to Palestinian militant groups or the Iranian nuclear program, The Associated Press reports.

“Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival,” Hillary Clinton recently wrote to donor Haim Saban and other leaders in a letter dated July 2. “Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world — especially in Europe — we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” She called on both Democrats and Republicans to "make countering B.D.S. a priority."

However, organizers and supporters of BDS deny accusations of anti-Semitism; rather, their goals include ending Israel's occupation of territories captured in 1967, ending discrimination against Arabs, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees by returning family properties lost in the war of 1948.  Jeva Lange

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