Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara, May 2014.
Did she or didn’t she? Israel’s chattering classes have been distracted this week by claims that Sara Netanyahu, wife of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pocketed thousands of dollars collected from the return of drinks bottles from their official residence over several years. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Every time Israel holds an election, it makes a point to the world and to itself. The country has suffered widespread condemnation for its military actions in Gaza. But it remains a lonely democracy in the Middle East.
When an election was called in Israel earlier this week, most people assumed that the likeliest outcome was that a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu would be replaced by another government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet early developments in the election campaign – supplemented by early opinion polls – suggest that Mr Netanyahu may not be such a shoo-in, after all. Read more
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge entered its 24th day on Thursday, and is now one of the longest-running conflicts for a country that typically fights short wars.
The Israeli military is moving deeper into Gaza, inflicting a level of civilian casualties during its war on Hamas that troubles the international community’s conscience, but which it has been unable to stop.
Behind the scenes, serious diplomatic manoeuvering to end the war is starting. As the stronger party by far in the conflict, Israel holds most of the cards in any ceasefire agreement.
But there are other players too: Egypt shares an interest with Israel in disarming Hamas, an ally of its suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, and restoring calm to a troublesome border region. Hamas, too, needs to calculate what it can get out of its third war with Israel, as talks on a post-war order involving the US, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and other countries get underway.
As they do, a few end-game scenarios are emerging (the assessments of each one’s likelihood of coming to pass are my own): Read more
Israel set itself clear goals when it launched its assault on Gaza. Stop the rocket fire into Israel and close the tunnels that might allow Hamas to infiltrate fighters into Israel. Some 18 days into the offensive, and these goals have not yet been achieved. But that is not the only sign that Israel’s Gaza offensive is going wrong. On the contrary, there are multiple signs that Israel is losing control of the situation: Read more
• Lebanon on the brink: political gridlock, economic torpor and the machinations of pro-Syrian Hizbollah have once more pushed the crossroads of the Middle East to the edge of collapse.
• In Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is coasting towards victory in presidential elections, keeping policy vague and democracy off the agenda.
• A plan by Pope Francis to celebrate mass in a Jerusalem room believed by Christians to have hosted the Last Supper has brought criticism, controversy and conspiracy theories worthy of a Dan Brown novel.
• While the public interest case against Pfizer’s takeover of the UK’s AstraZeneca is weak, the tax case for it is compelling, says Tony Jackson.
• The New York Times tells the tale of the plight of those left behind after the elopement of Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet. Read more
♦ Young ‘scrapper’ squares up for reform battle. The challenges awaiting Matteo Renzi, the 39-year-old centre-left leader likely to form Italy’s new government
♦ As Britons struggle to protect their homes from unprecedented floods, the sandbag – the traditional bulwark against rising water – has been branded by experts outdated and hopelessly ineffective.
♦ Termite robots build the future. The FT looks at a ground breaking experiment in artificial intelligence.
♦ How an Arab/Iranian women’s movement to fight patriarchy through reclaiming the body has become intertwined with revolutions in the Middle East.
♦ Carlo Strenger in Haaretz slams the Israeli right’s use of ‘the holocaust card’ whenever the settlement policy is criticised by overseas allies.
♦ For romantically inclined smart readers: The Economist explains the science of love at first sight. Read more
♦ While many previously buoyant island states across the Caribbean are struggling, Jamaica’s crisis is the deepest. Robin Wigglesworth profiles a country teetering on the edge of an economic precipice.
♦ The FT interviews Haruhiko Kuroda, the central bank outsider who this year took over the Bank of Japan.
♦ Israelis see many positive economic, strategic and diplomatic developments despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s dark public statements on Iran that present an image of an embattled, paranoid state, says Gideon Rachman.
♦ The Washington Post spoke to refugees from all walks of life in its report: Stories from the Syrian exodus.
♦ When veteran Egyptian politician Amr Moussa unveiled Egypt’s new draft constitution on Sunday, he did so in front of a vast banner that proclaimed the text represented “all Egyptians”. Unfortunately for Moussa, three of the five models used to depict “all Egyptians” turned out to be westerners.
♦Veronique Greenwood in Aeon explains why Swiss farmers take such good care of their cows. Read more
♦ The Volcker rule is contentious, but it is not the knockout blow some people had expected.
♦ The economically sensible wing of the US Republican party doesn’t exist, says Paul Krugman.
♦ Iran and Israel have paid tribute to Mandela, while choosing to remain a safe distance from the memorial.
♦ Marc Lynch explains why nobody in the Middle East deserves to be on the Foreign Policy Leading Global Thinker list this year.
♦ After cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s interior ministry has turned its attention to the activist community of journalists, non-Islamists and students.
♦ The Australian speaks to a mother in Iraq who is waiting for her son’s execution to be announced after a “hanging day”. Read more
By Luisa Frey
• Back-channel conversations between the US and Iran paved way for the historic nuclear agreement and broke 34 years of hostility, writes the FT’s Geoff Dyer. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Aid workers’ comparison of typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines with the one after 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is “daunting”, says Shawn Donnan. It raises questions about whether the world has learned lessons and will apply them now.
♦ In Europe, Germany’s “holy trinity” – tight monetary policy, export-led growth and financial system dominated by small banks – came under fire last week from the ECB and the European Commission, comment’s Peter Spiegel in Brussels.
♦ Three hospitals in northern Israel have been treating severely wounded Syrians, reports FT’s John Reed. Some of the wounded are civilians, while others acknowledge affiliation with the Free Syrian Arming fighting Bashar al-Assad.
♦ Outside private funds are helping sustain the Syrian conflict, writes The New York Times. They exacerbate divisions in the opposition and strengthen its most extreme elements.
♦ Mike Giglio, from BuzzFeed, tells the story of a Syrian activist who believes the revolution is already lost.
♦ Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s organisation Setad has been used to amass assets worth tens of billions of dollars. Its holdings rival the ones of the late shah and support Khamenei’s power over the country, according to Reuters. Read more
Iran and the P5+1 meet for nuclear talks in Geneva in October. Getty
In the unlikely setting of a bucolic French chateau complete with a pack of fox-hounds, former officials from Iran, Israel, China and the US have got together for a weekend of banquet-fuelled and ground-breaking discussions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The unusual talks, perhaps a first in the grey realm of “track two” or parallel diplomacy, sought to overcome the mistrust of hardliners on the many sides of the Middle East’s divides ahead of the resumption on Thursday of official negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the P-5+1, meaning the five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany. Read more
♦ Backroom political pressure has kept drone funding intact despite doubts over reliability.
♦ The war in Syria is turning out to be good business for people smugglers.
♦ Israel is set to approve a Gaza gasfield deal, though there is scepticism about the likely success of the plan.
♦ An election app in Azerbaijan accidentally released results before voting actually started. Read more
♦ Critics argue that new banking regulations merely tinker with existing rules rather than preventing another meltdown. The FT’s banking editor examines the more radical remedies.
♦ Twenty years after the Oslo Accord, the London Review of Books republishes an essay by Edward Said. He called the agreement “an instrument of Palestinian surrender” and said, “There is little in the document to suggest that Israel will give up its violence against Palestinians…”
♦ Margaret Sullivan, the public editor at the New York Times, explains how you commission a piece from Vladimir Putin.
♦ The people censoring Sina Weibo in China are young, underpaid, overstressed – and few of them are women because the job involves constant exposure to offensive material.
♦ Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Muttahida Qaumi movement, loses his grip on his Pakistani political empire as a British murder investigation closes in on him. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Civil activism in China is becoming a force the Chinese government can no longer ignore as activists increasingly unite to rally with broader demands, largely through the growing platform of social media.
♦ Following the initial applause for getting Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table for the first time in four years, US secretary of state John Kerry is facing deep scepticism about the two-day talks in Washington D.C.
♦ Borzou Daragahi argues that in the wake of Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in Egypt, Islamists should investigate their own role in contributing to the tensions in the years leading up to the coup.
♦ Alexei Navalny is hitting the streets “western-style” to revamp his mayoral campaign in Moscow six weeks before the vote.
♦ France’s culture minister Aurélie Filippetti has survived a tough first year in office, representing her party by bringing “extravagant” French culture to the level of the people, while still fighting for France’s “cultural exception.” Read more