New Political Pressures Push US, Europe to Stop Israel-Gaza Conflict

BRUSSELS — A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe added pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday to halt their 10-day-old conflict before it turned into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation.

And in Europe, France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu in the early days of the conflict, intensified their push for a cease-fire.

French diplomats sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear on Wednesday if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

Twitter post afterward, he said, “I especially appreciate the support of our friend @POTUS Joe Biden, for the State of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

confronted Mr. Biden during his trip to a Ford plant, and pleaded with him to address the growing violence in the region and protect Palestinian lives.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who witnessed that interaction, said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Netanyahu’s reluctance to negotiate a cease-fire had made it harder for Democrats across the political spectrum to defend Israel’s actions.

Some saw the second phone call between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu as messaging to placate domestic constituents.

Democrats have been pushing Mr. Biden “to take a tougher line and this was his opportunity to demonstrate that he is doing so,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. He also said Mr. Netanyahu “does not want to give the impression that he’s been told to end this conflict before it’s the right time to do so.”

For European nations, the intensified push for a cease-fire also is based partly on political calculations.

pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sometimes turned into anti-Israeli protests and anti-Semitic attacks, including assaults on synagogues. Governments fear such protests and internal violence will worsen the longer the conflict lasts.

France is on alert for acts of Islamist terrorism, often from French-born Muslims outraged by events in the Middle East. Germany, which welcomed a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2015, is struggling to contain their anger about Israel.

At the same time, the election of Mr. Trump in 2016 also encouraged a right-wing European populism that is anti-immigration and often anti-Islamic, with a clear political identification with “Judeo-Christian values” and strong support for Israel. That is clear in France, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, as well as in Germany, with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.” And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.”

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,” followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.”

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

View Source

New Political Pressures Push U.S. and Europe to Stop Israel-Gaza Conflict

BRUSSELS — A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe added pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday to halt their 10-day-old conflict before it turned into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation. .

And in Europe, France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu in the early days of the conflict, intensified their push for a cease-fire.

French diplomats sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear on Wednesday if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

Twitter post afterward, he said “I especially appreciate the support of our friend @POTUS Joe Biden, for the State of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

confronted Mr. Biden during his trip to a Ford plant, and pleaded with him to address the growing violence in the region and protect Palestinian lives.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who witnessed that interaction, said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Netanyahu’s reluctance to negotiate a cease-fire had made it harder for Democrats across the political spectrum to defend Israel’s actions.

Some saw the second phone call between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu as messaging to placate domestic constituents.

Democrats have been pushing Mr. Biden “to take a tougher line and this was his opportunity to demonstrate that he is doing so,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. He also said Mr. Netanyahu “does not want to give the impression that he’s been told to end this conflict before it’s the right time to do so.”

For European nations, the intensified push for a cease-fire also is based partly on political calculations.

pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sometimes turned into anti-Israeli protests, including attacks on synagogues. Governments fear such protests and internal violence will worsen the longer the conflict lasts.

France is on alert for acts of Islamist terrorism, often from French-born Muslims outraged by events in the Middle East. Germany, which welcomed a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2005, is struggling to contain their anger about Israel.

At the same time, the election of Mr. Trump in 2016 also encouraged a right-wing European populism that is anti-immigration and often anti-Islamic, with a clear political identification with “Judeo-Christian values’’ and strong support for Israel. That is clear in France, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, as well as in Germany, with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.’’ And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.’’

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,’’ followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.’’

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

View Source

Israeli-Palestinian Strife Feeds Anti-Semitic Acts in Europe

Rocks thrown at doors of a synagogue in Bonn, Germany. Israeli flags burned outside a synagogue in Münster. A convoy of cars in North London from which a man chanted anti-Jewish slurs.

As the conflict in Israel and Gaza extended into a 10th day on Wednesday, recent episodes like these are fanning concerns among Jewish groups and European leaders that the latest strife in the Middle East is spilling over into anti-Semitic words and actions in Europe.

Thousands of demonstrators have gathered on the streets of Paris, Berlin, Vienna and other European cities in mostly peaceful protests over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which has killed at least 212 Palestinians, including 61 children.

Pro-Palestinian activists and organizers say that solidarity with Palestinians should not be confused with anti-Semitism, and they denounce what they say are attempts to use accusations of anti-Semitism to try to shield Israel from criticism. They say they aim to hold Israel accountable for what they characterize as atrocities against Palestinians.

tweeted a video last Thursday showing protesters in Gelsenkirchen, in western Germany, waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and shouting anti-Jewish slurs. “The times in which Jews were cursed in the middle of the street should have long been over,” the group wrote. “This is pure anti-Semitism, nothing else!”

The United States on Tuesday criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who said at a news conference this week that Jews were “murderers, to the point that they kill children who are 5 or 6 years old.” He also said they were “only are satisfied by sucking blood.”

said in a statement that four men had been arrested.

Owen Jones, a prominent British columnist who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, warned against conflating Israel’s actions with Jews as a whole.

“If you’re holding British Jews responsible for the crimes committed by the Israeli state, and trying to terrorize Jews because of what is happening in Palestine,” he wrote on Twitter, “you’re not a Palestinian solidarity activist, you’re a nauseating anti-Semite who needs to be comprehensively defeated.”

View Source

Live Updates: U.N. Security Council Is Set to Meet on Middle East Violence

streamed live on a U.N. website.

The American ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement posted on Twitter after the meeting was announced that “the U.S. will continue to actively engage in diplomacy at the highest levels to try to de-escalate tensions.”

Security Council meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian issue have often ended inconclusively and served mainly as a platform for supporters of both sides to air their grievances. But they have also demonstrated the widespread view among United Nations members that Israel’s actions as an occupying power are illegal and that its use of deadly force is disproportionately harsh.

Briefing the Security Council last week in a closed session, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, described the latest violence as “the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years.”

Israeli warplanes stepped up their attacks on Sunday morning, launching multiple strikes at a main thoroughfare leading to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, leaving residents trapped under the rubble and killing at least 26 people, including eight children, according to local media reports.

The Israeli Army said that a separate strike destroyed the home of Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, although it was unclear whether he was there.

Sirens wailed early Sunday in Israeli border towns as Hamas rockets were launched into the area, although there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Video

transcript

bars

0:00/1:46

0:00

transcript

Israel Strikes Gaza Tower Housing A.P. and Other News Media

An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.

We are shocked and horrified that the Israelis would target the building that housed A.P.‘s bureau in Gaza. They long knew that A.P.’s bureau was there, and they targeted it. Now, fortunately, we had a warning, and we were able to get our journalists out. We narrowly escaped a huge loss of life. We had 12 journalists in that building. And those brave journalists not only got out, but they were able to salvage much of our equipment because it’s important that we continue to tell this story. You see, that building provided the best vantage point for the world to see the events in Gaza, and now that building is destroyed. And we will work hard to continue to tell the world the important events of Gaza, and we will keep our journalists safe.

Video player loading
An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.CreditCredit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

The prominent 12-story building in Gaza City that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday not only housed the offices of media organizations including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

It also offered a vantage point for the world on Gaza, as A.P. cameras positioned on the roof terrace captured Israeli bombardments and Palestinian militants’ rocket attacks during periodic flare-ups in fighting — including over the past week.

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today,” the A.P.’s president, Gary Pruitt, said in a statement following the Israeli attack.

The leveling of the al-Jalaa tower, which occurred as fighting between Israelis and Palestinians spiraled on several fronts, drew condemnations from across the world. The Israel Defense Forces said that its fighter jets struck the tower because it also contained military assets belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Pruitt called on the I.D.F. to present evidence to support its allegation, adding that the news agency had operated from the building for 15 years.

“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” he said. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

On Sunday, the I.D.F. tweeted that the building was “an important base of operations” for Hamas military intelligence, where it “gathered intel for attacks against Israel, manufactured weapons & positioned equipment to hamper I.D.F. operations.”

The I.D.F. — which frequently accuses Hamas of using civilians as shields — provided advance warning to civilians in the building to allow evacuation. The A.P. reported that the owner of the building, Jawad Mahdi, was “told he had an hour to make sure everyone has left the building.”

In the minutes before the airstrike, Mr. Mahdi was filmed desperately pleading with the Israeli Army, asking them to allow four journalists who had been filming an interview — with the father of four children slain in an Israeli strike on a refugee camp on Saturday morning — an extra 10 minutes to retrieve their belongings.

An Israeli soldier told him: “There will be no 10 minutes.”

Minutes later, the building was destroyed, engulfed in a plume of black smoke.

The A.P. said that it “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” and that a dozen journalists and freelancers inside the building evacuated before the strike. The building also housed apartments on the lower floors.

Press freedom groups said that the strike — coming a day after the Israeli Army erroneously told foreign media that ground troops had entered Gaza — raised concerns that Israel was interfering with independent reporting on the conflict. In a statement, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists questioned whether the I.D.F. was “deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”

A White House spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, tweeted that the United States had “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he was “deeply disturbed” by the strike and warned that “indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures” would violate international law.

After the strike, journalists from other news organizations gathered near the rubble. Heba Akila, an Al Jazeera journalist who had been broadcasting from the tower when the warning call was made, said: “This is clearly to silence the truth and the voices of journalists.”

As the worst violence in years rages between the Israeli military and Hamas, each night the sky is lit up by a barrage of missiles streaking across the sky and the projectiles designed to counter them.

It is a display of fire and thunder that has been described as both remarkable and horrifying.

The images of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system attempting to shoot down missiles fired by militants in Gaza have been among the most widely shared online, even as the toll wrought by the violence only becomes clear in the light of the next day’s dawn.

“The number of Israelis killed and wounded would be far higher if it had not been for the Iron Dome system, which has been a lifesaver as it always is,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said this week.

The Iron Dome became operational in 2011 and got its biggest first test over eight days in November 2014, when Gaza militants fired some 1,500 rockets aimed at Isreal.

While Israeli officials claimed a success rate of up to 90 percent during that conflict, outside experts were skeptical.

The systems’s interceptors — just 6 inches wide and 10 feet long — rely on miniature sensors and computerized brains to zero in on short-range rockets. Israel’s larger interceptors — the Patriot and Arrow systems — can fly longer distances to go after bigger threats.

The Iron Dome was recently upgraded, but the details of the changes were not made public.

In the current conflict, militants in the Gaza Strip have fired nearly 3,000 missiles, the Israeli Air Force said on Sunday, noting that about 1,150 of them had been intercepted.

A pro-Palestinian protest near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Saturday.
Credit…Gamal Diab/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas stretched into its seventh day, pro-Palestinian demonstrations were held in cities around the world, even as leaders across Europe expressed concern about a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators in Washington marched from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol in protest of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and what they said was an inadequate response from the United States.

“People think they can be neutral about this. That’s absolutely wrong,” said Alexandra-Ola Chaic, 17, who traveled to the rally from Burke, Va., with her family, which is of Palestinian descent. “We have to do what we can to make this an issue that receives political support.”

The crowd that gathered was diverse in age and background, and included many families with young children.

Ruth Soto, 25, from Northern Virginia, came with her sister to show solidarity with Palestinians. She said the displacement of Palestinians felt personal to her because her family fled war in Central America to come to the United States illegally.

“We’ve seen the struggle, being displaced from your home,” she said. “This is a way we can help them.”

In London, a pro-Palestinian march on Saturday attracted thousands of protesters, and similar demonstrations were held in cities around the world.

At the same time, there was growing concern about a rise in attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions.

France banned a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris, citing the “sensitive” international context and the risk of acts of violence against synagogues and Israeli interests in the French capital.

Paris protest organizers pressed ahead on Saturday despite the ban. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the rally, which had drawn about 3,000 people, Agence France-Presse reported.

This past week, German protesters attacked synagogues, burned Israeli flags and marched through the streets chanting slurs against Jews.

Felix Klein, a German official tasked with countering anti-Semitism, said: “It is appalling how obviously Jews in Germany are being held responsible here for actions of the Israeli government in which they are completely uninvolved.”

Britain experienced a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the past week, a charity said on Saturday.

Credit…Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue

The Community Security Trust, a charity that records anti-Semitic threats, said it had received more than 50 reports of Jews across Britain being threatened and verbally abused in the past week — a 490 percent increase from the previous seven days. It said it believed that many more attacks had gone unreported.

Offensive phrases and slogans about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been shouted at Jewish people of all ages, including children, said Dave Rich, the charity’s director of policy. “When the conflict in Israel reaches this level of intensity, we always see increases in anti-Semitic incidents,” he said.

A new round of deadly violence erupted in the Middle East over the past week, as Israeli airstrikes hit targets in Gaza and the militant group Hamas launched rockets at cities inside Israel.

A damaged building in Petah Tikva, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

There is no simple answer to the question “What set off the current violence in Israel?”

But in a recent episode of The Daily, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem correspondent, explained the series of recent events that reignited violence in the region.

In Jerusalem, nearly every square foot of land is contested — its ownership and tenancy symbolic of larger abiding questions about who has rightful claim to a city considered holy by three major world religions.

As Isabel explained, a longstanding legal battle over attempts to forcibly evict six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem heightened tensions in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of violence.

The always tenuous peace was further tested by the overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a month of politically charged days in Israel.

A series of provocative events followed: Israeli forces barred people from gathering to celebrate Ramadan outside Damascus Gate, an Old City entrance that is usually a festive meeting place for young people after the breaking of the daily fast during the holy month.

Then young Palestinians filmed themselves slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jew, videos that went viral on TikTok.

And on Jerusalem Day, an annual event marking the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, groups of young Israelis marched through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall, chanting “Death to Arabs” along the way.

Stability in the city collapsed after a police raid on the Aqsa Mosque complex, an overture that Palestinians saw as an invasion on holy territory. Muslim worshipers threw rocks, and officers met them with tear gas, rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades. At least 21 police officers and more than 330 Palestinians were wounded in that fighting.

Listen to the episode to hear how these clashes spiraled into an exchange of airstrikes that has brought Israeli forces to the edge of Gaza — and the brink of war.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

View Source

On the Scrappy Fringes of French Politics, Marine Le Pen Tries to Rebrand

LA TRINITÉ-SUR-MER, France — It was the setting for a straightforward origin story, or so it seemed. Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader aiming to be France’s next president, came to launch her latest campaign in the seaside resort where her firebrand father once announced his own bid for the presidency from the family home.

But the recent trip to the family base at La Trinité-sur-Mer in western France, where Ms. Le Pen posed for selfies with admirers, schmoozed with oystermen and took TV journalists on boat rides, was a critical part of a rebranding effort toward respectability.

Steering the motorboat was Florent de Kersauson, a prominent businessman who, after decades of backing center-right candidates, was switching to Ms. Le Pen’s National Rally. By embracing Mr. de Kersauson, a former senior executive at the telecommunications giant Alcatel, Ms. Le Pen latched on to the kind of establishment figure who could help persuade voters that her party was more than a scrappy, family business. And maybe even assuage doubts about her competence to move into the Élysée Palace.

“The National Rally, formerly the National Front, has gone from being a protest movement to an opposition movement, and is now a government movement,” Ms. Le Pen said.

poor campaign that was marred by an incoherent message and punctuated by a disastrous debate against Mr. Macron.

un-demonize” her party, which has long been associated with the anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Holocaust denialism and colonial nostalgia of Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and the party’s founder.

Part of that has been an effort to humanize her. A flurry of recent news reports revealed that she loved cats so much she had become a certified breeder, specializing in Bengals and Somalis. The photos of her posing with the cuddly felines were visual evidence that the party no longer belonged to her father, known for his fondness of menacing Dobermans.

general national decline, Mr. Lebourg said.

Mr. Macron has also been bogged down in a series of crises, including the Yellow Vest movement. Attacks in recent months have also heightened fears of terrorism and accelerated Mr. Macron’s shift to the right to fend off Ms. Le Pen.

“I think I can win,” Ms. Le Pen said in an hourlong interview inside her office at the National Assembly in Paris, where copies of “The Philosopher Cat,” an illustrated volume of feline-themed aphorisms, and a blue binder marked “immigration” and “security” lay on her desk.

local governments that her party controls, mostly in depressed areas in the north and south of France.

In La Trinité-sur-Mer, she introduced Mr. de Kersauson, the former Alcatel executive, as the head of her party’s ticket in next month’s regional elections. Getting more defectors from the center-right — who are financially better off than the National Rally’s traditional backers, but who are also feeling unsettled by the social changes rippling through France — is one key to victory next year.

reported — killed one of her cats.

Ms. Le Pen said that dog was gentle, as had been her father’s Dobermans. “We shouldn’t indulge in caricatures,” she said. “Dobermans have a vicious image, but, in fact, they’re very gentle dogs.”

View Source

Tensions Among Democrats Grow Over Israel as the Left Defends Palestinians

In 1988, when James Zogby, the founder of the Arab American Institute, pushed Democrats to include a mention of Palestinian sovereignty in their platform, party leaders responded with a clear warning, he recalled: “If the P-word is even in the platform, all hell will break loose.” Eager to stave off an angry confrontation at the convention, the issue was shelved without a vote.

Now, with violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories forcing the issue back to the forefront of American politics, divisions between the leadership of the Democratic Party and the activist wing have burst into public view. While the Biden administration is handling the growing conflict as a highly sensitive diplomatic challenge involving a longstanding ally, the ascendant left views it as a searing racial justice issue that is deeply intertwined with the politics of the United States.

For those activists, Palestinian rights and the decades-long conflict over land in the Middle East are linked to causes like police brutality and conditions for migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Party activists who fight for racial justice now post messages against the “colonization of Palestine” with the hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter.

With President Biden in the White House, traditional U.S. support for Israel is hardly in question from a policy perspective; he has made his support for the country clear throughout his nearly 50 years in public life. Still, the terms of the debate are shifting in Democratic circles.

had asserted that Israel had a right to defend itself. “Do Palestinians have a right to survive?” she asked in an impassioned address. “Do we believe that? And if so, we have a responsibility to that as well.”

Less than 24 hours later, on Friday, nearly 150 prominent liberal advocacy organizations issued a joint statement calling for “solidarity with the Palestinian residents” and condemning “Israeli state violence” and “supremacy” in Jerusalem.

The statement was signed not just by groups focused on Middle Eastern and Jewish issues but by groups dedicated to causes like climate change, immigration, feminism and racial justice — a sign that for the party’s liberal faction, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has moved far beyond the realm of foreign policy.

“The base of the party is moving in a very different direction than where the party establishment is,” Mr. Zogby said. “If you support Black Lives Matter, it was not a difficult leap to saying Palestinian lives matter, too.”

Leaders of the country’s biggest pro-Israel lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, say they are confident of their support from the White House and Capitol Hill, pointing to continued congressional backing of several billion dollars in aid to Israel annually. Before Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other liberals took the House floor on Thursday, other Democratic lawmakers offered their “unwavering and steadfast support” for Israel.

growing global anti-Semitism, while young voters struggle to reconcile the right-wing policies of the Israeli government with their own liberal values.

A survey released in the past week by the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of American Jews 65 and older described themselves as emotionally attached to Israel, compared with 48 percent of Jewish adults under 30.

closely aligned his administration with the embattled prime minister and delivered a long-sought Israeli goal of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

In return, Mr. Netanyahu promoted Mr. Trump among Republicans and conservative Christians in the U.S., lifting his standing with the evangelical leaders who wield so much influence over the voters who proved vital to Mr. Trump’s electoral support.

Mr. Biden devoted little attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an intractable issue that had bedeviled his predecessors. But the violence in recent days, the worst in years, has proved just how difficult that will be. And now, Mr. Biden finds his administration buffeted by conflicting forces within his coalition.

“Neglect is not a policy,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group J Street, who would like to see Mr. Biden more engaged in the region.

As the fighting has exploded, Mr. Biden has relied on a familiar playbook: full-throated support for Israel’s right to defend itself, and no mention of the Palestinians. He has expressed regret for deaths on both sides and has voiced hopes for “restoring a sustainable calm.”

spoke against the deal to a joint session of Congress, at the invitation of Republicans. The appearance angered many Democrats, particularly supporters of Israel who oppose Mr. Netanyahu’s policies.

Ron Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, suggested in the past week that Israel should focus more on the “passionate and unequivocal” support of evangelical Christians instead of American Jews, who he said were “disproportionately among our critics.”

But many Jewish progressives say their criticism comes from a place of love and idealism. They argue that the Israeli and American governments would be wise to tune out some of the partisan language and move beyond what they call the false choice of being either pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian.

“What most American Jews desire is to see Israelis and Palestinians living in dignity, in a just and equitable society,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous, the leader of IKAR, a large progressive synagogue in Los Angeles. “It is imperative that we support a third way,” she said, “recognizing the generational trauma and suffering of both peoples and creating a just and shared future for everyone.”

View Source

UK’s Labour Party Reels After Panicked Response to Election Loss

LONDON — Sober, cerebral and with the poise of the top-shelf lawyer he once was, Keir Starmer promised competence rather than charisma when he became leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party last year, following its crushing general election defeat in 2019.

But his panicky response to last week’s poor local election results and a clumsy reshuffle of his top team have left his party in turmoil, diminishing his authority and raising doubts about whether Labour has a credible path back to power.

Mr. Starmer found himself embroiled in fierce recriminations over local election results that, with smoother communication, could have been explained away as disappointing, but instead pointed to a deeper crisis.

“The one thing Keir Starmer was supposed to be was competent,” said Steven Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. “The election results were not good but they weren’t as bad as some people liked to present them. He completely messed up his reaction, and that highlights concerns about his ability to communicate.”

under its last leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Twitter.

claims Mr. Johnson broke electoral rules over the financing of a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

But Britons apparently ignored those goings on in Westminster, and with the country now emerging from Covid-19 restrictions seemed to reward politicians who controlled health policies. The ruling Scottish National Party in Scotland performed strongly, as did the governing Labour Party in Wales.

In England, Mr. Johnson was forgiven for his chaotic early handling of the pandemic and rewarded for the country’s highly successful vaccination roll out.

Not all is lost for Mr. Starmer, particularly when the entirety of last week’s results are taken into account. According to a BBC analysis projecting the local voting into a national vote share, Labour was seven points behind the Conservatives, hardly a good result but progress on the 12-point deficit recorded in the 2019 general election.

With no credible challenger waiting in the wings, Mr. Starmer is unlikely to face any immediate threat to his leadership. Nonetheless, the speed with which critics attacked his reshuffle raises pressure on Mr. Starmer to at least identify a message that can appeal to two very different groups of Britons — the old working class stalwarts and the more youthful, liberal and better educated city dwellers.

“Under Starmer it has been two steps forward and one step back,” said Mr. Fielding, “and he hasn’t addressed the problem of how you win back the red wall without losing metropolitan liberal voters.”

View Source

Rights Group Hits Israel With Explosive Charge: Apartheid

Mr. Regev added: “To allege that Israeli policies are motivated by racism is both baseless and outrageous, and belittles the very real security threats posed by Palestinian terrorists to Israeli civilians — whose fundamental human rights to live in freedom and security are callously ignored by H.R.W.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, said the report bordered on anti-Semitism.

“When the authors of the report cynically and falsely use the term apartheid, they nullify the legal and social status of millions of Israeli citizens, including Arab citizens, who are an integral part of the state of Israel,” he said.

Human Rights Watch does not draw a direct comparison with the notorious South African regime that segregated and subjugated people according to their skin color. Instead, it cites international laws that define apartheid as a crime against humanity in which one racial group dominates another through intentional, systematic and inhumane acts of oppression. And it contends that the word race as used in those laws applies broadly to ethnic groups.

While Human Rights Watch argues that these policies persist, to varying degrees, across the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and within the state of Israel itself, it points to the occupied West Bank as exhibit A. There, the group says, Israel has created a two-tier system with some Palestinians living under military rule and Israeli settlers under a civil legal system with greater freedoms, an inequity that H.R.W. said “amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.”

Israel fully governs over 60 percent of the West Bank, and uses checkpoints and a permit system to regulate Palestinian movement between areas of nominal Palestinian self-rule and to Israel. H.R.W. also cites “the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, denial of residency rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their relatives, and the suspension of basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians” as policies that meet the definition of apartheid.

“These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another,” Mr. Roth said.

View Source

France Seeks Change in Law After Outrage Over Verdict in Anti-Semitic Killing

PARIS — The French government plans to introduce a bill aimed at closing a legal loophole that allowed the man who killed a Jewish woman in an anti-Semitic frenzy in 2017 to escape trial because a court found that he was in a delirious state brought on by cannabis.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said Sunday that the bill would be presented in time for a vote by Parliament this summer and fill the “juridical void” that currently makes it impossible to “take account of the voluntary intake of toxic substances” leading to delirium in the commission of crimes.

France’s highest court ruled earlier this month that Kobili Traoré, who beat the woman, Sarah Halimi, before throwing her out the window of her Paris apartment to her death, could not be tried because he had no “discernment or control” over his acts. It upheld a verdict by a lower court to the effect that under current French law the origin of Traoré’s disturbed condition — intake of drugs — was immaterial.

The verdict set off a storm of protest from French and international Jewish groups. It also led to a large demonstration by French Jews in Paris on Sunday, and smaller ones in other cities, including Lyon and Marseille.

President Emmanuel Macron expressed his dissent with the ruling, unusual in a judicial matter, saying in an interview with Le Figaro that, “Deciding to take drugs and then ‘becoming mad’ should not in my eyes remove your criminal responsibility.”

The highest court, known as the Court of Cassation, recognized the anti-Semitic nature of the crime — “a frenzied anti-Semitic act,” according to the report of one psychiatrist — but said in effect that its hands were tied by the law. Mr. Traoré has admitted the killing and is in a psychiatric institution.

More than 20,000 people joined the protest in Paris on Sunday, according to the Interior Ministry, holding banners that said, “Killed because she was Jewish” and “Victim of a judicial shipwreck.” Before the demonstration, a top French judicial council expressed concern, calling for respect of the independence of the judiciary and a measured tone in discussion of the case.

The demonstration was attended by Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, who has said a street in the capital would be named after Ms. Halimi, who was 65. Other prominent attendees included Xavier Bertrand, a center-right candidate in the presidential election next year, and Bernard-Henri Lévy, the author and philosopher who has been active in denouncing rising anti-Semitism in France. Several speakers called for the new law, if enacted, to be called the “Sarah Halimi law.”

In a long interview with the magazine Marianne, Paul Bensussan, one of the psychiatrists asked to examine Mr. Traoré, tried to explain his rationale for finding him unfit for trial.

Mr. Traoré, he said, was hallucinating well before the murder itself, engaging in long soliloquies, responding to imaginary voices and consulting an exorcist. The level of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, found in his body was low to moderate, leading him and other psychiatrists to conclude that the drug “was a cofactor not the cause” in the assailant’s “blast of delirium.”

The sight of a menorah, and the fact Ms. Halimi was Jewish, “were the spark,” said Mr. Bensussan, who is Jewish. “The crime was that of a madman, but his crime was anti-Semitic because in his delirium he equated Jews with the devil. Public indignation and that of the Jewish community are, I believe, related to the false idea that recognizing insanity and the lack of penal responsibility mean denying the anti-Semitic dimension of the act.”

The intricacies of this argument appear to have done nothing to calm anger in France’s large Jewish community.

Mr. Macron, in his interview in Le Figaro, said that he wanted the justice minister to present a bill to change the law “as soon as possible.” Mr. Dupond-Moretti has now done that.

View Source