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As Israel’s Dependence on U.S. Shrinks, So Does U.S. Leverage

Israel, a small country surrounded by adversaries and locked in conflict with the Palestinians, depends absolutely on American diplomatic and military support. By giving it, the United States safeguards Israel and wields significant leverage over its actions.

That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. For decades, it was true: Israeli leaders and voters alike treated Washington as essential to their country’s survival.

But that dependence may be ending. While Israel still benefits greatly from American assistance, security experts and political analysts say that the country has quietly cultivated, and may have achieved, effective autonomy from the United States.

“We’re seeing much more Israeli independence,” said Vipin Narang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist who has studied Israeli strategy.

nearly $4 billion, it was closer to one percent.

Washington underscored its own declining relevance to the conflict last week, calling for a cease-fire only after an Egyptian-brokered agreement was nearing completion, and which Israeli leaders said they agreed to because they had completed their military objectives in a ten day conflict with Gaza. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken will visit the region this week, though he said he does not intend to restart formal Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Democrats and left-wing activists, outraged over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and bombing of Gaza, are challenging Washington’s long-held consensus on Israel.

Yet significant, if shrinking, numbers of Americans express support for Israel, and Democratic politicians have resisted their voters’ growing support for the Palestinians.

The United States still has leverage, as it does with every country where it provides arms and diplomatic support. But that leverage may be declining past the point at which Israel is able and willing to do as it wishes, bipartisan consensus or not.

When Americans think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many still picture the period known as the Second Intifada, when Israeli tanks crashed through Palestinian towns and Palestinian bombs detonated in Israeli cafes and buses.

But that was 15 years ago. Since then, Israel has re-engineered the conflict in ways that Israeli voters and leaders largely find bearable.

Violence against Israelis in the occupied West Bank is rarer and lower-level, rarer still in Israel proper. Though fighting has erupted several times between Israel and Gaza-based groups, Israeli forces have succeeded in pushing the burden overwhelmingly on Gazans. Conflict deaths, once three-to-one Palestinian-to-Israeli, are now closer to 20-to-one.

At the same time, Israeli disaffection with the peace process has left many feeling that periodic fighting is the least bad option. The occupation, though a crushing and ever-present force for Palestinians, is, on most days and for most Jewish Israelis, ignorable.

missile defense technology that is made and maintained largely at home — a feat that hints at the tenacity of Israel’s drive for self-sufficiency.

“If you had told me five years ago,” said Mr. Narang, the M.I.T. scholar, “that the Israelis would have a layered missile defense system against short-range rockets and short-range ballistic missiles, and it was going to be 90 percent effective, I would have said, ‘I would love what you’re smoking.’”

mixed, and tend starkly negative in Muslim-majority societies, Israel has cultivated ties in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Even nearby Arab states, such as Jordan and Egypt, once among its greatest enemies, now seek peace, while others have eased hostilities. Last year, the so-called Abraham Accords, brokered under President Trump, saw Israel normalize ties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Israel subsequently normalized ties with Morocco and reached a diplomatic agreement with Sudan.

“We used to talk about a diplomatic tsunami that was on its way. But it never materialized,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli political analyst and pollster.

polls show, and growing numbers consider it a low priority, given a status quo that much of the Israeli public sees as tolerable.

“That changes the nature of the relationship to the U.S.,” Ms. Mizrahi-Arnaud said.

Because Israeli leaders no longer feel domestic pressure to engage in the peace process, which runs through Washington, they do not need to persuade the Americans that they are seeking peace in good faith.

If anything, leaders face declining pressure to please the Americans and rising demands to defy them with policies like expanding settlements in the West Bank, even annexing it outright.

Israel is hardly the first small state to seek independence from a great-power patron. But this case is unusual in one way: It was the Americans who built up Israel’s military and diplomatic independence, eroding their own influence.

Now, after nearly 50 years of not quite wielding that leverage to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it may soon be gone for good, if it isn’t already.

“Israel feels that they can get away with more,” said Ms. Mizrahi-Arnaud, adding, to underscore her point, “When exactly is the last time that the United States pressured Israel?”

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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.

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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.

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The New Arab Street: Online, Global and Growing on Social Media

Israel’s Supreme Court is weighing the claims of a Jewish organization that has legal title to the Sheikh Jarrah property and wants to evict the Palestinian tenants, who also claim ownership. Palestinians see the eviction case as part of the historical displacement of Palestinians, including current Israeli efforts to remove Palestinian residents from certain parts of Jerusalem, which they say violate international law.

But social media has little patience for nuance. The supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid, whose father is Palestinian, have posted ceaselessly about Palestinian suffering over the last week, with Bella Hadid writing in one post: “You are on the right side or you are not. It’s that simple.”

Perhaps an even more telling measure of the online fervor was the backlash awaiting the singer Rihanna, who, under normal circumstances, can do no wrong in fans’ eyes, when she condemned “the violence I’m seeing displayed between Israel and Palestine!” drawing accusations that she was equating the two sides’ actions and the consequences. Sample reply: “You sounded like ‘all lives matter.’”

So far, the dead have been disproportionately Palestinian. Twelve people in Israel have also died, killed amid rocket fire launched by Hamas from Gaza or Jewish-Arab mob violence.

There have been some street protests. Thousands have marched in Jordan and Iraq, and small demonstrations took place in Lebanon as well as in Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain, three of the Middle Eastern countries that agreed last year to normalize relations with Israel. Protests have also broken out in Western cities including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Berlin, London and Paris.

But Egypt, where political parties, professional associations and student unions have historically organized some of the region’s largest pro-Palestinian demonstrations, driving tens of thousands out into Cairo’s streets and squares, has been quiet.

That may have to do with fatigue with the Palestinian issue, Egyptians’ preoccupation with their own problems or the Egyptian government’s systematic suppression of organizing and protest. (Egyptian authorities arrested two Egyptian coordinators of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement two years ago, accusing them of terrorism, and they remain imprisoned.)

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The New Arab Street: Online, Global and Growing

The reality is somewhat more complex. Israel’s Supreme Court is weighing the claims of a Jewish organization that has legal title to the Sheikh Jarrah property and wants to evict the Palestinian tenants, who also claim ownership. Palestinians see the eviction case as part of the historical displacement of Palestinians, including current Israeli efforts to remove Palestinian residents from certain parts of Jerusalem, which they say violate international law.

But social media has little patience for nuance. The supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid, whose father is Palestinian, have posted ceaselessly about Palestinian suffering over the last week, with Bella Hadid writing in one post: “You are on the right side or you are not. It’s that simple.”

Perhaps an even more telling measure of the online fervor was the backlash awaiting the singer Rihanna, who, under normal circumstances, can do no wrong in fans’ eyes, when she condemned “the violence I’m seeing displayed between Israel and Palestine!” drawing accusations that she was equating the two sides’ actions and the consequences. Sample reply: “You sounded like ‘all lives matter.’”

So far, the dead have been disproportionately Palestinian. Twelve people in Israel have also died, killed amid rocket fire launched by Hamas from Gaza or Jewish-Arab mob violence.

There have been some street protests. Thousands have marched in Jordan and Iraq, and small demonstrations took place in Lebanon as well as in Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain, three of the Middle Eastern countries that agreed last year to normalize relations with Israel. Protests have also broken out in Western cities including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Berlin, London and Paris.

But Egypt, where political parties, professional associations and student unions have historically organized some of the region’s largest pro-Palestinian demonstrations, driving tens of thousands out into Cairo’s streets and squares, has been quiet.

That may have to do with fatigue with the Palestinian issue, Egyptians’ preoccupation with their own problems or the Egyptian government’s systematic suppression of organizing and protest. (Egyptian authorities arrested two Egyptian coordinators of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement two years ago, accusing them of terrorism, and they remain imprisoned.)

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Violence in Israel Shakes Trump’s Boast of ‘New Middle East’

WASHINGTON — It was, President Donald J. Trump proclaimed in September, “the dawn of a new Middle East.”

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Trump was announcing new diplomatic accords between Israel and two of its Gulf Arab neighbors, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

“After decades of division and conflict,” Mr. Trump said, flanked by leaders from the region in a scene later replayed in his campaign ads, the Abraham Accords were laying “the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region.”

Eight months later, such a peace remains a distant hope, particularly for the Middle East’s most famously intractable conflict, the one between Israel and the Palestinians. In fiery scenes all too reminiscent of the old Middle East, that conflict has entered its bloodiest phase in seven years and is renewing criticism of Mr. Trump’s approach while raising questions about the future of the accords as President Biden confronts what role the United States should play now in the region.

a January 2020 Trump peace plan proposing to create a Palestinian state, on terms heavily slanted toward Israeli demands, the accords intentionally “separated” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from Israel’s relations with the Arab world, Mr. Greenblatt said.

They “took away the veto right for the Palestinians for the region to move forward,” he added.

Others noted that, before agreeing to the accords, the U.A.E. extracted from Mr. Netanyahu a pledge to hold off on a potential annexation of swaths of the West Bank, a move that had the potential to set off a major Palestinian uprising. (Trump officials also opposed such an annexation and Mr. Netanyahu might not have followed through regardless.)

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East peace negotiator who served under three presidents, called the accords an important step for the region, but said the violence in Israel’s cities and Gaza illustrated how “the Palestinian issue can still cast a cloud” over Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors.

“The notion that this was ‘peace in our time’ obviously ignored the one existential conflict in the region. It wasn’t between Israel and the Arab states,” Mr. Ross said.

a statement last week, the U.A.E.’s foreign affairs ministry issued a “strong condemnation” of Israel’s proposed evictions in East Jerusalem and a police attack on Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, where Israeli officials said Palestinians had stockpiled rocks to throw at Israeli police.

Last month, the U.A.E. also denounced “acts of violence committed by right-wing extremist groups in the occupied East Jerusalem” and warned that the region could be “slipping into new levels of instability in a way that threatens peace.”

Bahrain and other Gulf states have condemned Israel in similar tones. A statement on Friday from the U.A.E.’s minister of foreign affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, called on “all parties,” not only Israel, to exercise restraint and pursue a cease-fire.

One former Trump official argued that public pressure on Israel by countries like the U.A.E. and Bahrain carry more weight after the accords, coming as they do from newly official diplomatic partners. None of the governments who are party to the accords are playing a major role in efforts to secure a cease-fire, however — a responsibility assumed in the past by Egypt and Qatar.

changed longstanding U.S. policy by declaring that the United States did not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law. (The Biden administration intends to reverse that position once a review by government lawyers is complete.)

Mr. Trump also moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, officially recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, in a move that infuriated Palestinians who have long expected East Jerusalem to be the capital of any future state they establish.

“Trump opened the door for Israel to accelerate home demolitions, accelerate settlement activity,” Ms. Hassan said. “And when that happens and you see Israel acting upon it, that’s when you see the Palestinian resistance.”

Former Trump officials note that expert predictions of a Palestinian eruption during Mr. Trump’s term, particularly after the embassy relocation, never came to pass, and suggest that Mr. Biden’s friendlier approach to the Palestinians — including the restoration of humanitarian aid canceled by Mr. Trump — has emboldened them to challenge Israel.

Even some Trump administration officials said any suggestions that the accords amounted to peace in the Middle East were exaggerated.

“During my time at the White House, I always urged people not to use that term,” Mr. Greenblatt said.

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Arab World Condemns Israeli Violence but Takes Little Action

BRUSSELS — The Arab world is unified in condemning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and the way the Israeli police invaded Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Governments have spoken out, protests have taken place, social media is aflame.

But by and large the condemnation is only words, not actions — at least so far. The region’s concerns have shifted since the last major Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2014, with new fears about Iran’s influence, new anxieties about popular unrest in Arab countries and a growing recognition of the reality of Israel in the Arab world.

Even those countries that normalized relations with Israel last year — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — have all openly criticized Israeli policies and called for support of the Palestinians and the defense of Jerusalem. The escalation of violence has put a great strain on those governments, which had argued that their closer relationship with Israel would help restrain Israeli actions aimed at the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza.

“I have not seen any Arab state that has not expressed support for the Palestinians on a rhetorical level, and it would be very difficult for them to say anything otherwise,’’ said H.A. Hellyer, a scholar of Middle East politics at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. “But what they do about it is very different.’’

Aqsa Mosque struck a chord, said Khaled Elgindy, director of the Palestine program at the Middle East Institute. Gaza is one thing, but “Jerusalem is important for the Arab League and for clear stakeholders, like the Jordanians and the Saudis,’’ who are the guardians of the holy places of Islam, he said.

Israeli police raid of the Aqsa Mosque on Monday — which left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded — was “a no-brainer for them given the sensitivity of Al Aqsa and the violence shown to worshipers on the holiest night of Ramadan in one of Islam’s holiest sites,’’ said Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and a visiting fellow at Carnegie.

expel Palestinian families from Sheik Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, resonated with Palestinians in exile both abroad and in Israel. “There is not a single Palestinian who doesn’t know what it means to have their home taken or threatened to be taken,’’ Ms. Hassan said.

Hamas had been vowing for weeks that it would defend Jerusalem, and after those events in the city at the start of this week, it acted on its threats, firing a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem and drawing Israeli airstrikes in return.

Egypt and Jordan, which have long had diplomatic relations with Israel, are deeply engaged in trying to de-escalate the conflict, but they must also be wary of public anger, which would only worsen if Israel were to launch a full-scale ground war against Hamas in Gaza.

Ismail Haniya, and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, while sending security officials to try to mediate between Israel and Hamas, has himself said little about current events.

However, his foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, told Arab colleagues at an urgent Arab League meeting that “the way that Arabs — on the popular and official levels — are intent on following what is happening in Jerusalem is the greatest message that affirms Palestine has been and will always be the central Arab cause.”

The Arab League is also pressing for an emergency debate in the U.N. Security Council, which the United States put off until at least Sunday. The Arab League needs to keep in front of the debate on Jerusalem, the analysts agree, and not cede the field to Hamas.

“This time the struggle is not only about Gaza but about Jerusalem and Al Aqsa and Muslims are committed to their defense,’’ Mr. Winter said. “Hamas has done a good job in its messaging strategy, and Arab countries must deal with this interpretation.’’

Egypt’s government is also worried, as are many in Israel, that destroying Hamas might open the door to even more radical actors in Gaza. But Egypt and other Arab countries, even if they repress internal protests and dissent, must align themselves in some fashion with public opinion, even if they fear that protests against Israel might quickly turn into protests against themselves.

For the Arab countries that recently recognized Israel, the confrontation is an embarrassment and a dilemma because it tests their influence, or lack of it, on Israel, analysts said.

The diplomatic recognitions were “supposed to give them leverage, and one of their arguments was that Israel won’t want to disrupt these new relations with the Arab world and so will hold back on things like settlements and Gaza,’’ said Mr. Elgindy of the Middle East Institute.

In fact, he said, “I believe the opposite — the Israelis now have more cover.’’

While these countries are unlikely to sever their new ties with Israel because of the economic and technological benefits, it will be more difficult for Morocco and Sudan, where there are more open displays of public opinion.

Qatar and Turkey are among the most prominent defenders of Hamas. Qatar owns the powerful Al Jazeera network, which is giving full coverage to the Palestinian and Hamas side of the story.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has long been a fervent critic of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, especially in Gaza. On Friday, in predictably harsh terms, he vowed that Turkey would not stay silent and accept the persecution of Palestinians.

“By attacking the sacred site of all three religions, the terrorist state of Israel has crossed all boundaries,” Mr. Erdogan said, addressing his ruling party. “If we don’t stop the attacks now, everyone will become targets of this savage mentality.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Carlotta Gall from Istanbul, Rana Sweis from Amman, Jordan, and Nada Rashwan from Cairo.

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Hunger, maternal deaths and stillbirths have soared during the pandemic.

The pandemic has contributed to soaring hunger and acute declines in maternal health care that threaten tens of millions of people, the United Nations said Wednesday, underscoring the disproportionate spillover effects on the world’s poor.

The number of people worldwide requiring urgent food aid hit a five-year high in 2020 — reaching at least 155 million — while the risk of maternal and newborn deaths surged because of a shortage of at least 900,000 midwives, or one-third of the required global midwifery work force, the United Nations said in a pair of reports produced with other groups.

The World Food Program, the anti-hunger agency of the United Nations, said in a statement that the key findings from the food report showed that its warnings of severe hardships during the pandemic had been validated, and that “we are watching the worst-case scenario unfold before our very eyes.”

The food report covered 55 countries and territories, including three — Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen — where it said that at least 133,000 people were suffering famine, the most severe phase of a hunger crisis.

report, the United Nations Population Fund, the world’s leading provider of family planning services, said the pandemic had made a worldwide midwife shortage worse, “with the health needs of women and newborns being overshadowed, midwifery services being disrupted and midwives being deployed to other health services.”

It cited a study published in The Lancet medical journal in December, showing that alleviating the midwife shortage could avert roughly two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths, saving 4.3 million lives a year.

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In Video, French Reporter Who Vanished in Mali Says He Was Kidnapped

PARIS — A French journalist who went missing in Mali last month said in a video that circulated Wednesday on social media, but that could not be independently verified, that he had been kidnapped by a jihadist group operating in the region as he appealed for help from the authorities in France.

The 21-second clip appears to show Olivier Dubois, a French journalist based in Mali who disappeared there in early April, sitting cross-legged in what seems to be a tent.

After identifying himself, Mr. Dubois says in the video that he was kidnapped on April 8 in Gao, a town in central Mali, by a local Islamist group affiliated with Al Qaeda that is known as JSIM, an acronym for Group to Support Islam and Muslims.

“I am speaking to my family, to my friends and to the French authorities so that they do everything that is in their power to free me,” Mr. Dubois says in the video.

statement.

But the release of the video appeared to force the group and the French authorities to issue their first public comments on Mr. Dubois’ disappearance.

said in an article on Wednesday that in late March he had pitched the newspaper a face-to-face interview with a JSIM midlevel lieutenant in Gao, Abdallah Ag Albakaye.

“Olivier has solid contacts in the jihadist sphere, he has known some of them for years,” Libération wrote. “They were vouching for his safety.”

Libération turned down the pitch because of the risks involved, the newspaper wrote. Still, Mr. Dubois flew from Bamako to Gao. There, he spent several hours at his hotel and left for lunch. But two days later, he did not show up for his return flight to Bamako and was reported missing by the French Embassy in Mali, Libération said.

“The report of this reporter’s abduction is another cruel blow to journalism in the Sahel,” Arnaud Froger, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Africa desk, said in a statement, referring to the sub-Saharan region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan.

Armed groups operating in Mali and other countries in the Sahel have made it increasingly difficult for journalists to report from the region. Last month, two Spanish journalists making a documentary about anti-poaching efforts and an Irish ranger were kidnapped and killed in Burkina Faso.

Central and northern Mali have become especially dangerous since 2013, when France sent its forces into the West African country, a former French colony, after armed Islamists took control of its northern cities.

French and Malian forces have struggled to stop a range of extremist groups, some of them affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, that have spread violence across the border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and elsewhere in the region.

In 2013, two French journalists working for Radio France Internationale, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were killed by Islamist insurgents in Mali, in circumstances that have remained murky to this day.

Mali has undergone severe institutional instability over the past year. After months of ballooning protests over corruption, bloodshed, and election interference, a coup in August toppled the president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and replaced him with Bah N’Daou, a retired colonel and former defense minister.

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